|Who do you report to?|
What do you do when you wake up? My wife grabs her phone and starts reading the news. I usually check my phone calendar to see what my day looks like. Then I check the weather so I can plan on what to wear. After I do that, I thumb through my overnight emails, wondering if I will actually get to follow what is on my calendar or if some other issue is going to take over my day. That’s how we start in my house. I think a lot of people start the same way.
Sunday, my pastor talked about God. Shocking, right? A pastor talking about God! I digress. He reminded me, along with everyone else there, of Genesis 1:1.
“In the beginning, God…”
Yeah, the beginning. The same God who spoke the world into existence. The one who owns everything. He also reminded me of God’s purpose from John 3:16. You know, that whole part about sending His only Son for me, to bring peace and life.
I expected the normal pastor speak, an invitation, an altar call. The usual urging bordering on guilt to just say yes to Jesus…NOW…before it’s too late! Sorry, I can be a bit cynical. Thankfully, this guy continually surprises me. He took it another direction. He asked us the same question I asked at the beginning. What do you do when you wake up? Weird, huh? He continued by pointing out that how you start your day usually decides who controls your day.
Who controls your day? Who controls your life? Who do you report to? As I thought about my day, my priorities, my life…I had a whole host of answers. The answers weren’t always God. Sometimes my schedule controls my day. I am a freak about time. I hate being late. Schedule and time become God to me. Sometimes my job is my God, sometimes it’s my self. Many times it’s myself. When myself is my God, my God isn’t.
Step one reminds me that when my self is in charge, my life is a mess. Unmanageable. Powerless to addiction. I have a great history of reporting to my self and falling flat on my face. Hurting my spouse, family, loved ones…and yes, myself.
God doesn’t fall flat. He doesn’t damage us. He keeps His word. He can’t lie, steal, manipulate, disappoint. He’s God. Since the beginning. Since always. So who do you report to…and who can you trust? Certainly not me. God. He’s God, after all.
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There is an old story about the time Emperor Frederick the Great visited Potsdam Prison. He spoke with the prisoners, and each man claimed to be innocent, a victim of the system. One man, however, sat silently in the corner.
The ruler asked him, “And you, sir, who do you blame for your sentence?”
His response was, “Your majesty, I am guilty and richly deserve my punishment.” Surprised, the emperor shouted for the prison warden: “Come and get this man out of here before he corrupts all these innocent people.”
The ruler can set us free once we admit we are wrong.
We do ourselves no favors in justifying our deeds or glossing over our sins. When my daughter Andrea was five or six, she got a splinter in her finger. I took her to the restroom and set out some tweezers, ointment, and a Band-Aid.
She didn’t like what she saw. “I just want the Band-Aid, Daddy”
Sometimes we are just like Andrea. We come to Christ with our sin, but all we want is a covering. We want to skip the treatment. We want to hide our sin. And one wonders if God, even in his great mercy, will heal what we conceal. “If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right” (1 John 1:8–9).
Going to God is not going to Santa Claus. A child sits on the chubby lap of Ol’ Saint Nick, and Santa pinches the youngster’s cheek and asks, “Have you been a good little girl?”
“Yes,” she giggles. Then she tells him what she wants and down she bounds. It’s a game. It’s childish. No one takes Santa’s question seriously. That may work in a department store, but it won’t work with God.
How can God heal what we deny? How can God touch what we cover up? How can we have communion while we keep secrets? How can God grant us pardon when we won’t admit our guilt?
Ahh, there’s that word: guilt. Isn’t that what we avoid? Guilt. Isn’t that what we detest? But is guilt so bad? What does guilt imply if not that we know right from wrong, that we aspire to be better than we are, that we know there is a high country and we are in the low country. That’s what guilt is: a healthy regret for telling God one thing and doing another.
Guilt is the nerve ending of the heart. It yanks us back when we are too near the fire. Godly sorrow “makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that” (2 Cor. 7:10).
To feel guilt is no tragedy; to feel no guilt is.
Today’s devotional is drawn from Max Lucado’s Next Door Savior.
His name means: “To Rest”
His work: We don’t know what Noah did for a living before he heard from God, but following that encounter, he became an accomplished carpenter. His character: Noah was a righteous man, obedient and faithful. His sorrow: In spite of his admonitions and warnings, Noah was unable to convince his neighbors, friends, and extended family to repent. As a result, they were all drowned in the flood. His triumph: Noah’s obedience saved not only his life but the lives of his wife and children. Key Scriptures: Genesis 6-7
A Look at the Man
Once in a while a man comes along who’s not afraid to obey.
