All posts by Tim Jackson

About Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson is married to his college sweetheart, Cole. They have 3 adult children. Tim has written Discovery Series booklets on a variety of counseling issues and hosted webinars for Our Daily Bread Ministries. He's also the founder and president of Still Waters Counseling & Equipping Ministries, PC, a local counseling practice serving individuals, couples and families. When not in the office, you will probably find him up a tree with a bow, in a duck blind or fly fishing on one of Michigan's many rivers.

How Do You Handle Being Rebuffed When Attempting Reconciliation?

If we’ve lived and loved long enough, we all know the pain of a broken relationship. We also know the joy of reconciliation when that relationship is mended. Unfortunately, loving someone well and trying to reconcile with them provides no guarantee they will welcome restoration. When someone refuses to reconcile a broken relationship, frustration, pain, and self-doubts can grow. The desire to find a way to restore the broken relationship that works intensifies.

Sadly, there is no guaranteed procedure that we can follow to assure restoration of a broken relationship. Sometimes, all we can do is grieve the loss of that relationship. And that is what Jesus modeled for us. He is the perfect example of one who unselfishly poured out His love to His creatures and offered them the opportunity for reconciliation with their Creator. However, they would have nothing to do with Him.

In one of the saddest verses in the Bible, John records in a single sentence the fact that Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive him” (John 1:11).

Jesus’ response to the rejection of His offer of reconciliation was a deep grief and sadness that moved Him to tears and prayer for His people. We see the Son of God’s broken heart when He sits outside the walls of Jerusalem and laments: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).

One of the most frightening truths that we all must face is the fact that we cannot force someone to love us, no matter what we do. Even if we take appropriate responsibility for harm we’ve done to them, confess our sin against them, and ask for forgiveness, there is no assurance they will respond in kind. They can choose to remain distant.

While an unresolved relationship is deeply disturbing, one of the most freeing truths is that no one has the power to stop us from loving them. And that’s all that God calls us to do, to love others the way He has loved us (John 13:34;15:12).

We all wish there was a “next step” that would make reconciliation work out every time. Sadly, there is no such step. However, at those times when our best efforts at loving are rebuffed, we do have the opportunity to share in our Lord’s sufferings, to experience His pain and His relentless longing for reconciliation (Philippians 1:29).

We need to guard against a false guilt that assumes we should be able to do something to “fix” every relationship — as if it all depends on us alone. While we must take responsibility for our part in a relationship, we must not assume that we are solely responsible for the breach in the relationship. Instead of holding another person responsible for their choices, we can tend to let people off the hook and blame ourselves for “not doing enough” or “missing something” that would be the key to unlocking the relationship.

That kind of thinking is not only demoralizing but controlling and unbiblical. God never asks us to assume responsibility for others, only ourselves. That needs to be our focus.

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Does Forgiving Mean Forgetting?

Many people believe that to forgive someone they must first be willing to forget. By this they mean that they must be able to dismiss from their memory the painful events that caused a break in their relationship. In other words, they need to pretend that nothing bad ever happened.

Simply trying to forget the wrongs that are done against us is like spray-painting a rusty old car. It seems like an easy solution at first, but eventually the rust breaks through and the problem is worse than before.

Well-meaning Christians often support the “forgive and forget” model of forgiveness by appealing to God’s forgiveness, as in Jeremiah 31:34. In their view, this text means that forgetting precedes forgiving. They say that if we don’t forget, we can’t forgive.

There is a sense, of course, in which God “forgets” our sins. Once He has forgiven us, He will never use them as evidence against us. But the all-knowing Creator can’t forget things in the way that we do. Data can be erased from a computer’s magnetic memory, human recollections can be obliterated by time and disability, but all of history is constantly before His gaze. From eternity to eternity, God is the same. The divine Author of Scripture caused the sins of Jacob, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul to be recorded for our benefit. He hasn’t forgotten their sins in a historical sense, but they will never be used as grounds for condemnation. It is our sin’s debt — the rightful wages of our sin — that God “forgets.”

God doesn’t expect us to wipe the sins of others from our memory. In fact, we probably won’t be able to, no matter how hard we try. He certainly wouldn’t want us to pretend that we have forgotten things we can’t forget. What He desires is that we forgive sins committed against us (Matthew 6:14-15) the way He forgives our much greater sins against Him (Matthew 18:23-35).

It takes greater forgiveness to forgive a grievance that we remember clearly than to forgive a grievance that we have partially forgotten. Merely ignoring our memory of a grievance isn’t forgiveness, it’s only suppression of anger. Genuine forgiveness, like God’s forgiveness, clearly sees the offense and then forgives it by withdrawing the penalty and continuing the relationship. It’s natural to deal with our anger by suppressing our memory of an offense, but it’s supernatural to remember it clearly and renounce our right to revenge. Revenge must be left in the hands of the only One who is always objective and just (Romans 12:19-21).

