Sabtu, 28 Februari 2015

7 Suggestions for the First 7 Years of Marriage

7 Suggestions for the First 7 Years of Marriage

Give a copy of these suggestions to every young couple in your church.
I’ve written previously about the first seven years of marriage. We don’t know why necessarily—I have some theories—but the years between six and eight of marriage are often the most difficult. It seems so many marriages fail in the seventh year.
It makes sense then that protecting the marriage during those years is critical. And it doesn’t take seven years. I have lost count of the couples who are struggling—and ready to call it quits—just a few years into the marriage.
The way a marriage starts helps to protect the long-term health of the marriage. I believe the attention we place on new marriages in our churches is critically important.
Based on my experience, I have some specific advice for new marriages. Our first seven years of marriage are long past, but if we had it to do over, there are some things I’d make sure we did as a couple to get a good, solid start.

Here are seven things we would do in our first seven years of marriage:

Recruit a mentoring couple. We would find a couple further along in years of experience and who seemed to have a marriage like we wanted and ask to spend time with them. We tend to become like the people we hang around most. All couples could use mentors who can talk them through the rough patches that all marriages face.
Invest financially in the marriage. Keep dating. It could be a sack lunch at the park or a five-star steak dinner or a weekend in Paris depending on your income level, but we would just do fun stuff. Stay active. Boredom is one of the leading causes of marriage failure.
Protect your budget. The last one is important, but so is this one. You’ll need to balance the two. Debt causes huge problems in a marriage. And it’s easier to avoid as you build than after you’ve accumulated it. You don’t have to have everything now. (Let me say that again.) You don’t have to have everything now. It’s not the key to a happy marriage. But eliminating the major distractions is a key to a strong marriage. And money problems are a leading cause of marriage trouble. We would get an agreed upon budget (and that’s key) and discipline ourselves to live it.
 Give a copy of these suggestions to every young couple in your church.
Set a schedule. Life has a way of sucking time from us. It becomes very difficult for busy couples, especially once children come along, to find time to be together. And yet it’s critical. Don’t neglect your time together. We would set a routine of intentional weekly time for just the two of us.
Limit outside interruptions. In-laws. Friends. Work. They can all get in the way. Sure, they love you. They want their time with you. But let’s be honest—some of them also want to control your life. Don’t believe that other people will work to protect your marriage as much as you will. They won’t. The two of you are creating one unit. If we were starting over, we would guard our marriage from any undue pressure.
Be active in church. Sounds selfish. I admit that. But it’s also being strategic. You need community and especially a healthy community that can be there for you when things go wrong. And things will go wrong. You’ll need a community of faith around you. And you won’t know how much you need them until you need them. We would—and we did—commit to a strong church community.
Talk. Lots. Many times couples become so comfortable with one another that they fail to communicate at deeper levels. This becomes very common in the first years of a marriage. Routines and familiarity set in and the couple assumes they already know all there is to know about each other. I have talked to so many couples who just don’t communicate anymore. Or one spouse thinks they do and the other spouse thinks they don’t. They don’t share the details of each other’s day and life—their deeper, unspoken thoughts. The better you learn to communicate—the stronger the marriage will be. The best way to improve communication is with practice. We would practice this one a lot.
Of course, I’m pretty sure it’s not too late on any of these—even if you’re past the first seven years.
Those are just a few suggestions. Do you have more? 
Ron EdmondsonRon Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.
More from Ron Edmondson or visit Ron at

Sabtu, 21 Februari 2015

Love Just One

Hasil gambar untuk witness for Christ
Love Just One
(En Español)
Our discernment comes from knowing the mind of Christ. But let me make this quest as practical as possible: If we seek to know Christ's motives, we will soon perceive His thoughts, for thoughts exist to fulfill motives. Christ's motive for coming to mankind is to reveal the Father's love. If we obtain His motive, we will increasingly hear His thoughts.
Thus, Paul wrote, "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9). The route to true knowledge and all discernment is to possess abounding love. Let us learn to rest our heads upon Christ's breast and listen to His heart. For in hearing His heart, we can discern His love for those around us.
Yet I acknowledge that, for some, to love others as Christ has loved us remains an ideal too far to reach. Therefore let's start small and bring this task close to home. Rather than attempting to love everyone everywhere, let us reduce our challenge and make our aim to love just one person. Now I do not mean we should stop loving family or those we already love. I mean add just one person to your heart and release your love to that individual in a more Christlike way.

This person may be a lost neighbor or a backslidden friend; he or she might be a sick acquaintance or an elderly person from church. The individual may be a child in physical or emotional pain. (I am not suggesting you focus on an individual of the opposite sex.) The Lord will lead you. He will put one person on your heart and give you grace to grow in love.

Come to this experiment without seeking to correct him or her, unless they themselves ask for advice. Pray daily for the person. And as you listen to the voice of God's love, something inside you will flower and open naturally toward other realms of discernment. Inspired by God, impulses and ideas born of love will increase and expand to your other relationships as well. In truth, the knowledge and insights you gain from loving just one will become a natural catalyst in loving many. Discernment will grow as you love just one.
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The preceding teaching was adapted from a chapter in Pastor Frangipane's book, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ. This book is currently on sale and can be ordered from Arrow Publications at

