Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Encouragement For Today

                               ENCOURAGEMENT FOR TODAY

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Sheri Rose Shepherd September 7, 2016
Feeling Alone and Disconnected
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4 (NLT)
For some reason, I’ve always struggled with inner loneliness.
No matter how many people are around me or how many “likes” I get on Facebook, I fight that deep dark feeling of loneliness.
I remember the night I became a Christian. I was alone in a hotel room, and I was fighting with guilt and shame from my past. To be honest, I was contemplating taking my life.
I felt so desperate, I finally cried out to what seemed like an invisible God and asked Jesus to come into my heart. In that moment, something happened. I knew God’s presence and love were real, because for the first time ever, I didn’t feel alone.
I thought I would never have to fight feelings of loneliness again. But I was wrong!
I’m in the hardest season of my life. I lost my marriage, my health and many friends. However, in the midst of my deepest heartache, God has used my tears to heal my broken heart, and in His goodness, He gave me what I needed and longed for most — a CURE for my loneliness and a REAL relationship with Him!
It was hard to see the Holy Spirit at work until I was totally alone and had no one else to run to but God. It took me a while to fully surrender to the only One who will never leave me or forsake me.
Through my trials and tears, the Lord revealed the reason I felt alone … I connected more to doing the works of God and to God’s people than I did to God Himself.
In other words, to cure my loneliness, I needed time alone with God! I was brokenhearted and that takes time to heal. The only way to complete the process is to connect with Him.
Jesus reminds us of this in today’s key verse: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (John 15:4).
I don’t want to oversimplify our connection with the Creator of the universe, but the vine Jesus talks about in John 15:4 is similar to a light switch or a Wi-Fi connection — always there, but of no benefit to us until we connect to it.
In fact, God was there for me all along, lovingly and patiently waiting to connect my heart, my mind and my spirit to His heavenly vine through Christ alone!
I’m not sure what season of life you’re facing. Maybe it’s a marriage where you feel alone, or you’re divorced and feel abandoned by the one you loved and trusted, or you’re where I am — fighting cancer — and you feel disconnected from the life you once knew.
I know from personal experience there’s a cure for loneliness and a real connection to a Heavenly Father who wants to heal our hurting hearts.
So here are some hard questions that may help when you feel disconnected from God. Answering these questions honestly will be worth your time, truth and tears for an encounter with true love and new life found in Christ alone.
1. When you’re hurting, where do you run first?
2. When you’re alone, who do you miss the most?
3. What are you connected to right now that could be disconnecting you from God?
4. When you need wisdom, where do you find it?
5. Do you feel your relationship with God is artificial or authentic?
6. Have you prayed and asked God to become real to you and to fill those empty places meant just for Him?
There’s no better place to connect than to the One who gave His life to connect with you — your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, if I’m honest, many times I don’t feel Your presence or Your peace. You left the Holy Spirit for us while You’re away preparing us a place in glory. So be with me. Fill every lonely place in my heart and heal every broken piece of me so I can know I’m never alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
John 3:16, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NLT)

