What rules your heart?


Many of us look over the fence every day at someone else and wish we were more like them because we think they’ve found life. No matter who you are, no matter where you are, and no matter your gender or age, you will tend to crave and desire whatever it is you think will give you life. Because we are made in God’s image we have a longing to search for life, but due to our fallen nature we search for it in all the wrong places.

Looking to people, stuff, and self to find life are miserable places to look for life. We will worship whatever it is we think will give us life, and when our idol of choice lets us down it leads to unfulfilled dreams, discontentment, and unhappiness. Those things were never meant to satisfy our soul.

We have lost our awe and wonder of the only One who deserves our worship and praise. The only One who can rescue us from a heart of fear, idolatry, and unbelief is Jesus.

We get our eyes off the only One who can transform our heart and transform our mind to have a more Christ-like mindset and a heart that truly loves God. This world and anything in it can never be your savior.

When we live for the approval of people or think life is found in materialism, or when we make life all about self, then we are actually worshipping creation instead of the Creator. We are replacing the One true God who gave us life, died for our sins, and rose from the dead, for a god that doesn’t exist and can never help us.

We say we love God and believe in God, yet functionally we live for lesser things and think those things will bring us joy and peace. The problem is our heart craves something else more than God.

But only being amazed at the glory of God, fearing the Lord, standing in reverent awe of who He is, and loving Him with all your heart will you ever be set free from a heart that is ruled by the selfish desires of the flesh.

Everybody is ruled by something. We all worship something. We were all made to worship. The question is, what is it that controls and rules your heart? Does God, or do you live for the approval of man, more stuff, or self-gratification?

We either live to love and worship God, or something else drives our life and rules our heart. If God rules your heart I doubt you are living in fear or discontentment. If anything else has taken God’s rightful place then it can only lead to unrest, fear, and confusion. Only God’s grace can set us free from this bondage.

Only God’s grace can change our selfish heart to a heart that lives for the honor and glory of God. Only God’s grace can give us eyes to see the incredible beauty of who God is, and help us to see that all we long for is found in Christ alone. True contentment is found in Him alone. He is enough!

Satisfaction is only found in Christ. Only Christ can fulfill the hunger in our heart for spiritual rest and true life.

Today, turn from having a fearful, self-centered, unbelieving heart. Turn to Christ and live! His mercy and grace is an invitation. Daily rest and rejoice in His love for you! There is grace for you. Humble yourself before the Lord.

Ask Him to grow you, mature you in the faith, and change your heart to look more and more like His every day! Ask Him to rule your heart.

Posted in Biblical Counseling, Change, Christlikeness, Contentment, Creation, Fear, Freedom, Grace, Idols, Idols of the heart, Jesus Christ, Love for God, Repentance, Sanctification, Selfish desires, The fear of God, The fear of man, The Gospel, The Heart, Unbelief, Worship | Leave a comment

I need God more

I need God more

“I need God more” by Doug Graham

1. I need God more than I need a lot of money in my bank account.

2. I need God more than I need things to go my way.

3. I need God more than needing certain people to like me.

4. I need God more than I need more hair on my head and less weight on my body.

5. I need God more than I need to understand why bad things happen.

6. I need God more than I need a house with no messes or repairs.

7. I need God more than I need to know what the future holds.

8. I need God more than I need to get my act together or clean myself up.

9. I need God more than I need to solve all the problems of the church.

10. I need God more than I need to be right or prove someone to be wrong.

11. I need God more than I think I do.

12. I need God more than I need my pick for the next president to win.

13. I need God more than a vacation.

14. I need God more than fireworks, good food, good company, good weather, and the best day ever.

15. I need God more than I need to try and change that annoying person.

16. I need God more than getting more education, more news, more stuff at Wal-Mart, or more of anything.

17. I need God more than I need to have my circumstances change or to have my expectations met.

18. I need God more than I need a task to be within my ability to bear.

19. I need God more than the comforts of my own home.

20. I need God more than I need less complainers or less critics.

21. I need God more than running, hiding, denying, excusing, defending, or escaping.

22. I need God more than peace and quiet.

23. I need God more than I need to be successful.

24. I need God more than I need appreciation, accomplishment, approval, or acceptance.

25. I need God more than I need pain and suffering to go away.

26. I need God more than trying to prove myself, save myself, help myself, or protect myself.

27. I need God more than I need my yesterday to change, today to be secure, or tomorrow to be bright!

28. I need God more than the next new technological advancement.

29. I need God more than a tax break, lunch break, nap break, or give me a break.

30. I need God more than I need the Bengals to win the Super Bowl.

31. I need God more than I need poor drivers to get out of my way.

32. I need God more and more each day because my family needs a godly leader who loves God more than anything else!

33. I need God Himself, more than I need to do great things for Him.

34. I need God to help me see my need for more of Him.

35. I need God so much that Jesus had to die for me; to rescue me from me.

36. I need God to make me more and more like Jesus.

37. I need God more! I need more of God!

38. I need God to change my sinful, selfish, self-righteous, wretched, fearful, angry, self-reliant, controlling, pride-filled, anxious, impure heart. I really need God; more than anything!

Posted in Contentment, Faith, Godly wisdom, Honoring God, Love for God, Sanctification, Sovereignty of God, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our need for prayer

Prayer warriors1God is not an errand boy who exists to remove our problems; God is worthy of our worship and we exist to give Him glory even when our problems remain. I think our perspective on prayer needs to change.

We pray for many things, mainly physical things, for our problems to go away, we even pray for selfish things, but we neglect to pray for the best things; to grow in sanctification, to learn how to love difficult people, to learn how to live by faith in the face of fear, to learn how to be patient with others, to learn how to rely on God in suffering, for God to change us, to know God in a deeper way, and to see our blind spots and attitudes of pride and bitterness. How can we grow spiritually if all we pray about are surface level issues?

What we pray about reveals the true treasure of our heart. God wants to do more than just remove our sickness; He wants to sanctify us! He wants to do more than just alleviate our problems; He wants to transform our heart as we live in a world of problems.

He’s after our whole heart! He wants to change our prayer life!

Posted in Prayer, self-reliance, Trusting God, Will of God | Tagged | 1 Comment

Idols of the Heart

My preciousIt’s idolatry when we desire something more than God. Even a good thing can become a “god” thing. We are asking idols to do for us what only God can do. We crave things like comfort, control, glory, power, self-gratification, approval, acceptance, security, success, beauty, the love of money, and selfish ambitions, to name a few.

Our sinful heart of unbelief is what drives us to run after idols. We want what we want. We don’t desire God. In fact, due to our lack of faith and lack of knowing the One true God we often believe the lie that an idol will be our savior and source of satisfaction.

Idolatry is really a worship disorder. Our heart is loving a counterfeit. It’s a lack of trust in who God is. Think of it, the power of the Gospel has been offered to us in Christ, yet we crave a fake imitation of the real thing. We do this because we can control our idol of choice, but we can’t control God.

Again, we want our way. We want our will to be done. Where there is anger, fear, shame, bitterness, self-reliance, addiction, immaturity, and lust you know you have a worship disorder. Something controls you more than God.

According to Romans 1:22-25 we deserve judgment for our idolatry. In fact, we aren’t being controlled by the Holy Spirit when we crave idols. We are being influenced by demons. Deut. 32:17 days, “They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known.” It’s dangerous to allow idols of the heart to rule your heart.

We need to repent of our idolatry, and we need to turn toward the One true God; our Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ! He is the One who died on the cross for our idolatry. He perfectly loved God when our hearts ran after idols. He took our punishment so we could be forgiven and set free from sin!

The hymn writer Charles Wesley said, “Amazing love; how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?” God wants all of our heart. He is worthy of glory! He alone should receive our love, worship, and praise!

Thank God for Jesus! Do you love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

Posted in Anger, Biblical Counseling, Fear, Heart purity, Idols, Idols of the heart, Jesus Christ, Love for God, The Gospel, The Heart, Unbelief, Worship | Tagged | 1 Comment

Things that help me to pray more

Praying boy1

  1. Start each day with prayer. Find a quiet place and time that works for you with little or no distractions. Start the prayer off with worship and praise for who God is and for the things He has done and is doing in your life. Make your prayer time a high priority.
  1. Pray with your spouse each day. Share your concerns with each other, but make prayer the majority part of the conversation.
  1. After you read the Bible, or a devotional, pray about what you just read. Apply what you read by praying about it.
  1. Write out your prayers. Kinda like journaling. What you just read from the Bible, write out a prayer based on what you read.
  1. Use the War Room prayer app, which helps you to write out your prayers and if your phone is always with you then so are your prayers. If you don’t use phone apps, then make a prayer list and post that list in a place where you will see it often.
  1. Pray while driving, or standing in line, or waiting in the car for someone, or on break, or sitting in a doctor’s office. You get the idea.
  1. Make a prayer list for the week. Create your own. For example:

Sunday: Pray for the worship service

Monday: Pray for your pastor and church families

Tuesday: Pray for members of your family

Wednesday: Pray for church ministries, our purpose, and spiritual growth

Thursday: Pray for unbelievers, newcomers, the needy, the sick, etc.

Friday: Pray for personal needs and pray about your relationship with God

Saturday: Pray for our country, leaders, and the military

  1. Pray with people; seize the moment. If someone shares a problem with you or they are struggling with something, ask to pray with them right then. End a phone call with prayer. Instead of telling someone, “I’ll be praying for you”, say, “let’s pray together right now.” If possible, ask others to join in on the prayer. And, don’t just ask for prayers requests from people; be sure to ask others to pray for you as well.
  1. Before you pray for your meal ask those you’re eating with if there is something you can pray for. Encourage your kids to pray so they learn how to pray out loud and get comfortable praying out loud.
  1. Before you go to bed, pray with your kids and spouse. Make this prayer more about Jesus and His grace, and less about your problems. Express praise and thanks for God’s mercy and blessings toward you that day. By: Pastor Doug Graham – MadeToFish.com
Posted in Faith, Growing together, Prayer | Tagged | Leave a comment

Radical Marriage Conflict Resolution Tip

By Rick ThomasFirst-take-the-log-out

The Gospel is radical by itself, but it is even more radical when two people begin to practicalize it into their lives. What about you? Have you been radicalized by the Gospel? There are two ways you can self-assess:

1. You are more aware of and more willing to identify your sin than the sin of any other person.

2. You are more willing to be an encouragement to others, especially those who have hurt you.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

But love your enemies, and do good…for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. – Luke 6:32-33, 35 (ESV)

Try this at home

If you want to radicalize your marriage (or any other relationship), here are four things you can do today:

1. Start your log list.

2. Start your grace list.

3. Meet with the other person and confess your log list, while asking for forgiveness.

4. Share your grace list, while thanking God for His work in their lives.


Posted in Anger, Biblical Counseling, Change, Christlikeness, Conflict, Fear, Home life, Marriage, Rick Thomas, Self-righteousness, Selfish desires, The Gospel | Leave a comment

Is it wrong for Christians to do yoga?


By Pastor Doug Graham

If you’re a strong Christian and you only do the exercise part of yoga I suspect it would be ok but my question is, why would you want to do yoga when it’s based upon, “a school of Hindu philosophy advocating and prescribing a course of physical and mental disciplines for attaining liberation from the material world and union of the self with the ultimate principle?”

A true definition of yoga shows that its based on idolatry and worldly thinking. It often involves a Hindu chant and emptying the mind. As Christians we are to fill our mind with the Word of God. If you want to exercise then ride a bike or jog. There are also plenty of stretching exercises you could do to be healthy; some of which may be “yoga like” stretching and postures.  Weekly exercise, relying on Christ, and trusting in His Word seems to be a much better way for a Christian to deal with stress or anxiety than to do the spiritual part of yoga.

If you’re just stretching then don’t call it yoga. If you’re just doing the physical part of yoga to relieve chronic pain or to be more in shape, and you’re not doing the mental and worship part of yoga then my point is don’t call it yoga because it’s too confusing to many people. It can be a stumbling block for them. But if you are doing the spiritual part of yoga then don’t think you can separate that from the idolatrous ideas, practices, and movements its based upon.

