Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In the Shadow of His Wings (Pt 3): What are the Benefits?

Today's guest blogger is Linda Rice. Linda counsels at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.  Today you are reading Part 3 of Linda's series begins here on her blog

How might the beautiful imagery of the shadow of God’s wings comfort and encourage a believer in the midst of hardships, grief, oppression, or other trials? This post will continue to answer that question begun in the previous post. All three entries in this series on “In the Shadow of His Wings” grew out of investigation of the metaphor in Psalm 57. David composed that psalm when on the run for his life.
Be gracious to me, O God,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me. (Ps. 57:1-2)
Other passages containing this metaphor and discussed in the previous posts include Deuteronomy 32:10-11; Ruth 2:12; Psalm 17:8; 61:4; and 91:1, 4; and Luke 13:34. The first post considered the imagery of the metaphor itself and answered the question, “Who finds refuge God to be a sure refuge?” The second post began to answer the question, “What are the rewards, the comforts and spiritual blessings, of taking refuge in God?” They were:
  • Under God’s wing is redemption.
  • Under God’s wing is a sphere of grace.
  • Under God’s wing is intimacy with the loving God.
  • Under God’s wing is refuge.
This post will complete a list of blessings. I hope that the elaboration in these three posts will encourage you. If you have not repented to trust in Christ alone, may these remind you of your unsheltered state, unsheltered from the consequences of sin, and attract you to submit to Christ. If you are a believer, especially if undergoing trials, I hope it lifts your heart to remember how gracious God is, and may you be encouraged to depend upon Him for the strength to submit to His will in your trial. How bountiful are His provisions under His wing!
And so, continuing the blessings seen in this wonderful imagery:
Under God’s wing is growth in Christlikeness. God may allow a few arrows through His feathery shield or under the eaves of the shelter (Ps. 91:6-7), like He did many times in David’s life. But always, His faithful covenantal love (Ps. 52:10) moderates and works to turn the trial to the good of the one who takes shelter under His wings. Then, even in danger the trusting one finds rest. For example, from under that shelter David said that God accomplishes His purpose (Ps. 57:2). “In the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge…I will cry…to God who accomplishes all things for me.” Romans 8:28-29 echoes.
God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.
He accomplishes our growth by the Holy Spirit’s loving application of His Word to the problems and sin issues of our lives (John 17:17). You can know that God lovingly, sovereignly plans each trial for your welfare as well as His glory. He will use it for the development of Christlikeness in you. Meanwhile, you can give thanks to God Most High and persevere in obedience in the midst of your trials.
Under God’s wing are abundant satisfaction and delights. In Psalm 36:7 David wrote,
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
Lovingkindness, God’s loyal love exercised in His covenant with His own, is indeed precious! Because of it, the one who takes refuge in it has limitless access to the abundance of His house. There is Christ, who is grace and truth. Christ is the bread of life; He is food and drink  (John 6:35, 55). He satisfies the soul that hungers for righteousness, clothing that soul with His own righteousness (Matt. 5:6). Christ gives living water, and the soul that drinks it will never thirst (John 4). He is infinite, and so one may drink his fill of the abundance of His house and then drink some more because His abundance is never depleted. The river of His delights flows unendingly, widely, deeply, purely. The abundance in His house of food and drink and raiment and untold treasures to enjoy provides far beyond what will satisfy the thirstiest resident.
Under God’s wing are great joy and song. Even amidst threat of discovery, from under God’s sheltering wing David sang this praise:
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth. (57:5)
He repeated it.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth. (57:11)
At another time, hiding from Saul in the wilderness, David thirsted for God and found His wing of protective companionship to be a refreshing spring of water that lifted his heart. He sang,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me. (Ps. 63:7)
Clinging, David kept himself under God’s protective rule. There, God was his help through the difficulty. There, God was his fresh water, quenching his soul’s thirst. There, God was his relief from the heat. There, he feasted on the character of God and was strengthened.
So we, too, can take refuge under His wing, an unbeliever in repentance for salvation and a believer for comfort and grace amidst trials. Under His wing is forgiveness of sins, the hope of eternity with God, grace for godly living in trials. There is spiritual safety and rest from fatigue. There is His faithful presence, intimate communion, and unending satisfaction and delight. In the shadow of His wings we can joyfully sing,
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Overthrowing Self-Condemnation

How much do you review your failures and sins? Is reminding yourself of how you blew it last time a routine occurrence? For many women I know this is a daily part of life. Some of my counselee's who struggle with depression and anxiety begin their day by telling themselves what dismal failures they are. Most are not quite that bad, but truly I find my counselee's seem to want to clobber themselves with their shortcomings.

