Thursday, July 20, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner: Keep a Right Mind-Set

This is not an article on how to teach you how to think positive as secular psychologists or as new age thinking would, but how to keep a right mind-set through the truth in the Word of God. So many Christians are living pessimistic, defeated, and negative lives. God wants us to think His thoughts and be people of God filled with faith in our speech and in our thoughts. When we beat ourselves up, think negative thoughts about ourselves or others, or think worst-case scenarios over every difficult circumstance that arises in our lives, we are not living the life that God has for us. Most likely, if we are thinking these thoughts we will become depressed, anxious, tired, and be susceptible to a lowered immunity. You may be saying, “Well, you just don’t know what I go through.” I don’t have to know what you go through, I can say my life has been a fight. Nothing has simply come easy for me, and I have faced more trials and tribulations than I could possibly write about. I have endured seasons of wrong thinking, and it left me mentally and spiritually paralyzed.

Sometimes, we can have a predisposition for negativity or be dealing with depression, this can make negativity more prevalent. You will have to fight harder to regain control of your thoughts. Yes, I said fight. You can be on all the medications to help with depression but if you are not working to keep right thoughts, the medications will not be as effective.

Be careful of what you allow to enter your mind. Not all thoughts that come into our minds should we dwell, ponder, or agree with. Check your thoughts, and ask, “Does that agree with what God would say?” If it does not, immediately get rid of that thought. Start thinking of something else, a positive, faith-filled thought. If that thought keeps coming back, stop the thought and replace with another thought. It takes time to discipline our thought life, especially if your thinking has been that way for a while, or perhaps you were raised in a home where you were exposed to wrong thinking. But today is the day of change. Ask God to give you His mind and His thoughts. Keep pursuing this until right thinking is automatic, and all traces of your former thinking is far behind.

Focus on what is right in your life, and keep a daily gratitude list or journal. In the beginning this may feel strange or that it is not really helping, but renewing thinking patterns takes time; so keep going until you have achieved a right mind-set. Write out on note cards, scriptures and positive affirmations and say out loud daily, this is a way to purposely think about what you are thinking about. You have to be purposeful in pursuing this change in thinking. It may take a lot of work in the beginning, but it will be worth it. Negative thoughts will come to us all, but we don’t have to accept them. Train your mind to not accept negative, defeated, or discouraging thoughts.

Be mindful of the company you keep, if you are hanging out with negative people; the negativity could rub-off on you. Be careful of the material you read and the things you watch on T.V. Negative reports through the news can dampen our faith and cause us to think negative. Fill your mind and fill your life with positive, faithful people and positive activities. Guard your heart and mind constantly from negativity. When a difficult situation comes up in your life, don’t start speaking what you see, but start speaking faith over your circumstances. It is important not to react to our circumstances, and this begins in our thoughts first.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner: Have you truly experienced Christ’s freedom?

What does God’s freedom look like?

 If you are free in Christ you are not bound by people’s opinion or approval of you; you follow Christ not man’s desires for you; you are not bound by guilt and condemnation; and you are not bound by religion.

You have been free to have a personal, intimate walk with Christ. You are able to say, “No” to others easily if you feel God is leading you elsewhere or you don’t have peace in a situation. God may be calling you to rest and be renewed with Him instead of going to that church function or get-together with friends or family. You have appropriate boundaries with others, including your family. You don’t feel you should be, ought to be, or could be doing anything. Instead, you are led by the Spirit of God to direct you to do something. You are less concerned about people pleasing and more concerned about pleasing God. You no longer try and fulfill the needs and expectations of others, but instead focus on fulfilling God’s plans for your life.

Not everyone will be happy or pleased when you begin walking in freedom. Some people will try and hold on to controlling, manipulating and guiling you in to their plans. When you begin to flow in the Holy Spirit’s will for  life, don’t be surprised if people in your life get upset that you are not doing what they want. People, situations, and circumstances will try and keep you bound, but who can contain the work and flow of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit goes and does what it wants.

