Category Archives: Counseling for the Soul

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A Simple Life

A Simple Life

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  2 Corinthians 11:3

Have you felt overwhelmed lately with the busyness of life?  I am trying to slow down on purpose to be more reflective and thoughtful.  Perhaps you are busy right now.  Us Americans tend to rush to this event then run to that event. We barely make it to work, school, or church on time.  Many arrive late, if they arrive at all.  Depending on your life stage and if there are kids in your home you are running them all around as well.

Why are we in such a hurry?  Why is life so busy?

  1. We have the same amount of time as we have always had. 24 hours a day.
  2. We attempted to crowd more things into those 24 hours.
  3. With the promise of more leisure time, we depend on electronics and technology.
  4. Even with the fluctuation of inflation, and the value of the American dollar, we have more money and resources than any nation or people in the history of the world.

Is it possible that while we may be “getting more done” that we are actually accomplishing less?  The answer to that question’s rests primarily on your list of priorities.

  • When was the last time you began a new meaningful relationship and friendship with a person or family at church?
  • When was the last time you gave a gospel tract to a neighbor or spoke to an acquaintance about Jesus?
  • When was the last time you prayed before the Sunday morning Bible study and church service and participated with gladness?
  • When was the last time you and those in your household opened a Bible and prayed together?
  • When was the last time everyone in your house enjoyed a dinner together around the table with no television or cellphones taking away from the moment?

One of Satan’s greatest and most effective strategies has been to keep good people busy doing good things, so they cannot engage in the more important and best things.  Satan remains subtle in many ways today.  Most Christians do not run after gross and obvious sin.  Adultery, fornication, lying, cheating, are not usually where good people start to drift.  It is in the seemingly small and mundane things.  They go after potentially good things and are so busy the neglect the best things.  Before long, the best is squeeze out of their lives.

Renowned scientist of yesteryear, Albert Einstein said:

“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.”

I like that thought.

Are you too busy?  Feeling overworked, stressed, and frazzled?  Try taking some of the non-essentials out.  Be sure to continue or start the basic expectations of the Christian life.  The times of solitude in prayer, moments of discussion with family, and the accountability of being with others in church will only refresh and encourage you.

Sports teams, dance and art class, the local school, and the lessons you signed up for cannot replace the simple things that God has given to us – in Jesus.

While Satan is making life complicated and adding new priorities to your list – Jesus is simplifying our life! He wants you to enjoy the simple things and to find meaning in “being with Jesus” not just running around trying to achieve things in so many areas of life.  With all the available “distractions” it is a wonder that anyone goes to church or opens a Bible any more.  Yes, it is that bad for many people.

Learn from Jesus in Matthew 11:29, He said: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  While Satan wants you to carry your own weight in being busy in life, Jesus wants you to find rest.  Don’t “yoke up” with Satan or this world!  Jesus has a different and better pace of life based on relationship with Him.  It is OK to slow down.  It is good to reassess and refocus the direction of your life.  Take a step back: “Am I running all over when God wants to give me rest?”  Or: “Am I so busy that I no longer have time for God? Family?” Or: “for the things that really matter most in life?”

Find a simpler life in Jesus.  Put the main things in life – first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Never Takes a Day Off

But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. 

2 Timothy 3:13

Do you look forward to a vacation?  Christmas break? Spring break?  How about the end a work week?  Sure.  We look forward to moments of rest and relaxation.  Jesus even told His disciples to “Come apart and rest a while.”  Rest is good.  While we need physical rest, emotional/relational relaxation, and spiritual renewal, we should never “take the day off” from be vigilant Christians.

We have an adversary who is always on duty.  We have an opponent who never takes a break.  We are in a spiritual battle and at just the right time, a moment of weakness, or unawareness, Satan will pounce.  1 Peter 5:8 says, Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…

Radio preacher Erwin Lutzer suggested: “No matter how many pleasures Satan offers you, his ultimate intention is to ruin you. Your destruction is his highest priority.”  He is certainly right about that.

Here are several sobering thoughts:

  1. Evil never takes a day off.  Just turn on the news.  Evil is escalating everyday.
  2. Satan never takes a day off.  Like a ferocious lion, he is always prepared to pounce.
  3. Temptation never takes a day off.  Every one of us, everyday, will face new temptations.  Sometimes the temptations are recycled forms of previous temptations.  Sometimes they are brand new.  Whatever the case, the Lord can give you victory over that temptation.

