More Than Words: On Being Christ In An Angry World . . . .

Living in a world where anger comes increasingly easy and words are used as weapons rather than a means of blessing, can be frightening. It is tempting to get angry and play the child’s game of, “tit for tat”. But as followers of Christ, called to be in the world but not of the world, we are instructed to love and forgive in the mercy granted to us because of Christ..

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I write this with Christ’s call to peace in mind:

“Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

This week I gained insight into our penchant to hate when anger or fear take control   The wisdom of James, half-brother to Jesus, written over two thousand years ago, rings truth today::

“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 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.”

James 4:1-4

Our word choices matter.
They reflect how we view ourselves,
how we relate to the world around us and, most importantly,
how we perceive God.

But God’s concern for His people is less about words
and more about attitude and action.
When hate comes easy, we distance ourselves from the One we are called to serve.

So how can we make things right?

Step One: Pray through the words of James and ask God to check the motives of your heart. Are you right with Him or are there areas that need to be confessed and made right?  Don’t put it off! Take care of it now and I guarantee your heart will feel a lot lighter.

Step Two: Ask God for the names of three people you would otherwise never pray for.  Jesus said we are to love and pray for our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) so start praying and be faithful to watch for miracles large and small.

Step Three: Take your focus off of yourself.  Ask God to show you how you can love the people in your life better as you choose to trust Him more.

In recent weeks I have been encouraged and found direction from the Apostles who faced every sort of difficulty we face–and much more. I invite you to consider the wisdom of Peter and Paul:

“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another,
because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that He may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

I Peter 5: 5b-7

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you
to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage . . . .”
Philippians 2:3-6

Humility is beautiful in God’s eyes, something we fail to see. Ask God to embrace humility as you determine to trust Him in every area of your life..

Do you yearn for authentic relationships? Then take your focus off yourself and look to being a blessing in the lives of others as Christ leads.

This is one I go to often:

Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud . . .
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
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.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:9, 12-21

Looking for wisdom and direction in times such as these?  Look no further than the Scripture as you love others, not because they deserve it, but because it reflects Christ’s  love poured out on you.  Life is more than words . . . much, much more!

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause
righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.”

Isaiah 61:11

All to His Glory!

When Sin Replaced Love . . . .

When you think about relationships and the memories that go with them, what comes to your mind?  Being a “glass-half-full” kind of gal (and slightly corny), when I think about relationships and the memories that go with them, I initially think along the lines of Barbra Streisand singing, “The Way We Were”: 

“Memories
Like the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories
Of the way we were . . . .”

I enjoy remembering childhood summers at Pismo Beach with family and how my dashingly handsome husband watched and waited as my dad guided me down the church aisle 47 years ago. I still cherish the delight that filled my heart the first time I spoke of, “my daughter”, as I walked down the hallway to the hospital nursery to retrieve her.

But if we are honest, life is not full of “misty watercolor memories” because relationships are frequently painful, confusing and confounding.  At times we are tempted to isolate ourselves from God and other people to avoid that pain.  The problem is that when we do, other pains emerge–loneliness and depression.

One of the things I appreciate about the Bible is how it provides glimpses into the dramatic shift that took place in our relationship with God and with others when sin replaced love in the Garden:

“When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden.
So they hid from the LORD God among the trees.
Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He replied, ‘I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid.
I was afraid because I was naked.’
‘Who told you that you were naked?’ the LORD God asked.”
Genesis 3: 8-11
New Living Translation

God made us first and foremost for a relationship with Him.

Casually fellowshipping with God, without the turmoil sin creates is difficult to imagine.  But deep down, I believe it is what we long for. From the very beginning God created us for loving relationships. When sin entered the Garden and became the “new normal”, love was lost along with the deep fellowship enjoyed in the Garden.  Jesus affirmed this when He responded to a question about what He considered to be the greatest of God’s commandments:

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind’. . . .

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Matthew 22:37-39

  • God made us, first and foremost, for a relationship with Him.
  • Secondarily, He made us for relationships with one another.

