Thursday, December 18, 2008

Some thoughts from Daniel Taylor

I have been reading a book by Daniel Taylor called Tell Me A Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories. It has been very "eye opening".

He wrote a couple of paragraphs that have made me think a ton and helped me immensely. Here they are:

Since its inception, psychotherapy has overwhelmingly focused on what is wrong with our stories rather than what is right with them. It has replaced the puritanical nose for sin with the psychiatric nose for abuse and discord.

Everyone looking back on the beginnings of his or her story is expected to find pain, distortion, and abuse or be accused of repression or dishonesty. As old-time religion encouraged us to ferret out sin everywhere, so we could confess and be absolved of it, so modern social science encourages us everywhere to find oppression, deformity, perversion, and misused power. This narrowness encourages us to undermine our own beginnings and to see ourselves as helpless victims with damaged personalities rather than as active characters with the power to shape our own plots.

I could create a story of my own childhood that focuses on trouble and pain. The many individual details would be true but the story would be a lie...

The point is not to tell only Pollyanna tales about one's beginnings. It is to see tales of pain in the context of a larger whole. We should marvel as much that pain coexists with and even stimulates good as we lament pain's destructive consequences. WE OUGHT NOT TO ALLOW OUR CURRENT OBSESSION WITH FINDING SOMETHING TO BLAME FOR OUR DISCONTENT BLIND US TO THE LIFE-ENHANCING POSSIBILITIES THAT FLICKER IN EVEN THE DARKEST STORIES.

I have not heard such a balanced view of personal story, not being defined by tragedies, and also to not have an "everything is great all the time" mentality, before in my life.

What do you think about his comments.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hajj: One of the "Pillars of Islam"

Hey Everyone,

Muslims have 5 "Pillars". One of the pillars is going on the hajj. This is a journey to Mecca, and some surrounding areas, that each able bodied Muslim is required to take in their life. Here is a link to a virtual hajj. It gives a great and concise rundown of each step that must be taken.

Although I am not a Muslim, I believe it is important to understand the beliefs of others and take them seriously. If we think about it logically (and I believe from a biblical view), if someone does not agree with what we believe, it should not cause us to be intimidated, but should propel us towards conversations with those whom we do not agree. After all, if what we are saying is right, we have nothing to be fearful about. Also, if someone is not thinking properly, this should cause us to have a burden, not a spirit of ostracizing.

I am an evangelical Christian (just to clarify for those who do not know me). I want to say this because I believe the model given in Scripture is to lovingly engage unbelievers (one example would be Paul in Acts 17), instead of the opposite. I pray that we will be people who, with a bold gentleness, testify to the Gospel of Jesus. I also pray we will be people who, with great compassion, give a fair hearing to people who do not believe the same way. This should not produce a "spirit of compromise", but should empower us to study Scripture (and the way other people think) with fresh vigor. I have found that the more I talk with unbelievers, the more I realize the need for each of us (Christians) to be astute theologians. After all, we are all theologians, it is a matter of being a good or bad one.

Any Thoughts?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Random thoughts on Boredom

I was driving today with Amber and Justus. We were coming home from getting some lunch and I started to think about boredom, after a car almost pulled out in front of us. I will let you in the “madness called my mind” ☺ by giving you the thoughts on how I got to thinking about boredom.

As the car almost pulled out I had a thought that many of us have fairly often. “What if I would have died in a head on accident from this incident? Did I really think this was a routine drive?" Is there a such thing as 'just a routine drive'?" For some reason I started to think about how easy it is to profess boredom. The perceived monotony of the day can breed desperation from thinking that we are insignificant, that God has forsaken us, or maybe He never “took us in” in the first place, etc.

I thought of monotony and boredom because we were doing what seems to be a very routine thing of driving a car. What came to my mind as I thought about boredom has been encouraging and is also allowing me to do some evaluations in my life.

First of all, boredom comes from the sin of entitlement. We believe that we not only deserve the day which the Lord has given (i.e. given means a gift), but we also have taken His gift for granted. I know this might not sound to hope filled, but if we view rebuke through the lens of a gracious God calling us to change so that our joy is increased in Him, we will find great hope!

Next, we have not understood the uniqueness of history if we are "bored". We have a linear history, which means that we have a beginning and an end. Therefore, if each moment in history is infinitely unique, monotony is a fallacy. Therefore, boredom should be a fallacy also. Each moment is unique, yet as Christians, He has entrusted us with an unchanging message. This mentality will allow us to see that if He never changes, yet places us in an infinitely unique time in history, the attacks of boredom and monotony should be exploded. He has called us to proclaim and live out a message that never changes to an ever changing audience. Therefore, each interaction with people is always truly unique.

Finally, God is really inviting us to always be conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus. This does not leave room (thankfully!) for boredom. He is always graciously teaching us, encouraging us, rebuking us, and loving us. If the righteousness of Jesus has been counted as our righteousness (speaking of Christians), it would only follow that the loving pursuit of the Father would be to let us know (by any means necessary) of the perfect righteousness that He has counted as ours through the cross of Christ.

I know these may sound like fairly random thoughts, but I wanted to share some of the things I have been thinking through in the last couple of hours. Be encouraged that monotony is a fallacy. Be encouraged in His love for you.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Some new Titus goodness

I have a couple of funny and cool stories from Titus.

