Friday, September 4, 2015

The Gospel of In-sufficiency

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  Galatians 1:6-8 

As I prepare to begin another round of training others to counsel biblically I was thinking about how often "preaching another gospel" goes on Sunday after Sunday, and in numerous counseling offices of the pastors of far too many churches where the Word of God is supposed to be sufficient.

What is this other gospel? It is the gospel of the IN-sufficiency of the Bible to address the problems we face. Pastors and "Christian" counselors who deny that God's Word is enough and sufficient, bringing everything we need for life and godliness are preaching another gospel and a false one at that.

There are far too many women reaching out to their pastor or church counselor with an issue of depression being sent down the road to the "Christian clinic" to meet with an integrationist who will mix psychology and the Bible. Not only depression, but anxiety, fear, worry, money problems, marital problems, child related issues, and virtually every problem common to man!

The integrationist, who I am sure is very well meaning, does not hold the Word of God in the esteemed position it is worthy of. They do not believe that the Bible has the answers women need. Instead, they seek to medicate their emotions with drugs and/or talk therapy allowing them to rehash their hurts and pain and feelings to no good end.

How do I know this is true? What right do I have to say these things? Only the experience of the counselee's who come to us having tried all the ways of the world. They arrive hopeless and miserable truly believing all hope is gone for them or their marriage. During the process of gathering data these women trot out their diagnosis list: Bi-polar, Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder...They are usually taking some psychotropic medication(s) in varying amounts that are really not helping. Often, the women have been in therapy for months and no positive changes have taken place in their lives. They have become numb due to the drugs but it hasn't really fixed the problems.

Ministry to home and family is in ruins in most of these cases. Mommy is not available because she is "having a bad day" or "not up to it." Her husband comes home to find his wife listless and wilted on the couch, house a mess and no dinner because she felt too bad to do much of anything. Church service, or service of any kind to others is virtually non-existent. There is no one-anothering going on in her life because her life is wrapped around herself and how she feels that day.

Do I sound harsh? Unloving? Cruel? My "voice" is full of nothing but empathy and compassion for these dear ladies who have been so led astray by those who would call sin sickness. This is the result of calling sin "sickness" in the church.

If this post finds you in this kind of a place today, please understand that my desire is to open your eyes and reveal the truth from the Word of God to your heart. It is crucial that you understand that there is NO problem you face that God does not have an answer for. It is possible that there are sin issues in your heart and life that have led you to this place and a good counselor can help you unearth them in a relatively short amount of time!

The true gospel is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I assume you are a sinner, as I am. If sin is what has led you to this pit in your life right now that is the best possible news you could ever ask for! Jesus died for that sin, He conquered it, nailed it to the cross and spiritually you have already died to it!

When you think of your anxiety or anger you must realize that those actions are only results of the true issues of the heart that lead you to sin in those ways. Pride may blind you to this truth, but diligent study of the Word will reveal the sin residing in your heart. You must return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ that reveals to us our need for Him, our ongoing need for Him and His cleansing and forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

External Piety is Meaningless

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB) 

Many of us were shocked as a young man, who is a part of the family that so many Christians have looked up to, has fallen into deep sin. We are left shaking our heads; wondering how such a thing could happen, how no one would have known. 

He had all of the external appearances of a godly young man! A wonderful Christian family, homeschooled, restricted from Internet and outside influences that would corrupt the heart mind soul and body. He has loving parents, multiple siblings, and a fantastic (even privileged) life on a secluded plot of land in the Bible belt. He and his family promoted godly morals and values, and their television show brought a wholesome, winsome, comforting presence to viewers desperately seeking to find some family values in a world gone crazy.

Scripture has permeated this man's life from his earliest years. He has been immersed in the Bible and in a spiritual lifestyle. How then could he molest his sisters and family friend? And, how could he have been looking for and participating in the kinds of immoral activity that his Ashley Madison account has revealed? He has called himself a hypocrite, and rightfully so. He was standing in moral judgment of sexual immorality while privately immersed in gross sexual sin. How does this happen?

