Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Depression


Many of us, if we were honest, deal with depression.  Often there is a reason for it, but for most it comes without a cause and often on days when we should be happy with life.

It's hard to describe to someone who doesn't struggle with it.  Those who are in the midst of depression are most often unwilling to tell you for fear you will try to "help them".   "If you just trusted the Lord", "Why are you down? Don't you see all God had done for you?" or "How could you be depressed? Look at your life, look at how good God is!"  

The help doesn't help.  The "cure" from friends and well meaning family often just makes it worse.  In fact, those who struggle with depression KNOW their lives don't justify the way they feel.  It's not about circumstances, it's not about trusting God.  It's much more insidious than that.  In fact it does feel like that dark cloud you can't escape.  No matter what you do the depression follows you.

Most who struggle with depression won't tell you about it.  They do their best to put on a good face, smile when needed and look "normal", but they are far from it.  It's a suffering that most don't understand or even know how to help...but we all want to help.  We all want our friends, our family to "feel better".  

As you can tell by my thoughts I'm rambling a bit...throwing out words as they come in the midst of this struggle in my own life.  It's chronic in some families.  It's chronic in mine.  I inherited the malady, and struggle with it, like many of you.  It's never my desire to inflict my struggles on someone else. When they know I'm depressed they suddenly feel obligated to "help", but there isn't really anything they can do.

It's a journey each person must go through on their own, finding their way, trusting God with the pain and cloudy skies, figuring out how to think, how to live in the midst of moods that may have no reason for being.  King David is the hero of anyone struggling with depression.  He battled it often, and sometimes with good reason- Saul was trying to kill him!

But what David did, a man out of his time, is journal his odysseys of depression and struggle.  He wrote down his thoughts for the rest of us.  He was brutally honesty in a most painful way at times.  But in his journals (we call them Psalms) we see a man who learned to navigate depression.  His journals have encourage millions for centuries as they have walked their own dark paths.  

If you are struggling with depression today here are words from another who walked the dark paths himself,

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." Psalms 42

His words continue as he works through his thoughts, he works through them with God.  Often he asks why, often he complains, but always he goes to God and trusts him....even in the midst of depression.  If you walk this path, and millions do, don't forget you are not alone.  God will walk the path with you if you will let him.

David's words again as I close, "Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death you are with me."  Psalms 23

Even on the dark days, the days of depression, God is with you.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Perspective for the days

Wisdom comes with age and time with God.  One of the great men of the faith in my life is William Burnside.  He's a former professor of mine and is still a friend and mentor to me even after more than 40 years.  He sent these thoughts to me last night.  They are needed by all of us,

"It's not over yet, Brothers and Sisters!

We're hearing more and more reports and higher and higher percentages telling us that Christians have lost the culture wars, their moral compass, and religious liberty. 

But something very important is being overlooked: Jesus Christ is still Lord and not Caesar and not Satan and not an autonomous, self-sufficient humanity. For it is written, As I live..., saith the Lord, EVERY knee shall bow to me, and EVERY tongue shall confess to God. So then EVERY ONE OF US shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14.11-12

How then should we live? God's purposes for us are the same as they have always been. Be thou faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life. Rev. 2.10  The Great Commission is still in place, the Gospel is just as true and saving as it has always been, Jesus won the victory on the cross and defeated death, hell, and the grave by His resurrection from the dead. And He is coming again to set all things right. Jesus was Lord then and He still is, and He is Lord throughout eternity.

Christ in you, the Hope of Glory. If you are in Christ and Christ is in you, you should be a living demonstration of that reality. Our thoughts should be brought into captivity to Christ. Our speech should be gracious as His was and should reflect what is really important in life, Biblical truth, the Gospel, and the Christian world view which includes a life of love and service to the Lord Jesus and love for others as ourselves.

Right now God is in the process of calling out a people for His Name. He has prepared a place for those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and is presently in the process of preparing them for that place. He is bringing history to its consummation and showing the exceeding sinfulness of sin in man's rebellion against His lawful King, His creator and the creator of heaven and earth.


We have a task to do now and we should be about our Master's business living for His glory as salt and light in the world. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we are to reflect the Light of Jesus wherever we go." -William Burnside


Friday, February 21, 2014

To live is....



ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς 
καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος 
(For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.)
-Phil. 1:21

There is an amazing verse in the book of Philippians.  It is Paul's ultimate mathematical equation about life, death and eternity.  

