The Bells Rang and the Fat Lady Sang

I was out for a long walk with Walter (my 110# Rottie/Shepherd) the other day and as I ascended up the hills in Palos Verdes I heard below me the bells of a distant church carillon ringing. What a sweet sound in such a perfect setting, looking out over the azure blue of the Pacific touched by a cloudless sapphire sky, it was a beautiful picture of God’s creation. 

Rancho Palos Verdes.jpg

But then I realized what the church bells were playing, “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie”. Yes, you know the song about how the sun will come out even … “when I’m stuck with a day that gray and lonely …”

So that phrase, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings" came to mind because when I heard that carillon I also  heard the fat lady sing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Broadway Musicals and this song, in particular, is a pretty catchy tune. But what does this song have to do with the sacred purpose of the Church? There are a thousand hymns that would more exquisitely convey the message of Christ through music than that! And then I thought, who in that church would think that song is an appropriate representation of their church? How did they wander so far from the message of the gospel?

I was in a Bible study with some estranged Episcopalians where we had a disagreement as to why their church had strayed so far from the Lord. They said it was because there was an over-emphasis upon the love of God. That is because they saw all sorts of heresy justified by saying they were demonstrating, “the inclusive love of God.” But I said, it went back further than that. We cannot love as God loves if we don’t know God. And we will never know God until we are united with God, and we will only be united with God when we are redeemed by God. In other words, we need transformation in order to act in a way that is consistent with God’s heart and according to his will.

Long before good theology is abandoned there an abandonment of God in our hearts.

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught
— Isaiah 29:13 NIV

This lack of personal connection with God is at the core of all our waywardness.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
— John 15:5 NIV

It is a common misconception that when Christians wonder from the faith it is due to some false belief or sinful action, but in reality, it always comes back to the same core issue. We separate ourselves from the life-giving vine and cease to bear the Spirit’s fruit. It is a matter of the heart, not the head because Christ also said that he would give us the Spirit and, “he would guide us into all truth.”

So where did this church below me go so wrong that they would be playing humanistic platitudes from their spire? I need look no farther than my own heart for that answer. Every time I find myself far from the truth it is because I have in some way forsaken my first love for something else that I thought would bring me more pleasure or preserve my sense of self.

The fat lady sings when we wonder from union with God and can no longer determine his truth. This is a terrible state that has infected our church like cancer.

Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the one I love
— Robert Robinson 

The solution? Pure and simple repentance. We need to fall on our face before our Lord every day and confess our propensity to find our life someplace other than God.

Lord, I confess that I am prone to look for life apart from you. I don’t want to admit that I am in desperate need of you, not only for my salvation but for every area of my life. Life in you defines me and being independent of you is a denial of who you are. I come to you now to be renewed and restored in every area that I have wandered from your presence. I willing die to self so that I can be raised up to be what I was created to be; to bring you glory in all that I do, say and think. I ask for your abiding Spirit to be fully at home in my life and to guide me into all truth.  Amen

What Can We Do When Sin Crouches?

... sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you ...
— Genesis 4:7 NIV
  • Another Ponzi scheme is discovered operating in the Church.
  • Another spiritual leader is disgraced by an adulterous affair.
  • Another devastating church split.

What do all these have in common? Evil has found its way into the lives of believers. These sins make the headlines but there are many smaller, less conspicuous ways evil infiltrates that are less visible but just as damaging to our souls.

We fall internally little by little until finally, our external façade crumbles to reveal the decay of our spiritual lives

How did this happen? How did we come to a point where we find ourselves in a deep pit with seemingly no way to escape?

… but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
— James 1:14 NIV

The key concept here is that our greatest temptation is internal to us not external. We cannot point our finger at a circumstance or at someone else and say, “they did it!” Not even Adam and Eve could use Satan as an excuse because they were tempted by their own desires – Satan merely exploited their desire.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
— Genesis 3:6 NIV

So what is the key to defeating our sin?

First of all, no one totally defeats sin this side of heaven. We live with an old nature that is always going to work against godliness. But we can minimize our susceptibility to temptation. This is how.

Since we fall into sin when we are tempted by our own evil desires then we need to desire God more than anything else on earth.

This is the one desire that the evil one cannot exploit because it will always lead us into righteousness.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind
— Luke 10:27 NIV

If our entire being is focused on loving God then so also will be our desires. We desire whatever is the object of our love. So in all things, if our utmost goal is to love God then all other areas of our life will reflect this love.

  • Relationships will take on a new purity.
  • Possessions will not become our god but will only be used to bring more glory to our Lord.
  • Our attitude toward our bodies will take on new priorities since we will no longer seek to find our identity in our appearance but in the fact that we are loved by our Creator.

To make this a reality in our lives requires some deep Holy Spirit inspired soul searching. You will find layers of desires in you that are draining your spiritual vitality. Here are some examples:

  • Are you seeking the approval of others more than the approval of God?
  • Are you hungering for comfort and security more than finding your security in the Lord?
  • Are you finding your identity in your job, relationships, or possessions rather than in who God says you are?

When evil walks through the door it will never be dressed as something disgusting – no it will be garbed in all the things we desire and tell us to follow because it has what we are seeking. So we will follow and it leads us right to spiritual destruction. But if our heart is set on seeking God, and our deepest desire is to bring him glory then evil will be exposed and our lives will be saved from falling victim to the schemes of the Devil. 

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen
— Jude 24, 25 NIV

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A Morning Prayer


Every morning (okay mostly every morning) I write a prayer for the purpose of starting my day with a spiritual tuning. I don't know why but somehow in the night my spirit often gets out of tune and anxiety, fear, doubt and selfish desires creep into my soul. So every morning I start out with praise. I have found that it is the only thing that will align my spirit with God's Spirit and get me focused on doing his work. 

Today I will share one with you ...

I praise you this morning, O my Father, because of who you are, not because of what you have done. Yes, you have done great things for me and are faithful to always keep your promises. You have provided me with all that I need and blessed me abundantly beyond all that I can ask or even imagine. But my heart is fickle, and often it does not see your blessings. It wants what it wants and when it doesn’t get these things it pouts like a spoiled child. So I will lift up my praise for who you are because that is never in dispute. You are gracious and kind, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. You are eternal, from everlasting to everlasting yet you have made yourself known to the weakest and dullest of us. You love me with a sacrificial love that goes beyond reason or understanding. All this and infinitely more is who you are and because of this, I have found my true self. When you speak of me in your Word that is who I truly am – not this constantly wavering, emotionally vacillating person who on one day is exalting your name and on another is doubting your faithfulness. So I praise you for who you are, independent of how I feel (good or bad) and without any conditions upon how I perceive you are working in this world. O Lord I exalt you and you alone, far above all thoughts or feelings, sights or sounds, trials or blessings, hopes or fears. You are my God, my Lord, my Savior, my Creator, my Hope, and Stronghold. In you I am blessed beyond my understanding, in you, I am made whole. So I praise you. You alone are worthy of all praise and adoration, honor and glory. Today I praise you for who you are. SDG

May God grant you the heart of a true worshiper and may you bring him much glory and honor today!




