All posts by ccmadmin

It’s Not Good For Man to be Alone

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

The above title is something God said in Genesis 2:18. It is also the most frequently cited verse used in my office by lonely clients. Single people and those cut off from friends and family like to use this verse. Each time they do there is an underlying complaint leveled at God. They are saying, “God, if you said it’s not good for me to be alone, why aren’t you providing me with companionship?”

Hey, I get it. Loneliness is one of the most significant problems people face. Is God insensitive to this? I don’t think so. I believe there was a lot more going on in Genesis 2:18 than meets the eye.

For starters, let’s look at the scripture in its entirety. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Then God made Adam a human companion, Eve. It didn’t take long before the two of them made a mess of things.

After that, the Bible is filled with stories of broken human relationships. The first thing Adam did when confronted with his sin was to throw Eve under the bus. The first sibling relationship ended in murder. Things got so bad God had to wipe out nearly everyone and start over with Noah. People didn’t go much better after that.

Abraham lied about his wife, Sarah, to save his own skin. Twice. Isaac, the child of promise, lied about his wife for the same reason. Their boy, Jacob, stole his brother’s inheritance. His sons threw their brother, Joseph, down a well and sold him into slavery. And that’s just the first book of the Bible. Even Jesus’ own family didn’t believe in Him until after the resurrection. No one has been immune to poor relationships and toxic human drama. No one.

Do you think it’s possible that God, foreseeing all of this, wasn’t talking about Eve when He said He was going to give us a helper?

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Who was that Helper? It certainly was not a human; it was the Holy Spirit. You see, God was right, it’s not good for man to be alone. We need serious help. But another human was never the answer. God has never been one to give us a problem that He wasn’t the solution for. Jesus did not go through the trouble of living in the flesh, dying for us, then stuffing Himself inside of us, to leave us so needy that we can’t make it without a human. It’s nice when we have it (most of the time), but it should not make us or break us.

I’m a fan of human relationships. So much so I have them. Friendships, marriage, family. It’s all good, but it’s not my all in all. And it’s not always been that way. When I was doing time for my drug arrest, I had never been so lonely. You know what I found out? You will never know God is all you need until God is all you’ve got. Let Him be your all in all. Trust Him to be the answer to every problem, including loneliness. He is the one who promises never to leave you or forsake you. That’s a better deal than you will ever find with somebody with skin on!

God’s Style of Therapy

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Carl Jung wrote, “The foundation of mental illness is an unwillingness to experience suffering.” When it comes to anxiety and fear, I agree. Last week I shared my fear of change. Am I afraid of change, or the discomfort surrounding it? Likewise, I see my struggle with people-pleasing as fear of the pain I will experience when others aren’t happy. So pain avoidance, not altruism, drove many of my “charitable” acts. A loving God has used my fear to reveal to me my selfishness.

Jesus told us if we really want to live, we need to die to ourselves. But most of us are lousy at dying to ourselves. Luckily, teaching us how to die is not our job, it’s God’s. He has a way of getting us past yucky self-stuff. It’s God’s style of therapy.

My battle with anxiety started a few years back. When it began, I developed two coping devices, one healthy and the other not. My healthy approach was to begin studying scriptures on fear. The unhealthy approach was to try avoidance.

But avoidance didn’t work because situations kept happening I couldn’t avoid. My people-pleasing was stymied by relationships that demanded confrontation if they were to survive. And as far as my avoidance of change, well, let’s just say I became surrounded by it. My avoidance techniques were crashing and burning.

Then I came across a scripture when studying Isaiah 41:10 in the AMPC. It reads, “Fear not for I am with you; don’t look around in terror and be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and harden you to difficulties.” At first, I received the word with joy, thinking “Yes, God, harden me to difficulties!” Then I stopped and said, “Wait a minute, how are You going to do that?!” I got nervous because I already knew the answer.

As a therapist, I know the method used to eradicate fear is to expose someone to what they are afraid of. We call this method Exposure Response Prevention. If you are phobic of snakes, I will start by showing you pictures of a snake, then bring one in the room, and eventually, you work up to holding it. In other words, I would crash through your avoidance techniques and force you to confront your fears. That is what I think God is saying when He offers to harden us to difficulties.

