Monday, November 30, 2020

Purity 278: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship


Purity 278 11/30/2020 

Good morning!

Today’s photo comes our friend’s sunrise paddling excursion with a group of friends last Friday. I love the way our friend captured their colleague paddling into the rising sun.

I chose this pic because it is Monday and I think this pic can represent all of us going into a new week and a new month as today we say goodbye to November. I also feel it can represent the spiritual journey of seeking the Lord as our walk must be taken on individually, can seem lonely at times, requires bravery, and always leads from darkness into the light of God’s truth and way for our lives.

As we draw into December, I encourage all of my friends to pick up the Bible and begin the spiritual practice of reading one chapter of John’s gospel per day. There are 21 chapters in John and if you start tomorrow, by the time you roll into the holiday you will know the Lord in a deeper way and truly have a real appreciation for why we celebrate Christmas. 

(There is More at the restricted blog). Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, or Parler for easy access.  Blog M T 4 Christ dot org – This is where the Facebook post ends.)

This morning’s meditation verse was:

Psalm 105:19 (NLT2)
19 Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.

I love this verse because it speaks of our spiritual journey in Christ and reflects the biblical truth that if we delight in the Lord’s ways He will give us the desires of our heart but the thing is when we follow the Lord He changes our hearts to be aligned with His and He encourages us to walk as He does. 

When we answer His call on our lives, there will be tests. Each test is an invitation into a deeper relationship with Him. He asks us to forsake our selfish and sinful ways to live a new life that He has for us. If we accept what He has for us, we will be challenged and we will be changed.  What may seem like an impossible task (changing me?!), is possible with God.  The more we walk with God the more our character becomes like His. Our hearts and minds change regarding all that used to enslave us, and we see the truth of how our old lives were filled with corruption, ignorance, and darkness. 

I’m not sure what the Lord’s plan is for each of us, but I know that part of the fulfillment of our dreams is to be the people we always wanted to be but that we never thought we could be. The process of following Him becomes a means and an end. We move into His will for our lives by changing and our being changed is a part of His will for us. 

What we leave behind isn’t worth holding on to. What is before us is better than anything in the past.  Keep walking and talking with God. 

Today we continue to share from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where they discuss understanding the damage done by a distorted image of God and how we are to know and love God.

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Distortion and Damage

While the preceding statement is a general rule, some legalistic churches and homes that know little of the grace of God can give children a very distorted concept of their heavenly Father.

Jim would be an example of that. This 35-year-old man who came for counseling stared quietly at the carpet as he gathered his thoughts. Slowly he began to unravel the twisted story of his life, as one would unravel the intertwined fibers of the carpet on which his gaze was fixed.

Jim was the firstborn son in a family of five children. His mother was a gentle woman, kind and compassionate. She loved all her children. In Jim's mind, she had only one fault. She was too weak and passive to stand up to his father.

Jim's father wasn't physically abusive, but he was critical and judgmental. He complained about Jim's behavior and found fault with his every move. When Jim played basketball, he would only hear of the missed shot, or blundered pass or lack of hustle. If Jim cleaned the garage, his father would point out the poorly aligned garden tools piled in the corner. The focus was always on Jim's shortcomings.

In spite of his fine performances on the basketball court, in his marriage and on the job, Jim always felt inadequate. He thought, I could have done better and I should have done more. Feeling like a failure, he longed for attention and the approval of others, but there was never enough to overcome the message he heard again and again as he was growing up. When praise came, Jim had trouble receiving it because he really didn't believe it. His perfect heavenly Father was too much like his perfectionist earthly father. God was a distant Judge who disapproved of Jim because he wasn't perfect. Jim didn't like himself, and he battled periodically with depression.

Jim's concept of God and himself was distorted because of his external circumstances. Just telling people like Jim the truth about God and who they are in Christ is often not enough. Kindly spoken words of truth by a godly pastor or a Christ-centered counselor may not by themselves overcome years of programming by the world. The nature of God will never change, but such people's perception of Him has been changed by being filtered through the grid of living in a fallen world.

Note the following diagram. We have seen good students of the Bible point to the left side of the diagram when asked which side reveals the true nature of God. But when asked how they feel about God in their personal experience, they point to the right side! Somehow, during their experience of growing up they entertained thoughts about God that were not true.


Remember: If what you believe does not conform to truth, then what you feel does not conform to reality. Consequently, there are people sitting in every church in America who intellectually know that God loves them, but they don't feel loved, and they don't feel saved. It would be safe to say that everyone has conjured some thoughts against the knowledge of God. But we have divinely powerful spiritual weapons to tear down those strongholds (see 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Loving and Knowing God

Matthew records the time an unnamed Pharisee asked Jesus the question, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22:36). Today we are more inclined to ask, "God, what is the secret for living a successful and victorious life?" But for either question, Christ's answer would be the same today as it was then:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40).

