Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit


(Our grandson Levi)



“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3


Being "poor in spirit" is about an attitude. It is a heart-thing. It's related to humility.

I was praying this verse last night, and God told me: "Diminish." Become less, so that God can become more.

Craig Evans writes: "The opposite of the poor in spirit are "violent men" who try to take the kingdom of heaven by force (Matthew 11:12), men who will not humble themselves and become like children (Matthew 18:3; 19:14)." (Craig Evans, Matthew, 104)

I am to get small, so God can loom large.

Craig Keener says "["poor in spirit"] refers not merely to the materially poor and oppressed, but to those who have "taken that condition to their very heart, by not allowing themselves to be deceived by the attraction of wealth" (quoting Sean Freyne, Galilee, Jesus and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations, p. 72). Although Matthew does not stress renunciation of possessions to the same degree as Luke, for him as well the kingdom belongs to the powerless of the world, to the oppressed who embrace the poverty of their condition by trusting in God rather than favors from the powerful for their deliverance." (Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 169)

I am to get less, get simple, so God can show his beauty.

Michael Wilkins writes:

"The kingdom of God belongs to those who know they have no resources, material or spiritual, to help themselves before God. These are the "poor" to whom Jesus has come to announce "good news" (Matt. 11:5) and to whom the kingdom belongs." (Michael J. Wilkins, The NV Application Commentary: Matthew, 206)

In my spiritual poverty I am blessed, for God rules and reigns over me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Importance of Remembering in Maintaining Hope





(Coffee with friends at our home.)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, 
for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23


In this difficult time of the virus and political chaos what is needed is hope.

Hope: the mood of expectation that comes from a promise that something good is going to happen.

When I hope, I expect. "Expectation" is the mood that characterizes hope. Hope is expectation, based on a promise that has been given. 


It seems that every day Linda and I meet someone who has lost hope. Loss of hope produces stagnancy and passivity. And depression. The loss of hope threatens life.


How important is hope? Lewis Smedes writes:



“There is nothing more important in this whole world than keeping hope alive in the human spirit. I am convinced that hope is so close to the core of all that makes us human that when we lose hope we lose something of our very selves. And in the process we lose all reason for striving for the better life we were meant to live, the better world that was meant to be. Let me put it as baldly as I can: there is nothing, repeat nothing, more critical for any one of us, young or old or anywhere in between, than the vitality of our hope.”  (Smedes, KeepingHope Alive: For a Tomorrow We Cannot Control, p. 6)

Real hope leads to activity, because it is attached to a promise that fuels the sense of expectation. The hope-filled, expectant person prepares now for the promised, coming event.


A husband and wife are said to be "expecting" when she is pregnant with their inborn child. The reality of this hope is seen in their active preparation for the promised one to arrive. They create a space in their home for the newborn to dwell. They buy clothes and toys. They think and dream and pray. Hope, grounded in a promise of something good, is joy-filled.

Hope is different than "wishing." "Wishing" is not attached to a promise, and hence is devoid of the sense of expectation. The wishing person is inactive. The person who wishes to win the gazillion-dollar lottery does not quit his job and sell his house. When no real promise is given, passivity reigns.


How can we overcome hopelessness and begin to hope again? One way I utilize is: I remember.

"Remembering " plays a role in "hoping." My spiritual journal, which is a record of God's activity in my life, helps me to remember. My journal includes God's promises to me, and promises realized. I have many stories where things looked hopeless, and then life returned. When I re-read and re-meditate on my journals I am filled with hope. I remember the deeds of the Lord in my life. I come to know God, in whom I have placed my trust, and makes good on his promises. I am then in a very good spiritual place. It affects how I look at the unseen future. I see that "he who promised is faithful."

I am intentional about remembering. This includes carrying lists of God's blessings to me, and looking at them often. I have found that a hoping person...

...remembers the deeds of God in their life; 
...remembers God-promises given, and God-promises fulfilled; 
...makes God their trust today, and each day; 
...dwells on the promises of God in Scripture;
...listens for God's voice, and his promises;
...is expectant; 
...is active, since real hope always leads to present vitality.

