Friday, February 26, 2010
I have to admit, at first I thought they were kidding. Alec Baldwin giving marriage advice? Really? Isn't he the guy who had a horrific divorce from another Hollywood starlet? Why on earth would anyone ask for or take marriage advice from a Hollywood actor or actress? Do they possess some special insight that we should think them qualified to instruct us on how to have a successful marriage?
As absurd of an idea as this television program is to me, I have to say that I see people every day getting their counsel on marriage issues from equally poor places like Oprah and Dr. Phil. While both mean well, neither has the biblical worldview that Christians are to operate from.
“But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE. “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Mark 10:6-9 (NASB)
Marriages in trouble need a source of authority that is unchanging and not given to bending with the winds of change. Solid marriages are built upon the foundation of the Word of God. Now I realize that in some marriages both husband and wife are not Believers and do not operate under the same set of principles or priorities. If I may, I would like to address today's posting to those couples who both profess Christ as Savior, and who have been enabled by the Spirit of God in regeneration to both hear and obey the Word of God.
It is important for couples to recognize that the Bible does address the specific causes of marriage problems. Because sin or a sinful response of some kind is at the root of all problems in marriage, we can find solutions in the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16)
I sure wish I could say the usual reason for marital troubles was not knowing what was expected or how to do what was commanded, but unfortunately that is not the usual scenario. All to often the cause of trouble in marriage is that one person knows what it is going to take and they simply refuse to do it (Jas 4:1).
It could as easily be the husband or the wife who is in the grips of willful disobedience, or is refusing to work at overcoming a sinful habit. These are difficult situations to deal with because typically there is one marriage partner who really wants to work at the changes that need to be made and the other may say they words of change and commitment and have no intention to do the work involved.
Another problem is that even among Christians, marriages are made with both people having the wrong idea of what marriage is for and is to be about. Solid pre-marital counseling that deals with every aspect of marriage is lacking in many cases. The couple enters into this life-long covenant with little or no understanding of the biblical roles of marriage.
In every case of marital difficulty there must be solid biblical teaching that corrects wrong understanding and helps the couple to right the marital ship before it becomes a ship wreck!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-18a (NASB)
If your brother or sister sins you are obligated to go to him or her and in Christlike love help them to see their sin. In doing so, you are urging them to repent and change at the heart level.
Repentance is the result of being convicted or convinced by the Holy Spirit that what a person is doing is sinful and does not glorify God. It could be your words, or the Scripture that you have them read that the Spirit uses to spur them to change, but the key is that they are internally motivated to cease the sin. It is important to understand that it is God who gives the gift of repentance. When a person is unrepentant it is because God has not granted it to them. It is also important to understand that it is not enough to get someone to simply stop their sinful behavior, because without a change of heart they will soon return to the sin.
Unfortunately, sometimes our urgings to repent go unheeded and the person continues to sin. We are then faced with a decision to go repeatedly to them or to drop the issue. It seems most people are motivated to go once or twice, but beyond that they tend to give up and write the person off. The reasons for this vary, but I think the overriding reason is we assume they are never going to change. Our attention span for such things is rather short and when there is no receptivity to our heartfelt pleas we quickly turn in other directions.
How many times are we to urge a person to repent? I am personally involved in two situations where groups of people are urging someone to repent for more than seven months. Two separate people, two entirely different situations and in both cases despite prayer, and consistent prodding the individuals refuse to repent.
Because I do not know if and when God will grant them the gift of repentance I continue to urge them to do so in spite of their negative response. Am I wasting my time? I could be, I know that but these two people (who both claim to be believers) are in a perilous position right now. One is in grave spiritual danger because of their leadership position in the church and the other is a young person who is intending on marrying an unbeliever. Both are currently acting like unbelievers- willful, self-righteous, prideful, and a whole host of other un-Christlike things but I cannot allow their response to dictate my actions.
The number of times a person is to urge repentance is not mentioned in Scripture only that we are to do so. We know from the above passage that once we have determined there is no more we can do in a private confrontati0n with a person we are to bring in another, then if those efforts fail we are to bring in another and go as a group to urge repentance.
All of this is admittedly an exhausting process, doing what is right often is! I think it is worth it to help someone who has fallen into a pit or even to warn someone who has walked headlong into a sinful situation. Most of us live a long time and eternity is...well, eternal. If there is anything we can do to rescue a sinning brother or sister in Christ we must do so! The end result of unrepentance is the very, very serious business of being put out of the church as an unbeliever.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Anyone who knows me knows that I eat, sleep, and breathe biblical counseling and discipleship. It is my heartbeat, and next to my God and my family- it is my life.
