Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Archive for the ‘God’s Grace’ Category

Family Wounds Are Slow to Heal

SOURCE:  Max Lucado

Family wounds are slow to heal.

I hope your childhood was a happy time when your parents kept everyone fed, safe, and chuckling. I hope your dad came home every day, your mom tucked you in bed every night, and your siblings were your best friends.

But if not, you need to know you aren’t alone. The most famous family tree in the Bible suffered from a serious case of blight. Adam accused Eve. Cain killed his little brother. Abraham lied about Sarah. Rebekah favored Jacob. Jacob cheated Esau and then raised a gang of hoodlums.

The book of Genesis is a relative disaster.

Joseph didn’t deserve to be abandoned by his brothers. True, he wasn’t the easiest guy to live with. He boasted about his dreams and tattled on his siblings. He deserved some of the blame for the family friction. But he certainly didn’t deserve to be dumped into a pit and sold to merchants for pocket change.

The perpetrators were his ten older brothers. His brothers were supposed to look out for him. Joseph’s next of kin were out of line. And his father? Jacob was out of touch.

With all due respect, the patriarch could have used a course on marriage and family life.

Mistake number one: he married a woman he didn’t love so he could marry one he did. Mistake number two: the two wives were sisters. (Might as well toss a lit match into a fireworks stand.) The first sister bore him sons. The second sister bore him none. So to expand his clan, he slept with an assortment of handmaidens and concubines until he had a covey of kids. Rachel, his favorite wife, finally gave birth to Joseph, who became his favorite son. She later died giving birth to a second son, Benjamin, leaving Jacob with a contentious household and a broken heart.

Jacob coped by checking out. Obstinate sons. Oblivious dad. The brothers needed a father. The father needed a wake-up call. And Joseph needed a protector. But he wasn’t protected; he was neglected. And he landed in a distant, dark place.

Initially, Joseph chose not to face his past. By the time he saw his brothers again, Joseph had been prime minister for nearly a decade. The kid from Canaan had come a long way.

Joseph could travel anywhere he wanted, yet he chose not to return to Canaan. He knew where to find his family, but he chose not to contact them.

He kept family secrets a secret. Untouched and untreated. Joseph was content to leave his past in the past. But God was not.

Restoration matters to God. The healing of the heart involves the healing of the past.

So God shook things up.
All countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands. — Genesis 41:57


And in the long line of folks appealing for an Egyptian handout, look what the cat dragged in.

Joseph heard them before he saw them. He was fielding a question from a servant when he detected the Hebrew chatter. Not just the language of his heart but the dialect of his home. The prince motioned for the servant to stop speaking. He turned and looked. There they stood.

The brothers were balder, grayer, rough-skinned. They were pale and gaunt with hunger. Sweaty robes clung to their shins, and road dust chalked their cheeks. These Hebrews stuck out in sophisticated Egypt like hillbillies at Times Square.

They didn’t recognize him. His beard was shaved, his robe was royal, and the language he spoke was Egyptian. It never occurred to them that they were standing before their baby brother.

Thinking the prince couldn’t understand Hebrew, the brothers spoke to him with their eyes and gestures. They pointed at the stalks of grain and then at their mouths. They motioned to the brother who carried the money, and he stumbled forward and spilled the coins on the table.

When Joseph saw the silver, his lips curled, and his stomach turned. He had named his son God Made Me Forget, but the money made him remember. The last time he saw coins in the hands of Jacob’s older boys, they were laughing, and he was whimpering. That day at the pit he searched these faces for a friend, but he found none. And now they dared bring silver to him?

Joseph called for a Hebrew-speaking servant to translate. Then Joseph scowled at his brothers.
He acted as a stranger to them and spoke roughly to them. — Genesis 42:7


The brothers fell face-first in the dirt, which brought to Joseph’s mind a childhood dream.

“Uh, well, we’re from up the road in Canaan. Maybe you’ve heard of it?”

Joseph glared at them. “Nah, I don’t believe you. Guards, put these spies under arrest. They are here to infiltrate our country.”

The ten brothers spoke at once. “You’ve got it all wrong, Your High, Holy, and Esteemed Honor. We’re salt of the earth. We belong to the same family. That’s Simeon over there. That’s Judah… Well, there are twelve of us in all. At least there used to be.
The youngest is now with our father, and one is no longer living. — Genesis 42:13


Joseph gulped at the words. This was the first report on his family he had heard in twenty years. Jacob was alive. Benjamin was alive. And they thought he was dead.

“Tell you what,” he snapped. “I’ll let one of you go back and get your brother and bring him here. The rest of you I’ll throw in jail.”

With that, Joseph had their hands bound. A nod of his head, and they were marched off to jail. Perhaps the same jail where he had spent at least two years of his life.

What a curious series of events. The gruff voice, harsh treatment. The jail sentence. The abrupt dismissal. We’ve seen this sequence before with Joseph and his brothers, only the roles were reversed. On the first occasion they conspired against him. This time he conspired against them. They spoke angrily. He turned the tables. They threw him in the hole and ignored his cries for help. Now it was his turn to give them the cold shoulder.

What was going on?

I think he was trying to get his bearings. This was the toughest challenge of his life. The famine, by comparison, was easy. Mrs. Potiphar he could resist. Pharaoh’s assignments he could manage. But this mixture of hurt and hate that surged when he saw his flesh and blood? Joseph didn’t know what to do.

Maybe you don’t either.

Your family failed you. Your early years were hard ones. The people who should have cared for you didn’t. But, like Joseph, you made the best of it. You’ve made a life for yourself. Even started your own family. You are happy to leave Canaan in the rearview mirror. But God isn’t.

He gives us more than we request by going deeper than we ask. He wants not only your whole heart; He wants your heart whole. Why? Hurt people hurt people. Think about it. Why do you fly off the handle? Why do you avoid conflict? Why do you seek to please everyone? Might your tendencies have something to do with an unhealed hurt in your heart?

God wants to help you for your sake. And for the sake of your posterity.

Suppose Joseph had refused his brothers? Summarily dismissed them? Washed his hands of the whole mess? God’s plan for the nation of Israel depended upon the compassion of Joseph. A lot was at stake here.

There is a lot at stake with you too. Yes, your family history has some sad chapters. But your history doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. You don’t have to give your kids what your ancestors gave you.

Talk to God about the scandals and scoundrels. Invite Him to relive the betrayal with you. Bring it out in the open. Joseph restaged the hurt for a reason.

Revealing leads to healing.

Let God do His work. The process may take a long time. It may take a lifetime.
Family pain is the deepest pain because it was inflicted so early and because it involves people who should have been trustworthy.

Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. — Romans 12:2


Let Him replace childish thinking with mature truth (1 Corinthians 13:11). You are God’s child. His creation. Destined for heaven. You are a part of His family. Let Him set you on the path to reconciliation.

Joseph did. The process would prove to be long and difficult. It occupies four chapters of the Bible and at least a year on the calendar, but Joseph took the first step. After three days Joseph released his brothers from jail. He played the tough guy again. “Go on back. But I want to see this kid brother you talk about. I’ll keep one of you as a guarantee.”

They agreed and then, right in front of Joseph, rehashed the day they dry-gulched him:
Then they said to one another, ‘We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us’. — Genesis 42:21


Again, they did not know that the prince understood Hebrew. But he did. And when he heard the words, Joseph turned away so they couldn’t see his eyes fill with tears. He stepped into the shadows and wept. He did this seven more times. He didn’t cry when he was promoted by Potiphar or crowned by Pharaoh, but he blubbered like a baby when he learned that his brothers hadn’t forgotten him after all. When he sent them back to Canaan, he loaded their saddlebags with grain. A moment of grace.

With that small act, healing started. If God healed that family, who’s to say He won’t heal yours?

For Reflection

Listed below are several words and phrases that characterize some of the hardships and dysfunction evident in Joseph’s family. Which issues have marked your family?

❑ abandonment
❑ troubled marriage(s)
❑ premature death
❑ hatred
❑ sibling rivalry
❑ favoritism
❑ severe grief
❑ disregard for others
❑ parental abdication
❑ guilt
❑ deception
❑ betrayal
❑ infertility
❑ resentment
❑ abuse
❑ extramarital relationships
❑ harsh treatment
❑ brokenness
❑ self-absorption
❑ secrecy
❑ neglect

Part of the healing process includes unearthing the details — the specifics of how you were hurt — and inviting God to relive those experiences with you. What help do you need from God? How do you want to experience His presence, comfort, or guidance?

Coming face-to-face with old hurts can be disorienting. When Joseph first encountered his brothers again, he withheld his identity, spoke harshly, made false accusations, jailed them, released them, put conditions on their departure and return, held one of them hostage, concealed powerful emotions, and was secretly generous to them (Genesis 42:6-28). What conflicting thoughts and emotions surface when you consider the possibility of engaging old hurts and the people connected with them?

Joseph’s path to reconciliation with his family was long and difficult, but it began with a small act of mercy and grace — he loaded his brothers’ saddlebags with grain and quietly returned the silver they had paid for it. A gift, free and clear.

What small act of mercy and grace do you sense God inviting you to extend to someone in your family?

=================================================

Excerpted from You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.

4 Encouraging Truths for Christians with Mental Illness

SOURCE:  Lieryn Barnett

The apostle Paul speaks of a thorn in his side that he pleaded with God three times to remove (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Biblical scholars aren’t sure exactly what Paul’s thorn was, but I can tell you mine: bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed as an adolescent and have pleaded with God more than thrice to remove this from me.

It took me longer than Paul to hear God telling me that His grace is sufficient.

Mental illness can still be a highly stigmatized topic in the church. For those who do not have such struggles, suicidal ideations and the extreme despair that come with clinical depression can be difficult to understand. Although many Christians know the trial of occasional anxiety or depressed feelings, people with a diagnosed mental illness face unique challenges.

Charles Spurgeon once said, “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.” Mental illness is not a new phenomenon.

And the same biblical truths that have encouraged Christians for centuries can encourage those who suffer with mental illness today. Though we may continue to struggle daily in the “bottomless pit” of the mind, we can cling to four encouragements.

1. You Are Not Alone

God’s people have suffered—mentally, emotionally, and physically—since the fall. Even Christ himself cried out in despair on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), echoing a psalm of lament (Ps. 22:1). When we suffer, we are not alone.

What’s more, mental illness is probably more common than you know. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 American adults lives with a mental illness. The World Health Organization says 1 in 4 people worldwide will experience mental-health issues.

You are almost certainly not the only one in your congregation dealing with issues arising from mental illness. Speaking openly about your mental-health issues will allow others to share their own struggles and will enable you to care for one another.

2. It’s Not Your Fault

Though mental illness is a result of the fall, my affliction—like that of the man born blind (John 9:3)—isn’t punishment for my sins or the sins of my parents. Mental illness may not be my fault, but it can be my opportunity to speak truth about Christ’s love to others.

Of course, sin can exacerbate mental illness, or stir up depression or anxiety. Sin spreads the infection of the darkness, which is why it’s so important to have people point you to Christ. If we repent and turn our focus to Christ, we can allow the light—however dim it may appear—to seep in. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8) is a promise for good days and for dark ones, too.

3. God Sees You and Is with You

We have a personal Savior who experiences emotions. As you suffer the effects of mental illness, you can remember the nearness of Christ. He weeps with you, as he wept with Lazarus’s family (John 11:35). He knew the resurrecting work he was about to do, but he sobbed with anger anyway. Likewise, he knows how he is going to work in and through your life, and he is with you in the midst of it.

By grace, he sent the Holy Spirit, our comforter and counselor, to be with you, to help you. The Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:27). He cries out for you when you can’t form words, but only sounds of despair (Rom. 8:26).

Remain steadfast, therefore, for there is great hope: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). We are all broken in our own ways, but Christ makes us whole. He lights up the darkest corners of my heart and mind (2 Cor. 4:6). He pulls me out of the deepest pit (Job 33:28Ps. 40:2; 103:4Lam. 3:55). And if he sees fit, he will use me to reach others (2 Cor. 4:7–10).