As a Christian I’d rather not join with a false god (Brahma) or ideas steeped in idolatry in order to be whole. Even Hindus know that yoga is not a practice of Christianity. I’m not saying someone isn’t a Christian if they do yoga. I’m using Biblical discernment and I hope Christians would do the same.

The Word of God is sufficient to fill my heart and mind with peace and joy. As far as exercise, I personally play racquetball every week. It’s not only good exercise but I also benefit from the Christian fellowship of the men I play with. I also enjoy using my total gym. But my favorite form of exercise is taking a walk with my family.

For those suffering from chronic pain I would recommend this book: “Pain Free” by Pete Egoscue.

Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

As for me and my house we will fill our mind with the Word of God. I hope you will do the same.

Here’s a short video of John MacArthur and his view on Yoga:


Posted in Exercise, Faith, False Teaching, Idols, The Bible, The Gospel, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

38 One Another Bible Verses

One another1

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

Because of God’s great love for us we are given all we need to live and to love in harmony with one another, but none of us finds that easy. In our sinfulness and selfishness, we often only see our own way as the right way to go about living our lives.

‘One another’ Bible verses are clear in their advice, however, the reality of practicing these Biblical virtues of love, forgiveness, humility, patience, and hospitality, among many other things, is more easily said than consistently lived out.

So, ‘one another’ Bible verses serve as a wonderful starting point for our learning.

We do not know everything. There is always another side of the story. Pro. 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

The point is we all have blind spots and we need to be aware of our lack of knowledge. We need to be humble to hear someone speak the truth in love to us about an area in our life where we need to mature in Christ.

So I encourage you to ask a loved one or a trusted friend, what area of your life needs to change? Ask them, where do you need to grow in holiness?

Applying these one another Bible verses helps us to “speak the truth in love” (to one another) so we can “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” –Eph. 4:15.

It is my prayer that these ‘one another’ Bible verses truly take root in our hearts and in our church this coming year and manifest themselves daily, evident through lives of  humble service to one another.

Leviticus 19:11 (#1 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.

Zechariah 7:9 (#2 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.

John 13:14 (#3 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

John 13:34 (#4 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:35 (#5 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Romans 12:10 (#6 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16 (#7 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be  conceited.

Romans 13:8 (#8 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has  fulfilled the law.

Romans 14:13 (#9 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 15:7 (#10 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 16:16 (#11 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. (a kiss on the cheek or a friendly hand shake or hug will do).

1 Corinthians 1:10 (#12 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there  may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 16:20 (#13 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (see #11).

2 Corinthians 13:12 (#14 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Greet one another with a holy kiss. (see #11).

Galatians 5:13 (#15 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one  another in love.

Ephesians 4:2 (#16 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32 (#17 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:19 (#18 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:21 (#19 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:13 (#20 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:16 (#21 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing  psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (#22 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 3:13 (#23 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24 (#24 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:25 (#25 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 4:11 (#26 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

1 Peter 1:22 (#27 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one  another deeply, from the heart.

1 Peter 3:8 (#28 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:9 (#29 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 5:5 (#30 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward  one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:14 (#31 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. (see #11).

1 John 1:7 (#32 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 3:11 (#33 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3:23 (#34 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7 (#35 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11 (#36 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12 (#37 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

2 John 1:5 (#38 of 38 One Another Bible Verses). And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.

Posted in Biblical Counseling, Change, Christlikeness, God's Word, Godly wisdom, Growing together, Holiness, Love for others, One another, Sanctification, Small groups, The Bible, The Church | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Building a Home and a Marriage

marriage heart ringWhen seeking to begin or rebuild a marriage God must be the starting point. God has to be the foundation of a home and a person’s thinking; then you can address marital issues.

Eph. 2:20-22 says, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Ask yourself, will the Gospel be your all and all in your heart and home? Your marriage and family must have Christ as King and Master. The better you can daily imitate Christ, the stronger your marriage will be. The more Christ rules your home, the more it will honor the LORD.

Becoming Christ-like in your marriage is key. A hypocritical example will never serve to help you build a God honoring home. We should practice being truthful and repentant over our sins. That will go a long way in building a marriage.

We must acknowledge our constant need for the Savior; to help us turn from sin, confess our sin, and trust Christ to cleanse our heart from sin. Only Jesus can transform our hearts so we can strive to model Him in our home.

One practical way to be Christ-like in our home is to develop a servant’s heart. There is no better way to be godly than to seek to serve your family. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

But building your marriage and home on Christ goes beyond personal growth; it also means encouraging others in your home to live for God. Teach them, show them, encourage them, and equip them to live a life that honors the LORD.

Your kindness to your family will make more headway than being critical. The reason for this is because kindness resembles the Gospel. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

If the Gospel is to take center stage in your home then it won’t happen by just attending church. The Gospel has to be a regular topic your family talks about. Christ has to be foundational in all you do together as a family.

Is Christ LORD in your heart and home? In what ways can Christ take center stage in your heart and home? Pray together as a family asking the LORD to be sovereign and supreme in your heart and home.

Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” This means Christ is first, He is the highest in rank, He is exalted above all! I hope that is true in your heart and home.


LORD, thank You for my family. Help me to love them as You sacrificially loved the  church. May You be the basis of our life, thinking, and home. I cannot build a home without Your help and grace. Make my heart Your home. Grant me the grace to rely on You and look to You as my LORD and Savior.

Help me to model You, serve like You, and encourage others to trust in You. Help me to lead my family in lots of discussions about the wonder of Your power and grace! In Christ name I pray, amen.

Posted in Christlikeness, Grace, Heart purity, Home life, Honoring God, Jesus Christ, Marriage, Preeminence of Christ, Repentance, The Gospel, The Lordship of Christ | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Contentment

Contentment1Phil. 4:11-12 says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

Contentment is learned through God’s training school of life. The world will tempt us to be dissatisfied and discontent. It will tell us we always need more. But to be content doesn’t mean that we are free from the cares of life; it means we are free from being controlled by the cares of life.

Instead of having thoughts that are filled with desiring more and more, to be content means our thoughts are filled with the Holy Spirit who is enough.

The challenging situations of life and a humble response to the LORD who uses those challenging situations for our good help us to find contentment.

2 Cor. 1:8-9 says, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

The secret to finding contentment is wrapped up in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

My soul can be content because God is always working for my good and for His glory. I can never control the external events of life, but I can submit my heart and my will to God’s will, and trust Him to bring change, peace, wisdom, strength, direction, and blessings.

The heat of life doesn’t have to control me, the craving desire for more doesn’t have to be my idolatrous lust, instead the Holy Spirit can transform my mind and fill my heart, and the LORD can be the Ruler of my life. It’s then I find contentment.

2 Cor. 12:10 says, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Contentment is found only in Christ. Psa. 23:1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

When the heat of life comes I can turn to God and learn from Him, instead of chasing after the wind and fighting for my will to be done. Luke 22:42 says, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

LORD, thank You that You are a God who is enough. You alone are the source of peace and joy. You alone satisfy the cravings of my heart. I humble myself before You.

When life gets “hot,” grant me Your sufficient grace that helps me to live with contentment. In Christ name I pray, amen.

For more on this topic, see this article by Rick Thomas: http://rickthomas.net/the-secret-is-revealed-for-learning-contentment/

Posted in Contentment, Difficulties, Faith, Grace, Humility, Peace, Right thinking, self-reliance, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Center of the Universe

Sermon: The Center of the Universe
Center of the Universe

Delivered by: Pastor Doug – 4-13-14.

Revelation 4-5 -Palm Sunday.  

Sermon summary: Revelation symbols, seeing the big picture, worshiping Christ, centered on God, worship disorder, creating Sovereign, conquering Savior, the Gospel, the Lion, the Lamb, suffering, the way Jesus conquered was amazing!

To hear more sermons by PD go to: MadeToFish.com

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Mind and Emotions

Mind and Emotions

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Giving Hope – 1 Cor. 10:13

Giving Hope - 1 Cor. 10:13

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The path to the satisfied life

By: Rick Thomas


How satisfied are you? Describe your level of contentment. The LORD Jesus came to give us peace with God. Do you have it? There is a rest for the people of God. How restful are you?

When you think about peace and rest, what are some of the ways you seek to acquire it? How have you sought to bring yourself to the satisfied life? This is where Paul helps us. He says,

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

There is a juxtaposition of thought in these two verses that unlocks the door to the satisfied life. This juxtaposition could be summed up in two competing character traits that, if understood and applied biblically, could change your life.

Vainglory or vain conceit is an empty conceit that is from the Greek word kenosis, which means to empty oneself and doxa means glory, so “kenodoxia” means empty glory.

Humility is a gentle, deferential, and modest characteristic. It’s a quality or state of not thinking you are better than others. It’s not feeling the need to prove your worth or to derive your worth from people or things.

The choice you make will not only set the trajectory for your life, but it will determine the quality of your life and relationships.[1]

The path to vainglory

Vainglory is empty conceit. The idea is not that the person has glory, but the person does not have glory and longs to have some. The self-centeredness of a vainglory person is not because they have something to boast about, but because they desire to be something they are not.

It is insecurity in search of something to make them feel good about themselves. It’s the empty feeling that I don’t matter; I am a wisp of smoke that is here today and gone tomorrow and there is nothing to anchor my life to so I can say, “I am somebody.”

The vainglory person is under the control of the person or the thing they believe they need. It’s a desperate desire for someone or something to say they matter. Nearly anything can fill the empty glory-seeking person.

Here are a few vainglorious pursuits: personal gifting, wealth, things, beauty, reputation, intelligence, relationships, physicality, vocation, marriage, children, accolades, or any other thing that supplants God’s glory in your life.

In the beginning, we were supposed to reflect the glory of God in all creation, but when sin entered the world, the glory was no longer reflected through us, thus, the LORD needed to solve the problem with sin so we could reclaim our role as God’s chief creation that reflects who He is.

We were created to stand in and enjoy His presence, but we turned away from God and the glory that only He possesses. We have no glory of our own, so to reject God is to become empty, dissatisfied, and frustrated, coupled to a desire to fill the void with something other than God.

Sin is the culprit, which places the vainglory person in a conundrum. To be free is to acknowledge sin. To acknowledge sin, is counter-intuitive to the person who wants others to think well of them.

A desire for vainglory has led many of us down a long dark path of shallow living, hoping to fill our empty hearts with something that can only be filled by the LORD.

One of the most effective ways to know if you’re a vainglorious pursuer is by how you respond when other people are unkind or disappointing to you.

The vainglory person is dependent on others to make them feel good because to feel good outside of God is what the vainglory person is trying to accomplish. This is not only a setup for disappointment, but it’s a recipe for ongoing relational dependency.

You cannot “need” someone and “love” someone at the same time. The rule of thumb is two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Either loving others is occupying your mental space or loving yourself is at the top of your mind. Your “love” is either moving you toward others or moving you toward yourself.

When we are hurt, put down, slandered, or offended in some way, we become angry because we now have an opponent who is in the way of us feeling better about ourselves. Imagine Jesus operating this way (Isaiah 53:2-3).

This type of attitude would have rendered the Gospel powerless and ineffective. It will also render it ineffective in your life if you “need” others to think well and speak well of you.

Your friend becomes your enemy when he interrupts your personal pursuit for perceived wholeness through your high self-esteem that is fed by your self-groomed and self-promoted reputation that is dependent on other people accepting you.

To be rejected is the kryptonite of the hungry and desperate heart that longs to feel better about themselves through means outside of Christ. This is a worship disorder of the highest order.

Here are a few characteristics of the vainglory person that may help you assess yourself. Highlight the ones that recur in your life and while you’re doing this, talk to a close friend or your small group who can serve you through this process.

