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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Christian Problem

The main problem with Christians is that they don’t understand the main thing. We get caught up in politics, issues, children, sports, financial security, and more politics. We think being active or participating in these “things” will help us be better off AND, mistakenly, believe they can be co-opted into “being Christian.” This is totally wrong thinking according to the Bible!
If you truly believe you have said “Jesus is Lord” and “believe in your heart he has been raised from the dead” it is time to shed these “scales” from your life. There is so much more available to bring fulfillment and purpose to your life. If you are truly Christian you are to be about THREE things, three things only!
First, and foremost, you are to live a life in which EVERYTHING in your life is dedicated to the LORD of all Creation! This is pretty simple stuff. You don’t own anything. You are NOT in control of your destiny. God, honoring God, is your top priority in all aspects of life. Nothing less is acceptable if you think you are a Christian.
Second, and just as foremost, you are to love your neighbor as yourself. Get this, what you want, desire, appreciate, and respect is exactly what you should want, desire, appreciate, and respect for others. You should understand that ALL people are created in the image of God and need His love. The love that died on the cross for you is to be shared with someone who hasn’t yet discovered that love. YOU are to be a representation of Christ. You will not be perfect at it but your desire to show it will be respected.
Third, and is an outcome of the first two issues becoming a lifestyle, you are to proclaim this to the world and those who accept the message you are to teach how to live according to that new found faith! YOU do not have the option of declining. You do not have the excuse of being scared. You are not allowed the excuse of “not knowing enough.”
Quit being political, it won’t change a thing. Become the type of Christian Christ died for you to be. Love people, live with integrity, live with boldness in your faith, give ALL credit to God. Regard all people you come across the way Christ as regarded you. Remember, your disobedience, abstinence, and rebellion was died for while you were committing it!!!!!
You want to make a difference in this world? Truly love God with all you possess. Truly love people the way God has loved you. And, tell the world about it. It is really quite simple.
Call me (559) 978-1370 if you want to know more about Christ. E-mail me if you want to discuss things in that format (jeffreycraig.harrington@gmail.com), or go to my FB page.
For the person truly desiring to be Christian, get going! Remember the main thing: Christ died for our sins accord to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. Go and live it out.
jeff

Friday, September 30, 2011

Life in Death

Life in Death

Three people I know are going through the incredibly painful journey of going with their spouses as they may or may not die. Two are dealing with the cancer of their spouses and the other a serious bleed on the brain (AVM).
My care and affection for each of these couples is very deep but has manifested in different forms. All of these couples have made significant contributions to my life in Jesus Christ; contributions which are far beyond just basic friendship and care for God’s call on my life. It is that “strange” relationship in which distance or time provide an inconvenience but when we get together it is as if we saw each other yesterday.
My care for them has much to do with what is stated above but also, and maybe more importantly, their joint devotion to each other and to the Lord of the Universe. All three couples have served for decades together. They have supported each other in the beautiful moments of ministry and in the very painful moments that come when dealing with the people of God.
They have raised children, celebrated the joy of being grandparents, and continued to become best friends as they pursued their marriage covenant. They have been a shining example of long devotion to another as they stayed devoted to the Lord of All Creation.
These three couples have boldly proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Sole means by which we can approach God. They have not deviated from sharing that Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life and that no one can come to God except through Jesus Christ. They have planted churches, discipled countless people, and served sacrificially since the beginning of their marriages.
They haven’t been “perfect,” or even “good” all the time. They have failed and not lived properly at various time. They readily share these shortcomings to help others follow the narrow path better. They seek to utilize their gifts and strengths and talents to help others, but don’t shy away from their weaknesses to achieve the same result, helping others to grow closer to the famously gracious and merciful LORD of All.
From a human perspective their painful journey doesn’t seem fair. They have been faithful over the long haul. They have sought to be obedient and helped thousands to come to Jesus Christ. For all their work they are now suffering in a tremendous way. The spouses are particularly suffering as they wish and pray for their spouses’ survival all the while wanting their spouses not to suffer.
In talking, messaging, and reading posts no one will find a hint of people who are angry, resentful, or hopeless. Yes, each deeply desire for their spouse to survive and have vibrancy. Yet, more than that, they want the God they serve to be honored and appreciated. One spouse battles the health issues, and the other seeks to comfort and pray for God’s will to be accepted. They don’t want to “lose” their spouses, their best friends, their beloved, but they want God honored and appreciated above their desires.
Each is willing to accept the hardship of losing a spouse if God will bring others to Himself through the process of death. They understand death is but a stage in life. They have invested much and will experience extreme pain in the loss. Again though, they understand the loss to be short term because their faith and hope dictates a reunion when their own time comes to pass. They desire for others to understand this process.
They have loved each other well and that is why they suffer right now. But, because they have loved so well, because they have strived to be unconditional in that love, because they have sought to serve the interests of the other, because they have understood their marriage to be an example of God’s love and care for all of us, they will go through the sorrow and rejoice that God has been honored.
They see nothing as important as this: that you know Jesus Christ as the only way in which to receive eternal life and the sole means by which to live your life in a way which brings honor to God. They understand that their loss is nothing compared to Jesus’ sacrifice and they seek to rejoice in the suffering they are going through. Don’t try to understand that paradox. Look deep within yourself and acknowledge your need for the God they have lived to serve and will continue to serve in their devastating loss. Can you handle this loss? You will with Jesus Christ. If you have doubts or questions you should send me a message. I’ll talk with you. My life is different because of these people. But more importantly, my life is different because the God they have served is the God I served.
Send me an email to jeffreycraig.harrington@gmail.com and I will share my own journey from desolation to being part of Lord of Universe’s work in our world. God bless you, please consider Jesus for your life. It is the only genuine life changing choice we can make.
jeff