4. God’s Word Speaks to You

The Bible isn’t afraid to talk about mental and emotional anguish. Look at Job or the psalms of lament, which compose the largest category of psalms. These are songs of people crying out to God in despair:

  • “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps. 25:16).
  • “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation” (Ps. 42:5).
  • “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (Ps. 88:3).

Yet even most psalms of lament end positively, reminding their hearers of God’s faithfulness. Like God’s people throughout history, we often forget everything he has already done for us and the promises he continues to fulfill.

Keep these truths somewhere you can be reminded of them often. Share them with a close friend, family member, or accountability partner who can remind you when you forget or when you don’t have the energy or willpower to remind yourself. God’s Word speaks to you on even the hardest days.

My thorn may never leave my side, but I can rejoice in the greatness and sovereignty of my mighty God. This illness continues to remind me that God’s grace is sufficient for me. I pray that God would make known his strength in my weakness.

When one asks, Jesus always receives — always!

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege/J.C.Ryle

“At the time when He Himself was dying, He conferred on a sinner eternal life” by J.C. Ryle

I ask you if any man’s case could look more hopeless and desperate, than that of this penitent thief once did?
“First of all you are meant to learn from these verses Christ’s power and willingness to save sinners. This is the main doctrine to be gathered from the history of the penitent thief. It teaches you that which ought to be music in the ears of all who hear it,—it teaches you that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.

He was a wicked man—a malefactor,—a thief, if not a murderer. We know this, for such only were crucified. He was suffering a just punishment for breaking the laws. And as he had lived wicked, so he seemed determined to die wicked,—for when he first was crucified he railed on our Lord.

And he was a dying man. He hung there, nailed to a cross, from which he was never to come down alive. He had no longer power to stir hand or foot. His hours were numbered. The grave was ready for him. There was but a step between him and death.

If ever there was a soul hovering on the brink of hell, it was the soul of this thief. If ever there was a case that seemed lost, gone, and past recovery, it was his. If ever there was a child of Adam whom the devil made sure of as his own, it was this man.

But see now what happened. He ceased to rail and blaspheme, as he had done at the first. He began to speak in another manner altogether. He turned to our blessed Lord in prayer. He prayed Jesus to ‘remember him when He came into His kingdom.’ He asked that his soul might be cared for, his sins pardoned, and himself thought of in another world. Truly this was a wonderful change.

And then mark what kind of answer he received. Some would have said he was too wicked a man to be saved. But it was not so. Some would have fancied it was too late, the door was shut, and there was no room for mercy. But it proved not too late at all.

The Lord Jesus returned him an immediate answer,—spoke kindly to him,—assured him he should be with Him that day in paradise,—pardoned him completely—cleansed him thoroughly from his sins—received him graciously—justified him freely—raised him from the gates of hell,—gave him a title to glory.

Of all the multitude of saved souls, none ever received so glorious an assurance of his own salvation, as did this penitent thief. Go over the whole list from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find none who had such words spoken to them as these, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Reader, the Lord Jesus never gave so complete a proof of His power and will to save, as He did upon this occasion. In the day when He seemed most weak, He showed that he was a strong deliverer. In the hour when his body was racked with pain, He showed that He could feel tenderly for others. At the time when He Himself was dying, he conferred on a sinner eternal life.

Now have I not a right to say, “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God through Him?” Behold the proof of it. If ever sinner was too far gone to be saved, it was this thief. Yet he was plucked as a brand from the fire.

Have I not a right to say. “Christ will receive any poor sinner who comes to Him with the prayer of faith, and cast out none?” Behold the proof of it. If ever there was one that seemed too bad to be received, this was the man. Yet the door of mercy was wide open even for him.

Have I not a right to say, “By grace ye may be saved through faith, not of works,—fear not, only believe?” Behold the proof of it. This thief was never baptized. He belonged to no visible church. He never received the Lord’s Supper. He never did any work for Christ. He never gave money to Christ’s cause,—But he had faith, and so he was saved.

Have I not a right to say, “The youngest faith will save a man’s soul, if it only be true?” Behold the proof of it. This man’s faith was only one day old, but it led him to Christ, and preserved him from hell.

Why then should any man or woman despair with such a passage as this in the Bible? Jesus is a physician who can cure hopeless cases. He can quicken dead souls, and call the things which be not as though they were.

Never should any man or woman despair! Jesus is still the same now that He was eighteen hundred years ago. The keys of death and hell are in His hand. When He opens none can shut.*

What though your sins be more in number than the hairs of your head? What though your evil habits have grown with your growth, and strengthened with your strength? What though you have hitherto hated good, and loved evil, all the days of your life?

These things are sad indeed; but there is hope even for you. Christ can heal you. Christ can cleanse you. Christ can raise you from your low estate. Heaven is not shut against you. Christ is able to admit you, if you will humbly commit your soul into His hands.

Reader, are your sins forgiven? If not, I set before you this day a full and free salvation. I invite you to follow the steps of the penitent thief,—come to Christ, and live. I tell you that Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. I tell you He can do everything that your soul requires. Though your sins be as scarlet, He can make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Why should you not be saved as well as another? Come unto Christ by faith, and live.

Reader, are you a true believer? If you are, you ought to glory in Christ. Glory not in your own faith, your own feelings, your own knowledge, your own prayers, your own amendment, your own diligence. Glory in nothing but Christ. Alas! the best of us knows but little of that merciful and mighty Saviour. We do not exalt Him and glory in Him enough. Let us pray that we may see more of the fulness there is in Him.

Reader, do you ever try to do good to others? If you do, remember to tell them about Christ. Tell the young, tell the poor, tell the aged, tell the ignorant, tell the sick, tell the dying,—tell them all about Christ. Tell them of His power, and tell them of His love. Tell them of His doings, and tell them of His feelings. Tell them of what He has done for the chief of sinners. Tell them what He is willing to do to the last day of time. Tell it them over and over again.

Never be tired of speaking of Christ. Say to them broadly and fully, freely and unconditionally, unreservedly and undoubtingly, ‘Come unto Christ as the penitent thief did,—come unto Christ, and you shall be saved.'”

—————————————————————-

–J.C. Ryle, Living or Dead? A Series of Home Truths (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 258–265.

Is There a Sin God Cannot Forgive?

SOURCEDr. David Jeremiah

One of the questions I’m regularly asked is, “Pastor, can I commit a sin that God cannot forgive?”

Jesus addressed the topic in Mark 3:20-30. According to Jesus, there is one thing a person can do for which there is no forgiveness either in this age or in the age to come: blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. But what does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

Let’s look directly at Jesus’ concluding statement in verses 28-30:

‘Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation,’ because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

This paragraph has often been misunderstood by Christians. To arrive at the correct interpretation, we have to begin with the last phrase, which explains why Jesus made this statement. He gave this teaching because His foes were accusing Him of having an unclean spirit (verse 22). Our Lord was telling them, in essence, “There is a sin that you are on the verge of committing. You should be very careful, because you’re about to do something for which there is no forgiveness.”

What was it?

It’s Not a Thoughtless Mistake

Let me take a moment and say the unpardonable sin isn’t something that someone commits randomly. The scribes who came from Jerusalem didn’t just do this on a whim. If you, follow the references to these scribes throughout the book of Mark, you’ll see there is a progression to their unbelief. They were initially curious about Jesus and His ministry. Then they had questions. In time, they grew indifferent; but then their indifference metastasized into a malicious attitude that became so hateful and vengeful that it ultimately nailed Jesus Christ to the cross.

In our story in Mark 3, there’s an interesting fact that’s only apparent in the Greek New Testament. According to verse 22, the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub.” The verb form for “said” is in the imperfect tense. It can be translated as, “They kept on saying.” It wasn’t just a matter of a sudden thoughtless word or an instant reaction. Their words represented a hardened attitude and an embittered and impenitent heart.

It’s a Progressive Rejection

When God convicts us of sin and presents us with the Gospel, it’s dangerous to neglect it, especially if our procrastination becomes chronic. After continued resistance we become so hard-hearted and sin-hardened that we grow calloused of soul. Our ears can’t receive the truth. Our minds shake off the conviction of the Spirit. We become cynical of conscience. And although the grace of God is still available to us, we push away from it.

These scribes had become Jesus-resistant because of the time-lapsed attitudes of their own evil hearts. It’s tragic, for these scribes had devoted their lives to copying the Word of God. Note the relationship between the words scribe and scribble. These men had copied and recopied the Old Testament. Every day they copied an ancient Scripture scroll by hand.

They had copied Isaiah 53, about the Suffering Servant. They had copied Psalm 22, about the death of the Messiah. They knew Micah 5 and the prophecy of our Lord’s birth. Yet their hearts had become so hardened they couldn’t receive His grace when it arrived in the person of Jesus.

It is possible to become hardened to spiritual truth by living in the middle of it. The scribes had come to the place where they were so familiar with religious things that when the Son of God showed up, they didn’t know who He was, and they accused Him of being from Satan.

It’s Denying the Deity of Christ

By ascribing the miracles of Jesus to Satan, the religious leaders were denying the deity of Jesus Christ. They were saying He could not be God. Yet by His miracles He was showing Himself to be nothing and no one less than God. Only God Himself could do what He had done. His followers believed in His deity.

It’s the Holy Spirit who witnesses to the deity of Christ in our world today. So if you refuse to accept the ministry of the Holy Spirit or you ascribe His ministry to Satan, you are denying Christ’s deity. You must believe in Jesus as the Son of God. You must accept the witness of the Holy Spirit and act upon the conviction He brings.

Have You Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

The thought of an unforgivable sin has haunted sensitive people in every Christian century, and maybe it has haunted you. I want to be clear in saying that if you’re bothered in your spirit that you may have committed a sin God will not forgive, the very fact that you have anxiety over that is evidence you’ve not committed the sin. If He is still working in your heart, it’s not possible to have committed the unpardonable sin. The very fact that you’re reading this article is a tremendous indication you’ve not committed the unforgivable sin described in the Gospel of Mark.

In its essence, the unforgivable sin is hardening your heart against God by repeatedly refusing to respond to His entreaties to your soul. By continuing to resist and reject the Lord, you build calluses on your soul until the conviction of the Spirit of God no longer registers in your heart. Over a period of time, you become hardened. You hear the Word of God, and it makes no impact on you. If you die in that condition, there’s no further forgiveness available. For those who reject Jesus Christ, there’s no forgiveness anywhere else, anytime, either in this world or the next. He died for you, and if you reject that, there’s no other sacrifice for sin.

So don’t worry that you’ve committed the unpardonable sin. But if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, be concerned that you might. If you’ve resisted Christ and refused Him as your Savior, and if something happens and you die, you will have committed the unpardonable sin. You don’t get a second chance after death. Whatever we do concerning Christ, we do in this life. Don’t gamble that you will have time or that you can respond later. The Bible says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).

You can trust that Jesus is who He claims to be. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to God. He is Son of God and Son of Man, our Savior, the Word made flesh, the Firstborn from the dead. He is our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. He is Christ the Lord, the Rock of Ages, the Sure Foundation, the Cornerstone. When He is your unforgettable Savior, you’ll never have to worry about the unforgivable sin.

4 Signs You Might be Legalistic

SOURCE:  BLAISE FORET /relevantmagazine.com

And how to escape the trap of trying to earn God’s love.

The Christian blogosphere and bookstores are filled with constant encouragements to be passionate for Jesus and “on fire” for God.

But in the midst of all of the encouragement to dive deep into a more passionate spirituality, many in our generation have found themselves burnt out by pressing in and getting bound up by legalism.

Every reformation throughout Church history focused on bringing people into a more effortless spirituality—where they find that the work of Christ more powerful and more effective than our own personal efforts. This doesn’t mean we do nothing as Christians, but it does mean we would do well to stop striving, slow down and find a renewed focus on the simplicity of the Gospel.

This very thing, in fact, is one of the hardest spiritual disciplines to accomplish. The Book of Hebrews says it clearly, “They failed to enter into my rest—because they would not believe.” It wasn’t a spiritual work that they lacked—but a spiritual rest. And that rest could have easily been gained through simple trust.

