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Posts tagged ‘encouragement’

FEAR & PANIC: DO’S AND DON’TS for Family and Friends

SOURCE:  June Hunt

To support a loved one who is struggling with fear, learn what to do and what not to do. You can very well be that person’s answer to prayer.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

• Don’t become impatient when you don’t understand their fear.
Do understand that what fearful people feel is real.
“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” (Proverbs 14:29)

• Don’t think they are doing this for attention.
Do realize they are embarrassed and want to change.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

• Don’t be critical or use demeaning statements.
Do be gentle and supportive, and build up their self-confidence.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

• Don’t assume you know what is best.
Do ask how you can help.
“We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

• Don’t make them face a threatening situation without planning.
Do give them instruction in positive self-talk and relaxation exercises.
“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13)

• Don’t make them face the situation alone.
Do be there and assure them of your support.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10)

• Don’t begin with difficult situations.
Do help them to begin facing their fear in small increments.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2–3)

• Don’t constantly ask, “How are you feeling?”
Do help them see the value of having other interests.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

• Don’t show disappointment and displeasure if they fail.
Do encourage them and compliment their efforts to conquer their fear.
“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” (Proverbs 3:27)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be absurd; there’s nothing for you to fear!”
Do say, “No matter how you feel, tell yourself the truth, ‘I will take one step at a time.’”
“The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:21)

• Don’t say, “Don’t be a coward; you have to do this!”
Do say, “I know this is difficult for you, but it’s not dangerous. You have the courage to do this.”
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs 16:23)

• Don’t say, “Quit living in the past; this is not that bad.”
Do say, “Remember to stay in the present and remind yourself, ‘That was then, and this is now.’”
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

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Hunt, J. (2013). Fear (june hunt hope for the heart). Torrance, CA: Aspire Press.

Start Over

Source:   Dr.Woodrow Kroll

 

When you’ve trusted Jesus and walked His way,

When you’ve felt His hand lead you day by day,

But your steps now take you another way   …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve made your plans and they’ve gone awry,

When you’ve tried your best ’til there’s no more try,

When you’ve failed yourself and you don’t know why …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve told your friends what you plan to do,

When you’ve trusted them but they’ve not come through,

Now you’re all alone and it’s up to you …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve failed your kids and they’re grown and gone,

When you’ve done your best but it turned out wrong,

And now your grandchildren have come along …   START OVER.

 

When you’ve prayed to God so you’ll know His will,

When you’ve prayed and prayed but you don’t know still,

When you want to stop cause you’ve had your fill …   START OVER.

 

When you think you’re finished and want to quit,

When you’ve bottomed out in life’s deepest pit,

When you’ve tried and tried to get out of it …   START OVER.

 

When the year’s been long and successes few,

When December comes and you’re feeling blue,

God gives a January just for you …   START OVER.

 

Starting over means victories won,

Starting over means a race we run,

Starting over means the Lord’s “Well done,”

… so don’t just sit there …   START OVER.

50 Things You Can Say to Make Your Child Feel Great

SOURCE:  Janel Breitenstein/Family Life Ministry

A list for parents who want their children to know their love and God’s love.

1. I’m proud of you. And even if you weren’t so fantastic, I’d still be proud.

2. I believe you.

3. The way you _____ is such a perfect addition for our family. God knew just what we needed when He gave us you.

4. I know you and I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye lately. But I want to let you know that I accept you whether I agree with you or not, and I’m committed to working on our relationship so we both feel understood and secure.

5. I can’t believe how _____ you are. I can’t imagine the plans God has for you!

6. You know, you may not feel very _____, but God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you the way He did, and it was just how He wanted to express Himself. I love you just the way He made you. And I wouldn’t have wanted Him to do it any differently.

7. No matter how royally you mess up, I’ll always be glad you’re mine, I’ll forgive you, and I’ll love your socks off.

8. I saw how you _____. I’m so proud of you.

9. I forgive you. And I won’t bring this up again, okay?

10. I want to hang out with just you tonight. What do you want to do?

11. I remember when I _____. I felt so _____. I don’t know if that’s like what you’re going through, but it was a tough time for me.

