Top Ten Posts for 2021

Thank you for reading this year. I hope you have been encouraged in some way. Below are the posts most read this year.

  1. An Unloved Woman. This is the fourth year in a row that this post made #1. What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?

  2. Visit the Sick – Using Scripture. In suffering it is easy to forget to trust God. You know that Scripture can re-focus a sick person’s attention back to the character of God and His love for the sufferer, but you’re just not sure which passages to use. Here are some specific verses that speak to anxiety, discouragement, or a person approaching surgery, and other situations.

  3. When You Send Your Child to Residential Treatment. Handing the care and nurture of your child over to a residential facility may pose challenges for the family. Here are what parents might experience personally, what siblings might experience, and some big-picture ideas on what parents can do to grow spiritually, help the siblings adjust, and prepare for successful reentry of the troubled child into the home.

  4. The Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship. (Updated December 30, 2021) God provides marriage for our happiness and enrichment, yet He also holds higher aims than just our happiness. Adopting God’s view will change our behaviors, which results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. I also recommend: A Heavenly Purpose of Marriage: Image-bearing.

  5. They Say He Has No Conscience. The idea that some people lack a conscience is commonly accepted. “Normal” people feel remorse for doing wrong. Since perpetrators of extreme evil do not they must be mentally ill or not even have a conscience. But is this what the Bible teaches? This post is best read with its partner post, How can they be so remorseless?

  6. No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

  7. Common excuses for prodigals and criminals, and a solution-based view addresses mothers of wayward souls and looks at what the problem is not (like, low self-esteems, bullying, mental illness), what the problem is, and what help provides the most hope. It is not intended to be comprehensive of all factors, but to pierce to the underlying essence of the problem and urge parents to stop giving excuses to wayward children.

  8. In the Shadow of His Wings (Pt 2): What are the Benefits? How might the beautiful imagery of the shadow of God’s wings comfort and encourage a believer in the midst of hardships, grief, oppression, or other trials?

  9. Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls. What do we do with loved ones who reject and walk away from us? The pain of loss is agonizing. How do we love the wayward child or rejecting loved one without enabling their harmful behavior? This is a book review.

  10. God’s Master Plan in Twelve Verses. God has a plan for all the world for all of history. He explains it repeatedly in the His own words, in the Word of God. One of the most concise summaries is in Psalm 2. This world is not out of God’s control. God is working His plan. Place your trust in Him.

I wish you a 2022 full of God’s grace and peace!

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When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain

Note: This post does NOT contain sensuality or sexually graphic information.

God created sex and declared it good. How do we know?

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it…” And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (Ge 1:26-31)

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Ge 2:24-25)

God intends for married couples to enjoy sex. However, when Adam sinned, disease and death entered humanity. Bodies were no longer perfect. They malfunction. This includes malfunctions in sex.

Those malfunctions are prolific. American women suffer from many syndromes associated with genital and sexual pain, called dyspareunia, about six million from just one of the pain-causing syndromes alone. At least 40 percent of women with dyspareunia do not seek help from a doctor. Although the body can look normal to the doctor, there are many possible reasons for the pain and the knowledge of how to diagnose and treat those causes is only recently being discovered and developed. Since few doctors know how to diagnose the problem, many women see five, ten, even twenty doctors before they find one who diagnoses accurately and offers effective solutions.

When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain is written to address dyspareunia. Written by two medical doctors and a psychologist, the book comes in three sections. The first introduces the problem and explains female anatomy. The second explains many of the causes, symptoms, and treatment options. The third discusses how to progress after the pain is lessened or gone.

A woman in pain will be comforted by learning she is not alone and the pain is not just in her head. While the authors provide some self-diagnostic and self-help measures, they strongly and wisely encourage women to apply to trained doctors and therapists for the most effective help. Some sections practically helpful include:

  • How to find and work with a doctor
  • Websites for organizations specializing in the study and relief of pain in sex
  • Exercises for the woman to do
  • Discussions of myths about sex and about pain

I appreciate that the authors say there is far more to relationship than sex and that couples may have close, intimate, mutually satisfying relationships even if sexual intercourse is not an option.

