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The Opportunity Of Chaos​

We spend a good chunk of our energy trying to avoid chaos. We try to order things, putting them in neat little compartments. We are chasing a nice, quiet life where everything fits and everything makes sense.

With this being a paramount agenda for most humans, it is no small wonder how chaotic life seems. From the grander scales, like governments and popular culture, down to the closest ones, our character and our emotions, things certainly have a feel of chaos. No matter how much we try to avoid it.

But chaos is not always a terrible thing. We strive to control and make sense of our circumstances and the world around us, even ourselves. Our attempts to control are like holding a beach ball underwater. Forces outside our control always prevail just like buoyancy always gets the best of the submerged ball.
As terrifying as chaos is, there is a certain opportunity that comes from it. An opportunity to learn, to reset, to be better. An opportunity to change.

Approaching Chaos

On the doorstep of chaos is our patterned thinking. We develop a System One and repeat it over and over again. We start to develop expectations, a worldview, and even a particular view of ourselves.

With this pattern settled, our lives become a desperate attempt to reinforce it. These patterns become the labels for our compartmentalized life. We try to shuffle everything we face – emotions, relationships, circumstances – into one of these finely labeled compartments.
But the world is more complicated than we can ever imagine. Being a human is hard. And just when it seems we might have that beach ball secure, we are on the precipice of the surface being punctured.

System 1 Strained

There are a lot of reasons our System One becomes strained. We find the patterns aren’t working like we expected. We find ourselves challenged by others with different patterns. Something happens that totally shakes the entire system.
More often than not, our System One becomes strained because of inefficiency. It just isn’t working. We start to suspect there is “more” to life. We start to get frustrated with others, blaming them for the failures of our expectations to produce the fruit we had hoped for.
Chaos, at least one kind of chaos, is what happens when our System One is strained. A tragic event. An unexpected change in relationship. A constant malaise that becomes one straw too many.

The Invitation of System 2

An unchecked strained System One results in the kind of chaos that leads to violence and oppression, suicide and substance abuse. Our deepest fears become self-fulfilling-prophecies. We are angry our system has failed us and so we punish others for it, give up, or lose hope. We start to own chaos, making it a part of who we are rather than a circumstance we endure.
But there is another option. When chaos strains our System One, rather than being destroyed by disappointment, we could be spurred into growth.

In the framework of life, a strained System One is meant to lead us into System Two. This is a system of deliberate thinking, reassessing, learning. It challenges us to think critically, differently, deeper. It is an invitation to change.

As we engage our System Two consistently, it transforms our System One. We get in shape by exercising consistently, our body eventually getting used to what once made it sore. We adopt spiritual disciplines or relationship habits that enhance our communication where once we were filled with frustration and confusion.
We cannot change without a little bit of chaos. It is how we learn, how we become better. Even in the worst of situations, there is a chance to make a decision about what to do next. How to grow. How to change.



How To Deal With Past Hurts And Resentments In Marriage​

When my husband and I got married shortly after I graduated college, I waged a personal vendetta against him which dated back to high school.
Sounds crazy, right? Why would I marry someone I harbored resentment against? I was hurt by something that had happened in the past, and I refused to let it go.

It should’ve been settled long ago, and it was…for him. Long before he’d asked me to marry him, he’d put the incident in a box and stuck it way back in the corner of his mind.
Not me.

Click here for Get Your Husband’s Attention in 5 Days Challenge (without getting naked)! and other resources

It was such a tiny thing, but it burrowed down into my heart and took root where I nursed and cared for it. And like anything that’s well cared for, it grew.
I put the incident in a prominent place in our lives. I wielded that thing like an ancient torture device against my husband. If we had a problem, I’d pull it out. My attitude was killing my marriage before it got started.

The problem with holding onto old hurts is you accumulate new ones. Little hurts become bigger ones when we nurse them and pile new ones on top.
We say we want a harmonious relationship, but when we let hurts get in the way, it becomes difficult. There’s nothing more dangerous to a marriage than unhealed hurts.

We all have a default setting called “human.” When we default to human, our selfish, retaliatory nature comes out like a roaring lion. We think the other person deserves to hurt like they hurt us. We justify our feelings as “righteous.” But, God doesn’t.
I had to make a decision to let it go. I still have to decide to let go of things that hurt me, if I want a healthy marriage.

Maybe you’re holding on to something that has happened in your past. Maybe it’s not a hurt your husband caused. Maybe it’s a wound inflicted by someone else in your life.
Letting go of past hurts isn’t easy, but it is necessary.
Here are steps I use when working through hurts or resentments in my marriage:

1. Pray
Tell God how you feel. He’ll understand. Tell Him you’re angry or hurt or lonely. He’ll comfort and reassure you. He may even give you a new attitude towards the situation. He might even make you aware of your contribution to the situation.

2. Forgive yourself
This is harder than it sounds because many times when we’re hurt, we blame ourselves to a certain degree. Maybe we’ve done something to contribute to the situation. I partly blamed myself for the high-school hurt. So, the madder I got at myself, the madder I got at him. Begin with forgiving yourself.

3. Separate yourself
This can be as simple as going into a room alone to pray and think about the situation or taking a walk. Try to look at the situation from an objective point of view. Pretend you’re talking to a friend. How would you advise her? Tell her how you would’ve handled the situation differently.

4. Write about it

Writing is a healthy outlet because you can get your point across without someone interrupting you. Be real. Write about how you feel, why you’re hurt. What you’d like to see happen. Write all the things you’d like to say to your husband—yeah, even the ugly things. After you’ve exhausted your feelings on paper, tear it up. Then write another letter telling him how you feel.
Use language that expresses how you feel, not what he did. It’s a good idea to start by telling him things you appreciate about him. Tell him you know he didn’t mean to hurt you (and chances are he really didn’t). Then close by acknowledging your contribution to the situation or how you could’ve handled it differently.
If he did intend to hurt you, tell him you are working through forgiving him. Remember you love him. The disagreement or hurt isn’t bigger than your relationship.

5. Hold hands
When I was newly married, someone advised me to always hold hands with my husband, even when I’m unhappy with him. Holding hands was difficult for me. It wasn’t modeled for me growing up. But, there’s something about physical touch that softens the heart.
When we say “I do,” we relinquish all rights to hold on to stuff. If we’ve made a commitment to God, part of that commitment includes making our marriages the best they can be. Go to the source of all forgiveness: Jesus Christ. It is crucial to the ability to let go.



The Cycle Of Giving Up​

There is a consistent lie swirling through human culture. We have internalized it; believed it hook, line, and sinker. The lie is that things ought to be easy. If it is difficult, it is wrong. Challenge is a problem that needs to be fixed. Struggle is an evil that needs to be eradicated. Success is a lack of despair.

It is hard to believe, but every human endeavor follows the same shape. The Project Mood Curve. We start out with high, hopeful expectations. Our world is overrun with choices. There are opportunities and endeavors around every corner. We only pick the one(s) we engage with because we expect they will work to our benefit. We choose relationships, jobs, and hobbies because of their potential upside.

But this is just the beginning.

The Point of Giving Up

Over time (it could be minutes or months), every project falls into the pit of despair. The Mood Curve dips. Nothing we do perfectly matches our expectations. Nothing. And when reality and expectation start to show a gap, our mood lessons. We start to wonder if this really is the right job, the right relationship, a worthwhile hobby.

When we no longer feel romantic, optimistic, and thrilled about our project, we start to think it is a sign the project is wrong. The relationship has “gone sour”.

This is an important moment for the life of a relationship (or any other project). We have to decide if it is worth continuing or if we should give up and find a new endeavor.

The Give-Up Cycle

The real systematic trouble for many of us is that we are in a cycle of giving up. Because, again, this lie of perception permeates our lives: we think we just need to find the right relationship, job, or hobby. The one where it isn’t so hard. The one that meets our expectations.

The trouble is nothing works. The best relationship won’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. The best job will have its trials. The best hobby still requires work and diligence. And this isn’t just a sad reality. It is a beautiful one. Relationships grow and our work progresses because of our struggles. The challenge develops intimacy, knowledge, and capacity. It is not a measure of failure but a marker for success.

When we give up, we are committing to starting the process of The Mood Curve from the beginning. What this means is, what we are really doing is starting the inevitable shape of the Mood Curve from square one. So often we convince ourselves we are quitting in order to find a “better” project. An easier relationship. We are looking for an endeavor that shortcuts the Mood Curve. That goes from expectation straight to thriving. But there is no such thing. In order to get to thriving, we need to experience challenge.

The real question around quitting is whether or not we are aiming at the wrong vision. Not whether or not it is hard. Good things are hard. Bad things are hard for a different reason. We have to discern, with truth, which kind of hard we are facing.
And know that, if we quit, we are starting over. And another season of challenge is not too far away.



