Blog

...Like a tree (Psalm 1:3) Online Newsletter/Blog

Posts Tagged sanctification

5 Encouragements for the Spiritual Desert Wanderer

In your daily “quiet times,” do you ever feel like Moses and the Israelites just wandering around the desert waiting for Promise Land?  

You might think that having graduated seminary means that my daily time with the Lord in the morning is full of His Shekinah Glory every time I open my Bible and close my eyes in prayer. 

Let me assure you, it’s not. In fact, if anything, having been in seminary made my times with the Lord dryer and more difficult. I did not expect that this was going to happen in seminary. Yet, I found myself in quite the barren spiritual desert 6 months ago and I had been wandering for a long time. Knowing (some) Greek didn’t help. Knowing the cultural background and context of the text didn’t help. Honestly, it made it worse. I couldn’t just enjoy God’s Word for what it is: His Word! The Bible had become another textbook I had to read. 

Can you relate to this at all? Maybe it’s not because of seminary, but have you ever felt like the Bible was something that you “had to read” and not something that you have the joy and privilege of reading? Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual desert and your Bible reading and prayer weren’t helping? Are you in that desert now? 

Whether you have been, you are, (or will be someday), in a similar place, let me give you five encouragements that I pray bless you in those times: 

1. You’re not alone. I can’t say for certain, but I think that ALL Christians go through this at some point in their journey with the Lord. Take heart! The spiritual desert you find yourself in has been traveled before and others have made it through. Therefore, you will too. But… 

2. Just because you don’t “feel” close to God in your Bible and prayer time doesn’t mean that you should abandon it. I know many people who simply stop reading and praying during desert times and you know what? It doesn’t help. What would happen if I stopped talking to my wife every time I didn’t “feel” love towards her? If I did this, waiting for the morning where all of a sudden the lights came on, I’d be in the dark for a long time waiting to “feel” love for her. How do I “feel” love for my wife? I spend time with her. I talk to her. I share my heart with her. Spending more time, not less, stirs my affections for her. I believe that’s how it is with God. It’s a relationship after all, right? To put it another way: a sailboat won’t move unless the wind blows the sails. Therefore, raise the sails of your spiritual life (read and pray) and wait for the wind (the Spirit) to blow.  

3. I’ve been using John Piper’s IOUS acronym daily for the last 5 months and it has helped a ton: 

  • I—Incline “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36) 
  • O—Open “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) 
  • U—Unite “Unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11) 
  • S—Satisfy “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14) 

4. Repent. Is there sin in your life that you need to repent of? Could there be some sin that is stifling your walk with God? I don’t know. Only you and God know. But if there is, then I urge you to repent and turn from your sin. Often, this is all it takes.  

5. Beg God to grow your affections for Him. Ask Him to give you the desire to even want to read and pray. Pray this daily, even if you’re in a good spot. This is a request our heavenly Father wants to answer. 

There’s more to be said here, but I’ll leave it at those five encouragements for now.

Everyone is different and everyone’s walk with the Lord is different. I’ve just laid out what I have learned and what has helped me. If this doesn’t encourage you, then go find someone whose Bible-Prayer life is one you want to have for yourself ask them how they do it. Then, go and do the same! 

It’s okay to be in a spiritual desert. It’s not okay to stay there.  

Here’s the really good news though… spiritual desert or not, if you’re in Christ, then Jesus loves you just the same. So take heart, beloved brother or sister.  

 

Gabriel Pech is married to Hannah and they have 3 beautiful children. They have been members at FCC since April 2017. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with his M.Div. in May, 2018. The Pech family now lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where they are missionaries to the 80,000+ Americans/military members and their families who are stationed there.  

 

 

Posted in: Bible study, Christian Living, Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

If You Love Me…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 (NIV)

The Lord expects us to display our love for Him, and it is to be a daily demonstration in the life of the Christian.

Those who believe Jesus is the Christ are born of God, and those people will love God and love their fellow believers. It is impossible for an unbeliever to truly love God, because they are not capable of it.

One of the displays of our love and affection toward God comes in the form of obedience. Obedience is one of the things God commands of His children. We know it is important because the command to obey the Lord and His Word appears more than 30 times in the New Testament alone! When we love Him we will obey His commands to respond in love toward Him and also to love others.

If you are like me, you struggle with obedience. I have a really hard time obeying in every incidence, even when I know I should. I suspect there are times I allow my emotions to rule over my theological understanding, and so I decide to do what I want to do, rather than following the Scriptures. Those are decisions and choices I think we face multiple times a day! In fact, there are times when disobedience becomes habitual and my heart becomes calloused in a particular area. It is for this reason that regular self-examination is needed.

