How Can I Be Changed (Part 3)

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:3-4)

God wants you to be strong. If you have read the first two parts of this series (Part 1 and Part 2), you know that God desires change for your as much as you desire it for yourself. He wants you to live a happy and abundant life. Jesus said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)" In other words, the enemy wants you to be unhappy, but Jesus has come so that you may experience life in all its abundance. So let's start living abundantly!

In order to do that, we must undertake the last part of the 'How Can I Be Changed?' journey: Restoration. You have prayed, you have cried. You have fasted, you have believed. You have rid yourself of many of your past demons and are ready to move on. In a word, you are Exhausted.

But God has already provided a way for you to regain your strength and move on to the next level. King David went through many trials: he was anointed as king by the prophet Samuel, but was hounded mercilessly by King Saul. He was practically a wanderer in the wilderness, hiding out with his army of men, being hunted unto death by King Saul and depending many times on his strong faith in God alone. He knew what it meant to need restoration. He said:
(A psalm by David for the music leader.) You, LORD God, bless everyone who cares for the poor, and you rescue those people in times of trouble.

You protect them and keep them alive. You make them happy here in this land, and you don't hand them over to their enemies.

You always heal them and restore their strength when they are sick. (Psalms 41:1-3(CEV))

Jesus also reassures us that anything that has been 'lost' in this world will be restored. The Bible says, "Jesus answered, "You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or wife or brothers or family or children because of God's kingdom will be given much more in this life. And in the future world they will have eternal life. (Luke 18:29-30) (CEV)"

How do you experience restoration? We find ourselves back at a very well-known verse of scripture. Isaiah 40:31 says:

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

About this verse (and the ones preceding it) the Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible says,
Where God had begun the work of grace, he will perfect it. He will help those who, in humble dependence on him, help themselves. As the day, so shall the strength be... If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and utterly fall; but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties, and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.
To 'wait upon' means to "look, patiently, tarry, wait." So if we wait on God, He Himself will renew our strength. This is further illustrated in 1Peter 5:10, where it says, "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you." God has promised to strengthen us - it just remains for us to ask.

So wait on God. What does this mean? Linger in His presence. Pray to the Father. Tell Him about your needs. And ask! Jesus said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you...(Matthew 7:7)" Ask God to be healed, renewed and to be refreshed. You will be amazed at the new life, the new vigor and the new strength that will flow through your body once you ask!

Operating on our own power is limited. Operating in God's power is limitless!

So ask God today to complete the process of transformation in your life by renewing your strength and restoring you spiritually. He can and He will do all that is asked of Him in accordance to His will.

God Bless!

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How Can I Be Changed? (Part 2)


Now for Part 2 of our How Can I Be Changed Series. In Part 1, we explored the first steps necessary to make a true change, which are reflected by our own personal attitudes. In order to change, we have to be 1. Willing; 2. Able and 3. Submitted to God. After making sure our hearts and minds are up to this task, we can move on to the next step:

1. Prayer and Fasting

No one said this would be easy. As mentioned in the previous article, Jesus clearly told us that some conditions are only healed through prayer and fasting. Your true change REQUIRES prayer and fasting.

Here's how to make it easier: think of God as your Therapist. Someone who is willing to give you His undivided attention. Someone who is willing to listen to you 24 hours a day. It doesn't matter how long ago something happened or how insignificant it appears to anyone else - He's interesting in hearing all about it.

Once you begin to see the availability and access offered by God, it will become easier to spend time with Him in prayer. So many times we approach prayer as a ritualistic, unwanted task instead of the heart-to-heart fellowship it could be. God is not only our Lord, but also our Comforter. Talk to Him. He wants to listen.

Re-live with Him the things that are bothering you. Spend time with Him as you begin to explore deeper what happened, why you think it is such a big deal and even begin to dig deeper into the origin of this type of pain in your life. Why do you think this bothers you so much? When was the first time you felt this type of pain? Journal if you need to or take a break to re-order your mind.

You may hit a blank wall initially, but you'll be surprised at the old experiences that will come up and remind you of why you are so self-conscious (you were teased as a child) or why you can never get a date (you felt rejected in your early years). And - most importantly - instead of running away from this memory, re-live it. Remember once and for all why this hurt so much. Recall what was said to you and what you did or said in response. Cry if you need to. Laugh if it's appropriate. But face it - honestly, openly, without condemning yourself for your response or allowing your hurt or embarrassment (or humiliation) to overwhelm you. Ask God to show you how that experience shaped you. Think deeper to see what you've learned from that experience. Acknowledge that it happened, but that you don't have to accept its negative outcome. Remind yourself that you are no longer that person. That the other person no longer has any power over you. That you are still free to be the whole, healthy person you deserve to be. And that they or that event don't have the right to impact who you are today. And prepare to be free of it.

