Principle #4: The Bible Is Not A Cookbook . . . .

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to help others–myself included–is to use the Bible as if it were a cookbook. You know . . . having a handy list of Bible verses to fix problems such as fear, anger, depression, anxiety, and the loss of a loved one with a Bible verse or two.  Oh, there are times when hearing the right verse at the right time, can do wonders to give Light and even Hope to someone in trouble.  But to use the Bible to fix problems, rather than to minister to the heart is JUST PLAIN WRONG!

Principle #4:

Rejoice Always!

The Bible is not a cookbook meant to fix problems,
but is God’s means of extending Endurance and Encouragement
and Hope to the hurting,
as well equipping us to do good works. 

I confess that when I began counseling I looked for verses that hit problems head-on with answers that would get my Clients up and going.  Over time, however, I realized that using the Scripture as if it were a bandaid, rarely penetrated the remaining infection lurking deep inside.

As I prayed for wisdom, I discovered blessing through the example of the Apostle Paul:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11b-13

It was Paul’s testimony of living a life full of heartache and disappointment (as well as blessing), that changed my approach to helping others.  Instead of looking to the Scriptures for answers, I looked for the light of God’s perspective that ultimately yielded an unflagging faith.  Romans 15:4 speaks well to how God intends the Scriptures to be used:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us,
so that through the Endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the Encouragement they provide we might have Hope.”

Romans 15:4

Instead of immediate answers, I learned to:

  • Admit that I don’t know why God allows hurt to enter our lives.
  • Offer the kindness of listening as God has done for me when I have been in dark places
  • Extend meaningful Scripture passages (rather than a single verse) knowing that God uses what He will in ministering to the broken heart.

Are you in a hurting place today, looking for answers to your problems?
Do you know someone you want to help, but don’t know how?

We live in a culture  focused on self-esteem yet we are miserable. It may seem counter-intuitive to address problems as God calls us to, but might I suggest that:

It takes far more courage and determination to live out a Faith
that yields an Eternal Hope in Someone outside of our ourselves.  

As we shift our focus from viewing the Bible as a cookbook, we find Endurance, Encouragement and Hope in a faithful God who Shepherds our hearts.   With that discovery, we can gratefully yield to the gift God means for Scripture to be:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness,
so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped
for every good work.”
II Timothy 3:16

All to His Glory!

Principle #3: When You Find Yourself Talking To Yourself . . . .

It was one of those rare jewels that you tuck away, not so much because of its beauty, but because you recognize its potential.  

Principle #3:

Whenever you find yourself talking to yourself,
you’re probably sinning.
Switch gears and TALK TO GOD INSTEAD!

My friend Sharon said a missionary friend had sent it to her saying, “it was too rich not to pass on”–and she was right!   For almost thirty years I have learned to rejoice in God’s provision of conviction that draws me to repentance and a deeper reliance on Him.  In the Counseling Room it has saved many a heart from hardening, as God has reminded each Client to talk to Him more.

When given this jewel, its truth made me chuckle as I remembered a “conversation” I’d entertained earlier in the day:

“I don’t have to put up with that!  I should’a said this, and I could’a done that . . .
boy oh man, that was so unfair!”  

Sound familiar?

In a contentious, mean-spirited world, sin comes all too easily.  It is tempting to say the growing ugliness that surrounds us is unique.  However, I suspect that the times Jesus lived in were no less difficult or dangerous.  The point is (humanly speaking), when sinned against, it is difficult to resist responding in kind.
So how can we avoid the trap?  Switch Gears!

SWITCH GEARS by:

  1. Confessing the sin that has crept in–whether it came at your own invitation or snuck in there.
  2. Refusing to continue down the path you were on.
  3. Talk to God (pray!) instead by first giving thanks to Him for sending His Son to free you from, “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1*)

Switching gears spiritually comes up frequently in the Counseling Room.  To begin the process we use what I refer to as, the Triangle Illustration.  The Triangle Illustration asks two questions:

  1. Who (or what) is (or was) the major influence over the decision made in a certain situation.
  2. Was God the primary influence? Or was it something (or someone) else?

The local Pregnancy Help Center (was located below my old office) serves as a helpful illustration as to how The Triangle Illustration works:

When a woman who was abortion-minded came to the Center, her Counselors would draw the Triangle Illustration on a white board.  She would then write the woman’s name in the bottom right-hand corner, and “unwanted pregnancy” in the bottom left corner.  The Counselor would ask the question, “Who (or what) is the major influence in considering aborting your baby?”  Whatever the woman said, was written at the top of the triangle.  (Many times it was pressure from others, fear or the inconvenience of it.)

