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Lack of power—tool of influence

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 NIV

We look across the generational divide, and we know this: No parent is perfect. No child is perfect. Painful truth.

Yet we are to honor. When we are young, we are to obey.

Did you ever notice how much of the New Testament is written to people who have little or no power?

And God calls on us to use our lack of power as a tool of influence—not through uprisings and revolts—but by quietly winning over those who do have the power.

But I digress.

Of course there are evil and abusive parents, and children who need to be protected from them; there are misguided social justice warriors who want to “protect” children from good parents—the whole thing is muddled.

But I’ll stick to the main course and say this: Learning to honor my parents is one of the main ways in which I have grown as a person. Learning to embrace their humanity, see beyond their imperfections, and comprehend what a gift from God they were to me—all of this has helped me land in a settled place where I can be patient with my own shortcomings, and find ways to respect those around me.

Dwight

PS. On 5/25/2019 our Inner Wealth topic will be how to overcome guilt, shame, and condemnation. Since many people don’t understand the difference between true and false guilt, and the very different strategies we use to resolve each, we’ll be explaining that in detail.

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Replacing the love drug

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33 NIV

Marriage is a lifelong educational process; the main subjects are understanding, respect, trust, and love. And sometimes we men are slow learners. I certainly have been at times.

Yeah, several months after we got married, the love drug wore off in my brain just like it does for everybody. I remember my supervisor at work saying to me, “You used to talk about your wife all the time. Now you don’t talk about her any more. Why is that?”

I don’t know. Maybe I was trying to fix her. Maybe I was trying to change her so my brain chemistry would change and I would feel in love again, just like the beginning.

As you might imagine, that didn’t go well. Spouses are not objects to be fixed. They are people with whom we journey through life. They change. We change. We learn to fall in love with that new person they have become.

How do we do that? For me, I found the answer in a place I didn’t expect. I let myself be loved by God. Instead of fixing my wife, I let God fix me. Along the way, everything changed. When I no longer needed my wife to be a little god who made me feel good about myself, then my eyes were opened to see what a beautiful gift God gave me by allowing me to live my life with Kim. Wow!

I feel like this blog post needs to be a book, and, in a way, it is. My book, The Gift of Transformation, talks about how God healed our marriage, and helped me fall in love once again. You can find out more here.

Dwight

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The Christian “S” word

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:21-24 NIV

Some passages take a lifetime to understand. This is one of them.

We live in a broken world filled with broken people. As a consequence, we constantly feel the need to defend our turf, to assert our own independence, to protect ourselves from being hurt again, to hang on to whatever little bit of power we might have.

Into this reality comes the counter-intuitive command: Submit.

Our minds imagine abuse, oppression, dominance, bullying. It can take years—decades even—to come to the place of trusting God enough to submit to Him. But to submit to another human being, one that we can see is riddled with flaws, why would God ask us to do such a thing?

As I say, the full answer takes a lifetime to understand. But I’ll give you one small piece of it:

A few years ago, I was negotiating a business deal with some men who held more power than I did. The terms they were offering were—in my mind—unfair. I needed them, they knew it, and, as a consequence, I was getting the short end of the deal. This bothered me. A lot. But then I talked it over with God. And He said something to me that changed everything for me:

“These guys can’t hurt you.”

I signed the deal. I went along with what I had no power to change. In the end, I walked away with money I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It worked out okay.

I don’t pretend that little story will solve everybody’s hangups with the “S” word. But I want to give you a place to start. Talk it over with God. See what He has to say.

Dwight

PS. On 5/25/2019 our Inner Wealth topic will be how to overcome guilt, shame, and condemnation. Since many people don’t understand the difference between true and false guilt, and the very different strategies we use to resolve each, we’ll be explaining that in detail.

