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Archive for the ‘God’s Word’ Category

A LOOK AT OUR SPIRITUAL ARMOR

SOURCE:  Based on MacArthur Study Bible notes- Eph. 6:10-18

A true believer having a Spirit-controlled life can be sure to be in a spiritual war. Ultimately, Satan’s power over Christians is already broken, and the war is won through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  However, in life on earth, battles of temptation go on regularly.  The Lord’s power, the strength of His Spirit, and the force of biblical truth are required for victory.

The armor should be the sustained life-long attire.  Satan’s deception and schemes are carried out by his demons and are highly structured for destructive purposes.  Satan wants us to distrust God, forsake obedience, have doctrinal confusion, falsehood, be hindered in service, be divided, serve in the flesh, live hypocritically, be worldly, and reject biblical obedience in any way.

Belt –   Pulls spiritual loose-ends together in truth – tucks away anything that hinders – Self-discipline in devotion to victory;

Breastplate –   The Christian’s chief protection against Satan and his schemes.  As believers faithfully live in obedience to and in communion with Jesus Christ, His own Righteousness produces in them the practical, daily righteousness that becomes their spiritual breastplate.  Lack of holiness leaves them vulnerable to Satan;

Shoes –   It is knowing that through Christ, believers are at peace with God, and He is on their side – confidence of Divine support allowing the believer to stand firm.

Shield –   Basic trust in God – the necessary, continual trust – trust in God’s Word and Promise – all sin comes when the victim falls to Satan’s lies and promises of pleasure, rejecting the choice of obedience and blessing;

Helmet –   Not attaining salvation, but protection against Satan’s weapons of doubt and discouragement to destroy a believer’s assurance – salvation is eternally protected, and one need not fear its loss.

Sword –   God’s Word – the only needed weapon – infinitely more powerful than any of Satan’s.  Used defensively to fend off Satan’s attacks, and offensively to destroy his strategies.

How Much “Authority” Does Christ Have

SOURCE:  John Piper/Tolle Lege

“The Lofty Claim” 

“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ (Matthew 28:18) This I call The Lofty Claim. Jesus claims that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.

He has died for sin, to triumph over guilt and condemnation. He has been raised from the dead to triumph over suffering and death. And in triumphing over guilt and condemnation and over suffering and death, He has also triumphed over Satan who can only destroy us with the guilt of sin and torment us with suffering and death.

And because Jesus has triumphed so gloriously over guilt and condemnation and suffering and death and Satan, therefore ‘God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2:9–11). Which is just another way of saying: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Him].’

All authority.

  • He has authority over Satan and all demons, over all angels—good and evil;
  • authority over the natural universe, natural objects and laws and forces: stars, galaxies, planets, meteorites;
  • authority over all weather systems: winds, rains, lightning, thunder, hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, cyclones;
  • authority over all their effects: tidal waves, floods, fires;
  • authority over all molecular and atomic reality: atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, undiscovered subatomic particles, quantum physics, genetic structures, DNA, chromosomes;
  • authority over all plants and animals great and small: whales and redwoods, giant squid and giant oaks, all fish, all wild beasts, all invisible animals and plants: bacteria, viruses, parasites, germs;
  • authority over all the parts and functions of the human body: every beat of the heart, every breath of the diaphragm, every electrical jump across a million synapses in our brains;
  • authority over all nations and governments: congresses and legislatures and presidents and kings and premiers and courts;
  • authority over all armies and weapons and bombs and terrorists;
  • authority over all industry and business and finance and currency;
  • authority over all entertainment and amusement and leisure and media;
  • authority over all education and research and science and discovery;
  • authority over all crime and violence; over all families and neighborhoods;
  • and authority over the church, and over every soul and every moment of every life that has been or ever will be lived.

There is nothing in heaven or on earth over which Jesus does not have authority, that is, does not have the right and the power do with as He pleases. Both the right and the power.

The scope and the magnitude of the authority of Jesus is infinite, because Jesus is one with God the Father. The Father has given him all authority not because the Father can give up being God, but because Jesus is God.

And when deity shares infinite authority with deity, He neither loses nor gains anything, but remains infinitely full and triumphant and all-sufficient.

This is the lofty claim. Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has all authority in heaven and on earth, because our Lord Jesus is God.”

–John Piper, “The Lofty Claim, the Last Command, the Loving Comfort,” Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007), 1.

What You Have to Do Before You Forgive Someone: The Surprising First Step

SOURCE:  Heather Caliri/Relevant Magazine

My grandfather molested my older brother back when all of us were kids.

And not long after I found out, Grandpa died. When I heard the news of his passing, I felt a colossal indifference settle in my chest. I was surprised how much space nothingness takes up. I knew that nothingness is not forgiveness. I knew I was commanded to forgive my grandfather. But for a long time, I did not care.

This year, our grandmother also died. I realized I could not really mourn her passing without figuring out how to feel something about my grandfather. Forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. We refer to it during the Lord’s Prayer, study the Sermon on the Mount and confess our sins in order to rest in God’s pardon. I used to think I understood forgiveness. I used to think believing in Jesus made forgiveness easy. I imagined forgiveness was an act of will.

I used to think believing in Jesus made forgiveness easy. I imagined forgiveness was an act of will. Instead, I have learned that forgiveness is an undoing.

While I struggled to forgive my grandfather, I read Walter Brueggemann’s Spirituality of the Psalms.

Much of the book is devoted to the complaint, or lament psalms, the ones we often avoid or edit because of their violence and bitterness. Brueggemann writes, “The psalms issue a mighty protest and invite us into a more honest facing of the darkness.”

It was in Brueggemann’s book that I started learning a way to forgive my grandfather. It did not involve clichés or forgetting. It lay in lament: a fierce reckoning with what had happened, and how I felt about it.

Brueggemann taught me that without lament, there’s no forgiveness. Here’s why:

Lament Forces Us to Be Honest With God

Psalm 137 starts so prettily—“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept. …” But its ending has a shocking twist: the Psalmist wishes for the deaths of Babylonian infants. Back when I thought I understood forgiveness, I did not know what to make of it.

But I’ve found answers in the book of Daniel. Putting Daniel and Psalm 137 side-by-side, it’s shocking that Daniel chose to be a faithful servant to the empire that decimated his world.

How did Daniel forgive?

I think it’s because his community did not sugarcoat their rage or explain away their bitterness. Instead, they shouted everything at God. As Brueggemann puts it, “What is said to Yahweh may be scandalous … but these speakers are completely committed. … Yahweh is expected and presumed to receive the fullness of Israel’s speech.”

I think the Israelite’s lament helped them surrender their hatred, reconcile with their enemies, achieve positions of influence and sow seeds for their eventual return to the Holy Land.

Lament Ensures We’re Not Deluding Ourselves About the State of Our Hearts

It’s easy to pay lip service to forgiveness when we’re still stuck in indifference. It’s easy to say we’ve forgiven if we haven’t felt our anger.

But if we look at Christ, He raged in the temple and wept by a grave. On the cross, God’s forgiveness was accompanied by tearing, shaking and darkness. It required suffering, torture and anguish.

How could I think forgiveness is ever easy?

In his book, The Cry of the Soul, Dan Allender says that smooth, unruffled acceptance is delusion. “For many [Christians], strong feelings are an infrequent, foreign experience. Their inner life is characterized by an inner coolness, bordering on indifference. Unfortunately, this is often mistaken for trust.”

It’s easy to pay lip service to forgiveness when we’re still stuck in indifference. It’s easy to say we’ve forgiven if we haven’t felt our anger.

Lament allows us to unleash our emotions to God so that we can get real about what we actually feel.

Lament Protects Us from Exposing Ourselves to People Who Aren’t Safe

When people hurt us, God commands us to forgive, period. But that doesn’t always mean we reconcile with them. In fact, without repentance, complete reconciliation is unwise.

Lewis B. Smedes put it this way in Forgive and Forget: “Forgiveness involves a heart that cancels the debt but does not lend new money until repentance occurs.”

Lament is an audit of our heart that gives us clear-eyed understanding. That process of discernment shields our hearts from unsafe people, so we can stay tender for everyone else.

It took years for God to start shifting the cold indifference I felt for my grandfather. And the biggest shift happened when I started writing laments.

I asked my brother for permission. Then, I sat and wrote out my anger, bitterness and numbness. I shared it with my siblings. I discussed it with some of my extended family. I posted it on my blog.

And to my surprise, the act of expressing my rage started moving my heart.

I am still trying to forgive my grandfather. I feel pity for his weakness and selfishness. I ache to consider the state of a heart capable of such destruction. I wonder if what he did to my brother was done to him.

I no longer expect forgiveness to happen easy-as-pie. Instead, I depend on the incredible power of lament. It will lead us to truth, connect us to God’s mercy and soften our hearts.

God, His Truth, and Our Lies

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

Each of us is affected by events in our past that have led to emotional wounding. We are fallen “image bearers” of Christ living in a fallen world. Certainly, we are affected by our own sinful choices as well as by the sins of others. Whether these events are traumatic or seemingly insignificant, they are fertile ground for distorted thinking, misperceptions, and lies to become embedded. The historical memories containing these “lies” too often are triggered by present events and act as unhealthy filters as we think, feel, and act in the present.

In addition to our own distorted thinking, Satan capitalizes on these lies using them as a way to keep us in bondage, weakened, ineffective, and destructive to ourselves and those around us. Satan would have us live an emotionally unhealthy, unfulfilled life in darkness. In contrast, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are Truth and desire us to walk and live in the truth. God knows that His truth will dispel the lies we believe, bring light to the darkness, and will set us totally free. Then we are able to love God more fully, love others, serve God, and enjoy a more fulfilled relationship with God.

The following Scriptures (NIV) are listed to open your thinking about lies, the truth, who God is, and how Satan works. The notes, which follow the listed Scriptures, are taken from the NIV Study Bible and other sources.  The notes are included to provide further insight and application of these truths.

Prayerfully read and reflect upon them asking God to apply His truth to your mind and to your heart.

Genesis 18:14a, Is anything too hard for the Lord?

NOTE: The answer is “no.” Nothing in God’s will is impossible for Him.

Exodus 23:29-30, But I will not drive them out in a single year.  Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

NOTE: Many times God works with us through a process by which He prepares us for the next step.

Numbers 33:50a-55, The Lord said to Moses, “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.  Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.  But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.

NOTE: It is critical for us to allow God continually to root out all lies and distorted beliefs, or they can be triggered causing us continued problems.

Deuteronomy 4:29, But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

NOTE: This indicates total involvement and commitment. The Lord longs to bring us His truth.

Joshua 4:24, He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

NOTE: The Lord wants us to realize that He accomplishes His work without our help.