Then the Counselor would talk from the perspective of the Scriptures.  How before God every life is precious and that ultimately we will be held accountable for out decisions.  Just that simple perspective was often enough to help the woman shift gears from having an abortion, to trust God to provide the help she was going to need in making further decisions.

For many years the Triangle Illustration has been a useful tool for my Clients (as well as myself) to keep God as the Ruler over our hearts. In those seasons when such things as hurt, fear, anger, pride or our desire to please others threaten, it gives clarity that has kept such sin from finding its way to the Top.

However justifiable we may believe that placement to have been,
allowing anything less than God to influence our hearts is an idol.

Also, God’s call to, “Love thy neighbor” is an impossibility, unless we make loving Him our first priority.

Be encouraged when He calls you through conviction, to trust Him to love others as Christ has loved you.  This verse from Proverbs is one that nails the importance of our response to His call each and every day.

“Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
Proverbs 4:23

All to His Glory!

*Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . .”

Principle #2: The Battle is Real . . . .

Much of our decision-making is based on how we perceive God.  That is why we focus a large percentage of time in the Counseling Room on God’s character.   Steadfast belief in the good and  faithful character of God–as modeled when Christ walked on the earth–is what grows an enduring faith.  Just as Jesus sought to calm the hearts of His disciples as He prepared them for what was about to happen, we also find comfort and, yes–peace in Him–no matter what we may experience:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace.
In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

In my last post, Principle #1: God Convicts/He Does Not “Guilt”, I wrote about the importance of being able to distinguish between the voice of God as our Shepherd, and the voice(s) of the world that promote doubt in God’s faithfulness.  That post focused on God as the Shepherd of our hearts and the gift of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin to:

  1. Call us to repentance before God and
  2. To deepen our faith as we give thanks to God for His love and mercy
The Battle is Real . . . .

In this post, we will enlarge our view of the very real spiritual battle that will continue until Christ’s return:

Principle #2:

The Battle is real.
While Satan intends us harm,
God uses it for our good–
to promote spiritual maturity as we learn to trust Him more.

The Battle is not new.  To doubt God’s goodness (which is exactly what Eve did in the Garden) is to play Satan’s game.  In fact, when you read Adam’s response to God when hiding from his Creator, Adam compounded their sin with this response:

“The woman YOU PUT HERE WITH ME—
she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Genesis 3:12

To besmirch God’s character, by blaming Him for our sin,
is a practice as old as time itself, and
is something we continue to be very, very good at.

In the Counseling Room we go to Ephesians 6:10-13 for clarity regarding The Battle and our call to rely on Him:

“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.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that WHEN the day of evil comes,
you may be able to STAND YOUR GROUND, and
after you have done everything,
to STAND.”
 

As I reflect on this passage, what strikes me is that God does not call us to be Super Heroes.
HE is meant to be the SUPER HERO and our part is to TRUST IN HIM!
KA-POW*!!!

A faith-filled life is what God wants for us.  He knows we will fall down/doubt Him in our journey; but He encourages us to turn to Him in repentant faith as He enables us to stand.

Broadening our understanding of God’s character is the major part of our work in the Counseling Room.  This is not to say that we don’t talk about and mourn the impact problems have on life–because we DO.  But to look at ourselves, at God and the challenges we face through the lens of Scripture is what ultimately helps us make sense of the craziness around us.  II Corinthians 4 is one of my favorite places to gain perspective when feeling overwhelmed by challenges or loss:

“Therefore we do not lose heart . . . . For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

(Verses 16-18)

As to God’s character, one of my favorites is the description of God’s response to our running away from problems (and Him):

“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!”
Isaiah 30:18

Yes, The Battle is REAL and the stakes are high.  But with every step we take in faith, the tumult and fear of the world drops away as we learn to trust the Shepherd of our hearts.  Are you feeling stuck in a dark place in your life right now?  This invitation given by Christ was especially engraved with YOUR name on it:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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

All to His Glory!

* A “ka-pow” describes the moment when the  color patterns in a kaleidoscope shift and a new pattern falls into place that takes your breath away.  A “ka-pow” moment describes when the ordinary suddenly becomes cosmic . . . when the everyday shifts to the sublime . . . Ka-Pow! 

 

 

 

 

 

Godly-Discipline: Stubborn, Steadfast, Grace-Centered Love . . . .

This is the sixth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to urge you, to trust in God no matter what your circumstance may be. ❤️

WORDS TO GROW BY:

“Let your conversation be always full of grace,
seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Colossians 4:6

“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 . . . .”

