Whether We Feel Him Or Not

February 13th, 2015 No Comments

by Lisa Leidenfrost

“Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. But as they sailed He fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in jeopardy. And they came to Him and awoke Him saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, “Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!” (Luke 8:22-25)

What strikes me about this passage is where Jesus was positionally during this scenerio. He was the one who charted the course across the lake and was ‘present’ and ‘all there’ at the beginning. It is easy to go on a voyage when your leader is visibly in front. But note what happens, during the voyage trouble arose with a windstorm. Now remember they are committed to being in the boat since they are in the middle of the lake. They can’t just hop out on shore if the waves get too big for them. This is often the case with trials, God charts the course and once you’re in it, you can’t necessarily get out of it. Since you are now committed, it would be nice to have God’s presence always there in a way you can feel it. read more…

Fantastic Vesuvian Displays

February 12th, 2015 No Comments

Mr. and Mrs. X have been married a long time, but are only just now learning the mechanics of reconciliation:  honest confession, restitution, forgiveness and peace. Before, their conflict management style was avoidance until things cooled down, and pretending the conflict or sin never happened, without ever confessing it and seeking forgiveness. They are making progress, but undergo times of serious, major, derailment.

 Mr. X has been a colossal abdicator for decades, but is seriously repenting over the past two months.  Mrs. X is prone to fantastic Vesuvian displays of anger—where any attempt on Mr. X’s part to talk it through, confess sin, deal gently is met with only greater anger.  During these times—sometimes as long as a week at a crack—Mrs. X threatens to leave, calls Mr. X untold hurtful names, and is impossible to be near.  Mrs. X, almost in a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde sense, does untold damage when she is angry.  Also, any attempt on Mr. X’s part to confront on sin usually is met with defensiveness, and the potential of another Vesuvius.

 Inevitably, after a while she cools down, and sincerely asks for forgiveness—and it is readily granted.  However, there are a lot of (metaphorically speaking) broken dishes, furniture, and other damage.  Besides asking for forgiveness, what are some of the means that Mrs. X can make restitution to heal and fix what she has broken?  I am thinking she needs to see the damage she is wreaking around her—but besides confession and forgiveness, how do you make restitution in this circumstance?  What can she do to make it right?

 Thanks in advance,

Pastor Smith

 

Hi Smithy,

I have a few suggestions that might help your situation. First, Mr. X needs to be encouraged to take the lead in the family transition. It is important that he stop abdicating his responsibilities in the family, but this does not mean that he gets to rule with an iron hand. That kind of ungodly leadership is the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they think of leadership. But what is called for is biblical and godly leadership. Christ like leadership is characterized by tender and humble servanthood. It is filled with compassion and a desire to make his wife the most beautiful woman on the earth by serving her, not by driving her. His new servanthood will build her confidence in his love for her and it will go a long ways in giving her the freedom to be who God wants her to be in respecting him. She probably needs to know that he isn’t going to leave her (check to see what her fears are about) or that he is going to be the man of God he is trying to be. If she blows up at him, he needs to have a plan to respond in a gentle, loving, and kind way. read more…

Balloon Squish

February 9th, 2015 No Comments

In my last post, I mentioned what I call the Balloon Squish. I thought I ought to take a minute to explain that term.

Two weeks after the party, you decide to clean behind the couch and in the process you find an old balloon. The balloon was full and vibrant two weeks ago, but now has faded to half its size and is all wobbly and squishy. As you pick up the balloon and head for the trash, you think of all the fun you had at the party, and look for something to pop the balloon with so that it won’t take up all the space in the trash can.

On the way, you play with the balloon, squishing it between your hands. If you squeeze hard enough, you notice that sections of the balloon pop out between your fingers. Some parts go out between your thumbs, others go out up your arm. If you keep your hands in the same place on the balloon and squeeze in the same way every time, usually, with small variations, the balloon will squeeze out the same way every time. If you were to squeeze hard enough or hold the balloon long enough, it might develop a permanent stretch and maintain the squished out part even after you let go of the balloon. read more…

You Want That Yucky Old Thing Back?

