Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year 2021

 I wish all of my friends a Happy New Year!

When your “2020 year in review” sounds like a ravings of a mad man caught in the heights of ecstasy, where COVID-19 is merely an interesting point of the subtext, and it is so amazing that you had to write it down, but you can’t even bring yourself to share it on the restricted blog because it’s just so fantastic, you know it has been an eventful year.  

For me 2020, was one of the best years of my life because I trusted the Lord more than I ever have and He has taken me from the valley of the shadow of death to the rivers of living waters.  I have no choice but to praise Him and follow where He leads.

Keep walking and talking with God! This is the path least travelled.

God bless you all!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Purity 302: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 Purity 302 12/28/2020 

Good morning!

Today’s photo comes from a friend in Columbia County that caught this spectacular sunset on Christmas day.  

As we enter into the last week of 2020, I want to encourage my friends to reflect on the past year and to specifically think about the ways God has blessed you with His grace, mercy, provision, and love. 

If you can’t see it, I pray for you to ask God to open your eyes to His kingdom and allow you to enter into all He has for you. 

I’m on vacation this week and will be taking a break from the daily posts on FB, and the blog, to rest and to reflect on the year’s journey and to draw closer to the Father. 

God willing, I will start sharing “my views” again a week from today. 

(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 verse comes from my morning Bible study:

Luke 5:8 (NKJV)
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

When you have been walking with the Lord long enough, and make a regular practice of studying the Bible, the Lord blesses you with “milestone” markers on your journey with Him.  

Luke 5 is a milestone for me because it was from Luke 5 that I composed the first “sermon” or gospel message I ever composed and delivered.  I delivered that message at my church in front of my fellow Bible college students and instructors, in the 7th street park in the city of Hudson, and to children at a school in Zimbabwe.   

As a Christian who came to faith after walking in the world’s darkness for 38 years of my life, I really could relate to Peter’s response to Jesus when He realized that Jesus wasn’t just a religious teacher, that the One who taught with such authority and caused miracles to happen right before his eyes was the Messiah, the Son of God and God the Son.  

Peter was declaring that as a “sinful man” that He wasn’t worthy of being in Jesus’ presence but as Jesus explains later in Luke 5, He came not to call the righteous, but came to call sinners to repentance.  

The recognition of who Jesus is can only be followed by one of two things: rejection or repentance.  If we really understand who Christ is, we make Him our Lord and Savior and follow Him.  

It is my prayer that anyone reading these words would know that Christ has called you worthy of His presence and He has the best way for your life.  Read the scriptures and pray daily and you can revisit the milestones in your journey with the Lord that never ends.  

Today we continue chapter 8 of Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss “explanatory styles”, the ways we deal with loss and who they impact our grief.

I have forged ahead in my reading and can’t recommend this book any more highly. The Lord has made ways for us to learn about our human condition and how our faith is the answer, but we must not only seek the truth but apply it as well. 

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:

Explanatory Styles

Difficult times befall us all on the road to wholeness and maturity. Some people bounce back rather quickly, but others struggle for weeks or months, and some never recover from their loss. Most people learn how to accept and grow through childhood mistakes, adolescent embarrassments, young adult misunderstandings and adult problems of all kinds. Some have had more than their share of afflictions. God must have known that they had broad shoulders, or was preparing them for a special ministry of helping others through their crises.

Why do some recover faster than others when faced with the same crisis? Does one have greater health or greater support from others? The major difference in our ability to recover is found in the way we perceive events that befall us. Our beliefs about these events, ourselves and God will determine if we respond in fear, despair or faith.

We interpret trials and tribulations through the grid of our previous learning experiences. We attempt to explain what happened and why it happened. How we explain difficult circumstances and painful events is drawn from our beliefs about God, ourselves, others and the way we think the world works.

Some of the most enlightening research responsible for the theory of explanatory styles was conducted by Martin Seligman, the same person who did the pioneering research on learned helplessness (see chapter 7). Seligman asked:

How do you think about the cause of the misfortunes, small and large, that befall you? Some people, the ones who give up easily, habitually say of their misfortunes: "It's me, it's going to last forever, it's going to undermine everything I do." Others, those who resist giving in to misfortune, say: "It was just circumstances, it's going away quickly anyway, and besides, there's much more in life." 

According to Seligman, we have all developed explanatory styles to deal with crisis events. These explanatory styles determine how soon and even whether we will recover from losses. These explanatory styles are made up of the following three constructs.

Permanence: It will last forever.

The speed of our recovery is greatly affected by whether we think the consequences of the crisis will have a short-term or a long-term effect on us. If we think our problems today will negatively affect us all our lives, then we will become pessimistic, believe that the situation is hopeless and consequently feel depressed.

This kind of thinking is so commonplace that we are hardly aware of it. Suppose a husband thinks, My wife is cranky. She must be in a bad mood. That is a short-term problem, and it will have very little lasting effect upon her husband. He may decide to avoid confrontation until the mood passes. But if the husband thinks, My wife is cranky. She is an irritable person, he is viewing the situation as a long-term problem. His response could vary from:

"I'm going to ignore her." That is denial.

"I'm going to try controlling her." That is anger.

"I'm going to try appeasing her." That is bargaining.

"I'm going to try to change her." That will be depressing!

