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How to Keep Your Marriage Healthy

Wedding bells may be ringing this time of year, but statistics reveal that all too often the beauty of a wedding day turns into the disaster of divorce. With the average wedding costing $27,021—according to a survey from theknot.com—it’s important for couples to know how to make that honey moon feeling last longer than it takes to pay off the wedding.

Follow these five tips for a marriage that can last a lifetime: read more

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Smart Ideas to Grow Your Business

Twenty-nine years ago, I was looking for a creative outlet as a stay-at-home mom. Since then God has turned my hobby into a thriving enterprise.

When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a rock star, but in 1968 God revealed to me that He had other plans. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, I taught school for a while and then stayed home after my second child was born.

I was happy and fulfilled with my family, but there was something missing—something I longed to do—something creative. I began to look for an outlet.

My search led me to begin "fooling around" with ceramics at my kitchen table. Soon my experimenting became an adventure, and I now have a company that manufactures hand-painted dinnerware and accessories in Ridgeland, Miss.—with hundreds of employees! read more

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No More Office Nightmares

Don't let unrealistic expectations turn your work into misery. God's purpose for you is a good one.

Many believers I know desire to work for a ministry or Christian company someday. Their goal is to work in an environment with praise music playing, co-workers praying and Scripture verses beautifully calligraphied on wall plaques. They imagine such a workplace as holy, peaceful and devoid of that common problem: difficult co-workers.

I wish this were the case, but until our Lord comes back we will always have some level of difficulty relating to co-workers, whether Christian or not. I have traveled the length and breadth of this nation and most of the world, worked with Christians and non-Christians alike and believe me, there is little difference in how personnel operate under pressure. read more

When God Invades the Office

If you are a praying person, you have undoubtedly taken on various prayer "burdens" through the years. But have you ever considered interceding specifically for people at your job, such as your colleagues, supervisors and employers?

Those in the workplace need you. Your prayers can be a tremendous asset to them. And whether or not you are employed at the company you are praying for, your prayers will make a significant difference.

God is looking for intercessors who will stand in the gap and pray for those in the workplace (see Ezek. 22:30). He is looking for Aarons and Hurs who will lift up the arms of business leaders so they can carry out their assignments with remarkable success (see Ex. 17:12). When you volunteer, God will place you strategically in the right place at the right time to pray so His kingdom comes and His will is done in that environment. 

He has done this for me numerous times, even though I don't work in a typical office. Here's one example.

In 2000 I was leading intercession for meetings in Argentina. A visiting pastor from Singapore, whom I had met in Texas years before, was attending the event. He shared his concern about a couple in his church who were in the oil and gas business. They desperately needed prayer, and he was trying to recruit me to pray for them.

Somehow I knew I was to pray for this couple, even though I had never met them or spoken with them. Eight months later when I was ministering in Texas, I arranged to meet the couple for the first time. During lunch I shared the different points I had been praying about and the ways I had prayed for them.

Jim and Jane* were quite surprised—I guess because I am an intercessor—that I "looked normal, acted normal and spoke normal." They decided it would "work" to have me continue to pray for them.

As time passed, our relationship grew and trust developed. One day Jim called and asked me to pray for his company and partners. Operations had not been going well in the company for about 18 months. The head partner was operating unethically, cheating and working the books.

Jim and two other partners, who are all very strong Christians, were extremely concerned about the situation. They asked me to pray that they would know what to do.

I prayed that they would take a stand for righteousness and truth, do what was morally right, refuse to compromise, and be obedient when God told them what to do. The three men got together and decided that they were going to resign, start their own company founded on Christian principles and operate under those principles.

Intercession helped these three men make a difficult but correct business decision. It gave them the courage to make the change immediately. They left the company and broke through into a new place.

The three now have their own successful oil and gas company that is founded and operates on godly principles. They even wrote a vision and mission statement for their company based on the Lord's guidance.

This story is a good example not only of how God uses us to pray but also of why it is important to pray for those in the workplace. God is moving mightily in this arena, but Christian employees and business owners are constantly under attack from demonic powers. There is a steady influx of demonic influence in the workplace—partly because Satan is aware that if finances are released to advance the kingdom of God, multitudes will come to Christ and nations will be changed.

Getting Started

So how do you begin? Once you have made yourself available to God, the next step is to pray. Pray fervently, pray with passion, pray with understanding as the Lord gives you insight, pray in the Spirit and pray with authority. Be sure to incorporate all you know about prayer and intercession when you pray for those in the workplace. This means praying prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, forgiveness and petition, as well as making declarations and decrees.

