Let me just say, relationships are hard these days whether you’re Christian or not. But one would think that being a Christian would eliminate most of the problems we normally face in relationships right? WRONG!
Here are the Top 5 Reasons Christian Relationships Fail:
Because you met them in church, they’re a ministry leader, or a man/ woman who loves the Lord, you expect for them to be perfect which is an unrealistic expectation.
The key to any successful relationship is having realistic expectations and boundaries. Communicate your expectations and boundaries to each other. Understand that even Christians make mistakes. We are not perfect. Make sure you’re not building a pedestal no one can reach.
Think of your emotions as a wound, and that your emotions need time to heal just as much as an actual cut would. It goes without saying that baggage will always affect your relationship at some point.
Unless you learn to deal with it in a healthy way, it will manifest itself in your relationship in one way or another. Don’t expect your next relationship to heal you. Take time to heal. You owe it to yourself, yourself future spouse, and God!
“Why are you single?” “You still haven’t found a man yet?” “So you’re just content with being alone for the rest of your life?” Our loved ones may mean well, but it’s comments/ questions like these that can leave single folks feeling less than. It can be hard being the only single chick in your circle, I get it!
But don’t rush into a relationship looking for validation. Wait on God! Be patient.
A lot of people get into relationships thinking they can change or save someone. We set out to try to make this person “see the light”, make this person who we want them to be instead of accepting them for who they really are. We try to make them desire Christ as much as we do. Which is good in theory but not in reality.
If you meet someone, you’re attracted to them, but the two of you are not equally yoked, there are ways that you can minister to that person without being romantically involved with that person. Let them evolve into the Christian God need to be before you become emotionally vested in a relationship that was built on a shaky foundation to begin with . Until then, guard your heart.
Settling/ Avoiding red flags
Sometimes we stay in a bad relationship way too long and we allow ourselves to endure heartache that very well could have been avoided had we had paid attention to the red flags. Red flags are God’s warning signs for what’s to come. Many of us ignore these warnings and then suffer later. If God is showing you who this person is, take heed. If something is unsettling about this person, pay attention .
Pray for discernment, but you must also be willing to accept God’s answer even if it’s not the one you’re hoping for.
Full Article can be found Here
There is a disturbing trend I am noticing in churches. Maybe it is more in larger, contemporary churches than smaller, traditional churches. But since the majority of all churchgoers now attend larger churches this is of real concern. The trend is the decline in percentage attendance. In other words there are less people attending each church service in comparison with the number of people who call the church their home. For years a good percentage would be around 75%. Three out of every four people would be in church on any given Sunday. Now that number may well be 50% or even worse. Regular church attendance is extremely valuable, is very important and should be practiced by anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. A Christ-follower needs to regularly attend church. Not counting the times that you might miss for vacation or sickness or a particular work commitment you should be in church.
Church is not something that you do individually it is something that you do collectively. To be a follower of Christ is not just what you do by yourself it is what you do together with other people. We are what the Bible calls the “family of God.” A family is by its very nature inter-dependent. What it means to be a part of a local church is that you’re inter-dependent with other people in your church. There are strong reasons why you should come to church regularly.
It Is What Jesus Did
Luke 14:6 says, “Jesus went back to Nazareth, where he’d been brought up and as usual he went to the meeting place on the Sabbath.” The Bible tells us that “as usual” or another translation of the Bible says “as was His custom” Jesus went to the place of worship. This is in keeping with obeying one of the Ten Commandments which is, “Observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” When we say we are followers of Christ, we’re supposed to do what Jesus has done. What would Jesus do? Jesus would go to church and we as followers of Christ should do the same. If we take seriously our followership of Christ, then we should go to church regularly.
