Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Carrying Death and Affliction

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Those of you who knew what passage this was going to be about- this one is for you. Do you feel these things, afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down? What about crushed, despairing, forsaken, destroyed?

Many of us have been there, some live there! Truly, no one wants to stay there for long. In fact, when we hang out in either of those places a little too long serious discouragement and even depressive feelings can set in. When the dawn seems a little too long in coming and your hope is just about done in that there can ever be an answer to what ever problem you face is when we tend to use words like these to describe ourselves.

There are people among us who live in a world of difficulty and hurt. They have been rejected and refused and are awash with pain and fear. Many simply don't know where to turn anymore and want to give up. To hand platitudes to someone in such a predicament is cruel, and I don't suggest you do so.

What they need is hope, that wonderful 4 letter word, H O P E. They need to hear that it is all going to be worth it someday. They need to hear that someone loves them and cares enough about them to stop and listen to their plight. Often these folks have had all the advice they can stomach, and they have already tried or done everything there is to do. What they may need most is hope.

Offer them the biblical purpose for trials and hardships, troubles and suffering. All of it is for the purpose of conforming us to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. Our struggles draw us near to Him, they force us to call out to Him in prayer and petition. They can be the only method that works to cause some of us to run to Jesus, we are entirely too self-sufficient.

In times such as these our eternal perspective is all we can truly focus on if we desire to respond biblically. Like you, I wonder what God is accomplishing by my trials and by allowing me to be brought so low. I know I have been in this kind of a place before...this time it is deeper and different. God allows us to experience all kinds of trials on ever deeper levels to round out our character and to give us the ability to minister to others in their time of need.

I daresay that many of the trials and hardships I have endured have been for your benefit! Were it not for them and for what I learned through them and in the midst of them I would not be as effective in this ministry!

So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:6 (NLT)

We carry His death, which is our victory inside ourselves! We carry His sacrifice, His righteousness, and His justification within us every moment of the day. That is such good news! The reality of those truths can fill a sorrowful heart with joy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dealing With Difficult People

Today's guest blogger is Karen Pickering. Karen is a Biblical Counselor and founder of The Lytroo Retreat. Lytroo Retreat was created to minister to women who have been sexually abused. It is an opportunity to shift your focus from your painful past to a hope filled future. Karen is the author of the new book, “Learning to Seek God’s Presence,” a ten-week study-guide written for people who are broken by circumstances. You can read more about Karen and Lytroo Retreat here.
Difficult people.  We all have them.  Those people that rub you the wrong way.  They don’t just disagree with you, but insist their view of things is the only view.  Those people who simply don’t like us, or refuse to give us the time of day.  There are some I have struggled with for years.  I have tried talking to them, tried being nice, tried everything I could think of.  The situation doesn’t improve.  You can’t force someone to be your friend, but just to be civil would be nice.
A close friend advised me to “make it a matter of prayer and see what God would have you do, if anything.” So I again started praying.  “Why was this continuing to be a problem?  Why couldn’t I just let it go? Lord, if this is something in my own life I need to change, please show me so I can make it right.”
The very next day I started reading through Philippians.  After only a few lines I knew why I was in Philippians.  Paul and Timothy were writing “to all the saints . . . in Philippi.” The first chapter is full of his prayers for them.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer, with joy in my every prayer for you all,” (Phil. 1:3-4 NASB) Did you catch it? Notice the words “all, always, every, all.” I got to thinking.  I know there is and never has been a perfect church.  There are always some personality conflicts.  Paul was no push over so why the “all, always, every, all?” Was he serious? He goes on to say in Verse 6 that he was confident that God would perfect the good work he had begun in them. (OK, so they weren’t perfect after all.) Later he says “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” (v. 8)
To be honest there are some people that if I never saw them again, I wouldn’t feel bad.  You know who they are in your own life.  Be honest.  Here was Paul longing for them all?  Really? All? Here’s the kicker.  I think he was being honest.
Later in the chapter (vv. 15-18) he talks about some preaching Christ from envy and strife.  Their motive: selfish ambition and wanting to cause Paul distress while he sat in prison. Nice friends! Ok, so Paul did have difficult people around.  So how did he respond to those particular people? He rejoiced! Yes, that’s right, he rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed. He didn’t care what their motives were. The bottom line was that it wasn’t about Paul it was about Christ. Even if their motives were less than honorable he was rejoicing that Christ was being preached. I don’t know if these people he mentions were in Philippi, but they might have been. The point is he prayed for all. He loved them all. He was confident that God was doing a work. His prayers centered not on taking the difficult people out of his life so things were easier for him. Rather the prayer was, “God, use these people for your glory and praise.”
What am I learning? I need to accept the difficult people just as they are. I am responsible to pray for them just as much as the people who are close friends.  My motive is that God completes a work and that the glory and praise go to Him. It’s not about me and my comfort. It’s about God and his work.
Suddenly those difficult people don’t seem so difficult. I have plenty to do without worrying about how someone  is treating me. Get over it and get on with God’s work. Pray that God would be glorified through their magnificent transformation. Pray that God would be glorified through my magnificent transformation.
Excuse me. I need to call a friend and thank her for telling me to pray.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Perfectionism is Pride

