Friday, March 27, 2015

You Matter

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NASB)

My friend Suzanne recently wrote about a person she encountered having the
"needy chair" stuck to her butt. I think all of us at times have spent time in that needy chair. This issue came to the forefront of my thinking when one of my little dogs recently got sick. My beloved little doggie would not eat and he would not drink and he was essentially immobile. He was laying and sleeping constantly and obviously miserable. Despite the medical care we sought for Buddy he was not getting better.  We honestly thought he was dying. I admit, I was in the dumps over this. He's been a part of our family for 10 years and everyone who meets Buddy immediately loves him. 

I had many talks with myself and with God in the midst of these days of uncertainty and fear. As I sat on the needy chair I told myself truth, reminded myself of God's sovereignty, prayed for my concerns, and did the things I needed to do. One of the conversations I had with myself was about the seriousness of the trial and my reaction to it. Was I overreacting to my dog's ailment? What would my response be if someone came to me with their own dog story? Would I want to discount it as not important and tell them (essentially) to get over it? 

Many of my friends consistently asked me how my little Buddy was doing. And at first I was tempted to say it didn't matter in the face of one friend who has cancer, and another friend who lost her husband, and another friend whose husband left her, and another friend whose child is struggling. How can my sick little doggie matter in the face of such great suffering?

But it does matter. 

All problems, big and small matter. So often it seems we want to "one up" each other with the trials and difficulties that we have going on in our own lives that we don't to take the time to stop and listen to the heartache that is emanating from the other person about a problem or circumstance that is of tremendous importance to them. We should not weigh the problems and burdens of other people and judge who is burdens are worthy of interest and prayer and whose are not. I do not think that glorifies God when we do that.  

This life is hard!

I want to be clear that just because you might not be dodging bombs, or your spouse has not committed adultery, or your kids are not rebellious, or your job is great, that does not invalidate the trials and struggles that you are having today. Just because your problems are not as bad as my problems doesn't mean that your problems aren't problems. It does not invalidate the fact that you have issues and situations that cause you great pain or discomfort. 

Your problems do matter!

First, they matter to you. There are things in your life that are disturbing your peace and your serenity. There are things in your life they're not going exactly as you had planned and they are causing you difficulty. 

Second, they matter to those around you or, they ought to! If you find your friends or people who call you friend are too busy to listen to you lament and to offer biblical solutions, then they might possibly not be very good friends. 

Third and by no means least, your problems and your trials and your situations matter to God! He loves you! He cares about you! He is in the middle of your trials and problems with you! He knows you better than anyone in the whole world, he knows every hair on you her head and you are important to Him. Because you are in Christ you have an incredibly high value to God.

I want you to know that God is working through your trials and circumstances. He is working in the little things as well as the big things. He cares when you miss the bus and He cares when you are denied a promotion. He cares when a friend is cruel or indifferent to you. He will never be indifferent to you.

If you have a friend whose trial is not as great as yours is right now, whose suffering is not as deep as yours is right now, don't belittle their suffering. Don't minimize it in the face of your own. 

Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ

God cares about your sister in Christ as much as he cares about you. Be a listening ear, and listen with the intent to support, to possibly teach, possibly rebuke, possibly instruct in righteousness. I am not suggesting you entertain gossip or slander, but I am encouraging you to come alongside your hurting sister in Christ, even in the midst of your own suffering and sorrow. Second Corinthians chapter 1 tells us that God will comfort us so that we will comfort 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 will 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 (NASB)

Listen again, just because my problems are not as catastrophic as your problems are does not mean that my problems don't matter. There should not be a ratings scale when it comes to bearing one another's burdens. We should not decide who's burdens are heavier or way more than others and compare ourselves and our sorrows as though we are judging who needs support and who does not. 

So how are you doing in this? How are you doing at being a comforter? How are you doing at bearing and encouraging her? Maybe it's time to examine yourself, and see if you are indeed sharing caring and bearing one another's burdens. You matter to God! And you should matter to other people in your life that are around you. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Embracing The Thorn

Today's guest blogger is Suzanne Holland. Suzanne is a grateful follower of Jesus Christ, wife to John, and mom to two grown up boys. She is a Certified Biblical Counselor with the IABC, offering the hope of the Scriptures to those who are hurting. Suzanne writes on her blog, Near to the Healer, and has a special emphasis on ministering to those who suffer with ongoing physical pain. Her blog is reposted with permission. 

