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

Posts tagged ‘Faith’

Should Christians Use Medication For Emotional Problems?

SOURCE:  Dr. Robert Kellemen

In the beginning, God designed us as body-soul beings. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Even before the fall, we were more than inner person—we were and are embodied beings.

Our bodies are works of art fashioned by our heavenly Father who fearfully and wonderfully handcrafted us (Psalm 139:13-16). We are works of God’s hand; made, shaped, molded, clothed with skin and flesh, and knit together with bones and sinews (Job 10:3-12). We are not to despise our physicality.

After the fall, the Bible teaches that we inhabit fallen bodies in a fallen world (Romans 8:18-25). Paul calls our fallen bodies “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). As one commentator has mused, we are cracked pots! Paul also describes our bodies as a mortal earthly tent—perishable, weak, flesh and blood (1 Corinthians 15:42-47).

Paul is not saying that the flesh is bad or evil. He is saying that our bodies are weak and natural, prone in our fallen state to disorder and dysfunction.

Some modern Christians seem to take a hyper-spiritual approach to the brain/mind issue. They act as if inner spirituality eliminates all the effects of outer bodily maladies. Some seem to imply that giving any credence to the fallen bodies influence on our emotional state is something of a Trojan Horse that sneaks secular, materialistic thought into Christian spirituality.

Not So the Puritans

The Puritans would have been shocked by such a naïve perspective on the mind-body issue. Puritan pastors and theologians like Robert Burton, William Ames, and Jonathan Edwards recognized that problems such as scrupulosity (what we might call OCD) and melancholy (what we might call depression) might, at least in part, be rooted in the fallen body. They warned that such maladies sometimes could not be cured simply by comforting words or biblical persuasion (see A History of Pastoral Care in America, pp. 60-72).

Edwards described his sense of pastoral helplessness in the face of the melancholy of his uncle, Joseph Hawley. He noted that Hawley was “in a great measure past a capacity of receiving advice, or being reasoned with” (see A History of Pastoral Care in America, p. 73). Eventually, Hawley took his own life one Sabbath morning. Shortly thereafter, Edwards advised clergy against the assumption that spiritual issues alone were at work in melancholy.

Emotions: Bridging Our Inner and Outer Worlds

Emotions truly are a bridge between our inner and outer world. Think of the word “feeling.” Feeling is a tactile word suggesting something that is tangible, physical, touchable, and palpable. “I feel the keyboard as I type. I feel the soft comfortable chair beneath me. I feel my sore back and stiff wrists as they cry out, “Give it a rest!”

We also use this physical word—feeling—to express emotions. “I feel sad. I feel happy. I feel joy. I feel anger.” It’s no surprise that we use this one word in these two ways—physical and emotional. We know what the Israelites understood—our body feels physically what our emotions feel metaphysically.

When I’m nervous, my stomach is upset. When I feel deep love, my chest tightens. When I’m anxious, my heart races. When I’m sad, my entire system slows.

We know much more about the brain than the Israelites knew. It is a physical organ of the body and all physical organs in a fallen world in unglorified bodies can malfunction. My heart, liver, and kidneys can all become diseased, sick. So can the physical organ we call the brain.

Embracing our Weakness/Embracing God’s Power

It is important to realize that every emotion involves a complex interaction between body and soul. Therefore, it is dangerous to assume that all emotional struggles can be changed by strictly “spiritual means.”

For some, spirituality includes embracing physical weakness. In fact, this is the exact message Paul communicates when he calls us “jars of clay.” Why does God allow us to experience physical weakness? “To show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). It’s the same message Paul personally experienced in his own situational suffering (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) and in his own bodily suffering (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

We can act as if we are more spiritual than the Apostle Paul. However, in actuality, pretending that our external suffering and our physical bodies do not impact us emotionally involves an arrogant refusal to depend upon and cling to Christ alone.

Certain emotions, especially anxiety and depression, involve physiological components that sometimes may need to be treated with medication. When we ignore the importance of the body, we misunderstand what it means to trust God. It is wrong to place extra burdens on those who suffer emotionally by suggesting that all they need to do is surrender to God to make their struggles go away.

On the other hand, it would be equally wrong to suggest that medication is all someone needs. That would be like a pastor entering the cancer ward to talk with a parishioner who was just told that she has cancer. “Well, take your medicine. Do chemo. You’ll be fine. See ya’ later.” No! That pastor would support, comfort, talk with, and pray for his parishioner.

Sickness and suffering are always a battleground between Satan and Christ. So, while medicine may sometimes be indicated for certain people with certain emotional battles, spiritual friendship is always indicated. Physicians of the body (and the brain is an organ of the physical body) prescribe medication. Physicians of the soul (and the mind is an inner capacity and reality of the soul) prescribe grace.

What to do When You’re Waiting for God to Deliver You

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Over the years, I’ve observed countless people who become derailed by the circumstances of life. Speaking as one who has failed many times, the key to long-term success is often in how you respond during the darkest days of your life.

I’ve always enjoyed the advice God gave His people when they were in captivity by a rival nation. Immediately before He told them they would be in captivity for 70 years, He told them to:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.  Increase in number there; do not decrease.  Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:5-7

He told them to keep living! In time (70 years in this case), He would deliver them, but in the meantime, they were to live life as they already knew to live.

By the way, that’s the passage from which we get a favored verse…one we love to cling to and offers us hope:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

If you are in a season of captivity…if you can’t seem to find your way these days…if you are waiting for God to deliver you…don’t stop doing the good things you know to do. Don’t stop moving forward with what you have today. Don’t neglect the relationships you have now during your mourning of the relationship that you’ve lost.  Seek ways to bless others as you wait for your blessing.

Don’t give up! Push forward, clinging to your faith, while you wait for God’s deliverance.

What you do and how you respond during the difficult days often determine the degree of success and enjoyment of the good days. Learning to navigate through droughts, disappointments and failure is a key to enjoying the best of life and living as a person of faith.

Jesus Controls My Chaos

Editor’s Note:  Even as Jesus is able to set the boundaries of the Earth’s seas and control their fury, He is able to wisely and compassionately set limits on and control the chaos, destruction, and fury of life’s storms that affect each one of us.

Jesus Stills the Storm

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul/Ligonier Ministries

“The men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (v. 27).  – Matthew 8:23–27

Having explained the cost of discipleship to two would-be followers, Jesus and His disciples set out to cross the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 8:23). Little do the disciples know that this journey will give their teacher an opportunity to show forth His identity in a way they have not yet seen.

Because of its geographical location, violent squalls frequently occur on the open water of the Sea of Galilee, especially in the period between May and October. Seasoned fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John (4:18–22) are certainly familiar with such storms, and so their fear, evident in Matthew 8:24–27, shows that the turbulence in which they find themselves is unusually fierce.

However, despite the storm’s ferocity, Jesus is able to sleep peacefully as the boat traverses the waves. This indicates His great trust in God and comfort in His faithful obedience because the Old Testament understands sound sleep to be a gift from God to His holy people (Lev. 26:6).

Christ’s ability to sleep in the storm is more remarkable when we consider that the boat in which His company is traveling is the customary fishing boat of His day, just big enough to accommodate the small group of men and a large catch of fish. The sailors are completely exposed to the elements. Jesus is not worried like the others even though He feels the storm’s effects no less than they do.

Yet Jesus’ command of the storm tells us about much more than His great faith.

In the biblical worldview, the sea and the storm are associated with chaos and destruction (Ps. 69:1–2). Only God can control the sea, and in fact, He sets its boundary and stills its fury (Job 38:8–11). That Jesus is able to silence the storm and still the waves indicates that He possesses an authority equal to the Creator’s (Matt. 8:26–27). The disciples marvel at this miracle because it is evidence that their beloved rabbi is more than just a teacher; He is in fact God Almighty.

John Chrysostom writes that “[Jesus’] sleeping showed he was a man. His calming of the seas declared him God” (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 28.1).

We put our lives in Jesus’ hands based on the evidence of His power. Today’s passage shows us that we can trust Him because He has authority over all nature and is worthy of our faith since He is the incarnate God over all creation. We follow the Creator of all things, not merely a good man. Take time today to review biblical teaching on the divinity of Christ (for example, John 1:1–18) so that you may be confident that your trust in Him will never be in vain.

WHATEVER IT TAKES, LORD !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren/The Angel Stadium Declaration

On April 6, 1980, 205 people attended Saddleback Valley Community Church’s first public worship service. On Sunday, April 17, 2005, 30,000 people gathered at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, to celebrate 25 years of ministry at Saddleback Church. At the culmination of a three-hour service of worship and remembrance, thousands rose to their feet to read the following together as a commitment to doing God’s will for the next 25 years. It is and will be referred to as The Angel Stadium Declaration: April 17, 2005. I offer it to our devotional readers for the inspiration that it was to me. I suggest you print it and put it where you can refer to it often. That’s what I’m going to do.

Today I am stepping across the line.  I’m tired of waffling and I’m finished with wavering; I’ve made my choice, the verdict is in and my decision is irrevocable.  I’m going God’s way.  There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory.  I will use my life to celebrate His presence, cultivate His character, participate in His family, demonstrate His love, and communicate His word.

Since my past has been forgiven and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying.  Instead, I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of His family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems debilitated by temptation or intimidated by the devil.  I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.  When times get tough, and I get tired, I won‘t back up, back off, back down, back out or backslide.  I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace.  I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for every day, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say:  However, Whenever, Wherever, and Whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes!  Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Anyway.  Whatever it takes Lord; Whatever it takes!  I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful one.  Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

With God, There is NO _____________

SOURCE:  Tolle Lege/J.C. Ryle

The pillow of God’s omnipotence” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, in the third place, the mighty principle which the angel Gabriel lays down to silence all objections about the incarnation. ‘With God nothing shall be impossible.’

A hearty reception of this great principle is of immense importance to our own inward peace. Questions and doubts will often arise in men’s minds about many subjects in religion. They are the natural result of our fallen estate of soul.

Our faith at the best is very feeble. Our knowledge at its highest is clouded with much infirmity.

And among many antidotes to a doubting, anxious, questioning state of mind, few will be found more useful than that before us now,—a thorough conviction of the almighty power of God.

With Him who called the world into being and formed it out of nothing, everything is possible.

Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

  • There is no sin too black and bad to be pardoned. The blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin.
  • There is no heart too hard and wicked to be changed. The heart of stone can be made a heart of flesh.
  • There is no work too hard for a believer to do. We may do all things through Christ strengthening us.
  • There is no trial too hard to be borne. The grace of God is sufficient for us.
  • There is no promise too great to be fulfilled. Christ’s words never pass away, and what He has promised He is able to perform.
  • There is no difficulty too great for a believer to overcome. When God is for us who shall be against us? The mountain shall become a plain.

Let principles like these be continually before our minds. The angel’s receipt is an invaluable remedy.

Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God’s omnipotence.”

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–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 27-28. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:34-38.

Why Hasn’t God Healed Me?

SOURCE:  DR. LARRY KEEFAUVER/Charisma Magazine

The invitation had just been given for anyone who needed prayer to approach the altar. John came forward, kneeling in silent contemplation–silent except for the tears streaming down his cheeks.

I stood behind the prayer rail and knelt in front of him as he extended his hands to grasp mine. His body trembled as he sobbed. Behind him stood his wife, one hand resting on John’s shoulder and the other raised heavenward as she prayed silently and wept openly.

“I just got back some tests on Friday,” John whispered. “The doctors say I have prostate cancer. Pastor, I don’t know if I have enough faith to go through this. Will you pray for me?”

As I anointed John with oil and prayed with him for healing, my mind pondered the phrase “enough faith.”

For years I have heard preachers imply that faith in some way is quantified. The myths seem to circulate unabated: “If Susan had just had enough faith, she would have been healed,” or “When Bill’s faith gets strong enough, he will be healed,” or “If everyone in this room all believed at the same moment, then all would be healed.”

But is healing really based on your faith alone? What should be your perspective when God doesn’t heal immediately?

If you are to understand why God doesn’t always heal now, you will have to peel away the layers of myth that have been so tantalizing to embrace. You will have to dig deep into the Scripture for yourself instead of consuming the “fast food” of your favorite popular name-it-and-claim-it theologian. And you will have to decide to walk by faith instead of simply mouthing the platitudes of faith that have so easily supplanted God’s Word in your daily confessions.

The truth is, while the lack of faith may hinder healing, healing does not depend on faith. I have witnessed both the faithful and the faithless being healed. And I have seen those of great faith die. In fact, everyone Jesus healed eventually died.

Those around the tomb of Lazarus lacked faith, and certainly Lazarus was in no position to exercise faith–he had been dead four days (see John 11:39-40). Yet Lazarus experienced a wonderful healing: He was resurrected.

A man once said to me after a friend’s funeral: “Life’s greatest enemy is death. She lacked faith. She doubted. So she lost and thus died.” Yet this deceased friend was a believer who had surrendered her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. She lives eternally with Christ in heaven. How silly to suggest that people die because of a lack of faith. Does this mean that people with enough faith will never die? Of course not!

If death were the enemy, why would Paul write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” or “We walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (Phil. 1:21; 2 Cor. 5:7-8, NKJV). We must avoid the myths of faith and healing and embrace the truth revealed in Scripture.

The Myths of Faith Healing

Some believers focus exclusively on faith as the key to healing. Yet Jesus healed many who apparently had no faith. Some were healed because their friends had faith. Others were bound up by demonic spirits and healed by exorcism, even against their wills.

The truth is that God heals. The myth is that God always heals now at the initiative of our faith.

Faith teacher Frederick K.C. Price has asserted: “The seventh method of receiving healing–[which] I believe is the highest kind of faith–is the highest way to receive healing…If you believe you receive it, you will confess that: ‘Bless God, I believe I am healed. I believe I have received my healing…I believe that it is so. I believe that I can walk in divine health all the days of my life.’ You are reading after one man who will never be sick, and I’m not being presumptuous.”

