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Posts tagged ‘accountability’

BLEW IT AGAIN?

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

Day has begun and I’m already sinning
Help me to change this heart that I have
Lord, help me taste of the grace that You’re giving.
I want to be a spiritual man.
“Let the Old Man Die” lyrics by Chuck Butler

 

Every one of us struggles with something. Some of us relapse into that “something.” Afterward, how we handle the relapse will have a lot to do with our future successes or failures.

To struggle is to have temptations, sometimes towards one particular life-dominating sin. You knew the type. It’s usually some bodily pleasure that we’ve discovered, then returned to, and then, after years of repetition, we’ve established as a pattern.

Overeating, porn, smoking, gambling, and drug abuse are all pretty good examples. What we discover we incorporate, and what we incorporate becomes predictable – a regular, often destructive part of our routine.

Predictable, that is until God puts His finger on that part of your life. That’s when He calls you to repentance, and when that happens, a new standard gets birthed.

Suddenly, what you used to allow is unacceptable, and abstaining from that “something” is a new mandate. New standards of what we do or don’t allow are sure to follow anytime we say “yes” when God says “this has to go.” That’s part of discipleship living.

But to say “God has called me to stop doing this” is also a way of saying “I’m committed to resisting the desire to keep on doing it.” Sometimes the desire is resisted successfully; sometimes not. And that opens up the possibility of relapse.

Relapse happens when you return to behavior you renounced. It’s often called “breaking sobriety” because it means you broke a commitment to abstain from something addictive; some would also call it a backslide. But whatever name the relapse rose goes by it smells just as bad, and is a thing to be avoided, guarded against, but also prepared for. It’s somewhat like John’s interesting statement about sin:

These things I write unto you that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. I John 2:1

Clearly John wasn’t saying it’s OK to sin. But he was saying that if you do, you have an advocate. Likewise, when you commit to abstaining from porn, fornication, drunkenness or gluttony, you don’t by any means have to relapse. You can stay clean; there’s no reason to return to those behaviors.

But if you do, you have an advocate with the Father who will cleanse and restore you. In that vein, let me offer a few immediate steps to take if, God forbid, you should relapse.

1. Notify

Decide now who’d you’d call if you relapsed. In most cases, an accountability partner is your best bet (and if you’re committed to abstaining from addictive behavior, then an accountability partner really is a must!) since he works with you weekly and you’re probably in regular contact with him.

But a trusted friend or member of your church will also be a good choice, or perhaps a pastor or counselor. What matters is that you know who to call and what number to use, and that you call him immediately. Tell him you relapsed, and that you’ll need his prayers and support. If you have a severe crisis situation, meet with him ASAP.

2. Identify

With the help of whoever you notify, figure out what went wrong. Usually, people relapse because they slacked off on their prayer life, scripture reading, fellowship or accountability.

But there may be other reasons, so spend time exploring what you were doing before the relapse, what you could have done differently, and what you’ll do differently in the future to prevent this from happening again. Human error is a terrific textbook, so you may as well use it.

3. Move It!

Get back on the saddle immediately, because you’ll accomplish nothing by wallowing in grief over your relapse, and there’s no reason to delay beginning again. If you refuse to start over, you’re yielding to a more severe, deadlier sin than relapse: despair. Sin is something you can repent of, but despair? Yield to that, and you’re really finished.

Don’t be. Relapse is a temporary set-back; despair is the end.

You’re protecting a treasure when you guard your purity, so apply yourself to its longevity the way you’d protect a valuable antique or piece of jewelry. Recognizing its worth, you work both to keep it, and keep it in its best possible shape.

The freedom of godliness, likewise, is a purposeful, challenging, exciting way to live, and keeping the ball in play is worth all the blood, sweat and tears a committed athlete has to shed.

So move ahead today in the power of gratitude for God’s grace, and let it manifest in the smallest and largest areas of your life.

How do you know when someone is truly sorry?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail upon their beds.

Hosea 7:14

As biblical counselors, sometimes it’s hard to discern if someone is truly repentant.

Tears are often the language of the heart, but when one is crying in the counseling office, it’s important to hear what the person’s heart is really saying.  The apostle Paul speaks of two kinds of sorrow, worldly sorrow that leads to death and godly sorrow that brings repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).  As Christian counselors, it is crucial that we learn to distinguish between the two especially when we are doing couples work.

Worldly sorrow is a self-focused sorrow. It may contain great emotion, tears, and apologies, but the grief expressed is for one’s self. The person mourns the consequences of his or her sin and what she has lost. This may be a marriage, a job, a reputation, friends and/or family, or can even be one’s own idea of who they thought they were. Here are some of the things we often hear a person say when they are sorrowing unto death.

·         I can’t believe I did such a thing.

·         Why is this happening to me?

·         Please forgive me. – Implying, please don’t make me suffer the  consequences of my sin.

·         Why won’t he/she forgive me? (In other words, why can’t reconciliation be easy and quick?)

·         I’m so sorry (sad).

·         I’m a horrible person.

·         I wish I were dead.

·         I hate myself.

Judas is a good example of this type of sorrow (Matthew 27:3-5).  After he betrayed Christ, he was seized with remorse yet it did not lead to godly repentance, but self-hatred and suicide.

It is natural that we feel compassion for the person suffering such emotional and spiritual pain. However, it’s crucial that we not confuse this kind of sorrow with the kind that leads to biblical repentance, especially when we are working with both the sorrowing sinner and the one who has been sinned against.

Godly sorrow demonstrates grief over one’s sinfulness toward God as well as the pain it has caused others. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).

Below are eight things I have found that demonstrate those fruits of genuine repentance.

·         Accepts full responsibility for actions and attitudes, doesn’t blame others or situations.

·         Acknowledges sinfulness (instead of “I can’t believe I could do such a thing”).

·         Recognizes the effects of actions on others and shows empathy for the pain he/she’s caused.

·         Able to identify brokenness in detail such as abusive tactics, attitudes of entitlement, and/or areas of chronic deceit.

·         Accepts consequences without demands or conditions.

·         Makes amends for damages.

·         Is willing to make consistent changes over the long term such as new behaviors and attitudes characteristic of healthy relationships.

·         Is willing to be accountable and if needed, long term.

In my work with couples who have experienced grievous sin, I have found that it is not their sin that destroys most relationships. All couples experience sin. The destruction comes when we refuse to acknowledge it. It is our blindness to it and our unwillingness to humble ourselves to get help, be accountable, and repent that makes reconciliation and healing impossible.

What Does The Bible Say About Destructive And Abusive Relationships?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

I receive frantic calls and e-mails each week from Christian women (and some men) who feel scared, trapped, hopeless and helpless because their most intimate relationship is abusive; verbally, physically, economically, sexually, spiritually or all of the above. The Bible has something to say about the way we treat people and as Christians we should all strive to be Biblically wise in how we handle these difficult and painful family issues.

Below are five Biblical principles that will guide your thinking about this topic.

1. Abuse is always sin. The Scriptures are clear. Abuse of authority or power (even legitimate God given authority) is always sin. Abusive speech and/or behavior is never an acceptable way to communicate with someone. (Malachi 2:16-17; Psalm 11:5; Colossians 3:8,19).

2. Abuse is never an appropriate response to being provoked. In working with abusive individuals they often blame the other person. This can be especially tricky when trying to counsel couples. There is no perfect person and victims of abuse aren’t sinless. However, we must be very clear-minded that abusive behavior and/or speech is never justified, even when provoked. People provoke us all the time but we are still responsible for our response (Ephesians 4:26; Luke 6:45)

3. Biblical headship does not entitle a husband to get his own way, make all the family decisions, or to remove his wife’s right to choose. At the heart of most domestic abuse is the sinful use of power to gain control over another individual. Biblical headship is described as sacrificial servanthood, not unlimited authority and/or power. (Mark 10:42-45). Let’s not confuse terms. When a husband demands his own way or tries to dominate his wife, it’s not called biblical headship, its called selfishness, and abuse of power. (See, for example, Deuteronomy 13; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:2-4 for God’s rebuke of the leaders of Israel for their self-centered and abusive shepherding of God’s flock.)

4. Unrepentant sin always damages relationships and sometimes people. Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2-5) and from one another (Proverbs 17:9). It is unrealistic and unbiblical to believe that you can continue healthy fellowship with someone who repeatedly sins against you when there is no repentance and no change. We are impacted in every way. (See Proverbs 1:15; 14:7; 21:2822:24; 1 Corinthians 15:33).

5. God’s purpose is to deliver the abused. We are to be champions of the oppressed and abused. God hates the abuse of power and the sin of injustice. (Psalm 5,7,10,140; 2 Corinthians 11:20; Acts 14:5-6.

What’s next? How should we respond when we know abuse is happening to someone?

We must never close our eyes to the sin of injustice or the abuse of power, whether it is in a home, a church, a work setting or a community or country (Micah 6:8). The apostle Paul encountered some spiritually abusive leaders and did not put up with it. (2 Corinthians 11:20). Please don’t be passive when you encounter abuse.

However, because we too are sinners, we are all tempted to react to abusive behavior with a sinful response of our own. The apostle Paul cautions us not to be overcome with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Below are five (5) biblical guidelines that will help you respond to the evil of abuse with good.

1. It is good to protect yourself from violent people. David fled King Saul when he was violent toward him. The angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with Jesus because Herod was trying to kill him. Paul escaped from those who sought to stone him. We must help people to get safe and stay safe when they are in abusive relationships. This is not only good for her and her children, it is good for her abusive partner. If you are not experienced in developing a safety plan and assessing for lethality (often women are more at risk when they leave an abusive partner), refer or consult with someone who is knowledgeable in this area (Proverbs 27:12).

2. It is good to expose the abuser. Secrets are deadly, especially when there is abuse in a home. Bringing the deeds of darkness to light is the only way to get help for both the victim and the abuser. If you are working with a couple and notice that the woman defers to her husband, regularly looks to him before she answers, blames herself for all their conflicts, speak with them separately. (Proverbs 29:1; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20). If you are a victim of an abusive relationship, it is not sinful to tell, it is good to expose the hidden deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Biblical love is always action directed towards the best interest of the beloved, even when it is difficult or involves sacrifice (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13).

3. It is good not to allow someone to continue to sin against you. It is not only good for the abused person to stop being a victim, it is good for the abuser to stop being a victimizer. It is it is in the abuser’s best interests to repent and to change. (Matthew 18:15-17; James 5:19-20).

4. It is good to stop enabling and to let the violent person experience the consequences of his/her sinful behavior. One of life’s greatest teachers is consequences. God says what we sow, we reap (Galatians 6:7) A person who repeatedly uses violence at home does so because he gets away with it. Don’t allow that to continue. (Proverbs 19:19). God has put civil authorities in place to protect victims of abuse. (Romans 13:1-5) The apostle Paul appealed to the Roman government when he was being mistreated. (Acts 22:24-29). We should encourage victims to do likewise.

5. It is good to wait and see the fruits of repentance before initiating reconciliation. Sin damages relationships. Repeated sin separates people. Although we are called to unconditional forgiveness, the bible does not teach unconditional relationship with everyone nor unconditional reconciliation with a person who continues to mistreat us.

Although Joseph forgave his brothers, he did not initiate a reconciliation of the relationships until he saw that they had a heart change. (See Genesis 42-45.)

Biblical repentance is not simply feeling sorry (2 Corinthians 7:8-12). Repentance requires a change in direction. When we put pressure someone to reconcile a marital relationship with an abusive partner before they have seen some significant change in behavior and attitude we can put them in harm’s way. We have sometimes valued the sanctity of marriage over the emotional, physical, and spiritual safety of the individuals in it.

The apostle Paul encourages us to distance ourselves from other believers who are sinning and refuse correction. (See 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15).

A person cannot discern whether a heart change has taken place without adequate time. Words don’t demonstrate repentance, changed behaviors over time does. (Matthew 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:20)

As Christians we have the mandate and the responsibility to be champions of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King said “In the end what hurt the most was not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Where Could Sin Lead Me? Imagine the Aftermath!

SOURCE:   /The Gospel Coalition

Envision the End of Your Sin

In the past few weeks I’ve witnessed several dear friends flirt with sin in a terrifying way. These friends love Jesus very much, but circumstances have exposed areas of easy entrance for the tempter.

As I’ve pondered their struggles, and my own wandering heart, I’ve been reminded of an exhortation I received many years ago in seminary.

Chancellor Chuck Swindoll was preaching in the morning chapel service.

As he stepped to the pulpit, he carried a weight on his brow, a Bible in his hand, and a written statement. He shared that a pastor from our seminary had fallen into grave sexual sin, disqualified himself from the ministry, and destroyed his family.

Swindoll then challenged us to consider where sin would lead us. Over the years I’ve followed his advice, and I’d like to help you do the same.

Imagine the Aftermath

I want to walk you through a scene to see what lies ahead on the path of sin.

This scenario is aimed at fellow pastors, but the idea is applicable to all.

Envision yourself calling together your elders and sitting in their midst, telling them how you have betrayed their trust. See their sunken faces and feel their broken hearts.

Listen to them consider how they’ll tell the church. Imagine the congregation’s confusion and how it will affect those who’ve heard you say so often that Jesus is better than anything else.

Imagine how the name of Christ will be mocked in your community and beyond.

Then I want you to picture walking out to your car and getting in.

Drive down the road near your house and circle your neighborhood a few times. Picture the place where you walked the dog with your children in the evenings.

Now, pull into your driveway and walk up to the door of your home.

Hear the scampering feet of your children running up to you and putting their arms around your legs, saying, “Daddy’s home!” See the way they love and trust you.

Drink that in deeply.

Now, tell them to go outside and play because you must talk to Mommy about something. As you walk to the kitchen where she’s faithfully going about her day, look at those smiling pictures on the wall. Remember the happy days you shared together.

Lead her by the hand to your bedroom where you used to make love.

Ask her to have a seat.

Feel your heart scamper and the lump form in your throat.

See her eyes ask what’s wrong. Then watch her weep as you tell her you’ve been unfaithful.

Hear her wail.

See her sob.

Feel her hit your chest and fall to her knees in despair.

Imagine the phone call to her parents, and to yours. Hear the silence on the phone as they take in what you’ve told them.

Imagine the day you gather your children and sit them down to explain why Mommy and Daddy are going to spend some time apart and sell the house they love so much.

See yourself taking down those smiling pictures from the wall and taping up the moving boxes, unsure if you’ll ever open them again.

Do you see it?

Sin doesn’t tell you about those days, does it?

Sin Hides the Price Tag

Satan doesn’t tell you sin’s true cost, because the cost is too high.

He’s a liar (John 8:44) and deception is his forte (2 Cor. 11:3). He wants to lull you into thinking sin won’t cost you as much as it will. You can keep things hidden. You can get out at any time. Your compromises are small. They won’t lead to a great fall.

He only speaks lies.

Friend, sin is stronger than you or I will ever be.

Some of you are standing at a crossroads right now. You’ve been sipping on sin’s potion and are becoming intoxicated by its lies. Satan wants you to keep sipping so you’ll become drunk, unable to consider God’s warning of the destruction that lies ahead: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

If you are entangled in sin, call a trusted friend right now and tell them you need help. Don’t wait another minute. Sin wants you to think you can stop by yourself—don’t believe it. Secrecy is the ground in which sin grows strong.

If you think this could never happen to you, be careful. “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, as long as you don’t part with your sin.

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, so long as you don’t part with your sin. But John Owen’s counsel is always true: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Satan aims to destroy your life now, and to harden your heart so you’ll inherit eternal destruction.

Lift Your Eyes

Friend, Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior who shed his blood to save you from sin—on Judgment Day and every day before it. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Whether you’re a pastor or not, married or not, have children or not, we all need grace to resist the power of sin’s deception. Thankfully, Jesus promises to supply it.

Plead with God to help you see the end of your sin—and then flee to the Savior. Let the sobriety of sin’s end lift your eyes to where our help resides (Ps. 121:1). May we avoid the ruin Proverbs warns about:

Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (Prov. 5:8–14)

Gracious Lord, we need help. Make us sober-minded. Keep us vigilant. Help us see the end of our sin.

Helping victims of domestic abuse: 4 pitfalls to avoid

SOURCE: Dr. Diane Langberg/Careleader.org

To understand domestic abuse properly, let’s start with the word abuse, which comes from the Latin word abutor, meaning “to use wrongly.” It also means “to insult, violate, tarnish, or walk on.” So domestic abuse, then, occurs when one partner in the home uses the other partner for wrong purposes. Anytime a human being uses another as a punching bag, a depository for rage, or something to be controlled for that person’s own satisfaction, abuse has occurred. Anytime words are used to demean or insult or degrade, abuse has occurred. And anytime there is intimidation and threats and humiliation, abuse has occurred.

Domestic abuse is something you as a pastor may encounter, or it may be a “silent sin” within the church that goes unseen. Either way, it is a reality, and one for which we must be prepared. But how do we do this? How can we prepare to minister to victims of domestic abuse? Below, I share four common pitfalls of pastors and leaders, then conclude by explaining how the church is called to act in these situations.

Pitfall #1: Not realizing the frequency of abuse

We need to realize just how frequently abuse happens. We are surprised by it in the church, but statistically 20 percent of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

That’s almost one-third of women, and that includes women in the church.

20% of women in this country will experience at least one episode of violence with a husband or partner.

Further, more than three women are murdered each day by their husbands or boyfriends.

Or here’s another statistic: pregnant women are more likely to be victims of homicide than to die of any other cause.

That is astounding. And again, those numbers don’t change when you survey women within the church.

