When Prayer and Bible Study are Not Enough

When Prayer and Bible Study are Not Enough

God is always enough. He has all the answers. There is no higher calling in life than to know Him, love Him, and follow Him. But in serving Him there are plenty of times when prayer and Bible study are not enough.

We as human beings too easily put things in boxes. We either over-spiritualize every aspect of our lives or separate (perhaps unconsciously) the earthly and heavenly parts of our existence. Some people believe they’re serving God more than adequately if they spend an hour or two in church each week and a few minutes a day in personal or family devotions. And other people may devote hours each day to prayer and Bible study while their marriage, children, bank account, friendships, mental and physical health, work, and home go unattended.

God made you and me as integrated, whole human beings. You cannot separate the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual parts of you from one another any more than you can separate the flour, sugar, eggs, and salt from a loaf of bread. What impacts one area of your life impacts all the other areas. Every dimension of our lives needs adequate tending and nourishment for us to be our best and serve God with our whole being.

Failure to understand this has often led to serious problems for believers:

  • The person with diabetes or severe depression who refuses professional help while praying for healing
  • The seminary student preparing to be a pastor and seriously addicted to pornography
  • The wife spending hours alone reading the Bible while her husband starves for intimacy
  • The Christian leader whose ministry is cut short through the health effects of obesity
  • Believers frustrated when urgent matters (such as helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey) “interfere” with their spiritual pursuits.

While the greatest miracle of all is the salvation and restoration of a human soul, most of Jesus’ earthly miracles were focused on very earthly things – food, storms, physical illness. God is equally concerned about and invested in every dimension of our lives.

Here are three dimensions where we must be careful to not over-spiritualize.

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Pornography and your Christian Marriage

Pornography and your Christian Marriage

If the gospel is good for anything it must have an answer to the worst problems humans face. As believers we know that intellectually, but the body of Christ frequently hides from some of the really bad stuff. Pornography and your Christian marriage may seem like things that should not be said in the same sentence. But in 21st century culture it’s something we must acknowledge, and find God’s answer for.

I hear from people every week who struggle with this. I hear from the small-church pastor who feels he has no one to help him out of his addiction to pornography, the godly wife who just found out her husband has been watching porn for years, the young Christian woman who weeps in shame over her continued failure to stop engaging in internet pornography.

Although statistically more men than women get hooked by sexually-charged images and videos, pornography is an equal-opportunity destroyer. Men and women, married and single, Christian and unbeliever, young and old – it affects them all. Our sexualized society spends multi-billions of dollars on this. It starts young; your ten-year-old (or younger) can watch it on their cell-phone while riding the bus to school. (That’s a whole article – or book – in itself!)

Dr Juli Slattery, psychologist, author, and media professional, has stated that she no longer asks couples whether pornography is an issue for them; she asks what role pornography is playing in their relationship.

So what is a Christian to do? Refusing to address pornography is putting your head in the sand, especially if you’re married or contemplating marriage. But as with all human brokenness God has an answer – if you’re addicted, if your spouse is addicted, or if you want to proactively protect your marriage.

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When Spiritual Warfare is Dangerous

When Spiritual Warfare is Dangerous

Spiritual warfare is dangerous. But it’s not for the reason we usually think.

Say spiritual warfare and people get all worked up. One camp studies demonology, tends to see a devil behind every bush, and is always looking for the right techniques to defeat Satan and those under his control. Another camp sees spiritual warfare as something weird, a distortion of true Christianity, and at best something best left “over there” in third world countries where witch doctors do their black magic. Still others see spiritual warfare as the primary way to advance the kingdom of God, the strongest tool in evangelism, and the deciding factor in the triumph of the church in a dark world.

There are issues with each of those viewpoints. The term “spiritual warfare” doesn’t appear in Scripture, and therefore we must be cautious in how we think and talk about it.

Honestly, spiritual warfare is dangerous! Yes, we’re talking about an enemy more determined than any ISIS terrorist and more cunning than any multi-drug-resistant superbug. He’s been around longer than any of us, and he’s filled with hatred for our God and for us as His followers.

But that’s not why spiritual warfare is dangerous. We’ve too often gotten it backwards.

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Why Marriage is Hard

Why Marriage is Hard

Sometime after the preacher pronounces you man and wife the unwelcome truth hits you; marriage is hard!

That realization may come within hours or it may take months, but every marriage encounters real and big problems. Just today someone told me, “Dr. Carol, tell people the truth – how hard marriage really is!” I don’t know any statistics, but I would guess that for most couples some major problem has ambushed them by the time they return from the honeymoon.

It’s no wonder that for the past couple years there are, for the first time, more unmarried adults than married adults in the US and other developed countries. It’s well known from other research that, in general, successfully married people live healthier, longer, and happier. But that’s not enough to convince many to take on the enormous challenges marriage presents.

Ask almost any married couple and they will tell you the problems are real: communication, intimacy, conflict, differing expectations, money, parenting, and more.

These and other visible problems, however, are just the surface issues. As helpful as pre-marriage instruction, date-night advice, and much of the marriage help out there may be, it only deals with the symptoms. And just like with physical symptoms, problems will continue until and unless the underlying diagnosis is made and treated.

The Troubled Marriage Diagnosis

Perhaps 90% of those who write to me about their troubled marriage say something like, “My spouse is doing these things wrong, and I can’t get them to change.” The spouse writing to me is filled with misery, frustration, loneliness, or anger, and they can’t see any way out.

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Lonely and Disappointed on Valentine’s Day

Lonely and Disappointed on Valentine’s Day

Do you feel like a member of the Lonely Hearts Club? Were you disappointed on Valentine’s Day? You’re not alone.

So, no secret admirer surprised you with a card or box of chocolates yesterday. Your spouse didn’t overwhelm you with flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries for a romantic evening. Perhaps you’re buried up to your eyeballs in bills, diapers, and dirty dishes and that kind of love seems a distant memory. Or you’ve avoided retail establishments and worked extra-long hours this week just to forget that you don’t have a Valentine this year.

I know what it’s like to be lonely. In medical school a group of us single girls gathered one February 14 at the first and only formal meeting of the LLU chapter of the Lonely Hearts Club. I lived single until I was 48 years old, and I’m single again now that my husband is with Jesus. And pink doesn’t look good on me anyway!

But just because you have a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t mean romance and love are guaranteed. Some of the loneliest people I talk with are married. It’s not your Relationship Status on Facebook that’s at issue; it’s the status of your heart.

The State of Your Heart

We as human beings were made for connection. Deep, secure, long-lasting, intimate connection. We long to be known, to be affirmed, to be cherished, to be desired, to be sought after, to be loved. We want to be Number One to someone, and we often struggle to survive – let alone thrive – when we’re not.

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