PTSD: Tools to disciple another

I’m indebted to Chaplain Ramsey Coutta for serving his country as a Chaplain in the Army National Guard and for taking his experiences to write about them in his good book: “The Veteran’s Toolkit for PTSD.”  If you use a summary of the notes, please give him credit.

Tools for PTSD1

(Use this only with God’s Word)

1)      Learn about PTSD symptoms

a)       Re-experiencing symptoms: the situation seems very real.

i)         Frequently having upsetting thoughts, memories or dreams about a traumatic event.

ii)       Acting or feeling as though the traumatic event were happening again, sometimes called a “flashback.”

iii)      Having strong feelings of distress when reminded of the traumatic event.

iv)     Being physically responsive, such as experiencing a surge in your heart rate or sweating, to reminders of the traumatic event.

b)       Avoidance symptoms

i)         Making an effort to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations about the traumatic event

ii)       Making an effort to avoid places or people that remind you of the traumatic event

iii)      Having a difficult time remembering important parts of the traumatic event.

iv)     A loss of interest in important, once positive, activities.

v)       Feeling distant from others or feeling as though your life may be cut short.

vi)     Experiencing difficulties of having positive feelings, such as happiness or love.

c)       Hyperarousal symptoms

i)         Having a difficult time falling or staying asleep.

ii)       Feeling more irritable or having outbursts of anger.

iii)      Having difficulty concentrating or being jumpy or easily startled.

iv)     Feeling constantly “on guard” or like danger is lurking around every corner.


2)      Manage flashbacks to control your thoughts and emotions

a)      Know what causes you to “remember” or become aware of them.  Accept how the body reacts.

b)      Identify early warning signs for flashbacks.

c)      Journal your emotions when you remember situations to understand trends, events, so you can reread what you have gone through, are going through and can be prepared for what could happen in the future. Just start writing and don’t be concerned about where you start, but write down anything that comes to mind. Once finished, reread and reflect on it for personal understanding.

d)      Consider the five senses to regain focus on reality; the event is in the past.

e)      Enlist the support of others to help through challenging moments Pro 24:6

f)       Identify the thoughts that bring things back to the control of Jesus  2 Cor. 10:4-5 Accept the thoughts are part of the past and press to the future.

g)      Help your mind by proactively accepting the reality of the past Phil. 3:1-13


3)      Address guilt that you survived and your friend did not

a)      You did survive.  Everything comes under the sovereignty of God.

b)      Meditate on truth and consider what the guilt is coming from and what the 2ndand 3rd order effects are. Allow yourself to mourn and accept what your feelings might be.  They may be different than anyone else Ecc. 3:4

c)      Accept what cannot be changed Matt 5:4


4)      Build resiliency

a)      Develop problem solving skills – do the previous so that you can calm approach future events.

b)      Trust that you can change and learn to control the emotions by 2 Cor. 10:4-5

c)      Seek help from the Lord in wise friends Matt. 6:33; Jer. 17:5;

d)      Be connected with friends and family Pro 18:24

e)      Disclose to friends and family what you can share.  Be a survivor rather than a victim.


5)      Stop avoiding  the problem – it leaves the problem hidden and prowling to engulf

a)      Face the reality of the past and share with trusted friends as necessary Pro. 18:24; cf. Jam 5:16

b)      Think on what is true and honorable Phil. 4:8

Practical Suggestions


1)      Renew Relationships

a)      Spend time with family and friends who are supportive

b)      Increase your contact with other veterans who can guide you to God’s Word.

c)      Join a home group from church


2)      Become more active

a)      Overcome the feeling of apathy and laziness

b)      Engage in a variety of activities – work, hobby, house, family outings.

c)      Set goals of what makes sense, but stretches you from where you are.

d)      Track your progress.  Keep your goals reasonable.


3)      Acceptance

a)      Account for past experiences

b)      Accept that they happened and the events that cannot change.

c)      End the war with the past events.

d)      Commit yourself to future progress.


