Monday, April 20, 2015

Lessons Learned From Chronic Pain

As I have thought about writing this post numerous titles have gone through my mind: "Surrender", "Admitting Defeat", "Getting Honest" and a bunch of other similar titles rolled out of my brain onto the keyboard. As you can see, I chose none of them. 

I am living with chronic pain. I have been living with it since 2008, shortly after I unknowingly contracted Lyme Disease. I was unknowingly bit by a tick one early spring day while cleaning up the leftover winter leaves from the little flower garden in my front yard; which happened to be in the middle of the city. An unlikely place to be bit by a tick carrying Lyme for sure. I was ill for a while before I knew I had Lyme and began treatment. 

Over the years I have developed many of the same problems/complaints others who've had Lyme experience, and feeling physically like I have gone a few rounds of mixed martial arts (and lost) is now a part of every day life. 

My purpose is not to receive your sympathy or your well-meaning suggestions to be healed or cured. My purpose is to (hopefully) encourage you with what I have learned over these past seven years.  My friend Suzanne over at Near to the Healer does a much better job with the pain of chronic suffering and I encourage you to to link up with her blog for excellent wisdom. 

God is by no means finished with me yet, but what I have learned from this (so far) is as follows: 

God has a purpose for this and I trust His wisdom in allowing this into my life. I believe He intends to use it for a variety of purposes that will conform me into His likeness and glorify Himself (Romans 8:28-29). One purpose is limitations. I am limited in my energy and endurance and I have to be wise in what I choose to take on. So, I expend the greatest energy on things that have eternal value. Another purpose is humility. It is difficult for me to admit, "I cannot." That smacks against my prideful heart. A third purpose is in a word, others. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

Chronic pain is not only for my growing and changing, it is for the benefit of other people. 

I have learned that my response to this is a choice. Some wise person said with respect to suffering of any kind that it will either make you bitter or better. I don't want to be bitter and I believe it is making me better. This demands a God-ward perspective. I have to see, believe and function out of the things I write about here, otherwise I am a hypocrite and I fail to persevere. It is easy to fall into despair if I take my eyes off the goal. I find refuge and comfort in the Psalms as well as reminders of God's faithfulness. 

It is making me a better dependent. I can do what is needed through Christ who gives me the strength I need each day (Phil. 4:13). I depend on Him to enable me and to meet me at the level of my heart's thoughts, beliefs, and desires. I depend on Him to remind me when I am becoming sullen and self-pitying about my circumstances. I depend on Him to remind me to take my thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) when I am tempted to be irritated at the limitations I am experiencing. I also depend on Him to help me to be content in my circumstances. It is tempting at times to chase down every new internet posting and get in conversations with fellow sufferers about what I should be trying to do about this, however that removes my gaze from where it needs to be. 

I have learned that by His grace and power I can still glorify Him even when I am physically miserable. I am no hero, nor do I enjoy pain. Let me assure you, I take a few ibuprofen to take the edge off, this is something God has provided for my comfort! However, that is not where my help comes from.  

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed 2 Cor. 9:8 (NASB)

I have seen this truth demonstrated in my own life as I continue to function with this in the midst of my demanding schedule. It is not easy, but I am not at all sure it is about being easy or that it is supposed to be easy! Jesus told us we would suffer in this world and I am sure He meant more than just for our faith (John 16:33). This fallen world includes illness and physical decay. It makes me long for the next stage of life, when I will be like Him (1 John 3:2). 

By God's grace I have another forty years to learn more about the "why" of chronic pain. It's odd, but I am looking forward to what I have yet to understand. God is good, and I am blessed beyond reason and measure. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Medication Assisted Counselee

Biblical counseling has the reputation of being anti-psychotropic medication. We do believe it is over prescribed and often masks problems that could be otherwise solved and addressed. However, a good biblical counselor does not refuse to involve the medical profession when their counselee is in trouble. A good counselor refers their struggling counselee to a medical doctor for evaluation, even when they are reasonably confident it will result in the counselee beginning a mood altering medication.

