Archive for the ‘For Friends & Family of Dysfunctional People’ Category

Surviving the Furnace of Affliction

Monday, March 6th, 2017

“I have tested you in the furnace of affliction!” Isaiah 48:10

I stood once in the test room of a great steel mill. All around me were little partitions and compartments. Steel had been tested to the limit, and marked with figures that showed its breaking point. Some pieces had been twisted until they broke, and the strength of torsion was marked on them. Some had been stretched to the breaking point, and their tensile strength indicated. Some had been compressed to the crushing point, and also marked. The master of the steel mill knew just what these pieces of steel would stand under strain. He knew just what they would bear if placed in a great ship, or building, or bridge. He knew this, because his testing room revealed it.

It is often so with God’s children. God does not want us to be like fragile vases of glass or porcelain. He would have us like these toughened pieces of steel–able to bear twisting and stretching and crushing to the uttermost, without collapse.

He wants us to be, not hot-house plants–but storm-beaten oaks. He wants us to be, not sand dunes driven with every gust of wind–but granite rocks withstanding the fiercest storms! To make us such, He needs to bring us into His testing room of suffering.

Many of us need no other argument than our own experiences to prove that suffering is indeed God’s testing room of faith. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds–because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

“When He has tested me–I will come forth as gold!” Job 23:10

(John MacDuff)

We need a lot of chipping!

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

“They will be Mine–in the day when I make up My jewels!” Malachi 3:17

We need a lot of chipping!” So said a saint as we were talking about the Lord’s gracious dealings with His people. The saying suggested to my mind–the Lord Jesus as the loving Sculptor at work upon the marble of our fallen humanity. There is an angel in the marble–because the pierced hand of the Sculptor has it in His mind, and brings it out by His skill. But there is a “lot of chipping” to be done before the beautiful image of His holy character stands out, displaying the perfection of His work.

The hard stone of unbelief,
the rough points of self-will,
the prominence of worldly ambition,
the sharp angles of pride,
the ugly faults of temper,
the stubborn marks of bad habits,
and the dark veins of selfishness
are some of the things He removes!

“Those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son!” Romans 8:29

“God cuts and polishes His jewels in order to make them shine more brightly and beautifully in the crown of His glory in Heaven. All of God’s jewels need polishing!” (Richard Newton)

“God has many sharp-cutting instruments and rough files for the polishing of His jewels. Those He especially loves and means to make the most resplendent–He most often uses His tools upon!” Robert Leighton

~Frederick Marsh

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Our resources are very limited–His are infinite!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children–then how much more shall your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” Matthew 7:11

There is a double contrast here.
First, between an earthly parent and God.
Second, between their respective moral characters.

If an earthly parent does not allow his little ones to starve, but instead freely ministers to their needs–then certainly God will respond to the cries of His own children.
They were but the begetters of our bodies–He is the maker of our souls.
Their resources are very limited–His are infinite!

What abundant evidence God has given the Christian that He is his loving heavenly Father!
The sending of His Son,
the gift of His Spirit,
the bestowal of eternal life,
His erection of the throne of grace,
the innumerable promises He has made–
all exclude the idea that He will turn a deaf ear unto their requests.

But more, our parents were “evil”–whereas God is essentially good. The principal emphasis lies there. If  those who by nature are corrupt and filled with selfishness could find in their hearts to bestow needful things on their offspring–then how safely may He who has nothing in Him to check His benignity and bounty be relied upon. He is an ocean of all blessedness, which is ever seeking an outlet to communicate itself to those whom He has loved, chosen, and made His sons and daughters!

Arthur Pink

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God is your refuge – and underneath are the everlasting arms!

Monday, February 6th, 2017

“The eternal God is your refuge — and underneath are the everlasting arms!” Deuteronomy 33:27

If we are held in the clasp of the everlasting arms — we need not fear that we shall ever be separated from the enfolding. “Underneath.” They are always underneath us. No matter how low we sink in weakness, in fainting, in pain, in sorrow — we never can sink below these everlasting arms. We can never drop out of their clasp!

God’s love is deeper than human sorrow. Sorrow is very deep, but still and forever, in the greatest grief — these arms of Divine love are underneath the believing sufferer.

God’s love is deeper than death. When every earthly support is gone from beneath us, when every human arm unclasps and every face fades from before our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness and the shadow of death — we shall only sink into the everlasting arms!

Drop your plummet into the deepest sea of sorrow, and at the end of your soundings: “Underneath are the everlasting arms!”

What abiding consolation! What all-embracing, never-failing strength!

~J.C. Pittman, 1917

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Truth: Learning what is Right

Monday, January 30th, 2017

A Facebook flashback brings us today’s word-of-the-week…

TRUTH

My cousin got one of those “Facebook memories” on her timeline last week.