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A Society of Redeemers

Hasil gambar untuk witness for Christ
A Society of Redeemers
(En Español)
Before we discuss a number of ways we can develop our powers of discernment, let us acknowledge that our world is under a great, multidimensional assault. Hell is advancing and its goal is to swallow civilizations in darkness. I've seen the demonic legions, strident in their rebellion, shaking their fists toward Heaven as they lay claim to our open and foolishly naive cultures.
I have even known, on a rare occasion or two, the intimidation of the Prince of Darkness. I've felt the weight of his confidence as he gloats at how unprepared the church is -- how divided and carnal. Satan does not doubt he will fulfill his intention to rule this world.
However, Jesus declared plainly that, "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). No word spoken by God can return to Him void; every word spoken by the Almighty will accomplish its divinely appointed purpose (Isa. 55:11). Thus, the immutable Word declares it will be the kingdom of the Most High that expands worldwide, not the kingdom of darkness. As it is written of God's kingdom, "There will be no end to [its] increase" (Isa. 9:7).
Again, God's Word says that "in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains … and all the nations will stream to it" (Isa. 2:2). Yes, even as I see darkness spreading, advancing and covering the earth, and deep darkness covering the people, I remain encouraged. For it is in this very context that the Spirit assures us: "But the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you" (Isa. 60:2). As a result, the Most High pledges that "nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising!" (Isa. 60:3).
And yes, we know the world will enter the period of the Antichrist, the Rapture and the tribulation. Yet rage as he will, even Satan will ultimately realize his defeat. The prince of darkness will bow his knee and with his tongue acknowledge that "Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:10-11; Rom. 14:11).
Therefore let us not surrender to fear or unbelief. If Satan has legions of demons, God has an army of redeemers. In truth, as each of us matures, we must stop thinking of ourselves merely as "church people"and more as a society of redeemers, for that is what we become as we are conformed to the heart of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29).
Transforming Our Anger
Yes, there are times when I feel completely outraged by what the devil is doing to people, especially children. I burn inwardly with anger at the injustice and heartache I see in the world. But I know that my anger, by itself, cannot attain the righteousness of God (James 1:20). I must gather my passions and submit them to the Holy Spirit that they may regenerate into a redemptive response, even one that empowers my conformity to Christ.

I know many believe redemption on a citywide or larger scale is not possible in our day -- that all that awaits us is the Rapture. Let us not minimize the great hope promised by God in the rapture of the church! If the Rapture happens today, I will certainly be prepared.
But what if it does not occur for another twenty years or more? I don't want to be found looking up at the skies when there remains a great work to be done on earth.
Therefore, let's arm ourselves with discernment and wisdom, and reach in faith to possess the mind of Christ. Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matt. 24:14). The world has seen Christianity; let us now reveal Christ as He manifests Himself through a society of redeemers.
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The preceding teaching was adapted from a chapter in Pastor Frangipane's book, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ. This book is currently on sale and can be ordered from Arrow Publications at

Follow Your Hunger

Follow Your Hunger
(En Español)
Today too many Christians have lost their hunger for God. Instead of coming into the Lord's presence hungry for more of His fullness, our thoughts are held hostage to worldly pursuits and fleshly distractions. At best we are merely curious about spiritual realities, but not truly hungry.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates
what I mean. We have a little dog named Sophie. Sophie loves people food. To her, eating people food is the culinary equivalent of entering the Kingdom of God. She loves our food. She even has a Bible verse that she claims in faith, "Even the dogs get the crumbs" (Matt 15:27).

When my wife and I share a meal, Sophie will sit at our feet, squint her eyes, and stare at us (she thinks squinting makes her cuter). Any food that falls to the floor instantly vanishes into her mouth. No matter how much of her food she has already eaten, she is always hungry for ours.

Our home has a small, fenced-in yard outside our porch where Sophie plays. Although the fence surrounds the area, there are gaps where the pickets don't quite reach to the ground. If Sophie wanted, she actually could squeeze under the fence and get out, but she normally has no reason to try. Occasionally she will get curious and go as far as the gate, stand there a while and look out, but she doesn't leave the yard.

One day, though, my wife decided to feed a few slices of stale bread to the birds that nest on the other side of the fence. When Sophie went out an hour later, she immediately noticed a human food smell in the air, which she tracked to the bread outside the gate. In less than a heartbeat she found a little gap under the picket fence, flattened herself to the ground, and then shimmied beneath the fence to the bread on the other side. It was gone in less than a minute.

My point is this: hunger will take you where mere curiosity would never go.

My friend, God is looking for hungry people. Blessed are those who hunger. He is seeking people who are truly seeking Him. Indeed, He has bread from Heaven for us, and it is eternally satisfying. We cannot afford to settle into the routine of a fenced-in reality, not when God has eternal food prepared for us. Let us, therefore, follow our hunger as we pursue the presence of God.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Join Francis Frangipane Ministries

The Ministries of Francis Frangipane
Join us. . .
(En Español)
Come join us on Facebook where we post daily and timely quotes from Pastor Francis. Here are some recent quotes...

God does not want us to be judgmental; He wants us "prayer-mental." As instinctively as we have seen the things wrong with others, we should pray for them instead. -- In Christ's Image Training
Prayer is an appeal to God based on our needs and the needs around us. Worship is not the articulation of our needs; it is the consummation of our love. It is what we offer to God regardless of the status of our needs. -- In Christ's Image Training
If Satan cannot distract you with worldliness, He will seek to drain you with weariness. -- In Christ's Image Training
Is your love growing and becoming softer, brighter, more daring and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love. A measurable decrease in your ability to love is evidence that a stronghold of cold love is developing within you. -- The Three Battlegrounds
Whether our need is for salvation, healing or deliverance, it is always by grace through faith that we advance and find victory. Is there a mountain standing in your way? The Lord says, What are you, O great mountain? Before my people you will become a plain. Their lives will be complete with shouts of "Grace, grace!” (Zech. 4:7) -- In Christ's Image Training, On-site
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We also have a Facebook page for our Spanish-speaking friends:

