Reflecting on Christmas and the Coming New Year

We are now upon the time of the year when people reflect on the past year and decide whether it has been a year to remember or a year they would rather forget. They often base it upon personal events in their own lives. But whether you judge it good or bad, the year 2016 has been noteworthy, if not a bit unusual. After all, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Folk singer Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature. Britain decided to exit the European Union, an event coined “Brexit.” Fidel Castro, a lasting symbol of the Cold War, passed away. And the iconic Christ the Redeemer monument became a symbol of unity, overlooking the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

I almost didn’t want the Olympics to end, because I so loved seeing that statue of Jesus gracing my TV screen every night, with his open, inviting arms. Jesus’ invitation to follow Him and the path to salvation seems so irresistible. His grace is free. His love is abundant. His hope is eternal. And yet, some of the same people who reject this very invitation will show up at the stores on Black Friday or after Christmas to take advantage of the big sales. Do they not know that there is no discount, no cash reward, which hold a candle to the light of the Lord?

Have the things of this world so overshadowed them that they choose to remain in darkness? Do they see what we see? At Christmastime we sing this beautiful song that offers such big questions: Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see? Do you know what I know? It’s a song about telling the good news to the people everywhere about the Child who brings goodness and light. It begins with the lamb, who speaks to the shepherd boy, who then speaks to the mighty king. And the good news is carried by the wind, carried by the light of the stars, by a song, and finally by a prayer. The natural and the supernatural are woven together in a tale that begins with a lamb and ends with the Christ Child.

The song reminds us in a simple but striking way how the good news of Christ entered into our world and how the truth of this news makes us stop, look, and listen no matter the source. Last week I listened to a lecture by Hollywood actor Frank Runyeon. He asked us the question, how do you get your daily news? He talked about the TV news and how it’s not really designed to give us the truth, but ultimately to get our attention to the commercials. So that we might buy the advertised products. If you consume too much of the TV news you might begin to think, “There is no good news.” Maybe that’s what our neighbors think, the ones who don’t believe in God or the ones who celebrate Christmas leaving Christ behind.

What would happen if we asked them the question, “Do you hear what I hear?” Because above the chatter of the evening news, beyond the holly jolly tunes, I hear a beautiful, peaceful silence. And in that silence a gentle whisper says to me, “I am always with you. I will never forsake you. Do not let your heart be troubled. My peace I give you.” Do you hear it too? Listen.

Do you see what I see? Because above the flashing lights, behind the shiny wrapping paper, I see a white light. It is the Holy Spirit giving me a gift. The gift of faith that I am to share freely, to let others borrow when they are hurt or afraid; to let my faith be my eyes when I cannot see what’s ahead. Do you see it too? Close your eyes and look.

Do you know what I know? Because beyond these walls are people who have no home, who do not know security. There are people who struggle with drugs and sex and other means of escape, who do not know peace. But in my heart, soul, and mind, I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God, whose son Jesus, came to this earth as a baby to transform our suffering into hope of eternal life. Do you know it too? Tell it to your heart.

There is never a bad time to share the good news. Christmas is not our deadline, it is our lifeline…our light-line…our platform, from which we can share our hope to a confused and disheartened world. Let us not retreat from the bad news of the world, let’s move into it with confidence, with joy, with deep reverence for the One who has control over it. MSNBC does not have the “Last Word.” The Word is with God, and the Word is God. In the Word is life and the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness like a star, and all the bad news in the world – all the darkness - will never overcome it (John 1:1-5). Listen to what He says, believe it, and tell it to the people everywhere!

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.



The Power of Silence

The Old Testament tells a story of the Lord appearing to Elijah, who had withdrawn to a cave in the mountain of God called Horeb. A powerful windstorm passed, followed by an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of these fierce and powerful forces. The Lord appeared to Elijah in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). This account reveals much about how God communicates in His good and perfect timing. For one thing, it reminds us to step away from the noise and distractions of this world in order to hear God’s voice speaking to us, whether He speaks audibly or even silently. Sometimes God uses silence in order to draw us closer to Him, to wait upon Him, or to develop patience and perseverance within us.

Perhaps more often, we worry about what to say rather than whether to speak at all. When a loved one is suffering, we want to say just the right words to bring them comfort. When we are ensnared in a conflict with our spouse, we persist until our point of view is heard, understood, and accepted. When our children disobey us, we respond with reprimand and redirection so that the child will learn to make better choices. In these difficult situations, our choice of words can convey hope and love. Our words can wisely instruct and guide. At other times, our words may be insensitive, discouraging, or even intimidating.

In our recent “Insight Today” radio show, I offered the acronym THINK as a handy tool for using our words wisely. According to this tool, which parallels Ephesians 4:29, we should speak in a way that is: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind. So, while we are using this tool to guide us in speaking life-giving and encouraging words to each other, we should also keep in mind the power of remaining silent. Sometimes silence is the better choice over speaking anything aloud.

People who have endured and grieved a loss often mention how much they appreciated others who simply sat with them. The value is not in the words that are spoken, but rather in the presence of that person. The ministry of presence is one of the most valuable gifts that we can give to someone who is hurting or suffering. Simply showing up, with no agenda or speech. Remaining silently with another person removes the pressure of trying to find the right words, because often there are none.

Silence is a powerful tool in virtually any conversation, and unfortunately, it is one far underutilized. Often the awkwardness of silence is enough to prompt the other person to speak. Silence is a gentle encourager that tells the other person that you are ready to hear them, or “quick to listen” as it says in James 1:19. Silence is an easy way of communicating, “Tell me more about that.” If you wonder why your teenager never opens up to you, try being silent – in the car, at the dinner table, or sitting on his bed. When we resist the temptation to occupy our minds with a ready response, a piece of advice, or our own story…when we embrace silence, we become better listeners and we understand the other person even better. Our communication with others becomes deeper, richer, and more connected. Isn’t that what we all desire – to be heard and understood? Try a little silence!

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.



Mothers and Daughters

Today on our program I featured one of our counselors, Kim Alston, who shared her insights on how to improve the relationship between mothers and daughters. This can be a complex relationship even when there is a healthy dynamic between them. Kim shared some of the unhealthy things that can be found in the mother-daughter relationship:

1. Wishing for a different mother/daughter
2. Controlling behavior
3. Enmeshment
4. Being dismissive
5. Combative, argumentative behavior
6. Being emotionally unavailable
7. Passive-aggressive behavior instead of dealing with problems directly.

So how do you bring about a better relationship? Realize that God has created each, both are objects of God’s love, and should be free to be who they are created to be. Learn to appreciate the differences between each other and how to disagree without being disagreeable. For example, Ruth and Naomi had a very healthy relationship in the Book of Ruth in the Bible. Here are some ways to improve this relationship:

1. Recognize that God is sovereign in all of our relationships. He truly has handpicked them. Even the difficult ones, or some might say, especially the difficult ones.
2. For mothers of adult daughters, share your insights, what has worked or you, but don’t put the requirement on your daughter that she needs to do things exactly the way that you did. Suggest, don’t dictate!
3. For adult daughters, make time to connect in meaningful ways with your mother. She will value this time with you.
4. Seek to be empathetic, forgiving, and try to let go of the little things that you find annoying.
5. Be reflective and ask yourself how can I be a blessing to my mother/daughter today? How can I add value to our relationship? Remember, what we appreciate increases in value and what we depreciate decreases in value. 

How do we build on the positive?

 6. Create opportunities for mothers/daughters to enhance their relationships. 
For example, hosting a mother/daughter bible study with other moms/daughters where you teach relationship skills that benefit the mother/daughter relationship, or any relationship for that matter, for example the following from Lifeway Ministries (http://www.lifeway.com/womensministry/2015/02/13/3-ways-to-nurture-motherdaughter-relationships/):

1 Think twice, speak once. When two sets of hormones clash, thinking before speaking becomes critical to survival. James 1:19. This is great advice for the husbands who are on the sidelines of these relationships!
2 Just because it can be said, doesn’t mean it should be said. Our opinions are not always right. Yes, we can be wrong! Evaluate why the opinion developed and what portion should be shared. James 1:26, Ephesians 4:29-30.
3 Honesty is the best answer. This may seem the opposite of that last tip, but there’s a difference between being honest with a pure motive and blurting out an opinion that can wound. Daughters need to hear their mom’s hearts and vice versa. Understanding and unity come from sharing the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15.
4 Let the past stay there. Once an argument is over, move on. Women have an uncanny ability to remember things. Dragging it back up repeatedly only keeps the relationship in a rut of drama. Colossians 3:
5 Stop in the name of love. Don’t listen to the negative gripes and complaints of others and apply them to your relationship. Negativity spreads like wildfire. Stomp it out. James 3:
6 Treat your daughter the way you wanted to be treated. Take a look in the mirror. Repeating the relationships of past generations is asking for trouble. It’s time to stop the cycle. Don’t be the mom who relates to her daughter the way her mom related to her.

Here are some additional resources to check out: 1. "The Mom Factor: Dealing with the Mother You Had, Didn't Have, or Still Contend With" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
2. Parents and Children sermon podcast by Tim Keller (http://www.gospelinlife.com/parents-and-children)
3. Your Mother/Daughter Relationship: Imperfect Makes Perfect. Crosswalk Ministries http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/your-mother-daughter-relationship-imperfect-makes-perfect-1351512.html
4. “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
5. Three Ways to Nurture Mother/Daughter Relationships. Lifeway Ministries http://www.lifeway.com/womensministry/2015/02/13/3-ways-to-nurture-motherdaughter-relationships/

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 Narrow Path

Recently I finished reading The Cost of Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer and I was blessed by the book in many ways. One section of his work really spoke to my heart as he was commenting on these words of Jesus, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

I want to share his words with you and I hope they are as powerful to you as they were to me:

The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenceless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. The way in unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way.

But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For he is himself the way, the narrow way and the strait gate. He, and he alone is our journey’s end. When we know that, we are able to proceed a long the narrow way through the strait gate of the cross, and on to eternal life, and the very narrowness of the road will increase our certainty. The way which the Son of God trod on earth, and the way which we too must tread as citizens of two worlds on the razor edge between this world and the kingdom of heaven, could hardly be a broad way. The narrow way is bound to be right.

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.



First Responders and Post-Traumatic Stress

I came across an article today entitled, “Report Finds First Responders Experiencing PTSD Rates Similar to Combat Veterans.” The article by Nick Westoll of Global News highlights a new report by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) that found an alarming number of first responders are experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder due to repeated exposure to horrific events while on the job. It also found the rates are close to what is found among combat veterans. As stated in the report, “Prolonged and regular exposure to traumatic events trigger PTSD at rates similar to those found in service members returning from combat,” as it cited the findings of various health studies. The IAFF referenced one study estimating that over 17% of Canadian firefighters and paramedics reported experiencing PTSD.

So what is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? There are actually two levels Post-Traumatic Stress, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The first is what most people experience if they are going to have a serious stress reaction. It goes away in two to six weeks and there are no long-term effects. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a more serious stress reaction with more serious symptoms which last can last well beyond six weeks. Both are a reaction to horrific events that overwhelms a person’s normal coping mechanisms to deal with the stress. There are certain events that cause the strongest reactions such as the death of a fellow firefighter or police officer, serious line of duty injury, incidents involving harm or death to children, mass casualty events, suicide, among others. There are many kinds of stress reactions someone can experience such as nausea, headaches, intrusive thoughts or dreams, sleep disruption, hyper-sensitivity to noises, inability to make decisions, doubts or questioning of faith, just to name a few.

Our counseling ministry provides help to first responders and military members who are dealing with PTS and PTSD, and we do this at a substantial discount. There are many tools available to help first responders deal more effectively with high stress incidents. Many cities and counties have a Critical Incident Stress Management Team which is available to provide help in the immediate aftermath of an event. They also provide preventive teaching to help responders understand the signs and symptoms. I myself am a member of a county CISM Team. Our ministry provides counseling to first responders and military members at a substantial discount. It is important for anyone who is having symptoms to reach out and not try to deal with it 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.



Financial Adultery

On today’s Insight Today I discussed what some marriage counselors call “Financial Adultery.” Everyone is familiar with adultery where one spouse is sexually unfaithful. Secrets about money and the misuse of money can be devastating to the marriage. Financial adultery is when one person in the marriage acts irresponsibly with money and seeks to hide it from their spouse. Couples who argue about money at least once a week are 30% more likely to divorce.

The Bible says a lot about money. It says that the love of money is the root of all evil. We read that God loves a cheerful giver. And he says we should give tithe by giving the first 10% of what we earn back to Him. Money is a very tangible way to see what is important to someone.

At the start of our program I made the point that there can be a lot of problems when one spouse has absolute control of the finances and does not let their spouse know or have any say in this area. Both spouses need to be involved in the family finances and how to manage it. One person may be the bill payer, but that person needs to keep the other informed.

