The Bells Rang and the Fat Lady Sang

I was out for a long walk with Walter (my 110# Rottie/Shepherd) the other day and as I ascended up the hills in Palos Verdes I heard below me the bells of a distant church carillon ringing. What a sweet sound in such a perfect setting, looking out over the azure blue of the Pacific touched by a cloudless sapphire sky, it was a beautiful picture of God’s creation. 

Rancho Palos Verdes.jpg

But then I realized what the church bells were playing, “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie”. Yes, you know the song about how the sun will come out even … “when I’m stuck with a day that gray and lonely …”

So that phrase, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings" came to mind because when I heard that carillon I also  heard the fat lady sing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Broadway Musicals and this song, in particular, is a pretty catchy tune. But what does this song have to do with the sacred purpose of the Church? There are a thousand hymns that would more exquisitely convey the message of Christ through music than that! And then I thought, who in that church would think that song is an appropriate representation of their church? How did they wander so far from the message of the gospel?

I was in a Bible study with some estranged Episcopalians where we had a disagreement as to why their church had strayed so far from the Lord. They said it was because there was an over-emphasis upon the love of God. That is because they saw all sorts of heresy justified by saying they were demonstrating, “the inclusive love of God.” But I said, it went back further than that. We cannot love as God loves if we don’t know God. And we will never know God until we are united with God, and we will only be united with God when we are redeemed by God. In other words, we need transformation in order to act in a way that is consistent with God’s heart and according to his will.

Long before good theology is abandoned there an abandonment of God in our hearts.

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught
— Isaiah 29:13 NIV

This lack of personal connection with God is at the core of all our waywardness.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
— John 15:5 NIV

It is a common misconception that when Christians wonder from the faith it is due to some false belief or sinful action, but in reality, it always comes back to the same core issue. We separate ourselves from the life-giving vine and cease to bear the Spirit’s fruit. It is a matter of the heart, not the head because Christ also said that he would give us the Spirit and, “he would guide us into all truth.”

So where did this church below me go so wrong that they would be playing humanistic platitudes from their spire? I need look no farther than my own heart for that answer. Every time I find myself far from the truth it is because I have in some way forsaken my first love for something else that I thought would bring me more pleasure or preserve my sense of self.

The fat lady sings when we wonder from union with God and can no longer determine his truth. This is a terrible state that has infected our church like cancer.

Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the one I love
— Robert Robinson 

The solution? Pure and simple repentance. We need to fall on our face before our Lord every day and confess our propensity to find our life someplace other than God.

Lord, I confess that I am prone to look for life apart from you. I don’t want to admit that I am in desperate need of you, not only for my salvation but for every area of my life. Life in you defines me and being independent of you is a denial of who you are. I come to you now to be renewed and restored in every area that I have wandered from your presence. I willing die to self so that I can be raised up to be what I was created to be; to bring you glory in all that I do, say and think. I ask for your abiding Spirit to be fully at home in my life and to guide me into all truth.  Amen

What Can We Do When Sin Crouches?

Frontline.jpg
... sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you ...
— Genesis 4:7 NIV
  • Another Ponzi scheme is discovered operating in the Church.
  • Another spiritual leader is disgraced by an adulterous affair.
  • Another devastating church split.

What do all these have in common? Evil has found its way into the lives of believers. These sins make the headlines but there are many smaller, less conspicuous ways evil infiltrates that are less visible but just as damaging to our souls.

We fall internally little by little until finally, our external façade crumbles to reveal the decay of our spiritual lives

How did this happen? How did we come to a point where we find ourselves in a deep pit with seemingly no way to escape?

… but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
— James 1:14 NIV

The key concept here is that our greatest temptation is internal to us not external. We cannot point our finger at a circumstance or at someone else and say, “they did it!” Not even Adam and Eve could use Satan as an excuse because they were tempted by their own desires – Satan merely exploited their desire.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.
— Genesis 3:6 NIV

So what is the key to defeating our sin?

First of all, no one totally defeats sin this side of heaven. We live with an old nature that is always going to work against godliness. But we can minimize our susceptibility to temptation. This is how.

Since we fall into sin when we are tempted by our own evil desires then we need to desire God more than anything else on earth.

This is the one desire that the evil one cannot exploit because it will always lead us into righteousness.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind
— Luke 10:27 NIV

If our entire being is focused on loving God then so also will be our desires. We desire whatever is the object of our love. So in all things, if our utmost goal is to love God then all other areas of our life will reflect this love.