There is nothing like a time of self-examination to bring humility into my life. Sitting with the Lord and asking Him to open my heart before Him as David did:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind Psalm 26:2 (NASB)

I also take time to consider my interactions with others; has a friend commented on something I said or did as not being very Christ-like? Did I react or did I respond with gracious consideration? I am bound by my love for God to consider if those who rebuke or correct me are acting as “Nathan’s” in my life (2 Samuel 12). Are they God’s mouthpiece in those moments?

If you are unsure if someone has pointed out sin or their preference, go to the Word for clarification. It is important to note that we are not bound to obey someone’s extra-biblical expectation, but to obey God’s clearly laid out commands in the Bible.

Perhaps your conviction is heavy by this point in your reading. I don’t mean to add to your burden, but to reveal it and to help you to lighten your load (Galatians 6:1-2). It is so important that we confess our sin to God, and that our known sin is confessed prior to partaking in the communion elements. We must not make light of the sacrifice of the Lord’s sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), so agree with Him where sin is present in your life. Take that opportunity to move forward in the grace that He provides.

All of these are disciplines of the Christian life and should be a regular part of your sanctification journey. If you are having a “dry spell” in your spiritual life, you are slipping into old behavior patterns as a result or if the fires are burning low, ask the Lord to examine your heart for disobedience.

With confession and repentance, you will find you have a renewed desire to love, serve, and obey the Lord. You may experience a passionate ignition for the Word and for righteousness as a result. He is faithful to reward those who seek Him.  Spend some time today in self-examination, and remember to express your love for Him.

Finding Hope in Hopeless Situations

My daily meetings with women make it clear that many of you are living with circumstances that you believe are beyond your ability to tolerate.

My goal is to give you hope. Hope is at the center of the gospel story! Hope is found in the resurrection. We must always remember to give hope to people in desperate circumstances. A lack of hope is the reason people commit suicide. They can see no way out, and no change looms on the horizon, so they choose a permanent solution to what they do not understand is truly a temporary situation. I am not being insensitive here, but suicide is not God’s will or His way of handling any situation, no matter how hopeless it appears.

We face many things that feel hopeless; abuse, rape, drunkenness, and so on. Even in these horrible circumstances, hope can be found. One woman told me that her sexual assault was what brought her to Christ, another said her family history of drunkenness and being shuffled to relatives all around the country is what exposed her to the gospel.

Last week I wrote an article about how means all things for the good of the Christian. He allows things for the purpose of our being conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). What a source of hope and security these two verses are! No matter what challenge, pain, or hurt we face along the way, we can be confident that God is using it to prosper us in some way. It is for this reason that I can say with confidence that God is concerned with how we go through things. This is an anchor in the storms of life to know that God is at work for our ultimate good and the fulfillment of His good promises.

When we find security in the God we know and love, we also see with eyes of faith beyond the sorrow and suffering we are experiencing.  We can see the Father who never forgets His child, His plan, or His purposes.

When we take our eyes off the Lord and focus on the present hurt or circumstance, the result is insecurity. We forget the big picture of sanctification and are swallowed up by the fears and fantasies of our minds. This brings hopelessness and even panic. We lose sight of the God of the universe as sovereign and omnipotent, and we begin to think of Him as confused and impotent!

If you have lost your focus begin by returning to the Word and diligent prayer. Suffering and hardship cannot bring our lives to a grinding halt; we must adjust and move on. We must take the initiative and do whatever we can do humanly speaking as well, and then leave the rest to the Lord.

As you read the Word, you will begin to think as He thinks. You will begin to desire what He desires and this will lead you to Christ-like responses.

If this seems impossible to you, I would ask you to consider the type of input that may be affecting your attitude. If you spend more time watching television and reading books and only a few minutes (or no minutes) reading the Bible, you will not see God’s purpose or plan for you. It’s just not possible to respond with a godly response when you have little to no godly input.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday… Psalm 37:4-6 (NASB)

Commit your life to Him, not only on Sunday or when it is convenient; do it every day of your life. Trust God to take over your world, your home, your children, job, and anything else that you have and do. When you actively and joyfully do this, He will direct your thoughts, plans, and dreams for the day. Yield to Him all that He has graciously allowed you to have and be a steward over. He is completely trustworthy, and loves you deeply.