Things haven’t changed much. We, just like the ancient believers, have a hard time with simple trust and often find ourselves caught in the clutches of legalism. After years of following Jesus, I found myself stuck in legalism. Trust me, I know: the struggle is real. But, like most things, one of the first steps of becoming free from legalism is to realize that you’re stuck in it.

Here are a few signs that might help you identify whether or not you have been sabotaged by legalism:

1. Your Spiritual Disciplines Define Your Spirituality

Sure, there is something to having a disciplined life. In fact, it’s hard to get anything done if you don’t have discipline in your life.

But often, we base our worth and God’s love for us on whether or not we have spent time reading our Bible today, prayed for everyone on our prayer list, and attended the early service at Church this week.

But what if God’s view of us wasn’t based on our performance? What if He wasn’t keeping track of our rights and wrongs like we are, but is actually just looking at our hearts and our simple trust in Christ’s work on our behalf?

So of course, read your Bible and pray often, but not so that God will love you, but so that you’ll be reminded how much He already does.

2. You Separate Your Spiritual Life from Your Natural Life

Do you feel like you are doing something spiritual when you pray but something carnal when you watch a movie or hang out with friends? If so, you might be slipping back into legalism.

As Christians, we often find ourselves viewing Church activity as exclusively spiritual instead of seeing all things as spiritual. The Apostle Paul has this amazing quote in Colossians when he says, “All things are from Him and to Him and in Him.” I see this verse as an echo of David’s psalm when he says, “Where can I go from your presence and where can I escape from Your Spirit?” David says again, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it belongs to Him.” That means that there are no moments that are not spiritual moments. That’s why Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink do it unto the Lord.”

I see it like this: No matter what you are doing, do it as a spiritual activity, knowing full well that God is with you and loves you deeply in that very moment.

The way I see it, Jesus enjoys the fact that you hang out with friends. He loves it when you just have fun doing normal life. God finds pleasure in your natural talents just as much as He does in your spiritual gifting.

When we can find the presence and peace of God in all situations from the E-minor chorus of a worship night at church to the loud, off-key screams of the mom in front of us at a kid’s t-ball game, then we might be finding freedom from legalism into the liberty of the Gospel.

3. You Only Hang Out with “Saved” People

For so many Christians, being in church quickly becomes our only place of community and friendship. In our efforts to follow Jesus we often take the “no turning back, no turning back” approach to hanging out with non-believers.

Unfortunately, we find ourselves living as separatists (i.e. Pharisees) and judging those who have yet to have our level of spiritual awakening. Sure, it can be a challenge to have a deep connection with those who disagree with us on a fundamental level, but it doesn’t mean that we have to become judgmental and ostracize ourselves from them.

Jesus was often accused of being the friend of sinners. When was the last time you were accused of that?

4. You Live in Constant Condemnation for Your Mistakes

If you messed up today, well, welcome to the club. But your mistakes never have and never will define you. Sure, you can call yourself a failure, but God calls you a success. God doesn’t make failures. You can call yourself a sinner, but God calls you a Saint. Christ didn’t do a partial job when He died and rose again. He fully made you a Saint. That’s why Paul addresses Christians in the Epistles as Saints—regardless of the mistakes they have made.

Your feelings don’t define you. Christ’s work defines you.

C.S. Lewis once said, “You are what you believe.”

If you believe that your identity is “sinner,” you will live tied up and bound by sin. But if you believe what God says about you, then you might start seeing a difference in your attitudes and actions.

And even if you do sin, it doesn’t have to dictate your day. Repent, change your mind, and move forward. God’s not waiting on you to make it right before you can come to Him.

God wants friendship with you no matter where you are in your journey, so don’t let a legalistic mindset stop you from coming to Him as the clean, forgiven and loved child that you are. God’s not holding your mistakes over your head, so you don’t have to either.

Too Overwhelmed To Pray

SOURCE:  Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Your Helper in Prayer: Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit

When I think of Charles Spurgeon, my mind goes to one story before anything else. I once heard that when Spurgeon’s depression flared, his wife Susanna propped him up and pushed him back into his chair so he could continue working. I was so taken aback by my imagining of this scene — it made me think about all of the times me and the other women in my family had been that low in depression. Spurgeon’s weakness ran much deeper than work-related stress, and was not just a symptom of physical exhaustion.

This kind of weakness is hard to overcome. Spurgeon touches on this deep weakness in his explanation of the Holy Spirit’s help in prayer. The reason the Father gives us his Spirit to help us pray is because we are weak; we don’t know how to pray properly, we often don’t feel like praying, and we struggle to put our worst life pains into words.

Spurgeon brings out the beauty of this doctrine by explaining that God is not angry because of our failures in prayer, but has compassion on us as his children. Instead of acting the disinterested King who says, “if you do not have grace enough even to ask properly, I will shut the gates of mercy against you,” God says, “I will write out your petition for you, I will put it into proper words and use fitting phrases so that your petition shall be framed acceptable.”

“If you cannot put two words together in common speech to men, yet [the Holy Spirit] will help you to speak with God; ah! and if at the mercy seat you fail in words, you shall not fail in reality, for your heart shall conquer. God…never reads our petitions according to the outward utterance, but according to the inward groaning. He notices the longing, the desiring, the sighing, the crying…

God knows our needs without hearing words, like a mother knows the needs of her baby when it “makes very odd and objectionable noises, combined with signs and movements, which are almost meaningless to stranger” but are understood by the mother who “comprehends incomprehensible noises.” If that were not intimate enough, the Spirit even claims our groanings “as his own particular creation.”

Prayer is for your own benefit and comfort—it’s an “outlet for grief” and a “lotion” to “bathe our wound in.” Rely on the Spirit to help you know what to say in prayer, and in the worst times, when you do not have the words or the strength to say anything, know that the Spirit is propping you back up into your chair so you can press on.

“What forgiveness of sin is” by Thomas Watson

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege

“The nature of forgiveness will more clearly appear by opening some Scripture-phrases.

1. To forgive sin, is to take away iniquity. ‘Why dost thou not take away my iniquity?’ (Job 7:21). It is a metaphor taken from a man that carries an heavy burden ready to sink him, and another comes, and lifts off this burden. So when the heavy burden of sin is on us, God in pardoning, lifts off this burden from the conscience, and lays it upon Christ: ‘The Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all’ (Isa. 53:6).

2. To forgive sin, is to cover sin. ‘Thou hast covered all their sin,’ (Ps. 32:1). This was typified by the mercy-seat covering the ark, to show God’s covering of sin through Christ. God doth not cover sin in the Antinomian sense, so as He sees it not, but He doth so cover it, as He will not impute it.

3. To forgive sin, is to blot it out. ‘I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions,’ (Isa. 43:25). The Hebrew word, to lot out, alludes to a creditor, who, when his debtor hath paid him, blots out the debt, and gives him an acquittance. So God, when He forgives sin, blots out the debt, He draws the red lines of Christ’s blood over our sins, and so crosseth the debt-book.

4. To forgive sin, is for God to scatter our sins as a cloud. ‘I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions,’ (Isa. 44:22). Sin is the cloud interposed, God dispels the cloud, and breaks forth with the light of His countenance.

5. To forgive sin, is for God to cast our sins into the depths of the sea. ‘Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea,” (Micah 7:19). This implies God’s burying them out of sight, that they shall not rise up in judgment against us. God will throw them in, not as cork that riseth again, but as lead that sinks to the bottom.”

—————————————————————————-

–Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer  (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1662/1999), 214-215.

Thomas Watson (c. 1620 – 1686) was an EnglishNonconformistPuritan preacher and author.

Why do people cut themselves? And how to help them stop

[The Counseling Moment editor’s note:  Although this article is written to those who minister to others with this issue, the article contains insights useful to all.]

SOURCE:  

Self-harm behaviors can be a foreign concept to many of us adults, but they are on the rise among adolescents and young adults. The National Institutes of Health indicate rates anywhere from 7 to 24 percent in teenagers, but as high as 38 percent in college-age women.1 However, these self-harm behaviors are oftentimes misunderstood by those who seek to minister to them. Given such high incidence rates, though, pastors and ministers must not only understand the motivations behind self-harm but also know how to minister to those engaging in such activities.2

Understanding self-harm

Self-injurious behaviors most frequently present themselves in the form of cutting various parts of the body, like one’s arms or legs, but may also be seen in burning oneself, picking at scabs, punching or hitting oneself, pulling one’s hair, or a host of other behaviors that cause wounds or bruises. Most often, the effects of the self-harm are well concealed behind long-sleeved shirts or long pants, but other times the wounds cannot be covered and are visible to others.

Self-harm behaviors are almost always done to cope with difficult emotions such as sadness, worry, or fear.

But engaging in self-harm does not equal suicidal. One of the most common misconceptions about self-harm is that it is always linked to suicidal thoughts or intentions. However, this simply isn’t the case. While suicidal thoughts do often accompany self-injurious behaviors, the injury to oneself is not always intended to lead to suicide. In fact, some teenagers report engaging in self-harm to avoid getting to the point where they feel suicidal.

A word of warning here, though: sometimes self-harm behaviors either intentionally or unintentionally do become suicide attempts. While we cannot assume that self-harm is always connected with or intended to bring about one’s own death, we should understand the reality that either intentions change quickly or what is meant to bring only injury accidentally leads to even greater, perhaps unintended, harm or even death.

If you suspect that someone is suicidal, or that the person has means and has stated intent, take immediate action. That may mean calling law enforcement, engaging an experienced counselor, or taking the young person to the hospital.

So what are the motivations? Most often, self-harm behaviors are engaged in to cope with difficult, and many times overwhelming, emotional struggles. For instance, a teenager may be experiencing deep sadness, and for the first time in her life, this emotion seems overwhelming. Given her lack of life experience with such strong emotions, she engages in causing physical pain to cope with the emotional pain.

Alternatively, some young people express that they feel a lack of any emotion at all, so they engage in self-harm to be able to feel something, even if what they feel is negative. Paired with this, some report feelings of emptiness, guilt, or tension, and self-harm behaviors provide an outlet for those feelings.

Dealing with emotional struggles isn’t the only motivation for self-harm, though, so we cannot assume such. I have personally heard of teenagers being “bored” and having nothing else to do, who then engage in cutting themselves. I’ve also seen a trend of self-harm leading to attention from one’s peers, both positive and negative, but attention nonetheless. While we certainly cannot assume that self-harm is merely for attention, the social and cultural reality of young people also cannot be overlooked.

Ministering to those who engage in self-harm

So how can we best minister to those who engage in these behaviors? In particular, how can we love and care for these young people well when their struggle is one we have difficulty understanding?

Seek to understand. First and foremost, try to understand. The first time I sat with a counselee who engaged in cutting, I simply asked her to help me understand where she was coming from, as I had no personal frame of reference for her actions. I genuinely wanted to understand the emotions and thoughts driving her behaviors, and she was willing to share.

As ministers, we first must listen well to understand. Oftentimes, those who are struggling in this area are dealing with strong emotions that they have difficulty understanding, or they have experienced difficulties in life that we cannot imagine. We must be willing to enter their world and hear their struggles before we can speak truth into their lives.

Look for the root of the problem. Self-harm behaviors almost always point to something deeper. Most often, it is an emotional struggle. Ask questions, and ask good questions: What is the self-harm in response to, or what is it satisfying? Self-injury is a way of dealing with life problems, so we cannot simply try to change that behavior without dealing with the underlying issue. To do so would be like trying to scoop trash out of a stream when it is continually being dumped in upstream. The trash will just keep coming until we deal with the source of the problem.

What does this look like, though? Perhaps in listening to a young person sharing his story, you realize that his self-harm is in response to a world that he feels is in chaos, and hitting himself is the only way he has of controlling his own life. But without listening, you’d only be trying to get him to stop hurting himself rather than realizing that he is in harm’s way on a daily basis and that hurting himself gives him some sense of consistency and control.

