Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Who is "qualified" to counsel biblically? I get this question often near the end of a counseling case. The counselee has made great changes in heart and life and they desire to minister to their friends and family the way they have been ministered to. They ask me "Can I be a biblical counselor?" They think that they are disqualified from serving others because they are counselee's or former counselee's and nothing is further from the truth!
I have seen people elect to do nothing because they don’t know what to do, or they buy the lie that they don’t know how to approach them, or they believe that we are not qualified to do so, leaving it to the pastors who cannot possibly do it all. They are not supposed to do it all! We are to be helping them in an ongoing ministry of peacemaking and reconciliation. We all are to counsel. We are called to a role of being reconcilers, each one of us.
I know you are a sinner, I am too! We are very aware of the common problem of sinful behavior that plagues mankind and even plagues biblical counselors! Never think that your Pastor, or biblical counselor has somehow got it all together and has achieved sinless perfection. We struggle (sometimes more!) with the same stuff other people do, and I think we grieve over it deeply because we know so much, because we have the answers and yet we still struggle and we sin.
As long as we are in these bodies we will continue to struggle with sin. In Gal. 6:1 Paul uses the term “brothers” which indicates that he was talking to fellow Christians. So this passage is intended for us "normal people"- not for an elite few- but for us to minister to one another. We are told to minister to a brother or sister who is caught in a sin.
My answer to this question of who is qualified to counsel comes from God's Word because it is the only unchanging authority we have in this life. We find an excellent outline for the qualifications of a biblical counselor in Gal. 6:1. Many of you are familiar with this passage that tells us to help one another.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1
Just as in Matt. 18, we have to be sure that what we are dealing with is a real sin, not a preference or a tradition, but something that is verifiable as sin according to the Word. The idea is that our brother or sister has stumbled or been surprised – taken unaware and fallen into sin. This is the idea that is conveyed in this Gal. 6:1 verse, that we are overtaken by any sin if our passions and temptations get the better of us. Many other things can fit into this category but it is clear that it must be sin.
Sin comes through our behavior, our thoughts, emotions, desires, words, and actions. It is important to understand that Paul is not talking about a person who is setting out to deliberately sin, he is speaking of one who trips into a pit.
Our flesh is strong, but the old nature which plotted to sin was killed off at the cross. What remains are the strong desires of the flesh along with those desires which come from the heart. What we deal with in the counseling process are the actions and behaviors which are truly an outflow of the heart and these are what must be dealt with for true change to take place in a person's life.
The goal of all counseling is restoration. We want to bring the sinner back to the fold. It is important also to understand that the Christian who sins enjoys the same position in Christ that they previously enjoyed. They still have access, fellowship, relationship, justification, and all the rest that comes from being united with Christ even though their sin may have caused problems within the fellowship or other with believers.
Unfortunately, not everyone is looking for restoration. Too often the response from fellow Christians is one of judgment and condemnation and this should not be!
Galatians 6:1 says, “you who are spiritual, restore such a one”. Paul is saying that only spiritual people are qualified to counsel spiritual people. The spiritual person is described in many places in the New Testament. First, it means that they must be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the agent of change in the life of the Christian and it is impossible for the unbeliever to have the mind of Christ and know how to spiritually direct a believer.
So the presence of the Holy Spirit in the counselor is a requirement if we are going to be spiritual and fulfill Gal. 1, and be able to counsel biblically. An unbeliever is not qualified to advise or counsel a believer. An unbeliever is coming from a totally different perspective than a believer, and will have different morals and values.The believer has as his or her authority the unchangeable Word of God.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Everyone sees me (and you) through their own pair of glasses. To my Dad I am "daughter" to my family I am "the youngest." To unbelievers who know me well I am that person who is a little odd, or even a fool. To my employer I am "reliable" and "responsible." To my children I am "Mom" and to my husband I am "wonderful wife" and "cutie."
I also have a dimension that is public because of speaking, writing and counseling. To those who hear me or read what I write I am perhaps an authority on biblical counseling, someone you have come to trust, a truth-teller, or a minster of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, which of these is me? In truth you already know they are all a part of who I am and each of you has a different expectation of me according to the relationship you have with me.
