Why Your Destiny Is Directly Linked to Your Sexual Purity

by Dr. Doug Weiss | Your freedom isn’t just about you. Your destiny is tied to the destiny of others—all around the world. People are desperate for answers, and once they find out how shallow and unsatisfying a life of sin is, they will want the real thing—Jesus.

There is a direct connection between your sexual behavior and your destiny in Christ. God has designed you and me to do amazing things for his kingdom, and our level of sexual purity will determine how useful we are. Sex and destiny are linked. This is why the devil works so hard to ensnare you in sexual sin. His goal is to neutralize you through immoral sexual behavior, thereby making you ineffective for the kingdom. And after 20 years of counseling men on this issue, I can tell you this is evidence that the devil is scared of you. Yes, afraid. Here’s why.

We have all seen great men of God excelling in the Lord and moving toward global impact, only to succumb to sexual sin. Suddenly, all they can do is watch as their ministries, families and reputations crumble in shame. Had these men prepared themselves to fight against sexual sin—been transparent with others, sought counsel, remained accountable—we would still benefit from their ministries today.

As I like to say about the devil, if he can seduce you, he can reduce you. There are examples of this throughout the Bible, especially regarding sexual temptation. Our biblical forefathers’ and mothers’ responses to temptation had a direct impact on their fates. Just look at Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife, for example, in Genesis 39:7–10:

After a time, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”
But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “My master does not concern himself with anything concerning me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my charge. There is none greater in this house than I. He has kept nothing back from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” She spoke to Joseph every day, but he did not listen to her about lying with her or being with her.

Joseph said no and stood his ground. His response cost him his job and almost his life. He was thrown in jail, but he refused to compromise his integrity for a moment of pleasure. You are probably familiar with the rest of Joseph’s story. He interpreted dreams for Pharaoh; then in a single day; he went from an imprisoned man with sexual integrity to being the second-highest leader in the greatest nation in the world.

Had Joseph failed this test, he could have easily been disqualified or killed earlier in his life after Potiphar found out about it. That one sin would have caused the death of millions by famine, because he would not have been where God needed him to be in order to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams and tell him to store crops for food. Sexual purity is what maintained Joseph’s destiny.

What about you? What’s it going to be? Will you fight and take a stand? Or will you give in and forfeit the Lord’s calling on your life?

The devil tried to stop me through a series of emotional setbacks. My father and mother abandoned me at an early age. I fell into the traps of sexual abuse, drug addiction, pornography and promiscuous sex. Looking back, I can see that the devil was rightfully concerned that I would figure out God’s purpose for my life and pursue my calling in the Lord. Thankfully, I did. By God’s grace, I was able to recognize the wonderful life He had planned for me, which caused me to give up all my addictions and give everything back to Him. As a result, I have seen God gradually increase my influence through major media outlets and a robust international speaking platform. I now see men saved and set free from sexual sin everywhere I go.

And that’s my point. Your freedom isn’t just about you. Your destiny is tied to the destiny of others—all around the world. People are desperate for answers, and once they find out how shallow and unsatisfying a life of sin is, they will want the real thing—Jesus. I believe it is God’s desire to expand your influence for His kingdom. He can make it happen if you will remain faithful.

Now is the time to get clean. Your family, friends, church and even nations are waiting for you. I could give you hundreds of examples of men caught up in pornography, adultery and other improper sexual behaviors who decided to repent, become accountable and build a support team. As a result, they began to help others and change the world.

You are God’s solution for someone or something on this earth. He lives in you, and He has given you special gifts unique to your personality. You are a great warrior, and the enemy attempts to scar warriors early in life. Beyond your guilt, shame or desperation is a heroic, epic story only you and God can write.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books, including Clean. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook, by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at heart2heart@xc.org.



Nelson Mandela: The Human Side of the Icon

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (image: courtesy of Nelson Mandela Foundation, ANC leadership © Louise Gubb).

Living the Legacy, Explore the Life of Nelson Mandela

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni1.

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. Now, after a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he has opened his personal archive, which offers an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life through his new book Conversations with Myself.

Conversations With Myself gives readers access to the private man behind the public figure: from letters written in the darkest hours of Mandela’s twenty-seven years of imprisonment to the draft of an unfinished sequel to Long Walk to Freedom. Here he is making notes and even doodling during meetings, or recording troubled dreams on the desk calendar of his cell on Robben Island; writing journals while on the run during the anti-apartheid struggles in the early 1960s, or conversing with friends in almost seventy hours of recorded conversations. In these pages he is neither an icon nor a saint; here he is like you and me.

An intimate journey from the first stirrings of his political conscience to his galvanizing role on the world stage, Conversations With Myself is a rare chance to spend time with Nelson Mandela the man, in his own voice: direct, clear, private. Introduced with a foreword by US President Barack Obama, Conversations with Myself allows for the first time unhindered insight into the human side of the icon.

Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom of giving all schoolchildren “Christian” names.

He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute, where he matriculated.

Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.

On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. There he worked as a mine security officer and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, he was introduced to Lazer Sidelsky. He then did his articles through a firm of attorneys – Witkin, Eidelman and Sidelsky.

He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

Nelson Mandela (top row, second from left) on the steps of Wits University. (Image- © Wits University Archives)

Nelson Mandela (top row, second from left) on the steps of Wits University. (Image- © Wits University Archives)

Meanwhile, he began studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. By his own admission he was a poor student and left the university in 1952 without graduating. He only started studying again through the University of London after his imprisonment in 1962 but also did not complete that degree.

In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa. He graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Entering politics

Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin, Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile “Thembi” and Makgatho, and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. He and his wife divorced in 1958.

Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its efforts, the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.

Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. (Image- © Herbert Shore, courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. (Image- © Herbert Shore, courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

In 1952 he was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months of hard labour, suspended for two years.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Mandela to practise law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo.

At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

The Treason Trial

Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on 8 April. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial, Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. After he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March.

In the face of massive mobilisation of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of explosions.

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport. (Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport. (Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Speech from the Dock quote by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964

On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island.

Mandela’s mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery, Mandela was held alone. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital. Later Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison. (Image- © National Archives of South Africa)

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison. (Image- © National Archives of South Africa)

Release from prison

On 12 August 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend, Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life.

Presidency

On 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graça Machel, his third wife.

True to his promise, Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

In April 2007 his grandson, Mandla Mandela, was installed as head of the Mvezo Traditional Council at a ceremony at the Mvezo Great Place.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

1. Nelson Mandela’s father died in 1930 when Mandela was 12 and his mother died in 1968 when he was in prison. While the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom says his father died when he was nine, historical evidence shows it must have been later, most likely 1930. In fact, the original Long Walk to Freedom manuscript (written on Robben Island) states the year as 1930, when he was 12.



Husband, God Is Calling You to a Divine Kind of Maintenance

by Dr. Doug Weiss | The fact that all of life is maintenance can be felt as painful or delightful to you.

Let's go back to the Garden of Eden to show you an amazing fact as it relates to the creation of man. Genesis 2:5 says that God has not sent rain on the earth and, "there was no man to work the ground."  It appears that God was making all of creation and was looking for man to work it, maintain it, and care for this amazing creation.

Genesis 2:15 confirms this idea of man's commission to maintain and care for this creation. "The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

Often when I am sharing this in a marriage conference, I'll say to the men that all of us are simply maintenance men. God has called each one of us, men and women, to care for the garden He has chosen to give us.

Men, everything in your garden is yours to maintain. Everything and everyone in your garden requires maintenance. This maintenance must come only from you. Only you can maintain the people and things God gives to you in your garden. When I accept this, that it's my responsibility before God to maintain or care for my garden, it helps me to not be resistant towards doing the dishes, laundry, or big projects around the house. Maintaining the garden is the first calling of all of ours.

Remember that this calling to maintain the garden preceded the law or sin. Adam and Eve's calling to maintain comes out of God's design for them, even in a sinless world. The calling to maintain is not a result of the fall. The fall made maintaining more difficult and challenging. The fall added pain to a process that was probably a lot easier before the fall.

To maintain is to be in alignment with you being created in the image of God. To maintain a woman or maintain a man is a calling of God in which he has uniquely equipped you to do. Now in our sin nature we can resist this calling and the blessing of walking in this calling, but it is a calling and responsibility given by God to both of you.

Also I have to remind men that Eve was in the garden too. She also is part of that responsibility to maintain and care for the garden. Eve needs to be maintained by Adam. Eve, Adam is in your garden and yes; he has some needs only you can maintain and that is the blessing of God in marriage to maintain each other.

Maintaining isn't a popular idea here in the United States. We like to hire someone to do this or that for us. We don't even wash our cars anymore; we let a machine do this for us called a car wash. In a culture that is moving further and further from the reality of maintenance, we can lose the very fabric that life is maintenance.

The fact that all of life is maintenance can be felt as painful or delightful to you. I enjoy having a house and that house requires maintenance every change of season. I also have a car and it requires maintenance. If I maintain it well, it is more likely to serve me better and longer over the years. However, if maintenance is a burden or painful, you can employ a technique I have seen many addicts employ in their life called denial. You can simply deny life or that your spouse needs maintenance and then have those things break down more often and require even more maintenance later on.

Attitude is a very important aspect of maintenance. How many of you before you eat a great meal, curse God?  "God, why do I have to work to eat, cook and clean up?  Why have you cursed me with this maintenance?"  How about in the shower as you get cleansed and smell great from all the products you have in that shower, do you curse God?  "God, why do I have to spend all this time in the shower, and the cost of soap…?"

Christ doesn't show up and feed His church irregularly, but daily. If you, as an individual, accept fully that marriage is a daily discipline, marriage can be so much easier. Until you fully accept the daily maintenance of your spouse, you may be angry about it, bargain about it, be sad about it, or even just deny their need for daily maintenance by you, and you alone.

This principle can really set you free, depending upon your response to the very real reality that your spouse requires daily maintenance. If you accept this maintenance principle you have a grateful attitude. Just like you thank God for the food, shower or sleep, you thank God for the spouse and your calling to maintain them.

If, however, you have hardened your heart, the daily maintenance of this child of God will be a burden. You will be burdened by praying with them, sharing your heart, dating, sex, as well as the emotional, and financial cost of a spouse. Maintenance exposes our hearts. If we do this cheerfully, then I think we understand what Jesus feels when He serves His church every day.

If we accept our full responsibility to maintain our spouse this process leads us into the glorious creation of a Godly marriage on earth. When you have a heart of grateful maintenance, you will just try to meet the needs of your spouse's heart, body, sexuality, financially, and parenting, without judging their validity against your own preconceived grid. In the beginning of this article we laid down the idea that we are all called to maintain our garden. God has placed your spouse in your garden. You fully accept your daily maintenance without a negative attitude. To be Christ like is to accept the maintenance of your spouse with a good attitude.

You have today and the rest of your life to be the most awesome maintenance of your spouse. I say go for the gold when it comes to maintaining your spouse.

Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including, Miracle of Marriage. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook or by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at heart2heart@xc.org.



Healthy Dating Practices for the New Year

This is what it means to date with intentionality and maturity (photo © Glow of Love by Angela D. Coleman)
 
There are plenty of unhealthy ways to date, so I've compiled 10 healthy dating practices that I believe cut to the core of what it means to date with intentionality and maturity.
 
