The Power of Prayer

When most people think of "The Armor of God" described in Ephesians 6, they think of the helmet, the breastplate, the belt, the footgear, and the sword and stop there. But the next verse says, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." Prayer is actually another piece of armor, what a soldier or first responder would call their "radio." Prayer is our radio communication with our higher authority. Military and first responders all depend constantly on their radios to coordinate with their higher authority, to receive instructions, and to call for reinforcement. The sword is our close-range weapon. But prayer is our long-range artillery! Prayer is our close-air support! Think of the infantry soldier on the battlefield. All he has is what he can carry on his body. But with his radio, he can all for tons of explosives on the enemy with artillery or air strikes. He can request resupply to meet all his needs, direct medivac to care for his wounded, and coordinate and maneuver with other soldiers to accomplish his mission.

Think about that. Each of us by ourselves, like the infantryman on the modern battlefield, are pitifully inadequate to meet the physical and spiritual challenges before us. But with prayer we can call upon our Supreme Commander, the God of this universe, to help us!

One other important point: this is partisan, guerrilla warfare. We are in enemy territory. We are not an organized force with established front lines, having a few warriors up front and the rest of our army and our nation supporting us. Every believer is on the front lines. And every believer can talk directly to the Supreme Commander. What an honor it is to be able to talk one-on-one with God the Father, the Creator of the Universe. Any time we need him, he is always there for us on the other end of the radio. What a privilege we have! Any soldier or first responder will tell you that they are constantly on the radio, and so we should be constantly in prayer. Our God loves us and wants to give us everything we ned to survive and thrive, but we simply need to ask!

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.



Life is Fragile, Handle with God

Last week I was reminded anew how fragile life truly is. As you may know, I am chaplain for my local fire department and we were dispatched for a rescue at the local country club. A very large tree had fallen into the building and two men were trapped. The one was able to escape, but the second man was wedged far into the debris. While our firefighters did their best to get to him, he had already died. He was only 36 years of age with a baby on the way in two weeks. I can only imagine what his loved ones are experiencing.

This event was on top of what the world has been experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic, my mother’s passing in February (not from Covid), the death of George Floyd and the violence which ensued (which sadly has taken attention away from those who protested peacefully) and the birth of our grandson Gideon at only 23 weeks gestation. He is a “micro-premie” and weighed in at only about 1 and a half pounds. While he is making progress, he will be in the NICU for quite some. My wife and I, and his other grandparents, have yet to hold him. We are unsure of what long-term medical issues he may face, but the doctors have assured us that he will survive (it was 50-50 for the first weeks of his life).

So I have been thinking a lot about how fragile life is lately. The Book of James addresses this in chapter 4, beginning at verse 13, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James says your life is just a vapor, like when you breath out on a cold winter day and you see your breath appear for a moment and then it is gone. Kind of unnerving when you stop to think about it.

Psalm 144:4 reinforces this idea, “Man is like a breath, his days like a passing shadow.” I can relate to the passing shadow idea the older I get. My wife and I just celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. Where did the time go? Time seems to go much more quickly than it did when I was younger. Gee, now I am sounding like my parents!

So how do I deal with this idea that life, my life, and the lives of those I care about, are nothing more than a vapor? My first thought comes from the next verse in the James passage. In verse 15 we read, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” James turns our thoughts to the One who is eternal, who is not impacted by the passing of time. Not only is God eternal, but God is sovereign. He has a plan for my life, and His plan is for my blessing and His glory. And because of my being a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, I know that when my life does end, He has prepared a place for me (John 14:1-6). My security does not come from trying to stop the aging process, but from knowing God is in control.

And so I live each day seeking to make the most of what God has given me. In Psalm 90 Moses writes about how God is eternal and people in this world are transitory. As he discusses just how much we are like dust, how our lives are quickly swept away, he declares in verse 12, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” In other words, the wise person doesn’t take any day for granted. Make the most of each day, live every day as if it may be your last.

Paul picks up on this theme in Ephesians 5, beginning at verse 15, “Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Here again we see the idea of making the most of our time on earth. Paul adds the reason that the days are evil. The context here is about being imitators of God and how we will stand out because we live in a world darkened by evil. How are you making a difference for God is the question here. Again we see the critical issue of God’s will. Living a life that is a vapor, in a world that is full of evil, the key is living in the will of God. How can you be a beacon of light, love, and healing in a world desperately seeking answers?

How do I know the will of God? It starts by desiring a relationship with God, your creator and the one who gave you the gift of life (see Psalm 139). This relationship begins by turning to God in faith and believing that He sent Jesus Christ to be the answer for the problem of the evil and sin in your life. It means turning from your self-centered life and turning to God (see John 3). As you begin this relationship with God, you can begin to learn His will by learning His word, the Bible. This is the means God uses to communicate His truth about Himself, His will, how to know Him, how to live for Him, and so much more. Knowing His will also involves asking God to reveal it through prayer. As Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Life is full of many unexpected twists and turns. The prophet Jeremiah lived in a time of great evil, uncertainty, and upheaval. God’s people were defeated by their enemies and carried off into exile in a foreign land. “How could this happen?” was the question on everyone’s mind. Poverty, death, and loss were everywhere. And in the middle of this chaos, God gives this message to His people in chapter 29, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart.” Life is fragile, handle with God!

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.



Great is Thy Faithfulness

I think we can all agree that this is a strange time that we are living in. A lot of us are stuck in our homes trying to do our work from there, fighting off extreme boredom, or trying to wrangle kids, while others are going to work every day trying to keep us safe and provide for our needs. We are not sure when this crisis will end or how much worse it will get before it does. So much uncertainty can cause us to start to question God about what He is doing and perhaps even about whether He cares about what we are going through.

A month or two ago before things escalated, in church we sang the song, ‘Great is thy faithfulness. I love this song, I love these words.“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, there is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not. As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.” In some sense these words could be in direct opposition to our current situation. However, I think that these words could be the most relevant thing that we could possibly hear right now.

In times like these we can hear these words and sort of do a double take in disbelief. When nothing is certain and fear has left you trembling, these lyrics need time to sink themselves down into your soul. This song declares that God is faithful, that He never changes, and that He is ever full of compassion. So how does that fit into our current situation? What does God’s faithfulness look like when we can’t see it in our lives or the lives of those we love? Where is His faithfulness to the most vulnerable? Or to those who have lost jobs or family members?

At first it can really hurt to sing of God’s faithfulness while at the same time feeling pain, confusion and fear. The first emotion might even be anger as we sing of God’s faithfulness while at the same time wondering just exactly where that faithfulness is. “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided- Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.” These new mercies might not be the specific mercies that we are asking for but they are mercies all the same.

For the past month and a half, I have woken up every morning, sat on my couch in sweatpants and a professional shirt and spent the day virtually helping clients deal with their fear, anxiety, depression, grief and more. It can be very easy to feel overwhelmed and question where God is when hearing from so many people who are suffering. But then I take a break in between clients and I see my health care worker friends going to work every day putting themselves at risk to help others. I see friends going to work at grocery stores, volunteering at food pantries, donating blood, dropping off groceries.

Some of those mercies I see is the church being the hands and feet of Jesus. Loving, caring, serving, being selfless, only because that’s the way their savior first loved them. The other part of those mercies is Jesus Himself. We look at our lives, our loved ones, and the world around us and know that no one is exempt from suffering. In fact, what Jesus actually does promise us is that we WILL have suffering.

During the sermon on March 22 (watch here) we heard, “God does not promise to keep us from suffering, but He promises to keep us IN suffering.” The words of the hymn continue with “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!” Our hope is that there is nothing in this world that could possibly ever keep us from our Lord and Savior. Our hope is that there is not a single thing that can change the fact that Jesus has already won victory for us. Nothing can take away our eternal hope of life with Jesus forever. Virus cases growing, stores closing, we don’t ever for a second leave His hands. Things getting worse, He knew, He knows, He is in control.

The reason that these words are so important is because they are not words for when times are good. These words are a defiant battle cry for when everything is falling apart and your head is filled with lies borne of fear instead of truth. These words aren’t for times when I believe them. These words are for when everything hurts and I desperately WANT to believe them. This song is for times that we can say, ‘My heart does not feel like you are faithful, but I am choosing to believe that You are.’

Singing these words even while your heart is trying to catch up is saying, “I refuse to let my circumstances tell me who my God is. I refuse to let fear, depression, loss, or anything else tell me that He is not faithful, that He is not good.” These words are true, even when we are singing them with tears in our eyes and through clenched teeth. So keep singing, friends. Put on songs filled with truths, declare with your mouth, and if you need to, pray for your heart to catch up.

