I do, means forever

Deur Anthony van Tonder

What does it mean today when couples say the words ‘I do’?  Does that mean they are really saying ‘I do, as long as it works out?’ or merely ‘I’ll try’?
You can choose to get married – no-one holds a gun to your head. Yet, it is the truth that at the time of exchanging vows, people merely mouth off: ‘I do’. Society today has no clue as to the depth of uttering those two little words. Imagine yourself in front of the Marriage Officer, a smile on your face, looking into the eyes of the person to whom you pledge loyalty, for as long as you both shall live. Now quietly say the words, ‘I do’. What exactly does that mean?
Saying ‘I do’ is an action. It does not merely mean ‘I’ll try’. When the honeymoon is over, the harsh reality of two different people coming together calls for the proverbial ‘when the rubber meets the tar’. This is a definite reality check.
When we look at the destruction of marriage, the demise of the home, the many children torn apart between two parent groups, we have to take a hard look at ourselves. Do we really, firstly, understand what we meant with ‘I do’ and secondly understand the depth of the marriage commitment? Actually, it is more than a commitment, it is supposed to be a covenant. That is where marriage originally comes from. It comes from a God who covenanted with His people by moving through the blood of sacrificed animals. The parallel and symbolism which that holds for modern day marriage is amazing.
 A covenant marriage says: “I sacrifice myself, by choice, to you, forever”. If we put an acronym to the word commitment within the ambit of marriage, it will look something like this:
C – Choose to love unconditionally
O – Only you and me
M – Marriage was God’s idea
M – Many trials and tribulations
I   – I hold the key to my own happiness
T – Together we can work out anything (resolve conflict)
M – Make time to communicate effectively
E – Encourage each other daily (speak into his/her love language)
N – Never mention divorce
T – Trust each other implicitly

Saying ‘I do’ on that big day, should stimulate us to think investment. If couples are serious about their ‘I do’ commitment, then sporadic marriage enrichment should become a planned entity. Someone once said: “Life becomes what you plan”. So put away R100 per month which you use once a year to invest into growing in your relationship with each other. This could take various forms such as investing in a marriage DVD series or going on a marriage retreat.
Just imagine if the vows to which we so easily respond ‘I do’, sounded more like:
“Do you take me in a time when I get so sick that I cannot eat without being helped. Will you love  me  enough to help me through when I fall into the trap of developing a gambling habit. Do you accept that sometimes for days I might not feel like showing love to you?”
The question arises; will you still say ‘I do’?  I guess not!  When we say ‘I do’, we are really saying: ‘I choose to love you, even when you do not deserve it’. ‘I do’ then, does not mean ‘I will try’, or ‘I will stick with you as long as it works out’. It means I ‘choose’ to be with you forever!

Coping with Marriage: 7 Critical Areas
Once you have made up your mind to stay in your relationship until ‘death do you part’, you will come across seven areas in particular which could challenge you beyond your wildest dreams. Let us look into these seven most common areas:

1. We have lost our love for each other, or I have fallen out of love
There is no greater lie than this. One or both of the parties have simply chosen not to love anymore. Put another way, you have moved the focus from putting your spouse first, to putting yourself first. In fact, this is loosely described as the unholy trinity, namely: ‘I, Me and Myself.’ What then is the resolve? You have to know how your partner wants to receive love. A study was done by Dr Gary Chapman called: ‘The Five Love Languages’ which is available in bookstores. This study covers the principle of each person identifying their particular dominant love language. This means, for example, if I enjoy touching other people, I most probably would love touch as a form of endearment or appreciation. That then would be the way I would feel loved.

2. We are always fighting
This is problem number two which brings so many relationships to the throws of divorce. The problem at hand would be that the couple has the inability to cope with conflict effectively. The true reason for that would be that they actually have never acquired the skill or skills to go through the conflict at hand. The normal problem lies in that the two involved in the argument are channeling accusations toward each other as opposed to focusing on the problem. This is a technique which can be acquired, but demands discipline and self control.

3. He/She is always Angry
The devil loves it when you lose it. In fact, he will exacerbate the problem by choosing times of high probable tension to trick us, It is so much more difficult to control ourselves when situations aggravate the circumstances.
Anger, per se, is not a bad thing. It just says something is out of line and I do not feel I am coping with the situation. Your anger is normally caused by one of three reasons: fear, frustration or hurt. How you channel that anger becomes your challenge.

4. We are so different
We all have a behavioural style which plays a vital role as to how we get along with others. Some people are naturally extrovert, whilst others are introvert. There is no right and no wrong, but it does play a role.
• Some people are Driven, Decisive and Dominant. Those people are called Choleric.
• Others are Influential, Inspirational and Impressive. Those we call Sanguine.
• People, who generally are Stable, Steady and Supportive, are called Phlegmatic.
• Those who are Compliant, Critical Thinkers and Correct in their ways are called Melancholy.
These brief descriptions are but a tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to the complexity of man – no wonder that gives due reason to quarrel and fight about little things. Incredible to notice that the Word of God in James 4:1 states just that and then proceeds to tell us it is as a result of that which wars on our inside.

5. We can’t seem to speak to each other without emotions getting out of control
This is nothing other than a lack of effective communication. People may be speaking, but that does not mean it is making any sense. The other problem with communication is that the other party invariably is only listening with one ear, as whilst their partner is speaking, they are already preparing what to say. The centre of the problem lies in the fact that couples start attacking one another, as opposed to standing together and rather addressing the problem. Finally it must be noted that there are five levels of communication. The average struggling individual rarely proceeds to level four or five which ultimately epitomises effective communication.

6. We don’t trust one another
This is a weightier problem to resolve than the normal disagreement. Usually far more time is required to work at resolving this problem. This is not a problem that shoots up overnight. Invariably it is the result of a series of situations which eventually lead to distrust. The other problem is that one of the two parties brought a problem into the relationship influenced by life, causing them to be distrusting. This results in the situation that the other person is at a disadvantage. There is no quick solution to this scenario as it takes time to trace where the problem originated from. The question then arises: ‘How do we learn to trust again?’ Answer: ‘You give trust in order to cultivate trust.’

