Protecting Your Children From Online Dangers

By Emily K. Mayhew, MEd, CSC, LPC-I

Today’s youth are bombarded with unsafe material and messages through the almost unlimited access of social media. No matter how hard you try to protect your children or keep a handle on what they are participating in, it is impossible to completely limit your child’s access to inappropriate online material. The most important thing parents can do is build a relationship of caring and trust with your children where they feel comfortable approaching you with questions and concerns. Teach your family what is appropriate and inappropriate and allow them to share their opinions with you without feeling ridiculed or shamed. Teach your children to alert you or another trusted adult immediately if they encounter inappropriate material online.

Other ways parents can help to guard their children against online dangers include:

*Educate your child on the dangers of social media. Here are some helpful guidelines.

1. Do not befriend anyone that you do not personally know and trust.

2. Do not give out personal information online.

3. Use respectful words and manners and don’t say or do anything on social media that you would not want the whole world to know…There is no such thing as “private” social media.

4. Do not share passwords with friends.

*For safety concerns consider purchasing a simple phone that allows only calls/texts, without Internet access.

*For smart phones: contact your wireless provider to learn about the parental control options your plan/device has available and activate them.

*Put a password on the app store of all devices.

*Insist on knowing your children’s passwords to all accounts and devices.

*Keep in mind that smart phones and other technology devices are a privilege, not a right. Therefore you, as a parent, have the responsibility to know and limit what your child or teen is participating in.

*Consider downloading helpful tools such as Microsoft Family Safety or Screen Time Parental Control (free monitoring apps which alert to which apps, games, and sites are being used, allow parents to block sites, apps, games, etc., and limit amount of time children can spend on devices)

*Educate yourself on the most current dangerous apps. Click here for a great article on the 9 Most Dangerous Apps for Kids http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/kids/9-most-dangerous-apps-for-kids.html

*Educate yourself about the variety of resources available to parents for Internet safety. Great resources include:
1. www.commonsensemedia.org is a great tool to review social networking sites to find what is appropriate for your child.
2. www.connectsafely.org
3. www.cyberbullying.us/report
4. Attend classes provided by local law enforcement or community education support groups.

If you are concerned that your child or teen has been exposed to inappropriate online material or is suffering from pornography exposure or addiction, call me today to schedule a free consultation for in-depth, Christian-based counseling.

Emily Mayhew, MEd, CSC, LPC-I
Office Direct: 972-349-1183
Heartfelt Christian Counseling, PLLC
4702 Rowlett Road, Suite 101
Rowlett, TX 75088-1702
www.heartfeltcc.com
Internship under the supervision of Laura L. Hamman, LPC-S, TX License No. 65581.

Why Forgiveness

By Laura L. Hamman, MABC, ThM, LPC-S

Forgiveness is a gift from God that can only be “re-gifted” after it has been accepted and embraced. Imagine the most beautifully wrapped package you have ever seen. It is a gift box where you can remove the top and reach inside to accept the gift of forgiveness from God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This forgiveness from God releases us from the pain and bitterness of our past. Our chains of bondage are broken by this gift, but the only way to break all the chains, is to “re-gift” this forgiveness to everyone who has hurt us. The process of “re-gifting” forgiveness is between God and me. The process of sharing forgiveness with the person who hurt us, including them in our lives, is reconciliation. This can only happen when we feel safe, and the other person has sought forgiveness and reconciliation.

In following the Scriptures, we are called to forgive others in the process of loving them. Jesus called for his disciples to forgive their enemies, who are also called their neighbors. This forgiveness came deeply rooted in the pure motive of love toward other people, our neighbors. Forgiving from the true motive of sacrificial love is difficult, and rarely seen. The concept of forgiving those who hurt us, from a motive of sacrificial love, goes against a sense of justice as seen in a humanistic-centered world. In other words, if it is all about me then there is not a lot of room for anyone else. Jesus calls us to love God with all of us, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He does not expect us to do this on our own without His help and guidance. The writer of Hebrews 2:16-18 expounds on the help that Jesus will provide to those seek it. Viewed in this way, Jesus acts as our helper to aid us when we are tempted not to forgive. Returning to the book of Hebrews, the author encourages us by reminding us that we will find the grace to help us in those times of need (Heb 4:16). A strong need for grace pervades the act of forgiveness, especially if we are to be able to forgive those who hurt us. God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus said that nothing is impossible with God (Matt 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37, 18:27).

God works through and in people to work His divine will. We are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:15) in our thoughts and behavior and to be continuously transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3:18). God has shown us that we are to work to change ourselves (Phil 2:12-13) and help others (1 Thess 5:14), so that we may be better able to forgive one another, forgive our enemies, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

However, forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Reconciliation, resuming a relationship with those who hurt us, can be impossible or dangerous in some situations. Reconciliation can only occur when both sides come to the table, and it is safe for everyone involved.

I’m Worried About My Anxiety

Written by Karen Carlson

If you had to give a definition of worry or anxiety, how would you define it as it applies to your life?  If we give it a general definition we could say:  Worry and anxiety are the tension and distress experienced over the anticipated loss of some valued possession.  We’ve all felt it!—it can be the fear of the loss of a child who has become very ill, the fear of losing a job and wondering how the bills would be paid,  anxiety over the relationship of a spouse who seems apathetic and distant,  distress over wondering whether the lab report will indicate a cancer-free or cancer-filled diagnosis—no one is immune to events that can hammer and flatten our emotions and sanity.

Like battery acid, worry will eat you alive.  It will steal your life, it will tie your stomach in knots, it will dominate your thinking and it will cast an ominous cloud of fear over everything in your life.  Dr. Charles Mayo, of the famed Mayo Clinic said, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands and the entire nervous system.”   Worry will do to your emotions and your physiology that sand will do to your car’s gas tank—it will gum up the system and wreak havoc and destruction!  Worry is also like a smoke alarm—when your worry kicks in, the alarm sounds.  It means something is very wrong; it means your sense of security is on fire.  So how do we silence that alarm?