“You’re just going to have to accept it!”

This was the last sentence of a recent conversation I had with myself about the ever-present pain and dysfunction that has become a part of my life. Believe it or not, after 5 years of ups and downs on this yoyo of health issues, I still struggle to accept the fact that, unless God chooses to heal me, I will deal with pain and problems, difficulty and expense related to it, for the rest of my life.

The physical issues have been tough, but the spiritual issues are on a whole other plane of struggle. The physical pain pales in comparison to the emotional and spiritual struggle that has ensued. Wrestling and fighting against my flesh, to trust the God who allowed this, has been the hardest thing I have had to do as a believer. Yet, the Lord has been so patient and so strong, sustaining me through it all. I love Him, and I know that He loves me. But oh, how I long for healing!

I believe that this is a struggle I will have for the rest of my life. I will not give up hoping for improvement, and I will never stop trying new things. I don’t think trying to get better tells the world I haven’t “accepted what God has for me,” as some have suggested. I believe the Lord has given me a brain and discernment, and if He puts something in front of me that could help, I will get wise counsel about it and consider it. But, while I won’t stop trying to get better, I must learn to keep my heart from sinful focus on the pain and the ways that it limits me.

So my question today is, how do I get to the place where I am content and satisfied in Christ, even as I am suffering and working to improve my current circumstances? How do I move on from my mental whining and complaining, and gain peace and whatever measure of happiness a believer in this world can have, while at the same time refusing to give up on healing? I believe the answer can be summed up in one word: Gratitude. As a believer, I’m sure that you are thankful for the many mercies the Lord has shown you in your pain and suffering: medicines that help with pain, a soft bed, comfortable shoes, a dear friend—there are thousands of provisions the Lord has made for you as you have struggled with your health problem.

But I’d like you to consider being thankful for something else. I want you to be thankful for your suffering. Grateful for your pain, your problems, your sickness. If this is the first time you've received this challenge, you might think it is one that is impossible to meet. Be thankful for the thing that has ruined my life? Grateful for the condition that has forever changed me, my family and my future? Can I really thank God for something, and pray that He would take it away, at the same time? Wouldn’t it seem insincere to thank the Lord for my pain, and ask Him to heal it at the same time?

As I pondered this prospect, I discovered that I could indeed be thankful for my pain, even as I begged the Lord to take it from me. How did I do that? By meditating on the mercy of God. Would you believe that I discovered that God was merciful in allowing my suffering? He provided that suffering for a number of purposes, I’m sure, but the one that is most evident to me is the way it has drawn me to Him. As I have gone through these past 5 years of ups and downs, one thing has been constant: The Lord has been with me. Psalm 32:8 promises the Lord’s guidance, and I have not been disappointed. He has led me through many peaks and valleys, and because of that, I have grown to trust Him more. Though attempts to strengthen physical muscles have been futile, I am stronger spiritually than I have ever been in my life.

There have been many days when I felt that I could not go on, yet He was there, urging me along through His Word, even giving me the desire to read it in the first place! I am a better, stronger Christian today because of this thorn in my flesh. And though I have asked Him many more than three times to remove it, His reply is always the same: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). So far, that has proven to be a trustworthy promise. By His grace, I am still walking today. By His grace, I have many undeserved comforts in my pain; many human representatives of Christ to encourage me; and a rich history of His faithfulness, just in my own life, just in these past 5 years; not to mention the entire Bible full of evidence and documentation of that same faithfulness.

Because of His mercy, I was afflicted. He knew exactly what it would take to make me the person He wants me to be. So, I will thank Him for this bittersweet provision. Though I would not have chosen this particular affliction, I see now that it has been, and continues to be, the perfect tool for breaking down my pride and my self-reliance. It has humbled me, and I’m sure it will continue to do so. I am not the same person I was before all this happened, and I must tell you today, I’m glad: Glad to know that I am not entitled to perfect health, or even my next breath. Glad to see that it really is true that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, even as He shows me my weakness. As Job 5:17 and 18 so clearly states,

“…blessed is the man whom God corrects,
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he also bandages;
he strikes, but his hands also heal.

