Know Who You Are

Posted on 16. Jul, 2015 by in Faith, Identity, Sonship, Thursday Thoughts

I love the story of David and Goliath. In fact, in the last year my love for the Old Testament has grown tremendously, as my more recent readings in Genesis, Exodus and 1 Samuel have given me so much insight into the greatness of the God that I serve, and so much understanding of His character and His purpose. Specifically, the story of David and Goliath has really spoken to me recently, and I wanted to share what I have gleaned. We all know the background of this story. Goliath, measuring in at 9 feet and “a span”, has been taunting the armies of Israel for 40 days, trying to coax a soldier of Israel to fight him one on one. To the victor go the spoils. Of course no one responds, except to run away at his taunts and challenges. Finally, in walks David, who immediately assesses the situation and says the following:

David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”” (1 Samuel 17:32, NASB95)

The simplicity of David’s belief in God amazes me. Whereas all the soldiers around him, including the King of Israel, are frozen with fear, David steps up and volunteers to fight. He goes on to say:

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36–37, NASB95) (emphasis mine)

In my initial reading, the phrase “armies of the living God” stuck out to me. I was not really sure why initially. He repeats this thought further down, when addressing Goliath:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands.”” (1 Samuel 17:45–47, NASB95)

Again, the confidence in David’s speech is amazing. There is not a fiber in his being that fears Goliath. For David it is as simple as 2+2=4: Goliath is taunting God, God has protected David in the past, and therefore God will deliver Goliath into David’s hand. Not even a smidgen of doubt. Wow. That is inspiring to me.

The day after I initially read this I was driving to work, reflecting on the phrase “armies of the living God”. As I did I finally made a connection to a concept that the Lord has been building in me for the last year or so, an idea that I blogged about previously in a post entitled Sonship vs. Servanthood. The concept of identity. You see, David knew who he was. He knew what it meant to be an Israelite. He knew what it meant to be in the army of the living God. He understood the relationship between God and His people. Again, David KNEW WHO HE WAS!!!

In this respect David stands in stark contrast to the rest of Israel present on the battlefield that day. Even Saul, the King of Israel, didn’t understand this relationship, didn’t understand who he was in the context of God’s kingdom, as manifested at that time by Israel, the chosen race. Because Saul failed to understand who he was he was therefore unable to walk in faith. On the contrary, because David DID know who he was, and who God was with him, it was EASY for him to walk in faith, and the result is astounding.

In our lives we must learn who we are, in the context of God’s Kingdom, as currently manifested by the global body of Christ. You see, God is no different now, in our lives, then He was then in David’s life. The definition of the Kingdom has changed, the identity and scope of the chosen people has changed, but the favored relationship between God and His people is the same now as it was then. We have been brought into covenant relationship with Almighty God, and have been given the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. But if we don’t apprehend our identity in Christ then we will forever live like Saul, taunted, sad and defeated. If, however, we DO apprehend our identity, or can even BEGIN to catch a glimpse of what it means to be His son or daughter, then we can begin the process of maturing into full-grown children in the Kingdom. And as maturing sons and daughters in the Kingdom we will understand who He is, who we are IN HIM, and the giants that once looked so big and scary will begin to look small in the light of His awesome splendor, power and faithfulness.

The last key to this passage that I will mention briefly is David’s understanding of who was actually fighting the battle. David understood that it wasn’t up to him to defeat Goliath. All he had to do was be obedient and trust, and God would do the rest. We must understand the same thing. The battle is, and always has been, the Lord’s. When the circumstances of life come against us we have to know who is fighting for us, and be willing to be obedient to His leading.

One last thought. I made reference to “covenant relationship” and it reminded me of a book I read recently, that has greatly increased my understanding of the Old Testament, in regards to the covenants and customs of Israel. The book is called “The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament”, by Sandra L. Richter. I highly recommend this book, and will likely blog about some of the interesting points in the future. 

 

Expectations in Christ

Posted on 13. Jan, 2014 by in Faith

The topic of faith is something that the Lord has continually pushed me in for the last several years.  It is something that was so mis-taught in the churches I attended as a child, so I had to undo those mindsets, and then begin building from a fresh perspective.  Unfortunately I think this topic is widely ignored in the lives of most believers, to the detriment of the body.  I have recently had several conversations with believers I know about things they were praying for or hoping for.  In each conversation we discussed the things that we felt the Lord had intentioned, and in each conversation the following statement was made:  “I hope so”.

In my previous thoughts on faith I always had an understanding that persistence in application of faith was important, but I could never really put what I felt into a nice package.  Last week, while reading in Philippians, I came across the following verse:

   “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18–20, NASB95)  (emphasis mine)

The words “earnest expectation” embody what the Lord was trying  to make me understand about walking in faith.  We can’t pray for an item and then “hope” it comes to pass.  We first have to pray and speak according to the will of God, and then we have to expect it to take place!  If we pray and then say “I hope so”, our prayer will likely never come to fruition.  But if we pray for something, and even 5% of our being can earnestly expect that to come to pass, then we will see the answer to our prayer.  You see, God isn’t moved by our hopes and dreams.  God is moved by our faith.

   “And 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 seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB95)

“And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20, NASB95)

Faith to me is simply this:  a tenacious decision to accept the word of God (be it from the bible or otherwise) as being greater truth than what I perceive with my natural senses.  Paul says the following in 2 Corinthians:

   “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18, NASB95)

There is a duality of our walk in Christ, a constant tension between that which has already been accomplished in Christ and what we actually see lived out day by day.  In my next post I will address this further, but for now, suffice it to say, we have to get ahold of what we have been given through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We have been given a new mind, a clean heart and a whole host of things discussed in the bible.  Of course these things aren’t ours to use as we go through life willy nilly, these things are ours to possess as we pursue Christ!  But we can never possess them if we don’t know they are ours, and we can’t know they are ours if we don’t seek to know by reading His word, and trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to us.  And we can never possess them if we don’t see them as being more real than our current, natural “reality”.  We can’t possess them if we don’t EXPECT to possess them!  So next time you hear the words “I hope so” coming out of your mouth, change your thought process and your speech to the definitive yes, and not the hopeful maybe.

Suffering for Christ

Posted on 07. Jan, 2014 by in Faith, Suffering

It’s been a long time since I posted, but I feel that it is time to get back on the  horse and begin sharing the things the Lord puts on my heart.  The easiest place to start is to post little snippets from my daily reading, so that is what I’ll do now!