7. He just wants sex. I am not a piece of meat
Ouch. This sounds harsh. Yet, whilst some will voice their feelings, others will feel injured, but won’t know how to express what they are experiencing. Women have been created beautifully. Men need to acquire the art of exercising non-sexual touching. When God said: ‘Let them be one’, He did not only mean physically but also spiritually. We have been created to enjoy intimate relationships. God also said in Genesis 2:25: ‘They were both naked and they were not ashamed’. It is man’s sinfulness in the area of lust which has taken something beautiful that God ordained and perverted it to the extent where so much hurt is caused.
In general, men fight the reality that they seem to need physical affection more frequently than women. It is fact that women appreciate tenderness, appreciation, up-building words and an attempt to understand them, which assists them to want to be there for their partners.
The word of God describes the Father heart for a healthy sexual relationship in 1 Corinth 7: 3-6.
In conclusion, why not read and attend talks on relationships? All of us have room for improvement and development. Practical advice is available! There are DVDs available to assist you in learning how to cope with these 7 Critical Areas.

The DVD, ‘How to Apply the Five Love Languages’ is available from selected bookstores or Happy Families.

Dr Anthony van Tonder, Specialist Marriage Counselor, He is the Founder and CEO of Family Life Change Centre SA t/a HAPPY FAMILIES. Contact them on 012 345 2517 or office@happyfamilies.org.za

Help, I am a hypocrite

By Peter Field

The difficulty in writing about hypocrisy is that I am a hypocrite! We all are to some degree. The frustration for every Christian preacher and teacher is communicating perfect truths and standards, knowing we’re inconsistently faithful vessels ourselves. Yet at the same time in Christianity our tendency is to judge others, to see the faults in others rather than in ourselves!
A hypocrite is simply someone who conveys one thing but does another. The term comes out of the ancient Greek theatre. The actor wore a mask that exaggerated his particular role. The audience were in no doubt who the actor was portraying and so the word came to mean “anyone who pretended to be what he was not”. Jesus tapped into this relevant understanding of the day and got great mileage out of the illustration to address head-on the duplicity conducted by many. A corruption he did not want in His disciples. Luke 12:1 “He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’”

Hiding behind masks
His men were to become the prominent leaders, the blueprint for the Gospel and examples for the Church to emulate. Public profile personalities in the Church are still a concern for Jesus. Too often today, the Church world is akin to the stage and its main stars so similar to masked actors that it’s hard to tell the difference between the two. There’s enough masked men around to warrant a full billing for the Christian version of the Oscars! Warren Wiersbe recounts the great artist Raphael, who was painting his famous Vatican frescoes when a couple of bureaucratic church leaders paused to watch and criticise. “The face of the apostle Paul is too red,” said one. “He blushes to see into whose hands the church has fallen,” replied Raphael.
Followers take their lead from the top. They absorb the culture of conduct from leadership. So when leaders engage in questionable practices, they set the standard for the next generation of followers. Much has been addressed where failed leaders have been under the spotlight for blatant violations, but what of the less conspicuous treachery?

No place for prima donnas
One common, but wrong practice, is garnishing the real story. Preachers giving embellished testimonials about alleged miracles, revivals, numbers of conversions, church membership and finances and the rest. It’s called speaking ‘evangelistically’. Exaggeration is a lie and liars don’t go to heaven. What’s just as worrying is how many people believe the lies! Whether the motivation is either the bruised or inflated ego probably varies from preacher to preacher, but it’s just not right. Paul was adamantly careful about his reputation via communication and he definitely had cause for great stories…he had even been to the third heaven. “For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.” 2 Cor 12:6
 The Bible encourages us to give good reports; “to make the bones fat”. Give me the two spies reconnaissance debrief of faith any day over the ten prophets of doom and their bad press – but let’s stick to the facts. Bolstering a story just to make me look good is really a sign of unbelief. God is our keeper. He will reward ministry and promote our influence when and where He wants to. Trying to advance our reputation by furnishing the real story with a few savoury touches is carnal in its nature and will only produce a carnal outcome.
Being genuine denotes being free from hypocrisy or pretence. When God calls men into leadership, or more specifically, the role of a pastor, he calls a man according to His heart. This man should have the heart of a shepherd. As the great shepherd, Jesus has called under-shepherds to reflect His heart and embrace His example. Meaning, His disposition will reflect in their conduct with His Church. The apostle Peter says, “…serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly……nor as being Lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”. How far this is from so many preachers today who by all accounts serve themselves! In the imagination of their own minds they’re so important that they are virtually unapproachable. They can’t be contacted directly, their phone numbers are private and a member of their entourage is commissioned to screen any possible public intervention. This would all be justified by (in their mind), how big their ministry is. No, they are behaving like prima donnas!

By all standards Jesus had a fairly significant ministry. He could pull a serious crowd and at times had to remove Himself from the masses to maintain His focus. Yet he resisted any attempt to be elevated to celebrity status and strived to remain accessible. Account after account shows His demonstration of the personal touch. Nobody enjoys the fishbowl existence of those on display in ministry but unfortunately the transparency required just goes with the job. The authentic pastor has a shepherd’s heart, he sincerely cares, he’s interested in his people and he’s concerned. He loves to fellowship with them personally and engages with them one on one. Certainly as a congregation increases in size this becomes more difficult, however he will prioritise this problem and find ways to have access to all his flock. This is why the mega-church cannot fit into the plan of God, but that’s another discussion…

