Wednesday, July 1, 2015

I'm Struggling With My Past!

Some women really, really struggle with ceasing to live in the past. Partly because their traumatic past wants to cling on into the present, and partly because there are things in the past that while they no longer participate in the behavior, they have not truly forsaken it.

Let me explain by way of example. Imagine a person who was a drunk and enjoyed being a drunk has sobered up. They have not had a drink for about a year but the thoughts of all that fun they had while drinking and partying are with them daily. They may have distanced themselves from the participation in drunkenness but they have not truly forsaken it. 

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13 (NASB)

The word forsake is a powerful word in the Bible. It means that you utterly abandon it and have nothing whatsoever to do with it- nothing. This is where I see most people get stuck. Like the drunk in the above example, they may have confessed the sin, but they keep doing it over and over in their thoughts. They play around mentally with it going over it repeatedly, mentally committing that sin or activity over and over. Honestly, part of them enjoys that sin. This is a great hindrance to moving on because the person really has not forsaken the sin. In time the person will repeat the sin. 

Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26:11 (NASB)

The failure to radically amputate not only the sinful behaviors of the past but also the thoughts and desires that accompany the memories is why many remain consumed with the past.

A part of the process of growth and change is to stop the behavior and learn and practice new and godly behavior, but more importantly to renew the mind with thoughts that are true, honest, and of good report (Phil 4:8). This means learning the critical place of the heart and understanding that the problem is not the "problem." It is not simply the drinking, the shopping, the overspending, the semi-pornographic television or whatever action we are talking about. The problem is the heart, the idols of the heart and how powerful the desires are and what a critical place they have in your growth, or lack of it.

Another reason for wallowing in the past is when you equate being forgiven with having forgotten.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NASB)

This verse tells us that our sins are completely forgiven by God. That is a true statement. When God forgives He forgives completely. Some people get stuck because while they understand they are completely forgiven they don't forget. They mistakenly thing that forgiveness equals forgetting. 

"... For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will already know me,” says the LORD. “And I will forgive their wickedness and will never again remember their sins.” Jeremiah 31:34 (NLT) 


Notice what these verses say. The phrase "I will remember no more" is important to understand. What it means is God will choose not to recall our sins and iniquities for the purpose of punishment. It does not mean God forgets. God chooses not to dwell on our past sins. We have the same choice because we have been indwelt with God's Spirit.

You can choose not to dwell on the things of your past and get stuck in misery. 

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)

This is not going to come automatically, you must deliberately choose to take every thought captive according to the commands of the Lord. You must choose to obey.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 (NASB)

Your thoughts will be taken captive and changed as you choose to obey verses 4-6 of Phil. 4, Rom. 12:1-2

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7 (NASB)

What you are thinking about becomes who you are according to this verse. One who constantly meditates on yesterdays sins and failures is programming herself to believe they are still true of her today! If your parents told you that you were a failure and a horrible child and you believed them then you became what you believed you were.

If you think you are an alcoholic and you believe the disease model, then you also believe there is no hope that you can ever be anything but a "recovering" alcoholic. There is no victory in that, no hope and no freedom.

1 Corinthians 6 lists a bunch of nasty things that defined who and what many of us were before we were redeemed:fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers. But note what Paul says about us:

Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NASB)

So, has the Word of God convinced you? Are you ready to accept the fact that you are free of the confessed sin and weight of your sinful past? I hope so! Believe in what the Lord says and go forward in faith and in truth. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Can I Change My Husband's Mind?

That title got you, didn't it? I confess I am smiling as I think of how many women clicked on today's blog because of the title. Who among us does not want to know how to change her husband's mind about something? Maybe you want to obtain something, to go somewhere he doesn't care to go, or to get your own way in some other circumstance. Those are rather self-centered and I would even say light-hearted reasons women try to change his mind; but there are also some very serious reasons women ask this same question.