1. Date with intention.
This is going to be for the best of both parties involved. Dating isn't a game, and the last thing you want to do is get in a relationship with someone when your intentions are anything but pure. If you're just looking for fun, I'd recommend you be open and honest about your intentions with anyone you meet or connect with. It's only fair to them and their emotions.
 
2. Make sure your first date is in a public place.
You just never know who you're going to meet. I'd recommend your first date be in a public place in front of lots of people and I'd even recommend you let your friends know where you will be in case something were to happen. You never know who the person you've chatted with on the phone might act in person, and the last thing you want to happen is end up in a private place with someone whose motives are anything but respectful.
 
3. Try to learn as much as you can before meeting them.
Yes, the beauty of social media. If they have public profiles, then make sure to do your due diligence and research as much as you can about the person. It only makes sense to do a little Facebook stalking to see whom you're meeting with. Come on, we've all done it. While someone's online profiles might not always match up with how they act in person, it's always a good idea to see how someone presents themselves online and it may give you the opportunity to end a date before it even starts. Better to be safe than sorry.
 
4. Value the input of your friends and family.
Your friends and family play a valuable role in your dating life, and it's always good to get their opinions when it comes to the person you are dating. Mind you, they might always give the best advice but it's always good to get wisdom from the people who are looking out for your best interest.
 
5. Continue to stay social with your friends and family.
Don't be that person who gets a relationship and then disappears from the face of the planet. We all know that person. Yes, I know you want to spend time with your new babe, but it's also healthy to continue carving out time for your friends and family members.
 
6. Have a "define the relationship" every few dates to see how things are going. 
Nobody likes dating in the dark. I don't mean literally, but emotionally. Not knowing where your relationship stands can be extremely stressful, so I suggest that you and your new girl/guy take time every few weeks to discuss where each other is at with things.
This will give you both clarity, keep the relationship healthy, and keep the relationship from ever going further than it needs to.
 
7. Be open and honest from the very beginning.
Relationships thrive on transparency. Letting people know about you from the very beginning is quite possibly the best thing you can do for your relationship. Everyone's made mistakes, and I'd encourage you to share about the big pieces of your life that have made you who you are today. Don't keep things hidden in fear of rejection. Be open.
 
8. Don't play with someone's emotions.
If it's not working, then end it. Some relationships are kind of like the TV show American Idol—they go on way longer than they actually should. Seriously though, don't keep a relationship going just for the heck of it. The best thing you can do is be transparent about how you're feeling. If things aren't working out, then end it with care. Ending the relationship as soon as you realize it's not working out will show you care about the person more than dragging it along. Trust me.
 
9. Don't have important conversations via text or email.
We've all been there. Auto-correct and text interpretation can be a relationship's worst nightmare. Save the important conversations for an actual conversation, not a banter of back and forth emojis and broken English. Plus, waiting to talk in person will give you time to really think about what you want to say instead of texting out of pure emotion.
 
10. Don't settle.
Simple. Don't settle for a mediocre relationship. You deserve to be with someone who supports you, encourages you, cares for you and loves you for who you are. Don't settle for mediocre when you could have extraordinary.
 
Jarrid Wilson is a husband to Juli, dad to Finch, pastor, author, blogger and founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.
For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com
 


Rick Warren: Sexual Purity Begins With a Commitment

Sexual purity is far more complex than simply abstaining from having sex and may be rooted in your mind, your heart and your soul. (ECWA Archive)

"How shall a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word" (Psalm 119:9, MEV).

Is it possible in the 21st century to live a sexually pure life—to refrain from sex before marriage and stay sexually faithful during marriage?

Yes! But it has to start with a commitment.

The Bible says, "How can [anyone] stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word" (Psalm 119:9 NIV). To be sexually pure in the 21st century (or any other century for that matter), you'll need a standard to live by. You can either build your standard by yourself or choose God's standard. You must decide whether God knows more about your life than you do.

God says several things in His Word that aren't popular—particularly when it comes to sex. Why does He say those things? He knows more about sex than you do. He also understands the implications far better than you do. You have to decide: "God, when I don't understand it, when I don't like it, and when it's not popular, I'm going to do what your Word says regardless of what I think or what my friends think."

Until you're willing to make that kind of commitment, you may as well close up your Bible and go back to bed. Without that commitment, you're not ready to be pure in an impure world. You can only be pure by following God's standard.

God thought up sex. It was his idea, but he did put a few parameters around it. His standard has never changed. It's very clear regardless of opinion polls or anything else.

Sex is far more than physical. It's a spiritual act with physical, social, legal, and emotional consequences. If sex were just physical, it'd be like a handshake. It wouldn't matter who you had sex with. But sex is more than physical.

The Bible makes it clear that sex is exclusively reserved for a husband and a wife who are committed to one another in a marriage. Anything outside of that, like sex before marriage and sex outside of marriage, will have profound consequences on your emotions and your spiritual life, and it may even physically harm you.

God's standards are in your best interest. If you want to live by them — and avoid all the negative consequences that come from living outside of them — it starts with a commitment.

Talk It Over
  • Why do you think it's important to make a commitment to God's standard for sexual purity before you get into a situation where you are tempted?
  • What are things in our world that make it even harder to turn away from sexual temptation?
  • What are some of the consequences of sexual sin?

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit rickwarren.org.

 



Signs of a Good Father

You know you're a good father when your children enjoy spending time with you. (photo © blackvibes.com)

Carrying a sixty pound backpack in Colorado’s rocky wilderness is hard. If you are used to breathing air at sea level, the high altitude makes it even more physically grueling. When our guides stopped and surveyed the land with a puzzled look, my heart sank. Something was wrong. We should have come to a creek which would confirm we were on the right track. But it wasn’t there. We had taken a wrong turn. Eventually we backtracked and found the correct path and the creek.