  • Relationships will take on a new purity.
  • Possessions will not become our god but will only be used to bring more glory to our Lord.
  • Our attitude toward our bodies will take on new priorities since we will no longer seek to find our identity in our appearance but in the fact that we are loved by our Creator.

To make this a reality in our lives requires some deep Holy Spirit inspired soul searching. You will find layers of desires in you that are draining your spiritual vitality. Here are some examples:

  • Are you seeking the approval of others more than the approval of God?
  • Are you hungering for comfort and security more than finding your security in the Lord?
  • Are you finding your identity in your job, relationships, or possessions rather than in who God says you are?

When evil walks through the door it will never be dressed as something disgusting – no it will be garbed in all the things we desire and tell us to follow because it has what we are seeking. So we will follow and it leads us right to spiritual destruction. But if our heart is set on seeking God, and our deepest desire is to bring him glory then evil will be exposed and our lives will be saved from falling victim to the schemes of the Devil. 

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen
— Jude 24, 25 NIV

If you would like to receive an update on all our blogs and articles please sign up for our weekly newsletter.

A Morning Prayer

Frontline.jpg

Every morning (okay mostly every morning) I write a prayer for the purpose of starting my day with a spiritual tuning. I don't know why but somehow in the night my spirit often gets out of tune and anxiety, fear, doubt and selfish desires creep into my soul. So every morning I start out with praise. I have found that it is the only thing that will align my spirit with God's Spirit and get me focused on doing his work. 

Today I will share one with you ...

I praise you this morning, O my Father, because of who you are, not because of what you have done. Yes, you have done great things for me and are faithful to always keep your promises. You have provided me with all that I need and blessed me abundantly beyond all that I can ask or even imagine. But my heart is fickle, and often it does not see your blessings. It wants what it wants and when it doesn’t get these things it pouts like a spoiled child. So I will lift up my praise for who you are because that is never in dispute. You are gracious and kind, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. You are eternal, from everlasting to everlasting yet you have made yourself known to the weakest and dullest of us. You love me with a sacrificial love that goes beyond reason or understanding. All this and infinitely more is who you are and because of this, I have found my true self. When you speak of me in your Word that is who I truly am – not this constantly wavering, emotionally vacillating person who on one day is exalting your name and on another is doubting your faithfulness. So I praise you for who you are, independent of how I feel (good or bad) and without any conditions upon how I perceive you are working in this world. O Lord I exalt you and you alone, far above all thoughts or feelings, sights or sounds, trials or blessings, hopes or fears. You are my God, my Lord, my Savior, my Creator, my Hope, and Stronghold. In you I am blessed beyond my understanding, in you, I am made whole. So I praise you. You alone are worthy of all praise and adoration, honor and glory. Today I praise you for who you are. SDG

May God grant you the heart of a true worshiper and may you bring him much glory and honor today!

James

WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?

Frontline.jpg

Could there be a more difficult question for those who believe in an all-powerful yet loving God? Why do babies die, the innocent suffer and injustice reigns unchecked? And while we're at it, what is up with all the natural disasters? As if we don't create enough problems on our own, why all the floods, fires, earthquakes and volcanoes erupting? It seems like the earth is trying to squish us like a blood-sucking mosquito. Where is the loving Creator God in all this – how can this be his plan?

Troubling questions indeed for those of us who call God our loving Heavenly Father and the Supreme Ruler of the universe. No wonder many atheists and agnostics scorn Christianity. They reason that even if there were a God who would want to acknowledge let alone worship such a being?

So the problem of evil seems to raise its ugly head in every debate and leaves most Christians feeling like they’re stuck in an unanswerable paradox. Either believe God loves us but sometimes can't keep really bad things from happening to us. (not Omnipotent) Or believe that God is in fully in control but not always very kind to those he has created. (in other words not good)

I don’t think I can completely resolve this debate with these few words. Nor do I think I have the intellectual capacity to answer a question that has been argued for as long as man has existed. (Read the Book of Job) I also believe I don’t know everything about everything. (Though don’t tell that to my children) If I did then I’d be God and that’s not me. (Please don’t tell that to my dog, I think I’ve got him fooled)

But lately something has occurred to me that helps me respond to all the pain and suffering I see around me.

And here it is …

Really bad stuff happens because the world is broken … and we know it is broken because really bad stuff happens.

“What?” You say, “how is that the least bit comforting?”

