RULES, FEAR & PUNISHMENT; This is How You Make Your Relationships so Hard

Hello Friends,

I am working with the publisher to have my book out in the next few weeks. (Very excited about the front cover, posted here!) Editing and re-writing have been time consuming, so I have printed one of my favorite past blog articles. Many of you were not following us when we posted this, so it will still be new to you:

Have you ever thought about this:  so much of our pain in relationships and in life comes from the problem of Rules.  What’s the problem with rules, you ask.

There is nothing wrong with rules in themselves.  The problem with rules is that we are expected to keep them.  Then we begin to hate the rules.  (Some of you, though, are precious little rule-keepers! We like you.)

Another problem is that we create rules for our friendships and marriages, and we build the success of each around how well the rules are being followed, instead of building the relationship around love.  When one person breaks the rules, it causes the other person to go “crazy-for-Coco-Puffs”-like in their reaction.  And in that “craziness” the offender gets punished.  Again, it’s because we are having a relationship with a rule, instead of a relationship with one another.

In the Kingdom of Rules, the rules rule.  Everyone is expected to obey the rules.  If you break the rules, then the rest of us become afraid, afraid that we will not be able to control you. So to keep you under control, we punish you.

What we fear, we try to control.

Among adults, when someone breaks the rules in marriage, then those of us around the rule-breaker get fearful.  In the Kingdom of Rules, punishment is exacted upon the you, the rule-breaker, as an attempt to control you. This control is the reaction of our fear.  Fear leads to control, and control is meted out as a punishment.  Cheaters, liars, thieves, and trouble-makers are punished.  We break up with you, divorce you, slander you on FaceBook, sue you and cut you off.  Punishment.  That’s pretty much our standard way of dealing with disobedience, right?   What’s wrong here?

Nothing about the heart is part of this equation.

Remember, nothing about “punishment” is part of our equation with God.  Jesus took that all away when He was Punished for us, when He died on the cross for our rule-breaking.  Now, we are always forgiven, continuously forgiven and accepted by Him.  We have become un-punishable!

What if we instead de-emphasized rules, and focused on valuing one another and valuing the relationship we have?

Therefore, in the Kingdom of Grace, I won’t need to be afraid when you live ungodly (break rules).  I do not need to control you out of my fear.  For, I cannot fix you, anyway.  In the Kingdom of Grace, relationship is at the heart of the rules.  Rule-keeping is what I do to protect the relationship.  If I desire a loving relationship with you, then I keep our rules to safeguard the relationship.  Relationship is more important than the rules.

In the Kingdom of Grace, instead of fixing you, we should be about helping you understand why you are breaking the rules in the first place.  That is, adult to adult, we should help you see what is faulty in your heart, what has you so angry, fearful, shameful, or broken.  Then we can speak to you about healing, grace and acceptance, as we await the Kindness of the Lord to grant to you a new vision of how hurtful your rule-breaking was, and a new vision of how you would like to live and love in the relationship.  This granting by God of a new vision is called repentance.

Repentance is a gift from God in which He graces a fix for your sin problem, your rule-breaking. We don’t. We can’t fix that.  We can’t even make you repent.  Instead, our assignment from God is to deal with one another in love, healing each others broken hearts.  When my heart gets healed, then maybe I will quit breaking the rules.

Ah, and there’s Pure Heart Weekend.  So glad you joined us on that weekend that you came.  We weren’t trying to fix you, control you, punish you, or make you more committed to the rules.  Others have tried that on you, and you were damaged, ruined, jaded, broken, hardened, rejected and left for worthless.   We wanted to give you a taste of grace: the transforming, wonder-working power of God that changes your heart.

In this Kingdom we do have one fear. A healthy fear. We fear that you may not want to show up and let Grace heal you of your rule-breaking.


God loves you, and He’s not mad!   – Carter

(Reprinted, with some editing, from July 2015)

What Could Be More Important Than a Good Marriage?

Jeri came to see me because she’s unhappy in her marriage. She and Russell met in college, and both of them had come from small towns where their families were very involved in church. Jeri figured that in a marriage to Russell, they too, would be as faithful and as spiritually-minded as their parents. But, alas.

After 18 years of marriage, she was unhappy. Jeri was wounded by Russell’s lack of attention, his outbursts of anger, and the fact that he put her down in front of the children. Jeri felt lonely and often frustrated with the way her husband spent his evenings. There were no Bible studies with other couples. The Wednesday night class on Biblical finances, he said, would be a waste of time. Oh, he loved God, she figured, but Russell was not verbally or demonstrably involved with God. Not anymore than he was with Jeri.

However, Jeri was trying hard to make it a good marriage. She cooked and cleaned, hustled the kids to their activities, and forced herself to be available for intimacy with him most of the time that he asked for it. She had set up counseling appointments in the past, but he never went, and she went for only a few sessions.

To Russell, the marriage was fine, as long as she played her “role.” Yet, she was so unhappy. She wanted the marriage to be so much more, but was growing more hurt, more lonely, and silently more angry.

What would you tell her?

Often our first words of counsel are to help her think of more ways that she could work to make the marriage better. What other things could she do differently, cleverly, or more consistently? What this approach would boil down to is, what else could she do to work harder “without a word, so as to win her husband’s obedience” (I Peter 3:1)?

When we give this kind of advice, we put her under more stress. We put her under the bondage of “the law.” (Here’s three things you need to do to have a healthy, happy marriage . . .)

But what if her heart is in the wrong place? Let me challenge you with a thought: What if her activity is taking precedence over her identity?

