Christianity 201

June 22, 2021

When the World is a Mess: Depression

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is our third time with Jack Garrott, and this time he shares some details from his own story.  His website is Virtual Vitamins. Click the title in the next line to read this there. Opinions are those of the author.

Depression

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

I personally think these two verses express the biggest reason God allows trouble in our lives: to get us to recognize our need for Him so that we will seek Him. There is literally no substitute for that, even though we try to substitute various things for God all the time. This particular Psalm (along with Psalm 43, which is in all probability part of the same original Psalm) deals explicitly with depression.

Sometimes we tend to think depression is a modern problem, but it is as old as mankind. There are lots of reasons for it, but it fundamentally comes from truncated vision, the inability to see beyond current events and circumstances. Frankly, there’s plenty going on around us to cause us to feel down, but at the same time, we are surrounded by God’s gracious blessings. Depression comes when we focus on the one and not the other. There are chemical/biological things that influence depression, either positively or negatively, and I’m not discounting that, but I stand by my premise.

The Psalmist here recognizes that with the admonition to himself, first stated in verse five and repeated in verse 11 and 43:5, to focus on God. I’m sure I will be accused of being simplistic, but that is ultimately, and always, the answer. We can think of countless excuses, but it comes down to the choice to trust God. Depression isn’t something that can be switched on and off like a light, but if we manage to focus on seeking God, He will answer.

I don’t write this casually. I attempted suicide once when I was in college. I can say with assurance that suicide is the ultimate expression of being self-centered.

Lately “bipolar” is a popular diagnosis and excuse, but in my observation, people who are being chemically treated for such a condition are some of the most pathetic people around, because their emotions are compressed from both sides, to the point of being essentially unable to feel anything emotionally at all.

People who are emotionally sensitive do need a support structure of family and friends, but running from emotion isn’t the answer. Many creative people have this issue, and squashing their emotions can likewise squash their creativity. Handel had this issue, and wrote the entire Messiah in the space of about two weeks, hardly sleeping, and then crashed. Thankfully there were no psychiatrists to dope him up, and with the support of those around him he recovered and went on to create much more magnificent music.

In one of my own experiences, I was lying in bed, not consciously praying but just thinking, “There are so many things I wish were different.” Very clearly, so clearly it could have been an audible voice, except that my wife beside me didn’t hear anything, I heard the Lord say, “How do you think I feel?” Ever since then I have been comforted by the assurance that though things are a mess right now, God isn’t through with it all, and He is to be trusted.

Father, thank You for this reminder. It’s not something I’m likely to forget! I ask for wisdom and compassion as I deal with people around me all the time who are depressed, often with good reason. Help me point them to You without making them feel I am taking their suffering lightly. I’ve had some real problems in that area. May I be so focused on You that those with whom I interact may likewise lift their eyes to You, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

August 21, 2020

For Those Who Feel They’re Spiritually Walking with a Limp

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re paying our eighth visit today to Bryan Lowe and his blog, Broken Believers. In this devotional, Bryan shares something deeply personal with his readers he had never shared before. I read three different pieces by him today, and encourage you to click through (on the title which follows) and look around.

Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

“You have given me many troubles and bad times, but you will give me life again. 
When I am almost dead, 
You will keep me alive.”

Psalm 71:20, NCV

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Isaiah 53:3, NASB

Everyone hurts sometimes. We all will face our sorrows. But there are times, when our pain pounds us intensely, and it turns into a deep problem. The darkness rolls in on our souls like a caustic fog. It can get awful.

Sorrow is the effects of a hammering emotional or spiritual pain. I have never spoken out like this, but my wife and I had a daughter who died— stillborn. She was doing great, up to a week before her due date. We knew that in seven days, we would be able to see her– face-to-face.

But that was not to be. Elizabeth Grace Lowe died from strangulation (from her own umbilical cord.) Nothing could have been done. My wife had noticed a moment of very frantic activity, as Elizabeth fought for her life. We plummeted from ecstatic joy to a devastating sorrow in minutes. It came “out-of-the-blue,” totally unexpected. We both were completely undone.

“For the Lord will not reject forever,
For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.
For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.”

Lamentations 3:32-33, NASB

There is pain, but there are promises. There is sadness, but there are psalms. There is a blessing on all those who grieve. This topic deserves far more attention than this simple post. (But they say, every fool wants to play “Hamlet,” so I guess I’m not immune.)

There is such sorrow in this life, much more than the human heart can possibly contain. But our Savior has a title (one of many.) He is the “Man of Sorrows.” He is the one “on point.” He leads us through such intense hostility. He guides us when things get very dark.

There are a few things that I want to communicate to you. These have come out of great darkness.