12. I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me for _____?

13. I got you this, just because.

14. Lately I’ve really seen you grow in the area of _____, like when you _____.

15. Yes, there is food in the house.

16. I admire the way you _______. In fact, I could learn a lot from you in that area.

17. That was a really wise choice.

18. No chores today.

19. I trust you.

20. You’re really growing into a young man/woman of character. I can’t tell you how exciting that is!

21. Go ahead and sleep in tomorrow.

22. I had no idea you could do that! You impress me.

23. What do you think?

24. I canceled your appointment with the dentist.

25. I love your dad/mom so much! He/she is so _____.

26. I love being around you.

27. I’m so glad you’re home.

28. Thank you!

29. I love doing _____ with you.

30. You are one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. I am so humbled God gave me you.

31. I feel so proud when I’m with you.

32. You handled that so well.

33. I made your favorite _____.

34. I’m trusting that God will take perfect care of us. He’s always done it before! Can we pray together about this?

35. With God’s help, your dad/mom and I will never, ever get a divorce.

36. That looks great on you.

37. If I were in your shoes, I would feel so _____. Is that how you feel?

38. Would you turn your music up?

39. You are so well-disciplined in _____.

40. I sent you a big ol’ care package in the mail.

41. That was so courageous.

42. Do you feel like I’m understanding you?

43. If there were one thing you could change about me as your mom/dad, what would it be?

44. You have some real gifts in the area of _____.

45. Let’s go to Grandma’s!

46. It is so cool to watch you grow up.

47. Just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you.

48. I miss you, but I’m glad you’re having a good time!

49. You make me so happy just by being you.

50. I love you so much.

Waiting: Out of the Shadows

SOURCE:  Charles Swindoll

Some of you who read these words today could use a little extra hope, especially if you find yourself in a waiting mode.

You were once engaged in the action, doing top-priority work on the front lines. No longer. All that has changed. Now, for some reason, you’re on the shelf. It’s tough to stay encouraged perched on a shelf. Your mind starts playing tricks on you.

Though you are well-educated, experienced, and fairly gifted in your particular field, you are now waiting. You’re wondering, and maybe you’re getting worried, that this waiting period might be permanent. Admittedly, your response may not be all that great. You can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It just doesn’t seem fair. After all, you’ve trained hard, you’ve jumped through hoops, and you’ve even made the necessary sacrifices. Discouragement crouches at the door, ready to pounce on any thought or hope, so you sit wondering why God has chosen to pass you by.

I want to offer you some encouragement, but I need to start with a realistic comment: it may be a long time before God moves you into a place of significant impact. He may choose not to reveal His plan for weeks, maybe months.

Are you ready for this?

It could be years.

I have found that one of God’s favorite methods of preparing us for something great is to send us into the shadows to wait.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to terminal darkness. Take heart from the words of British author James Stalker who wrote, “Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed.”

Pause and let that sink in. Read the statement again, slower this time.

Waiting is one of God’s preferred methods of preparing special people for significant projects. The Bible makes that principle plain from cover to cover.

As Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”

God often prepares us for something great by sending us into the shadows to wait.

How to Respond When Your Kid is Dealing with Bullies

SOURCE:  All Pro Dad

Two things come to mind when people hear that I was bullied when I was younger. The first thing people think is: You’re an NFL offensive lineman, how were you bullied? And second, Why didn’t you just beat the snot out of the kids who bullied you?

It’s shocking to most, but I didn’t always have the 6’6, 320 lb. frame that I now carry. I grew up an undersized, funny-looking kid with a vocabulary that exceeded my age and the age of my peers. With a ton of freckles and bright red, spiked hair, I was a perfect candidate for kids to pick on. Dads, I want to challenge the common response and advice given to sons when they share their experiences of dealing with bullies at school, and share with you some helpful ways you can communicate and encourage your son.

Be a voice for your son

Often kids who experience bullying don’t have an advocate. I grew up with three sisters and not a ton of great friends. I spent a lot of time by myself. When I started to get picked on, I didn’t have an older brother to stand up for me or protect me. I wish I had that when I was younger, an advocate, a voice to stand up and stop the bullying I experienced. Don’t assume the bullying will stop after having a conversation with your son about “toughening up” or sending an email out to a teacher. Often it takes serious involvement with the school or program where your son is experiencing the bullying.

Keep a record of names and experiences

Often teachers or authorities don’t always catch or see everything that happens. They might be oblivious to certain issues and altercations. When it’s time to go to a teacher, principal, coach or authority about the problem, it will be helpful to have your son’s experiences written down in detail.

Fighting only creates more problems

Teaching your son to use his words to resolve conflict will prepare him for adulthood and the many complications that come with working in a business environment.  If you encourage your son to fight or return abusive talk, it will likely translate to adulthood and hurt him in the long run. Encourage your son to use his words, rather than his size, strength, or ability to fight.

Growing up, my father knew I was going to be a man of great size, even while I was smaller than all the other kids. After a day at school where I was bullied or picked on, my dad would remind me of the importance of using my words. He knew that there would soon be a day that I was no longer the smaller kid, and when that day came, I needed the skill set of using my words, rather than my size because of the danger that comes with being bigger than everyone else. You have a tremendous opportunity to teach and cultivate your son during his difficulties. Encouraging him to fight back will only cheapen those opportunities and rob your son of some important life lessons.

