Prayer for Growth in Grace

It may be an understatement to say that prayer is a profitable way to begin the year. I don’t claim to be an especially skilled pray-er. I find prayer to be sometimes an easy flow but more often hard work. Nevertheless, below is a prayer for your use if you wish. It requires only four minutes. It is written first person because that is how I used it yesterday, January 1. You can also go back through and change the pronouns to pray for others. (I did so for you who read my blog.) The words in italics are quotations from Scripture. You can pray these requests with confidence because, being taken from Scripture, these are all the will of God for Christians.

Note: For you perfectionists (and me), notice that the issue is growth, not arrival or achievement. And the goal is God’s glory, not self-merit.

May you be blessed!

Prayer for Growth in Grace

Lord, cause me to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
~ 1Pe 3:18

Your grace is that unilateral intervention for good that You exercise out of Your generosity, taking initiative to interfere with a person’s plans to accomplish good. By grace You do not leave us on the road to hell but intervene to draw some to Yourself in salvation. By grace You provide the desire and wisdom and power, the enablement, for the saved person to do what it takes to grow in godliness and in relationship with You. Since our change is only by Your grace-intervention, Your goodness is revealed and so You get all the glory.

While this side of heaven I will never arrive at perfection, cause me to be increasing in the size, strength, degree, vigor, and power of the graces Your Spirit plants in my heart. May the love, humility, faith, hope, repentance, zeal, kindness, courage, and other characteristics You have implanted grow stronger and not weaker, be vigorous and not feeble. Cause my sense of sin to deepen, my faith to strengthen, my hope to brighten, my love to extend, and my joy to resound.

  • May I be increasing in the [intimate, relational] knowledge of God.~ Co 1:10
  • Increase my love for Jesus. ~ Jn 15:9
  • Increase my humility, so that it is more complete, responding to Your Spirit more quickly, increasing in frequency, intensity, and duration. ~ Eph 4:2
  • Quicken and refine my gentleness. ~ Eph 4:2
  • Sensitize my conscience so that I respond more quickly against sin. ~ He 5:14
  • Grow me in holiness, purifying my heart desires, growing more watchful, gaining dominion over sin, more godly in conduct. ~ 1 Pe 1:16
  • May my love for others abound more and more so that I seek to do kindness and be generous and tenderhearted. Make me quicker to put off fault-finding and criticism, to assume good motives of others, to think kindly of others. ~ 1Th 3:12; Ph 1:9
  • May my faith grow exceedingly so that I trust in You more readily, and more frequently and intensely, and for longer times without wavering. May I see You more clearly as the Substitute, Physician, Priest, Intercessor, Advocate, Shepherd, and Friend. ~ 2Co 10:15; 2Th 1:3
  • Increase my thirst for You and spiritual things so that I apply myself to spiritual desires and thoughts more frequently and intensely and for longer duration.
  • Increase my zeal for godliness and for doing good to others. ~ Ga 6:9-10
  • Move me to choose joy, to rejoice, to resound with joy. ~ Ph 4:4

Make me to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I know growth in grace from glory to glory will make me useful to others, happy in the faith, and will please You, as these are sacrifices with which God is well pleased. May You receive all the glory for all the transformation in me! ~ 2 Co 3:18; 1Th 4:1; He 13:16

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Top Ten Posts for 2020

What a strange year this has been! In February, just as my husband and I arrived home from a visit to friends and family in another state, we heard about a now-infamous virus. Since then, Covid-19 has changed the plans of most in the world. I think it has made especially obvious the truth of Proverbs 16:9 that “the mind of man plans his way but the Lord directs his steps.” God’s wise providence overrules the plans of every single person. No one can escape His control.

As is also apparent, control is a risky business, risky for those who don’t have it. Power is a horrendous tool in the hands of a selfish being. But thanks be to God that He is purely good and wields His supreme power with goodness and justice. Furthermore, while the world rocks in turmoil, God remains faithful. I hope have seen God’s goodness, wisdom, power, and faithfulness this year and have found the God-given opportunity in each challenge you have faced. 

