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Let them Come Home (John & Abraham Piper)

 

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In a recent Christianity Today interview, John Piper recounts the painful events surrounding the excommunication of his 19 year old son, Abraham.

The night after that excommunication, I called him at 10:00 and said, “Abraham, you knew what was coming.” He said, “That’s what I expected you to do. That has integrity. I respect you for doing it.” From then on, for the next four years, he was walking away from the Lord, trying to make a name for himself in disco bars as a guitarist and singer, and just doing anything but destroying himself. We were praying like crazy that he wouldn’t get somebody pregnant, or marry the wrong person, or whatever. He came back to the Lord four years later and the church had a beautiful, beautiful restoration service. He wept his eyes out in front of the church and was restored. This is church discipline at its best.

The following is Abraham’s account written for Decision Magazine.

When I was 19, I decided I’d be honest and stop pretending I was a christian.  At first I pretended that my reasoning was high-minded and philosophical. But really I just wanted to drink gallons of cheap sangria and sleep around. Four years of this and I was strung out, stupefied and generally pretty low. Especially when I was sober or alone.

My parents, (John and Noel Piper) who are strong believers and who raised their kids as well as any parents I’ve ever seen, were brokenhearted and baffled. (See sidebar story below.) I’m sure they were wondering why the child they tried to raise right was such a ridiculous screw-up now. But God was in control.

One Tuesday morning, before 8 o’clock, I went to the library to check my e-mail. I had a message from a girl I’d met a few weeks before, and her e-mail mentioned a verse in Romans. I went down to the Circle K and bought a 40-ounce can of Miller High Life for $1.29. Then I went back to where I was staying, rolled a few cigarettes, cracked open my drink, and started reading Romans. I wanted to read the verse from the e-mail, but I couldn’t remember what it was, so I started at the beginning of the book. By the time I got to chapter 10, the beer was gone, the ashtray needed emptying and I was a Christian.

The best way I know to describe what happened to me that morning is that God made it possible for me to love Jesus. When He makes this possible and at the same time gives you a glimpse of the true wonder of Jesus, it is impossible to resist His call.

Looking back on my years of rejecting Christ, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child so that they, too, would wake up to Christ’s amazing power to save even the worst of us.

1. Point them to Christ.

Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or porn or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk band. The real problem is that your child doesn’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for rebellious children—and the only reason to follow any of these suggestions—is to show them Christ. It won’t be simple or immediate, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will begin to disappear only when they see Jesus more as He actually is.

2. Pray.

Only God can save your children, so keep on asking Him to display Himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping Him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

When your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend that everything is fine.

If you know she’s not a believer and you’re not reaching out to her, then start. And never stop. Don’t ignore her unbelief. Ignoring it might make holidays easier, but not eternity.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christlike.

If your son is not a Christian, he won’t act like one, and it’s hypocrisy if he does. If he has forsaken your faith, he has little motivation to live by your standards, and you have little reason to expect him to.

If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, there is little significance in his admitting that it’s wrong to get wasted, for instance. You want to protect him, yes, but his most dangerous problem is unbelief—not partying. No matter how your child’s behavior proves his unbelief, always be sure to focus more on his heart’s sickness than its symptoms

5. Welcome them home.

Because your deepest concern is your son’s heart, not his actions, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, don’t make it hard for him. God may use your love to call him back to Christ. Obviously there are instances when parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house, if you are …” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by pushing him away with rules.

If your daughter stinks like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreeze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her 20-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money—and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, urge him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.

Be gentle in your disappointment.

What concerns you most is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is, so she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.

Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Your role is to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that you want your child to return to.

7. Connect them to other believers.

Obviously, you are distant from your wayward child; otherwise you wouldn’t think they’re wayward. This is another reason why pleading is better than rebuking—your relationship with your rebellious child is tenuous and should be protected if at all possible.

But rebuke is still necessary. A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools, but you’re probably not the one to tell them. Try to keep other Christians in their lives and trust God to connect your son or daughter with a believer who can point out your child’s folly without getting the door slammed on them.

8. Respect their friends.

Of course your daughter’s relationships are founded on sin. And, yes, her friends are bad for her. But she’s bad for them, too. And nothing will be solved by making it evident that you don’t like who she’s hanging around with.