I encourage a hopeless person to list, and thereby remember, the deeds of the Lord in their life. Write down ways God has been faithful to them. I have seen this result in a refocusing and re-membering of the person, as the pieces of their heart are put together again.


(Note: another antidote for hopelessness is connectedness to the Jesus-community. Hopelessness isolates people; unattended-to isolation breeds hopelessness. Be intentional about being part of a small group. Be intentional about gathering with others on Sunday mornings. Many times I have come on a Sunday morning, holding on to some fear in my heart, only to find it lifted and removed as we meet with the Lord together.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Why Does God Care if We Worship? (By Holly Collins)

 


(Our Worship Director, Holly Collins, sent this out to our church family today. I have her permission to post it here.)


I want to share with you something I felt God said this past Sunday morning during our worship. I know this was a word for my family and I and I hope it will be an encouragement to you, too! 


Psalm 24:7  "Lift up your heads, O gates! ... that the King of glory may come in." 

As we were singing, "Reign Above it All," I saw a picture of our world, but it was flat, almost like the bottom layer of a cake. It was dark and swirling, chaotic. Billions of people in different shapes and angles crammed together. At times I could see individual expressions of pain, anger, disappointment, fear, division, etc. The layer had movement to it but no one came out of it.  At first I was in the thick of that layer and the influence felt overwhelming. Michael and I, and our girls, are currently in the middle of some circumstances that leave me very often feeling frustrated, fearful and not knowing what to do. I forget too often to look for God's help and perspective first, above my own worries or solutions.  In the middle of standing in this layer, I heard God shout, "LIFT UP YOUR HEAD, SO THE KING OF GLORY CAN COME IN," over and over again. 

As I obeyed and lifted up my head, my neck started to stretch so that my head slowly rose out and above that earthly layer, which all of a sudden felt like a prison. The higher above it my head got, the greater the freedom and the bigger the space above that earthly layer became...the amount of space and light was incomprehensible, unable to be contained in words. The earthly layer became smaller and smaller. My feet remained in the earthly layer, but as if I'd eaten of the mushroom from Alice in Wonderland, my body had grown exponentially above it. And then, the throne. I locked eyes with the King of Glory. He stood up and started coming. The frustration and fear of our current circumstances immediately dissipated. They weren't forgotten, but my perspective had changed completely. The panic was gone.  The fear over not knowing how they would turn out was gone. Hope returned that wisdom & discernment was coming. Peace was in its place and the resolve to trust and praise Him took over.

I am often asked, as a worship leader, why does God care if we worship? Why do we have to sing or raise our hands? Is God some ego-maniac that He must hear us tell Him how wonderful He is all the time? The answer, I think, to these questions is this. Worship is the physical practice of putting our flesh/spirit/soul in alignment with God's thinking and the knowledge of Him. I would venture to say that most of spiritual warfare happens between the ears of humanity. Our stinking thinking is the enemy's footstool. If he can keep us seeing and living from this small, claustrophobic earthly layer, his destruction is pretty effortless.  But, when we lift up our heads and look at the One who reigns above it all, our lives change, our thinking changes, our power changes, etc. Worship allows us to lift up our heads, to look above it all and see God. When we declare who He is, we see who He is. God doesn't need us to worship for His sake. He desires us to worship for our sake. Worship is other-mindedness on our part in exchange to gain His mind, which is truth! 

So, God has lovingly reminded me that He's got this! The King of Glory has my home. The King of Glory has my children and He's coming in with help, solutions, and peace...His reign and rule. I need only to lift up my head to see Him...for He is more true than my circumstances. 
                       Praise will be my breakthrough
                       My song becomes my triumph
                       Worship is my warfare
                       My victory is You, my victory is in You

--

Holly Collins
Redeemer Fellowship Church
Worship Director

How Could a Good God Send People to Hell (and other questions...)

On Monday night, Sept. 20, 8-9:30 PM EST, I will answer the question "How Could a Good God Send People to Hell."  

Take my Apologetics class in Renewal School of Ministry and I'll show you how to answer this, and other questions.

Register here. 

hsrm.org




Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Search for Belonging

 

                                                                     (Plant on our deck.)