Thursday, June 16, 2016


                                  HOW TO MAKE RIGHT DECISIONS

How to Make Right Decisions

by Chris Russell

I recently published a blog post called “8 Keys to Knowing God’s Will For Your Life.” That post was directed toward helping believers to figure out the big picture in regard to God’s will. For instance, those keys have much to do with God’s plan for you vocationally, in ministry, and in the important stages of life.
This post, on the other hand, lends help for the “smaller” decisions that we make from day to day.  In order to continue in the middle of God’s perfect will, it is vital that we make right decisions each day and each week. But that is not always easy. As a tool to help you make right decisions from a biblical perspective, I have pulled together 13 questions you should ask when facing a choice. Here they are:
1)  Does God already have a clear teaching about this?
Joshua 1:8
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
If God has already spoken clearly about this, you do not have to wonder any longer. Just do what he has told you.
Simple, right?
Well, the problem here seems to be that most people in our culture today seem to have a fairly low level of knowledge of the Scriptures. They are “low-information believers.”
So, I would encourage you to saturate your mind as much as possible with God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Memorize it. Learn it. Once you have done so, you will be amazed at how much better you are at making good, solid decisions in life.
2)  What do my top spiritual advisors tell me about this?
Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
It is vital that you surround yourself with godly friends who will be able to speak into your life about life’s decisions. Do you realize that you are basically a composite of the five people you spend the most time with? It is crucial to choose those people carefully. If you don’t have those types of friends, I would encourage you to increase your involvement in church and small groups and ministry in order to establish those godly relationships.
3)  What do authority figures in my life have to say about this?
Titus 3:1
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.
God often works through authority relationships in our lives. For instance, it would be extremely rare for the best choice to be something that is illegal. Look at this choice from the vantage point of authority figures in your life, and at least use that as an important reference point for you.
4)  How will this affect me spiritually?
1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
There is much more to this life than just earning a bigger paycheck or improving your status amongst peers. When you make choices, make sure you consider how this decision will affect your spiritual development. Will this draw you nearer to God or further from him?  Will this decision interfere with your ability to attend church, maintain godly relationships, or spend time cultivating your spiritual disciplines?  If it harms you spiritually, then I would suggest pulling the plug on that choice.
5)  How will this affect my family? Will this draw us closer to God or further from God?
1 Corinthians 8:9
But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.
Not only must you consider how this decision will affect your own spiritual development, but you must also consider the affects it will have on the spiritual state of your family. Will this help your family to grow in Christ, or will it interfere with that spiritual growth? Will this pull them away from godly friends and away from a healthy, godly church environment? Will this divide your family in any way? Be careful not to make decisions that will cause your family to pay a big price.
6)  Is this going to bring more peace or less peace to my life?
1 Thessalonians 4:11
That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.
Did you know that God actually wants you to have a peaceful life? Of course, this is not the “American way,” but it is definitely an important consideration when it comes to making decisions. Be cautious that you are not stacking your life with more and more “stuff” that will send you over the edge with stress and anxiety. And make sure it is not going to steal the peace from your family as well.
7)  Is this consistent with the way God has wired me?
1 Peter 4:10
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
God has created you for a purpose, and He has designed you specifically to fulfill that purpose. You are a gifted individual, and His plan will be for you to function within that area of giftedness. When we veer outside of the way He has wired us, we often feel excessive stress, anxiety, and burnout very quickly.
When it comes to making decisions, make sure you evaluate the choice in light of the way that God has designed you. Are you creative? Are you detail-oriented? Are you relational? Are you task-oriented? Are you a communicator? Pay attention to how God has wired you.
8)  Am I paying attention to the risks that are associated with this?
Proverbs 27:12
A wise man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.
When making decisions, it is very important to honestly assess the risk that is involved. Sometimes we can become so mesmerized by a “golden carrot” that we overlook the risks that are associated. For this one, I would suggest that you have an outside voice speak into the situation.
In his book Entreleadership, Dave Ramsey says that anytime he has made a business decision that has gone against his wife’s advice, it has cost him at least $10,000. Sometimes others, like a spouse, can see the risks that we overlook.
It is a sign of wisdom to be cautious. Not fearful, but cautious.
9)  Do I have total peace from God about this?
Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sometimes everything can look right on the outside when I’m making a decision, but there will still be angst within my spirit. I have learned that making a decision without that inner peace is nearly always a mistake. God gives us peace as a protection and a guide. Seek His peace, and be cautious of making decisions that move against that peace.
10)  Are the doors of circumstances clearly open here?
(See Acts 16)
God often works through obvious circumstances. For example, He did that for Paul in Acts 16. In that chapter, Paul and his entourage kept facing closed doors as they were seeking where they were to minister next. And then, one door to Asia flew open while all other doors were closing.
God often directs me more by closing doors than by opening them. But there have been times in my life when I have attempted to force open a door that was not truly open. That never ends well.
It’s always good to look at how God is opening or closing doors in front of you. And while an open door does not always mean that you are to pass through, it is often an indicator that God is at work. Pay attention to open doors, and be cautious of forcing doors open when they are closed.
11)  Is now the best time for this? Could waiting be better?
Ephesians 5:16-17
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Haste does not always produce the best decisions. Sometimes everything might seem right about a choice, but making the decision at a later time might make more sense. This isn’t always easy, because we often want to move forward quickly when we see an opportunity. But sometimes the wiser decision is to slow down, plan more, get more input, and give it more time to develop.
12)  Am I willing to let God close this door?
(Again, refer to Paul’s journey in Acts 16.)
An important element to making good decisions is to make sure that you are completely submitted to God’s ultimate plan for your life. Sometimes we get it into our heads that we want to do a certain thing, and then we struggle immensely when we begin to realize that God may not want us to move forward with that particular choice.
The disaster comes when we place our desire above God’s plan. Let me be clear here. That never turns out well. The best decision you can ever make is to submit your choices to God’s plan and be willing to give up an opportunity when you sense God does not want you to move forward with that decision.
13)  Am I willing to trust God if He asks me to step forward?
Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Closely related to the above question is this: Are you willing to trust God if He asks you to step forward? This is basically the flipside of question 12. It’s important to stop when God says, “Stop,” and it is equally important to move forward when He says, “Move forward.”
Are you willing to do that thing He might want you to do? What if it makes you feel uncomfortable? What if it moves you out of your comfort zone? What if it requires faith?
I can testify to you that the most exciting moments of my life have been when I have submitted to God and stepped forward with Him in faith. I hope you can experience that same joy.
Wrapping It Up
OK, so when you have a tough choice to make, I would encourage you to go over these questions before confirming your decision. Perhaps print these questions out and keep them as a reference point for the future. Talk through each of these questions with your spouse or a friend in the context of a decision you are currently making in your own life. I know of some parents who have used these with their kids to help train their children to make good decisions as well. In essence, these questions can serve as guidelines for helping you and your family make decisions that you will not regret.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