I have been struggling greatly since making the move to Missouri because I have not been doing what God has called me to do, which is to live my life in service to Him as a Biblical Counselor. Until recently, I was not been able to understand why I am so miserable and discontent inside, for I am a woman who is very blessed by God. I have a wonderful godly husband, great kids, a nice home, a decent income, and I am blessed beyond measure by our church family. Why is my heart disquieted within me?
I recently met with a fellow biblical counselor and we discussed my dis-contentedness over coffee. She had an interesting perspective on this. She stated to me that because I am now working full time outside my home I am violating Titus 2- being a keeper at home and this is the origin of my discontent.
I cannot deny this is true. While I enjoy the contact I have with the people I serve daily in my job my heart is not in it. While I pray daily that I would do my job for the glory of God and I believe that I do that (not perfectly of course) I ache when I leave the house each morning and cannot wait to return at the end of the workday.
I simply love being a wife and mother. I love cooking and cleaning and caring for my family! It is what I was created to be- a help meet for my husband. I also miss spending my days immersed in biblical counseling and discipleship and God's Word. I miss devoting my waking hours ministering truth to hurting women. I long to return to this way of life.
Titus 2 tell me as a woman and now as an "older woman" that I am to be a teacher of good things, the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. To be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. I am to be reverent in my behavior, not a malicious gossip nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, encouraging young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
This is what the Lord says I am to do with my life. It is my calling, my strength, and my overwhelming and driving passion. I have a plan to reach all around the world with the kinds of messages this blog provides through webinars and internet radio. I am working toward opening a Biblical Counseling Center for this very purpose- to invest my life in the people God brings my way, to be a minister to the hurting souls of people.
So, how do I make this a reality? One way would be just to resign my full time position. While it would please my flesh to do so, and also my heart, I know that it would cause my husband to suffer some anxious moments in the financial department. We have to take care of some things first- be responsible. God is very gracious and we are making headway in this area. We are using the Financial Peace principles of Dave Ramsey (a big shout out to Dave!) to eliminate all debt and to make these desires a reality.
I must raise enough support to supplement my husband's income so as not to be selfish and financially irresponsible. I will be applying for non-profit status to enable anyone would would like to contribute to the counseling ministry to receive a tax deduction.
The way this blog page looks will also be changing to accommodate some other things. One of which will be a paypal button for anyone who would like to contribute to the ongoing ministry of Biblical Counseling for Women. Until the non-profit thing is done you wont be able to deduct any contributions.
The content will remain centered around God's Word and its application to our hearts and lives. That will never change.
The most necessary element of all of this is prayer. I have given of myself for over two years to this blog, and I am asking that those of you who follow it would commit to praying for me; that if these changes in my life would glorify God that He would richly bless my goals and desires and then quickly make these things a reality.
When I began today's post, I had no intention of laying all this out there and now that it is written I have to conclude it is time to do so. These things have been on my heart for months and now that I have shared my burden with you it is lighter. Now that I have asked for prayer I am hopeful.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Raising our family in the church I saw this happen over and over again to people in every group I mentioned above. What each of them has in common is that they had some sort of experience that prodded them to "get saved."
In my counseling ministry I have sat across from countless parents who were steadfast in their belief that Susie had been saved at camp or on a mission trip or in youth group. The problem was that now several years later Susie had become a drug using, immoral young woman who wanted nothing to do with church or the Bible.
More wives than I can remember cried in their hands as they told me of their husbands who were supposed to be godly men and leaders in their churches and families and were really charlatans. They too maintain their husbands had accepted Christ.
The favorite claim of those who love people like these is that they are backslidden and "not walking with Christ right now."
What I have to say is that what happens during a worship service or a revival is not as important as what happens when you go home. That's when you will know if anything of significance has taken place in the heart of a man or woman.
You should know that a person can pray a prayer, raise hands, walk an aisle, babble in another language, or demonstrate any other manifestation of being Spirit filled. But if when you get home you return to the bottle, or the pornography, or the lying or cheating - then what happened in church or that revival is of no account.
Not what a person says or doesn't say or how loud they sing or how high they lift their hands. If a person no more resembles Christ after their salvation experience than they did prior to it then I would have to say God was not in it.
