Submission to God must come first

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Submit is a scary word, especially if you prefer to be in control. To submit is to let go of control and surrender all. Webster defines submit as yielding oneself to the authority or will of another. I think as Christians we can sometimes latch onto parts of verses that encourage us or offer us something of value in the moment, while ignoring other parts. One verse that offers me comfort that I hear spoken of often is James 4:7 which says “therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The funny thing about this verse is that the part I hear most often is the “resist the devil and he will flee from you part”. It’s important to remember that the Bible cannot be broken down and picked apart, it needs to be accepted as a whole.

There have been times when I have felt attacked and have prayed and feel as though I am resisting the devil, but for some reason he isn’t fleeing. Does this ever happen to you? What I’ve realized is at these times I am not fully submitting to God as I should be. The thing is, apart from submission to God, we aren’t strong enough to resist the devil and his attacks. We need to be fully submitted if we are to successfully resist Satan. In fact, verse 6 in the same chapter says “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Wow, God resists the proud! If in pride you are trying to resist the devil, the truth is God is resisting you. If this is the case do you stand a chance against the attack? What is pride but the need for control, possession, accomplishment, etc.? Can you submit to God while holding onto pride? You cannot. 

What does it really look like to submit to God? Honestly this is a difficult yet rewarding task. I find myself revisiting it and realigning myself often. It is easy to neglect submitting to God and, for me, this is when I find it more difficult to resist Satan. When I get back to a place of submission I feel a renewed strength  and freedom. Submitting to God means accepting His plan over your own. It means not taking credit or seeking to find a sense of worth in your own accomplishments or possessions. It means giving God free reign to do whatever He wants to do in your life. It offers the ability to have peace and calmness when things don’t go as you expected. It means not making a decision in life without first consulting God, and when you don’t like His answer, it means doing what He wants regardless.

Submission is a choice and it is what separates you from being a humble follower of God to an interested yet uncommitted “Christian”. Honestly, I know for a fact I cannot expect myself to be in perfect submission to God at all times, but the goal is to recognize when I make this error and get back on my knees humbled before God. If I don’t make this a regular habit I know I will not be able to resist the devil when he comes after me. Maybe you are at a place right now where you feel incapable of resisting. Check yourself to see if you are fully submitted. If you find that you aren’t, choose to submit and give God control. As His Word tells us in James 4, He will lovingly offer grace, and the devil will indeed flee from you.

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Not Guilty: Why you Should Change your Mind about Jesus

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Our society is set up in a way that people cannot do whatever they would like and they are willing to accept these parameters. If you don’t pay your taxes, you commit burglary, or assault someone and get caught you will be held accountable for it. Most people would agree consequences should be faced in these kinds of situations. Somehow we are willing to accept this, yet unwilling to accept the parameters placed on us by our own creator. Why is this? Many believe that a good God would never send someone to hell, and because of this reject Him altogether. This is by far one of the most difficult arguments for a Christian to face when talking with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus Christ. Let’s consider this argument in the form of an illustration.

Consider you and a friend have committed murder and are on trial with a likely outcome of a death sentence. One day the judge tells you that another man has come forward and has offered to take on your death sentence. All you have to do to go free is admit your fault, accept his sacrifice, and choose to follow a new way after you get released. The judge tells you that regardless of your decision this man is going to take that death sentence on your behalf. You ask why would he do such a thing for us? Doesn’t he know what We’ve done? The thought of admitting your guilt and accepting this man’s sacrifice, and not only that, but surrendering to a new way of living, is too much for your pride to allow. You reject the offer. Your friend on the other hand, astounded by such a loving and undeserved sacrifice, is willing to do whatever she has to do to accept this gift. Including admitting her guilt and making the decision to live a different way from that point on. She knows it will be tough, but that accepting this man’s sacrifice will change her forever. The Judge declares her not guilty and she walks undeservedly free, while you receive your earned death sentence.

