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

Posts tagged ‘God’s mercy’

God, You Are Soooo Stubborn!

SOURCE: James MacDonald

GOD’S RELENTLESS LOVE

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

—Psalm 23:6

Are you experiencing a season of defeat and discouragement?

At times like these, God can seem far off and distant from your life. But if you are one of His children—if you have turned from your sin and embraced Christ by faith as the only basis for your forgiveness—you have this Psalm 23 promise in your pocket:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Look at the two key words in this phrase.

Goodness means bounty or blessing. Mercy can also be translated loving-kindnessfavor, or steadfast love. It comes from the Hebrew word hesed, used 246 times in the Old Testament. Half of those occurrences are found in the Book of Psalms.  Hesed was David’s favorite word to describe the attitude of God toward His children.

In Psalm 33:5, David observed, “The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” In Psalm 86:13, “For great is your steadfast love toward me.” In Psalm 98:3, “He (the Lord) has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness.”

The loving-kindness of God—His goodness and mercy—is eternal. It’s persistent. It’s a stubborn love God has for His children. He won’t turn His back on us. And He won’t give up on us or let us go.

God’s hesed love brings Jonah to mind.

Jonah could run, but he couldn’t hide or get away from God. The Lord used a storm to get Jonah’s attention and a very large fish to transport Jonah back to the shore where he had made his wrong turn. Even the hardship of Jonah’s experience was God’s loving-kindness. He could have wiped out the wayward prophet in a heartbeat. But, determined to show His loving-kindness to the huge city of Nineveh through Jonah, God kept him alive.

Likewise, God is relentless in His pursuit of you.

No matter what choice you make or where you go, He will come after you. God has a plan for your life, and He will go to great lengths to complete the work He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

If you have become a follower of Jesus Christ, God is all over you and your situation. He is pursuing you—relentlessly.

That’s the meaning of the phrase, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.”

It also means your very best days are ahead. As a child of God, it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done—your greatest days of usefulness and service to His kingdom can be in the future, followed always by His goodness and mercy!

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Raw Praying: A Prayer for the Spiritually Disconnected and Distressed

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. (Jer. 20:7) Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow and spend my days in shame? (Jer. 20:18)

Gracious Father, this is some pretty raw praying by one of your called and beloved prophets. Jeremiah’s lament makes me thankful today for the freedom you give us to bring our unfiltered and unfettered feelings to you. If we don’t bring our painful emotions to you, we will take them somewhere. Somebody besides ourselves will feel the brunt of our anguish and anger, disconnect and disillusionment.

Father, only you have the big enough heart and broad enough shoulders to walk with us through our seasons of chaos and confusion. I praise you for your constant, compassionate welcome. If you’re not put off by Jeremiah’s struggle, surely you will take on ours.

It’s comforting to know that the same prophet who assured others of your gracious promise and good plan—a plan for prosperity, not harm (Jer. 29:11); the same prophet who gave us a vision of the glory and the grace of the new covenant (Jer. 31:31-34); this same prophet, like us, experienced seasons in which he felt deceived, betrayed, and abandoned—even regretting the day he was born. We’re all weak and broken. We all need the gospel of your grace, every single day.

This gives me courage as I seek to steward my own feelings. But today it gives me compassion as I pray for a few friends who are feeling exactly what Jeremiah felt. For the friend I sat with yesterday who’s feeling set up, chewed up, and spit out by you, bring the gospel to bear. She loves you, but she feels abandoned by you. She knows better, but she feels bitter. My instinct is to “fix her,” but the way of the gospel is to listen and love before launching. Give me patience and kindness as I trust you to restore her to gospel sanity.

For my friend whose spiritual melancholia is heading to an even darker place, Father, give me wisdom. What part of his struggle is purely physical? What’s, to some degree, demonic? What’s just plane ole’ pity party? I can’t tell, but I trust you to love him through me and to give me the grace I need to walk with him. Help me, Father, and heal my friends. Meet them as you met Jeremiah. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ strong and loving name.

