Category: Living

The Power of Groups

groups1It doesn’t matter if you’re single or married, being part of a community group with others who are in the same stage of life you’re in is beneficial. It isn’t enough that singles hang out with other singles and married couples hang out with other married couples, but instead, that each person is part of a solid group that focuses on growing and flourishing during the season they are in. This can be anything from a Bible study group to a prayer group to a recovery group. These groups have notable benefits in the life of an individual.

Community groups support you during rough patches
Each stage of life has its deep, dark pits. Singles struggle with their yearning for a spouse, marrieds struggle with the refining fires of matrimonial commitment, parents struggle with the emotional pull between their children and their spouse, and widows struggle the ache of loss. Whatever stage of a relationship you are in, a support group helps you work through the fears and emotions that come with a particular season of life. The empathy in a community group is much more powerful in some instances, because those in the group have faced (or are currently facing) the same difficulties.

Community groups reveal insight and keep you hopeful
One of the best places to find useful insight is in the mind of someone else. The rut our own thought patterns cause can keep us from finding that fresh attitude that gives us hope and keeps us going. You will witness many miracles within a group, as well as amazing epiphanies and moments of strong spiritual wisdom. All of these things encourage the group to keep pressing into the Lord and working through the challenges they are facing.

Community groups help you celebrate the season you are in
Community groups not only help you get through the bad seasons, but they also make the good seasons much sweeter. A good community group celebrates the victories and miracles in a person’s life. Happiness multiplies within a group, even when the events are small.

Community groups help prepare you for future hurdles
I once heard a pastor say, “You’re either in the middle of a storm, in coming out of a one, or going into one.” It’s safe to say that when we are not in a storm, we should be preparing for the next one. Community groups help you prepare for future storms in a few ways. First, every person in a community group has faced different difficult situations. Sooner or later, you will probably face a similar scenario in your own life. By listening and connecting with others around you, you will gain insight on how others faced their situation and came out on the other side. Secondly, groups normally look at different scenarios and discuss the options available for the situation. While you may only see one solution for a problem, a group of people can put together a list of options that can be mentally referenced at a later time.

Community groups might be hard to find, but there is one out there for everybody. And if you’ve run out of places to look for a group, why not start one? Everyone is looking for a community to be a part of; one that edifies and strengthens them for the trialing seasons in life.

Hooked on a Feeling

hook3Have you ever woken up in a bad mood for no apparent reason? Have you ever became angry and frustrated when only minutes beforehand you were enjoying everything about life?

Feelings are strange creatures. At times they are appropriate and sensible, at other times they are irrational and ill-founded. They can come in with the wind and then leave with it, or they can hover in the heart beyond their welcome. They can lead us into dark places just as easily as they lead us into good ones.

Don’t get me wrong – feelings are good things. They are an essential part of enjoying life. The problem is that we let them control us. Our feelings dictate our actions. We make bad decisions because our feelings blind us from good ones.

The largest feeling we allow to blind us is love. This can be seen in the man or woman who leaves their spouse saying, “We don’t love each other anymore.” It is seen in the man or woman who stays in an unhealthy dating relationship because they “love them.” Love has been watered down to a good excuse; a reason for executing any action we please whether it is right or wrong, loyal or disloyal, healthy or addicting. We let this “love” control us. We let it dictate us. And sometimes, we even let it destroy us.

The Problem With “Love”

“Love” is a word we don’t define correctly. When we think of the word “love” we think of that feeling we get when we see a member of the opposite sex holding a cute baby, or when we have a fond memory of our parents, or when we see a picture of a pile of grammatically incorrect kittens. But none of these feelings are love. They’re good feelings, but they’re not love.

The root of the problem is limited vocabulary. Although there are many words for adoring something or someone, the default word we go to in the English language is “love.” Because it’s our default word, its definition becomes vague. If you say you love football and then you turn to me and tell me you love me, how do I translate it? Do you love football and me with the same intensity? Do you have one type of love for football and another type of love for me? And most importantly, does your idea of “love” match up with mine?

We say “I love you” when we feel affectionate towards something or someone. And since that seems universally acceptable, we decide that love is a feeling. Then we decide that our romantic relationships are supposed to be built on this feeling. So in our logic we decide that if the feeling doesn’t exist then the relationship doesn’t need to either. The result? Incredibly messy, painful, and complicated relationships.

Built on Love

So should relationships really be based on love? Not this kind of love. Not the kind of love that feels strong one day and disappears with the next. That sort of love is a fickle beast. There is nothing constant or solid about it.

So what, then, is the real definition of love? What love is solid and created to be built upon?