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Because I said so...

“Because I said so…”

“Because I said so…” has to be one of the most over used and empty phrases developed within the English language. If words have power (and they do) then the combination of these words show how powerless and meaningless some speech (speeches?) can be.
“Because I said so…” reeks of intellectual dishonesty, lack of legitimacy in exercising authority, and indicates a worldview in which nothing in life is purposeful.
“Because I said so…” smacks of an acceptance to tradition without critical evaluation of its pertinence in contemporary life, and that today’s circumstances are secondary to history.
“Because I said so…” indicates a lack of desire to claim responsibility for exercising authority, decision making, and the consequences (good or bad) of such issues.
“Because I said so…” tells those under your supervision, authority, and responsibility that you lack the caring and willingness to work for their benefit.
“Because I said so…” closes off all beneficial dialogue and the possibility of deepening a relationship.
“Because I said so…” should be eliminated from your speech if you desire to promote relationships, have respect for you position of influence, have better relationships with your friends and family, and desire to be accountable for your actions.
You should pay attention to this not because I said so but because you evaluated the “argument” and believe it will enhance your relationships and general interactions with all around you.
God bless you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rapids with God

I don’t know if you have ever participated in the incredible adventure of white water rafter, but you are seriously missing out if you haven’t. Now I am writing this as a person scared to death of open water. Especially fast, freezing rushing water! I was so paranoid I had to do a flotation test of the wet suit and vest to insure my large girth would stay above water. It worked so I got into the raft.
I guess that is my first metaphor for the Rapids with God. While it is very cool to watch God accomplish great things, it is way beyond great to be in the midst of his work. If you want a genuine, invigorating, never will you be the same experience for your life you need to get into the raft.
The beginning of this rafting trip was pretty serene. The air was cool, the sky was clear, the sound of water was calming, and the guide was calmly giving us very important instructions on what to do through the expected and what to do if something unexpected took place. Little did we know that the later instructions would become so important!
My second metaphor is simple this, pay attention to God’s instructions. They are not only effective for the calm parts of the journey but they are crucial in catastrophe and will enable you to finish the journey.
Within just a few minutes we saw the rapids coming toward us. Excitement, fear, and determination took hold as the guide shouted out the lesson reminders and told us exactly what to do to negotiate this particular set of rapids. We would soon learn that there are a variety of different rapids and the same approach is not to be used if one wants to stay dry (relatively speaking!). We discovered this very quickly as the second set of rapids came upon us before we could finish celebrating our victory over the first set. This set was far more formidable. A whole different set of instructions came from a very determined, calming, and clear voice of the guide.
My third metaphor, when God is in charge all issues of life can be negotiated but we should never assume how He worked in the last situation is how He will work in the next. In fact, it is for our safety we must leave Him in charge and not assume we know what we are doing! One rapid is not like another. There are too many unseen factors that change the level of danger and require different efforts. The slope of the river at that time, the rocks under the water, and the narrowness of the river make all the difference in the world. If you are in the raft make sure you are totally focused on the Guides instructions. Likewise, don’t assume your journey is ever under your control. Stay focused on the instructions of God. This will keep complacency out of the picture.
