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

Archive for the ‘God’s Intimacy’ Category

God’s Love Won’t Let Me Go — Regardless

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Ruth Myers

The Love That Won’t Let Go

God’s passion for His children is unlike any other love we’ll ever experience.

When I was a teenager, God began to deepen my appreciation for His love through “The Love of God,” a song made famous by George Beverly Shea. This song describes God’s love as “greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell.” If the skies were a scroll and the oceans filled with ink, the song goes on to say, and if every stalk on earth were a writing quill, we still could never write in full this love God has for us. The skies could not contain it. The oceans would run dry.

Through the years since then, the Lord has been weaving into my life a richer awareness of how lavishly He loves me (and all of us) and how deeply He longs for each of us to experience His love. My heart has been opened again and again to delightful discoveries that have made me feel more satisfied and at rest in Him, more alive in His love, more liberated, more secure.

In God we find the kind of love we most deeply need. If we want real love, ideal love, perfect love, God’s heart is where to find it. It’s the only love big enough to meet the God-sized needs of your life and mine.

Just Because

Because you are a special treasure to God, He is working to draw you into a deeper love for Him—away from any idols in your life, away from rival interests, away from giving first place to His good gifts instead of to Him.

In Jer. 31:3, the Lord tells His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (NKJV). Every hour since you first met Him, He has been pursuing you, seeking to draw you closer as a mother draws her child, as a bridegroom his bride. He wants you near.

God loves us “just because.”

His love defies human logic. It doesn’t make sense. And yet there are reasons. I think of at least two:

First, God loves us because He is love. It’s His nature to love.

Second, He loves us because He made us.

Sin has destroyed some of the beauty of His design that He must now work to restore; but He made each of us with great skill, and we have unique value to Him. Because He made us for Himself, in His image, we have the potential of intimate relationship with Him. He prizes us and wants us for Himself. He loves us for what a love relationship with Him can mean to us—and to Him—now, in this life. He also loves us for what He knows we’ll become for all eternity. He eagerly awaits the delights in store for Him and us when we will dwell with Him forever in joyful, unbroken fellowship.

We read in Dt. 7:7 and 10:15 that God set His love upon His people—He “fastened” it upon them, as The Berkeley Version says. I like that. There’s a gentle but unyielding persistence about the love of God, a tenacious tenderness toward each person who has responded to Him. He loves us and holds on and won’t let us go.

From Everlasting to Everlasting

What is God’s love like? The tenacious love of God is both eternal and changeless. These two concepts are wonderfully linked.

“The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him” (Ps. 103:17,RSV). From everlasting to everlasting. Let’s look at this phrase more closely.

From everlasting, before I ever existed, God loved me. Long before I was born, He looked ahead and fastened His affection upon me. His love for me began in His foreknowledge of me. When He decided to love me, I did not yet even exist. His love is not mine because I merit it, for He fastened His love upon me before I ever did one thing, good or bad.

Before we were born, He already knew the worst about us, and nothing that happens now can surprise or disillusion Him. He has never had any illusions about anyone or anything. He doesn’t suddenly discover some truth about one of us and think, Oh, why did I ever choose to love him or her? I like what J. I. Packer says in Knowing God: “God’s love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on the prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

Therefore, in the midst of my failures and struggles when I feel so undeserving, I never have to think, Oh dear, does He still love me? His love for each of us is never rooted in our worthiness, but rather in His own nature.

God says to us, “It’s not because you earned it or worked so hard for it that I have loved you. And I don’t continue loving you because you manage to maintain a high enough standard in My eyes. No, I simply made a permanent choice to love you.”

That choice will never change. He loved me from everlasting and will love me to everlasting. His love for me—and for you—will never end. It’s a lifelong, eternity-long relationship, now and forever available to meet our every need as we seek to know Him better.

Even When We Rebel

We see God’s unchanging love in an especially beautiful way in the book of Hosea. There God declared that He still loved His people “though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). Hosea’s message shows God’s constant love for His people, even when they spurned Him and persisted in rebelling against Him.

God speaks these words to His people in Hos. 11:8: “How can I give you up, Israel? . . . My heart will not let me do it! My love for you is too strong” (Good News Bible). And the New Living Translation puts it this way, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? . . . My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.”

This was His attitude toward them even though they had persistently rebelled against Him. God had patiently sent them warnings over the centuries, but so often they refused to listen. Finally, He had to send severe chastening. They needed it, and He gave it. But even that chastening was evidence of His love, just as it is in our lives. Throughout it all His attitude was still, “How can I let you go?” He cannot give us up. He cannot abandon us. His love for us is too strong.

How that relieves my heart!

Even when I’m letting something else be more important to me than God, God is still loving me. Even when He must discipline me, He says, “I won’t go one bit further than I have to for your good, and I would never cut you off from My love. My heart would never allow it.” He recoils at the very thought of ever withdrawing His love for us.

Psalm 73:26 begins, “My flesh and my heart may fail”—yes, this will happen to us in different ways all through life. Our bodies and souls may grow weak and waste away. And worse than that, we may inwardly and outwardly fail to trust and obey the Lord. But we can come right back to Him, confess how we have failed, and let the Lord love us. Then we can go on to personalize the last part of this verse, saying with the psalmist, “Lord, You are the strength of my heart, the source of my stability; and You are my chosen portion forever.”

Love without Limits

God’s love is incalculably great. His love is abounding, vast, infinite. His love has no limitations, no boundaries. In both duration and extent it is limitless. We’ll never be able to get out of it or away from it or beyond it.

Notice the description of God’s love in Eph. 3:16–19. Paul speaks of how the Spirit within us strengthens us so that we can, in fuller measure, have Christ dwelling within us. He says, “I pray . . . that your life will be strong in love and be built on love” (Eph 3:17, NCV). He goes on to pray that we will know in actual experience the greatness of Christ’s love—that we will understand more fully its boundless dimensions, how long and wide and high and deep it is, though it is far greater than anyone can ever know.

God’s love is limitless. This means there are no bounds to the encouragement and hope and strength it can give us. Once I found myself under unusual pressure while my husband, Warren, was gone for almost a month. Situations arose that were difficult for me to cope with. In those stressful weeks the Lord deeply ministered to me through 2 Thess. 2:16–17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us unending encouragement and unfailing hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (paraphrase based on NASB and Phillips).

Here is His personal, loving touch: encouragement and hope that never fail because they are by grace, not based on my deserving. My heart—and yours—may often fail and our resources prove to be inadequate. But the Lord Himself, who loves us, is always ready to inspire us with courage and confidence, as J. B. Phillips puts it.

The Lord does not parcel out little dabs of love—”Well, you’ve been good children today, so I’ll love you a little bit.” No, His love flows freely. It overflows, coming to us in an abounding way. We read in Ro. 5:5 that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. “It floods our hearts,” as James Moffatt translates it. It’s a tremendous outpouring of love—not in skimpy measure, but rather in a flood, an inundation.

And He has put right within us the source of this abounding love—the Holy Spirit—so His love can be poured out abundantly throughout our whole being. We don’t have to settle for trivial little insights into His love. We can experience vastly more of it than we do at present, if we truly want to—if we open ourselves to Him and His Word, seeking and yielding and trusting.

The Grace behind His Love

God’s love is linked inseparably with His grace, His attitude of unmerited favor toward us. Grace is the basis on which He first chose us in His love, and His overflowing grace is the basis on which He continues to lavish His love upon us.

We read in Ro. 5:20 in the Wuest translation that where sin abounded, “grace superabounded with more added to that.” There are no words to adequately convey the abundance of God’s grace. So we can just say that it “superabounds—with more added to that”!

God’s love is so great that no sin is too great for Him to forgive. We can always approach His throne of grace and receive forgiveness, whether for a large, even scandalous sin, or for any of the mass of little failures that get us down so that we think, Oh, do I have to confess that again?

The flow of God’s love never stops; it always shines forth undimmed. But our response determines whether it gets through to us. We can pull the blinds—or we can open them. We choose what we’ll let ourselves be filled with, and God respects our choice. He does not force His love on us. But at all times His love flows and shines—perfect, unwavering, available to meet our needs.

We see this unchanging flow of God’s love portrayed in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The father was waiting for the son to turn his back on his rebellion and return home. And when he saw him coming, he didn’t have to think twice about responding with fervent love. The flow of his love had never lessened, though the son had strayed to a far country and into terrible sin.

All of us need this grace. To the person with desperate needs who is willing to admit them, God shows His love. Do you qualify? I know I do. I qualify because I have needs—desperate needs. And He has made me willing to admit them and let Him meet them. When I fail to recognize how needy I am, He graciously works to remind me (at times in painful ways). And He renews my willingness to say, “Lord, I’m so messed up, so needy, so unable to obey You and to handle life in my own strength. So I bring my deep needs to You.”

As we mature through the years, we see shortcomings and areas of neglect in our lives that we didn’t know were there. So often, when we feel we’re doing well (if we’ve been victorious and had our quiet time every day and learned Bible verses and been nice to our family and our neighbors), then we think, God surely loves me today. Then we drop into those low times—we’re sure there’s no way He could love us now. So at the very point where we need His love most, we don’t even dare come before Him to seek and experience it. We forget that He has always loved us, even when we had absolutely no use for Him at all. And He will always love us—just because.

Sacrificial Love

When it comes to human love, we like to see action as well as words, don’t we?

Words, of course, are important. A wife never tires of hearing her husband tell her again, “I love you.” God gives us plenty of words to tell us He loves us, but He also acts upon that love. His greatest action was sending His Son to suffer humiliation and anguish for us when we still had no use for Him. He was willing to pay the highest price possible so that we could belong to Him, so that He could have a loving relationship with us.

His love for you and me is a costly love. In the Wuest translation of 1 Jn. 4:7 we read that God’s love is “divine and self-sacrificial.” This, again, points us to the cross—the ultimate sacrifice. Such love is foreign to our nature. Humans love like this only when their love comes from God.

In Ro. 5:6–8 we read:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And because of this sacrifice, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Ro. 5:11).

Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). A human love will conceivably die for a friend—though only the greatest of human loves would ever dare to do it. Jesus, however, died for His enemies, so that He could make us His friends, bringing us into intimate relationship with Himself. That’s how much He desires to have us near Him.

Only God is the source of such love. His is truly the greatest love of all.

The Favor of the King

In this, as in all that God gives us, He is immeasurably generous. His love gives and gives and is never depleted, because His power and resources are unlimited. He never has need to give in a grudging way. As Eph. 3:20 says, He’s able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think—beyond our fondest dreams. He’s a total giver who loves to give, who delights to do good for us, so that we can live truly abundant lives.

Romans 5:17 speaks of what Christ has done for believers and how “by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness” people can now “live their lives victoriously” (Phillips). We have this possibility of living royally because of the abundance of God’s grace. As we have seen, grace means “unmerited favor,” favor that we don’t have to earn, favor that we don’t deserve. In fact, we deserve just the opposite!

And whose favor is it? The favor of the King of kings. Favor that flows out from Him toward us. And as we receive it, realizing we are highly favored by the only truly important person who exists, it does something in our hearts. If we belong to the King of kings, we can be sure of His favor whenever we approach Him.

God loves to honor our requests and bestow His favors upon us. God delights to do the things that delight us, and so He gives to us lavishly. He is not a stingy God. When Jesus came to this earth, His purpose was to share with us His true and eternal treasures. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

These riches include everything we need here on earth for a full spiritual life and a satisfying emotional life. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

This is all ours to enjoy as we seek to know Him better.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God

SOURCE:  Dr. Bob Kellemen

There’s nothing more important in life than our relationship with God through Christ.

This is, of course, true for our eternal life. It is also true for our daily life. This is why Jesus taught his disciples—and us—how to pray, how to talk to God.

The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4 

Both Matthew and Luke record Jesus teaching us how to pray. Known by many as “The Lord’s Prayer,” I also like to call it “The Prayer of Jesus.” For all eternity, the Father, Son, and Spirit communed together and communicated (John 1:1-18; John 17).

So…when Jesus teaches us how to talk to God, we need to listen.

A Memory Aid: “CHRIST” 

If you’ve heard me teach or read any of my writings, you know I like memory aids. Sometimes, I use alliteration—starting each point with the same letter. Sometimes, like today, I like to use acrostics—using each letter in a word as a teaching devise. We use it to learn how to pray in Christ’s school of prayer.

I’m doing that today with the Lord’s Prayer, or The Prayer of Jesus, using our Savior’s title—Christ—as our memory aid. You see it outlined below.

For a one-sheet, front/back Word document version, go here: The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God.

