Reblog: The Benefits of Setting Boundaries with your Teenager

by Dr. Henry Cloud

I was at a friend’s house for dinner one evening when, out of the blue, their son turned to his parents and said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I got suspended from work for a week.”

“What happened?” his dad inquired. There was concern in his tone. It had been difficult for their son to secure this job.

“I was late twice within the same week.”

“That’s too bad,” his mother said. “You needed the money.” She continued eating, and we chatted for a minute before the subject changed.

I was so proud of his mother, I wanted to scream, “Way to go!” She didn’t get hooked into taking care of him or hooked by her own anxiety into lecturing, trying to ensure that he would never be late again so he wouldn’t lose his job. She just empathized and listened, allowing him to shoulder the problem. She also did not offer money, talk about how unfair “they” were to do such a thing, or enter into any other codependent behavior. Her son was learning that the real world has limits for his behavior. Fortunately, his mother refused to shield him from that lesson.

If parents can stay out of the way of the outside world’s limits, the child learns an important reality: Parents are not the only ones with rules. This realization helps the child see rules not as parental but as part of the real world. If allowed to suffer, he learns that the world has requirements from which parents cannot shield him. This realization does wonders to stop his regressive slide back to the parents’ protection; the child learns to deal with the consequences of reality in a way other than just the parents’ discipline.

Unfortunately, some parents cannot let their children suffer. When their teenager runs into trouble with school, or the law, or on the job, she will do something to bail him out. When she runs to his aid, she often attacks or undermines the limit he should have experienced at the hands of the outside world. She storms the principal’s office, for example, protesting a grade or lack of promotion or recognition. Certainly it can’t be her child’s first fault; it must be the teacher or the school. And if someone doesn’t do something, there will be hell to pay, or some other version of parental threat. This type of parent just cannot accept the fact that her child is not making it and needs to suffer the consequences.

Sometimes a parent will not interfere so blatantly as storming the principal’s office. She may just join her child in blaming the limit setter. “Well, you know how those teachers are,” she might say. “They just teach by the book. Wait until you get to college where they actually know what they’re talking about.” The reaction undermines the effect of what could have served as a wake-up call that the child needed to help him grow up.

The chief parenting task in this area is to not get in the way. The parent’s job is the resist not only undermining but also joining the limits her child experiences in the real world – using them to say, “I told you so.” Using the outside to limit to her advantage diminishes its power. She might say something like, “I told you if you didn’t start to be more responsible that this would happen. Now look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself into.” This kind of reaction nullifies any positive effect the outside limits might have had on the child; the outside limits and parents’ nagging become the same in the mind of the child who is trying to separate from the parent. What started as an outside limit has now become the parent’s, and the child must separate from them and thus, from the limit. As a life lesson, it is canceled out, as if it never happened. This does not negate valid coaching and interaction but only joining.

A parent would do best to just step out of the way and allow her child to have his own experience and relationship with the outside world. Like my friend’s remark: “Sounds tough. What are you going to do now? Pass the casserole.”

Find the original article here.

Advertisements

Reblog: How to Become a Color Theory Expert

From AccuQuilt

What every quilter should know about basic color theory and fabric coordination

Do you second-guess yourself when selecting fabrics? Unsure if the colors work together? Not anymore. AccuQuilt is covering the basics of color theory, and giving you the confidence to choose the perfect color combinations every time.

Color plays a vital role in creating beautiful projects, and understanding color theory is the first step to helping you nail your fabric selections with every quilt you make. You’ll be learning the same principals used by designers, artists, and photographers—and we won’t even charge you for college credits. So get ready: here comes color theory 101.

The color wheel—a helpful tool

Color Theory

Color theory begins with the color wheel—a representation of all the colors in a handy visual form. You’ll notice the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) are on different sides of the wheel. The primary colors are those that cannot be created by mixing any other hue. In fact, all other colors are derived from these three primary colors.

Secondary colors are those that are created when two primary colors are mixed, like orange (red and yellow), green (yellow and blue), and purple (blue and red).

In between the primary and secondary colors you’ll find the tertiary colors. These are combination colors, like aqua (green-blue) and vermillion (red-purple). They add depth and interest, allowing you to expand on the palette for whatever you’re creating.

Color theory is built off of the color wheel, so it’s good to keep one handy as a quick reference.

Harmonious color themes

Choosing the right colors for a piece creates harmony—a feeling that everything is how it should be. Likewise, choosing the wrong colors creates visual dissonance—the feeling that something is just “off.”  It’s the difference between a piece feeling energized versus too-intense, or relaxing versus boring.

