Wednesday, June 24, 2015


I am blessed with very unruly hair. Two-thirds of it is curly, while the other third is straight as a pin. These fractions are distributed randomly all around my head so there is no uniformity at all. Additionally, all of it tends to be frizzy, and it is very thick. Actually, the more appropriate word is big. I’ve worn it short, long, and every length in between, bangs and no bangs; layered and blunt.  There is not a single style for which the characteristics of my hair are advantageous.

So, why am I talking about my hair on a biblical counseling blog? Because it is the perfect illustration for what I want to communicate to you today. There is just one way to make my hair look decent, and that is to apply a flat iron to it. This ingenius invention reaches 400 degrees, and when I place my hair between those two fiery metal plates, a miracle happens. My hair is smooth, straight, glossy, and as close to perfect as it will get in this world. As you can probably guess, I love my flat iron because it allows me to control my crazy hair.

There are very few things in this world that are in our control, right? Can you think of any? Off the top of my frizzy head, I can think of very few. We humans don’t like not being in control. When bad things happen, we get stressed out because they are not in our control. If you have chronic pain or disability, you know this to be true. I had no control over the surgeon who botched my knee replacement, yet, if God does not heal me, I must live with the pain of that for the rest of my life. Think briefly about how you got to where you are physically today, and ask yourself how much of that was in your control?

Even if your pain was a result of your own sin, and could conceivably have been avoided had you been obedient, there is still an element of it that was not in your control. Abraham, Rachael, and Peter are all examples of people who sinned in their response to trials, yet God used the consequences of that sin for His glory! God sovereignly ordains everything that happens to us, for His purposes. Even a passing glance at Romans 9 will confirm that for you. Figuring out the balance between God’s sovereignty and human will is a task far above my pay grade, but I will say this: I know that God is sovereign over every aspect of my life[1], and I know that His purposes are always for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28-30). Armed with these two facts, I can face any out-of-control situation that comes my way.

What are you trying to control today, my friend? Is it something more than frizzy hair? I promise you that it did not surprise our Father. He always knows what you need, and if He is wanting to draw you closer to Himself, teach you something, or grow your faith in Him, you can bet that He will use whatever that trial is to do so. Your fiery trial can straighten out your heart and smooth out what is ugly and out of control in your relationship with the Lord. But you must be willing to look at it that way. Just as I have trained my mind to hate my frizzy hair and long to control it, so perhaps you have always hated your trial, and longed for an end to it.

I challenge you today to look at your trial from God’s perspective. What might He be trying to teach you? Open your Bible, and start looking for His message to you. The verses in the footnote below are a good start. Pray, and ask your heavenly Father to reveal more of Himself to you, even as you suffer this God-ordained trial. His Word never returns void, but always brings about what He wants it to (Is 55:11). Trust that He is able, not only to bring you through the trial, but also to make your faith stronger and your heart more confident in Him than you were before. He is faithful, and will do it!

[1] Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; 21:30; Ecc 7:13; Lam 3:37; James 4:15; Rev 3:7

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

He Hasn't Moved

Almost all of my counselees have the same problem. No, they’re not all anxious, or all depressed, or all grieving. But they do all have the same problem. In fact, every Christian who struggles with spiritual and emotional problems to the point where they seek counseling, has the same problem: At some point they lost sight of the God of the Bible and replaced Him with a god of their own making. They say things like, “I used to be able to trust Him, but now I can’t.” Or, “He used to be so good to me. What happened? Why did He stop answering my prayers?” The God they met on the day of their conversion is not the God they are experiencing now, and they are confused. Did He change?

You may have heard a story that has been told by a few preachers over the years. An elderly couple is driving down the road in their 1964 Plymouth Belvedere, with the bench seat in front. As they roll along the road, the lady recalls the former days, when she would snuggle up to her young husband, right next to him on that bench seat, and they would talk about the scenery, their destination, or whatever else came along. These are fond memories, but sad for her because she misses those days. She and her husband are not as close as they used to be, and she verbalizes this to him:

“I sure miss those days when we drove along hand in hand, sitting close together on this seat. What happened? How come we don’t do that anymore?”

“Well” he replied, hands firmly placed at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. “I haven’t moved.”

You see, over the years of their marriage, there were disappointments and unspoken frustrations that brought distance between this bride and her husband. Rather than using these challenges to grow closer to him, sharing her heart and hearing his, she kept quiet. Because he hadn’t turned out to be the perfect man she’d imagined in her mind, she began to distrust her husband, and to distance herself from him. As she lost confidence in his love for her, her love for him grew cold, and soon she was as far from him on that bench seat as the Belvedere would allow.  

