The Plank and the Speck–BE the Change: CHOICES {Part 3}

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:4-5, NIV

Possibly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my spiritual walk has been living in an “unequally yoked” marriage. The constant pull between personal convictions and trying to live in peace with my spouse has often been an excruciatingly intense struggle. These days, though, there are far more rainbows and roses in our relationship than storm clouds, but it took many years and a lot of personal soul-searching to finally reach that point.

 
I’m often asked by other women in difficult marriage situations (not speaking about abusive relationships, here) who wonder how I’ve come to be so at peace in my marriage, or how I cope with the challenges rather than throw in the towel. My response to them is not generally well tolerated. And most of these women who once wanted advice from me are now no longer speaking to me. So what have I said and done to tick so many people off?

 
I chose to focus on ME, repeatedly asking God to change my own heart, rather than that of my husband.

 
Novel concept, I know!

 
That’s not to say I always did so willingly or joyfully, but rather out of sheer necessity. When I first “came back” to God, I constantly prayed for my husband’s heart to change. Of course I wanted him to love Jesus and all that jazz, but my deeper motive in prayer wasn’t his spiritual life but rather my own comfort and happiness.

 

 

“When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasure.”—James 4:3, NIV

This is where many spouses are brought to the end of their rope, and what motivates them to try to find help or counsel, their lives have become a leaky faucet of misery as their focus is continuously on the wrong-doings of their significant other. I get it because I’ve been there! In my situation, raising a child in a home where my husband and I disagreed on so much was just plain hard. And if God changed my husband’s heart (to agree with me about everything, of course, and to pick up his dirty socks…) then my life would certainly be much more pleasant and stress-free.

 
But, God being, well, GOD, knew my motives were off. And instead of instantly “poofing” my husband into everything I wanted him to be, He instead chiseled my heart into the ever-changing diamond He is designing it to be. And that whole chiseling thing hurts. A lot. Because it reveals my planks, logs, beams, or whatever you want to call them, instead of the specks, splinters, or otherwise tiny dust particles in my husband (who IS a believer now, but still leaves his dirty socks on the floor. In fact, I’m looking at them right now…).

 
At first I too was a woman who scoffed at the notion that I needed to change instead of my husband. I hated that kind of advice with a passion. One instance I remember in particular was a valued and trusted friend encouraging me to be more intentional about sex with my husband. The nerve! Easy for her to say, she was in a peaceful happy marriage! But for me, sex was typically the last thing on my mind because I was too butt-hurt over all the horrible things my spouse did (things that don’t seem so horrible now, in hindsight). But you know what? She was right! And choosing to be intentional about our sex life before I actually “felt like it” (you know, choosing to show love with actions instead of waiting for my emotions to “feel” like doing loving things) helped our marriage more than the nagging or resentment ever did. The point is, my behavior needed to change first, before my emotions would follow.

 
So, when a woman comes to me and complains how selfish and awful her husband is (again, not talking about abusive relationships!) and I gently try to share my journey of personal transformation rather than justifying her complaints, she usually gets upset with me and seeks advice elsewhere. But I can’t in good conscience sit here and join the spousal bashing. We are in far more control over our happiness and joy than we think. It really is a choice. A choice that is rooted in desiring change within ourselves, and doing whatever it takes to let God work that out—instead of focusing on all the wrongs being committed against us.

 
Ultimately God helped me see that the only change I can control is the change in my own heart. So, over time my prayers changed from grumbles against my husband to repentance against the sins I was committing against him with my attitudes and behaviors. I sought to treat my husband as I wanted to be treated, whether or not I felt like he “deserved” it. This often meant embracing the role of “servant” (not in a slave kind of way, but in an acts-of-service-to-others kind of way). God repeatedly brought me to 1 Peter 3, and the need to show my husband with my actions rather than my preaching (nagging, Bible-thumping, etc.).