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Galatians 3:3 (ESV)

If you are a perfectionist, you already know that you hate being a "beginner" at anything. A new game or a new job or social situation is enough to send you over the edge. 

If you are a perfectionist you struggle with various fears. You fear the embarrassment of not performing perfectly or to your own standards. You fear having someone look over your shoulder in a training situation because they will see that you are not perfect and make mistakes. If someone should correct or criticize you, you are devastated and beat yourself up inside (and sometimes outside) for not being perfect. 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.  1 John 2:1-3 (ESV) 

Perfectionists are frequently angry. You do not like to make a mistake. Even when you know that you don't know what you are doing, and by all rights shouldn't know what you are doing, you become angry at yourself for making errors. 

Perfectionists have a hard time with people who don't appear to care about being perfect. They are judgmental and self-righteous, comparing others to themselves on every possible level, and usually find other people to be lacking. 

This is one tough way to live! We are commanded to be holy, which implies perfection but we are not commanded to be perfect. In fact, as sinful beings we cannot be "perfect" in this life. 

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) 

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do a good job or with wanting to excel at something. It is even alright to want to do an excellent or superior job! However, constantly having to be the best is nothing more than pride. When being the best causes me to sin in my anger it is not a righteous goal any longer. When wanting to be better than others means I tear them down, it is sinful.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. Luke 16:15 (ESV) 

To get a handle on this life-dominating sin you must be willing to be honest with yourself and to evaluate your actions and most of all evaluate your heart through the grid of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

You must ask yourself some tough questions to get to the heart of the matter!

  • Must you always look good to other people?
  • Are you judgmental toward people who do not live up to your standards?
  • Is it true that nothing is ever good enough for you? Is the glass always half empty?
  • Have you become a grumbler?
  • Are you ungrateful to God for all His blessings because they are not "perfect" in your judgment?

Answering questions like these is only the beginning of addressing this heart issue. Once you understand that your perfectionism is truly a visible display of the pride in your heart you must take steps to overcome it by God's grace and power.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) 

Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed or changed completely (inside and out) by the renewing of our minds. Our minds are renewed through reading and meditation on the Bible. Your thoughts will be impacted by those precious words of God's as they weave their way into your heart. Your desires will change as your heart changes and what God wants for you becomes more important to you than being perfect is right now. Your actions will change as your desires change and your thoughts change.

This is not going to be an easy area to address in your life. You most likely have years of ingrained habits that you will have to overcome and address one at a time. You may find discouragement right around the corner as you desire to change. Please let me encourage you by reminding you that Jesus Christ died for your sins, including pride and perfectionism. There is no sin that by His power and grace you cannot overcome.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never Forget

Today is 9/11. 13 years since the day our country and world changed forever. My parents and their generation remember where they were when JFK was shot, and I suppose my generation will always remember 9/11 as clearly. My children's generation has already largely forgotten.

