Christian Living

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, 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, 29 October 2012 16:35

Christ in You: The Hope of Glory

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I first heard this part of Colossians 1:27 “Christ in You…the hope of Glory”  in 1976 when Major Ian Thomas came all the way from England to teach at a small Baptist church in deep East Texas where my new husband and I were members.  We were used to a “visiting preacher” coming every year to preach a “revival”.  They usually held revivals in the springtime and this was no exception.  We were expecting someone to come tell us again how to “be saved” or that we needed to repent and turn from our sins.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012 22:12

God’s Measuring Stick

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As I have been trying to get more exercise lately, I have been riding my Schwinn “comfort” bicycle with its padded seat that looks like it goes on a tractor, not a bicycle.  To make sure that I don’t stop before I actually exercise, I bought an odometer so that I can see how fast I am going and how far I have been.  This little device has made me acutely aware of speed and distance as measured with numbers.

 

I can just be as happy as a lark in my less- than- fashionable gym clothes, riding down the bike trail, basking in thoughts of how good I am to be exercising when suddenly, a young athlete whizzes by me.  They are all decked out in the “proper attire” for the sport, on a bike with very skinny tires, and saying irritating things like “passing on your left”. 

Monday, 23 July 2012 19:11

Manna

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If you’ve been around church for years or maybe not at all there’s a pretty good chance you would be able to name or describe a story or two from the Bible. Whether it was the story of creation in Genesis or the birth of Christ in the book of Luke. Maybe it’s the story of God parting the Red Sea or feeding the masses with just a few loaves of bread and some fish. Many of the stories are hard to forget because often times they seem so crazy to us. Can you imagine the Red Sea parting and the ground beneath the water being dry enough for hundreds of people to pass! How I wish I could have seen something like that in real life.

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