Depression and The Christian Faith

2016 was one of the most difficult years for me. It was a year in which I faced incredible stress and heartbreak. It was also the year that I faced my depression.

I have not been able to blog for quite a while. A few of you have contacted me to find out why. This last year I have had to deal with my depression. I ignored it to long, and I believe that God finally made me face it. I actually believed that my relationship with God was at its best point in my life. I was enjoying daily devotion time and really learning so much. But God wants us to face the truth about who we are. I wanted to deny my depression, after all how can a Christian be depressed? For me this is what I struggled with for the past few years. I wondered if I was failing God. I would agonize, “Where was the Joy that was supposed to come with being a follower of Jesus?” Instead of dealing with the depression, I would make excuses, blame others, or just live in denial. This year my depression took an ugly turn. It came in so hard and deep that I could hardly function. It suffocated me. All the things I enjoyed in life were gone, I could not see any optimism or hope. I would find my self weeping for no apparent reason. These struggles would often lead to emotional out burst of anger, fear, anxiety and deep sadness.

My wife finally had enough and let me know that she was no longer going to tolerate me if I was not going to get help. She began to detach herself from me and our marriage. Over the last few years I had failed to realize what a toll my depression had placed on my wife. I had ignored the pain she had to endure.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)

Depression is not a sin

The first thing that I had to realize was that depression was not a sign that I was failing God or that God did not love me. There are many examples in the scripture of people who fervently loved God, but suffered from depression. Elijah and David as well as the Apostle Paul all endured periods of great depression. Philippians seems to be a letter written specifically for those enduring depression. The word Joy is one of the most underlining themes. It is full of encouragement and reminders of God’ faithfulness. One of the Psalm’s that has helped me the most is Psalm 143. This passage has become a rock for me durring the last year. I find myself praying this Psalm to God at least once a day.

Once I realized that my depression was not a sin, I did have to come to grips with the fact that the results of depression can lead one to sin, in the way they treat others. Some of the sins that I struggled the most with were fear, anger, selfishness, pride and intolerance. As I look at this list I am filled with great shame. I never realized the pain I was causing others. A person who is dealing with depression often fails to see the sins that are doing the most harm in their lives. This is why it is important to get help.

Stop blaming others and circumstances and just get help!

My life is extremely stressful, so it was alway easy to blame my behavior on stress, or on someone else. When I finally agreed to get help it opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had been ignoring. It also helped me to understand what was contributing to my depression. It turns out that my liver is a major contributor to my depression. So along with medication, I have had to change my diet. This is not easy for me because I love to cook. I have gone to a gluten free, dairy free and night shade free diet. In other words a twig and tree bark diet.(It is really not that bad; but there are so many foods that I had to give up.) I have had to give up tomatoes and potatoes and all peppers as well as bread and dairy. The diet has been brutally tough; the food I am willing to sacrifice, but my marriage and devotion to Christ, I am not. I have had to learn to cook in a whole new way. It has actually helped both with my depression and relationships with my family. My children have become quite excited about trying the different dishes that I prepare. My wife and I have become much closer and have really developed much better communication skills.

God wants us to grow in Him. My counselor reminds me every session of Psalm 139:23-24. It is a verse that every follower of Christ should pray and meditate on each day:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

You may not realize how your behavior is effecting others, so please seek help, repentance, forgiveness and  most of all, trust in God’s plan for your life.

 

Enduring and Persistent Communication…

“No one can believe how powerful prayer is and what it can effect, except those who have learned it by experience. Whenever I have prayed earnestly, I have been heard and have obtained more than I prayed for. God sometimes delays, but He always comes.”
― Martin Luther

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Recently I wrote about what to do in the midst of The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… Prayer is the most important tool we have. Most people fail to use it effectively, if they use it at all. The following passage explains a few of the attributes effective prayer should have.The follower of Christ should not wait for difficult times to pray, We should pray in preparation for them.

