Wednesday, 03 May 2017 15:35

Empty Spaces

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Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:28-30, ESV


Lately, as I’ve sat across from people – whether they be my clients, a friend in a coffee shop, over the phone, or as I look into my own heart, there has been this theme of emptiness. Empty spaces. You know, those unmet longings and expectations and those seasons of restlessness. Maybe you have been trying for years to get pregnant and nothing has worked, over and over, and just when you think that the Lord is opening a door, it closes. Maybe in your marriage, your spouse has been withdrawing from you and you don’t know why. Maybe you just moved cities and are starting over. Maybe you’re single and desire to be married and you ache with longings. Maybe you just lost a relationship that you have been praying for. Maybe your child just moved away. Maybe a loved one just died. Maybe your health has been fading. Or maybe you just lost your job, or you’re still looking for that elusive position. Or perhaps you are in retirement and feel like you don’t have a purpose anymore. All of us, in many seasons, in different ways, will deal with empty spaces.

What do we do with them?

We try to fill them.

We fill them with a myriad of things. People. Stuff. Degrees. Relationships. Social Media. Drugs. Pornography. Eating. Movies. Sex. Busyness. Work. Service. Money.

Lately, I was asking the Lord for a promise for the empty places that I see around and within me. And this is what He in His gracious pursuit, whispered to me:
 

Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” -Psalm 107:9, ESV


Jesus wants to come and fill your empty spaces.

Do you notice how many of the things we fill ourselves with apart from Jesus are not bad in and of themselves? I find that it is the tendency of the human heart to restlessly wander around looking for something to fill the emptiness rather than to sit in the pain of that empty place and tell Jesus how much it hurts. We cry out to Him to let Him know the overwhelming sense of loss or hurt that we feel. We beg Him to come and fill us with good things.

How easy it is to jump on social media or numb ourselves with other things rather than to just sit. To be still. To do NOTHING. To just trust. Whew. How easy it is to want to rush onto the next thing to fill that seemingly empty season or to rush in to try to fix it. Rather than to just… let... it... be. Empty... because when it’s empty, that’s when we are hungry and longing. That is when Jesus works best.
 

Jeremiah 2:13 (ESV) says, “…for my people have committed two evils: they have forgotten me; the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”


I love how this passage starts with reminding our wayward hearts that the problem is that we forget. I forget. I forget how much Jesus loves me. How much He wants to fill and satisfy me. And THAT is when I go and hew out broken cisterns for myself, to try to fill that void.

What about this?
 

Psalm 107:35 (ESV) says, “He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.”


Sounds like an oasis.

Sometimes what seems to us to be a desert of unmet longings is exactly where the Lord is in the midst of doing a new work that we can’t even see.

The miraculous thing is that the oasis formed from your desert isn’t just meant for you. It’s meant for others. Just a verse later:
 

Psalm 107 says, “And there He lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in…”


Let Jesus come and fill your empty places and watch Him turn those into places of refreshment for your soul as well as for the souls of others.

Your empty spaces can either become a broken cistern or an oasis. Which will it be?


Contributor: Rachel Kuchem, LMSW (Intern)

“I want my marriage to change, but my spouse won’t come to counseling.”


These words are riddled with pain and brokenness, hopelessness and frustration; they display a willingness to work hard and a longing to redeem broken places, while revealing years of unhelpful patterns and wounds.

As people talk about the difficulty of this season, their stories capture an array of experience and their pain varies in appearance: teary eyes, cold-hearted resignation, animated anger, or deep bitterness. Although I do not know your specific story, you may be sitting with a similar longing, feeling a bit paralyzed between what you want to see change and how to make change a reality. You may be sitting with someone who is carrying this burden, unsure of how to encourage them in the midst of deep discouragement. As I have walked through these seasons with others, I have noticed several common themes behind the change that occurs, a path that has been helpful to those who have gone before you.
 

Pray


If you are anything like me, you crave practical, tangible solutions. I don’t always think of prayer as practical and tangible. Often, when I see prayer listed as “Step One,” I am tempted to skip over to what I consider the real stuff. However, prayer is the foundation upon which all the real stuff must stand - it orients us around what is true, reminds us of our need for our Father, removes us from a position of control, and it is powerful. We know that this is true about the Lord: He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34) and He alone changes hearts. As you seek to bring change into a cold or indifferent environment, take your concerns before the Lord in prayer. Share with Him what you long for, how you are hurting, where you feel most discouraged, and when you’re rejoicing in a victory. Through this dialogue, lean on the Helper For, no matter how holy, gracious, and Christ-like you are toward your spouse, you cannot bring change by your own efforts (Psalm 3). Instead, you can rest in the truth that the Lord changes hearts - both your spouse’s and yours.
 

