Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Our world is broken, tragically unjust, given over to oppression, pain, and hopelessness--without Christ. The reality of God's Word, however, is one of wholeness, justice, freedom, grace, and hope. Through redemption in Jesus Christ we have a renewed purpose, to live out our original design: representing God's image. Because of sin, we will never fully represent Him here on earth, but through the indwelling Spirit, with dependence on the Word of God and support of His people, He promises to change us.

One of the most powerful antidotes to depression* and anxiety is the reminder of what is true: God is loving, He is kind, gentle, slow to wrath, good, powerful, faithful... Instead of allowing my mind to wander and follow it's own depraved (or lazy) path of sorrow, God has given me what I need to retrain it: the promises in His Word (2 Peter 1:3) and His presence (Hebrews 13:5-6). Jim Berg, in his book, Changed Into His Image, refers to this as "arguing myself back to reality."

We can change our mind! God created it as an elastic, adaptable organ. Connections (known as synapses), create paths that can be reinforced or recreated much like a two-track dirt road. Repeated thoughts form a highway, or river-like structure, with fingers reaching as far as time and control allow. New thoughts take time and intentionality--which is why we must be disciplined and on guard, sober-minded. "Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). 

Here is a link to Bible verses that remind us of the goodness and constant love of God through Jesus Christ: https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/depression-bible-verses/

When in doubt, argue yourself back to reality! God is who He says He is. He will do what He says He will do (Hebrews 11:6). He knows our weakness and frailty, our struggles and suffering. We can be honest with ourselves and honest with God, humbling ourselves and asking for His help. As Scripture identifies sin, we can repent without shame. As we need comfort and strength, He will provide. Over and over, as I bask in His presence and Word, He has promised to meet my need. He will not disappoint.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (Psalm 46)

*This is not to the exclusion of medical help. Seeking professional help is recommended and encouraged.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A Spiritual Whole30

Yesterday I felt defeated. I had worked and prayed for hours over a project only to realize that, although the work was sound, I had the wrong focus. Feelings of failure, inadequacy, and waste darkened my outlook. It was difficult to change gears, address immediate concerns, and remain disciplined. Everywhere I looked I saw my limitations and recognized my inability to do or complete what I set my hand to.

These are moments I need the gospel. I need to be reminded that I am always inadequate whether I feel like it or not. I am weak, limited, and unable to shape my world. It's a reminder that I need Jesus. I am not my own savior and never will be. God, in His grace, draws me back to Himself, working circumstances, relationships, even my stubborn heart, to seek and follow Him in spite of it all. He has seen my inadequacies and superseded them in Christ.

Yesterday was also the end of the Whole30 diet at our house. One should never end a diet the day after a holiday. I did not end well. One of my big take-aways is that there is a disconnect between my mouth and stomach. My stomach and body really don't care what food tastes like. Their needs and satisfaction depend on a different set of values than my taste buds. As long as they're fed and the quality is adequate, they work properly. Energy levels stay level. Thinking is clear. All systems are "go." My superficial desire for sugar, in all its forms, has no lasting value. It is, in fact, detrimental to my overall health and performance.

In the same way, we are quick to satisfy feelings and emotions, catering to their whimsical desires, when what brings balance is sound thinking and doing. Filling my mind with the reality of God and His promises affects my spiritual outlook and energy level, providing motivation and initiative apart from emotion. I can give in to quick bursts of emotional highs and seek them as a means of enjoying life, or I can settle in to the deeper truth of God and persevere based, not on my own desires, but God's.

What if we reset our spiritual appetite with thirty days of whole nutrition from God's Word--no podcasts, articles, zippy tunes, Facebook, Netflix, Youtube or Hulu. Instead, we would take a 30-day fast from modern interruptions of fast spiritual sugar and concentrate on the whole foods of Scripture, prayer, meditation, fellowship, worship, and evangelism. Could we do it? Would we? How quickly would we find ourselves reading other's thoughts, seeking regurgitated truth, longing for entertainment?

Just like daily eating, I must discipline myself, by the grace of God, to fix my eyes on a higher goal with an eternal perspective. My desires and wishes, on their own, are warped and self-centered. But a mind fixed on God's nature, goodness, holiness, and might changes my appetite and brings satisfaction. He alone has true value and worth.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.

For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Return, O Lord!
How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90

Monday, August 26, 2019

Who I Am and Why it Matters

Years ago, our pastor cautioned me, "There is only one inspired Book, everything else is written by sinful people. Identify their bent and you can use it all to God's glory." That has been helpful advice. No matter whose material I read, study, or listen to, I look for the author's Achilles heel and it puts things in perspective. The extension is that you and I have our own Achilles heel--and it affects how we view life, God, and others.

Some individuals view everyone and everything in life with suspicion. No matter what happens, they have to be on guard lest they're taken advantage of.

Some see God's Word as a set of rules to be followed. It's about doing this and doing that. Though they long for grace, they don't seem to find it.

Others play their way through life. The more the merrier; eat, drink, and make happy, for who knows what will happen tomorrow?

Still others fight, forcing and pushing limitations and circumstances in an effort to overcome and experience personal accomplishment.

In all of this, life revolves around me--my likes, dislikes, desires, comfort, convenience. I fail to admit it and become defensive when caught, but I honestly think life would be better if it met my standards and expectations.

The key, then, is knowing myself as I come to God's Word, and being willing to change. It's not about reading the Bible religiously, rarely missing church, and staying on my best behavior. God desires transformation and change, not appearance.

I will receive God in the same way I come to Him. If I come proud, stiff-necked, "it's just who I am and nothing's going to change," I will receive rebuke and live under regulations until I am broken and bereft. God opposes the proud--and His Word will work to break those who fall on it. If I come to God broken, helpless, and desperate, I will receive grace and help in my time of need.

A true sense of myself exposes my inability and weakness. A true sense of others reveals their inability and weakness. But a true sense of God lends to greater trust and reliance; a lack of fear, anger, despair, and drive for personal pleasure or potential. He does control it all. He is all wise, all knowing, all loving, and all powerful. I can rest and stop striving.

God is not looking for people who have it all together. He is not out to get us or take advantage of our willingness and need. He is not about me having my own way or experiencing accomplishments. God is about Himself--because He is the best, the most, the greatest, the purest. He is the mold we were created to image and only in Him and His glory will we fully live our our original design. Apart from Him, we are nothing. But in all things He will be glorified. He's just that big; just that grand and glorious.

What is your Achilles heel? The sooner you and I bring our true selves to the Word of God, ready to be healed, the sooner He will effect His goodness and grace in our lives. Choose brokenness. Seek. Knock. Ask. Be a beggar...because you are.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalm 34