I’ve been reading in Philippians the last few days, and today brought me to Philippians 1:29:

   “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” (Philippians 1:29, NASB95)

Interesting what Paul states here.  He gives us two things that we have been granted.  The first one we would all agree is a good thing, to believe in Him.  The second thing, however, takes some consideration!  It has been GRANTED to us to suffer for His sake!  I have always said that “he never promised us a rose garden” (the title of a song by a group called Three-in-One from my home town of Leoti, KS), and I have always maintained the truth taught elsewhere in the New Testament that suffering produces growth in our walk with God (I’ll delve into this topic in more depth later).  This morning, however, I was a little bit surprised to read Paul’s verbiage, that the suffering is intentional!  Now, this does not mean that God causes tragedy in our lives.  Believe me, walking separate from the world, seeking after Christ, brings plenty of suffering and adversity without needing those kinds of things.  The point is that God intends us to walk through adversity, He intends us to suffer, because it is in our suffering that we are forged more and more into the image of Christ.  A couple of verses come to mind:

   “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2–3, NASB95)

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB95)

These are just two of the verses in the New Testament that speak to this issue, but there are others.  Again, the idea is that suffering is expected, and we should glory in our sufferings, as they produce Godly fruit in our lives.  Let’s not shrink back from adversity, but rather embrace it with confidence, knowing that we serve the God of creation, and He has already given us the victory.  We simply have to walk it out!

One last verse:

   “But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:32–39, NASB95)  (Emphasis mine)

I will write more later on my experience of walking in faith, as it is much different than I was brought up to believe as a younger Christian.  Suffice it to say for now that it is our faith that ultimately moves God, and it is our faith that helps us through the difficult times (through the suffering), and it is our suffering that ultimately perfects our faith.  We need to see ourselves as victorious ones, as conquerors in Christ (read Joshua for a visual image of the people of God possessing the promised land.  That story has great pertinence to us as the body today).  We are to be those who don’t shrink back from adversity, but meet it head on in faith.

Aftermath

Posted on 01. Oct, 2011 by in Faith, Regarding Jesus

     

I have been struck lately by the reality of the gospel, specifically the birth, life and death of Jesus, and exactly what that all means.  I think it is easy, having grown up in a religious environment, to take these things for granted, and not grasp the depth of what those actions meant, and what they speak regarding the character of our Lord Jesus.  As I have read Hebrews lately the Holy Spirit has begun revealing these things to me on a more real level, and I felt the need to write about it.  I title this post “Aftermath” because a song by this same name, by Hillsong United, really says it all, and to me has been a powerful expression of these truths.  I will do my best in this article to convey the depth of what this has come to mean to me.

    “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:1–4, NASB95)

“And, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.”” (Hebrews 1:10–12, NASB95)

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:15–18, NASB95)

As these passages make obvious, Jesus is the central character in the history of mankind.  Obviously, He is God.  He is supreme.  He is almighty.  He is…..more than we can even describe using words!  He is awesome and awe-inspiring!

And yet there is another word that describes Him:  humble.  This seems like a simple concept.  After all, humility is a good thing, and therefore Jesus must be humble, right?  But when we really examine what the scriptures describe about Jesus it really hits home in a very powerful way.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5–7, NASB95)

The word “grasped” is key here.  The greek word is harpagmos1, and it indicates the holding on to of an object by force.  In this case, we can understand it two ways.  Before His incarnation, Jesus did not consider His equality with God as something to hold onto with force.  Therefore He was willing to lay it aside to accomplish the salvation of mankind.  After His incarnation, Jesus did not consider His equality with God something to be asserted, or forcibly grasped, although He could have easily called down all of heaven’s angels to save Himself.  Instead He lived out His humanity to its completion.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10, NASB95)

“I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men,” (2 Samuel 7:14, NASB95)

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,” (Hebrews 5:8–9, NASB95)

The language used in the three verses above speaks of the utter extent to which Jesus became a man.  He was associated with iniquity, requiring correction from the “rod of men” in 2 Samuel, and in Hebrews 2 he needs perfecting through suffering.  Finally in Hebrews 5 He “learns” obedience.  Obviously Jesus never did commit iniquity, nor did he need perfecting in the way we generally think of it.  He lived a sinless life.  Nevertheless, He took on our sin and iniquity to such a degree that He BECAME sin.  See 2 Corinthians 5:21 below:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB95)

Jesus BECAME our sin, so that we might BECOME His righteousness.  What a trade, and what pure humility and love Jesus must have had in order to be willing to carry out that transaction.  It defies logic, it defies understanding, it just does not compute, unless we understand WHY He was willing to do it:  because He did not count equality with God something to be gasped, i.e. He had the most extreme humility creation has ever seen.  We would do well to walk after Him in this respect, considering others interests above our own, trusting in our Father to protect His interest in us.  This is how Jesus walked, and Hebrews 1:3-4 and 2:7-8 give brief descriptions of the end result for Jesus:

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.” (Hebrews 1:3–4, NASB95)

“You have made him for a little while lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And have appointed him over the works of Your hands; You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.” (Hebrews 2:7–8, NASB95)

These are but two verses out of many that describe Jesus’ reward for sacrificing Himself for the good of mankind.  Even in this, however, Jesus maintained His humility, as seen in the next verse,

So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”; just as He says also in another passage, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”” (Hebrews 5:5–6, NASB95)

We see that Jesus humbled Himself, and then was glorified by the Father.  When Jesus came to earth He understood the legal ramifications of His action.  He understood the old testament types and shadows, and knew that His actions would abolish the old priesthood, leaving Him in its place.  In spite of this, He still didn’t claim it as His own, but rather allowed the Father to give it to Him.  There are no presumptions, even when presumptions could’ve been easily taken.

Finally, having given His life for us, and taken His position as our faithful High Priest, He takes it to one greater level, counting us as His brethren.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” And again, “I will put My trust in Him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me.” Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:11–18, NASB95)(emphasis mine).

Jesus, this indescribable, timeless being, this King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this omniscient and omnipotent Savior, is not ashamed to call me His brother?  The one whose sins He carried as His own at Calvary He wants to call brother?  Wow!  Again, a thought that just blows my mind!  At every turn Jesus blows me away, and I know I’m just scratching the surface of who He really is.  It also speaks to the degree to which His sacrifice has affected me, the degree to which He has cleansed me (i.e., killed me, and raised me up in Him).  In reality, the person whose sins He died for no longer lives (Galatians 2:20), but instead He lives on in me, and the life that I now lead I lead in Him, by faith in Him.

