Monday, August 25, 2014

Suicide: Heaven or Hell

Suicide:  Heaven or Hell

A question is often asked that we have all pondered or will ponder at some time in our life.  The question is, can someone who commits suicide go to heaven or do they automatically go to hell?  More specifically, can a Christian who commits suicide go to heaven?  In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand true salvation. 

There are many religions in our world who have varying interpretations as to a few basic tenets of salvation.  Before we discuss these interpretations let’s first go back over how salvation occurs and what needs to happen in order for a person to be saved.  First, we need to understand that according to the Holy Bible, God loves us so much that he gave His only son as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.  This is evidenced in the New Testament in John 3:16 which states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  God has many personality traits, in fact, He is so diverse He is often difficult to understand because it is difficult to grasp the diversity.  Yet, it is important to try to understand His many traits.  For instance, God is a just God.  Simply meaning that as He judges, He judges fairly and justly.  He gives the sentence suited to the crime, nothing more, nothing less.  That is one character trait of God, but He is also a very loving and merciful God.  He loves us so much that He gave up something of extreme value so that the broken relationship we had with Him, because of our sin, can be mended. 

As mentioned above, God is a just God.  The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”  Note here that the Bible does not tell us that only certain sins are death, it says that sin deserves death.  All sin deserves death.  In the Old Testament days, people had to offer sacrifices to God as atonement or payment for all the sins they had committed.  This was a very important process which required constant attention.  If done improperly the “aroma” would be unpleasing to God.  Death is separation from God.  So sin actually separates us from God.  It keeps us from having a relationship with Him.  So who has sinned?  In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We have all sinned and therefore not a single person on earth is worthy of eternal life in and of themselves. 

So far things sound pretty grim as to who will be in heaven.  God saw this though and decided He wanted to have a relationship with His creation and He wanted to give us a way to have eternal life.  He decided to offer a living sacrifice once and for all.  In Romans 5:8, the Word tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Christ is the only person who ever walked this earth who was without sin.  He was tempted just as you and I are tempted, but He chose to put His focus on God instead of himself and therefore denied the pleasures of sin.  In 1 Peter 2:24 we are told that, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.  This means He actually took all our sin on the cross with Him so that we may have a righteous life.  If you continue reading that chapter you will notice that we are told that, “by His wounds you were healed.”  Notice that the word healed is past tense.   There is an if statement that we must speak of next.  But before we leave this area it is important to understand that just as in Romans 6:23 and 1 Peter 2:24 states that all sin was carried on His body to the cross.  That signifies past, present, and future. 

The final piece is that we must receive or accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour.  In John 1:12 we are told, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”  We know we must accept Christ in our life in order to receive the gift of eternal life.  How do we do this?  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast,” as found in Ephesians 2:8-9 which tells us how to receive Christ. It is done by faith in Christ, not by works.  All who accept Christ by faith are children of God.  In John 14:6 we read that Jesus is the only way to the Father and therefore eternal life.  According to Romans 10:9-10, we must confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and then we are saved.  Not only did Christ die for our sins and not only is He the only way, but we must also believe that Christ was buried and on the third day rose again.  He now lives with God in eternal glory.

I John 5:11-12 states, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  So how do we go to heaven?  Eternal life, or heaven, is a gift reserved only for those who have accepted Christ as their Saviour. 

Although suicide is definitely a sin, once we accept Christ into our lives He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin.  We ask only once and then we are covered by His grace and mercy.  There are many individuals who believe that it is possible to lose your salvation.  There are many scriptures, if taken out of context, which may lead someone to believe this myth.  Fortunately, the Bible speaks of our salvation as being permanent.  Once we truly accept Christ then we cannot be removed from Him.  People have asked, “If someone chooses to remove themselves from God, what then?”  Although this is simply my interpretation and opinion, I believe once a person is truly in Christ they will experience a peace that passes all understanding and they will never ask to be removed from fellowship with Christ as found in 1 John 1:6.  The act of asking for forgiveness on an ongoing basis is truly more for us as humans than as a pre-requisite to forgiveness by God.  God’s forgiveness was given on the day He allowed His son to die on the cross.   It is our choice whether we accept this free gift of forgiveness.  Asking God for forgiveness is the first act of repentance and it comes from a heart that has been convicted by the Holy Spirit and led to this act.  Asking for God's forgiveness when we knowingly and intentionally sin is not required to receive forgiveness since that has already been done, but it is required to receive healing from our sin.  God wants His children to be healed and live a fruitful life always striving to become more Christ-like. 

Knowing all of this, what is your answer to what happens when a Christian commits suicide?  Do they go to heaven or hell?

