faith, Personal Development

Uncommon Behavior

Recently as I was searching for some inspiration to write/ pray about in my journal, I happened upon some old notes from an Andy Stanley study on marriage and relationships. The key verse is Matthew 7:12 “…do to others what you would have them do to you…” We’ve heard this our whole life, right? We know this is how we should behave. After all, these are the words of Jesus – a trustworthy resource if there ever was one. Yet we aren’t very good at it. Instead we judge harshly, we keep our distance, we speak criticism much more than praise, we find fault instead of giving grace, etc.
We seem to be naturally wired for this ‘transactional’ type of relationships where the verse would read, “I’ll do to you what you do to me… or if you do this first, then I will respond with that.” This faulty mindset applies for both good and bad behavior. We want justice and revenge for another’s bad behavior, and we hold out to reciprocate loving behavior only after we receive it. Our version of the verse sounds ridiculous and entirely self-centered, but upon sober self-assessment we will agree this is how we typically behave.
Behaving this way doesn’t work for us or the other person. We put all the power onto them for how we can behave – waiting for them to act first. Be honest, have you ever thought, “I’d really like to be nice/ loving/ giving to him/ her, but I just can’t because he/ she isn’t being nice to me.” We do this all the time and don’t even realize it. But that is not at all what this simple familiar verse says. If we want to take back control (and we all like to be in control) of our behavior, and if we want the best for ourselves and our relationships, we would actually do what this verse says.
The verse tells us to be proactive. Be positive. Be the one who loves first. Believe the best about the person instead of assuming the worst. Gee whiz, we are very bad at this. Look at what happens when news breaks about someone behaving badly or is accused of some crime or bad behavior. We immediately judge them as evil, they get fired from their job, they are ostracized from the community, and regarded as a terrible person. We don’t even know the whole story, and the investigation is incomplete, but we immediately assume the worst. Is that how we want others to treat us? I digress.
Like 1 Corinthians 13:7, look for ways to love, give, serve, and care for others. Show grace and patience. Are you perfect? Do you hope others show grace and patience with your weaknesses, imperfections, mistakes, and annoyances? Yeah, me too.
Look, no one wants to disappoint another person, especially someone close like a spouse. Let’s build some margin in our hearts for their “issues” like we hope they do for ours. Wouldn’t this mindset shift do us good? That’s the conviction I have about this verse in Matt 7:12. Stop waiting for the other person to do/ be who we expect them to be and just do our part. Trust the Lord with our heart and hands while we obey this command for how we are to behave and watch our relationships flourish. #preachingtomyself #underconstruction #conqueryourmind

faith, Fortitude

Why Forgiveness Is So Hard

Much has been written about forgiveness. It is scary and difficult, yet necessary and liberating if we are to be our healthy best. It seems very common and easy to hate, to resent, to withhold favor from another because of past wrongs, especially when some past wrongs feel “unforgivable.” We know that it is healthy to forgive, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Have you ever thought about hate, resentment, bitterness, or withholding favor being a heavy burden that YOU carry around? As you read these 4 ways that forgiveness is hard, I hope you will find encouragement to really forgive. Note: I get regular emails from Dr. Raymond Force who writes and counsels on relationships. Below are his words on this important topic.

There are a number of reasons as to why forgiveness is hard, especially when it comes to marriage. Here are five reasons that should help to shed a little more light on why we tend to struggle with forgiveness.

Forgiveness Defies Logic
 
Logic says that if you hurt me, then I am going to hurt you back. Or, if you have harmed me, then you will never have an opportunity to do that again.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, says if you hurt me, then I will love you. If you have harmed me, then I will take the risk of loving you again even though you may not love me back.

