Category Archives: Teaching

Blind Leading the Blind

The problem with spiritual blindness is that those who are spiritually blind don’t know it.

This is why we are exhorted in the Word to make a self-examination.

(See 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB), “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”

 The point here is that there actually is a test.

  • No, it is not one of those multiple choice kinds.
  • This test involves applying the Word of God in your life, examining the results, and then testing the again.

In 1st John 4:1 (NASB), it says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

  • The Lord clearly instructs us to put everything to the testeven His own Word.
  • How do I know this? Look at the verse, notice the words, “to see whether they are from God.”
  • This clearly shows that God not only has no problem with us testing His Word but that He wants us to do so.
  • This way we can come to learn how to tell the difference between His Word and the voice of others.

Notice this confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees found in John 9:38-41 (NASB), “And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

  • Can you see (pun intended), the Lord is saying that the Pharisees failed the test.
  • In their case, they would remain blind, because they did not want to see.
  • They were face to face with God in the flesh, and they did not recognize Him because He was not behaving the way they believed He was supposed to behave.

Additionally, Matthew 13:13-17 (NASB), says, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

  • This is Jesus explaining that He uses certain techniques to get His message across to those who really want to hear, and understand while allowing those who do not want to change to keep on acting like they do not understand.
  • Notice as well, that it tells us that there are those who are blessed because they can “see.”
  • This ability to “see,” for these people is a “blessing,” or rather, a gift from God Himself.

In the Bible, this inability to understanding things is referred to as being blind.

  • Spiritual blindness comes about for different reasons.

One of those reasons is found early in the Bible in Deuteronomy 29:4 (NASB), “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”

  • Here we can see that God not only is capable of “blinding” people spiritually but obviously, He actually did it.

Why He would do this is also something that would have different reasons for happening.

  • One of those is that the people involved are not ready to understand,from God’s point of view.
  • This could happen because He is not ready for them to understand and do the right thing because His plan calls for something different.
  • As an example, He hardened the heart of Pharaoh, so that the king would not release the Jews and God could take the opportunity to demonstrate His power to the world.

Another reason why God would keep some people from “seeing” is found in Romans 11:25 (NASB), “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

  • Because God has a plan and that plan must work out the way He wants it to, He has kept Israel from understanding some things about who Jesus truly is, so that there would be ample time for people who are not Jews to get saved.
  • See also Romans 11:7-8 (NASB), “What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.”
  • See how God intentionally kept Israel (the Jews) from understanding and acting on that knowledge, until He is ready for them to do so, until then, they will remain “blind.”

Another reason why some people are “blind,” is found in 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4 (NASB), “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

  • Satan has been given the power to “blind” the eyes of those who are not going to be saved.
  • If they were to understand that Jesus Christ is the Lord, then they might get saved, and that is not part of the plan in their case.
  • These people, who do not see, but act as if they do, often turn out to be people who also end up fooling true believers with their erroneous religious beliefs.
  • The book of Galatians speak clearly of this problem.

Jesus’ response to us, regarding these blind people is to, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 (NASB))

In our case though, we have different instructions from the Lord, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2 (NASB)).

  • In this verse we see the process which God expects from us so that we may be able to really “see,” and know that it is truly God speaking, and not some other voice.
  • In our heads we have three voices.

o   One of them is the voice of God, the second is the voice of the enemy, and the third is our own voice.

  • Which is the most powerful of the three, you might ask? Your voice.

o   Too often our voice is so strong and powerful in our heads, that it actually sounds like what we would expect God’s voice to sound.

  • In truth, God’s voice is the still small voice which you have to stop and listen to, so that you can recognize it and know it truly is His voice.
  • But, we do not always know if it really is God’s voice.
  • To know this, we must become “transformed.”

o   This means to stop thinking the way we always have, and start thinking the way God wants.

  • Once we start thinking His way, or as the Word says, by using the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), we will be able to know it is His voice, as best as we can.

This transformation, or rather the ability to see and not be blind, requires us to use the tools He put at our disposal.

  • Those “tools” are simply the Word of God. Notice what Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • It is the Word of God that “transforms us,” opens our eyes so that we may see, so that we may use it, and lead others to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The way we learn to use the Word of God correctly, and use this tool in the proper way is to follow the instructions of the Lord in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), “Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
  • The study of the Word, the testing of the Word, and the application of the Word, is what will be required to stop being “blind,” and “seeing.”

The final question is this:

  • Are you able to take God’s Word as the truth, just as you take a scientist’s word at what they say is true.
  • When there is a conflict regarding what scientists say and what the Bible says, how do you decide which to believe?
  • Your answer will decide whether you are blind or not.

What Does It Mean To Love Jesus?

I asked myself, “Do you really love Jesus?”

Pastor John Piper said, “If you don’t love Jesus, you don’t love God, and if you don’t love God you don’t love Jesus.”

I came across a dilemma, not long ago. I questioned myself about my love for the Lord. I asked myself what it meant to love God. Was it some feeling I was supposed to have, or was it solely to be proven in obedience? In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In other words, He said, you will show me that you love me if you do as I have commanded you. Was He saying that the obedience alone demonstrated my love for Him, or was He saying that because I did love Him I would obey Him?

I grew up without a father. He left me when I was three years old. I grew up hating that man. I hated even thinking of him. Because of his cowardice, I learned to distrust all authority figures in my life. I grew up angry and full of rage. I expected people to reject me, to abandon me, and not to love me. I never considered the possibility that someone would actually want to be with me for real. It was not that I went around belittling myself, or thinking the worst about me, it was that I never believed I was worthy of someone loving me. I did not even love myself.

As I grew older, I began to search for importance. I want to be someone special. I wanted others to look up to me. I wanted to be famous. I wanted more than I had. This drive for importance led me to many decisions that resulted in bad consequences in my life. As a young man, I spent much of my time in juvenile homes. When I got a little older, I spent two years in maximum security for assault with attempted murder. After I was released, I met a young woman and married her. I thought I had finally found someone who would love me, but the marriage lasted six months and she divorced me. My anger ruined the relationship and I became violent with her.

After that, I got one job after another, constantly getting into trouble and being fired. I became an alcoholic and started on a downward spiral. About that time, I heard of a group of people called the Brown Berets. This seemed like my chance to become important. I became the Prime Minister of the organization. For many years, I came out on TV, newspapers, and radio talk shows. The Brown Berets became a stepping stone for me to gain importance, but that importance was not real. After nine years in the organization, I became disillusioned with the groups success. I began to doubt the goals and objectives of the group.

Around this time, I got married again, to my present wife. At first, it seemed great. She loved being with me; doing the things I wanted to do. Little by little, my anger and bitterness crept into that relationship as well, and things started getting bad. My disappointment in the Brown Berets, coupled with my bad marriage, led me to start using cocaine. I became addicted to the drug and it only made things even worse for me. I quit the Brown berets and started dealing with the divorce proceedings my wife began against me. I remember thinking about my life and wondering whether it would be better for everyone if I would just die. I knew there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know what to do, or even how to get started to try and fix things. I had spent 32 years of my life wanting to be important, to be loved by someone, and all I found at the end was my anger, bitterness, and my hatred for the coward who left me when I was three years old.

But, there was a little light at the end of that dark, dark, tunnel in which I found myself. I had an eight year old son, Nino, and a second son, Chicho, which had just been born. I thought of them, and I decided that I would not be like my father. I would not leave them. They became my motive for change. I wanted to be a better father. I wanted them to grow up and know that I never left them, no matter how bad things got. I determined to change for them. They gave me another chance, another reason, to be important.

The divorce proceedings between my wife and I were bad. Every time we met for any reason became another chance for her to attack me and say hateful things against me. But, I knew I deserved them. I still got angry, but I knew that I had done this. I turned her against me. Still, I did not want to lose the marriage, and I kept asking God to please save my marriage. The only thing He would say to me is, “Let me change you. Let Me change you. Let Me change you.” I would get so angry at Him. I wanted God to have mercy on me, even though I knew I deserved everything that was happening to me.

One day I was invited to attend a seminar at which David Wilkerson, a preacher from New York, was speaking. I remember him saying, “God wants you to give Him a chance to prove to you that He can do what He says He can do.” I responded and said, “God doesn’t need any chances, I am the one who needs a chance.” I prayed that night and told God that if He could change me, then He could have me.” I have never been someone who does things halfway. If I messed up, it was all the way, if I did well it was all the way. I knew what I was telling God, if He could change me, I would belong to Him the rest of my life.

Not long after that, I was summed to child custody court, and the court took my boys away from me and gave them to their mother. The court also ordered me to leave my home, and restricted me to be able to see my sons only twice a month. I could not understand this, I wanted to be with my sons, and they took them away from me. I wanted to get angry at God, but I kept reminding myself that He was the owner now. He had the right to do with my life as He pleased. The anger would build inside me, and come dangerously close to an explosion. But The Lord would always remind me that He was now in charge, and that He wanted me to let Him do whatever He thought was best.

Later, we ended up in divorce court. I kept wondering how the Lord was going to stop the divorce proceedings. But, we ended up before the judge who heard all the accusations my wife had against me. Then the judge slammed his mallet on the desk and pronounced us divorced. My world seemed to stop. God had not stopped the divorce. I had lost my family. I wanted to get so angry at Him, I wanted to shout at Him, I wanted to hurt someone. But, instead I walked out of the court feeling defeated one more time in my life.

A couple of days later, my attorney called to ask if I had her from my wife. I answered that he meant my ex-wife. “No,” he said, “I mean your wife. She hasn’t singed the papers yet, and they are looking for her to sign them. I started at the phone for a long time. I did not understand what I had just heard. After a while, I called my wife and she answered. I told her that they were looking for her to go and sign the papers. She said that she knew, but that she had decided not to sign. She said she was going to give me one more chance. After we hung up the phone, I thought of all the anger I had had against God. I thought about how I had wanted to give up on Him. I thought about how much He loved me.

As a man I respect very much said to me not long ago. “I may not be the best husband, but I am a better husband now. I may not be the best father, but I am a better father now. I may not be the best man, but I am a better man now” And I added, “I may not know how to love God that way He wants from me, but I will spend the rest of my life learning to love Him with all my heart.”

So, do I really love Jesus? I hope so.

I am going to spend the rest of my life ministering to others, counseling others, helping others, serving others. That is the best way I know how to show Jesus I love Him, and loving Jesus is the best way I know to show God that I am so appreciative of what He did for me. Yes, Lord I love you, but help me learn how to love you better.

What is a Christian?

Depending on whom you ask you will also get varying definitions.

I will attempt to give a generally good description of who we are, as compared to what others say about us. There is NO one definition for all of us. The all-encompassing word, Christian, is used as though it clearly identifies a specific group of people. It does not. Here are some examples of what I mean.

1.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” just because they live in the United States. The idea here is that since the founding fathers used Christian concepts and doctrine in much of their initial work in the creation of the United States, this means that this is a “Christian” country. Therefore, all of its citizens would be “Christians” by default.

2.    There are people who call themselves “Christians” just because their family and relatives all call themselves “Christian.” The idea here is that “Christianity” is more of a cultural identification. For example, if you are born in a Japanese family here in the US, and though you were not born in Japan, you are nevertheless a Japanese person. Therefore, if people are born in a “Christian” family, they might consider their selves “Christians” by default.

3.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because they attend a “Christian” church and believe that makes them a Christian. The idea here is that you are something by association. For example, if you visit Houston, then go to NASA, and then climb into and sit in a display spacecraft, does that make you an astronaut? Of course not, and attending a “Christian” church does not make anyone a Christian.

4.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” for the sole purpose of taking advantage of the benefits that may come along with the identification. For example, a homeless person who is begging for money will identify him or herself as “Christian” or say “God bless you” in order to get someone else to give them money. There are also some persons who pretend to be “Christians” so that they can go into churches and con people out of their money and possessions, and many times to take advantage of them in other ways.

5.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because, at the time and moment, they may find it cool or emotionally satisfying to do so. Too often, at church events, the emotion of the moment may move people to respond to an altar call or motivational urge by the preachers. For a while, they do fine, but when the emotion fades (as it will), they start faltering in their commitment and identification with being “Christian.”

6.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because they want to embarrass Christians. The will call themselves “Christian” and then behave badly, use foul language, and even threaten others with hell and damnation because they know that this will make Christians look bad. They will adamantly argue that they are “true Christians” while at the same time behaving viciously against others.

7.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because they believe in a God, but they know they are not Moslem, Jewish, Buddhist or some other religion. This is “Christianity” by default. For example, if you learn about all the other religions, and you do not identify with any of them, then you consider yourself a “Christian” by default.

These seven groups (and there might be more) represent most of the people who are not true “Christian” but will argue that they are for their own specific reasons. The great thing about whether they are or are not Christians is that I do not get to decide for them. Whether they are truly Christians is between themselves and the Lord. On the other hand, we are encouraged in the Scriptures to pay attention to the “fruit” of the tree. The “fruit” will always tell you what kind of tree it really is. Before you mention that I should not “judge” others, the Bible teaches that if I am willing to accept judgement in the same manner as I judge others, then I can judge others.

So then, what is a “true” Christian?

Well, if I take the teachings of the Scriptures and interpret them carefully and correctly, I offer the following.

1.    A Christian is someone who believes that God exists, has always existed, and will always exist. We do not try to explain it, and may not fully understand it, but we accept it because we do so by faith.

2.    A Christian is someone who believes that the Bible, which includes the 66 canonized books, is God’s inspired Word. We believe that regardless selection process, these 66 books were what God wanted to be included.

3.    A Christian is someone who believes that we must obey the teachings and instructions of the Bible as God direct commands to us. God knows we fail and err in our obedience to Him. God and we do not believe we are to be perfect in our obedience (though that is what God wants from us in the end). We are not answerable to non-believers, though we do believe we are to be examples to those persons of how imperfect people can still have a healthy relationship with a God who forgives and has mercy.

4.    A Christian is someone who believes that though we are to get along with others the best we can, that we are not doormats. We are soldiers in Christ, an army of the Lord, conquerors in all things, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not have to take the abuse of others without the right to defend ourselves. We will “turn the other cheek” when we are able to demonstrate that we prefer to get along with others, but we will not cower in fear of no one. If God is for us, then who can be against us. We must love others but we do not have to like them. Thank God!

5.    A Christian is someone who believes that we must challenge all teachings, including those from the Christian Bible. The Scriptures instruct us to “test” every “spirit” to see if it is from God. This means that to prove it is God leading us to do or believe something we must check it against the Scriptures. We are to see if some teaching will agree or disagree with what we think is from God. We know that deception is possible if we do not make ourselves familiar with the teaching of the Christian Bible.

6.    A Christian is someone who accepts that other may judge us. We do not like criticism but accept that it comes along with the job. We are also willing to judge (not criticize) others in the same way that they may judge us. Judgments are important so that people may learn to make healthy decisions in their lives.

7.    A Christian is someone who believes that the Holy Spirit of God lives within them. We are the only “religion” (by the way, we dislike that word) that believes this way. As well, we do not mean that God’s Spirit lives in us metaphorically; we mean that He lives in us for real. We believe that when we chose to accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit entered us, and will remain with us forever.

8.    A Christian is someone who believes that God is omniscient. This means all knowing. Not only does this mean He knows everything, but He also knows what will happen ahead of time. We do not interpret this to mean He must interfere with events though he may make that choice.

9.    A Christian is someone who believes that Heaven and the Lake of Fire are real. Therefore, our instruction is to tell others about salvation in Jesus Christ. If someone believes another person is in danger and does nothing to warn or prevent it, he or she is just as guilty. In the same context, we believe people have the right to reject Christ and have themselves cast into the lake of fire.

10. A Christian is someone who believes that God is omnipresent. This means that He can be anywhere and everywhere if He so chooses. It also means He does not have to be anywhere He chooses.

11. A Christian is someone who believes that God is omnipotent. This means all powerful. This means God has the ability to do anything He chooses to do. We understand that while He is all-powerful this does not also mean He has to interfere with human events, though He has done so in the past, and may choose to do so again. Just because God can do something, it does not mean He should do it. Saving people’s lives, stopping babies from deformed births, healing people, and other such are completely at His discretion and not open to debate from us.

12. A Christian is someone who believes that God is perfect. This means He does not make mistakes or fail. Everything He does is right and turns out the way He intended. His decisions are always correct because He knows the future. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is able to do and think exceedingly beyond all we can think or imagine. We may be a little like Him, but God is nothing like us.

I could have kept on going a bit longer, but you get the point. Right? Can you see the difference between those above and the description I gave? Christians should not be lumped into the same pile as those who just call themselves “Christian.” Just as all non-Christians should be lumped into the same pile as Moslems, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, and so on.

Límites Personales En La Consejería

Satanás ha tenido mucho éxito en contra matrimonios cristianos.

· Mediante el uso de la cultura popular, ha convencido a muchas personas de que aunque estén casadas, siguen siendo dos personas completamente separadas.

· En muchos casos, esto produce una atmósfera de contención, con ambos intentando ganar el control sobre el otro.

· Esto se debe a que en lugar de ambos individuos trabajando juntos para lograr metas mutuamente beneficiosas, cada uno trata de alcanzar metas que se benefician a sí mismos.

Texas es un estado de propiedad común, esto significa que lo que le pertenece a uno de ustedes también le pertenece al otro.

· Si uno de ustedes debe una factura, ambos deben la cuenta, no importa cuyo nombre esté en ella.

· Esta es la ley, y no importa lo que digas o lo que creas.

· Por lo tanto, si uno de ustedes tiene un problema legal, ambos tienen problemas legales.

En las Escrituras, nos dicen que cuando una pareja se casa se convierten en uno.

· Esto significa que la pareja es vista de la misma manera por Dios.

· Cada uno tiene sus responsabilidades, pero ambos son responsables ante Dios y entre sí.

· Si uno de ustedes hace algo malo, afectará al otro tanto.

· Esta es la Palabra de Dios, y no importa lo que digas o lo que creas.

· Así que si uno de ustedes tiene problemas, entonces ambos tienen problemas.

Si una persona casada piensa que si su esposo (a) es quien tiene un problema, y no ellos mismos, es una mentira.

HAY 2 MANERAS DE ENTENDER ESTOS “LÍMITES”.

· Una de ellas es condicionamientos , y la otra es acuerdos.

· Las primeras (condiciones) se refieren a condiciones que establecemos para que otros puedan elegir si desean una relación con nosotros o no.

· El segundo (acuerdos) se refiere a la manera en la que vamos a tener una relación con los demás.

· En el matrimonio, ambos son importantes, y son diferentes entre sí.

CONDICIONES

El primer tipo de límites son importantes para nosotros específicamente.