There are reliable color themes that will always create visual harmony, so when in doubt you can always fall back on one of these combinations.

  • Analogous colors: Analogous color themes are created when any three colors that are next to each other on the 12-color wheel are used. Examples of analogous themes would be blue, green-blue, and green or yellow, yellow-orange, and orange. Typically when the analogous theme is used, one color will be dominant, and the other two used as accents.
  •  Complementary colors: Complementary colors are those that are completely opposite each other on the color wheel. The complementary of red is green, yellow is purple, and blue is orange. Using complementary colors together creates a theme that naturally works. For example, shades of yellow-green and purple-red would be complementary, and create harmony in your project.
  • Split complementary: This color theme tends to be very vibrant and works best when one color is used as the main color while the other two are used as accent colors. The split complementary theme is similar to the complementary theme, but instead of using the color that’s exactly opposite the main color, you choose the two colors on either side of it. For example, if your main color is green, instead of choosing the complementary of red, you would choose red-orange and red-violet.

Contrast and context

The same color can look completely different when placed against other colors. For example, red looks more vibrant against black, while it almost disappears against orange. That’s because of the contrast and context. The same hue will have different contrasts in different contexts.

Some color combinations are high contrast, like yellow and blue, and some are low contrast, like yellow and green-yellow. The closer together the colors are on the color wheel, the less contrast they’ll have. Neither high contrast or low contrast is better, it depends on the feeling you’re looking to create. If you’d like your project to have a soothing, serene feeling, colors like blues and greens that flow into one another would be a much better choice than high-contrast reds and yellows.

Contrast tints and shades

Color Theory

All the colors are in the color wheel as pure forms, but more hues can be created by adding black or white. Adding white to a color lightens the hue and creates a tint. Adding black darkens the hue, creating a shade. Using tints and shades creates contrast, and therefore visual interest.

High-contrast tints and shades—those that are very dark and very light, are eye-catching when paired together, and ideal for parts that you want to highlight. Conversely, low-contrast shades and tints—those that are closer together, are more subtle and great for backgrounds.

Hot and cold

The ways you use warm and cool colors can totally change the look and feeling of your quilt. Warmer colors are those like red, yellow, and orange, while cooler colors include blue, green, and violet. Using an analogous theme that features all warm or all cool colors provides a completely different look than mixing warm and cool. Mixing the two can provide striking contrast.

Some fabrics—like red-violets or yellow-greens—can be hard to read. If you can’t tell if the fabric reads more warm or cool, put it against other fabrics and see where it falls.

Putting it into practice

Color theory is important to know as a quilter, and it can help guide you in making fabric selection decisions. But color theory is only part of it—the other part is your personal preference. Complementary colors are great, but maybe you don’t like to use red and green together outside of the holidays. Or maybe bright, clear colors aren’t your deal. Do what you’re comfortable with.

On the flipside, if you find yourself in a color rut, pull out your handy-dandy color wheel and start following color theory to try out different combinations. Gather your fabrics and try them together. You may find a new combination you never thought of using together.

Combining color theory with your preferences will help you create unique, beautiful quilts that are oh-so-you. So grab some fabric and get started. And show us what you came up with. We love to see your creations. Happy quilting!

Free GO! Piece of My Heart Quilt Pattern

Find the original article here.

Reblog: What Does a Cure to Addiction Look Like?

by Dr. Henry Cloud

If you’ve turned on the news, or perhaps if you’ve scrolled through your social media feeds, you’ve seen stories related to the opioid crisis currently going on in this country. In some cases, maybe you’ve lost a friend or a loved one to an overdose, or you’re in a codependent relationship with someone who’s an addict.

What some may not understand about addiction is complex, and its intricacies are sometimes difficult to explain, but what we do know is that addiction is a compulsive physiological need for something: in other words, something that someone needs to survive. People are usually addicted to a specific substance, such as alcohol, heroin, pills, or food. But people can also feel addicted to activities, such as sex, gambling, work, destructive relationships, religiosity, achievement, and materialism. These substances and activities never satisfy, however, because they don’t deal with the real problem. We don’t really need alcohol, street drugs, or sex. We can live very well without these things.

However, we really do need relationship, and we cannot live very well without it. We have already seen what happens when it’s absent. With addiction, a real need is getting a false solution based on deceitful desires.

Curing addictions requires a return to sensitivity and humility. Addicted people must admit their powerlessness and their need for others, as well as soften their heart toward those they have injured and realized their deceitful desires. They are substitutes for some other need of the real self. An essential step in the healing of addictions is finding out the real need being masked by the deceitful desire. One of these real needs is attachment and bonding to others.