Affirm your son’s identity

Bullying attempts to strip the individual of his identity and self-worth. If your son struggles with low self-esteem or low self-worth affirm his identity as your son. Remind him of his gifts, his talents, and the things he does that make you most proud. Assure him of the great things he will accomplish, and the great plans ahead of him.

Help your son realize that everyone hurts

We can’t expect kids to go through hardship, or suffering, or abuse, and expect them to come out the other side normal. It’s hard enough for us as adults to wade through and endure hardship. Whether there is abuse at home, an absent father, drug issues, depression, anxiety, gang-related issues, their brains don’t have the ability to digest and wade through these things. When kids come from environments that don’t have control, they’re going to want to respond in ways that give them control.

Inherently, in human nature, we try to exert our control over weaker beings. So, when we see kids who are oppressing other kids, there are always internal reasons for why these kids are doing that. Everyone hurts, everyone has struggles. When we encourage our son to develop empathy for those around him, it will greatly help him respond well.

How Will I Ever Overcome My Failures?

SOURCE:  Taken from the work of  J. G. Kruis 

Overcoming Sin

     1.  The truth sets us free.

John 8:32. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  1. By nature we are all slaves to sin, but Jesus sets us free.
    John 8:34–36. Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
  2. A believer can overcome sin because he is a new creature.
    2 Cor. 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
  3. God has given us all we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3. As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

  1. God requires you to work out your salvation in every area of life.
    Phil. 2:12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
  2. God enables you to do so; you need not go it on your own.
    Phil. 2:13. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
  3. God is able to make all grace abound to you, to enable you to overcome any specific sin.
    2 Cor. 9:8. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
  4. We are being transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
    2 Cor. 3:18. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
  5. You must keep working at breaking sinful habits and developing new and godly ways.
    Eph. 4:22–24. That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
    Col. 3:9–10. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
  6. Like a runner in a race, keep pressing on until you have gained the victory.
    Phil. 3:12–14.
  7. Don’t keep dwelling on past failures; nor should you get discouraged and give up after you have failed. Hang in there!
    Phil. 3:13–14. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  8. Get rid of everything which might hinder you. Persevere!
    Heb. 12:1. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
  9. One who is saved by grace must no longer serve sin. Keep working at overcoming it, using your body to serve only the Lord.
    Rom. 6:11–22. (Romans 6 contains much good instruction concerning how a Christian must and can overcome sin through the grace and power of God.)
  10. Don’t be mastered by any sin.
    1 Cor. 6:12. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
  11. Christ, dwelling in us, enables us to overcome sin.
    Gal. 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
  12. Drunkards, homosexuals, idolaters, and others caught up in wickedness can overcome sin by God’s power and grace.
    1 Cor. 6:11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
  13. Paul, Titus, and others were set free from the power of sin. God gave them victory through the Holy Spirit.
    Titus 3:3–7.
    Titus 3:5–6. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
  14. Use the infallible Word of God.
    2 Tim. 3:16–17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  15. A true Christian will not live in sin.
    1 John 3:6. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
    1 John 3:9. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
  16. Jude mentions three things that are necessary to remain faithful to God.
    Jude 20–21. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

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Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

Giving thanks……in the MIDST of ………

SOURCE:  AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors)

Thanksgiving in the Midst

“This way of seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart, and, more than that, a gayety of spirit, that is unspeakable.” -Hannah Whitall Smith

“As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” -David Wilkerson

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

A verse so familiar we recite it almost without thinking as an encouragement to one another in our everyday walk.

However, like a woodman’s axe, the reality of life has a way of splitting “everything” into opposing halves.

Good and bad.

Pleasure and pain.

Joys and sorrow.

The front half of the “everything” is easy. Thankful for the birth of a child. For great health. Family. A good job.

The backside of the “everything” is more difficult. The death of a loved one. Cancer. Divorce. A job lost. The empty chair at the head of the table from which dad said the Thanksgiving prayer just last year.

It’s hard to get our hearts and emotions around thanking God for the dark days, for pain, or overwhelming loss.

What’s interesting is that our Father does not ask us to. He asks us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to be thankful “in” the midst of those things.

Consider the life of Jeremiah. His autobiography recorded in Lamentations chapter 3 paints a dismal portrait of his journey.

Affliction. Darkness. Flesh wasting away. Broken bones. Bitterness. Hardship. Chains. Crooked paths. Bears. Lions. Arrows. Mocking. Rejection.

Reflecting on all of this, Jeremiah bemoans, “I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:20 NIV)

Too often, the tapestries of our own lives have the same threads woven through them.

But, in the midst of despair — Hope always emerges.

Jeremiah calls to mind an eternal truth upon which all thanksgiving has its foundation… “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.” (vs. 22 ESV)

Every trial that enters your life comes through the doorway of the steadfast love of the Lord. It involves love that emanates from an eternally wise Father. “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom…” (Jeremiah 10:12 ESV).  Isaiah adds that the Lord of Hosts is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29 ESV).

