What if My “Ex” Won’t Hold the Kids to the Same Rules?

When families go through a divorce and the kids end up splitting their time between parents (often called co-parenting), it changes the dynamics of the family, as well as the basic interactions between parent and child.  For parents of teens, this shift can be especially difficult as every member of the family tries to re-discover their role.

 Changing Roles of Co-Parents

 Co-parents often find themselves in different roles from those they had during the marriage.  Moms are especially affected by this because the dad is usually the disciplinarian in the family. When Dad leaves, Mom needs to develop a new set of skills.

 Dads are usually the disciplinarian and authoritarian in the household.  They are the ones who build boundaries and structures that give teens the guidelines they need to help moderate their own actions.  Moms usually do great with relationships.  However, when Mom begins to take on the role that Dad used to play, the relationships can be shoved aside in order to ensure the rules and boundaries are in place.  But, Mom—the relationship you have with your teen needs to remain intact!  Don’t abandon the role you played before the divorce, but instead, find a way to support your teen through balancing discipline, boundaries, and relationships.  This is especially important as you walk through this difficult time together.  Your teen will either look to you for support and help—or he’ll look elsewhere.  It’s up to you.

 Interacting with the Other Parent

 Just as your role is changing, your relationship with your ex has changed.  And it will continue to change.  Your ex will do things that you don’t like, and this is going to affect you and your kids.  But it’s up to you to determine how much your response will affect your kids.  No matter how you feel about your ex-spouse, you can’t change them.  People are going to do what they are going to do.  Thankfully, that includes you.  You can change how you respond to your ex, your teen, and your changing role as a parent.

 The boundaries that you set for your teen, and those that your ex sets, will help your child only if you keep your teen in mind first.  Think about your motivation behind setting a boundary—did you do it for your teen or did you do it as a way to get back at your ex?  And think about what you are saying about your ex—at least what you say in front of your teens.  Did you say that to knock the person down? Did you think about how this could affect your teen?  And if your teen pits your ex’s way of running his household against you, stick to your guns!  There’s a reason for the standards you set; remember that reason.  If you can still talk to your ex and clarify the boundaries you are each using, then take advantage of that.  Men—man up and stop using your kids against your ex-wife.  Women—stop using your kids against your ex-husband.  And kids—stop using your parents against each other.

 How Teens Respond

 When teens split their time between two parents, a lot of their reaction to mom and dad comes from the parents’ view of each other.  Stop badmouthing your ex in front of the kids.  What you say will form your child’s view of you, your ex, and your child himself.  But it’s not enough just to put up with the other parent—you need to give your child the structure and support that she needs.  That means setting your own standards and rules, making them clear to your teen, and consistently enforcing them.  It’s not enough just to have a conversation about rules.  Your actions and the way that you enforce the standards will affect how your teen responds to you in the future.

 When I talk to the kids at Heartlight who have experienced co-parenting, they talk about how they respond well to the structure that their parents have given then.  It’s like me; I don’t like stoplights, and I don’t like stop signs, but I’d hate to live without them.  In the moment, your teen may rebel against you, your ex, and the rules each of you have set.  But Mom—stick to it. Dad—stick to it.  Eventually, your child will come back to you. At that point, it will be the relationship that you have built with your teen that will cushion the blow and help them find their way back to you.

 Join us for Parenting Today’s Teens weekend radio broadcast as we explore this further and get the perspective of one teen who is experiencing co-parenting.  We’ll also talk to Tammy Daughtry, a co-parent who, in the search for resources to help her kids and family remain healthy, ended up founding Co-Parenting International and writing the book “Co-Parenting Works: Helping your children thrive after divorce.”  You can listen to Parenting Today’s Teens online, or find a radio station near you, at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org  or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

 

 

 

 

When It’s Time to Act

For parents, there is no worse feeling than watching your child spin out of control while nothing you do seems to make any difference.  If your teenager’s behavior is giving you feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and fear, I would like to offer you some suggestions.

 First, stop what you are doing and start a new way of thinking in regard to how you are handling the situation.  Albert Einstein defined insanity as “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  If your home is feeling a little insane these days, perhaps you need to change how it operates.

 Start in a new direction by first talking to others, like your friends, pastor, youth minister, your parents, your child’s teachers, and the rest of the family.  You need to gain wisdom and a sense of reality regarding the situation.  Are you blowing it out of proportion, or perhaps not even noticing how bad it has become?  Is your teenager just acting out at home, or are they behaving even worse when away from home?  People around you will know, and they can help you gain perspective.

 Accepting the reality of the problem is difficult for some parents.  They won’t acknowledge it because to them it would be accepting responsibility for failure.  Others tend to see just the good and believe no wrong in their children.  They are blinded to what everyone around them can already see; that is, until it becomes a full blown crisis or tragedy.  So when you come to a right “realization,” don’t hesitate to begin your search for a resolution by validating your suspicions with those around you.  They know what’s going on and will be glad that you finally see the light.

 WHAT IS AN “OUT OF CONTROL TEEN”? An out of control teenager is one who doesn’t appear to have the internal ability to function within established boundaries and rules of the home or society. Their behaviors, if allowed to continue, could have dangerous or grave consequences for them physically, for their future, or for your family.

 When Is It Time to Act?

 I’m sure you wish this situation wasn’t at your doorstep.  But it is, so you have to act on your child’s behalf.  And no matter how lonely it might be, or how difficult it might appear; no matter what your child’s response, you must act quickly.