Could there be a more difficult question for those who believe in an all-powerful yet loving God? Why do babies die, the innocent suffer and injustice reigns unchecked? And while we're at it, what is up with all the natural disasters? As if we don't create enough problems on our own, why all the floods, fires, earthquakes and volcanoes erupting? It seems like the earth is trying to squish us like a blood-sucking mosquito. Where is the loving Creator God in all this – how can this be his plan?

Troubling questions indeed for those of us who call God our loving Heavenly Father and the Supreme Ruler of the universe. No wonder many atheists and agnostics scorn Christianity. They reason that even if there were a God who would want to acknowledge let alone worship such a being?

So the problem of evil seems to raise its ugly head in every debate and leaves most Christians feeling like they’re stuck in an unanswerable paradox. Either believe God loves us but sometimes can't keep really bad things from happening to us. (not Omnipotent) Or believe that God is in fully in control but not always very kind to those he has created. (in other words not good)

I don’t think I can completely resolve this debate with these few words. Nor do I think I have the intellectual capacity to answer a question that has been argued for as long as man has existed. (Read the Book of Job) I also believe I don’t know everything about everything. (Though don’t tell that to my children) If I did then I’d be God and that’s not me. (Please don’t tell that to my dog, I think I’ve got him fooled)

But lately something has occurred to me that helps me respond to all the pain and suffering I see around me.

And here it is …

Really bad stuff happens because the world is broken … and we know it is broken because really bad stuff happens.

“What?” You say, “how is that the least bit comforting?”

This is how my simple mind works. If I were to feel a sharp pain shooting up my leg I would immediately assume that something was wrong and all my attention would be focused on resolving it. I would then come to realize that my toe had just collided with the coffee table and therefore the pain would be reasonable and my throbbing toe is a warning sign that I have done damage to my foot. The pain reveals the damage I have done to my foot and impedes true purpose of my foot. When I walk with a broken toe it is unnatural and terribly frustrating. So it is with all the terrible stuff that happens around us. If suffering were natural we would have no problem with it but because it would be the way things are, as natural as walking without a limp.

Our awareness of the pain and suffering we experience is shouting to us that we were meant for something far different. Now I’m not going to get into why pain is the preferred course of action God uses to reveal this truth but there are good reasons to trust in both his sovereignty and his goodness.  We need to stop and recognize that the pain is one enormous sign pointing to the reality that this is not our ultimate home and that we are destined to live in a place free from suffering and death.

You may ask; “What kind of answer is that? How does that help when I’m in the midst of pain?”

To that I say, it brings comfort, hope, perspective and revelation. When facing a particularly difficult event.

Comfort: Knowing that my suffering is understood and shared by my Creator. Look at the life of Jesus. God didn’t sit up in heaven and offer platitudes and advise. He participated in our suffering by becoming a man and experiencing the pain that we experience. (Philippians 2)

Hope: That our suffering is not forever and that there is something better ahead. When we realize that our true citizenship is not here but in a place where there will be no suffering, no evil and no death we can find the courage to persevere through whatever comes. (Romans 8:18)

Perspective: Seeing what I am going through in light of the big picture and that it is not everything. The hardest thing about going through difficult times is not knowing why. We are given a view into the eternal purposes of God when he says that he not only has a better place for us but he is working in us to become better people. God’s purposes are far greater than providing us a comfortable existence – his plans are for us to become fully and completely glorious. That means a transformation of our character not just our circumstances. (James 1:2-4)

Revelation: When we come to realize that we are missing something - when we finally come to the place where we question our existence and wonder why death has such a sting. We reach out for answers that only God can provide.  Jesus said, "seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened" Matthew 7:7 Pain and suffering make us seek - it drives us to a place of honest questioning and ultimately into the waiting nail-pierced hands of Jesus. 

I know this is pretty heavy and if you read this whole blog then you’re seeking truth and honest answers.

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The Second Great Lie is Just as Bad


When Ravi Zacharias, the renowned Christian apologist, was asked what is the greatest lie he pointed to the belief that God is not good and that something other than our Creator could give us the ultimate life. This lie is first spoken by the serpent in the garden.

You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
— Genesis 3:4,5 NIV

With this lie came the terrible consequences of separation from a Holy God and death but physically and spiritually.

When the first lie was believed then the floodgates were open to a succession of lies and the next lie that followed was at least as devastating to mankind as the first because the second lie keeps us from fully experiencing a restored relationship with God.

It happened shortly after the first lie.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’

He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’
— Genesis 3:8-10 NIV


Why did Adam and Eve hide? Is it because they didn’t want God to see who they had become? So what had they become? They became a foreigner, a distortion, a malignancy in the presence of a Holy God. But that is not the lie - that is the truth. So what was the lie?

The lie is that they thought they could hide this reality from God.

O how easy it is mouth the great truths, to confess the limitless grace of God and all the while try and hide our own deceitful hearts. When we say we surrender to the will of God we need to also confess that there are parts of us that are still a holdout. If we don’t we will fail to find the intimacy with God that our hearts long for.

First lie: There is a better life apart from God

Second lie: I can hide my true condition from God.

Why do we do this? Why are we addicted to a life of avoidance and deception? Frankly, I don’t know why you do but let me share some of my irrational excuses and see if you can relate.

  • I hold out the belief that I can get my life right on my own
  • I don’t really believe that God has my best interests
  • I don’t really believe he is powerful enough to deal with my circumstances
  • I live a life of a Christian agnostic. I don’t really acknowledge God’s sovereignty in all that I do.
  • I am fearful of being exposed as the weak-willed, sinful man that I am
  • I’m addicted to deception so it has become habitual
  • I’m a phony living is a world of phonies and I’m committed to keeping the status quo so I can fit in.

I can talk a good game but when the chips are down when those things I hold on to as precious are threatened I turn away from trusting God and rely on what I “know” what I can “see” and what I can “rely” upon. All this I do in spite of the overwhelming evidence that I’m incompetent at finding real life on my own.

So what is the answer? It is not to say “I believe” when I know that there’s a part of my heart that is rebelling against belief. No, the answer is to show up before God naked; to say I have done this to myself and that I am utterly helpless to undo it. No excuses, no blaming others, no outs or second options, just a truthful (or as truthful as I can be) conversation with my Maker and an appeal for mercy.