Remember to put on your spiritual armor to protect yourself before you enter the spiritual arena: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (see Eph. 6:14-18). And don't stop there.

Use the appropriate weapon of warfare the Lord has made available to you for the situation you are praying about. These include praying in the name of Jesus, appropriating the blood of Jesus, praying a prayer of agreement, fasting, praising, binding and loosing, and praying the Word.

In order to be as effective as you can possibly be, seek God for a prayer strategy that will empower those in the workplace. Ask Him for words of encouragement, Scriptures and prophetic words that will build up those you are praying for.

Declare God's Word over the people, business and situations. Say what the Lord says, not what you think. When you do this, heaven moves and hell trembles. God is bound by His Word to honor His Word, His purposes and His plans. Isaiah 55:11 says, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (NKJV). We often see incredible breakthroughs as the result of declarations and proclamations.

One thing to be aware of regarding praying for those in the workplace is that you will have to earn their trust. If you ask a businessperson, "How can I pray for you and your business?" he or she will probably respond with a comment such as, "However the Lord directs you."

Unless they know they can trust you, business people are not going to open their hearts to you. They need to have a relationship with you first. They won't share intimate details with you right away.

But once they know who you are, affirm that you are a person of integrity and know you hear from God, then they may share a simple request with you—and over time more and more significant ones. When they do share a prayer need, whether personal or business-related, be sure to keep the information confidential. People will be much more likely to share their concerns, hurts, hopes and dreams with you if you are trustworthy.

The way you act will help determine the level of confidence those in business place in you and in what you tell them. It's important for you to look "normal," act normal and speak like a normal person.

Learn the language of the business and avoid using religious jargon. Don't be flaky or so spiritually minded that you are no earthly good. Demonstrate integrity and walk in humility.

The Power of Prayer

When you begin to pray for your own workplace or any other business, you may have to do some spiritual warfare to push back the darkness so others in the workplace can pray effectively too. Help establish a godly environment for your sphere of influence by walking and praying through your work area and the rest of the building, knowing that wherever you tread, God will give you the land (see Gen 13:17).

Ask God for a time to do this type of prayer so you do not distract or offend others. You may need to do it after hours. The principles Chuck Pierce recommends for spiritually cleansing your home in his book Protecting Your Home From Spiritual Darkness can be applied very successfully in your work area.

As you grow in your understanding of the power of prayer for those in the workplace, you will be assured of just how important such prayer is and will be encouraged to continue in it. Be prepared to see results!

When you pray, the perspective of workers will shift from serving people to serving God. This mind-set will add spiritual significance and meaning to their work. It will also create a spiritual climate in which they are inspired and motivated to make wise decisions.

Your prayers will help them focus on their priorities. They will be able to sort out how their relationship with God fits into all aspects of their daily lives—their work, their families, their churches and their extracurricular activities. Your prayers will release peace and put an end to worry and anxiety, which rob them of their time and energy.

And your prayers will release God's divine power to push back evil forces that can keep doors closed. They will help release favor with key people and open doors of opportunity for those for whom you pray.

If your prayers can do all that, what are you waiting for? Here are some specific prayers you can pray for those in the workplace. Declare that:

  • They will know and walk in their callings with confidence and assurance.
  • They will hear God's voice and receive His plan and vision for their work.
  • They will respond to the word of the Lord and put into action all He reveals.
  • They will obey God's Word.
  • They will walk in clarity. Rebuke any cloud of darkness that is over them. Declare that they will see situations and people as God sees them.
  • They will receive godly strategies for negotiating and breaking through closed doors.
  • They will be ethical, fair and just and do what is morally right.
  • They will walk in integrity.
  • They will be conscientious about finances and make cost-effective choices but will not compromise their values.
  • They will not justify bankrupting another company they are doing business with in order to make money for their own company.
  • They will not take money "under the table."
  • They will be concerned not only about the bottom line (finances) but also about the people who work for them.
  • They will not yield to temptations.
  • They will walk in peace.
  • They will use their careers to promote Christ and not Christ to promote their careers.
  • They will have a sense of mission and ministry in their workplace.
  • The gifts of the Spirit will operate through them.
  • They will be prosperous and have the finances to do the work.
  • They will be successful.
  • They will raise up other leaders and empower them.

To assist you in your times of prayer, picture three concentric circles. The inner circle represents the personal lives of those you are praying for—their families and all that deals with them personally. The middle circle represents their businesses—organizations, employees, contracts, vendors, investors, customers and so on. And the outer circle represents their broader sphere of influence. You will cover all the bases if you pray for these three areas.