"I'm going to avoid her." That is resignation.

"I'm going to love her and learn to live with her." That is acceptance.

When people reach the stage of depression on the crisis cycle, they are at a major crossroad. They can believe that their predicament is permanent and resign, or they can see it as impermanent and come to reach that point of acceptance, saying, "I can't change what happened, but by the grace of God I can change myself. I can come through this crisis a better person."

A young couple attending seminary came to see me. They had tried every possible means to have children. Their disappointment with God was written all over their faces. They had all but given up on any hope of having children. They had one other option, but it was very expensive and a very unnatural means of child reproduction.

Theirs was a reactionary depression. At first they had been angry toward God, then they had tried bargaining with Him. "Lord, will you let us have children if we promise to go to the mission field?" All they heard from heaven was silence. I suggested the possibility that they weren't supposed to have children of their own.

"You mean just give up," she said.

"No, that would be resignation," I responded. "I think you should consider trusting God again, and accepting His will for your life. There may be reasons why you shouldn't have children, reasons that we don't know about. We only see one little piece of a giant puzzle, but God sees the whole picture. If God has laid it on your heart to have children, then maybe He wants you to consider adoption as an alternative, or possibly He is calling you to work with children."

There are many crisis events and losses that cannot be altered, and that will result in our having to live with their consequences all our lives. Such events include losing a spouse to death or losing a leg to injury. The loss is permanent, but it doesn't have to negatively affect us permanently. How we respond to the loss will determine whether the crisis makes us or breaks us. The crises of life are not intended by God to destroy us, but they do reveal who we are. They do expose our character and reveal what or whom we believe in.

Difficult circumstances are opportunities to adjust our course of life. When a pilot encounters turbulent air while flying he may consider going higher or lower, but stopping is a poor option. Someone once said that a bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn.

Joni Eareckson Tada must have felt that her life had come to the end of the road when she found herself paralyzed after a swimming accident. In an interview recorded in June 1993 on a Focus on the Family broadcast, she said, "I wanted to end my life, and the frustration I felt at not being able to do that only intensified my depression. I was so desperate, I begged one of my friends to help me end it all." Thank God that she couldn't, and thank God that He enabled Joni to make the bend in the road and become a blessing to millions.

The future belongs to the Church, not to the lost. "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:17). The Lord never sees our troubles as permanent; to Him they are momentary. To the troubled nation of Israel, He said, "For I know the plans that I have for you…plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Even when the children of Israel failed Him badly, God showed mercy toward them and restored what was lost: "I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten," (Joel 2:25). God will make it right in the end.

When we are in the darkness of depression, it is easy to believe the lie that God's favor is only momentary and His anger will last forever. But the truth is, "His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

Winter is not permanent, even though you can't sense the warmth of summer. You must choose to believe that summer comes. When you think your crisis is permanent, then consider again the words of Jeremiah in Lament. 3:19-23:

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (NIV).

Pervasiveness: It will ruin my whole life.

The "grid" of pervasiveness refers to the extent to which a crisis can affect other areas of one's life. An example of pervasive thinking is to conclude that if we failed in one endeavor, then we must be a total failure, or to think that our lives are over if we were turned down or rejected by someone on whom we based our whole future.

To illustrate, take Sandy, who went through a painful breakup with her boyfriend. She mourned the loss of a loved one with whom she hoped to spend the rest of her life. Would anyone ever want to marry me? she wondered.

Sandy cried incessantly for the first two and a half days, and on and off after that. She didn't want to be around anybody, and she began missing work. Her "explanatory style" led Sandy to think her employer would eventually discover her to be inadequate anyway, so why bother trying? Her friends called, but she often didn't return their calls; and when she did she was cold and distant. The loss she was experiencing in one area of her life was projected onto every other area. Consequently, she felt there was no hope for her.

Don't let one loss infiltrate other aspects of your life. If you experience loss, it does not mean you are a loser in life. If you fail to accomplish one goal, you are not a failure. If you get laid off at work, it doesn't mean you are an irresponsible dad or a bad husband or an incompetent Sunday School teacher.

The tendency of this kind of thinking is to rest our whole sense of worth on one relationship, experience, idea or plan. When plans or relationships don't last or fail to materialize, we wrongly deem ourselves failures.

Personalization: It's me! It's all my fault!

The third construct in explanatory styles is to take personal responsibility for something we didn't cause or couldn't control. In personalization, the depressed person feels responsible for another person's anger, for the downsizing of a corporation, for bad weather, for not knowing the future and for a host of other uncontrollable circumstances and situations.

Little children become depressed when their parents get divorced because they think it is their fault. Many perfectionists struggle with depression because they have a tendency to blame themselves for everything. One little crisis upsets their idealized world and they can't help but think, It's my fault. They become so driven to achieve their self-made goals that they become supersensitive to any failure or crisis.

Personalization distorts the perception of reality. When a crisis erupts at work, some immediately think, What did I do now? They may go home and obsessively review the incident, looking for what they did wrong. They live on "if onlys." "If only I had done that, she would never have left me"; "If only I had joined the Navy when I had a chance."

Much of the identity of such people rides on the successful outcome of life events. The fact is, they have it backward. Their identity and their future rests on identifying who they are in Christ and the truth that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Him (see Romans 8:1).