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Here we find what love really looks like

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NKJV)

As you can see by this passage, love is not intended to be rooted in feelings. Love is action taken despite feelings. We should base all relationships on love, but not on the type of “love” rooted in feelings; relationships should be built on the kind of love that exists when feelings don’t.

Real love involves commitment, loyalty, and hard work. Love goes beyond happy feelings, and pours into serving someone else even when affectionate feelings are absent. Love is what remains when infatuation has ebbed.

Does this mean that all dating relationships are healthy, solid relationships if they are built on the foundation of proper love? No. Just as there are those who leave a relationship wrongly because of feelings, there are those who stay in a relationship wrongly because of feelings.

The foundation for all relationships should be the type of love shown in 1 Corinthians 13, but a dating relationship needs a few extra considerations.

Good Foundations

Romantic relationships heading towards marriage need to mix more elements into their foundation to make them sturdy enough for marriage. Dating relationships should be founded on:

Mutual beliefs – Your beliefs are the foundation of who you are and how you live your life. You can get along well with people of opposite religions and beliefs, and you can even have good chemistry with them, but that doesn’t mean you will do well as life partners. The idea of marriage is to become one unit; that is an incredibly challenging task if you oppose one another spiritually. Don’t enter into a relationship thinking that maybe later they will have a change in heart. No relationship should be based on “maybe later.”

Mutual relationship views – There is bound to be heartbreak when one person is dating with the intention of marriage while the other is simply playing the field. It is tempting to think that you can change someone’s mind when it comes to how they view relationships, but don’t place your bet on it. Find someone who has the same level of commitment as you do.

Mutual direction – If your greatest desire is to settle down and have six kids in the middle of suburbia, and your sweetheart’s goal in life is to be a missionary in the most dangerous parts of Africa, one of you is going to end up being miserable. Everyone has a calling on his or her life and it’s important to consider that when dating someone. This may not be deal breaker; if your callings don’t line up completely that doesn’t mean your relationship will fail. But do consider what sacrifices have to be made if your callings are in separate directions, and what roadblocks are going to appear if your callings oppose each other. You want someone you can walk towards a common goal with.

With feelings as fickle as they are, they should not be the main determiner of whether or not to stay in a relationship. We should not let our feelings control us. Although we should not deny or undermine our feelings, we should found our relationships on something stronger: a real love that exists when feelings don’t, and wisdom to realize when our feelings are blinding us from making the right decisions.

Quiz: Are You Trustworthy?

Are you the type of person that people can put their trust in? Take this test to find out. Answer all questions with either “True” or “False.”

1. When I say I will do something, it gets done
2. I don’t divulge private information about someone to a third party
3. I try to be completely honest in all situations, even if it makes me look bad
4. I only date one person at a time (Or if you are married: I flirt only with my spouse.)
5. I don’t steal
6. When I have done something wrong, I step forward and take full responsibility
7. I don’t gossip
8. It takes a lot to make me angry
9. I live the lifestyle I say others should live
10. I don’t say anything I don’t mean
11. I try my best not to manipulate a situation in my favor
12. I keep the hearts and emotions of others in mind when I say and do things

How many “True’s” did you get?
1-4 Untrustworthy
You are not a person to be trusted. The reasons for this can be either selfishness or immaturity. Others have a hard time trusting you, which means you probably lack the deep relationships that you wish for.

5-8 Somewhat Trustworthy
You are basically trustworthy, but you have room for improvement. You have a few deep relationships, and many seek your company, but some may not put full trust in what you say. Examine where you can improve and find others to hold you accountable for those things.

9-12 Trustworthy
People feel safe and secure with you and your relationships are deep. Maintain this level of trustworthiness and your life will be blessed. Or maybe you cheated on this test and you aren’t trustworthy at all. Were you completely honest?

trust2Trust is one of the most important elements in founding a relationship. If there is no trust, there can never be real intimacy. It is easy for us to point our fingers at those that we can’t put our trust in, but how often do we take the time to consider whether or not we are trustworthy people ourselves? How can we expect others to be measure up to standards that we can’t pursue and measure up to?
Let’s look at some of the elements of a trustworthy person.

A trustworthy person is honest: Honesty is a huge part of trust. If someone finds out that you have lied to them, they will be hesitant to trust you again. If you have a tendency to lie or stretch the truth, check your motives. Are you trying protecting yourself? Relationships flourish best when we are upfront and honest with humility and love.

A trustworthy person does what he says he will do: A trustworthy person only says he will do something if he knows he can carry it out. And if he fails at doing what he intended to do, he doesn’t make excuses or lie about why it didn’t get done. Holding yourself responsible for your actions is part of being trustworthy. It is better to turn away a task than it is to say you will do it and then never get it done. Carefully consider what you will agree to or volunteer for.