This is what God offers everyone through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. A not guilty verdict. Freedom from our earned sentence. If a person ends up in hell its not because God sent him there. It is because he rejected the free gift of justification and salvation. Christ suffered death so we don’t have to suffer eternal punishment in hell for our wrongs. He took all of our sins on himself. 1 John 2:2 tells us “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” He wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us and nailed it to the cross! (Colossians 2:14) Do you understand how amazing this is? Maybe you would say, well I’m not a murderer, I’m a pretty good person. The truth is, nobody is good (Mark 10:18), we are all evil inside and need to be transformed from the inside out (Romans 12:2). Deep down you know you are guilty and you’ve been living with guilt for a long time. But you don’t have to! Accept the gift Jesus offers you and walk free from your sentence.

Another of Satan’s greatest deceptions is that following Jesus is bondage and not following Jesus is freedom. The opposite is actually true. Because I follow Jesus I am no longer a slave to the sin and darkness in this world and the Holy Spirit of God himself lives in me, providing all that I need (Galatians 4:6-7). I get to experience peace during turmoil (Isaiah 26:3), comfort in pain (2 Corinthians 1:4), strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), wisdom in decision making (James 1:5), forgiveness from my wrongs (1 John 1:9), calmness in fear (Romans 8:15), and the list goes on. I don’t just say this because it’s what the Bible says. I literally experience these things daily in my life. Do you experience the same through rejecting him? When you reject Jesus you are accepting the fact that you are a slave to someone or something else. You can call it what you want but deep down you know you are not free.

Jesus offers the same freedom to every single person. All you have to do is believe and receive Him (John 1:12). You will no longer suffer the punishment you deserve for your sin because he already paid that price for you when he surrendered to death and punishment on the cross. He loves you that much! Reject the lies of Satan and choose to believe and receive Christ so you can walk free in all that God created you for. My prayer is that this post changes even just one person’s mind about Jesus, because when even one turns from sin the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10). That’s how much you matter to God, your creator. I hope and pray that those angels are rejoicing even now because of your changed heart.

 

 

He who Comes to God Must Believe that He is..

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“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Someone close to me recently told me that during a dark time in her life she tried to go to God. She begged him to heal her and rescue her from the pain she was feeling. But He didn’t. She never claimed to believe what the Bible teaches about who God is. From her perspective she tried God and that didn’t work. I wonder how many people would say the same. This breaks my heart, and their was a time in my life this would have left me rather upset with God. Thinking, God, why would you not heal someone who cried out to you and begged for healing. Especially someone I care so much about. To expect this of God is to expect him to force himself on those who do not really believe in who He is. I personally don’t believe he does this.

The person who truly believes, will go to God for redemption, not relief. Why? Beause she believes in Who God is and she understands her desperate condition and need for a savior. She is a sinner in need of saving grace, not a victim in need of help in a troubling circumstance. The reality of an eternity without salvation and life in Christ is far more significant than a current struggle, no matter how challenging. God wants to transform your heart and mind, not fix your problems. Does God care about helping us through tragedy and pain we face while on earth? Of course! But this only comes once you have believed in your heart in who God is and have received Jesus Christ as your savior. You can’t go to God expecting his reward without believing who He is.

“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NKJV‬

When we believe who God is we will naturally want to diligently seek Him. Webster defines diligent as being characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort, and to seek, as going in search of or trying to discover. So we are to seek to discover God steadily, earnestly, and with great effort. Would you do this without believing who He is? Possibly, if you were set on gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge. But I think for the most part, you wouldn’t. I don’t diligently seek God because I hope He is real, I do it because I know and believe what the Bible teaches me about God, along with what creation shows of Him. Add to this the personal relationship I gained when I answered His call, believed and received Jesus as savior, and the incredible and amazing things He has done in my life since.

Maybe you are that person who “tried” God when times were tough, nothing miraculous happened, and so you determined that He must not be real or at least must not care about you. This just isn’t truth.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Did I seek God for relief from a difficult circumstance rather than for redemption? Relief from struggle is appealing, but it doesn’t compare to redemption in Christ. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
2. Did I acknowledge my sin, my need for a savior first, and the reality of not accepting the gospel of Christ? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ‭‭I John‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” II Thessalonians‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬ (not trying to be all fire and brimstone, but this truth shouldn’t be avoided simply because it is unpleasant)
3. Did I really believe who God is? That He is the God and creator of the universe and everything in it,  “I have made the earth, And created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.” Isaiah 45:12, NKJV), that lack of belief condemns me, (“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” John‬ ‭3:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬), that He sent His son Jesus Christ to live a sinless life and die on the cross to pay the price for my sin, offering me the free gift of salvation? (“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” Romans‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬).