The river this particularly year was pretty fast and the variety of rapids was pretty intimidating. There was no way that a novice, or group of novices would be able to get through the Rapids with God without some sort of calamity, even death. A particular set of rapids underlined how important the instructions of the Guide were for our safety.
The guide for our crew, at the very beginning of the journey, gave us instructions on what to do if she was tossed overboard! Most of us (including me) figured she was just trying to scare us so we would pay attention. Little did we know what would happen half way into the Rapids with God.
We had successfully passed through a few different rapids and had been having a great time. We were learning to row in such a way as to complement the strength of each person. We were consistently going in a straight line and hitting the rapids in the angle most beneficial to all of the crew. The scary part of the next scenario was that no one saw it coming, except the guide in the raft. Her experience and knowledge informed her that the scenario about to unfold was quite possible.
As we hit the last couple of big plunges (very cool by the way!) we were celebrating coming through them when we realized our guide had been launched from the raft. We were seemingly without a guide and only half way through the journey! All of a sudden we began to hear the guide shouting instructions to us on how to get the raft positioned so she could get back on board. The instructions were simple and EXACTLY like she had taught at the beginning during the serenity of the journey. Before we hit the next big set of rapids she had us perfectly positioned so as to climb back into the raft and be “in our presence” once again.
Here is another metaphor to chew on. Our guide told us (at the beginning of the journey) that despite not being in the raft she would still be able to instruct us. God says the same to us. He will never leave us or forsake us. We might not “sense” His presence but He is there nonetheless. He is still helping us negotiate the unexpected turns of life. No matter what He will be instructing us on how to get through the rapids of life. Despite our consternation our guide was completely calm and in control. Please, I urge you, this is how God operates in our life. NO situation surprises Him. He is prepared to give us instructions. And, in case you have missed the metaphor, He usually requires us to expend effort through acts of obedience to realize the validity of His authority.
It is interesting, but my group of people had the most exciting, talked about journey of everyone who went on this trip. We had experienced a pretty scary situation. We had made it through because we followed our guides calm, yet commanding instructions on how to recuperate. Our journey was more fulfilling because of a significant trial during the journey.
My last metaphor (I promise) follows, it is not that trials should be “desired,” but our fulfillment and joy and experiences are heightened through trials which catch us completely off guard. As we look back and realize that God not only prepared us for the possible scenario, we also realize He was faithful in carrying us through the ordeal. This causes us to develop a deeper awareness of God and our faith grows in preparation for the next set of Rapids with God!
Friends, get in the raft and go with God. If you don’t know Him it is time to say, “You are God, and Jesus is supposed to be guiding my life. Please come and take over and I commit to you in being the guide to the rest of my “rafting trip.” Email me at jeffreycriag.harrington@gmail.com if you would like to discuss your next rafting trip with God. God bless you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mentoring Matters (check out my life!)