A trustworthy person looks out for the well-being of others: If all you’re doing is looking out for #1, you’re going to end up being the only one. No one wants to hang around a selfish, self-centered person. A trustworthy person looks out for the well-being of others without expecting anything in return. When you look out for others, your life is far more enriching than if you only look out for yourself. Your relationships will be much deeper. Do you have a person who you know is looking out for your best interests? You trust them, don’t you? In the same way, look out for others and they will put their trust in you.

A trustworthy person isn’t a hypocrite: If you say one thing publicly but act another way privately, you’re being a hypocrite. People can’t trust you if you are two-faced. Do your best to be the same person in public as you are in private. Don’t speak how others should live and then fail to listen to your own advice Be an example to others, not someone who condemns or complains. Not everyone may be a great example to the community, but you can be. And if you are, the community will put their trust in you.

A trustworthy person is safe: Are you creating a safe environment for those around you? Can people really come to you without being afraid of judgment, ridicule, or suffering at the hand of your temper? If you are not creating this environment, you are not trusted and your relationships will suffer for it. Realize that everyone makes mistakes and says the wrong things, but you are not responsible for their actions and words, only your own. Show grace to these people like others have shown grace to you in your life.

Evils of the Internet

modemTechnology is a wondrous thing. We have become incredibly connected to an amount of information that we have never been connected to before. With the world literally at our fingertips, we can grow in knowledge and in wisdom.

But at the same time, we can use the internet in destructive ways; ways that affect our relationships for the worse. There are three pitfalls connected to the internet and your relationship.

Time Consumption
How much time do you really spend online? It’s easy to lose an hour (or four) when reading news articles, watching videos, or looking at various status updates and forum posts. None of these things are bad within themselves, but if you spend more time with your smartphone than you do with your spouse, there’s a problem.
Take note of how much time you spend on the internet this week. Try to match your internet time to your spouse time. Once a month, do a weekend media fast together. Find a place to get away – just the two of you – without phones, computers, or televisions. Reconnect on a human level, looking into each others eyes and reestablishing your relationship. In addition, put aside a couple of hours each week to spend together without any electronics. (A profitable time would be date night.) Even in a couple of hours you can reconnect on a deep level.

Bad Relationship Advice
There is a lot of advice on the internet: how to fix your computer, how to keep your plants alive, and how to cure a cold. But not all the advice you find is good advice, relationship advice included.

It is no surprise that people will search through whatever resources they can find in order to find the route to a deeper relationship, but not all internet advice is beneficial. For example, I have came across advice that actually told me to go out and get my heart broken. No, thank you. I’m pretty sure that’s counter-productive.

Aside from my example, there is some advice that disregards the larger picture of a deep, meaningful relationship, and is about fulfilling short-term wants instead. A lot of internet advice can end up being selfish and shallow, telling you the quickest way to meet your desires at the expense of your partner.

Also, information can be childish or useless. The one I see a lot is “Is He Into You?” This is an easy one to answer. If he asks you out, he’s into you. It’s that simple. Going through a bunch of criteria will not give you psychic abilities to help you see into the future of someone’s actions.

When you are searching for valid advice, use discernment. Ask yourself if the advice goes against the Bible in any way, shape, or form. If it does, throw it out. It will only cause you heartache and chaos. Also, make sure that the advice not only plays to your needs, but your partner’s needs. Make sure it deepens your relationship and doesn’t just feed your selfish wants. Some great websites for relationship advice are Focus on the Family, Relevant Magazine, and Boundless.

Pornography and Other Sexual Temptations
Sexual temptation is hard to avoid on the internet. No matter what site you’re on, there is always a pop-up somewhere with the purpose of leading you down a pornographic path. Avoid them. Many think that pornography will enhance their sex lives, but in reality, it harms it more than it improves it. Pornography contributes to far more cases of divorce than to cases of sexual satisfaction. (Read our article Harmless Pornography.) A good rule of thumb is to never click on a website that you wouldn’t click on if your mother was in the room.
In addition to pornography, the internet can increase other sexual temptations. The internet can be a great tool for connecting with old friends, but it can also open up some doors for connecting with men or women in a way that damages your marriage. Make sure to have clear boundary lines when it comes to internet chat. Stay away from sexual suggestions or cybersex, as well as frequent connections with intimate conversation.

The internet is not evil in itself, but it can be used for unwise purposes. The internet should be used as a tool, not a lifestyle. Disconnect from it every once in a while and reconnect with your spouse instead.