soul care

Offering H.E.L.P. in Suffering

This past weekend two high school graduates were killed in a car accident here in Humboldt, Iowa, where I pastor.  In light of this tragedy I shared these words on my church Facebook page as a way to encourage our community to give real H.E.L.P. to the hurting families and friends in our area. H – Hope not answers. When people are in the midst of suffering, they need hope more than answers. Hope is not found in solving the problem, but running to a person. Jesus. We may not know why everything happens, but we can hope in the person who understands suffering more than anyone and sympathizes with us in it.

E – Enter into their pain. Empathize with them. Did you know that grieving with someone can be the single most helpful expression of love and care? Weep with them. Just be there for them and be with them.

L – Listen to them & Love them in tangible ways. Seek to understand their situation. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If you must speak, tell them, “I am standing with you. I am grieving with you.” And love them in tangible ways. Make a meal. Offer a small gift. Spend time with them.

P – Pray for them and Patiently walk w/them through the long journey of suffering. In the deepest of suffering, some may find it hard to even pray. We can intercede for them and carry this burden. And oftentimes, after the initial help has arrived, we forget the one who is suffering over time. But this is when the church is even more needed. To patiently walk with them and be with them through the long road of suffering.

Offering Real H.E.L.P. in Suffering

This past Sunday I preached on our paradoxical life as Christians. Ours is a life of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (Rom. 12:15). I used an acronym to remember how we give real help to those who are suffering. H – Hope not answers.  When people are in the midst of suffering, they need hope more than answers. Hope is not found in solving the problem, but running to a person. Jesus. We may not know why everything happens, but we can hope in the person who understands suffering more than anyone and sympathizes with us in it.

E – Enter into their pain.  Empathize with them. Did you know that grieving with someone can be the single most helpful expression of love and care? Weep with them. Just be there for them and be with them.

L – Listen to them & Love them in tangible ways. Seek to understand their situation. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If you must speak, tell them, “I am standing with you. I am grieving with you.” And love them in tangible ways. Make a meal. Offer a small gift. Spend time with them.

P – Pray for them and Patiently walk w/them through the long journey of suffering. In the deepest of suffering, some may find it hard to even pray. We can intercede for them and carry this burden. And oftentimes, after the initial help has arrived, we forget the one who is suffering over time. But this is when the church is even more needed. To patiently walk with them and be with them through the long road of suffering.

Anything you would add?

Learning to Love God's Ways

Amidst all the craziness of getting ready to move and trying to sell (and buy) a house, I've been slowly making my way through a much needed book for my hurried and distracted soul. It's called Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer by Richard J. Foster. God has used this little book to slow me down as I listen to him and approach him with simple words of submission and surrender. I want to share one insight from the book that was extremely helpful for me and I hope it's helpful to you as well. Isaiah 55:8 says that "God's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts." The text goes on to say that God's Word and his ways are like the rain and snow that gently fall down and sink into the earth, which in time, brings forth life. Foster writes,

What a contrast with our ways, which involve wanting to open up another person's head and tinker around in there for a bit! But you see, God's ways are all patience and love, all grace and mercy. Our ways are domination and control, all manipulation and guile.

Earlier he writes,

You see it's one thing to love God; it's quite another to love God's ways.

Later he gives the reader a helpful illustration to grow in accepting God's ways:

We might want to imagine ourselves on a lovely beach observing the footprints of God in the sand. Slowly we begin to place our feet into the prints. At some places the stride looks far too long for our small frame; at other places it looks so short that it appears childlike. In infinite wisdom God is stretching us where we need greater attentiveness and stillness. As we follow God's lead, we enter more and more into the divine Stride, turning where God turns, accepting God's ways and finding them altogether good.

That's my prayer for you and me - that we would learn to follow his lead and love his ways. For he is good and is working for our good always.

Understanding Depression - Dr. Eric Johnson

My good friend, Dr. Eric Johnson, recently spoke at the CCEF National Conference here in Louisville, KY.  He spoke on the topic of Understanding Depression: Weakness, Willfulness, or Wisdom?  Below is his description of the session:

Sadness is a common experience in a fallen world. It was even prophesied of the Messiah that he would be a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3). In this session, we will look at the range of sadness that humans can experience (from healthy to disordered and sinful), the different kinds of dynamics that can contribute to it (biological, social, situational, psychological, personal, and spiritual), and the different approaches the church has taken to severe depression over the centuries. Attention will be given to the contributions of contemporary naturalistic research on depression as well as its inadequacies from a Christian standpoint. Diagnosing symptoms and labels for extreme sadness have their place, but only as means to help suffering and sinful saints to cope with and transform their sadness by means of the gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of God’s glory.

Click here to download the outline for this session.

Click here to download the PowerPoint for this session.

You can download all of the sessions from the conference here.

Pastor, Be at Peace with Who You Are

Eugene Cho encourages pastors to come to peace with who they are instead of mimicking others and longing for "success." Although the audio is a bit rough, this video is worth the watch!

You don’t have to be “the most influential” in the nation. Just seek to be the most influential and loving pastor and leader to the church you’re called to. That will not likely get you on any special lists but you’ll serve your people well. You’ll be faithful to your flock and calling.

