Sunday, March 29, 2009

Resting in God

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 25: Resting in God


How do you help others to wait on God? How do you help your hurting, grieving spiritual friends to find delay gratification and remember their future hope?

There are many effective ways to journey with people toward trusting God’s future provision without working to provide for themselves. We’ll focus again on trialogues: three-way conversations between us, our friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend: Christ.

Sample Waiting/Hope Trialogues

Waiting may be the most difficult stage to trialogue about because it is the most difficult stage to apply. It takes supernatural intervention. Consider some sample biblical trialogues to assist people to refuse to take over while refusing to give up.

“God’s timing and ours are often light years apart. What are you experiencing as you wait on God?”

“When God wanted Esau to wait, Esau took matters into his own hands and messed everything up. Are you facing any similar temptations to handle your hurt on your own? To fix things in your own strength?”

“Abraham is a classic example of refusing to wait on God. He decided to help God out by having Hagar bare him a son. What were the horrible results of this in his life? What might the negative results be in your life if you take matters into your own hands?”

“What would it look like for you to rest in God right now? For you to surrender to God? To trust instead of work, to wait instead of demand?”

“Someone once defined Biblical perseverance as ‘remaining under without giving in.’ How are you remaining under your suffering without giving in to self-rescue? Where are you finding the strength to do this?”

“Could we explore some passages like Romans 5; James 1; 1 Peter 1, and Hebrews 11 that teach us how to wait on God in the midst of suffering?”

“How could you apply Moses’ delayed gratification, waiting, faith, and trust (Hebrews 11:24-26) to your situation?”

“What would it look like not to quit while this lingers?”

“What would quitting mean? What would it look like? What would result?”

“What will it look like to trust God while you wait on Him?”

“Let’s look at Revelation 7. How do these wonderful pictures of heaven give you hope today?”

And What About You?

How is your hope meter? In our next post we’ll explore ways we can find the endurance to wait on God.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Clinging to God's Rope of Hope


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 24: Clinging to God’s Rope of Hope


Waiting is rooted in the Old Testament. The Prophets promised Israel that a better day was coming, later.

The New Testament writers develop the waiting motif when they urge us toward patience, perseverance, longsuffering, and remaining under. That’s the message of Romans 5; James 1; 1 Peter 1-2; and Hebrews 11.

In waiting, we cling to God’s rope of hope, even when we can’t see it. In biblical waiting, we neither numb our longings nor illegitimately fulfill our longings.

Waiting’s Evil Twin

The opposite of waiting is meeting my “needs” now, taking matters into my own hands now, and acting as if I’m my only hope. Esau embodies regrouping through immediate gratification (Hebrews 11:16). For a single meal, a bowl of soup, he sold his birthright. He refused to look ahead, to wait, to delay gratification.

Moses exemplifies delayed gratification and waiting.

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward" (Hebrews 11:24-26).

No quick fix for Moses. No “Turkish Delight” from the White Witch of Narnia. No pleasures of sin for a season.

Remembering the Future

Why? How could he? He chose eternal pleasure over temporal happiness. He remembered the future.

Faith looks back to the past recalling God’s mighty works saying, “He did it that time, he can do it now.”

Hope looks ahead remembering God’s coming reward saying, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:18-19). Hopeful waiting gives love time to take root.

Clinging to God’s Rope of Hope

And how do we help others to cling to God’s rope of hope? How do we wait on God while waiting on hope? Those are topics for our next two day trips.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hope Waits

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 23: Hope Waits

Yesterday’s journey ended with the Woman at the Well in a dilemma. God told her to wait.

So what would “hope” look like in her immediate context? Hoping in God, she would choose delayed gratification over immediate gratification. She would accept her singleness, clinging to God and trusting His timing.

Hope waits. Hope is the refusal to demand heaven now.

Waiting Defined

If hope leads to waiting, what then is waiting? Waiting is trusting God’s future provision without working to provide for myself. Waiting is refusing to take over while refusing to give up.

Waiting refuses self-rescue.

You’ll never see waiting as one of the stages of grieving in any research study because it is not natural in a fallen world. It is supernatural.

I do a lot of ministry to ministers. A couple of years ago I was working with a pastor and his wife (we’ll call them Tim and Terri) in a situation where the pastor was fired, frankly, without cause. No moral failure. No doctrinal error. This pastor had been at the church for over 20 years. It was the only home his three teenage daughters knew.

We worked through the candor, complaint, cry, and comfort process. When it came time for waiting, he battled. Everything in him wanted, almost desperately needed, to regroup. He was ready to take a church, any church, on the rebound. He was ready to take a job, any job, on the rebound.

However, I counseled him to wait before making any long-term commitments to a new ministry position because I sensed that he was motivated by a desire for self-rescue, for regrouping, not by a desire to wait on God.

Waiting Biblically Supported

Was my counsel godly or ungodly? Wise or foolish? Too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good? Can we find biblical support for the principle of waiting rather than regrouping?

We’ll be back tomorrow for answers to these important questions.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

When God Says "Wait"


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 22: When God Says “Wait”

If the grief process was a direct journey, and it is not, then we would have arrived at the half-way point on our path. Sustaining has been the first “half” of our journey—the journey from denial to candor, from anger to complain, from bargaining to cry, and from depression to comfort.

Our Path Marked Healing: Waiting, Wailing, Weaving, and Worshipping

The second half of our path is marked “healing.” Healing is a term that describes the second phase in historic soul care. Today, we use terms like encouraging, enlightening, helping people to see the larger story of God’s perspective, infusing hope, etc.

I like to picture healing with the powerful image of celebrating the resurrection. We are moving from grieving to hope like the Apostle Paul was in 2 Corinthians 1:9-10.

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

From Here to Eternity

Once we’ve climbed in the casket, we then celebrate the resurrection by finding hope in God’s higher plan and loving purposes. It is possible to hope in the midst of grief.

Sustaining says, “Life is bad.” Healing says, “God is good.” In sustaining, we enter the smaller earthly story of hurt. In healing, we enter the larger, heavenly story of hope.

Healing celebrates the resurrection by exploring waiting, wailing, weaving, and worshipping. These four biblical stages contrast with and expand upon the one stage in the world’s process called “acceptance.”

Stage Five: Waiting—Trusting with Faith Rather Than Regrouping with Self-Sufficiency

You’re in a casket. Finally, you’ve come face-to-face with death and with utter human hopelessness. Do you want to stay there? No! Frantic to escape? Yes! You cry out to God for help. What’s he say? “Wait.”

Now you’re at a faith-point. “I trust Him; I trust Him not. I’ll wait; I’ll not wait.”

Which will it be? Will you wait or regroup? Will you wait on God or will you self-sufficiently depend upon yourself?

Regrouping Described: The Woman at the Well

John 4 illustrates the contrast between waiting and regrouping. The woman at the well was in a husband-casket. One husband left the scene, “Encore! Encore!” she’d shout, bringing the curtain down on another failed marriage. Frantically she searched time after time for a man she could have—a man she could desperately clutch who would meet her desperate needs by desperately desiring her above all else.

We don’t know what came next for her after she surrendered her thirsts to Christ. Certainly, if she were to live out her new Christ-life, she would have to change her habitual pattern of regrouping through “having” a man.

Suppose that she took her longing to God in prayer. Presuppose God told her to stop living with this man who was not her husband. Don’t you think that on a human plane she would experience excruciating emptiness, starving hunger?

So she prays to God, “Father, I know that all I need is You and what You choose to provide. I’m cleaning up my life. Would You please send me a godly man.”

God says, “Wait. Delay your gratification. Don’t get involved with a man.”

