Sin vs. Sick

December 19th, 2014 No Comments

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

― Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Psalm 23

December 12th, 2014 No Comments

by Lisa Leidenfrost

This is such a familiar psalm that I find myself often thinking I know it and can’t gain anything else more from it, but I went over it the other day and did gain more. This psalm uses a lot of metaphors. When you read a metaphor, try putting into your own words what you think each particular metaphor is trying to get across to you and it will broaden the sense of the psalm. Here is my attempt below:

“The Lord is my shepherd”

Shepherd means care, protection, guidance, restraint from danger, etc. My shepherd means personal care for me.

“I shall not want”

There is no more to want besides Him. Therefore, this means abundance, and needs taken care of, etc. read more…

Encouragement to Persevere

December 3rd, 2014 No Comments

By Lisa Leidenfrost

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12.1)

Along the way, in the race of life, it helps to have people surround us to cheer us on, encourage us and walk with us through the rough spots, hence our prayer groups. We want to hear about the needs and it is a privilege to bring things to our Lord, and then to see His answers. This is how a thriving and healthy body works, it supports and encourages those who are suffering so that they do not feel they are going at it alone.

We’re not going to have it easy in this life. I think God wants it that way so that we will need Him. The verse above is concentrating on how to run your race well to the end. We need to lay aside anything that can trip us up or get us off course. The problem with having hard challenges, is that there are so many real temptations to sin that naturally go with them. The challenges are truly hard, and the temptation to give in to discontent or worry or depression are very real. This verse is a plea to keep going, and not to let these things weigh us down. How do we do this?

v2  “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

v3  “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

Getting through the race intact is done by looking at Jesus. He gave you your faith, He is the One who nurtures it and will finish it. The One who is taking you by the hand has already gone before you victoriously in enduring the cross, despising the shame with the end result sitting at the right hand of God. He already achieved victory and He is now here to help you through life to do the same. All that you have to do is look to Him. With every concern that you have, every worry, every heart ache, every question, you look to Him. He suffered far more than you ever will so He knows suffering, and He did it victoriously, gaining salvation for the world. By looking to Him, you can gain courage and help to keep on course.

v6 “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

All the hardship we go through is for a purpose. He is going somewhere with it and it is done out of love for His children. God knew that if we only lived a life of ease all the time that we would remain weak, never growing up to the fullness that He meant us to grow up to.

Look up. Look beyond. For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. We can do the same with our trials. Look at the joy to come with the victory that Christ has won. Look also at what He is doing now in the world. But if you ask, what about Tsunamis and Ebola and horrible wars? How could those possibly work for good?  From your perspective, there may not appear to be a point or it may seem cruel, but from God’s perspective there is a glorious end that you can’t see yet.

Look at it this way, picture a map of the world with a little light for every human heart. These lights will either remain dark, or be a dull yellow, or be varying degrees of white light. Some will be the brightest of white lights that will overpower the others. If, the ‘light’ represented the light of the glory of God burning in human hearts, where do you expect on the map to see the greatest cluster of the brightest light? In the places of ease, or in the thickest of the disasters? I bet it will be in the most intense suffering, because there, people are forced to look up and grow, and when they do, God stamps His character upon them as they ‘struggle, learn, grow’.

We heard back from the people on the inside in Liberia during the worst of the Ebola outbreak, that there was hunger in the quarantined areas and the leaders of the church were going in to those areas to give food and offer help, putting their lives at risk to do so. Is their light burning bright? Is God’s goal ease, or is it to gain the most ‘bright lights’ to shine in the world? And, if intense suffering brings that about, can you begin to see why He does what He does? He has a different purpose than we. He is going somewhere with each trial, so don’t waste your trial.

If you can’t see it, you’ll just have to bank on the character of God and rest there by faith. He was faithful to save you and He’ll be faithful to see you through to the end. You have to look at all your disappointments, seeming failures, and dark future, and see it as a pathway to glory and better things to come, with a very bright ending. The path to glory is one where goodness and mercy shall follow you all your days of your life. But this goodness will just have to take another form right now that you may not initially recognize.

Picture yourself at the end of your life. When you look back, what was the most important thing about living it, and did you ‘really live’? To really live means to know God and become like Him. It means to give Him glory. Nothing else is really important or will last through eternity.

So, if this is your goal and God has chosen cancer, or MS, or some other hardship to attain this, shouldn’t you be grateful to Him for choosing the route that would best accomplish this? Wouldn’t you see it as a gift instead of as a curse? That is why you can look at something horrible, and seen through God’s eyes, call it ‘good’, because of How God will use it for His glory.

read more…

Who God Is

November 18th, 2014 Comments Off

by Lisa Leidenfrost

It is amazing how each day our perception can get just a little bit skewed and we need to go back to God’s Word to right it again. When we are in heavy trials, our perception of God can get really cock-eyed.