She was reminded that three years ago she was emphasizing the importance of always telling the truth with her then four-year-old daughter. Seems like a simple, straightforward concept, right?

So after one particular heart-to-heart, the young philosopher got that look that said there was something spinning around in her brain.

“Mom, Jesus always told the truth, didn’t He?”

“Of course He did, sweetie.”

“Mom, didn’t they kill Jesus because He told the truth?”

Learning what’s right is tough enough.

Age four is pretty young to understand the courage required to do the right thing.

So is age sixty-four.

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Copyright by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

The Year Before Our Eyes

Friday, January 6th, 2017

“As your days’ so shall your strength be.”
Deuteronomy 33:25


The year before our eyes may hold in its bosom, events which may deeply concern and affect us. We do not know what is to come. What personal trials, what family trials, what providential trials may await us – we do not know. Every year hitherto has brought its trials in its train; and how can we expect the coming year to be exempt?

Sickness may attack our bodies, death enter our families, difficulties beset our circumstances, trials and temptations exercise our minds, snares entangle our feet, and many dark and gloomy clouds, make our path one of heaviness and sorrow.

If, indeed, we are His, whatever our trials may be – His grace will be sufficient for us.

He who has delivered – can and will deliver.

And He who has brought us thus far on the road, who has so borne with our crooked manners in the wilderness and never yet forsaken us – though we have so often forsaken Him – will still lead us along; will still guide and guard us, and be our God, our Father and our Friend – not only to the end of the next year, if spared to see it, but the end of our life.

Blessed with His presence – we need fear no evil;
favored with His smile – we need dread no foe;
upheld by His power – we need shrink from no trial;
strengthened by His grace – we need panic at no suffering.

Knowing what we are and have been when left to ourselves – the slips that we have made, the snares that we have been entangled in, the shame and sorrow that we have procured to ourselves – well may we dread to go forth in the coming year alone. Well may we say,
“If Your Presence does not go with us do not send us up from here!” Exodus 33:15

J. C. Philpot
1802-1869

5 Steps in Satan’s Plan to Defeat You

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Many people have many plans for your life. You likely have plans of your own. But have you ever stopped and thought about what the difference between God’s will and yours or the devil’ will would be for your life? I am going to talk about what the devil would have you do and believe. Open your heart because you are about to learn how to avoid Satan defeating you.

There are 5 steps in Satan’s plan to defeat you: doubt, discouragement, diversion, defeat and delay. One by one, they lead you down into a miry pit that you can only get out of by the hand of God who loves us and wants only the best for us. And I have no doubt in my mind that each one of us will go through this process once, maybe even more, times in our lives. After all, we are human and we are quite capable of falling. We are not infallible like God. Just read what the Bible says and be hopeful.

The first step in Satan’s plan to defeat you is DOUBT. Doubt makes you questions God’s Word and His goodness for and toward you. To doubt means to disbelieve and to mistrust. In this case it means to disbelieve God and to mistrust Him. And yet we have no reason for doing either with Him. He has never let His children down.

After doubt comes DISCOURAGEMENT. Discouragement makes you look at your problems instead of staying focused on God and His goodness in your life. Discouragement can easily be overcome, but for some it can lead to detrimental emotional problems like depression. We need to fight, through the power of prayer, this discouragement that Satan attacks us with. God would never do anything to cause us doubt or discouragement. So don’t let Satan get even a slippery grasp on your life. That’s all he needs to bring you spiraling down.

Discouragement will lead you to DIVERSION. This means that the wrong things in life suddenly become attractive and you crave them more than what is right. This is the dangerous step. Once you are into sinful patterns, it is hard to break them. The old saying says that Old habits die hard. Once something becomes a habit, it is very difficult to overcome and get out of.

Once Satan has you into his diversions, he then leads you to DEFEAT. This makes you feel like a failure. It can hurt so bad that some people give up on even trying to get out of a situation. Satan’s grasp is so strong that you just can’t bear to even try for anything good anymore. Defeat is not for God’s children. The victory is already won for the believer and if we just focus on the words “It is finished,” the battle is over, what a difference we would see in our churches.

And finally, once you feel you are defeated you are lead into DELAY. You put off doing something – usually something good so that it never gets done. In this case, you put off calling on God so your life never gets straightened around.

If you are feeling or experiencing ANY of the above 5 steps in your life, I suggest you call a/your pastor and get some spiritual guidance. Better to feel a little awkwardness now than to completely turn around the path to your eternity.