Katie Green

Katie Green

Christian Counselor

Katie has her Master’s degree in Counseling from Cairn University and is working towards state licensure. She is passionate about helping individuals find hope and healing through the counseling process and the work of Jesus Christ in their lives.



God’s Plan

Jeremiah 29:11 is weird, there I said it. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We hear that verse quoted constantly and see it on t-shirts and bumper stickers and coffee mugs. But those words have never really meant much to me. They’ve often felt to me like a superficial quick one liner meant to gloss over a hurt so we can move past the discomfort and pain. These words remind me of phrases like, ‘don’t worry, just trust,’ or, ‘it will all work out in the end.’

When I hear this verse, I start to wonder, ‘When will this glorious plan you have for me start, Lord? What will this future look like and will it match up with the one I have planned for myself?’ And because I admit patience is something I need to work on, maybe the most frequent thought for me is, ‘How much longer until the future You’ve planned for me matches up with the one I’VE planned for myself?’

While the words of Jeremiah 29:11 are true, my heart can’t quite hold onto them when I’m in a hard place. While looking longer and harder at Jeremiah 29:11 I at first felt confused, doubtful, and a little angry with God. But after all of that was sat with and waded through, the feelings of hope, comfort, and reassurance found a place to settle themselves down. Let’s look together: One thing often missing when this verse is quoted is context. V. 1 “This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” The Israelites were far from home and I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that they were most likely feeling confusion, fear, anger, and possibly even despair.

Verse 4 goes on to say, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat... marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage... Increase in number there... seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”Did you notice how God says that He is the one who carried the Israelites into exile? And then He tells them to make themselves at home. Imagine if you were kidnapped and dropped into the Sahara Desert and God says to you, ‘Get comfortable in all of that sand. You know what? Build a house, plant a garden even! Go make friends with the kidnappers. Pray for them so that they succeed in everything.’God’s instructions to the Israelites can at first seem mind boggling to us.

When I think of hard, painful things, my go to is to grit my teeth, put my head down and wait for it to be over. To hate every second of it until it goes away. My first thoughts during a time of hardship aren’t about any kind of possible growth or beauty or productivity. When we experience painful things I think the most often asked question is, ‘What good could possibly be found in this? What’s the point of this suffering?’ And then God speaks through Jeremiah to say these well-known words: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We think, ‘Finally!,’ right? ‘Okay here we go, God is going to do the only thing that makes sense and rescue us to bring us back to our comfortable, safe, happy lives.’ Not exactly.

v. 10, “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”70 years. Let that sink in for a minute. If you had a little child, they would be wrinkly and gray by the time they saw freedom from captivity. I know for me I would be saying, ‘Sorry, did you say seven?’ Even seven years would fill me with anger and despair. But seventy? Wouldn’t a kind loving Father rescue His kids the very second that He possibly could? Except what if He is more interested in our sanctification than He is in our comfort?

My heart always needs to understand; I always want answers that make sense and that I can wrap my mind around. Because then I don’t have to trust. And I think a lot of us can say that trusting is HARD. There’s so much in this world, in my life, in the lives of those I love that I can’t make sense of. Some questions that we can’t answer and might not have answered until we are standing face to face with our savior.

The next part of this verse is equally as important for us in our attempt to understand. v. 12 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you…” Prior to their captivity, the Israelites were drowning in idolatry, children were being sacrificed, prophets stoned, and more. Judges 21:25 says, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” We see again and again and again how God warned the Israelites and even pleaded with them to turn from their wickedness so that He could deliver them and bless them. But they said, ‘no.’ Left to their own devices, the Israelites were destroying themselves. From this perspective, I think we might be more willing to say, ‘How cruel it would be to let your children continue destroying themselves without doing anything to draw them back.’ How kind that God longs to abundantly bless us but won’t do it at the expense of our sanctification. Of course things aren’t always this simple. We can’t always see the potential why as easily as we can in this situation. Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of the desert for no identifiable reason other than the fact that we live in a fallen, sinful, messy, broken world. Sometimes we don’t get an answer. And that’s where the trust comes in. Trust that He is so perfectly good and wise and loving and kind even when everything hurts.

What if God wants to do something better than rescue us from our suffering? What if He wants to use it? What if He wants to take our most painful experiences and turn them into something beautiful? Something that He can use to knit our hearts together with His? I would rather be clinging tightly to the hand of Jesus than standing up on my own two feet forgetting how desperately I need Him. Even if it’s in the dirt. Even if it’s surrounded by enemies or feeling alone and far from home. Even if it means, hearing, ‘no,’ over and over and over.

And I’m not saying my heart believes this all the time. I can absolutely assure you that it does not. But I want it to. So how do we increase our trust? We completely saturate ourselves in truth from God’s word. This might mean listening to worship music in the car or listening to sermons or a podcast as you get ready in the morning. This means praying. Praying when you’re thankful. Praying when you’re angry. Praying when you’re depressed. Praying when nothing makes sense. Praying honest prayers to God, He can take it and He wants it. It means asking others to drag us to the throne of grace when we can’t muster the energy to get there ourselves.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The reason that this verse now gives me hope is that I know these words can exist and hold true in a desert. If my God, knowing specifically every desert I would ever sit in sits beside me in those deserts and declares again a hope and a future, then that’s good enough for my heart.

My hope is that these words don’t exist for my good times, when I can see a plan unfolding. Since I know that my Father saw the ache and the mess and the struggle and STILL chose to write these words for me, I can trust that no circumstances change a single ounce of its truth. I’ll leave you with this Charles Spurgeon quote that always reassures my heart, “Had any condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there.”

Katie Green

Katie Green

Christian Counselor

Katie has her Master’s degree in Counseling from Cairn University and is working towards state licensure. She is passionate about helping individuals find hope and healing through the counseling process and the work of Jesus Christ in their lives.



Help to Shelter in Peace

This week’s Insight Today podcast featured 7 passages from the Bible which are awesome promises of God presence and protection. It is easy to keep looking at the difficult circumstances were are all in and allow worry and anxiety to take over. We need the promises of to counter our worries and keep us grounded in the Lord. I suggest you focus on each passage, one a day. Any time you are starting to get worried, remind yourself of the verse of the day and allow the Spirit of God to minister to your heart and mind through that verse. Be sure to listen in to the podcast which goes with these verses, “How to Shelter in Peace” where I provide additional insights into each of these passages.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deut. 31:8

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-38.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:1-2

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3

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.



Good Friday

History has a way of repeating itself. At the end of World War 1 in 1918, many people clung to the notion of “the war to end all wars” with optimism and hope, only to have hopes dashed as the world destabilized again, and the events of World War 2 unfolded. The cycle of war and turmoil repeats itself.

In the story of God’s people, we see history repeating itself, the cycle of rebellion, repentance, and redemption. One of the most powerful of these stories happens in Egypt, as Moses is tasked by the Lord to plead for His people to Pharoah, “Let my people go.” The Lord forewarns Moses and Aaron, “But I will harden Pharoah’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he [Pharoah] will not listen to you.” (Exodus 7:3). True to His word, a series of plagues ensues, things like water turning to blood, hail, locusts, and darkness; the last one being the death of firstborn children. The last plague leads us into the Passover, where God’s people take the blood of a lamb and place it around their doorframes, then eat a quick meal, called Passover, and then Lord passes over these homes to spares them from the last plague.

Ever since that first Passover, God’s people have celebrated Passover. This year, Passover began Wednesday night, coinciding with Holy Week. Today, God’s people are praying that the Lord might pass over our homes and spare us from this plague, this coronavirus, that knows no geographic boundaries, no political boundaries, no economic boundaries. The virus has launched us into a world-wide war, where we are fighting an invisible enemy. Some are on the frontlines of battle while others are prayer warriors. Even if you feel like you’re doing nothing, you are certainly doing something. This story has repeated itself ever since the first humans. We are fighting an invisible enemy, sin, that manifests in each one of us over and over again, in our thoughts, in our words, in our deeds, and in what we fail to do. It manifests as disease, as war, as turmoil. We are helpless in our fight against sin without our Savior, the Lamb of God, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us, to take away the sins of the world.

History repeats itself, as we are faced with plague after plague because sin entered the world. We can readily draft a list of modern plagues, such as the wildfires in Australia and California, the locusts in Africa and the Middle East, the spotted lantern fly in Pennsylvania, mass shootings, opioid addiction, and of course this novel virus. Lately I have cycled back and forth between bursts of adrenaline and bursts of anxiety. It’s draining and not very sustainable. Many people are comparing this pandemic to Good Friday. This is our Good Friday, this is the bad news that will make the Good News all the more welcome and all the more sweeter. But Lord, if it would just come a little faster!

