One Happy City

If you live in or near Philadelphia, there are a lot of happy people walking around today. They may even be a little tired from staying up later to watch TV. And yet they are happy, very happy, with a spring in their step and a smile on their face. The reason? The Eagles won and are currently the team with the best record in the NFL. People are saying we live in Wentzylvania (for you non-Eagles fans, Carson Wentz is the quarterback) and are headed to the Super Bowl. I can relate to all of this as I am a Philadelphian and an Eagles fan. I have celebrated and suffered through many games.

I have to admit that I am as happy today as any other Eagles fan, E-A-G-L-E-S! While there is nothing wrong with rooting for a team enjoying a good football game, it strikes me as shallow that so many people are happy today because the Eagles won, and they would be the exact opposite if they had lost. God offers a joy that runs so much deeper than this, a joy that is not dependent on circumstances or a football score. We read of it in Psalm 4 where David is calling out to God to answer him in a time of distress and difficulty. In verse 4 he writes, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” David is pointing out that for the people around him, they are happy when there is lots of alcohol (sounds like a lot of Eagles fans!), and not happy when it is less plentiful. But David says his joy is not dependent on this, or any other circumstances. It is a joy that is found even when times are tough. Not only that, but his joy is even more than the joy they experience when they have been drinking and are “feeling no pain.”

Can you say this about your life? Is your joy dependent on the outcome of a game, or the amount of alcohol you can consume? Or is your joy something that runs deeper than this, one that is a constant whether it is Friday at quitting time or on a rainy Monday morning? The key to experiencing this kind of joy is found in God, your creator, who calls you to turn to Him in faith and to live your life in relationship with Him. If our counseling team can help you with this, reach out to us by phone or email.

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage

Recently I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal, of all places, entitled, “Cheap Sex and the Decline of Marriage.” The author is Mark Regnerus, professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He seeks to answer the question as to why marriage is in retreat among young people in the United States. Statistically marriage is in decline. Looking at the census data, married 25 to 34 year olds outnumbered their never-married counterparts by 55 to 34%. By the 2015 census, these numbers turned around dramatically. Now never-married adults 25 to 34 year olds now outnumber their married counterparts by 53 to 40%. His answer is one that I have believed for a long time.

So what is his answer? Regnerus first takes out a couple of common answers that are not true. He demonstrates that it is not the decline in wages for young men in the US. The idea here is that if young men made more money, they would be more inclined to marry, but the research does not support this. Another hypothesis he dismantles is that young men have more fear of commitment. So what is his answer? It has become much easier for men to have sex with women without the commitment of marriage, or really any level of commitment. To put it as my mother used to say, “why buy the cow when the farmer is giving away the milk.”

He illustrates the point by speaking of a man named Kevin. Let me quote from his article’s account of this:
“Kevin, a 24-year-old recent college graduate from Denver, wants to get married someday and is “almost 100% positive” that he will. But not soon, he says, “because I am not done being stupid yet. I still want to go out and have sex with a million girls.” He believes that he’s figured out how to do that: “Girls are easier to mislead than guys just by lying or just not really caring. If you know what girls want, then you know you should not give that to them until the proper time. If you do that strategically, then you can really have anything you want…whether it’s a relationship, sex, or whatever. You have the control.” Kevin (not his real name) was one of 100 men and women, from a cross-section of American communities, that my team and I interviewed five years ago as we sought to understand how adults in their 20s and early 30s think about their relationships. He sounds like a jerk. But it’s hard to convince him that his strategy won’t work—because it has, for him and countless other men.”

Regnerus puts forth more detail about his explanation for this, “My own research points to a more straightforward and primal explanation for the slowed pace toward marriage: For American men, sex has become rather cheap. As compared to the past, many women today expect little in return for sex, in terms of time, attention, commitment or fidelity. Men, in turn, do not feel compelled to supply these goods as they once did. It is the new sexual norm for Americans, men and women alike, of every age.”

I think his view is right on the money. He goes on to point out a couple of reasons why this is true. One is the availability of effective birth control. It has boosted their educational and economic status and has made women less dependent on men. As the risk of pregnancy has been dramatically reduced, sex no longer has many of the social and personal costs that once encouraged women to demand commitment prior to becoming sexually intimate.

Regnerus continues with additional reasons and observations which I will simply quote from the article: “Online porn has made sexual experience more widely and easily available too. A laptop never says no, and for many men, virtual women are now genuine competition for real partners. In the same survey, 46% of men (and 16% of women) under 40 reported watching pornography at some point in the past week—and 27% in the past day. Many young men and women still aspire to marriage as it has long been conventionally understood—faithful, enduring, focused on raising children. But they no longer seem to think that this aspiration requires their discernment, prudence or self-control. When I asked Kristin, a 29-year-old from Austin, whether men should make sacrifices to get sex, she offered a confusing prescription: “Yes. Sometimes. Not always. I mean, I don’t think it should necessarily be given out by women, but I do think it’s OK if a woman does just give it out. Just not all the time.”
Kristin rightly wants the men whom she dates to treat her well and to respect her interests, but the choices that she and other women have made unwittingly teach the men in their lives that such behavior is noble and nice but not required in order to sleep with them. They are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.

I would also add that the current myth that 50% of marriages ends in divorce also has contributed to the retreat of marriage. Why get married if we only have a 50% shot a making it, or should we live together first before making that commitment? The problem with this is twofold. First, the divorce rate in the United States is nowhere near 50% Among the general population, the rate of divorce is approximately 23%, and among couples who are actively engaged in their faith and church commitment, it is approximately 17%. The other problem with living together prior to marriage according to the research is that couples who do this actually have a higher rate of divorce.

Unknown to Renerus, he is advocating for a biblical view of sex and marriage. God puts sex in the context of marriage to protect us from harm, and to provide the best place for it to be enjoyed. From what harm is God seeking to protect us. This includes such things as guilt and shame, sexual comparisons from reruns of prior sexual experiences during a current sexual experience, sexually transmitted diseases, and from being used for another person’s sexual gratification. So he provides the best possible place for sex to be enjoyed, the unconditional marriage covenant between a man and woman for life.

As with anything in life, but especially sexual intimacy and marriage, God’s way is always the way that works, because He is the creator of both.

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. His areas of counseling specialty include marriage and family, pre-marital, depression, anxiety, men's issues, grief and loss, post-traumatic stress, critical incident stress, career.



Reflections on the Hurricanes of 2017

Irma, Harvey, and now Jose and Maria, it has been quite a hurricane season. We have all been moved by the scenes of devastation and heartache on the news. It takes me back to my service following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the devastating earthquake in Haiti. One report has 90% of the homes destroyed in Key West, and even worse for the Caribbean Islands already hit. If there is one thing I learned from my deployments, it is just how fragile our lives and anything we make can be.

This past Sunday I was speaking at a local church and part of my message included these words of Jesus from Matthew 7, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who build his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that found, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” As I read these words that are so familiar to me, I thought about how these hurricanes are physical picture of the storms of life we can experience. I think of the ones my wife and I have faced including major surgery for Phyllis, four major abdominal surgeries for me, layoffs, loss of loved ones, various moves, as well as today with having a prodigal son. Having a foundation that is stronger, bigger, and more secure than anything we could have (money, insurance, or any house we could build) is what has seen us through and kept us together.

In my sermon on Sunday I made the point that the closer to God you are before the storm hits, the better you will be at weathering the storm when it comes. I know it, and so did a man by the name of Horatio Spafford. He wrote these words to a very well known hymn: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed his own blood for my soul. It is well, with my soul.” Horatio wrote the words to this song after getting the word that all four of his children died in the sinking of SS Ville Du Harve in 1873, only his wife being saved. He had sent them ahead on this ship after the death of his 2 year old son in the great Chicago fire of 1871 which also ruined him financially. How can a man who faced such tragedy and loss write those words? It all comes down to his foundation.

So what is the foundation of your life?

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



Reflections on the Eclipse

Now that the eclipse of 2017 has come and gone, my mind went in two directions when I think about my experience of it and all of the reporting on it. Those of us at my office at the church went outside a couple of times to watch it and it was fun. But it was hardly the life changing, spectacular, all encompassing times of life that some called it on the evening news accounts of it. I save that for days like my wedding, the birth of each of my children, the birth of our first grandchild (the first of many I hope!).

The first direction my mind went was how the eclipse event brought people from all different sides, races, religions, education and economic levels together and all looking in the same direction. People from the the left, the right, the center, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, old, young, conservative, liberal, all came together to witness something bigger than ourselves. And this at a time when there is so much division and strife in our land today. Instead of talking to each other, we yell, scream and even get violent in shutting down people with whom we disagree. It is sad that those who are screaming the loudest and resorting to violence are destroying one of the founding principles that has kept our nation one of the greatest on earth, freedom of speech.

Secondly, as I watched the evening news and was listening to some people react to the eclipse, I thought of Romans 1:25 where the Apostle Paul warns against worshipping the creation instead of worshipping the Creator. Certainly the eclipse was a cool event to see, but as glorious as it was, the glory really belongs with the One who created the sun, the moon and everything there is. As David writes in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Sorry to burst the bubble of everyone who is into astrology, but the difference maker isn’t the planets and the stars, it’s the Creator. When I see something like the eclipse, it reminds me that even bigger than the solar system is One responsible for all of it. Soli Gloria Dei!

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. His areas of counseling specialty include marriage and family, pre-marital, depression, anxiety, men's issues, grief and loss, post-traumatic stress, critical incident stress, career.



Living the Mission

Earlier this summer I went on a 10-day mission trip to the Dominican Republic with 17 people from my church, including my teenage daughter. The group ranged in age from 8 to 70 years old. This was my seventh mission trip to the DR, and my daughter’s fifth trip. My church – Woodside Church in Yardley, PA – has been sending groups to the DR for the last 20 years. We partner with an organization called the Foundation for Peace (FFP) which has a base in Santo Domingo, DR’s capital city. FFP works through the local churches to bring groups to do construction, run medical clinics, teach Bible school, and worship mano a mano (or hand in hand) with our Dominican brothers and sisters. The projects typically involve the construction of a church, school, water treatment plant, and/or clinic site.

I get many questions from friends and family about what these trips are like, and why I go every summer on a mission trip. For much of my life, I had thought that only priests could be missionaries, the length of stay must be 1 year or more, and that the location must be a third world country. But, to my delight, I realized that I was wrong on all counts. As faithful believers, each of us is called by God to be His missionaries. Our mission field extends near and far, including our very own communities. Sometimes the mission is complete in an hour, or it may extend for months and even years. The missions are done to God’s pleasure and timing, but we may also find pleasure and joy in serving His people while on mission. For me, each trip moves me and changes me in a deep and lasting way. God always shows me something new when I’m on mission, including this summer.

This summer I served in Pedernales, a coastal community that lies along the Haitian border. Haiti and the DR are the only two countries sharing the island of Hispaniola, but they unfortunately share long-standing animosity, racism, and corruption. Yet in Pedernales, the Dominicans have mixed peacefully with the Haitians and they enjoy free trade via the border crossing between Pedernales and Anse-a-Pitre (Haiti). It is a beautiful example of harmony that could potentially happen anywhere else in the world where pride, hostility, unforgiveness, and/or fear have otherwise been erected as barriers to true community.

On these trips I experience a sense of close community that reminds me of what the early church (as described in Acts) might have been like. We eat meals together, we pray and study together, we worship together, we watch out for each other, we consider each other equally, and we work together – even the youngest children contribute. Although the physical labor is arduous and most of us don’t sleep well, I find the trips to be very refreshing spiritually and mentally, such that I don’t mind the exhaustion or muscle aches. I don’t feel scattered or stressed like I often do at home, because I am focused and being constantly strengthened by God and the people around me.

Each of my 3 children went on his or her first mission trip with me at age 9-10. These trips have been some of the most satisfying and meaningful times in our faith formation. One of my greatest joys is watching my kids engaging happily with the little ones, jumping into a bucket line, acting out a scene from the Bible, and enjoying the fellowship of a diverse group. I often tell people that there is no amount of Sunday School that compares to one mission trip. My kids experience things that could not be duplicated back at home. They let go of their self-absorption and experience the many “one-anothers” of the Bible in a profound way. Each child was forever changed by his or her first mission trip, and each one returned with a deep hunger to return to that community. Do you want to connect or reconnect with your teen? Go with them on a mission trip!

Susan Sciarratta

Susan Sciarratta

Christian Counselor

Susan has her master's in Christian Counseling and we are excited to have her. Her areas of counseling specialty include women's issues, relationship and marriage counseling, pre-marital, childhood abuse or sexual abuse, grief, depression, suicidal thoughts, and working with adolescents.



Unexpected Encouragement

Life has been a little crazier and a bit tougher lately. How do you respond during times like this? During times like these it is easier to second-guess yourself more, to get down on yourself, and for some Christ followers, to question God. I’m a big believer in the sovereignty of God, that He has a plan and purpose for our lives, and that He is a redeeming God, He can redeem the most difficult situations for His glory and our blessing. He will show Himself faithful even when people who should know and act better don’t.

You expect encouragement from your family, and they have been for me in so many ways. But over the last two weeks I have seen God provide that encouragement through people who have no clue what life has been like for me lately. Encouragement at times that were completely unforeseen from people I never would have expected with words I wasn’t anticipating. Three came from people who are not Christians, at times and in places that were not church, and one from a believer. This fourth person is a man who attends my church, a quiet man who most people would walk past and not pay any attention to. A man who will never be a public speaker or the life of the party, but with a great smile, a genuine care for others, and a humble faith in Christ. God has used him before to encourage me, and it happened again when we met for breakfast as we do from time to time. I’m the guy with the masters in theology, the doctorate in counseling, the years of ministry under my belt. I’m the one who is seeking to be a friend, to be a blessing to him, and he is the one blessing me!

God will surprise you. He can and will use whatever, whenever to speak to the need of your heart. A great example that comes to mind from scripture is the book of Lamentations. As the title suggests, this is not a happy book of the Bible. It was written at a time of great distress and anguish for God’s people. Here is just a sample from chapter 1, “Look, O Lord, for I am in distress, my stomach churns, my heart is wrung within me, because I have been very rebellious. In the street the sword bereaves, in the house it is like death. They heard my groaning, yet there is no one to comfort me.” As you read verse after verse like these, even if you aren’t feeling depressed, this book will depress you! And then out of the blue you come to chapter 3 and verse 21, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” In the midst of all of this despair and grief, God gives Jeremiah these words of encouragement and hope!

But God can also use you. He can use you to be that person who speaks a word of encouragement. You may not even realize how much someone may need it or how your words will impact them. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word that is good for encouragement according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” What word will God speak through that will make a difference for someone else? Encouragement at a time for the other person that was completely unforeseen with words they weren’t anticipating at a time when they needed it most. May this be true for me, and may it be true for you!

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. His areas of counseling specialty include marriage and family, pre-marital, depression, anxiety, men's issues, grief and loss, post-traumatic stress, critical incident stress, career.



At What Price Beauty?