Everything inside her—her flesh-habituated past way of surviving, her cistern-digging style of relating—craves satisfaction now. If she regroups, she grasps yet another husband on the rebound. She takes matters into her own hands.

And What Would Hope Look Like?

What would hope look like in her context? In ours? In yours?

You know what’s coming. Now is when I say…

Come back tomorrow to define and find hope.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Finding God When We Can't Find Answers


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 21: Finding God When We Can’t Find Answers

What about you? Yesterday we explored how we can journey with others helping them to move from depression, alienation, and separation to comfort through communion with Christ and connection with Christians. But what about your path from depression to comfort?

Whether you are reflecting on your past suffering or experiencing current grief, here are a few suggestions and questions. I’ve designed them to help you to move from depression to comfort— experiencing the presence of God in the presence of suffering—a Presence that empowers me to survive scars and plants the seed of hope that I may yet thrive.

Don’t try to address every suggestion. Pick a couple that connect with you.

My Comfort/Communion Journey

1. When you are ready to give up, ready to give in, what empowers you to draw a line in the sane of retreat? How does communion with Christ help you to say, “Yes, I have a scar, but it is neither fatal nor final”?

2. Comfort originally meant co-fortitude. How does your connection with Christ fortify you? How does it en-courage you—pour courage into you?

3. Deep faith as opposed to naïve faith, walks in the dark. In your dark night of the soul, how can you invite in the One Who is the Light of the World?

4. Jacob (Genesis 32) teaches us that tenacious wrestling with God results in painful yet profitable comfort through communion. Wrestle with God. Tell Him everything.

5. In our suffering, God divulges more of Himself. When our heart is grieved, God is the strength of our heart (Psalm 73:21-28). What will it look like for you to acknowledge your grief and groan to God for His strength?

6. Faith perceives that God feels our pain, joins us in our pain, even shares our pain In all our distress, He is distressed (Isaiah 63:9). Sharing your sorrow with God makes your sorrow endurable. Write a Psalm of Shared Sorrow to God.

7. Select and apply some of these comfort trialogues to your own journey.

“The Bible teaches that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ It’s normal to hurt and to struggle when our internal pain seems incurable. How could you connect with Christ and the Body of Christ to find relief for your sadness over your scars?”
“Some wounds won’t be totally healed until heaven (Revelation 7). How can you connect to Christ’s resurrection power to face life with this wound?”

“What is your suffering teaching you about God’s power made perfect in your weakness?”

“If you were to write a Psalm 42, (David moving from confusion to comfort) what would you write?”

“Christ often comforts us through other Christians. Who is coming alongside to help and comfort you? How could you connect with other Christians so they could help you to bear your burdens?”

And Now What?

We’ve journeyed together from denial to candor, from anger to complaint/lament, from bargaining/works to crying out to God, and from depression to comfort/communion.

In the world’s model of grieving, the next and final stage is “acceptance.” The Word’s way actually offers four more stages on our journey. They move far beyond acceptance.

Join us in the coming days as we explore: waiting, wailing, weaving, and worshipping. Join us as we find God even when we may not find answers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Presence of God in the Presence of Suffering


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 20: The Presence of God in the Presence of Suffering


How do you help others to move from depression to comfort? How do you help your hurting, grieving spiritual friends to find God’s comforting presence in the presence of suffering?

There are many effective ways to journey with people toward God’s empowering, comforting presence that helps them to survive scars and plants the seeds of healing hope. We’ll focus again on trialogues: three-way conversations between us, our friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend: Christ.

Sample Comfort Trialogues

Consider some sample biblical trialogues to assist people to move toward God’s comfort—toward their comforting God.

“The Bible teaches that ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick.’ It’s normal to hurt and to struggle when our internal pain seems incurable. How could you connect with Christ and the Body of Christ to find relief for your sadness over your scars?”
“Sometimes life beats us down so much and scars us so deeply that we just want to quit. We want to retreat, to give up on God and on ourselves. How are you facing this temptation?”

“Jacob’s physical wound left him with a permanent limp. Ironically, it left him stronger than ever spiritually. How is that possible? How could that happen in your life?”

“Some wounds won’t be totally healed until heaven (Revelation 7). How can you connect to Christ’s resurrection power to face life with this wound?”

“What can’t be cured, can be endured. How is God fortifying you to survive your loss?”

“What is your suffering teaching you about God’s power made perfect in your weakness?”

“What passages have helped and strengthened you to deal with this?”

“What verses have you found helpful in gaining comfort and hope as you go through this?”

“If you were to write a Psalm 42, (David moving from confusion to comfort) what would you write?”

“What applications could you make from how Paul found comfort in his despair in 2 Corinthians?”

“Christ often comforts us through other Christians. Who is coming alongside to help and comfort you? How could you connect with other Christians so they could help you to bear your burdens?”

And Your Comfort Source?

And how about you? When you struggle against depression over life’s losses, where do you turn for comfort? How can you find peace through the God of all comfort? Join us again tomorrow for your path to God’s comfort.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Wreslting with God


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 19: Wrestling with God


Can we biblically support comfort as a legitimate stage of the grieving/healing process?


Wrestling with God

Jacob’s wrestling match with God certainly illustrates it. Recall the context. Jacob is terrified that his brother Esau will kill him. In self-sufficiency, Jacob plans and plots ways to manipulate Esau into forgiving him.

Then, at night Jacob encounters God. He wrestles God throughout the night until God overpowers him by dislocating Jacob’s hip. In response, “Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face-to-face, and yet my life was spared’” (Genesis 32:30). Tenacious wrestling with God, Jacob shows us, results in painful yet profitable comfort through communion.

Interestingly, as the sun rose, Jacob was limping. He looks up and there’s Esau. Jacob limps up to Esau and, with the pain of his dislocated hip, bows down seven times. Imagine the pain. Then he receives from Esau an embrace instead of a dagger. He faced his fear, still wounded and scarred, but surviving. God humbled Jacob, weakened him, and in the process strengthened him.

God Shares Our Sorrow

What’s illustrated in Jacob’s life is taught in Asaph’s story. According to Psalm 73:21-28, suffering is an opportunity for God to divulge more of Himself and to release more of His strength. When Asaph’s heart was grieved, and his spirit embittered, God brought him to his senses. Listen to his prayer.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

My flesh may be scarred, my heart may be scared, but with God I can survive—forever.

Thus faith perceives that God feels our pain, joins us in our pain, even shares our pain. In fact, faith believes that, “in all my distress he too was distressed” (Isaiah 63:9). His sharing of our sorrow makes our sorrow endurable.

Faith does not demand the removal of suffering, but desires endurance in suffering, temptation, and persecution (1 Corinthians 10:13). Faith understands that what can’t be cured, can be endured.

Faith delights in weakness, because when we are weak, then God is strong, and we are strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Finding Comfort

Join us the next two days as we explore how to help others to wrestle with God to find His comfort. And as we journey together to find our own comfort in God.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Surviving Scars


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 18: Surviving Scars


For those without Christ, the grief process moves from denial, to anger, to bargaining/works, to depression. For those with Christ, for those who grieve with hope, we journey from candor, to complaint/lament, to crying out to God, to comfort.

What Then Is Comfort?

What then is comfort? Before I offer a definition, I’ll offer some history. Historically, sustaining has attempted to draw a line in the sand of retreat. Horrible things happen to us. We’re charging headlong away from the life that we once dreamed of. We’re ready to give up and give in.

Sustaining steps in to say, “Yes, you do have a wound. You will have the scar. But it is neither fatal nor final. Don’t quit. You can make it. You can survive.”