Consider good questions versus better questions. So how do we know what to ask? I mentioned above that we need to get to what the source of the issue is, rather than simply the issue itself. While good questions may elicit facts like what their behaviors are or how frequently they engage in them, better questions get at motivations and desires. Here are some examples:

Good questions: Better questions:
Why are you hurting yourself? What situations do you find yourself in just prior to hurting yourself?
What’s going on in your life? What are you most struggling with? What are you most afraid of or anxious about?
How do you feel when you cut yourself? Does your cutting satisfy a need? What is that need?
Do you want to stop? What obstacles are present that make this difficult to stop?

Provide practical safeguards. Even though we should be listening well for the root of the problem, an immediate strategy we can take is to implement practical safeguards, for instance, removing razor blades or knives from the home or ensuring there is always someone else nearby. While we can’t feasibly remove every means of self-injury, we can remove many.

We can also instruct those around the self-injurious person to be aware of times when temptations may be at their highest. While parents can’t keep a constant eye on their teenagers, they can ensure that the teenagers are actively engaged, and they can be watching for changes in the teens’ emotions. Parents can find time as well to intentionally listen to their teenagers, asking good questions and providing encouragement for daily difficulties.

Share biblically based hope and promises. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a great high priest who can sympathize in our every weakness, and that includes the temptation to self-harm. People struggling in this area have a Savior who has walked where they walk, who has been tempted as they are, and who was without sin. And as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, they can confidently approach God to receive grace and mercy. Help those who self-harm grasp that Christ understands their struggle and that He is approachable in their moments of weakness, ready to dispense grace and mercy. This truth can be used to encourage them to pray when they’re tempted to cut themselves and to help them understand that Christ accepts them when they sin.

We are told as well in Scripture that we will never be forsaken by God, and because of that truth, we do not have to be afraid. While this promise shows up over and over in the Bible, in particular we are reminded in Deuteronomy 31:8, “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (ESV). Those fears that lead people to self-harm are not unknown to our God who goes before them, and He is constantly walking with them now.

Finally, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we are also no longer enslaved to our sinful flesh, but are slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:17–18). That means that followers of Christ can overcome the temptation to self-harm, by the power of God’s Spirit, who lives and works in them. That brings great hope to those who find themselves in the cycle of these behaviors.

The gospel message, then, has much to say to those who are struggling with difficult emotions, overwhelming guilt, or feelings of emptiness and to those who deal with those struggles through self-injury.

Pastors and ministers, we cannot forget the hope of the gospel when ministering to these young people. Like all of us, they need it desperately. They need people to listen to them well, get at the heart of the issue, help establish safeguards, and give hope through Christ. In doing so, we are able to walk with them, bear their burdens with them, and watch the Lord bring them out of these cycles of self-harm.

What Do I Do With My Regrets?

SOURCE:  Jon Gauger/Family Life Today

Rather than letting go of our regrets, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging them.

I should be dead by now. Really.

Thankfully, as a boy of 15, I underwent surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Had my parents not opted for such a treatment, statistics say I wouldn’t be alive today because of the crushing my internal organs would have received from the twisting of my own spine. If not dead, my torso would resemble something like the fictional Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The surgery was no minor deal. First, an incision was made from my waist to the top of my shoulders (about two feet long). After straightening the spine and fastening two metal rods (each rod about a foot long) into the vertebrae, the surgeon chipped tiny fragments off my hip and then carefully placed them along the vertebrae to create a bone fusion.

Recovery was slow. Every four hours I was rotated from my back to my stomach on a circular bed frame resembling equipment from a circus acrobatic act. After nearly two weeks of rotating bed confinement, I was informed that the next day would be “casting day,” when I would get a plaster cast covering most of my upper body, allowing for near normal mobility. I distinctly recall the nurse warning me the night before. “Your incision is healing, and you’ll likely feel an itching sensation tonight. Whatever you do, don’t scratch your scar.”

But what I felt that night was more than an itching sensation. It was an itching assault. An itching warfare. I scratched (bad decision). And the scars itched more. I scratched more. And the scars itched still more. At the height of this agony (I do not overstate the moment), it was all I could do to force myself to clench the tubular steel of the circular frame bed and quote every Bible verse I’d ever learned over and over. It remains the most awful night of my life.

Who knew a scar could cause so much pain?

Regrets are scars of the soul.

We carry them around with us, and every now and then they itch. So we scratch them. We replay that thoughtless deed, that hurtful conversation. But instead of relief, we sense only a greater discomfort. Rather than let these memories go, we often escalate the trauma by further indulging our regrets.

What should we do with our scars when they assault us at night or in moments of tired reflection?

Scars, medical experts tell us, require regular and proper care (mine still itch or get occasional scabs). But what kind of care is there for scars of the soul? It’s a question we put to our contributors. Just what should we do with our regrets?

Walter Wangerin

This is simple: Pray for forgiveness. Ask the Christ who fought the devil to come and speak to our regret. Invariably, the word the Lord brings us is, “Go and sin no more. I have forgiven you. Now go on. Get up. Go back to your life and be better than you were.”

George Verwer

I read a long time ago that regret is the most subtle form of self-love. The temptation to regret comes the same way as any other temptation. What we need to do is readily embrace the gift of God’s grace. A lot of people have had their lives filled with failure, yet they do really well at the end. We need to encourage one another with that. Regarding our specific regrets, God has forgiven us. He knows how to work things out for good, so we can’t dwell on regret. We have to somehow move forward because it’s a form of anxiety to dwell on our regrets, paying too much attention to ourselves. We need to claim God’s forgiveness and grace and press on.

Kay Arthur

What do we do with our regrets? Now that’s a question I can answer readily for two reasons. One, I messed up so much before I came to know genuine salvation at the age of 29, and it had great ramifications. Second, I am a perfectionist. I battle with, “I could have done it better, I should have, I wish I had, why didn’t I?” This is where I must run to the open arms of my Sovereign God and all His promises and bring them to bear on my regrets. Also, I would add that we need to remember Satan is the accuser of the children of God (Revelation 12:10-11), so I have to stay dressed in His armor, rejoicing that He will make me “stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy” (Jude 24).

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

The first thing we have to do is thank God for grace. Go back to the cross. Preach the gospel to ourselves and realize, “I am not the Christ. I am a sinner who needs a Savior—and thank God I have a Savior.” I thank God He has not dealt with me according to my sins or as I deserve. The sum total of my life will not be about how well I performed, how well I lived up to my goals, or how successfully I overcame my bad habits or sinful patterns. When it’s said and done, the sum total will be Christ my righteousness. He took my sin—He who had no sin—on Himself. He clothed me in His righteousness, and that is the only basis on which I will ever be able to stand before God and not be ashamed. Every day I have to preach that gospel back to myself and live in the constant conscious awareness that Christ is my life. He is my righteousness. He is my only hope in life and in death.

James MacDonald

Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I believe all of our sins—past, present, and future—are under the blood of Christ, that we’re forgiven. I think we need to live as forgiven people. Second Corinthians 7:10 says, “The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Genuine repentance is not thinking about what I should have done or what I could have done. It’s thinking about what Christ has done, and living in that. When your kids were little and they would act up, what you wanted was for them to forsake the bad behavior and go forward. That’s what I believe the Lord wants for us. Not to wallow in our failures, but to revel in His grace and to give it to others.

Joni Eareckson Tada

I love to read passages in Scripture that remind me that God has a poor memory when it comes to my sin. He remembers my sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). He separates me from my sin as far as the east is from the west, as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11-12). That is what makes the Good News so great! God will not remember our sins. You know what? We shouldn’t either.

Michael W. Smith

You use regrets for good. That’s one reason I started Rocketown, a club for kids in Nashville. I love speaking to youth. I’m able to say, “Hey, guys, let me tell you my story.” Based on my own experiences, I have a little bit of credibility talking to some kid who is smoking dope every day and getting high, struggling with drugs. I say, “I’ve been there.” He might respond, “Yeah, whatever.” Then I tell him my story, and all of a sudden he’s listening because I have been there. I get to say, “Guys, it’s a dead-end street. It’ll take you down. This is not what your destiny is.” Regret gives me an opportunity to speak into kids’ lives because of the fact that I’ve been there.

The Basics for Living a Meaningful, Balanced, and Godly Life

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

(1) The most important decision in life is the one made by you concerning Jesus Christ.

God has said that everyone who sins must pay the penalty for his/her sins, and there is no one, including you, who is righteous and free from sin. There is no payment you can possibly make, nor nothing that you could do that would satisfy a Holy and Just God. The penalty or payment due for your sin is eternal death and separation from God – forever.

The only hope you have is to recognize you are a lost, helpless sinner before God, be genuinely sorrowful, and ask God for forgiveness. Then you must realize that God loves you so much that He planned and provided for you a once-for-all-time opportunity to accept His forgiveness, His free gift of eternal life, and adoption into His family.

You do this by believing in and accepting the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior and Lord of your life. Jesus, being the sinless and perfect God-Man, willingly took upon Himself your penalty for sin (as your substitute) thereby completely satisfying God’s righteous-holy wrath against you. Jesus died actually to pay for your every personal sin – past, present, future. Jesus was resurrected from the dead which showed God’s approval and acceptance for what He did for you.

After you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord and, as a result, are eternally saved and now are in a “forever relationship” with God, there are some important next steps to begin growth and maturity in Christ:  (a) be water-baptized – an outward sign of the inward cleansing you have received; (b) become active in worshipping God in a Christ-centered church; (c) daily, call upon Jesus for the filling of the Holy Spirit, strength, guidance, and empowerment to live as He requires in the following key areas, which will lead to a Meaningful, Balanced, and Godly life:

(2) Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your (spouse/others) as you love yourself.

(3) Seek to know God, His Ways, and His Word before anything else – even more than desiring solutions to your problems. Trust that the Lord knows you and your needs better than you do.

(4) Seek knowledge, wisdom, and understanding from the Holy Spirit.

(5) Invite the Holy Spirit to totally empower and control you moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.

(6) Pray continually. Meditate and fast. Seek to be joyful/content always, giving thanks for God’s loving control in sending or allowing all circumstances in your life. Choose to believe in God’s goodness no matter what the circumstances.

(7) Choose to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Continually ask Christ for forgiveness of your daily sins He makes you aware of. By faith, receive and give thanks for His forgiveness.

(8) Think of others as better than yourself. Do nothing out of selfish ambition/pride. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good.

(9) Excel in the grace of giving – time, money, and devotion/worship to God. Allow yourself to be a living sacrifice to God.

(10) Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Think about whatever is pure, lovely, admirable, good. Avoid anger, rage, filthy language, sexual immorality, evil desires, greed.

(11) Mutually submit to each other. Husband-love your wife as yourself and even sacrificially as Christ loved you enough to suffer and die for you. Wife-respect and submit to the position your husband has been placed in just as Christ submits to the Father. Parent-be reasonable in your love and discipline toward your child(ren) – avoid extremes. You must honor and respect all those in authority over you as well as those who are under you.

(12) Bless and pray for any that mistreat you. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Allow love to cover many shortcomings of others. Do not repay evil for evil. Let God repay as He determines.

(13) Trust in the Lord always; Do not depend on your own understanding; acknowledge Him in everything and all circumstances. Realize your powerlessness to face any issue, and look only to God for guidance, help, and hope.

(14) Choose Life over Death (right over wrong) in every life situation. Trust God to bring your choice about and make it happen. Realize the Lord is your life.

(15) Seek to live and act holy just as God is holy. Seek to fear/honor/respect God and keep His commandments. Don’t grow weary in doing good.

Reference Notes

1) Joel 2:32. Mt. 16:16. Lk. 1:77-78. Jn. 3:16-18, 36; 5:24; 6:29, 40; 8:24; 14:6; 20:31. Acts 2:21, 38; 4:12; 10:43; 13:39; 15:11; 16:31; 22:16; 26:18. Rom. 3:10-12, 20, 22-26; 4:22- 25; 5:1, 6, 8; 6:9-10; 8:1-2, 24a; 10:9-10, 13. 2 Cor. 5:21; 7:10. Gal. 2:15-16; 3:13-14. Eph. 1:3-8; 2:8-9. Col. 1:21-22; 2:13-14. 2 Thess. 1:8-9. 1 Tim. 2:3-6. 2 Tim. 1:9-10; 3:15. Tit. 3:5-8. Heb. 5:8; 9:12, 22; 7:25-27; 10:10, 25. 1 Pet. 3:18. 1 Jn.3:1a; 4:9-10; 5:1, 11-12, 17.