February 9th, 2015 No Comments

Hi Charlie,

I’m sorry to be getting back to you so late.

A lot of people think God is twisted and/or drunk. But as I mentioned in my last post, knowing that there’s something wrong proves that something can be wrong. If the alternative to a good God ruling the universe were true, we couldn’t/wouldn’t care about good or bad, right or wrong. The alternative to a good God ruling the universe is that everything is happening by chance. Things bonk into one another and poof! stuff is or isn’t or is different. There’s nothing good or bad about it. It just is. Complaining makes no sense.

On the other hand, if God exists and things are bad, there must be some other explanation than that God is messing with us.

I agree with you that your life is a train wreck. I don’t dispute anything you’ve written. I also agree with you that you write well. These notes of yours are well constructed, clear, logical and they are pleasant to read (other than the sad content). But not being good at everything, or things others are good at, does not make a person a failure. I would love to be able to write like you write. But the fact that I can’t, doesn’t diminish who God has made me to be. I know I’m average at everything, and though it was a pretty substantial blow to my psyche when I finally realized it, I needed to joyfully accept that that’s the way God made me. read more…

It Doesn’t Work

February 4th, 2015 No Comments

The goal of life is to glorify God by walking with him and enjoying him. The problems we have in life are due to our sin or to the sins of others. Problems multiply as we respond to the sins of others in sinful ways. In counseling, we find people who are struggling with life and who often are struggling because of their sinful responses to the trials they find presented to them. This means that rather than believing that God is sovereign over their lives, in other words that these trials come from God, people rely on their own devices to alleviate their circumstances. Unless this involves running to God, these devices are always sinful.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Some add that we glorify him by enjoying him forever. Whichever way we take it, our goal in life is to glorify God and to have a living and active relationship with him.

Jesus said that we become like our teachers (Lk. 6:40) and the psalmist said that we become like what we worship (Psa. 115:8). So if we want to be like God, or to be Christ like, we need to be with him, worshipping, learning from, and relating to him. And this is what Biblical Counseling is all about. If we think we are doing something in our counseling sessions other than helping others know and be known by God in a more vibrant and glorious way, we have fallen short. read more…

Then He Is Strong

January 30th, 2015 No Comments

Sometimes the Lord is slow to come to the aid of his people, at least as we think of slow. Sometimes, we want God to come to us in our time of need—right now. We don’t want to wait, we don’t want to suffer, we don’t want to feel sorrow. But God does not count slowness like we count slowness. God loves his children, is not taking his time, rather he is right on time. He is not off somewhere playing with his other children, he is in it with us, knowing what we know, experiencing what we experience, and feeling what we feel.

When we receive what God has for us with open hands, with joyful hearts, and with grateful minds, he renews our strength and gives us grace. Even in the worst of times, God comes to us, and calls us not only suffer, but to rejoice in our sufferings. The Apostle Paul told us, in response to his thorn in the flesh, not only did he accept it from the hand of God, he gladly boasted in his infirmities, and he took pleasure in his suffering. Along these same lines, James tells us to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials.

There is more to our lives than what we know and understand. Paul said that he thought of his suffering the way he did because God told him that His Grace was sufficient for his need. God knew Paul was suffering. God knew that Paul was in pain. And God refused to take it away because Paul needed to know that God’s strength is made perfect in Paul’s suffering. Paul said that boasting in his infirmities showed that the power of Christ was resting on him. He took pleasure in his “infirmities, reproaches, needs, persecutions, and distresses” in the name of Christ because when he was weak, Christ was strong.

The Westminster Shorter catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Suffering, pain, trials, and sorrows are given to us for God’s glory, because when we are weak, and we turn to God and are grateful for what he has given us, he is strong and receives glory.

He Is With Us!

