Leadership, Marriage, Parents

I Forgive You

images-4I forgive you – three very powerful, but very difficult words to speak. Perhaps even more difficult are the words, “Please forgive me.” Why does it take so long to work up the courage, humble ourselves and put away our pride? Jesus offered this medicine while on the earth when He shared that if we forgive, we will be forgiven. Paul the apostle stated it so succinctly when he wrote it this way, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Nicky Gumbel, the Alpha course images-5teacher, once said that the first one to apologize is the bravest one.

It has been well stated that to withhold forgiveness only hurts us. It keeps us bound by our refusal to release the one who hurt us or who we hurt. Withholding forgiveness will separate you from your soul mate. It will make life far more stressful. When we express forgiveness to one another and the air is cleared, it’s like a new sense of connection, freedom and release of tension. The heaviness can leave; eye contact and affection can return. You will fall asleep easier and you will wake up more refreshed. Through forgiveness your heart, mind and spirit can once again be at peace. Be brave, be the initiator when it comes to forgiving.images

Issues of the Day, Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

The Pain of an Affair

imagesMy wife, Mary, and I were on a plane traveling to the Midwest and it was the dead of winter. We were conducting our first weekend marriage seminar in this frozen, sub-zero temperature state. We jumped off the plane and onto the small airport tarmac to be greeted by the coldest, howling wind we’ve ever felt. Our eyes began to water and our noses started to run. It was cold.

As we became acquainted with the pastor of the church who kindly picked us up at the airport, he informed us that we were going straight to the church building to meet with his two eldership couples that were awaiting our arrival. I thought, “Wow, he’s not wasting any time putting us to work.” He then said, “Boy, am I glad you guys are here. We have a problem that we would like the two of you to address.” “What’s the issue? “ I asked. He then said something we had never, ever heard before and haven’t heard since. “It seems that the husband of our one eldership couple is in an affair with the wife of the other eldership couple,” the pastor cautiously revealed. “We want you to meet with them.” I then asked if the “non-affairing” spouses are aware of what has happened and is about to happen. He assured us they were totally unaware.images-2

There we sat with the first couple as the husband confessed to his wife his ongoing affair with a woman she trusted and was in ministry with. We watched as her face began multiple, visibly painful contortions. And then the tears began to flow and flow using tissue after tissue. Her body slumped lower and lower in her chair. It was like she was literally shriveling up right there in front of us. I have wished ever since that meeting we had videotaped the wife’s pain-filled facial expressions and body language. If I could show it to you, you would never, never, never desire to bring that level of pain to your worst enemy, let alone your spouse. Don’t, please don’t.

Marriage, Postmarital

Getting Married is Easy; It’s the Staying Married Part

images-6When we say, “I do” we are never quite sure of what’s ahead. Thinking back over the many couples I have counseled, I can only begin to tell you the various scenarios that those couples faced so unexpectedly. For example, I can recall the early passing of a life mate, failure of a business, the loss of a three-year-old child, affairs, depression and other mental illnesses, a life altering accident or illness, addictions, extreme financial mismanagement, inability to become pregnant, just to name a few. To so many of these couples it felt completely overwhelming and I am sad to say that not all of the couples survived the tragedies.images-20

For the majority who did endure I noticed something extraordinary, something life changing happened. As these couples battled through the disappointment, through the loss and through the unexpected surprises they became stronger in their marriage. They decided that the tough times were going to make them and not break them. They chose to get help, be honest, lay their cards on the table, expose their weaknesses and be altogether open and truthful. Change never occurred overnight, but change did occur. They submitted to counsel, read books, prayed together, completed homework assignments, gave each other extra grace, FORGAVE one another, grew in their faith and recommitted many times to a better future.

images-5Regardless of where you are in your marriage, there is help and there is hope. If God is who He says He is, then there is not a marriage scenario that He cannot work with. If He could forgive the woman brought to Him who had committed adultery and had obviously failed her marriage, He can forgive you and rebuild your relationship.

Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day

God is a Conservative; No, Wait, He’s a Liberal

imagesAre you a conservative or a liberal? These two words are really polarizing these days in our world of political correctness, especially in a two-party voting system like we have in the USA. These two words have created two opposing sides. It has divided our nation and the daily news loves to point out the differences, further dividing us.images-3 I placed this question before the Lord one day: “Are You a conservative or a liberal?” The question wasn’t posed in the political sense, but more in a spiritual sense. What follows is the answer that I thought I received to the question.

God is a liberal. He is liberally, lavishly and literally pouring out His love on each and every life on the earth today. There is no end to this love because the Bible says that God is love. It’s who He is. He loves us liberally.

He is a conservative because He withholds His judgment on mankind. His mercy is everlasting because He would desire all to follow Him. He delays His judgment; He waits for all to come to repentance. He is the most conservative One I know when it comes to not giving us what we deserve in our disobedience.

Since this One dwells in us, let’s be conservative in our judgments, all the while, loving liberally to all those He brings into our path.

Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

Will Our Marriage Mature Us?

images-7Living with another human being feels almost impossible at times.   We can continually deal with questions like: Will she ever change? Can he ever see beyond himself? When will my needs be met? Since when is our credit card bill more important than me? But here’s part of the deal… Marriage points out our selfishness rather clearly. Marriage kicks individuality in the butt. Marriage holds us accountable. Marriage exposes our commitment to God and our faith. And marriage has a way of exposing our immaturities.

