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

Posts tagged ‘hope’

How Will I Ever Overcome My Failures?

SOURCE:  Taken from the work of  J. G. Kruis 

Overcoming Sin

     1.  The truth sets us free.

John 8:32. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  1. By nature we are all slaves to sin, but Jesus sets us free.
    John 8:34–36. Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
  2. A believer can overcome sin because he is a new creature.
    2 Cor. 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
  3. God has given us all we need for life and godliness.

2 Peter 1:3. As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.

  1. God requires you to work out your salvation in every area of life.
    Phil. 2:12. Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
  2. God enables you to do so; you need not go it on your own.
    Phil. 2:13. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
  3. God is able to make all grace abound to you, to enable you to overcome any specific sin.
    2 Cor. 9:8. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
  4. We are being transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.
    2 Cor. 3:18. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
  5. You must keep working at breaking sinful habits and developing new and godly ways.
    Eph. 4:22–24. That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
    Col. 3:9–10. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.
  6. Like a runner in a race, keep pressing on until you have gained the victory.
    Phil. 3:12–14.
  7. Don’t keep dwelling on past failures; nor should you get discouraged and give up after you have failed. Hang in there!
    Phil. 3:13–14. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  8. Get rid of everything which might hinder you. Persevere!
    Heb. 12:1. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
  9. One who is saved by grace must no longer serve sin. Keep working at overcoming it, using your body to serve only the Lord.
    Rom. 6:11–22. (Romans 6 contains much good instruction concerning how a Christian must and can overcome sin through the grace and power of God.)
  10. Don’t be mastered by any sin.
    1 Cor. 6:12. All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
  11. Christ, dwelling in us, enables us to overcome sin.
    Gal. 2:20. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
  12. Drunkards, homosexuals, idolaters, and others caught up in wickedness can overcome sin by God’s power and grace.
    1 Cor. 6:11. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
  13. Paul, Titus, and others were set free from the power of sin. God gave them victory through the Holy Spirit.
    Titus 3:3–7.
    Titus 3:5–6. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
  14. Use the infallible Word of God.
    2 Tim. 3:16–17. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  15. A true Christian will not live in sin.
    1 John 3:6. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
    1 John 3:9. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
  16. Jude mentions three things that are necessary to remain faithful to God.
    Jude 20–21. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

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Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

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A Prayer of Comfort by the Tears of Jesus

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Dear Lord Jesus, we all know this verse answers the question, “What’s the shortest verse in the Bible?” But it’s also a candidate for the most profound and comforting verse in the Scriptures. Your aching and compassionate tears, shed outside of Lazarus’s tomb, are one of the greatest showers that ever fell upon the face of the earth.

You knew that within a matter of moments, your friend would breathe again, walk again, and that you’d get to enjoy his company again. And yet you wept convulsively in the presence of his death. It was well spoken, by those honored to see your sacred fury and great sadness, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36) And you love us with the same tenderness and passion.

Jesus, I’m so thankful to know you as a tenderhearted Savior—one who comforts us in a variety of expressions of death—loss of life and loss of love; the death of dreams and longings, hope and trust; the burial of what once was and what may never be.

No one hates death more than you, no one. No one feels its horrid implications more profoundly. No one grieves its ugly violation more deeply. No one longs for the day of “no more death” (Rev. 21:4) more earnestly than you. No one has done more to secure death’s obliteration.

Perhaps some of your tears outside of Lazarus’s tomb were offered knowing he’d have to go through the whole rotten dying process again—such is your hatred of death.

Jesus, today I’m so thankful we know you as “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Your death was the death of death itself—the last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). And because of your resurrection, we sing in advance of our resurrection, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) Death is now working backwards, with a view to the Day when all things will be new forever.

How we praise you. How we exalt you. How we rest our oftentimes heavy, confused, grieving hearts in your loving hands. So very Amen I pray, in your grave-robbing name.

Darkness – Not Always Bad

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

We typically think of darkness as something negative or bad, and it’s often associated with evil. Nightfall, devoid of light, blackened, lost, secret, closed, blinded. The Bible often uses darkness to portray “not in God’s light” … certainly a place we don’t want to be.

For a time as a child, I was afraid of the dark.  Some people even carry these fears through their teens and into adulthood. However, I have learned through personal experience that darkness is not all bad. And darkness does not have to be synonymous with the absence of God. Sometimes when darkness comes, it signifies that we are under the shelter and in the shadow of our Lord. (Psalm 91:1) Know that as a child of God, nothing happens to you that He has not allowed.

During times of darkness, there are actually treasures to be found (Isaiah 45:3), along with learning and growth. When darkness comes, most people run from it and consequently don’t see God’s protection or the lessons God has for them. Others distract or soothe themselves from the uneasiness of the darkness by turning to food, fear, alcohol, porn, power, control, anger, or other patterned or habitual knee jerk responses. Some simply sleep through it as if nothing is happening.

