We often talk about hope.
Even more as we feel like losing it ...
Sadly, our postmodern culture, especially here in Europe, is becoming the culture of cynicism. It goes that far that it became out-of -date advocating any kind of tangible hope. F. W. Nietzsche even said, “Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.” As far as for Christian hope, many would portray it as groundless naiveté and blind optimism.
But the truth is we can't live without hope, we just can not. The moment we lose it, we die. And we need it today more than ever. As we watch the collapsing economy, the probability of new wars, the disintegration of the family values - where could we turn to find the real hope? Or better, to whom?
The good news is that the Christian hope is as real as it has been since the early age of Jesus. Moreover, it was always the strongest in the time of hopelessness. Why? Because it is the living hope! Though every hope is oriented towards the future, the Christian hope is not based on the wishful expectations that are limited by fragile circumstances. It is rather the hope in the very Lord of the future. And as the death could not overcome Jesus, there's no death that could overcome the hope placed in Him.
That is the Hope God gives to all who believe Him. He gives us His living hope so we can live His Life in this troubled world. He gives us His hope to protect us (1 Thess 5:8), to purify us (Heb 12:14; 1 Jn 3:3), to gives us purpose and direction (Heb 12:1,2), and to be our firm anchor in the storms (Heb 6:11-20). Above all, He gives us His hope so we can eagerly expect His promises with joy (Rom 12:2) and patience (1 Thess 1:3).
HOPE FOR LIFE is the ministry in Croatia based on that living hope. It is based on the hope apostle Paul wrote about when being imprisoned and sentenced to death - "for me to live was Christ" (Phil 1:21). Since his time, the generations of Christians were enthusiastically spreading the good news that Christ is alive. And this not only as the physical phenomena, but even more that He can be alive in us, and that we can be eminently alive in Him! I never knew what that really mean before reading the book "The Saving Life of Christ", where Major W. Ian Thomas said:
"To be in Christ - that is redemption, but for Christ to be in you - that is sanctification! To be in Christ - that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you - that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ - that changes your destination; but for Christ to be in you - that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home - the other makes this world His workshop."
Wow, isn't workshop the very place where the imperfect things, those that even seems to have no meaning are manufactured and perfected into something meaningful and beautiful? Perhaps God allows the circumstances we sometimes may not like in order to give us the wonderful privilege of experiencing His work in us and through us.
And how we get that Life of Jesus?
Jesus gave His life for us at the cross. He did it so that our sins can be forgiven. But in addition to that, He gave His life at the cross so that we can live His resurrected Life (Rom 5:10). How is that possible?
Just as we feel hungry for the food of this world, we often feel hungry in our emotional, even spiritual being as well. When our life doesn't work for us we may turn for help to any place we hope to find one. And interestingly enough, when we apply all good advices that the human psychology can offer, at the very moment when we become "perfectly healthy", we may discover that we find yourself - empty. Why is that? It may be so because there is no life in the models. The concepts may look great, practical and wise, they may even taste like food for the soul, but the concepts have no life in themselves.
In order to understand what can satisfy our deepest hunger, it may help to see what satisfy our physical hunger. What is the criteria that something could become eatable and digestible for us? There is one simple, but unavoidable condition - it must have life in it. We can not eat dirt, sand or paper. It has no life in itself. But, we can eat meat, fruits and vegetables because they are the product of life given to our benefit. Likewise the psychological concepts may to our spirit appear like "inorganic" and our spirit can not live from them. Only Jesus can give the real food for our spirit because He has the Life and is willing freely to give it to us. Isn't that wonderful?
But, to get this amazing Life from Jesus, the religion may not be enough. As we see in the story of prodigal son, in his deepest despair he was longing to eat even the pods. It is interesting that though the pods have the organic origin, their purpose was only to protect the living substance within. They are not meant for food, only to cover and hold the true food within. Isn't that similar with the religion? Religion could be so dry if we don't find the Life within. Even the Bible, the very book from God, could leave us empty if we don't recognize that it points to the Life of Jesus within (John 5:39).
So, what is required that the something could become food for us? Simply, it must have life in itself, the life that may be given to us in order that we can live. And exactly that makes Jesus so unique, and so needed. He gave His life for us so we can live. It is only Jesus Himself who can satisfy our hunger (John 6:53). What a privilege to know Him intimately and once we do, we may never need to hungry again!
Verbal Inspiration of the Bible
We believe the Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, to be verbally inspired by God in the original manuscripts; infallible, inerrant and God-breathed, a perfect rule of faith and practice.
