Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

World Changers on Mission: Part 2 of 4

If you got out a world map, would you be able to place your finger on the country of Nepal? What about Bangladesh? Or what about the small country of Bhutan, which is the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Like most Americans, I feel geographically challenged with countries half way around the world, which explains why I also feel disconnected from what’s going on in that region. Ethnos Asia Ministries (EAM) changed my perspective through the stories told by underground Christian pastors from each of the countries in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA).

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I’ve been a Christian for almost a decade, heard accounts of Christian persecution, and attributed most of the horror stories to radical ISIS followers. What I learned was the ugliness of Christian persecution is wielded by Satan’s grip on the hearts and minds of government leaders and citizens who live in fear. At the EAM conference, stories unfolded of the struggles and successes in bringing the Gospel to the unreached tribes. My learning curve is steep, and my words limited, so in the interest of only starting the conversation, I will share a few points about each ARNA country with the hopes that your heart would be stirred by the Holy Spirit to learn more and act on God’s calling.

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are acting as the Lord’s hands and feet in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

East Asia

China: Socialist Republic—1.3 billion people—50% don’t identify with any religion

  • Christianity still growing despite the government’s control; the middle class has a strong spiritual hunger for the Lord
  • Anyone preaching the Gospel without a government license can be fined $1500 US and a property owner, where underground house church services are held, can be fined $3000 US
  • Facial recognition cameras are installed in all churches so pastors cannot leave the country

North Korea: Socialist Republic—25 million people—99% atheists

  • Rampant poverty and 80% of children are undernourished
  • Christians considered hostile elements in society with the government as the primary driver of persecution
  • Freedom of religion and its ceremonies are constitutionally guaranteed but are government restricted. Only 4 government-sanctioned churches exist and are used as a showcase for foreigners

Himalayan Region

Bhutan: Constitutional Monarchy—0.7 million people—75% Buddhist

  • Wangchuk dynasty has ruled Bhutan for over a century and only allowed its first tourists in 1974
  • Bhutanese Christians face loss of citizenship, free education, health care, employment and access to utilities. Despite harassment and beatings, groups of believers are increasing
  • Buddhism, animism, and mysticism have dominated the country since the 7th century with a non-Buddhist typically practicing Hinduism

Nepal: Parliamentary Republic—29 million people—80% Hindu

  • Over 125 languages spoken among 125 ethnic groups/castes
  • Christian population small but growing with each of the 75 districts having a church plant
  • Fastest growing Christian population in the Himalayan region
  • Religious freedom is allowed under Nepalese law, but restrictions are imposed on non-Hindu groups in which Christians can be fined and imprisoned for sharing their faith

Northeast India: Parliamentary Republic—45 million people—55% Hindu

  • Many young people are moving to mainland India for study and work
  • No opposition to spreading the Gospel but experiencing a general spiritual decline
  • The three major Christian denominations are Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterians

Indian Subcontinent

Afghanistan: Islamic Republic—34 million people—99% Muslim

  • Widespread child marriage and serious drug problems with the country growing 90% of the world’s opium producing poppies
  • Blasphemy is punishable by death for males over 18 and girls over 16 years and conversion of Islam can be punishable by death
  • Majority of Muslim’s are Sunni (80%) and Shia (15%) with limited numbers of Christians
  • Most Afghans live in poverty with little employment, so those who fight for the Taliban do so for wages

Bangladesh: Parliamentary Republic—159 million people—90% Muslim

  • Country is quite secular although culturally the citizens observe Muslim festivals like Ramadan and take the pilgrimage to Mecca
  • The constitution permits freedom of religion but conversion, openly sharing the Gospel, and criticizing Islam is not allowed
  • Bawm tribe celebrated 100 years of Christianity in 2018

Maldives: Presidential Republic—0.3 million people—99% Muslim

  • Has one of the highest divorce rates in the world with rising crime, gang activity, child abuse, and pervasive drug use
  • While some freedoms have expanded through democracy, Islam is the official and only religion
  • Traditional belief in spirits combined with Islam leave many citizens trapped in fear and no access to the Gospel in these isolated islands
  • Visitors can bring their Bible and practice religion at home but cannot invite a Maldives citizen to join