5 Ways To Invigorate Your Prayer Life

5 Ways to Invigorate Your Prayer Life

Mark Altrogge
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Saving Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark an
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I don’t know about you, but I can be easily distracted when I’m praying. But over the years I’ve picked up some great ways to focus my prayers.... Here are 5 more ways I’ve learned to help me sharpen my prayers.

1) Write out your prayers

Often I will begin my prayer time by writing out things I’m thankful for. I write them to the Lord, almost like a letter, beginning with something like this: “Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus, Holy Spirit, Thank you for….” or “Lord Jesus, Thank you for…” and I go on to write things I’m grateful for. Writing my thanks keeps me focused. Sometimes I begin a time of prayer by reading past thanksgivings I’ve written. I’ve also found that writing out other prayers has been very helpful as well.... As I pray the prayers I have written, I don’t restrict myself to reading them word for word, but use them as reminders.

2) Pray specific Bible verses

In my “family” section of my prayers, I have several Scriptures that are promises for parents about their children, like the following:
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
“And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” Is 59:21
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. Psalm 37:25–26
Often I will read these Bible verses aloud, then ask the Lord to please do what the verses say he will do. Using Scripture when we pray builds our faith, for we can know we are asking according to God’s will. I often quote Ps 32:8 when asking for wisdom. I pray something like this, “Father you have said in your word, ‘I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you’; so, I ask that you would please counsel me with your eye upon me. Please show me the way I should go in this situation.”
Lately I have been quoting Matthew 7:11 in my prayers:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
I’ll pray something like this, “Father, you’ve told me that you give good things to those who ask you. So, I ask that you would please heal (insert name). Healing and health are good things, so I am asking that you give them this, according to your will.”

3) Make lists

In addition to writing out specific prayers, I have found lists to be helpful. I have a list of people I am asking Jesus to save. I have a list of “current needs” of family and friends. Lists help me stay on track when I’m praying. I don’t pray through every list every day, and I don’t always pray through a whole list. But at least I have it written down to remind me from time to time.

4) Pray through the Our Father pattern

Use each phrase to trigger a “theme” for example: “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.” Praise you that you are my Father. I praise you that you are in heaven, sovereign over all. Hallowed be your name—holy is you name. Praise you for your holiness and perfect purity and glory.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Father, please save multitudes in every nation. Please save my children and grandchildren. Please bring your kingdom rule into my neighbors’ lives, etc.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Father, please provide for my children. Please provide for us. Father, if it would be your will, please give me…..