God is infinitely wise. His steadfast love endures forever. Separate truths, which are inseparable.

And they are truths that transform trials into thanksgiving.

When life is not the way it is supposed to be, when the wheels come off…when looking up is the only choice you have, because you are flat on your back…be thankful.

Be thankful that God is infinitely wise. Be thankful that His steadfast love never ceases and endures forever.

In the midst of everything — give thanks. It will turn your life around.

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Son Today

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I know a little more about this subject, having two incredible sons of my own. But, we always look at life differently from the other side of it. My boys are grown. I’m still parenting, but in a completely different way. Mine now is one of influence.

Thankfully, both boys still come to me for that influence. There is no greater joy than seeing boys become God-honoring young men. I’m thankful to have a front row seat with my sons.

But, even with the incredible young men I know as sons, there are things I would do differently if I had that part of life to do over again. I know boys become men. And, every man I know, whether or not he admits it, struggles at some level with confidence. He struggles to know he is enough, that he can do what God calls him to do. Every man is desperate for someone to believe in him.

And, sadly, we are living in the age where the absentee father is the normal. It once was the exception.

I was mindful of these truths when my boys were young, but I’m older now. The seasons of my life have taught me so much more.

So, I would be even more intentional today…if I were raising sons.

Here are 10 things I’d do if raising sons today:

I would tell him daily that I love him and I’m proud of who he is and the individual God created him to be.

I would show him I believe in him, by learning to enjoy and value the activities important to him.

I would discipline myself to be available when he needs me. Not only when it’s convenient or doesn’t interfere with my work or my hobbies, and assure him that I will never leave him or reject him.

I would strive to live a life that’s respectable, God-honoring, so he could model after me, and likewise be respected, knowing this will be his greatest need.

I would show him how to love a woman, by valuing and treating my wife as a treasured gift from God.

I would help him build confidence by giving him ample opportunities to explore, to dream, to be adventuresome, allowing him to fail under my watch, so I could encourage him to start again, explaining to him that the only way he will be a failure is if he doesn’t get back up from a fall.

I would lead him on paths of discovery, trying lots of new things, helping him find his place in the world, with the awesome reality that the only limits on him will be the ones he sets for himself.

I would let him know the boundaries of the house, knowing he would test them, so he could learn that even in freedom there are consequences for misbehaving and sin.

I would teach and model for him that the real value of a man is not in the sum total or his possessions, but in the sum total of knowing God intimately and knowing that those who know him best are honoring him most.

I would at times let him see me afraid, even let him see my cry, to show him that man can be courageous and still vulnerable, but then let him see me following even closer after God as my source of strength.

10 Things I’d Do If I Were Raising a Daughter Today

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I never had a daughter. I have a great daughter-in-law, and she has a special relationship with her dad, but I never got to raise a girl. I missed out, didn’t I?

But, I know a few grown girls. I’ve witnessed scars. All women have a scar of some kind. And, I know a dad plays a role. An important role. And, one that, if the right foundation is set, can help a girl avoid, or at least recover, from many of the scars life naturally will bring. Even when a girl becomes a woman.

And, it’s made me question what I would do if I were raising a girl today. These are scary times. Our children need us more than ever. I would want to be wise and intentional.

Here are 10 things I’d do if I were raising a daughter today:

I would tell her daily how beautiful she is and that I love her unconditionally.

I would let her know, in word and actions, that she is more important than my job, my hobbies, and my iPhone.

I would dance with her, take her on regular dates, and hold her hand frequently.

I would hold the standard high for her, but instill in her the belief that I’m here for her, regardless of what she does wrong, and that nothing she does could ever cause me to turn my back on her.

I would let her hear me pray for her daily and strive to live a godly life, after which she could model…and trust to be consistent.

I would let her know my wife was the most important woman in the world to me and encourage her to wait for a man willing to say the same.

I would get her self-defense training. And, teach her where to kick.

I would encourage her talents and abilities and remind her that God is going to use her in incredible ways.

I would help her understand that every boy’s intentions are not honorable and that she is worthy of and should always demand respect.

I would consistently remind her she has what it takes to do anything she sets her mind to do and to settle for nothing less than her best.

Seven Better Questions You Can Ask in the Midst of Adversity

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Michael Hyatt

I have several friends who are going through enormous uncertainty right now. Some are out of work. A few others are on the precipice of divorce. Still others have been diagnosed with cancer—one who is pregnant. In these situations, most of us ask, “Why is this happening to me?”

Years ago, two months after I became the publisher of one of our book divisions, we lost a major author to a competing company. This had a significant negative impact on our bottom line. At first, I was angry. Then I became discouraged. Finally, I realized I was asking the wrong question.

