Hold Me Close, Through this Present Moment

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NLT

There are many different points where our Lord connects through our desperation. Our sorrow and confusion can be how God ‘wires us’ for additional contact— my pain becomes His copper wire. It is how He touches my heart as He flows through it.

It is helpful to see our issues in this way.  There is a current that must work through us, making contact and ultimately to create a circuit.  We have to experience pain, in order to know His presence.  If you see a brother struggling, you should anticipate an additional special touch to follow after him.  We must be aware that our distress allows us access to His careful grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with a special and supplemental power.

When it gets dark, any light becomes exceptional.  In a book by Stephen Lawhead, (I think it was “the Silver Hand.”) we see a man, the hero take up stones who have at one time been infused the creative power of the universe.  Standing on the walls of a besieged stronghold, the desperate hero throws the stones down on the attackers.  And as each stone smashes into the ground it releases a part of a song, which destroys the enemy, and defeats those strong in the darkness.

His Spirit infuses into our hearts.  He has imparted something in us that is both precious and powerful.  He works through the pain and struggles that we encounter.  These are terribly ugly, no question.  But it is through these we plug into something real and eternal. I suppose when the tragic finally brings real life it’s a most precious thing. We treasure all this that has come at such an exorbitant price.

Pain has a purpose, and comes  at a high cost.

This is our destiny. It is what we’re called to be. It is said that Queen Victoria, (who reigned the U.K. at the turn of the century) resisted vehemently her future coronation as the sovereign of England. She became rebellious and there were many who were frustrated in this.  Once when Victoria was shown a lineage that directed her and revealed her place in England’s future as queen.  She responded with an astonishing simple awareness, “I will be good.”

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His Presence.”  

Paul Claudel

 

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The Fellowship of This Misery

Everything is broken.

“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Luke 5:12, NLT

 

Let’s jump right into this passage from Luke 5.  A very sick man desires to become well.  The Bible text reveals that his condition is agonizingly desperate.  His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’  He is completely infected; he is ‘unclean’ and without hope. There is no treatment for what he has, doctors can do nothing, so he comes to Jesus.

We must emphasize this, the leper has no illusions of wholeness.  He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced, or persuaded by anyone else.  It occurs to him, that Jesus the healer (of lepers, and the like) may provide healing, or at the least a morsel of comfort.  This leper approaches the presence of Jesus, with such humility it is almost painful to witness. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except Jesus.

There is a fellowship of misery–some of us are “card-carrying” members.  Our diseases differ, but they have affected us completely.  Our pain, and our darkness vary.  Some have physical pain, others have a mental illness.  When we meet, there should be a secret handshake or a password. We share a comradeship— we are all part of the same community.  We are a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.

How do we measure our pain and desperate darkness?  What do we use to measure it? For the most part, our lives have been destroyed. I think we can understand it by looking up at Jesus.  Lying in the dirt, we believe the unbelievable.  Our faith doesn’t activate his healing as much it guides it to our greatest need.  The presence of Jesus drives away the pain.  His love for us echoes into our emptiness. And he wants to do this!  He has come for us. He carries us through this.

I struggle with deep depression and despondency.  I have been on meds for a long time.  But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all this melancholy is driven out. He comes and injects a true hope into my spirit.  Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship?  I think not.  (My wife could tell you this.)  But isn’t about us becoming “angels”, it’s about us becoming intimate with Jesus.

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”   

–Mike Yaconelli

The leper would be healed by the authority (and touch) of Jesus Christ. What is impossible with men, is possible with God.

“Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared.” (v. 13)

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Hoping for Something More than Depression

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 (This article is part of the book: “HOPE: God’s Shelter in the Storm’s of Life.” )

Is There Any Hope for Depression?

Yes, absolutely! There is hope for depression. Here is a simple, Biblical plan from the book of Philippians that will help you to live a happy, hope-filled life.