In a counseling situation a woman may ask me how to change her husband's mind when she does not agree with a decision he has made about some issue regarding finances or family. Often, the couple has fought about the issue and communication is strained or non-existent at that time. She sees her position as righteous and may even give me Scriptural support for it. My counsel in such situations is (usually) as follows:

My first piece of counsel is to examine yourself. Thinking back on the discussion or argument, did you communicate respectfully with your husband when presenting your point? In the heat of the moment it is easy to become so impassioned about the issue that words and tone of voice quickly get out of hand. Were you speaking honestly? Did you use the dreaded "you always" or "you never" as you interacted with your husband? We tend to use "always" and "never" for dramatic emphasis and rarely do we use them appropriately. How true is it that your husband never does that certain thing you want him to do? Can he really always ....?  Both of these words are very concrete. I call them 100% words because in their literal meanings they are very specific and mean in every circumstance without exception. No matter how inflexible a person may seem, rarely does someone "never" or "always" say and do the things we accuse them of when we are angry at them. So, examine yourself for where you went wrong and where you sinned against your husband in the discussion.

When you have found the logs in your own eye (Matthew 7) you have to deal with your own sin through confession and repentance before God and then go to your husband and admit your wrongs to him. It is very humbling to strongly believe you are right about something and still have to confess you were wrong in how you went about it. Asking his forgiveness for your sin will go a long way in gaining his ear for future discussion.

Here is a little aside: I know some of you reading this are in unequally yoked marriages or are married to a man who is truly unreasonable or abusive. No counsel is "one size fits all" and it is impossible to write something that addresses every situation in one blog post. However, much of what is written here is still applicable to you. Self-examination, confessing your sin, and seeking restoration with your husband will allow you to live peaceably in your own skin, regardless of how he responds.  

My second piece of counsel is to prayerfully consider making a biblical appeal to your husband on the issue. I don't hear much about this anymore, but I believe it is a wonderful approach to take when you are at an impasse over something and you find you cannot let the matter go. A biblical appeal is a request made to your husband for the purpose of presenting information that will hopefully lead him to change his mind about a decision he's made. A biblical appeal is not an argument, fight, or a manipulation. A biblical appeal is what a wise woman undertakes when she believes that her husband's conclusion is wrong, or sinful. The purpose is to help her husband, or to give wise counsel in aiding him to make the best and most God-honoring decision possible, not merely to get her own way.

A biblical appeal should be based on facts not emotions. Just because a wife "feels" her idea or plan is better does not make it so. Before making the appeal, it is wise to research the subject and be ready to provide concrete data to support your position. Be prepared to present the reasons you disagree with his decision and then propose a different plan, idea or a solution. Be smart is choosing the right timing for your appeal; you don't want to be rushed. Answer his questions with facts not feelings. Listen carefully to his point of view and for details you may have missed in your original discussion.

Once you've made your appeal trust God for the outcome. Regardless of what your husband decides to do, a wise woman will agree to go along with the decision that has been made and support him in it.

Another aside: I am assuming that the husband is not asking his wife to consent or be supportive of sinful decisions. If your husband has decided to do something illegal or immoral you cannot go along with his decision, even when told you must submit to his authority. 

God is the ultimate authority, not your husband and you cannot honor God by consenting to commit sin with your husband. If he intends to go forward with something you are convinced is sinful you should seek outside counsel from your pastor or other wise biblical source. 

Support should be genuine and include prayer for success, encouragement, and a willingness to be helpful in accomplishing the objective. To continue to bring up your disagreement with the decision and tell him how he should do it your way is called nagging. Don't do that. You are only responsible for how you conduct yourself in these kinds of situations. Your husband may stick to his plan despite your appeal. In this case, trust God is working out things for your good and His glory, despite how it looks right now.

Making a biblical appeal is not easy, but it is always an option for a woman. Be wise and careful as you prepare to go forward, praying for the right heart and motives and that God would be honored by your words and your actions.

Friday, June 26, 2015

I Am Despicable

"I am aware at all times that I am despicable." I said this the other day to a fellow sojourner on the path of sanctification. We were talking about the ongoing effects of the sinful heart in our lives.

