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ABSOLUTE SURRENDER

(Adapted from The Seeking Heart by Fenelon, p. 175-176)

Inward peace comes with absolute surrender to the will of God.  Learn to accept counsel with humility and straightforwardness.  This will help you grow closer to God.

The reason you feel so agitated is that you do not accept everything that happens to you with complete trust in God.  Put everything in His hand, and offer yourself to Him as a sacrifice.  The moment you stop wanting things to be your way, you will be free from so much worry and concern.  You won’t have to hide anything or make up excuses for anything.

Until you reach this point of surrender, your life will be full of trouble and aggravation.  So give your heart wholly to God and you will find peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER OF SURRENDER

My God, I want to give myself to you.  Give me the courage to do this.  My spirit within me sighs after you.  Strengthen my will.  Take me.  If I don’t have the strength to give You everything, then draw me by the sweetness of Your love.  Lord, who do I belong to, if not to You?  What a horror to belong to myself and to my passions!  Help me to find all my happiness in You, for there is no happiness outside of You.

Why am I afraid to break out of my chains?  Do the things of this world mean more to me than You?  Am I afraid to give myself to You?  What a mistake!  It is not even I who would give myself to You, but You who would give Yourself to me.  Take my heart.

What joy it is to be with You, to be quiet so that I might hear Your voice!  Feed me and teach me out of Your depths.  Oh God, You only make me love You.  Why should I fear to give You everything and draw close to You?  To be left to the world is more frightening than this!  Your mercy can overcome any obstacle.  I am unworthy of You, but I can become a miracle of Your grace.

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NOTE: François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon (6 August 1651 – 7 January 1715), was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer.

The Dark Night of the Soul (Sproul)

 

by R.C. Sproul

The dark night of the soul.  This phenomenon describes a malady that the greatest of Christians have suffered from time to time.  It was the malady that provoked David to soak his pillow with tears.  It was the malady that earned for Jeremiah the sobriquet, “The Weeping Prophet.”  It was the malady that so afflicted Martin Luther that his melancholy threatened to destroy him.  This is no ordinary fit of depression, but it is a depression that is linked to a crisis of faith, a crisis that comes when one senses the absence of God or gives rise to a feeling of abandonment by Him.

Spiritual depression is real and can be acute.  We ask how a person of faith could experience such spiritual lows, but whatever provokes it does not take away from its reality. Our faith is not a constant action. It is mobile. It vacillates.  We move from faith to faith, and in between we may have periods of doubt when we cry, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.”

We may also think that the dark night of the soul is something completely incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit, not only that of faith but also that of joy.  Once the Holy Spirit has flooded our hearts with a joy unspeakable, how can there be room in that chamber for such darkness?  It is important for us to make a distinction between the spiritual fruit of joy and the cultural concept of happiness.  A Christian can have joy in his heart while there is still spiritual depression in his head.  The joy that we have sustains us through these dark nights and is not quenched by spiritual depression.  The joy of the Christian is one that survives all downturns in life.

In writing to the Corinthians in his second letter, Paul commends to his readers the importance of preaching and of communicating the Gospel to people. But in the midst of that, he reminds the church that the treasure we have from God is a treasure that is contained not in vessels of gold and silver but in what the apostle calls “jars of clay.”  For this reason he says, “that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”  Immediately after this reminder, the apostle adds, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Cor. 4:7­-10).

This passage indicates the limits of depression that we experience.  The depression may be profound, but it is not permanent, nor is it fatal.  Notice that the apostle Paul describes our condition in a variety of ways.  He says that we are “afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” These are powerful images that describe the conflict that Christians must endure, but in every place that he describes this phenomenon, he describes at the same time its limits.  Afflicted, but not crushed.  Perplexed, but not in despair.  Persecuted, but not forsaken.  Struck down, but not destroyed.

So we have this pressure to bear, but the pressure, though it is severe, does not crush us.  We may be confused and perplexed, but that low point to which perplexity brings us does not result in complete and total despair. Even in persecution, as serious as it may be, we are still not forsaken, and we may be overwhelmed and struck down as Jeremiah spoke of, yet we have room for joy. We think of the prophet Habakkuk, who in his misery remained confident that despite the setbacks he endured, God would give him feet like hind’s feet, feet that would enable him to walk in high places.

Elsewhere, the apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians gives them the admonition to be “anxious for nothing,” telling them that the cure for anxiety is found on one’s knees, that it is the peace of God that calms our spirit and dissipates anxiety.  Again, we can be anxious and nervous and worried without finally submitting to ultimate despair.

This coexistence of faith and spiritual depression is paralleled in other biblical statements of emotive conditions.  We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believers to suffer grief.  Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Though grief may reach to the roots of our souls, it must not result in bitterness.  Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness.  In like manner, we see that it is a good thing to go to the house of mourning, but even in mourning, that low feeling must not give way to hatred.  The presence of faith gives no guarantee of the absence of spiritual depression; however, the dark night of the soul always gives way to the brightness of the noonday light of the presence of God.

Happiness: Protected from Suffering and Success

Source: The Secret of Invincible Joy by John Piper

Jesus revealed a secret that protects our happiness from the threat of suffering and the threat of success. That secret is this: Great is your reward in heaven. And the sum of that reward is enjoying the fullness of the glory of Jesus Christ (John 17:24).

He protects our happiness from suffering when he says,

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:11–12)

Our great reward in heaven rescues our joy from the threat of persecution and reviling.

He also protects our joy from success when he says,

Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)

The disciples were tempted to put their joy in ministry success. “Even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17). But that would have severed their joy from its only sure anchor.

So Jesus protects their joy from the threat of success by promising the great reward of heaven.  Rejoice in this: that your names are written in heaven. Your inheritance is infinite, eternal, sure.

Our joy is safe.  Neither suffering nor success can destroy its anchor.  Great is your reward in heaven.  Your name is written there.  It is secure.

Jesus anchored the happiness of suffering saints in the reward of heaven.  And he anchored the happiness of successful saints in the same.

And thus he freed us from the tyranny of worldly pain and pleasure.

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 Is Working in Your Waiting

SOURCE:  /Desiring God

Most parents would agree that their children don’t want to wait for anything. The last thing kids want to hear is Mom say, “Not now.” It can prompt anger, frustration, even hopelessness. This “dis-ease” of waiting follows most of us into our adult years. We may not respond with the same emotional outbursts as children, but most of us still hate waiting for what we want.

And our modern society just makes it worse. We want everything done quickly — and new devices constantly spring up to meet those demands and encourage our impatience. We are not used to waiting, and the more our technology caters to our immediate desires, the less we feel willing to wait.

Such is our dilemma as Christians. While society makes every attempt to make our life easier and faster, God works on a very different timetable. In his mind, nothing is wrong with waiting. In fact, waiting can actually be a positive good that he often uses to make us more like his Son.

God Works While We Wait

Something actually happens while nothing is happening. God uses waiting to change us.

The story of Adam and Eve is a story of rebellion against God. Once they believed that God didn’t have their best interests in mind, they decided to go ahead without God and do what they wanted. They became, in effect, their own god. Too often, this is exactly what we do today. When God tells us to wait, we don’t trust him, but go ahead and find ways to accomplish what we want to happen.

This tendency to push God to the side goes against his plan for us. It creates distance in our relationship with him. It causes us to get into trouble and brings pain. What good is it to gain the whole world now — whatever it is we think we want — and forfeit our souls’ intimacy with God (Mark 8:36)?

God wants us to learn how to follow him and put down our demanding selves — to calm that screaming child in us. One way he helps us do this is to say, “Wait.” That miserable, uncomfortable, sometimes painful state of silence is one of God’s most powerful tools to set us free.

If we are willing, that is.

Choosing at the Crossroads

We don’t start out willing to wait. Our natural response to waiting is often anger or doubt. Fortunately, God is gracious and merciful, understanding of our tendencies. Simply feeling deep, complex emotions in waiting — especially for significant things, like a pregnancy or a job — is not necessarily sinful in itself. But we can decide where those emotions take us.

We can decide to exalt these feelings. We might act on them by taking matters into our own hands. Or perhaps we will not act, but we’ll make an idol out of the good for which we are waiting — every passing day is another log on the fires of bitterness, impatience, ingratitude, perhaps even resentment against the God who won’t give us what we want.

Or, by God’s grace, we can choose to wait as he intends. “Waiting on the Lord is the opposite of running ahead of the Lord, and it’s the opposite of bailing out on the Lord,” writes John Piper. “It’s staying at your appointed place while he says stay, or it’s going at his appointed pace while he says go. It’s not impetuous, and it’s not despairing.”

We have the choice, then, to take a deep breath, release our clenched hands, and let God be God. And we are invited to continue hoping in his greatness.

Pray for God to Work in You

Certainly, only one of these options will bring us joy. As we seek to accept and rejoice in God’s handling of our lives, including his timing, we can ask God to work in us two main things, so that our waiting is not in vain: humility and trust.

1. Humility

Sometimes, when I’ve found myself getting impatient and upset, I will remind myself that God is the one who put me here. My life is not my own. This is humility. It is coming to realize that we are a breath and God owes us nothing (Psalm 39:5; Luke 17:7–10).

2. Trust

Then comes trust, which means believing at least two things about God: he is powerful, and he is loving.

Believing God is powerful means that we know he is in charge of what’s happening; things are not arbitrary or out of his control. He is capable of both helping us and changing things. Much of our anxiety in waiting is because we forget that “God is able to make all grace abound to you” (2 Corinthians 9:8). You are not at the mercy of your circumstances.

Believing God is loving means that there is care and purpose behind all that he does. It means that he is faithful to help us right now and bring us blessings later. It means that his judgment and timing is always perfectly good. True, he owes us nothing, yet he has promised to give us everything we need (Philippians 4:19).

Even during that long road of silence, God cares deeply for us. We can be like David and remind ourselves, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

Blessing of Waiting in Faith

Some of the greatest figures in the Bible — Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David — had to wait for many years for God’s promises. Everything that happened in the meantime was used to prepare them, inwardly as well as outwardly. Then, when they reached their promise, they were blessed beyond measure.

God invites us to trust in his goodness today and his faithfulness tomorrow. Relinquishing control to him is the main route to experience his love and peace. It unites our hearts with his. It creates a level of maturity and character that we will take with us into the future, and it enables us to enjoy his future blessings all the more.

MY EASTER TESTIMONY

SOURCE:  DR. BILL BELLICAN

In my home growing up (the early 1950s), there was not much talk about religion.  My father was building a career in the burgeoning hospitality/hotel industry. He had a Presbyterian background but not any church connection to speak of.  My mom had a Baptist upbringing and would periodically take me to a small Baptist church. Dad’s job kept him busy 24/7. Mom helped Dad a lot.  My young life was spent growing up in the hotels my Dad managed as was the business practice of that time.

Around age 13, Mom and I went to church one Sunday.  The pastor’s message caught my attention and grabbed my heart.  It was the message of salvation.  As God would have it, my mind and heart were quickened, and I went forward to accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior later being baptized.  But, there was not much conversation at home about this important event I had experienced.

Sadly, my Dad died unexpectedly very soon thereafter of a massive heart attack, and my Mom became very emotionally needy and concerned about making a living. There were no other adults in my life at that time to model this new life in Christ for me or even to talk to about it.  Church attendance became much more sporadic as my grandmother (with dementia) came to live with us and needed much care.

As the years passed and I finished high school and went to college, my faith was still muted for the most part.  However, when I met the one who was to become my wife (Susan), things changed.  Susan grew up in Central Church-Memphis, TN and that’s where she was attending.  So, I started going to Central, too.  Upon my first visit, the Word preached penetrated my heart and mind in such a way that my faith came alive within me.  My dormant faith and life in Christ began to flourish.  In 1975, Susan and I married, and I began my career in the hospitality/hotel industry which was growing very rapidly.

Similar to my Dad, this career grew and demanded such time that it overtook the attention necessary for my faith to continue to grow. I was progressing up the “corporate ladder” quickly. My worldly life was working very well.  In essence, my spiritual life could be characterized as the “seed that fell among the thorns” (Luke 8:14).  The cares, worries, and successes of life overtook my focus on Christ.  I think my attitude became something like, “Thank you, Lord, for your blessings. I will call you if I need you.”

However, a life-change was coming.

In 1989, I was presented with the annual “Leadership Award.”  The corporation I worked for conveyed to me that I was one of their most valuable employees. By 1991, this same corporation was bought out by an international company, downsized, and relocated meaning I was out of a job.  God was beginning a loving, transformative process in my life, but I wasn’t aware of it, yet.

I expected that God would allow me to take advantage of my numerous business contacts and years of experience so I could simply step into another corporate job. However, God loved me too much to allow me to continue in my spiritual dysfunction with my eyes fixed on anything else but Him (Heb 12:2).  Nothing seemed to work out about another position.  Doors seemed to be closed for one reason or another.  Life began to get more desperate.  Benefits were running out.  My golden parachute developed holes.  Stresses in the home were mounting.  Savings were depleted.  Retirement funds were used to survive.  We were on the verge of losing everything.  I had entered into what St. John of the Cross referred to in his writings as “The Dark Night of the Soul.”  God was going to use this “dark night” to wisely and lovingly strip away everything that I had wrongly grown to put my faith in and depend upon.