Because Satan, evil, and temptation never take a day off, I encourage you to not become lazy in your Christianity.  Be aware of the score.  Know what is going on in the battlefield.  Pack your “spiritual bags” at church to be more prepared when tempted to sin.  Hear more Bible preaching, not less.  Be filled and satisfied with Bible truth, not with the non-sense entertainment and distractions of the world.  Put on the whole armor of God.  Keep your shoes on to flee from Satan.  Be around spiritual people who will encourage you and challenge you to faithfulness in service to Jesus.  Open the Bible and let the Word of God into your life.  Don’t be deceived! Be an aware believer, engaging actively each day.

Your life depends on it.

Your family depends on it.

Those around you will be influenced by your choices.

Don’t take a spiritual day off.

4 “Plans” for Avoiding Sin

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Everyone is tempted to sin.  When our lust begins to control and consume us something is born called sin.  James chapter 1 speaks much to this process of temptation becoming sin.  While temptation is not sin, it leads to sin.  Could I suggest that allowing temptation to grow, or even actively nurturing it could also be sin?

John Eastwood made an insightful statement:  “People do not decide to be drunkards, drug addicts, prostitutes, murderers, or thieves, but they pitch their tent toward Sodom, and the powers of evil overcome them.”

Each of us know people whose lives were changed overnight, because of sin.  One temptation acted upon can alter an entire lifetime.  I have met teenagers who are not able to finish high school because of sin.  Many soldiers and sailors have made one bad choice and find themselves in legal trouble, or in the brig.  Ever notice the genuinely homeless people asking for food along the road?  Perhaps one bad choice, led to a whole string of bad choices and they end up with nothing.

If one sin can have such an impact, we should be looking to Jesus fervently and seeking His guidance and help to avoid sin! Here are 4 “plans” to help you avoid sin.

  1. Prayer Plan: Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
  2. Prevention Plan: Psalm 101:3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
  3. Protection Plan: Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
  4. Escape Plan: 1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

What happens if I falter and fail?   What should I do when I commit sin?  For sure we do not want to abuse the Grace of God – see Romans 6:1-2.  But when we sin, we do have an advocate with the Father – His name is Jesus.  We are instructed in 1 John 1:9 to confess our sin to God.  When we confess, we acknowledge our wrong and God forgives us.

Don’t forget about repentance.  Remember Romans 6:1-2?  That verse tells us to not continue in that sin.  That would be abusing the grace of God.  In other words, a person who confesses his sin to God, also should repent of his sin and turn around from it.  Repentance is a change of mind resulting in a change of direction.

So, can these 4 “plans” help you avoid sin?  Yes they can.  While we will never be perfect in our lifetimes on earth, we can choose to honor Jesus by living holy lives that are dedicated to Him.

Where Do You Find Happiness?

Where Do You Find Happiness?

I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

Psalm 9:2

One of my favorite childhood songs from children’s church is called, “Happiness is the Lord.”  Lindsay Terry tells the following story as to how this wonderful song came about.

“Ira F. Stanphill was born in Belview, New Mexico, in 1914. He has written more than 550 songs, the most popular of which are “Mansion over the Hilltop,” “Room at the Cross,” and, of course, “Happiness Is the Lord.”

On any number of occasions the Lord has given a song to a songwriter when he or she least expected it. Such was the case of Ira Stanphill one afternoon in 1974 after he left the church office where he was pastor in Fort Worth, Texas.

The car radio was on, and as he rode along he listened to some commercial programs. Some were sponsored by establishments that advertised their “happy hour” and their alcoholic beverages. He also heard cigarettes being advertised in terms of how they bring happiness.

The word happiness was used several times in the ads. Ira related to me that he thought at the time that “happiness does not come with these things, but with knowing Christ.” He continued, “As this thought really took over my mind I began to sing. I sang a new song, composing words and melody as I drove along. I sang it almost as it is published today.””