I Want The Alarm Silenced!

If we look at Matthew 6:24, Jesus says:  “No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will hold to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and riches.   Then in verse 25 Jesus continues:  “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life as to what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body or what you will put on…”

The Lord tells us:  Do not be anxious, do not be anxious, do not anxious!  The wonderful news is that God has an actual action plan you can be a part of and count on—a plan that has the power to remove the anxiety and silence the alarm.  If you believe that God is in the business of producing miracles, then you’ve taken the first step in the right direction.

God’s Action Plan:

God’s action plan incorporates three crucial verbs or action words that one must take seriously and actually perform.  Those words are:  ‘Trust—Give—Seek’

#1:  Trust God To Take Care Of You!

‘Trust’ is an action word—Trust God to literally take care of you!  You can’t just acknowledge that God has the ability to take care of you; you must believe and trust with your heart and soul that God will take care of you; and you need to depend on it!   When Jesus said, If I feed the birds, how much more am I going to feed you?  If I clothe the lilies of the field in tremendous splendor, how much more will I do for you?  It becomes clear that the over-arching message from God is: TRUST ME!  In Matthew 6:30, the words are compelling and convicting when Jesus says:  “…Oh men of little faith” It becomes abundantly obvious that worry is a lack-of-faith issue!  Worry is the anti-thesis or opposite of faith.  Think about it– Worry begins where faith ends!  When you stop trusting God, you make room for worry to creep in.  In fact, are you aware that worrying is actually a sin?   If we read Romans 14:23, the message is thought provoking and is saying:  “Whatever is not of faith, is sin.  If you do anything you believe is not right, it is a sin”.  If we’re not trusting God, we become men and women of little faith.  Worry is a big deal in God’s eyes!  The more we worry, the more we separate ourselves from God.

Whenever we worry, there are three messages we are giving God, whether we realize it or not:

** Message 1:  God, I don’t believe you are aware of what I’m going through~~

One might say: “Where were you God when my husband left me?  If you had fully understood what I was going through, you would have intervened and eased my pain!”   Psalm 139 says this:  “Lord you know when I sit down and when I rise up.  You understand my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.  Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, oh Lord you know it all…all the days designated for me were written in your book before even one of them came to be.”  God knows!  He reassures us He even knows the number of hairs on our head and that not one sparrow will fall to the ground without God’s knowledge or permission—Matthew 10:29-31.

** Message 2:  God, you must not care that much for me~~

One might say:  “I don’t see you coming through with my provision.  I can only assume it means I’m just not that important to you!”  In 1 Peter 5:7 it says, “Cast all your cares upon God because He cares for you.”  God does care for you and He cares very deeply!  If we turn to Matthew 8: 1-3, “Behold, a leper came to Jesus and bowed down to Him saying, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’  Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him saying, ‘I am willing, be cleansed!’ and immediately, his leprosy was cleansed.” Jesus touched the man before He cleansed the leper—think on that for a moment.

** Message 3:  God, I don’t believe you are able to actually help me~~

One might say:  “Even if you are aware, I’m convinced that not even you can help me with this circumstance!  Ephesians 3:20 states:  “Now to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than all we ask or imagine…”  Be assured that God is more than able to take care of any circumstance!

The Bible is filled with situations where people are stuck between a rock and a hard place—positioned in surroundings that certainly appear to be 100 percent absolutely hopeless!  When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and reached the Red Sea—only to be followed by the Pharaoh’s blood-thirsty army which was ready to annihilate every man, woman and child—God purposely led the Israelites to the shore of the Red Sea in order to show them  that He, their God, was able!!  Who would ever have imagined, during that terrifying and tense moment in time that God was about to part the Red Sea?  God’s message, yet again, was “Trust me, for I am able!  There is nothing I can’t do!”

In Jeremiah 32: 27 there is a wonderful verse for anyone to memorize:  “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is anything too difficult for me?”  Is your situation too challenging for God?  Worry leaves God out of everything—trust Him!  Be anxious for nothing!

#2 Give God Ownership Of All You Possess!

Worry is tied to possessions and the possibility of losing part or all of one or more possessions.  One thing we must understand is that God owns everything you have ever acquired!—your job, your home, your children, your opportunities, your health—all of it!   We are simply stewards of those things God has chosen to place in our lives.  Psalm 24: 1 tells us:  “…The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to him.”  You and I really don’t own anything. God owns everything; and when anyone of us takes our last breath, there is not one single thing we will take with us that we called ‘mine’ while living.  Again, worry ties into possessions.  God tells us not to worry about things; not to worry about possessions.  God is, in essence, saying:  “You need to give those over to Me because they really don’t belong to you, anyway.  They belong to Me.”   And even though everything we acquire and enjoy belongs to God, He is simply allowing us to manage His possessions.

Matthew 25:14 is so fitting:  “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.”  This is what God has done with you and me!  Here is where worry comes in—anytime you start worrying, the smoke alarm that says—Ahh, ahh, ahh—you have un-rightly taken ownership of things that don’t belong to you!  Give your self-imposed ownership of your things back to God where they belong. You are the manager, not the owner!

A friend of mine who thought he had cancer, which proved to be a benign growth, had simply had enough of the worry he was choosing to internalize with one event after another in his life. He decided to make out an actual contract to God—a contract on paper where he, for the first time in his worrisome life, decided to cast his concerns to God, and God alone. He had no desire to own his worries any longer.  On the bottom of this contract, he wrote these words:  I am a slave of Jesus Christ!  I trust Him to do what He needs to do to me and for me because He knows what is best, not I!

You, too, can have that kind of confidence in Christ!  Wrap your mind around these thoughts:  My car is Yours, my family is Yours, my finances are Yours, my pets are Yours, my house is Yours, my health is Yours—I sign it all away!  I mentally and emotionally relinquish it all and lose it all, and am at peace with that! I am a slave of Jesus Christ!  Give all ownership to God!

#3 Seek God First In Your Life!

