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

Resistance in Marriage

Resistance is defined as the act of opposing another. There seems to be this trait of human nature that naturally opposes or pushes back when we interpret the environment to be in opposition of what we desire. Within relationships, resistance seems almost normal or inevitable. 

Can you recall the last time you were called upon to make a personal change in your life? It might have come from someone close to you like your spouse or your boss at work. Were you initially resistant to the request? Why or why not? Perhaps you knew they might be right, but yet you still may have resisted. Too often we have resisted change when it means we are the ones who are called upon to make that change. 

Carol Anderson in her book Mastering Resistance wrote, “Resistance to change in general and resistance to being influenced in particular always occurs when individuals, groups, and systems are required by circumstances to alter their established behaviors. Unless people are immediately persuaded by overwhelming evidence that a change in their behavior is necessary or beneficial…they will resist change in the status quo.” 

That means change for the good can be subject to resistance as well. And that’s how irrational resistance can be. What’s really at stake here is history. History may tell us that change is bad or that change represents someone trying to overpower or control us. How you interpret the change will affect how resistant you may or may not become. 

A healthy marriage is not threatened by leadership roles, power issues, or attempts to control. They do not need to fear change. They understand their particular role and are comfortable to play either leader or follower. Both husband and wife are called upon to be leaders in the home. We may have different roles but both are very important. 

It is not healthy to have one partner do all the initiating and all the decision-making and one partner simply tag along. It is not healthy for both partners to compete for the leadership roles or for both to become passive and no one lead.

When we identify the key roles of each spouse, find out who is better at an area and place them in that role, allowing trust to grow, we will see resistance dissipate. Sometimes we resist purely from our own insecurity. The more secure we become in our relationship and the roles we play within that relationship, the more trust can follow. As trust is built, there is a natural cause and effect–resistance decreases.

Some exercise questions you might consider answering with your mate.

  • How has marriage helped to identify resistance within me?
  • Presently, within what areas of marriage do I struggle with resistance?
  • How has your spouse been an example of being willing to change?
  • How have you been an example of being willing to change?
  • What steps can we take to battle resistance?
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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, Healing

We Create So Much of Our Own Pain

So much of the pain we walk in is self-imposed. Far too often our own unhappiness results from how we respond to negative situations.

If we take a moment and think back to a few negative situations in our life, we’ll often discover that in some form or fashion they have worked out or were at the least not as negative as once perceived. Granted, this is not always the case, but I’d venture to guess some of our sleepless nights would have been avoided if we would have known the eventual outcome verses the one we projected in our minds.

Let me give you an example. When my wife and I were building our home many years ago, one of the invoices submitted to us was double the contractors actually “good faith” estimate. We had no expectation of that happening and had not changed anything too drastically to warrant an actual invoice that was double the estimate. I talked to others to try and find out what to do. I worried and I had several sleepless nights trying to imagine how we were going to pay this bill.

Finally, I called the contractor, we met and eventually worked out the difference. I could sleep again. Did we rightfully owe the money? I’m not sure, but to this day, because of the action we took, I can look that man in the eye without any remorse. In the action we chose, we also considered the relationship and decided that the relationship was more valuable to us than money or ongoing hurt and self-imposed pain.

What are you worrying about? What keeps you up at night? How much self-imposed pain are you walking in? 

Here is a Psalm (37) that helps me: 

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.

Be still before the Lord
    and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
    when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
    do not fret—it leads only to evil.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing

How to Ruin a Relationship

Everyday people ruin good relationships by trying to collect a debt. Someone hurts us and we long for justice. We are looking for a payback, but we’re attempting to collect on a debt that is not ours to collect on. It is clearly human nature to desire a wrong be made into a right and that we be seen as the one in the right.

Who can pay you back for the wrong done to you over the course of your life? Can your parents? Can your spouse? Can your co-worker? It is not always possible and most times you will be disappointed or let down. Eventually a relationship is ruined by our expectation.