Emotionally isolated people can’t get relationship, so they go for something else. They convince themselves that they want food, the sex, or the pills, and they order their whole life around it. But they really need their emptiness to be filled up with loving feelings and connections with other people.

When the inner hunger for relationship is filled with love, then the driving force behind many addictions goes away. Not all addictions come from isolation, but many do. If someone cannot bond with another person, they will bond with a prostitute’s body, a bottle, a half-gallon of ice cream, all the while going relationally hungry inside.

One client I had who struggled with food addiction put it this way. “I remember the first time I chose to call someone instead of eat. I could feel the strong pull toward the refrigerator, but I interpreted that as a pull toward love. So I called someone from my support group. After going over to her house and feeling some real affection, some warmth, I wasn’t hungry anymore. Since that time, I’ve learned to do that more. I’m finding out it’s not really food I want at those times. It’s love.”

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Have You Caught Someone Lying? Here’s What You Do.

By Dr. Henry Cloud

When we think about setting boundaries in relationships, we have to consider the fact that you may encounter someone who may lie to you, which raises the question – why do people lie, and what can you do about it?

There are really two categories of liars. First, there are liars who lie out of shame, guilt, fear of conflict or loss of love, and other fears. They are the ones who lie when it would be a lot easier to tell the truth. They want to be honest, but for one reason or another, cannot quite pull it off. They fear the other person’s anger or loss of love.

The second categories are liars who lie as a ways of operating and deceive others for their own selfish ends. There is no fear or defensiveness involved, just lying for the love of self.

You will have to ask yourself if you want to take the risk and do the work if you are with the first type. There are people in the first category who have never had a relationship where they felt safe enough to be honest, and they tend to still be hiding. So they lie to preserve love, or preserve the relationship, or avoid being caught in something because of guilt and shame. They are not really dangerous or evil, and sometimes when they find someone safe, they learn to tell the truth. This is a risk that some people want to take after finding out that deception has occurred. They hope that the person will be redeemed by the grace and love that they offer and will shoot straight with them from then on.

The thing is, dating is not a place for rehabilitating someone. It should occur in that person’s counseling, recovery or some other context. Just because someone lies out of fear, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and serious devastation can occur even with fearful liars.

The second kind of liar is a definite no-go. Tell him or her good-bye, and save yourself a lot of heartache. Perpetual liars are not ready for a relationship, no matter how much you’re attracted to him or her. Run, run, run!

So, what do you do if you catch someone lying to you?

1. Confront it.

2. Hear the response and see how much ownership and remorse there is for the lying.

3. Try to figure out what the lying means in the relationship. If the person is afraid, guilty or fears loss of love by you, then work on that dynamic and try to determine if the character issue is changing with more safety. But be careful.

4. Look at the level of repentance and change. How internally motivated is he or she to get better?

5. Is the change being sustained? Make sure you give it enough time. Hearing “I’m sorry” isn’t good enough.

6. Look at the kind of lying that took place. Was it to protect him or herself, or just to serve selfish ends? If it is the latter, face reality squarely that you are a person who loves themselves more than the truth and face what that means. If the former, think long and hard and have a good reason to continue.

You don’t have to tolerate deception or lying when it happens. If your significant other is not being transparent, don’t let it go. Set a boundary and tell yourself, “I have to be with someone who is honest with me.” Many times lying is a sign of a serious character problem that doesn’t change without major hurt for many people.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Moving Forward

by Melodie Beattie

August 23, 2017

Much as we would like, we cannot bring everyone with us on this journey called recovery. We are not being disloyal by allowing ourselves to move forward. We don’t have to wait for those we love to decide to change as well.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to grow, even though the people we love are not ready to change. We may even need to leave people behind in their dysfunction or suffering because we cannot recover for them. We don’t need to suffer with them.

It doesn’t help.

It doesn’t help for us to stay stuck just because someone we love is stuck. The potential for helping others is far greater when we detach, work on ourselves, and stop trying to force others to change with us.

Changing ourselves, allowing ourselves to grow while others seek their own path, is how we have the most beneficial impact on people we love. We’re accountable for ourselves. They’re accountable for themselves. We let them go, and let ourselves grow.

Today, I will affirm that it is my right to grow and change, even though someone I love may not be growing and changing alongside me.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: What Keeps People Together and Why They Break Up

By Dr. Henry Cloud

I talk to a lot of couples, professionally and obviously just as a regular human being with friends. One of the things that I am always most curious to talk to couples about is their initial attraction. What made them decide to get together? And what happened in the first little while that helped that grow and enabled them to create a lasting relationship? The differences are sometimes stark. What brought them together and what keeps them together are rarely the same thing.