If you are a follower of Christ and not people, you will have to let some people down. That may difficult for you if you are accustomed to people pleasing and needing the approval of man. Whose approval are you really needing anyways? Hopefully, your answer is God.

You will have an abundance of peace and joy when you begin to live in freedom. You are no longer bound to religious duties and dead-religion, but you are transformed by the living God. You walk in God’s flow and in His ways. You are no longer looking to pleasing man or fulfilling religious duties, but you look to Jesus who leads and guides you.

Break out of your old ways and be completely transformed to live a life of true freedom. If you are free in Christ, you are free to love, to worship and to serve Him. Freedom means you are no longer bound by people approval and addiction; religion not relationship with Christ; guilt and condemnation; fear of disapproval; and fear of man. You are free to be who Christ made you to be, free to follow Christ and His desires and plans for your life. Freedom does not mean we can do anything we so desire, but it means we can follow Christ and what He wants from us. If we follow man, we surely will be misled. Don’t follow man, and don’t follow religion. There is no freedom in being bound by religion. Religion follows after a set of rules, duties and regulations but following after Christ brings life. In our Western culture, we have many religions and many different sects of Christianity, all can be confusing. We don’t have to be confused, let’s keep it simple, follow Christ not religion or man. Even if your family is from a certain religion or sect of Christianity that follows rules and duties, you can be free and follow just Christ. What freedom that brings.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. I am empathetic about this. The moment any one of you submits to a circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligation of the slave life of the law.
Galatians 5:1-3, the Message Bible

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Galatians, 5:13, NIV

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner: Are You Merciful to Yourself?

Do you give mercy to others but find it difficult to give mercy to yourself?

Forgiving others may come much easier than forgiving yourself. You can justify forgiving others for tremendous offenses but seem to find it difficult to forgive yourself for lesser offenses. There could be a wrong belief that says that you need to pay some sort of penance before you can let yourself off the hook.

You might say that you are your worst own critic. Taking care and helping others are your primary concern, but you seem to neglect proper self-care of yourself. Enjoying life and not taking life so serious is challenging for you because you feel at times you should be punished for the wrong that you have done. Even more challenging is others who have not offered you forgiveness of your wrong doings, and you may condemn yourself because you do not feel forgiven by them.

When you show mercy to someone, you let them off the hook. Showing mercy means you will have compassion and forgiveness instead of giving that person what they deserved. Mercy means not bringing up the offense committed again. Are you able to do this with yourself, or do you rehash your shortcomings over and over? Do you beat yourself up over mistakes and weaknesses that you have? Are you rigid and hard on yourself, not able to let go of prior offenses?

You have asked Jesus to forgive you for your past mistakes but you continue to punish yourself in some way. You can punish yourself by not enjoying life. If you replay in your mind all the hurtful things you have done, or all the regrets that you have-you will not enjoy life!

God does not punish you for your past mistakes by wanting you to remember them and not enjoy life. In fact the opposite is true of God-He is merciful and gives mercy. Jesus paid your debts that you owed on the cross, and when you seek His forgiveness in your daily walk with Him; He washes you clean as if you never committed any sin!

Showing mercy to yourself means that you recognize that you are human with weaknesses and shortcomings, and you will not always act perfectly or do the right thing. Letting go and forgiving yourself of any wrong doing that you have done will sow mercy for yourself. If you feel you just can’t show yourself mercy because you mess up daily or frequently, you especially need to give yourself mercy. If you are honestly trying not to hurt or offend others, and you are striving daily to grow in your relationship with Christ, then give yourself MERCY!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner Why Do We Get Frazzled?

What a hectic week I had last week. By the end of the week I was tired, stressed, and a bit irritable. Can anyone relate to this madness of keeping up with the demands and fast pace life we can have? By the weekend, I realized I made everything and everyone a priority over placing my time with God first.