Does this surprise you? Did you think you were the only one? As long as there has been Satan there has been accusation and this will not cease until Jesus returns to rule the earth. Revelation 12:10 speaks of the accuser of our brethren who accuses us before our God day and night so we know we've a long way to go.

Our self condemnation takes many forms and our enemy really has only 1 purpose in it - and that is to discourage you to the point where you give up and cease to fulfill God's purpose in your life.

Think of the running dialogue in your mind. How often do you hear yourself saying things like:

"I am such an idiot!"
"What a loser I am, I will never get this right."
"How could I be so stupid?"
"I do the same sin over and over again, I am hopeless."
"I am a failure as a Christian"

Those are some of my thoughts and they seem to be the favorites. Satan loves to parade my failures and sin before me. He loves to remind me of the last time I chose to respond sinfully. He wants me to focus on your sin, failure, and your unworthiness, and he wants the same for you!

When we are busy doing ripping on ourselves we become completely ineffective in worship and service to Him. God's purpose and plan for our lives is derailed and until we get our thinking straightened out we are sidelined with self-pity and remorse.

The way we handle those adverse thoughts is with the truth. Remind yourself of the great God you serve, whose purposes for you will be accomplished! Remind yourself that God knew your sins and failures long before time began and because of Christ, He loves you anyway-enough to die for you.

Keep the truth always at the forefront of your minds. He who keeps you will present you blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Conflict: Grace Works!

Today’s guest blogger is Ellen Castillo. Ellen has been gifted to teach practical theology, equipping the next generation of Christians in the application of biblical counseling and mentoring. She is a Certified Biblical Counselor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) and  the American Academy of Biblical Counselors (AABC). She has worked as a Women’s Counselor in the context of her local church ministry, and most recently as the Founder and Director of Word Of Hope Ministries. Today's post is reposted with permission and can be found here

Conflict. It’s one of those words that makes us cringe and shrink back in denial and fear.

Too often our gut reaction when someone confronts us with an offense is to defend ourselves. Even if we were in the wrong, we tend to want to cover it up (that is nothing new, read about Adam and Eve!) We try to justify ourselves, blame someone else, avoid the problem, and the list goes on. We stand ready with excuses in hand, armed for the battle, fully intending to win it.

God offers us a better way. He offers us the way of grace. He extends grace to us and we are to extend it to others. The Bible is very clear regarding how we are to respond to conflict. We can draw from Scripture these 7 practical steps to use when we face conflict:

1. Remove the log:

Matthew 7:5 "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Before you engage in any discussion that will involve pointing out another’s sin, be sure that you have prepared your heart. In order to enter that conversation with proper motives and a forgiving attitude, you will need to admit your own failure in the relationship, acknowledge your own sin issues, and take responsibility for your part in the conflict. It takes two to have a conflict and rarely is there only one guilty party. Confess, repent, admit, and seek forgiveness. Only then are you able to have the right motives for confronting someone with the goal of reconciliation.

2. Admit weakness and failure:

Proverbs 28:13 "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

Again, own up to your part in the conflict. You need God’s mercy as much as the other person. Total honesty prepares your heart and presents your case in a way that is much more likely to be received. This is the way of humility. Pride in your heart will hinder reconciliation. Humility opens the doors of communication that can lead to reconciliation.

3. Don’t promise to do better next time:

James 5:12 "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."

The truth is, you will fail again. You are a sinner and so am I. We can seek God to help us to deal with our relationships in a godly manner but we will never achieve perfection. Sin has messed up that possibility. You can ask for help, accountability, and avail yourself to some input. But you cannot promise to “do better” because you probably won’t. God’s grace is sufficient for that. We are to have integrity (let our yes be yes) but there are consequences to making a promise that we cannot keep.

4. Grant grace no matter who is in the wrong:

Ephesians 4:31 "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Approaching a guilty sinner with an attitude of grace is critical to the healing of conflict. You, too, are a guilty sinner. It is a level playing field at the foot of the cross. We tend to forget that when we are ready to win a battle in conflict. It is easy to believe we are the innocent party as we aim to accuse and admonish someone. Whether that person has truly sinned and needs to repent or not, grace in your approach is critical and healing.

