DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH FORGIVENESS?

Psalm 32“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.”  Psalm 32:1-2 NIV

Have you ever done something that you were certain the person you hurt would never forgive? What an awful position to be in–seeking forgiveness but having none offered.

I have been in this position but I’ve also been on the other side of the dilemma. I’ve been hurt and did not want to offer forgiveness. I remember one situation in particular when someone hurt me. When this person admitted her wrong-doing, tears flowed and guilt etched her face. Through sobs, she repeatedly told me, “You’ll probably never forgive me.”

Of course, I felt hurt, even grieved by what she had done. Honestly, at first I felt very unforgiving. I didn’t want to absolve this person of her sin–to let her off so easily would make it seem like what she did didn’t even matter.

Have you ever found yourself in either of these positions? Praying for forgiveness from another or being faced with the dilemma of whether or not to forgive? What did it feel like to hold the possibility of someone else’s forgiveness in your hands? To know that just by your words and actions you could offer peace or you could perpetuate this person’s sense of guilt?

On the other hand, what did it feel like to wait, wondering if the other person would break down their walls and offer the gift of forgiveness?

Both positions are painful and difficult. But both have a resolution. God is our model for how to respond.

God is eternally in the position to offer or withhold forgiveness. However, meeting out justice for wrong-doing and offering forgiveness are both parts of his character and behavior. God is LOVE and He is not a man (or a woman) who holds grudges or likes to see others suffer as a form of revenge. Instead, He tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Aren’t we fortunate to have a God who we can approach with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) to seek forgiveness? And that he offers it so readily?

He wants us to show the same compassion toward others. He commands us: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness removes bitterness, anger and the desire for revenge. It draws us closer to God by allowing us to experience the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

As we celebrate Christmas, it is a reminder of why Christ came to earth in the form of a man–to offer forgiveness and to provide a way for us to have an intimate relationship with God, the Father. Aren’t we blessed to have been given such a wonderful free gift?

This free gift of FORGIVENESS is for all of us to take hold of and to learn to give to others. Are you holding back from seeking or offering forgiveness?

My Child/Family Psychology Blog: 5 Reasons to Teach Your Child To Forgive

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Are you working hard for God?“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50: 14-15)

 

Do you remember the Janet Jackson song that says, “What have you done for me lately?” (if you’d like a little nostalgia –or if you don’t know what I’m talking about–here’s a video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9uizdKZAGE)

Some of us tend to think that’s the way God thinks toward us. We believe that He’s watching us with His arms tight across His chest and a stern look on His face, wondering what we’ve done for Him lately.

The problem with this is that the Bible teaches that God’s thoughts toward us are exactly the opposite. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that God doesn’t want us to serve Him. We are obviously taught to serve the Lord with our whole hearts.


Deuteronomy 10:12

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…

Luke 4:8

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

 


We are also given plenty of commandments about what this should look like – ie: to love others, to go into all the world to make disciples, to forgive each other, to not give up gathering together with other believers, etc.

But let me get back to my point – does God say to us, “What have you done for me lately?”

Let’s take a look at Psalm 50. The people continually offered sacrifices to God to atone for their sin (vs. 8) yet they lived however they saw fit:

  • “You give your mouth free rein for evil…” (v. 19)
  • “You slander your own mother’s son” (v. 20)
  • “You hate discipline” (v. 17)
  • “You keep company with adulterers” (v. 18)

These are just a few of the sinful acts the Israelites were involved in despite the many, many sacrifices they continued to offer out of a sense of obligation (v8). However, God tells them that He doesn’t need their obligatory sacrifices (v. 9 & 12). Instead He wants a heart that will offer him a sacrifice of thanksgiving out of sheer emotional response to who God is and what He has done. He desires commitment that is taken seriously and He desires that His people depend upon Him and call out to Him in times of trouble.

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon God wants your heartme in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (v. 14-15)

Basically, instead of our actions, God wants our hearts. A full heart, devoted to Him will spill over into actions. But directing our hearts and desires to the Lord Himself comes first and foremost, before our acts of service.

