Staying When You Feel Like Leaving (4)

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‘Leave your troubles with the Lord…’ Psalm 55:22 GNT

Give your marriage to God. The last word on the matter must be God’s Word! Seeking professional help is a good thing, but until you’ve transferred ownership of your marriage into God’s hands, you haven’t exercised your best option. You say, ‘What does handing my marriage over to God mean in practical terms?’ It means two things: (1) You stop calling the shots—that’s God’s job and you must get out of His way so that He can do His work unhindered. Your self–interest and need to control must bow to His will. As long as you insist on ‘being right’ and ‘straightening out’ your spouse, you will remain part of the problem. On the other hand, when you give the problem to God, He—not you—has a problem to work on! (2) You learn how to ‘walk by faith, not by sight.’ (2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV) When things feel out of control, you will want to resume ownership of the problem. Don’t do it, or the result will be more of what doesn’t work. Renew your decision to allow God to have control and work in both of your hearts. ‘Walk by faith’, not by feelings. The psalmist puts it this way: ‘Leave your troubles with the Lord, and He will defend you…’ (Psalm 55:22 GNT) When you trust God to handle it, three things happen: (a) you experience peace; (b) your spouse’s resistance is likely to diminish because you’re no longer stirring the pot; (c) God goes to work: ‘…He who began a good work in you [both] will bring it to completion…’ (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Staying When You Feel Like Leaving (3)

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‘Pray then like this…Your will be done…’ Matthew 6:9-10 ESV

Here are another two helpful keys to resolving marriage conflict: (1) Let God direct your prayers. Prayer can be closed–ended or open–ended. When we think that our perspective is the only accurate one, we pray closed–ended prayers calling on God to solve the problem our way, believing it’s the only correct way. However, closed–ended praying produces two problems. First, it locks us into rigid thinking and blinds us to other perspectives. Secondly, it keeps us from seeing God’s perspective, the one that can heal and restore the relationship. Open–ended praying asks God to solve the problem His way. ‘Pray then like this…Your will be done…’ Ask God to reveal His will to you both, wait until He does, then pray accordingly. The Bible says: ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us…we know that we have what we asked of Him.’ (1 John 5:14–15 NIV) (2) Remove the conditions from your love. Does this sound difficult? Love is a biblical command, not an arbitrary emotion. God’s not asking you to feel warm and fuzzy; He’s asking you to act in a loving way. Wouldn’t that be hypocritical? No, it’s rising above resentment, hurt, and fear, and practising real faith. It means asking yourself: ‘If I were loving unconditionally right now, what would I be doing? How would I be responding to my spouse?’ Then do it. The Bible says, ‘Love never fails…’ (1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV) You can lovingly act your way into a new way of feeling for both you and your spouse.

Staying When You Feel Like Leaving (2)

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‘In order that Satan might not outwit us…’ 2 Corinthians 2:11 NIV

Recognise who the real enemy of your marriage is. On those days when you think, ‘I can’t spend another moment in this relationship,’ it’s easy to lose perspective and focus on the wrong things. Marriage was God’s idea. He planned it as the foundation of His earthly Kingdom. That makes marriage one of Satan’s prime targets. It’s why he poisoned the perspective and confused the thinking of the first couple. He deceived Adam into believing that Eve was his problem, blaming the fiasco on her (Genesis 3:12). But both of them were deceived by ‘…the father of lies.’ (John 8:44 NLT) Satan knew he could undermine God’s plan by driving a wedge between the first couple, creating antagonism, blame and self–interest, and his methods haven’t changed. It’s why we ‘keep tabs’ on each other’s shortcomings, identifying our mate as the problem and refusing to show grace. Paul helps us understand how to overcome Satan’s strategy. ‘…I have forgiven in the sight of Christ…in order that Satan might not outwit us…we are not unaware of his schemes.’ (2 Corinthians 2:10–11 NIV) Then he counsels us further by saying that ‘…love… keeps no record of wrongs…’ (1 Corinthians 13:4–5 NIV) That doesn’t mean love lives in denial, but that it chooses to practise self–denial! So rather than keeping score of your spouse’s worst qualities, choose to look for their best ones and show your appreciation. Nothing melts resentment and hardness like expressing appreciation for each other.