Consider the case of a young college aged counselee I will call Addy. Addy was raised in a Christian home and had always follow God outwardly (she was moral) even though she was not sure she knew Him inwardly. She confessed that she frequently doubted her salvation. 

Addy came into my office describing symptoms of depression. She wants to cry all the time, she doesn’t sleep well, and she wants to lay in bed instead of going to class. She believes she is ugly and uninteresting. Addy spends her free time alone in her room and has little interaction with other people outside of class. She said she is having difficulty interacting with her college age peers, does not feel like she fits in, and thinks the other young women at school have it much better than she does. Addie said she doesn’t care about anything. She was sorrowful and teary through our entire meeting.

College was her first time living away from home and she confessed to being initially shocked by college life. She was unprepared for the social structure, the excessive drinking and drug use, and the blatant immorality. At first it all seemed like so much fun and even though she knew it was wrong she went along with the crowd. Soon, Addy found herself involved with a young man and began to participate in sexual behaviors with him. Each time he left her bed or she left his she struggled to live with the guilt and fear that her family would learn of her activities.

When she would go home for family visits her parents knew something was wrong but they could not put their finger on it. They chalked it up to the new pressures of college life. Over time, Addy’s parents became increasingly concerned at the changes they saw taking place in their once vivacious and happy daughter. Nothing they said or did would alleviate the sorrow that emitted from her. It was not until the day Addy began expressing a desire to kill herself that her parents understood the seriousness of her situation. Not knowing where else to turn, her parents brought her to my office.

As she began to talk through what brought her to this emotional tailspin I learned that in addition to her immoral activities with the young man she had turned to self-harm as a way to deal with the guilt and shame. Addy had been cutting her abdomen and her thighs, and her cutting behaviors had escalated in a short amount of time. She shyly agreed to show me the long slices in her skin; some very fresh and others in varying stages of healing. While initially the cutting brought her relief, the guilt, shame and fear that followed only added to the burdens she was already carrying.

At the conclusion of our first visit, Addy agreed to a safety contract in which she agreed she would not self-harm between now and the next time we met. We discussed alternatives to cutting, including calling me or a friend from church who was also aware of the situation. The contract also contained numbers for crisis hotlines she could call if she was suicidal.

When Addy return to the following week while she had completed some of her homework, her self-injurious behaviors had not stopped, and in fact, Addy was more depressed than ever. She spoke openly of suicide and the criteria was such that I knew referring Addy for a medical evaluation was of the utmost importance for her safety and well-being. I recommended to Addy that she be evaluated for depression and she went right over to the office of a psychiatric group nearby. The evaluation revealed nothing organic that would account for her depression, and her physician prescribed a low dose antidepressant. Addy’s physician agreed that medication was not the answer to her problems, but was intended to stabilize her emotions during the time of biblical counseling.

During the next two weeks of counseling, we spent time going through the Psalms, specifically the Psalms of lament. I encouraged her to follow the pattern we find in the Psalms of crying out to God in our pain and rejoicing in His faithfulness.

When Addie returned on week three she was a different person. Gone were the thoughts of suicide and depression and she was ready to get down to the hard work of biblical growth and change. First, we tackled her spiritual state. She recognized that although she had lived in a Christian home her whole life that she did not have a saving faith in Christ. This season of depression was used by God to show her she needed Christ to indwell her heart and life.

Week after week we met together and dug out the roots that fed the thoughts, beliefs, and desires that brought her feelings of depression. She recognized, confessed, and repented of her sins before God and chose to confess to her parents as well. She met with the young man from college and not only ended that relationship, but she was able to give him the gospel and ask his forgiveness for her part in their sexual involvement. All through this process, Addy learned to take her thoughts captive, how to stand strong in the Lord instead of focusing on pleasing people, and made her daily goal to glorify God by how she lived. As she progressed we decreased our visits from weekly to bi-weekly and then monthly check-in times. She continued to maintain her spiritual disciplines and made steady progress in sanctification.  