 
Is your spouse inconsiderate or selfish? Do they hold to different faith perspectives than you? Do they act in ways that disappoint and discourage you? My best advice is to serve your spouse in love, and ask God to see your spouse through HIS eyes rather than your own. This prayer is what opened the door of change in my own heart. In fact, asking God to see my husband through His eyes is what allowed me to finally see how the choices I had made out of anger or resentment had so deeply hurt him (see: Waiting for Redemption). Yes, I suppose it would be easier to just call it quits and throw in the towel. Sign some papers and wipe your hands of the whole thing. Find some other guy/gal who makes you “happier” and agrees with you about everything, but ultimately, those aren’t the solutions that will bring lasting peace and joy because the root issues (within yourself) aren’t dealt with, but rather denied and ignored. God wants to change us first, so that our life can be a witness to motivate change in others.

 
Whether we are dealing with a spousal relationship or another type of relationship (familial, friendship, coworker) the principle still applies: choose to ask God to change your heart instead of focusing on how you are being wronged. Choose to forgive. Choose to serve that person instead of gossiping about them. Choose to pray for a new perspective. Choose to ask God to help you love the person as God loves them.

 
Is everything perfect, now that my husband sits next to me at church every Sunday he’s not working, or now that he’s bought me more flowers in the last nine months than in the previous nine years? Of course not! If anything, I have come to see that no matter how “great” my husband is, and how much he “changes” still has little effect on my happiness, peace and joy. Why? Because my happiness, peace, and joy come from JESUS, not life’s circumstances. Certainly things are more peaceful around here, but my husband is still the same person with the same personality and quirks. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean he picks up his socks consistently. I still have a choice every day whether or not I will serve, love, and respect my husband or nag, resent, and slander his character to my girlfriends. Sometimes I still choose the latter, but those instances are coming fewer and farther between as God continues to transform my heart to align more with the character of Christ. By choosing to BE the change instead of nagging for him to change, God has brought about peace within me and within our marriage. And, as an added bonus (blessing) I now get to enjoy things like going to church with my husband instead of going alone.

 
So, if you really want that person to get the splinter out of their eye so your life will be a little less stressful, I suggest asking God to remove the beam in your eye first. Be the example of change with your life, attitudes, reactions, responses, and actions. How you choose to behave/respond while under adversity will speak far greater volumes to the “problem person” in your life than begging God to change that person or nagging them into behaving how you’d like them to. Choose respect, forgiveness, mercy, service, and the greatest of these things, LOVE. Ask God to transform your heart into a 1 Corinthians 13 heart. It WILL hurt, and it WON’T be easy, but the peace that results will far surpass the temporary pain that comes from sacrifice, submission, and developing a life of humility before others.

 

 

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”—Matthew 5:5-9, NIV

***PLEASE NOTE: This article is NOT referencing marriages where adultery, pornography use, physical or emotional abuse, or other more serious offenses have occurred. This is not in any way representative of such deeper struggles and is not intended to brush those issues under the rug or blame those behaviors on the victim. We are each responsible only for our own choices and responses, not the choices of others! If you are in an abusive relationship, or have a spouse immersed in pornography or sexual sin, please seek the help of a professional. Your spouse’s choices are not your fault or because of anything you have done to “deserve” such treatment. You are not responsible for their actions/choices.

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See also CHOICES PART 1: Freedom to Choose

CHOICES PART 2: Careful, that Fence Could Give You a Massive Wedgie
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

 

**If you are struggling in an unequally yoked marriage, and need resources for reading or help, please email me at RebeccaAarup@mail.com and I would be happy to share some books/resources that have helped me greatly along my journey.**

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If You Really Want the World to Change, it Starts with This

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach the transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” Psalm 51:12-13

After Nathan confronted King David regarding his sin with Bathsheba, David’s spiritual eyes were open to the bondage he had been held to for nearly a year’s time. His sin had left a gaping wound in his relationship with God, and during this time he experienced a void where God’s presence and peace should have been. When David finally came to a place of repentance he was changed from the inside out. He was released from the bondage of rebellion, lust, envy, and deception, among other things.

But David’s repentance didn’t just serve to restore his own relationship with God. In being released from the bondage of sin and once again experiencing God’s perfect peace and freedom (life to the full, see John 10:10), sinners were brought to redemption. First, his own joy of salvation needed to be restored, then he was enabled to teach others the truth, and only then were sinners restored to God.