Who do I say I am? I think the answer to the question lay within the Word of God.
First, I am a sinner. I have been a sinner my whole life and I will be a sinner until I die. I have been in the process of sanctification for 24 years, being less and less like the sinner I once was and becoming more and more like Christ. (Romans 5:12, 13)
I am redeemed. Jesus chose to redeem me before the beginning of time and I live this life in the shadow of His glorious grace, which has been bestowed on me through no merit of my own. (Ephesians 1)
I am justified. I have been declared "guilty" and my guilt and sin debt has been absolved. I stand blameless before God, by His grace and mercy. (Romans 3:28)
Is that how you see me? That is how I see myself...and because of those truths I am not subjected to rigorous perfectionistic standards or legalism that some want to foist upon me. (Romans 4, 5)
We live free under grace and truth, but not to indulge our flesh or wantonly sin although only a fool would say those things don't happen from time to time. But we are not marked by them or are we identified by them. Why then do people seek to capitalize on our failures? Always waiting for the "A-ha!" moment? (Romans 6:1)
Surely this grieves the heart of the Lord as it grieves us! (Galatians 2) Dear Readers, be gentle and kind to one another, bear with one another, and share each others burdens. Do not be so quick to judge and strike out at one another. You will never understand another persons trials until you walk in their shoes. Love freely and deeply, love and give grace overflowing as the same is bestowed on you.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
I am a "what you see is what you get" person, for better or for worse. I make no claims on perfection or sinlessness. I know I still sin and I know my flaws and most of my weaknesses. I struggle when I am attacked and yet I could not live my life under the pretense that I am somehow "Christian enough" for some people.
There is always a risk in being real before others, but I think there is also great value in it. Don't we all learn from watching God work in the life of another person? Aren't you curious about how other women handle the issues of life, relationships, and even their sin issues? Because of the perfectionistic standards set upon them many women are too fearful to confess that they still struggle with sin. I would not be one of those!
I freely but not proudly confess that I still struggle with various forms of sin. I have a temper; I want to be liked so I will at times people please; I say things (garbage talk) that I ought not say...
I suppose in posting my weaknesses and failures there is a risk that some will find fault with me or judge me for doing so. It is frankly a risk I am willing to take. In the past I was subjected to some very heavy scrutiny and it only served to add to the richness of my understanding of God’s grace and sovereignty.
While I am positionally sanctified and seated in the heavenlies, (Eph 1) I am in the practical sense in the midst of progressive sanctification. I describe this as being less and less who I once was (living in my old nature) and becoming more and more like Christ. (Eph 4:22-24) This is indeed an act of His grace.
What joy and freedom there is in knowing that because of my position in Christ I will never hear any other words from my heavenly Father other than “Well done my good and faithful servant.” The freedom is freedom from fear as well as freedom from condemnation, and joy is the overflowing result!
Sadly, I find this understanding to be lacking among some of my fellow Christians. It has been said that Christians are the only army in the world that shoots its own soldiers and I can tell you from personal experience that is true.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Must I remind you again that it is a relationship and not rules? I believe many of us need that reminder occasionally. We love those rules! We love needing them and wanting them and clinging to them because then we feel secure. We think that following the rules gains us some status or stature or security with God on some level. In one breath, we agree that we are always secure in Christ and in the next we say that we have to have those rules!
Oh reading friends, if I can impart this one truth to your hearts by God’s grace and the moving of His Spirit, let it be this! As a believer in Christ, you are always secure in Him. What Jesus Christ did was enough for yesterday, today and tomorrow. Nothing more is needed, nothing more is asked for. From the perspective of Almighty God our relationship with Him never waivers. He never sees us any differently in spite of the good or bad choices we make in life.
The question often is asked; do our choices and decisions affect God’s relationship to us? I believe that it is important to realize that we have that relationship with God because HE wanted one with US.