Joshua 5:13-14, Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

NOTE: We must know our place. It is not that God is on our side; rather, we must fight God’s battles. God has sent the commander of his heavenly armies to take charge of the battle on earth. He will fight on our behalf. We must be willing by faith to receive the truth from the Lord.

Joshua 6:1-20, Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands.  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.  On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

NOTE: Marching around the city was a ritual act signifying a siege of the city that was to be repeated for six days. The Lord was laying siege to the city. At times, He may choose to lay siege to the walls around our memories, lies, and pain.

Job 12:22, He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.

NOTE: God knows even secret, evil plans/thoughts. His light penetrates the deepest darkness.

Job 42:5, My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

NOTE: It is one thing to know God and another to “feel” and experience God’s truth with eyes of faith and spiritual understanding. Freedom occurs when we trust God to apply to our lives the truths we had previously only known.

Psalm 28:6-7a, Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.

NOTE: The Lord realizes the need we have for the truth. He is our help as we look to Him.

Psalm 33:4, For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

NOTE: No power or combination of powers can thwart God’s plan and purpose to save his people. Under the Lord’s rule in the creation, there is goodness, order, dependability, and truth.

Psalm 36:9b, In your light we see light.

Psalm 43:3a, Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.

NOTE: God’s light invades and removes the darkness giving us a clearer, more focused view of the present that is based on His truth.

Psalm 66:18, If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

NOTE: Sin can be a barrier to the Lord bringing His truth to us.

Psalm 77:13-14a, Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles.

Psalm 86:8,11a, Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart.

NOTE: God is the only true God. No other “god” acts with such sovereign power. Dependence on and devotion to God ask that He save us from the enemy outside but also from our frailty within.

Psalm 119:130a, The unfolding of your words gives light.

Psalm 139:7,12, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Even the darkness will not be dark to you for darkness is as light to you.

NOTE: Just as the whole creation offers no hiding place from the Lord, neither does even the darkness. There is no memory or lie that cannot be accessed by the Lord. He knows where everything is located.

Proverbs 2:6, For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

NOTE: As we cry out for, look for, and search for wisdom/truth, the Lord will bring it.

Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

NOTE: We must commit to God our need, helplessness, powerlessness, and inability to figure Him out. We must refuse to come up with or rely on our own “answers” apart from Him. He will remove the obstacles from your pathway and bring you to the place where He wants you to be.

Proverbs 8:14, 17b, Counsel and sound judgement are mine; I have understanding and power; those who seek me find me.

Proverbs 30:5a, Every word of God is flawless.

Isaiah 2:5, Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 9:2, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

NOTE: Jesus is the light for our darkened minds and the lies we believe. His light is truth.

Isaiah 31:1, Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.

NOTE: Our help and the truth must come from the Lord, alone. No one else can provide what He alone can provide.

Isaiah 45:19b, I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

Isaiah 49:8a, This is what the Lord says, “In the time of my favor, I will answer you.”

NOTE: The Lord has a perfect timing in revealing His truth to us.

Isaiah 49:23b, Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

Isaiah 50:10b-11a, Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.

NOTE: When we try to help the Lord or find the answer ourselves, we will fail. We must simply “actively” wait for the Lord to accomplish His purpose in our lives and circumstances.

Isaiah 55:8-9, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

NOTE: We can’t put God in a box to do things the way we think they should be done.

Isaiah 59:1-2, Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

NOTE: God can do all things. But, our sins can be a barrier to God bringing us His truth. He longs for us to bring our sins to Him to be healed and released from them.

Isaiah 59:9b-10a, We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.

NOTE: Too many times, we try to find our own solutions. We fail to take God as His word that He does want to bring us His truth to really set us free from our lies.

Isaiah 59:12-13, For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

NOTE: Too often, we choose to cling to the lies continually acting them out. Once we turn to the Lord, He accepts our request for forgiveness and freely brings His truth in His way and timing.

Isaiah 59:15-16a, Truth is nowhere to be found. The Lord was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him.

NOTE: The Lord knows we are actually helpless to heal ourselves in any permanent way. He is the Author of truth, and He is willing to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9-10a, 14, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind.  Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

NOTE: Wickedness/distorted thinking/lies must not be allowed to take root in the heart.

Jeremiah 20:12a, O Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind

Jeremiah 23:23-24, “Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

NOTE: God is both transcendent and immanent; He lives in a high and holy place but also with him who is lowly in spirit. There is no place that the Lord can’t access.

Jeremiah 32:17, 27, Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

NOTE: The answer is, “No!”

Ezekiel 22:30, I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

NOTE: The counselor lends his strength to those who have been weakened by the lies as both counselor and counselee look to Christ for His truth.

Daniel 2:22, He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.

NOTE: God knows where the darkness is and what lurks in it. Only His light will be effective in this darkness.

Daniel 9:13b, All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.

NOTE: Too often, we remain in the darkness even if we don’t like it. It is what we know. At times, we choose to believe that nothing can really change us or our situation. God’s truth can bring true change.

Hosea 10:12:13a, Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.

NOTE: Be no longer unproductive, but repentant, making a radical new change and becoming productive and fruitful. It involves hard work to break up unplowed ground. Many times the Lord allows us to “seek and wait” on Him until He brings His truth at just the right time.

Micah 7:8b-9b, Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.  He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.

Zechariah 4:6, So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

NOTE: The Lord Almighty is the One who brings freedom. It is not we who do this.

Matthew 8:2-3a, A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”  “I am willing,” he said . “Be clean.”

NOTE: The Lord is the God of truth, and He always is willing to bring His truth into our lives.

Matthew 10:34, Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

NOTE: As one becomes more healthy, others who remain dysfunctional will try to draw the one back into the family dysfunction. Additionally, as we seek the truth, the spirits of darkness/Satan become active in trying to hinder this process of becoming free.

Matthew 11:29-30, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

NOTE: Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden is receiving His truth and freedom from the burden of lies we believe.

Matthew 13:58, And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

NOTE: We have to allow God to exist “outside of the box” we tend to put him in realizing His ways and thoughts are above ours. Otherwise, our ability to receive His truth is dulled.

Matthew 16:16-17, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

NOTE: When Jesus “breaks into” one’s life to reveal His truth, it is not the product of humanity/our own minds, but of Divine revelation.

Matthew 18:3, And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

NOTE: Trusting and unpretentious behavior like little children is necessary.

Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 28:20b, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

NOTE: Jesus will not abandon us allowing us to trust in His presence always.

Mark 1:40-42b, A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”  “I am willing.  Be clean.’

Mark 2:3-5, Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, thy made an opening in the rook above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

NOTE: Jesus recognized that the bold action of the paralyzed man and his friends gave evidence of faith. Even so, the men had to work in faith to reach the Lord with their friend.

Mark 4:37-40, A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

NOTE: Jesus is always in control. He is never intimidated by the worst of problems we face. He calls on us to believe in His ability to handle all situations and to do that which we find impossible.

Mark 5:24b-28, A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

NOTE: The woman was healed because God graciously determined to reward her faith.

Mark 5: 36, Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 6:5-6, He could not do any miracles there.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

NOTE: Jesus chose not to perform miracles in such a climate of unbelief.

Mark 9:22b-23, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

NOTE: The question centered on whether the father had faith to believe Jesus could heal. A person who truly believes will set no limits on what God can do.

Mark 10:15, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

NOTE: The kingdom of God must be received as a gift; it may be entered only by those who know they are helpless, without claim or merit.

Mark 10:27, With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

NOTE: Apart from the grace of God, no one can be saved or healed.

Mark 10:51-52a, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”

NOTE: Jesus wants us to realize what we need from Him.

Luke 1:37, For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 5:12b-13a, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

NOTE: Jesus is willing to meet us at our point of need in answer to our faith.

Luke 5:18-20, Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 5:39, And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”

NOTE: Jesus was indicating the reluctance of some people to change from their traditional religious ways and try to think “out of their religious box.”

Luke 8:50b, Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Luke 13:12, When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”

NOTE: The spirit had been cast out, and the woman was freed from the bond of Satan and from her physical handicap. In the process of healing, Jesus caused her to face the reality of her pain. He causes us to face the reality of painful memories as the lies are determined.

Luke 18:17, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

NOTE: With total dependence, full trust, frank openness and complete sincerity.

Luke 18:27, Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Luke 18:35-42, A blind man was sitting by the roadside.  He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

NOTE: It seems that Jesus wants us to fully understand our problem and realize what we are asking Him to do for us.

John 1:4-5, In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

NOTE: From Christ comes all spiritual illumination. He is the “light of the world” who holds out wonderful hope for all.

John 1:17, For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 5:8-13a, Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.  The man who was healed had no idea who it was (that healed him).

NOTE: Ordinarily, faith in Jesus was essential to be healed, but here the man did not even know who Jesus was. Jesus usually healed in response to faith, but he was not limited by a person’s lack of it.

John 8:32, 36, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

NOTE: The truth Jesus brings dispels the lies and allows freedom. Those whom Jesus frees, are truly and completely freed.

John 8:44b, He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

NOTE: The truth is foreign to Satan who stands in direct opposition to the truth Christ brings.

John 14:6a, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

John 14:16-17a, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.

John 16:13a, But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

John 17:17, (Jesus in His prayer to the Father) “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

NOTE: In essence and in action the Spirit is characterized by truth. He brings people to the truth of God. All three persons of the Trinity are linked with truth.

John 20:27b, (Jesus to Thomas) “Stop doubting and believe.”

NOTE: Jesus calls us to simply believe who He is and in What He does and says.

Acts 26:17b-18, I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

NOTE: The role of the counselor is to be used by Jesus as a tool to bring the light of His truth to those who are encumbered by lies and Satan’s deceit.

Romans 1:25a, They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

NOTE: In our fallen state, we choose to believe a lie over the truth.

Romans 7:22-8:2, For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

NOTE: Deliverance comes through Jesus Christ over the force within us at work preventing us from believing in God’s truth. The controlling power of the Spirit frees us from the controlling power of sin and the lies it produces.

Romans 8:6, The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

NOTE: The mind of the sinful nature leads to death/lies. The mind of the Spirit-controlled nature leads to freedom/peace.

Romans 12:2b, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

NOTE: This is the process of the truth permeating the thought/will.

1 Corinthians 4:5b, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness

NOTE: God will find and expose the deepest lies of the mind.

2 Corinthians 3:17, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

NOTE: The presence of the Lord brings freedom.

2 Corinthians 4:4, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

NOTE: The devil is the archenemy of God and the unseen power behind all unbelief and ungodliness. He attempts to infect all with his lies to keep unbelievers and believers from walking in the freedom that Christ brings.

