Be Careful with Anger

This week, I want to encourage you to get serious about taking control of how you handle anger. Anger is a normal emotional response. God gets angry. Jesus got angry. There is nothing wrong with anger, however we are responsible for what we do with our anger. Anger is like dynamite. If used properly, it can make the work of removing rock to build roads much easier. However, if used carelessly, it can be a terrible source of destruction. Anger can motivate a person to fight against injustice to pursue what’s right. However, anger can ruin a marriage, wound children, and wreck a person’s life. In life, we will experience anger. It is important for us to learn to control how we express it.
I thought I would start the discussion by confessing to you that I have had to do a lot of work to deal with this myself. In fact, God has helped me more in this area than I can describe. I am so thankful because anger could have surely ruined my life and destroyed everything I love. My journey began when I was 18. I was about to be married to the young woman of my dreams and didn’t want anything to mess it up. One day, after a rain, I got our farm truck stuck in the mud. This was always a terrible interruption in the day. I walked a half a mile to the tractor shed and after a lot of trouble cranked the old tractor and drove it to the site of the disabled truck. I hooked the cable to the truck and got ready to pull it out. I was beginning to feel relieved to finally be able to continue my day. Then, the tractor cut off. The battery was dead and I didn’t have any way to start it without another long walk. I was angry at myself for letting the tractor cut off. I was angry for getting stuck in the mud. I was angry that I didn’t have help. I was boiling inside. I grabbed some tools and sent them flying. Then, I grabbed a long steel pryer and bounced it off the tractor tire. as it was flying back from the tire, I saw my dream girl coming around the curve. She had been looking for me. She wanted to help me so we could be together. I had always justified those outbursts until then. I wondered if she would change her mind about marrying someone who could act so crazy over something so insignificant.

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Navigating Trials Safely

I hope that 2017 is off to a great start for you and your family! This week, I thought I should share some thoughts about overcoming trials and difficulties. We all hope for life to be filled with better things, but the truth is that we are all subject to having to face challenges. Too often, the stress from these difficulties rips families apart. So, I thought it might be helpful to offer some practical principles to help see you safely through.
James 1: 2-4 says, “ My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience and perseverance, but let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”. The simple message of this passage is that trials have a purpose so embrace the process and let the trial accomplish its purpose… you will benefit greatly if you do.
Often, we enter trials with a plan of trying to escape the trial unscathed as soon as possible. This mindset leads to missing the purpose of the trial and also missing the intended benefit. Often, we wrongly believe that trials mean that there is something wrong with us. We begin to believe that maybe God is angry at us which undermines our faith. We begin to blame others for letting us down which leads to anger and bitterness. When we don’t remember that God has a plan for us, we lose hope and begin to engage in reckless and destructive behaviors. All of these tear marriages and families apart.
The Bible makes it clear that our faith is what God values the most.

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5 Simple Things to Strengthen your Marriage

As we move into the new year, I have been encouraging you to plan to grow in your relationship with God. Of course, this will create a positive impact on your marriage and family. If you missed those sessions, you can read the transcript on my blog at nolareallife.org. This week, I want to share a few simple, practical things you can start doing right now to strengthen your marriage relationship.
My first suggestion is to simply value your mate. I think that’s one of the biggest struggles in marriage. In the beginning, we are swept up with all of our mate’s strong and wonderful qualities. We hardly notice that he/she has any weaknesses or flaws. We magnify their positive qualities and minimize their flaws. However, over time, we have a tendency to start minimizing their strengths and magnifying their flaws. This is a natural tendency that most couples face. I want to encourage you to overcome this tendency.
I would encourage you to focus on your mate’s strengths and positive qualities. Spend some time thinking about how your mate has enriched your life. Go beyond the superficial and really take time to think about the blessings your mate has brought to you. Spend some time thinking about what your life would look like if you had not met your mate. This is how we recapture those feelings of excitement and appreciation for our mate. Taking an inventory of the qualities we admire and appreciate about our mate reminds us that our mate is our greatest blessing. Once we value and appreciate our mate highly, it affects every aspect of how we relate to him/her in a positive way. If we were to lose our material things or our career, we would be ok because we have our mate to help us through.
I want to encourage you to develop a lifestyle of appreciating your mate and turn away from a lifestyle of complaining about your mate. Complaints lead to finding more flaws.