While we’re in an unusual year, let me do another unusual and recommend you check out the Top Ten page of this blog, The Cripplegate. The excellent theologians over there wrote helpful biblical views on the tumultuous current events of 2020, including their top-read post, A Biblical Analysis of the Black Lives Matter Organization. Their description:

After the riots, the visibility of BLM in our nation sky-rocketed, as major corporations rushed to express their approval of them. After their largest event ever, a “trans-lives matter” march in New York City, people began to wonder what exactly this organization represented. Eric did a deep-dive into their publicly available ideological statements, and compiled an analysis of their beliefs. This post was our most read post of the year, and for a while was one of Google’s top hits when a person searched for BLM.

Thank you for reading this blog. Below are the ten most-read posts of 2020. May you be encouraged.

  1. An Unloved Woman. This is the third year in a row that this post made #1. What does Proverbs 30 tells us about a woman who has experienced significant rejection? What is likely to happen if she marries? Is there hope for change?

  2. Visit the Sick – Using Scripture. In suffering it is easy to forget to trust God. You know that Scripture can re-focus a sick person’s attention back to the character of God and His love for the sufferer, but you’re just not sure which passages to use. Here are some specific verses that speak to anxiety, discouragement, or a person approaching surgery, and other situations.

  3. The Secondary Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship. Everyone who marries does so for a reason, often not realizing that God has purposes for marriage far more important than ours. Living for God’s purposes rather than our own transforms how we view our communication, decision-making, sex, child-rearing, finances, socializing, and relational conflicts. Taking God’s view for our own will change our behaviors, which usually results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse. The pleasure and glory of God is more important that our satisfaction, so I also recommend: The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage: the Glory of God.

  4. When You Send Your Child to Residential Treatment. Handing the care and nurture of your child over to a residential facility may pose challenges for the family. Here are what parents might experience personally, what siblings might experience, and some big-picture ideas on what parents can do to grow spiritually, help the siblings adjust, and prepare for successful reentry of the troubled child into the home.

  5. Prayers for Unbelieving Children. May this encourage you to pray and to pray more specifically.

  6. No Trust, No Love. Really?. It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but can it be justified as a necessary prerequisite before you can love another? This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

  7. God’s Master Plan in Twelve Verses. God has a plan for all the world for all of history. He explains it repeatedly in the His own words, in the Word of God. One of the most concise summaries is in Psalm 2. This world is not out of God’s control. God is working His plan. Place your trust in Him.

  8. Marriage: Procreation is Important, But Not Primary. Some people believe that the primary purpose for marriage is procreation. Others say the primary read for sex is procreation. Regarding the latter position, Genesis 2 emphasizes the “one flesh” of marriage (which includes sex) a whole chapter before Eve conceived a child, which seems to imply sex expressing oneness in relationship more than use for procreation. The “family” is husband and wife; children are secondary and temporary. First Corinthians 7 ties sex to the relationship, saying nothing about children, and indicates that sex is to continue apart from children. Sex is intended for joy and intimacy in marriage. See more in the post.

  9. Parenting the Difficult Child.  This page introduces my book and gives some background on it that is not in the book. The book is being used by parents whose children are often disobedient and oppositional. Additionally, it appeals to adoptive parents and parents whose children behave according to the psychological label Reactive Attachment Disorder. While psychologists have helpfully categorized behaviors under a label, their views and solutions are a mix of what the Bible already teaches and what is not biblical. Part of this book contrasts this man-made view with the Word of God and, in doing so, sets the Christian moving into biblical thinking about other psychology-constructed models.

  10. In the Shadow of His Wings (Pt 2): What are the Benefits?.  How might the beautiful imagery of the shadow of God’s wings comfort and encourage a believer in the midst of hardships, grief, oppression, or other trials?

Thank you for reading.

I wish you a 2021 full of God’s grace and peace!

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From an adoptive parent – tips for helping

November is National Adoption Month. Many people are curious about adoptive families. They want to demonstrate interest or even affirmation. This is commendable. Sometimes their well-intended efforts are actually detrimental because they do not realize how their efforts are interpreted, so they need a bit of help in achieving their goal.

From an adoptive parent, to whom it may concern:

Thank you for your interest in our family and your desire to encourage. Children are precious. What you may not realize is that, having experienced broken relationships and maybe neglect or abuse, most (not all) adopted children tend to view people and relationships from a perspective very different from yours. Be assured that we love our child dearly and are parenting accordingly. Because of the child’s differing viewpoint, our parenting may not look to you like what you would expect. We understand. If you would like to help, here are some ways:

  • You may ask me in private, “Is he always this good?” but not in front of the child. What he hears in your words is that his charm is working. He also uses your words to undermine his mom–“See Mom? They get me; you don’t.”
  • I appreciate your private encouragement of our adoption, but in front of the child please do not say something like, “What a wonderful thing you’ve done for your kids.”
  • You might notice physical differences between our children but please don’t ask my child about being adopted or where he is from. It reminds my child that she is adopted and spot-lights differences between us rather than accentuating how we are a family.
  • Be kind, but please do not give attention or affirmations to the adopted child different what you give that child’s siblings.
  • Be respectful, but do not respond in kind to super sweetness.
  • DO encourage honoring of parents. Reinforce parents’ orders and requests. If you doubt some expectation of a parent, DON’T show that doubt to the child. Find a time to ask the parent in private.
  • If my child makes accusations against anyone, please be slow to believe the accusations and quick to pray for those involved. Remember that you may not have all the facts (Prov 18:17). If you think it a serious issue, please speak to us parents.
  • Do share the gospel, but please do not proceed with leading the adopted child in a prayer of salvation. You have no idea how many times this child has been “saved” and how many other adults have been led in the same way by this child. It neither glorifies God nor saves the child. Instead, tell us parents if our child expresses a desire to be saved. Leave the responsibility in parental hands–we who know the child. Pray for all involved and trust God to save the child in His timing.
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Pursue Certification by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

Early in 2020, my pastor asked me to give personal testimony to encourage our church members to get certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). Below is the script that guided my testimony, edited a bit.

(By the way, biblical counseling is not just an American phenomenon. See the note at the end of this post.)

When I began training in biblical counseling, counseling was the last thing on my mind. I would never do that. What I wanted was the theology and I wanted to know how it applied practically to problems in living. In other words, I wanted to know the Bible better and know God better. I also believed if the Bible is able to equip for every good work, then the Bible must have the answers for problems I was facing. Training in biblical counseling gave me all of that and much more. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

I started training with beliefs I did not know were contradictory. For example, I believed that the Word of God holds sufficient counsel and simultaneously that it doesn’t address psychological problems like bipolar or panic attacks. I found that, on the contrary, the Bible shows us bipolar people. It describes panic attacks. It provides solutions for both, and all other emotional/psychological problems. The biblical counseling training deepened and broadened my understanding of the Bible, then drew lines of implication connecting this Scripture to this problem and that Scripture to that problem. Scripture contains all the truth we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).

The Bible explains why we do what we do and how to overcome problems. It explains why I had been unable to stop a life-dominating sin and how to, after all, stop that sin. Training taught me how to make decisions biblically rather than by listening in my heart. I had been told that due to genetics and chemical imbalance I would have to be on an antidepressant for the rest of my life. Application of this training enabled me to overcome longterm depression and suicidal thoughts. After five years of taking an antidepressant, biblical changes enabled me to get off of it. I now have been free from depression and antidepressants for over 15 years and counting. Training in biblical counseling radically changed my life.

Along the way, my teachers kept telling me that we can counsel others. Well, it may be changing my life significantly, but I am far from qualified to speak into someone else’s life. Counseling is for the professionals. But Romans 15:14 says, “and concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another.” (The “goodness” is Christ’s given to a believer and the “knowledge” is in the Bible.) That was written to regular Jane Doe Christians like me! Would I believe the Bible? Would I believe that, using the Word of God–not my experiences and what worked for me–using the Word of God in dependence upon the Spirit, I might actually be able to help someone like my teachers had used God’s Word to help me?

Training in biblical counseling taught me how to understand people as well as Scripture, then how to find the content in the Bible needed for their problems and, importantly, how to help them implement that content. It helped me learn to love people. Overall, ACBC training deepened my walk with God and equipped me to be of more effective service to the church than I otherwise would be.

I realize that counseling one another biblically does not require a certificate. After all, the Word of God is our counsel and Paul said that a believer, rightly handling the Word of God, is able to counsel others. However, we are also told to be equipped, which requires training and study.

I also realize that people do not have to counsel in a formal way like I often do. Many counsel informally, in less intense discipleship relationships. I do, too. But regardless of how you interact with people, training for certification will show you how doctrines relate to the practicalities of relationships and emotions. It will help you understand the biblical way of change, which ups your game on your own growth in holiness. As for others, you do already speak into others’ lives, if only in casual conversations. We all do. ACBC training provides an effective means of equipping church members to do so more biblically than they otherwise might. It can make you more effective, which will add to your joy and the growth of your church and the glory of God.

