The Harvest is Plentiful, but… [The Effective Prayer 7.28.15]

This post is part of the weekly series on effective prayer.

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The harvest is plentiful, but…

a) it’s infested with bugs

b) it’s covered in powdery mildew

c) it’s been genetically modified

d) the laborers are few.

What’s your guess?

A little over a month ago, our congregation hosted a guest preacher who spoke on the importance of seeking and teaching the lost. The method he advocated contained the same message of salvation, but instead of trying to have weeks upon weeks of classes and struggling to get people to commit to a long-term meeting, a one-hour meeting is proposed to have an overview of the Bible and the good news of Christ.

As he pointed out during his lessons, the problem isn’t with the message. The problem is the lack of messengers.

The terms “Proselytizers” and “evangelizers” are spat distastefully from the mouths of athiests and antagonists. When we talk to people about the gospel, there is an unspoken sentiment that it had better be in neutered, relative or generic terms or else we are considered judgmental.

Does anybody want to hear about God anymore?

Yes. 

Many of us who have tried to teach about Jesus or the gospel here in the States have encountered resistance, hostility, ostracism and indifference. Even more frustrating is getting into unrelated arguments because people have a pet issue against Christianity in general.

After awhile, we start making the following excuses:

1) “Maybe there is a harvest, but it’s half-eaten by bugs.”

Only half-eaten?

“Ok, it’s all eaten by bugs.”

How will you know unless you look?

Have you ever tried to grow produce? I had a small row of lettuce growing in my garden a couple years ago. It was developing beautifully. One day I walked into the garden to discover pitiful green stumps where my baby lettuces had been. Some pesky green caterpillars had eaten the lot. Dismayed, I immediately inspected all my plants—carrots, cucumbers, basil and sugar snap peas. I located as many caterpillars as I could and “displaced” them. For weeks, my children and I made daily visual inspections on those plants.  I wasn’t about to let all that hard work of planting, watering and fertilizing go to waste!

There are a large number of souls so terribly infested with the “isms”—existentialism, relativism, atheism, humanism, evolutionism—that they won’t go near a Christian without a ten foot pole. And they’ll use that pole to push us away, beat at us or just take swings…

Are you going to let the entire harvest go to waste? Or are you going to look for those people who are still open to the good news? All that planting, watering, fertilizing was hard work that somebody invested in those souls. Do we just let them die?

Even those covered in “isms” can be salvaged with persistent work.

2) “The harvest is covered with mildew. It’s no good!”

Do you ever feel as though the rank immorality and the societal approval of vice has made people push us away as prudish, self-righteous fools?

In other words, do you feel that nobody wants to hear the good news because they are overcome with the sin of this world?

I’ve got news for you…

…It’s always been bad.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Throughout history there have been dark periods in various societies where evil was considered good and good was considered evil.

Remember Noah? It was so bad that only 8 people from the entire world were saved from destruction.

Remember Sodom & Gomorrah? The only survivors from destruction were Lot & his two daughters. Three people out of hundreds, maybe even thousands.

Remember Ancient Rome? It certainly was not the paragon of virtue. Mobs took sick pleasure in watching their fellow humans hacked to pieces, consumed by dogs, and flattened by chariots. Their bloodlust was insatiable. They “slept around,” engaged in extra-marital affairs, practiced homosexuality, abused the helpless, owned slaves… and guess what?

All of it was acceptable in their culture.

Any of this sound familiar?

Even in the midst of that amoral empire, the Lord’s Church grew by the thousands.

Why?

Because in spite of all the glitz, glamour and gluttony, people still felt as though something was missing. Their soul hungered for the food only God can supply.

There are still people like that today.

Seriously.

3) “The harvest isn’t fit to be used.”

How do you know?

It feels like we are surrounded by genetically modified people at times, but I’m confident that they are still real people with real souls that need real salvation.

Every soul is precious. Even if you preach you’re entire life and only snatch one soul away from the fire, you have brought a great treasure to God. What if that one soul goes on to help bring thousands to Christ? There is a saying, “Anyone count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.” (Robert H. Schuller)

Allow God to supply the grace. Allow the crop to pass the Inspector’s Test before you deem it unfit. It isn’t our job to decide who would and wouldn’t make a “good” Christian. It’s our job to harvest the crop. Let God do the sorting.

There are not a lot of people to gather the crops. It’s hard work, but the value is immeasurable.

It is up to all of us to seek those who are far from God. We need to live distinct, purposeful lives each and every day. We need to shine with peace, confidence and faith. This does not come from ourselves, but from the relationship we have with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.

This life is temporary, the reward is eternal.

Consider this passage from Matthew:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matthew 9:35-38

He goes on to give his apostles the authority to cast out demons and heal afflictions. I realize that these exhortations were directed to the apostles, but later on, many of those who were simply Christians without the title of apostle or teacher, went on to preach the faith:

I [Paul] want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Philippians 4.12-18

This week, let’s pray for three things:

1) Pray for more laborers. 

This could be you.

We should be sharing the good news with everyone around us and not because we feel required to do so. It should flow from our speech and conversation, emanating from every facet of our lives.

We have a global hunger problem: There are still people starving for inner peace. They long to be right with God even though they are totally unaware that He is what they lack. They need the message of Jesus Christ.

Specifically, we need more people who actively present the gospel in it’s entirety. These are people who sit down or stand up and lay it all out there for the person who has not come into a right relationship with God.

2) Pray for the laborers to have success.

Nearly a week ago, as I sat in a Bible Study, a very relevant point was made: sometimes people make their requests to God without expecting it to actually happen.

In our latest Coffee Chat, one of the commenters said that Samson made his final appeal to God with faith that God would grant his request.

Do we have faith that God will grant us this request? If we don’t believe He will, then why ask?

Pray with confidence that God will answer. This is a critical request! The sharing of the gospel has eternal consequences. It will alter the course of life here on earth for each individual who receives it and point their soul toward heaven.

3) Pray that Christians will shine brightly and not bring shame on Christ.

All too often, non-believers like to point to the fallen Christians—the hypocrites, the child molesters, the greedy—as reasons not to follow God. Let us live in such a way as to bring honor to God in everything we do. We can’t stop people from making poor choices, but we can pray for our fellow Christians to hold fast to the Word of God and maintain their integrity.

Let us pray these things to great effect this week. If you know someone actively teaching the gospel, pray for them by name. Feel free to share their names below in the comments section so we can all pray for them by name as well!

Coffee Chat 6 – I don’t get it…

coffee chat

I love a good discussion with a friend over a steaming cup of chai, but since I can’t gather all of you at a comfortable cafe, I’ll have to be content with this little corner of the Internet.