The devil laughs at our promises

He dances at our commitments

He claps his hands when we share our dreams and ambitions

But he quakes in terror when the weakest saint falls on their face in repentance

Grieving over their sin

No demon in hell or power of man can stand against a broken and contrite heart

The power of the Almighty flows through that man and woman

Resurrection is only possible for those who have truly died

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There Is No Other …  So Stop Looking!


I was listening to Isaiah 45 this morning and one phrase seemed to punctuate every paragraph.

I am the Lord and there is no other
— Isaiah 45:5 NIV

By my count, it is repeated 4 times in this one chapter.  It doesn’t take genius in biblical interpretation to come to the conclusion that God is trying to get a message delivered. So what is the message?

Stop searching for other gods – they aren’t there!

Few of us are carving idols in our garages or putting statues of the god Molech in our living rooms. But we are just as guilty as the Israelites in creating our resources to meet the needs that only the true and Living God can meet.

So what do you and I really need? What is essential to our happiness? If there is anything we can name other than the Lord then that has become a god to us. It really is that simple.

Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
 By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’
— Isaiah 45:22-24 NIV

Sometimes we need to be reminded – to refresh ourselves with the thought that all that we are striving for, all that we are hungering for is only found in him. This is his story and we are blessed beyond measure to be a part of it. To the extent that we fulfill our destiny and bring glory to God it is to that extent we experience our soul's satisfaction. Likewise to the extent we look to other gods for our fulfillment to that extent our souls wither and die.

We need to be constantly reminded of this for there are so many distractions – so many other gods that are vying for our worship. This is why many of us “believers” are empty, tired, depressed and anxious. We have lingered too long at the world’s stagnant pools.

So …

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’
— John 7:37,38 NIV

This is a time for deep soul-searching. Now is the time to ask the hard questions about what we are seeking and why we come up empty time and time again. It is a call to repent and be refreshed with the true and living God. To be restored and renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s return to what our hearts are craving.  

And when we are in the presence of someone who is experiencing the profound emptiness of seeking other gods let’s not comfort them with empty words and temporary solutions. Let’s lead them to the one true God who says …

I am the Lord and there is no other

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Miss This One Thing and Nothing Makes Sense

Ever wonder why things turn out the way they do?

As a Christian Counselor I am with my clients at a time of their deepest sorrows and often the question that is most asked is – why?

Why did I lose my job? Why did my spouse leave me? Why am I faced with this health issue? Why? Why? Why?

At times like these, there are no quick and easy answers. Pulling out the systematic theology book and explaining original sin or the curse does nothing to comfort a broken heart. So I want to take these few moments to see if we can come to a basic understanding of how the universe works so that when we come to those inevitable times of crisis we have something solid to under-gird our faith and bring perspective to our suffering.

And this is it –

This universe does not revolve around you and it was not created for your comfort and ease.

Does that sound harsh? Maybe, if we somehow hold the belief that the greatest possible good is that we be happy, satisfied and free from pain. Not too many Christians would outwardly express this belief but many of us live this philosophy by de facto. We see anything in light of how it betters our lives. Therefore anything that would cast a shadow over our dreams and ambitions is considered contrary to the way the world is “supposed” to work.

But that is not what God says. He holds exclusive rights over the purpose of the universe and he has that privilege since HE CREATED IT.  

So what does God say is the purpose of the universe? One thing – to show forth his glory!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
— Psalm 19:1 NIV

Glory: The outward manifestation of the invisible character and attributes of God

And when it comes to us humans we were also created to bring God glory.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do
— Ephesians 2:10 NIV

It this narcissistic of God? Is he some sort of self-aggrandizing despot who demands all the attention? That would be correct if it weren’t true that he rightly deserves all the glory. Just as air and water are to life so is God’s glory to the universe. It is a fundamental fact we must understand, otherwise we live in a continued state of confusion and frustration. If we deny this reality nothing else makes any sense.

Like it or not we live in God’s world and we find our true place only when we are in alignment with this true purpose – to bring him glory.

So how does this affect the way I live?

I just received an email from a friend who was ranting about another friend who was about to go through cancer surgery. This person was saying that it was definitely God’s will that they are healed and that this surgery was a lack of faith. Is that true? Let’s look at the premise.

  1. Cancer causes pain.
  2. Pain is bad for humans.
  3. Whatever is "bad" for humans is not God's will
  4. Therefore, it is God’s will that we are healed.

This premise is based upon the belief that whatever is perceived as “bad” for humans must not be God’s will. Therefore, our “good” is the primary goal. But what if it gave God greater glory that we go through the trial rather than escape it? You see, when we stop and ask the question – “Lord what would bring you the greatest glory?” it completely changes the dynamic of the trial. We become open to the new possibility that God can grant us the strength to go through the trial and in that time reveal himself and deepen our character. This is how we find ourselves in alignment with the true purpose of the universe. This is why God answered Paul the way he did when he was going through a time of trials.

“My grace is sufficient, my power is perfected in weakness”. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV“My grace is sufficient, my power is perfected in weakness”.
— Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Our cry to our Lord is “Lord glorify yourself”

How else can we make sense of what Jesus prayed to the Father the night before he was crucified?

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you
— John 17:1 NIV

Jesus’ death on the cross was the physical demonstration of his great love for us – it showed us beyond any doubt that we are cherished beyond measure and have unimaginable value. It revealed the heart of the Father and the Son to us.

We are an extraordinarily blessed people for it is God’s will that he shows his glory through loving and redeeming us. But never mistake his love, mercy, and kindness as somehow diminishing his rightful place.

I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.
— Isaiah 42:8 NIV

So our prayer when we enter into hardship must be, “Lord, show me how you can be most glorified in this situation – help me to show you as you truly are and reveal your greatness”

This attitude requires real maturity. But if we ever want to find true life we will inevitably come to this place. Because apart from this understanding this whole existence thing just doesn’t make sense.

Love you


The One Absolute Necessity for Success

I know that my title seems a bit over the top, but I am tired of talking about creating successful strategies to people who have absolutely no capacity to put them to action. So, I’m going to get really basic and real simple.

What you believe about yourself and the universe are the most crucial pieces of knowledge you will ever possess. They are the common denominators in all events, relationships, and goals in your life.

  • Overcoming failures is completely dependent on your view of yourself
  • Pushing through trials and enduring through prolonged times of frustration is a factor of how you see yourself.
  • Your level of satisfaction with living is dependant upon understanding yourself in context to the universe

Yet, I find so few of us really comprehend this fact. Instead, we are continually looking to other people or circumstances as the arbitrator for our lives.

When something bad happens. (and it happens to everyone)

  • Some resign themselves to their fate and give up
  • Some see it as an insurmountable obstacle and choose a lesser path
  • Some see it as a temporary setback and press on

The only difference in these responses in how one sees themselves and what they believe about the universe.