· Son lo que usaremos para protegernos de los malos tratos de otras personas en nuestras vidas.

· Cuando dejamos de ser claros a otras personas en cuanto a lo que es aceptable y no aceptable en nuestra relación con ellos, nos abrimos a la posibilidad de que puedan aprovecharse de nosotros.

· Si no decimos que no a lo que creemos que está mal, permitimos que otros crean que estamos dispuestos a tenerlos para tratarnos de la manera que ellos elijan.

· Incluso si la gente no se dispone a aprovecharse de nosotros, con nuestro silencio les enseñaremos y les capacitaremos para que hagan exactamente eso.

Nadie puede leer tu mente.

· Sólo porque son adultos que no saben automáticamente lo que está bien y no está bien.

· Y, en muchos casos, usted tendrá que enseñar (tal vez incluso entrenar) a ellos cómo hacer lo que usted está esperando de ellos.

Las condiciones pueden ser colocadas bajo dos secciones separadas.

1 – Aceptable 2 -Inaceptable .

ACEPTABLE

Condiciones aceptables son los que usted ha considerado seriamente y encontrar está bien si están en su vida.

▪ Por ejemplo, usted pone una condición en sí mismo para hacer ejercicio.

▪ Tal vez decidas orar más a menudo.

Las condiciones aceptables le ayudan a aclarar las cosas que desea en su vida, y quieren continuar y/o mejorar.

▪ Por ejemplo, ahorrar dinero para una casa, hacer nuevos amigos, y / o estudiar su Biblia

INACEPTABLE

Condiciones Inaceptables son los que usted ha considerado seriamente y decide que NO está bien si están en su vida.

Por ejemplo, usted elige no fumar cigarrillos o beber alcohol, o decide no tener relaciones con personas que se aprovechan de otros.

▪ Las condiciones inaceptables le ayudan a aclarar aquellas cosas que NO desea en su vida, y/o que continúen en su vida.

El establecimiento de condiciones , después de toda una vida sin aclarar las condiciones, será estresante y algo difícil.

· Esto es porque los seres humanos tienden a seguir los patrones.

· Nos acostumbramos a vivir de cierta manera y generalmente no nos gusta el cambio.

· ¿Por qué?

· Porque el cambio significa que tenemos que trabajar en ello, y no hay respuestas fáciles.

Las condiciones son importantes porque nos entrenamos para vivir una vida más segura y más saludable, y otros aprenden lo que está bien y no está bien hacer en una relación con nosotros, si quieren tal relación.

Consecuencias de las condiciones – Este es simple, si la otra persona no está dispuesto a aceptar sus condiciones para tener una relación, usted no tiene una relación con ellos.

Donde no hay consecuencias, hay permiso.

ACUERDOS

Los acuerdos son límites que usted trabaja con alguien con quien usted tiene una relación.

· Esto podría ser un esposo o esposa, padre o hijo, pariente o amigo, gente en el trabajo iglesia.

· Los límites en el matrimonio se refieren a los acuerdos entre usted y su cónyuge.

· Estos acuerdos son una especie de reglas que usted y su cónyuge crean juntos para aclarar circunstancias que podrían convertirse en problemas importantes si no se resuelven o aclaran pronto.

La idea de los acuerdos es que si la pareja elabora un acuerdo sobre cualquier asunto o situación que pueda afectar su matrimonio, tienen la posibilidad de evitar cualquier argumento o argumentos problemáticos en el futuro.

· El problema será si ambos mantienen su palabra y siguen el acuerdo.

· Si lo hacen, tendrán una relación más pacífica y más saludable.

Los acuerdos son sólo eso, los acuerdos.

· No deben ser utilizados uno contra el otro.

· Se trata de acuerdos que han sido considerados por ambas personas, y ambos coinciden en que es para su mutuo beneficio que se establezca el acuerdo.

· Los acuerdos deben aplicarse a ambas personas por igual.

· Nunca debe haber acuerdos dirigidos a una persona u otra.

· No se trata de controlar a los demás, sino de estar de acuerdo unos con otros.

· El objetivo NO es para ti ganar, el objetivo es que AMBOS de ti gane.

Consecuencias por violar un acuerdo – Esto dependerá de la violación. Voy a dar ejemplos a continuación.

EJEMPLOS

· Ninguno de nosotros puede tener un amigo del sexo opuesto sin la presciencia del otro, y su acuerdo para la amistad antes de que comience.

o Si tengo una amistad con una persona del sexo opuesto, y mi cónyuge no lo sabe, significa que hay algo malo, porque lo he escondido de mi cónyuge. Por lo tanto he estado engañando a mi esposo. Si estaba en el trabajo, mi cónyuge puede pedirme que renuncie a mi trabajo y encontrar otro como consecuencia.

o Ninguno de nosotros hablará negativamente sobre el otro a ninguna otra persona, pariente o amigo, y tampoco permitiremos que otros hablemos negativamente sobre nuestro cónyuge.

o Si hablo negativamente acerca de mi cónyuge a otra persona, mi cónyuge puede pedirme que vaya a esa persona y decirles que estaba equivocado en lo que hice. Si permito que alguien me hable negativamente acerca de mi cónyuge, mi cónyuge puede pedirme que regrese a esa persona y les advierto que no hable negativamente sobre ella a mí de nuevo.

· Nuestra casa será un hogar divino, todos los que viven aquí irán a la iglesia.

o Cualquier visitante de nuestra casa, a quien permitimos que viva con nosotros por cualquier período de tiempo y que elige no asistir a la iglesia, se le pedirá que se vaya.

DONDE NO HAY CONSECUENCIAS,
ALLI HAY PERMISO.

What Does Love Feel Like?

While sitting through the movie, “The Shack,” along with my wife, I was struck with an odd idea. Well, to be honest, odd to me. The main character was going through a dilemma which tore at his very soul. On the one hand, he blamed himself for the death of his daughter, and on the other hand, he was angry with God for not saving her life. The main point, I think, at least regarding him, was that he was blinded to what he was really struggling with because his anger and bitterness kept getting in the way. The “odd” idea which came to me was whether I was going through something similar.

At the age of 3, I remember playing in the living room of our West Dallas project’s apartment in which we lived at the time. Movement caught my attention, and I turned to the window and saw my father looking in as though he was looking for something. I walked over to the window and stood there looking up at him. After a while, he turned away and I never saw him again for the rest of my life. The point here is that the one thing which has stayed with me for over 62 years is that he never looked down at me, as though I wasn’t even there.

When I was around 5 years old, my mother had a “nervous breakdown,” whatever that is. I think she just became so angry at the world that she introverted herself, and dove wildly into an emotional depression. The result was that we (my brothers and I) were taken into custody by the state and placed in a foster home. I have no memory of being transported to the foster home, which gives me the idea that we may have been asleep at the time. I do remember the abuse we suffered at the hands of those people. During the whole time we were there, we lived in constant fear. And, to myself at least, it seemed we were there forever. Those foster “parents” should never have been allowed to get near children. Their treatment of my brothers and I was atrocious. I, as the oldest of the three, was the butt of their attacks. At least to the best of my memory, it seemed they enjoyed making me suffer. I remember them laughing at me, calling me names, and to scare me even more, they would mistreat my brothers in front of me to cause me even more fear. At one point, my youngest brother, George, pooped on himself, and the foster “parents” found it hilarious when they forced me to eat some of it because I had not taken care of him. I learned to hate while in that house. I learned to hate, and I learned well.

One day, after what seemed years (which was probably only a few months), we were cleaned up and dressed nicely. We were going to have visitors. Actually, two ladies arrived. One seemed familiar, but the second was completely unknown to me. I could tell that something was different from normal, the foster “parents” were behaving like nice people. That only made me more apprehensive, as I was expecting some sort of abuse to occur at any moment. I remember the three of us brothers standing together, huddled, and afraid. One of the ladies, the one that did not seem familiar to me, began speaking to us. She was speaking in English and I did not fully understand her. I could tell by her hand motions that she wanted us to come to her and the other lady, the familiar one. Our response was to huddle even closer. One of the foster “parents” came to us and grabbed my arm, and gently (but forcefully) pulled me forward to the ladies. My brothers came along with me. The first lady spoke again and said, “Mama,” as she pointed to the other lady. I looked at the first lady, then I looked at the second lady, and back to the first. I did not know what was happening, but I was beginning to catch on that she was trying to tell us that this was our mother.

That is my brother Joe on the left, then me, and George is in our mother’s arms.

Our mother smiled and called to us in Spanish. My young mind struggled to bring to memory her picture in my head. The abuse we suffered at that home left me confused and fearful. A part of my mind told me that we were being fooled again. She seemed confused that we did not just run up to her immediately. She stepped forward and reached out to us. I tried to back away, but the grip of the foster “parent” was stronger. “Soy tu mamá,” she said (I am your mother), and she knelt before us. It was then that I remembered her. My mother, the one we loved. The one we missed so terribly during those torturous months in that hell house. The one who sent us there. The one who was responsible for all we had suffered at the hands of those evil people. All of my fears, anger, and hate swelled up in me. I felt as though I was going to explode. “I hate you!” I screamed at her, “I hate you. I hate you.” I finally had the chance to release all that pent up fear. I was staring straight at the person who was responsible. I hated her so very, very, much.

I have scattered memories of abuses and violence which we suffered, too many of those memories are of things which happened to me personally. The way my mother handled all of that was with lots of screaming and yelling on her part. She had a mean streak. She blamed us for everything that went wrong in her life. Her favorite attacks were when she would scream “Hijos de su p**che padre (sons of your f***ing father). I had no idea what she would go on about, but I quickly learned that she hated that man. I have yet to learn the truth about all that happened between them, but I no longer care. At the time, though, it was her ammunition against us. He left her, and she was angry, and she was going to punish us for it. I especially took the brunt of much of her anger, because I was the oldest and was supposed to “know better.”

In those years I sort of remember trying to love her. I mean, come on, what other choice did we have? We were as stuck with her as much as she was with us, and she did not make that easy. My memory of her, during that time, was that she was mean. Her anger was her most obvious quality to me. Like her, my anger was my most familiar companion as well.

The trauma and abuse I (and my brothers) suffered at the hands of an angry mother, and a coward of a father who abandoned his children, left me scarred with an emptiness of the heart, and blindness of the soul, that to a point still haunts me to this day.

So, what is love? I have learned to rationalize things in my life. I compartmentalize, put things into separate “boxes” and learn to keep each thing in its place. I have specific rules I follow, which guide me in how to act and react to situations and circumstances in my life. The Bible teaches me that if I love someone I will do what is best for them, even if it means they must suffer consequences for their actions and choices. I understand that, I understand pain and punishment, so “suffering the consequences” of my actions and choices is not something altogether strange to me. Since I was little, I have known that when you do something that displeases those in control, they will make you suffer for it. I learned to accept that as a truth of life. So, when I first read in the Word of God that he punishes His children (Hebrews 12), I rolled with the punch and accepted that for what it says. I began my “walk” with God understanding that He was the Lord. By “Lord” I mean the Boss, the one in charge, the controller of my life. This meant to me that He can do whatever He wants with my life, and that there is nothing I can do about it. It means that He can choose for me to go through hard and difficult things, situations, and circumstances, and that I am supposed to just “grin and bear” it.

I first came to know “God” as my new owner. I was “owned” before by the hatred, fear, and bitterness which permeated every pore of my body, all the way down to my soul. Love had no place in my life. I want to believe that there must have been someone in my young life who actually loved me, but if there were, no real evidence comes to my mind. Now, don’t get me wrong, and misunderstand my words, I believe that there were people who “cared.” I know that I cared for my brothers and sisters, in fact I still do. I hope they cared about me as well, but when we were younger, all of us, brothers and sisters, suffered our own demons in various ways. None of us “children” of that woman came away unscathed. For many years, and maybe even to some point up until now, we drifted apart and dealt with our own separate lives. I, along with my brothers, Joe and George, tended to spend more time with each other. My brothers, Larry and Rick (sons of a different father), were often left to themselves. My sisters, Connie and Diana (from still another father), tended to spend more time with each other, and later on, with my youngest brother, Don, who had the same father as my sisters. We all care about each other, at least to the best that we are able while dealing with the traumas and emotional damage we suffered as children.

So, what is love? I know one thing clearly and without any doubt, before turning my life over to Christ, I had no earthly idea what is was. And, now as a Christian of about 35 years, I am still working on it. As I said I have learned to rationalize love. When I have been asked to define love, I always revert to my standard answer, “The Bible teaches that love is what we do.” I have always given that answer, because it works with my understanding of what I perceive love as being. But, what I rationalize and what the Bible actually says, may not be the same. The verse which always comes to mind is John 14:15 (NASB), “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” It does not say, “Keeping my commandments is HOW you love me.” It says, If you love me…” If you “love” me. “Love.” I have always seen this verse differently. To me it always read, “Obedience is love.” So, I committed myself to doing what God wanted so that I could thereby prove my love. The way I interpreted the instruction was that I did not have to concern myself with feelings, but only with doing something. So, I gave in to God, as He started working on me, out of obedience. I conceded to changes in my character, out of obedience. I responded to God’s call on my life for the ministry, out of obedience. I tithed and gave offering faithfully, out of obedience. I prayed for people, counseled people, and pastored people, out of obedience. I have lived a life of service to others for all of my Christian life, out of obedience. Why? Because this is how I have always understood love. Love is obedience, and obedience is love. This way I was never expected to feel anything, I was expected to obey, and that I could do without too much trouble.

Again, do not misunderstand my argument here. I am not speaking out against just obeying God for the sake of obedience. There are many benefits from that kind of response to the Lord. And, remember when I use the word “Lord,” I am speaking about the Boss, the controller of our lives. I am referring to the part of God that expects all of His children to do what He says regardless of how they feel about His orders. He wants done what He wants done, and He does doesn’t want us to do differently. When you do obey Him, the biggest perk is that He will bless (reward) you for your obedience. There will never be a time when you obey Him and He will not bless you for it. Why? Because that is one way He shapes your life, and mine. When we obey, He blesses us, so because we liked getting blessed we will obey Him again, and, every time we obey we change a bit more. So, because we change a bit more, we want to obey Him a bit more, and we will, which will result in Him blessing us again. Get it? It is not a matter of how we feel, but whether we obey. The benefits to seeing your relationship with God in this manner are obvious, when you think about it. On the other hand, it is also a great way to avoid having to deal with feelings.

So, what is love? The Bible clearly states that God is love, but is love God? I don’t know the answer to that one. I am also not one of those people who just accepts some nice sounding words, act like I actually understand them, and then start spouting them out of my mouth. To me love is still not what I feel, it is what I do. But, that should not be interpreted as though I am saying I am not open to learning the truth, if I am in error as to the truth. Though, I still want whomever it may be to use language (when explaining “love”), that is not just a bunch of emotionally meaningless terms and expect me to understand. Truth does not hide behind vague emotional drivel, though I will admit that “love” may not fully be explained with logical, rational, terms which have clear meaning. I am willing to listen to some emotional terms, as long as that is not to whole of the explanation. For example, the Bible teaches on many concepts and ideas. Thankfully, the Lord did not resort to using only ambiguous terms and language. Even the most difficult themes and arguments in the Scriptures can be studied and understood with time and effort. The reason being that God provides enough logic, rationale, reason, and evidence, along with the “touchy feely” parts of the Word of God.

The dictionary defines the word “love” as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Yea, that really makes it clear right? First of all, what is meant by “intense” and “deep?” And, tell me this, how does one “love” God “intensely” and/or “deeply?” These two words are subjective, in other words dependent on the feelings of each person as to how they would define them. The dictionary is of little help, you see it defines “intense” as, either (1) of extreme force, degree, or strength, or (2) having or showing strong feelings or opinions; extremely earnest or serious. The second definition may be closer to what we are trying to understand, but still we just have more adjectives to work with, and we are no closer to a clear understanding. So, let’s instead look at the word “affection,” in the definition. It means, “A gentle feeling of fondness or liking.” Gentle? What happened to “intense?” I’ve decided the dictionary is of no real help.

So, what is Love? Let’s turn to the Bible as our source for trying to get a clear understanding of this elusive word. The Scripture teaches that:

  1. It is as strong as death. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
  2. It is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 14:15)
  3. It is patient, kind, and is not jealous; it does not brag and is not arrogant, it does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not (easily) provoked, it does not take into account a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
  4. Greater than faith and hope. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  5. The fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)
  6. The perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:14)
  7. It is from God. (1 John 4:7)
  8. It casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
  9. “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 1:6)

If I use only the above references from the Bible as my basis for deciding what love is, I have to conclude that it does not involve feelings at all. All nine of the references speak of actions and decisions. They speak of what is, not how something feels. None of the nine require a person to feel this way or that. So even by using the Bible as my sole resource for finding the answer to what love is, I still don’t seem to have a clear understanding regarding whether feelings are supposed to be part of the formula. If I follow the teaching from the Word of God, specifically the nine references above, I have to conclude that love is what I decide and choose to do, not how I feel about something. For example, 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” John 14:24 says basically the same, notice, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words…” in other words, those who do “love” Jesus show it by obeying Him, not by how they “feel” about Him. So then if we “love” (obey) Jesus, we have to obey His commandment to “love” one another (John 15:14). It seems to me that it means that we show love to others by obeying the Lord. Hmmm.

So, what is love? It is the decision to treat someone else as more important than yourself. It is the understanding that someone else has priority over you, in this case it would be God, through our Lord, Christ Jesus. It is the decision to do what God has instructed us to do in regards to others, and not allow our feelings to cause us to choose to do differently. It is the decision to obey the Word of God, when our feelings tell us that we should instead do what we believe is right.

Even after writing almost 3800 words in this article, I still don’t understand love as a feeling. The idea of it is foreign to me. I understand hate, anger, rage, bitterness, frustration, depression, and vengeance. I understand those words, and I even have a personal knowledge of how they feel. I can stir up anger in milliseconds, and can feel the rage flow through me. I have lived with those feelings for so long in my life that I have an intimate acquaintance with each of them, but “love,” I have no concept of how that feels.

I love my wife. That means I make her my priority, treat her as more important than myself, and will always choose behavior and actions which will benefit her and not damage her. I will obey God, and His Word, in regards to what I will or will not do with or to her, or allow in our lives, regardless of how she feels. Her feelings cannot ever override the instructions of the Lord in my life. If I let that happen, then, according to my understanding of “love,” I will prove I don’t “love” her. The concept is a logical and calculated one. It is practical and clear. There is no ambiguity in that form of love.