It Is a Good Habit
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship. But we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.” The Bible says to us there is a good habit of regularly going to church. Most of the time when we think of habits we think bad habits but there are good habits. Some have developed the bad habit of missing church. Maybe you’ve gotten out of the habit or maybe you have yet to develop the habit of regular church attendance. Sunday morning offers a lot of options. It offers the sleep in option, it offers a brunch option, it offers the read the Sunday paper option, and it offers all kinds of options having to do with recreation. Good habits bless your life and produce positive results. When you practice the good habit of regular church attendance you reap some very good outcomes.
It Is a Positive Example
Going to church is a positive example. When you go each Sunday, you’re setting an example. You are setting an example that other people notice. It is an example that becomes an inspiration for others. People who are trying to make their lives better, people who want a positive change are going to be impacted by an example of someone who is committed to regular church attendance. For those of you who are married, it’s a positive example to your spouse. For those of you that have children, it’s an absolutely positive example for your kids to know that on Sunday you go to church. For the people around you, whether it’s your friends or your co-workers, whether it’s your family, when they see that you have a commitment that is leading you to living a better life – that is a positive example that other people can follow.
It Is Important for Fellowship
Look again at what the Bible says, “Some have gotten out of the habit. We should not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other.” The church is an encouraging place. We all need encouragement. Life is hard. Life is difficult. We all run into various kinds of challenges; health problems, financial issues, conflict within our families. We have an opportunity to encourage one another and that is part of what church is about. Sunday service is where fellowship begins. Being in classes, groups and serving is where you get to know people on a deeper level. But it starts on Sunday; the launching point to fellowship and community is in church services. Every Sunday that you come, there are going to be people who are looking for you, wondering if you’re there. People will miss you. And the longer and more consistently you come, the more you will be missed. Because the more that you are in church, the more you are involved, the more people miss you and notice that you’re not around. It is a marvelous thing to be a part of a local church it is like having a much larger family.
It Is Essential for Growth
It is absolutely essential for spiritual growth to regularly attend church. I have this phrase, “The service you miss is the service you need.” Each service is tailored and designed to maximize your Sunday worship so that you can leave with the best possible spiritual experience. You can praise and worship God and you can learn things that you didn’t know before. You will be challenged. You’re going to be motivated. Church is where you will be inspired to go higher than you’ve gone, to live a life that is godlier and greater than you’ve been living, to sync your life up with Jesus and His purpose and plan for your life. You will come to understand why you’re here on this earth: to serve, to give and to love.
Don’t come occasionally to church. Don’t just come when you feel like it. Make regular church attendance a priority and let it be a good habit that becomes a part of who you are. Nothing does more for your spiritual health than regularly being in church. Being in a church service is irreplaceable. It is a moment in time and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. There will always be competition for your time and other things that you could do on a Sunday. But these are really good reasons you should regularly attend church.
Full Article can be found Here
Accountability groups and partners are not magic pills. While accountability plays a crucial role in personal growth and holiness, there are many accountability pitfalls.
Here are five ways accountability often goes bad:
Problem #1. When accountability partners are absent
Accountability relationships need to be fostered through time together. It is hard to hold one another accountable when partners meet infrequently or sporadically (or not at all).
Often both parties are at fault. We might commit to “holding one another accountable,” but this is something vague, elusive, and undefined. Accountability partners need to have a very clear picture in their minds about what accountability really entails: face-to- face, voice-to-voice conversation.
When accountability partners do not meet in some fashion, the accountability relationship has no foundation. This means confession, prayer, and encouragement are erratic and shaky, at best.
Problem #2. When accountability groups are programmatic
When we read through the one-anothers of the New Testament, one cannot help but see the organic, family dynamic that is meant to exist in the church. We are called to an earnest love for one another (1 Peter 1:22), brotherly affection (Romans 12:10), single-minded unity (Romans 15:5), eating together (1 Corinthians 11:33), bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and having the same care for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25).
But often our approach to accountability is programmatic. We simply don’t have the quality of friendships that are close and spiritually meaningful, so we search for it in forced and sometimes awkward settings.