Here are some of the ways a person can be guilty of financial adultery:

1. Hiding Purchases. You pay cash or intercept the credit card bill when it arrives in the mail, all to avoid having another argument about money.
2. Socking Money Away. This is when you take money and keep your spouse in the dark about it. If you are doing it to surprise your spouse for a gift or a trip, that is fine. But when it is for yourself, and you are not telling your spouse about it, that is a problem.
3. Price Tag Fibbing. This is when you lie about the real price of something you buy to avoid a fight.
4. Racking Up Your Credit Cards and Lines of Credit. There are multiple problems here. You risk your credit rating, you are forced to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” you lower your credit rating, all with your spouse in the dark about it.
5. Spending Money on Addictions. You keep your spouse in the dark about how much money you are spending on alcohol, drugs, gambling, ect.
6. Giving or Loanding Money to Family or Friends. You do this and again, you don’t discuss it with your spouse.
So let’s say you are guilty of one or more of these practices, what should you do? First of all, stop doing it! You need to come clean with your spouse. As hard as it may be, and as scared as you might feel, you need to be truthful and let your husband or wife in on what you have been doing. Tell the truth, don’t hold back, and seek their forgiveness. You may want to involve your pastor or counselor about how bleak the finances are. Next, seek out counseling both financial and for your marriage. Get the financial counseling you need to get help with getting out of the financial hole you have created. I also suggest you get to a Financial Peace University seminar. Having a budget can also help you avoid a lot of arguments in money.

Another idea that can you avoid disunity in the financial side of your relationship. My wife and I established a limit on how much we could spend without first telling the other about it. Let’s say you set it for $200, if you want to spend more than that, you need to tell your spouse first and get their agreement 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 Your Soul Mate

If you listen to the E-Harmony commercials, founder Neil Clark Warren promises that by using his web site you will be able to find your soul mate. This idea of finding your soul mate in order to have a more meaningful, happy, and lasting marriage is increasingly popular in our society, and frankly, it makes me want to puke every time I hear it. Let me share with you why this idea causes me to be nauseous from a practical and then a biblical perspective.

First, I think it is an element in the over-romanticizing of love and marriage today. Now I am all for romance, just ask my wife. But our society has made it seem like you fall in love (another term that makes me puke) like some force of attraction comes over you and takes over your heart. Cupid’s arrow strikes, finding your knight in shining armor to sweep you off your feet, meeting the perfect “10” are all part of this. Now add in the idea of finding your soul mate. Talk about setting up a standard that is impossible to meet! Half the time I am clueless to what my wife is thinking, and yet I am supposed to be able to know her soul? Yet we are married 31 years and most would say, including ourselves, that we have a happy marriage. This is idea of finding your soul mate sets you up for big disappointment when you and your spouse disagree, have conflict, and struggle in your communication.

Second, every marriage goes through times of difficulty. In these times the couple experience a lot of frustration, despair, and feeling more disconnected. Research on marriage has demonstrated that if the couple will stay together and seek to work on the marriage that within five years or less they will be more happily married and with a deeper connection for having worked through the problems. But if you buy into this soul mate idea, what happens when during the time of marital distress you meet someone at work, or at the gym, or wherever and you find yourself attracted to that person. You are hitting it off well, and you start to wonder, “Maybe I married the wrong person, this could be the soul mate I was meant to be with.” And now you are on your way to an affair.

Let’s also look at this from a theological perspective. First, I cannot find this idea of someone being your soul mate anywhere in the Bible. Not on the verse level, nor on the concept level. It’s just not there. So if God thinks it is important to find your human soul mate, I think it would be somewhere in His word.

Second, and speaking of God, the idea of someone being your soul mate is actually idolatry! The only person who can be your true soul mate is God. In Jeremiah 17 we read that the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can understand it? And then it goes on to say, “I, the Lord, understand the heart and know the mind.” In other words, the only one who can be your soul mate is God, and God alone. To say that your spouse can be this is simply impossible. Jesus died to save your soul, and is the only one who can meet the deepest need of your soul, the forgiveness of your sins.

So what do I do with this idea of my spouse being my soul mate. Forgettaboutit! Seek to be each other’s best friend, and in doing this, know that you are both sinners who will continue to mess up, frustrate each other, and have to work through conflict. Having a happy marriage is not about finding the right person, it is about being the right person.

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.



Giving Control to God

In my former career as an engineer, I worked in the federal government for 10 years at the US EPA. Part of our budget was allocated to private contractors in order to assist the Agency with its work. However, certain work could not be assigned to contractors because it was considered an “inherently governmental function.” Examples include the issuance of permits or enforcement actions against other companies. We had to be cautious when contractors were hired to work alongside Agency staff, since the contractors were not allowed to provide “personal services” to federal employees.

Similarly, God has inherently “divine” functions that He warns us in Scripture not to interfere with. Most of us, at some time, have pre-empted or played God because we think we can do His job better, faster, or more wisely. We run out ahead of God to make hasty decisions. We demand justice on our terms and timing. We make judgments about who is or is not saved. We fail to obey God’s instruction, or we become so distracted that we cannot even hear His guiding voice. We define right from wrong, not by God’s Word, but by moral relativism and comparing ourselves to others. We think that by worrying we can somehow control the outcome. We act on our desire to control situations and people instead of surrendering control to God, who has already gone before us and is who is sovereign over all things. The truth is that God is in control. If we think we have the control, the truth is not in us and we are fooling ourselves (1 John 1:8).

Back in the late 1980s, the EPA blurred the line with its contractors by allowing certain contractors to provide personal services to Agency staff and to conduct inherently governmental tasks. Subsequently, the Agency suffered tremendous backlash from the public and from US Congress. The EPA was subject to intense scrutiny and sanctions as a result of its actions.

When we attempt to overtake or neglect God’s guiding hand, we suffer the consequences as well. When we opt for instant gratification over waiting patiently on God’s perfect timing, we pay a price. When we retaliate with our own brand of justice, we open ourselves to correction. When we don’t let God be God, we add to our own suffering and misery.

During the years I worked at EPA, I dated a young lawyer. In my eagerness to marry him, I thought I could manipulate him into an engagement. So I gave him an ultimatum: either ask me now or you’ll lose me. He stammered with a non-committal response. Devastated, I ended our relationship, hoping the breakup would change his intentions. But it didn’t. I decided to move back north near my parents. But God had other plans for me. Before I moved, my friends at the EPA encouraged me to get to know a man who worked just a few cubicles from me. This fall, he and I will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary! Once I had ceased chasing my pursuits and allowed God instead to pursue my heart, I received His tremendous blessing.

Perhaps there is an area of your life that you have not yet surrendered to God: finances, parenting, career, health. Perhaps there is a dark area of your heart that needs God’s light to expose and heal it: guilt, anxiety, bitterness, stress. Where in your life are you experiencing the most distress, pain, or worry? The answer to this question may lead you to identify something you are trying to control. Hand it over to God. Let Him be the Lord of your life, in every area of your life. Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you because He cares for you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:22, 1 Peter 5:7). Let God fill you with peace as He gently guides you through whatever is troubling you.

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.



Benefits of Family Covenant Parenting

Covenant Blessings
As I bring these series of messages on Family Covenant Parenting to a close I wasn’t to look at the covenant blessings that can result in the lives of your children. So what can you expect to see in your children as you seek to apply the family covenant to your own parenting? Lets start with commitment. As children see their parents fulfill promises and provide for their needs, they experience the blessings of good health and well-being. Of course, health and well-being also come from parents following the entire Family Covenant and all that it entails. All the sides and levels work together as parents look to God as the ultimate role model for everything they do.

As we have already seen, this philosophy of Christian parenting seek to emphasize the importance of modeling, in that it is based on the way God serves as a role model for parents. When parents model God’s behavior, they in turn become role models for their children. Once this principle is understood, a whole new vision is opened up for the impact you can have on your children. For example, when children see us as their parents provide for them, they see us model what it means to be a servant. We can actively teach our children that we provide for them because of our unconditional commitment to them. And we can explain to our children how God, as the ultimate servant, stimulates our heart motivation to provide for them.

When children experience us making promises and fulfilling them, they begin to comprehend the meaning of faithfulness. We can use this experience to teach our children what it means to be faithful to promises and the importance of sharing with others. We can point our children to God as the ultimate example of what it means to be faithful.

Finally, as children experience their parents acting faithfully out of commitment, they develop an attitude of trust toward us. This can be another true-to-life teaching opportunity for us. You can teach your children how trust develops as you make commitments and live up to them through promise and provision. God can be seen as the model of the one who can always be trusted.

This kind of exciting opportunity presents itself with each of the covenant principles. As children experience the grace and love of their parents, they come to understand what love is, what it means to be forgiven, accepted, and loved. They also develop a greater sense of intimacy with their parents. Again, you can use this to show that God is the ultimate source of love and grace and the way He models this in His actions toward us. This can become a great opportunity for leading your children to accept Christ as their savior, when they see that the cross is the greatest act of God’s love for them.

Under the principle of law, children come to experience a number of blessings that accompany the parental actions of teaching and discipline. They come to understand the difference between right and wrong, develop respect for authority, and experience both security and freedom. As you model righteous behavior, teach God’s law to your children, and discipline them when appropriate, you are able to mold your children and help them to make wise decisions.

Another advantage for parents in directing your children’s attention to God as the ultimate law-giver is that you can help them sort out the moral confusion in our society. As the Bible has been removed as our standard for right and wrong, even Christians may question whether there are moral absolutes. This can be an overwhelming problem for the young person trying to determine right from wrong. By affirming God’s rightful place as the law-giver and using Him as a model, you can provide your children with answer to the questions most asked today in regard to morality: Who says your morals are correct, and who is to say a certain action is right or wrong for this situation?

This is especially important for your children in the teen years. It is during this time that your child is seeking to put together his or her own worldview, values, and philosophy of life. The questions of “who am I, why am I here, what is my purpose in life” are confronted in a more meaningful way. The world is like a supermarket of ideas and values, and they are taking a shopping cart and walking along the aisles deciding what they will make as their own, and what they will leave on the shelf. Without God at the enter of their life, they will have no authority to guide them, and without the Bible, they will have no filter with which to evaluate what should go into their cart, and what should be left on the shelf.

There are tremendous possibilities for you to use the Family Covenant to nurture the kind of children that every Christian parent hopes their child will become. They key is understanding how to use God as a role model as we come to know Him through His word. In reality, this opens up the entire Bible to be used as your guide, not just the book of Proverbs or certain key verses that are proof-texted for specific applications.

One example cited earlier was God’s response to Elijah in 1 Kings 19 (a passage not normally used for parenting). Let’s consider another situation faced by many of us in parenting, rebellion. Christian parents usually think of passages concerning the discipline of children or Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. While these passages are very helpful, I believe the Bible has even more to say when you think of God as our parental role model.

A passage that speaks to this concern is Jeremiah 31. Let’s see what kind of father God is to His children when they have rebelled against Him. We see here that no matter how far God’s children have strayed, His love for them remains unchanged and is everlasting (v. 1-2). God draws His children to Himself with nothing other than lovingkindness (v.3). We see God’s willingness to help rebuild the shattered lives of His children to establish productive lives again (v.4-6). As the people have seen their need to repent and return, God does whatever He can to lead them back (v.9).

I see a lot of rich insight here for parents who are dealing with rebellious children and seeking to establish a healthy relationship with them. This passage is set in the context of Israel’s exile due to their sin against God. God was not a permissive parent who let His children do whatever they wanted. God punished them by allowing them to be conquered and sent into exile (similar to the “tough love” concept today).

This passage teaches parents that they should never totally abandon their children. We should seek to draw them back not with material wealth or possessions, but with our lovingkindness toward them. In drawing them back, we should not make them dependent on us for their needs, but help them to become self-sufficient.

There is another interesting application of this passage to our role as parents, especially those who are experiencing the heartache of a teenager in rebellion. These verses reveal that you can be the best parent in the world, and do everything right, and still have a child who strays from the path. There could be no more perfect parent than God. And yet His adopted children strayed from Him because of their sin.

Practical Benefits of the Family Covenant
The first benefit I want to highlight is the Family Covenant’s biblical basis and the Godward focus it provides. God is at the pinnacle, not self-actualization, self-esteem, or some other ungodly concept. Since the Family Covenant is rooted in the Scriptures and begins with God’s example as our heavenly Father, its strategy is inherently biblical. It gives you as a parent access to the power of our omnipotent God as His Word as you face the challenges of parenting in today’s world. Inherent in the Family Covenant’s design is the fact that it draws parents closer to God. He is the focus, not the latest theory on how to be an effective parent. The Family Covenant places God in His rightful place as the powerful Father and role model for parents and children. As parents come to rely on Him and to follow His example in their parenting, it can actually bring you and your spouse closer together as a couple.