Co-Fortitude

It’s within this context of surviving scars that I’m using the word “comfort.” Originally, comfort meant co-fortitude—being fortified by the strength of another. Being en-couraged—having courage poured into you from an outside source. That outside source, for Christians, is Christ and the Body of Christ. In this life, your scar may not go away, but neither will His. He understands. He cares. He’s there.

Now we can define comfort. Comfort/communion experiences the presence of God in the presence of suffering—a presence that empowers me to survive scars and plants the seed of hope that I may yet thrive.
At the end of sustaining, I’m not necessarily thriving. More likely, I’m limping, but at least I’m no longer retreating.

My Comfort Journey

For me, comfort reflected itself in my decision not to give up on God and not to give up on ministry. Here I was in seminary, preparing for ministry, and secretly doubting God—doubting His goodness, His trustworthiness, His ability, or at least His desire, to protect me and care for me. As comfort came, I came face-to-face with God. We had some wild talks. We had some fierce wrestling matches.

God won. I surrendered. Still confused about the details of life, but committed to the Author of Life. More than that, surrendered to Him and dependent upon Him. My attitude was like Peter’s when Jesus asked His disciples, “Will you, too, leave me?” Remember Peter’s reply? “To whom else could we go? You alone have the Words of life.”

I was surviving again, surviving though scarred. I was not and never again would be that same naïve young Christian who assumed that if I prayed and worked hard enough, God would grant me my every expectation. My faith was not a naïve faith, but it was a deeper faith—a faith that could walk in the dark.

Is Comfort Biblical?

Did my experience of comfort reflect a biblical process? Join the journey again tomorrow to discover the answer—God’s answer.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

God Comes

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 17: God Comes

So far on our journey we have approached three road markers leading to three decision points.

*Confronting road marker one on our destination, we choose to move from denial to candor—honesty with our self about our grief.

*Facing road marker two on our destination, we choose to move from anger to complaint--honesty with God about our grief, pain, and confusion.

*Approaching road marker three on our destination, we choose to move from bargaining/works to cry—crying out to God in humble dependence.

Directional Choice Point Four: Depression or Comfort

In stage four, our journey leads us either to depression due to alienation and separation from God and others, or to finding comfort through communion with God and connection with God’s people.

To use a wrestling analogy (as a wrestling coach, I have to use at least one of these!):

*Through candor we choose to step on the mats with God.

*With complaint, the match begins.

*With cry, we cry “Uncle.” We say, “I’m pinned. I’m helpless. You win, God. Now I win, too.”

*Comfort, then, is the crippling touch of God that plants the seed for healing. In cry, we ask for God’s help. In comfort, we receive God’s help. In comfort, the God we cried out to, comes.

Depression/Alienation Described

In the typical fourth stage of grief, there’s a type of depression that we might best describe as hopelessness. The person accepts reality, but only from an earthly perspective. They can see no higher plan.

It reminds me of the chilling opening scene in the musical Les Mis. Hundreds of prisoners are chanting, “Look down, look down, don’t look them in the eyes.” They’re filled with shame.

Then one prisoner, Jean val Jean, attempts to break free from his emotional prison by singing that there are people who love him and are waiting for him when he’s released. The guards and even the other prisoners heap more shame upon him. One cries, “Sweet Jesus doesn’t care.” Others sing, “You’ll always be a slave, you’re standing in your grave.”

That’s hopelessness. That’s the fourth stage of grief without Christ. Or, as Paul says it in 1 Thessalonians, it is grieving without hope.

Now What?

Grief without hope—without Christ—is no place to stay. We need comfort. Tomorrow we’ll define and describe it, and in coming days we’ll explore how we find it in Christ and His people.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Making Room for God


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 16: Making Room for God


What about you? Yesterday we explored how we can journey with others helping them to move from works to crying out to God in total dependence. But what about your path from bargaining, works, and self-sufficiency to vulnerable trust through humbly crying out to God?

Whether you are reflecting on your past suffering or experiencing current grief, here are a few suggestions and questions. I’ve designed them to help you to move from works to cry— faith-based plea for mobilization in which I humbly ask God for help based upon my admission that I can’t survive without Him.

Don’t try to address every suggestion. Pick a couple that connect with you.

My Crying Out to God Journey

1. As you reflect on your response to your loss, do you see any evidence of bargaining and works—of trying to get God to relent and to be good to you by being good? If so, where do you think this mindset comes from? And how could you begin to shift from works to crying out to God?

2. Crying out to God is like the adage in AA, “Hello, my name is Bob and I am in desperate need for help.” What will it be like for you to cry out to God, “Hello, my name is ______ and I desperately need you God”?

3. Why do you think it is so hard for us to admit to God that we can’t survive without Him?

4. Picture yourself, and perhaps do this now, reaching up to God, open palms, pleading eyes, asking God to mobilize His mercy on your behalf.

5. For me, crying out has sounded something like this. “God, I’m confused. I’m scared. Everything I trusted in is gone. I used to think that if I only prayed hard enough and worked long enough, that eventually everything I longed for would come true in this life. But now I know that’s a lie. So what is true? What have You really promised? What can I count on? I can’t count on myself. Father, I want to count on You. Don’t let me down. Rescue me. Help me. Save me.”

What might your cry sound like for you today?

6. Read the following verses: Psalm 56:8; Psalm 72:12; Psalm 34:17-18. Write your own personalized paraphrase of their message for your grieving.

7. Crying empties us so there is more room in us for God. David wept until he had no strength left, but then he found strength in the LORD (1 Samuel 30:6). Invite God in; make room for Him today in your grief.

8. God uses suffering to gain our attention. Crying out to Him is your admission that God has your attention, that God has you. Does He have you? Your pain? Your grief? Your dependence?

9. Here are a few cry trialogues. Pick one or two to explore personally.

“How could your pain cause you to cry out to Christ for help, love, strength, joy, peace, deliverance?”

“As in Psalm 13, how could your situation cause you to cry out to God for help and strength?”

“If you were to write a Psalm 72 or 73 (Psalms of crying out to God), how would it sound? What would you write?”

“What would it be like for you to believe that God collect your tears in His bottle?”

“Psalm 34:17-18 teaches that God’s good heart goes out especially to the humble needy. How could you apply this truth in your life now?”

“What’s it like when God seems to rush to your side when you cry?”

What Next? What Now?

So what’s next? You’ve been candid with yourself. You’ve complained and lamented to God. You’ve cried out to God. Now what?

For the world, the fourth “stage” is depression.

What Christian “stage” contrasts with that?

That’s our topic for tomorrow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

God's Megaphone


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 15: God’s Megaphone

How do you help others to move from a self-sufficient, works-oriented, bargaining with God response to suffering? How do you help your hurting, grieving spiritual friends to move to a God-sufficient, grace-oriented, dependence upon God response to their grief?

There are many effective ways to move with others along the healing path toward crying out to God. We’ll focus again on trialogues: three-way conversations between us, our friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend: Christ.

Sample Crying Out to God Trialogues

Consider some sample biblical trialogues to assist people to move toward crying out to God in humble dependence.

“How could your pain cause you to cry out to Christ for help, love, strength, joy, peace, deliverance?”

“As in Psalm 13, how could your situation cause you to cry out to God for help and strength?”

“If you were to write a Psalm 72 or 73 (Psalms of crying out to God), how would it sound? What would you write?”

“What would it be like for you to believe that God collect your tears in His bottle?”

“Psalm 34:17-18 teaches that God’s good heart goes out especially to the humble needy. How could you apply this truth in your life now?”