The Lord Jesus Christ
We believe that God, the Son, who has always existed, became a man (without diminishing His deity) by virgin birth through Mary. He lived a sinless life and as the infinite God-Man took upon Himself the sins of all men, died in their place, thereby paying the penalty for their sins and satisfying God concerning their sins. We further believe in the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He then ascended and was exalted to the right hand of God as the Great High Priest of all believers.
The Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, one aspect of the triune God, who convicts the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. He is the Supernatural Agent in regeneration, baptizing all believers into the body of Christ, indwelling and sealing them unto the day of redemption. His ministry to believers also includes empowering, teaching, and leading into all truth.
We believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God, but that in Adam's sin the race fell. All mankind thereafter inherited a sinful nature, was born alienated from God and totally depraved; of himself utterly unable to remedy his lost condition.
We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace (apart from any works) and received only by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of sins. Upon receiving salvation, one receives eternal life and becomes a partaker of Christ's life. He becomes a new creation and obtains a new identity as a child of God.
Devil and Demons
We believe that Satan is a person, who is aided by a host of evil spirit-beings called demons. Their design is to destroy believers, their homes, their witness, and their churches and to blind the lost to the Gospel. Every believer is subject to their attack, but may be victorious through Jesus Christ.
Each believer partaking of eternal life (Christ's life) was united with Christ and thus was spiritually crucified, buried, raised and enthroned with Christ. The “old man” died at that point (Rom 6:4-11; Col 2:12-14). But the results of co-crucifixion become an experiential reality to each believer as he chooses to walk in the Spirit, rather than after the flesh. As he learns to do this, he learns to walk in victory. This process of learning to walk in the Spirit is sanctification. Sanctification, then, is Christ living His life through the believer, as the believer - by God’s mercy and grace - increasingly understands that Christ’s Lordship in his life requires full surrender. (This is not teaching passivity, sinless perfection or the deification of man.)
The Exchanged Life
We believe that the message of the Gospel is not only about finding salvation for eternity, but also about finding the promised fulfilling, abundant life here on earth in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that the cross of Jesus not only dealt with our wrong behavior (forgiveness of sins), but also that His death and His resurrection dealt with our wrong identity (being a sinner in Adam, lost, dead, alienated from God) by rebirthing us in spirit. As believers, our "old man" died with Christ on the cross and was buried with Him. The “new man” rose with Him and is seated in heavenly places with Him at the right hand of the Father (Eph 2:6). Every Christian has this new LIFE, sharing the eternal life of Jesus, hidden with Him in the Father. These truths are taught in Romans 5-8, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 1 and 2, and Colossians 3:3,4. We are dedicated to teaching these biblical truths in a clear and practical way. “Exchanged Life” is a term coined by Hudson Taylor, the famed missionary to China. Based upon a literal translation of Isaiah 40:31, wherein the phrase “renew their strength” is “exchange their strength” [for God’s strength], Taylor found the strength to continue his extraordinary and difficult mission. Our discipleship counseling is founded on this basis of exchanged strength for walking in the victory of Christ.
Walking In Flesh Or Spirits
Every Christian has the right and possibility of sharing the blessings of Christ's life if he chooses to walk in the Spirit by faith. But every believer also has the freedom to choose to walk in the flesh, manifesting his self-centric life, rather than the life of Christ. Flesh is a mindset that depends on one’s own resources to cope with life’s challenges and to fulfill one’s needs. Flesh is sentenced by God to fail, no matter how "religious", socially acceptable or successful it may appear. Walking in the flesh results in sin - mental, physical, relational, emotional, spiritual - and its ensuing problems. Instead of just solving the problems on the surface by helping people learn to “cope” better, we help people realize their fleshly habits and lead them toward deeper surrender to Christ, which enables them to choose to walk in the Spirit.
Brokenness and Total Surrender
Brokenness is the experience of God leading us into situations where our flesh’s ultimate failure becomes obvious. God’s purpose is to bring us into an intimate relationship with Him of total dependency. He desires that the believer come to realize that his fleshly coping mechanisms are inadequate for life. As he realizes this, the believer can totally surrender his life to Christ. He relinquishes his rights to Jesus, allowing Him to do what He wants in the believer’s life. Christ's life is only manifested in the life of a Christian in a complete, victorious way after total surrender. We help others through this often painful process, encouraging them to see total surrender to and obedience to Christ as the solution, instead of blaming others, circumstances, or God.
