Why Study the Bible?

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Last week, I shared with you why I ditched my Bible reading plan, and relayed my current plan for trekking through the book of Romans.

In the past week and a half, I have read through Romans three times. I’ve read and reread various chapters, trying to grasp the bigger picture of the letter. I thought, perhaps, that if I focused solely on Romans, I would draw more from the text.

Sadly, I STILL found myself continuing to tune out, fighting to keep my mind on the task at hand.

Continue reading

Why I Ditched My Bible Reading Plan

A photo by Ben White. unsplash.com/photos/BtNxJsFOjtQ

 

Three days ago, I ditched my daily bible reading plan. Not the habit, mind you, just my appointed plan… We had a “falling out” of sorts. Continue reading

Never go into a fight without these 5 things… (Day 21 of the #encourage marathon)

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In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…

~ Ephesians‬ ‭6:16-18‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Welcome to mile-marker 21 of our #encourage marathon! If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.

Someone out there is defenseless. It might even be you.

Do you ever yell at people in movies, even if it’s just in your head? “Don’t leave your weapon on the ground!” Or “What are you thinking going into that place alone? You need backup!” It’s almost like the person in the movie has lost common sense. Anybody with two eyes can spot the danger. These scenes are suspense winders, designed to heighten your sense of anticipation so that you will jump at the right moment.

(Honestly though, why would you drop your weapon when you know that the likelihood of attack is high?)

As Christians, we have 5 things we absolutely need to use everyday. Unfortunately, there are times we cast one aside or simply forget them—to our peril. Continue reading

What would you do without your Bible? (day 17 of the #encourage marathon)

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For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

~ Romans 15.4, ESV

Welcome to mile-marker 17 of our #encourage marathon. (If you missed yesterday’s post, you can read it here.)

Someone out there has a starving soul. It might even be you.

What is your reaction when you misplace your cell phone? What do you do when you leave home without it? Do you feel a spike in your stress level?

Why?

Because we use our phones for everything. It’s a source for music, books, news, communication, information, weather, and navigation. We can get help instantly in an emergency (as long as we have a signal). We can even monitor our home security systems. It’s become a valuable tool and a lot of people would feel lost without it… unfortunately.

Now, what would happen if your only bible went missing? Continue reading

3 Words You Need Every Single Day

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Every single day we face some form of testing. Every day we are beset with a trial of some kind. Every day God is watching to see what we will do with the time we are given.

A couple days ago, I listened to a successful woman talk about how she built her business out of the trunk of her car while she was homeless. Today, she earns six to seven figures every year. While I didn’t agree with everything she said, there was one thing that was spot on—stop making excuses! People have been making excuses or blame-shifting since the beginning of time.

Here are a few examples of excuse-makers from the Bible:

Adam and Eve.

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3.12-13)

Moses. 

“They will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.”

“Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” (Exodus 4.1-17)

Jesus.

Hang on! Jesus didn’t make excuses!

Exactly. 

Even though He had plenty of times when He could have chosen to disobey or do something different, He did what He was supposed to do and never had to make excuses.

When Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness in Matthew 4, he was hungry. He’d fasted for 40 days in the middle of the desert. There was no Starbucks nearby, no McDonalds, and no market. When Satan tempts Jesus, He doesn’t start with the “worship Satan” bit; Satan strikes at Jesus’ immediate physical need. He attacks Him where He thinks He’ll be most vulnerable: “Command these stones to be turned into bread.”

After 40 days without a morsel of food, heaven-made bread sounds mighty tempting. Could Jesus have done it? Yes! Would this have please God? No! Did he have a good excuse to turn stones into bread? Well, surely if he was hungry… at least, that’s what we would think.

Jesus refused to make excuses. He obeyed God without wavering. 3 times Satan tempted Him and He didn’t budge. He wasn’t going to slip and then make some lame excuse to His Father.

How did Jesus resist temptation? You might say, “Well, He was the son of God, wasn’t He? He couldn’t be tempted at all.” He was the Son of God, but He was also in bodily form. He still hungered. He still thirsted. He was still subject to the same emotional and physical discomforts and yes, temptations. In spite of all these things, He resisted temptation with three words.

Are you ready to learn the 3 words that need to fill your mind, heart, soul and lips?