4)      Develop a daily activity plan

a)      Build a calendar for good stewardship of time Eph. 5:15-17

b)      Develop goals for the calendar


5)      See things for how they really are

a)      Discuss with another your thoughts and let them give you feedback for objectivity

b)      Make a page for situation/thoughts/put off/ put on/ new plan


6)      Train yourself to relax

a)      Learn to relax from hyperactivity (workouts, movies, etc.)

b)      Get a comfortable chair and think through muscles relaxing

c)      Release the tension


7)      Prepare to sleep better

a)      Do workouts early in the day

b)      Eat big meals at least four hours before rest.

c)      Stick to a regular sleep schedule

d)      Avoid naps after 2pm

e)      Lower lighting and noise an hour before sleeping.


8)      Take a break from anger

a)      Read booklets on dealing with anger.

b)      Take a break to gain calm.

c)      Restore relationships that have been injured from personal actions.

d)      Find enjoyable activities like reading, movies, challenging games.

e)      Exercise

f)       Prayer


1Adapted fromThe Veteran’s Toolkit for PTSD by Chaplain (LTC) Ramsey Coutta



God’s Way vs. Man’s Way: Relationship Responses

This is an excellent chart prepared by Martha Peace in her book, “The Excellent Wife.”  Much of the wording is from the perspective of a woman, because the book is written for the wife.  The chart comparisons are tremendously applicable in any situation.  If you read down the left column, you’ll recognize many phrases and actions that have been done by people.  The right column provides the biblical approach for responses to offenses.

Sinful Thought Responses
Godly Thought Responses
“How could he do this to me after all I have done for him?”
“He is sinning.  How does God want me to respond to his sin?” 1 Peter. 3:8ff
“This is more than I can stand.”
“This feels like more than I can stand, but God will help me get through it.” 1 Cor. 10:13
“I can’t take the pressure anymore!”
“I can bear up under the pressure for as long as God deems necessary.” 1 Cor. 10:36
“I’ll show him what it is like.”
“I’ll develop a biblical plan to fight back with good.” Rom. 12:21
“I hate him.”
“God hates what he is doing.  God will avenge his sin.  My responsibility is to forgive whether I feel like it not.” Luke 6:27
“I can’t believe what he did to me.  First he did _________ to me, then he…”
“Any person is capable of any sin however gross.” Jer. 17:9
“His sin is against God.  My responsibility is not to compound his sin with my own sin.” 1 Cor. 13:5
“He will never hurt me again.”
“He may hurt me again.  I hope not, but if he does he will just have to hurt me, I am going to glorify God.” 1 Cor. 10:31
“I’m so humiliated. What will others think?”
“I it others’ responsibility to think about this in a Christian manner, not to gossip or slander my husband or me. James 4:1 If they do gossip and I find out about it, God will give me the grace to handle it at that time.”
“How could God let this happen to me?”
“God is good. He, too, wants my husband to repent. I thank God for reminding me how much I need Him.” 1 Thess. 5:18
These charts are from:
“The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace, pp. 239-242
Sinful Actions
Godly Actions
Detailed gossiping of his sin to others.
Having the right motives, only giving necessary details to those directly involved in helping her biblically to respond.
Judging her husband’s motives.
Assuming the best about his motives unless he tells her otherwise.
Exaggerating offenses.
Facing the offenses realistically, not exaggerating or minimizing them.
Not giving him a chance to repent and re-earn her trust.
Going against feelings and working towards reconciliation, realizing she must forgive but it may take time for him to re-earn her trust.
Ceasing to attend church because of embarrassment.
Continuing to attend church and to fulfill her responsibility.
Outburst of anger.
Realizing her anger will not achieve God’s purposes.  Thinking long and hard about how to biblically answer.
Seeking solace in another man.
Seeking solace in God and His Word, and perhaps, one or two godly women in the church.
Sharing deep emotional pain with the children in an intimate fashion that only adults are mature enough to handle.
Sharing appropriate factual information with the children and in the process giving them hope that even if their Daddy does not repent, God will take care of them and somehow they will be alright.
Wishing she could purchase a gun and kill her husband.
Realizing vengeance belongs to the Lord.  Praying for and longing for his repentance.
Wishing he were dead.
Instead of longing for vengeance, putting godly pressure on him to repent by overcoming evil with good and praying for his repentance.
Committing suicide. 
Continuing to fulfill her responsibilities whether she feels like it or not.