Instead of asking “Why did this happen?” I started asking, “How can this make us better?” Immediately, I sensed a shift in my spirit. It began energizing me. In retrospect, losing the author was one of the best things that could have happened to my division. We grew from the experience in ways that would have never happened otherwise.

I learned a valuable lesson: the answers we get are often determined by the questions we ask. If we ask bad questions, we will get bad answers. If we ask better questions—empowering questions—we will get better answers.

READ MORE…..

 

20 Ideas for Dating Your Wife

SOURCE:   Family Life Ministry/Justin Buzzard

Men, you know your wife better than anyone else, and only you know how to best encourage and cultivate her as a woman of God. But sometimes it helps to build off other people’s ideas in order to form your own. Here are 20 ideas that I hope will spark your thinking about how you can date your wife.

1. Attend a wedding. Sit in the back row and spend the whole time whispering memories from your own wedding.

2. Make a list of 10 things your wife loves to do. Each new time you take your wife on a date, do one of those 10 things as your date.

3. Take up a new hobby with your wife; do something new that you’re both excited about.

4. Do the classic date: dinner and a show. Take your wife to din­ner and to a movie she wants to watch.

5.  Take a 12-month honeymoon with your wife. Relive your honeymoon by scheduling a 24-hour getaway for every month of this year. Each month go somewhere new with your wife.

6. Devote one hour each night for alone time with your wife. Talk about how your days went. Joke around with each other. Cultivate your friendship. Talk honestly about what’s going on in your lives. Help each other. Encourage each other. Pray together.

7. Mark your wife’s birthday, your wedding anniversary, and Mother’s Day on your calendar every year and plan to make those days special.

8. Write a love note to your wife. Tell her all over again what she means to you.

9. Spend an evening stargazing with your wife and talking about dreams you have for the future.

10. Spend an evening reminiscing with your wife about all you’ve been through together and all God has done and redeemed in your life together.

11. Devote the next month to studying a book of the Bible with your wife. Take 20 minutes several nights a week to read, discuss, and pray through a shorter book such as Ephesians or Philippians.

12. Visit your roots. Visit where your wife grew up and where you grew up. Learn more about each other’s backgrounds.

13. Hold your wife’s hand often, in public and in private.

14. Tell your wife that you love her.

15. Tell your wife that Jesus loves her more than you do.

16. Set a weekly date night. Each week rotate going out and stay­ing in for your date night.

17. Cancel work for the day and do something special with your wife.

18. Take dancing lessons with your wife.

19. Cut something from your schedule and use that time to date your wife.

20. Vacation with your wife without your kids, without your work, and without your cell phone and computer.

Adapted by permission from Date Your Wife, by Justin Buzzard, ©2012, Crossway Books.

Three Important Parenting Principles

SOURCE:  Josh McDowell

Here are three important [parenting] principles:

1. Rules Without Relationships Lead to Rebellion

Kids don’t respond to rules, they respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship. It is much easier to establish rules, to pass on your values and beliefs, and to discipline, if you have developed a relational foundation with your child.

2. Kids Spell Love T-I-M-E

One of the most important ways to communicate a child’s personal worth is to spend time with them. When you are available to your children, it says, “You are important.” When we’re not available, we are saying in essence, “I love you, but other things still come ahead of you.” Years ago, my wife gave me a great piece of advice: “If you spend time with your children now, they will spend time with you later.”

3. Catch Your Kids Doing Something Right and Praise Them for It

Instead of catching your kids doing something wrong and disciplining them for it, try focusing on catching them doing something right and appreciate them for it. So often kids tell me, “The fastest way to get my dad’s attention is to do something wrong.” Expressing appreciation gives children a sense of significance. Our appreciation tells them they are valued, and their accomplishments make a difference to someone.

How can I keep going when overwhelmed by the pressures of daily life?

SOURCE:  Marlene Bagnull/Discipleship Journal

Strength for the Battle

“I DON’T KNOW what’s wrong with me,” I admitted to a close friend. “I’m exhausted all the time, and I’m so irritable with the children. I flip out over the smallest things, then I feel guilty. Instead of praising God for all the good things He’s done for me, I’m almost always depressed. I feel like a failure as a Christian.”

My friend listened. She didn’t judge me as I was judging myself or break in with pat answers. Through the gift of her willingness to listen I discovered the root of the problem.

“I think I’m experiencing burnout,” I said. “I just have too many things to do, too much stress. I know my life is out of balance, but I don’t know what to do about it. I feel trapped. I try to pray. I try to read the Bible, but it only makes me feel worse. I feel as if God is angry with me for not applying the things I know and even teach to others.”

“Condemnation never comes from God,” my friend said. “You’re listening to the wrong voice.”

