Thursday, January 29, 2015

Going Home

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. She has also written a book, Learning to Seek God's Presence (see bottom of today's post). You can read more about Karen and Lytroo here

“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home.”
Tweeted 4:00 PM – 10 Jan 2015 Benjamin Netanyahu
When I read the above quote I was moved to tears. What other country in the world reaches out so lovingly to its expatriates. President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke at the funeral of four who died in the shootings said, “This is not how we wanted to see you come home, to the State of Israel. We wanted you alive, we wanted for you, life.” To the Jews of France, he said, “Our home is your home, and we yearn to see you settle in Zion. But the decision to live in Israel should be an act of choice and not an act of desperation born out of terror and fear.”
Later Benjamin Netanyahu had this to say, “Jews who live outside of Israel, including those who are citizens of other countries, know  in their hearts that they have only one country, Israel is their historic homeland that will accept them with open arms.”
My ancestors all immigrated to this country. My father’s parents were Germans living in the Ukraine. My mother’s side came from Norway. Whey they left they left for good. The persecution in the Ukraine was intolerable for them at the time. The economic opportunities in Norway were less and less. They were looking to America as their new homeland. Those countries were under stress and were not yearning for the immigrants who had left to come back home. And so they became Americans. It would be far from easy, but they carved out a new life.
As I thought about Benjamin Netanyahu’s words I thought of my own home. I reside in Wisconsin, but my real home is heaven. I could hear God saying…”Heaven is not just the place in whose direction you pray, Heaven is your home.”
I believe sooner than we expect there will be a glorious home going. There won’t be a prime minister to greet us, but a heavenly king standing with open arms.
“See! I am coming soon!” (Rev. 22:7a, 12a – ISV)
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let everyone who hears this say, “Come!” Let everyone who is thirsty come! Let anyone who wants the water of life take it as a gift! (Rev. 22:17 – ISV)
“Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20 – ISV)
(Quotes in the first two paragraphs were taken from

New Book by Karen Pickering

Learning to Seek God's Presence
Workbook for hurting people

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When I Am Weak

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NASB)

These days I seem to be surrounded by so much suffering. Friends old and new, and members of my church family are being waylaid by suffering of various kinds. Sickness, hardship, and even death have paid us an extended visit. Many of us are afraid to answer the phone or check our email, wondering what will happen next. 

These are not women who faint under adversity. They are what I consider constitutionally strong, generally unflappable and very capable. They have seen a lot of tragedy, and are involved in ministry as a way of life. 

These dear women confess to struggling with their strength at times. The plain truth is, strong women sometimes struggle with being strong. It seems they do too good of a job at it and therefore it is hard for those around them to understand or even accept that they are in need of comfort, tenderness, gentleness, and protection. They have always been the ones who keep on keeping on in the face of sickness, sorrow, fear, and personal tragedy.  Their responsibilities are fulfilled, shopping is done, dinner is on the table and there are clean socks and underwear every day in spite of what internal or external upheaval is taking place.

But wow, there are times when even the strongest of women need a place to go and hide or take refuge. They desire to run and find a broom tree to lie under, or to be gathered into the strong arms of one who loves them and be stroked and comforted with gentle words of understanding.

The problem is, they are perceived as being nearly invincible and not in need of such comforts.  When the day comes that strong women go looking for arms stronger than theirs they often come up empty. It seems they can be too good at being strong and capable, so it becomes the norm that they are expected to "just handle it" whatever it is.  This leaves them wounded and longing for someone who understands. Men who are married to strong women will often say they have little need to protect or defend their wives most of the time, so they get out of practice and just assume she is okay.

I recall when a friend of mine was tending to her mother's final needs. Her husband travels a lot for his job and is more of the analytical type. My friend is brilliant, and completely capable however at this point in time she was uncharacteristically emotional. Her husband did not know what to do with his suddenly needy wife and asked her what she wanted him to do for her. She told me later that there is little comfort in having to tell someone how to comfort you. 

It does seem that strong women tend to be understood by God alone, and He is their only real comforter. If you have a strong friend, you can serve her by allowing her to be vulnerable and weak with you. Listen to the burdens of her heart and encourage her with truth from the Word of God. You can be sure she needs the reminder. 