2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

NOTE: Christ, the only entirely righteous One, at Calvary took our sin upon Himself and endured the punishment we deserved, namely, death and separation from God. Thus, by a marvelous exchange, He made it possible for us to receive His righteousness and be reconciled to God. Our standing and our acceptance before God are solely in Him. All this is God’s doing. Given this, it is all the more believable that Christ would want to bring us His truth to dispel the lies we believe.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5, The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

NOTE: As the center of our very being becomes exposed to and fully subject to the lordship of Christ, every stronghold of lies is demolished.

2 Corinthians 11:14-15, And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

NOTE: Even when masquerading as an angel of light, this Great Deceiver remains forever the prince of darkness and father of lies.

Galatians 5:1a, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

NOTE: Christ sets us free from the burden of lies in which we are caught and entangled.

Galatians 5:13a, You, my brothers, were called to be free.

NOTE: God wants us free from lies/bondage to better serve Him and each other in love.

Ephesians 1:17-19a, I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

NOTE: As Christ brings truth to dispel the lies we believe, our mind, understanding, and inner awareness can more certainly believe in the hope He offers.

Ephesians 3:17b-21, And I pray that you may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory for ever and ever!

NOTE: God, who is infinite in all his attributes, allows us to draw on His resources to believe in that which is beyond our human capability — that He is willing and able to break-in our past — to free us and redeem our present — to enable us to live a more fulfilled future.

Ephesians 4:26, In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

NOTE: Anger directed toward injustice is appropriate. However, it is important that it is appropriately expressed and released to Christ not being allowed to turn into bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

NOTE: Such things grieve the Holy Spirit and become a barrier to Christ bringing His truth to us. We must allow Christ to take these things away from us and onto Himself.

Ephesians 6:11-18, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all thee flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

NOTE: Our battles can’t be fought only using human resources. The battle is actually against powerful, evil beings in the unseen world. Human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible. Ours is a spiritual battle and must be fought in God’s strength, depending on the Word and on God through prayer.

Philippians 4:13, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

NOTE: Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret of contentment and the source of our strength as we trust Him to bring us His truth. We are not helpless in any way.

Colossians 2:6-7, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

NOTE: We must continue to be “rooted” in Christ in an intimate, spiritual, living union.

2 Timothy 1:7, For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

NOTE: Confusion and weakness are not from God. He calls on us to wait confidently for Him as he brings His truth.

Hebrews 1:1, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

NOTE: God is not limited in how He chooses to bring His truth to us. In these last days, the creator of the universe is the One who brings the truth.

Hebrews 4:12-13, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

NOTE: God’s truth was revealed by Jesus. His words are active in accomplishing God’s purposes through a living power that works as an all-seeing eye, penetrating the totality and depth of our innermost being.

Hebrews 6:18b, it is impossible for God to lie

NOTE: God is absolutely trustworthy.

Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

NOTE: This “bitter root” or pride, anger, animosity, rivalry, or anything else harmful to others can block God bringing his truth and healing grace.

James 1:5-6a, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt

NOTE: Wisdom is not just acquired information, but practical insight/truth generated by the Spirit.

James 1:18a, He chose to give us birth through the word of truth

NOTE: Since He gave us birth through His word of truth, He surely wants us to live and walk in His truth.

James 1:21, Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 3:14, But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

NOTE: All barriers to Christ bringing His truth must be removed with His enabling.

1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

NOTE: God does not want his chosen ones to dwell in the darkness of lies but rather would have us live in the light of his truth.

1 Peter 5:8, Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 John 1:5b, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:6-10 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

NOTE: Light represents what is good, true and holy, while darkness represents what is evil and false. To live and walk in darkness is characterized by wickedness and error/lies, while to walk in the light is characterized by holiness and truth. For Christ to be free to bring us His truth, it is critical that we bring to Him all known sins that He may forgive us and restore our communion with Him.

1 John 2:8b, its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

NOTE: As we look to Jesus, the darkness passes as the light of His truth shines within our minds.

1 John 2:21b, no lie comes from the truth.

NOTE: The truth is completely freeing and overcomes the lies of our minds.

1 John 4:18a, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

NOTE: There is no fear of God’s judgement because genuine love confirms salvation. To be frightened/fearful of God is based on a lie and is part of Satan’s deception.

1 John 5:6b, The Spirit is the truth.

3 John 4, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

Four Lies About Anger

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Anger is a normal part of being a human being, but it can be a dangerous emotion and has the potential to wreck our relationships and our lives.

Here are the four most common lies about anger.

1.   When I feel angry, I must let it all out.

Too much damage has been done to people we love by blurting out angry feelings in the moment of their greatest intensity. Doing this might provide some sort of relief but it is never beneficial to the hearer or the relationship.  I liken it to vomiting.  You do feel better getting it out, but vomit belongs in the toilet, not on another person.

Proverbs 12:18 says, Reckless words pierce like a sword and Proverbs 29:11 warns us that, “Only a fool gives full vent to his anger.”

Better ways to get some relief from intense anger is to journal or pray your honest emotions to God.  In the process, you might find some perspective on what to do with them and how to express them constructively.

2.    Other people or provoking situations make me angry. 

We all believe this lie at times. We say things like, “You make me so mad!” or “If you wouldn’t have done that, then I wouldn’t have reacted that way.”

Difficult people or situations don’t MAKE us angry, although they do tempt us. What really happens when we encounter these kinds of people is that they expose us.   Jesus tells us, “It is out of the overflow of your heart, your mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).

What comes up and out of your mouth when you are angry exposes what’s in your heart. Often our heart is filled with self-centered lies or desires.

Start to listen to your internal self-talk when you feel angry. For example, “I can’t believe this is happening to me” or “it’s not fair, why me?” or “I need to teach him/her a lesson” or “they can’t get away with this.”

Instead of blaming others or the situation we’re in, we can start to understand what the real problem is that’s causing our anger to escalate. Our own thought life.

Then we can work to calm ourselves down (with different self-talk and God’s Word) instead of demanding that life always go our way or that everyone do what we want or make us feel better.

 3.    I’m entitled to use my anger to get what I want if what I want is a good thing.

Anger motivates us and helps us to speak up against wrong, as well as take action to fight against injustice and evil in our world. Because it is such a powerful force, however, the apostle Paul warns us not to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26).

Most of the time what we want is permeated with self-centered desires. We WANT our way. We want to be right. We want to be first or catered to. We want our needs met. And we’re angry because we’re not getting what we want.

James 4:1 asks us what is the source of quarrels and conflicts among us?  He says it comes because we’re not getting what we want.

Part of spiritual maturity is to learn to accept that we don’t always get what we want, even if what we want is a good thing.  Living peaceably with other people involves realizing that what I want and what someone else might want may be very different. The Bible tells us not to merely look out for our own interests (what we want), but also the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4).

The truth is anger is a powerful emotion that deceives us into using it to demand our own way.

4.    I have always had a bad temper and this is just the way I am. I can’t change.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that he not only redeems us but he restores us. He changes us.

If you want to get a handle on your anger, anger is not the problem you must address. Your temper is a symptom of what’s going on in your heart. If you gain self-control over your temper that’s great, but the deeper problem that causes your anger is what needs to change.

Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

How we act and live flows from what is in our heart – what we desire or want the most. God wants to rearrange the desires of our heart so that we no longer want our own way the MOST, but rather we want to please him and love him and others.

When God changes our heart it’s not that we never get angry, but we no longer want to use our anger as a weapon to demand our own way, prove our point or make sure everyone knows we’re right. We don’t want to hold onto grudges, nurse resentment or harbor bitterness in our heart. Instead, we want to forgive and reconcile.

When Jesus changes our heart, instead of only wanting MY way, I want to look out for the interests of others because I care about them and therefore I hold my anger in check when I’m not getting what I want and weigh that with what other’s might want or need.

How?  I’ve had a change of heart and I no longer see myself as the most important person. I am no longer at the center of my life, Jesus is.

Becoming more and more like Jesus is not just trying to do the right thing, but wanting to do the right thing and then learning how.

James tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for a man’s anger (or a woman’s anger) does not produce the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19,20)

ANGER, COMMUNICATION AND PROVERBS

SOURCE:  Compiled by Bill Bellican

The Bible has a great deal to say about anger, ineffective ways of communicating, what to avoid, and how to pursue a healthier way to communicate. The following selections of Scripture are taken from the book of Proverbs (NIV).

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Prov. 10:12

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Prov. 10:19

A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself. Prov. 11:17

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. Prov. 12:16

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Prov. 12:18

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Prov. 13:3

A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated. Prov. 14:17

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. Prov. 14:29

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Prov. 15:1

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. Prov. 15:18

Better a patient man than warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city. Prov. 16:32

He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. Prov. 17:9

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Prov. 17:14

He who loves a quarrel loves sin (Prov. 17:19a).

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Prov. 17:27

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. Prov. 18:2

He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame. Prov. 18:13

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers. Prov. 19:8

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Prov. 19:11

A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. Prov. 19:19

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. Prov. 20:3

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome [wife]. Prov. 21:9

Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered [wife]. Prov. 21:19

He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity. Prov. 21:23

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. Prov. 22:24

Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone. Prov. 25:15

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control. Prov. 25:28

Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I was only joking.” Prov. 26:18-19

A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him (Prov. 26:24-25a).

A quarrelsome [wife] is like a constant dripping on a rainy day (Prov 27:15).

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Prov. 29:11

Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Prov. 29:20

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. Prov. 29:22

“What forgiveness of sin is” by Thomas Watson

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————————————————————-

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

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

5 Indicators of an Evil Heart

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn’t perfect, and full of weakness and sin.

I think one of the reasons we don’t “see” evil is because we find it so difficult to believe that evil individuals actually exist. We can’t imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spinning outrageous fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending he or she is spiritually committed yet has no fear of God before his or her eyes.

The Bible clearly tells us that among God’s people there are wolves that wear sheep’s clothing (Jeremiah 23:14Titus 1:10Revelations 2:2). It’s true that every human heart is inclined toward sin (Romans 3:23), and that includes evil (Genesis 8:21James 1:4). We all miss God’ mark of moral perfection. However, most ordinary sinners do not happily indulge evil urges, nor do we feel good about having them. We feel ashamed and guilty, rightly so (Romans 7:19–21). These things are not true of the evil heart.

Below are five indicators that you may be dealing with an evil heart rather than an ordinary sinful heart.  If so, it requires a radically different treatment approach.

They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, deny reality, make up stories, and withhold information. (Psalms 5:810:758:3109:2–5140:2Proverbs 6:13,146:18,1912:1316:2016:27, 2830:14Job 15:35Jeremiah 18:18Nehemiah 6:8Micah 2:1Matthew 12:34,35Acts 6:11–132 Peter 3:16)

2. Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words.

