Friday, July 24, 2015

When Christian Kids Reveal They Aren't

I know today’s blog will hit painfully close to home for some of you. You are the parent of a child or children that you have raised in a Christian home. You made sure they went to church and memorized Bible verses in Awana or Pioneer club; you sacrificed to send them to Christian school or to home school them to give them the best possible influences. However, if you are really honest with yourself you question if all that you poured into them actually stuck. What began as a little nagging question in your mind has over time become a roar of concern as you watch your kids make one worldly choice after the next. They are not little kids anymore who do what you tell them. They are pre-teens, teens, or young adults whose language, music, clothing and friends all reveal ungodliness. You are shocked and dismayed as you see your children, who professed Christ at one point in their lives, now happily living a worldly lifestyle.  

When you confront them, their words assure you that they really meant it when they got saved and that there is really nothing wrong with what they do. Somehow, they twist your concern around and you are criticized for "judging." Invariably, you hear yourself defending your own words and actions. Your expressions of love and concern turn into arguing, withdrawal and angry silence. The reality is many homes have become battle grounds for the sake of Christ and salvation.

How do you address kids and young adults who "prayed the prayer," walked an aisle, or recommitted their lives to Christ at youth camp one summer and don’t live their profession of faith? How do you reach them when they have heard it all before, and can parrot the gospel back to you, even though it seems to mean nothing to them? What do you say to your teen who posts Bible verses on their Facebook or Instagram account but lives an otherwise immoral and godless lifestyle? 

Begin by clarifying their understanding of salvation versus the biblical understanding of salvation. Many kids and youth "get saved" because someone wanted to scare the hell out of them. A special speaker, youth leader, or camp guide presents the gospel under threat of going to hell and uses the Bible to reach their emotions. The sad truth is their heart may not have been affected at all. It is one thing to intellectually assent to the truth and quite another to believe it. 

Remind them that their salvation is not evaluated by something they have done in the past (pray a prayer, walk an aisle), it is evaluated by the present. In the examination process, there must be evidence of a new life, there must be something to convict them of being a Christian beyond their words. Challenge them with what Paul said in 2 Cor. 13:5: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves!” Sadly, many people want to be saved “in their sin” and not “from their sin.” The message of the post-modern church is, “Come as you are, and stay that way.” In far too many churches a person can go to church and hear a few carefully selected Bible verses that will confirm that while he or she may not be perfect, they just are not that bad. The preacher might nudge his (or her!) church attendees in the direction of seeing their mistakes or bad decisions, but little to nothing is said about sin. The message given is that it is okay to keep living as you are as long as you are sincere about what you believe. Few churches will confront even obvious sin such as sexual immorality or unbiblical divorce or living together. The idea is just, “get saved” or “ask Jesus into your heart” and keep on living your life the way you always have. They say God understands, He is a God of love, He wants everyone to be happy.

Conversely, 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, they have become new. There will be evidence in their lives of their claim such as an ongoing desire for holiness and an increasing hatred of their sin (Rom 7:15-25). They will be grieved over sin and desire to repent of it. When there is a vertical change, where the old has been made new positionally in Christ, then there will be a horizontal changes. They will live differently, have different desires and thoughts. If your child’s behavior is consistently carnal and there is no conviction, grief or sorrow over sin, they may not really be regenerate. Anyone who says a Christian can continue living the way they please, with a lifestyle full of sinful practices and activities is self-deceived. If their life is characterized by sin and disobedience it is possible they are living as disobedient Christians, but it is far more likely they are not saved at all. They (and you) have to face the fact that they are not truly a Christian.

This is the hardest for us as parents because we hope beyond hope that we are wrong and they really are saved. The feelings of grief and sorrow go so deep when parents realize a beloved son or daughter is lost and in eternal danger. It breaks the hearts of parents who have poured their lives into their children and raised them according to biblical principles to see their kids reject Christ. Hope remains alive as long as they draw breath. Continue to pray for them and point them back to the cross over and over. Continue challenge their thinking and lifestyle; not with your own preferences, but by the standard of God’s Word. By all means, let them know you love them despite how they behave but confront their sin.

