7 Ways Your Car Can Remind You of the Essentials of Emotional Health.

When I see clients, assessments for anger, depression, anxiety, the unexpected, self-care, and the past proceed continually. Sometimes it is helpful to have a constant visual to remind us of the essentials of our mental and emotional health. If you are like me, you drive every day. We often spend hours in our cars and other vehicles every week.  For what it is worth, here is a brief overview of how your car dash can remind you of the essentials of emotional health?

  1. Speedometer – How fast am I going in life? Should I slow down a bit or do I need to pick it up in an area?
  2. Heat gauge – How are my anger levels? I need capacity for anger for courage, but is it getting a little too hot in here? If so, how can I be cool on the inside – to be emotionally regulated?
  3. RPM’s – How is my anxiety level? Anxiety can be good, I need capacity for anxiety for essential tasks and deadlines. Is my “engine” revving into the red more days than not? If so, that may be a danger zone.
  4. Gas gauge – How is my self-care? Am I running on empty? Should I ‘pull over’ and fill back up? If so, how do I fill up? What is meaningful to me? How can I reconnect to beauty? If I am neglecting my spiritual life, what can I do to replenish it?
  5. Check engine light/warning lights – Life happens! What unexpected things should I address? Do I need to seek professional help to make sense of, or find meaning in, the unexpected?
  6. Rearview mirrors – Though I keep my eyes on the road 99% of the time, I need to remain aware of what is behind me. Is there anything from my past I need to turn my attention to so it does not sneak up on me?
  7. Odometer – My mileage. Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? Marion says to Indiana Jones, “You’re not the man I knew ten years ago.” Indy replies “It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.” Absolutely true! How’s my ‘wear and tear?’ Am I taking care of my body by eating healthy, with proper exercise, taking my medication as prescribed, and getting adequate sleep?

This is just a brief, fun and easy way to remind ourselves of some essentials of emotional and mental health. What would you add? Leave a comment below and let’s learn from each other. Thanks for reading!

Mercy For A Madman

Mark 5:1-20 HCSB

Mark 5:1-5 is a graphic depiction of the darkness at its worst in a human. Our context: Mark was a master at constructing context in his Gospel. In chapter 4 Jesus deals with the point of parables (speaking in mystery, hyperbole and stories to expound on God’s Kingdom – these truths are for those with “ears to hear” and explained to those closest to Jesus.) Three times in 4:35-41 we read of those around Jesus as fearful/terrified. Jesus calmed the storm and their fear was transferred from the storm to the awe of Christ’s power.

In the beginning of chapter 5 Jesus calms a more significant storm…

I – A Description of Darkness – This story highlights the “bullet-points” of evil and darkness.

Darkness (sin, rebellion, disobedience) is… Self-destructive (vs 5) Abusive (vs 3) Lonely (vs 5) Filled with a hollow cries (vs 5) Frightening to others (vs 4) Had a history of danger (vs 4) Even fearful of God! (vs 7)

II – Jesus and the Darkness meet face to face

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and knelt down before Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice, “What do You have to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You before God, don’t torment me!” 5:6-7 This meeting is evidence of the Lord’s mercy (which is credited with this deliverance in vs 19) Jesus and the demon possessed man were face to face – right where possessed man needed to be – he was now exposed to the light after so long in utter darkness When someone is in darkness they need the light – though this will be often uncomfortable (“don’t torment me”) – this now happens by presenting the gospel to them w/ truth, wisdom and love.

It is interesting the tormented one (or rather he as under the control of demons) was afraid of torment from Christ – harkens back to Genesis 3:9-10 “So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

When Jesus comes to us, even in correction, it is for our good

Jesus asked his name, which was Legion, meaning there were many, many demons in this man. The point isn’t the number of demons – and it is certainly not teaching we should have conversations with them (this was narrative – not a teaching passage). The point was this man was in utter darkness and thus had relinquished control of his life to satanic forces. He was absolutely lost and in need of deliverance.