For a one-sheet, front/back PDF version, go here: The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God 

Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4

Your Daily Prayer Guide: “CHRIST

Prepare to Pray: Meditation“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”

C   Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

H   Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”

R   Radically Commit: Submission—“Thy Will Be Done”

I   Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

S   Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins”

T   Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom”

Learning How to Pray in Christ’s School of Prayer

  • Prepare to Pray: Meditation—“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”
  1. Meditate on the perfect fatherly character of God: Our Father in heaven.
  2. Contemplate the nature of God’s fatherhood: Our Father of holy love.
  3. Reflect on the Body of Christ: Our Father, not only my Father.
  4. Enjoy God the Father’s full attention and acceptance in Christ: Bask in His fatherly grace.
  • Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  1. Praise God for Who He is: Worship, magnify, exalt, and glorify your heavenly Father.
  2. Thank God for what He does: Express your gratitude for all His grace-gifts, for His works.
  3. Pray that the whole world would be in awe of God: All the earth grasping, enjoying, and        exalting the character (name) of God.
  4. Set apart God as the supreme desire of your heart: Let your daily mission statement be to exalt God by enjoying God.
  • Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”
  1. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule in your heart: Surrender to God’s governance.
  2. Pray for a widening of God’s rule in all people’s hearts: Salvation.
  3. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule on planet Earth: Christian living (make a difference).
  4. Pray for the soon return of Christ: Second Coming.
  5. Pray that you will live for God’s kingdom and not for your own: Total allegiance. 
  • Radically Commit: Submission/Direction—“Thy Will Be Done”
  1. Pray for the right purpose: That all you do is motivated by the desire to glorify God.
  2. Pray for calm assurance: The understanding that God’s glory and your good are inseparable, that the Father’s will is always good and best.
  3. Pray for clear discernment: That you will know God’s will for your personal life, family, church, work, community, country, and world.
  4. Pray for radical obedience: That God would grant you the courage to do His will.
  5. Pray for supernatural power: That God would empower you to obey His will.
  6. Pray with brutal honesty: Share the desires of your heart, any confusion, doubts, and perplexity with your heavenly Father.
  7. Pray with other-centered focus: That family, church, community, national, and world leaders would know and do God’s will.
  • Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
  1. Confess humbly (Give): Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, admitting that without God you are and have nothing. Pray for the faith to believe that all you need is God and what He chooses to provide.
  2. Asks unselfishly (Us, Our): Pray for others and for yourself.
  3. Request wisely (This Day, Daily): Pray for today’s needs. Trust God for today’s supply. Ask God to give you nothing more and nothing less than exactly what you need and can handle.
  4. Entreat practically (Bread): Pray for physical, material, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual needs. Pray for freedom from worry as you trust God to supply your every need.
  • Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us”
  1. Acknowledge Sin: Confess known sins and ask God to reveal hidden sins.
  2. Repent humbly: Your debt is immeasurable; His grace is infinite.
  3. Enjoy forgiveness: Claim Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance. Your slate is wiped clean!
  4. Grant forgiveness: Forgive those who have hurt you and sinned against you physically,      emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.
  5. Seek reconciliation: Go to those you have sinned against to restore the relationship.
  • Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil”
  1. Seek protection: Ask God not to allow Satan even to tempt you to sin.
  2. Seek boundaries: Ask God to keep you from situations where you are most prone to sin—your besetting sins, areas of vulnerability, temptations, etc.
  3. Seek victory: Ask God to defeat sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil in your life.
  4. Seek faith: Ask God to help you to trust His awesome power as your only hope for triumph.
  • Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever, Amen”
  1. Trust God (For): Believe that since God is the Almighty, Eternal King that He can answer.
  2. Glorify God (Thine): Pray that God will be glorified by your prayers.

6 Prayers for Marital Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

SOURCE:  Jennifer Greenberg/The Gospel Coalition

“Can I ask you a personal question?” she said.

“Of course,” I replied. I already knew what she was going to say. Many before her had already asked, but I was still grappling with how to answer.

She hesitated, as if bracing herself to speak words physically painful to pronounce.

“Did your dad’s sexual abuse negatively affect your romantic relationship with your husband?” she asked. “I’ve been married for 20 years, and I still can’t shake this feeling of shame and anxiety. Every time we’re intimate, I feel sick. I’m afraid something is broken in my mind. I’m afraid my trauma is hurting my husband and destroying our marriage. What should I do? How can I heal from this?”

If you’re a pastor or counselor, you’ve likely encountered similar questions. If you’re a survivor of abuse, you may have asked them yourself. The devastating trauma of abuse is incalculable. Its pervasive pain affects the most intimate aspects of life.

And it’s not just women asking these questions. Men and women have confided that, while they desire intimacy, they can’t imagine feeling secure in a relationship. They fear their marriage is doomed to misery and divorce, or that they’d make terrible parents. Husbands and wives of survivors have asked me how they can help their traumatized spouse feel safe, loved, and attractive.

Part of the reason I struggle to answer such sensitive and complicated questions is because I’m still experiencing and working to understand my own recovery. I know from experience that these injuries are raw, painful, and personal. I don’t want to give superficial advice, or weigh survivors down under works-oriented to-do lists.

Thankfully, God has blessed us with therapists, physicians, and medications that can help us manage depression, anxiety, and other emotional injuries resultant from trauma. Ultimately, though, only God can heal the soul.

With that in mind, I’ve composed a series of prayers, in hope that you’ll be able to adapt them to fit your own situation, pray them for a loved one, or share them with a friend in need.

1. God, help me understand that you made sex.

Lord, in the beginning, you told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). You designed Adam to be attractive for Eve, and Eve to be attractive for Adam. You said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18).

It’s not good for me to feel alone. It’s not good for me to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or fearful of my own sexuality—you made it, and you designed it for me to enjoy. The pain of my past and the evil of others has clouded my perception of what you have made; yet I know everything you do is good.

Please help me to understand that sex is not sinful, degrading, or harmful. Free me from anxiety, humiliation, and dark memories. Let me feel the peace and love that you intend for me. Let me rest in the knowledge that you are my Creator and every part of my body—from my figure to my hormones—was designed by you.

2. Show me that sex is pure.

In Song of Solomon, the bride exclaims, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. . . . No wonder the young women love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (Song 1:1–4).

Lord, I can’t imagine feeling the way this bride does. I can’t imagine viewing sex or sexuality with such innocence or confidence. She is bold. She is unabashedly desirous and flirtatious. She finds her fiancé attractive, and she can’t blame all the other ladies for thinking so too. She is eager to express her love physically.

I was taught by experience to be embarrassed and fearful of sex. Ungodly sexuality distorts my understanding, inhibits my expression, and weighs down my soul.

Lord, take away the confusion caused by abuse, betrayal, injustice, and other people’s evil. Help me to see sex as you see it: a pure gift from a holy God. Help me to realize that—though my abuser is guilty—I am innocent. Though my abuser expressed sexuality in heinous, distorted ways, I can express mine in righteous and loving ways. Because of your work in me, I can desire my spouse without shame or reserve. I can express the longings you gave me in holiness and healthiness.

3. Show me Jesus in my spouse.

Lord, you have blessed me with a godly spouse. They aren’t perfect, but they love me. They sometimes sin, but they aren’t abusive. Lord, teach me to view them how you view them. Let me see Jesus working in them. Let me seek and treasure the fruit of the Spirit in their words and actions. Lord, empower me to me see my spouse as you see them; someone you are conforming into the image of Christ.

Lord, free me from associating our intimacy with abuse, or their motives with my abuser’s motives. Instead, allow me to associate their good character with the Good Shepherd. Grow me in faith to adore my lover with unabashed passion and grace. For you did not give us a spirit of fear and embarrassment, but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Free me to love fearlessly.

4. Bless my spouse.

God, it’s hard to trust that you’re good and faithful. It’s even harder to believe that my spouse really loves me. My abuser betrayed me. Those who should have intervened abandoned me. I expect disappointment and rejection, because that’s what I’m used to. But you, God, are unchangeable, righteous, and true. You are sovereign over my spouse’s heart. Fill me with such certainty of your devotion that I cannot doubt your work in my heart or theirs.

Help my spouse to forgive me when I’m wrong and be patient when I’m weak. Help me to forgive them when they’re wrong and be patient when they fail. Bless them with wisdom, Lord. Give them the clarity they need to help me navigate these challenges, and the wise advice to support my healing. Bolster them up behind and before. May my recovery be such a miraculous work, that their faith is strengthened because of it.

5. Show me how you see me.

Before your face, God, my value is not defined by what’s happened to me, or even by what I have done. Rather, my value is defined by what Jesus has done for me.

Teach me, Lord, to see myself as you do. Help me to know myself as your perfect, spotless, beautiful child and cherished heir of heaven. If I truly grasped in my heart of hearts how treasured, lovely, and pure you consider me, I’d never be ashamed again. Scatter the shadows that haunt me. Lift the veil that shrouds my face. Let me see myself as loved and accepted by you.

6. Take my heart and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.

Jesus, I cannot overcome my pain. There is too much fear, sorrow, anxiety, and confusion for me to untangle, let alone fix. But you are the Great Physician. You are my Wonderful Counselor (Isa. 9:6). You carried my sin to the cross. Jesus, you can carry my trauma, too. Bury it far from me. Let it weigh me down no more.

You are the Redeemer who made the lame walk and the blind see. By your power, the sick are healed and the dead raised to life again. You can heal my broken heart.

My recovery isn’t a to-do list. My happiness isn’t a standard I have to live up to, or a goal I must struggle to achieve. When I rely on my own efforts, I rely less on yours. Fix my eyes on you, Lord. You are my joy. You are my peace. You are Love. You knit me together in my mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13); knit me whole again now. Heal me for your glory, Lord. Empower me to love you better, not because I deserve your love, but because you deserve mine.

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For

SOURCE:  Vaneetha Rendall Risner/Desiring God

Countless childhood surgeries. Yearlong stints in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from classmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The unexpected death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Betrayal. A husband who leaves.

If it were up to me, I would have written my story differently. Not one of those phrases would be included. Each line represents something hard. Gut wrenching. Life changing.

But now, in retrospect, I wouldn’t erase a single line.

Honestly, it is only in hindsight that I can make such a bold statement. Through all of those devastating events, I begged God to deliver me. To save my baby, to reverse my disease, to bring my husband back. Each time God said no.

Instead of Deliverance

“It’s not about getting what I want. It’s about God giving me what I desperately need: himself.”

“No” was not the answer I wanted. I was looking for miraculous answers to prayer, a return to normalcy, relief from the pain. I wanted the kind of grace that would deliver me from my circumstances.

God, in his mercy, offered his sustaining grace.

At first, I rejected it as insufficient. I wanted deliverance. Not sustenance. I wanted the pain to stop, not to be held up through the pain. I was just like the children of Israel who rejoiced at God’s delivering grace in the parting of the Red Sea, but complained bitterly at his sustaining grace in the provision of manna.

With every heartache I wanted a Red Sea miracle. A miracle that would astonish the world, reward me for my faithfulness, make my life glorious. I didn’t want manna.

But God knew better. Each day he continued to put manna before me. At first, I grumbled. It seemed like second best. It wasn’t the feast I envisioned. It was bland and monotonous. But after a while, I began to taste the manna, embrace it, and savor its sweetness.

A Far Deeper Work

This manna, this sustaining grace, is what upheld me. It revived me when I was weak. It drove me to my knees. And unlike delivering grace which, once received, inadvertently moved me to greater independence from God, sustaining grace kept me tethered to him. I needed it every day. Like manna, it was new every morning.

“I have inexplicable joy not in my circumstances, but in the God who cares so fiercely for me.”

God has delivered me and answered some prayers with a resounding “yes” in jaw-dropping, supernatural ways. I look back at them with gratitude and awe. Yet after those prayers were answered, I went back to my everyday life, often less dependent on God. But the answers of “no” or “wait,” and those answered by imperceptible degrees over time, have done a far deeper work in my soul. They have kept me connected to the Giver and not his gifts. They have forced me to seek him. And in seeking him, I have discovered the intimacy of his fellowship.

In the midst of my deepest pain, in the darkness, God’s presence has been unmistakable. Through excruciating struggles, he speaks to me. He comforts me through his word. He whispers to me in the dark, as I lie awake on my tear-stained pillow. He sings beautiful songs over me of his love.

The Joy of His Manna

At first, I just want the agony to go away. I don’t rejoice in the moment. I don’t rejoice at all. But as I cling to God and his promises, he sustains me. Joy is at first elusive. I have glimpses of delight, but it is mostly slow and incremental.

Yet over time, I realize I have an inexplicable joy — not in my circumstances, but in the God who cares so fiercely for me. Eating the everyday, bland, sometimes unwelcome manna produces a joy beyond my wildest imaginings.

“In the midst of my deepest pain, in the darkness, God’s presence has been unmistakable.”

I have found that this joy, which is often birthed out of suffering, can never be taken away; it only gets richer over time. My circumstances cannot diminish it. It produces lasting fruit like endurance, character, and hope. It draws me to God in breathtaking ways. It achieves a weight of glory that is beyond all comparison.

I still pray earnestly for deliverance, for the many things I long to see changed, both in my life and in the world. That is right. It’s biblical. We need to bring our requests to God.

But as much as I long for deliverance, for delivering grace, I see the exquisite blessing in sustaining grace. It’s not about getting what I want; it’s about God giving me what I desperately need: himself.

How a Heavy Heart Gives Thanks

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

We are, for the most part, troubled people.

We are troubled within, and troubled without. We are troubled in our bodies, and in our families. We are troubled in our workplaces, and in our churches. We are troubled in our neighborhoods, and across our nation.

We welcome trouble with our sin, but we are plagued by trouble even in our best efforts. Job’s friend, Eliphaz, while not the best counselor, got it right when he said, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).

“Jesus’s thankfulness to the Father as he went to the cross expressed like nothing else his trust in the Father.”

Therefore, we, for the most part, are burdened people, because troubled hearts carry heavy burdens with them.

And in the midst of all our nearly constant and complex trouble, Jesus says to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). And Paul, who knew more constant and complex trouble than most of us will know, says to us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

How are these commands possible? Most of what troubles us springs from moral, spiritual, or natural evil and corruption — and yet we’re to give thanks?

Heaviest Heart in History

No one in the history of the world was burdened in his soul like Jesus on Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

No one — no grieving spouse in a solitary house, no weeping parent beside a child’s grave, no heart shattered by a love betrayed, no wordless ache for a wandering prodigal, no desolate soul staring at a terminal test result, no felon in an isolated cell of relentless shame knows the burden that pressed upon Jesus as he walked up the stairs to share the final meal of his mortal life on this earth.

