Lunch With A Friend

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. – Hebrews 13:18

godsgoodness.newlife

Only the good news of Jesus Christ encourages us to honestly think about who we really are and to address our shortcomings in a way that won’t cause us to wrongly rely upon our own efforts.

Let me explain with this example: A while back I had lunch with a non-Christian friend. As we ate, we began discussing spiritual things. I made reference to the prodigal son, and no sign of recognition crossed his face. He’d never heard the story; he knew nothing about the Bible.

As the conversation progressed, he got around to stating his theology: namely, good people make it to heaven. He considered himself a kind, loving, and good person. And without a doubt, he’s one of the nicest people I know. But as we talked longer, he discussed his internet relationships with women ready to leave their husbands to live with him. His “goodness,” as he called it, gave these women new hope about men.

I felt compelled to challenge his thinking. “What would these ladies’ husbands think of your so-called goodness?” I asked. “Has this ‘goodness‘ ever prompted you to call one of these men and ask if he minded that you were having an internet relationship with his wife?” As it turned out, his “goodness” wasn’t as good as he thought it was.

Rely upon God’s goodness. As good as you think you might be, that goodness is nothing next to His.
– Steve Arterburn

Reason often makes mistakes, but conscience never does.
– Josh Billings

Struggling With Silence

Steve Arterburn

A man wrote this comment about his relationship with his wife: ‘I did not reveal myself to her. I stuffed many of my thoughts, emotions, and needs that I feared would lead to rejection if I voiced them’This was cutting her off’I believe this was an abdication of my responsibility. I have known for many, many years that honesty and openness is God’s way but had not really come to terms with it until recently.’

 

As a man, you likely agree that not every emotion you feel’for example, fear, inhibition, or intimidation’is good. You probably realize honesty and openness is God’s desire but struggle to obey. Haven’t you wondered if Adam ever said ‘I’m sorry’ to Eve. Think about it. There he was in the Garden, listening to Satan tempt his wife, and he did nothing to interfere, to keep her from giving in. And the rest is history.

 

As one prominent psychologist noted, ‘Adam was there and he was silent.’ I wonder if Adam ever spoke to Eve about his shame. And I wonder if we men have inherited his silence.

 

You don’t have to give in to the temptation of silence. Share yourself with your wife. Come to terms with the fact that the silence that fills your home is like a fog and obscures you from her. But you can begin to clear the fog. Give her the opportunity to receive what you say with trust and grace. It might be scary. But you can do it.

The Secrets Of God And Men

Steve Arterburn

Secrets aren’t necessarily a bad thing. If they were, God wouldn’t have them. Yet Scripture tells us that God keeps some things completely to himself. The Bible calls these the ‘secret things’ of God. But if it’s acceptable for God to keep secrets, why isn’t it completely acceptable for us men to do likewise?

 

One key difference between God’s secrets and ours lies in the area of motive. Being perfect and pure, God has reasons for keeping secrets that reflect His flawless character. Fallen men, on the other hand, are neither perfect nor pure. Therefore, a man’s motives for keeping secrets are suspect.

 

The bottom line is this, and every man knows it: most of your secrets are kept out of fear’fear of embarrassment, shame, guilt, loss of respect, loss of stature and favor, repercussions, reparations, and so on. In other words, men usually keep secrets for all the wrong reasons. Understandable reasons perhaps, but wrong nonetheless.

 

Beyond being wrong, your secrets are also destructive. They divide you against yourself. They cause isolation and lack of honesty in your relationships with others. And finally, they provide the context in which sin thrives.

 

By way of contrast, exposing secrets to the light of truth robs them of their power to hold and harm you. It fosters humility, creates accountability, and allows you to be restored by the grace and love of God and your loved ones. Men, honesty truly is the best policy.   

Understanding Your Wife’s Heart: Part 10

New Life Ministries

Honesty is perhaps one of the most basic needs in marriage. Without honesty, problems that may destroy the relationship can lie hidden for years, building momentum, creating blocks to intimacy, and then suddenly surfacing larger than life to wreak destruction in your marriage.

Honesty is the foundation upon which all other aspects of marriage are built. With honesty you know exactly how your actions will affect your mate, and you can make the necessary adjustments to accommodate his or her feelings.

With honesty, you and your spouse are aware of each other’s weaknesses, and can work with that knowledge.

Knowing and understanding the thoughtless things you might be inclined to do, allows you to take precautions to prevent that from happening. ‘But we are honest!’ you say?

