No one is worthy, no, not one

“Have you renounced all confidence in your own moral or religious efforts and turned in faith completely to Jesus to be clothed with His righteousness? If so, you do have eternal life. But do you have it to the full? Are you experiencing both the peace of God that comes with salvation and the joy of God that comes with living by grace each day? If not, you may be saved, but you are living by works.”  -Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace

It breaks my heart when people think that they are outside the grace of God; that they aren‘t worthy of grace. Because, no one is. No one is worthy, no, not one!

 “None is righteous, no, not one;
    no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”   Romans 3:10-12

My brother is very hard on himself.

He is very much like my dad who doesn’t accept failure from himself. ‘Failure is not an option,’ I can hear my dad say. And, as a result, my brother has always set the bar really high for himself.

The problem with that mentality is that we will fail. It is a mathematical certainty. Our fallenness necessitates it.

What if we set the bar so high that we never reach it? We feel like a failure. We end up focusing on what we aren’t doing instead of God’s plan in what we are doing.

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

Sometimes we need to lower the bar. Possibly lower it a lot! Not because we’re losers, but because we are human beings not gods.  

I have a really low bar, I always have. Having a low bar allows me to exceed it daily because I am reaching for the really high bar set by my precious savior, Jesus Christ. I am not saying that we should all have a really low bar. I am saying that we need to do our best and let God do the rest.

In the wise words of my brother, Greg, “God’s bar is all that matters, and when we don’t reach it, Christ bridges the gap.”

It (Grace) contains the essence of the gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun.”  Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

Where would I be without God’s grace? I shudder at the thought!

I know what a wretch I am . . . . believe me!

  • Do I pray perfectly or regularly enough? No.
  • Am I in His Word enough? No.
  • Do I love others enough? NO!
  • Am I focused on making disciples enough? NO!!!!
  • Do I love God enough?! Not even close!!!

But I take His grace and let it cover me. His grace is sufficient for me (1 Corinthians 12:9).

The more that I really understand this ‘grace’ thing, the more precious my relationship with God is to me. And, the more that His Word is becoming my very life and breath.

As I take in more grace, I become more aware of the huge chasm between God and myself! I realize how small and insignificant I am compared to an all-powerful God! The smaller I get in my mind, the bigger He becomes.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
-C.S. Lewis

Therefore, I exalt God and am increasingly grateful for the price Jesus paid for me. I don’t deserve His amazing grace. Not even a little!

There is a difference between receiving grace and making excuses. We know that God doesn’t want us to be lazy. However, we can’t use our shortcomings and imperfections as a reason for not accepting His grace. In other words, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! He is offering you grace, take it.

You don’t have to be the perfect husband/wife.
You don’t have to be able to fix everything.
You don’t have to be the perfect worker.
You don’t have to be the perfect mom/dad.
You don’t have to be the perfect missionary.
You don’t have to be the perfect student.

Just run the race marked out for you.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us  Hebrews 12:1

The weight of the world may be on your shoulders. You may be a ‘people pleaser’ and take care of everybody. So, who takes care of you? You are not the top of the food chain, so let Him care for you and give you rest.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

God says that He is gentle and humble in heart. So, quit beating yourself up and be the treasure that you are!

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
-C.S. Lewis

Holy Spirit you are welcome here; Enjoying the presence of God

God and I have a good thing going. Our times together are amazing. There is nothing like someone as small and insignificant as I am being in the presence of the almighty God. It’s crazy!

In His presence, I have nothing to worry about. I can be totally vulnerable and naked with Him and still be completely loved and accepted. With God there is nothing to fear, nothing I have to hide, nothing to make me feel like I don’t belong, and nothing but His perfect peace.

There is nothing greater in this life than having a personal relationship with the almighty God. I talk with Him throughout the day. I spend time on my knees in worship and reverence to Him, and I have fallen in love with His Word.