1 Sure Way To Tell You’re In A Healthy Marriage​

Do women who say they never fight with their husbands make you sick?
It’s tempting to wish you had a relationship like that, too. Don’t because fighting is a sure way to gauge the health of your marriage.
Let me say right up front, physical or emotional abuse are not healthy ways to fight.* Yelling, bullying, insulting and saying a bunch of stuff you don’t mean won’t resolve anything.

No one likes to disagree, but couples who learn to fight well actually grow closer.

Fighting is exercise​

The next time he makes you mad, consider arguing as an exercise in strengthening your marriage.
When you disagree, you learn about each other and you learn about yourself, too.
Couples who say they never fight probably aren’t telling the truth. Without disagreements, you can’t learn how to resolve conflict.

When couples don’t fight, they either pretend to “drop it” or sweep it under the rug.
Neither is good for your marriage.


“How to Be a Wife No Man Will Ever Want to Leave” Challenge

I know from experience.
I didn’t know fighting could be healthy in marriage. Sweeping it under the rug was my modus operandi as new wife.
If I was mad and my husband asked me what was wrong, instead of telling him, I’d say “nothing.” He’d actually treat me as if nothing was wrong.
At that point, I’d have to let him know I was mad by my actions: silent treatment, no sex, snippy responses.

Most of the time, he’d scratch his head wondering, “What’s wrong with her?”
The next time we disagreed, we’d start out fighting about the new thing, but it quickly morphed into fighting about the thing that had happened last week. The thing I was still mad about.
It was a never-ending cycle.

Fighting can make your marriage stronger​

I got angrier and more resentful.
When you learn how to resolve conflicts in the right way, your relationship gets stronger.
Maybe you’re like a lot of people and you never learned how to handle conflict well. Did you grow up watching your mother give your father the silent treatment or watching your parents have shouting matches when they disagreed?
Was one parent always the martyr allowing the other one to always have their way or did they have a power struggle? Or perhaps one complained while the other one sat passively by and listened.
When you can talk through issues and come to conclusions, you understand each other better, which leads to greater connectedness.
You’ll gain mutual respect for one another and learn how to respectfully listen to someone else’s idea. When your husband feels heard, he’s more willing to listen to you.

You don’t have to agree, but you can come to a mutual understanding and appreciation for his point of view.
Here are some tips for handling conflict in a healthy way:
  1. Tell him what’s wrong instead of making him guess.
  2. Make an honest effort to figure out where he sees things differently.
  3. Start sentences with “I feel” instead of “you did.”
  4. Listen instead of trying to be heard.
  5. Step back from the situation for a few minutes or hours.
  6. Ask God to help you see where you’re wrong.
  7. Touch him. Hug him, grab his hand or put your hand on his back. Touch can deescalate a situation.
  8. Apologize that he’s upset and let him know you appreciate him and don’t want to upset him.
  9. If the issue isn’t going to matter in the next five minutes, five hours or five days, let it go.



Your Time Is Worth Way More Than Money To Your Wife​

Aaron and his wife Sophia had been saving up for a kitchen remodel, but unplanned expenses kept getting in the way. So when an after-school tutoring job opened up at the school where he taught, Aaron jumped at the opportunity. To announce his solution for completing their kitchen fund, he prepared a special dinner for Sophia—candlelight and all—and shared the “gift” of the new kitchen in a greeting card over dessert. She looked up, eyes wide, and asked how it was possible. He explained the side job and the extra income it would provide. Tears welled up in Sophia’s eyes—but they weren’t tears of happiness. “Honey,” she said, “I love that you are willing to take on extra work to make the new kitchen possible. But the time you spend with me and the kids after work is priceless to us!”

She said that while, yes, she would eventually like an updated kitchen, Aaron’s presence at home was way more important for their family right now. Aaron was taken by surprise. He couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to fast-track the project they had dreamed of for so long. He just wanted to make things better for the family, but she clearly had a different idea about how to accomplish that.

Husbands, can you relate? At one time or another you’ve probably felt the same way Aaron did. You’re trying to provide the best for your family, but your wife isn’t happy about the sacrifice that requires. So you’re caught between a rock and a hard place.

In our most recent book, Thriving in Love and Money: 5 Game-Changing Insights About Your Relationship, Your Money, and Yourself, Jeff and I talk about what is probably behind Sophia’s response—and what might be underneath your wife’s behavior. You see, what husbands are frequently working so hard to provide might not be what is really most valuable to their wife.



Common Body Language Mistakes That Destroy Relationships​

Your words may say you’re crazy about your spouse, but your body language may be sabotaging your love life without you even knowing.

Body language says a lot about you, your relationship, and how you feel about your partner. Research suggests that negative body language is easier to pick up on than positive.
The Frontiers in Psychology Journal suggests that positive emotions require stronger signals than negative ones when it comes to nonverbal flirtation. Basically, if you want to use body language to your benefit, be a little more obvious about it.

Since negative body language is so easy to pick up on, it’s easy to see how body language mistakes can throw a lasso around your love life.
Are you sending the right message to your partner? Keep reading to find out if you’ve been making body language mistakes that are hurting your chances at love.

Not making eye-contact.​

Eyes are the window to the soul – or so the saying goes.
Studies show that when you make eye-contact with someone, you start to build emotional intimacy. It creates chemistry with your partner and contributes to a happier relationship.
When you fail to maintain eye-contact with your spouse, they may start to think that you are:
· Uninterested in the relationship
· Socially awkward
· Hiding something
You don’t want your partner thinking any of these things about you. Endeavor to hold your spouse’s eye-contact, especially when they are speaking with you. Doing so will:
· Create a sense of intimacy
· Appear more personable
· Improve concentration

· Validate your spouse
· Create a sense of confidence
When you maintain eye contact with your partner, you strengthen your connection, so start practicing this good habit today.

Smiling at someone.​

“How can smiling destroy my relationship?” you may wonder. “Isn’t smiling the happiest expression you can do?”
You’re absolutely right. Smiling is a fantastic way to indicate that you’re happy and show your partner that you adore their company. But, if you’re a bit of a flirt, smiling at the wrong person might land you in hot water with your spouse.

When it comes to nonverbal flirtation, research done by the Association for Behavior Analysis International puts smiling in the same flirty category as eye contact, laughter, and physical touch (Wade, J., June 6, 2018, (I Think) You Are Pretty: A Behavior Analytic Conceptualization of Flirtation).
Many people in committed relationships flirt harmlessly with others, but that doesn’t mean flirting can’t destroy your relationship. Constant flirting, especially when done in front of your spouse, can lead to low self-esteem and make your partner question your loyalty.

Obsessed with your phone.​

Do you check your phone when your spouse is trying to talk to you?

Statistics show that 85 percent of smartphone users check their devices while speaking to loved ones (bankmycell.com, 2020). Why does this matter? Because your phone helps play a role in your relationship-destroying body language. Research indicates that such behavior contributes to lower relationship satisfaction (Roberts, J., Davis, M., January 2016, Computers in Human Behavior).

How you behave with your phone while around your crush says a lot about your relationship. Even if you don’t mean anything by scrolling and swiping, playing on your phone may suggest to your partner that you have a lack of love and empathy for them.
Do your relationship a favor and throw your phone on silent when you’re talking to your spouse. It will do wonders for your love life.

Being a ‘close-talker.’​

Being a close-talker is one of the quickest ways to end the first date fast.
Close-talking is no different than what it sounds – someone who stands way too close to you when they’re talking.
This body language suggests that you don’t respect your partner’s personal space and that you’re quick to dismiss boundaries.
Body language aside, close-talking is awkward and gross. There is nothing more off-putting than seeing saliva coming at you while someone is talking to you.

Confident or cocky? Keep your chin up!​

Walking and talking with your chin up have long been a sign of confidence.

Confidence is great, especially when it comes to relationships. When you’re confident, it means you know what you want, and you aren’t afraid to go after it. Confidence allows you to date with ease, to embrace adventure, and is a part of self-love.
However, walking and talking with your chin up may also be a sign that you’re a little too cocky for your own good.
Be careful that your tricky chin doesn’t convey arrogance or defiance when you’re trying to create a romantic connection. Nobody likes being looked down on.

Saying one thing but meaning another.​

Do you have a habit of lying?
If so, it may be a quality that will doom your relationship.
Studies show that trust is important to a happy marriage. Couples who trust each other enjoy more joyful, more fulfilling relationships.
That being said, research shows that once trust is broken, it becomes extremely difficult to mend.
You may not be a liar, but your body language may be telling a different story. For example, if you say ‘Yes’ while shaking your head ‘No,’ it could indicate to your partner that you’re untruthful.

Crossing your arms.​

Crossing your arms is a big no-no in the world of romance as it indicates that you are closed off to other people.

Having a closed body is a nonverbal way of protecting or distancing yourself from others. After all, with closed arms, you can’t hug, hold hands, or embrace.
Romance aside, crossing your arms also indicates hostility or anger and could put your partner on edge.