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What’s the Difference Between Sinful Anger and Godly Anger?

Like everything else in our lives, our emotions have been discolored by sin. Most emotions reflect a blend of both self-centeredness and goodness. If we are waiting for a moment of selfless purity to express our anger, it will probably never happen. However, knowing that we are flawed can lead us into deeper dependence on the One who gave us emotions in the first place. The Holy Spirit residing within us helps us monitor and learn from our emotions.

When monitoring our anger, it is important to understand that much of our anger is fueled by a hatred of injustice, whether real or perceived. Anger over injustice reflects the core longing for justice we all share. We are incensed when life seems unfair. We can know, however, if the anger we feel is sinful or godly by considering the provocation, goal, motivation, and timing of our anger.

Selfish anger is provoked when we believe we’ve been treated unjustly or unfairly. We want something, we don’t get it, we feel deprived, and now someone is going to pay for having treated us this way (James 4:1-4). The goal is revenge. When driven by vengeance, we demand that someone pay now for the injustice we’ve suffered. We impatiently demand immediate execution of justice according to our specifications, and refuse to allow time for God to work in the hearts of those who have offended us (James 1:19-20). Our anger becomes a caustic acid intended to burn those we feel have burned us unfairly. When offended, we can be ruthless, hard, unreasonable, and devoid of mercy in our response.

Conversely, godly anger is provoked in us when we witness persistent violations of God’s standards of justice (Psalm 119:53). There is an appropriate time to be outraged over those who hold God in contempt and mar the beauty of His creation. The goal of godly anger is to warn the person who has breached God’s divine law so that once exposed they can have the opportunity to change (Ezekiel 3:18-21). This kind of anger is like iodine, an ointment intended to purge infection and promote healing in the recipient (Proverbs 27:6). It is painful at first, but in the end, it soothes and heals.

Godly anger is motivated both by the love of Christ that works in us to extend His love to others (2 Corinthians 5:14), and by the fear of His coming execution of perfect justice (2 Corinthians 5:11). Godly anger is marked by a confidence in God’s longsuffering character (Psalm 86:15; 2 Peter 3:9), knowing that only He is qualified to carry out vengeance equitably. Godly anger refuses to resort to personal acts of revenge now, but is willing to wait for God’s wrath to be poured out against evil in His good time (Psalm 73:16-19; Romans 12:19).

Because we are to be like Christ in every way (Ephesians 4:1; 1 John 4:17), by implication we are also called to reflect His righteous anger. If we are to stand for the Father the way Jesus did, we need to stand for the things He’s for, and against the things He’s against. Godly anger reflects our Father’s passion for justice. While we rely on Him to execute final justice (Romans 12:19-21), godly anger motivates us to work for fairness and justice on behalf of those who are oppressed (Micah 6:8; Romans 12:17-18). It reflects dependence and confidence in God as the ultimate Judge who always executes justice rightly (1 Peter 2:23).

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Does the Bible Imply That Sex Is Wrong?

It is easy to read the biblical prohibitions against having sexual relations outside of marriage and conclude that God is against sex and any form of sexual pleasure ( Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 5:1-6;6:23-29; Matthew 5:27-28;15:16-20; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Colossians 3:5-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7; Hebrews 13:4 ). Further, many sermons on the topic of sex inevitably focus exclusively on the “don’ts” of sexuality. From these sources, we might get the impression that sex is an evil passion that God hates and that Christians must avoid. But this is not the case.

God is not against sex. He doesn’t view sexual desire as an unhealthy passion that Christians must despise, disable, or deny. In fact, He sees it as a healthy passion to be honored and enjoyed. In the right context, sex is delightful, desirable, and pleasing to God. After all, sex was His idea in the first place. It’s His design.

Genesis 1-3 records God’s creation of people. In 1:27 it says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It was after He made man and woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden that He proclaimed all He had made as being “very good” ( Genesis 1:31 ).

God designed sexual intercourse to be a dynamic part of a man’s and woman’s ability to express intimacy and love. Physical pleasure is an important part of God’s gift of human sexuality to mankind. From the very beginning of creation, God invented human sexuality and gave us our capacity to enjoy expressing ourselves through sexual intimacy. He proclaimed our sexuality “very good” as a part of expressing His creative genius.

Sex should never be viewed as something evil or dirty that must be denied. Rather, it is exquisite and delicate and must be honored and protected. If God invented sex and called it good, we dare not call it evil. Since sex and sexuality were born out of the mind and heart of God, He also has the best idea about how we can most fully enjoy it.

