Musings on the Incarnation: God’s Divine Empathy

Lately God has brought to my mind a growing awareness of the depth of God’s empathy. Perhaps it is related to the gifts of empathy he has given me and the ongoing awareness of deepening levels of pain. As thinking about empathy and God in relation to this season where we celebrate the Incarnation, of God stepping down and taking on flesh, being God with us it cross my mind that the Incarnation really is a visible demonstration of God’s empathy. God became flesh, experienced life in a world twisted by sin and filled with pain and suffering. Jesus ultimately suffered greatly, dying a gruesome death in order to set us free and opening the door for God to be truly with us.  Emmanuel, God with us is all about divine empathy.

Divine empathy is a difficult concept to fully grasp for often times we fail to even grasp simple human empathy.  We have difficulty at times putting ourselves in the place of others.  Yet, God is constantly aware fully of others.  He knows our depth.  God daily is aware of the pain of all.  He knew from the moment of the first choice to go against His will the depth of pain, the twists it caused.  God is in constant awareness of the whole of pain. He is constantly filled with empathy. Then He took that empathy, came to earth and entered into the physical reality of the fallen and twisted world.  He moved beyond the emotional awareness to the physical experience. He does not just know of the pain, does not just feel the pain, but experienced the depth of the pain.  God’s awareness of the pain of sin, God’s empathy, really helps us understand even God’s wrath and actions that cause many to suggest wrath in inconsistent with love. Well if one begins to understand divine empathy the reason for divine justice and wrath is clear.  God is not capricious in His actions, there is purpose and that purpose pertains to the pain and twists caused being outside God’s will, plan, and order. 

Yet, even greater than understanding God’s wrath, is if we understand part of God’s character as divine empathy then we understand better the relational nature of the Holy God.  Personally, one of my struggles with God is truly entering and engaging God relationally.  God often has felt distant and far off.  Now there are certainly experiences in my life that helped shape that faulty perception but really grasping God as one who embodies true and pure empathy lets me grasp deeper the love and know that God is far beyond one that is distant.  He is always aware of every ounce of my pain and knows full well the pain of my own choices.  Each and every self-centered action is aware of.  In fact, God’s empathy stretches beyond humanity to the whole of Creation. He knows how it was twisted. He knows the pain of each living creature.  Divine empathy is beyond understanding.  And grasping God as divinely empathetic gives a grasp of His love and awakens me that there is not a moment, not a speck that God does not know and understand.  He knows my pains, my hurts, my pains, my fears intimately not just at the “awareness” left but also at experiential and felt level. 

Takes some time during this season of celebrating the incarnation and God’s carrying out His plan of salvation. His plan displayed divine empathy and enables God with us, enable God in us, and makes it so we can approach God, as no longer any barrier for the sin and pain and twist of actions outside of God’s will is more than He could bear in His Holy empathy for our sins cause God great pain.   God’s love and empathy and immeasurable, ever enduring.  Praise the Most Holy One who is beyond our ability to grasp, for who can measure the love of immeasurable empathy that bore all so that we may be made right.  Hallelujah!

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Personal Musing: When God stirs the soul…

God stirring my soul is a apt description for where I am currently. There have been many a trial in my life and in the lives of those around me. There are trials that are right down to the question of whether the answer is “to live is Christ or die is gain” as with Janie. There are other struggles with the ongoing facing of pain and change and struggle. Each of these struggles ultimately bring us face to face with self. For me personally such is this time. Yes, I have withdrawn and gone quiet. An action of retreat and self and even hiding in trial. Perhaps it comes from feeling a life long level of isolation and disconnect. Oh, don’t get me wrong God has brought plenty of people into my life at key moments. Yet, my healing and struggles have often come down to me and God. By and large it has been a trial of one form or another that has ultimately precipitated pressing in on what God is changing and generating stirring within. I still recall to this day when God really sat me down to listen to Him about no longer acting out of compulsion and duty but being driven by his love. He allowed me to have an viral infection that made it difficult to function and He really hit me with the message of “Christ loves compels us.” Breaking down my defensiveness and fears of connecting with women had several trials and stirrings involved and a long process with frequent feedback from God guiding. All I know is right now God is stirring. The stirring starts around my initial sense of feeling stuck to now seeing and grasping the deep seat roots of reluctance and retreat. God before taught me to depend on him for defense, to be a city without walls. His lesson now is taking that even deeper to levels I don’t yet grasp. I do plan and intend on sharing parts of whatever journey God has me on in the course of this blog through such posts. Any feedback or sharing of how God is stirring in your own life is greatly appreciated. I also know I am where God wants me, even though I could have written more and not retreated. The further articles on repentance could have been written, but these posts and focus do in essence relate to the nature of repentance, sanctification, and going deeper. So, God is stirring in my life, how about yours? Care to share?