As fathers we can sometimes feel lost. We can have self-doubt about how we are doing as dads. While we will never be perfect this side of heaven, if you practice the following 10 things consistently you’ll know you are on the right track to being a good father. You will know you are setting the example your children need.

  1. When you help your kids with their schoolwork.
  2. When you take an interest in their hobbies.
  3. When you show affection to your wife in front of them.
  4. When you advocate that they speak to you and each other respectfully.
  5. When you just enjoy being with your children and they with you.
  6. When your son or daughter comes running to you when they get hurt.
  7. When your calendar is full of things to do with your children.
  8. When you calmly and gently discipline your children without yelling or screaming.
  9. When you tuck your children into bed at night and tell them: “I love you”.
  10. When you know their friends by first name.

For the original article, visit allprodad.com.

 



7 Damaging Sins Which Can Cripple Every Marriage

Damaging sins you need to watch out for in your marriage (iStock photo)

Did you know there are sins that can cripple every marriage? Yes, there are.

You realize there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people. Right?

Let me repeat that. There are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people. 

Every marriage will have seasons that are more difficult than others. I often encounter couples in our church that think they are unique. Because we tend to put on our happy faces at church, they believe theirs is the only marriage in a bad season.

In fact, I'm convinced not understanding how many couples have weathered through these rocky places in marriage may be a reason many couples give up on their marriage. If they understood how normal they are, they might be more willing to raise the white flag—ask for help—and work to restore the marriage. 

I have observed over the years there are some issues in marriages that, if not addressed, can be crippling to the marriage. These are the "biggies." They may manifest themselves in other ways, but if you could trace back to the origin, you would find these to be at fault.

And let's not sugarcoat. They are sins. We have all sinned. We all sin. Every marriage is comprised of two sinners. 

This is the real reason there are no perfect marriages. 

Left to fester on their own, these sins will eventually be the destroyer of the marriage or certainly keep it from achieving the oneness God commanded. 

So, what are these damaging sins? I'm glad you asked.

Here are seven damaging sins that can cripple every marriage:

1. Selfishness – Marriage won't work without mutual submission. Read Ephesians 5:21. Marriage is not a 50/50 arrangement. Ideally it's to be a 100/100 bond—where both spouses willingly yield their all. (I used the word ideal, because your marriage is not there and neither is mine.) When one spouse demands their way or will never work toward a compromise the relationship can never be all it should be. One person is happy—the one who got their way—the other is miserable.  

2. Discontent – I've said before—boredom is perhaps the No. 1 destroyer of marriage. There will be seasons in every relationship that aren't as "exciting" as others. Some days you will "feel" more in love than other days. But the key to a long-term relationship is a commitment beyond emotion. 

3. Pride – When one spouse can never admit they are wrong or see their own flaws, it opens the door for a wedge of bitterness in the other spouse. Pride is also destructive when the couple is too proud to admit their struggles or get the help they need. 

4. Unforgiveness – Holding on to past hurts not only damages the marriage bond, it destroys the person who refuses to forgive. Trust can't be developed until forgiveness is granted. Isn't grace received expected to be extended? 

5. Anger – The Scripture is clear: We should not go to bed in anger. There is a reason for that command. Anger is a wedge, one that only grows wider over time when not dealt with. 

6. Complacency – As soon as you think you're marriage is above the problems of other relationships, you're in trouble. The enemy loves to attack the unaware. 

7. Coveting – Couples who compare themselves to other couples will almost always be disappointed. There will always be people with more—and it likely isn't making them as happy as you think it does. Keep in mind, many times people disguise their struggles well. The couple you think has it all may wish they had what you have. Every couple is unique. Comparison only leads to frustration. 

Ask yourself this question: Which of these sins is most prevalent in my marriage today? Which is causing the greatest harm? Which of these, while it may not be an issue today, could become an issue if we don't get serious about it soon?

Be honest with yourself—and ultimately—with your spouse.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

 



5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Cohabitate Before Marriage

Studies shows after living together before marriage, the odds of staying together decreases significantly (image © Andy Ward)

Are you single or dating someone you think may be the one? Or do you have kids who are dating and may be thinking wedding bells at some point?

If so, you may want to consider the importance of marrying before moving in together or of teaching your kids about the pitfalls of shacking up.

More and more couples are choosing to move in together before marriage. One reason is to save on rent. Yes, saving on rent. Saving on rent is not, and should not be, a reason to live with someone who may or may not become your spouse. In fact, it is a really bad reason. Below are five reasons shacking up is a bad idea:

1. No blessings from God. The Bible considers shacking up the opposite of a legitimate marriage. A legitimate marriage consists of a union between a man and woman who have made a covenant and commitment. Shacking up involves neither. Marriage was a union created by God and is a union God blesses.

2. Your relationship will probably end. An article on examiner.com states that 80 percent of shacking-up relationships end before marriage or in divorce after marriage. So, it is 80/20 against you getting married or staying married to that person. One reason is because there is not a commitment when you move in before marriage. A relationship without commitment will not last, and marriage is the biggest commitment you can make in life.

3. Your children will be negatively affected. To the parents who have children, your kids are three times as likely to be expelled from school or get pregnant, five times more likely to live in poverty, and 22 times more likely to be incarcerated—all because you choose to live with someone you're not married to.

4. It makes you lazy. As a married man, I know that once dating ends, the relationship changes. Living together removes the "being your best" part of your relationship. Kind of like most job interviews—you wore the suit to the interview, but once hired, you show up in khakis and a polo. And if you're living with a woman and getting some of the "benefits" of marriage—sex, having someone to help around the house, sharing the bills—you can also get lazy about taking the next step in your relationship.