I want to thank each and every person who has come to these coffee chats and commented. I have thoroughly enjoyed your insights and inspiration! Thank you for your time.

This week, I want to talk about Samson.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

Hebrews 11.32-34

 

I often wish that the Hebrew writer had elaborated more on Gideon, Barak, Samson etcetera.

I am reading through Judges at the moment, and I just finished the Samson saga.

There is a question that has always nagged at me, and while I plan to do some digging tomorrow, I thought I would pose my burning question to you:

How on earth did Samson make the list of the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11???

I am confident that God knows the hearts of people far better than any human ever could, yet when I look at the information supplied on Samson, all I see is a man who was unstable, selfish and extremely foolish when it came to beautiful women. How on earth did he rate as a man of faith?

The account of Samson is in Judges 13-16.

Initially, when he goes to marry the Philistine girl in chapter 14, it says that this was “from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.”

I see obedience and faith there. So far so good.

Then it says he went in to a prostitute. I don’t see God approving that…

[gritting teeth in confusion!]

Then, there is Delilah, an infamous name synonymous with deceitfulness and duplicity.

And Samson fell for her, hook, line and sinker. And literally, it sank him.

Delilah used the oldest trick in the book, the “You must not really love me if …” The truth was, she did not love him. It surprises me how gullible he was. I mean, it took persistence and persuasion on her part. He didn’t instantly give in, but still, he divulged the secret of his strength and the Lord left him.

At the end of his life, when he is blind and imprisoned, he makes one final plea to God. I’m not sure if his time in prison humbled him and his faith grew in the jail cell, but he calls out to God, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16.26)

I suppose that could be the faith spoken of in Hebrews… and yet, it seems to me a very self-centered request that fits in with his behavior pattern.

This is one of those things in scripture that I have always struggled to understand.

I would love some insight here! Can you help me?

Please leave a comment below while you sip on your favorite cup of tea or coffee!

If you have some time after commenting here, please visit this previous coffee chat and share your reason for being a Christian.

Praying the Word of the Lord.

grace and peace This morning, as I read the Psalms, I was moved particularly by Psalm 20.

Have you ever watched as someone struggled their way through difficulty, and longed to have the right words for them?

Have you ever wanted to pray blessings for a brother or sister in the Lord and the words just seem so… lame?

As I considered that Psalm this morning I thought of several people enduring difficulties and thought “this is what I would ask for them!’ Consider the following (taken from the NIV translation): Verse 1:

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; May the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

Verses 4-5:

May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests.

Verses 7:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

To read the Psalm in full, click here.

There are many times in which I quote the Word of God in prayer. Often it is in reference to a promise.

For example: when I am anxious, I turn earnestly to God in prayer (often several times a day or week!) and I will say “Lord, please help me to remember that you are the Lord and nothing is to difficult for you. You have provided for me in so many ways, and I am so thankful. Help me not be anxious. You promise in your word that if we let our requests be made known to you that Your peace, the ‘Peace that surpasses all understanding’ will ‘guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ Grant me peace, dear Lord, and when I begin to feel afraid, remind me to trust in You.”

I don’t think it ever comes out that beautifully, but that is in essence my thought pattern. He promises peace if we offer up our requests through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving (don’t forget that part!). The full passage is Philippians 4.6-7. I quote it often here on the blog, because it is a constant meditation of mine and has tremendously reduced my anxiety level.

Going back to the above Psalm, I would encourage you to write it on a piece of paper and where it says “you” and “your” insert the name of the person going through struggles or a person on whom you desire the Lord to bless.

For example:

Verse 1:

May the Lord answer [Nathanael] when [he is] in distress; May the name of the God of Jacob protect [him].

May He send [Nathanael] help from the sanctuary and grant [him] support from Zion.

Obviously, you’ll have to use he/she or him/her from time to time, but the idea is that you are praying this prayer for a particular person.

Someone may take issue with this, but let me make one thing abundantly clear: I have no desire to change the actual word of the Lord. The desire is to pray the words of the Psalm and to do so, some pronouns have to be changed in your prayer. Just like in the above example using Philippians 4.16. I didn’t quote the entirety of the verse, but I relayed the essence of it to God.

Approach it with humility in this fashion:

“Lord, you know the struggles of [insert name]. I want to pray the blessings that your servant David wrote in Your Word on [insert name]. And then read what you have written as you pray. You aren’t trying to change the Word of God. You don’t want this published nor do you want people to think that Psalm was written only for that person. You are praying the Word of God.

After you have prayed for that individual, send them some encouragement. You can type an email, or send them a card, but send them the full text of the Psalm (not your prayer version, but the one from the Bible with the “you” and “yours”) and tell them “This is my prayer for you this week.”

Do you ever pray the words of the Bible in your prayers? Is there a specific passage?

The Cure is Worse than the Disease! What do I do now?!?!

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Note: All links contained in this post are not-for-profit. As of this posting, I currently have no affiliate links or sponsorships. These are all my own personal recommendations and I receive no kick-backs at the present time. 

Drug commercials crack me up in a dark humor sort of way.

Turn on your mental TV for a moment:

(Commercial Announcer) “Xanthia* will clear your face of acne! Tests have shown Xanthia to wipe out acne and scaring in as little as a month. Have the radiant face that matches your heart with Xanthia!”

(Speedy Announcer Voice): side affects may include abdominal cramps, intestinal bleeding, rash, irritability, depression, anxiety, anger, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and, in extreme cases, death.

*Xanthia is a fictional medication. Any resemblance to medication either real or fictional is purely coincidental. No medications were harmed in the writing of this post.

Acne-free?!

How awesome!

“I won’t get any of those side effects…”

And then….

…you do…

Help! The cure is worse than the disease!

My Aunt Debbie always had a radiance about her that children and adults alike could appreciate. She loved animals and she showered our family with love—and the occasional pet. She was my mom’s best friend in high school and she introduced my mom and dad while he was on leave from the Army.

I always associated Aunt Debbie with warmth, softness and happiness.

Unbeknownst to me, my dear Aunt suffered from depression. When I was 18 and far away from home, my Aunt called me out of the blue one day as I sat pouring over notes in my dorm room. We chatted for an hour or so. I told her all about the ups and downs of campus life, homesickness, college professors and life in general. I was deeply touched by her thoughtful call.

About two weeks later, I was home on spring break following a grueling quarter and intense finals. I was calm and contented. Nothing seemed amiss. My mom got up and left the room for a minute. When she came back, she was weeping. Through tears, she related to me the horrifying news: overcome by depression, my beloved, sunny aunt had committed suicide.