This process may take a little time (and you may find a whole host of 'incidents' to re-live). That's okay. You've got time. You want this to be behind you, right?

Also, feel free to engage a professional to help you. Find a local psychologist or psychiatrist through the yellow pages or through your local church. Or, if you can't afford to pay someone, find a counselor at your church or a support group of some type. You might also find that an online community can provide you with the emotional support you need.

During this time of 're-living', you will also need to fast. Why? Because you will need help getting delivered of some things and many of those things can only accessed after you spend time fasting. Don't make it too complicated - in this case, fasting is primarily a way for God to reach you and for you to hear Him. Food and the cares of life are so consuming in and of themselves, that you will need to put those things aside for short periods of times to focus on what God may be saying to you. Try to make your life as distraction-free as possible and devote some time to quiet time, meditation and solitude. If you've never fasted or spent time in meditation, now is a good time to start!

Most importantly - don't rush this process! It takes as long as it takes. You may have a period of time where you will spend a few hours or a few days thinking things through. And it may be another year or two before you discover new things that need to be addressed. Just go with it. Don't resist those feelings and don't run away. This is very important to your healing process.

After acknowledging the things that are bothering, re-living those root experiences, spending time with God through prayer and fasting and hearing what God has to say about those experiences, you are ready for the final step in this process: letting go. How do you let go? For me, it's easiest for me to visualize that problem dissolving into a whirlwind and being whisked away from me. I watch it disintegrate piece by piece and lose its shape, form, and ability to impact me. You can also 'let go' by verbally telling God that this problem is no longer yours - you are releasing it to Him and will not worry about it any longer. But easier said than done, right? But it is possible.

Ultimately, letting it go means that you will no longer puzzle over it, try to figure it out, or continue to re-live that incident over and over. It also means no longer talking about it (or, at least, not so much), and - most importantly - not allowing it to influence your thoughts or actions any longer. BUT YOU CAN ONLY GET TO THIS STAGE AFTER YOU'VE FULLY DEALT WITH IT. By praying about it, exploring it and resolving and being delivered of any outstanding pain or emotions associated with it. Otherwise, you won't ever be able to let it go.

Next time, we'll talk about the restoration process.

Be Blessed!

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How Can I Be Changed? Part I

How can you really be changed? What will it take to experience that leap in spiritual growth you've been seeking? What steps can you take to change your mind, your 'flesh' and your spirit?

The Bible is replete with ideas about change, transformation, renewal and restoration. We see a number of people who start out one way, and become emotionally, mentally or spiritually changed. Not to mention the physical and emotional healings that took place.

So how can you harness that transformation energy for yourself? Change involves three components: 1. Willingness; 2. Ability and 3. Submission. Let's explore those three ideas in more detail:


Remember when Jesus saw the lame man who was lying by the pool in Bethesda? The first question Jesus asked him was "Do you want to be healed" (John 5:6 CEV). You know why Jesus asked him that question? Because in order to receive what you need from God, you have to be willing. God can do every miracle conceivable - but not in the face of your disbelief or stubbornness. Jesus clearly tells you in Matthew 7:7 (CEV) to "Ask, and you will receive." It seems so simple, this whole willingness thing, but it isn't. First, we have to tell God that we give Him our permission to do what He needs to do. Then we have to ask. Ask. And we have to ask for the right reasons. James tells us in James 4:3 (KJV) "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." In other words, we ask for things for the wrong reasons so that we can use those things for our own selfish needs. So, if you are seeking to change for any reason other than you want to be a true woman or man of God, then you need not ask. God can read the desires of your heart and He knows when you ask something for the wrong reasons. Don't put God in the position of having to answer your selfish prayers. But - if you are truly willing to change to please God - then read on as we explore the second component of change:


Here's a secret of the Christian faith - not all problems disappear overnight. And not all sins are overcome immediately after becoming a Christian. Some issues remain around for a long, long time. You will find after being a Christian any length of time that willpower alone isn't always enough to stop yourself from drinking, sleeping around or to prevent your thinking hateful thoughts. As much as you struggle with those things, you can't seem to be delivered of them. In Matthew 17, the disciples attempted to cure an epileptic child and could not. Jesus came out, cured the boy and the disciples then came to question him.
Matthew 17:19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast it out? 20 And he saith unto them, Because of your little faith: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 But this kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting.(ASV)
In other words, some things will not leave you unless you diligently fast and pray.

