Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Emotional Adultery

It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. This is also true about sin; specifically, there is nothing new in the way of sexual sin under the sun. The record of mankind sinning sexually has been recorded since Genesis 4.

The Bible has much to say about sexual sin and its consequences. It gives us specific details about people who committed sexual sin. In some cases the personal consequences they bore are detailed, and in other cases the effects their sexual sin had on individuals and nations is explained.

Because of social networking sites, people are now able to connect with friends around the globe. Like anything, these sites can be used for good and bad purposes. Social networking sites like Facebook provide easy access to old flames, school friends, and former lovers.

It should be no surprise that we see skyrocketing divorce statistics (Facebook is now mentioned in 33% of divorce proceedings) involving married people who find a long lost love and reconnect via a social networking site.

It is never wise for married people to “friend” people of the opposite sex. Those who have done this overwhelmingly regret it. Many of those who have fallen prey to a Facebook romance report that they never intended it to happen; they were just looking up an old friend.

Social networks provide shields of protection through privacy settings that deceive users into thinking it is safe to divulge information about their lives that is better kept private. Users believe that geographical distance will prevent them from actually making a physical connection with their “friend” and that reminiscing about days gone by is harmless. It seems harmless to flirt a little with an old boyfriend but it is not. If he was someone you were interested in before, what makes you think you won’t be interested again?

An on-line relationship is not multi-dimensional; it is limited to the written word and selected pictures of a person. It is idealistic in that the people on either end of the connection reveal only what they want to have seen about themselves. This makes it easy to develop a strong emotional attachment to the other person and to “fall in love” with him. As that emotional connection develops, the husband begins to be edited out as the “friend” becomes the new confidant. An emotional affair can be as devastating to a marriage as a physical affair. 

When a wife develops an on line relationship she is developing a relationship no matter how dimensionally restricted it is. There is sharing of daily life and the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, desires and feelings that accompany it.

It is perhaps difficult to comprehend that Christians commit any form of adultery. People who attend church every Sunday are as susceptible to the lusts of the flesh as their non-Christian counterparts. We struggle to understand how this can happen, how a Christian who attends church, reads their Bible, and professes a love for God can fall into such deep sin, but it happens with shocking regularity. Guard your heart! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sanctification: Let Go and Contemplate?

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.  You can read more of her writing here

When I first heard the phrase “preach the gospel to yourself” I thought it meant to remind myself of what Christ has done for me through His work on the cross. A believer certainly ought to remember and give thanks!

Gospel Sanctification

In the past few years, I have noticed a different emphasis grow in prominence. Desiring to help others avoid legalism and live by grace, some teach that bringing to mind Christ’s redemptive work should be a constant occupation. I have observed two thrusts of this teaching. Some employ constant contemplation of the gospel to motivate obedience by generating feelings of delight. Others believe gospel meditation to be the means of sanctification. The two are closely connected.
One writer who promotes the first emphasis teaches that gratitude is the only motivation which makes obedience acceptable to God. Supposedly, obedience out of a sense of duty will inevitably lead to legalism and despair. This idea deemphasizes the will and risks dependence upon self-generated feelings rather than upon the grace of the Spirit. The Bible says it is the Spirit, not feelings or contemplation, who gives the will as well as the power to obey. “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:13b-14).
The second emphasis is called “gospel sanctification,” or the Free Grace Movement. Proponents of gospel sanctification promote preaching the gospel to yourself, or meditating upon Christ’s atonement, as the means of sanctification.
Now, we know that sanctification is the process of becoming in thought and action what we are positionally in Christ. The Holy Spirit eliminates sin from the experience of the believer and produces His fruit, gradually conforming him into the image of Christ. The question is, how?
Philippians 2:12-13 says,
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Unlike justification which is all of God, in sanctification believers must work while God works in them. Proponents of gospel sanctification agree that Christians work in the sanctification process, but they define work as contemplation of the grace of God in redemption, thinking deeply about grace. Practical effort at obedience is unacceptable because it is considered to be of self, not God. Instead, we must “rest” on what Christ has done, and obedience will then happen.
For example, Tullian Tchividjian says that he used to think he had to work at putting on godly attitudes. But then he realized that growth comes not by working at attitudes but by working to realize what we already have in Christ. On his blog, he says,
Sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification–receiving Christ’s words, “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, into our rebellious regions of unbelief.  It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day.
This method amounts to seeking sanctification by contemplation, not by hard work at obedience in word and deed by submission of the will. Let go and contemplate.


