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Inspiration

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Love of family inspires many an addict to get clean. Protection of freedom inspires men and women to risk their lives for those they’ve never met. Longing for greatness inspires athletes to accomplish feats that seem impossible. Desire for control inspires people to keep their composure amid scenes so ugly as genocide. Inspiration comes in many forms, fueling wondrous things.

But only one person willingly left heaven itself to endure perpetual isolation and mockery that was finished off with a slaughter that caused his greatest love to turn away from him in disgust, answering for unspeakable crimes he did not commit. You and I are called to be like this Jesus, who puts the rest of human accomplishments to shame. So suddenly, our bright worldly inspirations begin to fade by comparison. As we live and as we counsel, we’re heading in a direction so impossible that our traditional inspirations just aren’t going to be enough.

We live in a self-focused, therapeutic culture. You and I are by nature self-focused, therapeutic people. It’s not culture bleeding in. It’s our own human natures bleeding out. We walk into biblical counsel from a world of lesser inspirations: Picture yourself on that pedestal. Tell yourself, “I’m in control this moment. I am a strong person.” Interpret your anxiety as caring. Re-write your story to a more positive story. What would your future self say if they saw you do this? You could lose your family. You could lose your job. Pull yourself up, and get your act together. Other people have it worse. You’re being ridiculous. Everything’s just going to work out. Sometimes these thoughts are conscious. Sometimes we just default to them without thinking about it.

Let’s be honest. These inspirations are enough for human endeavors. They actually work, or they wouldn’t be practiced. If our goal is merely human, we needn’t look any further. So does that indict our goals as counselors at times? It think so. Our bull’s eye is not cleaner looking people with easier circumstances who are happier and more in control of things. Our bull’s eye is people who are utterly enamored with God and consider God Himself to literally be better than anything else in existence. This is a superhuman goal, and our former inspirations will not cut it.

It’s important to ask ourselves, “What inspires Jesus’s superhuman life?” We could look to a favorite scripture of mine in Hebrews 12:2 that tells us He was fixated on the joy set before Him (the Father). Or we could look at how often He lifts up and pours over His Father like a broken record, both publically and privately. Seemingly every word and action exposes Jesus’s delight in the Father.

There’s more to unpack and expound next week, but for now, let’s just land on this statement: If truly seeing the glory of God is not enough to inspire a changed heart, nothing ever will be.

Posted by Matt Norman with

Detail

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Redemption is as easy as making your way from Kwakoegron, Suriname to Paramaribo. Got it? OK, good!

That’s what counsel can sound like when we don’t go into detail. I have no idea where I am, where I’m going, or how to get there. What’s the first thing you did when you read that? You probably looked it up on Google Maps. This is the “big picture.” Is that even a country? What continent is it in? What countries is it beside?

Suppose that you were actually taking this trip, though. What is the second thing you do? You look up directions. Am I walking, driving, or taking public transit? Where do I rent a car? How much money do I have? When do the trains leave? What is my first turn? You go into extreme, ground-level detail.

We develop a toxic culture when we don’t live in the details. We live on words like “repent, love, mission, pray, and idol”, but they really only conjure up fuzzy notions. We quote without laboring, and underneath the façade of smooth words, we often have little to offer. May God rescue me from this! And you as well.

We, ourselves, have to first learn what it really looks like to overcome strong, real idolatrous desires in the heat of the moment by savoring a spotless God willingly slaughtered for criminals who belittled Him. We must learn by practice what it looks like to catch ourselves in godless, envious, angry thought (when nobody’s looking), to run to God quickly, and to savor something real about who He is. We do this right this moment and then again 30 seconds from now.

Detail is the bread and butter of counsel:

  • Why am I anxious and depressed right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • Why am I so angry right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • Why am I longing for television right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • Why am I obsessed with food right now? Who is God, and what is He like?
  • What changes tomorrow because of this passage of scripture?
  • What does it look, feel, smell, and taste like for God to be:
    • Patient, faithful, invasive, just, compassionate, a groom, a father, a shepherd, etc?
  • What can I give up to have more time to think on and enjoy God?
  • Who will I enjoy God with? What time will I do it and where?
  • What is my plan for when I know this sinful desire will probably try to trip me up?

The narratives, prophecies, psalms, gospels, and epistles of scripture provide no shortage of vivid, hands-on detail when talking about God, mankind, and redemption. Following the example of scripture, always be looking to go further with what something really looks likein mundane life. Unless we go there, not only are those we’re counseling probably bewildered, but we might be as well and not even know it. Detail is a keen gut check for our own living, and it’s essential for those we’re helping.

Posted by Matt Norman with

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