Myth is mixed here with truth. The highest kind of faith is, “I believe in Jesus,” not just, “I believe.”

It is true that faith must be our initiative. But even our initiative comes through the prompting of the Holy Spirit: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Our faith helps us receive healing, just as the lack of faith hinders healing. But healing does not depend on faith. Healing depends on the Healer.

Healing is the will of God. Canadian evangelist Peter Youngren wrote: “Jesus clearly shows us God’s will in healing…the Word of God declares that ‘great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all’ (Matt. 12:15). When Jesus healed all, He was obviously doing the will of His Father, because He only did that which the Father wanted Him to do.”

Youngren adds: “This is why you can come with boldness asking God for healing. God is on your side. He wants the best for you. He is good.”

So, if God wills all to be healed, then can your faith move His hand to heal you? In the words of the Hertz rental car commercial: “Not exactly!”

Your faith moves Him to save you (see Rom. 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8). And in your salvation is your healing: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses'” (Matt. 8:17; Is. 53:4-6).

But your faith does not effect your healing now. When you are healed rests entirely on what the sovereign purposes of the Healer are.

Consider this biblical example. In John 5 Jesus healed one paralytic at the pool of Bethesda though a multitude thronged that place daily to be healed. Why was one man healed at that moment while others were not?

John 5:19 gives the answer when Jesus confessed, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.'”

Bible scholar Jack Deere correctly observes that the initiative for the miraculous in Jesus’ ministry did not begin with Him but with the Father. “He healed only the people He saw His Father healing,” Deere writes. “The only firm reason for the healing of the paralytic that we can derive from the context of John 5 is that the Father willed it, and Jesus executed His Father’s will…We are ultimately faced with the conclusion that sometimes the Lord works miracles for His own sovereign purposes without giving any explanation for His actions to His followers.”

The second myth about healing is that if you stand fast in faith, you will be physically healed in time and space. Ken and Gloria Copeland have declared that healing will come if we have faith in our hearts and God’s Word in our mouths. But, they add: “It may take time for it to manifest in your body. So stand fast in faith, giving thanks to God until it does. Focus on God’s Word, not on physical symptoms.”

In what do we “stand fast”? The “rock” on which we stand isn’t faith or healing but Christ alone–the Healer. In Hebrews 10:23 we are admonished to hold fast to the profession of our faith. But in what is our profession of faith? Certainly, it is not in faith or in healing.

Be careful that your faith is not in faith itself–or, worse yet, in a faith teacher! Just believing hard enough, long enough or strong enough will not strengthen you or prompt your healing. Doing mental gymnastics to “hold on to your miracle” will not cause your healing to manifest now.

So what is faith? It is more than believing in your heart that God heals. The truth is that God is the God who heals. Faith is trusting the God who heals. Faith is a radical, absolute surrender to the God who heals. Faith is not holding on for your healing but holding on to the God who can do the impossible.

The truth is that your healing may manifest in eternity, not in time. If your trust is in God who heals, then when He heals you is secondary to belonging to the Healer. Certainly you will thank Him if He heals you today. But if your healing comes beyond death in eternity, will you praise Him now for that?

Paul did just that: “‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:55-58).

The third myth about healing is that if you just confess your healing, you will be healed right now. But you should confess the Healer, not your healing.

In his best-selling book, The Bible Cure, Dr. Reginald B. Cherry encourages us to “speak to the mountain” of our illness when we pray. That is important in prayer. But praying it and saying it won’t make physical healing manifest now.

Positive confession does not effect healing. If that were true, anyone who believes in mind-over-matter mental exercises could heal people. Only Jesus heals.

Our confession should be in Him, not in being healed now. Jesus sternly warned: “‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven'” (Matt. 10:32-33).

It’s time we throw out the lies that cloud the truth about faith and healing. It’s time we embrace the scriptural truths that shatter shallow myths and bring us freedom to confidently trust God.

Freedom in the Truth

When God doesn’t heal now, you can apply essential truths about faith and healing that are anchored in Scripture. I’ve identified four key actions we should take when we face a serious illness:

1. Have others join their faith to yours in bringing your infirmity to Jesus. “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them” (Luke 4:40; Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; 2:3-12).

Don’t try to face sickness alone. An essential key to healing in the New Testament is the power of corporate faith and praying in agreement with others (see Matt. 18:19-20). When you gather with others to pray, the presence of Christ dwells in your midst. Because He is the Great Physician, with His presence comes healing power.

Throughout the healing miracle accounts in the Gospels, we observe that friends brought the sick to Jesus. In Mark 2, a paralytic man was brought by his friends to Jesus. The Syro-Phoenician woman brought her daughter to Jesus (see Matt. 15:22; Mark 7:24-30). A father brought his demonized child to Jesus (see Matt 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42).

Join your faith with others to seek the Great Physician. When sickness has weakened, fatigued and discouraged you, seek out others who will pray in faith.

2. Seek to receive a touch from God. The woman with an issue of blood exercised her faith by going outside and searching for the Healer. She did all she knew to do to reach out through a crowd and touch Jesus (see Matt. 9:20; Mark 5:25-27; Luke 8:43-44).

When you are sick, you might be tempted to isolate yourself from settings in which you can touch and be touched by the presence of Christ. At times, you may not feel like going to worship services. You may feel too weak to sing and praise God. You may be too tired and discouraged to call the elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray in faith for you.

Resist this temptation to stay at home in isolation. Healing flows through the body of Christ. His body is the church. Break out of your loneliness and seek the Healer.

3. Submit yourself to the authority and will of Christ, trusting Him as your Healer. The centurion’s faith in Christ opened a door for his servant to be healed (see Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Likewise, the authority for your healing does not rest in you or your faith. Claiming your healing and speaking the right words do not guarantee your healing now or at any future time. Your faith opens a door for you to receive your healing from Christ.

I prayed with a woman who demanded that God heal her. When I questioned her attitude, she exclaimed, “I have the authority as a child of God to command God to fulfill His promise of healing for me.” She believed a common myth that has been spread by some faith teachers, who believe that we can command God to do our bidding.

Our authority isn’t over Christ but in Christ. We reign with Him in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:4-7). The sons of Sceva presumed to have healing authority but quickly learned that authority rested in the person of Jesus, not simply in the repetitious use of His name (see Acts 19:13-16).

The truth is that all authority for every matter, including healing, rests in Jesus: “‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'” (Matt. 28:18). From Christ we receive imparted authority to say what He says and to do what He does. Submit to His authority for your healing.

4. Believe on His Word, not someone else’s advice or counsel. Whenever Jesus spoke the Word, people were healed (see Matt. 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7). The psalmist said, “He [the Lord] sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps. 107:20). Listen to the Word of the Lord for your healing. No one else’s word, faith or assurance will do. When God doesn’t heal now, trust His voice and believe His Word.

Proverbs 4:20-22 reads: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.”

When God doesn’t heal now, trust His Word–not your circumstances or human advice. God has not abandoned you. He’s not taking a vacation. He is right there by your side as you put your trust in His tender care.

 

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Dr. Larry Keefauver is a former editor of Ministries Today magazine and founder of Your Ministries Counseling Services and PowerHouse Families. He is the author of Lord, I Wish My Teenager Would Talk With Me(Creation House).

Handling Your Personal “Jericho”

Source:  Taken from an article by Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Rae Lee

“For I hold you by your right hand—I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13 NLT)

It takes tremendous courage to persevere in the face of overwhelming problems.  And faith in God is the only thing that makes that kind of courage possible.

Joshua, a godly hero in the Old Testament, persevered by holding on, standing firm, keeping his course, and being patient. His persistence was based on his faith in God’s promises.

The city of Jericho blocked the entrance to the Promised Land for the children of Israel. This land belonged to God’s chosen people. He had promised it was theirs. However, there was an obstacle: the daunting fortified city of Jericho.

Joshua turned to God for guidance. What did God tell him to do? March around Jericho for seven days, then shout and blow horns! This may have seemed strange to Joshua, but it was God’s plan. God’s wisdom versus human wisdom.

Joshua chose God’s plan . . . and the Israelites won the victory.

Every Christian has to deal with a personal Jericho from time to time. Sometimes these obstacles seem impossible to overcome from a human perspective. But with God . . . all things are possible.

Are you facing an obstacle? It could be anything. Debt. Health. Relationship. A habit or addiction. The list of possibilities is endless, but the answer is always the same: Jesus.

[The above] scripture, God says not to be afraid. He is here to help you.

Turn to God. Turn to his Word. Place your faith in him. He will give you the strength to persist. As you trust in him and him alone, be persistent as you wait for the walls of your Jericho to fall. In his way. In his time.

Father, I feel overwhelmed by this problem in my life. Thank you for reminding me that you are with me. Help me stop focusing on the problem and turn my focus to Jesus. To your Word. Help me overcome fear by trusting you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min. 

Don’t Look Back

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.” Hebrews 11:8-10 CEV

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

God called Abraham to leave everything that was familiar to him and enter a world of the unknown.

Abraham obeyed without hesitation.  He set out, leaving relatives and friends, leaving the security of his home, leaving his culture and religion . . .… and followed God.

And he didn’t look back.

Abraham could have spent his days complaining or grieving over all he had left behind. He could have rebelled against being taken out of his comfort zone. But he didn’t. Why? He believed God. He believed God’s promises. And he set his eyes on “the eternal city that God had planned and built.”

The apostle Paul knew God wasn’t finished with him yet. He had made many mistakes in the past, but he forgot the past and looked forward to what lay ahead, pressing on to the eternal prize. 

He didn’t look back.

Is God calling you out of your comfort zone? Or maybe you have already stepped out of your comfort zone but really want to do an “about face.”

In every situation we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. If we look back and dwell on what was, we can’t be effective in the here and now. We need to focus on what God is calling us to do today and press on to what he has promised us for tomorrow.

Father, help me to put the past behind and focus on what you want me to do today. Help me to be willing to step out of my comfort zone and not look back. In Jesus’ name . . . …

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These thoughts were drawn from …


Godly Heroes: A Small Group Study of Hebrews 11
 by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Why Can’t I Quit Worrying?

SOURCE:   Mike Bechtle/Discipleship Journal

I felt defeated.

Worry took up a lot of my time, as job concerns, a mortgage, church demands, family issues—especially teenagers—all took their toll.

I had tried to quit worrying. I read articles, had conversations over coffee (worrying about whether my budget would allow a latté instead of a plain decaf), and determined to handle my concerns differently. Each time, my resolution worked—for a while. Soon, however, the old patterns reappeared, and my thoughts became more concerned with the situation than the solution. Like yo-yo dieting, I would stop worrying only to sink back deeper than before.

I worried even when there was nothing concrete to worry about. It had become a habit.

 Try, Try Again

My failure to conquer worry wasn’t from a lack of knowledge. I’d memorized Phil. 4:6–7 as a child and listened to countless sermons on the passage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The passage was usually summarized like this:

  1. Worry is a choice (and we’re not supposed to choose it).
  2. We should bring everything to God in prayer.
  3. God will give us peace.

So when the tires on our family car were as thin as balloons, but we couldn’t yet afford to replace them, I decided to try the formula once again as a counter to my twin worries of finances and safety. Based on these admonitions, I chose not to worry about the car. I prayed about my concerns. I asked God for peace.

But peace didn’t come, and soon I began to worry again.

Why didn’t it work? If the instructions were true, I could only see two conclusions: Either I wasn’t doing my part (stop worrying, start praying), or God wasn’t doing His part (provide peace).

My theology told me God doesn’t lie, so I figured He would do His part. That left me. I must not have been trying hard enough. Now I really felt guilty. The worry was my fault, but I felt helpless.

Missing the Obvious

One summer afternoon, I reread Phil. 4:6–7 to see what I had missed. I looked at each word carefully, trying to discover what I was doing wrong. Then, by accident, my eyes wandered on to verses 8 and 9:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Suddenly, the light came on.

Somehow, I had never seen the connection between these two sets of verses. Yet here was a logical progression of thought that finally made sense: Verses 6 and 7 tell me what not to do; verses 8 and 9 tell me what to do instead.

Worry took a lot of time and mental effort. My mind would be filled with concerns for hours at a time. When I tried to stop worrying, I had time available. Until I filled my mind with something different, new thoughts of worry just crowded in.

Weed Control

I found a helpful analogy right in my own front yard. In some parts of my lawn, the grass is thick and green. In other areas, it’s sparse and dry. There are even a few places where the grass is missing entirely.

When I mow the lawn, I notice that where the grass is healthy, there are no weeds. Where the lawn is sparse, there are a few. Where there is no grass, the weeds flourish.

Every time I notice the weedy spots, I think, “I really need to pull those things.” So I do, but within a few weeks they’re back—and I’m pulling them again. One day it hit me: I don’t have to pull weeds where the grass is thick. Instead of spending all my time pulling weeds, maybe I needed to invest time making the grass as healthy as possible. The more grass I had, the fewer weeds I’d have to pull.

The same applies to worry. Worry is like the weeds. God’s peace is the grass. Instead of just focusing on eliminating my worries, I needed to cultivate God’s peace.

Changing Your Mind

So I had a new challenge: to cultivate a mind characterized by peace. But how could I do that? I was an expert at growing worry, but I had a brown thumb when it came to growing peace.

Romans 12:2 held the key: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This verse didn’t tell me to behave differently; it said to think differently. My pattern was to focus on the negative, reviewing everything that could go wrong in a situation. I had to learn new ways of thinking.

When my son was little, we would occasionally bake a cake or cookies together. One time I said, “The recipe calls for two cups of sugar. Let’s put in two cups of salt instead.”