Where were you? I was in my room getting dressed, thinking about what to wear to work that day. The day was warm and the sun was bright. The sky was a most beautiful shade of blue that September morning in Wisconsin. 

When the first plane hit, I thought it was odd, how could a plane plow into a huge building on such a bight and sunny day in the middle of the city? When I went downstairs to feed the kids before school I put it on the big television.  I wanted them just to see this because it was so strange- I mean how often does a small plane pilot itself into a huge building like that? The announcer on television was saying that the airspace had been cleared around the trade centers as routine precaution. 

Together, we watched a plane enter the picture from the right side of the screen and swing around to slam directly into the other tower and explode into a fireball. For a moment there was dead silence except for the sound of the explosion on the television. Then I looked at my boys and said, "We are being attacked, this is no accident." 

Suddenly the world changed. You know the story by now, it is told over and over....

When the Pentagon was struck, and the rumors of the remaining planes aiming for the White House and Capitol were circulating, I was in shock sitting on the living room floor watching in horror as the fires burned. Eventually the first building collapsed in a thunderous cloud of smoke, glass, drywall - and human remains. What a stunning site. 

The plane that went down in the Pennsylvania field...the second tower falling...

I do believe I was in shock all day, and even for a few days afterward. After a while, seeing all that destruction, and the unimaginable human suffering of those who were desperately searching and hoping their loved ones would be found among the buildings remains was heart wrenching. The picture walls that went up, the candles, the flags that were everywhere.

Even the unusual and miraculous event of our political leaders standing hand in hand on the steps of the Capitol singing together. What a time of unity. We were all Americans in those days. We seemed to love one another deeper, and be more American somehow.

I hoped it would last. As usual, agendas and foolishness got in the way and shortly thereafter our political forces were once again at odds. Criticism, divisions, and un-American and unpatriotic talk again took over. 

Slowly, gradually, our national pride faded along with the flags we all proudly flew on 9/11/2001. I recall a mere 6 years after that horrible day, our flag was the only flag on display in our neighborhood. 

Much has happened to us as a nation since that day, little of it good. Even less that honors God or the memories of those innocents who perished that day, or the brave ones who ran toward danger rather than away from it. 

I weep for my country and I pray we will regain a moral and political balance. 

Do something today to honor the memories of those who were killed  in New York, the Pentagon, Shanksville and Benghazi Libya on 9/11, Fly the flag, say a prayer, thank a Vet, watch a memorial on television and  talk about what happened. 

Never forget. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wisdom for Abused Women

Millions of us watched the video in horror of a national football player punching his then-girlfriend in an elevator, rendering her unconscious. We watched him drag her limp body halfway out of the elevator and drop her on the floor before someone else appeared in the video, hopefully to come to her aid. 

The two married the day after he was indicted on an aggravated assault charge in this case. 

The new video was expanded footage from what had previously been released. The first video earned the football player a suspension. The most recent expanded video ended his football career. 

His wife released the following statement regarding the recent events, "I woke up this morning feeling like I had a horrible nightmare, feeling like I'm mourning the death of my closest friend," (she) wrote. "If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you've succeeded on so many levels.  Just know we will continue to grow & show the world what real love is!"*

I do not know this woman, but I have met many like her over the years through my biblical counseling ministry. Women in abusive relationships don't want to believe the man they love is really the monster other people tell her he is. Women in abusive relationships tell themselves it is unusual to be slapped, punched or harmed by their husband or boyfriend, even when it happens all the time. Women in abusive relationships will often support their abuser, standing up for him against the flood of criticism that comes his way. Women in abusive relationships will accept the blame for his actions against them while justifying and rationalizing his abuse. 