Story 1

Titus has been sick (on and off again) for the past couple of weeks. When he got back from Houston this past weekend, his sickness started. He was complaining of a bad headache and some dizzyness. Amber did what any sane mother would and tried to give him some medicine. He eventually took it, but let Amber know the following:

"Mommy, I don't need that. Jesus will heal me! He can heal anything!"

This morning we were in the shower and he told me again, "Daddy, Do you know that Jesus can heal ANYTHING?!" I told him that I did and wanted him to really believe what he said. He smiled.

Story 2

Titus and I were out on a hike yesterday before he complained of his sickness. As we were passing through some flowers he asked if he could stop and smell them. I told him that he could and this is the conversation that followed:

Titus: MMM! This flower smells good. It smells like a clean heart!

Me: A clean heart? Why do you think a clean heart smells good?

Titus: Well, God likes clean hearts and so they will smell good, but God doesn't like dirty hearts because they smell like a pit!

Me: Where did you learn all of this? (expecting to hear Sunday School, the house, etc.)

Titus: I just made it up.


I have been loving how God has used Titus to teach me so many things about life. Some of the greatest advice I ever learned about parenting came from an incredible guy who is an oil field worker. I asked him what he would do differently in raising his kids. He said, "I would take them fishing more. I was their baseball coach for years (and I had a lot of fun), but we did not have enough time to talk. When you go fishing, it is just you and your son. You have time to talk."

Although I am not a big fisherman, I do love to hike. Whenever Titus wants to fish more, we will go, but for now hiking has been a great way to have great conversations. If you have any "hiking places" (i.e. places that you go in order to have good conversations), let me know.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Talk about funny...(Titus pt. 5)

Amber just got done telling me that Titus and her were in the car and talking about something (she couldn't remember the content). After she was talking with Titus he said the following:

"We need to turn from our ways and repent in sackcloth and ashes!"

I am guessing he heard this in one of his Bible videos, but it cracked me up.

I have been away all week doing fundraising in Midland, TX. I am pumped to go pick him up in a few minutes from preschool. I have missed him a ton!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Titus (Pt. 4)

I want to take time and share the blessing we pray over Titus every night. When Titus was 2, Amber had him paint on a canvas (what a cool mom!) and then she wrote the words of the blessing that we have said over him every night. My prayer is that he will live out this blessing. Titus is now at an age where I say the first word of each phrase and he finishes saying it. I will "let you in" on how this happens every night.

Me: May

Titus: the Lord deal bountifully with you all the days of your life.

Me: May

Titus: you always trust in the loving-kindness of the Lord.

Me: In

Titus: the days of sorrow and darkness

Me: May

Titus: you rejoice in the Lord of your salvation

Me: And

Titus: sing to Him now and forever. Amen!

I pray this will not only be a prayer of a 4 year old, but also that God would encourage you in His faithfulness, no matter what the circumstance.

Insights?

Love Truth
Vernon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Titus (Pt. 3)

Over the last couple of weeks we have been traveling. On the way back home from Missouri, Titus asked Amber a great question. He wanted to know what "hate" meant. Amber answered his question and this is the dialogue that followed...

Amber: We should not hate people, but one thing we should definitely hate is sin.

Titus: Yea. Sin is like a bug in my heart that flies around. (He thought of this word picture on his own...sweet deal)

Amber: Hmm (what else would you say to a 4 year old that just made a comment like the one above)

Titus: Yea. Sometimes I say, "SIN! I HATE YOU!" (that would definitely be loud tones he used).


On to another story...

Since Titus has been little I have tried to use words such as "persevere" when he gets frustrated and then I have explained what I meant.

So, yesterday Titus and I were playing a game called "Ants in the Pants". The point is to make the ants flip up into the pants of a dog. Anyway, we would wait until the other person would get an ant to go in the pants of the dog and then the other person could go.

I was trying and trying, but I kept missing. Just at that time Amber came walking in the house and hears Titus saying, "It's alright Daddy, just keep persevering."

What words! He gets it! Later on he was having the same problem and just looked at me and said, "I guess I should just persevere". I gave him some encouragement, told him that I loved him, and sat right by him as he tried and tried, until he made it.


I pray both of these stories can give you some encouragement today from the mouth of a 4 year old. I also pray you would be encouraged to learn from everyone you come in contact with during the day.

As I have been thinking about these stories, the following things have come in my mind. God's call for us to persevere comes from a disposition of love. This disposition of love has a great focus on a total hatred for sin also. It is a both/and deal, not either/or. For us to properly persevere and rest in His love we must have a total hatred for sin.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What Titus is teaching me (Pt. 2)

Last night Amber put Titus to bed. Every night we read his Bible and then say the same exact blessing over him. Last night was the story of Jesus washing the disciple's feet. Here is the conversation that ensued:

Titus: You know what mom? Sometimes I am dirty inside.

Amber: Oh Yeah?

Titus: But sometimes I am clean on the inside.

Amber: Oh Yeah? How do you get clean?

Titus: (In a matter of fact tone) Jesus cleans me!

Amber: How do you know Jesus cleans you?

Titus: (in an even MORE matter of fact way) The Bible, Mom!

What a profound statement. He understands that he is "dirty", but also does not despair in his "dirtiness". He has not despaired to the point of depression because of his dirtiness.

Side note, I know some of you may be thinking, "What can a 4 year old really understand? Does he actually know he is dirty?" I would say that I do believe he can understand. He may not fully understand, but he can get it.