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,  saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, Give me legal protection from my opponent.’  For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said;  now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

Prayer is effective communication with a responsive God who has the desire to have a relationship with you. E.M. Bounds once said, “The [prayer] closet…is the battlefield of the Church; its citadel; the scene of heroic and unearthly conflicts.” The fact is that many Christians take prayer for granted. Why are we failing to pray? A pastor once told me, that the most difficult event to get people to come out to was a prayer meeting. He mentioned that he would be lucky if 10 people showed up out of his thousand member church. We wonder why there is so much evil in the world, yet we fail to pray. In this technology era of texting and twittering there is very little deep emotional conversation that takes place. In the same way that it affects the natural world it is also affecting the spiritual world. Recently, articles ranging from CNN to The Huffington Post discuss the dangers of losing face-to-face communication. ( Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Relationship ) This lack of communication is also affecting the way people are praying to God. Are your prayers becoming like a twitter post to God? Are your prayers enduring and full of conviction or are they soulless babble? 

Let see what Jesus wants us to learn about prayer.

Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,(Romans 12:12)

God wants us to have enduring prayer times. Luke basically gives the parable away by telling us what it is about. We are to pray at all times and not to lose heart. Pretty simple idea, so why do we have such a hard time with it. Texting allows us to cut out the chit-chat, it keeps our interactions brief and to the point. We have even reduced whole sentences to a simple emoji. Because of the influence of social media and technology we are failing in our interpersonal communication. In this same way, we have reduced our prayers to simple sound bites. God wants enduring prayers. A person who is devoted to prayer, perseveres through difficult situations and rejoices in the hope that God provides.

We need to devote our selves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

He wants us to have deep conversations with him, prayers that take time. God wants to hear our problems, sorrows, our brokenness, our praise and gratitude. This takes time. God wants our time. The problem with society is that if we don’t have a result from our communication we move on. Our impatience and our need for results drives us away from God. God is not going to solve your problems with a Twitter response and an emoji. He wants to transform your life and behavior into something beautiful. What excuses do you use to not pray? Is your prayer effective? Are you enduring in your prayer time? God wants you to be persistent in prayer. Is your love for God evident by the way you pursue Him? A person with a committed prayer life has direction and purpose. That person is led by God to level ground.

In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.(Psalm 18:6)

God wants heartfelt prayers. God wants us to pray from our heart. God wants us to reveal our deepest pain to Him. The widow was crying out for justice. She was praying with conviction. Do you pray this way? Abraham Lincoln said this,“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.
Because God loves us, He wants to hear our concerns, our problems, our needs and our joys. God is love. He knows what is happening, but He is relational. It is when we communicate our thoughts to God that He reveals a better path for us. He opens our heart to his will. It is through this time of heartfelt prayer, that love grows inside of us. God is the source of this love, it is His perfect gift to you. Do your prayers flow with love?

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

Enduring prayers of conviction breeds faithfulness to God. Jesus reveals the character of God in this parable. Persistent prayer reveals justice for the oppressed who follow Him. God is faithful to those who are faithful. The word Elect is used to describe those who follow after God.

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16b).

This is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus Christ that abides in us. It is not a matter of just believing in God, but it is the constant state of mind to be chasing after God. I would often ask myself, “How can I expect to have an enduring and persistent prayer life if I fail to have an enduring and persistent relationship with Christ?” For most of my life my prayers were short and brief. I just wanted to get to the point. I always wondered why my relationship with God was so weak. I now realize that I had it backwards. My Prayer time was what grew my relationship with God. I needed to humble myself before God and confess my wrongs to Him. Prayer is communication. Can any relationship grow without enduring and persistent communication? Just ask any marriage counselor and they will tell you that without good communication your marriage will fail. The same is with your relationship with God. To have an effective relationship with God you need to pray and your prayers need to be persistent and enduring.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.(Psalm 145:18)

Does your prayer time carry your faith in difficult times?  Jesus ends the parable with a question. He is referring to His second coming. When He returns, Jesus asks, “Will he find faith on the Earth?” Is your faith evident by your prayer life? Do people refer to you as a prayer warrior? America needs revival. The Church needs revival. The only way for revival to come is through enduring and persistent, heartfelt communication with God. This is what prayer needs to be. It is time for the Church to pray. It is time for the followers of Jesus to be driven to their knees in prayer. We need to bring our brokenness, our tears, our confessions to the cross of Jesus with enduring prayers. Oh men and women of God I plead with you; pray, pray and pray some more.