Where sin creates chaos and disunion, the basis for meaningful relationships (love) has never changed:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us
and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

I John 4:10

In fact, truly meaningful relationships are rarely formed in a vacuum of pleasantries and ideals. The truth is that the challenges of pain and disappointment in our relationships, when addressed with God’s love and the wisdom of Scripture, provide greater opportunities for spiritual growth than anything we might conjure up for ourselves.    

The wisdom and perspective offered in Romans 12 directs us to keep our priorities straight as we relate to others, even when disappointment threatens:

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” 
(Verses 
10-12)

As we dedicate ourselves to being “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” we discover the sweeter path to His Hope and Light penetrating even the bitterest of relationships.

But what are we to do with those memories that seem to stalk us, like shadows that grow larger over a distance?  The words of the Apostle Paul, written while in a stinking Roman prison cell, lends the sweetness of wisdom that has transformed even the most heinous of memories for two thousand years:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

Feeling defeated by sin and yearning for love?  Are you stuck in a prison cell of unforgiveness?  Perhaps you have been hurt and feel forgotten?  Are you frustrated with life and your relationships?  Perhaps you are so filled with regrets that you can see no way of making things right?  Then follow the wisdom of Scripture and the law of loving sacrificially by trusting and honoring God in the NOW.  Repent of the selfish turmoil that has overtaken you and give thanks to God for His love and mercy extended through the sacrifice of His only Son.  As you do, I guarantee that He can and will clean out the sludge of your bitterest memory as you determine to trust and walk in sweet fellowship with Him..

All to His Glory!

The Key to Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fifth in a series of posts featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share some of those insights to testify to His faithfulness. ❤️

WORDS TO GROW BY:

“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.”
I Peter 3:10

“To love life and see good days“–isn’t that what most of us yearn for?  Yet when our goals are skewed by unrealistic, worldly ideals such as–living a perfect, happily-ever-after kind of life–we are more prone to depression than true joy.  The problem none of us can escape is that life can be messy–exceedingly so–and when it is, SIN is often at the center of it.  There are times when, no matter how well organized or disciplined the effort, even our best laid plans can be thwarted.

In my last post I wrote about the connection between discipline and discipleship, using II Timothy 3:16, 17 as the framework for Godly discipline:

“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.”

In that post I shared seven insights about Godly discipline:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied.  (Hence, there is no place for the foolish maxim: “Do as I say, not as I do.”)
Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events. (Teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness should be an on-going part of family relating.)
Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children. (Only those who enter into a personal relationship with Christ has the assurance of being a child of God–John 1:12, 13)
Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority. (The strength of those relationships, will likely be invaluable as you support each other through the tougher seasons.)
Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT! We especially enjoyed learning about the lives of Christian heroes, various series of books as well as reading the Bible itself.
Insight #6: When disciplining your children–draw them close to you–rather than isolate them.  (Such times can provide special opportunities to minister the mind and heart.)
Insight #7: Along the way, look for opportunities to bring laughter, adventure, and ways to serve others into your family routine.

In this post I will share additional insights into Godly discipline as it connects to love and truth using Hebrews 12:10 & 12 as our basis,

“Our fathers disciplined us for a short time as they thought best,
but God disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness.
No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.
Later on, however, it yields a peaceful harvest of righteousness
to those who have been trained by it.…”  

The passage speaks:

  • Assurance to all with this declaration of LOVEGod disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. 
  •  TRUTH with its promise of ultimate blessing (a peaceful harvest of righteousness) to those who choose to trust God.

I share the following story to help you appreciate my five remaining insights:

Prayer . . . the Key to Godly Discipline

We had one preteen and two teenagers in our home.  At times, the pressure was immense–especially in making last minute decisions.  In fact, looking back I can see that I was starting to shut-down–saying “no” to almost every request.  Feeling convicted, I turned to God.  I confessed my bad attitude and asked for His help. Nothing remarkable occurred when I prayed, except that I felt slightly more hopeful.  However, several days later, after another request was made, I was startled when these words came out of my mouth:

“I”m not sure.  If you have to have an answer NOW,
then the answer has to be NO.

But if you’ll let me pray about it . . . we’ll see.”

I was shocked by my inward calmness, and their response was amazing–they backed off completely!  In fact, they very wisely would approach me almost warily saying, “I’m not demanding an answer, Mom, but . . . have you prayed yet?”