Many of these people were wrongly accused in early childhood, and they have come to believe they have a part to play in every negative thing that happens. Paul says, "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement" (Col. 2:18).

Others are just victims of the accuser, Satan, who accuses them day and night. They never understood the battle for their minds, nor learned how to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Blaming ourselves for every crisis in life and for every slight imperfection is a sure way to perpetuate a failure identity and depression. On the other hand, blaming others is a sure way to become bitter, angry, proud, self-serving and abusive. Self-exaltation is as bad as self-condemnation. "For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Romans 12:3). It doesn't do any good to blame others, and it doesn't do any good to blame ourselves. Neither pride nor false humility is a proper response to the trials and tribulations of life.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.


------------------------------more next week--------------------------


God bless you all and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Out of the Basement, Into the Light of a New Life

Out of the basement... 

I have a confession to make.

Although I share excerpts from Anderson & Baumchen's Finding Hope Again with every blog post for weeks, other interests and responsibilities have kept me from actually reading the material I share.  

I had a few spare moments today and began reading where I left off, starting Chapter 6.  

I am sharing this excerpt about how we can feel that we don't deserve our place in the kingdom and how we can hide "in the basement" from all that God has for us because we don't feel worthy.  

It's a wonderful parable. 

But for me it really hits close to home.  Prior to buying my new house "down by The River" in Stuyvesant NY, I spent the last three years or so sleeping in a basement.  My marriage was less than harmonious since coming to faith in Christ in 2010 and it only got worse after I went into recovery in 2015.  After having surgery on my foot in April of  2017, I was sent to the basement for my recovery and was never invited back.  

Used to existing in a basement man cave for my spare time in my marriage since 1998, making the transition to living in the basement of my house in Craryville, seemed almost natural.  I insulated the walls that bordered the drive-in garage and moved all my possessions downstairs.  My pride and sense of rejection kept me there.  

My faith changed my values and the materialism and addiction principles that my ex and I held in common were no longer there. I couldn't go back, and my ex refused to go with me.  

So we remained in our neutral corners, living separate lives until peaceful co-existence wasn't enough, and it all came to an end.  

I got so used to living in a basement that when I looked at my new house, I was happy to see a small spare room down there where I could do my studies... 

Only after I moved in, did I come to the realization that I didn't have to live in a basement anymore.  I could actually have a bedroom in which to sleep and do my studies.  I didn't have to hide away in the bowels of the house anymore.  God led me to my own place where my acceptance, significance, and security were all based on who He said I was.  I was finally free to be who I was in Christ without fear. I didn't have to be ashamed anymore. I didn't have to worry about upsetting anyone or trying to please someone. 

When you feel despised and rejected for so long, you adapt and your compromised existence and brokenness becomes the "new normal".  God can set you free, but as this parable shows we can still cower in the darkness if we don't focus on His light and what He has done for us.  

If  you are still "living in the basement" of Christianity, I want you to know that the things you think about your past and what you think it means about your identity are lies.  Christ has made you new, but we must believe His truth and walk in it if we ever want to ascend to the life that He has given us.   

Don't give up.  There is a Way Out.  Follow Him and He will show the freedom that you already have.  

This excerpt comes from Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, chapter 6. 

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:

"The hopelessness of depression is based on a lie. With God there is always hope, and it is based on truth. The difficulty is that when we are bound by the chains of hopelessness, this seems too good to be true. Consider the following parable:

A newly adopted child found himself in a big mansion. His new father whispered in his ear, "This is yours, and you have a right to be here. I have made you a joint heir with my only-begotten Son. He paid the price that set you free from your old taskmaster, who was cruel and condemning. I purchased it for you because I love you."

The young boy couldn't help but question this incredible gift. This seems too good to be true. What did I do to deserve this? he wondered. I have been a slave all my life and I have done nothing to earn such a privilege!

He was deeply grateful, however, and began to explore all the rooms in the mansion. He tried out some of the tools and appliances. Many other adopted people also lived in the mansion, and the boy began to form new relationships with his adopted brothers and sisters.

He especially enjoyed the buffet from which he freely ate. Then it happened! While turning away from the buffet table, he knocked over a stack of glasses and a valuable pitcher crashed to the floor and broke. Suddenly he began to think, You clumsy, stupid kid! You will never get away with this. What right do you have to be here? You better hide before someone finds out, because they will surely throw you out!


At first he was caught up with the wonder of living in the mansion with a whole new family and a loving father, but now he was confused. Old tapes laid down in early childhood began to play again in his mind. He was filled with guilt and shame. The self-condemning thoughts continued. Who do you think you are, some kind of a privileged character? You don't belong here anymore, you belong in the basement! My old taskmaster was right about me—I don't belong here. So, his mind filled with such thoughts, the boy descended into the basement.

The cellar was dreary, dark and despairing. The only light came from the open door at the top of the long stairs from which he came. He heard his father calling for him, but he was too ashamed to answer.

The boy was surprised to find others in the basement. Upstairs everybody talked to each other and joined in with daily projects that were fun and meaningful. In the basement, however, nobody talked to each other. They were too ashamed. Although no one liked it there, most felt that the basement was where they really belonged, anyway. They didn't see how they could ever walk in the light again. If they did, others would see their imperfections.

Old friends would occasionally come to the door and encourage them to come back upstairs where a place was prepared for them. Some "friends" were worse than others and would scold those in the basement, which only made it worse.

Not everyone stayed in the basement for the same reason. Some, like the boy, thought, I deserve to be here. I was given a chance, but I blew it. Others didn't think they could climb the stairs. Even if they mustered up the strength to try, the stairs would probably break under their weight. They always had a reason why they couldn't return to their father upstairs.

Some would muster the courage to go up for a short time, but they didn't stay long enough to resolve their conflicts and learn the truth that would enable them to stay. So they returned to the basement.

Still others were afraid that they would not be accepted. Their old taskmaster wouldn't accept them, so how could they expect this adoptive parent to welcome them back after what they had done?

At first, our newly adopted child groped around in the darkness, trying to find a way to survive. The longer he stayed in the basement, the more the memory of what it was like to live upstairs began to fade, along with his hope of ever returning. Those old tapes from early childhood questioned the love of this new father, and he began to question whether he was ever adopted in the first place.

The noise of people having fun upstairs irritated him. He remembered the light upstairs being warm and inviting, but now, whenever the basement door opened the light seemed penetrating and revealing. He recalled hearing his adopted father saying that most people loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.

The boy made a few half-hearted attempts to return to the light, but eventually he found a dark corner and lay down in it. To survive, he ate grubs and moss off the damp walls.

Then one day a shaft of light penetrated his mind, and reason returned. He began to think, Why not throw myself on the mercy of this person who calls himself my father? What do I have to lose? Even if he makes me eat the crumbs that fall from the table, it would be better than this. So he decided to take the risk of climbing those stairs and facing his father with the truth of what he had done.

"Father," he said, "I knocked over some glasses and broke a pitcher." Without saying a word, his father took him by the hand and led him into the dining room. To the boy's utter amazement, his father had prepared a banquet for him!

"Welcome home, Son," his father said. "There is no condemnation for those who are in my family!"


Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus, and the matchless grace of God! The door is always open for those who are willing to throw themselves upon His mercy. "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved" (Ephes. 1:4-6). If people could accept our heavenly Father's grace and love, they would never confine themselves in the basement of depression or the grip of hopelessness.

Our heavenly Father doesn't want us to live self-condemned in the basement. He wants us to know that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places as joint heirs with Jesus. "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Romans 8:17, NIV).

Accepting God’s Grace[1]

[1] Anderson, N., & Baumchen, H. (2000). Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression (pp. 159–162). Gospel Light. 

Purity 301: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 Purity 301

Good morning! 12/26/2020 

Today’s photo comes from WRIP’s (97.9 FM Mountaintop Radio from Windham-Hunter NY) Facebook page, and it captures a scene from C D Lane Park in Maplecrest NY that shows the aftermath of flood waters due to unseasonably warm temperatures and rain on Christmas Day and the setting sun.    

I share it as a reminder that we are not in charge of the things that go on in this earth.  Man only responds to what is allowed by the Sovereign will of the Lord.  But regardless of circumstances we can still have peace, when we make peace with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

It is my hope that all my friends had a Merry Christmas yesterday, but I realize that regardless of the multiple Facebook posts that showed festive Christmas gatherings that there were friends that didn’t feel so jolly in the midst of the Yuletide fun or who spent the day working or alone and the fact of the arrival of Christmas somehow made the circumstances that they were facing even worse.  

Whether flood waters, or power outages, or disappointment, or depression, or grief that may have put a shadow over yesterday, I want all my friends to know that you are not alone.  God is there for us when no one else is. 

The madness of the Christmas celebration, that may leave us wondering where God is in all of this hoopla, is over!

The presents, food, family, friends, and “fun” that surround Christmas were never meant to satisfy our soul’s longing for meaning and purpose.  

Presents wear out, disappoint, and break. 

The food is ingested and eliminated.  The “comfort” of food passes and, if it is overindulged in, can make you fat or sick.  

Family and friends are imperfect and impermanent. We all have lives of our own and they move on, sometimes separating us forever.

The “fun” ends when the morning comes or as the weekend ends and we have to go back to work and our our normal lives.  Chasing the “fun” of pleasant experiences, alcohol, drugs, or sex can become a never-ending cycle that has diminishing returns.  

Only a close relationship with God, and the fruit of the spirit that is cultivated through that relationship, can truly satisfy the needs of the human heart. 

So if Christmas was a joy, rejoice and thank God. Follow Him.  

If Christmas was a bust, rejoice that it has passed, but seek the One who never goes away and has the answers to life and death.  The joy of the Lord is not based on circumstances and can be your strength and your shield in all times if you seek it.

Seeking your happiness in the things of this world was a losing proposition from the start.  But we need not despair because Christ has overcome the world. He brings a new life, meaning, and purpose to those who call on His name, place their faith in Him,  and follow where He leads.    

(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 108:13 (NLT2)
13 With God’s help we will do mighty things, for he will trample down our foes.

Yup, although I faltered for a minute or two this morning, I decided to answer the call to resume my regular morning practices of exercise, meditation, and Bible study, and I’m glad I did!

After taking the “day off” yesterday for Christmas, I was tempted to rest again but I just felt compelled to follow the disciplines that give me peace and purpose. And you know what?  I immediately felt a great sense of relief and empowerment as I owned my practices as a part of my disciple’s path.

As “called out ones” (from the Greek “Ekklesia” – meaning the church), we answer the Lord’s call on our lives with actions.  Some of the “fruit” that we produce as disciples of Christ are the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, seeking to renew our minds, and bringing our flesh into submission to the Lord’s will for our lives.  

Now, if I really needed the day off, there is grace for that. God has given us free will to choose our path.  I could have slept, but sometimes sleep doesn’t revitalize as much as it anesthetizes, keeping us in a lazy, foggy, or whiny state.   

But I chose to face the day “doing what I do” (which changes periodically), and when I did, my heart was filled with enthusiasm for a new day and for following the path that the Lord has led me to. 

So today’s verse seemed extremely appropriate, as “With God’s help” we can do “mighty things”, as He will help us “trample down our foes”.  

Often our foes in life are not so much a rival or nemesis as much as they are our attitudes, emotions, and self-imposed limitations.  

For me, I know that at times I can be “my own worst enemy”, when my pre-Christ ways of darkness want to creep their way back into my thoughts and actions. 

Before Christ, I thought it was impossible to change, but with God anything is possible, and He can even “trample down” the foes of our former lives.   

The key is to co-operate with the Lord and to surrender your old ways of dysfunction for His ways of righteous living.   Keep walking and talking with God!   


Today we begin chapter 8 of Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss the stages of grief

As someone who has faced his fair share of losses in life, I pray that this material is found helpful.

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:

Stages of Grief

Grief and reactive depression can arise from any crisis that interferes with well-intentioned or meaningful plans. It could be the loss of a job, our health, our spouse or other loved one, or the end of our dreams. Such losses sow the seeds of depression when we fail to see that our times are in His hands. Let us examine here the first three stages of grief as diagrammed on the preceding chart—the phases people often go through on the way to the depths of depression.

Denial: No, not me!

The first response is often denial, a refusal to accept the crisis or the loss. Some may find it too painful to face the truth. They consciously or subconsciously think, This is all a bad dream or a trick that someone is playing on me. I refuse to even consider this as real. Or they may consciously choose to not entertain thoughts that it actually happened. I'll deal with this tomorrow or maybe next month. Others are incredulous. They wonder, How could this be happening to me? I'm a good person. They may make many attempts to recover what is lost, or go on living as though it never happened.

A very depressed graduate student was laid off from his engineering job. He couldn't face the shame of telling his spouse, even though the downsizing of his company had nothing to do with his competence. So he got dressed the next Monday morning drenched in denial, and went to work as he normally did. By Wednesday his old employer had to call the police.

Anger: Why me?

Denial can last for 30 seconds or 30 years. When people finally face the truth, they feel angry or resentful because what happened to them wasn't fair. They think, Why is this happening to me? Their anger can be directed toward others, including God, who they think caused the crisis. Those who feel guilty or ashamed direct their anger toward themselves, as when Roxanne blamed herself for her husband's death.

Bargaining: Maybe I can alter it.

After their anger has simmered, some start to bargain. They reason, Maybe I can alter the situation or undo the events that led up to this crisis. They become depressed when they discover they can't do anything to change what happened, nor can they reverse the consequences. They believe the situation is hopeless and they are helpless to do anything about it. They tried to undo it all, but couldn't. Now they're not sure if they can go on living with the present circumstances. The tragic loss seems too much to bear. It is the winter of the soul. How can one even possibly imagine what summer is like again?

A Time to Mourn

It is natural, normal and certainly not sinful to mourn the loss of anything that is morally good or even morally neutral. It is inordinate, destructive or inappropriate grief that can lead to serious depression. It is normal to grieve the loss of a loved one; but note how Paul would help us guard against destructive grief over a loved one who has died in the Lord:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus (1 Thes. 4:13, 14).

We are protected from destructive grief when our hope lies in the finished work of Christ, not in the things of this world that we have no right or ability to control. We grieve for that which we have lost because we have become attached to certain people, places, ideas and things. The extent of the grief is determined by the degree of attachment we had, whether appropriate or otherwise.

In Losing, We Win

Paul was deeply attached to the Pharisaic traditions and customs of his people, and he had worked hard to achieve his status in life. For him to give all that up would require a massive intervention by God.

It came suddenly on the Damascus road. Paul was struck down and blinded by the power of God. All his hopes for a successful future were dashed in a moment. "Why, God?" he must have asked. "Why did you do this to me? Nobody has been more zealous for You than I." To make matters worse, his only hope would come from the Church he had so fervently persecuted. Reflecting on this later in life, Paul wrote:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:7, 8).

Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose." There is nothing on planet Earth that we cannot lose. This is the central teaching of all four Gospels. "For whoever wishes to save his life [Greek psyche] shall lose it; but whoever loses his life [zoe] for My sake shall find it. For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:25, 26).

The first reference to life (psyche) in this passage refers to the soulish life that comes from humans. The second reference to life (zoe) refers to the spiritual life that comes from God. He who finds his life within himself will eventually lose it. He who finds his life in God will keep it for all eternity.

