Tag Archives: Bible

Do You Choose Ashes or Beauty?

7 Dec

It’s fireplace weather as the weatherman predicts single digit temperatures. I love rotating in front of the fire like a marshmallow on a coat hanger—equally toasted on all sides. Frequent fires produce abundant ashes.

As I transferred cold ashes from the fireplace to a trashbag, I thought how they no longer resembled the logs originally placed on the grate. No longer sturdy logs, the ash pile was now gray, powdery, and easily scattered by the slightest puff of air. Perhaps, like me, there was a time when your life was in ashes—cold, colorless, without meaning or apparent value, no longer resembling the life you once envisioned.

The Bible uses ashes to symbolize misery, shame, humility, and repentance. Deeply distressed mourners sat on ashes and threw them toward heaven, allowing the ashes to fall as a head covering. That’s why Isaiah’s prophecy was so powerful. He promised “comfort [for] all who mourn, . . .a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3a).

This dramatic transformation would come through faith in God. Jesus Christ later read this passage from the scroll of Isaiah, “‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:18–21 NIV).

No matter what you’ve been through or what you’re facing, Jesus offers understanding and victory. He gave up heavenly glory to be born in a stable. He endured poverty, grief, injustice, rejection and faced every human temptation for our sake. Why then do we continue to cover ourselves in ashes when He offers a crown of beauty? Our freedom comes not through escaping our circumstances, but in accepting the love, power, and joy offered in Jesus Christ.

The fireplace wood we burn is often a mixture of pine and oak. Pine flames quickly; oak burns slowly and provides lasting warmth. God can transform our lives from ashes to oak. As Isaiah says, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b NIV).

My prayer for us is that we display God’s splendor, as we remain strong in His power and love.

Say Yes to Confrontation

24 Aug

Recently, I’ve prayed for several people in conflict. Some situations are heart-rending. Others are frustrating or irritating. None of these people enjoyed conflict or desired confrontation. Here are some reasons used to avoid confrontation.

  1. Christians are supposed to be self-sacrificing. Confrontation seems selfish.
  2. He won’t listen anyway.
  3. She will get mad.
  4. They might not come back to visit.
  5. I’m afraid I’ll lose her love.
  6. I don’t know how to confront. I’ll only make things worse.

As a recovering people pleaser, I understand how dreading confrontation can immobilize us. Jesus says staying in biblical truth sets us free (John 8:31–32), so for the next few posts we will renew our mind regarding conflict and confrontation.

First, let’s be specific about terms using the Encarta Dictionary. Conflict is “a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people.” Confrontation is “a face-to-face meeting or encounter, especially a challenging or hostile one.” It’s often necessary to confront someone regarding a conflict.

The Bible has much to say about conflict because it’s unavoidable. We’re not clones or cookie cutter Christians; neither are we perfect. Since we can’t avoid disagreement, God wants us to utilize His way of managing conflict.

I believed all six reasons above, so I “handled” conflict by rolling over and playing dead. Experience taught me some hard truths.

Refusing to confront

a)      Conveys silent agreement and approval.

b)      Denies truth and the impact of the other person’s behavior.

c)      Withholds relevant information necessary for decision-making.

d)     Is disrespectful because it assumes the worst response from the other person and doesn’t give him/her the opportunity to change.

The depth of relationship determines our level of confrontation. We confront our children who exhibit poor manners in a restaurant and ignore the person at a nearby table doing the same thing. We must earn the right to offer constructive criticism.

This is probably a good time to say not every conflict is worth confrontation. Remember love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Many times a conflict isn’t a question of right or wrong; rather, it’s a question of preference or opinion. In such cases, compromise and trade-off is appropriate. Love doesn’t insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5) and in many cases we are to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). However, people sometimes behave in a way that is detrimental to the family, the community, and themselves.

Jesus didn’t avoid conflict. He went head-to-head with religious hypocrites calling them a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 18:15) and “blind guides” (Matthew 15:14). John 2:13–16 tells how Jesus drove out the moneychangers who turned the temple into a marketplace. I’d call that some pretty intense confrontation.

However, the thing that freed me from my fear of confrontation was realizing reason #1 above was incorrect. Confrontation can be the most loving response to conflict. Most people would agree that ignoring drunken chaos in the home enables the behavior to continue. Yet we overlook disrespect, irresponsibility, or verbal abuse because we don’t want to appear selfish. In fact, our silence says, “Go right ahead. I approve of your behavior.” We have to care enough to confront. It takes emotional energy and courage to confront someone we love.

I hope some of you will confront my opinion. Please respond with comments and questions. We will continue the discussion in future posts.

Curb Walking

29 Jun

I didn’t want to do it. I’d used the cooler morning to work in my vegetable garden and by 9:00, it was already 80 degrees. However, I’d met one of my writing deadlines; it was now time to start taking care of my temple.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20 NIV).

It helps if I talk to myself. 
“This is the first day of the rest of my life. Get started. You can do it.”
Did I mention I didn’t want to do it?

I know routine helps me do the hard things. Apply sunscreen. Assemble hat, water, cell phone (includes music and timer). Stretch.
“It’s getting hotter and I really don’t want to do this.”

The strangest thing happened. I opened the door and started down the block. I had to stop and adjust my music. An instrumental version of “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” made me smile. About two blocks from home, the Maranatha Singers serenaded me with a favorite Scripture from the King James Bible. “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee” (Psalm 42:1 NIV).

I wasn’t panting yet.

It was time to renew my habit of curb walking. You may not have seen it done. I never have. Perhaps it’s time to share my secret of turning a walk into a workout without putting stress on joints. You’ll need a certain amount of “who cares what I look like” confidence, a neighborhood with curbs, and not too much traffic.

I walk close to the curb and take two steps on the street. Then I step up and take two steps on the sidewalk. Back to the street for two steps, then two steps on the sidewalk, and so on I go. Once you get the hang of it, you can move quickly.

One gentleman on a recumbent bike stopped me last spring. He had watched me cross the street to step up with my left foot for a block, then cross back to the other side and step up with my right foot for a block. I knew he was watching and I was a little embarrassed. But I didn’t stop.

“What is it you’re doing,” he asked as I approached.
“I’m curb walking. It’s my version of walking and step aerobics. That’s why I continue crossing back and forth across the street.”
“I’ve never seen it done, but it’s a good idea. You should be proud.”
“Thank you. I know it looks silly, but it’s a good workout.”
“Don’t worry about how it looks. Just keep it up.” He rode off on his bike, his big dog leased by his side. That conversation did a lot for me. Thank you, God, for using other people to encourage us.

Surprisingly, I had a great time worshiping God and taking care of myself at the same time. It was only 25 minutes, but I’ll eventually get back to that hour I was doing five days a week last year. And to think I didn’t really want to do it.

We Have the Mind of Christ

5 Apr

1 Corinthians 2:16, “For who has known the mind of the LORD, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (NASB)

Last blog I asked some questions: What does having the mind of Christ mean? It’s in the Bible, so it must at least be a possibility. Could it be a promise?

It took a life-changing crisis to help me understand the truth of 1 Corinthians 2:16 (above). In the midst of heartbreak and confusion, I sought help from Hud, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who came highly recommended. An ordained pastor and PhD, Hud had a biblically based counseling practice. He taught me to think about my thoughts, a process scientists call metacognition. It was new to me, but elementary students now learn the concept. I learned to become aware of my thoughts and their impact on my feelings and behaviors. Hud gave me tools to do what Romans 12:1-2 calls renewing your mind and therapists label cognitive therapy.

Presently, there is exciting brain research to support what the Bible has taught for centuries. We will talk later about how renewing you mind is an identifiable process, but the short answer to our question is, “Yes, we can have the mind of Christ.”

Years after my sessions with Hud, I willingly devoted the time and study it took to became an LPC. I wanted to help others as Hud had helped me. That’s the purpose behind this blog. When I personally applied the truths Hud taught me and later led my clients to do the same, I saw remarkable growth in their lives and mine.

As we mature, we continue to find additional areas that need renewal. But please be patient; God won’t finish with us this side of heaven. He is committed to molding us into the likeness of Christ one step at a time.

My prayer is that you desire to know God in Christ Jesus, and that you have the courage to get to know yourself. As we dig deeply into Scripture, you’ll discover you’re an amazing child of God, blessed with everything you need for the life God’s set before you. He’ll wrap you in His love and cover you with His mercy and grace. You can win every battle when you rely on God’s Spirit who lives within you. He will be your strength, your courage, your mighty warrior. He will lead you into all truth and teach you all you need to know.

Can you identify one area of your life that needs renewal or a place you want to start? I invite you to begin a journal along with this blog. Would you like to share a little about your struggle or share what you want to accomplish? Do you have a question or comment on what we’ve covered so far? If so, please respond by clicking on the link below.