Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Parents, Women

Moms Day

Mothers–we all had one and most of us cherish our good memories. We know that for nine months she carried us in her womb anticipating our arrival. We know we were loved, accepted and approved of by her. We know she wasn’t perfect, but she was the perfect mom for us. We are better persons because of our moms.

Many had mothers who prayed earnestly and endlessly for their sons and daughters. They never stopped being a biological or a spiritual mom to us. They knew when to speak and when to remain silent. They knew how to make sacrifices for us to have a better life than they had. Moms know things that no one else knows or understands about each one of us and, gratefully, most moms can keep a secret. 

So, on this Mother’s Day weekend, let’s celebrate our mothers and think about the reasons why our moms are so important in our lives.

If it wasn’t for your mother, you would not exist.

Our moms often knew how to say the right words at the right time.

Moms seem to understand our feelings.

Only a mother can affectionately kiss and hold an angry child.

Our mothers made huge sacrifices for their children.

Forgiveness and acceptance without judgement are at the forefront of mothering.

Moms sense trouble sooner than most and then swoop in to protect.

Mothers remind us of the good and downplay so much of the bad in life.

Mothers naturally teach mothering–it’s instinctual. 

Moms taught us the value of cleanliness, doing our homework and sending a thank-you note.

Mothers have a unique way of making us feel special.

Mothers know just the right gift to give.

What would you add to this list about your mom?

Her teachings are filled with wisdom and kindness. She watches over the ways of her household. Her sons and daughters arise in one accord to extol her virtues, and her husband arises to speak of her in glowing terms. So go ahead and give her the credit that is due, for she has become a radiant woman. (Proverbs 31:26, 27, 28, 31 TPT)

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” Unknown author

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

Experiencing a Lack of Sexual Intimacy in our Marriage

Sex is a gift given to marriage by God. We dream about it before marriage and fight off every urge during engagement. We can barely keep our hands off of each other. Saying “I do” should not disrupt this godly desire.

However, so many marriages are sexually starved today. And because sexuality is about intimacy, that also means, in many cases, intimacy is missing. 

Intimacy is about friendship, communication, laughter, emotional closeness and fun together. It’s about holding hands, saying “I love you” and still kissing one another goodnight. But when sexual intimacy leaves a marriage, so do many of the intimacies mentioned above.

Why? There are any number of reasons. Just to mention a few: business; anger; withholding love; not sharing deeply; criticism; control and others. One area that I have often heard in the counseling office is that the partner with the lower sex drive actually controls what happens or does not happen in the bedroom. 

Every day couples make decisions about finances, the children, their jobs, ministry, the bills, the house but they’re not discussing their sexual lives. It’s either controlled by one or somehow has become off limits and you know not to bring it up. Your sex lives as a married couple are not to be controlled by one of you–that’s unhealthy to any marriage. In fact, unilateral decisions of any kind can affect your marriage negatively.

When one partner has to lie in bed night after night dealing with rejection, the silent treatment or a nightly headache, that partner is also wondering what is wrong with them. They are wondering why their life mate is not attracted to them. The human soul needs to connect relationally and within marriage that same soul needs the sexual intimacy factor so there is not a repeated disconnect.

Too often in this area of marriage one partner is only thinking of themselves, their desires and their feelings. They’re thinking, “I’m not in the mood” or “Do I really want to take the time it takes?” or “I’d rather just go to sleep.” Have you stopped to think about your partner, their thoughts and their desires?

If one of you is being vulnerable enough to discuss these issues in marriage, it is time to listen. Do not become defensive or push them away. Be there for one another. Listen without defensiveness. Have it on your heart to serve one another. 

And here’s a secret. Even when it is inconvenient or you’re not in the mood, initiating lovemaking can take you there. And when you experience a wonderful time together you’ll be closer, talk more and experience more intimacy in every area of your relationship. 

This act of love given to us by our heavenly Father is a recipe for a closer, healthier, deeper appreciation that builds a greater desire to meet the needs of the one you are one with.

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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity, Just for fun

A Shoe Salesman of Notoriety

Recently I was reading I Corinthians chapter one and came across these profound verses: 

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

I also learned a new word lately – orthopraxy. It means to practice good or correct orthodoxy. The above verse is really good orthodoxy and great to practice conscientious orthopraxy. However, good orthodoxy will save no one. But, it doesn’t mean we do not practice righteous or correct orthopraxy. 