“C. S. Lewis once wrote that ‘God whispers to us in our suffering, but shouts to us in our pain,’ and taught that pain is God’s megaphone to get our attention and to cause us to depend upon Him. What message is God shouting to you in your pain? Does He have your attention? Your dependence?”

“God doesn’t seem to be going along with this bargain: you reform; He relents. Since He may not change your circumstances, perhaps you could change your prayers. Praying for inner strength . . .”

“What Scriptures could we look at that illustrate how God’s people have talked to God when they felt that He was not hearing their cry?”

“What’s it like when God seems to rush to your side when you cry?”

And What About You?

It's one thing to help others to cry out to God. How about you? Me? Let's return to the journey tomorrow to discover some personal routes to crying out to God for help in our hurts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does God Have Your Attention?


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 14: Does God Have Your Attention?

When loss hits we are typically so shocked that we numb and deny. Our caring God gently urges us toward candor—honesty with ourselves. Because He knows all, He also invites us to complain/lament—honesty with Him. Because He is all-powerful and infinitely loving, He further wants us to cry out to Him—humbly asking Him for help based upon my admission that I can’t survive without Him

Biblical Samplers

Psalm 56:8 teaches that we pray our tears and God collects them in His bottle. Psalm 72:12 assures us, “For he will deliver the needy who cry out” (KJV—when he crieth). Psalm 34 reminds us, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

I learned the significance of those particular verses from a counselee whose husband had left her for another woman. She clung to the truth and taught me the truth that God’s good heart goes out, especially, to the humble needy. She practiced biblical cry—the hopeful, trusting expression that God would mobilize Himself on her behalf.

Crying out to God, lamenting, is a testimony that God is responsive, while the idols are non-responsive (1 Samuel 12:20-24). When we cry out, we entreat God to help because expressed neediness compels God’s very character to act. God acts on voiced pain. He’s not a deaf and dumb idol.

More Room for God

Crying empties us, so there is more room in us for God. David wept until he had no strength left, but then he found strength in the LORD (1 Samuel 30:6). His cry summoned God into action—supportive action.

Suffering is God’s “opus alienum”—God’s dominant way of destroying our self-reliance and complacency. He uses suffering to gain our attention. Suffering is a slap in the face, the shock of icy water, a bloodied nose; meant to snatch our attention. Cry is our admission that God has our attention, that God has us.

Helping Others

Return tomorrow to learn how to help others to cry out to God. And the next day—learn how you can cry out to God in utter dependency.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wondering Who St. Patrick Was?



Wondering Who St. Patrick Was?

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is one of Christianity's most widely known figures. But for all his celebrity, his life remains somewhat of a mystery to many.

Taken Prisoner By Irish Raiders

It is known that St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. He is believed to have died on March 17, around 460 A.D. His father was a Christian deacon.

At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who were attacking his family's estate. They transported him to Ireland where he spent six years in captivity.

Many believe he was taken to live in Mount Slemish in County Antrim, while others surmise that he was held in County Mayo near Killala. During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. It was during this time that he became a devout Christian. It is also during this time that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity.

Escape and Ministry

After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped. In his writings he recorded that God spoke to him in a dream, telling him it was time to leave Ireland. To do so, Patrick walked nearly 200 miles to the Irish coast. After escaping to Britain, Patrick experienced a second revelation. An angel in a dream told him to return to Ireland as a missionary.

Soon after, Patrick began his spiritual training, a course of study that lasted more than fifteen years. After his ordination, he was sent to Ireland to begin to convert the Irish.

Although there were may have been a small number of Christians on the island when Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature-based pagan religion. Familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick was able to show how Christ was the one true Son of God.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Crying Out to God


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 13: Crying Out to God


Stage one of the grieving process moves from denial to candor, stage two from angry to complaint, and stage three from bargaining and works to crying out to God for help.

Bargaining/Works Described

When I label the typical third stage of grief that I put works with bargaining. Kubler-Ross recognized this reality in her research. The dying people that she worked with bargained with God believing that they would be rewarded for their good behavior and granted special favors.

This is exactly what Job’s miserable counselors counseled Job to do—behave, be good, do right and God will treat you right. Bargaining knows nothing of grace. It is all works, all self-effort, all self-sufficiency. That’s why as biblical counselors we want to move people from works to cry.

Cry Defined

What do I mean by “cry” What is it? Cry is a faith-based plea for mobilization in which I humbly ask God for help based upon my admission that I can’t survive without Him. Cry is reaching up with open palms and pleading eyes in the midst of darkness and doubt.

Throughout my 22nd year of life, I cried out to God for help. “God, I’m confused. I’m scared. Everything I trusted in is gone. I used to think that if I only prayed hard enough and worked long enough, that eventually everything I longed for would come true in this life. But now I know that’s a lie. So what is true? What have You really promised? What can I count on? I can’t count on myself. Father, I want to count on You. Don’t let me down. Rescue me. Help me. Save me.”

Is Cry Biblically Supported?

Did God hear my cries? Were my cries biblical? Can we find biblical support for cry as a scriptural stage of grief?

Check back in tomorrow to see.

Your Dark Night of the Soul


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 12: Your Dark Night of the Soul


What about you? Yesterday we explored how we can journey with others helping them to move from anger to complaint/lament. But what about your path from anger that pushes away to complaint that draws close?

Whether you are reflecting on your past suffering or experiencing current grief, here are a few suggestions and questions. I’ve designed them to help you to move from anger to complaint—vulnerable frankness about life to God in which I express my pain and confusion over how a good God allows evil and suffering.

Don’t try to address every suggestion. Pick a couple that connect with you.

My Complaint/Lament Journey

1. Biblical complaint/lament trusts God’s good heart enough to bring everything about us to Him. Where would you put yourself on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being anger that pushes God away because I doubt His good heart, and 10 being complaint/lament that invites God in because I trust His good heart?

2. Here are a few complaint trialogues. Pick one or two to explore personally.

a. “What do you think the Bible teaches about feeling anger or
disappointment toward God?”

b. “What verses could you ponder to discover how God’s people have talked to God when they experienced loss?”

c. “What does Psalm 88 suggest about expressing your anger, disappointment, or complaint toward God? How could you relate this to your response to God?”

d. “If you were to write a Psalm 13 or a Psalm 88 to God how would it sound? What would you write?”

e. "Suppose Satan sent someone to you to say, ‘Curse God and die.’ How would you respond?”

3. In past or current suffering, how did you begin to move from destructive anger to biblical complaint/lament?

4. Psalm 62:8 indicates that when we trust God we openly pour out our whole heart to Him, believing He is our refuge. Pour out your heart to God—everything and anything—in prayer, or in a journal, or in your own lament Psalm.

5. Write a Psalm 88—a Psalm of the Dark Night of the Soul—and rehearse before God all the badness of life as you are seeing and experiencing it.

6. Thinking of the examples of Job, of the Psalmists, of Jeremiah, of Paul in 2 Corinthian 1 and 4), and of Jesus (in the Garden), do you believe God invites our complaint and lament? A simple “yes” or “no” will say a lot . . .

7. To deny or diminish suffering is to arrogantly refuse to be humbled
(Deuteronomy 8:1-10). Remember your suffering and rehearse it God for the express purpose of admitting that God is indispensable.

8. Find a trusted, safe friend and take the “baby steps” of sharing with him or her some of your complaint.

What Next? What Now?

So what’s next? You’ve been candid with yourself. You’ve complained/lamented to God. Now what?

For the world the third “stage” is bargaining: basically attempting to manipulate God into being good to us by doing good works.

What Christian “stage” contrasts with that?