 STEP ONE:  INVESTIGATE

 It is critical to ask questions to get to the root of what is causing your child’s change in behavior.  Is he depressed?  Is he being bullied, abused, or using drugs or alcohol?  Has a major loss happened in your family recently?  Most of the time, parents find out way too late about underlying causes of a child’s behavior.  Communication is key at this time.  If the lines of communication are down, then re-establish them—forcing communication if need be.  Require time from your child to discuss how they’re doing before you pay their next car insurance bill, give them gas money, or hand over the keys to the car.  Determine to establish the lines of communication and make sure you ask lots of questions.

 Find out how your child is acting outside of the home.  Talk to your child’s teachers and coaches, kids at church, your own parents, your siblings, their siblings, your friends, their friends, their youth minister and just about anyone who has had contact with your child.  See if they have any insights into why your child’s behavior has changed.  In fact, if your teen’s friends show up at your home, don’t be afraid to ask them what’s going on.  Some will be honest, as they might be just as concerned as well.  Just make sure you ask questions, and ask everyone to be honest with you.

 STEP TWO:  SET BOUNDARIES

 Establish and communicate clear boundaries for behavior by all members of your family (not just your wayward teen).  Determine what you hold to be true and the principles upon which you will base your rules for living.  Communicate and live by these boundaries, rather than “shooting from the hip” every time something comes up.  Make a policy and procedure manual for your home, so everyone knows what to expect.  Spend some time determining how you want to live and put some feet to it to ensure that all understand those boundaries.

 STEP THREE:  ESTABLISH AND ENFORCE CONSEQUENCES

 Once boundaries are in place, there must be reasonable consequences for inappropriate behavior, and they must be enforced, or your credibility goes right out the window.  And keep in mind that they must be enforced for all members of the family, not just your teen, so they don’t feel singled out.

 Parents today tend to be so relational that they find it hard to send a strong message to “not go this way” for fear of losing their relationship.  But what most parents don’t understand is that kids do want direction, correction and help in moving through the transition to adulthood.  Tom Landry once said, “A coach makes people do things they don’t want to do so they can get to a place where they do want to be.”  Parents must do the same for their children.

 STEP FOUR:  GET OUTSIDE HELP

 “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”  — Chinese Proverb

 Perhaps your child’s issues are deeper and they’ll need professional counseling or medication to get through it.  And maybe you’ll need counseling to get through it as well.  Find a good Christian counselor that specializes in teen behavior, and trust what they recommend.  If you’re going to pick and choose the counsel you receive, then you’ll more than likely just continue to do what you want, and your child will continue to spin out of control.  Don’t let old beliefs about medicine control your new decisions that have to be made for your child.  If your child is depressed or anxious, has ADD, or OCD, can’t sleep at night, is bi-polar, or has a true mental condition that demands medication, don’t let your outdated boundaries prevent your child from getting help from something that is essential to their well being.

 Hospitalization may even be needed if you feel that your child is a danger to himself or herself.  Extreme cutting, eating disorders, bizarre behavior, extreme depression, suicidal thoughts, or excessive drug or alcohol abuse are just a few of the symptoms that might warrant hospitalization.  Don’t hesitate to hospitalize your child just because you don’t know what it is.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 When Nothing is Working

 In the event that your teen is running away or otherwise hitting bottom, and counseling is going nowhere, you may need to place your teen in a therapeutic program outside of your home for a time.  This is not the time to spend mulling over where your parenting has gone wrong.  It’s time for action, when your child could damage his life and possibly make choices with grave consequences.  After you’ve had time to get good counsel (hopefully from quite a few people) and you’ve had some time to think it through, start to put an intervention plan into action.

 A therapeutic program or facility away from home will get them away from their peers, drugs and other influences.  It will give the whole family a time of rest and regrouping.  It will offer the teen a fresh perspective and a concentrated, focused way of dealing with their issues.  Yes, it’s a “last ditch” effort, to be initiated when all other options and attempts to help your child have been exhausted, but for some kids, it can be a lifesaver.  Over the past 20 years, some 3,000 kids have come to live with us a Heartlight (http://www.heartlightministries.org) for 9 to 12 months at a time.  We daily work with them in a relational way to change their thinking and ambitions to more positive pursuits.

 All therapeutic programs are not the same, and there is very little regulation or standards in therapeutic care for youth.  So do your homework.  Check out each program’s professional references.  Call the local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints.  Get a list and call the parents who have had their child in the program recently.  If the program won’t allow you to call parents, then that may be a sign to look elsewhere.  And make sure the list they supply is made up of real parents, not just people trained to convince you to enroll in that program.

 A therapeutic program isn’t an easy or inexpensive option for parents.  It can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  No doubt, it will be one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make.  But one statement I hear from kids and from their parents over and over is this:  “If I (they) didn’t come to Heartlight, I think I (they) would have been dead or in prison by now.”

 It’s a harsh reality to send a child off to be cared for elsewhere.  But that reality pales when you consider the possibilities or outcomes of your child’s current behavior and how such behavior could ruin his or her life.  What you are giving him or her is something that can’t be found in the current home setting.  You are loving them in a way that perhaps you haven’t loved them before.  It’s tough to think that they’ll have to miss some of their time in the local high school, and may never graduate there.  But it’s a good decision if it will save your child.

 Don’t ignore what is happening in your family.  Though you undoubtedly hope it will just go away, it won’t likely do so without a major change in the way your home operates, or placement of the teen in a therapeutic program away from home, especially if the behavior has already been going on for many months.  And if you think the problem will disappear when your child turns 18, think again.  It won’t disappear; it will likely get worse and linger well into adulthood if it is not dealt with earlier.  Just envision the chaos in your home from having your teenager still living with you at age 35, either because they continue to be addicted to drugs or they can’t find a job because they were arrested and have a record.  That’s a reality in more homes today than you might imagine.