I sympathize with the desire of proponents to counter legalism. We are to live by grace. We are to  love God with all our being, not just superficially clock in and complete projects to earn wages of approval. However, I am concerned that this Keswick-leaning view of sanctification misdirects to a false expectation of lack of struggle, an inordinate dependence upon feelings, and reduced motivation to employ self-discipline upon the will.
It also tends to grant a power to the gospel (or actually one’s contemplation thereof) that belongs to the Holy Spirit. For example, I recently attended a workshop on adultery. Of the offender, the lecturer said that the power to stop adultery “comes from the gospel.” Of the spouse, he said that “the gospel gives power to forgive.” This sounds spiritual, but is it biblical? Nothing was said about the role of the Spirit. Yet the Bible says nothing about walking by the gospel. There is no “preach the gospel to yourself and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Rather, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). It is the Spirit, not the gospel, who gives power to forgive, to repent, and to obey God in the face of temptation.
Another concern I have is that, unless “gospel” is redefined to be all-inclusive, the emphasis on the by gospel sanctification proponents is theologically myopic. God’s work of salvation through the gospel is certainly a vital theme for daily meditation. Then again, so is God’s work in creation. So is God’s work in providence. So is God’s work through His Word. If we meditate only on the gospel, we miss the rest. Furthermore, the gospel is not the theme of Scripture; Jesus Christ and His kingship is (John 5:39). What about meditating on Christ Himself? So while we daily remember and give thanks for and delight in the forgiveness and grace and righteousness we have through Christ, let us not leave out all aspects of God’s character, greatness, works, and glory.

Spirit-led Sanctification

How is sanctification accomplished? Look again at Philippians 2:12-13.
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Believers must work while God works in them. In context, this work is not effort simply at reforming thoughts; it is effort at changing behavior. Don’t just think about grace; put it to work. Behavioral application is what exercises grace and faith. “Putting to death the deeds of the body” by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13) builds and tests beliefs as no mere contemplation can. Paul wrote, “I labor, striving according to His power” (Col. 1:29). He labored, worked strenuously, and simultaneously he did so knowing that it was God who was doing the work through him. The way that believers grow in Christlikeness is by thought-word-and-deed obedience to the Word of God dependent upon the enabling grace of the Holy Spirit.
Is the gospel necessary? Of course. None would have the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable sanctification without salvation by the work of Christ (Rom. 8:9). Neither can we, apart from union with Christ, do anything that pleases God (John 15:5).
Is meditation important? Certainly. We must renew the mind in order to put off lies and put on truth, to conform our thoughts and beliefs to the Word of God so that we know how to glorify Him in our deeds.
But if you have to have feelings of delight before you will believe the truth of your justification or before you make a choice of the will to obey, then you are living by sight, not by faith. Besides, feelings lie. Just because you feel delight doesn’t mean that your obedience is especially acceptable to God. The Christian life is not one long mountain high of delight. Most of it demands willful choices to read God’s Word and then practice itwithout corresponding warm fuzzies and often in opposition to what we feel like doing. We must choose with the will, not meditate into feelings.
While we should always be grateful for grace and our justification in Christ, the premise underlying “preach the gospel to yourself” for sanctification is false. That is, the gospel does not sanctify believers. It saves unbelievers. Contemplation of Christ’s death and resurrection is not the biblical method of growth in godliness.
Believers cannot restfully meditate their way to obedience. “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body” and “present…your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom. 6:12-13) don’t just happen. Obedience takes work. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we” …would meditate ourselves into them? …would contemplate grace? …would live gospel-centered lives? No, “…so that we would WALK in them” (Eph. 2:10). Works are actions that we do with a choice of the will. We put off lying and put on truth-speaking, put off theft and put on labor and giving (Eph. 4), and these actions will not be accomplished by delighting oneself into it. Believers must fight the fight, run the race, compete for the prize, work hard like the farmer (1 Tim. 6:12; Heb. 12:1; 2 Tim. 2:5-6). This work must all be done in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, but it nonetheless must be done. (See more on preaching the gospel to yourself here.)