I have been reading Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (it is a must read). He makes a statement that has blown me away. Lloyd-Jones said that one of the reasons people become spiritually depressed is because they define themselves by their past. He said this must be dealt with very firmly and goes on to say, "He is the Judge and you have no right to waste His time or your own time and energy condemning yourself."

What a powerful statement! What a guard against making much of yourself (condemning yourself is a prideful sin). Yet, this provision allows us to see that He tells us to not meditate on our past (in a condemning way) because He has redeemed our life!

Titus taught me this in his statements to Amber because he recognized his need for a Savior, but this need did not lead to despondency (in a bad way). He also recognized his need for the Word in order to know about Jesus. Jesus does tell him that he is dirty inside, but it does not end in that desperation. Jesus tells him so that he can know "the clean way".

Thoughts?

Friday, October 3, 2008

What TItus (our 4 year old son) is Teaching Me...Pt. 1

A couple of weeks ago Titus and I were getting in an elevator and Titus said some profound words. We were the only people on the elevator and Titus throws himself on the ground, looks up at with a smile, and says, "Daddy, I love being small!"

He proceeded to just lay on the elevator floor until we reached where we were going and then he ran out when the doors opened.

For some reason his words stopped me in my tracks and taught me something great about God. The exclamation of Titus did not make him think that he had no value...remember, he had a smile on his face. His words caused him to feel relieved. They caused him to feel comfort. They allowed him to run for joy off of the elevator!

So many times it has been easy for me to use the falsely pious words of, "I am nothing". For so long I thought this would lead to some form of breakthrough with God. One of the problems of this thinking is that we are made in the image of God. If we say that we are nothing, yet made in His image, we must logically being saying that He is nothing! This led me to think about how we can find proper significance.

We will only find out our true significance by focusing on Him and letting Him define who we are. After all, God even knows words before they are even on our tongue (Ps. 139). This reality should allow us to understand that He knows us infinitely better and infinitely more intimately than we will ever know ourselves! What freedom it is to "die to yourself" and understand that you will not only know yourself better (which is secondary), but you will know God relationally (which is primary) and be able to love others better.

The ability of Titus to not make a dichotomy in his thinking that his "smallness" equated with insignificance allows him to not worry about or manipulate what should happen in a day (Mt. 6) because he knows that he is cared for and loved. It also allows him to not have a hyper focus on himself.

These are a few things I have been learning from Titus because of one powerful sentence that he spoke to his Daddy.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Finally! Back to the Blog

video

Hey Everyone! Sorry for the delay in writing. A broken hand is not to cooperative in allowing me to type. Anyway, here is a video that Amber made yesterday for His Voice. Let me know what you think about it.

Also, I have been thinking a ton over how much Titus (our 4 year old son) has taught me. I am starting a blog series on this subject shortly.

Love Truth
Vernon
Jer. 17:5-8

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Power of the Body to Help Fight Depression

I have not posted in a while because I broke my hand and typing takes an incredibly long time. Sorry:)

I have been thinking a lot this morning about Paul’s ability to persevere in the face of so many obstacles. Most of this post comes from thinking about 1 Thess. 3:6-7, but it includes other things also.


Paul’s encouragement in the midst of very difficult personal times came from seeing the faith of others, not necessarily the change of his external situation. Why?

1. Suffering was not a hindrance to relationship with God, but a means to a deeper experience with Him. He was able to thank God for the success of others IN THE MIDST of personal turmoil because he knew he was part of of something much bigger than himself (although it most definitely included himself), the Body of Christ, which is the totality of all true believers in all time.



2.He knew that the hope he displayed in the midst of suffering, whether physical or mental, was a way to show others of the hope of God in all times. Therefore, he understood that his perseverance directly effected every other believer because we all form one Body and when one hurts we all hurt. Yet, also when one rejoices we all rejoice.

Paul says his afflictions were to bring comfort to the Corinthians and his comfort was to bring comfort to them also. This is strange (not strange as in unrealistic, but strange as in different than how this situation is normally looked at)! Paul says that whether he is having an “easy” time or a hard time, it is for their comfort. Remember, Paul is always telling people at the churches to imitate him, so this is a mentality he is trying to get them to adopt, not just look at and say, “Well that is just Paul and he has a special anointing.” He wants them to imitate him! He goes on to explain in 1 Cor. that he despaired to the point of death! He was so troubled and depressed that he almost gave up (not in a suicidal way, but in a “not finishing strong way”). Instead of giving up he came to the point of understanding that God was allowing this to happen so that he would not rely on himself.

An objector may say, “Isn't that cruel of God!” This is a legitimate inquiry. My response is that if God could not provide something greater than this situation as a response then yes it would be cruel, but He does provide! This is the point Paul is trying to make. He is saying that when you feel as if you are at the end of your rope, God will provide a way! God wants to help and His help is included for those who are “down and out”!


3. In 1 Thess. 3:7 Paul tells the people that he was greatly encouraged by their faith in the midst of all his distress and affliction. I need to make a confession here. I have read this many times (and especially during a depressive bout) and my thought was, “Paul, you are weird! I do not take much encouragement from the success of others.” In fact, I have normally responded in two ways.

First of all, I covet their success. I wish it could be me that was succeeding instead of them! You may not struggle with this, but I am just trying to give you insight into my thinking and if you do the same, we MUST change.