Be hospitable. Her friends are someone else’s wayward children, and they need Jesus, too.

9. E-mail them.

When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple of lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation—better than any correction—is for them to see Christ’s joy in your life

Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s Word is never useless.

10. Take them to lunch.

If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.

It may almost feel hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but be sure to do it anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you’re a moron? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking. God will give you the gumption.

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was 10; what can you do now that she’s 20 to show that you still really care about her interests?

Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and He wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead of her own.

12. Point them to Christ.

This can’t be stressed enough. It’s the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.

The goal is not that they will be good kids again. It’s not that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election. The goal is not for you to stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study or even for you to be able to sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Jesus Christ.

And not only is He the only point, but He’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He Himself will replace the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the sex that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only His grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to Him—captive, but satisfied.

God will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Respectfully Leaving Your Parents (Dennis and Barbara Rainey)

You may have moved out from your childhood home, but have you really left your parents behind?

God did not mince words when instructing a married couple to leave their parents. The Hebrew words used in Genesis 2:24, which states that “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” mean “to forsake dependence upon,” “leave behind,” “release,” and “let go.”

Later, Jesus addressed the issue when he said that no one was ever intended to come between a husband and a wife (Matthew 19:6). No one! No in-laws, no mother, no father was meant to divide a couple who had made a covenant with each other to leave, cleave, and become one flesh.

This pointed instruction is needed. Psychologist Dan Allender says in the bookIntimate Allies that “the failure to shift loyalty from parents to spouse is a central issue in almost all marital conflict.'” God knows that leaving parents will always be a difficult transition, especially in homes where the child-parent bond has been solid and warm. Unfortunately, many (if not most) couples do not cut the apron strings—they lengthen them!

After our wedding ceremony, Barbara and I walked down the church aisle together, symbolically proclaiming to all those witnesses that we had left our parents. We had forsaken our dependence upon them for our livelihood and emotional support and were turning to each other as the primary relationship of our lives. The public affirmation of our covenant to each other meant, “No relationship on earth, other than my relationship with Jesus Christ and God, is more important than my relationship with my spouse.”If we do not leave our parents correctly, we will be like a couple I knew who were dependent financially on the wife’s family. The situation was robbing the husband of his family leadership potential. The wife kept looking to her dad to bail them out after poor choices. Her husband wasn’t able to grow up, face his responsibility to make correct choices for his family, and live with the consequences of his decisions. He was losing self-respect as a man, and it was undermining his wife’s respect for him as well.

It can be equally destructive to continue to be emotionally dependent on a parent. This dependence will hinder the Super Glue-like bonding that must occur between husband and wife.

How to leave, yet still honor, your parents

Leaving your home does not mean you permanently withdraw and no longer have a good relationship with your parents. That’s isolating yourself from your parents, not leaving. The commandment in Exodus 20:12 to honor your parents means that when you leave them, you need to go with respect, love, admiration, and affirmation for their sacrifices and efforts in raising you. But you must make a break from them and sever your dependence on them. As time passes, you must be diligent to prevent any reestablishment of dependence at critical points in your marriage.

Leaving certain kinds of parents requires special sensitivity. For example, if your mom or dad is a single parent, she or he may no longer have anyone at home to lean on and may feel terribly alone. Or perhaps you left behind a parent who endures a lifeless marriage devoid of passion. In either case, your leaving has created a big void in the home. Nevertheless, you must sever the ties.

You can honor your parents and also reap benefits by seeking their wisdom on certain issues. When you ask them to offer their insights, you must make it clear that you are seeking information and advice, not surrendering your right to make final decisions. A tip: Always try to consult your spouse before seeking input from parents. Give yourselves some time to become good at this. You may have depended on your parents for twenty years but have been married only one!

When parents want to reattach

Sometimes without realizing it, we may allow our parents to reestablish the severed connections. It could occur during a Christmas visit. It might happen during a phone call when the child mentions to the parent some disappointment or failure experienced in the marriage relationship.

I remember how, early in our marriage, I shared a weakness about Barbara with my mother. Now my mom is a great mother, but I was astounded at how she rushed to my side, like a mother hen coming to aid her wounded little chick. Her response startled me. I told Barbara about it and apologized. I promised I would not again discuss negative things about her with my mom.