5) Pray in response to your Bible reading

Some have found praying in response to their Bible reading to be most effective for them. In your daily bible reading, stop and pray as God’s word speaks to you. For example, if you read, James 1:22, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” pray, “Lord Jesus, please help me to obey your word. Help me to “do” it, to put it into practice.” If you read Lamentations 3:21–23 “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” pray, “Lord Jesus, thank you for your unceasing steadfast love. Thank you for your mercies that are new this morning. Praise you for your great faithfulness and unceasing love for me. Please give me more and more hope.”
How about you? What are some ways you have found that help you focus your prayers?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


1. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Instead of ranting and raving, why not count your blessings. If we put every man's conditions in life in a vertical position reaching out to heaven, we will find out that we are not badly situated after all. Yes, we may not be at the topmost position in the ladder but we are not in the bottom most position either. There will always be others who are higher or lower than us. There will be millions who will love to trade places with us. So instead of ranting and raving, start to count your blessings now.
2. BE AT PEACE WITH GOD. God is the starting point of life. He created us and is sustaining us in our every need in life. We are perfectly in the situation and place where God intended us to be, no more no less. So instead of grumbling and complaining, learn to trust God with all your heart and acknowledge Him in all you do and He will surely direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
3. LEARN TO LIVE A SIMPLE LIFE AND ALWAYS BE HUMBLE. "God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). God will bless you if you remain humble in life and acknowledge His greatness over all creation. Learn to live a simple life devoid of any expectations from others. Learn to appreciate what God has given you. He knows what is best for you.
4. LEARN THE SECRET OF EQUANIMITY. Be tranquil and serene in life no matter what comes your way. God is no respecter of person. He gives us what is best for us in any given situation. All things pass, even the most trying events in life.
5. LIVE WITHOUT EXPECTATIONS IN LIFE. Disappointments and frustrations in life are the results of expectations, especially from people. Only God can give us the truest joy and contentment in life.
6. GO WITH THE FLOW OF LIFE. Most disappointments and frustrations in life are the results of swimming against the currents of life. As I said, we are perfectly where God wants us to be. That means He is directing all the events in our life. Do everything for the glory of God and live in order to please Him and He will lead us to our own Promise Land.
7. ACCEPT CRITICISMS ESPECIALLY CONSTRUCTIVE ONES. Be not onion skinned. Criticisms, especially constructive ones, are good for us. We all have blind spots in our lives and only honest revelations from true friends will reveal them to us.
8. PRACTICE DISCERNMENT TO KNOW WHO YOUR TRUE AND REAL FRIENDS ARE. Be not susceptible to flattery and praise. Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. Some people use praise and flattery for their own ulterior motives.
When I was still working, one of the main motto of our company was, GIVE PRAISE IN PUBLIC AND CRITICIZE IN PRIVATE. Be sensitive with the sensibilities of others. We don't want to be humiliated in public so let us avoid it altogether in reprimanding others.
10. HOLD YOUR TONGUE. If you have nothing good to say to others better hold your tongue. You may feel good giving others a piece of your mind but you leave them totally devastated and humiliated and will surely remember your hurting words for the rest of their lives.
11. DO EVERYTHING FOR THE GLORY OF GOD. You will never go wrong if you practice this in your life .
12,. LIVE IN ORDER TO PLEASE GOD. That is the main purpose of our life. We were created by God to please Him by doing His will in our lives. In so doing, we glorify His name in everything we do.
I am not a hypocrite to say that I have already attained all that I have written. But I am striving to attain them with all my heart. After all, we are all works in progress. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Day I Will Never Forget