First, let us understand that none of us is immune to sin. Even this sin. We all want to say we would never do such a thing, but the truth is we are all capable of something like this. It is part of our fallen nature. Scripture warns us to take heed lest we fall. It warns us to guard our hearts, it warns us not to feed the flesh because the appetite for sin only grows as it is indulged. Sin always takes you further than you ever wanted to go! Were that not the case biblical counselors would not be necessary, and neither would the grace and mercy we have in Christ.

Second, let us agree that there are many people who claim to be Christians, who look like Christians, talk like Christians, attend church and read their Bibles who are not actually regenerated believers in Jesus Christ. They are laboring under a delusion of salvation and trying to maintain a salvation they do not actually possess. They outwardly conform by clothing and speech, but inside they are hard and dead. They will privately say they do not understand what is wrong with them. Frequently, they will express a concern that they are not saved. I have had counselee’s wonder out loud how they could say and do the sinful things that bring them into an intensive discipleship relationship with me. We must take their wondering and confusion seriously. It is not helpful to pacify them with comforting words in the face of unbiblical actions.

Challenging someone’s salvation is a good thing to do in the face of sinful patterns of living. While none of us can see the heart as God can, we often have clear indicators of what is really going on beneath the surface as we see the fruit or evidence manifested in their lives. Outward conformity does not mean inward change has taken place. I hope and pray that wherever young Mr. Duggar is receiving help for his sexual idolatry that they are boldly confronting him with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no power in any other source to overcome such bondage. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Your Husband Married to a Difficult Woman?

Is your husband married to a difficult woman? Marital problems are in many ways, inevitable. Think about it for a minute; you are sinner and he is a sinner. Two sinners living together in one home is going to cause problems from time to time. Sometimes, the problems are more than can be resolved between them and they go to the church or biblical counselors for help.

I have had my share of women in my office who complain about their husbands. The common complaints are about how he fails to lead, how he disciplines the children, his sinful habits (pornography, gambling, drinking too much, irresponsibility, etc.), he yells too much, or he plays too many video games. All too often, the women before me are very convinced they are more righteous than their husbands. Sure, they will agree they are not sinless, and “make mistakes” but not to the degree of their husband. 

The husbands of these women will tell my male counseling counterpart about how difficult their wives are. They will often admit they began in the marriage leading the home, taking charge of things and parenting the kids; but they gave up because (in their words) it was just not worth the ________ (hassle, fighting, problems, arguing, nagging) it caused. They will describe their wives as angry, bitter, controlling nags who think they are such great Christians and can’t or won’t see their own sin.

Pretty harsh words, aren’t they?

Unfortunately, they are often true words.

While it is true that some men simply abdicate their position of leadership in the home, I have come to believe far more of them are driven out of leadership by their wives.

Women who are constantly questioning their husband’s decisions, criticizing his actions, and undermining his authority as the leader and as a father are going to find themselves in this position.

So here are some things for you to think about this weekend. Do you question his decisions? When he makes a decision are you right there to tell him that it is the wrong decision? Are you supportive of him and the direction he wants to take you and the family, or do you oppose him? Opposing him doesn’t have to look like standing your ground, it can be underhanded and insidious. Undercutting him, going behind his back or around him to ensure you get your way in the matter.

When he parents the kids, are you intervening on behalf of the children? Do you correct your husband in front of them by saying things like, “Oh, that’s not how we do it” and, “Well, when I am in charge all day while you are at work and we…” When wives step in they often say they are “helping.” My wonderful husband says that helpfulness is the sunny side of controlling.

Often wives will say that hubby doesn’t know how things operate around the house because he is gone so much. They tell me, “Someone has to step in and lead if he won’t!” This is a huge mistake to make. It is not your place or your job to lead the home. That place and responsibility belongs to your husband; it is the job God has given him, not you. Oh, I understand you might not like that. You might be more talented and a faster thinker or more organized than your husband, but that doesn’t matter. Your responsibility is to support his leadership.

This requires discussion between the two of you. Talking (not over text, chat, email, or Facebook) with each other, and you listening to your husband’s thoughts and wishes about the direction he wants your lives and your home to progress is an important first step. As questions for clarification, encourage him, and thank him for taking leadership. Then, the hard part begins. You have to follow through without grumbling, complaining, criticizing, and rebelling. More on this next week. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Obey the Signs!