But what if we handed the injustice over to God? What if we prayed and said, “I choose to not become bitter or strive for justice, but rather I lay the injustice at Your feet and ask You to settle the matter.” And then, in leaving it with God, we let the person off the hook.

If we’re truly humble and allow God to settle the matter, our imagination can stop running wild with thoughts of retribution. We can tell ourself there is no need of payback. Further, we can choose for this relationship to remain intact and stop expecting what we perceive to be a wrong turned into a right by our personal effort.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

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Healing, Marriage, Men, Women

Affairproofing Your Marriage (Part Two)

This week’s blog continues with the healing piece of infractions within our marriage. 

What can you do as a couple if you have walked the way of an affair?

You must walk in honest confession and humility. Humility keeps you from becoming defensive and blaming another.

Accountability is a huge ingredient because marriage infractions always take place in an environment of deception. Those in an affair have been lying about where they have been and who they have been with.

Get outside counsel and direction.  Do not try to do it all yourself. Both parties, the offender and the offended, need godly wisdom and counsel.  There are a ton of emotions to deal with.

You must work toward forgiveness. There is no greater step of healing than reaching the point of forgiveness.

Trust is slowly rebuilt through the above ingredients. Where there has been an affair, one proves he or she cannot be trusted.  The good news is that trust can be earned back. If one walks out the above, trust can and will be rebuilt to the point that your marriage goes beyond where it once was.  

Reattach yourself to your mate.  Most likely you have moved away from one another in some areas of your relationship. Come together again in dating, in fun, in finances, in sex, in communication, in mutual submission, in serving one another, in forgiveness and in godly counsel.  

You simply must move forward. Moving forward means being totally honest in all areas of life.  Honesty cuts off an affair because an affair was built on lies.

As husband and wife, we are one another’s healer.

Who do men want cheering for them?  Men love women, especially their wives, cheering for them. Women’s cheering section includes love and emotional connection with words of meaning from thier husbands. What has been the missing ingredient in your marriage? What was broken that opened the door for an affair? How were you “affairing” before the actual affair, i.e., work, ministry, hobbies, etc.

Be your spouse’s cheerleader and healer, not their critic. Each of us receives enough criticism throughout our lives without our spouse piling it on.  If you have a legitimate complaint, share it with them.  For example, “I know you didn’t mean it the way I took it, I love you, but when you said __________it really felt to me like _________. I know I could be wrong, but could we _________.”  

Do this through Ephesians 4: 15 – “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”  Truth must be given but grace its means.  Truth without grace is just mean.  Truth without grace will eventually destroy love.  Start with praise (grace), a compliment and then move to the needed growth areas.  For example, “I love you; we’re a team. I know you’re busy, but I do need to talk to you about the time you spend with our children.”  Grace must precede truth.  Grace is like anesthesia given in order to bear the truth.  

An affair is not necessarily the end; it can be a wake-up call to needed healing and restoration.

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Challenge, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Parents

Your Destiny

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 28

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 

I John 3:1

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. Psalm 139:17

There is this scripture: “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!  I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of the sand!  And when I wake up, you are still with me!  (Psalms 139:17, 18 NLT)

It is difficult for us to conceive that God thinks about you and me.  That His thoughts toward us outnumber the grains of sand.  The God who moves the wind, who brings the spring rain, who blankets the earth with freshly fallen snow and who named every star known and unknown to man also knows every breath you breathe.  He knows every detail of your life.  There is no need to ever feel insignificant, small, rejected or less-than anyone or anything because the God of the universe loves you with an everlasting love.  (See Jeremiah 31:3.) 

Pastor Craig Groeschel wrote in his book, Alter Ego, “The way God made you was not by chance or accident.  You are divinely inspired, with his divine intention to guide you.  Once you begin to grasp who you are—and whose you are—you begin to understand why you’re here and what to do.”  You are not an accident!

What has captured your heart?  What is your number one priority in life? The answer to that question will tell you what you value most.  It will tell you where your heart is at in relation to your search for personal identity.  Please remember in this search, your Creator has never given up on you, never rejected you and never has He said that you are too far gone.  He created each of us with a purpose, with a destiny and He is longing, He is waiting for the “big reveal party” in each of our lives.  What potential does He see in you?  Where does He desire to take you?  Where has He called you in life?  These questions all connect to the identity He has placed within you.