While I don’t believe that my physical pain was directly brought on by my sin or anyone else’s, I do believe the Lord uses it to correct many sinful heart attitudes, and I am thankful for that correction. I have a big, ugly scar from the surgery that was the start of all these physical problems. That scar will be there for the rest of my life. It could be a sad reminder of that fateful, life-changing day. But I choose to let it represent the wound of mercy that my creator granted me, so that I could glorify Him, fulfilling the purpose  for which I was created. By His mercy He has wounded me, and by His mercy He will heal my sinful heart through those wounds.

So, how do I answer that statement at the beginning of this post? Must I accept this affliction? No. Much more than that, I  must embrace it as God’s perfect tool to mold and shape me into the believer He wants me to be. I am far from perfect, but because of His mercy that brought this thorn, I am more like Him than I was before it came. Oh my friend, won’t you consider the mercy and love of God in your physical pain, and begin to thank Him for His work in you? I hope that you will say with me, Hallelujah! What a mercy! What a Savior!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Crucibles and Compressions

"For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name and having ministered and still ministering to the saints, and we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end that you may not be sluggish but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:10

I had occasion recently to talk with someone about the trials of their life. She was overwhelmed by the burdens she was carrying and was beginning to doubt God's salvation, God's love, and God's grace in Christ toward her. 

In the midst of such human suffering it is difficult to remember that our trials are given to us as tests to prove His love, to prove His power on our behalf. He is the God who parted the Red Sea and has raised the dead. Nothing is too difficult for Him.

Rather than leading us toward doubt, God brings trials and sufferings to show us that we are Christians! In times of trial and suffering He is maturing our faith. And since it is God who is allowing our trials and difficulties, we are to be diligent. We are to endure. We are to be patient for the result is the full assurance of hope.

Trials are the very crucible in which assurance is formed.

 “…we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…”2 Corinthians 4:8-9

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38

Paul suffered much hardship and many trials after his conversion to Christ. He is the author of both of the above passages! God allowed Paul to be afflicted, perplexed, and persecuted and Paul says I'm convinced; I am absolutely convinced that none of these things can separate us from God!

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, for your sake we are being put to death all day long, we were considered as sheep to the slaughter, but in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us, I am convinced." Romans 8:35

God allows awful things to come into our lives, but He will not allow us to be overcome or worn down to the point where we walk away from our faith. There is no trial, or suffering that can take away a believer’s salvation. He keeps His people.

It was Paul’s experiences of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, and death that assured him of the security of his salvation.  None of his circumstances stole his assurance.  Paul tells us that he has been through it all and rather than being discouraged or having his confidence shaken he was convinced.

The Psalmist makes note of God’s faithfulness and our assurance of secure salvation in the midst of adversity. Look up these verses after you finish reading today’s post:

Psalm 40:11; Psalm 18:35-36; Psalm 54:4l; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 119:116-117;  Psalm 32:7

Jude also reminds us that God will hold us fast, even during our times of trial and adversity and suffering:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy Jude 1:24

I look forward with great anticipation to that day!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beware the Unloved Woman

Today's guest blogger is Linda Rice. Linda counsels at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.  You can read more of Linda's writing here. Today's blog is reposted with permission.   