Forgiveness: Restoring Relationships God’s Way

Restoring Relationships God’s Way

Beginning in the beginning, there have been problems and conflicts in relationships.  If Adam and Eve had conflicts, and we see it all through Scripture, then it’s pretty likely that even the best relationships will have conflicts.  It all results because of sin in the world. The creature is born centered on self and it takes divine enablement to truly focus and serve others. So the question is not what do I do IF it happens, but what do I do WHEN it happens.

This first slide shows the reality of some problem between two people.  It can be two or a mob.  Whatever the relationship, there is going to be some kind of conflict.  (I know these are in a cartoon form, but let’s try to get the principle)

The human response is often to lash back or internalize and “carry” the pain OR a multitude of options in between those two actions.  Often, our response to someone is sin.  For example if I lash back at someone for sinning against me, I have just sinned.  Yes, even though I didn’t start it, I chose to respond in sin and think that I could solve the problem my way.  Sometimes it’s the sin of reaction and sometimes it’s the sin of internalization.  Both are wrong responses.

Instead I need to choose the biblical approach and forgive.  One of the Hebrew words for forgive is nasah, which means “to lift up.”  A second Hebrew word is salah, which means “ready to pardon.”  Both give a good picture of what we are supposed to do. Lift the sin (the penalty and pain of the sin) to the throne of God for Him to deal with it.  A third forgive word is a Greek word aphia-mi, which literally means “to send away.”  God wants us to send away to Him the sin pain and let Him deal with it.  We are not very judicial with offenses against ourselves.  Our flesh reacts and does all sorts of strange things, like think we are as smart as God.

“Lifting up” and “ready to pardon” demonstrate the ready attitude to lift it up to God.  The phrase “send away” means that I’m not going to deal with it against the offender, because I will trust the Lord to deal with it. 

In the next slide the offended person chooses to forgive, that is lifts up or sends away the penalty to the throne of God.  The black symbol with the yellow burst is supposed to be a  chair or throne as an illustration of the Shekinah Glory described in the Old Testament or the Presence of God in heaven.

Lifting up the conflict to the Lord fits well with 1 Peter 5:7, which says “casting all your cares on the Lord, for He cares for you.”  I first deal vertically with the problem and is the principle taught in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. (Mar 11:25)  Once you choose to deal with the problem vertically, then you can begin to deal with the horizontal relationship.

You may still feel the pain of the offense.  The relationship may still be struggling.  But you, because you’ve given it to God, you can choose to have a heart of love toward the offender.  That’s the third slide below.  Notice that God will deal with the other person in His way.  Unfortunately, it may not be in your timing.  It may not be in your lifetime.  Yet, God is infinite in wisdom, justice, power and mercy to know how best to deal with the relationship.  His way is far better than anything we can consider (Is. 55:8-9). The key is you now are able to have a heart of love toward the other person.  This is also the principle from 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  It’s covered, because you trust in the covering of the blood of Christ on the cross.


When a person lifts up the offense to God, he can have a heart of love toward the offender.  The person no longer has to have any kind of revenge desire, because he’s given it to God. It is a choice, to love at this point, but it is what God desires according to Luke 17:3-10; Matthew 18:15-17; Romans 12:14-21; and 1 Peter 3:8-12.

The last slide shows that God may want you to make the decision to reach out to the offender, or even confront the offender.  IF God is working through you to the offender it will be God’s love.  It may be firm and deliberate, because sin may need to be confronted (Luke 17:3-4), but it is done from God’s love, not personal vengeance (Romans 12:15-21)

These slides are a simplistic way of looking at forgiveness.  They do not answer all the questions in a relationship.  They begin the process of dealing with forgiveness. 

Do they help you?

Five Questions: Bridge Building with the Gospel


Five Questions: Bridge Building with the Gospel

I have a growing concern for the lost in the world.  My concern has gone through ebbs and flows over the years, but as I realize the lack of many days left in life (maybe thirty years), I realize I may not have much time to reach out to others.

There are few things in life more moving than to watch a person put their faith in Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross and His resurrection.  There are few things more fantastic than to watch a rebirth happen before my eyes.  There are few things that motivate me more than witnessing a person who becomes my spiritual brother or sister!

Do you get that opportunity very often? 