To follow God’s pathway, we must first know Him, know that He is good.  We must trust Him and we must identify Him as our Lord and King.  He desires nothing between us; nothing to hold us back.  However, there is an area, a major area that I often see holding us back: that area is parent wounds.

It is imperative to engage in healing steps from our wounds because nothing affects the present like our past.  While we addressed this somewhat earlier in the book, taking it a step deeper will allow us to fully enter into the identity that our heavenly Father has for us.  Here’s why: we will most certainly struggle with God as our Father, a parent, if we still struggle with our earthly parents.  If we have not forgiven those wounds from our past, they will block our relationships in the present and the future, especially with God as a heavenly Father.  Throughout scripture, God uses family language: father, mother, son, daughter and children.  He created the family as the basis of every culture on earth.  It is this structure that also naturally continues the human race.  But all too often, those family relationships can provoke some of our greatest and deepest wounds.

From the book, Transforming the Prodigal Soul, author Scott Prickett writes, “Bad choices are driven by wounded souls.  I helped this young woman connect the dots between the hurt arising from abandonment by her father and her use of drugs to mask the pain.  We worked backwards…to the lie regarding her worth.  In the wound of her father’s abandonment, the lie that she was worthless and unlovable took root.  It became her truth, her identity.”

Have you allowed a past hurt to become your reality today? It can be different. In tomorrow’s devotion we will confront this area of our lives.

Question for reflection:

When you read that God thinks about you, what do you hear from Him?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity

Is Your Identity for Sale? II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 27

I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37

I have been given fullness in Christ. Colossians 2:10

The gospel of John chapter 4 gives us an amazing story of insight of Jesus.  It’s a story of a woman at a well.  She had been married five times!  She had repeatedly tried to find security and identity in men. Plus, Jesus revealed to her that the man she was presently living with was not her husband.  Jesus does not say one condemning word.  He did say that drinking water will make you thirsty again, “but whoever drinks the water He gives them will never thirst again…a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   

When the Samaritan woman asked for this water, what was Jesus’ answer?  He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  Do you notice the dialogue going on?  “Give me the water; go get your husband.”  Jesus tells her He has living water with which she will never thirst again and she yearns for it.  

What would you do, but ask for it?  He does not answer her request in the typical way.  He puts His finger directly on the drawback in her life, the issue, her place of missing the mark, her one area that is out of control: the need of looking to men for security, identity, emotional and physical needs.  She then attempts to redirect Him in verses 19 and 20.  Jesus makes it clear that one day all will worship in spirit and in truth.  Then in verse 26, Jesus reveals Himself to her, not in a parable, not in an allegorical story, but simply saying, “I am He.”  How often was He that straightforward about who He was?

Jesus knew that she had been selling her identity to men, but He also knew an encounter with the One who could give her living water, water that would quench her insecurity and her identity thirst forever, would radically change her life.  I will never believe this meeting was accidental or a random encounter.  It was a sovereign confrontation, a meeting that was orchestrated by heaven itself because of the love of God for that one single woman at the well.

To you and to me He says, “I am He.”  I am your living water.  I am your security.  I am your identity.  I am your foundation for relationship so that your neediness issues can be resolved.  I am your healthy boundary keeper.  I am your esteem.  I am your beginning and your end.  I am your employer, your real-estate agent, your banker and your lawyer.  I am your retirement, your health insurance, your accountant.  I am your father and your mother.  I am your security and I am your identity.  I am He.

Have you found Him to be all these things? It’s okay to be at the well, but it is not okay to leave The Well still thirsty. He is present to quench your thirst regardless of how you came to the well or where your heart was at when you first encountered Jesus. He speaks to you today, “I am He.”