We will suffer either mentally, physically, or spiritually when we put things ahead of God.
Why do we get frazzled?
1.      We take on too much responsibility.
2.      We do things out of obligation rather than God directing us.
3.      We fear saying, “No,” to others and letting people down.
4.      As women, we seriously think we can do it all.
5.      The enemy sends distractions (even things that seem like a good thing).

If you have felt this way, run to the feet of Jesus immediately. Tell someone, “No, I can’t today,” or shut off your phone, stop obsessively checking your emails and social media, and shut the TV off.

If you can carve out a day or half a day to replenish with God. Things can wait, and God will send someone else to help whoever you believe needs your help.

When you feel your “cup is empty” you will exhibit these signs:

1.      Fatigue/exhaustion
2.      Irritability/anger
3.      Stress/overwhelmed
4.      Feeling burned-out
5.      Anxious/restless
6.      Forgetful/easily distracted
7.      Depression/discouragement
8.      A lack of peace, joy, and contentment
9.      Weakened immune system

It is not God’s will for you to feel burned-out and exhausted. Stop comparing yourself to others. Some people can do more and go more, and some have not learned how to place boundaries on their lives. Copying what others do is a sure recipe for disaster. God did not create you to be like others, and to follow what someone else does. Be your own person, and be comfortable that you are not built like anyone else.

Reprioritize your schedule, and leave only the things you must do. You will feel different for doing this. Few people, including Christians and sometimes especially Christians, have difficulty balancing and prioritizing their lives; that is why you cannot follow after others. Even if you are the only one who has balance in their lives, then be a leader.

As things come your way, ask God, “Is this what you have planned for me?” So many people never do this, and wind-up doing just whatever falls into their path. Do what God is leading you to do. This will require you to not be a people-pleaser, and to be obedient to God. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner Steps to Becoming an Overcomer in Christ

There is a real spiritual battle that rages, and some days it can feel like we are losing the war. These are difficult times for the Christian, and the warfare seems to be increasing. The enemy will increase the pressure and circumstances around you, so that you will lose your strength and eventually turn from your faith in Christ.

Overcome can be defined as success in dealing with a problem or difficulty, or to defeat or to prevail. Are you being overcome by the enemy or are you overcoming the enemy?

So, then how can we overcome our trials and the battles that ensues us?

Steps to becoming an overcomer:

1.      Realize that God will see you out of every battle that comes your way. It may not “feel” like it at first, but God is waging war with His heavenly hosts on your behalf. Your job is to remain in prayer and faith as the victory comes.

2.      Don’t react to what the enemy is showing you or telling you. The enemy will use anyone, including people in your family. Take every matter into prayer, but do not react to what is shown to you or spoken to you. Even if what you are being told or shown is appearing very real, don’t react to it.

3.      Never give up! You may “feel” like you are defeated, but the warfare WILL end. Stand firm until the battle that you’re under has shifted off.

4.      Renew your mind in the Word of God, and spend time in the presence of God. Get alone with God, and let Him wash over your fears and give you a strategic plan to overcome. Do not try and figure out how you can win your battles, but seek wisdom from God.

5.      When a battle comes your way, it is important not to talk to many people about it, discussing and rehearsing with them your situation. It is great to have wise counsel, but sometimes we just need to “run to the throne and not the phone.” This is important because sometimes people are giving us their different opinions, and we can end up confused.

6.      If you are feeling overwhelmed, defeated, discouraged, depressed, confused, fatigued, and feel strongly tempted to sin-STOP IMMEDIATELY and RUN to the feet of Jesus and get away from whatever is causing you to feel like sinning until you are in a position where you can overcome every temptation being thrown at you. Disconnect from whatever source is causing you to want to give up and go back.

7.      Fill yourself with whatever will feed your spirit, reading the Word, worship, speaking scriptures out loud about your situation, attending church, and watching God-inspired programs.

No matter what comes against you, God says in His Word, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage: I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. In ALL things we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). Greater in Jesus who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 5:5).

