Handling Heartbreak
 
Psalm 116:1-4, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me.”
 
What purpose does a broken heart serve? It must serve an important place in the plan and purposes of God, because he often allows us to experience it. Jesus was called the ‘man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief’ and it may be that in the process of identifying ourselves with him that we taste sorrow and grief. Amy Carmichael wrote, “It is an honor to be trusted with a hard thing,” and there may not be many things as difficult as heartbreak. Deep sorrow forces us to cry out to God and has the potential to make us stronger, wiser and more like Jesus or to become bitter and cynical.
 
“Holy Father, You count blessed those who mourn and we are baffled by that. If the cup You mix for us is bitter then please give us the grace to endure and trust that the wounds have a greater purpose than what we can see now. Give us the grace to see Your hand in the heartbreaking events we have already endured. I ask in Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
Forgiven Much
 
Psalm 51:1-4, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”
 
“Forgiven much, loves much. Forgiven little, loves little,” (Luke 7:47). No matter what we are able to accomplish in this world for God and others, we will never be anything more than a sinner saved by grace. David understood that his sinful actions, even if they involved others, were really against God. He knew that he deserved God’s wrath and curse forever, therefore he pleaded for mercy from the One who had every right to judge him for all of eternity. This is a New Testament prayer offered by an Old Testament believer looking forward to the cross. We are able to offer this prayer looking back to the cross, where the judgment for our sin was handed down.
 
“Holy Father, may the love I am able to show to You be in direct proportion to the sheer volume of sin for which I have been forgiven. If my love ever starts to fade please remind me of the mercy that I have been shown. I ask in Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 

Full Disclosure

Psalm 32:1-5, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”

When my grandson covers his eyes he is fairly certain that I cannot see him because he cannot see me. He is wrong of course, and so are we when we cover over our sin and imagine that God’s silence indicates that he can’t see it either. Perhaps some of your current discomfort and frustration is directly related to your unwillingness to be open and honest with the Lord. It was for David. Full disclosure brought the relief that he desired and it will for us as well.

“Holy Father, you have searched me and you know me. Nothing about me is hidden from You. Please don’t allow anything in me to interfere with the flow of the life of Your Son in me. ‘See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.’ I ask in Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
Fixing Your Eyes on Jesus
 
In the story that is found in Matthew 14:28-31, it is important to note that Peter actually did walk on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on his circumstances. As soon as his eyes were off Jesus, he began to sink. And so will we if we do what Peter did.
 
Pastor Ray Stedman used to say that one mark of maturity is the capacity to ignore secondary causes. We are far too adept at taking our eyes off Jesus and fixing our attention on the ones who played a role in our unpleasant circumstances. Romans 8:28-29 tells us, “And God causes [primary cause] all things [secondary causes] to work together for good for those that love him…..to conform us to the likeness of his Son.” We must train our eyes to see God working out His wonderful plan in everything that comes our way.
 
May I encourage you to stop objecting to the fingers God is using or has used to shape and crush you. It is so easy to focus on the parent, child, spouse, boss, co-worker, neighbor, friend or event through which the circumstances came, and lose focus on God. Amy Carmichael wrote, “The best training is to learn to accept everything as it comes as from Him whom our soul loves.”
 
And may I add that this includes both pleasant and painful things. Oswald Chambers said, “If our cup is sweet, drink it with grace. If it is bitter, drink it in communion with Him.” And F.B.Meyer exhorts us to “Hold to our lips the cup which the Father’s hand has mixed.” These saints of old had learned the secret we must adopt if we are to rise above our circumstances and not sink into despair.
 
Pastor Doug
 
But I’ve Failed
 
Being well acquainted with failure myself, and with what others may perceive as failure in me, I take great comfort in how the Lord handled his disciple Peter. Peter’s denial of Christ was not the end of the story of Peter.  In fact it becomes the catalyst for the revival that takes place in his life. Peter’s failure, humiliation and brokenness set the stage for him to be lifted up. It was he who wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1Peter 5:8)
 
The Apostle Peter revealed in Acts 2-12 barely resembles the disciple Peter we knew in the Gospels. Could the same be true for you and me? Yes!  God in his wisdom may draw us back to the wilderness or bring a winter season to remove some wild growth in order to get us to the place to bear more fruit. But it would be a crucial mistake on our part to believe that the discipline, or wilderness or winter season, that may look a lot like failure from our perspective, is the end of our story.  The season of discipleship designed to shape you, instruct you, and humble you is preparation for a fruitful ministry that follows.
 