That’s our topic for tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

With Christ in the School of Suffering


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 11: With Christ in the School of Suffering


Biblical complaint counters unbiblical anger. Unproductive and unrighteous anger pushes us away from God, others, and personal healing. Productive and righteous complaint/lament draws us toward God, others, and personal healing.

It is reminiscent of what Philip Yancey says, “We can either be disappointed with God or without God.” I would say it like this. “We can either complain with and to God or we can complain without and about God.”

So how do we help others to move from anger to complaint? As we said with candor, there are many effective ways to move with others along the healing path. We’ll focus again on trialogues: three-way conversations between us, our friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend: Christ.

Sample Candor Trialogues

Consider some sample biblical trialogues to assist people to move toward biblical complaint.

“You’ve shared a lot. There’s obviously so much going on inside. Rightly so. Yet, so far we’ve not talked much about where Christ fits into your picture.”

“What are you doing with Christ in your suffering?”

“Have you been able to share your heart with God? If so, what have you said?”

“What do you think the Bible teaches about feeling anger or disappointment toward God?”

“What verses might we ponder to illustrate how God’s people have talked to God when they experienced loss?”

“What does Psalm 88 suggest about expressing your anger, disappointment, or complaint toward God? How could you relate this to your response to God?”

“If you were to write a Psalm 13 or a Psalm 88 to God (Psalms of lament and complaint), how would it sound? What would you write?”

“How would you compare your response to your suffering to Job’s? Jeremiah’s? Jacob’s? David’s? Paul’s? Jesus in the Garden?”

“Job and Jeremiah got pretty raw and real with God. Let’s look at some examples . . .”

“We’ve talked about Job’s story. Suppose Satan sent someone to you to say, ‘Curse God and die.’ How would you respond?”

And For Ourselves

Tomorrow we turn our focus to personal complaint. How can we move along the path from anger to complaint? See ya’ then.

Friday, March 13, 2009

God Prizes Complaint!

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 10: God Prizes Complaint!

Can complaint be biblically supported? Does God really prize complaint?

Complaining About Biblical Complaint

Some think not. They ask, “Didn’t God judge the Israelites for complaining?”

There are different words and a different context between the sinful complaint of the Israelites in Numbers and the godly complaint/lament of the Psalmists and others. Plus, biblical complaint complains to God about the fallen world. Ungodly complaint complains about God and accuses Him of lacking goodness, holiness, and wisdom.

Biblical Complaint Samplers

Consider Psalm 62:8. “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

The biblical genre of complaint expresses frankness about the reality of life that seems incongruent with the character of God. Complaint is an act of truth-telling faith, not unfaith. Complaint is a rehearsal of the bad allowed by the Good.

Complaint lives in the real world honestly, refusing to ignore what is occurring. It is radical trust in God’s reliability in the midst of real life.

In Job 3, and much of Job for that matter, Job forcefully and even violently expresses his complaint. “What’s the point of life when it doesn’t make sense, when God blocks all roads to meaning? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:23-25).

In Job 42:7-8, God honors Job’s complaint saying that Job spoke right of life and right of God. God prizes complaint and rejects all deceiving denial and simplistic closure, preferring candid complexity.

In Jeremiah 20:7, Jeremiah complains that God appears, by reason alone, to be an unprincipled, abusive Bully. “O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.”

Jeremiah felt and expressed condemnation and rejection in Lamentations 5:20. “Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?” God responds positively to Jeremiah’s rehearsal of life’s incongruity.

Heman, considered one of the wisest believers ever (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 2:6), pens the Psalm of the dark night of the soul (Psalm 88) in which his concluding line sums his spiritual struggle. “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18).

Rehearsing Our Suffering Before Our Suffering Savior

To deny or diminish suffering is to arrogantly refuse to be humbled. It is to reject dependence upon God. We are chastised in Deuteronomy 8:1-10 for forgetting our past suffering. God wants us to remember our suffering, our need for Him in our suffering, and rehearse our suffering before Him.

What’s Next?

Given that inspired Scripture documents godly complaint/lament, how do we help others to lament? How do we address our complaints to God in a godly way? Stay with us for the next two days to discover how.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can We Really Complain to God?

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 9: Can We Really Complain to God?

Our healing journey has walked us down the path from denial to candor: honesty with ourselves. In a Christian approach to grieving, we can’t stop there. We must learn how to traverse the trail of complaint—honesty with God.

From Destructive Anger to Constructive Complaint

Anger is the typical “second stage” in the world’s grieving journey. Satan is the master masquerader (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). His counterfeit for biblical complaint is unhealthy, destructive anger.

He substitutes cursing for complaint. Such as when Job’s wife counsels Job to curse God and die—give up on God, on yourself, and on life. Cursing God demeans Him, seeing Him as a lightweight, as a dark desert and a land of great darkness (Jeremiah 2). Cursing separates. Complaint connects. Complaint draws us toward God; hatred and anger push us away from God.

Defining Biblical Complaint

What is complaint? In candor we’re honest with ourselves; in complaint we’re honest to God. Complaint is vulnerable frankness about life to God in which I express my pain and confusion over how a good God allows evil and suffering.

We needlessly react against the word “complaint.” “Christians can’t complain!” we insist. Yet numerically, there are more Psalms of complaint and lament than Psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

Complaints are faith-based acts of persistent trust. They are one of the many moods of faith. Psalm 91’s exuberant trust is one faith mood while Psalm 88’s dark despair is another faith mood. A mood of faith is simply trusting God enough to bring everything about us to Him. In complaint we hide nothing from God because we trust His good heart and because we know He knows our hearts.

My Personal Lament

In the weeks and months after my 22nd birthday, I engaged in passionate complaint. What made my struggle even more difficult was my lack of assurance that my father was a believer. I had witnessed to him, prayed for him, and he even began attending church with me. Yet even on his deathbed, he made no verbal commitment of faith in Christ.

So I shared with God. I complained to God. I told God, “What’s the use? Why did I pray, witness, and share? Why should I ever pray again? Why should I ever try again, trust again?” I shared my confusion and my doubt with God. “Why does everyone else’s parent accept Christ in a glorious deathbed conversion?”

Were my expressions of complaint biblical? Can complaint be biblically supported? We’ll address that vital question tomorrow. . .

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Your Grief Journey

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 8: Your Grief Journey

What about you? Yesterday we explored how we can journey with others through their grief. But what about your grief journey?

Perhaps you’re going through a very fresh season of suffering. Or, perhaps things are sailing along smoothly right now. Whether reflecting on your past suffering or experiencing your current grief, here are a few suggestions and questions.

I’ve designed them to help you to move from denial to candor—brutal, frank honesty with yourself about your losses and crosses. Don’t try to address every suggestion. Pick a couple that connect with you.

My Candor Journey

1. True faith faces all of life. Where would you put yourself on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being total denial and 10 being facing all of life?

2. In past or current suffering, how did you begin to move from denial to candor?

3. How could your lively relationship with God become the anvil He uses to batter your suffering into meaningful shape?

4. As you reflect on something you are grieving over, list the external losses.

a. What is missing?

b. What has been robbed from your life?

c. What are you grieving over the most?

d. What feelings do you associate with these losses?

5. As you reflect on your grief experience, list the internal crosses—the trials of your faith. Be brutally honest.

a. How has your suffering impacted your relationship with and your attitude toward God?

b. What do you think the Bible teaches about feeling and expressing anger and/or disappointment with God?

6. Read Psalm 13 and/or Psalm 88. Write your own candid lament psalms expressing your feelings to God.

7. Read Matthew 27:45-46 and Luke 22:39-45. How can Jesus’ candor with Himself, His disciples, and with God influence you?

8. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 and 2 Corinthians 4:7-12. Pen your own candid story of your suffering and grieving.

9. Find a trusted, safe friend and take the “baby steps” of sharing with him or her some of your candor.

What Next? What Now?

I know. For some it’s like, “This can’t end here, right?”

Good question. Fair question.

No. Biblical grieving does not end with candor. It begins with candor.

Where it heads next is our topic for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Joining the Grieving Journey

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 7: Joining the Grieving Journey


How do we help others to move from denial to candor?

There are many biblically effective ways to empower people to move through the grieving process. We’ll focus on one category of interventions: trialogues.

Trialogues

In a monologue, I speak to you and/or at you. In a dialogue, we converse back and forth. In a trialogue, a third Party joins us in our conversation—God. Every biblical counseling session must have this three-way communication: you and your counselees listen to God, exploring how His Word relates to their situation.

There are two broad types of trialogues: scriptural explorations and spiritual conversations.

Scriptural explorations explore specific, applicable passages to empower people to relevantly relate God’s Word to their struggles.

Spiritual conversations ponder broad Biblical principles to empower people to face life face-to-face with God.

Samplers

Consider some sample biblical trialogues to assist people to move toward biblical candor.

“I’m so sorry this has happened to you.”

“I can only begin to imagine what you might be feeling.”

“If it were me, I think I might be feeling __________. How does that relate to how you’re feeling?”

“What is your loss like for you?”

“What’s it like to go through all of this?”

“What has been robbed from your life due to this? What is missing?”

“What are you grieving over the most?”

“Have you ever faced anything like this before? How did you feel then?”

“What do you think the Bible teaches about feeling and expressing anger in a situation like yours?”

“Do you find examples in the Bible of believers facing suffering and struggling with depression?”

“David experienced something similar. Stalked by Saul, his life was on the line. He faced the valley of the shadow of death. Could we look at his situation and his response (Psalm 23)?”

“Tamar experienced something like this. Her half-brother betrayed her sexually. Could we look at her situation and her response (2 Samuel 13)?”

“Let’s ponder how 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (Paul’s teaching on candor) might relate to your grieving.”

“Could we explore what applications 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (Paul’s candor) might have to your loss?”

How Do We Move from Denial to Candor?

But how do we move from denial to candor?


Based upon this first week of blog posts, how would you answer that?

Based upon your own life experience, how have you become brutally honest with yourself in the grieving journey?

Tomorrow we’ll explore further personal implications on the grieving journey.

Monday, March 09, 2009

What to Do After the Hug

Doc. K. Invites You to Learn . . .
What to Do After the Hug

April 4, 2009, from 8:00-4:30, at Emmanuel Temple Church (10005 Old Columbia Road, Suite N-165, Columbia, MD 21046) Dr. Kellemen and RPM Ministries will present the Changing Lives Seminar: What to Do After the Hug.

In one day, participants learn how to use the Bible accurately, powerfully, and lovingly in biblical counseling and spiritual friendship.

You will learn how to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth to become a comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed soul physician.

You will learn how to care like Christ to become an empathizing, encouraging, enlightening, and empowering spiritual friend.

Dr. Kellemen has summarized nearly 1,000 pages of material (from his first two books Soul Physicians and Spiritual Friends) into a forty-page manuscript, a twelve-page outline, and two creative, engaging PowerPoint presentations. Throughout the day, there will be ten interactive discussion times to apply the material to our lives and ministries.

Attend to learn how to equip others.. Attend to refresh your own equipping. Bring your people so they can be equipped and excited about one another ministry.

The cost is just $25, and includes the full-day seminar, a continental breakfast, a light lunch, and the seminar notes.

To register contact Judy Sheppard at 410-935-1821, or Marcia Williams at 410-312-5483, or by email at
etca@emmanueltempleapostolic.org.

For a copy of the conference flier, email Doc. K. at:
bob.kellemen@gmail.com

No Grieving; No Healing. Know Grieving; Know Healing

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 6: No Grieving; No Healing. Know Grieving; Know Healing

So… does God really allow and even invite His children to be brutally honest about life? Can we support candor biblically?

A Man After God’s Own Heart

David practices candor in Psalm 42:3-5. “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

Notice how David is honest about his external suffering—he describes his losses—the loss of fellowship, leadership, and worship. He also is candid about his internal suffering—he depicts his crosses—accurately labeling his soul as downcast and disturbed within him.

If we had time, we could examine how biblical character after Biblical character practiced candor—Job, Jeremiah, Solomon, Asaph, Heman (Psalm 88), Jesus, Paul, and so many more.

No Grieving; No Healing. Know Grieving; Know Healing

The Apostle Paul does not tell us not to grieve; he tells us not to grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He chooses a Greek word meaning to feel sorrow, distress, and grief, and to experience pain, heaviness, and inner affliction.

Paul is teaching that grief is the grace of recovery because mourning slows us down to face life. No grieving; no healing. Know grieving; know healing.

The only person who can truly dare to grieve, bear to grieve, is the person with a future hope that things will eventually be better. When we trust God’s good heart, then we trust Him no matter what. We need not pretend. We can face and embrace the mysteries of life.

Step on the Mats

Candor or denial. The choice is a turning point. It is a line drawn in the sand of life, a hurdle to confront. Faith crosses the line. Trust leaps the hurdle. We face reality and embrace truth, sad as it is. If facing suffering is wrestling face-to-face with God, then candor is our decision to step on the mat.

So Give Me Some Examples!

Just what do I mean by candor? What are some personal examples? Join us against tomorrow for real life, raw examples of biblical candor.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Dr. Kellemen Launches RPM Ministries Full-Time

Dr. Kellemen Launches RPM Ministries Full-Time

Friends,

I’d like to share with you a decision that I’ve made after much prayer and consultation. After thirteen years of ministry at Capital Bible Seminary (CBS), effective July 1, 2009, I will no longer be serving as the Chairman of and full-time Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship (MACCD) department. I will remain connected to CBS as Professor-at-Large where I will offer key classes as visiting professor and present equipping seminars as a guest lecturer.

RPM Ministries 2.0

I am following God’s leading to expand RPM Ministries. Myself and a team of fully-equipped and highly-qualified colleagues have laser-focused our mission.


It is our passion to equip God’s people to
change lives with Christ’s changeless truth
through speaking, consulting, and writing
on comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed
biblical counseling and spiritual formation.

Speaking: Changing Lives Seminars

Through day-long or half-day seminars, and through one-session presentations, RPM Ministries will equip pastors, lay people, and Christian counselors to grow through biblical truth related to daily life. Every speaking opportunity includes engaging PowerPoint presentations, interactive group discussions, personal applications, and ministry implications.

1. What to Do After the Hug: How to Care Like Christ

Be equipped to use the Bible accurately, powerfully, and lovingly in biblical counseling and spiritual friendship.

2. God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Be equipped to journey with hurting people through the eight stages in the biblical healing process.

3. Heroes of Black Church History: Celebrating the Legacy of African American Christianity

Christians of all races learn how to apply the legacy of the heroes of Black Church history to life and ministry today.

4. Cultivating Christlike Intercultural Relational Competencies: A Christ-Centered TEAM Approach

Be equipped to develop four championship TEAM skills to relate harmoniously and minister powerfully in our culturally-diverse society.

5. Heroines of Church History: Celebrating Life Lessons from the Legacy of Christian Women

Be equipped to apply the legacy of women heroes of the Church to life and ministry today.

Consulting: “4E” Ministry Equipping

Through RPM Consulting, we provide biblical wisdom to churches and para-church organizations. Christian leaders are passionate about equipping lay counselors, care-givers, and spiritual friends. However, most leaders are terrified about the process—fearing legal issues, quality of care matters, training material questions, and supervisory difficulties.