I hunger for Resurrection Day, the day when our Lord resurrects for us our sense of normalcy and freedom. That day when we can yank off our masks and celebrate together as one giant community, as we remember and grieve together the loss of thousands of lives across our nation, as we give thanks together for the frontline warriors who fought for our lives while risking their own, and as we reunite with distant family members.

We must endure the bad news to appreciate the good news. While we shelter in place we must shelter in peace. I cling to the words of Psalm 30, though the sorrow may last for the night, the joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5). God’s light will break through the darkness of our anxiety, our loneliness, the pain of separation, the dread of sickness and suffering. We know this because we are resurrection people, we are children born into hope. We look eagerly to Easter Sunday. And so we give thanks for the hope and joy that are deeply seeded within us, sustaining us by the power of God’s Spirit, through our faith in Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God. May we trade our sorrows, trade our fears, trade our sickness, laying them down at the cross on this Good Friday, for the joy of the Lord. Amen.

Susan Sciarratta

Susan Sciarratta

Christian Counselor

Susan has her master's in Christian Counseling, is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and serves on our counseling team. 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.



Keeping Your Marriage Healthy During The Coronavirus

Now that we are a month into the stay at home orders, how is healthy your marriage? In my home, my wife has never said “divorce” in the 34 years of our marriage, but lately she has said to me “murder” a number of times. I know of some parents who have resorted to using duct tape with their kids, and some couples who are threatening to use it on each other. So how do you keep the Coronavirus from killing your marriage?

I want to share with you a number of things you can do to keep your marriage healthy during this national emergency. My assumption in these suggestions is that neither of you are having to stay out of the house for safety reasons (ie.: a medical professional staying away from home to keep the family safe).

Have a date night at home. Pick a day each week when you and your spouse will “go on” a date. For my wife and I, it has always been Friday night. Order food from a different place each week and do a virtual date. Visit a museum, use Google earth or other tool to visit somewhere online. Smithsonian.com has a program called “Arial America” with stunning videos and views of each state. Plan a trip for when the crisis is over with the many resources available online.

Read a book on marriage together. There are lots of great books you can read which can help you and your spouse to talk about your relationship and practical suggestions on how to make it better.

Husbands, get to some of the honey-do projects you have been putting off. Guys, we now have no excuse on getting to some of the projects our wives have asked us to do. In our home I have worked with her to clean our basement, our closet of horrors, and my garage has never looked better!

Continue or re-connect with your faith. This month all three of the largest religions have some of their most significant events. If you and your wife have gotten away from attending church, or have never attended, this is a great week to get to church. Google churches in your area and go to their web site or Facebook page to get information on how to view their service online. I suggest if you can put it on your large screen TV, it will give you a better sense of being there compared to your computer screen. Bonus: even though you don’t have to get dressed up to go to church, it can be fun to dress it up for church for you and your kids for Easter Sunday.

Pray. If there is ever a time when you and your spouse are dealing with stress, anxiety, fear, and a host of other emotions, it is now. Take a few minutes on a regular basis, once a day, or a couple times a week, and talk about your concerns with each other and with God. This is a great way to not only deal with your emotions, but to create a stronger bond with you and your spouse.

Have times when you are together and when you are apart in your home/apartment. This is especially true if neither of you are still going out to work or working from home. Spending all of your time together can get lead to you and your spouse getting on each other’s nerves and annoying each other. So while it is important to be together, it is also healthy spend some time apart during the course of each day. If you are in a small home or apartment, even going to another room or taking a walk can help.

Find a new interest/hobby/activity for you as a couple. At any time in your marriage, finding a new common activity can bring a new spark to your relationship. If there is one you and your spouse thought about but never pursued, start looking for information for it. If your response to this is “sounds nice, but we don’t have a clue what to do,” here is how to find one. Get together for an hour and brainstorm 40 different potential activities you could do. One of your writes them down as you both just call them out. Don’t discuss any of them yet, just write them down. Once you get to 40, go back and eliminate either of you would definitely not be interested in doing. Next, look over the remaining activities and pick three you and your spouse would be willing to try. Then pick one of the three to start or learn about. “But we want to try an activity which is unavailable during the crisis.” That’s no problem, get online and start learning about it. It will get you guys talking about something fun to look forward to.

Look for an opportunity to help others. This can help get the focus off of your own troubles and get you working together as a team. Reach out to your elderly neighbors and see if they need any help. My wife and I took an idea from another couple who bought bagels for their neighbors. The bagel place bagged them and then using appropriate social distancing dropped off a bag at each neighbor with a note of encouragement. Bonus is you get to support a local business. Check your Facebook feed or watch the news for other ideas.

Finally, while sex is not the basis of a happy marriage, it is a barometer of how healthy your marriage may be. Assuming it is relatively happy, get creative in your bedroom (or elsewhere in the house if you don’t have older children or teens living with you). If things haven’t been happening much in the bedroom, now is a great time to get working on your marriage to make it better. Many counseling organizations, including Insight, are offering counseling remotely and offering substantial discounts (for Insight, no charge at all if you are a first responder, military, or medical professional during the national emergency, and if you are out of work due to the virus, it is a little or no charge regardless of insurance coverage, and if you have your income, we will still wave the sign up fee).

In closing, don’t forget that this crisis will pass. In the mean time, one advantage to social distancing is you don’t have to spend time with your in-laws!

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.



The Four Rules of Emotional/Spiritual Safety

During times of upheaval, people look for way to feel secure. You may have noticed the news reports of people flocking to gun stores to purchase firearms and ammo. If you have ever served in the military or in law enforcement, or your family enjoys hunting or target shooting, you know the 4 Rules of Gun Safety: treat every gun as being loaded, never point the muzzle at anything you don’t intend to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you have your target in your sights, and be sure of your target and what is beyond it. In these troubling times I’d like to share with you 4 rules of emotional and spiritual safety:

1. Remember that you are not alone. While we have to practice social distancing, we can still maintain emotional closeness with those we know and love. Keep in touch with your family and friends by phone, facetime, etc. Don’t isolate yourself, especially from family. On Sunday we did our first family get together via Zoom and it was great to talk to each other as a group and encourage each other. If you are a Christian, then you know that you are never truly alone as God promises to be with you. In Isaiah 41:10 God says, “Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Jesus promises us that He will never leave you nor forsake you. And we at Insight are simply a phone call away if you need someone to talk or provide counseling to you or your family.

2. Target what you can control, let the rest go. I don’t know about you, but I like to be in control, but there isn’t a lot we can control in this pandemic. The stock market is all over the place, the latest virus stats continue to rise, and when you go to the grocery store you may be wondering if that person in line has Covid 19. So narrow your focus to the things you can control: follow the safety protocols, stay hydrated, eat right, get plenty of sleep and continue your daily routine on the job if you are still working. If you are getting uptight, do a controlled breathing exercise, talk to a friend, confide in a trusted co-worker, go for a run or other form of exercise, do something you enjoy to get your mind off of this, turn off the news. Last week I actually took a day to stop watching all of the news and it was a relief.

3. Use all resources at your disposal. Maybe you received training in the military, or some other profession on how to deal with difficult and stressful situations. Bring some of that training to mind. For we who are Christians, seek out your pastor, your clergy for guidance and hope. Utilize the power of prayer, talk to God and share with Him the concerns that you have. The other powerful resource we have is the Word of God. In these times of upheaval, the Psalms are especially relevant as they speak of the whole range of human emotion. Many of the psalms were written during times of great difficulty and stress. So turning to the Bible is a great source of comfort and encouragement. For example, in Psalm 46 we read, God is our refuge and strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear.”

4. Look beyond the current crisis. The virus curve will flatten out, most people who get the virus will recover, your retirement investments will come back, life will return to normal. This is not the final chapter! The final chapter is actually found for us in the book of Revelation. If you want to see what the final chapter looks like, read chapter 21 and 22 of that book. There you will see that God is bigger than this virus, and His plan cannot be stopped.

May God bless and protect 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. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



Finding Help and Hope in the Hymns of Faith

One great resource for believers during this time of upheaval and uncertainty are some of the great hymns of the faith, many written by believers during their times of difficulty. One such hymn was written by Horatio Spafford upon the death of his four daughters in a shipwreck on November 22, 1873. This is two years after the death of his 4 year old son of scarlet fever. His wife Anna survived the shipwreck and sent a telegram to him with the message, "saved alone."

