Tag: pastoral care

The Bittersweetness of Suffering (Sermon Notes)

The Bittersweetness of Suffering (Sermon Notes)

“Tribulation” This is not the Great Tribulation; it means simply trouble. Since the awful persecution of the church by the Roman emperors is not called the Great Tribulation, surely our small sufferings are not the Great Tribulation. But the church in Smyrna endured much tribulation, and they suffered for the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Suffering is assured to the believers

         It was promised to us by Jesus

John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation”

Suffering perfects our faith

James 1:2-3 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;  Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

 

We sometimes walk through the dark valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 

There are different types of suffering for the Lord: Persecution, sickness, loss. Any type of suffering is permitted by our Lord Jesus for His glory.

 

“Poverty” denotes the lack of material possessions. The early church was made up largely of the poorer classes. When the wealthy believed in Christ, their property was confiscated because of their faith. “But thou art rich” denotes the spiritual wealth of the church—they were blessed with all spiritual blessings. Notice the contrast to the rich church in Laodicea. To that church He said, “You think you are rich, but you are really poor and don’t know it.”

 

Let me drive this home for you. Neither physical riches nor physical poverty is a measure of God’s favor on your life. It is no sin to be wealthy but it is a sin to lust after money and riches. Any finances that God puts into your hands are for you to use to bless others. (James 1:27)

 

The Christians of Smyrna knew poverty because they were robbed and fired from jobs in persecution for the gospel. Early Christians joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven (Hebrews 10:34). This kind of economic persecution was one important reason why Christians were poor in Smyrna. Even today, this is a common form of persecution against Christians. Think of the bakers who are dragged into the courts or the photographers and florists, all because of their faith and unwillingness to celebrate unrighteousenss.

 

 

“The blasphemy of them which say they are Jews … but are the synagogue of Satan.”  Insofar as we can tell, the synagogue in Smyrna was aiding the Roman persecution of the Jews. These are not Gentiles who call themselves Jews but are not. History tells us they were very hostile to the Church in Smyrna and, consequently, hey are a synagogue of Satan. Perhaps they were like the Members of the Circumcision faction in Galatia, who sought to force non-Jews into receiving circumcision in order to have a relationship with God, thus subjecting themselves and their followers to a legalistic perversion of the Torah. To be clear, this was not all of the Jews in Smyrna and probably not even the Jewish laity. It was most certainly the leaders of the synagogue and, possibly, the more civically prominent members of the congregation.

 

Do not fear: Literally, this is better translated “stop being afraid.” The Christians in Smyrna suffered under persecution, and they were afraid. Sometimes we think that Christians who endure persecution are almost super-human, and we sometimes don’t appreciate the depths of fear they struggle with. There were things which they were about to suffer, and Jesus wanted them ready to stand against those things.

 

“Fear none of those things” is the encouragement of the Lord to His own in the midst of persecutions. This is the second time in this book that the Lord has offered this encouragement. Throughout Church History, especially during the time of the Reformation, we see that multitudes went to their death singing praises to God.

 

 

“The devil [Satan] shall cast some of you into prison.” Christ labels Satan as being responsible for the suffering of the saints in Smyrna. You and I tend to blame the immediate person or circumstance which serves as Satan’s tool, but the Lord Jesus goes back to the root trouble.

 

Remember the story of Job. Satan was given permission to test Job, but within defined limits. No persecution, no suffering comes without the permission of God.

 

“Ye shall have tribulation ten days.”  There are two important points in view here. First, the “10 Days” symbolize 10 periods of persecution under Rome’s emperors.

 

  • Nero—64–68 (Paul was beheaded under his reign)
  • Domitian—95–96 (John was exiled during that period)
  • Trajan—104–117 (Ignatius was burned at the stake)
  • Marcus Aurelius—161–180 (Polycarp was martyred)
  • Severus—200–211
  • Maximinius—235–237
  • Decius—250–253
  • Valerian—257–260
  • Aurelian—270–275
  • Diocletian—303–313 (the worst emperor of all).

 

This is certainly a valid idea but it is hardly the point. When we have ALL of Revelation in view, it is clear that the “10 Days” is indicative of a short period of time.

