Voices (Part Two) . . . .

If you are a Christian who struggles with depression and/or anxiety, or if you know someone who does, this is for you.  In my last post I wrote about learning to distinguish between God’s voice and those “other voices” we hear in our heads.  You know, those accusing voices that taunt us despite our repentance saying, “You claim Christ but look at you . . . you are never going to change . . . you will never measure up to being a REAL Christian.”  Sometimes those “other voices” can sound quite reasonable, justifying sin, even as we are inwardly convicted by God’s Spirit.  Also, there are those angry, self-righteous voices that declare, “Enough! You don’t deserve to be treated this way!” as they urge us to hold on to bitterness and/or resentment.

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“WE TAKE CAPTIVE EVERY THOUGHT TO MAKE IT OBEDIENT TO CHRIST.”

To gain insight in discerning the difference between God’s voice and those “other voices”, I included several examples of God’s voice as our Shepherd to compare with those taunting, deceptive voices we hear in our heads.  From James we learned that one of the distinguishing marks between God’s voice and those “other voices”, is that God does indeed test our faith (in order to strengthen and mature us), but He never tempts us to sin.  When we are tempted, that is completely the voice of evil. (James 1:13,14)

This post will include insights into how to reduce some of the incessant “chatter” of those other voices that can rob us of the freedom won for us in Christ.  (Galatians 5:1)   They are personal insights, gained in my own battle with depression, that over time have been helpful to others.

1.  We all have a history of past sin; Christ Jesus is our only hope.  

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned . . . ,
how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace
and of the gift of righteousness reign in life
through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Romans 5:17

2.  God convicts in order to draw us to Himself; He does not torment or abandon His children.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
‘Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.
Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.'”

John 14:26, 27

3.  So long as we live on this earth, there is an ongoing spiritual battle between God (who is Light) and evil (spiritual darkness).  To ignore that reality makes us vulnerable.  The Apostle Paul warned his friends in Ephesus with this admonition:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:10-12

4.  God will provide all that we need to do battle as we stay close to Him.  It strikes me as ironic that in the battle against terrorism, the term “chatter” is used to refer to listening in on Internet conversations between known terrorist organizations to try to figure out where the next attack will be.  In God’s “army”, we are to resist exposing ourselves to the “chatter” of the world as we draw nearer to God:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God, and
WE TAKE CAPTIVE EVERY THOUGHT
TO MAKE IT OBEDIENT TO CHRIST.” 

II Corinthians 10:3-5

5.  The best way to resist evil, is to persist in offering praises to God.  (James 4:7) I learned this years ago when I was tormented by thoughts that seemed to come out of nowhere.  Initially I was horrified and embarrassed . . . waves of depression hit me hard.  It was as I prayed, asking God to help me in my weakness, that it occurred to me that the last thing the evil one wanted to hear were praises to God–so that is what I started to do:  “Thank you God that you love me; thank You that You died so that I might live to your Glory; thank You that my future is secure in Jesus . . . Lord take these unwanted thoughts away from me (clean out any lingering “garbage” that may be hiding)–that I might give You all honor, praise and glory.”

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Romans 13:12

6.  Always assume the best of God, especially when we are hurt and life seems unfair.  God’s purposes are always for our ultimate good–that we will be “mature and complete, not lacking in anything” when we meet Him face-to-face.  (James 1:2-4)  We find encouragement in the call of Jesus in Revelation 3:19-20,

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

The wisdom of John Newton offers blessing as we reflect on God’s voice as our source of light and hope vs the voices of darkness that seek to ensnare us:

“When we burden ourselves with our many sins, we are apt to overlook the very greatest of them–unbelief.  For what can be a greater proof of stubbornness and pride than to dare to contradict the express Word of God.  To say that He will not pardon when He declares He will; to persist in it that He will make differences when He assures us that He will make none . . . . Be thankful for the past and the present.  Trials no less than comforts are the tokens of His love.  ALL is regulated by infinite wisdom.  You will find cause to praise Him, even for the severe.“*  (Emphasis, mine.)

All to His Glory!

*Letters of John Newton, from The Banner of Truth Trust, written to the Rev. William Howell, pgs. 198 & 201.

Voices . . . .