The church, of course, should offer support groups and discipleship models. “Program” is not a four-letter word. But these programs should aim toward something rich and natural.
If meeting together, prayer, confession, and encouragement are the building blocks of accountability, then many of the other one-anothers in the New Testament are the “atmosphere” of the relationship. This should not be an empty, austere structure, but filled with the air of Christian love and friendship. You may be “doing everything right” but it still feels empty and cold.
Problem #3. When accountability partners are sincerity-centered
Confession is the central pillar of accountability, but there are a few ways this pillar can be constructed poorly.
The first way confession of sin can go wrong is when it becomes an end in and of itself. This is when we believe confession is the only point of accountability, something we do to put to rest our uneasy consciences and get something off our chests. These kinds of accountability relationships make “getting the secret out” the whole point.
As therapeutic as this might feel—and it is therapeutic—we need to be careful that in our confession of sin we don’t trivialize sin as something that resolves itself with mere sincerity. Jonathan Dodson, pastor of Austin City Life church, says that one surefire way to ruin your accountability relationship is by making it “a circle of cheap confession by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.”
Christians do not believe that pardon from sin comes from merely being honest about sin. Your sincerity wasn’t nailed to a Roman cross for your sins; Christ was. Peace with God comes only by leaning on what Christ has done for us (Romans 5:1). We often mistake the relief of unleashing our secrets with true peace.
Conversation must not stop at confession. The outermost pillars of the accountability relationship call us to prayer and encouragement. After humble confession, we should encourage one another with the assurance of forgiveness promised in the gospel, and we should approach God’s throne of grace in prayer together.
In this way we not only hold one another accountable for our behavior, but we also hold one another accountable for trusting in the gospel for our complete forgiveness.
Problem #4. When accountability partners are obedience-centered
The first way the pillar of confession can be built poorly is when we aim at cheap peace. The second way the pillar of confession can be constructed poorly is when the focus is on moral performance.
Some Christian accountability groups are militant about sin—a healthy attitude in its own right. Members want to see others grow in holiness, so this becomes the focus of the group: questions and answers that deal with obedience.
The problem is, mere rule keeping does not itself get to the heart of sin. This is one of the great lessons Paul teaches again and again. Merely knowing the law only aggravates our lusts (Romans 7:7-12), and following rigid ascetic regulations—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle—is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).
What we need is a kind of accountability that corrects our natural tendency to focus on ourselves—own own performance or lack of performance—and instead focus on Christ and His obedience in our place.
Don’t turn the pillar of confession into a pedestal—a place where we can prop up the idol of our own obedience. Don’t turn accountability into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. Accountability relationships like this either center our thoughts on a few benchmarks of success that we might happen to be reaching, or force us into hiding because we don’t want to admit how much we are failing to hit the mark.
Problem #5. When accountability partners forget the gospel
Whether you slide toward being sincerity-centered or obedience-centered, both tendencies have ignored that the gospel is the capstone of accountability.
When we make our groups all about sincere confession with no expectation of change, we trivialize the very sins that were nailed to Jesus on the cross. When we confess the same sins week after week, say a quick prayer, and go home, we merely highlight the cheap peace we feel from refreshing honesty, and we forget to comfort each other with a testimony of God’s grace of forgiveness. We forget to challenge each other to fight sin in light of the motivations God provides in His Word.
When we make our groups all about obedience, we only reinforce our tendency to center our identity on our performance. This either drives us to rigid moralism or hiding the evil that lurks in us from others and ourselves. Either way, these kinds of accountability relationships only reinforce legalism and self-absorption. This robs us of the joy of building our identity on Christ’s obedience, and we lose an opportunity to speak about the grace of God that trains us to be godly.
This is why the gospel is the capstone of good accountability. Our confessions, prayers, and encouragement should all be done under the canopy of what the gospel promises God’s children.
- Confess your sins in light of the gospel. One aspect of repentance is agreeing with what God says about your sin, labeling your sin as truly sinful, as an affront to His holiness, something that cost Christ his life. Confess your sins to God and others knowing He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).