As I was trying to understand what was happening, I turned to God helplessly and without any hope in anything else.  Strangely, my heart was drawn to the Word, to prayer in a most intimate way.  My relationship with Christ, my hunger for Him, my experience of His presence deepened like never before.  I didn’t have solutions to my problems, but I had the fullness of Christ with me.  Christ was disciplining me for my good, like a son, painfully, so I might desire and seek His holiness and righteousness for my life (Heb 12: 4-13).

With more clarity and counsel from others, in time I started to graduate school to finish my counseling education for licensure and worked as an independent business consultant to provide for my family. God kept enlarging my faith and trust in Him during this time. Later, I began working part-time for Central Church in the Counseling Ministry.  As I completed my graduate degree, I was allowed to direct the Counseling Ministry.  The Lord used all of these life events to get me where He wanted me to be that I might love Him and serve Him in a spiritually healthy way.

Like the author of Psalm 119, I found comfort in what God was doing in my life:

“Before I was afflicted I went astray but now I obey your word.

You are good and what you do is good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness, you have afflicted me.”

[Psalm 119: 67-68, 71, 75]

HOW L-O-N-G, LORD?

SOURCE–Adapted from:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Transformational Thought

Have you ever said those words, “How long?” As in, “How long, Lord, until my prayer is answered? How long until life gets better? How long do You want me to do this without seeing results? How long do You want me to suffer? How long do I have to ‘just hang in there?’ How long ’til my kids get along? How long ’til my loved one stops drinking?”

When Joseph was sold into slavery and later spent years in prison, he must have asked, “How long, Lord?” When Moses led the Israelites around and around in the wilderness, he surely thought, “How long, Lord?” When Noah was ridiculed for 100 years while he built an ark on dry land, he must have wondered, “How long, Lord?” The Israelites have been wondering for centuries, “How long until the Messiah comes?” But each one of these trusted God. They respected Him enough to continue obeying Him even when it seemed that all hope was gone.

Perhaps you are involved in a ministry that seems to go nowhere. Yet, you know the Lord wants you there. Maybe you have been praying for an unsaved loved one for many years. Or perhaps you have a business that just doesn’t come together, but the Lord has led you to continue. Be encouraged to revere God by continuing to obey him, even though you may wonder, “How long, Lord?”

Our nature is to want our agenda now. No waiting. Nobody else calls the shots. We avoid discomfort and demand what we want when we want it. My kingdom come; my will be done. But waiting and patience are powerful teachers of many truths. This is how character and many psychological skills are developed. God knows the right timing. Bend to His timeline and your peace and growth will be unbelievable.

Today, be confident that God loves you. Examine your life to see what situation or area makes you impatient … frustrated … irritable. Make sure you are doing a good job with your part of the issue. Then accept that God has a different timeline than you do. Learn the lesson He is teaching. The situation is in your life to grow you … that is God’s purpose for all that comes into your life. He has a perfect plan for us. We (and others) just keep messing it up. His timing is always perfect because it is His timing. As Noah did, keep on “doing all that God commands.”

Prayer

Oh Father, Lord, help me honor You by trusting You and being willing to wait on You. Even though I get discouraged at times, help me remember that You are in control and that Your way is the best way. Your timing is the best timing. Help me be patient so I can show the world I am willing to wait on You, Lord. Thy kingdom come, not my kingdom come. I really don’t want to take over responsibility for the whole world, even though sometimes I act like it. I pray this and all prayers for the one who demonstrated perfect timing, Jesus Christ.  AMEN!

The Truth

I patiently waited, LORD, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you. Many will see this, and they will honor and trust you, the LORD God.

Psalm 40:1-3

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

Q&A: Why would God put us in hard situations?

SOURCE:  Billy Graham

Question:

Our pastor said the other day that we ought to be glad when problems come, because we’ll become better persons as a result. I’m not sure I agree with him. Why would God put us into hard situations?

Answer:

Your pastor was only echoing what the Bible tells us about troubles, namely, that God can use them to make our faith stronger and draw us closer to Himself. The Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…. so that you may be mature and complete” (James 1:2, 4).

Think of it this way: Suppose you never got any physical exercise; all you did was sit in your chair or lie in bed all day. What would happen to your muscles? You know the answer: They’d grow weaker and weaker, and eventually, you might not even be able to get out of bed. Our muscles only become strong if we exercise them and challenge them to do more. The more resistance they face, the stronger they’ll get.

The same is true spiritually. If our faith is never challenged… if we never have to put it to work… then our spiritual “muscles” will grow weaker and weaker. But when hardships and trials come into our lives, we’ll be forced to exercise those spiritual “muscles” — and when we do, our faith will grow stronger. We’ll discover that God still loves us and is with us, and He can be trusted to lead us through life’s storms. The Bible says, “We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Thank God that He will never abandon you, no matter what comes your way. And when hard times do come, turn to Him and ask Him to use them to help you grow in your faith.

ADDICTED? “RE-TIE” TO GOD

SOURCE–Adapted from:  Stepping Stones

Transformational Thought

Tens of millions of people in the U.S. are tormented by compulsive addictions according to the latest statistics regarding substance abuse and compulsive-addictive behaviors. An addict’s primary relationship is with a drug or a behavior, not with himself. Our society, in large part, denies the addiction problem. Treatment centers and state hospitals are closing, program funding is being cut, and insurance reimbursement for treatment is decreasing. The walking wounded are, therefore, on their own to get help for themselves and their families.

Physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological disabilities brought on by addictions are rampant. Major damage caused by drugs also includes the drug environment and the impurities associated with it, namely, secondary infections, especially with illegal drugs. This lifestyle, regardless of the type of addiction, causes a person to be only a shadow of what God intended.

There. That’s the bad news. Now the good news.

Have you ever noticed what a bad rap the word “religion” has gotten? It doesn’t seem to be regarded today as the original word suggests. The root word is “ligio” (Latin) meaning to tie or bind together. For example, in a tubal ligation a woman has her tubes tied. “Re-ligio” means that something that was once tied became untied, and it is now re-tied or bound together again. There is no better example than the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God, causing perfect fellowship with God to become untied. God’s plan of salvation, through Christ’s sacrifice once and for all, re-tied us back together into relationship with God for eternity, by His grace alone. He does the work.

Addiction is synonymous with idolatry.

When we strongly desire something as much as or more than we desire God, we have given ourselves to a false god, a weak imitation. People have become unbound with God through their addictions. What we give our time, money, and energy to becomes our god. We become like our object of worship. It’s amazing to consider what we pursue to soothe our discomfort, and the dire spiritual consequences we choose to endure for a momentary thrill.

Today, if you have an overt addiction, know that God stands ready and willing to forgive and restore everyone who has been carried away by addictions.

Let Him in. Trust His ways, and not yours.

Becoming untied causes us to disintegrate. But receiving God’s gift of healing allows us to re-integrate, restoring us to what God intended in the first place! If you don’t have an overt addiction, examine what you go to when you are uncomfortable. If it is God’s word and prayer, awesome. If it is anything else, then you have an addiction and need to wrestle with that. Start to look at why you turn to those other items first.

Prayer

Father God, You are our source and our strength, and a very present help in time of trouble. Deliver us out of the claws of addictions and addictive behaviors. We need Your supernatural strength to overcome the effects of mood-altering chemicals and behaviors that are self-destructive. Heal and restore us in body, mind, and spirit to what You intended us to be. We ask this in the powerful and comforting name of Jesus;  – AMEN!

 

THE TRUTH —–

“Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of a sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”

Galatians 5:16-17

 


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Originally posted in 2011.

Father, Forgive Them: Why and How

(Adapted from Wounds That Heal by Stephen Seamands, Chapter 8)

Throughout His ministry, Jesus consistently stressed that as God has forgiven us, we in turn ought to forgive others. In the Lord’s Prayer, he taught us to say: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matthew 6:12).

On another occasion, He commanded His disciples, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone” (Mark 11:25). When Peter inquired how many times He was obligated to forgive, Jesus insisted, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). He then told a story about an unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-34). Although his master had forgiven his immense debt, the servant refused to forgive a minor amount owed to him by a fellow servant. When the master found out what the servant had done, he had the servant thrown in jail. Jesus warned His disciples, “So, my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Jesus not only consistently preached radically extending forgiveness to others, He also practiced it. And He practiced it when it was incomprehensibly difficult – as He was hanging on a cross. The victim of gross injustice, His body wracked with pain, the vicious taunts of His enemies ringing in His ears, He gathered His strength and cried out, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing,”

The Christian imperative to forgive those who have inflicted pain on us is a call to imitate Jesus. However, we are not called to imitate Christ in our own strength. We discover that as we will to forgive, He imparts His strength to us.

The Process of Forgiveness

I cannot overemphasize the importance of forgiveness in the healing of human hurts. Forgiveness unlocks the door to healing, restoration, freedom and renewal. Until we open that door, we will remain stuck in the past, destined to carry the hurt and burden forever without hope of a restored heart or a renewed future. There is no greater blockage to a person’s receiving healing from God than that person’s refusal to forgive others. We will never find healing for our hurts until, like Jesus, we say, “Father, forgive them.”

What then does true forgiveness – Jesus called it forgiving “from the heart (Matthew 18:35) – involve?

1. Facing the facts. Forgiveness begins when we are ruthlessly honest about what was done to us. We don’t cover up what happened, explain it away, blame ourselves or make excuses for the other person. Squarely and realistically, we face the truth: “I was violated and sinned against. I was hurt. What they did was wrong.” Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and, nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the person who has done it. In facing the facts, it is important to be specific. General acknowledgments of wrong followed by sweeping generalizations of forgiveness won’t do. For many, the first step in forgiving will involve getting out of denial. Truth can be hard to bear, and at times, we will go to great lengths to avoid it. Forgiveness begins by acknowledging the nails in our hearts hammered in by the actions of others and looking at them intently.

2. Feeling the hurt. Forgiveness begins with facing the facts but then goes further. More than “just the facts,” we must connect with the feelings bound up with the facts – feelings like rejection, loneliness, fear, anger, shame and depression that still reverberate in us today. For many of us, the emotions of past hurts are so painful and threatening we have simply disconnected from them. And so we have to persistently ask, “What was I feeling when that happened to me?” Answering that question can be extremely difficult. No one wants to reexperience such unpleasant feelings. Better then to deny them, it seems, or sweep them under the rug. But we can’t reach the threshold of forgiveness until we recover, at least in some measure, the feelings bound up with the painful facts.

3. Confronting our hate. Forgiving involves letting go of hatred or resentment toward the persons who have wounded us. But again, before we can let go of something, we have to acknowledge it’s there. We must admit we resent those who wronged us, for a part of us hates them for what they did. Forgiveness is not blaming ourselves for what happened. We may not be completely innocent, but what our victimizers did was unjustifiable. They are to blame for our pain, and there is a part of us that hates them for it. Forgiveness requires the courage to confront our hatred.

4. Bearing the pain. When others have wronged us, there is a demanding voice within us that cries out, “What they did isn’t right. They ought to pay for what they’ve done.” This is a God-given voice. The desire to see justice in our own – and all – relationships has been planted in our hearts by God. So, when we forgive, do we ignore the divinely implanted desire for justice and set it aside? No. The sin, the injustice, must be taken seriously. But instead of achieving justice by insisting the guilty party pay for the wrong, we choose to pay ourselves. Though innocent, we choose to bear the pain of the injustice. In forgiveness, as the Scripture says, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). It triumphs, however, not by ignoring judgment, but by bearing it. Whenever we forgive, we bear pain. That’s why forgiveness is always costly.

The ultimate example of the costliness of forgiveness is the cross of Christ. The Scripture says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross” (I Peter 2:24). He took on Himself the guilt, punishment and shame of our sins. We deserved to suffer for them but instead, God in Christ carried them in His own being. God did not overlook our sins or pretend they didn’t matter but bore the pain and the judgment Himself. Christ, the Judge, allowed Himself to be judged in our place. To a much lesser degree, whenever we forgive others, we do the same thing: we take the punishment they deserve, absorbing it ourselves. We bear the pain.

5. Releasing those who have wronged us. Although forgiveness does not set aside the demands of justice, it still seems to run cross-grain to our natural sense of fair play. In part, our anger and resentment is our way of regaining control of an unfair situation and getting back at the persons who have wronged us. It’s our attempt to even the score. But forgiving means releasing our offenders and turning them over to God. It’s saying, “I know what they’ve done and I feel the pain of it, but I choose not to be the one who determines what is justice for them.” When we forgive we relinquish the roles of judge, jury and executioner and turn them over to God. When we forgive, we relinquish control of the persons who have wronged us. We quit playing God in their lives. No longer will we determine what is just for them or make sure they get what they deserve. Thus, forgiveness is an act of faith. We turn the ones who have wronged us over to God. We entrust them to God, saying, “Vengeance is not mine, but Thine alone.” And like all faith acts, forgiveness contains an element of risk. What if God doesn’t get even with those who have wronged us? What if God chooses to extend mercy to them?

By giving the people who have wronged us over to God, we also give ourselves to God. Parts of ourselves we have been holding are now entrusted to Him. No wonder there is such healing power in forgiveness. When we release others and ourselves to God, we give up control, and then His Presence and Power are released to us. Bearing the pain and releasing those who have wronged us constitute the heart of forgiveness. But I want to emphasize that forgiveness doesn’t ignore or set aside the demands of justice. One might conclude that when we forgive, we refrain from any effort to hold those who have wronged us accountable for their behavior, leaving that totally up to God and to others. However, that simply is not true. Forgiveness doesn’t mean tolerating injustice. “Unfruitful works of darkness” should be exposed (Ephesians 5:11). Actions have consequences that evildoers must be forced to accept. When crimes have been committed, offenders should be turned over to the judicial system.