The whole purpose for having the Bible is to govern our relationship with God and humankind. We are commanded to love God more for our sake than His. He doesn't need our love, but we need to love Him.

The commandment to love God is not a commandment to feel good about Him. How we feel is the product of what we choose to believe. However, a joyful countenance would certainly follow if we really knew Him because to know God is to love Him.

We need to know that God is love, and that He is beautiful beyond comprehension.

We also need to know that God is omnipresent. No matter where we go, God is there.

We need to know that He is omniscient. He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts.

We need to know that God is omnipotent. Consequently, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (see Phil. 4:13).

God is faithful and true. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He is holy and just.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.


------------------------------more on tomorrow--------------------------


God bless you all!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Purity 277: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Purity 277 11/28/2020 

Good morning!

Today’s photo comes from a friend who, instead of getting in line to take advantage of Black Friday specials, used the morning yesterday to go “paddling” with some friends reminding us all that some of the best gifts in life can not be wrapped up and put under a tree.

It reminds me of Psalm 118:24 which says “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”   So, take today and tomorrow and rejoice and be glad in it. 

Some of my friends from my church are taking a part of their day today to wish people a Merry Christmas as they will be bell ringing and collecting for the local Salvation Army at the Hudson Walmart between 8am-5pm.  So if you’re in the area, stop by and wish them a Merry Christmas and contribute to an organization that provides for those in need. 

 (There is More at the restricted blog). Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, or Parler for easy access.  Blog M T 4 Christ dot org – This is where the Facebook post ends.)

This morning’s meditation verse was:

Psalm 118:6 (NLT)
6 The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?

One of the many benefits of making Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior and deciding to live a discipled life is that when you fully understand and accept that you have been accepted into the kingdom of God, had your sins forgiven, and have been given the promise of everlasting life, fear is put in its rightful place. 

The only one to fear is God and He has made peace with you. Death “loses its sting” because we don’t really die as much as we are brought into His presence with the pain, suffering, and mysteries of this life being left behind. 

While we don’t go rushing head long into death, we understand that it is not to be feared and that it will lead to us seeing His spiritual kingdom and meeting God face to face. 

As for the opinions of men, particularly those who don’t know the Lord, we listen and have compassion for them, but we know that they are spiritually blind and in desperate need of love.  Any insults or criticisms should be taken into perspective as the rantings of a petulant child that doesn’t really know what they are saying. 

However, Ignorance can kill so we must guard ourselves and be wise and discerning in terms of what we say when dealing with those who don’t know the Lord because they are capable of anything. Lies, betrayal, and murder may all be options for those who’s worldview is essentially meaningless or of their own creation.

As long as we show the love of God and are wise, we can walk through all the turmoil of this life with the fearlessness that comes from knowing that no matter what we face God has made us His own. 

So be the light that shines in the darkness. Be the love in the face of hate. Share the Truth of Jesus Christ knowing we were given the gift of the gospel for this reason: to heal that which was broken and to save that which was lost.

Today we continue to share from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where we begin Chapter 4 where they discuss understanding God and the three principles of Faith.

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Understanding Your Heavenly Father


I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight any longer.

A final letter from Virginia Woolf to her husband

He brought light out of darkness, not out of lesser light; He can bring your summer out of winter, though you have no spring; though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, you have been benighted until now, wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now, now God comes to you, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon.

John Donne

An attractive, talented 18-year-old young lady made an appointment with me to deal with a multitude of problems. She was the daughter of a pastor and had grown up in the Church. She had made a decision for Christ and was committed to follow Him.

Her presenting problem was a serious eating disorder. Reluctantly she revealed her tormented secret life, which was riddled with starvation, manipulation, depression and thoughts of suicide. She was obsessed with her appearance and held a general disdain for herself. Realizing this, I shared with her how Christ saw her. I reminded her that she was a loved, chosen daughter of the King. I told her she was a new creation in Christ and a personal friend of Jesus. Tears streaming down her face, she summarized her basic problem by saying, "I wish I could believe that!"

Believing is not a matter of wishing. It is a matter of knowing and choosing. It is not something you feel like doing; it is something you choose to do based on what you have come to believe is true.

Faith is the operating principle of life. Everybody lives by faith. You drive your car by faith, believing that your car will run, that the road is safe, that the traffic signs are right, that the lights at the intersection are performing up to standard and that other people will basically obey the traffic laws. If you didn't believe that, you would probably never get into a car again, or you would at least have serious apprehensions about it.

You eat by faith, believing that the canned food and packaged meat is safe. By eating the product you are showing great faith in the rancher and food processor. Your confidence is bolstered by the law, which is enforced by the Food and Drug Administration and by your county health department.

Three Principles of Faith

Faith in What or Whom?

The first principle we need to know about faith is that it is dependent upon its object. The primary issue isn't how much you believe; it is what or whom you believe in that counts. The only difference between non-Christian faith and Christian faith is the object of our faith. Christian faith is not wishful thinking; it is based on truth revealed to us by God. The person and nature of God and His word is the only valid object of our faith.