That should be obvious. Beginnings of relationships are often at least a little bit superficial, mostly because you don’t really know the person yet. And yet, the criteria for what someone is looking for in a relationship always seems to hover over those initial attractors.

When you talk to people about what they are looking for in another person, you tend to hear the same things over and over again:

I want someone who’s witty. I want someone who likes to hike. I want someone who is ambitious in their career. I want someone who is good looking. I want someone who reads a lot. I want someone who is physically strong.

People have a habit of defining themselves and terms of their likes and preferences. But we are equally defined by the things that we do not like. It is much less common for a person seeking a relationship to be looking for character traits that embody things that they know will hurt their relationship.

Maybe it’s happened, but in my experience, I’ve never encountered a couple who got divorced or went through big relationship problems over the fact that their partner didn’t want to hit the trails, didn’t spend enough time reading, or didn’t like the same sports.

The dating process is about having fun and getting to know people. The initial, more surface oriented factors that comprise your personal taste in dating partners is what makes the beginning of a relationship fun. But there is an opportunity that you must make sure you are seizing in order to size up a person’s character traits and realize if you’ll want to get more serious with them. These things often reveal themselves early.

The types of things that cause relationships to end are things like being a bad listener. Having unrealistic expectations. Irresponsible spending. Lack of emotional identification. Inability to just be real. Temper flare-ups. Perfectionism. Tendencies toward controlling behavior.

We often rationalize these character flaws as personality quirks even though they are big red flags. When you contrast that with the comparatively lightweight nature of the criteria that we select people by — the kind of superficial traits that comprise our tastes — it starts to seem like dangerously shortsighted behavior.

What good is a witty person who can’t make you feel safe?

What good is an ambitious, career-driven person if they can’t be real with you?

What good is a person who reads a lot but doesn’t hear a word you say?

When you’re starting out with someone, consider whether you’re being too limited in the way that you’re assessing them as a dating partner. Are there superficial things that you can look past for now? Those things will fade in time. Are your concrete, but ultimately superficial preferences preventing you from dating someone who could be really good for you?

Likewise, are there signs of trouble that you’re writing off because someone does meet other more ‘fun’ qualifications? How’s the future look in that scenario? There’s a good chance that all of the initial attractors will have fallen away, absorbed into the fabric of your connection, and completely overshadowed by problems that may doom your relationship, hurt your quality of life, and ultimately waste your time.

Time and energy are finite resources. When it comes to dating, you need to find a balance of what’s fun, but you also need to temper it with what’s real. You will save yourself a whole lot of heartache if you consider the kinds of things that you’re NOT looking for with the same weight of the things that you find attractive.

Reblog: How to Forgive Someone and Set a Boundary

by Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: How to Respond When Others Reject Your Boundaries

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Usually the quiet one in her group, Heather spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Heather’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us? Absolutely. We were never the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it; some will hate it.

We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our “no.” They only love our “yes,” our compliance.

So what does Heather, whose husband is an avowed “boundary buster,” do? Will her husband carry out his threat to walk out on her? She can’t control his response. But if the only thing keeping Heather’s husband home is her total compliance, is this a marriage at all? And how will problems ever be addressed when she and he avoid them?

Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, “I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.” This person is called wise.

The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our “litmus test” experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them “no” in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy — or learn that there was very little to begin with.

Do Heather’s boundaries with her husband condemn her to a life of isolation? Absolutely not. If telling the truth causes someone to leave you, this gives you the chance to reach out to a counselor or a support group.

In no way am I advocating divorce. The point is that you can’t make anyone stay with or love you. Ultimately that is up to your partner. Sometimes setting boundaries clarifies that you were left a long time ago, in every way, perhaps, except physically. Often, when a crisis like this occurs, it helps the struggling couple reconcile and remake their marriage healthier. The problem was raised, and now can be addressed.

But a word of caution: the boundary-less spouse who develops limits begins changing in the marriage. There are more disagreements. There are more conflicts over values, schedules, money, kids, and sex. Quite often, however, the limits help the out-of-control spouse begin to experience the necessary pain that can motivate him or her to take more responsibility in the marriage. Many marriages are strengthened after boundaries are set because the spouse begins to miss the relationship.

Will some people abandon or attack us for having boundaries? Yes. But, it’s better to learn about their character and take steps to fix the problem than never to know in the first place.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Don’t Marry Your Future Ex-Husband

by Harriet Lerner PhD

Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make, so chose wisely.

First, consider the top five reasons that wise women sometimes make foolish choices.

1. Timing.  We’re most prone to fall mindlessly in love at difficult emotional junctures—on the heels of a breakup, divorce, or death of a family member, for example.