I recommend this book with qualifications. First, I do not have the medical expertise to critique the medical information. Second, I did not read other books on this topic so as to compare. Most importantly, the reader needs to be aware that the book is written without God in mind at all. The authors are not misleading anyone. Rather, a Christian reader needs to read discerningly. Some negative results of by-passing God include:

  • There is no use of the Word of God for shaping perspective of, and finding solutions to, pain, sex, and relational conflicts. Without the Word of God to regulate behavior, people can arrive at ungodly ideas and methods, such as the suggestion of masturbation as one option in the overall recovery plan (pp 192-193).
  • The view of sex is totally man-centered. There is no understanding of God’s origination of sex, His ownership, or His higher purpose for it in expressing marital union as image-bearers.
  • For solutions, there is emphasis on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) which, while it contains some methods which can be helpful, such as changing what you think, it also contains several substantial deficiencies.
    • CBT holds a totally man-centered goal. Focus is on self-improvement, not the glory of God.
    • CBT works to change the thoughts but not the spiritual-moral heart underlying the thoughts.
    • Because it ignores the Word of God, replacement thoughts are developed under the influence of cultural winds and personal preference. As a result, some suggested thoughts will not be true. None will be theologically rich, so they lack spiritual edification.
    • Relying on man’s strength of mind and will rather than on the Spirit of God and the Word, CBT promotes trust in self rather than trust in God.

If you suffer pain with sexual intercourse or even just pain “down there,” don’t just quietly endure it. Tell your spouse and go find medical help! Be persistent until you find a doctor who accurately diagnoses and treats you. And read this book. As you find help for the physical pain, be sure to search the Word of God and heed what it says about pain, sex, conflicts, and how to change. The Bible explains and empowers change far superior to CBT.