Remember, you are not responsible for their decision regarding Christ. Your job as Mom and Dad is to present the truth to them about the gospel of Jesus Christ accurately and live the truth of the gospel as well! God, in His sovereign will and purpose determines who will be saved. Not you, not me, not your pastor or youth leader, and not even your child. Ephesians 1 makes that crystal clear.

...just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, Ephesians 1:4-5 (NASB)

If God chose them, they will come. No one can resist His calling on their life; you can be comforted in that truth. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Safe Place to Land

Several times in the past few months I have been contacted by other biblical counselors, pastor's wives, and women in forms of church leadership who are looking for a safe place to share the burdens of their hearts. I will admit, I've also looked for such a place from time to time. 

The women come timidly, even fearfully; carefully tip-toeing around and leaking small tidbits of information to see what my response will be to them and their problems. I am grieved by what seems to be an expectation that women in church leadership or who are biblical counselors have no problems. I know from past experience that the expectation is that we always know how to deal with every problem without any assistance or intervention. Yes, many "church ladies" are adept at helping others. However, it does not mean we are always see the way clear in dealing with our own hurts, trials, brokenness, and sin. 

We all need a safe place to land from time to time. Even those of us who "know better" or are able to assist others with their problems and issues sometimes need a friend or someone who will listen without aiming a disappointed finger of expectation at us. Many women in leadership are fearful of being criticized or condemned rather than helped, held, or listened to. It leads us to withdraw within ourselves and hesitate to reach out for help and hope when we are hurting. We wonder, "Who can I ask? Is there someone that I can talk to?" 

The reality is there is often no one with whom she feels safe sharing her heart. Pastor's wives shoulder many burdens, and many of them suffer with intestinal difficulties and migraine headaches as a result of stuffing things inside and being "fine" all the time. Women's Ministry directors and Bible study teachers also carry a heavy load as the women they lead come to them with marital problems and child rearing issues. Many of those women have the same issues as those who seek them out for help, but think they can't admit it. Women in Christian ministry often wind up on anti-anxiety medications or diagnosed with depression or some other disorder. 

Everyone needs a safe place to land. We could all use a helping hand, a listening ear, a warm embrace, or a shoulder to cry on. I don't want to see my sisters in Christ headed to the pharmacy or the therapists office. I want to be a resource; to provide that shelter during the storms of life. Me and the other women involved with this ministry do understand because we've been there. Collectively, we've been single, married, divorced, remarried, single parents, lost our parents, have ailing/ elderly parents, good marriages, difficult marriages, had children who've rebelled in the past or the present. We've dealt with all kinds of sexual sin, bitterness, rebellion, anger, brokenness, had good and bad friendships and relationships, addressed sin in ourselves and our families, cared for sick spouses, adopted children, and even after decades of Christianity still aren't perfect. 

This ministry exists for you. We are a safe place to land. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Here Is Truth

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13 (NIV)

Here is truth: the longer we stay in contact with our former way of life and the sin it contained, the more corrupt we will become. We are told to “put off”and “throw off” our former conduct. This implies stripping off, or flinging it far away, as though it were that rotting corpse. Accompanying putting off the old man is being renewed in the spirit of the mind: 

Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. Ephesians 4:23 (NLT)

The Word and Spirit supply what is needed to renew the mind (Rom 12:1-2). This is inseparably coupled with changed living and enables us to understand, believe, and obey. have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. Colossians 3:9b-10 (NLT)

When we become a Christian, God gives us a completely new spiritual and moral capacity that a mind apart from Christ could never achieve (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). The mind is the center of thought, understanding, belief, desire, and motivation. This is why it is critical to begin to renew your mind with His Word. 

It is not adequate to just change behavior because what drives the behavior is still the same. Our mind must be retrained to operate biblically so that when we are presented with the same old temptations, we think a new response. Instead of, “If I tell the truth, I am going to be in trouble,” the new thought will become, “Telling the truth is the way I will honor God, even if it means I am disciplined. It is more important to be honest than it is to look good or escape being disciplined.”

