Friday, December 4, 2009
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM “DEPRESSED” AND WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT DEPRESSION?
The second commandment of “loving others” can be a difficult journey. Conflict is as old as the rivalry between the first siblings, Cain and Able. Genesis 4:6-7 uncovers the essence of the issue, “Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Like many of us, Cain dismissed God’s warning. His jealousy grew into wrath and he murdered his twin brother. Sin separates us from God; and so, as a result, Cain was ostracized from his family. The motifs of conflict, jealousy, and wrath are ever-present today. A wise friend states it so eloquently: Opinions are like body parts; some stink, some don’t. It is human nature to fear new situations and people who are different than us—often times our reaction to fear is distrust, envy, and rage. WE ALL BELIEVE OUR OPINION IS THE RIGHT OPINION. Again, our human nature is self-importance—we are irritated that others aren’t as “perfect” as we are. The evil one destroys humans by focusing our attention on what other people have and think. In the heat of the battle, we loose focus of what is really important—our relationship with God and how we honor others!
Conflict is inevitable; so what does the Bible instruct us to do about it? Anger isn’t a sin. After all, more than once Jesus speaks righteous anger against the Pharisees, “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…” Mark 3:5 We must be careful how we ACT upon our disapproval and irritability, “In your anger do not sin.” Ephesians 4:26
How do we deal with “righteous anger”? For years people had violated my emotional and physical boundaries. Figuratively, there were mounds of toxic trash in my emotional yard. I’m the one who had to either live with it or clean it up. Were they going to admit their role in my personal life becoming a landfill and help me clean it up? NO! Was it fair? NO! During the aftermath of my hospitalization, I was forced to confront the issues that lead to my feeling suicidal. I was like an exposed nerve. What would upset a “normal” person, infuriated me. For several months, I drove erratically, acted irrationally, and was hostile with my family and God. Did I have reasons to feel victimized? Absolutely, but how I dealt with the emotional pain only deepened my wounds and increased my shame. Letting anger fester causes bitterness and violence.
On the other hand, ignoring the “trash” causes suppressed emotions, depression, and isolation. When a violent attack occurs, neighbors and co-workers are interviewed; puzzled they shake their heads and state on the evening news, “I never imagined this. He was always quiet and kept to himself.” Ignoring the situation obviously doesn’t solve the problem, and more importantly, creates an emotional pressure cooker. As a child my southern grandmother wouldn’t even let me in the kitchen when she was canning. Numerous children have been scalded, hit with shrapnel, or worse. How many more children bare the invisible scars of the emotional pressure cookers? The cliché of “Letting off some steam” literally means to cautiously push down the pressure valve and let some pressure escape. The Bible encourages us to manage conflict in a timely manner, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:27 Furthermore, Jesus advises the disciples to have wise timing for their words, “Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove” in Matthew 10:16. When confronting someone who has offended you, graciously speak the truth in love.
“What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry… Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take such a gift for granted.” Ephesians 4: 25-30
The Bible clearly advises us to not hold in our anger, but to keep short accounts and settle issues with gentleness and compassion.
One of the devil’s strongest deceptions is that words will never hurt me. Proverbs 18:21 cautions that the “power of life and death is in the tongue.” God spoke the world into being. The Bible is The Word—words are so powerful and revealing. The wise King Solomon gives sound advice throughout Proverbs; for example Proverbs 21:23 declares that “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from troubles.” If you want to bridle your tongue, you must hand the reigns over to the Lord. The Apostle Paul exposes his personal struggle, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong…Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 7:21-25 The flesh is corrupt; we are unable to control our sinful nature without God’s help. Each and every one of us has said things we wish we could take back. Correcting the damage is like filling up pot holes; it may patch for a while but it is always a bump in the road. That is why Colossians 3:8 declares “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” He doesn’t say start tomorrow, but NOW. More importantly, Matthew 12:36-37 forewarns us that “men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Simply put, we need to weigh our words carefully before we speak them. James 1:19, 20 explains, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Be mindful of how your words impact those around you.
Luke 6:45 reminds us that words often mirror what is in the heart, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Many women struggle with truly hearing what we are told. The boyfriend that belittles and abuses her becomes the husband that sends her to the emergency room with a shattered wrist and concussion. In the passion of the argument when his guard is down, the true feelings come out of his mouth. No matter how may times the words, “I love you…I’m sorry, but you…Trust me, I’ll never let that happen again…” the abusers actions speak volumes about his fear, control, and anger. Maya Angelou writes and speaks from experience when she says, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them." Many women overlook the sweet, good guy to pursue the handsome, rebel; then wonder why he can’t keep a job, does drugs, and has multiple affairs. Ladies, match up what he is telling you with what he says—if there is a discrepancy, start believing what his words and actions are telling you.
Lastly, the example of James shows us what God can do with envy when we let Him master our lives. The half-brother of Jesus, James, reminds us to keep our ego under control. I suspect that James dealt with resentment and pride first-hand… imagine having the Messiah for a brother! James 3:2-11 reprimands us, “We all stumble in many ways…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” Over our families we can speak either blessings or curses. Proverbs 31 describes how a noble wife should be treated, “She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life… Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her:’ There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” As Christians we need to speak blessings over children, “It is thus evident from the whole spirit of Biblical ethics that the parents' good-will and blessing were regarded as the greatest happiness that could come to children, and it is well known to those who are at all familiar with Jewish domestic life that this sentiment continues to the present day.”¹ One of my favorite blessings is the one Zechariah speaks over his newborn son who will become known as “John the Baptist”, And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1: 76-79 Often times the words we say to our families become self-fulfilling prophesies. When I taught I had the poem Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte on my wall as a reminder, “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight….If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence. If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.” James summarizes Chapter 3 with the fruit from living with a bridled tongue,
“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast about it or deny the truth.
Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure;
then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
Friday, November 13, 2009
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM “DEPRESSED” AND WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT DEPRESSION? 4.Sleep Changes/Appetite or weight changes~
Is your head hitting the pillow and you are unable to put to rest the worries of the day? Do you wake the next day feeling like you are in a fog? When stressed, are you sitting down with a bag of potato chips 45 minutes after dinner? Are you craving sweets, like Milky Way bars and Twinkies…starches, like rolls and macaroni and cheese? On the opposite end of the spectrum, are you so frantic that you are painting until the early morning hours…so distracted by work that you go an entire day eating only one meal or a cup of yogurt driving to your next appointment. Dr.Janet Greeson summed up the issue in the title of her book, It Isn’t What You Are Eating, It’s What’s Eating You? As a result of “what’s eating us,” we are consumed physically, spiritually and emotionally. Some of us wear it as bags under our eyes and 50 lbs. of extra weight. Others neglect their bodies and wither away to empty shells.
The Master Craftsman designed a complex, integrated system in the human body. Physical signals remind us to meet our physical and spiritual needs. When our stomach feels hollow, it may even growl and we are reminded that we are two hours late for lunch. The food converts to energy that allows our bodies to function properly—our muscles have the energy to move. Nutrition empowers our brain to interpret, store, and send messages more efficiently. Similarly, sleep is a natural way for the body to restore and heal itself. Scientist confirm that sleep is the body’s way of hitting the reset button when over stimulated.¹ In addition, researchers are discovering the connection between sleep and memory.² Obviously, Americans are bombarded with weight loss advertisements, the food pyramid, and uber-thin models—we know about healthy eating habits but we aren’t following through. As a result, we ride the sugar high to the energy crash an hour later. The majority of us eat processed foods high in calories, but low in fiber and vitamins. Then, spend hours in front of computers and television. Studies show a strong correlation between the more hours spent watching television and the higher the chance for childhood obesity.³ Others have become obsessed with having control of their bodies and count every calorie and excessively exercise. Millions of Americans have had cosmetic surgery, striving to be perfect. Others cut gashes in their flesh to release the emotional pain, feeling alive from the pain and endorphin rush. The use of steroids and body dimorphic disorder is on the rise, especially for those 14-22.4 Numbing emotions with drug and alcohol is becoming “normal” self-medication. In summary, adequate rest and healthy eating are important to our cognitive, spiritual, psychological and physical well-being. Without it, we are emotional zombies.