The tears I’d managed to hold back began to flow after I hung up the phone. “Oh, God,” I sobbed, “please help me to understand what’s happening to me. Please help me to find Your answers.”

My friend’s comment led me to turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans and read, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The burden of feeling God was angry and disappointed with me began to lift as I remembered the context in which the Apostle Paul had written those words. He, too, didn’t understand why he did some of the things he did, and why he failed to do the good he wanted to do (Ro. 7:15). But Paul wasn’t chained to feelings of guilt and self-accusation. He experienced the “law of the Spirit of life” setting him free from “the law of sin and death” (Ro. 8:2).

Freeing him from exhaustion and discouragement, too? I wondered as I thought of all that Paul had to endure. Beatings, imprisonments and riots, hard work, sleepless nights and hunger—Paul certainly endured many hardships that could have caused him to quit. Wherever he went he encountered hostility. He was thrown out of cities and told never to come back. Even his brothers in Christ did not always support him.

“God,” I prayed, “please show me what held Paul steady, what prevented him from giving up.”

The answers did not come immediately, but in the days that followed I began to see some principles I had never before applied to my problem.

Recognize that you’re being tested.

“We want to prove ourselves genuine ministers of God whatever we have to go through” (2 Cor. 6.4, Phillips ). Paul recognized the fact that he was being tested, and he determined, by an act of his will, to meet that test head-on. Rather than succumbing to self-pity or giving up when circumstances could easily have led to defeat, Paul chose to view trials as opportunities to prove to everyone watching that he was striving to live by the principles he taught.

Paul had encouraged the Galatians to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). In a lengthy letter to the Corinthians he encouraged them to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). In his first letter to the Thessalonians he told them to “be joyful always” (1 Thess. 5:16).

We do get tested on the things we profess to believe, but through the testings we have the opportunity to strengthen our own faith and the faith of others. How? Paul went on to say, “We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 6:6, Living Bible ).

But I was too tired to know whether or not I still understood the gospel or was filled with the Holy Spirit. My capacity to be patient and kind was exhausted. I knew it would take more than an act of my will to be any of these things.

Rely on God’s power.

The next verse provided a solution: “We have been truthful, with God’s power helping us in all we do” (2 Cor. 6:7, Living Bible ). I again saw how God wasn’t expecting me to do or be any of these things in my own strength. It was essential to honestly face my inadequacies. It is only as I admit my weaknesses that I come, as Paul did, to rely upon God’s power at work within me.

“Is my tendency to become overwhelmed by my ‘thorn in the flesh’?” I asked the Lord, thinking of Paul’s battle and all the times I had prayed for a stronger personality. I felt God speak to me the same words He had spoken to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Those words freed me, dispelling the fears that had been haunting me. I knew I no longer needed to be afraid of reaching the end of my resources because God’s power takes over when my strength is exhausted.

Go Into the battle equipped.

Finally the Lord reminded me that I am in a battle. To go into it without the “full armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) is as foolish as walking onto the front lines dressed for a game of tennis. I need to pick up and use the defensive weapons God provides for my protection. So every morning, for the past ten months, I’ve been “praying the armor on.” It’s become as much a part of my morning routine as getting dressed and brushing my teeth.

The belt of truth. “Lord,” I pray, “help me to gird myself with Your belt of truth” (Eph. 6:14). “Give me discernment that I might immediately recognize the enemy’s lies and half-truths. Help me to refuse to receive or believe them.”

The breastplate of righteousness. Next I mentally pick up the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14). It protects my most vulnerable area—my heart, the home of my feelings and emotions. It is so easy for me to be wounded by others, to allow myself to be influenced by fear of what they might say or think. “Lord,” I pray, “help me today to consistently choose to do what is right in Your eyes. Thank You for protecting me from the judgment and criticism I may receive.”

The shoes of the gospel. Just as I would not walk out of the house in the dead of winter barefooted, I take the time to have my “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

John MacArthur, in his study notes for The Believer’s Armor, describes a common military practice of the Roman soldiers: “planting sticks in the ground which had been sharpened to a razor-point, and concealing them so that they were almost invisible. This was a very effective tactic because, if the soldier’s foot was pierced, he wouldn’t be able to walk—and if he couldn’t walk, he was totally debilitated.”1

To protect their feet, Roman soldiers wore boots with heavy soles. Pieces of metal protruded from the bottom of the boots, acting like today’s football cleats, to give the soldiers firm footing.

The shoes God provides for me give me a solid foundation upon which to stand. He readies me for His work by instructing and teaching me in the way I should go (Ps. 32:8). When I choose to follow His plan instead of asking Him to bless my plans, I find my feet do not become bruised and weary from going places He never intended for me to go. I also find that when I say “yes” to what He wants me to do rather than to what others tell me I should do, I am filled with peace instead of tension.