All of the above can be seen as a huge negative or a huge opportunity for change. Once we realize the truth about this partnership called marriage, we have two choices. We can either dismiss what is being exposed within us or we can embrace it and begin to put into place mechanisms for change. For some, “dismissing” is going to the extreme of ending the marriage and looking for another partner only to eventually be confronted with the very same self-conflicting issues.  But for others, marriage provides an opportunity for God-stretching truth that exposes what’s on the inside of us.  It’s that “inside” part that scares us sometimes and we’d rather keep it hidden. We can accomplish that during engagement perhaps, but not when we spend over fourteen hours a day together.images-12

I suppose it’s that “real us” we’re afraid of letting out. However, God already knows about that real us intimately and most likely so does our spouse. So, go ahead, be real while listening for that voice of change causing you to become a more mature life partner.

Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Prayer

Going to the Polls and Electing a New President

imagesIt has been on my heart to address something going on particularly in America right now, but I also know there are some similarities around the world when it comes to elections.

We are in the middle of a political year here in America and the world is watching.  Recently while in another country, I heard a businessperson say publicly, “God help us all if Donald Trump becomes the next US president.”  I understand the comment, but I am challenged by the attitude and the attitude of so many (including myself at times).  I receive a lot of Facebook posts from leaders and at times I am horrified by some of them.  I am not angry at what I see and read as much as I am grieved.  I feel that we as Christians are simply adding to the problem of creating a greater level of disunity and anxiety among our family and the world around us.  While we desire to spread truth, we must be careful that we are not at the same time wounding others in the process and spreading fear.

A statement that I recently read in Shawn Bolz’s new book, Translating God, challenged me.  This one statement jumped out at me in light of how I perceive some (including myself) dealing with the political differences and climate around us.  Shawn wrote, “We will have no authority over that which we do not love.”  In other words, if I had the opportunity to speak to our president would I speak what I have posted in FB or forwarded in a negative email?  If I had opportunity to share with him would he know my love for him, my prayers for him or just my oppositions?  If we do not love, we will certainly miss out on possible assignments from our Father.

I long for authority in the Spirit to pray for our leaders, but at the same time struggle with their agenda and their damaging decisions.  I can’t reconcile a Christian voting for an extremely pro-abortion candidate, but I know they do.  I may never understand it, but can I walk in unity with that person?  Let me share a few verses that I would like you to read and consider sharing with others as the Lord leads you in light of this subject.

(See:  I Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:1-4; Ephesians 4:1-4; Colossians 3:12-14; Romans 15:5-7; and John 17:21-23.)images-7

Then in John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world…”  Our kingdom is NOT of this world.  We walk in this world of politics, dissension, disagreement and disunity, but we are to be unified as believers because our kingdom is not of this world!  Yes, we need to vote, discern, discuss and be clear from the pulpit on godly values when it comes to voting, but at the end of the day we are not to lose our unity with one another in building the kingdom of God, especially as we may vote differently.

I continually think of Daniel in light of this topic.  A godly leader who stood to pray for, work with and eat with a very ungodly, secular government and system.  While he did not compromise, his love must have continually come through. Daniel, “…resolved not to defile himself.”  He received knowledge and understanding through the literature of the culture he was thrust into.  He continually spoke with, “…wisdom and tact.”  As God’s politician they could not find any corruption in him.  The reason for his favor?  Daniel 6: 23 says that he trusted in his God. There was no vote. Daniel was not voted into office, God placed him there.

We share from the pulpit on godly values when it comes to voting, but at the end of the day we are not to lose our unity with one another in building the kingdom of God.  Recently I heard someone say, “Don’t be deceived to believe that man’s view is always God’s view or that man’s thoughts are God’s thoughts.”

Do you remember the argument in Romans 14 over food, what was clean and what was unclean and then who was weak and who was strong?  The whole chapter was about how to treat the weaker in the faith and in the end the writer inspired by God says, “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.”  That’s something to think these days…

Jesus and the disciples faced this very thing on a daily basis and then gave their lives, not in opposition of their government but in standing for a kingdom that was not of this world system.  Yes, I realize that some wanted Jesus to set up His kingdom on earth at that time, but that was never God’s goal for His Son. Rather, it was to reach the cross and bring to us the ultimate form of freedom.

Paul stood before the government leaders of his day and it was his own Jewish people who insisted on that same government ending Paul’s life.

The message of the kingdom of God is not full of political judgement, issues and division, it’s a message of the heart for the heart.  God’s kingdom is a reconciling kingdom.  It’s a message of the unifying love of Christ.

So, let’s pray for our next president as believers united in Christ so that we can work together to see His kingdom come with a sense of unity. Let us unite in the need of a leader who stands from a position of integrity, high moral character, experience, truth and one who loves this nation and desires to see it prosper in order to serve other nations. However, let us also realize no politician can save us, only one Name can do that.images-6

And please be reminded of whose side you are on and it’s not liberal or conservative. I have literally been trying to remind myself through these thoughts, “Jesus loves you, this I know even if I disagree with everything you stand for…Jesus loves you and I need to love you as well.”  Help us, Father, to love so that we might be known by our love.  And as we stand for our beliefs, values and convictions may we work toward unity of the Spirit of Christ.