Bearing the pain and releasing those who have wronged us have to do with our attitudes toward those who have wronged us; seeking justice has to do with our actions toward them. These attitudes and actions are not opposed to each other. In fact, practicing forgiveness and promoting justice go hand in hand. Having made a decision to forgive, our concern in promoting justice is not to avenge ourselves or destroy our offenders but to protect ourselves and others in the community from future injury at the offender’s hands. Furthermore, by insisting that offenders be held accountable for their actions, we are actually extending grace to them by offering them an opportunity to face the truth about themselves, admit their wrongdoing and turn from their wicked ways.

6. Assuming responsibility for ourselves. As long as we blame others for our problems, we don’t have to take responsibility for ourselves; they’re on the hook. By releasing them, however, we let them off the hook. Now, we’re on the hook. We must take responsibility and can no longer make excuses for ourselves. Often people hesitate when challenged to forgive because instinctively they know that if they do, they will have no one to blame for their predicament. Unfortunately, we live in a culture of victimization that encourages us to play the blame game. For many of us, portraying oneself as a victim has become an attractive pastime. Forgiveness strikes a blow at the root of one’s victim status. We may have been a victim, but we’re not stuck there. By taking responsibility for ourselves, we declare that what happened doesn’t define who we are. We have an identity apart from our pain. That can be risky and frightening, of course. We may have grown to depend on our excuses and become comfortable with our victim identity. Losing an enemy whom we can resent and blame may disturb us more than losing a friend. We may be meeting needs by our holding on to our pain and resentment.

Yet how liberating it is when, by forgiving, we do accept responsibility for ourselves. The persons who have hurt us no longer exercise control over our lives. When we forgive we not only release them, we also release ourselves from them and set ourselves free to determine our destiny apart from our wounds.

7. Longing for reconciliation. The ultimate goal and purpose of forgiveness is reconciliation, or the restoration and renewal of broken relationships. Thus, forgiveness is not only about letting go of bitterness and revoking revenge. It is about the coming together of persons who have been alienated from each other. From a Christian perspective, forgiving simply so I can get my hurts healed and get on with my life doesn’t go far enough.

Of course, the nature and extent of reconciliation depend on a number of factors, the most important of which is the offender’s willingness to be reconciled with us and to take the costly action necessary for its accomplishment. In many instances we won’t be able to achieve the measure of reconciliation we desire. What do we do, for instance, when the offender refuses to be reconciled with us or persists in offensive behavior? On occasion we will have to settle for less than the best. Still, forgiveness ought to put within us a longing for reconciliation. At first we may grudgingly say, “I’ll forgive them, but I don’t want to have anything to do with them ever again.” And that may be a sufficient place to start. But as forgiveness does its work, it will change our attitude. We will begin to see our offenders through eyes of compassion. One day we will even find ourselves wishing good for them. Our longing for a reconciled relationship may so intensify that we grieve when it fails to work out.

The process of forgiving someone who has wronged us brings us once again to the Cross of Christ. As we stand at the cross, we must remember that initially forgiveness is more about a decision than an emotion. First and foremost, it is a matter of the will. We come to a place where we choose to forgive. We might be struggling with negative feelings toward those who have hurt us, and we may continue to do so for a considerable time. What is most important at first is our willingness. In forgiving, we send our will ahead by express; our emotions generally come later by slow freight.

But what if we are unwilling to forgive? The hurt is so great, the anger and resentment so intense that nothing within us wants to let go of it. Then we should pray, “Lord, make me willing to be made willing.” As a Puritan preacher once advised, “If you can’t come to God with a broken heart, come to God for one.” So if you can’t come to the cross with a willing heart to forgive, come there for one.

On the cross, if Jesus bore both the wrongs done to Him and the wrongs done to us, then when He cried, “Father, forgive them,” could it be he was offering forgiveness not only to those who had wronged Him but also to those who have wronged us? If that is true, then in effect, Jesus has already extended forgiveness to the persons for what they did to us. So if we can’t will to forgive them, we can pray, “Jesus, You live in me. Therefore speak the words in me and through me. Help me to join you in saying, ‘Father, forgive them.’ Even though I can’t speak them myself, I can at least allow You to speak them in me.

We obtain grace in His Presence to release resentment and revenge. As we wait at the cross, Jesus will speak the forgiving words in us. The healing of our hurts and the transformation of our feelings toward those who have wounded us can then really begin. But often this part of the forgiveness process happens slowly – layer by layer. Sometimes after making the decision to forgive, our negative feelings toward the person actually intensify. Repressed emotions surface. Anger may burn more hotly than ever. Or we find ourselves overwhelmed with sadness. Choosing to forgive may cause the pain to intensify. Now that the lid is off, we begin remembering hurtful incidents. Agonizing pictures flood our minds. Old wounds open up all over again. We seem to be going backward, getting worse rather than better.

At this point, we may be tempted to think, I haven’t really forgiven so-and-so. If I had, I wouldn’t be experiencing such intense pain and resentment. The truth is, forgiveness is both a crisis (a definite decision) and a process (releasing hurt and resentment and receiving healing at ever-deepening levels). We have made the decision to forgive, but we are still engaged in the process where many emotional twists and turns lurk along the way. So we don’t need to start over. We simply need to reaffirm our will to forgive, asking the Lord to deepen it. We must also continue to offer our hurtful and hateful feelings to God, praying, “Lord, heal the hurt and cleanse the hate.” As we do, we discover that God, who has begun this good work in us, is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). But the healing and cleansing of our hearts is not a one-shot deal. In the crisis of a moment we can will to forgive, but working through our hurt and bitterness happens slowly. We may even find Jesus’ charge to forgive “not seven times, but, seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22) applying to the same offense. At the cross, however, grace awaits to see it through, to finish the good work of forgiveness begun in us.

Do you need grace to begin the process of forgiving someone who has wronged and wounded you? Do you need grace to continue as you struggle with feelings of hurt and bitterness? Come to the Cross. It is the Place to remember how we have been forgiven. It is the Place to forgive. Listen to Jesus as He says, “Father, forgive them.” He not only is asking the Father for forgiveness for those who have wronged and hurt us, but He is also asking for forgiveness for you and me.

SUFFERING: WHY THIS?? WHY NOW?? WHY ME??

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican — taken from various personal notes, NIV Study Bible notes, and other commentaries

At times of unparalleled stress and suffering in our lives, these are questions we shout to God desiring, even demanding answers. And, these lead to other questions such as: Is God in control of what’s happening to and around me? Is God really all good? Am I really all that bad to deserve this? Is God just paying me back for what I have done? In addition to these seemingly unanswered questions, Satan complicates the situation seeking to alienate us from God and have it seem that God is alienated from us.

It is important for us to ask these questions of God and seek an understanding based on His Word. The story of Job deals with these very things. One can begin to see into this struggle in the heavens between God and the Enemy from God’s point of view and how His Divine purpose involves us is in the balance. We start to understand in our struggle that God works in these times to:

  1. strengthen our faith;
  2. teach us a lesson/truth we need to know;
  3. allow us to experience the consequences of our sin and the (loving) discipline He brings;
  4. work His testing and refinement in our lives;
  5. reveal His comfort/grace;
  6. accomplish His own sovereign/mysterious purposes. Finally, we must come to the place of accepting that God does not allow us to suffer for no reason. And even though the reason may be hidden in the mystery of his Divine purpose-never for us to know in this lifetime-we must trust in Him as the God who does only what is right.

Prayerfully consider the following selections in Job. Meditate on them and dialogue with God about them as you grapple with your issues.

Chapter 1 – 2:10; Chapter 3; Chapter 6:4, 24; Chapter 7:7,11; Chapter 9:14-10:22; Chapter 12:13-25; Chapter 13:15-24; Chapter 16:6-9, 12, 16-21; Chapter 17:1, 7, 11; Chapter 19:6-20; Chapter 21:4-9, 13-16, 22-26; Chapter 23:1-17; Chapter 24:1, 12, 22-24; Chapter 28:12-15, 23-24, 28; Chapter 29:1-6; Chapter 30:15-31; Chapter 31:5-6; Chapters 38-42.

Some conclusions we can draw from God’s Word in Job include:

  1. There are matters going on in heaven with God that we know nothing about that affect our lives.
  2. Even the best effort at explaining the issues of life can be useless.
  3. God’s people do suffer. Bad things happen all the time to good people – so one cannot judge a person’s spirituality by his painful circumstances or successes.
  4. Even though God seems far away, perseverance in faith is a most noble virtue since God is Good and one can safely leave his life in His Hands.
  5. In the midst of suffering, we must not abandon God, but draw near to Him so out of the fellowship can come the comfort – without the explanation.
  6. Suffering may be intense, but it will ultimately end for the righteous, and God will bless abundantly.
  7. Job finally rested in nothing but faith in God’s Goodness and the hope of His redemption. God vindicated Job’s trust.
  8. When there are no rational, or even theological, explanations for disaster and pain, trust God.
  9. Suffering is directed by perfect Divine Wisdom.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World

SOURCE:  Bobby Schuller

You Are What You Think

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

Once there was a man walking through his city who came upon a construction site. Curious about what was going on, he asked the first worker laying bricks what he was building. In a bored, slightly irritated voice he said, “I’m building a wall.”

He kept walking and met another bricklayer and asked the same question. “Oh, I’m building a church,” he replied in a relaxed tone. “It will be nice.”

Finally, he met the third bricklayer and asked him what he was building. “I’m building a house of God,” he said with both joy and conviction.

In describing this colloquial parable, Angela Duckworth says the three men see their work in three different modes; the first as a job, the second as a vocation, and the third as a calling. All are fostering different thoughts, and ultimately these thoughts will form very different paths. You see, you become your thoughts.

Every circumstance in your life, whether good or bad, is affected by your thinking. Though it seems overwhelming, this is good news because it gives you the power to transform one part of your life and reap great rewards in nearly every other!

Your thoughts today are your results tomorrow.

Small Changes Lead to New Destinations

When it comes to changing your thinking, it’s helpful to recognize that making minor adjustments can reap great rewards.

When I was growing up, I spent most summers on a fishing boat, and I enjoyed watching the captain as he maneuvered the vessel. There was a shiny wheel up top, but our skipper actually navigated using a three-inch plastic dial on a computer to the left of the helm. This tiny tool could alter our path by a minor yet measurable degree. Though small changes were not immediately noticeable, an hour later, two clicks set our course or took us off of it.

The same is true with our thoughts. Minor changes such as forgiving a past wrong, not blaming authority figures, or being grateful every day can make a gigantic difference in our lives, especially over time.

Your thoughts really are your destination
.

Change Your Perspective

One of the most profound changes you can make on the journey to renewed thinking is to adjust your perspective. You can control your attitude and how you react to situations, but assuming a more positive view will not come naturally.

When I was sixteen-years-old, I got my first job as an “expeditor” at a big Mexican restaurant that was owned by a family friend. Though I was happy to have it, one night, a server pushed me to the limit. He brought in some leftover food and dropped the plates down hard on the counter, spilling cheesy rice all over the floor. This meant I had to clean up a big mess that I didn’t make, even though I was just about ready to leave.

Now, my typical reaction would have been to blame and complain, but that moment was a turning point for me. Instead of arguing, I decided to sweep the floor for God. I let it go; I wasn’t doing my work for anyone except Him. Though nothing looked different from the outside, I knew something had changed inside of me.

You Can Help What You Think About

Controlling your thoughts is like strength training for the soul, and it happens through meditation. Though it sounds like a strange Eastern sort of thing, the Bible talks more about meditating on Scripture than it does about memorizing it.

Rightfully understood, meditating begins with memorizing verses that elevate your thinking, and it continues by incorporating those scriptures into your prayer life. In other words, you don’t only read and study the Bible, you dwell on it.

Even though you can’t control every thought that comes to your mind, you can control what you focus on. My wife’s grandfather used to say, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

Good News

No matter what situation you find yourself in today, change is possible! There is a way out of every difficulty if you choose to cultivate the right thoughts. Like a caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly, when you renew your mind according to the Word of God, you experience metamorphosis — a complete and total transformation.

Growth begins when you acknowledge that you have the power to change your thoughts and begin making minor adjustments to your course. As you choose to shift your perspective on challenging situations and meditate on the truth of God’s Word to feed your spirit, your life goes from ordinary to truly extraordinary.

Your mind is like a garden. When you plant and nurture good ideas and pull out the weeds of blame, jealousy, judgment, self-pity, and pride, your thoughts cultivate good fruit that feeds and blesses those around you!

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.

3 Things to Remember When It’s Hard to Forgive

SOURCE:   Lysa TerKeurst, author of Uninvited

Have you ever struggled to choose forgiveness over bitterness in the midst of feeling rejected, abandoned, or hurt?

Let me be the friend who takes you by the hand to say… I understand. Choosing to forgive is hard, especially when it feels like you or someone you care for has been treated unfairly.

But the truth is, it’s good (and biblical) for us to extend forgiveness. And when we release the offense into the hands of God, we can begin to make room for healing in our hearts.

Here are 3 things to remember when forgiving others is the last thing we want to do:

Forgiveness doesn’t justify them, it frees YOU!

Forgiving someone is making the decision to choose mercy and grace over bitterness and resentment. To love God is to cooperate with His grace. Luke 6:36 says,

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Since I’m so very aware of my own need for grace, I must be willing to freely give it away, too.

