Straighten Me Out!

Balance, Alignment and Peace in Total Health

It was May of 2016 and I stepped out of the end of a pilates class with a great group of people. I thought about my balance from a year before when I had a mild TBI and needed 10 months of physical therapy from three different specialists, one for vestibular balance. It occurred to me how the class and prior trainings had given me the alignment of both sides of my body and I was at peace, physically speaking.

It’s great to know that one hour of exercise can give us what we need to have a form of homeostasis with our bodies—the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes. My right and left foot were equally planted along with a developed core. Wholeness of our inner-selves relates, however, to peace and unity with God and others in the faith. As we are strengthened and find balance, we strengthen others towards peace so that no other mortal word but “peace” brings such pleasure to us. Yet sometimes we have a disordered sense of peace, where our priorities are self-serving and out of wack with good intentions. 

I do not enjoy peace because of a distortion of crossing the line of natural order in a form of personal and selfish regulation. I put these things on myself! In the book of Job, his final appeal to God includes questions of wonder, such as Where is God in this? “If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; (Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!) if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out.” Job 31:5-8 esv

Our spiritual selves, combined with our emotions and inner thoughts, also need to be in alignment. The balance we need in life includes a focus that is true north, keeping eyes forward and feet solidly planted. We can be stretched to the limits, and must persist and have perseverance to the end. We know how “the peace of all things is the tranquility of order. This lends to the peace of the body in the duly proportioned arrangements of its parts giving us our eternal law of the well-ordered and obedient life—-spiritual health in Christ. The peace of body and soul is the well-ordered harmonious life and health of the living and is both now and in the hearafter”, (a conclusive paraphrase I found in the premise of St. Augustine’s City of God, Book 19).

Pray: LORD God, give us your peace and health now as we live in the eternal light of Jesus Christ and the hope found only in Him. I confess I can be miserable when I see disordered lives and falsity playing out in the world and I am thrown off-balance. Straighten me out. LORD, when I turn into myself mistakenly and do not trust You, forgive me. Continue to help me serve YOU so I am aligned with your principles, once again, and give us your peace. Amen

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Alive and Well in Christ Jesus?

“God of the living” Luke 20:36-38

I had an incident as a child that perhaps you also may have experienced in one form or another. I accidentally dropped an old-fashioned thermometer and the mercury beaded out on to the floor. Although warned not to touch, I vividly remember the wonder of watching the silvery pieces come back together as I nudged them with the pencil tip. Nothing was more exciting as I realized how they were meant to be together with full elemental unity. 

There is an infinite momentum that keeps us alive and brings us together! As the Son of God is from the Father, through the catalyst, our Holy Spirit, they remain One, and we are one in them (John 17:11). And like the splintered mercury, Our Father God had to separate His son so we may be in the land of the living, rejoining with our God-head into eternity. We are also one in the resurrection.

B.B. Warfield said, “Christ is everything a man is for eternity.” We will reach our fullest potential in Him, but not yet. We cannot be separated from God as we are confirmed by the resurrection where death has no sting; death has died. The dead are raised! And another great, Geerhardus Vos, said that our faith comes from “He himself who perfectly encompasses and governs it“, showing us how we see that our very being belongs to God who oversees our lives. Trust in The Creator’s sovereign care through the Holy Spirit given to you.

Has your heart been proven true that you are never fully consumed but you are alive and awake in the living Christ? Our union with Christ is our daily mainstay, dear Christian. He is our very breath. And the unquenchable fire. How amazing our lives in Christ Jesus are as we participate in life with Him. Our union in Him is with a promise to blaze forever, as we are fed through His eternal source in the Word of God, and with others of the faith.

PRAY: Our Triune Lord, we praise and honor You alone as we know how we have life in you.  Through You, we live and move and have our being (read Acts 17:24-28). We thank You how we are not “dead men walking”. God of the living, help us to live for you each day. Be our ongoing, organic photosynthesis, growing us in the light of your Being in the land of the living. Be our inextinguishable fire now. Show us how that works in our lives today. For your glory, Amen.