For many years I rode the roller coaster ride of unhealthy extremes. When mildly depressed, I would overeat and oversleep. When severely depressed or there was an impending crisis, I couldn’t sleep or eat. During my year of unemployment, there were several months that I would pull the covers over my head and avoid mounting troubles. During my divorce, I didn’t care about eating—which normally I enjoy both as a social activity and the pleasure of food. After my mom’s death, I lost 35 lbs. in four months. As a result, I was drained emotionally and spiritually. If I wasn’t at work, I was in bed. Sleep was my “drug of choice.” I rationalized that I wasn’t getting drunk, doing drugs, or having sex with random strangers—it couldn’t be sinful. However, it is not in God’s will for sleep or eating to become unhealthy and negatively impact our daily lives. Balance is a key to healthy living. Proverbs is full of practical advice, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 10:3-5 Any indulgence can lead to a destructive lifestyle. The scriptures encourage moderation, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” Proverbs 23:20-22 In short, seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance to find a healthy balance.
The Bible emphasizes the positive effects of getting adequate rest and nutrition. Fleeing for his life the prophet of Elijah prayed, “I have had enough Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am not better than my ancestors.” Maybe you are not running for your life; however, like Elijah, you may be frustrated by the current situation to the point that you see no way out. You feel helpless and alone. No one cares…no one understands…no one can help! When Elijah fell into a state of depression, God sent an angel to remind him to take care of his physical needs, “All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat’…He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’ So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by the food, he traveled forty days and forty nights” 1 Kings 19:5-8 As I’ve emphasized before, we not only serve an omnipotent God, but a practical one too. Jesus and his disciples were ministering to large crowds and as a result their energy was drained—Jesus encouraged them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31 Jesus understood firsthand that in order to give, we need to fill our own spiritual and emotional vessel. Numerous times, he went away from the crowds to be alone with God.
One of my dear friends is currently in the midst of a divorce. After years of trying to work out the difficulties in the relationship, she’s come to terms with the reality that her spouse isn’t willing to take responsibility for his role in the marriage. To the church and her children, she’s held up a facade of a Christian union—when in reality, she’s been devalued, disrespected, and emotionally abused. She’s been up many nights crying~ grieving the death of what she dreamed her marriage could be, lamenting the loss of her role as partnered parents/grandparents, worrying about the affects on her children, concerned about how it taints her testimony and upset by the negative rumors spread by her husband. One night she had a breakthrough in the middle of the night, she had a vision that Christ had wrapped his wings around her. She had a strong sense that God simply wanted her to rest and rely on him—He was there to shield her and heal the deep wounds. Jesus instructs us to earnestly pray in privacy, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 The message of resting in God isn’t exclusive to the disciples; Jesus emphasized, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” John 14:1
Do some soul searching and ask yourself are you having trouble finding rest, because God is forewarning you or trying to press a message into your subconscious? Scriptures remind us to pay attention to our dreams, “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings…” Job 33:15-16 It isn’t that God doesn’t speak to people in modern times; it is that we are either too overwhelmed to listen or are simply ignoring the signs. My God is far too big to fit into anyone’s box or paradigm. He is unconventional and we need to look for Him everywhere and in everything, the smile of a stranger to the innate wisdom of a child.
After a recent surgery, I took extra time off of work to get some much needed rest and relaxation. When I rolled over at 3:30am, I was unable to go back to sleep. I did a mental check list: Do I have to use the restroom? Am I hurting somewhere? Am I worried about something to do tomorrow? So I just laid there thinking…eventually, I began praying. I was somewhere between consciousness and sleep when a vision of a river formed in my mind’s eye. The water was overflowing the banks and leaking out onto the fields—destroying the surrounding grass and corn fields. As I floated above and gently flowed with the river, I noticed the walls of the banks were starting to be reinforced. Finally, I came to a dam in the river. At that point, I began wondering, Lord, this is strange what does this mean? In no way am I so holy that God speaks to me on a regular basis—but when He does, I know and obey His voice. For me, the voice is gender-neutral, gentle and soft. It isn’t so much speaking—but rather, thoughts and feelings, similar to what people call an epiphany or “Ah-Ha Moment.” When I’ve experienced this, it is during quiet times, rather than the movie-depicted-hype, condemnation, and dramatic booming voice. Once again, I look to the story of Elijah, “Then he was told, ‘Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.’ A hurricane ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn't in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, "So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?" 1 Kings 19:8-16 In my dream-vision, it was me asking, What am I doing here? The wisdom came, You are the river. For a period of your life, you lacked direction and went against My plan for you. Now, I’ve redirected you and have stopped you. I don’t normally hear God speak to my spirit so clearly, so this was a startling revelation. Feeling like a reprimanded child, I thought, Why God? Why do you have me dammed up? When are you going to let me flow again? Like the river, I’m strong-willed and it is against my nature to be creatively and financially stuck. Like a great story-teller, it was almost as if He was turning the pages of a book; waiting for me to ask the question so He could turn the page. When the flow of the water is stopped, it has time to recollect, redefine its boundaries, and lastly, there is powerful energy stored up. Multiple landscapes flashed in my mind: a quiet brook, the Grand Canyon, whitewater rapids…Then, an electric power plant came to my mind’s eye and I admired its size and beauty. I instantly understood what controlled the water’s gentle ripples or powerful waves was God’s hand. Then, I became aware of pools of stagnate water around the edges; it was so different from the previous images. Lord, I don’t understand? He answered, That’s what happens to the river if I stays dammed. It is of no use to me or anyone else. I brought you to the Vineyard to heal and restore you--to help you understand the reason for and the love in boundaries. I’m getting ready to release you. Be alert! Watch for the signs. Otherwise, you’ll become stagnate. The voice of the Lord was so clear to me, that I didn’t worry about the vision—there was no need to ponder its meaning. Instead, I was at peace; I simply rolled over and went back to sleep. On the Friday of that week, my daughter had her fall parent-teacher conference and the school principal approached me about substitute teaching. I felt flattered and restored when she said to me, “In order to get hired full-time, you need to get your name out there.” I have to admit, God’s direction isn’t always so clear, so I’m very grateful for the vision. I can’t help but think that if I didn’t take a break to rest, I could have missed out. For me, the lack of sleep is usually my signal that I need to pray about the situation—that I am over-whelmed and under-equipped to solve the issue on my own.
Christ is waiting for you to hand your burdens over to Him so that you can rest and eat well. God is the healer of dis-ease. Furthermore, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 A true gift is something given out of love; we didn’t do anything to deserve it. The peace the Holy Spirit infuses the Christ-believer with is a true gift—you just need to reach out to receive it.
1. Miller, Greg. (2009, April 3). NEUROSCIENCE: Sleeping to Reset Overstimulated Synapses. Science, 324.
2. Stern, Peter. (2009, April 7). NEUROSCIENCE Sleep and Memory. Sci. Signal, 2 (65), ec119. [DOI:10.1126/scisignal.265ec119]
3. Crespo, Carlos J. DrPH, MS; Smit, Ellen, PhD; Troiano, Richard P., PhD, RD; Bartlett, Susan J., PhD; Macera, Caroline A., PhD; Andersen, Ross E., PhD (2001, March 15). Television watching, energy intake, and obesity in US children. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 155, 360-365.