  1. God takes the full blame for our pain and sorrow. He doesn’t shift the blame, or deny His presence in our sufferings. Sometimes you need to adjust your theology.
  2. Jesus has fully shared our sorrow. All that you are feeling right now, He feels. If you feel you are at a minus 10, then He does as well. As you suffer, He is your shadow.
  3. Nothing is ever wasted. We really shouldn’t treat these moments of sorrow as a waste. Have you ever wondered at Jesus’ ‘economy’ after the 5000 were fed?  He assigns value to the leftovers. The disciples pick up their baskets and collect everything up again. Nothing will go to waste.
  4. This pain, this sorrow is the “intensive crash course” in becoming a person of mercy. You now will always walk with a limp. At times the scars will be quite visible to those who can really see. This will become forever a healed wound (but a wound nevertheless.) It helps to seek out others who have walked this same path. I don’t think I will ever fully trust a person who doesn’t walk with a limp.
  5. You will need (but maybe not accept) the transformation of your suffering into glory. This will take some time, and it almost feels like your not progressing at all. I encourage you to re-think each of these simple points. The Holy Spirit maybe working, perhaps behind the scenes.
  6. Finally remember this: God is not a monster, stomping on us like a boy crushes ants. He carries our pain and illness. He clearly comes along side every suffering believer. It is Satan who would suggest to you that God is a Celestial Menace, not worthy of our love.

*“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 147:3, NLT

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”

Isaiah 61:1, NLT

He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.
Psalm 147:3, TPT

July 1, 2020

Holiday Sadness

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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July 1st is Canada Day and in the U.S., July 4th is… well, it’s better known simply as “The 4th of July.” (Independence Day to be precise.)

Many times people feel very lonely and even severely depressed on holidays, especially when they (a) have no one to share the time with (b) many shops and restaurants are closed, and (c) they don’t have the distractions of their job. That last one hits some people especially hard. It can be especially devastating to be alone on a day when people are celebrating groups.

Of course, this year, many people are not celebrating in groups. The worldwide pandemic has suspended many holiday celebrations. Here in Canada, just about everything connected to Canada Day is cancelled for this year, though I suspect that in the U.S., 4th of July celebrations will go ahead in some jurisdictions.

If you are single and you think marriage is the cure for this, think again. My wife and I have gone through many stages in our marriage where we did not have any other couple that we, as the kids would say, hang with. This can be especially frustrating if you were hoping someone could join on the holidays to help with a particular project. Holidays simply reinforce that state of social affairs, where you have no one to call on to assist with a particular need. Of course, in marriage, you’ve got each other; and Biblically speaking that is one of the main purposes/benefits of marriage, but married couples will tell you that sometimes that isn’t enough.

But in that last sentence, I could have easily have typed, ‘Of course as Christians we’ve got the Lord…’ and that reality is one we can easily overlook.

The Psalmist understood this; Psalm 73: 25 says

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Some might argue that the key to this verse is “in heaven;” that Asaph is comparing the God of Israel to other gods. But I believe he is also contrasting “friends on earth” to having a “friend in heaven.”

A similar passage is in John 6:68, when Jesus has asked the disciples if they wish to leave

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Cynics would say that Peter is simply saying he has no other options, almost implying that he might leave if something better came along.

But time will prove the prophetic nature of his statement. Jesus remains faithful to Peter even when Peter doesn’t remain faithful to Jesus. Peter messes up but Jesus restores him. Truly, this is a friend who stays closer than a brother. Ultimately he is willing to die for his friendship with Jesus.

For some, my reference to marriage pales in comparison to an estranged relationship with a parent, or those who are true orphans, or those whose parents are no longer living. In Psalm 27:10 (NLT) we read:

Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.

Again in the Psalms, in 68:5-6 (NIV) we read:

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families
    he leads out the prisoners with singing;
    but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

Or perhaps you had a sibling; a brother or sister to whom you were so close. Proverbs 18:24 (NASB) reads,

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

It’s interesting to note that there is a problem that can occur on the opposite end of the spectrum when you have “too many friends.” (Maybe we should be careful what we ask for!)

That’s the kind of companion you have in Christ, even on a holiday when waves of depression roll in…

…Having said all this, the scriptures directly confront the reality of loneliness. In Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

“Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”

When you find yourself — and the holidays can magnify this situation — in a period of your life where you feel you have no friends, you can

  1. Ask God to send people into your life
  2. Put yourself in situations where meeting people happens naturally, organically.
  3. Try to do everything you can to be the type of person people would want to count as a friend.

On this last point, my parents would often quote this, though I don’t know the source;

He has friends who shows himself friendly.

So do what only you can do, but then rest in the knowledge that God is your refuge, your helper and your friend.

