Christian Concepts is please to announce that Matt Pavlik’s first book, Marriage From Roots To Fruits, will be published April 2015.
Position yourself for Change
While there are no specific steps to take to change, there are specific steps to position yourself for optimal change.
1 – Know the Truth
There is a difference between knowing facts and experiencing the facts in a loving relationship with Christ. Knowing the facts does not change you. It is only head knowledge. But it is an important step. Before we open ourselves up to something, we need to know what we are opening ourselves up to.
2 – Remove Distractions
We live in a fallen world, so there are distractions that can block our ability to see and hear from Christ. So the next step in the process is to intentionally remove as many of these distractions as possible. Think in terms of all of your senses. Remove clutter that is visually displeasing. Remove noise. Remove smells. Remove temptations.
3 – Enter Rest
With negatives removed, add positives. Go to a scenic, peaceful place. Or, if this is not practicle, imagine a peaceful place where you feel safe. You might light a scented candle. You could put on some soothing music. Consider anything that helps you relax.
4 – Give Permission
You may now be ready physically, but not spiritually. Say a simple prayer to give Jesus permission to be present and share with you what He knows is needed. Search your heart – be prepared to share what you find there.
5 – Bring up your Feelings
Whatever you find in your heart, bring it to God through your feelings. Even if you have negative feelings about God – He wants to hear those too. Come as you are. If you do experience persistant anger or other negative feelings about God, make a note of these for a later time. Consider counseling to sort through these feelings.
6 – Wait and Listen
At this point, you have done all you can do, except to wait with anticipation. Believe God wants to speak to you. Again, if you do not believe this, make a note of it so you can dig deeper into why. It might help to remember step one. Think of some scriptures that affirms God accepts you and wants to speak to you. Come to God in faith believing these are true. Allow God to speak to you. What you start thinking about is likely not a coincidence. Trust God is directing your thoughts. Allow your mind and heart to be a blank canvas and give Jesus permission to write and draw on your heart.
- What negative feelings or memories came up when you thought about God?
- How did God speak to you? Consider keep a prayer journal where you write out what God is saying to you.
3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
“1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.”
How to Forgive Yourself
Forgiveness is hard work. It is especially hard to forgive when you are still living with the effects of an offense. Yet, there can be an even worse place to be. When you are the offender, you have to live with something irreversible you did to someone else. What if you feel blocked from experiencing true forgiveness for what you have done? These four steps will help you forgive yourself.
1 – Identify What was Lost
It is important to look at what has happened. This is the same as the first step in forgiving others. Identify how reality is different – what could have been? Identify what is lost as a result of your actions. Accept responsibility for what you did. Initially this may be hard to do and you may actually feel worse. But it is a necessary step because there is no going back to the past to undo something, there is only moving forward.
2 – Express Remorse and Repent
It is appropriate to feel sorrow or remorse for a short period of time. This is an essential part of handling a loss. Even if the primary loss was someone else’s, you have lost something too. Until you can forgive yourself, you will lack some degree of security. Spend some time being aware of your feelings. Express feeling sorry for what you have done. This could be journaling, talking, or perhaps even yelling or some other method to expend your energy (all of this done without hurting anyone). Accept what was lost as lost. Spent an appropriate amount of time grieving. This might be anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months.
3 – Trust in God’s Goodness
Surrender your fate into God’s hands. Ask God to forgive you. Trust in God’s grace and mercy for both the offended and for you. Trust that God is able to make up for your mistake in a way that only God knows is best. Pray for the person you offended. Pray that God will bring them to a better place than before you hurt them. Even if this is not God’s will, this is a good heart attitude. The offended will not be able to return to their pre-offense state, but God will make it right. God may bless the offended person sooner, or the offended person may continue to suffer for some time. Either way pray that the offended can sense God’s presence and find peace and acceptance of their new reality. If God does not appear to make up for your mistake, trust that God is in control and knows something you do not.
4 – Lighten Your Load
Be willing to be a part of God making it right. Make restitution if possible (but only if the offended wants this). Having done what you can do to make restitution, leave the rest to God. Drop the weight. Cut the strings. Leave the luggage. Stop punishing yourself. Walk away from it. Allow yourself to pursue enjoying your life again. Get on with your life. Rejoice that you are forgiven. Having learned from your mistake, be a blessing to others. Be ready to forgive others in the same way you have received God’s forgiveness. If you continue to struggle to forgive yourself, realize you have not fully received God’s forgiveness. Return to the gospel message and receive complete forgiveness. Start life anew with a blank canvas.
- Do you struggle to forgive yourself in any way?
- What is standing in the way of you completely receiving God’s forgiveness?
- Are you still too hard on yourself? What would you say to a friend who is struggling with self-forgiveness?
“But you are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.”
“If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
From the Song “What Sin?”
The heaviest thing you’ll carry
Is a load of guilt and shame.
You were never meant to bear them
So let them go in Jesus name.
Our God is slow to anger
Quick to forgive our sin
So let Him put them under the blood
Don’t bring them up again.
Cause He’ll just say,
What sin, what sin?
Are We Supposed to Judge?
Wikipedia defines judgment as, “the evaluation of evidence in the making of a decision.” Matthew 7:1 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” At first glance it would appear we should avoid all judgment. Even looking further in verses 3 – 5 we can see even more reason to avoid judging others. However, as we will see the Bible acknowledges judgment as necessary. Therefore, “do not judge” in Matthew 7 has to do with the motivations of the heart when judging, not an absolute prohibition.