How honest are you? Is there a line you can draw which marks where a little bit of secrecy turns into dishonesty? Is there such a thing as mostly honest?

Being honest is like being pregnant, or alive. You either are, or you’re not. There is no half way, no mostly, about any of those things. In marriage, partners must learn to become completely honest with each other if they are to achieve true intimacy.

Here’s a little quiz. Do you, or have you, shared the following information with your spouse? Do you know the same sorts of things about him or her in return?

Your past. Does your mate know all there is to know about: former lovers, friends, occupations, dreams, mistakes, achievements, failures?

Your feelings. How do you feel about the events of your life? Especially your reactions to the things that your mate does? How do you feel about the life you have created together?

Today. What are your plans for the day? Who will you see, what will you talk about, where will you go, when will you be home, how can you be reached?

Tomorrow. What are your hopes and dreams and plans? What are your goals?

Anything left unasked above. Does your spouse know as much as you do about yourself?

Well now, I can just see you shaking your heads in disbelief. She must be crazy to think that I would share my past failures, or the fact that my spouse’s job really annoys me. Talking about those things would just cause a fight to end all fights.

But is it the honesty that causes the argument, or is it the things you have been hiding? Is it speaking the truth, or is it the manner in which you deliver the message? Which brings us to a couple of points that need to be touched upon.

First, how well do you handle your spouse’s honesty? Do you become upset, yell, threaten, or criticize when your partner shares difficult information? If so, then you are fostering dishonesty in your marriage.

You would be well advised to make a practice of thanking your spouse for whatever information he or she shares. If it is too difficult at the time for you to handle the things your spouse is sharing with you, then express your thanks and ask for some time to process what you’ve heard.

When you share information with your partner, do you do it in a way that is calm, respectful and pleasant? Saying something like, ‘You lazy thing, all you ever do is sit around and look at trash on tv, you never do anything to keep the house up,’ is not being honest. It’s being rude and disrespectful. Saying instead, ‘I’m overwhelmed with things I’d like to get done, and I’m wondering if there’s a way you would be willing to help me out?’ is honest and respectful.

Honesty needs to be framed in a way that is respectful of how the other person feels. This is not to say that you should not convey information that might be upsetting. It simply means that you must do so in a way that is as considerate as possible.

One of the things that I emphasize strongly with couples that come to me for help, is the practice of sharing with their spouses, their own reactions to his or her behavior.

So often we are afraid to tell our mate that he or she has offended us in some way. Frequently it was something done in innocence, and we want to overlook it. Unfortunately, when we do that, our feelings for our partner are adversely affected. And we deprive them of the ability to make necessary adjustments in their behavior to take our feelings into account.

If you have very difficult information that you have been withholding from your spouse, then you might want to consider enlisting the help of a professional. Things such as past or current infidelity are incredibly hard to confess, and even harder to hear. Sharing with the help of a caring third party can ease the process.

Honesty is the bedrock of marriage. It is essential for trust, for building compatibility, for creating a way of life that you both enjoy, and for maintaining the feelings of love in marriage. If you are serious about saving your marriage, or about keeping alive the love you have now, you must begin with real and complete honesty.

After attending Every Man’s Battle, we strongly encourage you to attend our marriage program at our New Life Weekend
This weekend will help your marriage to heal from the wounds of
impurity and will especially help your wife with questions that she
still may have.


Back to Our Knees in Recovery: Starting the New Year off Right

Jeff McVay

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas decorations are slowly coming down. Times Square is getting ready for the big celebration. Children are planning for another night of sleep deprivation before school starts. Everyone is asking the familiar questions: ‘What are you doing New Year’s eve?’ ‘Where are you going to watch the ball drop?’ and ‘Does anybody know what auld lang sine really means?’

Shortly after this we usually ask ourselves what our New Year’s resolutions will be.

Many Christians set New Year’s resolutions around time in prayer (myself included). Prayer is something that we all need and something that most Christians consider important. However, we often set our resolutions so high that we cannot possibly keep them (example: I will get up at 4:00 am everyday and pray for at least an two hours about everything I can think of). Or we set them so low that they do not really stretch us and we forget about them (example: I will say ‘thanks God’ before I get out of bed and go on with my busy day). I would like to help us all set a reasonable resolution concerning prayer that will stretch us enough to keep us going but not be so overwhelming that we give up at 12:01 am New Year’s Day.