The Valdivian earthquake on the coast of Chile is the most powerful quake ever recorded, at a magnitude of 9.5. On a Sunday afternoon in 1960, the earth began to shake and continued for ten minutes. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake caused a tsunami wave thirty-eight feet high that traveled two miles inland. A day later, a tsunami wave thirty-five feet high struck Hawaii. Other countries were also hit by similar waves. The death toll was about 2,000 or less, but about two million were made homeless. Deaths had probably been reduced because of the warnings of four foreshocks at magnitudes greater than 7.0. The quake was followed by many aftershocks and landslides for the next five months.
Obviously, shaking the earth requires a tremendous amount of power. Yet, Proverbs 30:21-23 says that an unloved woman has the power to cause earthquakes.
Under three things the earth quakes,
And under four it cannot bear up:
Under a slave when he becomes king,
And a fool when he is satisfied with food,
Under an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
And a maidservant when she supplants her mistress.
This proverb certainly doesn’t compliment the unloved woman who marries! It says that after she marries she is nothing but trouble, will damage relationships, and will destroy her marriage. The earth quakes.
The Hebrew word for “unloved woman” is a passive participle, meaning that she is on the receiving end of some treatment that communicates dislike toward her. Deuteronomy 21:5 uses the same word when commanding that the unloved wife be treated with the same equity as the loved wife.
In this proverb, we are not told why the woman is unloved. Perhaps she was originally innocent of provoking dislike. Perhaps as a child she was mistreated. But at this point, if the earth cannot endure her, then she has certainly responded in an odious manner that does not engender love from others.
Why is it that when an unloved woman marries the earth quakes? The context helps us understand. In each of these four cases, people gain privileges they did not earn and for which they are unqualified. When their thwarted desires are suddenly satisfied with abundance, they cannot wisely manage the privileges and are tempted to pride. They grow more demanding. So, for example, an indolent fool who suddenly gains wealth doesn’t know how to handle the money, power, or social position with grace. One slave, Joseph, appears to be an exception until we observe that he gained training in self-control and management both at home and in administrative positions under Potiphar and in jail. One application to glean from this passage is that it is not wise to quickly elevate the immature, untrained, or newbie.
Many women deprived of love, or who perceive themselves so, desperately desire to feel loved and seek to satisfy that desire in relationships. That self-oriented desperation and the bad relational habits learned along the way deprive them of the attitudes and skills needed for marriage.
How so? Women who perceive themselves to be unloved often hide their hurt but secretly brood and cultivate self-pity, envy, and grudges. They often pursue relationships with men, and may become skilled at using charm to get what they want. Relationships usually don’t last because selfishness creates conflicts. Conflicts and breakups reinforce the sense of being unloved. Once married, this kind of woman need no longer hide her self-pity and imperious demands. Habituated to cravings for the “love” of which she perceives herself to have been deprived, she persistently wants more attention than her husband can give. She gets her feelings hurt easily, complains, manipulates, and blames him. She refuses to submit and turns spiteful. She is never satisfied and never happy except for moments when she gets her own way and has everyone else under her thumb. Her stomping foot shakes the relationship to destructive magnitude. If even the earth will quake, what do you think will happen to her husband’s knees? What child can grow up unscathed by such a mother? No wonder Proverbs 21:9 says that “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”
This proverb warns men to be careful about who they choose for a wife. Don’t marry an unloved woman.
But what if you perceive yourself to be or have been unloved? What hope is there for you? Does the raging in your heart prove that you will never be anything but “damaged goods”?
While this proverb warns men away from marriage to an unloved woman, Jesus moved toward unloved women. For example, John 4 records that He went out of His way to introduce Himself to a woman loathed for her race, loathed for being a woman, and loathed for her immorality. Furthermore, she had had five husbands and was then living with a man unmarried. So she was obviously pursuing relationships and yet unloved by the men with whom she lived.
What hope was there for such an unloved woman? Jesus offered Himself as her hope. He invited her to believe that He was the Savior sent from God to provide a way for peace with God. This unloved woman who likely dared not trust any man trusted Jesus and her heart and behavior were transformed. We see evidence of that transformation in that she immediately began thinking of others and not just herself.
Jesus He died to pay for sins, that we might have forgiveness of sins. Then He rose again, proving He is God and we can believe what He promised. To the unloved woman who repents from coping with her longings in her own way and determines to follow Christ, He gives a new heart with godly desires. Then He gives power to have a gentle and quiet spirit and to love others. Trust in Him and you will know the love of God Himself.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Holding With an Open Hand

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. Psalm 73:25-28

The one thing that is consistent about life is change. I am in a time of life where things are changing daily. I have friends who have recently lost their spouses and parents, and friends who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My elderly father has begun to experience frequent medical complications, my children are completing their college degrees and their lives are changing direction. My husband and I recently became grandparents for the first time. We are growing older…

I fear being alone in my old age. My kids grew up and left or are leaving home. There's no promise my grandchildren will live close to me or have much relationship with me. There is no promise my husband will live to a ripe old age either.