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Caring as Jesus cares

“Is it Lawful to Heal on the Sabbath?” A Devotion from  Luke 14:1-6 (esv).

On a particular Sabbath, the day of rest for the Jews, we see the Master as a master teacher of hearts. As Jesus was being watched carefully in a possible set-up, He was a few steps ahead of the Pharisees and lawyers, responding, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”. He went straight to the living reality of their lives prior to His act of healing the man amongst them who suffered from “dropsy” or modern-day edema. 

His question tested their kind-heartedness, not their expert knowledge of the 613 levitical laws created from the mosaic commandments so they could have salvation by works. Most likely, they weren’t expecting Jesus to bring them into what was good and right in their own lives. They were silent in response when questioned as our merciful Jesus took the diseased man, healed him and sent him away. He proved the priority of love in His new covenant salvation by faith!

He returned to convict the hearts of all gathered, demonstrating not only the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, but pointing out their potential existing considerations of kindness and mercy. Jesus goes a step further with them, making it personal; their very own son, the essential working ox. If you love your own so much, can’t you also love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 2:39)? They are again silenced and could not reply as they must have known how Jesus was right. 

Our Lord of the Sabbath saw beyond the schemes of man into wicked accusing hearts, uninhibited to do what was right. He cancelled the hypocrisy of man’s impossible laws, and demonstrated the superior eternal law of love for mankind. Salvation in Christ Jesus depends upon the law accomplished in Him. His love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14). For when we have Christ we also have His righteous love.

Dear Jesus, Your law of love is superior to any way we know. Please convict our hearts when we think we have all the answers. Teach us not to fool ourselves in self-righteous views of others but to actually care for their welfare. Help us to not remain silent once convicted by You, Jesus. But instead, assist our words towards love, mercy and forgiveness with sincere hearts, so you may be glorified in our lives. Amen

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Coviding Days are Healing Days

How have you experienced the days of sheltering during the Covid19 pandemic? If you are like me, you had an initial but temporary “perplexing” on a daily basis while our “stay at home” orders took place across your locality and eventually, the entire country. March 13, 2020 was our first day to be “quarantined” although none of us were ill. Each day then each week brought various layers of both good and humbling times with your immediate household and this forced seclusion by governmental authorities but also highlighted the values we treasure, yet with an eternal perspective. Many Christian ethics of the home were restored to reemphasize the goodness of the family unit such as slowing down: this brought deliberate and extended meal preparation time and enjoyment, noticing the elongated and the lingering spring transitions in the forsythia bushes and more of creation blossoming, the bird migrations and the swirling wind’s whispering responses of Spring. All of creation appeared, clearly to me, to be waiting on their Creator, Jesus. 

It was a few weeks before Easter. As time progressed and each week brought more cancellations like our planned trip to visit my daughter and husband in Colorado. That week, I noticed more of God in the full-moon of passover, creation being more brilliant than ever. The light spoke in a reflecting and golden tone of luminosity, foreboding me to prepare for the death & resurrection of my LORD.  He was more apparent than the years before, or ever before. Would He soon return? God stayed with me, working on me as He wanted me to continue to grow in the close, deep relationship we have with Jesus, our LORD.

So I experienced further “idol shedding” in my own faith-walk, questioning my inner motivations, why I do so much for others, serving the poor, caring, counseling, mentoring, initiating and implementing  in my biblical counseling ministry and church leadership roles like teaching, small group leadership and missions work. My desire has always been to follow God’s will while I please Him in my heart, being patient to wait for God’s sovereign care of all during the uncertainty of these “coviding” days. Yes, I invented a word “coviding” as I became more and more comfortable with the dictates of the changes. Notice my words that are in quotations, they are unique to these “healing” days.

