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Redemption Counseling – Shining God’s Glory into Our Darkest Depths

Who’s Tim Ward? This April, I left my ministry at Saylorville Church to join Redeemer Norwalk as a counseling director. I recently earned my biblical counseling certification through ACBC and have a Master of Divinity from Faith Baptist Theological Seminary.

What’s on my heart? When it comes to building a counseling ministry, this will be a first for me, but certainly not for the Spirit who lives within me, nor for the awesome God I behold. That’s the comforting truth I’m struck by tonight as I wrap up my first office hours at Redeemer Norwalk church. Every Monday from 5-8pm I’ll have counseling slots open for 50 minutes of free biblical counseling. First come, first serve. Let’s see lives changed for the glory of God, by the glory of God!

How does biblical counseling work? I think the old Sunday School answer of “Jesus!” is appropriate. Where we struggle is…okay? Jesus? How does that help me when I can’t stop doing what I hate? Galatians 3:5 says that God works miracles within us by hearing His Word by faith. Miracles? How? By hearing His Word and believing.

So, let’s say you’re with me so far, even if you only have marginal belief that God exists, and are not even 100% sure the Bible is trustworthy as His Word, where would you go to read it to solve your problems? That’s where counselors come in. God has trained us to know His Word well enough to point you to the answer He has provided.

In John 6:63, Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” In our struggle to not do what we hate, we’ve seen first hand that the “flesh” is no help at all. The “flesh” is that strength we try to flex when we’re not asking God for His strength. Jesus says this will not help you. In fact, Jeremiah 17 says this will lead to cursed living, as though you’re the lone bush in the middle of a desert. Instead, trust in God and be fed by His river of life. Listen to the Words Jesus has offered. They are Spirit and life. The life you need is found in His Word.

The challenge in biblical counseling is taking the problem we see and showing the power that God offers to overcome it. Jesus overcame his own death. He can help us overcome anything. That’s the power of the Gospel His death and resurrection created for us. Before He went to Heaven, He sent His Spirit to equip believers like me to share this power of God into the lives of those in need. I’ve seen God comfort me through terrible moments, and I’m overjoyed to see Him comfort others in the same way!

We’d love to have you visit during our office hours for more information. You can learn more on our Counseling Main Page.

In the meantime, here’s a sermon I gave recently on the God of all Comfort.

Justification Through The Resurrection

“It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Shortly before Paul began arguing to draw this point in Romans 4, he finished another point with these words: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This leaves us in a state of helplessness – not because of the number of good things we’ve done compared to the bad – but because we do the bad things, we fall short of Gods standard.

We are separated from him – from life. Our sin causes this. Every time we are selfish, every time we are greedy, every time we are dissatisfied, every time we are angry, every time we lie, every time we are proud – these are sins that no amount of good works can make up for. These are sins that God must convict us of, and sentence us for. Jesus came to earth to die on the cross to pay our sentence for us. Here’s the point: if he only died, but didn’t rise from the dead, then there would be no one to mediate between us and God, no one to apply Jesus’ work for us in heaven, and no way to know for sure that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough to help us. That’s why it says that Jesus was raised for our justification.

In the Old Testament, when someone sinned, they needed to bring an animal sacrifice to symbolically forgive their sin (not actually, because only Jesus’ sacrifice can actually forgive sin – all of the Old Testament sacrifices symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice that was coming in the future). If the animal was killed with no priest to apply the blood to the sinners and on the mercy seat, then the sins would never be forgiven. The sacrifice with no priest to apply its benefits is like making a withdrawal from your account to pay a bill, and then forgetting to send the payment. It’s like if I ask my son to get me something while I’m sitting at my kitchen table, and he just sets it on the floor within eyesight.

The resurrection applies the benefit of Christ’s work on the cross. It allows Jesus to take that work into the courts of heaven. There, God observes the complete and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus for the sinner’s punishment, hears the testimony of Jesus’ perfect obedience on the sinner’s behalf, and declares all who believe in the risen Christ to be forgiven from their sin.