How can I say such a thing? Because a changed life is the proof of a changed heart.
A person cannot be affected by the Spirit of God and continue to live a life of unrepentant sin. When this is the case the salvation of the individual must be called into question! To do otherwise is cruel, for this same person will labor under the false notion that they have truly been regenerated.
This is one of the most difficult and hated messages I ever have to deliver, and the one that gains me the greatest hate mail. I am accused of judging and all sorts of things however the truth is that Scripture tells us we will know a true believer by their fruit.
No changed life- no changed heart.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Most of us adults know that there is certainly a dark and evil side to these kind of sites as well. For every "good" user there are the trolls and the pedophiles and stalkers. There is also a whole heck of a lot of ordinary old sin being revealed on them.
I say this after perusing the pages of several people, many of whom claim Christ as their Savior and Lord. I found no trolls or pedophiles there, but I was saddened and surprised at the blatant sin and debauchery I found there! This has caused such righteous indignation to rise up in my heart that I had to address it today.
Scripture is very clear, dear Friends,
Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. Ephesians 5:4
I see plenty of all of the above on my social networking sites. What unbelievers do- that is their way. Because the eyes of their hearts are dark and dead they have no ability to really understand that what they are doing and saying is sinful and wrong. There is no moral compass within them! (Romans 1:18-28; Ephesians 2)
But YOU, Christian! Enlightened and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the Living God! What business have you posting pictures of girl on girl kissing, bragging about your drinking parties, using filthy and foul language, boasting of your most recent sexual conquest or lyrics from your favorite new ungodly rap song? Is God glorified by such trash? How can you name the name of Christ and claim to be a Christian and live in such a manner? Have you no conscience? Is there not a scrap of conviction in your soul?
I am not your judge, I do not know your heart which is why I ask the questions I do for it seems to me that one indwelt by such love and righteousness, grace and truth could not conduct themselves in such unrighteousness and unholiness.
You have been called to be set apart! Where is your "set-apart-ness?" Do you not realize that when you dress like the world, talk like the world, act like the world, you are truly OF the world?
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 1 John 2:15-16
Does your life and how you live it reveal your love of God? Indeed it does, it reveals whether you truly love and honor God or yourself. Think about it.
Friday, February 19, 2010
The writings of this friend really caused me to think, and as any good biblical counselor knows to do, examine my own heart to see what fault I would find there. The conviction I felt in my heart was enough to let me know I had sinned in the matter.
In a way I wish I could say that I uncovered some new and revelatory sin, but alas, the old standards of anger and pride were there, standing at attention. There is something about having to be "right" that screams of pride and self-exultation. Anger surfaces when "Right" is denied and I am blamed, ignored, unable to defend or justify myself in a given situation. Is it the same for you?
As I read my friends communication I was admittedly cut to the heart and realized that in my own situation I have not recently handled it all for the glory of God, but instead have desired at times to be sure I have been heard and acknowledged. This is not necessarily wrong, but the mere fact that I have experienced conviction means it is wrong for me.
So I approach the throne of grace and assume the position of worship- on my face. I am so very thankful for the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I am thankful for a heart that is soft enough and receptive enough to receive such conviction! Oh what sorrow there is for the one with the heart too hard to accept conviction! I am thankful God has granted me the ability in Christ to understand and to repent and change.
With confession and repentance comes the refreshing winds of peaceful change to my heart and soul. I begin again in the matter, determined to glorify God by my thoughts, beliefs, desires, words, actions and attitudes.
God is completely totally sufficient to complete the work that He has begun in my heart and life. On that Day I will stand before Him, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
There was no shame in their disclosure, they both spoke as though this was a way of life. I suppose it is!
I had a few thoughts on this as I went about my day. The first was that I was still fairly shocked at their willingness to lie so blatantly to their husbands. I wondered what was wrong in their marriage relationships that they had to lie and hide the truth. I also wondered what would happen if and when the truth would be revealed.
The second and more pressing question on my mind was regarding the lie itself and their common attitude over it. Why were they not bothered over it? Why was I?
I think it is because as a Christian, my life is oriented so very differently. It would be a lie for me to say I have never told a lie, or that I am not tempted to still lie on occasion. The difference I think is that my conscience kills me when I do! I desire to glorify God by how I live my life.