Step-by-step, we empower you to equip your people for the work of the ministry. Learn how to envision God’s ministry, enlist God’s ministers for ministry, equip godly ministers, and empower God’s ministers.

Writing: Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth

I’ll continue my writing ministry with:

1. Daily blog posts on Changeless Truth for Changing Times:
http://rpmministries.blogspot.com/

2. Free resources on my web site (over 50 already!):
http://www.rpmbooks.org/free_resources.html

3. Weekly updates on my RPM Ministries Facebook page (join today):
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131391165161

4. Books such as Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, and Beyond the Suffering:
http://www.rpmbooks.org/orders.html

5. New Books

That’s right, look for these two exciting new books:

a. Sacred Friendships: Listening to the Voices of Women Soul Care-Givers and Spiritual Directors (July, 2009, BMH Books, co-authored with Susan Ellis).

b. God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting (December, 2009, BMH Books).

6. The VineLine: This is our monthly e-newsletter with free resources, to-the-point equipping, community-building, and ministry updates. If you would like to be added to our growing e-list, email us at:
rpm.ministries@gmail.com.

Prayer Partnership

Your prayer support is greatly appreciated.

1. We’ll likely be transitioning from a sole proprietorship to both an LLC status and a 501 C 3 status.

2. We need to be wise in what to say “Yes” to and what to say “No” to. We want to keep our laser focus. Already for 2009 we only have three open weekends left for seminar ministry. If you are interested in having your church host one of these final three events, email us:
rpm.ministries@gmail.com or call: 219-662-8138.

These are exciting days. Thank you for being a friend, supporter, and partner in ministry.

In Christ’s Grace,

Bob

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Courageous Truth Telling

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 5: Courageous Truth Telling


So, the world’s way is denial. How do we move with God from denying the reality of our loss to brutal honesty—to candor?

Candor Defined

What exactly is biblical candor? Candor is:

Courageous truth telling about life to myself in which I come face-to-face with the reality of external and internal suffering.

The World Is Fallen and It Often Falls On Us

Let’s explore the last part of this definition first. Martin Luther divided suffering into two levels. He said that level one suffering is what happens to us and around us—external suffering—life’s losses.

Level one suffering is what we are facing. It’s the external stuff of life to which we respond internally. I lose my job, my child is ill, I face criticism, experience abuse, and the like. I like to say it like this: the world is fallen and it often falls on us.

The World Is a Mess and It Often Messes with Our Minds

This is bad, even traumatic, but level two suffering is worse. Level two suffering is what happens in us—internal suffering—life’s crosses. Level two suffering is how we face what we are facing.

This level of suffering is the suffering of the mind that gives rise to fear and doubt as we reflect on our external suffering. It is the crisis of faith. Do we doubt, fear, and run away from God? Or, do we trust, cling, and face our suffering face-to-face with God? I like to say it like this: The world is a mess and it often messes with our mind. In candor, I admit what is happening to me and I feel what is going on inside me.

My Personal Story


I had to move from denial to candor after the death of my father on my 21st birthday. In fact, it was not until my 22nd birthday that the process truly began. I had been handling my loss like a good Bible college graduate and seminary student—I was pretending!

On my 22nd birthday I went for a long walk around the outskirts of the Grace Seminary campus. I started facing my loss. My loss of my Dad. The reality that I would never know him in an adult-to-adult relationship. The fact that my future children would never know their grandfather. As I faced some of these external loses, the tears came. Then I began to face some of the internal crosses. What was happening in me. I felt like a loner. Fatherless. Orphaned. Unprotected. On my own. The tears flowed. The process of candor began. The floodgate of emotions erupted. I was being honest with myself.

Was It Biblical?

But was it biblical?

Drop back by tomorrow as we explore just how amazingly biblical candor is and how vital it is to emotionally and spiritually healthy responding to life’s losses.

Friday, March 06, 2009

True Faith Faces All of Life

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 4: True Faith Faces All of Life

The world has it’s way of grieving. But, when our fallen world falls on us, when suffering crushes us, we need much more than research. We need revelation—we need God’s inspired truth about how to grieve as those who have hope.

Research informs us that people’s typical response to loss is denial. God’s Word offers us profound practical wisdom for moving from denial to candor: honesty with ourselves.

Denial Described

Candor contrasts with the typical first stage of human grieving—denial. When suffering first hits; when we first hear the news of the unexpected death of a loved one; when we’re told that we’ve been fired; we respond with shock. We can’t believe it. Life seems unreal.

I experienced this when I was ten years old. It was December and I was coming home from Riddle’s Pond where we were playing hockey. Billy Trapp and I were in a fight. My Mom pulls up, rolls down the window, and says:

“Get in the car. Grandpa died.”

My response?

“You’re kidding.”

Like my Mom would kid about something like that.

True Faith Faces All of Life

Denial is a common initial grief response. I believe that this initial response can be a grace of God allowing our bodies and physical brains to catch up, to adjust. However, after the necessary period of time, long-term denial is counter-productive. More than that, it is counter to faith, because true faith faces all of life.

I worked with a Pastor who struggled to move past denial. His wife died while giving birth to their only child. He denied the reality for months. He went on preaching, continued ministering. He never grieved, never wept. He put on a happy face. Behind the scenes, he was a mess. He imagined that he saw and heard his deceased wife. He was near the point of a total emotional and spiritual collapse, largely because he could not move out of the stage of denial and into the stage of candor.

So what is “candor”?

Visit again tomorrow and we’ll not only define it; we’ll illustrate it in real life. See you then…

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Facing Suffering Face-to-Face with God


God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 3: Facing Suffering Face-to-Face with God

My study of biblical suffering suggests an eight-stage process for moving hurting people to hope in Christ. God’s purpose in suffering is not simply to remove us from our suffering, but to help us to face suffering face-to-face with God.

Today, I’ll outline the stages and tomorrow we’ll start exploring each one day-by-day. Just remember this: “stages” or “phases” can be misleading. Moving through grieving to growth is not an easy step-by-step process. It is a mess, murky, mucky, real-and-raw journey of twists and turns, ups and downs.

Sustaining in Suffering: “It’s Normal to Hurt and Necessary to Grieve”

The first four phases in biblical grieving compare and contrast with the first four stages in the typical human response to suffering.

1. Stage One: Candor

We move from denial and isolation to candor: honesty with self.

2. Stage Two: Complaint

We move from anger and resentment to complaint: honesty with God.

3. Stage Three: Cry

We move from bargaining and works to cry: asking God for help.

4. Stage Four: Comfort

We move from depression and alienation to comfort: receiving God’s help.

Healing in Suffering: “It’s Supernatural to Hope in the Midst of Grief”

The next four phases in the biblical healing process contrast and compare with the world’s response of acceptance.

5. Stage Five: Waiting

We move from regrouping to waiting: trusting with faith.

6. Stage Six: Wailing

We move from deadening to wailing: groaning with hope.

Stage Seven: Weaving

We move from despairing and doubting to weaving: perceiving with grace.

Stage Eight: Worshipping

We move from digging cisterns to worshipping: engaging with love.

The Healing Path

Return to the healing path tomorrow as we begin to explore together the first of these eight biblical stages of grieving and growing.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Radio Interview on Beyond the Suffering

Check out this hour-long radio interview about Beyond the Suffering on The Church Insider with Shamielle Alston.



Miserable Counselors?

God's Healing for Life's Losses:
Post 2: Miserable Counselors?