I had been directed in November of 2019, to take six months off from my normal grind which has many spokes, and I was already in a hiatus from my one-on-one counseling work from January to June of 2020, trying to be motivated to write a counselor’s toolbox article on my #Ushapedgospel doctrinal method in counseling and other ways that I present the gospel in counseling by drawing pictures to show what Christ has done for us and how that relates to living well for Him. But, I’m not really a writer. I love theology, understanding church history and how that applies to my present life and the world around me,  but I’m definitely not a proper theologian. Sure, I get it, but was never meant to push out a convincing book. It’s not a God-given calling or gift to do so. I only want to get to my article to help other counselors in training, show a method that makes sense and that states the gospel—-who we are in Christ because of what He has done for us—-his incarnate life, death and resurrection and ascension apply to us presently as He has given Himself for us and to us— we extend the healing power of the Word through His Holy Spirit now. #Ushapedgospel

God had been preparing me to enrich my relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit and even more trust in the person of Jesus Christ to continue to grow in faith—-progressive sanctification, the distinctive of my biblical counseling ministry and teaching. He moved me more and more away from reliance on the world and its self-wrought expectations more towards His fruitful ways—even before March, He was preparing me to be healed in heart, mind, body, spirit and soul. My recent learning on the Puritans seemed more relevant, my time with fellow Christians was more purposeful for care and quiet times of counsel, listening, hearing and relating. Old counselees started calling me in Mid-march, several having panic attacks, wanting a shoulder to lean on, and a prayer of comfort. Then, all of a sudden, I was in Zoom meetings in abundance. I was ready, willing and able to persevere.

I worked out some of my personal kinks as one of the first things I came to terms with during the “lockdown” was how God has prepared me for death already, so I have no fear in meeting Him when He calls me home. Of course, I wore a mask in stores, washed my hands, cleaned produce and more, but this “coviding” time gave me continued confidence in His plan for my life, unafraid of man’s dictates in this world. I then went through layers of personal growth with Jesus, including shedding idols I didn’t see, finding contentment more in basic needs being met, working on heart issues and reflective memories of failure and weakness. I was realigning myself through the Holy Spirit with God’s priorities in my life and enjoying more quiet days and eternal perspective-thinking and response. I was grateful for the six week study I had planned becoming a twelve week study in Romans 8, the perfect chapter of the bible to unite with other like-minded sisters in Christ, while mutually sharing and developing our faith with each other. Resources were readily provided to heal and be healing while sanctification continued in our group.

As I came to the end of my broken, pitiful self, and grew deeper in relationship with Jesus all the day long, He gladly reciprocated His love for me, reminding me of His unfailing love, a gift I received so sweetly. He showed me how He is already glorified. I’ve been journaling these eight weeks so I found myself all over the bible with imperatives for living, but especially in the book of Isaiah, listening to God’s voice of promises for His church, His people. 

The promised gifts backed by scripture verses that God made more relevant during the “Healing Coviding Days” are:

God is Sovereign: Psalm 47:8-9 “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth along to God; he is highly exalted!” 

Peace and Quiet, Praying for Others and our Leaders – 1 Timothy 2:1-2 “First of all, then I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Experience peacefulness, being still and knowing “God is God” (Psalm 46:10). Prayer creates a peaceful context for listening well and seeing God for others. Phil 4:17, Psalm 113:7 for the barren woman came to mind as I was, sometimes, simply given these verses through the Holy Spirit to intercede for others, I most likely will never meet, during these healing days.

 PASSOVER MOON April 7, 2020, Sea Isle City NJ 

Belonging to the LORD for His work – Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way but the LORD establishes his steps.” Isaiah 56:6-8 “..The LORD GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” John 6:29 – Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe inhume who he has sent.” This scripture focus was also significant to me during 9/11 in 2001 as the Holy Spirit pushed me to my knees to pray for our country. Psalm 68:5- God is a Father to the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation,” for work I did with a Deep Waters grant for Westminster Theological Seminary and Rishama International in March called Our Father to the fatherless.

Being Safe in Christ; the “Passover” experience – Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around this who fear him, and delivers them.” Having a full experience of mind, spirit, body and soul. A discipleship of self-control, 2 Tim 1:7ff “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control…But I am not ashamed, for I now whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Psalm 48:13-14 “..consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is GOD, our God forever and ever. He will guide us forever.”