Pakistan: Constitutional Republic—207 million people—96% Muslim

  • Most heroin-addicted country in the world
  • Has the most notorious blasphemy laws against Christians and is the center of the unevangelized world
  • Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, this is the world’s most persecuted nation for Christians
  • Most women have never been to school and children are arranged to be married at 7. Wives see their husbands on their wedding night and can be returned because of their skin color

Sri Lanka: Constitutional Republic—2 million—70% Buddhist

  • Significant increases in alcoholism, suicide, violence, and rape
  • Converts from Buddhism and Hinduism suffer the most discrimination in the form of harassment, discrimination, and marginalization from family and community
  • Converting a Muslim to Christianity can invoke capital punishment

Indo-China

Cambodia: Constitutional Monarchy—16 million—97% Buddhist

  • Rapid adoption to the Western lifestyle of materialism in the city and rampant drug use
  • Freedom to worship and preach the Gospel with young people comprising 80% of the church members
  • Islam is perceived as gentle because Islamic militancy has not yet influenced Muslims in the country

Laos: Socialist Republic—7 million people—65% Buddhist

  • Run by the communist party and led by eleven people
  • Thai culture has a heavy influence because of similar language
  • Government-approved Lao National church plants numbered 100 in 2018 and hundreds more of underground churches
  • Buddhism is considered a Lao religion and Christians need government permit to celebrate any Christian festival

Myanmar: Constitutional Republic—55 million people—90% Buddhist

  • Drug production second to Afghanistan; opium and methamphetamine are widespread
  • Many churches have buildings but fail to reach out to surrounding areas
  • Rohingya, refugee community, are Muslim minority of 1 million not recognized as citizens
  • Infighting for Buddhist positions between older and young monks

Thailand: Constitutional Republic—68 million people—95% Buddhist

  • Thai, Buddhism, and nationality tightly intertwined which hinders the conversation to Christianity
  • Monks receive special status and government benefits

Vietnam: Socialist Republic—97 million people—no faith declaration

  • Persecution is not as intense as it has been in previous years
  • Buddhism is still the predominant religions along with Cao Dai and Hoa Hao

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What Now?

Pray! Across these 15 Asian countries, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslim are keeping their citizens in spiritual darkness by squeezing tighter around their minds, hearts, and souls. Pray for the people of these nations who live in fear and ignorance, that they may hear the Gospel and know the love of Jesus. Pray that Christians will be invited and willingly go into these countries to share the Gospel. Pray for spiritual revival and the Holy Spirit to sweep through these Asian countries. Pray that the lives of Christians will shine in contrast to the hatred and prejudice of extremists and draw people towards Christ.

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To learn more about how Ethnos Asia Ministries, their mission, vision, and goals visit www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Thailand: A Breath of Fresh Air in the Persecuted Christian Countries of Asia

World Changers on Mission: Part 1 of 4

I belong to the tribe of America, which means I enjoy the rights of free speech and choice of religion without government interference. Having been born and raised in the United States, to a certain extent I take these freedoms for granted. Why so? I suppose because I haven’t had to personally fight for them like the Pilgrims did when they fled Europe and crossed the Atlantic hundreds of years ago to escape religious persecution.

IMG_9334AI recently attended the Ethnos Asian Ministry’s (EAM) conference in Thailand which opened by eyes to the persecution that most of the world faces with regards to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only Thailand, a country that sits in the middle of the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA), retains a spirit of religious freedom. You may wonder how Christians suffer in neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar.

Some ARNA Christians are labelled traitors to their culture, family, and community. Persecution can range from rude comments to physical violence, property seizure, church destruction, and eviction from their homes. Arrest and imprisonment are all common retribution. Many cannot trust their own families, who are encouraged to turn them into the authorities for a reward. Many believers in Indochina have lost everything but their faith in Jesus. Would you have the strength and courage to believe and serve Jesus in the midst of this type of persecution? How uncomfortable are you willing to be for the love of Jesus?

In this multi-part series, I’ll share more about the dynamics of countries that restrict or persecute Christians, what it’s like to go into an ARNA country as a devout Christ follower, and an organization whose mission is to strengthen and serve the Body of Christ in these countries. Do not be discouraged, because even with all these challenges, the Lord of the Harvest continues to win soles.