That was the day I learned the importance of setting an example as a praying mom before my kids.  Where before, every request made was a burden, I learned the importance of setting an example of prayer.  With that new parameter in place, my kids approached me with greater respect as they asked, “Mom, have you prayed yet?”  The results?  The majority of the time I was able to answer, “Yes but . . . “–adding some qualifiers to assure their safety.  When I had to say no, they never argued; I suspect they already knew it was wasn’t a good idea.

By far the best part was that my kids saw me
as a praying mom (rather than a roadblock mom)
who honestly cared about them.

Insight #8:  The key to effective Godly discipline is PRAYER.

God is all about relationships–our relationship with Him as well as with one another.  When we keep Him at the center of how we relate to others through reading the Scriptures and prayer, we are blessed with the wisdom and perspective we otherwise lack.  Ecclesiastes affirms this in 4:9-12,

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If either of them falls down,
the other can help him up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

When we keep God and the Scriptures as our third strand to guide us, humble thanksgiving becomes a friend and our prayers are more effective.

Insight #9: Speak truth in love–relying on the Scriptures for the best means of ministering to the mind and heart. 

There are many passages in Scripture that provide what is needed to speak truth in love.   Ephesians 4:17-32 is one of my favorites, especially verse 29:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth,
but only such a word as is good for edification
according to the need of the moment,
so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Insight #10:  When dealing with sin, resist the temptation to minimize it.

SIN is not “a mistake”, nor is it merely “a phase” that kids go through.  Sin is a contemptuous act that is offensive to God.  Much of the messiness of life is the result of sinful attitudes and actions.  II Peter speaks powerfully about the plight of Christians who take sin lightly:

If they have escaped the corruption of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
and are again entangled in it and are overcome,
they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.
It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness,
than to have known it and then to turn their backs
on the sacred command that was passed on to them.
Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”
and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.
II Peter 2: 20-22

Referring to sin as, PUKE ON GOD’S THRONE–your own included–serves as a good reminder of the grossness of sin.

Insight #11: With older children/teens, resist using long-term restriction as a weapon.  

While temporarily taking away certain privileges may be necessary to keep them safe, I recommend using what I call, prayerful regrouping, as you lean on God to help you minister to their hearts rather than to simply isolate them.  (See Insight #6 in my previous post for the reasoning behind this.  I will expand on this in my next post.)

Insight #12: Problems seldom occur at convenient times.  Check your attitude by giving thanks that God’s timing is always perfect. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed, “Lord, I didn’t know it was going to be so hard!” Life IS hard, but God is EXCEEDINGLY GOOD to those who seek Him for the wisdom and perspective they lack.  James 4:7 declares:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Satan uses doubt to separate us from God.
By refusing to doubt God’s Sovereign Goodness,
He will provide the courage and strength you lack.  

All to His Glory~

 

 

The Lost Art of Godly Discipline . . . .

This is the fourth post in a series featuring ways God
used my family and the Scriptures to draw me closer to Himself.
I share them to encourage you to trust in God, no matter what life brings. ❤️

As a child of the 50’s, I grew up thinking discipline was synonymous with punishment.  When I became a parent, I accepted the necessity of spanking as part of the arsenal of weapons parents used to communicate the seriousness of their children’s “crimes”.   As time passed, however, I became personally convicted about spanking my children, because too often, my anger took control and I spanked them harder than was necessary.

The Fruit of Godly Discipline~😊

In my last post, I wrote about how God brought order to my home after I surrendered my heart to Christ.  It was at that time that He replaced my penchant for perfectionism with Himself.  It was also then, that I became convicted that my efforts in parenting were too often motivated by:

  1. My anger at my children, and/or
  2. My fear of losing control, thinking–If I can’t control them when they’re small, what on earth will I do when they get into their teens?

The problem was, I didn’t know what to replace it with. Initially, I recognized my children still needed discipline so, I replaced spanking with yelling–A LOT!  (It was amazing how quickly they were able to tune me out!)  I struggled with feeling helpless and foolish most of the time in my efforts to parent.