The writer of the book of Hebrews lists in chapter 11 several biblical heroes who believed God. They had great faith because they believed in a great God. Then the writer says, "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7, emphasis added). He didn't say that we should imitate what these heroes did, but that we should imitate their faith—because what they believed is what determined their conduct. The next verse reveals the object of their faith. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

The fact that God is immutable (i.e., He cannot change) is what makes Him the only reliable object for our faith. Nor can His Word change. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isaiah 40:8). The fact that God and His Word never change is what gives us stability in a changing world. God is always faithful, and His Word is always true. Because God is faithful, we can live with the confidence that His promises are also true: "For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes" (2 Cor. 1:20). Herein lies the basis for our hope, according to Hebrews 6:16-19:

For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.

How Faith Is Increased

The second principle of faith is that it cannot be "pumped up." Many express the sentiment, "If only I could believe." They can believe. Belief is a choice. If I can believe, can't anybody else?

How much faith we have depends on how well we know the object of our faith. If you know seven promises from the Word of God, the best you can have is a seven-promise faith. If you know 7,000 promises from God's Word, you can potentially have a 7,000-promise faith. That is why "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

Any attempt to step out on faith beyond that which you know to be true is presumption, not faith. If your faith is weak, then seek the counsel you need to make sure that what you are believing is indeed true. The consequences of doing otherwise are predictable. "Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom" (Proverbs 13:10). Remember: faith is dependent upon its object, and we are called by God to walk by faith according to what He says is true.

If I wanted to take away your hope, all I would have to do is distort your concept of God and of who you are as His child. Ask Christians who have been depressed for any length of time about their concept of God and what they believe about themselves. You will hear people questioning God or their salvation, or believing things about themselves and God that are not true. Visit a psychiatric ward in a hospital and you will find some of the most religious people you have ever met. But what they believe about themselves and God is totally distorted.

To illustrate this second principle of faith, look at Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me (Psalm 13:1-6, NIV).

This psalm portrays King David with many of the classic symptoms of depression, including hopelessness, negative self-talk, thoughts of death and sadness. Even though he believes in God, David is depressed because what he believes about God is not true. How can an omnipresent and omniscient God forget David for even one minute, much less forever?

"Wrestling with my thoughts" is nothing more than talking to himself, which is not the answer. So David asks God to enlighten his eyes, and by the end of the psalm his reason has returned. He remembers that he has trusted in God's unfailing love, then expresses hope that his heart shall again rejoice. Finally he exercises his will by singing to the Lord.

Faith Determines Our Walk

If we really believe the truth, it will affect our walk and our talk. This is the third principle of faith. If there were five frogs on a log and three decided to jump off, how many were left on the log? The answer is five—we only said that three decided to jump off. They may have come to this decision because they thought it was the right thing to do, but it is only wishful thinking or good intentions until they actually hop off the log.

"But someone may well say, 'You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works'" (James 2:18). James is not contradicting the glorious truth that we are saved by faith and by faith alone. He is saying that the way we live our lives reveals what we believe. People will not always live according to what they profess, but they will always live according to what they believe. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the apparent profession of faith by some is just wishful thinking.

Much the same can be said about hope. Hearing somebody say, "Oh, I hope so," probably means, "Wouldn't it be nice if that were really true!" That is not biblical hope. Hope is the present assurance of some future good based on the Word of God.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:1, 6).

If you want to experience the blessings of God, hop off the log! "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them" (John 13:17).

In your Bible, the English words "faith," "trust" and "belief" all derive from the same word (pistis) in the original Greek language. Believing something is not just giving mental assent or credence to something. Scriptural belief is a demonstrated reliance in the object of faith.

It is also important to understand that believing something does not make it true. Christianity teaches, "The word of God is true, therefore I believe it and I will live accordingly by faith." Believing does not make it true, and not believing doesn't make it false. Truth is truth whether we believe it or not. According to Paul, if we renew our minds according to the truth of God's Word, we prove that the will of God is good, acceptable and perfect, and other people would see it as they observe how we live our lives (see Romans 12:2).

The present New Age philosophy is distorting this basic premise. New Age teaches, "If you believe hard enough, it will become true." That is false. It would also have us believe that we can create reality with our minds. To do that we would have to be God; and that is exactly what they are saying. That is the same lie the devil tried to get Eve to believe in the Garden of Eden. We are created in God's image, but we are not God. We don't create reality with our mind; we respond to reality by faith according to what God says is true. God has not given us the right to determine what is true or false. He has given us the privilege to respond by faith to what He has said is true.

Suppose you just bought a new computer, but you didn't bother to look at the manufacturer's handbook explaining how it should work. So you attempt to use it the way you think it should work; but it won't work. That computer was designed to work only one way. Any attempt to use it any other way will fail.