What kind of life do I have? How could my life have ended up differently?
I don’t know about you who are reading this, but my life could have turned out completely different than my current reality. My life is certainly very complicated at the moment. When I am asked, “How are you doing?” I reply, “I’m not sure how to answer that question?” I’m 53 years old and have incredible energy that I know comes from something other than myself. I feel that the major life/career adjustment I was compelled to make on January 1 of this year, and the process began in January of 2010, was definitively and actively coordinated by ANOTHER. Security in position, finances, and influence was abandoned. It was very clear that I would probably have to work three jobs in this transition. It was clear that I would not be able to bring home the same amount of income despite working these three jobs. It was also clear to me that I would be doing two things with certainty, and need to be open to the “wild card” job.
So I began the journey of building a non-profit (Highway City Community Development) into the transformative agent we believed it should be in our community. I began the process of applying to become an adjunct professor at two of our local universities. One door closed very quickly due to our state budget issues. The other door opened up (Fresno Pacific University) in a very unexpected way and I am relishing the teaching time. I kept looking for the “right” third job. The simple matter was that our family couldn’t continue to absorb the $2,400+ loss in take home pay. We had done pretty well in financial management, but not completely. Hindsight sucks, because it is so accurate. I wish we had done a bit better. On the other hand, the only reason the first two jobs could be accomplished was through accumulating debt. This is an interesting paradox, yet one that my family must live with.
I knew the third job would need to be a “graveyard” type of employment. Certain jobs were pretty easy to rule out because it was clear they didn’t “fit.” Other opportunities were something to think about but I was worried about my integrity if an organization invested in training me and then I need to quit because one of the first two jobs broke open in a financial sense. One day while networking the person asked if my interns might need employment. Valley Teen Ranch is an awesome work dealing with foster care, adoption, and group homes for troubled male teens. I gladly took the job descriptions to give to our organization’s graduating interns from our Urban Leadership program. As I perused the descriptions a night shift job description caught my eye. I could be a substitute night shift worker.
I then went to the CEO and asked if she would mind if I applied knowing it might be for a short duration. Connie is a great friend and inspiration to what I was primarily doing (HCCD). She was a great encouragement. So I spoke with Janet, the HR person. She gave me the low down and said it was perfectly fine to use my laptop at work! So, I became a nightshift Child Care worker for Valley Teen Ranch in June. It helps my family, it helps Valley Teen Ranch, AND I can do research, reading, and writing while doing bed checks and clocking in every half hour (make sure I’m not sleeping!).
So I’m working two full time jobs and one occasional job (if adjunct professor can be put in that role) just as I felt I would be doing. That actually feels pretty good. On the other hand, I do get tired and periodically question my move to this situation. Three things have helped me to feeling secure in this season of transition, fatigue, and expectation. One, I have an amazing wife. She has been completely on board with the decision to transition and encouraging me and communicating herr deep respect for me as her husband and father of our children. Quite frankly, this has been more than a little important.