Shyness Being blind Unthankful Critical
Complaining Discontent Grumble Impatient
Brags Seeks independence Difficult to work under someone Needs to be better than others
Viewing yourself in terms of accomplishment Cutting oneself down Blames themselves for what is not their fault Monopolizing the conversation
Doesn’t learn from trials and afflictions Rigid, stubborn or headstrong Doesn’t depend on others Easily upset
Devastated by criticism Doesn’t listen well Sarcastic Needs to be praised and coaxed often
Jealous or Envious Volunteers for the up front positions Covetousness Fear of others
Deceitful Defensive Trivializing and rationalizing faults Justifying sin
Judging others by self-made standards (raising or lowering God’s standards) Rarely asking for forgiveness from God or others Unbelief Lack of biblical praying
Lack of service to other people Lack of deeds of love Touchiness Irritableness
Lack of close friends (tends to alienate other people) Rarely concerned about the concern of others Voices preferences when not asked (and does it without compassion) Unapproachableness


The path to humility

Humility is a gentle, deferential, and modest spirit. It’s a quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people. It’s not feeling the need to prove your worth or to derive your worth from other people or other things.

In our culture, to be humble is not a desired virtue because it is perceived as weakness. By and large our culture and even the Christian community sees strength as a major virtue for living the Christian life (2 Corinthians 4:7).

The biblical record is radically opposed to working within our own strength (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). It commends humility as a virtue that should be pursued at all costs. Humility is the divine mark of who Jesus was when He lived on earth.

If your life is made of bricks, then humility is the mortar that holds everything together. – Charlie Boyd

Humility is the prerequisite for God’s favor to be deployed in your life (James 4:6). Without humility, there is no platform for you to stand to experience God or to experience a satisfying relationship with another human being. Here are a few behaviors that can only happen if you are pursuing humility.

  1. To believe (transformationally) in God requires humility.
  2. To follow Christ requires humility.
  3. To repent requires humility.
  4. To confess your sins requires humility
  5. To prefer others more requires humility.
  6. To defer to others more requires humility.
  7. To love your enemies requires humility.
  8. To go the second mile with someone requires humility.
  9. To turn the other cheek requires humility.
  10. To confront someone requires humility.

When Jonathan Edwards thought about the proud heart, he used four distinct and descriptive words: competitiveness, scornfulness, willfulness, and self-consciousness—all component parts of the vainglorious mind. Humility is the antithesis of these vain characteristics.

Humility is the opposite of competitiveness. If you have joy-driven competitiveness, then you will be happy when your competitor wins because you appreciate the joy of what you do and can similarly appreciate when another person can do it just as well.

Humility is the opposite of scornfulness, which is putting others down. When you put others down, by thinking less of them or talking about what is wrong with them, you are being scornful.

Humility is the opposite of willfulness. It is the person who always thinks they are right, cannot admit they are wrong, and continuously presses their way over any other possible way. They do not know how to hold their views loosely.

Humility is the opposite of self-consciousness, which is pride turned inward. Insecurity can fuel feelings of inferiority as much as feelings of superiority. Humility is not self-consciousness, but self-forgetfulness.

If we were spiritually mature, we would not give consideration to what other people thought about us. We would not be looking at ourselves or our own interests all the time. We would not be concerned with how we look or how we are perceived in the sense that we need others to approve or accept us.

A call to action

The only way you can overcome yourself is by becoming someone else. You need another mind—a mind like Christ. When the mindset of Christ is burning in you, filling you, and consuming all your thoughts, then you will be cured.

If you can master Paul’s two verses (Philippians 2:3-4) through the enablement of the Spirit of God, you will be able to grow in humility. The more you mature in humility, the more you will be released from the need of other people or other things. Humility connects you to God, who is the only one capable of rightly ruling your life.

You cannot mature in humility by yourself because that is not how humility operates. You cannot become humble in a vacuum that is isolated from your community. For humility to grow and mature it needs an object in which to express itself.

  • Vainglory needs other people; humility serves other people.
  • Vainglory makes yourself the object; humility makes others the object.
  • Vainglory fills the soul with dysfunction; humility fills the soul with God.
  • Vainglory perpetuates independence; humility perpetuates community.

You will have an opportunity to grow your humility the next time someone disappoints you. If you need God more than you need people, then the problems people bring into your life will be swallowed up by the bigness of God in your life.

The mind of Christ looks like this

Think through the following ten statements with a friend or within your community group. Take your soul to task, asking the hard questions. What areas are you experiencing the grace of God in your life? What areas are you deficient? How do you need to change? If you can humbly discuss these things with others, then you’re well on your way to the satisfied life.

  1. A humble believer will be focusing on God and love Him supremely. (Philippians 1:213:10).
  2. A humble believer will be overwhelmed at God’s goodness and therefore will overflow with thankfulness for all things (Romans 11:33-12:2).
  3. A humble believer will be communing with God and be dependent upon God in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  4. A humble believer will be serving others (Mark 10:45Romans 12:3ff;Philippians 2:1-11).
  5. A humble believer will be experiencing God’s power by obeying God’s revealed will in all things (John 14:21Philippians 4:13Colossians 1:9-12).
  6. A humble believer will be learning from others (Acts 17:10-15).
  7. A humble believer will be encouraging others (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  8. A humble believer will be pursuing integrity in his life (1 Timothy 4:16).
  9. A humble believer will be denying himself (Luke 9:23f14:25-35).
  10. A humble believer will think rightly about himself while he is bowed low before God and others (Romans 12:3).
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Experiencing God in our Troubles

in weakness his power graceOne of the problems of living in a fallen world is that we tend to focus more on our troubles than on Christ.  Our problems become bigger than God.  We place too much faith in things or people and not enough faith in God.

Heb. 3:1, 6 says, “Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

Our hope, our confidence, and our faith must be in Christ who is faithful.  When trouble comes knocking, we need to “consider Jesus” and know that he is our hope.  Our confidence needs to be in him, more so than being focused on our troubles.

Our troubles provide no solid foundation, but Christ is our solid foundation.  He is our rock.  That’s why it’s wise to place our confidence in him and not ourselves, things, or people who are weak and limited in power and wisdom.  These worldly things simply cannot provide the peace, love, power, and wisdom that can only be found in trusting in the Lord.

We are all tempted to trust in our functional idols to provide for us what we doubt God will provide.  Our functional idols could be things like self-reliance, man’s wisdom, a job, a talent, money, worldly desires, a relationship, certain people, power, or pleasure.  It could be anything that receives your affection and attention more than God.  Yet these functional idols never satisfy us.

Jer. 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.”  Our love and faith should be in the Lord not in our functional idols.  In fact, the Lord loves us too much to let these worldly things be our functional idols, so in his mercy towards us he allows troubles into our life to help us see the weaknesses of our functional idols so that we will depend more on God’s power.  The Gospel is the power of God, so we must believe in the Gospel of Christ and believe in his amazing grace!

John 11:14-15 says, “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.”  The Lord allows troubles into our life so that we will place our faith, hope, and confidence in him.

The key to handling these troubles is to respond in a Christ-like way; to respond with faith, hope, and confidence in the Lord.  We need to “consider Jesus.”  Responding with anger, or worry, or complaining is not having a heart that trusts in the Lord.  These responses only reveal that we are placing too much confidence in our functional idols.

Here’s Paul response when troubles came his way.  He said in 2 Cor. 12:9, “But God said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

God has given us a wonderful promise when we are tempted to not trust in the Lord.  1 Cor. 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

If Christ is our “consideration,” if our eyes are on Jesus more than our troubles, and if our heart is trusting in Christ, then our response to these troubles will honor the Lord and we will have confidence during times of trouble.

Our confidence is in the fact that God loves us and he showed his love to us by dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead.  That’s the Gospel!  We need to “consider” Christ’s love for us.

Living in a fallen world and experiencing trouble shouldn’t shock us.  1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

God is still in control even when trouble comes our way.  Trouble came our way because of God’s perfect plan and will.  They came our way to test us; but the question is, will we respond to troubles with faith, hope, and confidence in Christ during our season of trouble, or will we rely on our functional idols to help us?

Psa. 147:10-11 says, “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

My attitude, my words, and my choices reveal where I’m placing my confidence.  The Christian who is placing their hope and confidence in Christ will have a heart of peace, love, and faith regardless of the trouble.

John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Examine your attitude, words, and choices; what do they reveal about your heart and your faith?  Will you place your hope in the Lord even during a difficult trial?  How do you respond when trouble comes your way?  What do you need to change after reading this article?




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Closing the Gap

Closing the gapBy:  Rick Thomas

Have you ever wondered how it is possible to believe the right things, but yet do the wrong things? It happens all the time–at least to me. I’m daily put in situations where I have the opportunity to do the right thing.

Sometimes, in those moments, I make the wrong choice–even when I know what the right choice should be. This creates a gap between what I know to do and what I actually do. If you are like me, then you too have a gap.

Do not be discouraged, you and I are not alone. The truth is that no Christian is perfect. We all live somewhere in the gap, between what we know to be true and what we regularly live out.

This is why it is hard for you to uncharitably judge another person when they fail. I suppose it would be easy for you to judge Christians who sin if you didn’t live in the gap with them.

It is through the reminding of our personal gap we are constrained from being judgmental. How could you or I judge others when we too are living in the gap?

The question should never be, “Is there a gap between what you believe and what you do?” The biblically informed person knows there is only one right answer. It would be more helpful for gap dwellers to ask other questions.

For example:

How big is your gap?

What are you doing about your gap?

Who is aware of your gap?

Are you seeking to close your gap?

Is your gap widening?

How often do you talk to God about your gap?

How are you soliciting the help of your friends to close your gap?

Since we all have a gap, it is better to think about these questions rather than bemoaning the fact we’re not perfect. The real deal for us is whether we are running to God or running away from God. Tim Keller said it this way:  Sin is running away from God and grace is God’s effort to pursue and intercept self-destructive behavior.

God knew we would live somewhere in the gap, so He created grace for undeserving people. Grace is His empowering favor which can be appropriated for gap dwellers. All you have to do is determine if you’re going to apply God’s unmerited favor to close the distance between you and Him.

Your function and your confession

What I’m really talking about here are functional beliefs and confessional beliefs. I have used the term functional atheism in the past–a term connoting the dilemma of the unbelieving believer.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24 (ESV)

Functional beliefs are the beliefs ingrained in you which guide your perception of things–your understanding of things–and ultimately, they are the primary influences of your behavior. Your functional beliefs are who you really are.

These beliefs are the ones that put you in the gap. They are different from your confessional or core beliefs. Your confessional beliefs are the things you have learned about God from His Bible. These beliefs are perfect and pure truth.

For example, a common core or confessional belief is God is good. The Bible is clear on this. No Christian would dispute the goodness of God. It’s a core tenet of how the Bible talks about our Father.

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. – Psalm 25:8 (ESV)  For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! – Zechariah 9:17 (ESV)

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. – Mark 10:18 (ESV)

While we don’t struggle with this confessional belief as is, there are times when our confessional belief can be interrupted and muted because of the grip our functional beliefs can have on our minds.

When function trumps confession

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. – Jonah 1:1-3 (ESV)

The most common occurrence of this is when we are not getting our way. How about you? When you find yourself at the intersection of God’s story and your story, how strong is the pull to yield to your desires rather than His?

Jonah was one such man. Though he was a good prophet who loved God, there was one particular situation in his life where he had to decide whether to cling to his confessional beliefs–who he knew God to be, or his functional beliefs–what he wanted instead.

He chose the latter and rather than following God, Jonah ran the other way. I can’t fuss with Jonah too much here. I’ve done this many times. A few weeks back I got angry at my wife. In that moment I felt the pressure Jonah felt.

Will I trust and follow God by living out the pure Word of the Lord or will I allow my functional beliefs, which are telling me to do things my way, rule the day. I, like Jonah, chose my desires over God’s.

In that moment it did not matter what my confessional beliefs were because I was not yielding to the Word I confessed. Truth does not matter if you’re not going to live by it. If functional beliefs are going to win out, then you’re no better off than an atheist, in that you’re acting out functional atheism.

Before you progress through the remainder of this article, take some time to reflect and jot down situations where your functional beliefs have trumped the good Word of God you confess to believe.

I know lying is wrong, but if I’m in a place where I may look bad, I may choose to lie rather than speak the truth.

