Friday, August 29, 2014

Like a Salmon...

who swam up the waterfall & found out the others had moved on.

no, that's not it...

that's it.

  A weariness that saps you of all your strength down to your marrow. Do you ever get that weariness that wants to just stop the world, the news, all of social media, people talking, people rushing about, no one listening?

 A tiredness that is about to burst from the inside and leave you void of the desire to want to scream about it all. In actuality, you know the problem is not just other people avoiding doing what the Bible commands, but it is also you avoiding doing what the Bible commands. 

 Energy drained from fighting against the crowds swimming with the current, eyes poised on the waterfall before you, and you leap with all the force of your faith over and over again. Then there you are and that second of realizing success in a tremendous feat vanishes because the current is stronger, weightier at the top of a waterfall. The massive drive to pour everything over the edge is overwhelming. You must be fully engaged to push against it and slowly move forward. How easy it would be to just give in, let go, drift. 

 but God...
and so you swim on with rejoicing in your heart that you are not alone, it is not hopeless, you will make it. You will be in the presence of God one day and it is a sweet refreshing for the journey ahead.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Refusing to Repaint Worldly Boundary Lines

  Feeling the hurt and suffering with someone does not necessitate one going through the exact trial or injustice. Many people comprehend being hurt by someone who should have never hurt us. We are called to bear one another's burdens but not sinfully. Hope is what we have to give as Christians and love is the vehicle we use to dispense it. Each moment in a person's life does mold and shape them uniquely and we cannot fully grasp the depth of work that is done to that person but we can walk next to them, bolster them up with our arms wrapped around them, and ears listening to their story.We have got to move to erase the boundaries that keep us from ministering to each other.

  "Race" is such an adulterated word. The world wants to define people by color and, as Believers in Christ, we should refuse to dip even a toe in that pool. Maybe I am naive but did not God create one race?  Human Genesis 1:27. This in no way means that we blindly watch or discount injustices to others. On the contrary, it should make us stand up all the more.

 Injustice is more than color based though. Barriers between people because of differences are a scheme the world likes to use.  It is easy to lump people together by skin color, just as it is easy to make divisions between poor and rich, disabled and not disabled, men and women, old and young, fat and skinny. Did Jesus not come and erase the barriers? Galatians 3:28
 Do Christians really need to participate in ignorant systems such as these? Do we need to continue to replace boundaries that Christ took up? Clearly, Jesus showed us a different way and called us to a higher standard not based on looks. Boundaries, through Christian eyes, are this and this alone - one who follows Christ and one who does not. What action does this boundary require of us? 

 It is time to stand right now. Let's not delude ourselves thinking that we can write about our outrage and all the reasons why we cannot fully understand the problem because it makes us look better and more empathetic. The problem was started in the world by how we look so our response should not be in the look category but in the act category. 

 Let's move in ways that confounds the world. Let's see the image of God  in people. When it is abused, mistreated, neglected, and unloved, churches should be the first to act. Let's rejoice as we erase boundaries between people by seeing them become part of the Body. Let's get in the game and exercise the mercy and grace that was poured on us without thought of the outside person because the only other race in this world is the one we are supposed to be running for Christ.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Churches and Their Perfect Match

 Like many Friday mornings, I sat in the dark watching out the window. Usually, the sky is covered under its blanket of night when my husband gets up for work on Fridays so after I make the coffee and put something out resembling food for him, I wait. Slowly the sun slides in breaking open the darkness and starts the cycle of chores. Country living necessitates having good visibility when you venture out where the wild things are creeping.

 But today, I just sat. Restless animals started rustling but I did not budge. The sun was screaming at my eyeballs and I remained unmoved. My thoughts tried to wrangle why my heart was rebelling against this new day and it hit me. About this time a year ago, I did not just sit, I picked up and moved from my church. It was hard, very hard but it was right and that has been made even more obvious during this year. Spiritually, I have grown leaps and bounds. Hard to believe, I know.

 Now I get it. The picture of the church as a Body makes so much sense. I understand better than I ever could about leaders being shepherds and how we  submit to that leadership. That is why it is so important to find a church that is committed to following the Bible. The leadership will have to answer for how well the sheep are doing. This makes me a little hesitant. Do I want to do that to a new church that is just gaining strength to stand on its own? A young leadership? They are going to have to know me and the other sheep are going to have to love me. That's a lot to ask. If there was a site to match believers to churches, I would be in trouble. 