Similarly, the wise man said, "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12). God created us in His image, and told us what the truth is and how we are to live by faith. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Try another way and you will be lost. Believe something other than the truth as revealed by God and you will never become the person God created you to be, nor experience the freedom of forgiveness He purchased for you on the cross. If you try to "get a life," other than the life of Christ, you will remain dead in your trespasses and sins.

Like every other perception of reality, much of what we have come to believe about God was assimilated from the environment in which we were raised. If we were fortunate enough to have been raised in a loving Christian home where the Word of God was honored, then our perceptions of God could be fairly accurate.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

------------------------------more on Monday ------------------------

God bless you all!

Friday, November 27, 2020

Purity 276: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Purity 276 11/27/2020 

Good morning and Thank God It’s Friday!

Today’s photo was taken by friend who rose early to catch this magnificent sunrise scene presumably in the Hillsdale area of Upstate NY.  It looks like God Himself was using the skies as a sketch pad as the heavens look as if they were touched by a heavenly presence. 

I pray that everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday yesterday and will take the lessons learned from it to share their hope and love with others in the days to come.

 (There is More at the restricted blog). Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, or Parler for easy access.  Blog M T 4 Christ dot org – This is where the Facebook post ends.)

This morning’s meditation verse was:

John 4:1 (NKJV)
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

As it was in John’s day, so it is in ours. The danger of false teachings that could lead us astray is a real and present danger.  In our post-Christian society where diversity and tolerance are the catchphrases of compromise it is more important than ever to know what we believe and why we believe it. 

Recent surveys done by Ligonier ministries (, reveal that not only do those outside the church hold beliefs that contradict biblical truth but a large percentage of respondents who consider themselves to be Christians also hold beliefs or opinions that oppose the basic beliefs of traditional Christianity. 

Opinions of why this is can vary but I would theorize that the reason for this digression away from the Truth of God’s word can be summarized by the simple explanation of ignorance: the vast majority of those who would consider themselves Christians don’t know truth. 

If we ever wonder why “the church” is just as troubled as the rest of the world, in light of these survey results we shouldn’t wonder for long.  If the truth sets us free, we need to know the truth.  

The good news is there are plenty of Christian resources available online to help to teach the rationale behind what we believe and why we believe it. 

After living a life all over the spiritual landscape from nominal liturgical Christianity to atheism to Buddhism to Biblical Christianity, when I finally heard the gospel of the kingdom of God and the forgiveness of sin by grace and faith in Jesus Christ, I felt determined to make sure I wasn’t being led astray. As a skeptic, I pursued the truth of Christianity by spending hours and hours reading the Bible, listening to Christian messages, reading Christian non-fiction, and obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, and now completing a Master’s program in Christian Counseling.

However, my seeking God wasn’t just an intellectual exercise. I also sought the Lord in prayer, worship and service.  Through my ten-year journey of investigating the truth, applying it to my life, and seeking the Lord’s presence, I can say that the Lord has revealed Himself to me time and time again. I didn’t just learn about God; I encountered His manifest presence.   He is Emanuel. He is with us. 

So, take time to seek Him and His truth. There’s a lot to learn and I don’t think our seeking Him and His ways for our lives was ever meant to end.

Today we continue to share from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the conclude Chapter 3 by providing the proof that their methods of dealing with depression have positive results.   

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Proof That It Works

At a "Living Free in Christ" conference conducted by the Freedom in Christ Ministry, Judy King, a Christ-centered therapist, handed out a survey to those who desired a personal counseling session after the conference. The conference covers the material in Neil's first two books, Victory over the Darkness, and The Bondage Breaker, and concludes by taking the group through the "Steps." The intention is to give people every opportunity to resolve their personal and spiritual conflicts. They learn who they are in Christ, what it means to be a child of God, how to relate to one another in love and forgiveness, how to walk by faith; and finally they are taught their position, authority and protection in Christ.

In our experience, 85 percent of those who come to the conference find resolution to their conflicts as a result of going through the "Steps" on their own. Judy gave these questionnaires to those who couldn't get through the process on their own because of a lack of time, or because their problems were too intense to deal with them in a room full of people.

After the conference, they had one counseling session with a layperson using the "Steps," and usually one or more prayer partners were also present. Keep in mind that it didn't matter what their presenting problem was. Some of them could have been depressed, but others may not have been.

Three months later these same people were given the questionnaire again. The group as a whole showed:

48 percent improvement in depression

46 percent improvement in anxiety

70 percent improvement in tormenting thoughts/voices

46 percent improvement in uncontrolled habits

55 percent improvement in inner conflict/distress.

Most of the lay counselors had very little training other than what the conference provided, which makes the results that much more remarkable. We believe that Jesus is the wonderful Counselor, and that only He can grant "repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 2:25). Medication, therapy, diet and exercise can be helpful, but only God can remove the guilt and heal the brokenhearted. These lay-Christian encouragers only facilitated a process that is made possible by the presence of Christ.