2) Deut. 6:5; 10:12-13. Mt. 10:37-39; 22:36-40. Mk. 12:30-31. Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

3) Job 28:24. Ps. 119:11, 168. Mt. 6:8, 25-33; Lk. 12:31. Rom. 8:26-27. Eph. 3:16-19; 5:10, 17. 2 Pet. 3:3-8.

4) Prov. 2:6, 13-15; 8:10; 16:16. Col. 1:9-12; 2:2-3. Jas. 1:5.

5) Jn. 16:13. Rom. 8:26-27. Eph. 5:18.

6) Job 42:1-2. Ps. 119:68; 136:1. Eccles. 12:14. Mt. 6:17-18; 7:7-8; 17:21. Rom. 8:28; 12:12. Eph. 3:12. Phil. 4:4-7, 11-13, 19. Col. 4:2. 1 Thess. 5:16-18. 1 Tim. 6:6-10. Jas. 5:11. Heb. 13:5. I Pet. 5:6-7. Ps. 119:48, 78, 97.

7) Ps. 103:1-5. Mic. 7:18-19. Mt. 6:9-14. Lk. 11:4a. Eph. 4:30, 32. Col. 3:13-14. Heb. 12:15. 1 Jn. 1:9-10.

8) Rom. 12:3, 9. Gal. 6:3-5. Eph. 4:31. Phil. 2:3. Col. 3:1-10. 1 Thess. 5:21-22. 2 Tim. 2:22. Jas. 4:7-8a.

9) Rom. 12:1. 2 Cor. 7: 16b; 8:7; 9:6-15.

10) Gal. 5:22-23. Eph. 4:2. Phil. 4:8. Col. 3:2, 5, 8, 12.

11) Eph. 5:21-6:9. Col. 3:18-4:1. Heb. 13:17. 1 Pet. 1:13, 18; 3:1-8.

12) Mt. 5:44. Rom. 12:14, 17-21. 2 Thess. 1:6-7a. 2 Tim. 4:14. Jas. 1:19. 1 Pet. 3:9; 4:8.

13) 2 Chron. 20:12, 15. Job 41:11b. Prov. 3:5-6. Ezek. 37:1-14. Dan. 3:16-18. Hab. 3:17-19. Jn. 5:16-18. Rom. 15:13. 2 Cor. 12:9, 10b. Gal. 2:20; 3:3; 5:16-18. Heb. 4:7-8.

14) Deut. 6:18; 30:11-20. Eph. 1:11b. Phil. 2:12-13. Heb. 13:20-21.

15) Lev. 19:2. Eccles. 12:13. Is. 40:28-31. Mt. 5:48. 2 Cor. 13:11a. Gal. 6:9. Eph. 5:1-2. Phil. 1:9-11. 2 Thess. 3:13. Heb. 12:14. 1 Pet. 1:15.

Why Homosexuality Is Not Like Other Sins

SOURCE: Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

Homosexuality is not the only sin mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

It’s not the only sin mentioned, but it is different from all the rest, at least right now. At this moment in history, contrary to the other sins listed here, homosexuality is celebrated by our larger society with pioneering excitement. It’s seen as a good thing, as the new hallmark of progress.

To be sure, the masses increasingly make no bones about sin in general. Innumerable people are idolaters, not to mention those who are sexually immoral, or who commit adultery, or who steal and are greedy and get wasted and revile neighbors and swindle others. It happens all the time. And each of these unrepentant sins are the same in the sense of God’s judgment. They all deserve his wrath. And we’re constantly reminded that “such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11). You in the church.

Concerning Popular Opinion

But as far as I know, none of those sins is applauded so aggressively by whole groups of people who advocate for their normalcy. Sexual immorality is no longer the tip of the spear for the progressive push. Adultery is still frowned upon by many. Accusations of greed will still smear a candidate’s political campaign. Thievery is still not openly embraced, and there are no official initiatives saying it’s okay to go take things that don’t belong to you. There’s no such thing as a drunk agenda yet. Most aren’t proud to choose a beverage over stability, and there aren’t any petitions that the government should abolish the driving restrictions of inebriated individuals. Reviling others still isn’t seen as the best way to win friends and influence people. Swindling, especially on a corporate level, usually gets someone thrown into jail. In fact, the infrastructure of the American economy depends upon, in some measure, our shared disdain for conniving scammers.

Perhaps excepting fornication, these sins are still seen in a pretty negative light. But not homosexual practice, not by those who are now speaking loudest and holding positions of prominence. According to the emerging consensus, homosexuality is different.

What to Be Against

As Christians, we believe with deepest sincerity that the embrace of homosexual practice, along with other sins, keeps people out of the kingdom of God. And if our society celebrates it, we can’t both be caring and not say anything. Too much is at stake. This means it is an oversimplification to say that Christians — or conservative evangelicals — are simply against homosexuality. We are against any sin that restrains people from everlasting joy in God, and homosexual practice just gets all the press because, at this cultural moment, it’s the main sin that is so freshly endorsed in our context by the powers that be. Let’s hope that if there’s some new cultural agenda promoting thievery — one that says it’s now our right to take whatever we want from others by whatever means — that Christians will speak out against it. The issue is sin. That’s what we’re against. And that’s what should make our voice so unique when we speak into this debate.

Some would like to see this whole issue of homosexuality divided into two camps: those who celebrate it and those who hate it. Both of these groups exist in our society. There are the growing numbers, under great societal pressure, who praise homosexuality. We might call them the left. And there are people who hate homosexuality, with the most bigoted rationale and apart from any Christian concern. We might call them the right.

Those Glorious Words

The current debate is plagued by this binary lens. Those on the left try to lump everyone who disagrees with them into that right side. If you don’t support, you hate. Meanwhile, those on the right see compromise and spinelessness in anyone who doesn’t get red-faced and militant. If you don’t hate, you support.

But true followers of Christ will walk neither path. We have something to say that no one else is saying, or can say.

Distancing ourselves from both the left and the right, we don’t celebrate homosexual practice, we acknowledge God’s clear revealed word that it is sin; and we don’t hate those who embrace homosexuality, we love them enough to not just collapse under the societal pressure. We speak the truth in love into this confusion, saying, simultaneously, “That’s wrong” and “I love you.” We’re not the left; we say, this is wrong. And we’re not the right; we say, you’re loved. We speak good news, with those sweetest, deepest, most glorious words of the cross — the same words that God spoke us — “You’re wrong, and you’re loved.”

God tells us we’re wrong, that the wages of sin is death, that unrepentant rebellion means judgment, that our rescue required the cursed death of his Son (Romans 3:23; John 3:36; Galatians 3:13). And God tells us we’re loved, that even while we were sinners, Jesus died for us, that while we were unrighteous, Jesus suffered in our place, that though we were destined for wrath, Jesus welcomes us into glory (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:1–7).

Where the Gospel Shines

You’re wrong and you’re loved — that’s the unique voice of the Christian. That’s what we say, speaking from our own experience, as Tim Keller so well puts it, “we’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream.”

That’s our message in this debate, when society’s elites despise us, when pop songs vilify us, when no one else has the resources to say anything outside of two extremes, we have this incomparable opportunity to let the gospel shine, to reach out in grace: you’re wrong and you’re loved. We get to say this.

That’s why homosexuality is not like other sins.

You Need to Accept the Reality of Failure

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:20 TEV)

In America, failure is almost the unpardonable sin. We idolize success.

But that kind of pressure creates major stress on people. The fear of failure has many different faces. It can cause you to be indecisive, a workaholic, and a perfectionist and cling to safety. Because we’re afraid to fail, we shun all kinds of risks.

For many of us, that fear of failure has an iron grip on our hearts. Even some of the best and the brightest people in the world are the most impacted by a fear of failure.

That’s why I urge you to internalize this one simple message: We’ve all made mistakes. It’s not just a “you problem”; it’s a human problem. The Bible says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 TEV).

Not only have you made mistakes in the past, but you’ll also make more in the future. I guarantee it. Even playing it safe and refusing to take risks is a mistake.

As a pastor, I hear people ask all the time, “What if I fail?” I want to ask them, “What do you mean if?”

You’ve already failed many, many times in life. So have I. You’re a failure in some area of your life right now. And you’ll fail a lot more in the future.

Even superstars stumble. The greatest NBA basketball players only hit half their shots. The best Major League Baseball hitters will get out two out of every three at bats. Failure is normal.

You’ll never overcome your fear of failure until you fully accept the reality that you’re not perfect.

The Bible says there is only one failure you need to fear: “Be careful that no one fails to receive God’s grace” (Hebrews 12:15a NCV).

You need grace. We all do!

Only when we let go of the fear of failure will it let go of its maddening grip on our lives. Only then can we accept the grace of God.

6 Tips for Happier, Healthier Relationships when the Relationship has been Injured

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Do you have any injured relationships in your life?

Broken hearts, hurt feelings, or grudges from the past are common among relationships. At some point we all have relationships, which have gone from bad to worst.

In fact, sometimes the people we have to be around, by default – blood relatives, in-laws, or co-workers – are people we wouldn’t choose to be around unless we had to be.

It’s true, isn’t it? And, the truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?

(Raise your hand if that’s your story.)

What should you do? How should you respond to the one who has hurt you the most – or who always seems to say the wrong thing – or who is, honestly, even mean at times? How do you respond to the most difficult relationships in your life?

You can’t control other people’s response – only yours, but how should you act in those injured relationships?

I want to encourage the Biblical approach.

Here are 6 tips for healthier, happier relationships:

Bite your tongue

When you are tempted to snap back – don’t. Sure, it will be difficult, even seemingly unfair at times, but see it as spiritual discipline training. (James 1:26) Memorize and learn to pray Psalm 141:3. (Look it up. It’s the first step towards learning it.)

Extend grace

Forgive. Let go of a grudge. Even though it may not be received well and nothing may change in the relationship, it will change you. (1 Peter 4:10, Colossians 3:13)

Put on another’s shoes

Anyone who hurts you has a story. Usually they were hurt too – by someone. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Think about where the other person is coming from before (or as) you encounter them. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Practice patience

Be honest, some relationships require more patience than you thought you had, don’t they? But, isn’t this what we are called to do as believers? It is a “fruit of the spirit”. (Colossians 3:12-14)

Exercise humility

When we humble ourselves, we may get taken advantage of at times, but God always rewards humility. Who knows? It may be the break through in the relationship. (James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6)

Pray for them

The last one is sometimes the most difficult, but oh how Biblical! Prayer releases the burden to the burden bearer the One whose yoke is easy the One who paid for your sins. Prayer can even change the dynamics of a relationship. Pray for the awkward, difficult, shattered and broken relationships in your life and the people who caused them. In the most tense moments, slip away and pray. (Matthew 5:44)

7 Values I’ve Discovered in Brokenness

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

During times of trials and difficulty we often forget – or we never even understand- the value of brokenness.

Yes, I just wrote the previous sentence. And, I stand behind it.

Not many people would choose to be burdened with heartache or disappointment, but the way God uses suffering for good is rarely realized until after the trial has passed – often years later.

This doesn’t mean the loss from suffering doesn’t still hurt. It often does. And, some pain – such as the loss of a loved one – never disappears completely. I’m not necessarily writing about this kind of brokenness. I’ve written about those type losses in other posts – although God works in those times for good also.

I’m talking in this post about brokenness from things like the loss of a job, personal failure, the breakup of a significant relationship. The kind of brokenness, where we often played a part or someone else made decisions or choices which hurt us deeply. The kind we try to run from, forget, or hide from other people. The kind of which we might be embarrassed and people pray for us more than we list them as a “prayer request” at church.

Upon reflection, we can see how God worked even through these darkest days of life.

I was reflecting recently on some of my own times of brokenness.

I discovered 7 values to brokenness:

Brokenness keeps one humble. Humility is highly honored by God and is an attractive quality to others. We would never ask for humility. There are no steps to rid our life of pride. Humble people have been humbled.