When you face trouble of any kind, say these three words in your mind:

IT IS WRITTEN

If you are tempted, say to yourself, “It is written” and then recall to your mind what God has said on the subject.

If you are tempted to stare overlong at that attractive-looking woman, the first three words to pop in your head should be: “It is written,” If you start looking at your friends and all their neat-o stuff and start wanting it for yourself, the first three words to pop into your head should be: “It is written.” If you find yourself burning with anger against a friend who has wronged you, don’t justify or excuse your feelings, say aloud or in your mind, “It is written.”

“Hang on, Elihu—you didn’t fill in the rest! I can’t walk around saying, ‘It is written’ because I don’t know what to fill in the blank!”

That sounds an awful lot like an excuse to me.

Why don’t you know what to fill in the blank? Because those 3 words aren’t driving you! You cannot bring every thought into captivity, you cannot fight temptation and you will not stand in time of testing if those 3 words don’t motivate you.

In Hosea 4, God says this through the prophet:

Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel,
for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land;
There is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
They break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish…
Yet let no one contend,and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest…

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,I also will forget your children.

Hosea 4.1-6, ESV (click the link for the full context)

We, like the Israelites will be undone if we do not commit God’s Word to our heart every single day for the rest of our lives. We always think we have more time than we really do. I hear about people dying every day. Pixels and ink bring us the last vestiges of people who died in sudden crashes, earthquakes, cancer, heart attacks—all of whom thought they had more time.

We only have today. What are you going to do with your time?

It is written: 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5.15-17, ESV

and

 

Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.

Psalm 119.11, NASB

 

When you hear yourself make excuses about not having time to read, stop yourself mid-sentence, grab your Bible or your iPad or your iPhone and start reading. You don’t even need an app, just go to BibleGateway.com. It is urgent! The time to commit the Word to your heart is today, before the next temptation comes your way! Yes, we are covered by grace! Yes, things happen! But those should not be excuses for neglecting the most powerful tool in our arsenal against Satan.

Would you go to battle with no weapon?

What would Jesus do if He was living in your life, walking in your shoes? He’d make knowing God and meditating on His Word priority one. He’d meet temptation with the Word, ready to say, “I won’t do that because it is Written…” Jesus would pray for wisdom. He’d prepare to wage war against the devils schemes.

 

Today, as you prepare to face whatever challenges lay before you, repeat these three words, “It is written.” Take time on your drive to work or while you’re eating breakfast with your children to start putting the words of God into your mind so you will be ready when the time of testing begins.

Day 29: The Bible

This post is part of “30 days of Giving Thanks” To read more within this series, click here.

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We are nearing the end of this series! As I indicated in my post about light, these last few posts are focusing on the greatest lights of all. I’ve talked about love and hope. Today, we are going to talk about the Bible.

There’s a new trend among Christians to say that the New Testament is not the inspired Word of God, but consider: the Apostles were handpicked by Christ, witnessed His death, burial and resurrection and possessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit led them as the toiled to bring people the gospel. God has always preserved His message for generations yet unborn. The Bible is His preserved message for us, and I am thankful that I have ready access to it. There are more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient historical document. God protected His message and I trust that He would not leave us in the lurch.

The light of truth

The Bible—all 66 books—brings us the light of God’s truth. Sometimes I wish that God’s expectations were laid out for us in a neat little list, but then we would seek to justify ourselves instead of depending on God’s grace. It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search it out. God wants us to dig through His Word and learn step by step, day by day, what He wants for us. It’s a life-long endeavor, but those who seek, find.

Truth is not relative. There is one truth: God’s.

Knowledge of God

Why do we study the Word? Our primary purpose should be to know the Lord. Every book teaches us about Him—His faithfulness, His steadfast love, His justice and His mercy. We see His hand working with the proud and the lowly. Nobody can thwart His plans. We learn that we can truly trust the Lord in all circumstances.

Life-saving instruction

In the Bible we see God has had a plan for us from the beginning of time. We see how salvation is to be received. We learn how to obey God the way He wants us to obey. We just need to have open eyes and a heart set on seeking His will and not our own.

I am thankful that God has preserved His Word for me and for the rest of the world. I am thankful for this beacon of truth that hasn’t been destroyed.

 

Have you read the most influential bestseller in history?