Pitfall #2: Not calling abuse what it really is

One of the most important things we can do is call abuse what it really is, because people have a tendency to rename abuse into other things. For example, an abuser might say, “I was upset from a bad day at work … which is why I turned the table over, broke the dishes, and hit my spouse,” or “It was a mistake.” Abusers use words to minimize what has been done and make it seem normal. And unfortunately, those trying to help do the same thing, saying things like “Can’t you forgive so-and-so for that mistake?”

But domestic abuse is not a mistake. It is abuse; it meets the definition of abuse. So we have to call it what it is, because we are called to the truth. We have to call things by their rightful name. By changing the wording, we diminish the gravity of the sin.

Pitfall #3: Encouraging submission despite abuse

Sadly, many women have been beaten, kicked, and bruised, and then return home in the name of submission. Worse, many of these women have been sent home in the name of submission. But submission does not entitle a husband to abuse his wife.

Unfortunately, this instruction is one of the biggest mistakes pastors and church leaders have been known to make. So many women are sent home by church leaders to be screamed at, humiliated, and beaten, sometimes to death. Their husbands can break their bones, smash in their faces, terrify their children, break things, forbid them access to the money, and all sorts of things, but they are told to submit without a word and be glad for the privilege of suffering for Jesus.

Pitfall #4: Protecting the institution of marriage instead of the victim

Domestic violence is a felony in all fifty states. So, to send people home and not deal with it, not bring it into the light, and not provide safety is to be complicit in lawbreaking, which is also illegal. In sending women home, the church ends up partnering in a crime. But it is not the church’s call to cover up violence. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to expose the deeds of darkness so the light can shine in. That’s the only way there is hope for truth and repentance and healing.

I also find one of the things that confuses Christians is we think that if we take the wife and children out of their home to bring them to a safe place, for example, we are not protecting “the family.” We say that we have to protect the family because it is a God-ordained institution, which it is. But what we forget is that God does not protect institutions, even ones He has ordained, when they are full of sin.

It’s easy for us to forget that truth, and particularly when we know those who are abusive, we tend to want to believe them. We don’t understand how incredibly deceitful and manipulative they are, deceiving first themselves and then others. We think we can tell when people are lying—even though the Scriptures say we are all so deceitful, we can’t even know the depths of it. But we are deceived into thinking that they wouldn’t do something so severe. And while we think we are doing the right thing by believing or trusting them, we are actually completely opposed to Scripture.

The calling of the church

The church is called to be the church. What that means is that we are called to protect the vulnerable and the oppressed; that’s all through the Scriptures. And we are called to hold others accountable, despite the tough road to repentance, even if they are our best friends.

So when a pastor hears from a woman that she is being abused in her home, the first step is to find out what that means. It could be verbal abuse, or it could be that her life is in danger, and she and her children need to be taken out of the home and put in a safe place.

Unfortunately, though, not all victims of domestic abuse feel that they are able to leave, a source of frustration for many caregivers. The vast majority of women in these situations love their husbands and want their marriage to work, and many times, the husband assures her that he won’t do it again. She wants her husband, so she keeps going back. So while we want to ensure her safety by not sending her back to an abusive home, we also want to give her the dignity of being able to make her own decision, which he does not give her.

We must also have the humility to involve other authorities like the police, if need be. They are God-given authorities for matters such as these, but it can be a bit of a revolving door. If she wants to report the abuse to the police, go with her to the police. If she needs to file a protection order, go with her to the courthouse. We must walk with her as she makes her decision.

As pastors and leaders, we must not minimize abuse, nor should we teach women that submission means being a punching bag, even a verbal one. We also cannot minimize the gravity of the issue or be naïve to its prevalence in the church. Instead, the church is called to love and protect those who are vulnerable, to walk with them and care for them well.

Q&A: Relationships — When Do I Put Consequences In Place

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: I’ve read some of your books; I wholeheartedly believe that I deserve to be treated better than I am.  This crazy cycle isn’t ok and it must stop one way or another. I’m on board with that much.

My trouble is that I need some help thinking creatively about what natural consequences might be. It’s easy when it’s a little kid.  Example:  “You know the rules, until you can respect the furniture and sit on it properly (rather than jumping) you may not use it. Here… sit on the floor to have your lunch and maybe tomorrow you can use the furniture again properly.”

What do you do with a husband and that crazy cycle? I can go toe to toe when I have to, but really what I want to do is run far, far away. In these times, I want nothing but out of this relationship.

I desire to be treated properly, but don’t know another reaction other than fight it out (which gets so old) or flee. Those are my two stand-by’s. However, I don’t like it (actually it angers me) that I don’t know any other reaction. What actions could I take instead? Can you give some practical examples of how to dance differently?

Answer: First of all let me commend you that you even want to dance differently and you’re not happy with your own “reactions”. Let’s take the metaphor of the dance. If you were dancing with someone and they repeatedly stepped on your toes, what would a “natural” consequence be? Especially after you kindly asked them to be more careful, or to stop dancing that way? If they would not change their behavior, then you would have to dance differently yourself if you wanted your toes to stop hurting.

That would mean you would let go of his hands, step back, stop trying to dance close and romantic and dance separately. If he pulls you back into the embrace of a slow dance then you stop dancing and say, “I won’t close dance with you because you’re stepping on my toes. That hurts me and I’ve asked you to stop and you haven’t. Until you learn to dance with me without stepping on my toes, I am not able to slow dance with you.

Now it’s his turn to make a choice. Either he will stop dancing altogether with you, dance separately, or learn how to dance without stepping on your toes. Meanwhile, he may scream and blame you that you’re being too sensitive, unreasonable, controlling, un-submissive, mean spirited, and sinful because you won’t dance with him like he wants.

This is where women in destructive marriages tend to get fuzzy headed and manipulated. We do want to dance with our spouse and we long to dance closely. We also believe that is God’s will and what we promised each other when we got married. Therefore, we feel guilty pulling away or putting boundaries down. We look inside and begin to question ourselves. Were we too sensitive or selfish? Is it controlling to ask someone to change his behavior if it’s hurting us? Should I just submit?

Once fuzziness sets in, most women, either out of fear or guilt will go back to trying harder to make this painful marital dance work, only to have her toes get stomped on again. Pain often brings clarity and once again you feel at your wits end again. Now you may start to explode or implode–out of total frustration and anger. Then sooner or later, out of guilt or shame, fear or desire, you get lured back to the same old dance where your toes keep getting stepped on and nothing changes.

But you already know that. You asked for some practical ways to implement consequences when your husband is abusive toward you. You don’t mention specifically what is happening so I can’t speak of specific strategies but here are some general principles about consequences.

It’s important that we understand that we are not to punish our spouse (as a parent might punish a child). That is not our role and it is inappropriate. Consequences are designed to wake us up and help us to see more clearly. The pain of our sin is meant to teach us not to repeat the same things over and over again. The scriptures are clear, what a man sows he reaps (Galatians 6:7). When a man sows a pattern of discord, deceit, abuse, enmity, and strife in a marital relationship, there is a natural consequence. He doesn’t reap the benefits of a good marriage relationship.

When he doesn’t experience that painful consequence, it enables him to stay deceived into thinking that what he’s done is no big deal. He believes he can act destructively and sinfully and not suffer any consequences. That is not the truth and so painful consequences have a way of helping a person see that he must change his sinful ways if he doesn’t like or want the PAIN of the consequences such as a broken marriage.

I think this is where many Christian women have been misadvised by well meaning people-helpers. They have put up with terrible treatment and still been counseled to provide the relational closeness of a healthy, loving marriage. That enables the husband to deceive himself into thinking that it “is her problem” and “she makes me act this way.” The lie says it doesn’t matter how I behave or treat her, she’s my wife for life, God hates divorce, and therefore I’m entitled to the perks of a good marriage no matter how I behave or treat her. That is not biblical wisdom, nor healthy reality.

You asked, so below are some natural consequences for an abusive relationship.

1. Call the police and press charges if he is physically abusive. The longer you make excuses or put up with it, the more aggressive he will become. A night or time in jail helps someone see that what they are doing is not only wrong it is illegal and you will not allow yourself or your children to be physically abused.

2. When he becomes verbally aggressive end the conversation. Simply walk away when he begins his screaming or verbal assault. Remind him that you will not allow yourself to be talked to that way. Do not argue with those boundaries. If he follows you, go to a bedroom and lock the door. If he breaks it down call the police. Always make sure you carry a cell phone with you and have it preprogrammed to 911.

3. If he verbally assaults you in a closed area such as a car, refuse to drive with him, drive yourself separately because he can’t control himself. He loses the privilege of your company when he mistreats you.

4. Exit the situation if it is escalating or he’s stepping on your toes. If you need to leave the house because you feel in danger, whether emotionally or physically or sexually, you need to have a safety plan in place. That might mean putting a spare key in the garage or under a planter, packing a suitcase and hiding it in the trunk or garage, making sure your children know that when you say a certain phrase, they all exit the house and get into the car. If you’ve been through the cycle, you can tell when he’s getting himself worked up. You don’t have to stay for the blow up stage. Leave. The consequences for his inability to control his temper and his tongue (or his hands) is the loss of your company (for a hour, for an evening, for a season).

5. If he mistreats you in public make sure you always have an exit plan, credit cards or cash with you, a phone number of a cab company to call to pick you up so that you are not hostage to his abusive behavior. If he refuses to stop his behavior, you take care of you and leave.

6. If someone repeatedly refuses to listen and you are in a position to do so, separation can be a very effective consequence for this kind of behavior. It has the potency to “wake him up” and let him know that he cannot continually act abusively towards someone and expect that they will still want to be in a loving relationship with him. Separating often begins to open the abusers eyes for the first time that you are a separate individual with your own thoughts, your own feelings and your own needs. Before you return back into the relationship however, it’s important that he not only “see” what he’s done wrong, he’s gotten help in respecting your “no” and ability to tolerate and manage his own negative emotions.

7. End the relationship. Some Biblical scholars disagree on whether or not abuse is a biblical reason to dissolve a marriage. Certainly it would be a last resort after other steps have been taken. But it is a natural consequence of this kind of behavior. When someone repeatedly abuses someone else without repentance, without remorse, and without change what are the alternatives? Continued separation, continued abuse, or ending the relationship. Sometimes the abuse continues throughout the separation and end of a marriage through legal harassment, child custody disputes, and withholding of finances.

These are the ways you can dance differently so you don’t get sucked into the same destructive dance. You alone can make a bad relationship better by not escalating the conflict, not retaliating, not repaying evil for evil and not engaging when someone is pushing your buttons. But as much as you desire a good marriage, you cannot make a bad marriage become a good marriage all by yourself.

Your husband has to want that too. I know you are hoping your husband comes to his senses through painful consequences, and he might, but then again he might not. Negative consequences don’t always wake people up or get them to change even when they are quite painful. For example, those in jail often re-offend and go back to jail. Those who smoke cigarettes know the negative health consequences, yet they choose to do it anyway. Proverbs 26:11 warns that “as a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.”

You said you deserve to be treated properly. I hope you want a man who stays with you because he love you and wants to be with you as your husband, not because he fears the consequences. Consequences won’t teach your husband to treat you with love. They may wake him up and teach him to stop doing some hurtful things, but only love will motivate him to start doing the right things.

Therefore remember, consequences can be a first step to the wake up phase but are not the only or last step in repairing or restoring a broken relationship

How to Help Your Young Adult Build Their Own Life

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Carey Casey/Charisma Magazine

You know that fatherhood doesn’t end when a child turns 20, right?

We recently heard from a distraught mom. She and her husband have a son in college who lives at home, and he basically takes the approach that since he’s an “adult” now, he can pretty much do what he wants. And he isn’t doing much, which makes things very tense.

This son is lazy and sloppy and doesn’t show any respect when his dad asks him to help out around the house. Mom and Dad don’t want to upset him or make things worse, so they pretty much put up with it. This mom says she cleans up after her son because she wants her home to be orderly for the rest of the family.

These are such difficult situations because all parents want their children to be happy. But sometimes doing what’s best for them will cause some discomfort and unhappiness, at least for a while. But bottom line, parents can’t let their adult children wreck their households. When they are irresponsible and living at home, it puts strain on everyone. They should not be allowed to act like children when they need to be transitioning to adulthood. If a child in his 20s isn’t forced to take on more responsibility for his own life, there’s no motivation for him to become an independent, self-reliant adult who can handle the “real world.”

If he’s disrespecting his parents along with it, there definitely needs to be a change. He needs some motivation to step up and take on responsibility.

How does that look, exactly? Well, let me warn you: The ideas I have might sound a lot like “tough love,” which can leave a child angry and upset for a time. In some scenarios, he may leave and say he never wants to see you again, and you might not hear from him for weeks. But chances are good that eventually he’ll come around, and maybe even thank you for giving him the “kick” he needed to get going.

Think about birds teaching their young to fly. Often they nudge them out of the nest. And in some cases, that’s how it is with young adult kids.

So how can parents handle this?

One suggestion is to draw up an agreement with your young-adult child in writing. The details depend on the specifics of the situation, but a good general rule comes from the authors of the Love and Logic books. It’s called the “good neighbor policy.”

If a friendly neighbor needed a place to stay for a while, you’d probably help him out. But if he wanted to stay longer, you would likely draw up an agreement. He’d need to obey your house rules and pay something for room and board—on time, each month. Of course, if he didn’t like the rent amount or the rules, he’d be free to find another situation.

If necessary, you would take action to move him out of your home.

That might sound cruel. Maybe you could never imagine doing that to your own child. But that might be exactly what he needs to get his life on track.

Let me quickly add, while pushing, it’s important to communicate in several different ways, “We love you, and we want you to learn to be responsible, independent and content.” That could include encouraging words, regular invitations for home-cooked meals back home and financial help related to the transition itself. For example, you may want to help cover the security deposit on an apartment lease. Or something like a gift certificate to a men’s clothing store for your son to pick out a new interview suit.

Also, understand that even a bird doesn’t do this until the young one is ready. So, not all situations call for the same approach.

But if you’re in this situation, get with your wife and do some research, maybe talk with other parents, and figure out an approach you both believe in. You need to be on the same page and not let any issues with your child come between the two of you.

Sexual Addiction: NOT just for MEN ONLY!!

SOURCE:  Marnie Ferree

Women and Sexual Addiction

While most people tend to assume that sexual addiction is a problem only for men, the evidence suggests the contrary. Addictions, all addictions, are pretty much equal opportunity diseases. And sexual addiction is no exception.

Marnie Ferree is a pioneer in the treatment of female sex and relationship addicts. This article is material taken from a workshop she gave recently in Seattle. Sex is the fastest growing addiction in this country. And it is, I believe, the addiction of choice among Christians. Because of the immediacy, availability and affordability of the Internet, more and more Christians find themselves struggling with sexual addiction. A third of the participants who come to the workshops we do for male sexual addicts are involved in some kind of church ministry. Men who would not be caught dead going into a liquor store, or gambling or using any kind of illegal drugs, can—within the privacy of their own home—be sexually involved with people on the Internet. It is an incredible problem.

I don’t know if you have a picture in your mind of what a sexual addict looks like. I would be even more surprised if you had a picture of what a female sexual addict looks like.

There are, however, many of us. And all of us must deal with the enormous shame connected with sexual addiction. Today, if someone said in a social setting—even in a Christian social setting—”I’m a recovering alcoholic,” I think many people might respond with: “Good for you. You’ve admitted you have a problem. You’re doing something about it. You’re getting help.” We have an element of respect for someone who admits to being a recovering alcoholic. But if you say, “I’m a recovering sex addict,” you will still experience enormous amounts of shame and very little understanding.

There was a time when alcoholism was thought to be only a male problem. Surely women didn’t struggle like this. But we know today, of course, that females have about the same incidence of alcoholism as do males. It is probably about the same in the area of sexual addiction. If the shame associated with sexual addiction is great, the shame associated with being a female sex addict is even greater.

Sexual addiction is not, of course, a new problem. I’m not going to suggest that the Apostle Paul was a sex addict. But he certainly understood powerlessness and unmanageability. When you read what he says in Romans 7 about the struggle between the flesh and the desire to do good—this is a man who knew what it was like to feel powerless, a man who kept doing what he did not want to do. That is the essence of all addictions.

Sin or Disease?

I’m asked often, “Is sexual addiction a sin, or is it a disease?” The answer is yes. It is both. Undeniably the kinds of behaviors we are going to be talking about are sinful. The affairs that I was involved in, the great promiscuity that I was involved in before my marriage, these are unquestionably sin. And they are also part of a disease called addiction.

Sometimes people come to a Christian pastor or counselor looking for help with sexual addiction and they get an answer like this: “Pray more, go to church more, read your Bible more. Be more committed. Be more [whatever].” I don’t want to be misunderstood. I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in reading the Bible. I believe in being connected with other Christians and going to church. And I believe in surrendering to Christ. So I’m not minimizing the importance of these things. But these things in and of themselves will not help with the disease of addiction. Believe me, people who struggle with sexual addictions have prayed. They have tried to surrender their will to God. They have tried to get connected at church. And it has not helped. Putting a kind of spiritual Band-Aid on this problem is not going to be helpful. It is going to be harmful, because it will contribute to the hopelessness that people feel. Suppose you tell someone to “just pray more,” and they take your advice and pray more, and it doesn’t help. Then what? It will add to their despair. And few things are more powerful fuel for addictions than despair.

So what is the solution?

Sexual addiction is a multifaceted disease, and it requires a multifaceted solution. There is a physiological aspect to the problem. We know that there is a neurochemical component to sex addiction. The neurochemical changes that happen in your brain when you engage in sexual activity are closely related to the changes that take place in your brain when you take crack cocaine. So there is a physiological, biological base to this addiction. There is also an emotional component to this addiction. The shame that the addicted person feels is overwhelming. There is a mental component. There is a relationship component. And there is a spiritual component. All these components need to be addressed if the addicted person is to experience healing.