A last thought about Ability - you will not be capable of something you have never attempted before. Think about it: if you were preparing to run a marathon, would you be able to run it next week? Unless you've spent weeks or months increasing your pace and running on a regular basis - the answer is no. The same thing with being able to let go of a sin - have you 'practiced' letting it go? Or are you still engaged full-time with that problem or circumstance? Willpower will not be enough. You will need the full protection and strength of God to get you through what you will soon face. But you can certainly 'help' the process by 'practicing.' 'Practice' praying more often and fasting for short periods of time. 'Practice' studying the Bible, engaging in meditation and solitude to prepare you for the time you will spend with God. And, finally, 'practice' finding other things to do with your time (as opposed to reaching out to that sinful or useless activity). Look around and see what else life has to offer. Plan to spend more time doing those things. Make sure you 'practice' in preparation for the challenges that will soon come.

And now the final component of change:


You will never change unless you submit yourself to God. That means listening to Him and obeying the guidance of His Holy Spirit. Here are two verses of scripture to reflect on as you prepare for your change:
James 4:7 Surrender to God! Resist the devil, and he will run from you. 8 Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Clean up your lives, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you people who can't make up your mind. 9 Be sad and sorry and weep. Stop laughing and start crying. Be gloomy instead of glad. 10 Be humble in the Lord's presence, and he will honor you (CEV)

Romans 8:5 People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things. 6 If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace.
7 Our desires fight against God, because they do not and cannot obey God's laws. 8 If we follow our desires, we cannot please God.
9a You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God's Spirit, who lives in you. (CEV)
What should you take away from these verses? The knowledge that you will only have the ability to resist by submitting yourself to God. You don't have what it takes to overcome by yourself - as you become closer to God, He will become closer to you. He will then help you get through anything you will encounter. Also,you should take away the idea that you will be transformed into a person who is now led by the Holy Spirit. That is the plain and simple meaning of the word 'spiritual.' This means, however, that you will no longer be free to pursue your own desires. You will now now pursue God's desires so that you can please Him. That will be a huge step for you, so contemplate now what that will mean for you.

Reflect on these scriptures and on the new man or woman of God you would like to be. In my next post, I will give you some practical tips and helpful advice to guide you through your great change.

CEV - Contemporary English Version Bible
ASV - American Standard Version Bible
KJV - King James Version Bible

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Confronting Your Emotions

I've spoken a lot on these posts about how to handle conflict and confrontation. And, though those things are sometimes unavoidable, I think it is usually best to approach them with caution, self-control and kindness.

There is one time, however, when I think confrontation should be brutal, painful and unrelenting. And that's when it comes to confronting your own emotions.


There is one consistent thing about emotions - they are always changing! You can wake up one day and think the world is great! A half hour later, after you have failed to locate a clean suit, found your toothpaste has run out and are well on your way to being late for work, you think - life sucks! What's changed? Just your emotions.

But it's not these every day emotions I want to talk about today. The emotions I want to focus on are much more subtle. They only show up when something else is bothering you, so it's sometimes hard to pin them down. Let me give you an example. You know how, when your boss upsets you by micromanaging you and you start to get that helpless, angry feeling in response? You think your boss is just a jerk - but what you don't realize is that the emotions you were actually experiencing - anger, helplessness and frustration - were really a holdover from when your father used to yell at you when you were a kid.

And remember when your friend made you angry by sharing your personal information with another friend of yours? You think your friend is just disloyal, but you don't realize you are reliving your high school experiences, when you were the object of ridicule and scorn.

The emotions I'm talking about are directly related to why you react to things the way you do. And, if you find yourself particularly reacting to a word, an event or a certain type of behavior, those are big clues that you have unresolved issues in those areas.

One of the books on my sidebar, 'Healing the Child Within', is really good at helping people deal with unresolved emotional issues. One thing the author said that resonated with me is that emotions don't correspond to a certain timeframe. In other words, if something painful happened to you 10 years ago and you never dealt with it, the remembered pain is just as fresh today as it was then. Try thinking about something like that now - see how those remembered feelings of hurt, embarassment, humiliation or betrayal are still right underneath the surface of your everyday emotions. Waiting for you. Causing you to overreact to certain stimuli. Haunting you. Weighing you down. Determining how you feel about yourself, choosing people as friends that often remind you of this pain, possibly keeping you from finding love.

And, to deal with these emotions, confrontation is key.