4. Ruffolo, J.S., Phillips, K.A., Menard, W., Fay, C., & Weisberg, R.B. (2006). Comorbidity of body dysmorphic disorder and eating disorders: Severity of psychopathology and body image disturbance. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 31, 11-19.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM “DEPRESSED” AND WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT DEPRESSION? 3. Major change in energy level~
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 [emphasis added]
3. Major change in energy level~
Often times we forget to be “human beings” not “human doings.” Maybe, just maybe, that change in energy level is both a divine and physical signal to SLOW DOWN, and not necessarily negative. Honestly ask yourself, What am I doing to refill my energy tank? For example, do you take time out of your schedule to spend quality time with your spouse? Do you have a hobby? When is the last time you had a picnic with your kids? How many times a day does your cell phone interrupt face-to-face time with a child, spouse, friend? Do you spend the evening on Facebook while your kids are playing Xbox in their bedrooms and your spouse is asleep in the recliner with the TV full blast? At the end of the day, do you melt into the couch with a bowl of ice cream flipping channels —day after day, year after year? I’m not the only one noticing these trends, “More than 31% of college-educated male workers are regularly logging 50 or more hours a week at work, up from 22% in 1980. Forty percent of American adults get less than seven hours of sleep on weekdays, reports the National Sleep Foundation, up from 31% in 2001. About 60% of us are sometimes or often rushed at mealtime, and one-third wolf down lunch at our desks, according to a survey by the American Dietetic Assn. To avoid wasting time, we're talking on our cell phones while rushing to work, answering e-mails during conference calls, waking up at 4 a.m. to call Europe, and generally multitasking our brains out” (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_40/b3953601.htm). No wonder Americans are over their credit limit, over-worked, over-stressed, over-whelmed, over-stimulated, and over-fatigued.
Why is our energy level so low? Where are we spending our energy? Why are we working so hard? The whole book of Ecclesiastes seems to ponder the meaning of life—in Ecclesiastes 4:4-8 the writer observes, “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind…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!” The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be encouraging moderation, to appreciate both hard work and the simple things in life. In the Good News Bible verse six translates, “It is better to have only a little with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands.” In the New Testament, Paul emphasizes the importance of Christ-reliance and describes the peace he’s found as a result, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:12-13 Therefore, the secret to success is find balance in our lives and trust in God to supply our needs.
When you lie down at night are you unable to turn off your mind and get adequate rest? Are you staying awake worrying how to keep the utilities on, how to pay for your child’s braces? Are you concerned about your to do list for the following day? David wrote in Psalms 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Can all your worrying change anything? No, but prayer can. My life verse encourages, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let your petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7 That verse speaks to my heart when it says “petitions and praises”—it reminds me that I am to not only pray but praise. Thinking of all the things I have to be grateful--the roof over my head, the blanket, my spouse beside me, the children sleeping in their beds, the air in my lungs—suddenly, I’m breathing deeper and relaxing. Furthermore, Jesus emphases that “You cannot serve both God and Money. ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33 Worry is a demonic distraction—we stop focusing on praising God for all that He has provided and we lose our momentum to carry out the divine mission He’s placed in our hearts.
Did you know that the Bible talks about how business and worry interfere with our spiritual lives? The Bible speaks very clearly that our faith is to rest in Him not the false hope of wealth. The parable of the seeds in Matthew talks about how God’s word can be choked by the busyness of life and materialism: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worried of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22. Yet another example of Christ-reliance vs. financial-reliance is the story of the wealthy man who asked Christ how to have eternal life; “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matt.19:21-22 Clearly, the man valued his worldly possessions more the eternal life.
Luke 12:33-34 summarizes over 800 Biblical verses that discuss money, “…a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” My grandmother had a beautiful vacation home where our family enjoyed visiting with relatives and relaxing in the country. A call in the middle of the night revealed the worst—a suspicious fire had reduced the home and contents to nothing but ash. Worse yet, my grandfather had only insured the home, not the contents. My grandmother’s heart was broken, so many lovely items…so many memories…so many future plans. As a woman of faith, my grandmother understandably grieved; but she also remembered that thankfully no one was injured, she had another home, and it was only wood and brick. If you think your worldly treasures can’t be gone in a minute, spend an afternoon listening looking at the sheriff sale section of your local paper, visit the unemployment office and hear about jobs sent overseas, and/or visit the oncology wing of the hospital. A recent article in The Atlantic points out that “Adverse medical conditions also lead to personal bankruptcy filings, but other adverse events such as divorce and unemployment have marginal effects. Over-consumption makes households financially over-stretched and more susceptible to adverse events, which reconcile the strategic filing and adverse event explanations” (http://meganmcardle.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/02/what_causes_personal_bankruptc.php). Biblical truths are apparent in the modern world—where the effects of sin are cumulating in personal, civic and economic meltdowns.
Moses instructed the Hebrews that “The Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you…on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” Exodus 16:29, 20:11 [emphasis added] If the Father honors rest; then, we, who are created in his image, must value it too. God urges us time and time again to be still, have patience, worship, and meditate on him. In my hectic life, I struggle to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 The Sabbath is declared holy so that we can spend time alone with Him, the ultimate source of energy. Jesus instructs us, “Here’s what I want you to do: ‘Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play…Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.’” Matthew 6:6 I’m preaching to myself here, but the Sabbath is not intended as the catch-up day for all the things we didn’t accomplish during the week. Moreover, Jesus asked in Matthew 11:28-29 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Life is a rhythm of seasons; some are for work and some are for rest. Most people who honor the Sabbath find that the rest of their week is more productive. Personally, songs of praise and worship refill my spiritual vessel—they focus my attention on all of my blessings and often readjust my attitude. Listening to WOW CDs or K-Love on my way to work helps focus my perspective for the workday, and on the way home, I can wind down from work. During church service, these songs allow me to close my eyes and join with the body of Christ in an unison of worship.
God is a renewable energy. Jesus reflected the will of the Father “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29 Pray for the promise of restoration: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 In summary, I encourage you to find balance; focus on the eternal/spiritual rather than the temporal/earthly matters; trust God to meet your needs; and discover the restoration found by spending time alone with God.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
2. Feeling hopeless/helpless~
Maybe you are feeling hopeless and helpless because you aren’t seeing results YET…Dayton Vineyard pastor Doug Roe says, God is never late, but he is seldom early. He is always right on time! The first step should be to pray for discernment, “We should make plans—counting on God to direct us.” Proverbs 16:9 How many times have you rushed into something, to realize it was the wrong decision: the interest rate was 32% …he had put on his “game face” while you were first dating…? How many times have you been stuck and frustrated—and then God moves: the house you wanted sold, but now you found a more suitable house…? As Dayton Vineyard pastors are fond of saying: God’s will is often clearer in the rearview mirror. The human downfall is that we are anxious and don’t want to trust His omnipotent power.
Throughout the Bible there are numerous examples of God’s answer being, “No, trust me. It is for your own good.” We don’t tell our children no just to exercise our authority and neither does God. The commandments are there for our best interest. He is trying to protect us from the “wages of sin.” Deuteronomy 30:15-16 summarizes, “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” Maybe the “No” is a result of your sin. Moses and his siblings were not permitted to enter the Promised Land as a result of their disobedience and self-reliance.
