Redeeming the Thorns; Staying Close to Gods Heart

Victor Tarassov

Have you ever wondered why we sometimes just can’t seem to overcome our battles by shear will power? We do the same things over and over even though we don’t want to. I know I have been wrestling with that question. It is hard if not impossible to overcome or deal with a thorn by yourself. And I think I am finally coming to grips with the fact that the Christian’s life is totally impossible to live unless’ Keep reading.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians in chapter 12:7-10, (NIV) describes the thorn that he has, asks the Lord to remove it three times, (how many times have we asked) and yet the answer Paul is given is, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” v.9 Hmm. That goes against every addict’s or persons thinking in recovery that wants to be self-sufficient or do it in their own way. Actually there is an implication here that says we may have thorns in our life, but the Lord may chose not to remove them but give us the grace to deal with them.

I have struggled with loneliness, depression and other difficulties. I have asked the Lord to remove them but what I am finding is that these thorns can be an invitation and gift from the Lord for intimacy and deep fellowship. I believe that this is true and when I don’t go to Him I lose life. Maybe some of us need to reconsider the thorns in our life and see them not as a curse but a gift to make us dependent on the Lord and a call to intimacy with Him. I know that I have had to come to this place even with all I know, my education, experience, etc. I still cannot overcome my pride and other issues by myself. My pride can kill my spiritual walk. Ask yourself how are you doing in this garden of thorns

We do the same things over and over
even though we don’t want to.

In John 15:5 Jesus says apart from Him we can do nothing. I think it is impossible to live the Christian life with out our complete radical dependence on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So this passage points out again that it can’t be done alone. We will have to choose whether we will move to numbing or escaping pain i.e. addictions and acting out which leads to death or dependence on the Lord, which leads to life. In the book of James chapter 1:2-4 we are told that we will not escape trials/temptation. But if we do stand up to them and make healthy choices that depend on the Lord for help we will receive a crown of life v.15. We need the Lord but we also need community/people to help us handle our thorns. We may have put the thorns in our life, but to be in recovery means I can’t do it alone I need the Lords and the Lords people to help me. I just want to make sure that no one thinks it’s just the Lord and me. God created community and gave us the church so we can heal and recover from the consequences of sin. This is done in fellowship with the body of Christ the church.

God created community
and gave us the church
so we can heal!

May we see our thorns, whatever they may be as a gift to grow closer to the risen Lord and experience His grace?
Some action steps:

1. Admit we have them and identify them.

2. Talk with the Lord about them; we can ask Him to remove them but if they are there let’s see them as opportunity to deepen our dependence on Christ.

3. Share with others in a small group or support group setting as well as a close friend or pastor.

4. Allow for time with Gods grace to begin to strengthen and change your character you so you can respond in new healthy way that leads to life and not death.

5. Prayer as a constant chat with the Lord and a constant connection to Him in your mind.

6. Clean out our garden where there are thorns. What do we watch on TV? Where do we go with our free time? Clean house.

I wish you all a blessed Christmas and pray that the thorns in your life will drive you to the passion that brought Christ (Emanuel) on earth for us.

Blessings for the Pure in Heart

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Recently, my family and I returned from a vacation trip. After we boarded the plane to return home, we were delayed on the runway for three hours due to a line of thunderstorms moving through the Chicago area. As we waited for the plane to get clearance to take-off, the movie ‘Chicago‘ came on.

Our two oldest children Abigail, 7 and Micah, 5 had brought plenty to do on the plane and my wife and I explained to them that the movie was not appropriate for them to watch. They understood and we proceeded to read and play with them to occupy their attention away from the inappropriate movie.

On occasion, Rebecca or I would catch one of them watching the movie and we would gently remind them to refocus on their activities. Due to the long delay and the temptation right in front of them, the reminders were many. On about the third time of encouraging my daughter Abigail to refocus, she looked at me with the most troubling, anguished face and said, “But, Daddy it’s so hard.” After briefly empathizing with her and helping her to refocus, my heart broke for her. She was right – it is very hard. Hard not to look. Hard not to be enticed. Hard not to want to see more than allowed.