We love (Him), because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19
So the question has to be asked in that way to reflect our helpless state in securing our own salvation and relationship with God. It begs to reason then, that if we cannot do anything to gain a relationship with God what can we do to maintain that relationship with God? Do you follow? If I could not love Him until He loved me, and I could not be saved until He called me, then how much of “me” was involved in contributing to be a part of this relationship? This is not like a marriage, where he asks and I agree or decline. The theology I hold says that God chose me in eternity past (Eph 1) to be His child and because He chose me it was a given that I would at some point in my life respond. So how much of “me” is involved in maintaining the relationship?
Is obedience asked for? Yes it is asked for and in some cases, obedience is commanded. We see this in the imperatives in Scripture. All of the “One Another’s” are imperatives- love one another (John 13:34), be like-minded toward one another (Rom. 12:16), care for one another (1 Cor.12:25) and so on. Those are not just suggestions, they are commands. Another imperative is that we “walk worthy of the calling we have received.” Eph 4:1. A natural step toward walking worthy is to obey the Word of God.
We obey because we desire to glorify God, not because we fear what will happen if we don’t. Far too many of the Christian women I know obey out of fear, not out of love or desire to glorify God. Those are an afterthought. We often “do for God” out of a desire to gain approval, be safe, avoid problems…
Are those the motives and actions of a loving relationship? Are these the desires of a loving heart that wants to glorify God? Beloved, is it God’s desire that you live in fear and terror of Him? Is it right that you obey and make right choices on the outside while your heart is rebelling against Him? What is more important to the Lord?
…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Those of us who have been around a while know that is rarely if ever the case. Many of our situations turn out to be what we would view as "worst case scenarios."
When Israel was leaving Egypt they thought that because they were the chosen people that their trek from captivity to freedom would be an easy one. In many, many ways it was but that did not stop them from grumbling and complaining about not having enough of the food they liked, or about being thirsty, or about who God had set over them to lead.
God very often denies us our wants and even what we perceive to be our needs. In those moments it is human and natural to wonder what God is trying to accomplish in us by denying us what appears to be good for us.
We know we are to have faith, and we do have faith. We believe and want to watch God reveal Himself and work through circumstances. We want to see Him do something spectacular for us like we know He is able to do! Prayer goes up, faith and hope build up and we anxiously await how God will razzle dazzle us.
Whether it be waiting for the check to appear in the mail, that surprise bonus, the broken car to be an easy fix, our child to make first string or first chair, that troubled relationship to be resolved, whatever the situation is we are counting on God to make it happen.
And there are times He does not.
The struggle to understand is huge. We lack understanding in how God works in these moments and days. We ask questions like, "Why does God smash my faith over and over again?" Because that is how it feels. It feels like God builds us up only to let us down. It feels like God is playing with our emotions and our faith. Almost as though God is saying to us, "How do you like Me now?"
Beloved, it is not true. It is a gross injustice to accuse God of such cruelty. Our God is a loving and compassionate God full of tenderness, mercy, understanding, righteousness and holiness. He would violate every aspect of who He is if those thoughts were true.
He loves you and you are His child. There are times when our human fathers do things we do not understand or like and they are finite beings; how much more our infinite heavenly Father who is far beyond our ability to comprehend?
Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:7-9
Be cautious and wise in your thoughts and meditations about the Lord. He is working things in your heart and life that you cannot comprehend at this point in time. Continue to love and trust and obey Him- because it brings Him glory that you do!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The heart of the addict/alcoholic is focused on self.
Their thoughts, beliefs and desires are honed in on meeting their own perceived needs of escape, fun, pleasure, or whatever
The thoughts are:
- I must have relief
- I am entitled to relief
- I must escape
- I want to feel better
- I want to feel nothing
The heart of the addict does not care how his or her actions are hurting their loves ones. They don’t care if their spouse or their kids are waiting for them at home for dinner, or at a school event. What they want is to drink or drug and that is all that is important.
When confronted by their loved ones about their behavior they may express remorse and promise to change, but the love of self quickly leads them back to worship of self and back out to drink or drug.
They are experts at blame shifting- If their addiction brings them an OWI it is not their fault, it is the stupid cop who pulled them over.It is the boss who ticked them off at work today and made them need a drink. It is the stress of this or that that led them to take a few pills or smoke a few joints to relax.
If they get sent to jail it is the fault of the unjust legal system Their only motive is to satisfy their own desires. They are selfish and unloving toward people who love and care for them. Husbands, wives, children and parents all take a back seat to their first love, which is their substance of choice.