It's not that God is reminding me that I am a horrible sinner, or that He is condemning me all day long. I am not relentlessly bashing myself and denying the cross-work that has been done in me, but I am always aware of the sin potential in my heart. Especially when I look at who I still am after all these years of knowing and understanding Romans 6.

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Romans 5:20-6:2 (NASB)

What Paul is saying to us here is that where sin "super-abounded" grace abounds beyond measure, grace abounds exceedingly, grace overflows. There is no sin that can overcome God's grace in the life of a believer in Christ. However, Paul also reminds us that we cannot continue to live as slaves to sin any more. When we live as slaves to sin, we are living as though we believe sin still has power over us.

This is why I find myself discouraged at times. Even though I know, understand, and believe the message of grace and the cross, it's is not a magic bullet against a sinful and wicked heart. I still have a choice to make in each and every moment I live.

It is not the Lord who reminds me of my despicable-ness, for that would be completely contrary to His character. God does not deal with me that way. If you are wondering how I can be so certain of this I will ask you to look at Romans 8.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 (NASB)

This passage alongside Ephesians 1 and 2 tell me that I am different, I have been changed. Even though I am not yes all that I will be, I am no longer what I once was. My standing before God has been changed from one of hostility to one of fellowship (Eph. 2:14-16). Because I have been changed God does not deal with me as a Believer as He deals with those who are unregenerate.

If anything, this understanding is what leads me to be discouraged as I realize I still love my sin too much... and I don't have to.

Why would a Believer choose to obey the sinful desires of the heart? To choose to live in slavery to sin and long to go back to Egypt? Do you remember how the Hebrews wanted so badly to return to Egypt? Egypt (slavery) was where they knew what they knew. There was a familiar sense about their lives there. There was a routine, there was relative safety, they had food, homes, and water. In those moments of longing for Egypt, it didn't matter that what they knew was actually slavery; it was just what they knew. Even in their slavery, they longed for those comforts. We are no different.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More than 50 Shades of Gray

This weekend I learned there is a new installment in the 50 Shades collection. How unfortunate. Dozens of blogs have already been written about the danger of 50 Shades of Gray books and the movie. You might think Christian women are not interested in the content of this material. You might also think Christian women are not interested in any kind of sexual immorality. You are wrong. We have the same temptations as non-Christians, we are inundated with the same messages in magazines and television and other books.

Many Christian women willingly engage in immorality when they are unmarried. They know what the Bible says (1 Cor. 6:18), and yet, they justify and rationalize their actions. These are issues of the heart. Moral compromise doesn't just happen, there are desires she wants to fulfill. Perhaps she wants to please her man, or is afraid of losing him if she maintains her purity. She might genuinely desire the intimacy and closeness sex brings. What she learns is that contrary to the saying, stolen fruit is never as sweet as what you are entitled to have.

I am overwhelmingly concerned about the impact the 50 Shades franchise will continue to have on our young women. So few truly understand the devastating risks of sexual immorality on the lives of young women and men who buy into the lie that "it's just sex." Never mind the complicating realities of sexually transmitted diseases (1 in 5 young woman has an STD), or unplanned pregnancy (40-50% in the US); there are serious long-term effects of normal sexual immorality. Imagine with me what the effects of sadism, bondage, domination will be! 

Women want to be protected from harm by the men they love, they want to trust them and know the man has their best interests at heart.  Does a man who asks for 50 Shades activity have her best interests at heart? Is he thinking of her? Is he treating her with honor and respect? Would a man who truly loves his wife or girlfriend ask her to participate in such activities, or is he thinking of himself (Heb. 13:4)? I hope women who are in a relationship with such a man will realize that in spite of any words he utters, he really does not love and respect her as he declares (Eph. 5:28). It is my hope (and I assume it's the hope of all the other people who have written about the danger of these books and this movie) that women will ask themselves these kinds of questions. That women will realize no honorable man would ask for these activities.