This is how my simple mind works. If I were to feel a sharp pain shooting up my leg I would immediately assume that something was wrong and all my attention would be focused on resolving it. I would then come to realize that my toe had just collided with the coffee table and therefore the pain would be reasonable and my throbbing toe is a warning sign that I have done damage to my foot. The pain reveals the damage I have done to my foot and impedes true purpose of my foot. When I walk with a broken toe it is unnatural and terribly frustrating. So it is with all the terrible stuff that happens around us. If suffering were natural we would have no problem with it but because it would be the way things are, as natural as walking without a limp.

Our awareness of the pain and suffering we experience is shouting to us that we were meant for something far different. Now I’m not going to get into why pain is the preferred course of action God uses to reveal this truth but there are good reasons to trust in both his sovereignty and his goodness.  We need to stop and recognize that the pain is one enormous sign pointing to the reality that this is not our ultimate home and that we are destined to live in a place free from suffering and death.

You may ask; “What kind of answer is that? How does that help when I’m in the midst of pain?”

To that I say, it brings comfort, hope, perspective and revelation. When facing a particularly difficult event.

Comfort: Knowing that my suffering is understood and shared by my Creator. Look at the life of Jesus. God didn’t sit up in heaven and offer platitudes and advise. He participated in our suffering by becoming a man and experiencing the pain that we experience. (Philippians 2)

Hope: That our suffering is not forever and that there is something better ahead. When we realize that our true citizenship is not here but in a place where there will be no suffering, no evil and no death we can find the courage to persevere through whatever comes. (Romans 8:18)

Perspective: Seeing what I am going through in light of the big picture and that it is not everything. The hardest thing about going through difficult times is not knowing why. We are given a view into the eternal purposes of God when he says that he not only has a better place for us but he is working in us to become better people. God’s purposes are far greater than providing us a comfortable existence – his plans are for us to become fully and completely glorious. That means a transformation of our character not just our circumstances. (James 1:2-4)

Revelation: When we come to realize that we are missing something - when we finally come to the place where we question our existence and wonder why death has such a sting. We reach out for answers that only God can provide.  Jesus said, "seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened" Matthew 7:7 Pain and suffering make us seek - it drives us to a place of honest questioning and ultimately into the waiting nail-pierced hands of Jesus. 

I know this is pretty heavy and if you read this whole blog then you’re seeking truth and honest answers.

If you'd like to keep up to date with

the latest from Total Wellness Resource Center please sign up for our newsletter below.

There Is No Other …  So Stop Looking!

Frontline.jpg

I was listening to Isaiah 45 this morning and one phrase seemed to punctuate every paragraph.

I am the Lord and there is no other
— Isaiah 45:5 NIV

By my count, it is repeated 4 times in this one chapter.  It doesn’t take genius in biblical interpretation to come to the conclusion that God is trying to get a message delivered. So what is the message?

Stop searching for other gods – they aren’t there!

Few of us are carving idols in our garages or putting statues of the god Molech in our living rooms. But we are just as guilty as the Israelites in creating our resources to meet the needs that only the true and Living God can meet.

So what do you and I really need? What is essential to our happiness? If there is anything we can name other than the Lord then that has become a god to us. It really is that simple.

Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
 By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’
— Isaiah 45:22-24 NIV

Sometimes we need to be reminded – to refresh ourselves with the thought that all that we are striving for, all that we are hungering for is only found in him. This is his story and we are blessed beyond measure to be a part of it. To the extent that we fulfill our destiny and bring glory to God it is to that extent we experience our soul's satisfaction. Likewise to the extent we look to other gods for our fulfillment to that extent our souls wither and die.

We need to be constantly reminded of this for there are so many distractions – so many other gods that are vying for our worship. This is why many of us “believers” are empty, tired, depressed and anxious. We have lingered too long at the world’s stagnant pools.

So …

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’
— John 7:37,38 NIV

This is a time for deep soul-searching. Now is the time to ask the hard questions about what we are seeking and why we come up empty time and time again. It is a call to repent and be refreshed with the true and living God. To be restored and renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s return to what our hearts are craving.  

And when we are in the presence of someone who is experiencing the profound emptiness of seeking other gods let’s not comfort them with empty words and temporary solutions. Let’s lead them to the one true God who says …

I am the Lord and there is no other

If you'd like to receive these articles which are written to encourage spiritual leaders please subscribe below.

Miss This One Thing and Nothing Makes Sense

Ever wonder why things turn out the way they do?

As a Christian Counselor I am with my clients at a time of their deepest sorrows and often the question that is most asked is – why?

Why did I lose my job? Why did my spouse leave me? Why am I faced with this health issue? Why? Why? Why?