Characteristics of Addiction

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of sexual addiction.  There are four components that make any addiction an addiction.

First, there has to be a compulsion. I can’t stop. I keep doing what I don’t want to do. I’m powerless to stop. You will always hear addicts say, “I know what I’m doing is wrong; I want to stop, but I can’t.” That was certainly true for me. I was raised in a pastor’s home. I went to church all my life. I knew that the affairs I was involved in were wrong. I felt incredible shame about the affairs. I wanted to stop. I had chosen to stop many times. But I could not.

A second key component of any addiction is obsession. It’s all I can think about. It’s like a blanket that covers me. I’m spending so much time being sexual, recovering from being sexual, figuring out how to hide the fact that I’ve been sexual, planning my next sexual or relationship encounter. It’s like a little bird sitting on your shoulder; it’s always, always, always with you. Either as guilt and shame or the planning or the preparation. Some part is always with you.

The third main hallmark of an addiction is continuing in spite of negative consequences.

Because of my promiscuity and sexual behaviors I was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by a sexually transmitted disease. I had three major surgeries within a year. I literally almost died because of massive hemorrhaging resulting from the first surgery. But even that was not enough; I still could not stop. I lost one marriage because of my sexual acting out. I married very young for all kinds of unhealthy reasons. I was unfaithful in that marriage. The truth is that he was happy to get rid of me. And I was happy to get rid of him because he was determined to fix me and I was angry about that. But I still could not stop. I married a second time and had a fairly long period of sobriety—or rather at least a fairly long period of the absence of acting out. But I was not in recovery. When the stresses of life hit again, I returned to acting out. I knew intellectually, This is going to mess up my life. I had been there once before. I’d had one divorce because of this behavior. I can tell that things aren’t going well here. They are not going well in our marriage. They are not going well for our children. We had two very young children who were already very angry and impaired by being part of an addicted family. And then the health consequences began to hit. I knew this was not working for me. And yet I could not stop. When we continue in spite of adverse consequences, that is a clear sign of addiction.

The last main characteristic of addiction is tolerance.

The idea of tolerance is borrowed from our understanding of chemical dependency. We understand that, for a person who does not usually drink, a glass of wine will make you feel however it makes you feel. Tomorrow a glass of wine will make you feel about the same. And the next day maybe the same. But it won’t take very long before that one glass of wine will no longer give you the same kind of feeling that it once did. It might take two glasses, or three. That same phenomenon happens around our sexual activity. There is a tolerance component to the process. Part of the tolerance effect is a purely neurochemical, physiological change in the brain. We are up against our own brain chemistry. That’s one aspect of the problem. But we addicts are also often adrenaline junkies. We are in this for the high. So if the high of one kind of behavior isn’t enough, then either it will take more and more of that same kind of behavior or it will take going on to other, higher risk behaviors to get the same effect. The disease progresses either to more and more of the same behavior or to higher risk behaviors.

There are other characteristics to all addictions. All addictions lead to an unmanageable life. It is a progressive or degenerative process. Addictions are used to escape feelings. What an addiction does is alter our moods.

Addictions are often fueled by a sense of entitlement. I think about a pastor who is overworked and underpaid. There are so many demands on his life, he’s fighting with the deacon board, nobody understands him, and he is not appreciated the way he should be. Eventually he asks himself, Who is meeting my needs? I deserve something. That is a typical way for addicts to think. No one is meeting my needs. I’ll just have to do it myself. That’s what I mean by entitlement. I deserve this.

Addictions are also often used by addicts as a reward. Sexual addicts experience sex as the answer to everything. If I feel overworked or lonely or sad, sex can make me feel better. If I feel happy and things are wonderful, what’s the best way to celebrate? Sex. It’s the answer to everything. It can medicate the kind of entitlement, anger and loneliness that we experience or it can serve as a reward.

Finally, addictions, and certainly sexual addiction, can create a feeling of power. This is particularly true for women who are sexually addicted. There is an incredible feeling of power involved. In our culture we learn that a woman’s core worth in the world is her sexuality. We use sex to sell everything from cars to dishwashing liquid to carpets. Everything you can imagine. Those cultural messages are very powerful. So particularly for women who are sex addicts there is a big power component at work.

The Link Between Abuse and Addiction

The roots of sexual addiction are often found in childhood abuse—physical, emotional, spiritual or sexual. One out of three women and one out of six men will experience some kind of overt sexual abuse before the age of eighteen.

My susceptibility to sexual addiction is deeply rooted in my experience of childhood abuse and neglect. My mother died when I was three. My father was a pastor whose duties kept him absent from our home a great deal of the time. He spoke somewhere seven nights out of seven for the entirety of my childhood. And I felt very lonely. When I was five a twenty-year-old man, a deacon in the church, came into my life as a substitute father figure. He took me roller-skating every Saturday morning for years. He encouraged my writing. He would read to me and spend an enormous amount of time with me. From the age of five to the age of twenty, when I left my father’s home to be married, he abused me sexually. I never thought of it as sexual abuse. He never hurt me physically. He never coerced me physically. He loved me—I thought. I loved him—I knew. We had a relationship.

The level of sexual activity did not escalate to intercourse until I was fifteen years old. Well, by fifteen—remember I was a good preacher’s daughter—I knew that was wrong. In my limited understanding I had consented to this relationship with a man who at that time would have been over thirty. The only way I could explain those experiences was, I must be a whore. I know this is wrong. I know I’m not supposed to do it. From the age of five he began to sexualize me, training me to respond to him sexually. But my experience was that it was all my fault. It was only many years later when I was in counseling that I began to see that, of course, it was sexual abuse. Even the nongenital behaviors starting at age five were clearly sexual abuse.

The wounds of sexual abuse are profound. It is my conviction that until we face clearly the wounds of childhood abuse we will not be helpful to sexual addicts whose struggles are rooted in abuse. We know that eighty-one percent of sexual addicts, both men and women, are adult sexual trauma survivors—untreated trauma survivors. It is critical to understand this link between sexually abusive experiences and sexual addiction.

It is also important to emphasize that the experience of abandonment in childhood can be as problematic as the experience of abuse. I have worked with some sex addicts who are not sexual trauma survivors, but I have never worked with a sex addict who is not a survivor of childhood abandonment. After my mother died my father buried his grief in his work addiction. It was this abandonment that set me up for the sexual abuse. Physical abandonment—through death, as in my case, or through the work addiction of a parent, or through divorce—is only one kind of abandonment. Sexual abandonment—the lack of appropriate information and appropriate modeling of sexual closeness—can also cause problems. If parents display no appropriate affection around their children, there is a neglect. I have had many women tell me of the shock of their first menstruation. No one had bothered to tell them basic information about their sexuality. That’s sexual abandonment. Spiritual abandonment can also be a factor. We seem to model rules-based spirituality. But many people have never had grace-based spirituality modeled for them in their family. That’s a kind of spiritual abandonment. These kinds of experiences give us some very unhealthy core beliefs that, in turn, prepare us for the addictive process.

Let me say something briefly abut the core beliefs of addicts and how they are connected to neglect, abandonment and abuse.

The first core belief of sexual addicts is, I am a horrible, terrible person. When we are abandoned or abused, that is what we conclude. I thought, If I had been a better little girl, my mom would not have died. Or, for sure, If I had been a better little girl my dad would have wanted to spend some time with me. If you add on top of this the sexual abuse I experienced, what can a child conclude other than, I am a horrible person.

The second core belief shared by all sexual addicts is, No one will meet my needs.

Is it any surprise that a child who experiences abandonment comes to this conclusion? The people that I should be able to trust and depend on are not there for me. The third core belief is this: Sex is my most important need. Again, the connection between sexual abuse and sexual addiction is profound. When we are sexualized at an early age and experience all the confusion around that abuse, we inappropriately sexualize love, touch, nurture and affection. Everything really important in life becomes sexualized. We come to believe that love or relationship is our most important need.

Finally, sex addicts believe this: If you really knew me, you would leave me. There is this front that I present to the world, and maybe it looks really good on the outside, but it’s not what is on my inside. If you knew me, you would leave. These core beliefs, often impacting us on an unconscious level, set us up for addictions of all kinds.

Healing from Sex Addiction

There are a number of key ingredients that make recovery possible. I’ll discuss just a few.

Fellowship.Fellowship is the antidote to trauma and the key to long-term recovery. We cannot recover in isolation. God made us for fellowship. We were wounded in relationships, and we have to heal in relationships. Fellowship is also the antidote to lust. Healthy fellowship is what will help us become free from lust.

Accountability. It’s not enough to just have fellowship. We can have fellowship that does not involve accountability, and that’s not going to solve the problem. We need people who know our story and who will hold us accountable for the rituals as well as for the acting out. In my opinion, Twelve Step programs are the best place to find the right mix of fellowship and accountability. When I walk into a Twelve Step group and say, “Hi, my name is Marnie, and I’m a grateful, recovering sexaholic,” I am home. I know these people understand. They have been there themselves. And I know that we can provide for each other the fellowship and accountability we need. I won’t preach the whole sermon, but I believe that Christ intended churches to operate a whole lot more like Twelve Step groups. They need to be places where it’s okay to be real, okay to have problems. Places where you don’t have to have all your problems fixed before you feel at home.

Counseling. The Twelve Steps lead us through a methodical process that focuses on our addictive behaviors and on the defects of character that underlie our addictive behaviors. But the Twelve Steps, as wonderful and useful as they are, will not adequately address all the problems of abuse and abandonment that are at the root of sexual addiction. That’s not their goal. The goal of Twelve Step programs is sobriety. And sobriety gives us an opportunity to work on the other problems that have led to our addictions or that accompany our addictions.

For example, sexual addicts, in addition to being addicted to sex, are also often depressed. And that’s a problem for which counseling and medications can be very helpful. In the Christian community we do not hesitate to treat most medical problems. It bothers me that in the Christian community we so often experience resistance to the treatments and medication that have been shown to be helpful for depression. We don’t tell an insulin-dependent diabetic, “Just pray more and you’ll feel better. You don’t need the insulin.” But people who are depressed do hear people say things just like that. Depression is a medical illness. It often requires medication in addition to counseling in order to be helpful. Counseling and medication can play an important part in the recovery process. Sometimes intensive workshops or inpatient programs can also be helpful. For some people an intensive treatment program is essential for recovery, and almost all sex addicts can be helped by having an intensive jump-start to the recovery process.

Courage. Recovery requires courage. It is a difficult journey—and one that is not undertaken lightly or easily. In the Twelve Step community we say that recovery is simple but it is not easy. It will cost a lot. For many of us giving up an addiction feels like death. It is our addiction that has helped us cope with the wounds of abuse and abandonment. When we have no other, healthier coping skills, becoming abstinent from our addictions can be an absolutely terrifying, incredibly painful process. That’s another reason why the fellowship and accountability is so important. Without support we will inevitably retreat into “safer” territory.

Grace. The experience of grace is central to the recovery process. I know clearly when I first felt grace. It was when I was in the middle of getting a divorce from my first husband. I was a full-blown sex addict. My life was totally out of control. And it was the first time in my life that I felt suicidal. Some people that I worked with—people that I didn’t know well at all—saw my distress. It wasn’t really because of the divorce. The real pain and despair I was experiencing came from the shame I experienced from the religious community of my father, the pastor. I was disowned. And shamed. I had sweet church people coming to my home at ten o’clock at night and at seven o’clock in the morning to tell me I was going to hell for divorcing my husband. I was distraught about that as much as I was about anything else. These friends put me in their car and took me to a Christian counselor. I assume that they had arranged this ahead of time, since he was available to see me. They walked me in and introduced me to this man, and then they left. I was not comfortable in that office. I did not want to be there. He said something like, “What can I do for you?” And I unleashed on him a long speech complete with some pretty salty adjectives about what I thought about Christians and what I thought about pastors. I let him have it. I said I didn’t care anything about his blankety-blank whatever. But, I said, if you can stop me from killing myself I’ll give you ten minutes.

You know what he said? “Okay.” Just “Okay.” No moralizing. No lectures on right and wrong. Right then I felt grace for the first time in my life. I let this man know just a little about who I really was. At that moment I was a really, really angry person. But he accepted me without judgment. I only met with him a few times; I wasn’t ready yet to do the hard work I needed to do. So my life continued in the pattern of acting out for another twelve years after that. But I think he saved my life that day. With a single word he showed me more of the grace of God than I had experienced before. That helped me to believe twelve years later that it just might be possible for a counselor to help me. It helped me to return to that kind of resource when I was ready and able to do so.

When we experience grace, instead of the preoccupation and fantasy that drives the addictive process, we develop a vision for a different kind of life. Part of recovery is recovering a graced vision for our lives. We need a vision of a life of sobriety, a life in recovery. We need to be able to envision a life truly connected to God in a deep spirituality. And to envision ourselves and our families living a healthy life. Instead of the unhealthy rituals that lead to acting out, we need a vision of healthy rituals and disciplines in our lives. Prayer, meditation and Bible study are healthy disciplines. To be a part of a community of faith or a support group is a healthy discipline. These kinds of healthy disciplines can support healthy choices. Instead of despair, we need a vision of joy. That’s what recovery is about.

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Marnie Ferree offers individual and couples counseling through the Woodmont Hills Counseling Center in Nashville, Tennessee (www.woodmont.org).

Q&A: Ten (10) Indicators of Successful Marital Counseling Post-Abuse

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: Can you give suggestions as to what to look for regarding “success” in couples counseling? I am in a marriage that is destructive. For months I went to individual counseling, and really was on a trajectory toward separation/divorce.

Surprisingly my husband agreed to couples counseling. He almost immediately took responsibility for abusive behaviors toward me (which for 16 years he’s denied) and his angry rants ended simultaneously to beginning counseling. I am grateful for the changes, though leery–how is it so easy now that there is a “watchful eye”.

I feel that in an effort to validate my husband, too many issues are normalized—and my husband walks away believing that our troubles are part of common every day married life. I feel as if couples counseling is a threat to the work I have done as an individual to be honest about how poorly I was treated and gain the fortitude to no longer accept it.

Answer: It is very interesting how much self-control someone can have once the abuse is disclosed and he is in an accountability relationship. However, that does not mean that the underlying entitlement thinking or other problems that caused the blindness and denial to go on for 16 years have been adequately confronted, talked through, or healed.

From what you said, once you decided to leave the marriage he said he would do marital counseling. But he’s never done his own work to explore what was behind his abusive behaviors and destructive attitudes, even though he has stopped his rages. It’s like an alcoholic who stops drinking but never does the work to understand why he was drinking in the first place or the damage he or she has caused to others. Yes, the drinking is over – and that’s a good thing, but some of the same problems are still there and still unresolved.

Now that you are in marital counseling with him, the counselor is exploring things that were problems in your marriage. The counselor is trying to get your husband to express some of the things he was unhappy with. However, without first adequately addressing his abusive behaviors and attitudes and the damage that’s caused you and your marriage, things can start to get very fuzzy. It can start to feel like you are being held responsible for his unhappiness and the problems in the marriage that triggered him to abuse in the first place.

In addition, marital counselors attempt to stay neutral and not take sides, but when they do this where there is a history of abuse, without realizing it, the counselor is taking sides. By not first validating the pain your husband has caused you, and speaking about how unacceptable his behaviors were, both you and your husband are left with the impression that the marriage counselor doesn’t think what happened was all that serious or did not damage the relationship all that much.

I believe that any couple attempting to reconcile their marriage after abuse will at some point, need to have some joint marital counseling but not until they have each processed their own issues and they are also able to safely and sanely talk about what happened in the past with the abuser taking full responsibility for abusive behaviors. That does not mean that the non-abusive spouse doesn’t have problems that have contributed to the marital unhappiness, but that those problems were not a cause for abusive behavior and attitudes.

Here are Ten (10) Indicators of Successful Marital Counseling Post-Abuse.

1. The past is the past. It has been talked about, grieved, repented of, forgiven, and owned. The past is not currently happening in the present.

2. Both people in the marriage can freely bring up hot topics or difficult feelings in their marriage relationship with safety. No shaming, no retaliating, no minimizing or blaming.

3. Both people would be open, and willing to learn how to be a better spouse and build a healthier relationship. They would feel free to disagree with one another and there would be a teachable attitude on both of their parts.

4. Time outs as well as other boundaries would be honored and respected. If one or the other was having a hard time communicating effectively, they would wait until things cooled down or they could get back in to see the counselor.

5. Both partners would now take responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the relationship and other family responsibilities.

6. Power and responsibility would be shared. There would not be a double standard where the rules that applied to one person in the marriage didn’t apply to the other.

7. Trust is being rebuilt in the here and now. It is seen as precious and safeguarded.

8. If there is a slip, or a repeat of past history or other serious sin, or even a reminder of it, the person responsible would acknowledge it and take corrective action, whether that means apologize and make amends, or get back into counseling in order to stop a further downward spiral of the marital progress.

9. A person’s feelings would inform him or her, not control him or her. Self-awareness, self-reflection, self-control and self-correction would be part of their daily habits.

10. They have invited several close friends or family into their lives to help them grow and keep them accountable.

Q&A: Is It Controlling To Check My Spouse’s Emails and Texts?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

QUESTION:  One of the chapters in your new book on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage addresses control regarding looking at emails and texts. I never did this before until I had caught my husband in a lie about his whereabouts. He was acting differently for several months and was protective over his phone.

When I looked at his phone without his knowledge, I saw texts with co-workers and customers that were flirtatious. Then I looked at emails and also found emails that made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable as a wife. He said he could see why I thought that way and would take a look at his actions. I hadn’t looked in a long time, but several texts would appear when I was near him that I saw again were the same flirtatious exchanges.