In other words, those who find their identity, security and sense of worth in the natural order of things will lose it. We cannot take it with us. Whatever name we made for ourselves, whatever fame we achieved, whatever earthly position we attained, whatever treasures we were able to amass—all will be left behind. Attachments to this world subtract from our attachment to Christ.

On the other hand, nothing can separate us from the love of God, and we will suffer no debilitating loss that we cannot endure if we find our life, identity, acceptance, security and significance in Christ.

Destructive reactive depression signifies an overattachment to people, places, ideas and things that we have no right or ability to control. It indicates that we simply will not let go of something we are going to lose anyway, or have already lost.

In Africa, monkeys are caught by hollowing out a coconut shell and attaching a chain to it. The other end of the chain is tied to a tree or a stake in the ground. Then the hunters put some favorite monkey food in the hollowed-out shell. The monkey comes along and puts his fist into the shell to get the food. But when he makes a fist around the food, he can no longer extract his hand from the shell. Then the hunters simply detach the chain from the tree or stake and walk off with the monkey.

"Why doesn't the monkey just let go?" you ask. I don't know. Why don't we?

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

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


God bless you all!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Purity 300: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

 Purity 300 12/25/2020 


Today’s photo was taken by a friend who captured this sunset scene near their home in Stottville NY..

I share it as a reminder that although Christmas has finally arrived, the sun will be setting on this day before we know it. 

So celebrate and show the love that God showed, and continues to show, us to your friends and family today!

(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 verse comes from “The Magnificat” – Mary’s song of praise in response to being chosen to birth the Christ:

Luke 1:46-48 (NLT2)
46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

 I share this passage today because it is Christmas, and my normal routine of exercise and meditation has been suspended out of respect for this most holy of days.  

Instead, having finished the Gospels of Matthew in November, and then John yesterday, I turned to Luke’s gospel this morning, that presents the events leading up to Christ’s birth and the Christmas story in Chapter two.   

I share these verses this morning to reminded us that we are to “rejoice in God my Savior” because, just like the virgin Mary, the Lord took notice of us “lowly servants” and from now on all generations can call us blessed.  

While we didn’t birth Jesus, we have been chosen and adopted into God’s family through our faith in Him. 

And as members of God’s royal family, we can rejoice at the amazing grace that saved wretches like us but at the same time look to serve God’s Kingdom by sharing the good news of the resurrection power that lies in putting our faith in Jesus and by delivering our personal testimonies of what the Lord has done and continues to do in our lives, as we have entered into a rich and robust relationship with the Lord that will never end.  

In Christ, we are all highly favored and all generations can rightly call us blessed. 

Rejoice and follow where the Lord leads you!

 Today we begin chapter 8 of Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss dealing with loss. 

Although we have gained much in Christ, we will experience losses throughout our lives on earth and it is my prayer that the author’s information and advice is helpful to those feeling the pain of losses this holiday season. 

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:

Dealing with Loss

As I looked, the poplar rose in the shining air

Like a slender throat,

And there was an exaltation of flowers,

The surf of apple tree delicately foaming.

All winter, the trees had been silent soldiers,

A vigil of woods, their hidden feelings

Scrawled and became scores of black vines,

Barbed wire sharp against the ice-white sky.

Who could believe then in the green,

Glittering vividness of full-leafed summer?

Who will be able to believe, when winter again begins

After the autumn burns down again, and the day is ashen,

And all returns to winter and winter's ashes,

Wet, white, ice, wooden, dulled and dreary, brittle or frozen,

Who will believe or feel in mind and heart

The reality of the spring and of birth,

In the green warm opulence of summer,

And the inexhaustible vitality and immortality of the earth?

Dalmore Schwartz, "The Deceptive Present" 

How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none. Eternal years lie in His heart. For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know that is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those out of Christ, time is a devouring beast.

A. W. Tozer

Roxanne and David had been married for five years. David was a successful businessman who was deeply devoted to his wife and children. One Sunday afternoon, as David packed his bags for his next trip out of town, the couple started to quarrel. Roxanne was bothered by a minor demand David had placed on her. Words were exchanged, a brief apology came and life went on. Later that day the couple chatted quietly as they rode together to the airport. Roxanne kissed David as he boarded the plane. He turned, smiled and waved as he entered the loading tunnel to the waiting aircraft.

Roxanne never saw David alive again. The trip to his destination and the meetings were uneventful. David then boarded the airplane and headed home. The aircraft developed mechanical problems and attempted to land in a crippled condition. The pilot and an off-duty pilot who happened to be on board were responsible for saving some of the lives on board. David, however, was thrown from the aircraft and killed, along with many other passengers. It was a terrible catastrophe.

Roxanne was torn with pain, and went through many turbulent reactions to her loss. Scrambling for some explanation for why the tragedy had happened, she began to blame herself. If I hadn't complained or argued with David, he would still be alive, she reasoned. Blaming herself for his death only compounded her sense of loss.

The Response of Sadness

The melancholy that followed Roxanne's loss is called reactive depression. This emotional response to any crisis of life is the most common form of depression. But the crisis itself did not cause the depression. Our mental perception of external events based on what we believe, and how our minds have been programmed, are what determine how we feel and react to any crisis.