Work by Grace in Faith

Our hard work pleases the Father. Ephesians 2:10, quoted above, shows that He planned obedience for us. He delights in our obedience because it shows our love for Him. “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21).
If you don’t feel like obeying yet you choose to obey in faith that God is working in you, trusting that the Spirit is giving you the will and is giving you the grace to follow through on that choice, and if you obey, you will please God with or without feelings. You will be loving God. You will be living by grace.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Being A Shepherdess

Today's post is for those who counsel or would like to. If you already mentor or disciple other women you are in a position of leadership. Even if it is not an official position in your church, you are a leader to the women you minister to.

This is a sacred position of trust. Someone trusts you enough to allow you into their private life and to share with you difficult, sometimes intimate, and always painful details of their relationships.

Many women who disciple have undergone extensive training and possess great knowledge and wisdom from a biblical point of view. Because our hearts are sinful and depraved it is easy to become prideful and puffed up with knowledge. 

How can you maintain a humble heart?
  1. Examine yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions. Do you bristle when someone has a better way than yours? Do you seek the wisdom of others? What happens when someone criticizes you? Do you listen and evaluate what is true and repent and change, or do you justify and rationalize your behavior? (see Galatians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 13:3-5, Matthew 7:5)
  2. Ask a close friend to tell you the truth. This is tough, and a willingness to do this is a good sign you already have some measure of humility. If you are going to take this step, pray the Lord will enable you to accept whatever is said to you, for you may hear things you are not expecting. (see Proverbs 27:5)
  3. Pray God would illuminate your heart to your sins. God is the Chief of the heart and He desires for us to be humble. In fact, Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud (James 4:6)
  4. Once you become aware of what lurks there, you are to confess those sins to God (Proverbs 18:13). Confession means that you agree that you have been wrong, that you have sinned (Psalm 32:5). If you have sinned against another person by your lack of humility then you must confess to them as well (James 5:16). Two of the most difficult words for a person who struggles with humility to utter are "I'm sorry."
  5. Ask your friends and family for forgiveness and thank God for His forgiveness (Micah 7:8-9).
  6. Make yourself accountable to someone who is not afraid to be honest with you (Proverbs 27:6).
Are you unwilling to take the above steps? If so, you must ask the Lord to help you examine your heart and understand why. You may be fearful, prideful, or adept at rationalization and justification. As a teacher of the Word, you are held to a higher standard and your actions and attitudes, thoughts, beliefs and desires are to be worthy of imitation by those we disciple and mentor. It is a humbling thought for me as I reflect on my own heart and realize that I am not always a godly example.

My experience is that much of the sinfulness we struggle with tends to sneak in from around the edges. If it were a frontal assault it would be immediately recognizable and we would address it then. However, the heart is so deceptive and so sneaky that we don't always see it until it has given birth to full blown sin. Be mindful of the deceptiveness of the pride that resides in your heart. Be watchful over your own heart, stay in the Word, and be willing to be vulnerable before others. These are a few of the ways you can guard your heart as you lead and shepherd other women. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Tender Heart of Women

I have attended many lectures and seminars over the years on the role of a woman in the church and in life and marriage. I find many of them to be the same- with the focus on what a woman does. I am sorry to say that in years past I even taught on some of these things with the focus on how to be a good wife. Women are given their marching orders on submission and bedroom performance to keep their husband happy and and how to do their duty. Now before I lose all my unmarried friends, I want to ask you to hang in there and read this to the end!!

I know this is what is taught because these are the women who come to me for counseling for their unhappy marriages. They tell me their marriage "is not working" in some way or another.

When a marriage is "not working" there is a problem at the heart level. When a woman dislikes her God-given role as a wife, and rebels against this role there is a heart problem.

Often women look at their marriage and lives through the eye of disappointment and failure. Their husband who was Prince Charming at the altar has become Hagar the Horrible at home, and their darling children who were adorable babies have now become Hell's Angels. They have a mistaken belief that are powerless to parent them, their homes are in disarray and chaos. Most days these women are thankful to flop into bed at the end of a long day only to see that certain glint in their husbands eye... This is not a welcome thought but they fear turning down his amorous advances once again.