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7)

Holy week

“The truth is that we need reminders. We need to make the gospel, the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, as personal as possible. We need to remember. We need to set aside the business of our everyday lives, and allow ourselves to walk through the events of Holy Week.”–Rebecca Prewett

Before my evangelical friends wonder if I have become Catholic, I would like them to remember that Jesus told us to remember what he did. I know the writer of this post personally and can attest to her deep devotion to Christ as her personal Savior. She emotionally reminds us to not casually dismiss what Christ did. We gratefully talk about how Christ rose from the dead. We appreciate the Miracle of His Resurrection, but do we realize what a miracle it was for Christ to suffer the way He did. Think about it. Look at the love Jesus showed in his suffering. The greater miracle was the compassion, the love, the consideration, the gentleness and the self-control that Jesus demonstrated in the midst of His incredible suffering. Could you do this? Every Christian needs to be aware and deeply ponder this incredible non-human act, during this very Holy Week.

Do You Repeat The Same Mistakes?

Christ took our sins and the sins of the whole world as well as the Father’s wrath on his shoulders, and he has drowned them both in himself so that we are thereby reconciled to God and become completely righteous.–Martin Luther

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Skyline Hiking Trail Photographed by Stephan Caraway

But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:11-14)

My life has been a series of struggles. I have always wanted to follow Jesus but for many years I just lived in failure. Then through a series of encounters with God I began to understand. A few years ago this passage revealed the hope of having victory over my failures to consistently follow Jesus. My hope was not found in my actions, but in the holiness of God and what Jesus did on the cross. It is all about God’s love for us.

The people of Ephesus struggled, like most people today, with doing right by God’s standard. The fact is that Christians are not perfect. We sin just like everyone else. The difference for Christians is Jesus. When we choose to have a relationship with Him and acknowledge our wrong doings, He wipes our sins away. Through Christ, God forgives us. It is all about Jesus, His love, the price He paid, His Righteousness and His Kingship. Paul understood that his disciple Timothy was not perfect. He knew that Timothy would struggle with his faith. The struggle is actually good. It is when we are not bothered by our sin that darkness prevails. God knows that we are flawed by sin. That is why Jesus came. God loves us and wanted us to have hope, the hope of being saved from our failures that separate us from God. That Hope is in Jesus Christ.

So why do Christians seem to struggle with repeating the same sins over and over again? It is in this passage that Paul gives Timothy some very important keys to overcoming the sins that abuse us and drag us away from God.

…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:22)

The first key is to run from your old life. We need God’s strength to do this. Paul tells Timothy to flee from from wrong doing. He even advises Timothy earlier in the letter to avoid false teachers, people who lead you astray. This can be extremely difficult and even painful. This means that you need to allow the Holy spirit to remove everything that distracts you from having an effective walk with Jesus. Paul wrote in Romans:

Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:7-8)

Think of it like this; while you were at work, if you took personal calls through out the day that kept you from doing your duties, would your work performance be effective? Could it possibly impede your production and lead to termination? Of course it would! It is the same for your Christian life. Confess to God, what you know is wrong. Get rid of relationships, habits and activities that keep you from God. Ask God what distracts you from him. Pray that God will break those habits and activities that drag you back to your old life. Rely on the Holy spirit to guide you.

Early in my marriage I realized that I had a serious problem with video games. They kept me from praying, reading my Bible and they were wrecking my relationship with my wife and kids. My video game friends and I talked more than I did with God or my family. I realized that I had put games before God and my family. I was selfish. Today if you walk in to my home you will not find a video game console. Every once in a while I find myself tempted by the illusion of that old life, but the fulfillment I have in Christ is far more satisfying. Run from your old self and pursue Jesus and what He has for you. Let Him Give you rest.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)

The second key is to pursue the gifts God has for you. Paul gave Timothy the next key in overcoming sin. He says, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness”. Let’s be blunt here, if we could achieve these on our own we would not need Jesus. Humanity is flawed and depraved and we cannot achieve perfection. We are devolving into a crueler, more violent species. Society is imposing less restraints upon us, while encouraging our worst instincts and behavior.