Shedding of heart-Idols and wrestling in faith for others- Isaiah 30:15-22 “…in returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength…the LORD waits to be gracious to you…And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,”…You will scatter your idols as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone”! “

Waiting on the LORD’s return Isaiah 40:4-6 “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory fo the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth fo the LORD has spoken.”

God’s Promises are always Fulfilled: Genesis 9:12-13, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” 

DOUBLE RAINBOW appears, Sea Isle City, Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, 2020

It’s now time to continue on and wait patiently for the LORD’s return, one and each day at a time with joyful expectation! Amen

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” Romans 8:19

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Being a Good Steward, it’s essential. God’s Kingdom is Priority

Living as God’s Steward, are you doing that? How is it that all that I am and all that I have belongs to God? Two particular verses come to mind when I think of how God has taken both my husband and I from very humble financial circumstances to ones of more privilege yet with more danger to worldly wealth, while we are committed to giving to God’s Kingdom, church and missions as He leads us to do so. 

  1. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
  2. “…I am God, your God…For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.” Psalm 50:7-11, (shortened for emphasis).

These verses reflect my life lessons and show me how we are like the nations, “a mere drop in the bucket”, as we have very temporary lives in the “now” of the eternal plan of God. Completely humbled by a seminary friend who asked me to partner with him in prayer and speech at the start up of a Nigerian, Keffi school and orphanage, www.rishama.org, I’ve been obedient to have a couple of fundraisers and ongoing advisement and visional prayer for Rishama, as an associate board member. This is one of two major projects at present where God has used my Deep Waters Ministry Fund to help provide financial resources as I am directed by His Spirit to do so. 

You see, it is not that our lives belong to us, but they belong to God. Sometimes, I stand back in wonder and know that I had nothing to do, accept obedience and priority of my relationship with Christ Jesus, with where I stand today in His provisional giving for others through me. The believers role is that we were designed to manage what God owns; material resources, finances, possessions, our bodies and health, our spiritual and mental capacities, our life experiences (at age 55, more of these to give away now), and the time we have on earth (knowing He can take us home whenever He wants). Our perspective is eternal in this regard.

Do you ever feel like you are not doing enough OR that you could actually “do more”? I have found conviction in Malachi 3:7-10, “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statues and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, “How shall we return?” Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say “How have we robbed you?” In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Wow! How convicting that there is a time where “there is no more need”! And that this shows me how we can “rob” God when we don’t put our total selves to the needed commitment in His kingdom storehouse. Are you willing to “not rob God”?

I am willing and I certainly do even over-extend myself at times, or give sacrificially and that often means doing things (like driving on a terrible polluted highway each week to counsel Cambodian refugee children who receive benefits from my Deep Waters Ministry) that are very difficult or that I at least wish were easier. Check out Logan Hope School and their needs at http://www.loganhope.org! I “rob” God when my heart-attitude or fleshly self comes in and says “do you really want to do this, you’re not even prepared today”!  I’m grateful these times are minimal and I learn to be content in my callings and offerings to the Lord, as He is with me in it and keeps me healthy to do it! Yet, I am weak.

I was recently in Luke 16 and had a discussion about serving our One Master, Jesus Christ our Lord, and not “serving money” in our investments but seeing Him in how we invest as well as spend. I have a few stories that might seem odd but when I have let seminary students borrow my Pocono Mountain home for retreats and they always thank me, I say “Just remember when I’m on the streets and broke, you can give me a couch to sleep on”. This is seriously meant, as you never know what tomorrow may bring! So, like the Dishonest Manager, being shrewd in the Luke 16 parable, I hope I have several couches I could crash on if ever needed!