Thailand: A Breath of Fresh Air

On my first day in Thailand, a religiously tolerant country within ARNA, I took a bike tour around the city to learn more about the culture, its religious tendencies, and celebrations. In comparison to other Asian countries, it boasts more tourism and shopping destinations with above par infrastructure and mass transportation systems. I also found the people friendly, helpful, and hardworking, which might be explained by their belief in Karma—a person’s actions in this and previous lives decide his or her fate in future existence.

Thai people, Buddhism, and their nationality are inseparable with 95% of the population claiming to be Buddhist, 4% as Muslim, and a mere 0.5% as Christian. I asked our tour guide, Wit, how the Thai would respond if another Thai claimed to be a Christian. He answered, “They would say, wow. They would be amazed, because it’s so uncommon.”

Our tour took us into a few Buddhist temples, and Wit helped us navigate through the rituals so we wouldn’t offend a Buddha. Take off your shoes, step over the threshold, bring your offerings of food and flowers to place before Buddha. Monks wearing red cloaks walked everywhere. What can monks do and not do? It depends on what religious order they belong to.

DSC02617Similar to other religions, which have denominations ranging from orthodox to liberal, monks have similar hierarchies. Some cannot touch money or women and are dependent on others for gifts of survival. Others embrace the use of cell phones and buying food as a necessity of the times. One thing is certain. Monks get special treatment by the government including free use of public transportation and special seating status equivalent to pregnant, elderly, and injured.

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Who can become a monk? Any male can become a monk. Many parents encourage their sons toward the monastery, so they can ride their son’s coat-tails into heaven. How long do monks have to serve? In recent times and with the pressure to provide for their families, some men take only 2 weeks off from work to become a monk. Although his plan was to be a monk for 3 months, Wit said he lasted only one week. It’s fashionable to be a monk at least once in your lifetime.

Our tour of the local markets overwhelmed us with food, flavors, and flowers. Flowers are shipped into the cities from the countryside to be used for offerings to Buddha and weddings. I thought of Biblical times when families brought their best sheep to the temple as a sacrifice. With Buddhism it’s less messy and more colorful. Thailand has a whole economy sustained by the growing and offering of flowers to Buddha.

Why is it difficult for me to embrace Buddhism? My tongue in cheek answer is that my memory just isn’t good enough to keep track of all the gods. Wit told us there are 37 gods. Another person told us there were millions of gods. Did Wit forget some?

I’d rather nurture my personal relationship with Jesus. It feels real, close, and loving, and I only need to keep track of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I can manage that.

Learn more about the Access Restricted Nations of Asia by visiting Ethnos Asia Ministries (EAM) at http://www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

XO 2019 Conference: Escape the Ordinary Marriage

XO

Favorite Conferences Messages

If you don’t speak the truth, you don’t have a marriage

Great marriages are great when both spouses deal with their individual baggage

 

The XO MarriageToday conference was standing room only with over 4,000 people carving out 2 days to learn about healthy marriages. Gateway Church was filled to capacity with all ages, nationalities, and faiths. Attendees ranged from singles, couples on the brink of divorce, and those hoping to hear of a new tool or strategy to help couples help themselves.

What Did You Miss?

If you didn’t know about the XO Conference or were on the long wait list to get in, you missed some pearls of marriage wisdom by a knowledgeable panel. The speakers’ openness, transparency, and stories brought a richness that can’t be replicated, so I encourage you to attend next year’s conference in Southlake, Texas. Isn’t your marriage worth it?

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Communication That Creates an Indestructible Marriage

More than 85% of couples say communication was a factor in their divorce, naturally suggesting couples need to learn how to do it better. Communication serves multiple purposes: (1) convey basic information and facts, (2) inform and transact, (3) resolve conflict, (4) create connection, (5) share personal information/revelation, and (5) conduct intimate conversation. Jimmy Evans shared the important elements in indestructible communication that support indestructible marriages:

  • Right tone: Voice affects whether a man feels respected and a woman feel secures. The right tone tells that you care.
  • Enough time: Proactive, face-to-face, and intimate conversation show that you love and appreciate your spouse. Train your kids to respect your marriage.
  • Atmosphere of trust: Trust is earned in drops and dropped in buckets. Build trust through your character, connection, and how you approach conflict.
  • Atmosphere of truth: Must be able to share yourself, have grace, and speak truth in love.