Let me take you to a story about a man named Lyman from Northfield, Mass who possessed neither good orthodoxy nor practiced good orthopraxy. His father died when he was 4. At 17 he could barely read or write. He left home to work for his uncle in his boot shop in Boston. There he went to church with his uncle, didn’t understand the sermons so he slept through them. A Sunday School teacher took an interest in Lyman and led him to the Lord. The leaders of the church said he’d be of little use to the kingdom of God. 

Lyman moved to Chicago to sell shoes, and he really sold shoes. He went to a church in Chicago where they found him to be “irritating with his unpolished zeal, butchering grammar and theology.” So Lyman went to the slums of Chicago to speak to children who were unschooled street kids. Abraham Lincoln once noted that this man Lyman could take “legions of ragamuffin kids and study the Bible.” 

Then the shoe salesman started his own church. The church building was destroyed by the fire of 1871. He became a traveling evangelist. He spoke 230 words a minute, so fast that few could even understand him. He was, however, doggedly determined to spread the gospel. 

This salesman who weighed over 400 pounds went on to lead one million souls to Christ and started America’s largest Bible school and one of the world’s largest publishing houses. He trained and sent over 5,000 missionaries to overseas assignments in his lifetime. 

You might remember him by his full name, Dwight Lyman Moody. Wow, what can God do with those of us who were called but not the wisest, not the most noble, not the most influential and maybe the “weakest of our clan” like Gideon? 

Even though God chose the weak things like us, He still chose us to bring His good news and to make our boast in Him alone.

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

On Training Children to Obey

I remember child rearing like it was yesterday. It’s a lot of constant work. The job of a parent is truly one of 24 hours a day with very little reprieve. So, my heart goes out to you as a parent, especially those of you with young children. 

For some reason, obedience does not come naturally to children. It is something we’re working on until the time our kids leave our home. 

It was a comment made to me the other day that provokes this blog. Here’s the comment: “Have you noticed that parents today believe they can reason their children into obedience?” They went on to remark, “When I was a kid, there were no reasons given, just one strong voice command along with a very furrowed eyebrow and I knew exactly what it meant!” I got to thinking…

We can barely reason adults into trying another way or considering a different outcome. What makes us think we can reason with a three or four-year-old? Most children don’t even have reasoning ability at younger ages. 

Will our children’s teachers sit down and reason with them, all the while the child resists and tells them “No?” Will their employers reason with them in order to move them to do their job? I just don’t see that happening.

I heard a child expert say once, “Children need to learn to obey quietly, quickly and without argument.” He then gave this example. “Suppose you were wrestling with your four-year-old and they ran away from you directly toward a busy street. Will they immediately obey you or wait for your reasoning response?”

I do not envy any parent out there. I can recall the challenge my own children were. But, could we be sorry one day if we do not train our children to obey quietly, quickly and without argument?

A secret? It will take swift, appropriate, meaningful, not anger-filled, non-demeaning and sometimes painful consequences to create an environment of obedience.

For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Identity

How Do You Handle Failure?

Harland was five years old when his father passed away. When he reached the ripe old age of 14, Harland dropped out of school. He was first a farmhand, then a streetcar conductor but fired from both jobs. He lied about his age and joined the army at 16. Being pushed out of military service early he moved to Alabama and attempted blacksmithing.*

This job didn’t last either and he landed a position of locomotive fireman. Harland fell in love, married and the day he lost this job his wife announced her pregnancy. In fear of the future, his wife left him and returned home to her parents. 

The Great Depression hit and Harland decided to study law. He was licensed and soon thereafter lost his cool, got into a fist fight with his client in the courtroom and was chased from that career. He then was managing a gas station but lost that job when he decided to shoot his competitor while arguing over a sign.

Finding himself in Corbin, Kentucky, he landed a job as chief cook and bottle washer. He found success there but the plan for a new highway bypassing the town caused him to sell the restaurant for a small portion of its actual worth. Now at age 65 he was once again starting over.

Harland signed up for Social Security and his first check arrived. It was a grand total of $105.00. Having failed or struggled most of his life, he took that check and deposited it into the bank. He would eventually start a new venture with his savings.

The new adventure caused Harland to have one of the most successful food chains in U.S. history. You remember this man by the name Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. That idea started with $105.00 and became so “finger lickin’ good” that today there are 20,000 restaurants in 125 countries generating over $23 billion.