Neglecting the world
The insecure or insincere man of God also has great difficulty with people who no longer fellowship in his church. Yes, of course there has always been and always will be those cases of people who have departed in rebellion or have found themselves out» of fellowship because of sin. However, not everybody that moves on is a rebel or a backslider! I’m not condoning church hopping or the spiritual butterfly that alights for a moment and then migrates to the next port of call. People need to be committed. Sometimes though, there exists personal circumstances that dictate a more suitable spiritual home. The genuine shepherd should have the congregant’s eternal soul and spiritual  well-being as his priority, and not his church attendance average and membership record. How quickly, when an individual no longer attends one particular church, do the loving and compassionate members and its leader withdraw their love and concern towards that brother or sister in Christ? Hypocrisy! John 13 Jesus said, “……by this all will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another”.
It’s critical that when people depart, for whatever reason, that the door remains open so that in the event they decide to return, and repent when necessary, they can. In the prodigal son and the parable involving the hundred sheep with one going astray, the emphasis of rejoicing is over the restoration and recovery of the estranged individual. This can’t happen if the shepherd and the rest of the sheep close the gate. Without adding too much to the debate over doctrine, it cannot be ignored when pondering the subtleties of hypocrisy. If shepherds are called to feed sheep, and they are, it is a worry that there are so many starving and emaciated walking carcases on the landscape of the church world. God has called shepherds to “…feed……with knowledge and understanding.” Jer 3:15. We’ve all had the experience of ordering at a restaurant and the waiter bringing the wrong order. Hopefully we’re polite even if indignant, about not receiving our request. As the authority and author of the spiritual cuisine of the Word of God, He is just as concerned as the pedantic restaurateur that His Word is delivered as He expected. So much preaching today is little more than man’s opinion with a distinct absence of any value or balanced content. Invariably Scripture is used out of context or as a pretext, the minister failing to preach the whole text. Another classic antic is the hobby horse subject, regurgitating the same brilliant idea for weeks, sometimes even months on end. Like children, the people of God need a balanced sermon diet. Some well known celebrities and TV preachers are immediately recognisable by the hype and a peculiar dearth of doctrine. At times I’ve been embarrassed for them and I’m not even really there; their Las Vegas entertainer attire sparkles under the spotlights while the message is nothing more than shrivelled up leftovers exposing their lack of depth and minimal accurate Biblical content. Paul said in Timothy “……labour in the Word and doctrine.” Labour in Greek means work hard, toil, be wearied! That means the same thing in any language on the planet. In a later letter to Timothy, Paul reinforced again to his young protégé the same emphasis. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”  2 Tim 2:15.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Christian who would disagree that the Word of God is not of fundamental importance, why then is it so commonly neglected? No, none of us can claim to be the ultimate and consummate authority on doctrine and, acknowledging that fact in itself, should sober us that we’d exercise great caution. Recognising our own need to know and to grow must then surely manoeuvre us into the discipline of study that we might not be weighed and found wanting. 

Be accountable
Hypocrisy is the disease from which we all suffer. In one sense I’m a hypocrite for even writing all of the above. So instead of believing our own press, every one of us needs to undergo an honest self-evaluation. The best examination is the Word of God. Nothing can probe deeper and more effectively than the illuminating light of Scripture…the two-edged sword that can pierce even to the division of soul and spirit and reveal the thoughts and intentions of our heart. And we need some accountability. Namely some friends, some peers, some spiritual covering in the form of spiritual headship. Left to ourselves we’re a danger to our own hearts and to the integrity of the Church. Prov 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” We don’t need a fan club; we need some brutally honest confidents who care enough to tell us the truth when we need to hear it. I’m not talking about insensitive critics who have an agenda of their own, but time-tested friendships with people of character and integrity. The devil is a specialist in deceitfulness. Great churches and ministries without great ethics, lead to great deception. There’s an old saying,  ‘The hand that means to make another clean, must not itself be dirty’.