If you are in such a relationship, my strong encouragement to you is to run quickly from this man. Do what it takes to get away from him. Tell someone you trust what has been going on and let them help you to get away. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sin is subtle, are you paying attention?

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

We have lived in our home now for 20 years.  It seems to be the time when things begin to fall apart.  We have had to replace water softeners and screens, and appliances.  We have painted a few times, changed carpet to laminate and replaced furniture.  Things generally just don’t last a life time.
When we moved into our home we put down some cement slabs for a sidewalk, that way we had a nice platform to the first of 3 steps onto the front porch.  Over the years those slabs became uneven which was a problem in the winter months when you had to shovel snow.  It wasn’t pleasant catching the end of one of the slabs as you were pushing snow, but the rest of the year you hardly noticed it.  We also didn’t notice how the slabs had settled and the first step was a few inches higher than it was originally.
This past year we had those slabs realigned and levelled out again. I didn’t notice how bad it was before until the job was done. I went to take a step down from the steps onto the slabs and I didn’t go down quite as far.  What a difference now, only a few inches, but definitely noticeable!
Sin is like that.  Subtle.  Over time things settle and shift and change and we don’t notice.  We don’t notice until someone else mentions it, or we trip and fall over something.

Not paying attention!

We start out doing things well, we are focused and intent on spiritual discipline and routines…church attendance, bible reading, prayer.   Then there is an occasional interruption to the routine and then another and another and pretty soon a different routine has begun and we aren’t sure how we got there.
We start out doing things that in and of themselves aren’t so bad.  That list is endless.  But like my cement slabs aren’t maybe so innocent if we don’t pay attention.
You can go from easy light conversation to a little more conversation, to sharing something intimate and before long you have office adultery happening.
You can go from a casual glass of wine and over time drinking to fall asleep or to de-stress after a long day at work.
You can spend time with an ungodly person and allow them to be your intimate circle and before long you find your church attendance is no longer consistent, and your love for the Lord waning because other things have taken priority.
You can be good stewards of your time and then slip into excessive doing which can lead to being discouraged when you seem to have become the “go to” person.  Because this is also subtle all of a sudden you wake up bitter and done with serving and done with the church.
You can be saved by grace and know it, but over time if you don’t feed that you will forget and begin to do your spiritual walk with God by rote and routine and duty not out of passion.
You can start your marriage loving each other, spending time together, talking and then allow other distractions … kids, work, hobbies … to get in the way and before long you are married to a stranger.
Like my step it seemed fine. It wasn’t until it was repaired and built up that we really noticed how bad it had gotten.  When things are bad and there is a crisis God then somehow gets our full undivided attention.

God gets our attention!

This is the time in our lives when we can do a couple of things.  We can decide the hard work to repair and allow God to bring change into the situation is much too difficult and so we can despair and jump into a hole.
We can decide the work is too big and it will take too long and conclude that change will never be possible.  Again despair sets in or running from the difficulty to find a more pleasant and “happy” place.
We can get angry and dig in our heels and blame everyone and everything around us and still nothing gets settled and changed.
Or we can do the hard work that God wants to bring about in whatever situation He has you in.
In a time of crisis what is really inside of us comes boiling to the surface. Luke 6:43-45  thLVEVL3JU
What is important to us always comes to the surface during a time of struggle.
John MacArthur says “Whatever you love most will dominate your life.”
If happy, self-focus, pain focus, or any other thing dominates your thinking that will be the thing that you love the most.  The Bible says what you love will rule your life whether you want it to or not.  You see we function out of our hearts and our hearts are always passionate about something.