20150807_005I remember the day they released the novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I sped home from work with the afternoon commuters, ate a hurried dinner and headed over to Costco to pick up my copy. I didn’t do the midnight event at Barnes & Noble or Borders (I’m not that die-hard), but I had been counting the days nonetheless!

In the weeks leading up to it’s release, somebody (probably Rowling’s P.R. team) “leaked” the following teaser:

One major character will die. (cue the sinister music!)

This one-liner stoked the excitement of fans everywhere.

Stephen King publicly appealed to J.K. Rowling to spare Harry (the protagonist) from death. I knew, as well as he did, that Rowling was not one to shy away from tragedy.

Filled with anticipation, I raced home, found a comfortable spot, briefly savored the new-book smell, gently opened the cover and began to read.

I kept saying I’d put it down at 1 a.m….

…well, ok, maybe at 2 a.m….

…had to finish that chapter…

…maybe 3 a.m…

As the soft light of dawn crept through the window, I gently closed the book, replete with satisfaction. I finally knew the ending… what a luxurious moment.

My best friend awoke, came out to the living room and laughed at me, utterly dumbfounded by my quick read and thoroughly amused that I had lost a full night’s sleep to finish a book.

Have you ever had a similar experience with a novel?

Well, get ready, because I have an embarrassing confession to make:

I have not always possessed the same all-consuming appetite for God’s Word.

I am extremely shamed by the admission, but I would be a liar if I said otherwise. When I get my hands on a great novel, I can’t put it down unless there is a compelling demand, but with the Word of God, there are times I just can’t seem to get into it.

Anybody else have that problem?

Reading God’s Word, like so many worthwhile tasks, is not always easy. It takes concerted effort to understand many of the passages therein and, as such, is difficult to digest. When we are tired, foggy-headed or distracted, it’s all too easy to give up time with the Word for things that are less taxing on the brain. Things that are thoroughly entertaining, but not life-changing.

What are some reasons we fail to read the number one most influential bestseller (not to mention the Word of our all-powerful God) daily?

1) It’s not our top priority.

My second job out of college was a Customer Service Support position with a mid-size corporation in El Dorado Hills. I reported directly to a Sales Director and provided support to business clients nationwide.

Shortly after my employment began, my boss enrolled me in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People training course offered on our corporate campus. Since my load of clients at that point was still minimal, the all-day training wouldn’t greatly interfere with my work. I was acquainted with the book of the same title, yet I was in for a real surprise. I discovered that many of the principles of the class were aligned with Biblical truths.

The third habit, “Put first things first,” included a video of Stephen Covey demonstrating how priorities work. A woman walked nervously onstage and was provided with sand, pebbles, stones and one large rock which she had to fit inside a glass jar. She tried putting sand, pebbles and stones in first, with the result that the large rock jutted grossly out of the mouth of the jar. Covey then advised the embarrassed woman to try again, only this time, he asked her to first insert the large rock, followed by the stones, then the pebbles, and lastly the sand. As the grains of sand poured into the jar, all the glittering specks rolled easily into the nooks and crannies between the large rocks. The jar was full, with no substance jutting from the top. Everything fit because the larger materials were handled first.

Our priorities are like those rocks. We have to start with the most important first (i.e. your large “rocks”) and let all the little stuff pour into the crevices afterwards.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus told the crowd:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 7.25-33

Focus on that last sentence: Seek first the kingdom of God.

How do we seek the kingdom of God? How can we know what God requires?

Begin with the source.

Devotionals, sermons, songs and blogs are helpful and they stimulate the mind, but they aren’t the source. If we truly desire to know God—how He interacts with people, what His purpose is for us, His personality, His character—we need to read the Word that He supplied. It’s too easy to be deceived by false teaching when we aren’t reading the text personally.

Make reading His Word a top priority. Think of it as a large rock that you have to squeeze into that tiny jar of time. If you have time to eat, check your phone or watch a show, you can make time for the Word.

Recently, I have made every effort to read the Bible before I leave my room in the morning. Sometimes, I listen to an audio version while I get ready for the day. With three little ones, it’s easy to get sidetracked, so it is preferable to do this task before they wake up.

So, put first things first and get into the Word of God. It should be our top priority.

2) It’s too difficult to understand.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.