- Pray together in light of the gospel. The gospel promises both grace to cover our sins (Romans 5:1-2) and grace to empower our obedience (Titus 2:11-14). Approach Christ together asking for this grace (Hebrews 4:16).
- Encourage one another in light of the gospel. Knowing that true internal change happens in our lives as we set our minds and affections on things above—the complete redemption that is coming to us (Colossians 3:1-4)—we should help one another do this. Mining the Scriptures together, we can teach and admonish one another in wisdom (v.16). We can strive together to have more of a foretaste of the holiness we are promised in the age to come.
Full article can be found Here
Four-step solution to the clam/crowbar predicament:
- Have three thirty-minute couple talk times each week. The man is responsible for scheduling these times and putting them on the calendar. Create a place in your home that is private, quiet, and comfortable with no distractions to talk—virtually all of your intimacy will occur during this time.
- The woman shares one-way and the man reflects what he hears.
- Men struggle with female communication for two reasons: they feel that women talk so much that they get lost, and they feel that women expect an instant response.
- Women: try to talk about one topic at a time, don’t expect him to respond, and categorize what you say into two buckets:
- Maybe-he’ll-respond category. These are topics that interest you and that your man may or may not find interesting enough to give a response.
- I-need-him-to-respond-topics. Always flag vital topics so your man knows that giving you a response is critical. Say something like, “Honey, this means a lot to me, and when you’re ready, I need your response.”
- Men meanwhile need to respond with reflective listening. This lets your wife know that you actually understand what she is saying.
- The man processes and responds. Identify the topics that you find interesting and plan to respond to. Keep a pad of paper handy and write down what you plan to respond to at the next couples talk time.
- Talk about a topic three times. Between couple talk times come up with new reactions, new perspectives, and new emotions about the topic. Talking about one topic in one sitting will never get you intimacy. Talking about one topic in three sessions, with both of you doing further processing in between sittings, will get you intimacy.
Find full article and the radio broadcast HERE
Because Christ Expects it of Christians
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18 are not words of a command. He does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” He was making an assumption that a Christian would fast. Moreover, when He said these words He followed it with a bit of explanation that a fast should be personal and private. Your focus should be on your relationship with God and not on letting the world know you are fasting.
In Matthew 9 Jesus is talking with the Pharisees and tells them that the disciples, while not fasting at that time, would fast once the bridegroom (Jesus) was no longer with them. Jesus expected His disciples to participate in fasting.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)
We see in the above verse that Paul fasted about some decisions he made in leading the churches he started. The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed (Judges 20:26-28).
For Intensity in Prayer
David fasted and prayed for the child that he fathered with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned, but his fast was not to restore fellowship with God. Apparently restoration was already taken care of. His prayer in 2 Samuel 12 was for the life of the child. Though God did not grant his request, David was satisfied and content after his season of prayer and fasting. He had moved past the point of blaming God to a place of trusting God for the outcome.
Ezra prayed for God’s protection over his countrymen as they journeyed back to Jerusalem. He could have entreated the king for soldiers and cavalrymen, but he had already proclaimed that God would care for them. Now he was asking God to show Himself strong on behalf of the Israelites and to help raise a good testimony before the enemy (Ezra 8:21-23).
As a Sign of Mourning
Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and was moved to fast and weep for his beloved city. This fasting was because of grief over the sin of his people before the Lord. He knew that God was punishing Israel for their sins. Nehemiah mourned and confessed before the Lord. Sin had caused a pain that prayer alone could not express. Fasting was a natural result of his grief:
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
To Show Humility in the Presence of God
The man after God’s own heart, King David, said that he fasted for the purpose of humbling himself before God (Psalm 35:13). He certainly seems to be the person who could have walked into the throne room of God and made his request boldly as we are invited to do in Hebrews 4:16. There is a difference between boldness and arrogance. David knew how to humble himself in prayer through fasting.
