Sabtu, 29 November 2014

Everyone Who Seeks Finds

Everyone Who Seeks Finds
(En Español)
It is not hard to recognize one who has spent extended time at a newsstand: his conversation overflows with the drama of current affairs. And it is not hard to discern a person who has come from a sporting event, as their face reveals the outcome of the game. Likewise, people can tell when an individual has spent extended time seeking God. An imperturbable calm guards their heart, and their countenance is radiant with light, as with the morning dew of Heaven.
Beloved, to seek and find God is everything.
The Eternal Imprint
It is to our shame that, in our era, church services do not focus more on actually seeking God. Yes, we do honor God and thank Him for what He has done. We sing and hear a sermon and, perhaps, enjoy a time of fellowship with others. Yet only rarely do we depart a congregational meeting with the fire of eternity reflecting off our faces. Instead, we fill up with information about God without actually drawing near to Him. Most of us are still largely unaware of God's presence.
While we rightly need church programs, fellowship, and times for ministry training, we must not automatically assume that religious indoctrination is the same thing as actually seeking God. And while I am often blessed listening to contemporary Christian music, even godly entertainment is no substitute for my own worship encounter with God.
Therefore, let us ask ourselves: Is there a place and a time set apart in our spiritual lives where we can give ourselves to seeking God? What if the Spirit of God actually desired to manifest Himself during our worship service? Would the Lord have to wait until we finished our scheduled program? I respect and recognize the need for order; we need the scheduled times for announcements and the defined purposes that currently occupy Sunday mornings, but have we made room for God Himself?
"He Knew Not That His Face Shone"
When we first determine to draw near to God, it may seem we have little to show for our efforts. Yet be assured: even the thought of seeking God is a step toward our transformation. Still, we often do not notice the first signs of our spiritual renewal, for as we grow increasingly more aware of God, we simultaneously grow increasingly less aware of ourselves. Though we may not see that we are changing, others certainly will.
Consider the experience of Moses. The Lord's servant had ascended Mount Sinai, and there stood before the living God. The eyes of Moses were actually filled with God's sun-like glory; his ears actually heard the audible sound of the Lord's voice. Yet when Moses returned to the people, the Bible says he "did not know that the skin of his face shone" (Exod. 34:29). When the Israelites saw the fire of God's glory on the face of Moses, "they were afraid to come near him" (v. 30). They saw he had been with God.
The church needs more people who have, like Moses, climbed closer to the Almighty, people who have stood in the sacred fire of God's presence. Instead, we exhaust ourselves arguing over peripheral doctrines or styles of music in our song services. Perhaps there are benefits to constantly debating the nuances of our doctrines, but are we not more truly thirsting for the reality of God?
The Enemy's Resistance
What happens when we seek God? The Bible says at the very moment we are drawing near to Him, the living presence of God Himself is drawing near to us (James 4:8). Help is coming, redemption for our situation is on its way, strength will soon be arriving, and the powers of healing are activated.
But, one may argue, what if we seek Him and He does not come near. Fear not, He will. He may not manifest as we supposed, but He will come. However, let us also acknowledge there may be a spiritual battle. We must be persistent.

Recall the experience of the prophet Daniel (Dan. 10:2-13). For three weeks he sought the Lord with fasting and mourning. Then, suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, assuring him that "from the first day that you set your heart … on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard" (v. 12). What took so long? The "prince of the kingdom of Persia," a demonic spiritual ruler, stood against the angel sent to Daniel (v. 13). There was spiritual warfare.
So strengthen your heart for the likelihood of battle. There may be delays and resistance. Remember, it is those who overcome who inherit the promises of God.
Human Frailty
Beyond the obstacles caused by spiritual warfare, we also have inherent weaknesses that can hinder our quest for God. For example, you begin to seek God, but instead of making progress, you find yourself distracted, thinking of things you need to do. To silence a persistent memory, simply write down the things it tells you. Once they are written down, your memory will quiet and your heart will return to seeking God.
Another hindrance to drawing closer to God may be the emotional burdens we carry. Just as we have cleared our memory issues, so we should take time to cast our burdens upon the Lord (1 Pet. 5:6-7). Ironically, our cares and worries may have helped motivate us heavenward, yet they can also dominate our consciousness and, together with other issues, even "choke the word" (Matt. 13:22), leaving us unfruitful in our pursuit of God.
So, as you seek the Lord, as issues and personal concerns arise, place your burdens upon the Lord's shoulders. If your concern is for a loved one, commit that person into the Lord's keeping; if you are struggling with sin, ask God for forgiveness. If it is unresolved conflict with another person, forgive them as much as you presently can and move closer to God.
If you are troubled by the lack of depth in your forgiveness toward others, remember: the grace to fully release people who have wounded us does not abide with us but in Christ. The closer we draw to Him, the greater power we possess over sin and our reactions to life.
Our goal is to, day by day, draw nearer to God. He has commanded that we come boldly to His throne of grace. To receive the help we need, we must arrive at His throne. Remember also that our confidence comes from Christ Himself. He promised, "Everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Matt. 7:8).
We are seeking a lifetime of increasing devotion, though it may certainly begin in a season of drawing near. In spite of natural and spiritual obstacles, as we persevere, the Lord assures us, "How much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matt. 7:11).
If we do not cease seeking and knocking, we will discover unfolding degrees of intimacy with God. Even now, He's drawing near. The Lord promises, "Everyone who … seeks finds" (Matt. 7:8).
Master, to possess more of You is the heart-focus of my existence. Draw near, blessed Redeemer, and fulfill Your desire for me by fulfilling my desire for You.

A Thankful Man Is a Humble Man

 The Ministries of Francis Frangipane
A Thankful Man Is a Humble Man
(En Español)
If you think you know God but do not live your life in gratitude before Him, it is doubtful that you really knew Him in the first place. A thankful heart honors God. Too often when we say we "know God," what we actually mean is we know facts about God. But we should ask ourselves, "Do I truly know Him?"
Paul warns that just knowing doctrines about God is not enough to enter eternal life. He said,
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom. 1:20-21).
Even though we may know God, if we do not "honor Him as God or give thanks" to Him in our daily walk, our minds darken. When we are in that hardened, ungrateful state of mind, every word we speak is a spark lit by hell, set to destroy the quality of our lives (James 3:6).
H. W. Beecher said, "Pride slays thanksgiving . . . a proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves." We should be thankful that we do not get what we deserve!
When God gives us less than we desire, it is not because He is teaching us poverty; what He is teaching us is thankfulness. You see, life -- real life -- is not based upon what we amass but on what we enjoy. Even in difficult circumstances God still gives us much to appreciate. We fail to see what the Lord has provided because our hearts are wrong.
Someone once said, "When I see a poor man who is grateful, I know if he were rich, he would be generous." A thankful spirit is akin to a generous spirit, for both appreciate and receive the riches of God. When we are thankful with little, God can entrust us with much.