5. Saving on rent. Mentioned above.

 Related Resources: 

How will you educate your adult children about the dangers of shacking up?

All Pro Dad is Family First's innovative and unique program for every father. Their aim is to interlock the hearts of the fathers with their children and, as a byproduct, the hearts of the children with their dads. At allprodad.com, dads in any stage of fatherhood can find helpful resources to aid in their parenting. Resources include daily emails, blogs, Top 10 lists, articles, printable tools, videos and eBooks. From allprodad.com, fathers can join the highly engaged All Pro Dad social media communities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

 



Words of Wisdom: In-laws of Newly Married Couples

How do you get along with your son- or daughter-in-law? (ECWA Archive)

I often teach and write about the experiences that I have working with relationships. Personal experience is often some of the best information I have to protect and help other relationships.

In helping marriages, I often try to share some of the barriers that I have seen to having a good marriage. My theory is that if couples are aware of the barriers before they become an issue it’s much easier to deal with them when they arise.

One of the consistent barriers I have seen in having a strong marriage is the way the couple deals with outside influences. It could be friends, family, work, or hobbies. It’s mostly people.

One of those primary outside influences that many couples struggle with is dealing with in-laws.

And, the in-laws who are causing a problem are now rejecting this post.

The crazy thing about this issue is that I once talked about the issue but now I live the issue. So I realize I am on shaky ground by speaking to a subject I haven’t yet mastered. We have been in-laws now for a couple of years and it is still relatively new for us. But now at least I see both sides of the issue. Cheryl and I are trying to be good in-laws by learning from other people’s experiences we have encountered in ministry.

I’m speaking primarily in this post about parental in-laws, but these will also apply to other relatives of couples. This type post gets me in trouble. It’s a sensitive issue. Keep in mind this is an opinion blog. And this is an opinion post. But these are gained through years of experience working with young couples. Apply as necessary.

Here’s some of my best advice for in-laws:

Remember “leave and cleave”.  It’s Biblical. Two people are trying to become one. That’s the goal. That means the two can’t be part of another unit in the same way. Yes, they are still family, but they are creating something new. Their new will likely look different from yours — hopefully even better. No doubt you will have influenced who they are as a couple. That may be in good and bad ways. Let them as a couple determine what they keep of your influence and what they leave behind. Again, they are still part of you. But, in the formulation of a new “them” they have to leave some things behind.

Know this: Everything you say to your child impacts their spouse. One way or another. And, it will likely either be repeated and injure your relationship with their spouse or cause a hidden wedge in their relationship. You can’t expect them to become one if you have a private world of communication with your child. And if they are trying to be a good husband or wife they will not keep secrets from their spouse. Yes, you should always be a safe place for your child. And there may be times where it is necessary for them to come to you in secret. But those should be rare. Very rare in my opinion. You can help them reduce friction in their marriage by not contributing to or promoting private conversations.

They sense the pressure to “come see you”. Chances are they have pressure elsewhere too. Maybe even from other in-laws. How welcoming is it if you spend most your time talking to them complaining how little you see them? Yes, it’s hard when they don’t seem to want to — or you feel slighted in the amount of attention you receive — but guilt and complaining won’t accomplish what you’re attempting. It might even get them there, but it won’t promote quality time with them.  And, it will often build resentment.

Get rid of the phrase “What you should do is”. It isn’t helpful because it’s usually received with an immediate pushback. They are trying to form their own identity as a family. Hopefully they will solicit your input at times but don’t offer it unless you’re asked.

Offer advice only if you’re asked. I thought this one merited repeating. Again, it’s not that you don’t have for good advice. And they would probably be better off if they listened to your advice more often. Most likely you have experience they don’t yet have. But most young couples want to discover things on their own just as you possibly did when you were younger. Unsolicited advice is almost never seen as valuable as solicited advice.

Be a fun place to hang out. All young couples need to see healthy people and healthy relationships. Marriage is hard without any outside influences. So the more healthy and environment you can create for them the more often they will want to be a part of that environment.

Love them unconditionally. I would say equally, but that’s hard — isn’t it? You’re going to naturally lean towards favoring your own child, especially when there is friction or conflict in the relationship. Be patient with them. Give grace generously. Hold you’re tongue when you’re tempted to say something that could be hurtful. Forgive quickly when needed. Remember, you are supposed to be the maturer people in this season of life.

The point of this post — and this blog — is to help. I’m not trying to stir more frustration. Other blogs do that well. :). Seriously, my aim is to address issues I see often and help us learn from other people’s experiences. I realize this is a hard season for many parents. But, with careful intentionality it can be a great season.

Remember, we are new at this.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

 



Men & Pastors: Attend Lions Roar 2015 (Nov 4-6 2015) Dallas TX

You can either preach sermons to them, or disciple strong, committed men who will stand squarely behind you.
Men will sit in the back or have your back! Your choice.
 
JOIN the private PASTORS ROUNDTABLE: full-access, personal dialogue with global leaders on core issues facing pastors today. The pulpit is the place for courage. 2 Sam 10: "Let us fight bravely for our people."

Leadership Track / $139

Build Strong Men and Families

Refuse all copycat methods and invest three days to hear what God wants from your manhood. Rub shoulders with some of the greatest men and leaders on the planet today. Imbibe the message, the spirit, the camaraderie, the life! Come away invigorated, committed, changed! Includes VIP Green Room Access, because there are no green rooms, no backrooms at Lions Roar. Every delegate is a VIP!

