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Posts tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

A LOOK AT OUR SPIRITUAL ARMOR

SOURCE:  Based on MacArthur Study Bible notes- Eph. 6:10-18

A true believer having a Spirit-controlled life can be sure to be in a spiritual war. Ultimately, Satan’s power over Christians is already broken, and the war is won through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  However, in life on earth, battles of temptation go on regularly.  The Lord’s power, the strength of His Spirit, and the force of biblical truth are required for victory.

The armor should be the sustained life-long attire.  Satan’s deception and schemes are carried out by his demons and are highly structured for destructive purposes.  Satan wants us to distrust God, forsake obedience, have doctrinal confusion, falsehood, be hindered in service, be divided, serve in the flesh, live hypocritically, be worldly, and reject biblical obedience in any way.

Belt –   Pulls spiritual loose-ends together in truth – tucks away anything that hinders – Self-discipline in devotion to victory;

Breastplate –   The Christian’s chief protection against Satan and his schemes.  As believers faithfully live in obedience to and in communion with Jesus Christ, His own Righteousness produces in them the practical, daily righteousness that becomes their spiritual breastplate.  Lack of holiness leaves them vulnerable to Satan;

Shoes –   It is knowing that through Christ, believers are at peace with God, and He is on their side – confidence of Divine support allowing the believer to stand firm.

Shield –   Basic trust in God – the necessary, continual trust – trust in God’s Word and Promise – all sin comes when the victim falls to Satan’s lies and promises of pleasure, rejecting the choice of obedience and blessing;

Helmet –   Not attaining salvation, but protection against Satan’s weapons of doubt and discouragement to destroy a believer’s assurance – salvation is eternally protected, and one need not fear its loss.

Sword –   God’s Word – the only needed weapon – infinitely more powerful than any of Satan’s.  Used defensively to fend off Satan’s attacks, and offensively to destroy his strategies.

Listening and Guidance

(Adapted from The Disciplines of The Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan)

We have been created to be in a listening relationship to God. As we draw near to God, we begin to hear His voice and receive affirmation, encouragement, correction, and direction for our lives. Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice (John 10:14-16). We listen in order to receive guidance! The outcome of a close relationship with God is guidance and invitation into partnership with Him.

Jesus didn’t get up in the morning and say, “What great thing can I do for God today?” He said, “Father, what are you doing today? Show me what you are already doing so I can do it with you. I will do only what I see what you doing” (see John 5:19, 30). Jesus’ secret of guidance was His relationship of dependence on the Father – listening for God’s voice, being observant of His Father’s work, paying attention to His Father’s leading in every circumstance of His life.

Do you believe God talks to people? That He wants to talk to you? Do you think it strange or unusual to hear His voice or to receive regular guidance and direction form Him? Jesus believed that listening was fundamental to the Christian life and a natural consequence of deepening relationship with God. He encouraged believers that if they belonged to God, they should expect to hear from God. He rebuked the unbelieving religious leaders of His day saying, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47). As we draw near to the One who comes to us to draw us to Himself, we enter into the disciplines of listening and guidance. We learn to hear the Shepard’s voice, to distinguish it from the many voices that compete for our attention, and to know and respond to his wooing and guidance.

Hearing from God is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes God’s will clear to us as we engage in the discipline of listening and guidance. Jesus promised us His own guidance through the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). When the Spirit of Truth comes, Jesus says, “He will guide you into all truth. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you: (John 16: 13-14). The truth John speaks of here is not an idea, concept, or doctrine, but a true relationship. To be led into truth is to be led into the same relationship with Jesus that Jesus has with the Father.

G. Campbell Morgan encourages the believer to wait for guidance:

To the individual believer, who is, by the very fact of relationship to Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for.

The Apostle Paul emphasized that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the deep things of God to us. We are so affected by our sin and rebellion that we cannot understand the things of God unless the Holy Spirit reveals it. He is our teacher. In reading the Scripture, we must sit before the Holy Spirit and respond to His leading. As we pray, we must expect that answers will come as the Holy Spirit guides us to Scripture, or through circumstances or wise counsel, or through personal words or a divine encounter.

Our Part in Listening and Guidance:
* Let the Spirit build in you a desire to be yielded and obedient to God’s will and plans.
* Starting where you are, seek after God with your whole heart, striving to know him intimately.
* Resolve to want to glorify God and bring honor to His great name in all things in your life.
* Be alert and sensitive at all times for the Spirit’s promptings. Seek guidance from God; watch for it, expect it. Remember that the Holy Spirit is your teacher.
* Take time daily to listen and be in conversation with God. Get in the habit of asking questions like, “What are you doing, Lord? What do you want me to see and understand in my current   circumstances?”
* Wait for confirmation. “Test everything” (1Thess. 5:21). God isn’t in a hurry. Trust that He will confirm His will through Scripture, wise counsel, and circumstances.
* Take steps to respond obediently to the guidance you receive; trusting that God will provide confirmation and blessing (See James 1:22; 2:17).

Means of Guidance:
* The Bible, God’s Word – God speaks primarily through His Word, as we read and meditate on it. The Scripture is our standard of measure for all other forms of guidance. What the Spirit guides us into will always be consistent with the teaching of the Bible and will never contradict it. In addition, we must be careful to interpret the Bible accurately.

* Prayer – Conversation with God – Prayer is not just talking to God, but dialogue with God. We listen for, and hear, God’s voice in the midst of prayer.

* Godly Counsel – God often speaks to us through the wise counsel of mature Christian believers – pastors, church elders, leaders, accountability partners, counselors – people who walk closely with God and who know Him intimately.

* Providential Circumstances – God can work through even our most difficult circumstances to guide us in a particular direction.

* Sanctified Common Sense – As we think and engage in theological reflection, and weigh the pros and cons of options open to us, God works through our reason in bringing us to a decision. Even when it seems God has not spoken clearly, there may be times we have to choose an option because it is not possible to wait further. In such cases we need to use our best common sense to choose the alternative that will bring glory to God as the Holy Spirit leads us (1Cor. 10:31).

* Inner Witness and Peace – Generally, the Holy Spirit confirms God’s will to us by giving peace in our hearts (Col. 3:15). However, this does not mean we will always – or immediately – receive peace regarding God’s guidance. There may be anguish or struggle, such as Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane in the process of obeying Gods’ will to go to the cross and die for a sinful world. Jesus prayed and was obedient to God’s leading, but experienced peace only later (Mark 14:32-36; Luke 22: 39-44).

* Inner Promptings of the Holy Spirit – Based on 1Cor 12:8, 10, the Holy Spirit can guide us through factual truths we did not know before and through wisdom or the specific applications of God’s Word or Truth to a particular situation. Such words generally come in the sense of a subjective inner voice, but at times they can seem to be audible words (1Sam. 3:2-14). God has spoken to His people through visions and dreams in the past and certainly can do so in the present (Dan. 2:19; Acts 9:10-16; Acts 10:9-23; 18:9-10).

* Nature – God has revealed Himself generally through nature and His creation. However, there are times when God touches us afresh and guides us through some part of the beauty of His creation – the grandeur of the stars on a clear night or the colors of a sunset.

* Heavenly Visitation, or the “Hand of the Lord” – There are times when God reveals Himself by an angel or special manifestation of Himself (Acts 8:26, 29; 9:3-6; Dan. 9:20-23).

We are meant to be in a listening relationship with God. At any moment, anytime, day or night, in the midst of ministry or the most mundane tasks of living, God can and will speak to us.

Increasingly Aware of God’s Presence
We can grow in listening and guidance until we are “practicing the presence of God,” increasingly aware of His presence and gentle leading in all the circumstances of our living. This kind of living does not happen effortlessly. We must desire it and seek it with all our hearts. It requires choosing a course of action that will draw us into constant communion with God. It means entering strongly into the disciplines of listening and guidance as a crucial means of experiencing deeper intimacy with God and receiving His transforming power. Listening becomes a launching pad for effective service and ministry in partnership with God; guidance brings confidence and peace that we are indeed in relationship with the living God; and hearing God’s voice brings events of the Bible alive for us and allows our faith in the Truth of the Word to rise beyond abstract conviction to heart knowledge of the truth.

The Process of Guidance

Here’s how George Muller sums up the way he entered into a “heart” relationship with God and learned to hear and discern God’s voice:

I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusion. I seek the Will of the Holy Spirit through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s will in connection with His Word and Spirit. I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me rightly and fully. Thus, 1) through prayer to God, 2) the study of the Word, and 3) reflection, I come to deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly.

We open ourselves to mistakes if we allow the opinions of others to sway us from the clear instructions of Scripture, or if we are impatient in waiting for God’s timing, or when our own wills are so strong we cannot get our hearts ready to respond to the guidance He gives. Guidance from God is seldom a simple occurrence; it is almost a process of listening, testing, and discerning that leads to confident obedience. F.B. Meyer describes the process of guidance as follows:

God’s impressions within and His words without are always corroborated by His providence around, and we should quietly wait until those three focus into one point.  If you do not know what you ought to do, stand still until you do, and when the time comes for action, circumstances, like glow-worms, will sparkle along your path, and you will become so sure that you are right, when God’s three witnesses concur, that you could not be surer though an angel beckoned you on.

The Holy Spirit seldom uses all the means of guidance, but usually does bring several together in a process that brings conviction to an individual or group along with confidence to respond in obedience.

ABSOLUTE SURRENDER

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

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

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

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

PRAYER OF SURRENDER

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

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

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

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

A Wife’s Role Defined

(Adapted from Different by Design by H. Dale Burke)

A wife has a lot to learn as she tackles the daunting assignment of understanding and loving the man in her life. The average woman may be more sensitive to a man’s needs than he is to hers, but she faces some significant challenges. The primary concepts found in God’s Word to direct wives in loving their husbands in the servant-wife role include: a) Respect; b) Trust; c) Support; d) Acceptance; e) Admiration.

One issue that needs to be addressed and properly understood deals with submission. Scripture states, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5:22), and “As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Eph 5:24). It is clear that God calls on wives to submit, to be subject to their husbands. The very sound of the term submission is enough to offend many modern couples who so want to serve as equals on a team, pulling together to build a quality marriage. A thorough examination of the apostle Paul’s concept of submission is essential to understanding God’s unique blueprint to marriage, a design that transcends today’s culture.

Biblical submission is NOT: inferiority, intellectual suicide, without fulfillment, passivity, or silence.

Submission is not inferiority. Wives aren’t the only ones called upon to submit. The Scriptures are clear that even Jesus’ relationship to His Father was one of submission. At the height of His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed to God, asking to be relieved of the assignment He had been sent to Earth to fulfill. His prayer concluded, however, like this: “Yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) This act of submission typifies Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, but there is never a hint in His words that He was in a position of inferiority. Biblical submission does not place the one submitting in a lesser, or inferior, position.

Submission is not intellectual suicide. Anyone who would suggest that a woman must blindly submit to her husband’s leadership needs to know that to make such an assertion is just as irresponsible as suggesting that Christ calls us to come to Him by blind, unthinking faith. The opposite is the case. Jesus challenged those around Him to think, perhaps more seriously than they’d ever thought before. Submission is a choice that follows serious, informed consideration. It’s not acquiescence to a second-class role in the relationship. It’s a choice to follow another’s leadership with your brain in full gear. Again, Jesus as the Son of God may be our strongest proof that submission has nothing to do with intellectual suicide. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are truly equal in Their divine omniscience. However, each has a role to play and each performs that role in perfect harmony and mutual respect. Likewise, a wife who chooses to honor God and love her husband with a submissive spirit should still be highly valued for her God-given wisdom and abilities.

Submission is not without fulfillment. Nothing promises or delivers a deeper sense of satisfaction than the assurance that you’re doing the will of God. Wives who submit to their husbands according to the command in Ephesians 5:22 can expect no less. The fact is that real fulfillment is found not in the pursuit of our dream but God’s dream. Fulfillment for the Christian man or woman is not being all that you can be; it’s being all that God calls you to be. Pleasing God is priority one. Supporting or encouraging your husband to take responsibility for leadership in the home should never, ever be labeled as boring or unfulfilling. The wife still can, and should, play a vital role in the direction of the family.

Submission is not passivity. The verb rendered “be subject to” in Ephesians 5:22 and “be submissive to” in 1 Peter 3:1 is in the present tense, which suggests a habit pattern. It’s imperative, meaning it’s a command. And it’s in the middle voice, meaning this is not something done to a woman but by her. She’s actively involved in every aspect of marriage, including this one. It’s action oriented with the distinction being that it’s done under another’s authority. God designed women to contribute fully and significantly to every aspect of the marriage and family.

Submission is not silence. One common misconception about submission is that it condemns wives to suffer in silence when their husbands fail to lead and love as Christ leads and loves His church. No man is perfect, and disappointment, frustration, and exasperation are part of every marriage in pursuit of intimacy. Still, the clear challenge to love with a submissive spirit is given to every wife, even to those wed to men who are missing the mark. In 1 Peter 3:1 God calls wives simply to imitate Jesus. To love that difficult, disobedient, even unbelieving husband without preaching to him, without demanding that he change, without threatening to leave if he doesn’t shape up. But does that mean total silence? No! Ephesians 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” Honesty should never be abandoned in the name of submission. Whether leading or following, never stop being open and honest with your spouse. Silence is as dangerous to your marital health as ignoring pain is to your physical health. When it comes to marriage, silence is never golden.

What does it mean for a woman to submit to her husband as to the Lord? Submission is willingly placing yourself under the leadership of another. This is an “as to the Lord” type of submission. The psalmist was involved in this activity in Psalm 17:8-9 and 61:4. He was hiding, dwelling, taking refuge in the Lord. He was willingly placing his trust in another. He chose to follow his Lord and to trust in Him. That loving, trusting relationship became a place of shelter and refuge. Similarly, the wife’s decision to obey God and submit to her husband’s leadership is the ultimate expression of respect and trust. It is important to notice the extent of submission expressly stated in Ephesians 5:24 covers everything. This is not a part-of-the-way proposition; not 30 percent, 50 percent, or 99 percent. It’s 100 percent. Paul’s commands to the husband demand a similarly wholehearted response. He is to love his wife, sacrifice for her, and nourish and cherish her whether she having a bad day or good – 100 percent of the time. However, for those who would distort Scripture to say that a woman must obey her husband, period, note one significant exception. First Peter 3:1 challenges women to submit to their husbands even if they may be “disobedient to the word.” But, this is a far cry from submitting to a husband who tells you to disobey God. Paul and the apostles put that notion to rest in Acts 5:29 when they responded to the Jewish authorities who told them to quit teaching in Jesus’ Name: “We must obey God rather than men.” Coming under the authority of another is never a call to violate the Word of God.

Scripture continues to say, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body (Eph 5:23). Indeed, “authority over and responsibility for” is the meaning of head, in God’s definition of marriage. Not the heavy-handed, harsh rule of the world, but the gentle, loving, sacrificial leadership of a savior. A leader who will give anything to care for his wife. One who takes his responsibility seriously, knowing he will give an account to God for the health and well-being not only of his wife, but of his entire family. Some have incorrectly thought that the statement in Ephesians 5:21, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ,” negates the following command. This command is actually a consequence of being filled with God’s Spirit and calls all of us, men and women alike, to exhibit a submissive spirit whether leading or following, whether husband or wife, whether parent or child, whether employee or employer. However, in each of these relationships someone is told to exercise loving leadership and someone is encouraged to follow. The concepts of submission and headship are anchored in truths that clearly transcend any culture or time in history. They are as relative today as they were in the culture of the time they were written about.

Christ is the Head of the church and the husband is the head of the wife. Jesus is the church’s Lord and Leader as well as its Source. He takes responsibility for the life and health of the church, just as the husband takes responsibility for the life and health of his wife. It is in light of this challenge for husbands to lead and love by sacrificially caring for every aspect of their wife’s welfare that God then calls the wife to follow. She will someday answer to her Lord in heaven for how she loved and followed her leader on earth.

A Servant-Wife Respects. As important a concept submission is, it is not the only issue or even the main issue contained in Ephesians 5:33 – And the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. Respect is the real issue for men. Submission is not the end; it is only one means to the end. The real target in God’s sights is to see wives shower their husbands with a gentle rain of respect. It is the gift that best says to a man, “I love you.” Just as sacrificial love is only a tool, a means of communicating to wives that we care, so submission is only a tool, a means of communicating respect to a husband. Respect, or reverence, is a gift that can be given to men, even imperfect men or ungodly men. First Peter 3:2 clearly calls on wives to win over their husbands by their “chaste and respectful behavior.” Moreover, these men are described in verse 1 as men who are “disobedient to the word.” That is often taken to refer to husbands outside the faith, unbelievers, but that’s not necessarily the case. All too often, it is the Christian who finds himself or herself with a spouse who is less than an angel. Many wives know the challenge of living with a mate who has little to no interest in spiritual things. It is to that wife that God says, “Give the gift of respect to your husband.”

A very common statement that floats around this subject is “Trust can be given, but respect must be earned.” Is that really true? If by respect we mean a feeling of respect or admiration, then it is true. However, respect used in reference to marriage is not just a feeling; it’s an action. It is something to choose to give whether I feel it or not. We do this all the time. A student may not like a teacher, principal, or coach. A citizen may not feel a lot of respect for a particular president, judge, or policeman. However, he or she had better learn to show those figures respect. How much truer this is in a marriage. A wife’s feelings of respect for her husband (or a husband’s for his wife, for that matter) will grow or diminish as she gets to know him, observing his character and skills. When she feels respect for him, showing it – expressing it – will come easily. However, God isn’t calling us to the easy thing, but the harder thing: showing respect whether it’s deserved or not. It’s the same challenge God gives to husbands. The call to sacrificially love, nourish, cherish, and honor our wives isn’t limited to their good days. It extends to every day!

Respect is not optional. It’s essential in a healthy marriage. What can you do if you don’t have a lot of respect for your husband?

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

1) Focus on the positive. Stop and take time to identify the good instead of the bad. Tell him and others where he excels; talk about things excellent rather than things deficient. Concentrate on the actions worthy of praise, not criticism. Thank God for what is right about this man, not what is wrong. Every man has some areas that are honorable; talk to others about those areas. Dwell on the lovely, not the ugly; the true, not the false. This may seem hard at first, but trust in God’s help to do this, and just do it! Focus on the positive, and see if the negatives don’t begin to diminish. However, this takes time, so commit to the positive and stay there.

2) Focus on the position. God calls us to respect the fact that leaders may not always be right, but they are always responsible. God will hold the husband accountable for the condition of the home, so respect that position of responsibility. It is not so much an issue of authority as it is an issue of accountability and responsibility. Respect that position of responsibility and his calling as the leader in your home. Permit me to paraphrase another passage – one written to call the church to respect its leaders – and apply it to marriage.

