An early Christian said, “Our own will is like a wall between us and God, preventing us from coming near to Him or contemplating His mercy.” His statement reflects the great mystery surrounding the sovereignty of God and the free will of humans. It also helps us understand the reasons people who choose to follow Christ struggle with the flesh. They don’t respect the power of desire for freedom, and their need to submit to the will of God.
The scriptural word for this struggle is dominion. God has endowed us with a sense of dominion in order to live with initiative and creativity. This is a part of God’s image in us. It is intended to help us live productive and purposeful lives, but it has been distorted by sin. Eyes that should otherwise turn to God, turn to self. We value our own opinions over God’s Word and live by our own code.
The passage that begins in 1 Corinthians 12:27, teaches us the importance of those who teach and what it is they teach. What they teach, Paul says, is the “most excellent way.” It is most excellent because love directs the course. If God’s love directs your life, it will be most excellent and that wall between you and God will be gone. Your actions will look like God because you will be able to clearly see God. You see what Isaiah did (Isaiah 6:1-8). You will understand the sovereignty of God and not be afraid of it. You will see the need for someone to say something, raise your hand and say, “here I am, send me.” In saying this you are accepting God’s code for your life.
When you walk in love you are able to see the balance between human free will and God’s sovereignty. One writer said it is like two ropes hanging from a ceiling, running through a pulley. You must hold on to both of these ropes to find balance for your life. Submitting to God’s Word and teaching brings benefits beyond your own abilities, but you must grasp them for yourself, and allow His truth and power to make the most of the gifts and abilities you have. Hold on to both of those ropes, seeing clearly the God who is.
Tabitha was a model Christian woman in the church of Joppa. She was full of good works and charitable deeds. At one point she became sick and died. The woman washed her for burial and laid her in an upper room. The disciples sent two men to Apostle Peter who was nearby and asked him to come quickly. When Peter arrived, the widows met him and showed him the clothes that Tabitha had made them. Peter was left alone in the room with the body of Tabitha, and he prayed and told her to arise. She opened her eyes and she stood up; then he called the others into the room. Hearing of this miracle, many others came to believe in Jesus.
We have too many brothers and sisters who are struggling right now with health concerns. People like Tabitha, who are involved in ministry and beloved by God. I wish they would experience what Tabitha did. I do have hope that they may. Paul also served with people who he loved and with whom he struggled (see 2 Cor. 1:8-11). His words describe how we feel; “affliction…completely…beyond our strength.” We share the ability to endure. God delivers. He has done this in the past and will continue to strengthen His people. He states, “We have put our hope in Him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers.”
Paul’s enemies taught anyone who would listen that Paul had these struggles because he was not a genuine teacher of God. Real teachers of God don’t have these struggles. Paul stresses that struggles gives us the opportunity to engage in prayer and other acts of faith. Even Jesus taught that in this world we will have suffering (John 16:33). “Be courageous, because He has conquered the world!”
Devotion To Christ
Over the past year the Elders have desired to present to the Congregation the focus of our ministry and study as having a closer walk with Jesus. Having a closer walk with Jesus means many things. In this article I wanted to address devotion as an element of that closer walk. Words that help us understand devotion are; loyalty, faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, and commitment.
I begin this discussion by asking, are you devoted or distant when it comes to where you are in your faith? If we desire the closer walk, then we are going to have to surrender all the circumstances of our lives, past and present, good or bad to the light of God’s grace. For the love of these things and the bitterness of these things can direct our lives someplace other than closeness to God.
Being distant and being devoted are opposites. Being distant is safe, being devoted is exposed. Being distant keeps me out of the limelight, being devoted makes me a target. Being distant allows me to control the circumstances, being devoted gives God the controls.
