Doing Life Together

crossToday, we remember Good Friday. Do you sometimes feel as if your life is lived in a perpetual Good Friday mode? Like the movie, Groundhog Day, it seems you are replaying the same bad day over and over, fighting despair and struggling. Disease, broken relationships, prodigal children…the landscape looks bleak and can easily lead to despair.

Good Friday reminds us that all our suffering and struggles will one day end. One day there will be no more tears, no death, no mourning or pain. All things will be made new.

The reason Good Friday is good is because Jesus willingly (He could have called His angels to rescue Him, remember?) sacrificed and suffered for us. There was a purpose in Christ’s suffering. He knew that purpose and was obedient, even unto death. He took our sin to the cross so that we could be saved. Without His sacrifice, we could not be justified to God.

On that day, it looked like evil won, but Easter reminds us that this is not true. Jesus triumphed over the grave. Death could not keep Him and He rose again!

Easter is about hope. No matter how bleak Good Friday seems, Easter reminds us that one day disease will be erased, wrongs will be righted, and brokenness will be healed.

We are created to hope in Him and long for that day when suffering is no more.

Psalm 39:7 reminds us, “My hope is in Him,” not circumstances or people. Psalm 119:147 says, “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.”

On Good Friday, we cry for help, but remember Christ is risen! Our living God is our constant source of hope. He defeated the darkness.

This Easter season choose hope. Refuse to give in to despair. “Love never gives us, never loses faith is always HOPEFUL, and endures every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

He is Risen! He is risen indeed!

HAPPY EASTER …a few days early!

embassy-2052553_1920The wedding day was just like she dreamed it would be. Dressed in a stunning designer gown, surrounded by beautiful bouquets of flowers, a handsome groom and gracious guests, the $20,000 price tag was a financial stretch. But Julie wanted a wedding to remember. Unfortunately, the wedding became her complete focus and not the man she married. She hardly knew him, but desperately wanted to have a dream wedding and be with someone. Two years later, at the age of 26, Julie divorced.

Her friend Amber shared a similar fate. She married a man who complemented her ambitious career. The two were known as the “power couple”. In truth, the couple was a poor match. No longer able to cope with constant marital turmoil, Amber joined her friend Julie and became one of the growing number of young women married and divorced while still in their 20s.

What surprised me was the attitude both women shared toward their “failed experiments”. They saw their first marriages as good rehearsals for the real thing. Now older and wiser, they were ready to take on the challenges of a second marriage.

As first generation children of divorce, these two women knew the pain of divorce but consoled themselves with the fact that they were hurting no one since children had not entered the picture. And these “practice marriages” seemed to be in vogue in Hollywood with such notables as Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie and others.

“Starter marriages” as they are sometimes called are first time marriages that last less than 5 years and yield no children. These short-lived marriages are often viewed as practice for a second matrimonial try. But can marriage and divorce really be relegated to rehearsal status? There are those in the culture who would like you to think so but don’t be fooled. Marriage is about lifelong commitment no matter how people try to spin it. Two become one in a holy union before God.

Because marriage involves spirit, soul and body, severing the union creates intimacy problems. Dissolving a union on paper doesn’t end the emotional fallout. The breaking of the covenant is devastating no matter how short-lived or childless it is. Divorce leaves you feeling vulnerable, betrayed, confused, anxious, guilty, fearful, sad, depressed ,angry and frustrated. And because of the sexual intimacy of marriage, a broken marriage often leaves women feeling as if a part of them was lost.

Those who declare “starter marriages” as positive steps to future happiness are not being honest with themselves. Don’t be fooled by this veiled attempt to minimize the emotional damage of divorce. Only God can take a broken covenant and bring good out of the situation. He can heal and mend the broken heart but He’d rather have you honor your vows. That was His intention from the beginning.

The best prevention against a “starter marriage” is to take marriage vows seriously and understand the sacred covenant you will enter. Don’t look for an easy escape route. Take the necessary time to really get to know someone before the wedding day. God’s desire is for you to finish any marriage you start.

tree-trunk-1159013_1920Do you watch TV, go to the movies or read the covers of fashion magazines? If so, you may be led to believe that your sexual appetite drives your daily life. Why? Because this is a central message of popular media.

Well, move over Freud, this doesn’t have to be! Even though our culture is obsessed with serving up sex on every possible platter, we don’t have to give in to these tantalizing temptations. It is possible to live in a sexually saturated society and overcome temptation. Here are eight tips to help you.