It is a conversation that takes place more often than you might think . . . talking in the Counseling Room about how to distinguish between God’s voice and those “other voices” we hear in our heads.  You know–those destructive voices that fan our fears and encourage us to run from God (believing the worst of Him); those lying voices (and sometimes even, “well-meaning” voices) that rob us of wisdom and hope in how we view ourselves, our circumstances as well as our relationships with God and with others.  Why is this important?  Because living in a world filled with so much “chatter” bombarding us from every direction, we are too easily taken off track.  Too often, I have had to help a Client pick up the shredded remains of their faith, because that Client listened to voices that lead them astray.

To be able to recognize the voice of the Shepherd on good days and in bad,
is critical to navigating through the challenges we face in uncertain times.

This is not new.  That is why Jesus encouraged His own to stay close to Him:

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish;
and no one will snatch them out of My hand.…”

John 10:27-28

There are many reasons people seek Counseling: ALL need clarity in discerning God’s voice, because All are vulnerable to the unrelenting accusatory voices that seek to weaken our faith.  That is why I encourage every Client to connect with God through the Journey Notes process:

"Come to me all . . . . "

“Come to me all . . . . “

  • Logging their praises and concerns to God with every entry,
  • Prayerfully investing personal time reading Scripture (becoming familiar with God’s voice),
  • Writing at the top of the page in red, the Scripture that stands out to them in their reading,
  • Responding prayerfully to what God has said as they log their thoughts and feelings in their Journey Notebook.

In the Counseling Room, we talk about the way God speaks to us–to convict and bring us to repentance in order to free us. (Galatians 5:1)  We also talk about how the voices of evil seek to distract or cause us to doubt God’s goodness.  We find James extremely helpful, as he makes a clear distinction between being tested by God (in order to strengthen our faith) and when we are tempted by our sinful desires:

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.”
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone;
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”

James 1:13, 14

James makes clear: we are not victims when it comes to sin.  We are challenged to confess our sin when we go our own way and receive God’s forgiveness in repentant faith..

We spend quite a bit of time in the Old Testament, finding that God’s voice is the same in both the Old and the New Testaments.  Two passages that are especially helpful are:

Genesis 4:1-7  When Cain got angry (displaying a bad attitude), God’s response is interesting. God sought Cain out, not to beat him up, but offering the first Counsel to the rebellious heart recorded in Scripture,

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must master/rule over it.”

(verses 6b & 7)

Of course, we know what Cain’s response was . . . but that same voice of a caring Shepherd speaks to you and I in our struggles.  The only way we can “know what is right” is to become familiar with His voice as we follow Him.

Isaiah 30:15-21  God offers the prescription we need when it comes to facing up to our sinful propensities:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength . . .

and follows up with a challenge us to resist going our own way:

 . . . but you would have none of it.
You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
A thousand will flee at the threat of one;
at the threat of five you will all flee away,
till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a banner on a hill.”

Can you relate to that image of feeling abandoned and without hope because you have nothing left to give? The passage continues with this encouragement:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him . . . .

Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction . . .  
Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

Isn’t that amazing?! As our voices are raised to Him in repentance and rest,
God rises to the occasion with GRACE.

Instead of anger and wrath, He responds with compassion and Justice,
directing our every step. 

As we listen to the voice of the One who saves and obey Him, His Grace begins to fill in the gaps as our faith is strengthen.

Of course it does not stop there, does it?  In my next post I will write about how to reduce some of the incessant “chatter” of those other voices that rob us of the joy, hope and peace that are meant to be ours in Christ.

All to His Glory!

More Than Fireworks . . . .

Since I was a child I have loved celebrating the Fourth of July.  From age six, I understood that Independence Day celebrated the birth of our nation.  I knew that on July 4, 1776, a group of men, representing thirteen British colonies, gathered together to formally declare those colonies to be a new, independent nation.   On that day, the Signers of the Declaration of Independence became enemies of the King of England , , , risking everything they had for the cause of freedom.  As I grew I learned:

  • That the Signers of the Declaration were men of vision . . . men who saw a future country far beyond themselves.
  • They were men who, though different one from the other, yet were united as created beings–accountable to their divine Creator.  
  • Certainly, the men who signed the Declaration of Independence did not think of separating themselves from their Creator as they wrote:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator . . . . “

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator . . . . ”  

The Fourth of July was a day of remembrance, culminated by waving sparklers wildly with my brother, cousins, neighbor kids or whoever else wanted to join in on celebrating the best nation on earth.  For me, taking hold of one (or even two) of those sparklers took a bit of daring–even though I never got burned, I dreaded the possibility.  However, even then, I knew the Fourth of July was about far more than fireworks–that our security rested in the knowledge that we were “one nation, under God.”  