This is why we need God. Throughout the world no matter the country or race people seek God. It is in our genetic code to desire a relationship with him. God wants us to be better than we are. That is why Jesus came and gave his life for us. It is God, through what Jesus did on the cross , who provides our righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. None of this can be achieved by us. It was achieved on a blood stained cross by the perfect Incarnate Christ. So Paul is telling Timothy to pursue Christ’s Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Perseverance and Gentleness. God gives them to those who follow Him, who pursue Him. They are the perfect gift and they only come from Him. Pray and ask God to help you! These gifts come through sorrowful repentance and prayer.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Philippians 3:7-8)

The third key is to take hold of Jesus. This is where things get really exciting. Paul tells Timothy to “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called”. Eternal life comes from one source, Jesus. Jesus is eternal life. Take a look at the passage below:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-6)

From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He was calling people to follow him. We are not to follow some ideals, or a political leader or even a pastor. We are to follow Jesus. My dad always told me not to put my faith in him or to place my salvation in his arms. He warned me that one day he would unwillingly let me down. “Follow Jesus,” my father would say. “He will never let you down.” (Note: My father has yet to let me down, but my actions did hurt him quite a few times. I have always seen Jesus in him.)

Jesus is perfect. He is without sin. He experienced the violent, cruel world of humanity. He came into this world willingly, to give us life. If we want an abundant life that is eternal, then we must take hold of Jesus. Jesus is life. He can give life to our weaknesses. Are you following Jesus or are you just a fan? Are you leaving the old life behind like bad garbage? Do you really know Jesus? Ask your self, “Do people see the love of Jesus in me”? Take hold of Jesus grab onto him. Surrender everything to him. He is the one who defeats sin, not us. He is the one who raises us up when we fall. It is when we experience the power of Christ in our lives and his transforming love, that we should share what God has done.

The right hand of the Lord is exalted; The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:16-18)

The fourth key is to share publicly what God has done for you and be accountable.

Paul reminded Timothy about the confession he made publicly. There were many witnesses to the declaration that Timothy made, to follow Jesus. Testifying to what Jesus has done builds your faith up. It keeps you accountable. Yes it does put a bullseye right on your back, but that is the whole point. Jesus put your sins on his back and nailed them to a cross so that you could have life. Be bold in testifying to what Jesus has done. Let everything in your life point to Jesus, every word and every action.

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1Peter 3:15-16)

** Authors Note: Sorry for this long post. It has been in the works for 4 months. This may sound like a doing and striving post, but it is not. It is all about Jesus and what he has done. It is His work on the cross. You may be exhausted with your life. Let Jesus take your troubles let him give you rest. May God bless you and give you the endurance to run the race! Take hold of Jesus! God Bless.

 

Is There Proof that You Follow Jesus?

The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of bleeding hearts…We can never heal the needs we do not feel. Tearless hearts can never be heralds of the passion. — Dr. John Henry J. H. Jowett

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Does your life bear fruit? –Cleveland National Forest.

Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8)

Jim has become a good friend of mine. I have had the privilege of watching him grow in Christ. Early on he struggled with his decision to follow Jesus. He would not follow through on commitments and he would often slip into the bad habits of his old life. It was a challenge to lovingly encourage him. I did not want to come across as judgmental. The reminder of my own failures gave me the patience and love to build him up in his faith. God kept reminding me not to “fix” Jim. The Job of life changing transformation belongs to Jesus. My Job was to point to Jesus and to encourage him.

One day Jim was with a client and out of the blue, the client turned to Jim and asked him, “How long have you been a follower of Jesus?” Jim was stunned. He later asked me, “How did he know?”