II Timothy 3:1-3

Are we in the last days?  We do not know, but certainly we are closer than the Apostle Paul was when he wrote his letter to Timothy 2,000 years ago.  What we DO know, is that God gifted us with the Scriptures to equip us with everything we need to navigate through life.

When it comes to disciplining/discipling older children (pre-teen, teen and young adult), the challenge for us is often to resist being run by fear, anger or resentment.  Instead, Godly discipline endeavors to provide the stubborn, steadfast love (GRACE) we otherwise lack.

Godly Discipline: Stubborn, Steadfast, GRACE-Centered Love . . . .

In this post Godly discipline, as it relates to GRACE, will be our focus as Insights #8 through 12* (posted 5/8/17) are expanded.  The following are the Insights touched on in that post:

  • Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.
  • Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart. 
  • Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it.
  • Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  
  • Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

When it comes to connecting GRACE to Godly discipline,
stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centered love is key.

One of my favorite examples of a parent extending stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centered love in the Bible was a parable told by Jesus.  The story begins with the youngest son demanding his inheritance from his father.  The father gave it to him and, soon after, the son left to squander his inheritance on everything that went against what his father had taught him.

Jesus does not comment about what the father knew or thought, He only says that the father did as his son demanded of him.  Almost predictably, this is what happened to the son:

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine . . . and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out . . . to feed pigs.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating,
but no one gave him anything.
“WHEN HE CAME TO HIS SENSES, the son said,
‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare,
and here I am starving to death!
I will set out and go back to my father
and say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son;
make me like one of your hired servants.’”
Luke 15: 14-19

A thought to ponder: Repentance inspired by conviction is beautiful in God’s sight.  

Most certainly, the father who thought he’d lost his son forever, saw such beauty in the face of his son . . . even at a distance:

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him,
and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

(verse 20)

 

But there was a second son, the older brother, who was less than delighted to hear music and dancing when he came in from the field.  When he learned that the festivities were in honor of his “low life” brother, well . . . suffice it to say, he was extremely unhappy:

“‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you . . .
I have never neglected a command of yours;
and yet you have never given me a young goat,
so that I might celebrate with MY friends;
but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes,
you killed the fattened calf for him.’
 “

Luke 15:29 & 30

Humanly speaking, most of us can relate to the older brother’s anger. But jealousy combined with self-righteousness is as ugly as the sins of the younger brother.  The father’s reply reflects God’s call to forgive as we have been forgiven:

““And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.
‘But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead
and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 15:31-32

In these times of uncertainty, when children raised in Christian families are denying the faith they were raised in, do not give way to despair–God is absolutely worthy of your trust.  Insights 8 through 12 are especially meant to encourage you:

  • Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.  The older my children, the more precious the gift of PRAYER became.  There is no greater weapon when applied in stubborn, steadfast, grace-centered love that rests in God’s Sovereign Goodness.
  • Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart.  Lean on God and the Scriptures to know when to speak and when to be silent.  Remember that the spiritual battle for souls has been ongoing since the Fall–trust God to help you stay on His path.
  • Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it . . . but also resist the temptation to make a mountain of it.  Learn from the father who, after all had been said and done, let his son go his own way.  (You can bet that in the weeks/months/years after his younger son left, prayer became his greatest ally as he watched for his sons return.)
  • Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  (Review Insight #6 for my perspective on this.)  If grounding is necessary to keep them safe, do what you can to draw that child closer by spending time with them.  I taught one of my daughters to sew during such a season and looked for ways to build good character by serving others with all of them.  Attending church worship and youth group activities were maintained as part of our regular routine.  Lastly, encourage them to get into the Scriptures for themselves by making Journey Notes entries.  (See Journey Notes Praise Journaling page).
  • Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

Along the pathway of raising children, prayers such as, “Lord, I didn’t know it was going to be so hard”, are common.  It is my prayer that blessing will abound in your life (no matter what the season), as you seek God’s wisdom in applying His stubborn, steadfast, GRACE-centerer love to those He puts on your path.

All to His Glory!

*The Key to Godly Discipline
**To read the story in Luke 15, PRESS HERE.

 

 

BOLD TRUST . . . .

How do you respond when the unexpected becomes a reality . . . when people disappoint you and what means most is taken away? Me? By nature, I shy away from conflict. I tend to be a runner, especially when fear grips my heart.  When forced to face my fears, I have been known to come out fighting–like a bulldog on steroids–angry because I feel very alone and trapped.  That is why I find this passage in Isaiah so meaningful:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

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

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

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.”
Isaiah 30:15-17

Yep, setting aside any thought of turning to God to confess my fears and trust in Him, that’s me . . . or at least is was me.  How about you?