That is, what if she is sacrificing the joy of living in her true identity on the altar of “A Good Marriage” (whatever that is!). She is making her marriage her god, a good marriage her idol, which will not make her ultimately happy?

Could “A Good Marriage” be a god to us? Would that be putting another “god” before the Lord our God?

What is our greatest identity? Living as the beloved child of the Father, sharing life with the Son, and walking in companionship with the Holy Spirit.

We were created “to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever,” says one of our greatest Christian declarations (The Westminster Catechism), for apparently, we are His greatest pursuit, too. We are more important than all of creation to Him!

So, what happens when your desire for a better marriage becomes more important than all of creation to you? Could that yearning for more happiness replace your yearning for intimacy with God? Whatever we love the most will rule our lives. Are we unhappy in our marriages because we have made idols out of them, and “the marriage” is now failing to help us “live happily ever after?”

My desire was to help Jeri see that perhaps she was unhappy in her marriage because “living in a good marriage” had become her identity. She needed to focus on her first love, not her husband’s love. Let’s face it, marriage is hard. It’s difficult, and often our companionship is more of a burden instead of a comfort. Maybe God knew that our wounds, lies and flesh would always make our marriages more difficult; and therefore, our greatest happiness could only come in intimacy with Him (Psalm 16:2; 73:1).

I’m not trying to be cynical, but out of nearly 8,000 verses in the New Testament, only 20 verses in the epistles talk about marriage. Maybe marriage, like all of life, works better when we have no idols. Since the marriage was created to be a picture of our relationship with God, then perhaps the unhappiness in our marriage is a picture of our lack of intimacy with God. Our true spiritual focus should be our intimacy with Him. Generally speaking —not true in all circumstances— our marriage will be satisfying to the degree that our spiritual intimacy with God is satisfying.

( I know you will have some comments.  Leave them below)



This past weekend we did a Pure Heart Weekend with eight terrific men from Anthem Community Church (Henderson, NV). Each of the men had their own unique stories, and God met them where they were, and He took them where they’d never been. On this particular weekend I was reminded again of the power that God has given us to speak words of life, words of power and authority, and words of destiny.

The story is told so many times of the damage a father’s negative words have over a child, who then grows up to live a difficult life. When a parent constantly speaks words of defeat and discouragement (“You’re so stupid; You’re so lazy; You can’t do anything right; You make me so angry . . . what’s wrong with you?” Sadly, I recently heard of a mother who told her child, “I wish I’d never given birth to you.” !!!), a child can grow up to repeat those words in his own heart and mind. Then, the mind gets trained to think and perform in the direction of those words, and the child “lives-out” the fulfillment of his parents’ curses.

Words are not mere noise. Words are powerful. Words create things.

When the angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary, he canceled her wedding plans with his message. Then he concluded it was certain, “For nothing is impossible with God” (In the Greek the word nothing is literally “no word”). No word that God speaks will be impossible. In agreement, Mary replied, ” . . . be it done to me according to your word.” What was “done” to her with that word was that Mary became pregnant! The “word” of God went into Mary’s spirit, and the power of God went into Mary’s womb. That word of God brought forth the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Words from God have creative power!

All of us have disappointed God, our parents, a teacher or a coach. All of us have made mistakes and wounded our friends, or failed them in some way to let them down. We have fallen. We have failed. We have hurt ourselves and others. And worse, we have spoken over ourselves such messages that memorialize these failures and wounds. How often have we agreed with the enemy’s shameful messages that he has hurled at us?

You can change that message, and change your future.

Instead of that message having you, you can have it.

Speak a new word. Speak God’s word over you. Quit crying about your past. Open your mouth and change the direction of your life.

Do it every day. Every day. Not just once every seven months, when you think of it.

Speak God’s word over your life, over your plans for the day, over your mind and emotions.

Speak what?

Speak truth. Doctrinal truth. Like this: I am a holy, righteous child of God; I have failed, made mistakes, disappointed family and friends; I have lost things, broken things, and messed things up. And it’s probably worse than I know! But I am not the sum of my failures. I’M THE SON OF MY FATHER*, and I am led by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14; 2 Cor 6:18: Gal 3:26). I am a child of light (God’s kingdom) and a son of the day, and I wear the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation; I am not destined for wrath, but for the glory of salvation (I Thess 5:5 – 9). I will not live under shame, or live humiliated or in disgrace, but I will forget the shame of my youth, and remember it no more. The Lord of hosts, is making it all new; He’s my Redeemer (Isa 54:4,5). No weapon formed against me will prosper, and I will stand in Christ to condemn every word that has come against me in judgment (Isa 54:17). I present myself to you, Lord Jesus, as a living sacrifice, that You might live in me and through me your perfect will today (Rom 12:1-2).

In 1 Sam 17:46 David says, “This day!” the Lord will deliver you [Goliath] into my hands. This day! Forget last year. Forget when I was a kid. Today! This day! I will rise up in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and I will live in my identity in Him.

I hope this is helpful to you.


– Carter

*Remember: women are also to be the “sons” of God, for it is a reference to more than being a child of God.  “Sons of God” are all believers who have learned how to fight for the souls of their fellow Christians, who have learned how to take up the sword and war against the enemy on behalf of loved-ones.  Remember, too, that we men are the “Bride of Christ.”  This is why you women are generally better worshipers than we men, for you love your Savior and can be intimate with Him more easily than we men can.  Generally speaking.  Don’t email me and pick a fight over this!  LOL