Sheep-Harmony Profile

 Looking for a few more sheep? Try this little piggy:
People tell me that I have a good personality
- 3 previous sheepfolds
- Lives with goats
- Financial contribution is limited
- Feet are prone to stumbling and jumping in muddy puddles sometimes wallowing in them
- Eye problems, leak consistently and lose focus easily
- Likes reading, walking, and debating anything. 
- Loves baby sheep, studying, natural health, and chocolate
- Dislikes cotton candy teaching, intermingling with others because of fear, & the mall
- Desires to glorify God

 Kidding aside, it is time to refocus. Churches are full of sheep with all kinds of maladies and no one can claim to be the worst without forgetting the work Christ has done at the moment of salvation. That being said, He has called us to be in a Body and outfits us with talents and abilities to suit that Body. It is a commitment, it is part of a covenant, and, yes, it is serious. We should not break fellowship with a Body without serious prayer and consideration. If you leaving your church does not cause at least a ripple, something is wrong. A Body cannot lose parts without feeling it and the part cannot separate from a Body without starting to die off spiritually. 

 Once you leave, find a church that is solid. Is the congregation growing (I don't mean numerically)? How does the leadership handle Scripture? What is the focus of the worship time? How does the leadership handle sin/issues? How does each member handle sin/issues? Do they know and care for one another?

 Seems like there is a theme in those questions, doesn't it?  And, no, I did not forget questions about programs. A church should  be focused on God and His Word. How they deal with sin speaks a lot about how well they know and obey Scripture and that speaks a lot about what they think about God's holiness.

 Which, by the way, is something that each of us should examine in ourselves so that we are beneficial to the Body. Get God's holiness right and it is difficult to get doctrine, living, and serving wrong.

- Psalm 99
The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! 
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!
The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; 
you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. 
Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!

Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who
called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them.

In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies
and the statute that he gave them.

O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them,
but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain;
for the Lord our God is holy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Exactly as Easy as Pie...or Maybe Even Pi

 Being a Christian is easy as pie.

- A pie that relied on a good solid foundation to mold it perfectly and contain all the delicious contents so nothing leaks out and it does not collapse but also is a guide for the parts that do not fit and need to be cut off. 

- A pie made using a true recipe not made with pre-made crust or a dehydrated mix of un-nourishing things but with meticulously measured ingredients that are truly food, not substituting what one feels is better than what is in the recipe.

- A pie that required asking the original Creator to guide, instruct, strengthen, and correct you along the way.

- A pie that took time, work, sweat, and made a bit of a mess in the process, maybe even broke some dishes or nicked a finger.

- A pie that went through the heat of an oven for the perfect amount time and then was patiently cooled until it set.

- A pie that may or may not be worthy of a magazine cover but the aroma is ever so pleasing and the taste is even better

- A pie that produces delight for the One it is made. 

- A pie whose purpose includes being cut into, scooped out, devoured, and gone in the blink of an eye.

- A pie that, in the scheme of eternity, makes you joyous and realize that it was no hardship at all. 

 Okay, so it was cheesy but, now you are thinking of pie and when you eat some pie, you might think of this metaphor. I would have used the math metaphor but, really, pie is so much more fun and I do not enjoy math...hmmm, maybe that metaphor is worth looking into.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Removing Oppression from Depression

 Can Christians truly have depression? Truly, David experienced anguish and despair, just read the Psalms and Job was definitely down-trodden but was it depression? 

 The answer from my years of wrestling with depression since before my teen years and self-examination is that it is possible. We do live in a fallen world that is not improving despite our human advances. My naivete when I was first saved led me to think that somehow my life would be put right instantly and it was...just not this side of heaven. 

 Shame is the dominating feeling you have when you cannot just "get over it" as a Christian and no one really talks about what you should do to get over it. Doubts crept in about my salvation as I struggled. Am I not Christian enough? Do I not do enough studying, praying, etc?

 Here is the truth: Christ did all the work and He continues to do the work. Most certainly studying and praying are powerful. Examining yourself through His work and His Word brings assurance when you are truly saved but it may not bring immediate relief of struggles or hardships. 

 God does not always remove sufferings right away not because He is cruel but because He knows it is the best tool to teach us to trust Him, to sanctify us, and for purposes only He can understand. In this process, He has grown me and the depression is not the same caliber it was once. The nothingness is definitely gone and it does not trap me because there is hope. So, what sustains this hope?

