Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Parents, Training, Women

Erasing Your Debt

If you would have been a member of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019, you would have graduated debt free. All 396 students had their college loans paid in full. How?

 

The commencement speaker that year was Robert Smith, a private equity executive worth $4.47 billion. During his speech, he shared that he was donating enough money ($40 million dollars) to eliminate every graduating student’s personal debt. Everyone was stunned to say the least.

 

In his speech he asked the class to pay it forward. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do know what it feels like to receive notice from the bank or mortgage company that my debt is paid in full.

 

Unfortunately, too many of us know more about indebtedness rather than a debt marked “Paid.” We deserve that new car or house upgrade, or for others, it was unexpected medical debt or some other emergency.

 

However, if we are faithful to make our monthly payments, even adding to the principle, we will realize our goal. And when we are faithful in our tithing and giving first, we will see God multiply our income so that we can eliminate debt even faster. I do not know how that works, but I can tell you in following those principles for 50 years of my life, they are proven.

 

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  (Eccl. 5:10)

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Challenge, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Women

When Our Spouse Pushes Our Buttons

We all love to be proven right when there is a conflict. In so many ways we connect with winning. When our buttons are pushed and a disagreement is the result, we want to win. The problem with winning, especially in marriage, means someone loses and I am not sure that’s our ultimate goal.

 

There are times when we simply must allow ourselves not to take the bait and overlook the need to be right. Most times, peace is more important than pursuing the need to prove ourselves or to win. Backing down can be the most loving and powerful thing we can do for our marriage. After all, who wants to be miserable after being proven right, by going to bed angry? The need to be right, if pursued religiously, can bring destruction to our relationship.

 

Consider Proverbs 17:14, “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out.”

 

“So, stop before…” You’re beginning to raise your voice and your heart is beating faster all the while Proverbs says to just stop. How do we do that? Begin by recognizing the inward conversation you’re having with yourself. Conversations like, “You can’t let her get away with that or, go ahead and interrupt him and let him have the facts.”

 

Secondly, do we want to be right or do we want to be in relationship? That is a choice we have to make at times. Recently, I had a false accusation leveled at me. Believe me, I thought of ten ways to respond and to make a defense as to why it wasn’t true. But I also knew that if I responded, the accusations would continue because most likely this person would not back down.

 

Laying down one’s ego is not easy and if it means keeping your mouth closed, it becomes even more difficult. We need not answer every critic and we need not to prove ourselves to anyone. When we do, we’ll find ourselves in an endless trap of words that leads to even more buttons being pushed.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Training

How Is Your Root System?

The roots of a tree serve multiple functions. Tree roots absorb water and nutrients (minerals) for the tree. The tree root  system support the above ground portion of the tree. “Feeder roots” remain closer to the surface collecting water while lateral roots provide anchorage for the tree. Roots spread four to seven times the distance (radius) of the tree. While not all trees have what’s called a taproot, those that do are better held in storms and draw water and minerals deep within the soil, helping a tree in the driest of times. Thus, trees that experience infrequent watering will develop the deepest root system in their search for water, something that ultimately benefits the tree.

 

I once read that the mighty redwoods, even with shallow root systems, will grab hold of the roots of other trees and rocks underground in order to stabilize themselves. Many trees are dependent upon other trees around them for strength.

 

We love trees for their process of photosynthesis, i.e., turning carbon dioxide into carbohydrates.  We love their beauty and their shade. We enjoy the fruit that some trees produce and the oxygen and air-filtering they offer. Trees are vital to our environment, but tree roots are vital to the tree.

 

It is said that we discover the real us when pressure is applied. The longer the pressure, the more real we’ll become. We have a marvelous ability to fake it on the surface, but when the human element of pain comes and our roots are exposed, what has been held deep within us will surface.

 

How deep are your roots? The deeper they are the more life elements you can endure. In fact, not just endure but become stronger through the struggle and the trial. Tree roots can penetrate solid block walls and underground pipes. When your roots hit a wall, are they strong enough to find a way through?

 

Like the redwoods, are your roots grabbing hold of the stability of others around you? Do your roots sink deep into good soil for the proper nutrients to maintain a godly life?

 

 

…If the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16b)

 

 

A man cannot be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted. (Proverbs 12:3)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day

A Sense of Justice for the Year 2020

Have you felt stolen from in 2020? We could have been robbed of time, finance, family and friend connections, local church relationships, our jobs, our business or any number of life areas.

 

Justice is defined as being just, righteousness, equitableness or moral rightness. Today it feels as though if one can claim some form of moral justice, almost anything can be defined as just. We obviously need a basis for justice.