It was the Passover, and Jesus was the Lamb. Like the ancient Father Abraham leading his trusting son up the slope of Mount Moriah, the Ancient of Days was leading his trusting Son of Man to a sacrificial altar (Genesis 22; Daniel 7:13). But unlike Isaac, the Son of Man fully knew what lay in store and he went willingly. He knew no angel would stay his Father’s hand; no substitute lamb would be provided. He was the substitute Lamb. And his Father was leading him to slaughter where he would be crushed and put to grief (Isaiah 53:7, 10).

“If we trust God in the worst, darkest, most horrible troubles we face, he will make us more than conquerors.”

And oh, what grief and sorrow he bore (Isaiah 53:3)! Jesus fully knew the price he must pay to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). He knew the nature, scope, and weight of his Father’s righteous wrath. “Crushed” was not a metaphor; it was a spiritual reality. The Son of Man (John 3:14), God the Son (Hebrews 1:1–3), the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the great I Am (John 8:58), the Lord himself (Philippians 2:11), who came into the world for this very moment, would plead in bloody terror for the Father’s deliverance before the end (John 12:27; Matthew 26:39).

Broken and Thankful

His burdens in body and soul would exceed every humanly conceivable measure. He would be despised and rejected by those in heaven and earth and under the earth. Yet he took bread — bread representing the breakable body holding it — and gave thanks and he broke it (Luke 22:19). With an incomparably heavy heart, the anticipated horror relentlessly pressing in on all sides of his consciousness, Jesus gave thanks to his Father — the very Father leading him into the deepest valley ever experienced by a human — and then he broke the bread.

We should not quickly or lightly overlook Jesus’s gratitude because he’s Jesus, as if knowing it was going to be all right in the end made it any easier. He was thankful because he did believe it would be all right (Hebrews 12:2). But we know little of the agony he felt or the spiritual assault he endured. What we do know is that he “in every respect [was] tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). So, in our difficulty to see past our troubles to the joy God promises us, we get an inkling of the infinitely greater difficulty he faced.

Learn from His Heavy Heart

When Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled, and to give thanks in all circumstances, we can know that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15), and that he has left us an example, so that we might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).

“Every troubled tear we shed in this life is kept and counted by God, and one day he will wipe away every single one.”

What is this example? In the face of unquantifiable, inexpressible evil — the worst trouble that has ever tortured a human soul — Jesus believed in God the Father’s promise that his work on the cross would overcome the worst, hellish evil in the world (John 3:16–17). He believed that “out of the anguish of his soul” he would “see his offspring” and “prolong his days” (Isaiah 53:10–11). He believed that if he humbled himself under God’s mighty hand, his Father would exalt him at the proper time (1 Peter 5:6), and that every knee would bow and tongue confess that he was Lord to the glory of his Father (Philippians 2:11).

It was that future grace of joy set before Jesus that enabled him to endure the cross, and to give thanks as he was being brought there to be crucified. He is the founder and perfecter of our faith because he believed the Father’s promise was surer than the doom that lay before him (Hebrews 12:2). His giving thanks was a supreme form of worship, for it expressed like nothing else his trust in the Father.

We Can Give Thanks

Therefore, Jesus is able to say to us in our trouble, “Believe in God; believe also in me” and, “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 14:1; 16:33). We who believe in him have every reason to “be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). For an empty cross and empty tomb speak this to us:

  • In all our trouble, God makes known the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
  • He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
  • He will complete the good work he began in us despite how things look now (Philippians 1:6).
  • If we trust the Father in the worst, darkest, most horrible troubles we face, he will make us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37–39).
  • Every troubled tear we shed over the effects of the fall are kept in God’s bottle (Psalm 56:8) and will be wiped away forever (Revelation 21:4).

It is possible to give thanks with heavy hearts in the midst of trouble. Trusting the Father by looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), and remembering every promise is now “Yes” to us in him (2 Corinthians 1:20), will lighten our burden (Matthew 11:30). It will pour hope and joy into our hurting hearts, giving rise to faith-fueled, worshipful thanksgiving.

Will I Be Single Forever?

SOURCE:  Stephen Witmer/Desiring God

I was single all through my twenties, and I enjoyed it a lot of the time. When I wanted a particular food for dinner, I ate it. When I wanted to take a week to hike a one-hundred-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it. When I felt called to pursue graduate work in another country, I went. And there were other, less selfish benefits, including more time and energy for building deep friendships and fruitful ministry.

But, all in all, I found singleness pretty tough. There were seasons of terrible loneliness when I wondered if God would ever give me a lifelong companion. At times I was like a severed powerline, the voltage of unfulfilled longing causing me to thrash about in ways that hurt others. I was sometimes jealous of married friends. I did not always navigate singleness with grace, poise, deep faith, and steadfast joy. Instead, I blundered between enjoyment and regret, happiness and longing, purity and sin.

I wish someone had helped me understand, and then live, my singleness in the light of eternity. I think it would have helped me to enjoy a godlier, more productive, more contented life during those years.

A Stable Ground for Soaring Hope

Eternity changes everything, including our singleness. By “eternity” I mean the future new creation God describes in the Bible. This is a future beyond our wildest imaginings and most fervent hopes. It’s this present world renewed, restored, and remade into a perfect place with no more sin, suffering, brokenness, tears, pain, or death.

The new creation will be far better even than the original Eden, because 1) Jesus will be physically present there (Revelation 22:1) and 2) it will last forever, with its inhabitants never falling into sin — unlike Adam and Eve. In other words, the world’s perfect future will be better than its perfect past. Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

We’re imperfect people living in an imperfect world, but this perfect future becomes our future when we’re united to a perfect Savior through faith. We can then be completely assured that this future is ours. In the Bible, that firm assurance is called “hope.”

Christian hope is the confidence that an amazingly good future is securely ours, and this hope changes the way we view our present. It strengthens and equips us in every life situation, including singleness. It heightens our restlessness for the new creation, and that restlessness makes us more content.

To Grow More Content, Get More Restless

One of the feelings I often experienced as a single person was lack of contentment. Even some of my most enjoyable adventures and sweetest experiences were shot through with a longing to share them with someone else.

A robust longing for eternity helps us with our discontentment by increasing our restlessness. That sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not. The apostle Paul was a tremendously restless person, one who said he strained forward and yearned for God’s final future (Philippians 3:13–14). And yet he also said that he had learned the secret of contentment in any circumstance (Philippians 4:12). The two are intimately related after all.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

Your Marital Status in Heaven

The problem with this way of living is that it leads to perpetual discontentment. If God gives us a better job but we’re still seeing our job as bigger, more important, and more meaningful than the new creation, we’ll either sacrifice everything to excel at it, or be destroyed if we lose it.

If we’re single and all we can see is our longing for a spouse rather than eternity with Christ, we’ll load down a God-sent spouse with the crushing weight of needy expectation, or become a resentful or cynical or broken-hearted single. A discontented single person will become a discontented spouse and then a discontented parent . . . until eternity breaks in and moves to the center.

God is more concerned with a change in our perspective than a change in our marital status. If eternity is at the center, and a husband or wife or child fails us — or if we don’t have the husband, wife, or children we’re longing for — it will be painful but we’ll be okay, because we know a perfect eternity is still ours. There’s ballast in our boat, and it will hold us steady through the disappointments, missed opportunities, and tragedies of this life.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

Perhaps if you’re a single person, your identity as a “single” has moved to the center of how you think about yourself. But it appears from Jesus’s teaching that in eternity we’ll all be single. There won’t be marriage in the new creation. What will define us forever will not be our marital status, but our enjoyment of the perfect presence of Christ.

That means a single person who loves Jesus is much more like a married person who loves Jesus than like a single person who doesn’t know him. We’ll know Jesus forever and be loved by him for eternity. This is way more central to our identity than our marital status. Don’t think of yourself as unwanted by any prospective spouses. Know yourself as loved forever by Jesus.

It’s likely that for many (not all) singles, there will be moments and seasons of loneliness and longing — times when it feels awkward to be the only single person at the table or the party. That was certainly my experience. But knowing our God and his final future for us plus knowing ourselves in light of that future can produce a profound contentment in our present.

Anxiety: UNDER PRESSURE

SOURCE: Cameron Lawrence/InTouch Ministries

We might be people of faith, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to anxiety.

It’s a weekday morning, and the coffee shop fills quickly, a line snaking around tables from the counter to the door. The machines answer back to their handlers—hissing steam, grinding beans—in a kind of waking song. I watch patrons sip from the day’s first cup, souls once again easing into their bodies.

And yet, I am drinking decaf—an unpardonable sin, I realize—just as I have for a decade. Not as a demonstration of dietary conviction or some obscure religious observance, but because of how years ago caffeine became a destructive force in my life. No, let me try again: I gave up caffeine because it revealed a destructive force already latent within me—a propensity toward anxiety of the sort that overtakes the mind.

It started in the weeks leading up to my wedding and then intensified after the honeymoon. Beneath my usual calm demeanor, irrational thoughts were inexplicably taking over my interior life. It was as if I had been walking through the familiar landscape of my existence, when suddenly I discovered a solitary door in the middle of an open field. I walked through, and at first nothing seemed different. But then I sensed them—specters creeping among the tall grasses, rustling the high branches. The world of my mind had become populated with shadows of my hidden fears. I looked for an exit, but the door had disappeared.

I prayed. I read the Bible. I went to church and talked with my pastors. Still, the anxiety persisted, affecting my work, relationships, and faith in God.

After several months of this, my wife had an idea. “Why not try giving up caffeine?” I’d been drinking a lot of coffee, and it hadn’t occurred to me that the daily intake might be exacerbating my condition. As a solution, it seemed too simple, too small to matter. But what did I have to lose?

I cut out caffeine, and within a week something was different. My mind was becoming clearer. After two weeks, thought patterns that had possessed me were weakening. In a few months, I felt more myself than I had in a long, long time. Since then, I can’t say I’ve ever been quite the same, having by grace passed through terror and found what I didn’t know lived in me. In truth, it lives in me still, even if not in the same ways. I feel anxiety flare up from time to time, trying to intrude. Trying to push me out of my own life. And what I’ve learned is that I’m not alone.

Just the other day, I was having dinner with a friend, when he confessed that he’d been suffering from panic attacks. Work had been tough—tougher than ever—but the anxiety he was experiencing transcended typical job stress. This easy-going, happy guy had found himself crippled by fear that had come with a suddenness and severity that left him sobbing in the morning’s wee hours. Medication has been helping, but the fear is still there, lurking. And a few months ago, I was on a retreat with some fellow writers, only to discover that due to all manner of hardships, several of the group were taking pills of their own.

No, this isn’t about coffee. This isn’t about caffeine or whether I think you should consume it. This is about the simultaneous strength and fragility of the human mind, and how powerful it is in shaping our lives for better or worse. This is about the problem of anxiety we each face in our own way. This is a conversation about faith.

Yet I hesitate to write that last line, because far too many Christians have abused their brothers and sisters struggling with anxiety. “Just have more faith,” people say, not comprehending the complexity of fear. Faith is more than the mental assent to a tidy system of beliefs. It requires more than a list of affirmations we repeat to ourselves, as if mantras can overcome our deepest existential crises. These fears, these anxieties, often lurk beneath the veneers of our theological systems and churchly behavior. We can’t always identify them, but they’re shaping our lives, guiding our reactions and decisions, whether we realize it or not.

Faith is an encounter—sometimes with a presence, and sometimes with an absence. Underneath all our apprehensions is one fundamental fear: that there is no God, or that if there is one, He isn’t good—despite our biblical training or the inspiring testimonies we’ve heard. Despite our own mysterious experiences, even if intermittent, of Love Himself. Deep down, we are often still afraid. So what to do?

Praying, reading Scripture, confessing sin, attending services, speaking with professionals—and yes, even taking medication—can all be redemptive. And we should submit ourselves to wise counsel, whether pastoral or medical. But in the end, the ultimate solution must be an encounter with God Himself, an ongoing communion we struggle toward—not through works that any man should boast, but through a humble, repentant heart.

This is how we open our hearts and minds to Him: We call out from within our desperation, and say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” and wait for Him, who in due time will come shining in—liberating our plains and forests, rivers and oceans, of every haunting ghost.

The Savior’s Tears Shed for Yours

SOURCE:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

Once during morning devotions, I asked my children, “What are some verses in the Bible that give you hope?”

One of them squirmed, “I don’t know . . . ” Then a silly grin spread across his face. “Wait,” he said. “Jesus wept.”

“You are right,” I said. He was surprised. The shortest verse in all of Scripture — just two words, eleven characters — does give us great hope.

Jesus Wept

Jesus’s good friend Lazarus has died (John 11:14). Before his death, Jesus received word that Lazarus was seriously ill. Then he delayed going for two days. When he finally arrived, Lazarus’s sister Martha came to Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21–22).

Then Mary came to him and said the same thing. John writes, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept” (John 11:33–35).

Jesus delayed his journey on purpose. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:15). So why did he cry?

A Savior Affected by Our Grief

John Calvin says this about John 11:

[Jesus] gives proof that he has sympathy. For the cause of this feeling is, in my opinion, expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Christ saw Mary and the rest weeping yet I have no doubt that Christ contemplated something higher, namely, the general misery of the whole human race; for he knew well what had been enjoined on him by the Father, and why he was sent into the world, namely, to free us from all evils.

As he has actually done this, so he intended to show that he accomplished it with warmth and earnestness. Accordingly, when he is about to raise Lazarus, before granting deliverance or aid, by the groaning of his spirit, by a strong feeling of grief, and by tears, he shows that he is as much affected by our distresses as if he had endured them in his own person. (Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries)

John 11 isn’t the only passage that tells us about Jesus’s tears. Isaiah describes the Messiah as a man of sorrows: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). Hebrews tells us, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). In Matthew, Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).