Obey your leaders (husbands) and (respectfully) submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls (and your homes) as those who will give an account (to God). Let them do this (lead out in your marriage) with joy (sensing your support and respect) and not with grief (as you nag them about their shortcomings and poor decisions), for this (type of disrespectful relationship) would be unprofitable for you (and all those in your family). (Hebrews 13:17)

3) Focus on the Lord. Ultimately, our calling is to the lordship of Christ, not to any human being. We must not focus on a husband’s worthiness, but on Christ’s worthiness. It is our Redeemer, the Lamb of God, whom we serve. It is out of respect and worship to our Sovereign God that we give respect to those He places over us in life. Remember that fulfillment is not about being all I want to be, but about being all God calls me to be. What a difference it makes when my desire for holiness is greater than my desire for happiness. In the end, the desire for holiness is the key to real joy through all the days of my life and my marriage. God wants us to understand that giving a husband respect is not just about trying to please a man. It’s about trying to please the One who has showered us all with more respect than we could ever deserve.

A Servant-Wife Trusts. Trust means so much to a man. As a wife encourages and follows the leadership of her husband, that expression of trust becomes a powerful act of love. It says to him, “I believe in you.” Again, do not misunderstand the point. Women certainly need to receive trust from their husbands. Everyone, man or woman, yearns to be trusted. But for men that desire is much more intense. Remember, we are different by design. Just as the woman’s greater need is to feel that her husband truly cares about her, so the man’s greater need is to know that he is trusted by his wife.

A question many women ask is, “How do I trust when trusting isn’t easy?” That’s a legitimate question. Just as trust is a component of respect, so the solutions for repairing a lack of trust are similar to the solutions that apply to building up a spirit of respect. Just as in that circumstance, you need to focus on the positive, the position, and the Lord.

1) Focus on the positive. Begin by focusing on your husband’s strengths. Every man has areas in which he excels. Trust comes easier when you let your mind dwell on those things.

2) Focus on the position. God has called the husband to lead. Remember that God’s desire is not to enslave but to bless. The leadership envisioned is one modeled after Christ’s sacrificial love at the Cross. It is important that the wife remember that God has called her husband to a position of responsibility and accountability for his family. Just as church leaders will someday give an account for the souls under their care, so husbands will someday stand before God and be accountable for the health and well-being of their family. A wife must trust her husband, let him lead, and encourage him to grow as a leader, for he will someday stand in the presence of God and be held accountable for the decisions and direction of his home. He may not always be right, but he is always responsible.

What if you don’t agree with the direction or decision of your husband? Communicate! Share your input and observations. Every man needs help as he leads. Every wise leader seeks to utilize the strengths of his team, especially his number one assistant. Even the best of leaders blows it sometimes, but God still calls us to follow those leaders.

3) Focus on the Lord. It is only possible to trust your husband if your ultimate trust is in the Lord. God never expects a wife to follow a husband into sin. The highest authority and accountability in all our relationships is to our Lord and our God. But when decisions are not a matter of obeying or disobeying our God, that very God calls wives to respect and follow the lead of the man He as brought into their lives. The only way for any woman to do this is to recognize that her hope, ultimately, is not in her husband but in her God. To trust and follow a mere man is only possible as a wife deepens her trust in God. She must believe that God will be her true Source of security and hope. It is only then that she will be able to risk trusting the man in her life.

A Servant-Wife Supports. Another effective tool for loving your husband is to back him up. Every man loves to know that his wife not only believes in him and wants to see him succeed but is also willing to help make it happen. She supports him. She is proud to serve with him and be at his side. The Lord knew men need helpers. A man feels loved when his wife says, “Wherever you go and whatever you do, I’m in. I’m with you. You can count on me.” However, there is a fine line between supporting and mothering. Men love to sense support, but often pull away from unsolicited assistance. If you act like a mother, often telling your husband how to do it or how to do it the right way, he will withdraw and feel resentment. If you just can’t hold back, then at least give the advice as a suggestion, respectfully. Don’t act irritated that he’s approaching life or some challenge big or small from a direction different than the one you would have picked. Men do need to honor and listen to the wisdom of their wives. However, every man needs just one mother in his life. When we get married, we need a friend, a lover, a fan who believes in us, one who sticks closer than a brother, a soul mate, a helper who believes in us and loves us just the way we are. Men feel loved when they are supported.

A Servant-Wife Accepts. Acceptance flows from the gift of unconditional love. One of the most common complaints from men is “She keeps trying to change me.” The problem is, trying to “fix” a man begins to trigger resistance, even anger. A word that fits perfectly here is: nagging.

It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman. (Proverbs 25:24)

A nagging wife is as annoying as the constant dripping on a rainy day. (Proverbs 27:15 NLT)

The nagging spouse is never happy, constantly complaining. A man feels like no matter what is done, he can never make her happy. Does this mean a wife can never mention a concern or a frustration or offer a suggestion for change to her husband? Submission is NOT silence. Submission is NOT passivity. God wants to use our spouses to help us grow. A man needs to know when his wife’s needs or expectations are going unmet. The key is communicate, but don’t nag. Share your ideas, concerns, fears, or expectations, but then leave it alone. Give God a chance to work and your husband time to change. Don’t bring it up time and time again. And always communicate acceptance. When the marital atmosphere is full of acceptance, approval, and affirmation, feedback will fall on receptive ears. But when a man feels he can never be good enough to please you, he will soon quit trying. Ultimately, the secret to giving such unconditional acceptance is not found in a wife’s relationship with her husband but in her relationship with God. As long as God is left out of the formula, she will think the responsibility to change her husband falls to her. Without acceptance and the respect that comes with it, the husband will most likely withdraw into passivity or flee to another woman who gives him that respect.

Again, what if the man is far from perfect. Scripture in 1 Peter 3:1-2 shows how God has it figured out. Nagging a man never gets the best result. It never draws him to you or to your faith. But a respectful spirit, full of loving acceptance, can draw the unbeliever or disobedient husband like a magnet toward his wife and her faith.

A Servant-Wife Admires, Appreciates, and is Affectionate. Admiration, appreciation, and affection. Men yearn for all three and love to know someone thinks they are special. This in no way minimizes the need for women to be and feel “cherished” by their husbands. But somehow, these qualities seem to mean even more to men than to women. And when it comes from their wives, the impact of receiving these qualities goes up dramatically. Keep the following unique differences concerning men in mind:

1) Men are turned on by praise. Praise is a powerful tool that means much to a man.

2) Men appreciate attention to physical beauty. Men are drawn to the physical far more than women are. When a man’s wife takes the time to make herself look good, it is an expression of love.

3) Men highly value physical affection. For men, affection begins with respectful admiration and builds with sincere appreciation. But it is the sexual relationship with his wife that best says, “I love you.” It is crucial for the wife to understand that most husbands value this physical act of love more highly than their wives do. God speaks to the importance of the physical relationship in marriage:

But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (I Cor 7:2-5)

Sex is a responsibility, not a right. It is about giving, not getting; about pleasing more than pleasure. Of course, the beauty of this mysterious act of love is that the more you give, the more you’re likely to receive. According to God’s blueprint, your body belongs to your spouse. Therefore, work at saying yes to one another. Focus on giving pleasure to your husband.

Does this mean you should do whatever he wants, not matter how you feel? Not necessarily. The application of this text must be keep in mind the rest of God’s directives for husbands and wives, such as:

1) “[Speak] the truth in love” (Eph 4:15);
2) “Be angry, and yet to not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26);
3) “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (Phil 2:3);
4) “Do not [just] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).

Keep in mind that just as the wife’s body is under the authority of her husband, so also the husband’s body is under the authority of the wife. God always provides for balance. God, knowing our differences, calls both, men and women, to be givers, not takers, in the sexual relationship. This may call the average husband to focus on greater patience and sensitivity and the average wife to take seriously the sexual needs of her husband. God’s advice to wives is “just say yes” as often as possible. Make your sexual relationship a priority. Don’t ignore the fact that in 1 Cor 7:5 Paul placed your sexual relationship right after your prayer life in importance. God says that if we really need to “just say no,” then we should follow these four guidelines from that verse:

1) “Stop depriving one another” – don’t say no often;
2) “Except by agreement” – talk about it;
3) “For a time” – make it the exception, not the rule;
4) “Come together again” – plan and keep it a priority.

HE FEELS LOVED SHE FEELS LOVED
He gives more care She gives more respect
He sacrifices She admires
He nourishes She accepts
He cherishes She supports
He honors She trusts
He understands She respects

THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM: Demolishing Strongholds

(Adapted from the The Search for Freedom by Robert McGee)

Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions.  Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing.  No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them.  When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world.  For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things.  As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure.  Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator.  This is especially true of emotional pain.  The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have.  It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives.  I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe.  Here’s how the process usually works:

1) We are born and know little if anything about truth;  2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth;  3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior.  Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is it possible to hear truth and not be free?  Sure it is!  It’s not enough to intellectually know truth.  We must know the truth experientially as well.  Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice.  Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others.  Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.

God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding.  Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.

God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice.  Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.

In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is:  “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power.  And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds.  These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh.  It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise.  Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces.  They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love.  God is Truth.  Satan is a liar.  As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives.  We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs.  So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us.  That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).  This is a key step.  It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually.  Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.

THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION,  REPENTANCE,  OBEDIENCE,  PRAISE

Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.”  We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil.  We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom.  True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin.  It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness.  Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness.  In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins.  We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance.  Our sins are usually connected to other sins.  If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.

With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins.  Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.

Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.”  Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus.  We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God.  By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD.  We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.

Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have.  Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.

Trust is a precious commodity.  The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”  (Ps 34:8).  Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God.  He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result.  Associated with repentance is reliance.  For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood.  We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone.  We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit.  Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS).  Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free.  Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.

Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power.  By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power.  If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past.  If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him.  If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective.  Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative.  It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake.  If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls.  Does this mean our battle against evil is won?  Not by a long shot!  That’s why obedience is such an important step.  Continued obedience results in continued victory.  But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure.  Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him.  When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail.  A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.

Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God.  Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare.  After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic.  The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives.  As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.

 

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS  (With Bitterness) –

Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness.  As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years.  Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light.  It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed.  Our first instinct will be to defend our actions.  Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity.  Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life.  Take your time.  Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward.  When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.

Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life.  The thought of living any other way will be frightening.  You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life.  But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul.  You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life.  This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first.  As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience.  We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.

Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long.  God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence.  But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God.  In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do.  In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter.  Again, take your time.  God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions.  As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well.  It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.

Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help.  It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life.  It has been painful to repent of each of these things.  Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well.  When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul.  Praise will flow from your lips.  This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do.  You don’t have to understand it.  You can’t understand it.  Just enjoy it and appreciate it.  “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” (Phil 4:6-7).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –

Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first.  But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome.  Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps.  When handled correctly, these steps are weapons.  No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them.  Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time.  When you were younger, you didn’t know any better.  Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price.  Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds.  They will try to come back.  However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas.  So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.

AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –

“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”

Some people don’t give it a chance.  These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS).  Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.

“My case is worse than other people’s.  God can’t fix me.”

This excuse limits God’s power.  You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.

I’m afraid.  What happens if I try and fail?”

Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work.  What do you have to lose?  It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains.  As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself.  The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost.  However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away.  Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with.  If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”

While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed.  They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them.  They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease.  They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it?  It scares them to consider change.  If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.

“I gave it a shot, but forget it.  I quit!”

Some people simply quit too soon.  The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them.  Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up.  Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again.  Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.

Hope for the Depressed

by Ed Welch

Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying—your world is dark, heavy, painful. Some days you think that physical pain might be easier to endure; at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression goes to your very soul, corrupting everything in its path. Dead but walking is one way to describe it. You feel numb, but you still remember when you actually felt something. Somehow that makes it harder to bear.

You aren’t alone, of course. Depression affects as much as 25% of the population. But statistics offer little comfort. In fact, a depressive spin on them can make you feel worse: You wonder why so many people are depressed, and you’re afraid that means there is no solution to the problem. Yet there is another perspective. God tells us that he cares about one wandering sheep in a hundred (Matthew 18:10–14) and counts the hairs on individual heads. If he has this much compassion for a solitary, lost individual, he certainly cares for you and such a large group of suffering people. You may not understand how he cares for you, but you can be certain that he is.

SUFFERING MAKES US AWARE OF GOD

You are suffering, and suffering brings God into view. That’s the way it always happens. The soldier who escapes from a treacherous battle will instinctively thank God. The stock broker who just lost a fortune might instinctively curse him. When hardships come we either cry out to God for help, shake our fist at him, or do both. There is actually a picture of this in the Bible: throughout history God has taken his people out into the wilderness, and you are certainly in the wilderness.

The journey in the wilderness is intended, in part, to reveal what is in our hearts, and to teach us to trust God in both good times and hard times. Why does he do this? To show us those things that are most important. Don’t forget that God takes his children into the wilderness. He even led his only Son into the wilderness. We shouldn’t be surprised if he takes us there as well.

While you are in the wilderness what are you seeing in your own heart? How are you relating to God? Do you avoid him? Ignore him? Get angry at him? Do you act as though he is very far away and too busy with everything else to attend to your suffering? Are you frustrated that God is powerful enough to end your suffering but he hasn’t? In your depression, let God reveal your heart. You might find spiritual issues that contribute to or even cause your depression.

WHICH PATH WILL YOU CHOOSE?

You are on one of two roads: faith or isolated independence. On the road of faith you are seeking and following God. You are calling out to him. You don’t understand what is happening, but you have not lost sight of how the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ assure you that he is good. You feel like you are walking in the dark, but in your best moments you are putting one foot in front of the other as an expression of your trust in God. Whether you know it or not you are being heroic. On this path, although you are suffering, you are still able to notice and marvel that God’s Spirit is empowering you to trust him through darkness and pain.

The other path is the more common one, even among Christians. Even if you believe that God has revealed himself to you in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. You don’t feel as though you are consciously avoiding God. You are just trying to survive. But if you look closely you will notice that you are pushing God away. Look at the tell-tale signs:

  • You have no hope, even though Scripture, God’s words to you, offers hope on almost every page. Here’s just one example, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21–23).
  • You think life is meaningless, even though you are a servant of the King and every small step of obedience resonates throughout eternity. This is God’s purpose for you today, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
  • You think God doesn’t care, even though Scripture makes it clear that we run from God, not vice versa. Listen to what God says to you, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6–7).
  • In other words, in many areas of life, you simply do not believe what God says.

Practical Strategies for Change

Depression tries to tell us what is true and what isn’t. For example, it says that you will never feel any different, and you can’t continue to live in such a condition. It says that God doesn’t care, and no one loves you. It tries to persuade you that nothing matters. Know, however, that depression lies! You have to tell it the truth, rather than listen to its interpretation of life.

Do you remember times when you were grouchy and everything in the world looked horrible? Or you had PMS and it colored your interpretation of other people? Our emotions are loud, but they do not tell the whole story.

TURN TO GOD AND LISTEN

Turn toward God, and instead of listening to your depression, listen to what he says about himself. The center of his message to you is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, became the Son of Man. He obeyed the Father perfectly, emptied himself, and became your servant. He died to give you life. Now he is the King, and through his death he brings you into his kingdom. Here on earth the kingdom of heaven is riddled with suffering, but we know the King is with us and our suffering is only for a short while. We also know that the King takes our suffering, which seems senseless, and makes it profitable in his kingdom. Read all of Romans 8 and pay special attention to these words, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28–29).

This is God’s message to you. Beg for grace and mercy so you can hear it over the din of your depression.

The Spirit of God speaks most clearly to you in the Bible, so take the small step of opening it and reading it. If you can’t, ask someone else to read it to you. Ask God to speak to you through his words in the Bible. Ask a friend to talk to you about the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Any friend who knows that good news would love to talk about it.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Read about Jesus’ suffering in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it help you to know that Jesus is a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?
  • Use the Psalms to help you talk to God about your heart. Make Psalm 86 and Psalm 88 your personal prayers to God.
  • Be alert to spiritual warfare. Depressed people are very vulnerable to Satan’s claim that God is not good. Jesus’ death on the cross proves God’s love for you. It’s the only weapon powerful enough to stand against Satan’s lies (Romans 5:6–8; 1 John 4:9–10).
  • Don’t think your case in unique. Read Hebrews 11 and 12. Many have walked this path before you, and God did not fail them.
  • Remember your purpose for living (Matthew 22:37–39; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Galatians 5:6).
  • Learn about persevering and enduring (Romans 5:3; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:2-4).

Gradually a new goal will come into view. Without doubt you will still want depression to be gone, but you will also develop a vision of walking humbly with your God even in the midst of pain. When you read Scripture, you will find that many people have walked the same path.

CONSIDER THE SPIRITUAL CAUSES OF YOUR DEPRESSION

Next, consider some of the spiritual issues that might play a part in your depression. There is no one cause of depression, but there are some common paths that provoke a depressive spiral. Identifying these in your life may help you move out of depression and avoid it in the future.

Depression rarely appears overnight. When you look closely, you usually find that it crept up on you gradually. Take a closer look at its progression. Personal problems that are left spiritually unattended can, in susceptible people, lead to depression. Do you see any of these things in your life?

  • If you made someone besides God the center of your life, and you lose him or her, you will feel isolated and without purpose. Can you see how this can give way to depression? You made another person your reason for living and now, without him or her, you feel hopeless and unable to go on. You may not realize it, but the Bible tell us that this is idol worship—you are worshipping what God created instead of him.
  • If you feel like you failed in the eyes of other people, and your success and the opinions of others is of critical importance, you can slip into depression. Can you see the spiritual roots? Your success and the opinions of others have become your gods, they are more important to you than serving Christ.
  • If you feel like you did something very wrong, and you want to manage your sin apart from the cross of Jesus, depression is inevitable. We always want to believe that we can do something—like feeling really bad for our sins—but that is just pride. We actually think that we can pay God back, but this attitude minimizes the beauty of the cross and Jesus’ full payment for sin.
  • If you are angry and don’t practice forgiveness, you can easily slide into depression. The simple formula is sadness + anger = depression. What makes us angry shows us what we love and what rights we hold dear. Unforgiveness shows us that we are not willing to trust God to bind up our broken hearts and to judge justly. Deal with your sadness and anger by pouring your heart out to God. Use the psalms as your prayers. Ask for faith so that you can trust God to be your defender and your helper.

Even students of depression who reject the Bible acknowledge that anger, resentment, and jealousy can contribute to the beginnings of depression. So take a hard look. Look for sin patterns you can confess. This is hard, but it is not depressing. If punishment was on the other side of confession, it would be foolish to follow such a path. But get to the gospel of Jesus and on the other side you will find full forgiveness, love, hope, and joy. They are yours for the asking. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME

Now, take one small step at a time. Granted, it seems impossible. How can you live without feelings? Without them you have no drive, no motivation. Could you imagine walking without any feeling in your legs? It would be impossible. Or would it? Perhaps you could walk if you practiced in front of a large mirror and watched your legs moving. One step, wobble, another step. It would all be very mechanical but it could be done.