It’s not that He wants us to suffer; He wants us fearless and dead to our yucky self-stuff. When I say yes to His plan, even when it involves confronting fear and embracing personal discomfort, I become content and stable. Like Jesus was. I now understand this scripture in James, “when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy…for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” Perfect, complete and not needy sounds way better than wimpy and fearful. So next time trouble exposes you to the things you are afraid of, say yes to God and no to avoidance. He loves you so much He may just have you in therapy.

Real Stability

By: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I felt like a superhero yesterday. No bullets bounced off my bracelets, but I fearlessly embraced a significant, undesired change. I squared my chin and told my Father in Heaven, “bring the change.” He did. Much to my surprise, I did not spontaneously combust.

I have always craved stability. Dad was an alcoholic, so peace in my home was as infrequent and short-lived as his bouts with sobriety. I remember those moments of stability being tenuous, as we waited for the other shoe to fall. The other shoe always fell. Then I became the unstable addict. I lived in self-created chaos. It was awful.

When Jesus found me, He rescued me from myself. He settled my life down, and I became stable. Evidently, I liked it enough to become a control freak. I quake at anything that threatens unwanted change. Stability has become my idol.

An idol is anything we put above God. I have craved stability more than the will of God. And when I did try to say yes to God’s leading, if it involved change, I felt He was handing me a blindfold and a cigarette. That is not trusting in a loving Father. That is fear wrapped in obedience. It’s an improvement, but still not what He is looking for.

When I embraced change instead of fear, I had a fleeting moment of clarity. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives.” He gave us a different kind of peace than what we are used to. We equate money in the bank and status quo as peace. That is not peace. But that is what I have craved. A nice retirement fund, no surprises in anyone’s health or employment. Only good news allowed in my zone or my house-of-cards would come crashing down.

Jesus’ never once attempted to create a safe, peaceful environment for Himself or His followers. He carried a Kingdom of peace internally, so He didn’t need it externally. He was utterly fearless and unflappable. He slept through storms. I feel that should be in all caps; HE SLEPT THROUGH STORMS. The “storm speaker” was also the storm sleeper. That is stability!

Yesterday I tasted that kind of stability. I’m a little shakier today, but there is no going backward. I have now felt real peace. The kind Jesus gave me. It was a moment of trusting God’s will, His love for me, and knowing He had my back. I have seen the light, and it revealed how puny the false god of environmentally created stability really is. If you are still holding on to your house-of-cards, don’t feel bad. This has been a long journey for me, and next week I’m going to show you God’s roadmap for that journey.

Fruitful Abiding

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Over the past couple of weeks, I laid a foundation showing that abiding in the love of Jesus gives us stability and peace. It also makes us much more pleasant to be around. Now I want to show you the practice of abiding. My favorite example is found in the life of David.

There are notations above many of the Psalms telling what inspired each song. Psalm 59 has one that reads, “A Psalm of David, regarding the time Saul sent soldiers to watch David’s house to kill him.” My response would have been a high-speed come-apart! David wrote a song of praise.

He starts out acknowledging the problem, “Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me” (v. 1). And he spends a few verses discussing the threat. But by verse 8, David switches gears. “But Lord, you laugh at them. You scoff…You are my strength, I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, you are my fortress. In His unfailing love, my God will stand with me…I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”

Oh, the beauty of a human heart abiding in the love of God. David acknowledged his problem, but his heart was so set on the “unfailing love” of God as his safety that the love became a superior reality. Our normal default is to look at a situation and think “how can God love me and let this happen?” By abiding in God’s love David was able to look at his problem and think because God loves me, I will come through. That’s the difference between abiding in self and abiding in His love.

In the Book of John, John called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”. That was John’s way of abiding in the love of God in Christ Jesus. In Galatians Paul does something similar when he called Jesus, “the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Paul, more than anyone, knew that Christ died for all. But Paul was determined, like John, to take that love personally. That was also David’s secret, he took God’s love personally.

The best way to abide in His love is to take it personally and make that revelation the cornerstone of your life. That’s what caused John to give himself the nickname “the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved.” I think that’s awesome, and I don’t think John would be the least bit offended if you borrowed his nickname. Go ahead, try it. Start saying to yourself, “I am the believer that Jesus loves and died for.” Now look at that, your roots are growing! Fruit is on its way.

Fresh Truth for Bad Fruit Part 2

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Every known cranky Christian who acts like they were baptized in lemon juice? Not only have I met them, at times I’ve been one. We all have. We accept this as normal, but according to scripture, it’s abnormal. Jesus said the world would be able to spot His followers by our love, not our stress level. What is happening to us? I believe the answer is found in “abiding.”