Is there failure beyond having hope? Have you ever felt like giving in and giving up? Honestly, no failure is a final failure. Maybe it’s finding out what doesn’t work or perhaps it’s a lesson toward the next venture. Never give up; never quit! Harland didn’t.

*Adapted from the book Amazing Stories

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Small Groups

Choosing Obedience

Maggie is a fornicator. And yet, she has never been acquainted with sin. Some tell me she is not really responsible for her actions. After all, I am told, “It’s only natural.” It is a funny thing, though. She does not even claim to be a victim—a victim of her parents, her younger years, her friends, her boyfriend, her family, her environment, or any of the cards that have been dealt to her in this life. I have never heard her blame anyone for what happened. In fact, I have never heard her blame anyone for anything that has come her way in the last 56 years. 

Maggie was our 8-year-old yellow Labrador retriever (that’s 56 people years)! While my friends have encouraged me that Maggie was just being a dog, I am not convinced. Since six weeks of age, she has resided with our family. She has been trained to not stray into the neighboring yards. No matter how many children are playing and having a riotous time down the street, she knows it is “off limits” for her. Maggie was given boundaries to follow. She chose not to follow those boundaries. The lure of playful attention was too much for her—she chose to cross the line.

When I set a limit for one of my children, it was because I loved him or her and had their best interests in mind. Does God set limits for us because He desires to control us or because He loves us? His love for us is not in question; our love for Him is what is in question. Do you love Him enough to obey Him or, when the limit is “uncomfortable” for you, do you desire to rewrite the already written Word of God? This is the most crucial issue when dealing with obedience.

In today’s world, the scripture, “I am the Lord, I change not” is viewed more like, “I am an understanding, benevolent, vacillating God who may or may not be upset with you and your sin.” Has God lowered His standards because His creation cannot maintain a standard of holiness? 

One goal of a healthy, mature Christian is to obey God readily on the outside while our hearts are resting in a trust of God’s concern for our welfare on the inside. Our love for God, as well as knowing God’s love for us, draws us to obedience. That is our motivational factor. However, there are some negative forces motivating us to obey God.

Unhealthy fear: Fear is a great motivator, for sure. But our God chooses to motivate out of love. I do not walk in an unhealthy fear of my heavenly Father because I know His unconditional love. Fear of punishment is an inappropriate reason for obeying God. 

The difference between a healthy fear and an unhealthy fear is clear. A healthy fear recognizes God’s love for us and is life-giving. “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23). An unhealthy fear is connected to punishment. While we may deserve God’s wrath and punishment for our sin, He placed it upon our crucified Savior. (See Romans 5:6-11.) 

Legalistic rules and regulation: We choose to obey God out of having a healthy relationship with God and not because He maintains a little black book. In the midst of the regulations of the Old Testament, it was Samuel who told King Saul, “Obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). Sacrifice came out of regulation; obedience comes out of love. Obedience is doing all God wants me to do, while sacrifice is doing what I want to do for God in my way. Paul stated it so succinctly when he wrote about the law and obedience in Romans 2:13, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”

To earn favor from God: We don’t fool God. After all, He knows our hearts. He knows what we’re really thinking. He is not a politician running for office. He doesn’t care if you vote for Him or not. He is Grace. You do not need to somehow get into His “good grace.” You may fool some people with whom you relate, but you’ll never fake out God. You cannot earn God’s favor. You already have God’s favor, if you are a believer. We cannot earn something that has already been given to us!

There was an unnamed woman in Luke eleven who blurted out some words about Jesus when He was teaching one day. She said of Him, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (verse 27). Was this a reason to follow and obey the Savior? Jesus’ response was interesting: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (verse 28). 

Obedience is connected to love. How do I know my children truly love me? It is by their obedience to me. How does God know we truly love Him? It is by our obedience to Him. 

This is love for God: to obey his commands (1 John 5:3). And this is love that we walk in obedience to his commands (2 John 6). If you love me [Jesus said], you will obey what I command (John 14:15). Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me (John 14:21). 