When events don’t go our way and we feel emotionally uncomfortable, our natural reaction is to assume the situation is against us. This leads to believing the lie that nothing positive can come from the situation, even though we know from experiences in school, sports, or the arts that we have to practice to get good results.

The “no pain, no gain” maxim is true for spiritual growth as well. When we are born again, we aren’t mature, fully equipped believers. Spiritual transformation is a process that involves work, effort, self-reflection, self-examination, learning from mistakes, and applying our new skills and relationship in times of adversity. So we must embrace the dark times as opportunities for growth.

Today, when you find yourself in the midst of physical and spiritual darkness, turn to your God for strength. Don’t run. Rather, look for the treasures in those secret places. While in the dark, turn to His Presence … His Word … His Spirit. And you will soon see His Lighthouse guiding you step by step. Look for how He wants to grow or strengthen you, especially in the areas of life that are holding you back. Always search for the positives in the storm, because they always are there.

Running from adversity or growing in it is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I know that You are perfect in all Your ways … therefore it is impossible for You to be careless. Nothing happens to me that You have not allowed. When I experience times of darkness – times that You could have prevented – it sometimes feels as if You are being careless with me. Thanks for always having a plan for my growth and success, and giving me courage to follow Your perfect plan instead of my inadequate one. I pray, Father, that You equip me to navigate in the darkness … and that You will teach me how to use that equipment. I pray this in the name of Jesus, who experienced the darkest of times while paying for my sins;  – AMEN!

The Truth

I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. 

Isaiah 45:3

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

Isaiah 41:10

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 

Psalm 91:1

 

What Kind of Character is Your Adversity Revealing?

SOURCE: Adapted from an article at  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Unfortunately, we live in an era when people are more intent on being a character than in developing character. Why not, since we live in a convoluted upside down society that rewards characters and oftentimes punishes those who display real character.

Character is the set of outward-facing qualities that tell our friends, our families, and the world who we really are on the inside.

Character is the reflection of what is really at the center of our heart. It’s not about the words we speak, because anybody can say anything to mislead, pose, or evade the truth, intentionally or unintentionally. Character is about how we actually live our lives, not what we tell people we would do in a given situation. What we actually do, our outward behavior, reveals the attitudes and motivators in our hearts.

Anybody can wear a mask to hide the true nature of what is on the inside. This makes it difficult to know, rely on, or trust someone. But this is where pressure, stress, life’s storms, and adversity come into play and show their value.

You see, it is much more difficult to put on a mask in the midst of challenging circumstances … it’s often during those storms that people’s true colors are revealed. What’s exposed either makes us interesting and more attractive, or reveals some inner ugliness!

Pressure and adversity push what’s inside us up to the surface. Storms reveal whether your coping mechanisms are mature or immature. Most importantly, difficulties cut through all the layers to expose who is on the throne of your heart, God or self. We have talked many times about how decision-making gets very warped when me-centered propaganda is the basis of decisions, and this is a hallmark of “poor character.”

So how do we develop character?

In Romans 5:3-4, Paul teaches us that suffering produces character. While it is admittedly difficult, try to see and be thankful for the fact that God is using life’s difficulties … and Satan’s attacks … to build your character.

God brings storms to:

1. Build character;

2. Reveal to us what is at the center of your heart; or

3. Allow you to succeed through the adversity, shining His glory to others to guide them through their storms.

Today, take notice when things don’t go your way. What does your behavior reveal about the character of your heart? What is your knee-jerk response? If you acted on the first thought that came to mind, what would you learn about your heart? You can build character, but it will take intentionality and practice. Better to practice building character, instead of me-centered living … on the edge … at the whim of the next storm, which will exhaust you daily.

Character development is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, Thank You, God, for the opportunities You give me to grow in Your strength through my difficulties. I pray that You help me develop character that pleases You and allows me to be an example of a good child of Yours. I confess, Lord, that I spend too much time and energy on my image management. Help me shift that effort to improving my character. Suffering and difficulty seem to be the norm for me rather than the exception. Help me, Father, to use them to build perseverance … and to use perseverance to build my character. With Godly character, hope will be strong and abundant. I ask in the name of our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.   Romans 5:3-4 

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

 

B-R-O-K-E-N Dream Recovery

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Have you ever lost your way?  Are there any dreams you’ve given up on? Would you like to begin again?

Here are 10 words of hope to help you recover from a broken dream:

Recharge – Recharge your drained batteries. Read a good book, hang out with someone positive, or attend a conference. Find the way you gain energy.

Rest – Struggles drain us personally. Sometimes we can’t continue until we have an extended period of downtime. You may need a sabbatical.