I know I should love my wife the way Christ loved the church, but when she displeases me I want to punish her through my anger.

I know I should forgive others as Christ has forgiven me, but when someone hurts me, I want to make them pay for what they did.

I know God looks on the heart and is not impressed with this jar of clay, but I want to dress to impress.

I know looking twice at a woman is lust, but I enjoy the sleazy satisfaction of looking at women.

I know I should obey my parents, but they are not perfect and there are times when I judge them for this, which motivates me to disobey them.

The real and present danger of gap-dwelling

What’s your disparity? Where are you in the gap? You have one and there are things that motivate you to raise the functional flag of your life, while lowering the confession you know to be true.

Self-protection, self-preservation, and self-promotion are three hidden idolatries that will feed and fuel your functional beliefs.  Most of the time your functional beliefs will run under the radar of your known and perceived behavior.

Part of what it means to live in the gap is to put forth a highly edited version of who we really are. We’re not dumb enough to live according to our full functional beliefs in the raw. We keep those things hidden.

The problem with hiding our functional beliefs from others is that we can start to believe our own publicity–our self-promoting efforts to present ourselves better than we really are. This is also called self-deception.

It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. –Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets, P. 3.

However, if you are really a believer then you want your functional beliefs exposed and you want to change. You know you can’t live a lie. That’s insanity. Insanity is fully ensconced para-normal thinking. You don’t want to go there.

”Para” means alongside of or outside of. Para-normal thinking is beside normal thinking or outside of normal thinking. Normal thinking is biblical thinking. Sanity is living as close to biblical thinking as you can possible get.

To choose to continuously live outside the clear and normative teaching of the Word of God will eventually lock you into biblical insanity and your conscience will soon follow your functional beliefs by hardening you in the gap.

You don’t want this. This should scare you to death–I hope. You have the Word of God and the Spirit of God, both means of grace given to you to help you change your functional beliefs until they are submitted to and guided by your confessional beliefs.

If there is a disconnect between your functional beliefs and your confessional beliefs, you must discern, decipher, and determine to break the disconnect that keeps you stuck in the gap. It’s a trap you must be extricated from so you can truly be free, while making the fame of God great in our world.

When the fool was fooled

Jonah’s initial response and actions seemed to say, “If I act like God isn’t there and act like God doesn’t care, then eventually things will work out according to my best and what I want.”

Though you may not have said such things, it is a compelling argument from the functional gods, isn’t it. Honestly, I have done this before. Even though God was clearly speaking to me not to sin, I persisted in my own way and sinned.

I was pretending the truth of God’s Word did not exist. I slavishly pushed God out of my mind by allowing my functional gods to shout my true confessional beliefs down. This freed me to sin. It didn’t matter what God’s Word said. It didn’t matter what God knew about me in that moment.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)

Functional beliefs can make noise in your mind. It could sound like the following:

I want a life according to what I want. If I continue to hold onto my functional beliefs, then I can get what I want, even if it means divorce.

If I want a certain thing from a person and if I ignore what God says, then I can use anger to get what I want.

When you run from God there will always be a ship ready to take you where you want to. If you harbor impure thoughts, eventually there will be a bed for you to act out your passions. If you harbor self-pity and an “I deserve better” attitude, you will find a sinful solution for your sinful desires.

And when these things happen, your sinful desires will be affirmed. You may be surprised how many times I have heard a person justify their sinful behaviors through the signs they experienced.

Here is an example:

I was feeling horrible in my marriage and though I was not looking for anyone, Brad came along. It was like we had known each other all our lives. (And so the unbiblical nonsense goes.)

Because she got what she wanted, she talked herself into believing God was in it. Jonah could have been like this too. He ran from God and guess what? A ship was ready to take him to Tarshish. My, my. Ain’t God good? Not!

“If I disobey God and nothing bad happens, then nothing bad will happen.” You may disobey God and nothing bad may happen, but don’t be so biblically naive to think what you’re doing is right or justified.

A false peace can take you to hell. I heard it said that “there is one thing worse than hell. It’s going to hell, while thinking you’re going to heaven.” Jonah got what he wanted, but what he wanted was not what God wanted. He was the fool who was fooled by his deceitful desires.

Just because you can sleep in a storm does not mean you are doing the right thing. Eventually Jonah’s problems grew worse and yours will too when your functional beliefs and confessional beliefs are at odds with each other.

But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.” – Jonah 1:5-6 (ESV)

From the time Jonah arose from his sleep, we see how all his functional beliefs were all false. He may have dismissed God, but God did not dismiss him. He may have hoped not to get caught, but God was mercifully on his case.

Jonah’s functional beliefs said, “If I run, God won’t care.” Jonah’s functional beliefs said, “If I do what I want to do, God won’t intervene.”

Be sure your sin will find you out. God does care and God will interject Himself at some point in your life. Interestingly and maybe ironically when the mariners woke up Jonah, he told them who his God was. This was his confessional belief.

This was what he really believed, though what he believed was completely different from what he was doing. Right theology does not always lead to obedience. A right confession of faith does not keep you from heading in the wrong direction.

Jonah had functional beliefs that were opposing his confessional belief and he was separated from God. Is your life a faithful picture of the implications of what you say you believe about God and the Gospel?

I haven’t always lived up to my preaching, but I’ve never lowered my preaching to fit my living. – Vance Havner

Are there areas in your life where there are functional contradictions between what you say you believe and how you truly live?  What is your theology of sin and grace?

There is only one way to close the gap between function and confession: you have to go back to your theology of sin and grace. You grow in closing the gap between your confessional beliefs and your functional beliefs by cultivating an ongoing, deepening sense of sin and grace.

What I mean is you cannot ignore the sin or the grace in your life. If you ignore the sin, you won’t see it clearly and you won’t be able to appropriate God’s grace to your sin.

The main deception in this problem of the gap between functional and confessional beliefs is how we view sin and grace. As you probably already discerned, the only way you can live in the gap is you have to be comfortably numb to your sin.

You can become comfortably numb by minimizing your sin. You do this by twisting, ignoring, re-labeling, justifying, rationalizing, or blaming your sin away. This will keep you in the illusion of all is well, while living in the gap.

In order to snap out of the gap funk, you must take your soul to task. The following are some tips which will help you do just that–if you will take them to heart and enlist the help of a few good friends: the Spirit, His Word, and His children.

When you sin, you need to think more deeply about what you said and did than you may have ever done before. Then you need to ask God to reveal to you what you did or said and why you did and said it.

You must look under the sin, by delving down into the true motives of your heart to understand why you did what you did. Behavioral sin always has a heart motive. While you’re not called to go on a dismal, introspective, and morbid sin hunt, you are called to repent of your sin, which is more than your behaviors.

If you move too quickly to grace without thinking about the heart issues which led to the sin, you will not be able to bring a satisfying conclusion to your mind.

You must give the Spirit more opportunities to examine the “runaway strategies of your heart.” Jonah must sit down and give some solid biblical thought as to why he ran. It may have looked impulsive, but there were functional idols feeding the engine of his mind.

Without wallowing in your sin, you want to clearly identify all the false beliefs which motivated you to sin. In order to do this, it’s imperative you get some help from your friends.

As God gives you clarity, you need to spend time in praise and thanksgiving for the Gospel that saved you and continues to keep you from the destructive consequences of sin in your life.

I would recommend you write out a praise list, noting the many ways God has come to your rescue. Thank Him audibly for His persevering grace in your life.

Share with your friends what you did and what God did and how you have been rescued from ongoing destructive behavior. Let the fame of God be known to others.

This will do several things:

-It will remind you of what God did.

-It will motivate others to follow the path you’re on.

-It will make God’s name great.

-It will create accountability in your life as you share your story, which may keep you from running to Tarshish again.



Posted in Biblical Counseling, Change, Christlikeness, Double minded, Faith, Godly wisdom, Real beliefs, Repentance, Rick Thomas, Right thinking, Sanctification, Self-Deception, self-reliance, Sin, Unbelief, Worldviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to humbly and skillfully lead your husband … from behind

Coke womenBy: Rick Thomas


Sarah and Scott have a difficult marriage. They have been one flesh for eleven years. What began with all the hope in the world has slowly degenerated to a daily struggle.

Though they both attend their local church, Scott is passively engaged. It’s more of a social event for him. Sarah has pleaded with Scott to pursue the LORD, but thus far it has been to no avail.

Their children are modeling his anger in different ways. The older two internalize the disappointment they feel from their dad, while the younger two act out according to their personalities.

Sarah has tried to speak into this, but usually botches it up and the succeeding arguments have discouraged her. She does not want to overstep her bounds, which puts her in a quandary as to how to move forward.

I sent her my article How to lead your husband and she asked if I would extrapolate more on how to humbly and skillfully lead him. This is what I told her.


One of the things I communicated to her was the difference between subordination in roles and equality of persons. Just like what we see in the Trinity, there is a difference between what a person does versus who a person is.

Jesus is God, but He serves in a subordinate position. On one hand He is no less than the Father or the Spirit and on the other hand He serves in a different capacity than both of them.

The husband/wife relationship is like this too. Though both partners are fully equal before God, as a married couple they serve different roles.

This would also be the same in an employer/employee relationship. The reason I said this to her was because some men and women do not have a clear understanding of what a complementarian relationship should be like.

The husband and wife are equal human beings, both made in the image of God. They are the same before God and people. However, when it comes to the roles they serve in the marriage there is a subordination dynamic.

This does not mean she can’t help her husband to be a better person. The wife, Christian or otherwise, was never meant to be a doormat in the marriage. It would be foolish and unbiblical for any man to treat his wife that way. She should be the one of the most effective sanctification assets in his life.

I wanted to encourage her by letting her know that though she may be subordinate in role, she has an obligation before God to be a means of grace to help him to be the man of God the Bible calls him to be (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Guard thy heart

The biggest temptation for her will be to guard her heart as she thinks about her husband, while trying to serve him in his sanctification. I’ll not repeat that information here, since it is in the aforementioned article.

However, it is essential she is guarding her heart. She will more than likely need an honest friend speaking into her life about how she thinks and talks about her husband.

She will not be above sinning against him. It will be a daily struggle for her to exercise self-control in this area of her life (Galatians 5:22-23).

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6 (ESV)

She needs a female friend, preferably at her church, who is willing to wound her if necessary in order to serve her in the marriage.

It will be difficult for her to lead her husband alone. Each local church is a community of like-minded disciple-makers and she will need a biblically like-minded friend to help guard her heart from sinning against her husband (Galatians 6:1-2).

Pray for your husband

One of the questions I asked her was how often she prayed for her husband. She said she prayed often, but when I unpacked what she meant, I discovered she prays when she is mad at him or as she casually thinks about him.

She does not spend dedicated, undisturbed, quality time before the Lord talking about her husband. The best marital or parenting advice you’ll ever receive is to pray for your spouse or children.

God can do more than you can do. It is imperative you are talking to God about your husband. It is also imperative you are saying specific things about your husband.

Sometimes a wife will ask God to change her husband which becomes the extent of her prayers regarding the marriage. This is not how Paul thought about people he wanted to help to change. Think Corinthians here.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Corinthians 1:4 (ESV)

Perhaps you read the verse above and said, “I don’t see the grace of God in my husband’s life.” Perhaps you are right. However, you missed the point if that was your first thought. The point is that Paul prayed for these mean and stubborn people.

If you are not Gospelized enough to pray with thanksgiving regarding your marriage then the first place you need to begin is in your own heart. Before asking God to change your husband ask Him to change you.

If your heart is not adjusted rightly before God, then it will be hard to lead your husband toward change. What I mean is if you have not been changed into a grace-filled and grace-giving person, it will be contradictory to ask the Father to make your husband different from you.

Encourage your husband

Have you ever been encouraged by a person who did not seem sincere? How did it feel? Sincere encouragement is born out of a sincere heart. If your heart is struggling toward your husband, then it will be hard to move forward with any kind of authentic complementarian responses.

Christ genuinely loved us while we were sinners (Romans 5:8). Paul genuinely loved the Corinthians too. Don’t skip this point. If your heart is not tuned to God this way, then you won’t be able to get it tuned to your husband.