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. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NASB)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The "Why" of Suffering

I would like to introduce you to my newest guest blogger, Karen Gaul.  Karen has been counseling since 1994 and has been certified with the ACBC since 1995. 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. Today's blog is reposted with permission. You can find out more about my Canadian friend and read more of Karen's writing here

What is God’s purpose for orchestrating life events that bring suffering into our lives? With Purpose:  God is intentional about what He selects for me.    He knows me, He knows my frame, He knows what He wants to accomplish in and through me and my suffering is handpicked with all that in mind.  God desires to grow us, to mature us so that, we would not lack any good thing and very often that comes through the doorway of suffering.

Nothing happens to us that has not first gone through nail-scarred hands.

On purpose:  Philippians  1:29  For to you has been given the privilege not only of trusting him but also of suffering for him.(TLB)
Suffering is therefore, a gift for us.  A gift is intended to bless us, because the Giver of the gift knows me and knows what would accomplish what He wants in my life.    God is deliberate on the particular type of suffering as well as the timing of it.  It will happen at “just the right time” and not a second sooner.  I need to trust His schedule because according to my agenda suffering is usually “bad timing”.    I need to remember that when things happen in my life God is a big part of what is going on.  (see The matter of Who Brings Suffering. )  Suffering unites us with Christ.
The reason He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) was so that He could share in all that we will endure and encounter while living here.  He suffered in His life, and He suffered in His death and we will share in some of that suffering, but we also get to celebrate and live in His forever Glory (1 Peter 4:12-13).
“Your suffering occurs alongside of Christ’s.  Your life story is embedded in his story.  Your suffering, therefore, is actually a participation in the sufferings of Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 4:12-13)  Michael Emlet
For a Purpose:  I believe I could blog every day and still not mine the riches of all that God purposes for each of us in our trials, because our trials are not only for us, but also for the benefit of others (2 Corinthians 1:3-11) and I have no idea who all the “others” might be that God wants to bless at some point in time with what you have endured.
Jamie and I have been most blessed by the Lord in many ways throughout our life together (31 years now).  One of those ways of blessing us was with NOT having children.  (I know that seems strange to say, but it seems even stranger to say that God didn’t bless us with children).  Any good gift (James 1:19) that the Lord has bestowed on us has been a blessing, and every hardship He has allowed us to walk through has also been a blessing.  The fact that we didn’t have children was a time of great struggle for us, but over the years we have witnessed time and time again how God has used our past struggle to encourage or bless someone who is struggling with infertility and childlessness.

If my struggle blesses another person then it will have been For a Purpose.

For Me:  Suffering has the ability to accomplish many things in us.  We can become bitter and angry like Naomi (Ruth 1) or we may move into other wrong, twisted thinking or we can see our suffering as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with Christ, and an opportunity to reflect Him to the world around us.
James 1 speaks to us about our struggles and suffering (1 Peter 1:6), when it tells us to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of various kinds”.   Joy is not necessarily my first go to response when trouble finds me, but that is part of what God is doing.  He wants me to separate joy (a condition of the heart) from happiness (circumstantial feeling).  I can be in a joyful place (the condition of my heart) and still not be in a happy place in my circumstances.  (I will let you read that sentence over again and reflect on its truth.)
God wants me to grow, as I mentioned above, again James gives us a glimpse of some of what God is up to in our struggle.  He wants me to become steadfast, to persevere when my faith gets rattled and shaken.  Why?  Perseverance (Romans 5:3-5) helps me to mature and not lack anything, I don’t know about you but, maturity, not lacking anything, stronger in my faith are all things I desire, and this is oneway God will use to grow those character traits in my heart.
The best part of going through our suffering and trials is that we NEVER walk the road alone.  He provides a lamp (Psalm 119:105), He gives us His Word (2 Timothy 3:16), He gives us the body (the church, your small group, a believing friend), He gives us Himself (Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 23:4).  That my friend is what makes it possible to have joy in the midst of our pain.
What are some of the purposes that God might want to accomplish in your sorrow and pain?
It isn’t sometimes until we come out the other side that we can actually see a purpose, and even if I can never see ONE purpose (although I find that doubtful) the Bible would tell me that God does things On Purpose, With Purpose and For a Purpose.  Do you believe that?
So instead of asking the “Why” question, maybe we could instead be asking “What is God up to in my life through this trial?”