1. Let Go Of The Past

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14)

A good deal of depression is caused by worry. We worry about the past, and about potential things that can go wrong in the future. The Apostle Paul certainly had plenty in his past he could have worried about. He had persecuted Christians and blasphemed Jesus Christ. He was a wicked man before he was saved on the road to Damascus. Yet, Paul said, “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind…” Paul chose to forget the past. He saw Jesus Christ as his goal and He looked forward to Him. Did you fail at something yesterday? Why live your life today dwelling on it? Look forward to Jesus Christ and follow Him. Did you confess a sin to the Lord yesterday and receive forgiveness for it? Why bring it back up today? Every day, have a fresh start, forgetting the past and reaching forward to the future. The future for the Christian couldn’t be better. Our future is Jesus Christ!

    2. Pray About The Future

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)

God’s peace passes all understanding. The Bible says that if we pray about everything, that “…the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The phrase, “Be careful for nothing…” means, “Don’t worry about anything.” The way to keep from worrying and to have peace in your life is to pray about the situation. The peace of God will then keep, which means to “guard,” your heart. Just as a squadron of soldiers guards a military base from enemy attack, the peace of God will guard your heart from the attacks of worry and doubt. The words heart and mind in this verse are talking about your thoughts and emotions. The peace of God guards our thoughts and emotions in a way that passes all understanding. No one can understand why a Christian can have peace in the midst of the storms of life, but we can though Jesus Christ!

The reason the peace of God that passes understanding “…SHALL KEEP your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” is because, most of the time, our worry is about things that might happen in the future. “Shall” is a future word. So the peace of God looks into the future and guards our hearts and minds when we pray.

Incidentally, pray for what you want to happen. If you are facing bad circumstances in the future, pray for God to change things.  (Luke 11:9) If God doesn’t want to give you what you are asking for, He will change your mind and change your prayers. But, it is not wrong at all to pray for God to answer specific needs in your life. N othing will give you more hope than praying for the things that you want God to do for you, and seeing God respond to your prayers by doing exactly what you asked Him to do! “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2)

    3. Change Your Way Of Thinking About The Present

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians (4:8, 9)

Is the way you think causing you to be depressed? Change your thinking to BIBLICAL THINKING and it will cause you to have peace and contentment in your life. God outlines eight things here that we should think about. Let’s study them.

The Word of God teaches that we should think about things that are:

(1) TRUE:  The Devil wants to fill your mind with lies. “God doesn’t love you. The Bible isn’t true. God won’t answer your prayer.” Don’t fill your mind with things that aren’t true. The best way to fill up your mind with truth is by reading and memorizing the Word of God. The Bible is truth. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) In order for us to properly reason and think through a situation, we have to think Biblically. Knowing the Bible means knowing what God thinks about the situations of life. That will help us to think right, and to make the right decisions.

(2) HONEST: This has to do with the way we live our lives. We ought to live honorably. If you are doing things that you shouldn’t do, stop. If you are not doing something that you should be doing, start. For instance, if you are a Christian, you know that you should be attending church. If you are not doing that, it may lead you to feel guilty. Guilt, then leads to depression. The easiest way to get rid of such depression is to start going to church. Solomon said, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might…”  If it needs to be done, do it, and put everything that you’ve got into it! On the other hand, if you are committing some sort of sin, that can also lead to depression. Stop doing what you know you shouldn’t do. Do what you know you should. This will help you to feel better about life, and to not live in depression.

(3) JUST: Just things are righteous. They are the things that  are right. If we dwell on everything that is wrong with the world, and all of the wrongs that people have done to us, it will rob us of our peace. Think about things that are just, that are right with the world and with people, rather than those that are wrong. It will make you into a happier person!

It is good to note here that justice has never been better exemplified than by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. When Christ died for our sins, He was fulfilling the just demands of a holy God that sin be punished. Also, because He had no sin, Jesus was able to die for our sins, in our place, as our substitute. When a sinner believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, God declares him to be just, or righteous, not because of his own works, but because of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, when we think about things that are just, we should meditate on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and about the righteousness that God has given to us by grace, through our faith, in Him.