III – One Miracle – Two Messages

The demons begged Jesus to cast them into the pigs – the demons had some fear of being thrown into the abyss (perhaps the abyss or pit in Revelation 9:1) Jesus cast the demons out of the man and they entered about 2000 pigs who immediately ran over a cliff and drown. – The majority of the people ran Jesus out of town because of an economic hit Notice also of the fear which grips witness to the calming of the sea and the man in his right mind (Mark 4:41 and Mark 5:15) – The delivered man evangelized (told every one of the Lord’s mercy)

Mercy for a Madman

This isn’t a “how to” on exorcisms – Mark isn’t giving us step-by-step instructions on how to cast demons out of people – or how to speak to demons. The context surrounding this passage deals with Jesus power over seemingly uncontrollable situations from storms (4:35-31) to death (5:35-43), hemorrhaging (5:34).

Mercy is God’s restraint – this man did not deserve love, he deserved judgement.  Mercy was the motivation for Jesus.  Rest assured, His motivation concerning you is mercy – He is not desiring that you should perish but for you to experience the gift of repentance and mercy (John 10:28, 2 Peter 3:9)

Like this man – we, or our loved ones, may be out of control, hurting ourselves or others.  Controlled by compulsions which are only after our destruction (the 1st thing the pigs did was kill themselves – this is evidence of evil’s ultimate goal when there is no restriction.)

No matter how you got in your mess, or how dark it is, Jesus desires to set you free.  Call out to Jesus right where you are, right now, as well as get help from a trusted Christian resource.  Today can be your last day of madness.  When your mess and Jesus meet – the darkness and madness are driven from you, and you are left at peace and promised His loving presence at all times. 

Listen to Mercy for a Madman, download the presentation in PDF, Keynote, and PPT as well as the Presenter notes here: http://j.mp/MercyForAMadman

Here are the Presenter Notes in Google Doc form (which may be updated over time): http://j.mp/MercyForAMadmanDoc

Concerning 3 John 2

Perhaps one of the most common examples poor exegesis is the use of 3 John 2, usually quoted in the King James: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth”. This is a favorite among extreme prosperity preachers. By misunderstanding this verse, one could say “…if my soul is prospering, then I should prosper by default in my money and body.”

I do not believe this was John’s point. This was a common ancient greeting. Basically, I believe John is saying “May all go well with you, inside and out”. In fact, this verse is bookended with statements concerning “the truth”. In vs 1, he says “I love you in the truth”. In the following vs, John mentioned “faithfulness to the truth” and “walking in the truth” and the same statement in vs 4 again. Perhaps, this was on John’s mind, much more than money. Though to be clear, I do believe God prospers us financially, taking care of all our need (Phil 4:19).

The danger in the above example would be thinking that if I’m doing well spiritually, I will do well financially, that I will be rich with no exceptions. This is not supported in the larger context of the Bible at all. It is certainly not supported in 3 John. This could cause damage to a Christian, especially a new one. If they go through a hard time, which is normal in the Christian experience, he/she may become disillusioned and perhaps be tempted to give up. We would not want that.

Christmas Revealed

Simeon and the Christ Child

 

Reuben Smith 12-2011
Luke 2:21-40 NIV

INTRO: God made clear proclamations of the first Christmas via prophesies in the Old Testament (such as Isaiah 7:14), the angelic visitations to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, and in a different way the Magi.  Mary and Joseph had direct visitations from heaven, they needed such encounters.  God knew they would need to draw on the memories of them for the hardships and joys of the future.

Just days after the birth of the Christ Child Luke records two very different Christmas revelations and we can learn much from these two events.  I feel it’s especially important for us today.  

Luke was not an eye-witness to these events.  There are three “we sections” in the book of Acts which record events to which Luke was a participant. These sections are quite detailed, especially the shipwreck of Acts 27, perhaps the greatest document of antiquity of sea-faring dangers and disasters.  Luke is a detailed writer, very meticulous & careful.  By his own words he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning…(to give an) orderly account…so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”  His writings record many decades so when he pens an episode such as today’s text it is good to mine it’s riches.  The Holy Spirit is in control here.  We see an aged man and women continue the testimony of Christ that dominate Luke’s narratives.