I stared at her, motionless with shock.

Did I hear that correctly?

Surely not!

I mean, hadn’t we just talked on the phone just two weeks ago… How could it be?

I don’t think I shed a tear for several minutes. The very idea of it was so unreal to me. It was a crushing, tragic blow to our family.

I found out that she had been taking medication for depression.

The side effect of her medication resulted in a tragic, senseless death.

The “cure” was far worse than the disease.

To this day, it still possess a nightmarish quality—almost as though I watched it through someone else’s eyes.

As depression became an acute problem for me during my adult years, I made up my mind about two things:

1) No matter how bad I felt, or how desperate life got, I would never commit suicide.

2) I was determined to avoid psychotropic drugs.

The first one seems like a no-brainer for a Christian. No one in their right mind would murder themselves in order to face an eternity without God, would they?

But there’s the rub.

Depression in combination with the wrong psychotropic drugs has the potential to send a person out of their “right mind.” I thought that I might have misunderstood the medication/suicide connection, but my counselor recently confirmed that certain medications can actually give a person just enough courage to carry out the act of suicide. It is imperative that medications are chosen carefully and monitored diligently in order to avert tragedy. Unfortunately, not all practitioners are careful.

Depression has a way of warping reality so much that people lose their moral sensibilities.

The second decision is far more controversial. Edmond Sangayado over at Chronicles of A Kid Next Door had a lively discussion in his comments section about the pros and cons of medication. People have very strong feelings on this issue.

I am truly grateful that my doctor and my counselor respected my desire to abstain from psychotropic drugs and instead encouraged me to pursue alternative therapies, with the understanding that—should my condition fail to improve or worsen—we would need to try the meds.

I was determined to avoid those drugs. I did not want to suffer the side effects and I was (and still am), understandably fearful of the suicide factor.

So, what do you do if you refuse medication?

[Caution!! Each person should be well-informed of their options and make the decision that is appropriate for them. Please consult with a professional before choosing a course of action.]

Five Physical Depression-Fighting Methods I Use Regularly:

1) Dietary Regulation.

What you eat can affect your mood.

A couple years ago, our family started the GAPS diet (GAPS is an acronym for Gut and Psychology Syndrome). GAPS is a dietary protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a neurologist who developed this diet based on the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) for her son who had been suffering from Autism. Dr. Campbell-McBride speaks internationally about the gut-brain connection and how poor gut flora can lead to neurological diseases, including (but not limited to) ADHD, ADD, ODD, PDD, Anxiety, Dyslexia, Depression, etcetera.

As we carried out the diet, the changes to our moods and our bodies was amazing. Within the first 8 weeks, I lost 8 pounds and gained a laser-sharp clarity of mind and sustained energy. I had an optimism that I had not possessed in over 5 years. My kids were not as hyper and the food pickiness had nearly vanished. One evening, I indulged in some peanut butter cups and regretted it almost instantly. Within about 30 minutes of consuming the sugar, my head felt fuzzy and foggy. I felt anxious and irritable. Even now, after being on simply a whole-food, traditional diet, if I have too much sugar, I feel like garbage.

Changing your diet can help your mood, but you have to change it appropriately. The diet I chose was focused on healing the gut. Its an intensive protocol and not for the faint of heart.

Here are some books I recommend on traditional diets and their effect on mood:

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin (This is similar to GAPS in that it is a gut-healing protocol. I affectionately call it, “GAPS lite” because it isn’t as intense as GAPS)

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride

These websites are also wonderful resources:

mommypotamus.com

GNOWFGLINS.com (GNOWFGLINS is an acronym for God’s Natural Organic Whole Foods Grown Locally and In Season) Wardee has some excellent videos and courses to get you started with real food.

undergroundwellness.com Tomorrow, Sean Croxton will be conducting a FREE seminar called How to Fix a Broken Brain: 4 Steps to Boosting Your Mood, Sharpening Your Mind, and Beating Fatigue Naturally. If you are interested, sign up at www.freebrainwebinar.com.

2) Acupuncture 

The jury is out as to whether acupuncture is actually effective on depression or whether it’s just a “placebo effect.” An article over at the Scientific American website noted that it is nearly impossible to set up controls to determine the full effects of acupuncture because “acupuncture is associated with a robust placebo effect—simply being seen and touched by a practitioner makes most people feel significantly better, which could make acupuncture seem more effective than it really is.”

According to this same article, there was a study done comparing electroacupuncture to Prozac:

A study published last fall in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinefound that electroacupuncture—in which a mild electric current is transmitted through the needles—was just as effective as fluoxetine (the generic name of Prozac) in reducing symptoms of depression. For six weeks, patients underwent either electroacupuncture five times weekly or a standard daily dose of fluoxetine…

After six weeks, both groups showed a similar improvement in symptoms, and both treatments restored GDNF to a normal concentration. But the acupuncture began to work faster, reducing symptoms more dramatically at weeks two and four than the drug did. Among the patients who got better, a higher percentage of the acupuncture recipients showed “great improvement.”

It’s one of those things you have to try for yourself, unfortunately. There is no definitive “proof.”

What I can share is how it has helped me. The acupuncturist that I visit runs a diffuser in the room with essential oils. She inquires about how I’m feeling and any other pains and then inserts pre-packaged sterile needles in the appropriate spots. Sometimes there will be herbs lit on fire briefly and then placed carefully on the skin. For about 30-45 minutes, I lay in a quiet room with the needles in place. I typically use that quiet time to rest my mind, sleep and/or pray. It’s enforced quiet and meditation time. You aren’t going to be moving around or using your phone. Just enjoy the quiet… besides, I don’t care to move around with those needles in me. After the treatment, I get pods placed in my ears that look like little round band-aids. They contain a barely-visible needle that puts pressure on necessary points until the next appointment. I usually end an appointment feeling completely relaxed and peaceful.

3) Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a new form of treatment to me. I wish I could do it full justice here, but it is one of those areas of alternative treatment that I don’t fully understand. My personal use of homeopathy happened quite by accident. I was consulting with a homeopath for my daughter who has a variety of issues when, in the course of discussion, I just fell to pieces emotionally. The homeopath recommended a remedy for me and I started taking it once it arrived. The affects are not always instant, but it has eradicated a lot of the anxiety I’ve felt. If you are interested in homeopathy, visit Homeopathy Works for more information.

