Posts Tagged ‘Comfort’

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Abortion: Finding Life, After Death…

November 2, 2012

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How do you comfort a woman in your congregation who has had abortion? How do you deal with friends who confess to you that they have, in the past, ended a pregnancy? These are not easy questions to be sure. Below is a very helpful suggestion from CCEF .(The Christian Counseling & Education Foundation)

Excerpted from a track available for purchase in full here.

“Imagine a woman who has previously had an abortion waking one morning with the realization that she has murdered her own child. She experiences guilt, grief and loss over this child, who will never be replaced. The death of her own flesh and blood is on her hands. Gripped with emotion she comes to you for help and relief. What will you tell her? How will you attempt to relieve this grief that inhabits her soul?”

“Approach her with love, compassion and hope. In this state the woman’s only hope in obtaining real peace is in a loving, forgiving, gracious God. This is the same God who sent His Son Jesus to die for us sinners on the cross as payment for our sin (John 3:16). As a result, even the killing of the woman’s child might be forgiven so that she could be reconciled to God. Hope is found in this wonderful salvation offered to us as a free gift (Rom. 6:23).”

“The biggest tragedy for this woman is that her sin and guilt have not only hindered her relationship with God and other people, but they have also prevented her from fulfilling God’s purpose and plan for her life. God has called us to holiness. When we recognize the ugliness of our sinfulness and the beauty of His grace, it should drive us to want to serve Him, to live in the radiance of His beauty (1 Pet. 1:14-16; 3:1-6). Help your counselee to find opportunities to use her gifts and talents to serve the Lord. She can share her story to help comfort and counsel others. She can serve at a crisis pregnancy center or in her church. Only God can sanctify our deepest distress and use the bad for good. One day your counselee may be able to sing, “Fill me with fire where once I burned with shame, grant my desire to magnify thy name.”

“As Christians we must address these women with a spirit of meekness, being compassionate and sensitive to her needs while speaking the truth in love. Some women will reject God’s plan of salvation. Others will begin a process of change and then resist further counseling. It is important that you take them as far as they will go in the processes of reconciliation, restoration, renewal, and healing. If necessary, warn them that following the way of the transgressor is hard (Prov.13:15); if you harden your heart, you will be suddenly broken (Ps. 29:1); and they may experience physical or emotional consequences due to sin (Ps. 32:3). Challenge those who will listen to use their remembrance of the past so that they might be gracious, merciful and helpful to others, humble in spirit, and able to rejoice in God’s goodness. Motivate them to use the remainder of their lives to serve and follow their forgiving God.”

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The Beatitudes: Sympathy, Empathy and Sin-pathy…

September 4, 2011

The Necessity of Christian Mourning

How should a Christian mourn? So much is discussed today about the pursuit of joy and comfort in the Christian life. Books are written about it, sermons are preached and conferences are held all for the purpose of planning out the path to true Christian joy and comfort. So much of what is written and too much of what is preached is based on a “defective doctrine of sin and a shallow idea of joy;” and they produce what Martin Lloyd-Jones called, “a very superficial person and a very inadequate kind of Christian life.”

Jesus gives us instruction displayed both in His teaching and His life that point toward comfort and joy. And the path he recommends is one of poor spirit, that simultaneously mourns in the present and finds comfort in the future. Jesus is our guide, He is our model. To be a Christian by definition is to be ‘like-Christ’. Christ mourned over one thing, sin; sins’ effects on His Father’s world, and His Father’s children. Again Lloyd-Jones describes it this way:

He mourns because He has some understanding of what sin means to God, of God’s hatred of it, this terrible thing that would stab, as it were, into the heart of God, if it could, this rebellious and arrogance of man, the result of listening to Satan. It grieves Him and He mourns because of it.

So in that vein, what models of mourning does Christ put forth. There are three that merit our attention; Sympathy, Empathy, and Sin-Pathy.

Sympathy: Mourning for others. This is mourning for the sins of the world. Seeing the suffering of others in sin and mourning for the loss of what might have been. Jesus crests the hill and beholds the Zion, Jerusalem the city of God’s chosen and cries, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together…but you would not have it.” Here Jesus sees the sin of others and mourns their rebellion, wishing for renewal and that it had been another way. This is sympathy, grieving for others and having a broken heart for others.

