Soothing the Soul

Do you ever get agitated?  Do you ever feel the need for something to soothe you on the inside?

Maybe you grab a hot drink, or eat chocolate, or turn on the radio, or call a friend.  There are many ways we look to “soothe the soul”, and that’s what I want to investigate with you here.

Comfort Zone

When we are stretched or taken out of our normal pattern we can feel like we are out of our “comfort zone”.  The first day at a new school or workplace can be outside our comfort zone.  But in time we become very familiar and comfortable with those surroundings.

An emergency or crisis can completely throw us out of our comfort zone.  Getting back to normal is then a wonderful relief.  It soothes the soul.

You may have felt soothed on arriving home after a really hectic day or a long time away.  You may feel that soothing sense when you reconnect with your extended family, or go back to the place of your childhood.

Choose Your Addiction

Most of the time we have to rely on something close at hand to bring us the inner soothing we might seek.  That’s why people turn to their addictions for a dose of comfort.

They might light up a cigarette, drink a coffee, sneak some chocolate, go to the movies, rush off for some retail therapy, have a facial, do an extra session at the gym, call a friend or get buried in work.  The list is endless.

Sadly many turn to prescription drugs to relieve their feelings and end up addicted to a chemical prop that reduces their ability to cope with life and find the better solutions they need.

What do you gravitate to when you feel uncomfortable on the inside?

The True Anchor

Take note that the Bible refers to an “anchor of the soul”.  Our sense of being safe and soothed on the inside has been provided for by God.  We may not need all that chocolate (apologies to all those chockaholics!)

If we have a sufficient “anchor” for our soul we won’t need to rush off for something to soothe us.  Our “comfort zone” will be much wider and we will not find ourselves feeling the same duress we might otherwise have felt.

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament talks about a “hope” that is the “anchor of our soul”.

“We have a hope that is an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which relates to things within the veil” Hebrews 6:19

Hope as Our Soul Soother

The anchor of our soul is not retail therapy or any of those other things we rely on to soothe our soul.  The anchor is much more effective than the temporary relief we might get from a hot drink or a chat with a friend.  The anchor holds our soul firm even in the face of terrible storms.

And that anchor is “hope”.  It is the hope we have in God.

Reference to the anchor of our soul in Hebrews is in the context of the “hope set before us”.

“We who have fled for refuge have strong consolation through two indestructible things in which it was impossible for God to lie, enabling us to lay hold on the hope set before us” Hebrews 6:18

Our soul is soothed by our confidence in God that He has everything under control and has told us the truth about His promises and blessings.  This is a powerful source of comfort.  It is a “strong consolation”.

God cannot lie, so we can find consolation and hope in the things He has promised us.

Hope in God

This hope we have in God was also relied upon to soothe the soul by King David, 1,000 years before the book of Hebrews was written.

When King David found himself struggling on the inside he spoke to his inner self, his soul, and instructed it to “hope in God”!

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God: for I will yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God: for I will yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 43:5

This is the same concept as the “anchor of the soul”, of putting our hope in God and finding “strong consolation” by doing so.

Get an Anchor

If you are often looking for something to soothe you on the inside then you need more than a soother.  You need an anchor.

And if you are going through a tough time, maybe through sickness, financial challenges, relationship issues, failure, shame, or whatever, be sure to get an “anchor” rather than some temporary soother.

There are seasons that really stretch us.  If we don’t have an anchor we will turn to our various soothers and they may end up enslaving us in addiction.  I am afraid the drug companies are not ashamed to exploit your weak moments to get you relying on their medications for the rest of your life.

If you have an “anchor” you don’t need the temporary relievers.  Those things don’t have the impact of an anchor.

Practical Application

I am in a long term challenge.  We are taking on issues of bank fraud, injustice in the courts and treason in the political and social structures.  It’s not a challenge that goes away on the weekends.  And the struggle to this point has seen us evicted from our home twice.

So I know what it is like to be hankering for something to soothe my ruffled feelings.  A quiet cup of coffee, a belly full of food, sitting in some warm and comfortable place with no interruptions – these are things I find soothing.

But I have also found that turning to God and hoping in Him has brought much greater inner strength and comfort than the comforts my body or mind can gain.

So I speak from experience when I encourage you to “Hope in God”! Find Him and His promises as the anchor of your soul.