On the other hand, possibly the “no” is prohibitive. Have you stopped long enough to consider that the “No” is possibly a road block to a destructive path? Sometimes God’s no is a way of keeping our attitude in check. Paul seems to have uncovered the purpose of God’s “No” in his life when he writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” The no makes us humble and realize how weak we truly are. Furthermore, James 4:3 explains, “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” My dear friend calls those “Ouch, Hallelujah!” moments. The divine truth hurts sometimes, but we are better for it!
Sometimes God’s answer is “Yes, but wait.” The story of Abraham and Sarah’s long wait for a child illustrates the importance of God’s timing. Our impatience and intervention often leads to our demise. In Genesis 15, God promises the barren Abraham and Sarah children too numerous to count. In Genesis 18:14, “GOD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh saying, 'Me? Have a baby? An old woman like me?' Is anything too hard for GOD? I'll be back about this time next year and Sarah will have a baby." Not trusting in God’s timetable, Sarah impatiently convinces him to copulate with her maid. Not until Genesis 21 when Abraham is 88, does God fulfill the promise of a child (Ishmael) through the maid. Later, Sarah’s child, Isaac, is born when Abraham nears 100 years old. Not only does Ishmael cause conflict between Sarah, Abraham, and the maid; but many will ague that the children of Abraham are in conflict today—both physically through the Jews (Isaac) and Palestinians (Ishmael), and spiritually between the Jews/Christians and Muslims. When we don’t allow God’s will prevail, we multiply our heartaches. Unfortunately, this can impact our families for years to come. As a result of our interfering in God’s plan, we may have to wait even longer for our blessing.
Once again, Paul’s life is an illustration of faith and perseverance through hardships. Acts 27-28 tells the story of Paul’s enduring a storm, shipwreck, snake bite, and natives idolizing him as a god. I’m sure Paul wasn’t overjoyed by God’s detours, but he held fast to his belief that none would perish and that God would provide. As a result, the natives on the island where they shipwrecked heard the gospel and many were healed! God divinely orchestrated the shipwreck so that more people could have life-changing relationship with Him. Joseph being betrayed by his brothers, enslaved, and wrongly imprisoned led to his saving thousands of lives, including those who betrayed him. God’s unorthodox plans for us are bigger that we could ever imagine.
Put your faith in God, whose vantage point is higher than ours. Have you ever worked a 1000 piece puzzle? We stare at and fixate on that one piece. Sometimes it isn’t until we set the piece down and take a look at the whole, that we unlock the clues. How many times in life do we get stuck on that one piece, not willing to set it aside so that we can move on to the next piece? We become obsessed with the one piece…where could it possibly go…why can’t I figure this out?!? The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I forget what happened yesterday, and I keep my eyes on what is ahead. I press on to win the prize that God is keeping for me - and that is to share in an everlasting life overflowing with love and happiness with Jesus.” We simply don’t see the big picture—but God does. Indeed, “And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good.” Romans 8:28 Does Paul say, “Some things?…most things?” NO, all things! God wants you to approach difficulties with confidence in Him. “Remember that I have commanded you to be determined and confident! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for I the Lord, am with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 Our faith can be a journey, the simple act of moving forward like the man in Mark 9:24 who sought healing for his child “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Be authentic with God, tell him what you need and like the father in the story—he will heal you.
I have found that keeping verses in my pockets, on my mirror, or computer desktop serves as a visual reminder to “keep my eyes on the prize.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is taped to my desk at work—my goal is to plant the words in my heart, “…do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Furthermore, Christ emphasizes, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:24-25 In the midst of the storm all we can see is the wind, lightening, and rain. But God, knows that there is a beautiful day, and sometimes a rainbow, on the other side of the storm cell.
In Christ, we are neither helpless nor hopeless: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 Claim it—not most…not a few—all things are possible. Later in verse 19 Paul states, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Please note that it doesn’t say that God will supply my wants—but my needs. In my life there have been so many times that an unexpected check has come in the mail when there is a past due notice is sitting on the kitchen table, or there is just enough change in the house to buy a pack of diapers….and so on. Let’s face it sometimes the check doesn’t come in the mail, there is a lesson to be learned in those times too. When trouble comes and Christ warns us it will come, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33; we must keep our eyes on the ultimate goal in order to not be distracted by life’s trials. Again, love God first and the rest will work out for itself. Like Paul, we just have to have patience and faith.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY ABOUT DEPRESSION?
Symptoms of depression:
1. Loss of interest in daily activities~
In my life, I find that overcoming the feeling of being worthless, lost or lacking interest is to realize that God created everyone with a unique purpose. God has given you a gift, a natural talent—use it and it will be multiplied. Hide it and He will bless others with opportunities that could have been yours. Matthew 25:14-30 tells the parable of the talents—it explains both the blessing and curse. Another Biblical example that demonstrates this truism is the story of Jonah, who ended up in the belly of a great fish because he was running from God’s instructions to preach in Nineveh. Where did the great fish spew him out? Nineveh! Only after surviving a literal storm and near death experience was Jonah determined to follow God’ path for his life. Numerous characters in the Bible struggled with hopelessness, depression, and despair, for example Elijah, David, Job. Even Christ cried out, “I am deeply grieved, even to the point of death.” Mark 14:34 Still he obeyed, “…what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour '? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27 Similarly, Luke 5 reinforces the power of obedience, Peter was exhausted after fishing all night without success. Christ instructed him to cast his nets again~ even thought I’m sure Peter questioned this request, he followed Jesus’ directions. He was rewarded with so many fish that the fishermen began to worry that it might sink. That was the turning point for Peter; he recognized Jesus as the Messiah and became a “fisher of men.” By following Christ’s direction, which defied logic, his life was transformed, blessed, and enriched.
Do you know it is the devil’s job to steal our dreams by making us overwork, worry, guilt-ridden, insecure, depressed…? John 10:10 states, “The thief’s purpose is steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.” The darkest days of my depression struck when after years of teaching and attaining my Master’s Degree, I lost a pregnancy, my spouse, my job—I felt total despair—It took several years of wallowing in misery to realize God cared more about who I am (character) rather than what I do (work). At the age of 37 I found myself single and pregnant. The doctors explained the health risks. My family worried over my financial and spiritual wellbeing. A coworker was the voice of many when she hinted that just because I was pregnant didn’t mean that I had to have a child. In my view, despite my sin, God would provide—God has blessed my faithfulness; she has never been without diapers or formula. I held fast to Romans 8:28 that God would turn a bad situation into good. Two years later, after seeking Godly council and forgiveness, I married her father. What a wonderful addition our little Katie has been! Now I work as a church secretary and my blessings are both seen and unseen. Reflecting on the talents parable Matthew 25, I joke that God is challenging me to be a good steward with my hourly rate, so that I can be a bigger blessing when he entrusts me with millions. My daily life is a continual challenge of faith!
We never feel more alive than when we are productively pursing God’s purpose. “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.” Matthew 5:6 God loves you and has wonderful plans for your life. “You (God) created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb…You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.” Psalm 139:13-16 There is no one else exactly like you and there never will be. Again, in Jeremiah 29:11 God explains his divine purpose, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Just like Queen Ester, God made you to witness and work for such a time as this. There are multiple scriptures which reinforce God’s divine plan, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” John 15:16 Earlier in the chapter, verses 1-5 explain that the branches (the church) draw energy and nutrients from the vine (Jesus). “…every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” God prunes the unnecessary from our lives so that we produce more spiritual fruit. What is this fruit? Galatians 5:22-23 describes what we should see in a Christian’s life, “..the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Therefore, I use this verse as a measuring stick for my life and use it to measure-up who I should associate with. Does my life and testimony reach out to others with love, forgiveness, humor, steadfastness, and discipline? As long as I follow His greater purpose of serving others; I have faith that he will provide my needs. I may be digging for change in my car for gas money, but somehow it is enough to get me where I need to go (but not always where I want to go).