Each hole left from rejection must become an opportunity to create more and more space for grace in my heart. Forgiveness doesn’t validate them, and it doesn’t justify their hurtful actions.

Giving grace helps me. It sets me free.

What does giving grace look like in my life?

…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. — Luke 6:27-28

Today I will:

Speak with honor in the midst of being dishonored.

Speak with peace in the midst of being threatened.

Speak of good things in the midst of a bad situation.

We have an enemy, but it’s not each other.

Truth proclaimed and lived out is a fiercely accurate weapon against evil.

How I feel:

I very much feel like my struggle is against them.

I have been deeply hurt by this struggle.

It’s hard to see that my struggle isn’t with them or caused by them.

However, truth tells me something different. Truth says I have an enemy… but it’s not the person I’m trying hard to forgive. They may very well be the cause of some hurt in my life, but they’re not my enemy.

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

Point your crosshairs at the real enemy and start firing off positive statements about this person who has caused pain in your life. List three things about them that are good. Then remember a fourth and fifth. Picture each of these positive statements wounding the devil and shaming him away from you.

Forgiveness releases an offense into the hands of God so that you can heal.

Forgiving someone doesn’t mean I’ll get my storybook ending. But it will bring peace and honor to a situation that would otherwise leave me bitter, defensive, and hurting. I have to trust God to get me through this forgiveness journey so that I can finally heal.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you. — Isaiah 26:3

Lift up your hurt and honest feelings to the Lord through prayer, whether it’s written or verbal. Here’s one to get you started:

Lord, I don’t know all the details entangled in this issue. But You know all. Therefore, You are the only one who can handle all. There are a lot of things my flesh is tempted to seek — fairness, my right to be right, proof of their wrongdoing, to make them see things from my vantage point — but at this point, the only thing healthy for me to seek is You. You alone. I’m going to be obedient to You and let You handle everything else. In Your Name, Amen.

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Original devotion written by Lysa TerKeurst for Devotionals Daily featuring Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, copyright TerKeurst Foundation. 

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/

 

As We Forgive Those

SOURCE:  Joe Dallas

“… and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespassed against us.” (Luke 11:4)

Jesus loves me, this I know. But this I also know: He demands certain things of me, none of them small. I can’t call Him Lord if I don’t take those demands seriously.

So I’ve been working on meeting them for 48 years, making some progress while enduring my share of setbacks. The lion’s share of those setbacks has concerned three particular demands He makes: that I not worry (Matthew 6:34); that when I’m struck I turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39); and that I forgive as I’ve been forgiven. (Matthew 6:15).

Strike three.

I’ve never thought of myself as an unforgiving, grudge-holding kind of guy. But for whatever reason, I’m now seeing many things I just haven’t let go of. Old things, ancient history from childhood, or junior high days, or very young adulthood.

Which is interesting, because candidly, I’ve been messed with pretty badly in recent years. Some of the worst betrayals I’ve ever experienced happened within the last decade or so, years when I was well into middle age. So you’d think those not-long-ago hurts would still be throbbing, but no. I’ve pretty much shrugged them off, and they rarely cross my mind.

The same can’t be said for conversations and events occurring forty-plus years ago. They intrude into my thinking, and before I catch myself, I’m replaying them, often re-writing the script so that instead of being victimized the way I was, I don my cape and deliver well-deserved sucker punches to the bad guys, coming out heroic rather than wounded.

Yes, I know, fantasizing a revised personal history to make ourselves feel better is awfully childish. But it’s also a more commonly practiced mind-game than many of us would care to admit. At any rate, I’ve reached a season when long-ago traumas are playing through my head like old movies you discover while channel surfing, squinting at the tv with vague recognition, then saying, “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that one.”

All of which raises the obvious question of forgiveness. Have I forgiven? If so, why are the old hurts resurfacing? And if I haven’t forgiven, then why not? It’s not as if I haven’t been forgiven plenty myself, and we all know what the master had to say the servant he forgave when that same servant turned around and refused mercy to another. (Matthew 18:33)

So here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

1. Forgiving isn’t forgetting.

God alone can say He remembers our sins no more; (Hebrews 10:17) We simply don’t have the capacity to delete our memory banks. I am therefore not required to literally forget old hurts. I can certainly choose whether or not to dwell on them, but I can’t make them vanish.

2. Forgiveness isn’t indifference.

I may well forgive someone for a deeply inflicted wound, but if the memory of that wounding crosses my mind, it will still hurt. How can you think of something traumatic without an emotional response? That alone doesn’t constitute unforgiveness.

3. Forgiveness isn’t isolated.

That is, I may genuinely forgive, then, in my sinful human state, I may later in life re-hash what I’ve forgiven, dredge up the old hurts, re-experience the pain, then ignore the law against double jeopardy by re-trying the perpetrator, finding him guilty, and mentally executing him.

None of which means I didn’t forgive him in the first place. Rather, it means I sinfully chose to revisit the sin I had no right revisiting. Sometimes it’s not just forgiveness that’s required of us. It’s re-forgiveness as well.

4. Forgiveness can become harder with time and perspective.

What seemed hurtful to a 12 year old can appear downright monstrous to an adult, because with time and perspective we better realize how horrendous things like bullying, abuse, or other violations really are.

An abused kid often thinks, “Perhaps I deserved this”, but the adult of later years screams, “No, you didn’t, and that never should have happened!” That’s why I often find that women and men I work with who are well into their middle years are angrier or sadder over their old hurts than they were when the hurts were first inflicted.

We pay a high price for growing up, one of which is the awareness of just how wrong the wrongdoers of our lives really were.

Finally, forgiveness is sometimes humanly impossible.

Corrie Ten Boom,  a Dutch Holocaust survivor whose sister died at the notorious Ravensbruck women’s camp, recalled meeting a former Ravensburck guard at a church in Germany where she was speaking after the war.

He approached her, extending his hand while asking forgiveness, and she froze. All the camp horrors flashed through her mind, and she realized she couldn’t, in her own strength, forgive the man who was part of
those horrors.

She quietly prayed. Miraculously, as God gave her strength to take his hand, she felt a rush of love flow from her arm right into his. She realized she couldn’t forgive, then by God’s grace she did what she couldn’t do.

Proof yet again that Jesus was speaking quite literally when He said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.”

When I try forgiving things which never should have happened, I often find myself in Peter’s position when he saw the Lord walking on water and, in his distress and desperation, he said, “Bid me come walk with you.” (Matthew 14:28) Only by keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus in constant reliance could he do what was otherwise impossible.

Big amen to that. I cannot in my own strength forgive, not really. The way of Joe Dallas is to mouth forgiveness then quietly mutter, “But I’ll get back at you someday.”

But the way of the One who Joe Dallas follows is that of an unqualified “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” His love never fails, He remains aware of the human frailty behind the worst of sins, and His desire is always for reconciliation rather than revenge.

So today I’m getting an eyeful of how far I’m falling short of His ways, and a heart full of desire to be the strong and forgiving man only He can fashion. He tells me today, as He told others centuries ago, that if I don’t forgive others, I’ll not be forgiven.

Then I, struggling to obey while fearing that I can’t, offer him the prayer of that father I so relate to in the Gospels who, when told in Mark 9:24 that his faith could make the impossible attainable if only he’d believe,

“Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.”

Not Even Cancer Can Separate You From God’s Love

SOURCE:  What Cancer Cannot Do, published by Zondervan

 

Leave it in God's hands, for He is in control.
Down to Our Hair

Two weeks from the day I had my first infusion of chemo, my hair fell out. I had been warned, of course. But secretly I cherished the hope that my thick locks would defy the statistics, clinging to my scalp despite the red stuff dripping into my veins.

A volunteer barber at the hospital had suggested that if I shampooed less often and used a wide-toothed comb, I would keep my hair. I tried both. But when I began shedding like an unkempt dog all over my pajamas, pillows, and bathroom floor, I recognized the inevitable. I called a friend from work who suggested clipping my hair back to two inches so that going bald would be less traumatic. She came to my hospital room and began buzzing.

The snappy do lasted about two days. One morning in the shower, I watched in horror as water washed off shampoo, and clumps of hair that gathered around my feet. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw were stray wisps and a shiny scalp. I was undeniably, irrefutably bald. And there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

Samson woke up one morning minus his hair and his strength and all sense of control. Perhaps we feel a bit like that as well when we first confront our naked scalps. We can’t trust our bodies anymore, we can’t trust our strength. We can’t even trust hair to grow on our head.

But we can trust God.

Because no matter what happens to us, God, the creator and ruler of the universe, the one who made the great creatures of the deep and flung stars all over the heavens, is in control. He controls the tides of the oceans and the wind in the trees. He controls the tiny little birds that ride the colors of dawn.

We need not be afraid of what is happening to us because God is in control.

He is so in control that, as Luke 12:7 tells us, He counts the very hairs of our head. Imagine that!

Every hair that washes down the drain the morning you go bald has God’s number on it. Every wisp that straggles upward from your scalp after treatment ends has God’s number on it.

If God cares that much about the hair on your head, you can trust that He cares for you. And nothing — not even cancer — can separate you from His loving control.

* * *

Doubt not His grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that He loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in of happiness. ~ Charles Spurgeon

All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever. — Isaiah 40:6, Isaiah 40:8

He watches us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under His control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground without the will of our Father. ~ The Belgic Confession, Article 13

The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them. ~ Bernard M. Baruch

I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.  ~ Martin Luther

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Excerpted with permission from What Cancer Cannot Do: Stories of Hope and Encouragement, copyright Zondervan.

Pressing Through the Pain

SOURCE:  Lysa Terkeurst

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:8 NKJV

Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy.

Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

Pain is the reminder that the real Enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw? Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way. We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us.

If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us.

It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

We invite God’s closeness.

For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else. Our key verse (James 4:8) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

One of my favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. — Psalm 91:1

Prayer:

Lord, draw me close. Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there.

I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring. I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

Dear Lord, in this moment I draw near to You and I invite Your closeness. Help me to experience Your presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Excerpted from Embraced by Lysa TerKeurst

Adult Children: Praying for Your Prodigal

SOURCE:  Jodi Berndt from Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children

I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord. They will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with all their heart. — Jeremiah 24:7

Lauren stared at the photo on her phone, barely comprehending what she saw. It was a picture of her son, William, lying in a hospital bed, his head wrapped in a bloody bandage. He had been assaulted in what he said was a random robbery, and Lauren wanted to believe him. Given what they knew about their son’s current lifestyle, she didn’t know what to think.

Lauren and her husband, Mike, had been lukewarm about William’s plan to move to Chicago when he graduated from college. They understood why a guy from a small town in Alabama would want to spread his wings, but his idea — to launch a neighborhood-based classified-ad service to sell things like used furniture, cars, and household goods — sounded iffy. William had majored in business, but he knew very little about technology and even less about Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. But after a six-month job search closer to home turned up nothing, she and Mike had gotten William a plane ticket and wished him well. Their son was hardworking, creative, and intelligent, so who knew? Maybe he’d be one of the success stories.

And if not, well, what was the worst that could happen?

Lauren had run through a dozen worst-case scenarios in her mind — maybe the business would flop or William would get sick from the city dirt and noise and pollution — but nothing had prepared her for the sight of her son lying in some unknown hospital, more than six hundred miles away. She wished Mike would get home soon; she needed to talk. An orthopedic surgeon, he was usually at the hospital all day on Thursdays, and she hadn’t been able to reach him.

Lauren thought back over the past several months. William had burned through most of his start-up money, and then in an effort to recoup his losses, he had started gambling. His drinking, which Lauren and Mike had hoped would lessen once he got out of college, had gotten worse. Lauren didn’t know much about William’s friends and business associates, but the words from Proverbs 13:20 kept coming to mind:

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Apparently, William had been walking with some fairly serious fools.

When had that started to happen? Lauren didn’t know exactly. William had given his life to the Lord at age twelve, and as he grew, so had his faith. He had been a youth group leader in high school, and when the time came to go to college, he elected to live with a Christian roommate. Lauren and Mike were thrilled when William joined a campus Bible study; surely, the friends and the teaching he’d be exposed to there would help guard him against some of the secular philosophies he would encounter in the classroom.

But things hadn’t turned out that way. Parties, football games, and study sessions with his classmates filled William’s calendar, and he began to drift away from Bible study and other fellowship opportunities. It wasn’t as if some atheist had talked him out of his faith; rather, the shift had come gradually as William spent more time with unbelievers than with his Christian friends. And then, almost as if he was looking for an intellectual reason to account for his behavior, William began to question some of the most basic tenets of his faith. Salvation by grace seemed far too simplistic. And the resurrection? Nothing he learned in any of his science classes made that even a remote possibility; it seemed (as William told his parents during his junior year) to be a story designed to bring comfort and hope to people who would grasp at anything to keep their faith alive. Which was fine for them — just not for him.

Mike and Lauren hadn’t wanted to alienate their son by revealing the depth of their concern or by arguing against some of his claims. Instead, they welcomed William’s questions, pointing him toward authors like Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, and C. S. Lewis, apologists whose work they thought might appeal to him on an intellectual level.

“But honestly,” Mike had said, after one of their conversations, “I don’t think he is looking for evidence to support Christianity. I think it’s a moral issue, masquerading as an intellectual one. I think he wants to find a worldview to support his quest for independence and self-sufficiency as he runs away from God, something that will justify his rebellion.”

