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Loving Self vs. Loving Others

By Joey and Carla Link
March 3, 2021

“Who are you thinking of right now?” That is the question I asked my daughter one day when she was complaining about her sister. When they were 12 years and up, our daughters had to come up with a schedule for morning bathroom time. The problem was our oldest daughter Briana had a bad habit of oversleeping and not getting into the bathroom on time, so she stayed in through her sister Amy’s time who was then late getting her day started. Briana didn’t get why Amy wasn’t respecting that she needed the amount of time she signed up for and Amy didn’t get why Briana wasn’t getting up on time to allow herself enough time so Amy wouldn’t be late for school. This was especially an issue since Briana was the one who set the bathroom times to begin with. Today’s society is really no different.

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”

(From Good Morning, Lord . . . Can We Talk? by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 2018.) Yourself, yourself, yourself! We don’t see where this says “think of your sister first!” It seems society is pushing us deeper into the pit of “It’s all about me, myself and I!” I am the only thing that matters! But Paul had a different perspective in Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” How do your kids see themselves? Which end of the binoculars are your kids looking through? The end that makes them look bigger or smaller? Are they looking with sober judgement? “Sober” means “humble and well-balanced.” Judgement” means to “speak your opinion.” To speak an opinion that comes from a heart of humility is one that will think of the needs of others first. Questions:

  • How well do your children seek to serve each other by being patient and understanding with their siblings when they are having a bad day?
  • If one of your kids had a lot of homework, would his siblings offer to do his chores that evening?
  • When one of your kids is sick, would his siblings wait until you told them to help the sick one or would they ask their sibling what they could do for them?

Thinking of others starts at home! Being others oriented is really what being a Christ-follower is all about. How well are your kids seeking to follow Christ’s example of being a servant?  “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28 One night while you are having dinner as a family, ask this question;

  • When was the last time you served another person in the family (on your own initiative) and what act of service did you do?”
  • If they can’t come up with anything, ask them to think about a way they can serve someone in the family the next day and have them tell one of you when they have completed it.

 When one of our children was being selfish, we would privately ask him/her “Who are you thinking of right now?” They would say themselves. Then we asked them who they should be thinking of right then and they would respond it was the one they were arguing with. We asked this child if he/she was ready to make that right which meant they needed to apologize using the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process we often talk about. If the reply was “No”, he/she was told to go sit on their bed until they were ready. While he/she is sitting, encourage him to think of one way he can show this person he is willing to put their needs above his own. When this child is ready to apologize, after asking his sibling for forgiveness, he should come up with a way that was related to the offense that he is going to put the needs of the sibling first. Unless your child is under five years of age, resist the temptation to tell him what he could do to show ‘preciousness’ to the one he offended. If you are consistent with intervening quickly when you can tell one of your kids is having a “me, me, me” day, you will find your kids will just as quickly hop to it and become characterized by showing kindness to each other. 

Will Your Kids be Morally Pure When They Get Married?

By Joey and Carla Link
February 24, 2021

Everywhere you turn, kids are bombarded with images about love, which in today’s culture is equated with being sexy. From clothing to selfies, it is standard practice for kids ages 10 and up to want to be sexy and “hot” in how they portray themselves to the world. In an article titled “Sex and the Single Evangelical” written in August 2019 for the Institute for Family Studies, it shared studies where statistics show that 45% of kids ages 15-17 have had premarital sex. 30% of these had more than 1 partner at the time of the study. Of 18-22 year old’s attending evangelical Christian churches, 74% had had premarital sex and 50% had had more than one partner and the average was 3 partners. In a study done by Josh McDowell in 1974, 55% of Christian teens had engaged in heavy fondling. Can you imagine what that percentage is now, over 40 years later? While this is a more graphic conversation than we usually have on our blogs, it is a necessary one. Parents cannot naively stick their heads in the sand and pretend their teens won’t be in these statistics. In a study quoted in this same article, it said 41% of Christian adults said sex outside of marriage wasn’t wrong. So even in the church there is a prevailing attitude of “it’s going to happen anyway, so what can you do about it?” Why do Christian kids get involved sexually before marriage?