So, what have you done for Him lately? Despite how you answer this question, also ask yourself this: “Where has your heart been lately?” (And maybe sing it to the tune of the Janet Jackson song 🙂

WORDS CAN HURT – THE TONGUE IS A FIRE

“LikThe tongue is a fire - James 3:6ewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. , a world of evil among the parts of the body…” James 3:5-6

Have you ever lost anything in a fire?

 

Wildfires break out every year in the mountains near my home due to the dry, shriveling foliage. Violent winds push the flames to and fro, causing the blaze to grow and destroy more and more in its path. Firemen typically spend days battling the flames and the fires eventually abate. In its wake the devastating force leaves rows of chimneys amidst dark ashes and the rubble of a neighborhood destroyed. Families not only lose their homes and belongings, but they often also lose their livelihoods.

Fire. It’s a paradox. It can cause such devastation, loss and fear; destroying everything in its path. But, on the other hand, it can be beautiful; creating ambience and even an atmosphere for romance. A blazing fire kept in the confines of a protected environment can provide heat for warmth on a chilly evening and fuel for cooking a gourmet meal.

Both destruction and creation. The common ground is power.

 

James tells us that our tongues are a fire. Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” As we all know, this isn’t true. With our words we can tear down others, leaving little in our paths, or we can build others up. More than one adult can look back to their childhood and remember the words of an unkind peer that pierced walls created to protect their hearts. Each day our words can be used to create beauty and warmth or we can create devastation and loss.

The tongue is powerful – how will you use that power today?

 

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Are You Stagnant or Growing?

Is Your Faith Stagnant or Growing?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

 

 

Is a dead garden still a garden?

I asked myself that question after I planted my own personal nursery a short time ago. Imagine this: three-foot high planters filled with the best soil. Seedlings gently placed in straight rows. Water and sunshine. The perfect ingredients for blossoms, the smell of herbs and fresh fruit and veggies. Spring was coming!

But nothing grew. How can that be? I fingered each plant to make sure it was still soft and hydrated. Nothing crumbled under my touch. They were still alive. I’d followed my list for the foundations for a healthy garden: good soil, plants bought at a good nursery, the right mix of nutrients. They weren’t dead, but something was missing. They were firmly planted but had not matured.

Doesn’t that sound like the Christian walk at times? We can be firmly planted in our faith but fail to grow, fail to become more like Christ. We become stagnant despite being told to never stop growing and to bear fruit.

Being stagnant is never a good thing.  If you think about things that are stagnant–where change and growth do not occur–it’s usually negative.

A few summers ago we had a West Nile Virus scare in Southern California.  Newscasters warned residents to get rid of any stagnant water in our yards. If not, we were in danger of attracting mosquitoes and bringing on the possibility of the deadly virus.  Stagnation is not good.

Think of my garden. I had envisioned beautiful, lush greenery overflowing the bounds of my garden beds. But instead I had miniature plants doing nothing. Just as I envisioned my garden bearing fruit, God desires the same from us. He is grieved when we miss out on the new life He desires to give us.

Becoming “stagnant” is an insidious process. It doesn’t happen overnight. The day to day busyness, stress, conflict, or difficulties of our lives often crowd out our relationship with Christ.  It is easy to place God last on our “to-do” list. When we do, we stop moving in the direction of growth. And we may not even notice it happening.

If you find yourself stagnant is there something you can do to change it? Fortunately, spring is a time of new beginnings. As a psychologist, I am often asked, “Can people really change?” I believe they can.  Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us we can. But new hearts and new lives mean new behaviors. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Nothing good comes without time and hard work. Bearing fruit involves being pruned and weathering the elements of our lives in a Christ-like fashion. What kind of fruit are we to bear as believers? Galatians 5:22-23 tells us: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, geNurture Your Faith and It Will Growntleness, self-control.