He who overcomes, I will grant him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:21

And they overcame him because of the blood of the lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation 12:11

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner: Be Free From Entanglements with Others!

We are called to be Holy and to live righteously before God. We are also called to be a light in this dark world, but what happens when you become entangled in helping others?

Merriam-Webster defines entanglement as something that entangles, confuses, or ensnares. The condition of being deeply involved. Synonyms for entanglement are web, mesh, net, noose, quicksand, snare, toil, and trap.

Free Dictionary defines entanglement as twisting together or entwine into a confusing mass. To complicate or confuse.

Have you ever tried to help someone repeatedly and felt you were getting entangled in their problems?

The more you try and help the more you feel like you are getting into quicksand and you feel there is no answer to their situations, which in turn causes you frustration. You start second guessing if you are a “real Christian.” You feel a sense of false guilt over not being able to cope and handle all the problems that others bring to you. Many times the very people you are entangled with are piling heaps of guilt and manipulation upon you. This is especially difficult when dealing with loved ones and family. There is a deeper entanglement that comes from the ones we love. We don’t want them to suffer and to hurt, but what happens when all the helping is not helping but hurting you?

The enemy will bring situations and people into you path to distract and derail your purposes. There are some signs to watch for when you have gone too deep with someone.

1.      Did you feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to intervene or was it pressure from the other person or a desire to please?
2.      Are you struggling with your walk with God? Feeling spiritually bankrupt? Your time with God is lacking and you are having trouble focusing on hearing God’s voice.
3.      You may feel discouraged, defeated, and like a failure.
4.      You feel stress, turmoil, tension, strife, chaos, and confusion.
5.      You can’t seem to get a clear or direct answer from the person you are trying to help. It seems when you talk with the person you are trying to help it appears muddy or confusing.
6.      You may experience fatigue and even sickness.
7.      The person you are trying to help does not listen to the advice you are trying to give to them, and they continue to do what they are doing; meanwhile still wanting you to fix their problems.
8.      You begin to feel frustrated, irritable, and maybe even angry.
9.      You are consumed with trying to intervene, and maybe even losing sleep as a result. Your focus is on their situation, and not on Christ.
10.  Your peace is gone and joy has dissipated.
11.  No amount of intervention or help is never enough for the person or people you are entangled with.
12.  You feel emotionally, physically and spiritually drained.
13.  You feel distracted and out of balance.
14.   You feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster ride with their issues.
15.  You try and point them to Jesus but discern they are not sincere in seeking Him.

You may be dealing with a toxic person. To get entangled in a toxic person’s issues is dangerous to your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Not all people who say they want help, in fact really want help.

If the Holy Spirit is leading you, there will be harmony, peace, and a desire to be around the other person you are trying to help. If you begin to dread being around that person or talking to them, it is a sign that it is not a healthy relationship and the Holy Spirit is not directing you.

Restoration and reconciliation are always hoped for in these types of relationships, but until Christ is at the center some precautions need to be made for your sanity.

1.      Take a time-out from these destructive relationships. Regain your peace and order. Ask the Lord Jesus to step-in and take full control, and you step out before you go under with them.

2.      Confront in love. The person that repeatedly causes drama and chaos in your life should be confronted as the Holy Spirit directs. Don’t do this in anger, but with the hope of true repentance.

3.      Set proper boundaries and consequences. This is important in dealing with ones who say they are sorry but continue to repeat the same behaviors over and over again. You will need to keep a guard up, and observe their behavior for a time (a solid year of consistent behavior is a good indication of true change), before realigning your life to theirs.

4.      Keep in mind that Jesus is not expecting to wear yourself out to help others who are not really helping themselves.

5.      Begin taking care of you and foster the good and positive relationships in your life. Stay away from toxic and negative people as much as possible. Nurture yourself and love yourself.
6.      Many times when we are engaged with other toxic people we neglect our other relationships that are satisfying. Take time to rebuild and restore satisfying relationships.