So, what is my response to this self-sacrificing, humble, unassuming Savior?  The end of “Aftermath” says it best:

Now all I have I count it all as loss

But to know You, to carry the cross

Knowing I’m found 

In the light of the aftermath

(Follow these links for the song and the lyrics.)

These lines speak to Philippians 3:7-11

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7–11, NASB95)

All I can do in response to His love is continue to carry my cross, to die to myself, so that I can gain more and more of Him.  I want this person, this Jesus.  I want ALL of Him.  In me.  Father grant me the ability and grace to continue dying to self, so that I may attain to the resurrection of Jesus more and more each day.

Bibliography

1.  Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (V 1, p 583). New York: United Bible Societies.

Conversations on Depression

Posted on 24. Mar, 2011 by in Depression and The Church, Faith, Strength in Weakness

Recently Dan over at Ekklesia in Southern Maine (SoMe Ekklesia) had a series of posts on depression: This Is Serious, Through: Not Out and Clarity. The series ended up sparking an in depth discussion of depression, especially as it pertains to Christians, that had commenters from many sides of the issue. I intended to write a comprehensive comment that communicated my thoughts after reading the posts and the comments, but I got so comprehensive that it took up 5 pages in my word processor! So, I decided to post an abbreviated version on his site, and the full version here, so as not to overwhelm his readers. I apologize in advance for the length of this posts, weighing in at over 3,000 words.

The topic of depression is very weighty, and very complicated. As has been stated commenters at SoMe Ekklesia, I think the topic of depression will never be fully understood by mankind. The interactions between body, soul and spirit are so complicated that I just don’t think one can make blanket, across-the-board generalizations that are 100% accurate. I do have opinions that, from my experience, seem generally correct based on the vast majority of patients I have seen, and also based on my own personal experience. However, this is based on MY experience personally and as a clinician, and therefore may not hold for each individual. Please read the entire article, as the end of the article explains further some things stated in brief earlier on, and the last thing I want is to bring hurt or offense, as can be easy to do with such a personal, charged subject.

Having said that, my experience has brought me to the opinion that much of mental illness that we see today is environmental in nature. By this I mean that a person’s past experiences determine a lot about their present condition, for good or bad. The resultant emotions, etc. invoked by these experiences can be complicated, conflicting and often times masked, so that even if one can identify an inciting event to a lot of the issues, bringing resolution to those issues isn’t automatic. It takes time, oftentimes a skilled counselor, and often a willingness to go through emotional pain to get to the issues at hand. Regarding the arguments for a physical cause of depression I will say the following: I believe that there may be a genetic predisposition to mental illness, including depression. If that is the case, one’s environment can either bring out that tendency, or prevent the expression of that tendency. I will not rule out, however, the possibility that one’s depression could possibly be purely genetic, and not environmental at all, but IMHO this would be the exception and not the rule. Regarding imaging tests that are different in those suffering from depression, etc., I think the question that needs asked is “which came first the chicken or the egg”. Is brain function or structure different and that caused the depression, or did the depression bring about chemical changes in the brain, which then caused the imaging differences? I lean towards the latter, personally.

Let me paint a picture for you. I like two things as analogies for depression. The first was offered by Bobby in a comment on Dan’s site, where he compared depression to a tube of toothpaste. I believe that the human psyche was only built to handle a certain amount of pressure, and each individual’s threshold is different. Once we get squeezed hard enough, the stuffing comes out, so to speak. This may manifest itself as depression, anxiety or even low back pain or other problems. Conversion disorder is a classic example of this. I saw a case of it in medical school, where a young lady presented to the ER with every sign and symptom of an acute stroke, only the MRI was negative and the neurologist couldn’t identify a physical cause. Turns out, when she slept she would move all extremities, but when awake she was unable to. It also turns out she was going through some marital or other difficulties, and this is how her mind “blew off steam” so to speak. Everybody has a pressure relief valve, but the manifestation of that is different from person to person. I have recognized a pattern in my own life that when I begin to feel anxious or depressed I have to look for the point of conflict. For me it usually comes down to an area where I am trying to be self-sufficient, or bucking against a circumstance I don’t like, instead of relying on His supply and understanding that His grace is sufficient for me (like Paul and his thorn). I have also realized that my “relief valve”, or physical manifestation of being overwhelmed, is fatigue, enough that at one point I was convinced I had sleep apnea (which I didn’t).

The second analogy I like is to a Rubik’s Cube. A life in perfect harmony is like a completed Rubik’s Cube. Add one twist, and it may be easy enough to get back into perfection. Add one twist on top of another, and it gets more complicated. Add a third on top of that and its worse. By the time you twist the cube 5-6 times or more it becomes more difficult to even see where things went wrong, and next thing you know you don’t know up from down, left from right, truth from lies. The result can be a life lived in total fear and confusion, because all orientation is lost. Of course a twist on the cube would be analogous to an insult to the psyche. It could be abuse as a child, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or even just normal life circumstances (having a baby, a new job, moving to a new location, etc.) Add multiple insults on top of each other and the end result can get scary. The more disorganized the Rubik’s cube, the more complicated the presentation of the mental illness, so that what was once just mild depression becomes severe depression, and then maybe a personality disorder, or bipolar disorder, or others. Now, I realize that this may be an over-simplification of this topic, and that it doesn’t fit every circumstance, but I think as a general rule, at least in my experience, it is a fairly accurate model.

In discussing physical versus environmental causes of depression, one might ask what it matters which one it is. I think the question is important. In a previous comment on Dan’s site Bobby made the observation that the enemy uses the idea of mental illness as a physical ailment to keep believers in bondage. I wholeheartedly agree, and have previously witnessed that exact thing. If I view my depression to be largely environmental I may have hope that those environmental issues can be addressed and my condition improved if not cured. If my depression is viewed as a medical illness, like diabetes, then I consign myself to living with it the rest of my life, thus removing a great deal of hope. Now certainly we can have hope of His provision in the midst of any physical ailment, and depression would be no different. However, I would rather trust in Him to see me out of the depression than to live the rest of my life with it, even if He does sustain me through it. In my opinion, much of the mental illness that I see is very treatable, with hope for full resolution in Christ. This is not to say that treatment is a simple process, as usually it is not. More about treatment in a bit.