  • Know what the Bible has to say when it comes to dealing with sex. What you read and see in media will not typically line up with biblical instruction. The standards are different. Jesus knows the emotional, physical and spiritual fall out people experience when they cheapen sex and reduce it to pure pleasure. Therefore, His guidelines are not meant to be restrictive or puritanical, but protective. They lead to healthy relationships and help people maintain dignity and self-respect. Spend time searching the Bible for instruction concerning sexual temptation.
  • Remove sources of sexual temptation. Temptation is not a sin, but acting on it is. If you find yourself lustfully fantasizing and engaging in behavior you know to be morally wrong, then identify the source of that temptation and remove it. The Internet may be one of those sources. Although we hear more about men being addicted to Internet pornography, women also struggle with this addiction. Purchase a good filter and monitor your viewing habits. The Bible instructs us to flee from sexual temptation, not log on and hope it doesn’t bother us.
  • Be obedient. Don’t be ruled by passion. No matter what you feel, act with your brain and not your emotions or your body. Scripture is clear that sexual behavior is always subject to the will. Use your will to resist temptation and say no to sex outside of marriage.
  • Renew your thoughts. Think on things that are noble, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). This must be a daily practice that we do o intentionally. It is easy to become distracted by sexual temptation because it is all around us in the media. It is easy to allow our thoughts to wander and fantasize.
  • Don’t put yourself in the position to be tempted. In the same way that a recovered alcoholic shouldn’t go sit in a bar and try not to drink, don’t position yourself to be tempted (e.g., go to X rated movies, read steamy sexually explicit novels, hang out in bars, get drunk, etc.). When Satan tempted Eve, she engaged him in conversation. Instead of telling him to go crawl somewhere else, she entertained his conversation. Learn from her mistake.
  • Use God’s Word to resist. When Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the desert, Jesus’ defense was to speak the Word. Satan could not argue with Scripture and gave up. This speaks to the importance of knowing and memorizing scriptures. If Jesus, who was the Word, fought temptation with the Word, what better line of defense could we employ?
  • Don’t lie to yourself. Most of us think we can handle a lot more sexually explicit material then we can. We aren’t always aware of the subtle influence and desensitization that happens with regular exposure to this material. We deceive ourselves and think we are above these influences. If you are human, you are not!
  • Stay intimately connected with God. Spend time in prayer, reading the Bible and worshipping God. Remember, when you are weak, He is strong. Most of us give in to temptation when we are out of touch with God. Even though He never leaves us, we can stop communicating with Him. Stay connected and dependent on Him to give you what you need to overcome and He will. The more intimate you are with God, the more power you will have to overcome.

The next time you walk by the grocery store magazine rack and are tempted to focus on “six sizzling ways to have an affair” or “ten new turn ons for men”, divert your eyes and attention to the groceries in your cart. Then think about this. It’s just as important to feed your soul with good things as it is your physical body. Pay for your groceries and remind yourself, with Christ, you can do all things–that includes overcoming sexual temptation.

watermelon-846357_1920A problem for both kids and adults is eating out of emotional needs. I’ve worked with a number of kids who eat because of marital tension or the threat of divorce in their homes. Many kids eat to cope with stress and anxiety over performance and perfection issues, some eat because of insecurities in peer relationships, or they feel rejected by friends, or they eat in response to any number of emotions (happy, sad, frustrated, etc.).

Because food is so easily available, it can become a way to soothe and comfort a child. Food doesn’t talk back. It makes you feel good and requires nothing but your enjoyment. Like other addictions, food can be used to numb out pain and life stress. For example, that hot fudge sundae can make a child temporarily forget that his parents are fighting with each other.

This means overeating can become a way to react to emotional stress and pain. If that is the case with you or your child, you will need to change this and teach your child to cope with life in different and healthier ways. I’ve got a number of strategies that will help in this area.

When kids have less time to spend with parents because parents are both working or working long hours, they tend to eat out of boredom and choose foods to comfort themselves. Many latchkey kids tell me they come home, sit in front of the TV and eat. It’s a way to relax from a stressful school day. And because of safety issues, latch key kids are often told to stay in the house which limits their activity. So what do they choose to do? Eat and sit. These kids need to be redirected to other activities. The good news is, you can do that even when you aren’t home. You and your children can come up with a structured plan for the few hours he or she may be home with an older brother or sister after school. This is doable.

There’s an old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Well, actually this isn’t true. Kids who are teased about their weight regardless of how overweight they really are, experience emotional distress. Sadly, a few of those kids may even try suicide.

Teasing can be brutal like, “Hey fatso! Can you squeeze into your desk?” or more subtle like, “Do you think you should eat that pizza?” Kids can become depressed, hate their bodies and plummet in their self-esteem.

The truth is that overweight kids are teased more often than kids who are average weight. Because of this, parents should make every effort to confront teasing when it happens and get it to stop. Every parent needs to deal with teasing and not allow lies to take hold in a child’s mind. This is such an important area.

Finally, too many kids are fighting battles they are not equipped to fight. Whether it’s the bully at school or the fudge brownies at the 7-11, kids need adult help and intervention. We need to equip our children to handle life from a world view that makes sense and give them the tools they need to grow up healthy.

Kids experience a great deal of stress and pressure, but they can learn to take on these problems applying biblical principles to their lives. Teaching your children to deal with life from a biblical worldview is a way to equip them. Temptation can be overcome. Rejection can be replaced with unconditional love and acceptance. Balance and moderation can be achieved. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit that comes from abiding in Christ. And emotional eating can be stopped and redirected to healthy coping mechanisms.