4) Essential Oils

This is also a fairly new field for me, but one that I am very enthralled with and not just for depression. Quality essential oils from a reliable source can be very helpful for a variety of issues. I use a couple different blends of essential oils. One blend contains Bergamot, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Lemon, Coriander, Tangerine, Jasmine, Roman Chamomile, Palmarosa, and Rose oils. If you are interested in learning about essential oils and purchasing from a good brand, please leave a comment below and I will contact you privately via email about the brand I recommend and currently sell.

5) Exercise

Like diet, the right kind of exercise can help, the wrong kind can be ineffective or harmful.

Harvard Health noted that “A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression.”

After the initial study, there was a follow up study done: “They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression.”

Furthermore, the article explained that exercise boosts the action of endorphins. There is also a theory that exercise triggers norepinephrine, also improving mood. For full text of the article from Harvard Health, click here.

My personal choice is a 45-minute walk four to five times a week. I get fresh air, sunshine (also great for the mood) and time to think about things without too much distraction. I also enjoy yoga, though I don’t often have the time that my particular yoga DVD demands. It is a great way to stretch the muscles and be quiet and peaceful.

Six Mentally Therapeutic Methods I Use Regularly:

1) Prayer

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4.6-7, NKJV

My prayer is a combination of a sustained period with God (laying out my requests, intercessions and thanksgivings) and what I affectionately call “arrow prayers” throughout the day. If I feel my mood sinking, I know it’s time to pray. Nobody has to see it. I can be driving down the road with my eyes wide open and ask God to strengthen me. Thus, I can confidently say, “My help comes from the Lord!” Can I get an “Amen?”

If you are feeling depressed, pray anytime and every time the depression strikes.

2) Daily scripture reading

Yes, I’m pounding this home again. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this: We need to be in God’s Word every single day.

Why?

If you’ll turn to that passage above that I referenced in Philippians (or look it up on your phone) notice that in the context immediately following, Paul tells the Philippian Christians the following:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4.8-9, NASB

We need to pray, but we also need to dwell on good things. Our circumstances aren’t always conducive to this. I love how the NASB uses the word “dwell.” Imagine your mind living in an honorable home, a pure home, a lovely home. Conversely, imagine it dwelling in a perverted, filthy home? Or maybe a dilapidated, broken home? Which would you choose?

3) Audiobooks

This has been an enormous help to me. I can listen to audiobooks when I fold laundry, wash dishes, clean house, work in the garden or drive. (I also listen to audio bibles!) I don’t often have the time to sit and read a book, so this has enabled me to learn about things and enjoy previously unexplored books! It also keeps my mind from dwelling on bad circumstances.

4) Counseling

Having a physical person to confide in—one who listens and gives wise counsel—is a gift from God. Sometimes it’s iron sharpening iron, sometimes it’s just plain pillow-like comfort, but it’s always been helpful to me. I often equate it to a detox protocol of the mental kind.

5) Playing music

I began learning to play the clarinet when I was 11 years old. It’s always been a source of happiness for me. I started playing again last fall after a 13-year hiatus. It’s a bit time consuming, but it has been an excellent way to tear my mind away from circumstance. I have to focus all my concentration on the music, the intonation, the conductor, the dynamics and all those little things that go into converting black dots and lines into emotive sound.

6) Writing

Yes, writing.

This blog is the result of months of scribbling in journals and writing out my thoughts on paper. I finally decided that if I published my thoughts instead of keeping them to myself, not only would it help me organize and categorize them in my mind, but it would help other people too! What better way to heal from depression, anxiety or PTSD than to help somebody else?

I have a dear friend dealing with PTSD who copes by going on jeep runs (and I’m not talking about flat dirt roads…) Jeeping requires intense concentration in order to choose the right lines to successfully take the vehicle over ravines, rocks and waterfalls. I’ve known others to do rock-climbing, hiking, golfing… The list is endless. The idea is to find something that forces you to concentrate 100% of your mental effort on something beyond your feelings and problems.

As I mentioned in my previous post, depression is a complex issue. Its origins may be mental or physical and it’s effects may also be mental and physical.

I hope that some of the thoughts I’ve shared above have given you ideas on how to help yourself or someone else afflicted with depression.

If you think this post could be helpful to others, please share it!

For my readers who have fought and overcome depression, or are still fighting, please share your tips and tricks in the comments section below in order to help others.

I look forward to hearing from you!

TAPS – The Effective Prayer 7.20.15

This post is part of the weekly series on effective prayer.

There is no end of tragedy in this life.

This past week, four unarmed marines and one navy sailor were violently murdered when a cowardly muslim jihadist opened fire on a recruiting center.

A flood of emotions rushed through me when I heard the news. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Indignation. Disgust. Powerlessness.

What can we do for the fallen?

1) We can honor their memory.

2) We can pray for their families.

I previously published a post on praying for the families of the fallen, and while this post may seem redundant, I’d like to make this particular Effective Prayer post tailored for the people affected by this tragic event.

Pray for the families of the following men:

Image from the guardian.com http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/18/chattanooga-shooting-navy-fifth-victim-died
Image from the guardian.com
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/18/chattanooga-shooting-navy-fifth-victim-died
  • Petty Officer Randall Smith, U.S. Navy
  • Sergeant Thomas J. Sullivan, USMC
  • Lance Corporal Squire “Skip” Wells, USMC
  • Sergeant Carson Holmquist, USMC
  • Staff Sergeant David Wyatt, USMC

For more information on the marines, read here.

For more information on Randall Smith, read here.

The following picture was taken of a makeshift memorial set up in honor of the four marines shortly after the restaurant owner learned of their deaths:

by Jason Davis. Getty Images.
by Jason Davis. Getty Images.

It reminded me of this song from Les Miserables:

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone

…Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will sing no more…

These families are suffering from a grief that cannot be spoken. My guess is that they were extremely grateful to have their loved ones away from the front line, not knowing that the front line would be brought to them while they were unarmed and unprotected in any way.

Pray for their families to be comforted by the Lord.

Pray for the wounded officer

Sergeant Dennis Pedigo of the Chatanooga Police Department was shot in the ankle and underwent surgery.

Pray for his healing both from the injury and from the trauma of the event.

Pray for all of our soldiers.

Pray for their protection. We are a nation at war. It may be a strange, unconventional war, but we are at war nonetheless and the enemy does not observe any sort of code other than the code of killing and terror.

Let us join together in prayer for these men and women impacted by the cowardly act of a group of terrorists. The man who pulled the trigger is, even now, facing his Maker and the consequence of His choice. Remember that the Lord is a God of justice, and He will see that retribution is made.

In Memory of the Fallen. 

The Starlight Blogger Award

This Award is created to highlight and promote Inspiring Bloggers.
This Award is created to highlight and promote Inspiring Bloggers.