At times like these, there are no quick and easy answers. Pulling out the systematic theology book and explaining original sin or the curse does nothing to comfort a broken heart. So I want to take these few moments to see if we can come to a basic understanding of how the universe works so that when we come to those inevitable times of crisis we have something solid to under-gird our faith and bring perspective to our suffering.

And this is it –

This universe does not revolve around you and it was not created for your comfort and ease.

Does that sound harsh? Maybe, if we somehow hold the belief that the greatest possible good is that we be happy, satisfied and free from pain. Not too many Christians would outwardly express this belief but many of us live this philosophy by de facto. We see anything in light of how it betters our lives. Therefore anything that would cast a shadow over our dreams and ambitions is considered contrary to the way the world is “supposed” to work.

But that is not what God says. He holds exclusive rights over the purpose of the universe and he has that privilege since HE CREATED IT.  

So what does God say is the purpose of the universe? One thing – to show forth his glory!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
— Psalm 19:1 NIV

Glory: The outward manifestation of the invisible character and attributes of God

And when it comes to us humans we were also created to bring God glory.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do
— Ephesians 2:10 NIV

It this narcissistic of God? Is he some sort of self-aggrandizing despot who demands all the attention? That would be correct if it weren’t true that he rightly deserves all the glory. Just as air and water are to life so is God’s glory to the universe. It is a fundamental fact we must understand, otherwise we live in a continued state of confusion and frustration. If we deny this reality nothing else makes any sense.

Like it or not we live in God’s world and we find our true place only when we are in alignment with this true purpose – to bring him glory.

So how does this affect the way I live?

I just received an email from a friend who was ranting about another friend who was about to go through cancer surgery. This person was saying that it was definitely God’s will that they are healed and that this surgery was a lack of faith. Is that true? Let’s look at the premise.

  1. Cancer causes pain.
  2. Pain is bad for humans.
  3. Whatever is "bad" for humans is not God's will
  4. Therefore, it is God’s will that we are healed.

This premise is based upon the belief that whatever is perceived as “bad” for humans must not be God’s will. Therefore, our “good” is the primary goal. But what if it gave God greater glory that we go through the trial rather than escape it? You see, when we stop and ask the question – “Lord what would bring you the greatest glory?” it completely changes the dynamic of the trial. We become open to the new possibility that God can grant us the strength to go through the trial and in that time reveal himself and deepen our character. This is how we find ourselves in alignment with the true purpose of the universe. This is why God answered Paul the way he did when he was going through a time of trials.

“My grace is sufficient, my power is perfected in weakness”. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV“My grace is sufficient, my power is perfected in weakness”.
— Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Our cry to our Lord is “Lord glorify yourself”

How else can we make sense of what Jesus prayed to the Father the night before he was crucified?

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you
— John 17:1 NIV

Jesus’ death on the cross was the physical demonstration of his great love for us – it showed us beyond any doubt that we are cherished beyond measure and have unimaginable value. It revealed the heart of the Father and the Son to us.

We are an extraordinarily blessed people for it is God’s will that he shows his glory through loving and redeeming us. But never mistake his love, mercy, and kindness as somehow diminishing his rightful place.

I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.
— Isaiah 42:8 NIV

So our prayer when we enter into hardship must be, “Lord, show me how you can be most glorified in this situation – help me to show you as you truly are and reveal your greatness”

This attitude requires real maturity. But if we ever want to find true life we will inevitably come to this place. Because apart from this understanding this whole existence thing just doesn’t make sense.

Love you

James

The One Absolute Necessity for Success

I know that my title seems a bit over the top, but I am tired of talking about creating successful strategies to people who have absolutely no capacity to put them to action. So, I’m going to get really basic and real simple.

What you believe about yourself and the universe are the most crucial pieces of knowledge you will ever possess. They are the common denominators in all events, relationships, and goals in your life.

  • Overcoming failures is completely dependent on your view of yourself
  • Pushing through trials and enduring through prolonged times of frustration is a factor of how you see yourself.
  • Your level of satisfaction with living is dependant upon understanding yourself in context to the universe

Yet, I find so few of us really comprehend this fact. Instead, we are continually looking to other people or circumstances as the arbitrator for our lives.

When something bad happens. (and it happens to everyone)

  • Some resign themselves to their fate and give up
  • Some see it as an insurmountable obstacle and choose a lesser path
  • Some see it as a temporary setback and press on

The only difference in these responses in how one sees themselves and what they believe about the universe.