One of the tools I use to transition to talk through the good news of Jesus Christ is to ask five questions.  The questions are merely a tool to build a bridge to someone so I can share the greatest news in the world – that Jesus died on the cross for his/her sins and that he/she can grow in a relationship with the God of the universe.  The questions are a tool to share that God loves him/her so much that God sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world and that whoever believes in Jesus would have eternal life.  That’s fantastic news!

Here are the five questions I use to start a discussion and build a bridge to a person:

  • Do you ever talk about spiritual things?
  • In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
  • Do you believe in a heaven and a hell?
  • If something tragic were to happen, do you know where you would go?

           [If God asked, “Why should I let you into heaven?” what would you say?]

  • If what you believed were not true, would you want to know the truth?

The answers to the first four questions don’t really matter too much, but they do tell me a great deal about where the person is spiritually.  They tell me what the person is trusting in for salvation, if anything.  They get the person talking and allow me to gain credibility that I am interested in them as a person (and I am!). 

The main question is question number five, “If what you believed were not true, would you want to know the truth?”  If they say yes, then I have a free and open door to walk through and share my faith.  I’m not forcing myself onto the person.  I give the person an opportunity to say no, before I start talking about Jesus.  But once they say yes, then I can take them through a gospel presentation, whereby they can make the greatest decision of all time – accepting Jesus as Savior to become a child of God.

What do you use to build a bridge to talk to people about the Lord Jesus Christ?  Does it work well?  I’m interested in your feedback, because I want to be effective in building bridges and sharing Christ.  Let’s go reach the world for the sake of Jesus!


Sunday, I did a little skit with Moses and the voice of God to introduce the final message on Strategy for Grace: Pursuing the Role in Jesus.  I found the conversation between Moses and God so revealing and convicting that it needs to be highlighted here.

Moses had been raised in the best environment of the world at that time – around B.C. 1500.  He grew up in the Egyptian Pharaoh’s court and was ready to be the Second in Command if he had “stuck with the program.”  Moses didn’t because he wanted God’s will.  After fleeing from Egypt, he spent forty years in the backside of the Midian desert. 

After forty years of divine training, God appears to Moses in the burning bush.  You know the overall story at this point.  God tells Moses that He is sending Moses to bring God’s people out of Egypt.  Moses balks and makes his firstexcuse, “I’m inadequate.”  Haven’t we all done that?  God tells us to be witnesses for Him and we come up with all sorts of excuses why we don’t think we can share our faith with others.  Don’t we?  Doesn’t God want us to be who we are and just tell others what we know (Acts 1:8)?

Then God firmly but patiently like a parent, tells Moses that He will be with Moses.  What could be more comforting than the God of the universe is going to be with you on a mission?  Moses makes his second excuse that Israel’s possible erroneous view is more important to him than God’s presence.  Looking back on that excuse seems like it is crazy!  But don’t I do that?  Don’t you do that?  We get more concerned about a person’s possible rejection of us in sharing the gospel, than knowing He will be with us as we go and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20)?

God again patiently answers Moses’ question regarding His name with, “I am who I am.”  God assures Moses with a brief history lesson of God’s promises to great grand daddies Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Then He tells Moses they will come out with an abundance, but Moses gives his thirdexcuse, “I can’t handle the conflict with them.”  But don’t we do that?  We have conflict with someone and we walk the other way, or turn our head so we don’t catch their eye, or avoid going somewhere if we might be near a person with whom we have a conflict?  Don’t we?  Doesn’t God want us to reconcile and restore relationships for His purpose (Rom. 12:18; 2 Cor. 5:19-20)?