Back in June, I was very humbled to learn that my fellow blogger Julie from The Reluctant Baptist had nominated Elihu’s Corner for the Starlight Blogger Award.

The first part of the nomination is to answer three questions from the giver. So, here it goes!

What is your best quality, talent and/or genius?

This is a difficult question to answer, Julie.

I’m not sure that I have a quality, talent or genius that hasn’t been given me from the Lord. Most people tell me that I have the gift of expressing and explaining things well in writing, so I will address that one. God put some awesome people in my life who effectively trained me as a writer and a thinker.

I am very thankful to my parents for stimulating critical thinking and analysis at an early age. The Bible was not an afterthought in our home. It was discussed often.

My Father gave me the gift of writing by demonstrating the best ways to craft sentences and paragraphs when I began composing essays in elementary school.

Mr. Jones, my 8th grade science teacher taught me the importance of rooting and grounding yourself in your faith when he told the entire class that Christians are stupid. Yes, he said that, and I am thankful because it taught me the importance of knowing intimately what you believe and why. I endured his class shortly after I became a Christian. It was excellent training.

When I was a teenager, we had a home bible study teacher, Cecil MacFarland, who compelled me and my family to dig deeply into the Bible. My high school AP English teachers Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Windrem taught me how the finer points of dissecting and analyzing English literature and language. I never realized how interesting studying the book of Job could be with a bunch of high school kids… many of whom did not believe in God.

Professor William Fitzhenry from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo taught me how to analyze Shakespearean language (which is incredibly helpful for the King James Version of the Bible) and how to effectively argue through writing.

What contribution would you like to make to society?

I want to raise my children to seek the Lord with their whole heart. It sounds like a small contribution, but leaving a legacy of godliness has a huge impact on the world. Furthermore, I’d love to encourage people to be strong and courageous in the Lord. I see so many people who do not really know God and therefore they don’t stand courageously for His Word or His principles.

What is your biggest dream?

On earth? Well, my biggest earthly dream is to write a best-selling book that challenges people to stand for the Lord and not back down in the face of opposition. I want fan the fire in their hearts so that they seek the Lord with their whole heart. I want it to be as stimulating as Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was to the Thirteen Colonies.

But my biggest dream is what waits for me beyond—our heavenly home, our undiscovered country. I long to be there and can, at this time, only dream of forever dwelling in the presence of the One who has loved me from the beginning.


Now on to the second part of the Award: Nominations!

1) Rebecca Miller over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. Rebecca writes beautifully! I love the depth of her analyses and insights.

2) Edmond Sanganyado at Chronicles of a Kid Next Door has shared some lovely insights and helped us bloggers find good tools as well!

3) Phillip Long at Reading Acts does very thorough book reviews and has shared ideas about Paul that have been eye-opening for me!

4) Samaritan Song has some many thought-provoking posts about the in’s and out’s of Christian living.

5) Greta at The Beautiful Hart Project exudes joy and wonder about the life of a Christian. Her posts always bring a smile to my face.

6) Curtis Poor at Dipsao (“Dipsao” means to thirst or desire earnestly) has posted some excellent thoughts recently about Victory and Change. Both posts were beautifully done.

Award Rules:

•Nominate your 6 favorite bloggers! In your nominees I would like for you to think at the light emanating from the stars the ones that truly touch your soul with their work, the ones that are the light for you a true STARLIGHT Blogger.

•Thank the giver and link their Blog to your post.

•Answer the 3 new questions from your nominator given to you.

•Please Pass the award on to 6 or more other Bloggers of your choice and let them know that they have been nominated by you.

Include the logo of the award in a post or on your Blog, please never alter the logo. Please don’t delete this note: the design for the STARLIGHT Bloggers Award has been created from YesterdayAfter is a Copyright image you cannot alter or change it in any way just pass it to others that deserve this award. Copyright 2015 © YesterdayAfter.com – Design by Carolina Russo

My questions to the new nominees:

1) What is the prevailing message that you want to get across to your readers?

2) What is your source of inspiration?

3) What contribution do you want to make to society?

Thank you, Julie, for honoring me with this nomination. God be with you.

The Overlooked Truth About Depression and Faith.

depression post

Did I just hear that correctly?

Yes. I did.

It was the phrase, “Christians shouldn’t ever be depressed.”

Ouch.

I sat gloomily, feeling the weight of the statement and sinking deeper into the pit that was my depression.

I chewed on that statement for weeks, wondering if I wasn’t right with God. I debated in my own mind about whether my depression was sin, trying to decide if I had allowed my weakness to conquer me.

The problem of depression and the Christian is complex, and I address it in this post because I am confident there are many who have asked themselves the same question.

I have yet to find a verse in the Bible that reads, “Thou shalt not be depressed.” There is an abundance of verses that tell us to rejoice always and to count it joy when we are persecuted or fall into trial.

Then, there is the book of Psalms, the book of Lamentations, the book of Job, the book of Ecclesiastes, the verses about being grieved by various trials, the verses about weeping enduring for a night and joy coming in the morning, verses that tell us to be firm and endure, and verses about going to the Lord for refuge.

I pray that what I write here is helpful to anyone battling this problem.

Depression can be split into two categories (although they often overlap and work together): there is depression caused by physical/chemical triggers and there is depression as a state of the mind. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it’s an important distinction.

1) The physical causes of depression.

Depression is categorized as a mental illness along with PTSD, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.

Mental processes are impalpable. Because we don’t see our mind working and processing (like a computer) there is a tendency to forget that a great deal of this intangible process comes from the tangible part of our body called “the brain” and is heavily influenced by our hormones. Our brain is a functioning organ like our heart, and as such is prone to malfunction. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are dysfunctions in the brain. These diseases afflict elderly Christians. Are they no longer right with God because their brain is malfunctioning?

Over four years ago, a very dear friend of mine introduced me to the Weston A Price Foundation. Dr. Price was a dentist in the 1920s that was curious as to why so many of his patients had dental deformities. Fortunately for us, the man asked solid questions and did considerable hands-on research. He found isolated societies from different places in the world—Switzerland, Alaska, Africa, the Outer Hebrides etc.—whose inhabitants did not eat modern foods (i.e. white sugar, white flour, canned goods). Instead, they ate the foods available to them. Organ meats, fermented foods, fresh raw milk from grass-fed cows, fresh seasonal vegetables, bugs (in occasional places), fish oil, fat and grains that were sprouted or fermented. They did not suffer from tuberculosis (the disease of the day), their babies were round and happy, they had broad faces and—in spite of having no dentists—they often had perfectly straight teeth and little to no dental decay. They possessed a high level of optimism and had generally cheerful dispositions.