To cure the heart of addiction, you must help them to realize that they are nothing more than idolaters. They have to see that their drinking is not the problem, their heart is the problem!
The drinking and drugs are an overflow of what is in the heart (thoughts, beliefs, desires) being lived out through the body. This is key to get the counselee to understand.
A good definition of idolatry is when you are willing to sin to get what you want.
Are you willing to sin to get relief from pain, to be happy, or to attain any of the other feelings mentioned above? If having your felt needs met has become so important to you that you are willing to violate God’s Word to have them, then you have crossed the line from desire to worship.
These questions will help the counselee to understand that the heart has to be changed before the desire to drink or drug will be affected.
Begin to admit the sin of idolatry exists in your heart.
Admission is the first step, but removing the idols in your heart and life is an ongoing process. If you have struggled with idolatry for a long time, you have habits that are deeply ingrained.
• Identify exactly what you want that you are not getting.
Some examples would be feeling better or having a better day.
• Identify if your desire is biblical and be able to support it with Scripture (in context). This is important because emotions can lead us to justify our desire for certain things. Yet feelings prove unreliable as a method of living life to glorify God.
• Place your desires and wants on the altar of sacrifice to God. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
God wants to change the way you think, which will change the way you live. Reject the thoughts of what you want and desire for each day. Begin to obey God by fulfilling the One Another commands on Scripture. Take your focus off yourself, begin to live for Christ and serve your family, church, or friends.
The more you begin to prayerfully desire to include the “one another’s” in your life, the less your focus will be on indulging and worshiping yourself.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
When he ceased his drug use it was not by his own willpower or even by his own choice although, he will tell you that he prayed for something or someone to stop the madness his life had become. The way his life as a drug addict ended is not something he would recommend, but he also will tell you that God knew exactly what it would take to get him out of that lifestyle.
While in a rehab hospital he was introduced to AA and its compatriots. One of the motto's he was taught to live by is "One is too many and a thousand is never enough." He would also tell you that he had cravings for his beloved substances for a long time after he stopped using them.
The whole issue of cravings is one that those who promote the medical model of addictions would point to as to why they are diseases. They point to some genetic disposition as the reason the cravings seem to take over and propel the person to the crack house, the bar stool or the refrigerator- despite their best intentions and firm commitment to stop using.
The physical component cannot be discounted here. When a person's body becomes accustomed to the substance the body begins to function as though having it is normal. For example, something as socially acceptable as having 3 cups of caffeine daily can become "normal" to the body. If a person suddenly stops drinking coffee with caffeine the body suffers and the person finds that have headaches and irritability. Obviously, a person wants to avoid that so they continue to take in that caffeine daily.
Even something as apparently benign as sugar can, when stopped, bring withdrawal like headaches, lethargy, and a general sense of feeling poorly. If both caffeine and sugar can bring physical withdrawal and cravings, how much more a substance like alcohol or another drug?
Before we can begin to address any spiritual issue a person with physical dependency has, the physical must be addressed. The person must be stable physically and detoxified from the substance. Then we can turn our attention to the spiritual.
Cravings are both physical and spiritual. We are going to look at the cravings that are not related to physical addiction, and assume for our purposes that the person has completed the withdrawal process already. The substance is no longer in the body.
The Biblical model has an answer and explanation as to why we crave our vices. We struggle with craving things because we continue to desire them in our hearts. We love the feelings they bring us, the soothing of our emotions, the relaxation or the escape. While we have discontinued the physical relationship we had with that substance we maintain the emotional one. This is where the connection to the heart comes in.
Even though the person has been physically withdrawn from the substance, often the heart is not addressed at all.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Our modern day world wants us to believe that it is a disease that we are saddled with for the rest of our lives and that is simply not the case! I will amplify that answer at another time, because today I want to focus on the reality that drunkenness and drug abuse, overeating, sexual immorality of all kinds, gambling, shopping, and greed are all placed in the same category by God in the Bible- sin. Colossians 3:5 calls this sort of stuff idolatry.