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.
For Spiritual Strength
While Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. There is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting in the life of Christ (Luke 4:1-11).
Mark 9:29 shows that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 and 21 say that fasting and prayer coupled with faith in God can work spiritual miracles.
Full article can be seen Here
Below are five verses along with the opinions of Christian leaders that may comfort those who struggle with their singleness.
“And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.'”
Jesus never married, and in Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul writes that the church is the bride of Christ. In a relationship as strong as romantic love and as close as family bonds, Jesus welcomes his disciples. As the Reverend Mark D. Roberts explained in a post countering the popular theories in The Da Vinci Code, “Jesus is more inclusive and counter-cultural than those who would tie Mary Magdalene’s significance primarily to her filling the traditional role of wife.”
Despite the Bible’s emphasis on the importance of marriage and the family, “the relationship that matters most of all is our relationship with Jesus Christ as his disciple,” Roberts concluded.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The Apostle Paul explained that Jesus Christ, the sinless savior of the world, was tempted “in every respect,” just as you are – that includes sexual temptation, explained Dr. Roger Barrier, founder and president of Preach It, Teach It, a Christian counseling site.
Hunt recalled teaching on singleness in a seminary in the Ukraine. When asked if a single person could be a pastor, a deacon, or even an elder, the seminary president emphatically said “no.” The counselor then shot back, “What a shame. So the Apostle Paul and Jesus couldn’t be a deacon or a pastor.”
I Corinthians 7:8-9
“Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”
In I Corinthians 7, Paul writes that unmarried people have more time to dedicate themselves to God. Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, explained that Paul advised against marriage “in view of the present distress,” likely referring to Christian persecution in the Roman Empire. He did not mean to say that singleness is always preferable to marriage.
Nevertheless, Driscoll argued, a season of singleness gives Christians the opportunity to draw nearer to God and reflect on Jesus, who represented the ideal single man.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued by faithfulness to you.”
In this prophecy to Jeremiah, God promises to rebuild Israel and fulfill His promises. In a post on Purposeful Singleness, a blog geared toward inspiring and encouraging single Christians, Fern Horst quoted this passage along with a few others, as words to consider on Valentine’s Day “if we don’t have romantic love to celebrate.”
Horst also included other Old Testament promises:
“I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.” Haggai 2:23
“You will be called Sought After.” Isaiah 62:12
“You are precious and honored in my sight.” Isaiah 43:4
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49:16
I Corinthians 13:4-7
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
“If we are pursuing marriage we are pursuing the wrong thing because love then becomes subservient to marriage,” wrote John Fischer on Purposeful Singleness. Instead of trying to find their soul mate, single Christians should focus on loving others, and then prayerfully consider tying the knot later. “Marriage is not an end in itself…it is the servant of love.”
Full article can be found Here
- Being a good person is all that really matters.Some argue that even if a person’s religion is false, what really matters is that she’s sincere about being a good person. This notion is based on the mistaken belief that God is pleased by “religion.”Sincerity doesn’t determine truth, however. One can be sincerely convinced of the truth—and be sincerely wrong. For example, many evil men such as Hitler were very sincere in their beliefs. God judges people based on truth, not opinions—and that truth is Jesus Christ.
- What about those who’ve never heard about Jesus?Such a question implies that God lacks compassion because he’s imposed his plan of salvation on us. Often such inquirers seem to imply that they’re more compassionate than God!An important biblical principle to understand is that no one has ever remained lost who wanted to be found. Just as God sent the apostle Philip to the seeking Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-39), Jesus promises all who seek will find (Matthew 7:7-8).