“Holy Father, please show me that path of victory through what appears to be failure on my part. I may now appear weak in the eyes of some, but I thank You that Your power is made perfect in my weakness and I look forward to what You can accomplish with this empty vessel. I am Yours. In Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
A Fresh Start
 
My move to Oregon as a nineteen-year-old was supposed to be a fresh start, but it backfired because I brought me with me. What I needed was a new self and that is what I received as a twenty-one-year-old. With that as a backdrop you can see why one of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come.” What is offered to us is the best fresh start of them all: the opportunity to live as we were designed to live in availability and abandonment to God. This is not a new improved version of you, but a new creation in Christ. As Paul put it in Galatians 2:20, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Now that we have this new life in us we must resist the temptation to make it fit into our old dreams, friendships, future and lifestyle and let go of our idea of how this new life will play out. Because of our insistence on making this new life fit our old world we find ourselves back in the place of repentance and somewhat disillusioned about what went wrong. We need another fresh start and this is one of the reasons why the church, since the sixth century has observed the Lenten season: a forty-day encounter with God that leads up to Easter and with it resurrection life. The old is gone, the new has come. Release your life once again and let him have it all this time.
 
“Holy Father, please forgive me for getting in the way of the life of Your Son in me. I release my life to You as if today is the first day of this new life in the Spirit and I trust that You will be able to do immeasurably more with me than I could ever ask or imagine. In Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 

Faithfulness in Brokenness

Spiritual growth comes at great cost. Most of us would have probably opted out of our walk of faith before it began if we had been given a glimpse of how expensive our devotion to Jesus would be. (of course, it is hard to place a price tag on eternal life.) Somehow you have hung on up to this point and it seems you are in for the long haul, come what may. This is good. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Before God can effectively use a man he must sufficiently break him.” I agree and I ask, will you remain faithful in the process?

 
In the process of making us broken bread and poured out wine to nourish other souls we must understand that we are not there yet. Will you trust that the disappointments, frustrations, heartbreaks and irritations are God-ordained and designed to conform us to the image of Christ? Our own mistakes, the cruelty of others and the enemy’s hand print can be major hurdles in our remaining faithful in the process of being broken, but we must trust the unseen hand of God and surrender to his will.
 
David wrote about this in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” This is where God gets us to the point that Douglas Webster brings up in the Discipline of Surrender, “The Christian life is not about making something of ourselves but about allowing God to do whatever he wants with us.”
 
“Holy Father, I trust that not one painful blow I have sustained has come without purpose. Please use each and every one of these to continue the work You have begun in me. I ask in Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
The Dependent Position
Psalm 123:3 says, “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God till he shows us his mercy.” Could there possibly be any posture more pleasing to God than this one? Humility is understanding that our deepest needs cannot be met in our own efforts and it leads the creature to bow before the creator to wait, trust and rest in his timing and provision. The problem is that too many of God’s children have bought into the logic of First Opinions chapter one verse two which says, ‘God helps those who help themselves’, which leads them to get up from their knees and do something. The writer of this Psalm was probably quite capable of exacting some form of revenge on those who had shown contempt, but he chose rather to lay his need for justice at God’s feet. What need are you tempted to act on impulse to attempt to satisfy? Philippians 4:19 reads, “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ.” Will you trust him to do so?
 
“Holy Father, it is so easy to forget that you designed me and you know my every need. Please forgive me for taking matters into my own hands and show me the truth of Philippians 4:19 in a way that will draw me back to the dependent posture over and over. In Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
Too Capable
Could it be that one of our greatest hindrances to moving on in our walk with God is our own capabilities? It is far too easy to assume that we are to take that which brought us or is bringing us success in our world and do the same in our Christian life. Paul addresses this in Philippians 3:1-17, and we would be wise to follow his example. The example is this: “I place no confidence in the flesh.” Paul no longer found his identity in the titles and accomplishments that brought him recognition in this world; he now found his identity in Christ. The matching wounds or shared sufferings of Christ that Paul bore gave him greater insight into the humility of Christ during his ministry on earth.
 
May I encourage you to lay all of your capabilities on the altar and ask the Lord to show you where you are finding your identity. Our relationship with Christ is designed to obliterate all our old titles and give us a new one: ‘follower of Jesus’. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come.” Not a new, improved version of the old model, “a new creation”. This level of humility is not embraced by many. Why don’t you be one of them who does?
 