Peter Field, Pastor of Potter’s House, Mossel Bay. Contact mbay@pottershouse.com

John: Jesus’ Trusted Disciple

John: Jesus’ Trusted Disciple
The year was A.D. 155, and persecution against the Christians was sweeping across the Roman Empire.  The Pro-Consul of Smyrna put out the order to arrest the Bishop, Polycarp. The crowd screamed when they saw this famous Christian leader enter the Colliseum. They wanted his blood. The Pro-Consul, however, offered him a way of reprieve: “Pity your grey hairs. Just curse Christ and I will release you.” Polycarp responded, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ and He has done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?”
The Pro-Consul reached for a compromise: “Then just do this old man. Swear by the genius of the Emperor and that will be sufficient.”  Polycarp responded, “If you imagine for a moment that I would do that, then you pretend not to know who I am. Hear it plainly: I am a Christian!”
The Pro-Consul commanded him to say, “Away with the atheists!” referring to the Christians who were considered atheists because they didn’t worship the Roman gods. Polycarp pointed at the jeering mob in the stands and cried out, “Away with the atheists!” Then Polycarp was threatened that he would have him eaten by wild beasts. “Bring them forth,” said Polycarp. “I would change my mind if it meant going from the worst to the better, but not to change from the right to the wrong.”
The Pro-Consul’s patience was finally exhausted: “I will have you burned alive,” he warned. Polycarp responded, “You threaten me with a fire that burns for an hour and then is extinguished. But you know nothing about the fire of eternal judgment that will burn forever and ever. Bring what you will!”
The fire was prepared. As Polycarp was burned to death he prayed and praised God with singing. As the fire engulfed him, many people were converted to Christ in the stands. That was February 22, A.D 155.
What is it about a man in those worst of circumstances that enabled him to behave in such an extraordinary way and make it his greatest moment? He trusted Christ.
Polycarp was mentored by a man who knew Jesus Christ in the most unusual way. Polycarp’s mentor was the Apostle John. Thousands thronged around Jesus, hundreds followed Him, but only a dozen became His disciples. And of that twelve, three were in the inner circle – Peter, James and John. And John was described as the disciple whom Jesus loved. John must have passed on something of that unique relationship to Polycarp.  It can be summed up in these words: John trusted Jesus.
True Discipleship
The Apostle John wrote: “While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His Name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. He did not need men’s testimony about a man, for He knew what was in a man.” John 2:23-25
In Jerusalem, many people believed in Jesus. But He did not believe in them. They trusted in Jesus, but He did not trust in them…because Jesus knew their heart motivations. They believed when they saw the miraculous signs He was doing. It’s an interesting point that when you look at church history, you see that as the cost of discipleship increases, the numbers decrease. We shouldn’t be surprised at this. At the first church picnic, over 5 000 people turned out. It is a fact, if you want a larger attendance, throw in a free meal. At the Sermon on the Mount there were several hundred.
For the first church prayer meeting in the upper room, there were 120 who gathered for Pentecost. When it came to the first mid-week outreach there were 70 who went out, two by two, to evangelize, in the highways and the byways. And when it came for daily discipleship, when the Lord wanted men and women to be with Him day and night to follow Him and to be where He was, there were 12 men, and about 5 women.
And of those 12 men, only 1 went all the way to the cross. One betrayed Him, one denied Him, one doubted Him, and they all forsook Him. Only John went all the way to the cross and stood, with the women disciples, beneath the cross and identified with the sufferings of Christ.  As the cost of discipleship increases, the numbers decrease. When we look at John’s life, we see that John trusted Jesus.
John trusted Jesus enough to forsake prosperity.
John’s father had a family business and a second home in Jerusalem. John had ready access to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest. But one day, John was captivated by a man who spoke like no other man had ever spoken before.  John was drawn to Jesus. He sensed the person and the power of God in Jesus. When Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you a fisher of men,” John gave up everything he owned to follow Jesus.
He trusted Jesus enough to risk his life for Him.
 At the Mount of Crucifixion, John was the only man to stand at the cross – at the risk of his own life. John had followed Jesus when the thousands applauded Him, when the miracles were performed and when the Lord was multiplying the loaves and the fishes, when the crowds waved palm branches and cried out: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Highest!” It was quite another thing, however, to trust Jesus when He was dying a disgraceful, criminal death, humbled on the cross. John trusted Jesus enough to risk his life.
John trusted Jesus enough to remain anonymous. 
It is a fascinating fact, that in John’s Gospel, he never mentions himself by name. He refers to Peter, Andrew, James and Judas, but he never writes his own name. He refers to “the other disciple” or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  John could trust Jesus either to make Him famous or to leave Him anonymous and lost in obscurity. John did not need to promote himself. There’s another side to this relationship that’s quite different. John trusted Jesus, yes, and Jesus trusted John.
Jesus trusted John to write one of His Gospels in which we read all kinds of new information that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. Jesus wanted more of His story told, different miracles mentioned. A new perspective that had not yet been presented.  He chose someone He could trust to do that job. He had to get it right. John had been on the Mount of Transfiguration. He had sat next to Jesus at the Last Supper. He had heard that whisper about Judas. He had information that no one else could give. Jesus chose someone He could trust to get the story straight. To communicate what was most important.
Because John was trustworthy, we have these most beloved and familiar words from the Bible:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
“Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”
“Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of heaven.”
 “I am the Bread of Life.”
“If any man is thirsty, let Him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me as Scripture says, streams of life-giving water will flow from within him.”
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
“I am the Light of the World, whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness.”
“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
Jesus trusted John with His love. It’s a most extraordinary thing to be described as, “the one whom Jesus loved.”  To be considered Jesus’ best friend. We read that Enoch walked with God and that Enoch pleased God. We read that Enoch was taken up to be with God. Abraham was called God’s friend.  Moses spoke with God and God spoke to him face-to-face. David was described as, “A man after My own heart.”
I wonder what it would be like to know who was the Lord’s best friend on earth? What do you think would happen? Imagine if we could know, “This is the person whom God loves the most.” Do you know what would happen in 2007 if someone from our country was identified as Jesus’ best friend? They’d probably put out a CD or go on a “Best Friend of Jesus Seminar” speaking tour. There would be a tremendous potential of ruining that person’s life. Jesus chose John to be His best friend with the confidence that he would never misuse their friendship.
Jesus trusted John with His mother.  In John 19, we read the last gasping breaths of our Lord, whose excruciatingly painful crucifixion allowed very little breath for speaking. Jesus, in agony, said seven phrases from the cross: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do…It is finished…Into Thy hands I commend My Spirit.”  And He gasps out to Mary “This is Your Son.” Then to John he says, “This is your mother.” As the eldest son, He was responsible for His mother’s care. Now soon to die, His hands nailed to the cross, He couldn’t (humanly speaking) care for her as He should. So His most important human responsibility on earth, He entrusted to John.
I am sure that you’ve probably been asked many times: Do you trust Jesus? I hope your answer has continued to be a resounding, “Yes! I do. I trust Jesus completely. I would trust Him enough to devote my wealth and to risk my life and reputation.” But, let me ask you, “Does Jesus trust you?”
Can He trust you? Can He trust you with your family? With the education of your children? With standing up for the Right-to-Life of pre-born babies? Can He trust you to do His will? To fulfill His mission? To be faithful in small matters? To be trustworthy in great matters? Can Jesus trust you?
In 2 Chron 16:9 we read: “For the eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to strengthen those whose heart is fully committed to Him.” His eyes are searching into your church and home, into your heart, looking for hearts that are fully committed to Him. The Lord’s eyes are searching. He’s examining your heart now. Are you fully committed to Him?
Can Jesus trust you?

Restoring Wholeness: Freedom from Homosexuality

Restoring Wholeness: Freedom from Homosexuality

Sometimes I love to just walk in a field and enjoy the breeze blowing around me and look at God’s awesome creation – whether it is a rock, a flower bulb, a sunset or an ant. It is then that I think of my life and what God has done for me. I can just smile and nurture the knowledge of a Spirit who did not just raise the Almighty Jesus from the dead, but who also renewed me, forgave my sins and anointed me. I am privileged that He has not only given me a profound, solid promise, but also given me the right to live to see it being fulfilled.

On 11 September 2002, just a year after the twin towers fell in New York, my little world fell apart. This day, at the age of 25, I was diagnosed with full blown AIDS. At first I thought it was malaria as I had just returned from an overland trip through Southern Africa. It was already in such an advanced stage that I could literally feel myself dying every day. My hair fell out and I weighed about 59 kg, my mouth was covered with open sores and I had a constant fever that could not be brought down. I had non-stop diarrhoea. When your immune system is measured it is done by measuring the white blood cell count – sometimes called a CD4 count. A healthy person has an approximate white blood cell count of 1200 and once it decreases below 200, you are classified as not just being HIV+, but someone having AIDS. My CD-4 count was 12 and my only option was to go on anti-retroviral treatment. I did this immediately and my health improved miraculously.