They had no specific encounter w/ angels.  They were ready to meet the Messiah.

In verses 22-24 we see that Mary and Joseph were the careful to follow the law.  This is not unlike the life of Christ for He was the fulfillment of the law itself!  I believe these verses are theologically loaded.  

They brought grace into the temple according to the law.  Jesus’ body is the Temple’s fulfillment!  The temple was not God’s idea, it was David’s.  God preferred a tent, hence the church!  But that’s another message!

Simeon

We know nothing of Simeon before or after this text.  He was apparently a “layman”, not a priest or rabbi, not that we see here anyway.  He was a student of the word and man of God no doubt.  Nothing indicates the Simeon of Acts 13 is this Simeon.  This was not an uncommon name by any stretch for the name Simeon (or Simonites) was mentioned 42 times in the Old Testament.   God uses common men and women with common names, lives and families.

Simeon had qualities we are good to exhibit ourselves.  We see he was….

Righteous – Right w/ God

Devout – Not double-minded, he was committed to the one true God

Waiting for the consolation of Israel –  Patient concerning God’s promises

Holy Spirit was upon him – Anointed.  Did not grieve the Spirit

Move into the temple courts by the Spirit – Listened to the Spirit

Recognized Jesus as the truly unique Son of God –  There were surely other babies to be seen that day however he recognized Jesus’s uniqueness.  For an amazingly poetic Old Testament passage on the uniqueness of Christ see Song of Songs 5:9-16. He is far superior and to be desired above all others!  Jesus Christ is completely unique.  

His prayer:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
   you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
   and the glory of your people Israel.”

Notice he begins with God’s sovereignty as did the first corporate prayer of Christians in Acts 4.  This is important because God’s sovereignty is a recognition of both His power and will (see Acts 4:28.)  Simeon hung on to God’s sovereignty for many years as we see in his famous prayer above (as you have promised, dismiss your servant, your salvation, you have prepared, a light for revelation, the glory of your people.…)

He saw is graduation into glory as something to look forward to.  For years he longed to see Yahweh God face to face but did not want to enter heaven’s gates without first seeing the Messiah of God!  Think of it, holding one who is all God and all man outweighed the streets of Gold!!  Imagine living with the promise to see the Christ before leaving and dwelling in glory!!!  This is a sign of Christian maturity for even Paul felt the upward desire for home but the draw to continue here until his race was finished.

His prophecy: He turns to Mary and says “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

This again is full of riches.  Mary would need to hear these sayings, as hard as they must have been to hear at the time.  This is a “statement-of-fact” prophecy not unlike Agabus in Acts 21.  It was not meant to discourage her young heart, it was to prepare her and confirm again that God’s hand was indeed on her and the events she experienced and witnessed.  Mary would feels as though she had been “stabbed with a dagger” (CEV) in witnessing the Passion week and all thoughts would be revealed.  

This passage is worth reading in the Message Bible: “This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel,  A figure misunderstood and contradicted—
      the pain of a sword-thrust through you—
   But the rejection will force honesty,
      as God reveals who they really are.”

Not only did Simeon recognize the Christ Child, he blessed Mary and Joseph and by the Holy Spirit prepared them for the joys and sufferings that were ahead.  Paul was prepared for sufferings also so we see that this is in alignment with God’s love and methods.

Anna

Anna was a prophetess.  The only other place in the New Testament where we see prophetesses are Philip’s four daughters in Acts 21.  

Anna was known for her faithfulness. She was once married but became a widow after seven years of marriage.  Depending on how the greek is rendered she was either 84 when she died or she was a widow for 84 years.  She was a worshiper. She fasted and prayed.  These qualities precluded the recognition of the Christ Child.  

Anna goes down in history for recognizing the glorious event of Simeon with Jesus.  This shows she was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s ways.   She began to tell all who were looking for Jerusalem’s redemption of the Christ Child.  

Conclusion:

They possessed qualities which enable the most enjoyment of Christmas: the richest and most satisfying Christmas experience.  Of course, this is not walled into this time of year only.

