Tag Archives: God

What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Demonstrating Spiritual Maturity Through Our Emotions

One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God. 

 

As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions. 

 

We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices. 

 

Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts.  Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions. 

 

This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking.  Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge.  Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are.  This is a fallacy. 

 

While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person.  It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives.  It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity. 

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions.  In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger. 

 

In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded.  We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions.  He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger.  In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.

 

Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive.  They are neutral.  What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives.  How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.

 

What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin.  Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” 

 

The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers.  It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients.  While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.

 

Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast.  Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength.  Meek meant power put under control.  Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”.  In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.

 

Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord.  It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint.  He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check.  He was meek. 

 

As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives.  We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions. 

 

Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers.  He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place.  It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control.  He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance. 

 

In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image.  As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us.   True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

Christ expressed a wide variety of emotions in His life, yet always in appropriate ways at appropriate times. That should also be our goal.  We need to be truthful as we express the emotions that are inside of us; that’s what makes us human beings made in the image of God. The key is that as Christians, we must strive to communicate our emotions in proper God-honoring ways.

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Finding Refuge

Today, here in my home town, we are enduring a typical early spring March blizzard. 

 

 

 

And for fortunate people like me who work inside it has provided an unusual opportunity to experience finding refuge. 

 

Those of us lucky enough to be able to hunker down and enjoy viewing the snow from our cozy nests have encountered what it feels like to watch the bluster of a storm pass by while being safely and blissfully hidden away. 

 

Taking pleasure in a hide-away it seems is almost a universal human delight.

 

The drive to sneak away and be hidden seems to be virtually instinctual.  Children and hiding places go unanimously together.  Whether children are found living in the country or the city, give a couple of kids an hour or two and they will be nested away in some kind of secret shelter.  Tents, tree houses, snow caves, attic perches, niches and crannies of all descriptions are relished by children as hide-outs. 

 

Yet at times all of us—no matter what our age—may find ourselves longing for a hide-out.  We desire to find a refuge, a hiding place; a place that is tucked away and secure from the problems that are at hand. We dream of coming upon a locale where we can while away the hours unmolested and at peace. 

 

You see, just because we’re Christians the storms of life don’t just disappear.  In fact, because we are Christians sometimes our spirits cry out all the louder for a peaceful place.  It is nothing to be ashamed of—this desire for refuge—some of the greatest men in the Bible expressed their need to find a safe haven in which to hide. 

 

In one of his deepest moments of pain and sorrow over the sin of his people, Jeremiah called out…Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them (Jer. 9:2).  And David expressed similar sentiments in Ps. 55:6-8 Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.

 

Fortunately for all of us, Scripture tells us that there is a refuge.  There is a safe place in the storm that is much stronger and secure than we could ever imagine. Hannah sang about it There is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God (1Sam. 2) and David wrote about it, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God my rock in whom I take refuge.  In fact, David’s favorite metaphor for God as refuge was: God as refuge and Rock. 

 

In verse after verse the man after God own heart had more to say about God as our Rock than any other biblical character.  David’s own Psalm 62 features this metaphor.  This famous Psalm internally gives no specific historical setting.  However, most commentators seem to be in agreement choosing to place its context as written during David’s time in the wilderness. 

 

Authors ascribe these words to David during that time when he was fleeing Saul with his band of men.  It was a time in David’s life where it was typical for him and his men to retreat to the crags and caves of the mountains of Palestine for refuge.

 

During this time of running for his life the “Cave of Adullam” was David’s home.  The cave was a wicked refugee camp, a dark vault on the side of a cliff that reached deeply into a rock hill.  Huddled in this cave with him were 400 losers—a mob of miserable humanity.  1Sam. 22:2 it tells us, all those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him. 

 

In this unlikely place, it became David’s responsibility to turn a hap-hazard mob into an organized, well-disciplined fighting force, his mighty men of valor.  And at the end of days spent eluding Saul he would run back to the rocky hills with their caves and nooks and crannies and find a safe haven.

 

 It was during this chaotic time in his life that David inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote:

 

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. …

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge

 Psalm 62

 

To find refuge is to find that safe place of being covered or protected. To find refuge is to find a place that is immune to exposure and vulnerability, where one is sheltered and hidden away from the storms of life. 

 

David found this place in God.  This year as we sit behind our window panes watching the storm swirl around us let’s take the time and reflect on the refuge God provides for us.  Let’s realize the shelter and place of safety he supplies and join with David in his song of praise.  

 

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.  Psalm 61: 1-5

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Jesus is all about relationship–Are you willing to go there?