Jesus told His followers that God the Father delights in giving good gifts to His children ( Matthew 7:11 ; James 1:16-17 ). Sex needs to be viewed as one of those good gifts.

In the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden, the first husband and wife “were both naked, and they felt no shame” ( Genesis 2:25 ). Anything wrong with that? No. And that’s how God intended it to be. The first married couple enjoyed uninhibited freedom in a perfect “one flesh” union that honored each other as well as the One who made them ( Genesis 2:24 ). They simply lived out who they were made to be as a man and a woman with each other.

Although this perfect relationship was soon marred by sin ( Genesis 3:7-10 ), the opportunity for healthy sexual expression within marriage was not destroyed in the Fall. God still intends for shared sexual pleasure to be an essential facet of a healthy marriage ( 1 Corinthians 7:2-7 ; Hebrews 13:4 ).

In our post-Fall experience, we all have been exposed to or have experienced perverse and immoral distortions of our sexuality in a variety of contexts. From the media and personal experiences in destructive relationships, to sexual abuse and sexual violence, to the secret inner world of sexual fantasies, Satan is working overtime to mar the delicious taste of sexual intimacy with our spouse. Nevertheless, these distortions don’t nullify God’s original design, intent, or purpose for human sexual expression. God still wants us to delight in our sexuality as an exquisite gift from Him to us. How we handle our gift determines the depth of our enjoyment ( 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 ).

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What’s the Purpose of Sex?

Of course, sex is necessary for the propagation of the race. But while we are to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28), sex is not merely limited to the procreation of the human species.

Sexual intimacy is designed to reflect the beautiful mystery and intimate union between God and His people ( Ephesians 5:25 ). God gave us sex to arouse and satisfy our innate craving for intimacy, for union ( Genesis 1:24-25 ). A couple who enjoys emotional, relational, and spiritual intercourse with one another will be drawn to celebrate their love through sexual intimacy. That’s why sexual intimacy is exclusively reserved for marriage. Sexual experiences outside of marriage mar our enjoyment of the beauty of sexual intimacy in its proper context as God intended.

The Bible describes the sexual experience within marriage as honorable ( Hebrews 13:4 ). Some of the most beautiful erotic literature ever composed is found in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. For some, the idea of verbally inspired erotic literature is difficult to accept. Yet God has frankly recorded for us His view of the delights of sexual intimacy between a married couple in poetic verse:

Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love ( Proverbs 5:15-19 ).

In the Song of Solomon, the husband’s description of his bride’s body ( Song of Solomon 4:1-15 ) and her description of his ( Song of Solomon 5:10-16 ) reveals the joy of love and sexual intimacy that God extols for a married couple. While sexual intimacy between a couple is not to be observed by anyone outside of the relationship, God, the One who sees and knows all, must smile with delight when He sees two of His children enjoying the good gift of sex He has given to them.

God intended sex to be far more than mere pleasurable sensations. He designed it as the intimate union of body, soul, mind, and spirit exclusively shared between a husband and wife. It’s about being open, exposed, naked, and unashamed in the presence of our spouse who finds us desirable and yearns to draw close to us. That’s how God captures our hearts. Being captured by our lover will give us a taste of being caught up in Christ’s love in a way that we feel deeply enjoyed without shame. In essence, sexual intimacy within marriage should draw us to deeper worship of God who initiated sexuality for His glory and our delight.

Enjoying sex with one’s spouse is always to be viewed as a part of the whole marriage relationship. Sex is never to be singled out as some isolated aspect of our being that is disconnected from the rest of the relationship. Rather, sexuality is a vehicle for expressing our identity as a man or a woman made in the image of God. Sexuality pulsates throughout a godly marriage and is not exclusively reserved for the bedroom experience.

A devastating assault on our ability to enjoy sexuality is the perpetuation of the myth, “Sex is just sex. It’s just another biological urge demanding satisfaction.” But that’s not true. God didn’t make sex as a mere physical act. Whether we’re willing to acknowledge it now, or we face the pain of admitting it after the fact, sex is always woven into our view of ourselves, one another, and God. Each of us distinctly reflects the image of God through the lens of our sexuality as either male or female. How we handle this good gift of sex will either enhance the glory of God’s image in us or will mar that glory.

If anyone should be enjoying sexuality, Christians should. We should know better than anyone else that sex was never intended to be an end in itself. It is intended to be a joyous celebration of the intimate love that a man and woman share together in the covenant relationship called marriage. It is designed to be a reflection of the intimate love relationship between Christ and His church ( Ephesians 5:25-33 ).

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