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Posts Tagged ‘Counselor’

Sometimes my computer is so messed up, the only thing left to do is reboot: shut it down and restart it. And I’m thinking this was God’s plan as well. Humans needed a a restart, a clear way to reboot the system, a specific point in time to begin fresh. Christ is grace personified.

Ephesians 2:4-5
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Of course, a reboot will take care of the current glitches but it doesn’t erase all the old stuff. Right now, my computer is running really slow. I kept thinking it was the Internet connection or the router, but I finally had to go poking around the “C” drive to determine what else might be the cause. Since I’m not a computer expert, this investigation is always a little daunting.

As I scrolled through the “Add/Remove programs” section, I found a number of old programs I no longer use. They were just taking up space. They weren’t hurting anything, they were just memory hogs. As a Christian, there are the same kinds of things that are no longer part of my daily life. I don’t need those rule-sets for anymore. So why hang on to them? Click on remove program.

A second place I looked for memory wasters was the files themselves. Since my family sees the desktop as a “family computer,” I have discovered they leave a bunch of unnecessary files on the hard drive. Many of those were easy to dump since they weren’t mine. However, many other files represented special times in my life. But how much is too much to carry around and store? In our basement, I still have my files from graduate school. OK, that was ten years ago. Isn’t it time to take these boxes of old homework, term papers, and dated books to the landfill? Same for the old computer files.

The biggest file folder turned out to be a music folder of my daughter’s (3.5 gigabytes). I vaguely remember trying to help her salvage her I-tunes from a damaged (trojan/virus infected) laptop. In the end, we put them on the desktop for safe keeping, a holding tank. I was reminded of the times I’ve tried to help other people emotionally and taken on their stuff. I’d forgotten that I had to pass that stuff along to the God who is willing to carry it all. Click on delete … empty the wastebasket.

After I did all this deleting and emptying, I did another reboot, a refresh. Computer is running better.

Same for me. First reboot at accepting Christ was life-changing. But I still need to refresh my system along the way. Sometimes I need a technician to help me ferret out the problems, but sometimes, I just need to delete the old stuff: prayer, confession, thanksgiving.

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When anything overflows, the implication is that there is more than enough. Although I can speak at great length about my pains and our troubles, I rarely discourse on the overwhelming comfort I’ve received. Why is that?

II Corinthians 1:3b-5
. . . the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

What travels faster, good news or bad news? There’s nothing like a juicy story at someone else’s expense. Or, it might be a tragedy that is played and replayed on the television. So often, even in sports, it’s the mistakes or the “cheating” that gets the most press. During these weeks the 2010 World Cup is big news and yet, the biggest news seems to be the bad referee calls, faked injuries, and intentional errors.

During the course of a day, don’t we tend to remember the person who was unpleasant and rude more than the polite or sympathetic one? Somehow, the gentle hand never seems to be enough.

Pain has a reputation of being stronger than comfort. Sorrow lays across our heart like a heavy blanket. Disappointment can be a wound that will not heal. Betrayal is the repeated slashes of a knife.

I remember one horrible emotional breakdown I had some time ago. I don’t really remember the source of my cataclysm, but it definitely took me over the edge. I was in full tilt: shouting, crying, and door slamming. My daughter tried to come into my room to “comfort” me and I sent her away. What was I really saying when I rejected her, “You are not able to comfort me!” or “I don’t want to be comforted; I want to feel like this a little longer because I deserve it!”

Despite saying we don’t like to swim in misery, I think we do it more than we care to admit. In fact, swimming in misery can become the norm. Swimming in comfort means feeling better, even good, despite our circumstances.

For comfort to work, it has to be accepted.

Here are some other words for “comforter” in the New Testament: Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby [Amplified]. The comforter is the Holy Spirit and, as we all know and the Holy Spirit is within. True comfort comes from within: the voice of counsel, the voice of solution, the voice of encouragement, the voice of support, the voice of strength, and the voice in the background.

The Comforter has my back . . . if I let that one do his/her job. The comforter picks me up when I fall.

But the Comforter, like Jesus, is polite. Comfort cannot be pressed upon a person. One can always send comfort away.

I am reminded of Matthew 20:32, “Jesus stopped and called them [two blind men]. ‘What do you want me to do for you?'”