 

June 20, 2020

When Things Feel Hopeless

I’m currently reading The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies About God That Sound Like the Truth by Jared C. Wilson (Nelson books). For a formal review I’ve written, click this link.

The book is centered around eight statements which each of us at some time have heard voiced by people with a loose connection to Christianity. Perhaps you’ve even caught yourself echoing one of these yourself, hopefully at an earlier stage of your Christian pilgrimage vis-a-vis where you are today.

  • “God just wants you to be happy”
  • “You only live once”
  • “You need to live your truth”
  • “Your feelings are reality”
  • “Your life is what you make it”
  • “Let go and let God”
  • “The cross is not about wrath”
  • “God helps those who help themselves.”

This is an excerpt from chapter five which looks extensively at the Book of Job and the subject of hope, and how people are sometimes ruled by the apparent reality of what is actually subjective feelings. The link in the title below takes you to a page at the publisher’s website.

Your Feelings are Reality

In my days as a pastor, I would often find myself sitting across from people overcome with hurt. The most common question they all wanted answered was “Why?

“Why had God allowed this? Why is God doing this to me?”

As the designated religious professional, it was expected I might have an answer to that question. As it pertains to people’s specific trials and tribulations, I did not. But I would ask a question of my own, and it usually went something like this: “If you weren’t going through this would you be as close to God as you are right now?”

In all my years of asking that question, I never heard anyone say, “Yes.”…

…Christians don’t hope as the world hopes. When the world hopes, they are engaging in wishful thinking. “I hope this or that happens,” they think. They think that when a man dies, as Job says, he just fades away; he breathes his last. “You only live once.” That’s it. That’s all they can see.

But Christian hope is not like that. It defies what we can see and it is ripe with the promise of what cannot be seen.

  • We do not grieve as those who have no hope.“–1Thessalonians 4:13
  • And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort.“–2Corinthians 1:7
  • There is hope reserved for you in heaven.“–Colossians 1:5
  • Christ in you, the hope of glory.“–Colossians 1:27
  • Christ Jesus is our hope.“–1 Timothy 1:1 (emphasis added)
  • We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…“–Hebrews 6:19
  • Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.“–Hebrews 11:1 (emphasis added)

See, the world’s hope is hollow. The believer’s hope is firm. Because the believer’s hope is Jesus! And just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not real. Just because you don’t see him now, doesn’t mean you won’t see him then.

Satan wants you to believe that you are all alone, that when you are stripped down to your essence and left with only pain, that’s all you have. He does not want you to see the reality that Jesus will never leave you or abandon you (Heb. 13:5), that he will be with us all the way to the end (Matt. 28:20)…

…Everything may look bleak, our reality may be that we feel that all is lost, but if we have Christ, we defy what is visible. And we cling to hope, which demands what is invisible.


Taken from The Gospel According to Satan: Eight Lies about God that Sound Like Truth by: Jared C. Wilson Copyright © 2020 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com.

March 22, 2020

Look Up at the Eagle in Flight; Look Up and Count the Stars

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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NIV.Is.40.26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name…

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

by Ruth Wilkinson

A few years ago, there was a summer when our son was struggling with depression. This was the first time we’d encountered it and we thought it was something he’d go through and come out the other side. As parents do, we encouraged him to push back against it, to get out there and do stuff, including a summer job.

The only work available was picking strawberries for a local farmer and we thought that would be perfect–fresh air, sunshine, the smell of berry fields, no time pressure–not to mention it being the perfect, introvert-friendly summer job.

He absolutely hated it. He tried; he showed up to his shifts and worked away. But he absolutely hated it. He kept going for most of the season, but after several weeks, he quit.

We didn’t understand why it went so badly, but eventually we wondered whether it had to do with the posture of berry picking.

Head down, looking at the ground, shoulders hunched forward. We wonder now whether that downward posture combined with his depression to make everything worse.

+=+=+=+=+=+

I’ve been thinking lately about looking down. And looking up.

The 40th chapter of Isaiah contains a message to the people of Israel: a message sent to encourage them, to let them know that their season of exile was nearly over. They’d been invaded, defeated, and taken captive, and carried away.

Their situation was different from ours in a few ways:

  • They’d been told by God in no uncertain terms that their situation was a direct result of choices they’d made. It was effectively time out for bad behaviour. We have no credible reason to believe that is the case for us.
  • What they were afraid of was men with swords, violent invaders who, if kept happy, might not assault or kill. We are afraid of each other–of friends, family, neighbours, or any close contact.
  • They were scooped up and taken from their home, their beautiful city, en masse to somewhere far away, where they didn’t want to be. We have been separated from each other, distanced for our own protection.

But even with those differences…

  • we are wondering why this is happening.
  • we are afraid, anxious.
  • we are not where we want to be.