We are in counseling, and he did admit to being deceptive regarding his whereabouts. I hadn’t looked in a while, but started looking again at his texts because I felt he was again not being truthful and maybe he never was, and that the only way I could find out the truth is if I looked.

Is this wrong and controlling as you mentioned in your book? Or is it different when you have reason to look because I hadn’t looked up until that point? Again, I love this book and can’t put it down. He is attentive to me when we are together.

If I didn’t look, I might not have realized what was going on. He is meeting with a counselor regarding his inability to express emotions (dad died when he was 6 yrs old). My counselor feels he is being emotionally promiscuous. He feels he is in control and not doing anything wrong. Recently, I saw 3 texts in over a year from a co-worker that he said were not meant for him. One said “listening to this song thinking of you” and another said, “Me too Babe, it’s been a long time.”

He said she texted back and mentioned it was not intended for him. I want to believe him, but it’s getting harder and harder. If I didn’t look, on the surface things appear normal.

ANSWER:  I’m sorry you’ve discovered that your husband has a secret life. That is painful to you and harmful to your marriage. Apparently, he is also confusing you. On the one hand, he’s agreeing that his behavior might make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Yet, he is also minimizing the damage when he states he’s in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If he’s not doing anything wrong, why is he hiding his behavior? With the way you worded your sentence though, I wasn’t sure if it was your husband or his counselor who felt your husband was in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If it’s the counselor, he would do well to find another counselor.

That said, the question you’re asking is are your behaviors controlling when you keep checking your husband’s cell phone and e-mails to see if he is lying or sneaking around?

Let me ask you a question. Why are you still checking? It’s not to find out if he’s lying to you. You already know the answer to that. So what’s your purpose? To find out if he’s still lying to you? You already know that answer, too. So what do you want to do with the information you already have? That is what you need to focus on right now.

You indicate that overall you have a good marriage and you would have no idea this was going on if you didn’t check. From that, I assume that you want your marriage to stay in-tact, minus the emotional promiscuity. What does your husband want? If he wants the same thing, then what will he need to change in order for him to stop his secret life?

First, he might commit himself to counseling to figure out what he’s trying to get out of his flirtatious behaviors. Next, he would initiate accountability for himself so that he will be less likely to fall into those same behaviors, you will feel safe, and you both can rebuild trust.

That means he will invite and allow you and/or other people, such as a good male accountability partner, to monitor his e-mails, phone messages or texts whenever you want to. You will not need to sneak to check. You will have full access to his passwords and be able to verify that he is doing what he says anytime you feel anxious. This is not to control him, as he must learn to control himself. This is for you to rebuild the trust that he is doing what he says he wants to do–stay married to you and stop flirting with other women.

However, that doesn’t mean that if your husband wants to, he still can’t find a way to flirt and lie about it. You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt.

So many women obsessively try to change their husband’s sinful behaviors by playing detective and drive themselves crazy in the process. If your husband wants to be a liar and a cheat, you are absolutely powerless to stop him. All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not. If not, then what do you need to do instead of continuously monitoring him?

5 Steps to Recover from a Failure

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

You’ve failed.

It was huge…at least to the people impacted by the mistake. Perhaps you did it on purpose. Maybe it was an accident. You may have stumbled into gradually over time. Bottom line: It was wrong. You did it. No denying it now.

What next?

Here are 5 steps to recover from a failure:

Admit – Be honest…with yourself and others who need to know. Quit hiding from the truth. Stop making excuses. Own up to what you did and take responsibility for your actions. It’s a sign of maturity and few make it past this point. You my have consequences to deal with. don’t run from them.

Repent – Ask God for forgiveness. If you are a believer, He’s already paid your penalty on the cross, but you need to acknowledge your sin to keep the relationship pure. Ask any injured parties for forgiveness. You’re not responsible for their granting of grace, only for your attempt to live at peace with them.

Plan – Create a new path. Consider the right way to do things next time…so you won’t make the same mistake again. Do you need new friends? A new environment? Should you step away from a position for a time? How can you ensure those around you, whose trust

Commit – Commit to your plan. Commit to new accountability. Commit to the people you love. Commit to yourself. Commit to walking a new path and writing a new story.

Grow – Learn from every failure. You do not have to be defined by this season of your life. Move forward, looking back not to feel bad about yourself, but only enough to remind you to never go there again.

You can do it!

Improve Your Marriage by Being Worse Parents

SOURCE:  Jim Keller/Family Life

Parents often put their marriage relationship on the back burner. These four principles will help you balance working on your marriage while attempting to raise children.

There was no question about it: The situation was serious. Greg, a 17-year-old junior in high school was found by his mother passed out on his bed after overdosing on his father’s pain medication. He was rushed to the hospital, stabilized, and then admitted to the psychiatric unit for observation. After two days of psychological assessment and prescribed medications, Greg was released with the recommendation that he receive counseling to help deal with his emotional and relational health.

When I met with Greg, he seemed like a normal, emotionally engaged young man who had simply been going through some academic and relational difficulties. We talked through the struggles he was dealing with at present and came up with a treatment plan that I felt would address these issues and hopefully make him more resilient to deal with any problems that might arise. It was a good first session and my prognosis was that Greg simply needed some space to talk about some of his internal stress and develop some new coping strategies.

Then I met with the parents …

Greg’s mother and father were appropriately concerned following the revelation that Greg had been abusing drugs, particularly after his overdose. The more I talked to them, however, the more I became concerned about them. They weren’t just worried about Greg’s emotional health; they were worried about his GPA, his sports performance, his “questionable” relationships, his Christian testimony, his reputation, and his ability to be accepted to the college of his choice. And secretly worried, I think, about how their reputation as parents would be sullied if word got out that Greg had a “drug problem.” While these concerns were legitimate, they didn’t get to the real heart of the issue.

During the next session, I asked Greg about his parents’ marriage. He described it as “fine,” but when asked to elaborate he revealed some important dynamics.

“Are you closer to your mother or father?” I asked. Without hesitation he answered he was closer to his mother.

“Who aggravates you more?” I followed up.

“She does.”

“Do you feel close to your father?”

“No, not really,” he said.

Greg also talked about his general experience at home. “I feel as if I’m under a microscope and that if I don’t perform up to expectations, the whole family will fall apart.”

“Are they good parents?” I asked.

I’ll never forget his answer: “They’re too good! I feel as if it all hinges on me—how the family is doing, what the mood is at the house, and whether we’re going to have a good time or not.”paren

In Greg’s family, the husband and wife were too devoted to their parenting and not focused enough on their own relationship. Greg’s parents had every right to be concerned.  But the key issue besides stabilizing Greg’s behavior had nothing to do directly with him. It had to do with his parents. Our culture is kid-centric. It is hyper-focused on raising great kids. Not average kids, not “C” students, but above-average, excelling children who will somehow validate the family and make every parental sacrifice worthwhile.

The problem with this focus however, is the fact that many times marriages and the relationships between the parents themselves are put on the back burner in the name of being more effective and loving parents. This is usually not a conscious decision, but one that takes place over years of family growth and child development.

Here are four principles that can help balance working on your marriage while attempting to raise children:

Principle #1: The marriage comes first—spousal love covers a multitude of parental sins. Many of my clients, both adult and children, have experienced tremendous anguish because of marital conflict in their past or present home. One of my most distressing times as a therapist was working with a 9-year-old first-born child, who was experiencing debilitating headaches that consumed his life. In tears he would tell me of the emotional pain that his parents’ fighting would cause him; he couldn’t escape the anguish that the conflict between his parents created in him. When I tried to intervene in this boy’s parents’ marriage, his mother and father told me that the subject was moot because the marriage was ending in divorce. Needless to say the headaches continued.

Principle #2: Parenting is a team effort. Children know instinctively how to divide and conquer. And if there is disagreement as to how a child should be directed or disciplined, the family is set up for potential chaos and the marriage is weakened. Marital discord creates a chaos where children will be in charge. A divided marriage not only brings discord to the house, but many times the husband and wife will seek to curry the favor of their children instead of their spouse, validating their feelings through their children rather than their spouse.

This principle is violated with such frequency that I sometimes shake my head in amazement. A few years ago I counseled a couple that was working through some extremely difficult issues. They had two pre-adolescent children and were at loggerheads over what type of parenting style was appropriate. The wife claimed her husband was a severe and unreasonable disciplinarian; the husband claimed his wife spoiled the children to a “ridiculous degree.”  As the marriage disintegrated, the husband shied away from his draconian parenting style and began relating with his boys in a way that he had never done—he spent one-on-one time with them, and began to listen more closely to not just what they were doing but how they were doing. Instead of the wife being pleased, she became more and more agitated, convinced her husband was turning the children against her.  The conclusion is obvious: If the marriage is suffering, parenting will also suffer or at best be extremely challenging.

Principle #3: Let your children make mistakes. A couple came to see me to deal with a variety of issues both marital and familial, but their central focus causing the most consternation was their teenage daughter’s interest in a boy who was, in their eyes, less than stellar. They told her she could not date this boy any longer because she was making a “serious mistake.”

Kristi feigned agreement, but secretly kept seeing her boyfriend until her disobedience was discovered. This continued back and forth for another two months and then ensued what I call the “take-away game.” Kristi’s privileges were stripped one by one, until she basically went to school, came home, had dinner, and went to her room. Her computer was gone, her phone was confiscated, and she was isolated from any item that would cause her the smallest bit of pleasure in her home.

“How’s this working out for you?” I asked Kristi’s parents with a smile. The smile was not returned. I tried a different approach, “How is this affecting your marriage?” This question caught them a bit off guard, but they both admitted that their relationship was strained at best. Their daughter was a huge distraction and they had found themselves bickering about what direction to go and what disciplinary steps to take next. The time and energy that they were concentrating on their daughter was seriously interfering with their marriage. They asked me what direction they should take.

“First, give her everything back,” I said.

“Won’t that validate her behavior?” the mother asked.

“No, it will just let her know that you recognize that what you’re doing is not effective and that you are rescinding the punishment. Then,” I said, “sit her down, express your desires, and review the boundaries that you have set for her. After that, pause, look her in the eye, and say, ‘We have taught and hopefully modeled for you what good decision-making looks like. But we cannot control your life and we cannot keep you from making what we think are serious mistakes. So we’ll continue to set family boundaries which we expect you to honor, but we will not micro-manage your life any longer.'”

The mother looked on in horror as I suggested this. “Do you know the bad decisions she could make?”

“I do, and I hope she doesn’t. But the price that you’re paying as a couple and as a family is too great. You cannot let your daughter dictate the environment of your family.”

Kristi didn’t get better right away, and she did make some mistakes, but she no longer controlled the family by her behavior. I am certainly not encouraging negligent parenting and I’m also not saying that parents shouldn’t intervene when their children are making life-threatening decisions, but mistakes are potentially life’s instructors—we all learn the hard way! Kristi’s parents’ marriage was strengthened, and that produced a healing effect not only in their relationship but in their family as well.

Principle #4: Let your children reap their own consequences. One of Jesus’ most fascinating parables is the story of the prodigal son. That one story is so loaded with lessons that you could spend a decade studying it and still not plumb its depths.  As we know, the son goes off, squanders his inheritance, and returns home destitute and humbled. One of the great lessons of this story is the fact that the father allowed his son to reap the consequences of his own decisions. He did not intervene or bail his son out of trouble or out of debt. He only prayed, awaiting his son’s return.

Of all the responsibilities that come with parenting, I believe allowing children to reap their own consequences is by far the most difficult. Any loving parent doesn’t want his or her child to suffer the results of poor decision-making.

I am regularly asked to counsel adolescents who are described by the parents as “under-achievers,” which I’ve finally determined is a fancy word for lazy. “John just isn’t getting the grades he’s capable of,” said one mother who recently came into my office.

John was in a prep school and was pulling in B’s and C’s. As I talked with John it was evident that he himself knew he wasn’t performing up to the level to which he was capable.

“What’s the deal with school?” I asked.

“Oh, I just don’t care that much and don’t want to do all the work they want me to do to get A’s. B’s and C’s are okay.”

I talked with the mother at the end of the session and told her that I thought John was a fine young man and that he was doing well.

“But what about his grades?” his mother asked, “He won’t be able to get in to the colleges that he wants to with grades like that.”

“Have you told him this?” I responded, but I confess that I already knew the answer.

“From the time he was in middle school—he knows what he needs to do.”

“Then let him reap what he has sown,” I said.

John knew that his behavior had consequences, but he hadn’t quite reaped them yet. His parents needed to allow that to transpire, even if his path was not totally to their liking. John got into a middle-tier college and went on to do quite well in his early adulthood. I had a conversation with him five years later and he said to me, “You know, I know I could have gone to a better college if I had worked harder in high school. I realize what my parents were trying to get me to understand.”

“Could they have done anything different to change your behavior?” I asked.

“No, I just had to learn for myself,” was his sage reply.

Parenting, the great distracter

Parenting is a great responsibility and a great joy, but it can also be a great distracter. Our lives are so inextricably linked with our children that it sometimes can be overwhelming emotionally. My most emotional moments and the majority of my tears were engendered by my kids. But my children eventually left home—can you imagine?! And my wife and I were the ones that remained. And the really interesting thing to me is that our relationship is still the backbone of our now-extended family. Don’t focus so much on your parenting that you forget that the most important relationship in your family is your marriage to your spouse.

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Adapted from The Upside Down Marriage ©2012 by James Mark Keller.

Is Your Spouse’s Depression Hurting You?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

What to do when his depression is hurting you

Question:  My husband and I have been married for 27 years. I have been reading your books and articles and they have been a blessing to me. Without going into great detail, my husband suffers from major depression.

 He controls the finances, disregards my feelings and desires, lies constantly and can be emotionally and verbally abusive. There is–or was–a kind and honorable man in there, but I don’t see him much anymore, and living with the ” other guy” is wearing me down to nothing.

  After facing financial ruin 5 years ago and managing to get out of debt by the grace of God and start over, he went behind my back to fund his “projects” and we are right back where we started. I have been an enabler who vacillates between keeping the peace and occasionally breaking down and yelling/ crying, but I am trying to change.

 I just need to know…can I hold a depressed person accountable for these actions? His view of reality is skewed and I’ve tried so hard to be kind and supportive but I am so drained. I am afraid if he is forced to confront his behaviors he will be suicidal, but the stress of living this way is too much.

 Also, how do I set boundaries on the spending? We have agreed on budgets, etc., but he ignores them. He promised me he would not put us in debt again, but he broke that promise in a big way, some of it behind my back, some of it while I begged him not to. What can I do to protect me and my son? He is not speaking to me today because I confronted him about some lies I just discovered regarding finances. I am scared of what he will do if I try to take this away from him, and don’t know that I can anyway.

Answer:  You are struggling with several issues at once so I think it might be helpful to separate them a bit for greater clarity. The first is your husband’s depression. How long has he been depressed and is he getting any treatment for it? Does he have a doctor or counselor that he’s working with? If not why not? Depression is a treatable problem. Does he have any family history of bi-polar depression? His spending issues may indicate some mania. If so, be sure to mention this to his treatment provider.

Male depression typically manifests differently than female depression. A depressed woman tends to internalize her pain and blames herself. A depressed male usually externalizes his pain and blames others and circumstances. His externalized pain results in lashing out toward loved ones, sometimes leading to abusive incidents (either verbal and/or physical).

Although depression does rob an individual of his or her ability to think clearly, it does not rob them of all sense of reality or truth, nor does being depressed give him an excuse to sin or act in ways that injure those he says he loves, whether financially, relationally, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes it’s our compassion, sometimes it’s our fears, but It sounds like you’ve been giving your husband a get out jail free card when he sins against you or your family because you’re trying to be sensitive to his depression. The problem I see is that it’s not helping. Shielding your husband from the reality and consequences of his behavior is not helping him get better. It’s not helping him stop his abusive/deceitful behaviors, and it’s taking you to the edge of your own cliff where you are feeling like you can’t take much more. Therefore, let me suggest a different approach and it starts with asking God for wisdom because it’s scary to set boundaries and implement consequences when you’re not sure of what will happen next.

First, I want you to accept the very painful reality that the only person you can take full responsibility for is you (unless you have an infant in the home). Therefore, you need to get your own help to handle yourself in this situation. You acknowledged you are an enabler. Until you address why you keep enabling behavior that becomes destructive to you, to him and to your future, you will probably keep repeating it or will be too afraid to change it.

One thing you mentioned is your fear of him committing suicide. Yet you also indicated in your question that you just recently confronted his lying about finances and he didn’t threaten suicide, he just stopped speaking to you. Suicide is a real possibility with someone who is not only depressed, but has lost hope. But threatening suicide can also be used to manipulate others into doing what they want.

I hear you loud and clear that you are nearly at the end of your rope. Living with a depressed person definitely takes its toll on the rest of the family. That’s why it’s so crucial that you get your own support and help right now, not only to stop enabling his behaviors, but to stay healthy and strong yourself.

I’m going to give you a few things to think about – hopefully you will have the courage and strength to implement them. They will be crucial to your long term sanity as well as safety.

Tell someone what’s going on. Secrets are lethal and you need some support. You can share what’s happening without throwing your husband under the bus. Be wise who you share this with, but you need someone who can pray for you and perhaps be an advocate with you in talking with your husband. That might be another family member such as an adult child or one of his siblings, a good friend, or your pastor.

You must also start to exercise some stewardship over your life. You do not have power over your husband’s life although you do have considerable influence. Therefore, I want you to tell your husband that his depression is now affecting you and your marriage. You can say it lovingly like, “I need for you to get help now. You may be able to live with your depression but I can’t. You’re not behaving like the man you once were.”