If you answered no to these questions it could be that you went to God for relief, rather than for redemption, because you didn’t really believe that He is. So what’s the good news? It’s not too late to believe and receive the reward that God has to offer you, eternal salvation in Christ and spiritual blessings that blow worldly comfort out of the water. God doesn’t offer bandaids, he offers complete redemption through His son Jesus Christ to those who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. Once you have gone to Him believing who He is, your life can never be the same.

Maybe you just don’t know who God is because you have never sought out the truth. Go get a Bible, ask a Jesus follower you know, brave a Sunday morning church service. If you diligently seek, believing who God is, you will absolutely never be the same. How do I know this is true? Because He told us in His Word!

Secret Faults

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Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from my secret faults.
Psalm 19:12

This verse sheds so much light on why so many of us struggle in the various relationships in our lives. All the way from our familial And professional relationships to our relationship with God. We all have secret faults that we are blind to and none of us are immune to this fact! If each of us were praying this prayer, as David did, and opening our eyes to see these faults in ourselves, don’t you think it would eliminate a lot of our relational struggles? Perhaps the biggest of which being our relationship with God. To make it worse, often our faults that are secret to us are not so secret to those around us, causing frustration and conflict. So what can we do about it?

Here are some things I’ve learned and have had to work on in order to see my faults more clearly. By the way, I’m still a work in progress!

I have had to accept that I am not immune to secret faults and I am not everybody else’s savior. Maybe you have a tendency to always see the faults in others but not in yourself. If we were more focused on our own sins and flaws and changing them maybe we wouldn’t be so bothered by the faults of others. If you always find yourself feeling the need to confront others and “help” them by sharing your thoughts on their sins it might be because you are not looking at yourself and the areas you need to change. Are there times when we need to confront the people we care about in love? Of course! but this should not be happening all the time. It is God’s job to save not yours. If you have this savior mentality it is likely hurting your relationships and blinding you to your own faults.

I have had to stop being so defensive: when someone confronts me on something I’ve done wrong, whether it’s the Holy Spirit or a person, It can be really hard to see and admit my fault. Something I’ve always kind of struggled with when confronted with faults is the tendency to become defensive. Maybe this is true for you? When someone shares a hurt with you and you make an excuse it tells the other person that you think they are crazy and that you don’t care about their feelings. There’s a pretty good chance that you have in fact done something wrong. Especially when it’s the Holy Spirit doing the confronting! Instead of defending yourself, try objectively looking at the situation to find your fault in the matter. This will enable you to not only be more caring, but to see the areas you need to work on changing. (This is a hard one for me!)

I have had to specifically pray that God would reveal my secret sin and help me make changes. This doesn’t happen naturally, it takes serious work. It
All comes down to how badly I want to change and whether or not I’m willing to do what it takes. I personally believe that Satan can really create strongholds when it comes to secret, indiscreet sin because it’s different than the BIG in your face sins. Maybe you don’t get hammered every night, cheat on your spouse, or lie on your taxes. Maybe instead you judge people who think differently than you, live with discontent, or neglect spending quality time with Jesus (all of which at times I’ve been guilty of). These are the sins satan can easily trick us into believing aren’t really sins at all. If we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us we are in serious spiritual and relational danger. The good news is God always comes through if your heart is willing! He continues to do so for me and desires to do the same for you.

 

Expecting what God Expects for your Marriage

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If you’re married you’ve probably been given this advice: “If you want to be satisfied in your marriage lower your expectations.” This advice is awful so don’t believe it. Couples who have high expectations and standards are the ones who experience satisfaction and have lasting marriages.

Expectation is defined as “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen.” To put it plainly, what you expect is likely what will happen. If you expect greatness in your marriage you will fight for it. If you expect anything less you’ll accept it. This is a pretty big deal in my opinion. I don’t know about you, but I want my marriage to be great! Not just okay. Having high expectations, or better yet, expecting what God expects, is the way to achieve greatness in your marriage. Don’t be confused. High expectations are not the same thing as unrealistic expectations, in the same way that low expectations are not the same thing as realistic expectations.