We cannot imagine what it must have been like to be Noah. He lived in a culture that was corrupted by immorality and violence. According to the story, the earth was literally “full” of it.
So reprehensible were people’s lives that God regretted having created these divine image-bearers. So much so that he decided to remove every living thing from the face of the earth, like a man clearing a table with the back of his hand. Can you imagine?
But on his way to starting all over again, the Lord looked at Noah. His life was so exemplary that in the middle of all this debauchery, he found favor in God’s eyes. This man, Noah, was righteous and blameless among the people of his time. Because of his faithfulness, he was the one man whom the Lord chose not to destroy.
We don’t have to look very far to find a lesson in this man’s life. Like Noah’s culture, the one that surrounds us is drowning in immorality, corruption, and violence. And like Noah, we can choose to quietly capitulate or to stand against it. Once we decide to stand firm—to live in obedience to God—the tricky part comes with trying to understand how. What does submission to him look like? And what should we expect as the result of this obedience?
Tucked away in this story is the secret to Noah’s success. Noah walked with God. For Noah, surrender was not a single decision or noteworthy event; it was a process. A routine. A journey. A walk. Obedience was the natural result of this methodical approach. Walking with God meant knowing him. Knowing God meant loving him. Loving meant hearing. Hearing, obeying.
And obeying God meant salvation.
We can imagine that decades of subtle and overt ridicule may have led Noah to question God. There had to have been moments of loneliness and genuine doubt. But taking one step at a time along the path God had laid out for him kept Noah on track.
Noah’s obedience led to the preservation of not only his own life, but of the lives of his wife and children. Once the project was complete and everyone around him had rejected the notion that God would actually destroy the earth with a catastrophic flood, Noah and his whole family entered the safety of the ark. Then the Lord shut him in. Noah’s obedience not only led to the preservation of his own life but the lives of his wife and children.
In fact, Noah’s faithfulness—in the form of a great ark—became one of the early church’s symbols for refuge. The interiors of many great cathedrals were built to resemble the inside of a boat—a shelter in the time of storm, a reminder of an obedient man who went before us and was saved.
Reflect On: Genesis 8 Praise God: For using his followers to accomplish his purposes. Offer Thanks: For God’s mercy toward the human race. Confess: Any tendency to care more about what the world thinks of you than about what God thinks. Ask God: To show you what it means, not just to obey a set of laws, but to stay close to him throughout your life—to walk with him.
Today’s reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store. The book’s title must be included when sharing the above content on social media.
Get Some Sleep
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matt. 6:34
Easy to say. Not always easy to do, right? We are so prone to worry. Just last night I was worrying in my sleep. I dreamed that I was diagnosed with ALS, a degenerative muscle disease, which took the life of my father. I awakened from the dream and, right there in the middle of the night, began to worry. Then Jesus’ words came to my mind: “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” And for once, I decided not to. I dropped the burlap sack. After all, why let tomorrow’s imaginary problem rob tonight’s rest? Can I prevent the disease by staying awake? Will I postpone the affliction by thinking about it? Of course not. So I did the most spiritual thing I could have done. I went back to sleep.
Why don’t you do the same? God is leading you. Leave tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger was the publisher of the New York Times during the Second World War. Because of the world conflict, he found it almost impossible to sleep. He was never able to banish worries from his mind until he adopted as his motto these five words — “one step enough for me” — taken from the hymn “Lead Kindly Light.”
Lead, kindly Light …
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
God isn’t going to let you see the distant scene either. So you might as well quit looking for it. He promises a lamp unto our feet, not a crystal ball into the future. We do not need to know what will happen tomorrow. We only need to know he leads us and “we will find grace to help us when we need it” (Heb. 4:16 NLT).
Today’s devotional is drawn from Max Lucado’s Next Door Savior.
Ralph and Susan had been married for 13 years with two adorable children. Their suburban life was packed with work, school, and the kids’ extra-curricular activities. Neither made their marriage a priority, but overall they felt their relationship was good.
Susan withheld her suspicion when she noticed that Ralph was on his phone more than usual. At times she couldn’t help but ask “What’s going on?” only to receive “Nothing. Just checking the news,” or “There’s a lot of drama at the office that I need to take care of.” She trusted him.