“No way,” he said. “The cake would taste awful.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. There’s no way the cake will taste good with that much salt in it.”

He knew the ingredients we put in would determine how the cake turned out. That applies to life as well. What we watch on television, listen to on the radio, or talk about are the ingredients for our attitudes. Our attitudes come from our thoughts. Our thoughts come from our inputs.

Just as I care for my lawn by providing water, nutrients, and insect control, I can care for my mind by providing the right thoughts. Reading Phil. 4:8–9 was like reading the ingredient list on a bag of grass seed. It told me exactly which thoughts to plant to grow a peaceful mind, thoughts that were

true: consistent with God and His Word

noble: worthy of respect

right: just and holy

pure: morally clean

lovely: pleasing and gracious

admirable: highly regarded

excellent: top quality

praiseworthy: deserving of high recognition.

But what if this didn’t work either? I was comforted to see that God’s instruction included a promise: God’s peace will stand guard—not only over our hearts, but over our minds. “The peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds” (v. 7). Instead of listening to Satan’s lies, my job is to plant thoughts focusing on God’s truth. God’s job is to make them grow into peace.

Practicing, Not Perfect

Now came the test. How could I apply these verses to the areas that concerned me the most? I picked several problems that led me to worry, prayed about each, then selected an alternative to focus on.

I didn’t know where the money would come from for unexpected car repairs. I asked God to free me from worrying about it and asked Him to handle the situation. When my thoughts slipped back to worry, I consciously focused on what was true: God promised to supply all our needs and had been faithful to do so in the past.

I stewed about the impact of management decisions where I worked and realized that I often talked with coworkers who were the most negative about the organization. My worries were being fed by these conversations. My prayer was for God to handle the situation in His way and for me to trust Him for the results. When tempted to worry, I made the effort to focus on what was noble and admirable—and spent my time conversing with those who were more realistic about the situation.

I worried about my family members’ safety when they were out alone at night. So I asked God to protect them and focused on what was true and pure. God loved them more than I did and never left them alone. That allowed me to make good choices about things that were not true, such as changing the channel when my TV choices centered too much on violence and fear.

My thinking didn’t clear up immediately. Redoing a lawn takes some time and effort. Once it’s done, maintenance is a whole lot easier. When a weed invades a healthy lawn, it’s obvious. But if a weed appears in a larger patch of weeds, it just blends in with all the rest, and I’m overwhelmed with the task of dealing with them all. In the same way, a thought of worry is more obvious when my mind is filled with peace. As my thoughts became more peaceful, worry became a trigger that reminded me to analyze my thinking. Whenever I recognized anxiety, I filtered my thoughts through the grid of Phil. 4:8–9.

Do I still worry? Yes.

But now I’m sensitized to the fears that pop up in my mind, and I have practical, biblical tools for replacing those thoughts. When we fill our minds with what matters most, our minds are not at the mercy of what matters least. My job is to tend the garden of my mind. God is responsible for the harvest of peace.

What is Trust — Really?

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 67

A Picture of Trust

Therefore we do not lose heart.” 2 Cor. 4:16

Trusting God proved to be the pattern in Paul’s life. Even when the Lord did not immediately relieve his sufferings, Paul continued to view everything that happened to him as God’s sovereign will (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

This doesn’t mean that Paul never had doubts or that he never asked God to relieve his suffering (2 Cor. 12:7-8). But when the Lord’s response did not match Paul’s request, he was willing to believe that God had something better in mind (vv. 9-10).

Food for Thought

Think of the last time the Lord’s response did not match your request.

What does trusting God look like?  [It]doesn’t mean wearing a painted on smile when troubles come and practicing the art of denial when doubts arise. Those verses in 2 Cor. 12 show the apostle Paul “pleading” for God to take the thorn in his flesh away.

So, then what does trusting God look like?  “But when the Lord’s response did not match Paul’s request, he was” — what’s that next word? That’s right –“willing.”

Trusting looks like a willingness to believe in God’s goodness toward us in the middle of pleadings and tears and sufferings and doubts and questions.

Trusting is choosing to believe that God desires the best for us, his children.

That’s not always easy, but as Paul would attest, it’s always worth it!

The problem with caring too much or “over-caring”

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

While walking downtown Main Street the other day I met a beggar coming my way.

My mind hit a momentary pause button and then I re-indexed and ran a few thoughts through my head about how I should respond to this man.

As he came closer to me, he popped the question.

“Mister, can you spare a dollar or two. I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday.”

I told him it would be a privilege to help him.

With a quick glance to my right, I pointed to the local Subway restaurant and told him I’d love to buy him a sandwich.

He said that he didn’t want a sandwich, but preferred I give him a couple of dollars to help him out.

I declined to give him cash and attempted to carefully explain that to him.

He was fixed on what he wanted.

I let him know that I could not help him that way, but would love to serve him.

He declined and continued on to his next prospect.

Within minutes of that encounter he became a fading event of my past, one of a million things I have done in my life that I hardly remember anymore. I was not perturbed, bothered, upset, or annoyed that he was working me.

It was just one of those events that happens to all of us. It was a quick opportunity to discern the Spirit and ask the question, “What would the Savior do in a moment like this?” You deal with it the way you believe God would want you to deal with it and you move on to the next thing that He has prepared for your day.

I did not dismiss this man or show a lack of care for him. It could possibly be analogous to the rich young ruler who wanted something from the Savior. The Savior encountered him and sought to serve him, but believed it would not be wise to give the young ruler what he wanted the way he wanted it.

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. – Luke 18:22-23 (ESV)

The rich young ruler did not want what Jesus was offering. He had another motive. I’m not sure if this young man ever became a Christian. Minimally he became a Bible illustration regarding salvation.

I don’t think I was unkind to the beggar-man. He asked for money for food. I offered him food instead. He decided that he did not want the food after all. He wanted the money. I believed I did what I was supposed to do. I went on with my day. I tried to care for him, but did not feel tempted to over-care.

When caring becomes over-caring

Brent has been my friend for many years. We went to high school together and then separated shortly thereafter as marriage, family, and work took us to different places around the country.

Years later we reconnected. During the intervening years Brent’s life went from good to bad. His wife was about to leave him, his children did not have a heart for God, and Brent’s head was immersed in the worldly cares of this life.

He wanted to meet to work through some of these problems. We met. And we met. And we met again. And again and again and again. We met for nearly six months.

During this time Brent proved to be stubborn and disinterested in the kind of change that was necessary to bring reconciliation to his family. He said he wanted to change, but he was not willing to do what it took to change.

I prayed and pondered many hours about how to help this man to change. I would present change this way and then talk about it another way. It didn’t seem to matter. Nothing worked for Brent.

Not being deterred, I would back up and start all over again with a totally new approach. That new fangled approach did not work either. Over time I started becoming critical of Brent. Initially I never said anything, but sensed my heart growing frustrated with him.

After awhile I began to go home and tell my wife about how difficult he was being–about how rough and challenging the counseling was going. As the weeks went by and my personal investment in his life grew, I began to grow impatient with him.

It wasn’t long before I became harsh and unkind toward Brent. Sadly, I actually had a growing disinterest in helping him. He was not listening. I was over-caring. The investment had grown deep and the change was not happening according to my expectations.

Being concerned – Being responsible

Have you ever over-cared for someone or something? Have you ever cared too much? If you are a Christian with the love of God in your heart, I suspect you have. Have you ever over-worried? Have you ever been over-anxious?

Let me ask the questions this way:

  • Do you generally feel responsible for certain people?
  • Or can you guard your heart from being responsible, but still show concern?
  • Do you know the difference between being responsible and being concerned?

It is one thing to be concerned for someone regarding whether they change or not. It is a wholly other matter to be responsible for people–including your own children. I’ve illustrated the two positions with the stories above.

I am concerned – I was concerned for the beggar on the street, but I did not sense a responsibility to change him. I wanted him to change. I even thought about how I could serve him before he popped the question. But I did not feel like it was my job to make him change.

I did not act disinterested by showing no concern and I did not cross the line as though his change was my responsibility. I offered him some food and hoped to continue the conversation by introducing Christ to him. He wanted one thing–money.

I am responsible – With Brent it was a different story. I crossed the line from being concerned to thinking it was my responsibility to change him. I treated him much different from the beggar in the street or the way Christ interacted with the rich young ruler.

I forget what my role was with Brent. It’s simple: my role for all people at all times is to be concerned, but I am not to be responsible for anyone. I cannot make people change.

Righteousness is not something that can be forced on anyone. It is a personal choice between an individual and God. This has been my story regarding how I have changed through the years. No one could make me change, except for God.

  1. They could water.
  2. They could plant.
  3. But they could not give the growth.
  4. Change is God’s job.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. – 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 (ESV)

When the water boy sins

I am forever grateful for the people who have loved me enough to speak into my life. I love all water boys and seed throwers for Jesus. But I do not hold anyone responsible for my personal change.

Sometimes I can forget this very basic truth about the Gospel. Sometimes I can cross the line from being God’s water boy and seed thrower to trying to make a person grow–to change or what the Bible calls repentance.

When I forget my role, it is as though I believe I am responsible for their change. There is a world of difference between being concerned for someone and being responsible for someone. If I cross that line it won’t be long before I’m sinning against them.

You may ask, “How do I know when I have crossed the line from being concerned for those I help versus feeling responsible for them changing?”  That is the million dollar question and it’s easy to answer.

When I begin to over-care for a person there are certain things that begin to happen in my heart. Initially they are not discernible to the human eye, but if I don’t take these heart sins to God, they will soon manifest in behavioral sins that are clearly discernible.

What I try to do is keep an eye on my heart by sensing when I am caring too much. If these sins (below) begin to rear up then I know I have crossed the line from being appropriately concerned for someone to caring too much for someone.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of heart attitudes and behaviors that I commit when I’ve crossed the line. If any of these things happen to you, then may I suggest that you are caring too much–that you have forgotten your role in the change process:

  • I’m tempted to become angry when a person does not change.
  • I’m tempted to become critical when I think about him.
  • I’m tempted to gossip about him to others.
  • I’m tempted to be cynical and lose faith in God that he will ever change.
  • I’m tempted to become impatient when I am with him.
  • I’m tempted to exhibit more sadness than joy when I think about him.
  • I’m tempted to uncharitably judge him because he won’t change.
  • I’m tempted to worry or become anxious as though his lack of change is because of me.

When I sense these sinful temptations in my soul, then I know that my trust is slipping from the Savior of the universe to my own abilities, agendas, and preferences for this particular individual (think Brent here).

I am mini-Messiah, hear me roar

In short, I have become a Mini-Messiah. In those moments I have become a functional atheist–a man who believes the change process rests more on him and his opinion of how things should be than whatever God may be thinking or doing in a person’s life.

This is hardcore pride that must be repented from. In the case of me, I have to reposition myself within the framework of God’s purposes for that individual’s life.

If I do repent of my pride and realize that my main purpose is to water and to plant the seed while trusting God to bring the growth, then my human ability to serve my friend does not impede what God is doing in his life.

However, when I begin to feel more responsible than God wants me to feel, then I typically sin against the person–according to the list above. My sin then becomes a distraction in the helping process. My faith for change and the timing for change must be fully in God’s will, especially when I’m helping a seemingly unchangeable person.

For me, the tipping point is usually a person I have spent more time with rather than a person I will meet only briefly. That is why it was easier for me to not become emotionally attached to the beggar. He was a temporary encounter. That is also the reason I crossed the line with Brent. He was a long-term investment.

Typically people will sin against a person they have spent a long time praying for, pulling for, and generally helping and hoping that they will change. That is normal. The more time you put into somebody’s life, the more you expect them to change.

A lot of mothers are this way with their children. They are tempted to cross the line from being concerned and helping to taking it personal and getting in the way or becoming a distraction regarding what God might be doing in their child’s life.

It is one of the toughest lessons for a parent to learn. Can we discern and obey our roles in the change process, especially with our children? One of the triggers that will let you know if you have crossed the line is when you begin to sin. If you’re sinning, you’re not helping.

If you are becoming more anxious, worried, fearful, fretful, impatient, frustrated, or some other sin, then you’re out of line and in the way. You must repent and trust God. This is one of the most remarkable things about the Savior. He was cool in all contexts. He shared His Word and went on His way.

He was not uncaring and He would not force His righteousness on anyone.

DEMONS HAVE FAITH!

SOURCE:  W. W. Wiersbe

It comes as a shock to people that demons have faith!

What do they believe?

For one thing, they believe in the existence of God; they are neither atheists nor agnostics. They also believe in the deity of Christ. Whenever they met Christ when He was on earth, they bore witness to His sonship (Mark 3:11–12). They believe in the existence of a place of punishment (Luke 8:31); and they also recognize Jesus Christ as the Judge (Mark 5:1–13). They submit to the power of His Word.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord!” (Deut. 6:4) This was the daily affirmation of faith of the godly Jew. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19, NIV).

The man with dead faith was touched only in his intellect; but the demons are touched also in their emotions. They believe and tremble.

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Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jas 2:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Living With an Angry, Abusive or Violent Spouse

SOURCE:  Edward T. Welch/CCEF

No matter how bad your situation is, remember that you are not alone.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

It shouldn’t happen.

You married someone you trusted, and you gave yourself to that person. How could it be that the person you once trusted with your life now acts like the person who could take your life? Whether you are facing unpredictable anger or outright physical abuse, this is betrayal at its worst.

It just shouldn’t happen.

A quick scan of the Internet reveals that you are certainly not alone. Twenty-five percent of adult women say they have experienced violence at the hands of their spouse or partner in a dating relationship. Men, too, can be victims of spousal violence. Eight percent report at least one such incident. But since men are more often violent against women, and since women are typically weaker than angry or violent men, this article is written especially for women.