 Consider this … if God’s timing is perfect, and I believe it is, these issues are happening at this time in your life for a reason.  So take advantage of it, and do what you need to do.  And know that this time of trouble will one day be over.  II Corinthian 4:17 states, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  I would put an emphasis on “momentary.”

 This struggle may last awhile, but it won’t last long – not if you take the necessary steps to correct it now.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

 

 

 

Parable for Dads

Have you ever considered the father figure in the Parable of the Prodigal to be the focus of that story, not the wayward son? After all, the word “father” is mentioned many more times than the word “son.”

A “prodigal” is defined as one who “spends extravagantly.” While the son spent his inheritance; it was the father who was the most extravagant, both with his money and with his love. It was the father who was the prodigal.

Whether or not Jesus’ parable was taken from a real life example, I imagine it wouldn’t be easy for any father to see his son live a sinful lifestyle and waste his inheritance. But there is no mention of the father bringing brute force or threats to bear to hold back his son or to bring him home, any more than God forces Himself on us.

Oh, how much would he have liked to pull (him) back with fatherly authority and hold (him) close to himself so that (he) would not get hurt. But his love is too great to do any of that. It cannot force, constrain, push, or pull. It offers the freedom to reject that love or to love in return. It is precisely the immensity of the divine love that is the source of the divine suffering. God, creator of heavens and earth, has chosen to be, first and foremost, a Father.” – Henri J.W. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

When the son came to his senses, the father again showed his prodigal nature by extravagantly welcoming him back into the family with fanfare and rejoicing. There was no demand for repayment, no warnings, no threats, and no expressions of disappointment … just love and grace. He threw a party and lavished all the same rights and privileges on the son as if he had never left the fold.

It’s the kind of prodigal grace and attention fathers need to lavish on their teens every day today. In our counseling of teens at Heartlight, the most often mentioned desire of teen girls is, “I want more time with my Dad.” They want time together, even if they don’t act like they do.

If you are a dad, take your teen to lunch, grab a snack after school, attend all games or school events, find things you can do together, and communicate with them online. Send daily text messages to say “Hi” or, “I love you.” Make sure your teen knows your desire to continue to be involved in his or her life even if there is a split in the family. Do it, or they’ll seek validation from someone else, and that can lead to bigger problems than you ever want to have with your teen.

The Missing Dad

I asked one young girl in our counseling program how she was doing. It was a simple question in passing, and I expected a simple “doing okay” answer. Instead, the young lady proceeded to tell me everything about herself, everything she ever did, everything she ever accomplished, everywhere she had ever traveled and every talent she had.

She reported how she could play the guitar, the cello, the violin, the piano, the harp, the drums, the trumpet, the bass guitar, the flute, the clarinet, and the tuba. She told me about all the things she likes to do, and all the things she doesn’t like to do. She talked about how she is a swimmer, a gymnast, a dancer, an equestrian, a pianist, and a volleyball queen.

She “shared” how she was homecoming queen and the “most likely to succeed” in her class. She told me what she wanted to be, and what she did not want to be. She told me all her hopes and dreams, and all her disappointments and failures in one breathless dissertation.

I quickly realized that this one-way “conversation” was a desperate cover-up of what was going on inside her. She wanted me to know she is worth something and she plead her case based on her accomplishments.

When she took a breath, I finally got a chance to wedge in a better question that might open a real dialogue. Her demeanor completely changed when I asked, “What’s been the most difficult thing that has happened in your life?” Her chattering stopped, her eyes welled up with tears, and she replied, “When my dad left, I felt all alone.”

Suddenly, there was silence. I stood looking at her for a few seconds and instead of trying to come up with the right words to say, I just gave her a hug. She wanted to talk, but I encouraged her, “Hey, hey, hey … you don’t need to say anything.” Finally, a real connection was made.

When dads are missing, problems will usually follow. Why? Because moms are the ones who instill a sense of value, and dads are the ones who validate it. All children need their father’s blessing. When dad’s stamp of approval is not there, the child will look for validation somewhere else.

This is especially true of teenage girls. They need their dad to meet that need for validation – something only he can really fulfill. And with 12- to 14-year-old girls, this need is greater than ever. But sadly, many dads get too busy or otherwise emotionally move away from their daughters at this time in their life.

Learn to Listen Extravagantly

Dads are usually weak at listening. They’re made that way. They aren’t easily distracted from their focus on whatever they are doing and they’re always doing something. It’s a great asset to have in the business world, but it’s a liability at home. Many times dads are concentrating on something else when their teen attempts to talk to them; or they are only thinking one way and anything different fails to get through their filter.

You don’t have to work so hard to listen to your children when they’re little, but when they enter the teen years, you have to work at it. If you are willing to just listen, you might touch the heart of your teen and convey a sense of value. Don’t try to fix their problems like when they were young – not unless they ask for your help. And don’t worry about what your answer is going to be; we can’t all come up with the scripted responses of TV dad’s like Ward Cleaver, Ben Cartwright, or Heathcliff Huxtable. Focus on your teen and offer your attention as a wordless message of support.

Have Fun Extravagantly

“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain.” Author Unknown

Years ago, I listened to a man on the radio that I’ve been a fan of all my life, Chuck Swindoll. He stated in so many words, “What I want written on my epitaph is that ‘Dad was fun!’” Does that surprise you? It did me. I thought what every good Christian parent was supposed to want written on their epitaph was something to the affect of how godly or spiritual a person they were, or some thought about how they provided for the family. And here was one of the godliest men that I ever listened to sharing how he wanted to be known forever as a “Dad of fun.”