I also appreciate these words by Tony Rose (my senior pastor):

I have discovered that many of us pastors simply have too little faith in God’s ability to lead His church. This lack of faith is displayed in our continual practice of trying to do more than is humanly possible. At the root of our problem is our lack of faith and a bit of dissatisfaction with our selves. When we look at the ministries of others and wonder why we cannot do all our brother is doing we are essentially saying to God, “why didn’t you make me like him?”. Strangely, when we rest in the ability and desire God has to shepherd His own people, and we are content with our own limits, we will become effective pastors.

The Pool of Fear (and how to get out of it)

Do you struggle with fear? Are you drowning in the pool of performance? I encourage you to read these 3 posts by Bob Hudson.

Bob is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado with a Master of Arts in Counseling from Denver Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I met him at an event called Men at the Cross awhile back.

Bob just started a new blog. His voice is needed in the lives of many men.

Involve Your Kids in Ministry to Elderly

Brian Croft gives a good reminder for pastors to take their children with them when they visit the elderly. He brings out three points:

  1. Never underestimate the impact of children in the lives of others.
  2. It is good for a child to learn to love, grieve, and let go.
  3. It will cause the young and old to see the value of the other.

Read the whole thing.

When God Calls You to Wait

Paul Tripp with some wise words on God's will in your time of waiting (whew ... lots of "w's"):

In ministry there are often moments when you are propelled by a biblical vision but called by God to wait. Waiting can be discouraging and hard. So what does it look like to wait in a way that makes you a participant in what God is doing rather than someone who struggles against the wait? Let me suggest several things.

Read the rest ...

When God Turns Out the Light

Tony Rose:

Isaiah 50:10-11 is a text that does not fit well in the mouths of American preachers. Frankly, it does not make sense to the typical Christian in our culture. We have long been convinced that if one fears the Lord and obeys his word he or she will have a blessed life with a smooth road. When darkness over takes the life of a believer the first thing we want to do is get them out of it. But is this right to do?

Do we ever consider the idea that God is the one who turned the lights out? And just why would God do such a thing? The truth is that when we see everything in life clearly we have this amazing ability to forget that God is the one who made things clear. Darkness is sometimes God’s tool to open our eyes . . . that is to open our eyes of faith. This type of darkness has nothing to do with sin or evil. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (I John 1:5) Our instinct to light our own fire at this point is not good. We may be cutting short God’s personally designed process of maturing us.

So, what then do we do when all the lights go out? We do what we are supposed to be doing when all the lights are on; trusting in the name of the LORD and relying on our God!

You Should Sing More

This morning I met with a small group of pastors. At one point I asked the question, "What do you do to regularly refresh yourself in the Lord?" The first response was an honest one. "I don't know. But I'm ready to write down any good answers from the rest of you." Then our worship pastor chimed in and said something that made a lot of sense. He said, "I like to sing throughout the day and just meditate on the words of those songs." He talked about singing and repeating simple choruses as a way of reminding himself of the gospel. I liked his idea a lot. It reminded me of Joe Thorn's words in his book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself:

People sing about the things that capture their hearts and things that give them joy. People sing of heroes, victory, longing, and hope. People even sing as a way to express their sorrow. Does anyone have more reasons to sing than you? As a sinner who has been forgiven, a slave who has been freed, a blind man who has received sight, a spiritual cripple who has been healed--all by the gospel-you have real reasons to be known as a person of song!

I'm curious. What do you do to regularly refresh yourself in the Lord? I'd love to hear from you.

What is Contentment?

Stephen Altrogge gives a great definition of contentment in his new book, The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence:

Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God's will, whatever that will may be.

Altrogge fleshes this out by saying that a contented man "doesn't murmur and complain about his season or circumstances of life and doesn't grumble about the things he doesn't have. A contented man isn't jealous when he sees others prospering, because he knows that God is always good to him."

  • Get the book here
  • Check out the trailer
  • Feeling Weak and Inadequate? Perfect.

    Dane Ortlund:

    Do you know yourself to be weak? Inadequate? Not up to snuff in intellect, family background, educational opportunities, financial resources?

    Get ready.

    You are just the kind of person God loves to use. The power of God—power to kill sin, power to walk in the fullness of the Spirit, power to speak courageously on the job, power to love the unlovely, power to lead many to Christ, power to make your life count—such power is for inadequate people.

    Acknowledge your frailty to God. Look to the Savior. He embraced the weakness of the cross so that you and I, weak sinners, can experience the blood-bought power of God—now.

    Read the whole article on Finding Strength in Your Weakness

    Our Family of Origin

    All of us grew up in less-than-perfect families.  As a result, we pass on the negative emotional atmosphere of our family-of-origin in both direct and indirect ways.  All this makes Christian parenting very challenging!  With that in mind, Dr. Eric Johnson provides some valuable wisdom for parents in this message entitled: How We Pass on the Emotional Atmosphere of Our Family of Origin.  It was given at our SEEDS Parent Chat (Feb, 2010) and can be downloaded below: How We Pass on the Emotional Atmosphere of Our Family of OriginListen Listen |  Download Download

    Be sure to check out more resources on parenting, marriage, and discipleship here.

    Our Only Hope in Overcoming Idols

    Michael Wallenmeyer:

    I have learned in my own life and by watching others that asking people to give up their idols without filling up on the life of Jesus Christ may make them religious but it will also make them miserable (and miserable to be around). Instead, the gospel is calling us to fill up our hearts, our lives with a passionate love for Jesus Christ and this in turn will minimize the power of lesser pleasures (idols) in our lives.

    How does this impact the way we teach, preach, and do discipleship? How does this change the way we counsel one another? How does this change the way we disciple our own children? Your thoughts?