Here are the words of his famous hymn, It is Well with My Soul:
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.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well), with my soul (with my soul), It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. (Refrain)

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! (Refrain)

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul. (Refrain)

And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. (Refrain)

Another great hymn of our faith is A Mighty Fortress is Our God written by Martin Luther. This hymn is very much influenced by the trials of his life, and his knowledge of the Bible. In 1520 he was condemned for his protestant views by Pope Leo and was given 24 hours to renounce his famous 95 theses. Of course, Luther refused to renounce his beliefs and was forced to flee for his life. One of the scriptures very present in this hymn is Psalm 46 which begins, “God is our refuge and strength, and a very present help in time of trouble.” Here are the words of this great hymn:
1 A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.
2 Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing. You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he; Lord Sabaoth his name, from age to age the same; and he must win the battle.
3 And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.
4 That Word above all earthly powers no thanks to them abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God's truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever!

During these times of stress, upheaveal, fear, and anxiety, let me encourage you to find a hymnal and begin reading the words of the great hymns of our faith, or look them up online. There you will find great comfort, reassurance, and hope as you read how many hymn writers took the experience of their greatest trials and turned them into music that has helped God’s people for hundreds of years.

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.



How Can I Have Peace in a Troubled World?

We live in a troubled world, and our lives can take unexpected, and often difficult turns. If you want to get depressed, just pay attention to many of the news headlines where you will find war, crime, disease, starvation, death, just to name a few. In this counseling ministry help people through some of the most difficult times in their lives: the breakdown of a marriage, divorce, depression, illness, grief, family problems, and the list goes on. Thanks Dr. Paul for such a happy way to start the New Year! As we start 2020, I want to encourage you that even in the midst of whatever problems you are facing, or just discouragement and uncertainty about the world we live in, you can have peace. The Bible, God’s Word, points out that peace and contentment are possible. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to live in humble circumstances, and I know how to live with much. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” That is quite a testimony from a guy who walked the talk! Regardless of the circumstances, Paul could be at peace, and he gives the credit to Christ. So how do we tap into this peace and contentment regardless of the circumstances? It starts with knowing God in a personal way, as Paul speaks of throughout the New Testament of the Bible. He talks about being a new creation in Christ and the change in perspective this brings. To find out more on this, the Book of Ephesians, just one of his numerous books in Scripture. Isaiah puts it this way, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You.” The closer you are to God, the more you understand that He cares for you and is at work in all the circumstances of life. Second, spend time reading the Bible to not only learn more about who God is and the difference He makes in your life, but the many promises He gives. For example, read about how to deal with anxiety in Matthew 6, starting in verse 25. Third, make prayer a regular part of your daily life. Talk to God about the concerns that weigh on your mind and the problems you face. In Philippians 4:6-7 Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard you heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” Notice how prayer brings peace. Knowing that God wants to hear your concerns and will answer your prayer is one of the greatest assurances you will ever know. Is this world a mess? Is your world a mess? Don’t let your mind and soul be a mess, seek after God, and you will find peace.

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.



Wonderful Counselor

Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

When I think of a counselor, I think of myself, of those who have counseled me, or of friends who are counselors. I recently changed the board in my kitchen to display Isaiah 9:6, and as I was walking past it, certain words caught my eye. I’ve seen and heard the words a ton of times, but something about them this morning made me stop and pause; I stared at the words for a couple of minutes. In that moment, I was struck again with how much I love hearing God described as, ‘Wonderful Counselor.’ There is something so very reassuring to me about seeing God as a counselor. The other ways that describe God in Isaiah 9:6 are beautiful and wonderful too, but aren’t as familiar to me as counselor is.

I have to be purposeful about the other words and intentionally ask myself, ‘What does it mean for someone to be a Prince of Peace? What does it mean for someone to be my Everlasting Father?’, but counselor? This I get! All that a counselor is makes sense to me because I intimately know what that involves. While Isaiah may have been referencing a counselor more in terms of someone who solely offered advice or wisdom as opposed to emotional support, my mind immediately goes to my own experiences as a counselor.

I started to think, ‘What are all of the things that I specifically do as a counselor?’ When clients are in such a hard place that all they can see are lies, I remind them of truth. I remind them of who they are, and I remind them of who God is.

Psalm 25:5, ‘Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.’
When life seems confusing and overwhelming, we sit down and sort it out together.

1 Peter 5:7, ‘Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.’
When they need to just sit and be sad, I sit and I am sad with them. Psalm 56:8, ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.’
When they need to be angry and shake their fist at God, I remind them that God invites us to do this, and I sit and wait with them as long as they need.

Psalm 13:1 ‘How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?’ When they need to find words for the unspeakable and the bravery to voice the horribly painful, I offer a safe space and an invitation to help carry some of the burden, so they aren’t holding their pain alone anymore.

Psalm 34:18, ‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’
Aren’t all of these things what our God can do for us? And can’t He do these things better than any human being on earth possibly could?

And I don’t sit with clients begrudgingly. I love sitting with hurting people. I see it as a sacred gift to be trusted with hurting hearts. How much more does our Heavenly Father LONG to carry our hurts? How much more does our Father LOVE to sit with us, and remind us of truth? If my heart is torn and broken with those in deep pain, how much more does their Father in heaven wail with them when they wail?

It is good and right to seek wise godly counsel on earth. God has so graciously given us other people to be in the flesh, representations of His heart towards us. He has given us people who can hug us tight, people who can weep with us, people who make space in their lives for us.

While God is so gracious to give us these gifts, they can never replace having God as our ultimate counselor. I was reminded today that before I send a text asking for help figuring something out, sharing a hurt, or asking for prayer, I need to first go to God and pour my heart out before him.

I want to remember way more often that I have the most amazing counselor imaginable, and that He’s my Father. When I think of God as longing to be a counselor to me, it reminds me that over me and over you, He says, “To me, you are worth investing in.”“You are precious to me.”“Being with you fills me with joy.” And who doesn’t need to be reminded that God speaks all of those words over us?

So maybe join me in making time to intentionally let the God of the universe, who also happens to be your Dad, be your daily, present, perfect counselor.

Katie Green

Katie Green

Christian Counselor

Katie serves as a member of our counseling team. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Yardley.



The Season of Advent

Christmas can be a tale of two seasons. It can be an experience of celebrating the birth of Christ, decorating, family gatherings, exchanging gifts, and giving to those who are less fortunate. But it can also be a time of loneliness, grief, sadness for those who have lost a loved one, or are without a job or a home, for those battling depression, anxiety, or other emotional pain. I believe this season of Advent speaks to some powerful truths from God’s word that can minister to your heart no matter where you find yourself in life this Christmas season.

As we begin Advent, I am presenting on our Insight Today podcast a four week series on the significance of Christ’s birth for us personally, emotionally and spiritually. The four themes of advent I am going to look at are Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. Down through the centuries Christians have used the season of Advent to proclaim the good news that the Savior has been born. It is my prayer that the message of His birth with be good news to you, even if it is the only good news that you have heard in a very long time.

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 Yardley.



When the Going Gets Tough

Have you ever heard the expression, “God promises that He will never give us more than we can handle?” I have heard it many times, and I used to believe it. That is, until I read the Bible more thoroughly and found that it never says it anywhere, Old or New Testament. The Bible promises that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle and will provide the way of escape, 1 Corinthians 10:13. But that verse is saying something different from the common but false idea that God will never give us more than we can handle.

In actuality, God often gives us more than we can handle. He does that so that we will learn our dependence on Him. When we do learn to depend on Him, He also learn that He is faithful. Paul learned this lesson time and again. In 2 Corinthians 12 he says that he was given an thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass him. He says that three times he prayed to God to remove it, and God’s answer as no. Then in verses 9-10 he writes, But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I don’t know about you, but this sure seems to contradict the idea that God never gives us more than we can handle.

Notice the impact on Paul. He learns that God’s power is made more real, more perfect in his own weakness. So Paul has learned to be content in difficult and trying circumstances, because when he himself is personally weak, then he is really spiritually strong. Why? He is forced to be less dependent on himself and more dependent on God.

So when the going gets tough, who do you rely upon?

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.



Smartphone Safety? Update

In April of 2016 we produced a program for Insight Today radio program on WFIL on smartphone safety for youth. We covered a number of topics including a lis of apps which can make your child accessible to criminals who want to exploit them sexually. In this second Insight Today podcast, I want to update you on some of the newest apps that be dangerous to your children.

-WhatsApp: This is a messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing, and voicemails with users world wide.
-Bumble: This app is similar to Tinder, but this one requires women to make the first contact. Law enforcement says kids and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
-Live.Me: This is a live-streaming app that uses geo-location to share videos. Users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
-Grindr: This is an app geared toward the LGBTQ community based on user location.
-TikTok: This is a new app popular with kids that lets users create and share short videos. Law enforcement said this app has very limited privacy controls and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
-Holla: This self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app lets users meet people in seconds. Law enforcement said users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
-Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. Police say the app is supposed to be for adults only, but they have seen teens create accounts.
-Hot or Not: The app lets users rate profiles, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. Police say the goal of the app is to hook up.
Parents, you would never let a criminal walk into your home unchallenged to sexually exploit your child. Don’t let them have access through the apps on your child’s phone.