This biblical basis provides answers to the inevitable “why” questions you face as a parent. Children often ask why Mom or Dad are acting in an certain way, sometimes as a challenge when you are doing something your child does not like. The Family Covenant provides an answer. The parental action occurs because it is motivated by one of the three Covenant Principles, which in turn are based on God as a role model. You can explain this to your children, pointing them to God as the ultimate authority for all you do. It also helps your children to see how you are attempting to submit to God in your own life. This will need to be kept more basic for younger children by simply referring the child to God (“This is what God says Mommy and Daddy are to do”), and more detailed explanations can be given as your child grows older.

One of the major problems children have in their own pursuit of God comes when parents tell them to follow the Lord, but fail to do so themselves. The Family Covenant emphasizes to you the parent that you should live out your faith within your family, not just within the walls of the church for an hour or two a week. This can provide an important check for parents. When your child asks his “why” question, it may be that you are not acting properly . The Family Covenant can help you to see whether you are doing the right thing and/or are motivated by the right attitude. The simplicity of the Family Covenant helps harried parents to remember the basis for godly parenting.

A Plan for Effective Parenting
A second benefit of the Family Covenant is its plan or strategy on how to parent effectively. When my wife and I were first married, just about every gift we received or purchase we made, from the car to the toaster, came with an owner’s manual. After we bought our first child from the hospital, I asked the nurse where the owner’s manual was located. She laughed and wished me luck as she waved goodbye.

The Family Covenant provides a starting point for you as you work with your spouse on the issues and decisions related to parenting. Child-rearing can be a source of major conflict between parents. One spouse says the other is too lenient, while the other says their partner is too strict. This model is not a cure-all for conflict over child-rearing, but it gives parents a basis from which to develop their views.

In secular and Christian counseling today, various theories become popular for a time until the next new theory comes on the scene. Many are based on secular ideas that are made to seemingly fit the Bible. For a short time they seem to become the answer for all the known problems in the world. In contrast, the Family Covenant points you to the unchanging God as the answer for your problems and keeps you on course.

The Family Covenant gives you three fundamental principles and six basic actions to remember when making decisions in regard to your children. This limited focus helps to clarify God’s expectations for you in an age of information overload. Since the Family Covenant is not based on rigid rules for parents to follow, it offers flexibility for parents to tailor the principles to the needs of your individual child. God has made each child unique, and you cannot force them into an arbitrary mold.

Balanced Parenting
A third benefit is the Family Covenant’s stress on the need for balance in parenting. There are times when you emphasize certain parenting principles and actions and neglect others. This can put the family out of balance and create problems as the children mature.

I have noticed that parents tend to fall into three broad categories: parents who spoil their children, parents who are too controlling, and parents who are too permissive. I believe that these three styles of parenting are actually corruptions of one of the three covenant principles – commitment, law, and love – identified in the Family Covenant. Satan is a master deceiver, and one of the ways he does this is to distort the truth of God. He takes a truth and modifies it just enough to create problems, but not so much that it doesn’t see plausible.

As a parent you can make any one of the three covenant principles into an idol to be served. If you turn commitment into an idol you may demand too much loyalty to be family or blur proper family boundaries. If you overemphasize law you can become very controlling of your children. You basically bow to the idol of control. You would rather make a rule that keeps things quiet and running smoothly than deal with the child on a more fundamental level. If you make love an idol, you may be longing so much to be loved that you will not do enough to discipline or limit your child.

Each of these idols must be confronted. Each of the covenant principles are not an end in themselves, but lead us to God as the ultimate source of commitment, love, and law. These principles are only effective as they bring us to God. You need to look within your heart and seek out why you are turning one of these principles into an idol. What is your motivation to over emphasize commitment, love, or law? Let’s take a look more closely as how these three “idol” parenting styles can be expressed and dealt with on a functional level.

Commitment and the Spoiling Parent
Parents who spoil tend to provide everything their child could want. They have difficulty saying no, whether in the supermarket check-out line when the child wants candy or at home when the child sees the latest new toy on television. This leads to a child who is spoiled, self-centered, and self-indulgent.

The Family Covenant suggests that this parent has idolized the covenant principle of commitment. This is seen on the parental action level with an over-emphasis on providing. Rather than having a child who understands what it means to share and to be a servant, the parent has a child who expects the world to revolve around himself. He wants to have his desires satisfied at the expense of everything else.

Part of the solution to this problem is to look at the balance in God’s approach to His spiritual children. In doing so you see the need to balance commitment, love and law. For example, the principle of law means that there must be limits in a child’s life based on God’s standard of righteousness. And there are times when the principle of love would indicate that the most loving thing I can do for my child is to say no.

Law and the Controlling Parent
The second style of problem parenting I see is the controlling parent. These parents are legalistic in their application of law; they turn law into an idol. They have an emphasis on rules and what they define as order. Grey areas become black and white. Some parents can be harsh in their punishment, while others can be controlling, but in a loving way. Parents who tend to overload this aspect of parenting often have punishments and rules that are not age-appropriate for their child.

The results in the children are often anger and rebellion. Or the children may internalize this problem and become compulsive. Children often become angry at what they see as manipulation and a lack of freedom to be themselves. They also rebel about things simply because their parents have made rules about it. Granted, there needs to be law in the home, and children will always test the limits parents set. But the problem is in the way parents apply the law in their family.

The first problem is that the controlling parent sets up so many rules the child feels closed in on every side. The second problem is the motivation for the rules. They are often established to maintain the parent’s desire for control, rather than serve the child’s well-being and need for protection. As a result, the child often not only tests the boundaries but attempts to overthrow them outright, especially when he or she becomes a teenager.

It is essential to see the importance of keeping love in balance with law. Here it is important to ask yourself what is really important to the safety and well-being of your child, and what are matters of personal taste and convenience. What are issues of willful defiance, and what are issues of childish responsibility? Parents need to choose the important battles and make their stand there.

I also think that Family Covenant parenting is helpful for parents with a tendency to be controlling because there are not a lot of sharply defined rules for them to follow. Controlling parents can put such an emphasis on rules that they often miss the purpose behind the rules. If you find yourself struggling in this area, let me encourage you to read Matthew 15 where Jesus deals with the Pharisees over the issue of the law. Jesus points out that their rules, while often well-intentioned, miss the heart of the matter, that sin derives from the heart. How can you reach your child’s heart so that they will be able to think for themselves and not need your rules to guide their behavior?

Love and the Permissive Parent
A third type of parent who I encounter is the permissive parent. This parent places a lot of stress on love and grace to the point of idolatry—whatever Johnny wants to do, that’s okay. There are very few rules, and the rules that do exist are frequently bent. What a rule is broken, little or no punishment is given out. While children of permissive parents may feel a lot of love and acceptance, there are obvious problems here. First and foremost is who is in charge, you the parent, or your child! If you follow this unbalanced path, you will often have children who are undisciplined and out of control.

The law side of the Family Covenant is a helpful corrective here. Parents need to understand that law leads to freedom and security for the child, not repression. The Scriptures become a powerful ally here as we use God as our example. God gave His law out of love for us, as part of His covenant of grace. Sometimes the most loving think you can do for your child is to say no. This what we find in God’s relationship to His children. God disciplines us out of His love for us, as we see in passages like Hebrews 12:5-11.

Reaching Your Child’s Heart
Earlier I mentioned the importance of not just dealing with your child’s behavior, but getting below the surface to reaching them on the level of their heart. Now that you have a basic understanding of the Family Covenant, how does it help you accomplish this goal? As a biblical counselor, I place great emphasis on reaching the heart of the people I help. This concern is rooted in the Scriptures, which also make this a priority (Matt.15:16-19). So what, exactly, is the heart? The Bible uses the word heart to refer not only to the physical organ that beats in our chest, but as a metaphor for everything you are on the inside, the core of who you are, your hopes, your dreams, you likes, your dislikes, what makes you tick. In Proverbs 4:23 we are told, “Above all else, guard your heart, it is the wellspring of your life.” An intriguing aspect of this concern is found in Jeremiah 17:9-10 where God says that the heart is desperately wicked, that no person can understand it, and that God is the only one who can make sense of it. This presents Christian parents with a seemingly impossible challenge!

This challenge can be overcome with God’s help. I believe the Family Covenant can be used to help us accomplish this goal because it is rooted in God’s understanding of the human heart and His response to its needs. God’s answer is not found in secular psychology theorizing on human needs. In fact, as Jeremiah points out, these human approaches will ultimately fail because no person can figure out the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9).

When you consider how to meet the needs and problems of your child’s heart, the only person who can answer this question is God. What does God say is the fundamental need of a person’s heart? Is it self-esteem or finding the inner child? No, children need to know God and be reconciled to Him by eliminating the problem of sin.

How did God respond to this need? Did he give us a 12 step program? Did He mandate a prescription for Prozac or Ritalin? Did He carve Maslow’s pyramid of needs into tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai? No, He established His covenant of grace, and within that over-arching covenant, He entered into covenant relationships with those He Himself chose. He took us from being enemies to being children.

Now comes the nitty gritty question of identifying and meeting the needs of your child’s heart. Since only God knows the true need of our hearts, how did He seek to meet them? He met them for both parents and children by entering into a covenant relationship with us, and by establishing the covenant principles of commitment, love, and law. These principles provide a key to unlocking the door to understanding the heart. We need to know deep within our hearts the commitment of the Father to His children. We need to know the steadfast and generous love of the Lord. We need how to conduct ourselves in that relationship (law).

How do you make these things happen in your relationship to your children? Follow the example God gives you through the parental actions which flow out of these principles. Base your parenting on the fundamental principles of commitment, love and law and consistently practice the parental actions that flow from these principles. In short, as God is a “covenant keeper” with His children, be a “covenant keeper” with yours. As you follow the Family Covenant, understand that ultimately God must touch your children’s hearts directly through the power of the gospel and the covenant relationship He provides.

The Key to Successful Parenting
Here is where I should be telling you that Family Covenant parenting will revolutionize your home, providing you year of trouble free parenting. Perhaps this is where you hoped I would outline the eight secrets to successful parenting based on the Family Covenant. Actually I want to make this point, that the Family Covenant, in and of itself, is absolutely worthless. It is no guarantee of anything. It will make no difference in your life, or in the lives of your children.

The Family Covenant is nothing more than one man’s way of organizing what the Biel teaches about the family. Since God is the center of this approach, He is he one who will revolutionize your parenting, and your life. This model is only a tool, and like any tool, it is only as good as the person who uses it. It will “work” only as you allow the Lord Himself to work in and through you and your family.

The entire basis of Family Covenant parenting is the conviction that God serves as the ultimate role model on how to be a good parent. As I have noted, the Scriptures teach that the cause of all behavior is found in the heart (Mark 7). Since God is the only who can understand the human heart (Jeremiah 17), only He can show us how to respond to its deepest needs. If you as a parent want to reach the heart of your child, your only hope is to follow God’s example and rely on God’s activity. This conviction drives everything else that I will now say about how to use the Family Covenant. Don’t absolutize it or make it more than it really is. Use it to drive you to your knees, to God’s Word, and to God Himself. So what do you think of Family Covenant Parenting? Does this help to replace that missing “owner’s manual” that was supposed to be attached to that first diaper in the hospital? Please send me your comments and questions! You can do this through the contact tab on our web site.

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 Six Essential Parental Actions

In this third part of our series on Family Covenant Parenting I want to share with you the six essential actions that flow out of the three covenant principles we looked at last week. The three covenant principles of commitment, love, and law also serve as the motivation for the actions we take as parents. I want to highlight two parental actions for each of the covenant principles. Under commitment are the parental actions of promise and provision for the needs of your children. Under love are the parental actions of grace and affection. And under law are the parental actions of teaching and discipline. Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Commitment: Promise and Provision
The principle of commitment begins by establishing the identity of each member as an essential part of the family. When God established His covenant people, He made the commitment by saying, “I will be your God, you will be my people.” Deuteronomy 7 says that “God chose His people to be His treasured possession.” God promised to take care of His cherished people.

Think of the items you consider to be your treasured possessions. Shouldn’t your children be your most treasured possessions? Therefore, you take great care to provide for their needs. Your commitment also results in certain implicit and explicit promises you make to your children to provide for their needs. In Deuteronomy 7, after God reminded His children of the commitment He made and why He made it, He promised that He would care for their needs in verses 12-16. These promises are the blessing of the covenant, only a few of the many God has made. Here God, the ultimate parent, meticulously describes the various ways He will carry out His commitment.

Think for a moment about how promise and provision are demonstrated when two people commit to each other in marriage. In every wedding ceremony vows are exchanged, describing how the commitment will be lived between the husband and wife. They make promises to love, to provide for, to care for, and to cherish each other “till death us do part.”