It teaches valuable life principles. Honestly, I have learned more from the hard times in my life than from the good. Again, these are not lessons we seek on our own, but experience – even and perhaps especially the hard experiences of life.

It brings repentance. I often forget how much I need forgiveness. Brokenness, especially when caused by my own actions, reminds me I am hopeless apart from His grace.

It encourages a fresh start.  Starting over is not always as bad as it seems. It could even be a blessing we may not have sought on our own, but looking back we are so glad it came.

It invites God’s grace. Brokenness brings me to my knees. As sin increases, grace increases all the more. I long more for God’s favor and His protection. It’s never a bad thing when my heart longs heavenward.

It illustrates humanity. Brokenness reminds me frail people share the commonality of life struggles. We are in this together – all in need of God’s mercy and grace. We live in a fallen world. The only hope is Jesus.

It welcomes the heart of God. Psalm 34:18 says, “God is close to the broken-hearted.” I’m so thankful for this truth!

Has your story been shaped by brokenness?

Allow the molding energies of God’s hand to craft His masterpiece in you as you yield to His ultimate plan for your life.

There is value in brokenness.

Who Is Responsible For Evil?

SOURCE:  Billy Graham

Are we responsible, or is the devil?

The answer is—both!

In other words, we can’t evade our responsibility for everything we do wrong by simply blaming the devil—but on the other hand, we also know he is behind the world’s evils.

Never doubt the devil’s existence, or his determination to do evil.

Yes, his ways are often unseen, and much of the time we may not even realize what he is doing. But since the beginning Satan has had only one purpose: to oppose God in every way he possibly can. Sometimes his methods involve deception—although often his actions are open and obvious. But his goal is unchanged: to block God’s will. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).

But do not doubt either our own ability to do great evil.

We have rebelled against God—and our rebellion continues to this day. Even when we know what is good, we often turn away and choose to do what is wrong. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is why we need Jesus Christ.

We need Him to protect us from Satan’s schemes, and we also need Him to turn our hearts from evil to good. Is this happening in your life? Don’t be deceived, but put your life into Christ’s hands, and find your hope and security in Him—both now and forever. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

What Do I Do With “Strangers?”

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Welcoming the Stranger

Not often listed as a spiritual discipline, this practice [welcoming the stranger] was one Jesus emphasized by how he welcomed all kinds of people and identified with them: “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me . . .when you did it for the least of these, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:31-35, CEV). Such welcoming is tangible and helpful, even offering them a cup of cold water (Matthew 10:40-42; see also Matthew 18:5 and John 13:20).

Who are our strangers? People appear to us as strangers for different reasons but they usually fit into one of these categories:

Outcasts.  A person’s past didn’t disqualify him or her from being welcomed by Jesus. While most rabbis threw stones at lepers, Jesus welcomed them (Matthew 8:1-4). He touched the untouchables.

Wrong-doers The immoral past of the Samaritan woman did not disqualify her either. In fact, Jesus went out of his way to extend himself: he had to go through Samaria (John 4:4). He welcomed this person who was also a stranger ethnically and gender-wise. He should not have had a conversation with any woman in public but he not only did so but also invited her to enter into a deepened relationship with God.

People longing for home. At one time Joseph, Mary and Jesus were political refugees, running from King Herod. They had to leave their homeland by night. Imagine their fear as they slipped out of Bethlehem by night and made a two to three week journey on a route frequented by robbers. This Jewish couple mixed with non-Jews and had to trust God every step of the way.

Anyone who isn’t like me.  When we see or meet people who differ from us politically, ethnically or theologically, a little “ping” may go off in our head that says, Ooh, Different. Step back. I wonder what Jesus’ disciple, Simon the zealot, thought when Jesus healed and then praised the faith of a Roman centurion. Simon would have viewed the centurion as a prime candidate for assassination.

A stranger may just be someone of a different economic class. In a church full of homeowners, an apartment dweller often feels like a stranger. A disabled person is a stranger in the midst of fitness buffs as is a non-reader among well-read folks. Military kids or missionary kids, parolees or drug rehab graduates may all qualify as strangers among those without that type of experience.

Anyone we’re tempted to exclude and ignore. Strangers are often people in power-down positions: “children as opposed to adults, women as opposed to men, minority races as opposed to majority races, the poor as opposed to middle-class, the middle-class as opposed to rich, lower-paid workers as opposed to highly paid workers, less educated as opposed to more educated, blue-collar workers as opposed to professionals.” The elderly are easily overlooked. When my quiet 80-year-old mother-in-law came to visit, our other dinner guests never engaged her in conversation. I wept later to think of the many times I had neglected to speak to an older person.

Or we may avoid pushy people, people who talk too long about themselves, those who scream and pout for what they feel they deserve, know-it-alls, or people who let their kids run wild. In any “us versus them” situation, “them” are the strangers.

The shocking thing about Jesus is that he did not merely tolerate such different people. Jesus offered himself to them in self-giving love. I am able to do this only when I ask Jesus to reach out to others through me.

—————————————————————————————–

Excerpted from Invitation to the Jesus Life, ch 5. ©Jan Johnson

Go Ahead and COMPLAIN to God (but don’t GRUMBLE)

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

How to Complain Without Grumbling

When we complain, it is frequently evil. But complaining is not necessarily evil. There’s a faithful (believing) way to complain and a faithless (unbelieving) way to complain.

The Bible often refers to faithless complaining as grumbling and warns us not to do that (Numbers 14:26–30; John 6:43; Philippians 2:14; James 5:9). Grumbling complaints directly or indirectly declare that God is not sufficiently good, faithful, loving, wise, powerful, or competent. Otherwise, he would treat us better or run the universe more effectively. Faithless complaining is sinful because it accuses God of doing wrong.

But faithful complaining does not impugn God with wrong. Rather, it is an honest, groaning expression of what it’s like to experience the trouble, anguish, and grief of living in this fallen, futile world (Romans 8:20–23). God does not mind this kind of complaining. In fact, he encourages it — and teaches us how to do it in the Bible.

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. (Psalm 142:1–2)

How God Wants Us to Complain

Most of these biblical and righteous complaints are contained in what we call the psalms of lament. The Book of Psalms contains the prayers and hymns that God chose to teach us how to express ourselves to him in worship. About one-third of these psalms are laments. And they are precious gifts from God.

In these laments, the writers pour out to God their sorrow (Psalm 137), anger (Psalm 140), fear (Psalm 69), longing (Psalm 85), confusion (Psalm 102), desolation (Psalm 22), repentance (Psalm 51), disappointment (Psalm 74), and depression (Psalm 88), either because of external evil or internal evil or darkness.

These psalms are expressions of God’s profound and deep compassion for us (James 5:11). He knows that we frequently will experience bewildering pain and therefore will frequently need to express our pain to him.

God wants us to pour out our complaints to him and tell him our troubles (Psalm 142:2). He wants us to do it privately, like David did when he wrote Psalm 142 in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22). And he wants us to do it corporately, as when the people of Israel would sing Psalm 142 together.

He wants us to tell him exactly what it feels like, as when David exclaimed, “no one cares for my soul” (Psalm 142:4). And he wants us to remember that despite how things look and feel right now, because of his very great promises (2 Peter 1:4), someday these troubles will no longer afflict us, as when David expressed his hope: “You will deal bountifully with me” (Psalm 142:7).

The psalms of lament are treasures for the saints. They give inspired voice to our troubled souls. They model for us how to complain to God in a way that honors him. And they are themselves expressions of God’s merciful care for us, because in them we see that we are not as alone as we feel, and that God indeed does understand.

And if we have ears to hear, these psalms will also guard us from expecting too much in this age. God does not always intend his saints to experience prosperity. Rather, the psalms of lament remind us of the truth of Jesus’s statement, “In the world you will have tribulation,” and point us to our great hope: “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So go ahead and complain to God, but don’t grumble. Learn from the lamenting psalmists how to be a faithful complainer.

What’s Wrong With Me? I keep On Sinning !!

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

If the Holy Spirit lives in us, why can’t we live perfect lives?

Let me suggest to you that we can live perfect lives.

Now that may sound like the most outrageous thing you have ever heard, because one of the few things you’ll get both Christian and non-Christian to agree on is that nobody is perfect!

What the New Testament teaches, as I understand it, is that once the Holy Spirit comes into my life, once I’m indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I have living within me the power to obey God. The Holy Spirit gives me the power to obey the commandments of God, and the New Testament says there is no temptation that has ever befallen me that isn’t common to every person, and with the temptation God always provides a way of escape.

I don’t think anybody does, in fact, live a perfect life. But I think that God’s grace makes perfection a possibility.

I would say that I have opportunities to sin literally thousands of times a day. Every time I’m confronted with an opportunity to sin, there is a battle within my soul.

The indwelling Holy Spirit is inclining me toward righteousness and obedience. But remember that the Holy Spirit is living in me, in R. C. Sproul; he’s indwelling an imperfect creature, one who has not been totally cleansed of evil inclinations. So given the manifold opportunities to sin that I have and knowing that there’s warfare with every one of those opportunities between what the Bible calls my flesh and the Spirit, statistically it’s virtually inevitable that I’m going to sin and be far less than perfect.

If we look at them one at a time, we realize that in each single circumstance the power has actually been provided by God to resist that temptation. That’s why I can never stand before God and say, “God, you will have to excuse me; the devil made me do it” or, “The Holy Spirit was not powerful enough within me to have resisted that sin.”

So even though I believe that not even the apostle Paul ever achieved perfection in his life, it’s not because of any lack of power or ability or inclination of the indwelling Spirit.

———————————————————————————————————————-

Tough Questions with RC Sproul is excerpted from Now, That’s a Good Question!

“Jesus can understand you”

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“If any reader of this paper desires salvation, and wants to know what to do, I advise him to go this very day to the Lord Jesus Christ, in the first private place he can find, and entreat Him in prayer to save his soul.

Tell Him that you have heard that He receives sinners, and has said, ‘Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.’ (John 6:37.)

Tell Him that you are a poor vile sinner, and that you come to Him on the faith of His own invitation.

Tell Him you put yourself wholly and entirely in His hands,—that you feel vile and helpless, and hopeless in yourself,—and that except He saves you, you have no hope to be saved at all.

Beseech Him to deliver you from the guilt, the power, and the consequences of sin.

Beseech Him to pardon you and wash you in His own blood.

Beseech Him to give you a new heart, and plant the Holy Spirit in your soul.

Beseech Him to give you grace, and faith, and will, and power to be His disciple and servant from this day for ever.

Yes: go this very day, and tell these things to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you really are in earnest about your soul.

Tell Him in your own way and your own words. If a doctor came to see you when sick you could tell him where you felt pain. If your soul really feels its disease you can surely find something to tell Christ.

Doubt not His willingness to save you, because you are a sinner. It is Christ’s office to save sinners. He says Himself, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ (Luke 5:32.)

Wait not, because you feel unworthy. Wait for nothing: wait for nobody. Waiting comes from the devil.

Just as you are, go to Christ. The worse you are, the more need you have to apply to Him. You will never mend yourself by staying away.

Fear not because your prayer is stammering, your words feeble, and your language poor. Jesus can understand you.

Just as a mother understands the first babblings of her infant, so does the blessed Saviour understand sinners. He can read a sigh, and see a meaning in a groan.

Despair not, because you do not get an answer immediately. While you are speaking, Jesus is listening. If He delays an answer, it is only for wise reasons, and to try if you are in earnest.

Pray on, and the answer will surely come. Though it tarry, wait for it: it will surely come at last.

If you have any desire to be saved, remember the advice I have given you this day. Act upon it honestly and heartily, and you shall be saved.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 85–86.

God’s Grace: No Matter WHAT, WHERE, or WHO

SOURCE:  Desiring God/Jonathan Parnell

God’s Grace Will Find You

He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

(Psalm 23:3–4)

The grace of God will find you.

No matter where you’ve gone or how far you’ve drifted, nowhere is out of the reach of God’s grace.

This is the truth behind David’s words in Psalm 23:3–4. The focus is on the Lord’s active nearness as the shepherd of his people. The Lord makes us to lie down in green pastures. He leads us beside the still waters. He restores our souls and leads us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

In the Shadow of Death

This is a boundless nearness. It is a nearness even in the valley of the shadow of death.