Six months after beginning counseling, Addy and her doctor agreed it was time to begin to taper the medication. We began to meet weekly again to help her biblically address the feelings that would arise as the medications were no longer blocking her emotions. It took three months to wean her off the medication. There were some definite struggles with emotional outbursts and anxiety throughout the process, but as we met together studying and her applying God’s Word to her heart and life she would level out and stabilize.

Medication assisted biblical counseling was what Addy needed to stabilize her emotions long enough to deal with her underlying sin, and other spiritual issues in her life. The medication was a bridge that allowed her the ability to deal with her heart.  Used in this way, it is a great help to the counselee and the counselor.

Today Addy has graduated college and is a mentor for teenage girls in her church. She plans to pursue biblical counseling.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Helping the Anxious

Recently I learned a sister in Christ has suffered some life events that resulted in her seeing a therapist. Her family members took her to a counselor and she has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and has panic attacks. She has also been told she is depressed. The recommendation was talk therapy with behavior modification and psychotropic medications to address her issues. As we talked about her situation and numerous diagnosis she revealed that she had lost hope of ever being “normal” again. She has been going to her therapist two times weekly for the past 6 months and sees no improvement.

I understand her counselor is well meaning and wants to help her client. I know she believes she is helping despite the reality that my friend is much worse now than she was previously. In spite of the pills, and the talk therapy, "getting it out", and talking about how she feels she has found no release from the torture that has become her life.

Sadly I have seen this before. Like so many other counselee’s who have been led in this direction for counseling she’s not found real answers, only more heartache and now hopelessness. Like the others, this woman is convinced that there is no real help or hope for her outside of a medication adjustment.

I am not against medication when a person is ill, and I have referred counselee’s for short term psychotropic medications because it was appropriate and necessary for their safety and stability as we sorted through their problems biblically. Those are very rare situations because most counselee’s are so excited to learn that there is help and hope for them apart from medications that they are ready to begin the hard work of change right away.

Some of the things I discussed with my friend were new to her. For one I challenged her to think biblically versus psychologically. She had to learn to redefine terminology and to think biblical thoughts about things in her everyday life. For someone who has been thinking from the disease and disorder angle this was at first very difficult for her. However, the more she practiced thinking biblically (Romans 12:2) the more she began to understand that if her problems were “diseases” or “disorders” or not was not really the issue. It was her response to the problems of life (diseases or disorders) that she needed to examine.

The more she became aware of her thought life and how her thoughts provoke those anxious feelings the more she desired to distance herself from them. She chose not to live as a slave to her former way of thinking that held her captive in life. In exchange, she has come to desire righteousness and holiness more than fulfilling the desires of the flesh.

She kept an Audio Thought Journal on her smartphone. Every time she was tempted to become anxious she recorded the thoughts, beliefs, and desires she was experiencing she talked through them as she recorded them on her phone. When she arrived home in the evening, she wrote them out so she could see on paper what thoughts were driving her anxiety. We went through them together and determined which ones were real and true (Phil. 4:8) and which ones were not. This proved to be pivotal in the counseling process.

What my friend has done is not easy, it is actually fairly demanding but it is worth it. If you decide to take the narrow path and truly deal biblically with your problems you too will experience freedom to be who He has created you to be. You will find that you will know Him and the power of His resurrection and you will come to understand is more important and worthwhile than analyzing yourself. You will see that the more you know Him, the more you will learn about who He has already created you to be. You will learn to live your position as a daughter of the King.

I want you to know that God is a Sovereign King. As hard as it is to grasp right now, God was completely aware of your circumstances, problems, heartaches, failures, sin, and every issue in your heart before the beginning of time. He knew what would happen to you in life and He allowed it anyway. This does not make God cruel or mean- He operates in ways that are beyond our understanding and He is always good! God does intend to use your problems for good, He does intend to bring you through the storm, and He does intend to glorify Himself in the midst of your tragedy. And the glory He intends to bring Himself will come as you become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

I hope and pray someone will give you these truths, for there is HOPE!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Daily War Zone