 It was not until I learned:

  1. Discipline and punishment are NOT synonymous.
  2. “Disciple” is the root word of discipline.
  3. God shepherds the hearts of His own by leading (not beating) them! 

that “the lost art of Godly discipline” came into view.

So what is the difference between discipline and punishment?  The simple wisdom of Christian motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, is full of insight:

We need to understand the difference
between discipline and punishment.
Punishment is what you do TO someone;
discipline is what you do FOR someone.

The difference between the dictionary definitions of the two is stark:

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary affirms Ziglar’s assertion with this definition of discipline:“Training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”
  2. Punishment is defined as, “suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution.”

Between the two choices, discipline is certainly preferable to punishment when it comes, not only to raising children but also in how we want to be treated by our Creator.

Yet, as I look at culture today (even Christian culture), it is very apparent that many children are not receiving the benefits of discipline.  Sadly, as culture has embraced the notion of developing high self-esteem, parents have been remiss in teaching the difference between right and wrong, as well as God’s mandate that we love Him and our neighbor.  The results?  Just listening to the nightly news says it all.

So how was I to proceed as a Christian parent?  The wisdom and truth of II Timothy 3:16, 17 drew me:

“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.”

It was then that I committed to depending on the Scriptures, prayer, and the leading of God’s Spirit to teach this servant of God, how to discipline/disciple my children.  Along the way, I received the assurance that God did not expect perfection from me as a parent.  All He wanted from me was a teachable heart:

“He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
Isaiah 40:11

The following are insights that guided me through the process of discovering the art of  Godly discipline:

Insight #1: Godly discipline has to be learned before it can be applied. 

God convicted me early-on with this thought:

If you want your children (or your grandchildren) to take you seriously,
MAKE YOUR OWN BED BEFORE REQUIRING THEM TO MAKE THEIRS!*
 

Insight #2: Godly discipline is meant to be a lifestyle, not a series of events.

 I found great encouragement in this beautiful word picture given the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your strength.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up.”

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Insight #3: God does not have grandchildren; He only has children.

This piece of wisdom came from Corrie Ten Boom, author of one of my favorite books, The Hiding Place.  I had read her book to my children, so they had great respect for its author.  I reminded our children of this at various stages in their lives, pointing out that being raised in a Christian home did not make them followers of Jesus Christ.

Insight #4: Make regular worship at a Bible-teaching church and fellowship with other Believers a priority.

Early in my walk with Jesus, I learned: “There is no such thing as a ‘Lone Ranger’ Christian.”  Worship of God with other Believers became our priority. I remain grateful for how our church family has loved us through good and tough times.  Having relationships with other adult Believers benefited our kids greatly through the “teen years”–when Mom and Dad were “uncool”.

Insight #5: Help your children think biblically by reading to them–A LOT!

Early on I discovered God uses reading to shepherd our hearts.  I especially loved summers when we had larger blocks of time to read all kinds of books.  As my children grew (early elementary age and above) we enjoyed reading true stories about the lives of other Christians–Corrie Ten Boom’s, The Hiding Place, Joni Ericksen Tada’s story as well as Hudson Taylor, Eric Liddell, Gladys Aylward, David Livingston, and George Muller are but a few of those we enjoyed.  We also read the Narnia, Little House and Lord of the Rings series as well as delving into the wisdom of the Bible.  (Reading The Hiding Place and Joni’s Story in the shelter of our home, gave opportunity to talk about sin, the human heart and how God blesses His children through adversity.)

Insight #6: When disciplining your child–draw them in–rather than isolate them.

I’ve never understood the practice of sending children to their room when they get into trouble.  When my children needed discipline, I viewed that time as an opportunity to minister to their hearts.  This is the pattern we followed when they were small and required discipline:

  1. They stood in the corner of the room where I was working (usually the kitchen) with the timer set and their hands behind their back (to help them think about what they had done rather than get distracted.)  If they fidgeted in the corner, more time was added– they soon learned to settle into their corner as I continued to work!)
  2. When the timer dinged, I sat on a chair and they either sat on my lap or stood in front of me.  (The main intent here was to make good eye contact.)
  3.   I then asked, “Why did you have to stand in the corner?”  I soon found this to be a critical piece of the discipline process–especially when they were a bit fuzzy about what they had done wrong.
  4. We then talked about what had happened, the sin that was involved, and then, how to make things right again.  (Often it was to apologize to one of their siblings.)
  5. Before we went on with our day I prayed for them–about what they had done but always with thanksgiving to God for their lives and His plan for their future.