Proverbs 25.2

Truly understanding the Bible takes a lifetime. Even after a lifetime of study, many mysteries will remain unsolved until we meet our Maker face to face. The Bible is not a single book, it is a collection of books. Connecting the dots is much more difficult to do.

When I was 12, my dear friend Cecil McFarland (who was significantly older than my parents) was teaching our home study when he made the statement, “I’m still learning new things from the scripture.” When you are 12, everybody older than 30 is old; everyone over 60 is ancient. At that time, I assumed that elderly Christians knew just about everything; and Cecil was wise. Even now, after all the experience I have gleaned, I still consider him one of the wisest Christians I’ve had the privilege to know.

So, imagine my shock as my 12-year-old self took in his words, uttered in quiet humility. After all his years of study (more years than I had been alive), he was still discovering.

I pray that I have the same humility of spirit that allows me to learn more and more about God as I age.

Since the Bible is challenging to understand, let me make a couple suggestions, particularly to those who are new in the faith:

1) Get a version that is easy to read like the New American Standard Version or the English Standard Bible. Steer clear of the RSV (Revised Standard Version) and if you do decide on the NIV (New International Version), read it with another version nearby.

2) Start simple. Do not begin daily reading with the prophets or Revelation. Start with one of the following:

  • The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
  • Genesis through Ecclesiastes
  • Read a chapter of Proverbs every day for 31 days (there are 31 chapters—one for every day of the month!)
  • Read the Psalms
  • Use a daily bible program.

Note: I said to start there, but don’t ignore the rest! Once you get a feel for the easier-to-read books, move on to the harder ones. Get into a class with a solid teacher who has a firm grasp on prophetic language.

At 19, I had a one-time study with a young man in the book of Acts. Based on his love for God, his kind, charitable nature, and the fact that he always had a bible with him, I assumed he knew the Word pretty well. So, in our study, I said, “You know about the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, right?”

He looked at me blankly, shook his head and smiled sheepishly.

“Well, are you familiar with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8?”

Again, he shook his head.

I was utterly perplexed. These were accounts I had learned since childhood. I thought all Christians were familiar with them.

I had assumed too much.

I was embarrassed, because I had unwittingly made him feel foolish, and I hadn’t intended to do that. I have no way of knowing, but I have often wondered if he thought me arrogant. That whole scenario still makes me cringe!

The problem wasn’t that he was failing to read daily. The problem was that he only read his favorite sections. He felt that the rest was too hard for him to understand. In our class, we read those passages I mentioned and more. I was determined that he should read the Bible’s account and not my synopses.

(I realize that my approach was not the best one, but hey, cut me some slack… I was only 19 and not experienced nor trained in teaching people.)

My friends, I cannot say it enough: open up God’s Word and read, read, read.

Read and do not be afraid to ask questions.

Ask heaps of questions and read it again!

Be curious!

Think critically!

If something in the Word of God doesn’t jive with what you espouse or what your preacher is teaching, question it! Be a critical thinker! I am amazed at how many Christians blindly follow charismatic preachers and teachers, never realizing the rank contradictory teachings to God’s Word.

One more thing: Have you ever noticed that when someone challenges your beliefs, your faith grows?

Why?

Because you have to dig into the Word to mount your case. Once you do that, you have to be able to formulate your answer in your own words.

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Now, I know some things are beyond a six-year-old’s experience, but you should be able to articulate the basics…

To understand the Word of God takes seeking. Seeking takes effort. Effort takes time. Time is in short supply, so use it wisely.

3) We already know the plot.

“I know all the stories.”

“God created the world, people sinned, it got bad, there was a flood, Abraham had a son and the Jewish people began. That Moses guy sent some plagues, the Israelites left Egypt. They went to the promised land, did some stupid things and had some ups and downs. Somewhere in there (before Jesus came) there were some people named Daniel and Jonah and Esther. Then Jesus came to earth, died on a cross, rose from the dead and His followers spread the gospel.”

Does that sum up the Bible?

I’d say that it’s a start, but so much pertinent information is excluded from that summary. It isn’t even good for Cliff’s Notes!

My best friend is not quite the bookworm that I am. When go to a movie adaptation based on a book, I’m always filling him in on the “whys” if the screenwriter has failed to make good connections. My friend may know the plot, but the depth and emotion of the book is lost.

Have you seen the movie Unbroken?

I read the book long before the movie came out and I can tell you why the movie fell flat—it lacked substance.