Idolatry is the worship of anything other than God. You can worship God or the created object or person. Romans 1 clearly states that the wrath of God falls on those who worship things other than God (Romans 1:23-25). We are all sadly in the mode of idol worship every day! We don't think of it in those terms of course, we say things like, "I prefer to.." "I chose..." "I decided..." and by our words we negate what is really going on in our hearts- idolatry.
We practice idolatry when we decide to sleep in Sunday morning instead of going to worship service, or when we choose to watch our favorite morning show instead of reading the Bible or praying. Get the idea?
Those who do anything to excess are engaging in a worship disorder (idolatry). They quickly find that what they once controlled now controls them. What they once loved for enjoyment they now crave to get through the day. It becomes bondage not pleasure. You must bow at the altar of what ever your drug of choice is- alcohol, drugs, food, excitement, pleasure, money, sex...
You may tell me that no one chooses to be an addict. No one would ever choose such a hell on purpose. Oh really? You may say that a person with an addiction as disease is not responsible for their choice or decision to use (fill in the blank) and here lies the controversy between the disease orientated folks and those who see it as the Bible sees it.
The things we worship (with the exception of people) do not have the ability to influence us. It is the heart of man that lusts after what the object can provide for us that causes all the problems! James says it this way;
"Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters." James 1:14
Monday, December 14, 2009
Among the ailments caused by sin-sick hearts is every form of addiction, lust of the flesh, impure thought, and covetous desire. Sin is indeed our core problem.
Ask anyone struggling with a life-dominating sin like drug abuse or "alcoholism" what drives their addiction and you will get a host of answers, none of which would be sin. To begin with, they may have no clue that it is a life-dominating sin and may be really offended that you said that in the first place! They may not feel as though they are sinning, they may have been told they have a disease, and they may not believe that the Bible has the answers to their problem.
It is critically important that you help them to see that sin truly is the root of this problem, just like all others. It is important that you help them to see that is good news not some screaming condemnation of their person-hood. Our job is not to condemn anyone; our job is to bring help, healing and hope to those who suffer.
The reason this is such good news is because it brings the gospel back center stage. You see, if there is sin then there is need for a Savior! If there is sin that needs conquering, we have One to whom we can look for that cure! (If sin is not the problem then we are left with humanistic philosophies and man made solutions that chain us to some recovery group or set of steps in which we must abide or be ruined. I reject this last thought!)
The label of alcoholic or addict is not found in Scripture. So you may think that the Bible does not address such "scientific diseases" as our modern psychologists have "discovered." Would you be surprised to know that the Bible is loaded with accounts of people who had tragic results from imbibing in alcohol?
Noah got drunk and lay with his nakedness uncovered (Gen.9:18-27), Lot was given wine to drink and lay with his own daughters and impregnated them! (Gen 19:30-38). Nabal (1 Sam. 25:36) drank himself drunk at a great feast he held for himself as though he were a king. He was so drunk that his wife knew to speak to him about her saving all their lives would have been a waste of time so she waited until the next day. These are a sampling of what we find in the Word of God, written a few thousand years ago about what is today known as an illness.
How wise we are! How advanced our civilization is! How enlightened! ...how foolish indeed.
One must only look to the words of Proverbs 23:29-35 to see there is nothing new under the sun. The modern day addict is a biblical drunkard. Again, I say this is good news!! It is good because in the eyes of God it is only sin. And sin has been crushed under the heel of Jesus Christ and it has been vanquished!
I encourage you to begin to look at the truth of these issues. Start today to develop a biblical worldview and mindset on this critical topic!
Friday, December 11, 2009
This counsel is of course based on the understanding that the person before you has asked for your help and/or is willing to allow you the privilege of speaking into their lives. It is never wise to blurt out what needs to be done or changed if you have not been asked. In fact it is prideful and arrogant to give advice or counsel without being asked or granted permission.
So assuming that you are in the role of a "counselor" or one who is going to speak into the life of another person, you will want to ask several questions to clarify exactly what is meant by "having a disease." This is very important! Has their use of illicit substances brought them physical harm in the form of liver disease like cirrhosis or Hepatitis? Have they become physically dependent on whatever they were using or abusing to the point of when they don't use it, they become sick physically?