The phrase is so popular, do we really know what David is saying? “Even though,” he begins, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil . . .” (verse 4). This is death, remember. Death. It is the great enemy of mankind, the place that every person will go — and go alone. Death stands off in the darkness, hunkering down in the shadows of our lives like a monster. It is terrible, lonely, fearful. But not for David — not for us who are in Christ.

Why? Because God is with us even there.

The grace of God will find us. We won’t be afraid. We will fear no evil. The Father will not forsake us. Just like Jesus wasn’t left in the tomb — and because he wasn’t — we won’t be left alone either. God will be with us. Like yesterday, and now, God will be with us even as the shadow of death falls over us.

Help for Today

So what does that mean for us now? How does the assurance of God’s nearness in our final moments of this life help us today?

It means that if God is with us in our greatest affliction — in the shadow of death — he will be with us in all the other afflictions of our lives. Painful as they are, as dark as the night may get, we know it is not too painful for God. It is not too dark for him.

God is there as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death — and he is there in every valley along the way. His grace will find us. That grace that saw us before the foundation of the world, that spoke creation into existence, that led Jesus to the cross, that will abound for us in eternity — that grace will find us.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. The great grace of God is able to reach you. God in his grace is able to be there with you. In the midst of pain and uncertainty, in the high of blessing and cheer, God is with you. His grace will find you.

Relationships: Breathe Grace

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

Highly relational people love to breathe grace.

They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they breathe his love, kindness and wisdom into all of their relationships.

This is what the Apostle Paul had in mind in Ephesians 4:29, where he calls each of us to “give grace” to others.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

What does Paul mean by the word “grace”? It is a rich biblical term. In a broad sense, grace often refers to the kindness of God to man (Luke 1:30). But Paul usually uses it to describe something even more wonderful, which is God’s kindness or mercy to those who do not deserve it, actually, to those who deserves just the opposite! (Eph. 2:1-5).

Breathing grace means to breathe in God’s grace, which is the undeserved love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom that he gives to us through Jesus Christ, and then breathe it out to others, even if they do not deserve it.

We take our first deep breath of God’s grace by believing in his Son and receiving his gift of forgiveness. We can continue to breathe in his grace on a moment-by-moment basis by studying and mediating on his Word, by praying to him, by thanking him for his mercy and rejoicing in our salvation, by delighting in his character and many kindnesses, by worshiping him, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and by enjoying the fellowship of other believers.

As we fill our souls with his grace, he wants us to breathe it out to others. We usually do this with our words, but we can also do it with our actions. This can be done in countless ways (I had to work hard to shorten the list!):

The more deliberately you breathe in the grace of God today, the more you will breathe out his grace to others … and experience the kind of relationships that reflect his love and extend his kingdom (John 13:34-35).

Bounce Back

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

  • “The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” -General George S. Patton
  • “bounce /bouns/ verb — to cause to bound and rebound — to spring back in a lively manner…”
  • To “bounce” means the ability to fight through an issue, to be resilient, to be able to stabilize after adversity. To recover — and to thrive.

In 2009 Rick Hoyt completed the Boston Marathon. This race was officially his 1000th race. Since 1977, Rick has competed in marathons, duathlons, and triathlons (6 of them being Ironman competitions). In 1992 Rick “ran” 3,735 miles in 45 days. Coast-to-coast.

Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt. As a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. He would never walk or communicate as we do. He would never be “normal.” His life would be lived in a wheelchair.

In 1977, through the use of a special computer, Rick “told” his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Not being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. “Team Hoyt” rose up from seemingly insurmountable odds and adversity. That’s “Bounce”!

When life simply isn’t fair. Filled with sickness… debt… or abandonment…

When the walls are pressing in… and you don’t even know your own name.

When you feel like you can’t breathe — or see. And there is absolutely nothing you can do.

When life isn’t the way it is supposed to be…

CONSIDER THIS:

  1. He understands. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “…we do not have a high priest (Jesus the Son of God) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses (frailty — feebleness — sickness — infirmities — troubles), but one who in every respect has been tempted (the trying and testing of our faith, virtue and character) as we are …” (Hebrews 4:14 ESV)He’s been there. He goes before you… and with you!
  2. He will strengthen you. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, andestablish you.” (1Peter 5:10 ESV)

Bounce back!

Put the devil on notice in your life… It’s time to get your dreams back… Get your family back… Get your marriage back… Get your anointing back… Get your strength back… Get your step back… Get your confidence back… Get your fight back!

Claim the life changing principle in Genesis 50:20. What satan, or even other people in your life, meant for evil, God can turn it for your good.

“You are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV)

Bounce back! It just might turn your life around.

A Prayer for Loving Difficult People–Even Our Enemies

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36

     Dear heavenly Father, if I was ever in doubt about the power of your law to drive me to Jesus, all doubt is removed by this one Scripture.

     I cannot and I will not love like this, apart from union and communion with Jesus.

So as I pray through this passage today, I do so convinced of your love for me in Jesus and comforted to know that you have hidden my life in his.

     Father, I’m the ungrateful and wicked one to whom your kindness has been wondrously expressed in the gospel. Indeed, it was while I was your enemy that you reconciled me to yourself through the death of your beloved Son, Jesus (Rom. 5:10). Every time I try to excuse myself from loving difficult people, remind me of these truths. I’ve never been “choice,” just chosen by your sovereign grace.

     Who are my enemies, real or imagined? Forgive me for labeling some people “the enemy” simply out of my bruised pride, hurt feelings, and fragile self. Bring the power of the gospel to bear. Gentle me in those relationships. Simply avoiding them will do no good, and rehearsing their failures will only fertilize my loveless-ness.

     Father, for those who have been instruments of harm in my life, by their words or with their own hands—revenge belongs to you; a calling to love with wisdom is mine. Help me, Lord. Give me a bigger heart, thicker skin, and a longing for stories of redemption and reconciliation.

     So very Amen I pray in Jesus’ strong and compassionate name.

I MUST Forgive (ME)!

SOURCE:   Leslie Vernick

 Do You Struggle Forgiving Yourself?

Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is you.

Perhaps you have had an abortion, been involved in an extra-marital affair, done something really stupid, or hurt someone deeply through your sinful or foolish behaviors.

For some, even lesser sins or mistakes cause the same internal anguish.   We’re endlessly tormented with the thought, “I should have known better,” or “What’s wrong with me” or “I can’t believe I did that.”  Or “How could I have been so stupid, weak, blind, etc.”

When we aren’t able to move beyond our own failures, mistakes, and even sins, we can get stuck in spiral of debilitating regret, depression, and even self-hatred.

Yes, we know (or hear) God forgives us, but the problem is we just can’t forgive ourselves.  We may be told something like, “If the God of the Universe was willing to come to earth, become human, and sacrifice himself to forgive your sins, who are you not to forgive others, or your own self?”

Yet that theological truth can be difficult (if not impossible) to put into practice when you’re smack in the middle of ruminating over your stupid mistakes, missed opportunities, or grievous sin.  Although mentally acknowledged, God’s grace is not your internal reality. It’s theological truth but not transformational truth.

The way out of this internal bondage is not self-forgiveness; but rather self-acceptance.   Although it’s hard for you to recognize the true problem, the reason you can’t forgive yourself is that deep down you don’t want to have anything to need forgiveness for.  You want to be like God – perfect and in control of all things.

You believe you should know how to always do it right, to say it right, to know ahead of time what the right answer should be or what right solution will best solve a problem.  You believe you shouldn’t ever mess up, or sin big time.  Deep down you believe if only you could live that way, then you’d feel better about yourself.

But when you fail (and as a mere mortal and sinful being you inevitably will), you feel profound disappointment and shame about yourself.  You can’t believe how stupid, sinful, foolish, incompetent, scared, irresponsible, selfish, (whatever) you are. In beating yourself up, you are reinforcing your internal lie that you should have been better than that.

Before you can experientially accept God’s grace and forgiveness, you must first emotionally (not merely intellectually) accept who you are.  There is only one God and you are not him.  You are a creature: one who is called both saint and sinner, beautiful and broken.

Humility is the only path that will give you the internal freedom you crave because once you are humble – Jesus called it “poor in spirit,” you are in a position to emotionally accept who you are— a fallible, imperfect creature who doesn’t know it all.  Then you are no longer shocked, shamed, or disappointed when you see your darker, sinful, weaker side.

Friend, it is not your sins and failures that cause your greatest emotional pain. Rather it is your unrealistic expectations of yourself and your lack of acceptance when you mess up.   In a backwards way, your pride has been wounded.  You are disappointed that you aren’t better than you are.  But the truth is, you’re not.  In embracing that truth, you are also set free to embrace and experience the beauty of God’s grace.

Now the grip of self-hatred for being imperfect no longer has the same power over you.

Now that same emotional energy can be used to humbly ask for forgiveness from others where necessary. Instead of hating yourself for your sins and failures and weaknesses, now you can learn from them so you grow and don’t  continually repeat your mistakes.

Now you can fully experience what you so desperately crave, God’s love and forgiveness for your sinful, imperfect self.

One of my favorite old fashioned mentors, François Fénelon wisely wrote, “Go forward always with confidence, without letting yourself be touched by the grief of a sensitive pride, which cannot bear to see itself imperfect.”

Go forward friend and emotionally accept your imperfections.  It is in that place of humility coupled with Christ’s unconditional forgiveness will you find the freedom you long for.

 

 

I’ll Never Live Up To What God Expects Of Me

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

The Danger of Dread

A twenty-five-year-old man is filled with dread. He believes he can never truly walk in the Spirit with his thoughts thoroughly controlled by Christ. He can never fully avoid the contamination of the world around him. Even more, the evidence, he thinks, is clear—he is not one of the elect. He is persuaded that God has abandoned him, and being out of favor with the angry God is a dreadful thing. As you might guess, he has objections to any Scripture you might offer.

How might you respond?

I tried to assemble his version of God.

He is saying, I think, that God is supra-sovereign—a despot, displeased with his people, and expecting something from them that is impossible to give. We are prisoners to his unyielding demands.

This understanding of God doesn’t form overnight. It probably started with his good intentions to obey, it moved to a focus on his inability, it morphed into perfectionism or works-righteousness. From there it seemed to languish in fear and dread. That would seem to be the end of the line—after all, where else is there to go?—but the dread of God can have a partner. In his case, that partner is loathing. He loathes God and is angry with him because God demands obedience that the young man cannot give. “It shouldn’t be this way!” he says hatefully.

This young man, of course, is beholden to a myth of his own making rather than to the “compassionate and gracious God” (Ex. 34:6).

Though the path of righteousness-by-obedience was closed long ago, he lives as though righteousness can still be achieved rather than ascribed. The Apostle Paul suggests that the problem is not so much with God but with his own desire in that he wants to live under the law (Gal. 4:21). The cover story is that God is irrationally demanding and implacable. But the real story is that he does not like God, and prefers a religion that is more under his control.

As he teeters on psychosis, I am reminded of the complexities of the human heart and my own inability to help. All entries into his life seem closed. So I remember the truth: the self-sacrificial God has taken the initiative of love toward his enemies and has revealed a righteousness that comes from trusting in him rather than in ourselves. And he delights in opening blind eyes. So I aim for joy and thankfulness in my own life and consider succinct ways to approach him, when he is willing to engage.

God says to us “in repentance and rest is your salvation” (Is. 30:15), but like so many things in the Christian life, it seems so unnatural, so counterintuitive, and we are unwilling. So we gloss over it and rest in a system that makes sense to us—like works-righteousness —but it is a mere human invention.

We All Need Help

SOURCE:  Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”

Romans 3:23-24 MSG

In dealing with life-controlling problems—actually in dealing with life itself—we all need help from a power greater than ourselves. People look in many places for that help: wealth, fame, success, New Age philosophies, and even their own willpower. But ultimately there is only one answer: Jesus Christ, Son of God.