In the same way, the promises made in parenting need to be fulfilled if the relationship is to thrive. In the Family Covenant, promise and provision are two sides of the same coin. Children take great note of the promises made to them. My children may have conveniently forgotten to clean their rooms when they got home from school, but they never forgot a promise I made to spend time with them! One of the most hurtful things for a child is for a promise to be broken, especially by Mom or Dad. “But Dad, you promised!” was the cry whenever I would not carry out what I said. As parents, we must not only make promises, we must provide what we promise.

A large part of a parent’s responsibility involves providing for the needs of their children. Food, clothing, shelter, literally everything a child needs, must be provided by the parents. Again, God is the role model for this. Deuteronomy 8 gives a beautiful recounting of God’s gracious dealings with His people. A highlight is how well God provided for their needs, especially in verses 3 and 4.

Love: Affection and Grace
Turning to the love side of the Family Covenant pyramid, the parental actions are affection and grace. These actions are very important; if there is anything children need to know, it is love, and if there is anything parents desire to show their children, it is affection. God goes to great lengths to demonstrate His love in His actions toward His children. Reformed scholars have noted that with the exception of the covenant of creation, all the covenants are a part of His covenant of grace. As we look in the Scriptures, we see that God is the ultimate model of love in His dealings with His people.

Returning to Deuteronomy 7, God acts with affection and grace toward His children in many ways. He proclaims His love throughout these verses, and the history of God’s dealings with His people confirm it. Verse 7 speaks of God initiating the relationship with His people as “setting His affection” on them. Verse 9 speaks of the way God keeps His loving-kindness toward His people to a thousand generations. Again, we can praise God for the greatness of His love for us, His spiritual children!

Let me take a moment to comment on the inter-relatedness of the Family Covenant’s different elements. It is artificial to separate them since they relate to each other in so many ways. Hence we have set up the Family Covenant visually as a pyramid. For example, parental affection flows not only from the covenant principle of love, but also from the principle of commitment. It also flows from the principle of law as we must teach our children love as a way of life. In reference to the promises we make and the things we provide, we do this not only because we are committed to our children, but also because we love them.

Love results not only in affection toward our children but also grace. Grace is God’s merciful response to our sins, as well as His favor that promotes growth and blessing in our spiritual lives. Grace is a principal action of God and is the basis for the covenants He has with us today. The covenant of grace is the basis for God’s plan of redemption. His grace is ultimately demonstrated on the cross where His Son became the ultimate, once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Parents should practice grace with their children in an ongoing, seemingly never-ending way. It must be a fundamental action because of the nature of the Christian home. Jay Adam’s description of the Christian home demonstrates the need for forgiveness: “What does the Christian home look like? Is it an idyllic place where peace and quiet, tranquility and joy continuously reign? Definitely not! The first and most important fact to remember about a truly Christian home is that sinners live there…. The parents in the home fail, often they fail miserably. They fail one another, they fail their children, and they certainly fail God. The children fail too.”

Parents must love their children and act with grace toward them if they are to reflect God’s role model as our heavenly parent. This is something that should come naturally to parents, yet it is a challenge for some. Child abuse, neglect, and abandonment all show that more parents are struggling in this area than ever before.

Law: Teaching and Discipline
The third area of parental action flows from the covenant principle of law. These are the actions of teaching and discipline. In Deuteronomy 7, both teaching and discipline are found in the passage itself and the surrounding context. Teaching takes place in the very communication of the verses themselves. They educate God’s people about the history of His dealings with their forefathers, the nature of the covenant, and the importance of keeping His commandments.

Specifically, God’s teaching role can be seen in verse 9 which begins with the words, “Know therefore.” The importance of teaching is also implied through the many references to their forefathers. Many times in the Scriptures, God tells His children to remember His dealings with their forefathers. How could they know about these dealings if their forefathers hadn’t taught them?

Of course, one of the key Old Testament passages on the importance of parents instructing their children in the law is Deuteronomy 4:9,10. Teaching is fundamental to the life of God’s people throughout the Bible and the history of the church. Related to teaching is the parental action of discipline. When the law was taught and God’s children rebelled, they were disciplined. Deuteronomy 7:10 puts discipline in very stark terms. Deuteronomy 8:19-20 adds that if they forget the Lord and follow other gods that He will destroy them. The Old Testament is really one long case study on how God not only loves His children and seeks to fulfill His promises, but also how God disciplines His children.

As parents, we often struggle to maintain consistent discipline “How far is too far?”. “What works best?”, and “Should I spank?” are some of the questions we have to work through. The Family Covenant goes beyond those questions to show that discipline is an important parental action based on the fundamental principle of law. Many secular and Christian views of the family reduce or eliminate the importance of law and discipline. Yet the importance of law is established by God, and He has demonstrated the importance of both teaching and discipline.

Next week we will finish this series by looking at the results you can expect to see in your child as you follow Family Covenant Parenting. We will also look at how you can have more balance in your parenting, and how achieve the ultimate goal, reaching the heart of your child.

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 Three Foundational Principles for Parenting

As I mentioned last week, the covenant is the key to making the connection between God as our spiritual parent and what we are do to as parents with our own children. Many Christian parents already strive to be godly in their conduct using the Bible as their standard. They look up Scripture verses that specifically discuss how to be a parent, such as Ephesians 6:1-4. But looking at such verses in the context of the covenant provides an even deeper understanding of the task of parenting because it teaches us how to follow God’s example.

This can be seen even in the book of Ephesians itself. Chapter 5 verse 1 states, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” The overall context of Ephesians sets forth the wonder of our salvation and the way we were brought into the family of God by the covenant based on Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. Ephesians 5:1 then tells us how we can live out the implications of this covenant relationship with God in our everyday lives. You see the teaching on how to be a parent in chapter 6 is not given in isolation but is simply one practical application of the way our covenant relationship with God should impact our daily life.

Covenant Principles
The covenant is the basis for everything our Father does in relation to His spiritual children. As such, it should be the basis for all that we do as well in our parenting. Within every covenant in Scripture there are three operating principles that govern how God acts toward His children. These three principles are commitment, love, and law. They will be the building blocks of the Family Covenant.

Let’s look at Deuteronomy 7:6-11 which highlights these three covenant principles. These words are spoken at the end of God’s historical review of His dealings with His people. After Chapter 5, God begins to lay out the requirements and conditions of the covenant. In Chapter 6, God tells his people that they will prosper if they obey Him. Chapter 7 begins with a warning that when they enter into the Promised Land, they will tend to forget the Lord and turn from His commandments. This leads to verses 6-11 where God addresses in more detail the nature of His covenant relationship to His children.

Commitment
The first relational principle of the covenant see in this passage is commitment. Commitment involves establishing a relationship with another person and remaining faithful to that relationship. Once the choice is made, the individual acts in ways that demonstrate his or her commitment to the other person. A common example of this is when two people get married, they make a covenant commitment to each other. In Deuteronomy 7 we see that God made His sovereign choice of Israel not because of anything in them (unlike when two people get married), but because He decided to set His affection on them. This choice resulted in His commitment to them as a people. If the history of Israel demonstrates anything, it demonstrates how profoundly God has kept this commitment to His children. God reminds Israel of this throughout the Scriptures. The context of Deuteronomy 7 is actually God’s recounting of how committed He has been to them.

Love
Deuteronomy 7 also demonstrates the importance of love, the second basic principle of the Family Covenant. The love of God is affirmed repeatedly with great warmth and affection. God is not obligated to enter into a covenant with anyone. He does so out of His love, His most fundamental attribute (1 John 4:8, “God is love”). Again, if the history of God’s dealings with His people demonstrates anything, it is the love of God for His children. Psalm 136 provides a beautiful example of how far-reaching God’s love truly is. God’s people are encouraged to give thanks to God as every verse repeats the phrase, “His love endures forever.” This passage provides a wonderful listing of the many ways God loves us. The psalmist tells us to consider His many attributes such as goodness and sovereignty as well as His actions including protection, rescue from harm, and providing for our needs. When we turn to the New Testament, we find the ultimate demonstration of God’s love in the cross of Jesus, the focal point of God’s plan to save us (Romans 5:8).

Law
The third basic principle of the Family Covenant you find in Deuteronomy 7 is law. In verse 6, the principle of law is implied in God’s statement that His people are holy. This shows that God desires His children to reflect who He is. The law He establishes reflects His values and character. When we as parents establish rules for our home and family, those rules reflect the values we hold dear. Parents desire their children to reflect the values and morals important to them.

The law appears again in verse 9 when God says that His people are to be faithful in keeping His covenant. Verse 11 follows with the admonition to keep the commands, statutes, and judgments the Lord gives. Blessing comes with obedience to these laws, judgment follows when they are ignored.

Commitment, love, and law are the three fundamental principles that govern God’s relationship to His children. They are found not only in God’s covenant with Israel but in every covenant in Scripture. These three principles are not something dreamed up by a psychologist or Dr. Spock. They come from God. Commitment, love, and law must therefore be the foundational principles for our relationships with our own children. They must be the basis for the decisions we make, for the values we hold, and the priorities we establish in our homes.

To help you picture what the Family Covenant looks like, I want you to think of a pyramid. This pyramid, like all pyramids, has three sides that reach a point at the top. This pyramid is going to have 4 levels which I will explain starting at the top ( see figure 1 on page 24). And at the top, or the pinnacle, we have God. He is the focal point. Everything flows down from Him, He is the one we look up to, and is the center of the family. He is our authority, establishing what is important for parents and giving us authority in our homes. He is our teacher, the source for all we do as parents. He is our role model, demonstrating for us in Scripture how we are to parent our children as He parents His spiritual children. Our goal is to be more conformed to Him as we do the work of parenting.

Not only should we are parents look up to Him, we should point our children to Him. When my children asked why they must do something, they were not simply told, “Because I am your father and I say so.” Instead they were told, “Because I am your father and God says so.” In the first statement I am the ultimate authority. In the second statement I am an authority, but God is the ultimate authority.

The second level of the Family Covenant that comes underneath God as the pinnacle is the level of the covenant principles. As you know, these are commitment, love, and law, and each one takes one side of the pyramid. They are placed on the second level because they are not an end unto themselves, but are rooted in God and flow down from Him. As we apply these covenant principles, we follow God’s example and point ourselves and our children back to Him as the source. These principles are not to be used in service to ourselves, but in service to God.

At this point some of you may be wondering why law is given such a prominent place in the Family Covenant, on the same level as commitment and love. Aren’t we living in the age of grace? Shouldn’t law be viewed with a lower degree of importance? Some views of the family undermine the importance of law and the parental action of discipline, supposedly for the sake of love, or out of fear of legalism. Some have the opinion that law leads to legalism. As you study the Bible, nowhere do you find this idea that law leads to legalism. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Theologically, if law leads to legalism, then who is to blame for legalism? Almighty God, the giver of the law is to blame! We must understand that the law itself is not what leads to legalism but what a person does to misuse the law.

Let’s get practical for a moment about this. If you as a parent really believe that law leads to legalism, then there is no place for law giving and the enforcing of law in your home. How can you teach your children right from wrong? What can you do to discipline them when they are wrong? All parental authority is swept away with this idea that law leads to legalism. In addition, this throws not only goes against the teaching of Scripture, it throws the Family Covenant out of balance, and your parenting as well!

The Family Covenant makes law a prominent feature, as it is in the covenants God made. However, the structure of the Family Covenant seeks to keep law in balance with the other covenant principles and parental actions. This allows for a certain amount of flexibility, as I will demonstrate later.

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 Ultimate Role Model for Christian Parents

Today we start a new series on Insight Today to introduce a biblically based, practical, and flexible plan for Christian parents I call Family Covenant Parenting. I developed this 20 years ago when my children were young as my thesis for my doctoral program and it was featured as a three part series in the Journal of Biblical Counseling. I started this because as you study the Bible, you find that the first and foundational institution ordained by God for humanity is the family. Even before the church, God established the family. In the opening chapters of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God creates the first man and the first woman. The creation of the family is described in Genesis 2 and the chapter ends with these words, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. “

As important as the family is in God’s plan, I find it odd that the Bible says very little on how to be a parent. There is some instruction in the Deuteronomy, the Book of Proverbs, and a smattering of verses in the New Testament. So as I continued studying the Bible, I began thinking about how the Scriptures might want us to look on a deeper level on what God wants us to know about how to be successful parents. And here is that deeper level, that God wants us to follow Him as our role model for how to be a parent.

Think for a moment about how God reveals Himself in the Bible. Throughout the Scriptures God uses various names and word pictures to describe Himself. And you will find that the terms used most often describe family relationships. He is our HEAVENLY FATHER, and we are His CHILDREN. We are BORN again in His FAMILY, we are His HEIRS, and we can look forward to our eternal INHERITANCE.The Scriptures are brimming with images of God as a model parent. One of the earliest references is in Exodus 4 where God gives Moses instructions about how to conduct himself while leading the people out of Egypt. Here is what God tells Moses to say to Pharoah:The Lord says to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharoah all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharoah, This is what the Lord says, Israel is MY FIRSTBORN SON, and I told you, Let MY SON go, so he may worship me. But you refused to let him go, so I will kill your firstborn son. This is the first time that God confronts Pharoah, and look at how God describes his people! God could have chosen to use any number of terms to describe his relationship with his people, and he uses parent-child terminology.