2. Steamy starts. The rush of romance and sexual attraction can act like a drug, and blur our capacity for clear thinking.  When we get obsessed with a guy we confuse intensity with intimacy.  In fact, intensity blocks us from taking an objective look at our partner, ourselves, and the relationship.

3. Idealization. We’re convinced he’s so brilliant and special, that we put him above us.  Perhaps he has a gift we don’t possess, for example he can fix your computer,  has a photographic memory, and can conjugate Latin verbs.  Discerning his strengths and weaknesses is part of knowing him better, but an idealized view leads us to undervalue our own worth and ignore his shortcomings. We’ll make excuses for negative traits, qualities and behaviors because he’s “so brilliant.”

4.  Desperation and fear. Your two best friends just got married, you’re about to turn forty, and someone reminds you that your biological clock is ticking.Your anxious brainwakes you at 3:00 in the morning with scary pictures of your future without a mate. Fear has never helped anybody make good choices. It leads to clinging when we should be walking.

5.  Lack of Self-Focus:  You’re looking for someone to fill up your empty bucket, give you some kind of direction, or provide meaning in your life.  Poor choices happen when we’re not putting our primary energy into having our own life plan and figuring out how to live our own life (not someone else’s) as well as possible.

Here are six tips to give you the best chance of making wise choices.

*Slow things down and get to know him as well as possible.   

*Don’t insulate your relationship with him from other important relationships, even if he says he wants to spend time only with you.  You won’t really know him if you don’t make sure to observe him among both your friends and family and his.

*Keep your primary focus on your own goals and life plan, which will put you on firmest footing whatever happens with a particular guy.

*Don’t silence your voice or avoid conflict in order to preserve relationship harmony. Get out sooner rather than later if there is a big red flag waving in your face. 

*Don’t count on the quality of your love or nagging to create things in the future that aren’t there to begin with.

 *Never forget that there are many possibilities for intimacy and connection other than pairing up.

find original article here.

Reblog: The Lingering Stench of Sin

by Tim Challies

We used to live on the fringes of a small town surrounded by farmland. We quickly learned that of all the farm creatures in the world, pigs must be the stinkiest. It was not unusual to drive down the highway on a hot summer afternoon and to begin to detect a faint whiff of pig manure in the air. As we kept driving the smell would get stronger and we’d soon spot a truck in the distance ahead of us. Drawing closer, almost choked by the reek, we’d see that, sure enough, it was stuffed full of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. These pigs were so smelly that they would leave a trail of stink that would stretch for miles and linger for hours.

This world reeks of troubles and sorrows. Sometimes we are innocent victims of other people’s sin and sometimes we are willing participants who cause trouble all our own. At other times we are simply caught up in the stink of a sinful world. In any case, we are regularly called upon to respond to situations that are difficult or even excruciating. How can we respond? How should we respond? What’s the best way to bring hope, to bring healing?

The problem with sin is that it is too dreadful, too ugly, too pernicious to allow solutions that are perfectly clean and neat. Instead, a stink lingers in the aftermath of any great sin. We long for good solutions or even perfect ones, but invariably there are only mediocre and bad and worse ones. Sin is too sinful to allow perfection.

I think of people I’ve known whose marriage has been rocked when one spouse admitted to an addiction or an affair. Their friends, their church, and their family offered supported and gave counsel. But there was no neat and tidy way to heal a devastated relationship. There was no clean and easy way to dissolve a broken marriage. It was never a matter of finding a perfect solution, but of finding the least bad one. Why? Because sin is messy. It leaves a stink in its wake. We pray earnestly, we labor faithfully, but all the while we acknowledge our insufficiency. We acknowledge that even our best efforts will be imperfect.

I think of churches whose pastor failed to keep a close watch on his doctrine and began to lead his church into error. Some of the church identified the sin and expressed concern; some of the church embraced the sin and expressed admiration. Words were thrown, sides were taken, rifts were opened. People offered their solutions, but none of them was perfect, none was just right. Why? Because sin is too sinful, and the stink lingered in the aftermath. It would be naive to expect a perfect solution to such an evil problem.

Sadly, there will always be little messes in the wake of big messes, little hurts in the wake of big hurts, unanswered questions in the wake of attempted solutions. Where there is great sin, there will be great stink. We ought to labor to find the best possible solutions, to bring the deepest and truest healing. But we simply can’t expect there will be perfect solutions to messy problems. Not on this side of heaven, at least. The stink of sin always lingers.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Control Your Sexuality

By Tim Challies

This whole series titled “Run to Win“ had its genesis in a number of real-world conversations. In one, a woman told of her struggles with her husband. She considered herself a caring and attentive wife who over many years had done her best to respond to her husband’s frequent requests for sex. Yet even when she responded positively, she found his desire was rarely quenched, and within hours he would be after her again, grumbling and dissatisfied if she declined. Another young wife learned that her husband was regularly masturbating when she wasn’t around. Do all men do this? Still another found a trail of pornography on her husband‘s laptop. Is this normal? If so, why does it feel so wrong?

