Wake Up!

Ephesians 5:14. “Wherefore He saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”

Now and then, a passage seems a bit obscure in its reference. This verse falls into that category.  I’ve read several commentaries, and the general consensus is that we just don’t know for sure what the source of  this apparent quote is. The closest we can come is Isaiah 60:1-3, yet it doesn’t compare in context.

Most Bible commentators agree that while the source is obscure, the meaning is not. Believers can become lethargic, and we can fall asleep on the job. We can sleep so soundly, in fact, that we may as well be dead.  What Paul is saying here is a call to action; to get up from our comfortable beds and take up the battle for righteousness instead of sleeping as soundly as a dead man. Christ will give us the light (understanding) that we need to fight the good fight.

I believe this verse has never been more applicable to my beloved country than it is today. Of course it is a personal call to action, but it is also a call to believers everywhere to wake up, get up, stand up, speak up.  Why are we now facing the reality, for instance, of “transgendered” bathrooms?  Why, it’s because we have accepted, as a nation, the rest of the agenda of those who deny the validity of the Bible, and we don’t have a platform to stand on!  If I had a little girl or boy, they would never be allowed to enter a public restroom alone any more. We are going to have to be more vigilant than ever to protect the innocence and purity of our children.

This is just one example. Our freedoms are being pecked away little by little. The attack on our Constitution is being led by the White House. We need to wake up!

Indeed, we need to wake up. We’ve been asleep while the enemies of godliness have been awake and busy.

Turn on the Light

Ephesians 5:13. “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth the light make manifest is light..”

When I was about eight, we moved into the upper story of a duplex that, unbeknownst to us, was infested with cockroaches. My mom was an excellent housekeeper, and if she had known those nasty little bugs were there I’m sure she never would have agreed to move in.

We didn’t see them, though, when we went to look at the house.

They came out in the dark.  They proceeded to behave like cockroaches in the dark. If  I had to get up in the night to use the bathroom, I always put slippers on my feet because I didn’t want to step on any of the creepycrawly nightmares. When I flipped the light switch, they would scatter in a hurry to hide behind the walls.  Nasty, ugly, evil-looking bugs.

They were exposed by the light.  They hated the light. They lived in dark places and did their evil cockroachy deeds in the dark. When  the light shone on them, they ran. And there was no question whatosever that they were evil.

Mom battled them valiantly, complaining to the landlord and finally getting some help. It took a while, if my memory is correct, but finally they were gone. They disappeared because they were exposed to the light–and a few appropriate chemicals.

“Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil”(John 3:19).  The light exposes sin.  Is there something in your life that you’re not sure about?  One of those questionable things that  you don’t know whether or not you, as a child of God, should be involved with?  Turn on the light of scripture.  Study it out, and don’t let someone else’s opinion be your guide. Seek the Lord.  He will show you. If you have no peace about it, you probably should leave it alone.

We should never let sin, like roaches, proliferate in the dark places of our hearts.

Say Nothing!

Ephesians 5:12. “For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”

Please don’t think I’m making light of the scripture.  I used this picture because it’s exactly how I feel when something I shouldn’t say seems to come sliding right out of my face.  Conversation provides so many opportunities to sin!

We may feel we’re doing okay because we don’t do all the evil things that people who do not walk with God are prone to do.  This verse warns us that we need to be careful not to even mention the evil that takes place under cover of darkness–and these days, a lot of that evil is right out in plain sight.

The strength of a Christian is in his separation from the world and his devotion to Christ.  For many believers, what comes out of our mouths can destroy our testimony in a hearbeat. The tongue is an unruly muscle, and one that we exercise far too often.

Yesterday I made reference to the stories I hear in my work. I pray that God will protect me from thinking about those stories, and that He will put a guard on my mouth so that I don’t repeat them.  I will share something that is funny, or that is applicable to all of us; however, I never speak of that which is evil.  Better to let those things die in my own brain than to share them and infect others with evil thoughts.

I’m learning, always learning, that it’s often wise to just shut up.

Higher Ground

Ephesians 5:11. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”

We are called to live above the world. I love the words of the third verse from the old song Higher Ground: 

I want to live above the world,

Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;

For faith has caught the joyful sound,

The song of saints on higher ground.

In my work, I often hear stories of great evil. Broken people sit on my small sofa and  tell me about the tragedies in their lives that have lead them to a counseling office. I am so thankful to have the Word of God to guide them to a place of healing, and often I am able to bring them to repentance in Christ.

The difficulty, of course, is that I am left with their stories in my mind, often accompanied by vivid mental images of what they have experienced.  I learned long ago to pray at the end of every work day that God would put a hedge of protection around my mind, purging what I have heard so that my sleep is undisturbed and I am not influenced by what I have heard.