Staying When You Feel Like Leaving (1)

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‘…humans must not pull apart what God has put together.’ Mark 10:9 CEB

Not every relationship can be saved. When physical, mental or emotional abuse threatens your child’s safety, or your own, you may be forced to leave. Failing to do so could lead to tragedy, but where a workable resolution can be found, a troubled relationship can become a source of shared joy and fulfilment. Here are some keys to make staying worthwhile: Adopt God’s perspective on sin—yours and your spouse’s. One of the major problems is the way we classify sin—especially our spouse’s. You’re understandably overwrought and anxious because they’re incorrigible and selfish. They’re the wilful sinner—you’re the offended saint. They need a major overhaul, and you’re responsible to see they get it. Things like being critical, nagging and controlling seem like small things compared to a spouse who swears, drinks and visits porn sites. From God’s perspective, sin is sin—yours and theirs! It’s all harmful to relationships. Stop ‘classifying’ sin and try to discover the relationship–transforming power of handling the situation the way Jesus taught. ‘How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’ (Matthew 7:4–5 NIV) You’ll be amazed at how God will cause your spouse to acknowledge and deal with ‘their’ problem when you get honest and deal with ‘yours’!

On the Home Front

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‘…I will raise up a faithful priest who will serve me and do what I desire…’ 1 Samuel 2:35 NLT

Being the high priest in Israel was a prestigious job, and Eli seemed suited to it. Yet he failed badly on the home front. ‘…His sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.’ (1 Samuel 8:3 NIV) As a result, God told Eli He ‘…would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons blasphemed against God, and he failed to restrain them.’ (1 Samuel 3:13 NIV) As a parent and leader you need to answer this question: If God applied the same standard to you as He did to Eli, how well would you do? Eli ended up losing his credibility, his children, his career, and eventually his life. He missed the mark because he made some critical errors. Let’s look at them and see what we can learn: (1) He had the wrong emphasis. He emphasised the Word of God to the people in his congregation, but not to his own children. (2) He had the wrong expectations. He thought his children would ‘get it’ because they lived under his roof and worked in the church. But it doesn’t work that way. (3) He set the wrong example. Eli failed to live at home what he taught at work. He had 20/20 vision when it came to his profession, but where his family was concerned he was blind to his own weakness. Leadership on the home front isn’t about power and control; it’s about ‘giving yourself’ to the people who should matter most (Ephesians 5:25). So, how are you doing on the home front?

Handling Your Failures (2)

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‘Return… I will heal your backslidings…’ Jeremiah 3:22 NKJV

What’s the root of our failures? Failure doesn’t lie in the strength of the enemy, or our own weakness, or God’s reluctance to help us overcome. Israel was defeated by a small town after having conquered mighty Jericho. Their failure, like ours, was the result of unconfessed sin (Joshua 7). But once their sin was brought to light and dealt with, God spoke encouragement to them. ‘…Do not be afraid…Take all the people of war with you… I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.’ (Joshua 8:1 NKJV) Sin unacknowledged will keep you defeated, but sin confessed will bring you forgiveness and restoration that leads to victory. Author Hannah Whitall Smith tells of moving into a new home. She noticed in the cellar a very clean–looking cider cask sealed at both ends. She de-bated whether to open it and see what was inside, but decided to leave it undisturbed. Each spring and autumn when the cleaning was being done, she’d remember the cask but put off opening it. Unaccountably, moths began to fill the house. She used every means she knew to get rid of them, without success. At last, remembering the cask, she opened it and thousands of moths poured out! The lesson here is simple: anything we cling to that’s contrary to God’s Word will cause us to fall before our enemies. Always keep before you David’s prayer: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart…see if there be any wicked way in me…’ (Psalm 139:23–24 NKJV) Whatever God shows you, confess it immediately and by faith receive His forgiveness and cleansing. Then you’ll be able to stand victorious before your enemies.

Handling Your Failures (1)

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‘…the hearts of the people melted, and became like water.’ Joshua 7:5 NKJV
Even the most seasoned believers experience failure and the big question at such times isn’t, ‘How could I have let that happen?’ but, ‘What’s the right way to deal with it?’ Indulging in self–condemning thoughts comes naturally to us, but it does no good. It just produces discouragement, and adds failure upon failure. As a result of Achan’s sin, Israel was defeated at Ai and fled before their enemies. Like us, in response to their defeat, ‘…the hearts of the people melted, and became like water.’ Their faith forsook them, and they ‘lost their courage.’ (Joshua 7:5 GNT) Even their leader Joshua ‘…fell facedown to the ground…’ (Joshua 7:6 NIV), despairing that things could only get worse! Have you been there? Do you recognise the pattern? Defeat, discouragement, despair, and more defeat. What was God’s response? ‘Get up! Why do you lie thus…? Israel has sinned… Get up, sanctify the people…’ (Joshua 7:10–13 NKJV) He’s a God of repentance—not wallowing in remorse; a God of getting up—not lying down in failure! Holiness is a path, not a place. When you’re off the path, God’s plan is simple—get back on it immediately. Confess your sin (1 John 1:9). By faith ac-cept God’s mercy and forgiveness. And refuse Satan’s condemnation (Romans 8:1). ‘…Forgetting those things which are behind…press toward the goal…’ (Philippians 3:13–14 NKJV) Like a child learning to walk, when you fall don’t lie down and give up. Minimise your down–time—get back up and walk again. Remember this: the moment that brings the awareness of sin should also bring the confession of sin and the assurance of forgiveness!