Your view of yourself is a consequence of how you view the universe.

I have had the privilege of traveling the world and in some places, I have seen unimaginable suffering. When asked why this is so the answer I receive is something like this, “it is their fate”.

  • Karma
  • God
  • The random nature of the universe

It all comes down to whether the universe is cooperating with or in opposition to our success. This will determine whether we have the internal resources to achieve the life we desire to live. If that answer is our lives are under the control of some external force then the next logical step is to forfeit our dreams and abandon our hopes because we are powerless to achieve them.

Some would challenge me on this and say, “You’re a Christian – aren’t you a fatalist?

I say no. In fact, it is entirely the contrary. Since I believe in a supreme being who has demonstrated his great love and compassion through the life of Jesus Christ I am convinced that the universe is not an obstacle to my happiness - that I have the ultimate victory no matter what circumstance or peril I find myself in. In fact, the present obstacles serve as a tutor to mold my character and deepen my faith. Therefore no person, no event and nothing else in this world can thwart my inevitable triumph as promised by God.

So you see – my self-confidence is derived from my view of a good and loving God and anything and everything must yield to this truth. Therefore ...

  • When I become discouraged I return to the belief that God is my helper and he has and will provide all that I need.
  • When I am doubting my own wisdom he has said that I can come to him with any question and he will give me understanding.
  • When I am feeling alone and rejected he has said that I am unconditionally loved
  • When I am disbelieving my own value he reminds me that he died for me and I have infinite worth.

What other religion, philosophy, or world view can offer this confidence?

So the bottom line is this.

As goes your view of the universe so goes your view of yourself.

As goes your view of yourself so goes your life.

Next time you feel stymied by a situation in your life or paralyzed by debilitating emotions look to where your confidence lies. Look at your view of God and integrate that view into your identity. 

If I can be of any help you to you don't hesitate to reach out

James

Hypocrite Syndrome Prayer

Many of us suffer a debilitating condition that keeps us from effective and intimate prayer. This condition is called Hypocrite Syndrome Prayer or HSP. But before you tune me out I want to tell you that every one of us faces this same challenge. We all have a very difficult time coming to God honestly and openly. It’s part of the unredeemed human condition. (Remember, Adam and Eve hid in the garden)

Somehow we have the impression that prayer is like a job interview. We try to figure out what the interviewer wants so we can get hired. So when we pray we talk to God the way we think he wants us to talk to him so we can get the answers that we’re looking for. We clean up our words, thoughts and even desires and make them “acceptable”. Good grief we wouldn’t want to offend him with what we’re really thinking or feeling! We might get fired.

I remember the day I first heard a prayer said as if he was having a conversation with a real person. Up until that day my idea of prayer was formal, clean, theologically correct and always, always proper. It was at camp and a surfer dude was praying like he was talking to another surfer dude. It blew me away!

So what makes us think that God is impressed by our measured and careful prayers? Why do we even pray like that?

I’ve been giving this some thought and I have come up with these observations from my own HSP file.

  • I don’t really believe that God loves me unconditionally so I try to make myself “acceptable” to earn his love
  • I’m afraid that if I am honest about how I truly feel he will reject me.
  •  I just don’t believe (or have never fully comprehended) the omniscience of God (i.e. He knows EVERYTHING)
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
— 1 John 3:20

The bottom line is this. I am not loved by God because I’m so good – I’m loved by God because He’s so good! My play acting righteousness will do nothing but put a barrier (of my own making) between me and experiencing his love. This is because until I tear down the façade and stand before him in all my unkempt splendor I will never truly believe he loves me for who I am – not who I should be.

The real kicker is this; the only way I will ever get to become the man I should be is when I allow his redeeming and transforming love to penetrate my hypocritical shell. The love of God is a transforming love. When we are fully exposed to it – it changes us.

So there it is fellow HSP friends. Our Father is waiting for us to come into his presence as we are so we can be transformed into something more wonderful than we can imagine. But it requires throwing away the mask – being real – and speaking plainly.

He’s been waiting for this time with you – don’t postpone the awesome!

Love you;

James

COUNSELING ADDICTIONS: THE THREE DEATHS

The Biblical Foundation for Hating Addictions

Sometimes we can begin to see “sin” as more theoretical than it is experiential. Definitely something to avoid but more in the category of not eating a donut because it’s “bad” for you. That is until we come across someone who has been taken down by it. When we see the consequences of sin vividly portrayed in a life of addiction the true horrific nature of sin makes us shudder.