Monday, January 26, 2015

Bearing Burdens Biblically

I am excited to tell you about an event that is coming to the Greater Kansas City area in March. Redeeming Grace Biblical Counseling Center of Kansas and Reigning Grace Counseling Center of Missouri are co-hosting the area’s second regional biblical counseling conference. This year, our conference theme is, Bearing One Another’s Burdens Biblically (B3).

Our B3 theme arose from a conversation my conference co-host Nathan, and I were having once about the gravity of being burden bearers; of being invited into the pain and suffering of another hurting human soul during a time when they are often vulnerable and even desperate for answers. He said, “This is not a job for professionals and experts trained in the secular philosophies of this world, but truly it’s a calling for Christians equipped with God’s sufficient Word.” Bearing one another’s burdens is a responsibility each of us have to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves.

Nathan and I agree that we are not interested in the latest gimmicks and methods of the confused world of modern Psychology.  We are firmly committed to soul care that is solidly grounded in biblical counseling principals and methods. Therefore, we are bringing together men and women from around the country who share our passion for ministering to people with the Word of God in ways that are life changing. Each of our speakers and workshop presenters are solidly biblical in their methodology and will offer our conference attendees the help, healing, and hope that is only available through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The burdens our counselee’s bring to us are often heavy and are increasingly tragic. Our excellent conference speakers will present on relevant and relational topics to aid our conference guests in bearing the burdens of others. We’ve asked them to present on the issues of today, and provide an emphasis on practical application in their workshops. We want to provide you with equipping tools to take back to your churches and biblical counseling centers. For a complete list of speakers and workshops please see the enclosed brochure. If you are interested in reproducing them for mass distribution in your church, please contact our office and we will be glad to provide you with a PDF for your convenience.
Every Christian is Spirit filled for the purpose of helping brothers and sisters trapped by sin. Bearing one another’s burdens is a fulfillment of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as our self.  We point burdened people to the ultimate Burden Bearer- Jesus Christ!
Please, join us for the Bearing One Another’s Burden’s Biblically Conference on the beautiful campus of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas on March 5-7, 2015. For more information, and to register please see our website at

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Honor of Suffering

I was talking with a friend the other day over coffee. It happened to be the sixth anniversary of the homegoing of my mom, and I shared with her all that things that were going on during that long dark season of suffering.

She said the most curious thing to me: She said that I am very honored to have gone through all that suffering. My first thought was, that is nuts! Who would be honored to go through all that stuff? I did ask her to explain because I was sure she had some deeper meaning attached to her statement. She is a very godly woman, and is wiser in years than I.

She told me that God has done such a work in my life that I am ready for the tougher stuff. I have moved beyond the little trials in life and I have grown to the point where I can by God's grace handle the more difficult trials of life, and in that sense it is an honor.

Well....I must confess that "honor" is not a word I would attach to any portion of those years, and especially not the two years that whole period of time encompassed. Torture would be more accurate from my perspective. My first thought was that if I have reached a new level, where the heck is the exit? The inevitable thoughts of what else is there on this level?? Cancer? Sudden loss of a loved one? Crippling illness? These thoughts and more suddenly invaded my mind and I realized to some degree I was mighty fearful of what comes next.

My flesh is ready for a break.

But Oh! God is faithful...God never gives us anymore than we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13) and through Christ and by running to Christ we can make it through whatever comes our way. My wise Pastor said he didn't think "honor" was a word Job would have used either as he sat in the ashes and scraped the scabs off his skin. It is more like conformity.

It is more to the point that the adversity God gives or allows into our lives is there because He knows it will make us more like Christ. It will mature our faith, and build character within us. I must be one tough pot...maybe cast iron to require such lengths to conform my character to that of Christ!

These sorts of things can get a person a little down. My desire is to glorify God. My desire is to live for Him, (and I pray it is a long and healthy life of service!) and meditating on trials and the pain of being conformed is wearing.
As though God knew where I was emotionally as I wrote this post, this arrived in my email box- nothing else, just this:

"My purpose in writing is to encourage you
and assure you that the grace of God is with you
no matter what happens."
1 Peter 5:12

I will leave you with this as your thought for the day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

50 Shades of Debauchery

Recently I was in a major box retail store to pick up something from the pharmacy. As I headed to the counter I stopped dead in my tracks as I encountered an end-cap display containing "pleasure products" based on the book, 50 Shades of Gray. I did not linger, and I don't even think I actually processed what I was seeing. I was simply horrified that I was seeing this stuff in my local mainstream, big box retail store. Right out in the open. Where anyone can see it.