How you present yourself matters, so be aware of how your body language comes across to other people – especially those you love.
Avoiding eye-contact, obsessing over your phone, and not respecting your partner’s personal space can be a major turn off. Whether you’ve just started dating someone and want to make the right impression or have been with someone for years, avoid making the common body language mistakes as mentioned above.


What Moves Your Heart?

[ 1 min read ★ ]

. . . give, and it will be given to you—Luke 6:38

When we begin following Jesus Christ, he shapes for us new hearts—just as God promised for Israel: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 4:17-24). These new hearts move more like God’s heart. They are not, however, all shaped alike. They still reflect our God-created and God-anointed individuality (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Notice when you view tough situations—sometimes your heart is moved, deeply. Notice also—sometimes it isn’t.

You see, we’re all created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). But, as individuals, we aren’t created for every work. We couldn’t possibly be. We’re all called to help those in need (Matthew 22:39; 1 John 3:17-18). But, as individuals, we aren’t called to every need. Near his death, St. Francis of Assisi prayed for his fellow friars: “I have done what is mine to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.” The movements of our new hearts are one way God teaches us what is ours. For our hearts are made to notice, to care, to move more for certain people and certain needs: when their needs are met, our hearts are satisfied; when they aren’t, our hearts hurt with their hearts. So here’s the good part—when we become aware of the movements of our new hearts, and begin working ourselves to meet the needs of people who are ours to help, we increase not only their joy, but ours too.

Okay, so what do we do?

Continue to bend your focus away from yourself, brother. Take some time to consider your heart. Can you identify the particular people and particular needs for which it moves, uniquely?



Are You A ‘Judgmental’ Christian? Good.​

One of the most misused verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Professing Christians and non-Christians alike will quote this verse in a myriad of ways—mostly though as a tool for deflection. In other words, it’s used as a “gotcha.” Drop Matthew 7:1 in any particular debate over issues of sin and apparently the debate is over. However, much like any other misused verse in the Scriptures, the problem is resolved simply by examining the context of the passage.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5).

Simply by reading this passage, one can see there is a bit more going on here than the fact that someone is judging another person. As we can see in v. 2, the conjunction “for” explains the reason behind the command not to judge. The way or manner in which we judge will be used against us. In other words, the same standard we apply for others will be the standard by which we are judged. There is an inherent warning here for people—that much is clear.

The implication is rather simple: judge and you will also be judged. How you judge someone is the same way you will be judged, hence why Christ explains we ought to first examine our own motives and actions first. If we are in sin, the primary focus should be upon “removing the log” from our own eye so that we can see clearly in removing the speck in another’s. It is then and only then that we can appropriately judge another—and the presumption of the passage is in fact that we will judge another. Notice, however, that the focus of Christ in Matt. 7:5 is that of the hypocritical person, who judges without respect to their own sins. In other words, there is still judgment that is deemed necessary to take place; the “speck” is not to be left in another’s eye, but rather, the one seeking to remove the speck from their brother’s eye ought to first inspect their own eye in order to rightly remove it.

This is the same thing in the mind of the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-2:16. Here he deals with those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-20), reject God and the truth in favor of worshipping some element of Creation and indulging the lusts of their hearts (Rom 1:21-25), and are subsequently given over to degrading passions (Rom. 1:26-27), a debased mind (Rom. 1:28), and as a result are filled with a litany of evil practices and thoughts (Rom. 1:28-31). They know, in other words, that such things are worthy of death—yet they not only practice them but give hearty approval to others who do the same (Rom. 1:32). For this reason, these same types of people have no excuse, for in that which they judge another, they condemn themselves because they practice the same things (Rom. 2:1).

No matter how you stretch it, the demand placed on the one who passes unrighteous judgment is repentance, for we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things (Rom. 2:2). They should know they will experience the same fate as others who practice evil deeds (Rom. 2:3), for God’s patience is not a sanction of their sin, but a demonstration of His kindness, which is to lead to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Those of a stubborn, unrepentant heart will only store up further condemnation on the Day of Judgement, where God will reward each man their due (Rom. 2:5-16). Again, to put it as bluntly as one can, those who practice lawlessness will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10) and their hypocritical judgment will only build up more and more wrath.

Notice though there is no disapproval for those who judge who do not make a practice of the same things as the unbelievers identified in Rom. 1:18-32. In principle then, what is condemned is the practice of false judgement—a judgment from one who claims to be righteous yet is anything but. Thus, if one is to make any such practice of judging another person (we all do this, by the way), the only way to do so without sin is to actually know what a righteous standard is and live by that standard. The apostle John gives us further clarity on this same principle in John 7. The Jews at the temple are seeking to kill Jesus because He healed a man on the Sabbath—yet He identifies the problem is not that they have judged Him, but that they have judged by appearance rather than righteous judgment (Jn. 7:19-24).

In all of it, the common thread that binds these passages together is not that judgment in and of itself is a bad thing, but rather, how one judges is vitally important. Christ, in fact, commands the Jews to judge in John 7:24, owing to the fact that the Law of Moses that God has given them does much the same. This is how justice in theocratic Israel is to function (Lev. 19:15; Deut. 1:16), but this is likewise how one is to judge one who claims to be a prophet of God (Deut. 13:1-5).

This is why there is a continual emphasis by Jesus on the content of His words (Jn. 7:14-18), why the apostle Paul didn’t mind that the Bereans “fact-checked” him against the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), and likewise why the apostle John encouraged discerning every spirit to see if they are from God (1 Jn. 4:1-6). There are additional passages where judgment is to be carried out within the context of the church so that the purity of the Body is upheld (1 Cor. 5; Matt. 18:15-20). All of it presupposes judgment is in fact a good thing, when done rightly, but also that it is a necessary function of the Body of Christ.

The point of all this is not that you become some proverbial “sin-sniffer,” where you are in the constant state of pointing out each and every fault you find. There are times where we overlook offenses (Pro. 19:11) simply out of love for another (1 Pet. 4:8). We are likewise commanded to bear with one another (lit. to “put up” with another believer) and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us (Col. 3:13). The reason for this is simple; if we forgive others, the Lord will forgive us (Matt. 6:14). A person who is characterized by forgiveness, in other words, is one who genuinely displays an understanding of the gospel. To put it rather bluntly, you can’t withhold forgiveness from someone and be a genuine Christian.

What we should be looking for in correction of another believer is a pattern of sin, where the goal is one of restoration (Matt. 18:15; Gal. 6:1; Jd. 1:22-23). There are proper channels in which we are to do this in the life of the church (Matt. 18:15-20). We are likewise not to judge the unbeliever in the same manner as we would a brother, because God Himself will judge those outside of the church (1 Cor. 5:12-13). In other words, Paul’s point to the church at Corinth is that it is not the function of the church to discipline those outside of the church—that is God’s role. One of the ways God has designed this to be carried out in every society is through governing authorities appointed by God for this task (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:11-17).

None of that is to say we don’t call sin what it is—and that’s probably the most common claim people seek to make when they appeal to the phrase, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Enter into a myriad of online or even in-person debates on things like homosexuality, transgenderism, fornication outside of marriage, females in the pastorate, abortion, or pretty much anything that the Scriptures call “sin” that goes contrary to the public ethos, and you are likely to hear this phrase ripped well outside of its intended context. In such times, it is entirely appropriate to use the maxim of Paul Washer, “People always tell me, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ I always tell them, ‘Twist not Scripture, lest ye be like Satan.’” The reason being is that what the phrase “Judge not, lest ye be judged” actually means and what others seek to make it mean are two vastly different things.

Scripture itself repeatedly makes claims of judgment against sin and calls Christians to proclaim these things to unbelievers, all for the purpose of urging them towards repentance and faith in Christ. Part and parcel to the good news of the gospel is that there is the bad news that the judgment of God rests upon all who are outside of Christ. In other words, you can’t faithfully proclaim the gospel without telling people the very things that earn condemnation before a just and holy God. We can’t mince words or shrink back from the truth at hand, no matter how unpopular it may make us before our peers. Yet we likewise can’t leave people hanging or somehow exempt ourselves from this same process.

The Law of God is designed to show us that all have fallen short—that all are in a desperate position—that all deserve wrath, yet in that, the Law is to subsequently point us to Christ, who paid the full penalty for our sins and gives us His righteousness, so we can appear blameless before God. The commandments of God are to likewise spur the believer on to holiness, for they were not saved so that sin may abound. The goal in passing judgment then is dual-faceted, in that we point the believer back to the cross in the hope of their restoration, whereas the goal with the unbeliever is to point them to the cross in the hope of their redemption. If we fail to point people toward Christ in our efforts to call sin what it is, we ultimately fall short of Scripture’s intended aim in exposing sin for what it is (Matt. 28:16-20). Yet likewise, if we fail to do the difficult work of careful introspection first, we will inevitably fail to exercise righteous judgment.



7 Ways To Let Go Of Past Hurt And Look To The Future​

Is the past holding you back?

