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Archive for the month “April, 2013”

The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

Below is an article taken from Christianity Today.

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The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

Domeniek L. Harris

Does your flesh seem to crawl when you come into contact with certain people? When you hear the sound of their voice, does every fiber of your being cringe? Does your chest tighten when you think of them?

Are you embarrassed to admit this is the way you feel about the person you share your life with? There is a possibility Satan has you in his grip through unforgiveness.

Identifying Our Real Enemies

Too often in marriage when there is offense and conflict, we identify our mates as the enemy. Our mates are never the enemy. If we learn who our enemies really are, we can effectively fight the battles in our marriages and rise to victory. Our real enemies are the powers of darkness and our own flesh. These enemies often go unnoticed in the heat of battle.

Our flesh seeks to please itself and cannot please God. The apostle Paul warns us about our flesh, in Romans 8:8, “Those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”

The powers of darkness intend for all marriages to be destroyed. If you commit to God and your mate, you will wrestle with the forces of darkness. Ephesians 6:12 declares, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

When we recognize our enemies, we are more effective in loosening Satan’s grip of unforgiveness.

Forgiveness Is Not

We often equate forgiveness with something warm and fuzzy. Truthfully, forgiveness is quite the opposite. Forgiveness can be quite painful when it involves someone you are madly in love with. In marriage, forgiveness is not “Don’t worry about what you did, I’m fine with it and we all make mistakes.” It sounds spiritual and great coming out of our mouths, but inside we are struggling with hypocrisy. We are plagued by an abyss of pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment. Forgiveness is not lip service.

These unchecked feelings can potentially become emotionally, mentally, verbally, or physically murderous. Forgiveness is not being so numb to pain that we are oblivious to reality. In marriage, when we embrace numbness our hearts transform into ice. Forgiveness is not forgetting the offense. Forgiveness is not choosing to inflict the price for the offense.

I learned to honor God with my heart and not just my mouth. We are lying when we say we have forgiven but unforgiveness still rots our souls. Satan grips and weakens us through unforgiveness. He tightens his grip through a religious spirit that says the right thing while refusing to confront the offense and heal.

Struggling to Forgive

How do you forgive someone who was never supposed to hurt you in the first place? Why forgive them? What about all the damage to your marriage and family? The best answer is you must; forgiveness was extended to you. Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you refuse to forgive, you operate in sin and in covenant with Satan.

These questions and declarations are hard to swallow. I have battled with them in my marriage, but I came out victorious. I battled so much with unforgiveness because I could not see my own sin. I could not see that my unwillingness to forgive was just as ugly to God as the things I blamed my husband for. The reason we battle unforgiveness is because we can only see the depravity in the souls of others, ignoring the beams in our own eyes. I won the battle of unforgiveness when I realized that I was in need of forgiveness from God and my sweet husband. I won the battle when I was willing to face the ugliness of my own heart and surrender my heart to God. I realized my enemies were my own flesh and Satan, who loves to work in my flesh. Unforgiveness is a work of the flesh, and it will remain until you crucify it on the altar of forgiveness.

We struggle to forgive because we justify our rights and inappropriately apply God’s Word. Many of us have declared inwardly or outwardly, “The Bible said, ‘Be ye angry.’ ” We forget the rest of the Scripture verse: ” … and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26, KJV). If we are honest, many of us are angry and sin for days, weeks, months, years. Many of us will carry the sin of unforgiveness to our grave.

Forgiveness becomes a struggle when we seek to please our flesh. We struggle because the Holy Spirit demands that we be like Christ. God is as displeased with unforgiveness as he is with sexual sins, deception, lying, and envy. We must remember that any sin either of us could commit, Jesus paid for at Calvary. Who gave us the right to make our spouses pay for sin when we did not?

Due to the gravity of their offenses, we believe we have the authority to execute judgment on our mates. But God would never entrust vengeance into our hands. Why? Our sin-stricken souls will never view our spouses purely through the eyes of God’s grace. We should be concerned for ourselves when we seek revenge on the people we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Unforgiveness unequivocally implicates the wickedness hidden in our hearts and the depravity of our own souls.

Real Forgiveness Is

Through many offenses, trials, betrayal, and calamity, I have learned real forgiveness. I have learned that the world’s standards for marriage are a slap in the face to God. When we decide not to forgive, we call it “irreconcilable differences.” God calls it unforgiveness. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the only biblical sin for which there is no forgiveness. In most divorce cases, blasphemy is never mentioned.

Real forgiveness is threefold. Forgiveness means excusing the penalty for an offense, offering pardon. Forgiveness means renouncing anger and resentment. Finally, forgiveness is a choice. God gave all of us the power to choose.These definitions are simplistic, but they pack enough power to loosen the stronghold of unforgiveness. As an immature Christian, I thought I had the right to be angry and my sin was justified. It never was.