Legalistic Dad

How do you help a legalistic dad?  You know the kind.  He demands his family do as he wants, the way he wants, on the basis that he has GOD on his side.

I have had to deal with several dads over the years that have dug themselves into a hole but refuse to change because they are the DAD and the Bible tells the kids to obey them.  The children become hurt and rebellious and that only affirms to the dad that he is on the high ground and they are wrong.

Call For Help

I was asked recently by a Christian counsellor for some suggestions to help a legalistic dad face the mess he has created and the pain he and his family are living in.  The dad appeals to the Biblical command that children obey their mother and father as his trump card to justify his stern stand.

As I considered the question, my thoughts about sad situations I have seen over the years led me to a new suggestion to help a legalistic dad.

The problem is getting the dad to listen and to be prepared to review his own actions, when he has a strong sense of being “right” and others being wrong.

Test the Fruit

Jesus told us we can know the truth about people by the “fruit” of their life.  A father’s life is not measured by the legal ground he claims as his authority, but by the fruit of his actions.  “By their fruits you will know them” is a basic litmus test we can apply quite widely.

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Matthew 7:16

“So by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:20

I suggest we can apply this to test those legalistic dads who think they are right and others are wrong.

Fruit in the Family

A child starts out as a blank page.  And children are very resilient and forgiving.  They have the ability to cope with disappointments and the distractions of their parents.  And children learn much of their concept of life by watching their parents at close quarters.

So, at least in general terms, the way the kids turn out can be regarded as the “fruit” of the family.  If a family produces selfish, proud, loud, disobedient kids, you know that the home has some serious problems.  If a home produces quiet, obedient, loving, thoughtful children, the quality of the home is attested to by those kids.

So let’s use that fruit factor as a searchlight on the legalistic dad.

Stubborn Kid from a Stubborn Dad

When a legalistic dad digs in his toes and will not budge from his conflict with a child, and the child digs in his or her toes and will not budge either, we can see that the child is the “fruit” of the father.  The stubborn father has produced that stubborn child.

So, if the dad thinks he has the ‘moral high ground’, standing in the place of being right while the kids are wrong, he had better re-think things.  The “fruit” of what he has produced is a public testimony to his failure.  Instead of standing on moral high ground, he is standing in the place he accuses his kids of standing on.

Humility in the Home

If the dad is looking for a spirit of humility in his children, then we need to see that same fruit in him.  If he doggedly defends his opinions and the rightness of who and what he is he can only expect his children to be as stubborn in their stand for their own rightness too.

First let’s see the dad humble himself before God and admit that he needs God’s wisdom.  Let’s hear the dad admit that he has failed in his role as dad.  When we see that kind of humility we know there is hope for the family.
If dad defies the evidence then he has invalidated his stand before God.  God gives grace to the humble, not to the defiant and arrogantly proud.

Heart Issues

Another important truth for a legalistic dad is that the issue is not rebellious kids, but the condition of the dad’s heart.  Yes, rebellion in the family is wrong and the rebellious children need to have that resolved.  But the dad is the head of the home and it is vital to get him sorted out as a key to healing the whole family.  And getting dad sorted out means dealing with dad’s heart.

The Bible points out that the real “issues” of our life are not the things that come against us but the things that come “out of us”.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

When we seek to heal a home, the real “issues” are not the rebellion of a son or daughter, but those things that come out of the heart of the dad and mum.  In the case of a legalistic dad in conflict with his children, it is what is coming out of the heart of that dad.

Out of the Heart

Listen to what Jesus said about the significance of what comes out of us.

“And he said, That which comes out of the man defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23

The issue that is defiling the father and likely bringing real problems into the home is whatever is coming OUT of the father’s heart.

And we know what is coming out of the heart by what people say.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

Legalistic Speak

A legalistic dad will speak judgment of his children, rejection, condemnation, fault finding, pride in his own standards, negativity, contention, and so on.  And those words of his mouth reveal that he is not standing on moral high ground, but is polluted.

A heart that produces evil speaking reveals an “evil heart”.  The legalistic dad has deep troubles in his heart that lead him to produce toxic speech and bad fruit.

The more a legalistic dad is challenged about his stand the more virulent he may become in attacking others, asserting that he is right, feeling rejected and intimidated and so on.