Some people see God as a crutch for the weak or sick. Others may be dealing with anger toward God. Still others may have had unpleasant experiences with Christians and developed a distorted concept of God. The most important thing to remember is that there is hope for all in Christ.

If you have been trying to deal with a life-controlling problem in your own strength, you are probably experiencing frustration, anger, fear, shame and rejection. It is important that you recognize that you can’t do it on your own and turn to the only one who can truly help you: Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He paid the price for your failures by dying on the cross. He wants you to reach out to him and receive his forgiveness and his strength. He has a special purpose for your life and wants to help you achieve it. But first you must acknowledge your need for him and ask him to take charge of every area of your life.

Father, I’ve been trying to handle things on my own too long. Forgive me for all the wrong and help me get back on track. In Jesus’ name …

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-


These thoughts were drawn from …


Stepping into Freedom: A Christ-Centered Twelve-Step Program
by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Christians Should be Forgiving People

SOURCE:  R. C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

When someone orders us to do something, or imposes an obligation, it is natural for us to ask two questions. The first question is, “Why should I?” and the second is, “Who says so?” The why and the authority behind the mandate are very important to the question of forgiveness.

To answer the question of why we should be forgiving people, let us look briefly at the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 18, verse 21 and following, we read this account:

Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’

Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

‘But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

‘So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’”

In this parable, the point of Jesus’ teaching is clear, that the why for forgiving others is rooted in the fact that we have been the recipients of extraordinary mercy and compassion. We are all debtors who cannot pay their debts to God. Yet God has been gracious enough to grant us forgiveness in Jesus Christ. It is no wonder that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs His disciples to say, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” There is a parallel, a joint movement of compassion, that is first received from God and then we in turn exercise the same compassion to others. God makes it clear that if we lack that compassion and harbor vengeance in our heart, rather than being ready to forgive again and again, we will forfeit any forgiveness that has been given to us.

Thus, the foundation for a forgiving spirit is the experience of divine grace. It is by grace that we are saved. It is by grace that we live. It is by grace that we have been forgiven. Therefore, the why of forgiving is to manifest our own gratitude for the grace that we have received. Again, the parable of Jesus points to one who took the grace that he received for granted and refused to act in a way that mirrored and reflected the kindness of God.

Why should we forgive? Simply, because God forgives us. It is not an insignificant thing to add on to the why the point that we are commanded by that God of grace to exercise grace in turn.

When we look at the question of forgiveness, however, we also have to ask the second query, “Who says so, and under what conditions are we to keep this requirement?” If we turn our attention to another gospel, we see in Luke 17 the following (vv. 1–4):

And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’”

It’s important that we look closely at this directive from Jesus regarding forgiveness.

It is often taught in the Christian community that Christians are called to forgive those who sin against them unilaterally and universally. We see the example of Jesus on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were executing Him, even though they offered no visible indication of repentance. From that example of Jesus, it has been inferred that Christians must always forgive all offenses against them, even when repentance is not offered. However, the most that we can legitimately infer from Jesus’ actions on that occasion is that we have the right to forgive people unilaterally. Though that may be indeed a wonderful thing, it is not commanded.

If we look at the commandment that Jesus gives in Luke 17:3, He says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” Notice that the first response to the offense is not forgiveness but rather rebuke. The Christian has the right to rebuke those who commit wrong doing against him. That’s the basis for the whole procedure of church discipline in the New Testament. If we were commanded to give unilateral forgiveness to all, under all circumstances, then the whole action of church discipline to redress wrongs, would itself be wrong. But Jesus says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents…,” — here is where the command becomes obligatory — if the offender repents, then it is mandatory for the Christian to forgive the one who has offended him. If we refuse to give forgiveness when repentance has been manifest, then we expose ourselves to the same fate as the unforgiving servant. We open ourselves to the wrath of God. If, indeed, I offend someone and then repent and express my apology to them, but he refuses to forgive me, then the coals of fire are on his head. Likewise, if we fail to give forgiveness, when one who has offended us repents of the offense, we expose ourselves to the coals of fire, and we are in worse shape than the one who has given the offense.

In other words, it is transgression against God when we refuse to forgive those who have repented for their offenses to us. This is the teaching of Jesus. It is the mandate of Jesus. As we are united in Christ, we are to show that union by extending the same grace to others that He extends to us.

Does God Ever Say, “I Am Disappointed In You?”

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“I Am Disappointed in You”

Be angry with me, call me all kinds of names, but, please, don’t be disappointed in me.

As a general rule, the older you get, the more oppressive the word.

Disappointing other people

If my wife says, “I am so angry with you.” I can live with that. But if she says, “I’m not angry. I am just disappointed in you,” that is unbearable. I feel like a scolded puppy. My tail goes between my legs, I retreat to the corner, and . . . I feel helpless because I am not sure what I can do to change her opinion. I could ask forgiveness, and she would be quick to forgive, but I would still be left feeling like a disappointment.Forgiveness does not remove disappointment. Maybe I would make vows to do better and spend the rest of the day living out those vows, but it would still be unbearable.

One reason being a disappointment is so hard is that it makes you feel less than—lower than—the person you disappointed. That’s why it might be harder the older we get. Kids already feel like they are not quite in the same category as adults, so they don’t fall very far, but other adults and spouses are peers, and now you have slipped down the ladder into the child category, or that of the family dog.

It is not wrong to be disappointed with someone. The Apostle Paul certainly was disappointed with the churches in Galatia and Corinth (e.g., 1 Cor 3:1). My point is simply that the experience of being a disappointment to someone close to you, especially a peer, is a tough one to shake off.

And, of course, what we find in our relationships with human beings we can typically find in our relationship with the Lord.

Disappointing God

Most people I know, when they think about seeing God face-to-face, would love to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” But most only hope for this. They are fairly certain that God will say, “You are such a disappointment. Forgiven, but a disappointment.”

Ugh. And how long does it take to unwrap your tail from between your legs in that relationship?

Can you sense how dangerous this is? If I am a disappointment, I turn away until I can somehow be a little more acceptable. In human relationships that means that we hope the urgent matters of daily life will distract the other person from the disappointment and we can soon act like nothing ever happened. But we don’t think that God is so easily distracted or quite as forgetful.

Don’t turn away from God

Since this identifies a common human experience, then we can be certain that Scripture says much about it. Here is just one way the Lord speaks to us about this essential matter.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”(Numbers 6: 22-27)

This is how God deals with disappointing people. And remember that Israel by this time was supremely disappoint-ing. You might rival them in being disappointment-worthy but not top them.

The Lord turns his face toward them and delights in blessing them. In doing this he invites them to turn their face toward him. There are no doghouses in the Kingdom of God.

So when you feel like a disappointment to the Lord, hear his blessing and turn toward him. If you are looking for words to say to him, “thank you” is usually a fine place to start.

Don’t turn away from other people

Now, back to those times we disappoint others. The answer is the same: don’t turn away. They may not be so quick to pronounce an enthusiastic priestly blessing in our direction, but once we realize that disappointment is not a word that our Father uses with us, we might be bolder when we disappoint mere humans.

So instead of turning away from someone who is rightly disappointed with you, imagine going toward the person (probably after you have asked forgiveness), and saying: “I know I disappointed you, and I hate that, so I want to understand your concerns—I want to really hear them and take them seriously—because my relationship with you is important to me.”

Move toward people with humility rather than humiliation. That’s what we are after.

Lord, Thank Heavens, “You’re Not”

SOURCE:  Paul Tripp Ministries

 

You’re Not

When I’m
Weary and exhausted
You’re not.

When I’m
Confused and discouraged
You’re not.

When I’m
Fickle and unfaithful
You’re not.

When I’m
Doubtful and disheartened
You’re not.

When I’m
Fearful and anxious
You’re not.

When I’m
Short-sighted and fearful
You’re not.

When I’m
Tired and about to quit
You’re not.

When I’m
Lacking in hope and love
You’re not.

When I’m
Shocked and surprised
You’re not.

When I’m
Angrily withholding grace
You’re not.

When I’m
Unfaithful to what I’ve promised
You’re not.

When I’m
Selfish and disloyal
You’re not.

Oh, Lord of
Faithfulness and grace
I am so thankful
That
In those moments
When I’m
Losing my way
You’re not.

I Just Don’t Have What It Takes….

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

When we are dealing with a life-interfering problem … whether it is a behavior, thought pattern, or feeling … we may begin to think, “What’s the use? I’ll never overcome this. I’ve tried a number of times, and failed … again and again. I just don’t have what it takes to get things right.” Or “After all this effort to do something about my issues, I haven’t made any progress.”

Two common explanations I hear when patients come into my office for a psychiatric evaluation are, “You know doc, I’ve tried to change so many times, but I guess this is the way God made me and I am stuck like this,” or “This is the way I was born and there is no escaping it.”

Here’s the Bad News. Do you know what? All these statements are true to some extent.

We probably don’t have what it takes. Step 1 of AA got it right: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (you insert whatever habit or life-interfering pattern you struggle with) — that our lives had become unmanageable. Then follows Step 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Now the Good News! We know this Power.

It’s Jesus.

The real Big Book (This is what the AA Book is called), The Holy Bible, promises us that we can do all things … through Christ who strengthens us. If we are willing to commit our lives to Him, He will give us the wisdom, strength, and most of all, the courage we need to do what is right. He will guide us on the right path. And we are rarely alone as He often sends other people to us, to help in these various areas of support, along the way.

But growth doesn’t just happen overnight and growth never happens randomly. Satan has a strategy to defeat us. So, in order to experience growth, we need a strategy to defend ourselves and fight back. This is what we call the sanctification process … our spiritual journey. Putting on the Armor of God. What strategy do you usually tap into each day? How intentional are you at implementing your plan throughout the day? How is your strategy working?

To receive this power from Christ, we need a strategy. First, we need to admit that we need help. Knowing we are in trouble and admitting we will accept help are two different things. Many see they are struggling, but few are willing to relinquish control to someone else. We need to be honest with ourselves, with Him, and with others. We need to take off the mask of self-sufficiency and get real. We must quit using our own instruction manuals and start using His for all of life’s situations. We must start seeing life through the Godly lenses of His Holy Bible. That’s what transformed my life, and it can certainly transform yours.

Today, if you’re dealing with a problem that seems hopeless … take the first step. Admit you need help. Then, ask God for His plan. Ask him for strength through Christ. Admit to safe and caring people that you need help.  Whether you apply the Bible (Best Instruction Book for Living Everyday) to develop your daily strategy or you use the instruction manual you are making up on the fly is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I’ve been trying everything I know to overcome my problem with short spurts and shortcuts, but nothing seems to work for the long run. I need … and desire Your strength and guidance. Help me to be honest about my need for help by sharing with those You send to help me. Help me remember that I can succeed … through Christ. Next I need to know how to apply that. Help me learn to apply Your word to my life, minute by minute, instead of using my own understanding. I pray this and all prayers through the One whom You sent to compensate for all my shortcomings, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8

Jesus on Divorce

SOURCE: John MacArthur

It was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. – Matthew 5:31–32

Jesus no more approves of divorce than did Moses (cf. Matt. 19:6). Adultery, another reality God never condoned, is the only reason under the law that allows for dissolving of a marriage, with the guilty party to be put to death (Lev. 20:10). Because Jesus mentions this here and again in Matthew 19:9, God must have allowed divorce to replace execution as the penalty for adultery at some time during Israel’s history.

Divorce is never commanded; it is always a last resort, allowed when unrepentant immorality has exhausted the patience of the innocent spouse. This merciful concession to human sinfulness logically implies that God also permits remarriage. Divorce’s purpose is to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness. If you are innocent and have strived to maintain your marriage, you are free to remarry if your spouse insists on continued adultery or divorce.

Jesus does not demand divorce in all cases of unchastity (immorality, primarily adultery in this context), but simply points out that divorce and remarriage on other grounds results in adultery.

Our Lord wants to set the record straight that God still hates divorce (Mal. 2:16) and that His ideal remains a monogamous, lifelong marriage. But as a gracious concession to those innocent spouses whose partners have defiled the marriage, He allows divorce for believers for the reason of immorality. (Paul later added the second reason of desertion, 1 Cor. 7:15.)

Tag Cloud