  • They have not learned self-control over their emotions and body in this area of their life. We give a lot of practical teaching to parents on teaching your kids to get self-control in 8 specific areas in the Mom’s Notes presentation “Kids, Get Self-Control!” We spend a lot of time on the area of lust and emotional and physical self-control. We highly recommend you get this session. The mp3 of this teaching is found here.

 Years ago I was teaching a High School Bible Study on dating and God’s plan for teens and one teen girl clearly stated what most teens feel. She said “I don’t care what the Bible says I want a boyfriend and if we like each other, so what?!!” 

  • They have not been taught what God says about sex outside of marriage. Recently I mentioned to a young adult that “sex before marriage is sin” and they had a stunned look on their face and asked where did I read that in the Bible? I took him to I Thessalonians 4:1-8 where God says

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” 

  • They have given their heart away too early! Girls especially get so emotionally involved and give their heart (their emotional trust) away to a guy she is dating or is infatuated with long before an engagement. She loses herself in the emotional hope of a fairy tale life and gives her body away as well.
  • Most guys don’t know how to truly treat a girl and in high school they rarely are thinking of marriage. I Thessalonians 4:6 says “no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister”Most teens don’t have appropriate boundaries set so they don’t violate God’s word before they get together. We say teens shouldn’t have the freedom to date until they can clearly articulate to their parents their boundaries and what they will do when they are tempted to break them.

The #1 way for your kids to have appropriate boundaries in their dating relationship is for parents to talk to them about what a dating relationship should look like. Most parents don’t know how to talk to their kids about dating or their sexual relationship, but this too is part of “training a child up in the way he/she should go”.  This is why we created “Dating, Courting and Choosing A Mate…What Works?” which is a 2-part teaching video and workbook for parents and teens to go through together. In it we talk about 4 areas that relationships with the opposite gender need to have equal values and standards. We also teach how to move and adjust those standards as a relationship matures and grows. You can get it here.

Love is…

By Joey and Carla Link
February 17, 2021

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not
rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things,
believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