The idea of having a disease is not just having dis-ease. A disease involves tissue or organ damage, it is demonstrated by abnormal function in the body. It is provable by objective testing. In the case of Hepatitis this fits! In the case of physical withdrawal, it fits! In the case of many of the cases of "alcoholism" diagnosed in this country few have a disease. However, that is not what the general thinking is!
When a person enters traditional treatment for abuse of a substance (including food!) they are most often told they have a disease. Very often the treatment plan includes various self-help meetings and the use of psychotropic drugs.
So, if alcoholism isn't a disease then what is it? If being a compulsive overeater isn't a disease, then what is it?
Long before any substance use or abuse leads to organ damage or physical dependency (with a few exceptions such as methamphetamine) there is a change that takes place in the inner man/woman and it is a disease.
It is called "sin" and each one of us is born with this disease. It is a disease because eventually being born under its curse leads us to physical death. In fact, the moment we are born we begin to die because of it!
Sin resides in the heart of man. Desires reside in the heart of man. The sinful desires in the heart of man are what leads a person to the point of ever being considered addicted or diseased due to overindulgence in a substance.
The disease of sin is what leads a person to desire something to the point that they are willing to commit sin to get it. The disease of sin is what leads us to become idolaters of self and place what we want before the worship of God.
This is not to say that we are not responsible for our sin, or our choices because we are. God holds us 100% responsible for what we say, do, serve, and worship. We are responsible because we all have been given glimpses of God in everyday life and we choose to ignore and refute them. God says we are without excuse (Romans 1: 18:21).
continues next time.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Before I continue with this posting, I want you to know that I do not think a person's salvation is open to debate as a result of attending these groups. I do not think that those who attend are "unspiritual" or sinning in any way. I used to attend some of these groups, and I was trained as a Celebrate Recovery facilitator. My husband was a devoted member of AA and CA for decades.
For the unbeliever, they are the best route to ceasing these behaviors. They provide both Believer and Unbeliever with fellowship, and like-mindedness. I think that each of these groups has pluses and minuses, and while they may be helpful in addressing the issues of the flesh they are sorely lacking in the vital areas of "recovery."
I realize that my position may offend you, and that is not my intention. However, I won't shy away from the reality that for the Christian there are other options! Over the next few posts I intend to pose the usual arguments for attending and "needing" such groups and provide you with biblical answers to those questions and statements that are often made when this topic comes up.
As a Biblical Counselor/Discipler I have been confronted with pretty much every "addiction" known to man and I never sent a person to a self-help group, not even once.
So, let's get started with the first reason people attend a self-help group.
"I have an addiction" -
- My first question to a person who tells me they have an addiction is to ask them what does that mean? What does the term "addict" mean in their understanding?
- I want to know how they know they are an addict. Who told them they are an addict? Did they read it in a book? Did they take a quiz? Did they discuss it with their doctor?
- What testing was done that scientifically proves they are an addict?
- I want to know about their use of whatever they believe they are addicted to. I ask about use- how much and how often. What happens if they stop using that substance (no matter what it is). Do they have physical withdrawal?
- What lengths are they willing to go through to get what ever they crave? Are they willing to steal, lie, kill to get it?
- What problems have they come into as a result of using or partaking in their drug of choice? Financial, legal, relationship, job?
I want to know what the counselee understands "addiction" to actually mean. Perhaps they are only guessing they are an addict because of their desire for something. It could also be that someone told them they have a problem and they termed it "addiction" without any basis in truth. A good soul-physician will take the time to understand the perspective of the person sitting with them without pre-judging or coming to conclusions without all or any of the facts.
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13 (NASB)
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
What kinds of words do you use? How many times a day do you say things like: "Oh my God" or "Jesus Christ!" or simply say, "God..." When I was a child I was told that when we use God's Name we are in effect calling Him to our side as though we were calling someone in the next room.
I was also challenged by something else my Pastor said. There are other things we say like "gosh" and "darn" that I have been told are minced oaths. In other words, they are substitutes for swear words or "unwholesome talk."