You said in your question that somewhere inside of him there is a kind and honorable man but his negative emotions rule him and cloud his thinking and judgment. That can happen to all of us and sometimes it’s helpful when we have a grace-filled truth teller come along side of us to remind us who we are. Read the story in the Bible where Abigail had a heart-to-heart conversation with David after her husband refused to feed David and his men. David was humiliated and outraged. He vowed to kill every male in Nabal’s household. Boldly yet humbly, Abigail went to meet David with supplies of food. In their conversation, she reminded him who he was (the Lord’s anointed and the future king of Israel). This helped him to press pause on his destructive emotions of rage long enough to rethink his decision to kill all of Nabal’s men. (Read 1 Samuel 25: 29-35) for the story.)

In a similar way, I’d like you to try to have that kind of conversation with your husband. Humbly remind him who he is (a child of God, an honorable man, whatever good characteristics you know of him) and encourage him not to allow his depressed feelings to rule his heart or his decisions. Ask him to be willing to receive help to manage these depressed emotions so that he can be the person God wants him to be.

He may have all kinds of objections to getting outside help. Here is where you must stay strong and firm. His depression is not only causing him distress, it’s causing you distress. He is making poor decisions and these decisions affect you and your child. Affirm that you love him and want to see him get well and your marriage to thrive. If he agrees to see a doctor, or if he has one already, insist on going with him and report to the doctor the changes in him that you observe. For example, he doesn’t’ sleep well, he’s spending recklessly, he’s angry all the time, he is impulsive, etc. If he goes alone, he may minimize his symptoms or not recognize some of the things he does that are upsetting to you.

You don’t share whether or not you are employed, but at this time I would separate your finances and open a separate checking account with just your name on it exercising good stewardship over your finances. Since he has been irresponsible and deceitful with the finances, the consequences are that you are going to be in charge of family finances until he gets better. That may motivate him to get the help he needs as well as set some limits on his access to family money. Do not sign for loans or credit cards or home equity loans. This is not helpful to him or to you. This is where your enabling may need to be addressed so you don’t fall victim again.

It’s important that you realize that you are not only doing this for your protection, you are doing it for his. When you know someone is not making good decisions, you don’t give them unlimited access to things that could harm them or others. For example, if you had guns in the house you would remove them or make sure they were locked up. If you had a lot of prescription pills in the house, you would lock them up. Taking charge of the finances is not just for your protection, it’s for his. The shame that he feels for lying and failing again to appropriately manage money contributes to his feelings of worthlessness and feeds the cycle of depression and may lead to hopelessness – thinking he’ll never get better.

There is an excellent book I’d recommend you check out of your library called, How You can Survive When They’re Depressed:  Living and Coping with Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield. It will help you be a good steward of your own life as well as wisely set appropriate boundaries with your spouse.

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.

Letting Go of Lust

Why willpower alone is not enough

Source:  Discipleship Journal

The young man looks at the pile of work on his desk and takes a deep breath. With dread, he thinks about the deadline that looms on Friday. The pressing tyranny of so many things to do day after day has begun to wear on him.

As he heads to the kitchenette for another cup of coffee, a coworker steps out of her cubicle in front of him. He notices her clothes, or more specifically, how they fit her. In an instant, his thoughts race into forbidden territory as his glance sweeps over Marcia’s body.

“Morning, Sam,” Marcia says with a friendly smile.

“Morning, Marcia,” Sam replies according to script, unable to look her in the eyes.

Sam and Marcia discuss the morning’s non-news, the mundane stuff of casual conversations between coworkers. Almost unconsciously he watches her as she turns to leave the kitchenette.

As soon as she disappears around the corner, Sam realizes he’s fallen again.

Despite his pleas to God and his vows to try harder, to do better, still his eyes wander. Like Peter after the cock crowed, Sam is filled with remorse. Back at his desk, he quietly pleads, “Forgive me, Lord.” But he neither feels forgiven nor has much time to think about it as he picks up the next invoice to record in the ledger.

Anatomy of Lust

Many sincere followers of Christ struggle with lust. What, exactly, is lust?

Webster’s defines it as an “unusually intense or unbridled sexual desire.” In Ephesians, Paul says that lust characterizes those without Christ:

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

—Eph. 4:18–19

Paul also wrote, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3).

These passages paint a dark picture of the person trapped in lust.

Though Paul was talking about unbelievers, when believers give in to lust regularly, our souls are similarly darkened. We grow insensitive to sin and increasingly pursue fleshly gratification. Lust promises satisfaction but never delivers. Instead, we’re left with a driving hunger for more.

People who struggle with lust may be tempted to wonder, Is obedience in this area of my life really possible? This has been a pressing question for me. I’ve had seasons of consistent obedience as well as failure. I wish I could say that I have “arrived” when it comes to defeating this demon. But I have not discovered the silver bullet that will permanently vanquish lust from my heart, mind, and eyes.

However, I have begun to see that dealing with lust demands a deeper examination of the core beliefs from which our sinful choices spring. We can make important behavioral changes—such as memorizing Scripture and seeking accountability—but still fail to look carefully at what’s really going on in our hearts. To experience lasting change, we must recognize that sexual sin springs from wrong beliefs about God, about others, and about what will ultimately satisfy our longing.

Unmasking Unbelief

What drives us to choose something that so consistently fails to satisfy, something that heaps debilitating shame upon our lives?

God has created us with a natural desire to experience intimacy. Lust is a debased form of this desire to connect with others. We want other people to understand what’s going on inside us. Lust, however, mistakenly elevates the sexual component of intimacy. It twists and warps our hearts into the tragic belief that sexuality—and fantasy—is the chief means to that end.

Lust also reveals a stunted belief in God’s goodness and His ability to meet our needs.

Throughout the Bible, God has promised to fill, satisfy, and sustain us.

Isaiah 51:12 says, “I, even I, am he who comforts you.”

Zephaniah 3:17 describes God’s passion for us in poetic terms: “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

David spoke of God’s love for him: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you . . . My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Ps. 63:3, 5).

In Ps. 16:11, David also said, “You will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Finally, Isaiah wrote about how God has designed our relationship with Him to quench our deepest thirsts. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is. 12:3).

The New Testament echoes the Old in the ways it describes God’s promise to satisfy us. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn. 4:14). Paul wrote, “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19, NRSV). Paul repeatedly described believers as heirs to the inexhaustible riches of a Father God who loves us passionately. We are children of the King!

And yet we sometimes choose to live as paupers, rooting around desperately in the trash instead of dining on the rich fare He offers His children at His table. If we capitulate to the siren song of the flesh, distortions and lies creep into our thinking in subtle ways. Enticing but life-sapping alternatives to His goodness always crouch in the shadows of the soul, seeking to seduce our heart’s attention. Whether we realize it or not, we begin to rationalize our sin.

We may think, I’ve sought to serve Him with all my heart for many years, but still He hasn’t brought me a life partner. It doesn’t matter if I indulge this lustful thought a bit. God knows I’m a sexual being. I deserve a bit of comfort.

Instead of recognizing our sin for what it is, we come to see it as a right. We squint at God, viewing Him as a stingy miser who has established unreasonable laws to keep us from what we think will satisfy us. Lust is born the moment we choose to meet our needs our way instead of trusting God to be true to what He’s promised.

Maybe we don’t vocalize those thoughts. But when we choose lust, our actions uncover what we believe. We have essentially said to God, “I really don’t believe You can satisfy my deepest needs, and I’m tired of waiting. I am going to have what I want, on my terms, right now, and I’m not willing to wait for You to fulfill my desires in Your time.” Lust, then, is the wicked child of unbelief.

That’s why willpower alone can never be the ultimate solution to the battles we wage against the lusts of our flesh.

I may vow, “I’m never going to do that again.” But that momentary intention does not get at the root of the problem: my unbelief in God’s goodness.

Instead, I must recognize that one key to resisting lust’s lies is learning to go to the Father and praying in faith, “Lord, You have said that You delight in me, that You love me, that You want to comfort and fill me with Yourself. You have said that You alone are life and that Your love is better than anything we might experience in this life, including sex and my fantasies about it. Father, help me to trust You in this moment of temptation. I believe in Your ability to fill and satisfy me.”

Peter said that if we take God at His word, we will experience freedom from the shackles of sin and we will know Him intimately. “He has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Pet. 1:4).

Seeing Better

In Shakespeare’s play King Lear, a once proud and noble king slowly goes insane, slipping into deep paranoia about those close to him. One of Lear’s friends admonishes him, “See better, Lear.” Like the senile Lear, we, too, need to see better. Not only does lust reveal unbelief, but it also demonstrates that I see others only as objects of gratification, not as individuals whom God has lovingly created in His image.

How can we begin to see people as God sees them?

By allowing Scripture to saturate our hearts. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word will transform our perspective. As we read and meditate upon it, we see what He values and discover how He wants us to relate to others. He uses His Word to rewire our perspective on reality, giving us new eyes to “see better.”

All of Scripture pours forth God’s love for each individual. A couple of passages, however, stand out regarding the way we see people. One important thing to reflect upon is that every person has been made in God’s image (see Gen. 1:27). David describes God’s craftsmanship in Ps. 139:13–16:

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful . . . My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

Every person has tremendous dignity and worth simply by virtue of being created lovingly by God. We can begin to combat lust by asking God to help us remember and believe, deep in our hearts, that each individual is a unique and wondrous creation who bears His image. When I lust after a woman, I do violence to her dignity by failing to see her as a whole person and respect her as an image bearer of our God. Over the last couple of years, this truth has significantly changed the way I see people.

Another passage is one of the most familiar commands in the Bible: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). As a man, I’ve rarely been on the receiving end of lustful glances. However, one experience showed me how ugly, how selfish, how disgusting my lust is.

On a weekend trip to Santa Fe with one of my best friends and his wife, we discovered a club that featured a different kind of music every night. We enjoyed a delightful evening of jazz and returned the next night to see what else was on tap.

When we walked in, I noticed that everyone sitting at the bar was male. My friend whispered to me, “This feels weird.” He was right. Several male couples openly expressed their affection for one another on the dance floor. Recognition dawned: It was gay night.

By the time my friend and I turned to leave, three men at the bar were openly sizing us up. No veil of shame or embarrassment cloaked their hungry eyes. I remember how disgusting it felt to be seen as a steak on a platter. Almost immediately, however, a familiar voice said, “Adam, how often do you do the same thing?”

I try to remember that sense of violation. I try to remember because it’s not the way I want to be treated, nor is it the way I want to regard any woman. By God’s help and power, I am learning to see better.

Intimacy and Community

Earlier I commented that lust is a misguided attempt to meet our legitimate needs for intimacy. We may think the key to escaping lust’s tenacious grip is paying more attention to private spiritual disciplines. While this is important, I believe another crucial component is often overlooked. Those who struggle with lust must experience wholesome intimacy within the context of a loving community. We need to be with others who love us deeply, yet not sexually. We need to receive their affirmation, their affection, their love, and their touch.

Genuine community is built upon a willingness to take off our masks in front of others. Though we need to be careful to do this in appropriate settings, such as in a small group or even with one other person, it’s critically important that someone knows who we really are.

Moving toward that kind of honesty is never easy, even if someone else has taken the risk first. But often, we will have to be the one who steps forward, takes the risk, and talks openly about our sin.

Proverbs 28:13 describes the healing process that takes place when we confess our struggles to an accepting community of believing friends: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” I’ve sometimes failed to live up to the standards of purity God commands of us. Each time, I experience a tortuous descent into self-loathing, a crippling burden to bear alone.

Even after I’ve confessed my sin to God, I can only find complete freedom from my shame by confessing the whole truth about my choices to several men I trust. In doing so, I’ve never failed to experience the mercy about which the writer of Proverbs speaks.

The freedom and healing in confession come from knowing that others have glimpsed the dark places in our hearts yet accept and love us anyway. God graciously uses other believers as vessels of His mercy and grace, reminding us through them that forgiveness is real, that it is our birthright as His sons and daughters.

Hope for the Battle

When we find ourselves giving in again to lust, we need to look beyond the behavior itself to what’s going on in our hearts. Lust is a clue that something about the way we’re approaching life is not right.

If you’re wrestling with this sin, consider how you’re seeing God and others. Do you believe God is capable of meeting your needs? Are you carving out time to know Him in increasing intimacy through His Word and prayer? How are you looking at other people? Are you seeing them as image bearers of God or treating them as objects? Are you sharing your heart with others, letting them see your struggle, and receiving the gift of their prayers and willingness to listen? Or are you in hiding?

Paul’s promises about God’s work in my life give me hope for this ongoing battle. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). By His grace, I recognize His tremendous Father-love for me more each day. As I do so, His eyes become mine, and I see other people from His redemptive, life-giving perspective, instead of viewing them through the warped lenses of lust.

People Pleaser or God Pleaser?

SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Who doesn’t want to see their kids happy, especially if we are bringing them delight? I love to please my daughters. But I also want to see them safe and healthy. So when they make unhealthy or dysfunctional requests, it is easy for me to say “NO!” even though they aren’t pleased, and in fact, they might actually be upset, or cry because of my answer.

Need a couple of examples? What about when they ask … for their third bowl of ice cream … for the keys to the car and they’re only 13 … to stay out until midnight on a school night when they’re 14 … to camp out with a boyfriend, alone, when they are 16. All these will easily get a “no” answer from me regardless of how displeased my beloved daughters might be with my answer.

When fellow adults make dysfunctional requests, for some reason, for most of us, it is much harder to say “no”.

Why is it hard to say “no” to other adults? Sometimes it’s because I think they know more than I do about the situations … or they know what’s best for themselves more than I do … or I fear and hate being uneasy when people are mad or upset at me … or I fear their rejection … or I need their approval … or I need to be needed or accepted. “I need…” and “I fear…” lenses are based on a me-centered mentality. These distorted lenses significantly interfere with perspective, and lead to disrespectful, dysfunctional, or even sinful relational conduct.

When we focus on trying to please people by acting dysfunctionally, then our behavior is not serving or pleasing God. If we are truly His servants, then our primary goal will be to please God first, not others.

 When Jesus lived on earth, many who believed in Him would not admit their faith. Because these people were more concerned about personal safety and other people’s opinions rather than God’s opinion, they did not live out their faith. Likewise, when we live as people-pleasers, we are demonstrating the fact that we want approval from people instead of from God. Consequently, our walk with Him will always be hindered.

Today, ask yourself, “What is my greatest perceived need or greatest perceived threat when someone makes a request of me … or when I feel the need to people-please in a relationship? Whom am I trying to please … God or that person?” Maybe most of your life is lived to please God, but there are still situations or people that trigger a people-pleasing response in you.

God wants us to put Him first in all things … we cannot please Him by placing more importance on people’s opinions … or our needs … over His.

Pleasing God is your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I do want to please You. Forgive me for the times I let my desire to be accepted by a person outweigh my desire to please You. Thank You for Your love and for accepting me unconditionally. Help me to be a better servant, doing the right thing, not the people-pleasing thing, as I grow healthy relationships with others. Give me courage and peace to withstand the pressure I feel when others are displeased with my answers. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who was the perfect servant, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.

John 12:42-43

Pornography: Q & A — Should I Marry A Man With Porn Struggles?

SOURCE:  Russell Moore

Should I Marry a Man with Pornography Struggles?

A couple of months ago, I posted a question about an ethical dilemma a recently engaged woman is facing. She just found out that her spouse to-be has had “ongoing struggles with pornography.” She isn’t sure what to do, or how to make sure the issue is sufficiently addressed. You gave your thoughts on the issue, and here are mine.

Dear Engaged and Confused,

Far too many women are watching “The Notebook” or “Twilight” for indicators on what kind of man they should marry. Instead, you probably should watch “The Wolf Man.”

Have you ever seen any of those old werewolf movies? You know, those in which the terrified man, dripping with sweat, chains himself in the basement and says to his friends, “Whatever you do, no matter what I say or how I beg, don’t let me out of there.” He sees the full-moon coming and he’s taking action to protect everyone against himself.

In a very real sense, that’s what the Christian life is about. We all have points of vulnerability, areas of susceptibility to sin and self-destruction. There are beings afoot in the universe who watch these points and who know how to collaborate with our biology and our environment to slaughter us.

Wisdom means knowing where those weak points are, recognizing deception for what it is, and warring against ourselves in order to maintain fidelity to Christ and to those God has given us.

What worries me about your situation is not that your potential husband has a weakness for pornography, but that you are just now finding out about it. That tells me he either doesn’t see it as the marriage-engulfing horror that it is, or that he has been too paralyzed with shame.

What you need is not a sinless man. You need a man deeply aware of his sin and of his potential for further sin. You need a man who can see just how capable he is of destroying himself and your family. And you need a man with the wisdom to, as Jesus put it, gouge out whatever is dragging him under to self-destruction.

This means a man who knows how to subvert himself. I’d want to know who in his life knows about the porn and how they, with him, are working to see to it that he can’t transgress without exposure. I’d want to know from him how he plans to see to it that he can’t hide this temptation from you, after the marriage.

It may mean that the nature of his temptation means that you two shouldn’t have computer in the house. It might mean that you have immediate transcription of all his Internet activity. It might be all sorts of obstacles that he’s placing in his way. The point is that, in order to love you,  he must fight (Eph. 5:25; Jn. 10), and part of that fight will be against himself.

Pornography is a universal temptation precisely because it does exactly what the satanic powers wish to do. It lashes out at the Trinitarian nature of reality, a loving communion of persons, replacing it with a masturbatory Unitarianism.

And pornography strikes out against the picture of Christ and his church by disrupting the one-flesh union, leaving couples like our prehistoric ancestors, hiding from one another and from God in the darkness of shame.

And pornography rages, as Satan always does, against Incarnation (1 Jn. 4:2-3), replacing flesh-to-flesh intimacy with the illusion of fleshless intimacy.