Create a team spirit by accepting differences. Adopt the attitude: I love you so much you fill in my gaps. What team are you playing on? Your own or your spouse’s?

Unpack Your Baggage

Tim Ross suggested that most couples who come for counseling think their problems and relationship are worse than most. The truth is they’re not. However, working on the marriage starts with dealing with yours and not your spouse’s baggage, because most spouses haven’t yet unpacked their own baggage.

You can’t go anywhere without baggage. You can’t go into a marriage without taking your baggage, whether it’s the size of a backpack, tote bag, suitcase, U-Haul, or van line. Great marriages are great when both spouses deal with their individual baggage. How do you do that?

  • Bring your bags: don’t avoid them, you have them, so bring them
  • Unpack your bags: don’t pick and chose what you bring out, unpack all of it
  • Sort through your stuff [not your spouse’s]: label your stuff and identify why it’s baggage
  • Put away your stuff: when it comes back up, you know where it is and can deal with it

How Has Marriage Changed Over the Years

The definition of marriage has changed over the last 25 years. Proposals and wedding ceremonies used to be simple affairs. Not anymore! Dan Lian noticed how the big focus is now the engagement and wedding and not the marriage. How big is the ring? Where and how do I propose? Is it all captured on camera? The proposal has become a theatrical event along with the wedding with little investment in marriage after the couples says, “I do.”

The design of marriage is good, because God, the designer, is good. If you do marriage God’s way, you set yourself up for success. A successful marriage is less about finding the perfect match and more about working at the marriage—working at it all the days of your life. Trust the design. It’s never too late, because The Holy Spirit is the counselor of the heart.

What Kind of Marriage Do You Have?

Joe and Lori Champion proposed that marriages can take one of two directions: problem-focused or purpose-focused. If you are married long enough, the issue is not whether you’ll have problems, but when.

Marriage is grounded in purpose. What is the purpose of your marriage and are you proclaiming the Gospel through your marriage? Do not lose your marriage by building something outside your marriage such as career or ministry. The marriage comes first over all other earthly pulls on your life. What priority does your marriage have in your life?

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Share What You’re Withholding

The real reason couples fight is because of a (1) perceived threat (control, judgment, demand, attach and critical) or (2) perceived neglect (uncaring, uncommitted, selfish, neglectful, disengaged). Les and Leslie Parrott are known for advocating for the fair fight. Fighting is the price we pay for intimacy, and fights are rooted in differences in perception. “Oh,” is the big word that signals the fight is over.

How do you have a good fight? Focus on sharing “withholds” which are things that aren’t shared. When couples don’t share negative withholds, they have a high rate of resurrecting. How do you share a withhold? First, ask permission on whether you can share a withhold. Second, when shared, the recipient cannot respond for 30 minutes. After a half hour he or she can ask to discuss further. This grace period allows the recipient to go from a react to a respond mode.

Withholds can also be positive. Couples neglect to share positive withholds because of fast-paced lifestyles. What withhold are you holding onto that should be shared with your spouse?

Marriage Expectations

Realistic Expectations + Biblical Skills = 100% Marriage Success

The number one reason for divorce is disappointment. Many people get married with false expectations with divorcing couples either naive optimists or extreme pessimists.

Marriage vows are covenant vows, yet American culture has turned marriage from a covenant—it’s worth what you pay for it—to a contract—which protects each party’s interests. Jimmy Evans encouraged all couples to count the cost before entering their covenant vows.

Three unchangeable realities of marriage are: (1) hurts from the past, (2) quirks in personality, and (3) ignorance of how marriage cures the opposite sex. Marriage is a healing journey with the wedding like the registration desk of the hospital. Every man can heal every woman and every woman can heal every man. Most wives’ hurts are from not feeling valued and they want to be nurtured and cherished.

Satan hates marriage, and spouses need to fight against this enemy. Marriage is the first foundation on whether every other relationship is built. Couples who have a firm grasp of reality, the right expectations, and a strong commitment of marriage are not threaten by significant problems. The good news? God gives us authority of the Satan.

How Naked Are You with Your Spouse?

I call it having no filters. Dave and Ashley Willis call it having a naked marriage. What are we both talking about? Being transparent and vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The best marriages are those where both spouses can say, “I still choose you,” when everything is shared. Will you commit to working toward a naked marriage?