Empathy: Mourning with others. This is grief that you feel. Others are hurting, sin has taken its toll and you not only recognize it but you feel the emotions they’re experiencing. Jesus is informed of the death of His friend and the brother of His follower Mary; he arrives at the tomb, confident of the impending resurrection, but broken for the sorrow experienced through the pain of loss. John records with passionate simplicity that, “Jesus wept.” This is empathy, amidst the confidence of God’s sovereignty, and the promise of resurrection we still feel the pain of others and are broken over the loss inflicted by sin, so we mourn.

Sin-Pathy: Mourning sin in ourselves. This is necessary brokenness over our own sin. Lloyd-Jones describes it his way, “I must mourn about the fact that I am like that… A man who truly faces himself and examines himself… is a man who must of necessity mourn for his sins…” This mourning is personal, and comes about only when the light of the cross permeates the darkness of our sin-filled souls. This is a poor spirit, devoid of pride and in recognition of his true state before God, as one in need of redemption. Jesus while tempted, had no sin in Himself, but He rather took our sin upon himself. And in that moment uttered the lament of one encased in sins grasp, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” When we’re in sin we’re apart from God, forsaken and alone, assigned with the task bearing sins blunt sorrow. But praise be to God that in Christ that task, “is finished.”

The comfort we seek can only be found in sin-pathy. Brokenness over our own sin, and the renewal promised through the finished work of the cross. We face the difficult world, full of sin and its effects, knowing that there is blessing even in mourning, and that in mourning we shall be comforted. “That is the man who mourns, that is the Christian.”

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What is man? Our place in the mind of God…

June 6, 2011

Psalm 8 is a masterful meditation with a tapestry as rich and complex as the night’s sky. Here a king comes to grips with the significance of God and the minuteness of man. David might be seen strolling atop his palace at night glancing across God’s chosen land into His created heavens, and amid the trappings of royalty, the gold and the silks and the rooms of opulence, he gazes upon a splendor that surpasses all that man can manifest. The earth is wrapped each night in the majestic testimony of the creator God, whom David calls by name. “Oh Yahweh, our Lord.” How many nights he must have seen the heavenly drama unfold, tending sheep. The God he calls to, called him a child an infant, to rise up and still the enemies of Israel. As a small boy, ruddy in complexion, and ruff in demeanor, God used him to establish strength and build a nation, slaying giants and founding cities. Such favor prompts the response, who am I? What is man that You are mindful of him?

Throughout the immensity of earth and the inexhaustible vastness of space God focuses on us, on children in mangers and shepherds in wilderness fields. On single moms and struggling families, students and corporate tycoons, He sees us and is aware of our condition. As we pass by the hurting around us, mindful of only our own needs, God is mindful of them and all of us, and has set about a plan for our redemption and glory.

This psalm is not about our insignificance but rather our insurmountable role as those who would exercise dominion over this creation. God takes the small, the weak, the unwise, the poor and gives them the kingdom of Heaven as an inheritance. Despite being like children, weak and defenseless; despite being the most fragile of God’s creations, as generations of us will pass in the life of a single star, God has chosen to display His glory through us. All that He has created shall be planted beneath our feet and we shall reign.

How majestic is this God? The word majestic used twice in this psalm, is glorious, wondrous, illustrious, illustrating God’s preeminence above His creation. The term is just as good when used to describe the scene in Genesis when the stars are formed, as it is to describe their fall in Revelation. And like his majesty displayed at both ends of scripture, David closes this reflection with the echo of God’s renown. Who are we, but a vast tapestry of God’s grace, millions of minute points of light shining in the darkness bearing witness to His unlimited grace and infinite greatness.

That He is mindful of us in never in doubt, what remains to be seen is if we are mindful of Him.

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The Heavens declare, the King Reflects…

May 30, 2011

Psalm 19 is a masterful text within the Psalter, arguably peerless in its scope and impact.  C.S. Lewis describes it as, “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”[1]  This Davidic psalm exists as a humble meditation on the part of its author and a powerful instruction directed to its reader.  We must remember that it was written by a king whose sole preoccupation was the governing of his people.  This was by no means an easy task, ask any politician or governor or judge, if you are responsible for enforcing laws, and maintaining peace and freedom, your burden is great. For Israel’s kings the guidelines for governance were specifically laid out in Deuteronomy 17:18-20:

18 When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy these laws on a scroll for himself in the presence of the Levitical priests.  19 He must always keep this copy of the law with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of this law.  20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. This will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.”

From the very first day as king and ruler, David had to begin focusing on the word of God and the Law contained within it.  He would copy it, carry it with him, read it daily and rely on it to avoid slipping into prideful arrogance and wrongful ruling.