It is important to keep in mind that the "Steps" don't set you free. Christ sets you free, through your response to Him in repentance and faith.

This process of helping people to repent and affirm the truth is certainly not new. But it is often overlooked in helping people who are struggling, which is probably why we have an epidemic of the blues upon us.

Replacing Lies with Laughter

You cannot experience the fruit of the Spirit if you are believing a lie, dabbling in the occult, holding on to your bitterness, sinking in pride, living in rebellion or sinning. Depression is riddled with contaminated thinking and erroneous beliefs built upon contradictions and lies. "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful" (Proverbs 12:22, NIV). Those issues must be resolved in order to experience the peace of God that guards your heart and your mind.

To illustrate this, let us close with the following testimony a friend of our ministry shared in a newsletter:

A year ago, Simon fell captive to severe depression. The doctors did what they could, but without much effect. From time to time I had the opportunity to speak with him about the love of Christ, but he wasn't very responsive. Last fall we began to meet more frequently, but I always came away frustrated. Nothing seemed to change, and our conversations ran in circles around the same morbid themes. However, God used these times to show me that I was relying too much on my own efforts and not nearly enough on His power to effect change. In desperation, I was driven to seek God in a more profound way through prayer. God worked on Simon's distorted view of truth, while He worked to cut through the pride that was in my own heart. Just before Christmas, Simon made a commitment to follow Christ as Lord and Savior. His depression, however, was only mildly improved.

Simon had a history of occult and New Age involvement, and it became evident that there was demonic oppression in his life. For this reason, I lent him The Bondage Breaker. At the end of the book the believer is invited to walk through the seven "Steps to Freedom in Christ." I told Simon that I would help him work through these steps when I returned from a trip. During our time away, I called Simon to see how he was doing. The voice that spoke to me was changed. Simon had not waited for me to take him through the seven steps. He had done it himself the previous evening. The old thoughts which had constantly filled his mind were gone. I heard him laughing for the first time. Praise the Lord.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.


------------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

God bless you all!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving! - Purity 275: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Purity 275 11/26/2020 

 Happy Thanksgiving!

Today’s photo was taken by me while I was working out on Sullivan Rd in Esperance NY yesterday.  It may not be terribly stunning but at the moment I was taken by the way the sun’s brilliance made itself known even through the clouds over the pines and the way the road stretched into the distance. 

I share it today because it’s the most recent picture that I have taken and for better or worse it reflects a part of my life in the here and now.  On Thanksgiving we can fondly remember this day in years past, but we can also be brought into depression if we are looking back and hoping to recreate days gone by that are impossible to replicate.  So while I’m pretty sure that we can say that we have all had better Thanksgivings before, especially this year, I want to focus on the fact that we still have much to be thankful for today. 

Ironically, 2020 has actually been one of the best years in my life as I have been led by the Spirit to new accomplishments and a new home, all in the midst of the chaos of Covid-19.  I kept hoping, praying, and living in the Spirit during this pandemic and the Lord has been with me every step of the way, bringing me from glory to glory.  While there have been moments of struggle, I kept looking forward and doing what I had to do, and the Lord has blessed me beyond measure. 

Part of the secret to successfully living in the Spirit is to continually stay in His presence through prayer and trying to follow the Lord’s will for your life, or as I have simplified it as: talking and walking with God. 

I would also suggest adopting an attitude of gratitude as a daily spiritual practice.

So, if 2020 hasn’t been so great for you, here are some things everyone can be thankful for:

We are thankful that we are alive and have the ability to live the life we choose.  

Although not in perfect health, we have the health we have and the abilities to do the things we can today.  It may be less than what we’ve had in the past, and it may be less tomorrow as we age, but it is what it is and we should appreciate where we are here and now.  We are thankful for our health.    

We may have lost loved ones, but we have the memories of their love and the things they have taught us. We are thankful for the lost.

We have friends and family that are alive. They may not be spending the day with us, but they are still with us and prayerfully we will see them again. We are thankful for our friends and family.

We have a place to live. Although some of my friends have been homeless at times, none of them are homeless this year.  We pray for those who are.  We are thankful for our homes.

We have work or benefit from those who do.  Some have the ability to work, some are retired, some are out of work, some are disabled, some have a job, and others are working today.  We are thankful for what work, that of ourselves or others, has provided for us. 

We can rest. Many have the day off, some don’t, but all of us have times where we can rest and enjoy our lives. We are thankful for rest!

We have a God above it all.  Whether you believe in Him or not, He has created the universe we live in and shaped the history of this planet and continues to be sovereign over it all. He provides the weather and causes the world to produce air to breathe, water to drink, and the conditions for food to grow. He does this for all.  He sent Christ to die for our sins and offers freedom over sin and death to all who place their faith in Him. This is His invitation to all.   I am thankful to God for all that He is and all that He does.  It is my hope that today, we are thankful for God. 

