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! 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Rule #1 . . . .

It began as a joke . . . “Rule #1”.  Three simple words born out of necessity–since our camper is equipped with comfortable sleep space and a kitchen of sorts but no bathroom.   Simply saying,“Rule #1” expressed  what was needed when “nature” called.  What inspired it?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps it was the thought of traveling together 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week for two months?  Maybe.  But it more likely was an attempt to streamline communication between us–given that my husband’s communication style aligns with “morse code” (one and two word responses are his specialty), while my own falls more into the realm of “s~c~r~i~p~t” (using a multiplicity of delightful, descriptive words that, at times, turn into a maze if I’m not careful.)  Whatever the inspiration, Rule #1  not only reduced the tension that can accompany such a call, it also added a bit of humor.  In the end, Rule #1 kept traveling from becoming more complicated than necessary.  Even now, it comes up on occasion–though not with the same urgency–causing us to smile at the private little joke we share.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . your soul . . . your mind . . . your strength." Mark 12:30
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . your soul . . . your mind . . . your strength.” Mark 12:30

In the weeks after returning home, I thought a lot about how simply saying, “Rule #1,” served to reduce what can be a potential stressor for travelers.   Yet, when it comes to rules, we humans tend to balk at the thought of our “rights” being impinged upon.  Growing up, I remember embracing the notion that, “Rules are meant to be broken” with a certain amount of glee.  That changed, however, after getting to know new neighbors who moved in next to my parents home.  Having recently moved to the US from Denmark, Henry talked about living in Denmark during the WWII Nazi Occupation.  What shocked Henry, was not the behavior of the Nazi’s, but “what neighbor did to neighbor” when the rule of law was no longer enforced.  I’ll never forget the look on Henry’s face as he talked about his neighbors doing, “things that would have been unthinkable before the war.”  Looking at the world through Henry’s eyes, I learned to appreciate the order and security that well placed and maintained rules can bring to society.

Reflecting on our own time, as secularism is so brazenly removing God’s rule–ie, the physical removal of the Ten Commandments in the public arena as well as the principles they represent–we find ourselves in a moral crisis like never before.  We have forgotten the simple direction of the Golden Rule“Treat others as you would have them treat you”*–as we emphasize “building our self-esteem”.  The consequences?  Consider the warning the Apostle Paul wrote in what is believed to have been his last letter before he was beheaded for his allegiance to Christ:

“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

As complaints of loneliness and depression skyrocket and as we worship created things rather than our Creator, it is no wonder that darkness has become so pervasive.

The good news is that all is not lost.  The Bible tells us that Christ came to free sinners (you, me and our neighbor) burdened by our sinful penchant to live as we think best.  The declaration the Apostle Paul makes in Galatians 5:1 lightens the heart of the repentant as it speaks assurance to all who trust in Christ:

“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.”

To surrender self-rule to the Rulership of Christ,
is to discover true freedom to live for, love and serve Him with glad hearts.

So how are we to live out this amazing freedom?  That’s where Rule #1 comes in.   When questioned about what He considered the greatest of God’s Commandments in Mark 12:30-31, Jesus narrowed our responsibilities down to two:

Rule #1: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Rule #2: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Faith that pleases God is intentionally placed on Him, first and foremost–Rule #1.
It is the fruit of that love relationship,
that strengthens and blesses us to pass on the light of His love
–no matter who the other person may be. 

This afternoon my husband and I were waiting for a table at a local coffee house.  We waited quite a while until a table was vacated and gratefully moved toward it.   All of a sudden, a woman who seemed to come out of nowhere, darted past my husband and claimed it for herself!  I confess feeling a certain amount of irritation that raised very quickly in my heart as we moved back to the side and watched the woman and her husband enjoy OUR table!  I am embarrassed to admit that it took a few minutes before I recognized the opportunity to apply Rule #1.  When I did, I couldn’t resist giggling at my silliness as I decided to love that dear woman–she obviously needed that table more than we did!  As I reflected on God’s love for me, the irritation vanished as I gave thanks to God for freeing me to love Him as He loved me. 

As we determine to put Rule #1 in the forefront of our thinking,
the possibilities are limitless.
Without a doubt, this crazy kind of loving with the hope and light of Jesus,
has the potential to change this world one heart at a time!

All to His Glory!

Doors . . . .

When our family returned to the States after living in England for three years, our four-year-old son Luke talked about missing his “green door”.  He was referring to the flint and brick home we rented while living in England that had green front and back doors.  Luke’s “green door” was the only place he had ever known as home.  It was six weeks before we finally found a place for our family and, YES, we painted the front door the same shade of green as our home in England, so Luke would know we were truly home!