Today's guest blogger is Karen Gaul. Karen has been a biblical counsellor since 1994 and is certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She is dedicated to bringing the Word of God to light in the lives of his hurting children.  She considers it an awesome privilege and honour to be able to walk with brothers and sisters in Christ to find healing, contentment, joy and peace in the Lord. This material is reposted with permission by the author. You can find this post and more of her writing here

I would expect that if someone was going into battle to fight for our country they would have the proper equipment. I would know they would have the proper camouflage clothing and footwear and the necessary head gear.  I would be certain they would have the proper weapons for the battle they were facing.  I would also be sure they had been properly equipped for the task that lay ahead of them.  And I would hope they took their training seriously because to them or a comrade it could mean life or death.
Why is it that as followers of Jesus who are in a war for our very souls we are so lax in our battle preparations?  We take life so lightly that when trouble comes we duck and run or hide or our reactions are so out of character for a CHRIST follower it would almost  seem we were on the wrong side.  We often live as though we have no arsenal at our disposal.

We are in a war zone.

Every day we fight battles that have the ability to give us victory or defeat.  We embrace the world so eagerly and willingly and without reservation or hesitation.  We do that without lining it up with what our Lord, our King says about it.

We seem to be living as though we are in the Garden, so we easily embrace every new whim or trend thinking that it “seems right”.

Last week’s article was on our feelings ruling.  That is what gets us into all sorts of trouble.  We embrace the world’s way of thinking.  Romans 12:2 commands us to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
We are sometimes so oblivious to living in a war zone, we are sometimes not thinking that what comes out of us is saying something about Who we follow.  We aren’t thinking about how our actions are grieving the Spirit because we have not thought biblically about what is happening around us.

We are exhorted to be alert and dress for battle.

(1 Peter 1:8; 1 Samuel 17:34)

Satan desires for us to live a joyless, defeated, hopeless life, a life that resembles the world.  Satan desires for us to live a life that won’t give testimony to Christ’s goodness, love and mercy, a life not desirable to imitate.  A life that is no different from anyone not following Jesus.
It’s interesting to me that when I repost articles that the responses vary so widely.  I can have non-believers and believers have the same stand on a most controversial issue.  How can that be?  Who are we conforming to?
Godward Focus
Because God is so gracious and merciful we are to offer ourselves to Him, holy and pleasing to Him.  We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We are to imitate Christ.  We are to love our neighbours, but not to condone sin.  We are to be wise. We are to be filled with the Spirit daily so we can discern what is honouring to Him and what is not.  We are to dress for battle.
Here are the instructions from Ephesians 6:10-18
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [and the foolishness in this world]
Why do we need Gods armour every day?
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
What to wear.
14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Going prepared
Going into battle prepared with the entire arsenal that God through CHRIST Jesus has provided means we don’t fight alone and we don’t fight in our own strength but in His truth, with His Spirit.  It means the Word is part of our daily life giving direction and instruction and encouragement.  Going into battle prepared means my emotions – my feelings, my thoughts, my deeds are protected with righteousness and truth.  I have protected my mind from being too self-absorbed, I have protected my emotions, my feelings and myheart so I practice godliness more today.  I persevere because the battle has really been won!
It means we have the ability to respond differently when darts are thrown at us.  When life happens unwanted and unexpected we have One who goes ahead of us as well as One who equips us for the day.  When things happen in the world around us, controversial things we have One who will help us respond biblically to them.
What do you need to do to prepare for battle each day?  When another law that leads us down a slippery slope comes along how does God want us to respond?  How does the law line up with biblical truth?  Am I daily renewing my mind?  Is Truth leading me or is “what seems right” charging ahead?

Monday, April 13, 2015

In the Hands of the Master Potter

If I had to choose my favorite Bible person (apart from Jesus of course) I would choose Paul. He is someone I cannot wait to meet when I get to heaven. Paul was human, not superhuman; he was a normal man and he had strengths and weaknesses like us. He was indwelt by the Spirit like you and I and yet his epistles make is clear that he struggled with sin. I wish God would have put more of Paul’s early responses to his adverse circumstances in the Bible for us to read and learn from. Particularly the ones where he really doubted the wisdom of what he was doing.  He led a very hard life after meeting Jesus Christ. He details some of his struggles and sufferings in the book of Acts, and in his epistles.

