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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ready, Set, Go...

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” 
(Luke 1:38)

I like to prepare for a test.  Pop quizzes can catch a person completely off-guard.  I think Mary's encounter with Gabriel has to be one of the all-time greatest surprise tests.   Without warning, she meets an angel with a remarkable promise, and has the preparation of heart to completely accept it.  No push-back.  No resistance. No awkward unbelief.

Could I say in an instant, “I am the servant of the Lord?”  

Preparation


Jesus taught that one's response is a manifestation of the heart's condition.  “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34).  Abundance means we don't have to look far to find what we're seeking.  We all have an abundance of thoughts.  What kind are they? Mary's heart had an abundance of servant thoughts, thus when service was needed she could easily offer it.  On the throne of her heart sat God Himself.   He was Lord; she was His servant.  Is this phrase ready in me?   

What I think about prepares me for one result or its opposite.  Mary, because of the abundance of her thoughts was ready in faith.  Zechariah, her relative, met the same angel 6 months earlier and wasn't ready.  He was unbelieving when the angel announced Elizabeth his wife would become pregnant with John the Baptist.  He had stopped thinking God would give him a baby and started thinking God wouldn't.  When his moment came, he wasn't ready to answer with submission and faith. 

Cultivation


In working with people, I find paying attention to one's thinking will cultivate an abundance of fruitful thoughts.  Like an unattended garden, we all tend toward weedy thinking unless we cultivate the soil of our thoughts.  Meditate on Mary's statement to Gabriel as your own heart preparation for whatever you face.  

Try carrying her statement with you to whatever comes today and say, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord.  Let it be to me according to your word."

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Power Of Praise

I've been thinking about the power of praise.  Let me share an experience.
Birds find nooks and crannies in your house...singing their songs in the place where we worship...
How blessed they are to live and sing there!  - Psalm 84:3-4 The Message

It was pre-dawn and dark as I took my morning prayer walk.  Fog lay across the neighborhood like a blanket of silence.  There was absolutely no noise as if creation had lost its voice in this double darkness.  As I walked up a hill, I saw a light pushing back both the darkness and the fog.  In a tree by the light, a single bird had thrown back its head and sang with full throat into the fog.  It was striking because it was literally THE only sound to be heard: a song of praise piercing the fog and darkness.

Pray as you walk through life.  Then even when you feel plunged in double darkness you'll discover a "light" and a song on a "hill."  Like that bird, praise the Lord no matter what the circumstances of life.

Alan Malchuk
SureCord Christian Counseling
(Originally written April 2005)
SureCord Christian Counseling

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

No Sweat!

No Sweat!

"They shall not bind themselves with anything that causes sweat."
Ezekiel 44:18

This blessed me.  

Crazy, huh?

I was reminded of a teaching I heard one time about sweat. Interestingly, the priests of the Lord were not to wear garments that made them sweat. Why is that?  I think the answer is found in two gardens.

The word sweat only occurs three times in the Bible.  The first is in Eden at the fall of man.  In that garden, as man was cursed for his rebellion, God pronounced man’s “bread” (sustenance) would come by the sweat of his brow.  Sweat was part of the fall.  How true is that?  Isn’t work hard?  

Then in Ezekiel we learn the Lord’s priests were to dress so as not to sweat before Him in their labor.  Work before the Lord was to be without the curse of sweat.  How many of us serve the Lord without sweat?  How many of us work so hard at things for God like our efforts make the difference?

We come to the second garden and the final use in Luke 22:44.  Jesus sweat in the Garden of Gethsemane.  His sweat had blood in it, as in agony He pondered dying for us.  This is the sweat of God Himself!  This is God taking up the pain of our lives, our curse, our place. He sweat so that we need not.  God doesn’t want our sweat.  He wants our faith.  

Jesus shows us the way out of that burden. He taught us to pray (not sweat) for our daily bread.  Faith is resting in Christ's sweating. Instead of anxiety fretting and self-effort sweating, we rest in Christ's work for us. 

In another metaphor, Jesus taught that we are merely branches drawing from the vine everything that produces fruit.  May we rest like a branch in the garden of God’s planting.  Turn cares to prayers and the sweat will stop.

As I come to challenges, I’m learning to exercise faith in the One who sweat for me.
I’m learning to say, “No sweat!”  

Alan Malchuk
SureCord Christian Counseling

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cleansing Guilt with Inferiority?


Hebrews 10:11

"Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins."