Making contact with God and maintaining a meaningful relationship with Him is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The primary purpose for Jesus’ mission to this planet was to pay the way for reconciliation of relationship between God and humankind.  The capability of people to make unhindered and lasting contact with God was a high ticket item for Jesus—He gave his life for it.

 

When Jesus walked this earth He vehemently condemned the religion without relationship he found amongst the Jews. At every opportunity He openly opposed the empty faith of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees who were the professional religionists of the time were not in the least bit concerned with “How can I seek to know God?” They had long before degenerated to an obsession with “How can I look good for God?” They were preoccupied with image, reputation and prideful practice and Jesus had little patience for their self-focused religion. It is not surprising that God Incarnate could not tolerate their brand of “man-centered worship.” With righteous indignation Jesus took on the Pharisees again and again.  And at every encounter with “all authority” He turned the tables on them. His teachings redefined God the Father and true religion and it upset their status quo.

 

The early church was also infiltrated by “man centered religion.” In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for their self-focused ways, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  He chastised them in the strongest terms to repent and refocus their lives.  In the end, His prescription for this ailing church was short and sweet—make contact with your God again.  Get your focus off yourself and connect with Me.  He unashamedly held out the invitation to relationship… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

As believers we all have the option of distancing ourselves from the God who loves us. It is within our power to rudely keep Jesus on the other side of the door of our heart knocking while we are otherwise occupied.  Many Christians today have become “Neo-Pharisees,” a breed who flock to church to put on a good show.  They dutifully practice the external intellectual elements of bible study, go through the motions of worship and make eloquent prayers.  But just like the Pharisees it is all to be seen by men.  On the inside they are making little real relational contact with the transforming power of the “Living God” and as a result they are actually starving, miserable, and perishing souls. 

 

Why do people who once said “yes” to Jesus, do such things?  Because down deep they want a God of their own making, a God who obeys them, making them look and feel good at all times.  They want a God who gives precedence to their priorities.  The problem is Jesus doesn’t work that way. When Jesus comes into a heart to intimately dine with its owner He requires a few things.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of many wanna-be disciples the requirements he deems necessary are so inconvenient.  Dying to self, dealing with sin, changing attitudes and behaviors and receiving God’s directions for your life can at times be “not fun.”  Uninformed Christians do not always like the initial aftermath that making contact with God brings.  So they pull back, shut the door, and let Jesus keep on knocking.  They are unwilling disciples.  They are followers who have not counted the cost that a vital relationship with the Creator of the Universe rings up.           

 

The problem is many are also guilty of not measuring the benefits that making contact with Jesus can bring.  Jesus promises to come into your soul and dine with you.  He wants to share a feast and He’s bringing the provisions. Come and dine, come and drink, come and rest—are all very familiar invitations that our Savior issues.  He wants to satisfy the true deep needs of our souls.  He is not concerned with the “bling” or the status of this world.  As our maker he wants to meet our real needs and come to us in ways that truly satiate the hunger and thirst of our inner being.  All the great saints of the Bible were accomplished at making contact with God.  Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Mary of Bethany and John to name a few majored in friendship with God.  They recognized the benefits relating on a regular basis with the God of the Universe could bring.

 

If you’re going to be a Christian making contact with God is not optional. It is mandatory.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to open the door of your heart to Jesus on a regular basis.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are ready to deal with the internal issues, the issues of the heart that Jesus deems important.  Realize that He wants to make contact with you and that if you let Him in He will bring His life transforming power to meet the deep needs of your soul.  Realize that by His power He is willing to change you from the inside out.  God has the power to affect your life beyond all your expectations and in ways you could not even dream of. 

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man

 The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1Cor. 2:9

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Please feel free to share any effective tools that you have utilized to help you stay in contact and build relationship with the Lord? How do you remain true to your commitment to make Him number one in your life?

Do you know Christians who are all about religion and yet seem unaware of relationship and intimacy with God?  How does the “pharisee” routine look in 21st century churches.  Share your experiences and please feel free to vent!  

 

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Guarding Your Heart–The Secret to Radiant Health

Pay attention, my child, to what I say.

Listen carefully. 

Don’t lose sight of my words.

Let them penetrate deep within your heart, for they bring life and radiant health to anyone who discovers their meaning.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do. 

Proverbs 4:20-23 NLT, First Edition

 

This passage from Proverbs begins with one of the strongest admonitions in the entire Bible to listen up and pay attention to what follows.  The exhortation is clear. Listen carefully, don’t forget my words!  Let them penetrate your heart because they have the power of bringing life and radiant health to anyone who understands them. 