As soon as roads were built that connected these societies to the modern world and the displacing foods were brought into those communities, the following generation of children were born with narrower facial structure and suffered dental deformities, tuberculosis and, yes, depression.

Without getting overly technical, my understanding is that a narrower facial structure can affect the formation of the brain, which in turn affects the hypothalamus and the lymphatic system impacting hormone production and immune system function. It isn’t just a dental issue or a physical issue—it’s a mental issue.

In effect, the way our parents ate when we were in the womb, affected our development in utero; the way we ate as babies and developing children affected our facial structure, which in turn impacted our brain development. In essence, the reason depression is so much higher today than 50 or 60 years ago can be traced to poor nutrition! Check out the comparative pictures in the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A Price.

If you are suffering from clinical depression, it goes beyond a “state of mind” or “attitude.” It is highly likely that you may be dealing with a chemical or hormonal imbalance.

Consider that for a moment.

If you were to be diagnosed with cancer, would that make you less of a Christian? Would God see you as a sinner because you suffer from a physical malady not brought on by conscious choice? Again, with Alzheimers and Dementia—are they less Christian than the elderly who still have full possession of their faculties?

What did Jesus have to say about that?

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples came upon a man who had been blind from birth. The blindness didn’t come because he was playing with matches and gunpowder. His parents didn’t beat him senseless or use illicit drugs that caused blindness. The man had been born with his blindness—a physical deformity.

Jesus’ disciples asked him the age-old question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

What did Jesus answer? 

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Have you ever stopped to consider that your physical battle with depression might be an opportunity for God to be glorified?

I have read it, heard it and felt it implied that people who are depressed just need to “get over it” or “snap out of it.” For the Christian suffering from depression, being told that we should “get over it” and be paragons of joy can be even more discouraging because it amplifies existing feelings of inadequacy and weakness.

What did Paul say about his weakness? He called it his “thorn in the flesh.”

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12.7-10

Look at your depression as an opportunity for God to manifest His strength. You may not feel like you can face the day. Your present circumstance and the way you feel at this moment may be so overwhelming you can barely get out of bed each day.

Allow God to be your strength when you have none.

Allow God to give you joy when you feel none.

Allow God to lift you up when the burden feels too heavy.

Do not allow your physical struggle with depression to define you.

Allow God to transform you.

If you live your life each and every day, fighting to find something to give thanks for, actively seeking for the good that can be found, working to heal the physical problems of depression and handing over the uncontrollable and overwhelming emotions to God when they rise up, just think what a difference that can make to your approach to life. If someone discovers that you are doing all that while battling depression, just imagine what a faith-building impact that can have!

One person’s obedience + God’s power = Victory.

A caution: Depression is no joke. It takes more than simply your own strength of will to overcome. Because it is a physical issue, there are steps that must be taken to deal with it. I personally do not advocate SSRIs, but that is a decision that you should make for yourself after doing research and consulting with trustworthy health professionals. Depression can lead to suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse. Do not hesitate to seek help.

My fellow blogger, Sean Croxton at Underground Wellness did a whole series called The Depression Sessions in which he conducted interviews with a broad range of health professionals addressing the problems of SSRIs and suggesting natural approaches to depression. You can check it out here. He also has these podcasts that might be helpful:

Furthermore, some lifestyle changes may be in order. Less sugar in the diet, lower carbohydrate intake, more magnesium and an increase in Vitamin D (just to name a few) are small changes that have been shown to counter depression in a big way.

2) The “Woe-is-Me” mentality.

There is a character in the fiction of A.A. Milne (popularized by Disney) named Eeyore. Eeyore is a gloomy donkey who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh and friends. His voice always carries the “I’m down in the dumps” tone. On Eeyore’s Birthday, Pooh discovers that Eeyore is gloomier than usual, only to find out that it’s Eeyore’s birthday and nobody has remembered.

Can’t you see? Look at all the presents I have had.” He waved a foot from side to side. “Look at the birthday cake. Candles and pink sugar.”

Pooh looked–first to the right and then to the left.

“Presents?” said Pooh. “Birthday cake?” said Pooh. “Where?”

“Can’t you see them?”

“No,” said Pooh.

“Neither can I,” said Eeyore.

Pooh is moved with pity and rounds up his friends to get presents for Eeyore. It all turns out well… it is a children’s story after all. But the fact is, Eeyore is always gloomy. Things could be going great and he would still find something to mope about.

His outlook is pessimistic. Life holds little joy for him.

His gloominess is caused by the way he has his mind set.

Here is where I split the hairs.

There are definite physical and chemical causes to depression, but there is also an attitude of depression. What I mean by that is some people have trained themselves (often unwittingly) to have a depressed outlook on life. They set their mind on the negative and sad. It isn’t a difficult task considering all the suffering around us.

The clinically depressed often have greater trouble with this (this is where physical and attitude can run together) because they are already fighting the uncontrollable feelings brought on by the physical issues mentioned earlier. They have to fight harder than the average bear to set their mind firmly on good things.

This is the critical point: they must fight. Often, they need help. They have to seek counseling, naturopathy, homeopathy and/or medication in order to reach that point where they can mentally choose to stamp on those negative emotions and feelings.

For the past 20 years (maybe more), our society has slipped into this mindset: “I have this problem therefore I can’t help but be this way. It’s my parents’ fault, my hormones’ fault, and my job’s fault it’s got to be someone else’s fault. Because of all these problems, I can’t do things any differently. Just accept me the way I am because there is no way I can change.”

It’s time we stop thinking like that.

I’m not telling you simply to “get over it.” Believe me, that mindset does not help anybody. (It has certainly never done anything but make me feel worse!) What I am telling you is that you have to do something about it. Don’t wallow in it, look for a way out of it.

We’ve been watching the old A-Team show lately. Yes, it’s a hokey show, but nearly always good for a laugh. In pretty much every episode, they find themselves in some nearly impossible situation and they have to engineer their way out. B.A. (played by Mr. T) ends up doing some welding, soldering or hammering, turning old jalopies into armored vehicles and barns into booby traps and inevitably they wriggle out of their danger with their cleverly devised solution.

What most people see as junk and scrap, they see as potential tools for success.

Think of the depression mindset as your nearly impossible situation.

How can you engineer your way out? How can you look at this from a new angle?

1) For starters, who is on your side?

It’s not a trick question.

Ok, I’ll give you a hint: The One who created the brain and body of the human being.

That’s right! God.