God once more is patient, but firm as a parent.  He gives Moses two object lessons of Moses’ rod turning into a serpent and his hand becoming leprous.  Moses is likely surprised by both incidents.  I would be; wouldn’t you? Consider the rod that Moses used to protect himself from harm, now it becomes a serpent that would harm him.  What’s more, God tells Moses to pick up the serpent by the tail.  Now everyone ought to know that you don’t do something foolish like that!  You would go for the neck right behind the head, so the serpent couldn’t swing around and strike a deadly poisonous bite!  But when God tells you to do something, you obey, even if it goes against man’s way of thinking!  Then when Moses’ hand becomes leprous like snow, God reveals that Moses is unclean for any task God would want from him.  But God shows how He moves in our life, whether an illness, handicap, or personal attack against us, how God can work it together for good and direct that we continue with the mission. But Moses makes his fourthexcuse that he is not eloquent and is slow of speech.  Don’t we do that?  Don’t we make excuses like Moses?  Don’t we look at ourselves, our weaknesses, our lack of eloquence or ability to be smooth in a gospel presentation and we remain in the background waiting for someone else to do the witnessing?  Doesn’t God want us to just use what He has given us and do the best we can (2 Cor. 11:6)?  Doesn’t He want us to leave the results to Him?

Yet one more time, God reminds Moses who made his mouth.  God directs Moses to consider Who made us the way we are and therefore God knows the means of His message and  how He will work out His results.  Finally, Moses makes his fifth excuseand in utter fear says, “I don’t want to.  I can’t.”  Whoa. 

Scripture says the “anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses.  After five excuses, God’s anger is kindled.  Does that mean I can become angry when people refuse to listen?  Can I get frustrated when I’ve been patient for a while?  Think about that number five.  Five is the number of grace.  God is patient and merciful.  But there is a line by which we lose out on seeing how great our God is if we trust Him.

I realized this week, that my frustrations are always about me.  I rarely become angry when other people sin against God.  I do, but my anger is normally aroused when someone is snide against me, or lies to me, or is hypocritical to me.  It’s normally about me.  If I am filled with the Spirit, I’ll remain firm but calm like a spiritual parent, and disciple the person to the truth.  If I am filled with God’s Spirit I will become righteously angry, but it is only in the other person’s actions toward God.  He is the holy One.  He is the righteous One.  I don’t need to become upset at them.

As you reflect on this passage, consider two things.  First, consider how many times you make excuses to not do the right thing.  I’m not talking about not stealing, lying, or committing adultery.  How many times do you make excuses not to do what is right, and you do not?  Whether it is witnessing your faith to a lost soul or serving in a needed capacity or discipling a person who needs to grow up spiritually, what excuses to you make?  Secondly, in your relationships, do you become frustrated with people, maybe your children, because they don’t relate with you the way you want them to act.  Will you be firm and patient like a parent is with a child?

May the Lord bless you in His work.

Danger of the term “Christian maturity”

Danger of the term “Christian maturity”

I’ve asked many people what Christian maturity is and I get a variety of answers.  Some answers describe a person who knows the Bible well. Some add it’s one whose Bible study influences their life.  Some say Christian maturity is obedience to God, i.e. one who goes to church, takes their children to church and no longer carouses.  Some say it is someone who gets along with others. Some say maturity refers to those who don’t do drugs, steal or lie. There is truth in all of those statements. However, there is a message that is hidden by those definitions.  Christian maturity is none of the above.

            Who are some who might satisfy the above definitions?  The Pharisees were not mature and yet they knew the Bible well (distorted as they knew it).  There are some people who are brains on a stick, but they use that knowledge to impress others rather than disciple others.

            There are some who don’t do the wrong things.  That is, they don’t do drugs, steal or lie, but they also don’t disciple other people. They do struggle with worry, doubting God, bitterness toward certain individuals who have hurt them and struggle with not forgiving past offenses.  They consider those acceptable in life, because “everyone deals with those.”  God calls them sins.  Man calls them acceptable.  Acceptable sins are not characteristic of Christian maturity.

There are some who are comfortable in their own setting and don’t care whether other people “get it” or not.  Oh, they wouldn’t say they don’t care, but they don’t take the time to come alongside new believers who grew up having never attended church.  The one who doesn’t do wrong things, do they do the right things? Do they disciple others?

            There are some who say maturity is obedience to God by going to church, taking their children to Sunday School and not carouse.  But a person can do that in his own power for his own purposes.  He takes his children, because he isn’t willing to raise his children to the holiness of God and he expects the church to do it. Obedience is often so vague that it merely means one who doesn’t do obvious sins.  There is little personal sanctification or spiritual transformation.  There is little spiritual accountability. That’s no measure of maturity.