Prayer is a great place to start the New Year, especially for people who are in recovery from various addictions. Eugene Peterson, author of numerous books and translator of The Message, says:

Getting started is easy enough. The impulse to pray is deep within us, at the very center of our created being, and so practically anything will do to get us started- ‘Help!’ and ‘Thanks!’ are our basic prayers. But honesty and thoroughness don’t come quite as spontaneously.

For our New Year’s resolution we want to ‘get started’ and yet move towards the honesty and thoroughness that Dr. Peterson talks about.

Setting our standards too high or too low is only part of the problem. For many people struggling with various addictions, we tend to think that we must clean up our act before we can pray effectively. We have a deep sense of shame that paralyzes us as we think about talking to God who is holy and perfect. You might say to yourself ‘There is no way that I can pray the flowery prayers that my pastors or elders pray.’ We assume that God only wants to hear about our ‘good’ feelings (happiness, joy and gratitude), and that ‘bad’ feelings (anger, frustration and sorrow) should be left alone when it comes to prayer. Therefore, we hold on to ‘bad’ feelings and say ‘I’ll just work on these ‘bad’ things myself and only try to bring the ‘good’ things to God.’

This is truly ‘addict’ thinking. The substances of addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, etc.) are only the symptoms of a much greater issue’fear of intimacy, which requires openness and honesty even about the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of. When we indulge in these things we spend an awful lot of time trying to cover our tracks so that no one will know what we have done. This leads to isolation, which causes pain. We then try to medicate this pain or ‘make it go away’ by indulging once more and thereby starting the cycle all over again.

When we can only bring our ‘good’ feelings to God then we are doing the same thing to God that we do to our families and friends by covering up. God invites us, through prayer, to take off the mask (that He can see through anyway) and stand before him just as we are and not as we should be. God longs for us to bring the totality of ourselves, both what we think is positive and what we think is negative, before Him in openness and honesty. Again Eugene Peterson writes, ‘Prayer is not ‘advanced’ language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything in our lives out in the open before God.’

So how do we do this if we don’t have experience in being open and honest before God? We go to the prayers God has given us in His word as a way of practicing how to pray. These are found in the Psalms. If you are having trouble believing what I have said about prayer so far, I invite you to explore the Psalms and see if I am wrong. You will find Psalms that are cries for help. There is utter sorrow. There is complete anger where people pray for the death of their enemies and even their enemy’s children. There are prayers of frustration even when their frustrations are with God. And, of course, prayers of hope, joy and thankfulness.

The Psalms teach us that openness and honesty about our feelings before God is what God desires. Our emotions and our honesty do not scare God. He will not run screaming from the room. He will run to us and listen to our deepest feelings. In fact Romans 8:28 tells us that when we bring ‘difficulties that are too great for words to express’ God’s Spirit prays in us and for us.

With all this in mind, we will now look at our New Year’s resolution again. Much like learning to run a marathon, we must enter into a training period. No one goes out and runs a marathon on their first day. They first run a few minutes and gradually build up to marathon distance. So with our ‘prayer training’ we will also start with small increments and with the proper tools to help us eventually get to wherever we think we want to go in prayer.

I think a great place to start is with five minutes of reading a particular Psalm and five minutes of practicing our own prayer per day. That’s right, ten minutes a day is all you need to begin. And, just like running, you set your own pace in growth from there. Psalm 51 and Psalm 139 are great places to start, but you can pray any of the Psalms. If the flowery language of the Bible has been off- putting for you, then pick up a translation in Modern English such as The Living Bible or The Message. Either one will help you remember that these prayers are from regular people opening themselves up before God.

Then spend five minutes using your own words before God.

If you can, try to be in a place where you can speak your prayer aloud without anyone hearing, that way you get in the habit of opening yourself up verbally before God. It will feel strange at first, but you will see a change in yourself very shortly if you continue. At first your prayers may only be ‘help’ and ‘thanks’ to God, but Psalms 139 and 51 will help you remember that prayer is about developing openness and honesty. Strive for thoroughness as you continue. You will find that God will meet you and continue to call you forward into greater joy, love, peace, hope and intimacy with yourself, with your struggles, with your loved ones and with God himself. Quoting Peterson once again: ‘[I am] convinced that only as we develop raw honest and detailed thoroughness in our praying do we become whole or truly human in Jesus Christ, who also prayed the Psalms.’

If the Psalms benefited Jesus in his prayer time, we can definitely rely on them this New Year to guide us into a deeper, more open and honest prayer time with the God who loves us. Happy New Year!