As years became decades, change came and secularism grew.  Celebrating the Fourth became more sophisticated–filled with parades and activities having little to do with honoring the sacrificial courage and vision of the Signers before their Creator.  Instead, we became obsessed by the “wow-factor” of fireworks that we critiqued from year to year.

Sadly, the critiquing did not stop there–not by a long shot.  In more recent years, as American culture has become increasingly secularized, the notion, “that all men are created equal . . . endowed by their Creator” has been marginalized by many as “meaningless rhetoric.”  In an article posted on CNN’s website by Mark Edwards, “Was America Founded As A Christian Nation?” (July 4, 2015), five history professors from universities around the United States shared their perspectives pertaining to the roots of American democracy.  Before presenting the five perspectives, Edwards extended a second question, “Why do so many people think the country’s Christian history is so important?”  Sadly, the second question was largely ignored as the majority of the respondents denied any significant Christian influence in the formation of this nation.  Such a suggestion was denigrated in the article to be, “a myth” or, as one respondent suggested, “an invention of corporate, Christian America.”  

After reading the article, the one phrase that resonated with me was, “meaningless rhetoric”–that best sums up much of its content.  Although there were a few interesting insights to be gained, the bulk of it struck me as arrogant and short-sighted.  Thankfully, I did not have to look very far to find an answer to the question of why this nation’s Christian history IS so important.  I found the succinct insights of Christian writer and speaker, Ravi Zacharias, (posted on his Facebook page, dated July 3, 2015) thought provoking and helpful:

“America may not be a Christian nation per se, but only the Judeo-Christian worldview could have framed such a nation’s ideas and values: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” No other religion or secular assumption can affirm such a statement except the Judeo-Christian worldview. But today that very worldview, on which our systems of government and law are based, is expelled from the marketplace.”

This next part gives the chilling answer to WHY remembering our Christian roots is so important:

Democracies that are unhinged from all sacred moorings ultimately sink under the brute weight of conflicting egos. Freedom is destroyed not only by its retraction; it is also devastated by its abuse.”

The phrase, “the brute weight of conflicting egos” hit me especially hard, as I reflected on our government’s inability to legislate anything of substance, largely because of the conflicting egos on both sides of the political aisle.

But we dare not think of secularism as only political . . . it is far more personal than that. Secularism, in the ultimate sense, denies God and elevates man even as it denigrates the value of people–the unborn, the frail or those considered too flawed to live.  The fruit of a secularized, Godless society?  In what is believed to have been his last known letter, written before he was beheaded, the Apostle Paul warned:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money,
boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful,
unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God . . .

II Timothy 3:1-5

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When I started working on this post, I had no idea of the direction it would take.  It was the morning after watching my grandchildren, initially tentative, and then boldly waving sparklers in their backyard, that I was reminded of my own childhood and how there is so much more to the Fourth of July than fireworks.  As I finish this post, I am struck by the unknown challenges we face, and how very much we need the mindset of the Signers of what became a great nation.  They were imperfect men of courage, who saw themselves as created beings, accountable to their Creator.

The challenge Christians face in this ever darkening world that only knows the man-made “rush” of fireworks is: Will we courageously demonstrate the steadfast Light of God’s love and mercy to a world in need of a Savior?

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full . . . .
I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me . . . .”
 

John 10:10 & 14

All to His Glory!

Forgiveness: Facing-Off Evil In The Love And Mercy Of Christ . . . .

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

It is difficult to make sense of forgiveness, especially when it is extended to someone who brutally snuffed out the lives of innocent family members.  Such was the response of a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish community in 2006, when five young girls were brutally murdered and five others severely injured.  Not only did they forgive the shooter (who committed suicide at the scene), the Amish community extended their forgiveness by caring for his wife and three children who were left without a husband and father.

A similar scenario played out this past week in Charleston, South Carolina, where a stranger, welcomed into their church’s Bible study,  murdered the pastor and eight others.  Though still reeling from the loss of their loved ones, family members none-the-less made their way to the courtroom to extend forgiveness to the shooter as well as his family.