Before we talk about what love looks like, let’s talk about what love is NOT.
Never showing your appreciation for anything your spouse does for you.  (“Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4)
Nag and whine when things aren’t going your way(“A nagging wife annoys like constant dripping.” Proverbs 19:13)
Never admit that you are wrong, but be sure and rub it in your spouse’s face when he/she makes a mistake.  (“Love forgets mistakes, nagging about them parts the best of friends.” Proverbs 17:9)
Now let’s look at ways you can show your spouse what love IS.
Be an encourager. When I (Carla) get discouraged, it is usually because I am overwhelmed with criticism. For me, the issue is not that I can’t handle criticism. It becomes a problem when it is not balanced with encouragement. During these times, I get so overwhelmed with my ‘faults’ (as others perceive them) that I lose confidence in my strengths. Charlie Shedd, in his book Letters to Karen states, “Tell your husband he is wonderful. You can only tell him he isn’t wonderful where he isn’t if you have already told him he is wonderful where he is!” 
I am greatly encouraged by my husband when he praises me in front of others. At these times I feel highly esteemed by him, and I know he feels the same when I share his good traits and praise him in front of others too. It is not enough however to only praise our spouses in front of others. Unless we are continually encouraging them in the privacy of our homes, especially in front of our children, public praise will seem false and insincere.  “Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others.” (Philippians 4:8)
Have realistic expectations. We all have expectations of each other. I (Joey) expect Carla to know what I am thinking and feeling without having to express it and vice versa. Much of the conflict we have experienced in our marriage has been a result of unrealistic, unspoken expectations. We finally learned to share our expectations and at the same time express to each other how we need those expectations to be met.
It has helped me a lot to have these thoughts regarding my expectations:
Is there any way she can meet them? (Or am I demanding what she is unable to give?)
Will she have to compromise too much of what she thinks and believes to meet me on this? (Is the price too high?)
Am I being selfish?
An old saying goes, Do not remove a fly from your friend’s forehead with a hatchet. In other words, don’t rub your spouse’s mistakes in his face. Carla may have said something that was insensitive and although she apologized for it, I won’t let it go and my actions and attitude show it.
Another old saying goes, A real friend is a person who, when you’ve made a fool of yourself, lets you forget it!”  Where do we get the freedom to withhold forgiveness when it is asked of us, or if we grant forgiveness, to choose not to ‘forget’ the offense? 
Does Christ refuse to grant us forgiveness when we ask Him for it? “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John1:9) 
Does God, once forgiveness is granted ‘remember’ the sin and continually bring it back to us? “Their sins and lawless acts I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:17) 
When we refuse to grant forgiveness until we are ready, or won’t ‘forget’ the sin when we let him/her know we do forgive him; we are setting ourselves above God’s willingness to do so, and this is unacceptable.
When you need to talk with your spouse about something you know he/she isn’t going to want to hear, ask yourself first, “Does he need to hear this?” Is there a better time or way I could approach him with this? “
Convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience…”
2 Timothy 4:2
So, how can you communicate love to your spouse? Your perspective and your attitude towards your spouse and your marriage all depend on one thing: Your perspective and your attitude. 
Remember, you can only change yourself.
As your perspective and your attitude move from negative to positive, what once seemed horrible and ugly to you will become beautiful and wonderful. 
It would be well if our spouses could say of us,
“I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love.”
Philippians 1:7

Loving Tough

By Joey and Carla Link
February 10, 2021

We all know tough times in life will come, but what about when it impacts your marriage? We know of a family that has suffered greatly this past year especially. The husband didn’t get a job they were looking forward to. His wife has suffered from an issue with her spine that causes her tremendous ongoing pain. One of their kids was recently diagnosed with a chronic disease that will last his entire life and needs to be carefully managed. Another child’s appendix recently ruptured causing surgery and hospitalization. Relatives have had COVID, and the list goes on. How would you and your spouse react if unexpected, unwanted surprises keep piling up in your life? The Bible gives us an example in the life of Job. Job was known for his love for God. He had 10 children and was incredibly wealthy. One day Satan came before God. God asked him if he knew about Job, who God described as “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” Satan laughed at God, telling him that of course Job loved God! Look how many children he had and at all his wealth. He told God to take all that away and “watch him turn away from you.” (Job 1:8-10) God gave Satan permission to take everything away from Job but his life. God had great confidence in Job’s faithfulness to Him, didn’t He? Do you think God has reason to have that kind of confidence in you? Satan gave it his best shot; killing all of Job’s kids and livestock and causing one thing to happen after another until Job had nothing left- no family, few friends, his health was gone and he was despised by all including his wife. She said to him, “Just curse God and die” (Job 2:9) thinking then they would get some relief from all this pain and suffering. I would have liked to be there to hear this honest but intimate squabble between the two who had once loved each other so well. Job’s wife obviously was in pain and a time of crisis and needed to vent and seek comfort. She needed her husband to reassure her that all would be well. Job’s response wasn’t very reassuring. “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;    may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21) Job too was in crisis and hurting but also knew he needed to respond with comforting words. But, what does one say when everything looks hopeless? How do you respond to your spouse when he/she is hurting and so are you? Job told her “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10) If all your hopes and dreams and joys on this earth are taken away in a split second through an unwanted and unexpected event, how will you respond? How will you deal with your spouse’s response? When our son was 4 yrs. old, he was out with Carla and needed to go the bathroom. Carla sent him into a bathroom she had found and as she was walking out, our son stuck his hand in the crack between the door and the wall trying to keep the door open so he didn’t have to be alone in a strange bathroom. He didn’t know the door would swing shut automatically and it slammed his hand cutting the tip of one of his fingers off. Carla got him to a hospital and they were able to sew it back on and get the blood circulating through it once again.  As he walked around with a bandage the size of a boxing glove on his hand for a month, it would have been easy to say something to Carla about her negligence as I just couldn’t understand how she had let that door swing shut on him, but what value would that have? What permanent damage could that have brought to our marriage?
“A man takes joy in a fitting reply,and how good is a timely word!”Proverbs 15:23 A right response to an untimely event can be huge in a relationship. How good, encouraging and inspiring is a life-giving word. Here is a challenge:Go on a date and ask your spouse how well they feel you do at fulfilling this verse. Ask him/her for some ways you might be able to do better at it. You might get a “fitting reply” and if not, then certainly a needed one. God did honor Job for not turning away from him and gave him double what he had originally had as a blessing for it. Do you believe God will bless you for your faithfulness to Him and to your marriage relationship?