The shield of faith. Next I prayerfully pick up the shield of faith to stop the “flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). I ask God to make me mighty in spirit—to help me to walk by faith, not by sight. I also ask Him to help me not to lower my shield by nurturing doubts. A soldier can be fatally wounded if he lowers his shield for only a moment.

The helmet of salvation. This piece of the armor (Eph. 6:17) protects my mind. As I ask God to fit it snugly over my head, I am protected from indulgence in the negative thinking that tears me down. Each morning I thank God that I do not have to be bound by old habits and thinking patterns. I ask Him to continue His work of transforming me by renewing my mind (Ro. 12:2).

The sword of the Spirit. Finally, remembering that God has not provided any armor to protect my back, I ask Him to help me stand and face the enemy in His strength. I know that God does not intend for me to turn and run. Rather, He wants me to take the offensive by picking up the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).

Just as Jesus defeated Satan by quoting Scripture, I can speak God’s promises and see the enemy flee. When I’m exhausted and the pressure is on, I can claim Phil. 4:19—God will meet all my needs. Or 1 Cor. 1:7–8—I do not lack any spiritual gift; He will keep me strong to the end. There is a promise for every lie Satan would use to try to intimidate me. I may still feel overwhelmed, but when I go into battle praising and thanking God, I am victorious.

There are still days when I feel completely drained—when I fear I have nothing to give. If I fail to recognize I’m being tested, if I do not rely on God’s power, and if I go into the battle unequipped, I suffer and my family suffers. But praise God, it doesn’t have to be that way. I can know the joy Paul wrote about. I can “delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Feelings of exhaustion and defeat will flee as I choose to draw closer to the Source of my strength.

 

Note
1. John MacArthur, The Believer’s Armor (Panorama City, CA: Word of Grace Communications, 1982), p. 41.

Why – Why – Why Me?

SOURCE:  David H. Roper/Our Daily Bread

Recently I read Psalm 131, one of my favorite psalms.

In the past, I viewed it as an encouragement to understand that mystery is one of the hallmarks of God’s character. It challenged me to let my mind be at rest, since I am unable to understand all that God is doing in His universe.

But then I saw another side of David’s calm spirit: I am unable to understand all that God is doing in me, and it is impossible to try.

David draws a comparison between a weaned child that no longer frets for what it once demanded, and a soul that has learned the same lesson. It is a call to learn humility, patient endurance, and contentment in all my circumstances—whatever they are—though I do not understand God’s reasons.

Divine logic is beyond the grasp of my mind.

I ask, “Why this affliction? Why this anguish?” The Father answers, “Hush, child. You wouldn’t understand if I explained it to you. Just trust Me!”

So, I turn from contemplating David’s example to ask myself:

Can I, in my circumstances, “hope in the Lord”? (v.3).

Can I wait in faith and patience without fretting and without questioning God’s wisdom?

Can I trust Him while He works in me His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

It may not be for me to see
The meaning and the mystery
Of all that God has planned for me
Till “afterward”! —Anon.

[In a world of mystery, it’s a comfort to know the God who knows all things.]

Parenting By Grace

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Cheryl and I attempted to implement grace parenting in our home. Our boys are now grown, but we are beginning to see some fruit from our methods and our heart is to help others learn from things we did wrong and things we did right. Grace parenting is one thing I believe we did right.

Grace parenting attempts to raise children the way God parents us…by grace. If God leads us by grace, shouldn’t we lead our children by grace? I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Oh, the power of grace. (Aren’t you glad we are not under the law…but grace?)

This does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to that.  ) It doesn’t mean we release them to sin, or even that we expect them to sin. The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace living. (Romans 6:1-2) To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

These are some steps that helped us think through this concept of parenting by grace. Consider them for your own family and see if they are appropriate, recognizing that each child is unique and may require a different approach in some areas.

Here is our parenting model, Parenting by Grace:

Set clear boundaries – Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these, when they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. One of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us, but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me.

Recognize the individuality of the child – Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination…a path for him…he would get there in his own way.

Major on the majors, not the minors – There should be some items, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tend to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character, then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly, but still with love. The minor issues, issues, which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but they can be handled less severely. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart – We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mold a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily – God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children…especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

If your children are living within the boundaries, then be a “fun” parent – Let them enjoy having a good time with you. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house, while at the same time we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model, there were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

Steps To Helping One Through Grief And Loss

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

                                                        Be Patient

  • Encourage the person to give himself whatever time that it takes to heal emotionally.
  • Encourage the person to keep a routine, get lots of rest, and not try to attempt too much but to direct his energies toward healing.

Maintain Friendships

  • Encourage the person to let others comfort and share in the journey toward healing.
  • Encourage one not to become isolated but rather to seek meaningful connection with others.
  • Make a list of friends to call.
  • Locate a grief support group.