5. Offer solutions, not accusations:

2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

In order to reconcile, we need to do more than simply pointing out the problem that brought conflict. Reconciliation is only possible when there is a plan put in place to work towards rebuilding relationship. That plan will be useful only if it is based on God’s Word. God’s Word has the answers to our relationship struggles. An excellent resource for how to resolve conflict Biblically is the Peacemaker ministry (Ken Sande.) There you will find Biblical solutions to conflict that are not only rooted in Biblical principles but also practical in nature and ready to be put in to practice.

7. Purpose to be reconciled. Better yet, to be restored to full relationship:

Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

This verse speaks for itself. Do whatever you possibly can to reconcile a conflict. If the other person does not reciprocate, that is not your responsibility. They are responsible for their own sin, and you are responsible only for yours. At the end of the day, have you done everything you can to resolve conflict?

God has called us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers. 

Peacekeepers want to avoid conflict, and will do whatever it takes to do so.

Peacemakers want to resolve conflict, and will do whatever God’s Word teaches to do so. 

Scripture teaches peacemaking, not peacekeeping!

Reconciliation between believers is a picture of The Gospel. If we keep this in mind and remember it is not about us, but it is about glorifying God, we will be more motivated to reconcile. When we reconcile with people, we are also reconciled to God Himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation."

Is there a conflict in one of your relationships? If so, take Romans 12:18 to heart and become a peacemaker today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Join the Pursuit of Excellence

Laying aside messages others give us isn't easy. Especially when so much of what enters our head is intended to bring us down or seduce us with worldly pursuits. What seems to be drowning out the sound of God's sanctifying call on your life? What do you need to lay aside? I know that I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading things others post on social media. It's time I honestly don't have. Sometimes a particular problem will derail my studies or pursuit of Jesus. 

Paul knew his young protege Timothy would face many distractions and would be tempted to back down in the face of opposition and injustice. Timothy was ministering during a time when Christians were being persecuted for their faith. He encouraged Timothy to continue to present truth in the face of trials (1 Timothy 1:18).  He told him to keep on learning studying, and growing in his faith. He challenged him to continue fighting against evil and hypocrisy. Paul  wanted him to be confident in what he believed so he would know heresy when he heard it.

Paul wanted Timothy to pursue excellence and make his desires God's desires at any cost.  Just as difficulty and discomfort distract us from pursuing God, so does becoming too comfortable in good circumstances! We become cozy and snuggled in our perfect Christian worlds with our Christian friends and we cease taking the gospel to those who have not heard.  Our fervor for the lost is snuffed out and we become content with spiritual mediocrity. Our desire for spiritual growth grows dim because we don't want to risk the pain that comes with sanctification. 

Sanctification requires change on a personal level, on the heart level. 

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

During the tough times, when the hard edges are being carved off of our hearts, He comforts us and assures us through His Word that He does not make mistakes. We get upset when our vision of life is altered, or when God does not "behave" as we think He ought.  We must be careful to guard our hearts against disloyalty and grumbling when he orchestrates a particular set of circumstances for our sanctification.

 For growth to occur, there must be activity in a forward direction. God will be faithful to bring the people and circumstances into our lives for growth and change to take place. Because He is God, He is able to work together every single event of our lives to progressively sanctify us. He is able to overrule all the evil in your life and cause it to work together for good. He is perfect in His wisdom, His way, and His timing. He is always lovingly working. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Just Give Me A Job!

Today's guest blogger is Karen Pickering. Karen is a Biblical Counselor and founder of The Lytroo Retreat. Lytroo Retreat was created to minister to women who have been sexually abused.  It is an opportunity to shift your focus from your painful past to a hope filled future. This post originally appeared on her blog and is used with permission. You can read more about Karen and Lytroo Retreat here