Fixing Your Marriage Can Be Messy

Bringing to life the story in John 9 of the blind man whose sight was restored after Jesus spread mud [dirt and spit] over his eyes, Michael Todd shared:

  • People want miracles but without the mess. Your problem is not a punishment, it’s a platform for Jesus’ power
  • Don’t let the method of release keep you from the miracle. Stand through the method of release
  • A person’s release is more important than what people think about the release. The worse part of you with the least part of Jesus can release you from what you’ve been struggling
  • Stop caring what people think of you and their opinions

Conference Thoughts: What’s Missing?

Although I love the XO conference and agree with all the principles shared, I noticed through their testimonies that the coupled speakers were all in long first marriages—15 to 30 years—and able to work through struggles to come out stronger on the other side. I haven’t yet attended a conference where a blended couple was expanding on their truth.

I view divorce not as a punishment but as a platform for the power of restoration the second time around. Darin and I had long first marriages, 22 and 15 years, respectively, before marrying each other. Through first marriages and divorces we learned about ourselves and relationships. Unfortunately, our first marriages didn’t make it, but there’s no doubt we are applying all learnings within our second marriage with the hope that some day we’ll be invited to the podium to share what it takes to have an extraordinary marriage.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to create powerful and purposeful marriages. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Marriage Postcards: Words of Affirmation

When was the last time you sent your spouse a postcard? When was the last time you sent your spouse a postcard without leaving town?

Browsing around Gateway Church during a break in a marriage conference, I noticed a long table with stacks of post cards. The instructions were to pick a postcard, write a love letter to your spouse, put a stamp on it, and drop it in the mailbox.

What a simple and brilliant idea or said another way a simply brilliant idea. I encourage you to pen a few words of praise, appreciation, or affirmation to your spouse on a postcard and put it in the mail. Tell them one or two things you love about them. Postcards are a novel and simple way to show your spouse how special he or she is to you.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to create powerful and purposeful marriages. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Is Your Church Thriving, Surviving, or Dying?

comback church

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your church involvement? What would be your score 5 years ago? How different are your answers to these two questions? Scrappy Church: God’s Not Done Yet (Rainer, 2018) discusses the status of today’s declining churches and provides a working model for those who choose to fight for a comeback. The stories from pastors, church leadership, and membership are vulnerable and explain the “why” behind church death based on choices and their unintended consequences.

I agree with the mentioned reasons for a church’s decline and how to best address each; however, the book leaves out an important factor influencing engagement. As the saying goes: times, they are a changing! Part of a church’s decline in attendance may have little to do with the church, but the priority church has in the over-scheduled, over-stressed average American family’s life. Even if a church hits on all cylinders in outward deluge, welcoming, and back door closure, it’s hard to overcome a family’s pressure on time management with the options that technology provides.

Years ago, if you wanted to attend a service not inside brick and mortar, you only had a few TV evangelism options such Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Bakker. Technology now allows us to stream a live service of our favorite church or pastor from our iPhone or watch a video on our computer at our convenience. You could call it: church service on demand in the comfort of our own home.

I too have succumbed to watching Jeremy Foster preach on a Sunday morning in my bathrobe while eating bacon and eggs. Afterwards, I dress and get to work, saving myself a couple hours of commuting. Of course, I miss the worship music vibrating through my body and meeting up with friends. I can schedule coffee and conversation later when it’s more convenient. What about spreading the Gospel? Our church outreach includes inviting people to Saturday dinner on occasion and followed by a church service at Hope City. I’m not justifying my choices but explaining how I get comfortable with my decision.

I believe churches that will thrive will be those that break the mold on traditional church. Church members want intimacy with flexibility, which I believe will be difficult for most churches to achieve based on the traditional upbringing in how church is done. Do you wonder what church will look like 10 years from now.

Reference

Rainer, T. (2018). Scrappy Church: God’s Not Done Yet. B&H Publishing: Nashville, TN


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

What’s Your Relationship with the Spirits …and Not the Alcoholic Types?