Pay Attention! (1 Peter 5:8)

Good relationships don’t just happen, whether that is with God or with a friend or with a spouse.  They all take work.  Without that work we will surely trip and fall.  Satan loves to distract us, keep us busy and focused on ourselves.  He loves to shrink our life down to our circumstances.  But God wants us to see bigger, experience unexplainable joys, grow through trials, ultimately to reflect Christ more fully.  Throughout Scripture we are called to stay alert and pay attention (2 Sam 5:24; 2 Kings 6:10; Isaiah 21:7; Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:6).  We can’t passively do life.
  • What things are distracting you? 
  • How has your picture of God gotten incredibly small?
  • What do you need to begin to do to allow Him to dominate your life more and more?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Give No Occasion for Offense

We do not give anyone an occasion for taking in offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. But as God's servants, we have commended ourselves in every way,with great endurance, in persecutions, and difficulties, into stresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, and sleepless nights, [and] in hunger. 2 Corinthians 6:3 (NET) 

While very few of us find ourselves presently beaten or imprisoned for our faith, many of us can relate to difficulties, distresses, troubles, and sleepless nights. Many Christians find their lives are full of the things in the above list. Difficulties with family members or co-workers, conflicts in daily life that tax us and stress us to the point we wonder if we will be able to handle them much longer. We often have trouble on many fronts.  

There are women who suffering daily because of their faith in Jesus. Married to men who are not Christians, they live with ridicule and persecution. They are mocked and even threatened when they want to attend church or a Bible study. 

As the world grows colder and more hostile to the Gospel, many Christians realize they are alone and set apart from literally everyone around them. They are sometimes ridiculed and denied advancement on the job, and they are often made fun of within their own families.We desire to make Christ known among the very people who trouble and persecute us, and it often breaks our hearts when the gospel of Jesus Christ falls on deaf ears and hard 

How can we avoid discouragement? One way is to be ever mindful of the sovereignty of God in election. There is true comfort in knowing that we are not responsible for anyone's salvation. It is a great comfort to know that God asks us to sow the seed and water the soil but to trust Him for the harvest that is the increase in souls.

Another is to consider and take seriously what Paul says, "
We do not give anyone an occasion for taking in offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry." I'd like to ask you to take a moment and examine yourself and your life in light of that verse. Go ahead, I'll wait! 

It is more true than not that people learn about our faith by how they see us living than by the words we use to tell them about Jesus. They observe our lives, watch if and how we live what we preach and then decide if they are interested or not. A woman who dutifully reads her Bible on her lunch break at work but is a nasty gossip around the office is going to be viewed as a hypocrite.  A wife who is constantly spouting Bible verses to her husband, but is disrespectful and nagging is a poor representative of Jesus Christ. And, someone who attends everything the church offers but has a filthy mouth or participates in unwholesome things of the world has no credibility with unsaved people. 

We have been called to be different, called out from the world, set apart for righteousness and holiness (Romans 12:1-2). We do live in this sin-cursed world, but we are no longer of or a part of this world (John 15:19; 17:14).  We must live as though this is true. Our ministry to the unsaved people in our circles of influence must be marked by genuineness, transparency, honesty, integrity, upright living, and outstanding character. There can be no hedging on these principles, because our words and our character will speak much louder than lugging our Bible's around and waving tracts under their noses. Make it your goal to be able to honestly say, "I gave them no reason to find fault with my ministry" when interacting with unbelievers. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Is It All Worth It?

Have you ever wondered if it was all worth it? Have you looked at all your circumstances and trials and wondered if this "Christian thing" was all it was cracked up to be? Have you ever longed for an easier way or a life of ease without trials and hardship? I don't know too many people who can say "no" to those questions. I know I could not. I was recently recalling a time when my faith was pressed beyond what I perceived to be its limits, and I was longing just to be done with this whole thing called living the Christian life. To be honest, I wanted rest and respite and God gave trial and adversity. My flesh screamed at how unfair it all was, and I admit that I was completely ungrateful. I was so angry with God for the never ending parade of stuff that came my way; I confess I did not see Him as loving or kind at that time. I had a totally wrong view of God and my circumstances!

What I have been taught and I believe, and what you have read here on this blog is that God keeps the believer. Jude 24 tells us that God will make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless and that He is able to keep us from stumbling. God is the one who holds onto us and keeps us for Himself. I can tell you I experienced being "kept" in a very real way. No matter how I kicked and screamed God would not let me go. There was very strong assurance that there was nothing I could to do to make God stop loving me. Along side that assurance was the understanding that, yes, I was headed into another stormy sea and that it was intentional.