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Ready

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Matthew 24:36 NASB

This is a tough passage that brings up challenging theological questions: How does the Father (God) know something the Son (Jesus) doesn’t know? Is Jesus speaking as a man or as God the Son? Does God exist inside time or outside time? Could the Father exist outside of time and the Son inside of time? If God exists outside of time, then does He know everything that will ever happen? If He knows it, did He predestine it? If He predestined it, then do we have free will? Or, like Dr. Strange of the Marvel Universe, does He just know all the things that could happen?

Without attempting to answer all of those questions, let me offer two takeaways:

(1) The return of Jesus Christ to this earth is the Father’s gift to His Son and to all of us who follow Jesus. In some way, this gift is gift wrapped, and it will only be opened at the last moment.

(2) Always be ready. We don’t know when Jesus will return. But, until He does, we are His representatives on this earth. The only Jesus some people will ever know is the Jesus they see when they look at you.

How do we be ready? Open the door. Let Him in. Let Him be who He wants to be, and do what He wants to do. He is returning to this earth. No one can stop that. But we can be ready by making room for Him in our lives today, right now.

Dwight

PS. On 5/25/2019 our Inner Wealth topic will be how to overcome guilt, shame, and condemnation. Since many people don’t understand the difference between true and false guilt, and the very different strategies we use to resolve each, we’ll be explaining that in detail.

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The father heart of God: Snapshot #3

Now I’m a dad of adult children. And I hear stories of their lives, and sometimes I hear stories of how they’ve been bullied in the workplace.

I know I can’t go to their place of employment and put those bullies in their place. (Although part of me would really enjoy doing it.) Instead, what I desire most for my children is for them to be cheerfully victorious.

What I want for my children is for them to be so filled with peace, and wisdom, and fun, that they take on these bullies as just another challenge they will dispatch with ease.

I want them to win.

Hear me. I’m not saying I want them to make someone else lose; I’m saying I want them to win. There’s a difference. It’s the internal mindset that says, “You don’t have the power to get to me.”

And here we have lesson #3: God wants us to win.

He coaches us. He celebrates us, and is working to make sure that each one of us is the best version of ourselves. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies because He is that confident. In Himself. And in us.

God is coaching the winning team. And we—His kids—are on it.

I’m skipping over a lot—like how God brags about us (Job 1:8, 2:3), how He heals our hurts (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), and the list goes on. But these last few blog posts cover three things that stand out in my mind.

How about you? When you think of the father heart of God, what comes to your mind?

Dwight

PS. On May 18, the Inner Wealth topic will be neutralizing unpleasant emotions. We’ll talk about where unpleasant emotions come from, two categories of unpleasant emotions, and step-by-step tactics you can take to return to peace and joy.

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The father heart of God: Snapshot #2

Our son Hans was a polar bear. Even in the coldest weather, if he could, he would escape the confines of the house and wander around outside with bare feet and no coat. I was afraid that Child Protective Services would see the little bare footprints in the snow and charge us with child abuse.

He was never cold. Or so I thought. So one day we went sledding. While everyone else was wearing snowsuits, extra socks, gloves—the whole winter get out, he was wearing a thin coat and little yellow rubber rain boots. Hans never gets cold, I reasoned.

And then I saw him shivering.

“What an idiot I’ve been!” I told myself, as I scooped him up and rushed him to the car where I turned on the heater full blast.

And so here we have lesson #2: When we hurt, God hurts.

Instantly. Completely. Without reservation. He feels our pain. He cares. More deeply than we will ever know.

Dwight

PS. On May 18, the Inner Wealth topic will be neutralizing unpleasant emotions. We’ll talk about where unpleasant emotions come from, two categories of unpleasant emotions, and step-by-step tactics you can take to return to peace and joy.

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The father heart of God: Snapshot #1

“Boy, if I ever have kids I’m gonna teach ‘em to behave.” That was my pre-fatherhood concept of fathering.

Then our daughter—our first child—was born. One tenth of a second after she was born, my whole idea of making my kids obey went right out the window.

Wow! I was overwhelmed. I never knew what an honor it was to hold in my own arms a child—a life God had entrusted to me. To me! Why had this secret of fatherhood been so long withheld from me?