Look Within


Each of us acts based on what we want, what our heart desires. We do or don’t do things, say or don’t say things according to what we want. Even more, our desires blind us from seeing ourselves clearly. We are quick to notice our spouse’s sin and brush our own aside. James goes so far as to say that our fighting and arguing is caused by our desires, the things we want but do not have. He points to both the horizontal and vertical implications of our wants – we experience conflict in our relationships and we make ourselves “an enemy of God.” Our hearts pursue our wants above all else, including what the Lord commands. To begin examining what lies in your heart, try asking yourself these questions, responding with honesty to the Lord.

In this particular situation, what do you want?

How are you playing God? In what ways do you attempt to control the situation in order to get what you want?

Do you tend to focus on your spouse’s sin over your own?

Are their times your desires have become more important to you than anything else?

As we look to Him to reveal and reshape our heart’s desires, we begin to change the ways we behave and interact with others (Psalm 139:23-24).
 

Try Something Different


Begin to show appreciation. Criticism is one of the most harmful tactics in a marriage, creeping in when we are tired, frustrated, or discouraged. Speaking critically breeds defensiveness and clouds your words’ intended purpose. Your spouse no longer hears your concerns or requests, only an attack on their character. An effective way to combat criticism is by intentionally showing appreciation.

Are you intentional about noticing where your spouse is succeeding?

Do you notice when she listens instead of argues?

Do you notice when he considers your preferences when suggesting a restaurant for dinner?

Do you notice when she does the dishes, even though she hates doing the dishes?

Do you notice when he asks a question as you share about your day?

Genuinely express your appreciation as the opportunity arises, and praise the Lord for the good gifts He gives.

Seek to understand. We all want to be understood by our spouse. We want to know they hear us and are with us. In a marriage that is struggling, both spouses spend a large portion of their conversations trying to be understood. The end result leaves both spouses frustrated and isolated. One way to affect this dynamic is to become a good listener.

Are your devices (phone, TV, computer, etc.) distracting you from listening to your spouse in conversation?

Do you make eye contact and turn toward them when your spouse is speaking?

How do you use questions to draw out their point of view and ensure your understanding?

Try some of these things before (or even instead of) explaining your alternative position. We all want to be validated and heard, especially after we have been hurt. Take the time to grant this gift to your spouse.

Practice confession. As you begin to change the way you interact without observing any significant change in your spouse, it's natural to become defensive. Similar to criticism, defensiveness can also erode your relationship. It creates an environment where no one is heard, no one ever admits they are wrong, and no one is willing to walk in humility. I imagine you’ve experienced both sides of this issue firsthand.

Can you think of areas where you can intentionally confess where you’ve been wrong?

Can you identify how you contributed to a recent conflict?

Are their ways you’ve approached or responded to your spouse arrogantly or selfishly?

As you examine your heart and begin to take responsibility for your part of the problem, practice confessing where you have sinned to your spouse. Consider the Gospel; we have all fallen short, yet are eternally forgiven through Christ.

The path that has been laid out here is difficult and unnatural. It goes against what comes easily for our human nature (Romans 7:15-19). As you put some of these things into practice, surround yourself with people who will encourage you in the Gospel, pray for you, and remind you of what is true. As you walk alongside those who are struggling in their marriage, point them continually toward grace, truth, and loving community. As we all learn, grow, and fail, may we walk in our Father’s abundant grace.

Kelsey Hollis is an LPC-Intern at Metroplex Counseling. She counsels couples, adults, and adolescents as they walk through seasons of suffering and helps them navigate the stresses of daily life.

Saturday, 07 January 2017 22:36

The Hands of the King

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For those who know the slightest bit about me, it’s no secret that one of the greatest (and nerdiest) joys in my life is professor J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece, “The Lord of the Rings.” If you know me personally, you have likely experienced my efforts to convert you to some higher order of Tolkien fandom firsthand. These “come to Tolkien” talks often end with snores and sighs, which, I confess, may be deserved… But what can I say? The human heart cannot escape its allurement to truth and beauty, and Tolkien’s tale is brimming with both.