When she is not around me, I miss her. If she were to die before I do, I would want to die as well. I know that this world means nothing to me if she is not here to share it with me. Because of her I want to be a better man. I treat others better because she has taught me how through her sacrifices and actions in my life. I have learned how to submit to God because she has taught me how through her submission to me. I want her to always be with me, and I am not as happy when she is not around. She makes my eyes to smile when I see her. She makes my heart feel better just because she is alive. I thank our Lord with all of my heart for allowing me to have her in my life.

But, my “feelings” of “love” for her are flawed. I sometimes don’t like her, just as she sometimes does not like me. We sometimes hurt each other’s feelings. We don’t always agree. There are many things we both like similarly, and there are other things we like differently. I talk more than she does, but I don’t listen as well as she does. I am more educated, but she tends to be wiser. I know she loves me, but I know this by her actions, choices, and decisions. I don’t always know how she feels about me, but I am aware of her behavior and I see her decisions in action. These two things prove to me that she loves me.

I may never learn how to love someone else by feelings alone, and I don’t know if that is really necessary. Throughout my whole life, my feelings have neither hurt nor benefitted anyone else, but my decisions, actions, and behavior have. No one has ever told me that they know I love them because they can tell how I feel about them, but many times I have been told by someone that they knew I loved them because of what I did, or did not do, to or for them. I guess I will leave things the way they are. I will probably have to wait until I get to heaven to “feel” love, and that is okay with me.

 

 

How Do You Know?

 

During a recent conversation with a fellow Christian who was arguing that he wanted to start digging deeper into the things of God, I challenged him with what seemed a simple question.

I asked him, “Do you believe that the earth is spinning at 1,000 miles per hour?”

He paused a moment and answered, “Everyone knows the earth spins.”

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked.

“Because that is what we have been taught all of our lives,” he said with much confidence, then he hesitated, “Right?”

I asked him another question, “Do you believe that the earth is round?”

With a frown of suspicion on his face, he responded, “Of course!”

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked.

“Because …” he said slower this time, “that is what we have been taught all of our lives. What are you getting at?”

I smiled, “Well, in Genesis, the Bible teaches that God created the earth and that it was just formless water. Then, God opened a space inside that water, like a giant air bubble, and caused dry land to appear. After that, it says, He put into that same space, in the water, the stars, the sun, and the moon. Do you believe that?” I asked him.

He stared at me for a moment, as though he was trying to see through a dirty window.

Then, as though he had caught onto something, he asked, “That’s a trick question, right?”

“No,” I smiled again, “That is the truth.”

“So you’re saying we live in a giant air bubble inside a lot of water?” he asked incredulously.ancient-hebrew-view-of-universe

“Whoa!” I replied smiling even more, “I didn’t write the Bible, nor did I inspire it. Read it for yourself. Genesis 1:1-17”

He snatched open his Bible and started reading out loud. I waited until he finished and asked him, “Do you believe what the Bible teaches about the creation of the earth?”

This time, though, he just stared at me, then down to the Bible he was holding, and back up to me. He opened his mouth to say something, then looked back down at the Bible, then back up to me.

“This is very different from what we have been told, right?” he said.

There are many godly believers who want to “dig deeper” into the Bible, as my friend said, but the first thing they have to confront is the question whether they are prepared to believe what they read and whether they are ready to change their minds about what is true.” Too many believers want to learn more about Bible teaching but will struggle greatly when they are confronted with something that differs from their existing beliefs.

globeFrom the first day you entered a school class, you were faced with a globe of the earth. The concept of a round earth was immediately implanted in your mind, and then it has been reinforced continuously since then. We hear about space, and trips to the moon, and possibly other planets. We are told the earth spins around at 1,000 miles per hour, and 67,000 miles per hour around the sun, and over hundreds of thousands of miles per hour through the Milky Way Galaxy. We are told that nothing existed, but that the nothing exploded and, due to that, we now have a universe. I could keep on going with all that we have been taught, and we have accepted all of that with little to no real proof. If the scientists say it is true, we accepted it as truth. You can go outside this very moment, look up into the sky, and if you pay attention to your natural senses alone, you will notice nothing that proves the earth is spinning. Yet, regardless of what your senses tell you, your mind will argue that the earth is spinning. Why? Because that is what you already believe.

On the other hand, people who claim the name of Jesus, will read the Scriptures and love them and want to hear about them. But, when they run across a teaching which challenges what they already believe is true, they will depend on their senses. My friend, after reading the Genesis passage, looked up into the sky. He looked up and then spanned across the whole sky.

“I don’t see any water up there,” he said as if that alone was the entire proof that it did not exist.

“Can you feel the earth spinning,” I asked him.

“No.”

“So, you believe that the earth is spinning, even though your senses have no proof, but you cannot believe the Genesis teaching because your senses tell you there’s no proof, right?”

My friend is typical when it comes to those of us who claim to believe in a God. When people hear what they already believe, proof or not, they will accept it without question or challenge. Evidence is not required or expected. But, when the Bible teaches something that is challenging, people will immediately consider their senses, life experiences, and what they already believe as the test before they will accept the Word of God. The teaching in Genesis is a perfect example of this conundrum in which many believers find themselves often. They believe scientists much more readily than God Himself.

God, in and of Himself, is a real challenge for us as humans. Just the idea that some being exists which is capable of impossible things, is all-powerful, knows everything that has, is, or will happen, and can be in one or more places at the same time, is intimidating.  Next to a being like this, we are seemingly nothing but tiny specks. No wonder the atheists don’t want to believe in a God, it diminishes them. Any person who can consider the existence of such a being without unnerving awe is crazy. Yet, “believers” throw the name of Jesus around as though it was something easy to grasp.

Think about what we claim to believe. First, that there is actually an alien being that is that powerful, and that the most solid “evidence” we have of His existence is the Bible. I put quotes around the word “evidence” because I am using the word loosely. Using evidence to prove anything requires that you first decide what you will accept as evidence. One group of people may accept somethings as evidence, while others may reject the same. In any case, we all know the Bible was written by men, who the Bible itself claims were inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Bible claims that it is its own evidence. Other than the Scriptures’ own claim of evidence, there is no other evidence that the Bible is the actual “Word” of God. We either will accept this or not. This is a simple decision of the mind.

prove-it

I don’t know about you, but I do not accept anything as truth until I am able to put it to test. I have had to do this with everything I have believed my entire life. I have believed things, in the past, which turned out to be lies or error. Those times resulted in bad decisions, problems I did not need to go through, and loss of relationships or benefits. Just because I believed that something was true, did not prove it was. The results eventually taught me the truth. So, I changed in how I accept the truth. I challenge everything, and what is true will prove itself through acceptable evidence. When I deal with the Bible, the Word of God, I do the same. I do not believe anything until I find enough evidence to support what the Scriptures claim. One caveat, though, I have no problem allowing the Bible to be its own evidence. On the other hand, I will challenge the Scriptures. I know there is nothing wrong with this because the Scriptures themselves teach that God is just fine with being tested. In the third chapter of Malachi, in the 10th verse, the Word claims that God issued a challenge to believers. It quotes the Lord as saying, “Test Me.” I, for one, will not argue with God. If He says, “Test Me,” I will test Him. This is not some attitude problem on my part, it is obedience. My senses tell me that I should just “humble” myself before the Lord, and grovel at His feet, just because He is God, I mean, who the heck do I think I am? On the other hand, am I going to disobey God because my senses tell me different? Notice in the book of First John (4:1 NASB), “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” If I just accept everything I read, or am taught as being, in the Bible as the truth, I might deceive myself. God is warning me to pay attention. He does not want me to fall for lies, and start believing heresy (stuff that sound like the truth, but is not). So, He instructs me to “test” and see if it is from Him or not.test-me

You probably remember the Biblical story of Jesus’s forty day fast (not eating for that time period). Satan appeared to Him and tried to tempt Him. At one point, the enemy even quoted Scripture to the Lord. Do you understand? The devil himself read from the Bible, word for word, and he was still lying. Just because the Bible says something, it is not enough to prove it is from God. The Bible truthfully quotes Satan as saying something, but it also teaches that everything Satan says it a lie. Satan is quoted in the Bible, right? But, we should never take what he says as truth, just because it is quoted in the Scriptures. That is why God instructs us to test the spirits to see if they are from Him. Along with this, we have the problem of hundreds of version of the modern day Bible. Each was translated according to the understanding of the translators. One person may understand the meaning one way, while another person will understand it differently. On top of that, we have the problem of word usage. Modern words are affected by culture, tradition, region of the country, slang, work related terminology, and so on. In the days when the Bible was written, they had the same circumstances. This means that without careful study and research, one may end up with false interpretations. It almost sounds as though we may not be able to get the correct meanings and therefore the actual truth to which God wants us to come to an understanding.

How can we really know the truth? The Bible gives us that answer as well. In 2nd Timothy 2:15 (NASB), the Word says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Notice the phrase at the end, “Accurately handling the word of truth.” There is a right and wrong way to “handle” the Word of God. God’s own challenge to His children is the right way, “Test Me.” To do this we have to, first

When I use the word principle, I am using this definition, “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.” This means that the principle will become my foundation in determining how I will or will not act or respond in certain situations or circumstances. For example, in Proverbs 3:7 it says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…” The principle is, “People do what they do because they believe what they believe.” Now, with this principle I can make certain and specific decisions, and come to certain and specific conclusions. I can know that humans will always behave in some specific manner, or make similar choices, because of what they believe. So, if a person believes he is superman, he will then start dressing up in a costume with a big “S” in front of it and try to fly. Sure, they are probably crazy, but they believe what they believe, so they do what they do. In regards to believers in God, those who believe that God blesses those who tithe and give offering will then pay tithe and give an offering. If a person believes that God can be trusted, he or she will then live calmer lives, because they believe God will help them through those tough times.of all, identify what we will accept as evidence. My opinion is that we must accept the Bible itself as our foremost evidence. To accomplish this, we must study and research the various Bible versions, and make a decision which we believe is best for our use. Then, we must find, within those pages, the evidence it espouses, then study and research it. My method is to find the principles it teaches, and then put them into action, and see the results. My personal argument is that the results will tell you if what you believe about God and His Word is true or not.

Now, if the principle I mentioned above is correct, anyone can use it to make certain and specific decisions and choices in their lives. If the principle is applied correctly, it will have the expected results. This, in and of itself, will become part of the evidence which in the end will either sustain the belief that God is real or not. The beauty of using Biblical principles as evidence is that they are not dependent on our feelings or senses. They either work or they do not.

My friend decided to do some research on the question of how God created the earth and heaven. He is still researching, but he does admit one thing. If he reaches the conclusion that the Bible is correct about how God created the heaven and the earth, he had some rather big changes to make in his idea of reality. But what about you dear reader, how do you know what the truth is?

sky

Getting Lost in the Story

ListeningNew counselors have one bad habit they must work on to become better counselors. They must learn not to get lost in the story.  By this I mean that the counselor will get so focused on what the client tells them is going on, or that the counselor begins to side with one person over the other. In either case, the counselor has become less effective as of that moment. Good and healthy counseling requires that the counselor be objective when dealing with opposing points of view. When the counselors chooses sides, they are no longer the best counselor in the case. As well, when the counselor gets all focused in the client’s story, he or she is in danger of choosing sides, or at the very least, may start jumping to conclusions before he or she has all the needed data.

Getting lost in the story means that the counselor is so wrapped up in the details of the client’s complaint or arguments that the counselor loses sight of what is more important. The important thing is that counselors need to listen for clues and symptoms which will help them identify what the root problem may be. The goal of all counselors must always be to find out what is going on wrong with the client’s life, not just what the client says is wrong. This way the counselor can better help the client find the answers they actually need as compared to the answers they want.

Counseling 1As well, when the counselor gets “lost in the story,” he or she limits themselves in scope as to what questions they will ask of the client. This is extremely important because if the counselor is already jumping to conclusion early on, they will not ask questions they need to ask to get data which will better help them to find the real problem, and therefore the real solution.

As an example, one counselor had a client who presented with the complaint that her husband was abusive and violent. The counselor, also a female who had suffered a bad relationship with a husband in her past, immediately began notifying the client of her legal options. As the counselor continued questioning the client, along the lines of the “abuse,” the client began to become uncomfortable. The counselor counseled the client that she should meet with a lawyer and consider divorce proceedings. The client responded negatively to the counselor, “I don’t want to lose my marriage!” The counselor was suddenly confused, “But … you told me that your husband was abusive to you?” “Yes, I mean, No,” responded the client, “He sometimes gets really angry, but he is not that bad.” “But, you said he hurt you,” responded the counselor. “Well, yea, he did push me, but that was after I started hitting him,” said the client. “You, were hitting him!?” asked the counselor, quite stumped, “Why?” “Because he was not listening to me,” said the client, now starting to cry. “oh,” said the counselor, now catching on to what was actually going on, “Do you mean that he was not listening to you, or not agreeing with you?” “Well, yea,” said the client sheepishly, “He was not agreeing with me, so I hit him.”

It is the responsibility of the counselor to stay on point. it would have been easy for the counselor above to quickly conclude that the husband was some mean ogre who needs to be dealt with immediately.  Instead the counselor found that both persons were in the wrong. It is this important ability, that of paying attention to the details and searching for the real problem, which will actually help the client with their issues.

Staying on point means asking questions, even when you think you know the real problem. It is important for counselors to verify whether they actually have concluded correctly. Let me make the point clearer this way. When a client comes to a counselor the present a case. This means they explain their point of view on what they believe to be the problem. When a client presents they are making an argument. No, I don’t mean they are arguing, they are making an argument, sort of like a lawyer in a court setting.  Counselors, in a manner of speaking, must become judges, which after hearing the arguments must make a concluding decision.

 If the counselor pays attention to the argument, and verifies or disproves the premise, then he or she will come to a more likely correct conclusion, and therefore a better means of helping the client. 

There are two types of arguments, deductive and inductive. The first refers to arguments made using facts which can be verified, and the latter refers to arguments which are based on opinion. Clients tend to argue inductively, their arguments are heavily colored by their emotions. Counselors have to wade through facts and opinions, stated and unstated assumptions, relevance, biases, personal perspectives, and the truth. All of this means that the counselor must pay attention. Not just to the client, but also to what, and how,  the client says and does not say.

To come to correct conclusions, the counselor must understand premises. Premises supply the evidence on which an argument is based. For example, a client might argue that she believes her husband is having an affair. This is a premise. The counselor’s job is to verify the premise. This is done by asking the client questions which help to either confirm the premise or to prove it erroneous. In this example, the counselor might ask the client what evidence she has which cause her to come to the conclusion. Lets say she tells the counselor that she saw her husband speaking with a woman at work. The counselor would likely tell the client that this alone is not sufficient evidence to reach the conclusion her husband is having an affair. Then lets add that the client continues, “But, I have text of her contacting him on his cell!” The counselor reads the text and it reads, “Hi, Jack, thanks for your help, I appreciate it very much. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The counselor will ask the client, “what did she mean be ‘tomorrow?'” The client might answer, “They work at the same place, I think she was the woman with whom I saw him speaking.” The counselor would likely state that the evidence, so forth, still does not seem to imply the husband is having an affair. Realizing that the client’s argument is not supporting her premise, the counselor could then question her real reason for her fears.

If the counselor pays attention to the argument, and verifies or disproves the premise, then he or she will come to a more likely correct conclusion, and therefore a better means of helping the client. This may seem a bit involved, but for the counselor which wants to be the best counselor possible, learning new techniques and skills is valuable. I hope this may have encouraged you to take a course in Critical Thinking. It will be the best thing you can do to improve your communication skills as a counselor.

Unconditional Love? … I’d Rather You Liked Me.

The-Flip-Side-of-LoveWe are instructed to “love” one another, but we don’t have to like anybody. In the Bible, the word used as love has three Greek meanings; Eros, Phileo, and Agape. I will not go into all the translation details in this article. You can “Google” “Greek words for love” and get plenty of information on the subject. My point, though, is to emphasize that there is no one way to “love” others, and that depending on the way you are “loving” someone else, there are conditions.

In my 30 years of counseling people, I have heard countless of times how much couples “love” each other. Men who physically and emotionally abuse their wives will argue about how much they “love” them. Wives who committed adultery will, after they get caught, cry about how much they “love” their husbands.

According to Holman’s Concise Bible Commentary, love is an “undivided allegiance and unswerving obedience” to God. This definition of love does not involve a person’s emotions as the determining factor. But, there is a clear object of this “love,” it belongs to God alone. The question I am dealing with today is not about our “love” for God, but, rather, in how we feel about one another as humans. The question is are we expected to love one another “unconditionally?” Keep in mind that I used Dictionay.Com’s definition of the word. “Conditionally – imposing, containing, subject to, or depending on a condition or conditions; not absolute; made or allowed on certain terms: conditional acceptance.” Therefore, if someone will or might benefit from something they do, then there was a condition. I searched the Bible to find any reference which would lead me to believe that I was to love someone else “unconditionally,” and I came up with zero verses.

On the other hand, I also searched the Bible for any references which would, at least, give the impression that some condition was tied to loving someone else, and came up with a bunch. For example, let’s look at, Matthew 5:43-45 (NASB), “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” I added the bolding, underline, and italics to emphasize the condition for “loving” our enemies. (See also Luke 6:32) Notice the very next verse, Matthew 5:46a (NASB) “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Did you get that? Why mention a, “reward,” if loving our neighbor is to be done “unconditionally?” Doesn’t “unconditionally” mean you are not supposed to get, or look forward to, a reward?

God understands that humans are driving by selfishness. Even those of us who have learned to also be selfless, still deal with some selfishness. God understands that when we humans are rewarded for what we do, we are more likely to continue to repeat the behavior.

Let’s also look at Matthew 19:19 (NASB) “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Did you notice the condition? “As yourself,” it said. Not just “love” your neighbor, but love him or her as you would show that “love” toward yourself, that is the condition in this case. It means you have to evaluate how you “love” yourself. Identify what you do which demonstrates love for yourself, and then do the same for others. That is conditional “love.” There is a principle which will help us better understand this concept, “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” If you do not “love” yourself, then you will have a difficult time trying to “love” someone else. You must first “love” yourself, and see the benefits, so that then you can give it to others.

Human “love” is almost always some emotional soup made up of distorted perspectives, selfish desires, and mixed in with self-serving manipulation and abusive control over the object of one’s affections.

Do you get it now? No? You want more proof? Okay, let’s look at Luke 7:41-42 (NASB), “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” The obvious answer is the one who owed the most money. Why? Because this “love,” which the Bible recognizes as affected by human feelings, is swayed by the condition by which it is promoted. See, the Bible understands that people’s love is likely conditional.