Abuse in a relationship has often been going on for quite some time before it is exposed and the woman has grown accustomed to covering and making excuses for her bumps and bruises. She has learned the signs of impending violence, and has become skilled at "walking on eggshells" around her man. She tries to soothe him, pacify him, keep him happy and content, all vain attempts at preventing the next beating. 

She says he loves her. She says she loves him. She says he is a good man with a good heart. Here is truth: an abuser does not love the person he is abusing. Regardless of any words that come out of his mouth, this is not love.

Here are some things you need to know: 

Abusers are manipulative, and use guilt, shame, and fear to control their victims. It is a common practice of an abuser to shift the blame for their actions onto their victim saying things like, "If you would have kept your mouth shut I wouldn't have slapped you." "If you were a better wife you wouldn't need to be put in your place all the time." 

Abusers will shame their victims, and be highly critical of their physical appearance, intelligence, and abilities. They may tell their wife or girlfriend how "lucky" she is to have a man like him, one who "loves" and cares for her despite her numerous flaws. Fear is a typical tactic used in all abuse situations. Intimidation is one method of keeping her silent about his abuse. Warning her if she tells anyone the beating will be worse next time, that no one would believe her anyway, and that he will divorce her and leave her with nothing are common threats of an abuser.

Abusers understand power, control, and anger
Men who abuse their girlfriends or wives will often limit their access to money, friends, and other family members. They have to have control over virtually every area of her life. Any questions about these issues are considered challenges and are met with anger, threats, or emotional manipulation. 

Abusers are selfish and self-focused
The abuser wants all of his desires met all of the time. He does not usually care about what she wants or needs in the relationship. It is all about him. He thinks very highly of himself and expects his girlfriend or wife to cater to his every perceived need. 

Abusers believe they have a "right" to abuse another
Any challenge to his authority is perceived as giving him the right to dominate. When he beats on his woman, he is exercising what he believes is his right to get her in line, and force obedience. Some men will abuse their wife or girlfriend if he thinks she is not demonstrating proper worship and gratitude for him. 

Abusers love themselves 
Secular sources promote the false idea that an abusive person has low self-esteem but nothing could be further from the truth. Any person who is willing to treat another human being with such hatefullness and callous regard for the purpose of meeting their own wants, needs, and desires thinks very highly of themselves already. He loves himself and his expectation is you will love him as much as he does. 

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself... Ephesians 5:33

I am sad to say emotional and physical abuse also takes place in Christian marriages, including those of pastors and other church leaders. While all abuse is unacceptable, abuse in Christian marriage is a special kind of heinous considering marriage is to exemplify the relationship of Christ and the Church. 

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32 (NASB) 

Abusers will often use headship as an acceptable reason for abuse
This is a tragic way for a man to use the leadership position God has given to him. Male leadership in the home is not intended to be a benevolent dictatorship. A wife has the responsibility to voice her thoughts and opinions on matters relating to the marriage and family. She is a God-given gift to her husband in this way and this is part of her role as his helpmeet. A husband who refuses to listen to his wife and abuses her for challenging his authority (i.e.speaking to a situation) is an ungodly fool. 

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (ESV) 

Abusers will use submission as reason to allow abuse to continue. 
I have been told a wife cannot expose abuse because it is not submissive. Submission does not mean doormat. It does not mean subject yourself to being hurt. Submission does not mean accept being hit, kicked, punched, threatened or assaulted. A husband has no biblical standing to use a failure to submit as justification for abusing his wife. A wife is not to submit to her husband if he asks her to sin, her primary honor and obedience is to God. No man's authority supersedes Gods authority. A man is sinning when he tells his wife to remain silent about abusing her.  

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19 (ESV) 

Abusers do not love their wives as Christ loves the Church. 

In the same way husbands should love their 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 Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. Ephesians 5:28-30 (ESV) 

It is common for an abuser to be remorseful after he has beaten his wife or girlfriend. He may cry and beg forgiveness, he may promise never to do it again. Unless he is truly repentant and experiences changes within the cycle will continue and most likely escalate over time.  