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More Uplifting Resolutions

I hope you are having a great time welcoming in the new year. I’m sure many of you are continuing with great food, great time spent with family and friends, and hopefully fireworks. Of course, many of us will promise to lose weight, pay off debt, save more money, and exercise more. However, I want to continue encouraging you to resolve to develop qualities that will grow your relationship with God and add blessings to your life in every way. Last week, I started this by steering you to the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. If you missed it, you can read the transcript on our blog at nolareallife.org.
This week, I want to point you toward another powerfully important list of character qualities to pursue. This list is found in second Peter 1. The passage I want us to focus in on says,” For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge, and to knowledge self control, and to self control perseverance, and to perseverance godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 10 – Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Before we look at the list of qualities, I want to point out 2 obvious things. First, notice the reward, “ you will never fall, you will be productive and effective in your
knowledge of Christ, and you will receive a rich welcome into Heaven. Right away, we see that the prize of this pursuit is far more valuable than anything this world could offer.

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Powerful Resolutions

Well, it’s hard to believe, but the Christmas decorations will soon be coming down and going into storage for next year. We are now moving toward a new year and soon, we will be promising to make improvements in the new year. We will be vowing to lose weight, pay off debt, save money, or exercise more. While these are great things to work towards, I would like to offer you some additional ideas for growth and improvement.
First and foremost, I want to encourage you to plan to be deliberate and intentional in growing in your relationship with God. Many people run their relationship with God on autopilot. In other words, they feel relieved to have their sins forgiven and feel comforted in the fact they can expect to spend eternity in Heaven. So, the next step for them is to focus on the wants and needs of life on Earth while they wait to present their ticket to Heaven. In Luke 12:35, Jesus warns us not to live like that, but rather to live a lifestyle of being ready for His return. This week, I want to offer you a few things to help you move forward.

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Dealing with Holiday Sadness

Christmas will soon be here and I hope you are overflowing with joy as you celebrate the birth of our Savior! This week, I want to offer some ideas to help those who might be struggling with sadness during the Christmas Season. It is true that many people feel overwhelmed with sadness during the Christmas Season. As a matter of fact, I struggled with that myself until I was in my late 30’s. So, I hope these thoughts will help you or equip you to help someone you care about who is struggling.
A good place to start is by identifying the most common reasons that Christmas leads some to sadness. The most common reason is remembering the loss of a loved one. Our Christmas celebrations make significant memories and when a loved one has passed on, it leaves a hole. The second cause is family conflict. Christmas is a time of family gatherings and in too many families this family time can be stressful and painful. The third cause is financial stress. We place demands on ourselves to purchase things we can’t afford. Whether we dive into debt to pay for it or choose to avoid debt and not make the purchase, we are left with feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. A fourth cause is loneliness. Christmas is a time of parties and meals with family and friends. Many are left out and loneliness sets in. A fifth cause of sadness is painful memories. A huge percentage of our population has experienced many varieties of family dysfunction and family brokenness. These events have burned painful memories of childhood disappointments into our souls and the images of happy families so prominently on display at Christmas brings a flood of hurtful memories rushing back.
The angel’s announcement to the shepherds in Luke 2:10, “ Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today, in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” is still true. Christmas is a celebration of the greatest event in the history of humanity. I hope to offer you some helpful ideas this week that will help you re-focus and fill your heart with joy.

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A few thoughts at Christmas

Well, here we are just a few days from Christmas. I hope you have been finding a way to celebrate the birth of the Savior in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of work, family gatherings, and shopping. If not, I want to encourage you to take time this week to really drink in the message of the angels to the shepherds and remember that Jesus came to free us from slavery to sin and adopt us into the family of God. He came to provide a way for us to enter Heaven for all eternity.
Before the season passes and we shift gears to focus on a new year, I want to offer some thoughts about one obvious point in the story of the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born to a couple. I know it is obvious, but I think it is important to see that God brought the Savior into the world according to his established order of things. We are surrounded today by those who are yelling and screaming that God’s natural order of things is insignificant and burdensome and we should rebel against it. I want to encourage you during this Christmas Season to remember that God values marriage and family highly and will not violate His established order Himself.

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HELP!How do I handle my difficult relatives?!

