A Deeper Cure for the Brokenhearted

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We all have heard the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And we all nod because it is true.

But how can we be kind and help those around us who are facing hard battles?

How we answer to this question is important, but more important is how we act on the answer we give.

In a day in which relativism has crept into our Christian thinking more that we would want to admit, it is important to keep coming back to the Scriptures, and dig in there to prove what is true and act on that. It is important to remind ourselves each day  that the only way to effectively help someone (including ourselves!) who is fighting a battle against her own flesh, thoughts, and emotions is to give them the hope that is only found in Christ.

If you are a Christian woman I am sure you would agree with the statement above. Yes, yes, we all say, Christ is the answer. Solus Christus. From beginning to end, from top to bottom, in and out, always: Christ alone.

But the way we flesh out this answer is another different thing.

The world has many options to offer us as a cure for the pain that the battles we face bring to us. The cabinet of solutions to our anxiety, fear, depression (depression in teens, depression in postpartum women, depression in mid-age women, depression when we get our period, and depression when our periods cease), bad moods, moods that swing and moods that hurt others include breathing exercises, yoga poses, candlelight, silence retreats, quiet spaces, eat-this-food but this-food-not regimes, and all sorts of oils applied in all sorts of ways.

Why do many Christian women feel so tempted to open this cabinet and take one or two of these cures to offer to their hurting friend when we all have agreed to believe that the more potent, the true and deeper cure to our pain is found in Christ alone?

Friends, the way to be kind to those fighting a hard battle is to open the Word in front of them and give them true hope. Hope anchored in that which is not perishable, hope anchored in the words breathed out by God.

One way to see if we actually believe what we say is to listen to the words we say,  and pay attention to the solutions we think of first.

If my friend is struggling with mood swings, what is the first thing I think of? “Oh, I am going to recommend to her this breathing exercise, this oil, this ________” Or,  “Oh, I am going to message her every morning a verse of the Scripture to remind her that in Christ self-dominion is possible, that in Christ we are not slaves to our hormones. That because of the finished work of Christ we have been promised victory over our flesh.”

Or what if you meet a person who is not a believer and she shares with you all about her battles and emotional pain she is going through, what is the first thing you do? Recommend her this new diet, this new oil, this new ________? Or since you know that the heart of the problem needs a deeper solution you share the gospel with her?

We must fear the Lord and recognize that when we offer those hurting a cure for their emotional and spiritual pain outside the gospel, we are offering them something that might actually draw them away from God and the true hope which is found in Him.

Why would they need Christ to be joyful if they can find joy in exercising and burning their pain away at the gym?

Why would they need the Gospel to fight against mood changes if they can stop eating this and start eating that to find hormonal balance?

Why would they need to read and pray and mediate on the Word of God if they can cope with their fears and anxieties with an oil?

Our Creator, the One who made us, who knows each one of our cells and molecules and  dancing hormones, who knows the depth of our thoughts and the marrow of our souls, the One who knows the number of our hairs and has collected each one of our tears in a bottle, the One who doesn’t sleep and sees us tossing around at midnight and intercedes for us. The Almighty God who has called us by name and has become our Redeemer, has spoken words to heal our deepest hurts and satisfy our longings and give us life and hope that never fades.

In Isaiah there is a wonderful verse (50:4) that points us to Christ, and tells us that He will have words to sustain those who are weary.  The Prophet continues, and in different places he keeps pointing us to Jesus, our comforter. It is only the Lord who can make the wilderness like Eden and the desert like the gardens of God. He alone can bring joy and gladness and a heart full of thanksgiving to the one whose heart is now hard and dry and bitter (51:3). Only in Jesus’ words can we find everlasting joy and gladness because His words are our medicine (Is. 51:11, Prov 4:20-22).

Many of our anxious thoughts and fears are rooted in our sinful thoughts and habits, so only God’s forgiveness will set us free and bring true healing to our hearts. Nothing else will. Many things can apparently cover the symptoms for a season, but the pain, the heaviness of spirit, the discontentment, will always come back until we fall on our knees and repent and believe.