Women, you do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. It is not ungodly or unsubmissive to seek help, no matter what you have been told by your abuser or anyone else! 

If a man physically assaults his wife or his girlfriend she is obligated by law and by the Bible to call the police, have him arrested, and press charges. Christians are required to work within the framework of the law of the land, and arrest is the provision that has been made for physical abuse. It can be a frightening step to take, but it is necessary!  

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. Romans 13:1-5 (ESV) 

During his absence, collect all the important information and documents you can find (Social Security cards, birth certificates, bank information), access enough money to hold you over for a while, and line up a safe and secure place to stay. Purchase a different cell phone and leave your old one behind so he cannot track you. Leave him a note telling him you are safe and will contact him when you think it is safe. Take these steps for your protection as he will likely be enraged when he is released from jail.  

There are numerous other precautions you will need to take before contacting him, so I also recommend you meet with a counselor who understands abuse as soon as possible. 

I strongly urge informing the leadership of your church about the abuse as one of the next things you do. If he is a Christian, the church has an obligation to intervene in your husband's life and attempt to help him repent and change (Matthew 18:15-20; James 5:19-20). 

So much of what we share on social media is silly and unimportant, but abuse can be an issue of life and death. Therefore, I am asking you to share this post with every woman you know. Because abuse is a hidden sin in many families, you have no idea whose life you will touch or save by sharing this information. accessed 09-09-2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Near to the Healer

I am so excited to announce that Suzanne Holland, who is one of my usual guest bloggers, has begun her own blog! The title of her blog is Near to the Healer, and can be found here. Suzanne is especially passionate about reaching out to those who are suffering ongoing physical pain. She has graciously given me permission to swoop in and repost anything that strikes my fancy. You will know her guest posts by the title 

If I were a performance oriented Christian, I would have to say that this week was a total bust. I did not demonstrate the joy of the Lord most of the time, and I encouraged very few with my words. In fact, I suspect I brought a few people down, and maybe even fed some doubt in others. I got caught up in my troubles, and though I have repented and moved on toward what I hope will be better days, I can't seem to shake the nagging thought that I should be better than this by now. I should be able to catch these thoughts earlier and put them to death by prayer and the Word. But this week, I was not.

Here's my question for you today: Does there come a point in our lives as believers where we are just no longer subject to long periods of sadness over our circumstances? I once had a Christian friend who said, "You're allowed to have a pity party, but only till the pizza arrives." Fifteen minutes or less was her standard for stumbling. Is this right? As mature, seasoned believers, should we be reaching a point where we just don't struggle like we did in our greener days?

The first thing that comes to my mind is a list of very mature believers I know of who struggled terribly with depression and pain. Charles Spurgeon is the first one I think of. He suffered terribly with gout and other painful conditions, and I can see from his sermons and devotions, even very late in his life, that he struggled with depression. I can't be certain that it was related to the pain he suffered, but surely that played a role. Martin Lloyd-Jones is another great writer who struggled with depression. I have known many in my own life who are far ahead of me on the path to holiness, yet still struggle at times with sadness over their circumstances, sometimes doubting God's goodness or struggling to understand His ways. These times of sadness can go on for long periods for them, as they do for me.

So, it cannot be true that as we mature in Christ, we "should" no longer struggle with sadness, even the kind that lasts for days or weeks. As I look back on these last few days. I see that the Spirit's conviction of my sinful self-pity led to true repentance, which is always pleasing to the Lord, and always plants my heart deeper into His. The Lord allowed me to sink into the mire of sadness only so far--not too shallow, so that I would think I pulled myself out, but not too deep, that I might fall into despair. He knows all my thoughts, and more than that, he knows my heart better than I do. (Jer. 17:9) His ways are not my ways, nor are His thoughts my thoughts (Is 55:8). I am so thankful for this, because if I were in control, I would not allow a single heartache. Without these painful circumstance, I would be a shallow Christian, far from the cross and self-sufficient.