            What is maturity?  It’s often just a nebulous, vague and cloudy term to take a person away from their God given responsibility of the fulfilling the Great Commandment and Great Commission.

Let’s get real.  Christian maturity is one who humbly loves God with all his heart, soul and strength, who is dependent on the Holy Spirit for every thought, word and action, and who submits to the Lordship of Jesus Christ raising up disciples to Jesus Christ.  Christian maturity is not a spiritual infant, who does not know Scripture and is focused on self.  Christian maturity is not a spiritual child, who likes learning Scripture, but is still focused on self and what self wants to do.  Christian maturity is developing in spiritual young adult status, where the person has changed his focus from self to God and others.  He shows this by serving and teaching others.  True maturity is seen in the spiritual parent.

Christian maturity is defined in one way.  It is a spiritual parent who loves God, loves others and is making disciples to Jesus Christ.  If there are no disciples, mentees, or followers, the person is not a spiritual parent and is not yet become spiritually mature.  The person who has not arrived is just as valuable as any other, but he has not arrived to the role of being a spiritual parent like Jesus, Paul and many others.  John calls the mature, spiritual parents “Fathers” in 1 John 2:13.  They know God and are living out the Father’s will.

Are you mature?  Are you discipling others?

Peer Pressure – Part 4

Most people like to fit in with others.  Peer pressure can easily cause us to walk down the wrong road.  David understood it well, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”1  David said you will be blessed if you don’t walk in ungodly counsel, or stand thinking about the way the sinful walk or considering their lifestyle, nor sit contemplating or being pressured into listening to the scornful or mockers of God.   Yet, when you look at the society and culture around you, you see this all the time.

There are many temptations in which peer pressure can influence you wrongly.  We saw the drinking scenario in the last segment.  Unfortunately the age at which young people are having sex is becoming younger and younger according to surveys, of which peer pressure is a huge influence.  Peer pressure influences people to any kind of immoral or abhorrent behavior.

You have to decide what you are going to do.  If you give into peer pressure, you’ll become a follower, just like Adam became a follower in the Garden of Eden.  He should have been leading Eve and protecting her from the deception of the serpent, but he was standing idly by and foolishly accepted the fruit and ate it in direct disobedience to the Lord.2  As you consider how you are in dealing with peer pressure, ask yourself these questions and spend some time thinking through the Scriptures:

·         Do I realize how much other people can influence me?   Proverbs 1:10-13

·         Do I realize my decisions are often based on how others influence me?  Proverbs 1:15-19

·         Do I listen to the voice of Scripture? Proverbs 1:20-23

·         Do I know my own strengths and weaknesses? Proverbs 1:24-28

·         Do I love God’s Word more than what friends say, even good friends? Proverbs 1:29-30

·         Do I understand the consequences of my decisions? Proverbs 1:31-33

·         Do I trust myself? Proverbs 5:6

·         Do I know how to say no? Proverbs 5:7-9

·         Do I know how to practice self-control? Proverbs 5:12-14

·         Do I know my own sin patterns? Proverbs 5:20-23

Do you know who you can talk to about peer pressure?  Are your parents open?  Do you have a church leader who is willing to listen in order to understand?  Maybe you need a trusted friend.  While everyone wants to have friends, it’s far better to have a few good friends than attempt to fit in with everyone.  There is ultimately one person you need to please in life and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.3

When you know who you are in Jesus Christ and are positionally already complete in Him, you’ll stand up to the peer pressure and it will back down from you.4

1Psalm 1:1; 2Genesis 3:1-6; 32 Coriinthians 5:9; 4Colossians 2:9-10

Peer Pressure – Part 3

So what is it about peer pressure that often makes life difficult?1  Here’s a scenario.  It’s Monday night.  You are tired after work and some of the guys invite you to go over to a restaurant with them.  They know you have a family.  You are new to the job and want to fit in.  So you think, “Well, just this time.”  You call your wife and tell her you’re going to go out with the guys.  After all, you just spent Sunday afternoon with the family. 