Male or female, if you teach on sex or counsel women or married couples, consider reading this book. At least familiarize yourself with the fact of dyspareunia and possible resources to recommend. Some women do not know pain with sex is not normal. Many remain silent about it because the husband forbids telling or if they told a doctor or counselor the husband would become very angry for talking about their sex life. Many suffer needlessly for years. Counselors need to be aware and, when checking on the role of sex in the relationship, not presume a woman’s silence means pain is not a factor. A theologically sound counselor can gain much helpful understanding from this book while bringing a biblical view to bear upon his/her counselee.

~~~~~

When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain, by Andrew Goldstein, Caroline Pukali, and Irwin Goldstein. Da Capo Lifelong Books, January 11, 2011. ISBN: ‎ 978-0738213989

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Thanksgiving to the Master Farmer

The season of harvest is a season for thanksgiving, thanksgiving for God’s earthly provisions in particular. Psalm 65:9-13 describes some of God’s provision in harvest. Note that “fatness” is metaphorical for abundance and “paths” is more literally cart tracks or wagon trails.

You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You prepare their grain, for thus
You prepare the earth.
You water its furrows abundantly,
You settle its ridges,
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.
You have crowned the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths drip with fatness.
The pastures of the wilderness drip,
And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.
The meadows are clothed with flocks
And the valleys are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, yes, they sing.

God is the great Farmer who checks and manages His land until it overflows. He owns the land and streams, even the water cycle, to use all He wants. He prepares the earth with nutrients and the grain for planting, softening the soil with showers at the right time lest the soil repel the seeds and prevent germination. He fertilizes and causes growth. Crowning the year, the harvest fills the farmer’s wagon to overflowing, dropping produce along the paths as He hauls to the barns and market.

Wherever God goes there is prosperity. Even the pastures of the wilderness through which He drives are verdant, offering more than what the flocks, herds, and wildlife can consume. The hills around the lush pastures and meadows belt themselves with rejoicing.

Looking out over His land He sees meadows clothed thickly with flocks and valleys blanketed with crops. It all sings and shouts for joy. This Farmer loves His land and the land loves its Farmer!

Like God, good farmers love their land, and the land responds to their care. That is a good thing! However, what makes seeds germinate and crops grow? How are animals able to reproduce to clothe meadows with many of themselves? Men can plant, water, fertilize, and husband animals. They cannot cause germination, conception, or growth. Only God causes growth. Farming is not a joint effort of God and man. Rather, farmers follow the principles of physics that God instituted. It is God who does all the growing.

Farming is a noble profession. Farmers have the great privilege of participating in God’s plan for how we feed ourselves, provide for others, and enjoy earth’s abundance. My thanks to all of the farmers, whose work feeds all of us.

Most importantly, thanks be to You, Father, for the harvest this year! Dear Master Creator, You love Your creation and Your creation loves You! Thank You so much for how You have provided for us. May we rejoice in your work and love You for being so wise, powerful, and generous.

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Parents’ Groans over Their Ungodly Children

Edward Lawrence understood the heartbreak of parenting a child who was perpetually disrespectful, ungrateful, and rebellious. Living in the 1600s, this loving father had nine children, two of whom, and especially one, “made me the father of fools” (p3). (Proverbs describes a fool as someone who is habitually disrespectful, ungrateful, and rebellious.) While I am not happy about the pain he felt, I am thankful God used it to the benefit of many parents since then through his book, Parents’ Groans over Their Ungodly Children. Each chapter leads with a Bible verse and many points are undergirded with more verses.

Mr. Lawrence begins his prologue addressing his two foolish sons, then shifts to all of his children, advising on general wisdom children should heed. Next, he turns to the topic of being the parent of a foolish, wayward child.

“A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.”~ Proverbs 17:25

Launching from this verse, he observes two truths some parents must grapple with, encapsulating them in chapter titles:

  1. “Godly Parents Can Have Ungodly Children”
  2. “Ungodly Children Are a Great Calamity to Their Parents”

One comfort from this book is the declaration that it is actually not unusual for godly parents to have wayward children. It is true that people are not surprised when ungodly parents have ungodly children, but when godly parents have ungodly children there tends to be surprise. It doesn’t fit our input-output paradigm. Lawrence’s point is that, while ungodly parents provoke children to rebel, if parents are godly, the cause of their children’s waywardness is not all parents’ fault. Yet, these godly parents may receive censure from others.

Lawrence compares the characters of godly parents and ungodly children. These children:

  • Do not respect their parents
  • Will not obey their parents
  • Are ungrateful to their parents

