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Old and New

If you were asked to compile a list of things that are old, what would be on your list?  Perhaps an old friend, an old book, or an old memory come to mind.  On the flipside, what if your list needed to have things that are new upon it?  A new job, a crisp new dollar bill, or a new baby?  (Clearly, these are not in any order of importance!)

It is safe to say to that things that are old can be precious, and things that are new can be precious.  A couple that has grown old together throughout the years is a wonder.  A fresh new start can be exciting and adventurous.  Both “old” and “new” in a variety of contexts can be appreciated for their uniqueness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 states, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  These verses struck me with the thought that God’s “new mercies” are evidence of His “old faithfulness.”

Each and every day God pours new mercies into my life.  Sometimes those mercies look like a well-timed encouraging email or text from a friend or the unexpected kindness and generosity of a stranger; other times those mercies can be painful, like removing something from our lives that we are very certain we truly need.  Years ago, I was in a situation where I found it hard to believe that God had taken something away from me.  When I would share even small slices of the story with others, the overwhelming counsel that I received time and time again was that I had “dodged a bullet.”  Dodging that bullet was not in my plans and was not something I considered mercy at the time.  Rather, I felt like God was giving me the opposite of mercy.  However (to use a hospital analogy) in the operating room sometimes the most merciful action a surgeon can take is to cut away the illness or disease, and so it was in my case.  God’s mercies are purposeful even when they are painful.

God is good at being merciful to us.  Sometimes his mercies come in unexpected packages; sometimes we want the same mercies from yesterday to be His mercies for today.  Today, as you go throughout your day, try to look for those “new mercies” in your life.  And then tomorrow, when you wake up, do the same thing.  And the day after that, do the same thing.   May we be encouraged that His ever-changing new mercies in our lives are ever present evidence of His old faithfulness.

 

Meagan Cargill is an educator for surgical and anesthesia staff at a local hospital in Kansas City. She previously worked as a nurse in the Neurosurgical ICU.

Posted in: Christian Living

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One Small Butterfly, Two Big Lessons

by BJ Rathburn

I don’t know about you, but I love God’s creatures, especially those in the animal kingdom. I like to look for spiritual analogies and Scriptural truths illustrated in the creature before me and how God made it. As I’ve reflected on what I might share with you, I remember a certain encounter with one of God’s small creatures and two important lessons it taught me. I share them here in hopes it will encourage you in some way.

It was late in the afternoon on a late Spring day. I had been walking through some hard things for a while that would eventually result in marital separation. In the moment, things seemed to be piling up on me. Can you relate? The Psalmist knew this well when he cried out to the Lord in Ps. 25:17, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Well, the troubles of my heart were most certainly enlarged that day. Something had happened and I didn’t have anyone to share it with but the Lord. I was overwhelmed, confused, frightened, anxious, hurt, angry, lonely, and had no earthly idea of what to do. I walked the short walk to a little clearing at a nearby trailhead, sheltered from public view, with an arbor and some benches on the edge of a scrubby mesquite forest. No sooner did I sit down when the tears just flooded out.

I was trying to mentally articulate a prayer of some kind to ask God for help By Wikipedia: User: Umbris (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonswith the turmoil in my heart when through my tears I saw something move at my feet. Scorpions, tarantulas, colonies of fire ants, and other nasty things inhabited my neck of the woods in Dallas, so the first thing I did was instinctively yank my feet up onto the bench. But when I looked more carefully, I saw a beautiful butterfly, (probably a Cassius Blue), blending in perfectly with the background beneath me. It appeared to be sunning itself, but periodically closed its wings so I got a good view of its defense mechanism patterning. For a fleeting moment, the beauty of the winged thing at my feet displaced my self-pity.

Lesson One: When You Need God to Change the Course of History, He did.

My initial reaction of gratitude (that the creature at my feet was not venomous) quickly morphed into a spirit that questioned the Lord. “Lord! I wish you would come down and straighten this out! I wish you would come down and make your presence known! I wish you would come down and interrupt all this and fix it forever! I wish you would come down and show me what to do! I want to be able to see You as clearly as the butterfly at my feet. I wish You would do something! Anything!”