He Will Wipe Away Every Tear

The fact that Jesus wept means that our Savior knows and understands our grief. He experienced the agony of this dark world firsthand. He was rejected, abused, abandoned, mocked, cursed, tempted, and scorned. As Hebrews 2:18 tells us, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Our Lord is also compassionate toward us. He cares about our sorrow. He hears our cries and listens to us when we call out to him (Psalm 116:1). He keeps track of all our tears: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8).

Because Jesus was perfect, the expressions of his grief — his tears — were also perfect. Our emotions bear the curse of sin but his did not. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And because Jesus’s perfect righteousness has now been credited to us, his perfect sorrows have become ours as well. Jesus’s sinless sorrows are redeeming even our sorrows.

In the story of Lazarus, we see a God who not only cares about the sorrows of his people, but a God who is also able to resurrect joy from the grave of despair — to bring life from death. The story of Lazarus points to the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection and ultimately to the final resurrection when all our tears will be wiped away forever. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

“Jesus wept.” These two words, though brief, are filled with great hope. Because Jesus wept, we know he understands and cares about our tears. Because Jesus wept, his perfect, sinless tears have become our own. And because Jesus wept, we have hope that one day, our tears will be no more.

Failure: This is not the time to give up and run from God

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dan Strickland

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:12-14 NLT

Many people begin the Christian life with excitement, expecting that everything will be different immediately! They think that they will not have any desire to walk in the negative patterns they used to enjoy … but that is just not the way it works.

Becoming a Christian means you are forgiven—not perfect.

Receiving Jesus is not a “quick fix” for old habits and their consequences. Change takes time, and we can’t rely on ourselves to make these changes. If we try to transform ourselves, we will always be disappointed. Transformation can only take place as we build our relationship with God by spending quality time with him praying and studying the Bible.

Are you a new Christian and still struggling with old habits and their consequences? Or maybe you have been a Christian a long time but things from your past seem to be pressing in on you.

Perhaps you have tried and tried to overcome, but nothing seems to work. You might feel like a failure. You’ve let yourself, others and God down time and time again

This is not the time to give up and run from God, ashamed and embarrassed.

Instead, run to him.

Ask for his forgiveness and his help. Follow the apostle Paul’s example. He knew he hadn’t achieved perfection, but he put the past behind and pressed on—focusing on becoming and doing all God had called him to. Learn from your past, leave it behind … and press on.

Father, I thank you for continuing to love me, even when I let you down. Forgive me for all those times. Help me to learn from past mistakes, but not to dwell on them. Help me to look ahead and to press on to become all you have designed me to be and to accomplish the purpose of my journey. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Completely Free! A Group Study of Romans 1-8
by Dan Strickland.

Is Trauma Terminal?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Matthew 11:28–30

The definition reflects devastation:

Trauma: An injury (as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent . . . a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from mental or emotional stress.

Like potatoes in a pressure cooker, we twenty-first century creatures understand the meaning of stress.

A week doesn’t pass without a few skirmishes with those “extrinsic agents” that beat upon our fragile frames. They may be as mild as making lunches for our kids before 7:30 in the morning (mild?) or as severe as a collision with another car . . . or another person.

Makes no difference.

The result is “trauma”—a two-bit word for nervous. You know, the bottom-line reason Valium remains a top seller. Our emotional wounds are often deep. They don’t hemorrhage like a stabbing victim’s, but they are just as real and just as painful . . . sometimes more.

Years ago, a stress test carried on by Dr. Thomas Holmes and his colleagues concluded that an accumulation of two hundred or more “life change units” in any year may mean more disruption—more trauma—than an individual can stand. On their scale, death of a spouse equals one hundred units, divorce represents seventy-three units . . . and Christmas equals twelve units! That helps explain the idea behind “something snapping” inside certain people when the final straw falls on them. Our capacity for trauma has its limits.

Joseph Bayly could certainly understand. He and his wife lost three of their children—one at eighteen days (after surgery); another at five years (leukemia); a third at eighteen years (sledding accident plus hemophilia). In my wildest imagination, I cannot fathom the depth of their loss. In the backwash of such deep trauma, the Bayly couple stood sometimes strong, sometimes weak, as they watched God place a period before the end of the sentence on three of their children’s lives. And their anguish was not relieved when well-meaning people offered shallow, simple answers amidst their grief.

Eyes that read these words might very well be near tears. You are trying to cope without hope. You are stretched dangerously close to the “200-unit” limit . . . and there’s no relief on the horizon. You’re bleeding and you’ve run out of bandages. You have moved from mild tension to advanced trauma.

Be careful! You are in the danger zone, emotionally. You’re a sitting duck, and the adversary is taking aim with both barrels loaded, hoping to open fire while you are vulnerable. Bam! “Run!” Boom! “Think suicide.”

Listen carefully! Jesus Christ opens the gate, gently looks at you and says:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
(Matthew 11:28–30 MSG)

Nothing complicated. No big fanfare, no trip to Mecca, no hypnotic trance, no fee, no special password. Just come. Meaning? Unload. Unhook the pack and drop it in His lap . . . now. Allow Him to take your stress as you take His rest. Does He know what trauma is all about? Remember, He’s the One whose sweat became like drops of blood in the agony of Gethsemane. If anybody understands trauma, He does. Completely.

His provision is profound, attainable, and right. He’s a master at turning devastation into restoration.

Look again at His invitation in Matthew 11:28–30, and accept it with all your heart.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

Be Yourself in Prayer

SOURCE:  Desiring God/Stephen Miller

Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.

I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.

You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.

1. Slow Down and Be Okay with Silence

There is no need to use filler language to take up every ounce of space in prayer, as if the Lord can’t handle the silence or doesn’t have time to listen. You don’t have to speed through like an auctioneer. I can’t imagine how I would react if someone came up to talk to me like, “Stephen Miller, just… just Stephen, we should just go to lunch together, Stephen Miller. Just let’s just go grab… just a burger, Stephen. Stephen, I know you like a good burger from time to time, Stephen Miller. Stephen, just then we could just grab a frozen custard, Stephen Miller.” I know that I am not God, but in my flesh, I might be too weirded out to get a burger with that guy. If we would naturally react to someone talking to us that way, why do we feel the need to speak that way to God? He knows our hearts. Slow down. Be okay with pauses. Perhaps God wants to speak to you in the silence.

2. Pray to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

God is Trinity. One God, three distinct persons, each person fully God. It is truly a great mystery, and I don’t know that we will ever understand it this side of Heaven. Yet each person within the Trinity is distinct. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit. We rightly relate to God as a Trinity, adoring and thanking and pleading with Father, Son, and Spirit in our prayers. Yet while doing this, it can be easy to get confused and begin to thank the Father for dying on the cross and so on and so forth.

While God knows what we mean and sees past our broken prayers, this has got to confuse people who are listening to our prayers, trying to pray along in agreement. When you pray, consider the person of the Trinity to whom you are praying. The Father sends the Son to be the Savior of the world. The Son came obediently, died in our place, rose from the dead, then sent his Spirit to convict of sin, to convince of truth, and to equip and empower us. So as we pray, pray with that in mind.

3. Use Normal Language

My great Grandpa was a firm believer that the only inspired word of Scripture was the King James Version. When he quoted scripture (and he could quote most of the Bible I think), it was always KJV. While he was one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life, it was odd to me when he began to pray out loud, because he prayed in old English. “Our Gracious Heavenly Father, Thou hast bestowed upon us this bountiful feast and the glory belongest to Thou and Thou alone. Wouldst Thou blesseth this meal by Thine own good pleasure…” Then, once he said amen, he would resume speaking in modern language. When you pray, there is no need to speak like someone from a bygone era in order to sound more spiritual or reverent. Use normal language, and pray like yourself.

4. Use Your Normal Voice

We have all heard the hyped-up emotional vocal inflections of a man trying to sell a prayer the way a voice-over actor sells a product. He may talk like Ron Burgundy in real life, but as soon as he begins praying, his voice takes on a reflective Enrique Iglesias whisper that sounds a bit like being on the verge of tears while trying to woo someone into making an emotional decision. We should pray with all of our emotions and affections, but it must be sincere and authentic. If you’re moved, be moved, but be real about it. No need to alter your voice or manufacture emotion. God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.

5. Keep It Short and Simple

Our prayers can be simple and still faith-filled. I often say that God can use a three-minute worship song as much as a nine-minute worship song. The same is true of prayer. God won’t hear us any more because of our long-windedness. Prayer isn’t a love bank where many words equal a more substantive deposit. Our prayers don’t have to be long or eloquent. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them a short prayer that exemplified the vertical (glorifying God) and the horizontal (edifying others) aspects of prayer. When praying with others, aim to build them up with short, thoughtful prayers, and if you feel the need to pray longer, go to God “in secret” (Matthew 6:6).

It’s never too late to be yourself. God is looking for a relationship with us, not whomever it is that we are trying to act like when we come to him. Prayer starts with our adoption in Christ. That’s why Jesus taught us to begin with God as “Our Father.” There is an intimate reverence there — a humble familiarity.

Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.

Jesus’ Compassion For Me Is “ALWAYS”

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Resting in the Current Compassion of Jesus

     And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Matt. 9:35-36

Dear Lord Jesus, there are so many reasons to love you—so many reasons to risk being completely honest and vulnerable with you. Today I’m particularly thankful for your compassion.

When you looked at crowds of harassed and helpless people, you didn’t ignore them; you weren’t irritated with them; and your body language never shamed them. Sympathy beat within your breast; kindness overflowed. I praise and bless you, for having this same compassion for each of us today.

You don’t despise our brokenness and my weakness. I believe this; I would believe it even more. Free me from my residual posing and pretending, Lord Jesus. There is no more welcoming place than the gospel. There is no safer haven than your love. There is no greater, richer, more certain acceptance that what we have in you.

If your kindness leads me to repentance, then your compassion leads me to the freedom of vulnerability. So here I am… I wish I could speed up my sanctification, Lord Jesus; I wish I was already over certain things; I wish old wounds still didn’t carry present power; I wish I wasn’t triggered to anger, insecurity and fear by certain people.

I wish I were freer to be in the moment, without concerns for the next thing and the next. I wish I were more spontaneous, relaxed and welcoming of strangers… This really isn’t a “wish list” as much as it’s the cry of my heart for the gospel to do its work in my life, Lord Jesus.

I am so thankful that one-Day we will be as loving and as lovely as you. I am so thankful that the Father will complete the good work he has begun in each of his children. You are the Good Shepherd, and I trust, love and adore you. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and healing name.

Healing: Jesus Knocks and Waits

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

Invite Him In

There is a famous passage of Scripture which many people have heard in the context of an invitation to know Christ as Savior. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Rev 3:20).

He does not force himself upon us. He knocks, and waits for us to ask him in.

There is an initial step, the first step of this which we call salvation. We hear Christ knocking and we open our hearts to him as Savior. It is the first turning.

But the principle of this “knocking and waiting for permission to come in” remains true well into our Christian life.

You see, we all pretty much handle our brokenness in the same way – we mishandle it. It hurts too much to go there. So we shut the door to that room in our heart and we throw away the key – much like Lord Craven locks the Secret Garden upon the death of his wife, and buries the key.

But that does not bring healing. Not at all.

It might bring relief – for awhile. But never healing. Usually it orphans the little girl in that room, leaves her to fend for herself.

The best thing we can do is to let Jesus come in, open the door and invite him in to find us in those hurting places.

It might come as a surprise that Christ asks our permission to come in and heal, but he is kind, and the door is shut from the inside, and healing never comes against our will. In order to experience his healing we must also give him permission to come in to the places we have so long shut to anyone. Will you let me heal you?

He knocks through our loneliness.

He knocks through our sorrows.

He knocks through events that feel too close to what happened to us when we were young – a betrayal, a rejection, a word is spoken, a relationship is lost.

He knocks through many things, waiting for us to give him permission to enter in.

————————————————————————————————————————————-
Taken from:  (Captivating , 99-100)

Cutting: Going For Blood

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

“…I’m lost. I am distraught. Last night I couldn’t help it—I needed to see blood, so I scratched myself with my razor. Just a tiny bit of blood. A tiny scratch….”

I have a soft spot for women who cut.

They know they need help, though it is hard to ask for it.

The statements above are from the journal of a friend who tries to resist cutting herself. She often succeeds, sometimes fails.

Cutting herself isn’t the only way that she calms down. She burns herself too. Cigarette lighters, irons, they all work. They temporarily stop the chaos within, but what stops the insanity best—is blood.

These strategies substitute a lesser pain for a greater pain, a physical pain for a psychological pain. And if cutting and burning are a lesser pain, then the greater pain must be great indeed. One woman would hit herself in the face as a way to focus her mind so she would not be haunted by past shame.

But why blood?

For most ancient cultures, life itself was thought to be in the blood (Lev. 17:14), and their sacrificial systems usually included it. They shed blood to appease the gods and drank it to gain their power. There is something about humanity that carries an awareness of the importance of blood and its implications for our relationship with God. The Torah, of course, gives God’s true direction for sacrifices, and the result is a lot of blood.

So spilling blood makes sense at some level, it seems to offer appeasement. This woman who cuts is using it to quiet the near-audible voices she hears in her head. She does not know whether they are her own, Satan’s, someone else’s, or a chorus of them all—but they all want blood. They speak of shame from sexual violation, rejection by a parent, and being the family scapegoat. Blood will cover the shame and do penance for the guilt, for a little while. Blood leads to peace, temporarily. But after a day or two the blood-lust comes again. It is a futile cycle.