Confused LoveThis word “love,” in the Greek, has different connotations, for example in Luke 11:42 ((NASB), “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”), it is the Greek word: ἀγάπη. Transliterated it means: agape. The definition is: love, goodwill, and is used in the New Testament 116 times. On the other hand, the Greek NASB Number: 25 (John 8:42 (NASB) Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.), used as love is: ἀγαπάω. The have the same root, from which the words come from, but this one is transliterated as the word: agapaô. Its definition is: to love, and is used 143 times in the New Testament. The first word “agape,” is used to mean, “Doing good unto others, because you want to do the good.” The second word, agapaô, is used to mean, “An emotional attraction and desire for something.” Between the two, the closest one which could be considered as unconditional is the first, “agape.” But, even then, the person is “loving” others because he or she wants to, this means that their feelings, motivation, and/or desired outcome affects their “love.” These feelings, motivation, and/or desired outcome is the condition upon which this “love” is based.

You see? Love is not unconditional with humans, nor does God expect it of us. But, my goal in this article was not to argue against “unconditional” love. I have a different objective, I want to argue in favor of another word used for love in the Bible, “Phileô.” This word is Greek NASB Number: 5368, φιλέω. It is transliterated as the word: phileô. The definition is: “to love,” and is used only 25 times in the New Testament. The meaning of the word is better understood by replacing the word “love” with “like.” Yes, I mean, “Like!”

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word like as, “to enjoy (something), to get pleasure from (something), to regard (something) in a favorable way, to feel affection for (someone): to enjoy being with (someone).” The great majority of the time, when people use the word “love,” they are actually using this definition. We use it for, “I love hamburgers,” or “I love my dog,” or “I love my wife,” or “I love writing long boring articles.” In either case, we are not really meaning “agape” or “agapaô.” We are really saying, “Phileô.”

 

I was counseling with a couple once where the wife found out her husband was having an affair. When she threatened to divorce him, he agreed to come to counseling. I asked him why his wife should even consider staying with him, he argued that he loved his wife!”

In my 30 years of counseling people, I have heard countless of times how much couples “love” each other. Men who physically and emotionally abuse their wives will argue about how much they “love” them. Wives who committed adultery will, after they get caught, cry about how much they “love” their husbands. Parents who have physically (and sometimes sexually) abused their children, will then turn around and adamantly claim “love” for the children. I will often have couples in my counseling office, who will spend an hour or two accusing each other of horrendous things, calling each other names, putting each other down, blaming each other for countless of wrongdoings, and when I ask them why they even want to be with the other person, they say the “love” them. There is no way they are saying they, “agape” or “agapaô” the other person. What they are saying is they “Phileô” the other person. In other words, they want the other person around, because they have some level of like for them. If you really “love” (“agape” or “agapaô”) someone, you don’t do things on purpose which can damaged them.

Chicho - LoveWhat is the one main factor in why marriages fail? Most people will say that it is because people stopped “loving” each other. I disagree. I believe that the real reason marriages fail is because one or both of the two stopped “liking” each other. Real “love” develops over time, or it is done intentionally, as in, by obeying God. “Love” at first sight is a lie which has deceived many couples into relationships which turned out terrible. The truth is that we can have “like” at first sight, and then get to know each other and start learning to “love” one another with time. True “love” (“agape” or “agapaô”) has a condition, and that is that the one who “loves” does so with the intention of giving the other the fullest benefit. In other words, that the “love” results not be solely selfish in actuality. For example, when a young man says he loves a young woman, is he saying, “I want to do for her all that will be in her best interest, even if that means she won’t end up with me? (“agape” or “agapaô”), or is he saying, “I want her to be with me, because it will make me happy? (“Phileô”). Everyone reading this article, will know that he really means that second kind of “love” (in other words, “like”) right?

I am a counselor, I don’t lie to, or deceive, myself as much as I am able. Just because people use certain words, it does not mean they actually mean what they say. Truthfully, most people say one thing but mean something else. In their own minds they know what they intend to say, but the will choose words which say something different. For example, I went to visit a friend, a while back, when I knocked on his door he yelled out “It’s open!” I glanced at the door and it was not open. I responded to him indicating the truth. He yelled again, “Yes, pastor, it is open!” I glanced back at the door and saw clearly that it was shut and that it was not even slightly ajar, much less actually open. I stood at the door waiting. He walked to the door and opened it, and the said, “See, it was open.” “No,” I said, “You opened it.” “No,” he said, “I meant that it was unlocked.” I smiled and said, “Why didn’t you just say that?” “I did,” he said grinning, “I said it was open.” If you look up the word “open” in the dictionary, you will see that it does not define “open” to mean “unlocked.” He was saying one thing, while he clearly meant something else.”

People who really like you will not willingly
make choices which will harm you.
Scary Love

Do You See How MUCH I Love You!!!!!!!

The word “love” is the same. People use the word, but, more often than not, they really mean “like.” When most people define the word “love,” they mean something like, “I want, I need, she or he is mine, it makes me feel good, I should not be deprived of it,” and so on. Human “love” is almost always some emotional soup made up of distorted perspectives, selfish desires, and mixed in with self-serving manipulation and abusive control over the object of one’s affections. Too many times human’s “love” is displayed by jealousy, abuse, violence, and traumatic behavior. Why? Because, they are not actually speaking of “love” (“agape” or “agapaô”), they are speaking of something which has no resemblance to real “love,” any more than a duck resembles and dog.

On the other hand, one thing I don’t see in my counseling office, is a couple who is there because they are having problems because the “like” (“Phileô”) each other. When people “like” someone they go out of their way to spend time with that person. They miss that person when they are apart. They look forward to those times they spend together. A couple who is dating (and also “like” (“Phileô”) one another), write poems to each other, buy flowers for each other, will sacrifice time with friends to be with each other, will spend lots of time talking about practically nothing, just to be with each other, they care how they dress, smell, and look to each other, and so forth.

Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Treasures are those things which we consider important to us. If your wife or husband is your treasure, your desire is for them. You want them to like you, because you like them. “Phileô” (“love” that is really “like”) is an emotional choice to desire someone or something. People who “Phileô” each other tend to stay together much better than people who just claim to “love” each other.

I was counseling with a couple once where the wife found out her husband was having an affair. When she threatened to divorce him, he agreed to come to counseling. I asked him why his wife should even consider staying with him, he argued that he loved his wife!” I asked him two questions, “If you had not been caught, would you have already quit seeing the other woman by now?” and “Were you loving your wife while you were having sex with the other woman?” He just sat there silently, because he knew the truth, and he didn’t want to make things worse. If that is love, I sure don’t want any part of that. On the other hand, I asked the wife why she wanted to try to save the marriage. “I love him,” she said, “I know that he was wrong, and I know that he deserves for me to divorce him, but I want to give him a chance to prove to me that he really loves me by making the necessary changes.” Now that, dear reader, is love. She was willing to make a sacrifice and take a chance he would just hurt her again, solely because if it worked, it was the best thing for the relationship.

So, what was my point to begin with? Well, it is this. I would rather that people liked me than “loved” me. People who claim to “love” you, too many times, are actually referring to a conditionally motivated, self-serving, self-satisfying, and ego-centric, emotion. On the other hand, when people truly like each other they want to spend time with each other, spend time speaking with each other, treat each other with respect, do enjoyable things with each other, and so on. Someone can “love” you and abuse you, attack you, lie to you, manipulate you, control you, be unfaithful to you, be jealous of you, fool you, and so on. People who really like you will not willingly make choices which will harm you.

There is no such thing as “unconditional love,” even God has a condition for His love (“agape” or “agapaô”), regarding us, He wants to end up with His children in eternity with Him. God does not “love” us just for the heck of it, with no intention, desire, motivation, or personal benefit from that “love.” He wants something for that “love.” He wants you.jesus_wants_you

Conflict Resolution, Before or After?

Conflict is best resolved when two persons are able to communicate their separate concerns and together are able to reach compromises which work in the favor of the relationship. The question is, “Do I want to win, or do I want us to win?”

The difference is demonstrated by the approach that a person takes, when dealing with the issue of conflict. There are two options which will produce very different results:

  1. The Fireman Approach – waiting for a fire and using various techniques of putting out the fire.
  2. The Fire Marshall Approach – identify circumstances which could lead to a fire, and take preemptive action to avoid the fire altogether.

Most people take the first option, waiting for some problem to start working at resolving it. The problem with the Fireman Approach is that you have had a fire. Fires damage things, and sometimes even to the point of total loss. And as with real fires, sometimes the only real solution is that you may have to tear down the complete structure, to be able to build a new one in its place. In human terms, concerning relationships, this means that the couple has a greater chance of ending up in divorce.

Another danger with real fires is that even if the structure itself is not complete destroyed, the loss of personal items, many which will never be replaced, can impose a major emotional trauma on people. Relationships can have the same result; the couple may resolve some traumatic event in their relationship with each other (such as an adulterous affair), and still have linger circumstances which might remain for the duration of their marriage (the loss of full confidence in each other).

Taking the Fireman Approach to a relationship, means that the couple is not willing to commit themselves to the task of learning how to identify possible problems, work out solutions in advance, and then comply with the expectations as agreed. The Fire Marshall Approach requires that type of commitment. A Fire Marshall can inspect a home or building, and identify any situation or circumstance which may possibly lead to a fire, and offer steps which may be taken to avert the possibility of a real fire.

HOW DOES THE FIRE MARSHALL APPROACH WORK?

I call it the Marital Agreement Process.

The idea here is for the couple to identify areas of conflict in the past, and establish agreements that can prevent the same behavior, on the part of both, in the future.

  1. Select an issue, problem or a topic of concern (money issues, relatives, sex, friends, people of the opposite sex, etc.).
  2. Discuss the intended outcome; what you think should happen in that circumstance or situation in the future.
  3. One of you offer a possible solution (I.e. “We could agree to do things this way at those times.”)
  4. If the other disagrees, they should offer a compromise (i.e. “What if we did this instead …?”)
  5. If the first person still is unsure, they could offer another compromise (i.e. “That’s better but I see a problem, what about this…?”)
  6. Once both agree on the intention of the agreement, it needs to be written down on paper.
  7. Once written, someone needs to read it out loud. The purpose is to listen to the words.
  8. Is there a loop-hole somewhere in there?
    1. Are there words that may have different meaning to each of you?
    2. Does the agreement bring up other questions?
    3. Do you both find the agreement acceptable?
    4. Can either of you think of any reasons (good ones) for violating that agreement?
    5. Do both of you give your word that you will comply with this agreement?
  9. If you find any loop-holes, then either change the written agreement until there is no loop-hole, or add an additional agreement that would cover the loop-hole.
  10. If there are any words that could mean different things to each of you, then write down the words and define the meaning that both of you agree upon.
  11. If the written agreement prompt other questions, then either correct the agreement to deal with them, or save them for later to deal with separately.
  12. Do not make any one agreement too long and convoluted. It is better to have several short and to the point statements.
  13. If either of you can think of any (good) reasons for violating any agreement, bring it up now. Later on you will be seen as a liar who should not be trusted.
  14. Once you have reviewed the written agreement, understand it, and agree with it, go on to the next agreement.

Each of you should have their own “copy” of the agreement. Neither of you is responsible for reminding the other of the agreements. Each person is responsible for keeping his or her own word. But, both of you are responsible for imposing consequences on the one who violates an agreement.

The issue is TRUST. The consequence needs to reflect the same. Each time trust is violated the consequence must be bigger and longer lasting than before.

Savior, But Not Lord!

Not long ago, while counseling a client, I came to a conclusion I had not thought about before. The client was struggling with “trying” to follow the process I counseled, but kept failing. The client was struggling with the desire to view pornography and the desire to be a “good” Christian, at the same time. He and I began the counseling months ago with exploring various possibilities of why he got started and why he continues. Each aspect we discovered and dealt with helped him to understand another part of his character, and cause him to become more determined to change. Though he would have success, he would also fail again. We were almost to the point of running out of probable answers, when I received an inspiration from the Lord.

Before I explain, let me make one point clear, there are no “good” or “bad” Christians. There are just Christians who are in the process of change and growth. They are not responsible for changing themselves, that is the Lord’s work (Hebrews 12:2 (AMP), ”… Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].”) Our job, as it were, is only to obey Him. As we obey, we change. Little obedience, little change. Big obedience, big change.

Now back to my earlier point. I received an inspiration from the Lord regarding what was happening to the client. I could tell he was serious in his efforts to curb the watching of pornography, but I could also tell he could not understand why he still chose to do it.

untitledhi3“When Jesus died on the cross,” I explained to him, “one of the things He accomplished was giving us liberty. That means complete freedom to do as we choose, right or wrong.”

Galatians 5:1 (NASB), “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” We used to be under the power of Sin, and therefore we would not do what is right, because it had a hold on us and moved us to do so. The death of our Lord on the cross set us free from the bondage of Sin, and we do not have to continue doing what is not right. On top of that, as you can see from the Galatians verse, we are told not to “be subject” (which means to not put ourselves under the control) of Sin again. This clearly means that we have a choice to stay free or go back to slavery under Sin. At the same time it also shows that we have been given freedom to choose. This means the freedom to choose to disobey God as well. Freedom is not freedom, until it is freedom (the complete liberty to make our own choices). If God is controlling our choice about something, then we do not have the freedom to choose.

When God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth,” in Genesis 1:26 (NASB), I believe that the “likeness,” referred to there, includes the ability to (as God can) freely choose to obey or not to obey. The only way we truly seem “god-like” (as in “Our image”) is that we can actually choose to disobey the creator and Lord of this universe. When the Christ died on the cross, He did not take away our freedom to disobey, He freed us from the power of Sin, which used this ability against us to get us to choose not to do what is right. But, I contend, that the Messiah maintained that freedom when He freed us from Sin, as pointed out in the Galatians verse above. Notice also the following argument made in Galatians 5:13 (NASB).

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Notice the wording here, “do not,” as in, “You have the power to do or not do.” The Lord would not tell us (through Paul) that we could keep our freedom from turning into “an opportunity for the flesh,” if we could not make the decision (have the freedom) to do so. God has given us a gift that is beyond my words to express the greatness and unfathomable measurement of it. In essence, and to a point, it gives us the ability to go beyond the control of God, as no other creation of His can. Though He is God, Creator and Lord, over all of the creation, He has chosen to limit Himself to this certain aspect of the human condition; we have self-will (complete freedom to choose not to do what is right), and the Lord did not take that away on the cross.

In fact, 1 Peter 2:16 (NASB) shows as much. In that verse, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God,” we are told to “use” our freedom. Only free people can “use” their freedom, and, if they are not able to choose the manner in which they use this freedom, they are not truly free. When Jesus set us free through His death on the cross, it was for true freedom; the liberty to live and choose as we want. Right or wrong, we are to make that choice.

I explained to my client that this was part of the problem he was struggling with. He was expressing his freedom, even from God Himself. He may have accepted Christ as his Savior, but he had never accepted Him as his Lord. The Apostle Paul understood this clearly. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 (AMP), “All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]. Notice the words carefully, “We are free to do anything we please.” Yes, that’s right, anything, but not all things are good for us.

The problem my client was having, was that he still had “rights.” He still saw himself as this free Christian who could do as he pleased. And, isn’t that what the Christ wanted for him anyway, freedom? Of course He did, but not to do what is not the right thing. Remember, as it says in James 4:17 (NASB), “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” The word “sin” here means to fail to do the right thing. See the words? “Knows,” and “does not do.” These are clear indicators that the person is in full control of their decision. They have freedom; the liberty to do what is not right.

So what’s the answer? The simple answer is accept Him as your Lord. Reread 1 Peter 2:16 again, and you will run into the phrase “bondslave.” What is a “bond-slave?” Well in Peter’s time, when people owed more money than they were able to pay off, they would either be taken into slavery, or volunteer to become slaves, until the debt was paid off. Some people owed so much that they would often be someone’s servant for many years. Every once in a while, some of the slaves would serve enough time to be set free, and the debtor (master) would inform them and tell them they could leave. In some cases, the freed people would consider their circumstances. While they were slaves, the owner provided all their food, their clothing, a place to live, in some cases even took care of the wives and children, paid all the bills, and so on. If they left, freely, they would have to get jobs, find a place to live, pay rent or mortgage, buy their own food and clothing, basically meet all their own needs. In many cases, they chose instead to remain slaves to the master. They rationalized that being his slave was better than being free.

This is what the Apostles Paul, Peter, and the rest came to understand. That being free was not what is was cut out to be. Freedom meant that you would probably choose not to do what is right. They may not have done this specifically, but I believe they weighed the differences in their hearts, if not in their minds. I can use this freedom which the Christ has given me, and I can make all my own choices, decisions, live as I believe is the right way to live, and obey the instructions I believe are right. I may “sin” once in a while, but I have already been forgiven of all my sins anyway. Or…

I can give up my freedom. I can acknowledge Christ Jesus as my Lord, and willingly become His “slave.” In which case, He will decide what I want, and when I will want it, what I am to choose, how I am to feel, what I am to believe, and who I am to be. I will become His servant in ministering to other people. I will become His eyes, His mouth, His hands, His feet, and His heart, when it comes to fulfilling His plans. I believe that the Apostles chose a life of “slavery” (bond-slaves) rather than to live a life of freedom, because this was what God wanted from them.

I told my client, God wants you to accept Him as your Lord. He wants you to willingly choose to become His “slave.” He wants you to give Him control over your life so that He can keep on with the work of changing you. My client asked, “Will that mean I won’t sin anymore?” “No,” I said, “Humans “sin,” as you say, just because we are human. Humans will always struggle with failure and error. This is “sin” too, just not the kind you are thinking about.” James 4:17 says that “sin” is when someone knows the “right thing to do and does not do it.” This means that even when we are trying to do the right thing, and get it wrong, or do not do it perfectly, we have sinned (we failed or erred). On the other hand, there is the other kind of “sin.” This is where we willingly choose to do the wrong things. To get to this point, the person must first not do the “right thing.” The “right thing” in this case is to obey God. If we choose to disobey God, we then will be able to choose to do all the wrong we want. If we choose to obey God (be His slaves and let Him do the choosing) then we take away our ability to do what is wrong. The two concepts cannot continue at the same time, in the same person. If we choose one, then, and therefore, we choose against the other. We will either live as though we have rights, or live as though we are servants of God.

“So,” he said to me, “If I make God my Lord, and place myself under His control, then I won’t do wrong against Him?” “Yes,” I said to him, “If you give up your freedom to Him, allow Him to make your decisions for you, and if you obey His instructions, you will never do wrong against God.”

All Christians have accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior, but too many have yet to accept Him as their Lord. How about you? Have you?

Do you REALLY take time to pray?

