Articles That Inspire, Encourage and Challenge You in Christ

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Never Too Far Gone

by Lisa Buffaloe

     Sandaled feet scuffed on rocky soil, no other person in sight, no reprieve from the heat of the noonday sun, he stopped and surveyed his surroundings. At one time, he’d been a man of power and wealth, a man schooled in the finest Egypt had to offer. At one time, he thought he had a grand purpose. For forty years he’d lived in the back side of the desert, hidden from his past, a hostage of the mistake that haunted his days and nights (Exodus 2).  Now, he tended sheep. He herded and kept livestock that didn’t even belong to him, he had nothing to his name other than his wife and sons. Nothing to offer anyone. He’d come to the desert and here he would stay; here he would die.


     God had other ideas. God called from the burning bush not consumed by fire. From within the flames, the Voice called Moses out of the desert. The one held hostage by his failure, is called to free a people held hostage (Exodus 3).


     God finds the one who thinks they have gone too far from His grace, the one who thinks they have been forgotten, the one who is hiding, the one who thinks they have no purpose.


     God also finds the one tormented, the one without hope.


     Hair-raising cries echoed through the countryside. No horror movie could match the reality of the man who lived in the tombs. Reeking of blood, dirt, and stench, the naked man screeched, cut himself, and broke through chains and shackles. Driven by demons to the desert, through the mountains, to the graveyard, tormented and possessed by a legion of demons (Mark 5:1-20).


     How many tried in their own effort to help him, to save him, to save themselves from him? How long had this man lived in torment? How many tears were shed for the man? How many tears were shed in fear of the man? Was a mother praying for her son? Did she beg God night after night, day after day? Had she lost hope?


     Jesus never turned away a praying parent, nor turned away those who came seeking His help. Jesus even came to those who weren’t asking for help, even someone possessed by a legion of demons. A Roman legion consisted of about 5000 men. Was this man possessed by 5000 demons?

No demon, no amount of demons, can stand up to the might and authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus freed the man, gave him a right mind, clothed and restored him. No power on earth can stop the power of Jesus.


     God finds those wandering in desert lands, in the howling waste of the wilderness, and finds those others would say are too far gone. God searches for lost sheep and brings them home rejoicing (Luke 15:4-7). 

    

     God takes scarlet sins, red as crimson, and washes them in His grace and makes white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). God shuts the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:16-21). God breaks the chains of the prisoner (Acts 12:6-7) and sets the prisoners free (Acts 5:18-19), He shakes the ground, unchains the prisoners, and opens jail doors (Acts 16:25-26).


     God took murderers, prostitutes, liars, those whose lives were messy and messed up, and He brought them out of the darkness and shined the light of His love and forgiveness. Please don’t think you’ve fallen too far from God’s mercy and love, or that you are so good you don’t need God’s mercy and love. We all need a Savior, and that Savior (Jesus Christ) can fill every need.


     “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17, NCV). 


     “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NASB). 


     No person is too far gone for Jesus.


     God’s love never fails to find, to call, to give new mercies every morning, new hope, new plans, and new opportunities. No matter where you are, what you have done, whatever has happened to you, God’s love never fails, and His love will never fail to lead you to a new beginning. No matter how lost you are, or how lost someone you love is, come and bring them to Jesus. No one is too far gone from the love of God and the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. 

Choosing Freedom Over Bondage

By Lisa Buffaloe

     The Old Idaho State Penitentiary first opened its doors in 1870 and continued to operate until 1973. During the years of operation, the prison housed 13,000 convicts, one of which was Harry Orchard. Orchard began his sentence in 1908 after being convicted of the assassination of a former governor of Idaho.


     Years later, due to good behavior, Orchard was offered parole. He chose to stay and eventually died on April 13, 1954. During a tour of the facility, our guide surmised perhaps the man had enemies on the outside he didn’t want to face, or after serving so long in prison, he couldn’t imagine leaving.


     After parole was offered, Harry chose to return to his dingy cell, never again to experience freedom. He had a choice.


     You also have a choice.


     Many people are locked in their past. Innocence was taken from them, or through their own bad choices innocence was lost. Unable to move forward, they remain trapped in the prison of their mind. Memories pounce and mangle leaving them shaking, quaking, unable to process what happened, much less deal with today.


     How can you regain what was lost? How can you go free when your enemies continue to roam or your own failures condemn? The enemy pushes you inside the prison but can’t lock you in. Jesus stands at the door to your freedom.


     Jesus despised the shame of the cross yet took our sins and shame and nailed them there, and by His sacrifice we are washed clean. Jesus conquered sin and death and rose again to give us new life free of guilt and shame. Forgiveness is a Holy God reaching out through the outstretched hands of His precious son Jesus, where all your sins were nailed to the cross. A lifetime could be lost in striving for unachievable perfection, but God’s forgiveness is instantaneous.


     Don’t listen to the enemy’s lies that you need to keep living in failure, shame, and guilt. Every one of your sins paid on the cross by the sacrifice of Jesus. His grace covers you. Jesus stands at the door of your freedom; Jesus is The Door to your freedom.


     1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (the things we have done wrong). In Luke 4:18 Jesus said He came to set the captives free and to release the prisoners. If you choose freedom, you go through Christ to be washed clean. Please visualize the process. God offers total and complete restoration. You chose Christ, and every bad thought, every evil action, every evil touch, are taken away. Every bit of sin is forgiven and removed; every spot now pure. You are wholly recreated in Christ. When God looks at you, He sees His perfect Son.


     Jesus is your High Priest who stands at the door of your freedom. Your prison cell is open and you are free. Again, Jesus stands at the door, this time to block the path back to the past. Jesus, His heart filled with love, compassion, and mercy, stands at the door.

Those bad memories? You don’t have to go back; Jesus stands at the door.


     Those failures? They’re gone, Jesus stands at the door.

     Your sins? They’re clean, Jesus stands at the door.


     Don’t listen to Satan’s lies that you can never be free, or your innocence never regained. Don’t believe the enemy who was behind all the evil in the first place. 

    

     Innocence is regained by a God who makes all things new. The cell door is open and Jesus stands at the door.


     God takes what the enemy meant for evil and uses it for good, and Jesus will do the same for you. Regardless of what you have done or others have done to you, there is no sin too big for God to forgive, and there is no shame too heavy for God to shoulder.


     God forgives and throws your sins as far as the east is to the west and remembers them no more (Psalm 103:12). You are completely, totally, washed clean, innocence restored, recreated and free in Christ.


     God beckons, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free" (Isaiah 44:22 NLT).


     Your cell door is open, and Jesus stands at the door. And when Jesus sets you free, “you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NASB).

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The Andrea Yates Story

18 Years Later

February 14, 2019

     On June 20, 2001, Andrea Yates, with a vacant stare, confessed to police that she had just methodically drowned each of her five children, ages 6 months to 7 years. A few months later I met with her husband Russell in their middle-class home in suburban Houston. The home was simply decorated with evidence of their Christian faith scattered around each room. ‘Rusty,’ as he prefers to be called, gave me a tour, showing me each of the kids’ rooms, and then he and Andrea’s master suite, where she laid the bodies of their five children, Noah, John, Paul, Luke, and Mary, horizontally side-by-side after she drown them.


     Rusty shared that Andrea’s family has a history of mental illness, saying that her dad had “been prescribed Lithium earlier in life.” And that, “Three of her four siblings suffer from mental illness, including depression and bipolar illness.”


     It wasn’t until four months after their fourth son Luke’s birth, that that Andrea overdosed on the antidepressant Trazodone and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where she was diagnosed with postpartum depression.


     “I didn’t know it then, nobody told me she was psychotic, but we were fighting psychosis for months,” Russell said, looking back.


     After being released, Andrea was readmitted for psychiatric treatment after she tried to kill herself with a knife. Russell believes Andrea was trying to kill herself to prevent her from harming the kids.


     Russell and their families didn’t know it then, but Andrea was telling one of her doctor’s that she was having thoughts about hurting her children. While he documented the information, he didn’t report it to authorities as all mental health professionals are mandated to do, nor did he tell Russell so he could protect his children.


     “The doctor never told me Andrea was psychotic,” Russell said. “And what’s odd is that I knew Andrea heard voices because she told me so, but I didn’t know that hearing voices means someone is psychotic. I thought, Well, she hears voices, that’s weird. But to me, psychotic means you do something like what Andrea did: kill all your children. I wasn’t aware it meant you had hallucinations, visions, or delusions. I only learned that after the tragedy. The entire time she was depressed, we were told she was suffering from postpartum depression – no one mentioned psychosis.”


     After a few months on medication Andrea improved and was able to come off of her medication. Soon afterwards, she got pregnant again, with the couples only daughter. At one of her first doctor’s appointments the couple is told that there is a 50-50 chance she’d become depressed again.


     They told Russell “If she did, she’d have the same symptoms and require the same treatment. So, we knew Andrea could be depressed for a couple of months, but we cherished each child. And to us, it was like someone saying, 'Two years from now, I’ll give you a house free and clear, but you have to first get the flu.'  We looked forward to another beautiful child, but we also knew there was the possibility Andrea would become depressed for a short period, but it would be worth it.”


     Mary was born at the end of November, 2000, and this time, the postpartum depression came in like a flood, with psychosis on its tail, but Andrea kept it to herself. During that time Rusty says he didn’t see any symptoms, but looking back he says he can see things were out of place with Andrea for a long time, such as her degradation of herself as a mother, and her belief that her children were spiritually damaged by her.


     “She was an outstanding mother, but when she became psychotic, she thought she was a horrible mother,” says Rusty. “Her delusions and fears consumed her. Another one of her major concerns was the development of our children. You look at family videos and talk to people who knew the kids, you’ll see they were beautiful, wonderful, talented, smart, healthy, terrific children. But in her psychotic state Andrea believed they were forever damaged.”


     On March 12, 2001, Andrea’s father unexpectedly died, and his death hit her hard, becoming a catalyst for the postpartum depression to manifest externally.

Andrea was admitted twice in the following month into mental hospitals where she was prescribed one of the strongest anti-psychotic medications on the market.


     While in the hospital, Rusty’s mother came to Houston and stayed at a nearby hotel, coming to the home everyday at 10:00 a.m., and staying for the better part of the day to help care for the children, clean the house, make meals, and do anything else that was needed to help Andrea and Rusty.


     When Andrea returned home, she immediately jumped back into things and began homeschooling the kids and became overwhelmed quickly.


     “My mom and I wanted to let her try and do what she wanted,” says Rusty, “but it wasn’t working. She was becoming testy with the kids. So, I said, ‘Andrea, we’re ahead of the school schedule already. Why don’t we just wait until you’re well and later in the summer or next year, you can return to home schooling.’ Andrea saw that as a personal failure, and she considered herself an even worse mother because she wasn’t able to home school the kids.”


     On June 20th, the morning of the tragedy, Rusty says there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary that occurred.


     “It wasn’t like we had a big fight or scuffle that day, and she didn’t say anything that was bizarre,” recalls Rusty. “She took some bowls out for the kids’ cereal. At my request, she put some lip balm on Paul’s mouth because he’d hurt his lip at the park a couple days before. She did those things nervously, but she was alert and overall, functional. I didn’t know what she was dealing with. She was trying to handle this psychosis on her own. She tried to maintain control, but she couldn’t; it overcame her.”


     A few minutes later Rusty left for his job as an engineer at NASA. He wasn’t gone an hour when he got a call from Andrea asking him to come home. By the time he got there the police had taken Andrea into custody, and he wasn’t allowed to see his children. His entire life had been turned upside down.


     “Having your entire family gone in one day is pretty unimaginable,” Rusty said, as tears stung his eyes. “It took some time to work through. [I remember] the funeral service. While I was saying good-bye to my son John, it dawned on me that I would see him again. It was a calming, reassuring thought that God provides for us. He gives us the blessing of life today, and He’s also done all the work to prepare a place for us…the assurance of eternal life. Knowing that I’ll see the kids again one day gives me a lot of strength, because I miss them so much and feel they were really cheated out of the life they could have had. I hold God accountable for the words found in Romans 8:28 where He says, ‘All things work together for good’; I remind God of His promise to work it out for His good.”


     As Rusty dealt with the aftermath of losing his wife and children, the faith-based community came up beside him for support.


     “People have written to me to say they’re sorry for what happened, and that they are praying. That has meant a lot to me. I know many prayers have also been said for Andrea, too. God allowed this to turn out the way it did; He has a purpose and a plan. I have to trust Him with that.


     After I first spoke with Rusty in 2001, and subsequently since, Andrea and I began writing back and forth. In her letters she spoke frequently about her children and her love for them. When friends find out we’ve written one another, one of the questions they ask me is if she realizes what she did. My answer is ‘yes.’ Does she understand why she did it? That’s another question all together. As someone who has worked with mentally ill individuals for over two decades, I can tell you that when someone is experiencing psychosis they are not in their right mind. The voices, hallucinations, delusions, and visions they experience are as real to them as reality is to us.


     Andrea will likely spend the rest of her life locked up in a state-run mental hospital in Texas, but according to Rusty, that’s not the worst sentence she’s been given for what she’s done.


     “She realizes what she did,” Rusty says. “She thinks, What’s worse than killing your own children? She can’t forgive herself because she sees it as the most horrible action possible. To me, she doesn’t really need forgiveness, because in her heart, I believe she was trying to save the children.”


     Today, if they were living, all of the Yates children would be over eighteen and living their lives as adults themselves. Rusty divorced Andrea, remarried, had a son, and has since divorced. He is attempting to rebuild his life in Texas. He continues to visit Andrea on a regular basis.  

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SEEKING GOD IN THE DESERT

By Lisa Buffaloe

January 15, 2019

Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles. 

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. 

Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, 

a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.” 

Psalm 61:23, Psalm 55:2 NLT


     Sobbing, I struggled to breathe. News of a loved one left me reeling and staggering with sorrow. Family members health continued to decline, and prayer needs from family, friends, and the crazy state of the world, overwhelmed my thoughts and soul.

My desperate prayers pounded on heaven’s door for help, healing, and salvation for my loved ones. Unless God intervened, nothing would change, nothing would be fixed, and no one would be saved. Looking for a way to cope, tears flowed as I banged my fists against the wall. The devil had again attacked my family and left pieces of my heart scattered on the ground.


     Overcome with sorrow, God’s still small voice spoke into my soul – “You’ve forgotten who I am.”


     Ouch.


     God’s right. He knew my anxiety, worries, and concerns were overwhelming because I had forgotten the power and might of my all-powerful, all-mighty God.


     The Israelites struggled with this for generations. They were rescued in miraculous ways from slavery, and with God’s help destroyed nations bigger than they were. God provided in amazing ways for their every need. But then they would forget, and they would wander away and life always got very difficult. When they would turn back to God, He would again rescue and help.


     The Israelites were in Egypt over 400 years and spent much of that time in captivity. The Bible doesn’t share much about the captive years, but sure does tell about God’s amazing rescue. I wonder sometimes if so much time is spent processing our time in captivity that we fail to see God’s rescue. His deliverance is often missed, or dismissed, because the focus is on the timing or how we thought the rescue would come. Then, all the ways God worked (and is working) was or is completely missed.


     Now personally I prefer a rescue before a bad thing happens -- like the damsel in distress who is rescued by the knight in shining armor. Uh, but then I remember the damsel was in distress. Bummer. I guess rescues don’t take place unless one is needed.

God’s rescues take place with the back against the Red Sea, in the lion’s den, and in the fiery furnace. And oh, how God’s rescues take place in the quiet moments of grief, in the desperate moments of pain, and in the tender moments of healing.


     Rescue will come. God’s rescue will always come. God’s rescues come in various forms – sometimes through blocking an attack, sometimes through healing, sometimes through various methods that we prefer, but God’s rescues also come by bringing someone safely into His presence.


     Jesus said He came to set the captives free, and when He sets us free, we will indeed be free. Freedom in Christ is freedom from sin (talk about a wonderful rescue!), freedom with new life, and freedom for eternity. Our minds, our souls, need to remember, need to be fed with the truth of the amazing power of our amazing God.


     God’s power is big enough to help you cross over any concern or problem, He will part the way before you and help you step over and through the ruins to victory against any enemy. All things are possible with God and nothing is impossible for God.


     God made a way for the Israelites to cross over the Red Sea by parting the waters and destroying their pursuing enemies (Exodus 14:13-30). God helped the Israelites cross over the flood-stage Jordan River to the promised land (Joshua 3). God helped His people step over the ruins of the walls of Jericho to be victorious against their enemies (Joshua 6).


     When anxious thoughts multiply and overwhelm, when footing is slipping, God and His word bring comfort… “When I said, my foot is slipping, Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my [anxious] thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul!” (Psalm 94:18-19, AMPC)


     When needing peace… “You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both inclination and character], because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation]. Trust [confidently] in the Lord forever [He is your fortress, your shield, your banner], for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].” (Isaiah 26:3-4, AMP)

Jesus reminds where peace is found… “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you]” (John 16:33, AMPC.)


     When burdens are so heavy, Jesus beckons… “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NASB.) When the way is unknown, God’s Word reminds… “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11, NASB).  When the sorrow of past sins torment and overwhelm. “My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all. In Christ we are set free by the blood of his death, and so we have forgiveness of sins. How rich is God’s grace” (Psalm 65:3, NLT, Psalm 38:4, NIV, Ephesians 1:7, NCV.)


     Even when burdens are heavy, even when life is overwhelming, The Truth holds firm. “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love" (Romans 8:35-38, NLT.)


No power is bigger than God’s power.


No love is bigger than God’s love.


Nothing, and no one, can separate you from God’s love. 


And nothing, and no one, can snatch you from the safety of His loving hands.


Please read the verses below and allow God’s truth to wash over you.


“So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).


“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13 NASB).


“If the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away. Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:2-8 NIV).


“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven” (Psalm 107:28-30 NIV).


“O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them” (Psalm 89:8-9 NKJV).


“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:5-8 NIV).


     Oh, that we would be like those who saw Jesus and were overwhelmed with awe. “When the crowd saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with awe, and they ran to greet him” (Mark 9:15 NLT).


     Overwhelmed by the depth, height, breadth, and width of the love of our Savior, we find confident, undaunted courage and peace in His loving, overcoming, conquering power.


     Therefore, “Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" Philippians 4:6-7, AMPC.


     Happy sigh…


*Emphasis added on verses

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An ongoing series of informational entries

Introducing My Friend & Sister in Christ, Lisa Buffaloe


I have known Lisa for several years. She had a very successful radio program where she interviewed  me about my life and how I'd overcome  great difficulties through Christ.  You'll find she has overcome her own struggles in life in her testimony below.  If you've heard me share my story you'll find that while Lisa and I both have endured great trauma in life, we've endured different pain as a result of different sources.  Many of you who don't relate to my story will relate to hers.  In the end, we've both experienced the incredible redemptive and restorative power of Christ in our lives and personally know the truth that God will restore the years eaten away by the locust as He promises to do in Joel 2:25.  Be assured that what He has done in our lives He will do in yours as well if you surrender your life to Him.  Today I introduce you to my friend and most importantly my sister in Christ.  May you be blessed by her  words of wisdom today and in the  future as I share articles from her hand in the future.  



     When I look back at my life there has been much pain, but I have also found healing, restoration, and amazing joy through Jesus Christ. I was raised in a Christian home by parents who loved one another and loved God. However, no one knew (including my parents) what was happening, or had happened, behind the scenes. At the age of four, I was molested by a baby-sitter. As a young teenager, I was assaulted by two guys in our neighborhood. I’ve been chased by a man with a knife. I’ve had a shotgun pointed at me as two men tried to run me off the road in my car. I’ve been drugged by a nurse and locked up, and raped by a doctor.


     I’ve been divorced, stalked, had cancer, and experienced the loss of family and friends to death. I’ve been hooked 24/7 to antibiotic IV’s for over six months, and taken most antibiotics known to man while fighting Lyme Disease. I’ve had eight major surgeries, numerous biopsies, and more medical procedures than I can count, and over eleven years of chronic illness. I’ve moved over thirty times; made mistakes and many failures. I’ve needed to forgive others and forgive myself. I have wounds inside and out, scars from falls and bumps and bruises of life, scars from surgeon knives, and scars from self-inflicted attempts to rid the hurt inside.


     Many things in my past are not pretty, some are horrible. Yet out of the wreckage, out of the pain and suffering, Jesus Christ brought healing, restoration, and a new life with a renewed hope for the future. Jesus blessed with His forgiveness and grace, and blessed me with the grace to forgive others, so that I can be free to share His grace. My past does not define me, I am defined by the love, forgiveness, grace, and healing of Jesus Christ.

St. Augustine wrote, “In my deepest wound, I saw Your glory and it dazzled me.” I have found there is glory in the wounds when we allow God to touch, heal, and shine through our wounds.


     You too have been wounded. Satan is out to destroy, leaving behind scars and nightmarish memories. I’m so sorry for what you have been through. I’m so sorry for the pain you have experienced -- the pain that ripped open your heart. And now, the devil lies to you that your broken places will bleed brokenness, that you won’t ever heal, and your life will never be the same. The devil lies because of what happened that you have no hope of your dream coming to fruition, and because of what happened, you can’t be the person you wanted to be. The devil is a liar!


     May I share hope with you?


     Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. What was broken is repaired with precious metal. What was broken becomes a work of art. What was shattered now glows with beauty.


     Whatever you have gone through, whatever you have done, whatever has been done to you, the height, breadth, and depth of Jesus’s love can touch, heal, and restore. Take your broken pieces, your shattered heart and life to God, and allow His restoration to glow through with His healing. His love will weave a golden bond as the goodness of God, the tender mercies of God, heals your broken-heart and binds your wounds. Nothing is too hard for God, no life is too shattered for God, nothing is impossible for God.


     Become a shining one, a glowing one, by allowing God to heal your wounds and scars. Let God take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it to good. No wound is too deep for the deep love of Christ. Allow God’s healing, light-filled restoration to shine in you and through you. For through the broken, God’s light shines.


     Cry out to God. “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for You are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14, NASB).


     Heavenly Father, I give my broken places to You. Shine Your light in the dark places and bring healing and restoration. Father, You promise to heal the brokenhearted and bind our wounds. Father, I can’t see the good right now, I can’t see a purpose in the pain, but I know that all things work together for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.

     Jesus, You came to preach the good news, to announce release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and deliver the oppressed, downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken-down.

     Oh, Jesus, weave Your golden bond, Your tender mercies to mend, renew, and restore so that Your healing light shines in me and through me.


     Remember Jesus came for you, came to help you, came to rescue you, came to heal you. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity]” (Luke 4:18, AMPC).


God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing their pain and comforting their sorrow].” “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Psalm 147:3, AMP). (Romans 8:28, NET Bible).


     Therefore, “let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!” (Psalm 103:2-5, NLT).



Lisa Buffaloe is a happily-married mom, multi-published author, and speaker. She loves to encourage others that regardless of past or present situations in life, God’s tender, unending love provides healing, restoration, renewal, and joy. When Lisa’s not writing, she enjoys taking long walks with her husband and exploring God’s beautiful nature. You can visit Lisa at https://lisabuffaloe.com 

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Abiding in Me


Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple

must deny themselves and take up their cross and abide in me.”