A Prayer about the Entanglements of Pornography

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? . . . Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Rom. 7:21-24, 8:1-2

Dear Lord Jesus, we come before you today on behalf of our friends—men and women under enslaving and destructive influence of pornography. The gospel is the only power which is mighty and merciful enough to bring freedom and healing. This is why we come boldly to your throne of grace today, with great concern, but also with a great hope.

O Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your kindness and strength to bear in clear and remarkable fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an overabundance of both. Sin has corrupted our godly desire for rich relationship and the beauty of intimacy, and we have become easy prey for destructive counterfeits.

Lord Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself as a pursuing and redeeming Lord. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your non-condemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, “Who will rescue me…?” (Rom. 7:24)

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, re-sensitize them by the life-giving and transforming power of your love. Your love humbles us without humiliating us; it delivers us without demonizing us; it gives us new life, and no mere second chance. How we praise you for your heart-compelling, fear-expelling, repentance-producing love.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger and disgust, the shame and the broken trust that does with their heartache. Help us love our friends well. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Grant them patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts which have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeem these messes but you. So very Amen we pray, in your great and glorious name.

What Jesus Weeps Over

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

This is, without question, the Great Offense of Jesus Christ—his exclusivity.

To make sure we understand this, what he is saying is that he alone is the means to heaven. No one comes to the one true God except through him. Offensive as the claim may be, we still have to deal with it. Either it is arrogant, or it is true.

Not wanting any to perish. God does not want to lose a single human soul. In fact, those hellfires weren’t even created for man. They were created for the devil and his demons (Matthew 25:41). Jesus isn’t secretly hoping that you’ll go there.

Jesus’ heart of love is not diminished by the fact that some people will actually choose hell over surrendering to God. He weeps over it. He warns, urges, pleads, performs miracles. As they nail him to the timbers, he says, “Father, forgive them, for they know do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Because if they don’t find forgiveness, it is going to be a mighty black day of reckoning. Jesus prays for them, prays they will find mercy.

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(Beautiful Outlaw, 91, 92, 93)

Are You A WRETCH (like me)?

SOURCE:  Joe Stowell/Strength for the Journey

Who Me, A Wretch?

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

There are a few hymns that I really like, and “Amazing Grace” is one of them. But somehow, like so many other familiar tunes, the weight of the words soon gets lost in our familiarity with the song. From bagpipe bands, to presidential events, to state funerals, to gospel songfests, to nearly every church in America, “Amazing Grace” has been performed so many times that we easily become numbed to its profoundly disturbing message.

You know the first line by heart: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me . . .”

Hold on.

Me—a wretch?!

None of us like to think about how wretched we are. We’d rather live in the self-delusion that compared to others we aren’t all that bad after all. We go to great lengths to look and feel good about ourselves. We exercise and diet to lose weight so we look good at the beach. We put makeup on in the morning so that we look good when we get to work. I ask my wife to help me pick out clothes so that I look good when I speak in church. And when someone says, “Hey, you’re lookin’ good!” we feel we have arrived.

But here’s the sobering news.

If we were to look at ourselves the way God sees us even when we have it all together, we would see something totally different. He sees through all of our efforts to be “lookin’ good.” His vision probes far deeper than the all-too-cool clothes we wear, our makeup, our rippling abs and our great tan. He strips away the layers of self-delusion and penetrates deep into our hearts where each of us is a desperately lost sinner. And, no matter how good you think you are, it’s not until we know that we are like condemned criminals before Him that we can begin to understand how amazing His grace really is. When you can honestly say that His grace saved a wretch like you, you can begin to stand in amazement at the greatness of His grace. In fact, His grace is only a “sweet sound” when you know how deep it had to go to clean you up!

What is God’s amazing grace?