Good Judgment Brings Healing
Judgment is a necessary part of life. God is Judge and all fair judgment begins with God. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-6, we find that God’s people will judge the world and angels. Right judgment is empowered by the Spirit. The Spirit gives wisdom and discernment. Solomon was the wisest person ever to live. He judged between many people. His succeeded because he had God’s gifting.
Judgment brings order and maintains peace. We make judgments (discernments) all the time. It is what helps us make good decisions. We decide which job to take, which person to marry, which house to buy, etc. As parents we judge between siblings all the time. Godly discernment is a good thing.
Poor Judgment Brings Destruction
Bad judgment has sinful motives. A person giving bad judgment may do so to look better. A critical spirit is always wrong; it seeks the destruction of the other. One sign of bad judgment is that the person has not first considered how their judgment applies to their self. If this is done first, they will be more humble when seeking to correct a brother. I think this is why we are cautioned when restoring someone, so we don’t also fall into the same trap (see Galatians 6:1-10). If we don’t realize we have weaknesses we can be tempted and sin like the person we are helping restore.
Bad judgment tears down. Good judgment restores, corrects, and builds up. Make judgments. But make them with your eyes wide open. Make judgments by the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind you might not be called to speak out your judgment. If you do, speak the truth in love.
- Why is judging a good thing?
- When is judging a bad thing?
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
1 Cor 6:1-3
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
3 Ways to Identify Legalism and Improve Your Parenting
Legalism is destructive. It is in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it can be subtle and therefore hard to know for sure when you are dealing with it. Let’s look at some ways to identify if you are facing legalism.
# 1: There is no Absolute
A legalistic approach involves setting up an absolute standard where one does not really exist. It focuses more on the externals (what you do or believe) than it does the internals (what is going on in your heart). Jesus described the legalists as, “white-washed tombs.” Usually, the legalist will develop a specific test that can be administered to determine if you are “in” with them or “out.” For example: Do you drink alcohol? Do you smoke? Do you read your Bible every day? Any such test is superficial because it is possible to get the right answer and still be lacking spiritual growth (or get the wrong answer, but still be growing). Unfortunately this approach can lead to teaching that it is possible to lose your salvation when you are not able to answer enough (or even one of the) questions the right way.
# 2: Distinctions are not Embraced
The legalist will be more focused on conforming others to their image instead of Jesus. Their goal is to clone everyone. This can even be taken as far as having everyone look alike (for example, everyone must dress the same). There will be a lack of acceptance of the diversity in the body of Christ. The legalist will tell you what you are supposed to believe. They will insist you act like they do and serve the way they do. They will say, “You must believe exactly what we believe, or you will not be considered in the group.” You will have to perform in order to be considered in the group. Membership in the group will be based on how well you are performing and looking like them.
# 3: Location Matters More than Direction
Legalists are not primarily concerned with your relationship with Christ. They will be more concerned with what you are doing rather than if you are moving closer to Christ. Someone focused primarily on grace will treat membership and maturity differently. With a grace-oriented paradigm, membership is achieved without having to perform. A baby is born into a family having been automatically granted membership. There will be an understanding that the baby needs to mature, but the baby will always have total acceptance. Any decent parent will not ask, “Is this baby worth keeping?”, but will ask, “Is this baby moving in the right direction?”
To avoid legalism, start with total acceptance of others, granting them membership. Then give them responsibility and authority depending upon their maturity. To determine maturity ask, “In what direction are they pointed and is there any movement?” Are they moving toward or away from Christ? How close are they to Christ? Don’t judge someone by how far away they are from Christ. Instead, assess the person’s maturity only for purposes of determining level of responsibility. This works well for the church family. And, it works well for the biological family. Parents are always to love, include, and accept their children unconditionally, but give out responsibility according to maturity.
- What does avoiding legalism have to do with better parenting?
- In what ways have you accepted the subtleness of legalism into your life?
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Objectivity in Dating – Part III
How do people end up choosing an unhealthy person to date or marry? In my experience as a counselor, it is skipping over the time in a relationship when objectivity is at its highest. The following is continued from Part II.
Flaws are not bad; no one is perfect. But, some people are closer to being ready for marriage than others. If you marry someone who is farther away, you will need to invest more effort up front to have a working relationship. When someone like Sally is “in love,” he or she will more easily overlook flaws. This can happen because Sally let herself be in such a need to find a car that she is desperate to have the first one that appears to make her feel comfortable. Desperation directly results in a loss of objectivity. The longer she spends with the car, the more attached she becomes to it.
Be Objective, then Subjective
Attachment and passion are subjective. This is good because they can keep a couple together – after they have committed to each other. But before marriage and before going on too many dates, it is important to stay objective and evaluate a potential mate. This requires patience and being tough, some would say. When you are first meeting someone, this is the time you are most objective. The longer you know someone the harder it is to be objective. That is why it is so hard to break up with someone the longer you have spent together – you’ve already formed an attachment. Staying objective early on prevents you from getting into a relationship with a person who is not ready to be in a relationship – due to “maintenance needs”.
The process of selecting a date or a mate is a subjective one. It is supposed to be. But for these very reasons, it can also be a daunting one. Seeing a counselor during this time provides the added objectivity to help you sort through your values and feelings so you can make a wise decision. NRC counselors are available to help you find the right person and be the right person.
- Be willing to act tough (look objectively) on where you are at in your relationship (it’s maturity), while offering total acceptance of each other.
- Consider bringing your relationship in front of a pair of trained eyes, so you can work through any difficulties early in your relationship.
1 Cor 13:7-8
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another … in honor giving preference to one another.