As a counselor, I have the resources of experience, training and tools. God has also given me many ways to be creative, even “on the spot” as the Spirit leads! I am a visual learner and teacher. I often “draw a picture” in my counseling time and use concentric circles which are very popular these days because they are effective. For example, Your Responsibility Circle with God in the center and then Self, then World, Church, Government, Family and Work tell us what is our responsibility and what is not, yet often they overlap like in a Venn diagram. God knows when and how He might use your resources if you, good steward, are prepared, geared up and ready to do so. Have faith and prepare to hear “well done good and faithful steward”. Amen

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What is Biblical Counseling in Deep Waters?

My Deep Waters Ministry (DWM) is a biblical counseling ministry that has 3 branches: Biblical Counseling, Christian Education & Discipleship Resources, and Missional work to the Homeless. If my personal ministry of counseling, advising or teaching or if a partner’s ministry falls in to these 3 categories, it may be a DWM funded project, frequently with my oversight and involvement.

I counsel (one-on-one) in my home office, on Zoom or Skype or at various churches under the Pastor’s or Chaplain’s care, knowledge and follow up. I provide christian education and resources for facilitation of small groups, and missional homeless advisement (an example is getting welfare secular youth into a Christian retreat along with a “faith essay” contest). I have worked on a secular board of governance in the 5 county region welfare environment for homelessness of youth, representing myself as a biblical counselor, mentor and Christian voice in a sea of chaos.

I have partnered with two Christian schools in Philadelphia; ICHSPhila.org and Logan Hope school for counseling, Christian counseling implementation and training with an array of ministry.

I counsel women and students in my immediate community (Conestoga HS, Berwyn and Great Valley SD, Malvern PA), college students online and others who mainly suffer with anxiety.  Ministry fruit has appeared in heart-change, growth and transformation out of the painful depths of suicide, sexual harm and loneliness and depression struggles. I was a Senior High youth leader/teacher at my weekly church youth group for high school girls, taught adult Sunday School and am a member of our church’s Missions Committee (Great Valley Presbyterian, EPC).

If you are interested in connecting for counseling and/or resources, please email me at cindasaid@me.com

Blessings,

Cinda Marturano, M.A

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“Draw Near to Me and I will Draw Near to You.”

Cinda Marturano, January 27, 2007—-Westminster Theological Seminary, Counseling in the Local Church class;

My first thought of the day is connected to my heart; “Lord, I’m being drawn by you to encounter you today and be close to you through the Holy Spirit. You approached me, belong to me and are with me today. I am yours and you are mine. We are a part of something together. Bless you, Bless me.” Is this a dream mode or a special place where we meet our God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit? Is He really “there” for us?

The fact that God makes Himself known to us in prayer is something that I want to share with other believers. Over the years of my Christian life I have experienced prayer in many different ways and modes; personally, in small groups, in large settings, corporately, and in conferences of thousands. One of the most honorable ways to pray is alone as Matthew 6:6 tell us to “go into your room, pray to your Father who is unseen…and He will reward you.” This time of prayer alone has its purpose as does praying in twos and threes.

Prayer can be a means to grow in faith with in the body of Christ and in the Redemptive community God desires for us to have. In groups, we can “do” prayer in many ways.

Establishing Prayer and Encouragement Partners (PAE) “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”Matthew 18:20;

I see a need for established and organized prayer and encouragement partners (PAE) who will in essence be “peer counselors” within small groups, ministries and bible studies. This idea is nothing new, but an often missed need of commitment to each other.  Through prayer and accountability, relationships will strengthen, supporting the bedrock of Christ’s church, His people.  Peer counselors admonish each other, equally.  There is not a counselor/client relationship as traditional counseling takes place.

Why is prayer and encouragement so important to us believers? Our heart attitude is dictated by Ephesians 4:2:

“Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Built up and mature, we reach fullness of Christ and desire progressive sanctification so we can have oneness in Christ, the unity of believers.  We also need to call on our Father with a sincere heart out of our need, knowing that He is available, accessible and willing and waiting to help us.  Together, in pairs of two or three, we can uphold each other’s burdens, speak to God in the unity of the Spirit and know each other well.  This is redemptive community in action and interaction with God.

Meeting together to pray is a way to be understood and to understand your partner with an obvious and desired called presence of the Holy Spirit, our true comforter.  This peer counseling is supported through Christ and by others.  We witness change as our heart attitude learns to be humble and gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love. Jesus’ truths will reign as we live it out.

Inception and Facilitation of Prayer and Encouragement Partners (PAE)

Prayer is for everyone in the church.  Yet many will not want to participate as a PAE. With the understanding that some with the gift of “faith” can strengthen another through this type of partnering, it will increasingly aide in biblical peer counseling. It will allow for a “new” method to add some fresh air to assist in the changing of hearts for all involved.  We will pray and counsel the word together.

Let us take Jesus’ example of prayer in John 17:20-23 to heart:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.“

We are under Christ Jesus alone with our spiritual gifts of faith and encouragement and in the Lord when we love each other in a concrete way through spending time praying with and for another. Who are your PAE partners? We have drawn near to God and He is nearer to us because Jesus is here with us as our ultimate Counselor.

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Psalms, the Gift that Gives to Your Heart

The Psalms are the Gift that keeps on Giving for the Sufferer of Anxiety and Distress, but How? In relationships with the faithful:

Last week when I met up with a fellow Biblical Counselor turned Chaplain in Washington DC we had time to encourage and mutually edify one another in the Lord. And the Museum of the Bible and Tomb of Christ exhibit at Nat Geo even added more reassurance of our faith in Jesus by knowing the Master of History is with us now, proving Himself as the Living Word. Jesus confirmed who we are in loving service for the sake of others by spending time together while we sought His presence to guide us.

In our exchange, the study of the Psalms for a need at a senior citizen’s home in Baltimore came up. It would bring about much-needed small group interactions and build, hopefully, more trusting friendships. By having the Psalms read and discussed in order to share the heart and the eventual telling of  their own great life stories, the group will make the inroad of knowing and trusting God in their lives together. To share in love and mutuality of understanding could be part of the needed growth. Our discussion of the Psalms also encouraged us to speak honestly about our own pains, misunderstanding and aggravations in ministry. And the blessing was continual then and even now at this writing.

On the way home to Philadelphia, driving in the snowstorm, a counselee of mine called to talk about stresses of how everything seemed to be intensifying in her life and how the accumulation of stresses are so real. As a college student, the first week of December usually provides nail-biting behavior inducement, no doubt with exams, papers due and lack of sleep. Since I had to keep my eyes on the road more than usual, and still wanted to bring Christ into our discussion, I quickly recalled the discussion with my colleague on the Psalms. If it would work for the senior center, why not a college student? Asking her to go to her bible and open it to a chosen Psalm, she came up with Psalm 31 “Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit”,  and read it aloud to me. Audible through my car speaker system, I pulled out 3 verbs for her to hold on to for this week of abnormality. I reiterated these words in conversation of how God does indeed make Himself known to her and is always with us in our suffering.

What 3 verbs speak to you? How do they express your heart pings and pains? And what life situations do you find them in?

Psalm 31, a Psalm of David:

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me;

rescue me speedily!

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;

and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;

you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,

but I trust in the Lord.

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,

because you have seen my affliction;

you have known the distress of my soul,

and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my eye is wasted from grief;

my soul and my body also.

10 

For my life is spent with sorrow,

and my years with sighing;

my strength fails because of my iniquity,

and my bones waste away.

11 

Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,

especially to my neighbors,

and an object of dread to my acquaintances;

those who see me in the street flee from me.

12 

I have been forgotten like one who is dead;

I have become like a broken vessel.

13 

For I hear the whispering of many—

terror on every side!—

as they scheme together against me,

as they plot to take my life.

14 

But I trust in you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my God.”

15 

My times are in your hand;

rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

16 

Make your face shine on your servant;

save me in your steadfast love!

17 

O Lord, let me not be put to shame,

for I call upon you;

let the wicked be put to shame;

let them go silently to Sheol.

18 

Let the lying lips be mute,

which speak insolently against the righteous

in pride and contempt.

19 

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,

which you have stored up for those who fear you

and worked for those who take refuge in you,

in the sight of the children of mankind!