Isaiah 40 is one part of the Bible that we take to heart–words of comfort and encouragement, even though they were spoken long ago in a time that is not now, to people who are not us.

But they endure, they’ve been preserved, they’ve been painted on wall hangings and t-shirts, because, an age and a world away, they still apply to us. They contain truth beyond their particular circumstances, and show us something about who God is and what he intends for us. Something he wants us to know.

+=+=+=+=+=+

“Look up,” He says.*
“Look up and see how the eagle flies.
Look up and count the stars.”

Yes, there’ve been days when I’ve run and run and run, thinking I’d never run out of breath.
Days when I walked for mile after mile after mile, strength after strength after strength.
Days when I looked up and I soared.

But these are days when I can only look down at the road.
As far as the next step.
Days when the weariness catches up to me and I stumble.
And I fall.

And I cry aloud, “God doesn’t see me!  The Lord isn’t  listening to me!”
And I wallow in my own echo.
He doesn’t. He isn’t. He doesn’t. He isn’t. He doesn’t. He isn’t.

But when the echoes fade, I hear him.

“Look up,” He says.

“Don’t you know?  Haven’t you heard?
I am the everlasting God.
The Creator of the whole of earth and heaven.
I never get weary.
I never stumble.
I never fall.
I have strength to give to the weary,  the powerless.
“You may stumble.
You may fall.
But trust in me.
Wait on me and I will renew your strength.
To walk again.
To run again.
To soar.”

He says, “Look up.”
So I will look up.
I will look up and see.
I will look up and walk.
I will look up and run.
I will look up and soar.


*Ruth’s paraphrase of Isaiah 40, selected verses

March 13, 2020

Hold Your Head Up

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:28 pm
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But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. – Psalm 3:3 KJV

But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high – Psalm 3:3 The Message

But, Lord, you are my shield, my wonderful God who gives me courage. – Psalm 3:3 NCV

Earlier this morning I was reading something posted in a Facebook group on Classic Praise and Worship songs about the early worship song which was based on the KJV rendering of the above verse.

It seemed timely given the climate of fear which has come over so many in the wake of the current Coronavirus pandemic. On a personal level, I’ve been rather ‘rattled’ by that. Perhaps for others of you, all it takes is a haunting nagging from your pre-conversion past over the fact today was a Friday the 13th.

So many Christian books right now deal with the topics of fear, worry, anxiety and its related consequence, depression.

  • The Power of Praying Through Fear
  • Anxious for Nothing
  • Too Blessed to be Stressed
  • Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety
  • Breaking the Worry Habit Forever
  • Worry Less, Live More
  • Worry-Free Living
  • Winning the Worry Battle
  • Letting Go of Fear
  • Prayers for Freedom Over Worry
  • Finding Peace
  • Breaking Anxiety’s Grip
  • Fearless
  • Still: 7 Ways to Find Calm in the Chaos

…and that’s just a few; not to mention the hundreds of self-help books that aren’t in the Christian marketplace; dealing with the effects of fear on the wider society.

There were also many, many more books listed which had the word overcoming in the title.  Note to self: We need to a devotional on the subject of what it means to be an overcomer, as this theme runs throughout scripture, even if the word isn’t used.

Of course, the opposite of looking up is looking down. Three times in Psalm 42 and once again in Psalm 43, we find the word translated in the NIV as downcast.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  43:5

and it appears several other times in that translations.

We all, myself included, need to ask ourselves if in view of the present circumstances our world finds itself in, we are looking up or looking down.

Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7 NIV

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” – Jesus in Luke 21:18

We need to be people who are looking up.  No matter what:

“…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me … my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”(Ps 23).

When David wrote Psalm 3 when he was fleeing from Absalom. The lyrics of the short worship song which started our thoughts today include text taken from the subsequent verse, verse 4:

 I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill.

For one more linked song today however, I want to leave us with something slightly more recent, Why So Downcast by Marty Nystrom.

 

 

July 1, 2019

Keep Busy and Know that He Is God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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In the last 12 months, I’ve noticed a spike in interest in giftware products containing Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God;” along with many people commenting on the deeper context of the verse and how all these “trendy scriptures” (such as “For I know the plans…) are taken out of context.

Still, (pun intended) there is value in stillness. One of my favorites is Isaiah 30:15b

…“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength…” (NLT)

So why the title of today’s post?

July 1st is Canada Day and in the U.S., July 4th is… well, it’s better known simply as “The 4th of July.” (Independence Day to be precise.)

Many times people feel very lonely and even severely depressed on holidays, especially when they (a) have no one to share the time with and (b) they don’t have the distractions of their job.