You may then ask, “Why should I try to be an encouragement to my husband?” The answer is because this is the primary method the LORD uses to change a person. Do you want him to change? Read what Paul told the Christians in Rome:

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4 (ESV)

The word repentance in this verse means change. Do you want your husband to change? Then how are you motivating him by grace? How are you encouraging him? Remember, it was God’s kindness through the death of Christ which turned our hearts toward Him.

What does your husband receive more from you: (1) Your critique, negativity, and nagging, (2) or your encouragement, hope, and affection? This is a marriage-changing question.

If your husband is more aware of your displeasure, then you need to repent to God because you are sinning against him. You’re being self-righteous, acting as though he is a worse person than you are (1 Timothy 1:15).

Model what you want

Another good assessment question to ask yourself is, “What do you want your husband to be?” Think about this with me for a minute. Let me list some possible things you may want him to become:

I want him to pray, love, encourage, help, serve, and lead. I want him to be spiritual. I want him to confess his sins and seek forgiveness. I want him to be humble and teachable. I want him to love the church and church people. I want him to be nice and kind to me.

I often tell folks that whatever they want someone to be, then they should be modeling this before them. If you are a pastor and you want your congregation to be living the practical life of Christ, then you should be living the example of Christ before them.

If you are a wife whose husband is lacking in certain ways, then you should be presenting yourself as an authentic example of what he should be. If you are a parent who wants the kids to love Christ with all their hearts, souls, and minds, then you model this before them.

Do not discount what a God-honoring, Gospel-motivated, Christ-centered example can do for someone. You show your husband what Christ looks like through your humble modeling.

Few more things to consider

Pick your spots – Let’s say you are actively guarding your heart, praying for your husband, encouraging him daily, and modeling the example you want him to be. If these things are imperfectly working for you, then as God leads, try to bring loving correction to your husband.[1]

The best times to bring loving appeals to your husband is in non-fight times. Don’t try to correct him when you’re arguing. The angry man is a fool according to Proverbs and a fool cannot be corrected (Proverbs 22:24; 29:9).

Pick your spots. Leverage the good times to make your adjustments. Also correct him more through question asking rather than statement making.

As a general rule, it is better to ask questions than to make statements. Statements can sound like or be perceived as accusations. Question asking has a humble measure of self-suspicion.

Think before you speak – “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 (ESV)

Let the wise words of James take control of your mind. If you do not do this, you will compound your troubles. However, if you’re actively doing the things I’ve suggested so far, the Spirit of God will not be grieved or quenched.

Plus, He will give you the grace you need to exercise self-control toward your husband, specifically the way you talk to him (Galatians 5:22-23).

Ask for forgiveness – If you blow it, which you will, you can take care of your mistake through repentance. Just because he never asks you for forgiveness, you can still ask him for forgiveness. And don’t forget to ask the Father too.

Your husband may be too stubborn and proud to forgive you. It does not matter. His actions should not stop you from doing what is right. You do what you know the Bible says to do whether he does or not.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. – Romans 12:18 (ESV)

Forgive him…at least attitudinally – Minimally you can forgive your husband in your heart even if he does not participate in any kind of active repentance toward you. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34 (ESV)

You can follow His example. They were not forgiven, but you see the heart of the Savior, even when He was dying on the cross for them. Let this Gospel truth empower you to have a forgiving heart attitude.

Honor him before others – Never speak angrily or unkindly about your husband to anyone–especially to your children. And when you sin against him by the things you say, repent to all the people to whom you dishonored him.

Submit to him – Submit to him as much as possible. Let him see the humble Savior in you (Philippians 2:5-10). As long as he is not asking you to sin, you should be able to submit to him.

Make him a priority – God made you a priority. You did not deserve His attention or His love, but He gave it to you anyway. You were a rebel and the Father loved you into submission. Let this Gospel truth govern your heart as you model it before your husband and family.

Hope in God – Finally, my sister, hope in God. Allow the Father to fill your mind with daily hope. I’m not necessarily talking about hope that your husband will change. He may never change. I’m talking about an eternal hope which will empower you to endure.

This kind of hope is born in the closet of prayer. Paul understood this. It was the hope he found in God which buoyed him through some of his most challenging seasons. This is how he framed it in Corinthians:

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

Finally, spend much time talking to the Father, asking Him to turn your husband’s heart because the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. – Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)


Posted in Biblical Counseling, Conflict, Grace, Love, Marriage, Repentance, Rick Thomas, Sanctification, The Gospel, The love of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Help an Angry Person

Angry personBy:  Rick Thomas  

We Don’t Do Well Being God

The angry man is a sad man. The angry man is a reckless man. Did you know the angry man is a scared man too? Anger is most often born out of insecurity. The angry man is afraid he is not going to get his way, so he resorts to anger as a mechanism or means to get what he wants.

This is part of what it means to be in Adam. Fear, shame, and guilt were the first outpourings of Adam’s heart, shortly after he chose to not believe God. To walk away from God, as Adam chose to do, meant he had to become god. (Genesis 3:5).

The sad news for us is we don’t do well being god. It is hard to control everything, to be self-reliant, and to keep life well-managed. Therefore, anger becomes one of the tools in the arsenal of the fearful person who must have life on his terms.

Resistance Is Futile

Because of his Adamic selfishness, he learns early how to bend things toward his preferences and expectations. He becomes used to getting his way and the more you resist him, the more you experience his anger.

He becomes vengeful or spiteful. Once it goes to this level, it is not so much about getting his way as it is his desire to punish you for trying to exert your preferences over his craving to be god–to be in control of his world.

In his own twisted mind of self-centered deduction, he is god. Somebody has to be god and his arrogance blinds him into believing he is the only one worthy of that mantle.

The angry man is like a kid sitting on the floor “throwing a tantrum” until his parent acquiesces by giving him what he wants.

If the parent does acquiesce in order to appease his tight-fisted demands, his anger-born-out-fear-Adamic-nature soon morphs into a habit–a way of life. Anger becomes the portal for him to get his desires met. Resistance become futile.

Anger Is Born Out of Fear

There is a thin line between making demands out of fear and making demands out of habit. If the child is not properly parented, he will soon learn how anger can be a tool to get anything his selfish heart craves.

Anger then becomes an addiction, which is what Paul outlined in the first part of Galatians 6:1. In time, the kid becomes ensnared by his own devices.

Initially, he wanted his way because he was afraid he was not going to get this or that. As he grows, he learns how anger can work for him.

Sadly, as you look back on his life, you will see how it worked for him: there will be a string of broken relationships in his wake.

Like all “gods,” you have to choose whether or not you’re going to serve them. The angry person demands your complete allegiance. If you do not give him what he wants, then you will be in the growing number of people who cannot be his friends.

Anger Is Also Weakness

There is a twist of irony to the narrative of the angry person. He appears to be strong because of his bellowing, but he is not. The angry man is a weak man.

It takes no strength to blow-off someone. It takes a lot of strength to submit yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit while walking in self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The angry person seems to never learn this lesson from the Spirit. He has power (anger), but he does not have Power (Spirit) over his power. The book of Proverbs gives us some insight regarding this Power over your power notion (see Proverbs 16:32, 14:29, 29:22).

Anger is power, force, rage, or violence. Though the angry man appears to be strong, he is not.

He is weak, the servant of something he chooses not to bring under the control of the Spirit’s enablement.

Get Help

Unless the Spirit of God grabs his heart, it typically does not work to help the angry man alone. Helping him should be a community event.

In Proverbs 14:29 God used the word folly to describe the angry person. The word folly represents the action or the behavior of the angry person–he commits folly.

Folly (behavior) comes from a fool (heart). Folly is what the angry person does, while fool describes who the angry person is.

The angry man is a fool and you would be wise not to interact with him alone. He does not play by God’s rules because he is playing god.

Typically, he will use any means necessary to justify his position, while blaming you for the things which are wrong. Anger is a form of insanity: it’s not according to a biblical mind.

If you are the wife of an angry man, you are well within your God-given rights to make an appeal to your husband to get some help.

Because he is a god, he is breaking the first commandment, which functionally disqualifies him from leading you. You cannot absolutely follow someone who is not following the true and living God (1 Corinthians 11:1).

If he will not listen to your appeals, you are fully released to find help from your local church (Matthew 18:15-17). You may appeal to the primary care person in your church.

He is caught in sin. He needs you to help rescue him, but you cannot do this alone. Sinful anger, as described in this article, is an addiction—a learned habit, born out of an Adamic nature.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it will go away on its own. It rarely does. In my experience I’ve seen the best results when the body of Christ comes alongside an angry person.


Posted in Anger, Biblical Counseling, Christlikeness, Conflict, Fear, Godly wisdom, Grace, Humility, Parenting, Rick Thomas, Sanctification, self-reliance, Selfish desires, The Gospel, The Heart, Unbelief | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You hurt me. I don’t love you anymore.

By:  Rick Thomas

you hurt me

Do you see anything wrong with my title? It’s not hard to figure out, right? Here are a few biblical speculations you can make about a person who says such things.

They don’t know the Gospel. (Maybe they are not a Christian.)

They don’t know how to practically apply the Gospel to their relationships.

They don’t understand the uni-directional purposes of love.

Universal truth – Nobody knows if they truly understand biblical love until they are put into a relational context in which their motive, attitude, and practice of love is revealed.

I’m so in love

Every young couple gets married because they are in love. About half of these couples get a divorce because they are no longer in love. Rarely will anyone challenge the couple regarding their understanding and practice of love.

We politely assume the young couple knows what they are talking about when they say they are in love. I think if you were to step back from that assumption for a moment and run it through a biblical filter, you may have second thoughts regarding their assessment of love.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

We can talk all day about how much we love someone, but it is only in the crucible of a trial when your true understanding and practice of love will be revealed. The young couple in love is no different from the rest of us.

I loved my wife before she was my wife. After she became my wife, I began to love her less and less until I did not love her anymore. I could quibble with you and say, “I loved her, but I did not like her,” but that would be intellectual dishonesty–to put it mildly.

Let’s not split hairs. Call it what you will. Love. Like. The point is, none of us will know the kind of love we have for another person until something comes between the two of us. I’m not just talking about spouses. I’m talking any relationship.

When my marriage got tough, my definition of love was challenged to the point where I decided I did not love my wife anymore. I see this all the time in counseling. People get a divorce. Friends are no longer friends.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:34 (ESV)

There is nothing a person can do to you which can stop you from loving them, even if your love for them is reduced to sadness because of the choices they have made. Though they may never love you, they cannot stop you from biblically loving them.

Biblical love is not under the power of any human, nor can it be controlled by any human. God’s love is empowered and dispensed by Him and it cannot be thwarted by the schemes of a human being.

The problem with love

I think most Christians are willing to agree with what I have said about love. If they cannot sign off on it, then they are in far worse biblical shape than they may realize.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44 (ESV)

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? – Matthew 5:46 (ESV)

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. – Luke 6:26-27 (ESV)

To be unwilling to love your enemies is contrary to the Gospel and the Word of God. A person who says they do not love someone is standing in defiance of the Word of God, while opening themselves up to the opposition of God (James 4:6).

Let’s put those words in the mouth of our example, Christ (1 Peter 2:21). Christ says, “I don’t love you anymore.” How about, “I don’t like you anymore.” Does that sound odd to you? It should.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)

Let’s say Belinda comes to you sharing a tale of woe about what her spouse did to her. What would you want to say to her first? The best and most effective place to go with someone like this is her heart.

You may not be able to do anything about what was done to her or even with the person who did something to her. What you can do is begin the process of reorienting her heart to the Gospel. One of the first things you want to do is make sure she understands the love of God.

You do this by helping her to get out from under the control of the one who hurt her. You appeal to her to take a Gospel offensive: she must learn how to biblically love them. She cannot not need them and love them at the same time. The one will negate the other.

If she needs them to like her, then she will be controlled by them. In such a case, she will be more focused on what they should do for her, while neglecting what she should be doing for them.

Exposing your love

A person who wants love will spend most of their time thinking about how they are being loved. Such a person will critique and measure everyone in their world by how they are being loved.