Yielding also means being flexible. Pray, and submit your plan to God for His approval. Remember that He is the Author of your days, and if He changes your plans seek to see His hand in the new plan and submit to His will. It is not important why God does this, just graciously submit to His will with thanksgiving.

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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)

Julie is the Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Gospel Cordial

An excerpt from a sermon entitled “The Gospel Cordial,” delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on Lord’s Day Evening, September 20th, 1863. Available for free from the Christians Classics Etheral Library: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/proverbs.xlv.html

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

[T]here is most comforting cordial in the Gospel. Dr. Watts truly sings—

Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

I will take first, the case of a true believer in Jesus who is sorely tried with cares and losses and crosses. I will suppose that you have come in here to-night dreading what may happen to you to-morrow. Perhaps your trouble my brother, is that your business is failing and that want is staring you in the face. Possibly you, my sister, are sorrowing over that dear child who lies in her little coffin in the quiet room upstairs at home. Or it may be that you, my friend, have a sick wife, and day by day you see fresh signs and tokens of the great loss that is surely awaiting you. I cannot mention all the causes of sad heart in the believing members of this great assembly, but my Master has sent me here with his own blessed cordial, which is more than sufficient to comfort every sorrowing saint here.

Remember beloved, that all that happens to you comes in the course of divine providence. Your loving heavenly Father has foreseen, foreknown, and I venture to say, foreordained it all. The medicine you have to drink is very bitter, but the unerring Physician measured all the ingredients drop by drop, and then mixed them in the very way in which they could best work for your highest good. Nothing in this world happens by chance. That great God – who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens, to whom all things that he hath made are but as the small dust of the balance, who maketh the clouds his chariot, and rideth upon the wings of the wind – that same God careth for you with such special care that he has even numbered the very hairs of your head and put your tears in his bottle. You may therefore rest assured that even those experiences which are causing you so much sorrow are all in accordance with his eternal counsel and decree. Doth not this divine cordial make you forget your poverty and remember your misery no more?

I might keep on all night trying thus to comfort tried saints, but I must content myself by giving them just one more sip of this divine cordial, and that shall be this – remember how soon all these trials will be over. Be of good courage, weary pilgrim; the heavenly mansion where thou art to rest for ever is almost in sight; and thou mayest well sing—

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul! how near,
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy golden gates appear!

How fast the years fly by, and our trials and troubles are flying just as fast. Beloved, Paul truly wrote concerning “our light affliction which is but for a moment;” for after all, our afflictions are only like a troubled dream, a little starting in the sleep of life, and then we wake to sleep no more for ever. This world is, to the believer, like a country inn by the wayside, where there are many constantly coming and going, and there are such disturbing noises that no one can rest. Well, never mind, thou art only tarrying there for one short night, and then thou shalt be up and away to thine eternal home, to go no more out for ever. Will not this divine cordial make thee forget thy poverty and remember thy misery no more?

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

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

Leave a Comment (0) →

WHILE IT IS CALLED TODAY

If you are reading this, you are in a little 24-hour-period we call “today.” I know, today is not as glorious as yesterday, or last year, or whenever you were the popularity king/queen in school. Today also is not as promising as tomorrow, or next week, or whenever you will “arrive” in life by getting that dream job, marrying that perfect person, or finally making enough money to get beyond the hand-to-mouth existence that you are currently stuck in. But let’s talk about today, because today is all we have, and we may not have even that.

Every day I encounter someone who seems intent on alternating between nostalgia for the past and expectancy for the future. That someone is me. Yet I rarely travel this path alone. Together with family, friends, and coworkers, I reminisce about good times gone by and laugh over stories of that “most embarrassing moment.” From there, we pivot seamlessly to our weekend plans to career goals to retirement options. Oh sure, sometimes today gets special attention because of some momentous event like a job interview, marriage, or a birth of a child. Of course, the many life activities that fill up our todays—work projects, homework, meals—all receive their due attention in the moment. Yet rarely does the eternal significance of today sink in and change our hearts and our conduct. This is a mistake, and potentially one with tragic and eternally significant consequences.

There are two important things to remember about this little 24-hour period that we are living in: (1) A person’s life is the sum of his or her todays, and (2) there is no guarantee that tomorrow will become today for any of us. Hebrews 3:13 touches on both of these facts when it tells Christians to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” The hardening effect of sin occurs when we permit its leavening influence to remain in our lives by our day-to-day toleration of the same. Today, if we do not root out sin through confession, repentance, and gospel exhortation, we leave ourselves exposed to its corrosive deceptiveness.