Perhaps the thing that shakes us the most is shame and guilt – or fear of how past or future failures may hurt us. We are shaken by the ways we mess up. We are shaken by the possibility of someone else thinking we messed up. At times, our whole world crumbles when a memory from the past flashes into our mind, or when that one person gives you a sideward glance. The resurrection helps us, because we know that Jesus is alive and ascended to heaven at the Father’s right hand; because we know that he stands before God to plead our case even right now. We know that his arguments are simple: his sacrifice swallowed the guilt of our sin, and his righteousness clothes us perfectly to be with God. The Father now and forever will say to us, “No condemnation,” and “you are Loved, Holy, and Chosen,” and “Justified, now and forever.” The resurrection can build your faith into a mountain that can’t be shaken when the earthquakes of shame and guilt come.

A Few Key Points from Paul David Tripp’s Gospel Parenting Seminar

My heart as a daddy was super-encouraged by this seminar. I look forward to our coming classes through his parenting study.

Here were a few quotes or paraphrases from the seminar that stood out to me:

  • Without calling you are reduced to reactive parenting.
  • What could be more important than forming a human soul?
  • Every push-back your child gives you is because they think their life is about them.
  • Children first need saving from themselves.
  • When I get angry with my kids, I’m angry that my children need parenting, and I’m angry because I think parenting is about me.
  • If I see my kids sin, it is God’s grace, because God put them in a faith home where God can intervene and call them to himself through my parenting.
  • Threat cannot produce obedience.
  • Root the morality of your children in the grace of God.
  • God sent his Son to make you an effective parent, and he has given us all things we need to parent effectively (2 Peter 1:3-9, Titus 2:11-14)
  • How sad it is to look for identity horizontally in our children when God has given us all we need vertically in Christ.
  • Our children cannot bear the wait of our identity needs. They cannot give us ultimate satisfaction, joy, freedom, fulfillment, and purpose.
  • What is God doing in my child and how can I be part?
  • Parents have no authority, except given to them from God. Every time we use our authority, we need to do so in a way that represents a beautiful picture of God.
  • We are worshipers, which means our heart is always ruled by something. This means parenting is about worship, because the child is a worshiper too.
  • Don’t think your children are ok because they are happy with you. They may only be happy because you are feeding their idols. All you are doing is deepening your child’s bondage to that idol.
  • Our job as parents is to fight on behalf of our children a war they don’t know exists — the war of worship in the child’s heart.

Foster Care Adoption Ministry Continued

Everyone can do something continued……

“At Redeemer Baptist Church, some of us are going to bring children into our homes, the rest of us are going to find ways to serve and support them.”

Last week we looked at a couple of ways that people have used their gifts, talents and resources to minister to foster kids and their families.  As some in our church family step forward and follow the call to foster/adopt children the rest of us will be needed to support them.  In order to do this we think it is important to have some real and tangible places that we can show that support.  The purpose of this week’s handout is to highlight three ways that our church body can show our support for foster children and the families that support them.

  1. A Foster supply closet– at first we would like to build up a closet of supplies that can help our church family who are involved in fostering children. Eventually we would like to use this closet as a way to reach out to foster families in the community especially as a way to share the gospel with other foster families. We are asking for someone to oversee and manage the closet. You would not be alone in getting this started as Angie and I will be beside you to help with the setup.  We probably need one person to be the “manager” of the closet and as it grows may need to add another to spread out the responsibility. Perhaps you have been thinking about how you can help minister to the fatherless among us…you may not be able to take a child in to your home but you know that you could help by making available supplies that are needed when it comes to having a child of any age, size or gender come in to care at a moment’s notice. By having this resource in place we will have an organized well stocked place that will be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
  2. Prayer warriors-This is probably the best and most important ministry of support we can have. Everyone can pray for kids in need and their foster families, biological families, support workers. Although all details of fostering cannot be shared there are specific requests that can be made.  We would like to have people who would dedicate time each week to praying for these kids and all involved in this process.
  3. Meal train-this is a simple way to help but can be a huge help when a family takes in a new foster child/ren, or have a period when they may just may need some extra love and support. By providing a couple of meals we can take some stress off the family and show love to them and their kiddos. We would like to see one person who would be willing to be the administrator or overseer of this ministry to get the train started so to speak.

Please continue to pray about how you can support.  Maybe you are not one to lead up any of these areas but you can definitely play a part by providing for needs.  I believe that all of these ministries are very practical ways that we can help “defend the weak and the fatherless”Ps. 82:3.  They allow for many avenues for many to help.

Thank you for considering how you can participate,

Jamie Schumacher & Angie Spangler

 

Foster Care Adoption Ministry

EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING!!