Next, instead of celebrating their faith, I have countless times taken their success as an attack. It was an attack of, “since they have so much success they will never understand my depression.” This is a lie! People who struggle with depression do not mainly need someone who has tasted the dregs of this terrible cup. They mainly need someone who will show them hope in an ever loving and eternally relational God. Although the person who is providing the hope may have struggled with depression, it would be wise for Christians to stop thinking someone must go through my same plight in order to help me.

One of the biggest ways that Paul was able to remain steadfast in his own personal afflictions, whether physical or mental, was that the success of others caused him to rejoice, not covet their situation or take on a “woe is me” mentality. Be encouraged in the steadfast faith of others. Read Hebrews 11 and see God’s provision. Go ask people how they have seen the provision of God in their life. If you are currently in a depressive bout, beg God to let the success in faith of others become a form of encouragement because this is the true reality of being part of one Body!

Love Truth

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Humble Confidence

It seems that many times when people are racked with depression one of the first things secular (and unfortunately sometimes Christian) counselors talk about is the need for “self confidence”. Although I would agree that we need to understand our “self” much better (see the “comments section” of my last post) it does not happen by mainly focusing on “self”.

One of the other aspects of this though is that many people who struggle with depression feel like they are perpetually throwing their head against the wall because they want to know their life is worth something. They want to know they are worth something (these are not just thoughts of people with depression, but all humanity). Yet, many people keep thinking like they must always feel like I piece of trash and then maybe God will “look on my lowly state”, which will lead to joy. The problem is that if people really believe this is true Christianity several outcomes occur:

1. The second God “helps them up” they throw themselves back on the ground in order to profess how big of a punk they are and then maybe God will pick them up which leads to throwing themselves back on the ground. Thus, “the mentality of groveling in the dirt is the disposition of Christians, therefore, I want nothing to do with that junk.”

2. People start to think they are supposed to be “confident” that they are a walking piece of trash. Some how this will lead to a godly and joyful life.

3. A person who always thinks they are a piece of trash really believes God is a piece of trash. I know this sounds harsh, so let me explain. Every person is created in the image of God (believer and unbeliever). If you are made in His image, yet you always think you are the worst thing walking on the face of the Earth, you are really saying that God’s “masterpiece” is woefully inadequate and thus, why even want relationship with Someone like this.

So what is the solution? A Humble Confidence.

Christians should be the most confident people in the world. One of the problems is that many people equate confidence with arrogance. A better correlation would be to see confidence and humility as siblings and arrogance/pride and insecurity as siblings.

I was blown away this morning when reading Hebrews 10. The author uses past victories in persevering during terrible times (v. 32-34) as an encouragement to not lose present confidence. Someone may say, “Well I do not think I have any victories? This is making me even more depressed! Thanks a ton, you punk!” I would respond by saying, “Start today! Your victories today will help you to persevere in the future! This is the point. Perseverance in terrible times has a snow ball effect and so does giving up.”

In fact, the author uses confidence as the basis for endurance (v. 35-36). Without confidence you will not endure. You might for a mere 20, 30, 40 years, but you will not do it for a life span.

The author goes on to give the reason for “enduring confidence”. He says BECAUSE “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and persevere.” What he says is so profound! The reason is BECAUSE THAT IS WHO YOU ARE! You are not becoming someone that you are not. The point is to become who you already are!

I try to live my life under one theme and two principles.

“As you go, live unto life.” (Theme)

This is derived from the language of The Great Commission in Mt. 28. The etymology gives the idea of “as you go” more than “go”. The point is that wherever you are, make disciples!

Do nothing more or nothing less than what God wants you to do (Principle 1)

This causes me to always focus on pursuing a holy life. It also helps to guard me against Paul’s greatest struggle, covetousness. It is so easy to see what other people are doing and want to either have their position, their things, etc. (at least it is for me), instead of being content in how God has made me and what He wants me to do. This also allows me to focus on encouraging others, more than trying to take from others.

Become who you are (Principle 2)

For Christians, you already are totally righteous and pure in the eyes of the Father. Therefore, living a holy life is not a matter of trying to earn acceptance, but understanding that I am already accepted by the One who can completely satisfy me, which should lead to a life of thanksgiving instead of trying to earn favor.

This mentality has helped me out so much with my bouts of depression. This has not totally eradicated depression in my life, but it has helped me to seek after proper confidence. Proper confidence is found by “dying to self” for the purpose of having God tell us who we are in Him. This will give us a focus that will not only be holy, but confident and joyful (for the record, I believe you can be joyful and depressed at the same time. I will talk about this more in my next post).

I pray these posts have been helpful in some ways. I first desire for people to know that God is still great, even in the midst of depression. He is a loving Father who wants to let us know that we are TRULY NEVER ALONE. The issue with depression is that it is a lie. I am not saying it is fake, it is very real. God just wants us to know the truth of the matter is that we are never alone and that we are valuable in Him. I also want people to be delivered from depression, but again, this is not the main goal. Relationship with an eternal God is the main goal. Therefore, our thoughts should be focused on who He is and how He thinks which will help to properly inform our lives.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Enough? (Pt. 3 on Depression)

I have posted a comment that I received from my post on "Depression Pt. 1" and some thoughts to this comment. Please feel free to jump in with some thoughts. Whoever this "anonymous" comment is from, I want you to know that I have greatly appreciated your challenging words. I hope this is the beginning to some answers for both of us.