There’s not a guarantee that you can keep your marriage from infidelity, either digital or carnal, but you can make sure the man you’re following into it knows the stakes, knows how to repent, and knows the meaning of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil all the way to a cross.

In short, find a man who knows what his “full moon” is, what it is that drives him to vulnerability to his beastly self. Find a man who knows how to subvert himself, and how to ask others to help.

You won’t find a silver bullet for all of this, but you just might find a gospel-clinging wolf man.

(Image Credit)

I Won’t Stand In The Way (of your consequences)

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.” Luke 15:12-13 NLT

Thoughts for Today
Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior. Enabling behaviors may actually hinder what God is doing in our loved one’s life.

In Luke 5:11-32, we learn that the father of the prodigal son understood the dangers of enablement. The prodigal son chose to take his part of the inheritance and leave home. He went to a distant country and wasted his wealth. Finally, out of money and working in a field feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go home and ask his father’s forgiveness.

Consider this … 
Although it had been painful to see his son leave, the prodigal’s father allowed him to be responsible for his own actions … all the while, praying for him and waiting to receive him with open arms when he returned. But in the meantime, the father did not send care packages to the pigpen.

When the son recognized his sin and confessed it, his father welcomed him home and showered him with mercy and love.

It is vital that we don’t try to deliver our loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions, but instead allow God to work his perfect plan in their lives.

Prayer
Father, help me not to interfere with your plan for my loved one’s life. Help me not “jump to the rescue” when I should stay back and trust you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

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

Q & A: Husband says he’s sorry and will change, but doesn’t. Now what?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Question: My husband has had two affairs, he throws things when he’s angry, abandons me for days at a time after an argument, and now has just completely detached himself from our family. He also lies about his whereabouts. I want to be the wife God has called me to be, but I can’t continue this way. My husband always says he is sorry and will change, but these behaviors continue to resurface. Please help.

Answer: I think the first question you must settle is what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be for your husband? Is it a wife that allows herself to be abused, abandoned, lied to, and cheated on with no consequences?

You say I can’t continue this way. I don’t blame you. No one would want to be married this way. But I think your dilemma is that although you can, with God’s help, be the wife that God wants you to be, that doesn’t guarantee that your husband will become the husband God wants him to be or that you want him to be.

But the question remains, what kind of wife do you think God wants you to be here? Do you think he wants you to be passive and continue to live with a man who lies to you, cheats on you, leaves you, and scares you when he’s angry? Or, might God be calling you to love your husband in such a courageous way that you boldly confront his sinfulness, refuse to accept his excuses, and, if he wants to remain married to you, require him to show through his behaviors that he’s repentant and truly wants to change. His words are meaningless. He lies. If he wants to be married, it’s time that he takes specific and consistent action steps that demonstrate that he’s serious and willing to work hard to change.

What might that look like? For starters, he needs to get some accountability partners that will help him stay honest, engaged, and sexually faithful. He needs a plan to help him learn how to manage his emotions when he’s angry or hurt so that he doesn’t get destructive, deceitful, or disengage for long periods of time. Obviously he hasn’t been able to change these habit patterns by himself, so he will need to get professional or pastoral help to learn how to deal with his emotions and understand why he does the things he does. These changes do not happen quickly or painlessly but, with God’s help, are possible for the person who is committed and teachable.

I think you fear that if you hold your husband to these necessary changes and he refuses, then what? I’m going to tell you the unvarnished truth. Your relationship is broken. You may stay legally married, you may even still live together, but you cannot have a good marriage if your husband will not change.

Hear me. You can make a bad marriage better all by yourself (by not retaliating or repaying evil for evil), but you cannot make a bad marriage a good marriage all by yourself no matter how good a wife you are. We only have to read through the book of Jeremiah to see how God longed for Israel to repent, to come to her senses and change, but she would not. God loved Israel, but He could not and would not have a close and intimate relationship with her until she was willing to change her sinful, adulterous, deceitful ways.

God knows what you’re going through. Let him empower you to be the wife he wants you to be and the wife your husband most desperately needs. You don’t have to live this way.

30 Life Principles

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Dr. Stanley’s 30 Life Principles

1. Our intimacy with God – His highest priority for our lives – determines the impact of our lives.
More about Our Intimacy with God

2. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
More about A Life of Obedience

3. God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storm.
More about Our Anchor in Times of Storm

4. The awareness of God’s presence energizes us for our work.
More about Energized by His Presence

5. God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable.
More about The Unreasonable Will of God

6. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
More about The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

7. The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
More about The Dark Moments in our Life

8. Fight all your battles on your knees and you win every time.
More about Fight Your Battles on Your Knees

9. Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.
More about The Thrill of Trusting God

10. If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will.
More about God Will Show You His Will

11. God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him.
More about His Promise to Provide

12. Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.
More about The Key to Continued Peace

13. Listening to God is essential to walking with God.
More about Listening to God – Walking with God

14. God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
More about God Acts on our Behalf

15. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.
More about God’s Pathway of Brokenness

16. Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.
More about When Plans Turn to Ashes

17. We stand tallest and strongest on our knees.
More about Standing Tall and Strong Through Prayer

18. As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.
More about Victim or Victor?

19. Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.
More about Holding Too Tightly

20. Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.
More about Overcoming Discouragement

21. Obedience always brings blessing.
More about Obedience Always Brings Blessings

22. To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.
More about Walking In The Holy Spirit

23. You can never outgive God.
More about You Can Never Outgive God

24. To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.
More about The Key to the Christian Life

25. God blesses us so that we might bless others.
More about Passing on God’s Blessing

26. Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
More about Burden or Bridge

27. Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.
More about Prayer: Our Time-Saver

28. No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.
More about Together In the Christian Life

29. We learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.
More about The Valley Experiences In Our Life

30. An eager anticipation of the Lord’s return keeps us living productively.
More about Anticipating The Lord’s Return

Parenting: Where Has “Playing” Gone?

HOW PLAYING WITH YOUR CHILD CAN REAP HUGE REWARDS

SOURCE:  Elizabeth Maynard, M A – Heartlife Professional Soul Care

Technology Wins!

 Long gone are the days of playing outside until dark, playing board games/cards together, or sitting around reading as a family.

Our world today is characterized by technology, especially for children at younger and younger ages. The Internet, cell phones, and television can be considered the “trinity” of technology.  It is no surprise that children are logging on to the Internet and engaging in technology at younger ages than ever before.

In addition, parental supervision of a child’s involvement in technology is also generally very lax. As a result, children are engaging in online relationships in ways that demonstrate a clear lack of knowledge in what is safe and appropriate behavior.

According to a study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology, 48 percent of children in kindergarten and first grade reported that they interact with other people on websites. Of these young children, only 50 percent said that their parents watched them as they used a computer, showing that the other half was exposed to unchecked web browsing and interaction with others online. About 48 percent of these young children saw online content that made them feel uncomfortable, and one in four of them said they did not report the uncomfortable experience to a trusted adult.

Compare this to their phone usage.

Back in 1983, phone companies were only spending $100 million per year towards marketing to kids; today they are spending around $17 billion to gain business from minors. A recent study shows that 22 percent of young children own a cell phone (ages 6-9), 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84 percent of teens (ages 15-18). Also, kids spend more time watching television every day than on any other single activity, aside from sleeping.

So, what is the lasting impact that technology is leaving on our children?

Here are a few statistics to consider.

The Internet can potentially have a negative impact on cognitive development. Young children depend on adults to validate what they see, hear, and feel. Since the information on the Internet is uncontrolled, there is no way to check its reliability (Pierce, 1994). In terms of social development, if abused, Internet usage can also take children away from doing important social activities such as homework, chores, and spending time with family and friends.  Michael A. Weinstein, professor of Political Science at Purdue University, believes Internet users will “lose the savvy and skills and patience to conduct social relations in the corporate world,” and that the Internet will intensify the negative effect television has already had on our social skills. For cell phone usage, researchers have found a link between low self-esteem and problem cell phone use. A study measuring the link between cell phones and mental health found that teens that used cell phones the most were more likely to be anxious and depressed. They also found that some teen cell phone users are likely to be woken at night by incoming text messages or calls, and are therefore more likely to be tired and less able to focus throughout the day.

Finally, for the past 20 years, studies have linked excessive TV viewing to childhood obesity, poor brain development, lagging educational performance, sleep disturbances, and diminished physical activity. In fact, new studies show that fast paced TV shows, such as Sponge Bob and Phineas and Ferb, have a profound impact on a child’s cognitive development and executive functioning.

Researchers speculate that the more rapid pace and fantasy-like characters on the SpongeBob show might be too much for preschoolers’ brains to take in. “It confirms something that parents have observed for some time,” Dr. Dimitri Christakis says of the study. “They put their kids in front of television, particularly fast-paced programming, to quiet them down, but when the TV goes off, the kids are more amped up than they were before”.

 More Play Time, Less Technology Time

 So why is it that technology has so many potential negative cognitive, physical, and social impacts on children?

What is the better alternative?

Let’s take a trip back to the past.

Many parents may still “play” with their children. However, it is rare to see a parent sit down on the floor with their child, with no distractions, and give them undivided attention. Busy schedules, multiple children, full-time jobs, and homework are all things that take us away from play time.

A specific, child-centered, non-directive therapeutic approach to “playing” was developed in the 1960’s to show the impact that a parent playing with their child can have on many facets of a child’s development. Filial Therapy was born out of the belief that many children do not have their need for emotional nurturing met (Landreth, 2002). Sometimes, communication gaps between parents and children may exist because many parents are unaware of their children’s emotional needs and lack the skills necessary to interact effectively with them on an emotional level (Landreth, 2002). Therefore, filial therapy provides “focused attention to the child from a person who holds emotional significance to the child, thus encouraging anxieties learned by the parental influence to be unlearned, and provides opportunities for miscommunications to be clarified to the child by the parent” (Guerney, et. al. 1999; Sweeney, 1997).

One of the most important aspects to filial therapy is that the parent focuses exclusively on the child without interruption for 30 minutes.  The second is that the child gets to lead the play, not you.  The third is that the parent puts the child’s feelings, thoughts and even actions into words, without questioning, teaching, or praising!  Most parents find this very strange at first.

Play is a child’s natural way to explore their world.  In playing, children find solutions to problems, as children’s thoughts and emotions come to the surface during play. Play also can be healing.  So why is it so important, especially in light of our society today?

Children are looking to the Internet, cell phones, and television to define their world. They have become reliant on society’s definition of what is appropriate and shape themselves after the “role models” they see on television. It’s no wonder that our children are growing up faster than ever before. It’s no wonder that they are faced with more behavioral and cognitive problems than ever before. By simply playing with your child, you can often find out more about how they view the world by watching and joining in their play than you can by asking them to tell you what is wrong, or asking why they did something.

Lasting Impact

 Whose impact do you want left on your children?

Technology and society today or your family’s principles and biblical instruction from the Lord.

In Matthew 19:13-15, we are told, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there”. In Luke 11:13, Jesus says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”.

It is clear in the Bible how God feels about little children. It is evident that they are to be cared for and brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. “Be imitators of God” to your children. Take the time to play and pray with them and you will see huge rewards.

Let’s bring “playing” back into our families.

One Stupid Decision Away

Editors Note:  We need reminders that all of us are only one stupid decision away from destroying our lives and our legacy.  It’s probably safe to say that none of us wakes up in the morning making plans toward intentionally running headlong into a destructive and disastrous life choice.  However, one bad decision can become two. Two can become three. And eventually, these decisions can cascade into a horrible, unexpected end.  Sadly, for years  to come, our present decisions can carry the consequences of what seemed to “make sense” in the present moment.  

(Proverbs 3:5-6) 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. 

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ARTICLE SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Michael Hyatt

 

What are the lessons for us? We still have choices ahead. I think there are at least five (that help us make better decisions):

  1. We never make decisions in a vacuum. Everything matters. Our words and actions will echo into eternity.
  2. One moment of indiscretion will be remembered forever. It can wipe away a lifetime of good deeds, all of which will be forgotten.
  3. We are all vulnerable to lapses in judgment. If we think we are not, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
  4. We need to build a support system of family and friends who will care enough to challenge us when we veer off course.
  5. We need to live our lives on-purpose. In my experience, the best way to do this is to create a life plan and review it frequently. If you don’t have a road map, you could end up anywhere.

As humans, we have the privilege of determining our legacy. We can decide how we want to be remembered. But this is not a single choice; it is a series of choices. It’s never too late to change course and make your life count.

Emotionally Destructive Relationships: Close to home

My mom’s in an emotionally destructive relationship with my dad. What should I do?

SOURCE:  Leslike Vernick

Question: My parents are in their fourth year on the mission field, their “second” career after retiring from business and moving overseas to serve for an undetermined number of years. They’ve been married 40 years.

For decades, my mom has spent hours in the Word and in prayer daily, and has a track record of humble service to my father (and to her three kids as we were growing up). In fact, her reading habits have drawn repeated attacks and ridicule from my dad. He has a history of humiliating her (and us kids) publicly, explosive anger, and is restrictive of her freedom. But to anyone outside our family, this would come as a shock. He’s a successful businessman, gregarious, and active in every little church they’ve ever been part of.

Mom convinced him to seek pastoral counseling with her about 20 years ago and no real change resulted. He rejects psychology wholesale, yet admits to not finding anything profound or new whenever he reads the Bible. I found out when visiting them this summer that mom’s frequent trips to the bathroom were the result of frequent and prolonged sex (compounded by a long history of health issues which have rendered her “fragile”, to put it gently), which I’m guessing is precipitated by dad’s age and evening alcohol consumption.

I was incensed at the state of things mom was enduring, and told her she did not have to submit to dad’s physical advances any longer. She acted on that after I left and has not been intimate with him since. She and I both struggle with whether that is right, however I maintain that after years of humble service met with nothing but fits of rage, humiliation, zero emotional/relational intimacy, and rejection/denial anytime she attempted to talk about these issues, she no longer needed to put herself through it.

This all has caused mom to start examining her own life, tracing the roots of these problems back to her own father’s rejection of her (her mom told her that he just didn’t like her). She met my dad in college, who even then was controlling and manipulative. After a brief tryst (none of the “falling in love” typical foundation for a marriage relationship), she got pregnant and they were married a month later. She’s been working at it for forty years, and without having to explain much to my siblings, they immediately understood mom’s position when she told them she was ready to stand up to him.

Knowing what action to take has been the daily question. Your description of “crazy making” has been so helpful in understanding what she deals with. Dad does not initiate conversation with mom, denies any wrongdoing when specific instances are presented to him (by mom), and just this week has informed mom that she has been abusing him.

Mom has a plane ticket home in October to visit her 90 year old mother. My dad has removed any legitimate and substantive responsibility from my mom in their mission work. She is fully devoid of any in-country support (she refuses to take this to her co-workers for fear they wouldn’t believe her. While mom still cooks and cleans for my dad and tries to “help him”, he does nothing to reciprocate her attention or acknowledge it with any gratitude (that’s how it’s always been). My mom says she sees “improvement” in him, defined thus: he is trying really hard to control his temper, he doesn’t ask for sex anymore, he’s “earnestly seeking after spiritual things” and he has shifted from a “know-it-all” to “docile resignation.”

To me, that improvement is not reversing the pattern, it’s just neutral. He has no accountability where they are. So I’ve implored my mom to stay here in the US when she comes home. They are already making preparations to extract themselves from their position with their missions agency anyway, and since she doesn’t do anything work-related, it seems more important that she get help here.

Mom says she doesn’t know how she would be able to live apart from him, that she would always be worrying about him. This is understandable, but not healthy. How do I help my mom get healthy? Should she return even though he’d likely be home within the year? Is this “improvement” reason enough for her to resume physical intimacy?

Answer: Watching someone we love struggle in a destructive/abusive relationship is incredibly difficult. When it is our own parents, it is heartbreaking. I know you want to help your mom get healthy, but there are some things that she must do for herself and it sounds as if she is starting to do them.

You can help her, support her, and encourage her, but you must not push her to do something she is not ready or willing to do. If you do that, it will put you in the controlling role and she will once again stay in the passive role. Even though you mean well and only want her best, for someone to become emotionally healthy she must learn to figure out what she wants and to speak up for herself when necessary and not to be so passive, even when someone is upset with her for doing so.

What you can do is help her think through her choices and the consequences of those choices and then applaud and support her right to choose. For her entire marriage, she hasn’t believed she has the right to say “no”, or when she’s tried, she’s been manipulated, controlled, or pressured into giving in. You must not play that same role even if you fear she is making a poor choice.

You’ve asked a number of important questions but one in particular I want to spend a little time on. You asked how could your dad possibly accuse your mother of abusing him after all her years of patiently and passively enduring his humiliation, manipulations, verbal attacks, sexual abuse and controlling behaviors?

First, let me say that although your mother sounds like a saint, she is also still a sinner and there may be times when she does or is tempted to retaliate against your father, even if she does it more passively. The Bible tells us that people’s bad behavior rubs off on us and sometime, even if we’re not aware of it, we start to act like they do.

However, what I think is happening here is a common phenomenon I see once an abused woman stops going along with the abuser and begins to speak up for herself.

Let me give some background. When someone marries it’s understood that this person you married will have their own ideas, feelings, desires, goals, dreams and thoughts about things. If you’re healthy, you will not require the person you married to always think like you, feel like you, want what you want, or always do what you say. Instead you allow them to be different than you. The challenge of a healthy marriage is to lovingly blend two different people into a strong oneness that still contains each person’s uniqueness.

But this is not what happens in an abusive marriage. It sounds like right from the start, your father has not seen your mother as her own “person” to be cherished or loved but rather as an object to be possessed, owned, controlled and used. If this is the case, she isn’t allowed a separate voice, a personal feeling, a want apart from what he wants, or to disagree, or say “no”. As long as she stays true to the object role and shapes herself to meet every whim of your father, things stay relatively calm. Unfortunately this kind of wifely behavior has too often been applauded as biblical submission and a meek and gentle spirit which it is not.

