Self-Care: Changing Bad Habits into Good (part 3)

self careSELF-CARE: As you follow in step with Christ and make godly habits that come from a changed heart, you’ll also experience joy.

In case you missed them, here are part one and part two in this series. So far, we’ve looked at the role of the heart in true self-care (part 1) and the first three steps in whole health wellness: recognizing emotions, choosing godly thoughts, and acting on renewed beliefs (part 2).

In the final part of this self-care series, let’s consider:

  1. Making new godly habits and sticking with them.
  2. Experiencing the joy-filled life.

Making New Habits

Acting on my renewed beliefs a time or two isn’t enough to make a genuine difference in my thoughts, emotions, and actions. We need a fourth step: making new habits that stick.

I used to eat super healthy foods and was a vegetarian for 14 or so years, and exercised regularly too. In recent years, however, I believed the lie I was too busy for regular meals, exercise, and rest.

God helps you and me break ungodly habits, including things like critical speech, self-pity, worry, smoking, chewing fingernails, people-pleasing, pornography, and more. In my case, the bad habit of neglecting self-care came from a heart of pride.

Sinful habits are not disorders or defects. Jesus Christ gives us victory over sin. You and I no longer have to live in slavery to sinful thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and motivation. God himself provides the way out.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Putting off pride, renewing my attitude, and putting on humility: This is my new thought habit.

New Habit Plan, Detailed

To successfully change a habit, we need a plan. The more detailed, the better. First you’ll see an overview below. Then I’ll share a detailed plan a counselee and I wrote together.

  1. Put off: Identify the ungodly habit that needs change. For me, I was irresponsible with diet, exercise, and sleep. For a counselee I meet by Skype, she is quick to argue with her mother.
  2. Renew my attitude: Me — I agreed with God that I was sinning by erroneously thinking that I was too busy for self-care, as if God didn’t stuff enough hours in a day. My counselee agreed with God to honor her mother and to choose Christ righteousness over self-righteousness..
  3. Put on: Me — humility. I am not Super Woman! I need good food, exercise, and rest…just like Jesus when he walked this earth. My counselee also needed humility as well as determination to speak the truth in love.

Together my counselee and I wrote a plan for her that looked like this:

  • When mother says something mean, quietly thank God for an opportunity to practice the new habit.
  • Remind myself of James 1:19, which says, “… Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” and that I need to change my attitude, desiring most of all to honor God.
  • Then speak the truth in love. Depending on what mother says, I may say, “I feel hurt when you suggest I’ve put on ten pounds and am lazy. You know I am an honor student and my clothes fit as they always do. I want you to know that I’m making a new habit to speak the truth in love. This is what the Bible tells me to do.”
  • Proactively and regulary choose words that build up, saying something like, “Mom, I love you” or “Great to see you!” or “Just want you to know I appreciate that you want the best for me” or a simple “Thank you,” always with a loving tone of voice and friendly body language.

body languageWhen making a new habit pattern, we need to repeat it many times for it to take hold. In counseling others, I’ve discovered that this step of forming new godly pattern is challenging and part of the reason why we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside us and encourage us.

What bad habit does God want you to replace with a godly habit? What obstacles are in the way? How might other Christians helped you?

Receiving Joy in the Journey

What I learned in this self-care journey may sound kind of crazy. It’s counterintuitive. My avoidance of true self-care fed my sinful appetite to live self-sufficiently and was, in fact, self-indulgent. Does this make sense?

For me, counseling my heart has meant stopping to rest and eat well and exercise.

I thank God that my poor self care didn’t create a health crisis. Rather, fear crept in and settled in my heart and mind. This is equally bad, this unsettling. Yet it has resulted in my obeying God’s call for heart change, which is always good. He knows what you and I truly need.

A quick review of the biblical counseling journey:

1. Recognizing your difficult emotions.
2. Identifying your faulty thinking.
3. Acting on renewed beliefs.
4. Making new habits.

As I continue my journey, how may I pray for you? All of us need God’s help, and he’s faithful. How we handle our everyday problems reveals our hearts: our desires, our motivations, our beliefs, and our thinking.

When God shows us that our hearts are self-centered, he gives us everything we need to live life according to his plan, which is what any true Christian really wants, right?