Humans struggle to believe God can and wants to use us in our ordinary, daily lives. However, 1 Peter 4:10 explains how even the mundane can be an act of worship, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.” With our heart in the right place, washing dishes can be a godly act of service! Colossians 18-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” In modeling Christ’s life of servant/leader we can demonstrate to others God’s love in even practical tasks. Serve in a needy community and your heart will be transformed. “If a man shuts his ears to the cries of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13 Volunteers serving the less fortunate see first hand how blessed they truly are. “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and they darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.” Isaiah 58:10-11 In summary, “Give yourselves completely to God—every part of you…to be tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good purposes.” Romans 6:13 The journey to recovery begins with the first step of obediently following God’s purpose for your life.
Monday, June 15, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS? Through the Trial a Miracle Awaits
As the Grand Architect, God can direct our path into perilous situations so that he can reveal His power, enrich our lives, and allow our testimony to spread The Truth. Escaping poverty as a child and the recent death of his wife, revivalist Smith Wigglesworth explains the lesson learned from his personal experience, “Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great trials. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” God purposely brought the Israelites to a crossroads, so that He could reveal his power and work a miracle in their lives by parting the sea. The Israelites were terrified and did not understand why God would lead them to be trapped between the mountains and the sea with the Egyptians in fast pursuit. Exodus 14:1-4 “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ So the Israelites did this.” Are you standing at a crossroad in your life? God very possibly is bringing you to a place of humility—He is pruning away the unnecessary so that he can reveal His glory. It is very probable that if you choose the righteous path, God is waiting to reveal your miracle just around the bend.
Most of the miracles in the New Testament are multileveled. In the story of Jesus’ healing the man who had been blind from birth, we can see the act itself as miraculous; but we can also understand how God’s redemptive power is far reaching.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’ ‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.’
Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam’ (Siloam means ‘sent’). So the man went and washed and came back seeing! His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’
… The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, ‘He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!’ Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘But how could an ordinary sinner do such miraculous signs?’ So there was a deep division of opinion among them. Then the Pharisees again questioned the man who had been blind and demanded, ‘What’s your opinion about this man who healed you?’ The man replied, ‘I think he must be a prophet.’
…And they threw him out of the synagogue. When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man answered, ‘Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.’ ‘You have seen him,’ Jesus said, ‘and he is speaking to you!’ ‘Yes, Lord, I believe!’ the man said. And he worshiped Jesus. John 9:1-38
First, the healings and miracles of Jesus fulfill messianic prophesies to establish that he is the Savior. Secondly, Jesus challenges the religious establishment; the Law of Moses is transformed from outward rules into a righteous relationship with God. Thirdly, the healing transforms the recipients’ life. Lastly, the healed person becomes a living “case study” of God’s grace. It is not happenstance that the blind man was instructed to wash himself in the pool called sent. The physical washing symbolizes an internal cleansing of the spirit. It foreshadows the ultimate goal of Jesus ministry on earth, “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” Matthew 28:19-20. Also, the raising from the dead of Lazarus of Bethany demonstrates these four principals. Lazarus’s sisters contact Jesus, letting him know that his dear friend is gravely ill; however, Jesus waits patiently. When Jesus finally arrives four days after Lazarus’ burial, the sisters lament that Christ could have arrived sooner to heal him. Seeing the grieving sisters and the crowd of mourners, Jesus wept—waiting for his friend to die must have been difficult, yet he understood that this was God’s will. “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him” John 11:40-45. Once again, the miracle solidifies that Jesus is Lord, and as a result, the gospel is spread.
What the enemy of our souls intends for destruction, God uses for righteousness. “Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went. Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. Crowds listened intently to Philip because they were eager to hear his message and see the miraculous signs he did.” Acts 8:3-6 Consequently, the crisis provides the opportunity for God to move; when God moves lives are transformed and the Good News travels.
Most importantly, the phenomenal example of God’s transforming negative into positive was Jesus’ crucifixion as the sacrificial lamb, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:1-3 Accepting Christ brings us freedom—we need to wholeheartedly walk in that freedom and proclaim the truth to others. God is doing all He can to convince us to repent—to no longer have “pent up” emotions and be condemned. “We are here to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is declared right with God….” Acts 13:38-39 Therefore, the daily miracle is forgiveness, perseverance, and guidance; “He comes to us, not to shield us from the harshness of the world but to give us the courage and strength to bear it; not to snatch us away by some miracle from the conflict of life, but to give us peace—His peace—in our hearts, by which we may be calmly steadfast while the conflict rages, and be able to bring the torn world the healing that is peace” (Advent Devotional Guide). I was answering the phones for the church and a quite, male voice asked, “How do I know I am healed?” I simply asked, “Do you feel better?” Yes, it is that simple! Leave your past of sin and guilt at the Cross—move forward freely with the love of Jesus in your heart.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS? Grateful Heart
“On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscious.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.”
When we are on the mountain top, humans congratulate themselves on all the hard work they did to place themselves there. One of the major flaws of the human condition is our forgetfulness…we forget the source of all things good…we forget the lessons learn from the last trials. The story of Job serves as an example of how trials serve to remind us that God is in control. In Job 1:10-11 the devil says, “You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!’ ‘All right, you may test him,’ the LORD said to Satan. ‘Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.’ So Satan left the LORD’s presence.” Through the life of Job we can learn that God works as a filter, nothing can happen to us without His permission. As always, these struggles’ purpose is to shape us into the likeness of Christ and produce the fruits of the spirit. Later in Job 42:1-6, after complaining and repeatedly questioning God, “Job answered GOD: ‘I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes? I admit it. I was the one. ..I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise…"’ Trust me if I had to endure Job’s suffering I would complain even more so…it is an incredible story. As a result of his confession, God blesses Job even more than what was taken away and he lived another 140 years. The story of Job firmly explains to me that God is more concerned about our spirit, than our physical condition~ His concern is who we are rather than what we have. In addition, the lesson of what the devil had intended for evil, God used for good is powerfully illustrated; Job was stripped of all his material possessions so that he could be humbled and grateful. One can easily infer that Job’s torment was prolonged by his rebellion and complaining; the sooner he accepted God’s omnipotent power, the sooner the trial would have ended and the devil lost the bet.
As Americans in the age of instant gratification, we feel God has abandoned and punished us when our water or electricity is being turned off. We stand in front of the microwave wondering why it is taking so long. Like you, I am in full blown panic mode when my bank account runs dry, but do you realize how few people world-wide have clean drinking water or reliable electricity? How grateful are you for the blessings you do have? We feel the American Dream is a guaranteed blessing. We compare ourselves to our neighbors and constantly chase the carrot of success. The current economic crisis is a result of Americans living beyond their means. Financial expert Suze Orman highlighted the problematic attitude behind the economic crisis, “Suze commented that the economy is built on lies and deceit. A lack of regulation for banks, mortgage companies, etc combined with greed at the very top of the system all worked out to mean trouble for the American economy. Main Street America is not so different from Wall Street. Families have been buying homes they couldn't afford, leasing expensive cars, putting purchases on credit and basically living off of money they don't actually have but that is borrowed…Suze's tips for what families can start doing to protect themselves are very simple. First of all, stop living financial lies - Suze shared that if you are living an honest financial life, you will be fine no matter the state of the economy” (Elizabeth Borer, About.com, Recession-Proof Your Family with Suze Orman - Show Recap Tuesday, September 23, 2008). As humans are both physical and spiritual creations, our spiritual attitudes impact our physical lifestyle.