You don't want to be a person who is ruled by emotions. The Bible says we walk by faith and not by sight. In other words, we live our lives according to what is in us, not what is around us. And that includes what people say to you, how you have been hurt in the past and your own possible negative thinking as a result of these bad experiences.

You want to be in control of your emotions, not the other way around. And the only way to do this is to confront those demons. Every time you get angry over a co-worker's thoughtless words, hold unforgiveness because of something your spouse did or said, you need to take time to directly confront those emotions that have caused you to respond that way.

And how do you do that? By finding a quiet place. By recalling in your mind exactly what happened to make you feel the way you do. And then going deeper. Focusing in on the moment your feelings took a nosedive. What were you feeling? What did that feeling remind you of? Or, more specifically, who or what incident did that pain recall to your mind?

Pay attention to what your emotions are telling you - no matter how painful it may be. And pain is good in this case, because it will point you directly to what is the true source of your dilemma. If you need to re-think about sexual molestation that took place in your life, acknowledge the source of that pain. Do what you need to do to deal with it and completely exorcise it from your thinking. Pray diligently as you relive those moments. God will definitely be there to comfort you. But it's also okay to seek counseling. Find a good therapist. Or find a wise counselor at church. You don't have to go through this alone. But you definitely have to go through it - if you want to come out a whole, healthy person on the other side.

Cry if you need to - as long as you want. Write letters to that person who hurt you. Tell that person exactly how he or she hurt you. Talk to trusted friends or spiritual advisors. Confront that person in your mind. Have a conversation with him or her and say everything you've always wanted to say. Do whatever you have to do until you have exhausted your anger and pain about it all. And that will be your sign that it is finally over. When you no longer feel pain, anger, frustration or humiliation when you think about that person, those words or those incidents. It is over. Take a deep breath and sigh in relief. You can now completely let it go.

Symbolically release that incident or those words from your psyche. Write letters, hold a healing ceremony or go out to celebrate with your friends. Picture those things being laid to rest in in miniature gravesites or figuratively separating themselves from the heart of your emotions. Whatever seems right to you. It may seem corny or like overkill, but I believe our mind and emotions truly respond to signals that a certain event has passed. That we are free to move on. That a new era has begun in our lives. Yes - negative things happened - and nothing can change that. But those events or words don't have to impact every day of the rest of your life. They don't have the right to steal your joy, disturb your peace or make you feel less than valuable about yourself. Celebrate your freedom.

Negative emotional responses (and their causes) have to go. And it is up to you to have the courage and determination to put them out of your life. It won't be easy and it won't be fast. It may take days, months or years. But you can win this battle if you persevere. And allow God to assist you every step of the way. That's what it's going to take - confrontation, determination, perseverance and God's assistance. And don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. That's what counselors and spiritual advisors are for.

So, confront those emotions that are haunting you in your life. Be brave and be determined as you put all those negative experiences behind you. And experience life the way Jesus promised we all could - abdundantly - as you live your life in a fresh, new and exciting way!

Be Blessed.

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Why do Christians experiences times of loneliness? Doesn't God promise us that He will never leave us, and never forsake us (Joshua 1:5)?

One of the biggest surprises to many Christians is how often they are plagued with negative emotions - sadness, loneliness, depression and the like. When we first become believers (or re-commit as adults), that initial joy sweeps all our every day problems under a rug. We believe (and feel) that we have a new lease on life. We are told that our 'old' selves are fallen away and all things are 'new' again. And this is true. So we feel that that our 'old' problems should fall away as well. And it's always surprising to find that they all have not conveniently disappeared....

So does this mean you are not really a 'Christian'? Of course not - it just means there is still work to be done. God does not promise that all our problems will mysteriously vanish into the air - but He does promise to be there with us as we work those problems out, one by one. That's why we are reminded in Romans 1:17 that
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith

In other words, God (and His ways) are revealed to us as our faith grows from one level to the next (faith to faith). And as we grow, we understand more, we can model our lives better after our ultimate example - Jesus Christ, and we are better able to handle life and the internal realm of our own sometimes discordant emotions.

Loneliness is a common problem for us all. God Himself recognized it as a potential problem when he created Eve for Adam. Genesis 2:18 says
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

So how do you deal with loneliness? The same way you deal with everything else - by turning it over to God. It says is Philippians 4:19:
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

I know it is hard to believe that God can truly meet all of our needs. If you are anything like me, you have a lot of needs - some big, some small.

How do you know then that God can meet all your needs? Because He said so. And God is not a man, that He should lie.