If you have experienced violence, and you are living scared, statistics are little comfort. Women who live in identical conditions don’t protect you or give you hope for peace and reconciliation. But the numbers do remind you that others know the pain of such a living situation, and that resources are available to help you.

You are not alone: There are people who want to help.

Where can you turn for help?  Where can you find a wise friend to guide you?

If you attend a church, talk to your pastor. If you don’t attend a church, find one in your area. Look for a church that is centered on Jesus Christ and believes what the Bible says about Him—that He is the Son of God who came to earth, died for our sins, rose from the dead, and is the living and powerful head of His church today. Find a community of people who worship this Jesus and who express their worship in love for one another. There you will find hope and direction.

You are really not alone: Listen to the God who hears.

Your long-term goal should be to know the personal God. This won’t magically change your situation, but you will find that knowing God does change everything. Think about it for a moment. What would it be like to know you are not alone, you are heard, and the One who hears is acting on your behalf? It would make a difference. It would especially make a difference if you knew that this person was the holy King of the universe.

The challenge, of course, is that, at this time in history, you cannot see God with your eyes. When you want real hands and feet to help you, the knowledge of God’s presence might seem to provide very little consolation, but don’t let your senses mislead you. God’s presence is a real spiritual presence. The Spirit will confirm this, and “Blessed are those who have not yet seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, ESV).

How do you know that the invisible God of the universe is with you? Look at the evidence from the past. The Bible is full of stories about God hearing the cries of His people and coming to their rescue.

In Genesis, the first book in the Bible, a woman named Hagar and her young son, were unfairly sent from their home and left in the wilderness to die. She turned her back on her son so she wouldn’t have to watch him die, and they both wept. They thought they were utterly alone, but “God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation’” (Genesis 21:17, 18).

This is a pattern. God’s ears are finely tuned to tears. Like a mother who wakes at the sound of her child, God hears the cries of the oppressed.

We see this again when God’s people, the Israelites, cried out because of their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 2:23, 24). Like Hagar, the people were not even crying out to God; they were simply crying, and God heard. While some people can hear and do nothing, when the God of heaven and earth hears, He acts. He gave Hagar and her son water and made her son the father of a great nation. He responded to the cries of the Israelites by delivering them from their slavery in Egypt.

So don’t think that God merely listens. His listening always includes action. We may not see all of what He is doing, but, make no mistake, He is acting.

You are not alone: The God who hears wants to listen to you.

God wants you to direct your cries and fears to Him. Does that seem impossible? If so, He will help you to find the words. Psalm 55 can get you started.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest…For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.”
 (Psalm 55:4-8; 12-14)

Psalm 55 has given a voice to human betrayal for centuries. If the words fit your experience, then you are now part of a much larger body of people who have sung this psalm and made it their own. One person in particular leads the singing. Yes, King David wrote this psalm, but he wrote it on behalf of the perfect King who was to come after him. It is Jesus’ psalm, and you are sharing in His Words (read Mark 14). He was the innocent victim of evil people. He was tortured and suffered a terrible death at their hands. To be part of His chorus, all you have to do is follow Him.

Indeed, you are not alone.

The God who hears is against injustice.

The God who came to this world as Jesus and experienced oppression and injustice also stands against it. When people are oppressed by those who have authority or physical power, God pronounces grief and judgment on the oppressors.

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.”  (Jeremiah 23:1-3)

This doesn’t mean you should silently gloat, “Yeah, go ahead. You’ll get yours some day.” As you probably know, women who are victimized usually don’t think like that. It’s more likely that you feel guilty, as if somehow you are the cause of judgment on your spouse. But neither response is what God intends. He wants you to respond by depending on Him to be your defender. He wants you to trust that He is hearing your cries and is going to act on your behalf.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

Most likely, you are numb, scared, confused, and paralyzed. If this describes you, then you might know some action steps, but taking one will seem impossible. There is no trick to taking a first step; you just have to do it.

Start by making a phone call to your pastor or a friend. You need help, and God’s hands and feet often are the friends He raises up to help you. Look for God’s help to arrive from God’s people.

You have many reasons why you don’t ask for help. One is that you don’t know exactly what kind of help you need. For example, you aren’t eager for someone to confront your husband because you are afraid he will get even angrier at you. You don’t want to leave. So what’s left to do? Your path isn’t clearly marked, and you’re not sure what to do next. That makes it even more important for you to ask for help from someone else.

Don’t let your sense of guilt or shame paralyze you.

Another reason you might not ask for help is because you are experiencing something shameful. You’re probably asking, “What kind of wife gets treated this badly by her husband?” The wrong answer to that question is, “Only a bad wife could elicit such a response from someone sworn to love her.”

The truth is that you are not to blame for the cruel anger of another person. Even if you incite anger (and that is rarely the case), there is never any excuse for cruelty.

Put it this way: You cannot make someone else sin. Sin comes from our own selfish hearts. Your spouse, when he is sinfully angry, is caring only about himself and his own desires (James 1:13-15). He will try to make it sound like it’s your fault—there isn’t a victimized woman in the world who doesn’t feel like she is somehow at fault—but his sin is his alone.

If necessary, find refuge.

If you’ve been physically hurt by your spouse, and he continues to threaten you, then you should get protection. If children are threatened, this is essential. Every county in the United States has domestic abuse hotlines that will provide you with resources. Protection from abuse orders are available though your local courthouse. Friends may have an extra room or two. As you think about how to keep youself and your children safe, please find someone to discuss this with you and guide you. God’s wisdom says that the more important the decision, the more critical it is to receive counsel from wise people.

The reality is that most women who are suffering like you don’t take these steps. Some who do quickly renege on them and go back to the abusive situation. Why? Fear of retaliation, fear of aloneness, love for the perpetrator, hope that things at home will change, and the lingering guilt that says, “It’s your fault.” These are powerful tugs that make decisive action very difficult.

With this in mind, you can see how important it is to listen for the consensus among the wise people around you. If you have fears and doubts about their counsel, voice them.

Distinguish between loving your spouse and wanting to be loved by your spouse.

Here’s a hard distinction, but it can go a long way toward bringing you sanity. Have you noticed that in all relationships we balance our commitment to love with our desire to be loved? Usually the scales are tipped in favor of wanting to be loved. Your goal is to tip the scales towards a commitment to love.

This is the way to avoid the twin contaminants of most relationships—anger and fear. When you need someone more than you love that person, you will be prone to anger, because you don’t get the love that feels so critical to you. You will also be prone to fear, because the other person has the power to give or withhold what you think you need.

When you set your sights on your commitment to love, the possibilities are limitless. Love gives you the clarity to make difficult decisions on the fly. Should you speak out or be quiet?   Love can guide you more than you realize. Even going to someone else and asking for advice and help with your difficult relationship can be an expression of love. You need help because you care about your spouse. His foolish, selfish lifestyle is not only hurting you, but it’s also hurting him because it’s spiritually self-destructive. Love wants to warn the fool. It wants to rescue, if possible, the self-destructive person from the wrath of God.

Love can be patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13). It can rebuke (Leviticus 19:17). It can stand against injustice and confront another person in their sin (Matthew 18:15-17). The challenge is to keep the scales tipped in love’s favor.

You can only do this when you remember that God always tips the scales in love’s favor in His relationship with you. No matter how moral you have been, you have not been perfectly faithful to the one who created you. But instead of withdrawing in anger, God pursues you even when you don’t want to be pursued.

Find the book of Hosea in your Bible (it’s in the Old Testament), and read the first three chapters. You will get a picture of God as the relentless lover of His people. Although His people repeatedly reject Him, He will not give them up or let them go.

As you know and experience God’s pursuing love, your love for others will become stronger than your desire to be loved. Trusting in God’s love will free you to love others the way you have been loved. After all, when we were God’s enemies, He extended His call of love to us (Romans 5:10). Since God loved us like this, we should expect that we will have the opportunity to love others in the same way. The Bible calls this overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:20).

Learn to disarm an angry person.

Outfitted with love, you have more power than you think. Love comes from the Spirit of the living God, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. Whenever you encounter the Spirit in the Bible, you encounter power. The power, of course, is the power of wisdom and love, and there are times when it can disarm an angry man.

Because of the limitless possibilities of love, let wise friends brainstorm and pray with you. Here are some things that the Spirit of power can help you do when you are faced with an angry spouse:

    • Ask him why he thinks you are the enemy.
    • Leave the house when he is sinfully angry.
    • Go and get help instead of being silenced by your shame and his threats.
    • Accept responsibility for your own sinful responses, and not accept responsibility for his.
    • Tell him what it is like to be the recipient of his anger and hatred. Angry people are blind to how they hurt others.
    • Ask him if he thinks that he has a problem.
    • Speak with a humility that’s more powerful than anger. When in doubt, you could ask what he thinks you did that was wrong. You don’t have to defend your reputation before him.
    • If he claims to want to change, ask him what steps he is taking to change.
    • Keep James 4:1-2 in mind. You are witnessing his selfish desires running amok. Be careful that you don’t become an imitator of such behavior.
    • Don’t minimize his destructive behavior. Sinful anger is called hatred and murder (Matthew 5:21, 22).
    • Read through the book of Proverbs underlining all the sayings about anger. Proverbs like “reckless words pierce like a sword” will validate your experiences (Proverbs 12:18).
    • Remember, it is possible to overcome evil with good.

This is only a sketchy list. The details will have to be worked out within your community of counselors. What guarantees do you have? God doesn’t guarantee the momentary peace and quiet you might be longing for; instead He promises you something much more lasting. He promises that as you turn and trust Jesus Christ you will become more like Him; that His Spirit will help you love more than you need to be loved; that God will be with you, He will hear and act on your behalf; and that although the Spirit of God is the one who changes hearts, you have more power than you know—the power to both know and promote peace.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Is it wrong to leave, even if my husband is violent?   Isn’t marriage a permanent commitment?   

The Bible does emphasize that marriage is a covenant that should not be broken unless we have God’s permission (Matthew 19:6). Do you have permission when there is domestic violence? Know this for certain: God opposes such evil and intends care for the oppressed (Jeremiah 23:1-3). Such care can sometimes be found in finding a place for refuge and protection. If you need to leave and seek safety, that is not necessarily a first step toward divorce. It is better understood as a statement of hope and a desire to see change in the marriage relationship.

You are right that these decisions are difficult. Therefore, ask for help. Ask your pastor to guide you in the knowledge of what God says.

Can angry men change?

This question can be heard two ways. First, “I want a relationship. Can my spouse change?” The answer is yes, absolutely! God changes all kinds of people. If He can change us, when we see that our hearts are prone to selfishness and quickly stray from trusting Him, then He can certainly change people who are like us.

You probably already believe that God has the power to change anyone. Your biggest struggle will be to put your hope in God more than you put your hope in your husband changing. When you put your hope in God, you live on a rock. When you put your hope in a person, you will feel like a life raft let loose on the open sea.

Second, this question might be about the process of change. You might be really saying something like this, “My husband has promised to change so many times, but we end up at the same place. Can he change, or is there a deeper problem?” Sin is hard to leave, in part, because we like it. In the case of abusive anger, the angry person might like the sense of power and control. If your husband says he wants to change, then he should have a plan. This plan should include at least the following things:

    • Accountability: He must be willing and able to speak openly about his sinful behavior to others who can help
    • Confession: He must be able to understand and confess that his anger has been destructive, recognize that his behavior is ultimately against God, and learn to hate his sin.
    • Growth in the knowledge of the true God: All the best intentions are not enough to bring about deep change. The real problem with angry men is their arrogance and “hatred toward God” (read James 4:1-10), in which case they must both confess their sin against God and set out on a course of knowing and fearing Him.

      —————————————————————————

      Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).

Unbelief is Ever Present

SOURCE:   J. C. Ryle

Unbelief is one of the most common spiritual diseases in these latter days.

It meets us at every turn, and in every company.

Like the Egyptian plague of frogs, it makes its way into every family and home, and there seems no keeping it out. Among high and low, and rich and poor, in town and in country, in universities and manufacturing towns, in castles and in cottages, you will continually find some form of unbelief.

It is no longer a pestilence which walks in darkness, but a destruction which wastes at noonday. Unbelief is even thought clever and intellectual, and a mark of a thoughtful mind. Society seems leavened with it.

He who avows his belief of everything contained in the Bible, must make up his mind in many companies to be smiled at contemptuously, and thought an ignorant and weak man.

~ J.C. Ryle

———————————————————————————

John Charles Ryle [1816-1900] was a prolific writer, vigorous preacher, faithful pastor in England.

“Unanswered” Prayer From A God Who ALWAYS Answers

SOURCE:  Pastor Mark Driscoll

Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:23-25

If you have breath, you’ve probably said a prayer that hasn’t been answered. How do we reconcile unanswered prayers with Jesus’ words in Mark?

Unanswered prayer is an issue that challenges believers and non-believers alike and often challenges our perceptions of God’s goodness. C.S. Lewis famously observed, “Every war, every famine or plague, almost every deathbed — is the monument to a petition that was not granted.”[1]

More recently, Philip Yancey confesses to “…obsessing more about unanswered prayers than rejoicing over answered ones.”[2] And it’s not unusual to hear about medical studies showing no real correlation between prayer and physical healing.[3]

Therefore, Jesus’ statements in Mark 11:23-25 provide a difficult problem: do these verses promise that God will answer every prayer, every time?

Two polar views on prayer

In Christianity today, there are two polar views on prayer: prosperity and poverty.

On one hand you have those who preach a false gospel of prosperity, which views God as a cosmic genie who answers our every desire and whim. Want a new Porsche? Pray. Have a debilitating illness? Pray. Need a bigger house? Pray. If you have enough faith, God will grant your wishes. Underlying this belief system is a misunderstanding about faith. It’s assumed that if you don’t have your prayers answered, it’s due to a lack of faith. Jesus promises he’ll answer your prayers if you believe, the teaching goes. So, unanswered prayers must mean a lack of belief.