They had no shopping deadlines or Christmas countdowns.  The announcement was prompted by the Holy Spirit (who always points to Christ!).  They were also unashamed in their proclamations.  

What Luke records in these short verses are meant to bless, encourage, and even warn today.

Perhaps the most important revelations we see here is found in verse 30 – Jesus is Salvation.  He is the hope for all nations.  He is your hope today.  If you have not made Him Lord of your life there’s no time than the present to call out to Jesus as your Lord.  He is not a Baby anymore but a risen Lord, Supreme Authority, who washes away the sins of all who call to him with a repentant heart towards God. He loves you with an everlasting love.  Come to Him today, you will be made brand new!

Simeon and Anna provide the best examples of the true thankfulness of Christmas, they were folks who longed as a part of life.  Their longing was fulfilled in Christ!  May it be so with us!

All Things Through Christ

Philippians 4:13  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” NKJV

I. “I can do…”

 a. God has called us “to do”
1. In the NKJV the term “good works” is mentioned 15 times.  All within the context of Christian expectation and conduct.
2.  Though good works cannot save God expects them of us, for we were created good works.

b. He Himself, is not a God of inaction  He is active in our lives..  This should comfort  us….

“Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.”  Isaiah 40:26 NKJV

I can do!….

II. All things through Christ

a. The things we are called to do should

        1. be done in God’s strength

        2. edify (or build-up) the body of Christ

2 Corinthians 12:19  says “We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.”

b. the Greater works…

Jesus said in John 14:12-13 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. 13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

The Greek word for greater (meizōn) is mentioned about 45 times in scripture and is indeed usually translated greater.  It can be translated greater and also bigger, taller, or even stricter.

I believe Jesus is speaking in terms of quantity not quality.  Because He sent the Spirit the Church should be active doing and thus the quantity of works will increase immeasurably.  Jesus work on the earth, through us the church, should be a constant.

III. Who strengthens me

a. When we are called to work for God He comes along side to strengthen us, we never work alone!!!

    1.  “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” 2 Timothy 4:17

    2.  “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!”   Psalm 17:14

b. His strength is found when we are weak

    “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  2 Corinthians 12:9

Conclusion:

Let’s look at 2 opposing world-views……

“Upon close inspection, this gospel offers no hope that you cannot generate yourself and only the comfort of having been true to yourself.” – Andy Crouch WSJ – FALSE!!!

“Some have wishes. Others like Joshua have purposes. A whole generation of Israel wished, and died still wishing. They had a wishbone, but no backbone. By faith in God Joshua turned “wishes” into land, cities, homes and possessions.” – REINHARD BONNKE

The latter view is correct.  Let’s do some spiritual self-examination.  Are we doing all things through Christ?  Are we striving forward, forgetting what is behind and pressing onward?  Or are we bowing down to the pressures of this life and thus beginning a downward spiral?

Look at Samson. He was a judge who did mighty works for God. He was a one-man army!  Yet, he failed by repeatedly giving in to temptation and in the end broke his Covenant with God.  He ended up being a laughing stock to the Philistines.  He was put on display in a hall filled with God’s enemies. Let’s read his very last prayer…

“Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” Judges 16:28

God answered him.

Even in the end God was faithful.  If you have failed it can turn around.

Press on! Get up! Submit to Christ and let Him bring the victory!!

2 Corinthians 3 – The Glory of the New Covenant

You may read the entire chapter here

 VS 1-3 Living Letters

Here Paul teaches an interesting lesson. It’s not letters of recommendation that qualify ministry: it’s the fruit you bear.  The subject of commendation is frequent in 2 Corinthians.  This passage reveals a sobering truth: the real success is revealed by the lives of those you minister to.  Notice the progression that follows….

  • You are our letter (of commendation)
  • This letter is written on our (the minister’s) hearts, which is read by all
  • Ultimately you are Christ’s letter also
  • Written by us (since our ministry came from Him)
  • This is written by the Spirit of God on human hearts

Paul will contrast the old and new covenants later in this chapter so his words “..not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh” was clearly precluding it.  For examples and further study see Ex. 24:12; 31:18; 32:15; 34:1; Deut. 9:10 & Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26

VS 4-6 True competence in ministry

Because of the great harvest and growth the Corinthians have shown this gave deep satisfaction to the Apostle. He realized, as we should, that our competence comes from God.  It does not come from men.