Do you see the analogy here? When we first come to Christ, we may have great expectations that He is going to make our life wonderful, joyful, and complete. We want to be near to him all the time. We love Him with our whole heart, and we are sure of His love for us. Then, we begin to really battle sin in our hearts and the hearts of others. Pain, suffering, disappointment and grief come along, and we begin to feel angry and cheated out of that abundant life we were so sure was ours. Like the woman in the story though, we don’t share our sadness with our Savior. Instead, we harbor feelings of resentment toward Him, and we begin to doubt His love for us. As our prayers go seemingly unanswered, we begin to feel bitter toward God, and soon we have completely lost our trust in Him. We drop out of church, stop reading His Word, and stop praying. We become anxious, depressed, and hopeless.

If I’ve just described you, then I want you to ask yourself some questions: What happened? Did God change? Did he become different as your trials increased? Did He begin to love you less as you became disappointed in Him? Did He lose His power as you lost your confidence in His ability to help you? Did He become less trustworthy because you didn’t get the answers you wanted? Did He stop listening when you stopped praying? Did He stop speaking as your Bible gathered dust?

The answer to all of these questions is no. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 8:13). He is “The Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17). In Malachi 3:6 He says, “I am the Lord. I change not.” Like the man in our story above, as you were moving farther away from God, He had his hands firmly planted on the wheel, guiding and directing your life according to His plan for you. He never moved or changed. It was you who began to believe your own perceptions of Him instead of trusting in what He says about Himself in His Word. To boil it all down, you began to see God through the lens of your circumstances instead of seeing your circumstances through the lens of your God.

Here’s a sentence for you to memorize, that I hope will help you in those moments of trial, fear, doubt, and sadness. I repeat it to myself often, and I believe that it will help you, too.

God is God, and He is who He says He is, 
no matter what is happening to me right now.

Friends, we must base our view of God on what He says about Himself in His Word, and nothing else. The second we move away from that, we have a different God. The God of the Bible is good, faithful, all-knowing, and loving, no matter what apparent contradictions this world brings. If you are disappointed, sad, grieving, suffering, and struggling, tell Him about it! Pray the Psalms of Lament (do a quick Google search), and pour out your heart to Him. Instead of questioning His love for you, soak your pillow with tears and beg Him to show you that love. Reach out to the body of Christ to comfort you in your pain, instead of scooting toward the passenger door.

You will find that, as you believe and obey the words of your Savior, your cold heart will grow warm, and He will breathe new life into your faith.  It’s true. Take it from a sister who’s been there, and is now snuggled up next to her Driver, chatting about the scenery and trusting Him to get her safely to her eternal destination.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Long Haul

Still meditating on Colossians 1, I looked at The Message version today. This version says this about itself: "The Message tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today." Now, this particular book is not a translation, but a paraphrase, so we have to use caution when we read it. A paraphrase, by nature, is much more influenced by the thoughts and opinions of men than a translation. Someone has put the Bible into their own words, influenced by the culture, and somewhat outside of the rigorous requirements of translation. That being said, I do think there is a place for this type of Bible reading. As long as we read with discernment, I believe that a paraphrase can contribute to our understanding and love of God’s Word.

This morning, as I worked through all of the physical therapy exercises that I must do every day in order to have a functional leg, I began to feel weary. Weary of working so hard for such minimal reward. Weary of slogging through these exercises every day, after I have already spent an hour in the pool, knowing that if I don’t do them, I will pay with increased pain and decreased function. (I actually took a few days off last week, just to make sure that was still true, and the answer is yes.) I know that, unless there is a miracle, I will have to do this for the rest of my life and honestly, I am just sick of it. Of course, as I indulged these weary thoughts, I began to feel sad about my situation. I began to think of other ladies my age who can do so much more than me, and who never give a thought to whether they will be able to grocery shop on a given day, or play with their grandkids, or…

But, thanks be to God, He snatched my thoughts out of that swirling vortex toward depression, by reminding me of all I had been thinking on in Colossians 1. (See? Meditation really does pay off!) I prayed that He would give me strength for the long haul, and joy in the process. Then, I opened up The Message to read Colossians 1, and I had to smile as the words spoke directly to my need:

We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul - not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. ­­­--Col 1:11-21

Strength for the long haul. That is what we need, isn’t it, friends? We don’t know how long we have in this world, or how long we will have to suffer here. All we know is that we need strength for today and hope for tomorrow. So, we ask the Lord for the kind of strength that “endures the unendurable, and spills over into joy.” What a perfect arrangement of words! As I plug away at my exercises, I don’t have to grit my teeth and just push through in my own strength. God will supply me with His glory-strength! Don’t you love that term? Glory-strength is the free gift of God, and it enables us to enjoy everything He has for us. Glory-strength is much better than our own strength, because it comes from our loving Father, who knows what we need better than we do. Glory-strength is strength that brings glory to God, because it came from Him in the first place!