Matthew 16:24


     Speaking to the disciples, Jesus frequently told his disciples to follow Him, but as He was preparing to return to heaven, He gave them a new, more spiritually intimate phrase: “Abide in Me.”


     In my almost twenty-seven years of ministry I’ve met a lot of well-meaning followers of Jesus who, for whatever reason, have failed to step into and bathe themselves in the fullness of these words. They may go to church, Bible Study, attend extracurricular biblical activities, and seek to live a somewhat moral life, but they fail to have a personal, intimate relationship that Jesus was talking about when He said, “Abide in Me.” Unfortunately, these are often the same people who eventually backslide, fall away from Christianity because “it didn’t work for them,” or live a religious life of legality and judgment rather than a spiritual life of freedom and mercy. Obviously, this can be a detriment to them and those around them.


     John 15:1-12 gives us a clear understanding of the role and responsibility of everyone in the intimate union. In the verses, Jesus says:


I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you shall ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; continued in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.


     First of all, let me point out that the word abide appears nine times in those verses. In this verse, to ‘abide’ means to dwell. So reread the verses and replace the word abide with the word dwell and you’ll get a better understanding of what Jesus is saying.

Next, let’s look at what we can learn from these verses:


• Jesus is the True Vine

• God is the Vinedresser

• We are the branches

• If we don’t abide/dwell in Him and He in us, we will be cast out and withered, gathered and placed in the fire and burned.

• If we abide/dwell in Him and His words abide/dwell in us, we will ask what we desire and it will be given us/done for us.

• God is glorified when we bear much fruit.

• Jesus loves us as the Father loves Him.

• If we keep His commandments, we will abide/dwell in His love, just as He did.

• He speaks these things to us so that His joy may remain in us and be full in us.

• We are to love others as He has loved us.

• Every branch that does not bear fruit, God takes away

• Every branch that bears fruit God prunes that it may bear more fruit

• If we abide/dwell in Him and He in us we will bear much fruit

• A branch cannot bear fruit by itself – it must abide/dwell in the vine

• Without Christ we can do nothing


     Another point I want to make is that for a graft to be made for the new stock to abide, a cut and wound must be made to make an opening to receive the graft. Such has been the case in the relationship with Jesus and the sinner. It was at the cross that Christ was wounded and where we, as sinners, were given the opportunity to be grafted in. It is only when we partake in His death by dying to ourselves and our sin nature and joining in His life and the likeness of His resurrection that we become partakers of the life and power that are in Him. This is the first and most important thing we understand in order for us to have a personal relationship with Him. Apart from being born-again, that is, believing that Jesus died for your sins and asking Him to be your Lord and Savior, your incapable of having intimacy with Him. He died so that you may know Him and the Father.


     It’s also important to note that in order to be grafted in to another vine you must be completely removed from the other one. You can’t remain attached to one vine and be grafted to another – it’s impossible. Many times, we want to have one foot in our old life and one in our new one as believers. It simply won’t work. The Bible tells us that a house divided will fall. The lifestyle you feed the most will eventually take over. You cannot serve two masters. This division will always keep you from having intimacy with Christ.


     Like all relationships, the only way to have a close relationship with the Lord is by spending time with Him. We do this through reading the Bible and in prayer. By doing these things something starts to naturally occur; We begin to reflect the image of that which we worship. The more Christ-like we become, the more “pruning” we allow God to do in our lives. We start challenging and changing compromising behaviors such as telling “little white lies” and gossiping, and we find ways to become individuals of integrity. As a result, we create strong branches that can hold a good, strong, healthy crop without breaking.


     Overall, abiding and dwelling in Christ takes commitment and time. People tell me all the time that they don’t have time to spend with God, but in the same breath, they have time go meet people for coffee, time for Facebook, friends, going out to movies, and more. I’m not saying we can’t do those things, I’m just saying that we make time for things that are important to us. If having a personal relationship with Christ is important to you, you’ll find time, and make it a discipline. Believe me when I say, when you develop that intimate relationship with Christ and realize the fullness, joy and peace that comes with it you’ll never look back.


If you would like more information on the wonderful topic of growing, maturing and abiding in Christ, please read the wonderful and informative book, A VINE-RIPENED LIFE: SPIRITUAL FRUITFULNESS THROUGH ABIDING IN CHRIST, BY STANLEY D. GALE.  Available now on Amazon.com.

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The Pain is Part of God’s Plan


     I have lived with the debilitating symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for over fifteen years and I can honestly say it’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever endured. If you’ve heard me share my life story at an event, you know that’s saying a lot. Nightmares and flashbacks of the trauma, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, and insomnia are just a few of the issues I’ve grappled with over the years as a result. Thankfully, as I’ve worked hard to overcome the disorder, many of these devastating symptoms have subsided or been eliminated.


     There was a time when I would have told you that it was impossible that any good could come from what I endured. The pain was excruciating and so deep and wide it’s almost unexplainable. I remember nights I’d go to bed with my eyes and face burning because I’d been crying all day and fall asleep weeping, only to awaken in the middle of the night to find myself crying in my sleep. Emotionally I was immobilized with fear and anxiety ruling my life. I lost a staggering fifty pounds. Mentally I was in a fog and was struggling to recall moments in time that were significant. I literally felt like I was going crazy. It was confusing and I felt lost. It took a lot of time and hard work to get back on my feet and on solid ground.


     Recently I was thinking about something a family member said about how the trauma had affected my personality. He said, “You used to walk into a room and shine. It was like, ‘Hello! Here I am! Look at me!’ Now you’re much more quiet and mellow. I think you’ve lost something.” I spent a lot of time pondering and praying about what he said, asking the Lord what it was that I “lost,” wondering if I could somehow get it back. Did the tragedy I endure steal everything from me? My life? My soul? My being? Would I ever recover? Was PTSD a life sentence? The last question was something I actually asked my doctor once as he was increasing my antidepressant yet again. “No,” he promised. “Just keep working hard, Leslie. You’ll get through this.”


     I’d like to say I’m over PTSD, but I’m not. The dust has settled, however, and I can see things much clearer now, and I’ve realized something. The pain I endured is part of God’s plan. I really don’t think it was God’s will for me to endure what I went through, but I know that in Romans 8:28 God says that all things work together for those who love Him and those who are called according to His purpose. What that means is that He can and will use what I’ve gone through for good – for His will in my life. While that was hard to see at one time, I can see it now.


     My family member was right. I did lose something in the tragedy: false pride. I used to walk into the room and make a grand appearance. I did that to hide all the insecurities hidden behind the façade within me. Behind the smile, beyond the laughter, the jokes and the jovial personality was a woman who needed to learn humility in its purest form. I can say that because over the years as I’ve grappled with the effects of PTSD I’ve had to rebuild my life from the ground up emotionally, mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually.  The humility that I have found in Christ has drawn me into such intimacy with Him – a sweetness that I would have never pursued apart from the tragedy, and into a new level of empathy and compassion for others than I’ve ever had before. I am a different person now than I was fifteen, twenty years ago; I am much more authentic, genuine, and sincere. So, even though the situation you've gone through may have not been a part of God's plan, can pain be part of God’s plan? Absolutely, if we are willing to submit it to Him and let Him be the One who builds us up to be the woman of God He desires us to be. Press on dear sister, keeping your eyes on the Prize and your feet on the Rock and you will not falter.    

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TRANSGENDER: Right, Wrong, or Indifferent

What Would Jesus Do? 

     I met Chris* when he was eleven-years-old when we were both living in a small town in the Rockies. Chris and his sister went to school with my two oldest children, who were similar in age, and he soon became my son’s constant companion; they joined karate together, played video games around the clock on weekends, and both went to classes that focused on working with young adults who were gifted and excelled academically.


     As I got to know Chris, I couldn’t help but adore him; he was warm, witty, and extremely caring, and I was glad that my son had someone of his qualities to hang out with on a regular basis. Through my son’s friendship with him, Chris shared with me that his mother lived out of state and that he had lived with his father since his parent’s divorce when he was just a baby. Known for his good looks and role as a doctor, Chris’ father was popular around town; especially with the women. Unfortunately, although women readily flocked to his father’s side there were usually just as many running away from him; he had a volatile temper, was controlling and abusive, and was known for both cheating on and using women. To his detriment, he had been married and divorced numerous times, and as one of only a handful of counselors in our small town I inevitably ended up meeting with a half-dozen or so of the women who had fallen prey to his charm.


     Chris loved his father, but wavered on believing whether or not his father really loved or cared for him. Despite Chris’ obvious intelligence and desire to please, his father was extremely critical and demeaning to him without provocation. When he thought Chris needed correction for something he did wrong, his father used derogatory name calling and unnecessary badgering in an attempt to correct his behavior. Because Chris wasn’t what his father's view of masculine his father saw him as “soft” and “feminine,” frequently calling him names, the least of them being “sissy” and “faggot.” When Chris was fourteen and courageously asked his father if he could live with his mother, he was deterred when his father called him a “Momma’s Boy” followed by names too foul to repeat.


     Chris stayed with his father until after he graduated high school, but he wasn’t without scars; every ounce of his masculinity had been castrated during the years spent under his father’s roof. So, when Chris called me shortly after his thirtieth birthday to confess he was transgender, seeing a counselor so he could begin the process of a sex-change operation, and had begun taking female hormones I wasn’t at all in shock. I knew right then that Chris felt “safe” in the role of a woman because he had never been affirmed as a man.


     "I’ve never felt good about who I am as a guy,” Chris told me through broken sobs over the phone, confessing that he’d thought about suicide numerous times. I listened and prayed silently as he continued to talk. “One day I had this thought out of nowhere that maybe I should try on women’s clothes and when I did I felt beautiful, like I was someone special.”


     My heart was breaking as Chris went on, trying to justify his reasoning and silently requesting my support for his decision. I had been praying for him since he came into our lives twenty years earlier. 


     As he shared his heart I was struck by the sadness in his voice; he really wasn’t happy despite what he thought was the right decision; instead, he was broken, searching desperately to fulfill a legitimate need for God in an illegitimate way through sin. Who hasn’t been guilty of that? I thought about all the sinful things I used to meet the God-need inside of me before I gave my life to the Lord and I was reminded of the years of sadness that followed as a result, and how that desolation is what ultimately opened my heart to receive Christ.


     So how can we reach the Chris’ of the world? I could have criticized him, pointed my finger and judged him, and told him how evil his decision was, but weren’t those very actions in part responsible for leading him to the very path he was currently on? I could have taken that opportunity to lecture him about which bathroom he should use, but what glory would that have brought God? And which should I have been more concerned about in that moment; what he wears and which bathroom he uses or his soul? So, what did I do? What would Jesus do?


     “Chris,” I said, “you know I love you, and as much as that is, I know that God, who is our heavenly Father, loves you even more – right where you are at today, with all your hurt, pain, confusion, and hopes that this is the answer to all of that emptiness within you.” As I shared those words, I could hear him gasping for air between uncontrollable sobs. You see, I was the second call Chris had made that day: the first was to his father, who denounced Chris as his son and forbad him to ever contact him again when Chris told him he was transgender. His earthly father cut all ties with him, but his heavenly Father was reaching out to him and he was seeing that for the first time in his life.

I shared the gospel with Chris that day and prayed with him, assuring him that God is calling him to know Him and be known by Him. I am in no way the devil’s advocate for sin just because I plead for compassion for those caught up in it. I just believe that the same God that sacrificed His Son, Jesus Christ for me and my sin while I was swimming laps in it, and wooed my broken-spirit in love while I was rejecting His, is equally willing to do that for others – despite what sin it is.


*In respect for his identity and continued relationship with our family I have changed his name.

Hitting Rock Bottom

A Stable Place to Be

     I was recently at lunch with a group of people who were talking about a friend of theirs that had an addiction. They were frustrated with their many attempts to help her because she’d been on and off the wagon of sobriety so many times that it had become a cycle of defeat instead of a celebration of liberty.


     As I sat listening to the conversation one of the women at the table said the words you hear anytime someone struggles to overcome an obstacle: “She just hasn’t hit her rock bottom yet.” One of the other ladies must have noticed that I raised my eyebrows a bit and cracked a smile because before long she was asking me what I thought it would take for their friend to finally break the cycle of sin in her life.


     Over the years we’ve all heard the expression ‘Rock Bottom’ haven’t we? It epitomizes someone who has lost everything that is of any important to them and they finally are serious about cleaning up their act. If you’ve ever sat in a 12-Step meeting or worked with people in a counseling environment like I have you hear the term frequently. The actual physical place of rock bottom looks different for everyone. For some it’s when they found themselves with a loaded pistol in their mouths. For others it’s when their eyes were opened to the fact that they were hundreds of pounds overweight and facing serious medical issues or death. Still for others it’s been losing custody of their kids, getting caught looking at porn at work, their mate finding out they were having an affair or that their spending or gambling addiction has put them hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in debt. Regardless of the reason, it means to signify that you’re at the end of your rope, at the bitter end, that you’ve tapped out all your options, or have nothing left to cling to and are facing emotional, mental and physical exasperation.


     But what exactly is rock bottom and who says it has to be the end and not the beginning? In Webster’s Dictionary, a rock is defined as anything suggesting strength or stability. Bottom is defined as the part on which something rests. If we took these definitions literally, ‘rock bottom’ means to be resting on a strong, stable base. That doesn’t seem like such a hopeless place now does it? Certainly not if you have faith.

The Bible often refers to Jesus as the Rock in our lives. There is a parable in Matthew 7 about a man who built his house on the foundation of Christ. Verses 24-27 state;

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had it’s foundation on the rock.


     If you take both the Dictionary’s definition and the Bible into account, hitting Rock bottom is actually a place we all want to be isn’t it? While it may be the end of yourself in reference to your flesh and require humility, there’s nowhere else to go but up! That makes me question what you are building your life on; sinking sand or the Rock?

For me, it doesn’t take long to look back over my life and see where my own best efforts have gotten me, so I choose hitting rock bottom every day by hitting my knees in surrender to God’s will. Let me tell you a secret about making this a daily practice: no matter what you’ve envisioned your day, week, year, or life to look like – God’s plans for your life is always amazingly beyond your imagination when you submit it to Him. So, it’s really your choice. You can do it your way and continue to kick against the goads, or you can do it His way knowing that great things are in store for you. For me, I chose Him every time.


HEALING THE DEEPEST WOUNDS

When Healing Is More Painful Than That Which Caused the Wound


     As spring blows in summer I’m seeing more and more motorcycles on the road, which always remind me of the accident I was in at nineteen. If I think about it too long, I’ll become nauseated as I recall the gravel violently ripping open my skin from head to toe and embedding itself in its place. After my 5’8, 135-pound frame came to a bloody heap thirty feet away I passed out from the relentless pain that consumed my body as if it were on fire. It was so excruciating that the morphine the ambulance crew and ER staff administered was incapable of even touching the pain.


     Have you ever had pain like that? Not just physically, but emotionally? You know what I’m talking about – the kind of disappointment and pain that is so deep and wide that it’s a chore to even breathe; the kind that makes you fall asleep crying and waking up crying; the throbbing, numbing kind of agony that leaves you feeling as though you’re living outside of yourself and you wonder how on earth you’ll get by for the next few minutes, let alone the day? Looking back, the external agony I was enduring at that time paralleled the internal pain I was going through.


     I was raised in a home where my parents were forced to marry after my father raped my mother at gunpoint. As such, my mom entered a marriage wrought with violence, fueled by alcohol, and justified by prejudice. As the only girl, and with my father’s panache for violence, driven by underlying rage, and insatiable power and control, I was abused in every way imaginable by him. In spite of what he was and did I craved my dad’s love, believing that if he loved me it would make me complete, filling the canyon-size void within me. His rejection and the subsequent pain were no less painful or consuming than the agony I went through in the motorcycle accident; they were just internal wounds instead of external.


     Covered with a blanket of shame from the childhood abuse, I attempted suicide for the first time at twelve years old. When I wasn’t successful, I rebelled against everything and everyone; I quit school, became sexually promiscuous, jumped head first into drugs and alcohol, and didn’t look back for years to come. At nineteen, I been married and divorced, had two children whom I’d abandoned, had an abortion, had tried to commit suicide numerous times, and was facing time in the Idaho Department of Corrections. No one expected me to become little more than a statistic, but God had another plan, intervening in a way that only He could. Years later, at the tender age of twenty-five, I was introduced to Jesus and welcomed Him into my life.


     Before I became a Christian however, I’d been to therapist-after-therapist, read countless self-help books, attended groups, tried various religions and just about everything else you can imagine to get well and fill the gaping wound within. While some of those attempts eventually brought some healing, I was never able to acquire complete healing. Essentially, they were like putting a Band-Aid on my wounds, protecting them from bleeding into my everyday life and the lives of everyone around me. They helped me to cope well enough that I could get by, but every time I had a nightmare or something triggered a memory from my past, the Band-Aid was unexpectedly ripped off and the wound beneath would come open and ooze out the poison that was slowly killing me and hurting those around me. What I needed the world could not give me.


     After I’d been released from the hospital for the accident, I was required to go back to the hospital daily for physical therapy. Every day for months I was made to sit in a large vat of hot water and soak my entire body. After about thirty minutes the nurses attending to my wounds would take a plastic brush with soft bristles, scrub off every one of my scabs, remove them from my body, and clean the wound. This caused them to bleed profusely. Afterwards, they would apply an ointment called Zinc Oxide and wrap my injuries in extensive gauze. Of course, because the wounds were reopened, I bled habitually. I’m sure I looked like something out of a horror movie. The purpose of this procedure was to heal my body in such a way that the wounds left no scar.

Eventually my body healed enough that I could care for my own wounds, and I was encouraged to continue the “hell bath” (as I refer to it), and continue to apply the Zinc Oxide and wrap my injuries. I continued this procedure for a year – except in two places where my wounds were the deepest: my knees. While my entire body is free from scars to this day from the accident, I still have two half-dollar-sized scars on both my knees. These scars are a result of my foolishness. You see, I got tired of the pain, became lazy and stopped applying the Zinc Oxide and let those two places heal on their own. Apart from the proper procedure they scarred.


     One day not too long ago, while I putting on a pair of jeans I noticed the two scars on my knees for the first time in years, and God reminded me of something He taught me shortly after I became a born-again Christian in fall of 1992 that has remained with me for 26 years: that if I surrendered every broken and wounded part of my body, soul and spirit I’d receive complete healing – that is healing without any residual scars. As I looked at the scars on my knees (of all places), where the wounds I endured from the accident were the deepest, the Lord showed me that it is only on my knees that I receive complete healing from His heavenly Zinc Oxide: The Holy Spirit. It is only when we seek to heal ourselves or apply the world’s answers to healing that we have residual scars.

I have suffered extensively in life from both the actions of others as well as my own choices, but I can tell you today that I can look back and see each one and not be emotionally attached to them or have a negative reaction. Matter-of-fact, it’s like looking at the life of someone I once knew instead of my own life because of God’s healing and redemptive power in my life. God also desires for you to allow Him to come into the broken places in your heart, mind and soul, and let Him bring healing. No doubt you have experienced the Band-Aids of the world and know first-hand how incompetent they are. While they may bring a measure of healing, they cannot provide complete healing; only the One who created you can re-create you in His perfect image and bring healing in every area of your life.


     I want to stress a couple of important things for you to consider before you allow God into your life to do a healing. First of all, you need to count the cost. Sometimes the healing of a wound is more painful than that which caused it. Such was the case in many areas of my childhood as I sought God’s healing. There were times when He had me soak in His Spirit for days so He could come to those wounds, lance them to allow the poison to come out once and for all, and for healing to take place. Do you know what the most agonizing part of that process was for me? Trusting Him; trusting Him enough to give Him the wound of mistrust that had been brutally seared into my soul by those who stole my innocence. One of the most profound stories of healing for me in the Bible is found in John 5:6 where Jesus asks a man who is sick, “Do you want to be healed?” He was asking the man to count the cost of healing, which first and foremost requires surrender, followed by trust and belief in His power to heal. This is known in the Bible as faith.


     Next, I want to tell you up front that healing for deep wounds takes time – give that to yourself as a gift from the Lord. This is not an excuse to remain idle, but to learn to lean on and trust Him as you grapple with the cause and residual pain of what you’ve endured or are going through. There will be times you grow tired and wonder if healing is really happening or will come. The answer is, “Yes!” God promises to heal those who come to Him (Jeremiah 29:12). One of my favorite verses that came out of those years of healing that I literally clung to with every essence of my soul is Proverbs 3:5:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.


     There are a couple of words I want to point out in this verse. Do you see the word ‘all’? Do you know what it means in Hebrew? It means ALL. EVERYTHING. Did He make that clear enough for us? ALL. Then there’s the Hebrew word ‘understanding,’ which in this verse literally means ‘intellect.’ So, lean not on your own intellect…in other words, your own knowledge or wisdom, or that of others.


     In closing let me assure you that healing deep hurts are to me a lot like having a baby in the sense that there’s a whole lotta pain, but a lifetime of wonderful that follows. When you surrender your past, present, and future to God wholeheartedly and you allow Him to do the healing it’s going to be painful and it’s going to take time, but let me tell you that an eternity of wonderful will follow and you’ll live a slice of that here on earth if you trust Him with all your heart. The most beautiful thing that has come out of the suffering I’ve endured is a closer relationship with the Lord – a relationship outside of suffering that I know that I would have never sought out on my own. Thus, looking back, although I don’t understand all the reasons God allowed specific things to happen in my life, I trust Him, knowing and believing in faith that Father knows best.


     *If you would like to more about the topic of suffering and how God sees it, brings healing, and what’s your role in the process, please pick up my book, Redemptive Suffering, Lessons Learned from the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Overcoming Childhood Sexual Abuse


     A beautiful teenage princess named Tamar lived well in her father’s kingdom. But her half-brother Amnon, overcome by her beauty and his own lusts, changed all that. Pretending to be sick, he asked her to bake goodies for him to make him feel better. Once alone, to Tamar’s horror and despair, Amnon raped her. She protested; she resisted; she begged him not to disgrace her, but she could not stop the attack. Ultimately, Tamar suffered life-long trauma. Two years after the attack, Amnon was killed by his vengeful brother.


     The details of this story come straight from the Bible (2 Samuel 13). But I don’t have to read far before I start remembering my own experience. When I close my eyes, I can remember every detail of the abuse, as if it just happened. I can smell the wood of my perpetrator’s poorly built shack, molding from the spring rain. I can hear his words echoing in my mind. Worse yet, I can feel his unwanted touches on my eight-year-old body. How does one recover from that?


     The effects of abuse are rampant in the world today. It is reported that as many as one out of every three girls and one out of every five boys will have been abused sexually or physically by the time they are eighteen years old. The evil in this world is no respecter of persons. Sexual or physical assaults can happen to Christians and non-Christians alike.


     The English word abuse is translated from the Hebrew alal, which means, “to do harm, to defile.” This is done by inappropriate physical, visual or verbal interactions by an adult seeking their own satisfaction. There is nothing that penetrates the core of a child’s inner being or destroys trust more completely than sexual abuse. Further, it steals their innocence, shatters their self-esteem, and relentlessly haunts them into adulthood.


     I used to believe that healing could not happen until I erased every memory of the abuse. But I quickly learned that’s just not possible. Nor can I expect the pain, fear and shame associated with those memories to vanish overnight. The road to recovery might require a heavy time commitment.