So I plainly ask you, what are your eyes watching—TV commercials, your neighbor’s new car, pornography, the gloom and doom newscasts? If our eyes are the lamp, then they are the gateway to coveting and jealousy as well.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:21-34
As with any journey, change begins with the first step. Living an authentic financial life will bless you physically and spiritually. Many times in the Bible restoration and thanksgiving are inextricably linked: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise” Jeremiah 17:14. In Luke the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers tells us that only one came back to thank Jesus. As a result, the thankful man not only received physical restoration, but spiritual healing as well, “Where are the other nine?...Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17-15-18 After all, humans original design was for communion with God; it is no wonder that when we lose sight of this priority, our lives are out-of-focus and chaotic.
Most importantly, the last part of Matthew 6, offers a promise. Are you seeking His kingdom first? Thankfully give God your first fruits—the first 10% of your salary, day, time— and come back and tell me how your life is changing. I’m not endorsing your saying to God, Now God, I gave you $20, now where’s my $200?—that is not a grateful heart. Think about your relationship with your children, when they open up the Christmas gifts and ask, Is that it? How eager are you to give them more? Do we look to God with a sense of entitlement? Have we forgotten that God’s chosen people wandered the desert, the early church fathers were jailed for following the Great Commission and so on, why do we expect to be treated any differently? Even while imprisoned, Paul encourages others with the grateful heart, strength and peace he has found in relying on Christ to supply his needs, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Phillipians 4:11-13 Pray that God will change your point of view and give you a thankful heart.
Friday, May 8, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS?
Build Character~. On Sunday, Sept 14, 2008, Dayton, OH was affected by unprecedented weather caused by hurricane Ike. Yes, a hurricane in OH! Even though trees and limbs looked healthy, the 75 mph wind gusts revealed their hidden flaws. Many came crashing down on power lines, leaving residents without water and electricity for days and weeks. Some seized the opportunity to play Scrabble with their kids by candle light; and others, picketed the electricity company for not working fast enough. When driving through the neighborhoods this spring, you can easily see the “gaps” in the fullness of the trees’ silhouettes. However, the trees have benefited—when looking at the gaps it is easy to miss the benefits; they aren’t trying to feed limited recourses into repairing dead branches. They can focus on feeding and growing the healthy branches. “I am the true Vine, and my Father is the Gardener. He lops off every branch that doesn’t produce. And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops” John 15:1–2. In God’s Power to Change Your Life, Rick Warren points out, “when God prunes us, he cuts off the sinful and the superficial, the deadwood in our lives. He does do that, but he also cuts off stuff that is alive and successful: a business that is going great, a satisfying relationship, good health. Some of that may get whacked off for greater fruitfulness. It is not just deadwood that goes. God often cuts back good things too, in order to make us healthier. It is not always pleasant, but pruning is absolutely essential for spiritual growth.” Similarly, life’s storms reveal our best and worst attributes.
As children, it is difficult to understand why we aren’t able to do something by ourselves...out of ignorance and frustration, youngsters throw temper tantrums. Often like children, Christians often need both time to mature and divine help till we can master the concept. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:1-3 I’ve often heard it said God always answers prayer, but the answer isn’t always yes!
Troubles often reveal our flaws; through repentance we become more Christ-like. None of us is perfect, nor can we achieve salvation through our works. It is only through repentance that we can be free and healed. I wholeheartedly feel that we are given free will and sometimes we diverge from God’s divine design for our life; but, He is powerful enough to take that sin/problem/illness and turn it into good. Joseph was sold into slavery, accused of rape, imprisoned—and yet, God used these “problems” to facilitate his being king! David coveted his neighbor’s wife, murdered her husband—and yet, the bloodline of Jesus is directly connected to David and Bathsheba’s adultery.
Not all trials are a direct result of our sin; after all the scripture explains, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45 Sometimes troubles can be a result of someone else’s sin or a generational curse. In the midst of my personal storm I wondered and still sometimes wonder, “Why me?” That became a very dangerous question, because instead of trying to improve my situation, I began to focus my energies on “Oh woe is me…I’m a victim.” When there is a car crash, you had better call the medics and seek immediate treatment…it isn’t the time to ponder why the accident happened. “Why?” should happen later in the healing process. The goal of reflection shouldn’t be to blame, but rather, to prevent another accident. We need to check ourselves and ask, I am going to choose “bitter or better”? Pastor Rick Warren reminds us, “… God is glorified when we bear “much fruit” (John 15:8), and that requires pruning. We must remember that the loppers are in the hands of our loving God. He knows what he is doing, and he wants what is best for us. If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned. Count on it. You may be going through pruning right now, and it may not all be deadwood. God cuts off branches that we feel are productive so that more fruit may be produced” (God’s Power to Change Your Life).
As the church receptionist, I was startled by an unusual question: a quite, male voice asked, “How do I know I am healed?” I simply asked, “Do you feel better?” Yes, it is that simple! Leave your past of sin and guilt at the Cross—move forward freely with the love of Jesus in your heart. Therefore, I know that my daily struggles and challenges are a part of my life in order build faith and tenacity. “…we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5
Friday, March 13, 2009
THE PERFECT PLAN
In the Garden of Eden we see the perfect plan of what God intended for human beings—stewardship of the earth, communion with others and worship of God. Think of this: God had the minions of angels, Jesus, and yet, something was incomplete. Therefore, He created humans to have an intimate relationship. In Jesus’ own words, the heart of God’s purpose for us is to “… love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 We often forget how much God loves us. “I have hope when I think of this, the Lord’s love never ends: his mercies never stop.” Lamentations 3:22 Moreover, the Bible is full of verses that declare God’s never all encompassing love for us, such as Psalms 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Furthermore, He created each and every one of us with a specific plan in mind. We were created to worship him. Romans 12:1 explains “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Worship is cyclical. It ties back into the command to love one another; by loving one another we demonstrate God’s love and worship him simultaneously. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind…Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon, The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.” Isaiah 58:8-11 When we serve others, we take the focus of ourselves and our own problems~in turn this is a healing process. In God’s infinite wisdom, He created a harmonious life-purpose for humans.
THE EFFECTS OF SIN
The problem was and is SIN GETS IN THE WAY OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. Psalms 66:18-20 clearly states, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” In short, sometimes our sins (the “big ones” and the “little ones”) block our prayers. Everyday each of us is faced with choices—choices that either draw us closer to God or away from him. “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” For my entire life I’ve struggled with my weight and that little Hershey’s kiss doesn’t seem so bad. After a week and a bag of kisses…well, let’s just say, you get the picture. Romans 6:16 and 23“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in union with the Messiah Jesus our Lord.” Anyone who has struggled with addiction can tell you that people don’t wake up one day deciding to be a slave to their vice. It is those daily little choices that determine the big consequences. Sin causes spiritual disconnection, physical illnesses, financial ruin, and emotional DIS-ease. The good news is God is waiting with open arms for us to repent and change.
God sent the second Adam, the Lamb of God, to atone for our sins: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” John 3 16-18 We all can think of self-righteous people who truly feel holier than thou by pointing out all your sins and flaws. Clearly, this isn’t scriptural. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Matthew 7:4-5 Mohandas Gandhi basically stated that he didn’t have a problem with Christ, but he did have multiple problems with the Christians. When the British colonized India they approached missionary work with an attitude of “my God and lifestyle is better than yours.” How many Christians try converting others today with this same thread-bare methodology? Just as destructive, some Christians drag a heavy suitcase full of guilt and depression around in their daily life. Why would a "sinner" want to become a Christ follower if that's the example of a Christian? Instead, Jesus pleads, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 Christ transforms lives by modeling a contagious love of others and adopting us as His own.