Togetherness: Making It Work

Togetherness: Making It Work

If you find yourself struggling with the challenges of togetherness, here are some simple suggestions.
  • Remember who brought you together. God has united the two of you for a reason. It's no accident. He calls you to become one (Genesis 2:24), to honor one another (Ephesians 5:22-33), to love one another (I Corinthians 13), and to remain together until death separates you (Matthew 19:9).
  • Change the way you think. You're still an individual. But God has called you to leave your father and mother and unite with your spouse. That means making changes in your thinking (you belong to someone else now) as well as your behavior (you don't act like a single person anymore). Changing the way you think can change the way you feel. Start thinking like a married person, and you'll probably begin to feel like one.
  • Educate yourself about God's desire for unity in your marriage. Read Bible passages that emphasize the importance of oneness and unity (John 17; 1 Corinthians 7). Personalize them by inserting your name and the name of your spouse. Pray that God will show you any attitudes and actions that stand in the way of oneness. Stop focusing on your mate's mistakes, and start working on unity by changing yourself.
  • Learn from others. Ask couples you know who have strong marriages how they moved from independence to interdependence. What mindsets and habits did they adopt that worked for them?
If you asked that of Bill and Ruth, here's what they might tell you.
Bill was independent. So was Ruth. For the first three years of their marriage things were so rocky that both felt they'd made a mistake in getting married. They developed separate interests and friendships, spent little time with each other, grew apart, and even considered divorce. But because of their church background, they felt they had to stay together.
Things changed on their third anniversary. They made a commitment to each other: No matter what, they would learn how to connect and develop intimacy. They began studying the Bible and praying together, and attended every marriage conference they could find. They made spending time together a hobby; where you saw one, you'd see the other. They took up golf and skiing. For the next 20 years they would have at least one date a week.
Recently Bill and Ruth went to another marriage retreat — where they were voted Most Dedicated Couple. Their switch from aloneness to togetherness hadn't just happened. They'd intentionally drawn closer and stuck with that commitment.
They'd probably tell you that intentional intimacy is an investment that always pays off — and they'd be right.
We help save a marriage about every 6 minutes. Your gift helps families thrive.
From Focus on the Family's Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, published by Tyndale. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Selasa, 25 November 2014

A Thankful Heart

 The Ministries of Francis Frangipane
A Thankful Heart
(En Español)
The very quality of your life, whether you love it or hate it, is based upon how thankful you are toward God. It is one's attitude that determines whether life unfolds into a place of blessedness or wretchedness. Indeed, looking at the same rose bush, some people complain that the roses have thorns while others rejoice that some thorns come with roses. It all depends on your perspective.
This is the only life you will have before you enter eternity. If you want to find joy, you must first find thankfulness. Indeed, the one who is thankful for even a little enjoys much. But the unappreciative soul is always miserable, always complaining. He lives outside the shelter of the Most High God.
Perhaps the worst enemy we have is not the devil but our own tongue. James tells us, "The tongue is set among our members as that which . . . sets on fire the course of our life" (James 3:6). He goes on to say this fire is ignited by hell. Consider: with our own words we can enter the spirit of Heaven or the agonies of hell!
It is hell with its punishments, torments and misery that controls the life of the grumbler and complainer! Paul expands this thought in 1 Corinthians 10:10, where he reminds us of the Jews who "grumble[d] . . . and were destroyed by the destroyer." The fact is, every time we open up to grumbling and complaining, the quality of our life is reduced proportionally -- a destroyer is bringing our life to ruin!
People often ask me, "What is the ruling demon over our church or city?" They expect me to answer with the ancient Aramaic or Phoenician name of a fallen angel. What I usually tell them is a lot more practical: one of the most pervasive evil influences over our nation is ingratitude!
Do not minimize the strength and cunning of this enemy! Paul said that the Jews who grumbled and complained during their difficult circumstances were "destroyed by the destroyer." Who was this destroyer? If you insist on discerning an ancient world ruler, one of the most powerful spirits mentioned in the Bible is Abaddon, whose Greek name is Apollyon. It means "destroyer" (Rev. 9:11). Paul said the Jews were destroyed by this spirit. In other words, when we are complaining or unthankful, we open the door to the destroyer, Abaddon, the demon king over the abyss of hell!
Paul wrote, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with gratitude, make your requests be known to God" (Phil. 4:8 MEV). Thanksgiving shuts the door to the bottomless pit and opens the door into the presence of God.
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The preceding excerpt is adapted from the book The Shelter of the Most High by Pastor Frangipane. This book with associated audio resources are currently on sale at

Senin, 24 November 2014

The Most Important Shape in Marriage

The Most Important Shape in Marriage

Big red circleBy John McGee
Have you ever wondered what is the most important shape in marriage? Chances are, you probably hadn’t considered it before you read the title of this article.
For the past 12 years I have worked with thousands of couples who are preparing for marriage, starting marriage, and many who have been married longer than I have been alive. I have seen just about every kind of marriage story imaginable. I’ve noticed that the couples who are doing well, or who have recently turned a corner in their relationship, have all integrated this shape into their marriage.
What is this game-changing shape? It’s a circle. How big does it need to be? Only about 18 inches – just big enough for you to stand inside.
If you want to have a great marriage, draw a circle around yourself and change the person inside the circle.
This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:3-5. Even though we are keenly aware of the faults of others, in any conflict we must start with ourselves.
It’s interesting how we tend to spend so much energy on people we can’t change, and very little energy changing the one person over whom we have complete control – ourselves. Why do we spend so much time and energy trying to fix and change our spouse and so little time on ourselves? My hunch is that it’s because working on you is hard – really hard.
It’s hard to change the way you communicate if you feel your spouse won’t do the same. It’s hard to initiate love and respect when they don’t seem to be reciprocating the same care for you. It’s hard to ask for forgiveness for your part in the conflict, when you feel the dispute was 95 percent their fault.
Responding to an amazing spouse is easy – being one is difficult.
I’ve seen couples who have started and finished their 60-year marriage journey still in love. I’ve also had the deep joy of seeing divorce papers shredded, accompanied by incredible turnaround stories that belong in the same sentence as the lame walking and the blind receiving sight. In each case, rather than focusing on their spouse or waiting for the other person to change, these couples individually gave their best energy to becoming a great spouse – and often times, their partner followed their lead. They each drew a circle around themselves and worked relentlessly on the person inside the circle.
One other thing I’ve noticed is that spouses rarely come to this conclusion and commitment at the same time. Someone has to be the first to initiate. So I’m encouraging you to go first. Draw the circle around yourself, step in, and get to work.
Copyright © 2014 by John McGee. Used by permission.