If you are single and you think marriage is the cure for this, think again. For many years, my wife and I would have said that we currently do not have any other couple that we, as the kids would say, hang with.

Being in a crowd doesn’t help. Many times it simply reinforces the detachment or loneliness that some experience. Holidays simply aggravate this current state of social affairs, and as I type this, we’re actually dealing with another byproduct of having no one we call on to help with a particular need.

The Psalmist understood this; Psalm 73: 25 says

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Some might argue that the key to this verse is “in heaven;” that Asaph is comparing the God of Israel to other gods. But I believe he is also contrasting “friends on earth” to having a “friend in heaven.”

A similar passage is in John 6:68, when Jesus has asked the disciples if they wish to leave

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Cynics would say that Peter is simply saying he has no other options, almost implying that he might leave if something better came along.

But time will prove the prophetic nature of his statement. Jesus remains faithful to Peter even when Peter doesn’t remain faithful to Jesus. Peter messes up but Jesus restores him. Truly, this is a friend who stays closer than a brother.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:2

Typically, people have seen a Christological element in this verse; that the friend described is the Son of God Incarnate, now seated at the right hand of God.

That’s the kind of companion you have in Christ, even on a holiday when waves of depression roll in.

So again the title of today’s post…

…I believe that times of loneliness and depression are best defeated by engagement in activity. That hand-in-hand with Christ we can avoid the over-intensive introspection that comes with idleness and the temptations that often accompany solitude.

Mental health issues are not to be taken lightly. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary in cases of depression. But the ‘holiday depression’ described here is something I believe we can remedy through a change of attitude and by getting out into the community — and away from our computer screens (ironic here I realize) — still knowing that He is God.

Have a blessed Canada Day, 4th of July, or whatever holidays present themselves where you live.
 

February 11, 2017

Truth and Honesty in Times of Depression

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Pastor Kevin Rogers has been one of the most frequent writers here since we began C201. In January, he ran a series of posts all containing the word Blue and words which rhyme with it.  In the introductory piece, Lonely and Blue he set up the series noting how depression peaks in winter (which it is here in the Northern hemisphere) and went on to write Blue, Take Your Cue before writing today’s piece:

BLUE, BE HONEST AND TRUE

Truth can be painful because it proclaims life’s situations as they are, and not as we hoped they would have been. An important step out of loneliness is to be honest with God and with others. If you are not being honest with yourself, there’s no way for you to be honest with God.

Sometimes we want to minimize our problems or live in denial. We may be too proud to admit that we have a problem.

There are many people who hide behind service to others. They will do things for all kinds of people, but leave their own needs unmet. Perhaps you find it harder to pray for yourself. This is a false belief that it is wrong to ask God or anyone else to take care of you. This lack of self-love will lead to isolation and self-loathing.

God will never belittle you for being honest with Him about your deep inner feelings. He really does love and care for you.

1 Peter 5:7

“Cast all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”

God’s ability to work in our lives is dependent upon our openness to Him and allowing Him to absorb our deep inner hurt. His power to heal our fears and pains deepens with our honesty. He will not take away the anxieties that we keep from Him.

Many do not make themselves vulnerable to God. They hold back in fear. They think they are being childish, rude or selfish if they bring their complaints to God. It’s as if we want to keep our relationship with God on a professional, adult level. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work out too well. We need to let God see the hurt and immaturity that grips us.

1 Peter 1:13

“Prepare your mind for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

People of fate believe that they are lonely because it is meant to be, but people of faith believe differently. They do not take loneliness sitting down. People with faith cry out to God and look for an answer that will help them break free of their cycle of frustration.

 

September 3, 2013

Trusting God in a World of Fears

In the hunt for great devotional and Bible study content, today we introduce a new writer, David Rupert who blogs at Red Letter Believers.  This appeared recently under the title, How Real is your Fear of Failure?


There are at least two thousand known phobias. From Novercaphobia (fear of your step-mother) to Pogonophobia (fear of beards) to Syngenesophobia ( fear of relatives,) there’s a named fear for nearly everything in our lives.

fearfactor_240But for babies there are really only two measured fears – fear of falling and a fear of loud noises. Everything after that point is learned.

After a stint in my crawl space and another in the attic, I found my fear. Stenophobia, a fear of narrow places. Or perhaps it’s Claustrophobia – a fear of confined spaces. I don’t know where I got those fears, but they are real. I remember being locked in the trunk of my mom’s 69 Oldsmobile once, courtesy of a little brother who dared me to jump in. That might have had something to do with it.

I have a few other fears that pop up every once in a while, but the fear of failure is a biggie. And this is a terrible thing for a writer to have. “Will anyone read this. Will they like it? Will it make sense? Am I using the right voice? Am I using too many question marks?” Failure dogs every step of the writer’s life.