I find many of today’s Christian denominations avoid discussion or minimize the existence of the spiritual realm that operates in and around all human lives. The Bible tells us that Satan still has dominion of this earthly world. “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News…” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Enemies will always have the advantage when they are denied or disguised. I’d rather know there’s a real devil to battle than be uninformed or ill-equipped to fight.

spiritual realm

Why is the church not teaching Christians about the spiritual realm, preparing them for battle, and reminding them of their power? Are they afraid of scaring Christians?  Are pastors afraid that people will distance themselves from Christianity if they preach on the spiritual realm and the daily workings of demons and angels? Are we that fragile? I believe teaching on the spiritual realm provides answers and brings clarity to events that the three-dimensional world cannot explain well.

Just before Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished,” meaning the human lamb was sacrificed to bring new life for all who were once dead in sin and made alive in Christ. The power of darkness was now defeated. Christ’s death was the defeat of the power of Satan—his only weapon was people’s unforgiven sin.

If we don’t acknowledge or leverage the power of Jesus, we are giving our power away to Satan. When I ask Christians whether they believe the Bible represents God’s words and truth, they answer, “Yes.” When I ask whether they believe in the spiritual realm, too many look at me with a quizzical look and answer, “I’m not sure.”

The Bible tells story after story about Satan and his demons including when the Devil tempted Jesus in the dessert (Mark 1: 12-13) and Jesus casting demons out of the man into a herd of pigs (Matthew 8: 28-34). The world hasn’t changed in these thousands of years—it’s still governed by Satan and his minions.

What’s so scary about acknowledging the spiritual realm surrounds us? I know Christians who’ve seen Satan, seen demons attached to people, and gazed at wings of angels. As a child without formal Christian instruction, I didn’t have an explanation for the little demons I occasionally saw on the landing outside my bedroom door. I didn’t accept Jesus based on logical argument and exposure to the Scriptures. I came to know Jesus by unknowingly tapping into the spiritual realm. What I experienced was so real, an engineering mind couldn’t deny its existence.

When Jesus died on the cross, He gifted his power and a companion [The Holy Spirit] to anyone who chose to believe, so they would be equipped for both earthly and spiritual warfare. We honor this power when we understand the breadth and intensity of the battlefield. I understand that for those who grew up in the traditional church, acknowledging or talking about the spiritual realm may be uncomfortable. Have you had nagging thoughts that quietly whisper to you that maybe the spiritual realm really does exist, because it explains what you are feeling, hearing, seeing, or smelling? Some may dismiss it as intuition, but I prefer to call it tapping into your sixth sense.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Sex-cess

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Did the title get your attention? As a marriage coach, sex and money are the two big topics that divide couples in my ministry. They are also the subjects that families rarely talk about. You can’t become knowledgeable, comfortable, and practiced on an issue when you don’t or won’t talk about it? Why do some couples avoid the topic of sex? A sampling of replies to my question: “Why don’t you talk about sex with your spouse?”

  • I’m just not comfortable. Our family never talked about sex.
  • I don’t really have much of a sex drive. If we talk about it, I’m afraid it will hurt my wife’s feelings.
  • I’m not sure. I guess we should talk more about it.
  • My husband is addicted to pornography. I’m angry at him, so why would I want to have sex with him.
  • I don’t want sex. If I avoid talking about it, I’ll feel less pressure to have sex.
  • I’m afraid to tell my husband what I really want because of what he’ll think of me.
  • I’ve faked too many orgasms that I’m afraid to tell my husband the truth. He’ll think I’m a liar, and I don’t want him to feel bad that he didn’t please me. I love my husband though.
  • I was sexually abuse as a child, and it’s too painful to talk about sex.
  • For years, it’s all about him, not me. Why bother?
  • I’m tired of asking, so I’ve just given up.
  • We don’t need to. We have unspoken understandings. For me to get sex, I need to do ….