John McGee (@JohnMcGee) is the Director of Marriage Ministry and re|engage at Watermark Community Church in Dallas Texas. He is passionate about helping churches prepare, establish, enrich, and restore marriages in their communities.

Minggu, 23 November 2014

The Converting Power of True Holiness

The Converting Power of True Holiness
(En Español)
One of the most common verses in the New Testament reads, "And great multitudes followed Jesus." The Gospel of Matthew alone mentions over twenty distinct instances when vast numbers of people traveled great distances to be with Christ. People saw in Jesus meekness, unlimited power, and perfect love. If we would win souls, people must see in us this same Jesus.
When People Saw Jesus
"And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, 'I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat’" (Matt. 15:32).
There were two occasions when Jesus fed the multitudes. The first event occurred in a desolate region of the Judean wilderness, and it lasted one day. During the second event, the multitudes had been with Jesus for three days without food on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee.

The impact Christ had upon the local Jewish society was unprecedented! Their entire economy stopped. No one picked over or sold vegetables in the marketplaces, goats were not milked, gardens were left untended, and relatives watching little children did not know when the parents would return! For three days nothing at all was normal.

These local communities left all when they heard Jesus was near. Without forethought, without packing a donkey, without so much as taking extra food or telling those who remained at home when to expect them, four thousand men, plus additional thousands of women and children, spontaneously followed Christ to a "desolate place." Perhaps ten thousand or more people left their villages, but we read of no one complaining that the service was too long, or the weather too hot, or the message was boring. Whatever they lacked in comfort and convenience was overshadowed by the glory of being with the Son of God.
How wonderful it must have been to be with Jesus! The first time Christ fed the multitudes, they were so overwhelmed they conspired together to "take Him by force to make Him king" (John 6:15).
Such was Jesus. But a problem exists among many of us. People who do not really know Him seek to represent Him to others. And instead of testifying of His wonderful works, they testify only of their religion. The unsaved do not see Jesus. They hear about church; they are told sin is wrong, lusts are evil, and drunkenness is a terrible shame, but they do not see the love of Jesus. Yes, these things are wrong, but people must meet the love of Jesus before they will abandon their love of sin.
Plainly, Jesus called a number of people to silence concerning Himself. There were some whom He told, "See that you tell no one" (Matt. 8:4, also 9:30; 12:16). Others He outright forbade to speak, even though what they spoke was truth (Mark 3:11–12). Still others He warned would be doing great works, yet He neither sent them nor spoke to them, nor did He ever know them (Matt. 7:22–23). Indeed, there are those of whom He spoke whose zeal for converts takes them over "sea and land," yet their proselytes become "twice as much a son of hell" as they themselves are (Matt. 23:15). It is not our goal to discourage any from witnessing but to bring us to the realization that what we are in attitude and deed is the testimony which will be "known and read by all men" (2 Cor. 3:2). A "witness" is not just that which is "said"; it is that which is seen. If we will draw men to Christ in Heaven, they must be eyewitnesses of Christ in us. But if we have flagrant sin or self-righteousness, our witness is noneffective.
Let Your Light So Shine
Light, in the Scriptures, symbolizes the outraying purity of the holy God. When our hearts and subsequent actions are pure, the light of God’s presence shines through us into this world. It is with this in mind that Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men in such a way that they see our good works and glorify the Father (Matt. 5:16).
If good works glorify the Father, then bad works bring Him dishonor. Paul tells us that "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles" because of the sins of those who fail to represent Him (Rom. 2:24).

King David was a great witness of the living God to his generation, but when David sinned, his witness became a reproach. In Psalm 51, David’s prayer reveals the right attitudes necessary to truly witness for God. He prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. . . . Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You" (Ps. 51:10–13, emphasis added).

You see, the credibility of our witness is lost when sin rules in our lives. The world has heard too many Christians give testimony to a life they are not living. They cause multitudes of people to think Christianity does not work.

How to Know When to Witness
"But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you . . . for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" (1 Pet. 3:15).
Many Christians are told to witness for Jesus. Again, we would not discourage your witness for Jesus; rather we seek to encourage you to live for Him as well! Let people see Him in you before you testify. There are Christians who publicly sin in the work place: they lose their tempers and do bad work, they are often late or heard complaining about management and job conditions. Yet they feel compelled to give their testimony. "They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him" (Titus 1:16). A "voice" in their minds compels them to "witness for Jesus." Sometimes that voice is the Holy Spirit, but more often it is not. Undaunted, they are sure it is from Heaven since they feel "guilty" until they witness and "good" afterward.

There is one sure way to know if the "voice" urging you to witness is from God: if the voice speaking to you is the audible voice of someone who has seen your good works and is asking about your way of life, that voice has been inspired by God. When people see Christ in you -- in your patience when wronged, your peace in adversity, your forgiveness amidst cruelty -- they will ask about your hope.
The Seed of Reproduction Is in Your Fruit
If your conversion is genuine, you found a love for Jesus that is, in itself, a witness of His life. Let us always remember, Jesus wants to reach people, not drive them away. How does God expect us to do that? First, let us make sure our conversion is real, that we have truly given over our lives to Jesus Christ. Then, determine to bear the spiritual fruit of love and humility in your life.

In the Garden of Eden the Lord placed trees with seed in the fruit. Remember this always: the power to reproduce life is in the fruit. And for fruit to be edible, it must be mature and sweet. The fruit we must display comes from the tree of life, which brings "healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2). It is not in the tree of knowledge of good and evil -- legalistic laws, judging what is wrong in people.