They are like Cain, who grieved his parents, and Ham whose irreverence provoked Noah to curse his own grandson. They are like Esau, who shamed his parents and was hated by God, or like Absalom who, in rebellion and flagrant disrespect, murdered his brother and would have killed his dad. This listing and discussion by Lawrence helps grieving parents see that they are traveling a road well-worn by many before. God thoroughly understands their grief.

This book comforts simply by the many pages Lawrence dedicates to identifying with sorrowing parents. You can tell he has grappled with many difficult thoughts as he trudged a rough parenting road. He talks about the great burden it is, yet not in self-pity or without hope, as you see by the directions he provides.

Parents grieve that their child is tainted by sin, is under the power of Satan, and is under the wrath of God.

“When such parents are, with faith, reading the curses of God’s Law, how doth it cut them to the heart to think that they are then reading their children’s doom.” (16)

Added to all is a burden of sympathy the parents carry for one another.

“Both parents are deeply affected for the trouble and misery that comes hereby to one another….The good father is not only troubled with a wicked child but also for the bitterness and sorrow of his wife. And the good mother is not only troubled with the wicked child but also for the grief of her husband. The mother’s heart bleeds to see the tears and to hear the groans of the afflicted father and cries out, “Oh, what a child have I brought forth that so much deprives me of the comfort of a loving husband and is like to break his heart…” The father mourns to see the tears and the sad countenance and to hear the groans of the distressed mother…” Yet these hardhearted children are not affected herewith! Let the parents sigh, they will sing. Let the parents weep and mourn, they will rant and roar. They will care no more to break their parents’ hearts than to break a tobacco pipe. They will not abate a lie, oath, or cup, to save the lives of their tender parents.” (16-17)

Mr. Lawrence describes the fears, anger, and sorrow of these parents. He compares their loss to other calamities and finds the wayward child to be worse than childlessness or even the death of children or persecution. He describes the ways in which having wayward children causes sorrow that infects everything parents do, whether daily work or religious work. These children drain the family finances, corrupt the other children, and bring reproach on Christ. He speaks of disappointed hopes, of the enjoyment of the child’s infancy being ruined by the later disdainfulness, and of the prick of pain when parents see the godly children of others and realize more vividly their own loss.

It is a crushing weight. A man may have all the pleasures of the world, even all of godliness, “yet he will be a man of sorrow if a wicked child make him the father of a fool.” (5). “The holy father and mother can scarce keep one another’s heart from being broken by their stubborn and disobedient children” (14).

Lawrence also observed some fall-out that might not be obvious to others–that such parents have a harder time delighting in their godly children. This phenomena is a confusing and difficult state to experience and risky to share with anyone else lest it be misunderstood. He also gives wise counsel about it. That is, do not allow the wicked one to spoil the enjoyment of relationships with the others and the normal parental delight in their successes. No matter how it feels to you or how it appears to others or the wayward children themselves, deliberately rejoice in the godly ones.

Finally, Lawrence turns to right responses. Two are, praise God for obedient children, and don’t censure others for their wicked children. His counsel on responses is followed by practical counsel on how to prevent the calamity of ungodly children.

The chapter “Directions for Bearing This Calamity” begins with, “Abhor idolatry!” (31). This is a great start because it confronts the all-too-frequent parental idolatry of children. Parents’ first-love should be Christ, not a child. Another important point is to forsake sinful sorrow. He provides reasons for joy, a helpful aid for parents who don’t know how to replace the sorrow at the loss of the wayward child. So although parents carry the sorrow always, they can simultaneously rejoice and serve Christ with thankfulness. Finally, he exhorts wayward children on how to turn back and change.

A helpful aspect of this short book are the footnotes in which someone (Chapel Library?) provided notes to help the modern reader better understand Mr. Lawrence. They explain vocabulary from the 1600s, making the book quite readable. Also, a footnote explains what a preacher of the 1600s would mean by “love yourselves,” which is very different from the unbiblical view so many hold today.

Lawrence grapples with a heavy topic and does so eloquently. I am so glad he did. If you have not experienced wayward children, read this book. Use it to gain a broadened perspective of family dynamics and to build empathy and compassion for others.

If you have a wayward child, read this book! Feel the empathy of this aggrieved father and so many other parents before you. Though you do not know their names there also are many on earth now walking a similar road. Read and be comforted and find here counsel that, as you apply it, will tell you how to have joy in the midst of your sorrow over a wayward child.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Parents’ Groans over Their Ungodly Children, by Edward Lawrence. (2603 West Wright Street Pensacola, Florida 32505 USA: Chapel Library. http://www.ChapelLibrary.org)
Phone: (850) 438-6666 • Fax: (850) 438-0227
Free download, 45 pages. (Consider sending Chapel Library a donation.)

Posted in Adoption, Book Reviews, Mother of Difficult Child, Mother of Prodigal/Criminal, Parenting, Child-rearing, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Teens, Pre-teens | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Parents’ Groans over Their Ungodly Children