Our learned fears come from letting someone down at some point, of not living up to lofty expectations of a coach, a parent, or a teacher. It comes at the hand of imperfect man or woman living in a narrowly defined world of rules and regulations. It comes from letting myself down.

I could name off a half-dozen events in my life that seem to be markers in my mind – failures. The fence fell, the train came off the track, the cork blew, or whatever expression you want to use – I let others down. I disappointed God. I failed myself.

But Eric Parks, preaching on failure, said this. “You are not defined by your mistake – or series of mistakes. That’s not who you are in God’s eyes.” According to Eric — and God – the battle for failure is less about reality, and more about perception.

This is isn’t some feel good philosophy. It’s the truth. Satan loves to dig in and whisper in my ear, repeating the same tape in my brain of failures, disappointments, and bombs that I’ve lobbed into my life.

That’s why, every day, I have chance to start again. I have a chance to “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.”

Now, I won’t be a success at everything. I can’t slam dunk a basketball. I can’t start a fire quicker than Bear Gryliss. I can’t grow a Duck Dynasty Beard. But just because I can’t do something well – – or at all – doesn’t make me a failure.

What are you afraid of?

———

What He Said

Consider these verses:

Philippians 4:8 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

2 Corinthians 4:16 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Ephesians 4:23 

And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Philippians 4:6-7 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:2 

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

December 12, 2012

Anxiety, Depression and the Hope of Christmas

Fear, worry and anxiety are strongly linked to depression; and at this time of year, when everybody else is celebrating, depression seems to get larger, not smaller, for some people. Today is a double-post from Ben Nelson at the blog Another Red Letter Day.  I thought it significant that he dealt with both of these issues a few days apart. Links to the individual articles are in the titles, and you’re encouraged to read these there, leave comments, and browse other articles.

The Catch

Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. (Matthew 6:31-34 NASB)

In Monday’s post [Much More] I told you that God provision was not a principal or a promise, but more of a forgone conclusion.

Today there is actually another shoe about to drop.

There is a condition – a catch – one itty-bitty proviso.

And that goes back to the last paragraph – Who’s your master?

Here is the thing – If Jesus is your master, you have nothing to worry about – really –nothing.

Worry is a total waste of ‘redeemed time.’

The time you have is a gift of God. He gave it to you with a plan and a purpose.

Worry is a waste of that precious commodity.

Remember this guy?

And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. (Luke 15:13 NASB)

We call him the prodigal son. Do you know why we call this young man prodigal? (yes it is an adjective) Prodigal means wasteful.

So are you a prodigal when it come to your time – wasting it on worry? 

I pray today you would come to your senses like the prodigal son, and run home to Papa who is more than willing to take care of ‘what you will eat’ and ‘what you will drink’ and ‘how you will clothe yourself.’ And He has your tomorrow well in hand.

So get yourself comfortable in the role of servant, and our Wonderful Lord and Master will sweat the details.


Got Gloom?
Check this out

We all know this Christmas verse thanks to GF Handel:

The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:2 NASB)

But look what comes right before it:

But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. (Isaiah 9:1 NASB)

I love this – Jesus growing up in Galilee of the Gentiles making it glorious – but check the beginning

No more gloom for her who was in anguish.

Are you in anguish?

Are you living in gloom?

Are you stuck in a dark land – a dark place?

Christmas is here to break the gloom – break the anguish.

Ok – that was a bit mushy – how ’bout this:

Jesus was born, lived, and died a cruel death to break the gloom with an astonishing light

~ Ben Nelson

After posting this I discovered we had already borrowed an article from Ben just a few months ago, which I try not to do. But obviously this is a great source of devotional thoughts  which you might want to bookmark.

June 10, 2011

Putting It On The Altar

This is probably one of the most extreme examples of wrenching something out of context from an entirely different type of online source, and a much longer series of articles;  but I hope a few of you will pursue this and check out the ministry of George Hartwell, especially if you’re hurting or currently ministering to someone who is hurting.  I first met George last month when he was taking a few days apart from his schedule to do some writing and studying in a kind of informal rural retreat.   The article is from the website, HealMyLife.com.  George is a Christian counsellor in Toronto, Canada.

A Multi-Purpose Prayer of Release

“Put it on the Altar” is versatile: a prayer of release, a prayer of commitment, and an act of worship. It is a prayerful way to release stress.  Any work can be put on the altar: the week’s work, a life’s work, one’s ministry, and one’s investment in a person.  By doing so you are making it clear that this work has been done “as unto the Lord.” Putting one’s work on the altar frees one from concern of what people think and concern about the results of your effort. So it clears your heart from the fear of man and your mind from lingering on the project.