Unfortunately, this is simplistic, not true, and often damaging, as many people devastated by the effects of sin in this world are deceived into thinking they must work harder in order to earn God’s favor. Only then will he answer your prayers. Even worse, this teaching most often revolves around what is known as health and wealth. God’s will, it’s taught, is to make you rich and healthy. The sign of faith, thus, becomes one’s bank account and material possessions and one’s ability to avoid contracting viruses. This effectively makes anyone poor or sick not victims of sin, but rather victims of a God who doesn’t deem their faith to be substantive enough to warrant answered prayers.

Essentially, the prosperity gospel places the power of answered prayer in our hands and places limits on God’s ability to answer prayer by making him rely on our faith, which is not only unfortunate but also absolutely wrong. God is sovereign over his creation, not the other way around (Isaiah 22:44, 45:5-7; Psalm 115:3, 135:6; Daniel 4:35, Matthew 5:45, Deuteronomy 32:39).

On the other hand you have those who preach a poverty gospel, which views God as cosmic curmudgeon who doesn’t desire to give good gifts to his children. Instead of encouraging people to pray for good things, the poverty gospel teaches an aestheticism that calls for denial of material goods. Want a nice car (or even one that runs)? Sin. Give to the poor instead. Have a debilitating illness? Thank God for salvation, that is enough. Want a bigger house (or even a house at all)? Stop asking. Be glad you have a roof over your head.

Unfortunately, this is also simplistic, wrong, and often damaging, as many people experiencing the effects of sin in the world are deceived into thinking that God is happy to save us but not to enrich our lives in any way outside of spiritual sustenance.

The effects of the poverty gospel result in a people who mark their faith on how little they can get by on rather than the fullness of God’s mercy and love for his children and wrongly views those enjoying God’s blessing as lacking in faith because they don’t sell everything they have and force their children to wear hand-me downs and their spouse to use second-hand tea bags. God is our perfect Father who desires to give us good gifts and to take care of both our earthly and spiritual needs (Luke 11:13, Genesis 12:2, Exodus 23:25, Deuteronomy 7:13, Psalm 67:6).

Tota Sola Scriptura

The distortions on prayer found in both prosperity and poverty theology stem from not taking into account all that the Scriptures have to say on prayer. Those that advocate prosperity theology only take into account those verses that talk of God’s blessing. Conversely, those that advocate poverty theology only take into account those verses that speak negatively about riches and that call for sacrifice.

The answer, as is almost always the case, is a both/and, taking into account all that Scripture has to fully say, and ultimately hinges on a fully biblical view and understanding of God’s sovereignty and his will. A few key verses help us navigate the middle ground of the Scripture’s teachings on prayer.

In 1 John, the apostle teaches, “This is the confidence which have in [God], that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him (5:14-15). Elsewhere, Jesus teaches us to pray according to God’s will, asking that it be done (Matthew 6:10), and he exemplifies this in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

As Wayne Grudem reminds us, when we pray, we can first determine God’s will by reading his Word. Thus, we know that we cannot ask God to grant a prayer that is contra to his Word. For instance, if we ask for a new spouse because we’re tired our current one, we know that no matter how hard we pray, God won’t answer, as it’s asking for God to help us sin.

On other matters, we simply can’t know what God’s will is because the Scriptures don’t speak to our request.

However, there are many situations in life where we do not know what God’s will is. We may not be sure, because no promise or command of Scripture applies, whether it is God’s will that we get the job we have applied for, or win an athletic contest in which we are participating (a common prayer among children, especially), or be chosen to hold office in the church, and so on. In all these cases, we should bring to bear as much of Scripture as we understand, perhaps to give us some general principles within which our prayer can be made. But beyond this, we often must admit that we simply do not know what God’s will is. In such cases, we should ask him for deeper understanding and then pray for what seems best to us, giving reasons to the Lord why, in our present understanding of the situation, what we are praying for seems to be best. But it is always right to add, either explicitly or at least in the attitude of the heart, “Nevertheless, if I am wrong in asking this, and if this is not pleasing to you, then do as seems best in your sight,” or, more simply, “If it is your will.”[4]

This means that we can pray for the whole range of needs and wants in life without feeling guilty because we’re free to ask our Father and also free to rely on the comforting truth that he will accomplish his will. This moves prayer from what we do or don’t have to what we can always be assured of, God’s sovereignty and that he will always do what is good for us and his plans in this world (Philippians 2:12-13).

The Context of Mark 11:23-25

As Jesus taught on prayer in Mark 11:23-25, the Dead Sea was visible from the Mount of Olives. It’s easy to see where the imagery of verse 23 comes from.[5] Many of Mark’s references to “the sea” are referencing the Sea of Galilee but also occasionally reference is made to the destructive power of “the sea.”[6]  In 11:23, “Mark portrays Jesus as utilizing the generally destructive power of the sea for his own purposes.”[7]

The reference to moving mountains has parallels in the teaching of early Rabbis,[8] and as the ESV Study Bible says, “Moving a mountain was a metaphor in Jewish literature for doing what was seemingly impossible (Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; cf. Matt. 21:21–22). Those who believe in God can have confidence that he will accomplish even the impossible, according to his sovereign will.”

However, Jesus’ specific claim that faith could move mountains was without parallel. The restructuring of the natural world was meant to reveal the presence of God’s future kingdom, a thought that was emphasized by the Old Testament[9] as well as other Jewish texts.[10] Therefore, Jesus’ statement in verse 23 was meant to indicate that the day of salvation had already dawned.

Still, Jesus’ words indicate that prayer is effective. In the Old Testament, for example, God caused the sun to stand still in response to Joshua’s prayer (Joshua 10:12-14). Does God desire to answer prayer? Would a father give his child a stone instead of bread (Matthew 7:9-10)? Prayer is indeed effective so long as it is rooted in God’s will—this is why Jesus tells His disciples that “if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14, emphasis added).

The Burden of Unanswered Prayer

Even in scripture we see the emotional burden of unanswered prayer. The psalmist laments that “I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (Psalm 22:2). Paul’s prayers that God remove the “thorn in the flesh” go unanswered (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Even Jesus’ own prayer to have the cup of God’s wrath removed was not answered (Luke 22:42). We are no better than our savior and can expect that not everything we ask will be granted by God, but just as Jesus rested in God’s will, so can we.

There may be several reasons why God chooses not to answer prayer:

First, there is simple logic: God cannot go against His own character. God cannot build a square circle. Nor can He answer a prayer to approve of sin.

Second, God’s perspective differs from our own. Some suffering is used to reveal God’s glory (cf. John 9:3). We cannot always know God’s purposes; even the very worst tragedies might later be used for God’s glory.[11]

Third, some desires are selfish (James 4:3). God’s greatest desire might not be for our job promotion or the new car. “For prayer is not a means by which God serves us. Rather, it is a means by which we serve God. Prayer is not a means by which we get our will done in heaven, but a means by which God gets His will done on earth.”[12]

Finally, Mark 11:25 seems to assume a condition to prayers of forgiveness: an unforgiving heart may result in a lack of God’s forgiveness.

Conclusion

To answer our initial question, Jesus’ statements cannot be taken to mean that God will grant every prayer for every person at every time. Prayer, therefore, has less to do with obtaining things and more to do with an ongoing life with God.

A helpful matrix I like to use when it comes to prayer is yes, no, and later. When we pray, God answers sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes later—just as a father does with his own children. Sometimes the later is later in this life. Sometimes the later is in the life after this life. But God does hear and answer every prayer. We must be content with his answer and trust in his sovereignty. For example, one friend of mine was praying for years and finally was healed from an illness that plagued him. Another died and was then healed forever in the presence of Jesus after praying the same kind of prayer for many years.

At the end of the day, the real purpose of prayer is not to obtain things from God, but to relate to God. Philp Yancey writes:

Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. …In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I, or any of us, play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.[13]

Still, we should seek God in prayer for all things. As the writer of Hebrews says, “Draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help [us] in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). To not seek God for our needs and desires is not a mark of maturity, but the absence of it.

Jesus’ message in Mark 11 is that a relationship with God is greater than a religious system. It’s purchased by His blood. We may therefore enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom, including access to God’s throne. When we see prayer in this light, even unanswered prayers become a part of our relationship with God.


[1] C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.  (United States: Mariner Books, 1964), p. 58.

[2] Philp Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), p. 16.

[3] Benedict Carey, “Long-Awaited Medical Study Questions the Power of Prayer.” New York Times, March 31, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?pagewanted=all.  Accessed November 7, 2011.  The article sites six studies that do not seem to show correlation between patients’ healing and prayer.  This simply reflects the cultural expectation that prayer yields near-immediate results.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 383.

[5] William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark.  (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p. 410.

[6] Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, Narrative Space and Mythic Meaning in Mark, (New York: Harper and Row, 1986), 58-9.

[7] Ibid., p. 78.

[8] Rabbinical texts include the following statements:

T. Sol. 23:1 A demon says to Solomon: “I am able to move mountains;” b. Sanh. 24a.: “You would think he was uprooting mountains and grinding them against each other,”b. Bat. 3b: “I will uproot mountains;”

[commenting on Lev 6:13] Lev. Rab. 8:8: “[Samson] took two mountains and knocked them against one another”

Cited in Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20.  (Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2001), p. 189.

[9] Cf. Isaiah 40:3-5; 45:2; 49:11; cf. 54:10; Zechariah 14:4-5.

[10] Pss Sol. 11:4; Bar. 5:7.

[11] An excellent perspective on this is the well-known post on the Desiring God website entitled: “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”  Written February 16, 2006.  Appearing online at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/dont-waste-your-cancer.  Last accessed November 7, 2011.

[12] Norm Geisler and Thomas Howe, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), p. 374.

[13] Yancey, Prayer…, p.  29.

God’s Assurance

He Himself has said . . . . So we may boldly say . . . —Hebrews 13:5-6

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

My assurance is to be built upon God’s assurance to me.

God says, “I will never leave you,” so that then I “may boldly say, ’The Lord is my helper; I will not fear’ ” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

In other words, I will not be obsessed with apprehension. This does not mean that I will not be tempted to fear, but I will remember God’s words of assurance. I will be full of courage, like a child who strives to reach the standard his father has set for him. The faith of many people begins to falter when apprehensions enter their thinking, and they forget the meaning of God’s assurance— they forget to take a deep spiritual breath. The only way to remove the fear from our lives is to listen to God’s assurance to us.

What are you fearing?

Whatever it may be, you are not a coward about it— you are determined to face it, yet you still have a feeling of fear. When it seems that there is nothing and no one to help you, say to yourself, “But ’The Lord is my helper’ this very moment, even in my present circumstance.” Are you learning to listen to God before you speak, or are you saying things and then trying to make God’s Word fit what you have said? Take hold of the Father’s assurance, and then say with strong courage, “I will not fear.” It does not matter what evil or wrong may be in our way, because “He Himself has said, ’I will never leave you . . . .’ “

Human frailty is another thing that gets between God’s words of assurance and our own words and thoughts. When we realize how feeble we are in facing difficulties, the difficulties become like giants, we become like grasshoppers, and God seems to be nonexistent. But remember God’s assurance to us— “I will never. . . forsake you.” Have we learned to sing after hearing God’s keynote?

Are we continually filled with enough courage to say, “The Lord is my helper,” or are we yielding to fear?

Are you waiting for God?

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14 NIV

I know what some of you are thinking, and quite frankly, I understand…

Sometimes I get tired of waiting as well…

You’ve been waiting so long already…

When is your turn?

Sometimes I find myself in another one of these trying times, when it seems I can’t win for losing…I have my daily pity party…curse the day I was born…and wish the world would let me off the rotation for a while.

Maybe it’s not always that bad, but to be honest, sometimes I get impatient waiting for God to act!

Several times throughout the Psalms, the psalmist cries out “Come quickly, Lord!” I can identify with the writer.

I want God to act on my timing. Sometimes…just to be honest…I can’t understand why God hasn’t responded to my pleas for help! NOW always seems like a good time to me!

Now, please, don’t leave me out on an island alone… surely you’ve been there too! We have a hard time waiting for God to work His perfect will! It’s just hard to see how the present situation could ever turn out perfectly.

Then I remember that God is longing to be gracious to me, that His ways are not my ways, that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts, that His plans for me are just and righteous. I recall that He loved me and planned victory for me before there was time, and that He sees tomorrow, before it is yesterday…or even today. He is God. He does not deal in issues of time. His ways are in elements of eternity. His view is from above; He sees the beginning and the end.

I know He has my best at heart. I am strengthened for another day. I can go on because I’m reminded of His love!

I will wait for the Lord!

Will you?

God’s Word: The Best Prop in Hard Times

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Joseph Stowell

WORD POWER

“I have suffered much; preserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.” Psalm 119:107

It was a beautiful day except for the fact that after a sizzling front nine, my golf game had tanked big time. I felt embarrassed in front of the two other guys I was playing with and really disappointed in myself. Why I tortured myself with golf and call it a game I’ll never know! But like a sports masochist, I keep going back for more pain.

As I was stuffing my clubs into the back of my car, trying to put on a good face, I was struck with the fact that I had just spent the afternoon with two guys who have problems that make my lame golf game look like a cakewalk.

Both of them have trouble on the home front, the kind of trouble that hurts the worst. Robert’s wife has been running him through the wringer of an excruciating divorce. It is something that he does not want and has tried for two agonizing years to turn around. She wants nothing to do with him or reconciliation.

My other golf buddy (the one who beat me mercilessly on the back nine) has been living for years with a situation at home that none of us would ever dream of enduring. His wife struggles with severe emotional imbalance and, though at one time was a follower of Christ, now wants nothing to do with Jesus or her husband. She still lives with her husband, so you can imagine what it means to walk into the house after a tough day at work to face a whole new set of challenges at home. He goes to church alone. He sleeps alone.

