Tuesday, May 24, 2016


None righteous

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in
Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

Christ is the only way to God (for salvation and everyday living)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the
Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV).

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men”
(1 Timothy. 2:5 NIV).

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in
your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is
with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).

Assurance of Salvation

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of
God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13 NIV).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of
life set me free from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:1-2 NIV).

Monday, May 23, 2016

Messages to the Future

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Neil Postman

Today I spent time with a group of Christian mental health professionals and the topic of generational limiting beliefs came up. From the time Adam and Eve left the garden, their outlook on themselves, each other, and God became the beliefs they handed down to their children. Their children received distortions which affected their relational understandings with their own children. And so on and so on.

It breaks my heart to hear inaccurate messages my counseling clients received from their parents and representatives of God. “Your worth depends on how others view you.” “It’s selfish to consider your own needs.” “You always have to turn the other cheek and let others walk all over you.” In response, many folks create vows which limit their ability to prosper. “I can’t ever do anything right.” “Nobody will ever care about me.” “I’m such a disappointment to God.”

These messages get installed deep in our soul and cloud the vision God has for our life. Instead of living a bold and courageous life, our beliefs bring fear and timidity. We model this lifestyle for our children and their perfectionism results in guilt and despair.

What messages did you receive that God wants to correct? What messages are you installing and beliefs you are modeling to those in your life today? Commit to wrestling with your belief systems. Whether your foundational beliefs came from parents, pastors, teachers, or friends, there will be distortions and we need God’s truth to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Photo courtesy of www.believersbrain.com

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Telling God to Go Away

This report appeared last week in The Times of Israel, and was carried by other news sources around the world. The reporter didn’t miss the humor of the situation. The judge probably laughed as well. Perhaps even God had a chuckle.          

Man seeks restraining order against God
Haifa resident asks court to keep the Almighty away, claiming He is being mean to him
BY STUART WINER/ May 4, 2016
An Israeli man has petitioned the Haifa Magistrate’s Court for a restraining order against God, claiming the Almighty has been particularly unkind to him.

The initiator of the request, a resident of the northern port city, represented himself in court, the Walla news site reported on Wednesday.

A protocol of the hearing noted that God did not turn up for the session, although it did not specify how the court determined the Omnipresent was not in fact there, as opposed to merely exercising the right to remain silent.

The petitioner, who was not named in the report, noted that he had tried to obtain the restraining order from police for the past three years but that police had merely sent a patrol car to his home on 10 occasions.

He argued that over a three-year period God, had exhibited a seriously negative attitude toward him, although details of just what divine mischief he had borne the brunt of were not mentioned in the report.

Presiding Judge Ahsan Canaan denied the request, which he said was ludicrous, asserting the applicant needed help not from the court but rather from other sources.
The report did not include a response on the outcome from any of the multitude of available spokespeople on behalf of the Lord.
Was this man’s request meant to be taken as comical? Was he serious? What did God do to him that made him get the court involved? These questions were not answered by any of the reports filtering from this one. Somewhere along the way, the man must have faced a deal breaker with God. He did what he thought God wanted, lived the way God instructed, and expected God to bless him. But then he felt cursed and abandoned. It’s easy to end up in that frame of mind. But file a restraining order?

Most likely brought up worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the man probably doesn’t know the Messiah who came from that lineage. He may not realize how loving and good God is for sending His Son to pay the price of our redemption and free us from sin, death, and Hell. After receiving such a marvelous gift, how could any disappointment carry a person so far as to tell God to leave him alone?

But even followers of Christ, who’ve already got more than they will ever deserve, sometimes fall away when they hit a deal-breaking hole in the road. A tragedy shakes them and they assume that if God really was loving and good, He wouldn’t have let it happen. And so they want Him to go away. When it happens, it’s not at all comical, either for the one suffering heartbreak or for fellow believers looking on. There’s nothing simple about it and sometimes it can’t be fixed. Not by talking, or by the passing of time. If the broken person doesn’t accept that he can go on with life—with God—even though he’s broken, then he remains most miserable.