A person who has less interest in being loved, will be more focused on how they are loving others. This person is free from the bondage of love.

When I fell out of love with my wife, it was because I was more focused on what she was not doing for me. At best, my love was conditional.

My perception of her actions exposed my love for what it was–self-centered, self-serving love. It was more important she love me than I love her. I thought I needed her to love me more than I needed to love her. Which is it with you? What do you need the most?

Do you need to love someone?

Do you need for someone to love you?

This is just one of the many remarkable things about our Savior. He was more fixated–if not exclusively fixated, on His need to love others. I’m not aware of a text of Scripture which talks about how He wanted folks to love Him.

He wanted folks to love God, but it was not because He was suffering from an empty love cup. He knew to love God and others most of all was the path to freedom and the greatest thing a person could do (Matthew 22:36-40).

As for Himself and love? He seemed to be singularly fixated on loving others so much so, that even when they despitefully used Him, it was His heart’s desire to love them in return. He appeared to have a uni-directional love language, which always said, “I love you regardless.”

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. – 1 Peter 2:23-24 (ESV)

His goals were much higher than being loved by us. He wanted to redeem us, even if it meant going to death for something which was not His fault. And so He did.

Are you a redemptive lover?

Your first call to action when someone does something hurtful to you is to ask God to give you compassionate love for them. If you don’t ask and receive this kind of love from the Father, then you will not be able to move toward redemptive purposes.

Caveat – I’m assuming your purpose for all your relationships are redemptive. This is why Jesus could pray for the Father to forgive those for what they did to Him. He was a redemptive lover.

This is also why Joseph could forgive his brothers for what they did to him (Genesis 50:20). He, too, was a redemptive thinker. Joseph and Jesus had a vision which transcended creature comforts.

If your expectations of love are more about what you’re getting or not getting, then you are a long way from the purposes of the Gospel. The Gospel is about the magnification of God and sometimes the LORD will bring hardships into your life so He can be magnified.

Sadly, when my wife disappointed me, my first thoughts were not about the magnification of Christ through the trial, but about what I was not getting from her. This led to more relational tension and conflict, as it always does.

After I repented of my self-centered and self-absorbed views of love, I was able to think Godly rather than creaturely. I began to see the benefit and privilege of sacrificing my wants for the betterment of another.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word. – Ephesians 5:25-26 (ESV)

You will quickly know how you think about love by how you respond when you are not loved well. Though it is appropriate to be sad when hurt by another, it is not biblically appropriate to be controlled by what was done to you.

You will know if you’re controlled by what was done to you by how you talk about what was done to you. If you are bitter, critical, gossipy, frustrated, angry, impatient, or any other controlling sin, then you’ve found your starting place regarding the healing of the relationship.

First things first

Before you can press into the reconciliation and restoration of the relationship, you must first find the grace you need from the LORD to change your heart. This first step becomes a big misstep in most relational conflict.

Typically, the person begins with what was done to them rather than how they responded to what was done to them. If you begin with the other person, then you need to back up and try again.

Jesus could ask for the Father’s pity on the mean people who hurt Him because His attitude toward those mean people exuded the love of God. This put Him at a redemptive advantage. Think about it this way:

They hurt me.  I’m upset with them.  Because I am more focused on me than them, I can’t be redemptive in their lives.

This really begs the question: Do you want to be redemptive in their lives? If you do want to be a redemptive force in their lives, then you need to change first. Think about it this way:

They hurt me.  I’m sad by this, but I see the LORD has given me a counter-intuitive Gospel opportunity.  I’m not going to make this about what I’m getting or not getting. I’m going to make this about God.

I’m now positioned to receive God’s grace for my hurt, while also receiving the wisdom and courage to act redemptively toward those who hurt me.

This latter illustration is how you were saved. You hurt Christ, but He did not make it about what you did to Him. He made it about what He could do for you. The uni-directional force of the Gospel leads to redemption.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 (ESV)

How do you need to change regarding your thoughts about love?

How would you be characterized: Are you more of a self-lover or other-centered lover?

On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your desire to be redemptive in the lives of those within your sphere of influence?  (Ten being Christ-like.)

Will you make a practical plan to love those who have hurt you?

Posted in Anger, Biblical Counseling, Christlikeness, Conflict, forgiveness, Grace, Humility, Jesus Christ, Love, Love for others, Marriage, Pride, Repentance, Rick Thomas, Sanctification, The Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to love, care for, and help the “professional victim”

VictimBy:  Rick Thomas

Let’s call her Amie. It really doesn’t matter who she is. I’m not writing about any specific person. I suppose I’m writing about all of us. It’s so easy for us to play the victim card.[1]

Let me take it back. I’m writing about me. At times I can act the part of the professional victim. The overarching character trait of the victim mentality is a person who is upset, mad, or bothered because they are not getting what they believe they deserve.

This is not just an American idea, but it’s an Adam idea. Ever since sin entered the world by one man, we all have been affected in hard to discern and deceptive ways (Romans 5:12). One of the main negative effects of sin is this attitude we deserve better than what life has doled out to us.

I’m not suggesting you assume the role of a morbid fatalist. The person who must resign herself to a woe is me world view. That kind of implication leaves her always looking at the floor, while living in a twisted fear of the next bad thing which is going to happen to her.

This is not about resignation, but about biblical reality. I know Dave Ramsey, et. al., have popularized the better than I deserve mantra and it’s catchy and kinda cliché. It’s also biblically true if you’re a Christian.

If God is your King, then you are doing much better than you deserve. With that said, this does not mean you’re going to get all the desires of your heart. But isn’t that the rub?

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)

Buying the deception

The victim mindset has bought into the deception of the devil–But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4, ESV) We don’t want to believe the bad news, but would rather entertain the possibility of having more than what God has promised.

The victim mindset does not want to live in the reality of God’s Word–for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17, ESV) There are some hard and God-imposed realities in our lives.

This is difficult for a person with a victim world view to accept. They have fully bought into the, “I deserve better than what I am getting” attitude. While that world view is tempting, it’s not possible in a cursed world (Genesis 3:7-15).

If victimization begins to take a dominating role in your mind, you will be setup for ongoing and unending relational conflict. In process of time you will become a professional victim.

The professional victim peers through the lens of, “I am right and you are wrong and my views are non-negotiable.” This leaves those who try to care for the professional victim in a hopeless and helpless place.

Anyone who gets within her sphere of observation will be critiqued, judged, and sentenced according to her standards. Her standards are always some version of, “You’re not meeting my expectations, desires, and preferences. Therefore, you’re going to pay for what you did to me.”

Heart check time

I’m curious. If you’ve read thus far, who have you been thinking about as far as being a victim. If it was not you, then you’re on the road to becoming a professional victim. No, I’m not trying to trick you, but to help you.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? – Matthew 7:3 (ESV)

Another controlling characteristic of the professional victim is she cannot judge herself as being wrong. If there is wrong in her world, it is always outside of herself. It is always what others have done to her.

The first person you should have thought about as falling prey to becoming a professional victim is you. To think otherwise is to deny what Jesus asked you to do–judge yourself before you judge others. This is one of those rare biblical moments where you should put yourself before others.

When you’re thinking about any sin, you always begin with a healthy, sobering, and biblical self-assessment. “Only by the grace of God am I any different.” We are to look up at others, not down on them.

The former is the look from the proud heart. The latter is the look from the humble heart. The humble Christian heart realizes she’s not a victim, but a the recipient of God’s kind mercies. She has been born from above.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner! – Luke 18:13 (ESV)

She realizes where God found her and her heart is biblically broken because of the gratitude which comes forth from it. She understands who the biggest sinner was, as she rejoices in her new identity in Christ (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

This is why I recanted my opening salvo by saying, “Let me take it back. I’m writing about me. At times I can act the part of the professional victim.” While I could talk to you at length about many professional victims I have met through my counseling career, the one I struggle with the most is me.

Sitting at the intersection

There is hardly a day which goes by where I don’t succumb to the role of the victim. It can be as simple as sitting at a busy intersection which is not allowing me to have my way.

It happens most often with my wife. She is like me–a fellow sinner. This means there is always the possibility of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and other miscalculations.

Each time one of these mis-events happens in our marriage, I’m at the intersection of a choice. What will I choose? How will I respond to my spouse?

  1. Will I choose to walk with the humble, realizing the redemptive opportunity which is before me?
  2. Will I choose the path of the proud, demanding my self-imposed and self-defined rights?

This is a big deal and it probably happens more than you realize. The easiest and simplest way to assess yourself is by recounting those moments when your response to disappointment was not premeditated.

I’m talking about being surprised by something which entered into your world unannounced. Just today I started our van and heard the engine struggling to turnover. I went to my counseling appointment and afterward I got into my van and started it up.

It was even more sluggish than this morning. My day was immediately altered. It did not matter what I wanted to do. Either my alternator or my battery were going to take me in a different direction. It was my battery.

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

I spent the afternoon with a mechanic. My day was not supposed to go this way. This micro-event is a picture of the macro-events of my life. I’ve said in another place, “If I knew what my life was going to be like before I became a Christian, I would not have become a Christian.”

There is a big warning here

A sinful response to disappointment is the beginning of the victim mindset. I honestly don’t think most Christians realize how a simple grumble or criticism is a setup for a life of self-imposed misery.

This is the damnable-ness of it all–they never realize it was self-imposed, but always see their disappointment as something which was done to them.

They are looking out the window, blaming someone else for what is wrong. All the while, they are damning themselves to a life of miserable victimization. I want you to slowly and carefully read this passage from Hebrews 3:7-15 (ESV).

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Did you note the seriousness of this passage? Did you feel the warning? Did you see the problem? You could break down the passage in 9 logic steps:

  1. What you see and how you see will determine what happens next. – verse 7
  2. A test came into your life. – verse 8
  3. You responded sinfully to the test. – verse 8
  4. A wrong response puts you in opposition to God. – verse 10
  5. This keeps you from the very thing you long for, which is rest. – verse 11
  6. The root cause of this is an unbelieving heart. You’re not willing to trust God through the test. – verse 12
  7. In due process, your heart is hardened because of the deceptiveness of sin. – verse 13
  8. Your relationship with Christ is challenged and compromised. – verse 14
  9. The question becomes, “Can you see what God sees and will you change your mind?” – verse 15

Caring for the professional victim

There is a strong possibility a victim will read this article and not see what I am saying. In fact, I know it will happen. The professional victim will read this article and may even give mental ascent to some of the truths.

What she won’t do is fall on her knees and pray for God’s mercy. She won’t see herself as the hard-hearted person who needs God’s gracious forgiveness more than her desire to hold on to her un-forgiveness for what others have done to her.

She won’t see what she has done to Christ is exponentially worse to the 10th power more than all the horrible, real, objective, and painful things which have been done to her. She can’t show mercy to others.

And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? – Matthew 18:33 (ESV)

I said can’t on purpose. She can’t show mercy on the person who has disappointed her. This is the damnableness of the Hebrews’ passage–her heart is hard to the point where she cannot perceive the right biblical response.

Where does this leave you? This brings us to the main point of the article: how do you love, care for, and help the “professional victim”? Here are a few tips and thoughts in no particular order:

  • Her hurt is not only real, but it’s real to God. She has been hurt. Be sensitive. Be careful. Be delicate. Weep with her (Romans 12:15). Care for her with tears (John 11:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
  • Ask the Father to give you insight into how to help her (John 17:17). You need wisdom. You need God’s intervention into your life.
  • Remember she can’t see what you see. Like a baby bird in a nest with skin canvassed covered eyes. She cannot see. You show mercy to her (Romans 2:4).
  • Pray for God to do for her what you can’t do (Proverbs 21:1). More than likely you will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Regardless of what you do, you will eventually feel her critique.
  • Remember she is not rejecting you, but she is rejecting God. This is between her and God most of all (1 Samuel 8:7). Don’t take it personal. This is not about you.
  • Don’t engage to win an argument. You won’t win. You’re playing by two sets of rules. Like a rugby team playing a football team. It will become confusing and there will be more hurt if you try to engage, thinking reasoning will work.
  • Guard your heart from sinning back at her. She is caught in sin and needs your restorative care, not your frustration (Galatians 6:1).
  • You can’t help her the way she needs help. God will have to penetrate her heart to bring the change needed (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). Do not take on the role of a mini-messiah. You water and plant the best you can and trust God to bring change (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
  • There is a part of her which does not want to get better. Sometimes a person’s misery becomes a twisted form of security, which keeps the person from coming out of their prison of hurt because she assumes she will be hurt again. It’s akin to an institutionalize convict.
  • Her mind has been captivated by sin, to the point where there is a stronghold which has her ensnared. See Battle for the Mind.
  • Be sure to surround yourself with people who are wise with biblical sense. If not, you can slip into her vortex of confusion, to the point where you lose your spiritual bearings.
  • Pray. Pray for her. Pray for you. This is bigger than what you can accomplish. This is a God-job. Cooperate with Him, not against Him (James 4:6).

