Out Of Eden

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do. Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Can we return to the Garden of Eden? A German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, made this observation after studying the Bible’s account of Adam and Eve’s first sin: “So Adam must leave paradise. For every one of us it’s in the past. And only fools think that it can be re-established on this earth. As a rule, those who have promised men a heaven on earth have made it a life of hell. No, there is no road back.”

Out of Eden

 

This same German theologian suffered greatly under the Third Reich . . . all due to one man’s attempt to return to Eden . . . to find utopia.

Utopian dreams aren’t usually as brutal as the Third Reich’s. But they’re all around us, and ultimately, no less delusional. That’s because they point us back to Eden rather than forward to heaven, and they ignore the fact that mankind fell with Adam and desperately needs Jesus.

Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about. ~ N.T. Wright

TODAY’S PRAYER
Father God, whenever I think about my lost Eden, of when my life might have been “perfect”, remind me that
only you are perfect and as I travel this broken road towards Heaven I will learn of you, your nature and
immense love for me. Amen

Seeking God’s Plans

Seeking God’s Plans

‘For I know the plans I have for you”[this is] the Lord’s declaration’ ‘plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB

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Why did God put me here?’ It’s a simple question to ask and, at times, a very complicated question to answer.

As you seek to discover (or perhaps, to rediscover) God’s plan for your life, you should start by remembering this: You are here because God put you here, and He did so for a very good reason: His reason.

At times, you may be confident that you are doing God’s will. But on other occasions, you may be uncertain about the direction that your life should take. At times, you may wander aimlessly in a wilderness of your own making. And sometimes, you may struggle mightily against God in a vain effort to find success and happiness through your own means, not His. But wherever you find yourself’ whether on the mountaintops, in the valleys, or at the crossroads of life you may be assured that God is there . . . and you may be assured that He has a plan.

If you manage to align yourself with God’s plan for your life, you will be energized, you will be enthused, and you will be blessed. That’s why you should strive mightily to understand what it is that God wants you to do. But how can you know precisely what God’s intentions are? The answer, of course, is that even the most well- intentioned believers face periods of uncertainty and doubt about the direction of their lives. So, too, will you.

When you arrive at one of life’s inevitable crossroads, that’s the moment when you should turn your thoughts and prayers toward God. When you do, He will make Himself known to you in a time and manner of His choosing. When you discover God’s plan for your life, you will experience abundance, peace, joy, and power’ God’s power. And that’s the only kind of power that really matters.

God has a wonderful plan for your life. And the time to start looking for that plan and living it, is now. And remember’ discovering God’s plan begins with prayer, but it doesn’t end there. You’ve also got to work at it.

One of the wonderful things about being a Christian is the knowledge that God has a plan for our lives. Warren Wiersbe

If God declares what it means to be human, then our lives are not the meaningless collections of unrelated events they so often appear to be. Stanley Grenz

TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father, your word says that the footsteps of a righteous man are guided by you. I pray Lord that you will guide my steps and my plans. Thank you that the events in my life are not meaningless coincidences but they are plans that you have set in motion for me. Amen

 

 

Fields of Change

Fields of Change 

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. – Hosea 10:12

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Character isn’t instantly created. It’s carved out.

To God, our lives are like a series of fields that need working. Once one has been worked, we move to the next. At each stop He encourages us to get busy tilling ground hardened by sin, pulling weeds grown in neglect, and planting seeds of biblical truth. He makes us willing and able for the work; and He makes each task fruitful through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But change does happen. The Bible gives us insight how. Think of Joseph in an Egyptian jail, and Moses in the desert. Recall David’s years of flight from Saul and Jonah’s time in the belly of a fish. Reflect upon Gideon in a cave and Job’s catastrophes. Consider Abraham’s wanderings and Peter’s three denials of Christ. Look at the apostle Paul’s blinding encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

These stories, and many more like them, recount the ways of God among the men He claims for His own. As you spend time considering them, you will see a pattern emerge: brokenness, humility, and the learning of patience all come before spiritual maturity and usefulness. Open up your Bible and search out these stories. Learn from them. They demonstrate the pattern of change for your own life in Christ.

Our days are a kaleidoscope. Every instant a change takes place. New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort. The most familiar people stand each moment in some new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.  - Henry Ward Beecher

TODAY’S PRAYER
Lord, when change comes, I pray that I will look to you for insight. As things change in my life and around me, help me to keep my eyes on you and trust that whatever the circumstance, your ultimate plan for me is a good one. Amen
 

Is Anger a Sin?

We’ve gotten lots of emails wanting to know more about anger and angry people. What about when your anger is justified? Is anger a sin? Dr. Dave Stoop, Dr. Jill Hubbard and I got together to talk about an emotion no one likes to admit they’re simmering in. Click on the image to watch now.

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Spanking our Children

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. – Proverbs 13:24

Parents often ask me, is it okay to spank a child or does spanking harm them for life? Here’s my answer below. Watch now.

Unfailing Love

Unfailing Love

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:21-23

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No one is exempt from suffering. The people you think deserve it the least are often the ones faced with it. And you may suffer because those you love make some poor choices. Your wife may leave you, your child may struggle with addiction, or your brother may choose a homosexual lifestyle. Whatever the situation or whenever your heart is breaking, God wants you to give your grief and sorrow to Him. He’s the one who mends broken hearts.

The prophet Jeremiah is a man who watched, as his nation was taken captive, ravished, and almost completely destroyed because of its refusal to surrender to God. It’s no wonder Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. In the book of Lamentations he cried, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord. I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:18-20)

But look at the Scripture that follows his weepy, whiny, poor-little-ol’ me tirade. It is printed at the top of this page. What a great example for us.