All of this reveals that the dad is not walking and living in God’s grace.

Fruit and Heart

The dual matters of the “fruit” of the dad’s fathering in the home and the “issues” in the dad’s heart expressed in his legalistic stance and speech, show that the dad needs help.  The home is what it is because the dad has internal issues that need to be resolved.  He will never be able to lead his family into joy and wholeness while he is beset with personal problems that have produced bad fruit in the home and which reveal bad issues pouring out of his heart.

Legalism as a Cover

If a dad has produced bad fruit in his home and his heart pumps out evil things he has issues.  And legalism may just be a way to cope with life and excuse his situation.  Legalism may be a cover.  By being legalistic he can point at others, rather than get free on the inside himself.

Just about anything could cause a person to become legalistic, but since legalism prompts a person to reject others it is reasonable to assume that rejection has a part to play in the legalistic dad’s heart.

Certainly there is a lack of the grace of God.  And the writer of Hebrews warns that failing to receive and give out God’s grace leads us to having a root of bitterness which causes us to defile others.

“Be diligently attentive lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:15

Legalism and the attendant accusation and rejection certainly defile and offend people so an important need in the life of a legalistic dad is to experience the grace of God and to give God’s grace to others.

Give Grace to Dad

If you suffer under a legalistic dad you will find it easy to become hurt, offended, resentful, judgmental, angry and so on.  And by so doing you will be tempted to let a root of bitterness spring up in your life.  If that happens then the problem has been passed down to a new generation, instead of being dealt with and rooted out of the family.

So if you have a legalistic dad press in to God for sufficient grace so you can give grace to your dad, even though he does not deserve it.  If you can give grace to those who have no grace, you will not come under the power of their failures and weakness but have triumphed into liberty for yourself and your children.

If your dad is legalistic and refuses to see that there is anything wrong in his life, you are in a very vulnerable place.  Determine with God’s help to give abundant grace to that graceless dad.

Power Preaching

With so many preachers with their “hot” sermons all trying to make an impression across the western world one could get quite confused about what makes a powerful message.

In view of that, let me take you back to basics and get you looking at what the Apostle Paul declared was pretty powerful preaching.

The Right to Speak

Paul has the right to tell us what works, since his own preaching was claimed to have “turned the world upside down”.  Paul was hunted from city to city through sheer hatred from those who knew the power of his preaching and who didn’t like what he was achieving.

Paul seemed to have a way of getting his message through in city after city and culture after culture. He was able to birth church after church in places where he simply preached his basic message.

In view of the power of Paul’s preaching we ought to pay attention to what Paul instructs.  And it is worth noting that Paul instructed the early church to imitate him.  I suggest we are well advised to do that in this day, almost two thousand years later.

Paul’s Power Preaching

Paul tells us quite directly that the “Gospel of Christ” is his power message.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

Paul then explains the two basic truths of his gospel message as he continues his letter to the church in Rome.  Those two basic truths are simply that man is a sinner facing judgment and that faith in Christ saves us.  Paul was not ashamed to declare those truths.

Sinners Facing Judgment

Paul states the first basic principle of the gospel of Christ just two verses after declaring that the gospel is powerful.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” Romans 1:18

Paul uses the rest of chapter 1 and all of chapter 2 to expand on the fact that man is sinful and thus God’s judgment rests on him.  Several verses that state that truth are well known among Christians.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

We later have Paul advising that the penalty for our sin is a death sentence from God.

“For the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23a

Paul did not shrink from revealing to people that they had a sin problem and that sin brought God’s judgment on them.  This is the starting point of Paul’s gospel message.  The good news of Christ (the gospel of Christ) is not good news if you don’t first understand the “bad news” of our sin.

Faith in Christ Saves Us

Having established that all mankind is ruined by sin and that God’s wrath rests on the whole human race because no-one can reach God’s holy standard, Paul then testifies to the wonder of forgiveness and salvation we have through faith in Christ.

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” Romans 3:21,22

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” Romans 3:24

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1,2

It’s a pretty simple message.  Our sin separates us from God and brings God’s judgment upon us.  Our faith in Christ saves us and brings God’s grace upon us.

Ashamed of the Gospel

The way some preachers preach you could think they are “ashamed” of the gospel Paul preached.  Many preachers avoid giving the simple, clear gospel message Paul found so effective.