My proximity to God comes down to two roles that I should seek out: Being a student of Scripture, or a disciple of Christ. Proverbs 20:27 states, “The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” His word is that lamp that brings truth to my life. Do I desire that truth? The second role is being a suitable temple for the Spirit of God. When a person is baptized, she or he is given an amazing gift…the presence of the Spirit of God. He is with us to empower us and enable us to live out the truths of God’s message to us. Paul tells us, “Don’t stifle the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). For the closest place we can ever be to God, is when He is in us.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” There are several ideas in this passage that are humbling and significant. The idea that we could be ambassadors for Christ challenges us to live up to a higher standard, but that will never happen to me personally until I see myself in that role.
Paul was great in the work of the Kingdom because he could see himself used by God in significant ways. Paul Little, in his classic book, How To Give Away Your Faith, states that “Obedience in evangelism is one of the key to spiritual health.” His point illustrates that we are ambassadors, and fulfilling that role is a part of my spiritual calling. The reason it is vital is because for us to do this work, we have to depend on God. Little puts it this way, “When we evangelize (share good news), we pray specifically, calling on God to give the victory in the spiritual struggles within the soul of an individual we care about.” We ask God to show Himself to that person, to introduce the work of Christ and demonstrate the new life. We ask God to use us or any other means He may chose to get through to the seeker. With anticipation we watch God answer prayer. These are all things God wants to see at work in our lives. This is the type of lifestyle that will produce fruit.
When we are busy doing the work of God a couple of things happen we may not expect:
We will see the truths of Scripture come alive.
We won’t have time to pick at other Christians and their faults.
We will take serious the weaknesses we have and be encouraged to leave our own sins at the cross.
The Holy Spirit will be engaged in our personal lives.
As we begin our Home Bible Studies (HBS), the conviction of this verse must be yours. If you are ready to take the next step and be involved in a HBS, be at a meeting this Sunday evening following the assembly time. The HBS Teams are made up of three couples. ( 2 host couples and 1 teaching couple). In our evening lesson we will talk about the specific roles and about how to invite people to your HBS. The meeting after evening assembly should be about 30 minutes. Talk to me (Dennis) if you have any questions.
A week ago Friday, a group of people gathered at the church building and prepared the things necessary to share with those who are served by the Tacoma Rescue Mission. We prepare coffee and hot chocolate, purchase and pick up 30 pizzas, and organize what we are planning to share (hygiene products). We also load sound equipment. We usually have 20-30 people help with the operation. After a briefing and prayer, we drive to the Tacoma Rescue Mission. When we arrive, we set up in various places. Either the kitchen serving line, coffee in the courtyard, hygiene products at another table in the courtyard and singing in the dining room. We also have those whose task it is to talk with the people, share literature and pray. This past Friday we served 320 people. Then at the end, the tables, sound equipment and coolers and people load back up and head back to Lakeview.
We have a good committee and groups of people who serve, but we could always use more helpers. It is a good work of compassion and helps us live out Matthew 25:31-40. It also teaches how to be compassionate without expecting anything in return. We continue to need support from the congregation in the way of financial contributions, donations of hygiene products and clothing donations. We are in the middle of our annual clothing drive and ask that you consider bringing used clothing that you would normally give to charity. We especially need men's clothing. This project gives us the opportunity to be creative and able to involve others. Some have found clothing at yard sales or even gone to a thrift store and found inexpensive clothing. Some have involved the people at their place of work, after having received permission to have a clothing drive at work. This is a great idea. It helps others know about our faith and gives people a chance to serve when they otherwise wouldn't. The deadline for turning in clothing is October 1st. The committee is thankful for the way the congregation has given to bless this ministry. You contribute the resources and we get to share and receive the thanks. But we point to God, who has given all we need and enables us to be generous. Thank you for your continued support.
A few weeks ago I spoke about worry and control. Several
commented that it was relevant and needed. One of our
members, John Lakvold is a credentialed people helper and was
very positive about the topic, and offered to write a researched
explanation (and a biblical) for the problem this is in our time.