There is much more to be thankful for, from the mundane to the profound, we experience a better life when we focus on all that we have rather than the things we don’t have.  We experience a life of peace, hope, love, and joy when we welcome God into our lives and remain in His presence. It is my prayer that all who read this have a Happy Thanksgiving and discover the life that God has for you.   

 (There is More at the restricted blog). Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, or Parler for easy access.  Blog M T 4 Christ dot org – This is where the Facebook post ends.)

This morning’s meditation verse was:

Psalm 118:5 (NLT): In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. 

If there was a verse that describes my walk with God, I would say that this one certainly could be it.  I have literally cried out to the Lord, prayed for His deliverance and He has set me free in ways that I had never thought were possible.

This Thanksgiving, I am experiencing more freedom than I have in my entire life and it is only because God revealed the truth of Jesus Christ, brought me into His kingdom, and somehow I have endeavored to follow Him into the new life He made for me. .  Every day I look out my kitchen window or step on my front porch and look out at the Hudson River, I am overcome with joy because I know what He has brought me through and that He has brought me here.  

If you are not living a life of freedom, peace, joy, and love, commit yourself to Jesus as your Lord and Savior and Follow Him.    

Today we continue to share from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss taking every thought captive and detecting “viruses”.   

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Taking Every Thought Captive

The most damaging thoughts we entertain are lies about ourselves and God. That is the subject of the next two chapters, but we should note here that the apostle Paul makes a critical connection between thoughts we have toward God and the potential spiritual battle going on for our minds.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, NIV).

Computer programmers coined the term "GIGO," which means garbage in, garbage out. If we put garbage into our minds we will probably live a life that looks and smells a little bit like garbage. Jesus said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart" (Luke 6:45).

We have to be very careful what we put into our minds; hence the urgency of taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. It doesn't make any difference whether the renegade thought originated from the television set, the radio, a book, a speaker, from your own memory bank or from deceiving spirits. Even if it is an original thought of our own, we must take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

If what you are thinking is not true according to God's Word, then don't pay attention to it. Instead, do what the apostle Paul says to do:

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, let your mind dwell on these things (Phil. 4:8).

You don't get rid of negative thoughts by trying not to think of them. You overcome them by choosing the truth and continuing to choose it until the negative thoughts are drowned out or completely replaced by the truth. If you want to experience the freedom that Christ purchased for you and the peace of mind that passes all understanding, then choose to think only those thoughts that perfectly align with the Word of God.

Detecting Viruses

Computer owners have all been warned about the potential for their computers contracting a "virus." A virus can cause severe damage to existing programs already loaded into the computer. Computer viruses are often not accidental, but intentional. They may come from store-wrapped software that gets contaminated by disgruntled employees. In addition, some devious people have purposefully created programs that are designed to introduce a killer virus into any system that accesses them. Therefore, most computer systems have programs that scan for viruses. Similarly, we need to have the capability to stand against the deceiver.

It is not always easy to detect a virus in our own belief system, because the major strategy of the enemy is deception. Every Christian is subject to tempting, accusing and deceiving thoughts. That is why we are to put on the armor of God. That is why we are to stand against the fiery darts Satan aims at our minds by taking up the shield of faith.

The most devious of Satan's schemes is deception. If you were tempted or accused, you would know it. But when you are deceived you don't know it. That is why Jesus prays for those who would follow Him, "'I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one....Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth'" (John 17:15, 17).

From the very beginning Eve was deceived, and she believed a lie. So Paul writes, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3). Commenting about the later days of the church age, Paul also wrote, "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1).

We have seen evidence of this around the world—people struggle with their thoughts, have difficulty concentrating and even hear "voices." These voices or negative thoughts are usually self-condemning, suicidal, delusional and phobic. They result in feelings of guilt, hopelessness, sadness and deep despair.

These symptoms are what therapists typically associate with severely depressed people, both bipolar and unipolar. Of course, it's depressing to think those kind of thoughts! If a depressed person shared those symptoms with a secular therapist or doctor he would assume that a chemical imbalance is the cause and would likely place the client on some kind of antipsychotic medication and/or antidepressant. The consensus of opinion in the secular world is that severe depression needs to be treated with medication and milder depression requires therapy.

Again, we have to be careful that we don't rule out that possibility all together; but serious questions need to be asked. How can a chemical change a personality? How can our neurotransmitters randomly fire in such a way as to produce a thought that one is opposed to thinking? That is hard to believe. It should be much easier for the Christian to believe that those negative thoughts were patterns of the flesh learned from living in a fallen world, or the fiery darts from Satan that Scripture has clearly warned us about. A therapist with a secular worldview would not even consider such a possibility.