Identity and Victory In Christ
It is a basic and valid need of every Christian to see himself as a valuable, acceptable child of God and to find victory in life's temptations. The solution of the Gospel, as reflected in Paul’s teachings, is that personal value and victory are not a result of self-effort and self-discipline (i.e.; living under the Law), but are given to us as a work of God in us through Jesus Christ (i.e.; living under grace, living the life of Christ). Instead of urging people to solve their problems and pain by different or more efficient self-effort, we encourage them to find rest in Jesus Christ. We explain how, by faith and surrender, to live the valuable and victorious life already given to them as a free gift from God.
Counseling is a very delicate process wherein a counselor enters the private and often painful areas of the counselee’s soul. The counselor must carefully follow the teachings of Scripture very closely. This is the reason why we want to express clearly our view on the biblical foundations for our ministry.
We believe that any person born into this world is born to what the Bible calls life in Adam or life in the flesh (Rom.5:14; 1 Cor.15:45-49). And this life in the flesh is not even real life. (It is physical and soulish life, but is not spiritually alive in the way God intended.). Therefore, there is a tremendous need (Rom.8:8,12) that can be fulfilled only by accepting Christ (1Cor.15:22; 1 Pet.1:23). Before repentance, a person has no choice other than to live from his own resources (Is.53:6). This is, indeed, an accurate definition of the flesh. Each one of us, as we grow up among various circumstances, takes on various characteristics and habits. This is why our flesh is structured differently from each other (Phil.3:3-6). But all varieties of flesh have in common the trait of coping mechanisms based in one’s own strength and is used to meet one’s own desires and needs. These coping mechanisms are actual expressions of the flesh (Eph.2:1-3). The problem this leaves us with is that our own fleshly coping mechanisms, ultimately, cannot succeed in meeting our needs.
Galatians 2:19-20 speaks of God's offer to exchange the fleshly life for the life of Christ in us. When this happens, our self-dependent coping mechanisms are no longer necessary. In fact, they are obstacles for life in the Spirit (Rom.8:13; Phil.3:3). Life in the flesh was never designed to cope with life's troubles and challenges (Rom.8:6). Therefore, the intent of Hope for Life is not just to help solve particular problems, but the total defeat of the flesh (Mk.8:34,35; 2 Cor.12:10). Once one gives up depending on his own resources, he is ready to experience the total victory Christ has promised (Ephesians 3:20, 1 Jn.5:4). Daily renewing of the mind with God's truth (Rom.12:2; Col.3:2,3) will enable Christ Himself to express His power in the midst of our troubles (Rom.5:3-5; 8:37). Living in this understanding transforms our problems into a chance for victory through Christ in us and through us. In this way, God is glorified in our lives (2 Cor.4:8-11;12:10).
Total repentance and spiritual brokenness are the conditions necessary to experience fully the new reality of Christ as life and hope (1 Cor.1:18; 2 Cor.12:9; 13:4; Eph:19; 3:20,2; 6:10; Phil.3:10; Col.1:11; 2:12; 1 Pet.5:10; 2 Pet.1:3). All who have realized and accepted this perspective can walk in complete and lasting healing.
USING THE WORD COUNSELING
While traditionally referred to as counseling, what we do is actually an in-depth, personalized discipleship course in which God’s truth is taught in such a way that the counselee is allowed to personally experience it and be set free from bondage created by unknowing acceptance of false beliefs (John 8:32). A frustrated faith sometimes occurs when we strain to do all the “right” things for God but continually fail to walk in Christ’s promised victory. The Hope for Life staff is trained to facilitate counselees in their journey to experience Christ as life. Through this individualized discipleship process, the counselee-believer deepens his awareness of his oneness with Christ as his true identity before God. He deeply experiences the message of “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified” (Gal 2:20) and applies it to his life's circumstances. Depending on the individual circumstances, personality, and degree of surrender to the Lordship of Christ, the counseling process often takes no more that 12-16 weeks.
WHY WE BELIEVE WE CAN HELP
Although it may seem bold for lay counseling to help people with diverse types, sources and complexities of troubles, we believe our intention is realistic and have seen that the results are effective. Although our training includes a variety of skills, we have noticed that diverse problems tend to share some characteristics.
One such characteristic is the counselee’s deep longing for acceptance and need for someone willing to listen. (Lonely people statistically are markedly vulnerable to depression.) A kind word of comfort, emotional support and understanding, the offer of friendship and solicitude can redirect life’s path. Christians have access to Christ’s peace and the love which truly heals wounds, but sometimes they need someone to lead them into God’s acceptance of them. We are assured of our God’s power and it is our joy to be part of Him blessing this suffering world.
