You could experience a baker’s dozen of serious issues layered one on top of another. Financial pressures. Health pressures. Relationship pressures. Spiritual warfare pressures. The pressure of unthinkable grief or cruel pain. It will not crush you if you believe Christ is in it. All that matters is knowing Jesus is walking in the fiery furnace with you. The pain may feel white-hot, but be encouraged—his “peace like a river” is able to quench every anxiety and fear.
It Is Well
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul!
It is well with my soul;
It is well, it is well with my soul!
—Horatio Spafford (1876)
He Is Enough
When Paul spoke of being hard-pressed on every side, he wasn’t speaking lightly. He wasn’t saying, Whew, things were a little tough for a while. He was describing pain that was so oppressive that he “despaired of life itself ” (2 Cor. 1:8). How in the same sentence can Paul be pressed in like that, yet not be crushed? Nancy Severns knows the answer. She has been bedridden for five years with pain from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a debilitating disorder that affects her entire body, inside and out—her ribs even slip out of place! When all feels torturous, Nancy slowly inhales and calmly acknowledges the pain. She then enters it much like the three Hebrews entering Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. There in the middle of hellish, white-hot agony, she finds the Son of God. And she feels his protective embrace.
I do the same thing. When the fangs of pain sink into my hips and lower back, it’s a signal to begin deep breathing. I then walk into the pain and hold it near me, even have a conversation with it. I don’t fret and say, This is killing me, or, I can’t stand this, or Oh, no, not again! Words like that are fraught with anxiety, and we all know that fear only exacerbates the problem. Instead, like Nancy, I serenely acknowledge the pain and allow it to press me in on all sides, and then I take one more step of faith.
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By Shelby Abbott — 9 months ago
Let’s not celebrate doubts and allow them to loiter in our hearts—but let’s not be afraid of them either. John the Baptist was bold enough to dispatch his disciples to pose a pointed, doubt-filled question to the second person of the Trinity. His question is an example of someone who took the fight to his doubt instead of allowing it to quietly linger and consume him.
Doubting Thomas gets most of the press, but for me, John the Baptist is a more compelling New Testament example of a doubter.
He was a godly man whom Scripture identifies as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23; cf. Isa. 40:3), because he was the precursor to the Messiah.
At one point, John directed his own disciples to stop following him and instead follow Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
He obviously believed, right? I mean, he made it clear to those who asked: he was not the Messiah (John 1:20) and Jesus was.
As an unborn baby, John the Baptist leaped inside his mother’s womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41). He even got to hear the voice of God the Father and see the heavens opened as the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus after John baptized him in the Jordan River (Matt. 3:13–17).
That’s right—John heard God’s voice thunder, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Pretty compelling proof that Jesus was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah.
In light of all this evidence, you’d think John would’ve never doubted that Jesus was who he claimed to be.
But John had his doubts.
Even John Wasn’t Sure
Near the end of his life, John was in prison facing imminent death. He called two of his disciples and requested that they go to Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19). John was essentially saying, “I think I believe you’re the Messiah, but in this moment, I’m not 100 percent sure.”
By Rodney Andersen — 2 months ago
We’re to follow the example of Christ, guarding our minds against the allure of victimhood mentality and reminding ourselves of the absolute truths Scripture holds. Having the victim mindset is one of the empty deceptions that can overtake Christians– it aligns with our fleshly desire toward selfishness and justifying our own sin. Don’t be taken captive by this way of thinking. Instead, trust the Lord and maintain your focus on Christ and the good news of the gospel. Rejoice that you have been saved, you are being sanctified, you serve the Judge of the universe who will make all things right in the end, and pray with compassion for those who sin against you.
In his letter to the Colossian believers, Paul recognized the danger that false teaching presented to the church. After normal greetings and summaries, Paul launches a new section in Colossians 2:8 where he gives them a strong warning.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
In this passage, Paul warns them, saying that certain ways of thinking are hollow and will deceive you, warning them against being held captive in these worldly ways and cheap tricks. This warning to the Colossian church is just as relevant to us today as it was then. There are numerous empty and deceptive ideas today that can capture our thinking. One of these dangerous lies that we hear today is this: “You are a victim.”
As with most of the lies that we hear, it is a perversion of something that is true. There are real victims in this world, and there are abusers who harm others physically, emotionally, or financially. That is a reality in this fallen world and a sin that God hates.