I can tell you, with great gratitude, that God has honored that prayer over the years.  I rarely have a problem with my thoughts connected to what I hear from my clients.

Also,  I want to tell you that some of them got into the messes they are in because they didn’t guard their thoughts, and they didn’t follow the command in this verse to have nothing to do with useless works of darkness.   Satan can disguise sin and evil to make it appealing and attractive.  A look under the surface, though, reveals destruction  and death.

There is a series of ads on TV that feature people who have terrible cancers, emphysema, and other diseases related to smoking. They look awful. Then you see a picture of them before they started smoking, and you see what a wasteland smoking really is.  I wish they would make the same ads for alcohol, promiscuous sex, drug addiction, and so on. All the surface beauty wears away pretty quickly.

Avoid the useless sins of the world. Don’t be afraid to take a stand for righteousness.

Friday Counseling Issues: The Personality Disorders

Today, we’re looking at Dependent Personality Disorder. Keeping in mind that in this cluster of disorders, all the disorders are based on fear/anxiety, what seems irrational to a person who does not struggle with any of them is completely rational to those who do. As a therapist, I’ve had to sort of rewire my own brain in order to empathize and have compassion with dependent people, because the truth is that this disorder irritates the fire out of me.  I am so NOT dependent that it’s very hard for me to understand how anyone can function  when they so desperately need the help/approval of others.

Years ago, I was given the leadership position of a ministry in my church.  I took “leader” to mean that I was to make decisions and implement them. It wasn’t long before I discovered that I was wrong. What was expected of me was to put any ideas or decisions that needed to be made across the desk of my pastor, and HE would tell me what to do. This created a problem between us until I realized that most people in leadership ministries expected the pastor to do their thinking for them.  I couldn’t understand that. It all ended well because the pastor was a wise man, and I was willing to meet him more than halfway. I share this because I want you to understand how  difficult it is for me to truly understand dependent people.  It’s just not the way I roll.

The core feature of the Dependent Personality Disorder* is a strong need to be taken care of by other people. This need to be taken care of, and the associated fear of losing the support of others, often leads people with Dependent Personality Disorder to behave in a “clingy” manner; to submit to the desires of other people. In order to avoid conflict, they may have great difficulty standing up for themselves. The intense fear of losing a relationship makes them vulnerable to manipulation and abuse. They find it difficult to express disagreement or make independent decisions, and are challenged to begin a task when nobody is available to assist them. Being alone is extremely hard for them. When someone with Dependent Personality Disorder finds that a relationship they depend on has ended, they will immediately seek another source of support.

https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/dsm-5-the-ten-personality-disorders-cluster-c/

The person with Dependent Personality Disorder (DPD) will hear, throughout the course of his life, that is is “needy,”  “clingy,” and “can’t stand on his own two feet”  His need for the approval and support of someone else is overwhelming, and when he loses that support he flounders around until he finds someone else who will fill the role for him. He really can’t stand to be alone. He will follow someone all over the house, keeping up a conversation of little or no interest to the other person, just to keep contact.  His need for obvious approval is unrelenting, and it wears out the other people in his life.

This is the high school girl who asks her best friend every single day, “Do I look okay?  Makeup?  Hair?  Outfit?  How about my shoes? How do I look from the back? Is this color good for me?”  She will then gather up her books from her locker and stick like a woodtick to her friend’s side as they walk to their first class.  If they don’t share the same class, she will say, “Okay, see you after class.  Can we meet at my locker?  Will you sit with me at lunch?  I’ll miss you!”

Her confidence and ability to function depends on her knowledge that her friend will always be available to her, no matter what.

In order to get a diagnosis of DPD, these traits have to be inflexible. All of us, especially during our teen years, tend to have a best friend that we rely on for support.  DPD goes way beyond the normal teen behavior. These traits cause functional impairment, and visible anxiety in the person who has them.  The traits create a problem in functioning well in normal society, and in interpersonal relationships.  Most important, the person who has DPD is miserably unhappy with her own behaviors, but is unable to break the pattern.

Treatment is in learning to confront anxiety; to tell oneself the truth; and to develop a set of personal goals that involve learning to become less dependent on others. As with all personality disorders, it’s not easy.  Good talk therapy with a patient, understanding counselor is important. The counselor needs to know how to draw the boundary so that the client doesn’t become dependent on her.  It’s a fine line to walk, and takes some experience  and compassion.

Prove the Yeast

Ephesians 5:9. “Proving  what is acceptable unto the Lord.”