Jesus promised us that after he ascended into heaven (after his resurrection), we would receive the ever-abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16, Jesus said
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

In other words, now that Jesus would temporarily be removed from our earthly presence, we would have someone else to take his place. And that someone else was the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is often misunderstood. Most people tend to think of the Holy Spirit as a vague, amorphous blob. More like a feeling or a 'presence' than a real person. Well, if you believe that, here's news for you - the Holy Spirit is an individual being. He is the third person of the trinity and has his own distinct presence. Yes, we experience him sometimes as a feeling or as a presence, but He is so much more than that.

He is (as my Pastor often explains) - God with us. He is the part of God that resides within our spirits - who comforts us and teaches us about the Word of God. Who prays with us when we are in need and gives us the words when we lack the right ones. Who is the manifestation of the leading and guidance that God promises us. All that - and he is always with us.

And that is why we are never truly alone.

You can 'run away' from God, but He never willingly leaves you. And He has provided a Comforter to comfort and console you through your darkest hour.

So when you call upon God in the midst of your loneliness, the Holy Spirit is there to undergird and protect you, keep you whole and minister to your pain.

The Holy Spirit (along with friends, family, your mate) is God's antidote to loneliness.

So the next time you feel lonely - let God know what you need. Pray about it and open yourself up to experience the presence and comfort of His Holy Spirit.

And loneliness will soon only be a distant memory.

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After the Pain

Psalm 30:5 (NIV) For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Why does God send us through so many trials and tribulations? We’ve all heard the stories, the experiences of others, and we’ve been through a few ‘weepy’ nights ourselves. And we all know that these experiences (theoretically at least) are supposed to make us stronger. We are the head and not the tail, we remind ourselves in the midst of our pain. He will never give us more than we can bear, our friends say to comfort us when we are down. No weapon formed against us shall prosper, we whisper hopefully when our marriages, our jobs, or our families seem to be on the verge of falling apart. And this is all supposed to make us stronger?

I’ve wondered about this and I’m sure you have to. Once, in my anger towards God (after a particularly lengthy ‘trial’), I told God exactly why I was upset with Him: He could make this trial go away any time He chose. So, I reasoned with Him, if I was suffering, I was suffering because of Him. And what kind of God was that, I questioned Him? What kind of loving, kind, responsive God would watch me go through this pain and not lift a finger to help me? Yeah, I was the head and not the tail alright – the head of a big, fat mess!

Not the right attitude, of course, but an honest response. And, even if you have not felt this type of anger towards God, haven’t you often wondered why He sends us through what He sends us through? Do you ever stop to think (as I have, many times), that there has to be an easier way to gain maturity, gain strength, learn patience and learn to be long-suffering? He is God, after all – can’t He just magically give us those qualities instead of having us sweat it out for days, months, or in the most painful cases, years?

So there has to be a reason. Why do we go through all our trials and tribulations? For exactly the reasons that we have been led to believe – because God is trying to mature us (James 1: 2-4). Because God wants to rid of us all those qualities that are not like Him (Psalm 66:10). And because He uses our suffering to help us develop Godly characteristics (Romans 5:3-5). The simple truth of the matter is that most of us would not be the loving, kind, patient people we are today had it not been for something we had gone through. We would probably not appreciate God, our families, our friends or the simple joys of life had we not surmounted some obstacle, overcome some temptation or went through the horrors of our own personal trial by fire.

Admit it – you’re a better person today because of a liberal helping of hurt, humiliation, difficult circumstances and stress. And, if you’re not, then consider yourself still in the training process.

There is, however, a benefit to journeying through the bad times. Something that is only hinted at in the Bible when James exhorts us to rejoice in tribulation and Paul talks about the hope that is produced through suffering. There is a sweet recompense for all that we have gone through, all the sleepless, lonely, weeping nights we’ve experienced and a joy that lessens the pain of lost loved ones, battered friendships or bruised egos. I call it After the Pain.

After the Pain is what David talks about in Psalms 30. He reminds us that we may weep for a night, but, hold on, because Joy comes in the morning! Does that mean we only have to endure for one night and then, when the morning comes, things will all be worked out? Only if you are very lucky. That dark ‘night’ can last days, months or even years. The woman who had the issue of blood experienced 11 lonely years of ‘night’. Blind Bartimeus had been blind since ‘birth’ – a entire lifetime of ‘night’. God promised Abraham a son at 86 years old and his night didn’t end until 13 years later! How long will your ‘night’ last? As long as it takes. But, hold on, because Joy comes in the morning!