Question for reflection:

When you consider Him as the “I am” in your life, what do you know to be true about your identity?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Insecurity, Issues of the Day

You are Uniquely You

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 24

I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Ephesians 1:3

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 6:19

Every decision we make is made through our past experiences, our present desires and thoughts or our future wants or needs.  God has created us with the capacity to think within all three of these realms or dimensions.  The memory capacity of our brains is simply amazing, as it provides for us the knowledge needed from past experience for decision making today.

Just imagine if we lacked memory.  We would not know how to drive home from work today.  We would not know or be able to identify our spouse in the morning when we wake up.  We would have to start each new day reading a memory log from the day before: who we are, where we live, where we work or go to school.  Life would function so differently.  We can conclude memory is not only necessary for life, it provides so much wonderful meaning to life.

The Bible says what we sow, we reap (See Galatians 6:7, 8.).  What I sow today, determines the return I will have on that seed tomorrow.  If I desire a certain crop in the future, then I have to sow that seed today.  Not one farmer expects to reap where they have not sown, but every farmer fully expects to reap where they have sown.  You may expect to be a millionaire one day in the future, but if you do nothing and place no effort toward that goal today, you will never see it.  It is easy to then become deceived into thinking you’ll win the lottery or inherit that million, but without earning it.  The scriptures describe this type of gain as ill-gotten treasure.  (Proverbs 10: 2)

Do you want to live in health in your latter years?  Take measures today to exercise and eat healthy because when reaching tomorrow, today will be the past.  Do you desire to be free of pain from your past?  Then do something about it today and forgive those who have hurt you and bless those who have cursed you.  

Unfortunately, I experienced a lot of cavities as a child.  My family did not use toothpaste with fluoride in it.  Fluoride wasn’t even marketed in those days.  My trips to the dentist were fear-filled and excruciating.  Today, I pay the price of dealing with crowns to save my teeth.  My past dental care affects my present oral condition and will continue to affect my future.  

You just cannot separate these three: the past, the present and the future.  But you can start making decisions in alignment with God’s word and His direction for your life.  A better decision today means a better outcome tomorrow.  A destructive decision today means certain pain in our future.

For example, are you a worrier?  I mean, does your mind immediately go to the exercise of worry when an unknown is surfacing?  Or, is your response to a present worrisome issue one of going to your heavenly Father in prayer and trust?  One response is trusting and relying upon yourself and your capacity to worry (needing to solve the issue yourself) and the other is trusting God and His capacity to intervene both in the here-and-now and the future.  Philippians 4: 6,7 reminds us to not be anxious and if we’ll petition God along with giving thanks, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.  Peace does not follow worry; it follows prayer and trusting God, literally giving our worry to God.  (See Psalm 37: 1-8.)

Question for reflection:

If you find yourself to be a worrier, how does your worry affect your present-day life?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity, Issues of the Day

Sex and Gender ID II

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 22

I am a saint and loved by God. Romans 1:7

I am accepted by Christ. Romans 15:7

I have died to sin…and alive to God. Romans 6:2, 11

What would it look like for someone who is experiencing sexual brokenness or gender dysphoria to become a follower of Jesus?  Author Andrew Walker says, “It would be very, very hard.  And yet, at the same time, it would be experientially and eternally worthwhile.”  He says that each of us have a cross to bear.  That may include cancer, undesired singleness or any number of issues.  

In Matthew 16:24, 25, Jesus told us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Andrew writes, “To carry a cross means to deny ourselves – to lose whatever defined and directed our lives before we met our Maker, came to him as our Savior and began to follow him as our Lord.”  

Paul the Apostle, in pleading with God to take away an issue in his life, wrote about it this way in II Corinthians 12: 9, 10, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Not one of us asks for this cross.  We do not seek a cross to carry.  We like a carefree and comfortable life to live and we abhor the uncomfortable.  As I travel the world, I have seen the slum where three quarters of a million people live in Kenya.  I have seen the poverty and the lack of any governmental control in Haiti. I have been in places where overcontrolling governments say that Christianity cannot be openly practiced.  These believers live daily with these crosses and they take them on willingly, as normality, without complaint.  