Life is fleeting, and we don't know the length of time we will have with anyone. Life or rather death interrupts the grand plans we have for the future, and it often arrives at the most inopportune time. 

It is with an open hand we must hold those we love. We desire to claim ownership of our spouse, our children and grandchildren. We cannot. We can lay no claim to them as "ours" because they are only temporary residents in our lives. We forget this. We forget because we don't want to accept it. We want to say they belong to us because it gives us some sense of being in control.

We are not.

Hold on loosely to everything and everyone in this life and cling tightly to God. Our relationship to Him is the only unchangeable one we will ever have in all of eternity. He is all we truly need. I know I will have to remind myself of this many times over the coming months and years. You will too... 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lessons from Psalm 37: Part 3

Be assured that God has given you a path to walk, He has made a way for you and He delights in that way. His way is not always easy and you may have times of failure as you are going. You might completely blow it and refuse to cooperate with His plan or to continue the journey He has planned for you, but don’t worry…He will continue to hold on to you. Even when you stubbornly refuse to move one step in the right direction, He is upholding you. He never lets go and He will continue to steadfastly shush you along the path.

I have seen this throughout my life, and those older than I can speak to this with greater conviction due to their advanced years. Here is truth: God does not forsake His own. He does not abandon us. He always provides for our real needs. His mercy is continual and He blesses us as He brings the blessings even into the lives of our children as a result of our faithfulness and His mercy.

This is why you must not repay evil with evil. This is why you must do good, even in the face of evil! The Lord loves justice and He is just, He will not forsake you, He will not reject you, He will not turn you away. You are His forever, unlike those evil people who harm you and plot and carry out evil against you. They will be damned while you inherit everything God has for His heirs!

If you are righteous, then you must live like it. Speak righteously, speak wisdom! This means that you don’t give in to the emotions of the situation and forget who your vindicator is or where your help comes from. It means you stop, or better yet don’t start speaking foolishly when you are harmed. Instead, you remind yourself that God is the God of Justice. You remind yourself of what you know is true about God and that you don’t need to avenge yourself. God will help you in this, because it is difficult. He is faithful and He will keep you from slipping.
Even though the wicked one may continue to pursue you for harm, God knows what he is attempting and only what God deems for your good will happen to you. All the plans of the wicked are filtered through His fingers. You can trust that God will not abandon you to the hand of the wicked. He will not condemn you along with your persecutor.

Wait on the Lord for justice! Wait on the Lord for vengeance! You do what God has asked you to do in this situation and honor and obey His Word! Don’t worry! You will be victorious over your enemy! You will be the victor over the wicked one! You will inherit great blessings and even more so, you will see the demise of your enemy. You will watch has he meets his end. Your enemy may think he holds all the power and all the cards over you, but God can take him out at will.  

Contrast this with the blameless man, the one who follows God, the one who honors and obeys God and does not seek vengeance or take justice into his own hands. His future is that of peace, and security, and great wealth of all kinds.
Yes, the wicked one will be destroyed, so destroyed that there will be nothing left of him to find. His future will end, and he will come to nothing.

The Lord has given you salvation, and you will never see those days for yourself. In your salvation you have grace and mercy and you can believe that He will strengthen you in times of trouble! He says He will help you! He says He will deliver you, even from the wicked! He will save you in every way because you trust in Him. ~Psalm 37:23-40

Thursday, March 19, 2015

If It Feels Right It Must Be Right

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

More and more this “feels right, must be right” theme that runs throughout our society and even many of our churches dominates.  More and more relationships are broken because feelings lead the charge.  More and more twisted and deviant behavior is acceptable because, well, it just feels right.
Spouses separate because they no longer “feel” the love they once had, and they are certain God would want them to pursue happiness.
Addictive behavior is acceptable because, again, it feels right and good.  Pastors have condonedpornography and masturbation because it is “normal” and can “benefit a marriage relationship”.
Over indulgences are acceptable again because if it makes you feel good, then go for it.
The whole sexual orientation, transgender focus that is prevalent right now is another one of those areas.  If I feel like I am a boy, well I should just act like one then and have the opportunity to “be” one because it is the way I was born.  How does this work with “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, in the image of God”?
We can even say things like “it feels so natural”, “it’s who I am”.  I would agree with those statements too.

