Welcome! I hope you enjoy reading my blog, and I invite you to share your responses with other readers. Comments that use abusive or vulgar language will be removed. Otherwise, you are free to agree or disagree. May God richly bless you today and always! ~ Dr. Susan
|Posted by mercycounseling on May 31, 2018 at 1:20 PM||comments (0)|
I frequently counsel individuals who express an inability to forgive themselves or others. Typically, I hear them say, “I can’t forgive (them or myself).” Yet God’s Word is full of the commandment to forgive. In the King James translation of the Holy Bible, I made note of the following number of occurrences of the various forms of the word forgive (see Strong’s Concordance):
Total mentions: 120
Clearly the topic of forgiving is an important concept from God, and the topic is fairly evenly distributed between Old and New Testament. Here is a sampling of the definitions given for various Greek (G) and Hebrew (H) words translated to some form of forgive:
863-G-to send forth-forgive
3722-H-cancel, pardon, purge, reconcile
5375-H-carry away, ease, forgive, pardon, spare
5483-G-pardon, freely give
5545-H-forgive, pardon, spare
While we may cast about to find an appropriate meaning of the word “forgive” for ourselves, the scriptures provide a rich enlargement of our understanding, especially in the idea of “carrying away,” “pardon,” “send forth,“ “purge,” and “spare.” Those are the words that describe what forgiving looks like in action.
At the heart of the phrase, “I can’t forgive” is a lie that people tell themselves. The lie attempts to cover up the truth, which is “I won’t.” You see, we humans never lose our God-given free will; we always have a choice regarding the action we will take.
Here’s another lie people tell themselves about forgiving, “I just feel….” To forgive or not does not come from a feeling. As a matter of will, it is a function of the mind that leads to action.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him to tell them how to pray, He included this verse in what we call the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus is telling us to ask God to forgive our debts (trespasses, sins) in the same way we forgive others. (Matthew 6:12) The implication is that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven by God. This is further borne up in Matthew 6:15 and Mark 11:26. But wait, the born-again believer will say, All our sins are forgiven and will not be counted against us. That also is true, yet Paul exhorts us not to use the grace of God as a foil for the liberty to continue sinning. The entire first chapter of Romans argues against continuing in sin after receiving the grace of salvation. Summarizing the whole text, Paul declares:
“15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16)
So why is it so hard to forgive?
Because the world tells us we have “rights,” and we want those who wrong us to pay. In this way we set ourselves up as prosecutor, judge, and jury to decide the charges, verdict, punishment, and restitution required. In doing so we usurp the role God reserves for Himself alone. Here are some scriptures to support this contention:
Romans 12:19: Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Matthew 7:2: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Finding your way to forgiving requires you to give up your right to judge against the one who wronged you. This goes against every fleshly desire, but it is not a fleshly issue. Forgiving is a spiritual gift given in obedience to the will of God.
When you forgive the one who wronged you, their wrongdoing no longer has a hold on you. So let God do the judging—it is His job. Then you can rest in His peace.
|Posted by mercycounseling on May 30, 2018 at 8:45 AM||comments (0)|
Once again the bogus assertion that Jesus was married and fathered children has been raised, this time by BibleStudyTools.com, not because the writer believes it to be true, but to try to tell us why, if true, it doesn't really matter. The author goes on to repeat that, if Jesus were a husband and father, he would have been a good one. When you speculate the "what ifs" that stem from a lie, you still have a lie, and a bunch of lies! It makes no difference "what if;" the assertion itself is fallacious.
The author recounts the story of how, in 2012, "when an eminent Harvard University scholar and historian of early Christianity named Karen L. King presented at a conference in Rome a scrap of papyrus. The postage stamp-size relic was said to be 1,300 years old and bore the words, in the ancient Coptic language, 'Jesus said to them, My wife.' The fragment came from an anonymous collector," (as reported in the Chicago Tribune).