We live in an age where the Church is hyper-focused on the behavior of the world, when it should be hyper-focused on the spiritual health of its members. We have churches full of people anxious and willing to serve, yet these same Christians have unwilling spirits when it comes to personal repentance. Yes, we can teach the truth of the Word even while living in bondage, but the impact will not be as effective as it was meant to be. In order to see the revival we so long for in our society, we need Christians asking God for a willing heart; a heart willing to uncover any bondage of pride, bitterness, fear, anxiety, depression, self-pity, legalism, double-mindedness, inconsistency, criticism of others, malicious attitudes, and impure motives. A heart that wants to experience the fullness of the joy of the salvation it proclaims to others.

Imagine if believers not only taught about the value of life, but demonstrated it with their own actions. Maybe then the issues of abortion and suicide would start to be impacted in a positive way. Instead, we have Christians preaching about the sanctity of life, while failing to even treat their own temples with respect and care. Never mind what our poor examples are teaching our children about their own value in God’s eyes. Really, the way society is should not surprise us. We’re stuffing our faces with Big Macs and preaching about the sanctity of life at the same time. Do we really believe we are fearfully and wonderfully made and that our bodies are temples? Our behavior gives us away every time.

And how often do we preach of racial tolerance, yet some churches are still segregated by race (this has always baffled me)?

Or we’re quick to boycott the next business that supports gay marriage, because we believe homosexuality is against God’s plan, yet many Christians fail to even ask God what His plan is for their own lives—nor do they care. They’d rather do what they want and ask God to bless it. No bother of His plan for us to forgive each other, live in peace, and be united in Christ. Instead, we can hate each other, tear each other down, gossip and slander each other, then go and tell the world to follow God’s will or go to hell.

Only when Christians experience life to the full will the lost be reconciled. It’s up to each of us, as believers, to commit to believing the truth and experiencing the freedom we were created for on a daily basis. It starts with us, and that influence spreads to others, one person at a time. Experiencing freedom as individual Christians will impact the lives of others. People will see our peace and joy despite our circumstances, and they will want that for themselves. We need Christians with integrity to rise up and speak (in love) to each other. Instead of calling the world out, we should call each other out. The problem is not the world—we cannot hold the world to a standard (the Bible) it has not accepted as authority. The problem is with the Church and its members who are living in bondage. The world sees no difference in the believer, and therefore no need to live by the rules that believer proclaims. Sure, the world sees Christians who attend church and preach a lot, but do they see Christians really living in peace? Or just believers who live to point fingers? This needs to change! It starts with each of us, one at a time, choosing to live by the truth minute by minute, day by day, despite our feelings and circumstances.

Living free and full of joy and peace is an attractive way of life, something the world is desperately searching for. Let’s stand together as warriors for truth, proclaiming it with our lives (not more religious duties but more sincere and godly attitudes), not just our words. Perhaps the next wave of revival will be ushered in by a group of people who made a choice to follow and actually believe the words of Jesus once and for all—no turning back, no turning back. Choose to believe God’s truth today, and don’t look back!

“He has put a new song in my mouth…many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

“Let everything you do reflect the integrity of your teaching.” Titus 2:7b, NLT

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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The Junk in My Trunk

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8

Suggested reading: Isaiah 59

Waking the Dead by John Eldredge

Imagine you’ve beautifully decorated a cake. You spent years studying how to decorate it to perfection, and all that knowledge has paid off. Your cake looks marvelous, anyone would want it at their wedding. That is unless they cut into it. You see, you spent so much time learning how to decorate the cake, you never took the time to learn how to bake the cake! Your ingredients were not measured correctly, and were not good quality. You had a beautiful cake that was inedible.

This describes the majority of us. We’ve accepted the teachings that we “should” act a certain way. So, we attempt to decorate our appearance (with the best of intentions) rather than fixing the inside. It’s called legalism. “Surely a real Christian wouldn’t act that way!” Perhaps that “Christian” has too much junk in their trunk, and they don’t realize it.