The question of prayer has long been an obstacle over which I have had to prevail. No, not that I have had problems with whether we should pray or not, that has been made clear in the Bible. We are instructed to pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and for everything (1 Timothy 6:17). The problem I struggled with for many years is that of when, how, for how long, and for what to pray. You may not have struggled with this, and think I am being silly. Because of my character, I tend to do better when I have rules to follow, than when I am supposed to freelance it. For example, if the Bible were to tell me that I was supposed to pray, and give no instructions on what is to be expected of me, I would become confused and frustrated. This would only result in my praying less often, and for smaller amounts of time. It definitely would not be one of my favorite things to do.

Early on in my walk with God, I learned several truths about the Lord that has formed my understanding of my God since. For God to be a true God (at least in my opinion), four things, at minimum, must be true:

  1. God must be omnipotent (all powerful – Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:20).
  2. God must be omniscient (all knowing – John 3:10).
  3. God must be omnipresent (able to be anywhere and everywhere, at the same time).
  4. God must be perfect (incapable of error or failure – Matthew 5:48).

If even just one of the above were not true of our Lord, then he would not be God. In this case, though, as the above Scriptural references will sustain, He is definitely the One True God. But, it was the second point above which threw the proverbial wrench into the works for me. If God knows everything, then why must I tell Him again what He already knows? Of course, that also created a conundrum for me. Watch this, since God knows everything, this means He knows what I am going to say before I say it, right? (Matthew 6:32 and Luke 12:30) So if I don’t pray, because I believe He already knows what I am going to say, then He also knows I didn’t say it, because I didn’t pray. But, if I pray so that I actually say it, then I know He already knew what I was going to say which means I did not have to say it to begin with, right? It is confusing at times.

Secondly, His omniscience means He already knows everything going on in my life. Since this is true, then why must I have to tell Him about it? The Bible teaches that God loves me (John 3:16), and that He wants me to live in joy (John 16:24). It even emphasizes that nothing is impossible for God (Mark 10:27), so then why doesn’t God just meet those specific needs, without us having to pray for them specifically? Is there something inherent in praying, or does He like hearing us ask Him for things, or what? Since God already knows everything, and He knows the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4), why doesn’t He just meet those needs to begin with? This way we could cut out all that begging and crying on our part (this was said “tongue-in-cheek”).

As a believer, I know that God meets all my “needs.” This means that whatever God decides are my “needs,” He will meet those “needs”. This does not mean that He will necessarily meet my perceived (from my perspective) needs. Let’s say I ask God for money for some expense or desire (telling myself that it is a “need”), and hoping He will agree with me, and give me the money. God will, for example, instead, and without question, meet the need of my learning patience by putting me through a series of situations and circumstances which will result in my learning the characteristic. In God’s eyes, I need to learn patience (Hebrews 10:35-36), so that is a need He will supply whether I ask for it or not. I may or may not get the money I asked for, that will depend on whether He decides if indeed it is a need.

On the other hand, Scripture says we “do not have” because we “do not ask” (James 4:2). But, then when we do ask for what we think we want, we are told that we do not receive because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). Yet, the Scriptures do not go into detail as to what is specifically considered “right” or “wrong” motives. Remember, all humans are selfish. We were born that way. It is our nature. That is the way God created us. Why do you think Adam chose to disobey God? Our sinful (selfish) nature. So, with that in mind, everything and anything we want will be tarnished by our selfish nature. Even when we convince ourselves that we are being selfless, there will still be some inner, unspoken, selfish motivation. The truth is that nobody does anything for nothing, we always have some personally satisfying motive for what we do, even if it is just that we feel good about what we have, or are doing. That is our nature.

So, even if we play like God does not already know what we are going to pray about, there are certainly some “rules” we have to follow when praying!? And, I thought I would just be able to open my mouth and start spewing out all of my requests and demands (just kidding). Nevertheless, there should be no argument that there are “rules” which must be followed.  To begin with there are two from the James verses above:

  1. Ask or you may not get anything.
  2. Ask with the “right” motive.”

Then, we run across Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24, they tell us that we have to “believe” that we are going to get what we pray. And, what does the word “believe” mean in that verse? Does it mean that we are to know we are going to get that for which we prayed? How can someone know that something is going to happen when it is dependent on someone else (like God) doing it according to their own opinion and perspective? Have you ever prayed for something that you never got? I have. Maybe I was asking in the “wrong” way (there, that’s one way to make excuses for prayers that fail).

On the other hand, some people do pray in “wrong” way. Matthew 6:5 basically states that some people like praying in public (that probably means where people can hear and see you praying, like in church [??] for instance). Instead, the next verse (v.6) instructs us to pray privately (uh, does that mean not to pray at church either?). Likely not. Still, we are told to pray privately. In fact, we are told to go into our “Prayer closet” and pray there (I guess that could mean that someone has a private room in which they normally pray). It goes on to say, “And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Does that mean our prayer are to be secrets, or that we should pray secretly?

If that was so, then why would our Lord, Jesus, publically teach the disciples how to pray? In the books of Matthew, verses 9-13, and Luke 11:2-4) He gave them a pattern by which they could pray. Still, I will agree that He did not tell them to pray publically at that time either. I was about to write that Jesus often prayed around His disciples, but then remembered that He would walk away from them to be alone and pray (for example, Luke 22:41). On the other hand, James 5:14 tells the sick to call on the elders of the church to come and anoint them and pray over them. This obviously cannot be done in “secret.” The “secret prayer will not have the intended result, that of comforting the sick person, and them hearing that their sins have been forgiven.

Besides all of the above, there seem to be a couple more “rules.” It seems that the disciples, at least at times, had trouble staying awake during prayer time. In the book of Luke (18:1), our Lord had to get onto the disciples for falling asleep during prayer time. Have you ever fallen asleep during prayer time? I have. Lots of times over my 33 years as a Christian. There were those times when I was praying along just fine, and ran into a block. What I mean by this is sort of like a “writer’s block.” That means that someone is writing a book, or novel, or something like that, and they come to a point where they suddenly cannot think of the next word they need to write. They might be having a problem with where to head the story, what problems to create for the protagonist, or whatever. The point is that they hit a mental wall, a block. I have had many of these in my prayers. I suddenly just stop and try to come up with something else I am supposed to say, but cannot think of anything. Some of those times, I fell asleep thinking of what I was supposed to be saying.

Of course, another question is, “Are we supposed to do all the talking during prayer? You know, non-stop? I mean, it’s not like we get an audible response from God right? Or, at least, I never have. I think if I did, I would faint from fright, and my prayers would end there anyway. Of course though, regardless of what obstacles we do encounter during prayer, we are urged not to give up praying (Luke 18:1). Just because we often cannot think of the next word, this does not mean to pray less. Instead, we are also urged to lean on the Holy Spirit for His support. Romans 8:26 and 27 speak of the way the Holy Spirit will help us when we are having trouble praying. Since God’s Spirit lives in us, then His Spirit in us (who knows all of our thoughts and desires) speaks to the Father directly and prays on our behalf. At those times, we may start speaking in a language that we do not understand, but since the Father and His Holy Spirit do understand each other, they know what is being said. I have found that when I run into these prayer blocks, it is easier for me to begin speaking in tongues, and turn the prayer over to the Holy Spirit and let Him speak for me. He has a better grasp on this prayer thing than I ever will.

One more important point, and that is that we are supposed to be praying directly to the Father. Jesus plainly says this in John 16 verses 23-24. I think He is trying to get us to concentrate on our relationship with the Father as being the primary source of meeting our needs. As a father myself, I love it when my sons come to me for help, as well as them just spending some time with me. Often, just helping them meets a need in me. If the Father is in any way like that, I would say He longs to bless His children, for two wonderful reasons:

  1. Because He loves us.
  2. Because He wants us to hurry back and spend time with Him (and He doesn’t mind “bribing” us with blessings).

Truly there are some “rules” which are to be applied to our prayer life. The following are some I have identified in this article:

  1. Ask, or you may not get anything.
  2. Ask with the “right” motive.”
  3. Don’t pray just to impress
  4. Pray in secret, unless you are praying for a person in need.
  5. Follow the prayer pattern which Jesus taught.
  6. Don’t ever give up praying.
  7. Don’t fall asleep while praying.
  8. Allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for you, when necessary, by praying in tongues.
  9. Direct all your prayers to the Father, He wants to hear from you directly.

Please don’t decide that I am being religious about these “rules.” I believe that God is more interested in you just making the time to spend with Him, than He would care about all the “rules” together. On the other hand, our Lord is a God of order. He created overall plans for creation, set them in order, and enforces the rules which keep His plans furthering towards the intended goals. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you spend lots of time with Him asking Him about all of this J.

So, I go back to my initial question, “Do you REALLY take time to pray?” After writing this article, I will confess something to you. I pray, not only because we are supposed to, and but also because I love it when God blesses me. I have a great big, selfish, desire, for more, and more, of whatever God wants to bless me with. Let it rain down on me, Lord!

What is MY Calling?

This is an excerpt from Rev. Juan M. Perez’s book, “What Does God Want From Me?” You may find the full book, for FREE at: SmashWords.

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As a young child, I lived a life of uncertainty. My father and mother split up when I was three years old. They had a rocky relationship which seemed to always turn sour over any little thing. My mother “suffered a nervous breakdown” when I was five or six, and me and my two younger brothers were left with a foster family who terrorized and traumatized us. I grew to hate my mother, almost, if not more than my father. I never felt safe, but I was always angry. I started out a sissy, picked on by everybody and their grandmother at school. I then turned into a bully who had little to no mercy on the weaker kids. I got into a gang as soon as I was old enough, and got into many legal predicaments in my youth. It seemed to me as though I served more time in Juvenile Centers, than free time on the outside, from age 13 to 17.

I quickly learned one thing about myself, I had the ability to use my words in ways that others around me did not. I learned I could make people believe things just because, and how, I said them. I humorous time I remember, I had been arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, for some tickets I owed. They took me to jail that Saturday night. When I arrived I noticed I was the only Chicano, and there were three scraggily looking white guys at one end of the jail tank. I immediately became afraid, because I thought that they may decide to bother me.

I walked to the opposite end of the tank and sat there staring at the wall in front of me as though I was trying to figure out what it was. The guys at the other end were laughing and would constantly turn to look toward me. I figured they were trying to decide what to do about me. As I stared at the wall, I noticed one of them got up and walked over to me. He was taller than me, and seemed bigger. I realized that in a fight he might beat me, and then there was the question of whose side his friends would fight on. Right?

When the guy got near me, he asked, “Why are you in?” I thought about it for a moment and slowly turned to face him. “Murder,” I said, without showing emotion. The guy hesitated a moment and then asked, “Who did you kill?” I slowly turned back to stare at the wall and said, “This guy who was bothering me.” The white guy turned around and went back to his place with his friend and they left me alone.

Throughout my younger life I was constantly confronted with the awareness that I could use my words to manipulate people. I started using this technique on people on purpose to see if really would work, and I found that the more I did it the better I got at it. The weirdest thing of all of this is that even though I was obviously a manipulator, many of those around me would still, on occasion, come to me for advise on how to do this or that.

By the time the Lord saved me, I had become an expert at verbal manipulation and coercion. It seemed to me that I was constantly having to use this skill to get this advantage or that opportunity from others. Though I was conscious of this ability, I never considered using it for anything but my selfish reasons. I found that I was overly conscious of how I used my words. I had just gone through a near divorce due to a terrible marriage where I used my words (and physical violence) to hurt my wife. I helped her in destroying her own self-worth, her self-esteem was at the lowest in her young life, and I recognized my part in damaging her in the way I did.

As a new Christian, I still noticed that people would listen to me. I realized that as a Christian, some people might not fear me as much. When I was approached by others concerning problems in their lives, I noticed I was able to help them see other options that were available to them, when they had already come to the conclusion that there was no solution. I came to accept that the reason I could use my words so effectively was because I could deal with the abstract better than some people around me.

Abstract is the ability to express something apart from the object itself. In other words, and for example, I could imagine a globe of the earth in the air in front of me, and I could “see” the clouds moving over the globe. If you were to point to a spot on the “opposite” side of the globe, I could tell you what country you were indicating. I started applying this new knowledge of myself to the things of the Lord. Where some people would hear one thing from the Bible, I found I could hear more.

I started asking myself some hard questions regarding God and why He did what He did. As I continued, I started getting more and more answers. Most specifically, I paid attention to the promises and principles taught in the Scriptures. These were also words. Yes, God’s Word, but nevertheless, words.

I mentioned to my pastor some of these insights that I was having. Though he seemed not to completely understand what I was trying to explain, He recognized that it was something that God was working in me. He started out teaching me about counseling. After a short while of him trying to teach and encourage me, I realized he was unable to take me further. I appreciated his help, but I took over the training process.

I started reading every book I could get my hands on, and that interested me, regarding counseling. I began reading the Bible through the perspective of counseling, and found that I was understanding many teachings in ways I had not before. I developed a love for studying the Bible to see how much I could gleam from it to help in my counseling. Even as a pastor of a church for 13 years, I still continued counseling people and still continued studying to enhance my skills and abilities in this area.

Without realizing it, I had found my calling from God. I recognized the calling came in three forms; primarily as a counselor, secondarily as a teacher of the Word, and finally, also as a pastor.

During the first years as a Christian, I got involved with many ministries. I helped feed the homeless, I found I did not like doing that. I went to prisons to minister to the inmates, I found I didn’t like doing that. I helped pass out leaflets and brochures on the streets, I found I didn’t like doing that. I preached at the local city jails, I found I didn’t like doing that. I tried many different things, and each time I found I didn’t like doing that.

But, when it came to teaching the Bible or counseling, I was as happy as a fat flea on a lazy dog. I loved it. I jumped at every chance I got to either counsel or teach the Bible. As a pastor, I had countless opportunities to preach. I enjoyed preaching, but I enjoyed much more the opportunity to move people in the direction God wanted them to go.

I find that I am still able to manipulate and control, but now I am conscious of how I use my words. I am fully aware that God is ever-present and wants me to use these skills and abilities of mine to serve others. Service to others is the primary reason why I now exist. God will keep me on this planet until he decides it’s time for me to rest.

I found my “calling” by trial and error. I tried some ministries and found they were not for me. But, I did not just wait around for God to send me some sign, a sun ray from the sky, or for some other person to give me a “word from God” about what God wanted me to do. You will probably need to do the same. Don’t wait for something to happen, it may not. Instead, you speak to your pastor, ask him or her to help you identify your calling. If they are unable, then ask them to help you find someone who can. Once you start getting ideas of what your calling is, then get out there and start “working.” Remember, you are allowed by God to get it wrong. You may also find that some ministry or other is not to your liking. That’s okay.  But, I promise you, if you get started, and you keep it up, you will learn what you calling is.

Please make time to read the story of Elisha, in the Bible, You will find a man who was called by God, ran into obstacles trying to fulfill his calling, and finally became the person God wanted him to be. You will find the story started in 1st Kings 19:19-21 and it picks up again in 2nd Kings, chapter 2, verses 1-14. Elisha had many reasons to just quit and do nothing but believe in God, instead he decided to follow his calling, and he became a great tool of God for service to others.

Healing Is A Conscious Decision

This is an excerpt taken from the book “The Process of Healing,” by Rev. Juan M. Perez, LFBT
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Romans 12:2, provides the hurting person with a guide in their quest for healing. In it we learn certain specific things which are required to bring about change within ourselves. It is like a map to becoming a new and healthier person in God. Let’s read it here, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (NLT)

To begin with, it is important to understand that we are in control of the process described in this verse. It is we who have to “let God” transform us. We do this by “changing the way” we think. In other words, as we change the way we think, we “let” God do what He needs to do in us. Implicit in this verse is the understanding that God is giving us the right and ability to make the decision. But, the decision cannot be just a set of words. It is not enough to just pray and tell God that he has our permission to transform us. We are required to “change” the way we think.

Healing BannerChanging the way we think is up to us. We can choose to do so or just tell ourselves that we cannot change and therefore we won’t. Because God truly wants us to be transformed, He would not ask us to change the way we think if we really could not do so. The truth is that even though it may be a hard road and, at times, difficult, we can change our thinking. Philippians 4:13 teaches that we can do all things with the strength He gives us. This applies to difficult and uncomfortable things, as well as spiritual ones. This is a truth. Even though we may struggle during the process, we can change any or all of our thinking.

The Struggle

Our struggle with changing our thinking is not with whether or not it truly is difficult, but with whether or not we truly want to give up the old way of thinking. As an example, let’s examine a passage from the scriptures. In John 5:6 7, we read a story of a man who was near a place called the Pool of Bethesda. We understand that there was something special about this pool. It seems that if the pool showed sings of being disturbed (as if someone might run their hand through it), it was taken as a sign that an angel had done it and the first person to enter the pool was supposed to be healed of whatever infirmity he or she had. Because of this, there were always many people sitting or laying around the pool, staring at it, hoping to be the first to see it move, so that they could hurry and get in.

PoolWell, there was this one man whom Jesus had seen there on many occasions. This one time, as Jesus and his disciples passed along the way, He went over to the man who was paralyzed from the neck down and spoke to him. Jesus asked him a very strange question, “Do you want to be healed?”

The reason this question was strange is that the man was obviously there, near this supposedly healing pool, because he believed that he might somehow be able to get in and be healed. Any person seeing all those people hanging around the pool every day would easily come to the conclusion that they “wanted” to be healed. Jesus knew the same thing; He knew that they were there because they wanted to be healed. So then, why did He ask the man this curious question? Well, let’s consider the consequences of a actual healing.
Up until that day, the other people helped the paralyzed man in everything he needed done. To get anywhere, he needed someone else to carry him. To get dressed, the man needed someone else to dress him. To get food and eat, he needed someone else to feed him. Even for private things like using the restroom, he needed someone else to help him. In essence, no matter what he needed, it was the responsibility of someone else to make sure he was taken care of. Think about it, someone took him to the pool on a regular basis; he didn’t walk over by himself, you know, being paralyzed and all of that.

Now, if he were to be healed, He would have to take himself everywhere he wanted to go. The man would have to get a job, right? I mean he has to be able to buy food and pay rent to live somewhere. He would have to take care of his own personal needs from now on. In essence, again, he would become solely responsible for his own life, decisions, and failures.

So, why did Jesus ask the man if he wanted to be healed? Because there are people who do not really want to be healed. Yes, that’s true; there are people who really do not want to be healed. Why? Because they would no longer be able to use their past hurts, sufferings, pains, and traumas, as excuses for their choices and behavior. For some people, there is an almost subconscious desire to be a perpetual victim, wielding the power of blame and self excuse like a battering ram against others who do not recognize them as “the true victims of life.” They will argue with this revelation, while at the same time refusing to take the steps needed for true healing.