There are varying degrees of depression, obviously. Although the DSM V gives strict criteria for the definition of different mood disorders, I see depression as more of a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe, but with no clear dividing line between a)depressive symptoms that aren’t true depression and b)true depression itself. In other words, depression is not as easy to quantify as a heart attack. Now, I am sure the DSM V has all of this mapped out and organized, but that is a topic for later. At the higher end of the severity scale, I personally think that another issue comes into play, and that is spiritual oppression. I strongly believe that the enemy uses our thoughts and emotions against us, and when these things get out of control that may be a sign that there is more at work than just plain depression, or more than just our own illogical emotions. I do believe there is a spiritual battle that goes on for our minds, as the enemy does not want us to reach our full potential in Christ. The closer he sees us getting to making a change the harder he fights us, which is why the battle is always fiercest before the victory (or the night is darkest before the dawn).

Depression among believers is really my pet topic. The sad truth is that many of us have grown up in a system where being depressed is not an option. Being depressed is a sign of spiritual weakness, or a lack of faith, etc., and therefore we strive to prove to others, and often ourselves, that we are fine. As has been mentioned previously, the typical Christian response is to point a finger, or give simple platitudes, that aren’t helpful at all, and in fact bring greater shame and depression to the individual already suffering. What the depressed person REALLY needs to hear is “I understand because I have been there as well.” Unfortunately, though, Christians are not very good at being real with God, with ourselves, or with our brothers and sisters around us. We tend to not be very transparent. As I look back on my journey out of depression, I see that my church upbringing (charismatic) directly worsened my already underlying depression, because I never could measure up to what I thought I needed to. Interestingly, the more my mind was cleansed from the stench of “church” the more my depression cleared. The more of the truth of Christ I saw, the more healthy I became. I can point to others that are close to me that were harmed by the system more than I was. As Christians we need to feel free to JUST BE!!! Its okay if I am depressed. It doesn’t devalue me. It doesn’t hamper the Lord’s ability to work in my life. It doesn’t make me a second rate kingdom citizen. It doesn’t make me weak (although if we take it as an opportunity to BE weak, we might actually find HIS strength in us). We must be able to LET God accept us where we are, be content to be there for the time being, while still looking forward to our deliverance (more on that in a bit). We must be able to find His help for us, in the midst of our depression (as Dan has stressed in his posts).

Finally I would like to talk about treatment of depression, just briefly. For many people that I see, medication would be harmful, analogous to putting a bandaid over a wound that will never heal, and not treating the wound. If we fully mask the symptoms it makes it harder to get at the root of the problem. For others, medication is a necessary modality, to lighten the severity of the depression sufficiently to allow the person to concentrate on the issues at hand and make progress. So, I do not see medication usage as a sign that a person lacks faith. I see it as a blessed help to those that would otherwise drown without it. Also, how I approach depression in a believer may be different than in a non-believer. Apart from Christ, deliverance or healing from depression is much less likely than being in Christ. So, I might be more likely to start medication in a non-believer, all things being otherwise equal, because their hope for symptomatic improvement without it is less than a believer who has hope in Christ.

In my opinion, some cases of depression may very well be amenable to treatment by an insightful, compassionate and skilled Christian counselor. Other, more severe cases may need to be in the hands of a trained counselor, be it a social worker, licensed therapist, etc. In my office, my wife works as a counselor. Her social work training, combined with her spiritual understanding, makes her a powerful tool in the life of a Christian suffering from these issues. Even she, however, has to refer on patients that may be dealing with, say, alcohol and drug abuse. I think that counseling on Christian ideas has merit, and traditional counseling has merit as well. Combined, the two are phenomenal in the life of a believer. To simply write depression off as failure to properly apply spiritual principles, or worse yet to sin, is to do injustice to the person suffering from depression. My wife has had a certain degree of success with non-believers, as much as might be expected, but truly exceptional results only occur when the Spirit of God brings enlightenment to the believer’s heart, accomplishing in seconds what might otherwise take years to accomplish with counseling alone. The key to this process is understanding that there is no cookie cutter. What “works” for one person may not “work” for the next. The counselor can not put unrealistic expectations on the counselee (although the counselor sometimes has to nudge the counselee along at times, gently, in love). Another key, as Dan has mentioned, is that the person with depression must have unwavering support and love from their family. Finally, the person with depression has to be willing to deal with painful issues, while at the same time not fixating on the same things, permanently. Sometimes, I know, those old record players are hard to turn off in our heads.

So, having discussed all this, the last question I will ask and answer is this: What part does faith play in dealing with depression? Is faith simply a tool to help us live with depression, or can it be a tool to help us out of depression? In my opinion, faith can be what leads us out of depression, but it must first lead us through our current circumstances. Let me explain better.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God”. This quote is so true. I believe that faith moves God. God wants us to learn to walk as mature sons and daughters, and mature sons and daughters walk in faith. Simply put, God just wants us to believe that what He said is true! Now, this is all very simple sounding in theory, but the practical application ends up being anything but that. If we had total faith, we would have no sickness, no depression, no financial lack, etc. But who among us has total faith? I sure don’t. So, where does that leave us? It leaves us seeking Him. It leaves us on the journey towards eternity, towards resurrection, the end of which we will likely never see in this life. There is no magic potion to get enough faith to be delivered from depression. We can’t muster it up by listening to Christian music, reading Christian books or even by just reading the bible. So, even though I believe that faith is the key to deliverance from depression, we must still walk it out. You see, where my charismatic roots steered me wrong (among other things) was in the failure to understand that it is OK to NOT HAVE ENOUGH FAITH FOR A GIVEN TASK!! It was also wrong in that, as a charismatic, I sought after the healing, instead of seeking the healer. Matthew 6, starting around vs. 26, makes it clear that we are to seek God first, and all these things (in that case food and clothing) will be added to us. I believe that this principle applies here as well, that if we seek Christ, the Spirit of God will transform us into His image, eventually bringing healing to the areas that need it. The beautiful part about this is that it obviates the necessity to live back through every painful circumstance we have ever lived through, as traditional counseling seems so prone to do. As stated previously, this process can accomplish in seconds what traditional treatment may never accomplish (analogous to pulling all the squares off the Rubik’s cube and fixing it that way). All this being said, there is still no cookie cutter. I can’t say “just seek God and He will heal you”. I think we have to avail ourselves to what modern medicine and counseling have to offer, as appropriate, take advantage of the support of our loved ones, and trust Him to sustain us in the hard times. I also think that we must not lose sight of our ultimate goal, to be delivered. We must realize, however, that just as Abraham waited 10 years (by my calculation) from the initial promise of a son to the birth of Isaac, the journey from here to recovery may take awhile, it will probably be hard and it will likely be painful. Along the way, however, we will find ourselves walking as Sons and Daughters in the Kingdom, learning more and more to walk in faith, growing ever and ever closer to our dear Savior and looking and acting more like Him (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). The end result of the pain is incredible beauty in the life of the believer.