 

God speaks a lot in His word about justice for the poor, the needy or the one being taken advantage of. His heart is broken over injustice. In Luke chapter 18 He gives us a parable about a judge and a woman who kept returning to him for justice.

 

It seems there was a certain town with a judge who did not fear God or even cared about what the townspeople thought of him. And there was this tenacious widow who kept coming to him with this simple plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” The judge refused, but the widow was relentless and finally in exasperation, he gave in so that she received justice, “…so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”

 

Here is the part I like in this parable: “Will not God bring justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” (Luke 18: 2-8)

 

Do not lose your focus. Do not become distracted with all the loss we faced in 2020. Let God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him.

 

I am fully convinced that one of the ways He will do this is by making the thief repay. On what grounds do I say that? “Yet if he [a thief] is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it cost him all the wealth of his house.” (Proverbs 6:31)

 

Make a declaration in your household today. The thief must repay and repay sevenfold!

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Just for fun, Parents

Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Santa Claus?

The story of Santa Claus goes back to the 3rd century. A patron saint, a monk named Saint Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, modern day Turkey. He was known as the protector of children. The name we use today, Santa Claus, was derived from the Dutch nickname of Sinter Klaas.

 

In 1881 artist Thomas Nast, drew what we recognize as our modern-day Santa: a plump, cheery and white bearded man. It was Nast who provided Santa’s bright red suit and North Pole workshop with elves and a wife, Mrs. Claus. Prior to this image, he was often depicted as a gaunt or scary-looking man.

 

In the 1890’s the Salvation Army began to use this image by dressing their donation collectors in Santa Claus suits. But where this image received a huge boost was from none other than Coca Cola.

 

Santa has been featured in Coke ads since the 1920’s and the image used was close to Nast’s original art work. From 1931 to 1964 Coca-Cola ads showed Santa delivering toys, reading his scroll-styled lists and always enjoying a Coke.

 

While Santa Claus and his imagery are fun for children around the world, it was a very real Catholic monk who was said to spend all his money on rescuing young persons from slavery or prostitution. He gave away his inherited wealth to help the poor and the sick. It is that St. Nick that sounds the most like the Christ, the first six letters of the word Christmas.

 

May we all display the true meaning and character of this Christ by serving others, giving gifts of meaning and remembering the needy around the world. Nine hundred years before the Son of God came to earth and was born in a manger, the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, scribed these words:

 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us]. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14 and 9: 6)

 

(Note: Much of the history above is taken from History.com)

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

Are You Allowing a Pandemic to Change Your Belief System?

I heard someone recently say there is a tangible pandemic and it’s not COVID-19. They went on to share the real pandemic is what is happening to people socially, emotionally, spiritually and, I would add financially, as a result of the Corona virus. What did they mean?

 

To begin with, the word Corona means “crown.” Someone or something with a crown would be considered a ruler. What is it within this pandemic that we allow to “rule” our hearts and minds?

 

In case you begin to think this is an anti-government or a conspiracy-related article, let me say from the start, it is not. The Corona virus is real and must be dealt with at every level. What I am wanting to make us aware of is the question of who or what is influencing our lives enough to change our beliefs? And, are we allowing, without even being aware of it, this pandemic to rule our lives or to change our long-held right beliefs toward fear-filled wrong beliefs?

 

If we do not acknowledge how this pandemic has affected family, jobs, schools, our places of worship, relationships and life as we once knew it, then we are not living in reality. And, if all of those areas are having a direct impact on us, then they are more than likely affecting our beliefs.

 

Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical office of the national Alliance for Mental Illness said, “There is a mental health wave to this pandemic.” The opioid epidemic has become worse during the pandemic. Overdoses have increased 20% compared to the same time a year ago. Domestic violence is on the rise. The calls to domestic violence hotlines increased by 30% in April and by August the increase had risen to 76%. And, of course, the incidents of suicide are on the rise. (Reported by ABC News, article by Dr. Yalda Safai.) These are some very negative, life-impacting challenges.

 

To the person who has often boasted of their independence, they now realize how much they need others. To the person who has been prideful in considering themselves to be an introvert, possibly now they realize how much meaningful relationships are worth. To the one who has been an extrovert, having to spend so much time without certain people, maybe they have discovered new ways of becoming interdependent.

 

To remain secure in the truth, we must remain faithful in what we know to be truth. It is essential to remain faithful to what we have been instructed in (II Timothy 3:14). We must continue to faithfully recognize the Scriptures which impart wisdom, are “God-breathed” and useful for teaching and correction (II Timothy 3:15, 16). We need the voice of God and the truth of His word to keep us balanced and to rule our hearts and minds with peace.