But if you look at the fruit of their lives or the follow through of their words, you will find no real evidence of godly growth or change. It’s all smoke and mirrors. (Psalms 50:1952:2,357:459:7101:7Proverbs 12:526:23–2626:28Job 20:12Jeremiah 12:6Matthew 26:59Acts 6:11–13Romans 16:17,182 Corinthians 11:13,142 Timothy 3:2–53:13Titus 1:10,16).

3. Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference.

They reject feedback, real accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. They use Scripture to their own advantage but ignore and reject passages that might require self-correction and repentance. (Romans 2:8Psalms 1036:1–450:16–2254:5,673:6–9Proverbs 21:24Jude 1:8–16).

4. Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card.

They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust. (Proverbs 21:101 Peter 2:16Jude 1:4).

5. Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse.

They do not struggle against sin or evil—they delight in it—all the while masquerading as someone of noble character. (Proverbs 2:14–1510:2312:1021:27,29Isaiah 32:6Romans 1:302 Corinthians 11:13–15)

If you are working with someone who exhibits these characteristics, it’s important that you confront them head on. You must name evil for what it is. The longer you try to reason with them or show mercy towards them, the more you, as the Christian counselor, will become a pawn in his or her game.

They want you to believe that:

1. Their horrible actions should have no serious or painful consequences.

When they say “I’m sorry,” they look to you as the pastor or Christian counselor to be their advocate for amnesty with the person he or she has harmed. They believe grace means they are immediately granted immunity from the relational fallout of their serious sin. They believe forgiveness entitles them to full reconciliation and will pressure you and their victim to comply.

The Bible warns us saying, “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:10).

The Bible tells us that talking doesn’t wake up evil people, but painful consequences might. Jesus didn’t wake up the Pharisee’s with his talk nor did God’s counsel impact Cain (Genesis 4). In addition, the Bible shows us that when someone is truly sorry for the pain they have caused, he or she is eager to make amends to those they have harmed by their sin (see Zacchaeus’ response when he repented of his greed in Luke 19).

Tim Keller writes, “If you have been the victim of a heinous crime. If you have suffered violence, and the perpetrator (or even the judge) says, ‘Sorry, can’t we just let it go?’ You would say, ‘No, that would be an injustice.’ Your refusal would rightly have nothing to do with bitterness or vengeance. If you have been badly wronged, you know that saying sorry is never enough. Something else is required—some kind of costly payment must be made to put things right.”1

As Biblical counselors let’s not collude with the evil one by turning our attention to the victim, requiring her to forgive, to forget, to trust again when there has been no evidence of inner change. Proverbs says, “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips” (Proverbs. 25:19). It’s foolishness.

The evil person will also try to get you to believe

2. That if I talk like a gospel-believing Christian I am one, even if my actions don’t line up with my talk.

Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). He knows more true doctrine than you or I will ever know, but his heart is wicked. Why? Because although he knows the truth, he does not believe it or live it.

The Bible has some strong words for those whose actions do not match their talk (1 John 3:17,18Jeremiah 7:8,10James 1:22, 26). John the Baptist said it best when he admonished the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

If week after week you hear the talk but there is no change in the walk, you have every reason to question someone’s relationship with God.

Part of our maturity as spiritual leaders is that we have been trained to discern between good and evil. Why is that so important? It’s important because evil usually pretends to be good, and without discernment we can be easily fooled (Hebrews 5:14).

When you confront evil, chances are good that the evil heart will stop counseling with you because the darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and the foolish and evil heart reject correction (Proverbs 9:7,8). But that outcome is far better than allowing the evil heart to believe you are on his or her side, or that “he’s not that bad” or “that he’s really sorry” or “that he’s changing” when, in fact, he is not.

Daniel says, “[T]he wicked will continue to be wicked” (Daniel 12:10), which begs the question, do you think an evil person can really change?

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

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reference Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anger in Relationships

SOURCE:  Larry Heath/Living Free

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NLT)

Unresolved anger can lead to a “root of bitterness” and wreak havoc on a person’s emotional life and personal relationships. Unchecked resentment can grow into hatred and could even lead to physical or verbal abuse. 
 
Genesis 4:1-8 tells about this happening between two of Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel. Cain was jealous of Abel and the resentment grew and festered to the point that anger became his master. The result? Cain killed Abel.
 

Of course, unchecked anger doesn’t always lead to murder but it can lead to other painful results. Angry words we can’t take back. Depression. Broken friendships. Divorce. Losing our focus on Jesus and what he wants us to do. The list is endless.

Are you having a problem dealing with anger? Is anger ruining a special relationship? Prayerfully consider these scriptures and others like them. What answers do they provide? How can you apply them to your situation?

 

  • Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 NLT) 
  • “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT)
  • Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16 NLT)
  • Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)
  • Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. (James 1:19-20 NLT)
  • Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ. (Ephesians 4:15 NLT)

Father, I know my anger has affected my relationships. In fact, it seems to control my attitudes and behavior much of the time. Please help me apply the teaching in your Word to my life. Help me let go of the anger so your love can flow through me to others. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

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These thoughts were drawn from …

   Anger: Our Master or Our Servant by Larry Heath.

Four Steps to Fighting Spiritual Warfare

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

There are four things we need to do when we are battling spiritual warfare in our lives:

  1. Acknowledge the adversary. Satan is real (1 Peter 5:8-9). Why would God send his Son to fight what does not exist? The Bible says in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil” (NLT). When you’re being attacked, it’s proof that you’re a believer. The more you make an impact for God, the more the Devil is going to fight you. You never outgrow it; it just gets more intense.
  2. Accept God-given authority. Most believers are ignorant about the authority they have to use against the Devil. Matthew 28:18-19 says we have all authority in heaven and earth. Then Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples” (NIV). He transfers the authority to you and me. He does that because he’s given us a specific mission (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  3. Put on God’s armor. When Paul wrote about the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), he was in prison chained to a Roman guard. Paul used the Roman centurion as a model for spiritual armor. Paul says, just as the Roman soldier is properly dressed to do battle, we also need to be dressed for battle. For instance, I will often pray, “Lord, I put on the helmet of salvation that will protect me from the thoughts the Devil will try to give me. I don’t want to think the Devil’s thoughts. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think your thoughts, so that I may be a voice for you. I put on the belt of truth. Lord, I want to share the truth, not falsehood. I want to lead people into righteousness.”
  4. Aim the artillery. The battlefield for spiritual warfare is primarily in your thought life (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The weapons God gives us to use demolish arguments are humility, faith, truth, and praise. Take every thought captive!

Explaining Your Convictions About Homosexuality

SOURCE:  Adam Barr and Ron Citlau/Family Life

In the next year you can bet at least one of these things will happen in your life:

  • A family member will come out of the closet and expect you to be okay with it. If you are not, family members may call you unloving and judgmental.
  • You’ll be invited to a cousin’s “wedding” . . . to someone of the same gender.
  • You’ll show up for one of your kid’s soccer games and discover that the woman who comes to every game with little Billy’s mom is not his aunt.
  • You will encounter someone who says the gospel cannot bring healing to our sexual identity or orientation.
  • You’ll have a conversation with your college-age child and learn she thinks your view on homosexuality is bigoted, a twenty-first-century version of 1960s racism.
  • You will read about a nationally recognized church leader endorsing the idea of same-sex marriage.

Are you ready to answer the tough questions your friends are asking you about your beliefs? Are you ready to reply to the wedding invitation from your gay cousin? Are you ready to deal with your daughter’s new friend and her two mommies, and the invitation for a sleepover? Are you ready to show someone that you can really, truly love people and still believe that sin is sin?

Are you ready, or are you panicking?

Chances are you would answer in the affirmative if someone asked you, “Is homosexual behavior a sin?” But consider three follow-up questions:

First, why do you believe this? Is it simply because “that’s how I was raised”? Is it because you find “those people” kind of “gross” and “weird”? Reality check: If our convictions are that shallow, then how can we respond with Christ-like compassion to people Jesus died to save? How will you be a real witness to the gospel? How will your faith survive when one of “those people” turns out to be someone you know and love? People gripped by the gospel are able to reach out toanyone in a way that balances truth and love.

Second, have you taken time to really explore what the Bible teaches about sexuality? You might (correctly) believe that Scripture says homosexual activity is a sin, but are you prepared to help someone else see that? Are you ready to defend your beliefs when someone persuasively argues that the Bible does not really condemn loving, committed same-sex relationships? Simply responding, “It’s what I’ve always believed” will not help you be a faithful witness. It will not help you when smart people ask hard questions.

Third, if your convictions on this issue are not well founded on rock-solid truth, do you really think they will stand the test of a hard storm? Jesus said that someone who hears His Word and obeys it is like a person who has built his house on a solid rock. The rain comes, the wind rages, but the house stands. If our stated convictions are not undergirded by solid foundations, they can be quickly swept aside. On this issue, Christians who faithfully speak the truth will increasingly stand in the minority. In the last decade alone, our culture has experienced a revolution of thought when it comes to homosexuality. The pressure to conform will be intense.

Are you ready?

Or are you panicking?

Here are a couple common questions we hear from Christians about talking with others about their convictions on this issue. Something important to remember as you read through these: Real-life people stand behind each of these questions. Relationships. Personal stories. Each of these questions and answers needs to be worked out in a Spirit-led context of relationship.

Question: How can I have a meaningful conversation about this issue without getting into an argument? How can I turn an argument into a meaningful conversation?

Paul was no stranger to difficult conversations. Sometimes, they ended with incredible conversions. Sometimes, they ended with his being stoned. His words to the Colossian church are relevant:

[P]ray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2-6)

Here are five simple applications we can draw from this passage:

1. Have the right mindset: If you enter a conversation with a win-lose mentality, you’ve lost already. Our goal is not to win a debate, but to open a door. Creative questions are one of the best ways to do that. “What do you believe? What has led you to care so much about this issue?”

2. Speak your convictions clearly: We’re convinced God has revealed truth in His Word. In some ways, that removes the pressure—this isn’t just our private hobbyhorse. It is what the Bible, God’s Word, teaches.

3. Pay attention to the conversational context: Paul said we should “walk in wisdom.” Wisdom is applied righteousness—knowing the right steps in the real world.

  • Don’t “yell in the library”: Are you at work, in a Bible study, on the street? These factors will determine just how the conversation proceeds.
  • Discern whom you are speaking to: Is he gay? Does she have an ideological ax to grind? Has he just learned his daughter is lesbian?
  • Control the thermostat: What is their emotional temperature (1 = calm; 10 = screaming mad)? If it starts to get hot, acknowledge it and take a step back. What is your emotional temperature? Your conversation should be “gracious, seasoned with salt.”

4. Don’t expect agreement every time: In this passage, Paul basically asks God for the chance to say again, with clarity, what got him imprisoned in the first place! This isn’t a popularity contest.