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.



Smartphone Safety?

On today's Insight Today we looked at the concerns every parent should have about their child having a smart phone. Among other issues we discussed, I mentioned a number of app which are a real danger for exposing kids to sexual predators and sexually explicit material. As we said on the broadcast, you must be proactive and vigilant if you decide that your child should have one of these devices. Here are a number of the most dangerous apps you should make sure you child or teenager does not have on their smartphone. They are given in no particular order of concern.

SNAPCHAT: This app allows a user to send photos and videos to anyone on their friend list. The sender can determine how long the receiver can view the image and then the image supposed to be “erased” after the allotted time. Problem: It is the number one app used for sexting, mostly because people think it is the safer way to sext. Unfortunately, the “snaps pictures” can easily be recovered & the receiver can take a screen shot and share it with others. Also, a lot of images from Snapchat get posted to revenge porn sites, which is often referred to as “snap porn”.

SKOUT: This is a flirting app which is used to meet new people. The problem here is that ages of users are not verified and while there is a version for teens which has a few more safety features, it is easy to bypass them by using a fake birthday. This gives children access to the adult sector which includes a lot of profanity, provacitive images and private messaging with strangers who can see your child’s location.

KIK MESSENGER: This is an instant messaging app with over 100 million users that allows users to exchange videos, pics, and sketches. Users can also send YouTube videos and create memes & digital gifs. Problem: Kids use this app for sexting and sending nude selfies through this app is very common. The term “sext buddy” is being replaced with “Kik buddy”. Kids use Reddit and other forum sites to place classified ads for sex by giving out their Kik usernames. Also, Kik does not offer any parental controls and there is no way of authenticating users, thus making it easy for sexual predators to use the app to interact with minors.

OMEGLE: This app is primarily used for video chatting. When you use Omegle, you do not identify yourself through the service. Instead, chat participants are only identified as “You” and “Stranger”. However, you can connect Omegle to your Facebook account to find chat partners with similar interests. When choosing this feature, an Omegle Facebook App will receive your Facebook “likes” and try to match you with a stranger with similar likes. Problem: Sexual predators use this app to find kids to collect personal information from in order to track them down more easily in person.

TINDER: An app that is used for hooking-up and dating. Users can rate profiles and find potential hook-ups via GPS location tracking. 450 million profiles are rated every day! The good news is, this app pulls information from user’s Facebook profiles, so it is more authenticated than other apps. Problem: It is easy for adults and minors to find one another. Also, due to the rating system, it is often used for cyber-bullying, because a group of kids can target another kid and purposefully make his/her rating go down.

MEET ME: This app uses the GPS on your phone to help you meet new people who live near you. The problem with this app is that there is no age verification, and accounts are linked to Facebook so that the user and their location is easily identifiable to a predator. It also uses a popularity rating which makes seeking approval from strangers like a game.

WHISPER: Whisper is an anonymous confession app. It allows users to superimpose text over a picture in order to share their thoughts and feelings anonymously. However, you post anonymously, but it displays the area you are posting from. You can also search for users posting within a mile from you. Problem: Due to the anonymity, kids are posting pics of other kids with derogatory text superimposed on the image. Also, users do not have to register to use Whisper and can use the app to communicate with other users nearby through GPS. A quick look at the app and you can see that online relationships are forming through the use of this app, but you never know the person behind the computer or phone. Sexual predators also use the app to locate kids and establish a relationship.

BLENDR: A flirting app used to meet new people through GPS location services. You can send messages, photos, videos, rate the hotness of other users, etc. Problem: There are no authentication requirements, so sexual predators can contact minors, minors can meet up with adults. And again, the sexting.

CHAT ROULETTE: This is a video chat app that allows the user to be randomly matched up with someone from anywhere on the planet to have a video chat. The problem with this app is it is very popular for pornography and cyber sex. It is also common for users to be randomly matched with a chat partner who is naked in front of their webcam. There is also nothing to stop the person you are chatting with from recording the video chat and posting it elsewhere.

YIK YAK: An app that allows users to post text-only “Yaks” of up to 200 characters. The messages can be viewed by the 500 Yakkers who are closest to the person who wrote the Yak, as determined by GPS tracking. Problem: Users are exposed to and are contributing sexually explicit content, derogatory language, and personal attacks. Although the posts are anonymous, kids start revealing personal information as they get more comfortable with other users.

OOVOO: A video chatting app where users can chat with up to 12 people at a time. The problem is that while this app is not terrible in itself, your kids must use the privacy settings and only let people who know them to chat with them. Otherwise, you child is exposed to any and all preditors who may be using it.

ASK FM: Ask.fm is one of the most popular social networking sites that is almost exclusively used by kids. It is a Q&A site that allows users to ask other users questions while remaining anonymous. Problem: Kids will often ask repeated derogatory questions that target one person. Due to the anonymity of the badgering, it creates a virtually consequence-free form of cyber-bullying. Ask.fm has been associated with 9 documented cases of suicide (2) in the U.S. and the U.K.

DOWN: This app, which used to be called Bang with Friends, is connected to Facebook. Users can categorize their Facebook friends in one of two ways: They can indicate whether or not a friend is someone they’d like to hang with or someone they are “down” to hook-up with. Problem: Although identifying someone you are willing to hook-up with doesn’t mean you will actually hook-up with them, it creates a hook-up norm within a peer group. Depending on your sexual values, this might be something you don’t want for your child. Also, because of the classification system, a lot of kids will feel left out or unwanted, which can lead to anxiety, etc.

MEERKAT, PERISCOPE: These apps are very similar as they are live streaming video apps that send their content to Twitter. The problem with them is although it’s against the terms of use, it is difficult to keep its users from producing images with pornographic content. This makes it a favorite for sexual predators to use.

POOF, HIDDEN APPS, HIDE IT PRO, APP LOCK, and others like it: This app allows users to make other apps “disappear” on their phone. Kids can hide any app they don’t want you to see by opening the app and selecting other apps. Problem: It’s obvious, right? Luckily, you can no longer purchase this app. But, if it was downloaded before it became unavailable, your child may still have it. Keep in mind that these types of apps are created and then terminated quickly, but similar ones are continuously being created. Others to look for: Hidden Apps, App Lock, and Hide It Pro.

If you do allow your child to have a smartphone, what are some things you can do? Fortunately, most cell phone carriers have family services or family oriented plans that allow parents to monitor the activity on each of the phones in the plan. It also allows you to limit cell phone usage and block certain activities. There are some apps and programs parents can use to keep up with what their children are doing: Kids Place, KuuKla Parental Control, Abeona, Secure Teen Parental Control, Screen Time, Kid Zone, Parental Control Board, Norton Family Parental Control.

I also want to suggest that you do not allow your child or teen to take their cell phone, smart phone, tablet or lap top computer with them to bed. Have them give you their devices when they go to bed so you can know that they are not tempted to stay up late texting, talking, or surfing on the internet. They may whine and complain, but let's remember who is the parent, and who is the child!

And don’t forget the example you are setting as a parent!

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.



God’s Love is Tenacious

If life has taught me anything, it is that change is inevitable. Even things and people you thought you could count on can disappoint you. At the present time my family and I are dealing with my mother health crashing one night, a three-week stay in the hospital, and now seeking to recover on the medical wing of her retirement community. Not an easy pill to swallow for her or our family. But one thing never changes, God’s love. God declares in His word that He loves His people with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

God’s love is not only everlasting, it is tenacious. In Psalm 130:7 we read, “Hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love.” One of the most striking declarations of this in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Notice that Paul says he is convinced of the tenacity of God’s love. How can he say this in light of the terrible things he faced in his life? In 2 Corinthians 11 he says, “Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.” He goes on to mention a variety of dangers and then ends with “I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often with out food, in cold and exposure.” Paul knew that no matter what he faced, God’s love was the same, and would reassure him in the midst of his suffering.

I have seen this myself as well. As I mentioned, my mother continues on a long road to recovery. Life can be hard, and we don’t know what is coming around the corner, but as hard as it gets, and whatever happens, God’s love is greater, deeper, stronger. I see it in the teaching of God’s word, the love of His people, the peace He gives, and the reassurance I get in in my times of prayer. As Jeremiah put it during a time of great distress and hardship, “The Lord steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never end, they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.” God’s love is tenancious!

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.



Boys Will Be Boys?

Recently a men’s shaving company started running an advertisement admonishing men to “shave their toxic masculinity.” As I watched it, my initial thought was that yes, we should speak out against bullying and sexual harassment. But as I thought about it more, I found myself increasingly disturbed by it.

