Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Pain Evangelism as Discipleship

The previous article focused on esteeming Jesus by not only trusting him to make right our sin problem, but also to give Jesus the pain of the consequences of sin.  Some think that pursuing healing of the inner person and becoming a more devoted disciple selfishly puts the follower of Christ at odds with the commission to evangelize the world.    The loss and pain (everything from failures and disappointments to serious abuse) are experienced as a result of the broken world we live in. Loss and pain is common to both the new believer, and  the most seasoned disciple of Christ alike.
Healing is part of Jesus’ ministry of evangelism.  Jesus says of himself,  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus spoke these words in reply to religious people accusing him of hanging out with people of undesirable social status and the needy.  God wants to meet people in loss and pain.  Whether in small losses, moderate failures, or full blown hopelessness and despair, hope for healing is available for the asking.  
The best way  to help people recover from their losses and find freedom from their pain is the way Jesus himself helped people when he walked on earth.  He found people in loss and pain and offered salvation to them. We must be like Jesus, and offer Jesus as the only true Savior.  Generally speaking, people who responded in greatest measure, were people in the greatest need, with the most losses, and most ready for change.  
We must also be people who are open to admitting our own needs.  If we wish to recover from loss and pain, we must stop trying to hide it, and allow it to be found by Jesus.  Breaking through denial and positioning our hearts for healing involves the following three considerations.  
Consider the purpose of pain.  Physical pain in the body is meant to signal a warning of disrupted functionality.  If a carpenter accidentally hits his thumb with a hammer, the physical pain he feels tells him something bad is happening to his body.  A physical injury to a body may need treatment and a time of healing for functionality to be restored.  Mental, emotional, and spiritual hurts need to run a healing course as well.  
Second, consider what governs out actions. Reaction of the  physical or  tangible (outer man) is determined by the non-physical or intangible (inner man).  Jesus taught us that the sinful actions we take part in have their source in our heart (see Mark 7:20-23).  If the heart is at rest, a person’s behavior will reflect peace and calm.  If the heart is unrestful, the person’s behavior will reflect frustration, dissatisfaction, and all sorts of emotional pain, and all sorts of unpleasant, undesirable, or harmful behavior.
Third, consider what lies at the root of painful feelings.  From our conception in the womb, our own brokenness and the brokenness of people around us, creates  critical judgments,  bitterness, injustices, and  wounds of soul and spirit.  More about this is explained in other articles on this blog site.  Also see my book, Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.
So  if, 1) our bad behavior is undesirable or destructive (sinful), which is, 2)  caused by a heart full of pain, which is 3) caused by unresolved bitterness and woundedness, then doesn’t it make sense to go after the “bitter root” to bring healing to  the problem?  This is actually commanded in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that … no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile.”  Why is this so difficult?  It is hard because it cannot be done with mere knowledge or sheer will power.  It requires surrendering to the power of God for transformational healing.
Only Jesus can truly redeem the broken  condition of the human heart.  He has given us the gift and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this in our heart.
Healing is a process. We must embrace the process.  As John and Paula Sandford (founders of the Elijah House ministry)  teach in a book called The Transformation of the Inner Man, healing is the process of evangelizing the soul.  It is evangelizing believers in unbelieving areas of their lives.  Everyone is in need of some kind of healing and many times healing is painful because of the weakness of our flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Healing involves transformation.  The Sandfords define transformation as "that process of death and rebirth whereby what was our weakness becomes our strength."   Transformation is still needed after our initial conversion experience (Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 12:1-2).  Knowing our problem does not set us free, but only the Cross of Jesus (applied to our problem) can set us free.  Our goal then is to discover unbelieving areas of the heart and invite God to minister to them.  Hebrews 3:12 says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God."
Continued evangelism is necessary for discipleship, and discipleship thrives on pain evangelism.  The healing we receive also makes us better evangelists.  The more of Christ’s salvation we receive into our own being, the more we understand and identify with others. Compassion and empathy for loss and pain are more effective tools than condemnation of  people for sinful behaviors.  Again, as Jesus taught, the being (heart) supersedes the doing (behaviors).
Pursuing God’s help for  healing  your own setbacks, losses and hurts, can be one of the best ways to help others.  By becoming a better person on the inside, others around you will surely be blessed.   
Let me encourage you to take inventory of your heart.  What might be remaining lost (and waiting to be found by Jesus) in your life?  Is there a behavior, habit, or pattern of reaction, that may indicate some degree of unrest in your soul?  Is there a root of bitterness and unforgiveness you already know about, but haven’t surrendered it to God for him to be the Judge?  If you think there’s nothing, let go of your denial and start feeling. Let the pain surface.  It wants to be your friend.  Let the ashes of loss,  failures, discomfort, uneasiness, unrestfulness, confusion, doubt, and worry be turned into beauty of pain-free circumstances (see Isaiah 61:1-3).   
Repentance and forgiveness is the path to freedom.   Psalm 32 blessings!