 

That you may be tested: If this attack came from the devil, then why couldn’t these Christians in Smyrna just rebuke Satan, and stop the attack? Because God had a purpose in their suffering, and so He allowed it. God uses suffering to purify (1 Peter 1:6-7), to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:17), and to makes us truly witnesses of Him. In all ages, the blood of the martyrs has been seed for the church.

“The saints at Smyrna had not been given a pep-talk on ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ They had no testimony on ‘How Faith Made Me Mayor of Smyrna.’ They were not promised deliverance from tribulation, poverty and reviling. In fact, the worst was yet to come.” (Havner)

Most specifically in this case, God allowed this attack so that they may be tested, in the sense of being proven. Through their suffering, God displayed the true riches of the church in Smyrna to everyone, including themselves – even though He knew they were rich already.

 

The Christians in Smyrna would be tested, but they passed the test. This church, compared to the other six, has no evil spoken against it. Only this church among the seven survives today, and it has survived through centuries of Roman and Muslim persecution.

 

That you may be tested: God is also interested in testing us. We may not have the same opportunity to suffer for Jesus that the Christians in Smyrna had, but we can have their same heart. We may never be in a place to die a martyr’s death, but we can all live a martyr’s life. Sadly, many Christians avoid persecution of any kind by conforming so much to the world that they are no longer distinctively Christians. This wasn’t the case with the Christians in Smyrna. They were tested and they passed the test.

 

 

“Be thou faithful unto death”—and they were. They were martyrs for Him. He promises them “a crown of life.” Remember that He is addressing the believers who lived in Smyrna, the crown city. It is interesting that to them He is saying that He will give crowns—not crowns of flowers—or of anything else perishable—but crowns that will be eternal.

 

The Crown of Life is life itself: everlasting, undiminished, incapable of loss. So often we think of Life Everlasting in terms of time and it is true that Everlasting Life will not end but it is so much more than unending life. Everlasting Life, because it is IN Jesus, who IS life, is quality of life. Everlasting Life is perfect; it does not diminish because it cannot. Everlasting Life can no longer be shortened by sickness or dimmed by death. In the instant we put off this pitiful rag and take up the dazzling majestic robe of life that Christ gives, we will have total and complete quality of life unto the age of the ages. Christ, Himself, is our life; He is our crowning glory.

Scriptures for the Suffering

Scriptures for the Suffering

Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing. — Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge. — Psalm 62:8

You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears. Aren’t they listed in your book? — Psalm 56:8

Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light. — Matthew 11:28-30

Comfort for the depressed Lesson Notes

Comfort for the depressed Lesson Notes

First, a definition of depression: Depression is a prolonged feeling of despondency or dejection.

Is depression sinful? No, it isn’t. Depression is a warning built into both the body and the spirit to alert you that something is wrong, most likely very wrong. Feelings of depression should never be left unattended as the disease can turn deadly without warning (suicidal thoughts and/or actions)

Depression has only two source categories, bio-mechanical error or spiritual error and there are differences in how both should be handled. In either case, wisdom commands that care begins with your doctor to determine if the depression is caused by a physical problem or a spiritual.

Physical causes of depression include:

  • Side effects of medication
  • Poor sleep and/or poor respiration during sleep
  • Dietary issues
  • Prolonged physical illnesses such diabetes, cancer, lupus

Any or all physical causes of depression can be remedied by your doctor. Spiritual causes of depression, on the other hand, require more sensitivity and care. I want to focus on care of depressed people.

Realize that it is not always your fault. Sin separates us from communion with God and sickness is a part of the curse.

 God is able to comfort the hurting (2 Samuel 22:29-31, Hebrews 4:15) All too often we come to the idea that God does not understand us or how we are feeling. We need to disabuse ourselves of this idea and remember that the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the Divine Son, walked on Earth as a man and is, forever, the God-man in heaven.

We remember the words of the Apostle in his letter to the Hebrew Christians telling us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.”  In the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, we are reminded that “Jesus knows our every weakness.”

God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) One of the titles of the Holy Spirit is Comforter. As the Spirit of Christ, He knows all of our cares and sufferings and draws close to minister to us in our times of darkness. The Holy Spirit is the Shepherd of Psalm 23 through Whom we fear no evil. He also illumens the Scripture and hymns to our minds to bring the peace of God into our lives.

Abraham had hope when there was no cause for hope (Romans 4:18-22) So also may we have hope when there seems to be no reason for our hope. In the blackest midnight of our sufferings, Christ is our hope. He is our hope of life everlasting, our hope of no more suffering, and our hope of everlasting peace.