It may still be painful, if it was horrible. And it might be squeezing the life out of your marriage.
When painful memories begin to control you, it’s time to deal with them and begin letting them go. It’s essential if you want your marriage to thrive.

How you respond to hurt is a predictor to the happiness of your marriage. Are you able to forgive and move on?
Do you learn from your past without holding it against your husband?
Moving on is a choice.

I learned this lesson the hard way.​

When my husband and I got married, I was hurt by something that had happened in the past. I refused to let it go.
It should’ve been settled long before we married, and it was… for him. Long before he’d asked me to marry him, he put the past in a box and stuck it way back in the corner of his mind. Men do that well.
Not me.
I held onto it and used it as coffee table decor.
When I got mad, I picked it up. Not a great way to start a marriage.
I didn’t think he deserved my respect. So I only gave it when I felt like it. I thought letting it go would let him off the hook or he’d think it wasn’t a big deal. He needed to feel my pain.
Maybe you know what I mean. Do you have trouble letting go of old hurts? Do you wield an old hurt like a weapon?
The problem with holding on to old hurts is you get new ones. And little hurts get bigger as they pass through the filter of the old hurt.

When hurt gets in the way, marriage gets hard.

Make a decision to let go.​

Maybe you’re holding on to something that happened in your past, and it’s hurting your marriage.
Maybe it’s not a hurt your husband caused. Maybe it was caused by someone else in your life.
Letting go of past hurts isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them.
Holding on prevents you from looking to the future.

Steps to letting go.​

Here are ways to work through hurts or resentments in your marriage:
1. See your husband for who he is now and not through the lens of the past.
2. Focus on who he is becoming.
3. Find a mentor, a coach or like-minded accountability partners.
4. Keep disagreements in the now and leave the past in the past.
5. Forgive–him and yourself.
6. Respect him even when you’re angry.
7. Pray for him.
If you can’t let it on your own, seek a counselor or talk to your pastor. Click here to receive our best marriage tips and tools.

If you want a strong marriage, you have to build it.
And you can’t build it on a foundation weakened by old hurt.
We have to find ways to leave the past in the past. Hope is in the future. Choose to start new everyday.



The Value Of Admitting Fault​

One of the hardest things for us to do is admit when we are wrong. Acknowledging fault feels dangerous to us. And it is. While there are some good reasons we are afraid, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Don’t Make A Mistake

The reason we try so hard to cover up, deny, or run from our faults is because we live in a Don’t-Make-A-Mistake culture. There is evidence of this all around. We were watching a popular baking-competition-show on Netflix and they keep saying the tarts have to be “absolutely perfect”. Shows like Survivor claim every decision along the way is “a million dollar choice”. The reason they do this is partly to manufacture drama. But it is also evident of what we value in our culture.
We don’t value mistakes. We are punished for them.

The result is that we fight hard to avoid mistakes. We don’t want to have to deal with the consequences of our actions. The subtle message of our culture is that failure is an identity issue rather than a circumstantial one. Every mistake speaks to the core of who we are. And since we feel as though the whole thing is a house of cards waiting to tumble, we try to avoid admitting fault to keep that structure standing as long as possible.

Create Something

Admitting fault has two clear benefits for us and they are related to one another.
The first thing is that only by admitting fault can be truly own our ability to change. In an effort to avoid failure, we pawn off mistakes to others, our culture, or our circumstances. We make ourselves victims. The problem with this is that it then becomes someone else’s responsibility to change us, to make things better.

This is exactly what we want. We can maintain our illusion of perfection but only if we blame others for where things fall short. But in doing so, we actually surrender our ability to influence. Our Avatars of perfection only help build a fantasy world. They don’t help us to develop character or influence lasting change.
The second benefit to admitting our fault is that it helps us to Create Something. Our vision(s) will only be realized when we acknowledge truth and take active steps toward character development.

Imagine trying to bake a cake but being terrified of breaking eggs! That is essentially our attitude toward life. We don’t want to make any mistakes but we desperately want to live a life of purpose and meaning. We can’t experience transcendent peace and joy without the learning process. And we can’t learn without making mistakes, acknowledging them, and taking the opportunity to pursue deeper understanding.

There is an important distinction to be made here. Failure is attempting to succeed and falling short. It is not messing up on purpose. Sabotage is not failing. It is sin (which is a kind of failure, but a much deeper one). So when we talk about the value of admitting fault, we’re not saying that you should go out there and screw up on purpose. There isn’t much to learn from that except Stop It! Although some of us do this exact thing. Manipulating mistakes is a way to avoid the vulnerability of truly trying. We are talking here about honestly trying and falling short.

The deeper reason all of this is valuable is because it brings us into alignment with the truth. The truth of our visions, our imperfections, and the opportunities of our circumstances brings us closer to the meaning we long for. We spend so much time avoiding truths because they often hurt. But they also set us free. And the truth is, we mess up sometimes. Don’t be afraid to admit it.



Hungry For The Truth​

This is the diet time of year, the lean month, sans alcohol, sans parties, sans jollity. Yet the hunger for Pascha (Easter!) coming and summer (the Glorious Fourth!) and Christmas (so distant, so certain) is there. The lack makes the love sweeter.

Lacking pleasure, having the pain of not having, is necessary for great pleasure. Too much of what we love and the beloved becomes cheap or cloying.
Enough is sufficient and so we wait. Pain and pleasure go together, neither evil, both potentially good. We lack something, this causes “pain,” we learn to wait, grow stronger, and then in due time we experience the pleasure of getting consent. A good human waits until the beloved says: “yes.” This is right, but not only right, decent, proper, but also is unexpectedly, gloriously, fun.

We do right and so have jollity.
Poverty, lack, is a necessity to a good cosmos. If we only have pleasure, honey all the time, we end up sated and to the sated man even honey is bitter. We hunger to eat well. We thirst to drink. There is, naturally, pain that is evil, gratuitous, cancerous, and wrong. There are reasons to think there is a Creator, see Plato’s Timaeus. There is reason to think the Creator is good, see Republic.

The difficulty is that the pain we experience is often not good. This is a good reason to doubt that an all powerful God exists. The impulse to question the good God in many skeptics depends on certain impulses:
1) there could be a different world
2) this one does not seem to be consistent with a good god that should do his best
3) moral problems abound, herd goods not personal goods
An acquaintance on social media thinks such assertions are brutal to the rational acceptance of the existence of the Christian God. I doubt this.
There could be a different world. The Packers could have gone for it on fourth and goal instead of kicking a field goal in the 2021 NFC Championship Game. They kicked a field goal and the loss made all the difference to the fans. We were sad, but that sorrow was not to death.

That there could be a different world says nothing about whether there could be a better world. The interconnections of reality are so complicated that it is (almost) impossible for us to say that one outcome is (really) better than another. By what standard? For whom?For how many?
“Better” is too flexible a standard to judge a man. . . Or even a chair.

After all: there could be a more comfortable television chair, but not yet a better chair for me overall. The most comfortable chair may not be for you. We might want a cheaper chair, one less comfortable, but also more easily replicated. God is looking for the maximal goodness of the cosmos, but such a maximal goodness may have different priorities. The uncomfortable chair may be the better chair.

Many worlds would not seem to be consistent with the existence of a good God in a man of limited imagination. Imagination can produce many possible good ideas if limited to what we like. The man who thinks a winning Lotto ticket is paradise will miss the Holy Grail.

We have known this error since the first moment when we chose badly and then realized that things could have been different. Any discipline for error will seem worse to a wayward child than cheap mercy. We want an easy “A,” not the grade we deserve and need.
The good God keeps loving us as a community (call it a herd if you will!) and not just as individuals. Imagine getting what is best for you and ending up alone. We need friends and no good world can be measured only by what is best for the one. We love the many, not just the one. We love the one, not just the many.

Christianity demands what is best for all, for you, for the cosmos. That is very complicated, so if you cannot, quite, see it in your Twitter thread, that is not so odd.
We grow hungry for the truth in the good cosmos and the truth is out there. The day is coming, in the City of God, when we will feast forever on logic, goodness, truth and beauty.



A Simple Trick For Memorizing Scripture​

My short-term memory is not great due to some stupidly sinful choices I made prior to knowing Christ. Because of that though, memorization has always been an exceedingly difficult task for me. Part of this was due to the aforementioned stupidity of my own sin, but part of it was simply bound in up the fact that I became a Christian at the age of 21 and grew up in a non-religious home. I had no concept of much of anything regarding Christianity, save vague notions of what I grew up seeing culturally.

When I entered into seminary, much of what I was learning was brand new at the time. I had read the Bible voraciously, but I quickly found that there was much more to learn that would help develop the tool kit to better understand the Scriptures. The metaphor of seminary being like trying to take a drink from a fire hose was quite apropos for me. I had little concept of theology, so the various terms summarizing lengthy doctrines was like learning a foreign language. In church history, of course, I found it difficult to memorize the seemingly endless series of dates and events.