God is invading the workplace with His presence, His power, His authority and His majesty. He is releasing signs, wonders and miracles. But He chooses to partner with us to fulfill His purposes, so He needs us to be catalysts in prayer to advance His kingdom in the workplace.

Do your part—pray! Then trust God to do His part. The results will be amazing: God will be exalted and businesses will be transformed.

Tommi Femrite is the founder of GateKeepers International, a worldwide ministry dedicated to training and equipping intercessors. She is also the author of Praying With Purpose and a contributing author of Intercessors: Discover Your Prayer Power as well as other books. read more

Relationship Breakdown

There is nothing more painful than a relationship breakdown. Here’s how you can find healing and restoration when strife takes its toll.It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I felt as if I were watching a train wreck in slow motion, and I couldn't do anything to stop it. A great friendship was breaking up.

We had been close at one time, but our relationship had become strained. Words of peace somehow got warped. Confusion and suspicion whispered lies. Then suddenly, a firestorm of words ensued. It was over.

If you've ever experienced the pain of an unexpected relational meltdown, you've probably encountered the spirit of separation. You are not alone. Relationships in the church are under attack. The last decade has set records for divorces and separations, even among Christian leaders—and in the midst of headline-grabbing revivals. read more

Stop With Your Hand

Christian Dating: How Far Is Too Far?

The worlds of dating and Christianity can be two difficult worlds to merge. Find out where the lines are drawn.

Even couples who take responsibility for their actions and trust God to help them stay pure want to know when they’re crossing the line. To offer them help with this vaguely marked boundary, Jason Illian, author of Undressed: The Naked Truth About Love, Sex, and Dating first reminds singles of a simple biblical principle stated in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial” (NIV).

Illian then illustrates that statement with a helpful set of guidelines while comparing physical actions with rungs of a ladder.

“Every rung represents a new physical act you share in a relationship. ... The higher you climb, the more physically satisfying and intimate the experience will become. However, with each step of the ladder, it becomes increasingly more dangerous.”

Rungs 1-4, Illian explains, represent activities that are permissible and can be beneficial—holding hands, hugging and cuddling, kissing, French kissing.

Rungs 5-6 are choices that are permissible but not necessarily beneficial—touching and caressing with clothes on.

Rungs 7-9, the top of the ladder, are neither permissible nor beneficial—petting and groping (under the clothes or without clothes), oral sex and intercourse.

Illian encourages couples to “draw a line and take a step back”—meaning, they ought to prayerfully consider the rung they feel comfortable climbing to “and then choose the rung right underneath it.”

For couples in the process of deciding on their physical boundaries, Mindy Meier, writing in Sex and Dating offers this cautionary observation: “A number of engaged people have shared with me that they wish they had done less sexually—sometimes with a high school girlfriend or boyfriend, sometimes with the one they are about to marry. But no one has ever said they wish they had done more.”

To set boundaries is one thing. However, to keep the standards that are set is a whole different challenge. But there are ways couples can help themselves stick to their rules.

Meier recommends having accountability partners: “Find someone of the same sex who you can be totally honest with, someone who will give you grace when you fail but not let you get by with disobedience to the Lord.”

She also suggests that couples meet in public places, where some privacy is afforded but where they can’t give in to temptation for intimacy.

Author Gary Chapman gives nonsexual examples of ways to show affection, such as words of affirmation, gifts and acts of service. To these, Meier adds “food.”

“Cooking a special meal for the person you’re dating or showing up with a well-loved snack,” she says, “are wonderful ways to say I love you.”

Most important is that a couple talk and pray about the sexual purity aspect of their relationship. God will honor the ones who pursue His standard of holiness and rely on Him for guidance and strength.

As a single person, you can “wait in the right way” by being content in God and pursuing His will while actively looking for a spouse. God created you for relationship and understands the desire you have to find a mate. Involve Him in your search, follow your passions, pursue maturity, be deliberate and don’t stop asking Him for the desires of your heart.

And keep dreaming.

In her book You Matter More Than You Think, Leslie Parrott, co-founder of the Center for Relationship Development, states, “The eventual pain that results from not dreaming—for the fear of being disappointed by an unrealized dream—will always eclipse the pain of a dream that never comes true.”

 


Leigh DeVore is the assistant editor of Charisma magazine. read more

Guard Your Heart From Emotional Ties

As her fingers eased over the piano keys, repeating gently the notes of the last chord of "Purify My Heart," Karen knew in her spirit that many had been touched by the worship this evening. A lingering smile sent her way from Wes, the worship team leader, confirmed it.