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”  One of the key words here is first.  Keeping that contract with God will depend on whether or not you seek God first, each and every day.  The word first in verse 33 means to seek continually!  Seek God every single day, and every day reaffirm your contract with Him!

Psalm 105: 4 reinforces this by saying, “Seek the Lord and His strength.  Seek His face continually.”

Worry and anxiety are all rooted in what is going to happen!  Worry is always looking to the future, the unknown future.  After the Israelites had walked on dry land where the Red Sea had parted, they ended up wandering in the wilderness day after day after day; and in fact, they were in the wilderness for forty years.  Nonetheless, the Lord provided them with food that fell from the skies—manna (bread) and quail from Heaven!  In Exodus 16 we’re told of how God provided food every day—divinely and supernaturally—to the Israelites:  “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I am going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day.”  Moses went to his people and told them what God had said.  Moses spoke these words:  “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning…”  If we jump down to verse 13 and 14, it becomes quite astonishing, and it says:  “That evening, vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp.  And the next morning, the area around the camp was wet with dew.  When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance, as fine as frost, blanketed the ground.”   Then Moses says to the Israelites:  “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat.”

God has grace to help you, too, in your time of need.  If you want to test who is your master, ask yourself, am I anxious for those things in my life?  You can’t serve God and stuff at the same time since only one master can be served at once.  If the Lord Jesus Christ is really your God, if He’s really enthroned as God in your heart, your worries will starve to death.  And in place of all those anxieties will be an inner peace because the Prince of Peace is in charge!  Regardless of what is going on in your personal or professional world, if you completely trust the Lord and transfer ownership of everything you own to Him and seek Him, He will fill your heart with a peace that surpasses all human understanding! Amen.

             Faith Activates God—Fear Activates The Enemy

Healthy, Spiritual Families—It’s All About The Foundation!

Written by Karen Carlson

 

I think it would be safe to say that virtually everyone wants to be a part of a loving, healthy, interactive family.  We all want that sense of love and belonging—unconditionally.  Healthy families, however, don’t just happen.  In fact, nothing ‘great’ just happens!  A great career doesn’t just materialize—the right preparations and decisions have to be made, day after day.  The same holds true for those ‘great’ families where love, trust and inner peace abound—the right foundation simply must be in place!

Is Christ In It?

I remember as a child, one of my favorite TV programs was Lost In Space.  Even as a child in 6th grade I was able to discern the Robinson family—strong and robust.  The dad was a leader in the family who took charge.   He was noble, principled and good; and it was obvious he loved his kids.  The siblings got along with one another—it was a tight, close-knit family and I loved that!  At 12 years of age I silently thought to myself:  “That’s what I want!” 

I’m convinced everyone wants the same thing—a family where strength, love and true emotional intimacy are everyday occurrences.  It’s human nature, as a child, to desire parents who love one another; a home filled with peace and joy with a good dose of random fun and laughter thrown in at any given time of the day.  We’re programmed to want those elements in a family that give us that sense of ‘all is good in my little corner of the world’.

And of course, parents want children who are obedient and respectful and well-adjusted. Having all this  almost sounds too good to ever be true, doesn’t it?  Actually, this is what God has intended; and this kind of secure and loving scenario is a lot more attainable than most people would ever imagine—but one thing simply has to be in place for this kind of healthy family scenario to develop, survive and thrive—the family’s foundation.  And what that foundation is constructed of will determine whether or not life’s tests and trials within those families will make them or break them.  Life in even the most loving families isn’t one big bowl of cherries where challenges, disruptions and commotions are kept at bay—far from it.  Falling apart or standing victorious all boils down to one, single crucial question one must ask oneself:  Is Christ the foundation of our home or is He not?

Whom Do We Serve?

In Joshua, Chapter 24, we see an important passage that applies here. Joshua took over for Moses after Moses died.  Joshua was the one who led God’s Children into the Promised Land.  Joshua is preparing to die—at the ripe old age of 110. He is talking to the Israelites one last time; and in verse 14 and 15 Joshua challenges the Israelites:  “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the river and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  In verse 16, the Israelites responded by saying, ”God forbid that we should forsake the Lord…”

Joshua 24 is an incredibly important passage of scripture since it provides the key as to how we acquire a loving, healthy family—it is here where the actual foundation of one’s family is to be found; and it all has to do with how we view and treat the Lord– “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The bible is brimming with wisdom on how to handle any situation in life, and that includes how families should live together, work together and love together. It all depends on how we recognize and position Christ in our lives and how diligent we are with keeping Him in His rightful place.

Giving The Lord His Rightful Place:

In Joshua 24: 14 we read, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness.”  In other words, stand in awe of God! We need to recognize that God is God and we are not.  We must give God His rightful place in our home.  Giving God His rightful place in our family and standing in awe of Him is all tied up in verse 14—fearing the Lord!  This doesn’t mean we fear God in a quaking-in-our-boots, frightful, dreadful sense, but the Lord wants us to stand in amazement and reverence of Him–and justifiably so!  The reverent fear of the Lord is crucial; and if we look at the Book of Proverbs we are given these words:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  The fear of the Lord signifies the ‘A-B-C’s’ of what you have to have to make it in life!  It’s what you have to have to make it in your family!   And Jesus should be the corner-stone of that family.

The chief corner-stone, as spoken of in the Bible, represents the most critical structural element of an entire building.  In Jesus’ day, it was intended to support walls and provide strength for the rest of the building.  With Jesus as the cornerstone, your family can experience actual mental, emotional and spiritual strength and security.  Now, some might say, “Come on, aren’t you being just a tad dramatic?”  And I’d have to respond by saying:  “It’s not about dramatics, it’s about truth we can depend on and apply in our daily lives due to what the Bible professes and promises.  Scripture puts it this way in Psalm 127: 1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”  In other words, if Jesus isn’t the corner-stone of your family, then all your work is empty!

How Do I Use Jesus In My Family?