Sin is not just a mistake in our past or a dark cloud on the horizon of our future. The reason that Christians are called to exhort one another “every day” is because sin is daily crouching at the door of our hearts. Sin’s presence in the believer’s life is a sad reality (I John 1:8), and it must be recognized and dealt with as the serious soul-danger that it is. The porn viewer becomes an addict by failing to address today the strengthening chains of lust. The foodie becomes a glutton because tomorrow is when the idolatry of food will be addressed. The busybody becomes a gossip because the days of sharing “one more juicy little story” stack up until character is formed, integrity is lost, and sinful hardness settles into the soul. But no worries; tomorrow is wide open for repentance . . . right?

The writer of Hebrews calls for confrontation of sin “while it is called ‘today.’” Not tomorrow, not next week, but now. Why? Is it because you might die in a car wreck later today as evangelists like to portend? Perhaps. After all, none of us knows what a day will bring forth (Prov. 27:1). The Scripture also speaks of Christ’s return coming with unexpected suddenness, “like a thief in the night” (I Thess. 5:2). Yet for the writer of Hebrews, the threat in Chapter 3 seems to be not so much the loss of life or Christ’s return, but rather sin’s deceptive hardening of the heart to the point that repentance becomes effectively impossible. Here is Hebrews 3:13 in its surrounding context:

12 Take care, brothers and sisters, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

As believers, we should not smugly presume that WE would never fall away from our profession of faith or forsake our original confidence in Christ. Jesus’s Parable of the Sower should shatter any illusion that a promising start ensures a race run well to the end. In the Scripture, we indeed read of God’s sovereign, unconditional grace in salvation and of his preservation of believers until the Day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). But we also read words of woe and warning to those who would live in unchecked sin (I Cor. 6:9-10), and each one of us is called to take an active role in putting to death the sin that would have mastery over us (Col. 3:5).

If we believe that we can thoughtlessly entertain sin before repenting at our leisure, then we grossly overestimate our hearts’ own willingness and ability to turn from sin. Such presumption also ignores the gracious and necessary prompting of the Holy Spirit that calls us back to repentance. For this reason, the writer of Hebrews urges each of us as believers to exhort and be exhorted in the gospel today, while the Spirit still calls to us, so that sin does not take us to the perilous point of no return. If perhaps you are struggling with sin, be encouraged by the struggle. Your striving against sin is a testament to your pursuit of the truth. Be encouraged and be exhorted to press on in Christ’s power in this struggle. Find that brother or sister in whom you can confide, recognizing that it is through fellow believers’ exhortation that all of us are encouraged to carry on in the fight against the deceitfulness of our own besetting sin.

 

Stephen Freeland is a member of FCC. He and his wife, Kate, have three young children.

Posted in: Christian Living

Leave a Comment (0) →

For the Purpose of Godliness

This is the phrase that is included in each chapter title of Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.  I can almost hear mouse clicks all over the city as readers of this blog attempt to exit out after reading the word “discipline” – the “D word.” For some reason, we Reformed believers can mistakenly equate discipline with legalism. In his book, Whitney shows how the spiritual disciplines are far from being legalistic, restrictive or binding, but rather the means to unparalleled spiritual liberty. If you will think about the excitement of achieving a difficult goal, whether becoming proficient on a musical instrument, losing weight, running a marathon, or – you fill in the blank – you know that it took discipline to achieve that goal.

If you are a new believer seeking guidance in your new walk with Christ, or a seasoned saint feeling a little stale in your pilgrimage,  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life can be a means of grace in your life to give you direction and refreshment in your journey with your Lord and Savior.

Donald Whitney’s key verse for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is 1 Timothy 4:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” This verse is the theme of the entire book. In other words, the spiritual disciplines are means, not ends. The end – that is, the purpose of practicing the disciplines – is godliness. Whitney defines godliness as both closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ, a conformity that is both inward and outward, a growing conformity to both the heart of Christ and the life of Christ.

Whitney assures us that we stand before God only in the righteousness that has been bought by another: Jesus Christ. All who come to God trusting in the Person and work of Jesus Christ to make them right with God are given the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes all those in whom He resides to have new, holy hungers they never had before. They hunger, for example, for the Word of God, which before salvation may have seemed boring or irrelevant. Perhaps for that reason, Bible Intake is the first of the spiritual disciplines exposited by Dr. Whitney in his book.

Whitney limits himself to those disciplines that are Biblical, that is, to practices taught or modeled in the Bible. He skillfully unpacks ten spiritual disciplines, where they can be found in the Scriptures, and how they can be practiced experientially for the purpose of godliness.