Forgiveness Goes Against Our Natural Bent
 
I am the father of seven children. Believe you me when I say that human beings must be taught to forgive those that have harmed them.
In Romans 3, Paul gives God’s description of mankind. It is not a pretty picture, and it accentuates the fact that peace-making is not something that comes natural for us.
In Romans 3:17, Paul, in reference to man, says, “And the way of peace have they not known:”. In short, he is stating that we do not naturally have very good conflict resolution skills. And, if you need proof of that, just sign your child up for Little League baseball. You will quickly see that what God said about us in Romans 3 is more than accurate.

Forgiveness Makes Us Feel As If We Are Appearing Weak To Others
 
Though forgiveness makes us feel like others are looking upon us as weak-minded, I believe the opposite is true. In fact, I have found that I always maintain a sense of influence and even power when I possess a spirit of forgiveness. I also find that people are quite mesmerized when they see a truly forgiving spirit, and they usually end up respecting the forgiver all the more.


 
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.“

Romans 12:20-21

I love the expression used in verse 20. Paul tells us that when we love those that despise us, we heap coals of fire upon their head. I have always taken that to mean that as we show love toward those that have harmed us, they will often feel a fire of shame and remorse burning within themselves. In my book, that’s not exhibiting weakness as much as procuring strength.

Forgiveness Requires Risk
 
When Jesus taught that we are to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29, I believe he was teaching us that love requires risk. In other words, there is always a certain risk that we take when loving others in that, when we love, we put ourselves in a position to be disappointed, taken for granted, or rejected.
When others harm us, the temptation is to pull back so as to guard ourselves from any further pain or disappointment. Though protection is especially necessary in an abusive relationship (Matthew 7:6), in more normative situations, Christ commands us to react differently. According to His teachings, our duty is to turn the other cheek by loving someone even if it means that they could hurt us once more. This is always the difficult obstacle to overcome when contemplating forgiveness. So how can we forgive like that, and why should we? Stay tuned. We’ll address that in a separate article.

faith, Personal Development

My 2018 Book List

I enjoy reading. I prefer to read to learn something versus reading for entertainment. I’m always on the lookout for a solid read from a respected author. I’m not one to plow through a book a week because some of what I read needs to be taken in small portions so I can digest it. See what I did there with the play on words?

So here is what I read in 2018 with a few notes about each one. I’m not saying you MUST read everything that I read, but if you are in the market for quality content to nourish your mind and soul, these have been impactful to me.

The Joy of Trusting God by Dr. Bill Bright

Real joy eludes most of us these days. There is so much negativity and terrible things reported in the news that it is extra hard to have real joy in our soul. This book helped me to adjust my focus to trust God through all that goes on around me and allow God to fill me with joy and peace.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This book surprised me big time. So good. I’m not a war history buff, but this is an amazing true story that grips you from page one. If you want to read about fortitude,courage, redemption, and get an insider’s view of WWII, this is it.

Jesus Is ___. By Judah Smith

Fill in the blank.Jesus is greatly revered, harshly criticized, and sorely misunderstood. Judah breaks down who Jesus is and explains to readers how understanding Jesus more fully will not only enrich their lives, but also give them meaning, as well as save them. Judah has a way of bringing well known Bible stories to life in a way that puts you in the story. Very impactful.

Invisible War by Chip Ingram

It might sound strange to you, but there is a spiritual war going on all around us that we cannot see with our eyes. This book uses the Bible to help us understand the evil in the world, how it works, and what we can do about it. It’s actually very helpful and encouraging. All is not lost people!

Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

This book will challenge you to take a sober self-assessment. If we are honest with ourselves,there are attitudes, beliefs, fears, etc. that need to be addressed. This book provides some encouraging insight to help us take control of our heart rather than be steered by it.

A.D. 33: A Novel by Ted Dekker

The only fiction I read this year was this excellent story that shares the heart of Jesus. Dekker’s stories always move fast and keep you guessing. This is both entertaining and soul food.

Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away by Dr. Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman writes,“I believe that in every troubled marriage, one or both partners can take positive steps that have the potential for changing the emotional climate in their marriage.” This book was recommended to me by a dear friend because it has such practical application for ANY and all marriages. In fact, what you can learn in this book can apply to all relationships.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

This is a 365 day devotional book that can change your life. Written nearly 100 years ago, it’s amazing how piercing Oswald’s wisdom is for us today. I read it as part of my morning routine and have found it to be especially convicting and encouraging at the same time.

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

This is the most impactful book I’ve read this year. In fact, I’ve just finished reading it the 2nd time. I probably highlighted something on every page. It is so rich with wisdom and advice for thriving in the most important human relationship we have. This is a MUST read whether you are married or not.

The Heart of Christmas by Lucado, Maxwell, Hybels, Warren, Jeremiah, Hayford

I found this book in our box of Christmas decorations. It’s actually really good. Not only will this insightful book put you in the Christmas spirit, but it will encourage your soul as you think about what this holiday is really all about.

faith, Personal Development

One Habit to Make You Happier

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One of my trusted resources for healthy living is Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah. I read his daily email devotional every morning as part of my routine to start the day. Following is an entry he shared a while back that I thought was fitting for us all.

 

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled “One Habit to Make You Happier Today.” The writer said, “Repeating a positive phrase, or mantra, to yourself creates new pathways between neurons in your brain, conditioning you to feel calmer and healthier. Research shows that thinking of a word or phrase that affirms our values—and repeating it over and over—produces powerful physiological changes…. Mantras can create and strengthen new neural pathways that are positive and not toxic. And that can make our brain much calmer and happier.”

For some odd reason, the writer neglected to mention the power of quoting the Bible to oneself. It isn’t a mantra we need but manna from heaven. It’s not a positive sentence but a promise from God. We don’t need clichés; we need Scripture. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

Self-control is a battle that begins in our minds. Our minds as well as our hearts need to be focused on God and His Word. Daily Bible reading and meditation really is the one habit that will make you happier—and holier—every day.

The Bible contains all the information needed for life’s challenges. Its words provide strategies for every situation we face. They are life-changing and life-giving. God’s promises are never-failing, and His truths are infallibly reliable. – David Jeremiah

 

Daily Bible reading is an excellent healthy habit we would be wise to cultivate. While I understand that you may not be into Jesus and reading the Bible, I still encourage you to consider giving it a chance. You might be surprised to find the practical wisdom in the Bible makes more sense than you thought. Check out the links below for verses to encourage you. What is your favorite verse?

Great resource to help you get started with scripture memory – https://www.patheos.com/blogs/onedegreetoanother/2016/08/fifteen-verses-memorize/

https://www.mcleanbible.org/connect/kids-quest/top-20-bible-verses-everyone-should-know

https://growchurch.net/top-100-most-popular-bible-verses-to-memorise

faith, Family

7 Ways to Communicate Love

communicating-loveLove is the most important part of life.

We all tend to agree on that, but we can rarely seem to agree on what “love” actually means. 

Here are some of the most famous words ever written about love.

Within in them, God is giving us a timeless road map for building stronger relationships. Below are seven very simple and practical ways to put these words into action in our daily lives and our relationships.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Here’s how we put love into practice (it’s simpler than you might think):

1. Love is patient, so in our rushed world, be patient with people.

2. Love is kind, so in our sarcastic and often rude world, show genuine kindness to people.

3. Love is not jealous or proud, so in our self-focused world, put the needs of others ahead of your own.

4. Love keeps no record of wrongs, so in our world full of grudges and bitterness, choose to offer grace.

5. Love rejoices in the truth, so in our world of dishonesty, always tell the truth and fight for trust in relationships.

6. Love never loses faith, so in our world of skeptics and cynics, choose to believe in the presence of God and the power of love.

7. Love endures through every circumstance, so in our world of quitters, stay committed and never give up on yourself or your loved ones!

 

Dave Willis of Stronger Marriages recently wrote a book called The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships where he started by looking at everything the Bible (the ultimately love and relationship manual) has to say on the subject. He gets full credit for this article.