The loving and good thing about God is that He became broken for us. When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, the wounds of the crucifixion were still visible. He was who He was—the One who bled and died. It showed then and it shows now. What breaks a person becomes a part of that person’s reality. Even for forever. It’s not because God is mean to us. It’s because we live in a really tough, broken world. But He came to rescue us. We just have to hold onto Him. 

A restraining order against God does sound like a joke, though maybe it wasn’t at all funny for the man who took the matter to court. Sometimes nothing seems to make the hurt stop. But there is a way to go on: Petition God to draw closer. That’s something He’s always ready to do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


You don’t have to perish!

If you were hungry, and a friend told you where you could find some food, would you listen, or would you ignore the information and starve? How about the same scenario with thirst, nakedness, and illness—would you pay any attention? If you discovered a medication that was proven to cure whatever ails you, would you take it, or would you rather suffer with that ailment and die? What would you do if you were cold and homeless, and someone offered you a warm home and a warm bed? Would you choose to stay in the cold or accept this warm room and be comfortable?

I think the average person would answer yes to all of the above offers without hesitation. It makes no sense to suffer or die when help is available. Pain and death in the presence of help is pointless and needless.

Similarly, after God brought the Israelites out of captivity from Egypt, He made them an offer. He promised to be their God and their provider. He even promised to subdue their enemies. He simply asked that they listen to Him, submit to Him, follow His ways, and reject idols (See Psalm 81:8-14). But did they listen? No!

So what did God do? He washed His hands of them and left them to their evil ideas, and He said of them, “I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices” (Psalm 81:12 NIV). You might say that God said to the Israelites, “Have it your way!” Sounds very frustrating and heart breaking, but God has given man the power and ability to make choices. When man makes his own choices, God gets out of the way and lets man face the consequences of his choices. As the old adage goes, “You make your bed, you lie in it.”

Before we belittle the Israelites for being stubborn or disobedient, I’d like to suggest that, from the beginning of time, man has had this attitude—stubborn and disobedient!

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, they lost their relationship with God. Years later, God revealed His plan to restore the relationship with man. In the person of Jesus, He became man and died as the substitute for man. The only thing man must do is to admit to God that he is a sinner (sin passed on to all men after the initial sin), and ask God for forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. The consequence of not believing in Jesus is clearly stated in the Bible. That consequence will be eternity in hell, which is also referred to as the lake of fire or the second death (See Revelation 20:14).

You probably didn’t know this truth before, but now that you do know it, and now that you know the outcome of not believing in Jesus, don’t you think you need to make the decision that will secure your future? Please don’t argue about this. If you make the wrong choice it cannot be reversed later. God loves you, but He will not force you to do anything against your will. Just as He left the Israelites to their own wicked devices, He will do the same with you.

Recently, there was an advertisement on television advocating separation of church and state. The character in the ad claimed to be an atheist. At the end of his presentation, he said, “I am an atheist, and I’ll gladly go to hell.” How sad! Does he know what it means to be in hell? My heart ached for him, but then I became angry. Going to hell is not something one should joke about or be cute about. Please don’t let this man’s attitude be your attitude, and please don’t perish, because you really don’t have to!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Life is a Pair of Ducks

Is it still okay to say it's not okay?

What I mean to say with my duck analogy is, of course, that life is a paradox. The life of a Christian is definitely ducky. We live in perfect peace while fighting against the devil, temptation, and even our own inner selves. We accept that we’re wretched in our lost condition, an enemy of God. And then just like that we’re washed clean and we’re called friends of God. We’re weak, but made strong in Christ. We are most helpless, but never hopeless. We worship a poor carpenter who was born in a barn and died on a cross, knowing that He is King in our hearts and King of the world. We’re destined for Hell, but we’re going to Heaven. We must stand strong against the evil surrounding us. And we must humbly offer Christ to those standing against us.

I saw a post on social media proclaiming that “if Christianity is to survive in America, then it is time we start standing up and speaking out against people and organization that disrespect us!” Now, I may have some friends and followers who liked this post and shared it. I get it—good Christian people are fed up and demanding equal voice. Or at least a little validation that they matter as much as anyone. It’s okay to speak up—we still have that right. But what we get is a “sit down and shut up” attitude from media and popular opinion. More and more, it seems everybody has a right to everything. And we Christians are feeling, what…left out? Do we really expect the approval of this world?