Second, if you haven’t figured it out by now, my faith in Jesus and the faith that He was/is directing this move is foundational. All my Christ-following years (almost 23 years) He has directed my path in amazing ways. So much unexpected, never thought it could happen, and “are you sure I’m the one?” have marked my life with Christ. It hasn’t been very often that the journey has been “easy” or considered “safe.” He has asked considerably of me in the areas of giving up comfort, ease, and safety. Each time I have stepped into the unknown He has made a new reality for me. What I would have disqualified myself from He has made me experienced in. Being in the center of God’s will IS NOT the safest place to be. But, it is the most fulfilling place to take a stance.
Finally, the third thing that has sustained me in this journey, and the chief reason for the blog is my mentor. His name is Jim. Quite simply, if you do not have at least one “Jim” in your life I feel very sorry for you.
Jim has been my mentor for 18+ years. He has traveled with me through some very significant transitions in my life. He has shared his life with me. I have observed his life and marveled that I would be allowed to have this person in my life. He has vast experience in the fields I feel so strongly called to be in, a great marriage (not without struggles for sure which he has shared from their journey), good adult kids (pretty close to my age), and grandchildren he adores. He mentors me in all areas of my life. He encourages me, confronts me (gently), spurs me on, and advocates for me when my doubts start to cloud the vision I feel led to move toward.
Today was one of those days. He made a simple, astute statement which changed everything for me. It released doubt, even a little self-imposed guilt, and served as a great cheer for what I was trying to achieve according to my call in life. He said, “Building a dream requires a lot of effort that just can’t be measured.” That was crucial for me to hear. I’m working toward a “dream.” I’m sure it is not my dream. If it was I would have quit long ago. Even when things look totally crappy (probably not the most eloquent word but you get my drift I’m sure) this vision of what could be is always front and center.
Wives are great and critical supporters. God has to make the call and direct the steps. But, God has orchestrated that we move forward in community. He set up the idea of mentors. Whether Moses for Joshua, Elijah for Elisha, Jesus for the Apostles, or Paul for Timothy, he knew that we needed an experienced, godly person to be there with us to help us see more clearly how God is working in our lives.
If you haven’t thought this to be important, I plead with you to seek out a mentor who can relate to the whole of your life. Jim has been this for me. If you don’t think this is important I will pray for you (you are in a dangerous position). If you have this in your life, verbally let them know how much they mean to you.
I don’t know what my life would look like without Jim. So many of the steps I felt I was being led to make seemed so unconventional. The truth of the matter was that they were and he had already traveled the road less traveled. Jim has been willing to share his downfalls, shortcomings, and ill advised moves. But, he has also shared the victories and given me hope in my own circumstances. He has never said, “do it my way.” He always says, “let’s figure out how God will use you in this situation.” He has confronted my shortcomings with love and with a great desire to see me become the man of God he believes I can become. He has been a fierce advocate for me even if it could have been detrimental to him. Simply put, he has believed completely that God is working in my life and has a great desire to help me see this and value that work in my life.
You need this in your life. Mentoring matters. Get one. And prepare to be one for others. That has also been taught to me. Thank you Jim. Thank you for believing in me being used by God. Thanks for crying with me, laughing with me, laughing at me, and setting a great example for how to follow Christ even when we might mess it up a bit.
To those reading this, you need to know Christ. It is that pure and simple. Once there, find another who is farther up the road with experience in your passions. Chances are they are around you and it is time to approach them. I will pray you gain at least as much as I have gained from Jim.
God bless your journey together,
Jeff