God thinks pretty highly of marriage and so should we. It is beyond me how we as christians have been accepting of so much less than God desires for our marriages for so long. This truly needs to change if we are to reclaim what God has designed to be beautiful and satisfying. God tells us that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and died for her, and that women are to respect and honor their husbands as the great women of the Bible did before us. Not to mention, have you read Proverbs 31!?  Biblical expectations for husbands and wives are seriously high if you ask me! So why are we ready and willing to accept such low worldly expectations for our marriages?

Lets talk about some ways to go about setting high expectations and throwing out the low ones you’ve allowed yourself to adapt to in your marriage.

Determine what your expectations for your marriage are. You have to make the decision that you want what God wants for your marriage. Anything other than this will leave you unsatisfied and longing for more. This doesn’t just happen naturally because you’re a Christian. Next, you have to Define what this actually looks like. Simply saying you want a godly marriage isn’t enough, you have to know what a godly marriage should be. If you’re not sure pick up the Bible and start reading! Honestly that’s what I had to do. I didn’t have a perfect example of this growing up so I had to go to God’s Word and figure it out. Defining your expectations will get you nowhere if you don’t Discuss it with your spouse. Be honest about your hopes and fears. If you have never talked to your husband or wife about what you are expecting for your marriage now is a good time to start doing it. This will put  you on the offense. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Proverbs 27:12 says “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; The simple pass on and are punished.” Be on the lookout for those things that might threaten your marriage and guard against it.

If you do these things I promise you will notice when something’s off. When this happens, because you’ve set these standards and talked about them, your natural instinct will be to do something about it. This doesn’t mean that it wont be a challenge, it means that you will be willing and ready to fight hard and win the battle.

For any of this to really work you have got to let go of the low and negative expectations you’ve allowed yourself to have regarding your marriage. If you expect it, when it happens you likely wont do anything about it. You might think you can “just get over it” but this will not last forever, I promise you that. Not only that, but it will chip away at your marriage until you find yourself at the place you feared all along. In a marriage that is empty, together for the kids, and headed for destruction. In a society with a divorce rate of 50% it’s not enough to just assume this could never happen to you.

Below are four negative expectations that I believe can kill marriages and what God’s Word has to say about them:

-Are any couples really best friends? Its silly to expect this in my marriage. Genesis 2:24 says “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In my opinion, being one with somebody translates to the deepest level of intimacy. This is knowing someone inside and out, and to me, this is what it means to be best friends. If you don’t feel this way about your spouse you might have this negative expectation in your marriage. I believe that a deep friendship is the key to everything in marriage.

It’s okay to check out other women and men and watch pornography, this is normal. If you expect this in your marriage you need to do something about it immediately! Nothing will kill your intimacy and friendship faster. God’s Word has a lot to say about this in fact. Matthew 5:28 says “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” God sees this as adultery, not a normal acceptable thing. I promise it will destroy your chances of having a godly marriage.

Couples don’t have sex much after kids are born. That’s just the way it is. This low expectation is a huge marriage killer. 1 Corinthians 7:5 says about sex in marriage ” Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” This verse applies before and after children. Listen, I have two children and I will tell you that you can and should expect to be intimate with your spouse after children. Don’t believe the lie that it’s normal for intimacy to dissolve after children, this is certainly not God’s opinion.

My husband or wife likely won’t meet my needs and that’s okay. Yes, it is true that God is the one who should ultimately be meeting your needs, but one way that He does this is through your spouse. In Genesis God said that it isn’t good for man to be alone so He made him a helper. As a wife you are your husband’s helper, you alone are capable of enabling your husband to be the man he needs to be. In the same way, as a husband you are called to care for your wife in the same way that Christ cares for the church. This is huge! Expecting that you will meet each other’s needs is critical to your marriage thriving. You have to talk to each other about what you need and work together to define what this looks like.

Having high standards and expectations won’t prevent trials or conflict in your marriage. What it will do is enable you to face and overcome them, coming out stronger and closer than ever before.  You don’t have to be exceptional to accomplish this, you just have to fight hard for what you want your marriage to be and rely on God and His Word to help you do it.

I can promise you one thing, you’re marriage doesn’t become what you fear overnight. It’s a slow progression that results from low expectations and standards. Thankfully you can change this by changing your expectations and expecting what God expects for your marriage, Greatness.