For far too long some biblical counselors have highlighted confronting the sinning, but minimized comforting the suffering. But if we are to rightly call ourselves biblical counselors, then we must address what the Bible addresses. And suffering is everywhere in the Bible from Genesis 3 to Revelation 19.

Frank Lake explains the implications of the Bible’s emphasis on suffering and sin.


“The maladies of the human spirit in its deprivations and in its depravity are matters of common pastoral concern.”

True pastoral/biblical counseling not only studies depravity—the sins we have committed, it also must examine deprivation—the evils we have suffered.

When we talk about sin and not suffering, then we become like Job’s counselors, who Job labeled “miserable comforters.” They mistakenly called his suffering “sin” and cruelly claimed that he was suffering because of personal sin.

The World, More Compassionate Than the Church!?

Oddly, the world at times seems more compassionate than the church!

While we in the church have been like Job’s miserable counselors, the world has at least tried to address human suffering. Unfortunately, their approach is incomplete and inaccurate.

Students of human grief have developed various models that track typical grief responses. However, their models fail to assess whether these responses correspond to God’s process for hurting and hoping.

Without getting too technical, we must understand something about research in a fallen world. At best, it describes what typically does occurs. It cannot and should not, with assurance and authority, prescribe what should occur. Their attempts to understand the human nature are thwarted by the fallenness of our nature and of our world.

DABDA (The Acrostic of the World’s Five-Stages of Grieving)

The best known approach is that of Swiss-born psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. In her book On Death and Dying, she popularized a five-stage model of grieving based upon her research into how terminally ill persons respond to the news of their terminal illness. Her five stages, which have since been used to describe all grief responses, are:

Denial: This is the shock reaction. “It can’t be true.” “No, not me.” We refuse to believe what happened.

Anger: Resentment grows. “Why me?” “Why my child?” “This isn’t fair!” We direct blame toward God, others, and ourselves. We feel agitated, moody, on edge.

Bargaining: We try to make a deal, insisting that things be the way they used to be. “God, if you heal my little girl, I’ll never drink again.” “If I’m very good, then God might relent and be very good to me.” We call a temporary truce with God.

Depression: Now we say, “Yes, me.” The courage to admit our loss brings sadness (which can be healthy mourning and grieving) and hopelessness (which is unhealthy mourning and grieving).

Acceptance: Now we face our loss calmly. It’s a time of silent reflection and regrouping. “Life has to go on. How? What do I do now?” With one’s own impending death, it’s a time of quiet contemplation almost void of feelings. Sometimes it includes contentment, other times despair.

These various stages in the grief process claim to record what does typically occur. They do not attempt to assess if this is what is best to occur, or if it is God’s process for hurting and hoping.

Is it God’s process?

Return tomorrow to learn the rest of the story…

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

God's Healing for Life's Losses

God’s Healing for Life’s Losses:
How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting

Post 1: Creative Suffering

Frank Lake powerfully depicts God’s purposes in suffering.

“There is no human experience which cannot be put on the anvil of a lively relationship with God, and battered into a meaningful shape.”

Notice what the anvil is—a lively relationship with God. Notice the process—battering. Notice the result—meaning, purpose.

Another individual, this one intimately acquainted with grief, also pictures creative suffering. You may recall Terry Waite. The British hostage released in 1991 after nearly five years of solitary confinement in Lebanon was chained to the wall of his room for almost twenty-four hours a day. Reflecting on his circumstances, he noted:

"I have been determined in captivity, and still am determined, to convert this experience into something that will be useful and good for other people. I think that's the way to approach suffering. It seems to me that Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it and eventually convert it."

Creative suffering doesn’t simply accept suffering, through the Cross it converts it.

The World’s Way and the Word’s Way

How do we move from suffering to creative suffering? How do we help others to suffer face-to-face with God rather than turning their backs on God during suffering?

We have two basic options.


1. We can turn to the world’s way.

Students of human grief have developed various models that track typical grief responses, such as the typical five stages of death and dying. However, these models fail to assess whether the responses correspond to God’s process for hurting (grieving) and hoping (growing). We will address and assess the typical five stages, however, we want to move beyond them.

2. We can turn to the Word's way.


The biblical approach to grieving and growing identifies eight scriptural stages in our responses to life’s losses. God’s way equips us to competently, compassionately, and comprehensively sustain and heal sufferers so that they can face suffering face-to-face with God.

Join us again tomorrow as we introduce God’s healing process.

Monday, March 02, 2009

RPM Ministries 2.0

RPM Ministries 2.0

Be Equipped by RPM Ministries 2.0

We’re taking RPM Ministries to the next level! And I do mean “we.” Over a dozen associates are now ministering with me to minister to you.

We are offering five different types of seminars. To learn about hosting one or attending one in your area, please email us:
rpm.ministries@gmail.com.

We will also be updating them on our website in the coming dates.

New Facebook RPM Group

We have created a new Facebook RPM Ministries group. It will replace several different FB groups I have led, so that now I am on FB only in two places: my blog and the new RPM group. You can join here (see link below this paragraph) and received free resources and a boatload of equipping while connecting with other people passionate about changing lives.

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=131391165161

Upcoming Blog Equipping

I want to thank all of you for following the RPM blog: Changeless Truth for Changing Times. You can bookmark it as a favorite at two addresses:

http://rpmministries.blogspot.com/ (On the RPM website)

http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks/blog/changeless_truth_for_changing_times/ (On Facebook)

You Asked, We Deliver

Thank you for your feedback on what you want to see next from our upcoming posts.

Based upon your requests, in the coming months, we will be focusing on some of the following topics, in no particular order:

1. Blogs we follow and why.

2. Books we’re reading and why.

3. Equipping for pastors and lay people in comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation for the church and para-church.

4. How to find hope when you’re hurting: God’s healing for life’s losses.

5. How to minister to sexual abuse victims.

6. How to understand and deal with issues of depression and anxiety.

7. Learning how to minister from the great female soul care-givers (based upon my soon-to-be-released book, co-authored with Susan Ellis).

Join the Journey

As you enjoy the conversation and join the journey, please consider:

1. Inviting others to join our blog family. 2. Rating the RPM blog (on Facebook):
http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks/blog/changeless_truth_for_changing_times/
3. Putting the RPM blog on your blog, on your website, and linking our blog as a blog you read.4. Setting our blog as an RSS feed so you get daily updates.5. Guest blogging. 6. Commenting on the RPM blog home page:
http://rpmministries.blogspot.com/



Sunday, March 01, 2009

"What Cha' Bloggin' About, Robert!?"

Blog Friends,

I want to thank all of you for following my blog: Changeless Truth for Changing Times. You can bookmark it as a favorite at two addresses:

http://rpmministries.blogspot.com/ (My website)

http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks/blog/changeless_truth_for_changing_times/ (Facebook)

And thank you for your feedback on what you want to see next from my posts.

In the coming months, I will be focusing on some of the following topics, in no particular order:

1. Blogs I follow and why.

2. Books I’m reading and why.

3. Equipping for pastors and lay people in comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation for the church and para-church.

4. How to find hope when you’re hurting: God’s healing for life’s losses.

5. How to minister to sexual abuse victims.

6. How to understand and deal with issues of depression and anxiety.

7. Learning how to minister from the great female soul care-givers (based upon my soon-to-be-released book, co-authored with Susan Ellis).

As you enjoy the conversation and join the journey, please consider:

1. Inviting others to join my our blog family. 2. Rating my blog (on Facebook)3. Putting my blog on your blog, on your website, and linking my blog as a blog you read.4. Setting my blog as an RSS feed so you get daily updates.5. Guest blogging. 6. Commenting on my blog home page.

Bob