A Day I Will Never Forget
By Bernadette Alarilla
It was a Thursday on late 2012 in the Philippines. It was a calm morning, but my stomach felt otherwise. I was filled with anxiety because I know what this day has in store. It was our school, Jesus Is Lord Colleges Foundation’s annual foundation day, and that meant there will be academic contests. Even though I reviewed my notes and this doesn't affect my grades, I can't help feeling nervous. The fact that I'm the top second in our class and others were expecting me to do well might've helped.
We started our morning class routine, singing the national anthem, reciting the pledge of allegiance and singing praise and worship songs. After we finished, we sat down and waited for Sir Dating, our teacher, to go back to our room. After he came back with the test papers for our first contest/quiz, my best friend gave me a smile. I smiled back at her and tried to hide my anxiety. After I glanced at the questions when Sir Dating handed me the papers, my anxiety slowly disappeared. Then, I thought to myself there's nothing to be worried about. Then, I started writing down the answers confidently because I knew most of the answers. From what condition the man had that God healed in Capernaum to what mountain Moses received the Ten Commandments.
After we exchanged papers and graded them, the teacher called out the 1st place. It was Angelica, the top first in our class that got a perfect score. Then, Sir Dating announced that there is a tie for second place. It was between me and my best friend, Arianne. We both had one incorrect answer. So we had a tie breaker question.
The whole time we were answering the tie breaker, I wasn't nervous like I was at the beginning of the day. I don't know if it was Arianne or the fact that I was in the top. Sir Dating asked us three questions, two we got both correct but the third one determined second place.
"What was the name of the angel that approached Joseph?" Sir Dating asked. I looked at Arianne and saw that she couldn’t think of the name. I then said "Gabriel." Then the teacher announced that I was second place.
He called the three of us to the front and gave us our medals. The results came out as expected. Angelica, the top first gold, me, the top second silver, and Arianne, the top third bronze. After awarding us, we started our regular classes. I was relieved that I got 2nd place but I was still anxious because of the science contest that I'll be attending after the recess break.