Let me share with you another example of how God describes his relationship to his people as a parent-child relationship. One of the most tender and beautiful which do this is in Hosea 11, “When Israel was A CHILD, I LOVED HIM, and out of Egypt I called MY SON. But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals, and they burned incense to images. It was I who TAUGHT EPHRAIM TO WALK, taking them by the arms, but they did not realize IT WAS I WHO HEALED THEM. I LED THEM WITH CORDS OF HUMAN KINDNESS, WITH TIES OF LOVE, I LIFTED THE YOKE FROM THEIR NECK AND BENT DOWN TO FEED THEM.” The prophet looks back to the time when God led them out of Egypt, and again we have a strong parent-child metaphor. Israel is pictured as an infant who is dependent on his parent for care and help. God is the loving father, and Israel is the dependent son. God is pictured as a parent patiently teaching his child to walk. This is a classic role parents fulfill for their children. Note the tenderness of the relationship as the father takes his child by the arms. This tender love is further described as we see God leading his children with cords of human kindness and ties of love. The language of cords and ties may be reminiscent of their treatment as slaves in Egypt. While their Egyptian taskmasters treated them harshly, God uses cords of kindness and ties of love. The Lord also takes action when His child goes astray. In verse 2 God calls to His son to come to Him, but he refuses. In fact, as in many parent-child relationships, the more the parent calls, the further the child goes. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not the only one who feels like he is speaking a foreign language when calling my children!

The New Testament is also brimming with examples of God as a model parent. The teaching of Jesus offers numerous references to God as our Heavenly Father. Two examples are Mathew 7:7-11 where God responds to our requests and gives to those who ask, and Luke 15, where the parable of the Prodigal Son reveals much about God’s love for us. Paul picks up on this theme in Romans 8, where he discusses how wer have been adopted in to God’s family and are now His heirs. In 2 Corinthians 1:3,4 we read that God is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” One of the most extensive passages on this theme is Hebrews 12:5-11, where God speaks to us as His son and says that He disciplines us “as a father disciplines his own son.” First John also offers some wonderful examples of this theme. In 3:1-2 we read that the Father lavishes His love on us as His children. In 5:1-3 we read that we are to model the loving behavior of our Heavenly Father by loving our spiritual siblings and by obeying His commands. One thing to observe in many of these passages, is that we are specifically told to model God’s actions. Just as our Heavenly Father has lavished His love upon us, so we are to love. A stronger case cannot be made for seeing God as a role model for our lives. Why can’t we apply this to our parenting as well?

God uses family terminology to picture His relationship with us. These pictures can help us construct a model for Christian parents as they develop a Christian approach to parenting. Traditionally theologians have used this concept of God as our Heavenly Father to help us understand our spiritual relationship to Him. But this idea can also be used to develop a biblically sound and practical understanding of Christian parenting. The Scriptures take the concept of a human father and use it to help us grasp who God is as our Heavenly Father. This concept can also be look at from the opposite direction: God as our Heavenly Father is the model for human parents to better understand their role with their own children.

These pictures of God as our Father are rooted in the covenant relationship between God and His people. I believe the covenant relationship is the key to understanding the role of parents and to developing a more biblical approach to parenting. Just as there is a covenant relationship between God and His people, there is also a covenant relationship between parents and their children. Think for a moment about your relationship with your Heavenly Father. When you become a Christian, you enter into a covenant with God. It is the New Covenant by faith in Jesus Christ. The covenant provides the basis for the relationship and governs what happens between you and your Heavenly Father.

Just what exactly is a covenant? O. Palmer Robertson defines a covenant as “a bond in blood, sovereignly administered.” Let’s get a better understanding of what he is saying. Every covenant is a bond that brings a person or group of people in to a relationship, a bond, with God. He says in Exodus 6:7, “I will be your God, you will be my people.” It is also a bond in blood, as every covenant involved a sacrifice to show the life and death significance of the bond (See Gen. 15:18, Ex. 24:8, Lev. 17:11, Deut. 5:2, 2 Chron. 21:7, Ps. 89:3, Jer. 31:31f., 34:18f., Ezek. 37:26, and Heb. 9:22). And it is sovereignly administered meaning that God initiates the covenant , not man (See Deut. 4:37, 7:6-9, John 15:16).

Now lets look at the nature of your family from the perspective of the covenant. There is certainly a bond between you and your children. The umbilical cord is never really broken between a mother and her children. That emotional umbilical cord can stretch to the moon and back! The relationship between you and your children is also a bond in blood. This is obvious from the biological connection between most parent and their children. Just as there are serious implications for the bond between God ad His spiritual children, so there are for you and your children. And the human family relationship is also sovereignly administered in that children have no choice in who their parents are, and you the parents serve as the source of authority in the relationship.

In short, the covenant provides the common ground by which we can compare our Heavenly Father’s relationship with His spiritual children to your relationship with your children. This link also opens up the entire Bible for insight in to how we can be better parents, by following God’s example as the ultimate spiritual parent. The model God provides, as the perfect parent within a covenant relationship, will provide the grid, the basis through which various teachings and potential practices can be evaluated.

Next week we will look at three covenant principles which form the basis for everything He does as our Heavenly Father in relationship to His spiritual children. These principles can be used by you as the basis for all you do as you parent 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.



The Struggle to Forgive Yourself

On today’s broadcast of Insight Today we discussed the struggle many people have in trying to forgive themselves. Even for Christ followers, who believe that God forgives their sin through Christ, many still have a difficult time getting past what they and continue to beat themselves up over it. We all to deal with the things we have thought, said, or done wrong, or mistakes we have made, and how to try to get past it. The weight of guilt is like going through life with a hundred pound backpack. So let’s look at how to get this weight of guilt off your back.

So does the Bible say you need to learn how to forgive yourself? Actually, no, it does not. There is no place in the Bible where it tells us that you need to forgive yourself. One popular counselor says that in Psalm 103:12-13 as support for the idea of forgiving yourself. But as you study this passage, it only speaks of God forgiving us, but not about forgiving yourself. Jesus doesn’t speak of needing to forgive yourself. You won’t find it in the Old Testament or anywhere in the New Testament. You won’t find it as a command, nor on the conceptual level, nor by personal example. Now the Bible speaks volumes on how God forgives us, and how we need to forgive others, but not about forgiving ourselves. For example, Ephesians 4:32 speaks of both forgiving others and how God forgives us. The Bible warns us about what happens if we refuse to forgive others, such as Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15.

So why do people believe they need to forgive themselves? I think it comes from secular psychology. Since there is no God to whom we are accountable, there is way to find forgiveness. So we are left with the idea of trying to forgive ourselves as a way to relieve the guilt feelings we have. I also think in our sinful hearts we can struggle to accept God’s grace, and so we think we need to forgive ourselves. You do something wrong or embarrassing and every time you think of it, those feelings of shame or embarrassment come back.

The Bible offers something fuller, richer, and deeper than the idea of needing to forgive yourself! God has the answer, not psychology! If you are struggling to forgive yourself, you are missing the real problem, the problem of unresolved guilt. So how can we follow God’s plan? The first step in God’s plan is to repent of your sin. To repent means to turn away from your sin and turn toward God. First, you need to acknowledge the inherent sinfulness of what you have done. See David’s confession in Pslam 51. Next, confess your sin to God, name it specifically as we read in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins to God, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What a promise! Third, we replace the sinful thoughts, words, or actions with godly thoughts and actions. We put off sin and put on righteous living as Paul speaks of it in Ephesians 4.

If you struggle to forgive yourself, it may be because you are not a Christ follower. So for you, you need to come to God by faith in Jesus Christ. In John 3:16 we read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” And Paul teaches that God takes what we deserve and gives us by grace something so much better, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23. Come to God by faith and accept His plan for your forgiveness, the giving of His son to pay the penalty of your sin. But maybe you are a Christ follower and you are still struggling with guilt and sins from the past and mistakenly thinking you need to forgive yourself. Why does this happen? One reason may be you are unwilling to accept by faith the forgiveness already given to you by God. You confessed it to God but you doubt you are forgiven. This is really a matter of faith, believing that God is true to His word and has really forgiven you. Do you understand the depth of the power of God’s forgiveness. Stop thinking there is something that makes you a more terrible sinner than others, or that your sin is beyond the ability of God to forgive, or listening to the voice of Satan who wants you to doubt God’s forgiveness. How will you believe? A second reason is how you think about the sinfulness of sin. Do you see it as seriously as God does? If you don’t, you minimize it and think you can make up for it on your own instead of seeing it as an offense against a holy God. And so you try to make up for it yourself. A third reason is failing to live up to your own standards or the expectations of others. And when you make a mistake, you start putting yourself down for not measuring up to these standards or expectations. The problem here is pride, and the answer is to get over yourself and live with more humility. Turn to Him and confess you prideful attitude.

Claim the promises and truths of Scripture. The remedy is turning to God and following His plan for dealing with sin and guilt. And His plan involves repentance, confessing your sin, and replace your sin with godly living. Then claim the awesome promises of God’s forgiveness. In Micah 5:7 God says He takes our sins and burries them in the deepest sea. And I want to add that He posts a sign hat reads, No Fishing! In Isaiah 55:6-7 we read that God abundantly pardons if we will turn to Him. Live on the basis of God’s amazing 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.



Overcoming Obsessive-Compulsive Thoughts and Behaviors

My guest on Insight Today this week was Dr. Mike Emlet from Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation where we worked together prior to my starting Insight Christian Counseling. Mike shared his insights on the problem of obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors. I appreciated his distinction between being conscientious and having thoughts and behaviors that are life dominating and intrusive.

We looked at some of the typical obsessive thoughts such as fear of contamination, aggressive thoughts, pathological doubt, a need for symmetry or exactness, health concerns, and faith related ideas such as a fear that you committed the unforgivable sin. Compulsive behaviors can include hand washing, cleaning, checking and re-checking, requesting or demanding assurance, ordering and arranging, doing tasks in an exact sequence, or mental rituals like counting.

Two ideas I found especially helpful are that we all fall somewhere on the line from being careless and thoughtless to being obsessive-compulsive. It is when we get to the extreme that we have a real problem. I personally am very conscious of the issues of safety as I serve as a police and fire department chaplain. We can all have instrusive thoughts, but it is what I do with that thought and get stuck on it. The difference is thoughts of safety are not dominating my thoughts and actions. The other idea is that it is both a physical and spiritual problem which is rooted in the person’s heart and involves how we view ourselves and how we view God. Mike noted on the physical side it can involve genetics, can occur after head trauma or brain infections, can occur in children after strep throat, and can show up on brain scans. On the spiritual side, ideas of over-responsibility, fear perfectionism, intolerance of uncertainty, an over-emphasis on having control all contribute to OCD.

Growing in trust of God’s goodness, character, trust in God’s care and provision. Build confidence in God in a progressive, proactive way. Learning how to face your fears grounded in your faith in God. Scripture can be very helpful in changing your mindset and heart, such as Psalms 23, 121, and 139, Romans 8 can all speak to this issue. We aren’t just taking a bad thought and replacing it with a Bible verse, but cultivating a heart that is learning to trust our loving, heavenly Father. The goal is to seek out God’s work to change our heart’s orientation to God and our world. A passage I find helpful is Romans 12:1-2 where Paul writes, I urge you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect." The point I want you to get from these verses is that the transforming of your mind, and knowing how to live, is based on submitting to God in faith and giving yourself over to him. Overcoming OCD is a heart-faith issue, and I love the promise of verse 12, that in doing this we will know the good, acceptable, and perfect will for our lives! Be sure to check out the CCEF web site for additional insights on this and many other issues, www.ccef.org.

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 to Keep Your Kids From Going Off the Cliff

Parents what are your greatest fears for your children? I think most parents would say failing in school, becoming sexually active, or substance abuse. I would like to share with you some of the things we did to keep our kids from going off the cliff. The most important thing I can say is to put the emphasis on reaching your child’s heart. One of the best references for this is Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding Your Child’s Heart. Beyond this, I have a list of 12 things you can do:

1. Pray, pray for them, pray with them.
2. Establish your loving but firm authority in the early years. One of the best ways to do this is by using corporal punishment for willful defiance. A great reference here is Dr. James Dobson’s Dare to Discipline.
3. Present a united front to your children, which means you must work through the parenting issues away from your kids.
4. Family dinner time. This can make a huge difference. We sought to have this at least four nights a week. Studies show this will help your children do better in school, less susceptible to substance abuse, and less likely become sexually active.
5. Take your time at bedtime. Don’t rush through it, and you will find some of your best times to connect with you children.
6. Don’t have too many rules.
7. Decide what hills to die on and what ones to let go. Don’t fight your kids on everything, but decide what matters most to you as parents and let the rest go, especially in matters of preference.
8. Show interest in what your kids are interested in.
9. Be the same person in private as your are in public.
10. Live out your Christian life, don’t depend on the youth pastor to get them saved. Get your kids involved in the youth ministry.
11 Say yes unless you have a reason to say no.
12. Get to know your children’s friends and be welcoming to their friends.