At the restaurant, everyone is having drinks before their meal, so you don’t want to be the odd one out and you order something to fit in – peer pressure.  You would never do this in public, but you let down your guard.  The meal is full of laughter and good bantering and this is the most you’ve laughed in a long time. You have only two additional drinks during the meal, but it’s not what you were planning – peer pressure.  You are struggling inside from the guilt of going against your conscience, but you’ve never felt so accepted. They invite you over for Monday Night Football and you’re thinking, “I might as well.  This will help me fit in with the guys at work.”  So, you call your wife and she even encourages you to go at this point. You didn’t tell her the whole story.

The peer pressure continues at Sam’s house, because he has the huge screen television and the beer is flowing – peer pressure.  You’re helping yourself to chips and dip and confine yourself to three more beers – peer pressure.  You’re thinking the food will absorb the alcohol.  You’re thinking, “I would never normally have one drink let alone so many.”

Fortunately, you have a big day at work tomorrow, so you excuse yourself at half time.  On the way home, you drive only slightly erratically.  You haven’t had that much to drink since you were in college and when you decided enough was enough.  It was, however, enough to get the police officer’s attention and a breathalyzer test.  He measured you at .08 blood alcohol content and gave you a ride to the county jail with a DUI.  Life changed overnight.  Why did this happen?  Not only does it go against your spiritual values, but you just weren’t thinking.

Social situations put us in danger unless we are confident and strong on values.  Certain peers, like work friends, can invite you into a world you may not normally enter.  You may sense something is wrong or even make you afraid that something doesn’t feel right.  That’s likely your conscience telling you something IS wrong. Scripture says, “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk… having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.2  God gave you a conscience to discern right from wrong.  When you fill your conscience with Scripture, you’ll be able to discern godliness.3  You cannot trust what you see or hear, but you can trust God’s Word.  Ask yourself when you are in a peer pressure situation, “What would God’s Word guide me to do?”

Think about the consequences of your potential decisions.  “Would drinking here bring dishonor to the Lord’s name? Would drinking put me in a situation, like getting a DUI?”  Or, “Will this decision affect my health?”  “Will people whom I care about or care about me, be affected or disappointed by my decision?”  “What will I be thinking tomorrow if I choose this decision today?”  Once the decision is made, the consequences may be out of your hands.  You’ll have to live with the consequences.

When you make your decision against peer pressure, stick with it.  Nancy Reagan, former first lady, had a campaign called, “Just say No.”  It was a good campaign and was acceptable in all realms of sociology and religious networks.  However, it’s not enough.  If you say no to something, make sure you are saying yes to something and make that God’s Word. 

When someone pressures you to try something you question or know you shouldn’t participate in, try these responses.  Tell them, “No, thanks,” or “I’d rather not,” or “I’m not interested.”  If  the peer pressure continues, let them know you don’t appreciate the extra questions or just walk away.  It’s far better for you to walk away, or even run, because eventually the flesh on its own will give into the pressure.  Paul said it well, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.4  I love the last part of the verse, “Pursue…with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”  Friends can pull you away from the Lord, or friends can strengthen your stand with the Lord.  Who are your friends?

The next segment will consider several other situations with which peer pressure can be difficult.

1I’m taking peer pressure in a negative way.  There is positive peer pressure, but for this article it is negative; 21 Timothy 1:5-6, 19; 3Hebrews 5:12-14; 42Timothy 2:22

Peer Pressure – Part 2

This continues the initial discussion on peer pressure and the over arching mandate to consider who you are in Christ.

How do you deal with peer pressure?  Many people just ignore what other people say.  They are wired to shrug it off.  It’s like water off a ducks back.  But sometimes the pressure to conform is hard to discern and a tough challenge to know when to say, “No.”  Let’s consider four action steps for dealing with peer pressure.

The firstaction step you can take is “know your values” or “know what you believe.”  That might seem like a big concept, but it really comes down to the principles by which you live.  What is important to you?  What are the things you believe in?  They might be honesty, integrity, purity and getting along.  Getting along is a good team concept.  It helps people function well in a family or on a team. Yet getting along can influence you to go along with peer pressure if you are not careful.  What do you believe about what you will not compromise? 

Values can even be costly.  Scripture records, “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.1Sometimes it means you’ll have to take a stand or that you will lose out on an opportunity. You can never lose from God’s perspective if you choose for purity, for example. You may take a stand for purity and that means foolish people will make fun of you for being prudish or a goody-two-shoes.  Take the stand.  You’ll be the one who smiles twenty years from now when others are suffering for their foolish decisions.  Because you chose purity, you will always have the confidence knowing that you won’t have regrets.

