Today is the birthday for my oldest daughter. She is almost home from driving all night taking her oldest daughter to Phoenix, AZ to complete her senior year in college. She and Faith drove there Monday along with Faith’s fiancé. It doesn’t matter what Amy, my daughter, has going on in her life, if one of her kids (and she has 6) needs her, she stops and takes the time to address it. I love this about her. What a good mom, friend, daughter she is!
Little by little the details of our counseling program come together. Yesterday I met with the other two working with me in this endeavor. They are both retired licensed counselors who have been Christians all of their adult years. Their depth of knowledge and support is so welcomed and appreciated. Each of them is donating 1.5 days to this. Later today I will have an appointment generated from the kickoff presentation Sunday morning. I still can hardly believe this is taking place, yet it is real and functioning. Wow, God is GOOD!
Last night our step study group did the lesson on RELAPSE. In this lesson we talked deeply about listening and it asks us to ponder how well we do listen. It then takes the question to listening to God and responding to the nudges we know from God’s Holy Spirit within. This morning as I asked Jesus what He wanted me to know for today, His response was about listening. He told me that listening and probing for understanding is a very healthy start, but only a start. Listening completes itself when we take what we heard and now understand to asking what the one talking to us would like/hope would happen now that they have been heard? This piece then completes listening so we can know if in listening there is something we ought to do. It also lays the ground work so The Holy Spirit can nudge us in the direction God wants us to take with what we’ve heard. We don’t need to surmise what to do, God’s Spirit will make this clear. I love this message for it will be most helpful in coming days.
There are a number of things I have running through my mind this morning for topics to write about. One is an email I received yesterday morning from a dear lady in our church. As the counseling program was being introduced to the congregation she thought she’d understood that those who come to receive counsel might struggle with their identity in Christ. When I explained to her in a responding email that this was a common struggle, she responded that they should let that go and receive Jesus’ identity for them. I chose not to respond to that comment because I feel it needs to be a face to face conversation. I doubt this person knows the battle one faces when moving from knowing what the bible says to believing it is real for them. I know this intense struggle very well from my own background.
This reminded me of 14 years ago when we were in our first year of Celebrate Recovery’s start for our church. A lady I respect deeply was providing our dinner this night. She said to me as she was setting up the dinner line, “Earnie, don’t you think these people that come back each week are just lazy? They just don’t seem to want to take the step of receiving the help Jesus/God has for them.” I reminded her of what I had told the church about my background and reason for wanting to start this ministry a year or so ago. She said she remembered and felt sorry that I had to go through my divorce. She didn’t even connect from what I’d said to the depth of struggle I expressed from my childhood abuse. I don’t think I’d mentioned my divorce, but she knew about it. I restated this part to her so she’d better understand why I was working with CR. When I finished saying this I asked her if she thought I was a lazy person for being here each week? She then said, “Oh my, I will never believe such a lie again. Thanks for making this struggle very clear to me.” She continued to cook for us for many years and never with judgment, just love and support.
Lots of people want to support others. Knowing how to do this without judgment is a key piece. We never stop growing in our understanding of the immensity of God’s love and grace. He wants our support to reflect His support.
The introduction of the biblical counseling program went very well yesterday. The church had made 50 brochures for me to have for giving out to those interested folks. Well, after the first service there were only 10 left for the second service which has more attendees that the first. I quickly got more printed so we were able to have ample available for the second group. It was very touching to hear the honest confessions so many had. There were 3 different men who came to me introducing themselves as students I’d had many years ago. Each one was asking for help and expressed their appreciation that their old principal could now be their counselor. I just can’t get over how amazing our God is!
My bible reading in The Passion this morning was Hebrews 6. It starts with the title, “Moving on to Deeper Truth”. In the last part of the chapter the subtitle is, “God’s Faithful Promise”. In this chapter regarding going deeper into God’s Truth I am challenged to see the importance of helping others believe the truth of God’s promises for each of us/them. God doesn’t remove the struggles of our lives as I’ve known, but He does provide a way of escape. I use to think the way of escape would be to remove the struggle. Instead, what God provides is a means of letting go of the struggles’ shackles so they don’t become a constant burden to hide.
Our counseling goal is to give new hope for these who come. A quote from Hebrews 6:19 says: “We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us.” It has taken me a lifetime to know this hope, and now it is time to help others find what God has so graciously given to me and wants others to have too.