A quick synopsis: A young soldier and olympic athlete is lost at sea when his plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean during the hostilities of World War II. He survives in a life raft for over a month with his best friend only to be captured by the Japanese military. He’s placed into a prisoner of War camp where he spends the remainder of the War. He is later released and succumbs to drinking and PTSD. When he is close to falling apart, he remembers the promise that he had made to God that if God saved his life, he would serve him until he died. He turns his life around and goes on to help hundreds of troubled youths and save his marriage.

First of all, the movie ended when Zamperini arrived home. It left out the most compelling and redeeming part of the book!

The movie failed to capture the interminable length of Zamperini’s time lost at sea, his inhumane imprisonment with the Japanese, the severity of his torture, the self-destructing lifestyle he succumbed to after the War, his remembrance of promises he had made to God, his subsequent redemption, and the lengths to which he went to meet with his torturers to express forgiveness.

It’s not an easy book to read, but it was one of the most inspiring non-fiction books (other than the Bible) that I’ve read in years. The movie just didn’t cut it. My friend knew the plot, but the movie just didn’t do anything for him. It did not inspire. So he survived. Big deal. I could survive a couple hours of torture, couldn’t you?

How about weeks? Months? Years?

Could you handle PTSD? What if your life began to fall apart and you felt helpless to put it back together?

The basic thread of plot wasn’t compelling. The details, the unremitting suffering is what made the redemptive portion inspiring. Leave that out and it’s just another story.

The crux is this: Don’t allow your basic Bible plot knowledge trick you into thinking you know it all. If you read the Bible with the purpose of knowing the Lord, it will be an inspiring read.

The Bible is often considered one book, but it is actually a collection of 66 books. Those 66 books were hand-written by many different people and cover thousands of years worth of history.

Those 66 books are the key to better things.

Those 66 books outline the plan of God.

Within those 66 books is the meaning of life.

Within those 66 books lies the ultimate way, the ultimate truth and the ultimate life.

Open the number one bestselling book of collected works in history and discover what you’ve been missing.

Don’t wait until tomorrow. Make time today, while you still have breath and access to a Bible.

Special thanks to Albert Krabbe of Studio Twenty Photography for the awesome photograph. Visit studiotwenty.net to view their excellent portfolio!

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!

Coffee chat 1 – Daily Bible Reading

coffee chat

I love a good discussion with a friend over a steaming cup of chai…

Unfortunately, I can’t gather all of you at a comfortable cafe, so, I’ll have to be content with this little corner of the Internet.

For this first symposia, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you incorporate Bible reading into your daily life. (I’ve also posed this question on our Facebook page.)

Life gets busy. Schedules change. Accidents happen. The alarm doesn’t ring. Dogs destroy furniture. Kids color on the wood floors in permanent marker… (not that it has ever happened to me…)

All too often, the immediate supplants the important.

How do you discipline yourself to get time with God’s Word?

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

Building Trust Through Renewal

dwell

Over the past few days, I have been writing about how to build trust in the Lord.

We need to READ the Word of God daily.

We need to PRAY to God… daily.

The next step in this process is renewal.

In the previous post on building trust through prayer, I referenced Philippians 4:6-7:

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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Until recently, I never really picked up on the significance of the verses that immediately follow:

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

Paul just finished saying, don’t be anxious—pray! Then he completes the thought by saying, in essence, once you’ve prayed, fill your mind with somethin else besides worry!

Imagine for a moment that your mind and heart are like a pitcher full of liquid. That liquid is a mixture of all your worry, anxiety, sorrow, doubt and fear. If you pour that pitcher out before God so that He can take care of it (through prayer), you are left with an empty pitcher. That pitcher is going to fill up with something, even if it’s just hot air.

You need to fill it with something other than the toxic soup that was there before.

Make it a point to fill that pitcher with God’s Word. Dwell on the Word, fix your mind on something good. Find the positive within the negative. Fill your mind with truth, honor, excellence, purity, and loveliness. Find something to give thanks for. If worries start seeping back into the pitcher, pour it out again and refill it with God’s Word. Remember, worry does not stem from trust in the Lord, it stems from trust in the world. Build trust by severing ties with your fears.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

Renew your mind and crowd out the negatives.

Renew your mind and develop trust in God.