You might ask, “Well how do I do that?  How do I take Jesus and use Him as the corner-stone in my family?  I don’t know how!”  Jesus tells us how to do that!  In a parable in Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus specifically mentions two types of foundations.  Here, a wise man has built his house upon the rock and the foolish man has built his house upon the sand.  The point of that parable is that when the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew (representing life’s adversities and challenges) the house built on sand fell—and great was its fall!  The reason it fell was because it was founded on sand—it had no stability, just as if a family has no spiritual stability it, too, is prone to weakness and destruction when life becomes really tough.  Jesus goes on to mention how the house built on the rock had the same storm—the same adversities in life. The house built on the rock didn’t fall. That’s what it means to build your life on Jesus!  If we pay attention to Matthew 7:24 we find Jesus saying this: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts upon them may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock.”  This is how we give the Lord His rightful place! This is how we use Jesus in our homes! We hear His Word, we take it seriously and we act upon it!

Strong Families Take Jesus Seriously:

We must do what Jesus tells us to do regarding using Him as the foundation of our family life.  Jesus asks a direct question regarding those who profess to know Him, yet not follow Him.  In Luke 6:46, Jesus says:  “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?”   He makes a clear message of– I’m not really your Lord; I’m not really your God; I’m not really your boss because you’re not doing what I say for you to do!  So how do we include Jesus?—we take Him very, very seriously and we include Him in every event in our lives—from the most mundane to the most celebrated!

Can you imagine if we ignored our boss at our workplace?  If he or she tells us to do something, we naturally do it!  But if you were to ignore your boss; you’d be fired. Isn’t it interesting how we feel so compelled to follow mere men but so many of us, regarding our family life, fail to follow the wisdom and command of our Lord?  Again: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not do the things I say?” 

As adults in a family, we need to inventory what or who is our cornerstone—if it isn’t Jesus, then when the rains come, we have nothing to cling to for hope, guidance and strength. Those who place Jesus as their home’s corner stone include the Lord in the family before all the trials in life make their way to one’s front door! Jesus mustn’t be thought of as a ‘911 God’ who gets called only in emergencies.  God’s rightful place needs to be in place long before the tsunamis of life come crashing towards the shore.  And when a family begins to recognize and make provisions for God’s rightful place in the home, a healthy family is born.

Forgiveness—How Important Is It, Really….

Written by Karen Carlson

Chances are, if you’re like most people, you’ve encountered one or more individuals in your life that have emotionally injured you in some way.  When we’re emotionally wounded or even emotionally devastated by a friend, co-worker or family member, the typically human thing to do is to allow our anger to seek revenge and/or continually harbor bitterness and un-forgiveness.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we admire the virtue of forgiveness and find the saying “to error is human, but to forgive is divine” to be admirable and inspiring?  Yet, when it becomes us who are in need of forgiving someone, we can back off and find it very difficult to embrace that adage.  It’s so much easier to harbor the anger and find as much fault as possible with the person who jarred our psyche than to find forgiveness in our hearts. And here’s something to think about:  in the end, the component that ultimately destroys a relationship is the inability to forgive. It could be infidelity, it could be a heated family dispute over inheritance or it could be a friend who betrayed one’s confidence. It isn’t the offense that destroys the relationship; it’s the inability to forgive the person who committed the wrongdoing. Offenses will come—it’s is part of life in a fallen world; but it’s how we deal with those offenses that determines the outcome of any given relationship that is being tried or tested.

Un-forgiveness—A double-edged Sword:

Un-forgiveness not only destroys a relationship, it also destroys the person who is unwilling to forgive—it’s self-destructive. Bitterness, hate, anger and retaliation are the impetus behind thousands and thousands of lawsuits in which angry people who are out for “blood” will do whatever they can to inflict as much punishment and pain as possible towards their transgressors.

Bitterness becomes like a malignant cancer—it won’t stay confined—it spreads and it’s a hateful, un-Christian attitude that harasses one’s emotions; it consumes happiness; feelings become unchecked; conversations become a forum for slandering those who created the resentments; and every conversation becomes an opportunity for defamation.  It’s ugly; and more importantly, God despises that kind of behavior, especially from those who profess to love Him and obey Him.

Forgiveness Is Divine!

Forgiveness is the most God-like act one can do! No undertaking is more divine than forgiveness; and no one is more like God than when one genuinely forgives those who have been mean-spirited, conniving, insensitive, scheming, deceitful or cruel. Let’s take a look at a few passages that make it clear that forgiveness is from God’s realm and that we should treat forgiveness very seriously.

1.) Psalm 32: We read in the beginning of the psalm:  “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity…” This is a blessing from God where He tells us that He forgives us.

2.) Psalm 85:2-3: “You forgave the iniquity of your people and covered all their sins…You set aside all your wrath and turned from your fierce anger.”  God has the option to punish severely at His discretion, but throughout biblical history, God has, on many occasions, held back his anger and wrath due to His forgiving essence.

3.) Isaiah 1:18: this piece of Holy Scripture is, perhaps, one the most beautiful statements regarding God’s divine forgiveness towards us–“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” God is telling us His forgiveness was given to His people in-spite of Israel’s sinister and perverse transgressions against Him. The We of today are included in God’s same plan of the washing away of our sins.

The Prodigal Son:

The Prodigal Son is a powerful and poignant biblical account, familiar to many, where, in Luke 15: 11-32, a young man leaves home and sins greatly by lavishly and foolishly spending his requested, and granted, early inheritance. When he finally returns home, remorseful for what he had done, he is embraced with unconditional forgiveness, immense joy and great celebration by his father—the father’s son has come back to his family; and with a sorrowful heart, he asks for mercy. In turn, he receives full, loving ‘son-ship.’  The embracing father—representing God who forgives, and the son—representing the lost, portrays the lavishness of God’s forgiveness towards those who seek genuine repentance and true reconciliation with those who (if this case the father and God,) were wronged through self-centered actions.