The Comforter does not presume. It is sometimes up to me to figure out exactly what is the true problem, what is the issue, what is causing me to feel so much pain, anxiety, fear, etc. This is the first step toward comfort. The second step toward comfort is breath.

That may sound simplistic, but taking a deep breath will often start the healing particularly if it is the breath of God.

My prayer: Open my mind and heart and soul to your Comfort, to your breath, to your spirit. Forgive me for shutting out the Comforter. Forgive me for shutting out the people who come to me in the name of Comfort.

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A believer, grafted to the tree of faith, still has some responsibility despite all that grace. I do, after all, need to participate in the tree… “be a tree” and not something else, like a mushroom or a dandelion.

Romans 3:2b
First of all, they [the Jews] have been entrusted with the very words of God.

When I accepted Christ, I agreed to give up some things in exchange for the embedded words of God. Those words have power and can transform a life. I agreed to keep them safe by treating them reverently.

Oh, it’s not like the “words” will go away if I am faithless. I can even cast them aside and God will not be changed in any way. But I will have broken trust… it’s a type of betrayal, a broken covenant.

God is teaching me about God through those words. And Jesus is teaching me. And the Holy Spirit is teaching me. And as I learn, I become a stronger part of the tree.

An image that comes to my mind is the great tree in the movie, Avatar. It was a life force, a home, a safety net, a fortress, a symbol… it was all of these things and more to the native peoples. And so is the tree of life for me. Unlike Pandora’s tree which was destroyed by evil, our tree of life lives on forever. But it really thrives when the parts contribute to the tree with love and joy and obedience and faith and truth and confession.

As a believer, I have been entrusted with the words of God. They are only seeds. The life of those word-seeds must be planted and nurtured to manifest.

Similar metaphors are used throughout the scriptures to help us understand. Do we? Do we take these gifts seriously? Do I? If I truly understood the words of God to be like the metaphors that Jesus used about the kingdom (e.g. a mustard seed, yeast, treasure in a field, a pearl [Matthew 13]), would I sell everything to gain the full value of this treasure?

Oh Lord, give me a love for your words that will bear much fruit. Give me wisdom and understanding. Help me to be a better caretaker of your truth.

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“Can you keep a secret?” Ooooh, we think, inside information! We imagine it’s a compliment to be told a secret. But a secret can be a millstone around the neck, waiting to drown us.

Romans 2:16a
This [judgment] will take place on the day when God will judge men’s [and women’s] secrets through Jesus Christ . . .

We mistakenly believe we can keep secrets well hidden; if we never voice them or think about them, they will never see the light of day.

But secrets are more like mold.

Mold flourishes in dark, damp, organic places. Once established, mold is difficult to remove. Either the object must be thrown away or some kind of astringent, anti-bacterial solution is used to clean it (if it is caught in time). Mold damages its host. Mold doesn’t just cover an object, it interacts and transforms it.

And secrets will do the same.

A secret’s greatest power lies in its hidden nature. It will grow a life of its own, morphing into something bigger and more complicated and sometimes, even sinister. It changes us from the inside out.

Why do I keep secrets about myself? It’s simple, really. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the reaction of others. I’m afraid the truth will be too much for others to bear. I’m afraid of the exposure. I’m afraid of the ramifications.

Keeping a secret about myself is more like a lie than anything else. In order to keep truth hidden, I cover myself with plastic, with false overlays. And yet, that secret truth just breeds more and more lies.

The safest place for a secret is in the hands of Christ. Being a wise counselor, Christ can bring light and healing to any festering growth. If I bring my secret to God willingly, the exposure is done with the gentle hand of mercy. If I wait, the secret will be laid bare eventually anyway. It may not be until the worst hour, or the last hour, but it will be uncovered.

In Greek, confess is homologeō which means “to say the same thing.” In other words, acknowledging or professing what is already known. Confession is coming to the truth of ourselves. Giving up our secrets to Christ is the beginning of holiness and wholeness. Amen.

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Acts 16:14b
… The Lord opened her [Lydia] heart to respond to Paul’s message.

Revelation… truth… understanding… none of these can happen without an open heart and it is God who makes this happen. It’s not that we can’t open our own hearts, we can. Unfortunately, we usually don’t realize how closed off we really are. We assume our hearts are open… after all, what does a closed heart even look like?