As I reflected on this passage, I realized that if guilt and regret have repetitive pathways in our thinking then we can daily offer repentance and feelings of inferiority as sacrifices, but never achieve what we long for... a cleansed conscience.  Hebrews 9:14 says, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 

Mudpreacher.org
We are all invited to create space in our lives so that we can cooperate with Christ's perfect sacrifice and receive freedom from the repetitive burdens of guilt and regret.  We are invited to participate in new self talk such as: "Thank you Lord for your provision for my guilt, shame and regret, I choose to receive it and ask that your Holy Spirit would work it into my Spirit.  I invite my Spirit to come forth and lead my soul, where these repetitive pathways are rooted and still active. In Jesus Name, Amen."

Blessings on your journey as you cooperate and choose the freedom that Christ has purchased from all guilt, shame and regret.



Kelly Harris, MA, LPC

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Is the Counselor a Cornerstone?


Oftentimes clients come to counseling in the midst of the storm or having recently walked through a storm. They are often looking to me for answers. I am able to provide confidential care and empathy but I have little to offer in myself, my personal insights and even my training that will provide for them a solid, sure foundation. But, I have the opportunity to point those to whom the Lord brings my way to Christ who is a solid and sure foundation.

Recently I discovered a song by Hillsong United entitled, “Cornerstone”, where they take the lyrics from the hymn “The Solid Rock” and add a chorus. The truths expressed in this song give me great confidence and hope as a Christian counselor. Consider the chorus below:

Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong, in the Savior's love
Through the storm
He is Lord, Lord of all


Counseling is not a value neutral endeavor. Every counselor and every client brings his or her worldview and presuppositions into the counseling office. The unique privilege and opportunity that I have as a Christian counselor is to be able to share the hope and rock-solid security that is available in Christ even in the midst of great adversity and suffering. I do not impose my values on clients but I openly share as clients are open to considering the anchor that holds through the fiercest of storms. This gives me great confidence as a clinician because there is nothing I can offer that provides the same level of security. Oftentimes the realities of life in a world that is prone to storms opens opportunities to share with those who do not stand on a solid foundation of the SureCord of hope that is available in the person and work of Jesus Christ. At SureCord we believe that Christ is in all our solutions. Life in a fallen world entails brokenness and pain. And yet, in Christ there is help and hope!

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  (Psalm 18:2 ESV)



Chad Cooke, PhD, LPC 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Garage Selling Truth


Garage Selling Truth

Did you hear about the couple who bought a $3 garage sale bowl worth $2.2 million?  It turned out to be a 1000 year old artifact from China’s Northern Song Dynasty.  How it was preserved all these years is a wonder in itself, but that someone sold it for $3 is just as astonishing!

Really, I think it could happen to anyone uninformed of the value of what’s before them.  In John 4:10, Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God…” to the woman he was talking with about spiritual eternal life.  She didn’t know the value of Jesus at that point and nearly missed his gift.

“Buy the truth, and do not sell it,” Solomon wrote (Prov. 23:23).  In light of the garage-sale bowl, I needed the reminder of the value of the truth.  Spending time learning how to improve one’s life and relationships is an investment in the truth.  Garage selling it away might be a temptation when something easy comes along. 

I like to remind my clients (and myself) to hang on to what they’ve learned.  They’ve paid for it in multiple ways: time, practice, money, difficulties.  It’s valuable.  Don’t be tempted to give it up for the equivalent of a cup of McDonald’s coffee and pie.  It’s sad when the knowledge of healthy living is traded for affairs, addictions, and attitudes of anger.  There’s pain in that.

Here are four ways I seek to keep the value of the truth in my own life.

  1. I daily spend time reading the Bible.   It’s a reminder of the truth and what has value.  It’s a way to meet with Jesus himself and know more of the “gift of God.” 
  2. I take notes in a journal and review them from time to time.  It’s a treasure log, if you will. 
  3. I turn it into prayer.  For example, using John 4:10 I ask, “Lord, help me know the gift of God that is before me in my day.  Help me see Jesus today.”
  4. I talk about the truths I’m discovering.  The conversations with friends and family help me treasure truth.
Buy the truth and never sell it.  It never declines in value.  It can be handed down as an heirloom or legacy to those coming behind us.  Treasure truth.  It will protect you from trading it up for something cheap.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Necklace and Parenting

The Necklace and Parenting

I was at a training a number of years ago when the psychologist held up a necklace to the audience to teach us about family dynamics.

"When the clasps are together, the pendant hangs below."  It's natural.  The law of gravity deems it so.  "Only an outside force can put the pendant on the same level as the clasps, unless..."

Here the man drew the two clasps apart and on the growing tension between the two clasps the pendant began to rise.  "The more opposing energy is exerted, the higher the pendant rises."  It's natural.  The law of physics deems it so.  Strain on the chain between clasps pulled the pendant onto the same line.