     While I can’t expect my memory to completely forget, I can choose not to dwell on the details of what happened. If I do, it sends my emotions into a tailspin, and I find myself experiencing the abuse all over again. Victims of abuse must remember to focus on God’s healing ~ not on the events of the abuse.


     There are several ways to start the healing process. For Christian teens, hope for restoration lies in Christ. God promised to never leave us nor forsake us (Isaiah 41:10;Hebrews 13:5-6). He can wash the stains of life away.


     If you haven’t told anyone, it’s important that you do. Seek out wise, compassionate counsel. Ask God to direct you to those who are experienced in walking victims of abuse through Biblical restoration (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). This might be a safe friend or family member who knows Christ, or a mentor from your church.


     Focus your anger on the abuser ~ don’t project it onto yourself or other people. In many cases, young women who have been abused become very flirty or promiscuous. Young men often hide the fact they’ve been abused out of fear of being looked upon as ‘gay’, or ‘sissy’s’ and become overly aggressive in their behavior, attempting to regain control of their lives.


    Finally ~ with God’s help ~ we must forgive the abuser, not because they deserve it, but because it lets us break down the walls of bitterness and anger that keep us in the bondage of the abuse. When you forgive, you open yourself up to recovery and growth. This could take a long time and should not be forced before God has walked us through the healing process.


     It’s not easy. But our experiences will be used to honor God when we share with other victims the healing we have received (Romans 8:28).

Metamorphosis

God’s Gift of Transformation


     When we hear the word “metamorphosis” we often think about butterflies, but did you know that its meaning comes from the Greek word morphoo, which means “the inward and real formation of the essential nature of a person”? Entomologists, scientists who specialize in insects, recognize two basic forms of metamorphosis: complete and incomplete.


     In the complete metamorphosis, an insect travels through all stages of growth, starting with conception, on into adulthood, and finally becoming a butterfly. During this process, it is not unusual for an insect to undergo multiple changes in physical form ~ both inside and out, but initially always from within. In a complete metamorphosis, the function of the newborn insect is to eat and grow until it becomes an adult and can reproduce.


     In an incomplete metamorphosis, the insect develops only partially, never realizing its full potential. Extending this metaphor to Christianity can be helpful. Without Christ as our Savior, we can never develop to our full potential because that cannot happen until we evolve into the image of Christ. We can’t do that if our sins are not covered by the blood. He shed on the cross.


     There is a parallel biblical comparison to incomplete metamorphosis called ‘metaschematizo’, which means ‘to change one’s outward form’. ‘Metaschematizo,’ however, does not alter a person internally. The Key Word Study Bible describes the difference between morphoo and metaschematizo in this way:

If one were to change a Dutch garden into an Italian one, this would be metaschematizo. But if one were to transform a garden into something wholly different, as into a baseball field, it is ‘morphoo’ ~ to change in complete form.


     ‘Metaschematizo’ is most commonly observed in modern medicine’s approach to healing. There are many tools, techniques, and books utilized for the purpose of healing and transformation, but they are merely band aids to a dying world. They cover the wound, but the wound only heals on the surface, while the festering continues underneath. Complete and perfect healing, as well as transformation, comes from one place: the cross of Jesus.


    In his book, Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, Ray Stedman (1917-1992) makes a very important point about the world’s attempt to change individuals:

“What are the usual methods of human reform? ...they are legislation, education, and an improved environment. Every problem we face is usually approached by using one of these reforms, if not all three combined. Legislation is law ~ the attempt to control the behavior of the outward man. Law alone can do nothing to alter the inward man. It does not change the basic nature of man but merely restricts him under certain conditions.


     “Education is one of the worst so-called remedies. Education does not change the core of a man or woman ~ it only makes him or her more clever, and potentially more destructive.


      “An improved environment does not change a person either. When you take a man out of the slums, for example, and put him into a nicer environment, you do absolutely nothing to the man himself. In a little while he’ll make that new environment the slum as well.


      “This is not to say that these reforms have no value. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that these reforms will lead us to...transform human nature and the inner human being.”


     I spent years in therapy as a result of childhood abuse and self-inflicted abuse as an adolescent and young adult. I’ve read many self-help books and attended hundreds of secular seminars on how to attain healing, peace, and joy. In doing so, I eventually functioned in a somewhat healthy manner in a dysfunctional world. Nothing I tried, however, brought even a glimpse of complete healing in any area of my life. Metaphorically speaking, I even moved from a Dutch garden to an Italian garden, but I sensed there was something more ~ I just didn’t know what.

 

     When I became a believer on November 2, 1993, construction began from within and continues today, transforming a garden overrun by weeds into a temple where the Holy Spirit resides. Although the remodeling is not yet complete, the Holy Spirit is the contractor that oversees every step of the building process. The goal is that the temple within will ultimately reflect the image of Christ.


     There is one place we can find true transformation and that is at the foot of the cross in prayer. Metamorphosis does not occur on its own; we must pursue God’s will by pursuing Him. Who better can bring about real, lasting change than the One who created you in your mother’s womb for such a time as this, who set you apart for a specific and special purpose, and knows the will He wants to accomplish in your life?

Betrayed with A Kiss


“Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them:

‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.”


     “One of you will betray me.” Can you imagine how shocking those words must have sounded to the twelve disciples, sharing the Passover meal with Jesus? But for one disciple, the shock was the greatest. After all, Judas had watched Jesus perform miracles firsthand. He saw lives transformed before his very eyes. He was on the boat when Jesus walked out to them on water. Judas stood beside Jesus as He delivered those in bondage from demons. Our Savior had chosen Judas to be an extension of His ministry, to be an example of godliness, never giving him any reason for such treachery, yet it happened ~ Judas betrayed Him for a mere thirty pieces of silver.


     Countless men and women have also experienced such disloyalty in their own lives. Perhaps your Judas was a friend who carelessly revealed a confidence, a husband or wife who left you for another, or a trusted adult during your childhood who took advantage of your innocence. Regardless of the traumatic event, betrayal is one of the most heart wrenching of all offenses, because only a trusted friend or family member can betray you; a stranger cannot. You can only be betrayed by someone you have allowed into your heart. And if a betrayal does occur, you must give it over to the Lord for healing, because the scar of betrayal can cut so deep that it refuses to allow you to ever trust again. In turn, this can lead to feelings of ambivalence, bitterness, emotional withdrawal, fear, and an inability to accept love from others.


THE ROOT OF BETRAYAL

     Betrayal often feels a lot like rejection. When someone you love has turned away from you and betrayed your trust, it is not unusual to feel cast out or thrown away as worthless and not worthy of respect. In fact, ‘reject’ means to be set aside, and that is exactly what someone does when they betray you. They set your best interests aside for the sake of themselves or others.


     Furthermore, disloyalty separates you from a person you thought you could trust and love. Consider the woman who, as a child, was sexually molested by a relative. This betrayal of trust and the spoiling of one’s innocence tears away at previous healthy relations. This is equally so for the husband whose wife forsakes him for another. Joining herself with another forces a separation of what God anointed as “one” and poisons the relationship, which causes an emotional and spiritual separation.


WALKING THROUGH HEALING

     Sometimes the healing of such a wound can be as painful as the offense that caused it. Many people resist the healing process because of the pain that is associated with it. After all, being betrayed is hard enough, but having to face it a second time can seem unbearable. And it will be unless you turn to Christ.


    One of the first steps towards healing from betrayal is understanding. Consider this: rejection, duplicity, unfaithfulness, and betrayal are all things we do to Christ when we sin. When we finally grasp the truth that we are not unlike Judas or even Simon Peter, and that we, too, have turned our back on God through our own sin, then we are able to see our betrayer in a much different light - as a sinner himself.


     It is not unusual to categorize the one who has harmed us in one of two ways: saved or unsaved. Actually, there is another type of person that we often forget and they are exactly like us: saved, but a work in progress. In Philippians 1:6 the Lord promised that those who He began a good work in us will carry on until the day of Christ’s return. If we claim this promise for ourselves, we must also accept it as a promise for the believer who has hurt us. Let me explain.

   

     When you became a believer, you accepted the fact that you had previously lived according to your own terms, betraying the ways of God. You agreed to give your life over to Him for the sake of righteousness, which is a life-long process. Equally so, it is a process for everyone else who receives Christ as their Savior. And once you are able to view others as Christ does - as sinners like yourself, you can begin the process of healing. It’s not easy, but it’s a start.


     If the person who hurt you is an unbeliever, this is no excuse to withhold forgiveness. Their inability to understand God’s ways does not release you from your responsibility as a Christian to forgive just as you have been forgiven. But be sure to keep this in mind. Many people believe that if they let go of an offense against someone, they are in essence, signaling acceptance of the transgression. This is not true. Forgiving someone means you are regaining control of your life by releasing them from their sin against you, just as Jesus did. It’s a free gift; it can’t be earned. But forgiving someone does not mean you must subject yourself to their betrayal a second time. The Lord admonishes us to be wise, and nowhere in Scripture are believers asked to be doormats. If the other party is unrepentant, do not subject yourself to continued abuse simply because you’ve begun the process of forgiveness.


     The next step is to take your grieving heart to the foot of the cross for healing. Depending on the depth of the betrayal, you may have to repeat this several times. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, it took me years to work through the betrayal of the trusted adult who assaulted me. The reason for this is because betrayal of any kind can affect multiple areas of your life: emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual, so there are many facets to the healing process.


     Tell God how this betrayal has hurt you. Throughout Scripture God is shown as a compassionate, loving Father who wants to heal our wounds and provide comfort in the midst of healing. He already knows what’s in your heart, but when you share it with Him, it frees you from the bondage of betrayal. Once this is accomplished, accept His unconditional love and healing. Some people ‘nurse’ their pain because they thrive on the attention they receive from others. They feel righteous because they were betrayed, and they prefer to harbor grudges. Keep in mind, as I mentioned before, that we are all guilty of betrayal.


      Next, as you walk through the process of healing, encourage others who have been harmed to do the same. This builds a healthy sense of self-worth and will help others overcome betrayal in their lives. Continually point them to Christ as you yourself clings to Him for continual healing and guidance. As a result, your life will reflect the full promise of restoration available only through Christ.

Our Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

Conflict in Marriage

Working Out the Kinks

     “There we stood,” Heidi told me over a cup of coffee, “toe to toe, with our hands on our hips, yelling at one another the exact same thing: ‘Why don’t you ever listen to me?’ It was crazy. We’ve been married 38 years! You’d think we wouldn’t fight after all this time.” Tears filled her eyes and she turned away to sip her coffee. My heart ached for her as she struggled with this upsetting clash with her husband.


     Conflict. Traditionally it’s perceived as a negative. But from the beginning of creation, right there in the Garden of Eden, we can clearly see that God made man and woman differently - so He must have known that conflict would occur in marriage. As a matter of fact, I’m sure the first argument between a couple probably happened right after God confronted Adam and Eve and sent them packing! I can only imagine the heated exchange that ensued when they were booted out of paradise!


     Overall, it’s impossible for two imperfect and different people to live together without some conflict. But conflict is not all bad. One of the things it reveals is how dissimilar and unique we are. When you disagree with your mate, you’re simply stating your differences. In turn, when handled properly, conflict can actually strengthen your relationship with your spouse by helping them understand who you are and why you believe what you do. Furthermore, it maintains an open door to your emotions. And conflict also allows us the opportunity to handle difficult circumstances in a Christ-like manner. After all, if you can keep you cool and walk righteously with the one you love the most, it helps you do this with others who may offend you.


Do Not Lose Hope

     “Sometimes I feel like things will never change,” Heidi continued, wiping a tear from her cheek. “Will we ever be able to live in peace?”

 

     Many believers have this same question. Perhaps you and your mate have been fighting for so many years that the idea of conflict resolution seems unattainable, even impossible to attain in your marriage. Years of fighting without resolution can breed hopelessness and discouragement. But if you are willing to give your marriage over to God and implement some biblical tools, I promise you’ll see a miracle occur.


TOOL #1 Commit together to work through the problem at hand until it’s resolved. (Ephesians 4:26; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.) This might require some long nights of discussion, but going to sleep on the opposite side of the mattress or in different rooms promotes distance, separation, and a lack of oneness.


TOOL #2 Confront problems immediately. When you retain unforgiveness in your heart, it breeds bitterness, hatred, and discontent. You can generally tell when this occurs because the other party generally says, “You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Well, it feels that way because it’s been festering for a week! Matthew 18 encourages us to go to the one who has offended us and work through the problem.


TOOL #3 Stay focused, and talk about the issue at hand. Try not to ‘rabbit-trail,’ bring up old offenses, or allow your mate to ‘flip-the-script,’ which can then deteriorate into a finger pointing session. If you spouse has another issue he’s been harboring say, “Honey, your offense against me is important for us to work through, but let’s work on this issue first.” Dealing with more than one problem at a time can be upsetting and confusing.


TOOL #4 Avoid the two words that automatically shut down the lines of communication: ‘Always’ and ‘Never.’ These two words carry enormous weight and tend to nullify everything that follows it. In most conflicts, these words are not appropriate.


TOOL #5 Don’t attack your mate personally. Statements like, “You’re just like your father,” or “You’re a loser just like my mother said you were,” sets your marriage up for failure. Separate your spouse from his behavior. A tool I encourage women to use when their mate has hurt them is, “ I feel (angry, unloved, hurt, abandoned, rejected, etc) when you (mention the offense). In the future, I’d appreciate it if you would (give the desired behavior). Remember that men want to know what to do to fix a certain situation. By so doing, you’re providing him with information so he better understands your needs.


TOOL#6 Remember if there is no resolution to a conflict, there are no winners. Either you both win by reconciling the situation, or no one wins. You must listen to one another. Make eye contact and do not interrupt. James 1:19 reminds us to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Sometimes we become so adamant about making our point that we fail to hear our mate’s input.


TOOL#7 Pray together, before, during and after a conflict. No, I’m not kidding. If you find that you and your mate are at odds with one another, come together and pray first, asking that each of your hearts will be tender to the other person. Then as you discuss the issue, if difficulty arises, be strong enough to say, “Can we stop for a couple of minutes, calm down, and pray again?” Then once you resolve it, pray again. Reconciliation is not complete until you’ve approached the Lord as a couple and sought forgiveness for the offenses against your spouse, as well as any lingering unforgiveness.

If you mate will not cooperate with these tools, don’t give up. Begin implementing them yourself. As you practice using them, encourage your husband by saying things like, “You know, I purposely allowed you to talk without interrupting you. Will you please do the same?” These words can tenderize his heart when spoken in love, without a trace of sarcasm.


     Research shows that the top four reasons for conflict for many couples is money, sex, in-laws, and household responsibilities. None of these issues should destroy a relationship when handled in a biblical manner. And remember, the greatest tool to use in the midst of conflict is found in Proverbs 15:1: “a gentle answer turns away wrath.” Even if your spouse is clearly upset, if you maintain your composure, speak in love, and seek God’s guidance, you are destined to find the path to reconciliation.


Fight Fair

     Heidi was scribbling on her napkin as we talked. I had gone to my car and grabbed my Bible and pointed out some Scriptures that I had myself read and reread, underlined, prayed over and even had some tear stains on! She laughed as she read my notes in the sidelines. We parted in prayer and hope in Christ.


     One of the last things I encouraged Heidi to do was to sit down with her husband during a time when there wasn’t conflict. A time when they were having dinner alone or just hanging out. I told her to talk about how discouraged she felt when they had conflict and her desire to handle things in a biblical manner. During that time I told her to ask her husband to help her come up with some standards like the one’s mentioned previously as guidelines to fighting fair. Within the next couple of weeks I received a call from Heidi.


     “Leslie, you wouldn’t believe it, but we did it ~ we actually had a disagreement without yelling and screaming at each other and ending up going to bed angry. We made a list of rules for fighting fair and put it on the mirror above our dresser in our room. And guess what? When our conversation got heated, he was the one who took me back to the list.” We laughed together as she continued. The rules I’ve listed for fighting fair are not a quick fix to conflict, but they are biblical standards. And when God’s Word is the foundation of any communication we have with others, hope, trust, and healing prevail. Do not become discouraged as you implement these changes into your marriage, but instead, be encouraged that God has provided the tools to help us grow into a deeper, more intimate relationship with our mates and those around us.

In God We Trust - Or Not


     In God we trust. The proclamation is simple, yet profound. With that trust, unsurmountable blessings are at hand. Without it, all hope is gone, leaving behind immeasurable pain and anguish. A nation without hope is a nation without vision, and without vision, men perish. Such has been the state of America since the Supreme Court ruled in 1962 to abolish prayer within schools. Like a thief in the night, this decision stole faith, disintegrated hope and stripped our schools of the very morals implemented by God, and encouraged by our forefathers. Morals that had kept our youth grounded for 170 years, and provided a covering of protection, clear direction, and favor from God.


     Our nation was founded on religious principles by religious men. Leaders who proudly proclaimed their faith and acknowledged it on our money, in our Pledge of Allegiance, and in the National Anthem. The first call to prayer was in 1775 when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation. It continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress signed by President Truman, declared an annual, national day of prayer. Their belief and faith in God guided the writing of the Constitution, and The Declaration of Independence. They were the leaders who implemented prayer and promoted the Bible as a textbook in our first schools which, incidentally, were held in churches.


     But on June 25th, 1962, and on June 17, 1963, those principles were uprooted in one hasty grasp of the Supreme Court as they forbade the inclusion of religious activities in the daily life of students by striking down school prayer and Bible reading. The decision rendered was the by-product of three consecutive lawsuits filed. The most notorious suit was by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist parent of a student who insisted her son Bill’s rights had been violated by having prayer in schools. Through this landmark decision outlawing prayers in public schools, thirty-nine million students and over two million teachers were barred from participating in what had been available to students since the nation’s founding. They referred to the action as a “separation of church and state,” when in reality it was clearly a divorce that would leave no life untouched.


     While the effect of that ruling may seem distant and detached from today’s prominent issues within families, they are indeed related, as the 1962/63 decision marked the shift of direction in America from the land of the prosperous and free, to a land of conflict and captivity. The removal of prayer in schools opened the door for other lawsuits, and laws implemented rejecting not only the Bible, but any values derived from it, such as the Ten Commandments, and the teaching of pre-marital sexual abstinence to students. Today’s youth represent those decisions and are victims themselves of an education and life absent from God.


     The rulings affected far more than education, resulting in the upheaval of families as a whole when students no longer were allotted a moment of silence to collect their thoughts, examine their hearts, and seek guidance from above for everyday concerns or problems. In turn, it seems, God was forgotten, and the ways of the world grasped in a desperate attempt to have some direction. In turn, they learned to rely on themselves, and the results of that self-reliance are both alarming and immobilizing, leaving Christians, the representatives of the most powerful, single religious influence in all of history, scratching their heads wondering how to put the pieces of the shattered generations that follow back together again.


     Following the separation of religious principles, a severe loss of personal self-control became evident. Prior to 1962, statistics remained fairly constant from year to year, but since then, the United States has become the world’s leader in violent crime, divorce rate, teen pregnancy, voluntary abortions, illegal drug use, illiteracy, and documented cases of AIDS. Child abuse is up 345 percent, corruption of public officials is up nearly 500 percent, illegal drug abuse is up 1,375 percent, AIDS has increased over 97,000 percent, and sexual abuse of children is up nearly 400 percent.


     Additionally, statistics tell us that 57 million Americans ~ one in four ~ are annual victims of crimes that costs billions of dollars per year. Schools, once a place of inspiration and education, are now danger zones where bulletproof back-to-school clothes are the latest fad. On the average, a child was shot every day since 1986. Suicides among youth between the ages of 15 and 24 have increased 253 percent since 1962-63. Minimum estimates indicate that 400,000 adolescents attempt suicide each year.


       SAT scores that never declined more than two years in a row, since the Court decisions, declined eighteen consecutive years. Divorce rates have jumped to 120 percent, single parent families have increased to 140 percent, and unmarried couples living together have increased almost 600 percent. Since the early 60’s, there has been a national explosion of sexually transmitted diseases, causing an epidemic of STD’s that infect an average of 33,000 people a day. Additionally, twenty-three million Americans have problems with alcohol.


     The absence of school prayer is by no means the only reason for the chaos that has evolved since the early 60’s. It simply invited the enemy into our schools and homes to reek havoc as the first visible attack on all public religious expression, and was followed by additional movements that would join forces with the hostility against religion that eventually proved to be a tremendous downfall of morality in our nation.

 

     The overall result has been that something as natural and freeing as praying to our Creator, has become unnatural. Something as pure as relying on Him for answers and guidance has become soiled with self-reliance. Male students of the 60’s, now husbands and fathers, often shy away from praying, attempting to “fix” life’s difficulties apart from God. In turn, the covering of the home through prayer, and the washing of the Word by God’s appointed leaders of the household, have become foreign to marriages and their children. Without that guidance, families live in spiritual chaos, hungering for stability, but wavering in faith. Young girls of the 60’s have grown into wives and mothers who thirst for spiritual knowledge and direction, and have raised up out of context to fill the role of the spiritual leader themselves. The result is two spiritual beings in a human world, raising like-minded children, who strive for an unknown goal, void of the necessary tools to obtain it.


     The curse of not praying, implemented by the Supreme Court in 1962/63, is the cure. We as individuals, couples, families, churches, as well as a nation, must come before God and repent, seeking His wisdom and guidance. Prayer must become a vital part of our daily lives.


     Next, we must become as bold about cleaning out our national spiritual closet as our nation has been about coming out of it. We cannot be complacent any longer, allowing our children to fall between the cracks of morality. We must fight the battle, both in and out of court to regain the rights our forefathers granted us at the institution of our country. The First Amendment was implemented to protect religion from government interference. We must hold the Supreme Court to that ruling.


     Prayer is a vital part of our national heritage. Prayer has been offered at each Presidential Inauguration. In 1988, the law signed by President Truman declaring an annual, national day of prayer, was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. It is apparent that prayer is still held in great esteem by leaders of our government. The same Supreme Court that outlawed prayer in school, begins each day with prayer! We have allowed the leaders of our nation to deny future leaders the right they themselves exercise daily.


     Year after year, our Presidents have signed proclamations encouraging all Americans to pray while discouraging our children to do so in school. Prayer is America’s priceless heritage. We must continue to raise the banner of Christ in freedom, not only within our homes and churches, but within our schools as well.

Living With An Unsaved Mate

Unyoked is Unbalanced 

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.

For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”

(2 Corinthians 6:14)


     Second Corinthians 6:14 provides solid instruction for the single individual as they consider the basic characteristic for a life-long mate. These same words, however, can be harsh and troubling to the person who has married an unbeliever and lives in an imbalanced marriage where sharing the joys of salvation and spiritual growth are hampered due to an unsaved spouse.


     It’s important for those in Christian marriages to understand that not every unyoked marriage started out that way. Some women became believers after they married. Others who had disconnected from their faith for a season married an unbeliever, but they eventually came back to the Lord. Whatever the reason, the person who is married to an unbelieving spouse needs a great deal of prayer and support, not condemnation.

From the beginning of Genesis God’s design for marriage was a man and woman united as one in all ways; emotionally, mentally, physically, and especially spiritually. When any one of these factors are missing within the marital union, it becomes off balance or, as Scripture states it, uneven.