Alcohol and the Church

wine_2656481bI have contemplated writing about this for a while but honestly didn’t feel like it. I decided to do it because, what the heck, why not? This seems to me to be a highly debatable and touchy subject when it comes to Christians of most denominations. I’ve thought and read about it a lot and hope that I can discuss it in a way that is honoring to the truth found in God’s Word. This isn’t a post condemning or condoning alcohol, I simply wanted to share my thoughts on what I think God’s Word says about the matter. If you disagree or feel like something I say is way off base please feel free to share as I value your input!

Lets start by looking at some verses that condemn drunkenness, not alcohol itself.

Ephesians 5:18: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Isaiah 5:11: Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!                                                   Definition of woe: things that cause sorrow or distress; troubles.

Romans 13:13: Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.

These verses make it pretty clear that drunkenness is indeed sinful and leads to trouble. I certainly don’t disagree. So why is this such a hot topic among believers of Christ?

Some people have the opinion that alcohol of any amount should be avoided at all costs due to the risk it poses. This is fine unless it leads to judgmental thoughts towards others who don’t hold the same opinion, and vice versa. Overall, the Bible doesn’t state that followers of Christ should totally avoid alcohol.

Is there anywhere in the Bible that does say something like this? Well yes, pastors are called to a higher standard and are commanded not to drink. The Bible talks about this in 1 Timothy 3:1-7  Verse 3 specifically says “not given to wine.” Later on in this chapter in verse 8 it mentions that deacons should “not be given to much wine.” Notice the difference, pastors aren’t to be given to wine at all, and deacons aren’t to be given to much wine. God clearly calls deacons to use sound judgment and wisdom in drinking wine but not to avoid it altogether. In addition to these verses, in Proverbs 31 king Lamuel is encouraged by his mother to avoid wine and strong drink so that he may rule his people justly and with wisdom (Proverbs 31:1-9). If there was no risk in drinking alcohol God would not call those in places of leadership like pastors and kings to avoid it altogether.

These verses clearly indicate that drinking alcohol is to be approached with great caution and discernment. Another problem with the idea that alcohol should be avoided entirley is that this approach might not be taken regarding other issues. For example, the bible teaches us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), yet does this mean we should avoid having money at all costs just in case? In fact, I would argue that while alcohol clearly poses more danger to someone physically, the love of money poses a greater threat to a person’s spiritual health. We cannot pick and choose with God’s Word based on our opinions.

So does this mean that as long as you aren’t getting drunk everything else goes? Not quite. It can’t be argued that alcohol is a potentially dangerous substance. After all, many people have been greatly impacted by the damaging affects of it. My grandfather was an alcoholic and died when he was in his fifties from liver damage. His family was impacted deeply by his alcoholism. This is the story for many others as well. Considering this and the warnings God offers in His Word it seems that drinking alcohol should be something that is done cautiously and with discernment.

It’s a pretty common thing these days to hear about Christian fellowship in which alcohol is involved. I’m not saying at all that this is sinful, but it could potentially be harmful. For example, Romans 14:21 says “ It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” We are accountable for how we impact those around us. Don’t assume that the people around you have the same views on drunkenness that you do. In fact, you don’t know if someone you are offering a drink to has had struggles with alcoholism or is heading in that direction. Again, I am not saying that the Bible teaches us not to drink with other believers, what I am saying is that based on what I have read I believe it teaches us to ensure that what we are doing is not going to cause another brother or sister in Christ to stumble. We need to take this very seriously.

One other point I thought I would mention is that alcoholism is not the same as drunkenness. A person can become a slave to alcohol without being a slave to drunkenness. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 that “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” If for some reason you feel a deep need for alcohol and cannot say no to it there may be a problem. Maybe you have wanted to stop drinking for health or other reasons but can’t, or maybe you avoid gatherings where you know there will be no alcohol, as you need to have it to enjoy yourself. These could be signs that alcohol may have a grip on you and could end up becoming a struggle. This verse is true for anything in our lives, not just alcohol, but obviously that’s what we are talking about here.

I hope that if you are reading this blog you don’t walk away thinking that I am judging people who drink or who choose not to drink. I just felt a desire to write about what I feel that Bible teaches us as it relates to drinking. In my personal opinion because of the dangers of alcohol that the Bible does describe I do believe it is something that should be approached with much wisdom and discernment. Thanks for reading!