As I closed the back of my Tahoe, I noticed that my golf buddies were talking to each other in upbeat tones. What caught my attention is that they were talking about passages of Scripture that they had shared with each other the week before.

As they quoted portions of the passages to each other, the power of the content was compelling: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure” (Psalm 16:8-9). “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).

It was clear to see that they were lifting each other up with the power of God’s Word. Their enthusiasm for the support and joy they were experiencing in God and His Word proved that in times of trouble the Word of God is a source of comfort that infuses unusual strength into situations that put Word-less people into the dumpster.

I have to admit that I have never thought of using God’s Word to prop me up when my golf game goes south. But I was reminded afresh that there is unusual power in the Word of God to give us an edge during times of trouble.

So, when life hits the wall—go to the Word. And don’t isolate yourself!

God loves us and gave us His Word to take us all the way through!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Flip through the book of Psalms until you find a passage that speaks to your heart. Memorize the key lines and meditate on them throughout your day.
  • Pray the passage back to God in personal terms.
  • Keep looking. The Psalms are a therapeutic gold mine!

Who or what “rules” my behavior, the Lord or a substitute?

SOURCE:  From an article by David Powlison submitted by Justin Taylor

THE IDOL FACTORY

David Powlison:

The relevance of massive chunks of Scripture hangs on our understanding of idolatry.

But let me focus the question through a particular verse in the New Testament which long troubled me. The last line of 1 John woos, then commands us:

“Beloved children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

In a 105-verse treatise on living in vital fellowship with Jesus, the Son of God, how on earth does that unexpected command merit being the final word?

Is it perhaps a scribal emendation?

Is it an awkward faux pas by a writer who typically weaves dense and orderly tapestries of meaning with simple, repetitive language?

Is it a culture-bound, practical application tacked onto the end of one of the most timeless and heaven-dwelling epistles?

Each of these alternatives misses the integrity and power of John’s final words.

Instead, John’s last line properly leaves us with that most basic question which God continually poses to each human heart.

Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight?

It is a question bearing on the immediate motivation for one’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings. In the Bible’s conceptualization, the motivation question is the lordship question.

Who or what “rules” my behavior, the Lord or a substitute?

The undesirable answers to this question—answers which inform our understanding of the “idolatry” we are to avoid—are most graphically presented in 1 John 2:15-173:7-104:1-6, and 5:19. It is striking how these verses portray a confluence of the “sociological,” the “psychological,” and the “demonological” perspectives on idolatrous motivation.

The inwardness of motivation is captured by the inordinate and proud “desires of the flesh” (1 John 2:16), our inertial self-centeredness, the wants, hopes, fears, expectations, “needs” that crowd our hearts.

The externality of motivation is captured by “the world” (1 John 2:15-17,4:1-6), all that invites, models, reinforces, and conditions us into such inertia, teaching us lies.

The “demonological” dimension of motivation
 is the Devil’s behavior-determining lordship (1 John 3:7-10,5:19), standing as a ruler over his kingdom of flesh and world.

In contrast, to “keep yourself from idols” is to live with a whole heart of faith in Jesus.

It is to be controlled by all that lies behind the address “Beloved children” (see especially 1 John 3:1-3,4:7-5:12).

The alternative to Jesus, the swarm of alternatives, whether approached through the lens of flesh, world, or the Evil One, is idolatry.

God Is Actually There

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

Trusting in His mighty aid

While carnal men say “seeing is believing,” we assure them that to us “believing is seeing.” We turn their saying upside down, our faith is eye and ear, and taste and touch to us, it is so mighty in us that we do not only know that there is a God, but we regard him as the great motive force of the universe, and daily calculate upon his mighty aid.

Hence it is the Christian’s habit to fall back upon God in all time of faintness, to cry to God in all time of danger: he does not pray because he thinks it a pious though useless exercise, but because he believes it to be an effectual transaction, the potent pleading of a child with its parent, rewarded with loving grants of blessing.

The believer does not look up to heaven because it is a natural instinct to hope for better days, and to cheer one’s self with a pious fiction about providence, but he looks up to heaven because God is actually there, truly observant, tenderly sympathetic, and ready with a mighty arm to come to the rescue of his people.

So, then, because it is our wont to wait upon the Lord, we go to him in troublous days as a matter of course. We do not make him an occasional resort to be used only when we cannot help it, but we dwell in him, and morning by morning pour out our hearts before him; and so when adversity comes, we fly to God as naturally as the dove to its dovecote, or the coney to the rock, or the weary child to its mother’s bosom.

The nautilus, when disturbed, folds up its sails and sinks into the depths, and even so in every hour of storm we descend into the deeps of divine love. Blessed is that man whose spirit looks to God alone at all times. Let us each one ask his own heart — is this my case? And if we can answer aright, let us sing with Madame Guyon —

“Ah then! to his embrace repair;
My soul, thou art no stranger there;
There love divine shall be thy guard,
And peace and safety thy reward.”

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “A Singular Title And A Special Favor,” delivered July 12, 1874.

30 Life Principles

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Dr. Stanley’s 30 Life Principles

1. Our intimacy with God – His highest priority for our lives – determines the impact of our lives.
More about Our Intimacy with God

2. Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.
More about A Life of Obedience

3. God’s Word is an immovable anchor in times of storm.
More about Our Anchor in Times of Storm

4. The awareness of God’s presence energizes us for our work.
More about Energized by His Presence

5. God does not require us to understand His will, just obey it, even if it seems unreasonable.
More about The Unreasonable Will of God

6. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
More about The Principle of Sowing and Reaping

7. The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.
More about The Dark Moments in our Life

8. Fight all your battles on your knees and you win every time.
More about Fight Your Battles on Your Knees

9. Trusting God means looking beyond what we can see to what God sees.
More about The Thrill of Trusting God

10. If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will.
More about God Will Show You His Will

11. God assumes full responsibility for our needs when we obey Him.
More about His Promise to Provide

12. Peace with God is the fruit of oneness with God.
More about The Key to Continued Peace

13. Listening to God is essential to walking with God.
More about Listening to God – Walking with God

14. God acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
More about God Acts on our Behalf

15. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness.
More about God’s Pathway of Brokenness

16. Whatever you acquire outside of God’s will eventually turns to ashes.
More about When Plans Turn to Ashes

17. We stand tallest and strongest on our knees.
More about Standing Tall and Strong Through Prayer

18. As children of a sovereign God, we are never victims of our circumstances.
More about Victim or Victor?

19. Anything you hold too tightly, you will lose.
More about Holding Too Tightly

20. Disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice.
More about Overcoming Discouragement

21. Obedience always brings blessing.
More about Obedience Always Brings Blessings

22. To walk in the Spirit is to obey the initial promptings of the Spirit.
More about Walking In The Holy Spirit

23. You can never outgive God.
More about You Can Never Outgive God

24. To live the Christian life is to allow Jesus to live His life in and through us.
More about The Key to the Christian Life

25. God blesses us so that we might bless others.
More about Passing on God’s Blessing

26. Adversity is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God.
More about Burden or Bridge

27. Prayer is life’s greatest time saver.
More about Prayer: Our Time-Saver

28. No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.
More about Together In the Christian Life

29. We learn more in our valley experiences than on our mountaintops.
More about The Valley Experiences In Our Life

30. An eager anticipation of the Lord’s return keeps us living productively.
More about Anticipating The Lord’s Return

(God’s) Productive Pain

SOURCE:  Joseph Stowell/Strength For The Journey

“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

I’ll never forget when our youngest child Matthew fell and broke his wrist. It was grotesque! His arm took a sharp left turn at his wrist and then turned again to resume its normal journey to his hand.

We rushed him to the hospital where the doctor began to set his wrist. I watched as the physician pulled and twisted Matthew’s arm. I wanted to jump up and pull him away from my son! But I simply sat and watched, knowing that the agony was necessary to make Matt whole again.

If we trust earthly doctors to do that for our children, how much more we should be willing to trust God, the Great Physician, to reset our broken lives “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). One of God’s purposes in pain is to brand the image of Jesus in our hearts. Can we weep with those who weep? God may need to stain our cheeks with our own tears so that we can genuinely empathize with others as Jesus did. Are we self-sufficient? God may need to strip away our security to conform us to the God-sufficiency that Christ displayed. Are we faithless? It may require a tragedy to teach us to trust the Father as Jesus did.

Next time you feel broken, don’t panic—praise Him! God is at work!

Life’s fractures can be mended
By faith in Christ the Lord—
At first the pain but then the gain
And usefulness restored. —Hess

God’s purpose in pain is to brand His image in our hearts.

The Secret To Dealing With Fear and Anxiety

SOURCE:  Dr. Ed Welch/CCEF

“Humble yourselves.” That’s the secret. It has been there all along, but we rarely use it.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Fear and anxiety sufferers like myself have tried on a number of Scripture passages over the years. We might start with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . .” (Matthew 6:26). When we need something easier to memorize we move on to Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

These passages work very well as counters to low-level anxiety. But, in the face of an anxiety assault—they aren’t enough. At those times, they can sound like mantras that are devoid of power, which is actually a good thing. Anxious and fearful people can easily slip into taking Scripture as a pill. Take one passage twice a day for two weeks and your symptoms will be gone. When the pill doesn’t work we have two choices. We search for another treatment, or we confess that we are using Scripture as a self-help book for symptom relief, in which case it is time to get back to basics. If you choose to get back to biblical basics, Peter’s exhortation to humble ourselves is a great place to start.

I had an anxiety assault recently. I was facing perhaps the worst fear I could imagine, and there was nothing I could do about it. What a mercy that I was confronted with the call to be humbled before the Lord. It resulted in a simple prayer.

“Lord, you are God and King. I am your servant. I know you owe me nothing. For some reason you have given me everything in Jesus. I trust you. And please give me grace to trust you.”

A few minutes later, my prayer moved even closer to Scripture.

“Father, forgive me for always wanting things my way. By your mighty hand you have created all things. And by your mighty hand you have rescued your people. I want to live under your mighty hand. Please have mercy.”

It sounds very simple—and it is—but it changes everything. This is the secret to dealing with fears and anxiety. The words of God, and the comfort of the Spirit, become much more obvious when we are repentant and humble before him. No deals—“if you spare me from this suffering then I will . . .” Just simple trust. We trust him because he is God, not because he is going to immediately remove our anxieties or our fear-provoking situation.

This passage has been a secret because we have typically entered it at verse 7, “cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” But to understand its meaning, you need to start with the preceding verse, “Humble yourselves.”

“Humble yourselves” is the only exhortation in the passage. This is what Peter wants us to hear (and obey). If we jump in at the middle—it makes no sense. We can’t cast our cares on him until we have recognized that he is God and we are his servants who have also been elevated to become his children. A paraphrase could read like this (and I highly recommend putting Scripture into your own words.)

Humble yourself before the Lord. This shouldn’t be too difficult. After all, he is God and King, Lord of all. He is the Creator. You belong to him. The creature is the possession of the Creator. Humble yourself before your King. And here is one way to express this new-found posture of humility: cast your cares on him. Did you catch that? When you come humbly before the King he reveals his unlimited love. Who would have thought? He actually wants you to cast your burden on him. You were never intended to carry those burdens alone. He is the mighty God who never leaves. You can trust him. And this casting is no mere act of your will. It comes as you know that he is God and you are not. Oh, and you can be sure that he will lift you up from your kneeling position and give you more than you ever expected.

A little wordy, in contrast to Peter’s more succinct version, but rambling and embellishment give us more time to meditate on the logic of the passage.

The secret is to
…pause before you head into your favorite passage on fear,
…consider the greatness of God,
…add some of your own confession and repentance as a way to drive the message of humility home, and then
…remember some of those sweet words of God to fearful people.

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Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. If you want to read more on fear, Ed has written two books on the subject: Running Scared andWhen I Am Afraid.

All Trouble and Affliction Comes From God’s Hand (Part 2 of 2)

Source:  Bishop Myles Coverdale (written by Deejay O’Flaherty)

[Myles Coverdale  (c. 1488 –  1569) was a 16th-century Bible translator who produced the first complete printed translation of the Bible into English.]

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And to speak properly concerning safeguard, it is all one, so that we tempt not God, whether we live in poverty or in riches, in the fire or in the water, among our enemies or among our friends, seeing that God seeth, knoweth, disposeth, and ruleth all things, as withesseth the first book of the Kings 2:1 “The Lord bringeth to death, and restoreth again unto life; bringeth into the grave, and raiseth up again; putteth down, and exalteth also.”

And Job also testifieth in his misery: “The Lord hath given it, and the Lord hath taken it again.” And Christ saith: “There falleth not a sparrow upon the earth without your Father’s will; yea, the hairs of your head are all numbered.” Luke 12.

Seeing then that all our troubles and afflictions come from God, we ought to humble and submit our hearts and minds unto the obedience of God, and to suffer him to work with us according unto his most holy will and pleasure.

Wherefore, whensoever unseasonable weather shall hurt and perish the corn and fruit of the earth, or when a wicked man shall misreport us, or raise up any slander of us, why should we murmur and grudge against the elements, or go about to revenge us of our enemies?

For if we lift not up our minds, and consider that God layeth his hand upon us, and that it is he that striketh us, we are even like unto dogs, and no better, which, if a man do cast a stone at them, will bite the stone, without any respect who did cast the stone. And again, no man ought to be unwilling or discontent to render again that talent or pledge that was committed to him only to reserve and keep. Matthew 25.

It is that God, that giveth us life, health of body, strength, wife, children, friends, riches, honor, power, authority, peace, rest, and quietness for a time, so long as pleaseth him. Now if the same God will take again some of these firings, or all, he taketh nothing but his own, and even that which we did owe unto him. For the which cause, to murmur against his will, and to strive against his judgment, it cannot be but a heinous and grievous sin.