Personal Update: Time to Refocus, Renew, and Move Forward

Okay folks. Admittedly I let myself begin to get mired down and disengaged rather than moving forward. It is easy for me to find plenty of things to “fault” for my retreat into silence. The falling back is quiet the opposite of the varied ways feel led. Perhaps it was feeling and knowing the struggle against reluctance that was approaching following the AACC conference. Hard to really put a finger on it. Now in this all, in spite of my reluctance and difficulty moving forward God still is moving things forward. Connections have been made and relationships renewed and refreshed that will result in getting pieces further in place. Overall, today is a day to begin the personal process of refocusing on what God has before me and on him, renewing what God has already started, and moving forward on that which he has stirred.

Goals:
1: Renew personal growth, study, and time with God (Once start slipping on daily time and filling with other space, it is tough to get back up and restarting.)
2: Refocus on Blog Writing (Start the mental health blog and be consistent with writing for both)
3: Return to facilitating forum discussions. Without my ongoing input the forum has gone very quiet.
4: Get started with book writing project.
5: Follow up on own with credentialing
6: Get private practice website operational
7: Start individual marketing of private practice
8: Build efficiency will current jobs, which also involves moving past reluctance.

Oh and sorry that this blog article is not well thought out examination of these subjects, as it is more just a personal reflection of what I need to do. Each day have choices to make. Move forward or stay in the muck. Now admittedly it is difficult to get up from the muck once got stuck. It takes work but it is a necessary thing to avoid further difficulties. In wrapping this post up, where are you in your own walk and journey? Are there issues you know you need to address but are avoiding? Are you at a “stuck” place? Are there things you know you need to move forward on but facing both external and internal resistance? Are you falling short of your own intentions? Did you face set backs, difficulties, or failed expectations that make it tough to move forward? Hopefully in this blog and other things to come there is seen growth and others are encouraged from the journey of the posts on the blog, on the forum, and anywhere discussions become engaged. Please also if I go quiet for an extended spell again drop me comment or word of encouragement.

Prayer request update: Janie Blake- Cancer battle continues

Yesterday received some sad news.  Previously reported that my step-mother Janie Blake was cancer free.  She had battled breast cancer that had metastasized to liver and the last remnant were spots on brain. So since June of 2009, the battle against Cancer appeared to be over. Yet, there was trouble unseen.  She had a recent scan with the expectation from all of us that the results would come back that she has remained cancer free. However, her last scan did not come back with those results.  Instead she was informed she has small spots returning in her liver and brain.  So the battle against Cancer renews.  This like all the suffering and battles in life is hard to understand.  God giving victory only to have the battle return anew.  What is even more confounding is that her energy had been returning and they were well on way to putting time into establishing and moving forward with a ministry Servants of Christ.  Yet, now the cancer cells have returned.  Here is a truth that remains, God is God and we are not. He is in control. His ways are not our ways.  The pain and suffering we encounter in this life are but temporary and help serve to shape us more into God’s image.  The battle continues.  There are real threats. Threats to health. Threats to truth. Threats to the Gospel. There is ongoing and enduring pain.  So the question is, in these battles where is the focus.  Do we bow under the tyranny of suffering and simply hold on to get by to another day ordo we enter into the fellowship of suffering and embrace the battle. The battles with the suffering in this life and in this case a raging pestilence that seeks to consume and destroy serve to give us deeper connection to Jesus and what he suffered.  There are two verses that have come to mind that highlight the fellowship of suffering that is a move beyond surviving under the tyranny of suffering to embracing the fellowship.

Romans 8:16-18 (ESV) The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. I consider that out present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

 

Phillipians 3:10 (KJV) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

So, please keep Janie Blake in your prayers.  God still has the victory.  The prayers that come to my heart and mind are to pray for clarity, wisdom, and understanding particularly in reference to how God is calling them in this time.  Pray for God to give clarity of vision and strength for the battle.  Previously the word from God has been that this battle is not unto death. Janie’s time has not been yet called to the end, that she is to face and enter into the battle that comes in the fellowship of suffering not just for herself and in her own life but in the lives of others.  And this battle is one that serves to lead and establish further what that call and ministry is and will be.  Perhaps what Dad and Janie envisioned and thought what there call and ministry will look like is different.  Whatever the difference is between what they saw and what God will do through them, God difference is greater.  For he gives us out of his exceeding abundance so that He may be glorified and that me may grasp an inkling of the enormity of His love.   And part of moving from living under the tyranny of suffering into embracing the fellowship of suffering is accepting and knowing that what we face and endure in relation to suffering gives us an new opportunity to grow and experience God’s love.  And ultimately, whatever twists and turns unfold in the path ahead, the end result is God’s glory.