I talked about this with a Chinese Christian today who admitted that in his youth he heard people preach the simple gospel Paul preached.  But today, he said, he does not hear people preach so directly.

He asked me why I thought that was so, and I suggested that many modern preachers are more interested in pleasing their audience than in pleasing God.  They preach what they think people want to hear, rather than what Paul says will transform the hearers.

Maybe, too, modern preachers don’t want to risk the opposition and challenge Paul received when he preached that simple gospel.

Fear God of Man

The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom but the fear of man brings a snare.

So who you give respect to impacts who and what you are.

This is important for preachers.  If you fear God you will preach God’s truth, no matter whether the audience likes it or not.  Some will reject what you say and others will be transformed by the message.  The gospel of Christ will release the power of God into their lives to save and transform them.

If you fear man, you will preach what people want to hear, but you will have no impact on their lives.  You will also offend God and have none of His blessing and fruit in your ministry.  In fact, you will get trapped (a snare is a trap) and maybe mess up the rest of your life.  That’s what the fear of man does to you.

“The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD will be safe.” Proverbs 29:25

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Let us hear again the simple gospel that transforms lives.

Confronting Your Fears

“Lord, whatever You put me through and whatever price I must pay, I choose to believe in You, to trust You, to love You, to worship and serve You, and to remain totally committed to You as my Saviour and Lord.”

That is a simple prayer that can set you free from repeated disturbances from your fears, pride, lust, selfishness and human weakness.  Read on to understand why.

Living Sacrifice

One of the silliest things we do as Christians is try to save our flesh.  Jesus warned that when we try to preserve our life we lose it, but if we lay it down for the Lord we find it.

“For whoever saves his life will lose it: and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

“Losing your life” is the same as presenting it to God as a “living sacrifice”, which the Apostle Paul instructed us to do.

“I beg you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1

When something is sacrificed it is dead.  It is given up completely.  A “living sacrifice” becomes dead to those things that would otherwise distract.

No Worries in the Graveyard

The story goes that someone took a group into a graveyard and told them that no-one in that place had any cares about money or health any more.  There are no worries in the graveyard, because the people are already dead.

The point being made was that problems are a good sign.  They prove you are Alive!

Notice also that we will be free from all cares and worries once we have “died” to self, sin and this life.

Pulling Back Through Fear

When we are confronted by something threatening and fearful we naturally pull back.  And Christians can pull back from their willingness to obey God, because of things they fear.

I have heard from several people over the years who held back from becoming a missionary because they feared they would end up in some horrible place, missing all the comforts they were accustomed (addicted?) to.

People hold back from giving more, serving God more, praying more, reading the Bible more, witnessing to others more, committing to Christian training, and so on, because they have various internal cautions.

Those cautions may well be nothing more than pure fear, and often that fear is focused on our selfish desires.  We fear that we will lose our comforts, or look foolish in the eyes of others, or have to give up something we want to keep.

Tackle the Fear Head On

In my experience the most powerful way to deal with my fears, hesitations, selfish desires and the like is to boldly confront them.

Rather than trying to block out the fear or run away from the threat, it is better to face the fear and cut the ground out from underneath it.

Take a lesson from the ancient man of God, Job, who lost so much of what God had given him.  Rather than become bitter, or curse God, or let fear rule him, he confronted his fears head on.

Even if God kills me I will still trust in him: and I will maintain my own ways before him.” Job 13:15

Job became a “living sacrifice”, ready to die if God so chose, and determined to trust God no matter what.

Take note of Job’s first response to the many tragedies that suddenly came upon him and his family.

“I came out naked from my mother’s womb and I will leave earth naked: the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

Practical Examples

Consider the missionary example I mentioned earlier.  Here is the kind of prayer that can put to death the fears I mentioned.

“Lord God, I sense You are calling me to serve You in missionary service.  I am afraid that if I say ‘Yes’ to You I will be sent to some horrible place where I will suffer the loss of all things I hold dear.  So I now choose to renounce my love for those things and to hold You far more precious to me than everything this life offers.  I choose to serve You and to go where You send me, no matter how horrible or difficult that may be to me.  And if You send me to the worst place on earth for the most difficult challenges anyone has ever faced, I will still love You, serve You, worship You, tell others about You, read Your word and cling tightly to You, because that is my choice.  I die to my comforts and my selfishness and I put You above all of those things.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

The Call to Give

Here’s another example, to give you a sense for how you can address issues that come up in your life.  In this case, consider someone sensing the challenge to give up their wealth, as the Rich Young Ruler was by Jesus.