God always does things intentionally. Every lightening bolt He throws is intentional! Every natural disaster or created beauty is intentional! Every flower, insect, and speck of dust is intentional. God is an active participant in His world and in our lives. He is an active participant in our trials and sorrows too. I have learned these trials that we hate so deeply are intentional. Their purpose is to prove to us that our faith is genuine and to increase our faith to the point where we will not question the purpose of God's activity in our lives.

In looking back on that time of life, I have a glimpse of what He wanted to teach me. I wish I could tell you I had some spectacular revelation of some great new theological insight, but I can't. He was teaching me this simple truth: God is the sovereign God of the universe and He does what He wants with what is His. And what He does is always very good. God is faithful to present us with the same lessons over and over again until we learn them well.

While God understands our grief at the things that befall us, He does not condone our sinful anger. Be careful, God is a holy God and we are to live every moment in light of who we are in Christ (even when we don't feel like it). Take the long view; God sees and knows things we don't. He can see how this all ends and we can rest in that reality. Be wise. Endeavor to see the trial or problem from God's perspective. Most importantly, be thankful. I sometimes think being thankful is the hardest of all. The heart and flesh want to complain (constantly) and yet we are called to practice thankfulness, even when I didn't feel like it, or want to.

I have learned that the subject of James 1 is faith and the perfection of our faith as we ride the waves of trials. Faith that produces endurance, faith that produces in us trust in God and His sovereignty, faith that hangs on even when we just want to quit. It seems to me that coming to a perfect faith is going to be a life long adventure!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord- God's Desire for Us

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.   

In the book, Pollyanna, Mrs. Snow snowed almost everybody. She was always “very poorly” and complained constantly. If someone gave her lamb broth, she wanted chicken, if chicken she wanted calf’s foot jelly, if jelly she wanted lamb broth. Her ingratitude frosted the warm kindness of others. She had no joy. Nor did her cold, dour attitude glorify God.
Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” The Philippians were suffering persecution, yet Paul told them to rejoice. Does God actually want his children to experience joy?
The apostle John emphasized God’s desire that His followers have joy. In his gospel, He repeatedly quotes Jesus saying such for His disciples:
  • “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).
  • “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22).
  • “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24).
  • Jesus’ prayer: “But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves” (John 17:13).
Jesus’ will for His disciples included not just human joy, but the joy of Jesus Himself. By extrapolation, we can conclude that this is true for later believers also. In his first letter, extrapolation isn’t even needed. John wrote to late believers, These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:4). In his second letter, he expresses the same desire. “I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full” (2 John 12).
The Lord Jesus desires that His own beloved ones enjoy His joy
and that in fullest measure. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Long Haul

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. 

Still meditating on Colossians 1, I looked at The Message version today. This version says this about itself: "The Message tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today." Now, this particular book is not a translation, but a paraphrase, so we have to use caution when we read it. A paraphrase, by nature, is much more influenced by the thoughts and opinions of men than a translation. Someone has put the Bible into their own words, influenced by the culture, and somewhat outside of the rigorous requirements of translation. That being said, I do think there is a place for this type of Bible reading. As long as we read with discernment, I believe that a paraphrase can contribute to our understanding and love of God’s Word.

This morning, as I worked through all of the physical therapy exercises that I must do every day in order to have a functional leg, I began to feel weary. Weary of working so hard for such minimal reward. Weary of slogging through these exercises every day, after I have already spent an hour in the pool, knowing that if I don’t do them, I will pay with increased pain and decreased function. (I actually took a few days off last week, just to make sure that was still true, and the answer is yes.) I know that, unless there is a miracle, I will have to do this for the rest of my life and honestly, I am just sick of it. Of course, as I indulged these weary thoughts, I began to feel sad about my situation. I began to think of other ladies my age who can do so much more than me, and who never give a thought to whether they will be able to grocery shop on a given day, or play with their grandkids, or…