I was recently speaking to a client who has been caught in the grips of a pornography addiction for the past two years. We began recounting the true effects of what it had done to him, but we really needn’t look any farther than the first three chapters of Genius. We all know the story so let me cut to the chase.

Adam and Eve had the whole garden and an incredibly intimate relationship with God completely available to them … but that wasn’t enough. When the forbidden fruit was craftily displayed it obscured all that they were given and became an obsession; a tidbit wrapped in a lie. Something that was supposed to bring life really brought death. Sadly, the same story is repeated over and over again but with different tidbits. It could be sex, alcohol, gambling, power, possessions, romance … the list is endless. But the consequences are always the same … death.

The first death that occurred was the death in their relationship with the Heavenly Father. This was illustrated by the fact that Adam and Eve hid from God’s presence. We also cut ourselves off from a nurturing and nourishing relationship with God when we choose something over him. Sin is not just something that separates us from God it actually puts us on the wrong side of the cosmic battle. This is the reason Jesus came; to turn his enemies into his beloved children.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior
— Colossians 1:21 NIV

When we allow an addiction to rule us we are acting like enemies of God rather than God’s redeemed and cutting ourselves off from his abundant blessings!

The second death occurs in our relationships with one another. Adam and Eve’s relationship was never the same after they sinned and this was passed on to the next generation, Cain and Able. If we think the sinful tidbits in our lives will not affect our relationships we are very, very mistaken. The further we go into the sin the more isolated we become and the farther we wonder away from true intimacy. Look around and ask this question. How much of true intimate fellowship is lost because there are secret sins being covered up? If we are hiding from God due to our shame we will also hide from our brothers and sisters. This isolation can best be described as a slow, cold and painful death.

The third death Adam and Eve experienced was a death in their relationship with their environment.  Don’t worry I’m not going to get “all Greenpeace” on you but there is definitely a correlation between sin and what happened to the world that God originally created. Physical death came into the world in all its forms; sickness, pain, fear, pollution, war, etc. When we accept the lie that something other than God will bring us the joy our hearts crave we are choosing to heap upon ourselves greater forms of death. Numerous studies have demonstrated physical damage caused by addictions with equal bodily damage brought on through the inevitable consequences of broken relationships, poverty, stress and much more.

If we are ever to stop falling for the lie we need to saturate ourselves with the truth. And the truth is there is nothing on earth that can fill the void in our lives. We really must see this and recognize the pit of sin if we are ever to escape it. That is the core issue in addiction. The inability to quit even when there is clear evidence that the addiction is causing nothing but death.

There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus
— Blaise Pascal

Next week … how to help someone quit an addiction.

A Time to Speak and A Time to Weep

Many  of us in Spiritual Leadership positions can often feel uncomfortable in situations where we don’t have the answers. After all, aren't we the experts and hold all the answers to "Why"? We’ve been to seminary and therefore we are pretty much expected to elegantly speak  to even the most difficult questions.

But some of the situations we face don’t have answers. When someone comes to us in a state of emotional turmoil and asks why their loved one suddenly died, or why their spouse left their marriage, or simply why life is so hard - we often feel compelled to give them substantive answers. Our wisdom and our knowledge have become our “go to” skills. But intrinsically we know that’s not going to work in these situations so we feel lost and inadequate. I encourage you to look at how Jesus handled a similar situation. 

When Mary's brother died she was devastated. Jesus showed up four days late and she thought and all was lost.

When Mary finally saw Jesus she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died’
— John 11:32 NIV

  

Jesus didn't go through an explanation as to why he was intentionally late. He didn’t even explain that he was intending to raise Lazarus from the dead. No, the Scripture gives us a simple statement of how he handled this crisis.

Jesus wept
— John 11:35 NIV

And so there are times in our lives when the best we can do is, “weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn”. As it turns out (as it always does) this empathic response is actually the healthiest and most helpful thing we can do. The empathic connection we make with those who are suffering is more important than the words we speak. There will be a time for communicating beautiful truths but during these times of intense suffering the mind is physiologically unable to process such information. So we need to be with them in their suffering. This can be very uncomfortable for some of us cerebral types. Think of it as the gift of your presence. Isn’t that what we all really want when we are hurting - someone to be present, to care and to be with us? 

If you are the one hurting, as we all do on this earthly journey, my prayer is that you have someone who can give you the gift of their presence.  I pray that you receive the comfort we as brothers and sisters in Christ can offer one another.

I welcome your comments, your thoughts and your suggestions. And if I can ever be of service please let me know.