The second action step you can take is to set realistic goals.  When you have goals or direction, you’ll be less influenced to follow the crowds.  Scripture records, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully), not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.2  Some people have no goals.  As the saying goes, they who fail to plan, plan to fail.  But the one who searches the Scriptures will be like the ant who works through the summer and will have provisions for the winter.3  Don’t become a workaholic.  God never intended us to work all day and night.4  Set realistic goals.  You may not be able to accomplish as much in one year, but you’ll see that in five years time, you’ll have accomplished far more.

The third action step is enjoy God’s creation around you.5  When you enjoy God’s creation, you’ll be less apt to be influenced by what the crowds think is something you need. Get rest; take time for a walk, do some reading and choose friends wisely.  Trust God in all your decisions by studying Scripture and depending on His Holy Spirit.  Life is short, so take time to cultivate what you know about God’s creation.

The fourth action step is seek after God’s purposes.  Scripture says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.6  When you seek God’s purposes, you’ll be less influenced by peers to their desires.  When you develop eternal interests, you’ll be less concerned about temporal desires like get rich quick schemes, desires to satisfy the flesh, gluttonous desires for foods beyond what exercise and work does not consume, desires for relationships that corrupt, or other earthly pursuits.

Preemptively overcome peer pressure by stepping out by faith in the actions steps and you’ll put on the armor of God to stand firm for godly principles.7 

The next segment will look at a specific situation of peer pressure and how to deal with it.

11John 3:3; 2Ephesians 5:15-17; 3Proverbs 6:6-9; 4Psalm 127:2; 5Psalm 19:1-6; 6Matthew 6:33; 7Ephesians 6:10-18

Peer Pressure

Everyone over the age of five faces some kind of peer pressure.  It’s subtle.  Most people handle it well, because they don’t let it bother them, but many are moved along by the crowd like the bulls running down the streets of Pamplona, Spain.  It is what motivates many to buy certain kinds of cars, wear certain styles of clothes and even get caught in foolish activities, like sniffing.  Peer pressure.  Usually it’s when people around your own age try to influence your thinking. 

Sometimes peer pressure can be positive.  Peers can encourage you to participate in sports or band or even study hard for honor grades.  Peers can also exhort you to keep up some level of fitness.  These are obviously good forms of peer pressure or better termed exhortations.

Sometimes peer pressure can be negative.  This pressure comes from peers influencing you to use alcohol, drugs, skip school, have sex, vandalize property, make fun of people or bully other kids.  During youthfulness and even into adulthood, you have so many influences away from God’s holy standard and toward the common drudgery of the world. 

How do you make your own decisions?  How do you say no to negative peer pressure?  How do you deal with it in tough situations?

The key to peer pressure is to know who you are.  If you are a Christian, here’s your verse, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.  (Colossians 2:9-10)  If you know Jesus Christ, then you are complete in Him and the peer pressure of life does not have to influence you in a negative way.

When you realize you are complete in Jesus Christ, you will have confidence in Jesus rather than yourself.  You’ll be able to accept your strengths and weaknesses, because you know that God is working in your life to lead you to maturity.1 You’ll have greater respect for others, because you submit yourself to Christ’s authority.2 You’ll begin to trust yourself, because you are trusting what God is doing in and through you to accomplish His will.3  You’ll make your decisions with discernment, because you know God’s Word.4

If you continue in the world’s path, you’ll miss out on the freedom Jesus Christ wants for you.5 Depending on yourself, rather than the Lord, results in a lack of self-confidence, dislike of yourself, not trusting your decisions and unwillingness to accept who you were made by God.  Ultimately what happens is other people influence you and make your decisions for you.  You end up going down a wide road called a slippery slope, because it’s easy and so many are traveling down the same dumb road. Why?  Because what peers think is more important to you than what God thinks. 

The next segment will address some practical ways of dealing with peer pressure.

1Philippians 1:6; 21Peter 5:5-6; 3Ephesians 5:15-17; 4Hebrews 5:12-14; 5Galatians 5:1