5. Pray. Pray. Pray: Enough said. Just pray. A lot.

Question: My neighbors are a lesbian couple. We occasionally converse and have a cordial relationship. I’ve never out-and-out told them that I think their lifestyle is sinful. Am I just being a coward? Or is it okay not to mention this and just try to be a good neighbor to them?

1. Be a good neighbor! Build relationship. Be friendly, invite them to your home, go to their house, live some life with them. Don’t be overly concerned with being the moral police. Let your Christian witness shine through your actions. This isn’t being cowardly, it is just simple kindness. From my point of view, you can be more direct and honest the better friends you become.

2. But don’t be afraid of speaking the truth. Seek opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus. The best way to do this is by sharing what Jesus has done for you. Don’t make it academic; make it personal. This vulnerability is a nonthreatening way to share the good news of Jesus. And when the time is right, don’t be afraid to invite them to church.

3. If things get heated, remind them that friends can disagree. It is so silly that we have to walk on eggshells with those we don’t agree with. If it is a real friendship, then there will be several areas of disagreement. This is okay. What is needed are respect, a listening ear, and a bit of humility.

4. Become very aware of what God is doing in the life of this couple. A good prayer to pray is this: Lord, use me for what you want to do. Do you want me to serve them? Share biblical truth? And then, as you are with them, seek to discern why God has you in a relationship with them. And as God opens doors, walk through them!

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Adapted from Compassion Without Compromise, Copyright © 2014 by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau, Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. 

Temptation: Is There Any Way To NOT Fall?

SOURCE:  Charles F. Stanley/InTouch

WHEN TEMPTATION KNOCKS

What makes a person successful at resisting temptation?

I believe the best way to discover how to overcome temptation is to look to the One who dealt with every temptation successfully and consistently. The writer of Hebrews wrote of Christ: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Since Jesus successfully overcame temptation, we would do well to study His strategy for dealing with it. Unfortunately, we have only one clear passage of Scripture describing Christ’s encounter with temptation. We know from the passage in Hebrews cited above that He was tempted more often than this, but the Holy Spirit chose not to include these in the gospels.

Strangely enough, Jesus’ approach is so straightforward and simple that many believers tend to overlook it entirely. Others, after hearing it, make the most ridiculous excuses as to why they can’t follow His example.

What was His strategy?

After 40 days of fasting in the desert, Jesus used Scripture—and only Scripture—to resist Satan’s temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). This is hard for me to comprehend. The Son of God—the One who knows all things and has the power to do all things, the One whose words we study, memorize, and meditate on—never made an original comment during the entire interaction.

He never drew on His own wit. He never relied on His own power. He simply responded with the truth of God’s Word. That’s all it took. Nothing fancy. Just the plain truth directed at the deception behind each of Satan’s requests. Jesus verbally confronted Satan with the truth, and eventually Satan gave up and left.

There are four primary reasons why a well-chosen passage or verse of Scripture is so effective against temptation.

First of all, God’s Word exposes the sinfulness of what you are being tempted to do. One of Satan’s subtle snares is to convince you that sin is really not so bad after all. God’s Word allows you to see things for what they really are.

A second reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you gain God’s viewpoint through it. Since many temptations carry a strong emotional punch, you tend to get caught up in your feelings. Once you identify with the feelings temptation evokes, it becomes increasingly difficult to respond correctly. The truth of Scripture allows you to separate yourself just far enough mentally to deal with it successfully.

Another reason for turning to God’s Word in times of temptation is what one pastor calls “the principle of displacement“.1 This principle is based on the premise that it is impossible not to think about a seductive topic unless you turn your attention elsewhere. When you turn your thoughts to the Word of God during temptation, you do just that (Phil. 4:8).

If you don’t shift your attention away from the temptation, you may begin some form of mental dialogue: I really shouldn’t. But I haven’t done this in a long time. I am really going to hate myself later. Why not? I’ve already blown it. I’ll do it just this once, and tomorrow I’ll start over. When you allow these little discussions to begin, you’re sunk. The longer you talk, the more time the temptation has to settle into your emotions and will.

The fourth reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you are expressing faith when you turn your attention to His Word. You are saying, “I believe God is able to get me through this; I believe He is mightier than the power of sin, my flesh, and Satan himself.” Nothing moves God like the active faith of His people.

To effectively combat the onslaughts of the enemy, you need an arsenal of verses on the tip of your tongue—verses so familiar, they come to mind without any conscious effort on your part. If you have to dig them up from the caverns of your memory, they will do you no good. There isn’t time for that in the midst of temptation.

Begin memorizing Scriptures that address the area that troubles you the most. Quote them audibly when you are tempted. When you speak the truth out loud, it’s as if you have taken a stand with God against the enemy. When I do this, I often feel a sense of courage and conviction sweeping over me.

Remember, if the perfect, sinless, sovereign Son of God relied on Scripture to pull Him through, what hope do you have without it?

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Adapted from “Winning the War Within: Facing Trials, Temptations and Inner Struggles by Charles F. Stanley, 1988.

1. Bud Palmberg, “Private Sins of Public Ministry,” Leadership magazine (Winter 1988)

Christians Should be Forgiving People

SOURCE:  R. C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conflict: Time for a Time Out?

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 252.

When dealing with difficult people, it is also important to recognize your limits.

Even when you continue to do what is right, some people may adamantly refuse to admit you are right or to live at peace with you.

This is why Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). In other words, do all you can to be reconciled with others, but remember that you cannot force others to do what is right.

If you have done everything in your power to resolve a conflict, you have fulfilled your responsibility to God and may stop actively trying to solve the problem. If circumstances change and you have new opportunities to seek peace with an opponent, you should certainly try to do so. In the meantime, it is not necessary or wise to waste time, energy, and resources fretting about someone who stubbornly refuses to be reconciled.

Are you in the middle of a conflict where the harder you’ve tried to make peace, the worse things have gotten?

Don’t be discouraged; instead, think about taking a “time out.”

Sometimes we think of a time out as giving up. But sports coaches know that time outs are as important to the game as what happens while the clock is running. It gives the players a chance to regroup, to catch their breath, and to listen to the coach’s strategy for success. In the same way, perhaps you are in a conflict that could benefit from a time out–giving you a chance to regroup and seek the Lord for direction.

Pray to God for wisdom on how and when to act “as far as it depends on you”–and patience to wait on the window of opportunity He will supply.

Letting God’s Truths Replace the Lies We Believe

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

MIND GAMES

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”.

“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS) Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to“stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon“And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

You Don’t Suffer Alone

SOURCE:  Kay Arthur/AACC

How do we cope with the inevitable pain of life in a dark and fallen world so that it doesn’t damage us beyond repair or ruin our lives? Are we destined to a future of unrelenting pain, devoid of joy, peace, and satisfaction?

No!

I assure you with all my heart that hope, help, and healing are within your reach—and closer at hand than you might have imagined or dreamed. Obviously I wouldn’t be writing this book if I didn’t believe there was a solution.

I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. Far from it! Even though I may have lived longer than you, I realize I have much to learn. I’m still very much “in process”—just like you. But even though I don’t have all the answers, I know where to find them!

Imagine you bumped into me in a large, unfamiliar airport and asked me how to get to a certain gate. I might know the basic direction, but if we happened to be standing close to an airport information booth, I could do even better than giving you vague or general instructions. I could immediately direct you to a person who stands ready, available, qualified, and motivated to meet your every information need.

In the same way, I know how to direct you to the Source of wisdom and life, healing and hope.

And it’s my prayer that you will not only “conquer” your hurt, but will come through on the other side, agreeing that, although it was extremely painful, the affliction was worth the end product.

A STORY THAT COULD HELP

Let’s go back to that information booth in the busy airport I spoke of a moment ago. Let’s say you come to that helper behind the counter in a worried, distracted frame of mind. You’re afraid you’ve already missed your flight. You’re not sure you’re even in the right terminal. And you have no idea if you have any chance of making it to the right gate in time.

Let’s imagine the helper behind the counter says something like this: “May I see your ticket? Okay… well, first of all, you haven’t missed your flight. You can still catch it! And I will tell you exactly what you need to do.”

Just knowing that you still have a chance, that there’s still hope can make all the difference.

And so it is when we’re going through intense pain or grief. The Bible gives us that reassurance right off the top. The pages of this everlasting book assure us that, no matter where we are, what we have endured, or what we may be facing, there is still hope!

We can make it step by step through the difficulties of this life and find lasting happiness and peace in the next life…if we follow some simple directions.

As it happens, we find one of the most important stories about dealing with personal pain in the very first book of the Bible. It’s a story that sets forth a truth, and that truth is then substantiated throughout all sixty-six books of this great book that we know as “God’s Word.”

I can almost hear your protest: “But, Kay, you have no idea. I’ve been wounded by Christians…by the church…by God. If God is God, why would He allow me to go through this pain, this unbearable hurt?”

I understand, and I am so very sorry.

However, if you have misunderstood God, or if the churches or people in your past have not represented God correctly, truthfully, and accurately, would you want that misunderstanding or misrepresentation to keep you from knowing what to do when the hurt runs deep?  From finding healing and wholeness and hope? Of course not!

And if the Bible holds the key that could unlock your pain and enable you to deal with it—and even come out the better for it—surely you would at least want to listen, to consider what it says, wouldn’t you? Of course!

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

Excerpt from: When the Hurt Runs Deep, WaterBrook Press, 2010, Kay Arthur.

Good Families May Produce Prodigal Children: What Gives?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  D.A. Carson [April 3, 2014 post]

The proverb “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6) is so well known that it cries out for comment.

Recall that a proverb is neither case law nor unqualified promise (review meditation for March 22).

When children go wrong, very often the careful observer can spot familial reasons that have contributed to the rebellion. But this is not always the case.

Sometimes young people from evidently wonderful families kick the traces. Some return years later; some never do. Good families may produce prodigal sons.

This proverb must not be treated as if it were a promise that fails periodically. Rather, it is a proverb: it tells how God has structured reality, and what we should do to conform to it.

This is the principle of how families work; it includes no footnotes and mentions no exceptions.

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? (or both?)

SOURCE:  John Piper

When a Christian dies, shall those of us who remain weep or rejoice?

The biblical answer is both, even simultaneously.

I saw this in a new place as I was memorizing my way through Philippians again. I had never noticed before the emotional contrast between Philippians 2:17–18 and 2:27.

An Invitation to Rejoice

In Philippians 2:17–18, Paul is describing the possibility of his own death as “drink offering on the sacrificial offering” of their faith. He is willing to die in the service of strengthening and purifying their faith.

Then he says, if that happens, “I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (verse 18). Not only does he rejoice at the prospect of his own death, but he tells them to rejoice with him.

He already told them why he rejoices at the prospect of his death: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Presumably, that is why he thinks they should rejoice also. They love Paul. So when Paul is “with Christ” that will be “far better.”