Several years ago, I went through a very difficult time in my marriage. Having experienced betrayal, my heart had grown biting cold, filled with anger, bitterness, and resentment. In hindsight, the way I treated my husband is embarrassing and was disrespectful to God’s Word. There was no remorse—I believed I was the victim and my actions were justified. How much pride is that? I entered a covenant with Satan for several years, while my marriage burned to the ground. I tried everything to fix it, except forgiveness. I flirted hard with the idea of divorce.

God’s grace is sufficient; God’s Word eventually penetrated my heart. I experienced real forgiveness and it released me to forgive. I was on my knees in the bedroom, praying and crying to God about all the wrong that had been done. I knew it was unacceptable for me to be the victim; surely it was unacceptable to God. The next few moments humbled me into a heaping pile of humanity. God put a mirror to my face. He acknowledged my concern, rebuked me for my sins, and told me to repent to my husband. I was annihilated, but I responded in obedience.

Until then, I had hindered the move of God because I had too much pride to forgive. God has such infinite wisdom. My husband had been asking God how to bring restoration to our relationship, and God showed him that he needed to seek forgiveness from me. That day began a new chapter in our marriage as we both sought forgiveness from God and each other.

Over the years, after much struggle with the sin of unforgiveness, I learned that forgiveness is a choice. We make the decision to forgive, even if our emotions, feelings, and desires have not surrendered in obedience to God. As children of God, we are lead by faith, not feelings. When we make decisions based upon feelings, we give Satan the rope to hang us with. Real forgiveness is demonstrating what Christ did for us on the cross. Honestly, most of us have repeated the cliché “What would Jesus do?” The answer: forgive.

Loosening Satan’s Grip

The devil understands the power of forgiveness. He had the opportunity to behold the glory of God and the kingdom of heaven. He has been doomed to hell and is mad and desires us to share his fate. Satan knows that forgiveness redeems and restores relationships.

Satan is employed to steal, kill, and destroy. Unforgiveness opens the door for him to hold us back. Each day we incite harsh words because of offense and inflict the silent treatment, we strengthen Satan’s rope of entanglement. As the sun sets and we nurse anger, bitterness, and resentment, the devil smiles. We have embraced the power of darkness.

Satan is selfish and prideful; when we are unforgiving we act like him. Unforgiveness is laced with pride—which cost the devil the kingdom of heaven. Loosen Satan’s grip and forgive. God’s forgiveness propels us into salvation and restoration. Your marriage can be restored and bring glory to God.

Soul Mates?

Below is an article from Mark Gungor, a pastor and marriage teacher who we highly respect. 

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Soul Mates and Selfishness

by Mark Gungor 

I’m often asked to give advice to Christian singles. It’s pretty tough for me since I don’t really have experience as a Christian single.  I’ve been a married Christian for the last 35 years of my life! Be that as it may, I will attempt to give guidance to those of you who are dating and single. There is one area that I see as being particularly problematic for single people. It is rampant in the secular world and has infiltrated our Christian culture. This is the idea of “soul mates”.

I know this won’t make me very popular with a lot of people, particularly many of the ladies, but the idea of the perfect “soul mate”—that God made one special person just for you—is the stuff of sweetsy, twenty-five-cent romance novels, and has no footing in Christian thought.

The Myth

“When you grow up,” the wind whispered in the young girl’s ear, “you’ll meet your soul mate—the one with whom you can share your life and experience ecstatic, joyful love.  You will find yourselves entwined as one in conjugal bliss.”

“How will I know who it is?” the little girl questioned.  “How will I find the right one?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” said the wind reassuringly. “Destiny dictates the meeting of our soul mates.  You will meet the one who is right and you will live happily ever after. ”The idea that there is just one special person for me—my soul mate—comes from an alleged altercation between the human race and the Greek god Zeus.  According to Greek mythology, we humans originally had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces.  Because Zeus feared that the authority of the gods might be compromised by this race of beings, he decided to split each person in half, condemning us to spend the rest of our lives wandering unrequited until we find the half we were separated from—our lost soul mate. It was thought that our undying pursuit of perfect love is the result of Zeus’s scheme to keep us busy—far away from meddling in the domain of the gods.

According to this account, a person’s soul mate is the one-and-only other half of one’s soul—we would always be less happy with any other person.  Today millions base their hope of marital bliss entirely on the Zeus account.

If this is true, then when a relationship fails, it isn’t that we have done wrong or failed to do what is right, it is that we have not found Mr. or Ms.Right.  Hence, when relational failure comes, the best we mere mortals can do is cut our losses and return to our quest for the one who, once found, will cause us to live happily ever after.

But come on.  Doesn’t the idea that we were once two-faced, four-armed, and four-legged beings that got split by a paranoid Greek god come across as just a little crazy?  And aren’t thoughts founded in a mythical story really just myth?  Yet this idea has been successfully universalized; most people today hold to this view, even the non-Zeus followers.

Mixing Myth and Faith

The view that there is a predestined one-and-only out there for each of us has permeated even the Christian view of courtship and marriage.  We have spiritualized it.  We teach, “God has made one special person just for you.”