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 to Ruin Your Christian Life

On my radio program today I spoke about how Christians sometimes find themselves feeling alienated from God, like their prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, no desire to get into the Bible, and more sporadic in their church attendance. These are some of the signs that the Christ follower is struggling in their faith. So how does one actually ruin their Christian life? I focused on the person of the Holy Spirit as a way of answering this question.

Some important theological points:
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the one, triune God.
The Holy Spirit has a number of important roles: He leads us, enlightens us, empowers us, intercedes for us, and produces fruit in our lives.
The Holy Spirit is often associated with fire in the Bible: Matt. 3:11, Acts 2:3. A true believer can never lose their salvation, but a true believer can do much to mess up their Christian life.

So how do we fan the flame of the Spirit in our lives? We do this through prayer, the reading and study of God’s word, being in relationship with other believers, being in a small group, faithful worship with God’s people in church are just some of the ways. In Acts 18 we read about Apollos who was “mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in the Spirit.” In Romans 12:11 we are told to be fervent in the Spirit, serving the Lord.

When you think about fire, you have both light and heat. Light involves light of God’s truth. So how much light is in your life? How much does your life reflect truth of God in your life? When people see you, do they see Jesus? Warmth involves how you related to others. So how much warmth is in your life? Are you a warm and inviting Christian?

So how can you ruin your Christian life in relation to the Holy Spirit?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul tells us to don’t quench the Spirit, so quenching the Spirit is a great way to ruin your walk with God. What does it mean to quench the Spirit? It means to “pour cold water” on something, and in the context of 1 Thessalonians 5 you will see a number of areas of sin that will quench the Spirit.

A second way to ruin your Christian life is to grieve the Holy Spirit as Paul warns us about in Ephesians 4:30. It is interesting to note how this reinforces the personhood of the Holy Spirit as you can only grieve another person. Paul again in the context gives us a number of ways to grieve the Spirit. For example, in verse 29 he speaks of sin in how we talk to one another. In Galations 5 Paul speaks of the works of our sinful flesh that also involve grieving the Sprit.

So how hot is the fire of the Spirit in your life today? A raging inferno? A strong and steady flame? A flickering flame? A smoldering wick? God offers help to those of you who feel like the smoldering wick. In Matthew 12:18-22 we read of Jesus’ care smoldering wicks. Here you will see how Jesus will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoldering wick. Jesus wants to help you revive the flame of the Spirit in your life no matter who far you have fallen!

If you are a broken reed or smoldering wick, reach out to your pastor, or contact us and set up an appointment so you can find answers to restoring you Christian 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.



Who is Your Best Friend?

If you could name one person, who would you say is your best friend? When I look to the Bible, I see a lot of qualities that make up a best friend. Being trustworthy, able to keep private things private, someone you can tell anything to, loyal, helpful, in your corner, are some of the best friend qualities that come to mind.

One of the best examples of two people who were best friends is found in the Old Testament with David and Jonathan. These two men could easily have been rivals. Jonathan was the son of Saul, the king. David was the man selected by God to take Saul’s place. And yet Jonathan and David did not see each other as rivals, but as the closest of friends. They had a mutual respect for each other, looked out for each other, shared a number of common interests, they both served in the military, and on a number of occasions Jonathan went to bat for David to his father and even put his life on the line for David. After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David pours out a heart felt lament over them you can read about in 2 Samuel chapter 1. It is one of the most moving funeral tributes you will ever read!

If you are married, I hope that you, like me, would say that your spouse is your best friend. In fact, couples of all ages who say they are happily married all give the same number one reason why they are happy in their marriage. It’s not because they are wealthy, or live in a certain area, or have great sex every day, or go on great vacations. They number one reason is that their spouse is their best friend. Can you say that? If not, what changes can you make to re-build your friendship with your spouse?

For the believer, scripture tells us that we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and that is Jesus. In fact, He demonstrated the greatest love anyone could have for their friend by giving His life in sacrifice for you on the cross. This is the ultimate proof of His love for you, Romans 5:8. Do you know Him as your friend?

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 Emotionally Destructive Marriage

This morning on our radio program, Insight Today, Leslie Vernick and I discussed her book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. As I thought about our conversation, it reminded me again of how sad it is that so many marriages are so far from what God desires for a husband and wife. But what really disturbs me is when a husband or wife seeks to excuse their behavior as being Christian and seeks to use the Bible to endorse their sinful behavior!

In the program Leslie focused on husbands who are controlling, demeaning, disrespectful, overly critical, and just downright selfish. And some will use what Paul says in Ephesians chapter 5 to justify their behavior. In this chapter Paul says wives are to be submissive to their husbands. “So there you have it wife, you have to do whatever I say, I am the boss.” But this is exactly NOT what God is saying.

Let’s look a little further into this passage. As you continue reading, you find Paul saying that God is calling the husband to love his wife “as Christ loved the church.” Think about what he is saying. How did Christ love the church? Was he self-centered and selfish, or was He selfless and giving? In Mark 10:45 Jesus says, “For I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life a ransom for many.” How far was Christ willing to go for His bride, the church? He went all the way and died for His church.

So how would it be possible for a Christian man to be a controlling, demeaning, disrespectful husband? It’s not possible if he is taking what God says in Ephesians 5. The chapter ends by summing up what he is to be toward his wife. He is to cherish her. If you are a husband and not fulfilling your call to cherish your wife, you need to repent of your sinful attitudes and actions, seek God’s forgiveness and your wife’s forgiveness, and begin to live as God is calling you to be as a truly godly husband.

Wives are called to respect their husband. But that call is based on what God has already said about what husbands are to be, loving his wife as Christ loves the church. If a husband is not fulfilling his role to cherish his wife, God is not saying she simply has to put up with his sin. When a husband is seeking to love his wife as Christ loves the church, what Christian woman would not want to respect him and be the godly wife she is called to be?

Certainly wives can also act in ways that are controlling, demeaning, disrespectful, overly critical, and selfish. And here the Ephesians passage is also calling her to repent and seek to be the godly woman He desires her to be. Certainly none of these behaviors reflects the kind of respect God is calling a wife to have toward her husband.

If you find yourself in an emotionally destructive marriage, seek out your pastor or reach out to our counseling team to get the help you need to see God transform your hearts and renew your marriage to be the blessing He desires you to experience in it. Let me also encourage you to get a copy of Leslie Vernick's book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, and check out her web site, http://leslievernick.com.

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.



Understanding Childhood Sexual Abuse

Today’s edition of Insight Today featured licensed professional counselor Baron King of Integra Counseling tackling the topic of childhood sexual abuse. We discussed a number of ideas and resources that can be very helpful if you are a victim or you want to better understand how to help someone who is.

Two biblical passages:
Ephesians 4:25-32 Begin being honest about the abuse.
Isaiah 61: The healing promises of God.

If you want to help a friend:
Don’t offer quick fixes and easy answers.
Suggest seeing an experienced counselor.
Be their friend, not their therapist.

Additional resources:
On The Threshold of Hope by Diane Langberg
The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender
Integra Counseling: www.integracounseling.com

If you or someone you care about is a victim of childhood sexual abuse, we hope that today’s program was a help to you and will be a starting point in your path to healing.

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 in Grief and Loss, Conclusion

As I concluded our look at finding help in grief and loss. A fourth way to find the person and presence of Christ is in seeking out God’s people. When you are in the presence of genuine Christ-followers, God uses them to express the reality of everything we have been talking about in this series. They manifest the loving presence of God through the Holy Spirit who lives within them. They remind us of the promises of God sensitively and lovingly spoken. They pray for us, and with us, seeking God in the midst of your grief.

We are not meant to grieve alone. God’s people are able to grieve with us. As His people live out the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, God uses them to bring comfort, help, and hope to the one who grieves, not some objective doctrine or abstract theory or grieving.

When I think back to the families I mentioned in the broadcast, I was powerless to take away their grief, or to understand why this was happening. But I was able to give them the only thing I could, my Lord and my myself. I was able to love them by being present with them, and in loving them, I was incarnating Christ for them. Not that I became Christ, but I was simply a living extension of His love and care. As believers demonstrate the reality of Christ in their own lives, God uses them to bring comfort to those grieving. I wept with those who wept, I grieved with those who grieved. And I pointed them to Christ, the man who sorrows, the one acquainted with grief.

As you look at the Bible, you will find a range of reactions experienced by those who grieve. Abraham mourned for Sarah at her death and wept uncontrollably over her. David grieved very vocally over the death of his best friend, Jonathan, and he father Saul. Later when his son Absalom was dying, David grieved privately and prayerfully. But after his death, he quickly returned to his routine, accepting his son’s fate. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s grief and her bitterness toward God was so great that she changed her name to “Bitter.” Jesus grieved over the death of Lazarus and wept with his family and friends. At times we see God’s people wear sackcloth. At other times, we see them tearing their clothes. Sometimes they avenge what has happened, or pursue justice. We see a wide range of experience from anger, to questioning God, to acceptance. Scripture honestly reflects the reality and variety of human grief. People will grieve differently, but as we have seen, Christ is the decisive factor.

The stages of grief given by Kubler-Ross may be helpful to know to some extent ,but they miss the range of unique responses of grief as well as the depth of a biblical understanding and response. Her stages gives no sufficient answer for how people can find true peace, and even joy, in the midst of their suffering. Her approach leaves the grieving person wanting. She provides no answer to the ultimate questions of dying and of what happens when we die. The best you can find is to accept that your loved one is dead and buried, period, end of story. That, to me, is cold comfort!

In dramatic contrast, a biblical response to grief centers on the person of Jesus. He knows what it is to grieve. His grief reached a level of depth that none of us can completely grasp. Not only does He understand our grief, but He is uniquely the mediator between God and man. He is able to help you in your time of suffering and temptation. The greatest loss I have experienced to date has been the death of my father three years ago. I think of him often and miss him very much. What meant so much to me as I grieved his death was not knowing a series of grief stages, it was Jesus. Experiencing His presence of comfort for me, and knowing my dad’s presence with Jesus because of his faith in Jesus as his savior. Jesus was the decisive factor in finding help and hope in my time of grief.

You may have noticed that I mentioned suffering and temptation in grief. Yes, death can bring temptation. These temptations can include things like anger at God or disbelief in Him, suicide, substance abuse, denial, inappropriate anger at others. In Hebrews 4:15-16 we have an awesome truth expressed about Jesus: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Jesus enters into your world of grief that no one else can. As God, He knows everything there is about you. As a man, He experienced every temptation we face. He was made like you “in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). He also was tempted in what He suffered. He has an unequally ability to sympathize with us in all of the trials, sorrows, and losses of life.

When I grieve, I can expect more than mere acceptance of an uncertain fate for my loved one and a life of pain for my loss. I can go to Jesus with confidence and know that I will receive His mercy. His grace will help me in my distress because He has been where I am. I can find something more than arbitrary and impersonal stages in grieving, I find my creator who personally responds to my loss. When others grieve, I can comfort them with the same comfort I received (2 Corinthians 1:4). I can give them what really matters: Christ, the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

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 in Grief and Loss

In our first part of finding help in grief, we looked at how the world typically seeks to understand it and get through it. I focused on the work of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying. In this book she outlines five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. In our first program, I spoke of how I found that grief is an intensely personal experience, and that not everyone goes through all of these stages, or in this order, or sometimes, even at all!

I also introduced the idea that what people need isn’t a process, they need a person, the person who is Jesus. Jesus Christ, who the Bible calls the man of sorrows, who knows what it is to grieve, comes to us in our times of sorrow to comfort and minister to your heart.

In today’s program we asked the question, how can we experience the reality of God’s presence, the presence of Jesus in times of trouble and grief? There are four ways I want to give to you. In this week’s broadcast, we looked at three of these:

1. Realize the loving presence of God. Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength and ever present help in trouble. “ How can we know this? We can know this by faith. You can do this by trusting God and taking Him at His word. Psalm 34:8 “God is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Joshua 1:9, “ God is with you wherever you go.”
Isaiah 43:1-4: God knows you by name! As you read these verses, notice how these verses emphasize the presence of God repeatedly. Because He is with you, you will not be overwhelmed, you will not be consumed because you are precious in His sight.
God makes this real through the person of the Holy Spirit as Paul teaches in Romans 5:3-5 Here we read about how we can rejoice in our sufferings. How is this possible? Is Paul some kind of masochist? We can grow in our sufferings, we can find hope in God, we can experience the love and comfort of God, all through the Holy Spirit who He has poured out in our hearts. We can rejoice in suffering, not because we are happy with the loss of our loved one, but we can grow through it, and we come to experience the reality of God’s presence in a way that could not be known outside of grief and sorrow.