She is beginning to see it more clearly. Her cutting is done in a temple where she is priest and her cultic system is a lie, and she is getting sick of it. So we focus on the Lamb of God whose blood takes away the sin and shame of the world (John 1:29).  We study Hebrews. We see the high priest who offered one sacrifice for all time and then he retired from his sacrificial work—he sat at the right hand of the Father—because his work was done (Heb. 10:10-12). She is learning to rest in his rest.

She has recently been able to go ten days without any blood or even anything self-injurious, and, like an addict who has a little distance from her substance, she was clearer. She started musing about Jesus, who asks her to join him and reason things through (Isa. 1:18). She did that, and heard his irresistible gospel-logic that he cleanses those who come to him. She spoke about the realities of adoption and lavish grace (Eph. 1), and she believed it too. They seemed to her to be small steps, which they were. Yet they are also unabashed evidences of the Spirit who empowers those who are weak.

Does FEAR Control Your Life?

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet Lerner

“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:17-18 NLT

Daily the media reports violence and abuse, especially in the home … child neglect, sexual violence, rape, abandonment, and on and on. Victims of abuse continue suffering pain long after the actual abuse has ended. Memories haunt them. They still feel the shame, fear, anger and grief brought about by painful events of the past.

Are you or someone you love a surviving victim of abuse? If so, you may be allowing fear to rule in your life. The fear you experienced when you were being abused has become a fear of everyday life. Fear of committing to a relationship. Fear of rejection. Fear of failure. Fear of intimacy.

These feelings of fear often cause victims to put up barriers to God and to relationships with other people. Fear is an extremely powerful emotion that we don’t know how to control. It attacks our ability to trust. It compromises our ability to relax in relationships. Fear of becoming vulnerable, of being betrayed by others, or even by God.

One of the first steps to overcoming fear and tearing down the barriers it has built between you and others is to ask God’s forgiveness for your failure to trust him. This will open the door for you to begin building a relationship with him. To know him better by spending time talking to him and reading about him in the Bible. Only then can you begin to know how much he loves you. Only then can you grow to understand his character. With that understanding you will know that you can trust him, and he will help you build closer relationships with those around you.

Children reared by an abusive or neglectful father often have an incorrect view of God, picturing him like their earthly father. The good news is that our Heavenly Father is perfect and fair. Perfect love drives out fear. God’s love is perfect. And he wants to set you free.

Father, forgive me for not trusting you as I should. I believe that you love me. I believe that Jesus died for me. I want to be your child. Help me to trust you and your perfect love … and then to be able to overcome the fear that has ruled my life. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

The Deceitfulness of Self-Hatred

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

I was speaking at a large women’s event in Texas. During the break, a woman asked if she could speak with me.

“I need to know if there is hope for me,” she asked.  “I’m a narcissist and from what I’ve read on-line, there is little hope for me to ever get better.”

Curious, I asked her a few more questions about what led her to think she was a narcissist.  She said, “I’m selfish and self-centered.”

“Give me a few examples of what you mean,” I asked, wanting to see where she was going.

“I don’t want to babysit my grandchildren like my daughter wants me to,” she said.  “I don’t always want to put other people’s needs first. I try, but I end up feeling resentful.”

By now tears were streaming down her face and it was obvious she was distressed exposing her very human character flaws.

This woman’s problem wasn’t excessive self-love and desire for admiration (which narcissists never notice about themselves anyway), but rather destructive shame and self-hatred. In our brief conversation I learned that she lived by an internal script that dictated that she should be better than she was. She failed to live up to her idealized image of herself as a selfless person and after numerous attempts at change, she felt hopeless.

People who are perfectionists may not demand perfection in every area of their lives and often have a hard time admitting that they think they should be perfect, but deep down that’s what they crave. And when they fail to live up to their own idealized standards, they grieve deeply. Their internal shame, self-hatred, and self-reproach can be lethal.

These individuals rarely feel happy because although they might achieve a moment of perfection, it’s entirely unsustainable. Eventually they mess up, can’t do something, aren’t all-knowing, fail, make a mistake, or put their own needs or desires ahead of someone else’s.

This woman was not my client and we weren’t in a session, but I had something to offer her in that moment that provided a real solution to her pain. I had the privilege to show this hurting woman a glimpse of what God is like and surprise her by the good news of the gospel of Christ.

He is the answer to this woman’s pain because he gives her what she cannot give herself. Real forgiveness, radical acceptance, grace, peace, hope, love, and true truth.

What I said to that woman at the conference was something similar to what Jesus said to the rich young ruler who asked if he was good enough to inherit eternal life. (See Luke 18:18-27 for the story).

I pulled her to the side, wrapped my arms around her and whispered, “You could never do enough, love enough, give enough, or be selfless enough to earn God’s forgiveness or his love. It’s not up to you. It is a gift. Now go, and thank and love the giver.”

Later on in the day she caught my eye and her countenance was transformed. She believed God and found hope.

Get Real (with Yourself & with God)

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

How many times have we heard expressions like this, “Get Real”? How many times have we said them to ourselves? How many times have we silently thought them when our children made grandiose statements or shared impossible dreams?

At times in the past, it was hard for me to see who I really was and actually get real with myself. Why is this so hard for us to do? Why is it so hard to face ourselves?

I know one good reason … the enemy, Satan, likes it this way.

He tries to plant seeds of deception, pain, and sinfulness in our minds … lenses of self-hatred instead of acceptance of God’s love. His corrupt world system pushes our emotional buttons and interferes with our ability to interpret God’s omniscient and loving sovereignty accurately.

Another factor hindering us is that it’s painful to see who we really are. It was for me.

It was a lot easier to think I was important, talented, bright, nice, blah, blah, blah … than to see my insecurities, inadequacies, mistakes, and needs. It’s even harder to face the major uphill battles and do the work necessary to overcome our issues. This is where our dysfunctional habits, vices, and addictions swoop in to soothe our discomfort and pain. The best way to face ourselves … to be real with ourselves … is to remember that as Christians, we are constantly clothed in Jesus’ robe of righteousness.

God knows exactly what sins, weaknesses, and blemishes you try to hide underneath the faultless garment of salvation that covers and erases all. And He rejoices over you with singing … just imagine that … God singing over you!

Today, know that your Lord longs for you to trust Him enough to be fully yourself with Him. Being real with your God allows Him to bring out the very best in you. When you are real, He can work on your weaknesses. Pray about one thing you have never really opened up to Him. Let light into that area of your life. This pushes the darkness out. And then real healing and transformation can occur. Whether you continue the cover up and hide your weaknesses from  yourself and God, or you get real and allow His healing Light in to those deep places is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I want to grow the gifts that You planted in my soul. I want to be real with You, Lord. But this is a painful experience for me because first I have to be real with myself. It seems easier for me to ignore how I’m feeling rather than face my misery head on. I pray, Father, that You help me stop numbing my discomfort and negative feelings with my sinful diversions. Give me the courage, Father, to face myself so that I can be real with You. Thank You, Father. I pray in the name of the One who died so I could be real in Your presence, Jesus Christ – AMEN!


I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…

Isaiah 61:10

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27

Grasp My Hand, Lord

SOURCE:  Tim Clinton/American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Your Hand in His

“Don’t trust to hold God’s hand; let Him hold yours. Let Him do the holding, and you the trusting.”  (Hammer William Webb-Peploe)

When my son Zach was small, he loved for me to hold his hand. Often it would simply be out of the sheer joy of having his dad close to him. He would wrap his little chubby hand around my finger, and away we would go. Other times, when I sensed that I needed to hold on to him, I would wrap my hand all the way around his hand and wrist, and squeeze tight. Love… joy… security… safety — all wrapped up in his hand in mine.

I love the picture illustrated by Isaiah – “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, (insert your name there) whose right hand I have grasped” (Isaiah 45:1 ESV).

The Hebrew word for grasped, “Chazaq” literally means “to be bound fast, both in the significance of adhesion and strength” (Strong’s Concordance). God was saying that when your hand is in His, a strong, fast, bond is formed between the two.

As our children grow into those teen years, things change. Our kids become increasingly independent, and socially they might be a little embarrassed to be seen walking hand-in-hand with dad.

Sadly, we often become so independent in our Christian journey that, for any number of reasons, we don’t let our Heavenly Father hold our hand. More often than not, I believe it is a part of what John was talking about when he writes to the Church in Ephesus, “…you have abandoned the love that you had at first” (Revelation 2:4 ESV). This Church had been “enduring patiently… bearing up for His name… not growing weary” (Revelation 2:3 ESV), but even after all of those “good works”, God was more interested in whether or not they loved Him — whether they were still dependent on Him. Perhaps they simply needed to slow down and let God take them by the hand.

When life is good, that’s a great time to wrap your hand around your Heavenly Father’s finger and enjoy the journey. When life is tough… when the wheels are coming off… that’s the time to reflect on these verses, and let His strong, mighty hand grasp your hand:

“(For they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand…)” 1 Kings 8:42 ESV “They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and your strong hand.” Nehemiah 1:10 ESV “You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand…” Psalm 89:13 ESV

Don’t let the cares of the world rob you of your dependence on Him, or your strength in Him.

In the good times, hold His hand. In the hard times, let Him grasp your hand.

It just might turn your life around.

Not Overly Sinful or Self-Righteous –> But A Hybrid of Both

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/Gospel Coalition

A Prayer about a Third Kind of Luke 15 Son–a Hybrid

     And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Dear heavenly Father . . .

Thankfully, I not beginning this day in a far away country, derelict and destitute, like the younger brother in the story of the prodigal son(s). Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not pained with shame for squandering an inheritance; and neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. And, thankfully as well, neither am I an angry, jaded, mean-spirited legalist—who finds pleasure in judging others—even you.

I’m sitting in a comfortable chair, sipping a fresh cup of coffee, surrounded by more than my share of creature comforts. And yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children. I kind of feel like a Luke 15-third-son right now—kind of a hybrid of the two brothers. I’m not struggling with the extremes of either of your boys in Luke 15—though I carry both of their sinful ways in my heart.

I’m not acting out or medicating in destructive “fleshy” ways presently; and I’m not currently defaulting to my inner-Pharisee. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the wonderful music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing this very moment.

So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that I’ll always find you filled with compassion for me—even when my feelings are not fully engaged with you. As I saunter toward you today, you’re always running towards me in Jesus. As glad as I am to see you, you’re thrilled to see me.

When I’m not as inclined to lift my arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most predictable element in my day. You don’t just, nonchalantly, put your hand on my shoulder; you throw your arms around me in the gospel and hold tight—with tenderness, strength and affection. Indeed, though my love for you wavers, you will shower me with multiple kisses all day long; for you love your children with an irrepressible, everlasting, unwavering love. It’s only because of the finished work of the quintessential Son—Jesus, that you can be so shockingly extravagant, and over-the-top generous with your love.

Because this is the gospel that you’ve poured into my soul, I’ll seek to live to your glory today, neither by sight nor by my feelings, but by the faith you’ve given me to trust and love you. It’s not my grasp of you but your grasp of me in the gospel that matters the most. It’s not the enjoyment of my peace with you but the assurance that you are at peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. Hallelujah, a zillion, zillion times over!!!

So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

Do I Belong Anywhere???

SOURCE:  adapted from an article by LIVING FREE

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” [Ephesians 1:5 NLT]

When we received Jesus, we became a member of God’s family!

God is our Father.

Jesus is not only our Savior, He is also our brother (Hebrews 2:11-12).

We are a member of the family of believers.

We belong!

A true sense of belonging comes from not only knowing that we belong to God but also from belonging to each other. Many of Paul’s letters in the New Testament offer guidance for successful relationships within this worldwide family. For example, he said, “Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you (Colossians 3:12-13 NLT).

Many scriptures reflect us as belonging and being accepted. Here are just a few:

  • I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
  • I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)
  • I am united with the Lord, and I am one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:17)
  • I have been bought with a price. I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • We belong to God’s family. (Ephesians 2:19)

Do you ever feel lonely? It is possible to feel lonely even when we are surrounded by people. But if you will look at the mirror of God’s Word, you will see clearly that you belong to God–and to His family. God will always love you and will always be your perfect Father. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.

In the family of believers, as in any family, there will be conflicts and offenses. But we will always be family. We sometimes need to be reminded by looking in the mirror of God’s Word that we will always belong to one another and need to forgive and love.

You belong to God. He has adopted you into His family. Jesus is your Savior, your friend–and your brother. You belong!

Lord, thank you for reassuring me that I am not alone. I belong! I am your child. And I am in your family. Jesus is not only my Savior and my friend, but my brother. Help me to be faithful to you–and to all my family. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia
 by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

Holiness or Hardness Toward God?

SOURCE: Oswald Chambers

He . . . wondered that there was no intercessor . . .

Isaiah 59:16

The reason many of us stop praying and become hard toward God is that we only have an emotional interest in prayer.

It sounds good to say that we pray, and we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial— that our minds are quieted and our souls are uplifted when we pray. But Isaiah implied in this verse that God is amazed at such thoughts about prayer.

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other.

Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”?

This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?

Do you find yourself thinking that there is no one interceding properly? Then be that person yourself. Be a person who worships God and lives in a holy relationship with Him. Get involved in the real work of intercession, remembering that it truly is work-work that demands all your energy, but work which has no hidden pitfalls. Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.

Just When I Think God Isn’t There — HE IS !!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

A Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. — Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough, the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this.

Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (19:4 ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit, it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

How Should We Respond to Those Struggling With Homosexuality?

SOURCE:  RICHIE HUGHES/Charisma Magazine

When my brother—a fifth-generation preacher’s son—came out of the closet, I encountered one of the church’s biggest dilemmas of our time: How should we
respond to those who struggle with homosexuality?