The Lord used the tenor of my impetuous grumbling to take me to Isiah 64-65, which opens, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down…” And no sooner did I read that, when I knew God was using His Word to tell me that He did. He did rend the Heavens and the curtain to the Holy of Holies, too! He did come down. He sent His Son into the world to live an obscure life full of hardship, to suffer at the hands of the persecutors He came to save, and to die that I, among many, could receive forgiveness for my sins and an eternity in Heaven free of all the pain and sorrow and death that sin delivers on earth. In my selfishness, I had been whining to God that my momentary troubles were bigger than His solution. But I was wrong. And in my selfishness, I didn’t really want this reminder at first. It seemed that God was minimizing my pain with the “good” news. But God chastened me and then encouraged me that when His incarnate Son came down, His solution to sin and sin sickness, His solution to brokenness, His solution to pain – was a once-and-forever, bigger than all evil solution that couldn’t be revoked, overturned, repealed, undone, or even diminished. It didn’t minimize evil or heartache (though I have sometimes blown things out of proportion). Rather, Jesus on the cross and Jesus in His glory simply dwarfs the most monumental suffering.

I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I sometimes unwittingly use my emotions as an excuse to ignore truth. I give myself an emotional hardship pass as though getting out of sound doctrine were the same as a “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. But this path only exacerbates the problems underlying raw and unruly emotions. When I follow God’s way of dealing with the underlying problems, I am on the path to peace and healing even when the trouble doesn’t go away – even when the trouble gets worse for a while. And so it was that day.

Lesson Two: Most vulnerable with God is safest.

As God gently but firmly corrected my upside-down theology, I was free to see a second lesson in the butterfly. When its wings were up, it could launch into flight a fraction of a second faster. And the “eyes” on the underside of its wings, meant to scare off or confuse predators, were in plain view. So when its wings were up, its guard was up. Its defenses were at the ready. But where it rested at my feet, it was better camouflaged with its wings down, sunning itself. In that setting, at that time, being more vulnerable offered it more protection.

By leppyone (Cassius Blue) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWhen I saw that, I marveled, and the Lord reminded me that “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). So here’s my second confession: I know God wants me to guard my heart. But sometimes I use the language of biblically guarding my heart to cover up a selfish desire to protect my heart from pain. I can quickly erect an invisible shrine to all things that help me avoid pain, sprinkle some Bible verses on it and tell myself I’m doing well, when all I’m really doing is trying to save my life my way, apart from Christ, and losing it in the process. When I let God protect me from pain, I’m not passively subjecting myself to evil or going around hunting for pain by any means! But I’m able to follow Jesus into difficult, even painful situations and simultaneously experience joy, freedom, and peace because I’m following Him and He is protecting me. God used the butterfly that day to show me that my heart only wanted to follow God if He led me out of trouble, away from pain, towards momentary happiness. And that in the process, I was forfeiting the blessings of following Him where He leads, experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding, and watching Him provide protection for me in ways that added no sorrow.

I pray that if you’re going through something hard right now, God will gently but inescapably show you that when you need Him to change the course of your life, He did. And when you most need protection, resting at His feet in vulnerable submission to and humble dependence on Him is the safest place you can ever be.

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“Let the bones you have broken rejoice.” Psalm 51:8

By Julie Ganschow

As humans, we are all born with an inherent, evil that plagues our bodies and souls, referred to in believing circles as our “sin nature.” Because of this ingrained sin nature, we have wicked and self-righteous tendencies toward wrong doing. We often justify that wrong doing by excusing our sins and calling them something other than what they are. We assign them different names, diagnoses’, or designations to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves. But we can take heart – in that God has provided us a Helper, in the Holy Spirit who’s work is the conviction of sin. Paul David Tripp refers to this conviction of sin as “violent grace” in his book, “Whiter Than Snow.” Violent grace is God’s way of crushing our sin out of us. It’s His way of refining us – as the potter does the clay, in molding it to the perfect shape. This perfect shape is that of Christ-likeness.

This is consistent with God’s overall character throughout the canon of Scripture. We must remember Deut 28:63a – which discusses God’s action and thoughts toward Israel when they chose to rebel in sin: “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.” God loves all His people enough to chastise and chase us (Hebrews 12). He is willing to crush our pride, and leave us in the wilderness in order that we might desire Him and run to Him. He does this, not to cause us harm, but truly, because He loves us dearly. Because King Jesus desires to instill biblical character (Gal 5:22-25) within us, this in turn, conforms us to look more and more like the image of Christ – which is the calling of the Christian life!

Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions: are you experiencing the violent grace of Jesus Christ in your life? Do you see Him working in and around you? Do you see Him forming and reforming you—breaking down the walls of sin that we all build around us? Are you fighting back, or submitting humbly?

Please allow me to encourage you—embrace this grace! Ask the Lord to give you the desire, and from desire, willingness to conform and grow in the direction He’s taking you. Ask Him to instill within you, and then choose to embrace a steadfast spirit as the Lord makes you more and more like Him.

Pray. Ask the Lord to encourage you to embrace heart change, and not just behavior change. Ask Him to instill in you the desire to embrace grace – violent or not, as the means of growth He’s striving to cause.

Julie Ganschow is the founder and Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center (ACBC, IABC, AABC Certified Training Center) and Biblical Counseling for Women.

 

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Children Of The Heavenly Father

Words: Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, Andeliga daggdroppar, 1858 (Tryggare kan ingen vara); translated from Swedish to English by Ernst W. Olson in The Hymnal, 1925.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Lo, their very hairs He numbers,
And no daily care encumbers
Them that share His ev’ry blessing
And His help in woes distressing.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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So, You Want to Feel Better?

BY Julie Ganschow

We live in a world that offers unprecedented access to methods to feel better.  In fact, if you ask most people who have the slightest amount of discomfort what they want, they will tell you they want to “feel better.”
Feelbetter

The world’s methods for feeling better are rooted in psychology and psychological thinking.  This includes the use of various medications.   What Biblical Counselors offer is a completely different method for “feeling better.”  It doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill, and you can’t find it through talk therapy, anger management, or hypnosis.   It begins with understanding the way you feel emotionally is a result – it is an outcome of what you are thinking about.

The Bible is clear that what we think, believe, and desire is what leads us to feel and act the way we do. What you think, believe and desire in your heart is what causes you to feel depressed or have sorrow without hope, be happy, anxious or anything else.  Our thoughts are a reflection of what is in our heart. (Proverbs 23:7) You can look at your heart as the control center of your being—the Bible does! (Proverbs 4:23) We are warned to keep our heart; to watch over it, to guard it, and protect it. The heart is where your thoughts, beliefs, desires, will, soul, feelings, emotions and every other thing about you that cannot be physically handled resides.

The Bible tells us that because of our fallen nature the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9).  Because of this the heart is set upon pleasing self above all.  This is a worship disorder that is rooted in the immaterial man, and affects every aspect of a person if left unchecked.  It manifests itself in the dedicated focus on something or someone other than God and His glory.  We find many other things to lavish our focus on: money, spouses, and children, just to name a few things that you may be familiar with.  But we also give far too much attention to things that are immaterial—feelings, desires, wants, perceived needs, lusts, thoughts, and emotions.  As much as in my humanity I wish I could say something else to you, I know that the truth is this:  How you feel is not as important as what you do with your pain, troubles, or suffering.

The Christian life is not about feeling good or being happy.  The hard truth is that we are here to worship and glorify God and sometimes God chooses suffering and pain as the vehicle He uses to bring Himself glory!  If feeling better is what you focus on, you have got the wrong focus, and you may be reaching for the wrong goal.  I am not saying that you wrong for wanting to relieve physical suffering.  However, the relentless pursuit of feeling better is often completely out of hand!  What if God wants you to suffer with pain?  What if God has placed you in a marriage that is difficult because He is in the process of making you more like Christ?  Would you want to short circuit that?

The goal for the Christian to be more like Christ.  That is what we proclaim as we spout Romans 8:28-29.  We say we believe that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, but when we have to grapple with what it really means to be called to suffer we say, “God, can’t you make me like Christ some other way? Can’t you conform me without this pain?”   We argue with God, we bargain, we plead, we exhaust every human method and means to avoid pain and misery and sometimes we miss the whole point.  The desires of our hearts are fixed in the wrong place! They are too often placed in what I want, what my rights are, how I can be served, how I can feel better and be happier…and these are not what God wants us to focus on!  He wants our desires to be in line with His— in the midst of the pain, in the middle of the crummy marriage or relationship. He wants us to stop worshipping and idolizing these people and things and fix our eyes on Him!

Living by emotions is a dead end. You will never find stability; there is no even keel.  You will find yourself brought high and low, up and down all the time!  This just creates more misery for you. There is a better way!

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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