- The Bible is filled with errors.Because the Bible is God’s Word and God cannot lie (Isaiah 55:10-11; John 17:17; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 4:12), it’s totally trustworthy, free from any error. God’s Word is described as “the word of truth” (2 Corinthians 6:7; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). Inerrancy isn’t a theory about the Bible; it’s the teaching of the Bible itself.What most people claim as errors in the Bible aren’t errors but difficulties. People think they’ve stumbled upon apparent inconsistencies when they haven’t taken the time to find out all the facts, or made an in-depth study of the passage. Many Bible questions have been answered as new discoveries have been made in fields such as language, history, archeology, and other sciences.
Regardless of the kind of difficulty found, not a single irreconcilable error can be found in the Bible’s pages.
- If God is so good, why is there evil?The thrust of this charge is that evil’s presence disproves God’s power. But is the presence of evil consistent with the God of the Bible? Consider:
- God didn’t create evil. Sin entered the world through Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3).
- Evil is necessary for a free world. Freedom, or free will, gives humans the opportunity to make wrong choices.
- God hesitates to stop evil for an important reason. Just as parents often allow their children to make mistakes and suffer the consequences, God acts in a parental fashion with his creation.
- God has the solution for evil. Jesus accomplished the ultimate defeat of evil on the cross. But just as we don’t yet have eternal bodies, evil has yet to be removed from the world.
- Why is there suffering?Many hold that pain is evidence against God’s concern for humankind. However, pain can be used for good and bad purposes. Not all pain is bad. Pain is an essential mechanism for survival. Without pain, the body is stripped of vital protection. Pain is an important signal to warn of even greater danger.Suffering is a signal. It also can be a spiritual signal that reminds us of the fragile balance of life and our mortality. In The Problem of Pain, Christian apologist C.S. Lewis writes, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Some suffering actually helps to bring greater good. This is best seen in Jesus’ own suffering. Jesus traveled down the road of pain, loneliness, and death—a road that led to the cross. Jesus isn’t just a Savior, he’s our suffering Savior. The cross is the ultimate example of innocent suffering.
At the heart of this issue is the underlying challenge that God isn’t fair. The problem is, society holds pleasure as its chief goal in life. This philosophy is known as hedonism, and those who live by this philosophy find any form of suffering offensive. To say God isn’t fair is an extremely dangerous charge.
If God gave us what we deserve, we’d be in trouble. It would be foolish to ask God for justice; what we need is mercy. God’s mercy and grace are so taken for granted that suffering and pain shock us.
6. If there’s a hell, why would a loving God send people there?
God hates evil, and one day, evil will cease. While evil and suffering and pain are very real, they are also very temporary.
The day God deals with evil, he will deal with all evil. In the meantime, God strives for as many people as possible to accept Jesus’ death and resurrection as payment for their sins, so they can live eternally with him. The sad fact is, many will make the decision not to be a part of God’s heaven. God won’t send them to hell; they’ll send themselves.
For God to force people to go to heaven against their wishes wouldn’t be heaven—it would be hell. Atheist author Jean-Paul Sarte noted that the gates of hell are locked from the inside by the free choice of men and women.
Full Article can be found here
Are you prepared to answer the spiritual seekers in your world? Are you wondering if Christianity’s really true? Here’s a look at ten objections skeptics pose toward Christianity—and how to respond.
- Christians are hypocrites.A hypocrite is an actor, a person who pretends to be something she isn’t. Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for hypocrites.
The reality is, there always have been and always will be some hypocrites in the Church. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to follow others; he asks us to follow him.
Although Christians can represent Jesus either poorly or well, the real question isn’t whether there are hypocrites in the Church, but whether Jesus is a hypocrite. If someone can prove that Jesus was a hypocrite, then the whole structure of Christianity falls into ruin. The Bible, God’s Word, presents Jesus as nothing less than perfect. Jesus’ disciples testified that Jesus was without sin (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). Even Jesus himself challenged others to prove that he’d ever sinned (John 8:46).
- What about the atrocities Christians have committed?Some blame Christianity for religious wars, the Crusades, burning witches, the Inquisition, slavery, even the Holocaust.
