History, Issues of the Day, Prayer

Atheism and the Most Hated Woman

It was 1963 and the U.S. Supreme court would vote in an 8 – 1 ruling that it was unconstitutional for public schools to require Bible reading. At the time, there were many states which mandated daily Bible reading and prayer. The infamous Murray vs. Curlett case involved what would become a high-profile woman by the name of Madalyn Murray O’Hair. 

O’Hare’s claim was that her son, William, was “bullied” because he did not want to participate in the daily Bible reading in his school. Having won the case elevated O’Hare to be profiled in Life magazine and then begin TV interviews. She was vocal to criticize any public reading of the scripture like the Apollo 8 astronauts on Christmas Eve in 1968. 

O’Hare stood for sexual freedom for adults and children. She was the head of the American Atheists. As the leader she said she welcomed being the “most hated woman in America.” But that’s far from the end of the story.

O’Hare’s son, William, became a Christian believer. His mother said she would have him committed to an insane asylum for doing so. William told his story in his book, My Life Without God. In that book he described how his mother hated her father and wanted to poison him to death. How she had multiple affairs. How she inflated the member numbers of the American Atheists and many other unscrupulous dealings. 

In 1995 O’Hare disappeared. Her body was later discovered in Texas having been caught up in a financial scam and in an attempt to flee the IRS. It wasn’t a happy ending of a life dedicated to winning converts to atheism and changing U.S. laws to align with her beliefs. 

We will always bear the consequences of the seeds we sow as believers or as nonbelievers. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction… (Galatians 6:7,8)

I am reminded on a daily basis of what I say, what I teach, what I write is subject to scrutiny from others, but mostly I am concerned and accountable to God for what I sow, desiring to reap from good seed.

Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Marriage, Men, Parents, Women

Conflicts in Marriage; We All Have Them

My wife and I often joke that we had a conflict once in our marriage of 47 years so we wrote a book about it. Not exactly true. We’ve had many conflicts, but conflicts do not have to be harsh or out of control. After all, we face conflicts daily in life and we tend to handle them better with complete strangers than we do with our spouse or our children.

Why is that? We have nothing invested in the stranger, but we have everything invested in our marriage and family. 

Conflicts often originate from blocked goals; we are wanting something and not getting it. We may even want something good, but the goal or the need is blocked by something, by someone. What we do at this point is totally up to us. We can bust our way through with anger or we can go silent and walk out. We can pretend we’re not having a conflict and not deal with it or we can become abusive in our response all in an effort to get what we want and when we want it. 

Here are seven suggestions that can help us when it comes to marriage conflicts:

  1. Even in conflict we need to maintain a right attitude toward one another. Conflict is not always detrimental in marriage, but it does test our faith, our patience and our personal level of grace. According to the scriptures, it also develops character (See Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4.). Remember that in marriage our conflict is deeper because our love is deeper.
  2. The natural response to conflict is more conflict, a desire to win or a desire to just bail. But when we push through, pray through and persevere through, the trial and the outcome will be perseverance doing its work (See James 1:4.). Don’t quit and give up; believe for a resolve because the more we learn to persevere through the conflict, the more victories we will experience. 
  3. Keep in mind that whatever we sow, we reap. If we sow anger, we’ll reap anger. If we sow the negative we will be sure to reap the negative. The seed of criticism and name calling cannot produce the fruit of peace or righteousness.
  4. Do not hold onto negative words, bitterness, criticism, or anger because these things will bite you in the end. Peter told us to be considerate in our marriages and to treat one another with respect (I Peter 3:1-9). Jesus never treats us in disrespect, anger or abuse. 
  5. In each and every conflict, be aware of selfish ambition because many of our conflicts arise from a felt need or desire regardless of how another feels. In Philippians 2 Paul reminds us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others [my spouse] better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others [my spouse].”
  6. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8) Love often means overlooking an offense, forgetting, not pointing out failures, not reminding one another of past mistakes, forgiving and keeping no record of wrongs.
  7. Lastly, as conflicts are resolved, God uses those areas in our lives to help others. I know that might sound far off right now, but it’s true. We will have authority to speak into that which we have had to grow through and have successfully won the battles with.

The number one reason marriages do not make it today is the inability of two adults to respectfully and honorably resolve conflict with each other. Put into practice the points above and you’ll be on your way to resolving conflict. Conflict is not wrong in a relationship, but unresolved conflict certainly is.

Challenge, Children, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Parents, Pornography, Singles

God, You Love Me and My Sexuality

Every one of us are far more than our sexual desires dreams and feelings. These areas of life do not define us. I have heard plenty of horror stories after twenty plus years of personal counseling. Let me share one of those with you.

I can recall Lisa’s story that resulted in severe anorexia. While her story and her pain were true, she was acting out self-destructive behavior, starving herself to death. If I would have merely affirmed every feeling that Lisa had, it would have been cruel. Further, if I would have commented that her self-perception of being obese was right in an effort to validate her feelings, I would have been both unprofessional and dishonest. 

When our sexuality becomes who we are or how we express our identity, we will be disappointed. It is an expectation that sexuality cannot deliver because our sexuality is only part of our whole being. 