He walks with me and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!   1 John 3:1

He teaches me daily through prayer and scripture and the words He gives me to write.

My soul hungers and thirsts for more of Him. I can’t get enough. He is so beautiful and Jesus Walks On Waterthere is nothing like Him. I can’t explain how strong the longing is when I am not able to slow down and enjoy a quiet space with my Heavenly Father.

I have recently realized that my desire for Him has surpassed my desire for just about anything else in this life.

I long to be with Him more than romance, more than sexual ecstasy or a breathtaking vista. Time with Him is more precious than a good book on a crisp fall day, laughing with friends, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, or a hot bath on a cold day. It is more precious than a great victory or achievement. It is more valuable than silver or gold.

I want to be alone with Him more than any earthly possession. Nothing compares to Him. When I think about what He did for me, nothing else matters.

“the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  Matthew 13:45-46  

I have even found myself sitting in church wishing that I could be at home alone with Him in His Word. Nowhere else in my life do I experience the joy, peace and divine power within me like when I am communing with The Almighty. Sometimes I wish that I could stay there, just He and I, forever.

Splendor and majesty are [found] in His presence;
Strength and joy are [found] in His place (sanctuary).   1 Chronicles 16:27 (AMP)

A friend of mine recently attended a conference in which the theme was ‘spacious places’. They were talking about ‘spacious places’ not in terms of a ‘where’, but in terms of a ‘who.’ In other words, God is our spacious place. What a beautiful picture of God’s perfect peace. He is like a breath of fresh air filling our lungs.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  Psalm 18:19

I don’t know if you experience euphoria and peace in your relationship with God or not. I don’t know if you long for Him more than anything else in this world. It’s okay if you don’t. We all have our own spiritual journeys. I haven’t always been where I am now with God.

The great thing is, everyone can have this awesome personal and intimate relationship with God. You can experience God in a more profound way if you so desire. I guarantee it! You can rest in his arms and enjoy His spacious places. You can be completely you. You are His beloved.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13

Imagine a relationship with God so amazing that you get butterflies in your stomach when you are in His presence. Picture a worship experience so intense that you can physically feel Him move in you. Imagine being on your knees as God rains down healing, and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ over you.

Do we believe that our relationship with God can be so exciting and fulfilling and intimate that we desire Him more than we desire our husbands or wives, girlfriends or boyfriends, or even our children? 

“in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing . . . . . if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

God is so good. Everything that He has planned for you is good. And He delights in you greatly! He longs to be sought after, experienced and encountered in a powerful way, and to have an intimate relationship with each one of us.

The amazing love, grace and acceptance that He offers is worth more than anything we can find on this earth. And, He gives it freely.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him  Psalm 34:8

God is easy, because of His amazing grace.

People, on the other hand, are not. I often think that I would be the perfect Christian if it weren’t for other people.

Things are so good in God’s presence. It is a perfect space, and I never want to leave. But when you add other human beings to the mix, things get messy.

I know that I am to love and serve others. I am not resisting that. Those are not the people that I am talking about necessarily.

I am talking about the people that are more involved in our lives. Those that disappoint us, judge us, make demands on us, don’t understand us, or have wronged us. I am talking about people who bring out the hurts, jealousy, and discouragement in us.

Some people bring out the worst in us.

I am much more blameless and upright before God in isolation. Isn’t it enough to deal with my own sin and brokenness? But to pile on the sin and brokenness of everyone else sometimes seems overwhelming.

 . . . . . yet, not my will but Yours be done   Luke 22:42

The whole point of this life is ‘people’. I can’t get around it. I can’t go over or under it. I can’t look past it. I can’t please God without loving and caring for the people He has put in my life. He has made that very clear in scripture. But, I admit, that sometimes I really wish that I could.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”   Mark 12:31

I ask for forgiveness in this area of my life all the time. I know this attitude toward other people is not pleasing to God. He wants me to love and serve others generously and joyfully. But, He is so gracious. He is the God of second chances . . . and third . . . . and fourth!

It all comes down to this, sometimes we have to do the hard stuff. The stuff that we don’t want to do. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. We have to accept all of God’s words, or none of them.

But, that is ok with me. I am eternally in His debt. The joy and worth that I get from Him is beyond words; beyond explanation. My cup overflows, and I don’t deserve any of it. Praise be to God, for He is good!

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11

 

Blessed are the poor in spirit; A Christian perspective on depression

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:1-3

Matthew 5 says, blessed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Do we really believe that those who are poor in spirit are blessed? Or do we believe that those who are poor in spirit must be cursed?

People with depression are our modern day ‘lepers’. They are often outcast, and judged. They are also blamed; they must have done something to cause it.

Depression is the three headed monster that no one wants to acknowledge. It might as well be the plague. The words depression and anxiety make us squirm. Our society is much more comfortable with people who have cancer, diabetes or heart disease than a mental illness such as depression.

The Christian community is no different. And we may even be worse. There is as stigma with depression that says that we must be doing something wrong. This was the case even in the story of Job. His friends assumed that he must have done something to deserve such calamity.  

However, even the most devout Christians can suffer from depression. Often times, it is something that happens to us not something that happens because of us. And, we can’t always reason it away.

Brothers and sisters in Christ with depression need compassion, prayer, and love. Using cliches, or giving unsolicited advice, judgments, or opinions can be cruel. We must not be naive about depression. It can happen to the best of us.

My story

At 33, I was sick all time, 40 lbs overweight, depressed and I had no idea why. I had eaten pretty well all my life (so I thought), so why did I feel so crappy all the time? I had exercised 4 to 5 days a week since high school, so why couldn’t I lose any weight? I had 2 beautiful daughters, an amazing husband, a loving church family and great friends, so why was I so depressed?

I went to numerous doctors, none of which could help me. I tried just about all of the antidepressants at one time or another.

At one point, a doctor told me that I had bipolar (which I did not) and put me on Zyprexa. So, my brain pretty much turned to mush.  I might as well have been catatonic.

Another doctor put me on the antidepressant Effexor which is known to increase anxiety, a side effect that she neglected to tell me. This doctor increased my dose each time I told her that I wasn’t feeling any better, and I started having panic attacks.

My body and mind were a wreck and I was spiraling out of control.

A couple of years prior, I had started my own business as a wedding photographer. As much as I loved the work, it was very stressful. During wedding season, the workload was enormous, and the pressure was intense. Between the stress of the job, 2 little kids, severe clinical depression, and the everyday demands of life, I was a ticking time bomb.

My last wedding of the year was in October, so I forced myself to keep it together until then.  As my assistant, who was a good friend of mine, and I walked to the car from the reception hall that evening, I started to sob. The very next day I went to the hospital.

Lights out . . . . I was done.

I never thought that I would find myself in such a place as a mental ward at a hospital. It felt like I was in some kind of Sandra Bullock movie. The door to my room was locked, the walls were bare, and everything had been taken from me. My head was spinning. It was the worst night of my life.

That was almost 10 years ago.

I have been reflecting back on that time because several of my friends right now are dealing with depression. My heart breaks for them.

At the same time, I am almost perplexed.

Each one of these depressed friends are deeply in love with Jesus. These are people that are living out their faith. They are the real deal. They are not people who don’t know the Lord or have necessarily strayed off the path. They are not casual Christians.

It just goes to show that faithful followers of Christ will suffer. Jesus told us that we would.

We don’t belong here. The more we become like Christ, the more separate and set apart from this world we will be. And it is lonely. We know where our home is, and it isn’t here.

We are strangers. We are aliens. We are not of this world.
(Not of This World, song by Petra, 1983)

As I wrote in an October, 2015 blog on Anguish called Jesus Wept, many of the faithful people of the bible experienced deep sorrow and anguish. David, Hannah, Nehemiah, Elijah, Paul and even Jesus.

Then he (Jesus) said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.  Matthew 26:38

Depression is real and it is dark. Depression looks different for everybody. Only the light and hope that Jesus Christ brings can save us from the darkness.

 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.   John 12:46

In addition to praying for people suffering with depression, this is what I would say to them as someone who has been there.

Don’t accept shame.

Shame is a tool of Satan. He will dish it to you, but, don’t take it. If you are a follower of Christ, shame has no place with you.

“Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”   Romans 10:11

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.”   Isaiah 54:4

Keep your eyes on truth

The sobering reality for me so many years ago was that medical professionals weren’t going to help me. I had to find my own way to survive the depression.

So, I bought some wall hangings and plaques with scripture on them. I am a visual person and had to get God’s Word in front of my eyes. I knew that I couldn’t trust my feelings and sometimes even my mind, and definitely not the health care professionals. Even in my shattered mental and emotional state I knew that I had to trust God.

I put a wall hanging in my bathroom that pictured Jesus with the lost sheep and the other 99 in the distance (Luke 15:4). It said, Lost no more. I was very much lost, so it was a powerful reminder that Christ would always find me . . . . even in the merky depths of depression.

I also had one that said Be still and know that I am God. The scriptures I chose were ones where God spoke to me and said, just sit there, and I’ll do the rest. I’ve got ya.

The only way that I survived that time was by keeping my eyes on ‘thy rod and thy staff’. It was Psalm 23. I visualized Christ leading me through the valley of the shadow of death. All I had to do was keep my eyes on Him.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of ,the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The Word of God was no longer just some words on a page. It was life to me. It was my parachute as I plummeted to the depths. I couldn’t have made it without those powerful words, and other scriptures that I placed strategically around my home.

Ask people for help.

There may be a voice inside that will scream ‘no! you can figure this out on your own!’ However, we were never meant to live in isolation. Sometimes we just can’t do it on our own. And the longer we deny this fact, the longer we stay stuck.

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.   Exodus 17:12

Remember also that when you ask somebody for help, it not only blesses you, but it blesses them. It affords them the opportunity to serve God by ‘loving their neighbor’. Don’t deny others the opportunity to store up treasures in heaven through you.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   Hebrews 10:24-25

Flush the Formula

In life, A + B does not always = C. There is no equation to life. The only thing that we can count on 100% of the time is God. Following the law does not necessarily keep bad things from happening.

This life is not just. If it were, the formula to have a successful, happy and fulfilled life would work every time. However, it doesn’t. Only eternity, through God, is perfectly just. We either get our reward here, in this life, or in heaven, to enjoy for eternity.

Answers, explanations, or reasons may elude you. Sometimes, as in the story of Job, we cannot wrap our minds around what is actually happening. Depression is complex and comes in many forms. Sometimes causes are obvious and sometimes they are not. We must acknowledge that there are things that we cannot know. So, don’t beat your head against the wall trying to figure it out.

The answer is God

During my darkest times, I pictured myself hanging over the deepest, darkest canyon. God was holding on to me and keeping me from falling to my death and destruction. It was just Him and me, hand in hand. He was all I needed. He saved me . . . again.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”   Lamentations 3:22-24

Recently, my family and I were talking with my mom about her giving and what her passions were. She kept asking us what we thought she should do with her money, and how she should serve God best. We discussed it with her for a while. But finally I had to answer her this way:

“we don’t have the answer. The only way to get the true answer is to ask the One who holds all things together. Only God has the answer. God is the answer.”


 

I cannot give my friends the answer to why they are depressed. Or how to get out of it. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know where the answer lies. God is the answer to everything. God knows my next steps and yours. And He is for us, not against us.

If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

In the wise words of my awesome brother, Greg, “Wherever I am headed, either to better days or worse, I know that My Redeemer lives and that He is all I need.” Amen and Amen!