This battle plan that Satan has for all living persons was first set in motion with Adam and Eve. Satan placed doubt in Eve’s mind about what God had said. When she learned she could be like God, she was discouraged with what she had and wanted more. All of a sudden that tree and its fruit looked pretty good – she fell for the diversion. When Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, they felt shame and defeat. They knew Satan had gotten the better of them and they had saddened God’s heart. And when God did approach them, the delayed in answering because they knew what they had done was wrong. Rather than coming forward and saying sorry to God, they both made excuses, blaming someone or something else for their actions. This was the delay process.

And now, thanks to them, we all have to deal with these five steps. Some may have to go through all five of them in order to finally see the light. Some may only go through 1 or 2 or 3 before they realize what’s happening.

Don’t despair. God won’t leave you there. All you need to do is lift your eyes Heavenward and reach up with your hand and God will take it and lift you up, cleanse you and give you a brand new start.

We don’t need to stay stuck in the mire and mud of our sins. God knows we are human and He is fully willing to give us a helping hand. All we have to do is reach out and ask. Don’t let Satan get the victory because God has already won the entire spiritual war. Keep focused on the Lord in your heart and you won’t stumble into Satan’s battle ground.

By Sheri Liegh Adams, copyright Sheri Liegh Adams, all rights reserved

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A New Beginning

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 King James Version

Someone reminded me of a bad decision I made a few years ago.  For a few minutes, satan tried to discourage me and then God brought our Scripture verse to my mind.  This is why it is so important that we hide the Word of God in our hearts.  When we repent of our sins and ask God to forgive us and the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to our hearts for the forgiveness of our sins, we have been forgiven.

We have a new life and a new beginning and when we say to God “Remember what I did several years ago?”  He will say to us “I don’t know what you’re talking about because I don’t remember that.”  Does this mean that God has a bad memory?  Of course not, it means that He makes a choice to forgive and forget and never hold it against us again.

May God help us to love others as He loves us.  We also need to make the choice to forgive people and then forget about it and never hold it against them again.  However, many times we harbor unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness in our hearts instead of letting it go.  I am so glad to know that when I fail God, and I do fail Him just like you do, He forgives me and forgets it.

Don’t let people put you under guilt because of something you did in the past.  If you asked God to forgive you, let it go.  It is important, however, that occasionally we think about our past just to remind us how far He has brought us.  Praise and thank Him for His mercy, grace, forgiveness and unconditional love for you. Thank Him for all He has done for you.

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JoanneCopyright by Joanne Lowe, all rights reserved.
Used by permission.
http://joanne-freedominjesus.blogspot.com/
http://christians-in-recovery.org

New Year’s Motto: Look Up!

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” Luke 21:28

We are entering upon a new year, we shall have
new toils,
new trials,
new temptations, and
new troubles.

In whatever state, in whatever place, into whatever condition we may be brought this year–let us seek grace to follow our Lord’s loving advice, and “look up!

Do not look back–as Lot’s wife did.

Do not look within–as too many do.

Do not look around–as David did.

But “look up!” Look up to God–He is your Father, your Friend, your Savior. He can help you. He will help you. He says, “Look unto Me, and be delivered–for I am God!”

Look up for light to guide you–and He will direct your path.

Look up for grace to sanctify you–and the grace of Jesus will be found sufficient for you.

Look up for strength to enable you to do and suffer God’s will–and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.

Look up for comfort to cheer you–and as one whom his mother comforts, so will the Lord comfort you.

Look up for courage to embolden you–and the Lord will give courage to the faint; and to those who have no might–He will increase strength.

Look up for endurance to keep you–and the God who preserves you will enable you quietly to bear the heaviest burden, and silently to endure the most painful affliction.

Look up for providence to supply you–and the jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry; but God shall supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Look up in faith–exercising confidence in the Word of a faithful God.

Look up in prayer–asking for what God has graciously promised.

Look up in hope–expecting what you ask in the name of Jesus.

Look up with adoration–and adore the sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom of God.

Look up constantly–let nothing daunt or discourage you! Rather say, “Our eyes are on the Lord our God–until He shows us mercy.”

Look up–for this will keep . . .
the head from swimming,
the heart from sinking,
the knees from trembling,
the feet from slipping, and
the hands from hanging down!

It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year–but “Look up!” This direction, if properly attended to, will . . .
procure for us all that we need,
secure us against all that we dread, and
make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? “Look up” and hear Jesus saying to you, “Do not be afraid–I Myself will help you!”

Are you discouraged? “Look up”–and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!

Are you desponding? “Look up” for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.

Do not look too much at your sin–look at the infinitely meritorious blood of God’s dear Son!