Last week I unveiled the scripture in John where Jesus said if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit. I defined that fruit from the list in Galatians. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We can think of this list as our “abiding detector,” because if this list isn’t manifesting in your life, no matter how busy you are with Jesus, you are not abiding in Jesus.

What does it mean to abide? The Bible Study Tools defines it as to “await, remain, lodge, dwell continue, endure.” We are to make our home in Jesus. Moreover, it says in John 15:9 that we are supposed to remain in is His love. So abiding means that we live in His love. The love of Christ is supposed to be our dwelling place.

Interesting fact, did you know there is only one place in the entire Bible where it instructs us on how to walk in the fullness of God? It is Ephesians 3:14-19. In brief, it says when we put down roots into the way God loves us in Christ Jesus, when we realize how wide, long, high and deep that love is, then we will be “filled with all the fullness of God.” If we are full of God we will be full of love, joy peace…you get the picture.

As humans, our default position is to be rooted and grounded in us. What we want, what scares us, what comforts us. We are tragically self-centered. And we bring that into our relationship with God. Think about how we talk about our faith, “I want to be used by God.” “My quiet time with the Lord.” “I found Jesus.” “I”m praying about my problem.” “I’ve found a scripture for my problem.”

None of these things are bad, per se, but when we take a step back and examine this as a lifestyle, you can see our focus is on us and whatever challenges we are facing. If we make things all about us, we will never be all about Jesus. No matter how religious or devoted we are. And as long as we are all about us, we will produce the fruit of fear, anxiety, stress, etc.

By now I hope you are convinced that you want to make His love your dwelling place. But being convinced and knowing how to get there are two different things. That is what we will cover next week. Until then pack your moving boxes, you are going to a new dwelling place. The only thing you can’t bring is your “self.”

Fresh Truth for Bad Fruit

By: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

I love the process of Christian therapy. I work with people to examine real-life problems and mental health struggles, and then analyze those things through the light of God’s word. I love it so much I have a therapist I talk to on a regular basis. I never walk away from those meetings unchanged.

At my last session, I was agonizing over my anxiety about some very real and very scary things I was facing. She all but ignored my problems and asked me instead if I was abiding in Jesus. I curtly replied that of course, I was abiding in Jesus! I prayed, read my Bible, had a daily quiet time, and from there began giving her my laundry list of Christian activities. To that, she replied, “If you are abiding in Jesus, where is your fruit?”

That hit me like thunder. It says in John 15 that if I am abiding in Jesus, I will be bearing fruit. What is that fruit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Truth is, at that point the only fruit I was bearing was fear, worry, anxiety, chronic over-thinking, impatience, and fatalism. Since the Bible is my ultimate authority for truth I had to admit, according to my symptoms, I had not been abiding in Jesus. While I had been busy with Christian activities, what I was really abiding in was my problems. Can you relate?

While I can’t speak for the rest of the world, I know that in our little community we are a bunch of stressed out Christians. There is a church on every corner, willing to accommodate whatever brand of believing we have, but we are just as sick, broke and scared as our unbelieving neighbor. No wonder people don’t want what we have. Most of us are not abiding in Jesus, we are abiding in the world, it’s problems, our problems, politics, and all the rest of the junk out there. It shows in the way we act and think. I was no exception.

Jesus said that we shall know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). But as my pastor, Jason Forby, always says, the truth will set you free, but first, it will probably make you mad, because you will have to admit that you were wrong. So here is your truth, I don’t care how much of your life that you are dedicating to Jesus, if you are easily offended, judgmental, impatient, stressed out, fearful, anxious, and angry, you are not abiding in Christ. You may be like me, mistaking your life of devotion for a life of abiding.

No worries though, because, as Jesus promised, the truth will set us free. Next week I am going to start diving into that truth and share with you what God has been teaching me about abiding in His Son. Consider it fresh truth for bad fruit. Until then, be bold and ask Jesus to prune you. All you have to lose is some bad apples.

Peacekeepers or Zookeepers?

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Last week I spoke to peacekeepers about being courageous and honest. If you know and love a peacekeeper, it’s your turn for the hot-seat, because peacekeeping is a defense mechanism derived from placating difficult personalities. Personalities I think of as alligators, porcupines, puffer fish and fainting goats.