Feel the Pain

  • Help the person understand that the intensity of the pain is normal and that eventually it will begin to subside. The pain will probably never disappear completely, but it will become bearable.
  • Trying to avoid the “terrible pain” only prolongs the grief.
  • Trying to avoid a loss by hiding the feelings will only cause problems in other areas — emotionally, spiritually, or physically.
  • Dealing with loss in a healthy manner can be a major avenue to growth and life-transforming change.
  • The person must move forward by experiencing the grief, while at the same time rejoining the living through acts of giving and receiving.

We are healed of grief only when we express it to the full. —Charles R. Swindoll

“Normalize” the Feelings of Grief

  • Grief encompasses a number of changes. It appears differently at various times, and it comes and goes in people’s lives.
  • It is a normal, predictable, expected, and healthy reaction to a loss.
  • Grief is each individual’s personal journey and his manner of dealing with any kind of loss — no matter how minor or severe it may appear to others — must be respected. It should be gently challenged only when prolonged in a manner that is detrimental to the person and his relationships.

Healing

  • Help the grieving person process any felt guilt and anger.
  • Help the person redirect his energies from excessive “if onlys” and wishing that things could be different to instead focusing on healing.

Biblical Insights

Then David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son. 2 Samuel 1:17

Expressing sorrow is a healthy response to grief. David poured out his sorrow in words that honored the anointed king and his son.

Putting grief into words is a healthy way to handle the pain and honor those who have died.

He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:3, 4

Isaiah’s words communicate the suffering of the One who loved us and died for us.

In our deepest moments of grief and loss, we need only look to Him on the Cross and realize that He understands. He alone can heal the wounded heart.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”John 11:25, 26

Because of sin, death comes to all (Romans 5:12–14). Many try to ignore death, not wanting to think or talk about it. But feared or embraced, expected or not, death still occurs.

In every pang that rends the heart, the Man of Sorrows has a part. —Michael Bruce

Jesus experienced those emotions at the death of His good friend Lazarus. Jesus knows the pain of loss and uncontrollable sorrow. He knows the incredible power of death.

It is natural to feel sad and mourn the death of a loved one. But in our times of sorrow, we can let Jesus hold us in His compassionate arms, knowing that He understands.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

The Thessalonian believers wondered what was happening to their fellow believers who had died.

Believers have the ultimate assurance. We believe that Jesus died, rose again, ascended, and is coming again; and we also believe that He will bring with Him those who have died.

One day, all believers will be reunited in the grandest reunion ever seen!

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Revelation describes a better time and a better place, however, where grief and loss will not exist: heaven.

No matter what we experience here, God promises a perfect future with Him. Through the hard times of today, we can trust this hope for the future.

Be Kind: Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” -Plato

Let me add, be an encourager. It has been said that everyone is either in the midst of the battle, just coming out of a battle, or about to enter the battle. At first glance, this is often not visible. A smile often masks deep feelings. The writer of the Proverbs put it this way,“Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.” (Proverbs 14:13 NASV)

God’s directive to Moses in Deuteronomy 3 is very interesting. The children of Israel had finished 40 years in the wilderness. They were about to enter the land of “milk and honey”. The “promised land”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But God knew that the real battle was just ahead. Amorites, Hittites and all of the other “ites” were waiting to steal, kill and destroy God’s promises to His children. In verse 28, God tells Moses to “charge Joshua,”and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.” (KJV) This “encourage” was not just a “pep talk”. The meaning of the word is to “fasten upon… strengthen to become even stronger… fortify”. I can imagine that this took quite some time. They probably had a few “counseling sessions” as Moses poured into Joshua’s heart, and spirit, the encouragement that it would take to persevere in the days ahead.

“Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”. We have all heard this admonition to remind us not to miss church. But why? Why do we assemble together? To “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” and encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NASV). Worship is important. Sermons are wonderful. But could it be possible, that a core reason to meet together is to encourage one another? Something far beyond the “How ya doing?” and “Good to see ya!” platitudes we usually give each other as we pass in the aisle.

Just like the children of Israel, we have an enemy who came to steal, kill and destroy our walk with Christ. Too often we try to fight this battle alone. Remember that the enemy is strong and powerful. Someone once said, “The strength of the wolf is the pack… and the strength of the pack is the wolf”. Sounds like Hebrews 3:13, “But encourage one another, day after day… lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” When reminding the church at Thessalonica of the sure return of the Lord, Paul ended with this exhortation, “Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another…” (5:11 NASV).

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Encourage them. Fortify them. Pour words of strength and courage into their hearts and spirits. And one more thing — be encouraged yourself. You don’t walk alone. You always have an “audience of One.”  He is with you, and He has a “Barnabas the Encourager” on the way to encourage you… and to just maybe, help turn your life around.

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