What comes to mind when you think of the word “beauty”? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines beauty as ‘the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” Cultural standards of beauty shift from one country/people group/culture to the next, and even within the same culture, it can shift from one generation to the next. For one group of people in Indonesia, large feet in women is considered to be a sign of beauty. For myself, being tall and having a shoe size that goes along with being tall, I kind of like the idea of large feet being a sign of beauty! What are the standards of beauty and who gets to define them? Some countries view lighter hair, skin and eyes as beautiful and some countries countries view darker hair, skin and eyes as beautiful.

One journalist doing research on cultural standards of beauty sent a photo of herself without makeup to designers in 19 different countries, with the task of making her look “beautiful.” The original photo of the journalist shows a woman with dark hair and brown eyes. The contrasts of the photo shopped results returned to her were very telling indeed! Everything from her eye, hair and skin color to the shape/size of her face/nose were altered according to each designer’s standard of beauty (see https://www.estherhonig.com). Some of the alterations were quite drastic. Only several of the designers took more of a minimalist approach, leaving her looking as close as possible to her own natural appearance. A research study has shown that the average woman will spend US$15,000 and devote 474 days to applying makeup over the course of her lifetime. That represents a lot of time, talent, money and energy invested in what is of ephemeral, or fleeting and temporal value. Human standards of beauty are fluid, changing over time.

At times, what seems like inflexible standards of beauty has resulted in distorted perceptions of self and others. Today many females and males struggle with eating disorders which have developed, often out of a desire to attain to a certain standard of appearance, a standard that is most often not real...just photo-shopped. Please note, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with wanting your outside to reflect who you are on the inside. The trouble comes when our emphasis and investment of time, talent/skill, energy and/or money become inordinately focused on our outward appearance. God’s standard of beauty remains constant and is not measured on the basis of outward appearance. I Samuel 16:7b (NIV) reads “...people look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Have you ever met someone that you did not initially experience as beautiful or attractive, yet you walk away from your encounter with that person thinking and feeling differently from what you initially saw through the lens of your own standard of beauty? When this happens, we are experiencing someone’s inside qualities shining through to the outside, interacting with and affecting who we are on the inside.

A reference to Jesus in Isaiah 53:2 (NIV) reads “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Yet we find in Luke 2:52 that Jesus is described as someone who “grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” Not because of how he appeared to others on the outside, but because of who He is on the inside. Imagine missing out on experiencing true connection and relationship with Jesus due to his outward appearance when He is the only one who can truly change who we are on the inside for eternity.

God desires that we shine, reflecting His face, who He is, from the inside out (2 Cor. 4:6 “For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”) Eccl. 3:11 reminds us that it is God “...who makes everything beautiful in His time.” I Pet. 3:3-4 further helps us with understanding God’s perspective -- “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes, ‘Rather it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

So, the next time you are tempted to fret over some aspect of your physical or outward appearance, please ask yourself, ‘Where does my perspective on beauty come from -- the world’s standards, or God’s standard?’ I hope you choose God’s standard every time.

Kim Alston

Christian Counselor

Kim has her Masters Degree in Christian Counseling from Cairn University and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Her areas of counseling specialty include relationship/attachment needs, identity strength/development, women's issues, self-harm/self-injury, depression, grief and loss, and trauma recovery.



13 Reasons Why Not

One of our most uncomfortable family dinner conversations began with a disturbing question. With tears in her eyes, my 12-year old asked, “I heard that Mrs. Jackson killed herself Friday night. Is that right?” When I asked her where she had heard that, she replied, “On the school bus, this morning.” Mrs. Jackson was our neighbor and the mother of my daughter’s classmate. Then, less than one year later, my daughter’s best friend lost her big brother to suicide; again, bringing that difficult subject to our dinner table.