You must not allow parents to innocently (or not so innocently) drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Some parents may seek to manipulate and control their child. For example, a father won’t stop telling his “little girl” what to do. The husband may need to step in and explain to his wife how destructive this is to the health of the marriage. Boundaries limiting the amount of communication between father and daughter may need to be installed for the long or short term.

Or a mother may be trying to call the shots with her son. The wife needs to explain carefully to her husband what she is observing. If the situation doesn’t improve, there may need to be a cooling-off period where the husband minimizes contact with his mother and directs his attention toward his wife.

These showdowns may be intimidating for either spouse, but boundaries need clarification. You may need to call on an older mentor for advice before you take action, but your allegiance must first and foremost be to your spouse.

At this point, I want to encourage you husbands to be “the man” and protect your wife. Sometimes you may need to graciously but firmly step in and shield her from a manipulative parent, but I implore you to guard gently your wife’s heart and your marriage from a dad or mom whose intentions may be good but counterproductive.

If as a couple you are having trouble maintaining a clean break, you may decide to spend less time at home for holiday visits. Instead of a week, perhaps the stay should be shortened to two or three days. Or skip a holiday altogether, just as a way of clarifying where your primary commitment lies.

A way to forestall some misunderstandings and help with decision making is to determine your family’s values early in the marriage. For instance, one value may be establishing your own family’s Christmas traditions as your children leave infancy. Having a clear idea of what you are doing and why will make it easier to explain your choices to parents.

As your parents grow older, they may need your assistance. Again, approach this issue prayerfully as a team. Take as much time as you can to make decisions, especially those with long-term ramifications. Some choices will be very difficult, but in most cases, the health of the marriage must take precedence. Although you must consider the financial situation, too, a parent may need to live at a retirement center instead of with you, if the parent’s presence will adversely affect your marriage.

One final thing to keep in mind: Leaving is not a one-time event or limited to the early years of marriage. The temptation to reconnect some of the old bonding lines will continue as long as parents are alive. For example, when grandchildren come along, most parents want to share from their vast stores of experience on how to raise kids.

Both parents and their children need to remain on guard so that leaving remains just that—a healthy, God-ordained realignment of the parent-child relationship.

 

 

 

Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right,© 2000 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

The Most Overlooked Characteristic of Who You Want to Marry (Kevin A. Thompson)

“In sickness and in health.”

On two occasions I have said those words with the full confidence that the couple repeating those words actually knew what they meant.

The first occurrence brought a smile to my face. She had endured and marriage was her reward on the other side of illness. Together they have journeyed through the struggles of a serious disease as boyfriend and girlfriend. Now they would be husband and wife. They knew what “in sickness and in health” meant.

in sickness and in healthThe second occurrence brought a tear to my eye. She had weeks to live. The vow renewal was his gift to her. I almost cut the words fearing the might be too painful. But with a crowd gathered I included them as a testimony to all who would hear them say, “in sickness and in health.” They meant it and everyone knew it.

Few people consider sickness and suffering when picking a mate.

They consider how the other person might look in the morning or what bad habits they might have.

They consider what offspring they could produce or what extended family they might bring to the reunion.

Yet few people ever consider what is a vital question—can I suffer with this person?

It sounds like the beginning of another marriage joke, but it’s not.

It’s a real question and one which should be explored by every dating couple.

Suffering is a part of life.

And the older a person gets, the more we realize that suffering is not a rare occurrence, but is a common aspect of our lives.

Sorrow comes in many forms, yet it is guaranteed to come.

BEWARE: Not everyone suffers well.

Some live in denial—unable to confront the deep realities of life.

Some live in despair—unable to recognize the convergence of laughter and tears.

Few have the grace to suffer well.

Those who do suffer well are a well-spring of life and faith.

  • Who do you want holding your hand when the test says “cancer?”
  • On whose shoulder do you want to lean when the doctor says, “We’ve done all we can?”
  • With whom do you want to lie beside when you don’t know where your child is or if they will ever come home?
  • When your world turns upside down, in whose eyes do you want to look?