After a couple of hours, the teacher announced that it was recess break. Arianne came to me and we went to the cafeteria. “Well, that was a close one wasn’t it?” I asked her. “Yeah I forgot the name. It was on the tip of my tongue.” She remorsefully said but then followed with “But I’m happy that you got second place.”
After we got our bottles of iced tea, which is what we usually have on recess, we headed back to our classroom. “So, are you nervous for the science contest?” asks Arianne. “Well, yes because everyone would expect me to do well.” I said filled with burden. After how our science teacher, Mrs. Ormeo, always praises me, I can’t help but feel a huge load of burden. “Don’t worry, you’re going to do great.” Arianne said, trying to calm me down. “Thanks, I hope you do well too.” I was extremely grateful to have her there but I was sad because she was going to participate in the history contest.
After chatting, time passed and recess was over. Students are going to classrooms of their respective contests. “Good luck.” We exchanged for the last time. We then went to our groups. In our class, there were five of us participating in the science contest. We had small talk before going to the contest. They were nervous too, just as I am. But even with all the nervousness, I was still determined to have a decent placement. I even reviewed every nook and cranny of my science notebook. We then headed to the classroom of Mrs. Ormeo and sat together at the back row. It was quiet and had a somewhat tense atmosphere which added to the dread that I was feeling. I looked around the room and saw the other students. I saw students who were in the overall top of 5th grade but what really got me nervous was when I saw Katreen and Allen. Katreen was the 2nd, after Angelica, in the overall ever since pre-school and Allen was always in the overall top 5. They may have faltered the tiny speck of confidence I had.
Once all students participating the contest arrived, Mrs. Ormeo started and said an opening phrase then gave us our papers. It was different than the content we learned from our current lessons. Some of them were from 4th grade which I couldn’t remember much but a good amount of them were questions that I can answer. Time passed and I finished the 40 itemed quiz. The teacher then asked to exchange papers. I exchanged papers with the seats in front of me. There were three rows and Katreen was just a row ahead of me so my papers went to her.
After checking the papers, Mrs. Ormeo collected them and announced fifth place. I held my breath. “Grazhel.” Mrs. Ormeo said. I felt my heart got heavier. “Fourth place goes to… Ivan.” My heart felt heavier and heavier. Then she went straight to first place. “For first place… we have a three-way tie.” The tension in the room got thicker. “Katreen.” “Of course” I thought to myself. “Allen.” “As expected” I again thought to myself. But what I didn’t say “Of course” to was “Bernadette.” I felt my heart stop. I was extremely nervous and flattered at the same time because I’m here with the two of them, nominated for first place. I used to just watch them stand on stage and accept awards but now I can be in the same classification as them. I was filled with overwhelming thoughts as the other students clapped. The teacher said that we all got 36. Mrs. Ormeo then wrote our names on the white board, with Katreen on the top, Allen in the middle and me on the bottom. I knew that was the expected ranking and even though she praises me all the time, I knew that she preferred them two because they’re her advisory/homeroom students.
           Mrs. Ormeo got some questions for the tie-breaker. The first question was about the parts of a flower. We all got that one. The second question was about the female reproductive system. Allen got eliminated. It was down to me and Katreen. “What is the coral reef predator?” The reason I remember that question and not the other ones is because this question determined first place. After hearing the question, I got an insane boost of confidence because I remember studying it and thinking no one else would know it because it was in an old lesson and didn’t look important and we never went through it in class discussions. I look at Katreen who looks confused. “Crown of Thorns starfish.” I answered. Mrs. Ormeo smiled and announced “First place goes to Bernadette.” Everyone clapped and my classmates looked so proud.
The three of us went to the front and Mrs. Ormeo gave us our medals. She gave Allen bronze, Katreen silver, then gold to me. She said “Well done Bernadette.” I could tell that she was proud. After that, we took pictures. Me and Katreen talked and congratulated each other. We were classmates 1st-4th grade and it has been a year since we’ve seen and talked so it was great talking to her. That whole moment at the front was such a surreal moment. I couldn’t believe that I had beaten them two and won my first ever gold medal.
After the whole school day was over, I went outside with Arianne to wait for my service to come pick me up. Then I noticed, the whole school yard was decorated with ribbons, balloons of every kind, booths and other decorative objects. “Were all this here this morning?” I asked. Arianne answered “Yeah, you didn’t notice?” I then realized that because of the anxiety I carried the whole day, I didn’t even notice this beautiful setting. I asked her if we could walk through the event. She said yes and we ended up watching a basketball game between the kids in our grade and the grade above us.
The whole day was actually filled with joyful events. I got to hang out with Arianne the whole day and we got to explore the event filled with decorations. The anxiety was just making things seem horrifying. But with every butterfly-filled stomach out there, those are just more chances for people to overcome and learn. I learned to not doubt myself too much and not let anxiety block the joy that surrounds me. I will truly never forget this day. The day I won my first gold medal and the day I overcame my anxiety.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Bored, depressed, lonely, feeling unwanted, feeling so alone with no one to care for you? These are feelings and emotions that come and go in our temporary lives and the enemy is using them to trap us into our own prison cells of inactivity and escapism. The enemy will push us to the edge until we lose all forms of sanity and contact with the real world. Sometimes the enemy will goad us to end it all and enter a world of oblivion and nothingness. But is that where we are bound to go after ending everything in the here and now? No, he is leading us to the everlasting world of suffering and deprivation, far, far worse than what we may be feeling today.
The antidote for these? PRAY MORE AND HOLD ON TO GOD'S PROMISES. Read God's divine promises in the Bible and use them to thwart all the attempts of the enemy to steal your joy and exuberance for living.
1. "And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
2. "But my God will provide for all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
3. "For I know the plans I have for you, said the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11).
4. "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen" (2 Timothy 4:18).
5. "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to its completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
6. "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).
7. "Submit then to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you" (James 4:7-8a).
Never worry, God has covered all aspects of your life. And Jesus has already conquered the enemy in Calvary. Just claim your own victory for the taking. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