We cannot assume that new thinking alone will lead to walking worthy and new living. We must also deal with what is standing in the way of belief and action. Genuine change is more than stopping wrong behavior; there must be repentance which includes an understanding that the actions are not glorifying to God; there must be a change in the manner of life that we live. Genuine repentance is accompanied by a desire to obey. We cannot separate thinking from obedience-they are inseparable. 

And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. James 1:22-24 (NLT)

When Jesus Christ is the ruler of our heart (inner man), our thoughts, understanding, beliefs, desires, and motivations flow from what He wants us to do as seen in His Word. Finally, 

You must display a new nature (put on the new self, put on the new man) because you are a new person, created in God’s likeness—righteous, holy, and true. Ephesians 4:24 (NLT) (verse quoted with my additions)

This indicates a change of our entire life-style. Real change begins in the heart and overflows into our lives where Christ is reflected in us.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Personhood, Ethics, and That Video

My church has a Matthew Ministry for pregnant women and their babies. The hope and the goal is to help the women who are headed into the abortuary to reconsider their decision to end the child's life. By God's grace, there has been fruit of this labor and several children are alive today as a result. As you may know, this week a horrifying video surfaced and made its way into the mainstream media. The video was of a Planned Parenthood woman calmly discussing the sale of body parts of aborted babies as she ate her lunch and drank her wine. Thankfully, there are still things that society finds ghastly and unconscionable, and it seems that this is one of them. When I saw the video, I found myself thinking of one of the young women who presented at the abortuary 20 weeks pregnant. Those in the Matthew Ministry gave her the alternatives to abortion, but she chose to end the child's life anyway. Since I counsel post-abortive women, I could not help but think of that young lady and the affect this video and all the current public scrutiny about abortion might be having on her. 

The child is the first casualty in an abortion, but not the last. Women and all those who assist in procuring an abortion all may experience spiritual and emotional problems because of what they have done. There are the moral consequences to being party to an abortion, even when all those involved believed at the time it was the right thing to do. This is because life begins at conception, and that is an act of God (Psalm 127:3). Because what is conceived is a human being any willful interference with the conceived embryo (apart from ectopic pregnancy) is wrong (Psalm 139:13-16, Job 10:8-11). The Bible states that children are a gift from God regardless of the manner of conception (Psalm 127:3-4). God numbers our days; life and death are in His hands (Deut. 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6).

What the abortionists call the “product of conception” or “the pregnancy” has a soul. Luke 1:44 tells us that John leapt in his mother’s womb, and Luke 1:15 says that John was filled with the Holy Spirit. Abortion is wrong because it is the taking of a human life. God demands an accounting for the lives taken (Genesis 9:5-6, Hebrews 4:13, Exodus 21:22). 

However, if pre-born babies are not people there is no longer an ethical dilemma and the woman from Planned Parenthood was just talking about another commodity to be sold. Determining personhood and when it occurs is a fundamental issue in abortion because if it can be proven that an embryo or a fetus of any gestation is not a person it can be destroyed without moral or ethical problems. If embryos are not persons then scientific experimentation on them carries no ethical problem. If they are not persons then they can be killed without moral problems. If the fetus is not a person the arguments in favor of abortion are valid and a woman has the right to choose to end its life. If the fetus is not a person then abortion is reduced to any other surgery that removes something from a woman’s body. However, if the developing baby can be assigned personhood then abortion is a horrific form of child abuse. If the embryo is a person then it is highly unethical to experiment on it or to allow it to develop for harvesting of its DNA or body parts. Personhood is central to so many of the bioethical issues facing medicine and science in our present time. You need to get informed. 

I find these things to be abhorrent. The step of declaring that babies are not human (even after birth) and therefore disposable is sickening to me. What depravity and blackness of soul must be present in a person who could believe such things! To deny the baby personhood is frankly, preposterous. Yet, I am now convinced this is the new frontier in abortion rights.

God help us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Losing All Things

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

There are times I think I could bear up under the reality of suffering the loss of all things. In those moments I also look around at the collective total of all the junk I have amassed and can believe it is “rubbish.” I think it would be neat to be completely and totally untethered and rootless. In those moments I imagine what it would be like to have the freedom to pick up and go on a mission trip if we desire to do so. I think about how wonderful it would be to not care at all about where I live or what I possess.