Prayer Principle

Ask God to work in your prodigal’s mind and spirit, demolishing arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The kitchen door opened, snapping Lauren’s mind back to the present. It was Mike, home from the hospital where he had been making rounds. Lauren showed him the photo and filled him in on what little she knew.

“He says it’s nothing serious,” she said. “Some guys jumped him when he was walking home from work. He says they took his wallet…”

“Maybe they did,” Mike said, “but we aren’t sending him any more money.”

He picked up the phone and enlarged the photo. “It looks like a good bandage job at least. He’ll be okay.”

Lauren knew Mike wasn’t being callous or insensitive, and that he was hurting just as much as she was. He was just being practical. But for a mom, it wasn’t that easy.

“Mike, I want William to come home,” she said softly.

“I think he should,” Mike agreed, “but we can’t make him do anything. He’s literally living the life of the prodigal son — he got us to give him some money, and then he went away to a distant city and squandered it all in wild living. For all we know, he has been eating with pigs!”

Lauren knew the story Mike was talking about. It was a parable in Luke 15, one Jesus used to illustrate the heavenly Father’s love and the power of redemption. In that story, the son finally comes home, confessing his sins and giving up any claim he had on the family name. “I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” he says. “Make me like one of your hired men.” (Luke 15:19)

Lauren loved that parable — especially the part where the father sees the son in the distance and, throwing dignity to the wind, runs out to embrace his boy in a very public, very emotional reunion. It was perhaps the best illustration she knew of to show how God feels about us, and how utterly ecstatic He is when we acknowledge our own unworthiness and turn to him.

Missing from the story, though, was an account of the prodigal’s mother. Surely, she had longed to hear from her boy, to receive some word that he was at least alive. And certainly, when she heard the sound of his greeting, her heart would have leaped right along with her husband’s. Who knows? She might have even beaten him down the street.

Lauren knew the story wasn’t about a literal, historical family, one with a real mom and dad. But if it had been, Lauren knew one thing for sure: that mama would have been praying.

Prayer Principle

God knows what it’s like to grieve over a prodigal child — and to rejoice over his return.

Listening to Lauren and Mike, I was reminded of any number of similar accounts people shared with me as I worked on this book. Mothers and fathers told me about their kids’ faith; how they’d grown up in the church, attended Christian camps, or gone on mission trips; and read The Chronicles of Narnia at bedtime. These parents, like so many I interviewed, had done everything in their power to produce Christian kids — and sometimes, as one parent put it, “A plus B really did equal C.” But sometimes (a lot of times, actually), it didn’t.

I think my favorite comment came from a mom whose daughter has walked a path no parent would choose for a child. Looking at all of the bad decisions (and tragic consequences) the girl has experienced, and stacking those things up against verses like Genesis 50:20 (“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good”), this sweet mama summed up her perspective like this: “I don’t know what God is doing in my daughter’s life, or why she does the things she does. All I can figure is that she is working on her testimony. And it’s shaping up to be a good one.”

For parents who’ve staked their trust in the Lord (and for those who believe, as author Max Lucado puts it, that “we see a perfect mess; God sees a perfect chance to train, test, and teach”1), the idea that our kids are still “working on their testimonies” is a lifeline to hope. And it’s not just their stories that are still being written; Lauren and Mike don’t know what the future holds for William, but they’d be the first to tell you that his experience has shaped their own spiritual journey in a powerful way.

“We’ve prayed more than ever before,” Lauren told me, “and we’ve learned to wait on God. It’s hard not to let fear and worry cloud the picture, but the more we look into the bright light of God’s love, the more those dark things are obliterated. This trouble has been a gateway for us to get to know God better; our prayer is that it will also be a gateway for William.”

Prayer Principle

The light of God’s love is what scatters the darkness. Tether your prayers to the brightness of His promises.

“We’ve learned that we are completely helpless,” Mike added. “We cannot change or control our kids’ lives; all we can do is trust in a God who has given us great and precious promises.”

Mike is right. We are helpless, at least insofar as it comes to dictating the way our adult children think and behave. Many of them are out of our reach, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

But they are not out of God’s — and He invites us to join Him in the work He is doing, through prayer. We are not helpless there; even when we have no idea how to pray, God has us covered. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness,” Paul writes in Romans 8:26.

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

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Max Lucado, You’ll Get through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times (Nashville: Nelson, 2013), 10.

Depression: Fighting Dragons

SOURCE:  /Faithgateway

Being the Hunted

What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:

In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33

Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.

If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.

Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.

Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.

I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.

Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.

When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”

The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”

David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6

How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3

King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:

Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39

If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.

In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44

There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.

Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.

Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5

Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.

Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.

Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4Psalm 71:18Psalm 22:14–15Psalm 40:12).

The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).

Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.

Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.

Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.

Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.

Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9

Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15

Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.

In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.

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No More Dragons

Why God Gives Us More Than We Can Handle

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

The next time someone says that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, point them to Judges 7. God’s instructing Gideon to take on over 100,000 enemy soldiers with just 300 fits in the “more than you can handle” category. Imagine how Gideon and his servant, Purah, must have felt trying to come to grips with a humanly impossible assignment.

Standing on the side of Mount Gilboa, Gideon gazed over the Valley of Jezreel, which sprawled beneath him northward toward the hill of Moreh. The valley was a sea of tents, teeming with more than 100,000 Midian warriors.

That morning, the Lord had judged Israel’s army of 32,000 too big to face Midian’s. Israel would think more highly of himself than he ought to think when God gave him victory. So Gideon had sent home whoever was afraid. When 22,000 hit the road, Gideon had to quiet his own fear. Now Israel was outnumbered ten-to-one. But God was with them and armies had overcome such odds before.

Oddly, the Lord considered these odds still too much in Israel’s favor. So in obedience to the Lord’s instruction, Gideon brought his small, thirsty army down to the spring of Harod. And he gave his servant, Purah, the strangest command of his brief military career: “Observe all the men as they drink. Have every man who laps his water like a dog stand off to the side.”

Gideon supervised the selection, but when so few were being chosen, he just let Purah finish the count and he climbed back up Gilboa to pray and survey.

It wasn’t long before Purah emerged from the trees. “So what’s the total?”

“Three hundred, sir,” said Purah.

Gideon chuckled to himself. “Three hundred.” He looked back toward the human hoard in the valley and was quiet for a moment. “That’s less than I expected.”

“Yes, sir,” said Purah. “But thankfully, three hundred doesn’t reduce our strength much.”

Gideon breathed deeply. “No, Purah. The three hundred are not the reductions. They’re the army. The others are the reductions.”

Purah stood dazed for a moment, staring at Gideon. “The three hundred are the army?”

Gideon nodded slowly, still looking into the Midian-infested Jezreel.

“But that’s not an army! That’s how many should be guarding an army’s baggage!”

Purah stepped up beside Gideon. Together they watched smoke columns rising from ten times more cooking fires than they now had warriors. Purah shook his head and said, “Even if we were all like the mighty men of old, three hundred could not overcome 100,000.” He paused. “And we aren’t mighty men.” Another pause. “And there’s more than a 100,000 down there.”

Both were silent for a while. In the quiet, the Lord spoke to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.

Then Gideon said to Purah, “During the exodus, how many mighty men did it take to destroy Egypt and its army or part the Red Sea?”

Purah thought briefly. “None.”

“How many did it take to tear down Jericho’s walls?”

“None.”

“How many did it take to feed two million of our people in the wilderness every day for forty years?”

“None. I get your point.”

“The mightiest are those who trust in the Lord and obey him, no matter how impossible things appear.”

“In our people’s history, the mightiest have not been the strong warriors,” Gideon said. “The mightiest have been those who trusted in the Lord and obeyed him, no matter how impossible things appeared. He has promised us that Midian will be defeated. He has chosen only three hundred of us. We will obey; he will act. And when Midian falls, it will be clear to everyone who felled him.” Then he looked at Purah and smiled. “Maybe the Lord just needs us to guard his baggage!”

Purah didn’t laugh. He only replied, “Should we dismiss the others?” Gideon nodded.

Later that night, in the tiny camp, Gideon lay praying. Every plan to mobilize 300 against 100,000 seemed ludicrous.

Suddenly, he was aware of the Presence. He sat up, his heart beating fast.

The Lord said, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant. And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.

Purah woke to Gideon’s nudge and whispered words, “Let’s go.”

“Where are we going?” Purah whispered back, getting up quickly.

“To the Midian camp, just you and me. The Lord has something he wants to show us.”

They quietly crept toward the nearest Midian outpost, veiled by the clouded sky, and saw two inattentive guards talking. Just as they got within earshot, one said, “I had a strange dream before being woken for duty tonight.”

“Tell me,” the other said.

“This cake of barley came tumbling into our camp, crashed into the tent, turned it over, and flattened it.”

The other guard looked at him alarmed and said, “I know what that means! The cake can be none other than Gideon, the son of Joash! God has given us all into his hand!”

Gideon and Purah looked at one another with the same stunned expression.

Cast Your Cares

With renewed faith, Gideon and Purah roused their mini army and launched a night attack. This threw the Midians into a panic and they slaughtered each other in confusion. It was a rout. Not one of Gideon’s three hundred perished in the battle. God gave them more than they could handle to force them to rely wholly on him.

“God gives us more than we can handle to force us to rely wholly on him.”

When we’re confronted with an impossible situation or trial, Gideon’s three hundred preach to us that “salvation . . . is from the Lord” (Psalm 37:39) and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). These are no domesticated platitudes. God really intends for us to cast our all on these massive truths and for them to give us more-than-conquerors confidence and peace (Romans 8:37), no matter what we face.

It is not hyperbole to say that the defeat of our sin that Jesus accomplished on the cross dwarfs Gideon’s victory. Compared to overcoming God’s wrath against our sin, defeating 100,000 Midianites was very small. And if God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32)?

God certainly does give us more than we can handle. And he does it “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9). If you’re facing some overwhelming adversary or adversity and you wonder how God could possibly deliver and work it for your good (Romans 8:28), then take heart. He is granting you the joy of experiencing the reality of Judges 7, Romans 8, and 2 Corinthians 1.

Why Keep Praying When There Is No Answer?

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers” (Ephesians 6:18 NLT).

Why should you remain persistent in your prayers when you don’t get an answer? Here are four reasons.

Persistent prayer focuses your attention.

When you pray a prayer request over and over, it’s not to remind God. He doesn’t need to be reminded! It’s to remind yourself that God is the source of your answer and all your needs. If every prayer you ever prayed were instantly answered, two things would happen. First, prayer would actually begin to hurt you because sometimes we pray for things that are not God’s will, or we make mistakes because we see with a limited perspective. Second, you’d never really develop a deep relationship with God, because he would become just a vending machine. If every time you prayed you instantly got results, all you’d think about is the blessing. God wants you to think about the Blesser.

Persistent prayer clarifies your request.

A delayed answer gives you time to clarify exactly what you want and to refine your prayers. When you pray persistently to your heavenly Father and you say something over and over again, it separates deep longings from mere whims. It says, “God, I really care about this.”

It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer your prayers. He does. It’s just that he wants you to be certain what you really want.

Persistent prayer tests your faith.

James 1:3-4 says, “When your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (NLT). The only way you can grow to spiritual maturity is to have your faith tested. One of the ways God tests your faith is by delaying some answers to your prayers.

Persistent prayer prepares your heart for the answer.

When you make a request of God, God almost always wants to answer in a greater way than you’ve prayed. Sometimes God denies your prayer request because you’re thinking and asking too small. He wants to give you something bigger and better. But first, he has to prepare you for it. So God uses delays in answering prayer to help you grow, to help you get ready, to help prepare you for a bigger and better answer.

Remember, “God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NCV).

18 Questions about Faith and Mental Illness

SOURCE:  Brad Hambrick

When engaging a difficult and highly personal subject, it is better to start with good questions than a list of answers. The better our questions are, the more responsibly we will utilize the answers of which we are confidant, the more humbly we will approach areas of uncertainty, and the more we will honor one another in the process of learning.

As I’ve read, counseled, and thought about the subject of mental illness, here are some of the questions that have emerged.

The purpose of these questions is to expand our thinking about mental illness. We all bring a “theory of mental illness” to this discussion. This theory, whether we can articulate it or not, shapes the questions we ask. Exposing ourselves to important questions from other perspectives is the first step in becoming more holistic in our approach.

Don’t allow these questions to overwhelm you. All of these questions existed before you read them. Speaking them didn’t create them. Actually, an appropriate response to this list would be the generation of more questions. Take a moment to write down the additional questions you have.