As we approach Christmas, I want to remind you that the central theme of Christmas is forgiveness and reconciliation. God loves mankind so much that He sent His Son, Jesus to this Earth to experience humanity and to die a sacrificial death to pay the penalty for our sins. Through Jesus, God was making a way for us to have our sins forgiven and to be reconciled to a life-giving relationship with Him!
We sing songs at Christmas that explain this great truth. However, through the years, I have noticed that it is often difficult to bring this forgiveness and reconciliation to our strained relationships with certain family members. This always casts a cloud of sadness over our celebrations. Obviously, the complexities that have created these strained relationships are too many for me to address in detail. But, I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a few principles that might help you find your way forward.
In my experience, it seems that extended family relations cause the most friction. This can take on multitudes of specifics, however the overarching principle is that of leaving and cleaving. This principle is found in Genesis 2:24 & reaffirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:5. The essence of this principle is that when a man and woman get married, the welfare of their household takes priority over all other relationships.

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One of the Most important things to learn

This week, I want to focus on one of the most important aspects of life which happens to be one of the biggest challenges we face … forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a vital element to holding a family together. A refusal to resolve conflicts with apologies and forgiveness can destroy any family. When we forgive, we are demonstrating the nature of God. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Forgiveness is an expression of love and commitment. Forgiveness says that we value and choose the other person all over again. Forgiveness frees a person from guilt and shame. Forgiveness says that I am in touch with the reality that I am not perfect and am in need of forgiveness myself. Forgiveness is a trademark of strength and greatness. On the other hand, a refusal to forgive demonstrates a hard heart that is bent on retaliation and revenge. This attitude leads to a downward spiral of hurt and division in families. This week, I want to discuss some of the reasons why we should learn to be good at forgiveness and some key elements of practicing forgiveness.
The first question is “why should I forgive?”. In the logic of fallen mankind, when someone does something to hurt, offend, or disrespect us we owe it to ourselves to retaliate and hold a grudge. The truth is that this opens the door for lots of terrible things to happen. In marriage, a refusal to forgive plays out in a painful downward cycle that looks something like this: one person does something that hurts the other – the hurt one retaliates – the first one gets upset and retaliates in some way – this cycle continues its ugly descent – the relationship is sustaining deep scars. Unless something happens, this descent will lead to a broken family. I have seen this over and over. The solution to stopping this cycle and saving the family is simple – forgive.
Why is it so hard to forgive those who hurt us?

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Standing for the Right Things

This week, I want to encourage you to summon the courage to stand up for what’s right. This message is for everyone, but is especially important for men because we have been given an important role of leadership in the family.
The word righteous or righteousness used often in the Bible, refers to right versus wrong. The Bible tells us that certain behaviors and attitudes are right and others are wrong. The simple truth is that choosing the wrong things brings painful consequences to us and choosing the right things brings meaningful rewards to us. These rewards and consequences affect not only us, but also have a powerful effect on our mate and children.
We live in an age where situational ethics and the undermining of absolute truth has blurred the line between right and wrong and even brought about a climate where right is condemned as evil and that which is wrong is applauded. Our society has even gone to extremes to try to erase the consequences of choosing that which is wrong. I suppose the greatest example of a failed attempt to erase the consequences of choosing wrong over right involves the solutions offered to those who choose to disregard God’s plan for human sexuality. His plan is that we would practice celibacy until marriage and practice monogamy after marriage. When a man and woman marry and practice faithfulness to each other, then that intimate part of life is a blessing that produces children and fear-free pleasure. However, when people refuse to honor God’s order in this area of life, it opens the door to disease, heartbreak, and unwanted pregnancy. The world offers so-called solutions to the consequence of unwanted pregnancy. First of all, they offer programs to provide for the single Mom and her child. The problem is that this tells the man that he is absolved of all responsibility and he is free to go. This has led to our “projects” that are filled with hurting, struggling women and confused, angry children who are suffering the loss of a loving two-parent home. Secondly, women are told that abortion is an easy way to avoid the consequences of their choices. The problem is that this solution wounds the spirit of a woman in the deepest ways possible. This is a solution that will haunt her for the rest of her life.
I want to encourage you to be a light by deciding to choose what is right and reject those things that are wrong. This will create a righteous legacy for your children.

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