David knew this. He said,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”

(Psalm 103 ESV)

Nothing else. Just the goodness of the Lord and His Words coming like the rain will heal our weary souls and renew our strength.

And this other verse from Psalm 119 is encouraging too,

“I am severely afflicted,
give me life, O Lord, according to your word!” (v.107 ESV)

Can you imagine the pain the Psalmist was experiencing at the time he wrote this? And where does he turn for help? When he was severely afflicted, he knew better than to try to look for help in vain things for help, he turned to God and God alone. How we all need to believe in the Word in such a way that we would immediately turn to it when our hearts are in sorrow.

Friends, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, His faithfulness is great” (Lam.3)  We can come, dearest Sisters, to the Father in the name of Jesus and say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lam 3). If we place our hope in anything else than the finished work of Christ, the Lord himself will shatter it to pieces because He is a jealous God who wants His children to put their hope in Him alone.

Along with the Psalms, the epistle of 1 Peter is a wonderful read to help us build our hope in God. Consider these verses, for example (and then go read the whole epistle)  (emphasis mine):

“Blessed be the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“He [Jesus] was  foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Let’s pray that the Lord will enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may be able to see, to know what is the hope to which He has called us, and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance, and what is the immeasurable power toward us who believe in Him… (Ephesians 1: 15-23)

How we also need to understand the importance of praying earnestly for one another when we go through different trials. How we need to pray that the Lord will give us and our brothers and sisters spiritual strength to persevere,  and how we need to remind each other that “God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work with us.” (Eph 3:20-21)

Do we really believe that the Spirit can help us in our weaknesses? Do we believe with our flesh and blood that God who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all,  will also give us graciously with Jesus all things we need? (see Romans 8)

May we grow in our faith to a point in which it can be said of us what was said of Abraham,  in hope she believed against hope, she saw her weak body, and yet her faith did not weaken. No unbelief made her waver concerning the promises of God she knew well because she was in the Word always. She saw her weakness but her faith grew stronger because in all she did she gave glory to God and did not let unbelief take root in her heart. She was always convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. (Read Romans 5:13-25)

The only true safe place for us to be is before the throne of the Father in the name of Jesus. There we will always find “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16)

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky

No Other Gospel: Why Oils Are Not For You

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Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

We read in our Bibles, in the epistle Paul wrote to the Galatians this: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” And we immediately think of the obvious ways in which the gospel has always been distorted. We think of those who deny the Trinity, on those who teach that we need works to be saved, on those who think that we need to go back and do some OT rituals, etc. But what about this one distortion that is creeping in our midst smelling like lavender and orange peel?

What about Jesus + oils?

I know this is not an easy topic to discuss -at least not on a blog- but I will make an effort to explain why this is the case.

Why do I dare go all the way to what apparently looks like the other side and say that when we come to the topic of oils what we have is an issue of a false gospel creeping into the homes of many Christians? I dare say that the main way in which  Christians are promoting them and consuming them resembles a distorted gospel that preaches that to fully live the life we have as Christians we need to add oils to the already finished work of Jesus. And I say this with confidence after having carefully read what several Christian women who promote oils say.

For example, consider these statements made by Christian women talking to other Christian women:

Are your emotions taking control over your mood and are making your mornings hard? No problem, use x and y oil and you will see a difference! No more moody mammas and wives!

In this case they are saying that the provision of the Gospel is not enough to help you bring your emotions under the submission of the Word. You don’t need ten more minutes in the Word and in prayer, what you really need is the particular oil they sell. The heart of the problem is not the heart anymore, but hormones.

Here is another statement:

Are you feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with your life?
No problem, there is an oil, an oil business, and an oil community that will take care of that.

If you have heard something like this, consider how these sales women are selling not only a product but a way of living. “Satisfaction” and “happiness” can be achieved through oils.

Some questions they might raise to sell their products are these:

Do you find it hard to forgive? There is an oil for that. Do you need courage, Christian Friend? There is an oil for that. Are you struggling to fight the sin of discontent and ingratitude? There is an oil for that.