One of the best tests, to see if you are one of these people, is to notice how you started feeling angry at what you just read. These people have a problem with maintaining a balanced expression of their more basic emotions. Their strongest emotion is fear, which is generally expressed by an overwhelming anger at anything they decide is contrary to what they believe is “right,” followed by a self loathing for getting so angry themselves. These people can only see anger as something bad; therefore they tend to suffer from the delusion that anyone who gets angry at them is automatically being abusive.

A second test is to ask yourself what steps have you actually followed in trying to get healed. For the average “victim of life,” this will mean that they have “prayed,” or had someone else pray for them, to be healed, and took no further steps. For others, it will mean that they went to a medical doctor and started taking prescribed medicine (which, by the way, is probably a wise thing to do for any physical illness, but not an emotional one like a past trauma). And still others will seek out psychics and witch doctors, hoping that somehow they will be “healed.”

Lydia carThe one thing in common with all these attempts at “healing,” is that the “victim” is not the one who takes on the responsibility for the healing. They are depending on someone else doing the job for them. That may work in physical medicine, such as by doctors, but emotional healing is the responsibility of the one who was hurt. The question again is, “Do you [really] want to be healed?”

Not only does the hurting or suffering person need to make a conscious decision to want healing, but they must take the steps (which I will outline later) to get the process going  for themselves.

Let’s look to the Bible again to get a clearer picture of this truth.

Throughout the whole of the scriptures, we are called to make a choice. Joshua 24:15 admonishes people to choose whom they will serve (obey and follow specific instructions). In Psalms 25:12 we are told that God will show His people the road they are to choose (in other words, how He wants you to respond to the things life throws at you). Ecclesiastes 10:2 makes it plain that a wise person chooses the right road, but a fool takes the wrong one (the results are the proof of the “road” taken [choice made]).

Finally, let’s look at Romans 6:16, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” When the hurting person chooses to remain unhealed, by rejecting the correct process, they are choosing to remain as slaves to the fear, hurt, and pain of the emotional trauma they suffered in the past. They will continue to respond to the awful memories with behavior that serves only to maintain the pain and fear in their lives. Their mind will not be changed, and they cannot be transformed by God, because they, in essence, are saying no to God.

The “transformation” that is spoken of in Romans 12:2 is the same thing as healing. As long as the suffering person has not transformed, they are doomed to continue to react to the memories of their suffering in the same way as they always have. No matter how much they “pray” for healing, want healing, cry for healing, they will not heal until they are transformed from being the “victim” to becoming the healed person.

Life Sucks and Then You Die!

Great title, right? It got your attention. But more important than that, to many people that is the truth. Life has not been good for many thousands, if not millions or people worldwide. All that anyone has to do is turn on the news channel and you will hear of atrocities, death, violence, war, terrorism, and so on. Bullying is rampant in American schools. The suicide rate among teenagers is high. Husbands batter and abuse their wives. The war of drugs is losing. The President of the United States, in my opinion, is a racist. Neither the Republican Party, nor the left-wing liars of the Democratic Party have real answers. Criminals use guns to kill people, and the gun-haters want to take weapons away from those who obey the law. A single court (the Supreme Court) overthrows the votes of many millions of voters and stuffs an undesired lifestyle down their throats. The police are seen as the enemy and criminals are defended by the public. And that is just some of what is happening today. Other than all of that, life is great!

violenceNo wonder anxiety and stress is becoming a growing problem. A person who walks into a building full of children and kills many of them is the symptom of a real and mostly ignored problem in these United States. We quickly excuse the situation as that of mental illness, evil, terrorism, and other such terms. The problem is that we ignore the most likely reason: frustration.

It is one thing to demand something you have never had, it is another to lose something you have always had. The political climate in the United States, at present, lends itself to the manifestations of violence and further acts of aggression. As long as we continue to ignore the truth, we will be condemned to suffer the consequences. People who find no recourse for their frustrations will too many times take aggressive steps, which could include violence, to vent their sentiments.

The recent shooting of the reporter, cameraman, and guest on live television is just one more example. The talking heads on the news channels spouted words like, “crazy,” “evil,” and “deranged,” when speaking of the murderer, but seemed completely clueless of the real and underlining possibility for the motivation of the killer. Regardless of the fact that his actions were wrong and disastrous, the bits of information which started coming out about him pointed in the same direction: frustration.

Humans are selfish. We were born that way. It is in our nature to look out for ourselves. It is only by maturity that people learn little-by-little to become more selfless. Selfishness has its positive side. Due to that we care for ourselves. We eat what we enjoy, we make time for ourselves, we strive for happiness, we care for those we love, and so forth. This level of selfishness is good and produces positive and healthy results. It is when selfishness is carried to the extreme that it becomes something ugly. When we are willing to benefit from something to the point that others lose or get hurt is when selfishness becomes dangerous and hurtful.

[In their minds, there was no other recourse, to them, they had tried what they could to get their point across and show why they were right and others were wrong.]

The dictionary gives one definition of selfish as: (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. In the context of the first part of the definition, selfish means that someone who is being selfish does not care that others may be harmed as a result of his or her actions. But, if we take the second context and carefully look at it, we can see that someone may be act in their own favor without necessarily harming others in any way. For example, if I decide to eat two hamburgers today, instead of maybe sharing one of them with someone else, I am harming no one, nor am I necessarily being inconsiderate. As well, what if I am a rich man, and want to share my money with others, but I want to benefit from sharing with them? I am being selfish, and still benefitting others.

In this last context, God is selfish. He wants things His way. He will not allow exceptions, things must be done His way, and if we choose not to do things His way, He will exert His power to ensure that His will is done regardless. He has His plans, and He will not permit them to be changed, modified, or stopped. God wants what God wants, and He will do everything according to what He thinks is best, without considering anyone else’s opinion. Notice Ephesians 1: 4 and 11.

We are like God in this aspect. We want things to be the way we want things to be. This is just human nature. It does not either make us bad or good. We work things to our own “good” throughout our lives. Our goal (selfish or selfless) is to “live long and prosper” as a character in the popular television series “Star Trek,” once said. We want to be happy, we want those we love to be happy, and we don’t want anything to change that, especially not something which would harm us in any way. But, what happens when something does harm us, when we unfairly lose something we have always had, or when we are deprived of something that is supposed to be our right? Well, we become angry.

Desperate BusinessmanFrustration leads to anger. It is the direct result of this sense of unfairness which is the result when we have no recourse to release frustrations. The murder of those people on live television is but a tiny example of what is happening in the world today. The earth is pregnant with the frustration of unfairness. Take for example, the Middle East. The little country of Israel is surrounded by large Islamic countries. Their hatred of Israel is based on their perspective that the Israelites are occupiers of stolen land. The Palestinians are the best example in this mess, from their point of view, something that they have always had was taken from them to be given to those who did not already have it. The wants of the few outweighed the needs of the many. To make matters worse for them, the United Nations, with the United States and England primarily endorsing the effort, their country gets chopped up into pieces and the “invaders” are supported by the world powers. Instead of defending the Palestinians from invasion and occupation, the very resource which should have been there to help countries from such an invasion, aligned instead with the invaders. Then, when Iraq invades Kuwait, those same powers come out in force to defend the small country and repels the invaders. From the point of view of the Palestinians, where is the justice and fairness? What are they told to do? Accept it.

[Nothing that you read in this article should be understood as me excusing, justifying, or condoning anyone’s illegal behavior or actions. My goal is to present an argument for understanding the growing problems associated with frustration in our society.]

Frustration has been evident in many of the shootings and criminal actions of late. Blacks rioted in Ferguson and destroyed their own community; the result of lingering frustration. The shooters at Columbine had reportedly been the victims of bullying, and in their frustration chose to use violence as the only recourse for them. Any search of the internet will produce many cases of people returning to their last place of employment and killing fellow employees. Why? Frustration. In their minds, there was no other recourse, to them, they had tried what they could to get their point across and show why they were right and others were wrong. The question here is not whether they were in actuality right or wrong, the question is what can we do about their frustrations?

I mentioned the decision by the Supreme Court above, and I want to touch on that subject again as another example. Millions of people in several states voted against same-sex marriage. This has been a hot issue for many years, it is something extremely important and personal to many citizens of these United States. It is possible that with time, these very same citizens would have voted for same-sex marriage, but not today. Along with this, there is an underlining belief that the vote of the American citizen is sacred and valuable, and a right which cannot be taken away. The decision by the Supreme Court violated that right. It did away with the legitimate votes of millions with just one simple declaration. What all Americans have always had (the right to have the vote of the majority win), has been displaced and removed. We all know now, from that fateful day and on, that the legal vote of the majority of the citizenry can be ignored if someone with enough power dos not like it. What we have always had (the sanctity of marriage) has been taken away from us, and what others never had (the legal right to marry) has been given to them in disregard of the majority’s opinion. And, to make matter worse, we can do nothing legal about it. How frustrating!

As a counselor, I encounter this anger all the time. People are frustrated because of circumstances in their lives. Wives complain of husbands who do not keep their word. Husbands complain of wives who “want to change” them. Church members complain of pastors who “lord it over” them. Children complain of parents who exasperate them. Adult children complain that their parents love the other adult child more. People complain that God should have done this or not done that. Many clients have high expectations of what life should have been like, only to realize that life “sucks” for everyone. The Victim Mentality is prevalent in our society, and it shows no possibility of lessening. The politically-correct mentality infringes on the healthier way of managing our lives and relationships, producing less healthy, co-dependent, weaklings who want life to conform to their standards. “Life,” as such, conforms to no one. We either will take responsibility for ourselves, or we will suffer the consequences: frustration.

As a counselor, my job is to help someone find answers which will work in their life, to resolve, and hopefully eliminate, their immediate and long-term problems. To accomplish this, I need to understand the problem. I have always believed that the answer to any problem will be found in the problem itself. The better I understand what the problem is, the closer I am to a solution. When it comes to frustration, though, there seems to be an added challenge; the answer may not be available.

The “answer” for the Middle East “problem” is the removal of Israel, and elimination of all interference by foreign powers regarding the progress of Islamic countries. That is a solution which will not be forthcoming. The West, especially the United States, will not turn its back on Israel. It is has great strategic value to the US, besides the treaty we have with them (I support Israel, by the way). So the result for the Moslems is frustration, and the result of that frustration is anger.

Oftentimes, clients will hide their frustration. The result will be pent up anger, which they will disguise as victimization. They are so frustrated with circumstances (a misbehaving husband or wife, for instance) that they view the problem as one of injustice (I am being treated unfairly), so they respond as victims (something must be done about this), and when they have tried “everything” they will have only two options: accept defeat or fight back.

For those of you, dear readers, who argue that someone just has to accept what they cannot change and go on with their lives, consider this scenario.

One day foreign forces invade and occupy a US territory, let’s say Hawaii. The invading army takes control of the state government and imposes martial law, effectively stripping every Hawaiian of their legal rights. The Hawaiians have two choices: 1) Accept that they are now governed by a foreign power, and go about their business as an occupied people, or 2) Fight for their freedom. Which would you want these people, the Hawaiians, our fellow citizens, to do?

WarAfter a truncated effort by the United States government to demand that the invading force remove its army, we would launch such an attack which would likely leave the world spinning its head with the rapidity of our response. Violence would be the answer to the frustration produced by the actions of a foreign power.

One of my research studies, that of the behavior of men who physically abuse their wives, produced several interesting points of consideration. My main focus was on why these men chose to be violent with these women they allegedly loved. You would imagine that they would instead choose to keep their arguments limited to words rather than opting to attack their spouse. My research included myself. For the first six years of my marriage to my wife, I physically (as well as emotionally) abused her.

Without justifying anything, I asked the right question, “What was at the core of this behavior?” Why was it that these men resorted to violence? As I studied and researched, and better understood the problem, I came to some conclusions.

First, let me share what is not the answer: labeling. Resorting to labeling the men as abusers, crazies, evil, batterers, sick, and so on, helped in no manner, and only served to cloud the issue. Labelling people puts them into a category, and doing so helps others to just cast them away as useless. Indeed, some men who are violent are crazy, some are mentally unstable, and some are just plain confused about how to deal with any relationship, so they choose violence. But, the greater number are not such, these men are those who reached a point of frustration which tells them they have no other option but violence. In their minds they have “tried everything,” and it didn’t work, so they resorted to violence. The sad thing is that the violence actually works, to a point.

[Of course, the better answer is for people to learn to “accept those things we cannot change,” as the Serenity Prayer goes, but that does not help with the problem in any manner. Why? Because some things should not be accepted.]

Take Julio for example, Julio and Rosa got married on their 20th birthdate. Yes, they have the same birthdate, year and everything, but he is four hours older. Rosa was the youngest of four kids, and Julio was the oldest of three. Rosa’s parents fought often and separated at least three times according to her memory, and Julio’s dad died when he was 11, from a car accident.

When Rosa was 10 years old, her uncle started molesting her and this lasted for almost three years. When she told her mother that her uncle (the mom’s brother) was molesting her, the mom punished her for “lying,” and told her never to mention that again. Julio grew up with the knowledge that you could easily lose the people close to you, so he developed the need to try to control those around him. When he could do that, he felt safer.

By the time that they got married, Rosa had develop a need to have males approve her, which made her a target for men who took advantage of her at times. Julio, on the other hand, grew to learn that even the threat of violence was enough to get people to comply.

Julio and Rosa fell “in love,” and decided to get married. Julio could find no fault in Rosa, and she saw only strength in him. The very things that drew them together were the things that started to divide them.

Rosa’s neediness made her clingy and codependent on Julio, and his defensiveness pushed her away. The more she wanted from him, the more fearful he became because he did not know how to handle her neediness. She would make demands on him, and he would scream at her to back off. The more he insisted that she back off, the needier she felt and the greater the demands.

Julio’s mind told him that she was not listening to him, because if she was she would understand and agree with him. At first he would just argue with her, later he started yelling at her, and after a time, he started threatening her. Her lack of expected response created in Julio a frustration as he had not experienced before. His mind told him that what he was doing was not only not working, but that it would never succeed. During one of their more spirited arguments, he snapped and hit Rosa. The lie he believed was that he had no other option, because he “had tried everything.”

Most men who physically abuse their wives fall into this category (if you like) of why they use violence against their spouses. In their minds, they believe that they have run out of options.

Again, this does not excuse them, but it can help us to understand the dynamics of frustration.

In his book, “Understanding Conflict And War: Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective, Chapter 3 – Frustration, Deprivation, Aggression, And The Conflict Helix,” R. J. Rummel says, “Moreover, we are often unable to satisfy our desires or accomplish our goals. Sometimes our ambitions exceed our abilities, or we misperceive the possibilities. But sometimes we are blocked by an external barrier that precludes gratification. This may be a traffic jam preventing us from reaching an appointment, a college rule prohibiting us from taking a particular course, an amorous neighborhood tom cat interrupting our sleep, or our race restricting professional advancement. Whatever the barrier, we are frustrated. All of us are so frustrated from time to time.”

“In addition, we all have experienced irritation and anger at some frustrations. A long line preventing us from seeing an eagerly awaited movie, a crush of shoppers hindering the purchase of some simple necessities, a slow driver obstructing a narrow road, probably have aroused in all of us that familiar flush of annoyance, even anger. That frustration of our desires and goals occasionally leads to anger is a commonplace. It is subjectively unquestionable — a fact of our existence.”

We get frustrated because we get stuck. We cannot move forward, and we cannot change things. We feel deprived, and that only emphasizes the unfairness of the situation.

Of course, the better answer is for people to learn to “accept those things we cannot change,” as the Serenity Prayer goes, but that does not help with the problem in any manner. Why? Because some things should not be accepted. Racism, violence, injustice, and other similar things should never be acceptable under any guise. Those things are wrong and must be eliminated, or at least suppressed. In those cases aggression is understood, if not actually condoned. But, what usually results is that those who witness such aggression, as in the case of the shooter of the television crew, refuse to consider the possibility that it was simple frustration which may have prompted the killer. To consider that his motive, distorted as it may have been, was that he became frustrated because he believed that the system failed him. In his own mind, he may have reached the point where he had no other option available to him that seemed as though it would help him achieve his goal.

[“The anger induced by frustration, however, is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression, irrespective of its instrumentalities. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt, aggression is quite likely, if not certain, to occur.”]

Many of my clients, in these 28 years of counseling, have been at that same point. They may not have decided that killing someone else was the answer, but many of them were at their wits end when they came to see me. In many cases, I strongly believe, many of them were able to come to an acceptable acceptance of their circumstances. I was able to help them find another answer, not the one they believed to be the fairest, just, or correct one, but one they decided to live with.

I am aware of one client, many years ago, who even after counseling with me, and another qualified counselor, still succumbed to his frustrations and he killed his wife in front of their children.

Pay attention to the news, the people in your life, and those nearest to you, and you will find examples of people struggling with frustrations.

Further in his writing, R. J. Rummel, said this, “It is remarkable that those who are most deprived, most oppressed, most in need, are not those who usually violently rebel. Of course there have been food riots and peasant uprisings, but most often revolutions and violence have occurred when conditions are better or have been improving, and among those who are not the most deprived.

Explanations vary but generally focus on two propositions. First, deprivation is subjective, a function of a person’s perception, needs, and knowledge. To nail deprivation to an objective or absolute lack of something such as freedom, equality, or sustenance, is to ignore that definitions of these shift according to historical period, culture, society, position, and person.”

“However, some internal norms or standards, some benchmarks, against which to assess deprivation are still required. The second proposition, therefore, deals with these norms. It asserts that we take our presently perceived or expected position, achievements, gratifications, or capabilities as a base of comparison against our wants or needs, or what we feel we ought to have. The gap between wants or oughts and gratifications or capabilities is then our deprivation, or relative deprivation in the sense that it depends on our base of comparison.”

In other words, just because someone else is able to brush off an injustice or mistreatment, and “bury the hatchet,” is no indication that it is the norm. We, each of us, decides in our own minds what is acceptable and unacceptable in our lives. One person may accept slavery, and the next one will fight it with all their might. One person may accept racism, and the other will openly demonstrate aggression against it. One person may accept that they have been rejected, and the other will go into a building full of children and kill as many as he can.

Another writer put it this way. “In summary, the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be the frustration-aggression mechanism. Frustration does not necessarily lead to violence, and violence for some men is motivated by expectations of gain. The anger induced by frustration, however, is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression, irrespective of its instrumentalities. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt, aggression is quite likely, if not certain, to occur. To conclude that the relationship is not relevant to individual or collective violence is akin to the assertion that the law of gravitation is irrelevant to the theory of flight because not everything that goes up falls back to earth in accord with the basic gravitational principle. The frustration-aggression mechanism is in this sense analogous to the law of gravity: men who are frustrated have an innate disposition to do violence to its source in proportion to the intensity of their frustrations ….” – Gurr, 1970:36-37.