People have learned to take one step at a time in the midst of depression. It doesn’t seem natural, though other people won’t notice either the awkwardness or the heroism involved. The trek begins with one step, then another. Remember, you are not alone. Many people have taken this journey ahead of you.

As you walk, you will find that you must tap into every resource you have ever learned about persevering through hardship. It will involve lots of moment by moment choices: take one minute at a time, read one short Bible passage, ask for help, try to care about someone else, move outside yourself, ask someone how they are doing, and so on.

When in doubt, confess your unbelief, trust in Jesus, and look for someone to love. A wise depressed person once said, “The reason I get up—after years of depression—is that I want to love one other person.”

GUIDELINES FOR MEDICATION

The severe pain of depression makes you welcome anything that can bring relief. For some people, medication brings relief from some symptoms. Most family physicians are qualified to prescribe appropriate medications. If you prefer a specialist, get a recommendation for a psychiatrist, and ask these questions of your doctor and pharmacist:

  • How long will it take before it is effective?
  • What are some of the common side effects?
  • And, if your physician is prescribing two medications, will it be difficult to determine which medication is effective?

From a Christian perspective, the choice to take medication is a wisdom issue. It is rarely a matter of right or wrong. Instead, the question to ask is, “What is best and wise?” Wise people seek counsel (your physicians should be part of the group that counsels you). Wise people approach decisions prayerfully. They don’t put their hope in people or medicine but in the Lord. They recognize that medication is a blessing, when it helps, but recognize its limits.

Medication can change physical symptoms, but not spiritual ones. It might give sleep, offer physical energy, allow you to see in color, and alleviate the physical feeling of depression. But it won’t answer your spiritual doubts, fears, frustrations, or failures. If you choose to take medication, please consider letting a wise and trusted person from your church walk come along side of you. They can remind you that God is good, that you can find power to know God’s love and love others, and, yes, that joy is possible, even during depression.

DEALING WITH SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

Before you were depressed, you could not imagine dreaming of suicide. But when depression descends, you notice a passing thought about death, then another, and another until death acts like a stalker.

Remember, depression doesn’t tell the whole truth. It says you are all alone, no one loves you, God doesn’t care, you will never feel any different, and you cannot go on another day. Even your spouse and children don’t seem like a reason to stay alive when depression is at its worst. Your mind tells you, “Everyone will be better off without me.” But this is a lie—they will not be better off without you.

Because you aren’t working with all the facts, keep it simple. Death is not your call to make. God is the giver and taker of life. As long as he gives you life, he has purposes for you. One purpose that is always right in front of you is to love another person. Begin with that purpose and then get help from a friend or a pastor. Depression says you are alone and you should act that way. But that is not true. God is with you and he calls you to reach out to someone who will listen, care, and pray for you.

PERSEVERE IN HOPE

Will your depression go away? Perhaps. If you follow these suggestions, your depression will, at least, be changed. But to guarantee that you will be depression-free is like guaranteeing that you will never have suffering in your life. The cross of Christ is a sign to us that we will share in the sufferings of Jesus rather than be free of all hardships.

Your hope rests on something much deeper than the alleviation of pain. Depression can’t rob you of hope because your hope is in a person, and that person, Jesus, is alive and with you. The apostle Paul put his suffering on a scale and found that it was out-weighed by all the benefits he had in Christ. Of course, that kind of hope and vision doesn’t come overnight, but it does come. Set your sights high. You can set a course where you say “Amen” with Paul.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at CCEF. He has counseled for over twenty-five years and has written many articles, booklets, and books including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression: A Stubborn Darkness; Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away from Addiction; and Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest.

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Think You Don’t Need A Counselor? Think Again!

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

We all have so many unanswered questions about ourselves.

Am I really a good person? Am I truly lovable? Why do I do the things I do? Why do I feel the way I feel? Why do I continue to make the same mistakes? Can I change? Will I ever be fully in control of all areas of my life? Why can’t I handle adversity or stress?

We often struggle to answer these questions for ourselves. And it’s difficult to get to the core answers without a reliable counselor or coach who knows how to help us probe and analyze.

The combination of our arrogance and pride has kept most of us from realizing that we do need counseling.

Our usual response: “Me? I don’t need any therapy, thank you very much!” And the counseling profession carries huge stigmas — mental illness, Freud, Prozac and all that.

All of us need a counselor. What athlete would ever think he doesn’t need a coach anymore? Does any student ever really know it all? Your doctors continue to study and get more education, going to classes and seminars, relying on consults and guidance from experts in hard cases, until they retire. In life, the most complicated activity ever, we will never know it all. But thankfully, as Christians, we have the best counselor at our fingertips and He lives right inside us.

The Bible tells us Jesus sends us his Spirit as a Counselor. That ought to make our need very clear. And apparently, we need quite a lot of counseling—the Spirit isn’t just stopping in to give us an annual checkup or a quick tune-up. No, He has come to stay and give us a complete makeover … from the inside out. Now we just need to figure out how to “hear” His counsel and quit sabotaging His efforts in our lives.

This next statement might sound blasphemous, but we need more than the Holy Spirit’s presence. That’s why we listen to sermons and study the Bible … to help us get out of the Holy Spirit’s way and so we can begin to partner with the Great Counselor. This is where a human counselor, mentor, coach, or disciple can have dramatic impact. Obviously, an earthly counselor needs to understand and help you apply the Holy Spirits’ instruction and principles.

Today, confess your sins, then talk to God about a struggle in your life. Open His word and then listen for His counsel. If you have trouble following the counsel, or continue to sabotage His efforts, consider getting someone to help show you how to listen and follow His counsel. Whether you listen to the Counselor and apply His teaching or you act as your own counselor is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I thank You for sending me the ultimate Counselor, Your Holy Spirit. Help me recognize my daily need for guiding advice and for the Spirit of truth. Help me listen and heed Your advice. Help me gain wisdom and courage to follow Your guidance, and humility to set aside my agenda. Thy kingdom, not my kingdom, come. Give me humility to seek out and listen to Godly advisors so I can overcome my areas of struggle. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who asked You to send the ultimate Counselor, the Holy Spirit;  – AMEN!

The Truth
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth” John 14:16–17

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:12-14

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”              Proverbs 1:29-33

I do the connecting, and then God does the perfecting!

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

Rowing or Sailing?

Transformation into Christlikeness and the Christian life in general seem like a lot of work to many people.

They may even think: 

There must be more to this life than trying;

God must be disappointed in me;

It feels like I live a double life (a public Christian life and a secret life of pain, disappointment, or failure);

No matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to measure up to the standards I know are right and good.

In fact, most of us have experienced the weight of knowing all the things we should be doing and not doing, and the exhaustion of being behind where we think we ought to be. Giving more and trying harder seem to be the only alternatives. As a result, a lot of people give up hope of becoming more of what God wants them to be, because they have no idea how to add any more to what they are already doing.

With that approach, the spiritual life is like rowing a boat (by yourself!). You do your best to persist, even when it is hard. You go to conferences, study, and get involved in serving. You try to do the right things, but never get as far as you think you should.

At times you may even feel as if you were issued only one oar and so you keep going in circles. Some find themselves rowing against the current and going more backward than forward. When they ask for help they seem to hear: “Row harder” or “Do more” or “You are not dedicated enough.”

There is another way in which the wind does most of the work. Sailing. In sailing we learn how to align the sail with the wind and let the wind take us places we could never get to (or imagine) on our own. As we learn how to interact with the sail, we see forward movement because the wind (the Spirit) is doing the hard work.

The sailing approach is spiritual formation, which works from the inside out, relying on the Spirit. Instead of forcing myself to say the words, “I forgive you,” I learn how to engage with God so my heart truly forgives. I can then express the forgiveness from my heart. Instead of only acting as if I love my enemy, I interact with God so that God can change my heart so I actually love them. I demonstrate the life of God because of who I am, not in an effort to override who I am. This changes where I focus my efforts. My task is to learn how to let God work on my heart, rather than trying to do what I think is the right thing to do.

We no longer depend on willpower to override contrary feelings and inclinations, with repeated cycles of repentance and re-dedication: Stability/Failure/Repentance/ Stability. Instead we participate with God to move our inner life forward in ways we cannot manage by our own willpower and effort. The results? Deeper intimacy and trust in God. Scripture comes alive. Internal healing and growth become our normal everyday experience. Life is increasingly seen the way God sees it (through the eyes of heaven).

Formation is then relational.

It is, as many of you have heard me say: You do the connecting, and then God does the perfecting.

The connecting occurs as we glimpse that vision of life in the kingdom of God where I live in companionship with God and rely on God every minute. I use spiritual disciplines (as God invites me) to connect with God. The change in my character then flows out of living a life with God that is rich and full, challenging and adventurous.

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Much of the above is adapted from David Takle’s excellent DVD course, Forming, (www.KingdomFormation.org) with his kind permission.

Engaging Our Gay Friends, Relatives and Colleagues

Source:  John Freeman/Harvest USA

It seems that homosexuality has embraced our culture and the culture has embraced homosexuality. It is a part of the fallen nature of things, that man has always been an expert at creating ingenuous ways to celebrate his brokenness. So, men and women in the gay life have no corner on this:. Apart from faith in Christ and submission to the authority of Scripture, we are all experts at rationalizing and justifying what we want to do. The more we live, in any way, outside of God’s design, the more we convince ourselves that what we are doing is OK. This happens on both an individual level and a corporate, cultural level. Homosexuality is not the only thing that was once considered unacceptable or immoral, but later is embraced by the culture (consider abortion and sex outside of marriage).

Scripture says we’re all a mess and that we all need forgiveness and cleansing. Biblically speaking, we’re all in the same boat. We all need the same medicine of the gospel to free us from whatever attachments or idols we cling to— from whatever we have decided “gives us life” apart from Christ. This realization about ourselves should bring to us a growing compassion for others. Believers in Christ should be the first ones to acknowledge that we still pursue our own personal idols, and it is only by the persistent work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we become aware of our own sin and the need to repent of it.

Homosexuality is one of those topics that draws intense and passionate reactions. Complex issues of the heart usually do. Christians are in a sort of no-man’s-land here today.   Suggesting to those who have embraced the current cultural position that homosexuality is sinful and not part of God’s design for sexuality appears as uneducated, homophobic and ridiculous. On the other hand, though, suggesting to fellow evangelical believers that God loves and forgives sinners who struggle with homosexuality and that we should do the same may appear compromising and wishy-washy.

While we can oppose the advancement of a social movement that would encourage everyone to embrace this cultural shift by vocalizing our concerns and participating in the political process, for Christians a far deeper response to homosexuality and the gay community is needed. When believers proclaim the gospel of Christ both to gays and to the culture at large in a loving, redemptive manner, punctuated with “grace and truth,” this sets us apart and truly reflects the person of Christ. In such a heated and increasingly emotionalized debate, Christians have a responsibility to represent Christ to a fallen world in four ways.

Patiently Listen 

“Let every person be quick to hear” (James 1:9).  This doesn’t mean looking for loopholes in a debate or seeking a chance to criticize and find fault as you talk about this issue. We must listen in order to understand the “heart thrust” of what a person is saying. This is hard work, a relational skill to be learned. It’s not natural. It takes practice. Listen to what moves other people. Listen for their passions, what they value, what their experience has been (especially with other Christians) and what they fear.

The more you understand a person’s point of view, the more you can profit from it. Why do they think the way they do? What events have led up to their adopting their worldview? What’s been their experience of Christianity—of other Christians or the church in general? What wounds from their family of origin and from other people lie festering in the background? As adults, we’re a composite of all these things—upbringing, personal wounds, cultural norms and our own heart-generated responses to these powerful, shaping influences. Get to know the persons you are talking to so that you truly know who they are. Otherwise, we tend to conveniently lump them into a group, label them on the basis of what we read in the news, and think this is “knowing” them.

Personally Repent

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? . . . No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5). Only a redeemed sinner, knowing he stands condemned apart from Christ’s death on the cross, can reach a sinner who doesn’t know he needs redeeming. What’s your motivation when you engage someone with the gospel? Is it to reach lost people with the enduring love that has found you out— a love that has exposed you as a cut-throat and depraved sinner and yet has embraced you with fatherly love? Is it your own awareness that, at heart, you’re a sham, a misfit, a counterfeit, a phony and that there is nothing good inside you to warrant God’s love, yet He still died in your place to make you whole? Do you really care about homosexuals, as men and women who need the love of Christ, or do you only want them to shut up and disappear? Remember that Jesus said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). If you have no love for gays, then you have not understood the forgiving love of Jesus in your own life.

Patiently listening and personally repenting also means loving those who are different, who believe differently. Gays have long been “demonized” by Christians, held up as the examples of the worst kind of people. This is grossly unfair and unloving, not to mention grossly unbiblical. No single group of people corners the market on sinful behavior outside of God’s design. There is simply no place for believers to verbally demean or physically abuse gays. If your neighbor or colleague proclaimed to you that he didn’t believe in God, would you go around mocking him?

Gently Instruct

“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone . . . correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:22-25). How do you talk to people who don’t believe what you do? An argumentative, win-at-all-costs approach does not conform to what Paul wrote to Timothy. You need to ask the Holy Spirit to instruct your own heart as you instruct others. Engaging someone “with gentleness” does not mean being weak or vacillating in your argument; it means treating everyone with respect and dignity even when they persistently disagree. An unloving and impatient heart is a hindrance to the gospel message. The Lord’s command to us through the words of Paul teaches us here: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

“Gently instruct” also means that your words must be grounded in the truth of Scripture, not your own opinion. The real issue regarding what Scripture says about homosexuality is not about whether the key passages are culturally relevant anymore, but whether Scripture in its entirety still has authority over all of life. It should always be the truths of Scripture, and not our demeanor or presentation of it, that people reject.

Do you really care about homosexuals — or do you only want them to shut up and disappear?

Talking to those who are blind to the reality of their hearts but who live in a world that applauds their sin is both a privilege and a challenge. They are victims of their own sin and the lies and sin of others. Therefore, they’re caught. But they’re also accountable before a holy God for their continued choice to live life on their own terms and not submit their lives to the Lordship of Christ. We must represent both aspects of the truth as we share Christ.

  Mercifully Pursue and then Engage the Heart

“Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). God calls us to be neither reclusive nor rude, but to move boldly into confusing, high-stakes situations with the gospel of God’s mercy.

We bring the gospel where it is most needed: to the vocally anti-Christian pro-gay activistto the mild-mannered clergy who says the love of Jesus means affirming homosexuality as God’s gift; to the confused and scared teenager who fears he’s gay and there’s no other option. Showing mercy means practically caring for people. It means being patiently and persistently available to help those who live in a fallen world. It means lovingly holding our ground against those who say that our beliefs are hateful.  We must not wilt from the irrational heat of those who say that we are hateful bigots merely on the basis that we do not agree with their beliefs.

As we do this, we’re able to move into other people’s worlds. Engaging people by asking good questions, respectfully, is an important part of this.   I once approached a man who was marching in a gay rally. Subsequently, I had a two-hour conversation that ended with this man shaking my hand and thanking me for stopping him— in spite of the fact that I shared the gospel with him! I had listened to him, heard his concerns and engaged his heart with matters important to him. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

My approach appealed to his heart. Listening, asking questions, and engaging people with respect, even if we have fundamental differences, gets people into their story more quickly than anything else. When we take time to get people into their stories, they become more open to us and to the gospel.

Jesus, of course, was the master of all that I’ve just described. We should be, too. His methods are the most under-utilized and missed aspects of evangelism. They also make the deepest and most heart-felt impact, often leaving people wanting more!

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This article originally appeared in the May 2010 edition of Tabletalk magazine, but has been edited and expanded for this publication. We invite you to comment on this article on the Harvest USA blog, Sex, Lies and God’s Design at http://www.truthandmercy.wordpress.com

I Can’t Pray — But I Can Look At The Promises

SOURCE:  Richard Sibbes/Tolle Lege

“Look at the promises”

“A Christian complains he cannot pray. ‘Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!’

But has He put into your heart a desire to pray? Then He will hear the desires of His own Spirit in you.

‘We know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with ‘groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. ’My groaning is not hid from thee’ (Psa. 38:9).

God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in His ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries ‘O Father,’ not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea.

These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt Him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

‘Oh, but is it possible,’ thinks the misgiving heart, ‘that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?’ Yes, He will accept that which is His own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him.

Let not, therefore infirmities discourage us. James takes away this objection (James 5:17). Some might object, ‘If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.’ ‘But,’ says he, ‘Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are.’ He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him because he was without fault? Surely not.

But look at the promises: ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee’ (Psa. 50:15). ‘Ask, and it shall be given you’ (Matt. 7:7) and other like these.

God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are His own children, and they come from His own Spirit, because they are according to His own will, and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and He takes them, and mingles them with His own incense (Rev. 8:3).

There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour.

Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is His own.”

–Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1630/1998), 50-51.

Suffering Together

SOURCE:  Jerusha Ann Clark

Allowing pain to nourish your marriage

I’m not sure how long Jeramy and I sat in the hospital parking lot. It might have been fifteen minutes; it could have been forever. The bitter cold of Colorado winter wrapped its arms around our silver Jetta, scattering ice crystals on the windows. Maybe on a different night they would have been beautiful to me.

For me, any response to the world would have been a welcome relief. I hadn’t been able to carry on a normal conversation in weeks. Often Jeramy would catch me staring off into space, but when I “came to,” I could explain neither where I’d been nor what I’d been thinking. As far as I can remember, I only thought, breathed, and lived pain during those hellish days.

St. Stephen’s loomed in the not-so-distant foreground. It was one of those seventies-style concrete hospitals that looks more like a communist tenement than a place of healing. It was a psychiatric hospital.

I had been placed on a 5150, a psychiatric hold for people who are a danger to themselves and others. The social worker who did my intake evaluation told Jeramy that, based on her 20-plus years of experience, I was suffering from the most severe level of postpartum depression possible. At least they let Jeramy drive me from the ER to St. Stephen’s. Still, he had to leave me there—alone. Not until years later did he tell me that he wept for the entire 40-minute drive home.

Neither of us knew what to do. Neither of us felt the comfort the Bible promises for those in pain. Neither of us could pray with any conviction of hope. We knew God was there, but he seemed distantly cold. The pain was wreaking havoc on our marriage.