We need not be ashamed of our struggles. God has ordained some suffering for each of us, and it is He who orders our thoughts. Our only duty is to keep repenting of sinful self-pity, keep begging the Lord for mercy, and keep praising Him in everything. When we do these things, He will be faithful to answer, and to help us.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Restructuring Your Life for Biblical Change

Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB) 

When a person becomes a Christian so many changes take place in their every day life. New struggles, many questions, and a lot of decisions that must be made in virtually every aspect of life. 

It is important to fill your mind with truth; biblical preaching, teaching, solid truth-teaching books, and theologically sound worship music. It is also very helpful to have friends who will affirm and support you in your decision to live a godly life. 
Make a personal commitment to uphold and live biblical truth or you will be swamped on all sides by well-meaning people who haven't a clue about how you have chosen to live your life. 

Like the Hebrews who walked out of the slavery to Egypt, the new Christian leaves behind a life of slavery to sin. They crossed the Red Sea to a new life; the Christian is washed in the blood of the Lamb and receives a new life in Christ. 

At times the Hebrews longed to return to Egypt and their old lives there. As difficult as it is for us to understand at times they longed to return to slavery. It seemed preferable to their journey of freedom! In a similar way, the vices of our pre-Christian life such as lying, stealing, fits of rage, drunkenness, pride, hatred, divisiveness will bring us into sinful bondage again if we do not reject them. Even in our redeemed position we are vulnerable to falling back into old ways, and having old thoughts, beliefs, and desires. This can make us utterly miserable and give us the idea that we are defeated and conquered by sin. 

We are really no different than the Hebrews. Although we have been given freedom we long for slavery. We have been given life yet we return to the grave to retrieve our old sin. 

Paul gives us this wise instruction: 

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:11 (KJV) 

The Christian has been crucified with Christ, our body of sin right along with His sinless one. The old man has been put to death. 

When we truly reckon ourselves as dead to sin, that decision becomes evident in our lives. 

present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, 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 12:1-2 (NASB)

Presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice means we do not willingly and knowingly yield to the sinful inclinations of the heart. It means taking seriously the instruction of Romans 6:12

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. V12-14 (NASB) 

Sin shall not have dominion over the Christian. Sin does not have authority over us, we shall not live our lives as slaves to sin. We are under grace, enabled to say "no" to sin. 

Christian, you have been handed victory over sin at a great cost to the Lord Jesus Christ. Yield the members of your body to righteous use. It is here that you will find the secret of deliverance. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bitterness- A Poison that Kills

See to it...that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled... Hebrews 12:15 (NASB) 

Have you spent time with a bitter woman recently? She is so unpleasant to be around! Her speech is negative, her words flow from a sharp tongue that pokes at the object of her anger with verbal jabs. 

Bitter women gossip and slander their husbands. She is ungrateful, complains, and consistently judges his motives. She carries a critical and judgmental attitude. A woman who murmurs and complains to others about her husband dishonors him. She is giving others cause to think negatively about him by her speech. 

Bitterness kills relationships of all kinds, not only marriages. Friendships, and even workplace relationships have been ruined by bitterness. The bitter woman is suspicious of the actions of others. Even things that are done for her with good intention are suspect for she does not believe people genuinely want to do good to her. No one wants to be around a consistently negative person. It is awful to be with someone who rarely has a positive word to say about anything. 

Bitterness leads her to speak poorly of others, using language that is not honoring to God. Who wants to be in the presence of someone who is cursing, gossiping and slandering people? 

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. James 3:8-12 (NASB) 

Bitterness is selfishness. The bitter woman spends her time thinking about herself and what was done to her in the past. She is not solution focused, she is self-pity focused. This is a lonely place to live. 

A woman steeped in bitterness is excessively sorrowful. There is no joy in her life. Over time she becomes nearly unfit for human companionship. Her sin stands in the way of spiritual growth and peace. How can she grow when she is weighed down under all this bitterness? 