But, thanks be to God, He snatched my thoughts out of that swirling vortex toward depression, by reminding me of all I had been thinking on in Colossians 1. (See? Meditation really does pay off!) I prayed that He would give me strength for the long haul, and joy in the process. Then, I opened up The Message to read Colossians 1, and I had to smile as the words spoke directly to my need:

We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. ­­­--Col 1:11-21

Strength for the long haul. That is what we need, isn’t it, friends? We don’t know how long we have in this world, or how long we will have to suffer here. All we know is that we need strength for today and hope for tomorrow. So, we ask the Lord for the kind of strength that “endures the unendurable, and spills over into joy.” What a perfect arrangement of words! As I plug away at my exercises, I don’t have to grit my teeth and just push through in my own strength. God will supply me with His glory-strength!Don’t you love that term? Glory-strength is the free gift of God, and it enables us to enjoy everything He has for us. Glory-strength is much better than our own strength, because it comes from our loving Father, who knows what we need better than we do. Glory-strength is strength that brings glory to God, because it came from Him in the first place!

What are you going through today that seems unendurable? Are you suffering with pain, disability, heartache, fear, sadness, depression, worry, or all of the above? Take heart, my friend. Stop gritting your teeth, and begin to open your mouth in praise to God for the glory-strength He gives. Is your situation unendurable in your own strength? Good! That means God will supply His strength that will spill over into joy and thanksgiving. As you receive His strength, you will begin to see all the bright and beautiful things He has given you, and the things you are suffering will fade in the presence of His glory. Hallelujah! What a Savior!!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Has the Old Really Gone?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:15 (ESV) 

Recently I had a second opportunity to meet with a previous counselee. When I previously met with the young woman I'll call Brittany, she did not take biblical counseling seriously. She was more interested in just talking about her problems, and was unwilling to commit to a course of biblical change. This most recent visit comes more than a year after we discontinued meeting together, and I was surprised she made another attempt to meet with me. 

When Brittany arrived it was clear life had been hard on her. After spending time catching up, I asked what brought her back to my office. She told me she was simply tired; tired of running, tired of how she was living, tired of being tired. In the course of our conversation she admitted what I already suspected, that she was not a Christian when we previously met, and that had not changed. 

How could this be? Brittany had been in church her entire life! Her parents were Christians! She went to youth group, teen activities. retreats, and conferences and now she is confessing that she was not truly regenerate! She had been pretending all along. 

Those who do biblical soul care have a unique opportunity to meet with people who are in the midst of a crisis and are not saved, and people who think they are saved but are not. It is the perfect time to introduce them to the Savior. I want my counselee's to understand that their problems are what God is using to bring them to this point of decision in their life. Their problems are tools that He is using to reveal that they are in need of a savior. I give them hope that the Bible has the answers to their problems, and that I am confident that we could discover those answers if they decide to go on with counseling.

I have said before that I believe we have churches full of Brittany's; people who are trying to work out a salvation they do not even possess. People who are confused, defeated and miserable because their lives have not changed one bit since they prayed a prayer, walked an aisle or raised a hand to ask Jesus into their heart. They have no new desires, no new direction, and no power to overcome the sin that plagues them. Biblical counsel relies 100% on the activity of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life for change. Therefore, if there is no Holy Spirit, there will be no real or lasting change. 

When a person professes Christ and it is a true conversion, there will be a change in their life. 2 Cor. 5:17 tells us that there has been a transformation inside- the believer is a new creation, the old has passed away, we have become new. We have been divinely enabled to change, to be holy, to live the life God has called us to live! 

A person who is a Believer will have evidence in their lives of their claim. There will be an ongoing desire for holiness and an increasing hatred of their sin (Rom 7:15-25). It is not as though they are sinless, but progress in holiness is evident.  The goal of all counseling is change, but not change in circumstances or change in feelings. The goal of biblical counseling is heart level change that brings about a life that glorifies God.