Unlike raising tomatoes and eggplant, cultivating this kind of fruit can be a challenge. It takes a choice. It means using loving words with a spouse who may not do the same in return. It means caring for that irritating co-worker. Above all, it means clinging to Christ’s promise to give you a new life.

Have you become stagnant?

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What to Do When Feeling Feeble

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Saying, "I think I can," may not workDo you remember “The Little Engine That Could”? A small train breaks down while taking a load of toys over a mountain to children in the valley. He asks several trains to help him but no one agrees. They are too busy, too tired or too important to help.

Finally, a little blue steam engine comes along. He hooks himself up to the train loaded with toys and starts up the mountain. He strains and pulls, moving little by little up the slope. Do you remember what he repeats to himself as he struggles up that formidable hill?

“I think I can, I think I can.”  He repeats it until he finally makes it over the mountain and saves the day!
That phrase, “I think I can,” has become a part of the American culture.  The story of the little engine makes us feel good in a society inundated with the “power of positive thinking.”

But have you ever said, “I can’t”? Ever felt like you couldn’t win that uphill battle, no matter how much you tried?

There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking. The Bible teaches us to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8). But our problems don’t just disappear with the simple repetition of a few healthy words. We deal with illness, gossip, rebellious children, bad relationships, infidelity, addictions, and more. Fighting most uphill battles takes more than we can give on our own. We have to say, “I can’t” and say, “He can” instead.

HE CAN. Two small words that hold unsearchable power. When we accept our inability to do everything on our own, we can take hold of that power. But we have to admit our weakness; fall on our knees and confess it. And we have to relinquish control. Control over spouses, children, friends, jobs. Instead of saying, “I can fix it” or “I can change things,” we muster enough strength to say, HE CAN.

When fighting uphill battles, say, "HE CAN."

Dependence and trust are the key ingredients to living a “HE CAN” life. When we submit to His strength, the Lord accomplishes greater things than we could do on our own.

Remember, with Christ’s strength your uphill battles won’t be so hard to climb! When have you been able to say, “He can,” instead of “I think I can?”

 

Click here to visit my Child/Family Psychology blog.

 

Tired of Spinning Your Wheels? What Does True Productivity Look Like?

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV)

2 Peter 1:5-7As I sit to write, paperwork covers my kitchen table, a stack of yard sale items fills my garage and laundry awaits my return. I cringe at the thought of the many unfinished projects needing my attention! I love what I like to call my “productive” days; when I can lie in bed at the close of the day and review the many things I accomplished. Can you relate? Don’t we all like to feel like we’ve made a difference in something we’ve done during a 24 hour period? However, maybe you can also relate to the fact that even if I’ve folded the laundry or made my way through a stack of paperwork, my heart reminds me that I truly have not been productive that day.

2 Peter 1:5-72 Peter 1 defines true productivity. Goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love are the qualities that bring a harvest. My question at the end of each day as I review my accomplishments should be this: Have I been effective in showing a godly life to my family? To my neighbors? To my coworkers?

Peter tells us, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 8). The more I focus on being the person God called me to be, the less I have to worry about whether or not I’ve had a “productive” day.

How truly “productive” have you been lately?

 

Click here to visit my Child/Family Psychology blog.

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. Psalm 29:2

Who gets the credit? The ax or the lumberjack?Imagine a fairy tale that goes something like this:

A tall–almost as tall as the sky–lumberjack with bulging muscles came upon a tree. The tree itself was tall, almost as tall as the sky, but it was no match for the lumberjack. He wielded his ax against that tree.

After only three strikes–the tall lumberjack not feeling in the least bit tired-the tree was felled. The tall lumberjack stood over the tree in pride with a fist at his hip and his ax flung over his shoulder.

As the tall lumberjack surveyed his work, the ax lifted its head off of the lumberjack’s shoulder, flung itself to the ground and stood erect overlooking the felled tree.

To the lumberjack’s surprise, the ax turned to him and said, “Who do you think you are feeling so proud about what you’ve done? This is my handiwork. I am the one who felled this tree. It is I who deserve the credit.”