The day was supposed to be the greatest of my life. I was 29, getting married and had arrived at a local eatery to meet my brother, Eddie, and ask him to be my best man. I couldn’t wait to see his reaction when I invited him to be the most important person in my wedding other than my incredible bride-to-be.

His reply changed my life forever. Thankfully he didn’t decline with a “No.” But neither was his answer a hearty, “Oh, yeah! Congratulations, bro!” Instead, my only brother’s reply was a tearful, “Richie … I’m gay.”

What? That definitely wasn’t the response I expected. My thoughts raced: That’s simply not possible! No way! How could a family like ours, so deeply rooted in church, have a member who isn’t following suit, who isn’t living the same lifestyle we’ve always lived?

You see, I’m a fifth-generation ordained minister. In my family, leading churches and doing ministry is a part of our heritage. But in a split second, one of the biggest issues of our time had hit home (literally) for my family and me. This person—my brother—became what many other Christians thought of as our dirty little secret.

Looking back to that moment 10 years ago, it’s easy to see that a lot has changed in the way society views homosexuality. States have legalized gay marriage. It seems that in every election this issue is on the ballot in California and other states, and probably will be until same-sex marriage is fully legalized.

But a decade ago, things were different. Through his series of poor choices, Eddie eventually contracted AIDS. When I learned about his condition, I was confident there would be a medical solution.

This is the 21st century, I thought. Unlike 20 or so years ago, there are medications that help control the virus now. My brother can live a productive life, and all should be great. Right?

It didn’t happen that way for my family.

A Dream Comes True

Fortunately, Eddie was welcomed into the L.A. Dream Center. Matthew Barnett, the center’s pastor, and his team ministered to him in a way he had never seen before. The Dream Center staff loved him, celebrated his creativity and didn’t judge him. My brother experienced the love of Jesus and, as a result, accepted His grace and forgiveness.

I’ll never forget his phone calls. He’d say: “Richie, God is so awesome. He doesn’t care what I’ve done. He loves me just the way I am.”

You see, it took a church—a group of Christians who loved Eddie just the way he was—to reach him for Jesus. The Dream Center team did not tell him: “Clean yourself up. Stop doing this and never say that or go there again, and we might let you come to our church.”

No, they said: “Come as you are. You are welcomed, loved and celebrated here.” My brother saw Christ in the people of that church. But I don’t think he would have seen Him at every church. (Would he have seen Him at yours?)

Church Attitudes 

Because my family had never discussed AIDS or thought it would touch us directly, and because I’d never been part of a small group at church where it was addressed, I was totally unequipped to deal with it.

How about you? Would you be ready for it? How about your church? Is homosexuality discussed openly? Most churches overlook it or ignore it. Worse, they are afraid to make an effort to understand how we should love others as God has commanded.

Wouldn’t God want us to pursue the gay community like we would any other people group? Wouldn’t He want us to go after them for Jesus with the same tenacity we pursue the family units we perceive are perfectly intact and capable of raising our churches’ monthly giving?

We should lead the way in welcoming gay attendees into the faith. We should assist them in their journey with God and in pursuing Him more deeply.

During my time as the executive pastor of Free Chapel in Orange Co., Calif., I vividly remember the debates and friction caused by Proposition 8 (the state’s same-sex marriage amendment). Tension in and out of the churches in California was at an all-time high.

Our strategy at Free Chapel for diffusing the tension was to invite and welcome homosexuals into our church body. Many ministries joined together and strategized on how to reach out to this community in love, while others regretfully chose the other path of exclusion.

This issue and so many others can be summed up like this: Until something attacks your family, it isn’t likely to be at the forefront of your concerns. But when it does, then it becomes real in your life, and your opinion about it changes.

How Did Our Story End?

My family lived through this HIV attack on my brother. We watched an incredibly talented and intelligent young man lose the physical battle. My brother passed away as a result of HIV at age 28.

My perspective toward the gay community was changed by my undying love for my brother. His life and struggles taught me to love in ways I never knew before.

Do I have any doubt about his eternity? No. One choice secured his eternity in Christ and removed past transgressions, just like it has for me—the guy who has just written a Christian inspirational book, who blogs and who stands in the pulpit of a great church on Sundays.

God doesn’t play favorites, and we can’t earn His favor with our good deeds. Since God is “no respecter of persons” (see Acts 10:34-35), my brother and I will one day reunite with my sister, who also passed away at much too early an age. My brother was gloriously saved, and through his life we’ve learned more about the Father’s love.

I have so much respect for the way Eddie lived his final months just waiting to meet his Savior face to face. He lived in almost total seclusion his last few months. It was his way of resisting the temptations that were on the other side of his apartment door. His flesh wasn’t strong enough to be out in public without wanting to participate in some of the things that took his life, so he stayed indoors and protected his eternity. How many of us could do the same to avoid our area of temptation?

What We Must Do

Chances are, you or someone close to you has a loved one who is living a homosexual life. God wants you to love them unconditionally. Here are three simple ways we all can do this.

1. Show them Jesus. Please love them, welcome them and minister to them. A church and its people “loved” my brother back into a relationship with Jesus that ultimately secured his destiny into heaven!

2. Get real about sin. Let’s realize that we all have a natural inclination to certain things that challenge our walk with God. On the sin scale, is homosexual fornication different than heterosexual fornication? No. Yet do we condone heterosexual fornication more readily than homosexual fornication? I would say most of us do. Sin is sin, wrong is wrong, and any sin breaks God’s heart.

3. Pour on the grace. Make no mistake; we are to follow the Bible in its entirety. The instruction manual is clear, and we are to resist all temptations. But we all fall from time to time (see 1 John 2:1-2). Even though Peter denied Christ three times (and yes, he walked on water with Jesus), he was not disqualified from a wonderful purpose. It was Peter who was used to preach on the day of Pentecost. God gave him a place to fit in.

My plea to the body of Christ is before you judge or form an opinion, before you shun or disqualify one of God’s own children, think about this: Where would this person fit in to Jesus’ group?

I’ve served as a church leader at many churches and heard every reason for why “We can’t let this or that happen, pastor!” But I know this as Eddie’s brother: If we had created a place for him to serve, to use his gifts and talents, and to be celebrated, he might still be with us today. Just maybe part of God’s plan for my brother was to open our eyes to his dilemma.

When looking at the gay and lesbian community, there are many factors that churches and organizations should research and understand. But when it’s all said and done, I hope our conclusion is one of love, compassion and an attempt to show Jesus to any and all who are outside the body of Christ, for any reason.

We must go after the Eddies of the world for Jesus. In doing so I believe we can make a difference to a community of people—and make them God’s people.


Richie Hughes is an agent/manager for authors and music artists, and an in-demand speaker for churches and businesses. He is the former executive pastor of Free Chapel church, pastored by Jentezen Franklin. His latest book, Start Here, Go Anywhere, released in August. For more information, visit richiehughes.org.

When Jesus Makes You Wait in Pain

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

The reason there was a “Palm Sunday” was because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 12:17–18). It was perhaps the most powerful, hope-giving miracle Jesus ever performed during his pre-cross ministry; the capstone sign of who he was (John 5:21–25).

That’s why the Apostle John wrote, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5–6).

The word “so” connecting those two sentences is stunning. The most loving thing Jesus could do at that moment was to let Lazarus die. But it didn’t look or feel like love to Martha.


“Martha, the Teacher has come. He’s near the village.”

Martha’s emotions collided. Just hearing that Jesus was near resuscitated hope in her soul — the same hope she had felt the day she sent word for him to come.

But it was quickly smothered with grief and disappointment. Lazarus had died four days earlier. She had prayed desperately that Jesus would come in time. God had not answered her prayers. What could Jesus do now?

And yet… if anyone could do something, Jesus could. He had the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Martha hurried out.

When she saw Jesus, she could not restrain her grief and love. She collapsed at his feet and sobbed, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus laid his hand on her head.

He had come to Bethany to destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8) in Lazarus. He had come to give death a taste of its coming final defeat (1 Corinthians 15:26). He had come to show that now was the time when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who heard would live (John 5:25).

Martha did not know all this. Neither did she know that what was about to happen would hasten Jesus’ own death—a death that would purchase her resurrection and both of Lazarus’s. She didn’t know how this weighed on him, how great was his distress until it was accomplished (Luke 12:50).

But Jesus’ wordless kindness soothed her.

When Martha’s sorrowful convulsion had passed she said, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Jesus gently lifted Martha’s eyes and looked at her with affectionate intensity. “Your brother will rise again.”

His living words revived her hope. Could he mean…? No. She dared not let herself hope in that way. Not after four days.

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Yes. Lazarus would rise again on the last day. Martha had no idea how deeply Jesus longed for that day. But Jesus meant more than that.

He replied, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The power with which Jesus spoke caused faith to swell in Martha’s soul. She wasn’t sure what this all meant, but as he spoke it was as if death itself was being swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15:54). No one ever spoke like this man (John 7:46).

She answered, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”


We know how this story from John chapter eleven ends. But in the horrible days of Lazarus’s agonizing illness and in the dark misery of the days following his death, Martha did not know what God was doing. He seemed silent and unresponsive. Jesus didn’t come. It’s likely that she knew word had reached him. She was confused, disappointed, and overwhelmed with grief.

And yet, Jesus delayed precisely because he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. He knew that Lazarus’s death and resurrection would give maximum glory to God and his friends would all experience maximum joy in that glory. It would make all their suffering seem light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).

When Jesus makes a trusting saint wait in pain, his reasons are only love. God only ordains his child’s deep disappointment and profound suffering in order to give him or her far greater joy in the glory he is preparing to reveal (Romans 8:18).

Before we know what Jesus is doing, circumstances can look all wrong. And we are tempted to interpret God’s apparent inaction as unloving, when in fact God is loving us in the most profound way he possibly can.

So in your anguish of soul, hear Jesus ask with strong affection, “Do you believe this?”


Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of the forthcoming book Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith (April 30, 2013)

A True FRIEND Even In Death

SOURCE:  J. C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“The Friend of sinners”

“We should notice how tenderly Christ speaks of the death of believers. He announces the fact of Lazarus being dead in language of singular beauty and gentleness: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’ Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love.

He is thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. He has an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over his interests.

The world may despise him, but he has no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast him out, but Christ having once taken him up will never let him go. He is the ‘friend of Christ’ even after he is dead!

The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the sorest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

The death of true Christians is ‘sleep,’ and not annihilation. It is a solemn and miraculous change, no doubt, but not a change to be regarded with alarm. They have nothing to fear for their souls in the change, for their sins are washed away in Christ’s blood.

The sharpest sting of death is the sense of unpardoned sin. Christians have nothing to fear for their bodies in the change; they will rise again by and by, refreshed and renewed, after the image of the Lord. The grave itself is a conquered enemy. It must render back its tenants safe and sound, the very moment that Christ calls for them at the last day.

Let us remember these things when those whom we love fall asleep in Christ, or when we ourselves receive our notice to quit this world. Let us call to mind, in such an hour, that our great Friend takes thought for our bodies as well as for our souls, and that He will not allow one hair of our heads to perish.

Let us never forget that the grave is the place where the Lord Himself lay, and that as He rose again triumphant from that cold bed, so also shall all His people.

To a mere worldly man death must needs be a terrible thing; but he that has Christian faith may boldly say, as he lays down life, ‘I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is Thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety.'”

[–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John, Vol. 2 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1869/2012), 21. Ryle is commenting on John 11:7-16.]

Whose “Whisper” Are You Listening To?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

The Sound of a Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. -Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this. Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (1 Kings 19:4ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

Bulimia: The New Normal

SOURCE: Ed Welch/CCEF

Bulimia is the new normal.

The thin and wealthy specialize in it, but you can be sure that it is a cornerstone of any culture in which the preferred body type is thinner than is actually possible on a normal diet.  You’ll find it in any culture that is obsessed with looking younger or where everyone is looking for that elusive weight-loss secret.

True story: parents protested when a youth group leader began talking about eating disorders. Why? They were concerned that their daughters would gain weight.

It begins with a desire to be thinner. Once purging is discovered, young women talk about it as if it were their best friend, or their narcotic addiction. “The feeling I got afterward was amazing!” Then they discover other benefits, most notably a sense that they can, finally, be in control of something. And don’t you dare stand between them and the object of their affection!

Two questions to those who practice it.

First, if you have any interest in God, does the secretive essence of this behavior concern you? Secrets separate relationships. They separate friends and spouses, and become a private place in which you hide from God.

Second, has it improved your life? The answer to that is easy: no. But you say: “So what? It works for me.” Perhaps you feel as though nothing will improve your life so you might as well be thin while you go through the drudgery and misery.

Consider this from another angle.

If you are a near-daily practitioner of purging, you are saying much more than “I want to be thin.” The word control is almost always a part of bulimic vocabulary. You have been controlled or dependent on the whims of people who treated you poorly, and you are sick of it. You live with incessant self-loathing and suicidal hopelessness and bulimia gives you some sense of control over this darkness. Its benefits, however, are ephemeral and fleeting.

Human beings were intended to turn to their Maker and Father when life is hard. Left to our own devices, life just gets more out-of-control. Think of yourself as a child. It is right and good for a child to run to a parent when life is overwhelming. God knows your secrets. He knows what you need.

If this sounds too familiar and you don’t know how to even begin leaving it behind, go to the psalms and borrow some of those words. God will surprise you. He is not like those who have hurt, criticized or rejected you. To the contrary, you are the one who has shunned him, yet he keeps knocking on the door and pursuing you (Rev. 3:20).

A Very Present HELP

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Ps 46:1 ESV)

A help that is not present when we need it is of small value. The anchor which is left at home is of no use to the seaman in the hour of storm; the money which he used to have is of no worth to the debtor when a writ is out against him.