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 1 Peter 1:2-4, ESV

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Self-Gratification: Gift or Sexual Sin?

self-gratificationSelf-gratificaiton, also called masturbation, is the topic of biblical counselor Julie Ganschow’s all-time favorite posts on her blog, appearing first here and is used with permission. Julie is also listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory on my website. (If you are a conselor and would like a listing, let’s talk.) –LAM

heartThis issue has been a long time in coming to the blog. I undertake it with some fear and trepidation because of the sensitivity of the topic in such a public forum. However, because this topic holds such power over so many women I will enter into this arena for your benefit and for the glory of God.

A few things for you to know:

Self-gratification (masturbation, self-stimulation, self-sex) has become a literal epidemic among women, including Christian women.

I have counseled many, many women who are struggling with this issue. They have no idea where to turn for information or help. They believe it is sinful and are burdened with guilt and shame. These women are fearful of being discovered and their secret being uncovered. They are afraid of being judged.

As with every topic we look at on this blog, we have to go to the Scriptures to see what God’s Word says about the issue. What we will quickly learn is there is no direct reference or prohibition to masturbation in Scripture.

There are certainly direct commands to avoid types of sexual behavior such as adultery (Ex. 20:14), bestiality (Lev. 18:23 , homosexuality (1 Cor. 6:9), fornication (Eph. 5:3), orgies (Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:21) and the like. But nothing that directly tells a person not to participate in self-gratifying sexual conduct. There is nothing telling a person to do it either.

Now before you think there is a green light to go forward with the behavior, let me clearly state I am not saying that.

My task is to present what the Word of God says about this topic, and I must be true to the text. I cannot say the Bible says something that it does not say. What is required is that we look further at what Scripture says about sexual immorality to determine if despite masturbation not being specifically mentioned, it is included in some other aspect of that group of sins.

Self-Gratification and Porn

Most people who engage in this practice achieve a state of arousal by viewing or reading pornography. This is either hard-core or suggestive enough to bring arousal to the forefront of the mind. Because the mind is so effective at storing information, many times a person can recall something they viewed or read previously to meditate or play over in their thoughts at any time.

I think we all would agree that the consumption of pornography of any kind is sinful. It is at the least voyeurism and at the most adultery. Pornography both creates and feeds sinful lusts in the flesh, something Scripture commands us to abandon.

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 1 Peter 4:3

Debauchery (extreme indulgence in immorality) will be the inevitable result of pornography. While many claim to be able to “moderate” with pornography, statistically people gravitate toward more and more forbidden behaviors as they view it. This in my opinion is one evidence that our flesh grows more corrupt (Eph. 4:22) the more it is fed.

Secondly, Scripture is also clear on our obligation to put to death the desires of the flesh.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality (pornea- unlawful lust), impurity (physical or moral uncleanliness), lust (suffering a passionate lust), evil desires (a longing for forbidden desire) and greed (covetous practices), which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

More Questions About Self-Gratification

Is it immoral?

The question before us then is, is masturbation a form of sexual immorality? Based on the above Scripture, I would say it is. Self-sexual stimulation stirs up an unlawful lust and leads to forbidden desires and passions that cannot be righteously satisfied.

It becomes idolatry when satisfying those desires is more important than glorifying God.

What about widows and divorced women?

A common complaint from women is with respect to what to do with “illegitimate” arousal. This is arousal that is a result of prior sexual contact and having that person or practice removed from your life. This can take place in the life of a widow, a divorced woman, one who is no longer living with a man, or someone who wants to break free from the old habits of self-gratification.

Those desires are still there and are used to being satisfied. In the case of a widow or divorcee sexual satisfaction was a part of normal life, and is now history.

I believe the admonition to put to death the desires of the flesh applies to all forms of desire that cannot be righteously satisfied within the bounds of a marital relationship. Widows are encouraged to remarry rather than burn with passion (1 Corinthians 7:8-9). I believe that women who are divorced having been abandoned or who have been given clearance by their churches to remarry in the Lord would also fall into that category.

As for the rest, Scripture commands them to put to death the desires of the flesh.

What’s the godly way to handle self-gratification?

If we are commanded to put something to death, that sounds very final to me. To put it to death means to snuff the life out of it, to kill it off, to cut off the flow of its life blood. In the case of sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires that would mean to stop doing anything that keeps those things alive. Those who struggle with any kind of sexual immorality have to evaluate their daily activities to determine what must be put to death to keep them from entering into sexual immorality.