Henri Nouwen writes:

"When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression. Productivity can never give the deep sense of belonging we crave. The more we produce, the more we realize that successes and results cannot give us the experience of “at homeness.” In fact, our productivity reveals to us that we are driven by fear."




Friday, September 10, 2021

How to Save Your Failing Marriage (Resources)

Our back yard











(I re-post this a lot, just to keep this ball in play.)

Linda and I are always meeting with couples whose marriages are failing. We consider it a privilege to do this. We also feel with these couples and at times agonize with them. We feel a holy desperation about the state of marriages in America today. In America Christian marriages are in no better shape than non-Christian marriages.

If your marriage is struggling to the point that you are wondering if you will make it, we suggest the following six things.

  1. Look at your own self. Be open to the idea that you are the problem, and not your spouse.  You are your marriage and the reason your marriage is failing. If you do not have this heart-insight then expect no more from your marriage than what it already is.   If you don't see yourself as 100% contributing to your marital failure your marriage will not be saved. Of course the same is true for your significant other. It will take two to do this. But you are not the one to give them this insight.
  2. You won't be able to help yourself. If you keep being "you" in your marriage your marriage will keep seeing the same results. Therefore, get help for your marriage. If you are a Jesus-follower your pastor can pray for you and love you as a couple but may not be skilled enough to counsel you. In Southeast Michigan the two places I recommend are here and here
  3. Get help for yourself even if your spouse won't. It's not unusual for only one partner to realize #s 1 and 2 above.  
  4. Trust your counselor. Be helpable. Be open and willing to look at your own marital failure. Your counselor will not be shocked by anything you say and will not condemn you.
  5. Trust God. Enter deeply into God's presence. Pray. Read Scripture and meditate on it. Read John chapters 14-15-16 and follow Jesus' advice.
  6. Know that your marriage can be saved. Linda and I have never met a marriage that we thought could not be rescued and transformed. This should give you hope! I have written some things about this here.

***

Can Your Marriage Really Be Saved?

Bolles Harbor, Monroe

Can a failing marriage really be saved? If a marriage is an absolute train wreck, can it be transformed? If you are a follower of Jesus, you have to answer "Yes" to these questions. 

This is because, with God, all things are possible. Nothing is impossible for God. If God created the vast complexity of the universe, then rescuing a marriage is well within God's cognitive and creative abilities.

For the person whose marriage is in cardiac arrest, it all looks unresurrectable. But from my vantage point, and even more so from God's, the dead can be raised. I have seen it happen with marriages, many times. The person in the marital ER won't see it, because they have no experience in saving marriages. But Linda and I have. We have worked with hundreds of marriages at every level of sin and dysfunction. We have seen God work through us and others to set things right and make things better than ever.

The couple who looks at their troubled marriage and concludes, "This could never work", commits the "fallacy of hasty generalization." Here is a benign example.

1. I polled two college students who said Coke is better than Pepsi.
2. Therefore, Coke is better than Pepsi.

Such reasoning is faulty, because the sample is too small. One can't go from 1 to 2. To do so is to reason hastily. 

So...

1. I have never seen a disastrous marriage like mine be helped.
2. Therefore, my marriage cannot be helped.

But I have. Linda and I have a large sample group of hundreds of marriages we have worked with, and you haven't done this. 

In addition, this reasoning doesn't work:

1. I have friends whose marriages failed.
2. My friends are telling me to get a divorce (failure loves company).
3. Therefore, my marriage won't work.

Never look at the failed marriages of your friends to validate the death of your marriage. To do this adds another fallacy to the irrationality, the "fallacy of faulty analogy." No two marriages are the same.

Have we seen train-wreck marriages fail to come together? Yes. They fail because one or both partners refuse to: 

a) get humble and get outside help; 
b) look at their own selves and the faults they bring to the marriage; and 
c) look to the God they say they worship. 

All it takes is one of the two partners to bail out and refuse to get help. 

Sometimes Linda and I look at each other and say, "I doubt if this marriage will ever come together." And then, it does. God does it. We must trust that, even as we do our very best in counseling marital couples, God is doing infinitely better.

God loves to save marriages and families. It happens when:

a) Two people humble themselves and get outside help.
b) Two people look at their own selves and the faults they bring to the marriage.
c) Two people get on their knees and turn to God.