I doubt that this is enough. I doubt that your god is enough. I say this not to be arrogant or disrespectful to you and your god, but because your god used to be my god. And it didn't help. That focus didn't make it better. It actually made it worse. Because I reached out to the word and to the people who supposedly believed the word and there was a big nothingness that met me.

I think Amber may have been right in what she said...that "the fear that the one with depression will be thinking this often keeps those of us who have not had a lot of dealings with depression from speaking truth to those who are in the midst of the toughest times." It leaves those believers struggling with depression feeling truly "silent and separated."

I'm just saying that I think maybe your approach works for some people but not for others. As a former "believer" who had a serious bout with depression that led nowhere good, I can say it wasn't enough for me. I actually learned from that experience to rely not on god or his people but to rely on myself and my mind.

So what would you say to someone like me who says "it's not enough"???




I want to start by saying that I do not have all of the answers, but I am very interested in dialoguing on this so that we can both learn. I am going to put things in numerical points. Some will be suggestions, some questions, etc. These are not in order of importance.

1. I am very glad that you have been so raw and honest. I must say (even thought many times I wish I could not identify with this) that I have had severe doubts and desires to give up. Some of the times of giving up were before I was a Christian and some were after. I remember a time when I almost blew my head off (I was about 17), but a friend called me out of nowhere. This instance was prior to me becoming a Christian, but I know that suicidal tendencies are very common in Christianity also. Thoughts of suicide had always given me some form of relief because I think I had resolved that things would be over very soon. I am incredibly glad I did not follow through, even though some of the most intense bouts of depression were yet to come.

I say this only for the purpose of giving you more of my background and also to hopefully give some framework to some of the things I am going to say. It is hard to express tone in this format, but please take these comments in a sympathetic and concerned tone.

2.You said that you “reached out to the word” and other professing believers, but you found “a big nothingness”. I want to say a few things on this point.

• First of all, I am very sorry that you did not have a sense of any community. I am not sure who you are, but if I was one of these people, I am sorry. I failed you.

• Next, many times I felt like the Word had failed me and I think it came from some misconceptions. You may have some of these (or not) so I am just trying to give you some possibilities to think through. For so long I would use the Word as an end, instead of a means. I made the same mistake of the Jews that Jesus talked about in John 5:39-40. I thought that life was found in the Scripture, instead of Scripture leading me to Him (I still make this mistake sometimes, but I am getting better). This led to a lot of time where I would memorize Scripture and then start “quoting it into the air” and expect some form of relief. The problem is that I was not using the promises of God to lead me to personal relationship with God (2 Pet. 1:3-5). The promises of God are used to lead us, convince us, rebuke us, and encourage us in the Person of God. Therefore, the roots of depression (being alone, desperation, confusion, etc.) are dug up because we realize that not only are we not alone, but He is perfect and has conquered the exact problem I am struggling with. One of the issues is that it takes perseverance. To give up is not the answer, yet it is not easy. I can also say that even though it may not be easy, it is worth it! It could very well be that the depression does not lift in this life time (many times have this), but this is what should lead us to what I said concerning Ps. 42 in my previous post.

• Another misconception I had was to do what I said in my post. I would magnify my situation to a degree that I believed nobody else could understand me and therefore the depression would greatly intensify. The problem is that another persons ability to identify with my situation still does not bring proper relief. It may be good enough for a short time, but never for long term sustainability (long term meaning more than just my temporal current life on Earth). I think the idea of giving up on people who hurt me brought a false peace that I wanted to correlate with Christianity and Christians as being "kill joys" etc. I believe this false sense of peace also came so the enemy could isolate me off more in order to replace this "sense of peace" with bitterness, hurt, pain, etc.

One suggestion would be to meditate on Heb. 12:1. The freedom of being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses is the reality that “The Church” is made up some incredible people of the past. You can read how they dealt with depressive states and know they are actively involved in the current situations of “The Church”. A couple of book suggestions would be Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones and When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper. These have helped me so much.

• The third misconception that I had in this situation of the failure of the Word and people (and I think you do also) is that I truly believed it. The problem is that it is a lie. We always have an object/Object to which we think is sufficient to satisfy us. You have chosen yourself. I really ask you to reconsider. One of the “freeing” things of battling with depression is knowing that I am not a good object to “bank all of my chips on.” I have got issues (just like everyone else) but this can (and should) free us to search for an all sufficient and perfect answer. This is not just some theoretical (although nothing less than theory) jargon that is alright to talk about, but not good enough to live.

One suggestion is to look at and meditate on Heb. 2:14-18. I have also needed to meditate on the words of Job. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” This is definitely one Scripture that I have doubted often, but I still try to preach this true reality to my soul.

3.On a “change of direction” note. I would say that your situation is very real. This may be a “no joke” comment, but that is not how I mean it. What I mean is that it is important to come to grips with your situation, yet this is not the ultimate end. I think that many times people are scared of finally finding an answer. The reasons can be many fold, but some of the things I have thought through on a personal note are as follows:

• I am used to the feelings of depression and even though I do not like them, I am familiar with them. This familiarity can sometimes give a strange comfort when there seems to be so much more uncertainty (I know this may be strange and you may not have ever felt this way).

• I may actually end up different. As much as I want to be relieved of depression the thoughts of, “How will this be manifested? If the feelings of depression are so intense will I end up looking like a nut case because my feelings would also be intense, but in a joyful way?” These statements may also not be your struggle, but it would be could to examine yourself.

