The Lesson I Unlearned About the Bible

I had certain verses pounded into me growing up. Chances are, you did, too.

John 3:16, anyone?

How about the 23rd Psalm?

Year after year my Sunday School teachers focused on the same stories and verses. Repetition taught me something I didn’t realize fully at the time – they taught me to believe some parts of the Bible are more important than others.

They aren’t.

God clarifies this in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. All Scripture is God-breathed, which is to say it is the Word of God. That’s in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

It’s like saying that chapter with Tom Bombadil isn’t important in The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve read the books (seeing the movie doesn’t count), then you know that several things could not otherwise have happened. To remove it is to impact the story as a whole.

The Bible might seem to be a whole bunch of stories, but in reality it is just one story – the story of God redeeming his people.

I thought some parts were more important when I was a kid. As a man I finally put childish things behind me and learned otherwise.

OK, so I put aside this silly notion that some parts of the Bible are more important. A couple of days ago, some 20+ years after most folks would say I became a man.

What is something you believed about the Bible as a kid that changed when you grew up?

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Finding joy in the midst of depression

Depression is trying to tell me my dreams are dead.

And I want to listen. I’m tired and outside influence on my schedule is working against me. I barely have time to get done things I have to get done, like assignments for school, let alone the stuff I’d like to get done, like writing this.

Depression likes to suck the life out of everything. Don’t take my word for it, though. Feel free to ask other people who suffer with depression.

We live in a broken world and I certainly believe that part of my depression is in response to my environment, but it’s also, in part, chemical – something inside me that’s broken.

What to do about it? Well, in part, seeing the right doctors and taking the right medicine helps. The other thing, the one that keeps me going, is Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1 

There is joy and hope in knowing Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-9Galatians 5:22,  and Psalm 51:12.

Sometimes I struggle to find the strength to carry on with my dreams, but is these verses, and many more, that remind me that I can go on. Christ sustains me. Like in Philippians 4:13 where it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” These verses serve as reminders that the darkness doesn’t win and we don’t have to let it win in our daily lives.

I’ve heard that Billy Graham is famous for (among so many other things) once saying, “I’ve read the last page. God wins.” That’s a comfort for those of us who walk with God. He is, as it says in Psalm 46:1, our ever present help in time of need.

I don’t know about you, but I feel needy often. I need help to overcome depression. I need help to overcome bad habits. I need help to figure out how to make the money we have cover the bills. I need help feeling grateful and being forgiving. I need help sometimes just loving my wife and kids. God is there for that. Thankfully. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go this alone, with just doctors and medicine to make me right. Just thinking about that makes me feel more depressed. Seriously. My doctors are in the VA. The psychologist position at my clinic has changed hands five times in the last two years, maybe more. The psychiatrist blew off my problems, behavioral issues, to want to look for the roots of my depression.

Look, dude, I know the roots of my depression: it’s living in this messed up world. I’d love it if they’d focus on things like overcoming addictive behaviors or developing my skills in anger management. I took a great class on that at my church. I used to feel guilty about being angry, which just fed my depression, but then I learned a great verse, Ephesians 4:6, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Couldn’t even get the VA doctor to talk about anger.

Anyway, the point is, I have joy in my life despite the depression. I have a wonderful wife. Incredible kids. I’m about to finish my bachelor’s degree. I have great friends. Even though I’m unemployed, I’ve had some really great opportunities to go do things, meet people, and experience lots of cool stuff. Just in the last 18 months I’ve been able to be a part of the work done by a number of incredible ministries like YoungLife, Inca Link, World Vision, MudLove, and more. Later this year I hope to take my youngest daughter on a mission trip to Moldova with Operation Mobilisation.

I may not smile all the time. Life’s going to be hard, but through all of this I have learned a few things. The obvious lesson, of course, is that God is always there. Another, perhaps not as obvious lesson, is that happiness and joy are two different things. It’s possible to have depression issues and still experience and have joy in your life. Finally, that there are people out there willing to listen when things get hard. Please, please, if you are having serious problems with depression, turn to a friend or find one of the many help lines out there.

A warrior awakened: my thoughts following Promise Keepers 2013

I was part of a group from my church who went to Promise Keepers in Daytona in October. The theme this year was “Awakening the Warrior.” It made me think about where I’ve been, and where I am now.

     At 10 I came to the Cross because I wanted to be John, a Son of Thunder, learning and loving at the feet of Jesus for all time.

     I drifted though; fell asleep as I began to navigate that narrow path and got lost along the way. Like Peter I found myself in danger because I had taken my eyes off Jesus. Oh how easy it would be, it seemed, to just slip beneath the waves forever. Or, returning to the trail analogy, to just set up a small cabin in the woods where I was.

     I thought Jesus will love me more if I work hard at being nice, doing good deeds, and trying not to do wrong. That’s what I thought. That’s what I’d often been told. What I’ve found, though, is that Christ’s work in me and through me is something more, something different and more exciting. Still, I often found myself resisting.

     He is not to be denied, however, for He is Lord. He called to me, through storms of lust and malice, and calls to me still — wake up, Jay, wake up; that thunder is not in the clouds, it is all around you. It is the sound of spiritual conflict — warfare of the highest and most pressing order. Take up My Sword, not a blade, but my Word. Put on My Armor, My Helm, Breastplate, Boots … and having gird yourself for battle, stand.

     God has called us to war against the rulers of darkness, etc. Not to fight members of the decorating committee, or members of another denomination or to attack someone for being a different faith. By all means, counter lies with God’s Truth, but do so with love, and heap ashes on them thereby.

     God has begun a good work in you, or maybe he is trying to but you are resisting his call. The message I took from PK is that it is well past time to put Jesus at the center of all aspects of my life for my sake, my family’s sake, but most importantly, for His Kingdom’s sake. He woke me up.

     At 41 I return to the Cross every day, every hour, and sometimes every second, to meet with the Author and Finisher of my faith, so that I would not, will not, forget, that no work of my own will ever extend or accomplish further the work He has begun in me and will continue to the end. I need Him every hour to remind me it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my wife or kids, no matter how much I love them – I even washed their feet when I got back from PK. Even then, though, I reminded them of what I learned at the end of October. It’s all about Jesus.

Saying grace or giving thanks?

“God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food.” It’s heard around millions of dinner tables every evening. A few hours later it’s followed by “Now I lay me down to sleep …”

 
These are good prayers for teaching our children a habit, but there comes a point when the relationship has to grow. For many folks, this is their communication with their Creator. Scripted, rote, boring and impersonal. Prayer shouldn’t be like this. It’s communication with our LORD and Savior. It needs to be personal. God desires a relationship and you can’t have a relationship if you’re rushing through the same words night after night. Maybe you let your kids take turns saying grace; I do. Some of them rush like fools right through it. Others rush them through it, “Hurry up! I’m hungry.” Taking time to give thanks for what you have is pretty important, especially when you wouldn’t have it without the one you’re thanking.
 
Would you believe there are people in America who call themselves Christians because they say this prayer every evening? Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s a relationship. Religion involves specific practices and rituals. Relationship involves communication.
 
We talk to God through prayer. He talks to us through his Word, the Bible.
 
We all have someone we speak to in passing. That guy at the water cooler, the lady who takes your name at the barber shop. You say “hi” and “how are you,” but there’s no depth to what you say to each other. That’s how the “dinner prayer” is for you and God. Just passing a few words and moving on.
 
I’ve set a goal this year of teaching my children to pray from the heart. Do you have a goal for your prayer life?