After the Pain is the sweet rejoicing, the sublime happiness, the wild anticipation you feel when (finally!) this trial has come to an end! You cry tears of joy. You tell all your friends about your breakthrough. You recount the goodness of God. The pain is forgotten. The bad memories go away. And a new season in your life begins.

Even more important than the outward rejoicing, however, is the inner peace that After the Pain brings. Habits you thought would rule you for a lifetime are all of a sudden small cause for concern. Worries that kept you up at night are just vague shadows in your mind. Inner peace, and its companion – contentment – now rule your life. This is your time. This is your season. Enjoy it. And rejoice. Until the next trial begins.

That’s why I believe the writers of the Bible always reminded us to rejoice, to think positively and to turn our cares over to God – in the midst of trials and tribulations. Because they knew (and you are learning) that there is a sweet blessedness, peace and relief that will be yours once this pain has passed. And you will be even better prepared – more patient, more loving, more patient – to face the next trial that will come you way.

So spend as little time as possible muddling in your pain. Keep your thoughts as positive as you are able. Rejoice now and, if you can’t do that, at least say thank you to the One who will bring you through.

Weeping may endure for a night, but…

After the Pain

Joy will come.

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Absolutes and the Bible (Part 2)

It is the same with us who are Believers. The law was given because we did not know right from wrong (we were children). God punished us appropriate to our level of growth and maturity. As we grew, we continued to test our boundaries. Our wrongdoings were punished, but differently than when we were children. The punishment fit the crime and God would allow us to go through various trials and tribulations to help us to understand that there were rules to be followed. We grew older and began to know our own minds. We took what God had given us and tried to apply it to the 'real' world. At many times, the Israelites would get among other groups of people and began to copy their culture and environment - idol worship, unholy practices, and polygamy. And the Israelites would then go through some trial that would help them to realize there were still rules to be followed. Then they returned to worshipping the One True God and honoring the commandments and precepts that God had given them. As the Israelites grew as a people, they learned to go out in the world, yet maintain the values which they had been taught. They learned to hold on to their own identity and impact the world with who they were as opposed to being negatively impacted by the world.

Jesus arrived just as the Jewish people had firmly established their identity. They had divided themselves into various sects and followed long-standing beliefs held by their community. They were 'adults'. And, as adults, Jesus taught them a new doctrine. Not only did they need to follow the laws that were written in their hearts, it was time to go even further with those laws and continue in their spiritual growth. The laws had been given to the Jewish nation so that they might know right from wrong. Now that they clearly knew right from wrong, it was time to talk about the matters of their heart. Yes, the Jewish sects followed the law because they came to understand that was what was expected of them. But only a few had gotten the idea that God wanted the law to be written in their hearts as well and for people to act on those laws almost unthinkingly as it was written in their hearts. And, then, to go to the next level of thinking and behaving. At that point, not only did God not want the Jewish people to not covet what their neighbors had, He also wanted them to actively work at helping that neighbor to maintain his land, his property and his family. Following this line of thinking, Jesus instructed the Israelites to not only treat their neighbors right, but to love everybody else as well. It was no longer enough to know the law, the Jewish people now needed to live it, whole-heartedly.

Also, some 'absolutes' of the Old Testament were given to the Israelites due to the 'hardness of the hearts' as Jesus pointed out in the New Testament. These laws were meant to be followed literally simply to impress upon the Jewish people certain accepted modes of behavior. For example, In the instance of divorce, the Israelites had been given a set of procedures to follow to divorce their wives because, without those rules, the men were simply throwing the women out on the street with no means to support themselves. In the New Testament, Jesus told them there was no justification for divorce except in cases of adultery (and Paul added later, if an unbelieving husband or wife left). Jesus was trying to get the Jewish people to understand that it was now a matter of grace and not a matter of simply following the law. The law could be summarized by two sentiments - love God with all your heart and soul and might and love your neighbor as you loved yourself. Grace meant that it was no longer about simply following rules, it was now about loving God and loving others to the best of your ability. After the coming of Jesus Christ, the laws, and the concepts of grace and love was passed on to the Gentiles as well. So, these laws now apply to everyone who considers himself or herself to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

The law was given so that man might see how far he was from being all that God needed Him to be. The law was given so that we might be aware of how far we were from what God would consider 'holy'. Without the law, we would have been content to follow our own self-serving rules of behavior without ever knowing God's idea of how His people should live.

