Monday, 23 June 2014

Teachable Moments

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool (Proverbs 17:10, ESV).

For some time I have referred to teachable moments as times in the life of a child when we as parents can use every day occurrences to teach our children the lessons of life.  On rare occasions yelling at a child is the preferred method of communication, i.e. when you are fifty yards away and they are about to run into the street.  I’m not opposed to spanking but only when mom and dad are completely calm, the child understands what they did wrong, and past practices have proven that the threat of a spanking is an adequate deterrent to stopping unwelcome behaviors.  In my opinion teaching is a better way to deal with not only misbehavior but those times and when a valuable life lesson can be imparted.  Kneel down to their eye level and explain in language they will understand what you want them to learn whether it has to do with cleaning their room or not hitting their brother.

My main point in writing this blog has nothing to do with parenting per se, it has to do with how teachable we are as husbands and wives?  No one knows our spouse better than we do.  We see them at their best and their worst. God can use us to help each other to grow.  It begins with requesting our husband/wife to give us feedback as to how we can be more like the Son.  This is not an open invitation to give one another huge list of things you don’t like about one another.

What is said is to be said in love.  It is not to sound like nagging, a complaint or a criticism.  For instance we should be exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit, one of which is patience.  There are certain situations and people that bring out my impatience.  I want my wife to call those times to my attention.  She might overhear me use a less than polite tone of voice with another person, again it would help me to have her perspective.  In fact I may owe the person an apology.

This feedback should not take the form of a Bible dart.  “The Bible says you should never___ thhht (sound of a dart)  Also question your own motive for giving feedback, if it brings you joy most likely your heart is not right.

This will work as long as I don’t get defensive, or feel the need to counter with some critique of my own.  Through this process I should see growth.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Don’t Waste Your Pain

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  Romans 8:28  NIV

“Don’t waste your pain, that’s easy for you to say. You don’t know what I’m going through.”   You are absolutely right if that is what you were thinking.  I have no idea what you are going through.  What I do know is that I have heard that expression from two people – one I admire greatly, the other I adore completely.  The person I admire is John Piper.  In 2006 he wrote an article entitled “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  The person I adore is my wife who expressed the same sentiment which helped give her hope during a depression a number of years ago.

I recognize that two people does not a large sample make but the reason that both could make that statement was because of their personal beliefs.  John Piper’s words will give you a reasonably good idea of what he and my wife have in common in terms of their beliefs.  John wrote, “You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God. It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design.”

My guess is that this will not sit well with some of you who refuse to acknowledge that an all loving God is ever responsible for allowing and/or causing any form of calamity.  Job’s troubles were caused by Satan but allowed by God.  The Creator of the universe would not be all powerful and all knowing, which He is, if He was not able to control anything and everything.

Nothing happens that is outside of God’s ultimate will.  That is not to say that in some instances our pain is not a result of consequences of our actions but none the less they come from God.

So if your marriage is filled with much pain, rest assured God is well aware of it.  The pain is wasted if you just continue down the same road or if you were to get a divorce.  The pain should serve a purpose.  The question shouldn’t be “why God” but “what”?   God wants you to learn something about yourself.  What is your contribution to the state of your marriage?  Marriage issues are usually relational issues and relational issues are usually heart issues.  What does that mean – what’s a heart issue?

The heart, Biblically speaking, is the mind, will and emotions.  Such manifestations as stubbornness, self-centeredness, selfishness, being disrespectful, being angry, being unloving, nagging, etc. are all symptomatic of something that is not in sync with God.  In many instances it is your pain that is causing you to act out this way.  God wants you to use the pain to figure out what is causing the discomfort and deal with it in a way that will bring glory to Him.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Truth is Always in the Middle – Part II

In Part One I shared one of the more valuable lessons that I learned in the early years as a counselor.  Simply, there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In that posting I said that each person has their perception of reality and their accounting of it can seem incredibly real.  My point was that until you hear the story from another person’s point of view you might only have a distorted picture of reality.

In Part One I discussed cases where women and sought out the counsel of Godly women regarding their marriage only to be told to seek a divorce.  These well-meaning women had heard only one side of the story.  In most cases the counsel did not line up with Scripture. The point is that if you are asked to give advice be aware that you are not getting the full story, and be certain your counsel aligns with Scripture. 