I have a five year old granddaughter who loves to have jobs.  As I work around the house Arianna often asks, “Can I have a job?”  Picking up her toys or straightening her room are not on her list of things she wants to do.  I can often get her to do the less desirable jobs with a promise of something more interesting when she is done.
This weekend my husband and I catered a wedding for some close friends.  The week was spent in preparations.  Arianna, who was watching the activity, repeatedly said, “Can I have a job?”  She knew something big and exciting was going on and wanted to be part of it.
Earlier in the week I was cleaning at church.  “Just give me a job”, Arianna begged.  One of my fellow workers found a job for her.  She came running to me with gloves in hand to tell me, “Patsy gave me a job pulling weeds!”  As soon as I acknowledged her she ran out with a spring in her step to do the precious job she had been given.
The day of the wedding came.  Megan, who is eleven, was soon saying, “What can I do?”  We had hired her to watch Arianna, but since that didn’t take her full attention she wanted a job.  We gave her jobs: fetching things from the car, stacking the soda in the ice tubs, arranging the bags of chips in the basket.  The list grew and grew.  These weren’t exciting jobs, but she could feel the excitement of the event and delighted to be part of it.
Both Arianna and Megan are learning the joy of serving.  It will be a lesson they will continue to learn their whole lives. Some of the jobs they will be faced with will be boring, like cleaning their rooms.  Some of their jobs will be hard, like doing Algebra homework, or being kind to the class bully.
Jesus tells us a parable in Matthew 25:14-30.  The Master is going on a journey and leaves his possessions with his three servants.  The first two were faithful in the use of their talents; the third, not so much.  The master’s response to the first two was, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” (vv. 21 & 23 NASB) The third couldn’t be bothered.  He hid the talents in the ground and pursued his own interests.  You can read the lengthy response of the Master in verses 26-30.
Amazingly God gives us jobs.  Not because he needs us, but so we can work side by side with him.  Some of the jobs are boring,  small or hard. Many jobs, if not all, are impossible without his strength.  As we accomplish the small things he gives us more responsibility.  How am I doing the small jobs?  How am I doing the hard jobs?  That will determine what jobs he gives us in the future and what he will find for us to do when we get to heaven.
There is a wedding coming up.  Delight to be part of the preparations.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7 NASB)

Monday, August 25, 2014

"How Can I Forget What I Have Done?"

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.… Philippians 4:13-14 (NASB) 

These words were written by the Apostle Paul, who was originally Saul. Saul was born a Jew, studied under Gamaliel, and became a Pharisee. 

He was a guy with a past. 

If you read Acts 7 you will learn Paul was deeply involved in hunting down Jews who became Christians. He describes himself (1 Timothy 1:13) as a former blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man/violent aggressor. Original biblical language uses words that mean "mangling by a wild animal" to describe the things Paul was doing to Jewish converts to Christianity. He was responsible for the death of many believers. 

When Saul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus everything changed. When Saul was regenerated and believed God not only changed his name to Paul but He changed who Paul was. Paul began to preach Christ and took the message of salvation by grace through faith to the Jews and then the Gentiles. Initially the brethren were terrified of him, but his actions spoke for themselves, he was transformed. 

He later penned the words found in the letter to the church at Philippi, "but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." 

I know that some of you have experienced horrible things, or been a part of things you deeply regret and wish so badly that you could turn back the hands of time. You wish you could go back and talk yourself out of saying or doing what troubles you today. 

Are you having trouble forgetting what is behind you? Are you so focused on your past that it is affecting your present? Are you a slave to your memories? Many who answer "yes" to these questions are ruled by sorrow and despair. 

No matter what your past contains, the Word of God instructs and guides us to leave our past behind.  To forget what is behind. One commentator on this passage explains what Paul meant when he said we should forget the past, "Forgetting is stronger in the Greek (meaning) completely forgetting." He translates Pauls words this way, "I in fact am forgetting completely the things that are behind." 

Take it seriously. From the moment you trust Christ as your Savior you are a new creature, a new creation and from God's viewpoint your past sin is gone, He remembers it no more. You stand before Him in Christ; cleansed, justified, and without stain or blot of sin. 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) 

Cease holding on to shame and guilt for your past forgiven sins. It does not honor God to do so. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 (NASB)

Apply the truth of the above verses to your past. As hard as it may be to believe, there are hidden blessings in the past. Look for them. There were lessons to be learned and aspects of your character that have been changed. This life is all about transformation and sanctification. Accept that you are a work in progress. God is the architect of your life and He is a choosy builder. 

Not every stone brought to a construction site is kept. Its value is determined and ultimately some stones are kept and go on to be a vital part of a structure. Those that are of no value are discarded. 

Do the same with your old memories. Evaluate what is worth keeping from God's perspective. Look for how God protected you, discipled you, instructed you, and above all, loved you anyway. Look for how God redeemed the situation. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed?