Feelings do seem natural, it is who I am.

Feelings rule!  I get that! Feelings can be very strong and going against what we feel just somehow seems wrong.  I understand that one too.  And living apart from the Lord, not having a living relationship with Him feelings are one of the only measuring sticks available.
Feelings were also leading the way for people often in the Bible.  Eve ate the apple because it appealed to her.  It felt right so she ate.  How did it turn out?
Saul didn’t wait for Samuel and built an altar to the Lord because it seemed like the right thing to do.  His feelings led the way.  How did things turn out for him?
Samson lusted after a Philistine woman, when he was to choose a wife from among his own people.  Instead he let his feelings dictate where his eyes would wander and they landed on a beautiful Philistine woman, he then said to his father “get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” (Judges 14:3)  and we know how things turned out for Sam eh?
Elimelech in Ruth chapter one does a similar thing.  Instead of trusting in God to provide he instead goes to a foreign land away from God because it felt like the right thing to do, but it cost him his life.
“In those days Israel had no king. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25
Judas did the same thing.  It felt like the right thing to do so he sold out the Messiah for 30 pieces of silver.
I believe we are also living more and more “in those days”.  The difference is believers in Jesus have a King.
As a follower of Christ I am called to live a different life.  I am not to live in my natural state, I have been called, equipped and empowered to live supernaturally.  My measuring stick changes at new birth.
No longer are my feelings the standard for measure, rather God’s Word and the Spirit become the measuring stick. 
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Romans 7:18) (that is in my natural state nothing good dwells in me, do we get that?)  Should I trust my feelings?

At birth I am sinful and filled with bends toward all manner of sin, it is the way we were born, that is truth.  But living that out is contrary to the Gospel message.

I am not to be driven by my feelings, they will toss me to and fro and I will be unstable (James 1).  I am to be instead motivated by the same thing that motivated our Lord, and that was obedience.
I hate ironing, I will never “feel” like ironing, does that mean I never iron a shirt again?  God told Cain to literally “do right and he would feel right”.
Romans 1 tells us in verse 21 that “although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him…” Honoring God means to make much of Him, to make His name great, to do all that would bring glory to Him.  Romans 3:18 “there is no fear of God before their eyes”.
It isn’t wrong to have feelings, we all have them.  Feelings can be a very good thing, but feelings can also lead us into dangerous and unholy places both in our thoughts and in our deeds if we allow them to be in charge.
Feelings are an opening to a greater problem and that is “what is going on in my heart”.
If you are convinced that God can never bring change into who you are then you will have to resign yourself in your heart that this is as good as it can get, and I just have to “make the best of it” because it is “who I am”.  That is contrary to the Good News we have in Jesus.
  • He came to make us whole, and holy.
  • He came to make us new,
  • to change us into people who reflect and look more and more like Jesus.
  • He came to free us from the specific sin bends we all have.
  • He came to give us a super natural life, one that enables us to live beyond the natural man.
What happens when people refuse to acknowledge and depend on God as God?  We will do what seems right in our own eyes.
If we look we can all find things that say that what we are doing is fine and acceptable, so instead of trying to solidify your corner spend some time deepening your relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Know Him, mediate on Him and He by the Spirit will guide you into all truth.  He will set you free.  He will make you look more like Himself.
Yes we all struggle with sin, it’s in us, it’s around us, we are all under it (Romans 3:9b – 12).  We can’t escape it, but we can acknowledge we need a Redeemer, one to rescue us from this body of death.
Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  Romans 7:24,25a
Other links.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lessons from Psalm 37 Part 2

...And you, you will inherit every good, wonderful and glorious thing! You will have no need to be concerned about evil being done against you anymore. You will live with an abundance of peace.

This is why when your enemy plots against you and when he takes action against you now, God laughs at him. He knows what his end will be. The wicked one can plot and scheme and have every bad intention toward you, and perhaps some of his plans against you will succeed in the here and now. But take heart, be encouraged, trust God, have faith, and believe that God will turn their own schemes against them and He will not only disarm them, but death will be their end. Their wickedness will be their complete undoing.