Your view of yourself is a consequence of how you view the universe.

I have had the privilege of traveling the world and in some places, I have seen unimaginable suffering. When asked why this is so the answer I receive is something like this, “it is their fate”.

  • Karma
  • God
  • The random nature of the universe

It all comes down to whether the universe is cooperating with or in opposition to our success. This will determine whether we have the internal resources to achieve the life we desire to live. If that answer is our lives are under the control of some external force then the next logical step is to forfeit our dreams and abandon our hopes because we are powerless to achieve them.

Some would challenge me on this and say, “You’re a Christian – aren’t you a fatalist?

I say no. In fact, it is entirely the contrary. Since I believe in a supreme being who has demonstrated his great love and compassion through the life of Jesus Christ I am convinced that the universe is not an obstacle to my happiness - that I have the ultimate victory no matter what circumstance or peril I find myself in. In fact, the present obstacles serve as a tutor to mold my character and deepen my faith. Therefore no person, no event and nothing else in this world can thwart my inevitable triumph as promised by God.

So you see – my self-confidence is derived from my view of a good and loving God and anything and everything must yield to this truth. Therefore ...

  • When I become discouraged I return to the belief that God is my helper and he has and will provide all that I need.
  • When I am doubting my own wisdom he has said that I can come to him with any question and he will give me understanding.
  • When I am feeling alone and rejected he has said that I am unconditionally loved
  • When I am disbelieving my own value he reminds me that he died for me and I have infinite worth.

What other religion, philosophy, or world view can offer this confidence?

So the bottom line is this.

As goes your view of the universe so goes your view of yourself.

As goes your view of yourself so goes your life.

Next time you feel stymied by a situation in your life or paralyzed by debilitating emotions look to where your confidence lies. Look at your view of God and integrate that view into your identity. 

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Hypocrite Syndrome Prayer

Many of us suffer a debilitating condition that keeps us from effective and intimate prayer. This condition is called Hypocrite Syndrome Prayer or HSP. But before you tune me out I want to tell you that every one of us faces this same challenge. We all have a very difficult time coming to God honestly and openly. It’s part of the unredeemed human condition. (Remember, Adam and Eve hid in the garden)

Somehow we have the impression that prayer is like a job interview. We try to figure out what the interviewer wants so we can get hired. So when we pray we talk to God the way we think he wants us to talk to him so we can get the answers that we’re looking for. We clean up our words, thoughts and even desires and make them “acceptable”. Good grief we wouldn’t want to offend him with what we’re really thinking or feeling! We might get fired.

I remember the day I first heard a prayer said as if he was having a conversation with a real person. Up until that day my idea of prayer was formal, clean, theologically correct and always, always proper. It was at camp and a surfer dude was praying like he was talking to another surfer dude. It blew me away!

So what makes us think that God is impressed by our measured and careful prayers? Why do we even pray like that?

I’ve been giving this some thought and I have come up with these observations from my own HSP file.

  • I don’t really believe that God loves me unconditionally so I try to make myself “acceptable” to earn his love
  • I’m afraid that if I am honest about how I truly feel he will reject me.
  •  I just don’t believe (or have never fully comprehended) the omniscience of God (i.e. He knows EVERYTHING)
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
— 1 John 3:20

The bottom line is this. I am not loved by God because I’m so good – I’m loved by God because He’s so good! My play acting righteousness will do nothing but put a barrier (of my own making) between me and experiencing his love. This is because until I tear down the façade and stand before him in all my unkempt splendor I will never truly believe he loves me for who I am – not who I should be.

The real kicker is this; the only way I will ever get to become the man I should be is when I allow his redeeming and transforming love to penetrate my hypocritical shell. The love of God is a transforming love. When we are fully exposed to it – it changes us.

So there it is fellow HSP friends. Our Father is waiting for us to come into his presence as we are so we can be transformed into something more wonderful than we can imagine. But it requires throwing away the mask – being real – and speaking plainly.

He’s been waiting for this time with you – don’t postpone the awesome!

Love you;


I've Got a Problem With Self-Esteem

Where do we find our real significance?

True confession – I have always had difficulty with the term “self-esteem” and for a therapist that is like a pilot having a problem with the laws of aerodynamics. I thought it might have been my Baptist “worm theology” up bringing where we were taught that to feel good about one’s self was a sin. Or maybe I’m just such a non-conformist that when everybody says something is vital, essential and absolute I stand in the corner and snicker.  

But tonight I was meeting with a client and we were talking about their self-esteem and it finally came to me just what my real problem is with that phrase. My problem is with the word “self”. I have absolutely no problem with people feeling good about themselves and I love it when those feelings spill out bringing love and joy to others. I truly believe that people who feel good about themselves are the happiest and do the most good in this world. The real issue is I don’t believe that my self-assessment is adequate to produce a true appraisal of myself. I am hopelessly flawed therefore my apprehension of myself will also be flawed and consequently my ability to rightly esteem myself is - impossible. In fact, when I do measure myself I have no true plum line for a proper evaluation and am in great risk of either thinking of myself too highly or too lowly.

When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
— 2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV

Ultimately I am in danger of becoming a fool. That is because a fool looks only to themselves for their valuations.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.
— Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say I want to build my dream home, so I pick out an ideal spot on a beautiful hill overlooking a lush valley. I stake out where I want the house to sit and plot out all the rooms. Then I go to work laying the foundation but I never use a measure, a level or any other objective tool to ensure that my new home will be aligned correctly. No, I just take a good look at it and say, “Yep that looks like it’s straight, or yeah that’s level all right.” How well do you think that home is going to turn out?

That’s just what we do if we rely on self-esteem to measure our value and worth. I can’t esteem myself high enough because I don’t have the ultimate authority. The best I can come up with is some kind of comparison with another’s performance or their flawed human opinions. If that is the measure of who I am then it will shift like the blowing sand with every wind of society’s fancies. Like an A list movie star who made a series of unpopular movies and ends up at conventions signing his head shot for five bucks a pop. He wasn’t that great when he was a star and he’s not that bad now when he’s all but forgotten; because his popularity never truly defined him.

So here’s the bottom line question: Who do you believe you are, and why? If you believe you are created in God’s image and of such infinite value that God himself would suffer and die to redeem you; then what other opinion do you need?