That leads me to a few questions that I have been asking myself for the last few years. Do the people I know, see Jesus in my life? What evidence is there that I am not just a “Christian”, but an active follower of Jesus? What is the Proof of my faith?

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

Which of these sins do you struggle with? When looking at this passage, there are a few of these sins that we can cross off our own”naughty list”. But lets be brutally honest about the ones we tend to ignore. Do your Facebook rants make you look like Jesus or the Devil? Do you love to create arguments or do you create peace? Does Jesus approve of your sex life, or do you toss him aside for a moment of lustful pleasure? Does your behavior prove that your really love Jesus, or does it prove that you are a fake Christian?

A few years ago, God convicted me that my political discussions on social media were doing more harm than good. I was more concerned about convincing people to follow my political view instead of following Jesus. Politics had become an idol. I had more faith in a political solution than in a spiritual one. With a deeply repentant heart I gave up the belief that “great men” could solve America’s problems. Man is flawed and needs God. Only through repentant sorrow can God change the heart of a nation. The only way to save America is for her people to turn from their own selfishness and rush towards the cross of Jesus with a repentant heart.

Paul warns us that if we continue to practice the deeds of the flesh, that we will not inherit the kingdom of God. So what should the proof of our faith be like?

It is a faith that bears fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

This is what a follower of Jesus demonstrates on a daily basis. These are the gifts that God gives us when we allow him to change us. They are the character of Christ that shines  from with in, as a beacon of light to a dark world. The Christian turns hurt into God given love. When trials overwhelm the day, God provides our joy and peace. We show patience to the impatient. We are to be good and kind to those who are not. We are faithful to those around us, because of God’s faithfulness to us. We should exhibit gentleness to a violent world and self-control in the face of an angry one. The true Christian places his desires and passions at the foot of the cross. These gifts come when we seek God and ask him to transform our lives. They are the fruit that we bear and the proof of our salvation in Jesus. If you lack these characteristics in your life, ask God to help you with them. God knows that we are flawed, and  in spite of our flaws He loves us.

The real proof of your faith is found in love and the fruit that you bear. Are your friends overwhelmed by your love? Do they know you, by Christ in you? Do they see God’s love in you?

 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

 

The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life…

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” C.S. Lewis

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So, then, be careful how you live. Do not be unwise but wise, making the best use of your time because the times are evil.Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.(Ephesians 5:15-17)

This  past month has been an absolutely crazy and busy one for me. When I made the commitment to start blogging, I set a schedule up so that I could stick to a time frame in which to write. The plan was working out great for about two months. Then life happened. Oh yes, I do have some great excuses. February was one of the most stressful months, that I can remember. The fact is, when life becomes chaotic we do have to prioritize. For the follower of Jesus, our time with Him should always come first. How will we know what to prioritize unless we go to God and ask Him? Do you pray more than you stress over situations? We need to know what the will of God is in every situation.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

The true Christian puts Jesus first in everything he does. One should not even think about taking a step with out seeking the council of God. Reading your Bible and beginning your day in prayer, must be the first thing you do. I recently spoke to a friend that made a panicked filled decision. She told me that she prayed over it, but was never comfortable with her descision. She regretted her choice because she knew it was not what God wanted. That decision was now costing her thousands of dollars. We need to wait on God and be patient. We need to trust in God’s timing. Do you trust God? Are you willing to wait on his answer? What if it took a year or two for God to answer you, could you wait? Could you wait twenty years?

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Before each decision, place it into the hands of God. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that your problem or task is to small to take to God. Do not be afraid, fear is the mind blower. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.–2 Timothy1:7) When chaos comes and life gets hectic, you should feel the calming Spirit of God Guiding you peacefully through the storm. The Christian should always be prepared with prayer, scripture and a heart of thanksgiving. Here are three things that I am learning to do when faced with overwhelming circumstances.