I encourage you to consider training and certification by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Here is a two-minute video on the process.

Here is a broad overview of the Pathway Through Certification.

Special Note: After training, there are two exams and supervision. After all, this is a certification organization, so they must have a standard by which to certify an individual. Remember, all of the process is intended for your betterment for the glory of God, not just for meeting a standard. So the exams are pass/rewrite, not pass/fail. Therefore, consider the exams not as a hurdle but as part of your training, not as a have-to but as a get-to. Everyone involved wants you to succeed and will help you.

For citizens of countries other than the United States: By the way, biblical counseling is not just an American thing or a Western activity. The Bible was actually written by non-Westerners. The Bible transcends countries, languages, and cultures. And so, biblical counseling–counseling the Word of God to people–is a world-wide church activity. Training in biblical counseling has spread to many countries. Please contact ACBC for referrals to resources in your country.

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Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls

What do we do with loved ones who reject and walk away from us? We usually think of prodigal children, but it could be a sibling or an unfaithful spouse. The pain of loss is agonizing.

Letting God: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls speaks to this kind of relationship, not so much on the front end of working to reconcile, but on the back end after attempts to reconcile have proven futile. Authors Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert talk about when the most helpful choice is the choice to let the person go.

The authors do well at painting the picture of what it is like to live with someone who is personally irresponsible, victim-minded, demanding independence, and threatening to leave. the wayward person won’t listen to others, demands his own way and manipulates to get it. He doesn’t carry out his responsibilities while making excuses and insisting it is you who are in the wrong. A congenial relationship is possible but only on their terms–when they are in the mood. 

Harvey and Gilbert explain the Bible’s label of these people, “fool.” The chapter, “What the Wayward Want” is helpful for understanding the drive underlying the behaviors.

  • The wayward wants choices without consequence. He wants no unpleasant consequences for any choice and has convinced himself that his expectation is reasonable and realistic. By “realistic” I mean that he thinks his right corresponds to reality.
  • The wayward wants autonomy without accountability. He wants freedom, and freedom entirely on his terms. He wants to rule his own life and indulge in his desires while not held accountable for what he does. Rejecting responsibility, he is also rejecting both reality and the duty of love.
  • The wayward wants leaving without loss. He wants to be able to leave loving relationships and abandon roles and responsibilities, yet keep the blessings he has been enjoying. In other words, he expects others to maintain the same loving attitude toward him no matter what he does toward them. He should not feel the discomforts of loss or hardship.

How do loved ones tend to react? Among the many unhelpful ways, those that tend to perpetuate the prodigal’s foolishness are appeasement, enabling of the sinful behavior, and taking on shame when one is not guilty. In other words, loved ones tend to cooperate with the wayward person because they don’t want to lose him. This is idolatry, loving the person or the relationship more than God. Parents, spouses, and girlfriends are especially vulnerable.

How do we best love a prodigal? The authors use the term “rugged love,” meaning a love that is strong enough to do what is right no matter how you feel and no matter what the wayward person does. That includes stopping the effort to keep him, stopping the effort to get him to change, and instead letting go. Keep in mind, this measure comes after months of work at reconciliation and right relationship-building. It is not a matter of washing your hands of the person, but of releasing the person to his choice and its consequences and preventing yourself from idolatry of relationship and sinful manipulation to make the relationship what it is not.

How do you know when to let go? The authors offer a short list on page 118 which helps with discernment. For example, “Is this person endangering himself or others?” “Have those responsible for or married to this person lost the capacity to curtail or contain their comings and goings?” Does the prodigal no longer listen to you? Does he steal substantially? Is he deceitful? Honesty is a non-negotiable; dishonesty forfeits the privilege of living in your home.

The authors emphasize that you continue to show love, but you do it without enabling the prodigal’s sinful ways. As a reader, I would like to have seen a bit more about what this actually looks like.

Chapters 9 and 10 on shame and fatigue will be of great comfort to those who have let go of a beloved, manipulative, wayward rebel. The authors don’t just note shame and fatigue; they do a pretty good job of describing it in a way that resonates. Taking the reader to the cross through the eyes of Hebrews 12:1-3, they connect the reader’s experience with what Christ endured and how He dealt with the shame and fatigue of what rebels did to Him.