Make No Mistake:

You display God-like mercy when you choose to forgive others. And this brings us to the main point:  God, in all His mercy, forgives us; and it is here where we must also forgive! Colossians 3:13 vividly reminds us that just as the Lord has forgiven us, so too, must we forgive others.

But why would God be so emphatic about why we must forgive?

Yes, it allows us an opportunity to be more Christ-like, it is pleasing to God, it frees us from the bondage of bitterness, it repairs broken relationships and it puts peace in our hearts—but there is more. If you are a Christ follower, you have the responsibility to forgive and let go of any feelings of hate, vengeance, scorn, contention and malice.  This may sound hard to do. But Jesus never said being a Follower of Him would ever be easy—but He did say it would be worth it! If we do not forgive, the Bible makes it clear there is a price; and it is staggering.

Let’s look at Matthew 6 where Jesus teaches His disciples The Lord’s Prayer that says, “Forgive us our debts and forgive our debtors.” Then, in verses 13­-15, Jesus continues and says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”—straight forward, and to the point. To not understand forgiveness, is to not understand Christianity. Un-forgiveness is non-negotiable. As I attempt to display the gravity of the situation, I would say this: the thing that should really motivate us is our clear understanding the seriousness of choosing not to forgive another person.  It bears repeating: If you refuse to forgive, God will not forgive—“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”—can anyone afford that steep of a price?

God forgave us when we believed in Christ (Acts 10:43).  Then, from this incredibly divine gift of being eternally forgiven by a merciful, loving God, we must forgive others! We may not be able to reconcile with those who hurt us, but the divine commandment is for us, for our own well-being. Work hard at the hard work of forgiveness.

Reconciliation NOT Required

Laura L. Hamman, LPC, ThM, MABC

Reconciliation and forgiveness are not synonymous, despite the tendency to link them together. Although reconciliation requires forgiveness to occur first, forgiveness does not require reconciliation. Both sides in a broken relationship must be involved for a relationship to heal. Where there is forgiveness there is not always reconciliation. For example, Jesus calls for forgiveness (Matt 6:12-15, Mark 11:25-26, Luke 17:3-4, for example), yet Jesus also instructs his disciples to “shake the dust off your feet” when leaving a town that has rejected them (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, and Luke 9:5). He does not say don’t forgive them for their rejection of the gospel; instead he implies that reconciliation is not required. The disciples are to shake even the dust of the town off of their feet, so there is no longer a connection between the disciples and those who have rejected the good news.

Forgiveness means to renounce revenge and to be open for healing, not necessarily reconciliation. Reconciliation includes resuming a relationship; this can be impossible or dangerous in some situations. Reconciliation can only occur when both sides come to the table, and it is safe for everyone involved.

Reconciliation is not required, however, it is a goal that should be pursued when the offender sincerely seeks restoration of relationship through true repentance, and authentic change in behavior and attitude. Reconciliation is a process that is biblically based and a God-honoring goal, but it is a process that takes two sides to achieve and cannot be a one-sided situation. When an offender has fully turned to God for forgiveness, with repentance and confession, God is willing to forgive and reconcile. However, only God can read what is truly in a person’s heart. Therefore, the offended person needs to be aware that only God can honestly guide them in the course of reconciliation. Although the goal is peace and reconciliation through Christ, the offended person still needs to decide when, or if, it is safe to reconcile with their offender.

Something Children Need More Than Anything In The World

Written by Karen Carlson

So, what would you say is the top priority of a loving parent towards his or her child?—Giving them quality time?  Providing a sound education?  Teaching them compassion?  Demonstrating and modeling love and affection?  Educating them on wisdom and discernment?   All these virtuous goals are crucial, but there is one goal that exceeds all others—it is more vital than life itself.

The Top Priority:

The pinnacle of parental concern is to be an evangelist in the home.  Children need to understand the law of God by your showing them their need for a Savior, and point them to Jesus Christ as the only Redeemer who can save them.  Don’t think you need to wait until your child is 7 or 8 years old before you share the reality of eternal salvation.  Children are like sponges from a very early age.  Anyone who has had children is well aware of that fact.  Before they are 2 years old, they are capable of learning and understanding a multitude of words and directives from not just one language, but two, simultaneously.   They have no mental or psychological barriers that one typically develops as one gets older.   By the time they are 3 and 4, they are far more accomplished than many adults realize and are able to understand a great deal of the Bible’s concepts in the form of simple stories—peoples’ character, rewards and punishment and cause and effect.

Teachable Moments:

Does God’s Word support the parents’ duty to provide spiritual leadership to their children?  Deuteronomy 11:19 is one of numerous passages regarding parents rearing their children in the ways of Christ.   This reading is a beautiful display of how parents should familiarize their children about the Lord.  Here, parents are told to fix and attach God’s words and teachings into children’s hearts in any way possible:   “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.”  How often?–continually!   To be sure, however, this is no guarantee any child will, necessarily, stay in the Church and keep the faith as they become older.  But what this Scripture does say is that parents need to use every available opportunity as a teaching tool to bring God into the home and make Christ the center of everyday life.  Saying grace at the table; thanking God for the rain after a dry-spell; praising God for a near-accident that could have resulted in injury; reading Bible stories to your children before they go to bed and reciting their bedtime prayer when it’s time to call it a day.

The author of Proverbs encourages parents in that their labors will not go in vain. “Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it,” (Proverbs 22:6, NET).

Children begin, very early, to understand and appreciate God’s presence, power, protection and provision.  Children will logically include God in their conversations and, perhaps to their chagrin, realize they are not, after all, the center of the Universe.  God’s supernatural-ness will become very natural to their developing, attentive minds.

There Is No Neutral Innocence:

Parents may be surprised to learn that children do not enter the world as sin-free babies—they are adorable, without doubt; but they are not sinless.  Psalm 51:5 is quite stunning:  “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”. Children do not come into the world with even a smidgeon of neutral innocence.  They come into our lives seeking the fulfillment of selfish desires.  Sin is not learned, but is an innate characteristic of all humans.  Adam’s fall tainted the entire human race; no one is exempt.  In spite of babies’ playful coos, their bright eyes, their contagious giggles and their delightfully pudgy fingers and toes, depravity lives in their hearts and waits for opportunities to express itself.