After writing all of the above, can I offer an easy solution to someone in the throes of depression and angst? No. I can not. The things I have written are guidelines I believe are true, but there is no 12-step program to freedom. Sometimes, when I am fighting these issues, I have to continually speak the truth of the Word to myself, to combat the illogical thoughts that come against me. Some days I win, some days I lose. The overall theme, to me, is that we must endeavor to keep Him foremost in our thoughts, as much as possible. Again, some days we’ll succeed, and some days we’ll fail. In the end, if we persist, if we don’t lose heart, we will overcome, because He has already overcome for us!

Biblical Examples of Faith – Volume 1

Posted on 03. Feb, 2011 by in Faith

I finally was able to get through the majority of my testimony on faith, and now want to turn to some things I have learned subsequent to these events, that still pertain to walking in faith.  I will try to these in shorter snippets, so here goes.

I recently read the book of Joshua, a book that really deals a lot in faith.  The first time that the children of Israel reached the promised land, their lack of faith sent them packing back to the desert for another 40 years.  Only Joshua and Caleb survived to see the final victory, because only they had faith and gave a good report.  Reading Joshua is very instructive to how we are to live our lives, as there was no doubt that the people of Israel had to  rely on God to bring them victory.  The first battle we read about after crossing Jordan is at Jericho.  I am sure you all know the story.  It is interesting that the Lord instructed them to do things that, in the natural, had nothing to do with the victory that they sought.  This is a good example of how we can not rely on our understanding of cause and effect to determine whether we follow the Lord’s instructions.  If He has said to move, and that move doesn’t make sense in the natural, we still must move.  1 Samuel 15:22 and Psalm 40:6-8 speak to the importance of being obedient to the call of the Lord.  The story of Jonah as well speaks to this.  In this case, the children of Israel obeyed, and the victory was astounding.

The next battle is against the town of Ai.  We read of how the people of Israel make plans for the battle, but this time it appears they make their own plans, and it appears that they quickly became over-confident.  The scouts recommend that only 3,000 go into battle, “for they are few”.  Unfortunately, the hand of the Lord has been removed from them, due to the sin of Achan, and this time an enemy they thought they could beat defeats them soundly.  Of course after this the Lord reveals the reason for the defeat, and makes it quite clear that Israel’s victory comes only by God’s might.  The sin of Achan is dealt with, and now God gives the instructions, for ALL the men of war to go forth,  and they follow God’s specific instructions to defeat this king.  Of course, overwhelming victory follows.

These two examples, as I read them, made it incredibly obvious to me the importance of putting our trust in Him.  At Jericho, Israel was victorious against overwhelming odds.  At Ai, Israel was defeated by an enemy they should’ve beaten easily (according to their own estimation).  This outlines a lesson I have learned in the past few years, that when we endeavor to serve God, but attempt to operate in our own ability, we may find ourselves defeated and frustrated by things that, from a natural perspective, shouldn’t have been a problem.  Likewise, when we trust Him, nothing is impossible to us.

The other thing I took from these passages, oddly enough, was a lesson in humility.  The more I read about the awesome intervention and power of God on behalf of the Israelites the more I became impressed that humility must come along with this.  If the Lord is going to operate in my life in an overwhelming manner, how can I live in pride?  How can I walk puffed up with my own importance?  Of course this got me thinking about some events in my own life in the last 3 years, and what I finally realized was that I had been trying to build the Kingdom of God, in a manner in which He had instructed me to build, but I was doing it in my own power, and much to my surprise at that time, was taking credit for it.  I really had a vigilante attitude about certain things, and this revelation from Joshua totally revealed my motives in this manner.  Now, reading through these verses I can not say “this verse made me think this”.  It was just a great example of how the Holy Spirit can use the written word to drop a revelatory word into our hearts, and suddenly bring light where once there was darkness.  Since that time I have gone to 3 specific individuals that I was previously at odds with and apologized, as my attitudes were totally unrighteous and inappropriate.  I am still learning to walk in that release, but it is good.

One last thing I want to share from the first part of Joshua comes from Joshua 3:3-4.  In this circumstance, God has instructed the people that the Ark should go across the Jordan first, and the people are to follow after, at a distance.  Verse 4 says “Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before”.  I can definitely say that I have not walked before in the manner in which I now walk, and must keep my focus on the embodiment of the presence of God on the earth, Christ.

More from Joshua later.  I really loved this book, and recommend anyone to read it.

On Faith – Volume 4 (My Recent Testimony)

Posted on 27. Jan, 2011 by in Faith

This is part 4 of an ongoing series on faith, and what has turned out to be much more a journey than a topic, per se.  In my last post I discussed the nature of faith, and how it must start with knowing the will of God, and then knowing how to pursue the will of God.  After that, we must step out and act on what He has shown us, and trust that He will do what He said He would.  In the last 2 months I have learned a lot of points on walking out my faith, and I wanted to share my testimony here in case it would be a help to someone else.  After that, in my next post, I want to touch on why it is so important that we walk in faith, and why this has become such a big topic for me.  First, though, for my testimony.

I moved to Larned, where I now live, about 5 1/2 years ago, and began working at a hospital-owned clinic.  I did that for about 2 1/2 years.  In that 2 1/2 years my wife and I stepped out in faith and opened a retail shop in town, a combination coffee shop/scrapbook store.  Of course, that endeavor took a lot of our time and money.  In November 2007 I started doing extra work in an Emergency Room an hour away, to help support our own debt load, and to help support the store.  By the following January circumstances had transpired such that I quit my job, and started my own clinic, which opened in February of 2008.  I continued working in the ER full-time, in addition to working my own clinic, for the next 2 years or more.  Fast forward to 2010, which found me working at an ER closer to home, and doing a 24 hour shift every Thursday, and 48 hours in a weekend, one weekend per month.  By August or September Tayleene and I independently began to feel that it was time to give up the weekends.  We both felt that that season was to be over, but that in the natural it would continue until we decided to put an end to it.  We also were planning for the birth of our second baby in December, and I didn’t want to be gone from home as much.  We finally decided, in October, that my last weekend would be November, and after that I would only work my Thursdays.