The Power that Works In Us

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

I have a habit of searching for verses and passages within the Sacred Scriptures which catch my attention, and there are many. Each catches my attention, often, for different reasons. Usually the reason is because the verse, or passage, seems to be saying (or teaching) more than what seems obvious. When this happens, questions pop into my head regarding what I just read, and I want to know the answers.

BibleAs well, I have learned that the obvious is not always the reality. What is understood in the English, using modern day concepts, knowledge, and interpretation methods, may only produce a lessor explanation of the meaning, or teaching, of the Scripture in question. I have learned that when reading a verse, or passage from the Bible, and using the knowledge I have gained from the culture of the time, their use of words and phrases, the contexts used as of the writing, and so forth, will often lead me to an understanding which is different from the seemingly obvious one. For example, in Spanish, when one wants to invite everyone they know to a Fiesta, one would use the phrase, “Todo el mundo” (the whole world). The use would be like this, “Invita a todo el mundo.”  This means, “Invite the whole world” (literally). The real meaning, which is understood by the speakers and those who heard the phrase uttered is, “Invite anyone who wants to come,” (or everyone). The “todo el mundo” part removes the limit of who may be invited.

For a better understanding of what the Bible teaches or says, one needs to consider several factors, as I pointed out above, to reach a better conclusion as to what the teaching or meaning may be. On the other hand, many times the Bible means exactly what it says.

As far as this article is concerned, I am going to pay careful attention to the Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB) verse listed at the beginning of this article. I use the NASB in all my studies, it is the version of my preference. I usually begin with identifying any key words or phrases (at least from my perspective) and then I go forth.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

For me, the keys words or phrases here are:

  1. Able.
  2. Far more abundantly.
  3. Beyond all.
  4. Ask or think.
  5. According to the Power.
  6. Works in us.
  7. The Glory.

These key words or phrases are those which catch my attention. They catch my attention for different reasons, but mostly because they are not immediately clear as to what they mean. The average reader will read these in English and decide immediately that they understand and will, also immediately, stop any further investigation into the possible meaning or teaching of this verse. They will, in essence, think they already understand all that they need to understand from the verse and simply go on to the next one. I am different. I need to know the answers which were not answered by simply reading the verse once.

The first question I have is, “Of whom is this verse speaking?” Notice the phasing in the verse, “Now to Him …, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” Well, since the Lord Jesus is mentioned in the verse, we can safely deduce that He is no the “Him” mentioned twice. A quick glance at the context of the verse in the chapter it is found, tells me that the “Him” referred to here is the Father (see verse 14). This is important because we will also be investigating whom it is that can, “do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”

The second question which Bible 3comes to mind is, “What is the main argument of the verse, or what is it trying to get across to me?” For example, is it saying that the Father will or must be glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus, or that the Father has the power and ability to work through us and somehow do much more than we are able to ask or conceive, and that He will be glorified in this manner? Actually the answer is, “yes.” They are both right. But, all of this only produces more questions.

The next question which demands an answer is, “What does glorified mean?” The Greek Word is: δόξα (doxa). It is pronounced: dox’-ah. Using the Vine’s Dictionary of Words, it is listed as meaning: Dignity, Dignities, Glory, Glorious, and Honor.

In English it is translated into several other words, though the same Greek word is intended. In the KJV they are: glory 145 (times), glorious 10, honor 6, praise 4, dignity 2, and worship 1. A total number of 168 uses, and all of them, used in different ways, are the same word, “doxa.” The initial intended meaning of the use of this word is: dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, and worship.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words goes on to say that “doxa” has a further signification, “an opinion, estimate, and hence, the honor resulting from a good opinion.” In other words (regarding the Ephesians 3:20-21), that the Father receive high praise, much regard, and be placed in a high position of honor. We can safely say that giving the Father glory means to speak highly of Him, to brag about His ability to do this or that, and to show Him the highest respect (in whatever manner we can) at all times.

So, at this point I feel comfortable that I understand two things regarding the verses in question; one, we are speaking of the Father specifically, and, two, that He must receive glory (as defined above). So then the next question comes up, “Why should the Father be glorified?” The average reader of the Bible will simply answer, “Because He is God!” The answer sounds nice, is the religious response that is appropriate, and is true, but it belies the Biblical instruction to “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1 – I added the bold and italics). More important than knowing the truth, is knowing why it is the truth.” This is the reason those very same Scriptures exhort us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 – I added the bold, underline and italics). So, you see, if someone just spits out an answer because they feel, or believe, that it is the right answer, they are disobeying the Scriptures’ instruction to test the “spirit.”

So, let’s go back to the question, “Why should the Father be glorified?” The answer is found in the verses themselves. The Father should be glorified because He is, “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” That’s why! But, this now presents even more questions. The next one that I have is, “What is this “power” to which the verse refers?”

The Greek word is: δύναμις (dynamis). The phonetic pronunciation is:doo’-nam-is. Vine’s Dictionary of Words says it means: Ability, Able, Meaning, Might (Noun), Mighty, Mightily, Mightier, Miracle, Power, Strength, and Strengthen.” It is used in the Bible 120 times, and it was translated in those different locations as: power 77, mighty work 11, strength 7, miracle 7, might 4, virtue 3, mighty 2, and miscellaneous translations 9 times.  The definition includes (literal or figurative); specially miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself) :- ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, and might (wonderful) work (according to Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). By the way, this is the Greek word which we use to get the English word, “dynamite” from.

If we are careful and pay attention to the definition and meaning given by these sources, we can reach a conclusion as to what this word “power” means, in relation to this verse. Since it is something that “works within us,” it does not necessarily imply that it is a natural part of us. In other words, it may be something that can enter us, perform its function, and then leave. The phrasing of the verse, and the context of the verse in the chapter, does not allow an interpretation which includes this power being a natural part of us as humans. Therefore we must reach the conclusion that it is something that can function within us, but not necessarily be controlled by us alone.

In any case, it seems, based on the data garnered from the above resources, the word “power” here means: a dynamic ability which is not controlled by us, and which is capable of miraculous results and performance. What I get from this is that there is a power which can function in us (as humans) which is able to accomplish powerful and miraculous things. And, continuing with the context of the verse, it seems that this power comes from, or is used by, the Father. This last point is important to me, because the question of ability (as in, “who is able to”) is answered by the fact that it is the Father who is the One who is “able.” Jesus Himself clearly states in Matthew 19:26, that, “with God all things are possible.” So there is no question of the Fathers ability to do whatever.

Therefore, we go to the next Bible 4question, “How does this power “work” in us? I believe that the answer will be found by understanding the phrase, “according to” which precedes in the verse itself. I won’t go into all of the Greek word usage and Vine’s explanations again, but I will summarize. The phrase “according to” implies a pattern of sorts, conditions or stipulations, requirements or steps which must be followed. So therefore the safe conclusion we can make is that the phrase “according to” in this verse is indicating that there is a process which must be applied for this “power” to “work” in us. This could mean that the Father Himself would need to do some specific things, or that we would need to do some specific things for this power to “work” in us. In either case, something seems to be required for the “power” to “work” in us.

The next obvious question is, “What are the requirements?” The verse does not say, nor is the answer found in the chapter. But, the real question is not just, “What are the requirements,” but instead, “Are these ‘requirements’ something that we as humans must know?” The answer to that question will answer the first. To find out whether we, as humans, must know what those “requirements” may be, we must first decide whether it is we, or the Father who must meet the “requirements.” And that, dear reader, depends on how this power works “in” us.

So therefore, my next question is, “What does the verse mean when it says “in us?” Specifically, I question the word, “in.” Is this saying that this power:

  1. Literally enters humans, so that it resides in us.
  2. Or is it saying that it is something that humans may use, but not necessarily be inside us.
  3. Or is it saying that the Father uses this “power” in an external manner that affects humans internally, or our lives, as such?”

I have a tendency to go for the last point. In context with the rest of the Bible, in general, the third option above make more sense. I believe that the verse is teaching that the Father has the ability to bring about “miraculous” circumstances in the lives of those who meet the conditions required for this “power” to perform its intended function.

When I say “those who meet the conditions required,” I am not saying that I believe the verse is indicating that we as humans must do anything as such. I am saying, though, that I believe the context of this verse implies that there are conditions which must exist in humans, for the Father to then use this “power” to affect our lives. For example, in Mark 19:26, Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The question there is not whether “all” things are possible, but rather how all things are possible. The statement clearly dictates that belief is required. It does not make an obvious clarification as to whom must have this belief, but by implication, and the following actions of Christ Jesus Himself, the understanding is that the one performing is the one required to believe.

So, though the Ephesians verse does not have a clear indication of whom is to meet whatever conditions are required, the context which includes the Mark verse teaching, will allow us to conclude that it could be either the Father Himself, or the human involved, who must meet the required condition for the “power” to work. But, in this specific case, there is one more consideration, God must be the One getting the “glory.” So, with this in mind, we can now safely conclude that it is the Father Himself who must meet the conditions required to use the “power that works within us.” If it is He who meets the conditions, and “works the power,” then it is He who deserves the glory (credit) for the outcome of the use of the “power.”

My next question has to do with the phrase, “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” The word “abundant” is one that is readily clear, it means, “plentiful, copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, and bountiful” In other words, enough; enough of whatever for whatever purpose or use. The general belief in regards to the provision of God (or rather, what God can provide) is that He always provides what is needed; therefore: enough (abundant).

In the case of this verse, though, it is saying that the Father is able to go “beyond” the limits of enough. “Enough” should, in and of itself, be enough. Who needs more than enough? If the Father were to only give each believer “enough” they would never lack in anything, right? But the argument here is that the Father can is able to go “beyond” the enough. Not only that, but that he is able to go beyond, “all that we ask or think.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but, as you can see by this rather long article on just two verses from the Bible, I can think quite a lot. So, we must investigate this phrase a bit more. The question here is, “What does this verse mean by all that we ask or think?” To understand the meaning in it clearest form, let’s look at the word “all.” Not to be silly, but “all” in the Greek still means “all.” By implication, in this verse it means “Everything that we (as humans) can come up with to ask of God. What would this include for you? For me, I could write a book of around 100,000 words (sort of like a long novel), and I probably would still not be finished. Why, you might ask? Because I am human.

Humans are born selfish. Give two babies a toy each, and they will want the toy of the other, even if it is the same type of toy. Why? Because we are born selfish. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn to become less selfish, and more selfless. We never stop being selfish, but in many of us, we learn to sacrifice some of that selfishness for the greater good. Usually that “greater good” is something that benefits us as well also. So, when it comes to what we can ask God for, we have an “abundant,” or should I say, plethora of requests and supplications. We can ask God for some things which will benefits us alone, our families, our friends, our church members, our country, the world, and so forth. There almost seems to be no limit to what we, as humans, can ask of God. Nevertheless, the verse claims that the Father is able to do “more” abundantly (more than enough) than we ask.

On top of that, the verse further claims that the Father is not only able to do “more” than we ask, but that He is able to do “more abundantly” than we think. This to me is the biggest point of the two verses. This is the main key word. This is where the conditions (for the power to be able to work in us), if any, may be found.

As I said before, I don’t know about you, but I have a fantastic imagination. I am a writer, as you can see. I also write books about politics, counseling, and in August of 2015, I just published my latest book, “Another Star in the Sky.” This last book, is a science fiction story about aliens who come to Earth. If you go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords on the internet, you can buy a copy of the book. The story has over 60,000 words in it. My point is that I have a rather limitless imagination. I can understand abstract concepts with which some people may have problem. There are many people on this planet who have the same capacity as I, and maybe even better.

My point is that if the Father is able to do “more than enough” compared to what I can imagine, then He is truly magnificent. I can imagine the Father blessing me with 200 million dollars. With that kind of money, the first thing I would do is set aside a simple 50 million for personal expenses. J Then I would create a non-profit corporation and donate the remaining 150 million. Via the corporation, I would find ways to help people, churches, and so forth, in the name of the Father, so that He would get all the credit (glory). In many cases, I would make sure the people or organizations did not know who gave the money, so that God would get all the credit, and not me. Sure it would feel great to give people money (in the name of the Lord) and for them to be thankful to me as well, but, for him to get the glory (honor, worship, and praise) most of the time the recipients could not know from where the money came. You see, I can imagine much. And, by the way, I just used a small number like 200 million as an example, I can imagine a much larger amount.

Bible 2So, then, getting back to our discussion regarding Ephesians 3:20-21, what is it exactly that the verse is saying, and what is it teaching. These are two different points:

  1. It says that the Father should get all the credit for His ability to perform miracles and do things, which can be beyond the comprehension of any human, when the human is willing to believe in His capacity to do so, because the performance of those things requires belief (in this case it probably means to have faith in God’s ability) in the human. And, that the Father should get this credit from His church, as He already does from His Son, our Lord Christ Jesus, forever and ever.
  2. It teaches that God wants us to learn to free our imaginations, when it comes to what He is able to do. He wants us to believe big, to dream of great things that He can accomplish in our lives, and to not doubt ourselves as to how greatly He can use us.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

Religious Abuse

Roy GomezBy Rev. Roy G. Gomez

The definition of Religious and Spiritual Abuse.

Religious abuse refers to abuse administered under the guise (concealing the true nature of something) of religion including harassment or humiliation, possibly resulting in psychological trauma. Religious abuse may also include misuse of religion for selfish, secular, or ideological ends such as the abuse of a clerical position. Wikipedia.org

 Spiritual abuse just as emotional abuse affects one emotionally, while physical abuse inflicts pain and bodily injury on its victim, spiritual abuse affects one spiritually. It is the result of a spiritual leader or system that tries to control, manipulate, or dominate a person. This control is often in the form of fear. This is considered a major factor in mind control/coercive (relating to or using force or threats) persuasion or thought reform. There are those who feel the latter comes into play in cases such as these, while others feel the thinking is in error. Regardless of where one stands on this, it does not lessen the effects of spiritual abuse.

David Johnson & Jeff Van Vonderen, co-authors of “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse,” describe the action: “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian- to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another- that is spiritual abuse.”

Does leadership in the church demand you consult with them (or your discipler) before making major decisions or any decisions at all? Has leadership forbidden you to go on vacation or spend time with someone (particularly one who has left the church group)?

Do you find yourself periodically questioning your spirituality or standing with God? Have you been preoccupied with checking out others in the congregation to see who is living up to the rules and who isn’t?

Are extra-biblical rules and standards equated as coming from God, with your salvation or spirituality linked to following them? Do you find that cutting or not cutting your hair has now become an indicator of your spirituality and a means of protection for your family?

Has the initial joy you felt when first coming to know the Lord been replaced with worry? Do you feel you’re not doing enough or are not good enough and can’t live up to what is expected? Are you worried God has sent you a spirit of delusion?

Do services uplift and give strength or do you feel sad, beaten down, or depressed afterward? Has your view of God changed to where he is seen as a harsh taskmaster, eagerly waiting for you to mess up so he can chastise you or leave you behind? © 1997 – presented by Lois E. Gibson

Who are the people who tend to fall victims to this?

I was not able to find in the area of race, class or gender; as to who falls as victims to Religious or Spiritual Abuse. In my years of ministry I could not say that there is an economic, social, race, or gender group – but from each group they are mistreatment to someone who is in the dire need of spiritual help out of his or her unbearable and bitter life experiences.

Normally we tend to seek help from God when we are in difficulty. In a search of God, we reach to religious places like temples, churches or mutts where -few times- we come across real unscrupulous (dubious) elements, those disguised themselves as the representative of God. They emotionally blackmail the needy by misusing of a position of power (like pontiff), leadership, or influence to foster the selfish interests of someone else other than the individual who needs help.

Such mischievous elements prey upon needy person’s genuine intension of seeking help from God or the almighty power. They purport their advice to be the ‘most appropriate’ advice in that critical life situation. Abuse occurs because of legitimate personal needs that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes pretended as legalistic, mind controlling, spiritual healing systems and religiously helpful to work out solution in your life problem.

Why are they more susceptible to this malady (1. a disease or disorder of the animal body; 2. an unwholesome or disordered condition) than other people?)

Abuse is a complicated affliction, affecting people of all ages, intelligence levels, and backgrounds. It’s hard to tell what causes some people to be more prone to abuse than others; it’s usually a mix of many factors, from family background, genetics, and environment, stress, and personality traits.

People who were abused or picked on are prone to suffer more as they lose all their self-confidence and esteem in that grueling bullying. Bullying is the most damaging strategy after torture.

You don’t only use knives and daggers only to kill someone, just demean and harass, and you might end up killing an innocent.

Bullying that happens early on, leaves an indelible mark on the child’s brain. He starts to feel useless, incompetent and victimized, losing all strength of bouncing back. If anyone gets in that rut, how do you expect them to construct their life back?

Life for normal people is so complicated and full of challenges let alone for someone who has been dished out the most damaging attitude of being a loser. This is an ongoing issue in the church as a whole. It’s a worldwide problem and across all religious denominations.

What are the symptoms of these victims?

Salvation Redefined – Spiritually abusive ministries continually redefine salvation. This keeps the bar moving higher and higher so that followers must stay dependent on the intercession, wisdom, and power of the leader. Healthy leaders, on the other hand, communicate a clear biblical gospel of salvation by grace through faith. God’s plan of salvation never changes.

Deification of Leaders – While few spiritually abusive leaders overtly claim divinity, in practice they act as if they are godlike. For example, the leader may say that he or she speaks for God. That God works exclusively through his or her ministry, or that followers can please God by pleasing the leader. Healthy leaders, however, avoid putting themselves in the place of God.

 Exhaustion – Spiritually abusive ministries exhaust their followers through high commitment and endless demands on time and service. If you always feel exhausted after church—or if your church life seems one continuous demand on your time with never a chance to rest—you may live in a spiritually abusive system. Healthy churches and leaders understand the need for rest and personal time. After all, even God rested on the seventh day.

Sacrificial” Giving – Spiritually abusive ministries regularly call for sacrificial giving of time, talents, and treasure. The Bible knows little of this. Instead, the New Testament calls for generous and cheerful giving (2 Cor. 8 and 9). While God does sometimes call us to give sacrificially, this is between us and the Holy Spirit. For example, the Philippians gave sacrificially and amazed even the Apostle Paul. But no person can demand such sacrifice, and certainly not on an ongoing basis. Healthy churches teach biblical giving which is based on generosity and freewill, not coercion or guilt.