Does this describe you? Do you think this is God's ideal for you as a Christian woman?

With this as daily life is it any wonder that divorces are so high? Doesn't surprise me one bit!

How can we take the list of things we must "do" and make these things a part of us, ingrain them in our hearts so they are not just a list of duties and obligations but instead offerings of love and service that are a joyful part of life?

Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She will not hinder him but help him all her life." Proverbs 31 10-12.

I can't think of a woman who who does not want to be known as virtuous and capable, whether she is single or married. We often do a grave disservice to our unmarried sisters in Christ by assigning godly qualities only to married women. They are frequently relegated to the back row of womanhood, which is a terrible shame.

Our unmarried sisters are not second class women or second class Christians to be somehow pitied. They, like us are to determine to glorify God by how they live their lives.

ALL women are to be righteous, honorable, virtuous, honest, caring and compassionate at the heart level because we know that is what honors God.

When our thoughts are focused on Him our thoughts are not on ourselves, they are "others" oriented. There is a great joy in seeing the benefits and blessings we bring to others by being selfless. True service does not have as its focus the people we serve and love, they are the beneficiaries of our loving service to Christ.

Yes, the qualities we find in Proverbs 31 are the actions of a virtuous woman who happens to be a wife. They are the outpouring of a heart that desires to glorify God- a true reflection of love.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Are We Messing Up Our Kids?

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.

his week I came across something on my Facebook feed that rubbed me wrong (that’s a slight understatement, I actually might have come just a little unglued over this!) It was a post by a very well known women’s ministry run by a renowned author, speaker, and radio personality. It is also a Bible Study ministry. Many of you follow this Page like I do, for its nuggets of encouragement for women. 

My desire in writing this is not to slander another woman in ministry, but to encourage you who follow these things to be discerning. This is more evidence of how much the humanistic psychological thinking of the world has crept in to the church. If you don’t watch for it (by learning to think Biblically), it can entrap you in its snare like it trapped me for so many years until God opened my eyes.

This particular post has to do with a Bible Study this woman’s ministry offers - which is about whether or not we are "messing up our kids"  and what to do about our guilt. Here is a portion of the post:

"This FREE study will equip you to:
* Overcome the weight of mom-guilt and learn how to forgive yourself for honest mistakes.
* Stop comparing yourself to “perfect” moms by turning to God for perspective, guidance and permission to be the mom He’s created you to be.
* Anchor your identity to who you are in Christ instead of chaining your worth as a mom to your kids’ fragile choices."

Ladies, we need to use discernment and think Biblically. What in the above quote troubles you? Where is there a lack of Gospel-focus? Did you catch it? Some of what is said in this quote and elsewhere in their longer description sounds Biblical enough. But there is that one phrase that I just can’t get past.

I am passionate about a lot of things related to the Gospel, but this one point has become my #1 message in my life and ministry. It is this: SELF-FORGIVENESS is not a Biblical concept. I was so disappointed to see that sentence in the description of this study that no-doubt will gather lots of participants and interest. 

Moms do struggle with the weight of “mom-guilt” described here. Moms are desperate for relief from this type of guilt that weighs them down. I know this to be true personally, and I know this to be true in my counseling ministry. I don’t know how they think that they teach you in this study to “forgive yourself” because there are no scriptures to support this kind of thinking. 

There is no other answer to this mom-guilt than this: THE GOSPEL. Ladies, you WILL fail at mothering. You will sin against your children. You will make mistakes that cause regret. You will never be the perfect parent. Your parenting will impact your children, both in good ways and bad. This is a given in this fallen world! But the answer to all this guilt does not lie within yourSELF. It is in the Gospel and Jesus is enough.

Here is a quote from Rick Thomas, an insightful Biblical Counselor. He says this:

"Stop blaming—Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way—you were a bad parent. So am I. None of us are good parents. What parent can stand up and say, “I did it right. I know how to parent children well.” That’s idiotic and you know it.

If you are tempted to rehearse what you did wrong as a parent, then I call you to repentance. We all have messed up. Could it be any other way? The person who over-focuses on where they messed up and wallows in regret has a small view of God.”