Very few earthly helps could be called ‘very present’: they are usually far in the seeking, far in the using, and farther still when once used.

But as for the Lord our God, He is present when we seek Him, present when we need Him, and present when we have already enjoyed His aid.

He is more than ‘present,’ He is very present. More present than the nearest friend can be, for He is in us in our trouble; more present than we are to ourselves, for sometimes we lack presence of mind.

He is always present, effectually present, sympathetically present, altogether present. He is present now if this is a gloomy season.

Let us rest ourselves upon Him. He is our refuge, let us hide in Him; He is our strength, let us array ourselves with Him; He is our help, let us lean upon Him; He is our very present help, let us repose in Him now.

We need not have a moment’s care or an instant’s fear. ‘The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.'”

–Charles Spurgeon in Chequebook of the Bank of Faith.

Hanging Out With God Right Now

Source:  Jan Johnson

This Present Moment

Today – even this moment – may be the day “the Lord has made” (Ps 118:24), but a lot of us are living elsewhere. 

Jesus, who knew the psalms well, may have been thinking of that phrase when he said:  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.”  He seemed to know that we are tempted not to live in this present moment but in the future because he concluded with, “Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt 6:34,The Message).

Instead of living in this present moment, we inhabit:

  • The Future – tasks I need to do, whom I need to talk to, that difficult appointment tomorrow, expectations about events and people and wondering if these expectations will be met.
  • The Past – what was said to me that was hurtful or compliments that made me feel really good (sometimes too self-focused), words or actions or even purchases or decisions I could regret,  who or what disappointed me.
  • Fantasy – what I would like to say to someone but never will, what I’d like to see happen but there’s no concrete evidence that it will ever happen.

Living in these other moments do not help me abide in Christ. To find contentment in the present moment is to hang out with God right now, relish and adore the companion of my soul and not sweat the rest.  It’s to turn each of those future/past/fantasy thoughts into a prayer for someone. 

Living in the present moment is such a practical, down-to-earth, every day way to practice the presence of God. In Abide in Christ, Andrew Murray says that “the little word now is one of the deepest secrets of the life of faith…” Someone responded to Andrew by saying, “Whatever the surrounding circumstances might be, all I have to do is hold still, and rest and realize ‘Jesus saves me now,’ and for that moment I have what I need.” “Saves ” comes from sozo meaning healing, deliverance, wholeness.  You and I are invited into healing and wholeness in this moment.

Even more practically, God’s will for me in the present moment is to:

    • rejoice always
    • pray without ceasing
    • give thanks in all circumstances

(for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thess 5:16-18).

When I do these things in this present moment, the rest of God’s will isn’t quite so fuzzy. 

Maybe this “present moment” secret is why the command, “Behold!”, occurs so often in the Christmas text.  As Mary was told “Behold!” by the angel, she knew to stop, pause, slow down and look!  Look deeply and listen deeply!  Living in this present moment may have kept her from worrying about the future (I will always be shunned for becoming pregnant without being married) or glorying in the past (I must have done some cool things to be chosen for this!)  She got the idea, and answered the angel:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 2:31, 36, 38, KJV).

So all day long I can ask, What would it look like to love God in this present moment? What would it look like to love the person in front of me in this present moment?  Living this way is so much easier, so much more joyful.

Each moment is a gift of God to be with God.

——————————————————————————–

Jan Johnson is a writer, speaker and spiritual director in southern California

How God Thinks of Me

SOURCE:  Living Free

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 NLT

Perhaps you have suffered abuse from a parent or spouse or another “trusted” person. Maybe you have suffered a traumatic personal loss. Or perhaps you have made poor choices and are suffering from the consequences.

God promises that despite all these things, you can have overwhelming victory through Christ. Come to him for help … and forgiveness. If you do, nothing … absolutely nothing … can separate you from his love.

Sometimes it is easy to look at scriptures about God’s love and think, Yes, God loves all people. But in our innermost being we don’t include ourselves in the “all people.” We think I’m different … I’m just not good enough … that’s alright for other people, but I’ve made too many mistakes. It’s too late for me.

But God’s Word makes it abundantly clear that you are included.

No matter what you have done. No matter what other people say or think about you. No matter what you think about yourself. God loves you. Jesus died for you. Nothing can ever separate you from his love.

And as you walk with Jesus, you can have overwhelming victory over every problem and obstacle in your life. 

The problems might still be there … the obstacles may still come. But you won’t have to face them alone … and Jesus will give you the strength to overcome.

Lord, thank you that these promises are not just for other people … but they are really for me. Thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you that no matter what has happened in the past or comes my way in the future, I can walk in victory through Jesus. In Jesus’ name …

———————————————————————————————–

These thoughts were drawn from …

Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W. This study helps to minister to families caught in the cycle of abusive relationships. 

You Matter To God

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

We’ve all read the story of the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years.

You know her; she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, hoping to be healed. Let’s look more closely at her story to understand how deeper healing takes place. (Read Mark 5 and Luke 8 for the story.)

Here is a woman who was an outcast. She was labeled an unclean woman, socially unacceptable, undesirable, and dirty. Jewish law mandated that if someone touched an unclean person, they would need to go through the Jewish purification ritual in order to regain their rights to enter the temple. She was an untouchable woman and people kept their distance. She had spent all her resources to find help, but she only got worse. This woman heard Jesus coming and thought to herself, “if only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed.” And to her surprise, she was!

Immediately she tried to escape the crowd unnoticed. Remember, she touched Jesus and, according to Jewish law, that made him unclean. How embarrassed and scared she must have felt when Jesus turned and said, “Who touched me?” If she identified herself then, everyone would know what she had done.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the larger story here. Jesus was heading to Jairus’ house. Jairus was a Jewish leader, a ruler of the synagogue. Yet he approached Jesus for help because his young daughter lay dying. Jairus was a daddy before he was a religious leader, and so he fell at Jesus’ feet begging him to heal his daughter.

It was on the way to Jairus’ home with the crowd pressing in that Jesus stopped and asked who touched him? I wonder in that moment what Jairus thought and felt? Did he feel impatient, anxious for Jesus to hurry up and get to his house? His daddy’s heart wanted his daughter healed. I wonder if he also felt a bit angry at this woman for distracting Jesus and taking valuable time away from a more pressing need. I suspect he might have even felt angry at Jesus for not prioritizing his daughter’s life threatening illness over this woman’s chronic bleeding problem.

Jairus was a person of influence and importance. He was a leader: he spoke and people listened. He risked everything to beg for Jesus’ help and now Jesus was wasting time asking who touched him while his daughter lay dying.

Do you ever feel like Jairus? God isn’t moving fast enough for your emergency? Angry and impatient that other people’s prayers are getting answered while you are still waiting?

Jairus was a daddy and wanted to see his daughter healed. But, dear readers, one of the lessons of this story is that this unnamed woman had a daddy too, and her daddy cared about her needs and knew she had no one who begged for her healing. Jesus stopped and called her forth because he wanted her to know something very important. Listen to his words. He said, “Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” He wanted her to know that her daddy (the Heavenly Father) saw her suffering and told Jesus to help her too.

Jesus wanted her to know that she mattered to God.

Although her culture rejected her, God did not. Although she was judged to be unclean, Jesus declared her whole. He wanted her to know that she was a person of value and worth. Even in a pressured moment, Jesus took the time to have a conversation with a nameless woman who felt unclean, unloved and unimportant. He wanted her to know who she was. She was a daughter of a daddy who cared.

How about you? Perhaps your mother abused you. Maybe your husband rejects you, or people don’t understand you. You feel like an unclean women, like damaged goods. If only you could touch his cloak, you’d be well. I have good news for you. Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering. God wants to help you. He wants you to know that you matter. You are important to him. He sees you and knows you and he is never too busy with more important people to meet your very personal need. You are not nameless, or worthless, or hopeless. You have a daddy, he’s called Abba (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Believing that is the beginning of your healing.

As for Jairus, Jesus didn’t forget about his concern–although Jarius probably felt that way when he got word that his daughter died. Jesus turned to him and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” What did it take for Jairus to walk those next miles home, heavy with sorrow, still clinging to faith? Perhaps that’s where you are right now. You feel hopeless or angry or disappointed. But Jairus trusted what Jesus said to him and, because he did, he saw a miracle. Jesus took Jairus’ precious daughter’s hand and said, “Honey, wake up.”

What is Jesus saying to you right now, even in the midst of sorrow, heartache, broken dreams and shattered promises? Can you trust what he is saying and continue to walk in faith? That is healing.

He says to you right now, “Honey, wake up”.

Hurts, Wounds, Lies: Getting Below The Waterline

SOURCE:   / Conversations Journal

 Getting Below The Waterline: The Role of Inner-Healing Prayer in Spiritual Transformation

In the days following my husband’s death, I desperately sought God’s comfort in the Scriptures. After an eleven-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis and all the humiliation, fear, hardship, and losses that go with it, my faith was on the fragile side. I needed solace, the kind only God could give.  So I went to the Psalms. Isn’t that where God’s children always find consolation?

But I found no consolation there. On the contrary, in fact. One day I was reading Psalm 91, the psalm just about every Christian turns to in times of fear or discouragement:

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.[1]

I didn’t want to admit it, but the psalm made me feel angry. My husband had not been saved from the deadly pestilence or the destroying plague. My whole family had experienced plenty of terrors by night, and plenty of arrows by day. Disaster had come near our tent. More than just near, it had invaded our tent, taken my husband’s life, and left my son and me wounded and bereft. God did not feel like a refuge. Actually, reading the psalm made me feel as if God were mocking me.

Hadn’t I loved God enough to deserve His protection? I wondered. Had I failed Him and in the process, nullified His promises? If God had allowed so much pain and suffering to happen to my family and me already, how did I know there wasn’t more or even worse to come? I felt as if I were just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Mind you, I admitted these thoughts to no one, hardly even to myself. I was a leader in full-time ministry, after all. I’d been serious about my walk with God for decades. I invested myself in helping others to grow spiritually. How could I possibly admit such thoughts and feelings? They seemed almost blasphemous to me. I didn’t want to jeopardize the faith of others.

About that time, a man in my church whom I’d only met on a couple of occasions mentioned a healing prayer ministry he was part of. With no knowledge of my spiritual crisis, he offered, “If you ever want to have somebody pray with you and help you listen to God, we have people who do that. Just let me know.”

At that point in my spiritual journey, listening to God was something that was still relatively new to me. For much of my Christian life, I didn’t know how to hear God speak to me personally. Although I had puzzled over Scriptures like John 10 that assured me that Jesus’ sheep hear His voice,[2] my prayers had been mostly one-way monologues. And the impersonality of that seemingly one-way relationship left me feeling lonely and detached from God. But during the hardest years of my husband’s illness, God had mercifully taught me how to listen to His voice. Through experience, He proved to me that I could call to Him and He would answer me,[3] and that I could come to Him with my ears wide open and in listening, I would find life.[4] He helped me to understand that He really does call me friend,[5] and that He enjoys it when I invite Him to have conversation with me, Friend to friend.[6]

I don’t think I would have survived the years of illness, loss, and relentless caregiving if I hadn’t learned to hear my Father’s tender voice. Time and time again I was amazed by His almost unnervingly personal care for me as He patiently responded to my anger and fear, and gently comforted me and fathered me. As my ability to discern His voice grew, so did my relationship with Him. God became more personal and intimate—and thus more indispensable to me—than He had ever been before.

But in spite of having heard God and even dialogued with Him in deeply personal, relational ways, He seemed pretty silent in those dark days after my husband’s death. The warm conversations we’d had previously seemed like ancient history. So when Jack asked me if I would like somebody to listen to God with me, I was open. I wasn’t hearing much from God on my own, but maybe listening with others could help me to re-connect. I had no idea what to expect, but I set up a time to pray with him and a woman from the church’s healing prayer team.

Healing prayer, it turned out, was different from any other kind of prayer I’d ever been involved with. But even though it was a stretch for me, it made complete sense. Using listening prayer as a foundation, it is a way of asking Jesus to do for people now, in our generation, the kind of ministry that Isaiah 61 (and Luke 4) describe Him as doing—binding up broken hearts, freeing captives, releasing prisoners, comforting all who mourn, exchanging despair for praise.

My prayer partners explained that they had no agenda except to ask Jesus to do His healing work. They said they would focus our prayer time on asking God what I needed and how He wanted to meet me. They asked me a few questions, equivalent to a medical doctor asking, “Where does it hurt?” Then they explained to me that they would ask God a question and invite Him to respond to me. He might bring up a memory or impression, perhaps He would stir up a painful emotion. He might bring to mind words that had been spoken to me, or maybe a verse of Scripture. Maybe He would give me a picture. Whatever came to mind I was to report. If we weren’t sure if it was from God or not, or if we didn’t know what it meant, we would simply ask Him to confirm or clarify.

In the process of listening to God in that manner, He did speak. He revealed early memories—long before the ordeal with my husband—of times when I had felt unprotected and vulnerable. He helped me to see that long before adulthood I had come to believe that those who are supposed to protect me, won’t. That if I don’t look out for myself, no one else will. He helped me to see how, subconsciously, I’d transferred these beliefs to Him, too. Without even knowing it, I’d come to believe that God would not protect or help me, that I had to take care of myself. Was it any wonder that when I needed God the most, I couldn’t find Him? I’d built my life around those devastating, isolating lies, so that I had no real expectation that He would rescue me. Sure, I “believed” Psalm 91 intellectually, but in my deepest heart, I doubted.

When those lies were exposed, I was able to confess them and ask God’s forgiveness for doubting His love and care. I was able to see and declare the truth that God is for me and He helps those who call to Him in faith. Over time, I was able to forgive the ones who had failed to keep me safe and had set me up to believe awful lies about God and life.