Because sin is such a human experience and since we all battle our sins our entire lives, parents have a huge responsibility to channel their children’s motives and behaviors in godly ways.  It’s not an easy task; and Christian parents who teach biblical truths realize there is only one remedy for their child’s inborn depravity—the new birth—regeneration.   And regarding salvation, Jesus made it clear:  “…you must be born again.”  (John 3: 6-7).

Children, who have no prior teaching regarding how the Holy Spirit needs to work in their hearts to break away from sin, will lack the capacity, as they get older, to please God or obey Him from the heart.  Until your children are born again, they are dead in ‘trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1).  Those children who glean godly principles and genuinely apply them in their lives and love the Lord, end up giving their parents the most precious gift of all—their knowledge of their own child possessing saving faith.   There is NO greater gift for a parent than knowing their child will be an eternal part of God’s Kingdom!

Lord, please surround my children with friends and other adults who point them toward You~

Is Your Spouse ‘There’ For You?

Written by Karen Carlson

Isn’t it interesting how some marriages seem so naturally connected while others appear tense and distant?  If there is one thing we all crave its closeness with someone—emotional closeness.  Feeling loved and wanted is an innate human desire; and more importantly, it is an actual need for healthy emotional development.  Genuine emotional closeness is a natural component of loving relationships, especially as it applies to our children and our spouses.   In healthy marriages, the giving and receiving of heartfelt appreciation, resulting in each person feeling truly valued, is paramount.

Sadly, being a part of a loving marriage is far too often not the case for so many.  With the divorce rate in America hovering at 50%, it begs the question:  How many of those people still married truly feel close with one another and love each other unconditionally?   Any kind of rubbish can enter a marriage and reek all kinds of havoc, but sometimes a marriage-killer called ‘withdrawal’ can begin to grow in a spouse’s heart; and it can be a physical, emotional or communicative type of distancing.  Prolonged withdrawal is dangerous; and it indicates that one or both spouses have reached a point of deep emotional pain where joyfully functioning in the relationship has become a distant memory.  Unless that toxic ingredient of withdrawal is addressed, the marriage will begin to shut down.   The vital organ of any marriage–the heart—begins to beat more and more slowly.

Why Withdrawal Is Serious Stuff:

If a spouse chooses to withdraw from his or her mate, it can indicate the withdrawer no longer feels emotionally bonded; and the reasons for this can be many.   If the other spouse has given up on the one who initially withdraws, husband and wife can become mere roommates under one roof.   When the other spouse feels like giving up and becomes a co-withdrawer, emotional divorce begins to set in.  Sleeping in separate rooms, eating in silence or not eating together at all, and even taking separate vacations can be a viable consideration for both partners–pretty sad, isn’t it?  I experienced that with my parents, years ago.  It’s a lonely existence for any married couple; and aside from debilitating loneliness, one can expect buried anger, bitterness and depression in a co-withdrawal setting where communication no longer matters for either partner.  When communication dies, everything else dies with it.

Paradoxically, however, if one spouse hasn’t given up completely and still has it ‘in him’ to debate in non-violent ways, there exists a sliver of hope that the marriage can possibly be restored.  Mild arguing or debating indicates some emotion is still left and some hope still exists—the heart of the marriage hasn’t gone into full-blown cardiac-arrest.  The relationship hasn’t, yet, reached DOA status (Dead-On-Arrival) on the way to the attorney’s office. A sliver of hope is just that—a sliver of hope—and something needs to be done quickly to get life back into the relationship.

Can The Damage Be Repaired?

The good news is that if the marital heart still has even a faint beat, there’s exists some wiggle-room for encouragement.   If a person is admitted to an emergency room with even the slightest pulsation of the heart, the defibrillation paddles are administered to give possible life-saving doses of electrical energy–there’s still hope for survival!  If your marriage has reached the ‘defibrillation stage’, sincere prayer and marital counseling from a Christian therapist combines the best of both worlds.  Prayer should be first and foremost since God, after all, is in the business of creating miracles.  If He has the power to speak-into-existence the entire Universe, split the Red Sea and raise people from the dead, He can raise a marriage from ‘the dead’ as well.   Turning to God when a marriage is in crisis-mode should never, ever be overlooked.  Many Christians might be seeking the Bible for answers yet not be familiar enough or feel comfortable enough to seek God’s Word on their own.   It is here, where a professional Christian counselor can combine his or her expertise with the wisdom, hope and truth that the Bible so comprehensively offers.

Within a Christian marriage, one’s spiritual life can suffer greatly when the relationship has taken a detoured back-road filled with potholes, steep inclines and dangerous twists and turns.   1 Peter 3:1-27  is worthy of reading in its entirety; and part of what the Apostle Peter says is this:  “Wives, in the same manner be submissive to your husbands…”   This is not synonymous with being controlled!  The passage goes on to say, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heir with you of the gracious gift of life…”  this is not synonymous with being a controller!   A professional counselor can provide clarity on passages like this and open up new avenues of understanding so the healing potential of a hurting relationship can take place—and that, of course, is assuming both husband and wife genuinely desire for that to happen.   Hopeful couples can learn how God’s Word and His wisdom are intended to be applied to every single marriage that has ever existed since the dawn of Adam and Eve!

Questions You Need To Answer Honestly:

If husband and wife still have a glimmer of hope their marriage can be saved and seek professional guidance, a bearing of one’s soul, along with absolute honesty and true emotions, would need to be embraced.  At the same time, one has to be willing to relinquish feelings of pride, vengeance and blame.  How would you answer these questions if you were asked?  This list is, by no means, complete and is only a sampling of what one could expect during counseling sessions:

1:   Do you feel your spouse should be viewed as a God-given gift?  Is your spouse viewed this way?

2:   Do you think of your spouse as your best friend?  If not, would you like to think of your spouse as your best friend?