What would you answer? Differences in individual values, needs, relationship conditioning, and preferences can naturally cause sexual conflict, but if you won’t talk through these differences, nothing will be resolved or managed? If you want to have a fulfilling, aka successful, sex life with your spouse, it starts with you. Becoming sex-cessful in the bedroom is a journey taken at a pace you’re comfortable committing to. You might consider the following steps:

  • Expanding your sexual self-awareness: needs, limitations, boundaries, recognizing underlying influences
  • Getting comfortable talking about sex without pressure to perform
  • Sharing and learning about partner’s needs and wants as well as uncovering the whys and feelings behind both
  • Negotiating, compromising, and developing a sex plan
  • Acting on the plan

You may think that may work for some, but what if my spouse and I have wildly different sexual appetites. That’s where you need to take a hard look at the cause. Is it because of conditioning, taboo stereotypes, performance anxiety, sexual abuse, or just plain skewed hormones? As with most problems, there’s usually more than one contributor. Identifying the main issues will give you a starting point on where to focus. In some cases, you may never fully emotionally or physically enjoy sex, but that doesn’t mean you should withhold sex from your spouse unless he or she is abusive. I know a few couples who have fluctuating and divergent sex drives over the course of their marriages. How do they handle the incompatibility? They give sex gifts?

People routinely give gifts to family and friends whom they love and care about. What better way to love your spouse than to give them the gift of sex? There may be times when you’re both “into it”, and sex is a big theatrical production. Other times, it’s a gift of pleasure. As with any other gift, you don’t expect anything in return. Your spouse will appreciate your gift of sex, even when he or she knows you weren’t in the mood and gave it freely.

Some believe they shouldn’t be pressured into sex when they don’t want to. I agree. I’m not suggesting they do something they don’t want to. I’m suggesting they intentionally give a gift to their life partner.

Note: If you are in sexually abusive marriage or relationship or have untreated sexual trauma in your history, I encourage you to seek help. The effects of sexual trauma are devastating for the individual and their relationships. Seek the healing you need, so you can experience the power of healthy relationships and focus on the purpose God has called you into.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in life, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. Sandra welcomes comments and conversations. You can reach out to her at shinecrossings@gmail.com

Are You Taking Your Faith for Granted?


♦♦ Shh! I can’t talk about it. ♦♦

What? My Christian faith Why? Because I might be beaten, homeless, or without a country How? Because it’s the law


take for grantedThat—is the truth—for many Christians in Access-Restricted Nations in Asia—commonly referred to as “ARNA”. In many countries across the world, and especially in America, we have the freedom of religious choice, its expression as long as we don’t infringe on others’ freedoms, and many legal protections. Sadly, there are several countries in Asia where Christianity is a crime, and Christians are subject to physical torture, mental harassment, and denial of school admissions, traveling abroad, bank loans, utilities, trade/business licenses, civil service promotions, and gainful employment. The government won’t issue citizenship certificates to Christians, and they are excluded from the census. In many ways, Christians in ARNA are displaced people—people without a country.

Persecution and Suffering

As a Christ follower, who loves the Lord with all my heart, I need to ask myself, “Could I withstand this level of persecution and still profess my faith to the leaders of my community and country?” It’s almost unimaginable to Americans, and I believe no Christian could ever know what  he or she would do until faced with that situation. Given that many Christians, even today, are persecuted while others enjoy asylum, have you seriously asked yourself whether you’re taking your faith for granted. There are populations who pay a heavy price for the gift of salvation and would trade shoes with those who can openly express their love of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Mission

I have an intense curiosity to learn more about my Christian brothers and sisters living nearly 10,000 miles away and in fear of “being found out” as they continue to fulfill God’s command to go make disciples and spread the Good News. I want to know more about my Christian family—what they suffer, what they believe, how they live and remain hopeful. I have to go and give them whatever encouragement I can to not grow weary and not give up the fight.

In a few weeks I will be traveling with a team to an ARNA country. I will be packing teachings, a few goodies, and my encouragement, and I hope to bring back their stories. I wish I could share more publicly about where we will go, who we will see, and what we plan on doing, but anonymity protects our brothers and sisters.

Please pray for the team’s safety, health, and ability to make a difference in the lives of the people in ARNA

Perhaps it’s been while since you prayed, opened the Bible, or even attended church service. Don’t worried or fearful. God’s patiently waiting to hear from you and ready to celebrate—just like the father of the prodigal son.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Enemies That Can Undermine Your Marriage: Break Free from Jezebel, Leviathan, Ahab, and Legion Spirits

As a Christian marriage coach, my purpose is to educate, equip, empower, and encourage couples who trust me with their personal vulnerabilities and relationships. God has called me to help strengthen marriages, because the health of the marriage directly affects the family and its future generations. The degree of individual brokenness in a spouse has a significant impact on how well I can help a couple.

jvc-breaking outMost couples experience break-through and success as evidenced by my growing collection of thank-you cards and personal testimonies. And then there are those couples who can’t find a way out of their relationship pain. Until I was trained in Restored to Freedom by Nelson Schuman’s School of Ministry, I couldn’t have explained or freed these troubled spouses from the spirits that were gripping one or both from the joy God intended for their marriage. Who are these spirits? Say hello to Jezebel, Leviathan, Ahab, and a host of Legions.