 

Wow, what a prize, what a hook!  Is there anything that could be more desirable than the promise of life and radiant health?  These verses promise a type of health that virtually shines out of a person.  And what are the important words we must grasp if we are to receive this kind of health?  The advice is simple: “Guard your heart above anything else you have, because it determines the kind of life you will live.”

 

According to Solomon, the writer of these sayings, the heart is the “master-control” center of life.  In Proverbs, the heart is never actually an allusion to the muscle in our torso that pumps our blood through our body.  Instead the term describes our whole inner being; the heart as the center of our mind, our emotions, and our will. 

 

The key word in Proverbs 4:22 is guard and the Hebrew word translated to “guard” in English is the word nah-tzaar, meaning “to preserve, or to keep.”  The word originally comes from a noun which means “a place of confinement or prison” and in a broader sense it means something that is closely observed, protected, preserved or guarded. 

 

If we are to experience newness of life and radiant health to our whole being, we must appreciate the value and vulnerability of the “master control” center of our lives. It must be protected and surrounded like a treasure kept in maximum security. 

 

The characteristic of the “labe” (the Hebrew word meaning the heart or your inner self),

that makes it so precious is that it is the source and basis of knowing God’s will.  Because

your heart is the place God can speak to you, it is vital that it be kept willing, open, and responsive to receiving input from God.

 

Keeping the heart safe from the contamination of ungodly influences is vital because it is from within your heart that you receive the direction for your entire life. When our heart is infected by the evil influences of this world, or is hardened, bitter, cynical or even overly self-focused the ability to receive guidance from God for life is hampered.

 

Impurities that are allowed in and that penetrate our inner-being keep valuable information from God from being taken in and understood by us.  If we compare the “master control” center of our life to a computer hard-drive, it is as if we have allowed someone to hack in and insert a virus that will not allow God’s instructions to be processed in the way that they should.

 

While our hearts are polluted the righteous commands for living will not compute, because they are being overridden by corrupt information that has infiltrated our soul and now has full access. This is why it is so important to keep your heart open, sensitive, and carefully watched.  If your heart is not right before God and it is left unguarded from the toxins of the world, God is blocked out and communication of divine direction is hindered.  

 

Divine guidance is vital because God has promised a unique design for abundant living for each of us.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The Father has good works for us to walk in, divine appointments for us to keep and purpose-filled lives for us to live and part of being a child of God is to be dependent on regular access to His plan for your life. 

 

Staying in contact with the Almighty however can be complicated.  In modern techno language “unless you have the ability to receive and walk in His will via a virus free master-control center, the aptitude to retrieve input about His divine intentions for you can be obstructed.”

 

In short, if our master-control center has not been adequately protected, misery and ultimate unhappiness have the power to become the “default program” for our lives. While, if our heart is well guarded, the wisdom we take in will have its affect and our lives will be encountered and shaped by the Holy Spirit. As we make our lives wholly available to Him, God has full freedom to “log onto the hard drive” of our inner being and communicate with us successfully and unimpeded whenever necessary. 

 

This does not mean that guarding our hearts guarantees that we will never have misery or pain.  What protecting our “master-control” center does assure however is that when we do encounter the down side of lifeGod’s direction and interpretation of our life is readily accessible to us.  His input is ready to be downloaded and used by us whenever needed.  

 

The book of James communicates God’s willingness to give us input unconditionally, but it also describes the calamity of a mind divided and polluted by the things of this world. 

James 1:5-8 declares, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

This passage, parallels the Proverb in some important ways.  It clarifies that if we are double-minded with our “master-control” center confused by two sources of information—God’s input vs. worldly input—then we have a problem.  We will doubt God’s wisdom and we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 

 

As a result of this type of spiritual split personality, James describes the double-minded as exhibiting instability in all their ways.  Simply stated, with the soul unguarded and divided we are destined to be unstable and unhealthy and in contrast when our hearts are guarded and open to God alone—the opposite is truethe opportunity for internal health and single focus awaits us.

  

In conclusion, this short but well-emphasized bit of God’s wisdom from Proverbs is crystal clear.  It is important that we learn to live according to God’s Word with a well-guarded heart because having a heart that is ever sensitive to His still small voice will lead to life and radiant health. In short, guard your heart, and in return He can direct your path.  And there is also a hidden bonus— if you live this wayothers will see His life and health radiating from you and they will want it too.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Your Way Out of Depression

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and hear me, O Lord my God;

Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;

Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. 