3:   Do you try to understand your spouse’s needs?

4:   Do you trust your spouse?

5:   Do you forgive your spouse?

6:   Do you place unrealistic expectations on your spouse?

7:   Are you willing to state how you feel?

8:  Do you listen?

9:   Do you avoid being negative or critical?

10. Are you affectionate and loving?

11: Do you give of yourself emotionally?

12: Do you avoid rehashing past hurts?

13: Do you trust the Lord with your spiritual life, marriage, children, finances, concerns etc.

The sacrificial kind of love God intended for us with one another is beautifully illustrated in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7~

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Loves bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Is it difficult to live up to God’s definition of love?—If you truly sacrificially love someone, no it’s not.

Co-dependent Relationships—Are You In One?

Written by Karen Carlson

Chances are, you’ve heard the term ‘co-dependent’ or ‘co-dependency’ at one time or another—most people have.  Or ‘better’ yet, if you’ve been in a relationship where the both of you depended on one another to meet or satisfy certain emotional needs in unhealthy ways, then you, most likely, are familiar with the term.  According to Wikipedia, co-dependency is described as follows:  a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition, such as narcissism.  Both individuals can control and manipulate one another as a means to an end and one can place a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the other.  Co-dependency can occur within family, work, friendship, peer and romantic relationships—sound familiar?  It does to me.  I was, at one time, in a co-dependent relationship, but was unaware of it; and it does feel wonderful to be free from that type of bondage—and it is bondage, pure and simple!  Co-dependency is unhealthy and not, at all, designed and reflective of God’s desire for anyone.

For those who are co-dependent in love-addicted relationships, for example, it is mentally exhausting since one or both partners wear themselves out as they willingly ignore all the red flags and embrace all the dysfunction.  Why?   Because one or both partners feel the relationship must be saved at all cost, even if it means more pain—as long as the pain is with the person they think they love or need, it’s accepted.  But pain without that person is simply not an option–there’s simply too much too lose.  If you find yourself in a ‘love’ relationship that you feel is a selfish, damaging, destructive, co-dependent one, the good news is:  You can break free and don’t have to live that way, nor should you!

Love Addicts:

Does this sound like anything you’ve, personally, experienced?

Love addicts will:

1:  spend an inordinate amount of time and attention towards their partners.  Because at least one of the partners is many times worshipped, the love addict will grow increasingly tolerant of inappropriate behaviors; and you might hear statements such as these:  “Well, he only hit me once and he said he was sorry.   Besides, it didn’t even leave a bruise!  I know he feels bad about what he did to me!” or “Ok, so he cheated on me.  I KNOW he won’t do it again!  He cried with me till 3:00 in the morning!  There’s no way he’d ever hurt me like that again!”

2:  desire to be cherished and treasured by their partners—love addicts are attracted to the power and hero-worship they feel towards their ‘destined soul-mate’.  Love addicts view their partner more from fantasy than from reality, but would probably never admit that.

3:  feel their own independence is of no importance—valuing ‘self’ is of little or no value.  If the relationship ends, love addicts can predictably go into hysteria and/or stalk or obsessively call or text their ex.  Looking for sympathy from others is a sure bet; and talking incessantly about being left behind and jilted can be the topic of conversation over and over and over again.   Some love addicts will become silent martyrs and contemplate suicide and even fantasize secretly that their estranged partner will somehow realize how much they care for the one they left and will choose to ‘rescue’ him or her from their emotional wreckage.

The bottom line is:  co-dependent people can be compared to a parasite and a host.  They each need one another to gain something for themselves.  It’s not a pretty picture since both parties are clinging to whatever it is they seek in the relationship, which could be power, recognition, sex, money, convenience, “love”, etc.    Often, one partner in a love-addicted relationship continues to surrender more and more to their more-controlling partner where the denial of reality and the acceptance of the other’s controlling nature become second nature.

What Does God Say?

Years ago when I was flailing in my own dysfunctional, co-dependent abyss, I believed in God but never turned to Him.  As a Christian, now, with eyes that can finally ‘see’, I thank God for what He put me through because it helps me to realize not only the shallowness of co-dependency but how far removed from God codependent relationships truly are.  And as I mentioned earlier, if you believe you’re in a co-dependent relationship, you do not have to live that way; and with God’s help, you can break free and heal.  So what does God say about all this?  Let’s find out—

1:  God Wants To Be First:

First and foremost, God hates it when we place anything or anyone ahead of Him or above Him.  When we choose to do that, the person, activity or thing that we chronically revere, admire, worship, think about, esteem (you get my point) becomes our god!    In a full-fledged, co-dependent relationship, God is somewhere else on one’s ‘need’ list—and that’s assuming God is on the list at all.  Co-dependents support sinful behavior; and the denial and idealization keep the blinders on.  As a result, the sinfulness of sin is totally ignored and along with that, God is often ignored as well.

The Bible tells us in Exodus 34:14:  “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”   Exodus 20: 3-5 and Deuteronomy 5:7 say the same.  ‘Other gods’ can be chronic gambling, drinking, shopping, drugging, playing video games and even bulimia, anorexia etc.  Anything we chronically devote our time, thought and conduct to is our god; and we must be very aware of how easy it is to idolize inner thoughts and outward behaviors.   Co-dependency is all about ‘self’ and has no correlation with God.  There is no room for God in a totally self-centered existence where two people feed on one another for their immediate needs.

2:  God Expects Humility:

The heart of co-dependency involves selfish ambition.  Co-dependent ‘self ’willingly engages in sin to meet one another’s needs.  God reminds us that selfishness is not acceptable in His eyes.  Philippians 2: 3 states:  “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility…”

The first step towards recovery for co-dependents is to humble themselves before God and allow Him to nurture one’s damaged self and eventually realize that the only god one needs and should seek is ‘Yahweh’—the God of the Bible!   We must be open to God’s unfathomable and supernatural ability to heal us from the inside out.  Codependents must understand and fully believe that God will give them the strength to say ‘No!’ to those people in their lives that are toxic—toxic people who shred others emotionally, physically and spiritually.  None of us can be perfect, but we all have the choice to seek God’s intervention to help us heal and give us hope . . . Hope that whatever strength He gives us will carry us through our lives where positive change can occur and healthy relationships can flourish.

