Conquering Your Fear of Intimacy (1)

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‘They were both naked…and were not ashamed.’ Genesis 2:25 NKJV

Adam and Eve had no secrets from each other. ‘They were both naked…and were not ashamed.’ As a couple, God said they had power to rule the world. And that’s when Satan entered the picture. What did he attack? Their intimacy! ‘The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.’ (Genesis 2:7 NKJV)

The word intimacy means ‘to be open, transparent, and trusting.’ When Adam and Eve lost that, they started hiding from God—and each other. And we’ve been hiding from each other ever since. Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of any meaningful relationship. Without it, relationships become shallow and unfulfilling. We are afraid of revealing to others our fears, needs, insecurities, secrets, hopes, dreams, weird opinions or our undesirable parts. And this fear is rooted in the fear of loneliness: ‘If you really knew me, you’d leave me.’ Or the fear of inadequacy: ‘You may be disappointed in me because I cannot fulfil all your expectations.’ Or the fear of losing control: ‘Now that you know how I feel, you may use it to control me.’ Women play ‘hard to get’ and men play the ‘tough guy’ who doesn’t need anybody.

What’s the answer? Learning to pray together. Our most honest moments are before the God who already knows everything about us. When we share such moments the barriers come down, our hearts tenderize toward one another, and we move closer together.

The Father/Son Talk (2)

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‘With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.’ Proverbs 7:21 NKJV

Psychologist Henry Brandt tells how his son got upset when he wouldn’t permit him to go out alone in a car with a girl down to the lake after dark. ‘What’s wrong, Dad?’ demanded the son. ‘Don’t you trust me?’ Brandt replied: ‘In a car, alone at night, in front of a lake, with a beautiful girl? I wouldn’t trust me!’ Solomon got involved early and strongly in the lives of his children, and educated them about God’s perspective on sex. The three largest sections in Proverbs dealing with one topic are found in chapters 5 through 7. In chapters 5 and 6, Solomon dealt exclusively with premarital sex—fornication. He devoted almost the entirety of chapter 7 to extramarital sex—adultery. And in between, he gave a frank discussion of sex within the will of God.

For too long pastors and parents have kept their heads buried in the sand, hoping this topic would just go away. But the subject can’t be avoided. Pollster George Gallup stated: ‘There’s no question about it, sex-related issues are going to become the most important issues facing all churches in the foreseeable future. Abortion, AIDS, premarital sex, homosexuality—all those are going to be at the vortex.’ Solomon warned his son, ‘With her enticing speech she caused him to yield.’

So whether you’re a father, a mother, a single parent, or even a grandparent, your child won’t make the wrong move if they’re not in the wrong place, with the wrong person, at the wrong time. So teach them, ‘If you don’t want to get burned, stay away from the fire!’

The Father/Son Talk (1)

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‘My son, hear the instruction of your father.’ Proverbs 1:8 NKJV

In Proverbs the words my son are used twenty-three times, and the word father is used nineteen times. So it’s a letter from a father to his son. It’s also a letter from a father to other fathers, about being a good father. It not only teaches a father how to lead his children, but how to live before them.

Interestingly, the letter contains a lot of warnings about the misuse of sex and the heartache it can bring. We’ve probably all heard the story of the twelve-year-old boy whose dad said, ‘Son, don’t you think it’s time we had a talk about sex?’ The little guy said, ‘Sure, Dad. What do you want to know?’ The sad truth is that today our children are getting their sex education in school, from their friends, from the internet and from experimentation—but not at home. Solomon writes, ‘Why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman?’ (Proverbs 5:20 NKJV) Sex education is the answer—as long as it involves the right teacher, the right classroom and the right curriculum. And the right teacher is you, Dad; the right classroom is your home; and the right curriculum is the Bible. A study of 10,000 high school students revealed that strong parental values and supervision have the most significant effect on a teen’s sexual activity. Parents who had a close relationship with their daughters and supervised their schoolwork and activities, were able by 42 percent to curb the likelihood that they’d ever become pregnant out of wedlock.

So Dad (and Mum), speak up. Get involved. You can’t afford not to!

If You Want It, Give It!

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‘You will be given a full amount in return.’ Luke 6:38 CEV

One night a man came to Mother Teresa’s house and told her about a family of eight who hadn’t eaten for a week. When she got there she saw the faces of little ones suffering from malnutrition, so she gave them a sack of rice. Then the children’s mother did something interesting. She kept half the rice and went out carrying the other half. When she returned Mother Teresa asked, ‘Where did you go?’ She answered, ‘To my neighbors; they’re hungry also.’ Mother Teresa says, ‘I wasn’t surprised that she gave; the poor are usually very generous. But I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we’re suffering we’ve no time for others.’