It feels so wrong because it is so wrong. It isn’t normal, and it isn’t okay. This series began with men who have a problem with sexual self-control. As I pondered these situations, I asked, What do these men really need? Surely their inability and unwillingness to control their sexuality reveals a much deeper spiritual problem. I pondered and plotted, and soon a series was born, a series meant to examine a powerful biblical metaphor for our lives: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Today I want to challenge you in this way: If you are going to run to win, you need to control your sexuality.

An Age of Incontinence

I suppose we all know what it is to be incontinent. I was once in an airplane with a passenger who struggled in this way, and in a sealed aluminum tube soaring at 30,000 feet, her problem quickly became our problem. When we speak of continence we are usually referring to bodily functions, especially the ability or inability to control urinary and fecal functions. But the word has a wider meaning than that. As you read older Christian authors, you will often encounter the notion of continence applied to sexuality. A man who exercises sexual self-control is a continent man. Conversely, a man who lacks sexual self-control is an incontinent man, no better than the one who cannot or will not control his bowels.

Sexual incontinence dominates the world today. Sexual expression and carnal pleasure are regarded as unassailable rights. Children not even old enough to understand their bodies are encouraged to explore, for masturbation is said to be physically pleasurable and morally commendable. From a young age, children are taught that anything consensual must be ethical and that repressing sexual desire is far more harmful than expressing it. Teens are told that abstinence is old-fashioned and that any sexual expression is fair game as long as they use protection. Sex: Our bodies long for it, society celebrates it, pop culture promotes it, pornography trains us in it.

Sadly, sexual incontinence pervades the church as well. Even many men who profess faith in Jesus Christ are out of control in their sexuality. Perhaps they developed bad habits when they were young and have simply never replaced those habits with better ones. Perhaps they’ve let themselves slip and over time have allowed healthy patterns to be displaced by unhealthy ones. Perhaps they are simply apathetic about the whole thing. Either way, we see the brutal fallout in churches ruined, ministries undermined, families wrecked. Many men have been willing to risk it all for the sake of fleeting sexual pleasure.

No wonder, then, that the Bible calls Christian men to self-control in all of life in general, and in this area in particular. To men struggling with sexual self-control, God’s Word offers stern rebukes and sweet promises of forgiveness and reformed behavior. The very gospel that saves your soul is the gospel that grants the virtue of self-control.

A Man of Self-Control

Self-control is a virtue of uncommon beauty, the promised result of a relationship with God, for “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Yet it is a rare virtue because so few Christians diligently seek it. In the morass of a sinful mind, self-control can feel like captivity, the denial of what is good and satisfying. In reality, though, self-control is the key to what is good and satisfying, for it steers you away from counterfeits and directs you toward the greatest sources of the highest pleasures.

God is the creator of the gift of sexuality and, as its creator, the one who has defined its purpose and determined its boundaries. The greatest enjoyment of the gift is found within God’s boundaries, not outside of them. Paul speaks to you when he appeals to the Christians in Rome “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Their presentation of their bodies was their surrender of their very selves. You, too, must voluntarily surrender everything to God, including your sexuality. You must determine to seek his purposes for it and use it only in ways he permits.

God says that sex is given to a husband and wife for pleasure and procreation, a gift through which they enjoy unique intimacy and create new people formed in God’s image. With this in mind, God gives you sexual desires so that you will pursue a wife first, and then so that you will pursue your wife within marriage. And, as you already know, God tends to give men a greater measure of sexual desire, perhaps to encourage the man to take the lead in the loving pursuit of his bride. We are, after all, prone to laziness and shirking our responsibilities. Perhaps God has given us this increased sexual desire to motivate us to do what we would otherwise avoid or procrastinate.

According to the Designer, sex is a good gift that is inextricably tied to the marriage covenant. It is only within marriage that you are called to voluntarily give the rights over your body to your spouse. Paul explains it in this way: “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Any and all sexual activity is to be enjoyed consensually between a husband and wife. You have no right to pursue sexual activity on your own. Your sexuality belongs to your wife, and only she can determine when and how it is expressed. This means you have no right to ogle other women, to concoct inappropriate fantasies, to stare at pornographic images, or to sneak off and masturbate. In all ways and at all times you are to show self-control, to withhold sexual expression for any purpose other than making love to your wife.