It breaks my heart to see that every day many more women are offering these as an alternative to the power of the gospel. And it is sad to see many others buying these promises. These Christian women, I am sure, would deny that this is the case, that they are not denying the power of the gospel, but I beg you, pay attention to what they are saying. They are not proclaiming that victory over sin is possible for those who are in Christ Jesus; they are indeed offering other Christian women (and others who are without Christ) a big lie. They are offering victory in their lives and over their sinful attitudes and feelings based on the use of these oils.  Yes, Jesus, maybe, but also these oils. Read their testimonies, read how these oils have changed their lives. Pay attention to their words and testimonies.

And we all know that it is easier to say, “Use this oil and feel well, victorious, joyful,” than saying, “Friend, because of Christ, you can mortify your sins. Victory over these bad attitudes and sins is possible when you abide in the Word and put your trust solely in the finished work of Christ.”

These women offer also a mix of some oils that promises “to help release buried emotional trauma resulting from accidents, neglect, the death of a loved one, assault, or abuse.” And then the product description continues saying,  “Left unchecked, emotionally draining episodes may be at the root of fatigue, anger, and restlessness.”

See what is going here? This is absolutely heartbreaking. How can Christian women dare to sell this oil to women who are bound to past traumas? Really? O, that these Christian women may see what they are doing. If they know Christ, if they know their Bibles, they should know better than to do this, than to sell lies. They would be fervently telling others not about this false idol, but about Jesus Christ our Savior who came to seek and save the lost, a Savior who bled on the cross so that we may be healed by His wounds.

How can someone who knows the Gospel dare to say that an oil can help cure abuse, or traumas, or assault, or the death of a loved one? How is that even a possibility? The fact that more and more women in our churches are consuming these, tells me that a huge number of women need to go back to the rudiments of our faith. I wonder what would happen if the women promoting these or those feeling the need to buy these studied more their Bibles and the Puritans. Why is no one talking about Owen’s book on The Mortification of Sin with their friends anymore? Or Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, or Thomas Watson’s, All Things for Good? Or this other one, a book by Jeremiah Burroughs entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment?

It is a lie to tell others that the root of our emotional problems is other than our sinful nature. We don’t need oils to heal these roots, we need a new life. We need to be cut out and be transplanted to a new soil. We need the life that is only found in Christ Jesus. We need to be feeding our soul with the Living Waters found in the Word of God, not with the expensive drops of oil that will soon be gone.

I live in Mexico where, sadly, the prosperity gospel has found millions of followers, and when I hear and read these Christian women selling these oils, I see another expression of the same false gospel. It goes something like this:

“Use this oil -that I can sell you!- and you will be healed, you will be made whole. ”
“Get this set of oils that promote “spiritual health” -and feel the difference”
“”Diffuse or wear [White Angelica oil] on top of shoulders, along spine, on crown of head, wrists, behind ears and on the back of the neck” to encourage “feelings of protection and security” and “enhance your body’s aura, which brings about a sense of strength and endurance.”
“We have the perfect oil for your Bible reading and praying time. Try this one, a blend that “promotes feelings of reverence and spiritual awareness with a blend of essential oils formulated to open the subconscious. This blend, considered a gift by many, enhances emotional equilibrium as it soothes and uplifts the heart.” (Who needs the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word, if there is an oil for that, right? See the danger? Why do you choose not to see the danger?)

This is heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking. Why do many have chosen to believe this? Why are so many willing to sell this as the “perfect add-on” to the gospel? Why many can’t see that with their fierce promotion of these oils and their strong faith in them, are actually denying the power of the cross, the power of godliness in the life of the believers (2 Timothy 3)?