Good stuff John! I hope it is helpful for everyone who struggles or
knows someone who struggles with worry and anxiety. (P.S. I am
still on a fishin’ expedition in central Washington. See you all
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the
United States (Anxiety and Depression Association, 2014). These
disorders touch the lives of 40 million adults in the United States,
approximately 18% of U.S. population (National Institutes of
Mental Health, n.d.). Even though anxiety disorders are highly
treatable, only about one-third of those suffering anxiety will
receive treatment (Anxiety and Depression Association, 2014).
According to WebMD (2008), Americans spend 42 billion dollars
annually on anxiety disorders. Roughly 23 billion dollars is spent to
treat anxiety symptoms that imitate physical illnesses (WebMD).
Anxiety is the natural response of the body to potential danger,
threats of harm, feeling stress situations, or being under pressure
(Helpguide.org, 2014). A healthy amount of anxiety allows us to be
attentive, provokes us to take action, and motivates us to solve
problems in our lives (Helpguide.org). Unhealthy amounts of
anxiety cause physical and emotional symptoms (Helpguide.org).
Emotional symptoms include constant worrying or uneasiness,
feeling of dread without any known cause, inability to concentrate,
internal tension, catastrophic thinking, irritability, restlessness,
hyper-awareness toward danger, forgetfulness, overwhelming and
swift feelings of panic or doom, fears of losing control or going
crazy, and detaching from others and from reality (Calm Clinic,
n.d.). Physical symptoms include increased heartbeat, choking,
frequent sweating, stomach cramping, lightheadedness, diarrhea,
shortness of breath, rapid breathing, changes in body
temperature, muscle tension, headaches, shaking, exhaustion,
restlessness, and nausea (Calm Clinic).
According to Hart (2003), the only type of anxiety that God
condemns is perceptual “worry anxiety” (p. 15). As Christians, we
are torn between two worlds (Matthew 6:24). On one hand, we
struggle to make ends to meet. On the other hand, God tells his
people that he will provide their every need (Jeremiah 31:35; Mark
13:30-31). For this reason, Jesus tells us, “That is why I tell you
not to worry about everyday life . . . Today’s trouble is enough
for today.” (Matthew 6:25, NLT, emphasis added). Thus, the
apostle Peter tells us to “give all our worries to God, because he
cares about you” (I Peter 5:7, NCV). Otherwise, the worries of this
world can choke out the Word of God implanted within us
(Matthew 13:22, NASB). When the Word of God is choked out of
us, we become enmeshed in “affairs of this life” (II Timothy 2:4,
NKJV, emphasis in the original). Being enmeshed in the “affairs of
this life” hinder our souls and dulls our attention toward pleasing
Christ (Luke 21:34-36, NLT).
Being concerned about our own lives, having a sleepless night
worrying about a love one, or feeling some anxiety is not
unforgivable sin (Hart, 2003). Hart points out that the problem with
worry is constantly ruminating on it. To resolve our perpetual
worrying, the apostle Paul reminds us to “pray and ask God for
everything you need, always giving thanks” (Philippians 4:6,
NCV). When we petition God, “God’s peace, which is so great we
cannot understand it, will keep [our] hearts and minds in Christ
Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NCV). When we face religious
persecution, the Holy Spirit will guide our words (Mark 13:11).
God will provide our every provision (Luke 12: 22-30). Relying on
God will leave us unshaken (Psalm 55:22).
Labor Day Weekend at Delano was relaxing and encouraging. While we probably had the smallest crowd ever at the Family Encampment, it was as good a program as we ever had and the amenities were very satisfactory. I want to say thank you to Courtney McDaniel for providing great meals, Kim Cook for keeping track of registration, and Nikki VanDoren for providing a kids camp during the times of learning and study. We should also recognize Tony Pierce for leading our times of singing. Our teacher was Larry Pasley (Clara is his wife). Lanita and I worked with Larry and Clara during our time in Monticello, AR. Larry is a solid teacher and his lessons were practical and relevant. Our opportunities for fellowship were enhanced because the rain kept us indoors, but the facility will accommodate that and we were able to share life and build relationships. The only thing missing was you. I own that my promotion of this event was thin and we got started late. We were not even sure we would do this, but we have already started discussions about next year and the leadership team values this event that can help in the task of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. Mark the event in your calendar for 2015 and plan to be at Delano Bay Christian Camp during the Labor Day Weekend.