Her bitterness is the result of unresolved anger. The anger may have been because she was denied something she wanted (a loving husband or a good marriage), or because she received something she didn't want (a sick or disabled person to care for).  

Bitterness can also result from misdirected anger. Because most people have not been taught the biblical way to resolve anger they internalize it, and sanitize it by covering it up with Christian platitudes. 

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. James 3:14 (NASB) 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:31 (NASB) 

Bitterness can be uprooted. Life can bring some very difficult situations leaving a woman feeling cheated, wronged, and discontent. She doesn't have to remain bitter! By confessing her bitterness to God a woman can begin the process of removing bitterness from her heart. Forgiving those who have wronged her, she will be released from this toxic way of living and find freedom, peace, and joy. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Life of Unrest

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

Isn't it ironic that many of the things we think will bring us rest and relieve our cares only seem to bring us further into bondage? I hear from women who believed that a career or a high paying job would bring them freedom. Instead they find themselves enslaved to a hectic and unfulfilling life style. The mad morning rush of running their children to daycare before work, feeling immense guilt at leaving their sick children with a caregiver, feeling they don't have time to be a decent wife, mother, or employee is not how they thought life would be.

Exercise can be another bondage maker. Generally taking care of our bodies is one thing the Bible tells us to do. However, I am aiming more at the worldly philosophy of pencil thinness, starvation, and exercise in order to be happy with who you are. The extreme control of watching every calorie, walking the miles, and riding the bike feels so in control until you realize that what you once controlled is now controlling you.

Another kind of unrest comes from things we add to our faith in vain attempts to look spiritual and to gain God's favor. Separation from the world (no television, no music) even Bible reading and prayer can be done from a prideful heart that thrives on works righteousness.

We create these burdens and they bring us nothing but agitation, frustration, trouble, and fear. We become concerned our expectations will not be met. We become like the world. These problems are created because we have wrong motives and the wrong focus. We will find the rest we crave by taking the yoke of Jesus. In Him we find the rest that comes from salvation. We also find rest from our anxieties.

Paul instructs us to be anxious for nothing.

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

We could rephrase that to say Paul instructs us to have lives of rest, not unrest. Rest isn't found in our job or in the gym. It isn't found in counting calories, works righteousness, or in any other thing that is apart from Christ. In Him is where we find our peace and our rest.

Confession of sin brings peace and rest to a conflicted heart.

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

There is nothing so cleansing as pouring out to the Lord the burdens created by sin. I often wonder what the reason is that we resist confession? Is it fear of rejection by our loving heavenly Father? If so, be assured, He loved us when we were unregenerate and lost! Surely as we are in Christ He will not reject us now!

A heart of thanksgiving brings rest and peace to a frustrated and angry heart.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15) NASB

Anger and frustration don't breed thankfulness, they breed discontent, jealousy, greed, and other forms of idolatry. When things aren't going our way we are not at rest. We also tend to forget how blest we truly are. Reminding yourself to be thankful in all circumstances  - even the really hard ones - will bring rest to your weary soul.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

By the Rivers of Babylon

Today's guest blogger is Lesley Eischen. This blog was originally posted on April 18, 2013 on her blog, The Hallowed Path. She kindly updated it for this repost. Lesley has given her gracious permission for me to dip into her writing anytime and post what fancies me. Lesley describes herself as, "A Christ following, Midwestern wife and homeschooling mom who enjoys learning as much as teaching.  With an affinity for ‘narrow passages’ (Matthew 7:13-14)." She frequently posts excellent book reviews by Christian authors. I think you will be interested in checking out her blog. 