I agree with that philosophy, balanced with everything else that it means to be a good father. You may be pretty good at maintaining parental authority and discipline in the home, but are you making a connection with your teen in a way that is fun – fun for them? Sometimes it’s okay just to sit and watch a movie together. You could go fishing somewhere or take blankets and go out and see the stars in the middle of the night. You may see a meteor shower. These connections are manufactured times and they just don’t happen automatically. Come up with a list of ideas that you’ve got to make happen for that special time with your child — even when they don’t want to do it. Build up to it, “Tomorrow, we’re going to do this,” and then make sure you do it, without fail.

Right the Wrong

Dads can be great at checking out or avoiding issues. They can boil, stew, hold a grudge, and allow unresolved issues to destroy their relationship with their child; or, avoid conflict by compromising their standards. Then there are those who cover up problems by overindulging their kids … deflecting the problem temporarily and causing even more problems in the future.

But dads can also be pretty good at correcting their own errors if they put their attention to it. If you’ve not been the dad you know you should have been, will you take responsibility for steering your home in the right direction, fostering positive emotions and mutual respect? Start by identifying where you have been wrong, and seek forgiveness from those you have offended.

I recently witnessed an entire family break down and sob when the father asked each member to forgive him for his failures. He repeated his request with intensity and emotion. It was a humble, sincere apology, and a good step toward healing the resentment of his children. Every heart in the room melted and it was a new beginning for that family.

Dad, let me urge you to not despair and certainly not to quit. Instead, choose to have an honest conversation with God about your struggle, just as your teen should be able to have with you. Ask Him your questions, and tell Him how you feel. He, too, is a Father. Ask Him what you are supposed to learn and what you should do to make things better. Be okay with life not always making sense. Celebrate being needful of God’s care. Our Heavenly Father shines best when our life is a mess, and I hope you’ll be your best when your teen needs you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

Teaching Purity in a Seductive Culture

Have you looked around lately?  Our kids live in a dangerous generation.  They are constantly bombarded by seductive imagery.  Innocence is threatened at a young age.  And our culture isn’t doing anything to stem the tide.  In fact, it’s pulling our teens away from purity and pushing them toward promiscuity.

Over the many years at Heartlight, we have worked with hundreds of girls who struggle to maintain their integrity and personal purity.  Along the way, I’ve learned a couple things worthy of passing along to you.

When everyone around a teen assumes they’re going to be sexually active, or makes fun of them if they aren’t, it creates the perfect storm for failure.  In any case, our teens are set up for a private battle of choices.  Many of the kids I talk to are confused about their own convictions on the issue.  Over and over again they say how they wish they were still a virgin, but then admit that if they were still a virgin, they would be moving in a direction to try not to be.

Sexual Normalization

Sexuality is something that teens talk about all the time.  Their banter is almost shocking.  These conversations usually exemplify a teen’s craving for attention.  Even though our kids are communicating like crazy over the Internet, texting, and through social media sites, they aren’t connecting.  So they often resort to other ways to get noticed, such as their appearance and performance.  They think they can get the connection they long for through their sexuality.  And it makes sense that they think this way – television, music, and advertising all give kids the strong message that experimenting with sex is perfectly normal.  It’s no longer just an invitation to sexually express themselves, but an out-right expectation.  In fact, the media makes fun of virginity.  But when it turns out that reality shows aren’t reality, teens become disappointed and confused.

Continuing the Conversation

Parents have a natural opportunity to connect at this point.  When teens discover that a lifestyle of “appearance & performance” don’t deliver the results they want, they’ll start asking:  now what?  This is where having a strong relationship and ongoing conversation with your kids is helpful and many parent struggle with how to get to this place with their kids.  Teens are young men and young women, not just young kids anymore, and we can’t control what they’re thinking, yet we need to have input along the way.  This is a perfect opportunity to sit down with your teen and openly talk about what’s acceptable and what’s not.  So, if you have been building your relationship with your teen along the way, your child may be more receptive to what you’re hoping to accomplish.

Even with good relationship-building, kids don’t always listen or follow our standard.  Parents, if you see your teen acting slightly outside of the standard, it’s okay to choose your battle and say:  I don’t like it, but I’ll let it go.  But it’s important to clarify the standards for modesty and your expectations.

Expectations aren’t a list of rules.  They’re taught in conversations, and caught with an example of your lifestyle.  The parent’s role is to help prepare the child – and instead of showing our kids how to live in a zoo, we have to be teaching them how to survive in a jungle.  Sometimes a child tells a parent:  I don’t believe in the things you do, I don’t behave the way you do, it’s my body, I’ll do what I want.  This becomes a different conversation.  Instead of talking about the expectations of the household, you might have a practical conversation about the Scriptures and show how a lack of modesty can hurt relationships.  Deviating from God’s plan always ends with pain and failure.  We need our kids to know that God doesn’t merely say Don’t!  God says, Don’t get hurt!  The Scriptures are a great place to start because they show our teens their value.

Refining the Message

Kids don’t think of long term consequences, so it’s helpful for you to point out the lifetime ramifications of promiscuity.  Give them practical advice and direction, such as asking the question:  What would your future husband want in you?  What would your future wife want in you?  As your teen begins to define this for him or herself, stay engaged with them.  Model the life you want for them and help them sort through their confusion.  In the context of relationship, teens will see this instruction, not as judgment but as love and connection; just what they’re looking for.

You can hear us talk on this subject by listening to our radio program.  It’s called, Parenting Today’s Teens.  Next time, we talk with Family Coach Tim Smith.  Tim will share his perspective on how important it is to approach this issue with your teen in the context of relationship.

You can hear Parenting Today’s Teens online, as a podcast, or find a radio station near you.  All the information is found at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas.  Call 903-668-2173.  Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com

 

 

In Sickness and in Health

When a bride and groom stand together at the alter and proclaim their vows to one another, I am not sure that they totally understand what they mean for the long term.  Recently my husband of 19 years was diagnosed with Lymphoma and as scary as that is, one of the things that I was not prepared for was my own reaction to all of it.