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (NASB)
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Colossians 3:8 (NASB)
Rather than rounding that bush again, I want to simply remind you (and me) that the words from our mouths reveal the spiritual condition of our hearts. So many of our words are careless and reveal that we are angry with God because He is not doing things our way. Other words are spoken with careless abandon, not even thinking of the implications our words can bring.
With our own mouths we condemn ourselves. We murmur and grumble and complain against God because at the root of it all we worship and idolize ourselves. "ME" is the most important person in our world. "ME" must be satisfied, "ME" must be worshiped. We have no regard for what God is doing through the circumstances we are presented with, all we see is that "ME" doesn't like it. So we utter things like "God!!" complete with disgusted tone of voice. We proclaim that God is not fair, does not love us and is not listening to our prayers and petitions. We determine that God simply does not care.
Oh faithless and wicked heart...
I have to come back over and over to the gospel- to the truth. I am a wretch, I am unworthy, and I cannot do anything to affect my position before God. I need Christ. Because I am found in Christ I am obligated by love to worship HIM and not myself. When that change begins - the worship exchange- in my heart where I dethrone myself and begin to view God Most High as Who He is, then my actions and words will begin to get in line with what I believe to be true.
You see, if you really don't believe that God is Most High, you won't speak of Him in worship. Your use of His Name will be flippant and casual. His Name will become a point of emphasis in your speech so people really know how exasperated you are.
If you do see God as Most High your heart will be crushed as you realize what you are revealing about what is going on inside you by your words.
The only response is to repent...repent of the sin that lurks within the heart and dethrone yourself. Restore the rightful King to the throne of your heart. That is how it all begins!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
To back up just a little, a few weeks ago Pastor Tim posed this question: "Where is the God of justice?"
Have you wondered about that? Have you wondered where your "justice" was when you have been wronged or slandered by someone? Have you wondered why God is silent in your distress? You know I have asked these questions if you are a regular reader of this blog!
I think (and have observed) that when God is silent is when we begin to falter and doubt Him. We doubt His goodness, His being "for" us; we doubt His righteousness too. In effect we begin to accuse God, and to tell Him that He is a liar.
When we are comfortable with accusing Him then we begin to demonstrate all the other signs of unfaithfulness. We bail on the prayer time (except to whine that He is isn't "doing it" for us), we set the Bible aside (because I can't find a place I want to read) and we systematically edit Him out of our conversations and thoughts. Our hearts become hardened and it becomes easier and easier to grumble and complain against Him.
It is at this point that I see it becomes very easy to change how we refer to Him and to try to alter our relationship to Him. Sort of like a teenager who is trapped in the store with their parent. They want something from the parent, but they don't really want to be with or near that parent.
We wonder if it (our relationship to God in Christ) is all worth it. Those unbelievers and their lifestyles look pretty good...do they have all these problems? They have problems, sure...but as bad as ours? It seems as though there is no upside, no benefit to being in Christ at times, doesn't it?
Fellow Sojourners, I struggle the same way you do in this regard. I have been waiting for an entire decade for things in our lives to turn around and head in the positive direction. Like you, I get tired of waiting and hope deferred makes my heart sick (Prov. 13:12).
You cannot let those kinds of thoughts invade your heart! You must continue to cling to the truth and in spite of the terrible feelings that accompany the stresses and strains of daily living. Seek your solace in the Psalms and read the woes of David, and Aseph. Lose yourself in the real life problems those guys encountered and see how they walk through all the emotions, all the doubts and fears and how they end up invariably at the point of "and yet I will praise Him" (Psalm 42:5; 42:11; 43:5; 28:7; 109:30)
Monday, December 7, 2009
When I catch myself heading in that direction I have to recall what this season is all about. Nothing about Christmas is about trees and ornaments, or cookies and egg nog. Nothing about Christmas is about cards or gifts bought from a store or on line.
All that Christmas is about is found in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus, the King of Kings who condescended and became human for the salvation of the very people He created. The Lord Jesus who loved us enough that before time began determined that no other sacrifice for the future sin of mankind would do other than the spilling of His own blood. That same Lord who could have put a halt to this entire world knowing the sacrifice that He would make on our behalf determined that in love, He would redeem the unlovable. Astounding! Astonishing!