If you would like to see reproduced in your loved ones or friends the experienced reality of God, walk in the fruit of the Spirit. The power of reproduction is in the seed, and the seed is in the fruit.
And should you sin or stumble before them, which we all do at times, repent both to God and to those you have sinned against. A sincere repentance to an unsaved person is a sure sign that God is both real and in control of your life!
Parents, do you want your children raised for Christ? Do you want your words to impart eternal life? Walk in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As the fruit in your life nourishes your children, the seeds within your fruitfulness will reproduce in your family the same qualities. Would you convert your spouse? Your parents? Your friends? Walk in the fruit of the Spirit, in love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Those who know you will find your life very attractive, for through your life they will see the holy life of Jesus.
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Sabtu, 22 November 2014

Marriage Must Be Honored by All: 6 Reasons Why Marriage Matters

Marriage Must Be Honored by All: 6 Reasons Why Marriage Matters

By Rick Warren
Whatever state you’re in – married, single, divorced, or widowed – the Bible commands everyone to honor marriage. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by everyone.” Everyone, married or not, should honor earth’s oldest institution.
Sadly marriage is no longer honored by everyone in our society. Today, marriage is dismissed as irrelevant by many people. It’s demeaned by many people. People are delaying marriage more and more – many times for the wrong reasons. And marriage is being redefined. It’s being ridiculed. It’s being demeaned. It’s being denounced. It’s being discouraged. Marriage is disrespected.
Part of the problem is that nobody knows the basics of marriage any more. God gave us marriage and He expects the church to stand for it and to support it. Most people don’t know why marriage matters. As we teach from the Scriptures about marriage, there are at least six divine purposes for marriage to communicate.

1. God gave marriage for the connection of men and women.

First Corinthians 11:11 says, “In God’s plan men and women need each other.”
God wired it this way. God thought up gender. God thought up sex. What a God! And God thought up marriage. The Bible says this in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who is right for him.” You need companions in all different areas. But there is nothing like the companionship of a marriage.
Mark 10 says, “God’s plan has been seen from the beginning of creation, when he made us male and female. [God made males, God made females. And God chose what he wanted you to be.] This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united as one body. Now since they are no longer two but one, [God sees a married couple as one] no one should separate them, for GOD has joined them together.” That passage says three things.
  • Marriage is God’s plan. It’s not a tradition we can just throw out. God invented marriage when he invented you, when he invented me, when he invented humanity. Marriage is God’s plan.
  • Marriage is between a man and a woman. There are a lot of other relationships but those aren’t marriage.
  • Marriage is to be permanent. What God joins together – God joins a couple in marriage – no one, no one else, should separate. It’s meant to be permanent. It’s meant to be for life.

2. God created marriage for the multiplication of the human race.

God chose to populate the human planet through marriage. For thousands of years billions of people have come into existence because men and women got married. God chose for everybody who’s going to be in heaven to come into existence through marriage and sex.
Malachi 2:15 in the Message paraphrase says, “God, NOT YOU, made marriage! His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Godly children from your union. So guard the spirit of marriage within you.”
If you’re married and you can’t have kids, God is not disappointed in you. That’s not what this verse is saying. What it is saying is that we’re all alive because some couple got together. For thousands of years God has used marriage to populate heaven. And if men and women weren’t getting together, marrying and having sex then there would be nobody in heaven.

3. God created marriage for the protection of children.

God invented marriage for the protection of children. We all know that kids grow better, healthier, stronger when they grow up in a stable family with a mom and a dad.God knew that human children needed a safe environment. And you were going to need somebody to feed you and dress you and nurture you. You were going to need somebody to protect you, to guide you, to train you, to care for you and all these things.
That’s why at Saddleback we don’t believe in orphanages. We don’t fund orphanages. We don’t build orphanages. Why? Because no kid deserves to grow up in an institution. They deserve to grow up in a family. It’s more important to help finance a family to take that child in. Proverbs 14:26 says, “Those who obey and respect the Lord have a secure fortress; their children have a place of refuge and security.” Kids need to be able to grow up in a home that is a refuge.

4. God created marriage for the perfection of our character.

God created marriage for the perfection of our character. It is in relationships that we learn to be unselfish and to be loving. And no relationship has a greater impact on your life than marriage, if you get married. Maturity and the purpose of life is to grow up and realize it’s not all about you. Life is a laboratory of learning how to love. Why is love the most important thing in life? Because God is love. And God wants you to become like him. He wants you to learn how to love. We learn to love and learn to be unselfish.
The Bible says this in Proverbs 18:1 “It’s selfish and stupid to think only of yourself.” Marriage is a lifelong course in learning to be unselfish because once I get married, I can no longer think about me. I’ve got to think about we. 
The number one tool that God uses in your life to build Christ-like character if you are married is your spouse. Oh no! Yep! Because every day you get hundreds of opportunities to not think about you. You get opportunities to think of the other person, to care about them. The number one purpose of marriage is to make me holy, not happy. That is counter-cultural, but it is the truth.

5. God created marriage for the construction of society.

Marriage is the fundamental building block of every community, church, state, nation, society and culture. If you know anything about history you know that where marriages are strong, cultures and nations are strong. You know that wherever marriages and families are weak, cultures and nations are in decline.
It’s really obvious what direction our nation is headed right now. America is not getting better. It’s not getting stronger. It’s going the other direction. Why? Because we don’t value marriage and family any more. We value self way more than marriage. We’ve made individualism an idol. Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness [doing it God’s way] lifts up a nation, but sin [not doing it God’s way] brings disgrace to any society.”

6. God created marriage for the reflection of our union with Christ.

Marriage is a metaphor. It is a symbol. It’s a walking, living, object lesson of how much God loves us and how we are to be in relationship with him. Marriage is a model of a profound spiritual truth.
Ephesians 5 says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… He died so that he could give the church to himself as a Bride in all her beauty … In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies… No one ever hates his own body, but feeds and takes care of it. And that is what Christ does for his church, his body. The Scripture says, a man is united with his wife, and the two become one body.’ This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church! So each husband must love his wife as he loves himself, and each wife must respect her husband.”
No other relationship on planet earth, including the parent-child relationship, can adequately illustrate our union with Christ the way a marriage between a man and a woman does. This is the strongest reason why marriage cannot be redefined. This is the strongest reason why it must be protected at all cost. Because we are the body of Christ. We are the bride of Christ in union with Christ. And marriage is that metaphor.
It really doesn’t matter what other people think about marriage. It doesn’t matter what public opinion says. It doesn’t matter what the opinion polls say. It doesn’t matter what’s politically correct or incorrect. What really matters is what God says. He’s the One who invented marriage.
Photo credit: Martin Gommel