Alligators are scary. Their victim never sees them coming. It’s fun in the sun, then chomp, and the gator has its prey! Their victim is locked in an inescapable horror, dragged underwater for a “death roll.” If you are an alligator, you know you have a bad temper. If someone missteps they experience your rage. You yell, scream, curse and belittle. For your family, this is terrifying and unpredictable. They begin placating you, lest you turn on them. You have created peacekeepers who are too frightened of you to connect.

If you are a porcupine, you shoot quills at anyone who gets close to you. These quills are poisonous barbs of sarcasm and criticism. And while they may not be as terrifying as an alligator attack, they leave your family scared and scarred. They begin walking on eggshells, living in fear of the next quill coming their way. They try to appease you to avoid the barbs. Classic peacekeeping.

Or perhaps you are a puffer fish. These creatures are small, but when they feel threatened they abruptly blow up, so they appear bigger. That intimidates and confuses the other fish, who then leave them alone. Puffer fish aren’t as dangerous as alligators and porcupines, but the result is the same.

If you are a puffer fish, you feel instantly threatened when someone tries to talk to you about your behavior. Your employ the “best defense is a good offense” strategy in times of duress. If your wife mentions you forgot to take out the trash, you fire back a list of her shortcomings. It works, because the price tag of confrontation is so high, no one dares to cross you. You mistakenly think that’s the goal, but your defensiveness destroys authenticity, and your loved one is now a peacekeeper.

And lastly, we have fainting goats. If you are one of these, you are fragile, sweet, and easy to love. But you tend to burst into tears and fears at the slightest whiff of negative emotions. This makes others feel like terrorists when they try to confront you, so they begin “handling” you to avoid meltdowns.

Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios? Kris Vallotton says “if it costs a lot to be honest in your home don’t be surprised when people lie.” Quite often the lie is one of omission. Everyone is afraid to tell you that you are scary and hard to love. My guess is that your behavior is masking your fears and insecurities. Pray about this and let God show you what’s making you angry and afraid. Get some help, and please allow your peacekeeper become a peacemaker!

The Rotten Fruit of Peacekeeping

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Most of us don’t like conflict and go to extremes to avoid it. We package conflict avoidance as “peacekeeping,” as if that makes it Biblical. In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed be the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” He did not say, peacekeepers. Had he, it would have gone something like this, “Woe to you, peacekeepers, your relationship fruit will be rotten!” Why? Because there is a significant difference between peacemaking and peacekeeping.

Peacekeeping is a fancy term for fear. It manifests as passivity, or passivity’s nasty cousin, passive aggressiveness. The passive person internalizes their pain, slaps on a smile, and prays things get better. The passive aggressive person also keeps their mouths shut, but they externalize their pain with punishing behavior to let others know they are unhappy (slammed doors and death stares), or they smile but complain behind someone’s back.
If this is you, you are poised to bear some rotten fruit. First, you will miss out on authentic relationships. Authentic relationships are risky and gritty and involve being courageous enough to let someone see the real you. If you’re a peacekeeper, you’re eliminating your chances of being accepted and loved for who you are. You have sacrificed unity for coexistence. That’s tragic.

The next fruit is exhaustion. Peacekeeping requires you to be a control freak. You must be ready to rush in and put out fires and keep a watchful eye to ensure everyone gets along. Shew! This kind of behavior may contain the crazy, but you are busier than a one-armed paper-hanger trying to keep everyone on an even keel. Last I checked, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not yours.

And here is the most rotten fruit of them all; if you are a conflict-avoiding peacekeeper, you can’t complain about how others treat you. Why? You are not telling them the truth. If we don’t have the self-respect to advocate for our rights, we shouldn’t be surprised when others don’t either. In my business, we have a saying, “You teach people how to treat you.” To have authentic relationships, you have to share your heart, even if it means conflict, then trust God with the result. Peacekeeping has the immediate consequence of not making waves, but it’s like a stagnant pond. There’s no life there. Peacemaking is courageous, and it requires honesty. It also recognizes that what might hurt in the immediate will cause a long-term gain. There are movement and life in these relationships.

Jeremiah 6:14 says, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” You can’t keep sticking band-aids on mortal heart wounds, smile, and hope things get better. You are called to be a peacemaker, and that requires you to man up and speak up for the greater good of yourself and others. Now, suit up and make some peace, you are God’s A-Team!

Blessed are the Screw-ups!