It is not healthy to lose yourself in another person nor is it wise. Now as your mother is becoming healthier and realizing some important things she’s begun to assert herself. She is not just playing the “good Christian wife role” but is saying “I don’t like to be treated this way” and “That’s not acceptable”. However, as she begins to assert her needs, hurts, and feelings, he feels abandoned, rejected, unloved, and even abused.

The reason? In his mind, her sole purpose in being his wife is to please him, meet his every emotional need and always be available when he wants her. She has no needs of her own because she is not allowed to be a separate person. The more she speaks out about how she thinks, what she wants, how she feels and what she will or won’t do the more disappointed your father becomes.

This is not the helpmate he signed up for. And his “improvements” as your mother mentions are either an attempt to charm her to return to the object role, or as you suspect, “docile resignation” that things will never be the same again. This is still a far cry from a healthy marriage.

So do you encourage your mother to say in the States to receive support and help instead of returning to the mission field after her mother’s birthday? That is your mother’s decision to make, but you can help her think it through all of her choices and to know that if her marriage is to turn around, it is important not only that she continue to grow be the person God made her to be (not an object) but that her husband begin to value and cherish her as a person and not merely as someone who sole purpose is to take care of him, whether physically, emotionally or sexually.

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Leslie Vernick is a licensed counselor (DCSW, ACSW, LSW) with over 25 years of experience helping individuals, couples, and families enrich the relationships that matter most!

Four Things You Need To Know About Addiction

SOURCE:   Published September 13, 2011  | FoxNews.com

In 1971 President Richard Nixondeclared a war on drugs. The motivation? Not the ghettos with their drug dealers, nor the hippies invading Woodstock, the embrace of Rock ‘n Roll, free love and getting high. No, it was the rampant addiction among U.S. soldiers in Vietnam that had him concerned. He told Congress this addiction was “public enemy number one,” and so the war on drugs began. Years later, First Lady Nancy Reagan rebranded the campaign as “Just Say No.”

Forty years ago seems like a lifetime, doesn’t it? Back then the perception was that treatment was all about the strength to say “no,” and that those who could not shake their addiction simply did not have the willpower; they were weak.

Today we know that genetics, brain chemistry and upbringing all play a role in addiction, and it’s commonly accepted as a disease of the brain among professionals. So, does this mean that willpower no longer plays a role in the recovery from alcohol and drug abuse?

Here are four things you need to know about addiction:

1) Genetics Play a Role: This where it all begins. Researchers look for “addiction genes,” which means they’re looking for gene similarities between parent and offspring when addiction strikes. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics warn that children of addicted parents are the highest at-risk group to become an addict, themselves.

Children are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction if their parent is an addict. Interestingly, the chances for the son of an addict becoming an addict is four times greater than a daughter. Also, children of alcoholics are more likely to marry alcoholics than the general population thus leading to an even greater likelihood of alcoholic children — a vicious cycle indeed.

The Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center stated, “… our data suggests there may be a cognitive difference in people with addictions. Their brains may not fully process the long-term consequences of their choices. They may compute information less efficiently.” The study continues, “The genetic findings raise the hopeful possibility that treatments aimed at raising dopamine levels could be effective treatments for some individuals with addictive disorders.”

2) Biology Also Plays a Role: If genetics play a big role in addiction, it’s reasonable to assume that brain chemistry does, as well. The addict has a craving for alcohol or drugs that may trump the love of their children, spouse and work. It rules their world, and often the need is too intense to easily resist.

Dr. Peter Kalivas, a Charleston researcher, has actually pinpointed changes in the brains of cocaine-addicted rats. Cocaine increases dopamine (a pleasure/reward chemical in the brain) which causes changes in brain DNA. Thus doing cocaine actually changes brain function and this causes cravings.

Dr. Kalivas’ research is now testing how to reverse that change in order to make treatment more efficient and effective.

3) Motivation Is Key: Health Psychology, a peer-reviewed journal, will soon be publishing a study sponsored by the Society for the Study of Motivation, which reports brain scans can actually predict if a person has the propensity to be motivated to overcome their addiction.

There are two aspects of motivation: recognizing you have a problem and wanting to correct it.

Every journey begins with that first step. In every recovery program, the first step is always the same — admitting you have a problem. If you don’t think you problem, how can you possibly fix it?

Once you realize you have a problem then what? If you remain on the same path, you may lose your spouse, your family, job, friends, perhaps freedom itself — whatever it is you value most, is at risk. This is the motivation that many need to finally make the decision that it’s time to get sober. And if this study is as promising as it appears then we can be able to scientifically determine who has motivation and who doesn’t. The next step is to figure out why and then see what can be done to increase it.

4) Taking Personal Responsibility Is Still Very Important: Everyone should be responsible for their actions, and the addict is no different.

Take the diabetic, for example. This is a medical illness which may be treated with medication. The diabetics that manage their illness the best also take charge — they exercise, eat properly, test their blood sugar levels and get the proper amount of sleep. Those that are proactive with their health will have a longer, healthier life as opposed to those that say, “Poor me, I’m a diabetic and there’s nothing I can do except take my insulin.”

The same personal responsibility applies to the addict: Attending meetings, consulting with sponsors, abstaining from alcohol and drugs, attending 12 step programs and the desire to stay sober are all conscious decisions that must be made in order to remain clean. The addict must also choose friends wisely, and get rid of the enablers and the users. To get/stay sober is a 24/7 job and the addict must be responsible for his life and lifestyle.

We live in a world where many do not want to take responsibility for their life, health or happiness. It’s so much easier to say, “Woe is me, I’m an addict, it’s not my fault that I can’t stop. I have a disease!” However, instead of the victim saying, “poor little me,” the responsible person says, “Yes, I have a disease, but I’m in charge of me and will do my part to overcome it.”

So, in 2011, while we understand that addiction is genetic and biologic, yet we cannot fall prey completely to the, “There’s nothing I can do, it’s a disease,” way of thinking. As much as many would try to tell you otherwise , motivation and willpower are still important. Just ask anyone who has cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, arthritis or any other severe medical illness, the will to persevere and overcome is everything.

Dr. Dale Archer is a psychiatrist and Distinguished Fellow of The American Psychiatric Association. He  specializes in analyzing and understanding human behavior across a wide variety of fields and is a frequent guest on FoxNews.com’s “The Strategy Room.” For more, visit his website: Dr.DaleArcher.com.

SHAME: Misplaced Vs. Well-Placed

Battling the Unbelief of Misplaced Shame

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

2 Timothy 1:6-12

Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; 7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. 8 Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus ages ago, 10 and now has manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

The Definition and Causes of Shame

Let’s start with a dictionary definition of shame. Shame is the painful emotion caused by a consciousness of guilt or shortcoming or impropriety.

Let me illustrate each of those causes.

  1. First, the cause of guilt. Suppose you act against your conscience and withhold information on your tax returns. For a couple years you feel nothing because it has been put out of your mind, and you weren’t caught. Then you are called to account by the IRS and it becomes public knowledge that you lied and you stole. Your guilt is known. Now in the light of public censure you feel the pain of shame.
  2. Or take the cause of shortcoming. In the Olympics suppose you come from a little country where you are quite good in the 3,000-meter race. Then you compete before thousands of people in Seoul, and the competition is so tough that by the time the last lap comes up, you are a whole lap behind everyone else, and you must keep running all by yourself while everyone watches. There’s no guilt here. But the humiliation and shame could be intense.
  3. Or take the cause of impropriety. You are invited to a party and you find out when you get there that you dressed all wrong. Again, no evil or guilt. Just a social blunder, an impropriety that makes you feel foolish and embarrassed.

Well-Placed Vs. Misplaced Shame

One of the things that jumps right out at you from this definition of shame is that there is some shame that is justified and some that isn’t. There are some situations where shame is exactly what we should feel. And there are some situations where we shouldn’t. Most people would say that the liar ought to be ashamed. And most people would probably say that the long distance runner who gave it his best shot ought not to feel ashamed. Disappointment would be healthy, but not shame.

Let me illustrate from Scripture these two kinds of shame. The Bible makes very clear that there is a shame we ought to have and a shame we ought not to have. I’m going to call the one kind, “misplaced shame” and the other kind “well-placed shame.”

Misplaced shame (the kind we ought not to have) is the shame you feel when there is no good reason to feel it. Biblically that means the thing you feel ashamed of is not dishonoring to God; or that it IS dishonoring to God, but you didn’t have a hand in it. In other words, misplaced shame is shame for something that’s good—something that doesn’t dishonor God. Or it’s shame for something bad but which you didn’t have any sinful hand in. That’s the kind of shame we ought not have.

Well-placed shame (the kind you ought to have) is the shame you feel when there is good reason to feel it. Biblically that means we feel ashamed of something because our involvement in it was dishonoring to God. We ought to feel shame when we have a hand in bringing dishonor upon God by our attitudes or actions.

I want to be sure you see how important God is in this distinction between misplaced shame and well-placed shame. Whether we have a hand in honoring God or dishonoring God makes all the difference. If we want to battle shame at the root, we have to know how it relates to God. And we DO need to battle shame at the root—all shame. Because both misplaced shame and well-placed shame can cripple us if we don’t know how to deal with them at the root.

So let’s look at some Scriptures that illustrate misplaced shame and some that illustrate well-placed shame.

Misplaced Shame

2 Timothy 1:8

Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but take your share of suffering for the gospel in the power of God.

What this text says is that if you feel shame for testifying about Jesus, you have a misplaced shame. We ought not to feel shame for this. Christ is honored when we speak well of him. And he is dishonored by fearful silence. So it is not a shameful thing to testify, but a shameful thing not to.

Secondly the text says that if you feel shame that a friend of yours is in trouble (in this case: prison) for Jesus’ sake, then your shame is misplaced. The world may see this as a sign of weakness and defeat. But Christians know better. God is honored by the courage of his servants to go to prison for his name. We ought not to feel shame that we are associated with something that honors God in this way, no matter how much scorn the world heaps on.

Mark 8:38

Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Shame is misplaced when we feel it because of the person or the words of Jesus. If Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” and others laugh and call it unrealistic, we should not feel ashamed. If Jesus says, “Fornication is evil,” and liberated yuppies label it out of date, we should not feel shame to stand with Jesus. That would be misplaced shame because the words of Jesus are true and God-honoring, no matter how foolish the world may try to make them look.

1 Peter 4:16

If one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God.

Suffering and being reproached and made fun of as a Christian is not an occasion for shame, because it is an occasion for glorifying God. In other words in the Bible the criterion for what is well-placed shame and what is misplaced shame is not how foolish or how bad you look to men, but whether you in fact bring honor to God.

This is so important to grasp! Because much of what makes us feel shame is not that we have brought dishonor on God by our actions, but that we have failed to give the appearance that other people admire. Much of our shame is not God-centered but self-centered. Until we get a good handle on this, we will not be able to battle the problem of shame at its root.

Romans 1:16

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.

The reason shame in the gospel would be a misplaced shame is that the gospel is the very power of God unto salvation. The gospel magnifies God and humbles man. And so to the world the gospel doesn’t look like power at all. It looks like weakness (asking people to be like children and depend on Jesus, instead of standing on their own two feet). But for those who believe it is the power of almighty God to save sinners.

2 Corinthians 12:9–10

Jesus said (to Paul),

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly exult in my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Now ordinarily weaknesses and insults are occasions for shame. But for Paul they are occasions for exultation. Paul thinks that shame in his weaknesses and shame at insults and persecutions would be misplaced shame. Why? Because the power of Christ is perfected in Paul’s weakness.

I conclude from all these texts that the biblical criterion for misplaced shame is radically God-centered. The biblical criterion says, don’t feel shame for something that honors God no matter how weak or foolish it makes you look in the eyes of unbelievers.

Well-Placed Shame

The same God-centeredness will be seen if we look at some texts that illustrate well-placed shame.

1 Corinthians 15:34

Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Here Paul says that these people ought to feel shame. “I say this to your shame.” Their shame would be well-placed if they saw their deplorable ignorance of God and how it was leading to false doctrine (no resurrection) and sin in the church. In other words well-placed shame is shame for what dishonors God—ignorance of God, sin against God, false beliefs about God.

1 Corinthians 6:5

The Christians were going to secular courts to settle disputes among themselves. Paul rebukes them.

I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood?

Again he says they should feel shame: “I say this to your shame.” Their shame would be well-placed because their behavior is bringing such disrepute upon their God as they fight one another and seek help from the godless to settle their disputes. A well-placed shame is the shame you feel because you are involved in dishonoring God.

And let’s not miss this implication: these people were trying their best to appear strong and right. They wanted to be vindicated by men. They wanted to be winners in court. They didn’t want anyone to run over them as though they had no rights. That would look weak and shameful. So in the very act of wanting to avoid shame as the world sees it, they fell into the very behavior that God counts shameful.

The point is: when you are dishonoring God, you ought to feel shame, no matter how strong or wise or right you are in the eyes of men.

Ezekiel 43:10

And you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple and its appearance and plan, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities.

God says Israel ought to feel shame for its iniquities. Sin is always a proper cause for shame because sin is behavior that dishonors God.

(See also Romans 6:212 Thessalonians 3:14 for more instances of well-placed shame.)

We can conclude from all these texts that the biblical criterion for misplaced shame and for well-placed shame is radically God-centered.

The biblical criterion for misplaced shame says, don’t feel shame for something that honors God, no matter how weak or foolish or wrong it makes you look in the eyes of men. And don’t feel shame for bad circumstances where you don’t share in dishonoring God.

The biblical criterion for well-placed shame says, DO feel shame for having a hand in anything that dishonors God, no matter how strong or wise or right it makes you look in the eyes of men.

Now how do you battle this painful emotion called shame? The answer is that we battle it by battling the unbelief that feeds its life. And we fight for faith in the promises of God that overcome shame and relieve us from its pain.

Three Instances of Battling Misplaced Shame

Let me illustrate with three instances.

1. When Well-Placed Shame Lingers Too Long

In the case of well-placed shame for sin the pain ought to be there but it ought not to stay there. If it does, it’s owing to unbelief in the promises of God.

For example, a woman comes to Jesus in a Pharisee’s house weeping and washing his feet. No doubt she felt shame as the eyes of Simon communicated to everyone present that this woman was a sinner and that Jesus had no business letting her touch him. Indeed she was a sinner. There was a place for true shame. But not for too long. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). And when the guests murmured about this, he helped her faith again by saying, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (v. 50).

How did Jesus help her battle the crippling effects of shame? He gave her a promise: “Your sins are forgiven! Your faith has saved you. Your future will be one of peace.” So the issue for her was belief. Would she believe the glowering condemnation of the guests? Or would she believe the reassuring words of Jesus that her shame was enough? She’s forgiven. She’s saved. She may go in peace.

And that is the way every one of us must battle the effects of a well-placed shame that threatens to linger too long and cripple us. We must battle unbelief by taking hold of promises like,

There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared. (Psalm 130:4)

Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked man forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that he may have mercy on him and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6)

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

Every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:4313:39)

2. Feeling Shame for Something That Glorifies God

The second instance of battling shame is the instance of feeling shame for something that is not even bad but in fact glorifies God—like Jesus or the gospel.

Our text shows how Paul battled against this misplaced shame. In verse 12 he says, “Therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

Paul makes very clear here that the battle against misplaced shame is a battle against unbelief. “I am not ashamed FOR I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED AND I AM SURE OF HIS KEEPING POWER.” We fight against feelings of shame in Christ and the gospel and the Christian ethic by battling unbelief in the promises of God. Do we believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? Do we believe that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness? The battle against misplaced shame is the battle against unbelief in the promises of God.

3. Feeling Shame for Something We Didn’t Do

Finally, the last instance of battling shame is the instance where others try to load us with shame for evil circumstances when in fact we had no part in dishonoring God.

It happened to Jesus. They called him a winebibber and a glutton. They called him a temple destroyer. They called him a hypocrite: He healed others, but he can’t heal himself. In all this the goal was to load Jesus with a shame that was not his to bear.

The same with Paul. They called him mad when he defended himself in court. They called him an enemy of the Jewish customs and a breaker of the Mosaic law. They said he taught that you should sin that grace may abound. All this to load him with a shame that it was not his to bear.

And it has happened to you. And will happen again. How do you battle this misplaced shame? By believing the promises of God that in the end all the efforts to put us to shame will fail. We may struggle now to know what is our shame to bear and what is not. But God has a promise for us in either case:

Israel is saved by the Lord with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity. (Isaiah 45:1749:23)

No one who believes in the Lord will be put to shame. (Romans 10:119:33)

In other words, for all the evil and deceit,  judgment and criticism that others may use to heap on us a shame that is not ours to bear, and for all the distress and spiritual warfare it brings, the promise stands sure that they will not succeed in the end. All the children of God will be vindicated. The truth will be known. And no one who banks his hope on the promises of God will be put to shame.

Misplaced Grace or Realistic, Authentic, Biblical Grace?

SOURCE:   An article at Practical Theology for Women/Wendy Horger Alsup

Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics … every action is met by an equal and opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. … I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas

I believe in grace. I’ve written about it many times on the blog (here and here for instance). I found it core to the message of Ephesians as I studied and wrote By His Wounds You Are Healed. Yet despite my belief in gospel grace for myself and my commitment to live it out with others, I am constantly seduced away from it. The gravity that is our culture (both unbelieving and believing) pulls us down and away from gospel grace.