Note: The above was adapted from the book, In Pursuit of Obedience, by Steve Prokopchak and can be ordered at this link: https://www.amazon.com/Pursuit-Obedience-Deepening-Love-Through/dp/1886973644/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+pursuit+of+obedience+prokopchak&qid=1634649430&qsid=140-0506088-5706866&sr=8-1&sres=1886973644&srpt=ABIS_BOOK

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Challenge, Encouragement, History, Issues of the Day

Sigmund Missed It When It Came to Faith

Sigmund Freud is said to have detested people, but longed to be seen as some sort of savior to mankind. He was born into a Jewish family, but ceased to believe in God very early in his life. He went as far as to say that religion was a “neurosis,” a “poison,” an “illusion.” He pushed a new religion he called “the religion of science” and said that an intelligent “scientific” person would toss religious faith.

Based on no evidence he stated that children were sexual beings from birth. He worked hard to separate sex from love and promoted sex as nothing but the union of the reproductive organs. 

While he did a great deal of harm to faith, he could never destroy it. The real poison was his toxic beliefs spread to his generation and infecting generations to follow. Today, most know him as a cocaine addicted person obsessed with his own sexuality.

The Pew Research Center published their findings about “religious people” around the world and their happiness. Some of those findings are written about in a January 2019 article by Joey Marshall. Pew’s research discovered several important findings:

  1. Actively religious people are more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” compared to the less-religious.
  2. The actively religious are less likely to smoke and drink, creating a higher level of health.
  3. Religious people are more than likely to join other organizations like charities and clubs, even if the organizations are non-religious.
  4. Religious persons are more likely to vote, caring about their civic duty.

Pew’s analysis over all was that, “People who are active in religious congregations tend to be happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups…” Sigmund missed it by a mile on that account.

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’  (Acts 17:23-28)

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Insecurity, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Postmarital, Premarital, Women

Help! I’m Married to Someone Who is Opposite of Me!

Do you see yourself as different or opposite from your spouse? Welcome to everyone’s world!

Let me provide for you a window into our early marriage.

Steve, loved to go to bed late. Mary, loved to go to bed early.

Steve, loved to have a devotional time in the evening. Mary, loved to have a devotional time in the morning.

Steve’s into trying new things. Mary, sticking with what works.

Mary, no debt is good debt. Steve, good debt is investment.

Mary, loves to give. Steve, loves to save.

Steve, embracing change. Mary, change comes more slowly, purposefully.

Steve, face the conflict. Mary, conflict is to be avoided.

Mary, everyone is a friend. Steve, friends are selected through trust over time.

You get the picture; we’re different. But here’s the thing about that difference, neither way is necessarily wrong. What is wrong is when we attempt to change our spouse to be more like ourselves because we’re “right.”

Social scientists tell us it takes five to seven years for a marriage to “settle.” I would define settling as becoming mature enough to no longer try to change my spouse but rather to embrace them for who they are and for how God created them. 

You see, maturity helps us to understand we need that difference in our lives.  Yes, we fight and argue about it initially (immaturity), but when the revelation hits us, we soon discover that we are far more powerful, far more rounded, far more complete together than separate, embracing our differences. 

Too often the thought is, “We’re just too different to continue this marriage.” The fact is, God brings to you the person who is not like you so that you can grow and change and then discover how you are to love, respect and accept this person.

Unfortunately, too many persons, husbands and wives, think that power and control can force change for the better. Power and control will never provoke change for the right reasons because a spirit of power and control will also need the threat of negative consequences. The spouse who threatens causes more anger in the relationship.

Love and acceptance sees the difference as a good challenge. Then it sounds something like this: Mary is Steve and Steve is Mary because Steve and Mary need the differences the other brings to the relationship. 

This perspective will cause us to focus on the strengths in our spouse’s life rather than the weaknesses. This perspective will help us to walk in humility knowing we need what our spouse brings to the marriage. This perspective also helps us to not see our spouse as the one who holds us back but rather the one who provides the appropriate caution or pause. And this perspective is going to bring a healthy balance and sometimes compromise to who we are and to who we are becoming.

Today, almost 48 years later, things look a little different.

Steve likes to go to bed early and so does Mary.

Mary loves early morning devotions and so does Steve.

Steve and Mary embrace change together.

Mary’s love of giving has won over Steve.

Mary embraces investment even with some risk and Steve smiles.

Everyone loves Mary more than Steve because Mary is still everyone’s friend.

Steve is more selective about addressing conflict and Mary still dislikes it.

But the greatest of these is love.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Identity, Prayer

It’s An Unfair Advantage!