I have been walking with the lord for a very long time and over the years he has been training me up to take my thoughts captive, so that I would not dwell on evil, but instead choose to fill my mind with the goodness of God so that I can think on things that will bring life to me instead.

With the news of the disease, I found myself thinking, that this was a result of him not walking close enough to the lord, and maybe this was God’s way of teaching him to become more dependent on him, I found myself entertaining the thought of finally my prayers have been answered. (I write this paragraph with his permission by the way)

I entertained these thoughts for a while and even had a friend voice what I was thinking, then a week or so later, I finally voiced what I had been thinking all along; that this was a result of him not walking as closely to God as he should have. (Yes I know, you are waiting for the, oh Brenda, God is not going to let you get away with that kind of thinking!)

You would be right, because even as I was thinking it and then eventually voicing my opinion the lord was working on my heart, bringing conviction that I was not in the right, or being fair to my husband. I would love to tell you that I immediately went to the lord and repented for my thoughts, and spoken word, but I would be lying, needless to say, it took a little while to realize that this train of thought was not only a lie, but destructive to our relationship and destructive to my relationship with God if I harbor sin in my life.

I realized the error of my ways a couple of days ago and asked the lord to forgive me, I also asked my husband for forgiveness as well. He forgave me and told me that he understood as my emotions were all over the place. It still did not make it right though.

I now needed to find out what the bible taught about this kind of thought process and what God had said to the people about it. The lord reminded me of the story of a man who was born blind, and when Jesus healed the man the people wanted to know who was at fault, was it the parents who had sinned or the man? The people knew that sin was a root cause of disease; therefore it was easy to point a finger. Just like I did!

John 9:1-7

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.   As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.   “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

There are many other instances throughout the gospels of Jesus healing the sick and for various reasons they were sick, but in each case when Jesus saw them he had compassion on them and with great love and mercy healed them. He did not stand on the side lines saying, “well now let see, you have done this and that and you did not do this, so that is why you are sick” No, he had mercy on them and healed them knowing that their hearts were sinful and that they would eventually turn on him and having him crucified.

That my friend is merciful and great compassion, by showing kindness to someone, knowing that someday they would reject you and have you hung on a cross.

Then the lord brought my mind back to that verse that I learnt as a child, do not judge! You do not know the whole story and what I am doing; you cannot make judgment on someone else’s life. Ouch!

In the book of Luke Jesus taught the people to be merciful to one another as God is merciful to us, he taught that we are to show love, compassion and grace to one another. We want the grace ourselves but find it hard to give it to another person. 

Luke 6:36-42

 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.   “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?  A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.  “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, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The bible is pretty clear about how I am to treat a fellow brother and sister in Christ, and my husband is my brother in Christ, so for me to stand in judgment against him, for what I perceive to be his sin is wrong.

I praise the Lord though that he showed me this, and of course it came about in a roundabout way that my heart was exposed to the light, but I am very grateful that it was. Like I have said in the previous articles, I do not want to walk in sin through this trial in my life; instead, I would like to walk in integrity and honesty becoming more and more like Christ, as he transforms me into his likeness.

Please understand, I did not write this article out of pride, but I believe that God has literally hounded me all week since I discovered the error of my ways to write it out for you. I believe that he has lessons to teach us all as we walk this path together.

Therefore, the moral of the story is, we cannot judge another man or woman, for the state that they are in, because we honestly do not know what God is trying to do or accomplish on their behalf. Another lesson of course is that we need to be merciful to others instead of being ready to throw stones at them for their “sin” and we need to check our heart and see what is lying around there, are we any different to them, do we need to repent for our pride and arrogance as well, especially when assuming something about them.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, even though this was a Sunday school lesson that I learnt a long time ago, it is valid today and if you find yourself in a position of judgment, against another brother or sister in Christ because of their behavior I urge you to heed the warning and repent. Asking the lord to forgive you is essential to keeping that relationship with him open and real.

If you have opened your mouth and actually uttered your thoughts, maybe you will need to go to that person and ask them to forgive you for judging them. It is a hard thing to do, but humbling yourself before the person, as well as before the lord is the right thing to do.

Remember the lord says that he draws near to the humble but opposes the prideful. If you are anything like me, I am sure that you do not want the lord literally fighting against you because of your prideful attitude. Repent today and let the Lord restore you to him once again.

My prayer for you today is that the lord will continue to bless you, to surround you with his favor like a shield and to draw your heart into a deeper walk with him.

Blessings

 To view the previous article in this series, click here:

 

Dear brothers and Sisters in CHrist

I came across this video this evening, and loved it, so I thought that I would share it with you. I know that as you watch it, you too will be encouraged to Hate Religion and love Jesus.

Even Sodom!

It is not God who hinders the healing of our land. Rather it is our apathy, our own unbelief, that keeps us from grasping the potential offered in the Gospel of Christ! Do not marvel when I say entire cities can be saved. The Scripture tells us that nations will come to our light and kings to the brightness of our rising! (Isaiah 60:1-3)

All We Lack is Christlikeness!

“He then began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent” (Matt. 11:20). Jesus has a word to say, not only to us as individuals, but to entire cities as well. In anger He rebuked Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matt. 11:21); with tears, He cried out to Jerusalem (Luke 13:34). If He expected cities to repent in the first century, He expects cities today to repent as well.

It was in this very context of reproving cities, however, that Jesus made a statement which unveiled the scope of God’s redemptive power. Listen to His rebuke, but also to its hidden promise. He said, “For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matt. 11:21).

Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities known for their debauchery and sin. Yet, Jesus said that His life, revealed in power, can bring even the vilest of cities, places which ought to be destroyed, to “sackcloth and ashes.” The strategy, therefore, to win our cities is for the church to reveal Christ’s life in power. Yes, the revelation of Christ in us as individuals, and the power of Christ displayed corporately through us, can turn our worst cities back toward God!

Today, many cities are ripe for revival. What hinders the turning of the people’s hearts? Part of the answer lies with the church, with our sins of self-righteousness, indifference and unbelief. The Lord said if His people would humble themselves and pray, seek His face and turn from evil, He would then heal their land (see 2 Chron. 7:14). The future does not belong to the world; it belongs to the transformed church. Indeed, let us never forget: God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4). With this in mind, Paul taught that entreaties and prayers should be made on behalf of all men, “for kings and all who are in authority” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). The sacrifice of Christ provides for the salvation of all men. Heaven waits only for the church to act.

One may say, “But, that was then. Our cities are worse. They are beyond redemption.” Not so. Jesus continued His rebuke of cities, saying, “If the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” (Matt. 11:23). Amazingly, when Christ is manifested in power, Jesus said even Sodom could find repentance!

I have heard many ministers compare Los Angeles or New York to Sodom. Good. These cities have seen hell, now let the church show them heaven. They need to see Jesus revealed in His church. The promise of Christ is that even Sodom could repent in the atmosphere and revelation of Christ’s power. If there is hope for Sodom, there is hope for your city as well!

The Obstruction to Revival: Complacency

When we picture cities, we tend to see skylines and factories, streets and schools. Jesus, however, sees people. He beholds husbands arguing with wives while their children tremble in fear. He sees drugs being sold on playgrounds and teenagers having abortions. He suffers at the bedside of the infirm. The heart of Christ grieves with the loneliness of the elderly and identifies with the struggles of the handicapped.

Yes, the eyes of the Lord probe the spirit and humanity of the city. From His eternal perspective, He also beholds the most terrible event known to man. He sees the overwhelming horror, the utter despair an unsaved person experiences as he realizes he is, indeed, dead and going to hell. And, in the midst of it all, He sees the church—His church, purchased at the cost of His own precious blood—sitting comfortably and amused, remote control in hand, watching television.

Jesus does not have a problem with the hot or cold dimensions of life. It is the lukewarm that He will spew from His mouth (Rev. 3:15-16). What stopped the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum—communities that already had the blessing of Christ’s healing—from embracing ongoing renewal? They assumed Christ’s love was given only to enrich them. All they saw were the rewards of Christ without understanding His requirements.

The church today is frighteningly similar in attitude to these ancient cities. The majority of the first century saints gave their lives to Christ with the full knowledge they would face persecution, suffering and, possibly, death for their faith. Such was the character and vision of the church in the first century.

The main emphasis of much of our Christianity, however, is to help believers become “normal.” So much of our contemporary teaching keeps alive the very nature Jesus calls us to crucify! We need to reevaluate our preaching. Are we preaching the cross and the call to follow Jesus? What are we training our people to become?

Please hear me, the Father’s goal is not merely to bless us, but to transform us into the image of His Son! He desires to use us to turn our cities back to Him. But God has made no provision for the healing of our land apart from us becoming Christ like! Once we realize this vital truth, we shall return to the source of New Testament Christianity, and our cities will have hope for redemption. When the church demonstrates the love and power of Christ, repentance and revival can occur even in a place like Sodom.

Lord, forgive us for our unbelief and apathy. You have promised that even Sodom would come to You at the revelation of Your character and power. Transform us, Lord Jesus, for the sake of your glory and the renewal of our cities.

A service of Frangipane Ministries, Inc.

Copyright (c) 2011

All rights reserved.

http://www.frangipane.org/

 

To view article number 2 in this series click here

Justifying ourselves in the midst of adversity

Have you ever found yourself in a really hard place, physically, emotionally and even spiritually and thought to yourself, “well I am drowning anyway, so what would be the harm to do …. Or say ….. or feel ….. ?”

That is what I was hit with yesterday when I went to church; my husband and I are currently walking through the unknown  territory of Cancer at the moment, as he has recently been diagnosed and to be honest it is the hardest road that we have ever had to travel  as a couple before.

Our life together could be over before we know it, and it is a scary thought.

In the midst of this great trial in our lives I believe that God has been sharing with us some fundamental truths in order to navigate through this rough time and on Sunday when I went to church this was another one of those truths that he wanted to get through to me.

The pastor was teaching from the book of James, the first chapter, Read it below and then we will get into what I believe the pastor and God was teaching me.

James 1:1 – 16

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. 

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.  But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. 

 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.   Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 

Lessons from this Passage:

  • As a Christian I must consider it pure joy when I do under go trials and tests as it strengthens my faith in Christ Jesus and it develops perseverance.(You might be thinking to yourself as you read that statement, Yeah Right! But I have found that in the midst of this great trial, I have not only experienced a peace that I cannot explain, but great joy as well, as I know that God is the one who is fighting for us, he is the one that is leading the way and He knew that this would happen one day, and in his great love for my husband and I, has been preparing us spiritually for a long time, to be able to walk through it. Therefore I can confidently feel joy as I walk through this trial.)
  • If we undergo trials it is to produce in us a maturity that only comes from having walked through something that was really hard. (Christ’s ultimate goal is to make us Christ like. He wants us to reflect him, lean on him, learn to go to him when things are both good and bad. He wants us to develop good character, so that the world around us will see that he lives within us. The unbelievers are watching the believers, and they will recognize when we handle situations differently than they do.)
  • If I lack wisdom while going through this trial I can ask God for it and he will give it to me liberally.
  • When I ask for the wisdom for my situation, I must not doubt that God will give it to me, sometimes God’s wisdom for a situation may look completely different to the wisdom that we would have thought was needed for that situation, but we need to trust that he who can see the future and what is best for us, knows exactly what we need.
  • When I have persevered through the trial I will have received the crown of life as my great reward that is eternal life. This is a great incentive to get through the trials of life in a way that is pleasing to God, as we know that he has an internal inheritance waiting for us.
  • When we are tempted to sin in the midst of the trial that we face, we should not think that it is God who is tempting us to sin; he can never do that, nor would he.
  • If we find ourselves in sin during this time, it is because we have allowed our sinful and evil desires to lead us down that path. We need to remember that sin when given a foothold in our lives gives birth to death, plain and simple; it leads us to the path of destruction.