Where does such strength to forgive–such determination to face-off evil–come from?  After years of working with people in the Counseling Room, as well facing my own personal challenges, I can assure you that such forgiveness never comes easy.  Humanly speaking, we want to hold onto anger and hate; we desire to repay evil for evil.  Yet even from a health perspective, we know that to allow such things to hold sway for very long, is to allow the acidic erosion of our thinking to separate us from the God who saves.  James 4 speaks to the inward struggle we face:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you?"  James 4:1

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James 4:1

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill . . . .You do not have because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

James 4:1-3

The good news is that God desires better for us and calls us to Himself as the Shepherd of our hearts.  In the end, forgiveness is God’s means of deepening a faith relationship between Himself and His people.  Jesus said,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.… “

Matthew 11:28, 29

That rest for your souls, is embedded in the knowledge that God, who is merciful as well as just, will not forget the burden you surrendered to Him.  If not repented of, God’s justice will prevail.  With this in mind, God asks but one question, “Will you trust Me in this?”

Forgiveness, pure and simple, is a God-thing . . . it is not something we can conjure up alone.  What is the critical ingredient needed to face-off evil when life hits us hard?  Forgiveness . . . that is grounded in the love and mercy of Jesus.  As forgiveness is applied in humility and faith, the evidence of God’s Presence in the hearts of His people is revealed.  

The declaration Paul made to his friends in Galatia, when they were in danger of entering into the bondage of legalism, is a good reminder to us when we are tempted to hold on to bitterness and anger:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

  • Forgiveness is a decision, that reflects the mercy received through God’s only Son.
  • Forgiveness comes alive and is believable, only as acts of mercy follow it.
  • Forgiveness chooses, to trust in God’s ultimate justice.

Forgiveness is the ultimate means whereby God’s people are truly freed–
to live for, love and serve Him with glad hearts.

All to His Glory!

 

 

Simple Kindness, Prayerfully Applied . . . .

It wasn’t until we lived in England, that I learned there is a difference between niceness and kindness.  As one friend put it, “Kathie, ice cream is ‘nice’, kindness goes deeper.”  Looking at several dictionaries this morning, I found the distinction between the two terms is best understood by considering what is at the root of what niceness and kindness do and do not communicate:

Niceness: Synonyms–befitting, correct, decent, well-bred, proper, polite, respectable, seemly.  Antonyms–improper, inappropriate, incorrect, indecent, indecorous, unbecoming, ungenteel, unseemly

Kindness:  Synonyms–benevolence, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor, mercy, service.  Antonyms: coldheartedness, hard-heartedness, inhumanity, inhumanness, mercilessness, pitilessness

Niceness can tend to be a bit flashy (i.e. “Look at what I just did!”), kindness is more simply applied as it focuses on the needs of others.  It all boils down to this:

Love is kind . . . .

Love is kind . . . .

Niceness is about outward appearances,
Simple kindness, is often sacrificial as it reflects what is in the heart.
Simple kindness is a fruit of God’s Spirit.
Simple kindness, prayerfully applied, is rooted in God’s love. 
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 

I Corinthians 13:5

When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story about two societal “nice guys” and another man, viewed a societal reject in that day, who none-the-less, demonstrated simple kindness:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him  . . . beat him and . . . left him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He . . . bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  (Luke 10:30-35)

Jesus then asked this very important question,

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (verse 36)

The “expert in the law” responded to Jesus’ question–avoiding even mentioning the word, “Samaritan”–answered,  “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him (and continues to tell us), “Go and do likewise.”  (verse 37)

The Scriptures continue to call you and I to,

GO . . . “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:29),

GO . . . “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  (Romans 12:10)

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

What I have learned this week as I have thought about kindness is that:

To act in the simple kindness of Christ, does not require a lot of fanfare,
but for it to be truly effective as a fruit of God’s Spirit,
prayer is essential.

In my last post I wrote about the Duggar’s, a Christian family featured on a reality TV program called, Nineteen Kids and Counting.  Normally I would not write about people on a television program, but as I have watched this family be (essentially) ‘beaten and left for dead’ by elements of the societal elite of our day, I have been challenged to think about MY role in their story.  Am I one of the “nice guys” full of self-importance, who says, “Too bad for them”, as I continue on my busy way?  Or, do I stop and apply simple kindness by praying for the family and asking, “God, what would you have me do?”  

How about you?  Are there people or situations that you are aware of, but manage to “pass by on the other side”, because you feel like you cannot take on one more thing?  Perhaps you avoid listening to the news (like I sometimes do) because it is always seems to be so . . . dare I say it? . . . not very nice.  What I am learning is that, although the world is not a nice place to live and sometimes is even scary, simple kindness applies prayer to every situation, looking to Christ for wisdom as to when and how to help.  Simple kindness challenges each one of us to set aside fear, and even our busyness, as we learn what living by faith is truly all about.  