When that happens, how we interpret our trial and our life can then be off and this makes our trial even harder. This is why it is important to be constantly going back to the facts to stand on when the world doesn’t make sense. When going through a rough time, to keep your perception of God intact, find the verses that state who He is and you can trust God that He actually is who He says He is.

These are ‘fact’ verses and you can stand on them as an immovable rock. They are all over the Bible, but the Psalms are particularly rich. Here are some:

Psalm 18:2-3 ‟The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;”

Psalm 16:5-6 ‟O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.”

Psalm 16 states that even if we think we are getting the short end of the stick in life, we really are not, because God is our portion and it is a good portion. He is our inheritance and it is a rich one. He is our cup and it is not half full, but running over. He maintains our lot. He maintains our life.

7-8 ‟I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.”

God gives us counsel and instruction.

8 ‟I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”

Because of who God is, the Psalmist is willing to put His Lord always before him, and that means following him no matter where He leads. That is trust for you, and confidence. The result is this:

8b ‟Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

11 ‟You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

God’s presence keeps us from being moved. We have joy in His presence and in Him there are pleasures forevermore, even in the midst of severe trial.

Believe What Is True

November 17th, 2014 Comments Off

by Lisa Leidenfrost

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6, 7

Anxiety can be a common reaction and that is why Philippians 4:7 tells us how to handle it, and handling it right gives the result of peace. Why do we need to get a handle on anxiety, and why is it a sin? Isn’t being ‘really concerned’ about something just a tiny little fault? Well, think about what anxiety is. When you are anxious, it is like you are being a functional atheist. An atheist says ‘there is no God’, but a functional atheist implies, ‘there is no God who will hear and act on my behalf.’ So if this is the underlying premise, the resultant action is to watch out for yourself and act accordingly because no one else will, not even God. But of course our emotional makeup rebels at this excessive burden and the emotional reaction of anxiety then comes to the surface.

To have faith is to not have ‘true’ anxiety. The two don’t co-exist. I believe there is a type of ‘anxiety reaction’ that can happen without an underlying cause that can be medication induced, etc. I have had one. It feels like a fire alarm goes off when there is no fire. One can be thinking faith driven thoughts of God while the body is screaming ‘danger! panic! at the same time. To handle that is simple. Ignore the fire alarm, since it is malfunctioning, and set your sights on what is stable and will not change, and can be trusted – God. Then you ride out the reaction until the fire alarm shuts off again, usually when the medication has run its course.

But a fear-driven anxiety reaction is also handled in a similar way, except you add into the above mix confession. To operate like there is no God who will hear and act for you is to believe what is false about Him. If you don’t believe He will act for you, then you have to carry the burden on your own shoulders, without the divine strength and power to do so. To get out of this unbelief, you must first confess this sin. You are not God. After you confess, you must go on and believe what is true, that He is very merciful, kind, loves you, and will act accordingly. You don’t have to feel it, just believe it. After you choose to believe that He is who He says He is, you are ready for the next step, which is to believe that He will do what He says He will do. Then stand on these promises. Know that when you make a jump of faith to believe Him, there are arms on the other side to catch you.

Saying ‘no’ to your gloomy premonitions, and ‘yes’ to trusting God even when you can’t see, is a choice. It is believing that those arms will actually catch you when you leap out into the realm of faith. When you make that choice, it doesn’t mean that the emotions of anxiety will leave right away, or if they do, that they won’t come right back in five minutes. It just means you make a choice to stand on high ground and not give in to the emotion. Let the emotion do what it wants, you will not give in to it. When you stand there repeatedly, the emotion should die down but you have to stand first for the emotion to follow, not the other way around. If you wait for the anxiety emotion to go away first to reassure you, you could be waiting there a long while, and toppling off the rock of your hope in the meantime. It is like your mind will then say, ‘See, it didn’t work; you need to save yourself. Panic!’.

But consider that emotions are the worst indicator of reality. Better to stand on what is true reality – God. Only there can you really be safe. Fear based emotions can be deeply entrenched if you have had a long habit of giving in to them. So reprogram how you operate and make the choice to ride over the emotions by focusing on something beyond – God. He is stable. He doesn’t change and is sure. Then hang on with His strength. And if you topple off that high position and fall back again into the soup of anxiety, start all over by confessing, making a choice to believe what is true and standing again. It is a process to reprogram your mind how to think without slipping into the default mode of anxiety. That process can be hard but when you put your hand in God’s, it is good and you’ll get there. You are learning how to fight with Him as your guide.