People typically go through a very predictable cycle when they experience a crisis, as depicted in the following diagram:


Most of us settle into a lifestyle we assume will continue indefinitely, or hopefully improve. We make plans for the weekend and summer vacations, assuming that life will go on as scheduled. Daily events are scheduled with the hope that we will still be alive, our health will be okay, and that all the conditions necessary for life to go on as it is will be favorable. According to the poet Dalmore Schwartz, quoted at the beginning of this chapter, it is hard for us even to imagine in the summer of our souls what it will be like in the winter of our discouragement. We don't even want to think about it.

Some people take a fatalistic approach to tomorrow. They say with Solomon, when he limited his view to things under the sun, "That which has been is that which will be....So there is nothing new under the sun" (Eccles. 1:9). Such people make no realistic plans, and consequently they end up having no meaningful future.

Others, even Christians, presume upon the future. James has some sobering advice for those who do that:

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins (James 4:13-17, NIV).

The good, which we ought to do, is the Lord's will, so we must choose to live a responsible life one day at a time. The will of God will not take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow. If God takes care of the lilies of the fields and the birds of the air, will He not much more provide for you? Jesus asks (see Matthew 6:30). Because your heavenly Father knows your needs, "Seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:32-34).

This does not mean we don't make plans for tomorrow. We have to do some planning to live responsibly. However, the primary purpose for setting goals and making plans for the future is to give us meaningful direction for our lives today. Because we don't have control over many circumstances that can totally disrupt those plans, we need to say, "Lord willing, tomorrow we will do whatever, and regardless of what tomorrow holds, we will trust Him." This requires us to mentally and emotionally prepare for impermanence.

Preparing for Impermanence

Nothing will be as it is five years from now. There is no permanence; there is only change. Tennessee Williams said, "We are all terrorized by the idea of impermanence." The Lord tried to prepare His disciples for this reality when He told them three times "that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly" (Mark. 8:31, 32).

The disciples' first response was denial. Peter actually rebuked the Lord (see Mark 8:32). When He told them a second time what was going to happen to Him, they didn't understand what He meant, and were afraid to ask (see Mark 9:32). They didn't want to talk about it.

Finally, as Jesus and His fearful disciples approached Jerusalem, He told them a third time what was going to happen (see Mark 10:32-34). His purpose for telling them in advance was to teach them the principle that the Messiah must die to purchase salvation for humankind, and to give them hope when they faced persecution. He wanted to assure them that even though He would be killed, He would rise again.

Hope does not lie in the possibility of permanence, or in avoiding trials and tribulations. Hope lies in the proven character that comes from persevering through them. Neither does our hope lie in the eternal preservation of our physical bodies. Our hope lies in the Resurrection.

To survive the crises of life, we must have an eternal perspective, because time, as Tozer said, is a devouring beast for those who are outside of Christ. Without such a perspective, we cannot see the hope of summer during the emotional winters of our soul. The "deceptive present" masks the possibility of any hope for tomorrow. The psalmist's statement, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones" (Psalm 116:15), doesn't make sense from a time-bound perspective. But it makes complete sense from an eternal perspective.

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.

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


God bless you all!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Purity 299: Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship

Purity 299 12/24/2020 

Good morning!

Today’s photo was taken by a friend who caught this twilight scene where they caught that transition of the fading light of day with a full moon rising.  The snow below reflects the red light, presumably of taillights, to provide a great foundational base for the heavenly display above.  

It may not be a photo of the star that led the wise men to the newborn king in Bethlehem, but I think it is a reflection of that “silent night” so many years ago.  

It is my prayer that as we gather to celebrate Christmas tonight to enjoy a few quiet moments to thank the Lord for the gift of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, that He brought in the humblest of settings.  

Enjoy the magic and joy of this most Holy Night! Merry 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:

1 John 2:4 (NKJV)
4 He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Recently I started taking a Bible course that teaches some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith ( . As a Bible college graduate, I started the study thinking that the simple lessons were “quaint” and that it would be fun to breeze through this simple material.   But after a few lessons, I quickly realized that there was tremendous value in the material being presented because it was the simple plain truth of Scripture laying down the facts of what God is like, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is and what we are to do as Christians.  

 While I questioned particular stances on a few points of doctrine in the lessons, I became more and more convinced that this study was an excellent resource because the Holy Spirit could use the scriptures to unlock some of the mysteries of our faith and to draw someone into a deeper understanding of what Christianity was all about and to convict them to turn from the things of this world.  

 When we contemplate the depth of the meaning of the gospel, we should hear the call of God to seek His Truth, His Way, and His Life for ourselves. Living in the darkness of the world system like we did before Christ keeps us from knowing Him and realizing the new life He has given us.  

 Our keeping “His commandments” isn’t about just following rules. It is about discovering the Truth that underlies all creation and following the instructions of The Creator to discover and fulfill out ultimate purpose. 

 As a “rebel at heart” before Christ, I loved the motto “Question Authority”.  When you question God and His authority, you come to realize that we are the ones that lack understanding and power.  We need to bow before God in submission and become a part of His kingdom and an authorized agent of His authority. 

 So after coming to Christ, we need to question the world system and its values, its narratives, and its principles.  When we do, we will discover that the world has spoken in half-truths or out right lies about what will satisfy our hearts.  When we do, we will know that God’s Way is the only Way and that we are wise to forsake the things of the world and the things in our pasts. 