One of the scenes is at a large gathering of men and boys at a barbeque, and two boys were on the ground wrestling with each other. The men at the event all say, “boys will be boys.” Here is my problem, rough housing and wrestling was something my boys enjoyed when they were younger, and when we get together in the pool some of it still happens. Yet the ad conflates this behavior with bullying and other immoral behavior. I have never heard the expression, “boys will be boys” used to excuse really bad behavior, such as rape or sexual harassment. We say this when a boy face plants off the couch or starts a snow ball fight with his friends.

Then I thought about some of the other images in the advertisement. What exactly does this company mean by the undertone of “toxic masculinity.” The way I have heard the term used it seems to be denigrating all men. We would never do this to women, we would never say “these women are behaving badly, so all women, or all feminity is bad. Yes there are men who behave badly, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby to name two who have been in the headlines. And they should be held accountable for their actions. But these are a small minority of men, and it seems odd to me that those in the entertainment industry and other associates stayed silent for so long about what was taking place.

In case you think I am overstating my concerns, we now have the American Psychological Association defining “traditional masculinity” as harmful, or to put it in their terms, a “pathological state.” In a press release, the APA asserts flatly that “traditional masculinity—marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance and aggression—is, on the whole, harmful.” The APA claims that masculinity is to blame for the oppression and abuse of women. So three cheers to the APA for demonizing masculinity as a whole as opposed to providing a balanced perspective that embraces its positive aspects while calling out the negative aspects which are sometimes seen in some men.

Commenting on this in the Wall Street Journal, psychologist Erica Komisar says, “The report encourages clinicians to evaluate masculinity as an evil to be tamed, rather than a force to be integrated. “Although the majority of young men may not identify with explicit sexist beliefs,” it states, “for some men, sexism may become deeply engrained in their construction of masculinity.” The association urges therapists to help men “identify how they have been harmed by discrimination against those who are gender nonconforming”—an ideological claim transformed into a clinical treatment recommendation.”

She goes on to note that masculine traits, including aggression, competitiveness, and protective vigilance can be positive and have a basis in biology. Males produce far more testosterone, and this is connected biologically and behaviorally with increased aggression and competitiveness. Males also produce more of a hormone called vasopressin. This hormone makes men aggressively protective of their loved ones. In contrast to men, women have more feminine traits such as nurture and emotional sensitivity. Women produce more oxytocin which makes them more sensitive and empathetic. Men also have oxytocin which makes men more playful, tactually stimulating with their children, encouraging resilience. These differences result in the mother and father complementing each other as they nurture raise their children.

Dr. Komisar concludes with some important observations. She states, “What’s unhealthy isn’t masculinity or femininity but the demeaning of masculine men and feminine women. The first of the new APA guidelines urges psychologists “to recognize that masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural, and contextual norms,” as if biology had nothing to do with it. Another guideline explicitly scoffs at “binary notions of gender identity as tied to biology.” From a mental-health perspective, it can be beneficial for women to embrace masculine traits and for men to express feminine ones. Every person will have some mix of the two. But that doesn’t change the reality that women tend to be feminine and men tend to be masculine. Why can’t the APA acknowledge biology while seeing femininity and masculinity on a spectrum? To be sure, the cult of manhood can be harmful when taken to extremes. Teaching boys—or girls, for that matter—that they should always be stoic, keep their feelings inside and never allow themselves to be vulnerable is a recipe for mental illness. But so is telling boys that aggression, competitiveness and protectiveness is a sign of sickness. The same is true of telling girls that their desire to nurture children is shameful.

We don’t need a shaving company to tell us to raise my sons not to be bullies, or to mistreat women. And the APA is simply wrong to condemn what it calls “traditional masculinity.” Obviously there are some changes happening in the US that are good, to work to stop bullying and sexual harassment, but we don’t need the media to tell us what they should be in light of their track record. The vast majority of men are men that treat women equally and with respect. And it is long overdue that men get the same respectful treatment that we give to all other demographics. Let’s encourage men to be the best that they can be, without denigrating masculinity in the process.

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.



My Stop Doing List

One of the most frustrating things I deal with in my life is having a to-do list that is too long. I enjoy working hard and being productive, but the tyranny of the urgent can make me feel like the gerbil on the running wheel. I'm peddling fast, but am I getting anywhere? This time of year with Christmas and other holidays can be especially crazy. I just saw on Facebook that one of my friends and her family have decided to not send out Christmas cards this year and posted a family picture in front of their Christmas tree on her page. One of their kids is getting married early in the New Year and they felt not sending cars was a way to take some of the pressure off their To-Do list.

Managing time and tasks can be so challenging! The Bible encourages us to be good stewards of our time. In Psalm 90 and verse 12 we read, "So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." God wants us to number our days, to make the most of them for His glory and our blessing. And in numbering our days, making them count, we will increase in wisdom. As Moses wrote in this Psalm, time is also an important part of being a good steward of the life God has given us. So how can we be better stewards of our time, especially in December?

I would like to encourage you to consider making the most of each day by not just having a To-Do list, but also a "Stop Doing" list. Look at each of the items on your To-Do list and ask yourself, "Is this something that I really need to be doing? If I take the time to do this, am I keeping myself from doing something more significant/important?" If the first answer is no, and the second answer is yes, then move that item from your "To-Do" list to your "Stop Doing" list. You may be surprised, like I was, at how freeing this is. It takes some of the pressure off, and allows me to focus on the things that matter most. So start moving some things to your Stop-Doing list and free up some time for God, your spouse, and your family.

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.



Feeling Besieged

Do you ever feel besieged? Life can come at us pretty hard and fast at times, even if it is just the routines of your daily experience. Raising your kids, demands at work (“do more with less”), making financial ends meet, keeping up with your home, family obligations and stress, call claw for your attention. Add to this recipe feelings like inadequacy, guilt, sadness, frustration just to name a few. Let’s top it off with a medical problem, or loss of employment, or another problem with your in-laws or extended family, infertility, a prodigal child, unwanted singleness, and you can be left feeling besieged. Does anyone know what I am dealing with? Does anyone care? Everywhere I turn there is another problem, another frustration!

Today I was reading in Psalm 31 which was written at a time when David was feeling overwhelmed and pictures himself as a besieged city. He writes, “Blessed be the Lord, for He has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’” Sounds to me that David can relate to feeling besieged! When you simply look at your circumstances and surroundings apart from God, it is easy to panic or feel very much alone.

But instead, David turns to God for help! He continues, “But you heard the voice of my pleas for help. Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” David pours out his heart to God as he pleas for the Lord to help. How does God respond? With criticism, judgment, ridicule? No, God responds by loving us and showing that His love and care are bigger than the problems we face. When you look at your circumstances through the eyes of pride and self-sufficiency, panic often sets in. But when you look at your circumstances through faith, God demonstrates His faithfulness and reminds us who is really in charge! And knowing that impacts my heart to take courage and to be at peace regardless of the circumstances which surround me. I love what Isaiah says in chapter 26 and verse 3 of his book, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” When you feel like giving up, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1). Know that he hears you and responds with His wondrous love! You may be besieged, but if you are a Christ follower, you are not alone!

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.



Love That Never Fails

Every year, publishers decide on a list of words to add to the dictionary, based on new words or meanings which have entered our common language. These were some of the words added to the 2018 Oxford English dictionary: hangry, mansplain, permalink, tomgirl, e-shopping, and co-parenting. The list reveals much about our culture and how it is changing. This year’s list includes nearly 100 words beginning with the word “self.” Words like self-checkout, self-diagnosis, self-directing, self-talk, self-publish, self-obsessed. They reflect a self-centered culture; one that does not appear to be God-centered. So what is God’s answer for a culture all about self?

The answer is agape (agape is a word from the Greek language that describes the a form of love that is self-less and other-focused and exemplified by God) love - God’s love - is the antidote for a self-obsessed culture. Agape goes beyond brotherly love, as it is the highest form of love. It is the love that comes from God, the same love that God showed His only son, and the same love that Jesus has shown us. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) describes agape. Jesus tells us that loving our neighbor and loving our enemy are also agape.

In a culture that says, “Do what you feel like doing,” agape stands out as counter cultural. How do you love someone when you don’t feel like it? How do you love someone who is unlovable? Maybe that person is in your own household, your classroom, your workplace…perhaps even in your church! You can start with prayer. Pray for that person to draw nearer to God, and pray that your own heart would be softened. Pray for understanding, that you might appreciate whatever the other person has endured.

Second, stay alert. Know that people both inside and outside the church are watching us. They can smell hypocrisy and judgment from far away. Be sure that your actions are consistent with your words, and remain curious and open before judging a person or situation. If you disagree with someone, consider it your challenge to love them well, to find common ground, and to extend grace and peace. Let love be your motivation, your fuel, your reason, behind all you say and do.