Another common issue in every crisis is the perspective from which the counselee experiences his troubles. It is our observation that crises typically are seen from the perspective of the helpless victim. Accepting the role of victim tends to block one’s ability to change; while at the same time it raises inward tension and emotional charge resulting in conflicts and wrong decisions that only complicate problems. Accepting this, the counselee may simultaneously pray for change of his circumstances and trust God’s sovereignty in his life, including his troubling circumstances. It is also common that anxious people spend most of their energy, time and hopes on issues that objectively are out of their control, which only deepens their anxiety and amplifies their feeling of helplessness. We help them redirect their focus, pointing them to the option they are not using. Turning to God is always available and definitely allows healing.
It is also common to every crisis that its foundation is in the past. Leading the counselee through his personal history, we help him discover the lies he has believed and the idols to which he has turned for help. Discovering this enables a better understanding of his current behavior and the realization of the difference between his individual flesh patterns and dependence on/surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
THE COUNSELING PROCESS
Though perhaps ambitious to attempt an explanation of an involved discipling counseling process in a brief text, the following points may offer further explanation:
1. ESTABLISHING HOPE
People in pain are often trapped by the destructive belief that their problem cannot be solved. It is crucial to gain the counselee’s initial trust in order for any progress to occur. Jesus often asked for the initial faith that enabled one to receive healing. It is, then, helpful to lead them into some measure of hope for their personal healing and their problem’s resolution.
2. PRESENTING PROBLEM
The counselees are usually not aware of their true problem or are afraid to talk about it. For that reason they present to the counselor the specific problem that has driven them to seek help. They normally focus on wanting to change circumstances or others. We listen to the presenting problem with empathy and respect, demonstrating our true interest in the person, communicating love and acceptance, while learning more about the counselee and his situation. However, we don’t over-emphasize the presenting problem, therein preparing to lead them towards their deeper issues.
3. THE FLESH
As the Bible points to flesh as the believer’s main problem in life, we do the same. We use a variety of methods to discover the counselee’s individual flesh patterns; for example, some psychological tests, like T-JTA (Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis), which are commonly used in therapeutic diagnosis. Further more, as the present problem is not isolated from past events, we want to learn about the personal and social history of the counselee. Once he is capable of understanding how his personal flesh has been configured, he is able to distinguish life in the Spirit from the life in the flesh. It also explains one’s specific tendencies to particular sins and damaging behavior.
4. TEACHINGS ON GOD’S SOLUTIONS
The solution to all human longing is Christ living His life in and through us. This is the central belief, based on Scripture, upon which our ministry is based. In order for that to become personal experience, we teach the counselee how one allows Christ to be both their Lord and their Life. If the counselee is not a believer, this is a moment to introduce the Gospel. We explain repentance, forgiveness of sin, new birth, salvation, eternal security and other important truths they need to know for receiving Christ. If he is a believer, but without experiencing the victory promised by Christ, we lead him into acknowledging the failure of his personal flesh, teaching him how to deny self-life in order to walk in Christ. Their presenting problem can then be seen as merely a symptom of the brokenness that God has allowed them as His intended way to deal with their flesh. Typically, they become aware that their troubles can be accepted as a privilege and blessing by revealing their need for Christ as more than Savior, indeed their need for Him as their Lord and Life.
5. SPECIFIC NEEDS AND ISSUES
Next, depending on the presenting problem and the counselee’s needs, this is good moment to consider specific, more tangible, issues like handling money, family life, addiction.
6. INTRODUCING THE COUNSELEE TO THE CHURCH
At the end of counseling process, we share with the counselee about the beauty of Christian life and belonging to God’s family in a church. We suggest some local churches and may introduce them to a pastor or others who may be willing to offer Christian friendship or discipling. We definitely encourage them in fellowship and steadiness in a Christian community.
graduated from our Advanced Training in 2003 and remained our close ministry partner. He is the assistant pastor and the worship leader in the Baptist church in Varazdin, but is using most of his time and passion to plant the new churches in the neighboring cities. He does it with the resources he got from the Hope for Life as well and is applying them in his church planting ministry.
attended the Exchanged Life Internship in 2002 and since then began actively involved in the counseling/soulcare ministry. He is very patient and warm which has proven to help many people who found the life of Jesus through counseling with him. Tomislav is also very good teacher at the Hope for Life programs.
is one of my closest ministry partner in the Hope for Life. As a publisher who experienced the great personal, family and spiritual benefits from the Hope for Life, he joined our ministry and became dedicated to publish all books and teaching materials for Croatia. Zdravko also teach at the Hope for Life programs.