Find someone who suffers well.

I know it doesn’t seem important when life is perfect.

A beautiful smile is far more attractive than a quiet determination.

A common interest is far more appealing than internal strength.

Yet when life falls apart, you want someone you can run to, not someone you want to run from.

  • You want someone who believes in you.
  • You want someone who instills faith, not causes doubt.
  • You want someone who hopes no matter the circumstances.

In the Bible, Job’s wife responded to his suffering by saying, “Curse God and die.”

Had he not suffered enough?

Was life not difficult enough?

Enduring hardship was enough, yet Job was also forced to rebuke his wife during his time of struggle.

Life is hard enough; there is no need to make it harder.

Choosing a spouse who does not suffer well makes life harder.

It makes every grief stronger.

It makes every sorrow more painful.

It makes every hurt deeper.

Yet,

when our spouse knows how to suffer,

when they have don’t live in denial, but confront the sorrows of life,

when they don’t live in despair but know how to laugh and cry at the same time,

when they offer support and hope in all of life’s challenges,

when they can see the big picture of life,

then,

every grief is wedded to hope

every sorrow is matched with love

and every hurt is paired with healing.

One of the great guarantees of life is that every person, every couple, will suffer. When choosing a mate, choose someone who suffers well and you will never be sorry.

The Beginning of Healing from Resentment

The following prayer was given to us by Irene Ganz during our series on David’s Dark Days. It’s a prayer that reflects her journey of learning to forgive others and to surrender her resentment to him.

Knowing what many people in our church are dealing with right now, I thought it would be worth sharing it.

_______________

Lord, teach me never to judge others….

The mind of man is so delicate, and so complex, that only You can know it wholly. Teach me to show humility towards each human soul. Each mind is so different…actuated by such different motives…controlled by  such different sufferings…and influenced by such different circumstances…that only you can know how severe the conditions were that make up that personality.

Please teach me to leave the unraveling of the problems of that personality to You. Lord, because you said to forgive…I choose to forgive all those who have hurt me. I know that no wound will heal until I forgive the person who made that wound. I also know that I will remain in bondage to the person I resent, until such time as I am prepared to release that person, and hand over my resentment to You. 

I pray that you give everything that I want for myself to the one that I resent, so that I may be free of my resentment. I pray for their health, their wealth and their happiness. And Lord, even if in my heart I don’t feel that I mean what I am saying right now, please remind me to continue saying this prayer until I do. 

I pray that you help me, Lord, to put aside my feelings…and I will continue to say this prayer until all of my resentment and bitterness turn into beautiful feelings of compassion, understanding, and love. AMEN. 

Our Children, Our Neighbors (by Jen Wilkin)

If you asked me the single most important insight that has shaped my parenting, it would be this: Children are people.

It seems self-evident. Clearly, they have arms, legs, ears, noses and mouths—enough to qualify. But the idea of their personhood goes far beyond possessing a human body. It goes to the core of their being and speaks to their worth. Children bear the image of God, just like adults. Well, not justlike adults. It is true that they are developing physically, emotionally and spiritually at a different rate than adults, but children’s intrinsic worth and dignity does not increase or decrease depending on the rate or extent of their development. As Dr. Seuss has famously noted, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

If you asked me the single most misleading statement I have heard with regard to parenting, it would be this: The Bible is relatively silent on the topic of parenting.

On the surface, this statement appears to be true. When we think of “parenting passages,” we typically think of those that explicitly mention parents, children, authority and instruction: Deuteronomy 6, the fifth command in Exodus 20, spare the rod and spoil the child, train up a child in the way he should go, children obey your parents in the Lord and a smattering of other verses. We may throw in the example of the Prodigal Son or the parenting woes of the patriarchs for good measure. But other than these, few passages mention the parent-child relationship specifically, leading many to conclude that, for the most part, the Bible must leave us to figure out this parenting thing on our own—an understandable conclusion.

That is, until we remember that children are people.

Because if children are people, then they are also our neighbors. This means that every scriptural imperative that speaks to loving our neighbor as we love ourselves suddenly comes to bear on how we parent. Every command to love preferentially at great cost, with great effort and with godly wisdom becomes more than just a command to love the people in my workplace, my church, my hair salon or the local homeless shelter. It becomes a command to love the people under my own roof, no matter how small. If children are people, then our own children are our very closest neighbors. No other neighbor lives closer or needs our self-sacrificing love more.