Really?

If that is not the epitome of self-centered, narcissistic thinking, I do not know what is.  God did not create another human being just to satisfy your needs or to make you feel complete.

Yet many believers pray for God to lead them to the “right one.” Instead of negotiating through the decision making process of selecting a mate in a down-to-earth, biblical approach.

Those of us in Evangelical circles have even taken this to a whole new level by encouraging parents to start praying for that “one special person” that God has chosen for our child while he or she is still young.  Rather than praying for our children to embrace righteousness, justice, wisdom, sacrifice, goodness, et cetera—all things that would make them wonderful mates to whomever they chose to commit their lives to—we are praying for that “special one” god has already chosen for our child.  Zeus be praised, I guess.

Surprising to many, there is absolutely no biblical evidence to substantiate such behavior.  The Bible never tells us to find the one God has chosen.  It teaches us how to live well with the person we have chosen.  And there is a distance of infinitude between those two thoughts.  The first assumes that life, love, romance, and marriage are the result of a couple living by God’s principles—that never fail.  But this version, which places true love and marriage on the footing of human choice and responsibility, just isn’t nearly as romantic or seductive.

Many people of faith bristle when I take this position and ask me, “But what about when Isaac prayed that God would bring the right woman to him at the well?”

First of all, Isaac never prayed such a prayer; it was Abraham’s servant who did.  Abraham shad sent his servant back to his homeland to find a relative for his son, Isaac, to marry.  True, the servant did pray at the well that God would help him find the right girl, but he wasn’t looking for some divine soul mate, he was looking for a relative of Abraham.  In fact, when you read the story in Genesis, the servant does not begin to praise God until he learns that the girl is in fact, one of Abraham’s relatives.

Now, if you are comfortable with one of your dad’s employees searching for a cousin for you to marry, I guess it would be appropriate for you to pray that God will lead him to the “right one.”  But beyond that, the Bible is clear that marriage is your decision—not the result of divine edict.  In point of fact, I can find only two places in the Bible where God ever told someone to marry a particular person.

One is when God spoke to Joseph to take Mary as his wife.  Joseph wanted to abandon her when he learned she was pregnant, knowing he wasn’t the father.  But God revealed to him that her pregnancy was by the Holy Spirit—obviously, an unusual situation.  But even in this case, Joseph had previously chosen Mary.

The only other time God told someone to marry a particular person is when God told the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute. (And I will concede that if you are considering marriage to a prostitute, you probably should have a divine revelation before doing so.)  But even then, God did not tell him which prostitute to marry.  It was still up to Hosea!

Though it is not supported in Scripture, there is something about the soul mate blather that is a siren song to the human soul.  We want to believe it –it is so…romantic.  And with this longing deeply embedded in our psyche, we inadvertently impress these thoughts onto the Bible as we read it.  Sad to say, but the sacred Scriptures, which have brought unspeakable comfort and a blessing to countless mortals, have also been used over and over to justify numerous untenable positions.

I’m suggesting that the problem is that we don’t understand the dynamics of true love.  We think we do.  Our songs, movies, romantic novels, and TV shows all echo the belief that true love will always appear when we meet the right person, our destined soul mate. And this love will hit us hard out of the blue—an idea charged with mystery and romance.  So the search for romantic love continues to occupy the minds of people, even those who are married!  The result.  High divorce rates and a plummeting marital happiness index.

The truth is a successful marriage is not the result of marrying the “right” person, feeling the “right” emotions, thinking the “right” thoughts, or even praying the “right” prayers.  It’s about doing the “right” things—period.

Why doesn’t God have a special person just for you?  Because He knows that His principles of love, acceptance, patience, and forgiveness work, and they work all the time, every time—no matter to whom you are married.  That is why the apostle Paul never told us to find that “special someone,” but rather to make sure we find someone who truly believes and lives by the principles of love, acceptance, patience, and forgiveness.  He referred to such a person as a “believer.”

Even though I don’t think there is such a thing as a soul mate, I’m not saying the dating process shouldn’t involve a hunt to find a special someone—someone compatible with you, someone with whom you have made a connection.  If you are single, I think you should expect that, even strive to find a person with whom you can share feelings of deep affinity, friendship, sexual attraction, and compatibility.  That being said, I think finding someone to journey with in marriage is the slenderest part of life-long relational journey.  A great marriage is mostly about two people committing to each other and then employing principles such as love, acceptance, patience, forgiveness, sacrifice, and unselfishness, to enrich that committed relationship.  Marriage is more about work than about divine luck, more about finding someone to love than about finding someone to meet your own laundry list of personal needs.

Living In Light of the Resurrection – A Marriage Story

This past Sunday — Easter Sunday — we talked about the resurrection and how if we believe it, then we should be living like we believe it. And I referenced a marriage story that I was sent a year ago by a good friend. It’s powerful. Watch it: The Story of Ian and Larissa.

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