If Sin Doesn’t Bother us there’s a Problem

biblePsalm 119:136
Rivers of water run down my eyes because men do not keep your law.

I love David’s passion for God. His clear and, as he puts it, freewill offerings of his mouth to the Lord are awe inspiring. This verse really spoke to me. I should be devastated when I see others willfully sinning against God, choosing not to obey Him. Even more so other brothers and sisters in Christ. Earlier in this same chapter in verse 11 David says “your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” . This is the difference maker right here. If Gods Word isn’t hidden in our hearts and we aren’t passionately in love with Him and seeking to obey Him seeing others willfully sin probably won’t bother us.

Are you desperate to obey God? Does it break your heart to see people living against His Word? Other Christians even? Funny story, recently I was told that after my husband and I left a get together the rest of the group started acting differently than they had when we were there. First of all, I was devastated and sad by what I was told. Secondly I was okay with the fact that they felt they had to hide this behavior from us, knowing that would be bothered by it. We have to wake up and take an honest look at our lives and determine who we really want to please. David wanted to please God and he knew that in order to do so he had to make a serious commitment to living each day with Gods Word in his heart. He couldn’t afford to flip flop and neither can we.

What this means is that we can’t be okay with our own sin or the sin of those around us. We can’t hide from God. If people living against God’s Word doesn’t break our hearts it might be because it really doesn’t bother us. What choice will we make each day? Will we hide Gods Word in our hearts and strive with all our effort to not sin against Him? We won’t get it perfect, but if we make this our daily goal we will certainly be on the right track to living a life with a heart after God, according to His will with an abundance of joy.

5 Ways to Minimize the Negative Impact Conflict Can Have on your Marriage

imageIt wasn’t long into my marriage, probably about a week in, that I realized conflict starts right away. There is no waiting period for conflict when it comes to marriage. One thing that I have learned is that conflict is a normal and healthy part of every marriage. It isn’t simply having conflict that negatively impacts a marriage, it is the way in which conflict is dealt with that can negatively impact it. I have often heard people say, “oh we don’t ever have conflict.” As a counselor, and a human being for that matter, I just don’t buy that! In my personal opinion, if a couple tells me they don’t have conflict they are either lying or suppressing conflict for fear of damaging the marriage.

So what can be done to minimize the negative impact conflict can have on marriage? Here are a few things that I have learned since being marriage that have helped me to positively handle conflict and in turn strengthen my marriage and connection with my husband. Maybe they will help you out as well.

Be aware of your weaknesses: I feel like I can’t say enough about being self-aware. To me this is one of the most important things a person can do in life and will determine  not only the impact he or she has on others but also his or her ability to improve. So how does being aware of your weaknesses help you handle conflict in your marriage? If you know where you are lacking, whether it be with personality traits or your responsibilities, when your spouse makes a complaint you can more easily accept responsibility for it. Let me give an example. When my husband brings up the fact that I sometimes leave a small hurricane behind when I leave the house I can calmly take responsibility for this. Why can I do this? well because I know that I am easily flustered and don’t always manage my time wisely. My weakness is not being messy or careless, it is rather thinking I have more time than I do, realizing I don’t, not getting to all the things I needed to get to before I had to leave,  and then rushing out in a mad dash so that I wont be late, sometimes leaving a disaster behind. Because I know this about myself I can accept his complaint, apologize, and let him know I am aware and want to improve this area of weakness. If I lacked awareness I might get angry and accuse him of blaming me without reason. Of course, one key to this is actually working toward change. For tips on increasing self awareness you can check out my recent blog on the topic here.

Be aware of your partners weaknesses: Not only should you be aware of your own weaknesses, but of your partners as well. This helps you to show more compassion and less anger when confronting an issue. Don’t assume your partner should be just like you. Our differences are what make us better together than apart. If you know your husband or wife has a hard time showing emotion try to be more gentle with him or her when you expect an emotional reaction. Its not wrong to complain about an issue, what is wrong is complaining with anger and dislike. Try to remind yourself of all the things he or she does right before bringing up whats bugging you. This can minimize your anger and help you to get your frustration across in a more loving way.