The Lord speaks out against oppression in Zachariah 7:9-10, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor, and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” God commands all people not to oppress, harm, or abuse others. Nowhere in Scripture are these kinds of actions justified. If you are a victim and need to get out of a situation of abuse, seek counsel from an elder or pastor in your church.
On the other hand, there is a sinful and harmful thinking regarding victimhood that does not correspond to biblical truth. This is often known as the victim mentality.
The Victim Mentality Defined
What is the victim mentality? A victim mindset usually includes three types of thinking:
First, the bad things in your life are not your fault, but exclusively because of what other people have done to you. This mindset maintains that you are not responsible for your own actions and attitudes.
Second, a victim mentality also includes getting stuck in negative thought patterns. If you play the victim, you may be characterized by a “woe is me” kind of self-pity.
Third, the victim mentality sees the world through the lens of your own struggles. All the events of your life are orchestrated against you. Whatever happens in the world or in your circumstances, the victim mentality sees those circumstances as directed against yourself.
Victim mentality is a type of thinking that you must avoid, believing you can blame others for every problem, insisting you deserve better, and seeing the world only in relation to yourself.
What you must recognize is that you can be true victim and not have a victim mentality. You are not required to have this destructive thinking, even if you have been mistreated.
It is also true that you can have a victim mentality even if you are not a victim. Many claim victimhood because they “feel” like a victim, yet how one feels is not the measure of truth. We live in a postmodern psychologized age where “truth” is completely based upon individual definition and feeling. “Well, I feel like I’m a victim, therefore I must be a victim. My feelings mean that I am a victim.” Feelings today are elevated to truth. It’s the truth because I feel that way.
We must remember what scripture says about our feelings and whether we should trust them or not. Jeremiah 17:9-10 reminds us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind. Even to give each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
We see here the idea that if our feelings are not to be ultimately trusted, victimhood is not something that we can claim just because we might feel that way. The issue then is not even whether you’re a victim or not, but if you have a victim mentality. It’s a matter of mindset.
This is the earthly thinking, the philosophy, the empty deception that the world is promoting: blame others, have a perpetually negative attitude, and think everything is about you. This victim mentality doesn’t sound very appealing at all, but it’s surprisingly attractive in many ways.
The Allure of the Victim Mentality
Why is the victim mentality so alluring?
First, if you believe you are a victim, you are not responsible. If there is something wrong in your marriage, it’s not your fault, it’s your spouse’s fault. If there’s something wrong with your kids, it wasn’t your parenting, it’s the kids’ fault. A victim mentality is attractive in this way: you can feel better about yourself because you’re not the one to blame. You aren’t responsible.
Secondly, those in pain and suffering receive pity from others. It is natural for people to take pity on those who have been victimized. People want to come alongside and help those who have suffered unjustly. There is real suffering in this world, and especially as those who follow Christ, we should show compassion for those who are in pain. That’s why this mindset is so deceptive. When you play the victim, when you indulge in the victim mentality, your motivation may be to receive compassion and attention from others.
Third, victims have a perceived right to complain. The mindset that the world is against you makes it justifiable to air your grievances, to shout from the rooftops all that has happened to you. It makes the victimhood mentality attractive because you feel you have not just an excuse, but a right to complain.
Fourth, victimhood can come with a sense of belonging. You can bond with others who have a common “foe.” If there’s someone else out there that is horrible or evil and all the victims are in the same boat, that brings a sense of community. That feeling of belonging is seductive, but entirely false and deceptive.
By Howie Donahoe — 1 year ago
The question of whether an indictment should be brought for an offense committed in the distant past, is, and should be, a matter of judgment and discretion for the original court — regardless of whether the offense was personal or general, private or public (BCO 29). Granted, the court might decide that commencing process for an alleged offense in the distant past would be unfair to the accused (for various reasons) or even too challenging for effective prosecution.
This article provides seven brief reasons why the 48th General Assembly’s recommendation is wise, and why Presbyteries should vote to approve the proposed revision to BCO 32-20.
At the July 2021 PCA GA in St. Louis, the Overtures Committee voted 95-22 to recommend the GA approve a revision to BCO 32-20 (below). The Assembly, which may have been divided on many other votes, overwhelmingly approved this recommendation on a simple, hands-raised vote.