Then reality (the other reality) hits me, and I think of how much I love to entertain, and have the ability to bless others with our warm home environment, to have a place for our children and granddaughter to stay when they come. 

I am still so conflicted in mind and heart. Yet, I have come so very, very far.

I think that all the stuff of life does distract me and cause my focus to be everywhere but on Christ. One thing Paul had going for him in all those circumstances is that he had nothing and no one but Christ. I am not sure I am ready for that yet. There is still too much of my flesh that lives.

Pressing on toward the goal of being like Christ, the suffering servant. Christ, the man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. Christ, the man who created the whole universe and yet had no home in which to live and no bed to rest His head. Christ, the incomparable and indescribable One- sinless and perfect.

I am fearful to fully and completely offer myself in this way because I know that the suffering would increase as the love of the world is stripped away from my heart. The only way to kill it off is through the sufferings and trials that we dislike so much. Through them we learn how to be content. You know that verse I think. This is another aspect of the process of sanctification. My brain understands that this process is needed, and much of me wants it to go forward; but there is much trepidation along the way. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Too Paralyzed to Pray

"Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the hand of Omnipotence." Charles H. Spurgeon

This is a season of enormous personal change for me. Very soon I will have an empty nest. All of my children are experiencing huge changes in their lives; one couple has moved, the other couple is moving (and taking our new and only granddaughter with them), and our third son is getting married in a month. The marriage is a blessing as we already love our newest daughter-in-law. 

God is also blessing the ministry in incredible ways. We have expanded to a second office location and there is excitement and honestly, a little fear. God has brought so many wonderful, generous, and gifted people to help the process of moving into the office become a reality. I am grateful that so many servants of the Most High God are deeply invested in our ministry of soul-care. 

By Gods grace, we are helping more people than ever before though our biblical counseling center. The needs are so great...the heartaches go so deep...the people of God are in troubled marriages, families, and so many have personal trials for which they are seeking help, healing, and hope. We are also expanding our reach into ministering to those who have problems with substance abuse. 

Like everyone else, my husband and I have the daily burdens of living in a fallen world. Aging, the changes that come along with aging, minor health problems, unexpected and costly car repairs that never seem to end, and always in the back of my mind are thoughts of my elderly dad whose health is failing. I know he most likely won't be here much longer.

The next six weeks hold many activities; some joyful and some hard. I find the stress is very high and it is affecting me in distressing ways. When you think of yourself as a capable person who can handle many things, experiencing emotional backlash in the form of anxiety and mild panic attacks is troublesome indeed. My sleep is disturbed by dreams that include running and being chased and I've been waking up as tired as when I lay my head on the pillow and closed my eyes the night before. 

There are times I think about just running to a place where there are no troubles. Of course, that place does not exist. I suspect it is what we all think about when life's problems or challenges come at us like a flood. 

My biblical counselor training tells me there's obviously something amiss. I know there's something wrong; I counsel people with these issues! As I flip through the catalog of knowledge I possess about how to deal with stress, I'm checking off the things I know to examine in my life. I quickly realize that my personal prayer life is paralyzed.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls... Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)

I'm not sure I've been going to my Shepherd for comfort and rest like I usually would. Psalm 23 says He leads me beside the still waters (v.2). The waters in my life are very turbulent right now, and I long for the peace and quiet and the restoration in my soul that He brings. 

While I do have prayer as a part of every day life, I can see based on my responses that I am not spending enough time laying the burdens of my heart before the Lord. It seems I am practically paralyzed when it comes to effective prayer on my own behalf. Paralysis in prayer comes when I see I'm not relying on him and pridefully attempt to shoulder too many things on my own. I love how God is not rude and he does not push his way in and order me aside. He waits patiently for me to realize that I have yet again wandered too far from His loving protection and shepherds hook. He has never lost sight of me and has been observing my struggle waiting for my thrashing to end (ref.Psalm 23:4).