This is the motto we would like to work in to our minds as we move forward with integrating a foster/adopt ministry here at Redeemer. I see our church as one full of caring and compassionate individuals each with unique gifts. There is always a need for families to step up and step out in faith to open their homes to children.  As more families take on this calling the rest of us can be the support these families need.  Please read this excerpt from a blog I started following about practical ways you might be involved. (http://jasonjohnsonblog.com) Also please pray as we integrate real tangible ministry opportunities and how you can be involved.                                                                  

Jamie Schumacher & Angie Spangler

“At Redeemer Baptist Church, some of us are going to bring children into our homes, the rest of us are going to find ways to serve and support them.”

I recently met a man in Nebraska. Mid-60’s, retired. He spends most of his time at a local equestrian center re-shoeing and caring for the horses there because many are used in equine therapy for kids who have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. He told me that while he may not be able to bring a child into his home he can certainly take care of these horses if it means it helps those kids who need them. I couldn’t agree more.

I recently met a couple in Kansas City. Empty-nesters. He told me he makes the best BBQ in the state (a bold claim!) and LOVES to cater any orphan care ministry related event at their church including respite nights for couples, info meetings for those considering getting involved and even taking meals over to families homes who have had a new child placed with them. Here’s a couple that has said, “We know what we can’t do, and we know what we can do, so we’re going to do what we can do well.” They told me that while they may not be in a position to bring a child into their home right now they can certainly do their best to bless those who are. I couldn’t agree more.

I know of lawyers that will donate legal services for adoptions pro bono. Mechanics who one Saturday a month offer free oil changes to single moms and foster parents. Counselors who offer their services for free to foster and adoptive families. The list could go on. Normal people doing normal things. Everyone…every.one. can do something.

The opportunities to get involved are as unique and diverse as each individual (and normal) person in your church. This ministry is not reserved only for the most “special” people in your church, but instead is designed for every normal person in your church to do something uniquely and specifically special. Everyone has something to offer – whether it’s BBQ, babysitting, a gift card or even a new forever family. While we are not all called to do the same thing, we are all certainly capable of doing something. Perhaps it could be said this way: You’re either called to bring children into your home or you’re capable of serving and supporting those who do – so find your “something”!

Vitamin D, Shootings, and Winter

Maybe it’s the vitamin D deficiency. Maybe it’s being couped up in a house with 3 loud (and wonderful) children. Maybe it’s the cold and snow slowly wearing down my inner fortitude.

Or maybe it’s the constant barage of sad news. Maybe it’s learning of another mass shooting where 17 people were killed. Maybe it’s people constantly fighting on my Facebook feed without meaningful conversation.

What I do know is that winter, especially February and March, has a way of reminding me of emptiness.

If you are anything like me (or any normal person), you may bury yourself in busyness, or hobbies, or Netflix, or food, or exercise, or friends, or family, or sports, or something else as a coping mechanism, but that echo of emptiness seems to get louder as the winter months drag on. Just like springtime reminds us of life and joy, wintertime has a way of reminding us that this world is not perfect. It’s not right. There are things that are broken about it.

Sorry for being a debbie-downer (also, my apologies also to any Deborahs out there). I’m not trying to turn anyone into a pessimist.

I cannot be an optimist, because I know too much about sin and the brokenness of this world. However, I also cannot be a pessimist, because I’ve found hope. Not a flimsy everything-will-work-out hope, but a firm-confident-assurance hope.

I want to offer you the hope I’ve found. It’s not a magic hope that makes everything better. It doesn’t turn the winter into spring. It doesn’t stop the news from being depressing or the social media feed from being annoying. But it does provide light and hope in the middle of winter.

Our sin separates us from the God of hope, but Jesus can bring us back to him.

Jesus was the man of sorrows so that we could have joy.

Jesus received punishment so that we could receive peace.

Jesus became sin so that we could become children of God.

Jesus was broken so that we could be healed.

Jesus embraced God’s wrath so that we could embrace God’s love.

If you believe in that message, you have the God of hope.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

The Secret Of Love

Let’s say you love coffee (or tea, or cocoa, or whatever … just go with me here) and I happen to sell the best coffee around. For $5, I will sell you one large (venti??) cup of coffee.