We were Christian authors, a pastor and pastor’s wife, a couple who wanted to honor God with life and marriage. We were in agony. Up to this point, we didn’t understand what it meant to suffer together, and—to tell you the truth—we didn’t want to learn how to let God walk us through the valley of the shadow of death…together. We would have traded what authors have deemed the “gift of suffering.” And yet we would have missed the very things that have shaped our marriage and ministry in the most powerful ways.

An Era of Pain

It seems as if every marriage is hurting during these difficult times. Several of our closest friends are facing financial ruin. Husbands and wives are looking at one another across the dinner table, wondering how their relationship dissolved into an endless string of loveless, lifeless days. Two couples we’re close to are going through divorce and custody battles. Infertility is robbing those we love of the joy they desperately want to experience. The children of our friends are straining their parents’ marriages with choices to live alternative lifestyles, to cohabitate—seemingly without guilt—to stridently abandon the faith of their youth. The death of loved ones, the news that it’s cancer, teen pregnancy, horrific violence in elementary schools—it’s hitting everyone we know. We live with the constant awareness of deep suffering.

Christians may understand this on an intellectual level: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:2-3). We want to do this. But did anyone ever teach you how to suffer as a couple? Our premarital counseling didn’t address it, and we had the “best of the best” mentoring us. What we’ve come to realize is that the joy of suffering together can be won only by actually suffering together.

Since we fought the battle against postpartum depression, Jeramy and I have faced other pains: a best friend’s betrayal, suffocating challenges at work, confusion about the future of our work and ministry, my diagnosis with fibromyalgia, the murder of a family member. Life overflows with pain, doesn’t it? But what we’ve learned about suffering together has changed the way we face pain.

We choose—though we don’t always do it well—to let suffering together untie us and bless others.

The Hidden Invitations in Suffering

Although most of us have figured out there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all formula for how to suffer with our spouses, we also know that our Father gave something far better—his Holy Spirit, the Comforter, God’s indwelling presence to guide and guard. The Spirit who walks alongside us picks us up when we stumble and screw things up and ache from the consequences of our sin or the awful, uncontrollable circumstances we never could have planned for.

The Spirit who guides us directs tenderly and compassionately. Suffering is an invitation to know the Spirit on a level more preciously intimate and real. Do you desire this? Will you walk with your spouse through pain to experience it?

Suffering together produces fellowship with Jesus, God the Son, who agonized here and understands well our pain. I love The message translation of Hebrews 4:15-16: “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” His mercy is there for you and your spouse. Do you ache for it? Will you reach out for it together? Jeramy and I have had to choose this. It hasn’t happened naturally. Every one of the pains we’ve faced together has extended us two invitations: draw close to one another through Jesus or allow the wedge of anguish to drive us apart.

Suffering together is likewise an invitation to know the character of God the Father, not as a list of Sunday-school attributes, but as the very life and breath of our marriage. Grace, peace, hope, goodness, faithfulness—these are not resources God metes out. They are the incarnation of his person within us. Love isn’t merely a characteristic of God; it is the very essence of his power and presence, pouring himself into you and through you to your spouse.

I realize that very few of us would opt to know God through the agony of suffering. But as A.W. Pink wrote, the truth is “the promises of God never shine as brightly as in the furnace of affliction.” You and your spouse, suffering together, can know the truth of who God is in a way that would not have been possible on a road unmarked with pain.

But how do we do that?

Okay, so we don’t have a formula. We’re invited to know God on a deeper level. But how do we walk—day by day—through the pain?

Jeramy and I, not only in our battle with postpartum depression, but also in the anguish of various broken dreams, unmet expectations, and delayed hopes, have discovered some practical helps for suffering together. Perhaps these three will encourage you.

1. Offer one another the gift of presence. Suffering often drives couples apart, and it’s far easier to stay a few extra hours at work than come home to a house in chaos, a house filled with pain. It’s easier to check out emotionally than to talk to one another about what you’re facing. But, just as Emmanuel— the God with us—models, we are called to be present to and for one another.

The Greek verb tense used in Galatians 6:2, “Share each other’s burdens,” might be better translated “Keep onsharing one another’s burdens.” You can share in carrying the burden only if you are present with one another.

It takes so little…holding her hand, speaking a word of respect to him, offering to serve in a way that enlivens and unites the two of you. I remember the night Jeramy came home from Wal-Mart with two movies I loved as a kid: The Three Amigos and Ghostbusters. All we did was sit on the couch together and watch. I could barely laugh. I’m not even sure—to this day—what Jeramy was thinking. But he was next to me; he spoke love to me without words. He was present with me.

After I was physically and mentally stable, Jeramy needed to work through anger, resentment, and confusion about what we’d gone through. I listened, trying as far as I was able to be present with him.

2. Choose to press in. All of us would like to end our suffering right away. Who wants to prolong pain? Often, we think that rushing through the valley of the shadow would be best for everyone involved. Instead of trying to escape or just “get through this,” what if you pressed into what the pain says about you, your spouse, your marriage, and your God?

Jeramy and I went through months of therapy—together and individually. During one of the sessions, my counselor asked that I read Matthew 5:4 aloud. “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” I parroted the words, not feeling blessed in the slightest. She asked me what the verse meant. Seriously? I thought. I just got out of a psychiatric hospital. You want me to exegete Scripture? I looked at the words again, and it hit me with ferocity. Tears of illumination burned in my eyes. “I have to go through the mourning to get the comfort, don’t I?” Yes. Yes. We cannot escape the pain, but we can allow it to lead us further up and further in.

It didn’t happen all at once, but slowly, as Jeramy and I pressed into the pain rather than avoiding it, we found that we were not alone there. Jesus was with us and we experienced it, not just “knew it.” And as we grew in intimacy with Christ, we grew in intimacy with one another.

3. Remember the days of your suffering. Over the years, Lamentations 3 has become a beloved passage of Scripture for Jeramy and me. This portion of God’s Word is most famous for its declaration that “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning” (Verse 23).

Perhaps it’s been a while since you read what comes before and after this beautiful assurance. In verse 1, the prophet Jeremiah wails, “I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD’s anger.” You do not need to bury the memory of your suffering. Indeed, you cannot. The memory of his anguish was what allowed Jeremiah to shout, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness” (21-23).

This can be your experience, too. As you and your spouse allow the memory of your pain to nourish your marriage and spill out of your relationship into the lives of those around you, you will be able to help others see “No one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow” (Lamentations 3:31-33).

Perhaps it’s difficult for you to imagine exactly how remembering your suffering as a couple can help anyone else. Here are a couple of ways that has worked in our marriage. Together, we actively remember significant dates. We choose to recall the day I was admitted to the hospital. We remember the moments in therapy—individual and couples—when God broke through our suffering in order to heal. We don’t try to erase those memories. We embrace them as ways to recall God’s faithfulness.

Letting God use your memory and your openness isn’t always easy. But it is true and good and beautiful. And, as is so often the case, allowing God to use us becomes every bit as significant a blessing and source of healing for us as it is for those we desire to bless. Picture this for a moment: how different might the world be if all of our marriages proclaimed the truth that pain can heal, can unite, can be transformed into praise, can bless the body of Christ, wounded in so many ways?

Our hope as a couple, and my prayer through these words you’ve read, is that God will comfort your marriage with the comfort he has given ours.

Indeed, in everything we can choose to say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May it be so, Lord, for Jeramy and me and for my brothers and sisters.

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Jerusha Ann Clark is a writer who lives in Escondido, California. She is the author of several books including The Life You Crave: The Promise of Discernment.

The Reality of the Holy Spirit

SOURCE:  Charles Spurgeon

You tell the worldling, “I have the Holy Ghost within me.” He says, “I cannot see it.” He wants it to be something tangible–a thing he can recognize with his senses.

Have you ever heard the argument used by a good old Christian against an infidel doctor?

The doctor said there was no soul, and asked, “Did you ever see a soul?” “No,” said the Christian. “Did you ever hear a soul?” “No.” “Did you ever smell a soul?” “No.” “Did you ever taste a soul?” “No.” “Did you ever feel a soul?” “Yes,” said the man–”I feel I have one within me.” “Well,” said the doctor, “there are four senses against one; you only have one on your side.”

“Very well,” said the Christian, “Did you ever see a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever hear a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever smell a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever taste a pain?” “No.” “Did you ever feel a pain?” “Yes.” “And that is quite enough, I suppose, to prove there is a pain?” “Yes.”

So the worldling says there is no Holy Ghost, because he cannot see it. Well, but we feel it. You say that is fanaticism, and that we never felt it. Suppose you tell me that honey is bitter, I reply, “No, I am sure you cannot have tasted it; taste it and try.” So with the Holy Ghost; if you did but feel his influence, you would no longer say there is no Holy Spirit, because you cannot see it.

Are there not many things, even in nature, which we cannot see? Did you ever see the wind? No; but ye know there is wind, when you behold the hurricane tossing the waves about, and rending down the habitations of men; or when, in the soft evening zephyr, it kisses the flowers, and maketh dew-drops hang in pearly coronets around the rose.

Did ye ever see electricity? No; but ye know there is such a thing, for it travels along the wires for thousands of miles, and carries our messages; though you cannot see the thing itself, you know there is such a thing.

So you must believe there is a Holy Ghost working in us, both to will and to do, even though it is beyond our senses.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Spurgeon’s Sermons Vol. 1 (Southwark, England; New Park Street Chapel, 1855) No. 4; A Sermon titled: The Personality of the Holy Ghost. Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 21, 1855

A Prayer for Days When You Don’t Feel Like Praying

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Dear Father, this is one of those days when I could create a long prayer list and methodically go through it, but I’m not sure I would really be praying. I could go through the motions, but to be quite honest, it would be more ritual than reality—more about me, than the people and situations I’d bring before you. I’m feeling distracted this morning, scattered and not very focused at all.

It’s one of those days I’m glad the gospel is much more about your grasp of me than my grip on you. It’s one of those days I’m grateful your delight in me is not contingent upon my delight in you.  It’s one of those days I’m very thankful for the prayer ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Gracious Father, I have no problem or reluctance in acknowledging my weakness this morning. In fact it’s freeing to know your Spirit doesn’t abandon us when we’re weak, but helps us in our weakness. Just as Jesus constantly prays for us, the Holy Spirit faithfully prays in us through “wordless groans.” Though I don’t understand everything that means, I do get the part about you searching our hearts and knowing the mind of the Spirit, and that brings me incredible comfort today.

No one knows our hearts better than you, Father. And you search our hearts to save us, not shame us; to deliver us, not demean us; to free us, not frown upon us; to change us, not chide us. You know my past and future, my fears and my longings, my struggles with sin and my standing in grace. What a glorious and gracious God you are!

And at this very moment your Spirit is praying inside of me—perfectly tuned into my needs and in total harmony with your will. I cannot measure the peace that brings. I surrender right now, Father. I gladly groan to your glory. I collapse on Jesus in this very moment. I will not waste any energy today in the paralysis of analysis, vain regrets, pretending or posing. I know you are at work for my good in all things, including in my unrest and uncertainty.

Father, all I have to do is look at Jesus and know these things are true, for he is the author and perfecter of my faith. It’s because of what Jesus has done, not what I do, that you love me. You have called me to life in him and you will complete your purpose in me. I do love you, I would love you so much more. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

My Salvation: Didn’t I Choose Christ? Yes and No!

Christ Is The Point

SOURCE: adapted from an article by  Mark Galli

Many people recognize their need for God—that their lives are a mess and that this world is headed for destruction.  They know they need to be saved.  But they imagine that salvation is within their grasp.

They may reject the idea that they can earn God’s favor with works, but they are fully convinced that the solution lies within them. After all, they reason, it’s just a matter of choosing—in this case, choosing God by faith using their autonomous free will….

                      Evil and injustice may abound on the earth, and we may

                     participate in it from time to time, but the one thing that is not fallen,

                    corrupt, or evil is the will. It is perfectly free and able to choose God.

This is a naive view of human freedom.

It results from a view of sin that is not as radical or as truthful as the view we find in Scripture.

In the Bible, the will itself is so corrupt and enslaved that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to see what Christ has done for us and to free us to respond in faith to him.  As Jesus put it, no one comes to him unless the Father (through the Holy Spirit) grants it (John 6:65). Otherwise the human condition is considered hopeless, which is why the Bible uses such words as blind, dark, deaf, and dead to describe our situation outside Christ.

The good news is that our salvation is not dependent on our success at making right choices, even the right choice of faith.In fact, the Bible regularly reminds us that we cannot consistently make good choices with our corrupt wills.

As Paul puts it, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19, NIV). Instead of relying on an autonomous free will to remind us to make right choices, we are called to simply trust what Christ has done for us on the cross and through his resurrection.

But isn’t that a choice, to trust in Christ? Yes and no.

It is not even a possibility without God’s intervention. We can’t even recognize who Christ is, what he has done for us, and sense his invitation to respond in faith without the work of the Holy Spirit. The very fact that we can apprehend all this is a gift right from the start.

Furthermore, to trust in Christ means that it is not my trust that reconciles God to me or me to God. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that reconciles God to me, and the faith empowered by the Holy Spirit that reconciles me to God.

This is why the gospel is such good news.

There are times when even the most dedicated Christian will recognize that his or her life is still in shambles, still driven by selfishness, still filled with doubt and confusion about God. At such times, panic can set in:

Am I really a Christian? Is God working in my life to bring me into deeper fellowship with him? Has God given me the gift of grace? Will I enjoy the fellowship of heaven? Do I believe enough to be saved? 

The very fact that these sorts of questions bother us at such times shows that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, working in our lives. One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to convict the world of sin and guilt (see John 16:8). So the paradox is that when we’re troubled like this, it’s the very sign of God working in our lives to bring us into deeper fellowship with him.

And of course, we do not believe enough to be saved. Of course, selfishness rules our hearts in too many ways. Of course, we have doubts and confusion about God. It’s called sin. But the gospel calls us to stop looking at ourselves—at our doubts, our sins, and our choices. The gospel says look to Christ. Don’t trust in your ability to choose right or even to trust perfectly. Look to Christ, who died for sinners. Faith is recognizing the reality of our situation and the deeper reality of our Savior. Faith is the drowning man grasping the outstretched arm of his rescuer. Faith includes a response, but our response is not the main thing.

Christ is.

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Mark Galli (read more about Mark here). This blog is adapted from Mark’s new book God Wins: Heaven, Hell, and Why the Good News Is Better than Love Wins (Tyndale).

True Repentance – 5 Ways To Know It

SOURCE:  Based on quotes of J. C. Ryle/Erik Kowalker

Repentance is a thorough change of person’s natural heart, upon the subject of sin. We are all born in sin. We naturally love sin. We take to sin, as soon as we can act and think—just as the bird takes to flying, and the fish takes to swimming.

There never was a child that required schooling or education in order to learn deceitfulness, selfishness, passion, self-will, gluttony, pride and foolishness. These things are not picked up from bad companions, or gradually learned by a long course of tedious instruction. They spring up of themselves, even when boys and girls are brought up alone. The seeds of them are evidently the natural product of the heart. The aptitude of all children to these evil things is an unanswerable proof of the corruption and fall of man.

Now when this heart of ours is changed by the Holy Spirit, when this natural love of sin is cast out, then takes place that change which the Word of God calls “repentance.” The person in whom the change is created is said to “repent.” They may be called, in one word, a repentant person.

But I dare not leave the subject here. It deserves a closer and more searching investigation. It is not safe to deal in general statements, when doctrines of this kind are handled. I will try to take repentance to pieces, and dissect and analyze it before your eyes. I will show you the parts and portions of which repentance is made up. I will endeavor to set before you something of the experience of every truly repentant person.

True Repentance Begins with a Knowledge of Sin

True repentance begins with a knowledge of sin. The eyes of the repentant person are opened. They see with dismay and confusion the length and breadth of God’s holy law, and the extent, the enormous extent, of their own transgressions. They discover, to their surprise, that in thinking themselves a “good sort of person,” and a person with a “good heart,” they have been under a huge delusion. They find out that, in reality, they are wicked, and guilty, and corrupt, and evil in God’s sight. Their pride breaks down. Their high thoughts melt away. They see that they are a great sinner. This is the first step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces Sorrow for Sin

True repentance goes on to work sorrow for sin. The heart of a repentant person is touched with deep remorse because of their past transgressions. They are cut to the heart to think that they have lived so madly and so wickedly. They mourn over time wasted, over talents misspent, over God dishonored, over their own soul being injured. The remembrance of these things is grievous to them. The burden of these things is sometimes almost intolerable. When a person sorrows like this, you have the second step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces Confession of Sin

True repentance proceeds to produce confession of sin. The tongue of a repentant person is loosed. They feel they must speak to that God against whom they have sinned. Something within them tells them they must cry to God, and pray to God, and talk with God, about the state of their own soul.They must pour out their heart, and acknowledge their iniquities, at the throne of grace. They are a heavy burden within them, and they can no longer keep silent. They can keep nothing back. They will not hide anything. They go before God, pleading nothing for themselves, and are willing to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before You—my iniquity is great. God be merciful to me, a sinner!” When a person goes thus to God in confession, you have the third step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces a Breaking Off From Sin

True repentance shows itself in a thorough breaking off from sin. The life of a repentant person is altered. The course of their daily conduct is entirely changed. A new King reigns within their heart. They put off the old man. What God commands they now desire to practice; and what God forbids they now desire to avoid. They strive in all ways to keep clear of sin, to fight with sin, to war with sin, to get the victory over sin. They cease to do evil. They learn to do well. They break off sharply from bad ways and bad companions. They labor, however feebly, to live a new life. When a person does this, you have the fourth step in true repentance.

True Repentance Produces a Deep Hatred of Sin

True repentance shows itself by producing in the heart a settled habit of deep hatred of all sin. The mind of a repentant person becomes a mind habitually holy. They abhor that which is evil, and cleaves to that which is good. They delight in the law of God. They come short of their own desires not unfrequently. They find in themselves an evil principle warring against the spirit of God. They find themselves cold when they would be hot; backward when they would be forward; heavy when they would be lively in God’s service. They are deeply conscious of their own infirmities. They groan under a sense of indwelling corruption. But still, for all that, the general bias of their heart is towards God, and away from evil. They can say with David, “I count all Your precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way” (Psalm. 119:128). When a person can say this, you have the fifth, or crowning step, of true repentance.

Summarizing the 5 Marks of Repentance

True repentance is never alone in the heart of any person. It always has a companion—a blessed companion. It is always accompanied by lively faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Wherever faith is, there is repentance; wherever repentance is, there is always faith. I do not decide which comes first—whether repentance comes before faith, or faith before repentance. But I am bold to say that the two graces are never found separate, one from the other. Just as you cannot have the sun without light, or ice without cold, or fire without heat, or water without moisture—you will never find true faith without true repentance, and you will never find true repentance without lively faith. The two things will always go side by side.