3 Powerful Gospel Truths For Addressing Homosexuality

3 Powerful Gospel Truths for Addressing Homosexuality

Association of Biblical Counselors
The Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) exists to encourage, equip, and empower people everywhere to live and counsel the Word, applying the Gospel to the whole experience of life.
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by Jeremy Lelek
Imagine struggling with an incessant issue wherein its history is filled with harsh stigmatism and bigotry. Imagine suffering under this daily condition feeling as though you were a shameful, less-than-human, unlovable outcast. To make things worse, the place where you go to worship God regularly spouts condemning slogans against the very struggle with which you are wrestling. Words such as evil and abomination become a part of your psychological identity because anyone who suffers from your issue is given these labels. Your daily emotional companions are shame, self-condemnation, depression, and confusion. 
Then imagine you stumble upon a respected ministry that touts they have the answer for what ails you. Simply go through their program, they claim, and your shameful tendencies will be eliminated. You hear testimonies of others who once identified as gay that now live “straight” lives—some even marrying a person of the opposite sex and developing a seemingly fulfilling relationship.
Hundreds of men and women have traveled down a very similar path as the above vignette. Unfortunately, the destination of their journey fell far short of their expectations. Upon completion of the program they maintained an emotional high that continued to motivate them for a time, but eventually, the relentless nature of their hearts seeped through their religious fantasy and ultimately they had to come to grips with the fact that their same-sex attractions were still alive and well. Back to the closet of secrecy they were confined. They struggle with a strong sense of failure because their same-sex attractions are still present. Now married with no physical attraction to their spouse, what seemed a promising dream is now a dismal nightmare.
I know very respected and godly researchers who are far more expert than I as it regards Reparative Therapy (a model that is supposed to reorient a person’s sexual attractions), and in no way am I slandering their work or their names. If there is an intervention that could resolve, for many, what is a tormenting issue, then thanks be to God if such a discovery is ever made. Yet I think the Bible offers something far more hopeful to people wrestling with homosexuality than the eradication of symptoms (i.e., same-sex attraction), and I believe we place homosexuality in a special category of sin when we treat it so differently than other struggles we face as a fallen people.
For example, would we ever tell a married man who struggles with lust that we are going to take him through a therapeutic intervention where he will become solely attracted to his wife? Would we raise his hopes that upon completing therapy he will not wrestle with attraction towards other women ever again—that his lust for others will be eradicated from his heart? I certainly would make no such promises, and the Bible doesn’t either. This line of reasoning would be akin to telling a depressed or anxious counselee that because he has counseled with me he will never experience depression, sadness, anxiety or fear again. This logic completely denies the brokenness in our hearts caused by depravity, and sets a dangerous foundation for condemnation and despair.
When our efforts are primarily aimed at symptom alleviation or behavioral modification, then I believe we are completely missing the mark and likely hurting those we serve. We may inadvertently create a system of redemption that is centered more in experiential management of sin rather than teaching people to rest in the full and complete work of Jesus Christ. Instead of helping others experience Jesus’ words when he urged sinners, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30), we unintentionally place upon their shoulders a “yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1) with our therapeutic interventions.
Once hope is placed in our systems, they no longer find peace in the gentle and safe refuge of Jesus, but instead experience a life “severed from Christ” (Gal. 5:4)—a life where the Gospel becomes tragically silent and the noise of legalism becomes deafening. It is here I believe the promises offered by models such as Reparative Therapy stray from the redeeming work of God who is accomplishing His transformation of the saint “in all things” (Rom. 8:28–29).