The Spirits

Schuman (2018) describes the grip and manifestation of each spirit on a person. Many spirits own bloodlines until a generation breaks the spirit hold. The spirits are given authority when a child grows up with (1) an absent father, (2) father/step-father who spoke with criticism, was verbally, physically, or sexually abusive, or (3) a mother who was abusive or controlling. These spirits can inhabit either gender and their degree of control depends on several factors.

Is a Spirit Operating in Your Life

It’s hard to admit when you’re not perfect or don’t measure up to a standard you’ve set for yourself. Your only chance of breaking free is to at least be honest with yourself. Ask yourself the following sets of questions.

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Need to control or manipulate people/outcomes and to get what you want, because no one will watch out for you and your best interests
  • Do not easily trust; people have to earn your trust
  • Have anxiety and fear
  • Lie to get your way at times
  • Not feel loved by parents

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Experience back, neck, and upper shoulder pain
  • Have Scoliosis
  • Suffer from Fibromyalgia
  • Struggle with insomnia
  • Fall asleep when listening or reading the Bible
  • Have difficulty remembering anything that helps from spiritual perspective

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Are passive
  • If male, difficulty leading your family and defer to wife
  • Avoid rocking the boat
  • Walk on egg shells
  • Struggle with sexual purity

Do you experience any of the following feelings or behaviors?

  • Dwell on past sins and traumas
  • Struggle with feelings of forgiveness
  • Suffer disease, sickness, fears, and suicidal thoughts

Each of these sets focus on a specific spirit. Afterwards ask your spouse and/or child how they would answer on your behalf. If they are not afraid to answer truthfully, the answers may be different.

Breaking Free

Each of these groups of questions relate to a specific spirit. If you want to learn more you can reference Schuman’s series of books. People have the ability to renounce and free themselves of the spirits through the power of Jesus but only if the prayer is from the heart, not the head.

References

Schuman, N.L. (2018). Restored to Freedom: The Road to Deliverance from the Enemy’s Finest

Schuman, N.L. (2018). Waking the Lion Within: Reclaiming Your Position in Christ

Schuman, N.L. (2018). Restored to Freedom: Deliverance from the Spirits of Jezebel, Leviathan, Ahab, and Legion


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

 

Are You Letting God Speak into Your Life?

devotions 55

As a Christian life coach, I’m always encouraging my clients to pray and hear what God wants to share about their purpose and direction as well as to set and go after personal goals that align with God’s vision. So, when my dear friend and Colombia mission mate gifted me with her recently published book 55 Devotions: Let God Speak into Your Life Today, I was proud and overjoyed in her accomplishment of combining all her God-given talents for His glory.

Brigitta has a love of Jesus, people, travel, and an eye for capturing nature’s beauty through the lens of a camera. Putting all together for good, she combined photos, Scripture, and stories for the purpose of inspiring others to action. A brief snip-it from the Importance of Encouragement (Day 35):

“The person whom I had met during the hike was on top of the wall. He told me that there was a great view from up there. He told me to come up. I hesitated, but he said that he would help me. He climbed down to the middle, and I found the right places to put my foot and climb up and then later down again. He did not really do anything, but his offering to help and his being there was enough encouragement for me to manage to climb up and down by myself….When you encourage me, do not tell me what I cannot do, but tell me what I can do.”

Although a perfect book for the coffee table, you’ll find yourself picking it up to read again and again versus watching it accumulate dust after the first read. This inspired work can be a powerful family devotional to read together, discuss, and share how you might be motivated to live a little bit differently tomorrow than you do today. I encourage you to take inventory of your talents, dream how you can bring them together, set a goal, go, and see how people draw closer to God through your commitment to say “yes” to Him.


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her at www.shinecrossingsministry.com