The application was straightforward.  If the two parents disagree (like the separation of the clasps), the child rises in power (like the pendant).  Kids get away with misbehaving because of the parents disunity.  When they're not  together, the child gains power from the strain in the relationship.  It's natural.  The law of hierarchy deems it so.

The cure is also straightforward.  If the parents will pause to be sure they are unified in their decision, the child will have no power to manipulate.  Like the united clasps, the child will find his/her place under the joint position of the parents.

Perhaps the picture's worth a thousand words as you seek to be united in your parenting.  It's something to consider.  


Friday, April 26, 2013

Counting Blinks, Exalting Birthmarks

Counting Blinks, Exalting Birthmarks

"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven."
- Paradise Lost, John Milton

I knew a man once who counted his blinks.  He believed God counted too and judged for their total.   He was miserable.

I knew another man who had a birthmark he thought was the road map to utopia.  He was certain he was the new Adam.   Ironically, he wreaked havoc.

Thinking flows out from the headwaters of our beliefs If we’re wrong in our belief, the river of thinking is polluted.  If we’re correct or accurate in our belief, the river of thinking teems with life.  Sometimes there are chemical reasons for this mistaken sense of reality.  In those cases medical help is necessary.  More frequently it’s something distorted in our thinking and we need clarity.

I have found all of us are counting blinks or exalting birthmarks in some area.  We’ve gone downstream with the wrong ideas and are troubled or troubling others.

How we think affects how we live.  How else would one explain some sing in prison shackles while others weep in kingly robes?

So what’s a person to do?

Romans 12:2 teaches Christ’s followers are transformed into something wholly different through renewing their very mindsChanging the way one thinks changes the way one lives.  It’s a simple but powerful truth.

Walking in the truth is liberty.  Consider Jesus’ word. He said, 

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 
(John 8:32)

Prayerful examination is a good place to begin.  God’s Spirit will show where we’re counting blinks or exalting birthmarks.  Ask Him. He is called “the Wonderful Counselor.” 

We're here to help.  Sometimes talking with someone helps one get off the "merry"-go-round of the mind.  You don't have to go it alone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

3 more lessons from a chainsaw


3 more lessons from a chainsaw

It’s good to get away for a bit.  In that place of separation or space from the busyness of work there were a few other lessons I gleaned from my chainsaw.

  1. Place the chain in Someone’s hand.  Think about it.  The chainsaw can’t fix, sharpen, or even get off the housing by itself.  Allow another to help.  The handled life is the improved life.  Being in the Father’s hand is best.  He made me and knows the function of my life.  Not just anyone can waltz in and address one’s chainsaw, let alone one’s life!  Oh, but the help that is offered by someone who has understanding.  
  2. Sharpen the chain with the right tool:  “Iron sharpens iron” the scripture says (Proverbs 27:17).  Did you know the teeth on a chainsaw alternate?  Every other tooth has the “bite” on the right and the next tooth on the left.  To sharpen them it must be understood.  Like the saw, those who understand me are helpful to me.  I’m sharpened when challenged or encouraged with a good read, frank assessment, or even a timely caution.
  3. Put oil in it regularly.  I once loaned my saw to a neighbor.  When I went to use it, I noticed the teeth were gummed up, and the oil chamber was empty.  When I loaned it again, I explained it must be kept oiled, or it would over heat and become decreasingly effective.  He blushed.  Like me, he was on a learning curve about chainsaws. 

Abiding in Christ is the oil in my life.  Life is well-lubricated, not overheated, or gummed up when I am prayerful and in the Word.  My dependence on God’s Spirit throughout the day makes all the difference.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


What I learned about living from a chainsaw

The first time I used a chainsaw, I had to go to a chiropractor afterwards. 

I borrowed a neighbor’s saw, fired it up and began cutting.   I cut and cut and cut working at that thing for a long time.  Finally the tree fell and when I turned off the saw, my arm was tingling and numb.  I’d pulled something in the effort!

On another day, my brother-in-law helped cut down and cut up a tree in just minutes.  I told him my story, and he said the chain must have been dull.  “Sharpen it or buy a new one next time,” was his advice. 

The story made a broader lesson for me than just tree trimming.  If life is more labored than necessary, here’s what I learned.

  1. Turn off the chainsaw:  Stop.  Be still.  It cannot be fixed while still in motion.
  2. Remove the chain from its housing:  Get away from the work environment.  For me, this is my dock.  It’s a quiet place on the pond out back.  Pausing and removing myself from work automatically places me in another frame of mind.  In that separation, it’s not uncommon to see what needs to be done differently…but more about that in another blog entry.  I’ll give it a rest for the day.