To be clear, I have not read the books, nor will I. However, I don't live in a cave and I am aware of what these books generally are about. Sadly, when this movie is released it will make a zillion dollars. The sexual acts that 50 Shades promotes will unfortunately become more common as this garbage becomes mainstream. Some women will be forever changed as a result of the sexual practices that are promoted as normal and acceptable between two consenting adults.

Husbands and wives are given wonderful freedom in the context of marriage to enjoy each other fully and completely. But, God has given us some restrictions and informed us what He decreed as perversions. Any sexual act, partner swapping, same sex acts, group sex, anal sex, voyeurism, or bondage and torture are all off limits for Christians. There are more items I could list but they only get more disgusting. 

Some couples will use 50 Shades for purposes of sexual arousal. They will justify this behavior by saying they actually only have sex with each other but use the movie for ideas, or as a sort of a “jump start” to sex. Let me be very clear: This is not ok.

For this is the will of God for you, that you abstian from every form of sexual immortality. 1 Thess. 4:3

If your husband asks you to participate in any of these things, he is asking you to sin. You must kindly yet firmly tell him you cannot do this because you would be sinning. This is not an area of submission. A wife cannot submit or obey when her husband asks her to sin. God is her higher authority and these things are all forbidden in Scripture (Lev.18; 20:12; Rom 1:27; 1 Cor 5;1; 6:18; Jude 1:7). 

By viewing pornography (and this is pornography) alone or with your husband you are sinning with your eyes and your heart (Matt. 5:27-29). All pornography is ungodly, and if you have participated in this kind of behavior you must stop this immediately.

But among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immortality, or of any kind of impurity for this is improper for Gods holy people. Ephesians 5:3.

Discuss this with your husband and confess your sin to God and then to each other. You must then ask each others forgiveness and determine to never participate in these things again. Dispose of any pornography together for accountability sake. Purify your minds by meditating on the Scriptural truths regarding sex. 

Once you have confessed your sin to God and each other (when appropriate) asked forgiveness and granted forgiveness you can move on to renewing your mind with respect to sexual intimacy. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Secret to Lasting Power

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.  Linda will be speaking at the Bearing One Another's Burdens Biblically (B3) Conference in March. You can read more of Linda's writing here. Today's blog is reposted with permission.   