And here’s an even more difficult question: If you believe that then why are you still ruminating on your failures and paralyzed by your regrets? Why are you setting human limitations on your dreams and editing the amazing story God has written for you? You see, it’s not the acknowledging of truth that transforms us it is the integration of truth into every fiber of our being that brings about true metamorphosis.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are here to help you in discovering all that you were created to be. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  

Meaning – The First Condition to Finding our Identity

I attended a workshop that was designed to help the participants become more self-motived with limitless possibilities. One of the mantras of this workshop was:

We are meaning making machines

The goal seemed to be that we were to create our own meaning that best suited us and assisted in achieving our goals. But first they wanted to strip us from any “meaning” that may be encumbering our ability to truly live life. So they taught:

Life is meaningless and it is meaningless to state life is meaningless

So what does that mean? Ugh! Guess I’m not supposed to ask that question since it is a meaningless question.

Somehow the question of meaning arises from every part of our existence. From the smallest child who hounds his parents with the around-the-clock question; Why?  To the astrophysicist who looks out into the universe and utters a silent plea; Why? We can’t escape it. We can suffer any trail or go through any adversity if only we know the answer to this fundamental question.

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
— Viktor E. Frankl

Meaning is the first and last question that brackets our existence. We search for the reason we were born and we are obsessed with it at the time of our deaths. What was our legacy, what did we truly accomplish?

At the time of this writing the President has given his farewell address after being in office for eight years. He enumerated his accomplishments and gave examples of what he believed to be his true legacy - the meaning of his presidency. But many if not all of these accomplishments can be overturned by future administrations and his legacy will have no more staying power than a bouquet of flowers or summer grass.

All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.
— I Peter 1:24,25 NIV

As followers of Jesus Christ we are obliged to listen to his words on this subject and not follow the whims and dictates of our culture, family or any other source. Our meaning is ultimately derived from our Creator who formed us for a specific purpose. Until this is our mindset we will not find our true purpose and live irrelevant and futile lives no matter how “successful” we are in the eyes of the world. We will also find no true peace in our spirits because deep and abiding peace comes when we have a right relationship with our Creator with whom we will ultimately be accountable for the life he has given us.

But how is this practical for living our daily lives? That’s just the point – there is no “just daily lives”, there is only living in a right relationship with truth or living outside of truth. We are not here for a brief amount of time and then gone to some other existence to live eternally. We are here and our present lives affect are a part of that eternity. Ever thought about the part of the famous John 3: 16 verse that says, “…should not die but have eternal life” What is that about not dying, don’t we all die? And when does that eternal life start? Tomorrow … the next day? No, eternal life has no beginning and no end because it is – eternal. And there is no real death for those who “believe in him”. So whatever meaning our lives have in a billion years from now is the same meaning we have in this moment.

As spiritual leaders we need to help our people ask the question; why? It is the right answer to that question which will bring purpose to every other part of our lives. It will give us a reason to get up in the morning and empower us in all we do every day. And if we ever become stuck for an answer here’s a verse to ponder.

As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
— John 20:21 NIV

If we want to find our true meaning and purpose we need to look deeply into the life of Jesus Christ because that’s where we will find it. If we lose our way the only path back is to road that Christ lays out before us through his own obedient path to the Cross.

Next week we will look at the next significant element of our identity – Significance.

Identity: The Hub of the Problem

At Total Wellness Resource Center we have made a bold commitment to seeing our clients as a whole person and helping them in every area of their lives. This is because we have found that becoming out of balance in one area can lead to problems in other seemingly unrelated areas.  For example – marriage difficulties can effect job performance.

But there is one facet of life that has the greatest effect upon our client’s growth. This area supersedes all others and if not addressed can lead to stagnation and futility. We liken it to the hub of a wheel. The spokes of the wheel proceed from the hub and if they become detached then there is no possibility of moving forward. The hub from which all areas of life are connected is our identity. The reason I share this with you as spiritual leaders is because we are often duped into focusing on the peripheral issues because they are so much more visible.

We will never surpass our identity and our identity will never surpass the basis from which we derive our meaning, value and purpose.

This leads inevitably to God because all other philosophies create a black hole of hopelessness as they are inherently meaningless. Meaning requires intelligence. The universe has no intrinsic meaning except for what utility provides if there is no intelligence behind its creation. Therefore, in order for our lives to have meaning that meaning must be found in why we exist - which is God’s territory since he is the Creator.  

We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is.
— A.W. Tozer

What we think of ourselves (our identity) is the one absolute life altering belief and is a constant for all ages, education levels, and social strata. No other belief will impact our life more than what we believe about ourselves other than what we believe about God. The problem is our clients almost never come to us with this as their primary complaint. Identity issues never show themselves plainly, they hide in the frustrations and failures of our lives. For as Henry Ford once said;

Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right
— Henry Ford

So where do we see identity beliefs hiding? Here are a few of the places:

The search for a satisfying career

  • The food addiction
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Sexual Promiscuity

At the heart of these problems is an underlying belief that keeps the person stuck in their difficulty.

We become whoever we think we are.

But it’s not just a matter of thinking positively and mentally forcing ourselves into good self-esteem. Contrary to popular belief, we are not the creators of truth. Physical laws apply even if we don’t believe in them. For example; if you don’t believe in gravity just jump out of an airplane and see which way you fall. If physical laws are true why would we expect something as important as Meaning, Significance and Purpose to be relative? Understand, I am not saying we can’t psych ourselves into thinking things about ourselves that are not true. We do it all the time and that is a real problem. I have sat in front of countless clients who tenaciously believe a lie about their identities and are reinforcing that lie by their actions. (i.e. I am nothing but a stinking drunk so that is why I drink) But if we want to have the wind of absolute truth at our backs we must build our identities upon that which is changeless and unassailable. Where we derive our meaning, significance and purpose must be as true as gravity or the rising of the sun. 

Over the coming weeks I will devote the Frontline Blogs to the challenge of developing our true identity and how to lead others in that process. I believe that we will never be set free from the symptoms until we have found the freedom that is in knowing our God and then understanding our rightful place in his universe. As always this journey of discovery will be practical and I will always attempt “to keep the cookies on the bottom shelf”. For in the end our success as spiritual leaders is judged by not what we understand but on what we are able to impart to others. 

How to Live With Criticism

None of us like to be criticized and yet criticism seems at epidemic level in the Church. Those that enter into spiritual leadership positions have a dream that we are entering into an encouraging, uplifting environment where blessings are abundant and conflict is at a minimum. But what we often find is we’ve landed in a war zone where factions are vying for power and if we’re not careful we’re going to either get our head blown off or worse wake up with a dagger in our backs.

But I digress - let me get back to criticism because even in the best of churches we will face criticism and it is how we deal with it that will often determine if we can move forward in our ministries. Here are some basics that we must get straight before we can discuss how to deal with criticism. This is because if we fail to understand ministry realistically we will be ill-equipped to deal with what we experience.

Criticism is inevitable. 