The Redeeming Hope of the Gospel

1. The Gospel and Christian Life are about God
When I counsel those struggling with homosexual attraction, one of the first things I want them to do is trust God. Now, when I use the word struggle, I am referring to a person who has not accepted homosexuality as being morally right, but who daily fights against these desires wishing they didn’t exist in the first place. By the time such individuals reach my office, they have promised themselves 100s of times that they will never lust after the same sex again or look at homosexual pornography again or engage in other homosexual activities again. Such promises are always broken, leaving them in a cycle of shame and condemnation. Since they are unable to completely eliminate their sin, they often turn from God.
It is not unusual for me to tell such a person, “It is time to gaze upon God’s faithfulness not your own.” Jesus knows the burden of sexual temptation, and He has profound sympathy for anyone whose hearts are captured by this issue (Heb. 2:17–18; 4:14–15). He is also committed to saving and transforming His own so that they reflect children of glory (Rom. 8:28-29; 1 Thess. 4:3).
Does this mean that He has promised to remove all sexual affections or any sexual affection completely? No. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that there is a war raging in our hearts that will not rest until we see Him face to face (Gal. 5:16–17). What God promises is His presence and faithfulness (Heb. 13:5). His presence to hold His children through any storm in life until the day of resurrection (John 6:37–40). He promises His presence as our Helper to empower us to walk wisely and resist sin (John 14:16–17). He promises His faithfulness to not allow anything to separate us from His love (Rom. 8:37–39). He assures us of His faithfulness to complete His work of redemption in our lives (Phil. 1:6). Very often it is in the presence, not the absence, of our sinful struggles that God magnifies the beauty and value of His faithfulness. The struggle is often an occasion for rich abiding worship.
2. The Redeeming Work of the Gospel Enables Us to Hear and Obey God
When Paul is addressing the Corinthians regarding sexual sin, he doesn’t tell them that if they just believe, God will remove all their ungodly sexual temptation. Instead, he assumes the possible presence of such temptations and writes things like, “Flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18a) and “… for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).
When the author of Proverbs is counseling his son, he doesn’t treat him as though he will not wrestle with sexual temptation, but offers wisdom when such imminent temptation arises. Concerning the adulteress, he warns, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8), “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes” (Prov. 6:25), “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray onto her paths” (Prov. 7:25).
The inference of both Paul and the author of Proverbs is that sexual temptation is a possibility, and the way to combat such longings are fleeing, resisting, and living to the glory of God. The ability to walk by faith comes through the hearing of the Gospel (Rom. 10:17) and the supernatural awaking of our hearts to want God and His ways (Eph. 2:4–8). Upon such awakening, Jesus works in us (over a lifetime, moment by moment) to create in us hearts that are zealous to do what is good and holy (Titus 2:11–14). He saves us then progressively enables us to glorify him in our lives and bodies through obedience. Healing may not be universally characterized as the complete elimination of sexual temptation from the human heart, but by hearts that are transformed and empowered by His grace to obey (from the New Self) when sexual temptation seeks to grip us (from remnants of the Old Self) (Eph. 4:22–24).
3. Hope in Symptom Eradication Minimizes the Pervasive Reality of Sin and our Desperate Need for Jesus, Our Redeemer
Some people hold to the idea that homosexual or heterosexual temptations are only sins if they are acted upon. If the attraction is there, but you resist acting upon it, then you’re good to go. I think this conceptualization minimizes our Gospel need and refutes the teachings of Jesus who said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27–28).
Jesus was speaking to people who had developed elaborate systems of “holiness” that gauged their sense of goodness and righteousness before God. Many of them likely exuded a great deal of pride, considering themselves good men because they had never given their bodies over to the act of adultery. Jesus obliterated their paradigm, however. He knew that every man standing in front of Him was guilty of this sin. In some ways, it seems as though he was setting up the despair of their situation, thereby ushering in the only hope for their dilemma—Himself. If sin was more than a behavioral issue, but was ultimately an inner issue of the heart, then they were all doomed (Matt. 15:17–20). That is, unless their righteousness could be found elsewhere.
As Christians who wrestle with either heterosexual or homosexual lusts, we must hate such sins, but not be threatened by their presence. If my hope resides in the absence of sinful thoughts and desires, then I am going to have to resign myself to a life of hopelessness. But if my hope resides in the righteousness of Another when such lusts present themselves in my heart, then there is reason for genuine hope. I can rest in the wonderful words of the author of Hebrews as the basis to fight my sins:
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,’ then he adds, ‘I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.’ Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb. 10:12–18).
In the end, our situation is far worse than we realize.  Even if therapy helps remove sexual temptation, we are still condemned—that is, unless we place our faith in the One who made this single sacrifice for all our sins. At that point, upon placing faith in Jesus, our situation becomes far better than we could ever imagine. Our sins remind us of our desperation and propels us towards a God of infinite love, faithfulness, and mercy. It thrusts us into the magnificent glories of the Gospel.
May we not shrink our hopes to the small goals of the temporal removal of sin, but may our hopes rejoice in the eternal removal of all our sins (past, present, and future) because of a God who loves us more than our feeble minds can fathom.


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