These were not conversations I was planning to have with my daughter at such a young age, and I am deeply saddened at how they were forced upon us. Ironically, at that time, I was volunteering on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK). Through that work, I had the heart-wrenching experience of talking many people off the proverbial ledge. Sadly, I also spoke to many teenagers who were struggling – alone - with thoughts of ending their young lives. Recently a lot of buzz has been generated around the new Netflix series called “13 Reasons Why.” Based on the fiction novel by Jay Asher, the show chronicles the series of events leading to the suicide of a teenage girl, Hannah. Hannah has left behind audiotapes for 13 people who played a role in Hannah’s decision to kill herself. The series has generated much controversy and discussion among families and school districts. In addition to its graphic depiction of suicide, the show also depicts bullying, rape, slut-shaming, and the bystanders and others who failed to respond.

What is the Christian response to suicide and suicidal thoughts, especially among teenagers? Do we just hope to God that going to Youth Group will provide enough insulation for our most vulnerable teens? Most mental health professionals agree that talking about suicide with teens will not plant the idea or inspire them to attempt suicide. It may, however, have a protective effect. It opens up the door for your teen to share some of their deepest hurts, anxieties, fears, and disappointments. Perhaps they have questions, too.Ask your teen the question: Have you ever thought about ending your life? If there has been a suicide in your community, ask your teen if they knew the student and how the death has impacted them. More than anything, listen without judgment. If your teen has expressed suicidal thoughts, ask your school counselor, pastor, and/or pediatrician for help and referrals.

The Scriptures arm us with wisdom and protection. God’s promises are an anchor for the lost and despondent. Many people attempt suicide because they see it as their only escape. But God will provide a way out, that you may be able to endure (1 Cor 10:13) the hurt and the pain. Many people who attempt suicide feel alone and unloved. But Jesus said, “I am with you always.” (Matt 28:20) Nothing can separate us from His love; neither death nor life…neither the present nor the future…nor anything else in all creation (Romans 8-38-39). “Nothing” includes bullying, rape, shame, loss, breakups, failing grades, drugs, and any stressor or pain that is overwhelming your teen.

Personalize these scriptures for your teen, show them how God’s promises apply to them. “For I know the plans I have for [Becky],” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give [Becky] a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11). Whether that future is tomorrow or the end of senior year, God is faithful. In your teen’s world, “plans” may mean finals, course selection, friendships, romance, spring break, or college applications. But God’s plans are higher and greater and they give each of us purpose. He wastes nothing and no one. Help your teen see herself as part of something greater, beyond herself. Serving others is a great way to develop a sense of purpose and meaning to life.

Many people report faith as one of their biggest protective factors to suicide. As your teen grows in his or her own faith, encourage them to rest in that faith. Our faith is a gift from God, enabled and empowered by His Spirit, to give us strength in moments of weakness. Tell your teen how your own faith has helped you through times of trouble or uncertainty, and how God helped you grow through that situation. May your family grow and thrive as you navigate the teen years together, with God’s blessing.

Susan Sciarratta

Susan Sciarratta

Christian Counselor

Susan has her master's in Christian Counseling and we are excited to have her. Her areas of counseling specialty include women's issues, relationship and marriage counseling, pre-marital, childhood abuse or sexual abuse, grief, depression, suicidal thoughts, and working with adolescents.



When Life Gets Tough

How is life going for you? Life can often seem like a roller coaster of ups and downs. Good times and bad, things to celebrate and tragedies to grieve. Life has been tough for my wife and I as we have been dealing with a difficult family situation over the last few months. As I reflect on what we have been facing, I think it comes down to choosing one of two paths. The first is the path of despair. We you go through difficult times, it is easy to look at the situation in isolation and get discouraged, question yourself, and even doubt God. And this leads to depression, despair, and just feeling frustrated. You can also find yourself in the blame game where you look for someone to hold responsible even if it is no one’s fault.

The second path is the path of faith. The path of faith looks at the problem not in isolation, but in relation to our belief in God, and His care and concern for us. When we look to God, we are reminded that there is someone bigger than our problems. A number of Scriptures come to mind. The first is John 16:33 where Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Even though life seems to be falling apart, when I look at life with the eyes of faith in God, I can have peace. How is that possible? Jesus gives us the answer, because He has overcome the world. If Jesus can conquer death, then through Him you can conquer anything this world can throw at you! Notice also He tells us that we should expect problems. We live in a fallen world, and so “stuff happens.”