How Birth Order Affects Your Marriage

How Birth Order Affects Your Marriage

by Dr. Kevin Leman

I just made a whopping marital mistake. More than a week ago I told Sande, my lovely bride of more than 40 years, that a TV crew was coming to our home in a week to tape an interview with me. I ought to have known better. As soon as I told Sande someone was coming to our house, she went into overdrive, thinking, What am I going to serve them? Mmm … maybe pulled pork sandwiches and a fruit salad … yeah, that might work.… Then she caught sight of a miniscule dirt smudge on the windows. Oh, no, they're a mess!
But why do I say it's a "marital mistake"? Because this week she told me several times: "Sweep the front deck and back porch. Wash the windows, and get rid of those spider webs. And don't forget — pick up the dog flops in the yard." At least she didn't ask for new carpet.
So why did I tell her so far in advance? Because I've learned the hard way that my wife doesn't like surprises. Telling her about an event at our home "the morning of" could result in critical wounds to my body. To Sande, a kitchen is only truly clean when all surface areas are wiped off and the toaster is put away. My thinking: Why put away a toaster when you're going to use it within the next 24 hours?
So why do Sande and I see things so differently? Part of the reason is our birth order — our place in our family of origin. I'm the youngest child in my family, and Sande is the oldest in hers. Because of our birth order, we had different experiences growing up, and those experiences have shaped our behavior, our personalities and even our relationship with each other. Understanding this has everything to do with our marriage thriving for more than four decades. With just a little knowledge about birth order, you, too, can build the kind of marriage that makes others say, "Wow, I want one of those!"

Why you are the way you are

Nothing in life is cookie-cutter, and birth order isn't, either. But understanding the basics provides clues about why you think, feel and respond the way you do. You learned to be the person you are based on the way your parents and siblings interacted with you. The little girl or boy you once were, you still are.
Here are a few insights about firstborns, middleborns and lastborns:
Firstborns rule.
If you are a firstborn, you were the family guinea pig for parenting techniques. You were the first child to eat dead ladybugs, walk, plunge into puberty and drive. With the spotlight of parental expectations on you, is it any wonder you're a perfectionist?
Firstborns are well-organized list makers and leaders with lots of practice. (They were held responsible for their siblings.) They take life seriously, feeling the pressure to be better and do better. They crave details and are often critical of themselves and others. Take firstborn qualities and supercharge them, and you've got the only child.
Middleborns mediate.

If you are a middleborn, you took one look at the star above you and decided, No way can I compete with that. So you went in the opposite direction. Stuck in the middle, you learned how to negotiate peace between warring siblings. Since you were least likely to be noticed missing, is it any surprise you focused on friends and are very loyal?
Middleborns are great diplomats. They avoid conflict. They're independent and secretive. They don't often share feelings and are surprised when others pay attention to them.
Lastborns charm.
If you are a lastborn, you grew up as the apple of your parents' eye. You manipulated siblings into doing your work, but they also used you to get what they wanted from your parents. Who could say no to you? You are the entertainer. Your life catchphrase is, "Don't worry. Be happy."
Lastborns are people-oriented and can sell anything. They're affectionate, engaging and act impulsively. They love to be the center of attention, and "Surprise" is their middle name.

Birth-order matchups

So, how does birth order play out in your marriage, and how can you use it to strengthen your relationship? To answer that question, let's take a look at the unique dynamics of each birth-order matchup:
Firstborn + Firstborn
It's inevitable that two firstborns — perfectionists with a need for control — will bump heads. To reduce tension and increase harmony, define your roles. Who will take out the garbage? Schedule car repair? Balance the checking account? Having a clear division of labor will help. Marriage is a partnership, not a "Doing it my way" song. Prune "you should" out of your vocabulary. Say a simple thank you instead of "improving" on what your mate says and does. When a criticism pops into your mind, consider the consequences before you speak. Celebrate little and big successes … together.
Firstborn + Middleborn
Middleborns tend to avoid conflict, yet they're good compromisers. Since firstborns are strong in opinion, discussing events and feelings is critical in your marriage. Typical middle children will say, "Everything is fine," but need to be encouraged to share their real feelings. Firstborns can say, "Tell me how you really feel. I want to hear more," and ask, "What do you think?" The perceptive middleborn has so much to offer, including wonderful problem-solving skills.
Firstborn + Lastborn
Firstborns provide structure, goals and organization that is often lacking in lastborns, and lastborns heighten the much-needed fun quotient for overly serious firstborns. If you're the firstborn, let flaws go or gently suggest how to correct them. Don't set expectations too high. Would the world really end if a speck of lint resided on your mate's clothing?
If you're the lastborn, give your mate attention and strokes, even if he or she appears confident and in control. Make sure you run everything by your "detailed" husband or wife before scheduling it. Focus on serving each other, and always laugh together.
Middleborn + Middleborn
Neither of you is big on confrontation, and you've been reared to discount your opinions. That means you must work hard to make your spouse feel special, build up self-worth and show mutual respect. Brainstorm fun ways to keep your hearts close. Jot notes about important happenings when you're away from each other and use them as discussion starters for your meals together. Provide plenty of space for outside friendships, but don't forget the most important relationship — the two of you.
Middleborn + Lastborn
Middleborns like relationships to be smooth; lastborns like fun. Both birth orders specialize in friendships. To build a thriving marriage, middleborns need to blend their social interests with activities the lastborn thinks are fun. Lastborns must back off from always being in the spotlight and allow the middleborn to shine. Because middleborns take the path of least resistance, lastborns need to say, "I'd love your opinion on this." Above all, work on making sure the other person feels pampered and special.
Lastborn + Lastborn
Like otters in a stream, youngest children like to play, but life requires some structure, detail and attention to the mundane, such as paying bills. Decide who specifically will do what, and then find ways to build in mutual accountability — lists, alarms set on cellphones, whatever. Leave it to babies to come up with fun ideas for approaching the requirements of life.