For each person the trap is different, so I won’t list them. The origin of it all is the same for this sin as for any other: the heart. (You can check out these links here.)

Sharing hope with your heart,

 

Blended Families: What to Do BEFORE Marriage

blended families

Blended families: Ups and downs, joys and messes. If you’re in a blended family, then you know what it takes to bring together two families. It’s hard work, isn’t it?

But if you’re considering remarriage after divorce or the death of a spouse: What should you do before you marry again?

Two words: premarital counseling.

Already blended. . .and struggling? Counseling works for you too. Don’t despair. Be encouraged. At the end of this article you’ll find helps just for you.

Did you know your family is among the 40 percent of married couples with children in the US that are blended? This percentage counts full- and part-time residential step families with children under age 18 as well as adult children.

In this article, you’ll discover four main things regarding blended families:

  1. Take it slow!
  2. How premarital counseling works before remarriage.
  3. Helping the children.
  4. Encouragement for blended families.

Slow Down. . .When You Want to Speed Up 

After years of parenting alone, it’s tempting to “follow your heart,” as today’s popular mantra advises, and marry quickly. As Ron Deal of Family Life Blended says, “You cook a stepfamily slowly in a Crockpot, not forcibly in a blender! Kids need more time than adults to get used to the idea of a wedding.”

For example, consider a couple I counseled who married within months of meeting each other. Fiona and Eli (names and details have been changed) were previously married and have five school-age children. (Two of the children also live their mom during the week.)

The couple disagreed over parenting, handling money, and dealing with the ex-spouses, among other things. Both of them are Christians and declared their love for each other. However, life’s struggles created significant stress. Fiona became controlling; Eli backed away. Sometimes he moved in with buddies for a few days for a break.

Meanwhile, the children were confused and acted out.

As one spouse said, “I just want to live and make life fun. It seems that everything is a task. I’m just drained.”

Do these words resonate with you?

Did you go through pre-marital or pre-engagement counseling before you remarried? What difference has it made? If you didn’t have pre-marital counseling before remarriage, do you wish you had?

Pre-Marital Counseling Before Remarriage

First, during premarital counseling, you’ll think through the compexities of combining families and determine if the marriage is wise.

Second, you’ll discuss topics that may have factored in to a previous divorce — everything from communication and conflict resolution to parenting styles and personality differences. You won’t address every potential problem in premarital counseling but you will see the glaring ones.

Third, you’ll consider reasonable expectations between the children and the new spouse. Did you know that children cling to the hope that their parents will get back together? I did when my parents divorced when I was age eight. But when you remarry, your childrens’ dream dies. This is a loss for them.

Helping the Children

In premarital counseling, you’ll discover how to listen to the children–their hope, their fears.

You’ll also learn how to talk to the children about God’s role in blended families. Now they’ll have more people to love and support them! This includes the non-custodial parent when possible.

Sometimes chidlren become fearful that the new blended family will also end up in a divorce. In premarital counseling, you and your future spouse will develop a habit of praying with and for your children. reassuring them and each other that you choose to glorify God always.

5 Encouragements for Already Blended Families

Is your family already blended? You’ll appreciate these reminders from Ron Deal. I encourage you to peruse his ministry website, where you’ll find extra resources.

  1. SLOW your expectations of how quickly your blended family will harmonize. Deal says, “The average stepfamily needs between five to seven years to form a family identity. In movies, love between adults and bonding with children happens quickly; in real life, it happens gradually.”
  2. INVEST in your marriage relationship. It is the the new foundation for your home.
  3. BE a united parental team while building relationships with stepchildren. What about disciple? Deal urges, “Early on, biological parents should continue to be the primary disciplinarian to their children while stepparents build relationship, trust, and respect with stepchildren.”
  4. AVOID common pitfalls. For example, a child who says, “You’re not my mom, I don’t have to listen to you” is telling you about their sadness that mom isn’t here. Also, keep some holiday traditions while creating new ones. Money matters can be confusing too. Calmly discuss how you will balance your responsibilities to previous individual financial obligations (such as paying child support) while combining assets for the new family.
  5. STEP UP your faith. Spiritual resources help everyone in blended families find grace for each other and strength for the journey.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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Jesus Prays for You!

jesus prays

Did you know the Jesus prays for you — yes, you — at all times? Nothing can separate you from God’s love! Once loved, you can now deeply love others!