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Challenge, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Singles, Women

A Silent Killer in Marriage

Pornography for many, is a silent killer.  It’s a killer of intimacy, of honesty, of time, of finance and of our own bodies.  Jesus said, “Your eye is the lamp of your body.  When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness.” (Luke 11:34)

 

Our eyes provide a window to our mind, our heart, and our spirit.  When our eyes wander toward or are attracted to pornographic images, we give darkness permission to enter the light.  Jesus warned us about this very thing when He said, “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” (Luke 11:35)

 

There is no redeeming factor when it comes to pornography.  It is a multi-billion-dollar industry in the USA built on lust.  Lust is insatiable, and Satan will hand it to us freely.  Lust is about taking and fully self-seeking.  Lust will increase as we feed it until we find ourselves in bondage.  But love is satisfying, focused on giving, and full of selflessness.  As love increases, we will find ourselves walking in freedom and becoming closer to our life mate.

 

In our pre- and postmarital book, Called Together, we ask the question, “Can you be involved in lust toward your spouse?”  That question creates quite a stir and challenges couples not yet married.  A single person may think that marriage means the end of lusting after another, but married couples know that simply is not true.  According to the above definition of lust, we can be involved in lust within our marriages by demanding, taking and sexual selfishness.  Pornography will feed that self-centered attitude.

 

Love feeds an attitude of giving, sharing, and bringing pleasure out of a heart and mind that is not tarnished by images of raw, base acts.  Love is never demanding in the bedroom, as it speaks encouragement, affirmation, and genuine acceptance.

 

Viewing pornography opens the door of our soul and spirit to spiritual oppression, confusion, hopelessness, hurt, control and domination in evil ways.  Men and women feel betrayed by spouses who use porn.  Women feel as though they cannot compete with the images their husbands are viewing.  It is an illusion that says women will do anything to please their man; no woman in real life lives within that kind of fantasy world.  It brings insecurities to her and can destroy her esteem.  She will question her attractiveness and her adequacy as a lover.  She can eventually think and believe that porn is more important to her husband than she is to him, an ultimate sexual betrayal.

 

Lastly, pornography will make you into a liar.  You will have to constantly lie about your use to your love ones and perhaps your employer.  I love these verses that Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord…Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (I Corinthians 6: 13,18)

 

(Adapted from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Steve and Mary Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)

 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Marriage, Men, Pornography, Women

An Affair with Pornography

One day, Amy received some pornographic pictures on her phone.  She called the phone company and asked how that could happen if she never visited such websites.  They told her someone most likely used her phone to access pornographic material.  She questioned her sons, and then she questioned her husband.  No one confessed.

 

She knew her husband had a “past issue” with pornography but had no idea of how current and active it presently was.  She pressed in once again with Jon and he denied any involvement.  “I felt so horrible,” Jon said, “but lying seemed like my only alternative.”  He just couldn’t believe he was at this point; he had been telling himself it would never get out of his control.  That thought was now a past hope, not a present truth.

 

I asked Jon why he lied to Amy about his sexual addictions, and he said, “To protect my sin.”  But then he went on to say, “Living in sin is going to bring pain, lots of it, but so is telling the truth.  My denial kept me from change and being honest with myself, others, and Amy.”

 

Jon spoke softly, “We have to decide which one is going bring more freedom: lying or telling the truth.  For a season, I thought that lying was the only way to keep pain from my wife and family.  So, to be accepted and loved, I would tell others what they wanted to hear.”

 

We turned to Amy. “As a wife, I discovered that I was married to a lie after it all came out.  There is not a word in the English language that can explain what I felt when hearing about Jon’s addiction and unfaithfulness.”

 

Meanwhile, Jon wondered, If she knows the truth about me, will she even like me?

 

Amy continued, “Every foundation I stood on began to fall apart – my belonging, my acceptance, all within minutes of Jon’s confession seemed to disappear,” Amy shared.  “My self-worth, my security, and my spiritual security just dissipated.”  Amy then said something we’ll never forget hearing: “The sense of shame flooded me and I began to battle constant thoughts of,  ‘I’m not good enough,’ ‘I’m not pretty enough,’ ‘I’m just not enough,’ and I ended up in a fetal position on our bathroom floor begging God to kill me.”

 

What follows is directly from the heart of this precious couple whose marriage has survived this major infraction and is in the process of healing and becoming stronger again.  These steps of healing are the redemptive part of their story and they desire to share them with you.