Letting Go ends on a note of encouragement to stand strong in faith in Christ.

Wayward children and adults are highly skilled at getting loved ones to cooperate and facilitate with their foolishness. So while prodigals are completely responsible for their choices, loved ones also need to examine themselves regarding what they have done to contribute to the problem. Have you, for years and/or recently, stepped in to save him from consequences? Have you enabled his selfishness by excusing his irresponsibility and often doing for him what he fails to do? Among the many changes you need to make, one might include letting go. Let God manage him. You will find this book helpful.

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Resources for Parents of Wayward Children (including prodigals and criminals)

What is a parent to do when her teen-aged or young adult child goes off the rails, so to speak? The child is unruly, wayward. Another common label is “prodigal.” The wayward child disrespects parents, rejects parental authority, even defies commands, but doesn’t hesitate to manipulate and cooperate for selfish gain. Your wayward child is making foolish and destructive choices. Perhaps he runs away, causes trouble both inside and outside of the home, indulges in substance abuse and/or breaks the law. You may or may not have parented in godly ways. You may have tried everything you know to rectify the problem and establish a good relationship. Still, your heart is broken by the waywardness of your child. I would like to recommend a few biblically well-grounded resources.

Parenting and Beyond

When Things Don’t Go as Planned,” chapter 10 in The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family,” by Martha Peace and Stuart W. Scott. This book is geared primarily to the child-rearing years, but the principles and attitudes it teaches and the appendices will prove helpful.

P&R Publishing: The Faithful Parent
CBD: The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family: Martha Peace, Stuart Scott: 9781596382015 – Christianbook.com
Amazon: The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family: Martha Peace & Stuart Scott: 9781596382015: Amazon.com: Books

You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children, Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick

P&R Publishing: You Never Stop Being a Parent
CBD: You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship with Your Adult Children: Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, Jim Newheiser: 9781596381742 – Christianbook.com
Amazon: You Never Stop Being a Parent: Thriving in Relationship With Your Adult Children: Elyse Fitzpatrick, Jim Newheiser: 9781596381742: Amazon.com: Books

Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls, by Dave Harvey

What do you do when someone you love leaves? Here is help for your perceptions of the situation and how to respond.

CBD: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls: Dave Harvey, Paul Gilbert: 9780310523536 – Christianbook.com
Amazon: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls: Harvey, Dave, Gilbert, Paul, Paul Tripp: 0025986523534: Amazon.com: Books

The Parent Herself

Parents’ Groans over Their Ungodly Children, by Edward Lawrence (1623-1695), MA, sometimes Minister of the Gospel at Baschurch, in the Country of Salop, England. You may be alone in the immediate time, but you can be comforted that you aren’t unique in having the experience of a wayward child. Over the centuries godly parents have suffered heart break over children who reject them.

Chapel Library: Parents’ Groans Over Their Ungodly Children – Chapel Library

Forgiveness: “I Just Can’t Forgive Myself!by Robert D. Jones. Parents may be feeling guilty, making them at risk of buying the common deception that we should forgive ourselves. Dr. Jones addresses this well and redirects the reader to a biblical view of the problem that effectively resolves the lack of peace in the heart.

CBD: Forgiveness: I Just Can’t Forgive Myself: Robert D. Jones: 9780875526782 – Christianbook.com
Amazon: Forgiveness: I Just Can’t Forgive Myself (Resources for Changing Lives): Jones, Robert D: 9780875526782: Amazon.com: Books

Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem, by Robert D. Jones. Parents of prodigals and criminals have many temptations to anger. Here is very practical help founded on truths from the Word of God.

P&R Publishing: Uprooting Anger
CBD: Uprooting Anger: Robert D. Jones: 9781596380059 – Christianbook.com
Amazon: Uprooting Anger: Biblical Help for a Common Problem: Robert D. Jones: 9781596380059: Amazon.com: Books

“Handling Parental Heart Responses” chapter 15 inParenting the Difficult Child: A Biblical Perspective on Reactive Attachment Disorderby Lind J. Rice. While this book is written primarily for parents with difficult children still in the home, children wayward in heart, this chapter was written for parents whose children have left the home as well as those still in the thick of parenting.

Amazon:  Parenting the Difficult Child: A Biblical Perspective on Reactive Attachment Disorder: Rice, Linda J.: 9780985043131: Amazon.com: Books

 

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