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NASB) 

Worry, worry, worry. We worry about today, we worry about tomorrow. We worry about the bills, the future, the conflicts at home and abroad, and the economy. I know a woman who has spent a large part of her life as a habitual worrier. She has worried herself into stomach problems, headaches, and irritability. Worry is sin. Worry is disobedience of the commands found in Philippians 4:6-8 and Matthew 6:34. 

Some people never seem to worry about anything,  They fly through life by the seat of their pants, laughing and taking it as it comes. They slough off problems like swatting away a fly with a nonchalant attitude that simply flabbergasts the rest of us. 

Then there are the other kind of people. They wake up in the morning and wonder what they will make for supper at five o'clock that evening. They run through their mental check list of things to do before they even get out of bed. It goes like this: 

"Radio's on, oh no, it can't be time already." She open's one eye and see's it's still pretty early so she she gives herself until the next song comes on to get out of bed. But, being half awake her mind begins to turn. 

"What day is it? It's Thursday, the kids have chapel and gym today. I hope they have clean chapel clothes. What about a gym uniform? Is it a hot lunch day? Did I say I would make something? I can't remember. I hope not, I don't think I have time to do that today. I should have done that last night before I went to bed, but I was so tired... I am still tired...That's right, hot lunch is next week, and I did say I would make something. How will I fit that into my schedule? Oh no, the song is over, I have to get up. Do I need a shower? Are there clean towels? There are clean towels, but is there any soap left? Will will I make for dinner? How will I cook dinner? I have to work until five, is there a game after school? How will I get off work? My boss will be really mad, he can be so difficult! But if I am super nice and work extra hours tomorrow maybe he will let me leave early. Who will pick up the kids tomorrow so I can work extra hours because I have to leave early to pick up the kids and get them to the game today?"

And on it goes.

Many women feel as though they can't take a breath or a moment to relax because they are so overwhelmed by life every day. Yet in addition to the things bowling them over today, they add into the mix fears and concerns for what tomorrow may bring. 

The Lord gives us very sound counsel when He tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Jesus reduces our responsibilities to those of today. He instructs us to narrow our focus from the big picture to the little one. Today is all the Lord has asked us to manage, and He is here to help us to accomplish the task of the day. 

Structuring your life biblically will help you to overcome the temptation to worry about tomorrow. When a plan is in place it reduces the temptation to fret and worry. Planning is essential. If I don't have a plan I am grossly inefficient. With a long range plan I can break down a project into bite-sized pieces. It helps me not to be overwhelmed by the ultimate goal, and to focus only on what is planned for the day. By planning ahead you should be better equipped to meet the day's demands. 

Prayer is the first critical part of the plan. The Lord Jesus make time alone with the Father His first priority. He woke before everyone came looking for Him and spent time alone with God. He understood that if He needed that time if He was to minister the will of God throughout the day. Prayer time is an important part of preparing to meet the demands of the day ahead of us. Be careful to submit your plans to God, and to tell Him the things you are tempted to worry about. As you bring your plans before Him, remember that He has the right to change any part of your day to better glorify Himself. 

Once you have prayed than go ahead and put your plan to work in the day. Stay in that day, not tomorrow or yesterday. 

So, where does today find you? What are the circumstances of your life? Are your emotions stretched to the limit? Is physical affliction causing you or a loved one pain? What fires are purifying your faith?

Whatever it is that burdens you today, Jesus is calling you to live one day at a time in the midst of it. He is commanding you not to worry, to be anxious about nothing, not to worry about tomorrow. The Lord will enable you to handle with the circumstances and the stress that occurs throughout your busy day when you are seeking Him in the midst of it. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

He Had to Be Made Like Us

Stacie Gibson is a wife and mom of four kids from New York.  She serves alongside her husband, Matt at Grace Baptist Church, Dansville NY where they both are certified biblical counselors. Stacie is certified with ACBC and IABC and loves sharing God’s Word with women. In her “free time” you will find her homeschooling her children, reading and spending time with her family.

This summer the ladies in my church are going through a study by Elyse Fitzpatrick called Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ. So far, the study has been very beneficial for me as I have had to dig deep into the truths of the incarnation and the believers Union with Christ. My desire and hope is that the ladies of our church don’t just leave this class with big theological heads, but to truly understand what these major doctrines mean personally for them and give hope as they live out their Christian life.