The words are accompanied by a cheerful tune.  In it this song says,

Verse 1
Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord

Verse 2
Happiness is a new creation
Jesus and me in close relation
Having a part in His salvation
Happiness is the Lord

(Bridge)
Real joy is mine
No matter if teardrops start
I’ve found the secret
It’s Jesus in my heart

Verse 3
Happiness is to be forgiven
Living a life that’s worth the livin’
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord

(Ending)
Happiness is the Lord
Happiness is the Lord

No matter what circumstances you find yourself in today, my friend, the Lord is the Who, What, and the Where that you can find real happiness.  In poor health?  Have an overwhelming situation? Are you having a tough time coping with a loss, or a major disappointment?  In the midst of your situation, it is possible to find, peace, contentment, happiness, and gladness.  Like the Psalmist declares in Psalm 126:3, when we count our blessings we can say, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.”

I am Weak, But God is Strong

I Am Weak, But God is Strong

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10

Blood was everywhere. More than I had ever seen. Ever. We changed the bed sheets dozens of times in just a few hours in the Emergency Room.  After calling for me to help her while at the house, we immediately drove to the hospital on a Saturday.  Natalie received good care and the prayers of many people were answered and the bleeding stopped sometime one Monday after several examinations, and medical procedures. Thankfully, Natalie is now back home, though she is not yet “back to normal.”  Even with the blood counts looking good, her stamina, energy, and endurance are nil at this point.  Walking to the kitchen in our beautiful but modest home takes a lot of effort. A lot.  She has left the house only 2 times in the last 3 weeks, and that was with my assistance (to walk from and to car) to see the doctor.  Tears? Yes. Crying? Yes. Pain? Yes. Sorrow? Disappointment? Yes. Unimaginable? Yes. Life-changing? Yes. Praying? Yes.

I was certainly blessed to not leave her bedside for about 5 days.  It is an honor to care for your spouse, even when they cannot care for themselves.  Our church family has been so kind with food, care, and understanding when I could not be in other places.  Thank you! We have a caring church.

After several years of pain, headaches, tiredness and more, and after many different types of doctors and medicine, we discovered earlier this year that she has a plethora of medical issues that have accumulated over time.  We are treating, not only the symptoms, but also the source of the constant pain and tiredness.  And then suddenly the ER episode mentioned above.

I am sharing all this (not for pity or an emotional response but) for a present-day description of the verse Paul wrote: “When I am weak, then am I strong.”  It is in our weakness that we see the incredible power and might of God.  It is in those moments of physical and emotional desperation that we see God in more close and intimate ways.  It is when we cannot move, walk, talk, or when we are in constant pain that we can ether get bitter at God, or get better associated with God.  “Don’t take your abilities for granted,” Natalie put on Facebook one day – “they could be gone in a moment.”

If us humans never had problems, why would we need the Lord?  If you and I  could handle life on our own, what good is it that we say we have faith? In trials and difficulties, we can be like Job.  He kept looking to the promises of God.  He knew “My redeemer liveth.” We could be like Paul, who continued to serve the Lord in spite of his physical limitations.   Paul was not happy for the pain and suffering, but for the lessons learned and the close proximity of the Lord in those moments of physical need.

With every ability or inability – we can find ways to serve God. For our friends experiencing inability to move, stand, walk, put your own cloths on, wash yourself, or even feed yourself – be encouraged, you can still pray.  You can still read the Bible, have it read to you, or recite scriptures you have memorized.  God still has a plan for your life and a perfect will for the rest of your family.

When you are at your weakest – you can see God at His strongest! In your weakness you can become stronger – in the Lord.  I am not strong in myself anymore. I am strong in God. He is my strength.

Are you in a similar situation? Hang in there.  Keep looking to Jesus.  Find comfort in the Word.  In the more intense moments at the ER and later the hospital room, the Holy Spirit brought to Natalie’s mind Scriptures.  In particular, she was quoting Psalm 18.  Look it up sometime.  There are many other things we learned from the Lord at the hospital and at home and are continuing to learn day by day.  Natalie is still not able to get out of the house, attend church, or do even 2/10th of all the things was doing before.  What if her energy remains low?  What if her weakness remains amplified like this?  We accept God’s will if this is the “new normal.”   God will give us the grace to accept this condition and even thrive in the midst of this.  The verse right before “When I am weak” is 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Let the “power of Christ” rest upon you – in your weakness.  We appreciate your prayers.

 

 

 

 

No Safe Alcohol

No Safe Alcohol

An August 24 report concluded after extensive study “there’s no safe level of alcohol consumption.”  Millions of cases from 200 countries indicated that 1 in 10 deaths are actually -alcohol related.  “Any protective health effects of alcohol were offset by the drink’s risks:” including cancer, car wrecks and more.  “The widely held view of the health benefits of alcohol needs revising.” The lead scientist said.  Look up the Chris Carbone report carried by Fox News for more information.

