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Archive for the ‘Relationship with God’ Category

Your Family Voyage: Discarding Resentment

SOURCE:  Adapted from Your Family Voyage by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Some of the heaviest weight to unload is that of resentment.

The object of animosity may be a parent, sibling, authority figure, or some other significant person from your past.  You attempt to “get them back” by withholding love or approval, withdrawing, being uncooperative, ruminating on your anger, or severing the relationship altogether.  You may have denied or buried your anger so long that you aren’t even aware of your bitterness, but the emotion is expressed in a variety of ways:

Unmerited explosions of anger.

Avoidance of certain individuals.

A strong desire for vengeance or retaliation.

A pessimistic or critical outlook on life.

Sarcasm, cynicism, or critical attitudes toward individuals or situations.

Over-reactions or under-reactions out of proportion to the current situation.

In harboring resentment you suffer more than anyone else – anxiety, tension, regret, and isolation as well as physical effects such as headaches, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.  The offending individual may not even be aware of or affected by your indignation.

The resolution of resentment is forgiveness.

When we choose to forgive another person, we receive the primary benefit – the freedom to choose our responses and commitments to others, to ourselves and to God.

Our model of forgiveness is God.

Each one of us has broken God’s laws and erected barriers in our relationship with him.  The offenses are ours, not Gods.  God’s forgiveness is not based on his denial of our sin; he is very aware of our offenses against him.  God’s forgiveness is not the result of his ability to pretend that we never committed any wrong.  The forgiveness our heavenly Father offers is based on his willingness to bear the cost of our sin.  Christ’s death on the cross was the payment for our sin.  Because of that payment, God is free to respond to us as a gracious loving Father rather than as a righteous judge.

When we decide to forgive someone who has offended us, we must choose to bear the cost of the wrong committed against us.  Once we forgive, we no longer require a payment for the offenses we experienced.  We cancel the debt by accepting the offense.  In essence, we pay the debt owed us.  We no longer punish the offending person through anger, silence, avoidance or criticism.  This process frees us from the burden of resentment and allows us to let go of troublesome patterns from the past.

If we are going to unload baggage from our past, it will be necessary to relinquish any bitterness we may harbor.  Forgiveness is necessary.  Without letting go of our desire for vengeance, we trap ourselves into the patterns of the past.

Does forgiveness mean I’ll forget the offense?  No.  Forgiveness isn’t a matter of blocking memories or denying the past.  You will probably always carry a memory of the offense, but your emotional response to that memory can change as you forgive.

How long does forgiveness take?  This varies a great deal.  Forgiveness is a process and seldom occurs instantly.  The process of forgiveness begins with a conscious decision.  Once you have decided to forgive, God can begin to work in you to heal your wounds and change your perspective.

How will I know when I’ve forgiven this person?  While the memory will remain, the experience of that memory will become a recalling of history rather than a current experience of anxiety, anger, or hurt.

How do I start forgiving?  Forgiveness begins with a decision.  Once you’ve decided to forgive, prayerfully ask God to soften your heart and broaden your understanding of this experience from your past.  As you sincerely look to him, he will be faithful to shape you into his image in this area.  Once you have confronted those painful memories, they lose their power.  When they “feel” real, you react emotionally.

Your painful memories may cause incredible and unpleasant discomfort the first few times you mentally walk through them.  But once you’ve confronted them, they lose their immediacy.  Conversely, as long as you expend effort trying to avoid a memory it will retain its vivid reality and negative power, even if in your dreams or in the far corner of the haunting attic you try to pretend doesn’t exist.

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Don’t Stuff Your Pain, Tell God About It

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Get up, cry out in the night, even as the night begins. Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (Lamentations 2:19a NCV).

Think you’ve had a bad day?

The biblical character of Job had a Ph.D. in pain and loss.

In the very first chapter of Job, after everything fell apart in his life, “Job stood up, tore his robe in grief, and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped”(Job 1:20 GW).

Job expressed his pain to God. When you have a major loss in your life, the first thing you need to do is tell God exactly how you feel.

This may surprise you, but God can handle your anger and frustration. He can handle your emotions. Why? Because he gave them to you. You were made in the image of God, and he is an emotional God.

When your 2-year-old has a temper tantrum and beats on your knees, you can handle that. In the same way, God is bigger than your emotion, and it’s okay to tell him exactly how you feel. When you prayed for a promotion but it didn’t happen, when a loved one walks out of your life, when you get the dreaded call saying, “It’s cancer,” you can tell God, “I’m mad. I’m upset. I’m sick. I’m frustrated. I’m ticked off. I doubt.” God can handle your complaints, your questions, your fear, and your grief. God’s love for you is bigger than all of your emotions.

My kids know I love them. They know that I’ve been on this planet longer than they have and that I’ve had more experience than they have. But my children sometimes question my judgment. Can you believe that?

I’d rather have an honest, gut-level conversation with them than have them stuff their frustration and disappointment inside. God is the same way! He would rather have you wrestle with him in anger than walk away in detached apathy.