The Word of God is my guide for I am to conduct myself. Specifically regarding the telling of lies Paul says this:
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE OF YOU WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25 (NASB)
To lay aside falsehood means to literally get it away from you. Get away from telling lies and begin to speak the truth because it glorifies God.
When you lie you destroy trust. Lying ruins the bond of unity (Eph 4:3) that we are to have with each other; and causes others to doubt that the words that come out of your mouth are true and honest. Face it, when someone lies to you how willing are you to trust them when they tell you something the next time?
When people we expect to be able to trust - or people we ought to be able to trust begin to show themselves as liars and deceivers this shakes our confidence to the core. Believe it or not, we really ought to be able to trust politicians, and pastors alike! And sadly, they both often let their people down.
What can you do? If you have the sinful habit of lying, the change must begin in your heart. You must determine that lying needs to stop for one reason and one reason alone- it does not bring glory to God.
Then begin to renew your mind with the Word of God. What does the Bible say about lying and truth telling? Put into practice in daily life what you learn.
Take the risk of telling the truth. Sometimes it is risky, no doubt. However speaking the truth in love is never the wrong move. As you honor God in your speech you will find it becomes easier and easier and you will care less and less about man pleasing.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Having been the recipient of both gossip and slander, I speak from the heart when I tell you that there is little that is more hurtful or destructive and discouraging than these evil sins of the heart. Often, gossip and slander take place when the one being talked about is not there to defend themselves. Such is the cowardly nature of these twin destroyers.
Sin is sin. There is no such thing as a respectable sin. James (and John MacArthur’s comments) illustrate a powerful truth about us incredibly flawed human beings and that is the evil inside of ourselves is far worse than the evil outside of ourselves. We have a knack for underestimating our own depravity and magnifying the depravity of others or simply blaming the devil for what we ourselves are responsible for.
We can be, ever so self-righteous when it comes to the sins of others while our self-righteousness serves us as the best defense attorney ever!
The comic strip character Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.” I think Pogo knew John Calvin and something about the Scriptures.
Unless gossip and slander are nipped in the bud by church leaders it is inevitable (according to James) that the fire will spread. When that happens, truth takes a vacation and it becomes all about who said what and when they said it. This ought not be.
The good news is that it is never too late to apply the gospel. But in order to do that one has to get in touch with one’s own depravity. Without getting in touch with one’s own bad news one can never fully appreciate the gospel good news of grace, mercy, forgiveness, restoration, reconciliation, hope, patience, power and healing.
The gospel is for sinners like you and I. All we have to do is apply it. When we do, the truth shall set us free.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Php. 1:6, ESV
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Today I am bringing you the second in a series of blogs written by my friend and co-laborer in Christ, Pastor Bruce Roeder on the topic of gossip and slander. Bruce writes a daily blog at The Counselors Desk broeder10.blogspot.com
How the Fire Spreads
The quickest way to start a forest fire of slander and gossip is to accuse someone and not give them an opportunity to defend themselves or explain themselves. John Calvin put it this way:
It is a sign of a perverse and treacherous disposition to wound the good name of another, when he has no opportunity of defending himself.--John Calvin
Ouch! I think our friend John Calvin was in touch with his own depravity.
The doctrine of total depravity teaches us that we do not know ourselves and what we are capable of (Jer. 17:9). When accused, we react and instead of reacting in a God-honoring way we often react with counter charges or counter accusations. Scripture tells us what to do if we have something against another person or seek to accuse them we need to go to them first and try to resolve it.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matt. 18:15, ESV
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1, ESV
Scripture goes even further when Jesus says if you know someone has something against you, you are to go them and make it right before you worship.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matt 5:23-24, ESV
Never Right to Return Evil for Evil
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
It’s never right to slander or gossip, even if you’ve been slandered or gossiped against first. That’s how the forest fire that begins as a spark turns into a raging forest fire that becomes impossible to contain. The flesh wants to lash out when we are accused and cannot defend ourselves and we do it’s like pouring gas on a fire instead of water.
If you suspect or know that someone has an accusation against you then Matthew 5:23-24 applies to you. The gospel doesn’t really give us the easy way out, does it?
Sadly, even if a person does what the Scripture requires it does not mean it will be received well or even received at all. If this is the case then Matthew 18:15-17 gives us further guidance as to how to handle the situation.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. Matt. 18:15-17, ESV
If the problem is not resolved biblically, according to Jesus’ teaching then it will only get worse until it involves the whole church. If gossip and slander are not nipped in the bud via the application of the gospel (the above verses and many, many more) then it is evitable that the forest fire of conflict will spread via the flames of gossip and slander.