  1. Stop, breathe and give thanks to God. He is in control. Thank him for the lessons you will learn. Slow your mind down and put your trust in God. Thank Him at every step. The darker the moment, the more God is there. Look for God’s blessings and thank Him for them. Do not be afraid!
  2. Pray! Pray before you make a decision. Pray about the situation, ask for God’s will. Pray persistently. Jesus encouraged persistent prayers.
  3. Seek Godly wisdom. Go to scripture first, then talk to someone who demonstrates the characteristics of a Godly Christian. Do not seek the council of a non Christian. (How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. –Palms1:1a)

Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

 

 

 

 

When God is your Rock

God will never, never, never let us down if we have faith and put our trust in Him. He will always look after us. So we must cleave to Jesus. Our whole life must simply be woven into Jesus.
–Mother Teresa

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Is your soul weary? Are you facing troubles that you do not have the answers for? David had a clear grasp on what to do. He allowed his soul to rest in God. When the war clouds gather over your life and the storms you face seem overwhelming, stop and be still in the presence of God. Even Jesus took the time to rest in the presence of God. So what does this mean and how do we get this calm respite in our turbulent lives? In my own life I have been pushed to the edge of my trust in God’s righteous plan. In the darkest moments of loss and pain, God has overwhelmed me with His love, peace and hope. Here are some of the ways we can learn to rest in God. They will provide a foundation and prepare you for the attacks that will come. Remember, God loves you. He is our Rock!

 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:16-17)

A restful soul knows where their help comes from. Self reliance and rugged individualism are idealistic themes running through our American society, but they should not be the ideals of a Christian. We need to realize that everything good comes from God. The Psalmist understood that all of his help comes from God. Many a person says they rely on God but few are willing to surrender all of their will to him. Sure, we believe in God’s salvation for our sin. Do we really trust God for everything else in our life? We need to keep our eyes on Jesus all the time. The moment we are distracted, that is when we become panicked and stressed. Is your prayer life filled with panic stricken prayers of desperation, or are your prayers in preparation for those difficult trials?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

A restful soul has a heart of thanksgiving towards God. Is it really possible to find joy in painful situations? The book of Philippians in the Bible, is often referred to as the book of joy. It has so many thoughts of peace and Joy and contentment. What most readers never realize is the circumstance in which the writer, Paul, found himself. Paul was in prison, not for some bad criminal behavior, but for following Jesus and for spreading the gospel. He was standing trial for his faith and knew that his death was imminent. It was in the midst of all of his difficulties that Paul wrote Philippians. Paul never complained or grumbled about his circumstances; in fact he writes this letter with such thanksgiving and rejoicing that it floods the reader with the incredible hope that we can have in Jesus. Reflect on these words from Paul. See how his soul rests in God.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:4-7)

A restful soul meditates on God’s Word. Everybody and their pastor tells you to “Read the Bible”.  I want to suggest something deeper than just reading your Bible. Let Scripture reveal Scripture. Do not try to manipulate the word of God. The Scripture will prove itself out. The Psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.” Throughout the Scriptures there is this theme to meditate on the Word of God. This is a prayerful reading of God’s word. As you read each passage, ask God to reveal His understanding to you. This leads to an interactive meditation between you and God. The Holy Spirit will guide you to a greater understanding of God’s plan for you. God will transform you, granting you a stable peace with the endurance to pass any trial.

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)

The Follower of Jesus has a relationship with God. He denies himself. It is in this selfless relationship that we allow Christ to reign at the center of everything we do. Our prayer time and Bible reading need to open us up to what God has planned for us. The Christian should be grateful for everything that God provides. When we live in the will of God, we will not be shaken by scary events. It is in these moments that we take up our cross and cry,”Here I am Lord, I am ready”! Paul was ready to face his death. His every thought was focused on the will of God. This is why he was so joyful and content.

Is God your Rock or are you looking at the storm? Keep your eyes on Jesus. Get rid of your distractions and be a tree planted in the living waters of God’s love for you. May God bless you as you devote yourself to Him. Live with thanksgiving in your heart and rejoice at the trials you may face. I leave you with these words of Paul to reflect upon.

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

Loving the Person You Disagree With

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”– Martin Luther King Jr.

