Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage

Life and Suffering

imagesAre you experiencing a struggle in your life or your marriage? If your answer to that question is “yes,” then my response is, good. Someone once said that, “Beauty is birthed in struggle.” Most of us have a natural tendency to avoid struggles in life. We dream of the life of ease, but is that life a reality and would we experience personal growth in that environment? Author Gary Thomas wrote, “Few people leave a marriage because it’s too easy.” To never encounter personal struggle and to only have ease and comfort would be to remain immature and walk through life with a lack of depth and character.

Do you desire your marriage, your life for that matter, to be seasoned and to experience growth and maturity? Suffering can be profitable and work toward this end as long as you find the purpose, walk through the process and personally grow because of it. If you think back through your life you will realize that it was the difficult times in which you grew (spiritually and emotionally) the most. imagesJesus suffered, as did many men and women of history. It was/is our Lord’s belief that something would be built in us as we would realize…For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! (II Corinthians 4:17)

Encouragement, Issues of the Day

4 Steps to Accountability

images-3Accountability is not a popular topic these days. We love our freedom and our independence to decide for ourselves without the restriction of someone “looking over our shoulder.” We can find it intrusive and cast it off as, “my business is my business.” The problem with that line of thinking is it’s truly un-biblical.   Could you imagine Jesus saying, “Listen to my teaching and watch me heal the sick, but realize that my personal life is none of your business?” Or, how about if Paul the Apostle shared with the church in Corinth, “I am going to call out your sin, but you dare not call out mine?” We simply do not live as unto ourselves.

Accountability is when you or I walk in a certain conviction, but realize we need help from others. We are encouraged to go to our overseer, leader or friend and humbly describe to them what it is we need accountability in. Here are four steps to help make accountability a lifestyle.images-2

1. We approach someone and make an inquiry to see if they are up to the task of asking us a few difficult questions. You’ll need to be explicit in what it is you desire to be held accountable in.

2. Then give the person(s) some actual questions they can ask and how often you desire them to be asked.  How severe the issue you are dealing with determines how often you meet and are being held accountable.

3. Further, ask them to call you randomly, outside actual face-to-face meetings (text and email are good too, but calls are best).  This provides an element of surprise.

4. As well, be sure to let them know to change it up.  In other words, give them permission and encouragement to ask you about other areas of your life.

We will be held accountable to God (Romans 14:12), but opening up our lives and having help while still on earth can cause tremendous growth in our lives. Who are you accountable to?images

Issues of the Day, Marriage

What if Divorce Included This?

images-19Author Gary Thomas once proposed this scenario, “You may opt for a divorce, but you cannot ever engage in sex again with anyone else for the rest of your life.” The obvious question that would follow would be just how many couples would actually divorce? Perhaps some women, but I am guessing very few men. I remember studying divorce and remarriage from every angle for our book, Called Together. We wanted to write what was biblically correct, while at the same time not provoke any unnecessary pain in those who have been through such devastation.

What I discovered was interesting; coming to the conclusion that while not every divorce was sinful, each one was the result of sin. And I also discovered that there was a certain divorce labeled as nonbiblical in which the two parties were to remain nonsexual by now remaining unmarried for the rest of their lives. (see I Corinthians 7:10-11) Jesus’ personal stand on divorce can be found in Mark 10: 1-12. I’ll let you read it and come to your own conclusions.   God’s first desire is always reconciliation, but within those verses found in the book of Mark, Jesus did tell us that divorce was not from the beginning.images-16

For those of you that have been through this heart wrenching experience, grace to you. For those of you contemplating divorce, please reconsider and ask God for a path to reconciliation if at all possible.

Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

Mass Shootings, Suffering, Evil and the World We Live In II

images-7If the answer to the question of why there is evil in the world is found in the fall of man recorded in Genesis chapter three, then what could possibly change our evil heart? Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9) Wow, “beyond cure” and who could possibly “understand it?” That could make us feel that we are without hope and our heart will forever be deceitful. But wait, there is an answer because, “…the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” (I Chronicles 28:9) And the Psalmist, David, prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God…” Could that be possible and if so, how?

First, it is extremely important to recognize that, “…a man’s heart reflects the man.” (Proverbs 27:19) [Be truthful with your self.] Then, imagine this, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26) [Notice, Who will do this.] Further, John reveals to us that God is greater than our very hearts. [It takes a Source outside our heart.] The heart of the Father in the heart of His Son is literally the purifier of our heart. [There is no self-purification; no self-enlightenment and there is no self-actualization.] But, there is what Acts 15 calls, “faith” when it states that God will purify our hearts by faith. And, where does that faith begin?images-5

 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

Only Jesus can change a heart. Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart and reveal His?

Children, Parents

Train Your Children to be Powerful

images-6Far too many parents train their children to view mom and dad as having all power over them. We don’t necessarily try this, but somehow it comes across fairly often. For example, have you ever heard a parent say this, “Because I said so?” And then there is this one, “Just do this one more (fill in the blank) and then you can go and play.” Neither of these examples empowers your children; they actually train your child into thinking that you are more powerful and it’s that power they need to resign themselves  to. I have news for you; the use of power is often void of relationship. One day that power will be resisted, tested or simply ignored. Where does it lead?images-8

Powerless children become victims because powerless people view themselves as victims. Powerless people do not have to take responsibility for their actions; they can blame others. Eventually, powerless people may want everything done for them. So, what is the alternative? Empower your children to think and reason and to make choices of their own. While providing proper boundaries, teach them to make decisions rather than you as the parent deciding for them each and every time. For example, try this. Ask your child (as is age appropriate), “Would you like to finish your meal and then play a little longer or would you like to not finish your meal and go right upstairs for your nap?”IMG_0803

What’s the difference? You are empowering your child to reason, think through the process and come to their own conclusion and consequences. Powerful children will do powerful things one day as they take responsibility for their decisions.

In the news, Issues of the Day

Mass Shootings, Suffering, Evil and the World We Live In

images-2Have you ever asked or been asked the question, “Why is there so much evil in the world?” Or, have you been confronted by the person who wants you to defend your faith, all the while, claiming that if there truly were a “loving” God, humanity would not suffer as it does? I have also struggled to answer that question. But perhaps there is an answer, an answer that is very difficult to admit. An answer that is not so complicated and one in which you do not need to be God’s defense attorney.images

Here’s what I propose: the answer to why there is so much evil is me…you…us. The problem is the heart of mankind since the fall (Genesis 3). But, let’s first think about what we’re actually asking. Are we arrogantly asking of God, “You know, since mankind is normally of such good character, why do You (God) allow so much evil?” It’s like we’re asking God whether or not the evil originates from Him, as if He’s the author or the creator. The far better question is, “Why didn’t God kill me yesterday for my sin and my disobedience to His word?”

images-3Jeremiah said* that we didn’t listen, but rather followed the stubbornness of our own evil hearts. Isaiah said woe to those who call evil good and good evil, trying to be wise in their futile understanding. Jesus told us that out of our heart would come evil thoughts, murder, sexual immorality and other sins. He spoke these words, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:45, 46) There is no escaping it; you and I, along with each person asking the question, are to blame. What is being “stored up” in your heart today?

(*See Jeremiah 7:24; 16:12; Isaiah 5:18-20; Matthew 15:19; Genesis 6:5; II Timothy 3: 1-5)