  1. Is mental illness a flaw in character or chemistry? Is this the best way to frame the question? What do we lose when we fall into the trap of either-or thinking?
  2. Why do we think of genetic influences as if they negate the role of the will or personal choice? Substance abuse can have a clear genetic predisposition, but every addiction program – even those most committed to a disease model – appeal to the will as a key component to sobriety.
  3. In the modern psychological proverb, “The genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger,” where is the person? How do we best understand the interplay of predisposition (genetics), influences (environment), and the individual making choices (person)?
  4. What percent of those who struggle with “normal sorrow” are labeled as clinically depressed? What percentage of those who think their sorrow is normal are actually clinically depressed? How do we communicate effectively when the same word – depression – has both a clinical and popular usage?
  5. Would we want to eradicate all anxiety and depression if we were medically capable of doing so? What would we lose, that was good about life and relationships, if these unpleasant emotions were eradicated from human experience? Would that be heaven-on-earth or have unintended consequences that are greater than our current dilemma?
  6. Can we have a “weak” brain—one given to problematic emotions or difficulty discerning reality—and a “strong” soul—one with a deep and genuine love for God? If we say “yes” to this question in areas like intelligence (e.g., low IQ and strong faith), would there be any reason to say “no” about those things described as mental illness? C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says, “Most of the man’s psychological makeup is probably due to his body: when his body dies all that will fall off him, and the real central man, the thing that chose, that made the best or the worst of this raw material, will stand naked. All sorts of nice things we thought our own, but which were really due to a good digestion, will fall off some of us; all sorts of nasty things which were due to complexes or bad health will fall off others. We shall then, for the first time, see every one as he really was. There will be surprises (p. 91-92).”
  7. When do labels serve well (i.e., offering a sense of hope by breaking the sense of isolation and shame that comes with believing “my struggle is completely unique”) and when do labels serve poorly (i.e., diminishing hope by creating a sense of determinism and stigma)? How free should a counselor be to choose whether to use or not to use labels based upon these potential benefits and detriments for a given individual?
  8. What is happening when we “think” and “feel”? Are these experiences merely random neurological fireworks, the soul talking to itself using the physical organ of the brain like an internal telephone, or something else? Ed Welch in Blame It on the Brain? says, “It is as if the heart always leaves its footprints in the brain… The Bible predicts that what goes on in the heart is represented physically. But the Bible would clarify that such differences do not prove that the brain caused the thoughts and actions. It may very well be the opposite. Brain changes may be caused by these behaviors (p. 48).”
  9. Is mental illness a physical event with spiritual side effects or a spiritual event with physical side effects; do choices-emotions trigger biology or biology trigger choices-emotions?
  10. How do we best assess when the relief of medication would decrease the motivation to change versus when that same relief would increase the possibility of change? Pain can both motivate and overwhelm; is this simply about personal thresholds or should mental anguish be evaluated by a different set of criteria?
  11. Are our emotions more than the alarm system of the soul (moral) and the chemicals of our brain (biological)? Do these two categories tell us everything we need to know about emotions? Are these categories complimentary or competitive with one another?
  12. Can we have a collective disease? Is mental illness always personal or can it be cultural? Cultural changes necessarily add to or detract from the kind of stresses that influence mental illness. How should we understand this influence and when might an “epidemic” require a collective solution as much as personal choices?
  13. Why are we, culturally, more open about almost everything in our lives than we were a generation ago except mental illness? Why does this stigma / prejudice maintain its socially-accepted status when most others have been rejected? Kathryn Greene-McCreight in Darkness Is My Only Companion says, “The mentally ill are one group of handicapped people against whom it still seems to be socially acceptable to hold prejudice (p. 36).”
  14. Are we trying to medically create an idyllic sanguine personality?Is “normal” becoming too emotionally narrow? If not in the medical establishment, then are societal norms pushing people in this direction and the service-oriented medical profession trying to accommodate its well-intended, but misguided clientele? Joel Shuman and Brian Volck, M.D. in Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Modern Medicine say, “The consumer model to which medicine seems to be uncritically adopting pursuance is providing what the patient wants—that is, customer satisfaction in matters of health—is the measure of success (p. 26).”
  15. Does the alleviation of symptoms with medication always mean we are curing a disease? We medically treat the symptoms of many diseases and non-diseases to provide relief. This is good. Why have we allowed the debate over the disease model for mental illness to polarize the conversation about the roles of medication can play in mental health?
  16. How should we understand the effects of the Fall on the mind and brain? We know our bodies age and die. We know all of our organs are susceptible to disease and deterioration. We have “norms” for the frequency, duration, onset, and prognosis of these effects of the Fall; what are the equivalent expectations for the mind and brain?
  17. How do we understand the tension between “already” and “not yet” with regards to the health, development, and preservation of the mind? How much should we expect to be able to remedy the effects of the Fall upon the mind prior to the ultimate redemption that will occur when Christ returns (Revelation 21:4)?
  18. How much should we expect conversion and normal sanctification (spiritual maturity) to impact mental illness? Outside of medical interventions, most secular treatments for mental illness focus on healthy-thinking, healthy-choices, and healthy-relationships; so how much should Christians expect sound-doctrine, righteous-living, and biblical-community to impact their struggle with mental illness?

What do we gain from asking good questions? Humility. Humility may be more vital for this conversation than most other conversations we have. Why? Because the neurological, genetic, and medical research that have prompted many of these questions is still in its infancy. What we “know” in these areas will likely seem as outdated as a VHS tape 10 years from now.

“It is very likely that in the future, with increased research into depression and also increased understanding of the Bible’s teaching, much of the current confident certainty, which presently masquerades as biblical or medical expertise, will also look ridiculous, cruel, and even horrifying (p. 12).” David Murray in Christians Get Depressed Too

But if the Bible is timeless, do research developments in these areas matter? Yes. Not because new scientific discoveries will change what the Bible means, but those discoveries will likely change our application of the Bible. Did the discovery of epileptic seizures change the truthfulness of the Bible? No. But it did help Christians understand that these were not demonic events. It is likely, if God should tarry, that many similar discoveries will emerge in the area of mental illness.

When God Does the Miracle We Didn’t Ask For

SOURCE:  Vaneetha Rendall Risner/Desiring God

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

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

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

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

Instead of Deliverance

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

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

God, in his mercy, offered his sustaining grace.

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

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

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

A Far Deeper Work

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

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

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

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

The Joy of His Manna

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chastity by C.S. Lewis

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by  C. S. Lewis/Mere Christianity

We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity…..

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.

But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times. Nor is the hypothesis of “starvation” the only one
we can imagine. Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

Here is a third point. You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean two things. They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same.

It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body–which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other
religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.” If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.

What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it. A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realized that while his lips had been saying, “Oh Lord, make me chaste,” his heart had been secretly adding, “But please don’t do it just yet.” This may happen in prayers for other virtues too; but there are three reasons why it is now especially difficult for us to desire–let alone to achieve–complete chastity.

In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so “natural, so “healthy,” and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humor. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth–the truth, acknowledged above, that sex in itself (apart from the excess and obsessions that have grown round it) is “normal” and “healthy” and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart from Christianity, must be nonsense. Surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for nothing. Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man does this on Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another on sociological principles. The real conflict is not between Christianity and “nature,” but between Christian principle and other principles in the control of “nature.” For “nature” (in the use of natural desire) will have to be controlled anyway, unless you are going to ruin your whole life. The Christian principles are, admittedly, stricter than the others; but then we think you will get help towards obeying them which you will not get towards obeying the others.

In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity–like perfect charity–will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting: the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the Human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

Mere Christianity, 1945

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

God’s Ministry of Disappointment

SOURCE:  Amena Brown/Christianity Today

In pain and confusion, I’m finding that God is, indeed, close to the brokenhearted.

I thought I’d be pregnant by now.

Full stop. Hard return.

I will sit a few minutes after writing that sentence. I want to highlight and delete. I want to press backspace, as if a button on my laptop can keep that sentence from being true. I imagined my mid-30s differently. I thought my guest room would be a baby room. I thought I would have smiled at my baby shower by now, gentle hand on a round belly. I thought by this time, I’d have a calendar full of playdates and plenty of funny kid stories to tell.

Instead, it’s just my husband and me. This isn’t a bad thing. This is in fact enough. My husband and I are a family. Having a child doesn’t start our family. These are the things I tell myself when people whose manners exist somewhere between well-meaning and none of your business search the torso of my shirts with their eyes, trying to discern if I am hiding a pregnant belly from them. These are the things I remind myself of when enduring conversations that start off as small talk and turn to the dangerous territory of statements that stab you right between your heart and your unanswered prayers.

“Are you pregnant yet? Are you trying?” they ask, followed by intrusive suggestions and weird home remedies. “Don’t wait too long,” they say, as if we are waiting this long because we want to. “Have you thought about adopting?” they say, followed by a story of a random couple who adopted a child and then surprisingly had a biological child. As if we haven’t walked beside our friends as they journey in the honor of adoption, as if adoption is a consolation prize or busy work while we wait for the “real thing,” as if adoption should only be plan B.

Mostly we smile. Nod. Change the subject. Sometimes we get angry and frustrated and not so polite. We don’t tell anyone how these conversations make us cry when we are alone. How we hold our breath until the awkward conversation is over, until the dinner has finished and the plates have been wiped clean. We say less and less. We don’t even make comments about the future children we dream to have. We realize we are too fragile for the pointed questions and the oversimplifications.

A journey through heartbreak

I ask myself all sorts of things. Does true womanhood really hinge on a woman’s ability to become a mother? Why do I hold myself to this ticking biological clock and some ridiculous social media standard that says I should have children by now? Is my identity wrapped in checking off some arbitrary list of achievements? Does my life not matter if I am not married with kids, with a certain income bracket, with a house in a certain neighborhood, with a list of ways to describe my cool life to people I meet at parties?

Our journey to one day having children has not been blissful, innocent, joyous, or as easy as I expected it to be. It has been a journey of loss, heartbreak, delay, doctor appointments, test results, delays, stress, frustration, more appointments, more delays. Hope seems to be a liability too expensive to carry in the face of so much disappointment.

My relationship to God and my feelings about prayer became tumultuous. I found myself wincing in my faith, praying cautiously because I don’t want to deal with asking God for something when I think he will disappoint me. How do I keep going to God and asking when it seems like his consistent answer is no or wait? How do I keep believing the God who says no or wait when he knows how much that no or wait hurts me? How do I believe that God actually has my best interests at heart?

I spent the first year of this journey saying things like, “We are not these people. We are not the people who watch all of our friends around us get pregnant and have babies while we have no idea when it will happen for us.” I learned there is no such thing as “these people.” We don’t get to choose. Everyone carries a load; we don’t get to say what load, how we’ll carry it, when we’ll get it, or how long it will last.

The painful truth

I grew up as a church teen in the 1990s. In my church context, it was an age of believing the gospel could be connected to prosperity, that in the name of Jesus we could not only find love and peace, but also Benzes, McMansions, future husbands (also known as Boaz), future wives (also known as Proverbs 31 women), land, larger paychecks, and awesome shoes. Whether you named it and claimed it or marched around it six times in silence and the seventh time while blasting your loud trumpet, believing these things would bring you the answers to miraculous prayers became a way of life.

Sometimes I watched those prayers work. I watched people of faith pray for the sick, and the sick were healed. I watched church members move into houses the lender had nearly laughed them out the door for attempting to buy. I watched Boazes and Proverbs 31 women find each other, marry, and have pretty babies. So for years, I assumed this was the walk of faith. You see something you want, you pray and ask God, and you quote God’s Word that applies to said request. You focus your positive thinking on the fact that God is powerful enough to answer and that he will do all in his power and with his unlimited resources to fulfill your request.

Then I grew up. I am learning the painful truth that even when you pray and ask God, even when you quote back to God the applicable Scriptures, even when you walk around the object you are praying for six times and play your trumpet on the seventh, God doesn’t always answer the way you want him to.

What do you assume about a God who does this? He must be mean, cold, distant, unloving, inconsiderate. He must be more human and less holy, right? He must care about other people more than he cares about you. He must not see how hard you’ve tried to be good/honest/righteous.

Sometimes God is the great leader in the ministry of your disappointment. Sometimes you don’t get the job you prayed for. Sometimes the Boaz/Proverbs 31 woman you thought you were supposed to marry doesn’t even want a second date. Sometimes you want a Benz and you can only afford a hoopty. Sometimes God allows you to be disappointed. Sometimes you learn through tears, heartache, anger, and frustration that God is not a yes person.

God is near

I didn’t want to write my story this way. I wanted to have a happy sitcom ending. I wanted to be able to tell you this story from the lofty place of prayers answered. I wanted to spend a short time telling you this hard time we had and spend most of the time telling you the amazing story of how that all changed. But I’m not there yet. I don’t know when I will be. I don’t know if I will be.

Some people said this would be a season, and maybe it is, but it hasn’t ended yet. It’s gone on longer than I thought I had the strength to walk. Sometimes I get so weary all I can muster in prayer is “God, help me.” And sometimes no words come, and I trust he hears the things my soul wants to say when it hurts too much to gather the words to express.

I’m learning to accept this mystery of God. There are many things about God I will come to know or understand, and there is plenty I will never know, never understand, never be able to put words to. I’m learning the truth of Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” This means that when my pain hurts me deeply, God understands, God listens, God is near.

I wish I had answers. I wish I could predict the future. One of the limits of humanity is knowing only exactly what we know right now, right where we are. One thing I want my soul to remember is that life isn’t always good, humans aren’t always good, but God is good. Always.

I don’t say that because it’s convenient. I don’t say it to silence the frustrations, doubts, and questions. I say it because our tears and frustrations and doubts and hurt feelings and anger matter to God. I say it because I know how scary hope can be when you’ve lived with disappointment so long. I say it because I’m living every day trying to hold the tension of fully trusting in a God my humanity will never completely understand. As I sit in that tension, my heart still wants to believe in the God whose love is found in prosperity and poverty, in answers and in questions, in disappointment and in miracles.


Taken from How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself by Amena Brown.

 

Where Could Sin Lead Me? Imagine the Aftermath!

SOURCE:   /The Gospel Coalition

Envision the End of Your Sin

In the past few weeks I’ve witnessed several dear friends flirt with sin in a terrifying way. These friends love Jesus very much, but circumstances have exposed areas of easy entrance for the tempter.