When writing to the Corinthian church about himself he said,

[I have been] in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. Acts 16:22-24

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 2 Timothy 4:14

Paul met the challenges, overcame, and adapted to the new “normal”, whatever that was. I desire to be that flexible and loose in the hands of the Master Potter. I wish I would not care at all about the things of this world, but my flesh is still too strong. I wish I could have Paul’s recorded responses to the trials and problems of life, and that in spite of them I would press on unphased.

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13

Paul came to that place only over time, he must have! He began his Christianity as a prosperous and respected man and wound up hated and abused by the people he once fellowshipped with. This had to be a major adjustment in his thinking. He suffered a terrible human cost, and he considered it all “nothing”

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11

I am not there yet. I am still so conflicted in mind and heart. I think that all the stuff of life does distract me and cause my focus to be everywhere but on Christ. One thing Paul had going for him in all those circumstances is that he had nothing and no One but Christ. I am not sure I am ready for that yet. There is still too much of my flesh that lives. Yet, I have come so very, very far.

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 3:13-14

That pressing on toward the goal of being like Christ… Christ, the suffering servant. Christ, the man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. Christ, the man who created the whole universe and yet had no home in which to live and no bed to rest His head. Christ, the incomparable and indescribable One- sinless and perfect.

I am fearful to fully and completely offer myself in this way because I know that the suffering would increase as the love of the world is stripped away from my heart. The only way to kill it off is through the sufferings and trials that we dislike so much. Through them we learn how to be content. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Is Self-forgiveness Biblical?

As a part of my college degree program I once took a class on post-abortion counseling. The instructor repeatedly said that a woman who has had an abortion struggles with forgiving herself, even when she knows that in Christ all her sin has been forgiven.

Is there really a concept in Scripture called self forgiveness? What does it mean when a person says, "I just can't forgive myself for what I've done?" In light of the psychological perspective on forgiving yourself I think this is a question that biblical counseling must address.

I understand that women who have had an abortion or committed adultery may struggle with that decision for years afterward. Many women who have grievously sinned say they think their sin is unforgivable. They do not believe God can forgive them even though intellectually they know that in Christ all sin has been forgiven and they are under no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

Despite having correct theology she continues to believe wrongly and is merciless toward herself. It is though she thinks by self-abuse she is satisfying an angry, wrathful God who will not forgive her without her paying for her crimes through self-abuse.

A woman who believes she must forgive herself has become her own judge and jury. In her mind she determines if forgiveness is warranted. James 4:11-12 reminds us that God alone is the judge of sin and is the only one who can forgive sin.

A woman who is struggling with forgiveness of self may still be dealing with an issue of real guilt. Careful questioning and probing at the heart level may reveal an incomplete repentance for what continues to plague her.

Is it that she stopped sinning out of fear of exposure and not out of conviction that the sin she was committing was wrong? Was there no true grieving over the sin that was committed? Sometimes these truths are difficult to admit, even to ourselves. We like to think we have repented and experienced godly sorrow for sin when in reality we have not. Ephesians 4:22-24 teaches us that we must put off or throw away the sinful desires of the flesh. And a person who is struggling with self forgiveness does not believe they are forgiven because they continue to struggle with repeating the same sin. Perhaps she is unaware of how to put off that particular sin and then put on its righteous replacement. Or, she may believe that because she continues to struggle with that sin that she is  unforgiven by God because there seems to be no victory over it.

Nowhere in the Bible do we find a command, a suggestion, or an exhortation to forgive ourselves. Nowhere does the Bible speak of self-forgiveness. As we read The Bible cover to cover we find forgiveness from God, we find forgiving others, and we find being forgiven by others, but we don't find a command to forgive ourselves anywhere.