Maybe you, like I once was, are stuck in that over-focus on where you have messed up, wallowing in regret with a small view of God. Rick gave you the answer to that: repentance. The Gospel provides forgiveness as well as everything you need for change. It is your source of strength. If you are trying to muster up self-forgiveness, you will never find relief. 

Trying to do yourself what God has already done on your behalf is never going to relieve your guilt! 

Believing the clear Gospel message that Jesus bore your guilt on the cross is all the relief you need. There is nowhere in the Bible that teaches you that you must also “forgive yourself.” You cannot do it. And Christian, why would you need to when the God of the universe already forgave you? And if you are not a Christian and you struggle with mom-guilt, your answer is not in yourself and some notion that you can forgive yourself. Your answer is in The Gospel. You can be forgiven by God Himself.

I once gave a testimony about mom-guilt and self-forgiveness, several years ago. Some of my circumstances have changed since then (not necessarily for the better as some of my adult children are still not walking with God in spite of being raised in a Christian home - if you can relate to this, you will benefit from this testimony.) What has not changed is this one fact: Jesus is STILL enough. 

Have a listen by clicking on this link:

Self-Forgiveness is Not Biblical

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wives that Won't Follow

I hear women complain all the time about husbands that won't lead the family. It is a frequent topic of discussion in counseling, and I thought I would bring it here for you to think about.

Few men are being trained in their homes to be leaders. They are not trained in school to be leaders either. Many men have been raised by their mothers due to divorce or single parenthood. They have not been brought up with male headship or leadership and they do not have any idea what biblical husbanding or leadership looks like. Every day men  do battle with great and powerful forces in the world that are intended to seduce them into immorality, pornography, laziness, self-indulgence and other forms of idolatry.

Because there is a lack of male role modeling in their lives they are used to women being overly strong and competent. When they marry they are content to let their wives take the place of leadership in the home.

When we marry, we tend to place expectations on our husbands that they are not equipped to deal with. We expect that they will be able to meet every emotional need or presumed need that we have. We also expect them to be able to read our minds, to know our hearts, to be strong yet tender, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. We build these houses on sinking sand.

We are quick to quote verses like Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, and 1 Corinthians 11:3, verses many women don't like very much because they speak of submission, and yet these are the ones that are clubbed over the head of men reminding them they must lead.

I have said this before and I say again, if you want your husband to be the leader in your home, then stop doing it yourself. Get out of the way and let him do it! He cannot lead if you are not following, and he cannot be constantly fighting you for that position in your home. Too many men are leading a parade of one in marriage because the wife won't place herself under his protection.

May I ask you, if you are unwilling to submit to your husbands leadership what makes you think you are submitting to Christ? Submission to his leadership is an act of obedience and regardless if he is a good or bad leader we are called to follow. If you are "submitting" and you hate it, and you are doing so with a grudging attitude, then who are you fooling? That is not submission, it is hypocrisy.

The Lord never insists on having authority over us, He never says, "You will submit to me." But instead He leaves us free to choose if we will humble ourselves under His hand of leadership.

So again I say, if you are struggling with a husband who won't lead consider getting out of the way. Surrender your will and your fears to the Lord first and then place yourself under the leadership of your husband.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just Tell Me the Plan!

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. You can read more about Karen and Lytroo Retreat here