And two become one

A thriving marriage isn't instant. It requires two people working together in an environment of love, support and mutual respect. Loving your mate means understanding how he or she views life, keeping in mind that birth order will influence that viewpoint. Regardless of how birth order plays out in your marriage, both of you can choose to change how you respond to and interact with each other.
Back to my wife and the TV crew. What would I, the freewheeling lastborn, have done differently in relating to my cautious, firstborn wife? I'd tell her just two or three days beforehand — not a full week before the appointment. It would save me a lot of housekeeping grief but still give her time to happily plan the menu and feel comfortable with the details. However, if capturing my bride's heart comes with a boatload of housecleaning, I wouldn't change a thing in how I handled the situation. This lastborn would do whatever was necessary to connect with that firstborn — in a heartbeat!

Dr. Kevin Leman is The New York Times best-selling author of The Birth Order Book and Have a Happy Family by Friday.

A Smart Way to Teach Good Manners

A Smart Way to Teach Good Manners

by Sarah Kohrs

When it comes to teaching manners to our young kids, our biggest success has been in encouraging "do-overs" of bad behavior. At first, we had to remind our children what the good-mannered alternative to their impolite action was. "I want water!" Joey might say, and I reminded him how to ask nicely. After establishing the pattern, we use code words such as operation second chance or replay to prompt a do-over. The results have been fantastic! And we encourage our kids to use the code words if Mommy and Daddy aren't using good manners, either.

This article appeared in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Operation Second Chance." Copyright © 2014 by Sarah Kohrs. Used by permission.

Teaching Kids to Show Empathy

Teaching Kids to Show Empathy

by Jim Daly

Empathy hasn't always been at the top of the list of qualities I'd hoped to pass along to my sons. Not that I thought it was insignificant. It's just that when considering the larger lessons of life, empathy hasn't always been on my radar — at least not as much as faith, integrity and the fine art of wrestling on the living room floor.

But a complete picture of biblical manhood means responding to the emotions of others thoughtfully and empathetically. "Rejoice with those who rejoice," wrote the apostle Paul. "Mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). While I might like to shield my sons, Trent and Troy, from the "mourn" part of that verse, our lives have taken a different turn. In recent months, we've journeyed through two tragedies in our extended family, and my sons have experienced firsthand the difficulty and importance of walking alongside those who are hurting.

As I lead my sons, I'm learning that while empathy (the emotional understanding) comes with maturity, we can still help our kids respond to others' pain in appropriate ways. Here are some ways I've used to guide my boys:

Teach them to acknowledge pain. Expressions of sorrow can make kids feel uncomfortable, and they may try to turn an awkward encounter toward lighthearted conversation. That might be OK if a friend just dropped a pass in a flag football game, but not OK if he's just learned that his parents are getting a divorce.

Help them remember that pain is personal. When kids learn of someone's pain, it's normal for them to try to find a point of commonality with the person's plight. But loss and suffering is very personal. Remind your kids not to minimize someone's pain by comparing it to their own experience.

Let them wade through the awkwardness. Life rarely follows the pattern of a Hallmark card. It's OK to stumble over words or even miss the mark. It's OK to simply be present and offer a listening ear. The effort will be appreciated.

My sons were given an opportunity to put some of these lessons into practice during a recent trip to Florida to see their cousin Ethan. Our nephew was born with only two chambers of his heart. The boys played wonderfully together, and Trent and Troy came to appreciate that Ethan simply enjoyed their company. By empathizing with Ethan — not being intimidated by his condition — my sons helped him feel like just one of the boys.

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Wrestling with Empathy." Copyright © 2012 Focus on the Family.

Kamis, 19 Februari 2015

3 Things Not to Do While Pursuing Spiritual Growth

3 Things Not to Do While Pursuing Spiritual Growth

A few attempted shortcuts to growing spiritually that just don't work.
Kirk Livingston
When new to Christ and Christianity, we latched on to whatever we could to grow straight and tall. Well-meaning friends and relatives pulled out their old saws and presented shortcuts that seemed to guarantee growth. It wasn’t until years later we looked back in wonder at where we had arrived.
A shortcut is an alternate route that promises quicker transit to a destination. We all know and take them every day. But with one’s spiritual life, it matters where your shortcut lands you. In retrospect, some of our favorite shortcuts may need to retire, because they don’t lead where we hoped. Six shortcuts, in particular, need to be re-examined and tweaked before we recommend them to succeeding generations seeking to mature in their faith.

1. Try to Interpret Scripture Alone

When we first became Christians, many of us were told to have an intentional, recurrent appointment with God.
In our “quiet time” we would sit and "hear" from Scripture, typically reading a chapter or passage, and then meditating on it. Turning it over. Praying it. Asking God to reveal.
Become skeptical of the immediate simple conclusions you gather from a quick reading of the text. Extra reading is vital to begin to see just how different that culture may have been.
All of that makes great sense, of course, and is an ideal activity for gathering thoughts and inviting God into the day and into the lives of the people with whom you will spend time.
But one problem with the daily quiet time is what, in formal theological terminology, is called eisegesis versus exegesis. We aim to interpret the Bible for what God says (exigesis). But time and again we fail at this and settle for reading our own thoughts into a text (eisegesis). Multiply that 365 by 30 some years and one day you wake to find yourself sourly spouting cultural talking points, miles from the grace-filled, reborn adult you imagined.
Interpreting scripture is difficult work that requires—at the very least—a clear sense that the ancients who first heard the texts (that’s right, our personal texts were once verbal recitations announced to a group, who thought through them together, aloud) likely had very different perspectives than us. Hundreds or thousands of years of separation from the original context should make us reluctant to grab and mix and match verses like a child at a candy store.
Choose exegesis over eisegesis by beginning with a prayer for wisdom. Then constantly remember cultures are very different, even in very small details. Become skeptical of the immediate simple conclusions you gather from a quick reading of the text. Extra reading is vital to begin to see just how different that culture may have been. Then try explaining your conclusions to someone else—start with someone in your tribe. If brave, tell what you learned to someone not in your tribe—which can be a giant leap forward in understanding. Plus: stop trying to attempt the preacher’s trick of forcing three points out of any text. Repeat daily for 30+ years and be shaped like iron sharpening iron.