Rick Thomas – http://www.rickthomas.net/


Posted in Biblical Counseling, Christlikeness, Difficulties, Doubt, Faith, Fear, Freedom, Humility, Pride, Repentance, Right thinking, Sovereignty of God, The Truth, Unbelief, Victim | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Investing in the Kingdom of God

Money eyeI preached this message on April 28, 2013.

Matt. 6:19-24.  –  31min.

Summary of the sermon:  We all live for a treasure, that treasure controls your heart and your behavior. Money and materialism can blind us spiritually.  Stats on the stewardship of the church.  Is our lifestyle earthbound or heavenbound?  Is God enough for you?

Click on the link below to listen.  Thanks!  -pd



Posted in Comfort, Giving, Grace, Idols, Jesus Christ, Lasik Eye Surgery, Love for God, Money, Perspective, Stewardship, The Gospel, The Heart | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Am I Getting My Certification in Biblical Counseling?

Biblical Counseling-AThe Lord has led me to get my Certification in Biblical Counseling.  As you know I have been a pastor for many years and I’ve received training in the Bible, Theology, Greek, Christian Education, Preaching, Pastoral Ministry, Creationism, Apologetics, and Evangelism.  I don’t regret my education, but in all my training there has been one area I have not pursued….Counseling.

The reason is because for a long time I bought into a lie, and that lie says, “Counseling is for “professionals.”  It’s for those trained in “secular psychology.”  And pastors are far too busy to worry about counseling people especially when they can refer them to see the “professionals.”  I no longer believe that lie.

For a long time it has always been a passion of mine to make Disciples of Christ, after all that is the Great Commission which Jesus commands us to obey.  What drives me as a Christian and as a Pastor is my love and passion to glorify Jesus Christ.  That really is the bottom line as to why I am getting my Certification in Biblical Counseling.

Romans 15:14 says, “My brothers, I myself am convinced about you, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.”  The word “instruct” is the Greek word “nouthetic” which means to caution, to put in the mind, to reprove gently, to instruct, and to admonish.  Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.”  The word admonishing is the same Greek word, nouthetic.

So, God’s Word clearly tells us that as Christians we are to counsel, to instruct, and to admonish one another in the wisdom of God’s Word and His Gospel.  For far too long the church has allowed secular psychology and even Christian behavior modification ideas to be the answer for people’s problems.

But all that does is put a band-aid on the souls of people.  It doesn’t get to the heart of the problem which is the problem of the heart.  When we think man’s ideas can solve our deepest problems, we are not trusting in the sufficiency of God’s Word or the power of the Gospel to transform lives.

Biblical Counseling is not against science or the use of medicine, but its foundation is the authority of God’s Word and the Gospel.

Ephesians 4:12-13 says,  “For the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.”

This is not just for Pastors, it is for all Christians.  The role of the Pastor is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.  It is not a Biblical idea for the Pastor to be the one who does all the work of the ministry.  Counseling is the work of the church.  But it will be my priority to shepherd the flock in this area of ministry.

If you love God, if you love His Word, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, if you have been affected by the Gospel, and if it’s your desire to make Disciples of Christ and obey the Great Commission, then Biblical Counseling is your mandate as well.

Whenever you are encouraging someone to trust God, or to believe in Jesus, or to love the Lord, or to place their hope in God, or to rest in the Gospel of God’s amazing grace, then you’re a Biblical Counselor.

The church needs to reclaim the ministry of Biblical Counseling.  The church is not a place for perfect people; it’s a hospital for the hurting and a training center for those who have been redeemed by God and who desire to glorify God by admonishing one another with the hope we have in Christ!

The purpose of a Biblical Counselor is not to give my ideas and advice.  My ideas, my ability, and my advice won’t change anybody.  So the goal of a Biblical Counselor is to point people to Jesus, and our textbook is the Bible.

The goal of a Biblical Counselor is to help people make a connection between the problems they are facing to the power of the Gospel.  It’s to help people grow in God’s grace as they become more and more like Jesus.

My role will be to listen and care for the people I’m counseling and then help them understand their root issue of what’s going on in their heart, and then give them the hope that is found in God’s Word and in the Gospel.

I will receive my Certification in Biblical Counseling through Rick Thomas and the Counseling Solutions Group.  Their website is RickThomas.net.  The program is a two year program which only requires about 4 hours of my time each week.  That is easy for me and will in no way affect my higher priority to my family and to my church.

I am paying for 100% of my training.  But it is also a self-paced program so if things get busy I can do less work or if things are not busy I can speed up my work.

Anyone in the church is more than welcome to get certified as well.  The great thing about this program is that it will not only help me to grow as a Counselor, but it will also help me to grow spiritually and that helps me as a Pastor.

As a Biblical Counselor I will be able to help people who suffer with, and deal with a host of relational, emotional, and spiritual issues.

Confidentiality is an utmost priority, one that will be guarded while at the same time – seeking counsel and accountability through the church that will also be a means of experiencing God’s grace as we grow together.

True growth and change comes not through one person, the Pastor, it comes through the church when together we are growing in Christ-likeness and we are all using our spiritual gifts to glorify the Lord.

The counseling I provide will be completely free to those who attend our church.  If someone wants counseling and they don’t attend our church the fee for them will be to attend our church on a regular basis.

If they attend another church their pastor will know I’m counseling them and I’ll try to influence him to get certified.

Biblical Counseling is the same as discipleship.  If you think that counseling is not for you, then you’re basically saying, “I’ve arrived, I don’t need to grow, and I don’t need discipleship.”  But let me remind you; let me practice “nouthetics.”

Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick need one.  I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So, as fallen broken people who live in a world surrounded by fallen broken people – we all desperately need Christ to rescue us and to restore us.  Biblical Counseling is not about beating someone over the head with our Bible.

It’s about loving people with the love we have been shown in Jesus Christ.  It’s about pointing people to the Lord who is the Gospel, He is the good news, and He is the way, the truth, and the Life!

I will no longer refer someone to see a “professional” who will charge you hundreds of dollars when we have the answer right here in the Bible.

The Gospel is an inexhaustible well filled with wisdom, love, and grace for all who run to Jesus for rescue and restoration.

God’s grace is sufficient and His Word is sufficient to speak into people’s lives and to transform them forever.  His grace saves us in a moment, but Biblical Counseling is really helping someone grow in the grace of sanctification which is a process.

I’m excited about this opportunity to grow in this area of serving our church.  I want to do it for God’s glory.  I want to see lives transformed by God’s grace, and I want to be a part of a congregation that shares in the vision of helping people look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

I do have plans in the future to provide a free seminar on equipping the people in our church in Biblical Counseling.  So you can have an opportunity to be trained as well.  That free seminar is not a Certification program – it’s an all-day seminar, or we can break it up and do it in two days, but it will give us the basics to have a Biblical Counseling ministry in our local church which is something most churches don’t even have because they probably believe that lie as I did.

Here’s what changed my mind:  When hurting people become captivated by Christ, when broken people stand in awe of who God is, when sinners delight in God their Savior, when Jesus is their Lord and Master, when they love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, captives will be set free!  The truth will set them free!

They will have hope for the future, they will have an unending joy despite their pain, and they will be emotionally and spiritually healed by God’s power alone.  They will be delivered from sin and restored in their relationship with God.  Even in their suffering they will see that God is good!

So, I want to thank the Church Board and I want to thank you for your prayers and support as I seek to become certified.  I pray that it will be a blessing to many people.  If you have any questions for me, please feel free to ask me.  And thanks for letting me share this with you.  To God be all the glory!

Posted in Authority of Scripture, Biblical Counseling, Christlikeness, Discipleship, Freedom, God's Word, Godly wisdom, Grace, Jesus Christ, Love for God, Rick Thomas, Sanctification, The Bible, The Church, The Gospel, The Heart | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s All About Christ

Banner - if you really love jesusThe Gospel-centered life is all about deliverance from sin by Christ, development in Christ, and delighting in Christ.

The goal of our Christian growth is getting to know Christ, becoming more like Christ, and being used by Christ.   But when we sin we are believing Satan’s lies rather than trusting in God’s truth.

Stability in our struggles isn’t trusting in our understanding; it’s standing on Christ who has everything under His feet!  Christ is in control.

Though our sin is great, His love is greater!  Thank God for Jesus!


Posted in Christlikeness, Discipleship, Grace, Jesus Christ, Sanctification, Sin, Sovereignty of God, The Gospel, The Gospel-centered life and church | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dealing with the Death of a Loved One

Death2A few people in our church have recently experienced the death of a loved one, so I wrote this article for them.  I pray it is a comfort to them and others in my church that may lose a loved one.

As a Pastor, one of the joys in serving the Lord and serving His people is to pray for people who I have come to love and care for.  God gave me a wonderful church to pastor and even though facing death is a painful and difficult trial to endure what a blessing it is to know that our church family prays for us, and our Savior is near those who are grieving the death of a loved one.

Loneliness is often associated with mourning.  We feel the pain of losing our loved one.  We long for the day when we will see our loved ones again face to face.  We grieve because we miss having them in our life.  All of that is normal.  I’m touched whenever someone shares the memories of their loved one.  I’m blessed to hear about their life.  And I am especially affected when someone knows God’s peace in the midst of their pain.

I’m thankful that God never leaves us nor forsakes us in our pain.  We live in a sinful, fallen, broken world, so our heart yearns for the day when everything will be made right again.  One day there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more despair, and no more death!

This Sunday is Easter.  My sermon is about “Real Hope.”  If it wasn’t for the resurrection of Christ then our faith is in vain, yet we serve a risen Savior.   We may grieve, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope, for we can find peace in the presence of God!  He’s alive, therefore, we live!  And one day we will see our Savior and loved ones face to face!  Can you imagine what that will be like?

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die,  yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. -John 11:25-26.  Those are comforting words for those who mourn, but the shortest verse in the Bible is also comforting…. “Jesus wept.”  -John 11:35.

Jesus’ tears were generated both by His love for Lazarus, and by His grief over the deadly effects of sin in a fallen world.  He was truly “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”  But while the Jews were correct in seeing Jesus’ sorrow as evidence that He loved Lazarus, they were wrong to think that His tears reflected the same hopeless despair that they felt.

The stage was now set for the compassionate Savior to visibly substantiate His claim to be the Resurrection and the Life.  And as you know, Jesus would persuasively demonstrate His power over death by restoring Lazarus back to life.

Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  The Lord is not only near us as we mourn, but He also gives hope to those who remain.  The Lord will give us grace and strength to persevere until the day we die and go be with the Lord.

I’m also thankful that life and death is all about the Lord.  It’s the Lord’s presence and blessings that continue to meet our needs even when life is hard.  It’s the Lord that walks with us.  And it’s the Lord who always loves us; in fact, nothing can separate us from His love.

One of my favorite promises in the Bible is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  What a blessing it is to know that we serve a God who is good and who is in control.