How many times I have prayed, “God, just show me the plan.”  It would be so much easier if I just knew the plan.  He hears my cry and, instead, graciously shows me just what I need for today.
There have been times in my life when I lived not day to day, but hour by hour.  As I cried out, “it is too much!”  I could hear Him whisper.  Can you get through this hour?  And with His presence I could; hour by hour, minute by minute.
Jesus had the clear insight we sometimes long for.  He knew exactly who He was and why He had come.  There was no blissful ignorance.  He had come to die.  He knew the plan and step by step followed it through.  His love for His Father and His love for us kept Him on the horrendous path to Calvary.
He had more than twelve legions of angels at His disposal (Mat. 26:53) and yet out of love He chose to move forward step by step.
Jesus was calm as the swarming mob, sent by the chief priests and elders, arrested Him.  He silently listened to the false witnesses.  He endured the religious group spitting in His face, beating Him with their fists, slapping and making fun of Him.  (Mat. 26:47, 59-63, 67-68)
When morning finally arrived they bound and took Him to Pilate.  There He was questioned again.  Jesus remained silent as He was accused by the religious elite.  (Mat. 27:1-2, 12-14)
He watched as Barabbas, a notorious prisoner, was chosen over him to be set free and escape death.  (Mat. 27:15-26)
He was scourged.  He was stripped naked by soldiers.  Those same soldiers cruelly mocked him with a scarlet robe around his shoulders, a crown of thorns on His head and placed a staff made of reeds in his right hand.  (Mat. 27:26-29)
You know the rest of the story.  It only gets worse.  He knew each step.  He knew the plan and yet He moved forward.
Would we be able to move forward if we knew what was ahead?  As I look back at the difficulties our family has endured I think it was God’s grace that showed me each step as I came to it.  I cry out to God for more information, but God in His love and mercy shows me a step at a time.  He gives me grace for each day, knowing I am too frail to follow a master plan if He would lay it out.
So I continue to learn to trust Him with today and all my tomorrows.  The way may be uncertain and frightful, but He has promised to be with me.  What more could I want?

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Prodigal

The Prodigal Son of Luke 15 is a very interesting story. I like how Jesus illustrated His teachings by the use of parables. One aspect of this particular parable has hit closer to home than I care to admit...

If I could just review this story with you for a moment: greedy, disrespectful son asks his dad for his inheritance. The son intends to take what he has coming (while his father is still alive!) and go off and live the high life. The father obliges his son and gives him his share of the inheritance and the son takes off without a backward glance.

This is mistake number 1. The son is discontent with his life, even though it appears he has a good life with his father and brother. He wants more than what he is due at this time in his life and is actually so impatient to have his worldly desires sated that he cannot wait for his father to die to collect his inheritance! His discontent is revealed in his grumbling and complaining about all that he does not have right now.

The father must have been heartbroken as he gave his son his share of the family goods. I can only imagine the impatient foot tapping of the son as each coin was counted out and put into his sack. He was so anxious to get away! He was so ready to be independent and free from his father and his life as he knew it. I wonder if the father counted slowly, trying to draw out the remaining minutes with his beloved son, hoping he would change his mind and stay.

When the money was counted out and the son had his full share he blew out of town without so much as a look over his shoulder or a wave at his father who surely stood there and watched him walk away.

Before long the son finds himself broke, starving, in wretched condition physically and so bad off he is longing to eat the pods fed to the swine. It was here, in the pig pen that the son finally got a clue. It was as he fed the pigs that which he could not even eat; as he wallowed in their filth and excrement exposed to the elements and miserable that he realized what he gave up and how he got in the pig sty.

I hate it when I wake up in the pig sty. When the day dawns and my spiritual consciousness arrives at the conclusion that I am in it deep and I stink, I am covered in filth and spiritually starving again. Why is it that there are just times we don't see it until we have wallowed a while? Why don't we recognize the beginnings of discontent while they are just small thoughts, simple desires and wrong beliefs?

We blunder on, blind to the idols of our hearts that pull us toward the slop of "having my own way," and "having what I want." We forget to be thankful for all that we have by grace, and we whine and complain that it is not enough. Our idols grow in stature and despite our protestations and proclamations of righteousness we are truly idol worshipers...self worshipers.

Has self-worship ever gotten you anyplace other than the pig sty? Have you ever come out of idolatry smelling pure and sweet, washed clean and radiant? More likely, you (like me) came to your senses and realized what a foul stench you had become to God and all those downwind of you.

The only option of the Believer is repentance. The only way out of the pig sty is past the cross of Jesus Christ. As you lay at the foot of the cross in worship of Him and His glory and majesty you are washed clean by His lavish grace and mercy. All of heaven rejoices when a sinner repents for it puts the cross of Jesus on grand display and our awesome God is brought much glory! For it is nice for a "good" person to be forgiven, but it is nothing short of amazing when an evil person is forgiven.

So, I have climbed out of the pig sty and once again gone to that blessed cross. I came stinking and wretched and foul and He has washed me white as snow. All I can do is lift my hands in worship and praise- Oh what a Savior!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Help! My Child Won't Accept Christ!