How do you ask God to help you? By praying. Every time those feelings and thoughts rise up and threaten to immobilize you, ask God to help you overcome those feelings. Don’t let them have dominion over your mind.

2) What other tools do you have on hand?

The Sword of the Spirit aka The Word of God aka the Bible!

How often do you use that tool? If it’s just sitting in your toolbox collecting dust, it’s time to pull it out, dust it off and start using it. How are you supposed to get your mind off all the negative things in this life if you aren’t filling it with the positive?

Consider this passage in Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Hebrews 4.12-16

The Word of God can help us train our minds and hearts to discern what is rational and irrational in our thoughts and feelings. I have had days where, for no apparent circumstantial reason, I feel depressed, heavy, gloomy, and moody. I can actually recognize the irrationality of my feelings and I attack it vigorously. Again, this came with help and counseling. I tell my spouse, “I’m not feeling right, I feel heavy, I need you to bear with me and help me through it.” I pray minute by minute about it. I fight it. I dig deeply into God’s Word… especially the Psalms. It takes time to recognize the gloom for what it is, but it can be done. I also make sure I watch my food intake closely on those days, try to do some exercise if there’s time and intensely guard what I say. I am not always successful… I am human after all… but it has been an illuminating experience. I didn’t get to this point without a lot of assistance. I used counseling, acupuncture, homeopathy, dietary changes, exercise and healthy activity. It was gradual, but highly effective for me.

3) Training.

Like anything in a Christian life, godly characteristics do not come naturally. They take training and practice. Trust takes training. Patience takes training. Joy comes with time and training.

When dark, pessimistic thoughts come on, do you stew and brood about them? What does the Bible advise?

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4.8-9

You have to practice seeing the negative for what it is and then finding the positive and resting there. If you see something bad, ask yourself, how would God see this?

Take for example the Supreme Court decision that has dismayed so many of us. Many of us feel some degree of dismay, righteous anger and fear. We fear coming persecution, imprisonment, job loss and other such things.

What is a positive angle to this? How can we keep from being gloomy about the state of the Union?

  • This World is not our permanent home. We long for a heavenly country. This incident is an excellent reminder that all that we see is temporal, not permanent. Thank you Lord for stirring my desire for heaven!
  • There is an opportunity to talk to people about the Word of God. I know that most people don’t want to hear what we have to say, but we should be speaking anyway. I have been called stupid on more than one occasion, but it’s been an opportunity to stand up for the Word of God and demonstrate that a Christian can argue their faith lovingly and respectfully.

4) What other helps are available?

Other Christians who have suffered from depression may have some invaluable insights on counselors or treatments that have helped them. Counselors (especially those with a Christian mindset) can be invaluable helpers. Do not brush aside counseling. So many people feel that they are too good for it. Don’t let your pride be your downfall. Get a counselor to help you train your mind and address the physical problems with depression if they exist.

Don’t forget the websites and podcasts that I mentioned above. They could be very helpful for you. I will be attending the Weston A Price Conference in Anaheim this November and if you are interested in making dietary changes to help with depression or other illnesses, this may be the stop for you! Sally Fallon, the president, does an excellent presentation every year on the work of Dr. Price and it is illuminating!

My very dear friends, do not allow someone’s misguided or uninformed statements plunge you into a deeper depression. The Lord knows our every weakness. Sometimes our depression is purely attitude, more often than not it’s physical, and even more often, it’s a combination of the two. If you are battling depression today, please know that there is hope and there are plenty of us who want to help!

If you have overcome depression in the past or know of someone who has, please share that story to inspire hope for those who are feeling hopeless.

Coffee Chat 5 – What is your reason?

coffee chat

I love a good discussion with a friend over a steaming cup of chai, but since I can’t gather all of you at a comfortable cafe, I’ll have to be content with this little corner of the Internet.

I want to thank each and every person who has come to these coffee chats and commented. I have thoroughly enjoyed your insights and it has been truly inspiring to me! Thank you for your time.

This week, I have a question for you: Why are you a Christian?

If you had to explain this to someone who knew very little about God, the Bible or the true meaning of sin,* how would you explain this to them?

The Apostle Peter gave us this advice:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

~ 1 Peter 3.13-16

This little virtual cafe is a great place to practice answering those who do not believe, because that number is growing exponentially. We need to be ready.

*Note: Most people know that there is right and wrong, but their concept is skewed by their societal and cultural surroundings. Many Americans think that sin is some “Christian” thing and so they often dismiss it as irrelevant. I would love to see if you can explain the reason of your hope by talking about sin without using the actual word. If not, that’s ok!

Please leave a comment below while you sip on your favorite cup of tea or coffee!

10 things to pray for your local church – The Effective Prayer 7.7.15

This post is part of the weekly series on effective prayer.

pray2

I find the book of Revelation to be one that I studiously avoid, mainly because I struggle to understand the bulk of the details. I only study it when challenged to do so. Even then, I always get a little knot in my stomach if I don’t know where the teacher stands on the overall message of the book. I have been blessed to have two excellent teachers on Revelation, and it is thanks to those two men that I at least have a grasp on the overarching theme of the book. (Thank you Brent & Cecil!)

I bring up Revelation, because at the very beginning (chapters 2 and 3) messages are given to the seven churches of Asia that are relevant for the Lord’s people today.

5 out of 7 churches had issues. They were commanded to make things right. The two strong churches were warned of coming trouble and the need to stand firm:

  • Ephesus—left its first love
  • Smyrna—Was to be tested.
  • Pergamum—held to the attitudes/practices of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.
  • Thyatira—tolerated immorality and and fail to put a stop false teaching, allowing some to stray from the faith.
  • Sardis—the dead church.
  • Philadelphia—needed to hold fast.
  • Laodicea—not cold or hot, but lukewarm… ready to be spit out.

While it is true that each individual must give an account to God for their deeds, that same individual needs to help their local church in whatever way they can. The church as a collective group has great sway on individual souls. If a church is going the wrong way, it can destroy even the strongest Christians if they are swayed by it. That is why it is so critical to maintain purity, truth and love within our congregations.

Anytime a group of people come together as a group, a clash of personality and purpose is bound to ensue at some point, even among Christians. There is a vast range of knowledge, backgrounds and issues that all meet up in one place. There are people seeking power, people seeking to protect, people afraid to speak out and people who just don’t know what to do.

The church is made up of people, and people are not perfect.

As a part of a local church, each of us has a job to do. It does not matter if we hold a leadership role or are just a young teenager.