But this is not where my brokenness started or finished, in fact this was just a mere wake up call to let me realise how broken I was.

When I was about five years old an older child in our neighbourhood sexually abused me. I do not remember it as a traumatic experience, but rather that my curiosity fuelled it. This became my usual playtime game and, through these experiences, the door opened and brought in shame and self-loathing. I could not speak to my parents about this, let alone warm to them or accept their love. Instead it just distanced me from them. Before I knew it, all that went through my head was that I was a gay teenager addicted to sex. This was the only affection that I allowed myself to take in and trust. This was where I found safety and strength. My only perception of value was to give my body to whoever was asking.

I felt incredibly guilty and ashamed, so I closed myself off to the most important time in any child’s life in which we are suppose to bond with our parents and find our identities. Instead, I stayed with the only form of intimacy I knew. This festering wound just grew and I kept this life as my means of finding power, love and a sense of self. I was not even aware of my own big secret – my fear of rejection.

It became a feeling of ambivalence, hating myself and searching for that connection that I was supposed to have with my dear parents at such a critical age of my life. Although they reached out, I did not allow them to reach me and these experiences caused my mother and father pain.

I grew up in a church going,Spirit filled Pentecostal Christian family where I was familiar with the Bible and God’s truth. I knew that homosexuality was not in God’s will but I also knew that I had never made a conscious choice to be attracted to men. I hated being attracted to men and really wanted to be the good heterosexual boy. I gave my life to Jesus as a teenager with the hope that, if I got saved and baptised, I would be a straight heterosexual man the moment I came out of the baptismal water. But I was still as gay as I was before I got baptised. My life became a struggle between what I read in His Word and what I felt in my heart. For years I prayed every night asking that God would heal me and make me like other men – but nothing happened except I was more drawn to men.

The insecure teenager gave way to a young and restless adult who entered a promiscuous life of sex and drugs. Two lives lived in one heart – and the destruction became worse. Moving to Cape Town, the gay capital of Africa, I met the wrong friends and drugs became one of my escapes. I needed to obtain drugs to survive. Two drug overdoses later, one resulting in a near heart attack, and a yearning to fit in and be accepted by someone (unfortunately the wrong crowd), became my in-between-studies existence. I was a student in the day and sometimes by night selling myself to fill the void. I was drenched in guilt and shame and it blinded me to the truth. God’s truth! I knew God existed but I did not think that He would heal me, and if He did not heal me then He surely must have no problem with me being gay – or so I thought.

I knew that with all the addictions I got myself into, using them as a crutch, still did not fill the one thing I longed for the most – unconditional love!  Lovers and drugs, eating disorders, lies and deceit were my only consistency and all the time I longed for God while still wearing the perfect mask of the innocent, smiling, studying Christian boy. Briefly I would have intervals where I would serve God, only to relapse when ‘walking the Truth’ became just too annoying. Once during such a time God gave me Jeremiah 30:12-18. Little did I know that this was a promise to me that would be kept by the faithful living God. But every time turned my back on Him, seven demons would return for every one that had left while I was serving Him.

I grew tired of living these two lives and gave up on God – but He did not give up on me. I lost all sense of morality and through each sexual encounter (to which I became fully addicted) I found love and acceptance while it lasted.

The shock of the Aids still did not bring me back to God. I kept on telling myself that the Bible was translated incorrectly and that I could pick and choose what was really wrong or right. I believed that I was fine as I was and kept living the homosexual life. I had one relationship after the other and kept praying for ‘the perfect love’. Then I met someone who I thought was it, the perfect love that would complete me at last, to fill that movie fantasy that a human being will complete me. But after this brief relationship with the ‘love of my life’ I was dumped abruptly and unexpectedly. I was so broken hearted that I attempted suicide which ended in physiological therapy. I realised that all I wanted was love and acceptance. I broke down one night and prayed to God to just take away the pain. I prayed and asked Him for the perfect love and in my sinful thinking I even described him to God. But then the turning point came… loudly, as if God the Father was in my flat, the Holy Spirit’s voice came to me…”It has been staring you in the face all your life  but you were just too blind to see it.”

Wow! Talk about a Damascus road experience! I was dumbstruck and decided that I had had enough pain, sadness and shame for ten lifetimes. I did not care any more how difficult the journey of healing was going to be, I just longed for God and all of Him. I didn’t care what I would be asked or where I would be sent as long as God’s perfect Will for my future could come into place. Whether He would keep me gay or make me straight I just wanted Him to love me. I surrendered completely and asked the Holy Spirit for His Will be done in my life. Not my will anymore – but His!

Then the healing road started. Within a month I was retrenched from my job in ‘gay’ Cape Town. God was gently clearing out all the unrighteous areas of my life.  I was unemployed and deep in debt – yet I began serving God purely to get to know Him, to just sit at His feet.

I searched desperately and found a wonderful church that was so compassionate to sexual brokenness. It was here that I was introduced to the Restoring Wholeness Ministries and started my one-on-one journey with an understanding, compassionate counsellor. Through this and the power of the Holy Spirit, my masculinity started growing like a tree next to a river. I had to take off all the masks and go back and face all my shame and guilt. My God was so faithful and slowly I could see Jeremiah 30 coming to life in me – the miracle promise that He gave me years before.

”Wounded and near death…covered with sores that no medicine can cure…your lovers have forgotten you…even I have acted like an enemy… and I have beaten you like an enemy because of your sin…

But…if your enemies rob you I will rob them and destroy them… no one wants you as a friend…but I will heal your injuries and you will get well…I will be kind to you and let you come home because they call you the one that was chased away…Jerusalem now lies in ruins but you will rebuild it and the city will be rebuilt on the rubble… and the palace will take its rightful place…”

The biggest challenge coming out of brokenness is to really live and to steer clear of the comforts of self-pity and self-hatred. This is the place where you huddle in the victim mentality wanting to stay in those safety zones where you do not have to take a leap of faith, where change is feared and where you stay in bondage. We do not trust God’s promises and fear the breakthrough. We rather choose to live and die without ever crossing through the river Jordan into our promised land.