Suddenly, a great deal of the Bible is not silent at all on the topic of parenting.

Recognizing my children as my neighbors has impacted the way I discipline them, the way I speak to them and the way I speak about them to others. It has required me to acknowledge how quick I am to treat those closest to me in ways I would never treat a friend or a co-worker. It has helped make my children objects of my compassion instead of my contempt. I am better able to celebrate their successes without taking credit for them and to grieve their failures without seeing them as glaring evidence that I’m a terrible parent. Recognizing my children as my neighbors has freed me to enjoy them as people rather than to resent them as laundry-generating, food-ingesting, mess-making, fit-throwing, financial obligations.

Except for the days that it hasn’t. And on those days, I must be reminded again what Scripture teaches about loving my neighbor, confess that I haven’t loved my child that way and begin again. And Scripture provides ample help. Here are just a few “unlikely” parenting verses that point me back to neighborliness on the days that don’t go as they should:

When I want to correct my kids with harshness:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

When I want to lecture them:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

When I want to make them make me look awesome:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

When I find meeting their needs to be an imposition:

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

When I want credit for how hard I’m working as the mom:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4

When I don’t want to extend forgiveness for their offenses:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

When I’ve completely lost sight of the forest for the trees:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.2 Timothy 2:24-26

That last one is on a note card on my fridge.

It is true that our children are God-given responsibilities whom we are to steward. But we will only steward them as we should by remembering that, first and foremost, our children are people we are to treasure. When we treasure our children as our neighbors, we remove from our discipline any hint of condemnation, shame or contempt. We alter our language to communicate love and value, even when we must speak words of correction. And we replace our prayers of “please fix my frustrating child” with prayers of “please help me to love the little neighbor You have placed in my home, even as You have loved me.”

Fred (“Mister”) Rogers understood well the value and dignity of children. An ordained Presbyterian minister, he spent his life preaching the beauty of neighborliness on public television to small people: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…Won’t you be my neighbor?” His message is a good one for parents, as well. Children are people. Our own children are our closest and dearest neighbors. Mom and Dad, use each “beautiful day in the neighborhood” to show preferential love to the neighbors who share your roof. And be encouraged: The Bible overflows with help for you.

HOLY RESIGNATION (by Dorothy Greco)

My husband and I have given up on trying to change each other

 

My husband and I had a rather unique path down the aisle to “I do.” Our relationship, round one, was characterized by times of idyllic friendship which inched us toward emotional intimacy, which resulted in him hitting the eject button. Repeatedly.

Whenever he said he needed space, I obeyed the letter of his law but not the spirit. Within a month, we were back together, typically because of my charitable, good nature (read: I was a skilled manipulator). This cyclical drama culminated in a proposal (we had a good week) and a short engagement. Not short because we planned a quick wedding, but short because he panicked and called everything off.

His decision precipitated two years of separation, two years of counseling, two years of coming to terms with some significant fears and broken patterns of relating–for both of us. By the time he re-initiated contact, we had each made significant progress toward relational wholeness. This time, his proposal stuck and we celebrated our nuptials with friends and family who admittedly remained somewhat suspicious of our sanity.

During our 22 years together, he has never freaked out and I’ve never manipulated him (one of these is true). However, on more than one occasion, we have sailed through some serious turbulence.

Though we share many things in common (faith, blue-collar background, education, and passion for the arts), we have had to navigate significant personality differences. He’s Italian. He likes loud, sustained conversations that go well into the night. I like to be in bed, with a book, at 9:00. He thinks I fail as host if there’s not five times as much food on the table as our guests could ever eat. I hate wasting food. He has TDD (Time Discrepancy Disorder–don’t bother googling it. I made it up.) I’ve learned that when he calls to tell me he’s leaving work, I need to ask, “Define leaving. Is your computer browser still open or is your key in the ignition?” Little things these. To quote Eeyore, “We all have our ways.”