2. Ignore All the Religious Aspects of Christianity

“It’s a relationship, not a religion.”
When we say this, we take aim at some imagined scheme for earning favor, as if religion were a system dedicated to winning merit. It isn’t: religion is simply a set of organized beliefs, worldviews and the like that related to the human/God connection. Some are right, some are wrong, and so we argue endlessly.
But “relationship not religion” sets up an expectation that is not paid out in practice. Christianity, while first and foremost a relationship with Jesus the Christ, it is also an organized set of beliefs as well as a cultural system (maybe more a set of cultural systems), that is, a religion.
God’s wonderful plan is typically miles removed from the American dream.
The problem with poo-pooing “religion” is that it makes us think what we personally hear from Jesus is all there is to it, while the truth is we unknowingly adopt beliefs (as if by osmosis) as we grow in Christ. They might be beliefs from parents, our church, our denomination, our favorite authors. Denouncing “religion” sets in motion two grave misdirects:
1. Sooner or later we come in contact with the man-made elements that infiltrate and infect our “relationship.” One action we may take is to toss the whole hypocritical mess. Better: call it a religion built on a relationship from the beginning so we can employ our minds to separate fact from fiction over time and keep steering toward relationship.
2. We make ourselves nearly unintelligible to the people around us. Christianity is firmly fitted into the category earthlings know as “religion.” Start there, on familiar ground, and then begin explain the differences.

3. Tell People About God's 'Wonderful Plan' for Their Life

This one is true, but “wonderful” doesn’t mean what most Americans think: it doesn't mean money or fame or respect. It means wonderful as God says wonderful, which doesn’t always look like a full bank account or adoring admirers, no matter what our health-wealth preachers model.
In fact, God’s wonderful plan is typically miles removed from the American dream. It’s no less wonderful, but we may do better to acquaint folks from the beginning that God’s “wonderful” looks at first like absence of the trinkets and baubles our culture adores. Even so, God has a wonderful plan for your life—spectacularly wonderful.


11 Brother Lawrence Quotes that Will Challenge How You Practice Faith

11 Brother Lawrence Quotes that Will Challenge How You Practice Faith

On the anniversary of his death, a look at some of the monk's thoughts on prayer and faith.
After a dramatic religious conversion, young soldier Nicholas Herman decided to devote his life to following God and learning more about Christ. He joined a monastery and took the name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. There, he spent the rest of his life working in a kitchen and repairing his brothers’ sandals. But during his decades of doing seemingly menial jobs, Brother Lawrence discovered a profound truth about having a relationship with God: Experiencing His presence can—and should—happen everywhere.
Though during his life, much of his time was spent serving others, the wisdom Brother Lawrence gleaned from praying throughout each day has been inspiring Christians for more than 300 years. His letters and discussions with peers were later compiled into the now classic book The Practice of the Presence of God.
Brother Lawrence died today (Feb. 12) 324 years ago, but his teachings about prayer are just as relevant today as they were back then.
Here are 11 quotes that can help re-inspire how you practice faith.

On God’s Nearness

"You need not cry very loud: He is nearer to us than we think."

On a Mindset of Prayer

"One way to re-collect the mind easily in the time of prayer, and preserve it more in tranquillity, is not to let it wander too far in other times: you should keep it strictly in the presence of God; and being accustomed to think of Him often, you will find it easy to keep your mind calm in the time of prayer, or at least to recall it from its wanderings."

On Motivation

"We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed."

On Worship

"We ought to propose to ourselves is to become, in this life, the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity."

On Constant Prayer

"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it."

On Devotion

"We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment, in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of His will, whether he takes us through sufferings or consolations."

On Courage

"I did not pray for any relief, but I prayed for strength to suffer with courage, humility and love."

On a Formula for Spirituality

"That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only."

On Knowing God

"The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”

On God’s View of Us

“The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence.”

On Acts of Love

"By rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to it."