Doors . . . there is something fascinating about doors (especially front doors) that I find intriguing.  I saw a poster once that pictured fifty or more front doors of homes, some quite plain while others commanding the passerby’s attention–each of them uniquely hinting at what might lie within.

When temptation entered the Garden of Eden there was no physical door to knock on except for the doorway to Eve’s mind and heart.  When Eve responded by opening the door to doubting God’s Goodness, the domino-effect of sin changed everything.  Gone were times of enjoying such intimacy as a walk in the garden with our Creator.   From that point, sin clouded our perceptions of God and of all He created for us to enjoy.  Perhaps saddest of all, we lost sight of our unique status as His image bearers.  Yes, when doubt darkened the perceptions of the human heart toward God, the unique relationship enjoyed before man’s fall into sin was lost.

When doubt enters, how are we to respond?
When doubt knocks, how are we to respond?

To be clear, there is a place for doubt/caution in this sin-bent world. The Bible affirms this danger as it encourages us to look to God as the Shepherd of our hearts.  James 1:5 offers direction and encouragement to believers,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

To know that God wants us to seek Him in trouble is amazing.  Yet, for many years I struggled with the warning that immediately follows James’s encouragement:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

(Verses 6-8)

“You must believe and not doubt?”  The question I wrestled with was,

How is it possible to guard against doubting God’s character,
when doubt can so easily slide in through the doorway of our minds?

I gained insight into my question recently while reading Matthew 9.  The passage describes a paralyzed man being brought to Jesus by some of his friends.   Also in attendance was a crowd of people that included some religious scribes.  Jesus spoke kindly to the man as He said, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”  Matthew relates that when the religious scribes heard this, they condemned Jesus and thought what He said was blasphemous.  Matthew then wrote,

‘”Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said,
“Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?”‘

(verse 4)

Jesus confronted them not so much for doubting but for condemning Him as they entertained evil in their hearts.

How does Jesus’s rebuke help to sort out the difference between doubt/caution that is necessary to help us navigate through life vs doubt that condemns?  As was said earlier, doubt serves a purpose when it comes to living in this world.

Doubt defined: to fear, suspect, to lack confidence in : distrust* 

  However, when doubt darkens the door of our hearts and negatively influences our perception of God’s character–doubt becomes insidious:

Definition of Insidious: Awaiting a chance to entrap : treacherous
Harmful but enticing : seductive 
Having a gradual and cumulative effect : subtle
Of a disease : developing so gradually as to be well established before becoming apparent.*

SIN is the disease that encourages us to question God’s character and to entertain doubts about God’s will and purpose for our lives.

So is there a way to avoid this problem?  I believe there is:

  1. Recognize that deep within every human heart the danger lurks of not only forgetting God, but also of doubting His character.
  2. Prayerfully ask God to help you recognize where you are most vulnerable when it comes to doubting His character.
  3. When you find yourself entertaining doubt (note: I did not say if)– go immediately to God in confession as you give thanks for His Sovereign Goodness.
  4. Seek His help in closing the doorway to doubt as you lean on Him as the Shepherd of your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  
Proverbs 4:23

 All to His Glory! 

*Taken form: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary

We Dare Not Turn Our Backs . . . .

After spending hours watching events unfold in the news and listening to the chatter of a myriad of opinions as to how to respond–it was after I finally turned off the television, that I experienced palpable relief from the tug-of-war going on in my mind and heart.  It was then, as the quietness settled within me, that a verse from James ran through my mind like a wafting banner:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .”

(James 1:5)

Ah, yes . . . PRAYER!  I was grateful for the reminder that the evil unfolding before us is not merely political or sociological.  It is part of an age-old spiritual battle.  The Apostle Paul gives clarity as to the stakes and the means whereby we must do battle:

“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

So what are Christians to do?  The best way to stay on course is to depend on the guidance of Scripture and God’s Spirit to provide the wisdom and strength we lack.  The following is a “game plan” that I have found helpful:

A Call To Prayer . . . To be quiet before God who already knows the end from the beginning.  As I bask in the quiet of God’s call, the weight in my heart is lifted as I pray for the displaced millions of men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have no place to call home.  James 1:27 declares,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 Bottom line: WE DARE NOT TURN OUR BACKS ON OTHERS IN NEED.

Pray also for our political leaders, that God will convict their hearts as He ultimately works out His Plan through them.

A Call To Face Our Enemies . . . .   

  1. Some call it, “madness . . . sheer madness!”  Be it one individual shooting up a theater full of people or an organized group, it is a calculated, ugly, hate-filled assault on people–seemingly the more innocent the better.  After the killing is done, the descriptions reported by the survivors are similar as they describe the perpetrators as, “emotionless . . . robotic . . . appearing dead except for the merciless shooting.”  The problem is real, it is global and it is not any one group–an angry deadness of the soul.
  2. The second enemy may surprise you, but it must be faced to gain the wisdom we need to face enemy#1: FEAR fueled by what I call, “the court of public opinion.”  It is easy to get sucked into fear, for me it is a constant battle. When fear grips the heart, wisdom and faith are far removed. What keeps us steady is in knowing that FEAR is a ploy the devil uses to deter us.  Here’s what James wrote to Christians facing adversity 2,000 years ago:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James 4: 7, 8 & 10

 A Call To Faith . . . I have said it to many a Client and learned it long ago:

To be overwhelmed by trials and uncertainty
is an opportunity to trust God more.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him
and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I John 1:5b-7

Over time I have learned to listen less to my fears as I  have determined to trust God with it all.  These words (also from James) have been a tremendous encouragement to me and to those I counsel facing hardship:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”

James 1:2-4

A Call to Action . . . REFUSE TO TURN YOUR BACK!

 1.  It is easy to hate the perpetrators of evil, but when hating comes easy we are in danger of becoming like them.  Take seriously Jesus command in Matthew 5:43:45:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

God knows the heart of everyone.  Pray for the individuals caught up in this evil; that the attitudes and actions of Christians being held will touch the hearts of their captors.  Pray also that fleeing Christians will reflect the love of Christ to those who are also fleeing but do not know Him.

2.  Start looking for ways to help.  If your church has organized a means of reaching out in big and small ways, then by all means support that.  (Last year my church found a way to support Iraqi Christians by sending dental supplies {tooth brushes, toothpaste, etc} through a friend with contacts there.  It was such a small thing but I know it was an encouragement to those who could give as well as those receiving those small gifts.)

There are numerous charities working to help in this global crisis.  The following are some of my favorites:

Samaritan’s Purse
http://www.samaritanspurse.org

Mission to the World
https://www.mtw.org/disaster-response

Open Doors, USA
https://www.opendoorsusa.org/donate/

Voice of the Martyrs
http://www.persecution.com

3.  Watch the news following the stories of those caught up in this crisis and begin to pray for those who touch your heart.  There are several bloggers doing excellent work to help with this.  This post, by Humans of New York, is a good place to start: https://medium.com/@humansofnewyork/humans-of-new-york-refugee-stories-243336f4adeb#.ywdau2x1t

In good times and in bad, God calls us to prayer and to action as we live out our faith.
These are scary times to be sure, but they are potentially growing times
as we entrust ourselves to the One who Saves.  

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . .
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”
Psalm 46:1-6

All to His Glory!

Image Source: Google Images

An Intentional Faith . . . .

“Intentional” is a word that comes up a lot in the Counseling Room–especially when we talk about faith and how the challenges we face provide opportunities to trust and honor God.  The Bible has much to say about faith and makes clear that true faith is never accidental.  In fact, a faith that pleases and honors God is always intentionally applied.

One of my favorite passages in Scripture that demonstrates the connection between faith and intentionality is recorded in the second chapter of James.   He begins his discourse with a question that has been asked throughout the ages:

DSC02770

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save them?”
(Verse 14)

He answers his question with a powerful example and declaration:

“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, FAITH by itself, if it is not accompanied by action (intentionality), IS DEAD.”
(Verses 15-17–emphasis mine)

James continues the argument,

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
(Verses 18, 19)

James concludes his discourse with the ultimate example of intentional faith (you can read it for yourself as it is recorded in Genesis 22):

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
(Verses 20-24)

Faith that pleases God is never accidental.  True faith is demonstrated with no lessor motive than a desire to honor God–even when we do not fully understand what He is seeking to accomplish.   An intentional faith:

  • Prays and waits for clarity before moving forward.
  • Relies on the Scriptures for wisdom and perspective in every situation.
  • Is lived out daily as we make choices that are God-honoring.
  • Refuses to entertain doubt or fear.
  • Is not naive, it is a growing, maturing faith.
  • Is committed to loving others, even when they disappoint us.
  • Gives thanks to God for His faithfulness, even when our lives appear to fall apart:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  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.
II Corinthians 4:16-18

Do you struggle because your faith is weak?  Be encouraged by a conversation recorded in Mark 9:29-27, between Jesus and a father, desperate to save his son from being tormented:

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

I have always found Jesus’s response to the father’s confession reassuring.  He did not chide him for his inadequacy or turn him away by saying, “Come back after you’ve got your act together!”  Jesus freed the son and returned him to his father.

It isn’t the size of the faith but the willingness to trust that grows and matures a God-pleasing faith.  Faith intentionally placed in Him will carry you through whatever twist or turn your life takes:

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  
Psalm 16:7, 8

All to His Glory!

To Move Beyond Brokenness . . . .

We had worked together for months in the Counseling Room.  Many tears were shed along the way, but new vistas gained as spiritual insights helped to steady her course.  Then one day she walked into my office the color of ash.   I could see the hurt and anger in her countenance as tears brimmed full.  What do you do when faced with shattered dreams and the light of hope has suddenly been snuffed out?  Be they your own broken dreams or someone else’s, the need is the same: a listening ear, that human connectedness of a hug or embrace, along with the words, “I’m sorry . . . .” 

It is often said that, “Time heals all wounds.”  While that may be true in part, it certainly is not true when it comes to ministering to the broken heart.  Just as a broken bone needs to be set aright, wisdom and intentional care are needed to straighten and strengthen the broken mind and heart.  In the Counseling Room I have ministered to many people crippled emotionally and spiritually by the still raw evidence of wounds left untended for years . . . even decades.  I know of no better resource than the wisdom contained in the Scriptures that, when rightly applied, can open up light and hope like nothing else.

Hebrews 3:13 warns believers, to guard against letting the hardness of sin and doubt to fester in our hearts for even one more day:

“Above all else, guard your heart . . . .” Proverbs 4:23

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”
so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

True encouragement seeks not merely to placate or build up the ego; authentic encouragement speaks to straighten and strengthen what has been broken.  

In my last post, I wrote about the Heartstrings Illustrationa very practical tool that helps identify the primary influence(s) we rely on to make decisions.  As I watched and listened to my Client, I understood the pain she was in . . . but I also understood the danger of beginning to doubt the only One we can truly trust.  To help stop the emotional and spiritual “bleeding” of a heart so broken and raw, she needed the wisdom of Scripture to help her assess who or what influence was tugging at her heartstrings. 

We went to John 21–one of those special places in Scripture that I enjoy because it is so personal.  It begins very early in the morning, with Peter and a few of the other disciples returning from a disappointing night of fishing. I asked her to begin reading the passage to me–I ask all of my Clients to read aloud to me so that was nothing new.  As she read about how Jesus was waiting on the shore and the events that took place, her voice returned to a more regular tone.  Occasionally, she stopped reading as we marveled at how simply, but powerfully Jesus ministered to the hearts of those men–by providing a miraculous catch of fish while already having prepared a meal that was waiting for them on the beach.  We were touched, when Jesus took a walk with Peter (the disciple who denied knowing Jesus three times after He was arrested.) In the conversation that took place between them, Jesus challenged and commissioned Peter to, “Feed My sheep.”

The part that I hoped would most encourage and challenge my Client came in the final section when Jesus said:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger
you dressed yourself and went where you wanted;
but when you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

The text goes on to explain:

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death
by which Peter would glorify God.
Then He said to him, “Follow me!”

(verses 18 and 19)

Stunned by what Jesus said (in my mind I picture Peter blubbering to himself and extremely uncomfortable), Peter looked around and saw another disciple, John, was near to them.  Peter asked Jesus the question many of us ask in such situations, “What about him?” Jesus’ response, simple and direct, serves as a needful reminder as to who is God, and who is decidedly NOT God:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?
You must follow Me.”

(Verse 22)

The room was quiet as we reflected on the text. It was then that I recognized a melding of wisdom and hope as color returned to her cheeks. Using the Heartstring Illustration to gain insight into what had just happened, she said,

“When I walked in here I was totally fixated on the pain of my situation–I had lost all hope.
In fact, I was angry at God for allowing my life to fall apart.
After reading Jesus’ answer to Peter, I was struck by my foolishness.
I knew immediately how off-course I truly was.
Nothing has changed . . . I still have no idea of the direction my life is going to take.
Even so, I am at peace–with God back in His rightful place in my heart.”

Time does not heal all wounds.   But as we entrust ourselves to God (refusing the temptation to doubt in His Goodness), and rely on the Scriptures and His Spirit to help us, we discover the wondrous grace of His Peace.  To move beyond brokenness is not something we can ever attain in our own strength, it is only possible as we rely on Him as our Resting Place.

All to His Glory!