The Bible teaches that when you focus on the needs of others God will make sure your needs get met too. (See Ephesians 6:8) So if you want it, give it! Here’s why: (1) Giving is the key to blessing. Jesus said, ‘If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap.’ (2) The seed you sow now decides the size of the harvest you’ll reap later. No seed is too little to multiply if you’re willing to sow it. By finding a cause greater than your own self-interest and pouring yourself into it, you discover two things: first, it’s ok to acknowledge your limitations as long as you don’t build your life around them. Second, God’s blessing is released when you give what you have instead of talking about what you don’t have.

So if you want it, give it!

The Principle of Reciprocity

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‘God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor.’ Acts 10:4 CEV

Up until this time the Gospel had been preached exclusively to the Jews. But all that was about to change: ‘One afternoon at about three o’clock, Cornelius had a vision. He saw an angel from God coming to him and calling him by name… “God has heard your prayers and knows about your gifts to the poor. Now send some men to Joppa for a man named Simon Peter.”’ (Acts 10:3–5 CEV) As a result of Cornelius’ prayers and generosity, he became the first Gentile to hear the Gospel and be saved. What a payoff!

God hears the kind words you speak to others when they’re hurting. He sees your sacrificial giving when you can least afford it. By doing what you’re doing, you’re paving the way for God to help you. He’s storing it all up so that in your time of need you’ll have a rich account to draw on. A lady was praying about starting a pet-grooming business but she couldn’t afford to advertise. So she went to her local animal shelter and volunteered to groom the pets to increase their chances for adoption. Interestingly, the harder she worked, the more her own business grew by word of mouth until she ended up with more clients than she could handle.

You say, ‘Does that mean if I don’t help others God won’t help me?’ Thankfully, no! God’s love is unconditional. But when you say ‘no’ to an opportunity to give, you miss out on an opportunity to receive. The principle of reciprocity is simple: when you’re generous with others, God promises to be generous with you. (See 2 Corinthians 9:6–8)

Never Assume

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‘The hand of the diligent makes rich.’ Proverbs 10:4 NKJV

Never assume your instructions are clearly understood and will be carried out. The Bible says, ‘The hand of the diligent makes rich,’ and the word diligent means paying careful attention to details.

When you give someone instructions, check to be sure they’ve made a note of them. If not, you should be concerned. The unlearned and uncommitted tend to trust their memory with everything, but the shortest pencil is still better than the longest memory. When someone doesn’t consider what you’re saying important enough to write down, they are sending you a signal; the light is flashing red. Even if their intentions are good, in their busyness or overconfidence your instructions can easily be forgotten. Those who are follow-through people always ask additional questions about the assignment and instructions you give them. For example, when you ask them to telephone somebody about a particular matter, they should automatically ask you: (a) Is there a deadline on this? (b) When do you need a report back on the results of this call? (c) Is there any additional information I need to know? If those kinds of questions are not forthcoming, chances are that person is not giving enough thought to their assignment. When someone tells you, ‘I’ll try to get to it,’ that’s another flashing red light, because much of the time they won’t. The word try often reveals halfheartedness. Give your instructions to one specific person—not two. Document the date you gave it to them and when you need them to report back.

In other words: only give instructions to someone who is qualified to receive and implement them.

Knowing You’ve Truly Forgiven Someone

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‘They didn’t even smell of smoke!’ Daniel 3:27 NLT

When King Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace, God brought them out and ‘they didn’t even smell of smoke!’ We’ve all encountered people who still ‘smell like smoke’. Their attitude says, ‘I’ve been through a hard time, and I’m still upset about it.’ How about you? Have the experiences you’ve been through hardened your heart or softened it? When you speak, do you sound positive or negative? Are you bound by the memories of your past? Do you talk about your pain to anyone who will listen? Don’t you see what you’re doing—chaining yourself to the past? When circus elephants are young and unaware of their strength, they’re bound by a chain to a stake to limit their mobility. Later when they’re full-grown and have the strength to break that chain, they’re still bound by it. Why? Because they accept this limitation as permanent!