Condemnation of ourselves and others, isolation, hopelessness, regret and guilt are tools of the devil to deter us from fulfilling God’s purpose. If we are focused on our physical ailments and emotional problems, then we are not worshiping God for all He has done—that’s sinning! 2 Corinthians 7: 10 illustrates this point, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” For example, depression causes us to feel isolated and alone—that no one could possibly understand our troubles. I assure you, God is with you. “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14. By accepting Christ as Lord and savior, Jesus acts as a bridge reconnecting us to God and His divine purpose for our lives.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE TRIALS AND TESTS?
Understand, that in no way am I passing judgment—I struggle daily to defeat depression and my personal thorns of the flesh. “I am quite happy about the thorn…for when I am weak, then I am strong—the less I have, the more I depend on him.” Luke 16:11 Pastor of Dayton Vineyard Christian Fellowship Doug Roe has been known to explain it by saying, “If I don’t listen to the whispers, He’ll allow the jackhammer.” God often tries to gently whisper truth to us, but as rebellious children, we don’t always listen. In short, “God sometimes uses sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek eternal life. We should never regret His sending it.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 Right now, I have the lyrics to Jesus, Take the Wheel sung by Carrie Underwood playing in my mind. Some of us have to crash, before we’ll hand over control. As humans it is difficult for us to see our trials from God’s perspective. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 explains what our Christian attitude should be, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” There are two reasons for our trials: 1) they are a natural consequence of sin and/or 2) God is using trials to shape us into the likeness of Christ.
As a teacher, I broke down big concepts into daily lesson plans, provided clear goals and guidelines, gave demonstrations with visual aids, and assigned projects. But how did I assess student knowledge? I tested them! Have you been paying attention to God? The answers come when we go through tests and trials. Metals are fired to burn off impurities, clay is fired to make vessels, and sand is molten into glass—we are no different. Hebrews 12:9 explains, “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respect them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live?” Only God knows the bigger purpose for the events of our lives. Furthermore, John 12:24 explains, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Smith Wigglesworth wrote, “Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” Tests can let our patience and faith grow—but only if we let God have control. In order for God to mold us into the likeness of Christ, we have to be broken and reshaped into a “new creature.”
If God’s sinless son wasn’t immune from troubles during his time on earth, why should we arrogantly think we should be spared? Personally, “Why me?” was a dangerous question because my thoughts and actions reflected a victim mindset. Now I realize the more appropriate questions is, “Why not me?” Many televangelist and preachers focus on “feel good, prosperity” teachings; however, in John 16:32-33 Jesus explains, “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” The Footprints poem has lost its impact through overexposure, but the theme has resonated with many people…we will have troubles, but we are not alone.
Jesus understands our troubles. Although the Bible doesn’t chronicle all of these trials, I would imagine that in the flesh Christ was tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins. However, we do know that the devil plotted and waited for physical weakness to attack. After forty days of fasting and isolation, the devil offers Jesus food and power. John 4:3-12 tells the story of Christ’s temptation, “Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. ‘I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,’ the devil said, ‘because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.’ Jesus replied, ‘The Scriptures say, You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him. …When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.” We too can defeat Satan by knowing and planting the Word of God in our hearts.
Also, we learn from this example that the devil waits and plots for opportune times. With Jesus, he waited to attack when he was at the weakest point: hungry, alone, and dreading his persecution/death. Personally, I am the most irritable with my family when I am hungry, stressed, depressed, and sleep deprived. I am always humbled when I think of his sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22: 42-45 “’Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.’” There is medical evidence to support that under extreme stress, humans can rupture the blood vessels of the face. Some women experience a mild case of this during labor, resulting in blood shot eyes and splotches of the face. Similarly, the labor of our trials often produces a huge blessing—how do we get to the blessing? Remember what Jesus told the disciples, PRAY for strength and discernment.
Once again, Jesus is the ultimate role-model for how we should cope with life’s trials. He asked God was there any other way…please, let this cup pass. Here Jesus fights temptation with prayer and God answers by sending an angel to comfort him. We are no different…God can answer our prayers by sending others to strengthen us. Like Christ we still may have to endure the trial, but we are not alone. Amazingly, Christ realized the gravity of what he was about to face and still accepted his persecution, trial, torture, and death because of his love for us. Hebrews 2:17-18 clearly explains, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” His torture and death is the most powerful example of persecution producing a glorious reward, our forgiveness and reconnection with God.
Pastor Rick Warren reaffirms this belief in his best-selling The Purpose Driven Life, "It is a fatal mistake to assume that God's goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success, as the world defines it. The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry. Never focus on temporary crowns.
Paul was faithful, yet he ended up in prison. John the Baptist was faithful, but he was beheaded. Millions of faithful people have been martyred, have lost everything, or have come to the end of life with nothing to show for it. But the end of life is not the end!" (P.50)
Video:Third Day--Cry Out to Jesus
Friday, February 27, 2009
The life story of Billy Moore is a powerful, modern-day testimony of redemption. God clearly used the horrible decisions of a young man to demonstrate how all things come together to glorify God:
“I was told by a guy I had met that he knew a man who kept $30,000 in his house. And he was old. We could rob him, and nobody would have to get hurt. But of course, when you’re using drugs and drinking alcohol, you think you have things under control, and you don’t. While we were in this man’s house, he shot at me with a shotgun. And being intoxicated and messed up as I was, this scared me and caused me to shoot him…They arrested me and the sheriff told me the night they arrested me that he was going to make sure I got a death sentence. I didn’t care--I wanted to die. That’s how bad I was feeling.
…I got a copy of my transcript and court records, and in those records were the addresses and names of some of the members of the victim’s family. When I saw that, I knew in my heart that I had to write to these people to apologize. I did, and they wrote me back and said they were Christian people and forgave me. It was like a breath of life. They were giving me a breath of life. Here are the people who should want me to die--who had every reason to want me to die--saying that they didn’t want me to die and that they forgave me. We continue to write, even to this present day, and talk on the phone. I even go visit them at times.
… They told the parole board, "Listen, we lost one family member, and Billy is like another member, and we don’t want to lose another member of our family. We do not want you to execute him."
Then there were probably five or six ministers that I knew from being in prison who testified. And a friend of mine who was a Jesuit priest had talked to Mother Theresa about me. The parole board heard about her wanting to talk to them, so they called her, and she told them that they should commute the case. And they did. On August 22, 1990, they said that my sentence was commuted from death to life, and I would have to do 25 years before becoming eligible for parole.
A year later, the parole board had to overturn that 25-year limit and paroled you. …
But the poverty, the racism, the lack of education--that has an effect on kids. It would be different if you gave them a chance and an opportunity to do better.
The New Abolitionist - June 2004, Issue 32
Billy Moore is now a Pentecostal minister, preaching along with his wife in Georgia. He is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and speaks throughout the world about his experiences. If God can forgive and use a thief and murderer, surely He can forgive and use you.