But, let’s say that you find the same coffee for $3 somewhere else, and their coffee is fresher and richer. Where would you go?

To the other shop, right?

I don’t blame you. This is a vendor relationship. You are loyal to me until you can get a better product for a better price somewhere else. This works great to encourage competition in a free economy, but it is terrible for relationships.

Love and Vendors

1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

It’s almost a universal rule, whether you believe in God or not, that love is the best way to live. The grind is our definition of love. To most people, love is a euphoric high, a feeling, or a state of bliss. Whether we are talking about marital love, friendship love, or family love, most of us associate love with a feeling, and if we don’t have the feeling, then we don’t love.

The problem with this is that our relationships turn into vendor relationships really fast. If my spouse no longer makes me feel loved or appreciated, and I happen to find appreciation somewhere else, then a vendor relationship says that I should go where I get the better product. Or, if my relationship with my spouse is difficult, but my relationship with another is easy and comfortable, then a vendor mindset says that I should go where I get the better product for the cheaper cost.

This isn’t only in marital relationships. Many people live by the rule that if family members cost me more than I am getting out of the relationship, then I cut them out of my life, or if friends don’t give me what I want, then I walk away.

But love is not something you get, but something you give. Love is not primarily a feeling, but an action. Love is not constantly looking for a better deal somewhere else, but is committed. Love is not primarily concerned about what I am getting, but about how I can help the other person.

Love Is Sacrificial Commitment To Someone Else’s Good

1 John 4:9-10 “God’s love was reveal among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”

Meditate on these words. At the very least, we see 4 truths about love:

  1. Love commits. I cannot seek someone else’s good if I’m constantly looking for a better deal.
  2. Love sacrifices. Easy love is not love at all. Love proves it is genuine when it costs.
  3. Love initiates. This connects to sacrifice. It reaches out first.
  4. Love helps. It is not worried about my feelings, but about helping the other.

Some of you reading this have never been a part of a relationship like that. You’ve never seen someone sacrifice for you without expecting anything back. You’ve never been confident in the loyalty of someone else. You’ve only seen vendor relationships, where everyone is in it to get something out of it.

God wants more.

But isn’t that a dangerous way to live? Wouldn’t you get hurt all the time? What if the other person doesn’t love you back?

Rubber Band Chicken

Did you play rubber band chicken as a kid? I did. My friend and I would take a rubber band and stretch it out until one of three things happened: 1) It broke and snapped one of our fingers randomly. 2) My friend let go and snapped my finger. 3) I let go and snapped my friend’s finger.

In one sense, love is a giant game of rubber band chicken. If both parties are concerned about the other person, then neither snaps the other person and everyone is cared for. Love is like that. If both people are caring for the other person’s good, then both people have their needs met. It’s when one person worries about themselves that the other gets hurt.

This love is rare. No one loves like this. No one. Not consistently. Not with their life. And yet God commands us to love others like this.

Here’s the problem: if I live my life like God commands, but no one else does, will anyone ever love me and look out for my good? Why should I love if everyone treats me like a vendor?

Gospel

God not only set an example of love, but he also actually loved us. In fact, the Bible says that God works all things together for our good, for those who love God. In other words, for those who believe in the gospel, God is always working for our good.

  • He already made the greatest sacrifice possible. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”
  • He already promised that he is committed. Matthew 28:20b says, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
  • And as I already stated, he works for our good. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God.”

God sent his Son for our ultimate good. He doesn’t just fuzzy-good-feeling love us. He loved us so much that he forgive us for our selfishness toward him and others. He loves us so much that he wants to free us from disloyalty and laziness in our relationships. He commands love for our good and his glory, but we disobey him in vendor relationships.

But God can forgive.

Forgiveness might be free, but it isn’t cheap. It always costs. Our sin was a great offense to God and his perfect love. Without forgiveness, we would pay the offense ourselves under God’s punishment, but with forgiveness, Jesus pays the offense under God’s punishment for us. This is what “propitiation” means from our verses.

1 John 4:9-10 “God’s love was reveal among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”

He wanted to bring us to himself, cleanse and free us from sin, and he sacrificed greatly to do that.

Forgiveness and love wait for anyone who believes that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again.

And that is the secret of love and the gospel: believing that God loves us — is committed to us, sacrificed for us, and works for our good — frees us from worrying about ourselves. Instead, we are freed to focus on others. Because God sacrificed for us and works for our good, we don’t have to worry about ourselves in any relationship, and can instead sacrifice for others and work for their good. 