This "postage-stamp sized relic" has been called by some, "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." We're talking about six words on a scrap of papyrus that was purportedly written some 600 years after the last of the canonical Gospels. The scrap and the words are completely free of any context, and offer no real evidence of anything. But humans love to find "evidence" to prove their preconceived notions rather than trusting the Word of God. Proponents of the idea have latched on to the totally fictional idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had children with her. (This fiction is told in the book "The Davinci Code," and must I remind you, that book is entirely a work of fiction!
The Bible Study Tools article doesn't even address the obvious error of claiming a new gospel; the author just tries to tell us why, if true, it's no reason for alarm. That is Satan's way, my friend, to try to cause us to believe a lie by appealing to our emotions through a gentle softening of the facts. He is quite sly. So be careful what you believe!
If Jesus had been married, would God not have told us about it in His Word? He didn't, because it didn't happen. I suggest to you that the Son of God would not have taken a human wife, because that was not His mission. Throughout the Bible, the mission of Jesus was "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10) and "because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me" (John 5:30).
Here is the focus of God's will--the focus for which Jesus gave His life: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
"The truth shall make you free" is a very popular quote, usually taken out of context. In context, it reads like this:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
IF you abide (continue to believe) in His Word (the Holy Bible), THEN you are really His disciples. And ONLY THEN will you know the truth that will set you free.
Steer clear of the Devil's lies.
|Posted by mercycounseling on May 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
Have you ever been described as "driven?" Or have you ever felt driven to behave in a certain way? For example, some people seem to be driven to achieve, some seem to be driven to flee conflict. Some are driven to be alone, while others are driven to seek social interaction. Have you ever wondered why this is?
There are many factors that influence the behaivor of an individual, including all the experiences of life, how they were brought up, and concepts incorporated as values. Yet no one is born as a blank slate. There is something evident in every baby born that shows there is a first cause of human behavior. Is it genetic?
That first cause has never been correlated with any specific biological gene or set of genes, nor proven to be hereditary.
The first cause of human behavior is temperament, given at conception by Almighty God. We are born with it because God determined in His infinite knowledge the type of person we should be, according to His will, and for the purpose of finding our perfect place in His kingdom.
For several millenia, researchers have sought to understand human temperament; and many systems of thought have sought to associate certain behaviors with certain temperaments, with some success. However, we now know that two people may seem to be driven to the same behavior, but the underlying motivations are different for each; thus, their temperaments are not the same, even if they behave very much alike in certain areas. It was not until Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno perfected what is known as the Arno Profile System that there has been a systematic way to capture and analyze the underlying drivers of human behavior--that is, to explain not only the "what" but also the "why" behind the way people perceive themselves, others, and the world around them, how this affects their behavior, and what temperament "type" they were born with.
The information gained through temperament analysis can help you understand yourself at your core in ways you may never have recognized before. An understanding of your inborn temperament has the power to transform you and is second only to the transforming power of salvation by Jesus Christ. Both are within your reach.
Mercy Christian Counseling Ministries provides Temperament Analysis and counseling to equip you with this life-changing knowledge. In-person and online appointments are available. Call Dr. Susan at 240-520-2713.
|Posted by mercycounseling on April 7, 2018 at 9:35 AM||comments (0)|
EASTER IS OVER, SO NOW WHAT?
The Easter baskets are back in storage, DVDs back on the shelf. The chocolates and marshmallow peeps and egg hunts once again a memory, along with hams and family traditions. Photographs have been admired and shared. People turn from the hype of Easter and focus on the Next Big Event. Even the churches quickly change vestments looking forward to the next Sacred Season.
The day that Easter is supposed to commemorate is the greatest day in all of human history: Resurrection Day--the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead to reconcile sinful humankind to their Holy God.
So why is it that when the modern Eastern celebration hoopla dies down, nothing has changed? Because change cannot come from without; it must come from within.
It must come from within, because this is where God operates to bring about lasting, healing change. He does this by the work of the Holy Spirit, whose purpose is:
To “convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8 ). It is by the working of the Holy Spirit that we feel the weight of our wrongdoings and realize that the only way to be free is to repent and confess our sins to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
To save us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). When we repent and ask Jesus to be our Savior, in that very moment we are regenerated into a new being and our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. We gain eternal life.
To live in us. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The spirit of God literally takes up residence within us, to be our helper.