Henri Nouwen wrote, “The great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The power of darkness around us is strong, and our world finds it easier to manipulate self-rejecting people than self-accepting people.  But when we keep listening attentively to the Voice calling us the Beloved, it becomes possible to live our brokenness, not as a confirmation of our fear that we are worthless, but as an opportunity to purify and deepen the blessing that rests upon us.  Physical, mental, or emotional pain lived under the blessing is experienced in ways radically different from physical, mental, or emotional pain lived under the curse.”

What are you waiting for?  We each have a choice to make.  We choose to submit our sexuality to God and His plan or we do not.  We take a hard stand and choose His way or we cast off restraint and go full-on our way.  Either God’s grace is sufficient for each of us no matter what we deal with or we determine it is not.  Either way, we are left with the consequences of our decisions.  Deciding God’s way may mean having a certain cross to bear, but it will not last forever and it will lead us into an eternity of God’s pleasure.  He is preparing a place for us and He longs for each one of us to choose His way in order to enter into that place.  (See John 14:1-3.)

Question for reflection:

Can you identify any cross that you are presently bearing?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Identity

Sex and Gender ID

A Thirty Day Devotional adapted from the NEW book: Identity: The Distinctiveness of You – Day 21

I am loved by Christ and freed from my sins. Revelation 1:5

I am free from all condemnation. Romans 8:1

I am kept from falling and presented without fault. Jude 24

You and I were created by God to live in a Genesis one and two world.  What does that mean?  Genesis chapters one and two are the only chapters, the only words written of what life was like before “the curse.” This curse became the course of each and every life born thereafter.

Did you know that in these first two chapters of Genesis the Bible describes God’s relationship with man as literally meeting with him, walking with him and conversing with him on a daily basis?  Every day God’s presence would meet with Adam and God would instruct him about the garden.  In those conversations God would personally feel Adam’s loneliness on the earth.  God would soon “fashion” a woman, flesh of Adam’s flesh and bone of his bone.  It was here, in this garden, in this moment that God created something we call marriage; “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:24) Marriage was and is a creation act of God, not an act of man.

At the same time, the seas were teaming with fish and the air with birds.  God said that the land was to produce all kinds of livestock and wild animals.  There was an endless variety of plant life and God placed Adam in a garden to care for it and to watch it multiply.  There were no weeds, no bugs, no diseases and no harmful or dangerous conditions.  The world and everything in it were perfect.

Then comes Genesis three, the chapter which describes “the fall of man.”  It is here that deception, fear, disease, insecurity, disobedience and the loss of our God-given identity entered into the world.  Life on this earth would be forever changed by hearts that wanted something more than they already had in the garden.  Adam and Eve longed for a knowledge that was not theirs to have.  God was trying to protect us from ourselves, but also in His wisdom, He gave us free choice and we chose wrongly.

God created us, gave us birth and blessed us to live in a Genesis one and two world, but we chose a fallen world, a world of disobedience, death and missing the mark of God’s ideal for His creation. Ever since this time there has been a rebellion in our hearts and we are left to pursue what we think is right in our own eyes.  (See Proverbs 12:15; 21:2)

Being involved in years of counseling has afforded me the opportunity to hear plenty of Genesis three horror stories from real live persons.  These are persons who have suffered deeply from the actions of others or from their own choices.  I can still recall Lisa’s story that led to severe anorexia.  While her story and pain were true, she was now acting out some very self-destructive behavior, starving herself to death.  If I would have sat there in the counseling room and 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 validated her feelings, then I would have been extremely unprofessional, dishonest and mean. 

We all struggle with sin.  (See Romans 3:23.) God’s answer is the same to each of us.  He longs to bring His identity to us, but that will not happen as long as we insist on living by and through our feelings.  God’s message to us has always been very clear. As we seek Him and give Him our lives He will create us anew, transforming us into a new creation where the old passes away and the new comes.  (See II Corinthians 5:17.)

Stay tuned, there is more to come on this topic.

Question for reflection:

Do any remnants of a Genesis three world cling to you? How can you move out of bondage into freedom as a new creation?

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