What do you do when they have heard it all before; your son or daughter seems to have all the right answers, but their life is opposite of how we know a Christian is to live?

How do you get through the heartache and the heartbreak of realizing that one of your children is not a part of God's family?

How much do you say to them about salvation? Do you cut them off for refusing to repent? These are but a few of the questions the parent of a prodigal child has. There are so many variables in situations I would not attempt to give a "one size fits all" response to them, but some things will be universal and I will outline them here.

Parent: you are responsible before God to present Christ to your child and to live a life that glorifies God. That is a life of honesty, integrity, service to others, and selflessness. You are responsible to live what you say you believe! If you have brought your children up in the reverence of the Lord, with a solid biblical foundation - that is all you can do. Ultimately, you are not responsible for what your child does with the Jesus question.

Parent, you are responsible to pray for your child. Wayward or not, prayer is always the right thing to do for others. Parents struggle knowing what to pray for though. It is hard to pray God would bless your child when he/she is living a life of wanton sin and rebellion. In such a case, prayer for repentance and conviction is in order, not a blessing! The best thing that could happen to a rebellious child is to be under the discipline of God. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to bring your child to the place where they cry out for the grace and mercy of God.

Praying for God to act in your child's life means you have to stay out of the way when He does! The hardest thing for parents is to stop protecting our children from things that hurt. In this case, some pain and hurting may be the very best thing for your child. Nothing makes us cry out for God like pain and suffering does. God is the master surgeon, He knows exactly what is needed to affect the heart.

Continue to evangelize your child. Even though they have heard the gospel many times and may even claim to believe, if their life's work is not directed biblically and lived with a desire to glorify God, they may not be saved.

Continue to love your child, and tell them so, often. Accept your child for who they are and don't expect them to act as though they are saved when they are not. Always speak the truth in love and remind them that God's mercy never fails.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What is Biblical Forgiveness?

What is forgiveness? Jay Adams, in his book The Theology of Christian Counseling says, “Forgiveness is a lifting of the charge of guilt from another, a formal declaration of that fact and a promise (made and kept) never to remember the wrong against the person in the future.

Forgiveness is not a feeling, forgiveness is an act of faith. It’s an act of the will that triumphs over the feeling to not be forgiving and the feeling to seek revenge or remain bitter.

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” Corrie Ten Boom

It’s remembering that we ourselves are sinners who get into the kingdom not on our merit but by our Savior’s merit. We make a choice to extend grace to others on the basis of the abundance of grace we ourselves received. We choose like Joseph, like Esau, like Paul, like Stephen, and like Jesus to release the offender from the sense of debt we believe we are owed by someone who hurt us. It’s like saying, “offender, you do not owe me anything, nor will I personally punish you for what you did to me. I choose to forgive this debt just as I have been forgiven my enormous debts.”

Forgiveness is a promise to not dwell on the incident mentally. This is big. A person who can successfully resist the temptation to dwell on or cherish the hurt will forgive and eventually, begin to forget. But it’s making the choice to not dwell on the incident as often as it takes. It’s choosing to remember you’ve forgiven the incident.

Promising to not dwell on the incident is the put off. The put on is found in Phil 4:8-

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

Forgiveness is a promise to not bring the offense up to the person (as a weapon). If you've forgiven someone, then shut up about their offence. If you haven’t truly forgiven you’ll constantly be bringing it up to get your digs in. There are times when it may be productive to have a conversation about something, but that is not the same as bringing it up to hurt them. If you are still talking to others about how so and so hurt you, you haven’t forgiven (and you are gossiping). You are still trying to get your pound of flesh to make them pay. This means you are bitter.

And beware of the gossipy prayer request with your friends that goes something like this, “Oh Lord help me forgive so-and-so who hurt me and did this and that..” this is thinly disguised slander. Instead go to a friend, who is enough of a friend to remind you of truth…

Forgiveness leads to reconciliation. Ken Sande of Peacemaker’s Ministries says you should not allow the incident to stand between you and the other person or hinder your personal relationship with them.

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NASB)

This of course is not always possible as we sometimes have to forgive people long dead or otherwise removed from our lives. Nevertheless, forgiveness from the heart opens the door wide open to reconciliation and it works when both parties seek to honor God and follow Christ rather than their own feeling of the flesh.