“Holy Father, my desire to be capable and be seen as capable runs deep and I cannot see where it begins and ends. Please consecrate my abilities and allow them to bring glory to Your name and not recognition to mine. I ask in Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
No Handle
Forty days in the wilderness; would it weaken his resolve? The enemy of our souls sure hoped it would, and he set to work to see if he could get Jesus to assert himself (take matters into his own hands), or display concern for himself, or get him to come down to his gutter level and put God to the test or perhaps take what was being offered since it was obvious that God had abandoned him.
 
But the devil was unable to find a handle on Jesus to take hold of and run with like he is often able to do with us. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility. Pride, self-awareness, self-pity, self-promotion, and ego make good handles for the enemy.”
 
Jesus was an entirely empty vessel in regard to self and so must we be as well. Whatever remains of self will be found by our enemy and we will once again feel ashamed for having been such an easy target. The only answer is to remove all the handles and give the enemy nothing of which to take hold. This can only be accomplished by a complete death, burial and resurrection in our lives. Lay your self-pity, self-promotion and the concern for what others think of you on the altar and submit to being seen as nothing if it comes to that, then watch to see what new life emerges and what God does with this empty vessel you have given to him.
 
“Holy Father, only You know how deeply pride runs in me. There is no way I could root it out one event at a time, so would You please displace it with the humility of Christ and free me from my preoccupation with myself? In Jesus’ name.”
 
Pastor Doug
 
Unfathomable

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Romans 11:33

Corrie Ten Boom relays an account that took place between her and her sister Betsy who lay dying at Ravensbrook during WWII; Betsy, in her weakened state, reached up to Corrie and whispered ”Corrie, we must tell people that no pit is so deep that he is not deeper still. They will believe us because we were here.” Betsy’s words proved to be prophetic because that is exactly what Corrie did shortly after WWII ended. So what was it that kept hope alive in this amazing saint?
 
I believe Corrie came to know the heart of God as she experienced the worst that humanity could throw at one of their own. No matter how deep her despair, how excruciating her pain, heartbreak, and anguish, she found that God understood. He was and is deeper than the deepest pit.
 

Some of you reading this have experienced some dark times that brought deep wounds. What enabled you to overcome them and not live under the weight of human cruelty and injustice? Was it that you found a high priest who could sympathize with your weaknesses, who suffered when he was tempted and is now able to help those who are being tempted? Jesus experienced the deepest of the deepest pits in regards to suffering and can meet you in an intimate way anywhere in the pit. Jesus is not a Velcro flannel figure with a blue sash around his chest. He is a man of sorrows well acquainted with grief and he has been there and he knows. Call upon him in your time of need. Ask Him to bring you a heavenly perspective on what you endured.

Pastor Doug
 
The Best Valentine
 

“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.” 1John 4:9
 

As a child in grade school I grew to dread Valentines Day. To me it became a day to simply have your place in the pecking order confirmed by your classmates. And if that wasn’t enough, you foolishly held out hope that the girl you secretly admired would send some indicator that she liked you, too. I imagine that more children went home crushed than didn’t. The candy was good, but you knew that the conversation heart you received was not randomly tossed into the valentine envelope and some of those phrases came as a kick in the gut. The goal of being all inclusive in sending warm fuzzies to one another backfired because deep down we are not good and kind.
 
But God, who is good and kind and knows our hearts, was able to be all inclusive in his invitation to life through his Son. “Whosoever will” may come. Now we know that all will not, but that is not for us to determine. Our responsibility is to make sure all in our circle of influence and beyond are aware of the love God has extended to us through Jesus. Pray and watch, being ready to speak and act as the opportunity presents itself.
 
“…with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.” Rev. 5:9-10
 
Pastor Doug
 
Guard Your Heart
 

Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Guard it from what? Being hurt? I don’t think so. Love demands that we be vulnerable. We are to love God and love others made in the image of God.
 
I believe we are to guard our hearts from resentment and bitterness. It is impossible to live for Christ and not be wounded. So… what do you do with the wound? The wound came so that you could feel more closely that which God feels; to have a heart like his. The ache reminds us that we are not home yet. But if we don’t go to God with the ache then resentment and bitterness can grow in our heart and clog the flow of the life of the Son of God in you and me.
 
So guard your heart from a reaction of the flesh and respond in the Spirit with forgiveness, forbearance, patience, kindness, meekness and love. God will supply these if you just ask Him.

 
Pastor Doug
 
How to Have a Good Year
 
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
 
I stopped having years about 15 years ago, and now I have days. For me May 17th or Nov. 5th, are no different from Jan. 1st. For what it is worth I will pass on my strategy for having a good year.
 