(See Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker, for more information on how to nip a conflict in the bud by applying the gospel at the first signs of a conflict.)
Bridges calls gossip and slander respectable sins for a couple of reasons. First we tend to overlook them and only concern ourselves with the big stuff, like adultery and theft and so forth. Second, we have the attitude in regards to respectable sins that “everyone does it.”
In other words not everyone is a wife-beater, adulterer, arsonist, axe murderer or rapist but all are gossips and slanderers (including myself!) We tell ourselves that since everyone does it then it is somehow justifiable.
But look what John MacArthur writes about James 3:7-8:
James’s point in these two verses is simply that the human tongue is innately uncontrollable and untamable. It is wild, undisciplined, irresponsible, irrepressible, and savage. In what might be called its primitive or intrinsic evil, it combats every effort to control and direct it.
Tomorrow we will conclude this excellent series!
Friday, February 12, 2010
Then he (Jesus) said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process?” Luke 9:23-25 (NLT)
Jesus displayed the ultimate in humility when He condescended to come to earth as a human being. He denied Himself and deprived Himself of heaven and all its glory for 33 years for you and me. Because our goal is to become like Jesus in character and attitude, we are to practice how Jesus lived His life. Jesus was described as “meek and lowly.” Meekness is an internal quality that comes with humility. As a heart attitude, it is the opposite of pride. The one meek in heart is not concerned about self and readily puts the interest of others before his or her interests.
You should be known for the beauty that comes from (the hidden person of the heart), the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NLT, emphasis added)
Being meek does not mean weak; in fact, it means just the opposite. It takes great strength to be humble before God and others. This really goes against the grain of the sinful nature. It is possible, however, for even the most prideful person to become humble. Humility is a fruit of the Spirit, and God joyfully responds to those who desire it.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:3 (NIV)
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:16 (NIV)
Pride begins to change to humility when we understand how despicable we actually are without Christ. Humility comes when we internalize the truth that nothing in the life of a Christian is to be about “me.” It is all about Jesus Christ and Him only. You cannot possibly dwell on “what I want” or “what I think is better or right,” and be able to serve others or ask what would bring God glory.
Heart change begins to take place when we practice the principles in the verse below:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:16-19 (NIV)
Paul’s single goal was Christ—to know Him, to glorify Him, and to teach others to do the same. John exhorted us to love God more than the world or its pleasures.
Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Romans 13:13-14 (NIV)
Renewing your mind with Scripture will enable you to put off the sinful desires of the flesh. These not only include immoral desires but also selfish desires . . . the selfish desires that keep you focusing only on yourself and how you feel today.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV)
Loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind is impossible apart from the working of the Holy Spirit. God, who is far above all rule and power, must always take first place. He reigns in glory, independent of you and me. We do not “make” God number one, and we do not “make” Jesus Christ “Lord.” God is already God and Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). What must change is our understanding of who we are! As we learn our humble position before an Almighty God, our perspective changes on how we are to live life. As we begin to comprehend that we are here to serve Him (not the other way around), Matthew 22:39 becomes reality to us: “Love your neighbor as yourself."
We have no problem loving ourselves. In fact, we are very good at it. Some think they could not possibly love themselves because they are depressed, neglecting their personal hygiene, staying in bed, or doing harm to themselves (e.g., getting drunk, cutting self), but what do those actions indicate? Who are we worrying about and dwelling on most when we’re depressed: ourselves! Even fuming inside about someone who isn’t treating us right is a sign that we love ourselves more than we love our neighbor. This is why Jesus did not tell us to love ourselves more; he told us to love others as much as we already love ourselves!
Putting Matthew 22:39 into action means serving others. God has graciously given us direction in His Word to know how to serve our fellow man. Read the Word, soak it in, revel in the Word! It is your pipeline to the thoughts of God.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Mind renewal is especially important when dealing with depression. When your thoughts, beliefs, and desires are set on glorifying God, you will begin to do the right things, such as serving others, and you will experience good results, such as relief from depressive feelings.
Consider what God says about your reason for living. Why did He create you? Search the Scriptures and make a list of the reasons God says He made you. To get you started, look up 1 Corinthians 6:20.