It is possible that your wife will not desire sex as often as you do. It is probable that there will be extended periods when, for various reasons, she will not able to participate at all or as freely as the two of you might like. In these times you will have the choice to sin or show self-control. Too many men choose sin! Too many sin by badgering their wives, by wallowing in self-pity, or by engaging in secret sexual sin. Some go so far as to force themselves on their wives, to make a horrific mockery of God’s gift by brutally seizing what is meant to be gently won and lovingly received. The antidote to it all is self-control, that precious virtue that keeps the good gift within its proper boundaries.

My friend, if God has granted you a wife, he has also granted you the joy of pursuing her, of enjoying her, and of finding pleasure in her. This is the only context in which he endorses sexual activity of any kind. If God has not granted you a wife, he has called you to refrain from all sexual activity. As a single man, you may not yet experience the pleasure of sex, but you can experience the pleasure of obedience. Even Jesus, the one who shows the way to be most fully human, lived and died a virgin. There is pleasure in sex, but much greater pleasure in obedience.

Do It Now!

All of this calls for action. Here are a few places to begin.

Stop masturbating. Is that too blunt? I don’t think it is. I think men need to hear it. Whether you’re single or married, just stop. Masturbation is self-love. It runs entirely counter to the heart of our Savior, who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45). It is counterfeit and fraudulent sexuality. Because it involves no woman, it is more properly a form of homosexuality than heterosexuality. It’s immature, it’s a misuse of God’s gift, it’s just plain dumb. You ought to be ashamed and embarrassed by it. So cut it out already and show some self-control.

Bounce your heart, not just your eyes. I am sure you are well familiar with the temptation to allow your eyes to linger on the female form. I am equally sure you have been given the common advice to “bounce your eyes.” It is well and good to stop looking at what is not yours to have, but do better than that—bounce your heart. The Bible assures us that evil does not begin with our eyes but with our hearts. The heart, after all, is the seat of our deepest desires and affections. As you address the behavior of your eyes, do not neglect to reform the desires of your heart.

Get accountability. As men we tend to harbor our thoughts, to bury our questions, concerns, and secrets. Yet there is joy and freedom in unburdening ourselves, to externalizing what we prefer to internalize. Find a good friend, perhaps one who is older and wiser than you, and speak openly and freely about your sexual sin and victories. Ask that friend to hold you accountable and to help train you in godliness. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).

Give it all. Make the commitment to surrender 100% of your sexuality to God and to direct 100% of your sexual energy to your wife. Pursue her with gentleness and love. When she refuses you, respond with grace. When she accepts you, respond with joy. Enjoy her. Enjoy all of her for as long as you both shall live.

Seek and receive forgiveness. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he recounted some of the sexual sin they had once participated in, but reminded them that they had since been recreated: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). If you are in Christ, this is true of you. Your sexual past—whether decades ago or hours ago—has been forgiven by Jesus Christ. Seek his forgiveness, receive it, then live as one from whom the power of sin has been broken. You can be free.

Run to Win

The Bible commands and commends sexual self-control. Yet there is one way in which it promotes and celebrates indulgence. Writing to young men, Solomon warns of the danger of illicit sexuality and wanton women, then says this: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:19). Go ahead and get intoxicated, he says, but get drunk in the love and passionate pursuit of your wife. What wine does to your body, let your wife do to your affections and desires. Let her captivate you. Let her fascinate you. Let her have that kind of power over you. Be addicted to her. When you are with her, when you are in her arms, let yourself go and enjoy God’s good gift of sexual pleasure. As you run to win, enjoy the wife God gives you, and control your sexuality.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry

John MacArthur has had a long, faithful, fruitful ministry unblemished by great scandal. For decades he has maintained a tight focus on teaching the Bible verse by verse and book by book. In 2006 he taught through 1 Timothy 4 and there he saw Paul providing his young protégé with “a rich summary of all of the apostle’s inspired instruction for those who serve the church as ministers, as pastors. And it all begins with the statement, a noble minister, an excellent minister, a good servant of Christ Jesus.” What are the marks of such a man? MacArthur reveals twelve of them.

An excellent minister warns people of error. Paul urges Timothy to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines… rather than furthering the administration and stewardship of God” (verse 3). The same instructions are given two chapters later and in 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and 1 Thessalonians 5. An excellent minister “understands the devastating potential of lies” and instructs his people against teaching and believing them. “When you point out error, you are a noble servant of Christ.”