We all get in to feeling sorry for ourselves. But before you stay there, remember your hope: God’s love is unfailing! And it never ends.

Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not. – C.S. Lewis

When the time comes for you to die, you need not be afraid, because death cannot separate you from God’s love. – Charles Spurgeon

The Value of Connection

Connected HandsAn important aspect of dependency is that it teaches us that relationship is the most important thing in the universe. Connection is really the deepest value in God’s heart.

He constructed everything, and He Himself exists, in terms of relationship: ‘God is love‘ (John 4:16). When you allow dependent feelings and stances in life, you begin to live life the way God intended it. Relationship is not only a means to an end; it is an end in itself.

Closeness to God and others is what life is all about. Life has meaning, fulfillment and purpose in relationship. Some people have never experienced relationship as a good thing in their lives. For example, you may see dependency as being weak and vulnerable, or have fears of abandonment. Or you may have been so disconnected that there appears to be no real value in connection. Where there is no hunger, it is hard to value dependency.

As you work through these difficulties, you can learn to experience closeness as something not only good for you, but as the ‘highest good’ experience and position that God provides for us. In addition, becoming close to God and others is one of the major factors enabling you to be able to give up things you are in bondage to, such as addictions, destructive feelings and poor relationships.

‘LOVE NEVER FAILS!’ (I Cor. 13:8)

Do you need help getting connected? Join us at one of our Weekend Workshops, you will laugh, learn, and by God’s grace  be transformed.

Love Is A Choice

Love is a Choice

This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:12-13 MSG

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Love is a choice. Either you choose to behave lovingly toward others . . . or not; either you behave yourself in ways that enhance your relationships . . . or not. But make no mistake: genuine love requires effort. Simply put, if you wish to build lasting relationships, you must be willing to do your part.

Christ’s words are clear: we are to love God first, and secondly, we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). These two commands are seldom easy, and because we are imperfect beings, we often fall short. But God’s Word commands us to try.

The Christian path is an exercise in love and forgiveness. If we are to walk in Christ’s footsteps, we must forgive those who have done us harm, and we must accept Christ’s love by sharing it freely with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers.

God does not intend for you to experience mediocre relationships; He created you for far greater things. Building lasting relationships requires compassion, wisdom, empathy, kindness, courtesy, and forgiveness. If that sounds a lot like work, it is’which is perfectly fine with God. Why? Because He knows that you are capable of doing that work, and because He knows that the fruits of your labors will enrich the lives of your loved ones and the lives of generations yet unborn.

Do you want love to last? Then you must understand this: Genuine love requires effort. That’s why those who are lazy in love are often losers in love, too!

No man truly has joy unless he lives in love. - Thomas Aquinas

It is when we come to the Lord in our nothingness, our powerlessness and our helplessness that He then enables us to love in a way which, without Him, would be absolutely impossible. - Elisabeth Elliot

Love is extravagant in the price it is willing to pay, the time it is willing to give, the hardships it is willing to endure, and the strength it is willing to spend. Love never thinks in terms of ‘how little,’ but always in terms of ‘how much.’ Love gives, love knows, and love lasts. - Joni Eareckson Tada

To love another person is to see the face of God. - Victor Hugo

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:11 NASB

 

Recovery is Like an Onion

Recovery is Like an Onion

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:25

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Someone smarter than me said: “Recovery is like an onion.  All the layers that exist have to be peeled away.” Well, if you’re a connoisseur of onions, you know that there are different varieties.  Some are really powerful and when you barely touch them they produce tears. Others are pretty sweet and they barely affect you when you chop them up.

And so it is with your peeling the layers in your healing process.  Some layers will affect you more than others. But, if you realize that it’s a process, and that God is with you every step of the way, you can face the pain of your past so that you can move beyond it and heal. Also, consider this:  You are in the present. You lived through the reality, whatever and whenever it was, so you can certainly live through the feelings and memories of the reality today.

Make your one desire to be made whole and to be as much like Christ as you can be. When you do, you’ll find God putting on your heart the desire and the courage to carry the message of hope and healing to those who are stuck in their pain.

Embrace the pain of the recovery and healing process. It will remind you that God is in control and you’re being held in his arms, tight and secure as He walks you through it. It means you’ll take some steps of faith, and that will be pleasing to God and healing to you.

Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. — Michael Yaconelli

We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places. – Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt

 

Close the Gate

Close the Gate

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32

closing_the_gate

My friend grew up on a farm, and she once told me that her sole responsibility was to close the gate behind her.  That way the live­stock couldn’t backtrack into a field of alfalfa.  All she had to do was close the gate behind her.

Back then she thought gate closing was boring work—just a whole lot of waiting. Then something happened.  She discovered that while gate closing isn’t prestigious or exciting, it’s vitally impor­tant.

On the path to wellness and wholeness, there are many gates to close.  Closing the gate means not leaving loose ends hanging.

Are there people with whom you have loose ends?  Do you need to return something you “borrowed?” Is there restitution or an over­due apology that might renew a relationship?

My friend’s mom used to tell her, “Close the gates behind you.”  Most often she was talking about more than the field gate—she was talking about all the gates of life. What gates do you need to close?

The closing of a door can bring blessed privacy and comfort—the opening terror. Conversely, the closing of a door can be a sad and final thing—the opening a wonderfully joyous moment. – Andy Rooney

Sometimes you only get one chance to rewrite the qualities of the character you played in a person’s life story. Always take it. Never let the world read the wrong version of you. – Unknown