Wouldn’t every world ruler like to know the secret to real, lasting power? Solomon, whose son would be the next king of Israel, certainly wanted his son to know, so when he put together the book of Proverbs for his son, he let Lady Wisdom tell the secret. It’s a secret that can benefit us all, especially parents. Here it is:
Counsel is mine and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, power is mine.
By me kings reign,
And rulers decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles,
All who judge rightly. (Prov. 8:14-16)
When my children were under my authority, had I stood high in a chair and declared to my kids, “Counsel is mine” and “By me kings reign,” I don’t think it would have gone over well. Such authority is not mine. It is God’s. In this passage, His wisdom is personified as a woman. Personification is a great teaching tool often used in literature.
In essence, Lady Wisdom says that the ruler who rules according to God’s wisdom rules well and so the peaceful acceptance of his power and influence for the good are likely to be prolonged. This is because:
    • God’s wisdom is His own, not from some other source. God didn’t have to consult someone before acting or writing His perfect counsel, the Bible.
    • God’s wisdom is true, so it produces justice. Just rule produces peace and prosperity among those ruled.
    • God’s wisdom is sound–valid, reasonable, well-founded, reliable.
    • God’s wisdom is understanding–based in knowledge of every fact involved.
    • God’s wisdom is powerful–compelling, effective, strong.
Can any other source of wisdom make such claims? So then, the leader who makes rules according to worldly wisdom or personal experience or opinions won’t last in peace because that guidance contains inherent fault lines and hidden sink holes.
Proverbs is a book of principles, not always without exceptions. Because God establishes rulers and has a purpose for evil, He ordains that some despots and evil religions maintain power for many years. But they don’t manage it with a happy or informed people glad to contribute. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan” and “hide themselves” (29:2; 28:12). People coerced by fear and oppression may sit when the government says to, but they are standing up on the inside. They protest when they can. Tyrants keep power only by constant vigilance and suppression, and eventually undermine their own power, or once they die followers revolt rather than carrying on the same policies.
Apply this to parenting. We tend to parent the way we were raised, or by “common sense,” or by what some parenting book says. We are determined that our opinion about what is best for the child is the correct one. Many parents enforce their rule with anger, gaining outward compliance without inward agreement. Maybe they resort to threats, nagging, or resignation. Children, especially teens, see through the manipulations, probe below and find the weak spots in the parents’ foundation or presuppositions. As they take advantage of the weaknesses, fights erupt, people withdraw into their own private worlds. Relationships crack apart and sink holes swallow good relations, even whole families.
I’m probably not the only parent who wanted to say to my children, “When I was a child…” or “It has been my experience that…” But in the end, my experience is simply my experience; it is subject to interpretation and not authoritative for others. No wonder children challenge the “when I was a child” tactic. They have a point. It misses that authority to which we parents should be directing children for guidance in life.
We see this working out in our society. In the last half of the 1900s, parents turned from God’s Word to the “wisdom” of Dr. Spock and the “understanding” of human nature that psychologists claimed to have discovered. As young people challenged their authority, what could they say? “Dr. Spock said…”? “Dr. Dobson said…”? “When I was a child…”? As parents demonstrated that they did not value God’s Word as authoritative counsel for living and parenting, their children learned that the foundation for their parents’  moral directives was human, not divine, even if it did seem to align with the Bible. Well, one man’s opinion is as authoritative as another’s. The children formed opinions of their own, rejecting the moral influence (power) of parents and choosing to be ruled by other forces in their culture.
But God’s Word is trustworthy bedrock because it is pure truth (John 17:17). So the parent who submits himself to it and then makes policies based upon it because he fears God drives his pilings into the immovable foundation of bedrock. His decisions will be wise and his judgments just and his methods kind, and so children will be more likely to respond well. When children challenge the parent’s rules or decisions, it provides learning opportunities. Parents can drill down to presuppositions, and if those presuppositions are biblical, then the source of authority is not ultimately the parent, but the Lord. A challenge by a child then becomes an opportunity for parent and child to check the Bible, to show the child the value, relevance, sufficiency, and authority of God’s Word. It becomes an opportunity for the child to deal with the Lord Himself at the heart level. Then there will likely be less discord and the children will be far more likely to make faith in God and His Word their own.
This principle of being ruled by God’s wisdom may be applied in the work place, the church, and anywhere someone has a position of authority over another. The source of God’s wisdom is the Bible, where God recorded it for us. Therefore, the counsel we speak to others for living and problem-solving should be biblical wisdom, not man’s ideas and not based on our experience.
Beliefs, right or wrong, guide how we go about administrating the home, the family, or other situations of responsibility. If someone challenges your presuppositions will he find bedrock or sink holes? Are you (am I) making determinations based upon the counsel of Lady Wisdom or personal experience and opinions? Is it obvious to your children that you are submissive to God’s authority in parenting or do they see you asserting authority autonomously?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Unity in My Heart and My Church

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Is the imperative of Ephesians 4:31.

These sin issues are poison and will be the death of a church. In Ephesians 4 Paul is speaking to the church, and he opens the chapter telling us to walk worthy of the calling we have received in Christ. He speaks about being unified as one body in Christ Jesus and the passage flows into the personal responsibility we all share in making this happen.

I am so sad to say it is not that way in many of our fellowships. Our churches have become hotbeds for dissension, and factions have developed over issues of music, proper attire and Bible translations. Add to this the personal insults and hurt feelings some people struggle with along with pride that comes from a sinful heart, and you have a real sorry spiritual environment.

To some degree, factions are necessary. Paul said "there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you." (1 Corinthians 11:19) This is how we separate the sheep from the wolves in some cases! We are not to be lemmings blindly following our leaders without question, we are told to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), to approve the doctrine being taught to us (1 Tim. 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4), and to approve them as being faithful (2 Tim. 2:2, Titus 1:9) to the teaching of the Word and to the standards set forth in Scripture for spiritual leaders.

However, too many of our factions are over purely sinful things. You don't like me or something I said, I don't like you because of music, or clothing or any of the other previously mentioned things. And then we all come together on Sunday morning pretend we like each other and call it worship and yet our hearts are full of all this unrepentant sin toward one another! We ask God's blessing on it and pretend that somehow we are bringing God glory by these actions...