Be Anxious In Nothing

SOURCE:  John MacDuff – from Deejay O’Flaherty

Christian! the great and important matter is, to act our part well and faithfully in the present, leaving the disposal of the future entirely to God.

It is ours to be careful in discharging the duties of today–it will be His to impart strength for the contingencies of tomorrow. We cannot indeed expect to pass through life without our share of trouble, but we may at all times confidently rely on the assurance, “as your days, so shall your strength be.” And, the anxious apprehension about impending evils, can only have the effect of weakening our trust in God, and unfitting us for the discharge of present duty.

Surrounding ourselves with gloomy forebodings and anticipating evils which may never cross our path, we will become faint and disheartened, and our anxieties will but increase the more. Let us “cast all our care upon Him who cares for us,” confident that, let tomorrow bring what it may, He will sustain us in every difficulty–comfort and relieve us in every emergency, and “make His grace sufficient for us.” The interests of God’s people are His constant care–and by His most sure word He has undertaken to “supply all their need.” He will not, it is true, impart grace before it is needed–but neither will He fail to communicate it when it is actually needed.

If only we would look to the past, and reflect on God’s dealings with us, we will find that such has been His procedure. Oh! how often, in the day of sorrow and distress, has He given the very comfort we stood in need of–the measure of strength by which we were enabled to bear the trial! How often, in the time of sickness, has He relieved our pain when most severe–and mitigated our sufferings, when “vain was the help of man!” How often, too, have His gracious promises come to us in the very extremity of our need–and, “in the multitude of our thoughts within us, His comforts delighted our souls!”

May we not then say, “The Lord has been mindful of us, and He will bless us still?” “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,” will not withhold that daily care we need for our comfort. He who adopted us into His family–accepted us in the Beloved–and made us partakers of the promises which are in Christ Jesus–He who has loved us with an everlasting love, will watch over us in every hour of danger, and overrule and control all for our final good. We know not what the future may bring–but we know that it is His to order everything in heaven and in earth, and that, in every emergency, we may look to Him for support. Every need He can supply–every difficulty He can remove–every fear dispel, and, trusting to His guardianship–relying on His care, we may, regarding the unknown and inscrutable events of tomorrow unhesitatingly say, “The Lord will provide.”

Yes, Christian, many troubles may surround you–many dangers may threaten you–your hearth may become dreary and desolate, and every earthly comfort be removed–still, amid all these outward ills, anchor your soul on the sure word of promise–”I am with you aways, even to the end;” and let this be your prayer–-

“O Lord, give me Your heavenly grace, that I may cast all my care upon You, knowing that You care for me; and, by whatever path You lead me, oh! save me from all doubt of Your love, and bring me closer to Yourself.”

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—John MacDuff – A SCOTTISH PREACHER (1818—1895)

Has Life Knocked the Song Out of You?

Source:  Adapted from an article by Dr. Robert Kellemen

[Recently], our pastor shared the apparently true story of Chirpy the parakeet. Chirpy is the stuff with which legends are made.

Chirpy the Parakeet

A lonely woman bought Chirpy, and he brought song and beauty into her life. One day, while vacuuming, she thought, “Chirpy’s cage is dirty. I think I’ll vacuum it.”

Then the phone rang. As she reached for the phone, she inadvertently lifted the vacuum hose, and it sucked Chirpy inside, all the way down the tube and into the bag.

The woman tore open the bag and dug and dug till finally she found Chirpy! Alive, but a mess! So she jammed him under a faucet and ran water all over him. But then he was wet, so she turned a blow dryer on him!

Surviving, but Not Thriving

A reporter asked later, “How’s Chirpy doing?”

The woman replied, “Well, he doesn’t sing anymore! He just sits on his perch and stares straight ahead.”

Sucked in, washed up, and blown over!? That’s enough to steal the song from even the stoutest heart!

Can you relate? Has life sucked you into a black hole and sucked the song out of your soul? Are you stunned, sitting, and staring? Surviving but not thriving?

Who Puts the Song in Your Soul?

Our pastor shared Chirpy’s story as an introduction to a message on Ephesians 5:18-20.

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Work your way backwards in this paragraph to learn how to move from just surviving to thriving.

We’re told to always give thanks for everything to God the Father.

We’re further told to sing and make music in our hearts.

We’re further told to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

These words are written by Paul, for whom this was not pie-in-the-sky dribble but real life reality—he could sing while jailed, sing while persecuted, sing while deserted by everyone.

By the way, this does not mean in Paul’s life, or in ours, that we can’t feel and express the pain. For this same Paul said:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

From Surviving to Thriving

How did Paul, how can we, sing when the vacuum cleaner of life seeks to vacuum out our joy?

Let’s keep tracking our way back through the passages.

Be filled with the Spirit.

In self alone, at best we survive. In self alone, in our hearts we feel the sentence of death, we despair of life, when life puts us under great pressure far beyond our own ability to endure.

But as we cling to, depend upon, and are filled with the Spirit, we learn not to rely upon ourselves but to rely upon God who raises the dead. It is God our Father through the Holy Spirit who resurrects the song in our soul, who empowers us to move from surviving to thriving.

Listen to Jesus’ Voice in the Storm

SOURCE:  Octavius Winslow/A Puritan At Heart

“Take courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Mark 6:50

Listen, then, to the voice of Jesus in the storm!

It is I who raised the tempest in your soul — and will control it.
It is I who sent your affliction — and will be with you in it.
It is I who kindled the furnace — and will watch the flames, and bring you through it.

It is I who formed your burden, who carved your cross — and who will strengthen you to bear it.
It is I who mixed your cup of grief — and will enable you to drink it with meek submission to your Father’s will.

It is I who took from you worldly substance, who bereft you of your child, of the wife of your bosom, of the husband of your youth — and will be infinitely better to you than husband, wife, or child.

It is I who has done it ALL!

I make the clouds My chariot, and clothe Myself with the tempest as with a garment. The night hour is My time of coming, and the dark, surging waves are the pavement upon which I walk.

Take courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.

It is I — your Friend, your Brother, your Savior! I am causing all the circumstances of your life to work together for your good.

It is I who permitted . . .
the enemy to assail you,
the slander to blast you,
the unkindness to wound you,
the need to press you!

Your affliction did not spring out of the ground, but came down from above — a heaven-sent blessing disguised as an angel of light, clad in a robe of ebony.
I have sent all in love!

This sickness is not unto death — but for the glory of God.
This bereavement shall not always bow you to the earth, nor drape in changeless gloom your life.

It is I who ordered, arranged, and controlled it all!

In every stormy wind,
in every darksome night,
in every lonesome hour,
in every rising fear,

— the voice of Jesus shall be heard, saying, “Take courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.”

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Octavius Winslow (1808 – 1878), also known as “The Pilgrim’s Companion”, stood out as one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America.

Seasons Of Ups And Downs

SOURCE:  Dennis Fisher/Our Daily Bread

Most of us would agree that life has its ups and downs.

Wise King Solomon believed this and reflected on our responses to fluctuating circumstances. In Ecclesiastes, he wrote: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:1-4).

Solomon’s father, David, was called “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14Acts 13:22). Yet David’s life illustrates how life is filled with seasons of ups and downs. David wept over his and Bathsheba’s first child who was fatally ill (2 Sam. 12:22). Yet he also wrote songs of praise and joyous laughter (Ps. 126:1-3). With the death of his rebellious son Absalom, David experienced a time of deep mourning (2 Sam. 18:33). And when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, David, in spiritual ecstasy, danced before the Lord (2 Sam. 6:12-15).

We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we portray the Christian life as peaceful and happy all the time.

Instead, the Bible portrays the believer’s life as consisting of seasons of ups and downs. In what season are you? Whether a time of joy or sadness, each season should motivate us to seek the Lord and trust Him.

Dear Lord, help us to turn to You not only in sadness
but also in joy. We know You give us both good times
and bad to draw us to You and help us grow.
May we learn to trust You in all seasons of life. Amen.

Every season needs faith to get us through it.

God’s Plans Often Defy (My) Logic

 The Value of Obedience

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/InTouch Ministries

Proverbs 2:1-6

Despite Peter’s vast fishing experience, he returned from a night’s work with nothing to show for his efforts. It’s quite possible that the Lord’s request to let the nets down one more time struck him as unreasonable—after all, Peter and his partners were the professionals. Nevertheless, the fisherman complied, and his obedience blessed many.

Scripture demonstrates that divine plans often defy human logic.

For instance, who would design a battle  strategy that involved only marching and shouting? God told Joshua to conquer Jericho that way, and doing so proved successful (Josh. 6:1-5).

Moses is another example.

When he felt unsure about his leadership potential, the Lord gave reassurance in an unusual way—by telling him to throw down his walking stick. When Moses obeyed, God powerfully confirmed His choice of leader (Ex. 4:1-3).

Our Father may ask us to do something that seems illogical—perhaps to accept more responsibility when we were hoping to reduce our workload, to leave a position that He provided just recently, or to take on an assignment for which we feel ill-equipped. His plan might feel unrealistic in view of our age, stage of life, or health concerns.

We must press forward in obedience, regardless of how impractical the request may appear.

To grasp the importance of obeying, think about children receiving instructions from parents or teachers. Careful listening is needed for the task to be done safely and properly. Some steps may seem pointless, but the rationale often becomes clear later.

Always make obeying God your priority.

A Prayer of Longing for the Day of Complete Healing

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22:1-2

Merciful Jesus, I begin today with one hope-filled image and many intense longings. The image is John’s vision of the New Jerusalem—our future home of perfect health. Because of the tree of Calvary, the tree of life will stand tall in the New Jerusalem. It will bear the life-giving fruit of your great sacrifice, extending its leaves for our complete healing. O, how we look forward to living, playing and praising in the shade of that tree, where every disease, malady and illness will be gone forever!

The hope of that Day intensifies my longings for people I love—friends in need of all kinds of healing:

I pray for children stricken with life-altering diseases. It’s so hard to watch them hurt, Jesus. Bring the power of your resurrection to bear;

For fractured marriages of close friends. Humble one spouse, then the other;

For those suffering with mental and emotional illnesses, and for their caregivers.

Have mercy, O Lord; For the fabric of our racially torn community. Please bring a foretaste of the New Jerusalem into our city;

For friends with stories of abuse; cancer, in its many forms; and heart disease, both physical and spiritual.

Pour out BIG grace, Jesus; Indeed, for the nations to be healed—for the day of no more war or rumors of war. That Day cannot come too soon.

Even as I pray for these things, Lord Jesus, I confess I don’t understand, and I don’t have to understand, the “already and not yet” of your healing ministry. When, where and how you choose to bring manifestations of healing are up to you. You are the King who does all things well, not a computer that needs to be programmed. You don’t need our permission to do anything, nor are you waiting for us to motivate you to action. However… you do honor the faith you give us.

So, Lord Jesus, help me avoid two extremes: keep me free from faith formulas that treat healing like an on-demand right; and keep me free from a theology that has little or no expectation of your kingdom breaking in with healing power.

More so than ever, I intensely crave the Day of perfect health. Until that day, extend your healing hand and heart, to us and through us.  So very Amen I pray, in your grace-full and powerful name.

Passages Of Faith: Confusion, Doubt, Disillusionment, Trust

When life disappoints us and nothing is turning out the way we’d planned, our faith has a chance to grow up.

SOURCE:   Paula Rinehart/Discipleship Journal

For the first time in my life I was up against a situation over which I had no control. No amount of effort could change the outcome. No seminar or book could help. Even the doctors, those white-coated wonders, just shook their heads and said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Rinehart, these things just take their own course. There’s not much we can do.”

Perhaps my feeling of uncertainty was magnified by the days I lay in bed, waiting to see if I could keep this small life growing inside of me. Maybe I just had too much time to think. But when I eventually miscarried, I felt as if I had lost more than a baby. The awareness that my life was turning out much differently than I’d ever imagined thrust me outside the protective bubble I’d been living in for years.

That small death was the first of a series of stinging losses in my mid-thirties. Within a few months my parents’ marriage dissolved, we found that our son had significant learning disabilities, and the book I was writing bit the dust. Like so many people in their thirties, I had discovered that I was not the one directing the traffic of my life. I was not in control. That clear-eyed awakening was frightening.

Do you remember how you felt as a child when someone would take you by the arms and swing you round and round until you begged them to stop? Afterward, you’d lie on the ground gasping for breath, then stagger forth too dizzy to see straight. That’s the way I felt—shaken, off-balance, trying desperately to regain my footing—when I was blindsided by unexpected circumstances.

Almost nothing in my life seemed sure and certain anymore. Inside I was a bundle of questions and doubts. I, who had begun this spiritual journey on the trumpet call, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” began to edge toward skepticism. “Really?” I wanted to say. How was it that the abundant life that promised so much more—more intimacy, more impact, more satisfaction—was mysteriously turning out to be less? How, I wondered, had this wonderful plan come to include marriages beyond repair or saying goodbye to a gaunt little boy born with his eyes sealed shut?

Somewhere during this time I picked up Gail Sheehy’s book Passages, which explores the stages of adult development. I found myself intrigued with the idea that being an adult wasn’t a matter of climbing some steep hill and then sitting on the top waiting passively for the end. Each “passage” of adulthood is marked by particular crises or turning points that hold the potential for new growth. Could it be, I wondered, that growing up spiritually is patterned in passages or phases, too? Maybe I had come to a critical juncture and I didn’t know it. Maybe real spiritual growth was more like a story of a pilgrim on his way toward home. If so, periods of doubt and disappointment were part of that process.