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:12 & 17

All to His Glory!

Sin That Cannot Be Undone . . . .

Last week I was sickened by hatred spewed by elements of the media, aimed at destroying a Christian family featured in a reality television program–Nineteen Kids and Counting.  I have been fascinated by how this unique family of nineteen homeschooled children seeks to live out their faith according to biblical principles.  To be honest, I have been humbled by their example of kindness and mercy extended toward others, even as they have been ridiculed for their faith.  I am not sure how long the program has been on, but I do know that it has been long enough to have featured the courtship and weddings of three of the Duggar children–long enough for the oldest son,  Josh, and his wife Anna, to have grown their family to include four children (the fourth child due some time this year.)  I have especially appreciated programs featuring Anna, as she has navigated the challenges of being a young wife and mother after moving to Washington, DC for a job opportunity that opened up for Josh.  Were I to say I have a favorite in the family, it would be Anna–as she has grown and matured tending her little “flock” with humor and grace, reached out to others in their new community and sought to be a good helpmate to Josh.

I admit that learning about Josh abusing some of his sisters when he was fourteen-years-old (he is now twenty-seven) was shocking.  Josh, to his credit, has not denied it.  In fact, he made a public apology that said (in part):

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends . . . . I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

Responses to his apology have been mixed, at best.  But, far more troubling to me were comments expressed on Facebook, by some who obviously enjoyed exposing “every dirty little secret” they could dig out about the family.  I found myself wondering about the source of such hatred that appeared to come so easy.  Of the two Facebook posts I read last weekend and the sixty-plus comments made in response to those posts, only one individual wrote what I found to be a helpful, credible response to Josh’s confession:

“I am a victim and mom who has had to walk this painful road
because of someone else’s sin. The difference”
(contrasting Josh Duggar’s response with her experience)
“–never has the perpetrator sought forgiveness
nor been quick to accept with such humility that they screwed up.
My heart is so broken for this family–and praying for them . . . .
The world holds Christians to a perfect standard-we are NOT perfect.” 

DSC02168 - Version 2

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously, without finding fault . . . .” James 1:5

SIN . . . whatever form it takes, is vile stuff.  In the Counseling Room we refer to sin as, “puke on God’s Throne” (II Peter 2:22) to emphasize the vileness of it.  Part of my role and responsibility as Counselor, is to help those I serve deal with sin that has impacted them–either their own sin or sin imposed on them by others.  By far, the sin that is the most challenging to address, is sin committed in the past that cannot be undone.

In no way can I excuse what Josh did, but there is some comfort in knowing that he has expressed his regrets and repented of his sin.  Also, I was grateful to hear that before marrying Anna, Josh owned up to his past–giving her the opportunity to walk away if she wanted to.  Anna chose to marry Josh and, as my grandma used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.”  It has been in watching Anna’s confidence grow in her role as wife, mother and friend that, I believe, reflects something good about the character of the man she married.

As Christian’s, we are challenged to respond to this family tragedy in a manner that honors Christ.  While it may be tempting to enter into the fray of condemnation encouraged by social media, we must take care that we avoid “puking on God’s Throne” as we consider the broken and prayerful example given us by a true victim of abuse.

There is much to be gleaned from the wisdom of Scripture to guide us.  A personal favorite of mine we frequently look to in the Counseling Room, is this passage in Romans:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”e
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:17-21

It is always comforting to remember, that as much as we may hate the pain and suffering sin inflicts on us and on those we love, God hates it more–“Vengeance is Mine, I WILL repay” the unrepentant sinner.  While we cannot know fully the depth of anyone’s confession, God’s Justice will ultimately prevail.

Our Challenge as Christians,
is to take care that we avoid heaping our own sin/puke on others as we pray for them,
rather than delighting in and exposing sin that cannot be undone.    

All to His Glory!