Karen slid quietly off the piano bench and headed for the music office. She glanced at her watch. If her husband, Marty, had been here, he would have been irritated that the music had taken so much time. He was always in a hurry to get home to his computer and The Wall Street Journal. She sighed.

"What was the sigh for?" asked Wes, who had been following her down the dimly lit hall of the Sunday school wing. "A pretty lady like you shouldn't have a care in the world! And your piano playing was ... was ... how can I describe the beauty and majesty you draw from those keys? Just being on the same team with you has been a thrill for me."

Karen slowed her steps to match his.

"So what was that sigh all about? You can tell me. We've been friends too long to have secrets."

The soft tones of his voice, his physical closeness, the shadow of his strong, lean frame cast down the hall by the single light behind them brought a great longing for his touch.

Marty never thought of comforting or understanding her, Karen thought to herself wryly. He was always living in another world, a world of business deals and big bucks. He figured she was strong enough to take care of herself.

But he was wrong; Karen was lonely. Surely God had sent Wes into her life to let her know that she was really of special value to someone.

So she poured out her heart to him. And for the first time, Wes reached out and drew her into his arms as she cried.

Together, Karen and Wes stepped closer to the rim of the ledge.

It begins innocently enough. There's no plan to entice or injure anyone, just a desire to express how one feels.

"You are special, really special! I've never met anyone before who understands me like you do."

Or simply, "What fun we have together!"

Something springs to life within us at these words, and the connection is made. There's just one problem: At least one of us is married—to someone else.

The temptation to allow someone into our hearts who has no right to be there lurks in every role of ministry. Worship leaders, musicians, youth ministers, pastors, secretaries and counselors are yielding to it in alarming numbers. The end result—what I call "spiritual adultery"—is rarely discerned until it turns sexual.

Yielding to Temptation
I learned of spiritual adultery the hard way—by succumbing to it myself. It overtook me at a time when I was very confident of my love for God and my devotion to my family.

True, my husband and I had endured some rocky times, with both of us wishing we had married someone more sensitive to our needs. But at this particular time, problems in our marriage were "under control," and we seemed quite happy. I was trusting God that our relationship would, in time, become all that He wanted it to be.

Meanwhile, my teaching at a large, residential discipleship ministry was bearing good fruit. Although all my students were men, I was confident that I was too strong, too mature and too spiritual to be tempted to be unfaithful to God or my husband. I had learned to maintain physical and psychological distance from them by dressing modestly and behaving professionally. I wanted to be an effective teacher, not a distraction.

This had been relatively easy to accomplish in the classroom. But when I was given an intern to train one-on-one, I was in for a surprise.

The intern and I shared an office and worked well together. His deep hunger for God and his grasp of the Scriptures greatly touched me. In turn, he expressed to me how deeply my love for the Lord ministered to his spirit—something I had longed for years to hear from my husband, but hadn't.

We found it very easy to be open with one another about our personal lives. At times, it seemed as though we could read each other's minds! We took every possible opportunity to study together and encourage one another.

I was happier than I could remember ever having been before. The relationship seemed like a gift from God. I was loved for me, just as I was! Someone believed in me and cared what I thought and felt.

But my life became split. There was life at the ministry with the intern, where I was appreciated and understood; and there was life at home, where I felt I never measured up.

My authorities at the ministry warned me not to spend so much time with the intern. But I thought they were being narrow-minded. To abandon such joy was unthinkable! I was going to prove I could be best friends with someone who wasn't my husband and not commit sin.

Turning Point
Then one day I began reading John Sanford's book Why Some Christians Commit Adultery. It opens with a description of spiritual adultery, the unintentional entering into one another's hearts that easily occurs between trusting people who spend time together, especially in ministry.

When I read this description, I knew something wasn't right. I asked for the afternoon off and headed for a public park in the next town.

All the way there, I begged God to show me my heart. As I spent hours walking the footpaths in the park, God brought back to me memory after memory of times I had denied Him, abused my leadership position in the ministry, betrayed trust and become a law unto myself.

Finally, face down on the ground, I cried out to God for mercy. My heart broke as I saw my darkness, and I repented of what He had shown me.

He met me there in that special moment, and I knew I was forgiven. But the long process of cleansing would take years and would prove to be full of pain—as well as great promise—for my life.

In the months to come, God taught me, step by step as I could bear it, deeper matters regarding love and the sanctity of my spirit. One night, when I found myself unable to sleep, I stumbled upon Malachi 2:14-16: "The Lord is acting as the witness between you and the [husband] of your youth, because you have broken faith with [him], though [he] is your partner, the [husband] of your marriage covenant.

"Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the [husband] of your youth" (NIV).

I was pierced through! For the first time, I had a revelation of how serious God was about covenant. It didn't matter in the slightest how happy I was with my husband. At all costs, I was to "guard my spirit" and not break faith with him. I had sinned on both counts.

I also had broken faith with God. He had told me to trust Him in all things and not to have any other gods in my life. But I had made an idol out of "being loved."

I had broken God's heart by looking to someone else to meet my needs. I had forgotten that I was indeed His Bride, too, married to Him forever. He had been loving me dearly all the time, but I had not learned to draw from that love.

The intern suffered immeasurably as a new Christian because I had allowed him to look to me instead of to God for deep friendship and love. I had sinned in thinking I had the right to be anything special to him.

For more than a year after that, the Lord washed me over and over again as I wept at His feet. His great mercy, love and forgiveness comforted me as each lesson was burned into my heart.

In the midst of the healing process, the Lord reminded me of something. Nine months before I met the intern, I had prayed that God would send His refiner's fire into my life to expose and burn up anything in my heart that could come between Him and me. God had simply answered my prayer! I began to sense His holiness as never before and to learn how thoroughly I am to worship Him.

Because spiritual adultery is not sexual, we often are not on guard against it. But it is every bit as dangerous. It slowly eats away at our relationships with God and others, inevitably destroying intimacy and trust. Little by little, it poisons our spirits, setting the stage for sexual adultery.

Are You at Risk?
Candidates for spiritual adultery are typically committed and spiritually sensitive people who would be appalled at the thought of ever being unfaithful to God or their spouses.

But they usually share a common misconception: that human love can rescue them from their weaknesses and failures, hurts and sorrows, and that it is their inalienable right. They haven't fully grasped the truth that God can not only meet their needs but also more than compensate for a lack of love from others. Without realizing it, they have judged His love insufficient.

The truth is that God's love is perfect all the time! It is always there, always capable of making us truly happy. And the best news is that it isn't based on our performance, and it never pulls back.

Renewed Marriage
During the months that followed my repentance, my husband and I were greatly helped through Christian counseling. We slowly discovered and dealt with the root problems and judgments within each of our hearts that had set the stage for spiritual adultery.

It has taken a long time, but we have finally become good friends who can tell the truth and bear to hear it from each other. We have a brand-new respect for each other, out of which is growing a faithful love.

This can be your story, too—if you are willing to let go of improper relationships rather than clinging to them. Wishing things were different or that you had married someone else will throw you into the lap of deception—not help you grow.

Feelings of powerlessness, inferiority, loneliness, rejection, anger and jealousy, along with poor communication, an excessive desire for attention, fantasizing and ungratefulness must be acknowledged and resolved. You need to forgive, repent, and be cleansed and healed.

If you have connected deeply with someone else, ask God to dissolve all spiritual and emotional ties with that other person and to totally take away any vestiges of unseemly love or affection that might still be in you.

After separating yourself from the person spiritually, you must also separate physically. The person must be dead to you! It is often necessary to change churches, move into a different ministry or even leave the area.

For a time, thoughts and longings for that person usually return, even though you have repented. When they do, take them captive and give up ownership of them to God. Don't dwell on them! Use the temptation as an opportunity to thank God for saving you from a worse fate, and recommit yourself to faithfulness to God and your family.

If it is your mate who falls into spiritual adultery, ask yourself what insensitivity on your part might have contributed to it. You may need to do some soul-searching and repenting of your own.

Start talking with and truly listening to your spouse. Swallow your pride, and get help for your marriage before it is too late. You and your mate are more important than any ministry, and if leaving the ministry will facilitate healing, do it.

Those of us in ministry must have our lives in order. Whatever seeds of selfishness or imbalance we allow into our private lives will be sown alongside the good seed of the Word we minister. Every part of the kingdom of self must be torn down to produce an undefiled life message that is safe to give to others.

Illegal bonding, spirit to spirit, pollutes our lives, marriages and ministries. It destroys discernment and twists reality. We must guard our hearts at any cost. It is time to take responsibility and grow up! Spiritual adultery is a deadly deception; no one involved in it escapes unscathed.

Joyce Strong is a conference speaker and instructor at the Bible Teachers Institute in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Her 20 years of teaching experience include 16 years with Teen Challenge. A graduate of Houghton College, she titled her first book Hearts Aflame. Adapted from Lambs on the Ledge by Joyce Strong, copyright 1995. Published by Christian Publications. Used by permission. read more

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