Do You Understand…Yourself?

Jake grew up in a home with a mom, dad and older brother. He played basketball like his dad, but wasn’t nearly as good as his older brother. Actually, Jake loved guitar and piano more than sports. Unfortunately, his father didn’t have much of an appreciation for music. He valued practical skills like repairing a car and fixing stuff around the house, things Jake didn’t have a knack for.

As far back as she can remember, Anna loved learning and school came easy to her. Of course the teachers all loved her. She actually enjoyed being at school more than being at home since her parents fought a lot. They divorced when Anna was 13-years-old. That’s when her dad moved out of state. One day, Anna overheard her mom talking on the phone to a friend, “She’s not the prettiest, but she sure is smart.”

So Jake and Anna meet in college, fall in love and get married. Then about six months into marriage, they begin to experience some problems. Jake has especially been working long hours. Some nights, Anna goes to bed before he gets home.

One Friday afternoon, Jake takes off early and stops off at Victoria’s Secret to surprise Anna with some lingerie. He can’t wait to see her put it on, so he hands her the bag the minute he gets home. She looks inside and smiles. Clearly, she’s not as excited as he is, but he tries to not let that dampen his enthusiasm.

After dinner, Jake is flipping through the channels (which in itself is a little frustrating to Anna because the smart thing to do would be to use the guide). Anna notices that he’s a little slow to click past a beer commercial showing several women in bikinis, but doesn’t want to start a fight, so she lets it go.

Half way through a movie, Anna tells Jake she’s tired and is going to bed. Before closing the bedroom door, she says, “Are you going to look at that leaking faucet tomorrow?”

“I said I would!” he says, louder than he’d intended. Jake wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with the television still on. He turns it off and goes back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t think it takes a counseling degree to know Jake and Anna brought some emotional baggage into their marriage. You see it. And I see it.

The problem is…they may not see it. Just like you and I don’t see our stuff.

Jake and Anna might think the way they perceive life and respond to each other is “normal.” And rather than seeing they have their own issues to work on, they assume the other person is at fault. Jake thinks Anna doesn’t understand his needs. She feels the same about him.

But as long as they focus on trying to get the other person to understand them, it’s going to be a frustrating stalemate of two people trying to be understood and neither trying to understand.

Maybe the solution is to begin with self-understanding.

Jake might say he’s working long hours to impress his boss and get the promotion. But is he? Maybe he’s actually trying to win his father’s approval. Of course that’s hard to do since his father died during his senior year.

Maybe Jake’s long hours at work and not coming home until late have triggered in Anna some of the same feelings she felt when her dad stopped coming home. And the lingerie feels like confirmation that Jake doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.

So Anna goes to bed feeling hurt and insecure. Jake, who dreads the thought of tackling the faucet in the morning, falls asleep feeling frustrated and inadequate. Neither of them feel understood. They don’t even understand themselves.

What if the way forward for Jake and Anna, toward the marriage they dreamed of when they were engaged, is to identify and reject the wrong beliefs they have about themselves and replace them with the truth? And what if one of the reasons they’re together is to help each other do that?

Some of these questions might be helpful for them:

  • What are some words you would use to describe your father? Your mother?
  • What did your father do that frustrated you or made you angry? What about your mother?
  • Was there a teacher, coach or other adult that had a significant influence on you? Was it positive or negative? What was it?
  • Is there something your spouse does or says that seems to hurt the most? Why do you think that is?
  • What lies are you believing about yourself? Where did they come from?
  • The truth is whatever God says about you. So what does He say?

By the way, Jake and Anna aren’t real. But you and I are. And if our past continue to hinder our marriages, then it’s time to do something about it. Just because we’ve believed a lie about ourselves for a long time…doesn’t mean it’s true.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for the counsel of a licensed therapist. The reader should consult a licensed Christian therapist in matters relating to his/her mental or emotional health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or mental health attention.


 

 

Why I was SO Annoyed at My Wife

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20 Days of Believing God – Day 2

A number of years ago, my wife, Robyn, ruined the floors in three rooms of our house. It was thousands of dollars in damage. Money we didn’t have.

I won’t even go in to how she did it. That’s not important. The floors were ruined.

Can you blame me for feeling annoyed with her? (That’s the kind way of saying I was angry!)

You’d probably feel the same way if your wife (or husband) did what she did.

There was a problem though with how I was feeling. What I didn’t mention was that the damage to the floors occurred in my dream. None of it was real.

That didn’t stop me from waking up in the middle of the night and feeling annoyed with her though…until I realized the truth.