David rightly saw that God’s law, His order of love and justice, was not just written with pen and ink, but with stars, clouds, the expansive heavens above, and nature below.  All of creation testifies to God’s grace through revelation of a purpose behind the spoken words.  And within this psalm the purpose of God is laid out in mirror image to the rest of scripture.

Within fourteen verses there exists an encapsulation of the entire narrative of the Bible.  Beginning with creation, (vss. 1-4a) God’s ‘handiwork’ the work of His hands, the heavens molded majestically reflecting His glory.  Expanses of sky and echoes on earth, testify that the creator reigns.  Then the psalm progresses to how God reigns over His creation, from one end to the other, missing nothing and seeing everything (vss. 4b-6); He then gives His law to restore, enlighten and endure (vss. 7-11); which exposes our need, prompting our confession (vss.12-13); and concludes where all scripture does on the Lord, our redeemer (vs.14).  (It is easy to see Christ in this psalm, the Rock of ages, the redeemer of all who call upon Him.)

The sun/Son which shines on all creation exposes all that is hidden, including our own secluded faults; ultimately our ability to tell right from wrong lies in our willingness to walk in its/His light.  An illuminating law revealed in nature, sealed in ink, and written on our hearts.


[1] (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 56)

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A Law to Love…

May 16, 2011

We have lists of enumerated laws, we have the bill of rights, we have the freedom to meet and worship, and say what we want.  We delight ourselves in this, we delight ourselves in the reality of these freedoms.  So how hard can it be for us to delight in the Laws of God?  The blessed man, the happy man in scripture, delights in the law of the Lord and the freedom it affords; so much so that he meditates on it day and night.  Can you imagine meditating on the constitution day and night?  Or going down to the city hall and picking up the municipal code and reading it every day when you wake up or every night when you go to bed?  That would be the opposite of delightful.

So how are we to find delight in God’s law?  It begins with Christ.  All things including you, me, laws, nations, neighbors; all of it was created for His glory Col 1:16.  Our joy comes from the fact that Christ fulfills the law, he satisfies it, and when we are in Him we find delight by obeying his law.  What is it then to obey the law of God in Christ?  Jesus said that, “if you obey my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept the Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  These things [he has told us] so that my joy will be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John15:10-11)

So how is our joy made full in obeying the commandments?  We think commandments and if we’re honest joy doesn’t come to mind.  We think of ‘thou shalt not’s’ rather than thou shalt be joyful.  So what are these commandments? Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John15:12)  Jesus sums up the entirety of God’s Law, into two commands, “You shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind…” “and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37,39)  Those laws are fulfilled and exemplified in Him, in that He is the prime example of those commands lived out.  He Loved us so much that He gave of himself to the point of death, so that our joy would be made full.  No one will ever be able to equal that gift, but we can live and love in such way, that we display that kind of love toward others.  “This I Command you…” Jesus says, “that you love one another.”

Love toward your neighbor can be difficult, but we must remember that Christ loves them too, so much so, that He gave His life for them, that they might have Joy.  Here is a brief and simple outline about how to show God’s love to those around you.

L.O.V.E.

First, Leave your comfort zone.  Jesus called the disciples away from what was familiar and towards a life of sacrifice and love.  “Take up your cross, and follow me.” We face the same call, to leave our comfort zones, what is familiar and embark on the mission God has for us.

Second, Orient yourself to serve.  Jesus called the disciples to act, but he also called them to serve, to serve one another, and the communities they lived in by proclaiming the gospel.  Jesus washed their feet, and afterwards told them in John 13 ‘“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”  It is not enough to just receive, we must also give, and we are “blessed” when we do so with delight.  We are never more like Christ than when we humble ourselves to serve those around us.

Third, we must Venture out.  The disciples and the early church did not just stay in the upper room.  They did not just hang out in Jerusalem.  Rather Jesus called them to go into the whole world preaching the gospel, making disciples and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  And they did this in a progression, look at Acts 1:8, first to Jerusalem (their hometown so to speak), then to Judea and Samaria (their states and regions) then to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Loving your neighbor, is implied in sharing the gospel, for what greater gift do you have than the testimony of one who gave so much that all might have eternal life.  Love should start in our homes, then our neighborhoods, then out cities, states, nation and the world.