Reward – Reward yourself for small achievements. You may just need one win to spur you to greater things.

Re-energize – As strange as it sounds, I find exercising to be helpful when I need more energy.

Resist – Push through the pain and resist the temptation to quit. You’ll be surprised how resilient you are if quitting is not an option.

Renew – Renew your passion for the vision you once believed in. It could be the vision of the person you intend to be.

Restart – Invite some change, begin something new or try a different approach. It’s okay to do something completely new!

Reclaim – You had a dream. You believed in it. It had potential. Perhaps you simply need to reclaim what you already had.

Rejoice – Sometimes you need to throw a party…even before you realize the victory. A celebration may give you the motivation to try again.

Remind – People follow a leader. Remind others of their role in achieving their individual dream. Spurring another to victory will energize you.

Here’s the plan:

  • Pick the one of these you feel you need the most, write it on an index card, then place it somewhere you’ll see often.
  • Invite a friend to hold you accountable.
  • Share your story with others in an effort to help another recover.
It’s time. Move forward.

Things Are Never Quite As Good As They Might Be

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson

Exodus 17; Luke 20; Job 35; 2 Corinthians 5

THINGS ARE NEVER QUITE AS GOOD as they might be.

Or if for a brief moment they are as good as you can imagine them, if for a while you seem to suck in the nectar of life itself with every breath you breathe, you know as well as I do that such highs cannot last.

Tomorrow you go back to work. You may enjoy your job, but it has its pressures.

Your marriage may be well-nigh idyllic, but in a sour mood you may marvel at how much you cannot or will not share with your spouse.

The warm west wind that tousles your hair metamorphoses into a tornado that destroys your home.

One of your parents succumbs to Alzheimer’s; one of your children dies.

There is so much around you to enjoy, yet just as you begin to chew on a filet mignon that your children have bought for you for your birthday, you remember the millions who starve every day.

There is no escape from the brute reality that, however wonderful your experiences in this broken world, others suffer experiences far more corrosive, and you yourself cannot ever believe that what you are experiencing is utterly ideal.

That restlessness is for our good. It is a design feature of our makeup, of our nature as creatures made in the image of God. We were made to inhabit eternity; by constitution we know that we belong to something better than a world (however beautiful at times) awash in sin.

Paul understands this point perfectly (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). He anticipates the time when “the earthly tent” (our present body) will be destroyed, and we will receive “an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Cor. 5:1)—our resurrection body. “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:2). It is not that we wish to “shuffle off our mortal coil” and exist in naked immortality: that is not our ultimate hope, for “we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).

Then Paul adds: “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Cor. 5:5). God made us for this purpose, i.e., for the purpose of resurrection life, secured for us by the death of his Son. Moreover, in anticipation of this glorious consummation of life, already God has given us his Spirit as a deposit, a kind of down payment on the ultimate inheritance.

Small wonder, then, that we groan in anticipation and find our souls restless in this temporary abode that is under sentence of death.

A Prayer for Dealing with Hard News and a Hurting Heart

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah   Psalm 62:5-8

Heavenly Father, like me, many of your children begin this day sitting in hard news—news which makes our hearts hurt badly.

The stewardship of a hurting heart is even more important than the stewardship of the money you entrust to us, for from our hearts flow the springs of life (Prov. 4:23). The same spring can carry life and death—nutrients and contaminants. What is in our hearts will flow from our hearts… through our thoughts, words and choices.

A hurting heart will look for relief somewhere, so, we pour out our hearts to you, dear Father. For you are a haven of rest, the source of all hope, the rock of our salvation and a refuge of grace. We come to you right now, certain of your welcome and desperate for your care.

Father, in the coming hours, center and settle our hearts. The good news of the gospel must be more compelling than the painful news of the day. Hard news will either harden us before men or humble us before you. By faith, we choose to humble ourselves before you.

Help us to do much more gospel-ing today than gossiping; much more praying than presuming; much more weeping than wondering; much more loving than launching; much more care-giving than detail-seeking. In Christ, you have called us to be ambassadors of reconciliation. In our pain, don’t let us choose to be agents of division.

We pray for friends who are hurting. Bring the healing balm of the gospel. We pray for friends who are angry. Bring the calming power of your Spirit. We pray for friends who want to hurt those who have hurt others. May they revoke revenge and run to Jesus. We pray for friends who only see their sin and are filled with condemning guilt.  May they clearly see the cross and be filled with gospel hope.

Father, we pray for those who are more zealous to be right than Christ-like. Arrest them in their way, before they do more damage to others. We pray for those who need to come into the light. Free them from their darkness, before they do more damage to themselves.

Please, Father, for the glory of Jesus, write stories of redemption from the ink of this hard news. We have never longed more for the Day when Jesus returns to finish making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ merciful and mighty name.

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