As the Professor’s dear friend, C.S. Lewis, wrote in his review of “The Fellowship of the Ring:” “…here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron; here is a book that will break your heart. They will know that this is good news, good beyond hope.” So, my friends, I hope you will overlook my earnestness, and allow me a few moments to share with you but one of the beauties laid up in Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

As a Christian, I find the tale’s fundamental commitment to the biblical worldview to be one of its more enticing elements. The true magic of Middle Earth is not to be found in legendary swords, mighty kingdoms, or even in overtly magical wizards. No, the true magic of Middle Earth is to be found in the witness it bears to the first storyteller and to His story. And in my mind, we catch no greater glimpse of this than in the character of the man Aragorn.

When first we meet Aragorn, he is a mysterious figure, a rugged wanderer known as Strider who is, by all accounts, homeless. To say that Aragorn would have been last on the list of men that godly mothers want around their children is to put it lightly. As the story progresses, however, we discover that Aragorn, though rough around the edges, is a man of high intellect, fierce loyalty, and valor in battle. Moreover, we learn that Aragorn, though a man of low estate, is heir to the throne of Gondor, a kingdom long bereft of a king.

While these traits certainly do Aragorn many favors in the minds of readers, there is another aspect of his character that is often neglected in favor of flashier qualities. Namely, Aragorn is a skilled healer.

For those who have read the books or seen the films, you are aware that by tale’s end, Aragorn is crowned High King of Gondor following his victorious conquest of Mordor. However, just as in our lives, the victories of Middle Earth are won at great cost, and not without seasons of despair.

It is in just such a moment, as the armies of Mordor are moving to lay siege to the city of Minas Tirith, that an “old wife” of Gondor testifies to the hope she has in the return of a king known not for the sword he carries but for the remedy he offers:
 

Then an old wife, Ioreth, the eldest of the women who served in that house, looking on the fair face of Faramir, wept, for all the people loved him. And she said: ‘Alas! if he should die. Would that there were kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known.’

And Gandalf, who stood by, said: ‘Men may long remember your words, Ioreth! For there is hope in them. Maybe a king has indeed returned to Gondor; or have you not heard the strange tidings that have come to the City?’ – The Return of the King


This bit of conversation has never failed to fascinate me. With death and destruction on the doorstep, one might expect Ioreth to lament the absence of a warrior-king, whose very presence would incite fear in the enemy ranks. But Ioreth, in keeping with cherished tradition, longed for a king whose hands are for the mending of his people.

Though “The Lord of the Rings” is a poor substitute for the word of God, I cannot help but be stirred to deep affection for my king, Jesus, each time I remember the hopeful words of Ioreth. Aragorn, though a wonderful literary character, is but a meager shadow of the reality to be found in Christ Jesus. The hands of Aragorn can heal only the physical body, not the maladies of the soul. The hands of Aragorn are bound by space and time and can heal only those within arm’s reach. The hands of Aragorn, no matter how skillful, sometimes fail.

Like Ioreth, we too are in desperate need of a healer-king who stands ready to make well those who are suffering. And, thanks be to God, we have a far better monarch than Aragorn. Our Lord is able and willing to cleanse not only the body, but the soul of cancerous sin. Our Lord is not bound by the reach of his arm but may extend the remedy of his gospel to whomsoever he pleases. Our Lord’s cure is certain and cannot fail.

In the dark night of the soul, when our enemy musters his forces against us and all hope seems lost, we must remember and cling to our king, whose hands are not only able to heal, but were pierced that we might be made whole. We must call to mind the cherished tradition of our own people, the Church:
 

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. – Psalm 30:2

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. – Psalm 103:2-5

The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:2-3

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. – Jeremiah 17:14

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. – Malachi 4:2

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. – Luke 4:40

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. – 1 Peter 2:24

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. – Revelation 22:1-3


Friends, I urge you, in times of comfort and suffering alike, to remember that “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer.” If you are a citizen of the Lord’s kingdom, his remedy, though often imperceptible, is at work to relieve you of the affliction of sin. To echo the sentiments of C.S. Lewis, “this is good news, good beyond hope.”

Contributor: Scott Busby, MMFT, LMFT-A

Thursday, 22 December 2016 18:04

Immanuel

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Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). –Matthew 1:18-23, ESV


As 2016 draws to a close, the concept of God as our Immanuel (God with us) is a theme that we all need as we see chaos in the world around us and even in our own lives and hearts. Jesus ultimately experienced what it was like to face the brokenness of the world and do so alone when He was on the cross so that we would not have to. 