I have spent many years learning the Bible, doing studies, and attending classes, but those facts did not set me free. As a believer I continued to struggle with eating disorders, addictions, and ungodly attitudes. It was a daily struggle which often ended in despair. “I’ll never be able to do this!” There are many denominations that would label me a “non-believer” based on my actions. What was my problem?

When I went through The Steps to Freedom in Christ I started to understand what was holding me up. Yes, I did have a heart that sought after God, but I had too much junk in my trunk making it impossible for me to drive up the mountaintop of freedom. I struggled every day with wanting to do the right thing, then failing to do it. I chalked it up to Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:24, “Oh wretched man that I am!” I guess it’s the way it will always be; trying to do good and failing. I was taught and believed this was the way of the Christian life, ups and downs; failures and successes.

I had tried to forget about my past and move on for many years, yet I had failed to deal with it head on. One thing I did was list every physical act partaken of with another man that was not my husband. I had to write down their names and what I did. I even had to write down my husband’s name and everything we did before we were married. I went through the list systematically renouncing the deeds and the spiritual bonds it produced. Those were things I tried to forget for many years. I never realized that just pushing the memories away didn’t fix the problem. I had made spiritual agreements with these people and these bonds needed to be broken. Just because I had re-dedicated myself to Jesus didn’t mean the spiritual bonds of sin were severed. Had God already forgiven me? Of course! He forgave me as He suffered on the cross for my every shameful choice, but I couldn’t experience freedom until I acknowledged and renounced my actions.

Repentance isn’t for God, it’s for me.

This process was repeated in every area of my life, not just sexual sin. I’m talking about down to “obeying the laws of the government”. Yes, that means speeding and other traffic violations whether or not I was “caught”. Does this sound extreme to you? I assure you, it’s not. A lifetime of junk piling up set a wall between me and true freedom.

I am living life on the mountaintop now because I finally emptied out the garbage. I acknowledged its existence, renounced it and repented, allowing me to experience the freedom of Christ completely. We’re wearing ourselves out trying to get up that mountain with 500lbs of bricks on our backs. We’re fighting a losing battle by decorating a cake with inedible ingredients.

For the first time in my life I am “living” the way I should; not out of effort but because I have been changed from the inside out.  If my trunk is filled with junk I’ve never faced, I will have no room to retain the truth of Jesus that results in changed behavior.

Am I perfect? No, but I am equipped, armed, and ready for the spiritual battle that rages every day of my life and that has allowed me to walk in my position with Christ as a saint.

Well, That’s Not How I See It….

“Mommy, when I’m 29 like you, I won’t be afraid anymore!” My daughter has an interesting perspective on things. She firmly believes that everything will be better for her when she is older. Eventually we are faced with the reality that life does not get easier with age.

Children can be short-sighted in their perspective.

They get excited over little things like petting animals at a farm, eating at a special restaurant, or getting a new box of crayons. Their world is small and simple and they usually don’t understand why the adults are so serious. They want to run and play, laugh and learn while the grown-ups have to work and budget, say “no” to their wants, and discipline the bad choices.

As adults our perspectives can be influenced by outside sources. Some may become “pessimistic” because they see everything in their life as a personal attack against them. There is the “glass-half-full” crowd who appear bubbly and worry free most of the time, skipping gleefully by the faulty elements surrounding them. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

Media plays a role in our views. We are inundated with messages to look good, spend money, get rich, and seek personal happiness at any cost to those around us. We receive messages from other people that may influence our perspective. Recently my daughter looked up at my husband and said, “Daddy, you’re fat! I think you eat too much!” I quickly shushed her and explained that it wasn’t nice to call people “fat”. However, my husband was deeply affected by that statement from his wide-eyed four year old even though he knew she was not being malicious. A few minutes later he came to us and exclaimed, “Daddy’s going on a diet!” For some reasons my pleas for him to improve his health went unnoticed, but this comment from his daughter was a powerful motivator. Over time we each receive similar messages from people about who we are and what we are worth which shapes how we view ourselves and our world.

God also has a perspective, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9) His perspective is far superior to ours and as much as we try to understand, it will always surpass our complete comprehension.