In the Eternal State, God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) At last, in the Eternal Kingdom, when Jesus,  Himself, is the reward of our suffering, every tear will be wiped away. Every travail will be worth it.

This is our hope, that we will be with Christ forever. That hope can sustain us through any darkness and any depression.

 

Depression, Quick Scripture Reference Guide

Depression, Quick Scripture Reference Guide

In advance of Sunday’s lesson on the Bible and Depression, we are offering this Quick Scripture Reference Guide on depression:

 

  • Depression often follows exhausting times (Judges 15:18)

  • God is able to comfort the hurting (2 Samuel 22:29-31)

  • God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18)

  • Abraham had hope when there was no cause for hope (Romans 4:18-22)

  • In the Eternal State, God will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4)

Renewing Your Mind Lesson Notes

Renewing Your Mind Lesson Notes

Opening Remarks:

This past week we observed World Mental Health Day and that, along with the recent suicide of someone that I know. Prompted me to consider what, if anything, the Bible might have to say about the mind and mental health, which led me to the Apostle Paul’s counsel to the Church at Rome

Romans 12:1-2 (CSB) 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.[ 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Paul counsels the Christians at Rome to renew their minds as opposed to being conformed to the pattern of the world. Let us consider: 

12:1 bodies. Not just the physical body but the whole person, with a view to our engaging the world around us living our day to day lives. God’s grace in Christ has made Christians spiritually alive (6:13). true and proper worship. The worship appropriate for thinking creatures who recognize all that God has done for them. This worship is not confined to the Sunday morning worship service; it embraces the whole of life.

12:2 this age. This present evil “age” (Greek aiōn; see Luke 16:8; 1 Cor 2:6,8; 3:18; Gal 1:4; Eph 2:2; 1 Tim 6:17; 2 Tim 4:10) has its own pattern of thinking and living that redeemed believers must avoid. renewing of your mind. The work of God’s Spirit within must reprogram the “depraved mind” (1:28) that characterizes this world (see Eph 4:23).

7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal (Adapted from New Life)

Seek God and Surrender to Him (Matthew 6:33, 1 Peter 5:6)

We have a tendency to follow in the footsteps of our father Adam and to hide from God when we have sinned or when we think that He is angry with us, such as in times of testing. Yet we are advised by the Apostles Matthew and Peter that we should seek, firstly, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

In a sense, this is a type of repentance, which is a turning toward Christ and away from our sin. Of course, this seeking of God’s Kingdom and righteousness is the first step toward a healing and wholeness of mind.

See the truth (Psalm 139:1)

What is the truth that we need to see? That God knows everything about us; He searches our innermost thoughts (Jeremiah 17:10) and, as the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, knew us before we were formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). Every trouble we face, every time there is a trial, God knew about it and was not surprised by it.

We can echo the words of the Psalmist when he said, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

Speak the truth (James 5:16)

Many times, but not every time, the darkness we feel can come from sin that has not been dealt with, as indicated by James. There are times when we seem to be in darkness and it is caused by a physical illness or perhaps even as a side effect of medication, This is quite normal and if you think this is the case for you, I would encourage you to see your doctor. Perhaps some changes in your care plan which need to be made.

However, if it is not the case that there is a physical illness, then we must speak the truth that it is a spiritual issue and then call upon the elders of the church to assist us through the resolution of the issue.

Accept responsibility (Galatians 6:5)

In those instances where our troubles are caused by our own sin, we must own up to it. In the well-known 12-Steps, the first step is to admit that we have lost control of our lives and that the addiction has taken over, a prime example of accepting responsibility for our sins.

Grieve, forgive, let go (Matthew 6:14)

       It is natural to give those sins which we have committed or have been committed against us. However, in order to avoid allowing that grief to destroy us, we must lay that grief at the foot of the cross and allow the forgiveness of Christ to flow through us.

 Transform your life (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

       God’s comfort flows through us and as it does so it transforms us. No longer are we held captive to our troubles and sorrows. Instead we become instruments of God’s grace unto others as He has given us His grace both directly and through others.

Preserve your spiritual gains (1 Peter 1:8)

It is always a wise idea to keep a record of the Lord’s goodness to us during our faith-walk. It is a good idea to journal- I, personally, like to use a wide margin Bible although many keep a separate notebook.