You don’t want to be this kind of person; not in your heart or in your life. The temporary riches of wickedness are not at all worth the pain that comes along with them. The Lord will remove their ability to commit evil one day, He will disarm them of their schemes and devices and will render them completely helpless.

You, however, No matter what, He will uphold you. He knows all the details about you and your life. He is intimately involved in every detail. Nothing escapes His notice. He does have a wonderful plan for the life you will live when you leave this earth. Don’t look for your richest riches here on earth, no matter how grand they are here, they are nothing in comparison to what awaits you in eternity! Don’t count on your reputation here on earth, it is meaningless. Your eternity – your inheritance as a child of the King is what matters. One day, when all this is over and you are among the masses who stand before God you will not suffer shame. You will not be embarrassed, you will have plenty because you will be found in Christ.

When you suffer under the hand of evil people, be careful to remain upright, righteous, honorable and godly. Then you will have no reason to be ashamed when evil is revealed, for you will have acted rightly before God and man. God will take care of you.

Your enemy is His enemy and be assured he will perish at the hand of the Lord. Even in all their earthly splendor they are destined for death and they will be like smoke…their essence will simply dissipate and be gone from you. 

Don’t be like the wicked who borrows and does not repay, be merciful and deal rightly with people! Deal with others as God has dealt with you- with grace and mercy. He has given you what you do not deserve and because of it you will inherit everything in all its fullness. Remember that those who are wicked are cursed by God and they will meet eternal death.

Be assured that God has given you a path to walk, He has made a way for you and He delights in that way. His way is not always easy and you may have times of failure as you are going. You might completely blow it and refuse to cooperate with His plan or to continue the journey He has planned for you, but don’t worry…He will continue to hold on to you. Even when you stubbornly refuse to move one step in the right direction, He is upholding you. He never lets go and He will continue to steadfastly shush you along the path.  ~Psalm 37:11-24

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Gospel Your Works Are Preaching

Today's guest blogger is Susan Verstraete. Susan is a children’s Sunday school teacher and leader of a book discussion group at Faith Community Church in Kansas City, North, where she also serves as church secretary. Susan and her husband Michael have two adult sons, Patrick and Christopher. Susan's book, Your People: Stories from Church History is available from Amazon. Find more articles by Susan at This post appears with the permission of the author. 

In Corrie ten Boom’s famous biography, The Hiding Place, she tells the story of her Tante (Aunt) Jans, a stern, commanding woman who lived with the ten Booms in their family home. Everything about Tante Jans was no-nonsense. She dressed in black from head to toe in a style that hadn’t changed for decades. Her days were devoted to good works, from early morning to late at night. She even slept in her little office to make the best use of every spare moment. Tante Jans was known all over Holland and involved in dozens of projects—writing, speaking, forming clubs and directing charitable efforts in the name of Christ.
Tante Jans did not slow down when she received the news that she was seriously ill. In fact, the fear of death seemed to drive her to heightened levels of activity. But at last the family received test results which indicated that Tante Jans had only about three weeks left to live.
The ten Boom family held a meeting to decide how to tell Tante Jans the bad news. Corrie’s description of what happened next follows:
“We will tell her together,” Father decided, “though I will speak the necessary words. And perhaps . . . she will take heart from all she has accomplished. She puts great store on accomplishment, Jans does, and who knows but that she is right!”
And so the little procession filed up the steps to Tante Jan’s rooms. “Come in,” she called to Father’s knock, and added as she always did, “and close the door before I catch my death of drafts.”
. . . “My dear sister-in-law,” Father began gently, “there is a joyous journey which each of God’s children sooner or later sets out on. And, Jans, some must go to their Father empty-handed, but you will run to Him with hands full!”
“All your clubs . . . ,” Tante Anna ventured.
“Your writings . . . ,” Mama added.
“The funds you’ve raised . . . ,”said Betsie.
“Your talks . . . ,” I began.
But our well-meant words were useless. In front of us the proud face crumpled; Tante Jans put her hands over her eyes and began to cry. “Empty, empty!” she choked at last through her tears. “How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?”
And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done all—all—on the cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.[i]
The bad news about Jans’ health wasn’t the tragedy in this story. What broke her heart was the realization that her family saw her hard work and acted as if she was counting on it to earn favor with God. Her works had somehow preached a Gospel of human effort that she didn’t believe.
I wonder (from the little that we know about Tante Jans) if her stoic personality and seeming lack of mercy and gentleness might have contributed to the family misunderstanding the motivation for her works. And I can imagine that she sometimes got so caught up in the work that it took on a life of its own—snowballing until she might not have consciously remembered why she began serving in the first place.
What are your good works communicating? We may not get the chance to correct misconceptions in the way that Tante Jans did. So let’s be mindful as we work to keep pointing people back to the One who prepared the works for us to do (Eph. 2:10), who gives us the strength to labor (I Pet. 4:11)  and who set the example of humble service to others (Phil. 2:5-8).
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)