God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged; I am the Lord your God and I will be there to help you wherever you go.” Josh 1:5.

It has been a difficult and painful road so far and still the journey is not complete. I am constantly learning something new about myself and am seeing His healing power as my masculinity is being healed and my wound is redeemed through the wounds of Jesus Christ. His grace is new every day. I am growing and yes, I am constantly being pruned but I have found an unconditional love. The road will be finished the day I die, but already I see that if God promises healing He will give it – and He promised it to all of us. The emotional healing in my soul and spirit is tangible and I now know that there is a life free from the bondage of the past.

The sexual attraction to men has decreased and is still dying every day. I know that this wound will leave a scar and that I will carry it for the rest of my life. Already I am attracted to women and am so excited to realise that this comes from that fountain of living waters which only the Creator has opened in my heart. The personal relationship that I have with God is a million times more rewarding than anything I ever had in the past. I give God all the glory for this healing so far and know that what God starts He will finish.

What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?

What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are America’s favourite punch line, says Joel P. Engardio, co-producer of ‘Knocking’, a documentary on the 7 million-member sect, which, he says, spends 1.3 billion hours per year knocking on doors. Who are they and what do they believe?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for many things, but especially for their persistent knocking on doors as they move around neighbourhoods usually in pairs. To many they are an enigma, shunning all civic involvement and military service, declining to participate in blood transfusions and refusing to acknowledge birthdays or celebrate Christmas. They appear to be a closed society, only welcoming into their midst those who convert to their group.
Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses and where did they originate?
Jehovah’s Witnesses is the name by which this group is popularly recognised. They are also known as ‘The Millenial Dawn’, ‘The International Bible Students Association’, the ‘Metropolitan Pulpit’, ‘Brooklyn Tabernacle Pulpit’ and ‘Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.’ They take their name from Isaiah 43:1 “Ye are My Witnesses, saith Jehovah.” Their watchword is: “Millions now living will never die.”
The movement was founded by Charles Taze Russell in 1872, a wealthy businessman, prolific writer and magazine editor who devoted himself to spreading his views. He declared that his seven-volume ‘Studies in the Scriptures’ were essential to understanding the Bible. “Be it known,” he wrote, “that no other system of theology ever claims or ever has attempted to harmonise in itself, every statement of the Bible, and yet nothing short of this we claim.”
Many Biblical scholars took issue with him and Russell denounced all organised religion and Ministers of the Gospel outside of his society, declaring all existing Bible translations to be totally unreliable, with the exception of his own. When challenged in a famous court case in Canada on March 17, 1913, he admitted that he had no knowledge whatsoever of Greek, Hebrew or Latin (the language of early manuscripts and translations of the Bible).
Russell was succeeded by ‘Judge’ Rutherford, who considered himself the mouthpiece of Jehovah and publicly declared all churches to be “rackets”. The Jehovah’s Witness movement is a very efficient organisation. They meet in Kingdom Halls and each member of the hierarchy is expected to obey the orders of his superior without question. The chief task of Witnesses is the distribution of official publications from door to door. In faithfully becoming a ‘kingdom publisher’, working hard at personal distribution of Watchtower books and dedicating 10-35% of their income to forwarding the Watchtower cause, they work out their salvation in theocratic “fear and trembling.”
What do these precious hard-working people believe? This could be considered merely a matter of academic interest if eternal destinies were not at stake. Are they in line with Biblical teaching? Do they have any personal assurance of faith?
What do they think of the Christ who claimed: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6? These are important questions.
What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that the Name of God is JEHOVAH and He must be called this at all times. Whenever other forms of His Name appear in the Old Testament, it is considered evidence that the original text has been tampered with. There is one solitary Being from all eternity – Jehovah-God – and the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity is emphatically denied as originating with satan.
“The teaching of the Trinity is senseless, God-dishonouring and deceptive. There is no authority in the Word of God for the doctrine of the Trinity of the Godhead” (from Studies in the Scriptures). The Christian doctrine is dismissed as worship of a complicated, freakish-looking three-headed god.” (from Let God be God).
Logically, therefore, Jesus Christ cannot be God and Jehovah’s Witnesses have relegated Him to a position of “a god”. According to their literature, Christ (before His earthly life) was a spirit-creature named Michael – the first of God’s creation. In His death, Jesus’ human nature was annihilated and, as a reward for His sacrificial obedience, God gave Him a divine, spirit nature. He is not co-equal with God, nor eternal “for there was a time when He was not.” Colossians 1:17,18 has an interesting commentary on that.
The Holy Spirit is dismissed as an “influence”, an “invisible active force” (from Let God be True). Every fundamental basic Biblical doctrine is rejected. Sadly few adherents study the Bible for themselves and converts are encouraged to use the ‘Watchtower Magazine’ for Bible Study, which has been estimated to contain less than 6% scripture. Perhaps the lack of Biblical knowledge is a major reason so many people become involved with fringe groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Not being grounded in the Word of God leaves one very vulnerable to the opinions and teaching of mortal man.
If Christ is not God and His death on the cross not sufficient to pay the price for sin, how does one receive eternal life in their view? Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that the death of Christ removed the effects of Adam’s sin, but it “does not give or guarantee everlasting life or blessing to any man” (from Studies in the Scriptures). Christ’s death merely placed man in the state of Adam before the Fall, leaving him with the choice of adhering to their teaching and “living forever” or of being totally annihilated. They believe the “doctrine of hell torment is a lie emanating from the devil and clergymen”. “The claim of religionists that man has an immortal soul, and therefore differs from the beast, is not scriptural.” (from Let God Be True).
According to their teaching, only 144,000 “spiritual brothers” will be resurrected to reign with Christ (including Russell and Rutherford). The rest of the believers will inherit the earth and live forever. If anyone fails to align themselves with “the truth” as taught by the Jehovah Witness society, he or she will get another chance after death to reconsider their opinion. “Men, not God, have limited to this age the chance or opportunity of attaining life.” (from What the Scriptures teach. Vol. 1).  Compare Hebrews 9:27 for the Biblical viewpoint.
What does it mean to “believe”? Jehovah’s Witnesses are not given any assurance of personal salvation or eternal life. Christ’s work on the Cross simply “guarantees a second chance” and every person has to prove by “obedience” his worthiness of life eternal. Every individual is left to be his own saviour, working out his own salvation by fulfilling the requirements of Jehovah Witness teaching. A major part of that obedience is knocking on doors and offering the society’s literature for sale. Strict records are kept and this service is not voluntary or by personal choice. It is considered a matter of life and death.
What about the Bible? Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine is that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God “as it was originally given” and they reject every translation except their own version called ‘The New World Translation of the Bible’, the work of Charles Taze Russell. Many bona fide Greek scholars of repute who have studied the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, challenge this conclusion.
Russell and Rutherford considered themselves prophets. Russell predicted that “the final end of the kingdoms of this world and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God will be accomplished by the end of 1914.” When 1914 came and went, he declared that “since Christ did not rise physically, neither would He return physically” and, therefore, He returned spiritually and began the work of cleansing the Temple for judgment upon sinful men and satan’s organisations (i.e. the Church and governments of the world).
Rutherford went a step further. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he predicted, would return in 1925. He built a mansion in California for them with an expensive motor car in the garage. All these possessions “held in trust” by him were sold in 1942.
Sadly people who become involved in these types of movements also find themselves separated from normal human society, their family, friends, and traditions that bind us together. This makes it more difficult to leave. Not only is there the fear of missing out on eternal life if you leave a group which claims to have the sole mandate, but the emotional reality of being isolated from those you have become intensely bonded to leaves the adherent in a very state.                                                    
David Brees in his book ‘Know the Marks of the Cults’ lists some distinctive common denominators in ‘alternative’ religious groups and Christians would do well to take note of them.
Extra-Biblical Revelation – the place of another document, often written by the founder or leader, alongside the Bible and claiming a special revelatory standing for it.
A false basis of salvation – usually salvation by works. Compare Ephesians 3:8,9.
Uncertain hope.
Presumptuous Messianic leadership – the human leader is elevated to a Messianic level.
Doctrinal ambiguity. The stress is commonly sub-rational, emotional, vaguely mystical, and without a clear understandable basis.
The claim of special discoveries.
Defective Christology – the denying in one way or another of basic Biblical teaching concerning the nature and work of Christ.
Segmented Biblical attention – picking and choosing a few verses or portions for emphasis that support, or appear to support, a particular teaching. The rest of the Bible is usually ignored.
Enslaving organisational structure – the creation of a monolithic, merciless, and entangling organizational structure with loyalty to something other than Jesus Christ Himself.
Financial exploitation.
Denunciation of others.
Syncretism – the supporting of a mishmash of ideas currently popular.
While it is true that the Bible’s supreme subject is ‘The Kingdom of God’, established on earth by Jesus, and to be consummated in God’s good time at the end of history, Jehovah Witness teaching and the Bible are totally and absolutely at variance.
How to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a Jehovah’s Witness
Always remember that you are dealing with sincere people in most instances who are honestly looking for the answer to life. Everyone has a “God-shaped vacuum” inside them, as St. Augustine put it.
Share the Gospel of Christ simply – meditate on John 3:16 for ‘the Gospel in a Nutshell’.
Follow with your own personal testimony and experience of being born again.
Be aware that they have been trained to present a prepared two-minute introduction.
Refuse to accept ‘scriptural’ replies to questions of life and faith. Insist on looking up every scripture (they tolerate the King James version of the Bible as the least perverted). Carefully check the scriptures quoted against their context in the Bible and against other ‘scripture’.
Offer to pray with them and trust God for a supernatural work of Grace.
Above all, lift Jesus up by your attitude that men, women and children for whom He died may be drawn to the Saviour.
May they sense His presence in our lives and hear the knocking that really counts!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Rev. 3:20
Val Waldek, South African Christian author. For more information on this and other religious movements see ‘What do they believe?’ Available from your local bookshop or www.valwaldeck.com