What are you going through today that seems unendurable? Are you suffering with pain, disability, heartache, fear, sadness, depression, worry, or all of the above? Take heart, my friend. Stop gritting your teeth, and begin to open your mouth in praise to God for the glory-strength He gives. Is your situation unendurable in your own strength? Good! That means God will supply His strength that will spill over into joy and thanksgiving. As you receive His strength, you will begin to see all the bright and beautiful things He has given you, and the things you are suffering will fade in the presence of His glory. Hallelujah! What a Savior!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Who are you praying for today? Your children? Yourself? Your husband, friends, family members, pastor, coworkers? Do you always know what to ask for when you pray? If you’re like me, you don’t. We want to pray in God’s will, but when we’re not sure what that is in a specific case, how should we pray? Well, for the last few days, I’ve been soaking my mind in a particular passage from Colossians 1. Verses 9-14 have given me some real fuel for prayer, so I thought I might go through it with you today and share some of what has encouraged me. Let’s take it verse by verse, shall we?

9: For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
This tells me, first of all, never stop praying! Do not cease to pray for those you are called to pray for. Ask the Lord to fill them with the knowledge of His will, and to give them wisdom and spiritual understanding. Ask the same for yourself. We all need to know the will of God, in whatever 
circumstance he’s willing to reveal it. If we don’t ask for wisdom, we will not have it (James 1:5).

10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Who of us does not desire to walk worthy of the Lord? In other words, we want our lives to show that we know the price He paid for our freedom! While we will never be “worthy” of His sacrifice in one sense, our desire is for Him to be pleased with our thoughts and actions. We want to show that we know the terrible pain He endured to purchase our souls, and that we are grateful.
Are you bearing fruit in every good work? What good works are you doing? While it can be difficult to serve in some ways when we are suffering with pain and disability, there is always something we can do to show love to others and thereby serve the Lord. Even a phone call or a prayer can produce abundant fruit if it is done in love and with a heart for Him. Remember, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

I think it is interesting that Paul includes “increasing in the knowledge of God” in the same sentence as walking, pleasing, and working. This tells me that these actions are related, and I find this to be true pretty consistently in my own life. When I am walking worthy of the Lord, desiring to please Him, and bearing fruit, my knowledge of Him does increase. How can it help but be so? Walking, pleasing, and working are the result of thinking about God, and thinking about Him will always increase our knowledge of Him, as we meditate on His attributes and praise Him for who He is.

11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;

The first word of this verse is what I am after almost constantly. Physical pain can wear a person out! Even doing very little, when one is experiencing ongoing pain, is exhausting. (I know, I’m preaching to the choir!) I had a lovely morning with my granddaughter today, just painting pictures and playing games, and when she left, though I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I was pooped! With a grocery store and preparing a meal for company still on my “to-do” list, I had to stop to pray, asking the Lord to strengthen me for the tasks he’d called me to do. I need to be strengthened with all might if I am going to make the most of the remains of the day, so an infusion of His glorious power is exactly what I asked Him for. My faithful Father did not disappoint. He granted me the strength to do the errands, including patience through a long line at the store, and a wonderful evening with a dear family member.

12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.

God wants our gratitude almost as much as we need His strength! Do a study to see how many times the command to be grateful occurs, just in the New Testament. God deserves and enjoys our thanks and praise. These should flow naturally, as we enjoy His strength and blessings in our lives. If you are not grateful, you are not thinking rightly. My guess is that you are thinking more about your pain, or the circumstances you wish were different, than you are about God and the many ways He has blessed you. If you are not characteristically thankful, take a moment right now and repent of the habit of discontentment. He will forgive, and He will help you to retrain your mind. After all, He qualified you for the ultimate reward—eternity with Him! He can surely teach you to be a grateful saint.

13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Read that again. Read it one more time. Can you feel the impact of this statement? Think about what you have been delivered from. Where was your life headed when Christ reached down into the pit you’d dug for yourself and pulled you out? Take a moment to thank and praise Him for that right now. Then, meditate on the kingdom of which you are now a part. Contrast the two, and be in awe of the mercy and love of God. Imagine your life without Him, just for a moment. Now, pray for those you know and love who are still happily mucking around in their pit. Pray for those who are miserable in their lostness. If you have tried to persuade them and been rejected, pray that the Lord would send another saint into their lives, to whom they will listen. Believe that He is able to save them, no matter how hard their heart may seem to you.

You and I have been redeemed, my friend. Bought with a price. We are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:20). We often think that we are, but we are not. Meditating on passages like this one will help to remind us of this truth, and encourage us to persevere in prayer, even when we’re not sure what to pray for. Here it is one more time, just to wrap up. Read it for what it says, and bask in its truth today.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.  --Colossians 1:9-14