A second Scripture comes to mind from Isaiah 43. The people of God have been going through very difficult times with the defeat of their army, the destruction of their capital city, and many of them forced into exile. In verse 2 we read, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” I use this verse a lot in my ministry to first responders, for obvious reasons. God promises here that when we are facing difficult times, we will not be overcome by them. Why? Because the Lord your God is your savior. He will see you through. He has your back, your 6, and He will not let you down. As a police and fire chaplain, I have seen my guys face some difficult emergencies in the line of duty, and I remind that they are not alone. And neither are you if you will turn to God in faith and put your trust in Him.

Life can be difficult. There is no question that you and I will face tribulation. The question is, which path will you take?

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton, Yardley, and Northeast Philadelphia.



Relationship Foot Washing

This week we remember the events leading up to our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It starts with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. During the week a number of events take place, and one of the most significant of these is their time in the Upper Room on Thursday night. As they gather for dinner, the disciples are discussing who among them is the greatest. In contrast, Jesus, who literally was the greatest person in the room, does something unheard of. He gets a towel and a bowl and begins to wash the feet of his disciples. Normally, a servant, or the youngest person present would take on this menial task. But tonight is different, Jesus does the foot washing. This was a dramatic demonstration of his humility and his servant heart. And this was an action by Jesus that would be long remembered.

For those of you who are married, I want you to ask yourself the question, what would it mean to practice foot washing in your marriage relationship? It is so easy to focus on what you want, or to demand your way. But what does it mean to humble yourself and do this for your spouse?

To serve my spouse more.
To let my spouse serve me.
To listen to my spouse more.
To show more affection.
To show more appreciation.
To spend more time together.
To e more patient and forgiving.
To serve with no strings attached.
To do things that aren’t “my job.”

Foot washing can be applied to any relationship, not just marriage. Try it in a friendship, with your co-workers, your neighbors, or other members of your family. As Jesus taught us in Mark 10:45, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



Does It Really Matter If Parents Are Married?

So does it matter if two people love each other and have children if they live together without being married? Or if they are living together and then get married after they have a child? Some new reach shows gives some clear answers that should be considered by any couple considering whether they should live together or not, and when to start a family. Over the years, I have documented all of the problems for couples who decide to live together prior to marriage or in place of marriage. University studies, independent research, and marriage counselors all consistently that couples who live together before or in place of marriage have more struggles with conflict resolution, less sexual satisfaction, and much higher rates of breaking up or getting divorced (if they do decide to get married eventually). Now a new study from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) demonstrates that married parenthood remains the best path to a stable family.

This runs contrary to popular belief that it is ok to have and raise children when the parents are living together but not married. According to a recent National Center for Health Statistics report, 75% of women, and 76% of men agree with that statement. In addition, 70% of women in the United States cohabitate with their boyfriend prior to marriage. The NCFMR study found that 3 out of 5 children born to unmarried women are born to parents who are living together but not married. In recent years, while the percentage of children born to unwed mothers declined from 43% to 41%, the percentage of children born to parents who are cohabitating more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2014.
,br> So just how stable is the family with parents who live together compared to the family with parents who are married? Children born to parents who are cohabiting break up by the time they reach 12 years old at twice the rate as children from homes where the parents were married when the child were born. What about parents who live together and then get married after the birth of their child? According to a 2014 report by the Institute for Family Studies, while biological parents who marry after the birth of their child do better than those who don’t marry, these marriages have a higher divorce rate than marriages where the parents were married prior to the birth of their child.
,br> According to a study out of Great Britain, couples who marry prior to having children were much less likely to break up by the time the child turns 15 (24% divorce rate) compared to couples who had children and then got married (56% divorce rate), compared to couples who had children and never marry (69% break up rate). In addition, parents who cohabitate have more family transitions as one or both parents find a new person to live with. Finally, children born to cohabiting parents are more likely to experience poverty, child abuse, and other negative outcomes (higher rates of drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and lower school performance) compared to the children of married parents.