I will confess that I am currently NOT practicing all ten of the disciplines as outlined by Donald Whitney, but I found the book very helpful in reminding me of the benefits of spiritual disciplines and redirecting my focus to my purpose in life until He comes or I go home.

My prayer for myself and for my brothers and sisters at Faith Community Church is that we will discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness for HIS glory and HIS alone. Amen.

 

Tina Bush

Posted in: Bible study, Book Review, Christian Living

Leave a Comment (0) →

God’s Will: Our Sanctification

by Reese Hammond

After hearing Pastor Tim preach at the Jesus Church International building on God’s will and trusting God as our Good Shepherd, I couldn’t help but begin to think about my family’s current situation. Last year was a major year in our lives. In May I graduated from seminary, in July we had our son Malachi, in August I started a new job, and at the end of December I began looking for full-time ministry work. Overall, our year has been fast and furious. Now that we’re almost finished with March I can’t help but feel the weight of some of our pending life decisions. We haven’t found any ministry work despite praying and searching diligently. Our lease is soon to be up and we need to make a decision on whether to re-sign or not. We’re currently contemplating a possible career in the military and my current job is needing an answer to whether or not I’m coming back at the end of May. It can feel a little overwhelming at times.

Now, the blessing of being reminded that God is truly a Good Shepherd naturally confronts us with two things: First, that God is truly the Sovereign leader. As a shepherd leads his sheep, God lovingly and sovereignly leads His people. As Tim said, “God doesn’t consult the sheep.” God leads them where they are to go and He does so in perfect, sovereign power. Scripture affirms this in the 32nd Psalm when God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” He is truly our Good, Sovereign Shepherd and we must remember that.

Secondly, and much more important to the purpose of this article, is that because God is the Good Shepherd, I MUST trust Him in His leading. This is the hardest part in the Christian life, especially when God’s plans don’t seem to be meshing with ours. This is where faith truly works itself out. I MUST trust Him. I work and strive and pursue trusting God with my whole heart as Proverbs 3:5 tells me. Trust is not an optional thing in the Scriptures. Trust, in God’s eyes, is of primary concern.

Scripture constantly reminds us that our trust in God is of major importance. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” This verse is most powerful because God is telling us that it is IMPOSSIBLE to please Him without faith. That is because trusting God has everything to do with what we believe about Him. As Christians, it is sin NOT to trust God. Not trusting God reveals that we truly don’t believe what He has told us about Himself in His Word. This is a hard saying but I want the truth about the character and person of God to refresh us and help us trust Him more fully. When we don’t trust God, we are inherently saying to ourselves and to others that God isn’t good and that He isn’t trustworthy or powerful enough to trust. This does not, and cannot, please God. When we are afraid things won’t work out, doubt that God can provide, or despise our circumstances, we are stealing from ourselves the peace of God that can only be found in trusting Him and His character.

Now, as I say these things, I am also compelled to give comfort to all of us after the cut from God’s Word. As we strive to trust God for our future, whether at home or at FCC, we must be reminded and comforted that it is because of what Christ has done for us in the gospel that we can even trust God in the first place. He has given us a new heart and mind that is now able to seek Him. He has forgiven all our sins so that we can now come to God boldly through Christ’s shed bled. He has justified us, is sanctifying us, and will glorify us. And as we go through this life striving to grow in trust, be reminded that He is constantly working in us to accomplish this very thing. As Paul says in 1st Thessalonians, “…this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Reese Hammond is a member of Faith Community Church and a recent graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to the beautiful Lisa Hammond and is the proud father of Malachi. 

Posted in: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

How Can I Change?

by Julie Ganschow

As a counselor, most people who come to me for help are looking for a change. Those in relationship counseling are usually looking for the other person to change. Those in individual counseling are often looking for their circumstances or feelings to change, and they don’t know how to make that happen.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Galatians 5:19-22 we find lists of ugly issues that are typical as presenting problems in a biblical counseling relationship. (These, of course, are not the only two places in the Bible we find sinful habits listed). While you may want to believe that your particular sin is new or unique, the Bible does cover all of the heart-level sins known to man. We vary in how each of us acts out our sin, but honestly, there is no new sin under the sun. This is excellent news for sinners! The problem you bring to the table can be completely different, yet the cause of sin is identical.