“No Wallet, One Shoe, So Grateful . . . . “

When I woke up this morning, it was the first time in ten days that I felt no pain in my head.  In fact, I only remembered my accident after glancing at my reflection in the bathroom mirror–though improving after passing so many days . . . oh my, what a shiner!  This week has been full of lessons about gratitude, humility and the difference they make in how we navigate our lives:

LESSON ONE:  Last Monday, while visiting my daughter and her family, I took a bit of a tumble.  Okay . . . truthfully, it was more like a crash and burn on concrete . . . SPLAT.  I counted it a blessing that I could pick myself up and made my way up the stairs–nothing broken except maybe my pride.  I kept an ice pack on my head and laid low for several hours, but was grateful to enjoy a good finish to our visit.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

LESSON TWO:  On Tuesday, I was no worse from my “tumble/crash” so was grateful to fly home with my husband.  As we traveled I saw several reports in the news about a study done by the Pew Research Center’s findings titled, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”  According to the report, while Christianity still dominates the American religious identity at 70 percent, “dramatic shifts” have taken place as “people move out the doors of denominations, shedding spiritual connections along the way.”  (USA Today)  I watched an interview featuring a thirty-something year old man, who was “raised in the church” but who “had no need” of “religion.”  None of this was a surprise to me, in fact, it confirmed what I have witnessed in my own community.  What caught my attention though, was the countenance of the young man who was interviewed–I saw a joylessness (a spiritual deadness) that weighed heavy on my heart.

Reflecting on the report, I shuddered as I wondered about the correlation between such spiritual deadness and the horrific violence being reported around the world.  It was then that I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote in his final letter to his young friend Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving,
slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous,
rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with such people.

 II Timothy 3:1-5

How are Christians to respond to such a world?  We are called to love others when given the opportunity, as Christ has loved us, in grateful humility–

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly . . . .
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

(Romans 5:6, 8b)

LESSON THREE: Wednesday morning, we woke up to the news of a deadly train derailment that occurred the previous evening.  Eight people were killed and hundreds injured.  The reports were grim, however, one bright spot stood out to me.  It was a tweet from one of the survivors at the scene,

“No wallet, one shoe, so grateful . . . . “

“No wallet, one shoe, so grateful….”  

As I processed the words of the tweet, I was surprised when I realized that tears were welling up in my eyes–what was that about?  It struck me that sometimes it takes our being stripped of everything we hold dear–truly humbled--that brings us to the point where we are grateful for the gift of our lives.  But here’s the proverbial “rub”:

What is the focus of such gratitude?

Is our gratitude simply for life itself?

Or, is our gratitude extended to the Giver of life?
Is there a difference?
Absolutely!  

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines gratitude as, “Having a due sense of benefits received; kindly disposed toward one from whom a favor has been received; willing to acknowledge and repay, or give thanks for . . . a grateful heart.”

The problem is:

♦  When there is no appreciation of favor having been extended to us by a merciful God, we end up serving ourselves (or others) as we fulfill what has become popularly known as our, “bucket list”.  

♦  With that, the benefits of gratitude and humility before a Holy God are totally lost on a world that is self-focused rather than esteeming God as Creator.

So what is our call?

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship,
with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  
Hebrews 12:29,29
(ESV)

LESSON FOUR: Remember that “tumble/crash” experienced on Monday?  On Thursday morning, I was shocked to see a dark purple “shiner” around my right eye when I looked in the mirror.  (Remember, I hit my head, not my eye!)  Also, the shooting pains in my head were increasing, growing from those sparklers used to celebrate special holidays to an ice pick.  Pride started to creep in when I thought about the Clients I had promised to see that day–should I cancel?  I remembered the Thessalonians 5 passage that encouraged me on Monday, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances . . . .”  With that, I started to put my makeup on extra thick–hoping they would not notice.

Of course, they did notice . . . but God was faithful in blessing both Sessions.  However, towards the end of the second Session my head started to throb.  I called my doctor; he sent me to the Emergency Room where I was immediately humbled when told, “Anyone in their sixties who hits their head needs to have a CT-scan.”  I was also told, “The idea that being fifty or sixty is ‘the new forty’  is a lie–period.”  I was too miserable to argue.  Thankfully, they found no fractures or blood clots formed so I was released to go home.

Since then, I learned that the flight may have exacerbated my symptoms.  In any case, even though I did not hit my eye when I fell, I did enough damage in my head to cause the internal bleeding to move to the soft tissue around my eye.

So what have I learned about gratitude and humility from all of this?

  1. l am grateful for how the accident caused me to slow down enough these past ten days to begin thinking about their importance before God.
  2.  I guess it all boils down to the reminder in Lesson Three: “No Wallet, One Shoe, So Grateful . . . .”  If God is the focus of our gratitude, our response will keep Him at the center of what we think, say or do.

All to His Glory!