 The answer is Truth. The armor of God is our sole protection. When my thoughts begin to swirl with all kinds of negativity, the helmet reminds me that I need not despair, I am already saved. Gathering up all the loose and wild ends, I buckle them down with the belt of Truth. The breastplate of righteousness protects me from the deceptiveness of the heart and feelings. Not letting depression's burdensome shame hold me captive, I run in my shoes of readiness and cover ground for God. Going before me is the shield of faith so that I can progress through the battle without fatal blows. And to lop off the lies and put sin to death, I wield Scripture, my sword. To keep me from discouragement, I pray but I also open the door and let others in to pray. But do not misunderstand me, this is no easy battle. Many days, I can be battle-worn and the arrows may have not pierced me but I still felt their impact.

  Remember the joy. At times, I have had brief moments of joy and depression at the same time. You may not feel happy but do not believe for one second that depression can override the joy of the Lord. It is not much different than when you worship in church and a sinful thought slips in. It is learning to put all things into submission to Christ. Thinking of all Christ did can return you to putting the joy back in view even if you are feeling down. Lay it at His feet and confess that you know He is in control.

 Understand God's creation of you. Some of us are more sensitive and our feelings about everything run very deep. In the past, I tried to cover this characteristic up but it has value if you start understanding it in the light of Truth. Sometimes those feelings have to be replaced with Truth, i.e. thinking no one likes me or replaying something I said because I am worried that it was not the right thing to say. Quickly catch those thoughts, examine them and sort them out. 

 Serve the Lord. Sometimes I just need to pick myself up and do something for the Lord because I have sat too long with myself and my thoughts. My brain is much better when I am about the Lord's work because my thoughts can be too busy and loud when they do not have a focus.

 Implant Truth. Having verses or just knowing enough of the Bible to walk yourself through chapters and books has helped. On bad days, when evil thoughts bounce around from my past and my mind will not let me read, I talk to myself, saying verses or starting in Genesis, going through all I know while walking or driving. Reminding myself, every few minutes, that these things are true and my thoughts are not helps me learn to recognize trouble quicker. Usually, within in 10-15 minutes I have forgotten the sinister thing and find myself humming or singing. Days have come where I have had to walk or drive several times. During all this, I usually text a friend or 2 or 3 and ask for prayer. 

 Have no excuses. Know that the oppression from depression can be removed but you need to be willing to admit your struggle, talk to other Christians, be diligent in studying, and persevering. If you are saved, it should be your desire to glorify God so dig into the Word that you might see rightly and walk rightly and be surrendered rightly. After doing all this, if you find that you are still struggling too much, get examined and check for medical reasons. Let there be no excuse for not serving the Lord and your church as a tool used by God.

 If you are separated from God, then I plead with you to seek to know Him and be in the Body where hope overflows and in Christ, there is rejoicing in life eternal and hope for a true everlasting peace. 
Today is a good day to praise God

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A More Sufficient Remedy for Despair

 My heart aches that depression worked its evil yet again. That creature, I am all too familiar with and grieve that Mr. Williams gave in to it. It took me a few days to process if and how I would address it on this blog. Necessity to bring light into this area spurred me on because regrettably, I have been there.

 The shadow that creeps in as soon as you are smiling unaware and slides beneath your skin to the marrow, spreads like a noxious gas and consumes you from the inside. The nothingness eats away everything but pain and hurt. Those are left to echo in the shell that was once human. 

 The loneliness rises up even in a room filled with people and the immense chasm that separates you from life is ever widening. You fade into invisible where the nothingness grows. The yearning for a sleep that never ends whispers, enticing you to believe the empty promise of peace that it breathes in your ear. You just want it finished.

  Desperation fuels contemplation of self-prescribed remedies to end the deep awareness of heavy emotions, failing, inadequacy, too many thoughts, and abundance of pain. I got close but never made it all the way there. Even if I had, it would not have brought blissful rest. For although the hopeless feeling and the knowledge of our inability to fix it is correct, we cannot rely on our remedy to end it. We may correctly feel the symptoms but we are not correctly diagnosing the cause, therefore our remedy will lead to something worse. It will not be finished.
 There is a better way to end a wretched, weary, empty life and remove the hopelessness. But, you see, it is a work that takes two deaths. One is a required work to pay our heavy debt (Romans 6:23) and the other does the work of keeping us walking rightly in a new life (Galatians 5:24). Unfortunately, we are capable of only one death and that one is not only insufficient, but it is also condemning. So how can it be finished? 

 Jesus. He already died the first death and in that death, He recovered all the ground we lost as enemies in our rebellion and sin against God, which is the cause for our misery and anguish. We can be restored, no longer lonely, no longer alienated, no longer hopeless. If we call upon the Lord, turn from our sin, and trust in His work alone; He victoriously proclaims that it is finished.

 And that alone would be sufficient but on top of removing the burdensome weight of the wages for our sin, Jesus does even more. He also gives us a new life that grows more joyous with each step. This happens in the work of the second death. Every day we rely on His Spirit to put to death the old flesh. We are not the old vessels of destruction and despair. We have become holy and honorable, beloved children of God with purpose. It is a sweetness that penetrates to the deepest wound. You will find peace, joy, hope, and freedom. Do you want it to be finished? (Romans 10, Acts 4, Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, Matthew 11)

 But, what if you are a Christian and you struggle with sadness? How about the answer comes in the next post and until then contemplate Christ's sufficient work for our despair.

Monday, August 11, 2014

50 Praise of Intimacy

 Books are doing strange things to people nowadays. Recently, I came across a new fad of a...uh...romance book, if you can call it that. My knowledge of a certain romance book is limited. After hearing references to the book on television, the internet, and even from some people, I did what any intelligent person would do - I googled. Then I promptly washed my eyeballs. Apparently, "Christian" women are reading this kind of stuff! Ahhh! Just stop...please.

  Let's put away fantasy and lust and take up a godly replacement to focus on what is right. Let's grow our marriages for the glory of God. Although marital intimacy is not the only reason to seek marriage, nor the most important, I will focus on it since this seems to be the driving force of slipping away from Truth. So here you go, 50 praise of marital intimacy ...okay, it is really just 10 not 50. But, they are a heavy, punch-packing 10 that might feel like 50:

  •  Marital intimacy is a display of Christ and the church and of meaningful covenant. Family and friends benefit from your healthy, godly marriage and you glorify God.
  •  Marital intimacy is not shameful. God created our bodies and within those bodies is the capacity to experience feelings and sensations that only exist within sex. God could have made procreation happen in any way but He designed it with man and woman becoming one and He made it pleasurable.
  • Marital intimacy celebrates God's Word, especially Genesis 2. In it we see that Adam wanted what he saw the creatures had and what he experienced with God - someone like him that also offers companionship, comfort, love, and ultimately intimacy. We can nurture this by asking, "how can I serve my husband and please God?"
  • Marital intimacy is surprising and exciting. When Adam awoke to find a custom built creation just for him, he was so enthralled that he lost all thought and immediately staked his claim on this amazing creature. God could have created man and woman at the same time and they just awaken together. Instead He created man, exposed a desire in him, and before Adam could become dissatisfied, God caused him to rest in His care. You can imagine that he explored this creation and how God made her fit him so perfectly.
  • Marital intimacy is a secret of two people becoming one. I cannot think of anything more intimate than two people sharing everyday life. You know each other's struggles, pains, heartaches, and weaknesses. But, also all of your body is solely his and his body is solely yours. Your work will only get a limited part of you, even your child will get a limited part but when you come together with your husband as God first put man and woman together - au naturale, it's an experience of your whole being. Do you really need a fantasy book???
  • Marital intimacy requires learning to love as Christ. It is a loving of the image from which one is created and goes beyond physical. Why would you want to distort it by welling up desires for something you do not have?
  • Marital intimacy is a glue that bonds together. Have you ever met a couple that no longer shares a room and rarely talks to each other? There is an obvious gap and a sadness. Do you know of a couple that has been married for eons and they still smile at each other from across the room? You can feel their connection and joy. It speaks volumes to all around.
  • Marital intimacy makes us grow, particularly in the fruits of the Spirit. God definitely can use marriage as a means of sanctification. Depravity has little room to hide when you spend time together and even more so when you bring infants into the picture. You must grow.
  • Marital intimacy grows deeper and stronger the more you grow in the Lord. It may seem strange that the you more you love God above all else, the more you love your husband but it is one of God's amazing works. 
  • Marital intimacy is joyous and fulfilling. Don't believe me? Live life with a husband for 5 years, 10 years or more while serving the Lord, you'll see. It becomes a precious blessing on earth.

 Ladies, be strong and persevere. You want to spice up your marriage? Seek to understand the wondrous creation that God intended it to be. Ask God to do a work in your heart, do not seek a work that is built on sand. The Author of life, intimacy, sex, and all other creation knows best. Learn what He has to say. Trust Him and then teach the younger women so that they understand that looking outside of what God has given us stirs up a discontent, a drawing away from holiness, and weakens the desire for what we have been given. 

  May it be that the only shades of gray in our lives are that which has brought wisdom, the ones that naturally appear on our heads. If you find yourself in other gray areas, get in the Word and also let others pray for you and keep you accountable. Challenge yourself to come up with 50 praise,
pull out Titus 2 and 1 Timothy 2 and live it.

Philippians 4:8-9: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."