When a person continues to struggle repetitively with sin with no victory over it, it is logical to wonder if perhaps there has been no true repentance and faith in Christ. Perhaps she has never truly been regenerated and if that is the case there will be no power or ability for growth and change. She may understand the gospel, but never have truly accepted the complete sufficient Atonement of Christ for all of her sin. She may not have an accurate view of salvation or of the Christ who saves.

The only remedy is to accept and believe and live out the gospel. Accepting the acceptance of Christ and accepting the sacrifice of Christ is what brings us acceptance. He brings us forgiveness, and He is the only means of a switching guilt and shame for the sin we have committed.

A person who says, "I know God has forgiven me but I just can't forgive myself" really does not understand the complete forgiveness of God in Christ. This person believes on some level that the sacrifice of Christ is not enough to meet their desperate sin need, so they must augment Christ's forgiveness. Usually the person self punishes takes over the job of penalizing  themselves. They believe ultimately that God's forgiveness is insufficient, that because of remaining guilt the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was not enough to cover their particular sin as though it was greater than the sacrifice of Christ. 

There is no sin is greater than the forgiveness of Christ. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Has God Let You Down?

Have you ever thought God let you down? Have you asked God for something, expecting to receive it, and you didn't? If you ever have thought God let you down or you find yourself disappointed in God, you have a grave misunderstanding about Him.

Webster says that to disappoint is, "to fail to fulfill the expectation, hope or desire of. To prevent the fulfillment of a hope or a plan." (Webster's Online Dictionary)

All of our disappointments come in varied shapes and sizes. Some are small and seemingly trivial and others are huge and leave scars that take a long time to heal.

What is your response to disappointment? Do you accept it well? Do you pout and get angry? We are so easily swayed and turn away from God in these moments. Many times we don't realize it until we have gotten ourselves into such a mess...and then we don't know where to go. Usually, we complicate matters and go everywhere but to the Lord.

Psalm 118:8-9 says, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes."

God is the only one who will never let us down. Scripture says "God is perfect" (Ps. 18:30) and He is the only one who will never disappoint us.

So when there is something that you truly believe is important, and does not come to pass you have a choice: You can accept that is thing (whatever it is) is not as important to God as it is to you, or you can get angry with God. The wiser choice is to accept that whatever you desire or want is not a big thing in God's eyes. He has a better plan, and a different plan for your life (Jer. 29:11-13). Trust that God's plan is more important than your own and that He is in control.

These decisions will affect how you respond when your wants and desires are not granted. If you find yourself contending with God, it may be because your heart is fixed on something other than God. That "something" is usually yourself. When you look at those disappointments from God's perspective it will change the focus to what God is accomplishing in your situation.

God changes your heart and your expectations and the result is joy! You will find your will in submission to His will and you will also see that you are content with the plans the Lord has for you. Your confidence will only grow and grow that He is for you and not against you.

It goes without saying that there are times you will also learn that God allows some problems to remain in your life for longer than you would like. Sometimes they are permanent! Paul learned this when he asked the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh and he is reminded that the grace of God is sufficient to meet the need. Your circumstances may never change, and that will be ok. The point is that you grow through these times and learn the lessons the Master desires to teach you.

While in the midst of disappointments, set your heart on glorifying God through right responses and acceptance of His will for you. In this you will find joy!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Cursing Children

Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)

In the past several months I have become aware of a truly disturbing development in our culture; parents routinely using curse words when speaking to their children.

While I grew up in a moral home, I didn't become a Christian until I was in my 20's and I confess I used plenty of bad language. When I was a young person I was very familiar with cursing and foul language. It is a very difficult habit to break.

I remember a now deceased comedian had something called "the six words you can't say on television." When we were raising our kids (not all that long ago!) culture dictated that curse words were said quietly, under your breath, or in the privacy of your own home. If we were out at a secular event you might hear a "mild" curse word or even people using the Lord's name in a sinful way. Cussing was reserved for the really bad stuff. If you dropped a big, bad curse word in public, people around you would glare at you or make a comment about how inappropriate your language was. I recall the phrase "do you eat with that mouth" or something similar being said. It was not acceptable to utter a string of foul language like it is today.

