Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't Look Down!

Have you ever, in the middle of a project or whatever, looked around and suddenly realized that what you were doing was something that others might not understand or that they may see as being a little bit "out there" ? In the following picture and verse's Peter is literally "out there"!

Matthew 14:28-31

28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Jesus responded to Peter's request, He told him to "Come!" and that was enough for Peter to get out of the boat and begin walking on water towards Him. But because of Peter's inability to remain focused on Jesus, he allowed his doubt's to bring him down. Anytime we step out of our own "personal boat" or out of our comfort zone, we can expect to be bombarded by our fear's. I can only imagine how Peter might of felt, maybe he stepped out of the boat and was blown sideways by the wind. Perhaps he had been looking for a way to distinguish himself from the other disciples in Jesus' eye's but was unprepared for the "adversity" he encountered. Peter had no way of anticipating or fully understanding what would be required of him or how difficult it would be to overcome his fears and die to his doubts.

From the moment anyone is born again or "born to the Spirit" a process is begun. A work referred to as sanctification; which is to be set apart, to be changed from what it is we start out as into what we are to become in Christ. To mature and grow spiritually, It's forward progress moves in lockstep with our willingness and our ability to disregard the stifling worldly doubts and fears we all have and instead walk in faith.

In the past week as I've been going about the work of the Outreach Center; I was compelled to study what Gods word tells us about the life of Peter. Many of the stories of Peter in the gospels have to do with his spiritual immaturity or with his humanity; it was Peter who had the audacity to rebuke Jesus and who was in return rebuked by Him so sternly,

"Get behind Me Satan!" (OUCH!)

Of all the awkward moments that Peter experienced, the one that was most life changing occurred immediately after he had denied Christ for the third time, when that rooster crowed and his eye's met Jesus' It was then that he understood the extent of his own pretenses. There that he found the courage to contrast the superficiality or "half measures" of his own efforts to the full measure of devotion he had witnessed in Christ. In that instant he was struck full on by what it means to love. In his moment of clarity he comes to a full understanding of his own brokenness, of his own wretchedness, and of his own hopeless state.

Matthew 22:61-62

61And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

62And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter truly came to understand what it means to be humbled before the Lord in a way that few if any today can claim to share. And while that surely was a profoundly painful experience for him it served a great purpose. Peter wouldn't see Jesus again until three days later when He appeared to the disciples in the upper room and although it had only been three days I believe Peter had matured considerably as a result of what he had been through. Then, on the shore of the sea of Tiberius, Peter, ever the zealous disciple jumped out of the boat and swam to Christ who was waiting on the shore where they shared a meal and afterward Jesus gives Peter the "third degree".

Matthew 21:17

He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

In my estimation, this conversation between Jesus and Peter is a final exam of sorts. Peter hasn't merely learned to love, it's become as essential and natural to him as it is for him to breath! Jesus' final instruction for Peter to "Feed My Sheep" is a critical further illustration of the cause and effect relationship which should result from that love.

This was our first week of being open at the Outreach Center, at times I've had to deal with my own doubts about the rationality of what I'm doing, or with my own sensitivities as to what I'm trying to do being perceived by some as being "out there". Like Peter, I'm in the process of growth, of dealing with various things. There's my pride issues and my fear of asking people for help because of their possible rejection, and my tendency to take that too personally. That's a lot of stuff to deal with and there's no quick fix here, but I've found that it's much easier to consume it if you break it down into smaller pieces; day by day I put one foot in front of the other and just move in the direction God has given me grace to go. Like other things in my life that I've had to overcome, my success has been a product of my ability to look my fears in the eyes, and so based on that I must remember,

"Don't look Down!"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who's To Say?

I'm big on remembering quips, quotes, "sayings", or expressions. Recently I was reminded of this one:

"Who's to say that the rantings of a madman aren't actually the clear vision of the only sane man left."

That got me to thinking about how I see the issues of depression and anxiety. Among the various therapies and methods of helping people who complain of these symptoms, one strategy is to help them to "move on." Another is to help them sort out why what they're feeling is perhaps irrational. Depression is primarily a reaction to loss, one of it's most common symptoms is hopelessness. Can I honestly try to sell people on the idea that there are sufficient reasons to be hopeful in this world? Anxiety is a high energy emotion that's based in fear. There are indeed a lot of scary things in this world that can happen to people that we're powerless to stop. What advice can I possibly offer anyone that can truly nullify this prospect?

Please understand that I'm not attempting to make any definitive statements about helping people with emotional problems, I'm only examining the "reality of perception" people seem to operate in.

What I'm talking about here are average people who've suffered belief system crashes that left them traumatized and erroneously conditioned to react with anxiety and depression out of a perceived necessity for self preservation.

What if anything can I say? Explaining to people that their perceived need to hold onto the "self" and that their own realization of their powerlessness in controlling circumstances are at the root of their depression and anxiety?

Sure, but what will I do with the other 45 minutes?

In the absence of having God in our lives we tend to stand in for Him and do the job ourselves, and it is rough territory!

Have you got all of the bases covered? What if,what if, what if?

"I'm such a failure, I couldn't control the circumstances of my life completely, I should just give up!"

Can you see what I mean about "who's to say" yet?

If I told you everything bad that was going to happen to you for the rest of your life how do you think you'd handle it?

I think most people might resemble the "mad man" I referred to previously.

What if instead, I showed you in Gods word that while you may go through all of the things in your life I previously mentioned, that not only would everything work out great in the end but that you would have peace available to you in the midst of all of it. Would that calm you down? Would it allow you to see the events and circumstances of your life from the perspective of what you gained from them instead of what you've lost?

Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad. (NKJV)

Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (NKJV)

"Anxiety disorders, like many other conditions, are an example of normal responses that appear at inappropriate times".

Faced with everything that's going on in this world we live in and all of the personal challenges that each of us are going through everyday, I guess what I'm wondering is what would constitute justifiable grounds for depression and anxiety?

Although I've perhaps got grounds to, I don't feel depressed or anxious about my personal situation, nor do I feel that way about the future of our world. But I can absolutely understand how someone who doesn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or someone who doesn't know Him as their Savior might! Some people may think I'm wrong not to be "overly concerned" but then, who's to say right?