So please take time to seek God and pray over this situation.  Then take time to reflect and pray in relation to your own life. What stress and suffering are you under?  Is your stress and pain in your life something to be endured as a tyrant or is there an embracing the fellowship of the pain that can open eyes to recognize more profoundly the awesomeness of God?  Please feel free to share any ongoing requests in your own life or thoughts related to suffering in your own life.

Musings Final day #AACC conference: Engaging in Forward Movement

Today was a day where much was stirred with in me. The teachings and God’s work within my pointed to ensuring in being engaged in forward movement.  The day started of by attending the presentation of the founder of POD AACC publisher Servant One press.  This stirred up thoughts laid in childhood that some day may write a book.  Publish on Demand is a risky venture but if God is leading, there is need to follow through and engage in walking in God’s direction.

Honestly, the morning resulted in some distractions as my mind kept going to what is ahead and sorting out steps to take.  Yet, God made clear the principle of needing to walk forward in the path he sets before me.  There are steps to take to move ahead with what God has set before me, and lingering can lead to stagnation. The question is really, am I ready to do what God wants. I have had movements of lingering. Starting the blog is one such area. Yet, to move forward, there can be no lingering, as doing so does not put me where God would have me to be.

The other thought that was clear was that it is easy to be distracted. This was first evident in my being distracted during part of the time making it difficult to attend. It was reinforced by the luncheon speaker, Dr. Archibald Hart, who talked of the dangers and distractions of the day and age we are living in.  A point that struck home is that “multitasking results in 30% effectiveness.”  My brain often has many thoughts and ideas going at once. On the forum it and even this blog it has lead to varied starts ands stops of varied subject without carrying the discussion to the full conclusion.  Perhaps thoughts have reached a resolved state in my own mind, but the distractedness of the multi-threaded conversation can well result in reduced efficacy and clarity of communication.

Moving from the focus on me, there was also the reminder of the need to continually be engaging others in moving forward, becoming unstuck, being challenged.  In facilitating growth and balance there is a level of balancing listening and joining with challenging the forward growth.  This also involves adjusting and adapting to their timing as well. 

Finally, there is no true forward movement and growth without God. He is and has to be the core of all I do in helping others and moving forward in directions God leads.  That  of my self will falter and burn.  What is of him will become more clear.  Discernment is needed even in my own life to sort out which is which.

Ultimately, today was an unsettled feeling.  At the end of the conference, I stood there, watching listening, observing.  Knowing that the steps when I leave there needs to me more concerted engaging in forward movement.  God’s best for now and for those He brings my way, and to enable others to be brought my way or be touched by what God stirs within, it involves taking those steps.  So leaving was hard.  It is good to go home, but it is a hard thing. God made clear that he does not want me to sit comfortable. 

So, these are my thoughts about where God has me at the moment? Where are you?  Are you settled? Are you where God wants you to be?  Are there steps you need to take to move forward in your own life to follow the path God has before you? Are you standing still waiting for God to push you?  Now this, the journey and the steps are that of taking steps on the path with a curve you cannot see around.  The journey involves faith. God may request steps of great cost.  Perhaps it is change?  Perhaps you have already turned a corner and waiting on God.  The key is to be engaged in advancing, in moving forward.  For if we sleep, slumber and do not advance, the enemy of our souls most certainly will and will seek to kill, steal, and destroy.  So join me in being committed and intentional on engaging in forward movement.  The steps are not always easy, but God will see each of us through if we follow His commands.

Musing from 2nd day at #AACC National Conference: A matter of refocusing perspectives

Today at the AACC National Conference was a day that broadened perspectives. The workshops attended today were more focused on facilitating change toward particular problem areas.   Skills and knowledge were built upon. Yet, there a was a theme to the day for me.  It started from the first speaker of the day and moved on to the last.  The theme of the day was reviewing perspective.  The perspectives view are about our perspective with God, others, and self.

The thoughts on my perspective with God was a reminder of standing on the rock of God’s truth.  Abiding in His word. It is His word that contains the truth that sets us free.  His word is the foundation upon which we are to act.  It is knowing and acting on His word that gives us the only true and secure base.  Anything else will falter.  No matter what each of us is going through, God and His word are always secure.  So a question for each of us, is how is our attachment to God.  Or as Dr. Tim Clinton would put it, how is our “God Attachment.”  There is not one of us that is does not need to examine our perspective toward God. How is our vision and how can we grow deeper in the limits to our perspective of God. 