There was a big air show here this weekend. One of the main bridges from north to south was closed down for the event. All week leading up to the event the newscasters have been warning us to plan ahead and make different travel routes in and out of downtown. Another main freeway route is closed down for construction purposes. During the summer months the highways are just a mess and it is better to just avoid them if you can. 

I think many of us view issues and problems in life the same way; we want to avoid them at all costs.  Many would willingly drive miles and miles out of their way to avoid construction zones, even knowing that it is sometimes better to go through them rather than go around them.

They seem to approach problems and “construction zones” of life in the same way, using distractions as detours to avoid the critical heart work that is to take place in us for the glory of God. The distractions take the form of excessive television or movie watching, internet play, shopping, talking on the phone, or working many hours a day to keep themselves distracted.  Sometimes the distractions are more harmful and include excessive alcohol use, taking prescription or non-prescription medicines to dull the senses or even illegal drugs to escape reality.

The good news is that God is the Master Builder and He will not be detoured. If you are a person who has been seeking escape that may not sound like good news to you, but I assure you it is! God is a sovereign and faithful God who knows what He has planned for you. He knows the destination He has in mind for you and what it will take to get you there.

For some of us it means sacrifice; giving up things or people that were important to us because they will not bring about the righteous life that God desires.  You may also have to confront various sin issues in your life; acceptable sins that you have tolerated or cultivated thinking they really didn’t matter.

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another… But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Titus 3:3,9 (NASB)

God will dig up the paths you have been on; sometimes even creating what appears to be an earthquake or what may feel like total destruction in your life. He is revealing and uprooting areas of idolatry and while those times are never pleasant, faith and trust in the God who loves you with an everlasting love will sustain you through the journey.  Those times are intentional and purposeful, stripping away everything you count on and lean on that distracts you from Him with the intent of drawing your closer to Him.

I understand these can be discouraging times. Seeing our sin and examining the sinful heart through the eyes of prayer and Scripture should lead us to confession and repentance. It is intended to break us of self-deception and self-justification for sinning. To remove the “Yeah, but’s” from our conversations with God and strip away all our foolish pride.

We can also become discouraged when our lives are taken in a very different direction than the one we wanted to go in. Many a person who thought they had life all figured out and were driving toward their goal has been re-routed and found themselves in a place they never thought they would visit, let alone live there. It is very tempting in those situations to be angry with God for changing our plans. We must be careful to remember we are subordinate to our Maker, placed here to do His will not our own. Every plan is to be submitted to our Lord for His approval, and we must surrender our will to His- willingly if we are going to imitate Christ.

…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2b

Remember that detours are not always bad things! Once, we decided to ignore the "Local Traffic Only" signs at the head of a construction zone. What a mistake that was! Our journey was much longer and far more perilous and hard on the car (and its passengers) than if we would have just taken the detour! Giant holes in the road, huge ditches on both sides, spikes sticking out of the ground were just some of the things we encountered. Those signs are there for a reason; because danger is ahead! 

How many of you have wished in hindsight that you would have heeded the warnings of God and not gone down a certain path in your life? In your perceived wisdom you proceeded on a path that you were warned against traveling, and it brought you only pain and heartache and then the discipline of God for your efforts.  Listen to the Spirit of God as He speaks to you through the Word. Take heed to those people God has placed in your lives that are wise and discerning!

The best news is that God has the eternal destination of the Believer already secured. Our place will one day be with Him in the heavenlies where we will rule and reign with Him forever.  Until then, obey the signs! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Persecution 101

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 (NASB)

The world is surely a place of conflict these days, isn't it? It seems that every day the news bring some new assault against our faith and our Lord. What is evil is being promoted as good, and what is good is being spoken of as being evil. The voices that speak these things are loud and far reaching, even to the ends of the civilized world. 