The last issue that needs to be addressed is “The Unpardonable or Unforgivable Sin” as described in Mark 3 and Matthew 12.  It speaks here of “blaspheming” against the Holy Spirit.  As Christians, we believe that the Word of God is true and does not contradict itself.  The scriptures clearly tell us that all sin is forgivable, so how can there be one sin  that is not?  The answer is to look at the condition for forgiveness.  When is our sin forgiven?  Our sin is only forgiven when we accept Christ as our Saviour and have a personal relationship with Him.  As described in many verses such as John 20:31, we have eternal life (forgiveness) when we believe in Christ and accept Him in our hearts.  So if all sin is forgiven when we accept Christ, what one sin might the scriptures be speaking of in Mark and Matthew?  It is the sin of never accepting Christ.  That is blaspheming or denying the Holy Spirit and the truth.  The dictionary defines blasphemy as, "great disrespect shown to God or to something holy."  We are all given free will and one choice we must make is whether to accept Christ as our Saviour or to deny Him.  If denied, then forgiveness is not received.  In no way shape or form is the scripture speaking of suicide.  The sin is much more serious as it is a direct denial of the truth.  Suicide is not a spiritual issue, it is an emotional one.  

As explained in scripture, God has a plan and a purpose for each life.  Scripture has never condoned suicide as an answer to whatever pain is being experienced, but it is also clear that God's mercy and grace also covers this desperate act of relief.  There are other ways of overcoming the pain that leads to suicide.

If you, or someone you know, is dealing with suicidal thoughts or attempts please seek help immediately.  There are many qualified professionals who are here to help you in your time of need.  Don't attempt to handle this on your own, allow someone to talk with you.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Who is Logos Counseling Services and Why do we exist?

Over the last 15 plus years, I have been asked many times who we are and why we exist.  My first reaction is to retort with, "because it's what I wanted".  :)  The truth is though, that although the dream may have started in my head, it has taken years of fantastic people speaking into my life that has made Logos what it is today.  Our vision statement can be found almost everywhere you can find our logo.  Below is a picture of our logo, you can read our vision statement just below our name.

Creating Hope for Tomorrow.  What an incredibly simple statement, but as simple as it is to say, it is incredibly difficult to obtain.  That is why Logos is here.  Almost 20 years ago I started my practice.  I used a Professors office and I believe I only saw one client for several years.  My hope in my future as a therapist seemed dismal.  I had a good job in another field, but my heart longed to help others.  But how could I help others when I had not found my own way through the darkness.  One day I had an epiphany, thanks to a great supervisor who spoke words of wisdom into my life.  She reminded me of my dream to become a therapist, which had been buried underneath bills and a desire to move up the corporate ladder.  After another month of prayer and seeking wisdom I decided to step out on a great adventure.  I quit my job and opened Logos Counseling Services.

Over the years the business has morphed into what it is now, but the original vision stays the same.  Our desire as a company is to help create hope for tomorrow.  We all use different techniques and methods to accomplish this goal but it's the same vision.  We know we can't help everyone, but we try to touch those we can.

Over the years I have found several keys to finding success and I'd like to share them with you.

First, I had to change my definition of success.  I had to take it out of the tangible world and place on the intangible.  Success can't be about money or fame because then we ride the roller coaster of happiness and depression.  Tangible items always come and go.  Even many intangible items come and go.  Success had to be something internal, a desire to become someone different, someone better.  Then I chose to try to take people with me along this road.  We all achieve success because we re-defined success in terms that we can achieve.  We set achievable goals and learned to celebrate each small victory along the way.

Second, I realized the importance of relationships.  Please recognize I didn't use the singular tense there.  It's not about a singular human relationship, it's about relationships.  These relationships take on different forms as well as different levels of intimacy, but they are all important.  Some are seasonal, some are lifelong.  Some are intense, some are easy.  They are all different.  My first ally at Logos were my parents, most especially my Mother.  She took on the role of answering phone calls from a cell phone almost 200 miles away from where I practiced.  She also learned a brand new skill set by learning how to file insurance claims.  To this day she is still the "Voice of Logos".  Her voice is the first voice you will hear (if you go to voicemail) at all our Logos locations.  Having her on my side gave me the support to keep pushing ahead.  She was both a voice of reason and encouragement.  It is important to have someone in your corner.  Oftentimes we lack those types of relationships that are intimate enough to be the voice of reason AND encouragement.  I've been blessed with many of those relationships over the years and I continue to relish all of them.

Third, I stopped "fighting for my rights" and chose instead to fight for others.  This fighting still isn't in the form of physical confrontations or harsh debates (although I do enjoy them), instead it's in the form of caring more for others than myself.  Although I'm huge on self care, I do believe our society has crossed the line between self care and selfish.  We have to work hard to be much less self centered and choose to focus on others around us.  This is a daily struggle for me.  It's easy to leave my office and not want to hear anything else negative.  It's easy to shut people out because of selfishness.  I have to constantly remind myself to let others in and to choose to focus on them.

I hope by hearing my heart and both my journey and the journey of my team you will begin to understand the Logos' vision.  We will continue to push forward and help people create hope for tomorrow.