Jesus spoke this same way to his disciples: “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). The Father in splendor is greater than the Son in suffering. What a liberation was coming when the Son’s work here is done and he returns to the Father’s glory! So, he says, if you love me, rejoice at my departure.

Experiencing Intense Sorrow

But that is not the whole story. Ten verses later in Philippians 2 Paul praises Epaphroditus because “he nearly died for the work of Christ” (verse 30). But then he did not die. And Paul is glad. Here’s what he says: “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow” (verse 27).

God had mercy on Paul, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow. In other words, he did not let Epaphroditus die so that Paul would not have that grief on top of all his other burdens.

So when Paul said, “Rejoice with me,” at the prospect of his own death (Philippians 2:18), that was not the whole emotional story. Paul would have experienced “grief upon grief” if Epaphroditus had died. And this is not because Epaphroditus was unprepared to die. He was as ready as Paul: “Honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ” (2:30).

The Complex Harmony

What should we conclude from this?

We should conclude that our sorrows at the death of a believer are joyful sorrows, and our rejoicing at the death of a believer is a sorrowful rejoicing. There is nothing hopeless about the sorrow. And there is nothing flippant about the joy. The joy hurts. And the sorrow is softened with invincible hope.

This is why one of the most common watchwords of the Christian life is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrow and joy are not merely sequential. They are simultaneous. This is not emotional schizophrenia. This is the complex harmony of the Christian soul.

Therefore, when a Christian dies, don’t begrudge the tears. And don’t belittle the joy in the lover’s eyes.

Life’s Storms: What Guides You Through Them?

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

What Instrument Panel Guides Your Flight?

I have a friend who is a pilot and I’ve flown with him on several occasions. I asked him if he felt flying through storms was dangerous. He said, “No, but as any pilot will tell you, the danger comes in giving into the temptation to fly by your instincts instead of using the instrument panel.” He went on to explain how easy it is to become disoriented if you rely on instincts – thinking the plane is going up when it’s actually going down. Thankfully, the instrument panel is set to magnetic north and can be trusted every time, no matter how bad the conditions might be. He said that letting the instruments guide you … even when it feels wrong … ensures safety in the storm.

We all face storms that not just threaten, but actually confuse and disorient us:

Experiencing an ominous call from the doctor’s office, having a significant conflict with a loved one or friend, enduring a financial setback, coping with an unexpected obstacle in your day, dealing with a shattered dream, or seeing a child struggle are situations that require special care.

When you are blinded by life’s disappointments, don’t trust your instincts.

Flying by the seat of your pants during life’s storms can lead to despair, confusion, wrong words, addiction relapse, or vengeful responses that make matters worse … and this is exactly where Satan wants you to be.

God wants to guide you, and His Word is packed with wisdom and insights for living. The bottom line is this: No matter what, you have to need trust in something to guide you during you stormy times. So, what will be your trusted instrument panel? How will you ground yourself? With the truth, or with lies?

Go to your Bible and trust God. Trust His promises and character. Let His instructions and principles guide you through the storms of your life.  Storms are inevitable, but today, in your next small or major storm, make the decision to use God as your instrument panel.

If you are experiencing a conflict, examine what you are leaning on for instruction. What instrument panel are you using to guide and interpret the situation to determine a course of action? Then compare it to God’s power and track record and His word. You definitely want to follow where His instrument panel guides you. Whether you are being guided by God or you follow the world’s teaching is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I seem to spend a lot of my life in storms … worse yet, I get disoriented easily. Help me trust in Your sovereignty as these storms come my way. I turn now to You God, to help me know what is up and what is down. I want to rely on You as my instrument panel and my lighthouse … teach me how to develop antennae for Your signals, and how to follow Your tracking signal. I pray in the name of the ultimate instrument panel, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

Developing the Quality of Being CHILDLIKE

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

Just Be a Kid!

The most rewarding memories I have as a father are of my daughters coming to me with a problem. To this day, a call from one of my children for help or guidance evokes a fulfilling sense of urgency and purpose in me. Protecting, guiding, helping them then seeing them turn the corner from being stressed or scared to hopeful and confident becomes my highest priority. Being able to be a catalyst of their safety and joy is such a blessing from God.

Their requests and the opportunity to help them generate a sense of wellbeing in me for a number of reasons. For example: it shows they know I love them, that they love me, they trust me, and they think I am capable. As young children, we all believe that our fathers have super-human power to tackle and solve any problem. We believe that our mothers can soothe and comfort any pain or suffering. Kiss any boo-boo and make it better than ever. Unfortunately, as we grow up, that reality gets shattered. Sometimes in dreadful ways.

Magical thinking and the willingness to suspend reality allow us to believe the impossible is possible. We think limitations don’t apply to our parents … we think our parents can read our minds … parents can make our dreams come true … parents can protect us from any villain or catastrophe. Parents can get us out of any problem, but up every bully, comfort us through any storm, and be a sanctuary for every nightmare.

This is the same mindset we need when we prepare to view and take in God … that of a young child … a mind not yet fully contaminated by the world’s hurts, failures, and letdowns. Maybe this is the reason scripture tells us over and again that being “childlike” is such a very important quality. Well, it’s more than important. Jesus even states it is a requirement to enter the kingdom of God.

God, as our supreme Father, loves us beyond our human comprehension. And doesn’t a loving father want only the best for his children? Satan uses our parents and the world’s failures to douse this awesome child-like supernatural expectation, understanding, and belief that God instilled and wants to see in us. God’s ways are mysterious to an adult, but to a child they make perfect sense.

Today, begin receiving the kingdom of God like a little child. Take a confusing or frustrating situation, and suspend your cynicism and distrust. Don’t put God in a box with walls determined by your past hurts, letdowns, and imperfect authority figures. Turn to your Father and ask for His help. Show Him that you love and trust Him. Acknowledge that He loves you. Show child-like adoration, trust, and belief in His superhuman, actually Divine, and omnipotent Strength. Come to Him with expectation … Then see results happen! Whether you enjoy life with Childlike trust or struggle using adult-like cynicism is your decision, so choose well!

Dear Father, You are such a loving and generous Father. Thank You, Lord. All glory to You, Father. Just as a child turns to his earthly father, I turn to You for love, wisdom, guidance … and especially protection from all things that may bring me harm. I place my trust in You, Father. I trust You completely. With You, I feel safe. Help me today, and everyday, to keep Your truths before me … to keep You before me always. Fill me with Your Spirit so that I may grasp the magnitude of Your love for me. I pray that all grasp the enormity of Your love for them, Your children. I pray to You in the sacred name of my Lord and brother, Your Son, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:32

“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:4

Developing Childlike Trust (in God)

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

Do You Have Childlike Trust?

God created us to trust easily, so we would trust Him, just as children trust their parents.

HE knows trust and faith are two essential components of our walk with Him. But Satan takes advantage of our desire to trust and he has devised a system to lead us away from God.

When Satan gets in our head, he magnifies both the natural feelings of inadequacy that we have as parents as well as the guilt that comes when we really do let our kids down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When kids experience hurts like these, they become jaded and cautious about trusting others. As the letdowns and disappointments accumulate through the years, trusting anything other than ourselves becomes hard for us, even under normal circumstances.

This mistrust breeds loneliness, isolation, and a feeling that no one truly understands me and my path. I begin to feel that no one else is on my team. Self-reliance becomes my main coping strategy. Self-reliance is the opposite of what God wants in His relationship with us. But the Holy Spirit within us can be our resident tutor, helping us untwist every past hurt so we can start to trust again. I’m talking about real, 100% unconditional trust and wide-eyed belief.

Like a small child, we can fully trust all God’s promises, every instruction, and fall into His open arms.

Today, when no one else seems to understand you, simply draw closer to Your Lord and God. Rejoice in Him, the One who understands you and loves you perfectly. Trust His promises and instruction for living life. Apply His principles to an area of trouble today and continue to apply them regularly to that area. Give the principles a chance to affect your life and don’t judge the results prematurely. After all, you’ve given your plan a lot of time to implode. Now give His plan equal time to succeed. Whether you trust yourself or put your trust in God is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I come to You for understanding because You know me far better than I know myself. You comprehend me in all my complexity. No detail of my life is hidden from You. Help me to understand my hurts more, to forgive those who hurt me, and to trust You and Your promises. Give me the trust of a child when it comes to all that has to do with You. I pray in the name of the rock of my trust, Christ Jesus;  – AMEN!

The Truth
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:1,2

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5,6

 

Some Practical Advice for Christians

SOURCE:  D.A. Carson

(1) Always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). This command is so important that Paul repeats it. Our responsibility to obey it is independent of circumstances, for regardless of how utterly miserable our situation is, the Christian always has the most profound reasons for rejoicing in Christ Jesus: sins forgiven and the prospect of resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth—not to mention the consolation of the Spirit even now, and much more. Practically speaking, Paul well knows that the believer who is truly rejoicing in the Lord cannot possibly be a back-biter, a cheat, a whiner, a thief, or lazy, bitter, and filled with hate.

(2) Be known for gentleness (Phil. 4:5). That is almost a delicious oxymoron. So much in our culture wants us to be known for aggressiveness, or for some intrinsic strength or superiority. The gentle person does not usually think in terms of being known. But Paul wants us so to focus on gentleness that eventually we become known for gentleness. The ground Paul offers is that the Lord is “near.” In this context, probably Paul does not mean that the Lord’s coming is near, but that the Lord himself is never far from his people: he is near, and is watching us, as he watches over us, all the time. That becomes our motivation for acting as he wishes us to act.

(3) Stop worrying (Phil. 4:6–7). Paul is not advocating irresponsible escapism, still less a Pollyanna-like optimism. Moreover, strictly speaking he is not telling us to stop worrying and nothing more, but rather he tells us how to stop worrying—by replacing this constant fretting with something else: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [there’s the praise theme again], present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Paul does not deny the agony and sorrow of many human experiences. How could he? His letters show that he suffered his share of the worst. But he knows the solution. Either worrying drives out prayer, or prayer drives out worrying. Moreover, Paul insists, this disciplined, thankful, intercessory prayer brings with it “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

(4) Think holy thoughts (Phil. 4:8–9). Garbage in, garbage out. We are renewed by the transforming of our minds (Rom. 12:1–2). So watch what you feed your mind; watch what you think; determine to drive your mind into good and healthy channels, not those characterized by bitterness, resentments, lust, hate, or jealousy. Reflect on all the kinds of things Paul includes in his diverse list of verse 8. Moreover, here too Paul serves as an important example (Phil. 4:9): he is not telling us to do anything he does not practice himself.