To give us the power and ability to serve Christ. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8 ).
For the saved (born again) person, Easter, or more accurately, the Resurrection, should be lived out on a daily basis through the power of the Holy Spirit living within us.
For the unsaved, Easter, Resurrection Day, should be a clarion call to self-examination and the realization that life without God is nothing but a terrible weight of vanity.
The Lord Jesus Christ did not live, suffer, die, and rise again for nothing.
He did it for us.
He calls now.
“Now what” depends on your response.
|Posted by mercycounseling on March 23, 2018 at 12:25 AM||comments (0)|
For those who are brave enough to pursue optimal wellness with an open mind, there are many spiritual, intellectual, lifestyle, dietary, and therapeutic disciplines available. This is what makes holistic wellness such an exciting pursuit! I call this pursuit, “The Courage to Live,” because one is not afraid to step outside the conventions of western medicine to tailor for oneself a truly individualized health and wellness program.
A few of the modalities you can mix and match (in no particular order):
Licensed Nutritionist Counseling
Natural Health Education and Practices
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Bach Flower Remedies
Internal Cleansing Protocols
And a host of others …
It’s important to note here that many of the alternative therapies do not mesh well with conventional, state-licensed medical practices, because your licensed health-care provider may be ignorant of, if not downright hostile to, many of these. And rightly so. The licensed physician has established protocols that must be followed to avoid placing their license in jeopardy. They must stick with their training. Likewise, an unlicensed, alternative health care educator and provider must not stray into the realm of diagnosis and treatment, which are reserved to the licensed medical practitioners.
You, the health-care consumer, also have responsibilities. If you choose a regimen that combines elements of both conventional and alternative medicine, be sure that all your health providers are fully informed of your choices so that they can help advise you on any red-flag items. For example, if you take prescription medications, you must be cautious about drug/herb/supplement interactions and may need expert counsel to keep from harming yourself.
As a natural health practitioner, I recognize that conventional medical intervention is sometimes necessary--broken bones and serious chronic diseases are good examples. Cancer is another. However, you have a right to choose the path you will take in addressing your health concerns. Every one of the alternative modalities mentioned in the list above may be beneficial at various times throughout your optimal wellness journey. You should take steps to educate yourself to understand at least the rudiments of the pros and cons of the modalities you are interested in.
The reason I have been pursuing a doctorate in Natural Health Practices is because I believe that conventional medicine does more harm than good for the majority of people. I say that because of the heavy reliance on pharmaceutical drugs to treat symptoms rather than a focused plan to understand the systemic issues behind those symptoms and return the body to a healthy, balanced state.
I believe your optimal wellness will be found when you take responsibility for your health journey and look outside the conventional box. Are you ready to do the work necessary? If so, contact me for more information and an educational plan to tackle the challenge.
|Posted by mercycounseling on February 5, 2018 at 7:05 AM||comments (0)|
Recently I heard a radio evangelist explain that the reason we don’t love as we should is because we’re “broken.” As I pondered this for a moment, I realized that I just don’t agree with that, not for Christians, anyway.
I think such a statement denies the power of God and the regenerating grace of Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the scriptures tell us: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
The false doctrine of continued brokenness for Christians does nothing but keep people in bondage! It is a lie that steals hope at its best, and at its worst excuses people of their sin. We don’t need to excuse ourselves of our sins by false teachings like this. Our sin is forgiven by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and when we receive Him as Savior, “all things become new.”
So let’s not deceive ourselves with the doctrine of brokenness. The sins we commit following salvation are due to the choices we make to be disobedient to the Lord. Learning to walk in agreement with the Spirit is a continual work of sanctification begun at the point of salvation. We are like little children who first learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, then run. Gaining spiritual maturity requires the same kind of drive. Yes, we will stumble – often – but not because we’re broken, only because we are not yet perfected. I think there’s a big difference.
It’s time for Christians to take full responsibility for their choices—choices that leave many with depression, broken marriages, and a whole host of other evidences of wrong thinking. It’s time to trust all of scripture with its lessons and promises and live according to this truth.
