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!

Learning From Evan – My True Maturity

Posted on 15. Feb, 2011 by in Learning From Evan

As I’ve spent the last two months caring for my new baby boy I’ve had occasion to reflect on my relationship to him, and how that correlates to my relationship with my heavenly Father.  I’ve gleaned some interesting truths that I’d like to share.

Evan appears to deal with acid reflux, an issue that is not uncommon in newborn babies.  As such, when he is hungry, at times he will fight the bottle, because the act of eating or sucking can worsen his symptoms.  Even apart from any reflux symptoms, the fact that he is a baby means that he doesn’t really willfully control his hands, and sometimes in his impatience to eat will slap the bottle away, or move his head back and forth, making it hard to even give him what he so desperately wants!  In my flesh I tend to get frustrated, thinking, “Evan, I am trying to help you.  Quit fighting me!”.  On one occasion, that thought went through my head, and then the father reminded me of my own situation.

If you have read my recent posts on faith you know about my struggles to learn to trust Him that He is working on my behalf.  How often in the last few months have I shaken my head at him, or beat the air in my impatience to get what I wanted?  Am I really any more than a spiritual baby, or at most a toddler, especially when it comes to trusting my Father?  It certainly makes me wonder, and it certainly helps me see Him in a different light, as I see things more from His perspective, seeing how I feel about my son.

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 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!

Thursday Thoughts

Posted on 05. Aug, 2010 by in Thursday Thoughts, Walking in the Spirit

I’ll start with my best of selections:

Meditating on the Law | The Ekklesia in Southern Maine.

Unity in My Terms | The Ekklesia in Southern Maine

subversive1: A PROFOUND MYSTERY.  I could really include 3-4 posts from Keith Giles in this list, but I’ll keep it to this one, and you can follow the link and read the rest for yourselves.

“the voice of one crying out in suburbia…”: An honest discussion on social justice

Alan Knox is back at it, but I haven’t had a chance to catch up on his blog.  I’m sure there’s some good stuff in his Ethiopia reports.

I don’t have a new song selection this week.  I’m still stuck on last week’s.

At our Wednesday bible meeting we talked more about the law, and how the death and resurrection of Christ released us from the requirements of the law.  We read from Galatians 2:15-21, which discusses justification by faith in Christ.  The key line for me is verse 18:  “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.”  To me this speaks to re-establishing the rule of the law in our lives, the result of which is transgression.  Galatians 5:2-3 goes on to say that if we try to keep one part of the law, we are responsible for keeping the whole thing.  Of course in that case, we are doomed to fail.  The other verse that fascinates me now, that I never previously understood, is Galatians 3:19-20, with the focus being verse 20.  This passage discusses the use of a mediator, which of course would imply two parties.  It goes on to say, however, that God is one.  I never understood this until my wife read from the study notes in her bible.  What I now see is that the mediator was mediating between God and Man.  However, since Christ is both God and man, the success of the mediation is guaranteed because He is both sides of the mediation!  The overall point of Galatians 3 is to explain why the law was given, namely to clearly show us our need for Christ.

Knowing, then, the importance of walking in grace through faith, not only for justification but also for sanctification, we can further understand Romans 8, where it talks about walking in the spirit vs. walking in the flesh.

5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:5-11

In this passage, walking in the flesh could mean living carnally, but could also entail trying to live a righteous life by our own power, or taking the law back on ourselves.  In my own walk there are several issues the Lord has been dealing with me on.  One issue is getting up earlier in the morning.  Now, I love to sleep in.  I absolute love to sleep period.  I love just to lay in my bed.  It holds me captive in the mornings!  Trying to get myself up early to read the bible, pray or do charts at the clinic is like pulling teeth.  Once up I am fine, but getting up is a bear!  Since being convicted of this I have largely tried to attack this on my own strength.  Even after reading the above passage, and being instructed to “by the spirit put to death the deeds of the body” I still found myself trying in my own power.  I now see that, to overcome this issue I have to approach it spiritually, for real.  This involves prayer, speaking forth what He has already made me to be, so that what is already true in eternity becomes truth in this temporal realm, and may also include fasting or other measures.  The key is to not conquer this issue by the force of my will-power, as success gained by my strength is really failure.

I would love to hear others comments on what it means to you to “by the spirit put to death the deeds of the body”.  What I mean is, if you were me, and the Lord identified an issue that needed changed in your life, how would you approach this, in the Spirit?

Thursday Thoughts – Volume 1

Posted on 29. Jul, 2010 by in Thursday Thoughts

I am starting a new post-series today.  The fellowship that my wife and I gather with meets on Wednesday nights, and there were some great topics of conversation, which I wanted to share here.  We usually have good discussion, so I imagine there will be things to share each week.  I also want to take the opportunity to give my “best of” recommendations.

First to the “best of”.  I read the following posts in the past week, and thought they were excellent.

Douglas at The Lord’s Plowman had two posts that I thought were excellent.

Spiritually Homeless

Paneled Houses

Keith Giles at Subversive1 had a post “10 Things I’ll Do Different…”

Arthur Sido at The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia… had a post “The church on the margins”

Anthony Verderame at The Normal Christian wrote a post “We are alive!!! And Free???”

Dan Allen at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine wrote “Step by Step”

Here’s my song recommendation for the week, again from Hillsong United, this time from their newest album “The I Heart Revolution”.  The song is entitled “Take All of Me”

OK, so last night we started out reading Romans 8:1-4, and then went to Exodus 20, to actually read the 10 commandments.  The question posed was “why did God give the law?

Here are the answers I gave:

1.  Primarily to show man his true depravity, and his need for God’s grace.  Romans 7:13 supports this view.

2.  Secondarily to provide some sort of external framework to help show mankind in general what is right and wrong, so as to provide some aspect of behavior control for those that have yet to find God’s grace.

This discussion lead to a conversation on whether God INTENDED man to fail to meet his requirements (or knew beforehand that he would fail).  The belief expressed was that God foreknew, from the foundation of the world, that things would transpire just as they did, i.e., that God would create man, man would fall, God would give the law, man would fail to keep the law, and Christ would come as the Messiah to provide redemption for mankind.

3.  We discussed the Sabbath, and what it means for us today.  We all agreed that the concept of physical rest is important, that we need not work ourselves interminably, and not allow time for adequate rest.  I feel that the Sabbath goes deeper than this, however, to more of a spiritual rest.  My wife Tayleene shared how the Lord has helped her find rest in running her business.  In the past she would always be coming up with different things to do to increase business, drive in new customers, provide greater customer satisfaction, etc.  She would work herself to the bone, always with something new she could do to make things better.  The Lord taught her how to find her rest and trust in Him, with the knowledge that, even if she doesn’t do all those things, He will still prosper her business.

Hebrews 3 and 4 is pertinent here.

Hebrews 3:7-11 discusses the failure of the children of Israel to trust in God, to provide them victory over their enemies in Canaan, and thus their failure to find His rest.  Joshua, 40 years later, finally did lead the Israelites into Canaan, and thus into a type of “rest”.  Hebrews 4:1-11 then discusses this rest further, stating that a rest remains for the people of God, and that disobedience, same as before, will keep us out of that rest.  Lack of faith in God is the root of disobedience.  We disobey because we fail to trust.  That, to me, is what the Sabbath encompasses, us finding our rest, “ceasing from our labors”, in Christ.

Well, I better stop now.  I don’t want to get too verbose.