  • Included in basic registration, and includes conference syllabus
  • You may join the other special sessions and add the Three Meal Deal at the point of registration
Contact
P.O. Box 93478
Southlake, TX 76092 USA
 817-437-4888
 office@christianmensnetwork.com

Proven results that have increased church growth, finances and volunteers by 20% in one year. Check it out! Equip your men’s leader and key men to set the stage for a strong, upward curve in 2016!

We have prepared four powerful sermons specifically for men that you can carve up for your own use.

Link to original registration site: Time for godly men to stand up and stand together!
 


Encouragement for Those in Painful Processes

Be of good cheer. Those painful processes you are going through are about to make you stronger. (Reuter)

I felt the Lord saying that there are encounters with His power that are going to happen in the midst of your "process" right now as you stay positioned. I saw encounters with the power of God for many across the body of Christ as they refused to "cave" under the pressure, and these encounters with His power were like a defibrillator.

It was bringing hearts back to life and revival in hearts, and it was seeing deliverance happen in hearts and lives. It was seeing a shock of hope and excitement released for what the Lord is going to do. Not only will dreams come back to life in hearts, but with fresh vision and the Lord will add new "elements" and "layers" to these dreams in the heart of His people through these encounter with His power.

In the encounters with His power, there is a great awakening that will happen in hearts to the heart of God like never before. Where hearts have been "out of sync" with what the Lord is doing or saying, or fear has caused hearts to move away from the heart of God or His dreams for their lives, suddenly they will be shocked by His power and love into life and back into rhythm with His. 

Through these encounters with His power the people of God are going to move through the process fully. One day you may feel like you are walking barely scraping through, barely "making it" to then having some of the greatest encounters of your life with Him and His power, to suddenly being full. There is going to be such a significant release of His power and impartation into hearts and lives that the people of God as they stay positioned are going to go from feeling empty to full. 

Fire of Testimonies: In the process I saw the people of God as they "leaned in" to Him and refused to give up, they were brought to a place of being full of strength, joy, peace and revelation, that suddenly the fire of God fell from heaven while they worshipped and they went from full to an explosive overflow—an explosive overflow releasing His revelation and testimony to all around. 

"My people's mouths will be full of testimonies." 

The people of God moved out into all areas of their lives with their mouths full of testimony—testimonies to His faithfulness, deliverance, power and love in the testing process. Tests are turning to testimonies. 

To those who have been hit in "financial areas" in their process lately, the Lord is releasing significant financial provision that is going to release some of the greatest testimonies to His provision that you have ever had.

The process may feel painful, the stretching unbearable and you may feel dry, but can I encourage you, do not give up in your process. Refuse to give up even in the weariness for some of the greatest encounters with His power are being released right now as the people of God "lean in."

You will go from "barely surviving" to "thriving." From feeling empty to full and from full to explosive overflow releasing the testimony of a good God to all around you that will release a breakthrough anointing for others as you share. Hold on tight! God is going to use your process powerfully!

"Your testimonies are my delight, they are my counselors" (Ps. 119:24).

Lana Vawser has a heart to encourage the body of Christ and individuals in their walks with Jesus, to have deeper intimacy with Him and to learn to hear His voice. She operates in the prophetic and loves to share the heart of God with others. Lana has written her first book, titled Desperately Deep—Developing Deep Devotion and Dialogue with Jesus, and loves to see others grow in all that God has for them.


Are You a Biblical Christian or a Cultural Christian?

Patrick Morley | Are you a biblical or a cultural Christian? (ECWA Archive)

Contrary to the opinions of some, Christianity is still flourishing in our society. There are more Christians today in America than ever before, both as a percentage and in total numbers. Roughly one in three Americans indicates they have asked Jesus to forgive their sins and grant them the gift of eternal life.

But here is the obvious question: If religion is such a big part of our lives, why isn't it making more of an impact on our society? The sad reality is that claims of religious commitment run high, but impact is at an all-time low.

And here's the problem: Although Christianity is flourishing, many of us who are Christians have gotten caught up in this increasingly bankrupt culture. We have adopted many of the values of the world around us. Maybe it's the new sexual ethics of cohabitation or pornography, rampant greed and materialism, or winking at the needs of the poor.

Galatians 5:9 explains why adopting these values is a problem: "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." So when we try to have the best of both worlds, we exchange the truth of God for a lie and the glory of God for idols, we do what seems right in our own eyes, we get engrossed in the secular world, and we worship created things instead of the Creator.

The result? Cultural Christianity. Cultural Christianity means pursuing the God we want instead of the God who is. It is the tendency to be shallow in our understanding of God, wanting Him to be more of a gentle grandfather type who spoils us and lets us have our own way. It is sensing a need for God, but on our own terms. It is wanting the God we have underlined in our Bibles without wanting the rest of Him too. It is God relative instead of God absolute.

What has been the result of this adaptive, cultural religion?

Two Kinds of Christians 

The ease with which people now associate themselves with religion has produced two kinds of Christians: biblical Christians and cultural Christians.

Jesus was the first to clarify the different types of people who would or would not associate with Him. The parable of the sower reveals four groups of hearers of the Word of God.

Group 1: The Non-Christian
"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12).

Christ makes clear the point that not everyone who hears about salvation will believe.

Group 2: The Cultural Christian, Type "C"

"Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away" (Luke 8:13). 

Type "C" stands for counterfeit faith. Among us are some who profess to be Christians, but in reality they are not Christians at all; they are cultural Christians—type "C." They have a counterfeit faith—a faith that is not a genuine faith in Christ. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Without sounding a false alarm, but in love, I encourage every man who finds himself to be a cultural Christian to consider whether his faith is merely a defeated faith or a counterfeit faith. If counterfeit faith is the condition of your life, don't be discouraged. God loves you with an everlasting love and wants to reconcile with you. In the next chapter we will look at how you can get on, or back on, the right track.