And so I reflect back to myself, even more than to you, as a reminder to all of us, these words from 1 Peter 2:1-2:
“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”
To the unsaved person, I say, to those who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior: you ARE broken due to the fall of man. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit (given at salvation), there is nothing you can do to please God but are trapped in the bondage of sin. Freedom is found in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe!
But to the saved, I say again: To continue to accept the doctrine of brokenness is to deny the power of God and the grace of regeneration given by Jesus Christ. You are NOT broken. The power of Almighty God given by the Holy Spirit dwells in you to provide the strength and stamina to pursue the road of sanctification. So “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Peace to all.
|Posted by mercycounseling on January 15, 2018 at 1:35 PM||comments (0)|
There is a great problem in the American-style incorporated "church." I put church in quotes because much of the situation is as far from being a "called out assembly" as can be. The vast majority of Americans who attend church are going to a building to sit in theater-style seats to watch a show; and more often than not, there is one man who exercises authority over how that show will be operated.
I submit to you that ministers of the gospel were never meant to be held up as sole authority figures within a fellowship of believers. Jesus told his 12 disciples that they were to be SERVANTS, not masters. Two of the gospel writers recount the story of the mother of the sons of Zebedee approaching Christ to request that her sons sit at His right and left hand. Jesus told her he could not give that assurance. The story continues as follows:
"And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:24-28. See also Mark 10:41-43)
Too often, I have seen pastors act as though the people were in "his church," and exercising authority that leaves the people in bondage--what to wear, how to look, what to think, even which Bible is mandatory. This kind of control was never intended by the Lord. Ministers are there to serve the people and not the other way around.
Let's expand this now to the fellowship of believers. The Bible says we are ALL "sufficient as ministers" (NKJV) or variously reads "able ministers" (KJV). If able ministers, then we do not need a pastor to lord it over us and make up a bunch of rules to live by.
The corporate church is a place where only a very few people have an opportunity to share their spiritual gifts while the rest can do nothing more than watch. Why? Because the American model of bigger is better cannot accommodate the effectual sharing of all gifts and talents. (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12)
I believe we are seeing an exodus from the corporate church because of these things. People hunger for a place where they can have fellowship with other believers. The notion that sitting in a pew or chair for an hour a week is fellowship is false. To have fellowship only comes through relationships, and the corporate church with its master pastor is too large for this to happen.
What if pastors lay aside their crown and became facilitators instead? Websters defines facilitator as "someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision." What if the pastor-turned-facilitator stepped down from the platform and instead encouraged others to give a message? What if that same pastor/facilitator abandoned the notion of the unwieldy large congregation and instead worked within smaller groups to facilitate a worship experience that was spontaneous wherein every member could share something and where the pastor/facilitator did not choose to be the center of attention? What if the outcome desired was to truly develop the spiritual maturity of each believer and see them blossom into a facilitator themselves?
Friends, this is the model of the early church as found in the Book of Acts, where members of the church were said to "have all things in common."
It's the kind of assembly I'm looking for. In fact, I would love to be a pastor/facilitator. But only to the Glory of God!
|Posted by mercycounseling on January 14, 2018 at 9:30 AM||comments (0)|
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth,who have set your glory above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)
Have you ever experienced spontaneous worship? It's a sudden lifting of the soul in praise and gratitude to God for Who He Is, and all that He is doing or has done. It can't be willed; rather I believe it occurs when a connection is made between our spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It's so easy to fake worship and go through the motions; to put on piety for the benefit of being seen. But God is not fooled by this. In Matthew 15:8 the scriptures prove that God sees: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me."
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24) No one but you and God will really know when your worship is done in spirit and truth. But you will know because the moments of joy you experience will be undeniable. There is such sweet freedom in this experience!