3:  God Opposes Enslavement To Others:

God wants us to humbly serve others out of love—real love—rather than out of bondage and enslavement. We are not to be controlled by another person’s behaviors or addictions or sin issues.  That kind of bondage equals dependence and addiction. Paul discusses this in Galatians 5:1:  “…not to be enslaved again to the yoke of bondage.”  In Hebrews 13:6 we are to be confident in God’s sheltering and grace:  “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?’“   We must free ourselves from mere humans who should not be given permission to control us and minimize who we are as unique individuals. God must be our strength to overcome.

4:  God Wants Us To Trust Him, Not People:

In co-dependency, one is totally engulfed in attempting to please the other person; so much so, that immoral and even illegal situations will be fully tolerated for the sake of the other person’s approval.  A co-dependent will fear he might lose his partner to rejection and abandonment.   God makes it clear we are to place our trust in Him and not others.  His words in Proverbs 29:25 are clear:  “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”  When we place so much faith in someone to the point of fearing rejection, we are exactly where God does not want us to be!  God will give us peace, not the person who constantly takes and manipulates.

We can be confident that God wants us to be interdependent, not co-dependent.  God’s interdependency focuses on a marriage between husband and wife where each spouse fulfills each respective role as a divine gift, resulting in mutual benefits and healthy unity.  God’s emphasis concerning dependency is on service for one another in love and respect—not service for self.  We are to selflessly love one another and avoid and reject selfish ambition.  Co-dependency is the polar opposite of God’s will and purpose for our lives!

May you seek the Lord and rely on Him to break the chains of bondage on which codependency thrives!

Addictions—Are They Sinful?

Written by Karen Carlson

 

Hmm…so are addictions sinful?  Before we explore this question, let’s first provide a definition of the word ‘addiction’.  According to dictionary.reference.com, it means:  ‘The enslavement to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation can cause severe trauma.’

I find it interesting that the definition used the word ‘enslavement’ since, biblically speaking, that is very accurate. And any enslavement that causes discomfort or dysfunction is not from God.  Whether sexual obsessions or chronic shopping due to never feeling you have enough to drug dependency, etc.—an addiction that controls you is dark, oppressive and spiritual in nature.  But we are all accountable since addictions begin because we allow them to.   And once the obsessions have embedded themselves in our psyche, we become a ‘paralyzed’ victim.    Wanting to rid ourselves of the addiction, though difficult, is another choice we can make, or not make.

What Does God’s Word Say?

Let’s take a look at several Bible verses that can give us some clarifying insight on this very topic:

1 Corinthians 10:13

“…but with the temptation He will, also, provide a way for escape…”  Addictions are escapable; but we have to want to escape from their hold on us.  And notice how it says ‘He (God) will provide a way for escape.”  God is our beyond-human strength if we seek His intervention and  choose for Him to rescue us.

1 Peter 5:8

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Whether your addiction is a mistress or video gaming for hours on end or getting drunk every weekend, the Bible tells us to be ‘watchful’ and ‘sober-minded’ since Satan and his minions are literally waiting for the next victim that has become weakened, mentally and emotionally.  When we surrender to our weaknesses, our psyche is defenseless and we are instant prey for spiritual warfare and attacks.  We may think we are in control with our obsessions, but the exact opposite is true.  Becoming convinced we are in control is just another deception to keep our minds and bodies addicted to our poison of choice.

James 1:14,15

“…But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  The desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin…”  It couldn’t be more clear, here, that even though we might be seduced, beckoned and tantalized, our ‘own desire’ will determine if we cave in, or not.  We have the ability to say no, we have the ability to turn our heads, we have the ability to just not go there.  But if we choose to go there, we are fully accountable for saying, ‘Yes, I’ll do that!” 

I think it’s important to point out here that to be tempted is not sinful; in fact, Jesus was tempted by Satan while in the wilderness.  The issue lies with what we do with that temptation.  Jesus quoted Holy Scripture every time Satan made any attempt to entice Jesus into succumbing to Satan’s persuasions.  Though Jesus was clearly tempted, He didn’t allow Himself to give in.

And perhaps the verse from James best answers the initial question:  “Are addictions sinful?”  When we become enslaved to anything, we are slaves to whatever obsession we have chosen.  That obsession becomes our god; so now, on top of the addiction, per se, we have committed a gross sin, in God’s eyes, in that the obsession of choice has become our god of choice.  That brings a couple other verses to mind:

Romans 6:16

“…you are slaves of the one whom you obey…”  In other words, if you obey your obsession and follow it and wallow in it and continually return to its hold on you, that obsession is your master—not you and not Yahweh, the God of the Bible.   You are the slave of whatever you succumb to on a regular basis.  It has you—you don’t have itIt is your master.

Exodus 20:3

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me…nor serve them…” Anything you hold up, hold onto, cling to or value higher than God, that activity or object IS your god, whether your realize that or not and whether you are willing to accept that or not.

Addictions Originate From A Dark World:

This is why God warns us to be ever-so-vigilant and keenly aware of our thoughts and desires, since distancing ourselves from Him can happen so easily to any one of us.  And the farther we distance ourselves from Him with our addictions, the deeper we embed ourselves in spiritual darkness.   And, if at some point, we begin to truly understand what God is warning us about, we start to realize that we’re not fighting the addictive drugs or the sensuous magazine covers or the starving-oneself-to-death anorexia—what we are truly battling is far more powerful and far more insidious.   We are fighting something we can’t see—spiritual forces that tempt us every single day to come into their world….and stay there.  What we do with those ‘invitations’ is our choice.   But isn’t it reassuring to know we have a God whose power usurps any other power known or unknown, seen or unseen.

Ephesians 6:12—“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against evil authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”