As to perspectives of others, the thought in my mind is about we need to at time refocus how we perceive those in our lives both in terms of our family, our community, and those brought to our lives. There are people like myself whose vocation is to help those hurting and needing help.  The starting point is to continually evaluate my own perceptions of those who come to me for help. It is easy to develop perspectives on clients that create negative mindsets. There are particular diagnoses that bring negative reactions and actual resistance to providing sound counsel.  So there has to be a perspective that no client is hopeless and all are capable of help and change.  Now there are ways to restrict clients to assure working with a particular class the generates a sense of productive help. It does take work and changing perspectives and finding solutions to help facilitate change.  And the goal is to facilitate change, which an also be related to helping people see things in their life differently. Finding different options other than doing things they have always done. This can involve building skills and helping them make changes to their perspectives.  In essence, changing perspectives is all about helping them find their way. What is there view of what life stressors and how to get them to view broader in ways not examined.  It is broadening and focusing perspectives ultimately that help generate change, as a person is ready.

Lastly, the thoughts went to focusing on my perspectives of myself.  What are the lies I hold to?  What are the distortions of God I hold?  How is my perspective limited? What do I oppose? What do I fear? Where is my faith? Is my perspective on this world or on eternal matters?  This challenging of the perspective of self comes during an interesting time. The Jewish calender has already started a several day celebration of Sukkot, “The Feast of the Lord.”  It is a day focusing on the ultimate victory and a move from the temporary to the permanent.  Is my walking in this temporary tabernacle one that is continuing on the path set before me or is the things that draw my attention and attract me to places dark. 

So today was about building up skill in part, but it really was a day of perception checks.  Where is the focus.  Tomorrow is the last day of the conference.  The progression as a flow to it so it will be interesting to see where my thoughts go tomorrow.  Yesterday it was about reviewing foundations and ultimately going deeper. Today it is about refocusing perspectives, tomorrow has yet to play out.  Praise God for the works he is doing, not just in the life of this man, but all who are here.

The best way to end this article is a quote from Dr. Ken Nichols of www.aliveministries.net “God’s word influences my perspective.  My perspective influences how I respond. My response influences the outcome of the situation. 100% of the time.”

Musings from AACC National Conference: Reviewed Foundations and Drawing Deeper

On this blog the articles of late have been touching on understanding repentance. The articles the next couple of days will be taking a slight break from that concerted focus on the subject. However, it is worth noting that the articles being right are related to that subject matter.  Currently I am attending the American Association of Christian Counselors National Conference.   Seeing how repentance is about change and a counselor is a change agent thus the relationship.  The articles being written though are reflecting my thought process at the end of the day.

The conference this year is being held in Branson Missouri at the resort Chateau on the Lake.  Branson is in the midst of the Ozarks and the meeting place is by a nice sized lake.  For me the symbolism is clear at what God is working in me.  The rock is reminder of our rock and foundation in Jesus the Messiah.  It is the source of life.  The lake to me points me to the depths of living water that Jesus provides and being brought to greater depths.  Today at the conference both elements were central.

The day started with a day long conferences that really examined the foundation of sound Biblical Counseling Psychology. It was a reminder of the Biblical view of how God has me interacting in the lives of others.  It also built upon the foundation further.  Even in reviewing what are essential basic elements of the work of coming along aside others to aide, there was growth and depth in learning others perspective even so far as understanding some church history and foundations.  There was much stirred within my heart and mind which may well be observed in shaping the writing of blog articles to come.  For now though, it refreshed awareness of the foundation and provided exhortation for building up and going deeper in what God has been doing in and through me.

The other element of the day that sticks in my mind is the large group session where Dr. Larry Crabb spoke. Dr. Larry Crabb is a man who God has used to challenge me to look and grow since first came across his writings in college.  Today, at the conference while pointing to the basics of God’s Word, he challenged with words and thoughts that pushed for a deeper grasp and growth in God.  He brought up the concept of relational Holiness, which starts with the relationship of the Godhead being perfect relationally. In other words, God is relationally set apart and whole.   God is relationally Holy. So then it becomes that an element of growth and freedom from sin is the ongoing process of becoming more and more relationally Holy.  It is take the foundation of relating to God, others, and self in love and truth and bringing it to  deeper level.  A deeper level of every fiber of every action pours out to reflect the Love of Jesus and evidences death of self.  It is the core of contentment, the seeds of His peace, the elements of His joy.  It is being at the center of what God is doing through love in truth. 

So today is a day of examining the rock, the foundation, which at the core is Jesus and then being brought to examine deeper what God is doing in my life and in turn how God enables me to touch the lives He brings to me to receive love and care.  It is a privilege to serve God and others where God has me and look forward to how God enables further impact on others, even deeper than before.