If you are thinking about living together prior to, or in place of marriage, go into it with both eyes open and understand the negative impacts and additional problems you will face compared to couples who marry first. While it may seem outdated and old fashioned, marriage is still the best way to guarantee a long and happy life with the person you love, and for your children.

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



Amazing Grace

This week we had the first significant snowfall of the winter here in Philly. As I was looking out at the snow covering the ground around my home, I was reminded of this verse from Isaiah 1:18, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow….” Here we see the power of God’s grace which is the answer for the fundamental problem of every person who has lived, is living, and is yet to be born. The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It goes on to warn us that we deserve God’s judgment and eternal punishment as a result of our sin (Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death…”).

You may be thinking, “wait a minute Dr. Paul, what about all of the good things that I do, that should count for something!” The problem with this thinking is twofold. First, God is holy, and that is the standard He must demand of us, “For you are to be holy for I am holy.” The second problem is that even if you do more good than bad, the bad will poison the good. Let me illustrate it this way. Let’s say you are making a large omlet that calls for 5 eggs. The first 4 eggs you crack open are fresh and look great. The last one you crack open into the bowl is green, slimy, and foul. Would you continue to mix those eggs, cook and eat that omlet? Yet you expect God to accept the omlet of your life as a mix of good and bad eggs?

So what is the answer, because it seems we are all doomed. The answer is found in the grace of God described in Isaiah 1:18. God is able to take the filth of sin in our lives and make it clean, just like my yard after a new snow fall. How can He do that? He can do that because of the death of Christ who gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not die, but have eternal life.” How incredible that God the Son becomes a man to live a life we can never live (sinless), to pay a price we can never pay. Have you experienced the power of God’s amazing grace? If not, or you have questions about this, please call us on our counseling life, 215-947-6465, or reach out by email by clicking on the contact tab. Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



A New Year, A New You?

If you are like me, the new year represents a time for a fresh start. The later months of 2106 were very tough for me and our family. It was like the opening lines from A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...." And in my service as a police and fire chaplain the ended with a number of difficult incidents with fatalities. So while God blessed me in so many ways (the birth of our first granddaughter, Paul's engagement to Brie), I am looking forward to the fresh start 2017 affords me. How about you?

One of the themes of Scripture is the opportunity for a fresh start, a new beginning. This is often associated with the new birth we experience when we first come to faith in Jesus. The Bible refers to this as being born again (see John 3). Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that, "if anyone be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation, all the old things pass away, behold, all things become as new." God is the God of the new beginning, the fresh start, the new creation! If you have never made a commitment of faith in Jesus, asked Him to forgive you of your sins, and make you into this new creation, you can do that right now, today. Simply tell Him this is your desire, ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and to be your savior. And then call me right now on our counseling line, 215-947-6465 so I can help you to get started in this new relationship with God.

But maybe you, like me, have been a Christian for quite some time (50 years for me, man am I getting old). God also has a message of new beginnings for you and me as well. It is found for us in one of the most uplifting books of the Bible. In Philippians 3:12-14 he writes, "Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Jesus Christ. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." I love this. Paul admits that he is just like us, far from perfect, still struggling with sin. But he does not let this struggle with sin or the difficult circumstances of his life hold him back, he keeps pressing forward! And what is the prize? The prize is the blessings of a relationship with Christ and the promise of even more when we experience Him face to face in eternity! So how about you? What are you striving for in 2017? How does God want to make things new in your life?

Blessings,
Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul Randolph

Church Pastor/Christian Counselor

Dr. Paul also has extensive experience working with pastors, missionaries, as well as first responders and members of the military. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.