Responding to Shame-inducing Comments

For better or worse, shame motivates. It feels terrible, so it provokes action for relief. As a tool to manipulate others it is unkind at best, even downright cruel.

What effect do shame-inducing words have?

That depends. To someone not a people pleaser, shame-inducing words may rile anger or roll off like water. A people pleaser might try harder to please the speaker, but is eventually disheartened.

How should you respond when someone seems to sinfully manipulate with shame?

Being shamed by someone hurts and stirs up our pride. First Peter 5:6-7 offers hope with guidance.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

Written to persecuted Christians, this passage refers to many kinds of trials. Shame would surely be one.

  1. Humble yourself. The mighty hand of God has ordained that your trial–hurtful words in this implication–come your way. Don’t fight against God. Use the opportunity to grow in wisdom. Ask yourself, “What is God’s view of what I may have done? How might I please God in my situation? What do I need to change?”
  2. Apply discernment.
    1. Shame for sin is right to feel. Repent with prayer and changed behavior. God offers hope of forgiveness and means of change (1 John 1:9; Eph. 4:22-24).
    2. Shame for sins done against us when we are innocent (and did not provoke it) is a natural reaction. Since we did nothing wrong, that shame is not ours to bear. Do at least two hearts actions. 1) Trust God and, 2) set your thoughts on how wonderful God is. Jesus is our example. He, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” “While being reviled, He did not sin in return, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (Heb. 12:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:22-23).
    3. Shame for what is not shameful is not ours to bear. This includes blunders that cause embarrassment. This even includes shame from a mistake that caused harm but was not part of a pattern of neglect, was totally unintentional, and you’ve been making efforts to prevent it ever happening again. Rest in God’s grace (Rom. 5:1-2; 8:1).
      1. Be vigorous and diligent about actions to change so mistakes do not become habitual sinful neglectfulness. Make efforts to carry out what are rightly your responsibilities. For example, write a note to yourself. Put reminders on your calendar.
      2. BUT, what change you make, do for Christ and to love other people by preventing their discomfort at your neglect, not to prevent more shaming words. Don’t do it in fear. Do it in love for Christ.
  3. Knowing God cares for You, roll your concerns onto God, put off fear of man and put on love for God and the other person. Value God’s approval most and rest in it.
  4. Fearing God, learn to answer a manipulation wisely and lovingly.

What can you tell yourself?

Are you struggling with the provoking thoughts that a sense of shame can induce? Manipulation is sly deception. You can’t skip repentance if you have, indeed, sinned because guilt feelings will be justified. If you have done nothing to provoke the other person and still receive shame-inducing words you need to renew your mind with truth.

  • “No matter what I do or don’t do, God can never love me more than he does already nor can He ever love me less.” (Rom. 8:32-39)
  • “Since I am a sinner, I shouldn’t be surprised that I fail. Only God does not disappoint” (Rom. 9:33; 10:11).
    (This thought affirms the reality of sin without heaping on guilt, thus undercutting impossible expectations of self. It moves the focus to God’s sufficiency and praiseworthiness.)
  • “If my action was sinful, I will plan how to repent and will carry out my plan. Because He cares for me, I trust God to forgive me and to give me grace to change.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
  • “If my action was only human error, then shame feelings are not my responsibility to bear. I will plan how to prevent it in the future and will carry out my plan. The Holy Spirit gives me strength to change.”
  • “God cares for me in my failures and I can take my shame to Him and find forgiveness, comfort, hope, and strength to live for Him.” (1 Pet. 5:7)
  • “‘Fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.’ I will focus not on the manipulative statement toward me but on how I can trust and please the Lord.” (Prov. 29:25)
  • “Am I ‘seeking the favor of men, or of God?’ It is God, not this person, whom I must most want to please.” (Gal. 1:10)
  • “First Peter 3:1-6 says that a gentle, quiet spirit is precious to God and that, trusting God, wives need to ‘do what is right without being frightened by any fear.’ I refuse to fear my husband’s (mother’s, boss’s, teacher’s) disapproval. I refuse to give in to discouragement. Instead, I will honor God by doing what is right. That means I will desire more that the other sees his sin and repents to be right with God than that I get relief. It might mean that, to love him, instead of clamming up, I will gently, lovingly, carefully correct my husband’s sinful words, looking to myself lest I sin while doing so.”

What can I say to give grace to the speaker?

The sense of shame tends to drive us to cover ourselves, defend ourselves. We clam up, or explain and explain, or slash back in anger. Instead, seeking to honor God, care more about the speaker’s relationship with God than about how hurt you feel.

Give benefit of the doubt. The speaker may not realize how manipulative or shaming his words are and may believe he is saying what you really need to hear. Knowing your own failures, such blindness in another should incite compassion in you.