This is because everyone has their own agenda (or if we want to spiritualize it “vision”) and when you do something that is not in alignment with this you will be criticized. Nowhere is this more evident in than in Jesus’ ministry. He upset the status quo and was persecuted for it. The Apostle Paul also had his fair share of criticism and because of those critics we can thank for the writing of Corinthians and Galatians. The sooner we accept this as a fact the healthier will be or response to criticism.

Criticism is most damaging when we are needing the approval of others.

Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes criticism but many of us who enter into the area of spiritual leadership are especially sensitive to it. In this case we need to seriously ask the question if we are in some way addicted to the approval of others. Too many spiritual leaders derive their identities from the approval of others so that when that approval is not forthcoming it leaves them anxious and empty.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ
— Galatians 1:10 NIV

There are some people who should not like you if you are indeed standing for righteousness.

Or as another put it.

A man’s greatness can be measured by his enemies.
— Don Piatt

Criticism is redemptive. 

Even the worse critics can actually benefit us even if that benefit is we develop the godly qualities of perseverance and long suffering. Why it is that character is most developed in the crucible of trials? Don’t really know except that as one person told me a long time ago “James, God is much more interested in your character than he is in your circumstances”. I really didn’t want to hear that then but over the years it has proven true over and over again. So let the critics drive you to your knees so that you deepen your dependence upon God and learn to stand firm in his grace. It is also true that in almost every criticism there is an element of truth. Don’t make the mistake of missing the truth because of the way it is presented or because it is accompanied by so many lies and distortions. Learn from your “enemies” and you will have greater appreciation for the counsel of your friends.

Let criticism transform into holy union with Christ.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
— Colossians 1:24 NIV

If we think that those afflictions are merely physical think again. In his list of afflictions in 2 Corinthians 11 he states his “concern for all the churches” as the coup de grâce of his trials. And isn’t that the case? It’s not the long hours, the lack of money or other hardships that usually get us dreaming about another career - It is the people. Let that become unit us with the suffering of our savior and draw us into deeper intimacy with his heart. For the real pain of the cross was not the nails in his feet and hands. It was not the lashings or the crown of thorns. The real pain was caring our sins. We as servants of our Savior also carry the sins of our people when we are unjustly criticized and maligned. Should we ask for better treatment than our Lord?

Whose Kingdom are We Seeking?

But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you
— Matthew 6:33 NIV

A famous verse that most of us can quote from memory but lately I’ve been thinking about it in a different way. If I am not seeking God’s Kingdom whose kingdom am I seeking? The answer to that question is not easy for me to take because the only other rival kingdom is my own. My kingdom is often camouflaged to look like God’s Kingdom but if you strip away the thin veneer it is my kingdom through and through. How do I know? Here are four signs that I may be seeking my own kingdom.

  1. My kingdom is not a kingdom of peace - but of worry. I find myself anxious about so many things because when I’m in control (which is one definition of seeking my own kingdom) I’m full of fear.
  2. My kingdom does not satisfy my deepest dreams and desires. When I run hard after what I think I need it vanishes like an ethereal mirage. But when I turn aside to the narrow road – the way less traveled – I find the satisfaction my soul yearns for.
  3. My kingdom is one of confusion. Wisdom is promised to those who seek God’s kingdom but confusion and uncertainty is the reward for those who seek their own.
  4. My kingdom is lonely. Jesus said: "…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Matthew 7:13 NIV Funny thing about the broad road, no matter how many people who are on it with us we always feels alone. But the opposite is true of the narrow road, when we’re walking with Jesus no matter where we are or what our circumstances might be, we’re never alone.

So what do I need to do to ensure I am seeking God Kingdom and not my own? Here are a few questions to ask ourselves.

What legacy does my work leave?

Jesus said that everything he did was for the Father’s glory … can that be said of our work? Or in other words – in 1000 years will the life we are so diligently building for ourselves matter? I have heard it said that there are only three things that are eternal; God, man (for God made us eternal) and God’s Word. If we want to make sure we are seeking God’s Kingdom we need to be committing all we do to those three areas.

Am I trying to meet someone else’s expectations?

We often quit seeking God’s Kingdom because we are caught up in working on other’s kingdoms. When Jesus was 13 years old and was found in the temple at Jerusalem by his parents his astonishing response was, “Didn’t you know that I would be at my Father’s business?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we too were caught doing God’s business rather than fulfilling the world’s expectations?

Am I doing what I was created to do?

Similar to the last question this question goes to the heart of our purpose. There are a great many things we can do – we can take on many tasks in God’s Kingdom, but what is it we were designed to do? If we can’t answer that question then we may be an underperforming servant in the Kingdom of God. This results in frustration, anger, feelings of worthlessness and sadness. The Apostle Paul said: “This one thing I do” not these hundred things I dabble in. If you are unclear as to your purpose and place in God’s Kingdom then it is imperative that you stop the mad dashing about and let God tell you what he has specifically designed you to do. When he does, and you get to that task, you will find a fulfillment and a sense of rightness in the depths of your soul that is beyond wonderful.

If you need to talk about this or anything else please let us know … our part of God’s Kingdom work is to help you get free to do what you were designed to do. 

The One Thing We Dare Not Miss

This is going to be one of my shorter blogs because I really only have one thing to say. But the one thing I have to say is arguably more important than all the essays, teachings, sermons and commentaries put together. It is the essence of our experiencing life and if we miss it we wander into darkness and lose not only our life’s direction but become disqualified from leading others. Although this truth is woven into the fabric of every page of the Scripture still we find ourselves missing it. When we do we lose hope and worry about “so many things”. This truth is the well spring of wisdom and the source of strength that will neither cease to produce abundant life nor falter no matter what trial we experience. Abraham knew it and it became his salvation. Isaac discovered it and would not let it go though he wrestled with God throughout the night.

David also knew this truth intimately and when he failed it was always because he turned away to something he thought would be more satisfying – it wasn’t.

I said to the Lord, ‘you are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’
— Psalm 16:2 NIV

So here it is; what good thing do we have that is better than the Lord? Is there anything that we cherish more than intimacy with the Most High God? This is a tough question for those in ministry since so much of our daily activity is serving God and this can often become a substitute for being with God. When serving God becomes a greater priority than being with God we are in great danger of losing the vitality that makes ministry more than an activity but life changing transformational work. In fact, everything we do and say enters into the world of the miraculous when we are with God – not just serving God.

So here’s a question; What good thing in your life has become better than intimacy with God? For me an indication that I am wandering away from intimacy with God is when my heart begins to fill up with concerns, worries and fears. I find myself starting my day trying to work out problems before I seek my Lord’s face in thanksgiving and adoration. And throughout the day my master is not the Lord but the duties and tasks of the day. All good things to be sure but not the best thing and certainly not the source of my life. David also said later in his Psalm:

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand
— Psalm 16:11 NIV

What can be better than that?