It's time to take your relationship deeper with Jesus Christ. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8) Then you will experience the joy of spontaneous worship!
|Posted by mercycounseling on November 22, 2017 at 7:50 AM||comments (0)|
The power of the mind is beyond the knowledge of most individuals. No doubt you've heard of the power of positive thinking. What you tell yourself IS important. But to be of benefit it is not enough to just think positive thoughts. They must be grounded in TRUTH, specifically, the truth of God's Word. Your own thinking has the power to change your day-to-day reality, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
Did you know that what you choose to think about alters the physical landscape of your brain which in turn affects every cell in your body? When you rehearse negative thoughts, memories, and experiences over and over, you reinforce negativity, contract your cellular DNA, and set up tension throughout the body. Stress is a leading cause of all sorts of degenerative diseases. The very real effect is that you make yourself sick.
But when you choose to mindfully reject the thoughts that make you feel a host of negative emotions and replace these thoughts with purposeful, helpful thoughts that place life in perspective, and when you choose an attitude of thankfulness, you begin to erase the actual negative landscape in your brain, your DNA relaxes, and the body responds by building physical and mental health.
The two key principles that make all this possible are:
1) You must make your mind conform to the truth that God offers.
2) You must choose life.
Key Word: Choose. Your free will means you can choose every moment what your life will be.
"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days" (Deut. 30:19-20).
|Posted by mercycounseling on September 23, 2017 at 5:25 AM||comments (0)|
The number of people seeking help for anxiety is rising rapidly! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment."
Now if you think about it, isn't it amazing that there even IS such an association? This, and the fact that I see through referrals the numbers of people affected, convinces me that it's a very real problem.
Anxiety is basically a fear of the future or of the unknown. The human brain is wired to scan the environment for danger all the time, and the anxiety response is like having this brain center on overload, which hampers the ability to reason. Such people are prisoners of their own survival instincts and of the subsequent faulty thinking processes. But it need not be this way.
Since anxiety is a fear response, it's important to consider that this may be happening:
Granted, these fears are usually based on a counselee's past experiences in life. Much like in PTSD, symptoms occur in response to a stimulus that resembles a previous experience. Therefore, it is important to help the person accurately evaluate both the current and past situations.
If you suffer from anxiety, there are some steps you can take to help yourself:
- If you are a person of faith, you simply must tap into the strength it provides. Believing in an ordered universe and a benevolent Creator will take much of the fear factor out of life.
- Evaluate the pace at which you are living.
- If you are zooming from one activity to the next and constantly under pressure, you need to get that under control. Some things you simply must say "no" to. Set your boundaries so that you can attend to your own needs. It doesn't do any good to wear yourself down to the point that you become dysfunctional. See a Temperament Counselor (like me!) to help you strategize.
- On the other hand, if you are so frozen that you are hyperreflective (that is, you are constantly inside your own head rehearsing your fears over and over), you need to take action to get outside your head by engaging in another activity to occupy your mind.
- Try a 5-minute breathing meditation, which can be done anytime anxiety begins to rise. Sit comfortably in a chair and focus your mind on your breathing. In, out, slowly; in, out, in, out. If your mind wanders, refocus on the breathing, feeling your abdomen rise and fall. Slowly, please. Yoga is one of the best anti-anxiety activities you can do because it forces you to concentrate on your body, rather than engaging in hyperreflection.
- Avoid stimulants, like caffeine. You may have a longstanding habit and think it doesn't affect you, but you'll be amazed how much calmer you will feel after several days without it. Drink more plain water while you are weaning off caffeine.
- Avoid sugar, as this causes an inflammatory response in the body which leads to more stress and makes it hard to sleep.
- Take long walks with a friend, and concentrate on the friend, rather than yourself. This will also get you outside your own head.
- Evaluate your thinking, and you must be brutally honest with yourself. Make a list of the "what ifs" and then ask yourself how likely it is that any of your fears will actually happen. Remember, anxiety is an automatic response to perceived danger to life, status, or ego. If your life itself is not phyiscally in danger, then you must evaluate what the perceived threat would mean to your life if it came true. There is this thing called "general anxiety disorder," but I don't buy it. Fear is based on something. You must figure out what and why.
- Consider carefully before you begin taking anti-anxiety medications. Do you really want to be hooked on them, or would you rather find a natural means for managing your own stress? It's easier to take a pill than to take responsibility for your own thinking, but you will not resolve anything if taking the pill is all you do.
- See a counselor, who will help you through this whole process.