     To clarify the meaning of an unyoked marriage, consider the Greek definition of “believe” and “not to believe.” First, the word for believe is pisteuo, which means, “to trust in, to rely upon.” The word for unbeliever, apistos, means the opposite, “to not trust or rely upon.” A believer trusts and relies upon God. An unbeliever typically trusts and relies only upon himself. This is why 2 Corinthians 6:15 asks, “What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”


     Examples of this conflict that exist between a believer and an unbeliever are evident in their convictions. The believer wants to tithe, live righteously, read Scripture, and her children in the Name of God. 1 Corinthians 2:14 clearly explains why the unbeliever may reject these things:


     The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.


     On a recent radio program a woman called in and asked the host to advise her about the conflict she was having with her unbelieving spouse. She felt the Holy Spirit was leading her to attend a Bible study on Wednesday nights, as well as church on Sundays. While this may sound reasonable to a person of faith, her husband wanted her to spend her time off with him on evenings and weekends. This led to feelings of guilt and confusion no matter what choice she made.


     It is not unusual for an unbelieving mate to feel threatened, as if their mates relationship with Christ is ruining their marriage. They may say, “You’re not the same person I married” or “You love God more than me.” It can be heartbreaking. So, what can you do?


     The most important thing to remember is that God wants to transform the lives of His children. This change includes letting go of the control and the desire to change an unbelieving spouse. A person is drawn to the saving knowledge of Christ through the Holy Spirit who woos him, not through their mate. This is not to say that you can’t honor God in your life and serve as a good example of a true Christian. As a matter of fact, Scripture clearly tells the believing mate that unless their spouse leaves them, they are to remain in the marriage and continue to be an influence on them.


     Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 tells believers that they sanctify their unsaved mates. To sanctify means to “set apart for a special purpose.” It also says that your children are sanctified by your belief in Christ. Isn’t that a beautiful verse? Those married to unbelievers need to cling to that promise and live a life of honor before God, believing He will work His miraculous powers in the heart of your husband.

Consider, too, the encouraging words of Philippians 4:6-7:


     Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


     Isn’t it liberating to know that by prayer, petition, and thanksgiving, you do not have to worry or fret about your mate’s salvation, because God has it all under control? You must cling to God’s Word in your marriage. It is the only way you will walk through the loneliness of spiritual oneness, grapple with your envy of Christian marriage, deal with the frustration of an unchanging mate and an unknowable future, struggle with your guilt at being married to an unbeliever, and manage your depression or sense of hopelessness over God’s ability to change the situation.


     Consider some of the following suggestions that may help you cope with this difficult situation:

 Never give up. Keep praying. As a matter of fact, enlist others to pray for your mate.

 Don’t force your mate to attend religious activities.

 Nurture your relationship with the Lord in order to maintain your spiritual health.

 Don’t sabotage your mate spiritually, by asking others to try to convert him.

 Be careful about using religious terminology that may make him feel excluded from         the conversation you and your fellow believers are having.

 Be a mate who honors, respects, and uplifts your spouse - regardless of their       religious views.


     Overall, the best part of being married to an unbeliever is that it will draw you closer to the Lord, as you seek His guidance and wisdom in relating to your mate. Furthermore, continually imagine how wonderful it will be when you begin to see God work in the heart of your mate. I promise you He will - because He said so, and He does not lie.


QUOTES FROM WOMEN LIKE YOU

“Although my husband and I were both raised in the Church, neither one of us ever really walked it out. We had no limits on our relationship…we did what we wanted when we wanted. When I became a born-again Christian my entire belief system changed putting a severe damper on my marriage. We fight about my new beliefs all the time. He gets jealous of the time I spend with God. It seemed so much easier when I wasn’t a believer.”

Sarah


“I have been married for twenty years. There are times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to stay in the marriage, because my husband wasn’t a believer. Last year he got hurt at work and death was a real possibility. I kept saying to my husband, “God is in control,“ and I’d read Scripture to him even while he slept in the hospital bed. God used that experience and my longsuffering to open my husband’s heart to Him. Now I’m glad I didn’t give up.”

Catherine


“My husband calls me a ‘Bible-thumper,’ but I have also found that in our darkest moments, like when our son was born with a hole in his lung, he turned to me and asked that I pray. Those glimmers of hope keep me hanging in there believing that God is working even when I don’t see the big picture.”

Monica


“While I wouldn’t say I was married to an unbeliever exactly, I would say that I’m married to a man who has fallen away from Christ. His heart is hardened towards Christianity because he’s been hurt by other believers. At night sometimes, God wakes me up and I’ll put my hands gently on his back and pray for him, that God will soften his heart. Although the changes have been small, I celebrate them all the same knowing that God will not forget the cries of His children.”

Virginia


“My husband would yell at me saying, ‘You should be married to that church you spend so much time there!’ It hurt. But I knew it was out of the emptiness in his heart that he was angry. I had something he needed, but refused to partake of. He asked me to divorce him time and time again. I told him I loved him and that God’s Word told me to stay in my marriage. Finally, one day he asked me where it said that and I showed him. He broke down in tears and said he didn’t really want me to leave, but he didn’t know how he could live up to God. It gave me an open door to share the gospel to my own husband. While he hasn’t made a verbal confession of faith, he does go to church with me now which is a big step. I know God’s working.”

Angela

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Restoration in Christ


     I recently met with a woman for counseling who has a real anger issue. During our time together she confessed that she’s read multiple self-help books, tried several different medications, and even gone to secular counseling, all to no avail. She went on to say what while some of these solutions served as band aids to a bleeding wound, none brought complete healing or restoration in her life and she was really disappointed. She was so relieved when I told her that none of those things she tried had to power to bring healing or real change, that only Christ had that power. I continued to share with her that God may use these tools as the vessel, but none of them, within their own right, can heal anyone of anything.


     Pretend for a moment that I have a glass of water, and I drop it to the floor and it shatters. Suppose I want to restore it to its full potential so that I can drink from it again. At first I may try duct tape. If the tape begins to peel at the first sign of liquid, I try super glue. While I can probably do an adequate job at gluing the pieces back together again with great effort, time, and concentration, my repair job would be obvious and it would probably leak. At that point, I may attempt to repair the glass with yet another adhesive which will also eventually fail. To re-establish the glass to its original form, I will need to take it to the manufacturer for restoration.


     But before I decide to fix the glass, I must consider its value. A $.99 cup will most likely be swept up and thrown into a wastebasket. If it is precious because it was given as a gift or if it had great monetary value, then I will want to repair it. Once I determine that the glass is worth the repair, I will take it to the glassblower who would have complete control over the restoration. I would trust that he knew what he was doing, since he created the glass.


     In glassblowing, the vessel being designed or restored must be reheated in order to strengthen it to remove dirt that has attached itself to the glass. This process also makes the glass most flexible and moldable for the artist’s expression. The glassblower has what is called the “Glory-Hole,” an opening in the furnace used for reheating the vessel while working with the glass. The temperature in the “Glory-Hole” is extremely high. It is only under this intense pressure and heat that the glass can melt and be reformed into the image the glassblower has in mind.


     With a limited understanding of glassblowing, the glass can crack after it’s removed from the heat, or even after it cools. This process in glassblowing can be seen as a metaphor for the manner in which God restores the unbeliever to Himself. He allows the world to break us. We try to heal ourselves but we fail, limping through life looking for vitality. Most people, unfortunately, do not know that this can only be found in Christ.


     Just as the cells in our body carry a complete blueprint for their replication, so does our soul. It yearns for intimacy with God. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1,2). It cries out for complete fulfillment from our Creator. It remembers and knows that something is missing and that there is One that can make it whole again. This sense of “void,” so often described by unbelievers is the cry of the soul when it was separated from the Holy Spirit, a cry that seeks restoration.


     Unfortunately, many of us have managed to silence its cries by stuffing it with worldly goods and earthly treasures – even as believers. Many failed marriages are the result of one or both partners attempting to “fill the void” that their mate can’t satisfy. It is not uncommon for such marriage partners to realize that their mate has not filled their emptiness, and thus fall into adultery in search of one who will. Divorce is often the result, with or without infidelity. Babies are born, and then resented when they don’t complete the parent. Some individuals go from job to job. But God never intended for anything or anyone to take His place. The unbeliever will never be happy until Christ fills the void. Any attempt to put anyone or anything else in His place is as worthless and frustrating as trying to put a square block in a round hole.


     We hush the cries of our soul by feeding it an imitation, or manipulating our emotions to try to fill the emptiness. It silences us temporarily, but soon the internal sobs start again and our spirit becomes restless. Refusing to be comforted by the world, our cries become internal demands for wholeness. But God loves His chosen too much to allow us to live in desperation, separated from Him. He allows circumstances to change our lives, such as our marriage, job, etc., where we are forced to “see,” “smell,” “touch” or “taste” His redeeming power.


     What is God doing in your life right now? What is He trying to teach you in regards to your souls cry at this time in life? Are you satisfied with your relationship with Christ and that cry is one of worship, or is the cry of your soul one of desperation and a desire to be filled by the Holy Spirit? There is One and One only that can satisfy you, that can restore your soul and bring complete healing. His Name is Jesus and He is awaiting you to invite you in and allow Him to do the necessary healing for you to become like Him. Will you let Him into the heart of your life or continue to silence the cries with imitations?

Heaven

My Father's House

     I was living in southern California when I received the news that my Grandfather was dying. I drove the four hours to sit at his bedside and wept from my innermost being. I was not a believer at the time, but my grandfather had lived a life of honor before God. Despite my rebellious nature towards God at the time, my grandfather was my hero and mentor. He was the only Christian in our family. We had such a special bond that I named my son after him in honor of our love for one another. He was a man of prayer, and as I buried my head into his chest weeping, he placed his hand on my head and promised me he’d see me again some day in heaven, and prayed that God’s will would be done on my life. While I did not understand the concept of salvation and it’s relation to heaven at the time, my Grandfather’s words were instrumental in my conversion years later.


     Scripture portrays heaven as:

A firmament, and is elaborated in Job 26:13, where God is said to polish it by breathing upon it with his wind, even as a man might breathe on a mirror for the same purpose (Job 26:13).

A curtain, portrayed as a strip of gauze stretched like a tent (Isa. 40:22) or spread like a curtain (Psalm 104:2).

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     Further, heaven is described as having windows (Isa. 24:18), through which rain is released in due measure, and the celestial waters were conceived as being stored in ‘Bottles of heaven’, which were tilted and emptied by God at his good pleasure (Job 38:37). In addition, heaven is described as the place were storehouses of winds were located (Ps. 135:7; Jer. 10:13; 51:16). Historically, heaven was thought to rest upon pillars (Job 26:11). But what does all of this mean to us, to those we love and lose through death, or even in our relationship with God Himself?


     Hebrews 4:14 gives us a clear idea explanation of why heaven is so exceptional. This verse tells describes heaven as the longed-for dwelling place of God. For anyone who has ever lost a loved one, they understand what it means to long for the presence of another. At the time of my Grandfathers death, and even in moment now, twelve years after his death, I long for his presence. What I wouldn’t do to sit at his feet and share with him how I’ve changed my life through Christ, how his words now make complete sense, how his touch on my head inspired me, and his words encouraged me to grow and become the best that I could be. I wanted to laugh with him again like we did when I was a child as he chased me around the yard, lovingly calling me his sunshine. I wanted to crawl up in his lap and bask in the warmth of his love. Yes, I know what it’s like to long to dwell in the presence of someone who is gone. But how exactly does God fit into all of this?


     The reality that Christians will one day live forever in the presence of the Lord is a fundamental doctrine of the faith, and a place prepared for believers without sorrow, darkness, or any kind of sin (Rev. 21:1-7). In heaven, we will be like Christ; yet we will be able to recognize one another (1 John 3:2). The most important thing about heaven, however, is the presence of God. We will be forever with Him.


     Love. It is said to be the most influential force in man, a deep-seated passion that keeps the human race intertwined. Man has been known to risk self-destruction and worldly acclaim to acquire it. Depending upon who you ask, it is either the curse or the cure for humanities problems and successes. Some consider it an emotion which can be effortlessly indulged in by anyone, a many splendor thing that few can survive a day without. For others it is a rose that can’t be held without getting pricked by it’s thorn. It’s meaning is often defined based on human perspective and experience, and labeled as a pleasant sensation or an emotional high that one “falls“ into. Contrary to this common belief, love is an intentional act or choice expressed not by emotions, but through sacrifice. Let me explain.


     Most people see the dilemma of love for the most part as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s ability to love. The predicament is how to be loved or lovable. Additionally, they think that to love is elementary, but to find the right person to love ~ or to be loved by ~ is the problem. In pursuit of finding someone or being found by another, many individuals pursue avenues that bring emotional ruin to their own livelihood and the lives of those whom they care most about. In desperate attempts to taste the essence of love, many fall into sexual immorality, which, aside from the component of Gods ordained covenant of marriage, is incapable of producing the element of love. It’s the unrelenting search after infatuation and romance that we require as proof of our love for and from another, that in all reality only attests to the degree of our preceding loneliness. Because of this, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, parentless children, and adultery are prominent in our society.


     Learning to love others as Christ loves us requires great sacrifice. We must learn by His example what love is and isn’t, and learn how to receive His perfect love which is sacrificial. This can be difficult if we define His love by human standards which are conditional, fragmented, and void of perfection. At best, man’s attempt to love separate from God is unfulfilling and distant. Therefore, our greatest need is to bridge the separateness between us and God through His love and sacrifice for our behalf. The awareness of separation from God, absent from the sacrificial offering of Jesus, is the source of unmerciful shame and guilt. It is only then that we can attempt to implement love for others, for knowledge alone is futile if not accompanied with action. If I desired to be a chef and went to culinary arts school and obtained knowledge, but never went near the kitchen what would I have to offer to others? 1 Corinthians 13:2 attests to this;

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.


     Even more so than understanding love and obtaining knowledge about it, we must have a desire, as Christ did, to follow His decree to love. Jesus said the greatest of all commandments is to love one another. Many people live their lives in fear of love, which is really no life at all. Our fear generates our will to isolate from others to protect ourselves. This separateness inevitably breeds anxiety as we emancipate ourselves from others in an attempt to hide our pain or sin in fear of rejection. But Scripture tells us that perfect love, which is God’s love, casts out fear.


     Next, we must develop a dependence upon our Father in Heaven. A baby, reliant upon it’s mother for breast milk is comforted by her presence; her touch, her smell, and her voice. Unlike an infant, Christians will never reach a place where we need not be dependent upon God’s presence or love as displayed through His sacrifice, His healing touch, the sweet aroma of the Spirit, or His tender voice whispering to our hearts.

God created us to love and be loved. He first demonstrates this in Genesis and carries the theme of eternal love through Revelations.

Defending Your Faith

Standing Up For Christianity

The difficult part in an argument is not to defend one’s

opinion but rather to know it.

Andre Maurois


     I come from a long line of heathens. As far as I can go back into my genealogy, my family has been involved in just about every form of religion except Christianity. My childhood memories consist of watching the patriarchs of my family smear the name of God, the Bible, and all those who believe in Him. So, when I became a born-again Christian at the age of twenty-four, I rocked my family tree so hard you would have thought my conversion created an earthquake.


     I was proud to become the black-sheep of my family for the Name of Christ. I’d been around the block a few times, and realized at a great cost that nothing except Jesus Christ could satisfy the emptiness I felt inside. A slew of names and jokes followed on a wave of laughter as I proclaimed my new found faith, offering it to my relatives as if it were a sacred secret that I alone was privileged to share. Oh, how I yearned for them to taste the sweet fruit of salvation!


     The families continual scorn soon made me feel as if I were in a court room having to defend Christianity, when in all honesty, I‘d stepped into the fold merely by faith, with very little information about the Bible. What I did know is that I was a sinner, and that God loved me enough to send his perfect son into an imperfect world to die as payment for my sins so that I might have an intimate relationship with Him. Never-the-less, what little information I had was not enough to satisfy my family. As I stuttered and struggled to preserve my decision, I was assaulted at every turn with accusations that left me feeling defeated, ignorant, and alone. Something had to change.


     The man who lead me to the Lord gave me an important tool at the time of my conversion: “Don’t believe anything anyone tells you about the Bible or God. Take notes, then research it in God’s Word yourself. Man will lead you astray, God will not.” His words, along with the frustration of not knowing how to answer my family challenged me to get into the Word of God and dig for the Truth myself. The more I searched, the more my Creator gave me a hunger and thirst for His knowledge.


     During this time the Lord prompted me to step back from my family for a season so that I might become stronger in my faith. I didn’t stop being around my family, but I refused to go into combat with them over my belief. They were sure they’d won the battle when I’d say, “You know, I’d love to share God’s Truth with you, but right now is not the time.” Meanwhile, I did my best to demonstrate God’s love and mercy in my daily walk.


     Covered with prayer from other believers, I sought ways to share His Word, and waited for His timing to share the Truth with my family members. I also began to prepare for war. The first and most important thing the Lord taught me about defending my faith was to pray for my loved ones. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says; The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. I realized through this Scripture that I couldn‘t save my family, nor could I expose the truth. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. My role was to pray that they would be receptive to the Holy Spirit in order to discern the Truth as I shared, becoming a tool in God’s hand.


     Next, I was to stand my ground, realizing who the battle was really against ~ the enemy of my soul (Ephesians 6:10-12). Through my family, he was attempting to confuse me, bring doubt to my faith, and further lead them astray. The only way I could combat these attacks was knowing and speaking the Word of God. According to the Foreign Military Studies office, infantries are often defeated when there is a lack of field training. The field training I needed was to learn the Word. I would no longer to back down in fear, and would succeed only if I was flanked in the armor of the Lord. Ephesians 6:13-20 gives step by step directions for this;

    

     Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with the kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.


     This armor of God is an internal covering that protects us spiritually, morally, and mentally, and prepares us for battle with the enemy. Just like soldiers, we become stronger in Christ when we use His armor every day.


     When the battle call sounded, I was prepared. This is not to say that I had the answers to every allegation or accusation about God and Christianity, but that the more I used the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the more prepared I was to defend or protect my beliefs. Additionally, I learned that defending our faith is more than just quoting Scripture to rebuttal the attack of the enemy. I would estimate that 80% of defending our faith is preparation, and 20% actual hand-to-hand combat. In order for us to protect and expose the Truth, we must first bathe in it. It is then that the sweet aroma of the Lord will draw others to Him through us not in hostility, but in humility.


     There are times when I fail to defend my faith simply by saying nothing, or by responding defensively or in anger. But God’s mercy is sufficient, and I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily what we say that defends our faith, but a lack of preparation that defeats our purpose. For me, the reward of being faithful in such circumstances has been overwhelming. Not only have I become skilled in the art of defending my faith, but my mother and two brothers eventually gave their lives to the Lord. Hallelujah!

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Understanding Depression

Part 2 of 2

     When my father retired from his second career as a financial analyst for a major corporation, I saw a change in him that had been absent from his first retirement as a Colonel in the Army. During our weekly father-daughter talks over the telephone, he appeared to be withdrawn, unusually quiet, and sad. When I asked him about it, he explained that now that he was “really retired”, he didn’t know where he fit in, or what to do with himself. In addition, he had been feeling a loss of energy and had difficulty sleeping through the night. My father was depressed, and it was disheartening to watch it consume a well educated, successful man, leaving him feeling worthless and unsure of himself.


     The second half of life is suppose to be the sweetest, filled with a newfound freedom and unlimited opportunities including, grandchildren, travel, and leisure. But for many, fear and anxiety haunts them as they watch their friends become ill, loved one’s die, and begin to notice the physical changes the inevitably encompass age. The ebb and flow of growing older can be bitter sweet when considering these factors.


     One culprit that often causes depression in those over 50 years of age is illness. For my father, his depression and anxiety about retirement was coupled with a undiagnosed medical illness: prostate cancer. When our bodies immune system is combating sickness, it can make a shift in our endocrine system, and produce depressive symptoms. The endocrine system includes the thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, pancreas, and adrenal glands. They produce hormones, which are released directly into the blood system. For example, the thyroid gland controls your metabolism. An under active thyroid will cause changes in mood, including the onset of depression. Believe it or not, the metabolism of sugar is vital for maintaining physical and emotional stability. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is known to produce emotional instability. Also, the pituitary gland in the brain produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands. The malfunctioning of either gland will produce lethargic behavior and depression. For women, the hormones estrogen and progesterone, associated with female reproductive organs appear to contribute significantly to mood swings. So, as you can see, ruling out physical problems is crucial. For my father, the depression he was experiencing was a symptom of a much larger issue. Thankfully, the depression went away shortly after medical treatment began.


     Prospective illnesses aside, depression within itself is a multifaceted problem, affecting the body, soul, and spirit. So the treatment process must address all three areas for complete healing. Physically, our bodies respond to our feelings, which inevitably follow our thoughts. That’s why it’s crucial to for the depressed individual to take every thought captive unto Christ Jesus. Negative thoughts about self, others, and life in general often accompany depression. Nursing those thoughts can only lead to deeper feelings of hopelessness. As much as you may not want to, you must pick up the Bible and replace these negative thoughts with truth. I often encourage counseling clients of mine to begin reading in Psalms, allowing King David’s words to become the expression of their pain. He was prolific in his expression of heartache, but he wasn‘t hopeless because he knew that despite what he was feeling, or what was going on around him, God was his refuge and would not forsake him.


     Additionally, the depressed person often avoids physical activity, isolating themselves from others. Forcing yourself to engage in activities with others, and taking daily walks will do wonders for you and your health. If you are not retired, go to work - even if you don’t feel like it. Get plenty of exercise and go for walks on your lunch hour or after work. Continue routine duties and interaction at church. Isolation will only nurture your depression.


     You may have good reason to be depressed. A death of a loved one, divorce or separation, or even a loss of mobility can all be understandable losses that lead to feelings of depression, but it doesn‘t have to immobilize you. Find a Christian counselor or pastor who can help you work through your grief as you grapple with depression. Some people find that anti-depressants help during this time to ’take the edge off’ of the symptoms while the victim is process through their pain.


     Finally, commit yourself to pray about your feelings. No matter how hard it may seem to confess your pain to God, force yourself to have a daily quiet time reading the Bible and petitioning God for healing. Depression seldom goes away on it’s own, and never on one’s own accord. Remember that you do not have the power to deliver yourself. But the same God that raised His Son from the dead lives within you and can deliver you. In Jeremiah 33:3 God says, ‘Call to me and I will answer you answer you and tell you great and unreachable things you do not know.’ Do not hesitate. Call on His healing balm for yourself now, and He will answer you.

Understanding Depression

Part 1 of 2

     Depression is like a violent storm that inhibits ones soul, bringing havoc

to every part of a victims life. It’s torrential rains pierce the heart

and drown out hope, flooding the mind with thoughts of helplessness.  It is debilitating, and it is said to affect twelve million people in the United States - 25 - 30% of which are over 50 years of age. To make matters worse, it is one of the most under-treated medical illnesses, causing people to miss more work than diabetes and heart disease. Since depression can be successfully treated, much of this heartache is unnecessary.