Please let us know if we can ever be of service to you. If you'd like to reach out with a comment, concern or prayer request please put it in the box below. 

Breaking Through the Stonewall in Relationships

The last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is Stonewalling.

Stonewalling is:

A response to conflict evidenced by an unwillingness or inability to connect with the other party.

When someone is stonewalling they remove themselves from the conflict by either offering no response or physically distancing themselves. (i.e. running away) For some it’s literally like talking to a stonewall, whereas for others it’s like the person disappears when any signs of conflict arises. Stonewalling is a strategy that is employed as a means of self-preservation because the one who is stonewalling feels like they are overwhelmed, threatened or inadequate to successfully enter into conflict.

It is a tremendously frustrating for the other person because, no matter how hard they try they can’t break through and have their feelings understood. Ultimately, if stonewalling persists it leads to isolation and relational destruction.

So why do people stonewall? Here are some causes:

  • Physical flooding: When we feel threatened our sympathetic nervous system produces neurochemicals in the brain that reduce our ability to think rationally. In short, we are reduced to survival mode. When this happens we are unable to connect with the person with whom we’re in conflict much less have empathy with their concerns. Signs of this physical response can be detected when our pulse exceeds 100 and we find our respiration labored, muscles tense and thoughts tangential. At this point it is futile to attempt to have a meaningful conversation until the parasympathetic nervous system has been activated and the offending neurochemicals have subsided. Studies have shown that in marriage counseling when one or both parties become flooded during a session taking a ½ hour break allows the couple to come back to the same argument with good results.
  • Learned response to conflict: Some of us have learned to avoid conflict because healthy conflict was never modeled to us. We grew up with a deficit of confidence that we could be in conflict with another and still be in relationship.

Two scenarios of childhood are:

  1. We grew up on a family where we were ridiculed and emotionally abused
  2. We grew up in a family where conflict was never seen openly. Although it existed (because it always exists) it was hidden and was often demonstrated in passive aggressive behavior and/or sarcasm. (i.e. no clean arguments or disagreements.)

So how do we remove stonewalling from conflict?

When the physical manifestation of flooding becomes evident, learn how to self-sooth. The fastest and easiest way to reverse the effects of flooding is to develop an ability to relax by learning how to breathe slowly. The breath is the golden pathway to quieting our fears and reducing stress and anxiety. Try it. Breathe in through your nose slowly for five seconds and hold for five seconds and then exhale slowly through your mouth for five seconds. Do that ten times and you will effectively trigger your parasympathetic nervous system.

Develop a mindset that your value, worth and identity does not come from another’s opinion of you nor from your performance. If you discover your intrinsic self-worth and are able to integrate that understanding into your identity and your relational interactions you will be far less vulnerable to fearing conflict. Conflict is inevitable, in fact all healthy relationships have conflict. Studies show that 69% of all marital conflict is perpetual. So we need to learn the skills of handling conflict well if we are ever going to have healthy relationships.

As always if we can ever be of assistance to you we’re here to help!

Criticism: The Not So Silent Killer of Relationships

This is another in the series where we’re looking at John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and how they destroy relationships. I believe this is important for Spiritual Leaders to understand because you are called to be the instruments of God’s peace in bringing understanding, peace and unity within the family of God. Gottman did his research on marriages but these principles are found in every human interaction and applicable to any relational conflict.

The next horseman we will look at is Criticism.

Criticism is when we see an action or attitude that we dislike and personify it in that person.

For example, instead of saying that we are angry that our partner is late we call our partner a late person. It becomes the label we slap on that person so instead of just having been late they will forever be known as a late person. How incredibly damaging is that. Think about the labels we unconsciously put on people – or the labels that you have been saddled with. Did you ever get a bad grade in school were called stupid? Or maybe you dropped a fly ball and someone called you clumsy. Are you stupid or clumsy? Absolutely not. But what’s it feel like when you get labeled? Here are two options:

  1. You accept the label and eventually your world becomes smaller and your possibilities become limited. Because clumsy people don’t win ballgames and stupid people don’t go on to academic achievement.
  2. You fight against the label and attack the one who is labeling you or withdraw and stonewall. (We’ll discuss stonewalling next week).

The first option will destroy the person and the second option will destroy the relationship.

So how do we express our anger, frustration or disapproval without becoming critical? It is by separating the action from the person. We all have times when we are upset at another’s actions and we need to be able to express it to them. Good relationships are not conflict free; they learn to resolve those conflicts in a way that deepens and strengthens the relationship. Let’s take the example of being late (my personal favorite pet peeve)

Here’s the critical way of expressing your displeasure:

"You’re late, you were late last week and you’re late today. What it wrong with you! Why are you so inconsiderate!"

Here’s a way of expressing your displeasure without criticism:

"I need to tell you something that hurts me. I know you may not realize this, but when you are not on time it makes me feel like you don’t care about me because you know how important it is for me to be on time. I really don’t want to feel this way about you. How can we solve this problem?"

Okay, some of you may be saying; “when I’m angry those words don’t come out of my mouth” And maybe that’s one of the problems. We confront when we’re angry and we make things much worse. So calm down, share how you feel and believe that your partner really wants the best for you. It is ALWAYS best to default to the positive.

I hope this is helpful.

As always if we can ever be of service to you don’t hesitate to let us know.

Removing Another Horseman

Last week I shared one of John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Contempt. By way of reminder, these are the four attitudes that, if they show up in a relationship, will destroy it. This week I will share another Horseman – Defensiveness.

Defensiveness Defined

It is the attitude that creates a barrier to true listening and understanding because of a real or imagined threat. Defensiveness is primarily concerned with self-preservation, it focuses only on ones own perceptions and therefore poisons real communication negates empathy.

Defensiveness can be aggressive or it can be passive. Aggressive defensiveness comes mainly in the form of an attack which tries to set the opponent back to weaken their argument. In a conflict this often shows up as an attempt to flip the quarrel. For example when one person in the relationship expresses a complaint the other person immediately fires back a negative example of their behavior.

Passive defensiveness is a tactic that can be described by this phrase; “talk to the hand because the face ain’t listening”. There is a stubborn unwillingness to consider the other persons complaint and will change the subject, avoid contact or do anything else possible not to be in the conversation.

How do you know you are being defensive? A good rule of thumb is when we are creating a response in our heads when another person is talking. When we do this we are not listening to understanding but rather listening to defend. Another way of telling we are slipping into the defensive mode is when we feel attacked or condemned. Defensiveness is a natural response in these cases. But unless it is a physical attack our being defensive will only escalate the conflict – it never resolves it. Conflict is reduced when the parties feel understood and their feelings are honored. By the way, did you know according to research that 69% of all relational conflict is perpetual? That means that we really don’t resolve most arguments we simply learn to understand and create some accommodation or compromise. Good marriages are not conflict free – they just learn to live with inevitable differences in a way that shows kindness, patience, long-suffering and love. Sounds a lot like the Fruit of the Spirit doesn’t it. 