My mind can’t comprehend why certain things happen, and that’s ok.  We can know that the Lord is working in our life.  The Lord’s grace is sufficient.  The Lord is enough.  So we can trust in the Lord even when things don’t make sense.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

In our time of grief, we can trust in the Lord.  This world is not our home.  The Lord is preparing a place for us as He has done for our loved ones.  Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

It may be true that we will greatly miss our loved ones, but this is also true, it’s a prayer Paul prayed, and it’s my prayer for you as your pastor, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” -Romans 15:13.

We don’t walk this life alone.  God sent His Son to rescue us from sin and sorrow.  God is a God of hope.  He’s a God who cares.  He’s a God who is worthy!  Praise Him for His mercy and grace.  Praise Him for His comfort and peace.

Love and prayers, Pastor Doug


Posted in Comfort, Death, Eternity, Faith, Grief, Hope, Jesus Christ, Peace, Sovereignty of God, Suffering, Trusting God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Middle Ground

No middle ground1

By:  Pastor Douglas Graham

Matthew 12:28-30 says, “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.  How can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man?  Then he can rob his house.  Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.”

In Matthew 12 Jesus clearly shows that He is of God and He is saying He is the King!  The Kingdom of God is wherever Jesus is because He’s the King!

He has shown He’s the King by healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, giving sight to the blind, setting free the demon possessed, raising the dead, forgiving sinners, and preaching the Gospel.

Even His enemies didn’t dispute that His power was supernatural; however they said He’s of Satan.  Yet Jesus shows how their accusation was foolish, bias, and rebellious.

Jesus has demonstrated that He has the power to bind up Satan, the strong man, but Jesus is stronger!  Jesus is greater than Satan.  He has come into Satan’s house, bound him up, stole his property, cast out his demons, healed everyone, and delivered people from sin and death!

And Jesus is still doing that even to this day.  Before we were born again, we were all Satan’s property.  We were children of wrath.

We were ruled by the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2), and He took us out of his hand and delivered us!  He set us free!

The death-blow to Satan was struck at the Cross, where Jesus destroyed the Devil who had the power of death (Hebrews 2).

Since Jesus is the King and since He sits on His throne, He invites us to come into His Kingdom, which means you have a decision to make.

Will you turn from your sins and place your trust in Christ to be your Savior?  Or, will you continue to love darkness rather than the light?  Jesus said, “Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters.”

In other words, there is no neutral ground.  You either gather or you scatter.  You either say, “Jesus is of Satan,” or you say, “Jesus is of God.”

There is no middle ground.  You can’t say that Jesus was just a good guy, or a moral teacher, or even religious.  He is either of Satan or of God.  Which also means, “You’re either with Me or you’re against Me.”

Once you’ve made your decision, it affects how you live.  You will either gather with Him to build His Kingdom, or you will scatter people away from His Kingdom.

You are either on His team drawing people to His Kingdom, OR, you are sending them away, and that is based on whether you’re with Jesus or against Jesus.

So you have to ask yourself the question, are you drawing people to Jesus or away from Jesus?  There is no middle ground.

What Kingdom do you live for?  Who’s side are you on?  God’s or Satan’s?  Jesus is stronger!  Trust in His power to set you free!

Here is a link to a video that says it best!  It’s a great worship song!  It’s entitled, “Stronger.”



Posted in Discipleship, Double minded, Eternity, Faith, forgiveness, Freedom, Jesus Christ, Repentance, Salvation, Satan, Spiritual warfare, The Cross, The Gospel, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty of the Cross – video

Awesome video about the Gospel!

The words are powerful!  Enjoy!  Jonny Diaz

Click on the link below to watch:



Posted in Faith, forgiveness, Freedom, Grace, Jesus Christ, Salvation, The Cross, The Gospel, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s All About Jesus

All about JesusSermon by:  Pastor Douglas Graham

March 17, 2013.

“It’s All About Jesus”

Matt. 12:14-21.   –   42 minutes.


9 Characteristics of Jesus, and how we can be more like Him!



Posted in Christlikeness, Compassion, Faith, Fear, Freedom, Grace, Jesus Christ, Love for others, The fear of God, The fear of man, The Gospel, The love of God | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you a believer who believes?

Trust wallBy:  Rick Thomas

Let’s say you have been born from above.  God has regenerated you.  You were once dead, but now you are alive in God.  You are a believer.  Then my question to you is a bit different.

Are you a believer who believes?  Are you a believing believer? (See Mark 9:24).

Here are some questions, which I hope will assist you in reflecting upon and responding to my query.

How you answer them will inform you if you are a believer who really believes.  When I use the word believe, I also mean all of its synonyms like trust, faith, confidence, and hope.

Do you have your confidence in God as opposed to yourself?  Are you exercising faith in God because He is right rather than trusting in your strength or wisdom?  Try these on for size and see if you are a believing believer:

Are you a Christian who is characterized by worry?

Are you a Christian who is unwilling to forgive someone?

Are you a Christian who holds anger or resentment toward someone?

Are you a Christian who lives in regret or guilt about decisions in your past?

Are you a Christian who refuses to submit to the clear teaching of Scripture on a matter?

Are you a Christian who rarely or never confesses your sin or asks others to forgive you?

Are you a Christian who is bitter or critical toward another person and refuses to forgive them?

Are you a Christian who is unwilling to submit to your biblical authorities, e.g., spouse, church leaders?

If any one of the characterizations on this list is how you generally operate, then the first place to begin assessing your heart is whether or not you are a Christian.  I appeal to you not to punch your “salvation ticket” too quickly, but humbly examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith.

I would further appeal to you to ask other spiritually mature men or women who know you well to bring their observations to you.  It’s too important not to take this seriously and soberly.

A person who has been born again would be humble enough to allow another person to speak into their life.  A proud–possibly un-regenerated–person would be angered or bothered or impatient with someone “questioning their salvation.”

Let’s assume you are a Christian, but one of the issues in the list above is how you struggle.  If this is the case, then you are an unbelieving believer.  You’re a believer who does not fully believe in all Christ has for you.

The point of emphasis for the unbelieving believer is not about their salvation, but about their sanctification.  It’s hugely important you understand and make the distinction between being regenerated and progressive sanctification.  Both of these doctrines require faith–belief, hope, trust, and confidence in God.

For the believing believer, it is not about whether you are a Christian, but whether or not you’re going to step-up to your inheritance from your heavenly Father and truly live in the good of the complete Gospel.  Are you going to become who you already are?

If you become grumpy, frustrated, angry, possibly let out an expletive, or use some unkind sign language, then you are an unbelieving believer at that moment.

Before you can ever think rightly about the circumstances in your life, you have to think rightly about God.  In fact, it is how you think about God that will give you your interpretation and your perspective of the circumstances in your life.

If you believe that God is good, then that is how you will interpret what is going on in your world.  That will not mean that what is going on in your world will always make sense or be according to your preferences.

It simply means that your view of God–He is good–will trump the evil in your world and give you the sense to think biblically about your suffering.

You do have a grid for how you interpret and respond to what is in your life.  Did you know that?  That grid will determine your life.  It will control you.

One of the ways you can “test yourself” is by re-asking those eight questions above. How you answer those questions will tell you immediately if evil generally trumps good or if good generally trumps the evil in your life.

Joseph had a “good trumps evil” worldview: … you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good… – Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

Joseph did not deny either the good or the evil in his life, but the one (good) that took priority in his heart determined not only how he responded to his brothers, but how he thought about and responded to God.

What has more control of your heart:  the goodness of God or the evil in your life?  How you answer that question will tell you quickly if you are a believer who believes or if you’re an unbelieving believer.

Pretend you’re a marionette, with strings attached to your limbs. Who or what controls those strings is your theology.  If the evil in your life controls you, then you’re an unbelieving believer.  If God is the one controlling those strings, then you’re a believing believer.

If you are more controlled by the evil in your world, then you must reconcile that with God before you can interact with the evil or the people who are behind the evil.

If your starting point is not “God is good and He is working His good in my life through this horrible circumstance,” then I will tell you that you will never be able to navigate successfully through the circumstance.

You don’t have the empowering grace to work through this. Your efforts will collapse around you and your disappointment will only compound.  Before you can make things right with your “enemy,” you must make things right with your God, the One who allowed your enemy to bring the evil into your world.

A Gospel primer:

There are two ways to stand at the foot of Calvary and look upon a dying king.  Either what you see is evil trumping good and your life will be unalterably disappointing or His death is good trumping evil and you’re about to turn the world upside down.

How will you approach your disappointments?

Do you stumble like the Jew?  Do you pass it off as foolishness like the Gentile?  Or do you see that what God is allowing is His wisdom and His power?

…we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (ESV)

Will you become a believing believer today?  By:  Rick Thomas.net

Posted in Anger, Difficulties, Faith, Fear, God is good, Rick Thomas, Sanctification, Sovereignty of God, The Gospel, Trusting God, Unbelief, Worry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fear of Man vs. the Fear of God

Fear of the Lord acrosticBy:  Douglas Graham

Matthew 12:14-15 says, “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.  Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there.  And many followed him, and he healed them all.”

Jesus didn’t have the fear of man.  He didn’t withdraw out of fear; He withdrew because He was on God’s timetable, not man’s timetable.  He knew He had to die on a cross, not die by being stoned or thrown off a cliff.

Jesus was being rejected by the Pharisees, yet He wasn’t controlled by what they thought of Him or what they could do to Him.  He didn’t get depressed or angry over their opinion of Him.  Most people because they have the fear of man will feel depressed about being rejected, or they might seek revenge, but not Jesus.

Jesus was more concerned about doing God’s will not man’s will.  Matthew 12:18 says, “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.”  Jesus knew He had His Father’s approval.  He knew His Father loved Him and that’s freed Him from the fear of man.

The fear of man wasn’t a problem for Jesus.  When someone has the fear of man, people are big and God is small, but when someone has the fear of God, people are small and God is big.  And that’s the way it should be.  God is our object of worship.  Yet when I have the fear of man it’s because I’m preoccupied with myself instead of God.

It’s not man’s approval that we need in order to live, it’s God’s approval.  Matthew 10:28 says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear Him  who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

When you have the fear of man you’re a slave to man, you’re always worried about what man thinks of you, and what man can do to you, but when you have the fear of God, you’re set free to serve people and love people, even your enemies.

Jesus wasn’t controlled by people, He wasn’t afraid of people, but He did care about them.  Matthew 12:15 says, “And He healed them all.”  He was all about doing His Father’s will, while at the same time He showed compassion toward the needy.

When God controls you, when He is your object of worship, when you have the fear of the Lord, you’re set free to show compassion and sympathy toward people, and not live in worry, depression, or revenge.

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we are trusting in His life, death, and resurrection to be our hope!  He transforms us to be more like Him.  His grace and truth sets us free to live to do God’s will, not our will or man’s will.  And He sets us free to love as He loved.

When we live to do God’s will and show compassion to those around us, we are obeying the greatest commandment which is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

If you have the fear of man, you can’t love others.  You can’t love others because you’re preoccupied with self.  And if you do not love others, you don’t have the fear of God.

When you have the fear of God, you will have love for God and love for others.  They go hand in hand.  So the question is – how do I get the fear of God?  The answer is the Gospel.  Get to know Jesus.  Seek to honor Jesus.  Place your faith in Jesus.

Just as God the Father loved His Son and was pleased with His Son, and Jesus lived to do the will of His Father, so too, you and I need to find our identity in Jesus Christ.

God loves us, His Son died for us, He is now pleased with us, our sins are forgiven!  We have a new name, with a new heart.  We are a new creation, all because of Jesus!  That’s the Gospel!  It’s not the opinion of others that matters.  It’s His opinion that matters.

It’s not that we are rude, indifferent, or uncaring toward others; it’s that our eyes are fixed on honoring God and loving God, not living for the approval of man.  When Jesus is our supreme affection we are now able to truly love our neighbor.

To have the fear of God – every day we need to embrace the Gospel.  Thank God for Jesus!  He is our example!  He is our Savior!  He alone is worthy!

Posted in Anger, Faith, Fear, Freedom, Grace, Honoring God, Jesus Christ, Love for God, Love for others, Peer Pressure, The fear of God, The fear of man, The Gospel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pastor Douglas Graham

  CedarNaz – MadeToFish

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