5 Spiritual Benefits from Journaling

5 Spiritual Benefits from Journaling (God’s Spiritual Cross-trainer)

Athletes understand that quality equipment helps them perform at their peak. A baseball player likes a broken-in glove. A basketball player prefers a leather ball. A tennis player wants a well-balanced racket. Although equipment varies from one sport to the next, every athlete requires good shoes. Since many people enjoy several sports, shoe manufacturers created a shoe style called a cross-trainer for use in multiple sports. Journaling, writing down our experiences with God, can serve a similar spiritual purpose.
Man writing down thoughts in journal Richard Peace describes journaling as a spiritual cross-trainer that helps as an “aid to other spiritual disciplines” (Spiritual Journaling: Recording Your Journey Toward God). It becomes a powerful tool the Holy Spirit can use to develop Christ-likeness when we exercise spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading and fasting.
Although the Bible doesn’t command us to journal, several of its writers modeled this practice. Many of the Psalms represent David’s journaling as he wrestled with deep spiritual issues. Job struggles with the question of evil in his journal, the book that bears his name. Jeremiah’s journal, Lamentations, records his agony over Jerusalem’s fall. And Solomon pens his search for happiness in his journal Ecclesiastes.
Journaling’s simplicity and profound potential to create spiritual change eludes many Christians. If journaling is new to you or if you’ve tried it and become discouraged, consider these practical benefits.
1. Journaling softens our hearts.
Every farmer knows he must till the soil to soften it before he plants the seed. In the same manner we often need our hearts softened. Hosea said, “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts . . . “ (Hosea 10:12, NLT). When softened, our hearts respond more readily to the Spirit’s promptings.
 2. Journaling sifts truth from error.
As a child I remember helping my mom bake cakes. She let me sift flour through her aluminum can-like sifter. When I rotated the handle the sifter removed the lumps from the flour. Just as lumps were interspersed in the flour, sometimes we unintentionally mix “lumps” of lies in our self-talk such as, “I’m a rotten person,” “God is mad at me,” or “I’m worthless.” When we journal and put these thoughts on paper, it’s easier to sort out truth from error. Then we can counter them with God’s Truth and experience a more biblical outlook on life.
3. Journaling slows our pace.
My first driving experience at age nine on the Model-T ride at Six Flags disappointed me. Expecting to burn rubber when I floored the gas pedal, I barely reached 5 mph. My dad later explained that a device called a governor kept the engine from running at full capacity. Many Christians run their lives at full capacity with life’s “gas pedal” pushed to the max. Journaling acts like a governor to slow our frenzied pace and force us to listen to the Spirit’s voice.
4. Journaling builds faith.
Few of us will remember what God taught us last week, much less last year unless we write it down. Journaling builds our faith when we record God’s faithful acts. Then we can refer back to that record to remind us of his continued faithfulness. Psalms 77:11 says,I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (NIV)
 5. Journaling releases pain.
I still remember the staccato hiss from my mother’s pressure cooker when she cooked fresh green beans. After she locked the main top into place she placed a small metal cap over the pressure release valve. This allowed the pressure to slowly release. Similar emotional pressure can build up inside us to the point that we want to explode at others. Journaling provides a spiritual pressure release valve for our pain that can prevent that explosion. David encouraged this when he wrote “. . . pour out your hearts to him . . .” (Psalm 62:8, NIV).
Journaling, God’s spiritual cross-trainer, offers many spiritual benefits. If you want to try it, consider these six practical guidelines.
  1. Get a notebook.
  2. Set a consistent time in a quiet place.
  3. Make a commitment to stick with it.
  4. Date each entry.
  5. Write from feeling, not from fact. Don’t just record what happened in your life. Write down how your experiences affected your heart and emotions.
  6. Periodically review your entries to discover spiritual trends in your life.
How has journaling helped your walk with Christ?
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Why Should I Get Help When It's His Problem?

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Why Should I Get Help When It's His Problem? 

An excerpt from Shattered Vows by Debbie Laaser, MA, LMFT
When Mark left the sexual addiction treatment center, his case manager, Jeff, arranged for his “after care”:  the ongoing counseling that he would receive in our local area after treatment.  Oddly enough, Jeff had an after-care plan for me, too.  I was wondering if he misunderstood the basic issue here:  Mark was the one with the problem, not me!  Mark was the one who had broken our wedding vows and who had committed sexual sin; I was the one who was faithful, responsible, truthful, and righteous in all I did.  Why in the world would I need to go to therapy? 
My designated evening for women’s group was Tuesday, and I agreed to go if it would help Mark heal.  I didn’t want to look defiant or angry.  I didn’t like the “codependent” labels the treatment center people were trying to give me, so I wanted to look cooperative and independent, making the decision to go because I thought it was a good idea. When I arrived for my group, it was probably for all the wrong reasons.  Nevertheless, Maureen, my therapist, was gracious in welcoming me to the group and invited me to share my story with the other women.  Despite the fact that my world had crashed just four weeks earlier and I was overwhelmed with anger, sadness, and uncertainty, I summarized my situation without one tear or emotional glitch.  It felt like a victory.  I had gotten through my introduction without falling apart.  Maybe I wasn’t such a mess after all!  Maureen didn’t comment on my emotional state one way or the other; she just welcomed me to the safe community of women and began encouraging me to experience my feelings—all of them.
Looking back, I am grateful that my first steps were decided for me, because I don’t know if I would have ever taken them for myself.  Twenty years ago there was not much help available for women struggling in relationships with men who had been sexually impure.  There was barely help for the men.  I know today that God’s guidance and timing were perfect in those early months.  While I didn’t always recognize this in the midst of our crisis, I can see that the right steps were revealed many times along the way.  I began to trust that God was providing what I needed in this adversity.  My job was to step out of isolation and enter a safe community where I would be comforted and pointed in the direction of healing. 
What I did know after that first night of group was that I had found a ‘home’—a place where safe women and a very gifted therapist began leading me through my pain and hearing me like I had never been heard before.  The experience was freeing.  The authenticity modeled to me was contagious.  For the first time in my life my ‘insides’ matched my ‘outsides’.  What I said and how I looked reflected what I was feeling.  When I was sad, I learned to allow myself to be with that feeling.  I looked sad, and often I cried.  When I was angry or frustrated or anxious, I learned how to talk about those feelings instead of hide them away—or busy myself with something else to do.  Being congruent took a lot of practice, and my new safe community became my practice arena.   I quickly claimed this place to be mine—for me—for my healing and growth, no matter what happened to Mark or to our relationship.  

What’s Different About a Pastor’s Marriage?

What’s Different About a Pastor’s Marriage?

