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.

As Lecrae Says it, are we Outsiders or Insiders?

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Before you read this post check out Lecrae’s song outsiders here

Also, if you aren’t a follower of Jesus Christ this post wont exactly pertain to you, but you can continue reading if you would like.

Something that really breaks my heart is seeing a fellow believer of Christ not living in a way that pleases God but rather in a way that dishonors Him. I’m not talking about not sinning. I’m talking about making a conscious choice to disobey God’s Word and showing little or no remorse and sadness when sin does take place. Lecrae has it down in this song “Outsiders”. I just love his bold passion for Jesus Christ and speaking truth. He doesn’t care what people think about him, believers and nonbelievers alike.

What we as Christians and followers of Jesus need to realize is that we will never impact this world if we are insiders rather than outsiders. If we want to experience abundant living like Christ offers us we have got to start living as outsiders, set apart from the ways of this world. The definition of an outsider is a person who does not belong to a particular group. If it appears as though we belong in this world based on the way we live then we simply don’t get it. Sadly, our Christian culture can be so watered down and distant from the truth of Gods Word. Because of this so many Christians are living lives absent of joy, faith, and peace and are having little, if any, impact on others for Christ.

Do you think God is any less sad over believers who fail to obey his commandments than lost people who choose not to accept him as savior? 1 Peter 1: 14-16 (NKJV) says “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” What has happened to Christ’s call for us to be holy? We are so desensitized to this world that we are willing to lower our standards. Instead of judging ourselves based on God’s Word we try to find someone who is just a “little worse” than we are so we can justify our actions. We have one person to be comparing ourselves to and that is Jesus Christ. We will never achieve true holiness as Christ did, but we sure as heck better spend our lives striving to. Anything less than this is a direct act of dishonor to our savior who rescued us from darkness and death.

The moral standards of Christians today is downright confusing. If we want to make a difference we have to be different. Its as simple as that. And I’m not talking about going to church and reading the bible. That’s all great of course, but if aside from that you are no different than the world then honestly what’s the point? Being different means not getting wasted every weekend, not entertaining ourselves with pornographic shows and movies, not laughing at perverted jokes with friends, not being hateful to people who are different, not making our goal in life to achieve more wealth and possession. Do the people around you have any idea that you live a totally different lifestyle than they do? Because they should. If not, its probably because you don’t.

This isn’t some self-righteous post; I’m talking to myself the same way that I’m talking to you. This is about speaking the truth of God’s Word. A truth that I believe really needs to be spoken in the midst of this watered down generation. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, need to stop just reading the Bible and start living it. James 4:4 says “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” We have a choice to make. Do we want to be God’s friend and servant, or his enemy?

Think about those people you know who are continuously showing the love of Jesus everywhere they go and impacting this world for eternity. How do they live their lives? Like the world? I highly doubt that. These people know what it means to live abundantly and we will too if we make the decision to give up our love affair with the ways of this world and live in obedience to God’s Word. What you will find when you make this choice is that it really isn’t much of a sacrifice at all. The real sacrifice is living for the world rather than God. A sacrifice of joy, peace, abundant living, and being close with the God who created you and loves you, who made the ultimate sacrifice in giving His son for you. Don’t shame His sacrifice any longer by claiming to be His follower while being an insider rather than an outsider.

Four Things That Set Daniel Apart

bibleEvery time I read about Daniel I am amazed by his love for and faithfulness to God. Even in the midst of impossible circumstances Daniel remained faithful. So what was it about Daniel that truly set him apart? Why did it seem so easy for him to stay true to God when everyone else waivered and gave in?

Below are four things that I believe were true about Daniel that set him apart:

He wasn’t willing to defile himself: I really love this truth about Daniel because I believe it is essential to his biblical example. Daniel had one main goal, to honor God in all he did. One definition of defile I found is to make foul, dirty, or unclean; Those are some pretty powerful and descriptive words. Isn’t this what we do to ourselves when we allow even the smallest sins to corrupt us? Scripture says that Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself (Daniel 1:8).

I’m not saying this means that Daniel never sinned, but he purposed (meaning he had the intention or objective) in his heart to do all he could not to defile himself. It’s an intentional and daily choice we have to make, one that Daniel made and one that set him apart as a man of god. As you purpose this in your heart you will find that you will become more aware of your sin and will no longer turn a blind eye to it. It is the overlooked sin that Satan uses to gain a foothold in the lives of Christians.

 He was willing to sacrifice: This truth about Daniel is probably the most difficult to swallow. This is especially true in a generation that is self-absorbed and obsessed with pleasure. For Christians it can be easy to blend in rather than sacrifice and be set apart for Christ. Daniel was taken from his own land into Babylon. He was chosen by the king, along with other young men, to eat the kings delicacies and receive three years of training in order to become capable of serving in the kingdom. Daniel did not want to defile himself with the king’s delicacies so he requested to be given water and beans.

Now for someone who absolutely loves to eat good food, that’s me by the way, this seems like a huge sacrifice! Daniel chose sacrifice over pleasure in order to honor God. (He also went as far as sacrificing his own life to honor God! We will touch on this later.) How often are we faced with this choice and choose wrong? After ten days Daniel and his friends looked better than all the other young men who ate the kings food and drank his wine. Because of this Daniel and every other young man ate beans and drank water for the remainder of the three years! Now that is sacrifice. Are we willing to sacrifice, like Daniel did, to be set apart for God?

 He wasn’t concerned with what others thought of him. Try to picture this. A group of young men are being fed probably the most delicious food and enjoying delicious wine daily. Then some guy comes along and messes it all up. This yummy food and wine turns into water and beans. Do you think everybody was thrilled with Daniel at this point? I would guess not. But guess what? Daniel couldn’t care less what others thought of him! He was concerned with what God thought of him and that was it. Think about the peace of mind he must have had. This is something I truly hope to achieve in my lifetime. Are we willing to be everyone else’s enemy in order to please our God? Daniel certainly was and his life was a reflection of this.

His faithfulness to God was unshakable and was evident to others. Fast-forward a lot of years to a story almost everyone knows about. Daniel and the lion’s den. Because Daniel was filled with God’s spirit and was highly respected he was placed in leadership in the kingdom. The other leaders were angry and wanted to destroy him. Daniel 6:4 says, “So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.” This is such a convicting verse. It really causes me to question my own faithfulness. I know for a fact if someone looked hard enough they could find fault in me. But Daniel’s faithfulness was unshakable.

The only way to catch Daniel was concerning his God. A law was created that anybody who prayed to any god or man aside from the king for thirty days would be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel’s faithfulness was so evident to others that they knew without a doubt that this would work! How amazing is that? Is my faithfulness to God evident to those around me? That even in the face of death I wouldn’t waiver? These are questions I so want to answer yes to! Do you? Well as you can guess and probably know, Daniel remained faithful. He prayed to his God and was throw into the den. But God delivered Daniel and spared his life.

One thing I have learned from studying Daniel is that I want these four truths to be true about me. With God’s strength and daily intentional living I know that they can be, just as they can be true for you. The only thing standing in my way, and in yours, is how strong my desire is to be set apart from this world, as Daniel was, living a life that brings honor and glory to God.