Bear in mind, I still was not (and still am not) drawing a salary from my clinic.  Neither was my wife drawing a salary from the shop.  In fact, we were still having to put money into that business to keep things afloat.  So, in the natural, we had no business cutting back on our hours, but both of us knew this was the direction we were to take.   So, I gave notice and we “braced for impact” so to speak.

Ironically, this was a very similar situation to the one we were in when I first began ER work initially.  At that time I knew that the Lord would provide our needs, and part of me wanted to step out of the boat and let the Lord supply, but at the end of the day we decided to work extra to meet our needs.  Looking back on that scenario I do not regret my decision, as my faith was very fledgling at that time, and I still had a lot of fear and anxiety pent up on the inside.  I have no doubt that the Lord would’ve taken care of us, but it would’ve been an extremely difficult test, much more difficult than the test that awaited me this time around, and I don’t think I had the understanding to walk it out the way I did this time around.  The cycles and seasons of the Lord continue to amaze me!

So, as I said, I gave notice to my employer, and waited for the change to take place.  Initially things were fine, but of course I was still getting paid for past work.  By the first part of December, however, everything hit, and it hit all at once, and it hit hard.  One second I was feeling confident in my faith, that He would care for my needs, next minute (almost literally, it was over the span of 10-15 minutes as I paid bills one Sunday afternoon) facing thousands of dollars in bills that I didn’t have the money for, and internally was beginning to “freak out”.  Now, this is where the Mark of 2010 differed from the Mark of 2007.  In 2007 I don’t think I would’ve had the understanding, faith or strength to continue to stand, in spite of what I saw, and I think I would’ve “freaked”.  This time, I was able to begin standing on the word, knowing that He would supply.  In my mind I feared.  In my mind I felt guilty and condemned, especially as overdrafts began piling in (another thing I learned quickly, or rather relearned, is the art of balancing a checkbook, something I had not been faithful at prior to that).  In my heart, however, I knew the promises.  “My God will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory”.  “He has given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness”.  “It is He that gives seed to the sower and bread for food”.  And, of course, Matthew 6:26-34, the verse that made me realize that, in reality, these issues were small potatoes in the Lord’s eyes, and that my focus could not be continually on money, but must be directed to seeking Christ and His kingdom.  There was also the story of the fish with the coin in its mouth, further proof that this isn’t a big deal!  I would read the Old Testament with renewed eyes, seeing the miracles performed through much different eyes, realizing that, “my God is powerful, majestic, awe-inspiring and undeniable!”  How could such a God fail me?

In the initial two weeks or so of this process I kept looking for the quick fix.  I saw no hope for meeting the needs I had in my natural resources, so surely the Lord was going to have to use someone to dump a bunch of money in my lap, right?  The problem with that idea is that, then, my faith would’ve been in that gift, and not see that gift as the Lord’s provision.  Through the mentoring of a good friend, I realized that this issue is a process.  I realized that I didn’t have a money problem, I had a faith problem.  Could the Lord meet my need suddenly?  Absolutely.  Did I possess the faith to operate in that manner?  Absolutely not!  So, I had to have faith in the small things, and I had to become more efficient from a natural perspective.  Instead of burying my head in the sand at the stack of bills, a tendency of mine due to my own anxiety and fear, I had to face the issue head on.  I had to contact my creditors, and make arrangements for future repayment.  I had to cut back on spending, personally and in both businesses, that wasn’t vital.  Through it all, the Lord used the situation to address a lot of OTHER issues BESIDES faith.  I’ll hopefully post more on that  concept later.

It is now almost two months since I cut back my ER hours.  I still have some large bills.  I still am having to pinch a lot of pennies that I ultimately don’t want to pinch (buying new product for the store, etc.).  But, the Lord has given me favor with creditors.  A LOT of favor!  I am closer to being out of the hole now than I was.  I think the story that really explains it all to me is the 3 Hebrew children and the fiery furnace.  The three were faithful in their pursuit of their God, and it got them in trouble!  This is proof that life in Christ is not a bed of roses in the natural.  The king threatened them with the fiery furnace, and God didn’t keep them from that.  God did, however, protect them from the fire, and when they came out they didn’t even smell of smoke!  What a powerful testimony to the king.  This proves that, when we learn to walk in faith and trust in our God, times that are hard in the natural don’t need to be hard in Christ.  Although I am not at that point now, it gives me a reference point of what CAN and/or WILL be, as I continue to walk in Him.  The other thing my good friend pointed out is the correlation between the purity of our witness and the smoke from the fire.  If I continue to conduct my business as He is teaching me to, when I come through this fire my witness will be intact, and that is what I desire.  I don’t want my lack of faith or diligence to reflect poorly on Him.

Well, this pretty much gets us current, for the most part.  There maybe some ancillary lessons I have learned along the way, but I shared some of that here, and didn’t expect to.  I hope that this story is beneficial to somebody, and I’ll continue to post as new developments occur.

On Faith and Other Things (or On Faith – Volume 3)

Posted on 22. Jan, 2011 by in Faith, Walking in Christ

I’ve intended to complete my series on faith, started oh so long ago, and this is my attempt to at least bring you up to speed with where I am at this juncture of my life.  You see, I thought I had a certain level of understanding, and that a limited series would be able to explain that.  How foolish of me to not realize that knowledge and understanding are ever changing, and that a finite series could never contain what He builds within us.  Also, as I’ve walked this last month and a half, I’ve realized how everything in Christ is interconnected, and walking in faith touches on so many other topics.  So, as has been said so often, life is about the journey, and as this is, after all, a blog, I will have to share the journey as I go, as my understanding is ever-changing.  So, on to faith!

I concluded my last post on faith by stating, in so many words, that faith starts with belief, quoting Genesis 15:6.  I will pick up from there, as it is a good starting point.