Third, know your spiritual gifts and use them to serve God and others. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? Let God guide you in following your passions. He wastes nothing, so don’t waste an opportunity to point another person to Christ the Redeemer by extending His amazing agape love. May you be blessed in your own ministry of agape.

Susan Sciarratta

Susan Sciarratta

Christian Counselor

Susan has her master's in Christian Counseling and serves on our counseling team. 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.



The Impact of Faith in the Lives of Children

I can’t think of the last time I quoted a study from Harvard University in a blog post, but there is always a first time for everything! A new study from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Heath finds that participating in religious practices during childhood and adolescence has a very positive impact in their lives. Researchers found that people who attended weekly religious services or practiced daily prayer or meditation in their youth reported greater life satisfaction and positivity in their 20s—and were less likely to subsequently have depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection—than people raised with less regular spiritual habits.
The study was published online September 13, 2018 in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Previous studies have linked adults’ religious involvement to better health and well-being outcomes, including lower risk of premature death. “These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices,” said first author Ying Chen, who recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Chan School. “Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”
For this study, Chen and senior author Tyler VanderWeele, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology, analyzed health data from mothers in the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and their children in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). The sample included more than 5,000 youth who were followed for between 8–14 years. The researchers controlled for many variables such as maternal health, socioeconomic status, and history of substance abuse or depressive symptoms, to try to isolate the effect of religious upbringing.
The results showed that people who attended religious services at least weekly in childhood and adolescence were approximately 18% more likely to report higher happiness as young adults (ages 23–30) than those who never attended services. They were also 29% more likely to volunteer in their communities and 33% less likely to use illicit drugs. Those who prayed or meditated at least daily while growing up were 16% more likely to report higher happiness as young adults, 30% less likely to have started having sex at a young age, and 40% less likely to have a sexually transmitted infection compared to those who never prayed or meditated. “While decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging service attendance and private practices may be meaningful avenues to protect against some of the dangers of adolescence, including depression, substance abuse, and risk taking. In addition, these practices may positively contribute to happiness, volunteering, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and to forgiveness,” said VanderWeele.
Obviously this study confirms the emphasis the Bible places on children being taught about God and how a relationship with Him can be life transforming. Be encouraged parents that your investment of faith in their lives has an impact. I also want to urge those of you who are parents to set the example for your children by living out your faith. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to drop your kids off for Sunday School and church, or to your church’s youth ministry but rarely darken the door yourself. I have seen this time and again over my 30 plus years of ministry. The word of God tells us to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it.” Two quick points to make from this verse. First, you can’t train someone unless you have experience in it yourself. And second, thank God for the promise of this verse, He is faithful!

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.



Mutual Aid

This week the unthinkable happened for any firefighter like me. I serve as the chaplain with my local fire company and Tuesday night my pager went off to alert us of a fire, at our firehouse! An electrical transformer near our firehouse and the wire leading from it caught on fire. This caused an electrical malfunction in the basement of the firehouse and it began filling with smoke. Fortunately one of our lieutenants happed to be at the firehouse when it happened and called it in to the dispatch center. Not only did our guys race to the firehouse, but we had trucks from five surrounding fire companies respond to assist us. We call it mutual aid, and it is vital to the fire protection of any community with volunteer firefighters. Not only did they respond immediately to assist us, one of the companies is housing our trucks while repairs are being made.

I thought about this in light of what the Bible teaches about mutual aid in the family of God. The triune God we worship is inherently a God of relationship and we were created to be in relationship, Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God created Eve to provide a suitable relationship for Adam that would be mutually beneficial. This theme is carried throughout the Bible. For example, in the book of Nehemiah you see it clearly in the rebuilding of Jerusalem (see Neh. 4) and in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 we read, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work. I one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”

The New Testament speaks of this in a number of places. You see it in Mark 2 where are group of men work together to bring a crippled man to Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul speaks of the fact that believers form one body with many parts. Here are just a couple of verses from this passage:
V. 12, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though all parts are many, they form one body. “
V. 24-27, “ But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it, if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
He also speaks of the importance of mutual aid in Philippians 1:27, “I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.”

Sadly, the church isn’t always known for its mutual aid between believers. So what are you doing to be a source of mutual aid with your fellow Christ follower? A word of encouragement, an offer to pray, a helping hand, responding when a brother or sister is hurting, delivering a meal, giving a ride, these are just a few ways you can make a difference. We live at a time when there is too much division and strife in our society. We, the family of God, can be a catalyst for change, and earn the opportunity to share our faith by demonstrating what mutual aid can be regardless of race, denomination, political party, etc. As Jesus admonishes us in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

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.



Mourning into Praise, Reflections on Haiti

This weekend marks eight years since I was in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that destroyed so much of that country. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and that event took the country from bad to worse. My journey to Haiti was an unusual one with many twists and turns. It started years prior when I spoke at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation Conference on the topic of responding to crisis. Three years later the earthquake hits and I get a phone call from one of the pastors at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, Mike Wilkerson. Mike attended my presentation and asked if they could fly me out to their church for a series of meetings with Churches Helping Churches to organize a team to go to Haiti to assist the churches and pastors.

So I was off to Seattle to share my insights on helping people recover from Post-Traumatic Stress. As we discussed who should be a part of the go team to travel to Haiti, all eyes turned to me when Mike said, “We need an experienced leader who can help these pastors learn how to deal with the trauma of this earthquake. Paul, we need you.” Now I’m a guy who likes my creature comforts, my idea of “roughing it” is the Holiday Inn. The thought of dealing with a 10-day trip to earthquake ravaged Haiti was not my idea of fun. How little did I know how petty my concerns would turn out to be. On the flight back to Philadelphia, God tugged on my heart that it was His will for me to go. The words of Joshua 1 came to mind at 30,000 feet, “Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

So a few weeks later it was off to Haiti and our base of ministry at the STEP Seminary in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Leaving the airport was like stepping into a war zone. Words cannot describe the devastation, roads that were practically impassable, buildings turned to rubble, trash everywhere, tent “cities” set up by relief agencies to provide emergency housing, military members from various nations sent to keep order, it was a cacophony of sights and sounds.

My job was to teach on the topic of Post-Traumatic Stress and help the pastors and ministry leaders who assembled learn how to deal with it in their own lives, and then take what they learned back to their churches for their congregations. As we gathered for our first meeting, two things stand out for me. The nervousness if felt as aftershocks rumbled, and the incredible singing of these men and women as we started the meeting. They sang in Creole and we sang in English to the hymns and choruses we recognized by the melody. Here are people who lost just about everything singing praises to God. Incredible!

One of the pastors, Jean Paul, had travelled many miles to come. His wife and two of his three children were killed in the earthquake when their house collapsed and crushed them to death. His church building was also demolished and for days he was seen walking between his home and his church crying out to God in despair. And here he is singing “It Is Well With My Soul.” I will never forget the resilient faith of these believers. I stood there trying hold back my tears as we sang, these men and women singing in a way I have rarely experienced. The Spirit of God was present in that room! I came to teach and these people are teaching me what it means to trust God! Here are people who have lost so much praising God for His love and faithfulness. Truly God was at work to do a work of spiritual restoration in the hearts and lives of all of us, leaders and attendees. God was turning their mourning into a deeper joy in Him. As a result of our time together, we all saw the truth of Jesus’ promise, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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.



Who is Biggest in Your Life?

Who is biggest in your life? Are you always worried about what others think of you, are you very concerned to always look good in front of others, is the bottom line in relationships that people like you, do you consistently sacrifice you desires for the desires of others, are you afraid of making others angry or upset? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you are caught in a trap, the fear of people trap. In Proverbs 29:25 it says, "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe." Too often we are motivated out of fear of others, how they will react, not wanting them to be angry, rejecting, etc. This is a trap because in a fallen world, people are fickle and not always consistent or reliable. And you can’t ultimately control what another person thinks about you or whether they will like you or not. In addition, you will find yourself compromising what may be important to you, or what is right, for the sake of trying to keep that relationship.

Proverbs 25:29 reminds us that our bigger concern should always be our relationship with God and what He thinks. In fact, any time you make the opinions or thoughts of others bigger or more important than God, you are actually committing idolatry. Not only that, as Proverbs points out, our security can only be found in God. Why? Just think of His attributes. He is true, faithful, eternal, and loves His people with an everlasting love. He says He will never leave you or forsake you. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (See Deuteronomy 7:9, Proverbs 18:24, Isaiah 65:16, Jeremiah 31:3 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Hebrews 13:5, Revelation 1:8). So who is bigger in your life, other people, or God?

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.