Note: Read Gary Chapman's One More Try: What to Do When Your Marriage is Falling Apart. Excellent!

See:

Marriage Takes Work

Saving Your Marriage: You Can't Derive 'Ought' From Feeling 

Your Marriage Can Be Saved (Especially for Husbands)

Marriage Counseling Material 


***

Understanding and Overcoming Unrighteous Anger


This morning at Redeemer I was working with our Kids Church. Tim Curry was in the sanctuary and preached on understanding anger and being healed of unrighteous, irrational anger. I have heard many things today about the excellent job Tim did (thank you!). Linda was one who told me what a great message Tim gave. She has already recommended to some people that they listen to his message online, which should be available in a week.

One good result is that our people today are thinking about their own anger, understanding it better, and have hope for healing from sin that emerges from anger.

I'm in some good dialogue tonight about this subject, so I'm re-posting a few things I've written about this.

Dealing with Anger in Relationships

In every good marriage, in every good friendship, in every church, and wherever there are people, feelings of anger happen. I once had a friend tell me, “I never get angry.” My thought was this: here is a person out of touch with what’s going on inside of him. Even God feels anger. Even Jesus felt anger.
When I feel angry, what can I do?  

1. Recognize your anger. 
“Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. For example, if I drive across town expecting every light to turn green when I approach, I am going to be an angry person. Because this expectation will not be met. Therefore...

2. Identify your unmet expectation. 
Fill in the blank: "I am angry because my expectation that ________ was not met."

3. Evaluate your unmet expectation. 
Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair. In my "driving" example above, my expectation was irrational.

4. Reject ungodly or irrational expectations. 
If, for example, you expect people to clearly understand every word that comes out of your mouth, you are now free to reject this as an irrational expectation. Or, if you have the expectation that other people should never make mistakes when it comes to you, I now free you from that ungodly, irrational expectation.

5. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not, then communicate it. 
For example, my expectation that persons should take off their shoes before entering our living room may be both rational and of God. But if I have not communicated this to others, my anger at the unfulfilled expectation is still real. My expectation that people should know such a thing without being told is unfair.

6. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then communicate your anger this way: 
Say “I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.

Communicate this in your own way of saying things. Begin your sentence with “I” rather than “You.” For example: “I feel angry…” rather than “You make me feel angry…” Doing it this way asserts without aggressing. For the person who hears this, it does not feel so attacking.

Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As you get free of these things you’ll find yourself less angry.

Remember that from the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In all relationships we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. Remember that  in every close relationship there is anger. The anger-free relationship is a myth, and probably is a sign of unhealth when claimed.

Finally, Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation.

I am thankful that only a few times in our 44 years of marriage have Linda I fallen asleep angry with each other. The reason for this is not that we’re some special, exceptionally compatible couple. We are this way because we were taught to do this by godly people who spoke into our lives. We were sufficiently warned about the cancerous bitterness that arises when anger is “swept under the carpet.” We don’t want satan to gain even a toehold in our hearts. We have asked God to help us with this, and He has!

If you have allowed the enemy entrance into your heart because, in your anger, you have sinned, then confess this to God.

Then, receive God’s forgiveness and give Him thanks. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Acknowledge, before God, that you are a new creation in Christ.
Ask God to help you, and trust that He is now doing so. 

***
Face-to-Face Your Anger and Interpersonal Conflict (Not Facebook It)


Never use things like Facebook or texting to share negative things or work out interpersonal conflict. For such things Face-to-Face is best.


Henri Nouwen writes:

"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don't send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: "Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?" You don't have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don't have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend."

Think, and pray, before you text or speak.


***
Using Logic to Manage Anger in Relationships

I'm presenting this to my MCCC Logic class tonight. It's an example of using logic to counsel people, in this case with conflict in relationships.

Note: there is a small but growing Philosophical Counseling movement. See here; and here

















How to See into the Spiritual Realm

 


Also live streamed here - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8U3rY0m-fmQVSlhvWfQ7xw



Abortion - Links to My Posts

(Bolles Harbor, Michigan)

(I'm reposting this to keep it in play.)