As I thought about my daughter’s true expression of her heart, I was reminded about the difficulty we men on the healing path of recovery face at times when temptation presents itself to us. We definitely know that God will give us a way out when tempted (I Corinthians 10:13) and we are growing daily at practicing an implementing our maintenance tools and God’s truth about us in recovery. But I want to encourage you that He knows that it is hard to choose purity in spite of our daily obedience to Him in our recovery.

Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8, NIV

Maintaining purity in light of the difficulty to resist temptation will be rewarded. Rewarded in a way that says we will see Him. I interpret this in two ways. First, we will see God in Heaven someday when we die. Secondly, we will know His comfort now in the midst of our trial. You might be wondering how? How do we know His comfort? He experienced the same temptation and pain that we face. In Hebrews 2:17-18, Paul writes: “For this reason, He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

He’s been there. Jesus is the ultimate in empathy and understanding. As the Message puts it, “He would have already experienced it all Himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.” (Hebrews 2:18, MSG).

Gentlemen, we have a Savior and High Priest who knows where we’ve been. He knows how hard it is too be tempted and to remain pure. It was His own purity in response to being tempted that allows us to trust and take refuge in Him without doubting His love, mercy, and faithfulness to us.

Let God know how difficult it is; then take REFUGE in His LOVE for you!

This battle with being tempted by sexual sin is hard and difficult. But remember to let Him know how difficult it is for you on days when it seems so hard to resist and then take refuge in His love for you knowing that he will give you understanding because he’s been there, too. And because He’s been there too, He is able to help when and where help is needed. This help may come through taking shelter in His word or the help may come through leaning on the understanding of another brother who can empathize with you and encourage you to keep pure in the face of temptation. Just as my daughter Abigail reached out to her Daddy, you can reach out to your heavenly Father when things get tough. He will understand. He will be faithful to hear your heart and help you refocus on the things that are pure, lovely, and right.

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle or call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)

Your True Nature

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can not then be false to any man.”
– Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’

“I can’t help being who I am!”, my client screamed. We were in the middle of our third counseling session together, and he was contemplating his decision to stop using pornography and prostitutes. His sexual behavior had become such a primary part of his life, though, that leaving it behind felt impossibly unnatural. “It’s my nature as a guy to want this,” he argued. “If I stop, aren’t I just trying to be somebody I’m not?”

As a Christian man struggling with sexual temptations, you may be asking the same question. You may, in fact, be considering a complete abandonment of the faith instead of abandoning your behavior.

The immediate payoff for such a decision is gratification. You will no longer be denying yourself the “right” to do what seems natural to you. And that may really seem more important to you than Christianity itself.

But then, what is your concept of Christianity? Did God promise you that, having been converted, you would be finished with personal struggles? Was there anything in Christ’s teaching implying total fulfillment in this life? Is Christianity a religious form of therapy designed to ensure the happiness of its followers?

Does it make you angry to even ask these questions? If so, you may have forgotten that the core of our faith is the Person Jesus Christ, and the expression of our faith is a life of service to Him, not ourselves. Jesus made this clear: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24).

The core of our faith is Jesus Christ. The expression of our faith is a life of service to Him. Regarding our attitude toward this primary but overlooked aspect of Christianity, Francis Schaeffer, in his book True Spirituality, comments: “It is not a matter of waiting until we no longer have strong sexual desires, but rather, when we are surrounded by a world that grabs everything, we are to understand what Jesus means when He talks about denying ourselves that which is not rightfully ours.”

Ironically, then, abandoning the faith in a quest for personal happiness may well be the way to sabotage that very quest. Remember, if you are a believer, you have experienced the rebirth described in John 3:16, which is not easily shrugged off. You were given the seed of God Himself: ‘Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God.’  (1 Peter 1:23).

That being the case, it is questionable whether you will ever be happy in a back-slidden state. The dissatisfaction you will feel apart from fellowship with Christ may well outweigh whatever dissatisfaction you’re experiencing now as a struggling Christian. I am who I am, I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.

You might argue, ‘But I am who I am. That’s my nature, and I can’t be at peace unless I’m true to myself.’ I would argue the same point, changing the noun. You are indeed who you are, a Christian. That’s your nature, and you can’t be at peace unless you’re true to yourself.