Senin, 17 November 2014

The War Over Reality

The War Over Reality
(En Español)
The Principle of Displacement
"Then war broke out in heaven, Michael and his angels going forth to battle with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no room found for them in heaven any longer" (Rev. 12:7-8 AMP). Notice the phrase, "there was no room . . . for them in heaven." The war against principalities involves displacement: Christ filling the spiritual territories once held by Satan.
This war in Heaven is difficult for us to comprehend. How do angels and demons, beings who do not die from wounds, wage war? With what do they do battle? And how do they conquer one another? Without exceeding the bounds of our knowledge, we can safely say this: All spiritual warfare is waged over one essential question: Who will control reality on earth, Heaven or hell?
When it comes to angelic and demonic warfare, the battle rests not in physical weaponry but in the power of agreement between mankind and the spirit realm. We read in Ephesians 6 (NKJV) that "principalities" and "powers" occupy the "heavenly places" (v. 12). But we read in Ephesians 1:10 that it is the Father’s expressed purpose to sum up all things in Christ, "things in the heavens and things on the earth." Ephesians 3:10 reveals God’s glorious plan, that "through the church" God has purposed to make known His manifold wisdom to the principalities and powers "in the heavenly places." You see, as the body of Christ on earth agrees with its Head in Heaven, the Spirit of Christ Himself displaces the powers of darkness in the heavenly places.
In other words, when the church on earth is aggressive in its agreement with the will and Word of God, then the presence of God increases in the spiritual realm, proportionally displacing the influence of hell on earth. Shortly thereafter, manifesting in the world of men, we see revivals, healings and miracles. But when the church is passive, indifferent or carnal, the powers of hell increase their rule over the affairs of men: marriages break up, crime increases, and wantonness becomes unbridled. We must see that our prayers, attitudes, and agreement with God are an integral part of establishing the reality of the kingdom of God on earth!
The Devil Is a Master Illusionist
Satan is unmasked in Scripture as "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). His realm of operation is the spirit world that immediately surrounds and blankets the consciousness of mankind. This realm is known as the "heavenly places" in the Bible (Eph. 6:12). From this spiritual realm Satan works to corrupt and control the mind of man through illusions built from mankind’s carnal desires and fears. But the power of the lie is not merely the speaking of falsehoods, nor is it that this world is an illusion. The lie of the enemy appears most powerfully when men believe that this world, as it is, is the only world we can live in. The truth is, of course, that God is establishing His kingdom, and ultimately, every other reality will submit to and be ruled by that kingdom! (See Heb. 12:26-28; Rev. 11:15.)
The weapon God has given us to combat the lies of the enemy is the Word of God, which the Scriptures refer to as the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). Jesus said His words "are spirit and are life" (John 6:63), which is to say that the substance or meaning in Christ’s words represents an actual reality: the living Spirit of the kingdom of God.
We should also recognize that the ancient Greeks, in whose language the New Testament was written, had no word for "reality." To them "truth" and "reality" were the same essence. If we seek to experience the true work of the Holy Spirit, we should understand that the Spirit has been sent to establish the reality of God’s kingdom in the lives of Jesus’ followers. Thus, as we become one with the Spirit of Truth, and as we fully embrace the Word of Truth, we are brought into the reality of God Himself!
This point is essential: in our war over who controls man’s world, the singular weapon God has given the church is His Spirit-empowered Word. The living Word of the Spirit is the truth.
Paul taught that spiritual warfare deals specifically with the "pulling down of strongholds." But what are those strongholds? They are lies the devil has sown into our thought-processes which, as we accepted and believed them, became reality to us. We do not fall in sin as much as we are seduced by it; every sin is cloaked in some measure of deception. But as these lies are uncovered and destroyed, as our thought-processes are freed from illusions, we will discover the blamelessness, perfection, and truth of Christ in us, the hope of glory (see Col. 1:27).
To be successful in life, therefore, we must know the Word of God. For all things come into being through the Word. Yes, it is the Word made alive in our hearts, germinated by our faith, that wins the war over reality.

Pursuing the Stature of Christ

Pursuing the Stature of Christ
by Francis Frangipane
(En Español)
In a most profound verse the apostle Paul unveils God's supreme plan for the church. He tells us we are called to nothing less than "the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). The Father's glorious intention is to exhibit through us all the attributes and power of Jesus Christ. He has purposed that, not only in eternity but here in the midst of our battles and temptations, we are to grow "in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (v. 15).
We have put such limitations upon our call in God! The Almighty's goal for us is not that we merely become nice, but become Christlike, literally partakers of His nature (1 Cor. 12:12; 2 Pet. 1:3; Heb. 3:14; Gal. 2:20). There is a difference between hallowed doctrine and hollow doctrine. Let us quickly abandon the boundaries of spiritually empty religious traditions: God has invited us to partake of the fullness of Christ! The depth of His grace has rendered us capable of climbing the heights of His holiness. Through the Holy Spirit, the responsibility of wielding Christ's very authority has been delegated to us!
Having received the expanse of Christ's love, we are now called to reveal it in its full redemptive power. Indeed, whatever we see in Jesus is what God has purposed to reveal in us. It is this vision of attaining Christlikeness that centers us firmly upon the path to doctrinal purity. Once we clearly grasp the vision of Christlikeness, an amazing change occurs: "We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14).
Let us also note: Paul did not specify whether these "winds of doctrine" were simply false teachings. Indeed, dogma does not have to be false to be misleading; even a true doctrine with an overly exaggerated emphasis can sidetrack us from Christlikeness.
It is here, where we boast in our doctrines and spiritual gifts that many of us are being led astray. For what compels us forward into new religious activity is not always the leading of God. If we do not see conformity to Christ as central to our future, what may be guiding us is a wind of doctrine.
In the church today there are a number of doctrines which have grown bigger than their scriptural proportions and, thus, tend to obscure our vision of Christlikeness. Teachings concerning personal prosperity or the timing of the rapture have become, for some, unbalanced precepts, which easily distract us from the ultimate truth which is in Jesus.
Some churches overemphasize the doctrine of "speaking in tongues." I firmly believe that all the gifts are for today, but gifts, too, can become winds of doctrine for many. Again, we are not talking about false teachings, but true beliefs that have become caricatures of the Gospel. Correct and balanced doctrinal understanding is fundamental to our spiritual well-being. But when our energies are absorbed more with a particular doctrine than attaining the character and power of Christ, we are probably being misled.
Paul also said our pursuit of Christlikeness would keep us from being "tossed here and there by waves." A wave is a spiritual phenomenon that sweeps over a church or a city. It is a spiritual "high tide," where we can be washed and healed. A true spiritual wave can release wonderful joy and bring healing to areas within us otherwise untouched by God. Yet, if we are following after waves, we should consider: the tide that comes in with manifestations and blessings also goes out. When the wave is over, it does not mean that God has abandoned us or that His ultimate purpose has changed.
A genuine stirring of God's Spirit, either through a fresh doctrinal understanding or through unique spiritual manifestations, is given by God to empower us toward conformity to Christ. The fact is, whether we are in a time of preparation or in the glory of a visitation, whether we are carrying the cross or soaring in resurrection power, our focused, passionate goal must still be Christlikeness.
If you are confused about what is happening in the church at large, or even in your own personal life, remember: God does not want you tossed by waves or carried by doctrines. The issue is not whether we are following a doctrine or falling under a wave. The real question is whether we will rise to the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

The Un-envisioned Place

The Un-envisioned Place
by Francis Frangipane
(En Español)
If we look at the heroes of faith in the Scriptures, we will find people that, without fail, were people of vision. Yet, upon deeper study, we also discover that, even as people of vision, they often found themselves in circumstances that were unlike anything they expected. Yet, it was in this "un-envisioned place" that God established character in His servant. It was here where the Lord released power that fulfilled destiny.
Consider Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. He wrote of his "great desire" to travel to the church in Thessalonica more than once. Yet, he said, "Satan hindered us" (1Thess. 2:17-18).
Paul must have believed that God was telling him to travel, plant churches and evangelize. Yet, if we look at Paul’s life, it seems Paul found himself often stuck in jail, not traveling on apostolic journeys. Although he felt that Satan had thwarted him, God was watching. There, in dark, mildewed cells, Paul allowed the character of Christ to emerge: singing hymns at midnight, rejoicing always, praying without ceasing (see 1 Thess. 5). Jail was not what Paul envisioned for himself, yet in the crucible of this un-envisioned place, by keeping his heart like Christ’s, he stayed inspired. From prison he turned to writing and there penned some of his most profound epistles.
What seemed like a setback, in God’s hands becomes a setup for greater victory! Paul and the other leaders thought that Christ would return in their lifetimes. Having been put in prison and unable to travel, they were forced to write their revelation and not just speak it. Thus, instead of only reaching their generation by personal contact, their writings would touch lives for nearly 2000 years!
Or consider the apostle John. At the end of his life he was exiled to a lonely life on the Isle of Patmos. If anyone was a "people person," it would have been John. He could have become bitter. Certainly, this was not what God wanted for this man, the last one who had been with Jesus Himself? Yet if he had not been exiled, we would not have been given the majesty of the Revelation of John.
Or what of Joseph -- betrayal, slavery and jail was not what this great man envisioned, but it's what the Holy Spirit used to transformed a dreamer into a mighty leader in Egypt. Or did David expect after being anointed by the prophet Samuel, that he would find himself in a wilderness, a fugitive for seven years? No, but it was here, in the injustice of the wilderness years, that God forged in David and his followers the greatest sense of unity the Old Testament would attain.
So also with you. Your current circumstances may not be what you envisioned for yourself, but they are no obstacle for God. Paul learned that God was fully able to reveal Himself, not only in the expected places, but in that which was unexpected as well.
Paul wrote, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place" (2 Cor. 2:14).
I love this verse. Paul wrote that in a time when he might have despaired of life itself. But God is faithful. No matter what the setback seems to be, God always leads us in His triumph in Christ. We can find the sweet aroma of Christ in every place.
He is there with you. As you exercise your faith, as you rest, trusting in Him, do what Christ would do in your circumstances. Unbelief will flee as you become Christlike in the crisis. God will turn your setback into a setup that releases destiny in the un-envisioned place.

Focus on Your Family, Not Your Sermon

Focus on Your Family, Not Your Sermon

ear view of a boy wearing a baseball uniform talking to his fatherBy Ted Cunningham
What would happen if you gave a good, but not great, message this Sunday?
What if you can’t study as hard this week as you did last week?
Is it okay to have an okay week?
Is it okay to choose more time with family this week and give an okay sermon on Sunday?
Preachers have a spotlight on them every week. When we are not preaching, we are preparing to preach. With so many of our congregants attending church during the week on YouTube and the apps of their favorite pastors and churches, there’s a pressure to be great and hit home runs every time you step up to bat.
I call the pressure to be great every week in the pulpit the “Crazy Awesome Cycle.” To be perfectly honest with you it is exhausting. It drains me. How will this Sunday’s sermon rate in comparison to last Sunday’s?
There are many aspects to the “Crazy Awesome Cycle.”
First, social media fuels the pressure of this cycle with the comparison trap. I get that social media is best foot forward, but it still weighs on me. I often read pastor tweets and Facebook updates that go something like this:
“I just came out of the most amazing creative team meeting EVER!”
“Sunday is going to be HUGE, you don’t want to miss it!”
“This past Sunday was the best Sunday in the life of our church!”
I rarely see social media posts from pastors that read:
“I should have studied a little bit harder for last Sunday’s message.”
“Did you get anything out of yesterday’s message? It seemed to drag a bit.”
“About halfway through the message I realized that I lost the congregation.”
Second, preaching without notes adds to the “Crazy Awesome Cycle.” When I was in seminary I heard for the first time the debate of whether a pastor should use notes or not when he preaches. This conversation felt odd to me. Maybe because I grew up with a pastor who preached from notes. Then Pastor Chuck Swindoll addressed the issue for me and it was settled: “I preach every week and do not have time to memorize every sermon. Does it bother anyone in here that I am looking at my notes right now?” he asked with a humorous tone. The students looked at each other as if to ask, “Doesn’t bother me, how ‘bout you?” Mix it up. You may have the time this week to prepare a great sermon, but you don’t have the time to memorize it. That’s okay.
Third, we have become a culture of raters. We rate everything. Restaurants, movies, stores, organizations, churches and even sermons. When visiting a large city, my wife and I check out a restaurant’s rating on Urbanspoon before dining. While I don’t think people are picking churches or preachers based on ratings, the idea of scoring our sermons still stands. If last week’s message was a “9,” I need to meet or beat it this week.
Finally, the most important aspect of the “Crazy Awesome Cycle” is that my family often gets caught up in it.
Do you feel the pressure of hitting a home run sermon week after week? I do. During a small gathering of pastors years ago, Pastor Rick Warren said something I have never forgotten: “You don’t need to hit home runs to win the game. Singles and doubles will work just fine.” Talk about a statement that gives each one of us room to breathe! He is right. I often go back to that statement when I’m about to preach a difficult passage or a topic that is politically incorrect.
Pastor Rick also recounts the story of a superstar baseball player who chose his family over baseball. He said “Yes” to his family over another big moment in the spotlight:
“Several years ago, Ken Griffey Jr. was invited to the Players Choice Awards, where he was to be named player of the decade. His award was to be given on national television. He beat out players like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. But when he found out when the award was to be given, he declined to attend. He had something more important to do. His five-year-old son, Trey, was playing in his first baseball game, and Ken wasn’t going to miss it.”
He said “No” to another big moment in the spotlight to be with his family.
My goal is not to encourage laziness or apathy in your ministry or in the pulpit, but rather to inspire you to prioritize your family. Study hard this week. Memorize Scripture. On Saturday as you begin feeling the pressure of the big day, remind yourself that a double is okay. You may not get invited to an awards show or be listed in a magazine for Awesome Pastors, but you will be your child’s hero. That’s good enough for me.
One last consideration: instead of stepping up to the batter’s box every week, why not think about calling in a pinch hitter? When I was a kid and first heard the term “pulpit supply,” I thought it meant those little pencils and guest cards stored in the pulpit to hand to those who come forward during the invitation. I had no idea that it referred to the guest preacher. Maybe it’s time to develop a deeper teaching bench and call on a few others to hit the ball.
Woodland Hills Family Church is a small to medium size church in the Midwest with a teaching team of five pastors. I am the only pastor on staff. We have four other teaching pastors (three from the community and one from out of state) that regularly pour into our congregation.
On the weeks I do not preach, my family feels my mind is freed up. I’m more present in the home. There’s no outline running through my head. I’m not watching my kids for another illustration. As Jon Acuff reminds us, “Let them be your children, not your content.”
I hope and pray Sunday is a good day for you, whether you are preaching or not.
Copyright © 2014 by Ted Cunningham. Used by permission.

Ted Cunningham
Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church. He married Amy in 1996 and now live in Branson, MO with their two children, Corynn and Carson. Ted is the author of Fun Loving You, Trophy Child and Young and In Love and coauthor of four books with Dr. Gary Smalley. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

Three Lessons Learned From My PKs

Three Lessons Learned From My PKs

Young boy preacherBy John McGee
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into your children’s shoes – in other words, to have you as a parent? How would you feel if you were the PK in your family?
Recently, a friend was sharing some thoughts he had gleaned from Barnabas Piper’s book about growing up as a Pastor’s Kid. This made we wonder what my kids might say if they ever wrote a book about being a PK. Rather than waiting 20 years for the book, I asked them what it’s like to be a PK at our church. There were no “made-for-TV” moments in our conversation, but there were a few things that they all shared.
They told me: “We like being with the people on your team.”
My wife and I try to bring our kids to the office regularly so they can be around the people on our church staff. My team does a great job interacting with our children, who in turn have grown to love and respect the people I work with. Several of my kids have talked about how they view members of our staff as role models, and would even consider serving in similar capacities someday.
I’ve never wanted my staff to be perceived as the people who take Dad away, but rather as great folks whom Dad gets to love and serve. Every year my wife, Pam, and I plan our team’s Christmas party and involve our kids. They love helping with the planning and gifts, and they have fun creating a “best music of the year” CD for every family.
So, one question to ask your kids might be: “How do you view the people I work with?” I was encouraged that our children didn’t feel like they have to compete with the church staff for my time, but rather were glad that I serve with those that I do. From this, I’ve drawn that one advantage of being a PK is the opportunity to be around some godly and gifted people that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see up close.
They told me: “We’re expected to know the answers.”
All of my kids mentioned that in every Sunday school class or meeting they attend, they’re generally called on or looked to – especially if no one else knows the answer to a question. When I asked them if they feel burdened by this expectation, they replied honestly that there are times they would like to be anonymous. However, they also emphasized that this dynamic is something that keeps them on their toes. We discussed how “I don’t know” is always an acceptable answer. We also talked about the importance of leading because they are followers of Christ, not just because of their last name.
It might be good to ask your kids if they feel any extra pressure because of who they are, and to reassure them that you love them and have their back. I know that too much expectation can be crushing to anyone. At the same time, I also know that expectation provides an opportunity and environment for growth. I believe that this can actually be an advantage of life as a PK, as long as these expectations are not unreasonable.
They told me: “Our lives are full.”
Like most PKs, their dad is busy. Meetings, appearances, trips, and phone calls eat into time that could be used to play catch in the front yard. Perhaps the most disruptive factor in our family’s schedule is that just about every Wednesday night is spent at church. I am definitely aware that a potential pitfall of ministry is that our kids could end up resenting (or even hating) the church because of my pace, or the fact that they spend too much time at the building.
Each of us, as pastors, will have to find our own answers to this dilemma, but here are a couple of things I’ve tried to do:
  1. Where possible – and appropriate – I try to take my kids with me when I can. I recently needed to interview several people to hear their testimonies, so I took my son along. I listened to the first couple, and then let him lead out with the rest and clarify the gospel with everyone who shared.
  2. Another thing I try to do regularly – such as after every ministry cycle – is share some of the stories of life change our congregation has seen. Recently, as I was relating some of these accounts, one of my kids asked: “So, do we kind of get credit for that?” I replied that they absolutely do. I want our children to see that this ministry is a family endeavor.
A good question to ask your kids could be: “How do you feel about my schedule?” Listen carefully, and look for ways to involve them appropriately. Include them in celebrating what God is doing in your church. I’ve come to see that being a PK provides a unique opportunity to view God’s work up close, and hear about the things He is accomplishing in our congregation. I hope that will translate into a desire in my kids’ hearts to be continue to be deeply involved in ministering to others as they grow. I want my kids to love the church and invest their gifts in the church.
I was intrigued that one particular image did not show up in my conversations with my children – the caricature of the “church lady” telling the PKs to behave simply because of where their dad was employed. I wasn’t surprised, given our particular congregation’s culture, but I’ve often thought that this would be a terrible thing for any kid to endure. We talked about and role-played some conversations. I told my children that if anyone ever told them they were to behave a certain way because their father was on the church staff, I give them permission to respectfully reply: “My dad said that if anyone ever said that to me, I was supposed to tell them that they could just talk to him about it.” I want to do everything I can to let my children know that a great relationship with them is more important to me than a good reputation with those in our church.
Articles like this one generally close with a dire warning about the hazards of being a PK – and rightly so. Stories abound about kids who despise God, the church, and their parents because of their experience growing up in the church. However, I think the opposite side of the conversation is just as important. If parents are intentional and supportive, growing up as a PK could actually provide many incredible opportunities. That’s why it is so important to make sure that your occupation doesn’t keep you from being on the sidelines, cheering for your kids, taking them on date nights, and simply being present and engaged with them. What kids need most is to experience love from, and spend time with, their parents.
Humanly speaking, you as a parent will be the primary determiner about what your kids will say about their experience of being a PK. So make sure to ask them what it’s like for them in your situation, adjust accordingly, and don’t forget to dream big.
Your role at church could be a potential liability – but I have been growing in my belief that if we are intentional, our kids’ experience as PKs could be a great blessing that they will cherish rather than resent. So on your next date night or car ride, ask your children what it is like to be a PK. Take good notes, and look for the opportunities that are uniquely yours as a pastor.
Copyright © 2014 by John McGee. Used by permission.