Building a Healthy Stepfamily

Building a Healthy Stepfamily
Moving on from divorce or the death of a spouse can be a challenge for any parent.  Meeting someone new, falling in love again and then trying to start a new family only adds to this challenge, especially if there are children from both sides.  However, by approaching these inevitable difficulties in the right way, a strong and healthy stepfamily can be formed.  There are also many rewards and benefits to having a stepfamily:  You gain a larger family, you may gain a child of a different sex to that of your own, you can enjoy having a busy family home and you can share in wide-ranging conversations around the meal table – just to name a few.
Difficulties and solutions for parents
The quality of the couple’s relationship is paramount to the success of the stepfamily.  If this is a committed, loving relationship it can withstand the pressures it will face living in a stepfamily.  Research into the couple relationship in a stepfamily has found that marriage is still marriage!  It hasn’t changed – it still needs all the attention, skill and understanding of any first-time marriage.  But it does have added pressures. 
How the biological parent sees the role of the step-parent is crucial.  Each spouse’s parental style should be discussed and some agreement reached between the parents. It is then up to the biological parent to explain any changes to the child.  Possible contentions when parenting styles differ include:  Should the child sit at the table to eat or sit on the floor while watching television?  Should there be a time for bed every night or should this move according to circumstances?  To prevent conflict over how the child is parented a determination to find the middle ground for everyone is essential. 
Disagreement between the parent and step-parent may be used by the child to their advantage.  All children will seek out the parent from whom they think they are more likely to get what they want.  As in all families, a united front by the parents is the best one.  This might mean checking sometimes before agreeing to a particular course of action.
In a stepfamily, the strongest bond is between the biological parent and their child.  Parents have unconditional love for their own children, but love for one’s stepchildren is more tentative.  You have to get to know them and that love will be more like that of love for a close friend – caring, giving and warm.  It doesn’t have to mean that love is less, but rather that it has different qualities.
Ways to build a positive step-parent child relationship:

Spend time doing things together as a family – outings, holidays, celebrations, doing household chores, sharing a hobby, praying together, taking the dog for a walk, attending sport events.
Show that you care – words are important but they are not enough.  Actions speak louder than words.
Learn more about child development and parenting through books, TV programmes, parenting courses and talking to other parents.