It is the season of presidential politics and it is a time that we Americans are forced to endure the insults and verbal abuse that candidates, pundits and media members hurl at each other. Name calling and other vulgar insults have become the norm for all sides of political and religious spectrums. It is America and the world at its worst. I yearn for the days when we could discuss issues of importance, without throwing out insults at one another. On occasion, I have been guilty of succumbing to this behavior. This is a sickness that everyone should all be concerned with. People should never scream or hurl insults at others. Does an insult really better our point of view or does it weaken it? The words we use can destroy a person they can leave them scarred and hurt. Is there really any excuse or justification for poor behavior? These verbal assaults and belittling  have led to increased hatred, division and the most polarized America I can remember.  The world has lost its compassion and empathy for one another. There is never a legitimate excuse to attack people with insults no matter how wrong you might think others are. The church also needs to be on guard against divisive and harmful speech. So how can we affect change?

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. (James 3:8-9)

We do have hope. Our hope is in God through Jesus. God has made us all in His image. We can learn how to address issues without insulting and attacking people. The Christian is held to a higher standard. God has called us to uphold the sanctity of human life and the human spirit. The scriptures inspire us with that standard. When I  carelessly forget how to treat people here are a few “reminders” that God gives me through His Word.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1John 4:20-21)

We need to approach everyone with love. This is not just an instruction to love our family, but it is also a commandment to love the stranger and the politician we can’t stand. If we view every human being as better than ourselves, and love them more than we love ourselves, imagine the incredible changes we could make. It is important that we see everyone around us as God sees them. This has always been a difficult task for me. I can think of occasions in the past when I have failed to show love. God will correct you if you are willing. A loving person immediately apologizes for wrong doing. When we apologize, we also must be prepared to love that person who does not want to forgive us or let the issue go. This is when the follower of Christ asks God for His enduring love. Love is humble and full of God’s grace.

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1John 4:16)

We need to approach everyone without pride. God hates pride. Pride can destroy the best of friendships. It can wreck a marriage and undo any good will you might have. Pride always makes you think that your idea or cause is better than anyone else’s. Pride keeps you form looking at it from the other person’s view. We all have opinions but the prideful person will want to silence and insult them. Pride destroys new or better ideas by belittling the person presenting them. The Christian need to be humble and should always address the issues with wisdom; while never attacking the person. It is important to stop attacking people and to stop making issues personal. The constant public chastising of fellow Christians is wrong. (Something I have had to repent over.) When we attack a person, it is always prideful and it is always judgmental. Live always with the reminder of what Jesus did on the cross. Did Jesus lash out at those attacking Him? Jesus always shows mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it.

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Romans 14:13)

We need to approach everyone with encouragement. It seems like every comedy show today is nothing but one line zingers insulting someone else on the show followed by a laugh track. Just sit back, and with a spirit of compassion and love, think how those words really feel. It is not so funny when we are on the receiving end of insults. The Christians should always encourage everyone around them. How powerful of an influence would you have with people if you focused on encouragement? The greatest leaders have always been the ones who inspired people to be better, who focused on their strengths. Jesus always encouraged those around Him. We should do the same.

So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. (Romans 14:19)
But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrew 3:13)

When the issues are something that we are so passionate about, it can cause us to loose focus on how to treat people. It does not matter the discussion or the topic, always keep your eyes on Jesus and his behavior. We should always imitate him. Please remember before you talk to someone always go to God in prayer. The more you pray in preparation for your day the better your behavior will be. It is from God and through  enduring prayer that we learn to love and encourage one another. It is through repentant prayer that God breaks us from a prideful and judgmental heart.

 

 

 

Standing Firm in Gods Grace

Today we face immense pressure to cave into political correctness and to sacrifice our values and faith in the misguided belief of human betterment.

Stand Firm

  How Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!   (Psalm 1:1)                           

She was only seven years old when the Nazi party official came to her home in Frankfurt, Germany. He was a foreboding man frightening in his demeanor. Her father calmly sent her to to her room, but concern caused her to listen from the hallway. The conversation turned ugly and the Nazi spoke these words,”Now the time has come for you to choose between Hitler and your precious Jesus.” The girl’s father replied with strength and confidence, “That decision has already been made a long time ago.”  In a rage the Nazi threatened, “You fool that decision will cost you your lives.”