The incarnation and life of Christ while he lived on this earth for 33 years can bring so much encouragement to our weary souls and women we help. There is a place for this doctrine in counseling and here is why: The Hebrew author says in 2:14 that the purpose of incarnation was to destroy the works of Satan and to make a propitiation for the sins of the people (vs. 17) but also, another reason the Word became flesh and dwelt among us was so Jesus could help us in our time of need as our merciful and faithful High Priest. When you and I are knee deep in suffering or a woman comes to you that has been encountering temptation, the truths of the incarnation and life of our suffering Savior can speak into an aching heart and bring much hope and joy that we are not alone.  

  Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

What stirs me about this text is that Jesus had to be made like His brothers in every respect.  We may be tempted to think that Jesus is just like us, sin and all, but He was tempted in all things as we are, without sin. Just because Jesus was without sin shouldn’t cause us to disregard this truth. He was 100% God, but He was also 100% human with emotions and physical needs. The Hebrew writer says in Hebrews 5:7 that “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears...”  Can you relate? Do you find yourself on your knees during suffering and trials with loud cries and tears? Christ understands you when you have been sinned against with abuse or abandonment.  He knows what it’s like to lose a loved one and to face temptation. Knowing this about our Savior should cause us to draw closer to Him in our time of need and receive grace and mercy.      

Take heart beloved that you are never alone! Jesus is not just some man sitting in heaven that is distant and cold. No, He is personal wants you to draw near to Him with confidence. If you are in Christ, you are His beloved daughter and He loves you. He loves you so much that learned obedience (for you!) through what He suffered (for you!) to become the source of eternal salvation for all of those who obey Him (Heb. 5:8). Christ can identify with you, and that is why He is not ashamed to call you His sister. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Regrets and Sorrows

The other day I wrote about "what-if" thinking thoughts that can rob you of peace about the future. Today I want to focus on "if only" thoughts that can rob you of peace and joy in the present. This is not new, I have written about it many times before. It is a topic that needs frequent attention because it comes up repeatedly in my counseling office. Counselee's who express deep regret about things said and done long ago that they just cannot seem to stop thinking about. 

Many of us came to Christ after years of living life our own way. We said and did things we now look upon with disdain and sometimes even a shameful sense of horror. Meditating on the past doesn't allow us to change it, and dwelling on it doesn't improve the present. Remembering the past with gratitude for how God used it to bring us to Himself is glorifying. 

Our gracious Lord chose us for His own while we were still sinners. 

For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.…Romans 5:7-9 (NASB) 

Part of who we are today is made of the lessons of the past. It is a past the Lord sovereignly allowed each of us to have. He knew the exact day and time we would be saved, and the circumstances that would surround our salvation.  He has been sovereign over every moment of our lives, the good, the bad and the ugly. God knew all our future ugliness and He chose us anyway. We were chosen for redemption before the foundations of the world were set in place. While no sin pleases God or brings Him glory at the time, He is now glorified by our redemption in spite of our sin. The redemption of every sinner is an opportunity for God to show the matchless grace He has for us and the endless love He gives to His children. He chose us because He loves us. He chose us while we were sinners because it brings Him great glory to do so. When you are tempted to despair think on these things. 

As Ruler over time, be comforted in knowing that God will use all of the horrible, painful and embarrassing events of the past to make you into a fruitful servant of the kingdom. All of our life experiences make us useful for service to the Lord. Who better to minister to a woman with an unplanned pregnancy than a woman who regrets her abortion? Who better to counsel a woman in a difficult marriage than one who successfully and joyfully lives with a man she knew better than to marry? 

Meditate on this truth: 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (NASB) 

You and I are counted among many brothers and sisters who are being conformed into the likeness of Christ in part by the things of our past. "If only" thinking breeds remorse, impedes forward progress, and fails to acknowledge God's presence and involvement in your past. Please, don't spend your present berating yourself for the past, praise God He has brought you up out of the mire and set your feet upon the Rock (Psalm 40:2). 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Broken Trust: A Christian Response to Your Husband’s Porn Problem

This post of mine recently appeared on the Covenant Eyes blog. If you or someone you love has been affected by the lure of pornography, I highly recommend their ministry. 

“I don’t trust you anymore.”
When you learned of your husband’s sexual immorality, you most likely experienced a flood of emotions. Wives who have learned of the pornography problem describe swinging from paralyzing shock to disbelief and overwhelming rage, crushing pain, grief, and sorrow that defy description.
Thus began a journey that you never intended to take.
Broken Trust
You are in the midst of a trial that has broken the trust you once had in your husband. Regardless of what kind of sexual sin he was involved in, the faith and confidence you once had in him has been damaged, or, at the worst, destroyed.
You may wonder if anything he tells you is the truth and it may be that way for a long time. This breeds insecurity and causes you to be fearful and suspicious all the time.