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Esteeming Jesus

To esteem is to attach worth or value to something.  For  followers of Jesus reading this, I have a question, “How much of your life demonstrates the value of what Jesus did for mankind?”  This article identifies some ways to show greater esteem for the King of Kings.  
First, let’s look at the response of his very first followers when he came to the earth.  Yes, even though they had about three years hanging out with Jesus face-to-face, saw the raw miracles with their eyes, and with their own ears, heard Jesus explaining the prophetic wrtings (from the Book), they were unable to understand and value the Kingdom of God unfolding in their midst.  Near the end of Jesus’ time with them Luke records, “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him;  they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”  The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about”” (Luke 18:31-34; NIV).  They could not accept the idea of a “suffering Messiah,” even when the Messiah himself told them plainly part of his reason for coming is to take on himself the pain of the world.  Jesus came to redeem the guilt of sin and pain of consequences (for every person who believes in him) and restore sonship with Father God.  
Jesus is referring to messages foretold hundreds of years prior like this one in Isaiah,
Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:1-6)
The phrase in verse 3 “and we held him in low esteem” is worth taking a closer look.  Obviously the people who were bent on killing Jesus held him in low esteem, but the 12 disciples he was talking to in the Luke verses above, also failed to esteem Jesus.  Luke says, “they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:34).  They were not able to fully comprehend the message Jesus was sharing with them at least in part because of the earthly mindset (belief system) of how things should turn out.  They thought, for example, the Messiah (whomever that was) would be the one to deliver them from the oppression of the Roman government.  The Romans were the ruling power over the Jews, and all the first believers in Jesus were of Jewish origin.  For a Messiah to redeem the Jewish people, they were looking for a literal overthrow of the regime.  But that was not in God’s plan.  God’s plan was laid out in the verses of Isaiah above.  Even after these verses were fulfilled and the grusome trauma of the crucifixion of Jesus took place, the disciples still didn’t understand.  In the days following his resurrection, the Bible records a number of times that Jesus appeared to his disciples to encourage them and give them the Holy Spirit and their great commission before he ascended to the Father (see Luke 24:36-49).  
When Jesus appeared to 2 of them on the road to Emmaus, for example (Luke 24:36-49), they were clearly not in a state to bring esteem to what Jesus had endured on their behalf.  They were downcast, depressed, and likely a bit taumatized.  They were likely guilt-ridden for not being able to protect Jesus from the cruel and unjust treatment he received.  One of their members betrayed Jesus.  In betraying Jesus, Judas also betrayed each of the disciples as team members.  They were all scattered, alone, fearing for their own lives, with their leader dead (or so they thought), and no purpose to continue what had consumed the last three years of their lives.   Their pain was too great to bear, and Jesus had to appear to them to bring them back from their strayed condition.  
Like the first disciples who had suffered great loss and needed to be reminded that Jesus came to bear their grief and pain, we too have a similar opportunity to show that we value what Jesus did on the cross to bear our sin and pain.   Jesus didn’t only die to wash away the guilt of our sin, but also was tortured to bear the pain of the consequences of sin.  The pain may be from an accident with no one at fault (ie. a natural disaster, financial,  illness, or physical problem).  It may be inflicted on you by someone else intentionally or unintentionally (ie. prejudgment, misjudgment, mistreatment, slander, rejection, betrayal, abuse,  injustice, etc.).  Or, pain may be self-imposed (ie. shame, self-condemnation, self-rejection,  bitterness, resentment, etc.).  
Whatever the source of emotional pain may be, we (like the very first disciples onward) fail to esteem Jesus when we fail to give Jesus our pain.  You may ask, “What does it mean to give Jesus our pain?”  Inner hurts and wounds from past and present are common.  Acknowleging hurt and offense is the first step to allowing Jesus to bear it for you.  After that, it is  responding  to his invitation to come  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).  It seems too simple to be true.  Yoking up with Jesus makes all the difference.  The “yoke” as mentioned here is a term for the instrument that controls a team of work horses enabling them to work together to accomplish a task.  Relief from the pain of an unrested soul, comes through surrender of control.  No matter how good we think we are at controlling things, God always does better.
This surrender continues the rest of our lives, so that greater and greater degrees of control are yielded to God.  As we “draw near” to God (see Hebrews 10:19-31), his power changes us in a way that goes beyond our natural abilities to change ourselves.  We esteem Jesus by surrendering to this on going change process.  Instead of “going astray” and “turning to our own way” (as described in Isaiah 53:6 above), we allow God to satisfy our deepest longings and needs.  Instead of depending on “self” to determine our fate, we cooperate with God’s plan and ways of doing things.  Or, instead of turning to a counterfeit like alcohol, drugs, porn, work-o-holism, etc,. we permit our hearts to be contented in gratitude for what Jesus has done to accomplish our rescue.  
How much of your struggles, disappointments, failed expectations, disagreements, concerns, criticisms, conflicts, you quickly take to Jesus for him to bear?  The more you take to him and the quicker you respond demonstrates the degree to which you truly value (esteem) Jesus.  And if you feel like you struggle to value Jesus, no condemnation.  Another problem will come your way before you know it, and you’ll have another chance!   Do not listen to the enemy of your soul who tells you things like “you’re all alone,” “no one cares,” or “you’re beyond hope.”   Perhaps you need some help from a counselor to sort out the effects of some very difficult events in your life.  
Sometimes I find it a challenge to practice this myself.  Over the years I have found that music helps me refocus sometimes in a way that points me to God.  One such song that goes way back is called  “Lay Your Burden Down” by Chuck Girard.  Here is a link to hear the song: 
May you be found faithful in esteemng Jesus.  May God grant you the rest your soul craves.  May you be freed to help others find their freedom in Christ Jesus.   And may God be glorified and greatly esteemed!  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry