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.
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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!