First and foremost, we need to keep evaluating ourselves to make sure we are following the Word and will of God. Second, we need to find ways to serve and love each other. There are always going to be personalities that are difficult to love, but part of loving God is loving our brethren unconditionally. Finally, we need to pray for our local church. Constantly.


For the next seven days (and hopefully beyond) pray the following for your local church:

  1. Pray for the church to hold tightly to its first love. The Church is the bride of Christ. It’s first love should be Jesus. If your local congregation has lost that love, it needs to be rekindled.
  2. Pray for those who lead to be diligent and vigilant. Leaders are supposed to be sheepdogs. Even when sheepdogs are resting, their senses are on high-alert, ready to spring into action at the slightest smell of danger. Pray for leaders to lead according to the Word of God and to confront any who would try to attack the church.
  3. Pray for the church to stand strong when troubles come. Troubles come in many guises. Sometimes it’s external persecution, sometimes it’s internal strife. At other times, it’s a slow and steady straying from the truth. Pray that no matter what troubles come, the church will band together and cling to God.
  4. Pray for conviction in the church. Moral relativism in society has crept into the church and now shouts down truth as being disgusting. People who are convicted and passionate are often viewed as judgmental (admittedly, there are times when this view is justified because of the attitude of the individual). What ends up happening is we stop confronting sin when it crashes into our midst for fear of what people will think of us. We let this or that slide hoping that it’ll all blow over… but it never does. Apathy is a church killer. We need to be passionate for purity. If you perceive that the leaders in your congregation are failing to act, approach them with humility and love. They may be acting on it without your knowledge. Maybe they are not aware of the problem. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”  We need convicted Christians to function as a convicted church.
  5. Pray for the truth to be taught. False teaching can sink a church. They may have the name over the door, but the people inside don’t belong to Christ—they belong to themselves. If truth is taught with love and consistency, the church will grow.
  6. Pray for the church to be alive in Christ. Dead churches. It sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? Quiet, reverent worship does not equal a dead church; loud and joyous worship does not equate to a live church. A dead church is one that has stopped serving God. They may serve others, but teach things contrary to God’s Word. They may teach truth but fail to show love and compassion. To be a live church, we have to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. The two go hand in hand.
  7. Pray for the church to be hot. When I think of heat, I think excitement, energy and enthusiasm. When I think cold, I think bundled up, isolated and dispassionate. Excitement is not necessarily a Tigger-like enthusiasm. Some of the most dedicated Christians I’ve known were quiet, meek and outwardly unremarkable, but they lived every day of their lives for Christ. They were like a blue flame—extremely hot and very controlled. (Blue flames burn at a hotter temperature than orange flames.)
  8. Pray for people to learn to work together in love. People outside the church always like to point to our bickering as a reason to stay out of the church. I can see their point, and yet conflict is part of togetherness. In marriage, if one spouse isn’t behaving properly (i.e. alcohol/drug abuse, disrespect, gambling, avoiding the family), it is a good spouse that lovingly addresses the problem for the good of their marriage. The church is the same way. Love is NOT the absence of conflict. Love is seeking the best for the one loved, bearing up under foibles and communicating respectfully.
  9. Pray for immorality to be stopped and corrected.
  10. Pray for the growth of the church. We need to keep bringing people to Christ! Our congregation just started working to train members to more effectively share the gospel with others and I think it’s a great endeavor. We need to seek the lost until we take our last breath. We also need to deepen our collective commitment to Christ through knowledge of the Word and strengthening our love for each other.

Let’s pray for our congregations to great effect this week!

Coffee Chat 4 – A Dry and Weary Land

coffee chat

I love a good discussion with a friend over a steaming cup of chai, but since I can’t gather all of you at a comfortable cafe, I’ll have to be content with this little corner of the Internet.

I want to thank each and every person who has come to these coffee chats and commented. I have thoroughly enjoyed your insights and it has been truly inspiring to me! Thank you for your time.

This week, I want to talk about spiritual deserts.

As you probably already know from reading these posts, I literally live in the desert. If you’re wondering, it does NOT rank on my top 10 or even top 100 favorite spots.

I have learned to appreciate the subtle things—I like the warm summer evenings, the spring wildflowers, the gorgeous sunsets over the mountains, the relatively low population and the tight-knit community—but I just don’t love the desert. It’s desolate, dry and hot. Since it’s the high desert, the winters can be quite cold too. We have a cold and dry winter, a week or two of spring (with roof-ripping winds), a LONG HOT summer (sometimes lasting from April to November), a week or two of fall and then winter again.

It’s a dry and weary place.

When I first moved here, I was very unhappy. I was trying desperately hard to be positive, but I had given up a lot with this move and I wasn’t confident that I would ever get back what I had lost. One morning, under the gloom of these thoughts, I opened my daily bible and began reading the scripture for the day. A few verses into the reading, I started to laugh out loud.

The passage for that day was in Deuteronomy 8:

Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.

Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.

~ Deuteronomy 8.1-5, NIV

God has a good sense of humor.

I read that verse again: “He brought you to the wilderness to humble you.”

Haha!

I know this passage was addressed to the Israelites and the context was for them, but the parallel was truly hilarious. I was in the wilderness, and just one look at my surroundings was enough to remind me that I was being humbled. The things in the Old Testament were written for our learning so that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we might have hope. The lessons to be learned from this passage and the Israelite’s experience were vast.

I had no idea at that particular moment that I had landed, not just in a physical wilderness, but a spiritual one as well. It took me 6 years to come to grips with the fact I could not depend so heavily on others to provide my spiritual nourishment. I spent a lot of time complaining about the way things were—the lack of songs I liked, the heat in the church building, the general apathy about important things. It took me awhile before I realized that I was behaving just like those Israelites in the wilderness.

I learned two important lessons:

Just as the Israelites gathered manna daily, I learned that my spiritual survival depends on going daily to get my fill of God’s Word.

I learned the value of contentment. I have to give thanks in all circumstances, no matter how rotten they are. The Israelites never really learned that lesson, and they paid dearly for their ingratitude.

I am still learning. Lord willing, I hope to keep learning more and getting to know Him better until I draw my last breath on this earth. Once that happens, I will get to see Him face to face. I have not yet mastered the above skills, but the realization has brought motivation. I am motivated now, more than ever before, to holding on to God’s Word with both hands. I know for a fact that without His Word to nourish me, I would starve to death.

For this coffee chat, I would like to hear about your spiritual wilderness.

Whether you are walking through it now or have walked through one, I’d like to know what you have learned or are currently learning because of it.

What did the experience teach you about God?

Did it help you to know Him better?

Did it teach you greater reliance on Him?

Please leave a comment below while you sip on your favorite cup of tea or coffee!