 This Christmas get to know Him and make a commitment to begin the process of transferring your energies from the things of this world that are fading away to the things of the kingdom of God that will endure for all eternity. 

 Today we conclude chapter 7 of Anderson & Baumchen’s Finding Hope Again, where the authors discuss applying the “Can-Do” spirit practically to our lives.

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:

Applying "I Can" Thoughts Practically

Paul wrote to the Romans:

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:2-6, NIV).

Jesus defeated the devil and made us brand-new creations in Himself. He set us free from our past. We have to destroy those old strongholds that say I can't, and replace them with the truth that we can in Christ.

The human tendency is to say, "This marriage is hopeless," then think the solution is to change or try to change our spouse. The same holds true for any depressing situation. The answer is neither to try to change the situation nor let the situation determine who you are. The answer is to work with God in the process of changing yourself.

According to Paul, your hope does not lie in avoiding the trials and tribulations of life, because they are inevitable. Your hope lies in persevering through those trials and becoming more like Christ. The hope that comes from proven character will never disappoint you. Only through proven character will we positively influence the world.

Imagine the terrible emotional pain when a spouse leaves or a child runs away. Anybody could become disappointed, discouraged or depressed by these difficult circumstances. Many times this is because the essence of our question is, How can I win back the one I lost? And the unspoken question underlying that, all too often, is, How can I control my spouse or child, or arrange the circumstances so that I can manipulate him or her into coming back? That kind of control or manipulation may have been the reason the person left in the first place.

The fruit of the Spirit in such a case is neither spouse control nor child control. God does not ensure that external circumstances will always be bent to accommodate our desires. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control.

It would be better to ask yourself, "If I haven't committed myself to be the spouse or parent that God called me to be, would I now?" That is the only thing within your power to change, and it is by far the best thing you could do to win back the other person. But even if you don't, you can come through the crisis having proven your character.

These trials and tribulations are what God uses to refine our character and conform us to His own image. The hope that comes from proven character will never disappoint. If our hope lies only in favorable circumstances, or trying to alter something that we have no right or ability to change or control, then we are going to suffer a lot of disappointment in this fallen world. An unknown author said it well in these lines:

"Disappointment—His appointment,"

change one letter, then I see

That the thwarting of my purpose

is God's better choice for me.

His appointment must be blessing,

tho' it may come in disguise.

For the end from the beginning

open to His wisdom lies.

"Disappointment—His appointment,"

no good will He withhold,

From denials oft we gather

treasures of His love untold.

Well He knows each broken purpose

leads to fuller, deeper trust,

And the end of all His dealings

proves our God is wise and just.

"Disappointment—His appointment,"

Lord, I take it, then, as such.

Like clay in hands of a potter,

yielding wholly to Thy touch.

My life's plan is Thy molding;

not one single choice be mine;

Let me answer unrepining—

"Father, not my will, but Thine."

God never promises to take the person out of the slum, but He does promise to take the slum out of the person. He may even call some of us to go to the slum for the sake of ministry. It is the eternal plan of God...

To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

Twenty Cans of Success

Someone once said that success comes in "Cans," and failure in "Cannots." Here are 20 cans of success you would do well to memorize:

1.    Why should I say I can't when the Bible says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Phil. 4:13)?

2.    Why should I worry about my needs when I know that God will take care of all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19)?

3.    Why should I fear when the Bible says God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7)?

4.    Why should I lack faith to live for Christ when God has given me a measure of faith (Romans 12:3)?

5.    Why should I be weak when the Bible says that the Lord is the strength of my life and that I will display strength and take action because I know God (Psalm 27:1; Daniel 11:32)?

6.    Why should I allow Satan control over my life when He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)?

7.    Why should I accept defeat when the Bible says that God always leads me in victory (2 Cor. 2:14)?

8.    Why should I lack wisdom when I know that Christ became wisdom to me from God, and that God gives wisdom to me generously when I ask Him for it (1 Cor. 1:30; James 1:5)?

9.    Why should I be depressed when I can recall to mind God's lovingkindness, compassion and faithfulness, and have hope (Lament. 3:21-23)?

10. Why should I worry and be upset when I can cast all my anxieties on Christ, who cares for me (1 Peter 5:7)?

11. Why should I ever be in bondage when I know that there is freedom where the Spirit of the Lord is (Galatians 5:1)?

12. Why should I feel condemned when the Bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)?

13. Why should I feel alone when Jesus said He is with me always, and will never leave me nor forsake me (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)?

14. Why should I feel like I'm cursed or have bad luck when the Bible says that Christ rescued me from the curse of the law that I might receive His Spirit by faith (Galatians 3:13, 14)?

15. Why should I be unhappy when I, like Paul, can learn to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil. 4:11)?

16. Why should I feel worthless when Christ became sin for me so that I might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)?

17. Why should I feel helpless in the presence of others when I know that if God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31)?

18. Why should I be confused when God is the author of peace and He gives me knowledge through His Spirit, who lives in me (1 Cor. 2:12; 1 Cor. 2:14:33)?

19. Why should I feel like a failure when I am more than a conqueror through Christ, who loved me (Romans 8:37)?

20. Why should I let the pressures of life bother me when I can take courage knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and its problems (John 16:33)?

Finding Hope Again: Overcoming Depression.


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


God bless you all!