The great antidote to defensiveness is the willingness to die to oneself – for that is what it feels like when you feel misunderstood and attacked and don’t in turn defend ourselves. As a believer in Christ I find my identity not in my performance or in another person’s perception of me but in who God says I am. I have already been condemned as a sinner and I have been forgiven and raised up as a Child of God so the worse and best has been said of me. I can handle the revelation of my imperfections because I have the sure hope that God is continuing to work on my character.

… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 NIV

Here are some of the keys to removing defensiveness from our conflicts

  • Be determined to listen for understanding not for rebuttal
  • Calm yourself with the confidence of being loved by God and that this is an opportunity to grow
  • Attempt to connect with the feelings of your spouse even if you can’t understand their logic
  • Remember that this problem may be perpetual and therefore look for compromise not for ultimate solutions
  • Don’t let past unresolved conflicts emerge. Stay in the present moment.


As always if there are questions or anything else I can help you with don’t hesitate to reach out.

How to Tell When a Relationship is in Critical Condition

John Gottman’s over forty years of research has uncovered a few telltale signs that a relationship is in serious trouble, he calls these the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I will share one of these in my Frontline Blog each week with the hopes that if you see any of these showing up in relationships that you are counseling you can take action to expose them and remove them so that they don’t bring death and destruction to that relationship.

The first and most deadly is Contempt. Contempt is defined as:

A complete lack of empathy. An inability to understand another’s thoughts, feelings or motivations so that the other person no longer registers as someone worthy of serious consideration much less compassion or love.

When contempt shows up relationships wither and die.

Contempt often masquerades as intellectual superiority, or justifiable condemnation. We hear it when someone says; “they deserve what they got” or “you made your bed now sleep in it!” Whatever form it takes it always separates and isolates with the ultimate response being “you are not worth my time and effort”.  It shows up in relationships when one partner says to another, "I have had enough of your (fill in the blank) and I’m simply not going to take it anymore."

Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment and he give us two. To love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When asked to clarify the second he told a story of a Jewish man who was attacked and left for dead. Along came a Priest and a Levite who passed him by and left him in his miserable condition. This in contempt in its purest and most vile form.  But then a Samaritan (the hated race) came along, picked him up, took him to an inn and made sure that he was cared for. This Samaritan had every reason in the world to walk on by too. He was culturally indoctrinated to see Jews as the hated race deserving no compassion or kindness. Yet he broke from his culture and loved this man. This is love in its purest and most holy form.

I will share two principles that we can take from this that directly relates to relationships.

  1. We must never, never allow contempt to creep into the way we treat any person. Be they the most unlovable, unreasonable or unworthy person ever born. We break the second commandment of Christ if we hold contempt in our hearts. Jesus is our supreme example when he looked down from his agony on the cross and proclaimed, “Father, forgive them they don’t know what they are doing”. We therefore have no excuse for contempt.
  2. We must never, ever allow contempt to enter into our most sacred of relationships; our marriage. This means that no matter how many times we are tempted to “blow off” our partner or no matter how many times we believe we’re justified to think we’re the one that is being treated unfairly we are commanded to listen, to serve, to care and to understand. This is an impossible commandment to keep unless we also have the same power that possessed Jesus living in us. We have the Spirit of Christ giving us the power to love beyond our meager human capacity.

As spiritual leaders we must be ready to spot contempt in all its forms and rebuke, encourage and teach those who have been entrusted to us. We are to exhort them to put on a heart of compassion, kindness and humility. 

I could speak more on this but I don’t want to weary you with words. If ever I can be of service don’t hesitate to reach out. Next week we’ll look at another of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Helping Marriages in Conflict

I’m going to focus on helping you help marriages in my Frontline blogs over the next few weeks because as go the marriages so go our churches. Fundamentally marriage was the first institution given to man and it is the fabric that holds our society together. Conversely an attack on marriage is an attack on the sovereignty of God and our ability to fulfill our true purpose to give him glory.

The problem lies in getting practical in helping marriages. Platitudes don’t work. Exhortations and encouragements often fail to make real change. Marriage is in crisis and we as spiritual leaders often feel desperate to help. So, over the coming weeks I am going to give you some tools that have been developed by The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy and have been proven effective in helping couples develop closer and more intimate marriages. But let me make this clear, these principles are not true because John Gottman made them true in the same way an astronomer who charts a new solar system did not create it.  These principles are true because they are the way we were created and they work because we were made to relate to each other in certain ways.  So let’s get at the first principle.

Opposites really do attract –

But that’s a part of the problem

There is no truism that emerges from marriage counseling more evident than we marry someone who is different – on purpose! The problem is summed up on this phrase; “opposites attract and then they attack”. How many times do we think; “if they could just not do or say that things would be so much better.” But they do and say those things precisely because they are different, and that’s a good thing. The Gottman research has shown that couples who accept the influence of their partner have happier more harmonious and less conflictual marriages. This is because when we accept our partners influence we are saying, “Okay, I may not have all the answers here and I may not see something that you see, so I am going to listen with an open mind and really try to understand your perspective”. This is hard. We are addicted to being right. But when we marry we are making a pronouncement that we don’t have all the answers and we are not the center of the universe. We are accepting as fact that we need someone else in our life and that someone is gloriously different than we are. Remembering this fact and becoming truly humble in our deficiencies is essential to having a good marriage. So here are some points that may help when you are facing a couple who are struggling with the “attack” side of attraction.

  1. Normalize the fact that they have married someone different than they are. You can help them see this by helping them recount what it was that initially attracted them to each other. Most of the time it is the same quality that created the attraction that is now causing the conflict.
  2. Help them learn the discipline of active listening. Truly listening is a very tough skill to learn because we cling to our own prejudices. One of the most helpful exercises to help develop listening skills is to have the listener repeat what they think they heard until the speaker is satisfied that they got it right.
  3. Pray for a soft heart. Jesus said that the cause of divorce is a hard heart. (Matthew 19:8) It is so easy for a heart to become hard over time through bitterness and resentment. So the antidote to divorce is a soft heart. I am convinced that this is impossible apart from a powerful work of the Holy Spirit. So we should pray every day that God would soften our hearts. We must continually do “heart checks” to see if our hearts are becoming hard and if we sense the slightest rigidity creeping in quickly confess it and ask for a softening. 

I hope this helps as you serve those whom God has given you. If I can ever be of service to you please let me know. We at Total Wellness Resource Center are here to support you.