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Training an Eagle - Being a Parent

I am sitting in the chair that my second son spent so much time in over the last few years. His prom picture with the greatest girl you could hope your son could have in his life hangs on the wall to my left. Straight ahead is his team picture from the City/County All-Star game this summer. On the wall to my right hangs St. Louis Ram paraphernalia which is our favorite team. I'm blogging today because my "eagle" has taken flight and is now starting his new adventure in college about 240 miles south of home.
While I have had many tears over the last couple of days none of them were from sorrow, regret, or wishing for something different. I am so blessed to have watched my son grow into a man. The privilege and honor of parenting really manifested today as we said our good-byes, cried, hugged, kissed, and tried not to stay too long so the reality of being off on his own could begin to unfold.
Caleb and I have a great relationship. As you might guess we have very similar personalities. Sometimes I've felt bad about that and most of the time it has been a great joy. He has that same stubborn, independent streak and the same quiet intensity and determination which contain all sorts of "goods" and "bads" to them!
Our great relationship isn't the result of me being a perfect parent by any measurement. I've regretted how many times I've had to ask his forgiveness because I set such a poor example at times. I still remember the last time I spanked him and realized he had been belittled. He was nine and I sat with him and told him I would never spank him again and I ask him for forgiveness for how I treated him. I suppose that is how all "last" spankings go. I've ended up doing that with all my kids. There comes that day when it is not longer a justified punishment. It only serves to harm and diminish them as human beings. If you are a newer parent pay close attention to that one. Eight and nine years old seems to be the age, maybe a bit sooner for our daughters.
For my son's life I have been in a pastoral vocation. There is a false stereotype out there about pastors' kids. The truth of the matter is that the majority of pastors' kids tend to do much better in life than others, but human nature likes to dwell on the negatives. The vast majority of the kids I know whose Dad is a pastor are great kids and I'm grateful some of them are my kids good friends.
But, as a pastor, I've been very careful not to teach my children about Jesus and the wonder of God out of my vocation. I've always underlined life lessons from my main ministry of being a parent. In fact, the last eight months I haven't been a pastor in the vocational sense and my kids have observed no difference in this issue. I'm grateful for that experience for my kids. Saying this though, I've been a bit concerned I've "soft-peddled" faith and the reading of Scripture. My kids assure me (with a roll of eyes) that isn't the case. But I was compelled a few years ago to insure the importance of knowing Scripture in order to know God better would be the key legacy I would leave them. I knew Caleb would be the first to leave the nest. It may sound strange but I "knew" this when he was about 12. It was about that time I began to use one Bible for all my study, devotion, and learning situations. I took notes, wrote down people's phone numbers, and wrote different thoughts. Yesterday I gave that Bible to Caleb.
I don't think I've read the Bible very much in my kids presence. I never felt compelled to put on the show of reading my Bible. My kids knew I read my Bible because of the different questions I would ask them or they would ask me. Yet, I wanted Caleb to grasp the depth of my love for God's Word. I pray as he leafs through this Bible he will see a man who searches thoroughly to love his God and seeks to live like his Savior.
As I went outside today to let Caleb and his girlfriend Makenzie (a fantastic person in my son's life) could have their private "good bye" I thought about the responsibility of parents to protect their children and prepare them for days like today.
When they are tiny our protection manifest in preventing potential harmful things coming to them. We wash them, prevent them touching the stove, keep them from other sick kids, and keep a very vigilant eye on what they and others are doing. A little later we may actually let them touch the hot stove as a way to teach them more thoroughly about being "safe." We let them wander a little farther away but never out of our sight.
This continues to develop as they grow up. We let them go farther away and we even let them out of sight for longer periods of time. We start letting them stay with others we trust will operate as we do. We monitor what kind of media is coming their way. Bsrney, rate G movies, and the filter for bad language is pretty thick.
Lisa and I made some strong decisions that weren't necessarily common with all Christ following families. We were absolutely committed to public education for a couple of reasons. We both believe that followers of Christ need to be involved in order to bring about a difference. Also, I wanted my kids exposed to the hardships, vulgarities, injustices, and socio-economic diversity. This required a great deal of vigilance and counter teaching as we progressed through the school system. We would talk about maintaining integrity in our faith, living principled lives, and learning that this could bring about ridicule.
Interestingly enough, their peers have generally regarded them with respect and they haven't really dealt with too much negative peer pressure. I know my kids have cussed on occasion and just been plain mean to some people. As we were aware of some situations we would deal with them appropriately.
Finally, as the protection responsibility mandates, we have to let our kids have the opportunity to genuinely screw up. If we are fortunate the screw ups aren't devastating. We pray for the discernment of when to give a gentle reminder (without it sounding like nagging); we stop making phone calls and texting to one's whereabouts, and we allow curfew to become extended. All along we emphasize that nothing good happens after midnight. We have moved from being protectors, to insuring protection, to teaching about how to protect, and then, the hardest part, let them begin to protect themselves.
Today my son Caleb stepped into that responsibility. We will pray diligently that the strength of character that has marked him will continue to grow. We pray his steadfastness and determination will withstand the new, more difficult tests coming his way. We pray that his faith in Christ will become his own faith. It cannot be the faith of his parents, but his very own.
So, my eagle has taken wing. He is officially out of the nest. I pray that he will learn to soar and stay grounded at all times. This is a strange paradox for sure, but true nonetheless. Our dreams can only be appreciated with a strong foundation and anchor in Christ. May my son soar like the eagles and have a foundation that is deep and wide.
My last words to him tonight were,"Keep your path straight." I showed him how to leave the nest. My tears tonight are because I'm proud of him. He flew away. He'll circle around and land periodically for sure, but the flight is all his now. Thank you Lord for the honor and privilege of raising up your gift. I pray I have served you well Lord.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Curing My Depression