Okay, we should stand up for certain rights. I will stand up for the rights of the smallest human beings, even if they’re not born yet. For the rights of common normalcy, even if being normal is out of fashion. For the rights of freedom, even if it’s edging away. While I’m standing, I’ll consider that for every unborn human in danger, there’s a mother who needs godly council. I’ll keep in mind that normal does not constitute righteousness. I’ll remember that my guarantee of freedom by the rulers of the land may be temporal. My only true freedom comes by the blood of Christ. And so I will stand up for the rights of sinners to hear the message of the Gospel.

But there’s a duck in the pond claiming I have no rights. I’m bought and paid for. I belong to Christ. I’m waiting patiently in a dark place for my Redeemer’s light to break through. I have no fear of being left in darkness, or of not getting my due recognition on Planet Earth. I can’t change anything and I don’t want to gripe about it anymore. I don’t care who uses the bathroom at Target. I’m pretty
sure I don’t have the right to modern, proper, or even private facilities. Most people around the world aren’t so fortunate. It’s just one of many rights we think we possess because we’re Americans.

As soon as I say that, the other duck swims my way, quacking about a serious issue that is not being addressed—this post-modern need for total acceptance of every deviation as normal. No good end will come from regarding each pulse of self-awareness, because that pulse is rebellion against God and it knows no limit. Gender identity has the attention of the media right now, and it’s not foreign to me because it has affected a member of my family. As a believer who must stand for God’s purposeful design in making both male and female, I must also stand for every lost person’s right to hear the truth. Sometimes, it might mean laying down my own rights.

Can I preserve my right to share the truth, without fighting against what the Word of God and my own conscience tells me is wrong? I don’t know. If God encourages me to fight, I’ll fight. If He impresses a silent war of prayer, then I’ll pray. The law can’t govern how or what I pray, or to whom I pray. It can’t stop me from speaking or writing or thinking the truth. It can try. But I belong to a great King. This is His world and He will right the wrong. He’s the only One who can transform a human being. We can’t transform ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Sure, it gets confusing and sometimes I don’t know where I stand, except that I stand on the firm foundation of Christ. So nevermind the ducks. He’s got this.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Being Lifted from the Slimy Pit

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3

I’ve had six different offices in my 14 years of counseling. I began working out of my condo, then moved to a tiny 9x9 office some years later. Last month I had the opportunity to move my counseling office within our suite. I had eyed the corner office with two walls of windows since we leased the suite three years ago. When I initially joined the suite, I was thankful for the opportunity to be part of a group of folks who, like me, loved helping people. First-time clients called my small office “cozy.”

A lot of good things took place in that small office. Clients laughed, cried, and God used me to walk alongside them in difficult times. I wrote and published my first book, From the Other Side of the Couch: A Biblical Counselor’s Guide to Relational Living. I was content and grateful for God’s provision. Then an opportunity came open and I stepped out and asked if I could move into the more spacious corner office. Just one door down, yet I feel a new energy, new ideas, and hugely blessed every time I walk into that space.

Some clients see my wonderful office and experience my joyful heart and incorrectly assume I’ve never had difficult life circumstances. They see me with a new song of praise in my mouth without knowing the slimy pit where God rescued my heart, mind, and soul. Looking at my blessings causes them to feel ignored and abandoned by God. Yet my transformational journey is the vehicle God continually uses to help others find their own firm place to stand.

Do you look at the blessings of others and feel rejected by God? Do you beat yourself up when comparing yourself to those around you? Do you feel helpless to change your hopelessness?

Waiting on God’s timing in changing our circumstances can be excruciatingly difficult and discouragement will threaten to set in. But it’s at those times we most need to lift our eyes up to the mountains, ask for God’s help in your time of trouble, and receive hope through the testimony of others. What matters most is your perspective. Work hard to confess your negativity to God, asking him to pull the root of bitterness out of your heart. Wrestle with your automatic fleshly nature when it compares and condemns.

Ask God to show you others who’ve been rescued. Listen to or read about their story of transformation and allow it to inspire your heart. Then focus on crying out to God in the middle of your muddy life. He will not leave you stranded. God promises to give you a new song anchored by the firm foundation of his love for you.

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.com