     Serious depression can present itself in a number of ways. When symptoms are experienced in a dramatic, disabling fashion for weeks or months at a time, it is considered “major depression.” When these symptoms are low-grade and chronic, it is called “dysthymic disorder.” Depression can also alternate in a pattern of mood swings, leaving a person feeling irritable and then euphoric, having insomnia, or being agitated. This is called “bipolar disorder” or “manic depressive illness.”


     Depression is more than just the occasional bad mood that everyone experiences from time to time. In contrast, it is like a violent storm that inhibits ones soul, bringing havoc to every part of a victims life. It’s torrential rains pierce the heart and drown out hope, flooding the mind with thoughts of helplessness. And while depression often manifests itself by lack of pleasure rather than a presence of pain, it’s debilitating none the less to those who suffer.


     Studies have shown that individuals are more prone to depression at certain times of life and for different reasons. Divorce, sexual problems, a limited work horizon, personal disappointments, unresolved grief and past abuse are the most prominent issues that cause depression in mid-life. Death of friends and family, physical or mental limitations, and thoughts of impending death become significant factors during this time, and women are twice as susceptible to falling into depression as men.


     The word depression comes from the Latin word depressus, which means “to be pressed down,” that is, not up to your usual bounce. Feeling overwhelmed, hard-pressed and a loss of hope can occur without any apparent reason, although current research supports the belief that environment, biochemical changes, and genetics may be part of the reasons behind this culprit. Medical problems such as thyroid abnormalities, female hormone fluctuations, diabetes, vitamin B-12 or iron deficiencies can enhance sadness. Abnormalities in the brains management of hormones such as serotonin and epinephrine can also bring on overwhelming feelings of doom and gloom.


     The physical symptoms include lower metabolic rate, abnormal gastrointestinal functioning, dry mouth, difficulty falling asleep, early morning awakening, fatigue, a loss or an increase of appetite, constipation or diarrhea, loss of libido, headache, neck ache, backache, and other body pains. There are shifts in almost every bodily function when depression is present.


     If you or a loved one have these symptoms, or think you may be experiencing depression, it is important to visit a physician as soon as possible. In most cases, depression doesn’t go away simply by ignoring it. Matter-of-fact, without proper care, it can consume the individual caught in it‘s web. It is reported that depression is responsible for an estimated seventy percent of the countries 30,000 people who commit suicide every year.


     The most important aspect of walking through depression and getting to the promise land of healing is reliance upon God every step of the way. Even though a person suffering from depression may blame God or feel like He’s absent from their pain, He’s not. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 tells us; “…In our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead…on Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us…”. Scripture also tells us that without vision, men perish. Our Creator must be at the core of our focus, for only He knows what unique needs our bodies require for healing. Thus, He can be the compass leading you and your physician in your journey of healing.

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Loving the Lost and Sinners

Making All the Difference in the World

     I was twenty-four when I met Brian, a born-again Christian that was a former alcoholic and drug-addict who was a professional groupie for the southern rock bands Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers. Brian followed the musicians all over the United States as they rocked concert halls from the west coast to the east. No, really, that was his job; going from concert to concert partying everywhere between small college campuses to over-the-top places like Funocchio's in Atlanta. Somehow he made enough doing a little drug-dealing with the bands to get him from one place to the next.

Brian had only been a Christian for a handful of years and was still a little rough around the edges, but boy was he ever good looking with a funny sense of humor, so I liked hanging out with him a lot. One thing I didn’t like about Brian was that he was very legalistic and judgmental which surprised me considering he was known for shooting up, dealing drugs, and sleeping with just about anyone who came along in his former “BJL” as he liked to call it (before Jesus Life).


     One afternoon he and I were hanging out when he began a rant on women who have abortions and people who were homosexuals and how evil they were and how God was going to throw them in hell with no ‘if’s-and-or-buts” about it. After I listened to him for a few minutes I got up and left thinking, Well, I’m doomed then. His condemnatory soapbox pushed me as far from God than I’d ever been and reinforced what I’d grown up thinking about God; that He was a hate-filled, angry God ready to throw the book at me. I was so paranoid about God and His vengeance that the first time I went to church with Brian I was looking up at the ceiling to make sure there wasn’t a crack above my head.


     What Brian didn’t know was that five years earlier I’d had an abortion. I could have given him all the excuses of why I did it, but it wouldn’t have mattered because I wasn’t particularly ashamed about it at the time. I knew it was a baby when I went to the Phoenix, Arizona abortion clinic and paid my money, but what I felt like I “needed” to do far outweighed the conviction of what I “should” do at the time. I’d never participated in homosexuality, but who was I to judge? It was their life and don’t they have a right to be loved? I thought.


     Over the following weeks as Brian talked to me about God, trying to convince me to ask Jesus into my heart, all I could think about was how if Brian knew about my past he’d understand that God wouldn’t really have anything to do with me and he’d give up on the Jesus-talk. Time after time Brian would give his spiel to me about receiving Jesus as my Savior and he just couldn’t understand why I wanted nothing to do with religion.

One Sunday morning when I’d agreed to go to church with Brian they had a guest speaker by the name of Mario Murillo, who was speaking about the topic of salvation. When he first started talking I thought, Oh, no, here we go again; another guy who’s going to tell me how evil I am and how I’m headed for hell. But as Mario began describing the characteristics of God and His grace through Jesus Christ for those who don’t know Him, I realized that he wasn’t talking about the same God that Brian had been sharing with me. Matter-of-fact, Mario was talking about a God on the other end of the spectrum!


     Over the forty minutes or so that Mario shared his message, my heart softened and I began to see God in an entirely different light. Mario talked about how God created me with a plan and a purpose; a plan for good and not for evil, a plan to give me hope and a future, and I began to not only see my own value in God’s eyes, but that of the baby I aborted. I took away a life that God had a plan and purpose for just like me. For the first time in my life I saw God’s view of things and I became open to receiving Christ as my Savior. Shortly thereafter, I surrendered my life to Christ.


     I was in Colorado Springs a few years later to meet with some folks at Focus on the Family about my writing for them. After my plane landed I was escorted to the rental car company where this kind gentleman with a huge smile and the personality of Jeff Foxworthy began to ask me questions about my visit as he did the paperwork for my rental.


     “Are you here for business or pleasure?” he asked, smiling ear-to-ear.

“I shared that I was an author visiting with Focus on the Family about writing for them.

Suddenly his smile faded and his personality shut down. “Are you okay,” I asked noticing the dramatic change.


     “Yeah, I just hate Focus on the Family, that’s all,” he said, surprising me.

How could anyone hate Focus? I thought. They’re like the premier Christian ministry around the globe.


     The young man got tears in his eyes as he shared with me that he was a homosexual and that he hated Focus because, well, they hated him.


     A few years later, when I was writing The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, one of her friends who did a little research on me and found out I was a writer for Focus on the Family, declined to let me interview her for the same reason. Both circumstances broke my heart.


     I’ve written for Focus on the Family for over twenty years now and I know in my heart that they don’t hate homosexuals, but somehow along the way, the message obviously came across to homosexuals that they were hated. As representatives of God, these men and women’s perception became that God hated them too. As a counselor I can tell you that when you are working with hurting individuals it’s all about perception.

I was able to talk to the young man behind the counter of the rental car company and share my own biblical example and perspective of God and as we talked his heart began to soften just like mine had years before. Unfortunately, Condoleezza’s friend wouldn’t give me the time of day to explain.


     There is great power in what we say and sometimes I wonder if we ever really consider how the words coming out of our mouth affect those who, while they might not even be a part of our conversation, are listening. I think about the loving, tender call of Jesus who was known as the “Friend of sinners,” who offered Himself to the lost, hurting and lonely, and their positive response to His love to follow Him. And on the other hand I think about the Pharisee’s who knew the law, but didn’t know Jesus, and how Jesus told them they were “the blind leading the blind into the ditch,” then confronted them about traveling over land and sea to win a convert, but when they become one they “make him twice as much a son of hell” as they are (Matthew 15:14; 23:15).


     In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul says that God gave him authority “for building up…not for tearing down” (13:10; Eph 4:29). We all have opinions and yes, the Bible clearly says abortion and homosexuality are sins, but Jesus never led anyone to Him by telling them how evil they were, but instead by offered them the answer to all evil. Make today the day that you choose to speak words of encouragement and invitation to those who are broken and seeking God rather than of discouragement that may push them away.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Grief

The Lamentation of the Soul

“No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear…

I loath the slightest effort. Not only writing but even reading a letter is too much.

Even shaving. What does it matter now whether my cheek is rough or smooth?”

C.S. Lewis, following the death of his wife in A Grief Observed


     Grief has been labeled everything from intense mental anguish to acute sorrow to deep remorse. It has also been described as an amputation of the heart, a never-ending pain that reaches to the marrow of one’s soul, that leaves no part of the bereaved life untouched. Although death is most often thought of when it comes to grieving, there are many other losses in life that take us down the same journey. Some of which include; leaving home, losing a job, letting go of a unhealthy friendship, a rebellious child, divorce, and living with an unfulfilled dream. Grieving can even be unwillingly initiated when one realizes their childhood was stolen by sexual abuse, legalism, or even neglect. Regardless of the type of loss, our entire world can become threatened, sometimes even shattered, and our lives can be disrupted in ways that sometimes feel irreparable.


     As we allow ourselves to walk through the process of grieving, at no other time in life are we so acutely aware of having to put one foot in front of the other in order to get through the day. Life moves in an extremely painful slow motion and can feel like a horrifying nightmare from which we do not awaken.


     In order to initiate the healing process we must allow ourselves to share our grief and release our pain, fears, and heartache. Once this occurs, our pain will no longer be continual, but instead it will periodically wash over us as we work through this process.

One of the most important aspects of dealing with loss is to realize that the process of grief is a natural, innate, God-given means to accept, adjust to, and live on in spite of our external circumstances. An especially harmful belief held by some Christians is that God doesn’t want us to grieve. We’re all familiar with the saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.” Whether it’s a divorce or the death of a loved one, although few people say it directly, many tend to think that we are to simply let go and move on quickly. This is contrary to our God-given need to express our emotions, and when we fail to do this it causes further stress.


     Another Christian myth is that we should only express joy when we pray. But who better than our Father in heaven knows the anguish of loss, for He Himself was known as, ‘a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering’ (Isaiah 53:3). When well-respected author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis married Joy Davidman, he knew he was marrying a woman dying of cancer, but he believed God wanted him to marry her despite her illness. Even so, after her death, he wrote these words in the midst of his grieving:


     Where is God…Go to him when your need is desperate, when all other help is in vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face…and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that silence…What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?


     Lewis had the courage to admit doubt, and his example encourages those walking through the process of grief not to hide behind the world’s expectations or the correct way to communicate our broken heart to God. Instead, Lewis shows us that we should embrace our pain and grief in order to move beyond it, just as he himself did. Perhaps some might claim his words revealed a lack of faith, but in truth they exposed his vulnerability in an attempt to find reassurance. Not all who experience loss feel this type of desperation. Some individuals report a stronger sense of God’s presence. This clearly reveals that the grieving process is as unique and individual as the person experiencing it.


     There are often many stages through which the bereaved must travel in order to resolve their loss. Denial is generally the first stage. It is described as a dazed numbness much like the shock from physical trauma and often includes a refusal to accept the loss. For women who have experienced sexual trauma as a child, they can live in denial for years before they are strong enough to trust God to heal them. Denial is not all bad. It is a tool provided by God to lessen the initial impact of the loss. Experiencing it all at once could overwhelm and consume us. We must remember though, that staying in a continual state of denial will affect every area of our lives; emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Many women with traumatic childhoods don’t want to rehash their younger years - after all, experiencing it once was enough. When the only way to healing is through pain, it can be scary. But, the good news is, God doesn’t expect you to do it alone.


     If Jesus is our example, we must trust that sharing our innermost pain and sorrow will bring us healing, as well as a deeper intimacy with God. Hiding our feelings only suppresses our ability to heal and at the same time oppresses our spirits. It is completely normal to long for stolen innocence back, to continue to love the man who left you, to desire to see your loved one again, or even to wish things had gone differently. It reveals our Christ-like nature of compassion, love, and restoration.

As we begin to trust the Lord by sharing our pain, it is not uncommon for those walking through the process of acceptance to become angry. Sometimes we’re sad, other times we’re disappointed, and still other times we’re depressed. Anger is a response to our pain and it’s often directed at God.


     When we suffer, it is not uncommon to believe that God has forsaken us and broken our trust in Him. When others tell us to ‘trust in God’ during this time, the words can suddenly make no sense. How can we trust God when our hopes and dreams have been shattered by divorce, violated by sexual abuse, or stolen by an unexpected death? How can we trust the One who allowed this to happen? These are questions we must take to God and wait for Him to answer. At some point we will realize that God wants us to trust Him even when we don’t understand why.


     In addition, since God is the only One who can fix the problem, He often becomes the focus of our anger. The more intimate our relationship with God, the more betrayed we feel by the One who was supposed to intervene in our hour of need. Lazarus’ sister Mary is an excellent example. She was angry at Jesus when He failed to prevent her brother’s death. “If You had been here,” she admonished Him, “my brother would not have died!” How many of us have said the same thing? “Lord, if you could have only changed my husbands heart he would not have left,” “If you had been there when I was a child I would have never been violated.” You fill in the blank. What is it that you’ve said to the Lord? We can assume that like us, Mary’s trust in Jesus had definitely diminished. But, trust is one of two aspects of faith. 


     Faith is comprised of trusting God and believing what He has said. With this in mind, we need to remind ourselves that our understanding is limited to an earthly perspective. We must believe and trust that God’s eternal perspective is far superior and we will eventually be privy to His plan. Psalm 130:5 tells us; “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I put my hope.” One way to disperse our anger and subside our questioning is to consciously choose to trust and believe God’s Word. And in order to put your faith in His Word, read it everyday and ask God to reveal Himself to you.


     At some point we will arrive at a partial understanding of our loss and eventually adapt to it. But even as we move through the grieving process we will experience some days that are more difficult than others. Tears may still be ahead, but God gives them to us to help release our feelings. Grief is a two part process: accepting the loss, and the recovery of our spirit. Neither process can be completed without Christ.


     Facing your particular loss means you don’t postpone the pain, you don’t deny it occurred, and you don’t minimize your loss. Sometimes this process takes a third party such as a friend, mentor, pastor, or even a Christian counselor to help you walk through this process. But, whatever you do, don’t hide from it any longer as it will continue to eat away at your spirit until it devours your soul with bitterness, regret, and hatred.

Go to your Father in heaven now. Lift your unique circumstance to Him. Ask Him to show you the way through to complete healing in your life. It is then that you will be able to hear the sweet, gentle voice of the Holy Spirit whisper into your soul the healing balm of Gilead. You can trust Him, after all, He gave you His Word.

Compulsive Overeating

Filling the Void Inside

“A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.”

2 Peter 2:19


     It generally starts after conflict with my husband, a disappointment, or extreme stress in my life. I’m not hungry, but I find myself standing in front of the refrigerator, door open, scoping out something, anything, that will comfort and silence my emotions internally. Ah, I see the ice cream in the freezer. Spoon in hand, I take one bite, then another and another. The chocolate melts in my mouth and in some strange way takes me away from reality for a few minutes. When I realize I ate half the container I put it back into the freezer in disgust. I may even call myself a few names like a ‘pig‘.


     This cycle happens on a regular basis, and not just to me. Food binges like this leave an estimated one in two American college women upset about her body and her life - and at greater risk of obesity, with its accompanying risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disorders, limited range of motion and activity, shortness of breath after mild exertion, gall bladder problems and diabetes. 


     Emotionally, it can breed low self-esteem, anxiety, shame, irritability, depression, guilt, passivity, powerlessness, anger, and hopelessness. Additionally, further studies indicate that as many as five million people in America - most of them women - suffer from binge eating. Robert L. Spitzer, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City, says binge eating can also be sign of clinical problems such as depression or bulimia, which can require professional treatment.


     Compulsive overeating is a seemingly irresistible impulse to eat, uncontrolled eating that is based on satisfying emotional hunger rather than physical hunger, and is a repeated act or addiction that can result in a variety of physical disorders such as obesity.

     

      For me, it started around the age of twelve, in that difficult woman-child transition between not being a little girl anymore, but not quite being a woman. There were a lot of external stresses in my life; years of sexual abuse from a trusted family member, an alcoholic father, and continual put downs about my body. From that point on I went back and forth between a healthy 135 pounds for my 5’8 frame up to 285 pounds. The only way I knew how to deal with my emotions was to eat them away. And while it provided temporary relief, I was always faced with the reality of my indulgence; a growing waist line, continually having to buy new clothes and a diminishing self-esteem.


     The root cause of compulsive overeating is the attempt to meet one or more inner need through eating such as unconditional love, significance, and security. Cognitively, food feels like it nurtures us, gives us a sense of control, gives us a false belief that we are not being deprived. This pseudo-comfort dissipates as soon as the binging is completed leaving the person feeling unloved, out of control, and empty.


SIGNS OF BINGE EATING

     Those who struggle with binge eating know the signs well. They include;

 Eating much faster than normal

 Eating large amounts of food even when not hungry

 Eating alone because of feelings of embarrassment

 Feeling guilty after binges

 Eating between meals

 Bingeing at least twice a week for at least six months


     For many men and women, depression and anxiety are at the root of binge eating. Unable to access tools to deal with these emotions, women turn to food to mask their pain. Doctors generally treat binge eating disorder with a combination of therapy to identify underlying psychological causes for binge eating, counseling about better eating habits and sometimes medication to deal with the anxiety and depression.


     If you are prone to binge eating, try some of these tips to help regain control:


1) Stop dieting. Eat only when you are hungry and eat healthy foods. God gave us a time clock within us to let us know when we are hungry. Learn to listen for that growl, and feed your body the nutrients it needs.


2) Keep a prayer journal where you can express the events of your day and the emotions you dealt with. Sharing your pain, anxiety, depression, and other emotions enables you to let them go and give them over to God.


3) Pray. Whenever you feel the urge to binge and you know you’re not hungry, go to God for comfort.


4) Find your triggers. Identify what causes you to binge and try to avoid it or do something else. If your schedule is overwhelmed with too much for you to handle, prioritize and begin to say no to things. If conflict with your mate sends you headed straight for that bag of chips, stop and go somewhere quiet and seek God for twenty minutes or until the urge dissipates.


5) Identify areas of your life where you may be expecting too much from yourself. Perfectionists have a tendency to be binge eaters. When they feel they’ve failed in a specific area, they “punish” themselves by over eating. This cycle will continue until you are able to give yourself the grace God has already given you in life.


6) Confess your dependence upon food to God as sin and ask His help in overcoming your emotional addiction to food. He never intended anything other than Him to fill the void you are experiencing within when you struggle.


7) Practice the presence of Christ and self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit. Proverbs 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”


8) Remember that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and was never meant to be abused by self or others. Just as you take care to keep your home in order and clean, we must work on keeping the temple holy and clean. This is done by only feeding it when it is necessary, and eating only until we are satisfied, not full.


     Over the years I’ve tried every diet you can imagine and then some. None of which brought me successful weight loss because they didn’t address the emotional aspect of my eating habits. Sure, I learned what foods to eat, but the spiritual aspect of weight loss was missing. 2004 was a stressful year for me. I’ve lost a total of fifty necessary pounds in the process. Normally, I would have gained fifty pounds, but this year I’ve done something different. I turned to God to comfort me through my difficulties. There were moments I wanted to devour the entire half gallon of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey, but I was able to overcome that temptation by going to God in prayer and asking Him to comfort me. You can too. It begins with turning your pain and emotions over to the Lord in prayer. There is no need to be embarrassed. God already knows your heart - just share it with Him. He promises to be a rewarder to those who seek Him. So don’t hesitate, do so now.

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Pornography

Pornography An Assault on Marriage

     Betrayed, rejected, disgusted, and devastated. These were all words Dianne used to describe her feelings when she found her husband had been spending hours every night viewing pornography on the Internet, and carrying on sexually explicit conversations with complete strangers in chat rooms all over the world. She knew that before they married Ed had “looked” at some adult magazines, because she found them when she was cleaning his apartment prior to his return from a long business trip. She confronted him, but he brushed it off as ‘something single men do on occasion.’ But Ed was married now, and , she thought, happily.


     Dianne isn’t the only woman who has experienced such betrayal. According to a Zogby survey conducted for Focus on the Family in 2002, 17.8% of all “born again” Christian adults (in America) have visited sexually-oriented Websites. Additionally, 63% of men attending “Men, Romance & Integrity Seminars” admit to struggling with porn in the past year, with two-thirds in church leadership and 10% as pastors. Further research shows that 1 in 7 calls to Focus’ Pastoral Care Line is about Internet pornography.


     Pornography is described as a sexual addiction that creates an enslaving dependence upon erotic excitement through images or words, fantasized or real, and has infiltrated our world through a variety of sources: advertisements, adult bookstores, movies, music, literature, television, telephone sex lines, the Internet, and more. Regardless of the conduit by which it enters the marital relationship, it robs the union of intimacy, trust, purity, and emotional and physical passion. And for some women, the discovery of pornography in their husband’s life is equal to infidelity.

 

     However, there is good news. Men caught in the web of sexual addiction can be set free. Psalm 25:15 says, “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” This is an important verse to understand for the wife of a husband that participates in snare of pornography. It clearly identifies that it is the Lord who sets the individual free from the trap - not the spouse. Too often women believe that they are the ones that have this responsibility, growing more and more frustrated when their mate continues in their addiction. Wives have the responsibility to confront their husbands in love when issues arise with the understanding that once we bring it to our mates attention, we are to place the results in the hands of the Lord and begin the process of forgiving our husbands.


     And if you must confront someone involved in sexual immorality, look first to the biblical mandate found in Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”


     Not every man who has viewed pornography is sexually addicted, but repeat offenders are sure to find themselves ensnared by the titillating images or words of pornographic material. Unbridled passion was meant to be reserved for the marital union, and when it is experienced in any other capacity it not only dilutes the marriage bond, but also betrays it.


Lies We Tell Ourselves

     One false belief held by some women whose husbands struggle with sexual sin is that they are to blame. They reason that if they were more accessible to their mates or if they were a better lover, or if they had sex more often, their husbands wouldn’t look elsewhere. The truth is, these reasons have nothing to do with why men involve themselves in sexual immorality. Men addicted to pornography often have great difficulty experiencing intimacy with anyone - including their mates. This is generally the result of unresolved issues from childhood where God-given needs such as love, significance, and security were not met. Some men learned early on that people are undependable. Therefore, they avoid becoming intimate with a real person, and instead initiate a relationship of passion with an image that can’t reject or threaten them. In other words, an object or image requires no vulnerability.


     Another fallacy that women believe is that they should be able to hold their husbands accountable for this area of their lives. Wives, this is a touchy area - while you may ask your mate how you can pray for him, it is best if a godly man that your husband knows asks him the hard questions and holds him accountable. Overall, this frees you up emotionally so that you can work through your own pain, pray for your husband and your marriage, learn to trust in God where your husband has failed you, and work towards true forgiveness.