I began to see the lives of New Testament men and women in a new light. For the first time they seemed like real people. In their stories lay the outline of a basic cycle of spiritual passages that moved in ever-deepening spirals from illusion to disappointment to real hope. Here were people a lot like myself—incomplete, not yet-fixed, with their own set of questions and doubts. What bumbling failures they were at times, yet they continued to follow Jesus.

As I found my story among their stories, I dared to wonder if my own disillusionment would dissolve into a different and deeper trust than I had ever known. But first I needed to look back at the beginning of my faith-journey.

A Faith That Insists

If you asked me for a word to describe the most rudimentary form of faith, I would choose predictability. Early faith hopes against hope that God will move in our lives in predictable ways. We seem to think God’s promises are connected by an invisible string to the dreams and expectations in our own minds. “If I do this then God will  . . .”

Faith, at this point, is a manageable belief system where our faithfulness or obedience obligates God to bring about our desires. At its heart, it’s a faith that insists.

The disciples started out with this kind of faith. Jesus told them over and over that He must suffer and die, and if they followed Him they would encounter their own measure of the same. But Christ’s words fell outside the boundaries of the disciples’ expectations and understanding. When Jesus was crucified, the disciples were stunned—unprepared to have life turned on its head.

I believe this demand for certainty, for predictability, is where faith starts for all of us. I’ve spent the bulk of my life as a Christian in this passage of “predictable faith.” Some part of me has longed to believe that faith is like a vending machine—you put your coins in at the top and the drink rolls out below. I was afraid to entertain the reality of trusting a God who was beyond my control, because it left me feeling too unsure, unsafe.

Although faith of this sort may suffice for a time, it cannot bear the full weight of life. It is a subtle form of trying to conform God to our own image of Him.

One of my husband’s seminary professors used to begin his fall semester freshman class with this question: “Students, I have one question for you. What is God like?” His students would get out their pencils, hem and haw, and wait for the professor to dispense the prescribed answer. But he outwaited them. In desperation, one student after another would attempt to fill the awkward pause. “God is love, God is just, God is like this, God is like that.” The professor would just sit there, unimpressed.

Finally, after they had exhausted everything they knew or had ever heard about what God was like, He would lean over and say, “Men and women, let me tell you something. God is not like anything. He is His own standard. And the tragedy is that you are going to build your little theological boxes around what you think God is like. Someday when you really need Him, you’re going to race to your box and open the lid, and He won’t be in there.”

God does not allow us to continue to reduce Him to a size and shape we can manage. He moves in our lives in ways that burst our categories and overwhelm our finiteness. When we realize He’s bigger than anything we can get our minds around, we can begin to relax and trust Him.

Ironically, the crisis of disillusionment is what shakes our preconceived notions and beckons us to deeper faith.

Disillusionment

The disappointment that leads to this second passage of faith is usually quite unexpected. To think that faith would turn to disappointment appears contradictory, as though God were defeating His own purposes. Yet, we rarely see the extent of our expectations until, for one reason or another, they are not fulfilled.

At this point, many reactions are possible. Confusion and doubt are two of the most common ones. As John the Baptist sat in prison toward the end of his life—his disciples disbanded and his future uncertain—he felt the need to send a friend to question Jesus. “Are you truly the Christ, the One we’ve been waiting for?” Christ assured him that He was. And He did not rebuke him for needing that reassurance.

When the rest of the disciples watched their dreams die with Jesus’ death, they began to fade into the surrounding landscape. No doubt they were filled with a sense of failure and defeat. Peter and John must have returned to fishing. You can almost hear them asking each other, “What now? Where do we go from here?”

For some, disillusionment leads to cynicism and apathy, a kind of dead-in-the road state, as though someone has let the air out of your tires. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What feels like the end of faith actually holds the potential for its true beginning. When we let go of our determination to make God conform in safe, predictable ways, it is possible to receive something better in its place.

One of disappointment’s hidden benefits is that it moves you out of your head— your cognitive understanding—into some of the messy, broken places in your heart.

I remember one summer when I felt defeated. The Bible became like a dead book to me. I went for weeks with almost no thought of prayer. And then one morning I woke up and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Paula, you’re an angry woman.”

You would have to grow up in the South to understand how repugnant such an idea was to me. It was the opposite of the “good girl” image I had of myself. Anger? Nice girls don’t get angry.

Yet the moment I admitted the truth, a strange thing happened. I sensed God almost asking my permission, as it were, to be invited into the muck and mire of my struggle. Would I let Him lead me into some of the sealed-off compartments of my heart? Not the polished, presentable places, but the rooms where unacknowledged grief and fear and bitterness had been incubating for years. There were parts of me, He seemed to insist, that had yet to hear the gospel.

This was my first gut-level identification with those words of David I had memorized years before: “If I make my bed in the depths, you are there  . . . even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:3, Ps. 139:10). I was amazed to think that God would not turn away from me when I didn’t even want to be with myself—when I was so inclined to turn my back on Him. I had not realized, on a deeper, more emotional level, that He cared that much.

Disillusionment showed me how thin my loyalties were. I was not the “good girl who God was lucky to have on His team. And God was much different from I had thought. I found He was both more exacting and more merciful than I could imagine. It’s precisely because God transcends my understanding—and my control—that I can dare to trust Him.

A True Hope

Recently, a friend asked me, “How is faith that comes on the far side of disappointment better than faith that precedes it?” She was saying, “Tell me how loss adds up to gain and how your relationship with God is different.”

Hmmm  . . . I thought. How can I put this into words that make sense? In my early Christian life, answers came quickly for me. I saw faith as a set of propositions to be defended, a body of knowledge to learn and pass on, a storehouse of sure answers.

But the faith that emerges out of broken dreams is different and harder to describe. There is room for mystery—for not knowing all the answers. The passage of faith that follows disillusionment begins when there is no experiential reason to believe. It is born in the fearlessness that comes when you’ve already lost a good portion of what you were so afraid of losing in the first place.

Somehow, you know God is there in the midst of this passage—in ways you didn’t expect. He makes His presence known by the pain of His seeming absence. He doesn’t necessarily change the circumstances; He gives you the courage to face and move through them.

In one of his later plays, T.S. Eliot describes faith on the far side of disappointment as a “kind of faith that issues from despair. The destination cannot be described; you will know very little until you get there; you will journey blind. But the way leads toward possession of what you have sought for in the wrong place.” Journeying blind is perhaps another way of reminding us that we really do walk by faith, not by sight.

I am convinced that Peter’s courage in the book of Acts is the fruit of having waded through a heaping measure of failure and disappointment. There wasn’t much some angry synagogue official could tell him about himself that he didn’t already know. Without Jesus he was just another visionary, a common coward. And Christ who, by all rights, should have left him fishing by the sea of Galilee not only welcomed his return, He entrusted him with the care of His people.

Faith that withstands its own demise is free of the need to control life. It moves beyond the safe confines of predictability to a place where we begin to enjoy a relationship with a Person—a relationship that is often elliptical, full of ebb and flow, desert and garden.

In his book on prayer, Richard Foster says that one of the greatest things he learned in his own spiritual journey was “the intimate and ultimate awareness that I could not manage God. God refused to jump when I said, ‘Jump!’ Neither by theological acumen nor technique could I conquer God. God was, in fact, to conquer me.” The focus of our faith shifts from discovering ways to get a fix on God to experiencing the reality that He is the One who has hold of us.

That inner shift of surrender must happen over and over throughout our lives, in ever-deepening ways.

The process of letting go of learning to trust—is never a small or inconsequential thing. As Henri Nonwen once said, “[This] is the great conversion in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return.”

Somehow it helps me to realize—when my life takes unforeseen turns—that it’s all part of the process. There are many passages to a deepening faith, and I’m just smack in the middle of another one. In the meantime, I catch glimpses of God. But one day I will see Him with unhindered gaze and completed understanding. According to the Apostle John, in that Day “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 Jn. 3:2).

Some days I can hardly wait.

Let Jesus Argue With Your Soul About Being Anxious

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

We should be slow to treat Jesus as if he doesn’t know what he is doing. He is not naïve in the way he deals with our anxiety. In Matthew 6:25-34 he tells us three times not to be anxious (vv. 25, 31, 34) and gives us eight reasons not to be anxious.

Evidently he thinks this will help. So don’t call it simplistic. Call it grace. Believe him. Take every reason and preach it to your soul as true.  Say,

Soul, this is true. Jesus Christ says so. Trust him. He died for you. He loves you. He created you. He knows you. No one — no counselor, no pastor, no friend — knows as much about you as he does. Listen to him. Let these reasons sink in. Bank on them. Now, let’s get up and do what we need to do. Be gone anxiety.

Here’s a summary of what he said:

  1. Life is more than food and the body more than clothing (Matthew 6:25).
  2. God feeds the birds and you are more valuable than they are (Matthew 6:26).
  3. It’s pointless. It adds not one hour to your life (Matthew 6:27).
  4. If God clothes ephemeral grass, he will clothe eternal you (Matthew 6:28-30).
  5. Unbelievers are anxious about stuff. And you are not an unbeliever (Matthew 6:32a).
  6. Your father (!) knows that you need all these things you’re anxious about (Matthew 6:32b).
  7. When you seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, what you need is added to you.
  8. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Tomorrow’s trouble stays there (Matthew 6:34).

What Believers Ought To Do And Pray In Time Of Trouble


SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ligon Duncan [First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS] 

Luke 22:39-46 [reveals] Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

J.C. Ryle’s words about two aspects of this passage are rich. He says: “The verses before us contain Luke’s account of our Lord’s agony in the garden. It is a passage of Scripture which we should always approach with peculiar reverence. The history which it records is one of the ‘deep things of God.’ While we read it, the words of Exodus should come across our minds, ‘Put off your shoes from off your feet; the place where on you stand is holy ground.’ (Exod. 3:5)

“We see, firstly, in this passage, an example of what believers ought to do in time of trouble. 

The great Head of the Church Himself supplies the pattern. We are told that when He came to the Mount of Olives, the night before He was crucified, ‘He knelt down and prayed.’

“It is a striking fact, that both the Old and New Testaments give one and the same receipt for bearing trouble.

What does the book of Psalms say? ‘Call upon me in the time of trouble-I will deliver you.’ (Psalm 50:15) What does the apostle James say? ‘Is any afflicted? let him pray.’ (James v. 13) Prayer is the remedy which Jacob used, when he feared his brother Esau. Prayer is the remedy which Job used when property and children were suddenly taken from him. Prayer is the remedy which Hezekiah used when Sennacherib’s threatening letter arrived. And prayer is the remedy which the Son of God Himself was not ashamed to use in the days of His flesh. In the hour of His mysterious agony He ‘prayed.’

“Let us take care that we use our Master’s remedy, if we want comfort in affliction. Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace. No depression of spirits must prevent us. No crushing weight of sorrow must make us speechless. It is a prime device of Satan, to supply the afflicted man with false reasons for keeping silence before God. Let us beware of the temptation to brood sullenly over our wounds. If we can say nothing else, we can say, ‘I am oppressed-undertake for me.’ (Isaiah. 38:14)

“We see, secondly, in these verses, what kind of prayers a believer ought to make to God in time of trouble.

Once more the Lord Jesus Himself affords a model to His people. We are told that He said, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me-nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.’ He who spoke these words, we must remember, had two distinct natures in one Person. He had a human will as well as a divine. When He said, ‘Not my will be done,’ He meant that will which He had as a man, with a body, flesh and blood, like our own.

“The language used by our blessed Master in this place shows exactly what should be the spirit of a believer’s prayer in his distress. Like Jesus, he should tell his desires openly to his heavenly Father, and spread his wishes unreservedly before Him. But like Jesus, he should do it all with an entire submission of will to the will of God. He should never forget that there may be wise and good reasons for His affliction. He should carefully qualify every petition for the removal of crosses with the saving clause, ‘If you are willing.’ He should wind up all with the meek confession, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’

“Submission of will like this is one of the brightest graces which can adorn the Christian character. It is one which a child of God ought to aim at in everything, if he desires to be like Christ. But at no time is such submission of will so needful as in the day of sorrow, and in nothing does it shine so brightly as in a believer’s prayers for relief. He who can say from his heart, when a bitter cup is before him, ‘Not my will, but yours be done,’ has reached a high position in the school of God.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke)

 

Will God Reinforce My Lack Of Trust?

Trust Your Father in Heaven!

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

You have been unable to trust God to give you day by day your daily bread, and therefore you have been craving for what you call “some provision for the future.”

You want a more trusty provider than providence, a better security than God’s promise.

You are unable to trust your heavenly Father’s word, a few bonds of some half bankrupt foreign government you consider to be far more reliable; you can trust the Sultan of Turkey, or the Viceroy of Egypt, but not the God of the whole earth!

In a thousand ways we insult the Lord by imagining “the things which are seen” to be more substantial than his unseen omnipotence. We ask God to give us at once what we do not require at present, and may never need at all; at bottom the reason for such desires may be found in a disgraceful distrust of him which makes us imagine that great stores are needful to ensure our being provided for.

Brethren, are you not to blame here, and do you expect the Lord to aid and abet your folly? Shall God pander to your distrust? Shall he give you a heap of cankering gold and silver for thieves to steal, and chests of garments to feed moths? Would you have the Lord act as if he admitted the correctness of your suspicions and confessed to unfaithfulness?

God forbid!

Expect not, therefore, to be heard when your prayer is suggested by an unbelieving heart: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass.”

From a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon entitled “The Conditions of Power in Prayer,” delivered March 23, 1873. 

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

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

“The test of success is not what you do when you are on top. Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” -General George S. Patton

“bounce /bouns/ verb – to cause to bound and rebound — to spring back in a lively manner…”

To “bounce” means the ability to fight through an issue, to be resilient, to be able to stabilize after adversity. To recover — and to thrive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONSIDER THIS:

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

Bounce back!

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

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

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

Bounce back! It just might turn your life around.

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