A young happy coupleBy John McGee
You have seen the stats and heard the stories about how difficult marriages can be for those in the pastorate. Have you ever wondered what makes a pastor’s marriage different than the rest of the population? I was recently asked this question by a group of people preparing for ministry and here’s some of what I shared with them.
There are no unique rules for a great marriage. Great marriages are always comprised of things like good communication, fun, intimacy, quality time, humility, and conflict resolution. Pastors know those things because they teach them to others. What I’ve learned is that once you can teach something you can begin to think you are an exception to the rule. Those in ministry are not exempt because they are eloquent or smart, and God hasn’t changed the laws of relationships for them just because they serve Him. When thinking about what makes a pastor’s marriage different, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the same rules of marriage apply to everyone. If pastors want a great marriage they will need to apply the same advice they give their congregants.
Although I started with the fact that a pastor’s marriage in many ways is not different, there are a few unique aspects I felt they should know as they were preparing for ministry.
Pastors do carry unique pressures. An occupational hazard of ministry can be the emotional weight pastors carry because there is always someone who needs them. Other occupations have pressures of deadlines or the volume of work, but there is something different and emotionally taxing about carrying the pain of others. Pastors encounter unique pressures that can impact their marriage, and they must learn how to deal with them. The answer for everyone will be different, but personally I’ve found that rituals can be helpful. As I drive home I pray through the difficult issues and people I am dealing with. I affirm that God is in control, and that He cares more about the people and situations than I do. I then imagine myself entrusting these people and situations to Him. I also trust that He will help me be present and engaged with my family and pray for energy and focus for my time with them. I told this group preparing for ministry that in every occupation, they would have to learn to balance work and family, but, as a pastor, they would also have to learn to deal with the emotional weight, or it would impact their marriage. I also encouraged them to continually ask their spouse if they were emotionally present at home.
Spouses also have unique challenges. Much has been written to men about how to protect their wives from the demands of the church and how to keep the congregation from feeling like the pastor’s wife is free labor. There is no doubt that a wife who feels she is there simply to support the pastor or be at the beck and call of the congregation will eventually become embittered toward the church and her husband. A wise husband will clearly communicate to the congregation that he is a team with his wife but that he is the only employee. I’ve also noticed that often the wife supports the husband’s ministry but there isn’t always reciprocation. This year one of my goals is to support my wife’s personal ministry. She has always done a great job helping me with my more public ministry but she really loves to encourage others one-on-one. One of my goals this year is to celebrate and support her ministry, which is more private, just as much as she supports my ministry, which is more public. Not realizing the unique pressures on your spouse can negatively impact your marriage but lovingly addressing them can actually be a big win for your marriage.
Your marriage presents a unique opportunity. Personally I love being a pastor and being married. Most days my wife would say the same about being married to a pastor. I love the way we get to pray for and see life change. I love that together we are doing something that will matter in eternity, and I love that our marriage actually impacts others. When my wife and I speak, I am amazed how often people will say something like, “I really appreciated what you said, but my biggest takeaway was watching the way you both related to each other. God convicted me that I need to be kinder and more respectful to my wife (or husband).” While there are many unique challenges of being married and in the ministry, I also think there are many unique opportunities and blessings if you are willing to look for them.
If you haven’t had the conversation with your spouse lately, a good question to discuss on your next date night would be “What do you like about being married and in ministry, and what is difficult?” Their answers will give you some things to celebrate as well as some tangible ways you can help them, serve them, and build oneness in your marriage.
Copyright © 2015 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.

Sabtu, 14 Februari 2015

"Come and See"

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"Come and See"
(En Español)
John and Andrew began their spiritual commitment to God's will as disciples of John the Baptist. In fact, they had actually been standing near the prophet when Jesus walked by. As the Baptizer saw Jesus, he cried out, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" and from that moment the two disciples began to follow Jesus (John 1:35-37).
This was an insightful account. It is John's handwritten testimony of how he came to the Son of God. Yet John has deeper truths to reveal beyond this historic portrayal. He is also going to reveal what we should each ultimately seek when we come to Christ.
Let's pick up the narrative. The two disciples, having heard and believed John's messianic proclamation about Jesus, are now walking, perhaps hurriedly, to catch up to Jesus. They are within conversation range.
Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest Thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. ---John 1:38-39 KJV
There are many reasons one comes to Christ. We may seek Him for health issues or to possess the keys to prosperity. Perhaps we need deliverance or are burdened with the cares of a loved one. Yet, as the Lord asked John and Andrew, so He asks each of us: What are you seeking in life? What goals compel us? When we approach the final season of our lives, will the things we have achieved be transferable into eternal accounts? Or will we have spent our time and energies on that which is void of true life?
Jesus asks, "What are you seeking?" It is a very important question. The Lord desires that we take inventory of our passions and objectives and then chart our course toward heavenly values. You see, many say they love Jesus. What they mean is that, in time, they hope to get around to loving Jesus. Right now, however, they barely know Him and almost never spend time seeking Him.
The proof that we love Him is that we keep His commandments (John 14:15). What must He think when so many who say they love Him are, in fact, not loving Him but actually having an affair with this world? May God have mercy.
Yet this is not your situation. In spite of your flaws and weaknesses, you sincerely desire to possess more of God. You have emerged from your past trials, determined to walk closer to the Lord. Indeed, Christ sees this holy desire and, to Him, it is the most precious part of you.
The Lord's heart is also moved toward those who follow Him, though they may walk limping. To those wounded by injustice or the effects of sin, the Lord's promise remains faithful: "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish" (Isa. 42:3; see also Matt. 12:20). Surely He will bring to victory the justice due you.
Like John and Andrew, we, too, "behold the Lamb of God." Just as He asked them, so He turns and asks us, "What are you seeking?"
The Dwelling Place of Christ
In response to Jesus' probing question, the disciples' answer may seem strange. For they did not ask Him for greater power or one of His many spiritual gifts. Instead they asked Jesus something more personal and intimate: "Where dwellest Thou?"
I'd like us to consider the poignancy of their answer. They wanted to know where Jesus lived. There are times when a question transcends the simple boundaries of intellectual curiosity and actually reveals one's quest in life. Such is now the case: they are seeking to live with Jesus. They are searching for the dwelling place of God.
Our Father wants us to ask for spiritual gifts and special blessings of health and financial prosperity. To desire these things is not wrong; it is just not enough. Inside the heart of a God-seeker is a quest for more. We are in search of the "dwelling places" of God. In truth, our hearts have been divinely programmed. There are within us "the highways to Zion" (Ps. 84:5).
Our destination is nothing less than oneness with Christ. All fruitfulness comes from living in spiritual union with Jesus. In contrast, whatever we offer as service to God that is not the result of our union with Christ, that labor is in vain; it is a weak comfort. For apart from Him, we can do nothing.
John tells us in his first epistle that those who say they abide in Him ought to walk "in the same manner as He walked" (1 John 2:6). Abiding in Jesus leads to walking like Jesus.
Beloved, there is yet much more to learn and discover concerning our Lord! We must beware of spiritual complacency. Recall the prayer of Moses: at the end of his life -- after being used by God to confront and defeat the gods of Egypt, after dwelling in the Lord's glory and beholding miracle after miracle for forty years -- Moses prayed, "You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand" (Deut. 3:24).
You have begun? No matter how much we attain, no matter what revelations of God's glory are ours, we have only begun to see His glory.
The disciples answered astutely, "Rabbi, where dwellest Thou?" May this become our prayer as well: Where do You live, O Son of God? Where is Your dwelling place? To all who feel similarly, Christ says to us what He promised them: "Come and see."
Dear Master, I turn to You now. You are my life's greatest goal. I desire to live with You, to abide in the wonder of a life united with You.
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The preceding excerpt is adapted from the book I Will Be Found by You by Pastor Frangipane. This book and other resources available at