The tall lumberjack stood stunned. How could an ax believe the credit was due it? It could not even lift itself off the ground to wield itself against the tree.

The tall lumberjack argued back. He attempted to explain to the ax that it’s claim and behavior were ridiculous. However, the ax refused to hear. It stayed in it’s erect position continuing to praise itself for it’s work until the sun went down.

Obviously, this is a tall tale. But, who do you believe deserves the credit for the work of the felled tree? Most of us would vote for the lumberjack, thinking it silly that an ax would believe it could take the credit for such work. However, how often do we give ourselves credit for the success in our lives and forget the God who gave us the ability, knowledge, talent and wisdom to find such success? In Isaiah 10:15, God poses the same question to us: “Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it?” It is a question about humility and the recognition of God’s sovereignty and power. It is likely that we would agree that the ax in our story was lacking in humility and unable to recognize the power of it’s master.

When have you found yourself behaving like the ax?

CS Lewis - True Humility

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to visit my Child/Family Psychology blog.

Protecting Yourself in the Midst of Pain

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped…” Psalm 28:7-9

Making God Your ShieldHave you ever felt like you didn’t have the strength to carry on? Ever felt alone and lonely? Have you even asked God why He would allow such pain and distress in your life?

David, the King of Israel from approximately 1000 BC to 950 BC, asked such questions too. The Psalms are filled with David’s questions and cries to God about his circumstances. However, the Psalms are also filled with many answers to these questions.

David, himself, was a complex man. He was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:4, Acts 13:22). However, if we look at David’s life we see a man who wasn’t perfect. Yet, he was a man who wholeheartedly hungered after God. We see David’s trust in God, desire for God and dependence upon God if we study his life and words. In the Psalms he uses many different word pictures to describe God. In Psalm 28 alone David describes God as his rock, his shield, his strength, his refuge and his shepherd.

Psalm 28:1 -To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.

Psalm 28:7-9 The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.


Check out this video about David’s complex life: A Pixelated Life


The amazing thing about David is that he found these descriptions to be true of God’s character when he was in the midst of pain and trials. Have you ever learned more about God’s faithfulness and love in the midst of chaos, fear or pain? Often times this is when we find out even more about the depths of who God is. So, the next time you are in the middle of a time of questioning, remember the lessons that we can learn from King David. Remember this:

  • How do we say He’s our rock – if we’ve never hid behind him.
  • How do we say he’s our refuge – if we’ve never needed rescuing.
  • How do we say he’s our shield – if we’ve never been in battle.
  • How do we say he’s our fortress – if we’ve never been in fear
  • How do we say He’s heard our cries – if we have never been in anguish.
  • How do we sing a song of deliverance – if we’ve never been delivered?

God knows that we become convinced of his love through experience. When have you learned these lessons through experiences?

Click here to visit my Child/Family Psychology blog.

 

Is God Your Wonderful Counselor?

James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

CounselingEveryone has a consultant today. Small businesses seek help with taxes. Therapists ask other counselors for guidance. Even churches bring in outside people to strategize about goals.

On a personal level, I love to “consult” with friends about how to handle a sticky situation. Often, after a long chat, I feel as if I’ve found the answers to life’s problems. The truth is, at times in the midst of these chats, I leave God out of my “consultation.” I come up with a quick fix to a problem but forget about depending upon Him. Have you done the same?

Let me set the scene for a time when this happened for the Israelites: The people of the Southern Kingdom lived in fear of attack by the Assyrians, who had already carried off the people of the Northern Kingdom. In their terror, the Israelites sought an alliance with the idol-worshipping Egyptians. Isaiah 30:1-2 is God’s response: “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me.Rubidoux Cross

We hurt ourselves and grieve the spirit of God when we leave Him out of our plans and problems. He is much more than just another consultant. He is our “Wonderful Counselor.” Who is He to you?

 

 

Click here to visit my Child/Family Psychology Blog