In addition to our sometimes opposite personalities, we also have areas of inherent weakness—places within us which are not fully developed. I tend to shut down in conflict, mostly out of fear that my out-of-control words will draw blood. During a fight early in our marriage, he had to wait almost an hour before I could articulate one complete sentence about what was going on for me. To hear him recount this, he felt as if he were covered in fire ants with his hands tied behind his back. Conflict does not intimidate him; his fear surfaces whenever a power tool is needed. Saw a piece of clapboard to replace what the dog gnawed off as he chased the chipmunk? Not happening. Ever.

In such situations, we can feel disappointed with each other. While it might be good for a laugh now and then, long term, these near misses land couples in the lawyer’s office. We all enter marriage with specific, though often unspoken, expectations about what our husband or wife needs to/ought to/should be. Some of these expectations are godly and necessary in order for a marriage to work: fidelity, honesty, partnership, and countless others that form the foundation of a solid marriage.

If these were the only types of expectations we carried down the aisle, the divorce rate would drop significantly. Whether we realize it or not, each of us downloads countless expectations during the course of our lives. For instance, my dad can fix anything. If he doesn’t know how, he will figure it out. I assumed my spouse would at least try to do home repairs. The fact that he doesn’t occasionally irritates me. His mother prepared Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings as well as antipasto and two trays of lasagna—with extra sauce on the side. It frustrates my husband that I simply can’t recreate his family’s abundant table.

We’ve tried to change each other via some combination of advising, teaching, manipulating, pleading, praying, and “helping.” I will surprise no one as I write that none of these tactics work. In fact, I would argue that all of them actually cause the marriage to disintegrate.

The only strategy that has been remotely helpful has required a paradigm shift. Rather than give up on my husband with an exasperated sigh accompanied by a requisite droop of the shoulders, I consciously choose to accept him, limitations and all, and simply refuse to judge or reject him. I call this holy resignation.

Holy resignation permits me to appreciate my husband and his many extraordinary qualities without needing him to be someone else. Because this is not my default, it requires both intentionality and faith. By intentionality, I mean that I have to pay attention when feelings of irritation surface and then ruthlessly push their little heads back under. This is not denial—my eyes are wide open. Such counterintuitive behavior necessitates an ongoing dialogue with Jesus in which I repeatedly ask him to provide me with the requisite love, mercy, and patience. Remarkably, he does not seem troubled by the routine nature of my need!

My husband may never pick up the circular saw—and I may never replicate his mother’s Thanksgiving—but by choosing this path, we have discovered how to truly prosper despite our many differences.

Courageous People Resolve Conflict (by Rick Warren)

The below is a good reminder for us from Rick Warren.

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“God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)

 

Why does God want us to live at peace with everyone? Because unresolved conflict has three devastating effects in your life.

First, it blocks your fellowship with God. When you’re out of whack with others, you can’t be in harmony with God. When you’re distracted, when you’re in conflict with other people, you cannot have a clear connection with God. 1 John4:20 says, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar” (NLT).

Second, unresolved conflict hinders your prayers. Over and over again the Bible says that where there is conflict and sin and disharmony in your life, your prayers are blocked.

Third, unsolved conflict hinders your happiness. You cannot be happy and in conflict at the same time. When conflict comes in the front door, happiness goes out the back.

So, don’t you want to get rid of the conflict in your life? The starting point of resolving any conflict is to take the initiative. Don’t wait for others to come to you; go to them. You be the peacemaker.

Don’t ignore the conflict. Don’t deny the conflict. Don’t push the conflict under the carpet.

Have you heard the expression, “Time heals everything?” That’s a bunch of bologna. Time heals nothing! If time heals everything, you wouldn’t ever need to see the doctor.

Actually, time makes things worse. When you’ve got an open wound and you don’t deal with it, it festers. Anger turns to resentment, and resentment turns to bitterness.

The conflict is not going to resolve itself. You’ve got to intentionally deal with it.

Only courageous people resolve conflict. Maybe the most courageous thing you can do is face an issue that you’ve been ignoring for a long time in your marriage, or with your kids, or with your employees, or your boss, or whoever.

Where do you find the courage to face it? You get it from God.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self discipline.” That means if you let God’s Spirit fill your life, you’re going to be filled with power, love, and self-discipline. And God’s love overcomes fear.