However there is a second category which may even have the appearance of seeking counsel but in reality it is a more slippery slope.  I am referring to going to someone of the opposite gender and sharing your personal life and talking down your spouse.  You may just be seeking sympathy or you may have a more hidden agenda.  Most affairs start because of some unmet emotional need not because there is some delusion that the sex is going to be fantastic.

As in the case of what I cited in Part I, you as the recipient of such an overture must understand (a) that you are only hearing one side of the story and (b) the person sharing with you may have an ulterior motive, even if it is only subconscious.  This is double jeopardy if the person being approached is also experiencing and emotional deficit.  In such a case it is only a matter of time before things start spiraling out of control.

The more convincing the individual the more certain you are that you are hearing fact.  This is rarely the case.  You need only remember that the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In the case described above you must refuse to participate in this “adult game”.  It is hard for well-meaning Christians who want to help their fellow man when he/she seems to be hurting.  Direct the individual to a Biblical counselor and offer to pray for them right on the spot.

 

Monday, 16 June 2014


The Truth is Always in the Middle – Part I

One of the most valuable counseling lessons I learned, I learned early in my counseling career.  Simply, there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in the middle.  In most cases the people who are sharing their story with me believe everything they are telling me is true.  It is their perception of reality and that makes it real to them.  In my “formative years” I found that if the person I was talking with was particularly persuasive, emotional, and/or articulate I would tend to accept their story as fact.  Then I would meet the ogre/witch that had been described and got a totally different picture.  I heard similar “facts” from a different perspective.  At times I still get trapped by someone who is particularly convincing, at least for a brief period.

I cite this experience for two reasons.  The first reason has to do with seeking Godly counsel.  I am aware of too many cases of women who have sought counsel from well meaning, Godly women regarding their marriage, have been told by those women to seek a divorce.  We should always check to see if the advice we are given lines up with Scripture.  In the cases that I am familiar with there were no Biblical grounds for divorce.  Equally important those who gave the advice heard only one side of the story.  One Biblical ground is unfaithfulness.  This can get dicey.  If a spouse has committed adultery, Scripture permits divorce, it doesn’t command it.  God hates divorce and would expect the couple to work through the pain and broken relationship.  Is pornography the same as adultery?  I’m certain it feels like it to the one who has been lied to and betrayed but pornography is an addiction and should be treated as such. That is not to minimize the pain and hurt it causes.  Certainly strong boundaries would have to be set, a commitment to taking all the necessary steps to gain victory over the addiction would have to be in place and the very real prospect of having to re-build trust over a long period of time is very real.

The second Biblical basis for divorce is if a non- believing spouse wants to leave a spouse who professes to be a believer, only if initiated by the non-believing spouse.  We need to be careful with this one.  It is not too unusual for the now potential non-believing spouse to have looked an awful lot like one who believes over a period of time and may have acknowledged being a believer.  Is it for convenience sake that the person is no longer considered a believer?

See Part II.

Friday, 13 June 2014

He Leads Me

“…He leads me beside the still waters…”  Psalm 23 NIV

I find that often I read a sentence or passage in Scripture without giving it a whole lot of thought, particularly if it is very familiar to me.  The twenty-third Psalm is rich with phrases that provide much comfort and encouragement and a good example of the familiar verses that I tend to gloss over.  I am reasonably good at explaining that which is to most, a blinding glimpse of the obvious, i.e. telling you that which someone with an IQ of 50 would understand.

Consider todays verse.  This tells me that God is not walking behind me, shoving me in the way I should go.  He is not walking along side of me, trying to keep pace with me.  He is walking in front of me, but He is not pulling me or tugging me, He is leading me.  I told you I could interpret the very simple.

These few words tell me a few other things.  He doesn’t run ahead of me although that would be incredibly easy for Him to do.  He is allowing me to dictate the pace at which we move forward, at least to some extent.  Because the waters are still I am assuming all is going rather well in most aspects of my life.  These are times when quite often I am not as vigilant in seeking Him out.  Sadly I am much more aware of His presence when the waters are not so still.