4. Here are some questions I have (again, I do not mean these questions in a trite way. I really want to know).:

• If you have resolved to find the answers in your mind and yourself, how has this journey been?
• How did focusing on God make your situation worse?
• Doesn’t finding answers in yourself and your mind leave you in a lonely (i.e. depressive state) because you have isolated yourself to find answers in yourself?

I have by no means covered everything, but the post seems to be quite long already and it may be good to dialogue things out from here as a starting point. Please know this, I want you to truly know the unconditional love of God in an incredible way. I have prayed for you and I will continue. I have been thanking the Lord for your challenges to me because it forces me to articulate my thoughts and I will hopefully learn a ton from the dialogue.

If anyone else has thoughts do not feel shy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Thoughts from Louie Giglio (Depression pt. 2)

I have posted a sermon by Louie Giglio below. It is broken up in 10 min. segments. It is very much worth your time.

Let me know what you think.
















Thursday, June 19, 2008

The god called Situation (Depression Series Pt. 1)

One of the attacks from depression is rooted many times in the magnification of our situations. A certain feeling of despair comes on (sometimes for no apparent reason) and then each situation either helps to magnify the problem or sometimes relieve the depression. What this causes many times for people who struggle with depression is the mentality of "Well, if this one situation could change, everything would be better." Other times people default to recreation or a vacation as being the preeminent way to silence the screams of depression. These things are not necessarily bad, but the problem comes when a person uses these ways as the #1 way to get rid of depression. This leads many people to cowering away in times of difficulty and they constantly look at a "change of scenery" as being the ultimate answer.

After reading the chapter titled “God Unchanging” in J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, it was such a great insight to rest in the great consistency of God. Packer says that many people look at the situations of the Bible and see a disconnect between their situations and the issues of the modern day. Therefore, many people read the Bible as “distant literature”.

The sense of remoteness is an illusion which springs from seeking the link between our situation and that of the various Bible characters in the wrong place…But the link between them and us is not found at that level. The link is God himself.”

The reality of God’s consistency in all times is meant to free us from being bound to a perceived hopelessness in a current situation. For instance, look at the person who has terrible abuses happen to them and bitterness sets in their mind. Depressive bouts start to overwhelm them and life seems unbearable. Many times the next words that come out are, “But nobody understands my situation! Nobody has been through the same thing as me.” Although this statement is true (because each person has a unique personal history) the stress of the situation would not be properly relieved even if someone had the same story as the hurt person. This type of mentality makes a god out of a situation. What I mean by this is that the person above believes the uniqueness of their situation negates any possibility of someone/Someone helping. This leads to despair and (in many cases) perpetual depression. The reason for so much of the despair in this situation is because the focus was wrong from the beginning.

When relationship with God is seen as the ultimate pursuit of man (even in the face of indescribable depression...which I have unfortunately been acquainted with) the answer to success in life helps us to properly inform our depressive state. What I mean by this is each Christian has the power to preach to their soul. Just like the psalmist asks his soul why it is so downcast and then TELLS himself to hope in God (Ps. 42:11). Why does he say this? It is because the TRUE REALITY of the situation is that God has provided hope in every situation. Therefore, it is not cruel to say this to yourself nor should it sound trite. The reason is because HE HAS provided hope!! This is some of the sweet truth of Rom. 5:1-5. God gives us hope in every situation because hope is not rooted in any situation, but HIM!! This is some of the great provision of our all loving God. He cares for us more than our mind could ever comprehend.

I pray that we would be people who see His consistent provision in all circumstances. I pray that we will persevere in preaching to our soul. I pray that God will cause us to know in deeper ways that His provision of relationship has freed us from the god called Situation.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Introduction to a blog series on Depression

I have decided to write a blog series on depression. I am going to share a lot of my personal struggle with depressive bouts for several reasons.

1. In order to hopefully start a dialogue with others who may struggle in this area (or if you know someone who struggles with depression also).

2. To share some of the things I have learned from success and failure during my depressive states.

3. Hopefully to encourage others to never give up, no matter the difficulty.

4. For a Christian, God has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of Him (2 Pet. 1:3-4). This does not mean I am against medication for people sometimes (it would be equivalent to telling a person who had a heart disease to not take something), but I do believe we live in an over medicated society that tries to find the comfort in medicine as an "end" instead of a "means". I do not personally take medication, but I just wanted to put out my stance from the very beginning.

5. Even if the clouds of depression never lift in this life, He is still worth it. I know this is tougher to live out, but I know this is the case.

I state these five things in order to give some type of frame work. On a personal level, I have struggled with depressive bouts since I was a kid. I have experienced two separate bouts of approx. 17 months a piece that it felt like "the sun would not rise. I was speaking and leading during these times, all the while feeling like the storm would never subside. I do not say these things in order to bring personal glory, but more as statements so you will know my past.

Some of you have experiences worse. Someone of you have never experienced this struggle. Either way, it is not the point of this series to "one up" one another. The point is to hopefully learn how to find God centered hope in depression and learn how to help others that have this struggle.

I have come to understand that depression is a call to worship. What the enemy intends for our destruction, is actually a way that we can worship and become filled with joy in God. This is not cruel of God, but in fact is a way to show us and the enemy that God is all sufficient in all circumstances. I pray this series will be beneficial to many and that the love of God is magnified.