Greek was harder—Hebrew was even harder than Greek. I (not so) fondly remember when I was learning the languages, I would sit down for hours on end to memorize endless paradigms, conjugations, stems, the various grammatical and syntactical rules, and, of course, vocabulary. However, I finished the language courses, and all of seminary for that matter, with high marks.
So, here’s my secret to it all: there is no “secret ingredient.”

Many tend to believe things like these (and even something like getting a PhD) is reserved for the “smart ones,” whomever they may be. The reality is that you don’t have to be all that intelligent or have a great memory to memorize Scripture. You don’t need these things to retain information about church history, theology, the biblical languages—or even to get a PhD for that matter. You just have to be diligent and relentless with yourself.

Much like every other spiritual discipline, there’s no “magic formula” to memorizing Scripture. To be sure, there may be some practical nuggets of wisdom found in certain practices where the task can be easier. For example, you can start with a small verses like John 11:35 and gradually make your way towards memorizing entire passages or whole books, but those practical tips will only get you so far. These things might give you a temporary boost in confidence as they help in the more pragmatic aspect of it, but the deeper issue is often not a lack of knowing how to do something the best way. It’s a spiritual issue.

Blog posts, books, podcasts, etc., may abound on topics like this, how to have a better prayer life, how to be more faithful in your intake of scripture, how to be a godly man or wife, how to be a godly worker, how to read more books, how to make the best use of your time, how to be a good evangelist, and more—but they are all less than worthless if our worthy goals aren’t matched with the determination to see it through and actually do these things.

In other words, without the resolve to do something, especially when that “something” gets particularly difficult to do, good intentions will fall to the wayside as we go the easier route.
Where we tend to get caught up on things is that we expect them to come naturally and easily. For some, this might be the case—but for most people, you have to struggle through it, which is much like everything else.

You have to fall off a bike a few times before you can steady yourself and finally enjoy the ride. You have to fumble over your words when you witness to someone about Christ for the first time. You have to re-read the same line twenty times before you finally move on to the next paragraph. You have to take “baby steps” along the way in everything and that’s truly ok, because either way you stretch it, you’re being faithful to Christ’s commandments. How you do something is not particularly important, but that you do it is, and you’ll find that the Lord is exceedingly kind and blesses you in your efforts along the way.

In the end, that’s the best tip I can give you. Be faithful. Struggle through it. Keep at it. Persevere. Cultivate the godly discipline of failing miserably at something but getting back up time after time without letting it defeat you. All the while, entrust yourself to the Lord and ask that He help you. Pray that God would give you a mind to memorize the Scriptures—and then stubbornly resolve to memorize a passage until He gives you such a mind.

If you’re looking for a shortcut though, you’ll find time and again that with most every spiritual discipline, there isn’t one. And that’s perhaps where our fundamental issue lay; we live in a time where instant gratification can be found virtually everywhere, and we expect that same thing when we embark on things like memorizing Scripture. When the “going gets tough,” we drop out, not because the task is impossible, but largely owing to the fact that we’ve not cultivated the discipline of struggling through something through much toil. If the ground is cursed, we ought to expect that tilling it won’t come easy.
With that said, I leave you with the wise words of Ronnie Coleman, “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-[expletive] weights.”



Be Confident In God’s Love For You (Not The Other Way Around)​

Many believers have their theology backwards. Instead of learning how to receive God’s love, they spend their energy trying to love God better. Let’s be clear. The message of the gospel has always been God’s love for humanity (not the other way around). If we focus on achieving love rather than receiving love, we have the gospel backwards.
Despite his flaws, Peter was the type of guy you would want in your corner during a street fight. When Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Unfortunately, Peter’s passion to defend his friends also represented his greatest weakness. He would soon learn the painful lesson that his love for Jesus was imperfect.

Jesus warned the disciples that each of them would abandon Him. Despite the warning, Peter stood in strong opposition. “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). Peter’s over confidence in his love for God at this moment is striking. He felt that his love for Jesus was unflappable. Paul once said, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3).

Although he felt brave at the moment, Peter’s love was not strong enough to withstand the pressure of a humble servant girl. On the night that Jesus stood on trial with the Sanhedrin, the girl approached Peter and insisted that he was one of the disciples. This was followed by several other people who made the same accusation. In each case, Peter vehemently denied knowing Jesus. “I don’t know the man!” he pushed back (Matthew 26:72). Finally, Peter realized that his resolve to love Jesus had failed miserably. He broke down in tears at the realization.

Don’t Be Confident in Your Love for God​

This must have been a tough lesson for Peter, but it also represented the start of an exciting new season. We must all reach the point where we understand our ability to love God is limited to human strength. The believer’s ability to love has been initiated, developed and strengthen by God; therefore, we must place our confidence securely in the love of Christ. John the apostle said it best: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The message of the gospel has always been God’s love for humanity, not the other way around.

After the resurrection, Jesus took the time to restore Peter in front of the other disciples. He asked, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15). Peter responded to the question, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” The version of the word love that Jesus used was agapas, which speaks to love that comes from God. However, the version of the word love that Peter used in response was philio, which expresses a reciprocal type of love. In other words, Peter learned that his strength to love God was established first on God’s love for him.

Be Confident in God’s Love for You​

The moral of the story is simple. We can’t love without first being loved. We are merely conduits of God’s love to the world. Therefore, we must learn Peter’s lesson so that we place no confident in our love for God. We must rest firmly in God’s love for us. The message of the gospel is clear. We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19), not the other way around.



Finding The Words To Describe The Indescribable​

I first read the word and just passed it by in my mind. It was foreign, unknown, and unnecessary. With 100,000 English words to use, why bother with another language?
Photo by Landon Parenteau on Unsplash
Dad spoke German. So did my Aunt. But “I know nothing,” of German, picking up phrases from Hogan’s Heroes and that’s it. But still, I was intrigued and I don’t know why.

“A noun translated as ‘longing,’ ‘yearning’ and ‘craving,'”
said the dictionary. “Or, in a wider sense, a type of ‘intensely missing.'”
I gulped. For my whole life, I’ve had an awkward shifting in my soul, a back and forth movement, a stammering to describe something unknowing.
“Sehnsucht is difficult to translate adequately,” the dictionary says. “It describes a deep emotional state.”
Could this actually pinpoint the hollow echo, the sad and distant goodbye, the endless waves that resonate deep within? Or those glimpes and shadows, the knowledge that I could never put my finger on?
C. S. Lewis used the word, calling it the “inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what.”

I know this word!
It’s the feeling that I don’t belong, that my home is in a distant land.
It’s the wooing of another world, a place of hope.
It’s the deep question mark that is embedded in everything i do.
I have heard it my whole life!
It’s that nostalgia for places I have never been to.
It’s the love affair of Someone that I’ve never seen
It’s the longing for the longing
The enigma is this — the Germans described something that cannot be described in a word I cannot pronounce. These things shouldn’t be easy. In fact, I never want the full answer. I always want to be on the quest.
There is a distant shore, a place without a name, a destination that I cannot know — until I’ve arrived.
I am not alone, for we have all heard its calling.
I hear You.
“I will put My instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33).



5 No Good, Very Bad Reasons For Divorce​

He gets on your nerves. Maybe he’s lazy, works too much or is bad with money. Or you think you might be happier with someone else. Do you find yourself pondering, “Should I get divorced?”
I get it. Marriage can be a struggle. People sometimes use struggles as an excuse to divorce.

Divorce may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You can improve your marriage.
Everyone struggles at one time or another in marriage. You’re not alone. Just because you’re struggling, doesn’t mean you ought to call it quits.
In some cases, divorce may be the only solution.* I’m not knocking anyone who’s chosen that option.

Women initiate divorce more often than men, according to a study by the American Sociological Association.
Sometimes poor excuses motivate wives to call it quits when they could be focusing on ways to make the marriage better.
More times than not, there may be other solutions.

If you’re currently struggling in your marriage, please check out my complimentary resources.

Here are five common reasons for divorce that may not be reasons at all.
1. You don’t love him anymore
If marriage was based on feelings, everyone would be divorced. That bubbly feeling you got in your tummy when you saw your husband in the early days of your marriage is short lived. Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a decision, a commitment. You can choose to love him. Many days your love will be based on your commitment, not the way you feel. It’s easy to look for reasons not to love him. Look for reasons you can.