Have you seen that old-time favorite Christmas show, a Charlie Brown Christmas? There is a scene towards the end when Charlie Brown, in a moment of despair, asked, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” and Linus steps in to quote Luke 2:8-14, sharing the Christmas story. Linus is the endearing character who is rarely seen without his handy security blanket, for which he is ridiculed by his peers. But then, as he quotes the angels telling the shepherds to “fear not,” he drops his blanket. This scene is full of application for us. Pastor Jason Soroski, in his now famous article entitled "Just Drop the Blanket," put it this way:

"The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears. The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves. The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to him instead. The world [of 2016] can be a scary place, and most of us find ourselves grasping to something temporal for security, whatever that thing may be. Essentially, [2016] is a world in which it is very difficult for us to “fear not.” But in the midst of fear and insecurity, this simple cartoon image from 1965 continues to live on as an inspiration for us to seek true peace and true security in the one place it has always been and can always still be found."

What “blankets” have you been clinging to for security? Maybe it is a habit. A relationship. An insatiable need for control. Whatever it is, know that you can lay it down. We loosen our grip not by looking to our blankets, but by following the example of Linus and looking to our Immanuel, God with us. He is our safety. He is our trust. Only then do our blankets begin to drop. May 2017 be a year of clinging to Him more closely.


Contributor: Rachel Kuchem, LMSW (Intern)

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 17:17

Light in Darkness

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And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” -Luke 2:8-15, ESV


It’s hard to believe that Christmas is almost here again. When I consider the incredible opportunity I’ve had this last year to see God working in client’s joys, pains, sorrows, frustrations, and burdens, I am quickly reminded that I have seen the Christmas message illustrated in almost every session as God brings light to darkness.

I do not think it is a coincidence that shepherds received the message from the angels to go see Christ at night (Luke 2). This has been how God works, even from the beginning of creation. “And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep… and God said ‘Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:2-3, ESV). John also writes “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:4-5). In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul tells us that God shines in our hearts to give us the “Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.” Paul and Peter both tell us that those who follow Christ are given the responsibility to proclaim light and to be light in this dark world (1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 5:8). God made light at creation, He is the supreme example of light in Christ, and now He asks us to let His light not only permeate our lives, but for us to also live as His lights in this dark world.

Christmas is not a bright time for many people… maybe it is not a time of celebration for you; but I know that there is light that God will bring to your darkness. Maybe God is asking you to shine bright for someone else this season; maybe He is challenging you to receive His light from others. No matter the circumstance, God will always exist as light. The question we must ask ourselves is “are we looking for His light in our lives?” If we are looking, how will we then respond to “shine like stars in the world” (Philippians 2:15)? Merry Christmas!


Contributor: Matt Sessoms, MA, LPC, LMFT, works as an intimacy counselor at Metroplex Counseling helping couples, individuals, and families through the concerns they experience in life.

Friday, 09 December 2016 22:47

Marital Mud Pies

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“…It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis
 

As any parent or grandparent has certainly experienced, it is the perplexing tendency of children to disdain those things that adults so treasure. Waking up slowly on a lazy Saturday morning doesn’t hold a candle to the exhilarating experience of rising at terminal velocity with the sun. Decadent home-cooked meals are obviously no match for a couple of pop-tarts or nothing at all. A relaxing bubble bath? Out of the question! Though many of us would gladly trade our right arm for these luxuries, children simply have no interest in them.

C.S. Lewis, in his oft-quoted sermon published as “The Weight of Glory,” offered an explanation for these childlike preferences: half-heartedness and weakness of desire. According to Lewis, children would rather “go on making mud pies in a slum because [they] cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.” In other words, because children are unable to comprehend the value of these treasures, they are content with trifles. Though the imagery employed by Lewis draws upon childish conduct, we too must recognize the weakness of our desires.

As a biblical counselor, it is often my privilege to sit with couples whose marriages are in a state of disrepair. These ordinary men and women are often those whose calm and composed exterior would arouse no suspicion of the despair harbored in their hearts. When these couples begin counseling, it is common for the brokenness of their union to burst forth as the weariness of “keeping it all together” gives way. It is nothing less than remarkable how often the word “tired” is used in these conversations.

Upon peeling away the layers of each spouse’s experience, it is common to find that this emotional exhaustion can be traced back to the desires that rule the heart. Many couples simply desire that things “go back to the way they were before.” Some couples place the burden of change upon their spouse and so desire a transformed husband or wife. Others take the previous desire and flip it, wishing that they would be transformed for the sake of their spouse. And when these desires go unfulfilled, frustration and weariness multiply.