A person can be put on the altar. It is a prayerful way to release stress. By doing so you are making it clear that you don’t control this person. You have taken your hands off and put them in God’s hands. Putting a person or relationship on the altar should bring a sense of freedom and release. We were made for freedom and when one person clings or controls neither is free.

You can put your heart on the altar with the meaning of putting it into God’s care. This is a good idea. It is especially good when we are heart broken. When we let God hold our broken heart He keeps if from becoming hard. In His care our heart can love again.

Putting on the altar the things that we want to control can free us from tension and anxiety. It we are pushing to control, striving to manage, wound up about things it is not good for our health. Letting go of wanting to control is a way of relaxing. The theme of letting go of our drive to over control as a way of reducing stress is fully explained in “the Power of Letting Go” by Patricia Carrington (1999).

Mental over control can dampen the spontaneous enthusiasm, creativity and wisdom our heart and spirit. When we learn to live more from heart and spirit and less from our head we enter a zone of excellence that the Bible calls “the rest” or “life in the Spirit.” Using more secular language, Timothy Gallwey explores this interesting theme of getting out of mental over control in his books which include “The Inner Game of Tennis”, ‘The Inner Game of Golf” and “The Inner Game of Work.”

You can put your plans (goals, vision, mission, programs) on the altar to surrender them to God and find God’s will for you. To find out if God is calling you to some project surrender the project to God by putting it on the altar. When you picture putting something on the altar the message at the heart level is about taking your hands off, letting and stepping back. God’s response, or non-response, can indicate whether God is in it. God may confirm with the still small inner voice, by an increase in inner joy and enthusiasm, by inner peace about moving ahead, with a clearer vision and creative ideas coming forth. With God’s confirmation and the sense of God’s wind in your sails you can move ahead with confidence and with the sense that you are in partnership with God.

Sometimes pleasing people is a stronger force in our life than pleasing God. That means we fear men more than God. This means that man’s thinking can control us. In fact, others have become our God. We are in idolatry. It could be liberating to put these others that we fear on the altar. Sacrifice them and their approval to God. Let God do a work in your heart. Be free of the fear of man. Be free to serve God alone.

“Put it on the Altar” Prayer of Release

The following steps are instructions for a healing encounter with God through a prayer of release – a let go and let God kind of prayer. Adapt the outline to your purposes as seems appropriate.

You start when you have identified what it is that you want to put on the altar.

Choose some image to represent what you are putting on the altar. For example, your physical heart represents your love and the center and source of your life.

Tell God what you are doing. For example, “Take my heart, loving Father as I put it on your altar. I put my broken heart in your care.”

Picture the altar and the action as you put what represents your concern on the altar.

Stay attentive to this drama as it unfolds. As you put it on the altar what happens? What else do you see and hear? At the end of this symbolic inner action notice how you feel.

You can enter into a dialogue with God. For example if you have trouble letting go you may want to ask God if it is in His hands now. For example: “Heavenly Father, do you have my heart in your hands?” Listen for His answer.

When something significant happens, when something encouraging is heard in a prayer encounter, you will usually have a good feeling inside. It is important to soak in this good feeling, this encouragement and comfort. Take time to receive. Be still and let this feeling soak in. Let your heart feel good.

Let you heart be thankful. Let your spirit rejoice. Thank God. If your putting something on the altar represents a meaningful release and loss then it is health if you are experiencing some grief. See the next topic on Grief and Comfort.

(Optional extension) Ask yourself what implication this has for your life. How does this change your life? How would your life be different now?

Picture how things can be different in your life. What is one thing that would be different? Imagine how that would be. How does that change feel?

Thank God for how this went, for how you feel, and for this can change your life.

Make notes: write down a record of what happened, how you felt and what God said and review this later for discernment and encouragement.

 

Click this link to learn more about George Hartwell’s counseling ministry

Click this link for a directory of online articles at HealMyLife.com

 

March 7, 2011

Seeing Illness as a Blessing

Yesterday’s and today’s items here don’t have any specific scripture references.  I wrote this three years ago at an obvious low point, and thought it might be applicable to someone reading it today; maybe you are that person.  Readers may want to add a scripture verse in the comments that references one or all of the points here…

  • Illness forces us to slow down, and that forces us to do the things that really matter, and that forces us to decide what really matters
  • Illness forces us to ask God for help on behalf of ourselves, which seems selfish at times, so first we have to apologize for asking
  • Illness causes us to ask other believers to join in prayer for us, which can be rather humbling
  • Illness helps us remember others who are suffering, it helps us to identify and empathize with their situation
  • Illness – while not necessarily caused by sin -brings us to a wonderful season of self examination and determination to aim for greater holiness
  • Illness reminds us of our mortality; our material culture has forced us to cling to everything including life itself, but our lives have an expiry date
  • Illness has a mellowing, sobering effect on us – some things can become potentially more irritating, but some other things no longer matter as much
  • Illness forces us to ask bigger questions; Is God in control? Does He care about the details of my life? Will he intervene in a special way?
  • Illness brings into clarity other times we were ill, and reminds us that God brought us through that time
  • Illness helps us hear Christian songs differently; “I thank God for the mountains, and I thank him for the valleys…” Can I do that right now?