In our experience, the symptoms described reveal a battle for the mind more times than not. Instead of medication, or in addition to medication if they are already under a physician's care, we help these people resolve their personal and spiritual conflicts by submitting to God and resisting the devil (see James 4:7). The intervention we use is the Steps to Freedom in Christ (see appendix).

The apostle Paul spoke of "the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension," that is able to "guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). Potentially, every born-again Christian should be able to experience that peace. Although most Christians apparently are not experiencing that freedom in Christ, we believe that they could, and that God desires it for all His children.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

------------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Purity 274: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Purity 274 11/25/2020                

 Good morning!

Today’s photo was taken by a friend back in September. The location and the friend are now a mystery to me, but I think this might be a scene near Lake George NY or in the Adirondacks region of upstate NY.  

I share it because of its beauty and symmetry as the lake perfectly reflects the distant peak and the clouds and blue sky. I also share it as it is Wednesday and the peak reminds us that we are at midweek with the Thanksgiving holiday, tomorrow? could it be? Really?  Wow… time flies.  

Anyway, this Wednesday is traditionally a day of reunions as family and friends travel to be with one another for (tomorrow?) the Thanksgiving holiday. Normally the roads would be packed with traffic later this afternoon and evening as loved ones return home to celebrate. 

In my past, this evening was also one of the biggest party nights of the year as friends and familiar faces from school would return home and be looking to blow off some steam before being locked in to the wholesome drudgery and constrained politeness that Thanksgiving with the family could be.

The difficulties of family dynamics are a universal experience, I believe, as we all face the dichotomy of loving our family and equally wanting to be separate and independent from their peculiar foibles and troubled family histories.   As much as we love them and relate to them, we each seek to establish our own identities and may cringe at the suggestion that we are “just like” our family members.   

However, I do recognize that many derive their identities from their family and their familial roles where family is everything. These people accept their family as just a part of who they are and operate as a representative of their family more than as an individual.  

But this year will be different because of Covid-19.  All of us, whether you are a black sheep, the most highly favored son, or the backbone that holds your family together will experience a Thanksgiving that’s different no matter what we choose.  The bars close at 10pm tonight, I guess. That’s different. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is not really happening although the producers of NBC will do their best to throw together something to watch.  The NFL games will be on but will have mostly empty stands.  And of course, many of us are choosing not to get together as we normally would, myself included.

So, at times like this, it is best to remember the One who never changes: God. He will be here for us to turn to no matter what the circumstances may be in the world.  And whether you love your family to the point of codependency or if you feel alone in the midst of the ones who should know you best, God knows you and He invites you to be a part of His family for all of eternity. 

Be sure to share your love for your family and friends over the next couple of days and let them know you are thankful for their presence in your life. But be sure to thank the God who created our world and all that is beautiful in it, including those friends and family members that can drive you crazy sometimes. 

 (There is More at the restricted blog). Follow me on Twitter, MeWe, or Parler for easy access.  Blog M T 4 Christ dot org – This is where the Facebook post ends.)

This morning’s meditation verse was:

Psalm 28:7 (NLT): The Lord is my strength and my shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

It appears the “random draw” of Bible verses isn’t so random as for the second time this week words directing us to give thanks have “just happen” to come up! 

My God is sovereign and makes His heart known through His word. So, make Him your strength and your shield. When you draw close to Him, He will guide and protect you in ways that are difficult to understand or adequately express to others. The “shield” is His presence in our lives. The key is trusting Him “with all my heart”. If you do, He will help you and your heart will be filled with joy to the point that you will want to sing!  Pray and talk to Him. He is right there with you, but you have to trust, you have to ask, and you have to seek Him.   

In regard to my comments about family above, as fate would have it, my Bible reading this morning in Matthew 12 (46-50) touched on the importance of being in God’s family. Jesus is out teaching, and His mother and brothers show up.

Shockingly, He doesn’t drop everything to make room for His mom and His brothers but instead points to the disciples who are listening to His teaching and following Him and proclaims that they, those who do His Father’s will, are truly His brothers, sisters, and mother.  

Back in Christ’s day family was absolutely everything. It was your identity. It was your protection. It was your survival.  But Jesus goes against convention and highlights the ultimate spiritual reality that God is supreme and being a part of His family is the only thing of value. 

No matter how close a tight knit bunch you and your family are, without a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ,  you will be eternally separated from one another and from God in a place described as darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, hell. 

So, if you are one to proclaim, “family first!”, you better make sure that you are part of God’s family because Jesus taught that God’s kingdom takes priority over anything on this earth. 

If you know Christ, let your family and friends know that you love them and share the good news. If you are outside of His family, just ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and you will be translated into His kingdom forever where you can experience the fullness of a new life with Him.      

Today we continue to share from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss cognitive therapy and our renegade thoughts. 