As believers, we have an unfair advantage! 

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. I Kings 4:29, 30

Proverbs 2:1-6 – My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

With God on our side, watching our backs, going before us, behind us and beside us, we have an unfair advantage as believers. The Holy Spirit is always working on our behalf in us and through us. Jesus loves us, saves us and heals us. He goes before the Father in intercession for us. 

We live in a world of favor, mercy and blessing. Our minds, controlled by the Spirit, always have the potential to think His thoughts, have His insights and walk in His wisdom. We are never without His presence, His going before us and His protection of us. We walk throughout life in an unfair advantage.

We serve and have daily access to the best lawyer, banker, mortgage agent, doctor, dentist, counselor, scientist, financial manager, retirement planner, head hunter and boss. He opens doors before us and closes those which we are not to enter. He has the answer to every question and insight into every problem. He is the inventor, innovator and creator. All wisdom and all insight reside within Him and He freely shares this wisdom with us as He did with Daniel, David, Moses, Solomon and Esther.

We are never alone, never without hope and never without a friend. He is our safe place, our comforter and our lover. We are never without an answer to a question; we have a fulltime advocate and we walk with the Teacher of teachers. We clearly have an advantage in serving Him, loving Him, placing Him first in our lives and pursuing Him with all of our heart. 

This unfair advantage is given to us freely but we must take hold of it. We must call upon Him first and foremost. We look to Him before anything or anyone. He is our source and our explanation. He is the Good News and He longs to give every one of us this advantage. 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Marriage, Training

Have You Surrendered?

Surrender. It’s an interesting word. In western culture, it can be a negative word because it means to give up rights, to yield, to relinquish control or comfort. These are all things we hold onto tightly, often for self-preservation.

To give up control for some is terrifying. We cling onto power and control in order to have some sense of oneself having legal standing, political standing, religious standing or just human rights standing. 

To be in total control of our lives literally means to perceive oneself as knowing better than God. To walk through life in this way is to worship the idol of self. The Commandments told us to worship no other gods but the Lord God and yet we often persist in demanding our rights, e.g., it’s my body, it’s my life, what I do behind closed doors is my business, etc. To be in total control of one’s life is a scary place to reside. How so?

  1. You can only trust you. 
  2. You dare not surrender your rights to anyone for anything.
  3. You are pressed to ultimately decide your own fate.
  4. You must hold back emotions so as to not be out of control.
  5. You must be suspect of any input.
  6. You must control or avoid any life-changing decisions and the persons initiating or provoking those changes.

In an avoidance of surrender, you must control all input, all process and all output from your life. It is an exhausting way to live. Mentally you are forced to stay ahead of everyone, you are continually second guessing those around you, perfection becomes your go-to process in order to avoid the loss of control and your rights must, at all cost, remain front and center. We see this exemplified all around us in our culture today. 

Enter Jesus. Jesus, the Savior who asks you to give up control. Jesus, the One who says to relinquish control to Him–all control. It’s no longer your money, your will, your sexuality, your political side or your self-gratification. Jesus requires surrender. 

For me to say, “I give up my rights to __________” goes against everything my flesh desires. But isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross for you and me? He gave up every right as the Son of God, Creator of heaven and earth, Creator of you and me in order to surrender His life willingly. He didn’t surrender to get something, He surrendered to give something–salvation to all of mankind. We surrender our lives to Him in order to give our lives to His kingdom. 

When we surrender our passions, our careers, our bank accounts, our pain, our lust, our children, our marriage, our employment and our sin to our Savior we are not losing control, we are gaining freedom from control. 

Do you desire true faith? Surrender.

Do you desire liberty? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from sin? Surrender.

Do you desire freedom from yourself and your own control? Surrender.

When we surrender to Jesus, not just as our Savior, but as our Lord, we are saying that we are done with all of our self-efforts of power and control. We are finished with self-preservation. We are through with addictive behaviors leading us. We are done becoming angry over those who we perceive as annoyingly different from us. When we surrender control, we can let go of controlling and manipulating others to be who we thought we needed them to be. 

When we fully surrender control, we will find an intimacy with the Father like never before. The more we surrender, the more freedom we’ll experience. 

Marriages in which both partners stop trying to control the other are happy and fulfilling marriages. Relationships minus control are liberating and peace-filled. 

Are you willing to die to control so that you can experience the freedom that comes from trusting God?

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