But it’s not the chain that binds them, it’s the memory! If you are bound by painful and debilitating memories, the word for you today is: ‘Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honor. They are now dead, they live no more; their spirits do not rise. You punished them and brought them to ruin; you wiped out all memory of them.’ (Isaiah 26:13–14 NIV)

Whatever your haunting memory is, you must begin to declare your deliverance from its bondage. By standing on God’s Word, you activate its power to set you free.

Is God Directing You To Zarephath?

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‘Go at once to Zarephath… and stay there.’ 1 Kings 17:9 NIV

The stream Elijah had been drinking from dried up and the ravens that brought him food every day stopped coming. When that happens God’s trying to get your attention! He’s getting you ready to move. Next God sent Elijah to an impoverished widow in the town of Zarephath, assuring him that she’d feed him. That must have been difficult for a leader who was used to ministering to others. Elijah found the widow in the middle of a famine, cooking one last meal for herself and her son. Nevertheless he challenged her to obey God, promising, ‘There will always be flour and olive oil… in your containers until… the Lord sends rain and the crops grow.’ (1 Kings 17:14 NLT) What gave Elijah the faith to say that? Because he’d proven God’s faithfulness in his own life!

You can only talk in faith when you walk in faith. And associating with people of faith is contagious; it builds your faith. That’s what happened to this widow. She and her son may not have eaten a five-course meal every night, but God made sure that for the duration of the famine they had all they needed. So if you don’t have everything you want right now, obey God with what He’s given you and trust Him that when the time is right He’ll send an increase. Notice also, the faith of both the widow and the prophet was tested. So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned believer, tests of faith will keep coming your way.

Is God directing you to your own personal Zarephath today? Don’t argue! ‘Go at once,’ because His blessing hinges on your obedience.

Ten Commandments for a Great Marriage

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‘Honor…marriage.’ Hebrews 13:4 NLT

Here are Ten Commandments for building a great marriage:

(1) God said, ‘Honor…marriage,’ so remain faithful to one another. Forsaking all others, put your mate before your mother, your father, your son and your daughter. Your mate is your lifelong companion. (2) Remember, ‘You…are the temple of God and…the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (1 Corinthians 3:16 NLT) Don’t abuse your health with excessive food, tobacco, drugs and alcohol, and hopefully you’ll enjoy a long, healthy life around the people you love. (3) Never permit your business or hobby to make you a stranger to your own family. ‘Children are a gift from the Lord…a reward from Him’ (Psalm 127:3 NLT), and the most precious gift you can give them is your time. (4) Don’t forget that cleanliness is a virtue. (5) Willingly share all your worldly goods, and don’t make your mate a beggar. ‘…love… just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.’ (Ephesians 5:25 NIV) (6) Don’t forget to say, ‘I love you.’ Even though your love may be constant, your mate never gets tired of hearing those words. (7) Remember that the approval of your spouse is worth more than the admiring glances of a hundred strangers. (8) Keep your home peaceful and in good repair, for out of it comes the joys of old age. (9) Always forgive with grace, for who among us doesn’t need to be forgiven? ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV) (10) Honor God, and your children are much more likely to grow up and honor you. (See Proverbs 22:6)

Refuse to Settle

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‘They set out…to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.’ Genesis 11:31 NIV

Are you pressing ‘on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [you]’ (Philippians 3:14 NIV), or have you ‘settled’ along the way?

God made a pact with Abraham—one that continues to influence the modern world. A lesser-known fact is that years earlier Abraham’s father, Terah, ‘set out… to go to Canaan,’ the land of abundance where God later called Abraham. But Terah never made it: ‘When they came to Haran, they settled there.’ No question, it couldn’t have been easy traveling hundreds of kilometers across rough terrain with flocks, herds, children and servants. Can you imagine the sheer logistics! Remember, there were no professional movers to pack and load your stuff! Finally, Terah decided they couldn’t go any farther, so they settled where they were comfortable.

One pastor adds: ‘I wonder how many times we do the same thing? We have a big dream …to excel in our careers…as parents…and in our walk with God. We get started, but things get difficult and achieving our goal doesn’t happen as quickly as we hoped. Perhaps similar to Abraham’s father we say, “Let’s just settle here. It’s not really what we wanted, but it’s good enough.” Don’t fall into that trap. You were made for more than “good enough”…Don’t settle for a little love and joy, a bit of peace and contentment, or a small helping of happiness… Pull up stakes, pack your tents, get your belongings, and start moving forward. Enlarge your vision. You may have had a delay, but…you can begin again.’