My course of action needs to change. I need to run toward my Shepherd, my Savior, my comfort, and find my rest. I must be intentional about ceasing the frenetic scrambling and bathe myself in the still waters of prayer. Psalm 23 says He makes me lie down in green pastures and restores my soul. Oh, how I need both of those things! The glorious thing is I don't need to steal away to a cabin or a resort to be in the still waters or lie down in green pastures. My Comfort is with me everywhere I go. He is my Strong Tower (Proverbs 18:10) therefore, I can cast my cares upon Him. I can unburden my heavy, weary soul (Philippians 4:6-7). I can bring to Him the things I can share with no one else.

It is amazing how quickly relief comes when I have once again returned to the Shepherd and overseer of my soul. The comfort and embrace of my Lord does fill my cup to overflowing. The Lord is gracious and merciful his praise will always be on my lips (Psalm 34:1).  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Being A Friend

" Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens anotherProverbs 27:17

One of the most difficult areas for Christian women can be in the area of friendships.

What is a true friend and how do I find one? What about my non-christian friends, can I keep them? What are good boundaries for friendships? These are just some of the questions I have wrestled with as I have walked with Christ. It is clear we are not to be without friends because God has made us relational people. We get lonely when we have no one to share our lives and experiences with, even on a superficial level. The Bible is full of stories of one relationship after another, many of them friendships between two people or even groups of people. Our Lord was very careful to address every area of our lives in His Word.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 (NASB)

What makes a good friendship? One that is centered on the gospel and modeled after the relationship Jesus had with His disciples. Their friendships were developed over a period of years. We sometimes expect too much too quickly from other women. It takes time to be trusted and to trust someone else.

Something that helps build trust is transparency. The Lord was willing to be transparent with his friends, He revealed who He really was to them! If you want to have a friend you must be willing to be yourself, be what you are like, be like yourself. No real friendship will develop if you are hiding yourself, and protecting yourself from being known by other people. I am not saying give details of things that are intimate or intensely personal; not on a beginning friendship level anyway but you have to let people inside your personal space to be a real friend.

You must be honest with your friends. Share your trials and joys and sorrows with them. If you are fearful of doing so, remember the example of Jesus. The Lord Jesus never lied to His friends, He told them hard stuff even when He knew they would not grasp it all. He told them the secrets of their hearts.

We get to know people when we take time to be with them. Jesus knew the 12 so well because they spent all their time together. They ate, slept, prayed, and traveled together. Our modern Twitters, Face Books, e-mails, and text messages are not enough to build a friendship on! If you want to befriend someone, take the physical time to meet with them face to face as often as you can. Especially in our overly busy world, meeting with someone for coffee or lunch really says you value them.

People who desire friendship will have these attributes in quantity. Some of these will come easier to you than others will. If you find you are lacking in an area, then work on it!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bringing It Home Again

From time to time it seems prudent to remind you what the focus of our ministry. People helping is not so much about the behavioral outcome, although that is part of what we expect to happen. Our methodology is more about the changes that take place inside a person and how those inner changes overflow into behaviors and words. 

Our methodology is based on Scripture. We find the Word of God to be thoroughly sufficient to address all the issues of life. Because there is truly no new sin to be found, there are no new remedies to be found.  We can try and get creative in the approach that is used, but ultimately it still comes down to conviction, confession, and repentance. 

This is why it is so crucial that we properly identify the problem. Without correct identification of the problem we may entirely miss the heart issue that needs to be addressed. This is most evident when we are counseling those considered addicts and alcoholics. The secular perspective is based on the disease model and considers these to be medical problems at their root. The biblical perspective is that the counselee has developed sinful patterns of living that have led them to the point of physical bondage to their substance of choice. 

When we counsel addicts and alcoholics we use biblical terminology to define their issues. We label the issues as drunkenness and idolatry. While secession of the substance use is necessary, our counseling focus is not exclusively on the drinking or drug use. We know that the behaviors are symptoms of a greater problem of the heart. In our counseling center we focus less on pulling the bad fruit (drinking, drug use, gambling, etc.) off the tree because we know that very soon new bad fruit will grow in its place. Our goal and desire is to get to the root of the problem that leads the counselee to desire escape, thrills, solace or whatever payoff they receive through the use of the substance.  