It’s the outstretched love of Jesus whose agonizing death and victorious resurrection saves us from who we really are—not from who we think we are. Romans 5:8 says: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He died the worst kind of death imaginable, because it needed to cover the wretchedness of our desperately lost souls. We weren’t lookin’ good when He died for us. If we were as cool as we think we are, He could have stayed in heaven. But like hopeless beggars trapped in the sludge of sin, we needed Him. And so He came and died in our place.

Now that’s what I call amazing!

Getting over our self-deluded sense of coolness is step one toward reveling in the stunning grace of God. Every once in a long while someone will come up to me and say: “Hey, Stowell, you’re a really good man.” And while I like the sound of that, I know in my heart that I am not a good man. I’m a fallen man in desperate need of help. But by His grace I am a forgiven man. I thank God every day that there was a Really Good Man who lived on the earth 2,000 years ago who hung on a cross to save a wretch like me!

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

SOURCE:  Cindy Beall

Four lessons from my journey of regaining trust in my husband.

Editor’s Note: In 2002, Cindy Beall was a happily married wife to Chris, her husband of nine years. Chris had been on staff with a church in Oklahoma City for only six weeks when he made a confession that would change their lives forever: He had been unfaithful with multiple women over the course of two and a half years, and he was pretty sure one of those women was now pregnant with his child. He also admitted an addiction to pornography. 

His complete inability to control his addiction had left Chris utterly broken, humbled, and repentant. Over the course of several weeks and much prayer, Cindy sensed God calling her to stay in her marriage. The following is an excerpt from her book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, which tells the story of how God redeemed their marriage, making it “better than new.”

Every week I receive e-mails from women who ask many questions about getting through infidelity in their marriage.  Of all the questions I am asked, one of the most common is, “How did you learn to trust him again?”

And every time I give the same answer: “I am still learning.”

I would love to be able to come up with the perfect algebraic formula that shows exactly how to restore trust. But that isn’t going to happen—not because I barely squeezed out of algebra with a 71 percent, but because trust and forgiveness don’t exist in the land of numbers. They are born of God’s grace, mercy, and healing.

You don’t have to have endured infidelity in your marriage to lose trust. Trust can be broken in many different ways. I am still on my journey of having my trust restored in my husband, but I have learned a few things that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Trust means taking a risk.

My husband works hard to regain my trust, but I still struggle. I wish I could say otherwise, but I’d be lying.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I’ve come to realize that we are all capable of doing things we never imagined we’d do. So trusting a person is a risk. We must learn to trust people, but we must also realize that people will fail us. It’s part of life. But if we place our utmost trust in our heavenly Father, we will never be let down.

There is a mental battle going on inside me as I strive to trust my husband more every day. I engage in this battle on a regular basis, and it can be exhausting. But the more I do it and believe what God has shown me, the easier it becomes.

I stand on the one thing that is trustworthy and never fails. I stand on the Word of God. Praise Him that His words are sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There is power in them, and when we claim them, believe in them, stand on them, and trust in them, we will be lifted up. We will find peace.

2. Replace anger with forgiveness.

We’ve all been wounded. I am no stranger to the pain I see in the eyes of so many people. We can try to cover it up and “get over it,” but if we don’t truly forgive, we will be stunted individuals going about our lives and becoming more and more embittered. Forgiveness is essential. It’s also possible.

The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to forgiveness. We don’t have to wonder what our heavenly Father thinks about the idea. He’s the author of forgiveness, and we’d do well to follow His commands. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it? Especially when you’ve been wounded by someone you’ve loved as unconditionally as possible. It sounds like a cruel joke to expect us to just let it go, doesn’t it?

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that you have a sinful nature. If we don’t recognize that nature, we won’t recognize our need for a Savior. We also need to understand and remember the true meaning of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we truly understand God’s forgiveness, can we really withhold our forgiveness from those who have hurt us?