It would be devastating if the passage ended there.  Thankfully it doesn’t:

“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!
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.'”

(Isaiah 30:18, 21)

Over time God has given me a boldness to trust Him despite my fears.
It is a gift that I treasure and is what I endeavor to pass on to my clients–
a deeper appreciation for God as Sovereign and Good.

I was captivated when I heard the testimony of Lynsi Snyder, America’s youngest female billionaire.  Lynsi was also a runner and bears testimony to the Sovereign Goodness of God.  Watch and listen to her story of how her decision to stop running and boldly trust in God changed everything:

In Psalm 30:11 & 12 King David declared,

“You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.”

Because He is faithful . . . He is worthy of your trust!

ALL To His Glory!

*Lynsi Snyder, a White Chair Film – I Am Second®

A Passion to Build Upon . . . .

 

In my last post I asked this question, “What’s Your Passion?”  It is a question that has been on my heart since entering 2017. Figuring out what I am passionate about (and the motivation behind that passion) has been a healthy challenge for me.  I decided to pass it on to you–What are YOU passionate about?– in the hope that you also would be challenged to identify your own passions.

In that post I wrote about a developing passion of mine: writing.  I say, “developing” because I really don’t think of myself as a writer at all.  For me, writing is difficult, often frustrating work that continually morphs from one idea to another.  I keep at it (and all of its frustrations) because of a mysterious “something” that happens when all those thoughts–those bunny trails of ideas–finally begin to tie together and I can finish my post. I write because it’s a calling–it is what I know God would have me do.  It has become a “developing passion” as He has opened my mind and heart to the thoughts and ideas I am privileged to pass on to you. 

"Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden . . . ."
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden . . . .

After publishing that post, I was forced to dig deeper into why I am passionate about certain things.  

Finally I asked God to help me
not only to identify my own passions,
but also to grasp the influences that drive them.
That is when I gained the wisdom and perspective
I was looking for.

It was as if He opened a gate into new insights that go far deeper than I imagined, fulfilling what King Solomon was referring to when he wrote about relationships:

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:12

God has given us relationships so we can help one another through life.  Two are better than one!  But, when it comes to facing difficulty, we need God’s strength and perspective to provide the wisdom we lack. I share these insights into my personal passions, in the hope that it will encourage you to go deeper in understanding your own.  I am passionate about (not necessarily in this order):

  1. PEOPLE–People matter.  I am passionate about listening to people, especially when they are hurting, because I know it helps to be heard.
  2. GOD–God saved me from myself for Himself–He heard my cry for help!  In the nearly 50 years since then, He has proven to me His faithfulness in difficulty as well as in times of ease.
  3. SCRIPTURE–Probably my deepest passion is connecting hurting people to a faithful, caring God, with the wisdom and perspective of the Scriptures.  I see miracles all the time as God faithfully ministers to the hearts and minds of those who seek Him.  It is an addiction that I hope will never leave me.

Only now am I beginning to see, that the foundation of my passion for writing
has been built upon my love and passion for people, God and Scripture.

But there’s a problem with passion; it can lead us into darkness when left unchecked.  I have known such darkness many times, times when it appeared there was no hope remaining . . . when despair ruled and sickened me with fear and anger.  So how are we to avoid the passions of others that swirl around us without getting pulled down with them?  Many times we are tempted to distance ourselves . . . to turn our backs for whatever reason.  But when we do that, we lose the window of opportunity God has opened for us–“to love as He has loved us.”

Instead of abandoning others in distress, God calls us to submit ourselves to Him as we first examine our own hearts.  This passage in James chills me to the bone with it’s truthfulness, yet it reminds me to keep my own passion in check as I love others by following God’s lead:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires
(your passions) that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill.
You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
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.

You adulterous people, don’t you know
that friendship with the world means enmity against God?
Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world
becomes an enemy of God.
Or do you think Scripture says without reason
that He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us?
That is why Scripture says:
‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.'”
James 4:1-6

To listen and act in the love and humility of Jesus is what Christians are called to.  In these times of uncertainty I am saddened when I see blind passion assuming the worst of others with differing views.  Whatever your passion, I urge you to:

  1. Go to God with thanksgiving for His love and mercy extended on the Cross through His Son.
  2. Give thanks that His plans ARE being worked out in these uncertain times as you confess our own struggle with fear.
  3. Ask Him to help you look for the good that is being accomplished despite the turmoil–sometimes even because of the turmoil!  (Believe me, there are amazing things God is doing if you take time to look!)

So dear friend . . . what’s YOUR passion?

All to His Glory!