Though it is likely that there is a godliness to these desires, they are, as Lewis described, too weak. Though many marriages fail when husbands and wives discount the significance of their union, many others fail when the marriage is viewed as supremely significant. God designed marriage to be a unique demonstration of His glory and a chance for sinners to know His heart. Marriage is not mainly about happiness, stability, or the raising of children. These are good things, but they are mud pies next to the eternal offerings of marriage.

If your desire for your marriage is rooted in yourself, your spouse, or any benefit your marriage may supply, your desire is too weak. Your husband may love you dearly, but he did not die for you. Your wife may be remarkable, but she did not suffer the wrath of God on your behalf. Earthly marriages are not designed to bear the weight of worship; they will crumble under the strain, and you will be left broken and weary.

If you are in Christ, you are members of a far more perfect union. Above all else, set your heart on Jesus, your maker and true husband. He alone gives rest and satisfaction. When your desire is to know and love him, love of husband, wife, and neighbor will be added to you as well.


Contributor: Scott Busby, MMFT, LMFT-A

Thursday, 16 October 2014 20:02

The Last Room in the House

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Somewhere in my growing up years, I ran across this religious tract or pamphlet that I never forgot.  Its purpose was to encourage Christian young people give all of themselves to God.  It used the analogy of our lives being like a house that had many rooms and closets and that we didn’t want to leave Christ in the living room as a guest, seated in the parlor.  The little booklet encouraged being honest and open with God and letting Him see the dirty corners behind the fridge, the overstuffed closets that was brimming with outdated objects of our affections, and even the bathroom, where we took off our dirty laundry.  As we allow Him in “our” rooms, hopefully we would recognize His rightful ownership of the property and begin to enjoy our lives with Him as the Master of the house.

Monday, 07 July 2014 19:25

Getting Some Much Needed Rest

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Hebrews 10:14

 

For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

 

As one who has spent 61 years trying to be good enough, this verse gives me hope, peace and joy.  Between my own heart wanting to perform for others and God, my difficult childhood, and an obvious physical disability, I spent much of my life trying to become perfect so that I would not be found unworthy of love and acceptance. Influences from my family, church, and teachers prodded me along in the deception that I could achieve perfection if I just tried hard enough, worked long enough, and was competent enough. 

 

So I spent the bulk of my adult life trying to prove to others that I had paid the price and was deserving of respect, admiration, and influence.  What I failed to notice is that Jesus, by His sacrifice on the cross, had already done for me what I had spent my life trying to achieve.  This verse says that He has forever made me perfect in God’s eyes.  It also says that I am still in process, being made holy.

 

I am learning to rest in the fact that if He can make me perfect, He can also make me holy.  I am likely continue in Bible study, prayer, and church attendance but have come to realize that unless He grants me repentance and change, it is not going to happen (Acts 11:18).  In the end, He will get the glory as it should be. This leaves me free to enjoy our relationship, love others, and get some much needed rest. 

 

Thursday, 01 May 2014 21:28

Be the Church

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If you read popular Christian books about waiting on God to send you a spouse, you will eventually hear the suggestion that you “become the kind of person you would want to marry”.   That is probably good advice because you will be preoccupied and productive as you are becoming better marriage material yourself. 

 

Is it possible the same can be true about finding the church you should attend?  I live in an area where there are church buildings on almost every corner.  They have labels like traditional, missional, seeker-friendly, and orthodox.  Some are mega large while others are small enough to meet in homes.  Some cater to the younger crowd with rock bands and coffee, while older folks seem to prefer more traditional services and knowing where their funeral will be held.

Monday, 14 April 2014 20:23

Gospel-Centered Biblical Counseling

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Among the most prominent paradigms in biblical counseling is that of idolatry. The profound and pioneering work in this area by men like David Powlison (1999), Ed Welch (2003), and Paul Tripp (1999) served as an iconoclastic force for my personal understanding of human motivation.  During my initial years as a counselor, I operated in a perpetual feeling I had discovered a parallel universe in which all my previous perceptions of human psychology were eclipsed by the piercing light of Scripture.

As a believer in Christ, these truths were water to my soul. Yet, as a neophyte in biblical counseling, my methodology evolved from a secular model (in which I was trained) to a model that often bordered on legalism. My error was not in helping people understand the idolatry that shaped their souls, but in doing so to the exclusion of a sound Gospel theology in the process of human change. Here are few truths that have helped me continue to refine an ever-refining approach to biblically helping others.