April 6, 2011
Did my repentance cure my depression? Quite probably, my hardness of heart to His Church most likely was the primary reason for my depression. The Church is God’s “invention.” Not only is the Church created by God it is formed by God and “headed” by Jesus Christ. The Church is so important to God that He gave His Son Supreme Leadership over its function in the world.
God, the Supreme Power, would only grant authority to His Son for that which would achieve His ultimate mission. That mission is to reconcile the world to Himself. While it is Christ’s work and the Holy Spirit’s leading that actually accomplishes the task of salvation it is the Church that is the chosen vessel in which He works to help the world understand God loves them.
Just as God gave Adam, before sin, the ministry of care for His creation, God has given His church (the gathered and unified believers in the Biblical Jesus) the ministry of care for God’s creation. The primary care is to be with God’s most prized piece in creation, those created in His Image. The human race.
To not love this chosen transformative agent of God, His people, His Church, is to NOT love God Himself. If then I do not love God’s people as described by His Word (1 John 4:19-21) I do NOT love God. I am a liar according to God’s Word. If that is the case (and it is!) then I can’t be “near” Him. If I am harboring anger, resentment, or vengeance I am “grieving” and/or “quenching” the Holy Spirit’s work in my life. I cease to be transformed when I am not in love with His Church (the gathered and unified believers in the Biblical Jesus). This is the direct result of my depression, is caused by not loving His church.
I am not trivializing the alleviation of depression as simply loving God’s people as God has loved them (John 13:34)! Quite frankly, we all struggle to achieve this mandate on our lives without the work of the Holy Spirit (even with His help). But, for those who truly seek to be “called according to His purpose” claim to “love Him” we do not have the option to love His church. When we (me) become hardened to this fundamental expression of our faith we can be assured depression (or worse) can (and in my case will) manifest.
My bouts with depression have always been related to my disgust, resentment, frustration, and generally lack of love for His church. When I say His church I mean His people. My disgust, resentment, and frustration (again, lack of love) revolves around my sense of the people of God betraying me, letting me down, or just not getting the Biblical mandates He has so clearly given us to follow. Sometimes it is quite valid that His people have let Him down. Sometimes it is not valid at all and I am the one who feels let down (this doesn’t necessarily mean God wasn’t let down also).
My supposed righteous indignation is usually self-centered and not God centered. While God may have certainly been dishonored my self-centeredness tends to take this as a personal violation. I find that issues which appear traitorous or hurtful cause me to escape from “loving” people. Yet, if I truly desire to be like Christ I would simply (not simply as in simplistic) move forward with the aid of the Holy Spirit. After all, didn’t Jesus completely love Judas who He knew was stealing from His ministry’s treasury? And, didn’t He choose Judas even though He knew Judas would betray Him? Didn’t Jesus completely love Peter who He knew would betray Him three times? Yet, He restored Peter. Remember, He knew all the disciples would abandon Him yet He loved them completely and later, after His resurrection would commission them to sacrifice for Him. He completely loved them before, during, and after their sins against Him.
For me to do anything less will almost certainly lead to depression. I have been forgiven so much. Much is expected of me because of this forgiveness. Not in a performance sense, but in a loving sense. The “cure” for my depression is to love His church. If I love the Church (the gathered and unified believers in the Biblical Jesus Christ) I cease to be a “liar.” I am restored and reconciled to my Father when I love people, especially His people! When this occurs the Holy Spirit is again released into my life and the life His has planned for me in regenerated. The ultimate relationship in my life is restored AND, as it pertains to me, my depression is GONE!
My depressions are rooted in my weakness(s). My most profound weakness is broken relationships and my disobedience to love is my “defense” or, even worse, my “excuse” to that issue. It is a simple (again, not simplistic) equation. If I love people as Christ loved me (His command), depression is significantly mitigated. If I decide to be resentful, jealous or vengeful (all emotions are subject to my self-control), then I am in WILLFUL disobedience to God’s call on my life (and yours by the way). I then suffer the “natural” consequence of this sin, the sense of separation of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. This causes me deep depression! To know the presence of God and to “lose” it is devastating.
Your consequences may be different when it comes to deliberate sin. Yet, please know, whatever the consequence, it will render you “less” than God has intended for you. As for me, I am committing (recommitting!) to love ALL His people, His church, of which I belong. I do this not to be free from depression, I do this so that I may bring honor to my Savior who NEVER has given up on me. May my life reflect this in others who fall short of His glory.
God bless you, may you find Christ.
Jef