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

Posts tagged ‘God’s perspective’

A Remarkably Different Course of Action

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 247.


Overcome Evil with Good

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Peacemaking does not always go as easily as we would like it to.

Although some people will readily make peace, others will be stubborn and defensive and resist our efforts to be reconciled. Sometimes they will become even more antagonistic and find new ways to frustrate or mistreat us. Our natural reaction is to strike back at such people, or at least to stop doing anything good to them.

However, Jesus calls us to take a remarkably different course of action: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).

Think about someone who could be described by one of the following:

• Your enemy
• Someone who hates you
• Someone who curses you
• Someone who mistreats you

Maybe someone pops right to mind.

Or maybe it’s a little hard to identify one (though “someone who mistreats you” is quite a one-size-fits-all descriptor of a person who make your life difficult). But in each case, Jesus has called us to this “remarkably different course of action.” He calls us to love, do good, bless, and pray. But in our own strength, this command is impossible to obey.

Pray that God would give you a special measure of grace today to overcome evil with good, even when it seems the most difficult thing in the world to actually do.

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The Reasons for My Suffering

SOURCE:  R.C. Sproul

Suffering and the Glory of God

I once visited with a woman who was dying from uterine cancer. She was greatly distressed, but not only from her physical ailment. She explained to me that she had had an abortion when she was a young woman, and she was convinced that her disease was a direct consequence of that. In short, she believed cancer was the judgment of God on her.

The usual pastoral response to such an agonizing question from someone in the throes of death is to say the affliction is not a judgment of God for sin. But I had to be honest, so I told her that I did not know. Perhaps it was God’s judgment, but perhaps it was not. I cannot fathom the secret counsel of God or read the invisible hand of His providence, so I did not know why she was suffering. I did know, however, that whatever the reason for it, there was an answer for her guilt. We talked about the mercy of Christ and of the cross, and she died in faith.

The question that woman raised is asked every day by people who are suffering affliction. It is addressed in one of the more difficult passages in the New Testament. In John 9, we read: “As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (vv. 1–3).

Why did Jesus’ disciples suppose that the root cause of this man’s blindness was his sin or his parents’ sin? They certainly had some basis for this assumption, for the Scriptures, from the account of the fall onward, make it clear that the reason suffering, disease, and death exist in this world is sin. The disciples were correct that somehow sin was involved in this man’s affliction. Also, there are examples in the Bible of God causing affliction because of specific sins. In ancient Israel, God afflicted Moses’ sister, Miriam, with leprosy because she questioned Moses’ role as God’s spokesman (Num. 12:1–10). Likewise, God took the life of the child born to Bathsheba as a result of David’s sin (2 Sam. 12:14–18). The child was punished, not because of anything the child did, but as a direct result of God’s judgment on David.

However, the disciples made the mistake of particularizing the general relationship between sin and suffering. They assumed there was a direct correspondence between the blind man’s sin and his affliction. Had they not read the book of Job, which deals with a man who was innocent and yet was severely afflicted by God? The disciples erred in reducing the options to two when there was another alternative. They posed their question to Jesus in an either/or fashion, committing the logical fallacy of the false dilemma, assuming that the sin of the man or the sin of the man’s parents was the cause of his blindness.

The disciples also seem to have assumed that anyone who has an affliction suffers in direct proportion to the sin that has been committed. Again, the book of Job dashes that conclusion, for the degree of suffering Job was called to bear was astronomical compared with the suffering and afflictions of others far more guilty than he was.

We must never jump to the conclusion that a particular incidence of suffering is a direct response or in direct correspondence to a person’s particular sin. The story of the man born blind makes this point.

Our Lord answered the disciples’ question by correcting their false assumption that the man’s blindness was a direct consequence of his or his parents’ sin. He assured them that the man was born blind not because God was punishing the man or the man’s parents. There was another reason. And because there was another reason in this case, there might always be another reason for the afflictions God calls us to endure.

Jesus answered His disciples by saying, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). What did He mean? Simply put, Jesus said that the man was born blind so that Jesus might heal him at the appointed time, as a testimony to Jesus’ power and divinity. Our Lord displayed His identity as the Savior and the Son of God in this healing.

When we suffer, we must trust that God knows what He is doing, and that He works in and through the pain and afflictions of His people for His glory and for their sanctification. It is hard to endure lengthy suffering, but the difficulty is greatly alleviated when we hear our Lord explaining the mystery in the case of the man born blind, whom God called to many years of pain for Jesus’ glory.

Eat to Live or Live to Eat?

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

We need God. We won’t enjoy life, be fulfilled in life, or attain our God-given potential without closeness to Him. God desires that for us as well. But, so many factors and forces keep us from this closeness to God, and unfortunately, eating disorders are one of those forces.