When Satan accuses one of the saints – that’s you, me, and every believer – Jesus tells our Heavenly Father, “I got her covered. She’s mine.” Isn’t it comforting to know that Jesus sees your sorrows and your joys, your trials and your triumphs. . .and he prays tor you? and protects you?

Jesus prays for you when you. . .

  • fret over a loved one’s poor health
  • your husband fails to communicate
  • are lonely or scared
  • call yourself ugly names

What difficulty are you facing now? Do you know Jesus’ followers are forever loved by him and that absolutely nothing “wlll be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39)?

Jesus Prays with Power

Listen to the gospel — the Good News — in the Apostle Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome,

Jesus Christ, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (Rom. 8:34-35, NIV).

Jesus lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day, defeating Death and guaranteeing eternal life to those who love him.

Even more, when you have trouble praying, the Holy Spirit prays for you.

The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Rom. 8:26, 27, NIV).

Isn’t amazing that the God of the universe would bother to even to take note of us? He made man from dust. Our lives are a mist. But he is all-sufficient, all-knowing, all-good. How unlike God are you and me!

 He doesn’t need me.

 Or you.

 Or anyone else.

He is God. He is love.

Jesus Prays with Love

God invites you and me to know him deeply, experience his love, and follow him. When you know you are forever loved by Jesus, don’t you desire to love others? Even the “unlovables.”

Among today’s unlovables are gangbangers, the homeless, Syrian refugees, and many more. Who comes to your mind? The lady at church who gossips? Maybe your onery neighbor?

Some people find themselves living in a home that’s unloving. What can they do? What can you do?  If this describes you, would you take this challenge?

Prayer Challenge

For three months (or any time frame you choose) in the morning prayerfully yourself two questions:

  1. Who in my home needs my love right now?
  2. How can I show love to him or her love?

Then pray and ask God to help you follow through. The goal is not to get others in your home to love you back. It’s to love others and pray for them.

Did you know that in Jesus, you have all the love you need?

An Offer or Two

First, if life is hard now, may I encourage you to contact me so we can talk about the possibility of counseling? I counsel by Skype around the world and in person in greater Chicago. Contact me and request a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation.

Second, are you enjoying my blog posts? Please sign up with receive them in your inbox along with my “Transform Your Thoughts Journal.” Thanks!

 

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

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5 Reasons You Desperately Need Your Bible

bible
Bible reading is important. . .but why?
And what is the urgency of it? “5 Reasons You Desperately Need Your Bible” by bible teacher Kristen Wetheral appeared first here on Unlocking the Bible. It is used with permission.

heartWhy is Bible reading important? Most Christians know they should read their Bibles. But often, our Bible reading can feel dry and insignificant. Why is it so important for us to read this book? What’s the urgency of it?

Meet Ruth and Naomi

Ruth and Naomi’s story in the Old Testament reveals some urgent truths through illustration about why we need our Bibles right now and every single day.

We should not bypass these truths because they are the difference between spiritual life and death; between conviction and apathy; between joy, peace, and strength and discontentment, anxiety, and fear; between knowing some things about Jesus and knowing Jesus intimately.

Here are five reasons that you desperately need your Bible, as illustrated in the book of Ruth.

1. Your Soul Is Nourished

Threat of starvation loomed before Ruth and her mother-in-law. They had moved back to Bethlehem after their husbands and sons died, leaving them without male protection or provision. So the women had to find a way to keep themselves alive.

Ruth decides to glean in the fields of family members, “in whose sight [she] shall find favor” (Ruth 2:2), with her sights set on Boaz’s part of the field.

Boaz takes note of her hunger and determination. He asks his servant about Ruth, who replies,

She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.” So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest. (vv. 6-7)

Ruth gleans for dear life, and for Naomi’s dear life. She knows she will find favor here, that she can come and will be received, and that gleaning from this field will save both she and her mother-in-law from physical starvation.