2. He won’t change
Every husband has issues. As tempting as it is to try to change him, it’s not your job. It will lead to a whole lot of frustration. Instead focus on what you can change. You can only be responsible for you. Change the way you respond to your husband, and chances are, he’ll change the way he responds to you.
3. You can’t forgive him
Someone once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die.” It only hurts you. You’re going to get hurt in marriage, but refusing to forgive won’t help. When you divorce someone you refused to forgive, you may leave the marriage, but you’ll take the bitterness and hurt with you. And it will continue to affect your life. Forgiving doesn’t mean you’re letting him off the hook. It means you’re no longer going to allow the hurt to hold you prisoner. If you need professional help, get it.
4. Your girlfriends think you should leave him
Other people are always willing to offer solutions to our problems. Their solutions are often based on their own experiences, which may have nothing to do with your marriage. A lot of times, the advice is lousy or advice she wouldn’t take herself. Your girlfriends don’t live in your marriage. Chances are they only know the bad stuff about your husband because that’s what you share with them. They don’t experience the tender moments between the two of you. If your friends don’t support your marriage, get new friends. Find women who want better marriages and are willing to work to get them.

5. You think you’d be happier with someone else
You deserve to be happy is one of the biggest myths about marriage. Happiness in marriage isn’t something you deserve. Staying in an unhappy marriage can affect your mental and emotional health. But you don’t have to settle for dissatisfaction and mediocrity. You can learn to see your marriage differently. You don’t deserve to be happy, but you can choose to be.
*I am not referring to cases of abuse. If you are being physically abused, get to a safe place immediately.



5 Ways To Avoid Settling For A Partner Who Is Wrong For You​

Too many of us settle for less than we deserve because we are afraid of being alone. If this is your tendency, gently remind yourself that you are a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not you are in a romantic relationship.

In my Huffington Post blog “7 Reasons Why It May Be a Good Idea To Stay Single” I write: “Very few people know how to be alone and do it well. They aren’t happy to be alone. They fear it and seek love wherever they go. Growing up, most of us weren’t given good examples of how to be alone. Everything we see in the media promotes how to find the right partner and make it work. But being alone can propel us to grow and learn about ourselves.”
The question of what’s more important in a healthy, long-lasting relationship — chemistry or compatibility — is a critical one when selecting a partner. Perhaps the first step in evaluating your past and present choices in partners is examining the difference between compatibility and chemistry.
1. Chemistry: This usually refers to physical attraction but can include intellectual attraction as well. It is about how interesting and stimulating you find the person. Do you enjoy each other’s touch and is their sexual chemistry? It’s essential because without it, you are little more than friends. Author Mira Kirshenbaum writes: “But you can’t say you have good chemistry unless you can say “I feel there’s real affection here.”
2. Compatibility: Is about sharing common values and goals, having fun together, and liking each other: it helps to sustain a couple through tough times. However, both chemistry and compatibility are essential to a long-lasting healthy intimate relationship.
If you find yourself attracted to partners that you don’t have chemistry and compatibility with, you may be inclined to have one-sided, unhealthy relationships. Perhaps you grew up in a family where you were a caretaker or focused more on making others happy. Maybe you even felt that you had to be in a good mood regardless of your true feelings.

Truth be told, women are especially prone to become involved in one-sided relationships because we were raised to be “good girls” — people pleasers who consistently put others needs before our own. Girls are often raised to tune out their inner voice and this can set the stage for one-sided relationships because they look for their partner to validate them.
6 ways to avoid relationships that are wrong for you:
1. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. When you compromise too many of the values that are important to you, these relationships usually fail. Focus on your deal breakers and pick a partner who is someone who you can share a life with and deepen your love with over time.
2. Set an expectation of mutual respect. You can accept, admire, and respect each other for who you are. If you don’t have respect for your partner, it will eat away at chemistry until you have nothing left. A partner who truly cares about you is a boost to your self-esteem. He or she values you, gives you compliments, and encourages you to do things that are in your best interest.
3. Notice if your partner keeps his/her agreements. Are they someone who you can trust because they demonstrate consistency between their words and actions? When someone is interested in you, they’ll keep their agreements.
4. Make sure your love interest carves out time for you on a regular basis – that he/she makes you a priority because they value your relationship. This includes regular text messages or phone calls to show that they’re thinking of you.

5. Pick a partner who makes plans to do things with you and includes you in his/her inner circle. If something special is going on in his/her life, they invite you and encourage you to come.
The best partner will compliment you and bring out your very best. When you are with him or her, you will begin to see untapped possibilities within yourself and in the world. Author Jill P. Weber writes: “The more you view others’ mistreatment of you as something you have the ability to fix, tweak, or amend, the harder it is to develop a positive sense of yourself. Seeing yourself exclusively from the eyes of others disconnects you from the day-to-day, moment to moment experience of your life.”
By seeking out a partner who you have both chemistry and compatibility with you are giving yourself an opportunity to find lasting love. Even if you meet someone who is not a heart-throb, be patient and see if your attraction grows over time. Look for qualities such as compassion, generosity, and consideration because these are characteristics that describe someone who is a dynamite long-term partner.



The Danger Of Filling Emotions​

Our emotions are the result of one of our values being pressed. When we feel a certain way, it is our heart and soul alerting us that something important at stake. Something significant being provided or denied.

If we do not properly deal with our emotions, they have a tendency to pile up, pollute our perspective, and general make a mess of things. We try so hard to “control” our emotions – to feel the way we want to feel – rather than acknowledge the emotion for what it is worth and search for the meaning behind it.
Circumstances are just the arena in which our life plays out. It is the setting of the play. What we do, our choices and our behavior, is what makes the story what it is.

Immediate Onslaught

Our initial reaction to negative emotions is to try to shut them up as quickly as possible. We see negative emotions as a “problem” that needs to be “fixed”. So, when it arrives, we do not ask ourselves why we are feeling the way we are. We just try to get rid of it. We try to blame others, justify and discard, or pretend the emotion isn’t there.
What happens when we ignore negative emotions is they linger. They settle in us, just waiting, binding their time. The next time something triggers a similar value, we feel not only the emotion of that new circumstance, but also the emotion of the circumstance we tried to silence before.
It is easy to see how this can get out of hand. We carry around with us layers and layers of un-dealt-with emotion. We react to today’s circumstances with yesterday’s feeling (as well as a new layer for today).

And the worst part is the emotion festers as it settles in us. It gets worse. The annoyance we felt with our spouse becomes resentment. The rejection we felt from our father becomes trauma we carry into every relationship. Even the test we worried about passing becomes a pattern of anxiety.

Immediate Action

In turn, this makes it harder and harder to a) discover the value buried under all this rubble and b) deal with the emotion of today.
When we feel stress or anger or fright, the best thing to do is to allow ourselves the emotion, to explore the reasons behind it. In short, to handle it properly in its time so that it does not follow us around and compound on the next set of circumstances.

Your feelings are nothing to be afraid of, nothing to hide from. They are not the master of your existence. Emotions are a tool and an opportunity for you to know yourself better. To evaluate, understand, and live toward your values and vision.

By ignoring our emotions (or continuing to deal with them in an unhealthy manner), we make things much harder on ourselves. We drift further from the truth. Further from peace. We put ourselves under layers and layers of pain and then we do all we can to justify that pain. We also carry it with us everywhere we go; it colors our perspective of current circumstances and distracts us from the true vision of our lives.

The only way out is to start to address our emotions in real time, for what they are worth and for the reason they are manifesting. Freedom and healing come from acknowledgement, ownership, and making the best choice(s) possible moving forward.



Jeremiah 29:11 Isn’t About You​

Unless you’re time traveling with Doctor Who or Sam Beckett into Israel’s Babylonian exile, hearing someone proclaim Jeremiah 29:11 over their life and future should give you just pause to utter, in true Quantum Leap fashion, “Oh, boy.” While a wonderful verse of promise and hope, it is given within a very specific context often ignored by modern Christians. The text has nothing to do with how God plans to use your overpriced liberal arts degree to prosper you and everything to do with a disobedient nation exiled.

In full disclosure, I did graduate from a Christian liberal arts college that showcased the verse on every meaningful spot on campus for all to see. One could not attend a single class without passing multiple plaques or marble inscriptions with the words: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). For good measure, I just checked their website, and it’s still listed as their “theme verse”. Which, I’ll be a little honest, has always been slightly funny to me. Are they advertising their college-life experience to be like the Babylonian exile? Bold move, marketing team.

Their mistake (if you want to call it that) is that in isolation this verse sounds nice, encouraging, and rather general in its application. It goes well on t-shirts, trinkets, and graduation-themed bibles. However, within its original context, we quickly determine this is a promise given to a specific race of people. It’s a weighty text with decades of sadness and heartache brewing behind it. It’s honestly somewhat absurd when one considers it. We take a verse meant to offer hope to an enslaved race of people and plant it on a coffee cup with a cute font. I fear that our shallow applications of scripture are disrespectful to its author.

Starting in verse 1 of chapter 29, we learn that the prophet Jeremiah is writing a letter to “all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” So already, we have a categorical and contextual problem for our prosperous liberal arts college students. It’s just simply wrong to say this verse is about you and proclaim it over your life like a magician. Having said that, it’s important to mention that while Jeremiah 29:11 may not be about you, that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. There’s a big distinction here.