1 Kings 13; Philippians 4; Ezekiel 43; Psalms 95–96

Suffering: A Suffering Savior Has Suffering Disciples

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege/J.C. Ryle

“Suffering is the diet of the Lord’s family” 

“All the sons of God take part in suffering with Christ. What says the Scripture? ‘If children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him.’ (Rom. 8:17.) All the children of God have a cross to carry.

They have trials, troubles, and afflictions to go through for the Gospel’s sake. They have trials from the world,—trials from the flesh,—and trials from the devil. They have trials of feeling from relations and friends,—hard words, hard treatment, and hard judgment.

They have trials in the matter of character;—slander, misrepresentation, mockery, insinuation of false motives,—all these often rain thick upon them. They have trials in the matter of worldly interests.

They have often to choose whether they will please man and lose glory, or gain glory and offend man. They have trials from their own hearts. They have each generally their own thorn in the flesh,—their own home-devil, who is their worst foe. This is the experience of the sons of God.

Some of them suffer more, and some less. Some of them suffer in one way, and some in another. God measures out their portions like a wise physician, and cannot err. But never, I believe, was there one child of God who reached paradise without a cross.

Suffering is the diet of the Lord’s family. ‘Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.’—’If ye are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then ye are illegitimate children and not sons.’—’Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God.’—’All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’ (Heb. 12:6, 8; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12.)

Suffering is a part of the process by which the sons of God are sanctified. They are chastened to wean them from the world, and make them partakers of God’s holiness. The Captain of their salvation was ‘made perfect through suffering,’ and so are they. (Heb. 2:10; 12:10.)

Let us try to settle this down into our hearts also. The sons of God have all to bear a cross. A suffering Saviour generally has suffering disciples.

The Bridegroom was a man of sorrows. The Bride must not be a woman of pleasures and unacquainted with grief. Blessed are they that mourn! Let us not murmur at the cross. This also is a sign of sonship.”

–J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 418-419.

Marriage: Lost That Lovin’ Feeling?

SOURCE:  Crystal McDowell/Today’s Christian Woman

When duty overtakes love in marriage

Have you begun to feel like your marriage is more about duty than love?

You push forward in your obligations to God, your spouse, your children, and your responsibilities, but move backward in your feelings. Duty is like living under the law—you’re busy doing something, but you feel no passion or desire for it.

Many married people feel trapped because they want to fulfill their covenant in marriage, but they feel exceptional discouragement and disappointment. Their spouses may be experiencing a season of weakness due to physical or mental illness, job loss, or emotional turmoil. Or perhaps they have sinned and walked away from God.

There is hope. The same God who took dirt and fashioned the intricate details of the human body with its complexity of neurons, cells, and nerves can revive love in your marriage.

For more than 20 years, I worked hard in my marriage to make it work. I wanted more love than duty, but the needs of raising a family took first place. Love moved to a distant second, then third, and before long it was hardly on the radar. I became more duty-driven than love-motivated in my marriage. My love began to drift away, lost like a boat without oars.

While watching the movie The Painted Veil, I was moved when Kitty told Sister Mother that it was her duty to be with her husband in the cholera-ridden region of China. Sister Mother replied, “Duty is what you do when you wash your hands. Love and duty together reveal the grace within you.” We need the grace of God to help us experience the divine intertwining of love and duty resulting in a wonderful, sacrificial aroma to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The acronym GRACE is your guide to living the fulfilled life that God has predestined for your marriage.

G—Go to God first.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).

There will be times to call your friends or reach out to your trusted Bible study buddies, but they can’t be there in the darkest, loneliest moments. You may appreciate their words and acts of compassion, but it won’t be enough. This is between God and you. Your private time with God will determine the level of your marital contentment. My confession to God became “My heart’s not right and I know that’s not pleasing to you. I submit to the Holy Spirit to help me grow in this.”

It will take complete surrender and trust in him. In your hour of frustration you must speak out to God, “I believe you.” Something happens on the inside when you make a verbal affirmation of your faith in the valleys. There’s peaceful reassurance of his grace and presence that will guide you through the murky waters of uncertainty in your marriage.

R—Repent of any unresolved anger.

“And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26).

If almost everything your spouse says or does provokes an irritated response from you, chances are good that you have unresolved anger. When this happened to me, I had to own up to my anger and repent, especially because my enemy, Satan, wanted a foothold in my family. I was trying to shut the door on an issue, but his foot blocked it and prevented the healing that I needed to move on.

If we are willing to confess our anger and put our unmet expectations at the foot of the cross, we can be free to love our marriage partners without restraint. When we refocus our attention on Jesus (and not our spouses) we find freedom, joy, and complete peace even if we’re still struggling. He’s with us.

A—Anticipate Temptation.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

We must decide early never to share information about our marriage conflicts or troubles with someone of the opposite sex. By anticipating temptation in all its forms, we build a fortress around our hearts so we don’t fail in the day of testing.

We can also be tempted to look down on our spouses or treat them with disdain, as Michal despised David for how he praised the Lord (2 Samuel 6:16). We are tempted by our own evil desires and not necessarily our spouses’ actions. Anything that makes the focus all about us is leading down a long road of regret—and even more pain that leaves an effect on generations.

C—Connect with a wise person.

“Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise” (Proverbs 13:10).

Do you have a mature believer in your life? You should be connected with someone who has been where you are and is willing to help you stay on the right path. You want a godly person (of the same sex) who can keep a confidence and demonstrate an unwavering devotion to God as well as his word.

When I decided to stay at home, I found myself very lonely and isolated. I asked God for a godly mentor, imagining she would be like my grandmother. However, when God sent her, she was nothing like I expected but everything I needed. Our friendship, respect, and love for each other have blossomed into a wonderful relationship. Her advice is always rooted in God’s Word and tempered by her experiences.

E—Expect things to change.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see … And it is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:1, 6).

One of the lies that Satan has used against married people throughout the ages is that things will never change—that you will always be in this situation. It usually follows with regret and all the what ifs (what if I hadn’t married him or her, what if we would’ve lived somewhere else, etc). You can choose to wallow in self-pity, but it never leads to refreshment and encouragement from the Holy Spirit. Or you can rest in the fact that God knew your issues before you were married and he has everything you need to make it.

God uses your struggles to grow your faith. Your challenge is to expect God to change you even if everything else seems to stay the same. Your specific struggles are part of your life journey leading to an eternal reward. When you stand before God one day, you will give an account for the type of spouse you were on this earth. Don’t you want to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23)?

Love and Duty…

I chose to be better, not bitter toward my spouse. When I went through the valley of despair, God did open-heart surgery for my spirit. He reminded me that love never fails (1 Corinthians 13). I held on to the hope of a faithful father who won’t despise a broken and contrite spirit. Taking the steps of GRACE has given me a renewed love for my spouse even if he didn’t change as I wanted. I changed, and that was the turning point for our marriage.

Is it possible just to put your hand to the grind and work, work, work at marriage in the absence of love? Possible, but not probable for the long term—you may grow tired and lose your focus on God’s grace and unconditional love. Grace in our marriages mirrors the unifying love of Christ and his church. There is a distinct sweetness in believers who work out of their faith from those who work for their faith.

You can choose to expect God to change you! There is nothing impossible with God if you are willing to take that risk.

Erica Jong once wrote, “And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” She probably didn’t mean this for your marriage, but you can take the advice. If you will simply trust God and practice grace, he will do great things with your marriage. It’s worth the risk of love and duty.

Why You Give in to Sexual Sin

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:8, 12)

Why isn’t he [David]  crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? In this psalm of confession and repentance after essentially raping Bathsheba, you would expect David to ask for something like that.

The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease.

People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should.

David knew this about himself.

It’s true about us too.

David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually — joy in God.

This is profound wisdom for us.

Failure: God Loves Losers

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Ed Welch/CCEF

Being a Loser and the Freedom to Fail

Two kinds of failure

Our failures are not all of the same type.

“I failed the test. I studied but ended up with an F.”

“I failed the test. I was alone on a business trip and assumed I could resist temptation, but the first thing I did was turn on the porn channel.”

These are two very different failures.

One reveals that we are fallible humans who make mistakes; the other violates the clear commands of the Lord. Ironically, given a choice, many of us would prefer a small moral failure to one in which our blunders are exposed. I’ll leave the more serious matter of failure involving sin for another time, and consider the one that is less serious but feels more pressing.

The category of failure-because-we-are-human is one all of us face. This is the failure you experience when you don’t make the cut for the varsity team and all your friends do, or you don’t get the job, or you lose the church vote for deacon, or a date never calls back.

“Stupid!” “Loser!”

At times like these, we assume that everybody sees that we are losers, and we are persuaded that we are losers.

Bring failures to the Lord

One of the telltale signs of this kind of human failure is that we are slow to bring it before God. Moral failure is different; we know we must do business with the Father. But human failure has independent instincts, or, at least, we assume it is about our reputation before other people rather than our relationship with the Lord.

But the Lord does have something to say about it.

Start by telling him what is going on.

What is it? What failure are you upset about? (“My whole life” doesn’t count. Be more specific).

What are you really saying? Is it something like this: “People think I’m a jerk!” “I have made life more difficult for my family.” “I expected more of myself.”

Anything you need to confess? There is probably no obvious sin if the matter is not a moral failure, but we can always confess our over-interest in personal reputation.

Then listen to Scripture. You’ll find a number of divine responses. Here are just two.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. (James 1:9-10)

Consider how you, as a brother in humble circumstances, have been singled out from the beginning of time to belong to God and, as you throw your lot in with Jesus, you have all of Christ’s inheritance. Your stature, indeed, is quite high.

I appreciate those words, and sometimes they are helpful, but I find more comfort— and some humor—in these:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor.1:26-29)

God loves losers

In other words, God loves losers. He is the one who chooses us to be part of his team. This way we can’t boast that our stellar reputation is a result of our fine work and amazing talents.

The freedom we have in Christ has a few different facets. One is that we are not judged by the world’s standards of success and failure. Instead, we have the freedom to be human, which means that when we fail, and we will every day, we know that Jesus is the head of this new world order, not us, and we hope to one day realize that there are more important matters, such as boasting in what Jesus has done.

Is Suffering Inevitable?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

“There’s no getting around it, pain and suffering are inevitable.

Our parents did not escape it, you and I will not escape it, and neither will our children.

According to Philippians 1:29, suffering is here to stay:

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

“There are some today who say, ‘All suffering is wrong. All who suffer are out of the will of God. If you suffer, you are in sin. And since you are in sin, if you will deal correctly and sufficiently with your sin, your suffering will go away.’

That is simply not the truth.

Scripture does not support such teaching. To be sure, all suffering is rooted in the fact that sin has entered the human race; however, not only has it been granted that we believe in Christ, but it has also been planned that we suffer.”

What Works? What Doesn’t?