I just re-learned this lesson recently after responding to something that was on our local news. One young man in our area is running for Homecoming Queen. He has decided he is a girl and has told the world about it over social media. The point of my commentary was that it is intellectually and factually dishonest to agree with this young man that he is a female, regardless of what he says, how he dresses, and most importantly how he feels. While my response to this news story was only factual, not overtly spiritual or emotional, I can’t say that for those who commented on what I said. The filthy, vile, hateful responses were breathtaking. Some of those who disagreed with me told me I was a bigot, others wished I would get cancer, that I would have children or grandchildren who would be sick, that I would be assaulted, and so on.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13 (NASB)

It is so easy to be pushed back by these forces for "change" and "progress" that we are faced with every day, and hard to stand firm against the tide. It is not always easy to pray for those folks and not to be hateful and retaliatory against them and their rhetoric. Hopefully, our desires are born out of righteousness and a zeal for truth but I suspect that too often we simply get angry and sin in that anger.

The sad reality is people without Christ will one day have to face God and account for what they have said and done in the flesh and in their thoughts. They will be held accountable for every wicked deed. 

While the Christian will not face such a bar of judgment, that does not give us the right to hate or to store up that hate in our hearts toward them. We are to let no bitter root spring up (Heb. 12:15) so we do not defile and pollute those around us. Bitterness and sinful anger do not glorify God.

Our true enemy the devil wants us to hate and lie and partake of every wicked thing. Jesus' desire for His children is to love and overcome evil with good.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21 (NASB)

What is to be our role and response when this subject comes up? How can we approach the subject of transgender and sexual identity in ways that are gospel centered?

I believe it is unkind to allow someone to persist in believing a lie. If someone is being lied to, or is lying to themselves the kindest thing you can do is to gently confront them with the truth.  While the truth may hurt and it may be unpopular, it is unkind to allow them to persist in a delusion. Wouldn’t it be much better to help them to accept reality? To embrace their God-given gender and work within it? To help them develop as people according to the plan of their Creator? God doesn’t make mistakes. Every person is created in His image and likeness, and every person is born according to His will exactly as He wanted them to be. This means male or female.

The rub really comes in when we bring God into the subject. People no longer like God and they don’t want Him to have anything to say about their lives or their choices. They want to be their own god and self-determine everything about themselves. What horrific idolatry to look God in the face and tell Him He screwed you up. To tell Him that He just got you all wrong. To tell Him you know better than He does about who you are supposed to be. The pomposity is absolutely astonishing.

Prayer is the most effective weapon of this warfare, yet it is the least used and most abused. Many truly don't want to pray for unbelievers and when they do pray for them the prayers are often focused on how the unbelievers can be affected to make our lives better. We fail to realize that a majority of unbelievers have not thought about Jesus or salvation through Him once in their entire lives. We forget that we were once just like them.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NASB)

When we were regenerated by the grace of God we became His slaves (1 Cor.7:23) and we are now to do His bidding, not our own. The Lord God has asked us to stand firm against the tides of evil and to pray for those who perpetrate that evil.  This will mean that you will have to wade into some uncomfortable waters. You will incur the wrath of people on Facebook, at work, school, or in your social circles. It is not easy to stand alone in the face of the cruel vitriol that will be hurled at you, but consider this: as a Christian, there is persecution in your future. You will have to be strong in the Lord to be able to withstand what is coming. Consider this practice. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Anna, Ashley, and Josh- Adultery Unmasked

This week has brought more heartbreaking news for the popular Duggar family (19 Kids and Counting). Yesterday it was revealed that Josh Duggar paid for several accounts on an internet adultery site. My heart aches for his wife and family at this revelation. Sexual immorality is at epidemic levels, even in the church. 

One reason woman search for information on this topic is they have learned their husband has been involved in some aspect of sexual immorality and are looking for help, healing, and hope. If this is you today I know that you have no idea what to do with the heartache that has claimed your life. 

Many Christian men involved in sexual immorality genuinely want to stop. They know it is wrong, and when they are not tempted to sin they want to stop. They also are disgusted by their behaviors when they are able to think about them objectively. It is important you realize that sexual immorality (adultery) does not happen in a vacuum.  I don’t think there is ever a day that a man wakes up and says, “I think I will go and be sexually immoral (commit adultery) today.” There is always some underlying issue of the heart that begins long before he ever takes the step of physical adultery or clicks on that porn site on the computer.