     Many women allow themselves to become consumed with their husband’s schedule out of fear that any free time he’ll use to attend peep shows, view pornography, or visit adult bookshops. Policing your husband is not your role. While trusting him may not always be easy, it is necessary to allow the Holy Spirit to work in his life to convict, help, teach, and produce fruit, which should include faithfulness and self-control. When you become anxious about what he is doing, you are trying to control his behavior, which is impossible to do. Further, it takes your focus off your relationship with Christ, which must be the foundation of your strength at this time. Isaiah 26:3 promises that God will keep you in perfect peace, if your mind is steadfast on Him, because you trust Him.


Dealing With The Pain Of Betrayal

     First and foremost, when you are grappling with the pain of betrayal, pray, pray, and pray. Without a continual dependence upon Christ during this difficult time, you will inevitably struggle with an array of emotions that will zoom out of control. While it is not unusual to fee angry and hurt, it is not God’s will that you nurse these emotions. You can build a support network of women for you and your marriage by requesting their prayers and confiding in one or two of them. Turn to women who will encourage you in Christ, who will pray for you and your husband, and who will listen to your concerns without blame or judgment. Additionally, seek biblical counsel if your husband fails to turn away from this area of sin. Unchecked, sexual sin is like a wildfire, growing quickly out of control. Some women who have dealt with pornography in their marriage have found a support group to be helpful. In this way, women struggling with similar issues draw strength from one another, encouraging others to stay focused on the Lord.


     Overall, sexual sin of any kind is one of the most damaging betrayals to a marriage, giving full meaning and hope to 1 Peter 5:8 “…Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, stand firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Dependence upon Christ is a sure way to demonstrate the healing power of restoration to the one consumed with devouring it. Do not grow weary in the battle, but instead, keep your eye on the prize before you and God will reward your faithfulness.

The Search for Perfection

Driven By Acceptance


     I admit it ~ I’m a perfectionist. It’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life, and I set myself up for failure time and time again. It began early in my childhood years, when I was raised in a home based on performance. While it was never verbally expressed, the unspoken rule was clear: if you perform well at home and in school, love and acceptance will be yours for the taking. But fail in any capacity, you will face isolation, rejection, and love is withheld. Inadvertently, I learned to put on a façade of perfection regardless of what was going on inside of me.


     I’m not the only person in the Body of Christ that struggles with perfection. Many believers wrestle with the haunting expectation that everything they say and do will be measured against the unattainable goal of perfection. In turn, we are seldom, if ever, satisfied with ourselves. We second guess our actions, doubting ourselves continually. We believe we should never make mistakes and that when we do, it’s catastrophic. We tend to dwell in a world of the ways things “should” be, ignoring the reality of how things really are, and often expect more from ourselves and others than is reasonable. However, the common result of perfectionism is anger and bitterness.


     Perfectionism stems from an insecurity that is driven by haunting fears of being rejected. It steals the joy of God’s grace from our lives, and we end up with emotional problems, relationship difficulties, and spiritual burnout. The goal of perfection need not be a life-long problem in a woman of God. It is the Fathers desire to heal us from this enslavement of perfection. To do so, the believer must be willing to trade her definition of perfection for Gods’.


WHAT IS PERFECTION?

     All people are sinful beings who serve a perfect God. Fortunately for us, God doesn’t expect or require perfection to earn His acceptance. If we could obtain perfection aside of God, why would we need a Savior? The Bible reintegrates time and time again that the only way to become perfect is through a relationship and dependence upon Christ. This is done progressively throughout an entire lifetime, as we continually lay our weaknesses at His feet, allowing Him to make them our strengths.


     If Bible characters are to be our example, we can see lives that demonstrate the ‘ups and downs’ of this progressive process of attaining perfection. Their lives show us that God is equally interested in the process of perfection as He is in the result. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon expresses the mentality by which he had lived most of his life. After a lifetime of seeking riches of this world, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was brought to repentance about his worldly pursuit and his attempt to find peace, joy and identity in temporal things. Solomon spent his life obtaining ’things.’ He had wisdom, pleasure, human achievement, and great wealth, but never obtained perfection on earth. Looking back over his own life, he called these things ‘meaningless, a chasing after the wind.‘ Solomon learned first hand that without a proper relationship to God, we cannot obtain identity, value, or perfection (Ecc. 1:14; 2:1,11).


     The Apostle Paul is another great example. He could have been considered the “perfect” Jew. He was born with a strong pedigree, followed the law, and focused on proper desires with zeal. He even uses the word blameless when describing himself. Basically, on the outside, Paul looked perfect. He tells us in Phillipians that his “perfection” counted for nothing. He came to realize that his pedigree, training, background, wealth, abilities, gifts, or appearance, can’t ever be perfect enough to earn acceptance or salvation from God.


REALISTIC GOALS

     Every believer should have a goal of becoming perfect (Matthew 5:48). This is not attainable if perfection is understood as sinlessness, or reaching a position in life where there is no longer the capacity to sin. Biblical perfection is described as being ‘mature in Christ.’ If we think of the word ‘perfect‘ and replace it with the word ‘mature,‘ we will begin to see ourselves and others differently. The Biblical definition encompasses a personal relationship with Christ founded on ever-growing faith and dependence upon Him.


     We must recognize that there is a difference between presenting ourselves as perfect, and striving to become perfect. If our goal is to be perfect in the worldly sense, it is unrealistic. If it is to become perfect in a godly sense which is progressive, the goal is obtainable as we mature and grow dependent upon Him in all areas of our lives. We must keep in mind however, that progressive goals are attainable in small steps, generally using trial and error as we hold fast to God‘s standard of living for our lives. This standard is not coupled with legalism, but intertwined with grace.


     When Jesus exhorted His disciples to be perfect as God the Father is perfect, He meant that God is the standard against which everything else must be measured. We are exhorted to be perfect in the sense of striving, by the Holy Spirit, to be like Him. While we will never reach this ultimate goal in our earthly life, we are encouraged to pursue it.


OVERCOMING WORLDLY PERFECTIONISM

     Perfectionism pursues the need to be loved and accepted, without being content with the gifts and talents God gave us. The following suggestions may help in working through this process.


 Become more realistic in your view of self and others. Do this by humbling yourself before the Lord, repenting of being prideful enough to think we could be His equal ~ or even present ourselves as such.


 Focus on the reality of how life is now, not how it “should” be.


 Set attainable goals that are small, realistic, and achievable.


 Set reasonable time limits for projects. Perfectionists often spend excessive amounts of time and energy on activities in order to do them perfectly, then beat themselves up for not completing them fast enough.


 Learn from your mistakes instead of hiding them. No one is perfect ~ everyone makes mistakes, so step back from the self-criticism.


 Acknowledge your struggles to others. By sharing moral imperfections and personality flaws, perfectionists invite others to see them as they really are, exposing pride and self-reliance. Living a life of transparency builds healthy relationships, and invites others to share in their struggles.


     We often miss that, in the goal of perfectionism, it is our mistakes that scream our need for Christ. Without sin, we would not need a Savior. Our errors in life expose a desperate need for Him. Becoming more like Christ is a process, with each step taking us a step further down the road to perfection. The Apostle Paul’s words ring true: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on” (Phil 3:12).


     It is only when we cast ourselves before God and allow Him to use our backgrounds, training and gifts for His glory will we find complete fulfillment. Only when we repent of our sins and accept Him as our Savior does He do His perfect work in us. Perfectionists are notorious for equating their worth with their performance. We must learn that God loves us regardless of our behavior or success.


     Within every believer there is a deep yearning for the perfection that was lost in Eden, which will only be obtained in heaven. Something inside knows that no matter how good things are ~ they should be better. What an awesome place heaven will be, when perfection takes place not from within our won sinful attempts, but within Christ.

Anxiety

Feeling Overwhelmed

Every hope or dream of the human mind will be fulfilled if it is noble and of God.

But one of the greatest stresses in life is the stress of waiting for God.

~ Oswald Chambers


     Worry is a fact of life. But if you’re so stressed out that you often break out in a cold sweat, your pulse races and your blood pressure goes through the roof, and you’re feeling sharp pains in your chest, you may have crossed the border into the hair-raising world of anxiety.


     Anxiety is often vague and undirected, a sinking feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Anxiety often stems from what used to be called borrowed trouble. Anxious people imagine worst-case scenarios and spend lots of time dreading things that may never happen.


     You should see your doctor when you experience panic attacks, which are short, unexplained periods of intense fear or discomfort.


     Your anxiety causes chronic physical symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, chest pains or stomach or intestinal problems.


     Your anxiety causes you to avoid certain people, places or situations.


     Anxiety tends to produce insomnia.


     The term anxiety covers a wide range of problems which result because of unfounded fears. Someone has said that the anxious and the worrier are so preoccupied about what may happen in the future that they forget to cope with the present. It is characteristic of them to worry about anything. They build mountains of mole hills, as insignificant matters assume great importance in their lives. They are anxious about imagined shortcomings, the future, their, health, their families, and their work. They are often unable to pinpoint the reasons for their anxieties and fears.


     Many anxious people suffer physical difficulties such as nervousness, sleeplessness, headaches, difficulty in breathing, excessive sweating, etc. Inability to find relief for anxiety can lead to more serious consequences, such as a “nervous breakdown.” Obviously, such persons need our sympathy, our prayers, and whatever help we may be able to give them.


Ask yourself:

     Why are you fearful about your job, your future, your family ~ identify your anxiety?


     Why are you nervous? Why do you have headaches? Why can’t you sleep?


     Describe the way you feel. Do you feel guilty? Why?


     Are you running from something? What is really your problem?


     If anxiety seems to have been brought on by true feelings of guilt, this could indicate wrong behavior that needs correction. This is helpful, because the problem is sin. It has a remedy~ Experiencing God’s forgiveness in Christ can remove guilt and guilt feelings, which will contribute to healing.


     Worry is a fact of life. Anxiety is often vague and undirected a sinking feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Unlike concrete fears (of illness or losing a job, for example), anxiety often stems from what used to be called borrowed (anticipated trouble) trouble. Anxious people imagine worst-case scenarios and spend lots of time dreading things that may never happen. ‘Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will have enough worries for itself…’


See your medical doctor when:

     You experience panic attacks, which are short, unexplained periods of intense fear or discomfort.


     Your anxiety causes chronic physical symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, chest pains or stomach or intestinal problems.


     Your anxiety causes you to avoid certain people, places or situations.

We usually underestimate the power of fear and anxiety.


     As Christians we know we are not supposed to worry. So, we don’t call it “worry.” We just say we’re “burdened” or “concerned.”


     Anxiety gone unchecked inevitably leads to unhealthy decisions. Any decision made out of anxiety will ultimately prove to be the wrong decision.


     Webster’s defines anxiety as “Painful uneasiness of mind over an impending or anticipated ill; disquietude over possible or impending ill or unknown future events.”


     Worry is a prolific reproducer, and its offspring require room to spread.


     Worry robs us of productivity and joy.


     The bottom line is this: We don’t really believe God will meet our needs.


     “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:5-7). 


Anxiety becomes a problem when;

Your concern is causing your service to your family or employer to decrease.

Your concern is causing you to isolate

Your concern is causing physical problems

Your concern is consuming your thoughts

When your emotions take over such as crying all the time

When you focus on only the negative


Steps to take:

Determine where your anxiety stems from an unmet need or a want.

Wait on Him to fulfil needs. Communicate your desires in prayer.

Keep reading the Bible regularly.


     Anxiety is a faith and trust builder in God. When we’re out on risk’s edge we often feel uncomfortable. But risk’s edge is also where faith grows. Peter never would have felt anxiety if he hadn’t stepped out of the boat (Matthew 14:25-31). But then he never would have walked on water, either!


     To break the habit of worry, you must develop the habit of prayer. It is there in the lonely place that you will gain the perspective and peace you need to handle the stress of life without sacrificing your relationships and health along the way.

   

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Restoring the Years Eaten Away By the Locust

Allowing God to Redeem Your Life

      My family tree began when my father raped my mother at gun-point. Forced to marry her rapist at seventeen years of age by her own mother, my mom entered a marriage wrought with violence, fueled by alcohol, and justified by prejudice. By the time she was twenty, I was born. With my father's panache for violence, driven by underlying rage, and insatiable power and control, I was abused in every way imaginable by him, as well as by my paternal grandfather and a neighbor boy.


     Haunted by the abuse and covered with a blanket of shame, I attempted suicide for the first time at twelve years of age. When I was unsuccessful, I rebelled against everything and everyone; I quit school, became sexually promiscuous, and jumped head first into drugs and alcohol, and didn't look back for years to come. At nineteen, I had been married and divorced, had two children whom I'd abandoned, had an abortion, attempted suicide more times than I could remember, had been in and out of mental hospitals like they had revolving doors, and was facing five years in the Idaho State Penitentiary. No one expected me to become little more than a statistic, but God had another plan.


     Shortly after serving six months in the Idaho Department of Corrections at twenty-two years of age, through a series of unexpected events that can only be attributed as miracles in my life, God set me onto a new path with a promise to “restore the years eaten away by the locust” (Joel 2:25). Over the course of the next ten years I began the process of healing from my past through Christian counseling, I received my G.E.D., went to college, became a counselor, was reunited with my children, began writing for Focus on the Family, among other world-wide ministries and media outlets, began my own radio program, and have since become a sought-out speaker and Bible teacher.

Since that time I have written/ghostwritten twelve books, remarried and had two additional children. But life has not all been a bed of roses as a Christian. I’ve endured great tragedy and trials, but with the hope and promises of God and His Word I have endured and overcome through Christ.


     Whenever I’m invited to share my testimony I’m habitually asked two questions: How did I overcome my past in Christ, and How did I ever learn to trust Him after being so abused and taken advantage of by men?


     Between the time that I got out of jail and became a Christian I was introduced to a friend of my mothers, who had since divorced my father. As a retired Colonel in the Army, Art was always looking into the lives of young men and women he could invest in and encourage to go to West Point. While I was far from a candidate for the prestigious school, he saw potential in me that I couldn’t see and began loving me like a daughter – with no strings attached. He was the first man I’d ever met in my life who didn’t want or take something from me. He was there cheering me on and speaking words of confidence, love, and encouragement as I struggled from being a woman-child into a woman of grace. Those were some difficult years, but he stood by me and never faltered. His support and unconditional love helped set the stage for my believing that there was a God who could love me despite all the sin, shame, guilt, and self-condemnation I wrestled with daily. As such, since I’ve asked Jesus into my heart twenty-six years ago, I’ve never thought twice about God’s love for me.


     Whether or not your history is as wrought with sin as mine, there is only one way any of us can overcome our pasts and that is by making Jesus the Lord of our lives. I am so saddened when I meet people who view salvation as fire insurance. They pray pat prayers so they can experience eternity when they die, yet miss the fact that if you walk in Christ now, you can have a glimpse and taste of eternity every day. How? While there are several ways, I’ve found the best way is through prayer. Not ritualistic, habitual prayers, but crying out to God from our hearts and taking the time to listen. We reflect the image of that which we worship, and when I make time to sit before God I become more like Him; I become more patient, long-suffering, kind, loving and forgiving. There is nothing I love more than sitting before God and basking in His love, mercy, and wisdom. It is there where He’s not only taught me how to take my thoughts captive, but given me the strength to do so. It is where He has personally unlocked and removed the chains of sin that have kept me in bondage and covered me with a river of mercy and given me freedom to fly in His glory. It has been before His throne that I have called out to Him, Abba, Yeshu’a, Adonai, and Redeemer, and He has answered me by pulling me into the refuge of His wings and singing His love over me. It is there that I can hear the beating of His heart in union with mine.


     In closing, the best way I can describe what God has done in my life is that He literally resurrected the dead spirit within me that had been stolen, killed, and destroyed by the enemy through my own choices and those of others, and raised me from the dead. He’s given me so much more than life; He’s given me a love beyond measure and a promise and surety that the best is yet to come!

Rend Your Heart

The Tearing of the Heart


Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, f

or he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love,

and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2: 12-13


     The first time I read the words, ‘rend your heart’ I imaged that I was standing in a field of wild flowers on a spring day with my eyes closed, my head tilted back, and the sun was gently caressing my face with its rays. When I opened my eyes the Spirit of God was extending His hand towards me in love and asking me to give my heart to Him. The picture I conjured up in my head was definitely a “feel good” image; you know, one of those warm-fuzzy, ooey-gooey, sugar-on-top kind of scenes we only read about or see in movies. Boy, was I ever in the dark on this one!


     To rend something it to “tear it into pieces” or “to cause great emotional pain.” Here I had this vision of God asking me to hand Him my heart when in fact, what He really had in mind was that I tear it in to pieces knowing it would cause me great pain to do so! That doesn’t sound like the American version of God who looks like Santa and sits on a throne of clouds handing out free passes to heaven, does it? If we look at the phrase ‘rend your heart’ through worldly eyes it isn’t a hard concept to grasp, but let’s look at the expression through the eyes of God and the Israelite’s to whom He was speaking.


     In many cultures, including in America, people wear black at a funeral or during a time of grieving as a symbol of sadness. In the days of the Old Testament it was common for the people to tear their clothes and put on sackcloth as an expression of their deep sorrow. During that time, the Israelite’s formed an agricultural society and clothing was expensive. They didn’t just run down to Jerusalem’s local Macy’s and pull out the plastic. Nothing was mass-produced in those days (except kids and animals). Every piece of clothing was hand stitched and therefore time-intensive, meaning of course that everyone had a very limited wardrobe. Clothing was a valuable commodity so when people tore their clothes, they were showing internal anguish externally. After tearing their garments some people showed the magnitude of their grief by putting on “sackcloth,” a coarse and scratchy material (think raw-wool-drive-you-crazy-itchy) that was extremely uncomfortable, but was another way to display their great distress and agony.


     With this knowledge in mind, to rend our hearts to God is to show grief for that which has caused Him pain: our sin. So the concept behind rending our hearts is repentance. The key behind this is not a flippant, ‘forgive me,’ that encompasses our transgressions as a whole, but to take the time necessary before Him to “tear” our hearts apart to see the magnitude and gravity of our sinful ways one at a time. I refer to this as taking a spiritual inventory of our heart. As part of my daily quiet time with God I go before Him and I repent for the sins I’ve committed since I last me with Him. Then, I ask Him to show me any that I have missed and do the same. When I started doing a daily spiritual inventory my relationship with God flourished. Yours can too.


     I often get asked why we need to confess our sins to God since He knows everything. I believe that it breeds humility within us when we agree with God that what we have done was wrong. Further, it reminds us that we need God and we aren’t Him. 😉

JUDGING OTHERS

Are We to Judge Other or Not

     Lori* was the owner of a small jewelry store that I liked to frequent. I knew she was a believer, but it was clear by some of our conversations that she wasn’t very mature in her faith. One afternoon she made a point to come out behind the counter to tell me about two women from her church that had approached her about wearing shirts that revealed her cleavage. Lori was hurt, offended, and even angry that anyone would dare “judge” her.


     “What did you say to them after they confronted you?” I asked so I could see her heart and perspective.


     “I told them to take the log out of their own eye before they try to take the sliver out of mine and that shut them up!” She answered matter-of-factually; proud that she’d silenced her accusers.


     Jesus’ command for believers not to judge others is one of His most widely quoted verses, despite that it is almost invariably quoted in complete disregard of its context. Like Lori did, it’s not unusual for people to use Matthew 7:1 in an attempt to silence their critics, making it clear that we have no right to tell one another when they are doing something harmful to themselves or others. Plucking the verse from its context and using it in isolation, Jesus’ command appears to preclude all negative assessments of our behavior, however, there’s much more to the passage than the three little words, “Do not judge.”


     To understand the Bible with the heart of God, it’s crucial that we learn to interpret it by reading the verses before and after, considering its context, and comparing the text with other verses on the topic throughout Scripture. Defining the Word of God through our own feelings or perspective will set us up for misinterpretation and failure every time if we aren’t wise. In the case of Matthew 7, the Bible’s command that we not judge others doesn’t mean we can’t show discernment. Not long after we are commanded not to judge, Jesus goes on to say, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs” (v. 6). Then, a few more verses down He said, “Watch out for false prophets…By their fruit you will recognize them” (verses 15-16). How can we discern who the “dogs, pigs,” and “false prophets” are unless we have the ability to make a judgment call on someone’s “fruit”?


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JUDGING AND DISCERNING

     Discernment is defined as distinguishing between behavior that is acceptable or unacceptable before God. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden by eating the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened to what is “right and wrong” and that knowledge has remained within the heart of man since (Genesis 2). Believers have even more clarity through the Holy Spirit whose role is, in part, to remind us of the Truth (John 14:26). Anything that contradicts the Truth is a lie—but, isn’t calling something a “lie” passing judgment?


     When Jesus said not to judge others, He did not mean that no one can identify sin for what it is. When delving into the meaning of the word ‘judge’ in the New Testament, we find that it refers to giving an opinion after separating and considering the particulars of a case that always includes discernment, that is, not only distinguishing between behavior that is acceptable or unacceptable, but understanding the context of the behavior and even our response to the behavior. We are to confront erring brothers or sisters in Christ and practice church discipline, but we are to do so gently, speaking truth in love, and “judge correctly” (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:15).

To be clear on the difference, John 7:24 admonishes us to, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” Taking this verse and supporting it with others in the Bible, we can derive the difference between sinful and biblical judgement in the following ways:


     1. Superficial judgment is wrong. Passing judgment on someone based solely on appearances is sinful (John 7:24). Jesus rebuked Simon the Pharisee for passing judgment on a woman based on her appearance, reputation, and past, but she had been forgiven by the Lord. Thus, his judgement was sinful (Luke 7:36-50). It's always foolish to jump to conclusions before investigating the facts (Proverbs 18:13).


     2. Hypocritical judgment is wrong. Jesus’ command not to judge others in the Gospel of Matthew is preceded by comparisons to hypocrites and followed by a warning against hypocrisy (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16; 7:1; 3–5). When we point out the sin of others while we ourselves commit the same sin, we condemn ourselves (Romans 2:1).


     3. Harsh, unforgiving judgment is wrong. We are “always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:2). It is the merciful who will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7), and, as Jesus warned, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).


     4. Self-righteous judgment is wrong. We are called to humility, and “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector was confident in his own righteousness and from that proud position judged the publican; however, God sees the heart and refused to forgive the Pharisee’s sin (Luke 18:9–14).


     5. Untrue judgment is wrong. The Bible clearly forbids bearing false witness (Proverbs 19:5). “Slander no one” (Titus 3:2).


     As noted earlier, Matthew 7 warns us that unkind judgment of others will be judicially returned upon ourselves, in the day when God holds us to our sin. But, as in many other cases, harsh judgment of others harms us and others while here on earth. When we unjustly judge or are unkind in our approach, we not only hurt the person we’re confronting, but we turn the hearts of those around us away. People shrink from contact with those who systematically deal out harsh judgment upon others—naturally concluding that they themselves may be the next victims—and feeling impelled in self-defense, to return the gift of condemnation to their assailant.


     Another way we harm others is when we focus on the person opposed to their behavior. When we use judgement as a way to condemn, degrade, criticize or scorn an individual we are not doing so in love, but hatred. If we love someone we will separate their behavior from who they are as an individual.