To pursue an identity in our sexuality for the purpose of obtaining self-esteem will also ultimately disappoint. Having the attention of someone sexually may empower for a movement, but that moment will end quickly. It is as well detrimental to look for our identity in the sexual realm because it’s the popular thing to do. Often high school and college age students are pursuing sexuality in this way in an effort to feel popular. 

Every day we choose to either obey God in our sexuality or to not obey Him. It can be a temptation as great as being unfaithful to our wedding vows or a temptation to view pornography. We each have a choice to make. Either God’s grace is sufficient or we determine it not to be. Deciding to pursue our sexuality God’s way and within His boundaries might mean a cross to bear for some, but it will lead us into an eternity of God’s pleasure because of our obedience vs our pursuit of a temporary pleasure.

(For a more thorough look into this topic see the book Identity, The Distinctiveness of You here.)

Challenge, Encouragement, Marriage, Men, Prayer, Women

Wedding Anniversaries – Celebrating our 48th

Our love started out like most couples: young, inexperienced, and some naivety. We spoke our vows and threw ourselves into young love. What we didn’t totally understand was that some of the loving feelings and emotions fade and then love as a lifelong commitment begins. 

That was 48 years ago this month! It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. I had brown hair at one time and Mary, well, she still has brown hair, compliments of Clairol. 

We thought we knew all about love, but we were only beginning to discover how that love would be tested and tried over and over. Honestly, as we look back, it was pretty shallow, but we didn’t give up and love definately deepened over time. 

There were romantic getaways, not so romantic trials, date nights and stretches during child raising years in which we felt like we barely hung on to our shared vision. 

We’re now married long enough to have experienced sickness and health, lack and prosperity, pain and triumph. We have weathered many storms with children, with the loss of parents, and with disappointment from prayers not answered in our imagined outcome. We can look back and give thanks for it is those things that make our love what it is today. Forty-eight years of repeated “I do’s,” 48 years of fun and laughter, 48 years of traveling around the world and ministering the love of Jesus together, and 48 years of praying together. 

Don’t give up on your marriage. Remember your vows spoken to one another, to God and to those who attended your wedding. Remember why God called you together. Remember your mission as a couple and remember young love growing deeper every day into “older/deeper love.”

Jesus said it this way: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’[and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Encouragement, History, Parents, Women

In Celebration of Mothers and Women

Agnes grew up in eastern Europe. When her mother failed to find her a proper husband, Agnes decided that God must be calling her to be a missionary. 

At age eighteen she headed for Dublin from Albania. And then she traveled to Asia where she encountered some of the worst poverty she had ever been exposed to. Overwhelmed by the needs of the poor, she asked other women to join her in her quest to bring life to a dark nation, India. 

Eventually she changed her name to Teresa and became one of the most well-regarded women of the twentieth century. She would win a Nobel Prize, grow her order to over 4,500 sisters in 153 countries. She would as well originate a chain of hospitals, hospices, AIDS centers, orphanages, unwed mothers’ homes and schools. 

Her work and her order grew exponentially. When asked why it was growing she replied, “I give them Jesus; there’s nothing more!”

Upon winning her Nobel Prize, she was asked how she would promote world peace. She replied, “Go home and love your family.” Mother Teresa would describe herself as, “By blood, I am an Albanian; by citizenship, an Indian; by faith, a Catholic; by calling, I belong to the world and by heart, I belong entirely to Jesus.”

This one woman changed the world and her influence continues to do so. Mothers change the world, family by family. Bless you, mothers, as you change the world!!

Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun

A Lifetime “Limited” Warranty

I bought a high-end swinging door to access my deck after the last one made of wood rotted. (Apparently, they don’t make wood like they use to.) I mean I pulled out all the stops to purchase the best door money could buy, guaranteed to never need replacement. And to top it off, the new door came with a “Lifetime Limited Warranty.”

I don’t know about you, but “lifetime” seems like a loooooong time to me. Within less than twelve years my new door began to separate and lost its ability to seal out the cold. No worries–I actually saved the receipt and the warranty statement found on the door when purchased new.

I confidently called the so and so company to order my brand new replacement door. She said she would send a representative to look at the damaged door and give me “an estimate on replacement.” This is when I began to feel a bit nervous. Questioning her further I discovered that I completely understood the definition of the word “lifetime” and the word “warranty,” but really had no idea about the meaning of that other little word thrown in there: “limited.”

The nice factory rep lady informed me that “lifetime limited” was ten years. I said, “Saywhaaa? Ten years?” And then in a snarky manner asked her, “Aren’t you happy your lifetime is longer than ten years?” 

Ladies and gentlemen, be careful of that little word “limited.” It’s a disappointment for sure. Most things in this world are limited. In fact, I can recall my son being asked to leave an “all you can eat” breakfast restaurant. Apparently that restaurant found out what I already knew from closely observing my grocery bill.

Here is a wonderful thing: God’s love, His grace and His forgiveness are totally, unconditionally, without a limit clause in fine print, UNLIMITED. And that’s a guarantee into eternity, signed and sealed by the cross.

Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

Narratives and Lies

There are narratives that are being promoted these days which are truly “of this world.” The narrative of “what I do privately affects no one” is an example. However, if I choose to be sexually active outside of marriage it can have direct consequences like pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, anxiety, depression, and deep hurts. Every one of these results affect someone other than myself. The narrative that I act alone, it only affects me, is a completely false narrative. All of our actions are in some way or another connected to others. 

But that’s not really my point. False narratives are pushed in our culture today as if they are truth. When pushed long enough, hard enough, marketed, placed in TV and movie lines, written about by the “professionals” as accepted truth, our culture can eventually shift and begin to believe they are actually true. 

A more recent narrative being promoted as compassionate is “love is love.” If love is love then love must include all kinds of self-centered aberrations and still be defined as love. If love is love is a positive message, then call anything love and it passes, even while it hurts one’s self or others. 

There is a truth narrative from God’s word that is completely trustworthy, dependable and of value to believe. Here are some biblical narratives you can trust into eternity:

I Corinthians 1:25 – 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I Corinthians 3:19 – 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”

John 15:18,19 – “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” 

John 18:36 – 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Titus 2:11,12 – 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

I John 2:15-17 – 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[a] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Matthew 5:14-16 – 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

John 8:12 – 12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus’ narrative and God’s word have a very different take on the world’s narrative. There is no peace, no satisfaction, no agreement and no right way of living within the world’s narrative. It all too often ends in destruction. It poses as ultimate good, but culminates in disappointment and all too often, personal ruin. 

Believe and promote God’s narratives. They lead to life.

Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Parents

Courageous Parenting

Godly parenting takes courage–plain and simple. If you were to ask someone what is the most courageous thing they have ever done you would most likely receive various answers, but if you ask me that question I would say godly parenting.

Courageous deeds are often associated with heroes; however, if your heart’s desire is to raise godly children in an ungodly and worldly environment, then you are heroic.

When we establish boundaries about certain TV shows, certain music or certain books, we are taking courageous steps.

When we establish biblically guided rules for our children about what’s right and what’s wrong, then we are taking courageous steps.

When we establish rules concerning standards and the opposite sex relationships of our children, we are being courageous. 

When we teach sexual identity and sexual purity that is in stark contrast to what our culture is speaking, we are being courageous.

When we do not conform to the values of other parents, sticking with our specific family values, we are being courageous.

When we as parents are not viewing pornography and then holding our young children accountable to do the same, we are being courageous parents.

When we teach our children what is acceptable dress, acceptable dating relationships, acceptable Internet use, and give them curfews, we are being courageous parents.

The list could go on, but I challenge you today to be a courageous parent because if you want to see a generation of young people who can withstand peer pressure, who can say no to the wrong they will face, and who can say yes to God, it all begins with courageous parenting.

When we take the easy route or the lazy route to parenting, the battle for our children will be lost. 

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. (Jeremiah 32:39)

Children, Encouragement, History, Issues of the Day, Parents, Prayer

The Ache of a Godly Parent

I discovered a long time ago when I worked as a social worker and later as a family and marriage counselor that some good children come from not-so-good homes and some not-so-good children can come from good homes. There simply are no guarantees. 

While we do our best to raise our children to love and to serve God, as they age, it becomes their decision. We hope and pray the seeds sown take root. 

Monica had a son named Augustine. He spent his teenage and youthful adult years seeking sinful desires and rejecting his mother’s Christian faith. Monica asked her bishop to speak with her son and his reply was, “It is impossible that the son of so many tears should perish.” He refused to speak to the young man. 

But one day in his Roman garden, God spoke to Augustine and said, “Take and read.” Suddenly God’s word was opened up to him and he began to see the promises of Christ and his own sinfulness. He shared his radical conversion with his mother and nine days later, with ecstatic joy in her heart, she died. 

Today we all know of Saint Augustine, one of the most influential believers mentioned in church history.

Maybe you can identify with this mother as you sow tears of sorrow and deep prayers of faith. Trust God to speak to your son or daughter in the garden of their life. He will speak. He is speaking.

Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

Longevity in Marriage is a Plus

When we see an advertisement that includes, “Serving the city for more than 25 years” or “Celebrating over 50 years of business” we take notice. While so many businesses are looking for hyped up advertising, those with longevity need only their reputation which has been earned over time. 

Are you committed to your partner for the long haul? Are you sowing seeds into your marriage that will breathe life into it for decades to come? As you faithfully invest you will bear fruit in your marriage that can be noticed by others throughout your lifetime. 

Coming back into the U.S. on an international trip, the customs officer asked what was Mary’s relationship to me. She said, “I am his wife of 47 years.” The customs officer raised his eyebrows, looked at the two of us and said, “Wow, you’re REALLY married!” 

Humorous? Yes. Unusual? Yes. Our longevity caught him by surprise, but at the same time he wished us well and many more years as we moved through the line. 

For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9:11) 

And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statues and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. (I Kings 3:14)

If you’re a young couple reading this, please know that every choice you make matters for today and tomorrow. If you’re an older couple, do not rest on what was, but continue to pursue life and health for your marriage. The more our marriages mature, the more fruitful they are to become.