2. Know the promises of God. There are dozens of types of promises found in the Scirptures. One that is especially helpful is the sovereignty of God. Knowing that He is in control means that God has a plan, and that He has a purpose for everything that happens, even the loss of my loved one. Without the sovereignty of God, the loss of my loved one is a total loss, there is no plan, no purpose, no hope. But if we understand that God is in control, then we can trust that God knows best and that He cares for you.
In Lamentations 3:1-5, 19-20, the prophet Jeremiah describes his sorrow in the midst of great suffering and grief. But then he declares something amazing, 3:22-23, “The Lord’s lovingkindness never ceases, His mercies never end, they are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness!” How can Jeremiah say this?
The answer is found in verses 37-41 of this chapter, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Let us lift up our hearts and hand to God in heaven. It is all about the fact that God is in control!

3. Seeking God in prayer. Jeremiah 29:12-14, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear 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.”
God is committed to His people and will respond when we cry out to Him. What does He offer when we do this? He offers Himself! We can access Him in prayer and tell Him exactly how we feel, the questions, the hurt, the anger, the despair, the hurt, you can tell it all to Him.

Next week we will conclude this series with the fourth way to know the presence of God in grief and some additional concluding thoughts.

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.



To Spank or Not to Spank

Earlier this week a new study was released in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology claiming that spanking is an ineffective discipline tool that is associated with increased aggression, delinquent behaviors, anxiety and depression. Researchers Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor analyzed 50 years of research on spanking. Children who are spanked are also far more likely to spank their own children, continuing what they call the pointless and barbaric cycle.

They claim their research is distinct from similar studies in that it analyzes the effects of spanking alone, rather than including other types of physical punishment."We took all the data that focuses just on spanking, which we defined as swatting a child on the behind with an open hand," Gershoff said. That's enough, they believe, to cause long-term damage to a child's psyche. They say that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents, exhibit anti-social behaviors and experience mental health and cognitive problems."Spanking makes children's behavior worse," lead author Elizabeth T. Gershoff states. "It has the opposite effect than what parents want: It doesn't make children better-behaved, and it doesn't teach children right from wrong. It's not related to immediate compliance, and it doesn't make children behave better in the future."

So what are parents who follow the Biblical endorsement of corporal punishment to think? Are we to abandon this God endorsed, time honored practice of parenting? I think we need to ask some questions before jumping on the latest round attacks on corporal punishment:
Did the researchers attempt to be objective in conducting their study, or were they already so biased against corporal punishment that their conclusions were inevitable?

How balanced were they in looking at research that was both supportive of and critical of corporal punishment? How, exactly, do they define the implementation of the spanking?
Were they looking at parents who spanked in an angry, frustrated, capricious, whack on your child manner, or did they also look at parents who conducted themselves in a controlled, loving, manner?
And did they look at the impact on children who experienced this latter, biblically endorsed form of corporal punishment?

So what is biblical corporal punishment? Let’s remember that the Bible does speak of the role God sees for it in the home (See Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13,14, 29:15, 17). It is important to distinguish between childish irresponsibility and willful defiance. When a child acts irresponsibly due to his or her immaturity, corporal punishment is not warranted. Rather, they should be allowed to experience the natural consequences of their behavior. If your child leaves their toy outside and it winds up lost, stolen or damaged, they have just learned their lesson. In contrast, if you drawl a line in the sand, especially one that is for their safety, and they chose to defy you and cross that line, this is when corporal punishment is warranted.

So how should it be done? First, make sure you are not acting in angry and with your emotions out of control. Second, sit down with your child in private away from their siblings and talk about what your child did wrong and why it is a concern. Third, let them know that because they have disobeyed, and need to punished, and how many hits of the paddle they will receive. I recommend you have a wood spoon or similar non-harmful object to use. After you use the paddle, embrace them, reassure them of your love for them. Once this has happened, the incident is over and is not brought up again. I sincerely doubt this is the kind of corporal punishment this or other similar “studies” are talking about. My wife and I also found that after just a few times of age-appropriate, corporal punishment used for willful defiance, it did not have to be continued. Once your authority is established, you will find your children to be much more respectful and obedient. If you would like more information on biblical corporal punishment, and other forms of appropriate discipline for your child, I recommend two resources. One is James Dobson’s Dare to Discipline, and Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding Your Child’s Heart.

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. Our ministry is based in Southeastern PA with office locations in Southampton and Northeast Philadelphia.



True Change is Possible By the Power of the Resurrection

Is true, meaningful, and lasting change possible in your life? And what does that have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I believe this kind of change is possible, and I think it has everything to do with the resurrection of Christ. Because of our sinful nature, our ability to change is very limited, and it is often just temporary. For true, meaningful and lasting change to occur we need to look outside of ourselves for the ability and the power to change. In my broadcast of Insight Today this morning we looked at a passage of scripture, Ephesians 1:15-23, which declares that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead can be at work in our lives!

If there is one thing everyone must face one day, it is death. Statistically, one out of every one persons will die, there is no escaping it! There are no vaccines, operations, procedures that can prevent it from eventually happening. The glorious truth of Easter is that the power of God overcame the power of death, and you will learn from today’s program, that is the power available to you and I today!

Here are the additional passages we mentioned in the program:
Christ predicting his resurrection: John 2:18-22
Christ bearing God’s wrath on sin: Isaiah 53:4-6, Matthew 27-28
Christ Exalted: Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, Philippians 2:9
Truth: John 1:14, 8:32, 14:1-6
Hope: Romans 5:5, 15:13, Colossians 1:23-27, Titus 3:7, Jeremiah 29:11
Our treasure and inheritance in God: Matthew 6:19-21, Philippians 1:6, Revelation 21
Greater is he who is in the world: 1 John 4:4
Overcoming the Evil One: Ephesians 6:10-13, James 4:7
Becoming born again: 2 Corinthians 5:17-19, John 3
Power of prayer: James 5:16
Power of God’s word Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy3:16, Romans 12:1-2
Power of the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:8, Galations 5:16-25, Ephesians 5:18

Be sure to listen to the podcast at the Insight Radio page of our web site and then check out these passages of scripture. Is true, meaningful and lasting change possible? Yes, and it is by the power of God, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead!

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.



Caring for Our Military Members and Families

How can we better understand and serve our returning combat vets and their families? On this morning’s Insight Today I had a conversation with Pastor Bill Gasser, a former U.S. Marine and current Navy Reserve chaplain and pastor. Bill most recently served in Afganistan and is very experienced in working with military members and their families. Here are some of the insights he shared.

Coming home for the vet is not just an event, it is a process. It is not a simple transition where you just flip a switch. When you get home, you have changed, and so has your family to some extent. Life is hard but simple when you are deployed, when you get home, there are more choices and decisions you have to face. Here are a few post-deployment challenges:

Dealing with Expectations: When deployed you dream about life when you get home, and then when you get back, it is hard for life to live up to those dreams.

Missing Your Unit: Some soldiers miss their comrads and feel some guilt now that they are home. Because of their strong sense duty.

Impact on the Marriage: While absence can make the heart grow fonder, when a soldier comes back it can be a struggle. If a couple had problems in their marriage before the deployment, the deployment will often make it worse. Even with a good marriage, when the soldier returns there is often great joy followed by both spouses having to adjust to each other and the family dynamics.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: About 1 out of 4 will have diagnosable PTSD so most vets don’t get it. But even those who don’t will have challenges re-intigrating. The most common issue is anger in the vet. It can be hard to re-calibrate the emotions after dealing with combat. One of the best predictor of having symptons is how a vet processes what they have gone through. When a soldier tries to burry his thoughts and feelings he will be more prone to problems down the line.

So does the Bible have anything to say to the returning combat veteran? The Bible can speak powerfully to challenges a soldier faces. Dealing with combat is not new and is found in the Scriptures. Combat is found throughout the Bible and a number of warriors are found in its pages. For example, King David many scholars believer that David was impacted by his combat experiences He went UA (unauthorized absence) and got into trouble having an affair with Bathsheba. Jeptha was a war hero but wound up destroying his family. Jeptha was changed by war and vets today can relate to that truth that combat changes you, both positively and negatively.

How can we help combat vets and their families? First, don’t be afraid to reach out to a vet. Often they can find it hard to talk about their combat experience and want to keep that closed except to other vets who have been there. But don’t let this sense of exclusiveness keep you from being a caring person. If a vet knows you care, and you are patient and caring, he/she will be more open to you. Care for them like you would anyone else.

In Galations 6:2 it talks about bearing one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ. Our vets have carried the pack for us, now we can help them with what they have carried home. It starts with compassion and care. Soldiers can struggle with grief, physical, emotional and spiritual wounds, moral injuries and various dilemmas. The Bible speaks to the issue of anger and has meaningful answers for how to deal with it. We can help them by pointing them to Christ who can minister to them in powerful ways. Christ experienced the ultimate grief and trauma in His death on the cross for our sins. In addition, the Bible portrays Christ not just as the Prophet, Priest, and King, but as the great Warrior who battles the evil one in the great cosmic battle. Scripture speaks to those who are the warrior. The first non-Jew who came to Christ in history was Cornelius, a roman soldier and police officer. In Psalm 144:1 we read, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”

How can we help military families? They face the normal challenges of any marriage. Separation due to deployments can be difficult for both of them. The spouse at home now becomes a single parent with all of the challenges it brings. Offer to help that spouse in practical ways to let them know you care and are there for them. Families are often forgotten, they don’t get the parades and medals. It takes a while to readjust to the soldier being back. Military families face what any other family deals with, but it is a tougher road due to the pressures and challenges of military life.

Our ministry has a special focus on military members. I personally have many years of experience in working with Post-traumatic Stress and with first responders and military members and their families. We are here for you and will work with you at a substantial discount. If you are reading this and are a vet or loved one of a vet, thank you for your service and know that we “have your 6.”

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.



Understanding Self-Injury

In today’s Insight Today program we looked at how to bring help and hope to someone who is struggling with self-injury. Self-injury is where someone hurts themselves without the intent of committing suicide. It is a coping mechanism when they are going through a difficult time. Some of the reasons for doing it, Being bullied, being rejected, being a victim of abuse, or some other traumatic experience. Here are some of the signs that Kim Alston noted to look for in your friend or child:

-Increased secrecy.
-Repeated unexplained injuries or accidents.
-Spending extra time in their room or the bathroom.
-Finding tissues or clothing with bloodstains.
-They have more sharp objects.
-Withdrawing from friends, family activities, isolating themselves.
-More irritable than they used to be.
-Covering up with clothing.

Kim also gave us some insights on how to help someone:

-All self-injury behavior is done in isolation. There is a lot of shame and guilt associated with this behavior. So it is important to create a safe environment where the person can open a dialogue with you about what is happening. Here are some ways to do this:

-Deal with your own feelings first. If you are disgusted or confused by this behavior, you need to deal with these feelings before you try to help someone else.
-Learn about this behavior from the current research and from what the Bible says about it.
-Have a judgment-free zone.
-Offer support, not ultimatums, threats, or punishments.
-Engage in healthy, two-way communication.
-Don’t stand above the person, but come along side of them.

How can God and His word help? The foundation of scripture leads us to God.
-1 Corinthians 6:12: It is ok to own things but not being owned by them.
-Understanding triggers: guilt, shame, anger, emptiness, loneliness, sadness. Scripture speaks powerfully to each of these themes.
-Keep a journal, use a stress ball, exercise, get together with a friend over coffee, or some other enjoyable, non-harmful activity.
-2 Peter 1:5-8: Add to your faith these qualities which can help to transform your heart through the work of the Holy Spirit.
-Romans 8:6 – How to find God’s life and peace.
-Reading the Psalms: A range of emotions expressed and how God responds to them.

Some additional resources:
-Help My Kids are Hurting, A Survival Guide to Working with Students in Pain, by Marv Penner
-Relief Without Cutting, Taking Your Negative Feelings to God by Amy Baker
-www.helpguide.org
-Safe Alternatives: 800-366-8288

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 do you pray to?

I was watching a local news program this morning and they featured a story on grieving the loss of your spouse. The main question was how soon should you start a new dating relationship after the death. The lead into the story was Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg is supposedly dating after the death of her husband in May. A psychologist from Drexel University was featured to talk about the grieving process and how quickly a widow or widower should consider dating.

She made some of the usual points on grieving such as everyone grieves differently, it should not be rushed and then said she feels three things are most important, prayer, processing, and pacing. For a moment, I was like “Yes! Not only did she mention prayer, but she put it first.” This excitement only lasted for the moment, because then she said the following, and I quote, “Prayer, even if you don’t have any particular religion, there is maybe some spiritual foundation, where you are sort of praying to something to help you get through.” I have to say, that is inspirational! Sort of praying to something to help you get through, are you kidding me?