Finishing Well

When you get to the end of your life, what will people say and think about you? What will your legacy be? Recently the world heard the news of the home going of Rev. Billy Graham, a man who touched countless lives in the course of his life and ministry. He was given a number of monikers including “America’s Pastor,” “The Protestant Pope,” and “The Confidant of Presidents.” His name and his face are recognized all over the world. Chances are if you go to church you will meet someone who came to Christ in a Billy Graham crusade.

My wife and I visited the Billy Graham library and museum a couples of years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. The museum traces the story of his life from his early childhood growing up on a farm to his years of ministry and countless crusades. I remember telling my wife that what impressed me the most about Rev. Graham was how he is finishing well. No moral scandals, no ministry scandals, no financial irregularities, just a life of faithful service to Jesus.

The Apostle Paul writes these words to Timothy, his understudy in ministry in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me,, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” I want these words to be the hallmark of my life, this is the legacy I want to establish as a sinner in need of God’s grace. Because it is only by the grace of God that I am a Christ follower. May we all strive for life that reflects that kind of legacy, not ultimately of Billy Graham, but of Jesus.

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.



10 Questions to Evaluate and Improve Your Marriage

Marriage is work, and good marriages don’t just happen, you need to make it a priority every day. I find that even with the best effort, sometimes my marriage can get into a rut. So I want to give you ten questions to help you evaluate your marriage and get out of the rut you and your spouse may find yourself in. Even if your marriage is doing well, I think it is helpful to take a step back and look at it with a fresh perspective.

I want to encourage you to take some time to answer each of these questions thoughtfully and as objectively as you can. Ask your spouse to do the same, you can do it together, or each of you do it separately and then come together to talk about it with each other. So here we go!

1. Do you still date each other? Every Friday night is date night for my wife and I. We may move it to another day or time once in a while, but normally we use Friday night for going out on a date. It gives us something to look forward to, and builds a foundation for shared, enjoyable experiences. When was the last time you went on a date and how can you build this into your schedule?

2. Is your spouse your best friend? Studies demonstrate that happily married couples of all ages and stages all report the same number one reason why they are happily married: my spouse is my best friend. So how about for you and your spouse, are you best friends? If not, what is getting in the way of it? Again, marriage takes work and effort, just like any important friendship.

3. When is the last time you said, “Thank you”? I’m not talking about politeness when passing the salt. I’m talking about a specific expression of gratitude for doing the dishes, for letting you sleep in, for working hard to provide for the family, for watching the kids all day, or for making your favorite meal. Expressing appreciation for who your spouse is and what they do is an important component to any good marriage.

4. Do you still hold hands? In the movies? On the couch? Walking around the block? During prayer at church? In the car? We all love to see old couples holding hands. And children love to see it when mommy and daddy are doing this. The power of touch is one of the important glues that keep a couple close.

5. When is the last time you embarrassed the kids together? Children should roll their eyes from time to time because of how silly mom and dad can get. They should see you dancing, see you kissing, see you acting utterly goofy. The kids will hate it, but deep down love it too. Children need to see their parents having a great time together. So go ahead, make out in the kitchen and see how long it takes them to notice!

6. When is the last time you said “I’m sorry”? Not as an excuse. Not with a snarl. But a sincere, tender, broken-hearted apology when you have done something wrong. One of the worse attitudes you can have in any relationship I have heard expressed this way, “I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.” This is pathetically prideful and wrong in so many ways. When you say your sorry, you are expressing humility, being vulnerable and open toward your spouse, all of which are important building blocks for greater intimacy.

7. When is the last time you planned a surprise? A few weeks ago I got my wife flowers for no particular reason. It just felt like it had been too long since I had gone out of my way to give her something nice. Do you still surprise each other with gifts, with special outings, with a kiss out of the blue, with coming home early (or staying up late)? So write your spouse a love note or leave a card for him or her, or find a way to surprise them!

8. When is the last time you went out and talked about something other than the kids? You don’t have to spend money. You can go on a walk, go on a bike ride, have a picnic in the park, go to a cheap diner, or do a fun activity you enjoy together with this rule, we can only talk about us, not the kids! Just get away from the kids and try not fixate on them when they’re not there.

9. How do you talk about your spouse? And there are two sub-questions to this. What would others think about your spouse just by listening to you speak about him or her? We all have occasions where we talk about our spouse to others–in a small group, at a prayer meeting, to another friend, to a family member, to the pastor. If someone could overhear everything you said about your husband or wife in a month, and then they met your spouse for the first time, would they be surprised by the person they found? From your conversation, would others guess that your spouse is a prince of a guy or a really special wife?

A second sub-question is this, do you talk about your marriage with terms like us, we and our, or I, me, you, he, or she? A recent study out of Oxford in England compared how happily married couples talk about their marriage compared to unhappily married couples. The study found that couples who are not happy in their marriage used terms like “I, me, he, she, and you.” Happily married couples talked about their relationship using inclusive terms like “us, we, and our.” There was a sense of togetherness, of being a team, that was being conveyed. So how do you talk about your spouse and your marriage?

10. This one is the hard, and I have saved it for last: Do you pray together? I’m not simply talking about saying grace at dinner. I’m talking about a husband and wife taking time on regular basis to pray for and with each other. In my three decades of marriage counseling, I can safely say that while I do know of good marriages where the husband and wife don’t pray together nearly as much as they would like, I don’t know any bad marriages where the husband and wife pray together all the time. While this expression isn’t as popular today as it once was, and can sound a little trite, it is still true: The family that prays together stays together! Pray us such a powerfully binding force in any marriage. It helps the couple stay humble, vulnerable, and like forgiveness, can help move the couple to greater levels of intimacy.

I hope that you will find these questions helpful to taking a fresh look at your relationship and to promote greater closeness. Before you finish, talk about one or two things you do to make your marriage better based on your answers. Marriage is work, so get working on it!

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.



Finding Contentment Beyond Your Circumstances

As we approach the new year of 2018, how was your 2017? If the number of people coming for counseling is any indication, for a lot of you 2017 was not such a good year. Our counseling hours grew by 50%, something that took our team by surprise. For me personally, and our family, 2017 was a year with some trying situations. So I am looking forward to the New Year.

When you look at the people in the Bible, you find a lot of examples of people facing difficult, trying circumstances. Joseph sold into slavery, Moses leading God’s people out of slavery, David falsely accused and attacked by Saul, Jeremiah being persecuted for speaking God’s word, Stephen being stoned for his faith, just to name a few.

Paul also dealt with a host of problems and difficult situations, false imprisonment, shipwrecked, beatings, danger and threats during multiple journeys. But Paul learned how to be content regardless of his circumstances. Hear his testimony: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content whatever my circumstances. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need,” Philippians 4:11-12. Notice the range of his experiences, from one extreme to another, and yet he remains content.

How is this possible? Paul gives us the answer in the next verse, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Paul learned after persecuting Christ followers, that the only way to find contentment is to become a Christ follower. Notice that becoming a Christ follower does not take away the difficult times of life in a fallen world. All of the problems Paul mentions in other places in the New Testament all happened after he came to faith in Jesus. But having a relationship with God through faith in Christ leads to having a perspective on life that enables you to live with contentment regardless of how good or bad your circumstances may be. If you want to learn more about faith in Jesus or finding contentment in life, reach out to us through our counseling line or use the contact now tab on each page.



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.



The NFL is Helping to Improve Marriages

No, this is not a public service announcement for the National Football League, or the latest BabylonBee spoof. As I write this attendance and television ratings are down due to players refusing to stand for the national anthem. It is sad to me that so much of our society is becoming politicized, from late night TV comedians to what you say to people during the Christmas season, to enjoying a NFL game.

There is, however, a silver lining. I noticed it myself as I have been watching a lot less football this season. Thankfully none of the Eagles have refused to stand during the national anthem or I would stop watching my beloved home team (this would be especially hard during what looks like will be quite a season). Since I am watching less football, I am spending more time with my wife and not just on Sunday.

So as a marriage and family counselor, I would like to thank Roger Goodell and the NFL for promoting more time and communication between husbands and wives. I suspect there are a lot fewer football widows across the United States.

On a more serious note, how much meaningful time are you spending with each other? By meaningful time, I don’t mean both of you sitting in the same room with your eyes focused on a screen (smart phone, TV, or computer). I mean with both of you engaged with each other in conversation, or doing a common activity together, and not with the children. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with watching a game or being on your computer, but not at the expense of having meaningful engagement with your spouse.

Take this as a challenge. Use the next week or two and keep a record of how much meaningful time you are spending with your spouse. And then ask your spouse what he/she thinks about the amount and quality of your time together. I bet it is less than you think! If it is, take the time to discuss how you can make adjustments in your schedule to get more time with each other.

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.



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.