God’s perspective is righteous, “Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”(Hosea 14:9), and eternal, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Understanding how God sees things should effect how we see things. As we learn his ways we recognize through our circumstances we are given opportunities to trust him (Psalm 37:7-9), be rewarded (Proverbs 14:14), mature (Philippians 4:11-13), and fulfill our purpose (1 Corinthians 7:17, Ephesians 2:10).

Today I woke up and checked my electricity meter. (We have a pay-as-you-go system where we load our card with whatever amount of money we want then insert it in our meter to purchase as much electricity as we can afford at any given time.) It read $3.34 and I chuckled to my husband, “Not bad!” That would get us a few more hours of lights, computers, televisions and air-conditioning. There was a day when I would have panicked at the same scenario but I realized this morning that God is reshaping my perspective. He uses his word of truth, wisdom of Godly friends, and sometimes the honest remarks of my little Samantha.

As I traverse my God-given path through life,

 I’m trying to be mindful of my limited and somewhat faulty perspective. I’m determining to give my experiences to God and trust him with the results. Thank you, Jesus, for continuing to mold my perspective.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am God, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Inward

Inward

“I pondered the direction of my life and I turned to follow your laws.” Psalm 119:59 NLT

Any type of conversion or repentant experience has to start with something. A person doesn’t just decide one day to change; there is usually some motivating factor. What leads a person to desire change for themselves? The Psalmist said, “I pondered the direction of my life.” He thought about it. Where was his life going, how was his attitude, what was the end result of his life going along the current path he was on? He pondered it and decided something had to change. This change required a decision to move or turn from his current course, and go along a new course, the course of God’s word.

The beginning of change within us starts with a time of self-examination. We ask God to search us, but we also look within ourselves to see if there is something wrong. If I keep going on the path I am on, where will that lead me? Is there anything about my choices that needs to change?

Is self-examination biblical? God designed us with a free will, and within that free will is the ability to choose our direction. It’s up to us to make the choice of whether or not to maintain our current heading or put in a new route.

“When you are on your beds search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

Before we go to bed is the perfect time to reflect on the day. Take a good look inward and see if there was anything that didn’t line up with the person of Jesus that we seek to represent. Anything less than a perfect representation means turning from that action/thought/attitude and getting back on his path. It is most certainly biblical to examine ourselves.

Do we feel regret over the short-comings we committed? Is there remorse? This remorse is necessary to lead us into a genuine repentance that alters our current actions. Does this mean we won’t ever commit that “sin” again? Of course not! We are human and we fail, but the genuine repentance will put us on a new path moving closer to the character of Jesus. Ups and downs are sure, but a consistent pattern upward will be evident of the repentant heart.

There is a counterfeit remorse, however, and its name is “self-pity”. This destructive behavior appears to be regretful, sorrowful over sin, yet it dwells on the wrongs and the failures rather than moving on and up in Christ.  Self-pity will always distance us from the voice of God. We must not allow self-pity to destroy our fellowship with him. Confess, repent (turn), be restored and move on!

 Unless we are looking in the direction of Jesus (through his word), we cannot know what light and life even look like. The joyful life is the holy life. Anything less will lead to a false sense of “happiness”. This false “joy” is the type of feeling that is easily tossed about whenever circumstances are uncertain. A lasting deep abiding joy comes in the life that is on the path to holiness. Those who appear to be happy in their “sin” will fall at some point, and deep down they will always be searching for the next “thing” to satisfy when all along Jesus has already given the answer to fulfillment!

“These people have stubborn hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.” Jeremiah 5:23

In order to know true joy I must be walking upward in my relationship with Jesus, moving closer to becoming like him. The only way I can see him and know him to be transformed into his likeness is to spend time with him in his word and prayer.

“The Spirit searches all things.” 1 Corinthians 2:10

We ask the Spirit to turn us to the light of his face through his word. We cannot see him unless we turn to look at him!

We look inward then we turn and look upward.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to take an honest look into my heart. Lead me into a time of self-examination and speak to me through your Spirit. Open my eyes to the truth of what lies within me that I need to turn from. You are truth, and your word is truth, so I ask that your Spirit guide me into the truth no matter how much it hurts. I want to press on towards a life of holiness in becoming more like you, and I don’t want anything to hinder that.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)