The issue of atrocities is simply an extension of the question of hypocrites. So-called believers who didn’t practice true Christianity have perpetrated evil. In reality, these people were Christian in name only.
Focusing on their atrocities is a smoke screen to avoid the real issue. Christianity has far more positive achievements than negative influences. It’s been instrumental in the formation of countless hospitals, schools, colleges, orphanages, relief agencies, and charity agencies. No other religion in history can compare.
- Christianity is a crutch.Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto, said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Critics such as Marx have charged that religion is an invention designed for people incapable of coping with life’s pressures. Some critics respond that they don’t need this type of emotional comfort, as though that fact falsifies Christianity. Such individuals often claim to be “stronger” because they’re brave enough to face life without a “crutch.” To imply non-religious people don’t need a crutch is misleading. Dependence on drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex, money, power, other people, and material possessions demonstrates some people’s need for a crutch. Atheism—the belief that there is no God—can become a crutch for those addicted to a lifestyle contrary to God’s standards of morality.
Rather than being weak, Christians are strong—not because they depend on themselves, but because they depend on Jesus.
Everyone needs assistance. The question is, what will you lean on? Christianity provides what atheism or other religions never can: spiritual fulfillment, peace, and forgiveness.
- It’s narrow-minded to think Jesus is the only way to God.Jesus claimed he was the only way to God (John 14:6). Such a claim is either totally true or totally false. Some people claim to be Christians, yet ignore Jesus’ claim to be the only Savior. Critics argue this view is exclusory.
But if Christianity is true, then we must accept Jesus’ own teachings. If one believes Jesus’ assertions to be true, then the issue is settled
Full Article can be found here:
One of the great struggles we have today in the Church is preserving our children in the Orthodox Faith. Too often they seem not to be interested. Can we somehow motivate our kids to be excited about following Christ and being Orthodox Christians? I believe there is a way. It takes commitment and hard work, but it’s worth it.
1. Make Your Family Your Priority
More important than anything other than the Kingdom of God is our family. I believe if we’re going to raise Orthodox Christian families, our spouses and children have to be our highest priority, next to Christ and His Church.
For the believer, our journey with Christ and His Church always comes first. On that matter, the Scriptures are clear, the Fathers are clear, and the Liturgy is clear. At least four times each Sunday morning we call to mind our holy and blessed God-bearer and all the saints, saying, “Let us commit ourselves and each other and all our life to Christ our God.” Our relationship with God comes first, our commitment to our family comes next, and our dedication to our work is third.
As parents, we need to make a vice-grip-firm commitment that above job, above our social life, above all the things that vie for our time, we will prioritize our families.
If you’re busy, find a way to compensate. I made appointments with my children. If your time is in heavy demand and you don’t block out time for the kids, you’ll never see them. If someone calls and has to see you, you say, “You know, Joe, I’ve got an appointment. I can see you tomorrow.” You decide to prioritize your family.
2. Tell Your Children of God’s Faithfulness
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses is talking to the children of Israel about the importance of keeping God’s commandments. And then he speaks directly to parents and grandparents: “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
Maybe you are a parent who came to Christ later in life and feel you didn’t do a good job spiritually with your kids, and now they have families of their own. Well, now you’ve got a crack at your grandkids! This opportunity does not mean that you become your grandchildren’s parent. But what you can do is tell those grandchildren what God has done for you, just like Moses says. Talk to them. If you’ve become more dedicated to Christ later in life, tell your grandkids about that. Tell them lessons that you’ve learned. Tell them real-life stories about God’s faithfulness and His mercy to you.
Moses goes on to explain the importance of such conversations by recalling what the Lord had said to him: “that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children” (Deuteronomy 4:10). Children who are rightly taught the Word of God will teach their own children.
And that is the same spirit we tried to keep in family prayer. When the kids were little, we read Bible stories to them every night. We would pray together. We did that all the way through, and as they got older we encouraged them to say their own prayers at night.