NKJV Care and Counsel Bible

NKJV Care and Counsel Bible

This is the third article related to Bibles offering counseling resources. Thus far, I have reviewed the NLT Life Recovery Bible and the CSB Restoration Bible and now I am reviewing the Bible offering the most comprehensive set of helps for biblical counseling, the Care and Counsel Bible from the American Association of Christian Counselors and Thomas Nelson Publishers. Unlike most of my reviews, this Bible was not provided by either the AACC or Thomas Nelson nor has this review been solicited. It is my own initiative and my opinions are my own.

Note: The Care and Counsel Bible updates the Bible for Hope which had previously updated the Soul Care Bible (I do possess a copy of the Soul Care Bible)

We will spend most of the review treating the counseling helps, though we will cover the usual review topics as well. Let’s dive right in…

Translation choice

When considering a Bible to deploy in your ministry, the most obvious consideration is the translation choice and the AACC has done well by choosing to retain the New King James Version. The NKJV is fastidiously literal but accurate and easy to read and understand. It is the mainstay translation of the late Dr, R.C. Sproul and many other well-known Bible teachers.

The Physical Book

The Care and Counsel Bible is what I consider to be a normal size Bible at 6”x 9.” The cover is imitation leather with a sewn binding so that it will hold up to the punishment that a faithful counselor will put to it. A rebind may be indicated depending upon how much use one gives and I foresee that, at some point in the future, I will end up rebinding my copy. The paper is relatively thin and there is mild see through; whether or not the see through will be irritating, I cannot say. It is not enough to bother me. This is a black letter edition which is, of course, preferred if one likes to underline, highlight, etc. We have a 9-point font for the text block.

The Topical Index

Perhaps the shining feature of the Care and Counsel Bible is the Topical Index. Over 100 topics are broken down with the appropriate Scriptures Each topic includes: a theme article,  key passage, personality profile. Soul Care Notes, and additional Scriptures related to the topic.

This Topical Index will not only benefit a counselor, it will also benefit Pastors and Teachers who will use it to teach through common issues that many Christians struggle with but are not always willing to discuss.

Theme Article

The Theme Article is our starting point for addressing a particular topic with a counselee. It is a two page article introducing the topic and providing the baseline teaching of the Bible regarding the topic.

Key Passage and Soul Notes

The Key Passage focuses on the central idea of the lesson on a counseling topic. It is around a paragraph long, provides additional scripture references and then points you to the next soul note related to the topic. Soul notes are each a paragraph long and continue to expand upon what the Bible says about a particular issue.

Personality Profile

Each personality profile highlights a person from the Bible who dealt with the issue being studied. Two to three paragraphs are provided explaining how the character dealt with the issue. There are also key lessons from that person’s life provided .

Additional Scriptures

Lastly, the additional scriptures section provides the remaining scriptures on the topic for reference in additional counseling sessions.

What’s Missing

There is nothing missing that would detract from the usefulness of this resource but I would like to see wide margins and note pages, especially notes pages. Frequently, when spending time in the Scriptures, we will find a fresh insight which could benefit a counselee and it would be good to have space to journal those thoughts.

Overall Thoughts and Use Case

I have a sermon scheduled for 10/20 on the Bible and depression. My current lesson prep is, actually, following the flow laid out in the care and counsel Bible. Naturally, I will not be able to cover everything in a single sermon but this will be most helpful.

I really wish that the Care and Counsel Bible had mass market availability from Thomas Nelson as opposed to only being available to AACC members. The Care and Counsel Bible, more than any other “study” Bible needs to be in the hands of any pastor who finds himself concerned with the spiritual welfare of the members of his congregation. It is, of course, basic enough to help a new pastor who has not engaged in Biblical Counseling/Pastoral Care before and in-depth enough to provide a solid refresher for the seasoned counselor.

I am beyond pleased with the Care and Counsel Bible. In the week that I have had it, the Bible has already seen enough use to let me know that it will most definitely be getting the re-bind treatment in the next few months. When I send it in, I will have some note pages added and a couple extra ribbons.

 

CSB Restoration Bible

CSB Restoration Bible

 

This review is going to be a little different from my other reviews. Instead of simply commenting on the book and its features, which I will do, I am also going to suggest some real life uses for the book, the CSB Restoration Study Bible. (Note: Holman Bible Publishers provided this Bible free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I am not required to give positive feedback and my opinions are my own.) It is available in paperback, brown leathersoft (I am reviewing this edition) and an e-book.