Battling Besetting Sins

Every one of us can become habituated to one or more kinds of sin. Another way of thinking about habitual sin might be found in an older term: besetting sin. Our sinful habits develop when we do something so frequently that it becomes an automatic, comfortable pattern of living. It becomes an automatic behavior, such as the woman who habitually overeats chocolate or cake when she is feeling sad or lonely.

There’s no machine for heart change.

She is told by well-meaning people that she has a disease such as Compulsive Overeating. She might be prescribed an anti-depressant and told to attend a self-help group. These responses remove her responsibility for her actions and steal her hope. However, identifying these behaviors biblically can give her tremendous hope when she learns that her eating too much of the wrong kinds of food have become habits that can be unlearned. Taking medication will not help a person put off a sinful habit, but by employing the process of biblical change, with practice, she will change and restructure her life in a manner that glorifies God.

It is important to realize that such habits did not develop overnight, and new habits will not become automatic overnight. Biblical change takes time and practice. It takes time for someone who is habituated to a particular sin to transform and begin to consistently demonstrate new attitudes and actions.

Biblical Process of Change

The key to real and lasting change is found in the biblical process of putting off and putting on presented in Ephesians 4:22 – 24. As you read through the Bible, you will find a number of verses that inform us in one way or another about disciplining ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7; Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 6:11). Part of the process that I would recommend is found in 2 Timothy 3:16 which instructs us to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness. We all need to know more about God and how to bring Him glory by how we live our lives, right? Sit under sound biblical teaching. We must be willing to accept a reproof or a rebuke for our ungodly behavior and attitudes, and then correct them by putting on a biblical response, and finally, to be trained in the particular righteous behaviors that we must put on.
The idea of training means to practice it over and over, very much like a gymnast practices the same routine to the point that the moves she makes on the balance beam or the floor are identical time after time. Rather than learning physical moves, we replace the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of our heart that we currently practice (Galatians 5:19 – 20), with those that honor and glorify God (Ephesians 4 – 5, Philippians 2, and Colossians 3).

Biblical Change vs. Behaviorism

Some verses in the Scriptures talk about re-habituation. Hebrews 5:13 and 10:25 are among them. Our goal is not merely to change behavior, putting off and putting on; we must realize and understand the importance the heart plays in putting off those old habits and putting on righteous ones. Because our behavior comes from our immaterial part, or what the Bible calls the heart, the changes to put off and put on must originate there. The sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires that bring us into counseling arise in the heart. As the heart submits to God’s authority, and the Word of God renews the mind, new behavior patterns will form. To leave out the critical component of heart change for life change makes the biblical counselor a mere behaviorist, and this type of counsel is sure to fail.

Ephesians 4:22-24 can be misused to become rote behaviorism. Behaviorism is a danger with some forms of counseling. The critical component in this passage is the renewal of the mind. The mind is equal to the heart and must be biblically informed (Romans 12:2) about how to change. This is why reading and meditating on the Word of God is so critical to this process of biblical change. We must know what the Word of God says about the attitudes and sins of the heart. The new response (putting on) ideally will flow from a heart that now sees our sin as grievous to God.

Julie Ganschow is a member of FCC and Director of FCC’s counseling ministry, Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

Leave a Comment (0) →

The Violent Grace of God

BY STEPHEN GANSCHOW

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

As humans, we are all born with an inherent, evil called our “sin nature.” This is stated very clearly in Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Because of our sin nature, we have wicked and self-righteous tendencies toward wrongdoing, as well as justifying that wrongdoing by excusing our sins. In order to change this, the Lord blesses us with what Paul David Tripp refers to 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 Deuteronomy 28:63a – which discusses God’s action and thoughts toward Israel when they too, 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 punish and chase us (Hebrews 12). He does this, not to cause us harm, but truly because He loves us dearly and desires to instill biblical character (Galatians 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!

Are you experiencing the violent grace of Jesus Christ? 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? Is He refining you in the Refiners fire? Let me encourage you – embrace this grace! Ask the Lord to give you the willingness and desire to conform and grow in the direction He’s taking you. Ask Him to instill this desire within you, and then choose to embrace a steadfast spirit as the Lord makes you more and more like Him.

I’d ask that you pray something similar to this, if you believe the Lord is moving within you, in this way: God – as we all struggle to embrace heart change, and not just behavior change, please instill in us the desire to embrace the growth You are causing. Please give us the desire to be more like You! Father…help us to embrace Your violent grace, and use it as a tool for Your service and Your glory.

Stephen Ganschow is a former FCC member, now serving as the Caring Ministries Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

Leave a Comment (0) →