Finally Encourage those around us.  This is not just a simple high-five, great game kind of encouragement.  This is an encouragement toward godliness and holiness.  When you think about when you first came to Christ, do you remember when you messed up, when you failed, when you fell short and became discouraged?  How great was it to have neighbors, and brothers and sisters in Christ there to encourage you.  God receives glory when we bear much fruit, and our fruit in the spirit is; “LOVE…joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, ” against these things there is no law.(Gal 5:22-24)  It is when we love one another and bear fruit that we prove that we are in Christ and are His disciples. (John15:8)   The greatest source of emotional security for the believer, is a fruitful life lived in the spirit, acting in love toward each other.  Leaving our comfort zone, Orienting ourselves for service, Venturing out, and Encouraging those around us in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  Your neighbor is in need, will you go? Will you serve? Will you encourage? If you allow these things to reign in your heart, you surely will be like a tree amidst your neighborhood, bearing much fruit, fruit that lasts, prospering in what ever you do. (Ps.1:3)

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Why Should We Pray?…

April 18, 2011

For our Divine Relationship:

” [T]he world [is not] fundamentally a constellation of discrete atomic individuals; we are all in our lives intimately related with one another.” (Charles T. Mathewes, author)

We are created for relationships. This is evident in every one of our lives. The fact that you are here listening to me and reading this is a key sign that you desire to be in a relationship with other people. The church is nothing if it is not a community of believers seeking a relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ. By far the most important relationship you have is the one with your heavenly Father. Just like any relationship you have, your relationship with Him is aided by communication. He communicates to you through His word, through His Spirit, through his Preachers. You communicate to Him through worship, worship in song, worship in His Church, and worship through Prayer.

Think of the relationships you have in your life. How are they affected by communication, especially with the ones you love? If I told you that I loved my wife, but I also confessed to you that despite the benefits of talking to her and communicating with her, she and I haven’t spoken in day, weeks, perhaps even months. Despite my insistence that she and I were in love, and that we were in a relationship, how healthy could that relationship be if she and I never communicated?

Consider your relationship with God. In his word we are told to pray. Jeremiah records God’s promise to him in Jeremiah 33:2-3 ” Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish, the Lord is his name, ‘Call unto Me and I will answer you, I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'” We know that when we call on the Lord our God He hears us, “I Love the Lord,” The Psalmist says, “because he hears my voice, and my supplications (cries for mercy), because he has inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.” (Ps. 116:1-2)

Among First marriages in America Statistics show that some 45-50% of marriages end in Divorce, (www.divrocestatistics.org ) Research done on the causes for divorce reveal, that “Lack of communication is one of the leading causes of divorce. A marriage is on the rocks when the lines of communication fail. You can’t have an effective relationship if either one of you won’t discuss your feelings, can’t talk about your mutual or personal issues, will keep your resentments simmering under wraps, and expect your partner to guess what the whole problem is about.” (http://www.buzzle.com/articles/common-causes-and-reasons-for-divorce.html)

How can you expect your relationship with the Father to flourish if you don’t communicate through prayer? Are you Strong enough to go through this life on your own?

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From Whence Comes Our Confidence?…

April 4, 2011

From whence does our confidence in ministry come?

God in His infinite wisdom has made us mortal.  We will seek, serve, secure, and be saved, only to die.  The greatest priests, preachers, evangelists and prophets are made to serve but a while; then the bloom fades, the flower withers and the ground on which they preached remembers them no more.

It is tempting to place your hope in that long chain of witness, whose humble starts were in upper rooms and arid wilderness.  The priests of Israel and the Apostles of Christ were, after-all, commissioned by God; the priests to practice atonement and the apostles to proclaim that atonement perfected.  When we take pride in those testimonies and works, in the faithful service of such men, and the glory of our own obedience, God reminds us that we were predated in plan, purpose and providence.  Before the Apostles there were the priests; before the priests there was Aaron; before Aaron there was Abram (Abraham); but before Abram there was Melchizedek.  (The “king of righteousness, ” the lord of Salem (peace) who worshiped and served the Lord Most High.)  If Abram had been tempted to think that the God of his calling was in his head, or his own creation; he arrives in Canaan to find a priest of his God.  A priest of an order, pre-Jewish, Pre- Christian, serving the pre-existent God.  The writer of Hebrews gives the most encouraging word for those disenchanted and dismayed with the weakness of human priestly service.  “For the Law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” (Heb 7:28)

The Law does what it does, it illumines the weakness of man, and guides him in his service to God. (Rom 7:7)  But thanks be to God that the object in which we place our trust is not the service of the weak, but the saving of the Son, who “always lives to make intercession for us.”  This guarantor of this new covenant, is not limited by time, not constrained by old covenants but has been, is and will be our  perfect sacrifice and savior.  So we go forth with confidence to enter the Holy places, albeit briefly, with confidence, rooted in “the blood of Christ, the new and living way.” (Heb 10:19)