  1. Reduce your world–your year–to the day. “We too are crucified between two thieves; regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow” (Helmet Theileke). A time-proven method for stealing today’s joy is in reliving yesterday and bringing tomorrow’s concerns into today. Practice living fully in the day by learning to lay at the feet of your Father your yesterdays and your tomorrows and the burdens they carry with them.
     
  2. “Seek first God’s kingdom” (Matt. 6:33). If I use the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) as my focal point to live in the kingdom of God and develop the disposition of Christ, I will find myself disconnecting from the kingdom of this age thus avoiding this world’s roller coaster of drama. One method that helps me is to limit my exposure to televised news and catch my news on trusted Internet sources.
     
  3. Abide in Christ. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). I see to it that I interact with Christ in some manner each day. This generally includes the spiritual disciplines in some form. Time in the Word, prayer, saying “No!” to self.
     
  4. Keep growing. “Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God and in favor with man” (Luke 2:52). Each day should include developing one or more of these areas of growth: our mind, our body, our relationship with God, and our relationship with others.
     
  5. Forgive and ask forgiveness. We live in a fallen world and it is impossible to not sin or be sinned against. If someone sins against you, forgive them. Lay their offense against you before the Lord and release it to Him. He saw it and will take it in hand. If someone is offended by something you did, don’t justify it, just go to them and ask forgiveness. Trust may have been damaged and take time to be restored but unforgiveness is a heavy burden to carry and it will undermine all 4 of the strategies for having a good year.
 
Pastor Doug
 
 
Front-End Alignment
 
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”
  – Matthew 6:33
 
I was a front-end mechanic for 15 years. Cars that were pulling to the right, pulling to the left or wearing out tires too quickly could be adjusted in order to remedy the problem. But a true alignment hinged on the calibration of the machine I was using. If my machine wasn’t calibrated from time to time, my cars would go out misaligned.
 
The New Year offers a logical time to re-calibrate your life focus to keep you from pulling too far right or even to the left or to wear you out prematurely. What are some of the keys to this re-calibration?
 
  1. Think big picture. Remember your place in God’s kingdom and that your citizenship is in heaven. Have you forgotten that you are here temporarily on assignment? Ps. 90:12; Eph. 2:10.
  2. Make your life an offering. Romans 12:1 reminds us to continually “offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice…” We are to do this in light of the mercy God has shown to us.
  3. Reclaim a few of the disciplines. Romans 12:1 calls our sacrifice “holy and acceptable.” Have you grown flabby spiritually, physically, relationally? I sure have. I recommend that you adopt the perspective with which Jonathan Edwards opened his book Resolutions, “I am unable to do anything without God’s help.” In other words, leave him out of the equation and five years from now we still have the same resolutions if we have any at all.
 
So get alone with the Lord and begin a list of ‘re-calibrations’ in order to “seek first God’s kingdom” above everything else. Then lay the list before the Lord and ask for His help in ordering your world according to His kingdom in each area you have listed.
 
Pastor Doug
 
How to Have a Good Year
 
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
 
I stopped having years about 15 years ago, and now I have days. For me May 17th or November 5th, are no different from January 1st. For what it is worth I will pass on my strategy for having a good year.
  1.  Reduce your world–your year–to the day. “We too are crucified between two thieves; regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow” (Helmet Theileke). A time-proven method for stealing today’s joy is in reliving yesterday and bringing tomorrow’s concerns into today. Practice living fully in the day by learning to lay at the feet of your Father your yesterdays and your tomorrows and the burdens they carry with them. 
  2. “Seek first God’s kingdom” (Matt. 6:33). If I use the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) as my focal point to live in the kingdom of God and develop the disposition of Christ, I will find myself disconnecting from the kingdom of this age thus avoiding this world’s roller coaster of drama. One method that helps me is to limit my exposure to televised news and catch my news on trusted Internet sources.
  3. Abide in Christ. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). I see to it that I interact with Christ in some manner each day. This generally includes the spiritual disciplines in some form. Time in the Word, prayer, saying “No!” to self.
  4. Keep growing. “Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature, in favor with God and in favor with man” (Luke 2:52). Each day should include developing one or more of these areas of growth: our mind, our body, our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. 
  5. Forgive and ask forgiveness. We live in a fallen world and it is impossible to not sin or be sinned against. If someone sins against you, forgive them. Lay their offense against you before the Lord and release it to Him. He saw it and will take it in hand. If someone is offended by something you did, don’t justify it, just go to them and ask forgiveness. Trust may have been damaged and take time to be restored but unforgiveness is a heavy burden to carry and it will undermine all 4 of the strategies for having a good year.
 
Pastor Doug