Today is a special day for our youth education programs. Anyone who has a child in our Bible class program, youth ministry or Leadership Training for Christ (LTC), or is involved in leading and teaching, should be at the Promotional Potluck. It is going to be a great day weather wise. The Promotional Potluck will be an engaging and encouraging reminder of the responsibility to our young people. The church is to be involved in equipping parents to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our Youth Education Programs enable them to do this. We thank the leaders and teachers for their efforts. The event will get started as soon after morning worship as possible. Bring your family, a side dish or a dessert, and a desire to be involved in these important programs.
Several commented on my article last week concerning the suicide death of Robin Williams. One of our own members, who works in mental health field, wanted to write an article from his professional perspective. He does a great job of outlining the disability of depression and the option that the message of the Cross gives to those who are suffering. Thank you John!
According to 2011 information, approximately 1.1 million people will attempt to commit suicide each year. Twenty-five thousand people will complete a suicide each year (Brown et. al, 2005). Brown and his associates found that people who have attempted suicide are 38 to 40 times more likely to complete a suicide (Brown et al.). Depression is highly correlated with suicidality (Reedy, 2011). According to the World Health Organization, depression “is the leading cause of disability as measured by Years Lived with Disability” (Reddy). In the United States, four to ten percent of adults will suffer from depression any given year (Aspira Continuing Education, 2010) . Women suffer from depression 1.5 to 3 times more than men (Aspira). Mental health professionals define the symptoms for depression as follows:
The symptoms must last for more than two weeks (DSM-IV-TR). The person’s mood must fall below the person’s baseline (DSM-IV-TR). Finally, it must affect the person’s social, occupational, and/or educational functioning (DSM-IV-TR).
Aaron Beck articulated that depression comes when negative thoughts are about the self, the world, and the future (Allen, n.d.). Themes of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, un-lovability, and incompetence are constant themes of those with depression (Govender & Schlesbusch, 2012; Lau, 2012). Often, these individuals will tell themselves: “I am unlovable.” “The world is unfair.” “My situation is hopeless.” “No one can help me.” “I am so stupid.”
These internal messages are contrary to God’s Word. We have hope through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God promised us that Jesus Christ would fill our every need (Psalm 33:20; Ephesians 1:18-23). When we rely on God, we will continue to hold on, because our pain will end one day (Revelation 21:4). We will receive help in our times of despair. God will answer our cries (Psalm 18:6; 28:2,6; 31:22).
Without God, we are hurt, exposed, and lost people, like sheep without a shepherd, like individuals lost in the wilderness, and like a boat without a rudder. We have great value to God, because He sent his only son to die for our sins (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus once told a parable about a lost sheep in Luke 15. The shepherd in this parable searched until the lost sheep was found (Luke 15:4-7). We are loved and are lovable. (Romans 9:23-26). The apostle John tells us that God loved us so much that gave us His only Son (John 3:16). Jesus chose us to bear everlasting fruit so that we might receive everything we need from the Father (John 15:16).
We have obtained our competence from God (II Corinthians 3:5). At the fall, humans determined they knew more than God (Genesis 3). This action led to sin and death, but Christ brought redemption and eternal life (Romans 5:9-11).
-John R. Lakvold, MA, LMHCA
Do you remember where you were when heard that Robin Williams had died? I don’t, but I do remember how I felt. I was disheartened because of the waste of the loss. I was disgusted because another member of America’s narcissistic ideological class had decided that life wasn’t worth living and taking his own life was preferable to finding a reason to live on. I was sad because he left behind a wife and kids who were just going to have to figure this one out on their own.