January 30th, 2015 No Comments

Psalm 46

Devotional by Lisa Leidenfrost

God is our refuge and strength.

He is our protection from the storm but also our strength to go through it. He is both at the same time.

A very present help in trouble.

I love this. He is right down there with us even in the darkest night. He is a ‘very’ present help in the trouble. You are not left to deal with it alone.

Therefore, we will not fear.

Because of all the above, we don’t have to fear.

Even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled. Though the mountains shake with its swelling.

Notice the types of things described: the earth, the mountains, the sea. The first two are solid, foundational to us, and the thought of them being moved means things are at a cataclysmic level. Have you ever been in a bad earthquake and had the insecure feeling that the ground that holds you is not going to do it anymore? And these stable, foundational things (the earth and the mountains) even if they are removed or cast into a turbulent sea we will not fear. Why? Because our foundation goes deeper than that. It rests on something bigger, that lies beyond the physical foundations we are so familiar with. In other words, when everything turns upside down, we still rest on a rock of refuge, in God, who is a ‘very present help’ in our time of upheaval.

There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God.

The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.

This is a picture of what lies beyond our troubles.

God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;

With the result, that you are not moved from your secure position. It is solid.

God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

Again there is promised help, but note when it comes, after a long dark night, just at the break of dawn.

The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

This is incredible power, and that power is with us.

The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord. Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two, He burns the chariot in the fire.

Again a powerful God, but with all that, take note of the next verse.

Be still and know that I am God.

He can do anything, and no problem is too much for Him. The focus is not on the problem but on God, no matter what the result will be.

And in conclusion:

I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!

The powerful God…

The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.

And He is with us. What a privilege.

All The Way Down

January 22nd, 2015 Comments Off

Hi again, Cindy,

You have quite a story so far. I’m not sure why your other counselor was entertained by it. It appears to be full of tragedy and pain, with none or very little godly success. I would be interested in hearing the story about how you came to believe you are a Christian in the first place and what that means to you.

You need to know that I enjoyed reading your story because I care about you, but telling the story does not change the story, nor does it make the story any better. You might feel good about telling it, but if you’ve noticed, the good feeling only lasts a short time.

The only thing that will change the story is to begin telling yourself the truth about your life, and particularly your current situation. You said you are living with your boyfriend, who is the father of your third child, but you didn’t write it like you thought it was sin to do any of this. What I mean about telling yourself the truth is that you need to go back over the story and name everything sin that is sin. The whole story is filled with sin, from the beginning to the end. You’ve even got significant generational sin in spades. You need to call it what it is so that you can confess it and let God cleanse you from it. (1 Jn. 1:9). Without that, you are bound to repeat it over and over. Again, look over the story and notice the same things happening over and over again, from generation to generation. Nothing will ever change, if nothing changes. The change needs to begin with acknowledgement of sin all the way down to the bones. read more…

It’s All About Jesus

January 21st, 2015 Comments Off

Hi Cindy,

This is going to sound really strange, but as I was reading your letter I found myself thinking, “this is a really great letter.” It’s great, not because of all the pain and suffering you are experiencing, but because of all the strong desires to run to God, to find shelter in God, to find meaning and help in God. The Bible is full of characters who suffer and are in pain. The great ones run to God and find their help in him. In fact, it is virtually impossible to open the Bible and find someone who isn’t suffering. God is always there, holding out his hand, offering to come alongside and relieve the momentary pain. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28).

You sound like a woman who is well read and Biblically literate. You undoubtedly know the answers. Perhaps you’re simply listening to yourself and your situation instead of talking to yourself and telling yourself where to run and how to do it. But just in case you need to hear it from someone else, here goes.

I don’t know where you live or what your marital or family circumstances are. You mentioned children in your letter, but I have no idea how old they are. So, these comments are assuming a perfect world, lots of time, and a flexible schedule. You’ll have to write back and give me more information and we can tweak these suggestions. read more…

Sin vs. Sick

December 19th, 2014 Comments Off

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

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