I imagine a closed heart like a fortress, like the keep of a castle, the last line of defense… it is the stronghold. The heart can be like an entire castle for our normal activities and relationships; we open and close the drawbridge, we let people and ideas come in and out. But the stronghold is not open to just anyone. And sometimes, no one is allowed inside at all. And if we have collected assumptions, secrets, memories, untruths, misconceptions, pain, and prejudices, they are stored in there to keep them “safe.” If the storage areas are full, some of this stuff will pour out through the window slits and cracks and affect our daily lives. But generally, we manage to keep all that stuff inside. It is, after all, way too dangerous to let anyone inside, just opening the door may let too much out.

When I hit forty, my stronghold was so full that it was not just leaking out, it was spewing out periodically like a volcano. I often felt like I would explode, literally. I would sob uncontrollably. I would walk outside in some lonely place and just scream and scream until my throat was raw. My thoughts were jumbled up. I was like a lone survivor in an ocean trying to hold on to a life boat, but with no clue how to get in. I really thought I was going crazy.

I am grateful for the counselors, pastors, and friends who held me up during this difficult time of my life. The very thing I feared the most was the very thing I needed to do: open the keep… open the stronghold. Finally, I asked Jesus to do this work. I could not. When the door finally opened, it was not pretty. Eventually, equilibrium was achieved.

And after awhile, I thought the work was done. The proof was in my fresh energy and sense of renewal. It was during these healing years that we adopted our children, moved into a different house, changed jobs, I got a second master’s degree, I met new people and allowed new ideas to filter in.

But what was considered new then has become somewhat entrenched in my stronghold again. It is not as full as before. It is not as volatile. But I am aware that the door of my heart/my stronghold has been swinging shut more than I would like. And so, I ask my God this day, to keep my heart open. Give me courage to embrace people… all different kinds of people… authentically. Give me faith that you will sift ideas for me. Give me revelation knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Give me trust that Jesus will always be my doorkeeper.

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John 12:16
“I have still many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear them or to take them upon you or to grasp them now.” [Amplified]

The whole truth and nothing but the truth?… it’s not going to happen. Even though the Holy Spirit (Spirit of Truth/Counselor) is here with us, is even within us, still we are unable to handle the whole truth. Nothing much has changed on that score.

Is the Bible truth? Yes, but no one has the inside track on the meanings, interpretations, inspiration, implications of that collection of writings. Truth may be absolute, but our world is not. We are limited in our ability to understand truth and apply it to our world, to our culture, to our daily lives.

Like the story about Corrie Ten Boom whose father showed her by example that she could not carry the heavy suitcase off the train until she was older/stronger. The father would give her the suitcase suitable for her size and ability.

The Holy Spirit, through Christ Jesus, gives us the truth we can bear and understand.

Sometimes, we fight these truths. I have heard myself say, “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know…” to my teenagers. There is a perceived safety in ignorance. But that is foolish.

Today, I open my heart and mind to the truth God is willing to give and I ask forgiveness for the truth I have turned away. Grace and mercy can only abound where truth lives.

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John 14:16
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth…”

Why do we seek counsel? Isn’t it usually to determine some truth in a matter?

There are lots of opinions about truth and it gets particularly dicey when we add adjectives to the word. For instance: absolute truth, subjective truth, universal truth, relative truth, or objective truth (just to name the big ones). I have even seen truth parlayed with just an article or a preposition, like “the” truth, or “a” truth, or “some” truth.

If you want to read more about truth, just check out Wikipedia for an extensive list of “theories” about truth, written by an equally long list of philosophers.

I don’t think I can compete with any of these definitions or understandings. I am neither a theologian nor a philosopher. I just like the idea that truth is a counselor. When I am confused or conflicted, I am being promised here that truth will be help me sort things out. And according to Jesus, Truth lives with me and within me.

Truth asks the hard questions. Truth guides my thoughts. Truth is my mirror. Truth listens. Truth is playful. Truth is orderly. Truth accepts where I am today but hopes for a better tomorrow. Truth knows the worst of me and never turns away. Truth is in the revelation business and the “Aha!” moment: like now.

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