Remind yourself daily of your spiritual identity. The book of Ephesians gives you some great clues about who you are in Christ. Examine the book in depth, especially the first three chapters. Take notes, use various translations, and look up words you don’t know or understand in a concordance, such as Vine’s or Strong’s.
Do you know who you are in Christ? Check a concordance for words like “justified,” “sanctified,” “called,” “elect,” “blameless,” “holy.” Memorize the Bible verses that reveal how these words apply to you.
Look for God at work in your circumstances. Examine the life of biblical characters such as David, Samuel, Ruth, Naomi, King Saul, Samson, Elijah,characters such as David, Samuel, Ruth, Naomi, King Saul, Samson, Elijah, and Paul. These people were used by God and still testify to us today; how did they handle their crises and troubles?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12:1-2a (NLT)
Do a study on what the Bible has to say about grumbling and complaining. Use both the Old and New Testaments.
What is your focus today? Do you just want to be “feeling better”? Instead, change your focus to “seeing Christ.” The goal of true change is to see only Jesus Christ. He is your answer. He is your comfort. He is your help in time of need. He is your light, your salvation, your all in all. He is your hope.
Paul said in Philippians 3:
“I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him.” Philippians 3:7-8 (NLT)
In Philippians 3:10, he said:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
And in 1 Corinthians 2:2:
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
This is just a starting place! If you are struggling with sorrow without hope today I urge you to go ahead and do the simple exercises I have outlined for you here. Watch God work! It may not be immediate and remember the goal is not to feel better, but to glorify God!
Friday, February 5, 2010
Self-focused motivations spurred on by the desires of the sinful heart have produced the kind of fruit you would expect—depression and discouragement.
What’s the cure for depression? It may surprise you that biblical counseling does not focus on the fruit of depression. It is not profitable to simply pull the bad fruit off the tree, because new bad fruit will soon grow in its place. The depression you are experiencing is the result of the problem, not the problem itself.
The way to deal with depression biblically is to determine the source of the feelings—your beliefs, desires, and thoughts. The Bible says that the source to examine is your heart.
Because the heart is set on pleasing “self,” your thoughts and actions are not naturally going to be like God’s. This presents a dilemma because God commands us to be holy.
“But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. For he himself has said, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15-16, NLT).
Practicing holiness brings God glory. Glorifying God is to be the goal of our lives. I am often asked by my counselees, “Why am I here?” The simple and straightforward answer to this question could change your life: You are here to glorify God.
Glorifying God happens when the focus of my life changes from living for my own pleasure and glory to living for His pleasure and glory. It demands that my heart change from a me-centered focus to a God-centered focus.
As you address what is guiding and motivating your heart, you will learn to intentionally keep your mind focused on thoughts that are pleasing and edifying to God. This is the renewing of your mind.
This is how wrong thoughts and beliefs can be corrected by right thinking:
• Take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
• Find hope in the Word (Proverbs 13:12; Colossians 1:27;Titus 2:11-13)
• Focus on praising and thanking God for His provisions and promises (Colossians 3:1-4; 2 Peter 1:4).
• Forgive those with whom you are angry (Mark 11:25-26; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
• Identify the idols in your life and turn away from them!
Make it your desire to glorify God (Exodus 20:4; I John 5:21).
• Humble yourself (James 4:6-10).
• Identify your sinful responses to your circumstances and feelings and repent (Joel 2:12, 13; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11
Thursday, February 4, 2010
• Do you believe you have this disease because you inherited it from your father or mother?
• Are you able to control your feelings?
• Have you begun to neglect your responsibilities (e.g., staying home from work, not paying bills, not caring for children)? How often?
• What do you do while avoiding responsibilities? (Do you stay in bed, cry, sleep, or drink alcohol?)
• What are you thinking about when you feel sad, disinterested in life, or suicidal?
• What problems result from avoiding responsibilities?
• Would you like to understand what the Bible says about your thoughts and behavior, and what you can do about it?
No rational person would deny that the feelings of depression are real! I would would even suggest defining all the feelings and behaviors that characterize you at this time. What words would you use to describe how you feel? Are you sad, grief stricken, despondent, mourning, hopeless, despair, angry, lonely, or tired?