has been 18 years the head principle of the governmental social care institution. Beside being licensed as the social worker and counselor, he has been even licensed as the supervisor by the ANSE (Association of National Organization for Supervision in Europe www.anse.eu). In all of that, he was excited to discover the Exchanged Life counseling model as the only approach that can really help people. He is at the moment attending the AIT in Daruvar and already decided to leave his secular job and give himself completely to the Christian ministry. Zvonko is also one of the founder and leader in the young church in his home town. We've been praying and dreaming together that perhaps the Lord was inviting him to use his amazing credentials, experience and the enthusiasm to spread the Hope for Life counseling/discipleship ministry further into the public area of society.
is another Hope for Life intern whom is Father effectively using in the ministry. Danko is the Christian song writer, with more than 400 concerts behind. He even made the music for our video teaching sets. But, what makes Danko really special is the fact that he is blind and has passion to serve other blind people. Being inspired with the Hope for Life program, he applied the project of support center to blind people to the local government in his town Sisak and was accepted. In 2012 Danko got the highest award for his work on the social protection, humanitarian work and the religious music even from the very President of the Republic of Croatia.
spent his best years in the war when Croatia was attacked (1991-1995). Since he became Christian he realize that Jesus is the only answer to his fellow soldiers. That makes him passionate to initialize the organization that will help traumatized veterans. As we came together he realizes that the program of Hope for Life can be the best way to realize his ministry dream so he joined the group that is attending the Advanced Training in the city of Daruvar. Dražen is eager to use the new resources to help the hopeless and disillusioned ex-soldiers to find the saving life of Christ.
If the heart of every Christian ministry is the healing Word of God, with the Hope for Life it is even more so. There are many theologically-sound and inspiring books in English that we use effectively in teaching, counseling, training and devotions, but unfortunately they were not that available for non-English readers. Therefore, we found as the very important task to translate and publish as many as possible to the small Croatian market. Although we are not a publishing company, the Lord brought the person who could realize our dream and provide Croatians valuable literature in areas that relates to our message and the ministry of Hope for Life. We're so excited that we were able to publish even 15 titles so far. On the site of our partner Logos publisher you can find the whole library we've been developing in Croatian.
LOGOS New edition Library
In addition to the written resources, we realized would be good to make the video collection of the Grace Life conference. So the 7 DVD-s presents the exciting 10 hours video teaching program, fully equipped with striking graphics and background video illustrations. I'm especially glad that we could include several songs composed by Danko Tomanić, the blind songwriter who is also one of our dear interns. This collection also includes the CD with more inspiration, Power Point presentations, graphics, info about our trainings, as well as other activities of Hope for Life.
Inspirational & Promotional Conferences
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In order that the great counseling Hope for Life ministry resources will be better accepted in the educational and social institutions in Croatia, I found it beneficial to apply for the program at the ETF, the Evangelical Theological Seminary from Osijek www.evtos.hr/en. Moreover, as one of their student, I asked them if they can give me the credit based on the EL program I graduated at the Grace Ministry Budapest. On my surprise, they were very positive and told me that they would be happy to do that, I just need to present them the program in the academic form. In addition to that there is the desire from their department in Belgrade, Serbia to learn our counseling program as well. Now we are working on the curriculum that would be accepted. Please, pray for that big work!
There is the group of the individuals in Belgrade, Serbia, that are very interested to attend the Advanced Training of the Hope for Life ministry. What is the most exciting, among them will be the psychotherapist, the lady who lead the foster care organization and even the lady who leads the pro-life organization that try to decrease the number of abortions in Serbia.
Hope for Life enjoys partnering with complementary ministries to build a vision of hope in Croatia. We feel especially privileged that most of our partners are the members of Association of Exchanged Life Ministries in the U.S.A. like:
Grace Ministries International
, Marietta, GA,
Grace Life International
, Charlotte, NC
Frank Friedmann & Grace Life Fellowship
, Baton Rouge, LA
Exchanged Life Ministries
Crossways to Life
, Kitchener, Ontario
, Fort Wort, TX
Beside working in Croatia, Hope for Life is also networking with the similar ministry organizations throughout the continent of Europe. In order to share each of our specifics and be more efficacious, we formed the association called GraceNet Europe. So every year the European partner-ministries of Hope for Life meet for the fellowship and the ministry encouragement in spreading the message of Grace and the counseling potential throughout the old continent.
Ministering in the country without Christian counseling tradition forces us to be the most creative in finding the ways how to be accepted in public. This is one of the most challenging side of the Hope for Life. But it seems that the Lord is doing something with this big challenge. Recently He brought me in touch with Association of Christian Counselors, the organization that is assisting European Christian counseling organizations to be publicly recognized. They are doing this by helping and motivating the Christian counselors to get the official accreditation and be better connected.
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