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.(Psalm 1:2-3)

When the Nazi official left, the girl ran to her father and cried, “Papa I will die with you”. Her father gently spoke with a heavy heart, “Sweetheart, it does not work that way. Each person must choose for themselves if they will follow Jesus. You are young and they will try to brainwash you, but you will have to choose.”

The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm1:4-6)

That little girl became my mother. The challenges of that day have never been forgotten by her. Courage in the face of cruelty is always a virtue we should uphold. I have alway kept the events of that day close to my heart. Their courage reminds me not to compromise but to stand firm in my values and in my conviction to follow Jesus. My mother had to overcome many obstacles in her life. Her trust in God’s authority has always pulled her through the most dire of circumstances. My prayer is that God will grant me the courage of my Grandparents and the devotion to prayer that my mother and father have always had. It is the knowledge of His love and grace that moves me towards having a more courageous heart.

Today we face immense pressure  to cave into political correctness and to sacrifice our values and faith in the misguided belief of human betterment. Humanity is not getting better. We are not evolving into a kinder race with more tolerance. We are becoming more cruel, violent and ambivalent. We have become a race that cares more about the latest fashion statement, than the widow who is desperate to clothe her children. We close our eyes to rape and butchery, but scream at toy manufacturers for toy doll sexism. Hate has become popular on all political spectrums, with no one willing to police themselves. We forget the victims and want to punish “things” instead of those who kill, rape and maim. The follower of Jesus needs to Stand firm and be courageous in the constant siege upon our faith. Paul wrote:

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Paul is telling us to act like men to be strong in our faith and convictions. We are to be on alert and to be active. God wants us to be people of action and to perform our action with love and grace. This love is to be like Jesus, because this supernatural love can only come from Jesus. We are to live in a manner worthy of his name and of the message He sent.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)
 

Be strong! Do not waiver! Live in the love and grace of Christ.

The God We Should Worship

How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.                 –Psalm 40:4

There has been much made in the last month about whether Muslims worship the same God as Christians. The most peculiar part of the discussion has been the lack of scripture used by those in support of the claim that Muslims do in deed worship the same God. Most have even failed to support the very basic tenants of Christianity. These prideful, well intentioned individuals have lapsed into falsehood. So let us begin with the very core of Christian doctrine, Jesus. For the Christian everything  begins and ends with Jesus. Jesus said this in the the Gospel of John, You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40) 

Jesus was stating that eternal  life comes through him. He later claimed in John 10 that He and God are one. (John 10:30) Muslims do not believe this, they believe that Jesus was a prophet and therefore could not grant the forgiveness of sins. It is this unbelief in the incarnate Christ that separates Muslims from Christians. Jesus argued against this unbelief when he said, “He who rejects me rejects the One who sent me.”(Luke 10:16) This means that if you reject that Jesus is God then you are rejecting God and his love for you and you are rejecting the purpose of why Jesus came.

Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

The Muslim rejects Christ as the Savior of the world and is repulsed by what the cross represents. They do not even believe that Jesus died on the cross. (Surah 4:157-158 Qur’an) They “worship” a God made in their own image, this is what God refers to as an idol. Muslims deny the Holy Trinity of  God and they deny the Deity of Jesus. The scripture says,

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9)

The follower of Christ is drawn to the cross of Jesus with tear filled repentance and worships God for what he has done. (John 3:16) We recognize that it is nothing we could do but it is all about what Jesus did on the cross. This is why Paul said in 1Corinthians that we are to preach Christ crucified. In the end it is all about love, the love God has for us and the love Christ showed for us on the cross. It is about a love that we can’t repay, it is a love that binds the broken hearted and saves the lost. It is the love for what Jesus did on the cross that causes us to surrender to God and with a deep gratitude we worship Him, as our God. It is this love that heals our soul. Let me leave you with these words from the mouth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world…

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 
Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 
and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 
and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47 Read vs 52 and ask yourself, who did they worship?)