The Huddle

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‘I appeal to you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another…’ 1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV

To lead your family effectively, you need to learn how to huddle regularly. The ‘huddle’ is where a team: (1) sets its goals; (2) discusses the division of responsibilities; (3) tackles the issues that determine whether it wins or loses. Parent, even though you call the plays from overhead, your family must be taught how to accomplish them on the field. That means working through things, talking through the disagreements, motivating and appreciating each member. Try to listen with an open heart. Don’t just hear what your children say, try to understand how they feel. Yes, you’re the boss, and yes, you can try to enforce your will if you want to. But sooner or later you’ll have trouble, for resentment grows when people feel left out. Every member of your team has got to be part of the decision–making process. Involve them! Ask God to help you look beyond what you want to what’s best for all of you. And don’t fall under the spell of instant gratification. What looks good to you today could be taking you off the path to a better tomorrow. And don’t let ‘outsiders’ into your huddle. Tell them to stay in their own. Too often their opinions are based on hearsay, self–interest or jealousy. Respect the privacy of your team. Build loyalty. Huddle regularly in prayer. When you do that, everybody wins!

How to Overcome Doubt

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‘…If you have faith and do not doubt…’ Matthew 21:21 NIV

Doubt is a doorway through which Satan enters your life. It causes the ‘fight of faith’ to become the ‘flight of faith’. When fear, confusion, discouragement and despair take up residence within you, they rob you of confidence, joy and peace. But isn’t doubting just human? Of course it is and it’s also Satan’s ploy! ‘…whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given…’ (1 John 5:10 NIV) Your doubts reveal a lack of confidence in what God says. So how can you stop doubting? The same way you deal with other sin—by acknowledging you have a problem and doing something about it. Doubt cannot be conquered by reason or even resistance; it will only submit to complete relinquishment. Trying to overcome your doubts one by one is like an alcoholic trying to reduce his or her alcohol intake one drink at a time. It doesn’t work. The solution is two–fold. (1) It begins with a once–for–all decision. It calls for a total relinquishing of your right to doubt anything God promised. It’s saying, ‘From now on, I will not doubt God!’ It’s believing that when you surrender a thing to Him, He takes it and deals with it. (2) By faith declare, ‘Lord, I absolutely trust Your every Word!’ Will doubt come knocking again at your door? Yes, but instead of letting it in, ‘…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’ (Ephesians 6:16 NIV) Don’t fret, wrestle, or reason with your doubts. Instead, repeat your Scriptural declaration of faith, disregard your feelings, and trust God to do what He says.

What Are Your Children Watching?

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‘I will set nothing wicked before my eyes…’ Psalm 101:3 NKJV

Today our children have more access to the internet than ever before. Over half of all children between the ages of nine and seventeen have internet cable or satellite television access in their bedrooms. The old image of the family gathered around a single TV set in the living room is almost non–existent. Instead, often children are off by themselves where they can choose anything they want to see. They don’t even have to be in their bed-room because now they can access it all on a hand–held device like a tablet or an iPhone! One prominent social researcher put it this way: ‘Almost everything children are seeing is essentially going into their minds in some sort of uncensored or unfiltered way.’ Under the ‘freedom of expression’ rule, the government and courts permit internet sites to peddle explicit sex, violence, nudity and profanity to your children and your grandchildren. Are you concerned? You should be! Why do sheep need a shepherd? For the same reason children need loving and observant parents—wolves! And your ignorance of technology is no defence! Because you weren’t exposed to these evils growing up doesn’t guarantee that your children won’t get hooked on them. Many parents don’t even take the time to know what their children are watching! Don’t be one of them. After his disastrous affair with Bathsheba and the heartache and havoc it brought to his family, David said, ‘…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes…’ (Psalm 101:2–3 NKJV) Parents, what are your children watching?