In reality, these things are a nauseating stench to God's nostrils and it is for the same kinds of hypocrisy that Jesus said "woe to you"! (Matt. 23:27) This is false unity which is beautiful on the outside but is full of crawling worms inside because the inside is dead and rotting.

When will the church realize that God sees the hearts of men? When will she realize that despite the pretense of holiness she is deeply sinful and in need of repentance? Taking it out of the abstract, we must collectively realize that we are our own worst enemies and admit to God that our worship is not from a pure heart!

We must confess our sin to one another-admit our own wrongs. What usually happens is our confessions include "but" (the great dis-qualifier) and we want to shift the blame for our sinful behavior on the other person. This is obvious when we say that we would not have said or done something if the other person would not have said or done what they did. This is not repentance or confession, it is blame shifting and justification of personal sin! True confession is done in humility and seeks to reconcile with others rather than justify ones self.

We must forgive one another from the heart! Often our forgiveness is just lip service and meaningless! We say we forgive but continue to cherish the hurt or offense in the heart. We continue to think critical thoughts, gossip about them to others, and rehearse the events over and over in our minds. Heart level forgiveness means that you transfer the hurt to the cross, the desire for revenge to the cross, and the anger and hatred to the cross. It means that you see the offender through the eyes of Christ- from the cross.

True forgiveness means that you do not ever bring up the incident again. You do not bring it up to others, you do not bring it up to them, and you do not bring it up to yourself. True forgiveness mirrors that of God towards us! The offense is thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and the forgiveness is all of grace (Eph. 1:7). We do not forgive them because they deserve to be forgiven, we forgive them because we were undeserving and were shown mercy and grace.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Struggle Never Ends

As children under obedience, don't shape your lives by the desires that you used to follow in your ignorance. 1 Peter 1:14 (CCNT)

 Desires of the heart is what is being written of here. Desires are born of your thoughts and emotions and come from the heart according to Scripture (Matt: 15; Luke 8). Desires are not always holy and good because they begin corrupted and are fed by the flesh, which is another desire factory.  What desires did you used to follow before Christ redeemed you? There are of course the big unholy desires like fornication and other deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5), but what about those everyday things that we like to pass off as normal human behavior? Those things we followed in our ignorance of God's holy and righteous standards?

How easy it is for us to forget that God's only standard is holy. Not sort of holy, not occasionally holy, not Sunday holy. Holy in all our behavior .

Instead, as the One who called you is holy, you yourselves must become holy in all your behavior.  (1 Peter 1:16)

As I think about that this morning, I am struck by how terribly far away from being holy in all my behavior I am. I am overwhelmed by the remaining sinfulness that still remains in my heart after almost 30 years of living the Christian life.

If we call Him our Father, we must be deeply concerned about how we behave during our residence as an alien here on earth because the cost of our freedom was extraordinarily high. The cost of our freedom from the slavery to sin was the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Our lives are to be lived as a "Thank You" to God, who saved us from having to live in the flesh and saved us from having to be a slave to our sinful desires. We sure don't act that way all the time, do we?

Some of us still struggle with the same sins we thought had been conquered long ago. Some continue to be quick to sin in their anger with cursing and unholy actions. Many think nothing of participating in gossip and slander at work or in social situations, and even step into the realm of the unbelievers with foolish talk and coarse jesting which are out of place (Col).

We involve ourselves in things that are not the business of aliens visiting a strange land. We abandon our true calling for the sake of the temporary pleasures and obey the desires of this present world. Our minds are not "buckled for action" nor are we "keeping level headed" (1 Peter 1:13) and this is evident by our mingling in the things of this world and age.

We must return to the Word for our purification from these things. The Word of God, that is our guide to all things holy, and righteous, and good is the only way you and I can be cleansed in our hearts from the filth and corruption that lurks there. The Word of God is truth, God's truth and until we read it and internalize it at the level of the heart there will be no true desire to leave behind the alien things of this world.

Having cleansed yourselves by obedience to the truth you can have brotherly affection without pretense, so love one another deeply from the heart, having been regenerated not by perishable seed, but by that which is imperishable- God's living and continuing Word. 