Do not look too much at self–but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you–loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will . . .
bind up your broken heart,
calm your perturbed spirit,
cheer your drooping mind, and
fill you with His own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
for all that you need;
from all that you fear;
through all that would obstruct your way.

Look up every day, saying with David, “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You–and will look up!” Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!”

Do not look at your sin–it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self–it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan–he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men–they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials–they will deject you!

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us–looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!” Hebrews 12:1-2

Look only, look always, look intently–to Jesus!

Run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking–to Jesus, who is at God’s right hand in glory.

Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!

James Smith, “A New Year’s Motto” 1865

Labels as Excuses

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Are you “one of those people who …”?

I lived in schools for about fifty-two years.

K-12, four years of college, and thirty-five years as a teacher—52 of my first 58 years, interrupted by brief stints to build houses (which I enjoyed) and rehab from my injury (which I enjoyed a lot less). Toss in some nights and summers doing a Master’s degree, and it all adds up to a lot of time in schools.

When you live in schools, you learn about labels. Geek. Nerd. Jock. Goth. Skater. Gangster. School’s all about labels. The only worse fate than being labeled and stuck in a group is NOT being labeled and stuck in a group.

Jocks and gangsters get to walk down the middle of the hallway, crowds parting before them in a confused mixture of adoration, disdain, and fear. Geeks and nerds slink along the walls.

In college I took a class called “Adolescent Psychology.” The professor’s opening line: They’re all crazy!

We learned that kids group themselves as a way of separating from parents and developing an identity, that’s it’s normal for them to try out different costumes and roles. Colored hair, odd clothing, mimicked behaviors—it’s all just part of growing up and figuring out who they are. One of the many paradoxes of adolescence involves the need to discover one’s individuality by identifying lock-step with a group.

And we learned that it’s a phase, that eventually we grow out of our need to define ourselves by the group(s) to which we belong.

That professor was mostly right. They ARE all crazy, which explains my love for them as co-conspirators. They do try on identities like costumes, which makes them fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. There’s something refreshing about a young lady with pink spiked hair and holes in her jeans intently solving an equation, especially when she shows up after Christmas break with beautifully curled hair and a flowered skirt.

The adolescent labeling process makes developmental sense, bringing humor and pathos to a difficult, confusing stage of life. But I always felt less comfortable when adults insisted on placing kids in much less temporary categories.

During my career I taught classrooms filled with “gifted” students and others identified as “special needs.” I often wondered whether Christian parents believed some kids weren’t gifted by God, or whether ANY parents thought their kids weren’t special.

In the same room I’d find kids who were creative and artistic, lazy and driven to achieve, lethargic and hyper-active. Some were inquisitive, some wanted to read everything in sight, and some were fascinated by technology. Some struggled to focus as they worried about issues at home.

And of course it’s obvious which group I just described, right?

I think the professor missed an important point. I don’t see much evidence that we grow out of our adolescent need to define ourselves with labels. When you live in a wheelchair you get really sensitized to labels. People slap them on my forehead (which has plenty of room) like bumper stickers. But you don’t need paralysis to see the harmful effects of labels.

Last time I discussed labels as averages.  Today I’m thinking about labels as excuses.

Labels excuse laziness.

    No need to actually invest in getting to know the person and really understand his perspective. Just slap on a label, toss him in the right bucket, and you “know” all you need to know about him.

Labels excuse marginalization. She’s one of “them” and “they” just can’t do certain things. Of course we’ll be nice to her, but we can’t expect her to really participate. We’ll make a spot on the edges where she can watch without getting in the way.

Labels excuse unacceptable behavior. If you attach the “enemy” label to someone, you don’t have to treat them with respect. So it’s suddenly okay to demonize and shout at the person with different political views. There’s nothing wrong with gossiping and spreading rumors about “bad” people, right?

Labels excuse divisiveness. Why would we support that “evangelical” church down the street? And that one over there that doesn’t condemn our notion of “unbiblical” behavior, or the one around the corner that’s “right wing?” Just label them and the walls magically appear.

Of course, labels don’t really excuse any of these, but they certainly provide convenient excuses. When I hear adults using labels in such hurtful ways, I wonder how much we’ve really progressed since eighth grade.

I can chuckle when a kid with baggy pants will only associate with other kids that have the same brand of baggy pants. They’re learning, and next year they’ll all have short hair and khakis.

It’s a lot harder to find the humor when adults use a label based on behavior, belief, appearance, or perceived ability to justify including or excluding an individual.

And if you’re tempted to think it’s really not that important, that labels are just words, that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” I’d offer an alternative view.

Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can break my heart.

Broken bones are easily treated; no surgical procedure exists that can mend a broken heart.

Do you see examples of labels as excuses?

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Dixon
Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com