 The pastor spoke on all of the facets of facing trials in our lives, that we should expect it, because we live in a fallen world. That it produces maturity in us as believers and that we can ask for wisdom in the midst of it all so that we will be able to understand God’s perfect will for us in the midst of the difficult situation.

Then he reminded us that we cannot allow ourselves to justify any kind of sin, when we are in the midst of a trial.

 This truth hit me like a ton of bricks.

I realized that it is so easy for us, to justify sin, when we are in a hard place. For instance, if I was poor, I could justify stealing something because my situation was rough, poor and hard.

 I felt the need to prepare my heart, so that I would guard against this happening to me as I walk with my husband on this road.

 For instance, one way that I can easily fall into sin, is feeling sorry for myself, or allowing the situation to become too overwhelming, or even getting mad at God and blaming him for my misfortune.

 The truth of the matter is that God said that there will be trials, and that he will never leave me, nor forsake me. That he will provide for me and his grace and love will be sufficient for me, regardless of how rough the road is.

 Now for me to go off into a self-pity party would be sin. I know that there will be times where I will be tempted to go into the woe is me party, but I want to walk with integrity and honor through this trial, so that when I have stood the test, I will gain the crown of life that God has promised for all those whom he loves.

 I am sure that as we walk along this particular path, there will be many temptations along the way to fall into sin, but to guard against falling into the trap of those temptations, I will need to keep in prayer,  reading my bible, allowing God to fight for me and trusting him that even though those temptations come if I surrender my heart to him completely he will help me through.

 I want to encourage you that if you find yourself in a tough spot at the moment, know that God knows where you are at, he knows the difficulties that you are facing and know that you are loved by him.

 Proverbs 10:9

The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

 I want to be like the man in proverbs that walks securely because he has integrity, he can have confidence because none of his ways are devious and so can stand with confidence before the lord even in the midst of a great trial.

 My prayer for you is that when you face a trial in your life that you will look to the lord to be your refuge and strong hold. I pray that he will strengthen you and enable you to recognize any traps that would lead to you be tempted to sin against him. I pray that he will grow your faith in him and that you will walk out of the trial, stronger in faith than ever.

To view the next article in this series, click here

 

To view the first in this series, click here

Oil and the Oil Press

By Asher Intrater

The name Gethsemane in Hebrew is “Gat Shmanim,” meaning “Oil Press.” It is the place where olives are brought and crushed; the skin and pit are strained and separated. The result is pure olive oil. Oil is a consistent biblical symbol for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. There is little doubt that Yeshua chose this place with this name on purpose.

 We all want the oil; we want the anointing; the power of the Holy Spirit. The anointing oil brings protection, provision, and prosperity (Psalm 23:5), wisdom and authority to rule (I Samuel 16:13), joy (Psalm 45:7, Hebrews 1:9), healing and deliverance (Mark 6:13, James 5:14), light and revelation (Exodus 25:6, I John 2:27, Revelation 3:18); ability to preach and prophecy (Isaiah 61:1), intimacy in worship (Song of Solomon 1:3, Matthew 25:3, Mark 14:3), and much more.

 There is a dynamic relationship between the oil and the press. They are opposites that balance out one another. At Gat Shmanim Yeshua embraced the cross. He forced His will to submit (Matthew 26:39). It is a place of darkness, depression, and difficulty (Matthew 26:37). It is a place of self denial (Matthew 16:24); a place to be crushed; to obey unto death; to be tested; to pass through humiliation and suffering; to intercede to the point of blood, sweat, and tears.

 The oil certainly seems more attractive than the oil press. Yet there is no oil without the press. The oil is produced at the oil press. There is no other way to produce true oil. On the other hand, the purpose of the press is to obtain the oil. To suffer in obedience without obtaining that oil is not according the heart of God. The press is for the oil. The oil comes from the press.

 

A service of Frangipane
Ministries, Inc.
Copyright (c) 2012
All rights reserved.
Unless
otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations were taken from the
NASB.

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Web Bug from http://go.netatlantic.com/db/25394004/72639762/1.gifDear Brothers and sisters in Christ

Some of you may know from my previous article that my precious husband of 19 years has recently been diagnosed with Cancer, to say that we were scared and bewildered would be an understatement but due to the fact the God has lovingly poured out His great love for us, through his children and his comforting words in the Holy Bible, and given us his peace and joy inspite of the storm, we are doing OK.

For many years, and more recently in the past few months I have been asking the lord to go into a deeper walk with him, I wanted to know him, I wanted to be filled with more of his annointing to fullfill what I believe that he has called me to do.

I realise that on my own strength, I cannot do anything, but with him working through me, I can accomplish so much more. I have read of others, going deeper with God and with great longing asked for the same. Often though we are unprepared for what going deeper with God can mean to us.

In my walk with the lord over the years I have gone through many trials, gone over hills and valleys and with each difficulty God has been there, leading, guiding and strengthening me each step of the way. Through each of these difficult times, I realise that I have been in his oil press, to refine me so that I may look more like him in my character and my life.