Here are some possible answers that refuse resentment and instead attempt to give grace for change by gently revealing the disappointed person’s own responsibility before God. Whatever you say, speak truth, and speak it in love with a gentle tone.

  • “I understand that you are concerned about (safety, your job, our children…). So am I. That is why I have already…(quantifiable efforts to change what is right to change).”
  • “Will you help me understand, have I sinned against you?”
  • “Honey, I love you and think you may not realize these words incite me to feel shame. If you see a fault in me please use words that edify” (Eph. 4:29).
  • Sweetheart, a more gracious way to say that would be something like…”
    • ‘Honey, it scared me when we returned to find the house filled with smoke because you left the potatoes cooking when we left. I know you didn’t do it on purpose. I’m wondering, do you realize this is a safety problem? How can I help you so that this doesn’t happen again?’”
  • “Honey, I know this issue is important to you and I will listen to your counsel. But right now I wonder if you realize that the words ‘I’m disappointed in you’ convey that you are angry because I didn’t live up to your standard, not because I sinned against God.”
  • “It seems like you’re holding me to a standard that God does not. May we talk about this?” (Gal. 1:10; 2 Cor. 5:9)
  • These are obviously only snippets of conversation. If you have trouble finding a way to answer that respectfully appeals for change and gives grace, ask a wise friend to help you formulate what to say.

These are obviously only snippets of conversation. If you have trouble finding a way to answer that seeks understanding, respectfully appeals for change, and gives grace, ask a wise friend to help you formulate what to say.

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“I have to learn the hard way. That’s just the way I am.”

Perhaps you have been told, “I have to learn the hard way. That’s just the way I am.” (Hopefully, you have not declared it about yourself.) I’ve even heard it reinforced with, “That’s the way God made me” and, “That’s the way my brain was made.”

Generally, people are not proud of being slow-witted or slow to learn intellectually. That sets “I have to learn the hard way” into a different category. It is announced in response to a challenge of the speaker’s foolish or disobedient choices. It appeals to the idea of slow learning, but is actually applied in the moral arena.

So why claim to be a slow learner on moral or practical issues? It defends irresponsibility and acts as a manipulation tool to get you to back off and/or lower expectations. First, there is a seeming promise that learning is actually happening. I’ll learn, it will just take me a lot longer than you want (while I keep doing what I want). Second, if it is “just the way I am” by virtue of brain structure, then he truly can’t help himself, so you need to lower expectations.

Actually, “learn the hard way” is really just an indirect way of saying that I insist on my own way for as long as I can until the consequences are more than I want to suffer; then I’ll “learn.” This amounts to stubbornness. How true it is that the one who insists upon his own way despite painful consequences harms himself. (Prov. 15:32).

Ultimately, foolishness because “that’s the way I am” blames God for sin. God made her. So it is God’s fault she has a personality that “can’t” learn to obey authorities and do what is right.

The truth is, personality can be changed. Paul told the previously dissolute Corinthians “such were some of you,” meaning they had changed, and changed radically in essential character. Their very personalities were changed. In fact, Christians are commanded to change. If personality cannot be changed, then a Christian cannot become more like Jesus and, therefore, God is lying. (Eph 4:22-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph 4:17)

Let’s assume the person who says this hasn’t thought it through. It is true that a brain can make it hard to learn academics like math. But learning to do what is right is a practice of moral choice in a simple yes or no selection–I will or I won’t obey. I will or I won’t heed wisdom. No one can stand before God and excuse rebellion saying, “I had to learn the hard way because of the (brain-based) personality You gave me.” Adam tried that and it didn’t work out too well (Ge 3:12, “the woman You gave”).

The truth is, we train ourselves morally (Heb. 5:14). We do like Pharaoh, hardening the conscience. Instead, we can choose to be like the apostle John. When Jesus first met him he was so hot-tempered as to be called a “son of thunder.” But choosing to obey Jesus, he eventually became known as the apostle of love.

Changing habits can be difficult. The Bible offers strong hope for those who find it hard to obey. “The one who listens and heeds correction gets understanding” (Prov 15:32b). To “listen” implies acting upon what is heard. Action is required, but the person who listens and heeds correction grows in wisdom that guides to actions that produce rewards. There is a path to blessing.

Please don’t believe your feelings. Having to learn the hard way is not your identity, personality, or physiology. By the power of the Spirit you CAN choose to heed wise counsel.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Options if someone tells you “I have to learn the hard way”:

  • “What makes you think that?” (data-gathering for discussion), or
  • “No, you don’t. We are choosers. You CAN choose to do what is right.” (rebuke)

For you and me:

  • When you choose wrongly, what keeps you from doing what is right?
  • Have you assumed you have to learn the hard way? What hope does the Bible give so that you don’t have to keep suffering painful consequences?
  • Why does it not make sense to believe that the “brain made me do it”?
  • How is God’s reputation at stake with this excuse?
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