I would suggest reading Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 26:3, 41:10; Lamentations 3:21-24; Psalm 43:4, 46:1; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Hebrews 12:2, with a notebook and pencil nearby to take notes about what you read. You may notice that the Bible uses words like “sorrow,” “grieved,” and “downcast” to describe these feelings. We do not find the phrase “depressive disorder” in the Bible, but various Psalms (69, 51, 32, 38, and 45) clearly describe the behavior and mindset of a person who is suffering from depression.
This is called gaining a biblical perspective on the problem. It is important that you begin to think in biblical terms regarding spiritual issues. Once you begin to adopt biblical thinking and practice it in your behavior, you will see changes in your feelings. On the other hand, when someone labels you with “depressive disorder,” you become saddled with a medical diagnosis code, which in the medical realm may mean you have an illness from which you will never recover. You are now a victim of an illness. There is no victory there.
When behavior is labeled as a disease, it means you have a problem that cannot be fixed, which takes away all hope. You are led to believe that you will have “depressive disorder” for the rest of your life, even if you never have another depressive episode.
When you define depression the way the Bible defines it—“sorrow” and “despair”—this describes feelings and sinful behavior for which Christ died! There is a lot of hope there! A behavior can be stopped and avoided because it is a choice. The choice begins with the desires of the heart.
Christ didn’t die for “depressive disorder”—he died to give you victory over the flesh that drives you to be sinful in your thoughts and desires. He didn’t die for diseases; he died for sins.
I pray this brings you tremendous hope!
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
What you have been thinking about, believing, and desiring in your heart is what has caused you to feel depressed or to have sorrow without hope. God is using this time of depression in your life to reveal the contents of your heart.
To deal biblically with depression, you must learn what God says about your problem. To start, God says that what you are thinking, believing, and desiring in you heart needs to be dominated by Him through His Word.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
As the Word of God enters your mind and heart, you will begin to have a better idea of God’s thoughts, standards, and goals for you. This is called being “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23). A wise counselor will help you to understand what God has to say about your thoughts, desires, and affections of the heart, and to help you conclude that all you do or say is a result of what you think.
Before you can change what you habitually do, you must change how you habitually think. Before you can change what you do, you have to come to believe or think differently in your mind.
What you think or believe about depression will determine how you respond to it. If you believe depression is largely biological, you may think the most you can do is get long-term therapy or take a pill to feel better.
If the depression is not a biological issue, a true alternative is to allow the Lord to affect your belief system. You must come to believe in your thinking that your behavior is ungodly, and that living a depressed way of life is wrong and unbiblical. This will require a shift in your core beliefs! Your desire to change must be motivated by a deeper level than “This will get me into trouble” or “What will people think?” Stopping the depressive behavior because of sinful consequences is not repentance.
An attitude of repentance takes place when your belief system is affected. The biblical reason to stop the behavior is that you have come to believe it grieves God and causes Him sorrow.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
From the Bible you can safely determine that essentially you are comprised of two parts—material/organic and immaterial. If you have been reading regularly, you have read that various diseases can cause or contribute to depression. If the problem is not proven to originate in the material (organic) part of your body, it must then originate in the immaterial (non-organic) part of your being.
The root cause of non-organic depression is found in the immaterial part of man in what the Bible refers to as your heart.
The heart is the biblical word used to describe the inner person. The heart is the immaterial (non-flesh) part of you that includes your thoughts, beliefs, desires, mind, feelings, intentions, and emotions.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT).
What you think, believe and desire in your immaterial part (mind, heart, soul, feelings) is what your material part (body) follows. You think a thought and your body responds accordingly. You may be so accustomed to your body automatically responding to these commands that you may not even think about them as you are doing them! Many kinds of thoughts and desires may initiate an automatic response. When you feel angry, for example, you may scream and rant or you might quietly seethe. When you desire escape from problems, you may sleep, drink, or use drugs. When you are in trouble, you may lie to avoid exposure and discipline. These responses may have become automatic for you.
Probably without your direct knowledge, you have trained yourself to react in a certain way when confronted by a circumstance or situation. Whether you tend to scream, drink, lie, or do some other behavior, through repetition it becomes a habit or pattern. These sinful patterns are found in the heart. The Bible has much to say about the heart as the vital spiritual organ in the body.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45 (NIV)
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV)
Do you struggle with evil thoughts, bitterness, immorality, lying, or gossip? What does the Bible say about the condition of your heart? God’s view of your heart is found in Jeremiah 17:9:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV).
The deceitful heart is bent on satisfying “me,” having my own way, and living life for my own pleasure, with “me” at the center of my universe.