“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:16, 17

Why I Don’t Treat Mental Illness Like Physical Illness

November 15th, 2014 Comments Off

I was surfing through my Facebook pages the other night and I ran across this article in the Huff Post web page. The title asks, “What if people treated physical illness like Mental illness?” The point of the post is to try to get people to treat mental illness like physical illness. I thought I would take a stab at why I don’t treat mental illness like I treat physical illness. I think I can do it by using the article and the slide presentation attached to the article.

The major assertion is that mental illness, “just like having the flu, or food poisoning, or cancer isn’t in their control.” But is the flu, food poisoning, or cancer just like mental illness? I don’t think so. No one talks about mental illness the same way people talk about these physical illnesses. Not even the article. Here’s what I mean.

The Flu

One web sites tells us that this is how you catch the flu:

If you want to be one of the 20 percent of Americans who catch the flu this season, shake hands with a lot of sick people.

Sickly folk are contagious for a long time. An adult can spread the virus one day before and three to seven days after symptoms show. Kids are contagious for even longer periods of time. Although you can steer clear of those that sniffle, some infected individuals show no symptoms and can still spread the virus to others.

Most commonly, the virus travels through the air in liquid droplets from coughs and sneezes . Viruses prefer the wintry conditions of cold air with low humidity. In humid air, the droplets grow heavy with water and fall to the ground—or to other surfaces. read more…

Let Grace Draw You

November 12th, 2014 Comments Off

This morning a young gent asked my how he can stop being worried about doing the wrong thing when he goes about his life. When I asked him to clarify what he was talking about, he told me that he doesn’t have trouble trusting God for the things in his life that he can’t control, but gets all worked up about things he can. He is sure he is going to sin and bring the wrath of God down on his head. I asked him who gets the glory when he is obedient and he was quick to point out that, “of course God gets the glory if I am obedient.”

Help me understand, I said. You feel like you will be punished for disobeying? You will be a failure? Others will think badly of you? Including God? But if you are obedient, God will receive the glory?

“Right,” he said.

Where will you be if you do the right thing?

“Well, God will bless me and he will smile on me and I will be filled with joy,” he said. read more…

Discovering Medication

November 8th, 2014 Comments Off

I’m all for medication. If it helps, take it. By all means. But before you do, let’s talk about what we mean by ‘helps.’ If we mean it relieves immediate pain and suffering, I’m for it. I take aspirin for headaches. It’s a good thing.

On the other hand, if taking the medication hides something else going on in the body, does it really help? If you have a persistent headache, maybe you will want to take the aspirin while looking for a deeper source of the pain. It could be that you have a brain tumor or you are inadvertently poking yourself in the head with a sharp stick. The aspirin may help with temporary pain, but you really need to do something about the tumor.

Let’s change the illustration to something more akin to the sharp stick scenario. Suppose, a woman, we’ll call her Nancy, has a husband who thinks he’s the center of the universe and he treats her like dirt. He comes home from work and spends the rest of the evening yelling at her and belittling her. He hits her and calls her all kinds of names before drinking himself into a stupor and finally going to bed. The next day, he goes to work and it all starts again. read more…

Discovering Depression

November 5th, 2014 Comments Off

In his book, The Loss of Sadness, Allan Horwitz  pointed out that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals have taken more and more symptoms and classified them under the umbrella term of depression. Of course, given the name of the book, Horwitz’s main concern was the topic of sadness. His thesis, or observation, is that people are not allowed to be sad anymore. Instead, they are depressed. As I read I noticed that this is true not only for sadness, but for virtually all of the “symptoms” listed for making the diagnosis, depression. Here is a list I came across at the web site for the National Institute of Health (NIH):

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

Irritability, restlessness

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex

Fatigue and decreased energy

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions

Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Overeating, or appetite loss

Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment. read more…

Suffering and Victory

October 29th, 2014 Comments Off

In Genesis, it tells us that God created the world in six days, and after looking over his work, he proclaimed that everything was “very good.” Early in the third chapter, however, the serpent appeared and deceived Eve. She and Adam ate the forbidden fruit, thus bringing evil into the mix. When God “discovered” the sin, he cursed everyone involved and part of the curse was that there would be animosity between man and man, and between man and the world he lives in. What we see around us is the result of that curse.

God could have simply wiped man out and started again, but instead, for whatever reason, he didn’t. He allowed history to continue on, allowing man to fight and bicker against one another, making things ugly. Throughout history God was always there asking men to come back to him, to stop their rebellion against him and thus against one another. But they refused.

Then Jesus came to earth, lived among us, died as our head and in the process took the penalty and shame of our sin, and rose from the dead to prove it all.

When we come to him, we relinquish everything we thought was ours, and give it over to his control. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Our becoming Christians means we die to ourselves and change our allegiance to him. Part of this is that we stop trusting in ourselves for our wellbeing and give that responsibility over to him. read more…

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