Being the Wise Wife

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)
Take seriously the message of this proverb. You can destroy what remains of your relationship through fear, anger, bitterness, and suspicion. Some women check up on their husbands constantly. They are afraid to leave him alone in the house; they check his phone and computer for downloads, search through his things looking for “evidence,” and live with a suspicious eye cast toward the man they once trusted implicitly.
Insecurity in the heart is revealed by these kinds of actions and can lead to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. I want to gently remind you that your security is not to be in your husband, but in the Lord. Placing all your security in a changeable and fallible human is setting yourself up to be hurt all over again.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. (Psalm 46:1–3)
It is critical that you place your husband and your marriage into the hands of the Lord, and entrust yourself to Him as well.

What Repentance Looks Like

Does your husband claim to have repented of his sin? Repentance is not a one-time action, but a lifestyle. Living repentant is something he must do daily, hour after hour.
Biblically, true repentance is a threefold response to sin that is found in the use of three different words that each express a different aspect of repentance. There must be change of mind, change of heart, and change of life. All three components or aspects must be present for there to be fruit of true repentance in a person’s life.
Most wives find it difficult to accept that they have no control over whether he repents. Despite your fear and insecurity, you must give your repentant husband opportunities to regain your trust.

The Trust Bank

When our children were little and began to want a little freedom to go to a neighbor’s house to play or to be dropped off to see a movie with friends, we began to explain to them the idea of “The Trust Bank.”
We told them that their Trust Account with us was full, that they had all the trust we could have in them at that point, and the balance in the Trust Account after this outing was completely up to them. They could add to their account by being exactly where they told us they would be, by doing what they told us they would do, and by coming home on time. This would give them greater potential to receive approval for larger or “riskier” things like sleep overs and out of town events in the future.
If our children came home late, or we learned that they had been dishonest with us, the result was a withdrawal from their Trust Account. This meant that there would be more restrictive measures taken for a while until they regained our trust.
The key was that they were not sent to their room for three months, but that they had an opportunity to regain our trust again through small and structured steps that were designed to help them succeed. We also adopted the “trust but verify” method. Our kids knew that we would check up to see if they were really where they said they would be.
Now, of course some of this is not applicable in a marriage, but the idea can be utilized nonetheless. You, as the wounded and betrayed spouse, must allow your husband to regain your trust through testing in life situations.

Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned.

Some couples work together on ways for him to regain trust such as giving her full access to his computer, phone, not erasing computer history logs, and installing special software that will allow a remotely located accountability partner see where he has been browsing, and the searches that have been done on the Internet. Other men place a phone call when leaving work for the drive home and provide financial accountability for every dime spent.
The day will come when you will simply have to trust that your husband is being faithful and true to you. The more trust building opportunities that are behind you, the easier this will be. You will need to entrust your husband and your marriage to the Lord and remind yourself that if your husband proves not to be trustworthy, the greater violation is against God, not you.
Keeping the Godward perspective is imperative; therefore, I suggest routinely reading Psalms and Proverbs to gain wisdom, insight and understanding.

Trust but Verify

Because deception is such an integral aspect of sexual sin, the temptation is to disbelieve everything your husband tells you. It is easy for someone outside the situation to tell you to just believe him because they are not in your marriage and they don’t feel your heartbreak. They also don’t live with your fears regarding deception.
It is not biblical for you to continually disbelieve your husband if you have agreed to remain in the marriage and have determined to forgive him. You may not realize it, but each time you do not accept his words as truth you are accusing him of being a liar. You must understand that the more you tell yourself that he is untrustworthy, the more convinced you will be that it is still true.
This makes it very difficult to move forward and rebuild trust in the marriage. My encouragement to you is to accept what he tells you as the truth and pray that the Lord would confirm it for you as truth or a lie. God detests lying as much as all other sin, and He exposes the things done in the darkness.
Building trust will come with the passage of time. The more your husband is proven to be honest with you, the more you will find trust beginning to build. This will not be accomplished overnight but will come a little at a time.
Hopefully he will understand this process, and is patiently waiting for you to see the changes that are taking place in his heart.
Photo credit: sodaniechea