As they grew the pattern adjusted.  Rather than stand in the corner, I assigned appropriate passages of Scripture for them to read and apply in a short essay. (The intent was to help them take sin seriously by going to God in confession and faith.)

Insight #7: Along the way, watch for ways to bring laughter, adventure, and opportunities to serve others into your family routine. 

I Timothy 6:17-19 pictures this beautifully:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant
nor to put their hope in wealth . . .but to put their hope in God,
who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
Command them . . . to be rich in good deeds . . . to be generous and willing to share.
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves . . . for the coming age,
so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Through the years God proved Himself faithful to our family, even when we were not entirely faithful to Him.  What our middle-child, Amy wrote in her early twenties sums our family up quite well: “I come from a family of five sinners . . . . “  Over time we have grown to be a family of fifteen, still delving into the lost art of Godly discipline . . . .

All to His Glory!

*Underscoring the warning against saying, “Do as I say, not as I do!”  (Such an attitude breeds disrespect and contempt.)

On Dealing With Fear and Bullies . . . .

This is the second in a series of posts featuring spiritual lessons God taught me through my family.  Over the years these stories have been helpful to many a Client; I share them now in the hope that they might also encourage you. ❤️

There is much talk about bullies/abusers in the world today, but bullies have been around since the beginning.  It was their fear of bullies, that resulted in Israel having to march around in the wilderness for forty years*; and Goliath (of David and Goliath fame) was nothing more than an oversized bully.

Of our three children, Amy (our middle child), was the most fearful. Amy was afraid of (or was resistant to) such things as:

  • Volcanoes. When we received orders to move to England, our then four-year-old middle asked with serious intensity in her voice: “Are there volcanoes in England?” (All these years later, we still laugh that if we’d received orders to Hawaii, we would never have been able to get her on the airplane!)
  • A boy in our village named Christopher Blackman.  I doubt that Christopher (who was probably about 10 and DID have a bad reputation) had any idea that our little Amy had stopped going to the village shop for sweeties (candy) because she was afraid he might be there.  Also, he probably was unaware that she immediately hid herself behind a garden wall or bushes if she saw him when walking home from school.
  • Pick-pocketers.  After traveling into London on a train, we heard an announcement warning that pick-pocketers had been active in the area that morning.  Amy clutched the little purse I had made for her tightly against her chest as she said, “They should make them wear uniforms so we can tell who they are!”
  • Learning to write–because she knew she wouldn’t be able to write as well as her sister–Amy resisted the pressure to learn to write.)

    Amy

Yet despite her fears, Amy could also be the most courageous.  When she saw a smaller classmate being bullied, she took it upon herself to stick up for them.  On one such occasion, Amy was quite surprised when the bigger kid (not Christopher) knocked her down.  Fighting back tears, Amy got up and yelled passionately, “I FORGIVE YOU!”  (I heard later that the bully looked quite embarrassed as he slunk off!)

When I learned about the incident I was both stunned and proud.  I had to admit that Amy’s response demonstrated a special courage and biblical wisdom that I lacked.

COURAGE defined: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

True courage demonstrates moral strength to withstand danger despite our fears
as we take our stand against evil.

God chose to teach our family a deeper lesson through Amy’s second fear: Christopher Blackman.

BULLY defined: “a blustering, browbeating person . . . one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary)

Our youngest, Luke (about 2 1/2 years old at the time), was notoriously friendly toward anyone he met.  While taking Luke out to the local playing field in his stroller, Luke reached out to Christopher–who I had no idea was THE Christopher Blackman!  Soon after, Christopher began showing up by our garden wall calling out for Luke.  Having found out WHO the boy was, I kept Luke inside at first.  But I remembered what Jesus taught about dealing with enemies in Luke 6:27, 28,

Luke
with Christopher Blackman

“Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”

As we (Amy and I) began to pray for Christopher, something unexpected happened: God softened our hearts.  I began to see that Christopher genuinely held a special affection for Luke–who Christopher called, “Lu-key”.  As I made some inquiries around our village I learned that Christopher was in foster care and was waiting to be placed in a special school. (He had been put out of the village school because of something he’d done.)  We reached out to Christopher’s foster parents and learned that because his foster mom was quite ill with diabetes, she put him out of the house after he’d had his breakfast each day to roam the village.  I realized that Christopher was showing up at our garden wall, because he was lonely while all the other children were in school.