Kenneth Hagan once said, or so I am told he said, “Faith begins where the will of God is known”.  Although I don’t follow all of what Kenneth Hagan taught, and actually haven’t read much of what he taught, I love this statement.  In order to walk in faith we must know the will of God.  Knowing His will may come through our study of scripture.  Eric at “A Pilgim’s Progress” is a great example of this.  After spending a number of years as a pastor in a Southern Baptist church, his study of scripture led him to believe that his position was unscriptural, and he took a step of faith, obeyed his convictions and quit that job.  Other times, we may be led by the Holy Spirit within us to do a certain thing, or the Lord may speak to us through a brother or sister.  In some cases, our understanding may be imperfect, and we may act on something that we thought was of Him, only to find out later that it was not.  These are growing pains, as at some point in our lives we must step out in faith and begin trying to walk in His direction.  We will not always be right, but He will always be gracious to us as we learn to walk (much like a little baby, who makes missteps, falls down and stumbles into things).  The bottom line is that our walk of faith must start with knowing, or believing we know, His will.

Once we come to this point, the next step is to act.  Now, here is where a lot of people, myself included, get tripped up.  On more than one occasion I have seen His will, and in my haste to see it come to pass ran willy nilly in trying to carry it out, and failed to seek the “how” to go along with the “what”.  The results have been miserable, with much wasted time and much wasted energy, and on at least one occasion, much heartache that wouldn’t have been necessary had I been more patient and diligent.

So, having sought His will in WHAT to do, and having sought His will in HOW to do it, we then must step out in faith, and do what we must in the natural to see that plan or that thing come to pass.  For Eric, again using him as an example, he had to take the step of faith and quit his job.  For me, acting meant I started a business, and later another.  We obviously have to do our part to accomplish what He directs.

Now, here comes the hard part, at least for me.  Usually, once we take that step of faith, and do as the Lord directed, the enemy will come and attempt to distract us or discourage us.  (My apologies to those who find references to Satan as “the enemy” to be comical, naive or immature.  I do feel very strongly that Satan works hard against those that are attempting to walk out the will of God in their lives.  Although there can be normal hard times that are not a product of “enemy action”, I firmly believe that he specifically attacks us in attempts to dissuade us from walking.)  All manner of things may go wrong, once we step out of the proverbial boat and try to walk on the proverbial waves.  Peter, in this respect, is a great example for us.  Peter succeeded, in that he did what no other mortal man has ever done, he walked on water.  Peter only failed because he allowed his faith in Jesus to be overcome by his perception of his surroundings, by the “waves boisterous”.  This brings me to my next point:  we must see the word of God (and this will not always be the bible, per se, but sometimes rather the words He has given us internally) as the ultimate authority and the ultimate truth.  The truth of the word of God must be more real to us than what we perceive with our natural senses.

OK, so this is where the rubber meets the road.  This is the meat of what I want to share, and I touched on this some in Part 2. There is a tendency, especially in those from the Word of Faith movement, to feel like our faith has to be rock solid at all times, and to not have adequate faith is to fail, or to make a “Plan B” shows a lack of faith.  And with that failure comes a fair amount of shame, because “you didn’t have enough faith”.  There is also a tendency to think we can “muster up” faith when we need it.  For instance, if I read enough scripture (because after all, “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God), pray long or loud enough or listen to enough tapes I can suddenly increase my faith to accomplish the seeming impossible right now!  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, this is not the case.  From my limited, but growing, experience with this, sometimes when we step out in faith, our faith may not actually be sufficient to complete the task, at that time.  As such, we may experience a period of time where things look rocky (like Peter and the waves), where we aren’t seeing the fullness of what we expected to see.  It is in these times that doubt tries to creep in, and tell us that we missed God, or that we don’t have enough faith, or that we’re stupid for having tried such a thing.  It is in these times also that we must keep His words before us, and trust that He won’t fail us.  It is in these times that we must stand.

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.          (Ephesians 6:13)

As I’ve stated before, I love Hebrews 11, the whole chapter.  These saints saw something in their hearts that they NEVER saw with their physical eyes, and yet they believed until the day they died. Hebrews 11, starting with verse 13, says:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  15And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Unlike these Old Testament saints, we are the heirs of the promises, the ones who have seen and will see their fulfillment.  But like these saints, we must approach the Lord with the same tenacity, with the same refusal to go back, with the same refusal to NOT settle for anything but what He has promised.  The Kingdom of God operates on the principle of faith, and if we don’t learn to walk in that we will never approach the glory, individually or corporately, that He calls us to.

Well, this at least catches things up some.  I will hopefully write the next installment this weekend, giving my personal testimony in this regard, and giving some practical guidance on how this is lived out in our daily lives.

God bless!

On Faith – Volume 2

Posted on 14. Oct, 2010 by in Faith

This is finally the follow-up post on my initial writing on faith, On Faith – Volume 1.

I’ll start with a recap, taken from the end of the first post:

So, the crux of the post is this:  faith is an important part of our Christian walk, and faith is a bi-product of our Christian walk.  We use our faith to walk in Christ, and like a muscle, the more we use it the more it grows.  As a charismatic I felt condemned if I didn’t have enough faith.  Now I understand that there are things I will stand in faith for, but haven’t walked in Christ long enough to grow into that level of faith, and so I may not see the final manifestation of what I prayed for.  This is no cause for guilt or condemnation, it just is what it is.  The longer I walk the more I will grow in faith, and the greater works He can do in and through me.

So, as I asked in the first post, why is faith important?

“And 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 seek    Him.”    – Hebrews 11:6

The Father has instituted His kingdom on the earth, and that Kingdom has principles and laws.  Just as the laws of physics control how we interact with our environment, so do the laws of the Kingdom affect or control how we interact with God.  One very important law in His kingdom is what I will call the law of faith.  God is moved by faith.  As Hebrews said, it is impossible to please God without faith, and all the things God has promised are only accessed through faith.  So, if we don’t understand faith, we will not grow to our full potential as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9, among other passages, makes it clear that we are only saved through faith.

The book of Hebrews lists many “Heroes of the Faith”.  My favorite, the one that has been most instructive and exemplary in my life, is Abraham.  The life of Abraham is the example I have followed in my pursuit of God for the last 2-3 years, specifically his faith regarding the promise of a son.  I’ll provide a timeline first.

Genesis 12:4 – Abram was 75 years old when he departed Haran and set out to Canaan.

Genesis 13:15-16 – God’s first promise to Abram regarding descendants, in general.  No specific promise of a son at this point.