“Lord, I struggle with Your call on me to give up my wealth.  I have come to trust in my money and the security it brings me.  I fear living in poverty and I fear the contempt of all who know me for doing something so silly in their eyes as to give away my wealth.  But I choose now to trust You and to obey what I believe You are calling me to do.  And I realise that I could regret this decision for the rest of my life.  So I confront my fears right now and I declare that I will honour You and I will die to my selfishness and pride.  If obeying You leaves me poor and mocked for the rest of my life, and causes my children to miss out on all the worldly things I want for them, I will still love You, serve You, worship You, tell others about You, live for You and bless Your name.  I have nowhere else to go than to love and serve You, even if my natural life is destroyed in the process.  So I make myself a living sacrifice and I lay my life at Your feet, for Your glory.  Do with me as You choose.”

Confront Your Fears

What are the things that bring the chill finger of fear into your heart?  What are you most afraid of when it comes to yielding to God?  Identify those things and be ready to tackle them head on.

In my present situation my family is homeless because I have yielded to what I believe God wants me to do in tacking bank fraud and injustice in the courts.  I am completely powerless to defeat those evils and I totally rely on God doing a miracle to bring us through.

It’s not a nice place to be in many ways and it challenges me on many fronts.  Yet I can only trust God.  I have nowhere else to go.  I will not worship anyone but Him.  And there are people who think I am crazy for what I am doing.  And maybe I am.

But I am determined to live what I preach.  I am determined to trust God when there is no visible hope and nothing I can do to save myself.  If the bank has its way they will sell my home for less than it is worth and come after me for unjust claims.  The courts continue to frustrate my claims for justice.  I am undone.

But God is still God.  It is still true that the most important thing we can do is have faith in Him.  It is still true that He is on the throne and that He rewards those who determine to seek Him.

So I am living the things I write here.  And I am enjoying God’s preservation and grace even in this stretching time.

But even if God decides to let me be squashed and financially destroyed by the bank, what else can I do but trust Him? I will not give in to fraud and injustice, treason and corruption.  So I must look to God and rely only upon Him.

I encourage you to address your fears and to cross the hurdles that hold you back from being totally yielded to God.

Why I Expect God to Bless Me

Why should God bless you or me?  We look to God for His blessings and when we do others may question our right to do so.

That’s why I like to remind myself from time to time of where I stand before God and on what basis I look to Him for His blessing in my life.

You may find the following summary of those thoughts helpful as you struggle with your own worthiness to receive from God throughout your Christian life.

Totally Unqualified for Blessings

I do not deserve any blessing or favours from God.

My lack of discipline, selfishness, fleshly weaknesses, compromise, lack of spiritual commitment and so much more completely disqualify me for any blessings from God.

I have not fasted enough, prayed enough, given enough, sacrificed enough, died to self enough, served God enough, or done anything else enough to gain one iota of favour or blessing from God.

I am unqualified for on-going grace from God.

Saving Grace

I am as unqualified for on-going grace from God as I was to receive the sacrificial grace of Jesus Christ that brought me salvation, forgiveness of my sins, adoption into God’s family as a Son of God, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, grace to be useful in God’s kingdom, victory over Satan and eternal spiritual blessings.

Yet despite my total lack of any qualification for that grace, as a sinner with nothing to recommend me for the total abolition of my sin and the complete cleansing and newness that Christ gives, my hopelessness did not prohibit me from receiving that wonderful grace.

And so too in this situation, my uselessness, weakness, fleshly compromise, lack of discipline, etc, fail to disqualify me for the amazing and abundant blessings of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

I Ask for Miracles

So I ask for miracles and I expect miraculous blessings others would not dare ask for.  I do so, not on the basis of any capacity I have to deserve them or qualify for them, but on the basis of God’s desire to give them to me and His provision of them through the sacrifice of Christ.

When I reach out for them, on the basis of faith alone, I touch the very heart of God’s plan for my salvation, that I would receive all He has provided for me through faith in Christ.