I found myself standing there, filled with wonder that I couldn’t put into words.

What an honor it was to be someone’s dad.

So that was my first lesson. God loves being our father.

Dwight

PS. On May 18, the Inner Wealth topic will be neutralizing unpleasant emotions. We’ll talk about where unpleasant emotions come from, two categories of unpleasant emotions, and step-by-step tactics you can take to return to peace and joy.

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The father heart of God

I start here. I was terrified of my dad. As a child, yes, he was my protector. But I never felt safe with him.

It took me a long time to understand that my dad and I are the same person:

  • Sometimes, he lost his temper. Sometimes, I lost my temper.
  • Sometimes he didn’t understand me. Sometimes I didn’t understand my own children.
  • I sometimes misinterpreted his actions and misunderstood his motives. My own children have sometimes misinterpreted my actions and misunderstood my motives.

Into this tangled up journey of understanding my own father and learning to honor him, has come a connected journey: understanding the father heart of God.

So, who is He? Who is this Father who towers above all other fathers?

Is He interested purely in controlling our behavior—getting us to obey? Is He disgusted with our failures? Does He regret forgiving us of our sins? Is He unhappy with us? Are we a nuisance to Him?

I once believed all those things. Learning to unlearn those things has been my journey, and I’ll share snapshots of that over the next three blog posts.

Dwight

PS. On May 18, the Inner Wealth topic will be neutralizing unpleasant emotions. We’ll talk about where unpleasant emotions come from, two categories of unpleasant emotions, and step-by-step tactics you can take to return to peace and joy.

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The dog in the park

Those of you who know me know I have no great affinity for dogs.

Sorry. To you dog lovers out there, sorry.

Video here, and/or read on.

I just don’t. Bad childhood experiences, maybe, or whatever, but I grew up terrified of dogs. Even a little yappy canine could paralyze me in fear.

Of course, God has been at work on this. One cold winter day I was walking through a park when I saw off in the distance a rottweiler and owner walking toward me. The dog was unleashed. He came bounding toward me. When he got up to me, he placed my gloved hand into his mouth.

Hmm. I hollered to the owner: “Would you mind taking your dog’s teeth off my hand?”

She ran up. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “He has this thing about gloves.”

She removed the dog, and they went on their way.

Then I took stock. I wasn’t shaking. I wasn’t breathing hard. My heart wasn’t pounding. I was just a little annoyed.

Wow! What a change! I can only credit that to God.

I’m still a work in progress in this department, but, hey, God is at work in me. And I believe He is at work in you as well—whatever your particular challenges might be.

Dwight

PS. How do you overcome temptation? Why are we tested, and what strategy can we use to overcome those tests? Why do we sin? Are we doomed to sin because we’re sinners and we have a sin nature? How do we find God’s grace to overcome sin? That’s our Inner Wealth topic starting 5/11/2019.

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Fruit cannot be manufactured

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Video here, and/or read on:

You can’t manufacture fruit. If you try, the fruit will be inedible. Fruit must be organically grown.

I notice that this is the fruit of the Spirit. It isn’t the fruit of my efforts. It isn’t. Stop and think about that.

This isn’t the fruit of “three easy steps to joy.” No. It’s the fruit of the Spirit. It isn’t the fruit of my hard work, my being good, my trying harder.

If we lack love, joy, peace, and all the rest, we don’t NEED love, joy, peace, and so on. We NEED the Spirit. We need God. We invite Jesus into our lack, and there the fruit grows.

One more thought: Fruit doesn’t just pop out on the branches the first day of spring. It grows over time. In the same way, the fruit of the Spirit will grow in our lives over time if we continue to make room for Jesus.

Dwight

PS. How do you overcome temptation? Why are we tested, and what strategy can we use to overcome those tests? Why do we sin? Are we doomed to sin because we’re sinners and we have a sin nature? How do we find God’s grace to overcome sin? That’s our Inner Wealth topic starting 5/11/2019.

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