In one sense, by way of being grafted into the people of God, we can identify with this verse and recognize some personal/spiritual value. It works like a prefiguring shadow to remind us of how those in Christ are within the perfect plan of God. Consider Romans 8:28, which tells us that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Both verses hold up a wonderful truth that God’s people can rest within: God is for us. Still, a temptation remains to promote shallow applications and ignore some of the profound realities that surround these verses. We need to dig deeper about what it means for God to promise well-being for His people and how He uses suffering for His glory.

Let’s go back to our spiritual ancestors in Babylonian exile. If we read Jeremiah’s letter in full, we learn quickly that it was God who placed them into exile. Verse 4 reads, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile…” The sovereignty of God ordained such a thing to happen and it should go without saying it was not a pleasant experience for the children of Israel. Psalm 137 explains that the Judahites “sat and wept” as they considered their situation in Babylon. They longed to return to their homeland. This was truly a hardship in which few in western civilization can identify. They’re suffering in exile because of their unwillingness to obey the Lord that made them. For the faithful in the situation, the promise given in verse 11 offers hope. Their captivity is working for their spiritual good.

Such things should cause us to reflect on what “good” means in scripture. What does Paul mean in Romans? Does he mean health and prosperity? What God considers good may not always align with what we consider good. In fact, we are told numerous times in the bible that Christians “will be hated” and that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (Matthew 10:22 and 2 Timothy 3:12, ESV). Like Israel in their 70 years of captivity, God uses such tribulations for our eternal benefit. The world’s hatred of us is ultimately working for our good. It’s growing us, changing us, sanctifying us, and making us more Christ-like. Our sufferings force us to let go of idols and seek God above all else. When everything else is taken away, all we have is the Lord.

Like the Israelites in captivity, we can’t see or always understand what God is doing. We’re too small and finite. It is as Pastor John Piper famously once said, “God is constantly doing 10,000 things in your life and you might be aware of 3 of them.” Israel, although never abandoned by God, was given over to exile so they could learn some lessons on the importance of obedience. After many decades of captivity, Jeremiah comes to God’s people with a message of hope. He gives them instructions on how to live within their land. He tells them to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:6-7). God is calling them to learn obedience within their exile.

The LORD then promises, in one of the sweetest verses in the Old Testament, that after their 70 years of captivity is completed, “you will seek me and find me” (Jeremiah 29:12). For a moment, reflect on what it must have been like to hear such a promise after being separated from your home, your God, and members of your family for decades. Despite the pain, the loneliness, and separation God never deserted them. It’s a beautiful example of redemption.

The second half of Jeremiah’s letter is directed towards those who did not join their fellow Israelites in exile. These, who remain disobedient to God’s authority, are also given a promise. However, it’s not one you find carved into marble slabs or on coffee cups. Jeremiah writes:
…concerning your kinsmen who did not go out with you into exile: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold, I am sending on them sword, famine, and pestilence, and I will make them like vile figs that are so rotten they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with sword, famine, and pestilence, and will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, a terror, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they did not pay attention to my words, declares the Lord.” (29:16-19).
I think the overall lesson here is that we need to be careful when hoisting up scripture. We need to remember that all verses in the Bible have their own context, and no matter how well it might sound in speech or frame on a wall, we are being dishonest to scripture if we present it without considering its original context and/or meaning. Jeremiah 29:11 is a great example of this. The verse is simply not about us. We can learn from it, and we can apply its lessons to our lives. But we shouldn’t pretend God is promising something to us when He’s not.



10 Topics Every Christian Couple Should Discuss Before Marriage​

How do I know the person God wants me to marry?

My son asked me this question not long ago. It’s a question I get often from readers trying to figure out what God wants them to do next.
On the one hand, the question is much simpler than we make it. On the other hand, it is far more nuanced than we’d like to admit.

Almost 18 years have passed since my wife and I said I do. Six kids later, we’re rapidly approaching that time in life when our own children will be deciding when to get married and to whom.
It caused me to finally write some posts capturing advice I’ve given to a lot of couples, young and old, who were trying to figure out whom to marry.
I posted the first two questions over at my main FaithWalkers site:
Question 1: Is the person I want to marry truly a faithful follower of Jesus Christ?

Question 2: Is the person I want to marry committed to solving problems biblically?
Answering those two questions can eliminate a lot of the struggles around a marital decision for a Christian. But what about after you have answered both of those questions with a clear Yes?
What then? Does that mean you should marry that person?
Is there more to it?

The Third Question to Ask before Saying “I Do”​

There is a third question to ask that is far more nuanced than the first two and it is this:
Question 3: Would it be wise for me to marry this person?
It may not be wrong, but is it a smart thing to do? After all, marriage is for life, or at least it is as far as God is concerned.

There is a great deal of grey here, rather than black and white. It is precisely at this stage that you need to rely most on the leading of the Holy Spirit and wise counsel so you can make the decision with your eyes wide open to potential friction points.
You can’t see it all, so don’t wait for perfection. Trust me, perfection and marriage don’t go together.
But if you don’t think through the implications of certain life factors, you’ll be blindsided. Not that you can’t overcome the challenges if you are committed to solving problems biblically. Nevertheless, it can make for a very rocky road.

Better to check your course first, and then start the journey.

A Process of Discovery​

Even this past week, I uncovered more about my own hard-wiring that helped me understand why I respond to my wife in certain ways. After almost 18 years of marriage, we’re still realizing how our upbringing and personal behavioral wiring shapes our relationship.
Don’t think I am encouraging you to master every nuance of the relationship before getting married. Never going to happen in this lifetime.

But I do believe there are several critical areas of life–at least 10–you should think about and discuss candidly with the person you think God wants you to marry–and the earlier in the relationship the better.
Once a relationship has passed a certain point and certainly after a public engagement announcement, you’d feel like a jerk for calling it off. Even though that is exactly what the engagement period is for.
It is a public proclamation that you are considering marriage. So you are “off the market,” as it were, while preparing for this momentous step. But that does not mean you must take the final step.

Bottom line: until you make the vow before God, you can always back out or push pause to make sure you’re making the wise decision. Just make sure you are doing so for the right reasons and not because you are afraid of making a commitment.
No one wants to marry someone who really isn’t certain he or she is supposed to be there. Not really. That doubt will only increase as problems and challenges arise (as they always will).

10 Topics Every Christian Couple Should Discuss before Marriage​

Although certainly not exhaustive, this list highlights key conversations that should take place before you say “I do.”
1. Family Structure.

We are each shaped by our family. Even if we’re not fully aware of those forces ourselves, those relationships influence us greatly.
For example, being raised in a single-parent home will shape your thinking about family life differently than having been reared in a stable, two-parent home. I am not saying that a person reared in a single-parent household cannot have a great marriage. Not at all. But when someone has never seen a stable marriage modeled for them, you can expect figuring it out to be a challenge.

If someone endured a painful divorce as a child, you can expect that to influence their understanding of marriage. The same is true for someone who witnessed an outwardly stable but inwardly disconnected marriage.
Having a candid conversation about the family forces that have shaped the understanding of marriage you bring with you can help you avoid repeating the same problems. Pretending they don’t exist will only set you up for failure.

[It is worth noting that as the family disintegrates and marriage is redefined in our culture, this concern will become a greater factor.

2. Parent Relationships.
Beyond the core structure of the family, each of us is shaped by our relationships with our parents (or grandparents) or the lack thereof. When we first married, my wife and I hit our first big marital wall when she realized I had to go to work.

She had spent a lot of time with her father growing up as they had similar interests and personalities. But her dad was a disabled military vet who, because of his injuries, was home all the time. When I had to go to work every day and work long hours to get started, she unconsciously interpreted my absence as not caring about her. She would sit in our apartment alone, feeling neglected because I wasn’t there as much as her father had been there.

It took some adjusting for both of us to understand and acknowledge both her expectations and my own over-zealousness to prove myself in the workplace. Yes, I was probably trying to please my parents, as well.
Another popular parent factor happens when a son is so used to being taken care of by his mother that when he gets married, he really just wants to replace her.

Women who are naturally more wired to take charge need to be especially careful not to marry a guy who is looking for a replacement mommy. Although you will feel important and needed in the short term, you’re likely to end up frustrated in the long-term.
There are many other such parental relationship concerns that could surface. Just think them through and count the costs before making the commitment.

3. Theology and Church.
Even though you both may be Christians, you may not agree on significant beliefs or what church you will attend.

For example, one issue we had to work through prior to getting married was our view on the place of children in the Church. I had come to believe the historic Christian position that children of believing parent had a special place in the visible body of Christ. But my wife had been raised in a traditional Baptist church that had different views.
We studied Scripture together and she came to embrace my beliefs (without coercion, in case you were wondering.) If we had not agreed, we would have set ourselves up for significant conflict down the road.
Within the broad umbrella of Christianity, you will find a lot of disagreement. A clarifying question to ask is this: can we agree on a shared belief system that we can teach our children and that is consistent with Scripture?
Furthermore, does it major on the major issues and minor on the minor issues? For example, in the fundamentalist church environment I grew up in, watching television might have been grounds for not getting married.
If you are not clear on the differences, take the time and invest the energy to get clear on what you believe.
Don’t be afraid to push pause on the marriage plans until you are confident you are on the same page. If asking the person to wait while you work it out is too much for them, that may be a good indicator you were headed for bigger problems anyways.