Today is the day we will inform the congregation at our church about the biblical counseling program. It officially begins tomorrow. I will be interviewed by one of our pastors. He said it will spontaneous so I do not need to prepare for the questions. In preparing myself for this day I’ve learned a big lesson about biblical counseling–The Holy Spirit is in charge or else it isn’t biblical counseling. Learning to listen and obey the nudges of the Holy Spirit is always at the beginning and throughout the session. Today will be a good example of this. The pastor interviewing me is the same one who presented me with the idea of starting a counseling program in the first place. I can’t remember if I wrote at that time, but it went like this. He said to me that God had told him to tell me it was time for me to quit working with schools and to begin a counseling program in our church. He asked what I thought about that and I said he’d need to give me about three days to process, right now I wasn’t breathing!
All of this took place last February. Since that time I’ve attended the Association of Biblical Counseling conference in April, completed the class they offer for the preparation of biblical counseling and worked with our administrative pastor to create the system for requesting the counseling, etc., and recruited two retired Christian counselors to join this project.
Today, more than anything, I am so humbled and grateful to know that the life I thought needed to be hidden until death is being used by God to help others know their life is on purpose and they matter greatly to this Magnificent God we get to serve. His Love, Grace and Mercy are waiting to be received. Asking for help starts the process.
Yesterday I wrote about the Word of God literally being The Holy Spirit speaking to me (to us) as we read it. Today this message was strengthened even more as I read the 4th chapter of Hebrews. I am a “doer” by nature. I get fulfillment from doing. I measure the success of the day by the amount of doing I get done. Yesterday was a perfect example. I had needed to trim trees in my yard so I did this only to find there was a good deal more trimming than I had expected. I ended making two trips to the county dump with a pickup bed loaded to the hilt each trip. When that was done I needed to mow the lawn and deliver the clippings to my kid’s goats. When all of that was done I felt satisfied and good that the day was meaningful. I even journaled about it this morning as I began my devotions.
My greater problem is that I naturally apply this same “doing” mentality to any thing needing to be done. When someone talks to me about their problems I wonder how I can help. If I cannot physically help I tend to let it go because I don’t want the problem haunting me as though I should do something I can’t. What today’s devotion was stressing for me is my need to surrender with TRUST. It isn’t about me or there would be something physically I could do. It is about The Holy Spirit working in the situation. God calls me to TRUST Him. Keep my mind and spirit focused on the fact the He is the Great Healer–not me and my works.
I know all of this and I even know it pretty well. However, I needed today’s message so I can strengthen my Trust. I know to surrender, but that doesn’t mean suspend from my thinking and prayer. I need to Praise God in advance for the work He is doing because I Trust Him completely. Another lesson in the making.
I am presently reading Hebrews in The Passion translation of the Bible. In the 3rd chapter there is a section entitled “Secrets from Psalm 95”. It starts with, “This is why the Holy Spirit says….” There is a footnote tied to this passage. It reads, “Notice the truth that the Bible is the Holy Spirit of God speaking to us.”
I’ve always known that the Bible is God’s Word and that the Word is alive and active. Somehow I’d never made the connection until this morning that these words of the Bible are The Holy Spirit speaking to me each and every day as I read them. I use to read the Bible each and every day so that I could read through the Bible in a year’s time. I would measure the success of my Bible reading by this accomplishment. Today I read the Bible in much shorter passage because I want to grasp the full message God has for me in it. It seemed to be growth I thought to do this, but knowing that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me brings forth another one of those intimate moments with Him I just hadn’t understood.
Further into this chapter it says, “They wandered in their hearts just like they do with their feet….” This too hit me. I have questioned so many times in my heart if God were working. I’d walk as though I believed, but in my heart I didn’t trust. God has been showing me how important it is to TRUST Him fully. I know I’m not done with this lesson, but I praise the Holy Spirit for opening my eyes to this reality today. How much I love Him!
Yesterday I completed the on-line class I was taking to prepare me for the biblical counseling ministry. Just taking it took me back into the days when I was completing my graduate work for school administration. That was 47 years ago. I’ve taken many courses since that time, but none that required the depth of work this one did. However, the learning from the class is deeply appreciated and has helped to show me just how important it is to counsel always with Jesus’ healing work in mind.