Psalms 13:1-6 (NKJV)

 

When believers find themselves in depression it doesn’t help to hold the despair in. The Bible models to us through the examples of the saints of old that when we are down and out the proper strategy is to open up and pour out our hearts to God.  David, that man after God’s own heart, was shameless about discharging his miseries before The Almighty.  In Psalm 13, we find David depressed and on his face before God and in just the first three verses he lists four woe-filled complaints.  Surprisingly, his grievances are not that out of the ordinary.  In fact, his complaints are the common complaints that torture those faced with long term despair.

 

 

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? is David’s first perplexed protest. The cry of David’s soul is that the dry and trial filled season he is enduring has gone on way too long.  His question reveals that his hope for relief has almost completely vanished. David is so emotionally trampled by life’s circumstances that he feels like God has abandoned him. He wonders if the arid season he is in will ever end and his questions for God aren’t ending either.   How long will You hide Your face from me?, he continues.  In Scripture “to seek the face of God” refers to seeking an audience with God and overtly seeking His favor through prayer. God “hiding his face” means He withdraws His presence or His favor.  David feels as if God has totally ignored him and his prayers for a very long time.  He feels rejected and wonders why God has chosen not to answer.

 

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? is complaint number three and it takes on an air of warning.  In contemporary language the essence of what David is saying is, I’m going to have to take things into my own hands if you don’t help me soon.”  David laments that he has spent every day in the same distressing situation only to be no closer to finding his way out.  He admits to trying to devise his own rescue by counseling himself, yet he realizes the folly of leaning on his own resources.  David is desperate and can’t understand why God has withheld His guidance. 

 

David’s final issue with God is– that on top of everything else–his enemy is triumphing over him.  How long will my enemy be exalted over me?, he quizzes His Father in Heaven.  David was a man well acquainted with war and highly competitive in his nature.  Nothing galled David more than to have God sitting back seemingly ignoring him while his enemy prevailed over him.  He hated being beaten by his enemy and does not hesitate in asking God why he would allow this happen?

 

Many Christians might think that the depressed David must have surely overstepped his bounds with this overflow of inquiry to his M.I.A. God.  Yet Psalm 62:8 commands, Pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us.   Job and Jeremiah are two other saints who boldly risked coming before God with similar interludes of questioning.  Venting true feelings before The Almighty is not off limits.  Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe, however wisely calls for balance in the venting process.   He states: We must not deny our feelings and pretend that everything is going well…but at the same time, we must realize how deceptive our hearts are and that God is greater than our hearts and can still lift us above the emotional storms of life.

 

The Bible urges us to be discerning as we give air to our feelings, we should never forget whose children we are. 1 John 3:20 assures us, For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Many times in Scripture we see believers singing the blues when God has their ultimate redemption right around the corner.  In the story of Joseph for example when Simeon is left behind in Egypt Jacob bemoans that his life is over. The patriarch feels that everything has gone against him when in actuality everything in his crazy family is just about to be worked out. With this and many other biblical stories in mind it is good to remember as we set out to vent our emotions that our emotions are not always completely truthful. While clearing the toxic debris from our hearts is healthy and good and permitted by God we should never believe that just because we feel something, it is true.

 

When struggling Christians are depressed no matter how bad it gets they should continue to pray.  The truth is if we wait and persevere and don’t give up, God will eventually touch us and lift our hearts. The Bible teaches that even if we don’t hear God’s voice we can be assured the Holy Spirit is at work within us. Romans 8:25-26 states, But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  The Holy Spirit helps us through periods of trial and waiting and helps us to pray in the midst of them.  He communicates our feelings to God when we can’t find the words to describe them. The promises of God to reward those seekers who persevere through the desert are prevalent throughout Scripture.  In the book of Isaiah and then again in Jeremiah for instance God declares, For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground;  Isaiah 44:3, and I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint. “Jer. 31:25 (NIV).

 

One thing is clear as the reader continues through David’s Psalm 13 lament.  After releasing his miseries to God David seems to get better and begins to find a new direction for his pain as he talks to God.  Instead of being accusative and viewing the Lord as being absent and uncaring for example, David now requests that He “consider and answer.” Consider and hear me, O Lord my God; Psalms 13:3, reflects a different more intimate tone on the part of David.  Somewhere in the midst of his pain God has touched him and drawn him closer. 