Proposed New BCO 32-20. The accused or a member of the court may object to the consideration of a charge, for example, if he thinks the passage of time since the alleged offense makes fair adjudication unachievable. The court should consider factors such as the gravity of the alleged offense as well as what degradations of evidence and memory may have occurred in the intervening period.
Before giving reasons why the proposed revision should be adopted, we note a September 7 article in The Aquila Report misquoted the above text of the GA’s proposed revision. It quoted the original Overture instead of the amended text adopted by the GA. The misquote included a different and additional first sentence, which was deleted by the GA.
Below are a some of the many reasons to approve the revision, a few of which were included in the original Overture.
Expeditious judicial process is important, especially in a case of public scandal. Nothing in the proposed revision would hinder or delay process. In fact, it could expedite it.
The current version of BCO 32-20 prohibits judicial process against a scandalous offender if process doesn’t commence within a year of the alleged offence. While that might encourage expeditious process, it has a huge downside. If the cause of Christ is jeopardized by the Church’s neglect of timely discipline, how would disallowing prosecution on day 366 repair the matter? The scandal would continue, unabated. And one might even argue, from our current BCO 32-20, that a higher court could not institute process in a case of scandal after a year has passed if the original, lower court declined to do so within that year.
The current wording of BCO 32-20 might even be used to shield a child abuser. For example, if a person alleges a church officer abused them two years ago, the accused might claim BCO 32-20 shields him from prosecution, contending that because the alleged offense occurred two years ago, and was not publicly known (not a case of scandal), and has not “recently become flagrant,” the current BCO 32-20 disallows prosecution in the PCA.
The two SJC Decisions cited in the September 7 article did not involve cases of scandal. Each involved ministers seeking to get convictions dismissed, partly on the grounds that the alleged offenses occurred more than one year in the past. In other words, they essentially argued for a hard one-year statute of limitations for all offenses. Surely that’s not the biblical view, and if that’s the way BCO 32-20 is being interpreted, then it warrants revision. It was probably an overstatement for the September 7 article to contend: “The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) found the present wording in BCO 32-20 useful in deciding a number of recent cases.” Sometimes, the SJC is compelled to rule a certain way based on a poorly written BCO paragraph. Neither of the cited SJC Decisions should automatically be interpreted as the SJC regarding BCO 32-20 as being well-written or “useful.”
Three items from the September 7 article warrant brief comment. First, it implied the 2021 Assembly approved the revision hastily, late into the night. But Overture 22 was filed and published online in March 2019, so St. Louis GA Commissioners had over two years to consider and discuss it. In fact, the overturing Presbytery revised it after such discussions in 2019 and 2020. Second, the article contends the GA’s recommended revision, “leaves the question of what constitutes a timely matter to uncertain whims of individual church courts resulting in differing actions based on undefined variables.” Such a statement mistakenly suggests that the bodies assigned by our Lord to the enormous task of judging guilt or innocence are somehow incapable of just judgment in such a lesser consideration. Finally, the September 7 article contends presbyteries should “vote down the proposed amendment and seek an amendment that better addresses the valid concerns raised in the original overture.” But the current, 140-year-old antiquated language in BCO 32-20 is so liable to misuse that it should be revised as soon as possible. If further refinements are needed, there’s ample opportunity to perfect the language with future overtures.
The question of whether an indictment should be brought for an offense committed in the distant past, is, and should be, a matter of judgment and discretion for the original court — regardless of whether the offense was personal or general, private or public (BCO 29). Granted, the court might decide that commencing process for an alleged offense in the distant past would be unfair to the accused (for various reasons) or even too challenging for effective prosecution. And the accused could raise that objection.
Finally, the St. Louis Overtures Committee had many ministers and elders experienced in matters related to BCO 32-20, including 10 members of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (i.e., 40% of the entire SJC, including all four of its Officers). If there had been procedural concerns with this revision, the SJC members certainly would have brought it to the attention of the OC, which they did not. The Overtures Committee approved the revision by an 81% majority.
It would be wise and prudent for Presbyteries to vote in favor of this proposed revision of BCO 32-20.
Howie Donahoe is a Ruling Elder in Boise Presbyterian Church, Boise, Idaho.