As I contemplate this tree before me decorated with lights and treasures of my family I have to be mindful that it is all meaningless in light of the reality of what Christmas truly is, and WHO Christmas is really about.
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
Is God "pleased" with you? Hmmm... God is not pleased with your righteous deeds, or your holiness, or your church attendance, or your contributions to charity, or your political perspective. He is only, only, only pleased with those who are in Christ Jesus. God is only pleased with those who He as adopted into His family through Christ. He is only pleased with those who He calls His children.
This is why Christmas is important. The only possible way God will be pleased with you is if you are found to be righteous. The only way you are found righteous is if you are in Christ. Were it not for Christmas- the birth of Christ- our fellowship with God would be impossible.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Money is not bad, but the love of it is. It is for money we kill and steal. We covet what others have, wishing it was ours instead. We display a terrible lack of faith by how we use and abuse the money God gives us.
Colossians 3:5 puts greed right in the same category as idolatry. It reflects a heart that is focused on living for "self."
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Matthew 6:19 (NASB)
I have to honestly say that I always rest a little easier when I know there is savings in the bank, something that is there in case I need it. We are to have savings, and we are to plan our spending (its called a budget) and that is not what I refer to here. The admonition is not to store up treasures (money) for yourself, it does not say "do not save" or "do not plan for the future."
What is your heart invested in? If your heart is focused on God, then you will have the perceptiveness to know where your investments should be made.
Do not lay not up for yourself... this is an important word. The idea is that we are not to sock money away beyond our need for the purpose of greed and selfishness. I have often wondered by God allows some Christians to really prosper financially and leaves others very poor ans struggling.
An important question to ask if you are in the "have not" category: if you had more, would you forget Him? Would it become all about you?
A question for the "have's": is your "extra" locked away in unaccessable places? Is it more important to have that extra cushion to rely on?
The money is merely the object that God uses to reveal our hearts. That is why the Scriptures say that it is the love of money that is evil, not the money itself. The problem for us all, no matter if we are a "have" or a "have not." Our sinful hearts drag us down, and we determine to be gracious to ourselves and shortchange God.
Those treasures on earth become so important to us!! How many keep things that we just stash? We stash it because we can, not because we have a need for it. We stockpile our earthly treasures and these things drive out any desire in our heart to invest in eternal things. Will your junk take care of you in the future?
Colossians 3:5 equates the love of money with idolatry. Don't let money and stuff become your god.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
I had it all planned out. Friday we were going shopping for a while, and I wanted to go downtown to see the lights and the storefronts all dressed up for Christmas. The weather has been nothing short of spectacular for the past two days and it would have been perfect.
Saturday, I was making a turkey with all the trimmings dinner. We were going to decorate the tree and the house for our first Christmas here. It was supposed to be just us two enjoying our time together.
Instead, he spent the weekend in the garage putting in a new fuel pump on the car, and I spent the days in the house alone. I was bitterly disappointed at this turn of events. God used it to reveal to me yet more ugly gunk that lurks in my heart. Man, I am so tired of that!
I don't have any other explanation for why God allowed things to go the way they did other than to cause me to look at my sinful self and see how much I need the cross. I continue to see my need for His sacrifice as the Lord allows more and more adversity into my life, and more and more of my sinful heart is exposed.
These times of trial and testing press me hard and squeeze out all the sin that can normally be hid behind self-control and self-righteousness. The exchanged life I am to live as one "in Christ" is much harder than I could ever have imagined. I never thought it would be this way, and I bet you didn't either!
Suffering and trial and sorrow and even misery mark our days here. All these never ending annoyances that cause us to long for our heavenly home. They remind me that all this is temporary and of no consequence in my future. I wish I would think that in the heat of the moment though...
My responses to them are not always good or glorifying to God. But even they are allowed to show me I must glory in the cross, in His sacrifice, in His life given to me and never in myself or my own perceived righteousness. Lord, may it never be that I become deceived into thinking that I am righteous of my own accord!
When I look upon the wondrous cross I see that my suffering is but for a moment (2 Cor.4:17) and that the glory that is being brought forth from this human wreckage is going to be for a lifetime.