I would like to add one more thing. Friend, if you are reading this consider also how these people selling these oils are using fear as a means to drive you to buy their products. They encourage you to detox not only your body, but all your home to avoid cancer. Do not succumb to fear. Do not let your heart be troubled, Christian Friend. It is in this Land of the Living, in this present age in which God has given us life, that we will see the goodness of the Lord. If the birds of the air are still finding their food today, and the flowers of the field are still being dressed even more beautiful than Solomon in all his splendor, and if the ants are still able to find food to store for the winter, then God will not leave us, nor forsake us. We will not die before our appointed day, a day God has chosen for each one of us. And in the same manner, we cannot add a day -not even a second!- more to that timeline, no matter how clean we might choose to live. Let us not yoke ourselves to fear, let us not. If we are Christ’s we are safe in His hand. If we are living under the shadow of the Almighty, why are we so afraid?

Dear Christian woman, look up, look to Jesus. Only Christ can satisfy your soul.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

NOTE: Two follow-up posts are now available: Slippery and Oily Slopes and A More Potent Way than the Oily One.

 

Time to Study Philippians -Week Three-

 

Good morning ladies of our Philippians study!
Welcome to Week Three!
This study and the following lessons, for the next five weeks, will be a condensed version of Mining God’s Word – How To Study the Bible; Foundation Series by Bethlehem College and Seminary Press. I highly recommend that you purchase your own workbook at www(dot)bethlehemcollegeandseminary(dot)org – it would be a great tool for you to have!
To begin this third week, let us ask our Father in heaven for wisdom, for James tell us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”(Jas. 1:5) 
Let us look at our homework from last week. You may have more or less sections in your Philippians outline, or more information within in each section than I do. Be careful not to pick it apart so much that you miss the overall message in each of Paul’s divisions. Just like any letter we write today, or papers your children may be writing for school, Paul’s letter has an introduction (or an opening), a body, and a conclusion (or a closing).
Here is the brief outline:
In the left-hand margin, I have written 
Introduction. Vs. 1:1-11
1)    Who is sending the letter, who is the letter is written to, blessings and encouragement
2)    Speaks of his affections for the Philippians
3)    Tells them how he prays for them
Body (This is when Paul begins to talk about why he is writing the letter.)
       A) Paul’s experience in prison (this is in my margin) (1:12-26)
            1)  He tells them of the good that has come about and his joy
            2)  Speaks of his release and wanting to return to Philippi for their sake.
        B) He exhorts them to be in unity with one another (in my margin) (1:27-2:11)
1)    Not to be afraid when in conflict but be united
2)    To continue to be united, have humility, and care for one another
3)    Shows how Jesus is the perfect example of all of these things.
         C) Their sanctification and joy (in my margin) (2: 12-18)
1)    Paul commands them to work out their salvation with fear and trembling
2)    Exhorts them to stop grumbling and be lights in this world
3)    That their Godly lives would make Paul’s trials worthwhile.
4)    He rejoices with them even while he is suffering.
          D) News of Timothy and Epaphroditus (in my margin) (2:19-30)
1)    Hoping to send Timothy back, commend Timothy for being focused on their well-being.
2)    News of Epaphroditus, and mentions he will also send him to them.
           E) Paul’s Godly example and his teaching to oppose false teachers (in my margin)(3:1-16)
1)    Warning Philippians about finding their worth in something other than Christ
2)     Paul uses himself as an example of Jewishness (value of his heritage)
3)     Paul shows it is all has no value compared to knowing Christ Jesus
4)     Even still, Paul is not perfect, but he continues forward living for Christ.
            F) Final exhortations and instructions (in my margin) (3:17-4:9)
1)     Have wisdom in whom they imitate, standing firm in their knowledge
2)     Paul points out Euodia and Syntyche to agree with one another
3)     How to pray, what to think about, what to do

Conclusion – Thanksgiving for their gifts and Paul’s benediction to them (in my margin)