Friday, 11 April 2014 15:41

The Little Brain That Would Not Cooperate

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During my postdoctoral fellowships in neurology and neuropsychology at UT Southwestern Medical Center I was blessed to work and train with many talented people. It was an honor to be a part of the efforts of these men and women who worked tirelessly day and night, fulfilling a passion they have to care for their fellow man. Theirs is a passion to relieve, as best as possible, the physical and emotional burdens of another’s often unfathomable suffering.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014 16:12

What Not to Say When Someone is Suffering

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Wanted to share this video from the Gospel Coalition: 

People around you will suffer. Please think about what you're going to say. A new @TGC roundtable :http://vimeo.com/73059118

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 15:12

Parenting: The Joyful Impossibility

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Guest Blogger Paul David Tripp

It was eleven o'clock on a Sunday night and I was pulling out of the grocery store parking lot exhausted and overwhelmed. After we’d put our four children to bed later than we’d planned, Luella discovered that we had nothing in the house to pack for lunches the next day. With an attitude that couldn't be described as joyful, I got in the car and did the late night food run. As I waited for the light to change so I could leave the parking lot and drive home, it all hit me. It seemed as if I’d been given an impossible job to do; I’d been chosen to be the dad of four children.

It’s humbling and a bit embarrassing to admit, but I sat in my car and dreamed of what it would be like to be single. No, I didn't want to actually leave Luella and our children, but parenting seemed overwhelming at that point. I felt that I’d nothing left to face the next day of a thousand sibling battles, a thousand authority encounters, a thousand reminders, a thousand warnings, a thousand corrections, a thousand discipline moments, a thousand explanations, a thousand times of talking about the presence and grace of Jesus, a thousand times of helping one of the children to look in the mirror of God's Word and see themselves with accuracy, a thousands "please forgive me's" and a thousand " I love you's." It seemed impossible to be faithful to the task and have the time and energy to do anything else.

Monday, 06 January 2014 16:45

Depression and the Ministry

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During the past year, I have had the privilege of working very closely with Paul Tripp in the development of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care. That experience has given me a deeper understanding of the particular stresses and temptations experienced by pastors in ministry, and will considerably inform the comments that follow as it regards the questions, “How much should you share about your depression with a congregation? How do you explain it?”

 

Monday, 16 December 2013 15:36

Good News... For All the People!

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As the Christmas season comes each year, I try to read the story of the birth of Jesus in each book where  we find it in the Bible.  The story in Luke 1 and 2 is the longest and probably the most famous.  Matthew 1 gives us a very brief narrative following the genealogy of Jesus.  Mark skips it entirely and John begins  his account with a testimony about Jesus but no details about His birth.

Monday, 02 December 2013 19:10

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Recovering Hope

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Post-traumatic stress disorder, a profoundly intense response to profoundly dangerous experiences, manifests itself in fear, terrifying vulnerability, and lack of a sense of control. While these responses are often involuntary, Jeremy Lelek reminds us that they are still responses . . . and, thus, different responses are possible. Here he relates the narrative of creation, fall, and redemption to the experiences of PTSD, reminding us that the gospel speaks to our experiences with danger as part of its redemptive message. He points to the wisdom of God in our suffering and reminds us of the saving grace offered by Jesus, guiding readers to the peace and contentment found in seeking God’s glory.

Sample Chapter: /sites/default/files/files/Sample chapter(1).pdf

 

Monday, 25 March 2013 17:33

Cutting and Self-Harm

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Recently I had the privilege to do an interview with Kurt Goff at www.wdcxfm.com on a very difficult topic- cutting.  If you need a resource to use in helping someone you know and love who is struggling with this issue, I've included a free handout here.  If you are interested in my booklet on cuttingyou can find it here.  In the end, if you or your child is a believer in Christ, Jesus is committed to redeeming this problem.  Consider this passage:

Monday, 28 January 2013 16:26

How the Mercy of God Flourishes in Suffering

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Reality, to a large degree, is constructed subjectively through the processes of the mind.  ”Facts” are perceived, variables of that perception shape an interpretation, and these interpretations ultimately serve to shape a person’s experiential reality.  By no means does this diminish the fact that objective, absolute truth exists, but it is important to recognize that this process of perception,

interpretation, and conclusion has a significant impact on the way people experience life.  Understanding this can have a profound impact on helping people walk through difficult seasons of suffering.

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