Jumat, 13 Februari 2015

Remember Job

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Remember Job
(En Español)
There is much to say about the book of Job. Many scholars believe it is the oldest book of the Bible; all agree that it predates the wisdom books (Proverbs, Psalms, etc.). Another interesting insight is this: Job was not an Israelite. So the antiquity of this book combined with its Gentile hero makes it unique among all Old Testament Scriptures.
Yet there is another narrative that is actually my main point of interest. The story of Job is not only about an innocent man suffering unjustly from a satanic attack; the bulk of the story concerns the suffering Job endured from his three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar (and later Elihu). These men, probably religious scholars of their day, were friends of Job. Yet during his distress they falsely judged him; they became his accusers.
In defense of Job's friends, upon seeing Job's great suffering they threw dust on their heads and wept. Then they sat with him in silence for seven days. Only after Job spoke did they finally open their mouths in response. They began with reverence, weeping and compassion (a place we might consider before we callously offer our opinions). However, it is plain that their pride and religious opinions eventually overcame their compassions toward Job.
It should also be noted that, generally speaking, Job's friends had right doctrines. Their error was not so much in their theology as much as their assigning the role of sinner to Job. They did not have enough humility to see that they could be wrong. God's view was that Job was not a sinner. In fact, according to the Lord, Job was the most righteous man in the world. He was not just a relatively good man among other good men, but among all men there was "no one like him on the earth" (Job 1:8). In God's eyes Job was in a class by himself: three times he was called a "blameless and upright man" by God (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3).
We know it was wrong of Job's friends to falsely accuse him. Yet isn't it ironic that still today people cannot help but find fault with Job! If we read some modern interpretations of the book of Job, we find critics are still blaming Job for his suffering. Some say Job's devastation occurred because of unbelief; others say his fear opened the door to the adversary. And still others feel Job must have had some sin that left him vulnerable to the devil's attack. How is it that people cannot see this stunning reality: NONE of the things spoken against Job -- not 3,500 years ago nor today -- were right!
My point is this: the instinct to judge and criticize without having all the information is not only rampant in the world, it is also in us. If we think Job caused his own troubles, then we are as deceived as the three "friends" who wrongly accused him. In fact, we are worse, because they did not know Satan was behind the attack or that God had declared Job a blameless man. In contrast, we have the Scriptures and testimony of God. Yet in spite of what we can plainly read, our religious minds hunger to find fault.
Could it be that the take-away message of the book of Job -- the reason it is in the Bible in the first place -- is to provide a vivid example that it is wrong to judge without knowing all the facts? Indeed, the book of Job is a portrait of people with a religious mindset who are self-assured they are right, who judge without having truly heard from God.
God placed the life story of Job in the most sacred Book in the world for a reason: that we would not be so confident that our judgments are always right. The fact is, throughout history good people, godly people, have been lied about, slandered, blamed and persecuted! Of course, we know that the wicked suffer, but do we take into account that so also do the righteous? And the main accusers of the righteous are not necessarily the openly godless, but the self-righteous religious leaders of the day.
Job's friends had right doctrines that were wrongly applied.
In Conclusion
Of course, there are people who have sinned and done terrible things. I am not saying we should gloss over these atrocities. Of course, if you see injustice of some kind that is unmistakably evil -- yes, judge and then act to bring swift justice. But in most cases the issues of a person's heart are not so obvious. Therefore, I make my appeal to you: before you judge, remember Job and why his story is in the Bible.
Finally, with grace upon my words let me say we must crucify our instincts to judge. When Job's family came, they invested in him their love and gifts. They restored him. They did what love would do, what Christ would do. As He has been to us, so we should be to others. We can possess the very same "mind … which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5 KJV). We can remember the story of Job.
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The preceding teaching was adapted from a chapter in Pastor Frangipane's book, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ. This book is currently on sale and can be ordered from Arrow Publications at