As is our habit, let us begin with some features from the publisher:

Features Include:

  • Over 450 guided, devotional-style notes with Restoration-centered themes
  • Seven Life Restoration Principles
  • A “First 30-days” Restoration devotional
  • Book introductions highlighting “Restoration Themes” in each book
  • 66 restoration profiles of biblical characters
  • 10 full page features filled with scriptures highlighting biblical themes related to restoration
  • Index of all features for quick and easy reference
  • One and three year Bible reading plans
  • 52-week Scripture memory plan
  • Topical concordance
  • Two-column text
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • Presentation page
  • Full-color maps

Translation:

The Restoration Bible is offered in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translation. CSB is what is called a mediating or optimal equivalence translation meaning it endeavors to be as literal as possible while still capturing the original meaning as would be understood by the original reader. I have remarked before that if you could merge the New American Standard Bible and the New International Version into a single volume, this is what you would get.

CSB offers a host of translator’s footnotes; it continues the tradition of its predecessor, HCSB, of being one of the most well annotated versions of the Bible available. Because of this, CSB works very well for lesson preparation whether that is the Sunday Sermon, a small group study, or one on one discipleship. The CSB is very trustworthy and it is a translation which I reference weekly in my lesson prep.

Cover and Binding

This is brown leathersoft, an imitation leather, and I have to tell you, if the box did not tell me that it was imitation, I would swear this were a calfskin Bible; the imitation is that convincing. It includes a sewn binding for lifelong usage. Holman categorizes this as a deluxe Bible, meaning it has more premium materials than a hardcover or paperback Bible but it does not rise to the level of a premium (genuine leather, calfskin, or goatskin). The binding is quite satisfactory. I have tossed it into my back a few times with no issue. It will easily last for your entire ministry career.

Paper, Font, and Layout:

The paper is soft white, a little thin but still sufficiently opaque, and very soft and smooth to the touch. It feels a little like cotton but is very clearly still Bible paper. You should be able to mark in the text with a ball-point pen or a colored pencil. As a general rule, I do not recommend a liquid highlighter in a Bible as the paper is sufficiently thin to allow the liquid to bleed.

The font is a crisp black and I would estimate at approximately 9-point font. I actually find this text block to be easier to read than the large print ultrathin reference Bible which has a very similar font. The Restoration Bible is a black letter edition, meaning that they do not place the words of Christ in red. Red letter editions a just fine to use but since I always write my notes in red pen, they can be challenging so black letter is a better choice for studying and preaching.

Speaking of study and preaching, the text is laid out in a double column paragraphed format as opposed to a verse by verse format; each paragraph starts on a new line. Verse by verse is my preference but there are practical issues which frequently pose challenges.

Lastly, there is are two ribbon markers to help you remember your place, one for the Old Testament and one for the New.

For the remainder of this review, I will be commenting on the content and ways to use it.

 The Restoration Bible is clearly designed to be used with others, especially in Biblical Counseling, and I recommend that both the counselor and counselee have their own copy of this Restoration Bible for use together.

The Restoration Principles

In the front materials (what precedes the Biblical text), we find an article outlining the Restoration Principles. It is a 2-page article listing each principle, using the acronym R.E.S.T.O.R.E., offering a brief explanation, and then the primary Scripture from which the principle is drawn.

Restoration Devotional

A 30-day devotional is offered to give us an overview of the Restoration Principles and to show us how they are drawn from the Scripture to develop a Christlike mindset. There are several ways this could be used and I will suggest two: 1st the devotional can be used consecutively and, in a counseling/discipleship session, 7 days could be treated. As an alternate, this could be used as a 30 week overview so that the disciple and mentor can cover each devotion in one week. In either case, the Restoration Devotional offers a very solid foundation to develop Christ exalting thoughts and habits

In-text articles

Every book of the Bible contains in-text articles, in a green box, treating various restoration principles found in the text. In studying a particular book, systematically, you could deal with each article as they come up. Alternately, you have the option to study directly through each restoration principle.