It is only when our hearts- our minds- are so completely full of the truth of God's Word that we can to truly live the lives we have been called to live. I think until the point we become committed and wholly sold out to immersing ourselves in the Word we are just dancing around the edges of what God has done for us. I truly believe we are cheating ourselves of the wondrous live God has enabled us to have.

Now,this is the Word that was announced to you as good news. 1 Peter 2:25b

Do you remember that good news? Does the good news still impact your heart as it once did? When you think of Jesus coming to earth as a baby, and dying on the cross for your sins 33 years later, is your heart still stirred as it once was; or is it simply a dry and sterile fact you now believe?

Does the reality of your predestination still cause you to be in awe of what a great God He is? When you read Ephesians 1 are you amazed and overwhelmed with thankfulness? If not, then I think you can see the reasons you struggle so deeply with everyday life in this foreign land. It has stolen away a piece of your heart. You have become immersed in its culture, and the things of this land have become more important to you than the things of your Homeland.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Answered Prayer!

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. 

I have written a lot here on the blog about coping with pain and suffering, trusting God in trials, and persevering in a body that doesn't work the way I’d like it to. Maybe, in reading all these posts, you’ve come to the conclusion that I've given up on the possibility that God may one day heal me. I want you to know today that that is most certainly not the case. Through all my striving to live a life that is pleasing to God in this body that doesn't work the way He intended, I have never stopped asking Him to heal me. I know with 100% certainty that He is able to do it, and I have never had any doubt that, if He thought that it was the best thing for me, He would heal me.

There have been many times over the years that I have tried various medical options to improve my situation: Minor and major surgery; physical therapy; joint supplements; injections; painful massage techniques, topical and oral medications, acupuncture, and the list goes on and on. I have had many people praying for me, and sought wisdom as I decided whether to try each of these things that offered me some hope of relief. Each time, I have hoped that whatever I was trying would work, and each time I was disappointed. Some treatments even made me worse.

So, I stopped trying. After the last failed attempt to fix this, I dusted off my white flag of surrender and waved it at God. I told Him that, if I could be of better use to Him in this condition, then I was willing to live out the rest of my life this way. I cried out my complaint to Him, just to make sure He knew how much I still didn't like this new normal. I grieved the loss of my mobility and comfort, and then I told Him that I was ready to “cease striving” and acknowledge that He is God and He knows what is best for me. I had reached a point of contentment in my heart. I truly sensed a new kind of peace that I had never known before. My dear Friend and Father desired to occupy this broken body, and it was a grace and a privilege that He would abide in me.

And then He sent something new. I wrote about it in another post a while back, as I was debating whether or not to try this new modality that I’d heard about. I wanted to make sure that my surrender had not waned, and that I was prepared to press on if the therapy didn’t work, or even if it caused a setback. I wrestled, prayed, sought advice from many friends, and did a lot of research on the technique before I decided to take the plunge and try it. The Lord led me to a wonderful physical therapist who respected my limits, and truly seemed to desire to help me. I know that this was of God because I was never fearful or anxious about her work on me, and I was able to trust in Him completely.

This therapy was bathed in much prayer, and today I very joyfully share with you that the pain and disability I have suffered for the last 5 years has been remarkably lessened! The anatomical problems created by the surgery are still there, but the pain is very significantly reduced. I really cannot believe how much better I feel, and I am so very thankful for my dear loving Father, who waited until just the right time to bring me some relief. Perhaps He was waiting for me to be content only in Him. I really don’t know His reasons for allowing me to feel so much better. I only know that there is a purpose in His timing, just as there is a purpose in my suffering.

So, now what? I’m not 100% healed, and there will still be some things I cannot do, but the pain, which was the hardest thing to bear, has eased. Now that the therapy has ended, many questions come to my mind: What if it slowly goes back to the way it was? What if the pain begins to creep back? What if I have to go back to the limitations that were so difficult to live with? How will I cope? How will I not lose heart?

I believe I have good answers to these questions, and I will share those with you in my next post. But, for now, won’t you rejoice with me in this miracle? The Lord has seen fit to answer my prayers for pain relief and for a more functional body. How about you? Are you asking God for healing, or have you given up? Do you still believe that He can heal you? I know it is hard to keep believing and asking when all signs say you've been denied, but I want to encourage you today, friend, to persevere in prayer:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7