So are there absolutes for right and wrong? Absolutely. The bible more than anything else holds up an 'ideal' standard for us all to follow. First, in the person of Jesus Christ and then in the commandments and laws given to us in the bible. These laws represent the ideal. God has certain standards of behavior that He follows and that He considers holy. Our ability to follow those laws is intricately connected with our relationship to Him. Without Him, without His grace, without the Love shown to us in the form of Jesus Christ, we would never be able to embody these laws. He has made a way for us to follow these laws, but only through Him. We are incapable, on our own, of keeping his commandments. We are incapable of living 'holy' apart from His providence.

So what are these absolutes? He wants us to love Him absolutely with all that we have. He wants us to absolutely love others as we love ourselves. He has also absolutely provided us with an absolute Savior who has absolutely rolled back our sins and who has absolutely given the ability to follow Him. Is it wrong to treat someone badly? Yes, but we will apart from Jesus Christ. Is it wrong hold discriminatory views against a certain group of people? Yes, but we are incapable of changing our worldview apart from Him. We, as people, have limited powers of reasoning and ability. And those powers have been given to each of us by God, regardless of gender, race or state of salvation. We have innate qualities, but they are finite. God's abilities are infinite. How can we ever hope to achieve His high standards within our own limited resources? Maybe you are 'naturally' a loving person. You can give love to your family and your friends and to the people in your life. But, who do you think can give you the ability to love and pray for an entire country? An entire nation? The whole world? Maybe you are a naturally gifted speaker. You hold motivational seminars across your country, state or region. Maybe you are even internationally known. Jesus was the greatest motivational speaker that ever lived. His fame is known throughout the entire world. There is no way you can reach and ultimately change people's hearts without the assistance of God. Yes, we are glib and we are persuasive, but do you really believe you can continue in the same vein for years on end and really make a difference with only the limited resources of your own strength and power? The power of God is limitless. So, we should absolutely follow His commandments, directives and laws, but only through Him. It may seem impossible to truly love everyone, but it is possible through Him. It may seem unconscionable to suggest that we go the second mile when someone forces us to go the first and to give them our coat as well, but all things are possible with God.

There are certainly standards of right and wrong that, as Christians, we are in agreement upon. There are also hundreds of other points (pre- and post-Rapture Christians, always saved or conditionally saved, etc., etc.) about which we do not agree. How then do we know what is right versus what is wrong? Only in Him. Only through a relationship with Him and His leadership and direction in your life. Only through a relationship with the Holy Spirit in which he teaches you what the bible really means and helps you to apply it to your own life. We can argue and debate the points of the bible until there is no more to be said, but some things will only be made clear through your relationship with God. Trust Him. Let Him guide you. And you will begin to live your life according to what the Lord considers to be His absolutes.

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Absolutes and the Bible (Part 1)

Are there any such things as absolutes? What does the bible tell us about them? Should we take the 10 commandments and the law literally? Read on, and re-work your understanding about what the Bible has to say about 'Absolutes'.

Who determines what's right and what's wrong? Is there an absolute standard to which we must adhere or is it just all just 'a matter of the heart'?

Who decides what's right and what's wrong? As a Christian, this answer is obvious - the Bible. But does the bible set absolute guidelines for us to follow or is it all just a matter of interpretation? We've all been in arguments with another Christian (though we know we shouldn't) who could find the right bible quote to defend any position he or she took. And, oftentimes, that bible-quoting Christian was us. And while it is great fun to find the perfect scripture to support our right or wrong argument, it doesn't help the cause of definitively interpreting what the bible has to say about a certain topic.

To make a long story short - there are few definite statements made by the bible. The viewpoints most of us hold on certain character or behavioral issues have evolved from a generally shared and accepted understanding of what the bible meant as opposed to what it literally says. And speaking of that 'literal' in literally -the bible has been translated a number of times. In the newer translations, both small and large changes in wording have occurred as compared to the original King James Version. Small changes in translations have resulted in us understanding descriptive language a little better or having a clearer definition of a word. Conversely, some newly translated passages have resulted in our understanding of a particular scripture being entirely changed. As a really quick example, think of the phrase 'be careful for nothing' as it is rendered in the King James Version of Philippians 4:6a. The first time you may have read it, you may have interpreted it as an admonishment to not be careful in all that you did. In the New International Version, it reads 'be anxious for nothing' (emphasis mine). How would you have known that 'careful' in this passage was more rightly translated to 'anxious' unless you looked this word up in a concordance? You wouldn't. So, not only do we have to deal with the scarcity of definitive statements of right and wrong in the bible, we have to accept and agree upon particular scriptures rendered as close to its original meaning as possible. In other words, we have to define what we know and know what we are defining. We have to ensure that we have the most accurate translation of the bible and then generally agree on the meaning of a particular passage or particular topical matter.