BEING THE RECIPIENT OF JUDGEMENT

     As I continued to ask questions, I realized that those who confronted Lori about wearing low-cut blouses had done so in love, not out of her demise or their self-righteousness. Lori's abrasive response to their attempt was one of defense and one we all have been guilty of at one time or another. Putting our feelings, and often our first response aside, it's important that we take what others are confronting us with to prayer and to other believers who are more mature than us for feedback before automatically dismissing it. Not-so-ironically, the Lord had also been putting it on my heart to talk to Lori about her lack of modesty. The same insecurities and past hurts that led to her attempting to get attention from her male counterparts by exposing her chest also prevented her from hearing the heart of those who were concerned about her spiritual welfare and example to others. Several years later, Lori still grapples with this issue - all because it was easier to dismiss and yes, judge those who confronted her in love, than it was to face her fears, trust in the Lord, and change her behavior. While no one enjoys confrontation, it's important that we be receptive to the perspective of those who love the Lord and subsequently how we represent Him. The truth is that if someone loves us in Christ they will lovingly hold us accountable. As Proverbs 27:17 admonishes us, 'As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’



Raising an Intersex Child

Curse or Blessing? 


     “You want me to write about what?” I asked again, already knowing the answer. I’d never been asked to write about such a controversial subject, and it not only challenged me spiritually, but honestly, it scared me to death.


     “Please,” she begged, “There’s so little written about God’s view and we need it; both parents and their children who are born intersex.”


     “Oh, boy,” I answered, sounding more like Charlie Brown than intended, “I’ll pray about it, okay?” I said, already knowing what God wanted me to do.


     The term “hermaphrodite” is derived from the conjoining names of the Greek god Hermes and that of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Today, the term ‘hermaphrodite” is often considered slang for what today is appropriately referred to as “intersex” or as a “disorder of sex development.” Surprisingly, it’s not as rare as one might initially believe. In the United States alone, over 2,000 intersex babies are born every year, making it just as frequent as babies who are born with natal teeth, Down syndrome, Craniosynostosis, and other common birth disorders. World-wide statistics reveal that over 9,000 children are born intersex annually. That being said, it’s far from a topic that should be ignored.


     To be clear, intersex refers to the medical condition of individuals who are born with both male and female reproductive organs and sex glands, characteristics of both, or, in even rarer cases both XX and XY chromosomes. A baby who is born in an intersexual state is medically classified in one of three categories:


     1) Hermaphrodite – an infant born with both ovaries and testicles and has both male and female sex organs


     2) Female Pseudo-hermaphrodite – a genetic female with male external sex organs


     3) Male Pseudo-hermaphrodite – a genetic male with external sex organs that fail to develop properly, resulting in female or male and/or female physical characteristics

Regardless of the term used to identify babies born intersex, confusion in a multitude of areas often reigns in the parents, child, and those who are a part of their lives, and there’s likely no greater area in which misunderstandings are more evident than spiritually. Are those who are born intersex cursed by God? Is it the result of the child’s or parent’s sin? These questions are all too familiar for those who have grappled with the disorder and the parents who are raising them. For many, false beliefs about God and the Bible have resulted in those born with sexual disorders demoralizing themselves or being exploited as monsters or sexual freaks of nature by others. Neither is how God views them.


     The medical treatment for this disorder often involves the surgical and hormonal “assignment” of gender. This decision used to be made by the pediatrician or parents within days after the child was born, based on preference and historically was a hit-or-miss verdict as doctors performed surgeries without first testing the infant to find out the babies true sex. Those decisions often left the child wrestling with their identity and sexual preference as they matured into adulthood and physically developed into one sex, with the genitalia or genetics of the other. Today, specialists can make the decision based on all of the relevant factors (e.g., chromosomal, neural, psychological, behavioral, etc.) by performing an ultrasound, blood test, chromosome analysis, and even do exploratory surgery in rare cases to find out the baby’s true sex, although this is still controversial in some areas of the world.


     While there are hormonal and chromosomal abnormalities of why this disorder establishes itself, what often plagues those born intersex are the spiritual complications. In considering the answers, it’s crucial for us to grasp the Truth of the Bible and God’s view of them opposed to that of man.


     First, Psalm 127:3 tells us that children are a heritage from the Lord and a blessing to parents. This verse among many others in the Bible does not exclude babies born with disorders of any kind, whether they are physical, emotional, or mental. Despite its circumstances, no one is born a “mistake.” Next, every individual is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and He has a specific purpose and plan for that person’s life; a plan for good and not for evil; a plan to prosper and not harm them, but to give them a hope and a future that intimately involves Him (Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 29:11). There is no exception to God’s Word, despite what the world or those who are spiritually ignorant may say.


     Next, babies are not born with physical disorders to punish their parents in any way. To assure you of this, I want to remind you of one of the most important questions Jesus’ disciples ever asked Him:


     “'Teacher,' his disciples asked him, 'why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents?'

“'It was not because of his sins or his parents' sins,' Jesus answered. 'He was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him'” (9:2-3).


     All sickness – despite its origin (mental, physical, etc.), is the result of human sin (Romans 5:12). When God created the earth it was perfect, but when Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God they brought disease, deformities, decay and death in every form into the world. Before the Flood in Genesis chapter 7 that wiped out almost all living things on the earth, people had the potential to live for several hundred years. After the Flood, human life spans grew progressively shorter, indicating a change in the environment which resulted in damage to the human genetic structure. Now, thousands of years later as sin continues to permeate the world, the human race has been bombarded with every kind of sickness, disease, disorder and birth defect we can imagine. That being said, when a baby is born with any disorder or sickness, it is the progressive result of sin that entered the world in the Garden of Eden.


     There are always going to be people in the world who are ignorant of God’s purpose and plan for the lives of those who are different from how they see themselves. Mark my words when I say that these individuals will be used by Satan in an attempt to discourage or sway the Truth about Gods plan for their life. Therefore, it is vital that we take on the mind of Christ and teach ourselves and our children to choose to mature in faith by focusing, meditating, and believing “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…[on all things that are] excellent or praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8).


     God never sets those He creates for failure. Despite the circumstances or condition in which we are born, God promises that in His power and strength we can overcome, rise above and walk in His glory. Therefore, it is very possible for a child born with both sex organs to grow up to have a healthy view of sexuality, successful relationships, and a solid view of who they are in Christ. In order for this to be true for a child who is born intersex, from early on, the child should be taught how valuable, loved and accepted he is by his family and also by God. He or she is not a victim of divine judgment, a mistake or curse, but a gift from God. We all have our challenges in life, but God promises us that He works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Passion in the Pulpit

                                                         Burning Bridges from Both Ends

“I’m not the man I seem. I’ve lived in this township my whole life,

my purpose clear. But now I’d risk everything; my life, my ministry, my soul –

just to spend a few moments alone with you. God help me.”

Reverend Dimsdale, The Scarlet Letter


     He was a passionate man, one of God chosen. Within the very depth of his heart, he dared to feel and express himself. When he spoke, people listened, knowing words of wisdom would flow. He was compassionate, understanding, loving, patient, and a warrior, both in and out of prayer. He turned ordinary words into psalms and chords into music as his enemies came crashing down around him. He was bold and courageous – a man after God’s own heart, a conqueror in every definition of the word, except when it came to a woman named Bathsheba, with whom his lust was overwrought, pushing him over the edge into adultery.


     Overall, the general trend of King David’s life was spiritual, as with many other leaders in the body of Christ who, for reasons unclear to many, have stepped aside from their God given role in ministry to partake of the forbidden apple; a woman other than their own.

Few can forget the televangelist scandals from the 80’s including pastors Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. In the 90’s it was Henry Lyons, former president of the National Baptist Convention, and since that time there’s been Mike Trout, co-anchor and radio commentator for Focus on the Family, Renowned praise and worship leader Terry MacAlmon and Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard – all who succumbed to the flirting and taunting of sexual immorality and fell so hard that the echo could be heard around the world.


     But according to a national study of 4,000 active leaders conducted by counselors at First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, CA, one out of four leaders in the church admits to indulging in “sexually inappropriate” behavior (including an emotional affair, physical touch such as kissing or fondling, or sexual intercourse) with someone who was not his wife since the time he first became involved with ministry. The study compared four different surveys given to leaders of 18 different religious affiliations over a ten year period with respect to emerging trends in infidelity, and revealed alarming numbers of leaders who wrestle with temptation and choose to step into the web of adultery.


How It All Gets Started

     Weaknesses in our culture, upbringing, and ministry structure may all be major factors in the dance of infidelity. Adultery is woven throughout the fabric of our culture according to Dave Carder, author of the book, Torn Asunder. “From televisions shows to the pages of our daily newspapers, infidelity is all too common and is being glamorized…” It’s not merely television, but billboards, magazines and pornography that have infiltrated our culture, breeding lust and unbridled passion with the underlying theme, ‘Just do it!’


     Unmet emotional needs generated from one’s childhood appears to be another major downfall. Often, when one marries, they subconsciously hope that their spouse will be able to fulfill emotional needs that have gone unmet by their family. In doing so, they set their partner up for failure. Unfortunately, upon realizing the spouse doesn’t encompass their every need, many individuals begin to believe the lie that there is a person out there who can, or perhaps start to tell themselves they didn’t really love their spouse, have ‘fallen’ out of love, or possibly made a mistake in marrying.


     In addition, Carder believes that certain marital styles seem to increase the risk for marital unfaithfulness. “Intimacy avoidant is a marital pattern where the spouses pick on each other and criticize each other in order to keep emotional distance in the relationship. Conflict avoidant is a pattern, in which emotional distance is created because neither spouse wants to discuss marital disappointments and unhappiness. Both marital styles fail to nurture the individual spouses and leave partners vulnerable to looking outside the marriage for their emotional needs to be met.”


     Also, men and women in Christian ministry often work side by side which can lead to emotional and physical intimacy. Most leaders instinctively project an image of power, passion, success and authority; all of which can be overwhelmingly attractive traits to a woman with insecurities or regrets in her own marriage. And despite the home life of a pastor, where his wife and children know him best, he stands up before his congregation with a proverbial halo upon his head. Add in the factor that he’s speaking truth in power from the Bible, and it’s easy for a less mature believer to confuse affection for the Word for affection for the man. For the leader who is often absent from his family building his ministry, then returns home to more responsibility and pressure, the light-hearted, stress-free relationship with the woman at the office can be appealing.


     The leader’s surveyed support this, feeling that stress was one of the main culprits to why they strayed stating that frequent evening church meetings, stress from the congregation and family problems were all components. Roy Fizwater, former director of operations at SonScape Re-Creation Ministries, Inc., a retreat center in Colorado for pastors, missionaries and those doing full-time Christian work, agrees. “Religious leaders live under the weight of tremendous expectations imposed by themselves and their congregations. They give and they give and eventually the well runs dry.”


     According to Carder, “The most important motivator of any affair is the deep desire to be nurtured and loved unconditionally. That includes many components such as touch, attitude, playfulness, romance, sex, and appreciation.” When both the leader and his spouse are active in different ministries, having responsibilities and extensive time away from one another, many of these components are absent from the relationship. In fact, almost 32% of the admitted infidels in this study said they had marital dissatisfaction, indicating that one or more of these components were absent from their marriage.


     As leaders fall from grace, many churches are changing the way business is conducted by requiring only open doors in counseling offices, same-sex counseling and staff restriction to daytime office hours. While these modifications help decrease tempting circumstances, they do not address other prominent factors in the leader’s life that need attention; stress release, past hurts or unmet needs, intimacy with their wives, and the flood of other outside factors that permeate their everyday lives.


Are You at Risk?

     Further results of the study completed by First Evangelical Free Church indicate three additional factors that, while they did not guarantee would lead to sexual immorality, had a significant impact on the probability of a leader sexually acting out. They are:


• Background factors – a history of sexual abuse in childhood; harmful sexual attitudes communicated by the family of origin; and, the parent’s model of unfaithfulness.


• Personal factors – fantasy about someone other than spouse, a family history of abuse or alcoholism, exposure to pornography, and frequent masturbation.


• Interpersonal factors – an unhealthy physical temptation/attraction to others, dissatisfaction with the sexual intimacy of the marriage.


Accountability

     Almost 93% of the men who admitted to stepping over the lines of sexual immorality said that the church didn’t find out about their relationship and 71% said their wives didn’t know. Could it be that there is a lack of accountability in lives of many leaders? Former House Representative Tim Dement (S.C.), believes so, and insists on the importance of accountability. “Part of leadership is isolation. That’s one reason we see great men fall so often and so badly…you are isolated even if you don’t want to be. You’ve got to have some courageous, brutally honest friends who are not impressed by whatever title you have. I look at somebody (who’s fallen)…and I’ve got to realize, hey, something snuck up on those guys. Who was covering their backs?”

     The Bible gives many examples of leaders that had men in their lives who confronted them in love about tough issues. Nathan had this difficult job with King David. Too often however, accountability and same sex relationships are disregarded due to lack of time and effort, and religious leaders take on the burdens of the entire community while they themselves have no one to talk with about their struggles.


     According to Dement, it is the responsibility of leaders who want to be successful on behalf of God to ask for accountability in their lives, or the effects of the deficiency could be devastating for many. “If my marriage falls apart, it’s different now than when I was an elder in the church. My marriage is just as important, but now a moral failure on my part would damage a much wider circle of people.” Christian leaders share a moral code of ethic to protect the sheep in their flock, becoming an example for others and to display restraint in every area. Few are able to contain the trials and tribulations of the community and uphold their own difficulties without an outlet for venting.


Recommendations

     According to the study, the following items appear to have some protective components against infidelity.


• Cultivate your personal relationship with Christ. The survey found that the more spiritually mature the leader was, the less likely he would act out sexually.


• Overcome any negative childhood views of sex. Develop healthy, shame-free sexual attitudes.


• Practice internal self-awareness. Learn to recognize what’s going on inside of you and why.


• Set aside time to process major transitions. Events such as a job change, income reduction, cross country move, pregnancy, health crisis or a death in the family make an individual vulnerable to infidelity.


• Work through the pain of childhood molestation.


• Initiate same-sex relationships, avoiding personal, intimate relationships with the opposite sex if you are married. Statistics show that if someone has a close friend of the opposite sex, the risk of acting out sexually is two times greater than simply having an emotional affair.


• Know your family history of infidelity.


• Develop emotional intimacy in your marriage.


• Get a pet. In one survey, pets ran a close second to wives as best friends, ahead of church members, lay leaders, and family members.


     Putting these suggestions into practice provide helpful tools and would lower the shame levels of those who come from high-risk backgrounds.


Conclusion

     Infidelity in the leadership of the body of Christ has a profoundly devastating impact on the leader, his family, the church and community. Adultery betrays the trust placed by God’s people in servants, and abuses the power of the leader’s role as God’s spokesman.


     Even though many leaders have experienced many of the listed factors, adultery is not inevitable. By implementing the above recommendations, you decrease the risk factor. If you or someone you know has stepped over moral lines in this area, you can be assured that restoration for you, your marriage and your ministry is attainable through Christ. It is said that we are only as sick as our secrets. While bringing such behavior to light can bring unfavorable consequences, the weight of carrying such a burden alone can be equally overwhelming and damaging.


     Focus on the Family runs a toll-free line for clergy and spouses who need help during tough times: 1-800-531-3400

The Healing of Promiscuity

Finding Internal Peace


Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

Proverbs 26:11

     Kimberly was first introduced to sex as a child. She had been violated by a friend of her family, but had never told anyone. In her teens, she gave her heart to the Lord at summer camp, but continually struggled with an internal desire to fill the wound of the sexual abuse with love. She became flirty, promiscuous, and quickly got a reputation for being ‘easy’ as boy after boy came and went into her life like a revolving door. Shame and guilt weaved themselves into her heart causing division between her newfound commitment to Christ and her desire to have love through sex. Kimberly lived in a pattern of sex, guilt and shame, followed by repentance long into her adult life.


     Kimberly is one of literally thousands of Christian women who live in this cycle of sin. Lori, also a believer caught in the web of sexual sin stated it this way, “I was reading in Proverbs one day about an adulteress woman whose lips dripped honey. It was a warning for men not to go near the door of her house, that those who follow her go like an ox to the slaughter, and I realized I was that woman men were being warned about! It was humbling and convicting to recognize myself as a woman of God, but also as someone who led others to spiritual death. I knew I had to make a change.”


     Unfortunately, many women learn early in life what I call ‘spiritual prostitution.’ This occurs when an exchange is made between our ethics and morals for fleshly desires. While a woman does not have to be sexually abused as a child to learn this process, it is often the case. While no money is exchanged, a piece of one’s self is. Let me give you an example. In my counseling ministry I have met woman after woman who loves the Lord. They serve in prominent ministries, pay their tithes, and spend daily time with the Lord, but they have a ‘pain pocket’ inside their hearts from childhood. It could be from sexual abuse, neglect, or even a parent who was emotionally or physically absent and unable to provide encouragement developmentally. It is a natural desire to want to be loved, accepted, and encouraged. When that is absent, that pain pocket aches inside of us wanting to be filled. Every time we feel lonely, afraid, or scared, it’s like salt is being poured into that wounded place. To escape the sting, we look for ways to numb the pain. Flirting may fill that pain pocket with a little comfort. Attention and sexual interaction with another may even provide a temporal anesthetizing to the throbbing need to be loved, but inevitably these ‘quick fixes’ lead down the road to shame, guilt, and overall, idolatry.


     Idolatry is described as ‘turning away from God and making a sacrifice unto someone or something else.’ In Romans 1:22-25, idolatry, the sin of the mind against God (Ephesians 2:3), and immorality, sins of the flesh, are associated, and are traced to lack of the acknowledgment of God and of gratitude to Him. In turn, an idolater is a slave to the depraved ideas his idols represent (Galatians 4:8,9). For a woman ensnared in sexual promiscuity, she turns away from God and makes a moral sacrifice of His will of purity in exchange for what she deceivingly believes is love and acceptance. The truth of this deception is revealed when conviction of the sin accompanied by shame reveals itself after the sexual encounter. This entire process begins in the mind of the believer. What we tell ourselves feeds our emotions and ultimately leads to our actions.


     Therefore, it is vital that we begin the healing process with our thought pattern.

When a situation presents itself, such as interaction with the opposite sex, it is not uncommon for the woman with a sexual pain pocket to begin to fantasize about this person inappropriately. Not necessarily sexually, but to dream about his character in an excessive or exaggerated manner. For example, like how great of a man of God he may be (although he may not know God at all or may not be walking in Christ), or how caring and loving he would be. Sometimes we become so obsessed with our fantasy of who this person is, we put them on a spiritual pedestal, or as mentioned previously, on the altar of idolatry. These thoughts inevitably lead to inappropriate emotions based on fantasy opposed to fact. So, when an opportunity presents itself, we may find ourselves caught in the web of inappropriate flirting, sexual sin, and idolatry. But in God’s great wisdom and mercy, he allows this circumstance to fail and not fulfill our needs – time and time again, so we will realize there is no one but Him who can fill that pain pocket.

While we cannot control situations that may present themselves to draw us off task, we can control how we respond to them. The first step is acknowledging this is a problem in your life and yielding it to God through repentance, which literally means to turn away from it. Take as much time as you need before God to confess your idolatry. Be specific, not general. God already knows your sin, but you must humble yourself to renounce the idol you’ve allowed into the chamber of your heart and invite the Lord to reign over it. Ask Him to show you sexual sin you don’t even remember or recognize and repent from it, calling it what it is: sin. Repentance is the beginning of healing. You see, conviction is from God and arrives on the wings of mercy, hope and restoration. Condemnation is from Satan and brings shame, guilt, and hopelessness. So, listen carefully to what you are experiencing, believing that once you’ve confessed your sin, God has forgiven you and wants you to move forward in complete restoration.


     Next, we must bring every thought under the obedience of Jesus Christ. This involves listening for the Holy Spirit to discern for us truth and deception in our thoughts and emotions. We do this through reading the Word. Ephesians 5:25 talks about being cleansed by the washing with water through the Word of God. Additionally, we must continually pray and ask the Lord to show us our own individual cycle of thoughts, emotions, and reactions, and ask Him to intervene when they are inappropriate. It is then that we immediately yield to His conviction and pray for Him to fill that need in the pain pocket of our souls.


     It can be most helpful to find an older, wiser woman of God to come into your life as an accountability and prayer partner. Be cautious, because this woman must also understand the difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation will keep you in bondage to your pain and sin. For the woman who has walked in sexual bondage for many years, this healing process most likely will be progressive and you may need a Christian counselor to walk through other unresolved childhood issues before complete healing is obtained.


     Overall, remember that God is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him. He is faithful and will heal your brokenness. The Holy Spirit is gentle and will lovingly walk through restoration with you. Above all, do not lose hope, for God desires to use what the enemy intended for evil, for His glory.

When Domestic Violence Hits the Body of Christ

Attention Pastors and Men of God

     In 2002, Liz Claiborne sent me 250 t-shirts that read, 'Love Is Not Abuse -Abuse Is Not Love’ from the LINA Campaign. She gave them to me to sell to help raise money to build a shelter in the small town where I was living. The campaign was meant to bring awareness to a national epidemic - domestic violence. It's one of the most under reported, yet most damaging crimes to the family nucleus in the United States, but even more so among the body of Christ where the twisting of Scripture, misunderstandings about submission and suffering are frequently combined with uneducated pastors and leadership that keep the victim silenced with Ephesians 5:21 and sending her back into the home. It’s a problem so severe that it’s crucial that it’s pulled out of the box of sermons pastors are afraid to teach out of fear of the backlash or because of ignorance, and educate themselves and preach it from the pulpit with the authority, conviction and power of the Holy Spirit. The more it’s swept under the pulpit, the more it will continue. Trust me, I know this personally.


     When I married Scott*, I was convinced I was marrying my best friend, my soul mate, the love of my life. On paper everything looked perfect. He was in ministry, and so was I. We had both been through our share of ups and downs and had persevered, and we agreed we could do more for God together than we could do individually. But I was wrong – horribly wrong and potentially gravely wrong.


     He’s going to kill you,” my spiritual mentor and confidante, Betty, would say to me on the phone a thousand miles away time and time again over the following three years. “You have to leave him.”


     “I can’t,” I’d sob. “I love him.”


     “Abuse is not love, Leslie. Can’t you see? You’re trying to say and do whatever is needed to be perfect, so you can earn his love. But, Les, he’s not capable of loving you because of his own issues.”


     She was right every time she said it. But I believed I was spiritually bound to him and could never escape. Wasn’t I supposed to submit to him no matter what? What if I kept turning the other cheek, couldn’t my suffering in silence lead him to be convicted and stop the abuse? So I endured the physical abuse, pornography, other women, and subtle words of defeat that he threw at me time and time again. Friends and family would simply tell me to leave, but they didn’t understand that I was so engrained with guilt from the spiritual abuse and the misuse and twisting of Scripture, that it kept me bound to shame, self-hatred, and ultimately to him.


     “God hates divorce,” he’d say over and over, knowing he’d broken the marital covenant and wasn’t walking righteously before the Lord. “I wouldn’t have to slap you if you were more submissive,” he’d shout as the sting of his hand swelled my cheek. “Quit being so rebellious,” he’d insist as I resisted him as he forced me facedown into a pillow where I’d have to struggle for breath. “Women are to be silent,” he’d say as he clenched his hand tightly over my jaw, squeezing forcefully. “If I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.” And then there was the blaming, “I look at pornography and see other women because they don’t talk back to me like you do!” But the most damaging words, the ones that shook the very essence of my being were, “You make it so hard to love you!”