It is a rhyme.  The last word of the first line rhymes with the last word in the second line in Greek.  We miss that in English.

It is a distillation of all that Paul believed about this life and the life to come.

The more I study this short verse the more profound it seems. Here's Paul's ultimate equation:

 To live = Christ
(then) to die= gain

As I thought about it I realized that if I put anything else after the first = sign, the only thing that can fill the second is 'loss'.  Let's try a couple and see what happens....

To live = money
(then) To die = loss

To live = success
(then) To die = loss

To live = fame
(then) To die = loss

The only answer in the first line that will result in ‘gain’ for the second line, is 'Christ'.  There is no other answer to this formula.    

Paul's simple formula is a sum calculation of  his life.  For him it was all about Christ. 


His insights prompted his ambition to give up everything else to know Christ.  It was his focus, his passion. It was all he talked about.  In this short book of Philippians he mentioned the Lord's name more than 50 times.  As he finished his thoughts on the topic he said,

"Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him." (The Message)

How have you filled in the blanks of this formula in your own life?

To live = 


(then) To die = 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I should be....

"I should be...

reading more,
meditating more, 
learning more,
praying more,
progressing more,
philosophizing more,
doing spiritual practices more,
posting enlightening thoughts more.

Says who? Where did that "should" come from? Do the above things if you want. Don't do them if you don't want. Your life is your spiritual path. It's the next thing that happens. It's not necessary to burden your life by thinking you must interject something for some artificial "should" list. Be mindful of the truth today. Respond to situations as they require. Seek to no harm. Have compassion. Do whatever aids the liberation of all beings. Be an expression of loving-kindness and goodness. Let all of these unfold spontaneously along the everyday paths of your life. Let go of all the anxiety, stress, and burden of what you are "supposed" to do or be. There is nothing that needs to be added to your life to improve it." -Jim Palmer

How Wolves change rivers


Isn't it fascinating how God's design is better than we imagined?  We think we have it all figured out, but when God's design is restored everything begins to change.  He must have known what he was doing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fear

Have you ever watched a child experience fear?  With tears, terror and panic they run to a parent for comfort.  Nothing has really changed about their circumstance, but suddenly they are with mom or dad and are comforted by their presence.  Whatever caused the fear is resolved by being with mom, in the arms of dad.  

I thought about that picture as I dealt with fear in the dark hours of this new day.

Fear is a terrifying enemy, an emotion that often comes at the strangest times, for no reason, but when it comes it affects us all the same way.  Like a child we look for someone, something to comfort us.


In the dark of the night I was suddenly awakened by fear.  It was overwhelming, it was irrational.  I know you have had that experience as well, we all have.  In that moment my thoughts raced to the very terrible things that could happen in my life and fear grew.


I'm not sure why this so often happens when we are asleep, when our guard is down, but I hear stories of night terrors, sleepless nights because of some great fear and we all nod as we acknowledge our own experiences.  


Statistics say that 98% of what you fear never happens, but that doesn't keep fear away....it comes anyway and our bodies and minds respond with thoughts of dread and chaos.


So what do we do?  This morning I looked to God's word and found something I had not seen before...it's actually the cure to fear and worry.  I was surprised to see that this response by God is the reason fear can be dealt with and conquered.  


Here is God's solution to fear when it comes....and it will always come....to the end of your days....it does for everyone....but here is God's prescription for dealing with it when it shows up in your life.


"Do not fear or be in dread...for it is the Lord your God who goes with you." -Deut. 31:6


"He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear..." -Deut. 31:8


"I will fear no evil, for you are with me." -Psalms 23:4


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  -Isa. 41:10


When fear comes, and it will, the most important thing to know, if you are one of God's children, is that he is with you.  Relax and enjoy the God who handles all our fears....like a child in the lap of its mother, relax, and trust Him. He is with you.


The greatest comfort you will ever have when dealing with fear is the knowledge that God is with you....in fact, that's the very meaning of his name when he came to earth, Immanuel...God with us.  Even his name speaks to his presence in our lives!
"The Lord is your keeper; 
the Lord is your shade on your right hand....
The Lord will keep you from all evil; 
he will keep your life. 
The Lord will keep your going out 
and your coming in 
from this time forth and forevermore." 
-Ps. 121

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Extreme grace

(I wrote this several years ago, but go back to it often for my own encouragement.  I need to be reminded too...not because my words are so profound, but because God's grace is so amazing.  If you have never discovered God's amazing and extreme grace I invite you to a journey that begins with the words that follow.)