Difficulties and solutions for children:
The children may have very mixed feelings about living in a stepfamily.  Common reactions in children that are suddenly placed in a new environment include anger, guilt, confusion, uncertainty and wariness. Given that their biological parents’ relationship didn’t last, they have no way of knowing that this relationship will last either.  If one parent died, will the other one live?  Will the step-parent leave too? Children often feel guilty and somehow responsible for what has happened, even though that may seem illogical to the adults affected.  They may feel that they didn’t try hard enough to get their parents back together again and some also worry about the parent who is now living alone. 
Children reveal their unexpressed emotions in various ways and may have physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches, or regressive behaviour such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking.  Their anger may be directed at the one who has left, at God, or transferred to the remaining parent or incoming step-parent.  It is imperative that you provide encouragement and support to your children during this difficult time.  It usually helps to talk things through as a family, hearing each person’s point of view and discussing everyone’s feelings.
Changing the birth order in a family may cause confusion and this also affects children’s behaviour.  For an only child, instant siblings are a huge adjustment.  Other children may now be in a different place – a youngest becomes a middle child and may not receive all the attention as the baby of the family, whilst an eldest is now further down the line and has lost his or her privileged position.  Parents can compensate for these changes where appropriate and help the children adjust to their current positions.  For example:  giving extra attention to a youngest that is now a middle child and allowing an only child to have space away from the family.
Children may have been used to the undivided attention of their parent when they lived in a single-parent family.  Now they have to share their parent, and it will take time for them to adjust.  Reassurance and special one-on-one times with that parent will help them to accept the new situation.
In addition to the loss of a parent, the child may have had to move home, change school, clubs or church and no longer have contact with the same friends and family.  These are additional losses and changes which can add to the child’s insecurity and frustration.  If the grieving child sees the step-parent as the reason their parents are not still together, they may resent this person.  If they think that the step-parent’s presence means they have to forget the dead parent or the one they no longer live with, they may be bitter.  If the child has been able to work through some of their losses, they will be more able to relate to a step-parent.  It is very important that the new step-parent is patient and supportive during this difficult time.
One of the most difficult realities for a child after a divorce is that their parents no longer want to be together and usually don’t want to see each other.  In addition, they sometimes have to deal with hearing their parents argue, usually over them.  Most research suggests that the greatest cause of emotional pain in children following divorce and separation is the ongoing conflict between the original parents.  Avoid fighting with the other parent in front of the child and be careful not to say harmful things about them when your children are around.  However right you may be, take care how you explain the situation to the child – they are related to that other parent and still love them.  It is important that they maintain a good relationship with both parents as far as possible.
Difficulties and solutions for the family
To start out living as a new stepfamily in a new house, with new furniture and with all family members having input, would be ideal.  Everyone would be starting out together as equals, settling down together in new surroundings with no previous memories attached to the place.  However, usually one partner, with or without children, moves into the existing home of the other partner.  This solution may solve the immediate need to live together, but there are practical issues which need to be worked out.  Not doing this will leave one partner and their children feeling that they are guests in someone else’s home.  Moving into an existing home can work very well if everyone is prepared to make adjustments, and find ways in which everyone can feel “this is our home now.”
It is for the partner whose home it was originally, to make the new partner feel welcome and included.  It’s not enough to say there’s space in the wardrobe and empty drawers for their things.  It means taking a step back and looking at the house with fresh eyes.  It’s never too late to discuss how people feel about the home, and what changes are possible so that everyone takes ownership of it.  Redecorating bedrooms and letting children have a say in the colour scheme goes a long way to establishing that “this bedroom is mine/ours.”  Children who are part of the stepfamily but who only stay some of the time need to feel welcome too.  Help them feel included by giving them a space of their own with everyday items such as toothbrushes, pyjamas, spare clothes, toys and books.
It is very important that all the children are treated as similarly as possible, whether they live most of the time with the family or not.  Conflict arises between the couple and between the children if some of the children are favoured more than others with clothes, toys and outings.  It can be tempting to treat visiting children differently, allowing them more latitude because the parent has less time with them.  This doesn’t help the child to integrate with other family members, or to feel part of the family if they are always treated as a guest.  Resident children will resent any favouritism and may transfer this resentment onto the visiting children and their parent.  Try and arrange special family times where everyone participates and feels a part of the family. 
Building a healthy stepfamily involves a lot of hard work, prayer and patience.  By approaching each situation positively and by trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, families can learn to adapt to the new situation and start building loving relationships.  It certainly takes time, but the rewards of a successful stepfamily are worth the effort.  Remember, every step counts!
Excerpts for this article were taken from “Every Step Counts” by Christine and Tony Tufnell.  Published by Lion Hudson; Pearson Education, South Africa.
Pearson Education are giving away five copies of this book.  To stand a chance of winning one, send your name and contact details to:  JOY! Magazine/Pearson Giveaway, PO Box 2990, Somerset West, 7129
Building a healthy stepfamily
Rewards from building a stepfamily usually come after much time and effort.  It is estimated that it takes between 4 and 6 years for a stepfamily to form a cohesive unit which functions satisfactorily. 
Most stepfamilies go through the following 4 stages to become healthy stepfamilies:
Stage 1: Forming
This is when everyone is on their best behaviour.  Everyone tries really hard to get along and this can last until the family has lived together for a little while.  All seems to be going well initially and when conflict arises it surprises everyone.
Stage 2:  Storming
This can last some time in a stepfamily.  Conflicts and frustrations within the family come up.  It is important to acknowledge the disagreements and find ways to resolve them as far as possible. 
Stage 3:  Norming
Family members have got to know each other better.  The ‘shape’ of this family has been established, with rules and boundaries.  Shared memories and traditions grow.  It is a working unit but not yet secure. There are challenges but the family is better equipped to face them.
Stage 4:  Performing
Here the stepfamily is a cohesive, identifiable unit, with each member having a sense of belonging, of being cared about, of having a place in it and loyalty to it.  This is the goal of a successful stepfamily.