The right response to unexplained tragedy is not “grin and bear it.” Lamentations 2:19a says, “Get up, cry out in the night, even as the night begins. Pour out your heart like water in prayer to the Lord” (NCV).

Trials: When God Calls You Out

SOURCE:  Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:9

If we don’t sometimes feel like we’re “in over our heads,” it may be that we’re not following Jesus where he calls us.

Paul names it the “sentence of death” — that’s how he felt about the sufferings and complexities of his ministry. It was true affliction, a burden so heavy that he admits he lacked the strength to carry it. He was sinking, despairing even of life itself. The apostle Paul — to the extreme — was “in over his head.” And God did this in order to, as Paul says, “make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

The situations that stretch us come in varying degrees. Some are intense like Paul’s, others are scattered along the spectrum of the great unknown, where fear runs rampant and our faith feels small. But whatever they are, however hard they feel, we know why they come. It’s just what Paul says.

God brings trials into our lives to give us more of himself. Their purpose is that we might not rely on ourselves — not look to ourselves for salvation or hope or joy — but that we might rely on him. The purpose is that we would lean on God, that we’d fix our eyes on his glory, clinging to the truth that in Jesus he is always enough for us. Always.

This is the truth that resounds in the depths to which God calls us. He invites us to step out and follow him. To dream. To plan. To build. He invites us to put our hands to work for his name’s sake, not based upon our expertise or know-how or giftedness. He invites us here based upon who he is himself.

“His sovereign hand is our guide. His heart of mercy is our anchor. He will make our faith stand.”

He invites us here because he knows that it is here, unlike anywhere else, that our souls must rest in his embrace. It’s here, above and beyond every other place, where his children must grasp the wonder of what it means to be his own. Because of the cross and victory of Jesus, we are his and he is ours. We are his people and he is our God. We are his children and he is our Father. He is enough.

And he will prove his enough-ness to us. He will show us time and time again that all we need is found in him. All that we lack finds an abundance in his grace. Yes, we would fail. The weight is too much and, like Paul, we can’t carry this in our own strength. But God is here. His sovereign hand is our guide. His heart of mercy is our anchor. He will make our faith stand. He will be our God in Jesus Christ.

And so, let us go. Let us step out, following him farther than our feet could ever wander. Let us walk upon those waters, in over our heads, not relying on ourselves, but holding fast to him, trusting in him, casting all our hope on him. Because he really is enough.

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 acually 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.

Do Not Fear in the Face of Change

SOURCE:  Christina Fox/Desiring God

When you first have children, you quickly learn the importance of establishing a routine and some structure in their lives. Meal times and nap times are sacred. It’s always three stories before bed and Mr. Bear must lie next to the pillow, or life just isn’t right. Children thrive in a routine. And when things change, when anything changes, they are quick to let you know that they don’t like it.

The same is often true for us, as adults. We don’t like change either. We like things to be familiar and predictable. We like to know what to expect when we wake up each morning. But life is constantly changing.

Our kids seem to grow inches in a day. New gray hairs emerge every time we look in the mirror. The clothes we wore a year ago just don’t fit the way they used to. We lose jobs, relationships end, and churches transition or split. All while our society changes its values and mores as often as a preschooler changes into dress up clothes.

When such changes enter our life, it’s overwhelming, confusing, even terrifying. We can go to bed at night to one reality and wake up to a completely different life. Change can make us feel lost and abandoned, like we’ve been tossed overboard in the midst of a storm. We’re left reeling, trying to grab ahold of anything we can find that’s strong and stable. We’re tempted to run from change, as though we could ever escape it.

The God Who Never Changes

As we all encounter major changes in our individual lives, and as the world around us continues to change, we need a place to find hope. We need somewhere to stand when we wake up to news that a loved one has passed away, or our job is in jeopardy, or the last candidate we would want was elected into office. The truth is, there is one thing that never changes, the one thing that stays the same: our unchanging God.

The Bible tells us that God never changes. “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6). There is no transition, inconsistency, or change in this God. The same God who spun this massive blue marble into space is the same one who met Moses on Mount Sinai. The same God who forgave David for his adultery is the one who crushed his own Son when Christ became sin at the cross for us.

Yesterday, today, and forever he is the God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:8–9).

The Truth That Never Changes

Because God never changes, his word never changes. All that he has said about himself remains true forever. Everything he has told us about why and how the world came to be, about what’s wrong with the world, and about what he has done to save the world will never change. No matter what anyone may say, no matter who denies or defies God’s word, it remains firmly fixed. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89). “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

And because his word never changes, his promises for us remain true:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Our Rock and Anchor

The unchanging nature of God and his unchangeable word are real things on which we can stake our life. It is a rock big enough and strong enough for us to build a house on it, and an anchor big enough and strong enough to hold our souls in the midst of life’s waves and storms.

Because of these truths, when everything in life seems flipped upside down, we can say with the psalmist, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1–3).

Things will continue to change — in the world around us and in our lives. Some of those changes will feel like a tiny ripple, and others feel like a ten-foot wave. But no matter what changes we face, we need not fear. We need not hide. We need not despair. Our rock and anchor is our unchanging God, whose character and promises remain fixed forever.