Editor’s Note:  John Charles Ryle [1816-1900] was a prolific writer, vigorous preacher and faithful pastor in England.

Reference: Old Paths, “Repentance”, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999]

Do I Thirst for more Thirst for God? I Must!

SOURCE:  Based on an article by Tim Challies

Every soul thirsts. This thirst may not be obvious in every moment, but at some point and to some degree every soul thirsts after something, something it does not have. We are rarely content in our current condition, rarely content just the way we are. But while we all thirst, we do not all thirst in the same way. Donald Whitney’s book Ten Questions To Diagnose Your Spiritual Healthhas much to say about this. Whitney identifies 3 ways in which our souls thirst.

The Thirst of the Empty Soul

The soul of the unbeliever is empty toward the things of God. Until the Spirit fills the soul with his presence, it is devoid of any love for God. Without God, the unbeliever is constantly looking for something, anything. But he is unable to fill the emptiness. This is something many people do not understand, but something the Bible teaches clearly: While the believer’s soul is empty because he does not know God, he does not and cannot seek to fill it with God. Many people believe that unbelievers are truly seeking after God but unable to find him. The Bible tells us, though, that the empty soul is unable to understand or satisfy this thirst. Not only that, but the empty soul does not want to understand this thirst, and would not, even if it were possible. The empty soul is completely and fully opposed to God; it is deceitful and desperately wicked. As Paul writes in Romans 3:11, quoting David, “no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Psalm 14:2).

Thus the empty soul is left seeking to be satisfied by other things, fleeting things, good things and bad things. It seeks satisfaction in work, family, love, sex, money and everything else the world has to offer. It may seek satisfaction in religion and even the Christian faith, but it never truly seeks God and thus never truly finds him. Until the Holy Spirit enables that soul to understand the source of his thirst and enables him to see the One who can satisfy, he will continue to look in vain. “Just because a man longs for something that can be found in God alone doesn’t mean he’s looking for God,” says Whitney, “Many who claim they are questing for God are not thirsting for God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, but only for God as they want him to be, or a God who will give them what they want.”

The Thirst of the Dry Soul

There is a second type of spiritual thirst, and it is the thirst of the dry soul. This is a thirst that is felt only by those who believe. It does not indicate that he has fallen away from the Lord, but that he is in a dry place spiritually and that his soul is in need of refreshment. There are three ways a Christian can become spiritually arid:

The first is by drinking too deeply from the fountains of the world and too little from the river of God. When a believer drinks too much of what the world has to offer and too little of what God offers, his soul becomes parched. Giving himself over to his sin means he has turned his back on God, even if only for a while. He has allowed his soul to run dry.

The second way a believer can become arid is what the Puritans referred to as “God’s desertions.” There are times in life when God’s presence is very real to and other times where the Christian feels only his absence. The Christian knows that God’s absence is merely a matter of perception and that there is never a time where he actually withdraws. However, there are seasons in which he removes from his children a conscious knowledge of his presence.

The third way a believer becomes arid is fatigue, either mental or physical. Becoming burned-out by the cares and concerns of the world will cause a believer to focus too much on himself, thus turning his thoughts away from God.

The dry soul yearns for God and nothing else will satisfy. This soul has tasted God, it has seen God, and it wants nothing more than to return to being close to him. And when the soul is dry, God is faithful and good to provide the nourishment the soul desires. He fills, he restores and he satisfies.

The Thirst of the Satisfied Soul

The final type of spiritual thirst is the thirst of the satisfied soul. The satisfied soul desires God precisely because he is satisfied in him. There are many biblical examples of this, but perhaps one of the clearest is the apostle Paul who, in Philippians 3, went to great lengths to describe the depth of his relationship with Christ, but then added the words “that I may know him.” His satisfaction in Christ and the deep love and affection he felt for God only stimulated his desire to know him more. Paul wanted nothing more than to know and love God. His satisfaction made him thirsty for more. Thomas Shepard wrote “There is in true grace an infinite circle; a man by thirsting receives, and receiving thirsts for more.” This is not a cycle of frustration, where the Christian continually laments that he does not know more, but a cycle of satisfaction and earnest desire.

So…Thirst!

Let me close with a prayer of A.W. Tozer. “O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirsty still.” Amen! It is my desire, and the desire of all who believe and thirst after God, that we may be filled with longing to long after God, and to thirst that we may be thirsty still. God grant that we may be men and women who, being satisfied, thirst for him!

Healing Prayer: A Definition

SOURCE:  Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle

Healing prayer can be defined as a ministry of the Holy Spirit, moving through a Christian caregiver, bringing the Healing Presence of Jesus Christ in to the place of pain and brokenness within a wounded person.

A ministry of the Holy Spirit: Healing prayer is thoroughly dependent upon the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit. He initiates, directs and empowers the entire process.  Thus the recipient of healing and the caregiver must not only understand the work of the Holy Spirit, but be surrendered to His infilling and empowerment each step along the way.

Moving through the Christian caregiver: Healing prayer is not a technique controlled by the caregiver.  It is a transformational ministry of the Holy Spirit, with the caregiver serving as an instrument of His activity.  The spiritual vitality and emotional maturity of the caregiver are important and integrated aspects of this healing process, and must be submitted to the Holy Spirit.

Bringing the Healing Presence of Jesus Christ: People need more than solutions to their problems.  They need to experience the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ in every aspect of their lives.  His Transforming Presence strengthens and satisfies as nothing else, the one true Source of healing for broken people everywhere.  Through healing prayer, the Holy Spirit uses a caregiver to position hurting people for what Jesus alone can give.

Into the place of pain and brokenness: Life experiences often leave deep wounds that compromise personal well-being.  Left undressed, these hurts give birth to false beliefs, emotional upheaval, and behaviors that are ultimately destructive.  During the process of healing prayer, both the source and symptoms of core woundings are brought into the light of Jesus Christ, where He alone can set people free.

Warfare Praying: Various Prayer Perspectives

SOURCE:  Adapted from The Adversary & Overcoming the Adversary by Mark Bubeck

The following are various applications and perspectives of warfare praying.  Allow the Holy Spirit, who helps us know how and for what to pray (Rom. 8:26), to incorporate ways to truthfully express yourself in prayer.  Read the books from which these were taken to become more familiar with additional facets of how we can “pray in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18).

Taking An Invincible Stance

Gracious Heavenly Father, I choose to see myself as You see me in the Person of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  I choose to see myself as one invincibly strong and able to do all that is in Your will for me to do.  I reject Satan’s accusations that I am hopelessly weak and defeated.  I accept my present great need as a call to renewed vision of the victory of my Lord.  Help me to focus my attention upon the awesome majesty, power, and sovereign greatness of my heavenly Father, who can do anything but fail.  Help me to see that in my union with Christ I am more than a conqueror.  Let the burden of my trials become an expression of the burden of the Lord.  Let that burden be expressed in tears of concern, times of fasting and prayer.  I choose not to shrink back from the burden You wish me to carry.

I recognize, Lord, that it is chiefly my own sin and failure that has brought me to this severe trial.  I am deeply sorry for my sins.  (MENTION THEM BY NAME.) Cleanse me in my Savior’s blood.  I take back from Satan all ground I have given him by my sins and transgressions. On the authority of the cross I reclaim all of that ground for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Precious Lord Jesus Christ, You have promised never to leave me nor forsake me.  I know that is true, and I boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.”  I resist the devil and his kingdom, steadfast in the faith.  I command Satan and his demons to leave me and to go where the Lord Jesus Christ sends them.

Heavenly Father, I accept and choose to enjoy everything inscribed upon the scroll of Your will for me.  Thank You that I can do all things through Christ who is my strength.  I will do Your will by accepting my responsibility to be strong.  I will do through Your strength the things I know to be Your will.  (TELL HIM WHAT THEY ARE.)

Thank You, loving heavenly Father, that through my Lord Jesus Christ You have heard my prayer – and You will make me to walk as one so strong in the Lord that even Satan’s most powerful strategies are already defeated.  In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and for Your glory I pray.  Amen.

Prayer Of Victory

Loving Heavenly Father, I praise You that Satan is a defeated foe.  I rejoice that his defeat was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ in His sinless life, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into glory.  I look forward to that day when the Lord Jesus Christ rules, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit.  I know that Satan will ultimately be forever consigned to the lake of fire prepared for him and his angels.  I rejoice that You have given to me, in my union with the Lord Jesus Christ, complete victory over Satan today.

I enter into my victory aggressively and claim my place as more than a conqueror through Him that loved me.  I refuse to admit continuing defeat by Satan in any area of my life.  He cannot and will not rule over me.  I am dead with Christ to his rule.  I affirm that the grace and mercy of God rule in all areas of my life through my union with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grant to me the grace to affirm Your victory even when experiences of life seem to say otherwise.

I thank You for these battles and all that You are seeking to accomplish in Your wisdom and design for my life.   I accept the battle and rejoice in Your purpose.  I willingly accept and desire to profit from all of Your purpose in letting Satan’s kingdom get at me.  I reject all of Satan’s purpose.  Through the victory of my Lord and Savior, I stand resolute and strong upon the certainty of my victory.  In confidence I look to You, Lord Jesus Christ.  When Your purpose for this trial is fulfilled, I know that it shall fade into the dimness of forgotten battles and a defeated enemy.  Through the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it shall be so.  Amen.

Claiming Our Union

Loving Heavenly Father, I praise Your name.  I’ve come to see that it is Your will that I be invincibly strong in my spiritual warfare.  I praise You, Lord, that You have placed me “in Christ.”  By faith I express my desire to abide in the protection and blessing of the mighty name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray the omnipotent power of His name over my family and the ministry to which You have called me.  I pray the name of the Lord Jesus Christ against Satan and all that his kingdom would do to hinder God’s plan for my life.

I focus my prayer on my union with Christ in His incarnation.  I joyfully confess that Jesus Christ has come in human flesh to win my victory for me.  I pray all of the triumphs the Lord Jesus achieved in His humanity against all of Satan’s subtle wiles and crafty deceits.  I pray the victories of the incarnation over all areas of my life and ministry.

I praise You for the cross and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, desiring all the benefits of His death to focus upon my life, my family, and my ministry.  I affirm that my death with Christ can defeat the control and rule of sin, of death, and of Satan.  I desire the shed blood of Christ to be against all that Satan is doing to hinder me.

I hunger to learn more deeply what it means to experience the power of His resurrection.  Just as I desire to be dead to the reign of sin, so I long to live in accord with the fact that I am alive unto God through the power of the resurrection.  In the mighty power that raised up the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, enable me to walk in the newness of life available to me.

Heavenly Father, it will always remain a marvel to me that You have seated me with Christ in the heavenly realm, far above all principalities and powers.  Humbly I use the authority of my ascended union with Christ to pull down all of Satan’s plans formed against me personally, all of his plans formed against my family, and all of his plans formed against God’s appointed plan for my life.

Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, that in Your glorified position at the Father’s right hand, You are leading Your church and shepherding Your sheep.  I deliberately submit to Your lordship of my life and ministry.  I acknowledge that everything that is good about my life, home, and ministry is because of Your lordship and gracious blessing.

By faith I claim my invincible right to be strong and victorious in Your complete salvation.  I refuse to be discouraged.  I reject all emotions that make me feel defeated.  I choose to live as one who is more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ my Lord.  In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I pray with thanksgiving.  Amen.

A Prayer For The Spirit’s Filling

Loving Heavenly Father, I approach You again through the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I desire to obey Your will by being invincibly strong through Your Holy Spirit’s enabling power.  I praise You for Your goodness in providing the Holy Spirit for my benefit and strengthening.  Thank You for that day when the Holy Spirit convicted me of my need of Your salvation.  I praise You that He enabled me to open my heart to the Lord Jesus Christ and Your saving grace.  I welcome the Holy Sprit’s indwelling presence.  It is with expectancy that I receive His peace, His comfort, and His illumination of my mind enabling me to understand Your Word.  I greatly rejoice in the security of His sealing work.  I delight that by His baptizing work the Spirit has put me into the Body of Christ and united me inseparably with Him.  I praise Your name that the Holy Spirit has brought me to spiritual life and that He will yet quicken my body at the resurrection day.

As I pray, I am increasingly conscious of my need of the Spirit’s intercessions in me, through me, and for me.  I pray that You will grant me the privilege of praying in the Spirit.  May my thoughts and words be directed of Him.  May He bring my petitions into Your presence with His perfect understanding of Your will.

I acknowledge Your plan and desire to fill me with Your Holy Spirit.  Forgive me for grieving the Holy Spirit by my sinning.  Enable me to appropriate more perfectly the victory You have provided for me to walk above sin and failure.  Grant to me always the awareness of my sins that I might quickly confess them to You.  I do not want to quench the Holy spirit by any reluctance to submit fully to Your will and plan for my life.

Help me to see moment by moment those things You are teaching me about Yourself and Your will for my life.  It is my constant desire to walk in the Spirit.  I ask You to fill me with His power that You might be glorified through the invincible strength You provide me to do Your will.  All of this I ask in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for Your glory.  Amen.

DOCTRINAL PRAYER

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father:

Humbly I approach the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of promise, hope, love, and grace.  I come before You in the merit, the holiness, and the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I appropriate by faith the blessed ministry of the Holy spirit to intercede for me and in me during this time of prayer.  I desire to pray only in the Spirit.

I praise You that I am united with the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His life and work.  By faith I desire to enter into the victory of the incarnation of my Lord today.  I appropriate by faith the victory He achieved for me in living His sinlessly perfect life as a human being.  I claim all of His perfection and holy living.  I invite Him to live His victory in me today.  Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, that You experienced all temptations I experienced and yet never sinned.  Thank You for defeating in Your incarnation all temptations and attacks that Satan and his kingdom were able to address against you. I claim Your victory over Satan as my victory today.

I enter by faith into the mighty work of the crucifixion of my Lord.  Thank You that through the blood of Jesus Christ there is not only cleansing from the penalty and guilt of sin but moment-by-moment cleansing, permitting me to fellowship with You.  Thank You that the work of the cross brings Satan’s work to nothing.  Deliberately and by faith, I bring all of the work of my Lord on Calvary directly against Satan’s workings in my life.  I will accept in my life only what comes by way of the cross of Christ.  I choose to die to the old man.  I count him to be dead with Christ on the cross.  Grant to me the discernment and wisdom to see when the old man attempts to resurrect his activity in my life.

I enter by faith into the full power and authority of my Lord’s resurrection.  I desire to walk in the newness of life that is mine through my Lord’s resurrection.  Lead me ever more into a deep understanding of the power of the resurrection.  I bring the might truth of my Lord’s victory over the grave against all of Satan’s working against Your will and plan for my life.  The enemy is defeated in my life because I am united with the Lord Jesus Christ in the victory of His resurrection.

By faith I appropriate and enter today into my union with the Lord Jesus Christ in His ascension.  I rejoice that my Lord displayed openly His victory over all principalities and powers as He ascended into glory through the very realm of the prince of the power of the air. I rejoice that He is seated in victory far above all principalities and powers and that I am seated there with Him.  Because of my union with my Savior, I affirm my full authority and position of victory over Satan and his entire kingdom of darkness.

By faith I enter into the benefit and blessedness of my union with Christ in His glorification.  It is my joy to choose to obey Him who is my Shepherd.  I ask for you to lead me in Your path today.  As my great High Priest, I appropriate your high priestly work into my life today.  Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, for interceding for me and being my advocate with the heavenly Father. Thank You for watching over me and leading me, that Satan may gain no advantage over me.  Grant me the wisdom to discern all of the devil’s deceivings and temptations.

By faith I invite the Person of the Holy Spirit to bring the fullness of all of His person and my Lord’s work into all areas of my being.  I ask the Holy Spirit to fill my mind, my will, and my emotions with His control.  I choose for Him to bring all parts of my being into wholeness and submission to the Lordship of Christ.  I give my body in all of its parts and appetites to the Holy Spirit’s control and transformation.  I desire that He enable my spirit to be in fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit throughout this day.  I offer up this prayer to the heavenly Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen.

VICTORY OVER THE FLESH

Heavenly Father, I enter by faith today into death with the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  I appropriate all of the benefit of the crucifixion, which is mine because of my union with Christ.  I count myself dead to my old fleshly nature and all of its workings through my union with Christ at the cross.  I recognize that my old nature always wants to resurrect itself against You and Your will for my life, but I will to let it remain dead in death with my Lord on the cross.  I am thankful that this absolute truth can be my subjective experience.  I recognize that appropriating the death of my flesh is an essential step to victory over these fleshly temptations that buffet me.  Amen.

WALKING IN THE SPIRIT

Blessed Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I desire to walk in the Spirit today.  I recognize that only as He lives the life of the Lord Jesus Christ in me will I be able to escape the works of my flesh.  I desire the Holy Spirit to bring all of the work of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ into my life today.  I pray that the Holy Spirit may produce His fruit within my whole being and shed abroad in my heart great love for the heavenly Father, for the Lord Jesus Christ, and for others about me.  Forgive me, dear Holy Spirit, for all times I have grieved or quenched You. Enable me to respond to Your grace and to be sensitive to Your voice.  Grant to me the desire and enablement to be obedient to Your precious Word.  Grant me discernment to avoid being deceived by false spirits.  I desire that the Holy Spirit fill all of my being with His Presence and control me by faith.  I trust my victory over the flesh today completely into the hands of the Holy Spirit as I let Him take control of me.   In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I receive all the fullness of the Holy Spirit into all areas of my being today.  Amen.

CLAIMING VICTORY OVER THE WORLD SYSTEM

Loving Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I approach You again in prayer.  I glorify You that all of my victory and ability to walk pleasing before You has been provided by Your grace.  I desire to claim my victory that You have provided over my enemy, the world system.  I recognize its powerful appeal to my fallen fleshly nature.  I see that Satan’s deception and power in the world is strong against me.  I know I cannot overcome the world through my own efforts.  I enter into Your provided Victory.  Thank You that in His humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ overcame the world for me. Thank You that He met all of its temptations for me and defeated them.  Thank You that Jesus Christ died and shed His blood that He might accomplish His full victory over the world and its ruler.  Thank You that the blood of the Savior cleanses me of the times I have failed to overcome the world.  I enter into my Lord’s victory and bring it strong against the appeal of the world to me.