I remember a number of disasters in South Korea when I taught there—a gas explosion that killed 150 school children, a mall collapse that killed 500, and others. Seoul was so crowded that an accident that might kill 5 or 10 in the U. S. killed 300 there. With each incident, the culture screamed for a scapegoat. An individual government official or single head of a company would eventually be identified and sent to prison, if he didn’t take his own life first. In reality, there were systemic problems in the Korean infrastructure, not the least of which was a widespread, inbred culture of bribery. But it was easier to cry for the blood of one than address the culpability of many. The culture craved focused karma on the one guy rather than diluted karma across a wider group, and grace or forgiveness was not to be spoken of.

I noticed a similar thing in the aftermath of the teenager raped by a church usher then made to confess in a church discipline service. I read one Christian fundamentalist web forum in particular where the posters were over the top in their cry for the blood of the rapist. “They should tie him up and cut off his ….” They used their over the top language calling for the blood of the rapist to deflect from examining the culpability of a larger group. Like the mall collapse in Seoul, it was easier to cry for the blood of one than address the culpability of many.

We have an unforgiving culture, and we as believers have contributed to it. Because karma is seductive, and grace seems threatening. But I’m with Bono. My hope is that Jesus took my sins on the cross. And Scripture is clear that I can’t choose grace for myself and karma for everyone else.

But like everyone else, I’m much better at telling others to forgive than doing it myself. When something I love is threatened, my energy is aroused and expressed in either active anger or passive-aggressive manipulation. Karma seduces me – hey, they DESERVE it. And I forget that there is a better way.

The crux of grace is forgiving when you’ve been burned, as Christ has forgiven you. What does grace look like in the worst case scenario? What does grace look like for the pedophile? The child murderer? Is there anyone our culture hates more than them? They leave the worst kind of scars on their living victims. But if karma rules the day for even the pedophile or child murderer, it rules the day for all of us. And that is NOT the gospel. Karma’s a bitch, a totalitarian dictator. NOBODY wants her in charge.

Gospel grace in contrast offers hope to both the victim and the offender. If you haven’t yet read Generous Justice by Tim Keller, you really need to read it. He closes with this profound sentence (which I assure you he has proven from Scripture throughout the book), “A life poured out in doing justice for the poor (and abused) is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith.” Any kind of grace to a perpetrator that doesn’t pursue justice for the victim is no grace at all.

 There are legal consequences in our culture, a result of God’s common grace to us all. There is no grace found in circumventing the system. Instead, you just delay karma’s hammer, and it hangs over the head of the perpetrator growing larger and larger until it finally falls and crushes them altogether. We all know of cases where a perpetrator comes forward, admits guilt, and enters a plea agreement with a reduced sentence. Our secular legal culture recognizes the value of immediate acknowledgement of guilt. Contrast that to the guy who managed to avoid police for 15 years and then fought charges in court instead of accepting a plea deal. Had someone loved him enough to walk him into a police station 15 years ago (grace), he’d be out of jail today. Instead, a pastor mistook grace to that guy as protecting him from the civil consequences of his sin, and now he’s facing decades in prison. Karma’s a bitch.

Authentic, Biblical grace is so, so, so much better. Grace is not hiding sin. Grace is not allowing someone to continue to wound others. Grace instead frees them to face their sin (and its consequences) head on. If you want to extend grace to someone our culture longs to make a scapegoat (because they have in fact committed an egregious sin), confront them and offer to stand with them while they admit their sin publicly and seek to repair as the legal system requires. Love them with the gospel away from defensiveness and self-protection. Offer them hope in authentic confession.

If you’ve been wounded and long for a scapegoat, don’t get seduced by karma. She’ll suck the life out of you. Because if you choose karma for the pedophile, eventually she’ll find you too. If gospel grace doesn’t inform how we handle the worst of life, it’s no use anywhere.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, … nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. 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.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

Do I Care Enough To Confront?

SOURCE:  based on a post on May 19, 2011 by Wisdomforlife

If you choose to care about others, there may be occasions when you’ll need to be an instrument of sorrow in their lives. These are times when you have to say things they don’t want to but need to hear. When the people we care about choose selfish and destructive life-patterns, love compels us to confront them. But how many of us are willing to be instruments of sorrow in this way?

Do we care enough to confront?

Why are so many people willing to tolerate dysfunctional relationships instead of confronting in love?

Is it easier to accept superficial or even destructive relationships than to confront others? Is it just less complicated to assume that people aren’t open to correction or to retreat behind the thought that we should mind our own business?

Concern over whether people are open to correction is legitimate.  What do we do when, for good reasons, we believe those in need of confrontation are not open to correction? How do we balance the demands of Proverbs 24:4-6?

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 24:4-6)

Caution is needed in confrontation.

Jesus taught about this in Matthew 7:1-6. After emphasizing that self-judgment must precede all involvement in the lives of others, he warned against “casting pearls before swine.” This implies that there are people who are not worthy of confrontation– no doubt because they’re not receptive to it (See: Dogs, pigs and sacred things).

When confrontation is necessary:

When people we love are destroying their own lives and hurting those around them, we must be willing to confront them. If we let them continue without saying a word, we show a profound lack of love for them and for the lives affected by them. Although difficult, confrontation is often non-negotiable for those who care about the well-being of others.

Confrontation and genuine relationships:

Loving confrontation is often necessary for maintaining genuine rather than superficial relationships. When we allow people to believe we’re on good terms with them despite deep violations of the relationship, we participate in deception not truth. Confrontation is also often non-negotiable for those who will not accept insincerity and hypocrisy.

“If we can restore to full and intimate fellowship with ourselves a sinning and unrepentant brother, we reveal not the depth of our love, but its shallowness, for we are doing what is not for his highest good. Forgiveness which bypasses the need for repentance issues not from love but from sentimentality (John R. W. Stott, Confess Your Sins, p.35).

Confrontation and Church unity:

Local Church members and leaders must be willing on occasions to speak truth into the lives of those who don’t appear to desire it. When an assembly of believers exchanges unity based in love and truth for superficiality and hypocrisy, it ceases to be a light-bearing community for Christ.

Looking for measurable changes:

But when we choose to confront, how do we know if the person is responding in a way that sincerely honors God? If the matter clearly involves objective wrongs, measurable changes will be part of a godly response. To help evaluate this kind of response, one must be able to distinguish between godly and worldly sorrow.

Godly vs. worldly sorrow

II Corinthians 7:8-11 is the biblical text that reveals this difference. It offers a vivid description of true repentance (godly sorrow) and exposes the deception of false repentance (worldly sorrow). Some people display a show of sorrow or repentance to manipulate and deceive. We must not fall for this.

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (II Cor. 7:8-11).

Consider four principles in this text:

1. God’s instruments of sorrow:

The apostle paints a vivid picture of how one ought to feel about being an instrument of godly sorrow:

“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.” (II Cor. 7:8-9)

The vacillating back and forth expressed in these verses indicates the tension one feels in being an instrument of sorrow. No pleasure is taken in bringing pain into the lives of others. But sometimes love requires us to take this role. You need courage and faith to embrace a ministry of intervention and grace to accept the possibility of being misunderstood.

Confronting others about deception and sin is a risky ministry of love. We must be willing to suffer changes or even loss of relationships. Sometimes when we choose to be instruments of godly sorrow, those we confront turn on us and malign us. This is what happened to the apostle Paul. But the response was temporary with those who responded with godly sorrow.

The apostle took the painful path of embracing temporary misunderstanding to gain deeper and lasting relationships based in truth and love.

2. Godly sorrow comes from true believers

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret,” (II Cor. 7:10)

This could be translated, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that points to the reality of salvation or indicates salvation.

When confronted about error, sin or false doctrine, genuine believers will ultimately come to their senses and acknowledge the truth. They might respond with resistance or anger at first. If so, those who confront must not over-react or lower themselves to the level of anger. Don’t take the bait and escalate. Keep it pastoral not personal. Trust God’s Spirit to cultivate conviction.

Genuinely saved people ultimately respond to their sin with godly sorrow (cf. Matthew 5:3; Luke 18:9-14;I Peter 5:6).

3. Worldly sorrow must be detected:

“….but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Worldly sorrow is perhaps best understood when contrasted with the description of godly sorrow in II Corinthians 7:11. Worldly sorrow brings death because it is sinful and all sin ends in death (Romans 6:23a; James 1:14-15). Worldly sorrow is self-centered and is typified in Cain’s self-pity over the consequences brought on by his sin (see: Genesis 4).

4. Godly sorrow described and detected

“See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.” (II Cor. 7:11)

Seven characteristics of godly sorrow: 

After Paul had confronted the congregation about their refusal to properly deal with a sinful member, they responded with godly sorrow. Consider the elements of godly sorrow.

See what this godly sorrow has produced in you:

1) earnestness- intense and earnest care (not a passive acquiescing).

2) eagerness to clear yourselves- a desire to be exonerated.

3) indignation- probably toward themselves for allowing sin to go unchecked in their assembly ( or, toward the sinful member cf. 2:6-7).

4) alarm/fear– toward God for their failure to respond properly to his apostle (cf. 4:21).

5) longing- a desire to be restored to their proper place and to fellowship with Paul.

6) concern- a burning desire to do what is right.

7) readiness- to see justice done – (i.e. to see things be corrected and made right).

Because of their repentance, the apostle could say to them, “At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.”

Godly sorrow involves a willingness to take seriously the offense committed. True repentance flows out of humility (Luke 18:9-17), and a readiness to accept responsibility. A visible and wholehearted change of behavior follows true repentance (godly sorrow). It produces “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8a). The apostle Paul said, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds” (Acts 26:20b).

When called by God to be instruments of godly sorrow prayerfully take inventory of your own heart and life before confronting others. Go in a spirit required in Galatians 6:1-3

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.”

Seven signs of true repentance

SOURCE:  Posted on July 17, 2007 by Wisdomforlife

“He said I am sorry but this is at least the tenth time! I don’t know what to do. I am told it’s my Christian duty to forgive and Lord knows I’ve tried! But each time I forgive him, he changes for a little and returns to the same behavior. I have a gut feeling that I am handling things the wrong way. He never really changes and I just get angry. What should I do?”

Sound familiar?

How do you begin reconciliation when you’ve been deeply and perhaps repeatedly hurt by someone? How can you rebuild trust? The first and most important step is to confirm the genuineness of the apology or repentance. While it is true that changes to deeply ingrained patters do not happen overnight, certain foundational attitudes are essential to any hope for change. These attitudes flourish in hearts where God has granted repentance.


Consider seven signs of genuine confession and repentance: 
(Essential information for co-dependents or enablers)

The offender:

1. Accepts full responsibility for his/her actions. (instead of saying, ”Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If  have done anything to offend you…”).

2. Accepts accountability from others.

3. Does not continue in the behavior or anything associated with it.

4. Does not have a defensive attitude about being in the wrong.

5. Does not have a light attitude toward his or her hurtful behavior.

6. Does not resent doubts about his/her sincerity- nor the need to demonstrate sincerity. (Especially in cases involving repeated offenses)

7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

Restitution gives the offender an opportunity to demonstrate by actions that he or she wishes to be restored to the injured person and to society in general. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession and be reconciled to you. Forgiveness does not necessarily release an offender from responsibility to repair the damages caused by his or her actions. An injured party may exercise mercy and choose to waive the right to restitution, but in many cases making restitution is beneficial even for the offender. Doing so demonstrates remorse, sincerity, and a new attitude, which can strengthen reconciliation. At the same time, it serves to establish lessons that will help the offender avoid similar wrongdoing in the future.

Move forward with caution:

An unrepentant offender will resent your desire to confirm the genuineness of his confession and repentance. He may resort to lines of manipulation. “I guess you can’t find it in yourself to be forgiving.” “You just want to rub it in my face.” “I guess I should expect that you want your revenge.” “Some Christian you are, I thought Christians believed in love and compassion.” These lines reveal an unrepentant attitude. Don’t be manipulated into avoiding the step of confirming the authenticity of your offender’s confession and repentance.

Use these signs carefully and with prayer. In difficult cases, seek a wise counselor. For genuine reconciliation to occur, you must be as certain as you can of your offender’s repentance—especially in cases involving repeated offenses. It is hard to truly restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance.  Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13).

Of course, only God can read hearts– we must evaluate actions. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a). But we must not allow superficial appearances of repentance to control our responses. Displays of tears or “appearing” to be sorry must not be substitutes for clear changes in attitude and behavior.

Closing The Window To PORN!

SOURCE:  Tim Challies

Walt Mueller writes a brief review of Tim Chester’s book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free and then says this:

Chester offers up five key ingredients that must be present and in place for someone to win the battle with pornography.

1. An abhorrence of porn. You have to hate porn itself (not just the shame it brings), and long for change.

2. You must adore God. Why? Because we can be confident that He offers more than porn.

3. You must be assured of God’s grace. You are loved by God and are right with God through faith in the work of Jesus.

4. You must avoid temptation. Be committed to do all you in your power to avoid temptation, starting with the controls on your computer.

5. You must be accountable to others. You need a community of Christians who are holding you accountable and supporting you in your struggle.

Tim Chester never claims it’s easy. This isn’t a “take these five steps and everything will be just fine” treatment. No, life is messy. And Tim Chester is writing about a messy battle. It’s a battle we must understand, engage in, and fight with long-suffering intensity.

Helpful Action Steps To Deal With Your Pornography Problem

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

For the Person Viewing Pornography

  1. Flee Temptation
    • Identify all the locations and activities that provide temptation. Avoid bookstores that sell pornographic magazines—to avoid even the appearance of evil. Use the computer only when someone else is in the room. Purchase software that blocks access to undesirable Internet sites.
  2. Identify Emotional Triggers
    • Are there work associates, times of the day, or particularly stressful situations that trigger the temptation? Identify which part of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) is your strongest trigger.
    • Take specific steps to minimize the triggers. The triggers can be used as cues to engage in competing behavior—calling a friend or support group partner, praying, calling your wife, getting some work or other project done, and so on.
  3. See It as Sin
    • It is important to see the behavior as sin and no longer to justify it. With your counselor, think about how God views your sin, the nature of forgiveness, and God’s unconditional love. How do you see yourself in relationship to how God sees you?
  4. Refocus on Christ
    • Develop a plan to strengthen and deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ.
    • Be accountable to someone else for daily Scripture reading and prayer.
    • Memorize Scripture so that you can bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
  5. Find Support and Accountability
    • Become involved in a local Christian ministry that supports men (women) who are experiencing this struggle. Find a men’s (women’s) addiction group, especially one that works on sexual addictions, if possible.
  6. Seek Further Help
    • Pornography use can cause long-term problems. If this has been a long-standing pattern with a high degree of involvement, it is important to enlist the support of a professional trained in the arena of sexual addiction and/or be involved in a local 12-step group.

For the Spouse Seeking Counsel

  1. Watch for Triggers
    • You can identify locations and activities that provide temptation for your husband. Help him avoid bookstores that sell pornographic magazines (for example, don’t send him late at night to the local 7–Eleven on an errand).
    • Move the computer out of isolation. If your husband is willing to be helped, he should go along with this. If not, you can explain that you don’t want the kids to find pornography. Purchase software that blocks the access to undesirable Internet sites.
  2. Identify Emotional Triggers
    • Do you sense that there are work associates, times of the day, or particularly stressful situations that trigger the temptation? What can you do to help, if anything?
    • Which part of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired) is the strongest trigger for your spouse?
    • What can you do to off-set these?
    • If your spouse is willing to be helped, you can talk to him about these triggers and how you can be his ally in minimizing them.
  3. Continue to Love Him
    • Nagging, anger, or humiliation will not work. Continue to love your spouse. It will be difficult because you will feel “cheated on,” but ask God to help you choose to love him through this.
    • Let him know that you want him back from the darkness and you want your marriage unhindered by these “other women.” Tell him how you feel when he views pornography—emphasizing your hurt and fear.
    • Ask your husband if he wants his children to be similarly enslaved when they are older.
    • Explain that eventually pornography will no longer satisfy, and he will need more and other types, or will be led into an affair.
  4. Pray
    • Pray that your husband will be sickened by what he sees and will choose to turn away.
    • Let God go to work in your husband’s life.
  5. Encourage Support
    • Encourage your husband to join a support group or men’s Bible study that will provide accountability. Do whatever it takes to free him up to attend such a group.

Biblical Insights

Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. Numbers 25:1

Sexual sin always progresses, drawing people farther and farther from God. What may start as an “innocent” flirtation with sin can lead to deadly consequences. Dabbling around the edges of sexual sin can take hold and consume a person, leading to pain and brokenness.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust. 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5

The Bible is very clear about sexual sin. God created sex as a beautiful expression of love in marriage. Satan took that beauty and distorted it.

Sexual sin encompasses a wide range of activities that God forbids. No matter what society allows, believers must look to God for instruction in this serious matter.

Christians need to avoid activities or thoughts that warp what God intended for building oneness in marriage. Believers must have no part in sexual sin. God knows its power to destroy people. His commands are for our good.

I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Revelation 2:23

Sometimes people think they can hide portions of their lives from everyone. Christ searches minds and hearts. Nothing is hidden from Him. No sexual sin can escape His notice. People may think they are getting away with it, but God knows.

Everywhere we go, everything we say, think, or do is seen by God. That understanding alone should help us steer clear of sexual sin.

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Proverbs 5:3–4 NIV

While the thought of bringing anyone else into the bedroom is repulsive to most, the Bible says that the lips of a forbidden (including imaginary) woman (or man) “drip honey.” In other words, this spice is sweet and “her speech is smoother than oil.”

[The adulteress’s] feet go down to death; her steps follow the path of Sheol (Hell); she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. Proverbs 5:5–6

In other words, the “spicy” gets real “dicey”, quickly consuming and destroying all who play. Lovemaking, play, and relationship building are all but gone—sacrificed on the altar of “just a little fun.”

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