When your love is greater than your fear, you’ll do things you’re afraid to do. That’s called courage. When you’re filled with God’s love, you’ll also be filled with love for that person who is irritating you or that person you’re in conflict with.

Talk About It

  • What are you pretending is not a problem in your relationships? Money? Trust? In-laws? Family? Children? Communication? Values? Work schedule?
  • What will you do today to take the initiative to resolve those conflicts?

 

The Thorn In Your Marriage (Chris Francis)

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7-9

God did many miracles through the apostle Paul, so Paul saw first-hand the healing and delivering power of God. But there was one area of his own life where he didn’t get to see God’s deliverance. Not in the way he wanted to, at least.

He had a thorn in his flesh, a “messenger of Satan.” Scholars have debated through the centuries on what this thorn was – maybe a physical ailment, maybe a specific temptation that wouldn’t go away, maybe the persecution from his colleagues who were now against him.

We don’t know specifically what Paul’s affliction was, but we know he asked God to take it away. The phrase “three times” was probably not literal. It was a phrase that referred to a multitude of times, a constant pleading and asking of the Lord.

And yet the Lord did not answer his prayers the way he wanted him to.

The Lord only said – “My grace is sufficient. My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

In other words – this will keep you humble, dependent, prayerful, compassionate, and it will showcase my glory even more when people see me work through your weakness.

It’s an awesome and sobering passage.

And based on this passage and its meaning, I have a theory about marriage.

Ready for it?

I believe each marriage has a thorn in its flesh.

At least one thorn in any given season.

The bible doesn’t say it does, but let me explain my theory.

I don’t know anyone who could read the above passage and say, “I don’t know what Paul is talking about. All my prayers get answered the way I want them to. All my afflictions and suffering cease when I ask God to intervene.”

All of us have experienced – or are experiencing – certain types of problems that just won’t go away. Some of us watch others get healed of physical illnesses and ailments while we are still dealing with ours.

Some of us watch others seem to be delivered from addictions overnight, while we are still tempted every day with ours.

Some of us seem to constantly fall into money problems, as if our jobs and cars and real estate were conspiring against us.

Some of us battle depression on a regular basis.

Some of us are still dealing with the wounds from childhood abuse.

So I think all of us could say, “yeah, I’ve had a thorn or two in my life.” Some thorns lasted a few years. Others a few decades. Others are still lingering.

Well, what happens when one person with a “thorn in the flesh” marries another person with a “thorn in the flesh”?

You get two people who become one flesh dealing with two thorns in that flesh.

See what I mean?

Don’t like my theory?

Think I went out on a limb a little too far?

Well, think about your own marriage – are there things that you guys have dealt with as a couple that seem to constantly rear their ugly heads on a regular basis?

An addiction that affects your marriage? A physical illness or ailment that affects your marriage? A child who is always getting into trouble? Are you that couple that seems to always be dealing with one financial set-back after another?  Are you that couple that seems to always be at the hospital? The funeral home? The rehab clinic? The county jail?

Well, whether you can agree with my theory or not, at least read the rest. It’s the most important.

The temptation is to look at our marital problems think, “If only we could conquer this thing once and for all, then we’d have a great marriage. If only we had as much money as the Robertsons, then we’d have a solid marriage like they do. If only our kid would get his act together, then we’d have time to be in love again.”

But nobody likes the couple that has it all together. Nobody is inspired from the couple that has it all together. And God’s strength is not made perfect in the couple that has it all together.

When I look at a couple who have been through the ringer, and still love each other, it’s a testament to God’s grace. When I see a husband or wife who chooses on a daily basis to carry the extra-heavy burden of their spouse’s weakness, I am reminded of how strong God is.

So if your marriage has a thorn – ask God to take it away. But each day that he doesn’t, trust that his grace is sufficient. Trust that his strength is being displayed in your weakness. Trust that God is doing something in your marriage that is bigger than your marriage.

Trust that through your marriage’s weakness, God is displaying his mighty power to the world.

Whether you like my theory or not.