I’m sure there are other things, too. Most of the prayer requests in our churches are for issues people are dealing with in their physical bodies. Pray specifically for one another. If you are the person for whom this was for today, listen for God’s voice in the middle of all you’re going through.

February 1, 2011

Discouragement: A Subtle Tactic in Spiritual Warfare

But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.  (II  Cor 7:6)

Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement.  (II Cor 2: 7)

“Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them?  (Num 32:7)

Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. (Ezra 4:4)

They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. (Neh. 6:9)

So Moses told the people of Israel what the Lord had said, but they refused to listen anymore. They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery. (Ex. 6:9)

After they went up to the valley of Eshcol and explored the land, they discouraged the people of Israel from entering the land the Lord was giving them. (Num. 32:9)

Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’ (Deut. 1:21)

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”  (Deut 31:8)

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh 1:9)

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Take all your fighting men and attack Ai, for I have given you the king of Ai, his people, his town, and his land. (Josh 8:1)

“Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged,” Joshua told his men. “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord is going to do this to all of your enemies.” (Josh 10:25)

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.  (I Chr. 28:20)

He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  (II Chr.20:15)

“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! (II Chr. 32:7)

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.I will strengthen you and help you.I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.  (Is. 41:10)

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!  (Ps: 42:11 and Ps. 43:5; same lyric)

Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (Col 3:21)

I am convinced that one of the subtle schemes of the enemy is to bring discouragement to God’s people.  Most of us are familiar with the many “Do not be afraid” or “fear not” verses, but there are many scriptures — 28 in the New Living Translation (NLT) reference discouragement in one way or another, the translation used for the above verses.  (18 in the new NIV, 6 in the ESV, 5 in the NASB.)

I also wonder if much of our modern-day depression is really spiritual-warfare.  Depression and discouragement seem to go hand-in-hand.  The word depression is used sparingly in the above-mentioned translations…

After that, whenever the bad depression from God tormented Saul, David got out his harp and played. That would calm Saul down, and he would feel better as the moodiness lifted. (I Sam. 16:23, The Message)

…though the Bible being more literary and poetic than most other books, often refers to a broken heart:

I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken.My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people.Little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets.  (Lamentations 2:11, NLT)

A glad heart makes a happy face;a broken heart crushes the spirit. (Prov 15:30 NLT)

Their insults have broken my heart,and I am in despair.If only one person would show some pity;if only one would turn and comfort me.  (Ps. 69:20 NLT)

My heart is broken because of the false prophets,and my bones tremble.I stagger like a drunkard,like someone overcome by wine,because of the holy wordsthe Lord has spoken against them.  (Jer. 23:9 NLT)

For myself, today an element of spiritual warfare to it which was more overt, but the feeling I was left with — or the thing that my emotions connected the dots to, the way you attribute someone in a dream to someone you know — was that of discouragement.

It can really eat away at you if you let it.

So don’t.

July 1, 2010

Holiday Depression

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July 1st is Canada Day and in the U.S., July 4th is… well, it’s better known simply as “The 4th of July.”  (Independence Day to be precise.)

Many times people feel very lonely and even severely depressed on holidays, especially when they (a) have no one to share the time with and (b) they don’t have the distractions of their job.

If you are single and you think marriage is the cure for this, think again.   My wife and I currently do not have any other couple that we, as the kids would say, hang with.   Holidays simply reinforce this current state of social affairs, and as I type this, we’re actually dealing with another byproduct of having no one we call on to help with a particular need.

The Psalmist understood this; Psalm 73: 25 says

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

Some might argue that the key to this verse is “in heaven;” that Asaph is comparing the God of Israel to other gods.   But I believe he is also contrasting “friends on earth” to having a “friend in heaven.”

A similar passage is in John 6:68, when Jesus has asked the disciples if they wish to leave

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Cynics would say that Peter is simply saying he has no other options, almost implying that he might leave if something better came along.

But time will prove the prophetic nature of his statement.   Jesus remains faithful to Peter even when Peter doesn’t remain faithful to Jesus.  Peter messes up but Jesus restores him.   Truly, this is a friend who stays closer than a brother.

That’s the kind of companion you have in Christ, even on a holiday when waves of depression roll in.