     So I’d try to be more submissive and more accommodating. I’d speak only when spoken to and would walk on eggshells just to please him. I’d fast and pray that the Lord would change my rebellious heart and restore my husband’s love for me. On the other hand, he was isolating me from friends and family telling me repeatedly what was wrong with them and that he was the only one I could trust, but that was part of his manipulation and control, designed to shift my dependence from God to him, and it worked. I lived and breathed for him only and hung on every word he spoke, hoping for a morsel of love and acceptance. In the meantime, if he said I was wrong, unlovable, unattractive, or ungodly, I believed it. Slowly but surely the voice of the Holy Spirit inside me became harder to hear, and I became confused. Without even recognizing what was happening, I changed my allegiance from Jesus Christ to my husband. He had become my “savior” who dictated what I was allowed to say, do, wear, and eat.


     Three years later, after I had suffered a fractured back and immeasurable amounts of physical abuse, spiritual and mental brainwashing and endless emotional manipulation he hit my son for the first time who was more courageous than I’d ever been, and called the police. Within minutes the truth about years of abuse was exposed, medical records were subpoenaed, interviews completed, and my “savior” was going to jail for two and a half years for domestic violence, and I was left alone, unable to sift through the ruins of my life. I was blessed to have a pastor who was supportive of me and showed me the love of Christ during that time, but I’ve heard horror stories from women who have gone to their pastors and received very different advice.


     Most pastors would tell you that domestic violence doesn’t happen in their congregation, and would be surprised to find that almost five million* women (that’s 1 in 4) in the United States alone experience physical abuse from their partner every year. Let’s look at that number in a couple of different ways to show you how prevalent it is:


• A woman is beat every NINE SECONDS in the United States.


• Domestic Violence is the LEADING CAUSE of female homicide and injury-related deaths during pregnancy.


• 1 in 3 female homicide victims are murdered by their current or former partner every year.


• Women with disabilities are 40%more likely to experience intimate partner violence – especially severe violence than women without disabilities.


     The most shocking reality for me is that the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex-male partners during that same time was 11,766. That's nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.

The abused spouse or friend can be found in all socio-economic levels, and in all educational, racial and age groups. And, unfortunately, Christians as well as other faiths are not immune. No one likes to look at people in their congregation negatively, but the abuser often masters the “art” of making himself look like an amazing and attentive husband and father in public, all the while he’s also mastered the put down, foul and abusive language, and threats to keep his wife and children in line and the abuse a secret. At times this abuse is so destructive of personality that the victim feels deserving of any physical battering which follows.


     Victims are characterized by low self-esteem, depression, and a variety of stress related disorders. They feel trapped and are vulnerable, confused and uncertain. There is often a martyr-like endurance and frustration, and responsibility for the mate’s behavior will often be assumed by the victim. The vague hope exists that change is “just around the corner.” At the same time, there is emotional isolation and no real contact with the family. Most abusers control the money in the home as well, so the one being abused has difficulty leaving unless there is help from an outside source. While domestic shelters are helpful, sometimes there are rules that exclude some women from their safety such as having a male child who is a teenager, or they are not set up to provide for the needs of men who are being abused.


     So what can we do and what is our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ? Pastors? Victims? The State? A lot more than you think.

The state has a responsibility to work against violence. The Bible says that the state is delegated a “sword” of justice to be used against “evildoers” (Roman 13:4). Additionally, the state should work, at every level, to prosecute abusers of women and children in a way that will both deter others and make clear society’s repugnance at such abuse. Many women remain in the confines of past judicial failure as the state didn’t adequately protect them. Thus, why should a woman come forward about abuse when she knows she’ll be faced with repercussions at home?


     Furthermore, there should be harsher sentences for abuse. First time offenders are often sentenced to a six to eight week anger management class that does little to nothing to curb the engrained power and control issues of an abuser. Abusers need to know that the state will not tolerate abuse against women and children, and even first-time offenders should receive time and long-term, required counseling. State prosecutors should not be allowed to drop charges on abusers. Recently I was working with a woman how had been grossly abused by her husband. He was charged with assault which is a misdemeanor. After he bailed out of jail, he broke the restraining order and was rearrested. Later, he broke the restraining order again. In our state, two arrests for breaking restraining orders amounts to a felony where the abuser would have had a harsher sentence, however, before the second break of the restraining order the prosecutor “made a deal” to drop the restraining order charge if the abuser pled guilty to assault. Once the deal was done there was no turning back. Abuser’s should not be able to post bail as the most dangerous time for a woman who has left her abuser is the two weeks after she leaves. A restraining order is simply a piece of paper and obviously can’t stop them from the victim. Furthermore, what’s the point from a victim’s perspective if the state attorney is going to drop the charge?


     The church needs to understand the courage it took for the woman to come and share the abuse in the first place. Threats of further violence and death often keep them from coming forward. Frequently the abuser convinces her that he will take her children away from her or that no one will believe her.


     Furthermore, when a woman comes forward and shares with a pastor or church leader that she is being abused by her mate, they have a responsibility to expose such injustice. The church should notify police authorities, immediately, and provide support and ministry to the woman and her children as needed. Further, they need to commend her courage for coming forward and encourage her that the abuser stand accountable in a court of law for his actions.


     The body of Christ should recognize the economic realities that often cause women to fear that they are trapped in an abusive situation. While there are services in most areas for food stamps as well as food banks, there are many other hardships for a woman in crisis. If she and her children left the home to escape abuse she may need basic necessities such as toiletries, clothing, and a place to stay. Some shelters have restrictions on who they allow to come in and other times they are full of occupants. It is the church’s role to help those who cannot help themselves.


     Another way the church can help victims is by helping them before they are abused by preaching against domestic violence openly from the pulpit. In doing so, it gives the woman the knowledge that you may be a safe person to talk or come to. Men in every congregation should be made aware through preaching and teaching what it means to be a godly husband, live in mutual submission with his mate, and how Jesus lived sacrificially for the church as an example of how a man is to treat his wife, and how to avoid abusive behavior. Abusers need to be made to understand that cowardly and predatory sin and will not escape the judgment of God.


     Brothers and sisters in Christ should work hand-in-hand with the leadership of their church who often have more insight to what’s going on and the needs of the woman and her children than anyone else. There are often things people say innocently that do the victim more harm than good. Saying, “What did you do to piss him off?” implies that she is responsible for his actions. There is never any justifiable reason for a man to hit a woman. If a friend or family member confides in you that she’s being abused, one of the worst things you can say is, “The Bible says he’s your head and you’re to submit to him.” No matter how much a victim submits an abuser, it only encourages him to continue and reinforces the fact that he’ll continue to get away with it. It’s also encouraging the woman to endure more abuse which is contrary to God’s Word. You’re also encouraging her to set her children up to be abused, when violence against women in the home has serious repercussions for children. Over 50 percent of men who abuse their wives also beat their children. Children who grow up in violent homes are more likely to develop alcohol and drug addictions and to become abusers themselves. The stage is set for a cycle of violence that may continue from generation to generation. Girls who are raised in an abusive home are more likely to be involved or marry an abuser.


     In closing, allow me to say that domestic violence is hard for everyone involved and should be taken seriously. Research shows that abuse becomes more violent over time, so it needs to be addressed early than later.


     THE VICTIM OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE should never keep the abuse they or their children are going through a secret. The more it’s hidden the more it happens. The average victim leaves and returns to their abuser nine times before they leave for good. Living without my abuser for the first two years was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. In many ways I had to “start my life over” again. At first, I didn’t want to attend domestic violence support groups, but once I went I couldn’t live without them. It was so comforting to know I wasn’t crazy and that there were other people who understood my pain. They were some of my greatest supporters and they had a hotline that I could call around the clock when I was really struggling those first few months. Below I have provided the number for The National Domestic Violence Hotline. They provide a 24-hour crisis intervention line and all calls are confidential. They will not call you back if you live with your abuser and if you give them permission to and he answers the phone they will just say they are a friend of yours. They will protect you and help you do what you cannot do on your own.


     The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides crisis intervention and referrals to local service providers. Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224 (TTY). E-mail assistance is available at [email protected] In some communities, cell phones programmed to 911 are made available to abused women.


     For Men Who Abuse…Admit that the abuse is your problem, not your partner's, and have the manly courage to seek help. Begin to believe that you can change your behavior if you choose to do so. Be willing to reach out for help. Talk to someone you trust who can help you evaluate the situation. Contact your church or community agencies for the name of a program for abusers. Keep in mind that the Church is available to help you. Part of the mission Jesus entrusted to us is to offer healing when it is needed. Find alternative ways to act when you become frustrated or angry. Talk to other men who have overcome abusive behavior. Find out what they did and how they did it.

Developing Faith

It's Not For Wimps 


     In Matthew 17 we find Jesus’ disciples scratching their heads after they are unable to cast a demon out of a boy who suffers from seizers (v. 14-19, 22, 23). When they ask Jesus why they couldn’t deliver the boy, Jesus appears to admonish them, telling them there’s a lack of faith on their part. What seemingly appears to be a harsh statement from Jesus was really likely frustration. These men had already been raising people from the dead, healing the sick, and delivering the demon possessed. So, what happened here?


     Jesus said, “Because you have so little faith…” (v. 20). Faith can often feel like one of those biblical commands we need to implement in our lives, but have a hard time understanding. In truth, faith is easy to understand if you break it down. Faith consists of two things; belief + trust. When faced with a sin or a difficult situation, we must ask ourselves, ‘Do I believe God’s Word to be true?’ If that answer is ‘yes’, then you must ask yourself, ‘If God’s Word is true, can I trust Him?’ Both of these answers must be ‘yes’ in order for you to move forward because without belief and trust in God, faith is meaningless.


     Faith is an action word; it requires that you actually do something. For example, today is the first day of a forty-day fast the Lord has led me to do. In order for me to have faith and actually go without food on a daily basis, I have to believe that God’s Word is true, and that He will sustain all my needs, that He will not forsake me, and like Jesus said during His forty-day fast, that I cannot live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. Because I believe God and His Word to be true, I can trust those words and thus go without food and know without a doubt that I’ll be sustained by prayer and God’s Word.

It’s one thing to say you have faith, but quite another to walk in it. The truth is, the Bible tells us that we are all given a measure of faith (Rom 12:3) and that we are to increase, build, strengthen it and make it grow (Mark 11:22; Luke 17:5 Romans 4:19; 2 Cor 10:5), so this means we have to continually work towards developing our faith. We do that through purposely choosing to believe and trust God over our flesh, the world, and the lies of the enemy, and walking in Christ, which is faith in action. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and listening to the Word of Christ.


     When we take God’s Word and write it on the tablets of our heart it gives us a foundation of truth that will hold up under any temptation or storm of life. If you want to increase your faith, start by praying and asking God to increase your faith, then look at areas of your life where you have continual failure and give those areas over to Him. Ask Him to show you what you lack: belief or trust in faith? As a counselor for over twenty-seven years, most times there’s a lack of trust due to being let down in life by others. But we must remember that God is not human. He does not leave us nor forsake us. We can trust Him.


     Together, let us work over the next forty days at where we can increase our faith by giving our weaknesses over to the Lord in prayer, clinging to Him and His Word when difficult situations arise, and by trusting Him when things seem array. He is faithful, and a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him. I believe that to be true, and I look forward to hearing from you how your faith has increased when our forty days of faith have ended.

Being the Spiritual Leader in the Home

A Woman's Dilemma

     If I had a dollar for every time a woman shared with me that her husband refused to be the spiritual leader in their home I could retire to Cabo San Lucas and live off grilled shrimp, steak and Pina Colada’s for the rest of my life. Simply put, it’s a spiritual epidemic in the body of Christ. The reasons for the spiritual injustice vary; some men are too passive, others are too wounded, and still more simply don’t want the responsibility. For whatever reason, its put women in a position, despite what many say, that she’s in reluctantly and out of desperation.

    

     “I begged my husband for years to pray or do a daily devotion with me, to read the Bible to our children nightly, or to incorporate some type of focus on God and His Word within the daily fabric of our lives, but he refused,” Jenny shared between sobs as tears cascaded down her face. “When I began to see my children struggling and our marriage on the verge of falling apart, I stepped up and stepped into the role thinking, ‘Someone has to do it or we’ll lose our children to the enemy!’”


     Jenny’s words have been echoed by countless women in the church. Is it possible for a woman to walk in the obedience of the Lord and His pyramid of authority and lead her family as the spiritual leader? The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes!’


     Deuteronomy 6:7 clearly tells us that God gave man the responsibility to teach and lead his family spiritually. In Ephesians 5:6 husbands are admonished to wash their wives in the Word of God to cleanse them and make them pure. These verses, among others, are meant to be the foundation of the home, and as we all know the substance that makes up the foundation has the power to keep it steady and safe or to make it falter. When a woman is married to an unbeliever or a believer who will not step up to the proverbial spiritual plate and provide that spiritual structure, a woman is not helpless or hopeless – God always prepares a way. If you are in either of those circumstances, pray over doing the following:


     1) Hold God to Who He Says He Is – God has many names that describe His extraordinary character, but two of my favorites are Father and Husband. When a man cannot or will not be the leader God instituted, He promises to step up and fill that need. Psalm 68:5 tells us that He is the Father to the Fatherless. Isaiah 54:4 tells us that our Maker is our Husband and Defender. Go into your prayer closet and cry out to God with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:12-13). You don’t have to ask Him to be who He already is; thank Him for who He is as your Father or Husband and ask Him to provide what you need. I’ve seen God do great things by my holding Him to His Word and promises.


     I was a fairly new believer and the single-parent to a then seven and eight year old when my truck had mechanical problems only three months after my warranty had ended. The repair was over $800 and I didn’t have a penny to my name. As I stood in front of the management of the dealership I heard myself telling him to fix it, and for the following three hours I sat in the waiting room praying my heart out. Notice I didn’t say ‘worrying my heart out,’ but praying. As I prayed I said, “Father, you said you are my Husband and You say that You will provide for all my needs. If you were my earthly husband and we had a problem like this You’d do whatever you could to come up with it; borrow the money, sell something, or come up with another solution. You own the cattle on a thousand hills. There is no resource that is not available to You, and I need a miracle right now.”


     I refused to give in to doubt as I prayed, trusting and believing in faith that He would do a miracle. When my truck was repaired the manager handed me my keys and told me they weren’t going to charge me, and for me to never tell anyone what they did (and I haven’t stopped talking about God’s provision since!). The point is that I held God to what He already said He’d do. Prayer is the most powerful and most beneficial thing you can do for yourself, your mate, and your children. To hold God to His Word and promises means you need to get in the Word and learn His promises. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Get in it girl!


     2) God orchestrated a spiritual hierarchy that we as women need to respect and honor. Since God has ordained fathers and husbands to be the spiritual leaders of the home, there is only one way to get around that spiritual law and it’s not by tearing our husbands down from the role and stepping up – it’s by asking his permission to fulfill the role until he’s willing or able to do so himself.


     We can’t trump God’s spiritual laws, but we can work with them when we honor them in love and respect. After sharing this with Jenny she went to her husband and this is what happened in her own words:

    

     “This had been an issue we’d fought about for years, so I really went prayed up!” She said, laughing. “The first thing I did was ask his forgiveness for continually fighting with him about this topic. The truth is I’d torn him down with some of the things I’d said about him. Then I told him I wanted to honor and respect God’s sanctification of him as the spiritual leader of our home, and that since he was unable to do it at that time I had learned that in order for me to fulfill this role I’d need his permission. I can’t even describe the shock on his face at first, but after about a minute of thinking he said, ‘Yes, you can have it.’ Over the course of the following month I incorporated nightly reading of the Bible with the kids, a weekly family night where we did a short devotion then played games, and other activities that met our children’s diverse needs. It wasn’t long before he began joining us in these activities and when he wanted to lead in a specific area I stepped back and let him knowing that God is working in his heart. Where he sat back I led and we began to work together in an area where we’d formerly fought.”


     One of the crucial points in the transformation in Jenny’s marriage and family is that she and her husband came together in unity. Where there is unity there is stability. A house divided will not stand, so we need to find ways we can be in agreement, but still remain biblically sound (Mark 3:25). When there is fighting there is spiritual disorder and your foundation will be compromised. Stop fighting with your husband and start fighting for your husband and you’ll see changes.


     3) Remembering Who You Are – When you step into your husband’s role, remind yourself and your children that you are the interim spiritual leader, filling a need until their father is able to do so. Don’t feed into any negative comments or unbelief they may have about that occurring in the future or you’re undermining your foundation of unity. God provides for various needs we have through other people and if you are not married, God is your spiritual leader and I encourage you to lean in on Him to direct you on how to lead your specific family. I know that when I was a single-parent it was really hard to work a forty hour week and come home and be the mom and dad to my kids, but the Lord will give you strength and direction if you lean on Him.


     It’s important for us as women to remind ourselves that having a man as our covering or head does not mean we have less value, but simply a different role. God has sanctified women for a specific role as wife and mother and in my humble opinion it’s the most influential role of them all. That being said, we need to understand that we have the power with the things we say and do to build up or tear down the foundation of our home in relation to our mates and children. Proverbs 14:1 tells us, Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.

In closing let me assure you that God is faithful to those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), so run to Him sister, run with all that is within you and jump into the comfort of His arms and rest your head on His shoulder until you can feel your heart beating in unity with His. It is then that you will know His will and His desires for you and your family, and it is then, and only then, that you will have the strength to incorporate it into your daily life.

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The Power of Faith

It Will Change Your Life

If you ask most people in the world today what the meaning of the word faith is they’d likely give you an answer that encompasses their spiritual journey as a whole or give you a denomination. When you look at faith with those meanings it can be confusing when you hear pastors tell you that you need more of it. Today, I’d like to break down the true meaning of faith at its core to help you see the power behind this extraordinary word.

The Bible tells us that faith is “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). With this definition, faith is believing and trusting even if you have nothing tangible that you can see to prove it. This is a big jump for some people, but consider the art of the trapeze artist. As she swings from one trapeze to the other, she must let go of the bar they are holding securing onto to grasp the one before them. They would only do that if they had the confidence that the other trapeze was close enough for them to grasp and they felt they were capable. However, there is a period of time when the artist is in mid-air, between the two trapezes’ bars and where faith is at its greatest power, because metaphorically, faith is letting go of the trapeze and trusting and believing in God.

The Bible tells us more about faith:

• That we are all given a “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3

• We are to “increase” or “build up” our faith (Thessalonians 1:3; Jude 1:20).

• Not everyone has faith (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12).

• Faith is progressive (Romans 10:22).

• Faith is built by practicing it daily, through prayer and through hearing and reading the Bible (Romans 10:17; Luke 22:32).

• Jesus said, “According to your faith let it be done,” meaning when you pray or profess a statement, what you believe and trust without doubting will occur according to Gods Word.


Faith is a foundational truth that you must practice in your life continually from the moment of salvation on in your journey with God. There is not one step in our spiritual journey with Jesus that faith won’t affect or be involved. Every decision you make will determine whether or not you believe and trust God and His Word. For example, every time you stand at the crossroad of sin, you must decide, ‘Do I trust and believe what God and His Word say about this issue or do I trust in my own ways more?’ Your decision will determine where you have put your ‘belief and trust’; in God or yourself. Obviously, if you sin, you have chosen to put your belief and trust in yourself. Remember, faith requires action, so if you believe and trust God and His Word, then you will choose to walk down what the Bible calls the ‘narrow’ road; definitely the road less traveled!

Recognizing and accepting Jesus as your Savior took faith, and understanding the dynamics of faith and its requirement of ‘action’ are foundational truths that you must understand in order for you to mature and grow in Christ, so let’s look a little closer to what else the Bible has to say about faith, starting with how it was involved in your decision to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The Bible describes how faith is not only meant to help us in the process of healing, overcoming sin and strongholds, spiritual maturity, and in transformation, but how without it absolutely none of these are accessible. For example, true biblical faith as defined in the Greek language requires action in one’s life (James 2:14). Rich and honest examples of both faith (trust + belief) and its counterpart (unbelief + lack of trust) are given time and time again from Genesis to Revelations.


In closing, I want to encourage you to consider that faith is progressive. It grows as you practice it in your daily walk with Christ. Inevitably trust is the hardest aspect of faith, but I assure you that as you step forward in faith your trust in God will grow tremendously. Trust me, I know!

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Our Lives

To Guide, Minister, and Teach Us

     Jesus said that He had to depart in order for the Holy Spirit to come (John 16:7). And when the Spirit of God did come, He was given to the church as a promised gift or down payment to confirm to us that Jesus Christ will return (Luke 24:49; John 14:16; Acts 1:5). Believers don’t all agree on how or when we receive the Holy Spirit, but the fact remains that He indwells within us and is accessible to all who have faith in Christ.


     When we pray and ask the Lord to show us what to do in any specific situation, we are also asking the Holy Spirit to be with us, guide us, and teach us. Scripture tells us that the Spirit of the Lord is evident in a believer’s life when:


• The power of sin is no longer in control (Romans 8:2-6),

• Self-control is displayed (Galatians 5:22-23),

• Prompting or leading is given to the believer (Acts 8:29; Romans 8:14; Galatians      5:16,25),

• Talents/gifts are manifested in a person’s life (1 Cor 12:4-11),

• The strength and power to witness is evident (Acts 1:8; 4:31),

• The conviction of sin occurs (John 16:8),

• Comfort through difficult times/trials is experienced (John 14:16,27),

• We have a teachable heart (1 John 2:27),

• God’s character traits are manifested in the believer’s life (Galatians 5:22-23), and

• Inner strength is given (Ephesians 3:16).


     Interestingly enough, it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the desert where the Spirit knew he would be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1). Does it seem logical that God’s Holy Spirit would do the same in our lives? If Christ is our example, then the answer is yes, and for the same reason – so that we may glorify God. Additionally, difficulty in life increases our faith and helps us grow in spiritual maturity, both of which are evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Through the Holy Spirit the believer is controlled by God’s desires and is equipped to do all He has called him to do, including the endurance of suffering (Ephesians 5:18-21; Romans 12).


     We read in Acts that after Jesus was taken up into heaven, the early Christians were suffering tremendous grief over their loss. But Jesus had promised them a Comforter, and sure enough, at Pentecost they received that comfort through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The predominant role of the Holy Spirit is the same now as it was for the early believers – to soothe our grief, fill and control us, and remind us all of Christ’s teachings.


     There may be times when we must wait patiently for the fulfillment of a promise. We must cling to what God has told us despite external evidence that may seem to indicate that God has forsaken us. There may be a moment in time when we begin to believe the lie that God doesn’t care, has deserted us, or is not invested in our agony, when in fact He has promised the Comforter who will come. There is sometimes a moment of time (that feels like eternity) between our loss or grief and the fulfillment of a promise. Even Jesus experienced this when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”


     The apostle Paul tells us in Acts 20 that the Holy Spirit warned him that he would face prison and other hardships. His response? “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus” (v. 24). The “ministry” he spoke of was that of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace, which is always sufficient when needed. So, keep your head up my friend, and keep your eyes on the Prize and your feet on the Rock and you will not falter.