Parents – We Can’t Save Our Kids (Jamie Ivey)

I walked down the aisle at the age of ten. But because of my fear, at each youth event I secretly prayed again to receive Jesus as my savior.  I mean, what if the first seven times didn’t really work? I was scared of my motives not being real and Jesus not believing me and sending me to hell. It’s a terrifying roller coaster that God never intended for his children to be on. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I truly understood that it wasn’t about my decision to follow Jesus, but that it was God’s calling on my life to change me, mold me, and make me desire to look more like him.

Finding Comfort in God’s Sovereignty

As a parent, I sometimes fall into that trap of scaring my children into salvation. I mean, what parent doesn’t want their children to follow Jesus?  We all do, and if we’re honest we would save them if we could. But we can’t. As much as I want to make my children good disciples of Jesus, the truth is that I can’t. Only God can call their names. I can’t get them on the guest list, or have them say enough of the right words, or even have them pray a prayer that will get them salvation. It’s out of my hands.

As much as I want to make my children disciples of Jesus, only God can call their names. @jamie_ivey

When I first realized that it brought me so much comfort in my parenting. I do a lot of stuff right with my kids, but I also do a lot of things wrong. The thing is I can’t give them salvation and I can’t take it away. Parents, rest in that today. Let that truth sink in. We are given the role to guide them, share with them, and even show them the right way, but, parents, we can not save our kids.

Let The Holy Spirit Do His Job

A few years ago, our oldest son brought home a Mormon bible that one of his best friends had shared with him. I was immediately impressed with his friend’s thoughtfulness and boldness towards my son. My next thought was, “He can not read that, because it’s not truth.” I then realized that I do want my kids to journey towards their faith, and I don’t want to scare them into anything or scare them away from anything. I believe that God calls his children to him in spite of their parents, their surroundings, their culture, or whatever. He is in charge of their souls.

As my son sat there reading his friend’s bible my husband and I took the time to look at it with him. We encouraged him to get his Bible and see what the differences were. We showed him verses that claim that God’s word is truth (Psalm 19). We showed him verses that declare that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). We then asked him open-ended questions that allowed his brain to work and figure things out without us giving him the right answer. Of course we guided him in the right direction, that’s what we are supposed to do. But we didn’t force anything on him. We didn’t forbid him from reading his friend’s Mormon bible, or from being friends with him like I think so many of our parents generation would have done for us. We simply pointed him towards the truth and then let the Holy Spirit do his job, which we are confident he will.

Parents, there is no need to scare your kids into salvation. Give them resources, guide them, parent them to the best of your ability, and allow God to draw them to him. He’s a much better representation of the gospel that we could ever give them. Love them. Share the truth. Leave the rest to God.

Positive Prayer Makes Strong Relationships (by Rick Warren)

 

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 NIV)

I want you to think of somebody who irritates you — maybe somebody you’ve got a strained relationship with or who just rubs you the wrong way. I have two questions for you: One, do you pray for that person? Or do you just complain and grumble and nag and nitpick? If you prayed more, you’d have a lot less to grumble, complain, nag, and nitpick about. It’s your decision.

Does nagging work? No. Does prayer work? Yes. So why do you do more of the thing that doesn’t work than does?

Paul says in Philippians 1:4, “Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy” (NLT).

Paul didn’t just pray for people in his life; he prayed with joy!

There are things in other people’s lives that you’d like to change. You don’t want to change yourself; you want them to change. We always want to change other people. But you can’t!

You can, however, pray, and let God do his work in other people.

Positive praying is more effective than positive thinking. All the positive thinking in the world isn’t going to change your husband or your wife or your child or your friend or your situation. Positive thinking can change you, but it won’t change somebody else. But positive prayer can make a difference in someone else.

Do you want to know the quickest way to change a bad relationship to a good one? Start praying for the other person! It will change you, and it can change the other person.

Paul even told us how to pray for others: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11 NIV).

From these verses, we can learn to pray for the people in our lives in four ways:

Pray that they will grow in love: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.”

Pray that they will make wise choices: “… so that you may be able to discern what is best …”

Pray that they will live with integrity: “… and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ …”

Pray that they will become like Jesus: “… filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.”

Pray these for yourself and anyone else in your life, and watch how God turns around the relationship you thought had no hope or that needed to be revived.

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