(Should I Pray) Whatever It Takes, Lord?

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

Whatever It Takes, Lord

We want to be people who love Jesus with all our heart, who trust him fully, follow him faithfully, and bear maximum fruit for his name. We want to be filled with as much God as we can possibly hold (Ephesians 3:19). We don’t want to be lukewarm (Revelation 3:16), or waste our brief life here on earth (Ephesians 5:16).

So let’s lace our prayers with whatever it takes requests.

The Safest Prayer

Over the years, many people have told me they fear praying “whatever it takes” because God just might actually answer. And if he does, he might make them do hard things or go to hard places where they might suffer. He might take away people and things they love. He might make them miserable.

Praying whatever it takes feels dangerous.

I understand this fear. I used to feel it, too. We look at what some saints endured and we think, “No thanks.” But if we read Hebrews 11, we find that saints who seemed to pay a significant cost to fully follow God were not holy stoics who chose obedience over joy, but holy hedonists who, like Jesus, chose costly obedience for the sake of their joy (Hebrews 12:2). They considered any hardship they endured worth the cost because the joy of their reward was so great (Hebrews 11:26).

After years of praying whatever it takes, I can tell you my former fears were misplaced. I used to fear the wrong thing. It isn’t dangerous to pray this way; it’s dangerous not to pray this way.

Whatever it takes praying is a means to experiencing inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8), not misery. I’ve learned that choosing not to ask God to do whatever it takes out of fear I might lose something is like declining Thanksgiving dinner because I fear giving up my bag of Cheetos.

We are never safer than when we are in Jesus’s hands (John 10:28). And the safest way we can pray is to ask God to do whatever it takes for Jesus’s joy to be in us and for our joy to be full (John 15:11).

God Only Wants to Give You Good Gifts

I don’t want to mislead you. God’s answers to my prayers have resulted in some of the most difficult experiences of my life. But hear me: I would not trade any of those experiences for the world. They’ve only encouraged me to pray all the more because of the joy-infused hope I’ve tasted through them (Romans 5:2).

It is true that God frequently answers our prayers in ways we don’t expect. But he only does this for our joy. God is always pursuing us with goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6). Listen to how Jesus describes the Father’s disposition toward us when he encourages us to pray:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)

The Father has no desire at all to give us misery when we ask for joy (Matthew 7:9–10).

Don’t Be Afraid to Pray, “Whatever It Takes, Lord”

So don’t be afraid to pray, “Whatever it takes, Lord.”

All we are doing is asking our Father for what will make us and others most happy (Luke 11:13;Matthew 13:44; Ephesians 1:17–18; Ephesians 3:19; Colossians 4:3). This will not endanger our joy, but result in more of it (John 15:11; Psalm 16:11).

Any suspicion we have that God will make us miserable in answer to our earnest prayers for more of him is a demonic deception. Satan is casting a lying light on Scripture and our experience, playing on our fears, so that he can cheat us out of the joy God wants to give us. We must not let our unbelieving fears determine the nature of our prayers.

That’s why it’s actually more dangerous not to pray such prayers. We live in a cosmic war zone, opposed by spiritual forces of evil far beyond our strength (Ephesians 6:12). We really need God to do whatever it takes to defeat them. And he chooses to do so often through our prayers (Romans 15:18;Philippians 1:19).

So let’s boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), and ask for as much of it as we can get, whatever it takes. For it is asking the One we love most to give us what we need most that will make us most happy. We should not fear, for there is no safer prayer.

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Doing “Honest Business” With God

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

The First Step to a Clear Conscience

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24 NLT, second edition).

The first step on the path to a clear conscience is to take a personal moral inventory or a personal spiritual assessment.

You need to sit down with God in a quiet space by yourself when you’re unhurried and say, “God, I’m going to do business with you. I’m going to make a list of anything that’s between you and me that’s wrong in my life. Help me to see the things that I know are wrong and the things that I don’t know are wrong.” Ask God to clear your mind and reveal your sins.

You can pray Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (NLT, second edition). You’re saying, “God, turn your spotlight on my inner self. Find the stuff in me that’s entangled me and that’s holding me back.”

It’s important to take your time. Don’t rush it! Don’t say, “God, I’ve got five minutes for you to reveal every sin I’ve ever done.” Take your time. Write it all down.

Why is it important to write it down? Writing makes it specific. Thoughts disentangle themselves through the lips and the fingertips. You speak it, and you write it. If you haven’t written it down, you haven’t really thought about it.

Let me ask you a very important question. How serious are you about wanting God’s blessing on your life? Enough that you’re willing to be gut-level honest? Are you willing to be honest with God? Are you willing to be honest with yourself? Are you willing to be honest with other people? Or are you just going to live in denial? Denial and God’s blessing do not go hand-in-hand.

If you’re serious, then you’re just a step away from liberation! You are one step away from a feeling of joy and purity that you’ve never experienced. You are so close to freedom from the habits and hurts and hang-ups that are messing up your life.

Don’t procrastinate. There is nothing more important in your life than to have the blessing of God. Take time today, get alone by yourself, and do a personal spiritual assessment. It will change your life!

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