Love Truth

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Deception

I have been thinking about how easy it can be to become deceived. Although there are many forms of deception, what I am thinking about is deceiving ourselves. James tells us to “be doers of the word, and not only hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22) It is also important to understand that we need to do what God has uniquely called us to do. I have been thinking about this from a personal context and so I will explain what I mean and then some of the things I am learning.

I had someone who has been a pretty decent influence on my life tell me that he did not believe Sudan was a “calling” in my life, but only a “passion”. At first I was quite hurt by what he said. I could not understand how someone who has known me for several years could just make such a flippant comment. I wanted to justify myself and make sure that he knew what I believe God has called me to do in Sudan etc. The problem with this was several fold.

1. I became more focused on letting this guys words control me, than living out what God had already told me to do.

2. I had put such a weight in what this guy said that I started to let his words misdirect my focus (i.e. trying to justify myself instead of just living out what God has told me to do and let my actions speak). Therefore, instead of doing what God wanted me to do because I believe God told me, I started to think about doing stuff in order to prove myself (i.e. this is a huge form of self deception).

3. The deception that “doing the word” was good enough to prove I was “called” became part of my focus. I am not saying that we should not be “doers of the word”, but we must have proper information and focus behind what we are doing.

4. Ultimately, the guy is wrong. This is not necessarily bad to think, but the challenge is to not hold any grudges. For me this is a daily battle. Sometimes it can be easy to default into this thinking, yet this would be another form of letting his words control me in an adverse way.

You will almost always have people who try to detract you in your life. Sometimes they are speaking up for a good reason. Other times people just do not think about what they say. Yet, other times people just try to extinguish something in you. We must be people who live so near to God, that even in the face of detracting words we are able to use these comments as an encouragement to hear the voice of God again. This is not just some “fluff thinking”. This is how we begin to live out the life of being “more than a conqueror” (Rom. 8). We must strive to hear God at all times so that we do not deceive ourselves into acting or thinking in a way that is contrary to what God is telling us. I pray we do not become people who are deceived by others or ourselves. I also pray that we would be people who are so discerning that when people are warning us for good, we will listen.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Progressive Pessimists

I have been thinking a lot lately about how easy it is to be a pessimist.  What I mean by this is the focus of only seeing problems and deconstructing what other people are doing, while not offering a viable alternative.  The reason why I titled this entry as "Progressive Pessimists" is because it seems that many people are consumed with thinking that they should be taken seriously, while only offering negativity.  They get a following of people who think the leader is brilliant, but the main thing that is sustainable is indicting problems as a lifestyle.

The problem is that if we become people who do not offer a better way then it only leads to perpetual negativity.  I do believe that it is important to talk through issues and be open to changing our opinion if it is wrong, but we must be people who do this in a gracious manner because a better way is being offered.  

I was just having a conversation with a guy a couple of weeks ago who brought up some good points on areas that Christians need to answer better, but the problem was that he wasn't even concerned about offering a way to give an answer.  I understand that sometimes we need to have conversations in order to get our ideas out (even if it is only to see if we really believe what is being said), but the issue comes when we do not have the focus of searching out for answers.  I think this is a type of laziness that we must all be very careful with.  We must be people who humbly ask others who are only concerned with problems, "So, what would be a better alternative?  What would be your suggestions as to how we can help to change the opinions of people?  Can we try to search out answers for an alternative view together?"

I am saying all of this so that we start discussing how to give humble answers to the problems we see.  I say this so that we can all be warned so that we do not try to get people to follow pessimism instead of optimism (By the way, I think that an optimistic person is someone who is able to see a problem and also give an alternative view that would make the situation or thinking better.  He/She is not someone who "lives in the clouds" as if nothing is wrong, but instead he/she is not just controlled by negativity).  I say this so that we can be people who testify to the great words of Ps. 84.  This would mean that we would people who go from strength to strength.  When we come on the Valley of "Baca" (that is the word used in Ps. 84.  It means "troubles") we will be people who still have proper reason to have an optimistic hope.  We will be people who look in the face of problems and not ignore them, but search out answers.

I hope and pray you have a great week.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Secondary Schools

Hey Everyone,
We are trying to raise some funds for the secondary school that we are building in Southern Sudan. I have posted some pictures of what the school buildings will look like. Bishop (our head guy on the ground) needs to get $20,000 asap in order to procure some materials before the rainy season.If you, your church/organization, or anyone you know would be interested in giving to this project, please contact us at vernon@hisvoiceforsudan.com or visit the PARTNER page of our website for details on how to give.

Love Truth
Vernon
Jn. 17:3


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Learning to Appreciate

Titus and I just got done going on two hikes in the last three days! It has been an amazing time to spend with him. Being in school full time and running His Voice has made times like this to be not as many as I would like, but nonetheless a blast when we get them. On the first hike, Titus walked for over 2 miles without me carrying him! Here are a few quotes from our times out:

1. "Daddy, did you know that you are special? Did you know that mommy is special? Did you know that I am special? It is because God loves us."

2. "Daddy, I love you."

3. "Daddy, you are my best friend."

4. "Daddy, why do turtles pee so much when you pick them up?!?!" (This was his response after we moved the turtle out of the middle of the road so that it would not get run over.)

Titus also told Amber this week that he did not need to hold her hand anymore because he was getting big. She responded by saying that sometimes we hold hands just to show the person we love them. His next response was, "Huh. Mommy, I am growing up. I am growing up."