 

  1. Start making better choices through honesty and a spirit of humility.
  2. Meet with your pastor/spiritual leader and tell your whole story. Leave nothing out and cover nothing up.  Discuss present roles and responsibilities in your local church and evaluate any necessary changes.
  3. Immediately start professional counseling.
  4. Meet with any other spiritual leaders in your lives, share your story, and receive healthy input and discipline for your life.
  5. The person struggling with sin needs a lot of intervention, counsel, prayer, accountability, and education concerning the sin and how it affects him or her as well as others.
  6. The non-offending spouse needs just as much intervention, education in the truth, counsel, prayer, accountability, friendship, acceptance, and pastoral care.
  7. Begin working toward forgiveness before working toward rebuilding trust. Forgiveness is key to healing.
  8. Recognize that trust disappears through the fractured relationship. It must begin to be rebuilt, layer by layer. To rebuild trust, you have to start being honest in everything.  There can be no more lies, not even one.
  9. Be accountable and remain accountable to God, to one another, to your counselors and to your pastoral oversight.

Are you needing to bring something from darkness to light in your relationship? Honest confession and truth telling will start the process of healing.

(Adapted from Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Steve and Mary Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)

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In the news, Issues of the Day

The Mayflower Compact Story

Do you think it would have been possible for you to travel for 66 days, over two months, on a small wooden ship with more than 100 people aboard crossing the Atlantic Ocean? There were 50 men, 19 women and 33 young adults and children. The Pilgrims in coming to America did this in the year 1620 on a ship called Mayflower.

 

This ship actually began its journey from England with an accompanying ship called the Speedwell. They had to turn back to England twice because of issues with the Speedwell ship leaking.

 

During their travel, lives were lost and a life was given birth to named Oceanus (seems appropriate). Finally, after 66 long days the ship reached Cape Cod on November 11, 1620.

 

These were Separatists, members of the Puritan sect that split from the Church of England. They had received permission from the King of England to settle on land that was near the mouth of the Hudson River (New York today) all the way south to the northern Virginia border, but they landed in New England and chose to stay there and build their community. It is here they would write and sign (signed by 41 of the colonists) the Mayflower Compact.

 

This document is believed to have impacted the United States Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Below, I’ve placed the words of this document so you can read it for yourself.

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord

Why is this important? The Mayflower Compact was a set of rules for the governance of a new community being establish in a New World. Without laws and those who enforce them, it would create social dysfunction for the colonists.

Within the compact you discover they were seeking the right to worship their God as they desired and liberally mentioned this in the text of the document. They solely and faithfully lived by the Christian faith.

They created one society and worked in unity to further it.

They would remain loyal subjects of the King, even with their desire to self-govern. It was the first document to establish self-government in the New World. And it was successful at democracy and played an important role for future colonists.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:1-4)

The “Advancement of the Christian Faith” found within the document point to the fact that these were misionaries and church planters ready to serve God in a New World for their King.

(Note: Thanks to History.com for the facts relating to the Mayflower ship.)

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

The Pain of an Affairing Spouse

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

 

As we became acquainted with the pastor of the church who met us 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, “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 proceeded to say something we had never, ever heard before and haven’t heard since.  “It seems that the husband of our one eldership couple is having 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 had happened and was about to happen.  He told us they were totally unaware of both.

 

I’m not sure who was more nervous and frightened about the meeting, the two of us or the couples we were about to meet.  There we sat with the first couple; a bit stunned as the husband nervously confessed to his wife his ongoing affair.  His eyes were constantly shifting to his spouse, then his pastor and then to us, but more often toward the ground.  We watched as her face began multiple and visibly painful contortions.  Her skin began to flush a bright red color starting from below her neckline and working its way to her forehead.  And then the tears began to flow, nonstop.  Her body slumped lower and lower in her chair.  It was like she was literally shriveling up right there in front of us.

 

Humans seem to have the capacity to endure a lot of pain, both physical and emotional.  We have all experienced traumatic, painful situations in our lives.  How we choose to handle those hurts is important.  We don’t know why one person can maintain composure while another completely falls apart, but we are convinced it has something to do with how we interpret the event and then what we tell ourselves about the past, present, and most importantly, the future.

 

It was in this meeting that we watched someone physically experience human pain: shortness of breath, heart palpitations, hands shaking in uncontrollable fear, and deep sighs that seemed to say, “What now?”  Mary placed her hand on the wife’s arm, but it was of little solace to her in a world that was literally crumbling around her.

 

Having seen the pain that an affair has on a spouse that day, I once again pledged myself to maintaining my marriage vows to my wife and to God – a good thing for you to consider as well.

 

(The above was adapted from our book, Staying Together, Marriage: A Lifelong Affair, Prokopchak, Destiny Image Publishers)

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