When Susan discovered that Ralph had been texting another woman, she was devastated. Her world came crashing down. In her mind, Ralph was not the kind of person to ever have an affair.
Ralph lied about it at first. He felt like he needed to protect Susan from the ugly truth. But as more evidence came out, he couldn’t lie anymore. He was having an affair.
He didn’t know how he had got involved so deeply with someone else. It just happened. He and a co-worker had become close friends over time. It felt good to have someone to talk to who listened and made him feel special. He hadn’t had that in a long time with Susan.
During the affair he had to convince himself that Susan didn’t care. He felt she wasn’t interested in him sexually anymore. They were more like roommates than soulmates.
As a Certified Gottman Therapist, I have heard many versions of this story in my couples therapy practice over the last 15 years. An affair, whether emotional or sexual, is devastating. Both partners suffer tremendous pain. But an affair does not have to mean the end.
The PTSD of an Affair
The betrayed partner experiences a tidal wave of emotion. The pain, hurt, anger, humiliation, and despair are overwhelming. After the traumatic moment the affair is realized, they become fearful, anxious, and hypervigilant, wondering where or when the next blow is going to come – not unlike symptoms of PTSD felt by military veterans.
Their mind races with thoughts of What don’t they know? What’s the whole story? Scenes of their partner with someone else appear in their mind when awake and when asleep, making life a living nightmare.
The Guilt of Betrayal
The betrayer also experiences a great deal of emotion. The hopeless feeling of witnessing your partner in pain and knowing you can do nothing to alleviate their suffering is a horrible experience. The feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation are almost unbearable.
So, what causes an affair? Why do partners choose to cheat? The answers are complicated and may take months to unravel.
Recovering From an Affair
Is it possible to recover from an affair? The answer for most couples is yes.
Many couples I’ve worked with have actually created a stronger, more emotionally connected, and richer relationship from the ashes of an affair. However, it’s not quick or easy. As with any serious injury, it takes time to heal. And it usually takes therapy.
It’s tempting to think that it will automatically get better with time. The problem with “sweeping it under the rug” is that the anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt felt early on by the betrayed person often give way to resentment – a slow seething anger that leads to total contempt for the betrayer. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that contempt is deadly in relationships and very difficult to recover from.
Couples therapy can help partners explore and understand what happened. The betrayed partner needs to have their questions answered, such as:
- When did you meet?
- Where did you meet?
- How long did the affair last?
The betrayed partner attempts to understand how it happened and how they can prevent it from happening again. They also seek consistency in the stories from one telling to the next. Do I know everything? Are you lying to me now? These questions are best asked and answered in the emotionally safe environment of a therapist’s office.
It is best not to ask questions about the specifics of the sexual nature of the affair. Those questions usually do more bad than good in that they conjure up images that might haunt the betrayed partner’s thoughts.
When the betrayed partner feels that they have all the answers they need, the couple can begin to work on rebuilding trust. Couples like Susan and Ralph have turned away from each other in many small ways over time, which compounds into the feelings that ultimately led Ralph astray. They neglected the relationship.
Once couples process what happened, they need to begin to tune back into each other. Susan and Ralph found that they avoided each other to avoid conflict. Tuning back in requires dialoguing about problems – both ongoing perpetual problems and past issues that might have caused some injury to the relationship.
Recognize That Conflict is Inevitable
Conflict is a natural part of your happily ever after. Every relationship has conflict due to different values, beliefs, and philosophies of life. When these differences are discussed safely, and when honored and respected, the couple will experience greater intimacy. At times this can feel uncomfortable and take some push and pull. Communication skills provided by a therapist can help the navigation of these discussions go more smoothly.
Once the couple has tuned back into each other, it will be helpful to create some meaningful rituals to stay connected. Couples can be creative about ways to do that which are special and unique to them. One couple I worked with decided to have morning coffee together for 30 minutes. They would discuss the events of the day, check in with each other emotionally, and take the time to really listen to each other’s hearts.
Another couple developed a ritual of a bubble bath after the kids were in bed. They said they did their best talking in their big round Jacuzzi tub.
Sexual and emotional betrayals are a hefty blow to a relationship, but an affair does not have to be the end. Couples who have the emotional fortitude to reach out and seek the help they need can create a much more meaningful and intimate relationship in the aftermath of infidelity.