7.      Forgive yourself and let go of all guilt. Guilt is a tool straight from the pit of hell. It NEVER comes from God.

Remain in love and forgiveness towards ones who abuse and hurt you. Don’t allow any bitterness or anger to cause you to stumble.

Sometimes we have to “let go and let God,” and that can include letting go of people who really don’t want help.

Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1, KJV

Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 2 Timothy 2:4, NLT

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Word of Encouragement: Counselor’s Corner Strategies for a Strong Marriage

If you have been married for any length of time, you have come to realize that marriage is hard work. A good marriage does not happen on its own, but with a lot of hard work, commitment, and dedication. Research shows that Christian marriages are failing just as much as non-believers who are married. I believe marriages and families are under attack, and understanding some key strategies to preventing a failed marriage is imperative. A marriage does not have to go through a divorce to fail, but when one or both partners “give-up,” and basically become roommates that marriage is also in danger of a failing.

A lot of different matters can hinder a good marriage such as wayward children, difficult family members, busy schedule, financial strain, and a host of other factors that can compete for your marriage. I believe that everyone, when they initially get married has great intentions to stay together, but many soon realize that the strain of life can tear apart even the strongest marriage.

How then can a marriage stay strong during the trails of life?

7 strategies for a strong marriage:

1.      Place God first. This strategy cannot be underestimated. A marriage where God is not center is headed for disaster. Pray together daily and for each other’s needs. Let your spouse hear you praying for them. Have weekly time where you are getting into the Word of God together, worshiping together, and thanking God for your blessings. If you are married to a non-believer than you pray over your spouse and marriage and be an example of the light of Christ to your spouse.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

2.      Place your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. Think about what your spouse needs and then meet that need. Do they need encouragement, quality time with you, a listening ear, or perhaps respect?
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

3.      Be an encourager and focus on the good in your spouse. Be aware of the danger of being critical or a fault-finder. Tell your spouse what is good about them, and refrain from nagging, criticizing (even if you believe you are helping), and belittling. There is no room for name-calling and shaming our spouses. Seek to build-up your spouse and look for ways to let them know what they do right. If you are criticizing your spouse more than encouraging them you will damage their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

4.      Do not let anyone or anything come between your marriages, or be more important than your marriage. If you place your children ahead of your spouse or your extended family it can place a wedge between you and your spouse. We can also place our jobs, ministry, and other activities ahead of our marriage. This strategy also includes emotional affairs, pornography, lusting after other people, and adultery. Keep your eyes pure for your spouse.
Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate. Mark 10:9

5.      Communicate daily. Communicate does not mean just talking, it means listening to each other and responding what you have heard the other saying. When we communicate with our spouses it is important to give our undivided attention, use body language that says I care and I am listening, and remove all distractions during that time such as a cell phone. Having 20 minutes of daily communication is important so that connection and unity is maintained. If 20 minutes of daily communication is not feasible than most certainty dedicate one day a week for open and honest communication.
Pleasant words are a honey comb, sweet to the soul and helping to the bones. Proverbs 25:11

6.      Have regular date nights. Having at least 2 date nights per month is a great start. Make sure you put your date night on your calendar, and take turns with your spouse planning your date nights. Don’t let anything interfere with regular date time. You must guard your time with your spouse and learn to have fun together. Date nights or days don’t have to be complicated, a nice stroll on the beach followed by desert. Use your date time to laugh, enjoy, and most importantly stressful topics need to off limits. Plan staycations and even one or two nights away at least every other month (this can count as your date time).
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18

7.      Don’t hold grudges, offenses, or resentments. Nothing will destroy a marriage more than holding onto offenses and being resentful of your spouse. If your spouse has done something to destroy your trust, or has hurt you in some way; go to God and ask Him to help you love and forgive your spouse.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Having a strong marriage takes work. Some say a marriage is like having a full-time job. The enemy does not want healthy marriages, and will seek to destroy a godly marriage. Your first and best defense for your marriage is praying, and seeking God together and individually.