Thirty to fifty percent of our society struggles with significant eating issues that disrupt their lives, ranging from binging, chronic overeating and obesity, to anorexia. Coming from a long line of Italian women and good cooking, this really hits home with me.

“Eating Disorder” simply means unhealthy habits like restricting nutritional intake, overeating (yes, this is a large part of our American society), or being obsessed with, being overly focused on, or actually worshipping the elements, rituals, or the results of eating or dieting. It actually becomes a real addiction.

People tend to get so preoccupied with body image and what others think, that they develop a distorted view of themselves. Their over concern or lack of concern about food, diet, body, and weight even begin to affect their health, relationships, and the ability to physically function in day-to-day life.

Like almost every other object in life, God gave us food to use in moderation. Too much isn’t good, but not enough isn’t good either. Our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit to reside in and God wants us to be good stewards of our body and health. But more importantly, we need to look at the psychological and spiritual aspects of our eating habits.

If you are struggling with food or weight, determine not to let your focus on your body or food keep you from closeness with God and with others. Decide how you wish to spend your energy: pursuing the “perfect” image or the comfort that food brings, or focusing on your perfect healer for spiritual growth and your true daily bread and nourishment.

The outside – what man sees, or the inside – what God sees? Society changes its view of what is beautiful … styles come and go. But God’s view of beauty never changes.

Identifying and challenging your distorted thoughts and feelings about your body and food, and keeping God’s view in mind is essential to accepting yourself and your body. We all have feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Don’t let food or your body image become your soothing mechanism. Let God and His grace and love bring you the peace you really are hungry for and crave. He is one buffet where you can eat all you want without consequences! Indulge to your heart’s true content!

As you approach food and eat meals, examine the importance you put on these elements. What do you get out of it? Are food and your eating habits a coping mechanism for you? Are you getting healthier, or are you harming your health? Remember, your value as a person is not based on how you look or what you do. Your value is based on the unchangeable fact that God loves you so much that He gave His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you. Eating issues are about believing lies.  Using food as a gift from God, or an idol that adversely impacts you life is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I’ve been pretty confused lately. I’ve been so concerned about food or used it to comfort myself that I’ve ignored You. Relationships with those I care about have suffered as well. Please help me begin thinking more clearly … to see me from Your point of view. I know I need to eat to live, but I don’t want to live to eat or let food and meals distract me from Your peace for me. Help me turn control over to you, instead of being controlled by the next meal I think about. I pray this in the name of the One who loves me as I am, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

Romans 12:1-2

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 

1 Samuel 16:7

Bulimia: The New Normal

SOURCE: Ed Welch/CCEF

Bulimia is the new normal.

The thin and wealthy specialize in it, but you can be sure that it is a cornerstone of any culture in which the preferred body type is thinner than is actually possible on a normal diet.  You’ll find it in any culture that is obsessed with looking younger or where everyone is looking for that elusive weight-loss secret.

True story: parents protested when a youth group leader began talking about eating disorders. Why? They were concerned that their daughters would gain weight.

It begins with a desire to be thinner. Once purging is discovered, young women talk about it as if it were their best friend, or their narcotic addiction. “The feeling I got afterward was amazing!” Then they discover other benefits, most notably a sense that they can, finally, be in control of something. And don’t you dare stand between them and the object of their affection!

Two questions to those who practice it.

First, if you have any interest in God, does the secretive essence of this behavior concern you? Secrets separate relationships. They separate friends and spouses, and become a private place in which you hide from God.

Second, has it improved your life? The answer to that is easy: no. But you say: “So what? It works for me.” Perhaps you feel as though nothing will improve your life so you might as well be thin while you go through the drudgery and misery.

Consider this from another angle.

If you are a near-daily practitioner of purging, you are saying much more than “I want to be thin.” The word control is almost always a part of bulimic vocabulary. You have been controlled or dependent on the whims of people who treated you poorly, and you are sick of it. You live with incessant self-loathing and suicidal hopelessness and bulimia gives you some sense of control over this darkness. Its benefits, however, are ephemeral and fleeting.

Human beings were intended to turn to their Maker and Father when life is hard. Left to our own devices, life just gets more out-of-control. Think of yourself as a child. It is right and good for a child to run to a parent when life is overwhelming. God knows your secrets. He knows what you need.

If this sounds too familiar and you don’t know how to even begin leaving it behind, go to the psalms and borrow some of those words. God will surprise you. He is not like those who have hurt, criticized or rejected you. To the contrary, you are the one who has shunned him, yet he keeps knocking on the door and pursuing you (Rev. 3:20).

Rachel Weeping for Her Children — How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

SOURCE:  Albert Mohler

Rachel Weeping for Her Children — The Massacre in Connecticut

Thus says the LORD:  “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”[Jeremiah 31:15]

It has happened again.

This time tragedy came to Connecticut, where a lone gunman entered two classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and opened fire, killing at least twenty children and six adults, before turning his weapons of death upon himself. The young victims, still to be officially identified, ranged in age from five to ten years. The murderer was himself young, reported to be twenty years old. According to press reports, he murdered his mother, a teacher at Sandy Hook, in her home before the rampage at the school.

Apparently, matricide preceded mass murder. Some of the children were in kindergarten, not even able to tie their own shoes. The word kindergarten comes from the German, meaning a garden for children. Sandy Hook Elementary School was no garden today. It was a place of murder, mayhem, and undisguised evil.

The calculated and premeditated nature of this crime, combined with the horror of at least twenty murdered children, makes the news almost unspeakable and unbearable. The grief of parents and loved ones in Newtown is beyond words. Yet, even in the face of such a tragedy, Christians must speak. We will have to speak in public about this evil, and we will have to speak in private about this horrible crime.

How should Christians think and pray in the aftermath of such a colossal crime?

We Affirm the Sinfulness of Sin, and the Full Reality of Human Evil

First, we must recognize that this tragedy is just as evil, horrible, and ugly as it appears.

Christianity does not deny the reality and power of evil, but instead calls evil by its necessary names — murder, massacre, killing, homicide, slaughter. The closer we look at this tragedy, the more it will appear unfathomable and more grotesque than the human imagination can take in.

What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this?

Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political, or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated, and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment.

Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.

The twentieth century forced us to see the ovens of the Nazi death camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the inhumanity of the Soviet gulags, and the failure of the world to stop such atrocities before they happened. We cannot talk of our times without reference to Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Charles Manson, Idi Amin and Ted Bundy. More recently, we see evil in the impassive faces of Osama bin Laden and Anders Behring Brevik. We will now add yet another name to the roll call of mass murderers. His will not be the last.

The prophet Jeremiah knew the wickedness and deceit of the sinful human heart and asked the right question — who can understand it?

Beyond this, the Christian must affirm the grace of moral restraint, knowing that the real question is not why some isolated persons commit such crimes, but why such massacres are not more common. We must be thankful for the restraint of the law, operating on the human conscience. Such a crime serves to warn us that putting a curve in the law will inevitably produce a curve in the conscience. We must be thankful for the restraining grace of God that limits human evil and, rightly understood, keeps us all from killing each other.

Christians call evil what it is, never deny its horror and power, and remain ever thankful that evil will not have its full sway, or the last word.

We Affirm the Cross of Christ as the Only Adequate Remedy for Evil

There is one and only one reason that evil does not have the last word, and that is the fact that evil, sin, death, and the devil were defeated at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. There they were defeated conclusively, comprehensively, and publicly.

On the cross, Christ bore our sins, dying in our place, offering himself freely as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The devil delighted in Christ’s agony and death on the cross, realizing too late that Christ’s substitutionary atonement spelled the devil’s own defeat and utter destruction.

Christ’s victory over sin, evil, and death was declared by the Father in raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the ground of our hope and the assurance of the final and total victory of Christ over all powers, principalities, and perpetrators.

A tragedy like this cannot be answered with superficial and sentimental Christian emotivism, nor with glib dismissals of the enormity and transience of this crime. Such a tragedy calls for the most Gospel-centered Christian thinking, for the substance of biblical theology, and the solace that only the full wealth of Christian conviction can provide.

In the face of such horror, we are driven again and again to the cross and resurrection of Christ, knowing that the reconciling power of God in Christ is the only adequate answer to such a depraved and diabolical power.

We Acknowledge the Necessity of Justice, Knowing that Perfect Justice Awaits the Day of the Lord

Charles Manson sits in a California prison, even now — decades after his murderous crimes were committed. Ted Bundy was executed by the State of Florida for multiple murders, but escaped both conviction and punishment for others he is suspected of having committed. Anders Behring Brevik shot and killed scores of young people in Norway, but he was sentenced to less than thirty years in prison. Adolf Hitler took his own life, robbing human courts of their justice, and Vladimir Lenin died of natural causes.

The young murderer in Connecticut took his own life after murdering almost thirty people, most of them children. He will never face a human court, never have to face a human accuser, never stand convicted of his crimes, and never know the justice of a human sentence.

But, even as human society was robbed of the satisfaction of that justice, it would never be enough. Even if executed for his crimes, he could die only once. Even if sentenced to scores of life sentences to prison, he could forfeit only one human lifespan.

Human justice is necessary, but it is woefully incomplete. No human court can hand down an adequate sentence for such a crime, and no human judge can restore life to those who were murdered.

Crimes such as these remind us that we just yearn for the total satisfaction that will come only on the Day of the Lord, when all flesh will be judged by the only Judge who will rule with perfect righteousness and justice. On that day, the only escape will be refuge in Christ, for those who knew and confessed him as Savior and Lord. On that day, those who are in Christ will know the promise that full justice and restoration will mean that every eye is dry and tears are nevermore.

We Grieve with Those Who Grieve

For now, even as we yearn for the Day of the Lord, we grieve with those who grieve. We sit with them and pray for them and acknowledge that their loss is truly unspeakable and that their tears are unspeakably true. We pray and look for openings for grace and the hope of the gospel. We do our best to speak words of truth, love, grace, and comfort.

What of the eternal destiny of these sweet children? There is no specific text of Scripture that gives us a clear and direct answer. We must affirm with the Bible that we are conceived in sin and, as sons and daughters of Adam, will face eternal damnation unless we are found in Christ. So many of these little victims died before reaching any real knowledge of their own sinfulness and need for Christ. They, like those who die in infancy and those who suffer severe mental incapacitation, never really have the opportunity to know their need as sinners and the provision of Christ as Savior.

They are in a categorically different position than that of the person of adult consciousness who never responds in faith to the message of the Gospel. In the book of Deuteronomy, God tells the adults among the Children of Israel that, due to their sin and rebellion, they would not enter the land of promise. But the Lord then said this: “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it.” [Deuteronomy 1:39]

Many, if not all, of the little children who died in Newtown were so young that they certainly would be included among those who, like the little Israelites, “have no knowledge of good or evil.” God is sovereign, and he was not surprised that these little ones died so soon. There is biblical precedent for believing that the Lord made provision for them in the atonement accomplished by Christ, and that they are safe with Jesus.

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

The prophet Jeremiah’s reference to Rachel and her lost children is heart-breaking. “Thus says the LORD:  ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.’” Like Rachel, many parents, grandparents, and loved ones are weeping inconsolably even now, refusing to be comforted for their children, because they are no more.

This tragedy is compounded in emotional force by the fact that it comes in such close proximity to Christmas, but let us never forget that there was the mass murder of children in the Christmas story as well. King Herod’s murderous decree that all baby boys under two years of age should be killed prompted Matthew to cite this very verse from Jeremiah. Rachel again was weeping for her children.

But this is not where either Jeremiah or Matthew leaves us. By God’s mercy, there is hope and the promise of full restoration in Christ.

The Lord continued to speak through Jeremiah:

Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the LORD, and your children shall come back to their own country.”
[Jeremiah 31:16-17]

God, not the murderer, has the last word. For those in Christ, there is the promise of full restoration. Even in the face of such unmitigated horror, there is hope.“There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to your own country.”

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.,serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

God Calls And Then Has Us Wait !?!

SOURCE:  Oswald Chambers

Individual Discouragement and Personal Growth

. . . when Moses was grown . . . he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdensExodus 2:11

Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs.

After he launched his first strike for God and for what was right, God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years.

At the end of that time, God appeared to Moses and said to him, ” ’. . . bring My people . . . out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ’Who am I that I should go . . . ?’ ” (Exodus 3:10-11).In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God.

We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness.

It’s as if God had ignored the entire thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged, God comes back and revives His call to us. And then we begin to tremble and say, “Who am I that I should go . . . ?”

We must learn that God’s great stride is summed up in these words— “I AM WHO I AM . . . has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).We must also learn that our individual effort for God shows nothing but disrespect for Him— our individuality is to be rendered radiant through a personal relationship with God, so that He may be “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, “I know this is what God wants me to do.” But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride.

If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.

Please Love Me!

SOURCE:  Living Free

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39 NLT

“I won’t be loved unless I am perfect.”

Perfectionism often comes from a need for love and approval.

Our society, and many of us as individuals and families, determine a person’s value by his or her performance. And so we set out to earn that value . . . We strive to be successful, especially in the eyes of people who mean the most to us. Better job. More money. Higher grades. Greater popularity. Funnier. Smarter. The list goes on . . .

The good news is that God, the Creator of the Universe, loves us unconditionally. We could never earn his love – and we don’t have to. He loved us even when we were running from him.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8 NLT)

That’s why you are valuable. Not because of what you’ve done, but because God created you just the way you are, and you are important to him. He loves you unconditionally, and nothing can ever separate you from his love.

Consider this … 

When you allow your self-image to plummet because of what others think of you, it’s easy to forget what God thinks of you. You may start thinking . . .

But God, I can’t . . .What if I fail . . .

What if they stop loving me . . .

I would do anything to get their approval . . .

Maybe if I do this better, they will . . .

Instead of molding your life to gain the love and approval of others, focus on God’s love for you.

With Christ’s strength, you can do all things. He has a plan and purpose for your life and will equip you to fulfill it. With God, nothing is impossible.

Prayer

Father, thank you for your unconditional love. Thank you that nothing can ever separate me from your love. Help me to always remember I am special because you care about me and designed me for a purpose. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

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