Group 3: The Cultural Christian, Type "D"

"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature" (Luke 8:14).

Sadly, there is little marginal difference between the way many Christians spend their money and the way non-Christians spend theirs. For a group whose primary commission is to be salt and light to a broken, confused world, this example does little to present a viable alternative to empty lifestyles.

Type "D" stands for defeated faith. The type "D" cultural Christian lives in defeat. There is little, if any, marginal difference between his lifestyle and the lifestyle of the man who makes no claim to be in Christ. He has never understood, perhaps because he has never been told, the difference between what it means to be a cultural Christian versus a biblical Christian. This is the category I flirted with before God brought me to my senses.

Group 4: The Biblical Christian

"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15).

A biblical Christian is a man who trusts in Christ, and Christ alone, for his salvation. As a result of his saving faith he desires to be obedient to God's principles out of the overflow of a grateful heart (see Romans 1:5). Obedience doesn't save us; faith does. This explains why some men can be cultural Christians—they have a saving faith, but they have not obediently made Christ Lord over all their lives. They have not allowed the Holy Spirit to empower them.

What does it mean to be a cultural Christian today?

Lessons from Elementary School

Do you remember your elementary school teacher demonstrating the principle of diffusion? She started with a clear glass of water. Then with an eyedropper she took some red food dye from a bottle and squeezed one drop into the glass. Within moments, the water was tainted with a pinkish hue as the dye permeated the water in the glass.

To be a cultural Christian in your parents' generation was to be like a clear glass of water with one drop of red dye. In other words, the secular culture was not that different from the Christian culture. That was before the days of Internet pornography, abortion on demand, explicit sex during prime-time TV, songs that degrade women, and a drug culture that's hard to avoid. So a man could be a cultural Christian and still be somewhat close to a Christian worldview and values.

To be a cultural Christian today is like having the whole bottle of red dye poured in the glass.

A Look in the Mirror

The man in the mirror will never change until he is willing to see himself as he really is, and to commit to know God as He really is. This objectivity anchors a man; it gives him the clarity of thought he needs to be a biblical Christian.

Is the man looking back at you in the mirror a cultural Christian or a biblical Christian?

Patrick Morley is the founder of Man in the Mirror Ministries. For the original article, visit maninthemirror.org.


Managing the Dark Side of Me

Dr. Arnie Cole/For Man in the Mirror | Are you fighting the good fight of faith and pursuing righteousness daily? (Lightstock)

"But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:11-12).

During my career as a behaviorist and researcher, I have met and interviewed hundreds of Christian men who are convinced that overcoming temptation and managing their "dark sides" are impossible goals—at least this side of heaven.

So instead of fighting the good fight, as Scripture instructs us to do, too many men have given up. Some—and I hate to admit it, but myself included—find themselves embracing soul-robbing choices, telling themselves two deadly lies: (1) "I don't really have a problem," and (2) "I can handle this alone."

We all have at least one thing that is so desirous, so attractive to our nature that even the mere thought of it is enough to tip us over the edge. Like an evil spell, our proximity to it immobilizes our senses. It seems to own us. It often calls out to us, and when it presents itself, we are completely undone. Sadly, if we desire something long enough, we'll deceive whomever we have to in order to get it. Usually the first person we deceive is ourselves.

The Bible warns that temptation comes in many forms. Sometimes it's disguised as a lover and friend. Sometimes it appears to be clothed even in light—coming to us with seemingly innocent intentions. Temptation is always stealthy, always deceptive … kind of like a certain snake that entered a certain garden long, long ago.

But here's a little secret about our sinful desires: They are quite predictable, always attacking our brains in the same way. In fact, James—a half-brother of Jesus—knew this all too well, and he observed four stages in the temptation cycle: enticement, conception, birth and death.

James was convinced that the more we understand these four stages, the better we can put up a fight. In his letter to early Christians he said this: "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:13-15).

The good news is, you and I don't have to be defeated by sin. We can manage our dark sides and fight the good fight for the true faith. These five essential steps can help:

Admit to God that something needs to change and confess your struggles to Him.

Accept the Lord's forgiveness and stop beating yourself up for your failures. If you let it, toxic shame will always pull you into a downward spiral … and back into sin.

Find someone you can trust and talk honestly about your struggles.

Acknowledge daily before Christ your lack of power to control your dark side, and pray that He will empower you to avoid temptation to sin by turning to healthy, wholesome triggers.

Set your mind on Scripture all throughout the day. Only truth can undo untruth.



The Urgent Crisis of the Young American Male

Why are so many disturbed young men in the United States carrying out massacres? (iStock photo)
 
 
 
 
 
Just one day before a crazed young gunman killed nine people in Oregon last week, police arrested four males who planned to go on a bloody rampage at their high school in central California. Fortunately those four juveniles are now in custody—but it doesn't lessen the pain of the families who lost loved ones in the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon.

What is happening? Why are so many disturbed young men in the United States carrying out massacres? Consider these four recent cases:

1. Christopher Harper-Mercer, 26, killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Oct. 1, 2015, using five handguns and a rifle. He killed himself after the rampage. An unemployed loner, his parents were divorced and he lived with his mother. He suffered from mental disorders, and neighbors said he sometimes paced the floor of his apartment until 4 a.m. According to posts online, he was fascinated with guns and frustrated that he didn't have a girlfriend. When he broke into a classroom last week he asked some students if they were Christians before shooting them in the head.

2. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, is an avowed white supremacist who shot and killed nine people, including a pastor, in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. He used a .45-caliber Glock pistol. His mother left his father before he was born, and his father was later accused of abusing his second wife. A high school dropout, Dylann used drugs, showed signs of obsessive compulsive disorder and was convinced that African-Americans are taking over the world. In his online posts he talked of starting a civil war. He will stand trial in July 2016.

3. Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a bloody rampage on the University of California/Santa Barbara campus on May 23, 2014. First he stabbed three Chinese men (two of them his roommates), then he shot three students at a sorority house using three semi-automatic pistols. Then he killed himself. Coming from a divorced home, he was described by those who knew him as a loner who had been bullied in school. In a video he posted on YouTube just before his shooting spree, he said he wanted to punish women who had rejected him, and to punish sexually active males because they had a more enjoyable life.

4. Adam Lanza, 20, was responsible for storming into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, and killing 20 first-graders and six adults. He murdered his mother first, then used her rifle to shoot his victims, and then killed himself. After the incident, investigators learned that Adam suffered from numerous mental problems. He loved horror movies and was fascinated by mass killings. Adam had had a strained relationship with his father since his parents separated in 2002.

A growing number of young men—even teens—are snapping. What is causing this?

The debate rages today about gun control—and certainly a case can be made that these men should never have had access to handguns or rifles. But this dilemma can't be solved simply by stricter background checks. (Elliot Rodger, for example, stabbed three of his victims with a knife, one of them 94 times. In other cases, they used guns owned by family members.)

In the cases I've described, each young man came from a broken home marked by abuse, rejection or neglect. Each was tormented by inner demons that caused him to be fascinated with conspiracies, weapons and violence. And after each massacre, people who knew these young men said they detected that they were deeply disturbed and needed intervention.

Other factors may have played a role, including drugs, video games, violent entertainment and broken relationships. But one clear factor is mental illness and an obvious lack of support for families that struggle with this problem. A lot of young men in this country today are battling anxiety, compulsive behaviors and serious psychological problems, and we can't sit back and wait for politicians to solve this.

We need spiritual answers—and the church must step up to the plate to provide more help to people like Christopher, Dylann, Elliot and Adam before they reach the breaking point. That's why I'm grateful California Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay (whose 27-year-old son battled depression and committed suicide in 2013), have organized a conference on mental illness that begins today. The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church will convene at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, Oct. 7-9.

"It's time to break the silence and stigma surrounding mental illness," says Kay Warren. "Every church, regardless of size or location, can be a place of refuge and love and compassion for those who need it most."

Hopefully Saddleback's willingness to apply the gospel to this taboo topic will result in a wave of healing in this country. For too long we have ignored this complicated problem—or we've deliberately swept it under the rug. The church should be the place where families go to find answers to mental illness—and not after a school massacre but before it happens.

J. Lee Grady, former editor of Charisma and the director of The Mordecai Project. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. Check out his ministry at themordecaiproject.org.



5 Obstacles to a Great Christian Marriage

There are many obstacles to a great Christian marriage. (iStock photo)

I love marriage. I love the idea of marriage and the process of marriage.
But, marriage isn't easy. It's actually hard to have a good marriage.
One of the toughest verses in the Bible to obey is Ephesians 5:31 which says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh."

One flesh.

The process of blending two very different people is what causes stress to many marriages.

In my work with marriages, I've identified five of the major obstacles to making a great ONE out of two very different people. Sometimes simply understanding what obstacles exist and knowing they are common to most marriages—you are not alone—can help us learn to see them not as obstacles, but as God-given opportunities to grow a stronger "one flesh."

5 major obstacles I have seen are:

1. Lack of biblical knowledge about marriage. There is very little premarital training in churches today or even in most homes that are raising children who will one day marry. When my boys got their driver's license we sent them to four Saturdays of classes. How much training do most of us get for marriage? The fact is that most of us are somewhat surprised by marriage and we don't really know how to make it work. We need to do a better job training people for marriage.

2. Differences in men and women. Men and women are designed differently by God—not just physically, but emotionally. We look at the world differently. We process information differently. We expect different things from relationships. We have wrongly tried to equalize everything when it comes to men and women. I strongly agree we need equality when it comes to things like workplace treatment or educational opportunities, but when it comes to matters of the heart, and especially marriage, we better know that God designed a difference in men and women.

3. Communication styles. Because of our differences, men and women communicate differently. Men tend to communicate thinking to thinking; while women tend to communicate heart to heart. One of the reasons Cheryl and I might have conflict is because I say things I intend for her mind to hear and it's received with her heart. We need to remember that we communicate differently.

4. Outside influences. Every marriage has influences beyond their immediate control, but that have profound and direct impact on the marriage. Some of those influences include:
  • Children
  • In-laws/other relatives
  • Friends
  • Pressures of life/stress
  • Satan

All of these are normal influences in any marriage. Some of them are even welcome influencers in the marriage. The key is not to let ANY of them distract from the plan God has for the marriage to become one flesh.

5. Differing goals/objectives. Remember every couple is made up of two unique, differently designed individuals. That means each one brings unique qualities, personalities and opinions to the relationship. Again, that's part of God's overall design to make two people one.

Some of the major differences include:
  • Outlook on life; usually one is more positive and one is more negative.
  • Differences in family backgrounds
  • Personality differences Introvert/Extrovert; Thinker/Feeler;
  • Organized/Disorganized
  • Parenting Objectives

The overall goal of marriage is not to make both parties in the marriage like one of the parties.  It's to make ONE new unit out of the two. Discovering how to blend one flesh out of two different people takes years and requires practice, patience and lots of hard work. Remembering that differences are a part of God's plan and can actually help us build stronger marriages.

Remember also God didn't promise this would be easy. In fact, the very next line after the difficult verse I shared in the opening of this post says, "This is a great mystery" (Ephesians 5:32).

If you are married, praise God for the mystery He gave you today.

What other obstacles have you seen to having a great marriage?

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.