What happened next is really kind of a blur.  We began by allowing Christopher into our garden and it wasn’t long until he became a special part of our lives.  I cannot tell you how long it was before Christopher and a couple of his friends began attending church with us.  Looking back, I do not recall even a hint of Christopher’s bad reputation being expressed in our time with him.

You may be wondering about Amy in all of this?  Well, she now says that Christopher probably DID push her down, sat on her and pounded on her back one day before he became a special part of our family.  But when she saw how he liked her little brother and saw our genuine concern for Christopher, she was okay with it.  Besides, even as a child, Amy said, she “figured that it was what Christian families were supposed to do!”

Soon after we returned to the States Christopher started at his new school.  We wrote back and forth for a while but then lost touch with him.  After all these years, I still wonder what he did with his life and would love to see him again.

So what did I learn from my children about dealing with fear and bullies?

  1. To take sin seriously–my own included–in difficult relationships.  Romans 12:9 says, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”  God is both sovereign and good and worthy of our trust.
  2. To faithfully pray for my enemy.  I have learned that by doing this God keeps my heart soft. Praying for my enemy also opens the door to miracles, as God also can work in the heart of the bully/abuser.  James 4:7 hits the mark with this counsel: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
  3. To trust God to provide courage to resist being run by my fears. By standing up to bullies/abusers (and asking others to pray where needed) the sin is exposed for what it is.  The wisdom contained in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare, lends powerful encouragement to all who seek Christ’s help:

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 (not if) the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then . . . .”

Ephesians 6:10-14

After 25 years of counseling, I have learned (where bullying/abuse is concerned) that prayer and getting help (be it in the church or by calling on the civil authorities) to stop the pattern of abuse is the best course.

To allow the sin of abuse to continue without addressing it,
encourages disrespect in the heart of the abuser toward the one being abused.
To call for outside help often forces the abuser to face the ugliness of their sin.  

In the end, there is opportunity on both sides of the relationship, for spiritual growth to take place as God works in both hearts.

All to His Glory

*Press here–> Joshua 5:6, to read the text.

A Fresh Perspective On Problems . . . .

When I began counseling, I saw myself as a sort of professional problem-solver.  In my naivety, I did not appreciate how broadly biblical counseling could impact the lives of others (as well as my own).  Reflecting back I can now see that for twenty-five years, God has directed the path of every conversation that has taken place in my office.  In those years, He has faithfully shepherded the heart of every Client (often despite my blunders) as He ministered to them through the Scriptures.  It has been a privilege (though humbling) to witness the courage of those who entrusted their lives to Him as they endured severe hardship and grew in their faith.  Many times I have felt like the proverbial “fly-on-the-wall” as I have watched God’s Spirit work out the impossible.  These are a few of the insights I have gained along the way:

Let light shine out of darkness . . . .
Let light shine out of darkness . . . .
  1. Problems are a constant–this is NOT heaven and we ALL have a history.
  2. Tough times provide powerful opportunities for personal growth and character development.
  3. In helping others, a personal commitment to applying the Scriptures in our own lives (along with a good measure of humility) impacts the receptiveness of the receiver.
  4. To go deeper with God, our focus should not be on the problem but on God and the wisdom of the Scriptures:

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts . . . .
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
II Corinthians 4:6,18

Whatever challenge you face (or are trying to help someone else with), I pray that you will be strengthened by this truth:

It is in the challenging times that God invites us
into a deeper conversation with Him

~~~~~~~~~~

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
for the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
And perseverance must finish it’s work,
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault.”

James 1:2-5

This may be your ultimate opportunity . . . so go for it!

All to His Glory!