Punishment – Spiritually abusive groups use church discipline passages as an excuse to punish current members or to shun ex-members. They use church discipline to keep people in line, to quell disagreement (which they call “rebellion”), and as a threat against critical thinking (which they call “pride”). They also overreact to small sins or minor behavioral issues and bring the full weight of church discipline against people who actually just need time to mature. Leaders of these groups misunderstand the purpose of church discipline, which is restorative, not punitive. Spiritually abusive groups also misinterpret the warning passages in the book of Hebrews—they claim that people who leave their select group have left the faith. In contrast, healthy leaders use church discipline only in serious matters of major unrepentant sin. And they understand that the goal of such corrective measures is restoration, not punishment.

Who are the typical abusers of this malady?

 I have found that it is an out of control problem cause by adult – males, females. In over 30 years of ministry and innumerable counseling sessions I have dealt with similar situations.

Often, people — especially church goers — Religious and Spiritual Abuse does not happen within committed Christian. But nothing could be further from the truth. After observing destructive relationships, being involved and being a victim.  I have discovered these several characteristics traits, actions – that are most often exhibited by abusers. Remember that males can be abused by females, but the victims are predominately female.

 Charming, Jealous, Manipulative, Controlling, Narcissistic – He/she is the master, Inconsistent, Critical, and Disconnected – isolate his victim from family and friends so that you are totally dependent on him. Hypersensitive – flies off the handle for the slightest infraction, vicious and cruel.

 What drives the abusers?

Spiritual abuse is the misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. Sometimes abuse arises out of a doctrinal position.

At other times it occurs because of legitimate personal needs of a leader that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes described as legalistic, mind controlling, religiously addictive, and authoritarian. Freddie Garcia – Victory Outreach Inc.

What are the stats of religious abuse in the United States?

 I was not able to obtain a clear answer to the Religious/ Spiritual Abuse Question. Research seem to avoid the question.

Most churches in the United States have an average church attendance of around 500 adults, 125 children. Most congregations are dominated by married adults, so in this “average church,” there are 200 married couples, 275 women and 225 men, 64 girls and 61 boys. This means that in this church:

 At least 40 marriages are abusive. Studies show that anywhere from 20%-35% of all intimate relationships are abusive, and many are physically violent. Physical abuse is not the only form abuse can take, and other types of abuse are just as damaging.

As many as 20 women are being consistently raped by their husbands. Studies performed by Susan Estrech and Diana Russel indicate that 10% of married women describe most of their sexual encounters with their husbands as non-consensual.

It is possible that there are 9 child sexual abuse perpetrators in this church, since 30% of all child sexual abuse perpetrators are close family relatives– usually male relatives, although in 9%-14% of cases the pedophile is a woman. Another 30% of the time the perpetrator is another, older, minor.

That’s a possible 256 people– 40% of this “average” congregation— who have been violently wounded by some kind of horrific abuse.

Defeating the dragon – Posted on February 13, 2014 by Samantha Field.

Rev. Roy Gomez is a state licensed counselor, as well as a certified Faith-Based Christian Counselor. Rev. Gomez has worked in the field as a mentor and counselor for drug addicts for many years. He works as a Care Manager at Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance - MDHA - The Bridge. He majored in Social Work Major, with a Substance Abuse minor.

Women Need to Learn to Love and Respect Themselves

By Linda Martinez

Linda Martinez - photoWomen with no self-respect and no self-love, see themselves as unworthy of anything good in their lives. They accept mistreatment, abuse, and rejection as a normality. They are accustomed to being treated as worthless, therefore many believe they don’t deserve more. They become lazy and don’t strive for greater things. Their relationships become detrimental. They wind up hurting others and themselves. They do not love themselves and do not know how.

SYMPTOMS IN THESE WOMEN

These women often lack self-respect which turns into depression. They tend toward self-destructive behaviors such as lack of personal hygiene, lack of boundaries, and they allow others to be rude and disrespectful to them. They don’t acknowledge their good qualities, they see mostly the bad ones and have difficulty correcting them. They personally do not care for, nor love, themselves. Most have not received love and acceptance, and in turn feel they don’t deserve to be treated that way. By hating and loathing themselves, they lack the confidence to succeed in a better outcome for their lives. They stifle any progress they hope to make. They compare themselves to others, and are not happy with who they are.

TYPES OF CHOICES THEY MAKE

In a relationship they will believe they are not good enough. They will test or set-up a relationship that may have potential, or settle for relationships that make them feel like they are used to being treated; badly, abused, and/or rejected. They will fantasize that a “knight-in-shining-armor” will come to rescue them and make everything better for them. So they will set the bar high and expect the partner to fulfill their needs, and when the partner fails they will disqualify their efforts and sabotage the relationship. They will be guarded and not trust anyone. They will hesitate and be afraid of loving someone, so they will abandon the relationship before they are abandoned by the partner.

THE IMPACT THESE WOMEN HAVE ON THEIR HUSBANDS, CHILDREN AND OTHER RELATIVES.

These women will be insecure they are used to being abandoned and cheated on. They will gravitate toward a relationship in which they will feel insecure. They will not trust their husbands, and will resent the position the husband has in the household. Even though they may accept the treatment of the husband, however bad it may be, they will resent it and feel they deserve it. Their children will cause her to feel the same way, if they see their father treating her badly. She will want to love and care for her children, but will find herself treating them as she has been treated all her life. She will become distant and shut down sexually towards her husband. Others relatives become accustomed to her being a certain way, so they too will treat her rudely, and with no respect. And, if a family member would like to help her and treat her well, she will not accept it as such, but believe that she does not deserve the positive treatment or reinforcement. She will not be close to her relatives, due to lack of trust and not allowing herself to receive love nor respect from them.

IN THEIR BUSINESS LIFE

They have difficulty accepting themselves. They are not comfortable in their own skin. They feel they don’t measure up with the rest of their co-workers. Self-respect and self-love is foreign to them. They lack confidence, lack maintaining a positive body language and good posture. If they receive a compliment they will not accept it. They won’t maintain a positive attitude about themselves. They are overly negative about themselves, and only imagine the worst scenarios for their lives. They are not happy; they can’t smile. They want what others have, they envy others wishing they had the nice things too, but feel they do not deserve such good things.

Most of us understand what it means to love another person. The feelings of intense desire, admiration and emotional investment in another person are familiar. We go out of our way to nurture our love towards others but loving and respecting ourselves is not so easy. Self-love is a combination of self-acceptance and self-possession, self-awareness, kindness and respect for ourselves. Self-love is positive self-regard in action.

THEY NEED TO LEARN TO LOVE AND RESPECT

Women with no self-love and no self-respect for themselves need to get to know themselves. The more they understand about themselves the more they can see and appreciate how unique they really are. By discovering their principles, personalities and talents which may take a while, but will give them great insights about who they actually are, they can begin to see their good qualities. By listening to their inner voice, they will start to recognize the negative thoughts they have of themselves. These negative thoughts often come from the outside; from people whose opinion they value, and from whom they seek love and acceptance.

To change the low opinion of themselves, they would need to come to realize that they have many good things to offer others as well as themselves. Making a list of things, people, activities that are important to them will help identify what they really should have and need in their lives. They would begin to see that they can take a control over their lives, and allow themselves to enjoy it. Journaling is one way which can help pinpoint an actual event that took place in their lives; where the loss of self-love and self-respect began. They may start to understand how their reaction to that/those event(s) have caused them havoc most of their lives. With these revelations, they can face up to emotions and begin to forgive those which caused the events, as well as to forgive themselves for their own choices and decisions. Even if they may have been children (at the time of the trauma), with no control over the situations, they can still move forward with the process of forgiveness and healing.

The healing process would begin by helping themselves understand that their reactions (to the trauma) were, and are, defense mechanisms to protect themselves from being hurt and abused again. As they step back and look at the circumstances in detail, realize that they had no power to stop the event, they can now as adults can take control and choose, and behave, differently. This control would begin with accepting responsibility for their own action/reactions. Forgiving those that caused them so much pain and suffering. Training their memory muscles that they have forgiven those that hurt them, and using those memory muscles for present or future situations that may arise by choosing to react in a positive way, instead of the negative manner they have all their lives.

As well, they need to understand that some relationships, even those that are forgiven, may need to be severed, due to the fact that the “forgiven” person is not willing to respond in a positive manner to the relationship. Manipulation and deceit is still present in the attempt to control the healing process, but, by choosing freedom through the healing process one can improve he lifestyle and live with joy and happiness. These are not overnight fixes, they take work and attention to detail, determination and intent desire to improve ones life.

REFERENCES:

  • elitedaily.com/life/motivation/yourselfworth-is-everything
  • Psychologytoday.com/blog/me-we
  • wikihow.com/Respect-yourself
  • wikihow.com/Love-yourself
  • wikiHow/ ways to respect yourself.
  • wikiHow/ways to love yourself
  • Process of healing by Rev. Juan M. Pérez
  • Holy Bible Scriptures:Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:13, Joshua 24:15, Psalms 24:12, Ecclesiastes 10:2, Romans 6:16

Linda Martinez is a counselor-in-training. She will have completed the required training and preparation process in two months, to become a fully certified Faith-Based Christian Counselor. Ms. Martinez writes, not only using well researched conclusions, but also as a successul survivor of similar events in her own life. Linda is an example of when a woman chooses to take control of her life she can make what she desires of it. PracticalCounseling.Com is happy to include material from Ms. Martinez on this site.

Godly Love versus Human Love in Marriage

As a counselor, I have worked with many couples in my 28 years in this ministry. One thing I have learned that is the source of many conflicts between them is the mistaken idea of what they believe love means. When someone uses the word “love,” they are actually saying many other things. Let’s look at a list of the things the word could mean to different people:

  1. I want you in my life.
  2. I need you in my life.
  3. I want you to be mine.
  4. I want you to be with me alone.
  5. I want you to be the father/mother of my children.
  6. I want to grow old with you.
  7. I don’t want someone else to have you.
  8. I don’t want someone else to take you away from me.
  9. You make me feel good about myself.
  10. I am happy when you are around.
  11. I can’t live without you.
  12. I don’t want to live without you.
  13. When you are not with me I feel sad or angry.

What is the common denominator in all of the above statements? Yes, it is all about the speaker (I, me, my, and mine). Notice none of the statement say, “I want to do what is in your best interest, even if you reject me.” Human love is, by its nature, selfish. This is why two persons will start off liking each other in a relationship, and can end up hating each other in the end. They may claim to have loved each other at some time, but the “love” they had was a human one, flawed and selfish. The truth is that many couples do not really know true love.

Their love is more easily defined in the term “fifty-fifty,” where each are expected to do their part. The problem is that too often they don’t know what their part is, and secondly, they are only doing their “part” of it. Human love can better be understood this way: “I will try to do my part (whatever it is that I think or believe I am supposed to do), but I will expect you to do the right things all the time (whatever I think or believe you are supposed to do). The truth is that many couples just do not know what love really is, and therefore have unrealistic expectations as to what their partners are supposed to be doing, much less themselves.

As a counselor you run into these situations constantly. One of the pair will argue that the other is failing in their responsibilities, but will, at the same time, overlook their own indiscretions when it comes to marital responsibilities. Each will be adamant that they understand what love means, but will also spout selfish expectations which place the greater responsibility on their partner to fulfill their part (whatever that may be). As well, each will use the word “love” in inappropriate and confusing ways. For example, a client of mine, a woman, told me that she called the police when her husband assaulted her, then, she said, because she went to jail and paid for his bond to have him released. She said that she did this because she “loves” her husband. The husband went home with her and assaulted her again for calling the police to begin with. Was that really “love” on her part, or stupidity? Another example, a male client told me that he “forgave” his wife after she had committed adultery, and did not impose a consequence on her for her discretion, because he “loves” her. Six months later she was caught texting with another man about getting together with him. Was that “love” or stupidity?

Once a couple gets to my office, they have reached a point of concern which demonstrates to me that they do not know what love really means. The sad truth I seem to confront over and over is that these two people don’t even know how to love themselves, much less know how to love someone else. I don’t mean they don’t care about others, I agree that they do. They care about their children, they care (to a point) about their spouse and marriage, they care about many things, but caring about something is not the same as love. The two words do not have the same meaning.

I had one wife who came to see me because she wanted to divorce her husband. She kept saying she still loved him, but did not want to be with him anymore. After a couple of sessions she came to understand that what she felt was not actually love. She cared about him. She understood that she was going to hurt him with the divorce, and she felt “sorry” for that, but she did not want to be with him anymore. She did not love him, she only cared somewhat.

Human love in marriage, dating, and other similar type of relationships, usually means, “You belong to me. I should be able to do whatever I want, and you should accept me the way I am without trying to change me!”

In the following pages, I have included a chart which demonstrates the differences between human love and Godly love. I have defined the terms from the point of view of marriage, and other similar relationships. When reading it, you should not conclude that I am saying that one hundred percent of all married people always behave the way I have listed below. The chart can be better used as a guide when dealing with a couple, or even if you are just counseling one of the two. You can use the chart to help the person (or couple) to understand the difference between what they believe to be love, and what God says is love.

Your goal needs to be to help them compare their own actions, behavior, and decisions regarding their relationship, and the problem encountered, and not for judging their partner. This can help them make some decisions which can have the capability of causing change in their relational circumstances, even hard, difficult, and painful decisions.

Remember, we don’t put up with their disrespect because we “love” them, we put up with it because we don’t love ourselves enough to walk away.

 Chart - page 1

Chart - page 2


 

Conflict Resolution, Before or After?

Conflict is best resolved when two persons are able to communicate their separate concerns and together are able to reach compromises which work in the favor of the relationship. The question is, “Do I want to win, or do I want us to win?”

The difference is demonstrated by the approach that a person takes, when dealing with the issue of conflict. There are two options which will produce very different results:

1. The Fireman Approach – waiting for a fire and using various techniques of putting out the fire.

2. The Fire Marshall Approach – identify circumstances which could lead to a fire, and take preemptive action to avoid the fire altogether.

Most people take the first option, waiting for some problem to start working at resolving it. The problem with the Fireman Approach is that you have had a fire. Fires damage things, and sometimes even to the point of total loss. And as with real fires, sometimes the only real solution is that you may have to tear down the complete structure, to be able to build a new one in its place. In human terms, concerning relationships, this means that the couple has a greater chance of ending up in divorce.

Another danger with real fires is that even if the structure itself is not complete destroyed, the loss of personal items, many which will never be replaced, can impose a major emotional trauma on people. Relationships can have the same result; the couple may resolve some traumatic event in their relationship with each other (such as an adulterous affair), and still have linger circumstances which might remain for the duration of their marriage (the loss of full confidence in each other).

Taking the Fireman Approach to a relationship, means that the couple is not willing to commit themselves to the task of learning how to identify possible problems, work out solutions in advance, and then comply with the expectations as agreed. The Fire Marshall Approach requires that type of commitment. A Fire Marshall can inspect a home or building, and identify any situation or circumstance which may possibly lead to a fire, and offer steps which may be taken to avert the possibility of a real fire.

HOW DOES THE FIRE MARSHALL APPROACH WORK?

I call it the Marital Agreement Process.

The idea here is for the couple to identify areas of conflict in the past, and establish agreements that can prevent the same behavior, on the part of both, in the future.

1. Select an issue, problem or a topic of concern (money issues, relatives, sex, friends, people of the opposite sex, etc.).

2. Discuss the intended outcome; what you think should happen in that circumstance or situation in the future.

3. One of you offer a possible solution (I.e. “We could agree to do things this way at those times.”)

4. If the other disagrees, they should offer a compromise (i.e. “What if we did this instead …?”)

5. If the first person still is unsure, they could offer another compromise (i.e. “That’s better but I see a problem, what about this…?”)

6. Once both agree on the intention of the agreement, it needs to be written down on paper.

7. Once written, someone needs to read it out loud. The purpose is to listen to the words.

a. Is there a loop-hole somewhere in there?
b. Are there words that may have different meaning to each of you?
c. Does the agreement bring up other questions?
d. Do you both find the agreement acceptable?
e. Can either of you think of any reasons (good ones) for violating that agreement?
f. Do both of you give your word that you will comply with this agreement?

8. If you find any loop-holes, then either change the written agreement until there is no loop-hole, or add an additional agreement that would cover the loop-hole.

9. If there are any words that could mean different things to each of you, then write down the words and define the meaning that both of you agree upon.

10. If the written agreement prompt other questions, then either correct the agreement to deal with them, or save them for later to deal with separately.

11. Do not make any one agreement too long and convoluted. It is better to have several short and to the point statements.

12. If either of you can think of any (good) reasons for violating any agreement, bring it up now. Later on you will be seen as a liar who should not be trusted.

13. Once you have reviewed the written agreement, understand it, and agree with it, go on to the next agreement.

Each of you should have their own “copy” of the agreement. Neither of you is responsible for reminding the other of the agreements. Each person is responsible for keeping his or her own word. But, both of you are responsible for imposing consequences on the one who violates an agreement.

The issue is TRUST. The consequence needs to reflect the same. Each time trust is violated the consequence must be bigger and longer lasting than before.

If you, as a couple, create a set of agreements, and follow them without exception, you will avoid many future situations which in the past have resulted in arguments and worse. This is the Fire Marshall Approach.

Counselor Guide on: Financial Problems

What are the Different Types of Financial Problems?

  1. The inability (normally due to a lack of knowledge) to manage one’s finances in a manner adequately enough to sustain a moderate lifestyle for the people involved.
  2. The compulsion to misuse one’s finances to meet emotional deficiencies (binge spending, misuse of credit and borrowing, purchases of unneeded merchandise, and other similar spending.)
  3. The use of one’s finances as a means of self-protection and emotional separation. The most obvious symptom (in the case of married people) is noticed in that they have separate accounts from which they pay separate bills of the household.
  4. The use of one’s finances to manipulate and control someone else. Such as in cases where one person controls all of the income of the household, and regulates the disbursements only to those who comply with the abuser’s demands.

What are the Correct Responses?

  1. For number 1, above, the counselor can take the person through simple steps for developing a budget, starting a savings plan, and learning the Biblical principles of tithing, offering, and giving.
  2. For 2 and 3 above, will require counseling due to emotional issues deriving from past trauma and/or circumstances. The people involved will need to learn how their need to use money to meet emotional deficiencies is hurting them. In contrast, they need to learn that God loves them enough for them to trust Him to meet their emotional needs.
  3. For 4 above, the abuser must suffer consequences for their behavior. The consequences could be:
    1. An immediate releasing of the control of the finances to another family member, or,
    2. Separation, until the problem is resolved.
    3. And in both those cases, counseling must be required to deal with the perceived need to control others (probably anger issues).
    4. Counseling should continue until a change in in character has been achieved.