John McGee (@JohnMcGee) is the Director of Marriage Ministry and re|engage at Watermark Community Church in Dallas Texas. He is passionate about helping churches prepare, establish, enrich, and restore marriages in their communities.

Minggu, 16 November 2014

When Your Spouse Is Depressed

When Your Spouse Is Depressed

Tim and Sandra sit close together on their porch swing, holding hands. It's hard to believe that less than a year ago, they'd discussed selling their house, splitting their possessions and sharing custody of their three children. The couple explains that a common but treatable illness nearly destroyed their strong 12-year marriage.
"I remember the day it started," Tim says. "I walked into the kitchen one morning and Sandy was just sitting on the floor. She was still in her bathrobe, and her eyes were swollen from crying."
When Tim asked what was wrong, Sandra told him she honestly didn't know. Their lives were good. They weren't struggling financially or having problems with the kids. She knew there was no reason to cry, yet the tears returned every morning from then on. Her concentration began to slip as well, leading to mistakes that almost cost her a job she loved. Finally, Tim insisted she see a doctor.
"I sure didn't like the diagnosis," Sandra explains, shaking her head. "I expected him to give me vitamins or tell me not to work so hard. I never anticipated what he would actually suggest."
After several tests, Sandra's doctor told her he believed she was suffering from a depressive disorder. He explained that our bodies need to maintain stable levels of the chemical serotonin to function normally — but the receptors in Sandra's brain were blocking its flow to certain areas. When he suggested she try an anti-depressant drug to trigger proper serotonin absorption, she refused.
"I left his office feeling conflicted," Sandra says. "Tim and I were both raised to believe that true Christians were happy, thankful people. I was convinced that my misery was caused by a lack of faith, not a medical condition. But truthfully, I wasn't sure which option scared me more. I couldn't even bring myself to tell Tim that the doctor had called my mental health into question."
Over the next few months, Sandra tried to bury her secret — but her sorrow was too pervasive to hide. Their frightened children began asking what was wrong with Mom.
In the meantime, Tim admits his concern turned to frustration. "I'd ask again and again what was wrong, but she never had an answer," he says. "Not only was I aggravated by my feelings of helplessness, I was angry the life I'd worked so hard to provide wasn't enough to make her happy."
"And the more angry he got, the more he'd withdraw from me," Sandra adds. "Then I'd feel guilty and withdraw even more. We just kept drifting further apart."
Despite her efforts to pray during that time, Sandra admits she found it almost impossible to muster the strength or the words. She felt she was not only losing her mind and her family, but now even God had abandoned her.

Identifying Depression

Tim and Sandra's story likely rings true for many couples. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five adults in America will suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Women face these illnesses twice as often as men, but statistics show men are highly under-diagnosed due to an unwillingness to admit they're struggling.
Stigmas and misconceptions often prevent those with depressive illnesses (which often include anxiety and panic) from getting treatment. For some, words like mental illness and therapy still evoke images of patients in strait jackets or neurotic movie characters with phobias of germs, elevators and their shadows. In reality, depression can be much less obvious. Even so, it still debilitates and destroys its victims if left untreated.
A few key signs of depression are:
  • Daily sadness
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Restless, anxious or irritable behavior
  • Trouble concentrating, focusing or remembering
  • Excessive weariness and lethargy
  • Sleeping or eating too much or too little
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
If you recognize any of these symptoms persisting in a spouse for more than a few weeks, check with your family doctor.

Preparing Yourself to Help Your Loved One

Flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone next to you. In the same way, it's important to prepare yourself before attempting to assist others when a spouse is depressed. Deep sorrow can be infectious, and it's not uncommon for caregivers to develop symptoms of depression themselves. Guard against this possibility by eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep, and staying in the Word.
Also keep an eye on your kids. Children are often vulnerable to a parent's anxiety. One study indicates that 20% of 10-year-olds whose mothers suffered from depression were themselves victims within five years.
Don't underestimate the value of caring friends and family at times like this. Let loved ones help you with day-to-day tasks, and allow them to listen to and pray with you. The surest way to intensify your struggle is to isolate yourself and your immediate family from those who love you.

Reaching Out to Your Spouse

When a care-giver understands that clinical depression is a genuine medical condition, he or she may actually feel empowered. It's encouraging to realize there are a number of tangible ways to help a spouse who is depressed:


  • Pray fervently with and for them.
  • Share meaningful Scripture verses.
  • Help them see that the family needs them to get well.
  • Listen; give credibility to their feelings.
  • Seek help for yourself and offer to see a therapist with them.
  • Encourage them to consider medication; research shows that 80% of those suffering from depressive disorders can be treated successfully with modern medications.
  • Show affection; encourage them to get out and do things with you.
  • Tell your loved one to just pray about it or make them feel like healing would come if they'd simply trust God more.
  • Make them feel guilty for the impact of their illness on the family.
  • Blame or criticize them.
  • Imply that they need help because they're weak. Also, don't immediately exclude other family members from counseling. Sometimes, complex relational issues involving several family members can spark depression.
  • Expect medication to solve everything. Also, don't discount the need for prayer — and possibly therapy.
  • Let them continue in a pattern of sleep and isolation.

A Happy Ending

Once Tim and Sandra overcame their fears and misconceptions about mental illness, they began to counsel with their pastor each week. Sandra also returned to the doctor. Within a few months, she felt like herself again, thanks to a low dosage of a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI). The medication helped bring her serotonin levels back into balance. Their children were thrilled to see Mom smiling again.
The couple, now co-leading a mental illness support group at their church, discovered that they could survive depression with teamwork, education, empathy and a lot of prayer.
"The Lord has really blessed us by allowing this experience to bring us together rather than tear us apart," Sandra says. "When times were toughest, Tim decided not to give up on me — and that decision has radically changed our lives."
Helping families thrive together.
Copyright © 2003, Carolyn MacInnes. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.