What I am referring to goes way, way beyond what I used to hear.

Numerous times in stores and places literally all over the country have I heard adults using foul and filthy language - words not fit for public airing, and saying these things to small and young children. Little people in strollers and shopping carts, children walking the family dog with an adult, going through a parking lot at a store, or kids in line at Disney World are all being cussed out and cursed at by their parents or care givers as a part of normal conversation! If this is how the adults talk in public, what is being said in private?

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)

This trend is distressing on a number of levels. Children are learning this is acceptable behavior, and understanding that these words are part of normal conversation. All of the curse words are demeaning and derogatory; they do not build up the child, they tear him or her down. These words are often used in conjunction with threats of beatings or included in insults of the child's intelligence, character, personality, or physical appearance. It is clearly verbally abusive at the very least.

What really affected me was I observed little to no reaction from any of the children being spoken to that way. Some flinched a little, others looked momentarily sad before moving on, but most of the little kiddos showed no response whatsoever. I can only imagine the damage being done to their tender hearts and spirits.

Why, why would a parent or other adult speak to their child in such a manner? I believe it is all a part of the cheapening of human life and devaluing of children and the family that has gone on since the 1970's. We are witnessing the fruit of absent parenting, lacking or absent morality, subjective ethics, removal of God from our schools, our culture, and our nation.

God help us as a society.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: Pleasing People: How Not To Be An “Approval Junkie” by Lou Priolo

Today’s guest blogger is Lesley Eischen. Lesley describes herself as a Christ following, Midwestern wife and homeschooling mom who enjoys learning as much as teaching.  With an affinity for ‘narrow passages’. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14 ESV You can find more of Lesley’s writing at Today’s blog is reposted with permission. 

“The motive of such an individual is identified in John 12:43: he ‘loved the approval of men rather than [or at least more than] the approval of God.’”
Consider this for a moment; you notice that familiar tension when you and your spouse have a decision to make about a loved one’s request and your spouse hasn’t come to the same conclusion as you. You become anxious about their decision. Maybe even angry. Their resistance is startling.
“He fears the displeasure of man more than the displeasure of God.”
You wonder how they could deny the request of someone you are pulled to appease. You might think their decline of accommodation is inconsiderate or perhaps obstinate. You might think they are trying to upset the person you are straining to pacify.
You start to doubt your viewpoint and become double minded. You worry you have displeased your spouse in addition to the loved one. You are simultaneously filled with frustration and wonder for the person who isn’t a people – pleaser.
This is only one scenario that might be an indication that a person is an approval junkie.
People – pleasers often presume others are wired as they are. So when they run headlong into someone who is not, it turns their mindset upside down and throws their people – pleasing throttle into overdrive.
“The love of man’s approval is inextricably bound to the fear of man’s disapproval.”
You will know who you inordinately want to please by who you can’t say ‘no’ to without unreasonable angst or fear of repercussions.
And it is the people – pleasers who will compromise – perhaps in detrimental ways. They will acquiesce – to feign peace. They can be manipulated – sometimes even allowing it, to avoid confrontation or conflict. They may even become the manipulator.
“We step over the line into sin when our hearts are governed by the desire to please people rather than by the desire to love God and neighbor.”
At the crux of people – pleasing is FEAR and PRIDE. Are you surprised? I was too.
Make no mistake, if you are a people – pleaser the first half ofPleasing People will not coddle you in any way. It is made readily clear that inordinate people pleasing is sin.
“The thought of my trying to convict you of your sin may seem like a rather severe (if not unsympathetic) approach to encourage you to change, but it is actually a very loving approach. The truth is, what we will be discussing in this book is not a sickness (or a psychological disorder) for which there is no cure; it is not a genetic predisposition that you as a Christian will be forced to live with for the rest of your life. It is simply a sin! And Jesus Christ came to do away with our sin.”
The first half of Pleasing People presents an in-depth understanding of what a people – pleaser is by pulling back the veil of those characteristics and exposing their consequences in light of the author’s ample use of Scripture.
Mr. Priolo is not advocating being stiff-necked, mean-spirited, unteachable, self-centered or contrarian for spite’s sake. Those attributes are no more Christlike than being a people – pleaser. There is a risk of over-correcting and swerving into another ditch of sin and error.
“In some places, the righteous requirement of the law is emphasized; in other places, the grace of God is clearly the predominant theme. In some places, faith apart from works is taught; elsewhere, faith is tied to one’s works. When you put it all together, you understand that we are saved by faith alone, but not the kind of faith that is alone. “
The exhortation is to be a God pleaser, which he elaborates in the second half of Pleasing People. It begins with the understanding that apart from Christ we can not please God. He walks the reader through what he must to do be saved and therefore pleasing to God.
“Not that it will be easy. It will require much effort, considerate amounts of time, and restructuring of your thoughts as you depend on the Holy Spirit for His enabling grace…And be patient – God will probably not wean you of your love of the world overnight. It will take time, effort, and thought to refocus your spiritual eyes, but in the end it will be well worth it.”
In Christ, we have the ability to please God far more often than we have of pleasing man – even some of the time. In Him, we have a loving Father and righteous judge who created and knows our most inward parts unlike mere man’s limited access.
Only God has the ability to rightly evaluate our internal and external behavior for which we will give an account. How much more wise and worthy is it to seek to please the Sovereign Lord and Sustainer of all things than our fickle and confined fellowman?
“When you please God, you have everything you need (security, happiness, peace, comfort, contentment, and freedom) – even if the whole world is displeased with you.”
Written with precision and practical application I would enthusiastically recommend Pleasing People – to the pleasure and glory of God.
Purchase Pleasing People: How Not To Be An “Approval Junkie” by Lou Priolo
You can also visit Lou at his blog: Lou Priolo Biblical Counseling
In addition, Mr. Priolo offers several tools and resources for further study and one of those is:
Directions Against Man Pleasing by Richard Baxter