The Lord used this response to challenge me with never trying to "grow up" to a point where I quit showing affection. I must admit that I have not been the best in showing Amber affection, but I do know that I want to get better at this. She is amazing! I pray that you will never be shy in showing your love for people. Live in such a way that you seek every opportunity to show people "Infinite Love".









Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The "There" is a "Him"

I have been thinking a lot lately about how much heartache occurs from having a wrong focus.  So many times it is simple to say that God is the focus, but what does that mean?  Why is it that so many times the living out of Christianity becomes a search for an abstract place, instead of Him?

I think it comes out many times when people use the language of, "I am not where I want to be" or "I just wish I could be further down the road".  I am not saying that this language is always wrong, but if the end is not to be closer in relationship with God then the pursuit becomes vain quite quickly.  I have noticed from self evaluation and talking with a couple of people lately that when you ask, "Where do you want to be?"  the normal response is "I am not sure.  I just want to be further along".  The point I am trying to make is when relationship with God is not seen as preeminent then all other pursuits tend to legalism.  Even when someone says they want "to spread the glory of God", if they do not ultimately mean relationship with God they become like a functional Muslim.

A Christian who is like a functional Muslim is one who tries to apply God to every situation, but it does not lead to relationship with God, it only leads to some type of outward manifestation (that may look good), but ultimately the person uses God for a personally preferred outcome.  After all, one of the biggest problems with a Muslims view of Paradise is that it ultimately only uses God to get into Paradise and thus shows that Paradise is more important than God.  This root problem of being a "functional Muslim" is manifested when Christians look at the focus of life as mainly being a "place to get", instead of the focus of life mainly being about relationship, first and foremost, with God and then with others.  

Some of the Scriptures I have been meditating on that have helped to shape the focus of relationship as preeminent are Jer. 9:23-24, John 17:3, 2 Pet. 1:3-4, Phil. 3-4.

The "There" is a "Him".  When we see Him as our focus this does not necessarily change an outward circumstance, but it gives us hope in all circumstances, whether good or bad.  This is part of Paul's boast in Phil. 4.  He was a person who did not make a god out of suffering or good times because he understood that good times or suffering was not the main point.  This allowed Him to focus on Christ in all things and take the times of suffering ALONG WITH the times of good.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

One makes up the Many

I just got done having lunch with a friend today and we were talking about something that I was thinking about this morning. The thought was, "One makes up the Many". So many times it can be easy to see life as being insignificant if we measure impact on "large numbers". Although each person will definitely influence thousands of people in a life time, forgetting the impact we can have every day happens often.

Here is a picture that was taken when I was visiting a hospital in Sudan. This kid is a burn victim. He did not have family that came to visit him and he was scared out of his mind. When I first saw him I started to get tears in my eyes, so I had to look away in order to get my composure. I looked back at him, prayed over him, and just stood to smile with him. I was told to not lift up the mosquito net, so I just stood until he smiled back.

In that moment I really sensed the Lord say the same exact thing..."One makes up the many." If you could take time to just look at this boy and meditate for a few minutes it may be good. Thousands of kids are like this, yet many people use this as an excuse to not impact people. I pray you will not be overwhelmed with "The Many" in such a way that you quit, but I pray you would look at this little guy and see hope. See that you have an opportunity to impact. See that you are "more than a conqueror in Christ". See that when you see pain and despair, it is actually a call to to engage someone with hope. Maybe that "someone" is you. Maybe that someone is your spouse, child, or friend. Maybe that someone is a stranger.

No matter who it is, do not give up. Understand that God is the most precise Being ever! He wants you to impact others. He wants to impact you. This is not just some type of "pep talk" (if you take it that way, it is alright), it is reality. 2 Pet. 1:3-4 says that He has already given us everything we need for LIFE AND GODLINESS through our knowledge of Him. Let His provision cause you to find your hope in Him. Know that it is good have a desire to impact thousands of people, yet do not let the masses become some "goal" to be conquered. Understand that the ultimate end of man is relationship with God. Be relationally focused in all you do...first and foremost with God and then with others.

Every life counts! As you go, live unto Life.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Open Rebuke is Better than Hidden Love

I have not written in a long time, but I will try to be much more faithful on the writing deal. I wanted to tell you all of a great learning time I had yesterday. As some of you know, I am not the most sound person when it comes to...well...nearly anything that can be useful! I am hoping that this will change soon because of what happened yesterday.

I was driving home from church and my tire decided that it had enough and quit working! I found myself on the side of I-20 without the tools that I needed to change my tire. I called Amber and she brought everything I needed, along with Victor (a Sudanese brother that lives with us...who by the way has many useful trades). As the tire was getting changed the "Courtesy Police" came behind us and turned on their lights so that we wouldn't get hit by any oncoming traffic. The driver steps out to ask if we were doing alright and I immediately noticed that he had an African accent. I asked him where he was from and we started talking about the Lord. As he was looking in my trunk (at the blown tire) he kindly let me know that I did have the tools!!!! They were in some side compartment (that of course only car genius people would know about). He then smiled really nice at me and said, "Brother, the Bible says that My people perish for lack of knowledge and God is not just talking about salvation."

What a rebuke! The strange thing is that I did not try to knock him out (or something else of that nature) but I sensed the Lord telling me that He wants me to learn so much about Him in every area of life...even cars, etc. This was such a time of refreshing for me. Spurgeon says, "Count nothing little which even in a small degree hinders your usefulness." The rebuke yesterday was a great wake up call and an opportunity to change.