Genesis 15:4-6 – God’s second promise of offspring for Abram.  God promised Abram he would have an heir, and this would likely imply the future birth of a son (my assumption based on my limited knowledge of customs of that time).  Still no specific mention of Sarai.   Although one would likely assume the promised offspring would be from Sarai, Abram apparently did not assume that later.  It is at this point that Abraham “believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness”.  (my paraphrase)  Interestingly the NASB says “believed in him”, i.e. the Lord.  I don’t know if there is a Greek word corresponding to “in” or not.  Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Genesis 16:1-4 – Abram had been in the land of Canaan 10 years (so he was at least 85 years old).  At this point Sarai gets impatient for descendents, and talks Abram into having a child with one of her maid-servants, Hagar.  You know the rest of the story.  This, in my opinion, is Abram’s attempt to “help God out” in achieving the promise sooner.  The outcome is not what was desired.

Genesis 17:15-19 – Abram is 99 years old.  God once again promises offspring, but now specifically saying it will be a son, born of Sarai (now to be called Sarah), and he is to be called Isaac.  Interestingly, Abram (now Abraham) now seems to doubt God’s promise, saying in verse 17:  “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old?  And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”  Abraham even tries to convince God to accept Ishmael as the promised son, and God says “no”.

Genesis 18:10 – the Lord personally appears to Abraham, informing him that the promised son will be born within the next year.

Genesis 21 – Isaac is finally born to Abraham, at 100 years of age.

The above passages paint a vivid picture of the highs and lows of Abraham’s faith, specifically regarding the promise that he would be the father of many nations.  Genesis 15:6 gives the basis of faith, the starting point:  Abraham believed.  This is where we must start.  We first must believe that Jesus is the son of God, and that he died for our sins.  After that, we have to continue believing, trusting Him for everything in our lives.  This forms the foundation for walking in faith.

I didn’t anticipate this topic taking 3 posts, but I also didn’t anticipate going into so much detail into Abraham’s journey of faith.  I think it will be useful in the end, so I included it.  I will have to finish this series at a later date.  Stay tuned!

Change of Mindset

Posted on 19. Sep, 2010 by in Faith, Seasons, The Purpose of God

I recently posted something on my facebook profile, and I thought it was important to post it here, because to me it is a major issue for Christians today.  In reality, it is probably not a black and white issue, but more like a scale, where we can tend towards one or the other, and move either way as we mature or digress.  Anyway, here is the statement:

We need a change in mindset. We need to allow God to shape and order our lives in accordance with His eternal purpose, instead of trying to incorporate God into our life as it is. He is calling us to so much more than we can even imagine, but we have to open our hearts to that greater calling, and be willing to go where the grass doesn’t appear green.

I want to give some background behind this statement, and how it has applied to my life:

Three years ago I was working as an employed doctor, in a hospital owned practice, employed by an organization that was more concerned about money than patient care.  I became frustrated, and finally tired of fighting the system and decided that something had to change.  I had multiple options, and at one point decided to quit Family Medicine altogether, and work full-time in the ER.  It would pay better, require less hours, and thus result in a better quality of life for me and my family.  There was a part of me that didn’t want to do that, because the thing I love most about medicine is the relational aspect of it, and you lose this in the Emergency Room.

During this time, my wife and I sought direction from the Lord.  I wanted my life to be in line with His plan, and this was obviously a major life decision.  One night, while we were lounging in our jacuzzi tub, the answer came.  I was to take part of the building we had just procured for our other business, and turn it into a clinic and practice out of that.  Doing this would mean I would have to work without call coverage, and basically be on call 24/7.  It would also require that I not only work full-time for the clinic, but that I would also have to work full-time in the ER, in order to pay the bills.  In November of 2007 I started working in the ER in Dodge City, KS, after not working in any ER for almost 2 1/2 years.  In January I quit my job and by late February my clinic was open.  It has been 2 1/2 years now since the opening.  I still do not draw a salary, I still work in the ER, but my clinic is growing and we are nearing the fruition of our hard work.  Now, the point here is not to brag about how hard I work, as I am only able to do it by His grace, and there were many other reasons He had me take this path (one of which was to reveal and overcome what turned out to be a pretty severe anxiety problem.  God is efficient in His working!).  The point I am making is that I could’ve taken the path that made sense from a natural perspective.  I could’ve made more money and had more time with my family by changing to ER work exclusively.  However, the Lord had other plans, and thus I embarked on what has been the greatest journey of my life.  During this time I learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about Him, and have learned more about faith than I ever thought I would.  I will, by the way, get to Part 2 on faith, hopefully soon.  The journey has been lonely to a certain extent, because the positions I have taken on issues in the community pertaining to healthcare have been unpopular, so we have been at odds with the powers that be, and even had lies spread about us in the community.  It turned out that the right path was the harder path, small surprise given what we see from Christ’s example.

So, this brings me to my statement.  The Lord brought me to a jump-off point in my walk with Him.  He brought me to a place where I had to make a decision to follow His direction, or to choose to follow conventional wisdom and do what seemed right to me.  By His grace I chose to follow Him, in a way radically different than I had ever followed Him before.  It required continued, implicit trust in His plan and provision, and it is the best decision I ever made, apart from my decision to follow Him in the first place.  Previously I had been comfortable in my life.  I lived it as I thought best, and although there was a general sense of wanting to follow His direction, I still, to a certain extent, incorporated Him into the life I had built.  I believe God is calling us to forsake everything for His calling.  This may result in job changes, or loss of friends (even Christian friends), but we HAVE to be willing to forsake all for the sake of Him, and His eternal purposes.  Since making the jump He has used my wife and I to build a foundation of the kingdom in our community, and I sense in my spirit that major changes are in store for us, and our community, all by His grace and working.

Like Paul stated, I do not count myself has having fully achieved the fullness of this idea.  There are still parts of my life that are not given over, and I have made some major mistakes in the past 3 years, some of which I will financially pay for for the next 4-5 years, and have paid for emotionally for the past 2 years.  These mistakes were made because I didn’t, in these areas, endeavor to seek His specific direction, and instead did what seemed right to me.  He is gracious, however, and has provided for me and my family in spite of these things.

I believe that life is cyclical.  The Lord has a direction He wants us to go, and if we miss it, He will cycle us back to give us a chance again, and again, and again!  He is so patient!  I encourage all of us to have our spiritual ears attuned to when He may be bringing us to a jumping off point, and have the courage to trust Him to take the jump.