The human heart is set on gratifying self, this is a universal truth and it applies to everyone. Those who have been regenerated by Christ and are fortunate to be in a good church are taught that they are to deny themselves, life is not about them, and they are to live and use their lives to glorify God. However, we are still sinners and often we struggle with the gargantuan desires of the flesh. Ephesians 4:18-19 says sinful desires make a person’s heart hard to the truth of God’s commands and can lead even a Christian to act as an unbeliever does.

When a person does something they know is contrary to God’s Word they will experience guilt and shame. Despite the lies of the heart, a person involved in sexual sin does not have peace. Some men who have committed physical adultery will say they never imagined themselves as the object of the desire of another woman. Their self-image led them to find it unbelievable that another woman besides their wife would find them attractive or desirable.

Often time’s men know they are the object of lustful looks by other women. Some were promiscuous before marriage and had other sexual partners right up to their wedding day. They enjoy the attention given to them by women and don’t think there is anything wrong with flirting after marriage. Many adulterers will want to believe that they just “fell into” the relationship; that they did nothing to promote it or are not responsible for what happened.

Men who are caught using pornography will often give excuses for being found with it on their computers. They will say that they don’t know how it got there, or they were surfing the internet for something innocent and pop-up just appeared on their screen with no prompting from them. They may claim innocence saying they allowed a friend or their child to use the computer and this is how it came back. Sometimes a husband will admit he has been watching pornography and blame his wife for his “need” to do so. Men will say that their wives are not satisfying them sexually or often enough. Some will even try to legitimize their use of porn by saying their wives have a lack of interest in sex so they don’t want to bother them with it. 

People give a variety of reasons for sexual immorality and adultery; too many to list actually! Whatever the reason given you must understand there is really only one reason; he has a sinful heart. Please understand, you cannot order or command him to stop his sinful behavior and expect it to stop. No amount of threats or tears or emotional manipulation will reach the problem that lives deep within him, because it is a spiritual problem long before it becomes a physical problem.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Can I Become a Biblical Counselor?

And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another. Romans 15:14 (NASB) 

I am frequently asked how a person can know if they have "what it takes" to be a biblical counselor. The first thing I say is you must be a committed Bible believing Christian who takes the Word of God seriously. Instruction must be covered in prayer and faithful to the chosen text of Scripture. Be wary of the “what it means to me” method of Scripture interpretation.  

You are "qualified" to be a biblical counselor if you have a desire to help people. There is undoubtedly something different about people helpers. Many are described as having gifts of mercy, encouragement, discernment, and compassion. Others are servants and givers, and still others are truth tellers who desire to redirect the sheep that have wandered off the path. 

There are some personal requirements for those who desire come alongside other people. Teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness, and restoration must be done with affectionate admonition because included in the greatest imperative of Jesus Christ was to love one another. Our love is to be sacrificial for those we counsel. 

Our counsel must be presented in a spirit of meekness, with a kind and patient heart. Many of the people we meet with have never heard this kind of biblical truth before. While what you say will be plain to you, it may not be to them. Keep in mind that much of the church is very psychologized and is accustomed to weak theology that does not emphasize the disastrous role of sin in our lives. Patience is required as you may explain the same truth over and over as you help them to grasp the truth. 

There is occasionally a temptation to become angry or impatient with them, especially if they tend to make the same errors repeatedly. There are other more productive steps to take in this case that will reveal the true issue behind the repeated failures. You will see that it is usually not worth it to rebuke this counselee in anger or display a harsh attitude toward them. 

Also remember to consider yourself as you teach, rebuke, correct and train others. Some of the best counseling that takes place in my office is happening to me! Galatians 6 tells us to be very careful about this business of discipling others because it is so very easy to become prideful in the process. Think about pastors and other church leaders who were involved in counseling and are now divorced or have scandal attached to their names because of falling into immorality. They said it could never happen to them, they would not, could not ever sin like the others! The reality is that you and I are only one thought away from acting on the worst of sins. 

We must examine ourselves honestly in the light of Scripture. If you have a tendency to be critical it will serve you well and hurt you as a Biblical Counselor. Discernment is of course crucial, but beware that you don’t become strictly a fault finder. If you are blunt or pointed in speech it is easy to be misunderstood as harsh and uncaring. Endeavor to be loving in dealing with people. 

Be prayerful, be intentional in forming relationships, and be the hands and feet of Jesus. In doing these things you will become an excellent Biblical Counselor. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The God of the Smallest Details

Summertime means road construction in our area. The construction season is quite a bit longer here than it was in Wisconsin because the warm weather comes earlier and lasts longer into the fall. One of the things that are being done is bridge inspection and repair. Several have been shut down and completely rebuilt. The most curious thing to me has been the construction of a bridge over the Missouri River that is right next to a bridge that currently spans the Missouri River. The two bridges are not complimentary to one another, and I would not expect the current bridge to remain. However, the roadways that are being built seem to connect to both bridges in places.

As I have watched this construction process I have been contemplating all the detail that must go into building things like roads and bridges where cars and trucks currently whiz by at 65 mph. All the re-routing of traffic, temporary lanes, and closures of exits requires tremendous planning and foresight. One road is made of hundreds maybe even thousands of details. Frankly, the thought of it overwhelms me! I am thankful that the Lord has given men the ability to create roads and bridges, for if I was to attempt it nothing good would come of it. 

When I am confronted by something in life  to be overwhelming or insurmountable (at least to my way of thinking) I have to remember that God is the God of the smallest detail. The information or ability that I lack has already been planned for by God.  I can see that is true in Reigning Grace Counseling Center, as my staff rounds out those rough areas and thinks of things I do not think of. He has brought people into my life who have the qualities and abilities 
that I lack to help in accomplishing the goals He has determined for my life and the lives of those I touch. 

Honestly, there are times I struggle with discouragement as things don't appear to be moving fast enough, or some new roadblock is set before me that stands in opposition to what I think ought to be done. In those times I have to remind myself that while it may look like nothing is happening, God is arranging the details behind the scenes.

If road construction isn't an example you can relate to, some of you might more identify with pregnancy. For example, when my daughter-in-law was expecting our grand-daughter, no one knew she was pregnant during those first critical months. While it looked from the outside as though nothing was happening, nothing could have been further from the truth! In the secret place, the baby was physically forming into the human shape that we recognize and developing all her critical parts (Psalm 139). Before she even knew she was carrying a baby God was arranging all those tiny, tiny details in that tiny new human being, and she was perfect in His eyes. 

Our youngest son just got married on Saturday. It's been a while since I've helped host a wedding and what I learned is there are a million details to putting on a wedding, dinner, and reception! All the things that needed to be done on time and in order were sometimes frustrating to us; but they all needed to be completed. Many times over the past 3 months and most certainly in the past week I asked the Lord to help me to accomplish big things! 

It is comforting to know the Lord is involved in every situation we face and He is the God of the smallest details. The best thing is, He is omniscient and knows everything! He is omnipotent and all powerful; nothing can change His divine decree. Knowing God's character ought to bring thanksgiving to your heart and your lips. Being thankful for His loving care will help remove anxiety about your situation. I hope and pray you are comforted by today's blog verse: 

"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30

The next time you are tempted to believe that your situation is too big (and maybe even too big for God) can I encourage you to remember in your distress that God is the God of the smallest detail? The God who knows how many hairs your head will ever contain is pretty amazing! You can trust Him, you can rest in Him. He is good and will work out your situation for your good and His glory. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Man Shall Leave His Mother

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Ephesians 5:31 (NET)

In just a few short days life as I know it will stop. For the first time in over 30 years there will be no children in my home. For the first time in my adult life, it will be my husband and I sharing home alone.

I have heard about the empty nest and the emotions that it can bring. While I have loved the mommy years and the teen and young adult years with all of our boys, I have looked forward to the time when I wouldn't have to check to see who will be home for dinner, and to not have to plan around concerts and ballgames and work schedules.

Today I am thinking about all the things I will miss. This year, it will just be Larry and I putting up the Christmas tree. There will be a few less ornaments on it as Jakob will be taking 22 ornaments with him when he goes; one for every year of his life. The room at the back end of the house will be turned into a guest room. His big clunky work boots won't be parked by the door anymore either. I will miss his cheery, "Hi Mom!" greeting when he walks in the door every day after class or work. I will miss our occasional dinners together. I will miss having another voice in the house at odd times during the day when he would be studying in his room. I will miss the way the floor creeks over my head when he walks over that one spot… I will miss the sound of his music coming from his room.

The upcoming wedding celebration is a day that we were not sure would ever arrive. Those of you that have followed this blog know that this son of ours went through a terrible time of depression and even a suicide attempt. It is God's grace and mercy that rescued him and allowed no harm to truly befall him. It is God's blessing that he has met his bride. She is a joy and a delight and we welcome her into our family with open arms. We pray their marriage will grow to reflect the love Christ has for His Church. We pray they will both follow Him all the remaining days of their lives. 

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:22-32 (NKJV) 

Soon our son will be a guest when he comes to visit. Of course, this will always be his home, and he will always be welcome here like our other sons and their wives are. But something changes when they get married and get their own place. He will become the head of his own home, with his own wife to lead, and to cherish, and to care for. He will be the one making the hard decisions. He will be accepting responsibility for things that up until this point he has never had to think about before.

As I think back on my years of parenting, I believe that we have done the best job we could do before God to prepare him for adulthood and marriage. We have raised our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. We have taught them the truth, we have endeavored to be good examples of Christ likeness. We have taught them to work hard and to be honest and to love God above all.

You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead."You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.  Deuteronomy 11:18-19 

It's not until they move out and begin their own home life that you really see what has stuck. That is when you begin to see if the hard work, tears, training, instruction in righteousness; all that you have put into them has made an impact in their lives.

I'm excited for him. And I'm excited for us. I am looking forward to all that is yet to come. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Triumphant Living in Troubled Times

It's good to be home. We've done quite a bit of traveling in the past month. Most recently, we spent several says at the annual conference for the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) in Denver Colorado. The topic of this years conference was, Triumphant Living in Troubled Times. Each speaker focused on how Christians can live when life comes crashing down on us. 

When the cupboard is empty and the bank account is too, you may have a hard time imagining how you will see God’s faithfulness and how He will provide for your needs. You may get angry when God doesn’t do things the way you think He ought to, but that is because you want to control your circumstances; you want to be your own sovereign. You become angry and depressed because in your view God is not caring for or about you.

Remember, God always cares for His children. It doesn't always look or feel like "caring" does it. Sometimes, the way He cares for you means hard work instead of a hand-out. Sometimes it means you will suffer for a while as God patiently teaches you a life lesson.

God does move his creation in ways we do not see to act on our behalf. I can recall several times in my life when I had a need that I brought only to the Lord, and God met the need through people. I recall a time that a church we attended had a huge need. God provided for that financial need  in order to complete an expensive project. 

I have a friend whose husband was very sick with cancer. He was not quite thirty years old when he was diagnosed with a very rare form of lymphoma. From the beginning the odds were poor but he decided to fight to live for his wife and young children. The story of faith for this young couple went on for over a year and they had many times of faith building. They consistently demonstrated great faith that God was completely in charge of what happened with his illness. His wife was confident that should the Lord take her husband home that He would provide for her and the children. She had such tremendous faith in the midst of horrible personal circumstances!

When God called this husband and father home the young widow continued to demonstrate strong faith that God loved her, and would continue to care for her, and provide for the needs of her family. They were an incredible witness to God's love and faithfulness throughout their intense ordeal. Thanks to social media, many Christians were encouraged in their faith and thousands and thousands of unbelievers were exposed to God because of his illness. 

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16 (NIV)

It's interesting that God doesn’t allow us to “bank” grace for a time of need. We can’t store it up today for the future, but I say to you that God’s grace will be present and overflow in time of need. Grace is experienced as a supernatural ability to bear up under something that would otherwise crush or kill us. It presents itself as strength and an under-girding of power that cannot be seen by the one in the midst of the fire, but it is seen by those observing the recipient of that extraordinary grace Grace comes through faith in God—faith in His power, His person, and His promises.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God
. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

This is why we must share our burdens and the victories God gives us in them. We testify to His goodness, faithfulness, and grace when we do.