20 

In the cover of your presence you hide them

from the plots of men;

you store them in your shelter

from the strife of tongues.

21 

Blessed be the Lord,

for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me

when I was in a besieged city.

22 

I had said in my alarm,[b]

“I am cut off from your sight.”

But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy

when I cried to you for help.

23 

Love the Lord, all you his saints!

The Lord preserves the faithful

but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.

24 

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the Lord!

 

The Psalter, in German, 1545 translated by Martin Luther, Wittenberg, Germany:

 

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Eugene Peterson’s “Tell it Slant”-How not to be a Pharisee

In his book “Tell It Slant”, Eugene Peterson brings concepts from parables and prayers of Jesus to consider for counseling, personal living through heart-transformation, and for our progressive sanctification. Peterson uniquely speaks to the heart that is open to change and that is my goal as a biblical counselor–to speak to hearts for the purpose of redemptive, godly change.  However, as Christians we often believe that we have it all together and are not in need of change. We forget that no one is righteous and that Jesus came to call sinners (Rom 3:10; Mk 2:17). We are easily capable of being self-righteous instead of righteous through faith (Rom 1:17) in the sight of the Lord and in His atoning work on the cross, alone.

The sin of self-righteousness interests me as a biblical counselor in the area of self-examination and peer-counseling of my fellow ministry leaders. My first conviction came in the story “The Lost Brothers: Luke 15” in Chapter 7. Here, there are four “mini-stories” that show who the “lost brother” can be while Jesus does His authentic soteriological work. The first parable, known as “The Lost Sheep”, parallels the other three mini-stories in Luke 15 and highlights the degree that a Shepherd goes to rescue one sheep who strays from the flock. Peterson exposes the sin of the church, the heart-state of the Pharisee, at the point in the text just prior to the parable:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And

the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying ‘This man receives sinners and

eats with them’” (Lk 15:1,2).

Just like the Israelites in Ex 16:2 who were dissatisfied with God’s way of provision of “bread of heaven” or “manna”, the Pharisees demonstrate discontentment and disapproval of God’s provision for salvation. They play judge and are self-righteous as if they know better than God. They “grumble”, or “diegongudzon” in greek–a word that has an onomatopoeiac sound of murmuring and muttering.  Like the Prodigal Son story, the pretense and posturing of the Pharisees prior to the Lost Sheep story exposes the heart of jealousy similar to the older son when his run-away brother returns (Lk 15:28-30). I can almost hear 99 sheep “baa-baahing” in discontentment while Jesus seeks to save the one lost! Instead of rejoicing, as the angels do in heaven, the Pharisees grumble about the way Jesus saves the unrighteous. Do we also forget that Christ gave us His righteousness upon our acceptance of faith? For “when a sinner receives Christ, he also receives the gift of Christ’s own righteousness.”

There are heavenly benefits in the kingdom for our works and therefore you need an “ego-check” if you are one who produces fruit for the kingdom. Peterson explains:

“For as long as we hold on to any pretense of having it all together we are prevented from deepening and maturing in the Christian faith. For as long as we avoid recognition of our lostness we are prevented from experiencing the elegant profundities of foundness…Eusebeigenic sin can be prevented. It is as simple as it is difficult: lay our competencies and skills daily on the altar.”

So, how can we operate in regards to the sin that can prevent us from loving our neighbor as ourselves? This eusebeigenic sin–sin that appears as righteousness– is something that develops in the church likened to what Peterson borrows from a medical term “iatrogenic”,  which explains how a disease can be developed in someone when being cured. We must therefore also call the aide of the church to bring awareness to this sin. In counseling, how are we to convict our brother or sister who is blind to sin that was actually formed in the church? My hope is that there is a way to rid ourselves of stumbling blocks that get in the way of unity while we humbly receive Christ, daily. A conscious recognition of our hearts is necessary.