I am thrilled to know and experience the grace of God.  It's absolutely life changing once you know what God has done for us. 

One of the great tragedies of the church in our day is the fear so many have of grace.  They fear what might happen if people really knew they were completely forgiven, loved and part of heaven even now.  That security, for some, is just too good to be true. There must be a trick up God's sleeve somewhere.  He can't really mean that we already have everything and can never lose it.  There must be something we have to do, some work, some duty that will let us make our relationship and eternity sure, but there isn't....it's absolutely and totally free, available by faith alone and will last forever!

But grace is even more extreme than you think it is.  It's outrageous and foolish from man's viewpoint.  In his love God provided for all of mankind a free gift of forgiveness, redemption, salvation, security, eternity with him, and peace now...if they would simply accept his gift by faith.

You have to know I haven't gotten to the extreme part yet.  Here it is, are you ready?  God has made it possible for us to be his sons, his daughters!  Imagine, a son of God.  That is so crazy I can't even understand what that looks like! But there's more....he's also given each of his children HIS Spirit to dwell in them, lead them, help them, and be with them....are you ready....forever.  When the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, takes up residence in us he promises to never leave.  We are men and women indwelt by the God who made us for all eternity!

More?  Ok, here we go...there is nothing you can do, good or bad...ever, to lose what he has given you.  You cannot lose his gifts to you if you have received them.  They are yours by faith alone and eternally yours....you can never be lost.  An eternal, indwelt by the Spirit of God, child of God.  More? We are destined to live with God and be part of his eternal kingdom.  Priests and Kings he calls us.  Children of God he describes us.  The names and provisions would fill pages, more than I have room to speak of here, but his grace extended to us is extreme at the far end of the scale.

The work of God in grace could fill volumes!  It's not just a "saving grace", although it is that, it's an extreme grace that completely changes everything about our lives here and our eternity ahead.  

But sadly many have made this wonderful grace a small thing.  They fear what believers might do if they knew.  The tragedy is that if they knew they would fall more deeply in love with God and lean in closer to know him better.  Let's talk about this extreme grace to those we know and celebrate the amazing love of God in his provision for us. It is a wonderfully glorious magnificent extreme grace!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The best things


"...if I had such faith that I could move mountains, 
but didn’t love others, I would be nothing." 
-1 Cor. 13

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most beautiful passages in the bible.  The entire focus of the chapter is on the preeminence of love over every other virtue or work.  It is a "game changer" for us as Christ followers because we are often about moving mountains instead of loving the person next door.  We seem to see more importance in doing great things.  God values love over even the greatest thing we could do on his behalf.

We are a culture of accomplishments, goals and deadlines.  God is interested in people, not profit.  God cares about hurting people, not quarterly reports.  We are busy about achieving great things, while God is interested in us loving those around us.

In a culture that values the dollar, accomplishment, hitting our numbers for the quarter or even getting the house clean for the day we live with the dissonance of a God who cares about none of those things....he cares about people above anything else.

In fact, when he came as a man, he didn't pursue gold, glory or gain, he pursued the lost, the hurting, the rejects of society.  He wrapped his arms around those we would walk by in disgust.  He forgave those we would never forgive.  He loved people!

Love is messy.  It means we invest our time and affections in what God cares about, in the best things, and our world doesn't work that way.  We use people to reach our goals of financial independence, of success and making Wall Street happy.  Jesus would have smiled and thought us foolish for not focusing on the best things....the people.

Love is the best thing because of this one simple truth- the only eternal things you will ever encounter in your entire life are the people around you, the broken, hurting, messy people around you.  If you understand that then you understand the heart of God.  He loved and still loves the best things....people.  That's why he came...to show us what's most important.

Loving people, the messy dirty grumpy angry people around you is the most important thing you will ever do....

.....because it's exactly what God did for you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

40 years!


The photo is faded and yellow.  It should be....it's almost 40 years old!  It's a photo of a young couple newly married.  Neither one knew what was ahead, but they were in love and this was the beginning of their lives together.  

It's been 40 years ago this weekend...40 years since Joye and I got married.  It's passed so quickly!  I am amazed at how fast time has flown by, but now 40 years later we are more in love than the day we posed for this photo....almost 40 years ago.  
We are blessed and thankful for God's great love for us and the love we share for each other.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hush!


“Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
    loving look at me, your High God,
    above politics, above everything.” -Ps. 46

Another translation says it this way, “Be still, and know that I am God!", and yet another says, "SHUT UP, sit down, relax and know that I AM God!"

To discover and know God we must step away from the noise, from the crowd, from the chaos around us and be still both verbally and physically.  We have to still our craziness so his voice can be heard.  He will never scream at you, he will never force you to listen and yet he appeals to us for a relationship, for a visit, for us to trust Him.

For Elijah, he had to travel to the wilderness to find a place where all the noise in his head and fear in his heart could be dealt with and God could be heard...and what did God ask?  He asked the prophet, "What are you doing here?"  

It's a key question for Elijah and for us.  Why are you seeking God?  There are hundreds of answers, but only one would bring the prophet to a place of rest. Finally Elijah said, "I'm here because they all want to kill me and I'm the only faithful man left!"

God was waiting for the man to say, "I'm here to be with you.  I don't know what to do about all that is happening around me, so I just wanted to come and be with you for a bit.  Is that ok?"

And from that visit he could have discovered the God he said he knew, but didn't know at all.  Instead, he resigned from his job and quit!  In the presence of the God of creation he quit!  

And God responds, "You know, you aren't the only one.  I have more than 7,000 others who are still my people.  You were never the only one following me."  

There is much we don't know, can't know that will only be known when we sit with God and simply rest in his presence. You don't have to do anything, be anything, accomplish anything or say anything....just hush and be with him.  In that quiet you will discover the God you claimed you knew.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Quote of the day



Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain 


Once for all


"But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven’s “tent”—the true Holy Place—once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all." -Heb. 9

One of the themes of scripture that thrills me is one mentioned often.  It is something I've written about before, but I can't help myself, I have to talk about it again.  It's a theme Paul declares in Romans, but it rings loud in Hebrews.  It's the declaration that what Jesus did more than 2,000 years ago was enough to take care of and forgive all sins of all people for all time.  Once for all.  I love the completeness of that....that God did a total and finished work.  When Jesus declared on the cross "it is finished" he really meant it, he knew what had just been done and then, and only then did he breathe his last and die.  He didn't quit until "ONCE FOR ALL" was accomplished.

I love that!  I love that all my sins (and yours) has been paid for by what Jesus did.  It leaves nothing for me to do to please God but to trust in what Jesus has done on our behalf.  It's his work that pleases God, it's my trust in that which saves me.  My works are not needed or wanted to atone for sin.  Jesus paid it all.  

And now, my response is to live a life that pleases him as my "thank you" for all he has already done.  I love that what was needed was finished once for all.

One sacrifice for all sins for all people for all times. How wonderful is that?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

If we could see...(revisited)


We all wear masks. Masks that tell others we are "ok" when we really aren't. In public most of us pretend we have it together, all is well, but if we could see what others struggle with it would change how we interact with each other.

If we could see that a friend is insecure how would we treat them?

If we could see that a neighbor is afraid what would we do?

If we could see that a co-worker is depressed what would you say?

If we could see what's really going on with each other it would change everything......but we can't. We all wear masks to make the world think we are "ok", but imagine how our relationships would change if we could see what's really going on in a life? It would change everything!

What's fascinating to me is that Jesus did see. He heard the unspoken words, he knew the unheard thoughts, he knew. And because he knew he dealt with people in a merciful and gracious way. He loved them. Here are his words for us, profound words for us who can't see what the other person is going through, but if we could see this is what we would do....

"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”"
So, here are your instructions for the day as you encounter the host of fallen mankind that will make your day crazy- be merciful, don't judge, don't condemn, forgive, and give. These are Jesus' words to us because we can't see....

(I wrote this piece several years ago.  It's more important than ever for us who live in a culture changing so quickly.  Our responses to a world in fear are the greatest evidence of God in us, the only hope of glory.  It's vital that we live out the love of God to those around us.  It is the evidence of God in our lives and in our world.)

The ways of God

"A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can he understand his way?" 
-Pr. 20:24

I'm often amused by the directions my life takes.  It's never a clear, straight path.  Often I wander around the most unnecessary side roads as I follow God, but on those side roads are people....people who need to know God.  It's those apparent detours, those wonderful encounters, that make it clear that God is directing my way.  