3. Love Your Spouse
Thirdly-and I can’t stress this enough-we do our kids a favor when we love our spouses. Psychologists tell us that even more important than a child feeling love from parents is for that child to know mom and dad love each other. Kids know instinctively that if love in marriage breaks down, there’s not much left over for them.
The beautiful passage that describes this love is in Ephesians 5. It’s the passage that we read as the epistle at our Orthodox weddings. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church”
(v. 25). That means, gentlemen, that we love her enough to die for her. We martyr ourselves to each other; that’s what the wedding crowns are about. I love my wife more than life itself. The crowns also speak of royalty. In my homily at the marriage of our younger son, I said, “Peter, treat her like a queen! Kristina, treat him like a king!” That arrangement works out really well.
4. Never Discipline Out of Anger
There are times when things go wrong, even badly wrong. I would love to tell you that none of our six kids ever missed a beat. Or that mom and dad were infallible. I don’t know of a family where that happens. I will say that on a sliding scale, three of our children were relatively easy to raise, three were more challenging. When some of them got stubborn in their teenage years, I would say to Marilyn, “Remember what we were like at that age? They’re no different than we were.” I was difficult as a teenager, and some of that showed up in our kids.
St. John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). The opposite of that is also true. There is no greater heartache than when our children do not walk in truth. We’ve had a few big bumps in our family. There were nights my wife and I were both in tears as we tried to sleep. We would say, “Lord, is there light at the end of this tunnel?”
One of the verses I memorized out of the Old Testament early in my own parenthood was Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, / And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Let me assure you, that promise from God is true. There were days I wondered whether our family would stand before the Lord fully intact. Thank God for repentance, forgiveness, restoration, and grace.
Two of my daughters have come to me independently as adults and thanked me for holding their hands when I corrected them. They both had friends whose dads embarrassed their daughters, disciplining in a way that was probably too strong. I encourage fathers to guard against a discipline or correction that engenders wrath in your children. After the correction, give them a hug and let them know you love them.There are times when a father may need to refrain from discipline on the spot because he is angry. Remember that line from “The Incredible Hulk”? “You won’t like me when I’m angry.” If that’s true for a cartoon character, how much more is it true for a real-life dad?
5. Help Your Children Discern God’s Will
Let’s look again at Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The phrase, “in the way he should go,” is not speaking of the way you want him to go. Rather, it’s the way God wants him to go. In other words, taking into account that child’s gifts, his emotional makeup, his personality, his intellect, his calling, you help him discern the path God has for him.
I’m really pleased that Peter Jon is a seminarian and that Wendy’s husband is an Orthodox deacon. But I’m no more pleased with them than I am with Greg, who is a marketing guy, or with Terri, who is a mom of five, or with Ginger and Heidi, who both work outside the home to help their husbands provide for their sons.
To repeat, our job as parents is to try to discern with our children what God wants them to do, and then train them in that way. Whether their calling is in business or law or retailing or service to the Church, I want them to be the best they can be, for the glory of God. And by the way, all of us are in the ministry of Christ by virtue of our baptism. We are ordained as His servants-lay or clergy. Therefore, whatever we do, our goal is to do it for the glory of God.
These, then, are the steps we have tried to take with our children. Thank God, these measures have produced good fruit. At our stage in life, it is wonderful with just the two of us at home to think back over the years and to thank the Lord for children, spouses, and grandchildren who are faithful. There is nothing like it.
That doesn’t mean there will never be any more problems. I’m naïve, but not naïve enough to believe that. There may be bumps yet to come in our lives. But as we confess at our weddings, “The prayers of parents establish the foundations of houses.” These years are not kickback time, but they are a time of thanksgiving.
May God grant you the joy in raising your family in Christ that we have known in raising ours.
Read the full article Here
Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?
One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don’t.
Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.
The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
- Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
- Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.
- We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
- Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
- Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
- If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
- We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
- Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
- We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
- We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
- We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”
- Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.
Full Article can be found here