“Oh, Be Careful Little Eyes What You See”

By Joey and Carla Link
February 3, 2021

Both Carla and I grew up singing this cute little song in Sunday School:
Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see,Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see.There’s a Father up above looking down in tender love,Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see.
This verse would repeat 4 more times using the following headings: Oh, be careful little ears what you hear; Oh, be careful little tongue what you say; Oh, be careful, little hands what you do; andOh, be careful, little feet, where you go.
You can google “Cedarmont Kids – Oh Be Careful Little Eyes What You See” and get the song for your kids to sing along with. It is a fun way for them to think about having self-control over the different parts of their bodies.
1.    Eyes:When kids hear something but don’t have an image to put it to, those words remain neutral in his/her mind. Boys especially are visual, which is why the pornographic industry is so successfully infiltrating the pre-teen market.
So be careful parents what you let your kids look at. Our world has turned its attention to screens for everything, this has drifted down to kids too. We were just asked by a parent today if we thought their 9 yr. old should have a phone since all her friends did. A dependency on screens is a reason we say, “Buy books for your kids!” Make family nights about playing games together instead of always popping a movie in. When I (Carla) play games with my 2 and 4 yr. old grandkids I often let them make up the rules as we go along. It is total fun to watch their creativity. Broaden their horizons in a good way and move them beyond total dependency on screens.
2.    Hear & SayWhat your kids hear is like a bell that cannot be un-rung. I (Joey) was having lunch with some friends and one of them told a story that I wish I had never heard. I could not get it out of my mind. It is the same for our kids, so please pay attention to what they are seeing and what they are hearing.
We are often struck by what parents say to us in front of their kids. We used to tell our kids that they were never to listen to an adult conversation unless they were invited by us to do so. They should excuse themselves and leave and not force us to ask them to leave. If we were with another family, our kids knew they should take that family’s kids with them and go find something to play or do that all could be involved with.
This also goes for conversations between you and your spouse that go beyond neutral information. Anytime you are talking about someone or a discussion between you gets heated, tell your kids to go play in another room or take yourselves to one instead.
It is good to have words that are off-limits early on like “Stupid” and “Shut Up”. When you do this, kids learn at an early age that there are always words that are off-limits in your family.
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Proverbs 21:23
This verse means “whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue under control will stay out of trouble.” It is a great verse to teach kids and have them memorize.
3.Hands and FeetDo your kids use their hands to push and shove each other? Our hands can be a blessing for God. Help your kids see how their hands can be used by God to show love to others like their siblings or their grandparents (they can color them a picture or write them a note if they live far away).
Your kids’ feet shouldn’t take them anywhere they haven’t asked for permission to go. Even when they are in the teen years and are driving, they should, out of courtesy and respect, always tell you where they are going and what time you can expect them to return.
We encourage you to teach and train your kids to pursue God and do what he created them to do. 
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anythingis excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Philippians 4:8