These days it’s as though the chaos among us is swirling at warp speed and for those of us who have a tendency towards motion sickness the impulse to panic is imminent.
The US border crisis, the chaos of the Ferguson shooting, the atrocities committed by ISIS, inclement weather, the economy lurching towards implosion, morality collapsing and suffering plunders without discrimination. It strikes at our foundation and leaves us grappling to maintain our footing.
Where do we turn? What do we do?
“And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”” ~ Nehemiah 4:14
Remember the Lord…
Unlike earthly rulers, God’s power and authority is not limited. He is not encumbered by legislation, lobbyists or the latest poll. No one elects Him. He can not be voted out, overruled, impeached or unseated. He is free from any outside influence or control. All authority, rulers, dominions, thrones, heavenly and earthly forces are subject to Him. His rule supersedes all else. His reign always has been and always will be.
“…I am a great King says the Lord of hosts,
and my name will be feared among the nations.” ~ Malachi 1:14
He is the Lord of Hosts…
He is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. He is the incomparable King over all that is seen and unseen. He has the allegiance of an army, an army of angels that obey His voice. He has innumerable legions, myriads of myriads and thousands upon thousands of angels that are more powerful than any army among the heavens or earth that mobilize at His will to contend for, protect and minister to those who trust and obey Him.
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. ~ Deuteronomy 10:17
He is the Lord of lords and King of kings…
He builds or abandons NATIONS. He makes them rise or fall.  He brings desolation to HIGH OFFICIALS and puts others in their place.  He robs WORLD LEADERS of their reason and renders them clueless.  He stripsSCHOLARS of their credentials and makes their education worthless.  He overthrows THE MIGHTY and strips away their leadership.  He denounces the authority of KINGS their right to rule and clothes them in rags.  He reveals the judgments of JUDGES and exposes them as fools.  He reduces PRINCES AND RULERSto nothing.  He pours contempt on NOBLES and disarms the POWERFUL .
For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. Psalm 22:28
He rules over the Nations…
A historical study of the world map and its changes provides evidence of the vast and constant alterations in appearances of borders.  Although many would assert that political or historical forces were the catalyst as to whether kingdoms rose and fell, territories expanded or diminished, or governments ruled or became obsolete, the Bible teaches that the Lord made every nation, determining their allotted periods of time and the boundaries of their dwelling place.
The Lord ruleshumblesguidesdisciplinesjudges, provides salvation, and builds and destroys nations. He also heals, brings justice and is the source of the only lasting hope.
But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. ~ Psalm 9:7-8
He Judges the world…
The scriptures are clear that the Lord abhors a corrupt government.  Their conduct is significant because any authority governs on His behalf. He appoints them. There is no authority except from God.  They are mere representatives for Him. His Word warns that those in authority who fail to govern in accordance with His standards, those who are evil and wicked, will face His wrath. He is the Lawgiver. He is the Government. He is the Judge. He is King.
“The LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth” Psalm 135:5-6
The Lord isn’t wringing His hands wondering what will happen next. He’s not taken by surprise or rendered unaware.  He is sovereign from the expanse of the cosmos to the minute details of our individual lives.
“The hindering of good work is what bad men aim at, and promise themselves success in; but good work is God’s work, and it shall prosper. God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to nought, the devices and designs of his church’s enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us. Nehemiah put himself and his cause under the Divine protection. It was the way of this good man, and should be our way. All his cares, all his griefs, all his fears, he spread before God. Before he used any means, he made his prayer to God. Having prayed, he set a watch against the enemy. If we think to secure ourselves by prayer, without watchfulness, we are slothful, and tempt God; if by watchfulness, without prayer, we are proud, and slight God: either way, we forfeit his protection. God’s care of our safety, should engage and encourage us to go on with vigour in our duty. As soon as a danger is over, let us return to our work, and trust God another time.” ~ Matthew Henry commentary of Nehemiah 14:4
In other words, don’t panic. Step away from the Dramamine. Instead, shake off the despondency and be an agent of Truth.  Live by His precepts and obey His Word. He is our Deliverer. He has equipped us to proclaim His glory. The Lord has placed us in this present time with the privilege of serving our God and our generation. We mustn’t let it slip away.
God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His will for you. And His will is always directed to our good. ~ Jerry Bridges
And His glory.