So why was I so upset? After all, it was only a dream.

Because my mind was not able to distinguish between what was real and what was not. I believed something was true, when in fact it wasn’t. The wrong thought then led to a wrong feeling.

Our thoughts are powerful and will determine how we feel and act today. What are you believing? About God? About your circumstances? About yourself? Is it true? Or do you just think it’s true?

This is key: sometimes we can believe something for so long that we just come to believe it’s true. When, in fact, it’s not.

If you don’t know the truth, then your feelings, actions and words will be based on something false. How you treat your spouse or children or co-workers is based on what you believe.

How you respond to your financial situation today will depend on your beliefs, as well. Do you believe God sees your situation? That He understands what you’re facing? Do you believe He’s true to His promises?

Romans 12:1-2 says:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 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.

We will only experience the good, pleasing and perfect will He has for us as we allow Him to change the way we think.

So what does God have to say about you and your circumstances today? What does He say about Himself?

You need to know if you’re going to experience the life He has for you.

We’re at War

As I write this, it’s 9:34 a.m. on Friday, September 11, 2015. Fourteen years ago at this time, both towers had already collapsed, Flight 77 had hit the Pentagon and Flight 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania.

I was in Loveland, Colorado for a meeting with a publisher. We soon learned air travel had been suspended, so there’d be no flying home that day. We made the decision to keep our rental car and drive home to Arkansas.

I was numb. I’d grown up sixty miles south of New York City. The World Trade Center buildings were a familiar landmark on the drive to my grandmother’s house. And now they were gone. As were almost three thousand people.

I realized we were now a country at war. My children would grow up “at war.” I just didn’t realize how profoundly that would effect my family.

My oldest daughter is married to a Marine. He’s been deployed multiple times and now serves as a recruiter. My second daughter is married to a soldier. He has also seen combat. My third daughter will move to Germany in three weeks to do ministry at an American Air Force Base. My son is in the Navy. To say I’m proud of my children and their spouses doesn’t come close.

I wish we weren’t at war though. I wish my children (and now grandchildren) were growing up in a time of peace. I wish they all lived in the same town with us. I wish…

Continue Reading »

How Bad is it Really?

How would you feel if you learned there was a meteor ten miles wide on a collision course with earth and scientists were predicting an almost 100% chance of a direct hit in three days that would essentially end life as we know it?

Or how would you feel if you worked for months and months on a political campaign and after the votes were counted, the candidate you worked so hard for lost?

Or how would you feel if when you went to work each day there was a group of people who did nothing but criticize and insult you and tell you your ideas were bad and your plans had no chance of success?

I can tell you how I’d feel. Scared. Discouraged. Anxious. Worried. Hopeless.

Now what if the calculations were wrong and the meteor was never on a collision course? What if you turned off the television before all the votes were counted and your candidate actually won? What if your idea was good and your plans were solid and you knew your competitor sent those people?

Here’s the problem…even if something isn’t true, if you believe it is, you will still be plagued by negative emotions. Reality may be very different than what you believe, but if you don’t know it, then you’re stuck believing a lie.

The truth changes everything though. Imagine the joy of learning the meteor is millions of miles away, your candidate won and your idea is so good you’re getting a promotion and a raise.

This morning, I read a passage in Ezekiel about false prophets. Here’s one of the verses that stuck out to me:

You have discouraged the righteous with your lies, but I didn’t want them to be sad. And you have encouraged the wicked by promising them life, even though they continue in their sins. (Ezekiel 13:22)

 Then I read a passage in John 8 where Jesus is speaking of Satan:
He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
And then I was reminded of the account in Nehemiah where they are working hard to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Israel’s enemies are relentless in trying to discourage them from continuing the work. But Nehemiah says:

“There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.”

They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. (Nehemiah 6:8-9)

And finally, I thought about this verse:

We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)

So all of this got me thinking. What if things aren’t as bad as we think? Yeah, I know the world is a messed up, broken place, but what if there are many more people in the world who are working for what’s good and right than we think?

Could it be that a very small minority of well-placed people in influential positions could cause mass fear and discouragement?

If you don’t think so, just listen to a politician or turn on the news.

I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but then again, maybe I do.

Conspiracy: an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot. A combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose.
Our enemy is evil and he’s a liar who works to discourage God’s people. If he can get us to believe we’re defeated…then we will be.
What if it’s time to start a movement of people who will choose to believe the truth and pray for truth to be revealed?
Would you be interested in being a part of it?
Let me know.
By the way, the wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt in 52 days.