Book Introductions

Each book of the Bible includes a 3-page introduction. Page one provides an overview of Spiritual Reformation in that particular book. Page two offers the usual information on author, setting, intended audience , outline, etc. Page three is really unique- it is a RESTORE Chart listing each principle and the appropriate passages from the book to guide you in your study of the Restoration Principles.

Topical Index

Instead of a Concordance, we are given a Topical Index. A Topical Index is more appropriate for this Bible as it specifically treats subjects (i.e. addictions, sins, spiritual wounds) and guides through the specific Scriptures related to that subject. While I recommend book by book teaching, this Bible is geared toward discipleship and counseling and as such, a topical study will probably be more practical as it enables teaching to be tailored  to the needs of each disciple.

The Reading Plans

There are 3 plans: a three year plan for more in-depth reading, a one year plan to get every word of the Bible in a “normal” reading plan, and thirdly, a 52 week reading plan geared toward committing Scripture to memory. The last plan is, to me, the most important; the only way to experience true restoration from sin is to overcome it with the Scripture which we have committed to memory.

Final Thoughts

The existence of the Restoration Bible is a great comfort to me. As a pastor, I encounter the hurting on a daily basis and this is one of a select few tools which I turn to every time I minister. Again, I recommend that both teacher and disciple have a copy, together, so that they can follow the Scripture simultaneously.

I am grateful to New Life, who designed this Bible, and to Holman, who published it. The only true pathway to healing, hope, and joy in Christ is through the means He offered to us, the Bible, and this Bible, especially, focuses on caring for Christ’s wounded lambs and restoring them to relationship with the Loving Shepherd.

 

To my pastoral brethren, I am going to go a step further than a simple recommendation and say that you NEED the Restoration Bible. The demands on our time are many and intense and we can turn to this tool to refresh ourselves and to help those entrusted to our care be restored to fellowship with our glorious Lord. Please, find yourself a copy and use it regularly.

 

Precepts for Spiritual Renewal

Precepts for Spiritual Renewal

On a daily basis, I deal with people who are carrying wounds, some emotional and some phyicial and I deal with others who simply feel like their faith has gone dry/stale/stagnant. One of the most helpful tools that I have come across, as a pastor, is the NIV Spiritual Renewal Bible from New Life Ministries, which offers 7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal. I would like to share those precepts with you, today, and we will expand upon them as we go.

 

7 Precepts for Spiritual Renewal

  1. Seek God and Surrender to Him (1 Peter 5:6)
  2. See the truth (Psalm 139:1)
  3. Speak the truth (James 5:16
  4. Accept responsibility (Galatians 6:5)
  5. Grieve, forgive, let go (Matthew 6:14)
  6. Transform your life (2 Corinthains 1:3-4)
  7. Preserve your spiritual gains (1 Peter 1:8

 

No matter the wounds you carry nor how dry your faith may seem, these 7 Precepts will help you to refresh your soul and to restore your fellowship with God the Holy Spirit. Everything you could ever need to commune with the Lord is found in your Bible and there is no wound you carry which is too  severe for the Holy Spirit to heal. 

If you are struggling, today, I invite you to trun back to your Bible. There you will find the Holy Spirit waiteing to meet you as you pray over the Scriptures. He will show you HIs ways and restore you to fellowship with Hum. 

Until next time, Grace to you.

 

 

Restoration Principles

Restoration Principles

Many Christians, today, live with brokenness in their relationships with God and others. The Bible is God’s gift to us for our restoration and healing. The content which follows originated with New Life Ministries and is used by permisison. May you be blessed in the reading.

R – Rest and Reflection

This Restoration Principle focuses on taking the time to slow down—to rest and reflect on the life issue, circumstance, or difficult season we face. Through rest and reflection, we gain new insights and perspectives that help foster honesty, admission, responsibility, and a right attitude as we begin our journey toward life restoration.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”

(Matthew 11:28).

E – Eternal Perspective

This Restoration Principle focuses on developing an eternal perspective toward the life issue, circumstance, or difficult season. When we begin to understand who God is, and when we accept and stand on the promises and truths found in God’s Word, we are empowered to walk forward with confidence and hope in our restoration journey.

“For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration —“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”

(Jeremiah 29:11).

S – Support

This Restoration Principle focuses on having the humility and strength to ask for help and support as we continue on the path toward life restoration. We were never meant to do life alone. Hope, joy, and peace come when we humble ourselves before God, fully surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, and invite others to come alongside us to help us in our journey.