[i] Ten Boom, Corrie, The Hiding Place, (1992, Crossings Classics) pg. 36-37

Copyright © 2011 Susan Verstraete 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lessons from Psalm 37 Part 1

Do not fret because of evil that has been done to you, don’t bother with those who do evil. Don’t waste your time thinking about them, wondering about them, or meditating on their evil deeds. For they will soon be dead. They will be cut off like grass, they will wither like plants starved for sunlight, and water in fall.  

Trust in the Lord instead of focusing on them or plotting your revenge, or fueling your hatred. Do good instead of that; honor God in your heart, honor Him with your lips, and your body and thoughts.

Rest in Christ, rest….dwell with God. Rest as though God were already handling your problem person. You are not living among that evil, and you are not to practice that kind of evil not even in your heart. You are sitting in the heavenlies above all of this. What you are experiencing is temporary. God is faithful to you. He won’t allow anything to befall you that He will leave uncompensated. FEED on His faithfulness…remind yourself continually that He IS Faithful! Faithfulness is His character. Also, delight yourself in Him. Make it about Him, not anyone else. Find your joy in the confidence that you have in God and His faithfulness to you. He is faithful to give you the desires of your heart when they are in line with His own for you, and bitter hatred is not among those desires. Envy and murder and jealousy are not among those desires for you. Fear and worry are not among those desires for you.

Commit to following the path God has laid out for you, you can trust Him, He is good and faithful. You don’t have to be afraid that He will lead you toward sin or corruption. He will lead you in paths of righteousness. If you find yourself wandering in the direction of wickedness, you must turn away- quickly! When you commit to following God and doing things His way by faith- even though you don’t see things clearly or have all the answers- He will bring your righteousness forth as certainly as He brings up the sun every day. You will have justice, you will see God bring about justice in your cause.

This is why you must rest…wait…be patient…don’t fight or try to hurry God along. Even if it looks like the enemy is prospering or getting away with it, continue to rest. Even if it looks like your enemy is gaining victory over you or that he has done so, continue to be at rest in and with God.

Don’t be angry at your enemy’s apparent or even at his real victories over you in the present; forsake or repent from wrath toward him. Don’t worry or be anxious when you think you are losing or are done in, it only causes harm. It harms you in numerous ways. You are physically harmed by the stress, you are emotionally harmed as you experience all the destructive feelings that accompany feeling victimized, and you are spiritually harmed as you sin in your own anger, plot revenge, hate, and murder in your heart. It destroys you inside.

Remember, these evil people will be cut off, they will be utterly destroyed. There will be nothing left of them or their schemes against you. And you, you will see that because you continued on in your faith and trust that your eternal blessings will far outweigh the sufferings you endured at the hands of the evildoers. Because you trusted in God- despite how it looked, how you felt, or the advice of your friends; because you remained steadfast in your faith in God you will inherit the earth. You will be richly, abundantly blessed.

You will have to wait for this though…it may seem like a long time until justice is done but rest assured, in God’s eyes and His timetable it is just a little while. It is a little while when you look at all of eternity for sure. But one day, you will look for that evil one and he will be gone. God will have exacted perfect justice for their evilness.

And you, you will inherit every good, wonderful and glorious thing! You will have no need to be concerned about evil being done against you anymore. You will live with an abundance of peace.  ~Psalm 37:1-11