This scientific report concluded something the Bible has already been telling us for thousands of years – avoid alcohol.

Some Christians, when misreading or not understanding the textual and historical context of various Bible passages will stretch the Word to allow (in their mind) for consuming alcohol.

For example: 1 Timothy 5:23 where Paul tells Timothy: Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.

Paul would not suggest to Timothy to stop drinking poisonous and putrid water to go find some fermented and rotting juice that has become alcohol.  That is like saying: “stop drinking that poison, try this poison instead.”  This is stretching the passage to fit a permissive lifestyle.

  • Fresh grape juice is what Timothy drank. The health benefits of grape juice is well documented.
  • Fresh grape juice is what Jesus made out of water.  The wedding celebrants in Cana commented on the fresh drink tasting better than the old or fermented drink.
  • Fresh grape juice will not get a person drunk or cause them to violate all the prohibitions of the Bible against alcohol.
  • Reading in context a person can discern if “wine” in the Bible is fresh or fermented.

The very first mention of wine is in Genesis 9 when Noah becomes drunk. Other sins stem from his drunkenness. Not a good first mention.

The word “Wine” is the Greek word “oinos” that has a Hebrew origin.  It means wine that is either “literally or figuratively, wine.”  I have always understood from Bible classes and training that “wine” means “fruit of the vine” or “juice of the vine.”

There is a big difference in the “New Wine” and the “Old Wine” in the Bible. The difference is Fresh verses Fermented.

Please prayerfully read and consider the following passages:

  • Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
  • Proverbs 23:31-33 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. 33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
  • Proverbs 31:4-5 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: 5 Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.

Be encouraged to “live like a king – don’t drink alcohol!”

For those hoping there is more about this in the Bible – there is.  We are told the only 2 good uses of alcohol in Proverbs 31:6-7.  And here you will note, it is not for pleasure, fun, celebrations, social events, or to have a “good time.”

Proverbs 31:6-7 teaches, Give strong drink (Alcoholic wine) unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. 7 Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

  1. Men on Death Row. These men were heavy of heart for their crimes and impending judgment.  Right before public execution, many were given alcohol. Commentator Adam Clark noted: “Inebriating drinks were mercifully given to condemned criminals, to render them less sensible of the torture they endured in dying.” When Jesus was a dying on the cross, he refused the alcoholic drink offered Him.  We would do well to follow His example.  (Mark 15:23)
  2. Medicine for physical pain near death. Alcohol is a type of drug.  That is why is considered a “controlled substance.”  Alcohol can be used as medicine.  Does Nyquil still have alcohol in it?  We still anesthetize for pain before surgeries in similar ways today. Alcohol should only be available as a prescriptive drug to alleviate the pain of a dying person. Even if the wine Paul recommends to Timothy was alcoholic (I do not believe it was) it was consumed only as medicine.

WebMD.com writes in “The Buzz about Grape Juice” the following: “With grape juice, you can drink enough to get the benefit without worrying about becoming intoxicated.” What’s more, alcoholic drinks don’t seem to improve the function of cells in blood vessel linings the way grape juice does. And alcohol generates free radicals — unstable oxygen molecules that can actually cause damage to blood vessel tissues — dampening any of the benefits that red wine’s antioxidants may offer.”

One final thought: Not only would I not drink alcohol I would not serve it or sell it to other people.  I believe it is actually a sin to serve alcohol to another person.  If my job at the department store, gas station, or restaurant required me to serve or sell alcohol, I would look for a different job. Here’s why: Habakkuk 2:15, where a warning is given: Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!

Alcohol has historically been used to take advantage of other people.  Ask many of the women of the “me too movement” if drugs or alcohol was part of the equation.  Even the first mention of wine with Noah included taking advantage and shameful nakedness. Drinking decreases mental ability, creates false narratives, encourages foolish and more sinful behavior, and clouds a person’s judgment. Don’t drink it! And don’t give it to others.

Be encouraged to live like a king – avoid alcohol.  Understand there is “no safe amount” of alcohol. It is not good for you – for many Biblical reasons!  Happiness is not found in a can or a bottle!  Instead of being filled with alcohol – be filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus (Ephesians 5:18).  Let Him provide the peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment you are searching for.