Unfortunately, there are many people in our culture who are following a quasi-spirituality. They want to believe in something, but are not sure just what that something is. Actually, Paul found himself facing similar spirituality in his ministry. During his trip to Athens, Greece, he spoke to the people of that city who were as confused as this psychologist. Here is what he said in Acts 17:22 ff., “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. “ He then goes on to proclaim that we can know him, how he revealed himself in the Scriptures and in the person of Jesus Christ, who proved the truth of his message by being raised from the dead.

So we don’t have to settle for praying to some unknown spiritual foundation, but we can pray with confidence to the God who has revealed himself!

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.



FACEBOOK AFFAIRS

This week on my Insight Today program I talked about Facebook and how various forms of social media are involved in so many extra-marital affairs. If you missed this program, be sure to go to the Insight Radio tab and listen to the podcast. I want to review some of the suggestions I provided on how to avoid a Facebook affair. I hope you will implement them in your use of Facebook or when you use social media.

First, work at making your marriage work. A strong relationship with your spouse is the best way to make your marriage affair-proof. Couples of all ages who are happily all give the same number one reason why this true for them. This counts for newlyweds, midlyweds, and oldlyweds. The number one reason they report is "my spouse is my best friend." My spouse is my best friend. Is that true for you and your spouse?
I think it is also essential to have meaningful communication with your spouse on a daily basis. And isn’t that an important part of any friendship? One test to know you are on dangerous ground is if you are talking to someone of the opposite sex on Facebook or other social media about things you used to talk to your spouse about. Or talking about things you should only be talking to your spouse regarding. One area that is an obvious danger zone is talking about sex, or what you like to do in bed, or asking this of the other person. Of course, having a satisfying sex life with your spouse is also important to keeping you from temptation of contemplating it with someone else.

Second, what is the condition of your heart? If in your heart you are thinking that you deserve to be happy, or my needs are paramount in your life no matter how they are met, you see sexual fulfillment not as a gift but as a need that has to be met. Maybe you want people to flatter you, or make you the center of their life. Any of these heart attitudes are really idols that have taken God’s rightful place in your life. And these idols will lead you down a path of the destruction of your marriage. Once you become open to any of these ideas, it will only take the right person to come along at the wrong time and sweep you off your feet. So make sure you are engaging with God on the level of your heart.
Maybe you have bought into the idea that is common in our society that being happily married involves finding and falling in love with the right person. There are many problems with this idea the most significant being that the scriptures say being happily married is not a matter of finding the right person, it is a matter of being the right person, becoming the right person, the husband or wife that God desires you to be.
And so you need to make sure you are engaging with you spouse as best friends, and you need to make sure you are engaging with God on the level of your heart. Proverbs 4:23, Guard your heart, it is the well spring of your life. Are you guarding your heart today? Are you guarding it for your spouse?

Third, give each other your Facebook account name and password so that you can both look at what is taking place on your news feeds, profiles, messages, and all of the rest of opportunities found on social media. I would also suggest that you tell each other who your new friends are and if there are any reservations from your spouse, drop that person as a friend. Don not accept past romantic interests as friends. Have a policy of openness with each other's Facebook accounts.

Fourth, make sure you spend more time talking to each other directly, and doing things with each other, compared to the amount of time you spend on Facebook or other computer activities. A big warning sign is if your spouse stays up later than your normal bed time spending time on Facebook.

A fifth idea is when you go on Facebook, do it when you are with your spouse. My wife and I are usually in the same room and in line of sight when we spend time on Facebook. We talk about what we are saying and doing, and with whom. “Hey look at this, or I’m talking with so and and so. It’s a very open kind of experience. We enjoy talking about it with each other.

Finally, if you wouldn't say something flirty or provocative with someone in person, don't say it on Facebook. It’s important to keep the same standards of morality and propriety you would have in any other context. Be the same person in private that you are in public.

Facebook is nothing more than a tool to communicate with others. Just be discerning about what you say, and to whom you say it. So what do you think about Facebook and how it can impact your marriage? I would love to hear your thoughts. You can do this two ways. You can go to the contact tab at the bottom of the page to email me or use the mailing address also listed there to send me a note.

Later this week I will do a second post on the steps you should take if you have crossed the line on social media so be sure to check that out.

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.



Practical Steps to Build Love and Respect in Your Marriage, Part 2

Last week we started looking at practical ways to build love and respect in marriage. In part 2 I want to continue with some additional ways that a husband can cherish his wife, and a wife can respect her husband.

How a husband can cherish his wife:

4. Don’t take forever to accomplish the items on your “honey do” list. When you get to things she asks you to do for her, you communicate that the things which are important to her are important to you.
5. Stand up for her and protect her, especially with family members. When unfair criticism comes from family members, or others, it is important for you to stand up for her. She needs to know that you have her back when the flack starts coming.
6. Avoid sarcastic comments that belittle her. You will never hear me make sarcastic comments or jokes that make fun of my wife. This can be a cancer on your relationship. It is one thing to joke around with each other, but careful not to cross the line in areas that she is sensitive about.
7. Discover how she wants to be loved and love her that way. You may be have read the book, The Five Love Languages. Learn how she wants to be loved, and make the effort to do that for her.
8. Don’t confuse affection and sex. Be understanding when she just is not emotionally or physically ready. Sometimes your wife just wants to be held or cuddle and it not lead to sex.
9. Recognize her desire for togetherness. I can’t tell you how many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress or other things that are not on the top of my list, but knowing how important being together is, I made being with her my priority.
10. Be a good listener and don’t be too quick with advice. A lot of times your wife doesn’t want you to figure things out or try to fix something that went wrong, she just wants you to hear her out and let her know that you care.

Here are some additional suggestions for how a wife can respect her husband:

4. Don’t nag. Here is how I define nagging, when you talk to your husband the way you talk to a child.
5. Tell him yes when he wants to be intimate more than you say no. Certainly there is nothing wrong with saying no, but if you are always turning him down there is a problem.
6. Don’t expect him to know what you are thinking, and then condemn him when he acts without regard to what you are thinking.
7. Be understanding when there are legitimate situations which pull him away. I’m not talking about being married to a man who makes you feel like his job is mistress, but if he is not worshipping his job and gets delayed.
8. Avoid looks, tone of voice, and words that communicate disrespect.
9. Don’t communicate criticism of him to family. Just as you want him to protect you from unfair criticism, be careful about criticizing him to your family.
10. Accept him for who he is, stop trying to make him into someone he is not.

I want to encourage you to talk to your spouse about the items on these lists and see how you can both improve how you are communicating love and respect to each other. Good marriages don’t just happen, they take work. Blessings, Dr. Paul

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.



Practical Steps to Build Love and Respect in Your Marriage

If your marriage were like the weather, what kind of weather have you been experiencing? Has it been warm and sunny, partly cloudy, cold and rainy, or the storm of the century? Regardless of what kind of weather represents your marriage, God’s word provides powerful insights on how to keep it sunny, or how to improve it if your marriage has been stormy.

In Ephesians 5 we read of God’s plan for marriage. As Paul writes to the believers of Ephesus, we read how God compares the relationship of husbands and wives to the relationship between Christ and the church. In this context, Paul encourages husbands and wives to seek to meet the fundamental need of their spouse. For husbands it is to cherish his wife, and for wives, it is to respect her husband. In my 30 plus years of marriage counseling, I have yet to meet a wife who doesn’t want to be cherished by her husband, and any man who doesn’t want to be respected by his wife.

So what are some practical ways that a husband can cherish his wife, and a wife can respect her husband? I want to share with you a comprehensive list of meaningful, day steps you can take to communicate love and respect. And the great thing about these steps is that you can start them today!

Let’s begin by looking at three things a husband can do to cherish his wife:

1. Tell her that you love her, don’t assume that the just knows it. Many guys tell me that they don’t need to say this because of all the things they do to provide for the family. Big mistake! The three most powerful words you can say to your wife is “I love you.” Take her by the hand, look her in the eyes, and tell her you love her.
2. Live up to your promises. This step shows her that you love her enough to follow through on doing what you say you will do. Don’t promise what you can’t or won’t deliver.
3. Do things for her without being asked. Wives love it when a husband does something to help her without her telling him to do it. It demonstrates to her that you pay attention to things that are important to her, that you are thinking of her when she isn’t present. Just make sure that you know what you are doing with whatever you chose to do!

Now let’s look at three things a wife can do to respect her husband:

1. Communicate appreciation for what he does and who he is. Husbands who are working hard for their family eat it up when their wife lets him know how much she appreciates what he is doing and character traits she admires.
2. Let him know you are proud of him. The last place a guy wants to get put downs is in his marriage. Think about things that are important to him that make a difference in your marriage and family, and in his work and tell him that you are proud of him for these things.
3. Support him when he takes a new initiative. When he starts something new at work, or to support the family, let him know that you are behind him in it, that you want him to succeed, that you are praying for him.

Next week I will continue on Insight Today with part two of how to build love and respect in your marriage.

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.



Recovering from the Emotional, Physical, and Spiritual Cost of Abortion

This is Sanctity of Life weekend marking the tragic anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion on demand in the United States. My guest today was Kim Bennett, R.N. who is the program director of Alpha Care (formerly known as Alpha Pregnancy Services).

In the program we referred to a number of Bible passages which speak to the issue of abortion from the perspective of the sanctity of human life. Here are a few of these passages: Genesis1:27, 1 Samuel 2:6, Psalm 139, Matthew 1:18-2:18 and Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-21 where you read of the example of Mary giving birth in the midst of very difficult life circumstances.

Here are some of the steps that need to take place in the life of a woman who has had an abortion:
1. Grieving the loss of their child.
2. Sharing the story of her loss with someone close to her.
3. Seeking forgiveness and mercy through Jesus alone.
4. Assign and accept responsibility for the decision to have the abortion. Extend and seek forgiveness in this process.
5. Reconciliation with God, others, and herself based on step 4.
6. Restitution to be made, meaning putting off of the old person and putting on the new person on the basis of her forgiveness as seen in Ephesians 4 as an act of worship.

In a half-hour program we can only scratch the surface about each of these steps, so I encourage you to contact Alpha Care to find out more about any or all of these steps. If you are struggling with your pregnancy and considering abortion, or need help as your continue your pregnancy, or are struggling after getting an abortion, contact Alpha Care at 215-545-HOPE, alpha-care.org.

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.



New Year’s Resolutions vrs. Living Intentionally by Faith

Did you make any resolutions for the new year? If so, how are you doing? Hopefully you are still pursuing them. But I want to encourage you to think about a different way of living in this new year. I call it intentionally living by faith. What do I mean by this? Let’s start by contrasting this with making a new year’s resolution.

When you make a resolution you make a promise to yourself that you are going to do better in some area or areas of your life. Get to the gym, eat healthier, stop smoking, clean up my language, work harder on the job, etc. These are all worthy goals. The focus is on what you think you need to do better. The foundation is your own strength, ability, and fortitude to get it done and not revert back to your old way of living.

When I speak of intentionally living by faith, I mean putting your focus is on God, and the foundation is what He desires to produce in your life through the power of His word and the work of the Holy Spirit. The starting point is God, not yourself. What does He want to do in your life? It may even be one of the resolution goals I just mentioned, but you are doing it in the context of seeking God.

The difference is you are seeking His will, and not necessarily your own (Matt. 6:33). You are stopping to ask Him what He desires for you. Maybe He has convicted you about an area of sin, or is challenging you to trust Him more in an area of your life, or to step out in faith to accomplish something big for His kingdom.

And the accomplishment of this is not simply dependent on your ability, your strength, or your fortitude. It begins to happen as your rely on Him by faith to give you the ability, the strength and the determination to see this happen (John 15:5, Philippians 4:13). The power comes from Him through His word (Hebrews 4:12) and His spirit working in your life (Gal. 5:22-23). This also gives you more purpose or intentionality in your reading of God’s word and in your prayer life. Now as your read your Bible you are looking for and thinking about passages which speak to what God is wanting to do in your life. And your time in prayer now has more intentionality as well, and one that is already in line with what God desires for your life.

So how do you make the switch? Start by determining that you want what God wants for your life. Seek Him in some extended, unhurried times of prayer, and ask Him to show you what He would like to see happen in your life (Psalm 139:23-24). Look at passages like John 17 where Jesus is praying for His disciples and for you. What things that He prays about resonate with you? What is holding you back from taking the next step in your journey with God? Lack of faith, a particular sin that has a grip on you, struggles in an important relationship? Once you have an idea or two in mind, make that your focus for prayer and your time in His word (Ephesians 4 provides great insight on what Biblical change is and how it happens).

So how are you living intentionally by faith?

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.