Even with our sinful nature, God can and will use us. Moses had a hot temper. Rahab was a prostitute. Mary was a child. Timothy was shy and young. Paul tortured and killed early Christians. Throughout his writings he discusses his “thorn” and poor eyesight. David was an adulterer---yet, God forgave, used, and blessed them each. David prayed, “Turn me away from wanting any other plan than Yours.” Psalm 119:37 and declared, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32 If anyone knew about having a calling on your life even as a young child, it would be David. He knew that he wasn’t supposed to be a king in the same way King Saul had been—he even refused Saul’s armor, but stood before the giant Goliath with a sling shot. Later, he diverged from God’s plan by lusting after Bathsheba, placing her husband on the frontlines to be killed, and then, suffered the loss of their first child. David experienced what it was like to walk in God’s grace; and the sin and suffering of not following the heart of God. I firmly believe God created each of us with a specific purpose in mind, and then, He blesses us with talents to help us achieve His desire (Jeremiah 29:11). What complicates this is “free will!” We can easily diverge from the path God’s laid out for us. As David did, we often later come to realize that we are helpless without God. Amazing grace is that God uses all the negative decisions to enrich our understanding of His will and power. Remember that the word of God proclaims first seek Him, and then, you will reap blessings. David addresses his deeper understanding in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” God’s word is full of promise. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 His greatest desire is to bless you! From before you were born, God was making plans for you!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
AKA ~The most valuable things in life aren’t things
I grew up in a single mother household. Even though my mother made mistakes, she was Godly and always kept my brother’s and my best interest at heart. True to her namesake, “Judith”, she was a self-sacrificing warrior. On the other hand, my father was the one with the new wife…house…cars…baby… To say their relationship was dysfunctional would be an understatement. Their version of getting together to talk about how the children should be raised was in front of a judge. However, they both instilled in me the lessons of being educated, hardworking, and thereby self-reliant. As soon as I could get out on my own and live the American Dream, I did and swore I’d never look back. At 27, I was a successful teacher who owned a four bedroom house in the suburbs. By 31 I was a classic “overachiever”: accountable for my alcoholic husband, a full time graduate student with a 4.0 GPA, a respected teacher, and a mother to a precocious three year old. I went to church, but to say that God was in the center of my life would be a lie.
I likened myself to a Martha Stewart~ I hosted parties and was generous. Because I had done without as a child, I over-valued materialism. Ironically, I was similar to the Biblical Martha as well. Martha complained, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?...the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.’” Luke 10:40 I would be so trapped by the “devil in the details” that I would not take time to enjoy myself or the guests. As a result, I am sure many friends and family members were left uncomfortable by my frenzied rushing about and insistence on things being “just so.” To this day, I struggle with balancing a clean home and spending quality time with my children. I often feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities of working full time; being a gentle, wise mother to one year old and ten year old daughters; being a considerate step-mother to two teenage boys; being a loving wife; volunteering faithfully at church; keeping a tidy home; and making righteous decisions. When life gets chaotic, I clean…at least, I have control over that. My husband says that I get a “look in my eye” and he knows I have 12 D-I-Y projects going on at the same time. I have to remind myself that the most valuable things in life aren’t things. The story of Martha clearly demonstrates that Christ would prefer that we focus on fellowship and worship; rather than temporal, worldly concerns.
In addition, I passed judgment on those not leading a lifestyle that I felt was right~ Poor people were poor because of bad decision making or secretly believed that Poor people are bad people. That’s when the bottom fell out…I hadn’t listened to God’s whispers, so He sent the earthquake. I’d forgotten the story in Matthew 19: 16-24 “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’…. ‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’ Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."’ My sin was that I was proud and self-righteous.
I had a life-changing experience which refocused my perspective. The catalyst was a miscarriage, which revealed my husband’s infidelity. Instead of pleading for God’s mercy, like Job I shook my fist and said, “Why me? I am trying to lead a righteous life!” I let that event rip off the scabs from a troubled childhood…it inflamed all those negative feelings about men. I determined if being “good” didn’t insulate me from tragedy… then, let’s find out what is so wonderful about being “bad.” After all, my husband and father were ungodly and it looked like they lived an unscathed life. Unfortunately, I am the voice of experience and I didn’t always follow God’s commandments. For a while, I felt abandoned by God and rebelliously embraced a sex, drugs & rock-n-roll lifestyle. (My grandmother refers to this as the school of hard knocks; if so, I have a Master’s Degree.)
As a result of severe depression, I was unemployed for 7 months. My bills however, reflected a life of a middle-class family. I didn’t qualify for unemployment or worker’s comp until an entire 365 days had passed. Obviously, having no income and a mound of bills did nothing to help my depression. I experienced extreme weight loss/weight gain, sleeping 27 hours straight/ not sleeping soundly for weeks, panic attacks……. I state these challenges in order to let you know I can relate to your trials. In addition, I was in the midst of a divorce, grandparent’s terminal illness, and lawsuit with my uncle over my grandfather’s estate. More importantly, I was faced with losing custody of my child since I was unable to provide for her. Based on my personal experiences, I believe that the more potential you have; the more the devil will wage full out spiritual warfare to rob you of your blessing and fulfilling God’s path for your life. If Satan can destroy the mother, he can profoundly effect the children; her greatest potential.
Once again, I proudly clung to what had “worked” for me in the past: tenacity, hard work, self-reliance. I fought the doctors to return to teaching before the calendar year had passed; therefore, I would not be eligible for disability compensation. When I say “fought,” that is an understatement! After all, I was losing every material possession I had worked so hard for. Even though I had many things repossessed, foreclosed, given away, sold…I felt secure that I was back to work and living in a two bedroom apartment~ My daughter and I were together and we had survived…or so I thought. That spring, my teaching contract was “non-renewed” due to levy issues (But in reality, one could conclude it was due to my hospitalization for major depression). What would I do now? I was Mrs. Mitchell, the teacher for 10 years with a Master’s Degree. How would I provide now as a single mom?
With my life in ruins, I decided that my child was better off without me and that I would end my life. Unconscious for hours, I was awakened by a calm voice instructing me, “This is your second chance; go home.” Instinctively, I knew it was the voice of an angel, a messenger of God. Groggily, I woke up and he repeated the instructions. In my heart, I knew there wouldn’t be another “wake up call.” I knew this was my second chance at life to go home, take a shower, and return to my normal work day; I followed his message and was instantly delivered of suicidal tendencies. I’m not saying that I never feel worthless or hear the enemy of our souls whisper that I’m better off dead~ but now, I rebuke Satan and don’t let those thoughts linger. Please don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating a suicide attempt as a breakthrough; however, I am sharing my testimony and personal low point that lead to my deliverance.
The goal of this blog is not to come across as “preachy”, but rather, to say I share these struggles—after all, what people need is
1) Not to feel alone, that someone cares about their well being and understands their struggles
2) Appreciated and admired
3) Forgiveness and redemption
4) Unconditional LOVE
Now, I am grace-driven and am able to share my testimony with compassion. As a result of these devastating events, my attitude has been humbled and I realize there but the grace of God go I. I understand why someone would turn to drugs and alcohol, prostitution, or sin in general. Sometimes we feel that not even God could love us, or that we couldn’t possibly ever live a good life; so we might as well succeed at being hell-bent. There is a powerful attraction to rebellion, having the power to not listen to anyone. Humans are desperately seeking to fill a void that only God can fill and the self-destructive lifestyle temporarily may provide a “fix,” but this compounds physical, mental, spiritual, financial health issues. I’d forgotten the Biblical principal, “Therefore, do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Four our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. When I reflect now, I truly believe this is what kept my mom going; somehow she never lost sight of this verse. I’d forgotten the principle she’d held fast to even on her death bed…when people would ask, “What can we do for you?” She’d humbly answer, “Pray for my children.” She knew that the only thing you can take to heaven is your loved ones!
I have found out time and time again that when I get my priorities out of whack and God isn’t the apex in my life, I feel pressured and anxious~ I lose sight of God’s real purpose for my life.