Healing for me wasn’t one quick prayer session. It involved a series of times similar to what I just described in which God revealed to me the obstacles that were standing in the way of my trusting Him. Over a period of months, as one by one I dealt with them, my confidence in God’s loving care grew so that now I can read Psalm 91 with peace and hope.

Inner-Healing Prayer’s Part in Spiritual Formation

My personal experience with inner-healing prayer, both offering it to others and receiving it, has prompted me to believe that it plays a helpful, if not critical, role in spiritual formation. In my case, I desperately wanted to trust God. I was miserable when I dreaded the future because I couldn’t bring myself to trust in His care for me. My struggle filled me with guilt and shame. I hated feeling suspicious of God while all the while professing my faith in His goodness. So I read books on faith. I memorized Scriptures about His goodness. I confessed (over and over and over) my fear. I gritted my teeth and tried to “just do it.” I learned so much about what it meant to trust God that I suspect I probably could have given a convincing inspirational talk or written a powerful devotional about the faithfulness of God. But no matter how firmly my head was convinced, my heart still struggled.

As others have invited me to pray with them for inner healing, I’ve discovered that I was by no means alone in my spiritual frustration. Many of us have deep-rooted wounds that get in the way of our spiritual transformation. My issues of doubting and distrusting God are far more common than I realized. But there are many others: inferiority, shame, perfectionism, addictions, obsessive and compulsive behavior, anxiety, gender confusion, people-pleasing, body image issues, and more. All of these are serious barriers to our ability to experience God and grow in Jesus’ likeness. And all of them are nearly impossible to address by conventional means of discipleship such as Bible study, Scripture memorization, or petition-based prayer.

Rusty Rustenbach, director of pastoral care and counseling for The Navigators and author of A Guide to Inner-Healing Prayer: Meeting God in the Broken Places, describes how, as a seasoned counselor, missionary, and disciple-maker, not only was he unable to help the people he ministered to get past these obstacles—he could not get past them himself. As a boy, he had not received from authority figures the affirmation he needed—which led to insecurity, people-pleasing, and periodic overreactions to triggering events that continued into adulthood. He wanted to be free from those inner attitudes and weights —but the spiritual disciplines he tried weren’t setting him free. Then one day he read Psalm 18:9: “He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”[7] Yeah, I’ll bet God delights in me,Rustenbach mused, cynically. No, He puts up with me because He’s stuck with me.”[8]

A friend talked to Rustenbach about listening prayer (in 1997, before much had been taught or written about the inner-healing aspect of listening prayer) and Rustenbach reluctantly agreed to try it. He really didn’t expect anything to happen, but God surprised him. “Rusty, I am for you… for you and not against you. You belong to me I chose you to belong to Me because I love you with an everlasting love. You are Mine!”[9] That intimate encounter with God was deeply healing to Rustenbach; as he relates the story today, fifteen years later, his eyes still fill with tears. And now, listening and inner-healing prayer has become the foundation of his fruitful ministry with The Navigators.

“As our global society increases in complexity, size, and brokenness, growing numbers of people struggle with issues that seem impervious to traditional ministry methods.”[10] Rustenbach says. Spiritual disciplines are useful and necessary, but inadequate to deal with issues that are hidden “below the water line.”[11]

Often a person is not even aware of these below-the-surface wounds. Nevertheless, he or she may feel trapped by unwanted but automatic reactions, unhealthy habits, and negative thought patterns. In persons who have walked with the Lord for a long time these are especially troubling. After all, intellectually, they believe the right things. They have good theology. But there is a head-heart schism. What they believe in their heads does not work itself out in their lives, in spite of counseling , effort, or traditional forms of prayer. These kinds of wounds require a touch from Jesus, a manifestation of God’s grace. We need God to show us where the problem is rooted—and we need Him to bring the healing.

This process does not require a person to probe deeply into his or her past. Such introspection, as many of us have learned the hard way, often isn’t helpful, and can even be harmful. Through difficult experience we understand that “the heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”[12] But God is able to lovingly, gently, objectively sort out what we cannot. “I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”[13]

Assumptions and Principles of Inner-Healing Prayer

There are different models of inner-healing prayer, most of which rely on some variation of these assumptions and principles:

  • A person experienced an emotional wounding, often in childhood (e.g. abandonment by a parent, real or perceived rejection by significant people, sexual, verbal, or physical abuse, loss, deprivation, etc.).
  • Lies about God, self, or the way the world works were believed as a result of that traumatic, painful or disappointing experience (e.g. “If I let people know who I really am, they won’t like me”).
  • Vows may have been made in an attempt to protect the person from future hurt (e.g. “I’ll never trust a man again”).
  • Generational patterns may have been inherited (such as patterns of fear, a poverty mindset, and so on).
  • As we practice listening prayer, the Holy Spirit speaks in our minds or hearts, through pictures, the stirring of emotions, words, symbols, or other creative and very personal means.
  • Usually God takes us back to memories from childhood where the wounding took place. He helps us to see what happened to our souls at that time, exposing lies we came to believe, unbiblical vows we made, faulty strategies for living that we adopted, and perhaps the pronouncements others made over us.
  • We confess these lies, vows, and so on, to Him and ask Him to reveal truth. As we embrace the truth He reveals, our minds are renewed and we are freed from the emotional bondage that hindered our spiritual growth and freedom. We stand with Jesus, Way, Truth, and Life, and declare our independence from the father of lies.
  • Sometimes we see Jesus with us in the memory of the painful event.  He may speak words of truth or offer comfort that usually is deeply moving and penetrating.
  • With His help, (sometimes over time rather than immediately) we forgive the ones who wounded us, both for the actual offense, as well as for the consequences we have experienced as a result of that offense.
  • By replacing lies with truth and forgiving those who hurt us, we close off areas of access to the enemy. He can no longer energize those places for us.
  • We adopt our true identity in Christ rather than the false identities we assumed because of the lies we believed and the wounds we were compensating for.
  • We expect that the Wonderful Counselor actually will meet us and touch us when we invite Him into our wounded places. When we invite Him, He will come, and He will heal.

Recently I had a conversation with a young Christian medical student who is seeking to understand God’s role in healing. He cited research that supports the efficacy of prayer for soul healing. That wasn’t surprising, he told me, since prayer is a form of catharsis, allowing for the release of painful emotions so that healing can occur. I agreed with him that pouring out our hearts to God is indeed cathartic. What kinder, wiser Listener could we ever have than our Abba, Father, who made us and redeemed us and constantly watches over us in love? But there’s more, I told him. Inner-healing prayer is supernatural. God actually does something when we invite Him to heal our hurting hearts. Somehow, He enters into our pain with us and releases us from it with no less power than when He healed 2,000 years ago.

As Richard Foster so aptly puts it, “Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?”[14]

Healing Prayer Resources

Inner-healing prayer can be a helpful adjunct to spiritual direction, counseling, discipling, and pastoral care, although depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a good practitioner. This form of soul-care, as in any other, should be left only to those who are reliably trained, spiritually and emotionally mature and healthy themselves, biblically sound, in accountability relationships with other Christians, and with a proven record of helping others find healing and freedom. If you cannot find someone like that in your community, you may want to consider receiving training yourself. There are several options:

The Pastoral Care Team of The Navigators (Rustenbach’s organization) offers listening and healing prayer seminars several times a year in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and elsewhere, by invitation.

Ministries of Pastoral Care (founded by Leanne Payne, who has since retired) offers training each summer at Wheaton College, in Illinois.

The International Association for Theophostic Ministry (founded by Ed Smith) offers comprehensive training resources for individuals or groups (such as a church prayer team).

Christian Healing Ministries (founded by Francis MacNutt) offers conferences, seminars, a healing prayer school, and internships, along with printed and video resources for basic or in-depth training in healing prayer of all kinds.


[1] Psalm 91:3-10, NIV

[2] John 10:3-4, 8, 16, 27

[3] Jer. 33:3

[4] Is. 55:3

[5] Jn. 15:15

[6] Rev. 3:20, NLT

[7] NASB

[8] Rusty Rustenbach, teaching at the Listening and Healing Prayer Seminar, The Navigators, Colorado Springs, May 18-19, 2009

[9] Rusty Rustenbach, A Guide for Listening & Inner-Healing Prayer, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2011, p. 22.

[10] Ibed, p. 165

[11] Ibed, p. 103

[12] Jer. 17:9, MSG

[13] Jer. 17:10, MSG

[14] Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. New York: HarperCollins, 1992, p. 205.

Cynthia Hyle Bezek facilitates inner-healing prayer through her local church’s prayer ministry. She is author of Prayer Begins with Relationship, former editor of Pray! magazine, and blogs about prayer at cynthiaprayblog.wordpress.com. She currently serves as editorial director for Community Bible Study.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (5)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves. These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.” John 1:12-13 MSG

Tammy learned that the very essence of who she is depends on whose she is: “One lesson I’ve learned is that the reality of Jesus in us and our life in him defines us and gives our life purpose. I eventually came to the place where I decided, ‘Perhaps I can trust the Lord with my wounded and bruised heart. Perhaps I don’t have to depend on my own limited understanding. Maybe I really can follow God’s path.’

“It wasn’t easy to release the parts of myself that had made me feel secure for so long. I’d invested much time and energy validating my ‘gay identity.’ Leaving the culture of friends who had affirmed me as a person with same-sex attractions was very difficult. Even after committing to follow Christ, I found it hard to grasp the truth of my new identity. But when I did, my life changed radically and I discovered the very essence of who I am is dependent on whose I am.

I am the workmanship of God. He is trustworthy and his unconditional love empowers me to become who he created me to be.”

“If you are struggling with homosexuality, I urge you to seek Jesus. He loves you and will meet you right where you are.”

Have you received Jesus as your savior? If you have, your new identity is child of God. You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and you can do all things through him. God has a plan for your life—and it is a good plan. As you trust him, he will help you become all the wonderful things he has designed you to be.

If you’ve not yet received Jesus, you can do so right now. Do you believe that he is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for your sins? Are you ready to receive the gift of life he offers you? Do you want to commit to following him? Just share your heart with him. He loves you and will meet you right where you are.

Father, I’m ready. I know now that I need you. I need your love and your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. Please forgive me and help me live a life dedicated to you. I truly want to be your child. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (3)

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life,a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.'” 1 Peter 1:15-16 MSG


Tammy’s testimony continues: “One big lesson I’ve learned is that the Word of God is clear about obedience and how it relates to the Christian walk. Obedience is not optional. In a world that claims no authoritative truth, we must resolve to accept the Word of God as authority in our lives.”

“For a long time, my attitude kept me from obeying God. ‘I deserve a loving relationship,’ I rationalized. ‘If this is not permissible, then why do I feel gay? I never asked to be attracted to others of the same gender.’ I felt as though the God who was seemingly absent in my childhood was now demanding more than I could give. My anger fueled my disobedience and, in my mind, justified my rebellion.”

“As I opened my heart to God, I recognized my rebellion for what it was. God’s call for obedience ceases to be a list of unattainable rules when we realize it is the request of a loving heavenly father inviting us to trust him. He has a plan for my life that exceeds my own, and I can trust him because his love has no limits.”


Is there an area of rebellion in your life? Ask God to help you trust him with every part of your life. Choose to do things his way and begin to live “a life energetic and blazing with holiness.”

As you study the Bible and pray, discover as Tammy did that God’s ways really are the best ways. That he is your loving heavenly Father and is inviting you to trust him. Just as he had a plan for Tammy’s life, he has one for yours. You can trust him because his love has no limits.

Prayer
Father, please forgive me for my disobedience. I want to trust you with every area of my life. To do things your way. I want to obey you and accomplish the purpose you have for me. Help me to walk on obedience—to live a life energetic and blazing with holiness. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

Homosexuality: Tammy’s Story (2)

SOURCE:   Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Lee/Tammy Webb-Witholt

“Jesus replied, ‘But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Luke 11:28 NLT


Tammy continues her testimony: “When I first made a commitment to serve Jesus, I promised to read the Bible and attend church once a week. My intention was to read scripture with an analytical eye, but soon the words came to life and penetrated my heart. I was confronted with God’s love and his call to obedience. Though I tried, I could not make the Bible say what I wanted it to say. I prayed, ‘OK, God, I still feel like a homosexual. I don’t know how to follow you in obedience. But even with my questions and my confusion, I’ll leave it all.”

“When I first came to Christ, I was obstinate and resistant to God’s will. But his grace stood patiently, hands extended in mercy and arms open wide in love. Now, with his help, I was ready to take a very difficult step of obedience.”

“That evening I ended the relationship I was in. My partner responded to my declaration by saying, ‘You can’t get out of this; no one ever gets out.’ Her words seemed like the words of a drug dealer, not a friend.”

“‘Help me, God,’ I prayed. And he did.”

Tammy couldn’t experience the power of God’s Word until she moved beyond reading it to living it. Then God gave her the strength to make some very difficult choices to walk in obedience.

Are you struggling with a problem, doing some things you know you shouldn’t, but just aren’t strong enough to do what you know is right?

Ask God to make his Word real to you. And determine in your heart that you will obey him. Once you make that choice and run to him, you will experience his love, his grace and his power in an all new way.

PRAYER….

Father, please forgive me for disobeying you. I thank you for your love and grace. Help me to make right choices. Help me to not just read the Bible, but to obey it. In Jesus’ name …

——————————————————————–


These thoughts were drawn from …

Lessons Learned: Moving from Homosexuality to Holiness by Tammy Webb-Witholt. This group study offers biblical tools, along with an abundance of hope, to anyone struggling with homosexuality.

Tag Cloud