 

As the Psalm goes on, replacing the total despair that had overtaken the outlook of his soul David somehow finds a burst of hope.  He passionately requests that God enlighten his eyes.  Enlighten my eyes, Lest I sleep the sleep of death; Psalms 13:3 or as it is also worded Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die. Psalms 13:3 (NLT).  This request involves petitioning God for physical and emotional vitality as well as spiritual enlightenment. Here David shows inspired insight into the reality of depression.  Depression is a body, soul and spirit ailment and requires an appropriate all encompassing treatment. The Bible reflects the truth of the physical and emotional components of depression; it is not just a sin issue.  Scripture shows how the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects intertwine. Verses such as Proverbs 17:22 ,A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength reveal the interconnection between all aspects of a human being.  Those suffering with depression should consider the physical components of their malady and pray as David did for restoration. If a sufferer of depression is so weakened that he or she cannot function in daily routines there should be no hesitation in seeking the assistance of one’s personal physician.  The knowledge of modern medicine and nutrition can provide help to the person fighting the physical repercussions of long term despondency.

 

When Christians find themselves in seasons of despair they should “keep the faith” continuing to reach out to God .   Hebrews 11:6 teaches us what the bottom-line of “keeping the faith” really is, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Heb 11:6 (NKJV).  Those in the grips of depression should cling to the foundation of their faith.  They should continue to believe that God is a loving God who rewards those who diligently seek Him.  As the psalm draws to an end I believe that it is because David has encountered God that he finds the reserves to continue to express his trust in the Lord’s unfailing love.  Psalms 13:5-6 reads, But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me. David begins verse 5 with the word “but” and but is a word that usually introduces a contrast.  David is saying, in contrast to my former grievances…I have trusted and my heart shall rejoice and I will sing.  By the end of this psalm, David in prayer has made some obvious different choices.  His  faith shown byrelying on the Lord’s love and then remembering his mercy, has paved the way for David to rejoice. 

 

When a person is in depression it is good to try to train yourself to remember the mercy of the Lord towards you in the past.  How has God shown his loving-kindness to you at other points in your life?  Remind yourself of those times and praise God for those times and it can begin to have good results.  Paul a man not unfamiliar with depression taught, Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! …Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:4-7.  Rejoicing in David’s life led to singing of His goodness, which in turn began to lead David out of the depression giving him patience to wait on the Lord a little longer.  David had the foundation of an intimate relationship with God and a habit of trusting in God’s love and reminding himself of God’s goodness (see Psalm 34).  He knew how important “keeping the faith” was to the equation. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed, that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!  Psalms 27:13-14. 

 

As we come to the close of the psalm David’s circumstances had not changed. Saul was still hunting him down, the wilderness was still the wilderness and his longing for God was still a reality.  In fact we really have no evidence that God had spoken to Him throughout the entire ordeal but I believe in his lament and in the pouring out of his heart to God, God in the process touched him and revealed himself to David. Nothing around him was different and yet David on the inside at least for the time being was changed.  Our conclusion must be that because he poured out his heart before God, because he continued to pray staying close to God and because he kept the faith, he appears to have escaped the pit of his depression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Call To Give Thanks

 Thanksgiving by definition means to express gratitude towards God. Thanksgiving was central to the Jewish faith and an essential part of worship according to the Old Testament.  It was offered generally by the Jews in response to God’s concrete acts in history but sacrifice and offerings were also to be given continually out of a grateful heart.

 

In the Old Testament it is taught that thanksgiving should never be given grudgingly but always with a generous and willing heart. In Judeo-Christian tradition it is the duty of the faithful to express thankfulness to God for His constant love, care, provision and mercy. The praises of His people were considered the most valuable sacrifice of all, more pleasing to Him than the blood of animals.

 

I will  I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better       

than   than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves.  Ps 69:30-31 (NKJV)

 

      The Old Testament Law called for constant and continual thanks to be offered before the Lord.  In the eras of the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple certain Levites were appointed to give continual praise and thanks to God. 

 

He appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the Ark by giving constant praise and thanks to the Lord God of Israel and by asking for his blessings upon his people. (1Chronicles 16:4, tlb)

 

In the New Testament believers are also taught that praise and thanksgiving should be a regular part of our routine

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1Thes 5:16-18 (NKJV)

 

It is good to make thankfulness a habitual part of our worship of God and to bless Him regularly with the expressive and spontaneous fruit of our lips.

 

It is good to say thank you to the Lord, to sing praises to the God who is above all gods.  Every morning tell him, “Thank you for your kindness,” and every evening rejoice in all his faithfulness.  Sing his praises, accompanied by music from the harp and lute and lyre.  You have done so much for me, O Lord. No wonder I am glad! I sing for joy.  O Lord, what miracles you do! And how deep are your thoughts!  Psalms 92:1-5 (TLB)

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