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you”

(Luke 11:9).

T – Thanksgiving and Contentment

This Restoration Principle focuses on being thankful and content with God’s blessings so that we remove any obstacles that may prevent us from being good stewards of those blessings. Thankfulness and contentment bring us joy and peace as we continue this journey of restoration and grow in our relationship with Jesus.

Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

(1 Thessalonians 5:18).

O – Other-centeredness

We all have a tendency to be self-centered, particularly in difficult seasons of life. This Restoration Principle focuses on exhibiting the love of Jesus to family, friends, coworkers, and others in need. Letting go of selfish desires and earthly security and choosing instead to focus on others and the truth of God’s Word bring us freedom and joy.

“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you”

(John 15:12).

R – Relationships

This Restoration Principle focuses on restoring relationships, resolving relational conflicts, and accepting forgiveness from those we may have wronged or giving forgiveness to those who may have wronged us. Life restoration comes through living in community and right relationship with others, so that we may encourage one another, serve one another, keep one another accountable, and experience the harmony and reward of restored relationships.

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts

(Ecclesiastes 4:9).

E – Exercise of Faith

This Restoration Principle focuses on exercising and living out our faith through service to others. This includes trusting God, applying Scripture in our everyday life, helping other Christians grow in their faith, and sharing the good news of the gospel with those who may not know Jesus. Lasting life restoration is found and sustained when we are able to share our restoration story and the hope, joy, and peace we found in God’s Word and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God

(1 Peter 4:10).

 

A 12 Step Program as an Instrument of Discipleship

A 12 Step Program as an Instrument of Discipleship

There are a number of well-intentioned Christians who will tell you that there is no room in Christianity for a 12-Step Program. My response may or may not surprise you: I think they are wrong. It is my long considered opinion that a 12-Step Program is fully suited to being used in discipleship and I say that as someone who has gone through both A.A. and Celebrate Recovery and have been free of alcohol for 14 years. Any kind of addiction is a terrible taskmaster, as any sin is, and unless you have struggled with an addiction you will never really understand it and you may struggle with properly discipling an addict.

Addictions are both medical and spiritual conditions; a 12-Step Program, when properly utilized, will instill a proper discipline in behavior and, paired with the appropriate Scriptures, provide a spiritual foundation as well. How? Let’s look:

Steps 1-5 deal with the human condition and our need for a savior.

STEP 1: We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies—that our lives had become unmanageable.

“I know that nothing good lives in me. . . . I want to do what is right, but I can’t” (Romans 7:18; see also John 8:31-36; Romans 7:14-25).

STEP 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

“God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13; see also Romans 4:6-8; Ephesians 1:6-8; Colossians 1:21-22; Hebrews 11:1-10).

STEP 3: We made a decision to turn our wills and our lives over to the care of God.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1; see also Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 10:14-16; James 4:7-10).

STEP 4: We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

“Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD(Lamentations 3:40; see also Matthew 7:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

STEP 5: We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16; see also Psalms 32:1-5; 51:1-3; 1 John 1:2-6).

 

Steps 6 & 7 deal with walking humbly with God.

STEP 6: We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor”(James 4:10; see also Romans 6:5-11; Philippians 3:12-14).

STEP 7: We humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9; see also Luke 18:9-14; 1 John 5:13-15).

 Steps 8-10 begin to teach relational holiness and how to restore relationships with those we have sinned against.

STEP 8: We made a list of all the persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

“Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31; see also Colossians 3:12-15; 1 John 3:10-20). 

STEP 9: We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

“If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar and . . . someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God”(Matthew 5:23-24; see also Luke 19:1-10; 1 Peter 2:21-25).

STEP 10: We continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall”(1 Corinthians 10:12; see also Romans 5:3-6; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 1 John 1:8-10).

In step 11, we begin to practice the discipline of regular prayer. I would include journaling, here.

STEP 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart”(Colossians 4:2; see also Isaiah 40:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Step 12 deals with the Great Commission

STEP 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.“

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Galatians 6:1; see also Isaiah 61:1-3; Titus 3:3-7; 1 Peter 4:1-5)

It is true that a 12-Step Program is not the most sophisticated discipleship program you will ever encounter but we need to remember that most people who are going through a program either are not Christians or are severely lapsed in their walk with Christ. The idea is to redirect the disciple back to discipline and scripture.