            Edward Sheldon said “God will look you over, not for medals or degrees, but for scars.

As much as human preparation is important it is God who wins the battle.  He should be given the praise and credit.

Notice the wisdom of God in VS 6. There is purpose in God’s commendation.  We are ministers of the New Covenant, it is of the Spirit, who gives life.  Any less is insufficient at best and damaging at worst.

VS 7-18 Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom

The lesson here is learned in contrasts, the new and the old covenant.  A covenant was an agreement or contract between two parties (or families) which could only be broken in death.  There were often meals involved.  Paul will use words here that must have shocked to his original audience: “Ministry of death” & “ministry of condemnation” in reference to the old covenant.  He uses titles such as these to show what the purpose of the old covenant really was.  It was a guardian until the time of Christ.  The law can diagnose sin but cannot remove it.  The law says “you are wrong” and “you must pay.”  For an extended passage on the purpose of the law see Galatians 3:19-26.

There is no doubt, the law is good, it is not evil.  This is made abundantly clear in Romans 7:7-8.

The new covenant brings life because Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice to God for the sins of all mankind.  The new covenant is described here as the “ministry of the Spirit” and “ministry of righteousness.”   God’s wrath against sin was forever satisfied in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  After the resurrection Jesus sent the Spirit to empower us to be His witnesses and through us reconcile the world to God the Father.  We see in VS 12 that such hope gives us boldness.  What great news!!

The new covenant is what is in effect now, the old covenant has been completed and fulfilled in Christ.

Because the term covenant cannot be thoroughly discussed here and because of the need of further study I highly recommend a book by Malcom Smith entitled The Power of the Blood Covenant.  Go here for the book on Amazon: http://amzn.com/1577948165   It’s also available as a Kindle edition: http://amzn.com/B00486U462  It is also available for the Nook: http://bit.ly/nHb1Nl

Paul uses a well-known story about Moses as an example.  You can read the account it Exodus 34:29-35.
Moses experienced the glory of the old covenant and his face glowed bright!  It was so bright that no one could look at him.  This caused him to put a veil over his face until the glory faded.  The radiance of Moses’ face resulted from him spending 40 days and nights on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. It is interesting if you visit the text in Exodus to find that the people were afraid to look at Moses and when Moses talked with Yahweh he removed the veil.

If the old covenant was glorious how much more glorious is the new?  It does NOT fade away.  Here we learn that the old covenant is not glorious today at all

The veil had a spiritual lesson.  It represents the blinding of the non-Christian.  When the law is read they are blinded from the truth.  Man-made arguments and reasoning will not remove the veil.  Spiritually the veil lies over their hearts. In Moses’ day it was over their minds (VS 14.)  We see here one must open their heart to God.  Paul in clear…”because it is set aside [only] in Christ….whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” VS 14b & 16b.  Jesus Christ, who ushers in the New Covenant, takes away the veil which blinds.

In VS 17 we read a well-loved verse: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  This is often quoted in the context of the freedom the Lord allows during worship services.  While that may be true that is not the context here.  Paul is strategically using the word freedom to highlight what belongs to the Christian in the new covenant.  This is in contrast to the veil which is blind to salvation. When we come to Christ we now have liberty not bondage!

VS 18 says “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”  We together (as Christians) fully behold the glory of the Lord (in the Spirit) and reflect that same glory (still united together as the church) and are being transformed into the image of the Lord (God’s original plan when creating man – Genesis 1:26-27) from glory to glory (ascending or progressive in glory.)  All this is from the Lord, the Lord is the Spirit.

What does 2 Corinthians 3 teach for us today?….

  • God qualifies us
  • Real success is faithfulness to God in the fruit we produce
  • Look fully to and participate in God’s glory.  This is found in Christ alone.

Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture is taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright © 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 by Holman Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.