As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Anderson’s books for your own private study and to support his work:

Cognitive Therapy

Recall from the last chapter that physical pain is necessary for our self-preservation. In a similar fashion, the presence of emotional pain stimulates the process of renewing our minds and the development of our character. Let's look at what the Bible calls the "inner man" to gain a better understanding of how our thinking affects our emotions.

We mentioned earlier that we have very little direct control of our emotions. But we can have indirect control over them by changing how we think, and we can choose what we believe. Many secular therapists such as Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck have been saying much the same thing for years in their work as "cognitive therapists." They maintain that our emotions are essentially a product of our thoughts. They believe that the primary source of depression is the way people perceive themselves, their circumstances and the future—which is often referred to as "the depression triad." Several Christian counselors, such as William Backus who wrote Telling Yourself the Truth, and David Stoop who wrote Self Talk, say essentially the same thing.

The basic procedure of cognitive therapy is probably the most accepted approach in Christian counseling at the present time. According to this approach, helping others or yourself to maintain or regain mental health would follow this sequence:

1.    People are taught to recognize and monitor their negative thoughts or distortion of reality. Thoughts or beliefs are identified as ineffective or dysfunctional, leading to improper responses to life.

2.    Then they are helped to see the connection between these negative thoughts, the emotions they create and the subsequent behavior that follows.

3.    Next they must examine the evidence for and against such distorted thinking or perceptions of reality. This is decision time. Are they going to continue thinking what they are thinking, believing what they are believing, and therefore doing what they are doing, or are they going to change?

4.    If they have concluded that what they have believed is not true, and their perception of reality wasn't right, then they must substitute old ways of thinking and respond with new ways.

5.    Finally they are helped to identify and change the inappropriate assumptions that predisposed them to distort their experiences.

All this is about as close to the concept of Christian repentance as you can get. We would add one crucial element to this list. If you have distorted, false and negative beliefs about God, yourself and the world, you disagree with what God said about Himself, yourself and the world you live in. This "disagreement" is missing the mark—which is sin. "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23).

Christians confess sin and repent of it when they become aware of it. Confession is agreeing with God that what they have believed is not true. The word "repentance" in the original Greek language of the New Testament literally means a change of mind. That must happen for all of us if we are going to live a liberated Christian life. Repentance is turning from false beliefs and destructive behaviors. True repentance involves substituting Christian beliefs based on God's Word for the old false beliefs that were based on what the world says is true.

Renegade Thoughts

Returning to the story of Jim at the beginning of this chapter: He was depressed because he believed a renegade thought—a lie about himself and his financial condition. The thought he entertained in his mind was, You're going down! He chose to believe that lie and continued to believe that he was going down even though it wasn't true. Then he started to think he was a failure. Of course, that was another lie. The failed financial investment and the possible loss of money did not cause Jim's depression. His perception of the experience, and the lies he believed about himself, caused the depression.

Renegade thoughts are wandering, fugitive patterns of thinking that are defiant, independent and in opposition to the nature, character and Word of God. To entertain renegade thoughts leads only to confusion, mental anguish and despair.

Perhaps you have renegade thoughts such as, You're no good; God doesn't love you; You're going to fail; You're a failure; You're stupid (or ugly, unlovable, arrogant, sinful, going to lose, going down, ad nauseam). If the negative messages we receive from this world aren't enough, add to them the devil's attacks because he relentlessly accuses the brethren day and night (see Rev. 12:10).

As I sat and listened to Jim's story, it didn't make sense to me that he was feeling depressed because of his financial situation. It was far better than mine at the time. I was probably thinking, Get real! You are far better off than I am, and there is no good reason for you to be depressed.

Of course, telling people they shouldn't feel a certain way is not only less than helpful, but it is also condemning. It is better and more accurate to suggest that they may not be interpreting the data correctly or seeing the situation from the right perspective. If what people believe does not conform to truth, then what they feel does not conform to reality. The vast majority of people around the world would have far more reason to be depressed about their finances than Jim did. But he couldn't change how he felt until he revised his beliefs. To make things worse, the VA hospital had medicated him to the point of numbness; but they never made the connection between his inaccurate (renegade) thoughts and what he was feeling.

We are continually making evaluations and judgments that affect our actions and our feelings, based on past experiences. We think, The mail carrier should have been here by now: I'll go and get the mail. The thought about the mail carrier is a judgment call based on previous behavior and the reliability of the mail carrier.

When such a thought pops into your mind, you make a decision to go get the mail or wait until later. If you believe the mail carrier has not come, you are less likely to go check the mail. If you are anxiously waiting for an important piece of mail, you may get angry if he shows up late. But the fact that he was late didn't make you angry. You became angry because you believed he should have been there sooner, and the plans you made based on his timely arrival were dashed when he came late. You wouldn't have become angry if you had told yourself, "I have no right to expect him to arrive at a time that is convenient for me, therefore I will patiently (a fruit of the Spirit) wait until he comes."

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

------------------------------more tomorrow------------------------

God bless you all!