Thursday, April 2, 2015

50/20 Vision

Today's guest blogger is Anne Dryburgh. Anne is a missionary in Flemish speaking Belgium since 1991 doing evangelism and biblical counseling. She is certified with the IABC and ACBC. Anne's ministry is unique and I know she would appreciate prayer as she ministers to those around her. These posts will give you an idea of what she faces in her ministry, and how important biblical counseling is to the people she serves. 

Several years ago Sylvia’s heart changed. Instead of allowing herself to be coerced into sin by family members who claimed the name of Christ, she decided to live for the glory of Christ first. This decision had huge repercussions in her life as her family members revealed what was going on in their hearts.

Mild insinuations turned into veiled or outright threats about what would happen to her if she dared to go against them. Insinuations about her were made to others, resulting in their minds being poisoned against her. Ostracism, a ruined reputation, lost relationships, and financial hardships were heartbreaking daily reality for Sylvia. The pain and loneliness was extreme. Yet Sylvia trusted by faith that the Lord is judge.

Every day she was faced with a choice: what or whom shall I trust? Who do I believe is in control of my life? Can the Lord protect and preserve me in the midst of such horrible bullying?

Sylvia learned that God is sovereignly in control of the circumstances of her life. Regardless of what her family did to her, she had everything in Christ to live for his glory every single day. Sylvia decided that instead of living in fear of what others would do to her, or trying to second-guess their actions, she would focus on the Lord as sovereign King.

The story of Joseph in Genesis was particularly helpful for her. Even though he was sold by his brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten about by those he helped, he could see God’s hand and purpose at work in his life. Amazingly he said to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

Like Joseph, Sylvia trusted that although her family had evil intentions, God was using their behavior for his purposes. She trusted that God would use what was happening in her life to further his glory and kingdom.

As a result, her family came to lose their power and control over her. The ostracism remains, but Sylvia has grown to become a woman who is largely free of what had been a paralyzing fear of man. She now supports other woman who are similarly imprisoned by fear so that they live and rest in the care of the Lord. 

In this way, Genesis 50:20 has become true in her life as well.