This is a homey illustration for our verse today.  “Proving the yeast” is a term you won’t  hear much unless you bake bread at home.  Dry yeast can go stale and lose its goodness. If you use old yeast, the bread won’t rise and you’ll wish you had tested your yeast before you started the bread-making process.  To prove  in this context is to test or examine closely.” To prove the yeast, you sprinkle it over a bowl or cup of warm water. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of sugar and wait a few minutes.  Good yeast will bubble and froth, and you’ll know it’s safe to use.  Dead yeast will just sit there, doing nothing.  It’s useless.

So how do we prove, or test, what is acceptable to the Lord?

We examine it in the light of scrpture, and we compare it to what we know about the character of God. God is all righteousness.  He is pure, holy, and without fault. If the thing we are considering doing doesn’t meet those standards, then it is better to avoid it.

Instead, we are likely to say, “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with this. After all, the Bible never says we can’t. . . . . . .”  and then you fill in the blank with whatever it is you are wanting to do but for some reason you are hesitating and trying to find justification for doing it.

You know what?  If you have to build justification; if you have to create an argument for why there’s nothing wrong with it; if you are defensive about it to your Christian friends?  Then I’m thinking you should leave it alone.

We can’t move ahead on the basis of “I see nothing wrong with it.” What I see cannot be compared equally with what God sees.

Prove the yeast.  Sprinkle your proposed activity with a little scripture, and wait a few minutes to see if it reacts.  Pray while you wait.  Ask God to show you His desire, and not your own.

Fruit of the Light

Ephesians 5:9. “(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth:)

Paul pens the command that we walk as children of light, and then inserts this parenthetical truth:  We need to walk in light because it is light that produces good fruit.  It is the Light of the Spirit that produces all goodness, righteousness, and truth.

God never commands without reason.  If He tells us to do something, He does so because it is for our good and His glory, and it will be a testimony and a blessing to those around us. When God speaks in imperatives, we are disobedient to ignore Him. “Walk as children of light” is not just a good idea or a suggestion. It’s a command.

Fifteen More Commands

Ephesiand 5:8. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:  walk as children of light:”

Before we came to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life, we walked in darkness.  But once we have come to Him and become His, we are turned from darkness into light.  We are to walk (live out our lives ) as children of light, because we have trusted the Light of the World.

This is the first of another series of commands Paul gives for believers.  There are 15 this time.   We saw 20 in chapter four, verses 25-32.  These commands clearly spell out the will of God for us.  I love looking at it in that perspective, because it just elmininates all the fuss and feathers we tend to create when we talk about knowing God’s will.

It’s not that hard.  He tells us.

Vain Words

Ephesians 5:6-7. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.”

Vain words are empty words.  They are words that contain no substance, and especially no truth. In fact, they are misleading words that tempt us to go ahead and indulge in the sins of the flesh because they are “only normal, after all.”  God calls us to live an abnormal life. He calls us to aim for a higher standard, to live in the Spirit, to walk in truth, to put off the old man with its fleshly lusts and to put on the new man.

In fact, He promises that those who persist in living according to empty words will pay the price, promising His wrath on those who walk in the flesh.

Don’t take part with those who live contrary to God’s standard. You can expect only temporary, passing pleasure if you do. That pleasure quickly turns to sorrow, pain, and regret.

Friday Counseling Issues: Cluster C, Fearful/Anxious

Cluster C personality disorders are characterized by anxious, fearful thinking or behavior. They include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

avoidant personality disorder

Avoidant Personality Disorder can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The person who has this disorder has probably always felt inadequate, socially shy, and is certain that everyone sees him as a loser.  He’s always picked last when kids are choosing up sides to play a game. It seems as if no one even sees him or notices when he quietly backs away and leaves. People forget his name, or just refer to him as “that round-headed kid.”

We’ve all fallen in love with Charlie Brown.  He mirrors how we feel about our own perceived inadequacies, and we can identify with him easily—unless we’re narcissistic 🙂

The biggest problem here is with the person’s own perception of himself.  Our perceptions become our realities, and it’s no different for the Charlie Browns out there.  Here’s a good comprehensive list of symptoms:

  • Avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  • Is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  • Shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  • Is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  • Is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  • Views themself as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  • Is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing

What we believe to be the truth motivates our emotions, words, and behaviors. The more convinced we become that no one likes/wants/appreciates us, the more likely it is that we will behave in such a way that avoids people altogether.We become so self-effacing that we are actually self-erasing.

Treatment can include good talk therapy with a counselor who understand that this is more than just being a little bit shy.  Sometimes an anti-anxiety medication is helpful in the early stages of counseling because it helps the person be more objective about his situation.

I have found that it is very helpful to talk with a client who has this diorder about his own worth and value to the God Who created  him.  Changing his beliefs about himself will start him on the road to understanding how God sees him, and will help him to realize that part of his problem is not so much  a lack of self-esteem as it is a conviction that other people don’t esteem him appropriately.