As I’ve pondered their struggles, and my own wandering heart, I’ve been reminded of an exhortation I received many years ago in seminary.

Chancellor Chuck Swindoll was preaching in the morning chapel service.

As he stepped to the pulpit, he carried a weight on his brow, a Bible in his hand, and a written statement. He shared that a pastor from our seminary had fallen into grave sexual sin, disqualified himself from the ministry, and destroyed his family.

Swindoll then challenged us to consider where sin would lead us. Over the years I’ve followed his advice, and I’d like to help you do the same.

Imagine the Aftermath

I want to walk you through a scene to see what lies ahead on the path of sin.

This scenario is aimed at fellow pastors, but the idea is applicable to all.

Envision yourself calling together your elders and sitting in their midst, telling them how you have betrayed their trust. See their sunken faces and feel their broken hearts.

Listen to them consider how they’ll tell the church. Imagine the congregation’s confusion and how it will affect those who’ve heard you say so often that Jesus is better than anything else.

Imagine how the name of Christ will be mocked in your community and beyond.

Then I want you to picture walking out to your car and getting in.

Drive down the road near your house and circle your neighborhood a few times. Picture the place where you walked the dog with your children in the evenings.

Now, pull into your driveway and walk up to the door of your home.

Hear the scampering feet of your children running up to you and putting their arms around your legs, saying, “Daddy’s home!” See the way they love and trust you.

Drink that in deeply.

Now, tell them to go outside and play because you must talk to Mommy about something. As you walk to the kitchen where she’s faithfully going about her day, look at those smiling pictures on the wall. Remember the happy days you shared together.

Lead her by the hand to your bedroom where you used to make love.

Ask her to have a seat.

Feel your heart scamper and the lump form in your throat.

See her eyes ask what’s wrong. Then watch her weep as you tell her you’ve been unfaithful.

Hear her wail.

See her sob.

Feel her hit your chest and fall to her knees in despair.

Imagine the phone call to her parents, and to yours. Hear the silence on the phone as they take in what you’ve told them.

Imagine the day you gather your children and sit them down to explain why Mommy and Daddy are going to spend some time apart and sell the house they love so much.

See yourself taking down those smiling pictures from the wall and taping up the moving boxes, unsure if you’ll ever open them again.

Do you see it?

Sin doesn’t tell you about those days, does it?

Sin Hides the Price Tag

Satan doesn’t tell you sin’s true cost, because the cost is too high.

He’s a liar (John 8:44) and deception is his forte (2 Cor. 11:3). He wants to lull you into thinking sin won’t cost you as much as it will. You can keep things hidden. You can get out at any time. Your compromises are small. They won’t lead to a great fall.

He only speaks lies.

Friend, sin is stronger than you or I will ever be.

Some of you are standing at a crossroads right now. You’ve been sipping on sin’s potion and are becoming intoxicated by its lies. Satan wants you to keep sipping so you’ll become drunk, unable to consider God’s warning of the destruction that lies ahead: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

If you are entangled in sin, call a trusted friend right now and tell them you need help. Don’t wait another minute. Sin wants you to think you can stop by yourself—don’t believe it. Secrecy is the ground in which sin grows strong.

If you think this could never happen to you, be careful. “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, as long as you don’t part with your sin.

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, so long as you don’t part with your sin. But John Owen’s counsel is always true: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Satan aims to destroy your life now, and to harden your heart so you’ll inherit eternal destruction.

Lift Your Eyes

Friend, Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior who shed his blood to save you from sin—on Judgment Day and every day before it. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Whether you’re a pastor or not, married or not, have children or not, we all need grace to resist the power of sin’s deception. Thankfully, Jesus promises to supply it.

Plead with God to help you see the end of your sin—and then flee to the Savior. Let the sobriety of sin’s end lift your eyes to where our help resides (Ps. 121:1). May we avoid the ruin Proverbs warns about:

Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (Prov. 5:8–14)

Gracious Lord, we need help. Make us sober-minded. Keep us vigilant. Help us see the end of our sin.

How God Uses Suffering

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Recently, I posted about my experience with major back pain, brought on by herniated discs, and the 5 Marks of Suffering that I learned about from an excellent book by Tim Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. Keller’s overview of how God uses suffering in our lives was inspiring. As someone called to help people love their families well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share his insights with you.

The loneliness of suffering can cause one to wonder, “God where are You?” Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering eloquently shows how God uses suffering in our lives. Here are Keller’s insightful, inspiring and hope-filled thoughts on how God uses suffering.

1. “Suffering transforms our attitude toward ourselves.”

We like to think we can control others, and control the world around us. But we have a hard enough time controlling our own hearts. Keller points out that suffering shatters our illusions of control, “as it shows us we have always been vulnerable and dependent on God.” As we confront this, we see with more clarity through our own pain and introspection, how fragile and out of control we really are.

2. “Suffering will profoundly change our relationship to the good things in our lives.”

Pain has a way of clearing the decks, of helping us reorder our priorities. As I battled that back pain, I became more laser-focused on what was most important and what I really needed to focus on each and every day of my life. I even wrote down on a piece of paper that I have in front of me on my desk every day “Every moment matters.” I want to be wise in how I use the time God has given me on this earth. I want to love God, love my family, and love others well!

3. “Suffering can strengthen our relationship to God as nothing else can.”

Keller notes, “Suffering reveals the impurities or perhaps the falseness of our faith in God…and therefore, it is only in suffering that our love relationship with God can become more and more genuine.” Through pain, we become more dependent, or maybe more aware of the dependence we’ve always had, on God. The “dry and painful” prayers of suffering can lead to deeper faith and joy in the One who created us.

4. “Suffering is almost a prerequisite if we are going to be of much use to other people.”

As I have posted before and wrote about in the book, All Pro Dad, pain can be turned positive by giving you a future message of hope to others. Keller eloquently paints the picture of how this happens when he notes that “Before when we saw others in grief, we may have secretly wondered what all the blubbering was about…. then it comes to us—and ever after, we understand.” Suffering helps us be empathetic and compassionate. Suffering drives us to God, who, in turn, sends us out to others with an experiential message of truth, love, and hope.

Why Do We Suffer?

SOURCE:  Chuck Swindoll

Of all the letters Paul wrote, 2 Corinthians is the most autobiographical. In it the great apostle lifts the veil of his private life and allows us to catch a glimpse of his human frailties and needs. You need to read that letter in one sitting to capture the moving emotion that surged through his soul.

It is in this letter alone that he records the specifics of his anguish, tears, affliction, and satanic opposition. In this letter alone he spells out the details of his persecution, loneliness, imprisonments, beatings, feelings of despair, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and that “thorn in the flesh”—his companion of pain. How close it makes us feel to him when we picture him as a man with real, honest-to-goodness problems . . . just like you and me!

It is not surprising, then, that he begins the letter with words of comfort—especially verses 3 through 11 (please stop and read).

Now then, having read those nine verses, please observe his frequent use of the term comfort in verses 3–7. I count ten times in five verses that the same root word is employed by Paul. This word is para-kaleo, meaning literally, “to call alongside.” It involves more than a shallow “pat on the back” with the tired expression, “the Lord bless you . . . ” No, this word involves genuine, in-depth understanding . . . deep-down compassion and sympathy. This seems especially appropriate since it says that God, our Father, is the “God of all comfort” who “comforts us in all our affliction.” Our loving Father is never preoccupied or removed when we are enduring sadness and affliction! Read Hebrews 4:14–16 and Matthew 6:31–32 as further proof.

There is yet another observation worth noting in 2 Corinthians, chapter 1. No less than three reasons are given for suffering—each one introduced with the term “that.” Can you locate them? Take a pencil and circle the “that” in verses 4, 9, and 11. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, the Holy Spirit states reasons we suffer:

1. “That we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction . . . “ (v. 4). God allows suffering so that we might have the capacity to enter into others’ sorrow and affliction. Isn’t that true? If you have suffered a broken leg and been confined to crutches for weeks—you are in complete sympathy with someone else on crutches, even years after your affliction. The same is true for the loss of a child . . . emotional depression . . . an auto accident . . . undergoing unfair criticism . . . financial burdens. God gives His children the capacity to understand by bringing similar sufferings into our lives. Bruises attract one another.

2. “That we would not trust in ourselves . . . “ (v. 9). God also allows suffering so that we might learn what it means to depend on Him, not on our own strength and resources. Doesn’t suffering do that? It forces us to lean on Him totally, absolutely. Over and over He reminds us of the danger of pride . . . but it frequently takes suffering to make the lesson stick. Pride is smashed most effectively when the suffering comes suddenly, surprisingly. The express trains of heaven are seldom announced by a warning bell; they dash suddenly and abruptly into the station of the soul. Perhaps that has been your experience recently. Don’t resent the affliction as an intruder—welcome it as God’s message to stop trusting in your flesh . . . and start leaning on Him.

3. “That thanks may be given . . . “ (v. 11). Honestly—have you said, “Thanks, Lord, for this test”? Have you finally stopped struggling and expressed to Him how much you appreciate His loving sovereignty over your life? I submit that one of the reasons our suffering is prolonged is that we take so long saying “Thank you, Lord” with an attitude of genuine appreciation.

How unfinished and rebellious and proud and unconcerned we would be without suffering! Alan Redpath, the beloved evangelist and former pastor of Moody Bible Church in Chicago, once remarked;

When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual—and crushes him.

Here is another statement on suffering I heard years ago. I shall never forget it:

Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel heart.

May these things encourage you the next time God heats up the furnace!

Don’t resent affliction as an intruder—welcome it as God’s invitation to trust Him.

— Charles R. Swindoll

Reflective Praying: A Simple But Powerful Way To Pray

SOURCE:  DR. BILL BELLICAN

WHAT IS REFLECTIVE PRAYING?

— UNIQUELY APPLIED SCRIPTURE FOR USE IN TIMES OF NEED, DISTRESS, DESPAIR, CONFUSION, HOPELESSNESS, FEAR, HURT

— A SPIRIT-LED WAY TO READ – MEDITATE – PERSONALIZE – INTERNALIZE – PRAY THE WORD OF GOD

Introduction

(Based on Psalms for Prayer/T.M. Moore)

The man who prays the psalms will make the thoughts of the psalms his own.  He will sing them no longer as verses composed by a prophet, but as born of his own prayers.  At least he should use them as intended for his own mouth, and know that they were not fulfilled temporarily in the prophet’s age and circumstances, but are being fulfilled in his daily life.

Abba Isaac, quoted in Western Asceticism

He who recites the Psalms is uttering them as his own words, and each sings them as if they were written concerning him….He handles them as if he is speaking about himself.  And the things spoken are such that he lifts them up to God as himself acting and speaking them from himself.

Athanasius, quoted in The Letter to Marcellinus

Our purpose in praying the psalms is to be able to appropriate the words of the psalms as though they were our own words, to know and use these Spirit-given prayers as our own prayers, and to be carried along by them in the power of God’s Spirit as we come into the very presence of God.

Like any worthwhile goal, achieving this will take time and concentrated effort.  Begin praying the psalms as a regular discipline.  Learning to integrate Scripture into all our prayers can only serve to strengthen our prayers, to give us more confidence in prayer, and to provide us with words to use in coming before God’s throne of grace as often as we have opportunity or need.

The Reflective Praying Process

…but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  Rom. 8:5b

And by him (the Holy Spirit), we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Rom. 8:15b

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.  Rom. 8:26, 27.

Reflective Praying is a specific application of praying Scripture.  As you read Scripture, (especially the Psalms), appropriate the words of Scripture as though they were your own words.  Take these words and let them give an uncensored and honest voice to your specific situation, needs, and emotions.  Ask the Holy Spirit to carry you along as you reflect your heart of prayer to the Lord.

The specific steps to take are:

(1) Make sure you have a comfortable, modern translation of the Bible.  As

you read a passage or Psalm, ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind,

imagination, and awareness to what he wants you to notice. He always

will help in our weakness and inability to know best how to pray (Rom.

8:26-27).

(2) While reading, use a highlighter to note a word, phrase, or paragraph

with which you resonate.  The Holy Spirit will call your attention to

what to highlight.  In so doing, he wants you to know that you can talk

to the Lord about what these highlighted portions are stirring in your

heart and soul.

(3) When finished reading and highlighting and with your Bible and eyes

open, focus your attention on just the highlighted parts.  Personalize, expand,

amplify, and apply  these highlighted portions to your current situation

and honestly reflect your feelings and words to the Lord. You are not

reciting or reading Scripture to the Lord.  You are telling him in light of

what you highlighted how you are affected, what you can or cannot do, the

tensions you have, the struggles you experience, how you feel about God and

his closeness or, even, perceived distance.  Ask questions, pause and listen, and

express yourself in a very real, personal, and natural manner to convey to the Lord all that you need to say.

Again, the goal is to willingly invite the Holy Spirit to draw you into a very intimate, personal, uncensored, unashamedly honest conversation with the Lord.  It is not that the Lord needs you to inform Him what’s on your mind and troubling your heart.  He already intricately knows these things.  The Holy Spirit desires that you fully realize you freely can bring the entirety of these things to the Lord without fear of condemnation or rejection.  Quite the contrary, He longs to interact with you at this level of honesty and vulnerability as He so loves the relationship with you…and…He wants you to grow in your love of this relationship with Him.

Tan: DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

SOURCE:  Taken from Disciplines of the Holy Spirit by S.Y. Tan

Occasionally the Lord leads us into a time of isolation and solitude that can only be described, in the words of St. John of the Cross, as a “dark night of the soul.”  We may feel dry, in despair, or lost.  God may seem absent, His voice silent.  The prophet Isaiah declared, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isa. 50:10).