As I thinking last night about the fact the class is done I figured I would sleep well. Actually I did sleep well until 4:30 am. There seemed to be more God was wanting me to know. When I published my autobiography in 2015 I did this to let others know they didn’t need to live in the bondage of their past. I look back at this time 7 years later to see the bondage I felt when the book came out. I remember thinking that I’d just opened myself to the world and I was not ready to face this.
During these past 7 years God has helped me to move from sharing my past to believing in the present and future. In so doing, use the past to help others to see how one can surrender the bondage and accept forgiveness and grace. Then, begin to realize there is an entirely different day and future for them when everything they do is no longer bound by chains of the past.
There is no freedom like that which Jesus Christ provides. This is the goal of biblical counseling. I’m so grateful for Christ’s faithfulness and patience helping a grandpa find this for himself and now having the opportunity to pass this enlightenment on to others.
The power of praise. This was this morning’s devotional message. Praise is the foundation of Faith. If we want to grow our faith we will do so by praising God in the midst of any storm knowing and believing the outcome of the storm will be led by God. As I was reading all of this I had already journaled about all of the concerns of yesterday which were carrying into this morning. I took a picture of the devotional message and sent it to one of the ones who’d confided a good deal of issues to me yesterday.
So often I forget this foundational piece of my walk with God. I even have PRAISE written at the top of my prayer list to remind me to begin my prayer time with praise. Yet, my praise is far too often without substance. So, this morning I praised God specifically for the list of yesterday’s issues knowing that the miracles of God’s work do and will take place. Satan wants so much to keep us focused on issues downplaying the immensity of God’s Kingdom Work. I needed today’s reminder and am so grateful for God’s faithfulness. I want to give Him my faithfulness in praising Him always.
I always thought that having to confess my use of porn was the ugliest confession of all. However, I have recently discovered one even greater–PRIDE. I’ve written in the last couple of entries about my need to confront a character flaw in me I’ve hated, but hung onto. I know the flaw and confessed it. This morning as I was journaling I asked Jesus to reveal the root of this flaw. It is one thing to confess, but it is entirely another thing to let it go so it doesn’t take root in your behaviors again.
When I was ending my journaling I asked the question I always ask at the end of each journal entry: “What do you want me to know from you for today, Jesus?” His response was immediate as it is each day. He graciously pointed out that the root of my character flaw is pride. Pride was what kept me living in a secret all of my life until Celebrate Recovery. Pride was what kept me using porn thinking I couldn’t overcome this due to my past so just accept it as something one must cope with. Pride was what fueled the actions of this present character flaw. In fact, Jesus pointed out that I did this so I could be “superior” in my thinking in one area of my life believing I’ve been inferior all of these years.
The reason this is so important at this point in my life is knowing how I saw my pride. If my pride never measured up to the ugliness of dad’s pride, then I was ok in my thinking. When my grandson pointed out to me a couple of days ago what my actions look like to my family I was able to see that my measuring stick needed to shift to God’s measuring stick. Man’s pride is always sinful when it is used for his own selfishness. Knowing this root, accepting the truth of this root, I can now surrender it to Jesus as my sin and act on The Holy Spirit’s nudges when He’s pointing out to me what I’ve wanted to ignore in the past.
Thank you, Thank you JESUS!
There’s an area of my life I have not been able to address. I’d given up on ever being able to do anything about it so I had resolved to just put up with it. Last night our oldest grandson was having an in-depth conversation with grandma and me. He said he needed to have a hard conversation with us. In so doing he pointed out this behavior of mine as very hurtful to the grandkids and to our kids. He thought all of our kids had tried to let me know how this bothered them, but it hadn’t made any difference. He wanted me to know that they all love grandma and me, and they didn’t want to someday have me pass having never addressed this.
I’ve known this behavior of mine. I can go way back into my childhood and identify it there. I deeply appreciated my grandson outlining the consequences of “not addressing the root of it”. Last Saturday I had journaled about this behavior telling God I wanted to do something about it and asked Him to let me know what I could do or should do. Well, it was nicely addressed last night and today I can act on it.
There is something powerful about surrendering what we cannot do ourselves to the Almighty God and letting Him focus us on the steps we are to take. I’ve said so many times that life is a huge lesson. Each day is an assignment. Today I have clarity on this assignment that I didn’t know how to complete until now. God is so GOOD!