Similarly, you and I need God’s Word right now and every day because, without it, we will spiritually starve. As the grain kept Ruth and Naomi alive, so God gives us his breathed-out truth, his very words, to keep our faith in him vibrant and growing. A good, solid meal strengthens the body and mind, but “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We need the Bible so our souls do not starve.

2. You Look for Life in the Right Places

What Boaz says to Ruth next is important for us to hear:

Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. (v. 9)

What a beautiful picture of looking for life in all the right places! Because Ruth found favor with Boaz and his crew, she is free to glean all she needs from his field. She doesn’t need to look elsewhere. His abundance is now hers because the owner has given it freely.

God gives each of his children direct access to his will, promises, and works through his Word. The Bible is sufficient for us to know God, believe in his Son, and walk by his Spirit. Nothing and no one else can give life the way God does through the Bible.

Yet, the human heart wanders easily and is deceitful above all things. Because this is true, we need to regularly anchor our hearts in God’s Word. If we don’t do this, the heart will “go to glean in another field,” looking for nourishment, life, and satisfaction in places that can never provide these things. So we make intentional plans to “keep close” to his Word, so that the eyes of our hearts “be on the field they are reaping” throughout our days and moments.

3. You’re Reminded of the True Gospel

Then [Ruth] said, ‘I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants” (v. 13).

Every time we read God’s precious Word, we are reminded of how we’ve found favor in God’s eyes through Jesus Christ. We are comforted by the depths of the gospel: Though we were once unfit to receive God’s kindness, he has “spoken kindly” to us through his mercy and grace.

Just as Ruth found favor to glean in Boaz’s field, so we have found favor through Jesus Christ to the presence and promises of God. We did nothing to earn this access, but through the gospel, God invites us into his undeserved favor and kindness.

Ruth was not one of Boaz’s servants, nor were we servants of God, but instead slaves to sin. And just as Ruth is made a servant and gleaner of Boaz’s field, so we are made servants of God and gleaners of his rich, fulfilling, gospel-saturated Word through Christ. Reading the Bible each day reminds us of this miraculous reality.

4. You Love and Serve Others Well

And [Ruth] ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over….Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied. (vv. 14, 18)

God’s Word provides an abundance of life-giving truth for us, which we then bring out and give to others. Ruth feasted on the fruit of Boaz’s field “until she was satisfied.” Not only this, but “she had some left over,” which she shared freely with Naomi.

The depth and devotion of our love and service to other people will directly correlate to the depth and devotion of our time in God’s Word. We cannot give to others what we’ve not sought or experienced ourselves.

Who in your life needs to hear the life-giving truth of the gospel for the first time?

Who might need help applying the gospel to a specific situation? Who might need a friend to serve them or pray for them?

Praise God that when we spend time eating his Word, he equips us with an abundance of satisfying truth to bring out and give to others. As Naomi “saw what [Ruth] had gleaned,” so the fruit of your time in God’s Word will also be clearly perceived by others.

5. You Keep Close to God

And Ruth the Moabite said, “Besides, [Boaz] said to me, ‘You shall keep close by my young men until they have finished all my harvest.’” (v. 21)

God promises to complete the work he begins in all his children. He ignites faith through the hearing of the Word of Christ, and then he sustains faith to the finish. And how is faith sustained? The primary fuel of enduring faith is the Word of Christ.

Boaz declares to Ruth the necessity of sticking close to the harvest until it is finished. So we stay close to our Lord Jesus through God’s Word until he calls us home and faith turns to sight. Until our race is finished, we glean from him, day in and day out. We nourish our souls so we do not starve; we anchor our hearts in truth so we do not veer; we root ourselves in the gospel; and we bring God’s abundant words to others.

We desperately need our Bibles. Thanks be to God that this is a need he is pleased to meet.

May I Pray for You?

Heavenly Father,

I pray that the women who just read Kristen’s article on the Bible’s nourishment to our soul will right now know you are near. Your desire is that we might find out delight in Jesus. Sometimes this seems hard, even unreachable, when our hearts hurt. Help us. Thank you. Amen.

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5 AMAZING NAMES GOD CALLS YOU!

Blessed, Daughter, Saint, and more!

In this delightful, four-color ebook, you’ll discover the precious names God calls you. Today so many Christian women don’t fully know their wonderful identity in Christ. Isn’t a time to know yours? Filled with scripture, photography, personal stories, and encouragement!

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