Such dark times can be pregnant with God’s purpose; they can be times in which we are stripped of our overdependence on the emotional life, on things of this world, and on ourselves.  “The dark night” is one of the ways the Spirit slows our pace, even bringing us to a halt, so that He can work an inner transformation of the heart and soul.

Those who are hungry for God can expect to be drawn or driven into times of dryness or confusion, where faith and dependence on God are tested and deepened.

A. W. Tozer describes this process as the “ministry of the night.”  In these times, God seems to be at work to take away from our hearts everything we love most.  Everything we trust in seems lost to us.  Our most precious treasures turn to piles of ashes.

In times like these, says Tozer:

 

Slowly you will discover God’s love in your suffering.  Your heart will begin to approve the whole thing.  You will learn from yourself what all the schools in the world could not teach you – the healing action of faith without supporting pleasure. You will feel and understand the ministry of the night; its power to purify, to detach, to humble, to destroy the fear of death, and what is more important to you at the moment, the fear of life.  And you will learn that sometimes pain can do what even joy cannot, such as exposing the vanity of earth’s trifles and filling your heart with longing for the peace of heaven.

 

As we seek to draw near to God, we can expect to have times in our lives when we too experience the “ministry of the night.”  Our best response during these seasons is to wait upon God, trust Him, be still, and pray.

 

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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.

How to Turn Your Pain into Something Positive

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Can pain ever be good?

That’s a fair question, but mostly an intellectual one to me, until recently. You see I’ve been blessed with good health and without much physical pain for most of my life. But a recent injury put me in a season of constant and intense back pain. For quite a while, I was getting just a few hours of sleep a night, sometimes feeling lost in an emotional fog. Even though it’s been a painful setback, it’s got me thinking about the importance of pain, and asking some big questions:

What will I do with my pain? How can I turn my pain into something positive?

Whether pain is physical or emotional, it can be used for good, to make a positive impact on others.

As I wrote about in my book, All Pro Dad, here are a few ways that pain can be used for something good and positive:

Pain can bring clarity to what is most important in life.

Yes, pain can create an emotional fog and make it hard to think straight. But it can also force you to an off-ramp in life for a while that can help you take stock of your priorities. As I’ve been working through the pain and fog, I’m also finding some clarity on things that are important in my life. It’s been a good time to take stock of my usage of time and resources to ensure I’m being a good steward of what’s been entrusted to me and my family.

Pain can be a bonding agent in relationships.

Pain allows you to identify with another person who is going through something very similar. Empathy is an important character trait of a loving leader. When you empathize with others, you experience similar feelings, thoughts, and emotions and then take action based on what you’ve experienced to meet the needs of others. It’s often the things we have in common that create or deepen our bonds.

Pain can change your trajectory.

Past pain can motivate us to look outward instead of just inward. Sometimes pain is paralyzing, and we get very self-focused as we deal with it. But as we do, pain (especially relational pain) can eventually help us to see the need to work towards helping others. Maybe it’s breaking a cycle of dysfunction or brokenness in a family tree that we’ve experienced, or picking up the pieces from an addiction we’ve battled that has hurt more than just ourselves. Eventually, we face a choice: stay focused on self or be motivated to help others.

Pain can give us credibility and opportunity to help others.

When we have endured pain we’ve never experienced before, we have the power of empathizing with others going through the same pain, not just those suffering in general. As a result, others are aware that we know what they are going through and will listen to what we have to say, perhaps even more so than others who try to speak into their lives but haven’t shared the same pain.

Pain can give us a future message of hope to others.

As we deal with the pains of our past or present, God gives us hope and healing that can become a very meaningful message to others. The pain can become a purpose for our voice as well as the message of hope our voice proclaims to the world.

Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

. . . that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.2 Corinthians 2:11

One of the most sobering facts about life is that all humans have a supernatural enemy whose aim is to use pain and pleasure to make us blind, stupid, and miserable — forever. The Bible calls him “the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world . . . the accuser” (Revelation 12:9–10), “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

He is our “adversary [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Yet, in the most appalling and unwitting bondage, the whole world willingly “follows the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). At his most successful, his subjects march obliviously to destruction, and take as many with them as they can.

The “good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18) that I wrote about under the title “Awake and at War” includes the daily resistance of this enemy (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7), the daily refusal to give him an opportunity (Ephesians 4:27), and the daily stand against his schemes (Ephesians 6:11).

Satan’s Leash — and Impending Doom

God is sovereign over Satan. The devil does not have a free hand in this world. He is on a leash, so that he can do no more than God permits. In effect, he must get permission — as in the case of Simon Peter, where Jesus discloses, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has asked to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). And the case of Job: “The Lord said to Satan, “Behold, Job is in your hand; only spare his life” (Job 2:6).

So evidently God sees the ongoing role of Satan as essential for his purposes in the world, since, if God willed, Satan would be thrown into the lake of fire now, instead of at the end of the age. “The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and . . . will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). His complete defeat is coming and sure. But not yet.

Unwitting Servant of Our Sanctification

God intends that part of our preparation for heaven be a life of warfare with hell. He calls it a “good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18) and a “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). It is good, not because we might be killed (which we might! — Revelation 2:10), but because these fire-fights refine the gold of our faith (1 Peter 1:7), in life and death.

God is the great General in this warfare. He has given us the walkie-talkie of prayer to call for help: “Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times” (Ephesians 6:17–18).

He sees behind enemy lines, and knows exactly the strategies that will be used against us. He has written them down in a wartime manual “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan.” The reason we will not be outwitted is that “we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Primer on Satan’s Strategies

If you need a refresher for what those “designs” are, here is a summary. May God make you a mighty warrior! May he “train your hands for war and your fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1).

1. Satan lies, and is the father of lies.

“When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The first time Satan appears in the Bible in Genesis 3, the first words on his lips are suspicious of the truth (“Did God say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?”). And the second words on his lips were a subtle falsehood (“You will not die”). John says that Satan “has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). We are dealing with the essence of falsehood and deception.

2. He blinds the minds of unbelievers.

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So he not only speaks what is false. He hides what is true. He keeps us from seeing the treasure of the gospel. He lets us see facts, even proofs, but not preciousness.

3. He masquerades in costumes of light and righteousness.

In 2 Corinthians 11:13–15, Paul says that some people are posing as apostles who are not. He explains like this: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

In other words, Satan has servants who profess enough truth to join the church, and from inside teach what Paul calls “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus says they will be like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Acts 20:30 says they will not spare the flock, but will draw people away to destruction. Without God’s gift of discernment (Philippians 1:9), our love will be suckered into stupidity.

4. Satan does signs and wonders.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, the last days are described like this: “The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power, and with signs and wonders of the lie.” That’s my awkward translation. Some translate it “with false signs and wonders.” But this makes the signs and wonders look unreal. In fact, some people do say that Satan can only fake miracles. I doubt it. And even if it’s true, his fake is going to be good enough to look real to almost everybody.

One reason I doubt that Satan can only fake his miracles is that in Matthew 24:24 Jesus describes the last days like this: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible even the elect.” There is no hint that these “signs and wonders” will be tricks.

Let your confidence be grounded in something far deeper than any supposed inability of Satan to do signs and wonders. Even real signs and wonders in the service of anti-Christian assertions, prove nothing, even when they are done “in the name of Jesus.” “Lord, Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?” To which Jesus will reply, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:22–23). The problem was not that the signs and wonders weren’t real, but that they were in the service of sin.

5. Satan tempts people to sin.

This is what he did unsuccessfully to Jesus in the wilderness — he wanted him to abandon the path of suffering and obedience (Matthew 4:1–11). This is what he did successfully to Judas in the last hours of Jesus’s life (Luke 22:3–6). And in 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul warns against this for all the believers: “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

6. Satan plucks the word of God out of people’s hearts and chokes faith.

Jesus told the parable of the four soils in Mark 4:1–9. In it, the seed of the word of God is sown, and some falls on the path and birds quickly take it away. He explains in verse 15, “Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which was sown in them.” Satan snatches the word because he hates faith which the word produces (Romans 10:17).

Paul expresses his concern for the faith of the Thessalonians like this: “I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Paul knew that Satan’s design is to choke off the faith of people who have heard the word of God.

7. Satan causes some sickness and disease.

Jesus healed a woman once who was bent over and could not straighten herself. When some criticized him for doing that on the Sabbath, he said, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16). Jesus saw Satan as the one who had caused this disease.

In Acts 10:38, Peter described Jesus as one who “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” In other words, the devil often oppresses people with illness. This too is one of his designs.

But don’t make the mistake of saying every sickness is the work of the devil. To be sure, even when a “thorn in the flesh” is God’s design for our sanctification, it also may be the “messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7). But there are other instances in which the disease is solely attributed to God’s design without reference to Satan: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Jesus feels no need to bring Satan in as the culprit in his own merciful designs.

8. Satan is a murderer.

Jesus said to those who were planning to kill him, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth” (John 8:44). John says, “Do not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 John 3:12). Jesus told the blameless church at Smyrna, “The devil is about to throw some of you into prison. . . . Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

To put it in a word, Satan is blood-thirsty. Christ came into the world that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Satan comes that he might destroy life wherever he can and in the end make it eternally miserable.

9. Satan fights against the plans of missionaries.

Paul tells of how his missionary plans were frustrated in 1 Thessalonians 2:17–18: “We endeavored the more eagerly, and with great desire, to see you face to face; because we wanted to come to you . . . but Satan hindered us.” Satan hates evangelism and discipleship, and he will throw every obstacle he can in the way of missionaries and people with a zeal for evangelism.

10. Satan accuses Christians before God.

Revelation 12:10 says, “I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” Satan’s defeat is sure. But his accusations haven’t ceased.

It is the same with us as it was with Job. Satan says to God about us, They don’t really love you; they love your benefits. “Stretch out your hand and touch all that [they have], and [they] will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). Their faith isn’t real. Satan accuses us before God, as he did Job. But it is a glorious thing that followers of Jesus have an advocate who “always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Satan Will Not Win

Those are some of Satan’s designs. The path to victory in this warfare is to hold fast to Christ who has already dealt the decisive blow.

  • 1 John 3:8: “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.”
  • Hebrews 2:14: “Christ took on human nature that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”
  • Colossians 2:15: “God disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.” In other words, the decisive blow was struck at Calvary.
  • Mark 3:27: “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.”
  • Revelation 20:10 says one day the warfare will be over: “The devil . . . [will be] thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone . . . and will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (See Matthew 8:29; 25:41)

Resist!

James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!” (James 4:7). How do we do that? Here is how they did it according to Revelation 12:11: “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” They embraced the triumph of Christ by his blood. They spoke that truth in faith. They did not fear death. And they triumphed.

The New Testament highlights prayer as the pervasive accompaniment of every battle. “Take . . . the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:17–18).

As the close of this age draws near, and Satan rages, Jesus calls us to wartime prayer: “Watch at all times, prayingthat you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Similarly, Peter makes an urgent call to end-time prayer: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).

Even Jesus fought against the devil on our behalf with the weapon of prayer. He said to Peter in Luke 22:31–32, “Satan has asked to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” So Jesus illustrates for us the opposition of a specific satanic threat with prayer.

And, of course, Jesus instructed us to make prayer a daily weapon for protection in general: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). That is, deliver us from the successful temptation of the evil one. Do you confront the designs of the devil with the focused and determined power of prayer?

No Neutral Zone

The question is not whether you want to be in this war. Everyone is in it. Either we are defeated by the devil and thus following, like cattle to the slaughter, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), or we are resisting — “resist him, firm in your faith!” (1 Peter 5:9).

There is no neutral zone. You either triumph “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony,” or you will be enslaved by Satan. Therefore, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3), and “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Pray without ceasing!

The Lord Jesus is no less a warrior today than in the days of old. So I urge you again: Come to him as willing soldiers of the Prince of Peace and learn to say, “He trains my hands for war” (Psalm 144:1).

Waiting: Out of the Shadows

SOURCE:  Charles Swindoll

Some of you who read these words today could use a little extra hope, especially if you find yourself in a waiting mode.

You were once engaged in the action, doing top-priority work on the front lines. No longer. All that has changed. Now, for some reason, you’re on the shelf. It’s tough to stay encouraged perched on a shelf. Your mind starts playing tricks on you.

Though you are well-educated, experienced, and fairly gifted in your particular field, you are now waiting. You’re wondering, and maybe you’re getting worried, that this waiting period might be permanent. Admittedly, your response may not be all that great. You can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. It just doesn’t seem fair. After all, you’ve trained hard, you’ve jumped through hoops, and you’ve even made the necessary sacrifices. Discouragement crouches at the door, ready to pounce on any thought or hope, so you sit wondering why God has chosen to pass you by.

I want to offer you some encouragement, but I need to start with a realistic comment: it may be a long time before God moves you into a place of significant impact. He may choose not to reveal His plan for weeks, maybe months.

Are you ready for this?

It could be years.

I have found that one of God’s favorite methods of preparing us for something great is to send us into the shadows to wait.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to terminal darkness. Take heart from the words of British author James Stalker who wrote, “Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed.”

Pause and let that sink in. Read the statement again, slower this time.

Waiting is one of God’s preferred methods of preparing special people for significant projects. The Bible makes that principle plain from cover to cover.

As Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.”

God often prepares us for something great by sending us into the shadows to wait.

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