Minimize your reactions: I have always struggled with reacting defensively when confronted with any kind of complaint. This was because I was totally freaked out by the thought of possibly not being good enough (something I discovered through self-awareness). Once I was able to recognize this I was able to learn how to minimize my reactions to conflict. If your spouse attacks you or criticizes you, instead of getting angry or attacking back, try saying something like this “You know what hunny, you’re right. I did drop the ball on that and I’m really sorry.” He or she may look at you like your crazy. This one takes a lot of practice and requires some serious self-control. try to be genuine. We can typically find some kind of truth in our partners complaint, something we are responsible for. Find it and admit it calmly. Over time this will change the way your partner brings things up to you. Typically we bring things up in a negative or critical way because we assume that our spouse will react negatively and deny responsibility. If we show our spouse the opposite, eventually he or she will start bringing up complaints in a more calm and loving way, expecting a calm and loving reaction.

Allow your partner to feel exactly what he or she says he or she is feeling: Stop, I repeat STOP telling your spouse he or she shouldn’t feel a certain way. I have been guilty of this many times. Over time this can cause your spouse to stop sharing his or her feelings with you altogether. Not only that, it tells your spouse that you simply do not care about what he or she is feeling. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not, a person’s feeling is a person’s feeling and it deserves to be cared about and explored. I have learned that when I stop making it about me, and start making it about my husband I am able to accept his feelings with love and compassion. If your husband tells you he feels rejected by you it might make you feel guilty and tempt you to defend yourself. An easy way of doing this is to tell him he shouldn’t feel rejected because you accept him. This is wrong and will only lead to more issues. If he feels rejected there is a reason for it and you should want to do what you can to fix it. Even if his feeling ends up being irrational it is still important to care. After all, how many of my feelings are irrational? A LOT! I still want my husband to care. Additionally, you may feel that you are accepting him but you might be doing something that tells him otherwise. denying his feeling takes away the chance to explore it and come up with a solution, showing him you love him and care in the process. This leads to acceptance and a deeper emotional connection.

Increase your positive interactions: Dr. John Gottman says that happy couples have a positive to negative interaction ratio of 5:1. Increasing positive interactions is a great way to improve the way you handle conflict. When do you feel the most frustrated with your spouse? I feel this way when my needs aren’t being met. When my husband is showing me affection, attention, encouragement, and love I tend to be less irritated by silly things. Additionally, I am more capable of handling big frustrations in a more loving way. When my husband feels supported, respected, and appreciated he is less likely to be bothered by my weknesses and responds more lovingly to conflict. Meeting needs comes through positive interactions. This might include going on a date, reminiscing about happy memories together, leaving a loving note, making love, eating dinner together, expressing appreciation, etc. If you focus on increasing positive interactions conflict will be much easier to deal with.

Surrender: The Cure to Inadequacy

Whenever I am feeling inadequate and incapable of accomplishing the tasks that God has laid before me I listen to this song. For some reason I always feel a sense of peace and adequacy afterwards. God showed me today that simply giving myself to Him, fully surrendering to His will, is all I need to do to regain my sense of confidence in the work He has called me to do.

Do you ever struggle with feeling inadequate when it comes to doing God’s work like I do? Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” It is His power working in us that enables us to accomplish great things for the kingdom God. All He requires from us is total surrender, giving ourselves to Him.

This is easy to say, as is anything, but isn’t always easy to do. Sometimes it is really hard. Surrendering to God requires faith, trust, and obedience. If we want Him to do great things through us we have to be willing to give ourselves over to Him, including our desires, our dreams, and our talents, and allow his spirit working through us to accomplish His will. Typically what God asks of us isn’t something we can do on our own, which is why feelings of inadequacy often follow, as they should. This is why we need to constantly surrender ourselves to God and allow the Holy Spirit to take over.

I Corinthians 1:26-27: For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 

This verse tells me that If God has called me, which I believe He has, just as He has called you, then I shouldn’t be capable of doing it without Him. My only hope at being adequate to do what He wants me to do each day is by giving myself to Him in full surrender.

Four Ingredients for Improving your Marriage Connection

Marriage

Recently while learning about Attachment Theory I came across something referred to as PACE. It is basically a parenting technique for effectively nurturing your child’s secure attachment bond. PACE stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, and Empathy. The funny thing is, while I found this really helpful in raising my daughter, I also found it to be a helpful method in improving my connection with my spouse. I have found that implementing these four things in my marriage has really improved our connection.