As I read the above article this morning, I realised that once again I am in the oil press, the pressure is hard, and it is squeezing the life out of me, but I know that through the process, as the droplets of oil start to flow, I will become more and more surrendered to my saviour, and I will become more and more like him.

Even though the road that I now trod is not one that I would have chosen, I praise the lord nevertheless, as I realise that I am in his loving care, and that my precious husband is too and together we will produce more annointed oil, through this process.

I praise the lord that he promises that he will work together for the good all things for those who love him. So, even though this is a tough road to walk on, I know that God promises that he will never leave us, that he will always bring good out of what we see as bad, and that the fruit that this journey will produce will be invaluable not only to us, but also for the future plans of what God has instore for us.

Oh How I praise him for the oil presses of life.

 

 To view the next article in this series, click here

 

Has Your Child “Boomeranged”?

Most of us think adolescence ends at the age 18, but the American Medical Association has defined adolescence as going all the way to age 23.  What used to be a period of seven years is now fourteen years!  And for many parents reading this article, this means that your kids may come back home to live with you after college.

 We set our kids in motion to live as independent adults, and like a boomerang they just come right back to where they started.  Sometimes it happens for good reasons because of issues outside their control.  But when a child wants to disengage from a normal growth opportunity and fails to establish their own independence, it’s a sign that emotional problems are in play.

 It’s been great for Jan and me to be empty nesters.  We love it.  Oh, sure, I like it when the grandkids pop in with their parents, but it’s good when they leave, too.  Gratefully both our son and daughter have established independent lives of their own.

 But maybe you’re in a different place.  Maybe you’re dealing with the boomerang effect.  So let me offer some helpful perspective and a couple suggestions.

 Welcome Home?

 Some kids come home after college until they get a job.  That’s one thing.  And in this economy, finding a job takes much longer than ever before.  So it’s understandable when they need a place to stay while aggressively pursue the next phase in their life.  But when kids get too comfortable in your home and can’t launch from that spot, they’re in trouble.  They can’t get to the next place, and they show their inability to function at a higher level.

 Mom and dad, when you take these kids back in, you aren’t doing them a favor.  Parents want to be helpful, but they’re just postponing the inevitable.  I’m talking about when a child wants to avoid growth.  Moving back home becomes a way to avoid the challenge of becoming independent.  A child can try to live like they’re in high school, or have everything provided, or take an “extended vacation.”  We all have a plan for our lives.  When your child comes back home, it’s kind of outside of the plan.

 When Coming Home is Healthy

 Sometimes, it is healthy for kids to come home.  But just because the reason they come is appropriate doesn’t mean that your transition will be easy.  To help, you need to line out your expectations for your son or daughter and set up some new rules.

 To help you get along with your adult children, spend necessary time with them.  But not out of obligation.  Your child doesn’t want to spend time with you if they think it’s a burden.  Love your child in a way they can receive it.  Sit down and talk.  Be a servant to them.  I want to be a servant to anyone who walks in my door.  But being a servant doesn’t mean being a doormat.

 You need to build an understanding of how you’re going to live together.  Your child is the new person to the house, even if they’ve lived there before.  So he should fit into your household’s current agenda.  Parents, you need to openly say to your children, “You’re welcome here, but you’ve gotta follow the current game plan.”  Talk to your child before he comes home.  Determine whether they will pay rent or not, whether or not they will be required to work.  There are a lot of times in my life that I haven’t liked what I was doing for work, but I did it because I knew it would strengthen my work habits and would help me financially.

 If your child is not following the plan you talked about, and it’s becoming disruptive to the house, you may need to kick your child out.  Sounds harsh, but if you don’t take action, if you allow your child to keep the same attitude, they will find it easy to stay like a child longer.  Not to mention that they may influence the habits and attitudes of your other children.

 Adults are adults.  You need to treat them that way.  And if your child isn’t acting like an adult, you may need to push them out.  Every adult’s goal is to live an independent life.  This means moving on to another place.  You need to respect this goal in your child’s life.  If your child doesn’t see the need for this movement, and you don’t act, you are enabling your child’s foolishness.

 Parents:  Plan, Act, and Let Go!

 If the presence of your boomerang child has become a negative situation, and they’re still enjoying the benefits of living under your roof, then you are probably kidding yourself about their maturity.  You could be justifying their childish behavior.  You’re allowing it to happen.  Kids are hampered by their parents’ inability to act.  I have seen some of these kids at Heartlight, and I think, “You can’t be serious!”  By letting your kids stay at home, you are allowing them to rely on you when the Scripture says we are to train up a child in the way he should go.  Hear that?  Go.  If they stay because of excuses, these kids won’t grow up to be good husbands, good wives, good fathers, or good mothers.  They’ll repeat the cycle with their own kids.

 If you are the problem, you need to let go!  Parents, remember that your child is more important than you.  If you aren’t releasing your child to move onto the next step, it’s your issue not theirs.  When you finally let go, let me tell you this;  you’re going to love it!  Where they are going is more exciting than where they have been.  You need to trust God to take care of your kids.

 The moment when the prodigal son came back to his senses was right after everybody quit giving him everything.  You need to consider what this means for your family.  Come up with a plan of transitioning your child into the real world.  Move them to a point where they are either in school, working, or waiting for a move to the next step in life.

 You can hear us talk on this subject by listening to our radio program.  It’s called, Parenting Today’s Teens.  Next time, we talk with Family Coach Tim Smith.  Tim, whose philosophy of parenting is “don’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves,” will share his personal experience and perspective on having children return home.

 You can hear Parenting Today’s Teens online, as a podcast, or find a radio station near you.  All the information is found at www.ParentingTodaysTeens.org

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173.  Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org , or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com.