“The best protection against eusebeigenic sin is an acute awareness of our lost condition in which we so desperately and at all times need a Savior.”  In the gospels, we observe many altercations of Jesus with various legalists to the extent that they are considered the outsiders of the faith:

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples:  “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads…aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others (Mt 23:1-5a)”.

Jesus certainly gives every Christian a clear message. He states that “teachers of the law” are in effect, judgmental hypocrites as they “do not practice what they preach” (Rom 2:1 paraphrased) but they care more about their image and appearance. I call this the “look at me” syndrome often found in church leadership that delights in “lording over” (1 Pet 5:3) others.  Peterson reiterates in chapter 11 that, “hypocrisy is slow-growing. In its early stages it is difficult to detect”.  We need to see the fine line between healthy leadership worth following and the act of dictatorial lordship. The works of teaching are in and of themselves useless unless the Holy Spirit is working in and through the teacher as a gift–always for the benefit of another, not yourself! Leadership can only be performed in humble obedience and surrender to Jesus or as Luke 3:8 reminds us to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”. Timothy Gombis supports Peterson’s observations:

“While ancient and contemporary Pharisees imagine that their efforts bring

about cultural holiness are what moves God to save, Paul says it is completely

a matter of God’s gracious initiative. God does not want any boasting in his

radically new society, no one setting himself over others, no one claiming a cozier

relationship with God than others.”

Jesus called sinners to become the righteousness of God and that includes the hearts of those of us who forget to rely upon Jesus for righteousness and can turn the church into a legalistic sea of Pharisees. The modern church is the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) which is now the legitimate righteousness in the new life in Jesus, not a church of only law-keeping, but a church that lives by faith (Rom 1:9). The true people of God are those whom believe in Jesus the son of God, faithfully, internally and of the heart (Rom 2:29) prior to any work to accomplish or law to maintain. It is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable to God and only through humble and realistic self-examination can this be accomplished. Our own righteous works are of no value to God. But righteousness in faith is a gift of God and as we humbly receive, enjoy and exercise it, it replaces our self-derived sanctimoniousness and posturing. We are able to help the lost brother continue on in progressive sanctification if we also humbly remain in Jesus.

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Reflections of Light

I was babysitting my youngest brother in 1974 by taking him for a walk in the neighborhood, holding his hand. We saw a glimmering light on the ground and approached it. “What is it?” 2-year-old John asked. “It’s a piece of broken glass” was my response as I picked it up, “but the light is a reflection from the sun”. “Reflection”, John repeated knowingly. What contemplative light was brought to my young toddling brother in a simple yet complex process from as far away as the sun is from the earth. A beam of truth during our afternoon walk. The light of the world works similarly. You see, it is a man. And Jesus is the Man, the second Adam, the son of men and we see His particular and reliant attributes in the book of John. Key verses remind us of the beautiful complex nature in the deity of Christ, his relational position in the trinity “being one with the Father” and being full of grace and truth (Jn 1:1; 1:14; Rev 19:13). He is our flawless light reflecting the glory of heaven. He is available to “whomsoever” believes in Him (Jn 3:16) and also tells us that His work is to believe in Him (Jn 6:29, 1 Jn 3:23).

Jesus is the Light of men and has been from the beginning of eternity. Did God not create the world by saying “Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)” as “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:3-4 ESV). He is the man that gives us life (Jn 10:28) and not just a stone of life, but “more abundantly”, giving us fullness of life so that nothing can take us away from His hand (Jn 10:28;17:12, 18:9). This security is the focus of our abundance, something anticipated while participating in at the same time. We show our love for one another, encouraging, helping, loving and supporting His sustaining hand in life (Jn 13:35; 1 Jn 4:20). There is no other way to life except in Jesus the Light of the World. He is one with the Father (Jn 10:30; 14:9). One of my favorite functional facets of our divine Man, Jesus, is that He is our Light. The gospel is encompassed in the fact that we do not have to live in darkness, but let it be exposed by Him, and live in the Light reflecting on His holy glory.

When was the last time you walked with your brother and pointed out the Light that overcomes darkness? It’s time for Reflection.

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

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