I don’t think there is any greater miracle than a stubborn, prideful person bending their knee to God. Luckily, with my job, that’s a miracle I see on a regular basis. Why? I am the one people come to when they have run their lives off into a ditch. It’s funny how a colossal blunder makes us aware of our need for God. For that reason, I say, Blessed are the Screw-ups!

Before you tweet that clever saying, let me cite my source. That is my paraphrase of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. In the first Beatitude (Matthew 5:3), He says “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Or, as the Message translation puts it, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you, there is more of God and his rule.” God places a high value on our brokenness, failures, and screw-ups because, without them, most of us would never enter the Kingdom.

I believe there are only two kinds of people in this world; those who are bad at their lives and know it, and those who are bad at their lives and don’t know. I’m in the first group, and I don’t worry about us. Our awareness of our tendency to mess up keeps us aware of our need for Jesus. It’s the second group that concerns me. They don’t seem to be struggling. They appear to have it all together. Success, money, nothing seems out of their reach. But what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, only to lose his soul (Mark 8:36)? My translation, the winner of the rat race, is still a rat.

So, if you find yourself at rock bottom, Jesus says you are positioned to be blessed. Rock bottom is a great place to be. We are so open to God when we are out of options. Who has room for pride in times of disaster? In our minds, we believe failure equals shame and loss. In God’s economy, those events put you on the precipice of understanding your frailty, which equals a need for Him.

I know this from personal experience. The only reason I reached out to God is I was in trouble and had nowhere else to turn. Humbled and afraid, I bowed my knee and gave my life to Him. I was more interested in a “get out of jail free” card than a relationship with Jesus. He took what little I offered Him and gave me a Kingdom in return. What started out as an association of pure usury on my part has grown into the love that defines my life.

So, my friend, I don’t know what kind of mess you might be facing. Addiction, infidelity, tax fraud. Regardless of the chaos, Jesus has ample amounts of grace to help fix your brokenness. In fact, it says in the Bible that “Sin didn’t and doesn’t stand a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace (Romans 5:20 Message).” Go ahead and bend that knee. You have nothing to lose but your mess!

The High Cost of Low Self-Esteem

by: Cris Corzine-McCloskey

Do you have days when you feel incompetent, and you don’t think you can do anything right? I have days like that. Dark days of nit-picking, self-critique and feelings of failure. When I get on a roll, I can self-deprecate with the best of them.

Recently, when my negative self-talk was hitting its zenith, I came across a game-changing scripture. It is 1 Samuel 15:17. The prophet Samuel was talking to King Saul after Saul had made a colossal blunder. Samuel told Saul, “Although you may think little of yourself, are you not the leader of the tribes of Israel? The Lord has anointed you king of Israel. And the Lord has sent you on a mission…”

Here’s Saul in a nutshell. In 1 Samuel 9 and 10, we see that Saul had been picked by God to be king. Then he was anointed for the job, given a new heart and Holy Spirit power. He had everything except one crucial ingredient that God could not give him, self-esteem. Because of that, he was a slave to peoples opinions, which led to his downfall.

Saul could be telling our story. We are chosen to be God’s children (Ephesians 1:4), we are anointed by God (1 John 2:27), given a new heart (Hebrews 8:10) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). Then, like Saul, we are given a mission. In Ephesians 2:10 it says “we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

You, my friend, are a masterpiece. And what do we do with masterpieces? We display them, and that is your mission. In Isaiah 61:3 you are called an Oak of Righteousness, a display of God’s splendor. That’s your truth. Here’s the catch though, if you don’t believe it, you will never live up to your full potential. God is responsible for giving us the potential and the mission, we are responsible for believing Him and living it out.

As a former addict and felon leading a Christian ministry, I know what it’s like to doubt yourself. But, as I read 1 Samuel 15:17, I could feel God saying to me, “Cris, although you may think little of yourself, are you not called to be the leader of Caring Counseling Ministries? I, the Lord, have anointed you and sent you on a mission.” That put wind in my sails. He picked me, He anointed me, and He laid out the mission. What I think about myself is irrelevant. My life was His idea.

Now, take that and apply it to yourself. What are you called to do? Are you a parent? Teacher? Car Salesman? No matter what the role, you are a display of His splendor. He wants to shine through you. As bizarre as this may seem, it is theologically correct to say that God thinks way more of you than you think of yourself. Don’t be a Saul and pay the high price of low self-esteem. You, my friend, are on a mission from God. Now, hold your head up high, and enjoy being on display.