(4:10-23)
1)    Acknowledges their efforts, past and present, to send him aid, he also thanks them.
2)    Lets the Philippians know that he has learned contentment during his trials and persecution, with whatever the Lord has provided.
3)    Final greetings from himself and other saints (notice where some of the other saints live!), and blesses them.
There is something I would like to point to us as women, and that is this: Euodia and Syntyche will be remembered for all of history as women who couldn’t get along. They were even Paul’s fellow workers, busy with the church and the gospel. Do we want to be remembered as women who bicker and quarrel with one another?
How did you like reading in Acts 16:6-17:1, Thessalonians2:1-2, and then again Acts 28:16-31? Isn’t exciting to learn about Paul and Timothy’s relationship? How it began? Learning about Timothy’s relations? He describes in Acts how he (Paul) was previously beaten and thrown into prison when he was traveling in Macedonia, preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. Even though at the time Paul was writing Philippians he was in prison in Rome, it opens our eyes a bit more to understand what he might have been experiencing while writing this letter to the Philippians. Also, the Philippians understood what happened when someone was sent to prison. In Phil. 1:27-30, it would seem that Paul is reminding them of his time in prison in Macedonia, and now also in Rome as an encouragement to them-“let their manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…not to be frightened by their opponents… but that it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear I still have.” What a view into the past!
As we continue on in our study of Philippians, I would like to point out the importance of understanding what a verse says within the context it was written. If you were interviewed, and then misquoted, you would know that what was written down was not what you said or possibly even meant. The same is true when it comes to our Bibles. The Holy Spirit was (is) active and moving in the men who wrote these sixty-six books. To misquote them or misrepresent any text, would show that we do not love God and His Word as we ought to. So, stay within the context when you are quoting scripture!
Here is an example: I have a friend who once told me that, “The Bible says that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16).” “But,” she went on, “if God is love then, then how comes he sends people to hell?” In her view, either the Bible is wrong, or God is not love. What she didn’t understand is that there is a third and a fourth option. The third option is that she doesn’t understand what her Bible is telling her. The fourth option is she doesn’t understand what love is. So, let’s look at the passage she was using. Please read 1 John 4:8, 16. Now read 1 John 4:7-20 (You’re welcome to read more, but this will give us the correct context of the passage.)
Does this passage define love as ‘not sending people to hell?’ No. This passage shows us what love is, as defined by the one who made love – God.  It is talking about the love that should exist between believers because of God’s love for them. (4:11-12) It is describing how God manifested his love to us or showed his love to us. “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (4:9-10) God’s love shows us that, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we don’t have to go to hell for our sins. Context is important.
Here’s another example: “Why are you pointing my sin out to me?” You’re a Christian. The Bible says you’re not supposed to judge people, (Matt. 7:1), so don’t judge me.”
Read Matthew 7:1 and then read Matthew 7:1-5. Yes, the Gospel of Matthew does say, “Do not judge”, but that is not all it says. Jesus teaches us that judging someone else (removing the speck from their eye) while we have sin (plank in our eye) is hypocritical. (vs. 5) Jesus tells us that how we judge someone else (thereby assuming we will) is how we in turn will be judged (vs.2). The point here is the way we judge someone else – do it without hypocrisy. Context is important.
To prepare us for our homework, let us look again briefly at Philemon. Read it through once more and while you read, notice if any questions come to mind. Do you wonder who Apphia and Archippus are? Do you wonder how Paul and Onesimus met? Did they meet before prison? Just how old is Paul? Are there questions that the text answers for you?
Use this same idea for this week’s homework.  
Day 1 – read Philippians 1:12-26. Think of five questions that come to mind while reading these verses. Write them down. Can you answer any of them from the text?
Day 2 – re-read Philippians 1:12-26. Think of five more (different) questions. Write them down. Can you answer any of them from the text? Can you think of more than five more?
Day 3 – re-read Philippians 1:12-26. Are there any questions that you can think of? Look at all the questions you have written down so far. Choose any five for class next week, and I’ll tell you what five I found.
Day 4 – Write down what you think the main point of Philippians 1:12-26 is, and we’ll go over it this next week.
That’s it ladies!
Thank you for another week together. Thank you, Becky!
Let us live this coming week in light of what James tells us. “My dear brothers [sisters], take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (Jas. 1:19-21)
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Your sister, Eileen
Related Posts:
 
Time to Study Philippians – Introduction-
Time to Study Philippians -Week One-
Time to Study Philippians – Week two-
 
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