Of course we take the presenting problem seriously; we expect radical amputation of the sin from the person's life. The consequences of continuing in sin can be at the very least relationship destroying. We know the Lord Jesus Christ takes sin very seriously. In Matthew 5:29-30 He tells us to go as far as we possibly can to rid ourselves of the temptation to sin. He uses the example of plucking out an eye or chopping off a hand if those are what lead to sin. It is better to be missing a few body parts and gain heaven than it is to be physically whole and condemned. Now I guess I ought to say that I am not recommending self-mutilation but I do think a person should be willing to deal with their sin in a radical manner. 

What does it look like to deal radically with your sin? It means getting rid of all the alcohol in the house, staying away from bars, parties, old drinking buddies and every thing else that leads to temptation to drink. It means being willing to go to any length needed to stop destructive behavior. Radical amputation means radical life change.

It also means radical amputation of the heart. Addiction is really a heart issue, and to get through radical heart surgery is necessary.  The roots of the counselee's heart are steeped in "self" and the worship of their own desires. Changing what guides and motivates the heart is the only thing that will permanently change actions. When thoughts, beliefs, and desires are changed from "ME" to "GOD," and changed from pleasing self, serving self, and worshiping self, to how the counselee can live life to glorify God then and only then will their life begin to change. 

This is why we focus on heart change! What guides and motivates the heart is what will change the results (fruit) of their life. 

But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God-who chose you to be his children-is holy. For he himself has said, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NLT)

Practice holiness brings God glory. That is to be the goal of each of our lives, to bring our gracious and wonderful God glory each day. It is the reason we are here, to glorifying God. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Comforting Job

Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. Job 2:13 (NASB)

As a teacher and counselor people come to me with burdens and woes of life. It can be as serious as an impending divorce, a prodigal child, or a diagnosis of cancer. There are times when there are no words that can be spoken, for the gravity of the situation goes beyond our language. In those times we fumble around, thinking we ought to say something...we reach into our Bible bag and mentally search for the perfect verse to comfort or console. We try to offer hope for a positive outcome or a better tomorrow for the one who suffers and when we put forth our effort it seems to fall flat. The eyes of the wounded one gaze upon us, filled with anguish and we wish we would have remained silent.

Take a lesson from Job's three friends- at least at the beginning of their visit with Job. They all came to comfort him and console him in his time of need and when they arrived all they could do was to sit down around him in silence and simply be there. It would have been better for all concerned had those three men continued with that type of consolation if you ask me. It was when they opened their mouths that they went from consoling to tormenting!

I think we can take a cue from the three friends of Job, and learn that sometimes the best comfort we can be to a hurting person is to simply be a physical presence in the room with them for a while. Silence can be a great comfort to a person whose life has been rocked by tragedy or pain. Words are not always needed, and certainly "dispensing" Bible verses like M&M's is not needed either.

In the above verse the expression, "his pain was very great" actually means that it was increasing as time went on. The pain and misery increased hour by hour, day by day. All Job's friends could do was to sit there in horror as they watched him grow more wretched in front of their eyes.

While the people we comfort have the benefit of medicine like morphine if they are in physical pain from cancer or another ailment, it does not always completely remove the discomfort. At times they are left with significant pain levels, and all their loved ones can do is watch them suffer. We don't think of offering Bible verses to them at that time, or telling them "It's going to be alright" we sit by them and hope our presence brings them comfort, knowing they are not alone.

There are some pains there is no medicine for. The heartache of an abandonment, the parents whose child is wayward, the loss of everything material due to financial ruin, the fear of being alone, being unwanted in your old age... what comfort can we bring to these people whose pain will only increase in the coming days and weeks and maybe months and years?

We can bring them ourselves. We can sit beside them and hold their hand, we can listen to them pour their hearts out to us- without response. Not to indulge self-pity but to comfort in silence. Often people in such a state are not even aware of what they are thinking or saying, they are simply spewing thoughts and random memories. This phase will pass and there will come a time for you to give input into their situation and possibly into their life in an ongoing basis. But you must bide your time for such things. Before you earn the right to speak into their life you must be a good listener and comforter in silence.

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.