I also open my heart to the full victory of the Holy Spirit over the world.  I trust Him to put desires within my being which are above the world.  I trust Him to cause the world’s appeal to me to be blotted out.  May He keep me from being double-minded.  I don’t want to love the things of God with one part of me and the things of the world with another part of me.  May the Holy Spirit unite my heart to fear Your Name.  May He bring me all together in wholeness to love and serve You with all of my will, my mind, my emotions, my body, and my spirit.  Thanks You for providing all of my victory.  I appropriate it now in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

RENUNCIATION AND AFFIRMATION

As a child of God purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, I here and now renounce and repudiate all the sins of my ancestors.  As one who has been delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, I cancel out all demonic working that has been passed on to me from my ancestors.  As one who has been crucified with Jesus Christ and raised to walk in newness of life, I cancel every curse that may have been put upon me.  I announce to Satan and all his forces that Christ became a curse for me when He hung on the cross.  As one who has been crucified and raised with Christ and now sits with Him in heavenly places, I renounce any and every way in which Satan may claim ownership of me.  I declare myself to be eternally and completely signed over and committed to the Lord Jesus Christ.  All this I do in the Name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.

(Based on Rom 6:4; Gal 2:20; 3:13; Eph 1:7; 2:5-6; Col 1:13)

RECLAIMING WHAT WAS GIVEN UP THROUGH SIN

Blessed Heavenly Father, I ask Your forgiveness for offending You by committing this sin of [NAME THE OFFENSE].  I claim the cleansing that is mine through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I address myself against Satan and all of his kingdom.  I take away from you and all your powers of darkness any ground you are claiming against me when I sinned by [NAME THE OFFENSE].  I claim that ground back in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I cover it with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and give all areas of my life over to the full control of the Holy Spirit.

NOTE:  It is good to keep one’s heart constantly open to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to bring to mind any offense that gave the enemy a foothold against you.  No matter what you are doing or where you are, should the Holy Spirit bring something to mind, you can immediately claim back all ground in prayer of the type just mentioned.

HEALING, HELP, AND HOLINESS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

SOURCE:  BILL BELLICAN

A lot happens in life in the present moment.  Anything (good or bad) can happen at any given moment.  What’s even more real (and amazing) is how God desires that we grow in our ability to engage with Him about all things in all moments.  In other words, He desires to have a vibrant, interactive, moment-by-moment fellowship with each of us in each present moment of our lives.

Concerning the more painful side of life, God constantly invites us to commune with Him, to discuss with Him the hard realities of life as we are affected by and experience these realities, and to depend upon Him more.  As we do these things, we learn how to wait on and watch for His wise and loving involvement in all our life needs and situations.

Among the hard realities of life are that we are responsible for and experience the consequences of our own personal sins, we suffer at the hands of others who sin against us, and we live in a fallen and broken world that sometimes comes crashing down on us.  As a result, we encounter hurts, wounds, engage our own unhealthy coping behaviors, are subject to the attacks of Satan, and find ourselves constrained by various strongholds of negative thoughts and emotional responses. This all makes life, at times, exceedingly miserable and difficult.  Furthermore, any unhealthy or dysfunctional responses we make to these hard realities hinder our progress toward holiness and being made Christ-like which is God’s will for us.

As we learn to take full advantage of our present relationship with God and invite His involvement in every present detail of life we encounter, we learn how to talk with Him more deeply, intimately, and honestly and to trust in His good and loving ways to deal rightly and compassionately in our lives and makeus into the person He intends us to be.

The following are just some examples of various interactions I have with God in the present moment as I bring before Him my genuine needs for healing, help, and holiness in my life:

— I ask the Holy Spirit to help me acknowledge to the Lord any specific strongholds of thoughts — things that “feel” true to me in an unhealthy, negative sense.  I offer these strongholds up to the Lord  trusting Him to begin displacing them with His truths.

— I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies or untruth unknown to my conscious mind that I am believing in the present moment.  Then I choose to bring this lie-based thinking into the healing presence of Jesus for Him to renew my mind.

— I ask the Lord for His Lordship over any specific behavioral strongholds (i.e., destructive coping behaviors and habits) that affect me.  I request He demolish the strongholds as I faithfully look only to Him to do what I am powerless to do.

— I ask the Lord to make it possible for me to hear and sense only His truth that I might receive it in place of lies and distorted thinking.  I willingly choose to dedicate my all (i.e, everything good and bad about myself) to the Lord, and I reaffirm my current situation/thinking/feelings belong to Him along with my desire to be enslaved only to Him.

— I confess to the Lord any aspect of actual sin or compromise on my part that occurs to me including my awareness of and regret about my fallenness and potential to sin.

— I realistically share with the Lord the hurt, wounds, pain, bitterness, and unforgiveness I feel as a result of what others have done to me.  I request His Power to release to Him these wounds/hurts trusting Him to take them away and deal with them as He will.  I ask for the ability to trust that He will right every wrong done to me in His way and timing.  I also ask to receive His ability to forgive and release others for what they have done to me. I even boldly tell Him about any anger or hurts I have toward Him and ask for His perspective about these while trusting He will lovingly carry my distorted perspectives away as He cleanses me.

— I recall who I am to and in Christ and ask that the Holy Spirit remind me about my God-given position, rights, and privileges as a member of the family of God that I might proclaim and experience the reality of these truths.

— I choose to proclaim (in the Name of Jesus) that I resist Satan, his demons, their influence, and all lies as I obediently seek the Holy Spirit’s filling/control and the empowerment to put on the spiritual armor  of God.

— I choose to rebuke (in the Name of Jesus) Satan, his demons, and their lies, and I ask the Lord to rebuke these, also.  I reaffirm that God chose me as His own forever.

— I proclaim to the Lord how I choose to rejoice in Him (with His enablement) regardless of what my circumstances, struggles, failures, feelings are, since Who He is and What He allows are rooted in His Goodness toward me.

— I ask the Lord to show me what obedience to Him looks like, to train me in obedience, and to motivate me to obedience as a way of expressing my love for and faith in Him as He demolishes strongholds in my life along with the unhealthy thoughts, emotional responses, and behaviors attached to these strongholds.

— I praise God for Who He is,  because of His total involvement and interest in every minute detail of my life, and for His indescribable love for me as He works within these details.

May these be of help to you as the triune God — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — engages you in a deeper, more intimate, real, more constant communion with Him in the present moment as He brings to you: healing, help, and holiness.

Scriptural References:  Pr 23:7;  Zec 3:1-2;  John 8:32, 36;  Ro 8:29, 12:2;  2 Co 10:3-5;  Php 4:8; 1Th 3:13, 4:3;   Jude 9

MY “POSITION IN CHRIST” — WHAT IS IT?

(Adapted from John MacArthur – How To Get In The Game)

Your first obligation as a Christian is to learn about your position in the Body of Christ. You’ve got to study the chalkboard, so to speak, and see where you stand; see who’s on either side of you, who’s behind you, who’s in front of you. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t know how to live, partly because they don’t know their position. I want to draw your position on the spiritual chalkboard so you can be an effective player in the game.

Basically, God’s gift of salvation in Christ brings a believer into a position of righteousness. God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son to the believer, and thereby declares him righteous positionally. But as you know full well, believers still have sin in their lives–Christians are not practically righteous, 100 percent of the time. However, it is on the basis of our positional righteousness, that we are exhorted to strive for practical righteousness in our daily lives.

If you can set your personal struggle with sin aside for a moment, I want you to consider what the Bible says about your position in Christ. As a Christian you are: spiritually alive unto God, dead to sin, forgiven, declared righteous, a child of God, God’s possession, an heir of God, blessed with all spiritual blessings, a citizen of heaven, a servant of God, free from the Law, crucified to the world, a light in the world, victorious over Satan, cleansed from sin, declared holy and blameless, set free in Christ from the power of sin, secure in Christ, granted peace and rest, and led by the Holy Spirit.

You’re probably thinking, “The Bible may say all that, but I sure don’t always live up to those descriptions.” That’s why in the New Testament, for every one of those statements about your position, there is a corresponding practice you’re to follow. For example, the New Testament tells you:

  • Since you are spiritually alive to God, live according to that new life.
  • Since you are dead to sin, don’t give sin any place in your life.
  • Since you’re forgiven, count on that and don’t go through life feeling guilty.
  • Since you’ve been declared righteous, live righteously.
  • Since you’re a child of God, act like one of God’s children.
  • Since you are God’s possession, yield to Him in humble submission.

I’m convinced that if you will honestly study your position in Christ, your life will change. You’ll understand that failure in some aspect of Christian living doesn’t mean you lose your position. The position of a true Christian is settled forever–it’s unchanging and permanent. And on the other hand, just as stumbling won’t change your standing for the worse, growth won’t add to it for the better either. God’s favor doesn’t depend on your works. God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Timothy 1:9).

Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God–for “in Him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10).

Thankfully, that completeness does not mean that when you understand your position you will remain as you are–no, you will see changes in your life. The New Testament continually emphasizes your identity as a believer and urges you understand and apply your spiritual resources. As you continue to mature in Christ, you will not only come to a greater understanding of who you are, but you’ll also rely more consistently on your resources–those granted to you as a result of your position in Christ–to handle the practical aspects of Christian living. That’s the thrust of Paul’s appeal in Ephesians 4:1: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”

The Spiritual Armor of God: Pray It On

Source:  Bill Bellican

It is important to have a firm grasp of what it means to appropriate the spiritual armor provided by God.  To help with this understanding, the following information is taken from notes adapted from The MacArthur Study Bible (Eph. 6:10-18).  A brief devotional prayer follows this information that can be used as a daily reminder and conversation with God about putting on the armor of God.

First, we will consider biblical interpretation adapted from commentary on Ephesians 6:10-18:

A true believer having a Spirit-controlled life can be sure to be in a spiritual war. Paul closes the letter to the Ephesians with both warning about that war and instructions on how to win it.  The Lord provides His saints with sufficient armor to combat and thwart the adversary.

Ultimately, Satan’s power over Christians is already broken, and the war is won through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ that conquered the power of sin and death.  However, in life on earth, battles of temptation go on regularly.  The Lord’s power, the strength of His Spirit, and the force of biblical truth are required for victory.

The armor should be the Christian’s sustained life-long attire.  This spiritual defense is necessary if one is to hold his position while under attack.  Satan’s deception and schemes are propagated through the evil world system over which he rules, and are carried out by his demon hosts.  Satan wants us to distrust God, forsake obedience, have doctrinal confusion, falsehood, be hindered in service, be divided, serve in the flesh, live hypocritically, be worldly, and reject biblical obedience in any way.   Wrestling with Satan and his hosts involves their use of trickery and deception.  Coping with deceptive temptation requires truth and righteousness.

Paul emphasized the necessity of the Christian appropriating God’s full spiritual armor by obedience in taking it up or putting it on.  Standing firm against the enemy without wavering or falling is the goal.

The pieces of this armor include the:

Belt –   The belt helps to pull together all the loose ends prior to battle.  In this sense, the belt pulls together any spiritual loose ends (i.e., hypocrisy, lack of devotion) through truth.  This tucks away anything that hinders victory.

Breastplate –   As a symbol of righteousness and holiness, this is the Christian’s chief protection against Satan and his schemes.  As believers faithfully live in obedience to and in communion with Jesus Christ, His own righteousness produces in them the practical, daily righteousness that becomes their spiritual breastplate.  Lack of holiness leaves them vulnerable to Satan.

Sandals –   This footgear pertains to the confidence of divine support that allows the believer to stand firm, to know that he is at peace with God, and to understand that God is his strength.

Shield –   The shield speaks to basic trust in God.  The believer’s continual trust in God’s word and promise is necessary to protect him from temptations to every sort of sin.  All sin comes when the victim falls to Satan’s lies and promises of pleasure, rejecting the better choice of obedience and blessing.

Helmet –   Satan seeks to destroy a believer’s assurance of salvation with his weapons of doubt and discouragement.  Although a Christian’s feelings about his salvation may be seriously damaged by Satan-inspired doubt, his salvation itself is eternally protected and he need not fear its loss.  Satan wants to curse the believer with doubts, but the Christian can be strong in God’s promises of eternal salvation.

Sword –   As the sword was the soldier’s only weapon, so God’s Word is the only needed weapon, infinitely more powerful than any of Satan’s.  It is used both defensively to fend off Satan’s attacks, and offensively to help destroy the enemy’s strategies.  It is the truth of Scripture.

Second, the following prayer regarding putting on the spiritual armor was adapted from online devotional material by Charles Stanley (April 28-29, 2007 entry):

Praying On The Armor of God

Prepare yourself for each day’s spiritual challenges by making the following prayer part of your morning routine:

Dear Lord, as I get out of bed today, I know I’m stepping onto a battlefield. But I also know You’ve given me everything I need to stand firm. So in the power of Your Holy Spirit, I put on the armor of God:
First, I place the helmet of salvation on my head. Protect my mind and imagination. Guard my eyes, allowing no sin to creep in. Focus my thoughts on the things of God.
Let the breastplate of righteousness keep my heart and emotions safe. I pray that I won’t be governed by my feelings, but by truth.
Wrap Your Word around me like a belt. And safeguard me from error.
I put on the sandals of peace to guide my steps. Plant my feet in Your truth. Empower me to stand firm against attack.
Next, I take up the shield of faith. Protect me from Satan’s fiery arrows. Place me shoulder to shoulder with Your army to oppose the Devil’s schemes.
Finally, I take up the sword of the Spirit, Your Word. Help me to read the Bible in a fresh, exciting way so I will always be ready to deflect attacks and pierce hearts with Your truth.
I know I’ll face assaults today, Lord. But You’ve empowered me to stand firm. Give me strength for the battle today.

Disciplines of the Holy Spirit: Connecting to THE Power

SOURCE:  BILL BELLICAN

The disciplines (or tools) of the Holy Spirit provide us with practical and realistic means by which we become more like Jesus.  The Holy Spirit draws us to God through these different disciplines that enable us to better tune into and cooperate with what the Holy Spirit longs to do in our lives.   According to Dr. S.Y. Tan in Disciplines of the Holy Spirit, these disciplines include:

Solitude and silence. With these disciplines, we deepen our fellowship with God by drawing close to God in intimacy and vulnerability.

Listening and guidance. These disciplines become vital practices as we grow to love and trust God.

Prayer and intercession. Through times of prayer and intercession, the Holy Spirit works to grow us up into the very heart of Christ.

Study and meditation. Utilizing especially Scripture, these disciplines bring us into intimate knowledge of God’s character and purpose.

Repentance and confession. These strengthen God’s authority and Lordship in our lives.

Yielding and submission. Willingly giving up areas of our lives to the Holy Spirit’s control includes actively yielding areas that hold us back from the fullness of the Spirit.

Fasting. Surrendering our appetites for food and other things we hold too close or take for granted sets us free to experience more self-control and to take joy in our experience with God.

Worship. This is our deepest act of surrender to God where the Holy Spirit helps us to focus on God instead of ourselves.

Fellowship. Gathering together with other believers connects us with the power of the Holy Spirit and allows us to grow in faith, hope, and love.

Simplicity. Practicing a lifestyle that is increasingly free of excess, greed, covetousness, and other forms of dependence, the Holy Spirit works to release spiritual gifts such as hospitality, mercy, and giving.

Service.   Giving ourselves to God and others in different ways, this discipline leads us into sacrificial service for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.

Witness.  The power to evangelize unbelievers and bring them to Christ also comes from the Holy Spirit.

In and of themselves, the spiritual disciplines are nothing.  Remember, they only help to connect us to the Source of all spiritual power—the Holy Spirit, Himself.  The disciplines are not a means of influencing God or winning His favor, but rather they are God’s gifts to us through which He can minister His grace and mercy.

Ephesians 5:18   Luke 11:10, 13   John 3:1-8  Romans 8:26-27

 

 

The Safe Place

(Adapted from Strong Winds & Crashing Waves by Terry Wardle, 83-85)

A Spirit-led exercise to practice the presence of the Lord

Communicating truth by creating word pictures is employed all through Scripture. Isaiah said that God gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).  The Psalmist talks about being covered by the wings of God and finding refuge under his feathers (Psalm 91:4).  In both cases, the Lord was speaking metaphorically, creating a picture in the reader’s mind so that he or she could better comprehend God’s protective care.  Creating a safe place within is a way that the Spirit communicates truth through a surrendered and sanctified imagination.  When the Spirit does speak, the truth will always be consistent with the teachings of Scripture, which is in itself the test for what one is seeing, sensing, and hearing during the exercise.

The safe place exercise is a follows:

* Sit quietly in a comfortable position.

* Take several deep breaths, letting them out slowly.

* Begin to whisper words of thanks and praise to the Lord.

* After a few moments, invite the Holy Spirit to take over your imagination.

* Ask the Spirit to create within your mind a safe place where you can meet the Lord.  It may be an imaginary place or somewhere you have actually been before that is special, like a cabin, beach, or spot along a quiet stream.

* Rest there for as long as you like, enjoying all the surroundings.  If you experience some dissonance or distraction, ask the Holy Spirit to take it away in the name of Jesus.

* When ready, invite the Lord to join you in that place.  If that frightens you, ask him to come as the Lamb, or simply allow you to feel his presence.

* Once there, notice the warmth of his love.   Let it soak into your being.  If you are allowing Christ to be there, notice his posture, eyes, and extended arms.  Draw close to him if you desire.

* When ready, tell Jesus how you feel about him.  Then ask how he feels about you.  He may respond with words or maybe actions.  Either way, experience his acceptance and delight.

* If you are ready to conclude the exercise, simply spend a few moments in thanks and praise.

* Take a few deep breaths, letting them out slowly.

* Amen

The Safe Place exercise may take time to develop as a [spiritual] skill.  Many believers, accustomed to a more cognitive expression of the Christian life may have never experienced the Lord in this way.  The idea of giving the Lord access to their “creative imagination” might seem like a foreign concept.  It is important that the believer practice this spiritual exercise every day.  This will be not only a place of peace with the Lord, but it also will be the entree into experiencing the Lord in the healing of past traumatic woundings.

The Prayer of Jesus: How to Talk to God

Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4

by Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., RPM Ministries (www.rpmministries.org)
 
 

Learning How to Pray in Christ’s School of Prayer

– Prepare to Pray: Meditation—“Our Father Which Art in Heaven”

1. Meditate on the perfect fatherly character of God: Our Father in heaven.

2. Contemplate the nature of God’s fatherhood: Our Father of holy love.

3. Reflect on the Body of Christ: Our Father, not only my Father.

4. Enjoy God the Father’s full attention and acceptance: Bask in His fatherly grace.

– Commune with God: Adoration—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

1. Praise God for Who He is: Worship, magnify, exalt, and glorify your heavenly Father.

2. Thank God for what He does: Express your gratitude for all His grace-gifts, for His works.

3. Pray that the whole world would be in awe of God: All the earth grasping, enjoying, and exalting the character (name) of God.

4. Set apart God as the supreme desire of your heart: Let your daily mission statement be to exalt God by enjoying God.

– Honor the King: Intercession—“Thy Kingdom Come”

1. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule in your heart: Surrender to God’s governance.