 

 

Three Things God Wants

I’m intentionally using the word “wants” as opposed to “needs.” God does not need anything. If He did, then He wouldn’t be complete. He doesn’t need anything at all. Not from you. Not from me. But God does want things. Let’s look at three of them. Take a moment to read Mark 5:1-20.

We see Jesus getting out of the boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. It was rough. They’d encountered a bad storm out on the lake. It got so bad that these experienced fishermen were fearing for their lives. Of course Jesus calmed the storm and then looked at them and said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

So as Jesus steps out of the boat, a man possessed by a demon runs to meet him. Matthew’s gospel tells us there were actually two men, but Mark focuses his account on just one of them. You’ll see why.

Jesus tells the demon to come out of the man, which causes the man to fall to his knees in front of Jesus and scream, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”

I find several interesting things about their initial encounter. First, when the man sees Jesus from a distance, he runs to meet Him. We don’t really know how far the man was from the lake shore, but “from a distance” sounds like at least a hundred yards or so, doesn’t it? Somehow though, this man recognizes someone “from a distance” that he’s never met before and then runs toward Him.

It sounds to me like he knew Jesus was coming and he immediately wants to find out what Jesus wants with him. It’s obvious though the man isn’t recognizing or questioning Jesus, it’s the demon inside him. So Jesus asks, “What is your name?” To which the demon replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

It’s important to know that a Roman legion consisted of over 6,000 men. Now we don’t know if the man was possessed by 6,000 demons or just a large number, but either way there’s a lot of them. Mark’s account tells us the man was living among the tombs and had become so strong that no one could bind him any longer. He was powerful enough to break the chains and leg irons they used on him.

Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, this man would cry out and cut himself with stones. Imagine looking up on the hill everyday and seeing him roaming around, screaming and cutting himself. Based on the fact they’d tried to bind him, I think it’s safe to say this guy was terrorizing the region.

Legion proceeds to beg Jesus to not send them out of the area. Think about that for a minute. It’s 6,000 against 1, but the demons know they are outmatched. They’re begging Jesus to not torture them or send them away. They’re terrified of Him.

We don’t really know why the demons wanted to stay there. Maybe demons are assigned to certain areas and so they didn’t want to leave their post. I don’t know. For whatever the reason, Jesus gives the demons permission to go into a herd of pigs when they come out of the man. When they do, the herd immediately rushes off a cliff into the lake and drowns.

The pig herders run off to town and the nearby countryside and tell people what has happened. Now if you’ve read the passage, you know what happens next. If you haven’t read it–wouldn’t you assume the people rush out to thank Jesus for saving them from Legion?

That’s not what happens though. The people come out, they see the man who’d been possessed by the demon now dressed and in his right mind and they are afraid. Yup, they’re afraid. Not grateful. Not relieved. Just afraid.

And because they’re afraid, “…the people plead with Jesus to leave their region.” So Jesus gets into a boat…and leaves.

So what can we learn?

The first thing we see God wants takes place before Jesus and His disciples even meet Legion–God wants to be trusted. The disciples were afraid they were going to die out on the lake, but what was the truth of their circumstances? The Truth (John 14:6) was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat. There was no reason to fear and every reason to have faith. Hebrews 11:6 begins: “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Simply put: God likes to be believed.

The second thing God wants is for us to be free from the influence of evil. This man was actually possessed by demons. That’s not the case with most of us, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t influenced by demons. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” When we listen to wrong ideas and teachings, we are being deceived and may well abandon the faith. Be careful who you listen to and what you allow into your mind.

Finally, God wants us to want Him. Could it be that Jesus had planned to drive the demons out and then spend time in that region teaching and healing people? Wherever Jesus went, He would teach, drive out demons and heal people. Here in the region of the Gerasenes, He drives out demons…and is then asked to leave. And so He does.

Jesus wants to be wanted…and He won’t force Himself on us. Hebrews 11:6 ends with:  “…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” The Greek word for “earnestly” carries with it the idea of searching, scrutinizing, craving and begging. God rewards those who search for and crave Him.

If you’ve been feeling disconnected from God, check yourself…

Are you trusting Him? When trouble comes, do you panic? Are you taking steps of faith because you know He’s faithful? Or do you play it safe?

Are you free from evil influences? How much time do you spend consuming various forms of media versus consuming His Word?

Do you want Him? Do you crave Him? You’re probably craving something…what is it if it’s not Jesus?