3. Stop nursing your wounds.

It can become second nature to tend to our wounds with such care that we begin to identify only with the wound and not with a life of healing or restoration. When something reminds us of our pain, we nurse the hurt and then just can’t get past it. It’s almost as if we forget that we, too, need a Savior. We’re so busy saying, “Look at my hurt!” that we forget to give it over to God.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sure, I haven’t been unfaithful to my husband physically, but I have committed sins, too. And when we sin, we are not just sinning against one person; we are also sinning against our heavenly Father.

I know how hard this is. I am profoundly aware of how badly my flesh wants to throw my husband’s sin back in his face when he gets mad at me for something small. I know how easily I could remind him of his failures and make sure he knows just how picture-perfect my marital resume is. But reacting like that will never bring about forgiveness.

4. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving.

One of the harder parts of forgiveness is that we don’t always feel like forgiving. The problem is that feelings are often misleading and erratic. I learned a long time ago that you rarely feel your way into positive actions, but you can act your way into better feelings. You may not really want to wake up at five for that morning run, but you do it anyway. Afterward, you are so glad you made the extra effort because you feel good and have more energy. There is great satisfaction in making a choice to do something that your flesh was yelling at you not to do! You acted your way into a feeling.

How to know you’re healing

The results of forgiveness look different for everyone. Some relationships will be mended in spite of betrayal, and some will end because of it. The key, though, is to make sure you are healing from this wound. You don’t want to get a knot in your stomach every time you think about this person, especially if he or she is your spouse.

Here’s one way you can know you have healed from a wound caused by someone else: You cease to feel resentment against your offender. My mentor says, “You know you’ve healed from the hurt that someone else’s actions have caused when you can look back on the situation and it’s just a fact.”

We all make mistakes. We all have done things we regret. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to extend that same forgiveness to others—not just today, but every day.

It’s time to forgive.

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Taken from: Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Beall.  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.  Used by permission.

Cindy Beall is a writer, speaker, and mentor to women. She and her husband, Chris, share openly about their journey of redemption through Chris’s infidelity and pornography addiction.

Is God Angry With Me?

Assuming the goodness of God

SOURCE:  Joel J. Miller

A friend recently told me about an acquaintance who’s convinced that God is angry with her. She’s in a rough patch right now and believes that he’s punishing her.

I’m not equipped to plumb the mind of God, but I wonder about that. Some people seem quick to assume the anger of God. Perhaps there are personal reasons they feel distance from him, and that distance feels like God’s displeasure toward them. If you read the Psalms, you’re familiar with the dynamic. But I don’t think that God is far away from David; I think it’s more like David has drawn away from God.

God is there, ready to forgive, ready to make peace. That’s the assumption of Psalm 51. “A broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” The psalmist assumes the goodness and graciousness of God. I wonder why we don’t do that more often, more readily.

In John 14, Jesus says that there are many mansions in the Father’s house, and that he’s preparing one for us. But notice what he also says: “If it were not so, I would have told you.” What I love in the statement is something not actually said because it’s too obvious to warrant saying: that we should assume the beneficence, provision, and love of God. “If it were not so,” after all, “I would have told you.”

But of course it is so. It’s a given. It’s assumed.

Do we assume it? Or do we assume that God is holding out on us, that he resists and resents us, that he’s less than beneficent and loving?

Both Psalms 103 and 145 say that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. They are picking up on a theme that appears elsewhere in the Scripture. Quoting, for instance, the second chapter of Joel: “[R]end your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

I’m not debating whether God disciplines his children. Scripture says that he does. But the passages that say so assume his love as well. “[W]hom the Lord loves He chastens,” as Paul says in Hebrews, quoting from Proverbs, which adds the hopeful line, “Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” Delights, not detests!

We all have sins that can cause us to feel separated at times, maybe much of the time. If that’s the case, there’s all the more reason to get this right. Assuming the worst of God is only bad for us. We should instead assume the best and be encouraged: If your heart is broken by your sins, God will not squash it. He will bind it up like the Samaritan meeting us on the roadside. If we return home, he will rush out to greet us like the father of the prodigal.

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