When we suffer, our problem solving skills seem to escape us like an evaporating mist on a spring-fed lake. We know the solution lies within the cleansing waters of Christ being poured into us from the depths of our souls.

But the surface is turbulent. We struggle to overcome, and we find ourselves fighting to take our next breath. While everyone is different, a few strategies help us to respond well in times of trial, and some simply leave us gasping for air.

What works …

  • An honest assessment of the trials and suffering in your life
  • Absolute trust in God’s sovereignty
  • Patience, perseverance, and persistence in the face of great difficulty
  • Confidence in God’s ultimate plan for your life
  • Prayer

What doesn’t work …

  • Quick fixes with one-size-fits-all solutions
  • Denial
  • Avoidance
  • Rejecting people who genuinely have our best interests at heart
  • Becoming angry with God

—————————————————————————————
Insight for Living. (2007). Counseling Insights: A Biblical Perspective on Caring for People (565). Plano, TX: Insight for Living.

Thinking –> Feelings –> Behaviors

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Mind Games

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”(2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS)

Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to“stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon — “And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

Battle Plan Against Sin –> Act The Miracle

SOURCE: Adapted from a work by  John Piper

The battle plan

The link between the cross and the conquered sin in my life is my Holy-Spirit-empowered will. And that empowering by the Spirit is blood bought. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:5-6).

In other words, God intends that part of our experience of sanctification be the consciouswilled, opposition to specific sins in our lives. I only say “part” of our experience of sanctification because this is not the whole work of sanctification. In some areas of sin, God simply takes away the desire and the temptation is gone, and we don’t have to fight it any more.

Now here is what God showed [me . . .]: For decades I have applied this battle plan to sexual temptation but hardly at all to the sins of selfishness, anger, self-pity, blaming, and sullenness. I have engaged my will head-on with sexual lust. I have heard Jesus say, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29). Nobody spontaneously tears out his eye. That is an act of will overcoming all kinds of natural disinclination. That’s what I do when any illicit sexual thought tries to gain the ascendancy in my mind.

I go on the attack with A.N.T.H.E.M.:

  • AVOID.
  • Say NO! within five seconds.
  • TURN to something magnificent, like Christ crucified.
  • HOLD the pure thing in the mind until the temptation is gone.
  • ENJOY the greater pleasure of the blood-bought promises of God.
  • MOVE on to meaningful Christ-exalting activity.

There is nothing passive in my will when the lion of lust comes out of the bushes. I don’t lie down and wait for a miracle. act the miracle. I will explain that phrase in just a moment.

What I realized was that I was not applying any of this same gospel vigilance—what Peter O’Brien calls “continuous, sustained, strenuous effort”—against my most besetting sins. I was strangely passive, victim-like.

I had the unarticulated sense (mistakenly) that these sins (unlike sexual lust) should be defeated more spontaneously—with less direct use of my will. It should all happen naturally from the inside out. And if I tried to attack them with my will the way I did sexual lust, it would produce external conformity, not internal change. But I never let that thought stop me from attacking lust.

The text that broke though my inconsistency was Philippians 2:12-13.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so
now, not only as in my presence but much more in my
absence, work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and
to work for his good pleasure.

Why should there be “fear and trembling” as I attack my sin and bring about salvation from self-pity?

The reason given in the text is not a threat. It’s a gift.

Work to kill your sin, and will to kill your sin, and do it with fear and trembling because God Almighty—Maker of heaven and earth, Redeemer, Justifier, Sustainer, Father, Lover—is so close to you that your working and willing is his working and willing.

Tremble at this breathtaking thought.

God Almighty is in you. God is the one in you willing. God is the one in you working. Your “continuous, sustained, strenuous” effort is not only being carried out in the presence of the all-holy God, but is the very continuous, sustained, strenuous effort of God himself.

I am not waiting for a miracle. I am acting a miracle.

God is the decisive cause, but my will is the agent. And it becomes the agent in obedience to the command “work!” For in your working, God is working.

————————————————————————-

This is an excerpt from the revised edition of  Brothers, We Are Not Professionals  (B&H Publishing Group, 2013).

Fighting Sin is Tiring

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

God highly prizes those quiet warriors who battle with sin even when it hurts.[1]

Though they might not get much media coverage, they are heroes of the faith.

But even heroes can get tired.

And sometimes heroes even say things that seem less than heroic.

This is what the wicked are like—

always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued;
I have been punished every morning. (Psalm 73:12-14)
 

 Why does everyone else seem to have it easier? While everyone else goes about normal life, I fight a war every minute. When do I get a break?

 
 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’” (Malachi 3:13-15)

 

So, a few words to fighters…

First, if you think a little fatigue takes you off God’s ‘highly honored’ list, you are wrong. Fatigue means you have been in battle, and it makes you kin to people like Elijah (1 Kings 19:4). Be encouraged; you are not alone. There is an army of fatigued strugglers who walk among us. Ask around, tell your story and you will meet some of them.

Second, all those folks who act as if life is fine? No troubles? Prosperity galore? Those folks don’t exist. Behind every happy person is a sad person. Behind every human being’s persona is a combination of good, bad and really hard. You would definitely not want to be the “prosperous” people who are referenced in these passages.

Third, the battle is worth it. Your Father knows every second of your battle. The challenge is that you need eyes that see past today and see something bigger than your immediate struggle. That is a message that your Father gives you. The beauty of your struggle, in which you fight by faith, is that it has eternal implications (1 Pet.1:6). Its beauty will some day be apparent for all of us to savor.

Fourth, you, perhaps more than anyone else, can have confidence that you are a child of God (Heb.12:4-6).

God’s Working It All Out………

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Note:  The below commentary by D.A. Carson reminds us of the mysterious, but always sovereign ways of God.  It is helpful to be reminded of this as we experience life in a world that seems chaotically out-of-control in just about every aspect.  Carson also reminds us how the Bible so honestly portrays the truthful condition of God’s people as well as humankind — family dysfunction (see first paragraph) is nothing new.  It has been with us from the very beginning, and we all are still dealing with it. 

Praise God for His patient sovereignty as He works all out according to His will……

The Providence of God

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson  

Genesis 27 is in many ways a pathetic, grubby account. Earlier Esau had despised his birthright (25:34); now Jacob swindles him out of it. In this Jacob is guided by his mother Rebekah, who thus shows favoritism among her children and disloyalty to her husband. Esau throws a tantrum and takes no responsibility for his actions at all. Indeed, he nurses his bitterness and plots the assassination of his brother. The family that constitutes the promised line is not doing very well.

Yet those who read the passage in the flow of the entire book remember that God himself had told Rebekah, before the twin brothers were born, that the older would serve the younger (25:23). Perhaps that is one of the reasons why she acted as she did: apparently she felt that God needed a little help in keeping his prediction, even immoral help. Yet behind these grubby and evil actions God is mysteriously working out his purposes to bring the promised line to the end he has determined. Certainly God could have arranged to have Jacob born first, if that was the man he wanted to carry on the line. Instead, Esau is born first, but Jacob is chosen, as if to say that the line is important, but God’s sovereign, intervening choosing is more important than mere human seniority, than mere primogeniture.

In Matthew 26, the authorities hatch a nasty plot to corrupt justice and sort out a political problem; Judas, one of Jesus’ intimates, sells his master; Jesus is in agony in Gethsemane; he is arrested and betrayed by a kiss; the Sanhedrin condemns and brutalizes its prisoner; Peter disowns Jesus. Yet who can doubt, in the flow of the book, that God remains in sovereign control to bring about the desired end? Jesus will give his life “as a ransom for many” (20:28), and all the failures, pain, and sin in this chapter issue in redemption.

The book of Esther does not even use the word God, but here too, even Haman’s gross government-sanctioned genocide is heading toward God’s salvation. And Paul (Acts 26) apparently would have been acquitted if he had not appealed to Caesar — yet that very appeal brings him in the end to declare the Gospel at the heart of the Empire.

Providence is mysterious. It must never be used to justify wrong actions or to mitigate sin: Isaac and his family are more than a little sleazy, Judas is a deceitful wretch, Haman is vile, and the Roman court trying Paul is more than a little corrupt. Yet God sovereignly rules, behind the scenes, bringing glory out of gore and honor out of shame.

The “React Without Thinking” or “Ignore It” Strategies — Is There Yet Another Way?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Don’t Wait … Do It Now!

When faced with difficulties or discomfort of daily storms or life’s challenges, our natural reactions/defenses, or at least the ones that most people learn in our world today, usually fall into one of 2 categories. Either 1. ignore the problem and hope it goes away, or 2. react in a knee-jerk way to the problem while usually bringing immediate relief, often guarantees more actual damage later on.

Obviously, neither option works well for long-term fulfillment or peace, but being addicted to comfort as we all are … yes, we all have idols of the heart that we turn to instead of God at times … like a gunslinger from the Old West, we continue to quick-draw these so-called defense “weapons” when we feel threatened by the adversity God allows to enter our day.

I have learned … well no, I actually continue to learn, and sometimes the hard way, that failing to deal with adversity immediately compounds the pain and suffering immensely. Waiting, ignoring, or hiding never makes it better.

But I also am still in the process of learning that even though I shouldn’t put it off, I also can’t just immediately react with my not-thought-out knee-jerk response. We have to think first and then respond to have the best chance for success especially in challenging situations that press our emotional buttons.

Using either the “ignore it” or “react without thinking” strategy really shows a “my kingdom come, my will be done mentality” thus exposing my lack of faith in God’s promises, track record, character, sovereignty and plan for my life. We really need a “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” mindset. That recognizes His majesty as well as our limitations, not to mention it really is the best for our well-being and optimum plan of attacking the challenge before us.

In the Scripture reading for today, Jesus Christ lays down a very important principle: do what you must do now. Do it quickly. If you do not act immediately, if you do not pay the price to settle the adversity, an inevitable process begins … and that process will not stop until you have “paid the last penny.”

Today, think of an adversity that continues to drain you. Why are you not addressing it head on with Godly discernment?

Settle that score today, at least to the best of what you can control. God has given you answers to deal with it externally (behaviorally), or internally (inside your head). Don’t procrastinate, act now moving toward the mind of Christ, as that is where you will find God’s peace. Procrastinating or acting clearly and now when facing adversity is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I know I have stayed away from Your light for fear that my bad deeds, sins, and adversities will be exposed. I no longer want to live in darkness. I pray, Father, that You will help me live by Your Truth and in Your Light so that all can see what I do is done through You. Help me, Lord, to learn to deal with my adversities immediately so that they won’t fester and grow. But help me see life through Your eyes then respond with Your wisdom. I pray in the name of the One you sent to teach us truth, Jesus Christ– AMEN!

The Truth
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth; you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:25,26

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.

John 3:19-21

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