2. Pray for a widening of God’s rule in all people’s hearts: Salvation.

3. Pray for a deepening of God’s rule on planet Earth: Christian living (make a difference).

4. Pray for the soon return of Christ: Second Coming.

5. Pray that you will live for God’s kingdom and not for your own: Total allegiance.

– Radically Commit: Submission/Direction—“Thy Will Be Done”

1. Pray for the right pleasure: That everything you do is motivated by the desire to bring God pleasure.

2. Pray for calm assurance: The understanding that God’s glory and your good are inseparable, that the Father’s will is always good and best.

3. Pray for clear discernment: That you will know God’s will for your personal life, family, church, work, community, country, and world.

4. Pray for radical obedience: That God would grant you the courage to do His will.

5. Pray for supernatural power: That God would empower you to obey His will.

6. Pray with brutal honesty: Share the desires of your heart, any confusion, doubts, and perplexity with your heavenly Father.

7. Pray with other-centered focus: That family, church, community, national, and world leaders would know and do God’s will.

– Invite God-Rescue: Supplication—“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

1. Confess humbly (Give): Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, admitting that without God you are and have nothing. Pray for the faith to believe that all you need is God and what He chooses to provide.

2. Asks unselfishly (Us, Our): Pray for others and for yourself.

3. Request wisely (This Day, Daily): Pray for today’s needs. Trust God for today’s supply. Ask God to give you nothing more and nothing less than exactly what you need and can handle.

4. Entreat practically (Bread): Pray for physical, material, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual needs. Pray for freedom from worry as you trust God to supply your every need.

– Savor the Savior’s Grace: Confession—“Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us”

1. Seek enlightenment: Specifically confess known sins and ask God to reveal hidden sins.

2. Repent humbly: Your debt is immeasurable; His grace is infinite.

3. Enjoy forgiveness: Claim Christ’s forgiveness and acceptance. Your slate is wiped clean!

4. Grant forgiveness: Forgive all those who have hurt you/sinned against you physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually.

5. Seek reconciliation: Go to anyone who you have sinned against to restore the relationship.

– Triumph Over Temptation: Petition—“Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From Evil”

1. Seek protection: Ask God not to allow Satan even to tempt you to sin.

2. Seek boundaries: Ask God to keep you from situations where you are most prone to sin— your besetting sins, areas of vulnerability, temptations, etc.

3. Seek victory: Ask God to defeat sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil in your life.

4. Seek faith: Ask God to help you to trust His awesome power as your only hope for triumph.

– Confidently Trust God: Glorification—“For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever, Amen”

1. Trust God (For): Believe that since God is the Almighty, Eternal King that He can answer.

2. Glorify God (Thine): Pray that God will be glorified by your prayers.

Depression: Lamenting Our Losses to God

by Bob Kellemen, Ph.D.
 
When experiencing grief, sorrow, or depression, one of the most important responses is to face our suffering face-to-face with God. To do this deeply, we need to understand and practice biblical lament.

The biblical genre of lament expresses frankness about the reality of life that seems inconsistent with the character of God. Lament is an act of truth-telling faith, not unfaith. Lament is a rehearsal of the bad allowed by the Good. Lament is vulnerable frankness about life to God in which I express my pain and confusion over how a good God allows evil and suffering.

When we lament, we live in the real world honestly, refusing to ignore what is occurring. Lament is our expression of our radical trust in God’s reliability in the midst of real life.

According to Psalm 62:8, if we truly trust God, then we’ll share everything with God. “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Drawing Near to God

Psalm 73 is a prime example of Lament. Asaph begins, “Surely God is good to Israel” (73:1). He then continues with a litany of apparent evidence to the contrary, such as the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the godly (73:2-15). When he tries to make sense of all this, it’s oppressive to him (73:16). He then verbalizes to God the fact that his heart is grieved and his spirit embittered (73:21).

His lament, his complaint, drew him nearer to God. It did not push him away from God. “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand” (73:23). He concludes, “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge.” (73:28).

It was Asaph’s intense relationship with God that enlightened him to the goodness of God even during the badness of life. “Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. . . . As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O LORD, you will despise them as a fantasy” (73:17, 20). Spiritual friendship with God results in 20/20 spiritual vision from God.

Asaph illustrates that in lament we come to God with a sense of abandonment and confusion (Isaiah 49:14; Jeremiah 20:7; Lamentations 5:20). We then exercise a courageous, yet humble cross-examination. Not a cross-examination of God, but a cross-examination and a refuting of earth-bound reality with spiritual reality.

Being Real and Raw

That’s exactly what occurs in Jeremiah 20:7; Lamentations 5:20; and Psalm 88:18. In all three passages, it appears by reason alone that life is bad and so is God. Yet in each passage, God responds positively to a believer’s rehearsal of life’s inconsistencies.

In Job 3, and much of Job for that matter, Job forcefully and even violently expresses his complaint.

What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all the roads to meaning? Instead of bread I get groans for my supper, then leave the table and vomit my anguish. The worst of my fears has come true, what I’ve dreaded most has happened. My repose is shattered, my peace destroyed. No rest for me, ever—death has invaded life.

In Job 42:7-8, God honors Job’s complaint saying that Job spoke right of life and right of God. God prizes lament and rejects all deceiving denial and simplistic closure, preferring candid complexity.

You Are Never Alone

Depression, by its very nature, causes us to feel alone, separated, alienated. Lament, by its very nature, helps us to feel connected, in relationship, in communion—with God. Never suffer alone. Never battle depression without God. Lament to God. Tell Him your painful external circumstances and your internal hurts and agony. God invites you to make use of your suffering, to admit your need for Him in your pain, and to rehearse your feelings of depression (external and internal) before Him.

Psalm 72:12 assures us, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out” (KJV—when he crieth). Psalm 34 reminds us, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18). God’s good heart goes out, especially, to the humble needy. When crushed in Spirit, turn to the Holy Spirit. When battling depression and feeling comfortless, lament to the Comforter.

Meditating on God's Word

(Adapted from The Disciplines of The Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan)

Without meditation, the ways for appropriating God’s Word will be futile and unfruitful. Prayer, as well, can be empty and devoid of the Holy Spirit’s power without meditation on the Bible.

George Muller made a significant discovery about the critical importance of meditation and the crucial connection between meditation and prayer that revolutionized his spiritual life.

Now, I saw that the most important thing was to give myself to the reading of God’s Word, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warmed, reproved, instructed, and that thus, by means of the Word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord�.Now what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God, and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water passes through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it and applying it to our hearts.

Meditation is pondering over Scripture verses or passages in such a way that the written Word of God becomes a living Word of God applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The two primary words for meditation in the Bible mean “to murmur or mutter” and “to speak to one’s self.” Meditation is a process of thinking through language that takes place in the heart or inner life. The truth being meditated upon moves from the mouth (murmuring), to the mind (reflective thinking), and finally to the heart (outer action).

This process is sometimes referred to as lectio divina (divine reading) where we listen to Scripture deeply with the ears of our hearts. We are like Elijah, listening for the still, small voice of God, the faint murmuring sound that is God’s Word for us, the voice of the Holy Spirit touching our hearts. This gentle listening is an attunement to the Presence of God in Scripture. Once a word or passage in the Bible speaks to us in a personal way, we can take it and begin to ponder it in our hearts, soaking ourselves in the passage. We can ask, “What is happening here? What are the sounds, smells, feelings? Why is God focusing me on this verse or idea? What does He want me to understand? Why do I need this word from God? How do I respond? Is there an example for me to follow, a sin to avoid, a command to obey, a promise to claim?” In meditation, we seek to enter into the Scripture and live in it. As we move from detached observation to active participation in the Scripture, our imaginations become active. Some have objected to using the imagination out of fear of its “subjective” focus and potential for self-deception or use by the enemy. But Jesus appealed to the imaginations of His listeners as He taught and told parables. While there is reason for caution and safeguards, we believe God can sanctify the imagination, just as He does our human reason, and work His good purposes through it.

Here are some simple steps we encourage for meditating or “living into Scripture”:

1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to you and guide you as you read a passage of Scripture.

2. Read through the passage you are meditating on several times, listening for the still, small voice of God and waiting upon the leading of the Spirit.

3. Ponder the verse or two that grabs your attention or touches you in some way. Picture what is happening.

4. Put yourself in the picture. Ask questions. Allow a dialogue to unfold inside of you; let your imagination and senses be instruments for revelation from the Holy Spirit.

5. Be open to the ways God may want to speak to you directly through His Word through a personal encounter as you ask questions as you place yourself in the scene, even perhaps as Jesus comes directly to you in the scene in which you have entered.

6. Take time to share what God has said to you with an accountability partner or wise friend. This provides protection by checking what comes from your time of meditation, helps to reinforce God’s Word to you, and encourages and blesses others in their journey of faith.

The Holy Spirit can speak the living Word of God to your heart. The Holy Spirit is the One who enables us to understand the thoughts and things of God. Without His ministry as Teacher of truth and Revealer of God’s mind and heart to us, we will not be able to know or understand God or spiritual things (see 1 Cor. 2:6-16). With this in mind, always begin your reading, study, and meditation by asking for the Spirit’s illumination and guidance, and throughout the process of getting into God’s Word, be sensitive to His voice speaking to you!

The Spirit Filled Life

(Adapted from The Disciplines of The Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan)

The Spirit-filled life is the Christ-directed life by which Jesus lives His life in and through us in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His followers they would have powerful, loving, abundant, and fruitful lives as the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

First, it is important to understand that a person initially becomes a Christian through the work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). From the moment of conversion, or spiritual birth, the Holy Spirit dwells in a person. In this sense, all Christians, at the point of conversion, receive “the baptism of the Holy Spirit,” or as Paul says, we are all baptized by one Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). However, though the Spirit is present in all Christians, this does not mean all Christians are filled – empowered, released, guided, and controlled – by the Holy Spirit.

The filling of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing reality. Paul says in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Spirit.” In the original language, this verse actually means “continually be filled with the Spirit.” Renewal and a release of the Spirit’s presence and power are needed on a daily basis.

Most of the time, the filling of the Spirit is experienced in a quiet way, with a deep sense of peace or joy, perhaps bringing clarity of insight or understanding regarding present circumstances or future plans. These times of filling may not involve intense emotions, and there may be a few days or weeks of “lag time” before it is apparent that the Spirit is at work in new ways. Other times the filling of the Spirit happens with dramatic power and can include outward manifestations such as laughing, crying, feeling warm all over, or even experiencing a power surge like electricity. Dramatic manifestations in and of themselves are not necessarily signs of the Spirit’s Presence. God created us as unique personalities with different needs, so the Spirit touches us and empowers us in ways appropriate to our uniqueness. What is most important is to be filled with the Spirit and to leave the manifestations to the sovereignty of God and the work of the Spirit.

The apostle Paul, who encourages us so strongly to be continually filled with the Spirit, also cautions us not to grieve the Holy Spirit, especially by sins of the flesh such as bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, and every form of malice (Eph. 4:30); and not to quench the Spirit or put out the Spirit’s fire by our unbelief and evil (1 Thess. 5:19). When we are open to the Spirit – continually filled and seeking to be filled – we are less likely to quench or grieve the Spirit in our daily living.

Some of the blessings of the Spirit-filled life are:

*greater love and intimacy with God
*exaltation of Jesus as Son of God and Savior
*power and boldness to witness and preach
*greater wisdom and faith
*deep joy (singing and worship)
*release of spiritual gifts for ministry
*victory over sin and temptation
*effectiveness and power in prayer
*quiet confidence during opposition
*deeper trust in Scripture as the Word of God
*renewed zeal for evangelism
*fresh love of Christ and others

The blessings of being filled with the Spirit are tremendous! That’s why God tells us to be filled. He gives us the power we don’t have, so that we can become more like Jesus and do the work of Jesus.

How then can one be filled with the Spirit? By asking! God is a good and generous Father who desires to give good gifts to His children.

First, confess your sins and receive God’s cleansing and forgiveness by the Blood of Christ (1 John 1:9). We are lost, needing to come to ourselves, to repent and confess our sins and return to the loving arms of our Heavenly Father.

Second, yield every area of your life to the control of the Holy Spirit, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Rom. 12: 1-2). We must give up the things we hold so close: known sin, anger, brokenness, rebellion, control, and pride so that God has authority over everything in our lives. As C. S. Lewis puts it: “Christ says, ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.”

Third, ask! In obedience to the command in Ephesians 5:18, ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. God’s purpose is to give you Himself. “For everyone who asks receives,” Jesus says. It is the will of our Father in heaven to “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:10, 13).

As you ask for the Spirit’s filling, pray specifically for His power and the release of His gifts so that you can live a more Christlike life and be more effective in building up the Body of Christ and reaching out to a lost world with the Gospel.

Fourth, give thanks! Thank God by faith for His answer to such prayers because they are in accordance with His will (1 John 5:14-15). We live in constant dependence upon the love and mercy of God, and our thanksgiving is a constant response to His help and guidance that comes to us at every moment through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, expect great things to happen. Anticipate that the Holy Spirit will work deeply and powerfully, whether in dramatic or in more quiet ways. God wants you to let Him do through you whatever He purposes. He is able to do anything He pleases through any ordinary man or woman who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. If you feel weak, broken, limited, or ordinary, you are just the kind of person through whom God likes to work.

Obedience: Created to Become Like Christ

(Adapted from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren – chapter 22)

You were created to become like Christ. Like God, we are spiritual beings – our spirits are immortal and will outlast our earthly bodies; we are intellectual – we can think, reason, and solve problems; like God, we are relational – we can give and receive real love; and we have a moral consciousness – we can discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God.

The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God. But the image is incomplete and has been damaged and distorted by sin. So God sent Jesus on a mission to restore the full image that we have lost. The Bible says, “You were created to be like God, truly righteous and holy” (Eph. 4:24).

Many religions and New Age philosophies still promote the old lie of Satan that we are divine or can become gods. This desire to be a god shows up every time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and people around us. God doesn’t want us to become a god; he wants you to become godly – taking on His values, attitudes, and character (see Eph. 4:22).

God’s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. Every time you forget that character is one of God’s purposes for your life, you will become frustrated by your circumstances. You’ll wonder, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time?” One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven!

Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the “abundant life” to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. They expect heaven on earth. This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment.

Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God’s purposes, not vice versa. God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.

It is the Holy Spirit’s job to produce Christ-like character in you (see 2 Cor. 3:18b). You cannot reproduce the character of Jesus on your own strength. Only the Holy Spirit has the power to make the changes God wants to make in our lives (see Phil. 2:13). Most of the time the Holy Spirit’s power is released in your life in quiet, unassuming ways that you aren’t even aware of or can’t feel. He often nudges us with “a gentle whisper.”

We must allow Christ to live through us. How does this happen in real life? Through the choices we make. We choose to do the right thing in situations and then trust God’s Spirit to give us His power, love, faith, and wisdom to do it. Since God’s Spirit lives inside of us, these things are always available for the asking.

We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit releases His power the moment you take a step of faith. Obedience unlocks God’s power. God waits for you to act first. Don’t wait to feel powerful or confident. Move ahead in your weakness, doing the right thing in spite of you fears and feelings. This is how you cooperate with the Holy Spirit. While effort has nothing to do with your salvation, it has much to do with your spiritual growth. At least eight times in the New Testament we are told to “make every effort” in our growth toward becoming like Jesus. You don’t just sit around and wait for it to happen.

According to Ephesians 4:22-24 we have three responsibilities in becoming like Christ. First, we must choose to let go of old ways of acting. Second, we must change the way we think. The Bible says we are “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). We must allow God to direct our thoughts. We are changed from the inside out. Third, we must “put on” the character of Christ by developing new, godly habits.

Many people assume all that is needed for spiritual growth is Bible study and prayer. But some issues in life will never be changed by Bible study or prayer alone. God uses people. He usually prefers to work through people rather than perform miracles, so that we will depend on each other for fellowship. He wants us to grow together.

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won’t be complete here on earth. It will only be finished when you get to heaven or when Jesus returns.

Much confusion in the Christian life comes from ignoring the simple truth that God is far more interested in building your character than He is anything else. God is far more interested in what you are than in what you do.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like Himself before He takes us to heaven.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

(Adapted from Healing Care, Healing Prayer by Terry Wardle)

Dysfunctional behaviors are largely rooted in deep pain and unaddressed needs. We must also accept that much of our unhealthy behavior is at some level symptomatic of horrible wounding and loss, suffered at the hands of others &/or tied to harsh life events.

But, it is also important for us to consider that our dysfunctional behaviors must be identified for what they are: sinful responses to pain and unmet needs in our lives. Whenever we kill pain and try to meet needs in unhealthy ways, we are falling short of God’s desire for us. And the simple definition of that set of choices is sin. Failure to identify this truth takes away the personal responsibility for our actions that we must accept. Even when we are in pain or facing a genuine need, choosing to address it in a way that is hurtful to ourselves or to others is a sinful response. The presence of underlying wounds does not absolve us from responsibility for the unhealthy choices we make. Having been wounded by others does not give us the right to react in a way that wounds anyone else, even ourselves. Sin must be recognized and dealt with before the Lord as an integral part of the inner healing process.

We need to be overwhelmed by God’s good grace and experience His unbelievable acceptance, forgiveness, and hope in the midst of our own problems. However, the starting place for experiencing His matchless grace is recognizing why we need His mercy in the first place. We are like straying sheep, wandering away from God’s best, feeding in places that ultimately lead to our own destruction. Many times this happens because we do not know better. At other times we make bad choices consciously, either unconcerned or unconvinced that the consequences are really that serious or sinful. But they are, and there is no responsible way to detour around that reality on the path to inner healing.

What precisely is sin? It is a transgression of the law of God: disobedience of the divine will; moral failure. Sin is failure to realize in conduct and character the moral ideal, at least as fully as possible under existing circumstances. In other words, sin is the failure to live according to what God expects. This involves not doing what God has told us to do, and/or doing what He has expressly forbidden. God has set before us a standard of character and behavior and to fall short of that is to miss God’s mark. And to miss the mark is to sin. Dysfunctional behaviors aimed at killing pain or meeting needs in unhealthy ways do in fact miss the mark.