Without God, relationships like these aren’t possible. Love like this isn’t possible. We are doomed to vendor relationships, and worse, the rightful punishment for our vendor relationships.

But with God’s love, we are free to pursue a full life of sacrificial love for others.

What To Do When Your Soul Feels Parched

Parched, Part 1

I woke up from a groggy sleep a few nights ago. After a few several seconds of blinking, the alarm clock across the room was finally visible.

2:21

As I readjusted to go back to sleep, my tongue slid across the top of my mouth and the sound of sandpaper reverberated in my head. 

The tip of my tongue and the roof of my mouth were actually sore from the dryness of the air.

I reached for the glass of water on my bed stand, leaned up on one arm, and slowly let the water seep into my mouth. I felt the cool liquid soften my tongue and fill the painful, dry cracks that had started to form.

Parched, Part 2

A few days later, I had being having a difficult day. Haunting anxiety and discouragement had soaked up all joy out of my life. I was in one of those moods where I knew I needed to pray, but I also didn’t want to. I knew that turning to God could fill and sooth my soul, but I kept wandering in my desert pride.

After a brief time, I went to the Lord in prayer and laid my burdens before him. I confessed poor responses to my life’s struggles. I begged him for forgiveness, grace, joy, and peace. I confessed that he was my God, my shelter, and my hope.

Living water flooded my soul and softened my heart. God’s grace filled the cracks that were causing me pain and washed away my sin.

The poor and needy seek water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, Yahweh, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the barren heights, and springs in the middles of the plains. I will turn the desert into a pool of water and dry land into springs of water. (Isaiah 42:17-18)

1. Preparation for the Water

The water of life is not for those who think they are fine. It’s not for those who dig wells for themselves to try to find water. It’s not for those who sprint from one mirage to another, hoping to find some peace, some satisfaction, and some relief from the dryness in their soul.

It’s for those who lips are blistered and sore. It’s for those who have been dehydrated to the point of exhaustion. It’s for those who are desperate and realize their need.

Sin has a way of raising the temperature and removing the humidity in our soul. Trying to solve our own problems, or trying to stand on our own goodness, or trying to quench our thirst on the things of this life slowly turn our soul into a desert. It’s no accident that hell, which is reserved for those who won’t turn to God for help, is described as being dry and fiery (Luke 16:24). For those separated from God, hell’s shadow covers this life with a gnawing sense of dryness and thirst.

2. Water in the Desert

This passage describes God as One who wants to help. He does not forsake the thirsty. He does not ignore their cries. Anyone who comes to God will receive forgiveness and showers of grace.

God portrays a beautiful picture of rivers breaking out of the elevated terrain and filtering down to the valleys below. Springs bubble out of the ground in the middle of plain and form pools of cool water. The deserts are transformed into a crystal clear pool of water surrounded by lush terrain.

For anyone who comes, he enriches our hearts, floods our souls, washes away the dryness and the pain and our sin, and brings us everlasting life.

3. Quenching Thirst

A few short chapters after this passage, Isaiah will forecast Jesus’ death on cross. On the cross, Jesus was bruised for our sins and wounded for our pride. The living water that God offers is won through his death on the cross.

On the cross, Jesus’ desert soul cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” and “I thirst.” His soul was in a drought. His heart was parched. The pain and sorrow of sin — ours, not his — agonized the Son of God as he received the full punishment.

And because he received the full drought of sin, we can receive the showers of grace. Because he absorbed the wrath of God to death, we can absorb the grace of God to life.

Because he took our sins on him, he received a desolate desert of God’s judgment; because we take his righteousness on us, we receive undeserved springs of God’s favor.

God is a just God who rightly confines sinners to a desert of thirst, and eventually to the fiery thirst of hell. But he is also a good God who graciously offers to change deserts into springs of water gushing up to eternal life.

Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to waters. (Isaiah 55:1)

5 Thoughts on New Year’s Resolutions

One of my favorite moments in my schedule each year occurs in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. During this week I sit down at my desk and spend some time evaluating my last year’s resolutions and setting my next year’s resolutions. read more…

Redeemer Baptist Church . 607 Mafred DriveNorwalk, IA 50211 515.943.4197