If it were up to me I would chart a straight road to the finish line, but if I did I would miss all the sites of my twists and turns.  I would miss meeting the people who wait in the back roads to find God.  

Those turns in your life are never an accident, never a mistake.  They are God's way of showing his love to a person who is looking for him.  We are the ones who are called to show them the way, to share with them the savior who found us.  

Below is a fascinating story of one such detour, an amazing encounter arranged by God for just one person.

Acts 8:26-39 "Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this:
As a sheep led to slaughter,

    and quiet as a lamb being sheared,
He was silent, saying nothing.
    He was mocked and put down, never got a fair trial.
But who now can count his kin
    since he’s been taken from the earth?
The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.
As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be."

As you experience the twists and turns of following God don't be surprised when you suddenly are taken on an apparent detour,  there is someone on that path that needs to meet you and know the Christ you know. Don't forget, someone took a detour in their path to find you and share Christ with you.

If you allow God to direct your steps you will never be bored or disappointed, but you will be surprised!


Friday, February 07, 2014

One question

People often tell me, "When I get to heaven I'm going to ask God....."  and what follows is their pressing question, their unanswered prayer, or their pain from when it seemed God wasn't there.  Often it has been, for them, a stumbling block in their walk with God.  Why didn't he answer my prayer? Why did he let my child die? Where was he when......? 

All of those unanswered questions can shake our faith or at least make us wonder about the plan and goodness of God.  And yet,  in the midst of the unanswered question, we know there is an answer, and it nags at us that God has left us with a question mark, an empty place, a doubt.  

Why didn't he?  How could he do that to me?  It's often true, and I hear it, that we blame God for something we actually caused!  Recently I received a note from a lady who told me she was angry with God because she got herpes from sleeping with a man she barely knew.  As I read the note I thought, there are so many things wrong with this...where do I start?  First, why is it God's fault because you chose to disobey him and now are dealing with the results?  How does it become God's job to protect you from your own choices?

But back to the beginning before I get too far away...here is the proposition for the day-  if you could ask God just one question what would it be?  

Post your question in the comment section and let's talk about them together.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Something to think about....

If there is a God and all he says is true....

.....then what you do has eternal consequences.  Is that significance enough for you?

I don't believe in dentists!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Quote of the day

"The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least."
—Unknown Author

Grace distortions

Here's a great article on grace by Phil Drysdale.  I hope you will read it and share your thoughts on the topic.  The grace distortions are prolific and Phil does a great job of sorting them out in this article.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Looking for my savior

This is an amazing story of love, redemption and hope.  It's the story of a man saved from death looking for his savior.  Watch the video, read the short story and then I want to share a bit about another story, another savior....




"In 2008, Jonny Benjamin - then aged 20 - considered killing himself. He was on the ledge of Waterloo Bridge in London, when a stranger stopped and talked to him, and offered him a coffee. Benjamin says this intervention saved his life. Six years later, Benjamin, who now works as a mental health campaigner, decided he wanted to try to track down the man to thank him.
He teamed up with the mental health charity Rethink, and - although he couldn't remember the name of the man - started the hashtag #findmike on 13 January. It took off. There were more than 46,000 tweets using the hashtag, mostly in the UK, but also from around the world - everywhere from the US, to Argentina to Germany, Australia and Thailand. "To be completely honest, I didn't expect to find him," Benjamin told BBC Trending. He was so shaken on the day that he couldn't remember what the man looked like or his name. "It was like finding a needle in a haystack," he says.
Neil Laybourn - who had been on his way to work that day in 2008 - was alerted to the story by his fiance, who read about it on Facebook and the two men met on Tuesday. Since the news broke in the early hours of Thursday, the hashtag #foundmike has begun trending in the UK - with more than 2,000 tweets by the time of publication.
When he considered taking his life, Benjamin had just been diagnosed with schizophrenia and felt he'd been dealt a "life sentence". He says hopes his story will raise awareness about the condition and give hope to others."
Story from: BBC News

What a great story!  A story of despair, a story of love and compassion for another, of salvation and the quest to find his savior.  The story speaks to another, the story of God's love and quest for his children in despair and dying.  

As I watched the video I thought, "Oh, I wish the world knew what they have been saved from and would seek their savior, the one who rescued them!" 

Imagine, if we really understood what Christ has done and sought him out to thank him, how our lives would be changed.


Time for a little worship