Below i’ll go into more detail as to how and why these four ingredients have proven useful in deepening my connection with my hubby.

Playfulness: To me this one is huge! I absolutely love it when my husband is goofy and works hard to make me laugh, doing silly things he would never in a million years allow anybody but me and our two year old daughter to see. We can honestly have so much fun! Its nice to be serious at times, but I’ve found that being playful and having fun really improves our connection and friendship. We have recently purchased a super nintendo and are currently working on beating Donkey Kong (in extreme moderation, of course). This has brought us back to our childhood years and has been a blast! It might seem childish, but enjoying this activity together and laughing our heads off at my weird faces and body movements while playing (as if me moving around will help diddy make his impossible jump..) has been so much fun. Enjoying playful, not so grown up, activities can do wonders for your marriage! Stop being such an adult all the time and have some fun!

Activity: Think of a playful and fun activity you can do with your spouse and try it out this week. I don’t know, maybe its going to the park and swinging as high as you possibly can, seeing who can jump off the furthest in mid air! Get creative!

Acceptance: There are no two people who are exactly alike. This is true for me and my husband and its true for you and your spouse too. Accepting each other for who we are and not always trying to change each other has been, i’ll admit a challenge, but has ultimately strengthened our relationship and has helped us to see each other with a new appreciation. I am not talking about being accepting of unhealthy and harmful habits or behaviors, as these types of things need to be changed. I am talking about differences in personality that were placed there by God himself for a beautiful purpose. I am much more sensitive and understanding than my husband and much less organized. Sometimes my sensitivity can be a bit much for him to handle. God has used my sensitivity and understanding to enable me to counsel and support hurting people. My husband is so organized! He notices every single little thing, while I am oblivious to just about every small detail. I never put things back in the same place I got them and I never even notice. His organization makes him an incredible leader of our home and enables him to accomplish so much. Early on we struggled to accept these differences, and others like them. After time this has become much easier and has been a huge relief. Allow your spouse to be who God created him or her to be, rather than trying to make him or her become just like you. This lifts the heavy burden trying to change each other creates.

Activity: Make a list of all the traits in your spouse that have irritated you. Beside each trait  write down something positive about it and how it makes your spouse a better person.

Curiosity: I love it when my husband is interested in what I have going on, especially when I know its not really his thing. This shows me that he is curious about me and my interests, not just concerned with what he has going on. Even though I don’t really understand business, I love hearing my husband explain it to me and tell me about his ventures. While business may not be my thing, my husband is, so what he loves I love! I know how much it means to him when I ask him how his day went and genuinely listen! Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. Ask your spouse to teach you something new that he or she loves to do. I love it when my husband seems curious about the new theory I’m studying or book on emotional bonding I’m reading. Believe me! I know for a fact that this isn’t his thing, so having him intently listen to me  go on and on about it really means a lot to me!

Activity: Think of something your spouse loves to do and get curious about it. Ask him or her to teach you something new and truly engage.

Empathy: Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. The difference between empathy and sympathy is that sympathy involves your own feelings and empathy involves the feelings of another. Early on in my marriage I was so insecure! Whenever I noticed my husband was bothered I immediately assumed it was something I did and I sought out to fix it, all so I could feel better about it. I wasn’t really concerned with how he was feeling, but rather with how it made me feel. This was definitely hurtful and caused more issues. When you are less focused on yourself you are better able to focus on the other person and what he or she is going through, feeling what he or she is feeling. Pay attention to your spouses facial expressions and body language. It can be easier than you think to notice something is off. When you notice something is bothering him ask what is going on and really focus on paying attention to what he  is feeling, trying to imagine how it must feel yourself. Learn how to listen and not just offer solutions. Say something like, “wow this must be so difficult for you, I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” Instead of, “well maybe if you tried (solution) it would get better.” Its not all about the negatives either. When your spouse is excited or encouraged experience this with him or her as well! Rejoicing and sorrowing together is a huge connection builder in a marriage.

Activity: Practice this week looking for cues that signal your spouses feelings. Try to experience and understand these feelings and let him or her know about it. Express how much you care and understand what he or she is experiencing.