An excellent minister is a faithful student of Scripture. This is a continual process he gives his life to. “You will spend your whole life mastering one book – one book, the only book that God has inspired which he has placed all of his truth. The Bible becomes the sole content of your ministry, the sole theme of your preaching and it must saturate your mind and your soul. You make a radical commitment to the Bible and to Bible study and to Jesus. That is being lost rapidly in ministry.” That loss is evident in a culture in which the Bible is no longer authoritative. Publishers, pressured to bring Bible sales back up, feel they must “appeal to felt need rather than the revelation of God.” The Bible is not fiction, it is not a book of suggestions, it is the inspired Word of God. “We are to saturate ourselves with the teaching of Scripture, the content, the words of the faith, and the dedoscalia, that which Scripture affirms propositionally.”

An excellent minister avoids the influence of unholy teaching. “Have nothing to do with worldly fables” (verse 10). The word used here is Peritaomi which means to radically separate from what is holy. There are some things so evil that a pastor must not even listen to them. “Many young men who started out in ministry have been ruined, not by learning error as error, but by sitting under someone teaching error as truth. Being seduced with error from someone who believed that the error was true.” An excellent minister separates himself from the “corrupting influence of unholy teachers.”

An excellent minister is disciplined in personal godliness. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (verse 4b). This implies “strenuous training, self-abnegating, self-dying discipline in the direction of godliness – pulling up the loose ends, girding up the loins of your mind, as Peter would say it, beating your body into submission, lest in preaching to others, you become a documas, disqualified.” All the while the excellent minister needs to keep his conscience clear. Paul was speaking to a culture that like ours, was obsessed with vanity and physical exercise, but “an excellent minister, while responsible for his physical health, is far more consumed with his godliness and the disciplines that produce godliness.”

An excellent minister is committed to hard work. “If a man is willing to pay the price for fatigue and weariness, his ministry will not be mediocre.” Excellent ministry should be exhausting. Paul calls Timothy “to labor and strive “ (verse 10). The word for this is agonidzimi, to agonize in struggle. The gospel is worthy of a minister’s agony for his labor has eternal significance. “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:17). MacArthur continues, “There is no more important, no more glorious, no more wondrous work than as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4… adding souls to the heavenly hallelujah chorus so that their voices can redound to the glory of God.”

An excellent minister teaches with authority. Verse 11 says “command and teach these things.” The Bible does not give prescriptions or suggestions, it gives commands. “Authority comes from God through the Scriptures to you when you handle the Scripture accurately, clearly and boldly.”

An excellent minister is a model of spiritual virtue. “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.” Paul commands Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather… show yourself an example of those who believe” (verse 12). MacArthur, reflecting on his first week at his church remembers being introduced in this way: “We don’t know what this young kid is gonna be able to tell us.” How did he overturn this? By living a godly life: “The single greatest support of truth in your preaching is the power of an exemplary life. This is your most reliable weapon. This is what makes everything believable.”

An excellent minister maintains a thoroughly Biblical ministry. Verse 13 is a summation of what a minister is called to do: “Until I come, give attention to the reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” Read, explain, apply, and be consumed with Scripture. “The greats of the past understood their whole life was given comprehensively to the word of God.” MacArthur, when asked by his students the secret to great preaching answers, “keep your rear end in the chair until you finish your work. Come out when you have something to say.”

An excellent minister uses his spiritual gift and employs it. “That is to say he is faithful to the usefulness of that gift, that calling, that ordaining, that setting apart over the long, long haul.” Verse 14 says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.” The excellent minister knows that the gift he has, given by the Holy Spirit and confirmed in his life, is a gift he has for life: “You’re headed for a long life. And I hope it’s long – very long.”

An excellent minister is passionate regarding his work. The phrase used in verse 15 literally translated means, “in these things be you.” This applies to all life – there is no work/life separation here. “In this you live, move and have your being.” In these things be you.

An excellent minister is manifestly growing spiritually. Already, MacArthur established that the excellent minister’s life must be one of spiritual advancement, but a key word here is “manifestly.” This ought to show! “Let your progress be seen by everybody. People can live with that. They can love someone like that. They need to see your weakness. They’ll embrace you for it. They’ll love you for it. And they’ll know you understand their weakness.”

Finally, an excellent minister perseveres in ministry. All eleven elements thrive on this. Here, MacArthur reflects on 37 years of ministry: “I’ve seen 37 years of the work of the word in his church and what a joy, what an unspeakable benediction to my life. And when you do all these things, you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”

This is what an excellent pastor does. and the solemn commitments he must make. In closing, MacArthur asks, “You want results? Those are the best results you’re gonna get. Heaven—that is the greatest result.”

Find the original article here.