Some find it difficult to understand why a man who had everything would not be able to find happiness and fulfillment, but Jesus himself said that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. I like the CEV translation of Luke 12:15 which says, “Then he said to the crowd, ‘Don’t be greedy! Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe.’” Owning a lot of things won’t make your life safe. What a statement. I suspect it could even be dangerous. This is because materialism leads a person to think about self and stuff, instead of what is really important. What is most important are people and knowing the God who is there.
Suicideproject.org had a discussion around the phrase, “suicide is the most selfish thing a person could do.” The debate involved both sides of the issue. Some said that it is a thin statement that ignores the suffering of people. Others stated that people do care and you hurt them when you take this sort of action. I think there is a lot of truth to the phrase. When a person does this, it leaves others behind to answer unanswered questions and to pick up the pieces that will never be put back together. Something will always be missing.
That is why Jesus died. He lived our experience and felt our emotions. He knows what hopeless looks like, but He also chose to look to the Father for strength and the love a person needs. He could see the problems in human thinking and found truth in what He learned from the Father. This truth enabled Him to live strong and free.
One of the most revealing statements so far in the discussion of Robin Williams’ death was a tweet sent out by Academy of Motion Pictures. It was a simple statement, “You’re free, Genie.” It is a quote from the movie “Aladdin.” It is a clever turn of a phrase but “dangerously irresponsible.” He is not free but trapped in the endless cycle of despair that can now never be resolved. One writer commented, “Suicide isn't freedom - it's a cry for help that always comes too late.”
This reinforces to me how important the message of Christ is. Everything thing that held Robin Williams captive, the drugs, alcohol and the need for adoration was all held out to Robin when Jesus’ hands were stretched out on the cross. I wish he could have understood that sometime in his life. I pray his family finds faith during this time. I hope they seek the only peace and comfort that can bring light to this dark situation. I pray the same thing for those of our number who are struggling with difficult issues in this life. -Dennis
John 16:16 - “A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.”
This verse teaches us about the promise of the Holy Spirit. God knows that if He remains in us and with us, we will bear much fruit. Because He is with us, there is the potential for significant fellowship, growth, relationship and connection; a real sharing of life.
When a man and a woman have a healthy connection, there is a confidence and a contentment that makes life comfortable. That is how it should be. That is also how it should be between a person and their God. Along with this confidence comes the knowledge that God will always give us what we need and knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).
This put the practice of prayer into a different light. Since the Father already knows what we need, why do we make most of the content of our prayers requests for things or things that He could do for us. Oswald Chambers writes, “The point of prayer is not to get answers from God, but to have perfect and complete oneness with Him. If we pray only because we want answers, we will become irritated and angry with God.” This is why people sometimes feel that God is not listening, or answering prayer. If the content of the prayer is wrong, then we are going to be disappointed.
Prayers that are self-centered make God wonder if we even know Him, because if we really knew Him, we would assume that He is already at work; He already knows. We are the ones that don’t appear to know Him.
In John 16, the disciples had a lot of questions for Jesus. He was saying things that were hard to grasp and that demanded they completely trust Christ. It demanded that they have an intimacy and a closeness, that the only thing that mattered was their will to be one with God’s will. God in us is an intimacy that could not be closer. When you have that closeness with God, questions and desires will fade into background and the vital life that God gives becomes the controlling force in your life. That is what Jesus points His disciples to. At that time, “in that day, you will not ask me (Jesus) anything.” Have you reached such a level of intimacy with God, that the only thing that can explain your prayer life is that it has become one with the prayer life of Jesus Christ?
When prayer seems to be unanswered, beware of trying to place the blame on someone else. That is always a trap of Satan. When you seem to have no answer, there is always a reason— God uses these times to give you deep personal instruction, that will help you to evaluate your life and enable you to grow, so that there is no distinction between you and Jesus.