Sometimes it seems that the bible says something clearly and then takes pains to show instances in which that same commandment does not apply. Take for instance one of the 10 commandments - 'thou shalt not kill'. Seems pretty simple, right? Don't kill anyone. But then you see a number of instances where God is portrayed as instructing the Israelites to slaughter their enemies. We see David being rewarded for the murder of Goliath. We see Moses escaping punishment for killing an Egyptian overseer. God said don't kill, right? But who did He mean not to kill? Thou shalt not kill other Israelites? Thou shalt not kill other believers? Or thou shalt not kill unless otherwise instructed? If God 'gave' the Israelites the victories in their battles, does that mean He only condones killing in the context of war? Generally speaking, Christians hold the viewpoint that 'thou shalt not kill' means not to kill anyone except in cases of war. So, generally, that's what we all believe. But, of course, there are those who believe that killing in war is wrong and are known as 'conscientious objectors.' Who's right? The bible says 'thou shalt not kill', however, we understand that killing does happen as we see numerous instances of it in the bible. The bible also speaks on adultery and lying as being wrong, but we again see numerous instances of it in the bible, with the perpetrator at times being punished and at times getting off scot-free.

Then, there are other times the bible seems to say one thing about a subject and then become even more extreme on the subject at a later date. Another of the 10 commandments is 'thou shalt not commit adultery'. But in Matthew 5:27, Jesus told a crowd that they had all heard that they should not commit adultery, 'but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart'. So, not only should you not commit adultery, you shouldn't even look at another person with lust in your heart! You do see instances in the bible of adultery and even of husbands taking second wives, but it is generally agreed upon in the Christian community that having sex with someone other than your spouse is wrong.

The bible is filled with many such examples of seemingly confusing directives, particularly when comparing the Old Testament with the New Testament. The Old Testament will say one thing about getting 'an eye for an eye' and Jesus will turn around and speak about forgiving your enemies and praying for those who mistreat you. The Old Testament is filled with stories of battle and war and the New Testament is filled with directives about forgiveness and living peaceably with others.

So, is there a standard of absolute wrong and absolute right? Of course, but it's not to be found in a list of commandments or directives. It is to be found in the attitude of your heart. In the Old Testament, the Israelites received a list of things to do and things not to do - the 'law'. The reason they were given the law was that they might know the difference between right and wrong. As in the instance of instructing a child, a child will not know it is 'wrong' to run around the house naked until someone tells him it is not appropriate. A child will not know it is 'wrong' to eat 10 cookies for dinner, because he doesn't have the ability to see that a handful of cookies will interfere with the digestion of a healthy dinner which will help him to grow up and become to be a strong young man. A child thinks as a child and is not able to formulate his thoughts as he will be once he has grown up.

This is how God initially dealt with the Israelites. He dealt with them as children. His children, but children nonetheless. What is the first thing you say to a child when he does something of which you don't approve? No. You keep your words plain and simple and easy for that child to understand. You punish where punishment is needed and you stick firm to not allowing that child to do certain things. As the child gets older, you allow him more freedom. He has learned the basics, understands that it is wrong to punch his sister when he can't get his way and that it is right to share his toys with others. The good behavior has been noted and rewarded and he anticipates happier times as he follows these simple directives. Through adolescence, the child is continuing to grow in understanding, going through periods of rebellion and trying to make out his own way in the world. It is a confusing time for the child as he struggles to incorporate his parent's worldview with the worldview of his peers. Stick to how he was raised or try to fit in with the crowd? He might try to do something he knows will not be approved of at home - staying out all night with the car. The punishment has changed in that he will not be spanked on the bottom or sent to 'time out', but he still receives punishment appropriate to his age and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Instead of taking away his favorite toy, his parents ground him for a week and refuse to allow him to watch television for that time. Again, the punishment fits the crime and brings the child back to the realization that there are rules to be followed. The child becomes a young adult and leaves the home. There, in the 'real' world, he begins to test his own boundaries. He learns that society punishes many of the same things his parents did - laziness, violence, taking the property of others. He learns that there are culturally acceptable methods and modes of behaviors and begins to model himself after those rules. As he gets older, he realizes the purpose of his parent's rules - to teach him the difference between right and wrong. He realizes those rules have equipped him to deal with the real world and that he can take those values and apply them to his every day life. He no longer needs his parent to monitor him and say 'no' - the rules are now written in his heart and mind. He has incorporated his parent's values with his own and, hopefully, goes even further in perpetuating the cycle of learning and growth.

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