The Words of Jesus are most helpful and pastoral on this topic. He defined the purpose of life as “loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:37-39). He said that all of the rules and laws contained in the Bible hang on these two commandments (Matt. 22:40). Expanding on an Old Testament text, Jesus was telling all His followers that they are to live according to the rule of love. How does one know what is right and wrong? According to Jesus that is really quite simple. Do what is loving to God, loving to other people and loving toward oneself. Every action that is rooted in the law of love hits the mark of God’s expectation, dead center. Conversely, if any thought or action is not loving toward God, another person, or oneself, it is sinful. Therefore, painkilling and meeting needs in any way that is unloving toward God, hurts another person, or which at any level compromises the well-being of an individual – even ourselves – is sin. For example, let’s look at one’s need to obtain acceptance and worth through performance in light of Jesus’ teaching regarding the law of love. First, by turning to performance in order to gain a sense of worth, I am in fact creating an idol. God has made provision for that need through the work of Christ. To seek worth apart from Him is unloving toward God and clearly misses the mark He set before me. As for others, it is very easy to subconsciously use people to meet my own deep needs. They become an unhealthy means to an end, which devalues and invalidates. That is not loving either. An as for myself, continuing to rely on this behavior is both damaging and depressing.

I believe it helpful to be reminded yet again about the seriousness of sin, as described by Paul. In Romans 6:19-23, Paul writes:

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness, leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap from the things that you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Consider what Paul is saying about sin in this text. First, he repeatedly used the term slavery with reference to sinful actions. Paul was well aware of the practice of slavery and knew its terrible cost. Slaves had no freedom to go where they wanted to go, do what they wanted to do, or become what they wanted to be. They were in bondage, forced to live according to another person’s demands and desires. They were often mistreated, dehumanized and devalued. They had become the property of another, enslaved to spend their lives serving people who had little care or concern for them as human beings.

Sin leads to slavery. When hurting, we have a pain and need deep within that becomes too much to bear alone. Misguided, the thought can come to us to try some way to alleviate the ache inside our souls. Whether out of ignorance or rebellion, we stumble upon a short-term solution to our problem. Initially it is a conscious act that we initiate and control in order to feel better. But over time, the action turns into a habit, less conscious, more impulse driven. Slowly the habit sets deep talons into the flesh of our wounded soul and we become enslaved to a behavior that begins to rip and tear at our life on every level. The behavior has turned into the beast, and we become a slave to sin’s dark design. This slavery is a constant result of sinful choices, and we need to call it the ugly taskmaster that it is.

Paul also challenges us to consider the results of the sins for which we are now ashamed (Rom. 6:21). As broken men and women, we often wear shame like a dead skin that should have been shed long before. It is ugly, heavy and carries with it the most horrible feelings of self-contempt.

Shame has been defined as:  A soul-deep sense that there is something uniquely wrong with me that is not wrong with you or anyone else in the world. Because I am not perfect and problem free, I feel hopelessly, disgustingly different and worth less than other people. I view myself as, literally, worthless. It isn’t that I make a mistake when I make a mistake; I am a mistake when I make a mistake.

This definition cuts to the core of shame’s dark nature. Inevitably, we who are caught in sin wrestle with its suffocating presence. Often that battle occurs in silent hiding because we don’t want others to see what we live with day in and day out. While sinful choices seem at first to offer some relief to deep need, in the end they bring a covering of shame that only heightens an already difficult inner battle.

Paul does not end there, but speaks to a third consequence of sin: death. He says quite clearly that the ultimate and most devastating consequence of missing God’s mark is destruction. Paraphrasing his words, “death is the final payoff of sin” (Rom. 6:23). Enslavement to dysfunctional behaviors has the potential to emotionally, mentally, relationally, spiritually, and at times, physically kill. Though we may think such choices are harmless, long-term bondage rips and tears at us until we begin to die deep within our souls. It is often a slow demise, as dark forces, bit by bit, steal the life that God intended for us.

Given this reality of sin and its deep and devastating consequences in our lives, there is good news that has come to us through Jesus Christ. God the Father’s unconditional gift of love, Jesus Christ, has provided a way for us to be free from sin and its devastating consequences. Through the Cross, each of us has the opportunity to experience forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Sinful choices need no longer plague us with slavery, shame, and death. Jesus gave His Life so that all who believe can be saved. And that salvation definitely includes the element of healing, reconnecting lost people with God, and empowering them to move forward in spite of the past, present, or future in the Power of the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul has clearly revealed all that is possible for us in our brokenness because of the Work of Jesus on Calvary. In Colossians he wrote:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:13-15)

To call this good news is an understatement. As Christians, we have been forgiven all our sins. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law and paid for sin at the cross. Through His shed blood, Jesus has disarmed all the dark forces aligned against us, giving us authority by His powerful Name to defeat our evil foe. Because of this, we are now alive with Jesus, held securely in His eternal embrace.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul assures believers that they receive every blessing they need through Christ, and that even as they struggle, Jesus has made a way for them to be holy and blameless in God’s sight (Eph. 1:3, 4). He assures us that, as Christians, through Christ we are sons and daughters of God, recipients of great gifts, redeemed by His blood, and heirs to glorious riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:5-8). And let there be no question about the grace-based faith that Paul declares. All of this comes, not because someone has worked hard or lived right, but as gifts, freely given to all who believe in the wonderful work that Jesus did on the Cross. They are not, according to Paul, given stingily, but instead lavished upon those whom God calls into His eternal family (Eph. 1:8).

Sometimes we come fearing the Lord’s rejection and punishment for what we have been doing. Granted, we must know that our choices are sinful and ultimately destructive. But we must also remember God’s steadfast love and acceptance in spite of our actions. He has no punishment left for us, having poured it out upon Jesus who died on our behalf. No behaviors could qualify us for God’s love, and none can cause Him to stop loving His own. He looks toward our brokenness with Divine compassion and understanding. While He in no way minimizes sin, God offers us the power to be set free and thoroughly forgiven. He longs to love and touch His sinful, wounded children.

We need to hear that nothing can separate us from His love, and that even on our worst day, He is thoroughly crazy about us. God rejoices as we turn home. He meets us long before we expect Him to be there. He welcomes us with great joy and provides the healing we need. As he calls us to set aside our painkillers and dysfunctional behaviors, He opens the way for us to have our deepest needs met in Him. And where pain continues to be present, He comes to strengthen and equip us to move forward in the Power of His enabling grace. So, while on the one hand, we need to see the seriousness of sinful choices, on the other, we need to see the matchless love of the God who desires to free us from all that is dark and evil.

In a practical way, how do we seriously deal with both known, unresolved, and unknown sin?

1) First, I need to meet God in prayer and ask Him to define obvious, known areas where there are sinful responses to pain and unmet needs in my life. I need to be open and honest before the Lord, allowing the Holy Spirit to show me where I have gone astray. I need to see my life from His point of view. Prayer-time like this may take place over days, weeks, and even months.

2) Next, I must spend time in prayer to seek the Lord regarding unresolved past sin. As a believer, it is a fact that all my past sin has been forgiven by Christ. But, even though I may have moved away from certain sinful behaviors, I may have done so without ever dealing with them before the Lord. Not only is that a matter of confession, but also an issue of closing the door completely on what has happened.

3) Finally, I must pray about unknown sin. I must seek the Lord and be open to the Spirit’s work of convincing, convicting, and revealing what I am not aware of.

As the Lord begins to reveal, define, and remind me of thoughts and behaviors He wants me to bring to Him, I can follow the following steps:

*Recognize. I acknowledge and admit that specific choices and actions that the Holy Spirit has identified are sinful. I declare to the Lord the destructive results and all that these actions have cost, and I admit that these short-term solutions bring long-lasting devastation to my life. I lay before the Lord all the ugliness that I feel, have done, have failed to do, whatever.

*Repent. I choose to tell God that I want to turn away from these sins and turn toward Him for help and healing. I invite Him to do whatever He must do in my life to break me free of what enslaves me. I tell Him that I can ask Him to this because I believe He will only do what is Good, Loving, Just, Wise, and Best regardless how I feel about it.

*Renounce. Sinful choices open the door for the oppressive and harassing work of the evil one. I tell the Lord that I choose to renounce any involvement the evil one may have in my problems, and that I desire to bring myself and my problems entirely under the Lordship of Christ. I ask the Lord to demolish any strongholds to which I have, in any way, given myself over to resulting in slavery and bondage. I further state that I desire only to be enslaved to Jesus Christ.

*Receive. I allow myself to freely (and even audibly) accept the forgiveness and cleansing that is mine in Jesus Christ. I ask the Lord to give me the emotions He wants me to accurately experience that represent the cleansing He has released within me.

*Realign. I seek the Lord’s help to have the desire and ability to make specific changes in my lifestyle related to the sin I am confessing. Also, I ask the Lord to empower me to look to Him as the Strength of my life and the true Source of all that I need.

*Rejoice. I ask the Lord to enable me to praise Him. I seek to have His ability to wait on His timing to bring solutions to my problems in the way He knows is best. I also ask for the supernatural ability to continue to trust in Him and praise Him no matter how differently He answers my prayers, or even if He should not answer them at all. As bad as I want answers to my problems, I ask for His help to be able to love Him, trust Him, and praise Him even more than I want answers to any of my requests.

Ten Guidelines From God

(Author: Unknown)

Effective Immediately, please be aware that there are changes YOU need to make in YOUR life. These changes need to be completed in order that I may fulfill My promises to you to grant you peace, joy and happiness in this life. I apologize for any inconvenience, but after all that I am doing, this seems very little to ask of you. Please, follow these 10 guidelines

1. QUIT WORRYING:
Life has dealt you a blow and all you do is sit and worry. Have you forgotten that I am here to take all your burdens and carry them for you? Or do you just enjoy fretting over every little thing that comes your way?

2. PUT IT ON THE LIST:
Something needs done or taken care of. Put it on the list. No, not YOUR list. Put it on MY to-do-list. Let ME be the one to take care of the problem. I can’t help you until you turn it over to Me. And although My to-do-list is long, I am after all… God. I can take care of anything you put into My hands. In fact, if the truth were ever really known, I take care of a lot of things for you that you never even realize.

3. TRUST ME:
Once you’ve given your burdens to Me, quit trying to take them back. Trust in Me. Have the faith that I will take care of all your needs, your problems and your trials. Problems with the kids? Put them on My list. Problem with finances? Put it on My list. Problems with your emotional roller coaster? For My sake, put it on My list. I want to help you. All you have to do is ask.

4. LEAVE IT ALONE:
Don’t wake up one morning and say, “Well, I’m feeling much stronger now, I think I can handle it from here.” Why do you think you are feeling stronger now? It’s simple. You gave Me your burdens and I’m taking care of them. I also renew your strength and cover you in my peace. Don’t you know that if I give you these problems back, you will be right back where you started? Leave them with Me and forget about them. Just let Me do my job.

5. TALK TO ME:
I want you to forget a lot of things. Forget what was making you crazy. Forget the worry and the fretting because you know I’m in control. But there’s one thing I pray you never forget. Please, don’t forget to talk to Me – OFTEN! I love YOU! I want to hear your voice. I want you to include Me in on the things going on in your life. I want to hear you talk about your friends and family. Prayer is simply you having a conversation with Me. I want to be your dearest friend.

6. HAVE FAITH:
I see a lot of things from up here that you can’t see from where you are. Have faith in Me that I know what I’m doing. Trust Me; you wouldn’t want the view from My eyes. I will continue to care for you, watch over you, and meet your needs. You only have to trust Me. Although I have a much bigger task than you, it seems as if you have so much trouble just doing your simple part. How hard can trust be?

7. SHARE:
You were taught to share when you were only two years old. When did you forget? That rule still applies. Share with those who are less fortunate than you. Share your joy with those who need encouragement. Share your laughter with those who haven’t heard any in such a long time. Share your tears with those who have forgotten how to cry. Share your faith with those who have none.

8. BE PATIENT:
I managed to fix it so in just one lifetime you could have so many diverse experiences. You grow from a child to an adult, have children, change jobs many times, learn many trades, travel to so many places, meet thousands of people, and experience so much. How can you be so impatient then when it takes Me a little longer than you expect to handle something on My to-do-list? Trust in My timing, for My timing is perfect. Just because I created the entire universe in only six days, everyone thinks I should always rush, rush, rush.

9. BE KIND:
Be kind to others, for I love them just as much as I love you. They may not dress like you, or talk like you, or live the same way you do, but I still love you all. Please try to get along, for My sake. I created each of you different in some way. It would be too boring if you were all identical. Please, know I love each of your differences.

10. LOVE YOURSELF:
As much as I love you, how can you not love yourself? You were created by me for one reason only — to be loved, and to love in return. I am a God of Love. Love Me. Love your neighbors. But also love yourself. It makes My heart ache when I see you so angry with yourself when things go wrong. You are very precious to me. Don’t ever forget……

God's Reason For Our Suffering

(Adapted from an article, “Praying Through Problems,” by Stormie Omartian)

There are different reasons that tough times happen, and if we can gain an understanding of the reason for our suffering, it will help us overcome our pain, rise to a place of peace, and see our faith grow in the midst of it.

Sometimes difficult things happen to us so that the glory and power of God can be revealed in and through us. Jesus’ disciples asked Him if a man’s blindness was because the man’s parents had sinned or he had sinned. Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3 NKJV). We may not be able to understand why certain things happen, and we may never know the whole story until we go to be with the Lord. However, when we turn to God in the midst of these difficult situations, God’s glory will be seen in them.

Sometimes God uses difficult times to purify us. The Bible says, “Since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin” (I Peter 4:1 NIV). Sometimes suffering will burn sin and selfishness out of our lives. God allows suffering to happen so that we will learn to live for Him and not for ourselves-that we will pursue His will and not our own.

Sometimes our misery is caused by God disciplining us. “No chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). The fruit that this godly disciplining and pruning produces in us is worth the trouble we have to go through to get it, even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Be careful not to resist it or hate it. “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Sometimes we are caught in the middle of the enemy’s work. The enemy would like to make you miserable and destroy your life. Often the reason for the anguish, sorrow, sadness, grief, or pain you feel entirely is Satan’s doing and no fault of your own or anyone else’s. Your comfort is in knowing that as you praise God in the midst of the attack upon you, He will defeat the enemy and bring good out of it that you can’t even fathom.

How do we pray through difficult times?

Regardless of the reason for your difficulty, your prayers will make a positive difference on the outcome. Every day you have another opportunity to affect your future with the words you speak to God. Don’t worry about how many times you feel you are praying the same prayer over and over. God freshly hears your words spoken to Him each time. Your prayer has new life every time you pray it.

Even if you don’t see answers to your prayers right away, each prayer sets something in motion. There is so much happening in the spirit realm that you don’t see. Along with telling God your specific needs, here are some ways to pray that will help you get through the difficult times:

Pray for wisdom. Whenever we don’t make good choices in our lives, there is a price to pay. And we are never more in danger of making wrong decisions than when we are stressed, in pain, or suffering in some way. During those times it’s easy to make a decision born out of desperation, so it’s always good to ask God for wisdom and discernment. And this needs to be an ongoing prayer because too often we have to make quick decisions. On those occasions we don’t have time to seek the will of God. We need to already know it.

Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help. When we’re in the midst of tragedy, loss, devastation, or disappointment, we hurt terribly and find it impossible to think beyond the pain. But we don’t have to go through those difficult times alone, because the Holy Spirit is there to help us. When we turn to Him for help and comfort, we will find it. He will give us revelation and power, the very things we need most when we are struggling.

Pray to have the mind of Christ. The Bible says you “have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16), and you are to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). It also says, “since Christ suffered for you in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (I Peter 4:1). If you ask God to help you arm yourself with the mind of Christ, He will enable you to endure the suffering for the glory set before you. In other words, He will help you focus on the good that He will bring out of the situation instead of the misery you are experiencing.

Pray for a greater sense of God’s Presence. In times of suffering, ask God to help you sense His Presence in a stronger way every day. Feeling God’s Presence around you will help you increase your faith and not be overcome with doubt. It will give you strength to stand strong in God’s truth and not be swept away by your emotions or lies of the enemy. It will help you be content in your current situation because He is there. We can come to the place where we don’t have to be afraid of bad news because our heart is steadfast, trusting in Him (Psalm 112:7).

Pray that you will stay in God’s Word and obey it. Nothing is more solid than the Word of God. Even when so incapacitated with life situations, reading or even hearing God’s Word will lift the spirits and provide strength. The Word speaks of God’s promises and gives hope. It will allow you to feel that somehow everything will be all right.

Pray to see the good in the bad. None of us likes pain or uncertainty – we want things the way we want them. But the challenging and miserable times are not without their aspect of good. There are things that happen to us in those times that are as precious as diamonds. It’s during the difficult times that we have the opportunity to experience the Lord’s Presence in a deeper way. When we cling to Him, He will reveal the good things that are right in front of us.

Pray that all your expectations will be in God alone. Disappointment and suffering are inevitable because life can never consistently met our expectations. But when we put our expectations in the Lord and acknowledge that our help comes from Him, it takes the pressure off others to meet our needs. We make a mistake by expecting too much from people, life, and ourselves when our expectations should be in God. It pleases Him when we have faith enough in the midst of our disappointment to put our hope and expectations in Him. Don’t run to bitterness or unforgiveness. Run to your father’s arms instead, so He can hold and sustain you.

Pray that you will forgive others. Often our greatest times of hurt and disappointment occur when someone fails us – or we feel they have. People can hurt us deeply. But our fulfillment and happiness don’t depend on other people – they depend on God. Of course, we rely on other people for certain things, and it’s painful when they let us down. But the ultimate success or joy of our life doesn’t depend on them. We have to forgive and release them and not continue to suffer over what others do or don’t do to us.

Pray that God will help you forgive yourself. It’s devastating when we have failed others. Or we think we have failed when we really haven’t, but we torture ourselves, allowing our regret and condemnation to pound our souls like a giant sledgehammer. It’s a weight we can’t carry and were never meant to. Even when we have to bear the consequences for the wrong choices we’ve made, God is still there to bring good out of it. Even in our greatest depth of failure, God redeems everything when we reach humbly to Him. While it is good to examine our motives, thoughts, and actions, it’s counterproductive to beat ourselves up with a constant battering of, “If only I hadn’t…,” “If I just would have…,” Or “Why didn’t I ….”

Pray that you will not get discouraged. Discouragement can descend on you like a flood. You think you are standing strong, and in a weary moment, you get washed away by discouragement. Even though it may seem like forever as you wait for your difficult time to end, and you feel like you don’t have the strength to withstand any longer, tell yourself that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Phil. 4:13). Declare that you will “rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). Keep in mind that God has been known to do a quick work for which He has been preparing a long time. It could be today!

Regardless of your present situation, know that God has an abundance of blessings for you. He is working powerfully in your life right where you are; don’t stop praying. Close your eyes, call His Name, and sense His Presence. He wants you to trust that when you are afraid, you can turn to Him and find peace. When you are weary, you will find His strength. When you are empty, you will find His fullness. When you are sad, you will find His joy. And when you are in the middle of a raging storm, you will find His shelter and provision. Don’t let yourself be blinded by circumstances, afraid of what’s happening, easily discouraged, drawn toward bitterness, or quick to complain. Instead, look for God in the midst of your circumstances.

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