Then there is the real obvious.  The King of Kings, the Creator of the universe, the Great “I Am” is leading me.  He is taking a personal interest in me.  If I follow Him I know that I will go exactly where it is best for me to go.

Enough of the obvious, but it demonstrates that even small fragments of Scripture can have a powerful meaning.  When we read a verse such as Ephesians 5:33 “Husbands love your wife as much as you love yourself, and the wife must respect her husband” we have the comfort of knowing that He is there to lead us.

Frankly we are incapable of carrying out that command without the help of the Holy Spirit.  When as a couple we seek God’s direction for our lives, when we pray together, when we spend time with Him individually we have the assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He will lead us.

 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Labels – are You Wearing One?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love you one another” John 13:34-35 NIV

I was recently listening to a pastor out of South Carolina who talked about the clothing labels we wear.  His point was that the labels we choose to wear say a lot about us.  There are many of us who will choose to wear a Ralph Lauren polo shirt, or wear Tom’s shoes.  In both cases we are making a statement.  In the first case we are saying “I enjoy the finer things in life.”  In the second case we are saying, “I want my purchases to not only meet my needs but also to help out someone who is less fortunate.”

This made me think, which is always painful and dangerous.  Surely labels must apply to more than just clothing.  If someone has a reputation and/or a characteristic behavior they might receive a label from people who know them.  “That person is a great encourager.”  “That person is not the sharpest tool in the shed.”  “That person always goes around with a frown on their face.”  We also have particular stereotypes which lend themselves to being a label.   When someone uses the term liberal or conservative a particular set of values flashes through our mind.  We may have a particular opinion about a certain Christian denomination, a specific political party or people who are conscientious recyclers.   I even know some football and hockey fans who have some rather unflattering labels for people who cheer for the other side.

Frankly if you are a Christian you should be wearing a label, the label that Jesus has asked us to wear.  We should be labeled as a follower of Jesus Christ not based on the clothes that we wear, or the political party we vote for or the team for which we cheer. It is our love for one another that should label us.

How do your family members label you when you are not present?  What about your friends?  Are you known as a person who is inviting and loving?  Are you known as a person who is filled with grace?  Are you an encourager?  Are the Fruit of the Spirit readily observable as you go about your daily routine?

When the final curtain is drawn the only label that is important is whether or not we are “a child of the living God.”

 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Disappointed?

“The earth is filled with the love of the Lord” Psalm 33:5  NIV

In their book Love & War, John and Stasi Eldredge identify the core of much of our unhappiness.

The human heart has an infinite capacity for happiness and an unending need for love, because it is created for an infinite God who is unending love…Every woman now has an insatiable need for relationship, one that can never be filled.  It is an ache in her soul designed to drive her to God…A man aches for affirmation, for validation, to know that he has come through.  This also explains his deepest fear – failure.”

We tell ourselves that we deserve happiness and we look to blame someone or something when we are unhappy.  We live in a world in which most things are upgradable.  The Eldredges remind us that

“Your spouse’s unhappiness doesn’t mean you’re an “F” as a person, as a spouse.  Your spouse’s unhappiness – and yours’ means you both have a famished craving within you that only God can meet.”

So the core of our unhappiness is that God created us with a need for love, a love so vast that only He can completely fill it.  Our attempts to have this void totally filled by another person, an addiction, power, money or prestige will always fall short.

We cannot experience such a love by merely believing in God.  Many good people, and some not so good people, have an intellectual understanding of who God is.  Our knowledge is not sufficient to experience of God’s unconditional love.  We still look to our spouse or something else to make us happy.

What we need is a personal relationship with Him.  We can cultivate a personal relationship with God the way we developed our relationship with our spouse, children or close friends, i.e. we spend concentrated time with Him.   Spend time in prayer.  Spend time in His Word.  Spend time sitting silently and listen for what He may want to say to you.  Get involved with people who love the Lord, who reflect His grace.

Gary Thomas is famous for saying that God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.  That does not mean that God doesn’t want us to be happy, but rather God would prefer that we be filled with joy, where God is the source and object of our joy.