4. Personality Hard-wiring.
Each of us has been hard-wired with different personalities and behavioral tendencies. It is worth the effort before getting married to figure out how God has wired you so you can see where your potential hot spots might be in the relationship.
For example, I am a creative connector while my wife loves organization and predictable structure. She excels at figuring out what is wrong right now and how it could be done better. But I am an idea person who is always thinking (and when I say always, unfortunately, I mean always). So I am always thinking about the future, and about how things could and should be. That has led to some friction, believe me.

I have also learned that when mechanical expertise is required, I shouldn’t even waste time trying to figure it out. She has a mechanical mind that I respect greatly. I defer to her to lead in those areas. Likewise when we’re talking about big-picture direction and leadership, she defers to me as that is where my strengths lie.
Taking some of the better personality and behavioral tests out there — StandOut, RightPath, Meyers-Briggs, etc.– and talking them through before getting married will help you figure out how the two of you align.
5. Birth Order.
Another often-missed factor to consider is each person’s birth order. Birth order is not about your hard-wiring, but your conditioning in your own family environment growing up.

Research differs on how much it influences behavior outside the family environment, but I have seen the trends hold pretty consistently. For example, my wife was a first-born child in her family, so she tends to take charge. My own oldest daughter is the same way. Both tend to act responsibly because they have always been expected to do so. I, on the other hand, was a second-born child, but the oldest boy. I was also the only boy in our family growing up — which makes me a really confused mess, basically.

The birth order matters, for example, when a first born girl is thinking about marrying a guy who was the baby in his family. The odds are good that unless he is intentional about it, he will tend to look to her to lead and pamper him since most youngest children are treated differently as the last baby in the family. And so it goes.
Thinking through these tendencies will help you see issues coming and prepare for them. [Check out The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are
by Kevin Lehman to find out more.]

6. Emotional Baggage.
Each of us has experienced pain in our lives. We’ve been scarred from living in a fallen world. Some may have been abused. Some may have had their hearts broken. Some may experienced great loss as a child.
Whatever the emotional baggage may be, it’s best not to ignore it before getting married.

If you need to enlist the help of a biblically-based counselor or therapist, do it. You can thank me later. (If they are not biblically based, be very cautious about trying to make any sense of spiritual issues with a secular therapist. It usually will only make things worse.)

An example from our own marriage: A few years into our marriage, I realized that because of pain I had experienced in a relationship prior to meeting my wife, I was afraid to confront her when I thought she was wrong.
As result, I had unconsciously set her on a pedestal. But there can be no deep relationship with a statue.
I needed to find the courage to risk losing the relationship to speak the truth to her. When I began to do that, our relationship deepened. I still struggle with it to this day, but we are more consciously aware of my tendency not to say anything for fear of rocking the boat. [I know. Some regular readers are in shock to learn that I don’t usually enjoy rocking the boat.]

Check out your baggage before boarding the marriage train. I am not saying you should call it off as result, but just be aware of what baggage the two of you have and open to the reality that you are likely to discover more once that train leaves the station.

7. Race and Ethnicity.
“In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,” says the Apostle Paul. So those attempting to preach that interracial marriage is wrong a themselves dead wrong. However, if you are thinking of getting married to someone of a different race or ethnic background, you should be honest with yourself about any challenges you may face.

Challenges may come from racist stereotypes in your own family, or from those of the same race outside of your marriage. For example, children who have one parent who is black and one parent who is white are likely to face racism from people of both races. That doesn’t make it right, but that is the reality of living in this fallen world.
Racial or ethnic differences shouldn’t decide your marriage decision — in either direction. Don’t insist on marrying someone just to show racist people that you are not racist. But don’t let their racism stop you from moving forward either. Just be fully aware of struggles that may arise as a result.

8. Children.
And speaking of kids, you need to have that conversation before getting married. Don’t assume you will work it out later.

Ask the tough questions now such as Do we want to have them? If so, how many? Or will we let God decide most of that? (You do have some role in that process, just so you know). When will you have them? (Earlier is better than later.) What will be our approach to parenting?
My own opinion, by the way is that God told us to be fruitful and multiply, so the more kids we have the better. And the truth is that having more kids actually is easier on parents in many ways than having fewer, in my opinion.

How many children you want to have will naturally lead to a conversation about birth control. It is a conversation you should have before getting married.
Across Christianity, you will find all sorts of opinions about it. Do your own research and study of Scripture. Talk with couples who have children and whose marriages seem to be working well. Once your wedding night comes around, it may be too late to start the conversation about when you will be having children.
Oh, and if the person you are thinking about marrying is open to considering abortion as a means of birth control. Run, do not walk, to the nearest exit.

One final key decisions you will need to make about your children is how will they be educated. Both my wife and I would never send our children to the government schools in America, for example, because they are controlled by the religion of secular humanism. Submitting them to indoctrination by secular curriculum and worldview–no matter how caring the teachers–would violate our conscience. So for us it would be sinful to do. We would go to prison first. Or worse.

You need to make your own decisions about education and get on the same page as soon as possible. Don’t assume you know what the other person is thinking.
I’ll write more about this topic very soon, but in my experience, having worked with thousands of families and the education of their children, most parents make education decisions based on financial concerns. It almost always comes down to money, no matter what pious excuses or explanation are offered as cover. But I digress.

9. Money.
And that leads us to one of the greatest sources of friction in a marriage–money.
“The love of money is the root of all evil,” Scripture tells us. Jesus himself said that money is the chief rival for our love for Him. Is it any wonder that it can cause such division in marriage, a relationship intended to best reflect His image on earth?

What we do with our money reveals what is in our hearts. We may not like to admit that, but “where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.” That’s why this issue can be so contentious in a marriage. We’re dealing with heart issues when we deal with money.

One of the biggest things to figure out for a couple is how they think about money. The truth is most people talk as if they want a lot of it. But the reality is that most people are afraid of it.
And let’s face it, most of us know what it’s like to not have money. We don’t really know what to do with it. And yet we are most afraid of not having enough.

Money exposes the focus of our faith.
As I mentioned earlier, we went through a biblically-based money-management course prior to getting married. All couples should at least do that. I would also recommend a read of a different sort:Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

10. Politics.
Of all the topics listed here, this one is perhaps the least important. You can be happily married as Christians but disagree about politics — to some extent.
But most political issues are grounded on philosophical or moral issues. The extent that your political differences come from your different interpretation of Scripture and Christian beliefs is the extent to which those differences will be an issue.

It may be that you should not marry that person if you disagree on something so fundamental as the nature of man — fallen or not. Does he see everyone as a victim? Does she think government is a means of salvation? Those are issues that may have implications in other areas of your marriage.
Talk through where you stand politically and why to make sure you can at least peacefully co-exist before having your home split apart every two to four years or every time an election rolls around.

Who Ever Said It Would Be Easy?​

Whew! Clearly the decision is not an easy one. But it doesn’t have to be a blind one either.
If you are having second thoughts after reading through these topics, you can and should push pause until you are confident you are making the wise decision.
This is an irreversible decision. Once you make the vow, there is no way out of it. You cannot enter a marriage thinking divorce could be an option or it soon will be.

And don’t fall for the lie from Satan that there is no one else left out there for you.
Waiting for the God to provide the best person to marry is an act of faith.


Samuel itched his skin again. He hated this terrible itch! Yet how could he escape from it?

His clothes. That’s what the doctor had said. He needed to put off these clothes and put on the ones the doctor had given him.

Samuel hastily changed. That was better.

But the following morning, he was back in his old clothes again, just a slightly different outfit. Not until the itch became unbearable did he remember that he was supposed to wear the doctor’s garments, which were made out of a different fabric.

Samuel realized he needed a plan. He needed to proactively put reminders to himself to wear the new garments. He even asked his brother to say something if he saw Samuel reaching for any of his old clothes.

Even with the reminders and help, Samuel still found himself itching in his old clothes at times. You see, those old clothes were hard to get rid of. They were made of a fabric that simply wouldn’t destroy here on earth. He’d tried burning them, freezing them, and more, but he couldn’t get rid of them. He tried to hide them, but they had a way of turning back up. They were troublesome clothes, to say the least. Samuel realized he’d have to stay vigilant.

I need to put them away and put on my new clothes, he reminded himself over and over again. With time and lots of help, Samuel began wearing his new clothes more and his old, itchy ones less and less. But he knew what clothes he wore would always be a daily choice.

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.…But now you must put them all away: anger,wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…above all these put on love…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…be thankful.” Colossians 3:5,8,12-15 (ESV)