Sometimes, when the Devil is beating you up, or you are beating yourself up thinking about what a sorry person you are, think of this. You are righteous in the sight of God. You have been declared, by the Lord Jesus Christ, to be just. God loves you so much, that He gave His Son to die and absorb the just punishment for your sins, the punishment that you deserve. That is true love!

(4) PURE: Pure things are clean. Christians ought to fill their minds with purity, not with filth. What we read, watch and listen to reflects on how we think. We should fill our ears with clean music. We ought to fill our minds with clean literature. If you watch television, look at things that are clean. Many Christians spend their time wasting their brains with entertainment that isn’t fit for the hogs in the barnyard! Bad music and bad images lead to bad thinking. As my pastor often says, “Garbage in, garbage out. Righteousness in, righteousness out.”

(5) LOVELY: Forgiveness is lovely. If you are holding a grudge, it will hold you, and you will destroy yourself with bitterness. If you are bitter towards someone, let it go for your own health and well-being. God commands us to forgive others, and to pray for our enemies. This is not only the right thing to do, but praying for your enemies will take a lot of tension out of your life and help you to be mentally healthy.

Jesus Christ is lovely. Nothing is more lovely. Think on Christ, and it will lift you out of depression. I went to a restaurant to eat one time, and I was kind of depressed. The hymn, “Rock of Ages” started playing over the speaker system. I started thinking about Jesus Christ, and those thoughts brought me out of my depression. When Job went through all of his suffering, God did something very interesting. God got Job to look up, away from all that was going on around him. God started asking Job questions that led him to realize how powerful  and wise God is. At the end of this time of questioning, Job was a changed man, and God turned things around for him. When you are depressed, get your mind off of circumstances and onto the Lord Jesus Christ. He will lift you out of your depression!

The Word of God is lovely. Meditating on the Bible is the single best way to change your thinking. The Word of God says,  “ And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) A lot of junk builds up in our minds during the day. We need these negative thoughts and attitudes emptied out. The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds. As you read the Bible each day, it will cleans and renew your thoughts. The word, “renew” means to “renovate.” Have you ever seen an old house that has been renovated? That is what the Bible does to our minds. It sweeps away the sin and filthiness of the day and rebuilds our thought processes.

(6) GOOD REPORT: We ought not to fill our minds with negativity and gossip. Choose to meditate on those things that have a good report, a good reputation. You can think about every negative aspect of a person until you grow to despise them. Pick out good things to think about. A critical, cynical attitude will help to make you into a grouch that no one wants to associate with! Think about good reports, not bad. “Good report” thinking will change your whole outlook on people and life.

(7) ANY VIRTUE: These are things that are morally excellent. Any time that you find this characteristic in a person or a thing, think on it. The Apostle Paul certainly demonstrated this kind of moral excellency when he was on board a ship that was doomed to sink. He said,  “ Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.” (Acts 27:25) Do you ever feel like your life is sinking? Believe God! God will take care of you. He promises in His Word to do so. There is great virtue in believing God when things go wrong. Ultimately, most depression is caused by living a life of not believing God. God is in control and He will work things out for good. The Lord Jesus Christ loves you! He will do what He has promised in His Word. Live a life of unbelief, and you will be miserable. Live in faith, and you will be happy.  “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.”

(8) ANY PRAISE: We can spend our lives dwelling on every negative thing, or we can find things for which we can praise God. One of the easiest ways to be lifted out of depression is to think about all of the ways that God has blessed you. Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have food to eat? Do you have clothes to wear? Is God blessing you in other areas of your life?

John Gill, one of England’s eminent Bible commentators wrote: “…think on these things: meditate upon them, revolve them in your minds, seriously consider them, and reason with yourselves about them, in order to put them into practice.” You don’t have to live a life of depression and emptiness. Change your thinking, and God will change your life.

 

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The Ultimate in Love Letters

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My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.
Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.
Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.
Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented
by those who don’t know me.
John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.
1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.
1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.
Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.
Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.
Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.
Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.
Revelation 21:3-4

And I’ll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.
Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.
John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.
Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.
1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.
Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.
Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.
Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child?
John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

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