Tuesday, November 21, 2017

If you Struggle with Depression and Suicidal Thoughts Read This!



Depression, suicide, discouragement...  Are you disturbed, wrought with depression, and teetering on the brink of self harm?

Hopelessness, well, I've known it well.  Depression, yes, it's been a constant companion on my life journey.  So if you struggle with these very real problems, I'm glad your here.  

It's a blackness of the soul.  It's a sincere emptiness.  It's truly a dwindling hope that eventually opens up to a giant black space where hope has no place.  One has given up, and there is no longer any hope that things will get better.  When hope is gone, then suicide starts looking increasingly helpful as an end to the pain.

Depression is pain of the soul.  It's extended.  It lasts for days, weeks, months, and years.  Each day seems to only offer the gift of another day of misery.  Sometimes it get be blotted out with drugs or strong drink, or lustful sexual encounters, or fickle, insipid relationships, but nothing seems to drive it off completely.  

It urged me to stay in bed.  Though I didn't need much encouragement to do so.  In my story specifically it played a part in a circular pattern in my life: Drug use, drug use, more drug use, exhaustive collapse, mental breakdown/physical breakdown, withdrawal, depression, more depression, sobriety, recovery, more recovery, and slowly more and more anxiety, and depression and anxiety and depression, and discomfort... and relapse, drug use, drug use, and the cycle repeats.

I did that for years. But there was always a question lingering in the background: Why am I here?  What is the purpose in anything?  Why do anything?  What is the meaning of life?

Without understanding the meaning of life, without understanding why I existed, depression was a natural consequence. 

Depression can express itself in society as gothic teenagers, or emo boys, or teenage girls with cut marks on their arms.  That's the stereotype, and often it fits, but there are many other expressions of depression.  

Ravi Zacharias tells the story of a doctor and his wife.  The doctor worked long hours in an ER.  He was a surgeon, very successful obviously.  Each day he would return home from work at 9:00 PM and his wife would be in bed and hear sometimes come in.  And then he would leave again for work around 3:00 AM.  And she would often awake when he left.  She would always listen for him, because she seemed to hardly ever see him.  Over and over he worked in this routine, day by day, week by week, and year by year.  He helped others.  He had meaningful work.  He served everyday.  And then one day she heard him come home, and then she heard a thud noise.  He had killed himself.  

Deion Sanders after winning the Superbowl was on the phone ordering a new Lamborghini, and he got off the phone, and he realized that he'd just achieved his ultimate and it had failed to satisfy him.  And there he got on his knees and accepted Jesus Christ as savior, realizing, that every pursuit in life was meaningless, and He needed an eternal future.  

The famous quarterback Brett Favre took many sacks and endured many concussions in his career. The pressure and the struggle of his fame, fortune, and family concerns led to addiction to Vicodin.  He achieved so much in his career, but still struggled with meaning, and with drug addiction.  He got clean from drugs and turned his life around.  He had a great career. But there still seemed to be something missing. And isn't it interesting that when Brett Favre came to be conducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, he credited all his accomplishments to his savior Jesus Christ.  Very interesting, that even when we achieve so much, even when we're at the top of the world seemingly, we still find meaninglessness in our hearts that can only be filled by a transcendence beyond the decadence and finity of this life. 

Depression at it's core is an expression of meaninglessness in the heart of man.  It's an emotional and intellectual decay stemming from the human heart and it's desire for eternity, for something greater than itself.  We each have that desire for a power greater than human power.  We each ache after longings that no single experience or event in this life can satisfy.  

I've stood in a highway hoping a car would run me over.  I've looked at the person driving that car as the car approached me. What a thing, don't you think?  I've laid on roads in the night praying for a car to come, but none ever did.  I've held a hunting rifle in my hands hoping I had the courage to use it on myself.  I've lived in such wretched sorrow that I despaired of every passing moment of life.  I've wished for the end of conscious so I could finally have a little bit of peace.  

I've intentionally attempted overdose and death by pills.  I've been assaulted and abused in my life.  I've been locked away in mental hospitals and rehabs.  I've developed codependent relationships and had one night stands that left me feeling empty and gross. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  So that you understand that I'm not someone jumping into this topic who hasn't lived it.  I've lived depression.  In some ways I do still struggle with melancholy in my daily life.  

But I'm here to tell you that recovery and healing is possible despite the darkest bleakest depression.  I really wish someone had told me this when I first struggled with depression.  But no one did.  I just got pills thrown at me by pyschiatrists, art therapy, expensive inpatient treatments, and "coping mechanisms" from all the latest pyschology fads.  Some of the medications and therapy sessions could help take the edge off, but the underlying issue was always left untreated.

The truth is there is an answer to the sorrow and bitterness and emptiness of depression.  It's meaning.  Truth and meaning are the answer to the darkest depressions.  In short, the answer to depression is Jesus Christ.  Before you throw your hands up in anger and storm out of the room saying "Oh great religion! That's the last thing I need!"

I thought the same thing.  But I had a lot of old ideas about faith that weren't actually true.  I didn't know that there was good evidence to believe that there really is a God that guides the universe.  I never knew that there was good historical evidence that Jesus Christ actually existed and lived in the ancient middle east.  I never knew, because we've been raised up as young people in a society that has rejected faith, and decided to try to play god for itself.  Humanity has tried to play god in our society and it's a big mess.  That's why so many people are so depressed and suicidal and hopeless.  

I never knew any of that.  I was just a depressed, angry, bitter and lost kid with no meaning or hope in my life.  

Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  (John 14:6).

Jesus said," Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest." 

Jesus offers each of us rest, sweet, sweet rest.  To finally set down this burdens we carry, of darkness, of emptiness, of pain and lay them down at the cross.

Paul, a man writing about what Jesus had done for him said, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 3:14).  

Living with Jesus as my friend, is a life in which I don't ever have to face a day alone.  I don't have to be miserable and morose and lost.  I don't have to try to summon some inner strength to get through the day.  Christ carries me through the day.  And the truth is that we're designed that way.  We were never designed to try to make a way for ourselves.  We were designed to recognize and connect with Christ.  Then Christ puts his Holy Spirit within our souls.  It's like suddenly being plugged in to a new energy source.  We go from dead, empty 2-dimensional ghosts to 3-dimensional Spirit-powered living people.  

We were never designed to "cope" on our own or try to figure it out ourselves.  We were designed to be connected to God, to be plugged into Him, receiving love and joy and peace from His thrown that can then carry us through our days and lead us home when we die.  

If you've tried everything and nothing has helped your depression, try Jesus.  If your suicidal and depressed and considering death anyway, you might as well try Jesus before you kill yourself.  There is nothing left to lose at the bottom.  Jesus can transform your life.  Jesus can cause you to be born again.  Jesus Christ is alive.  He is a living savior, active in the world, and seeking you out.  Seek after Him.

I have a few recommendations, some things that I did when I was a lost, depressive kid who couldn't hardly hold a job or go a day without pills.  

First of all, get a study Bible, like the NIV Study Bible. Read the New Testament, and ask Jesus to reveal himself to you.  Start to pray and ask Jesus for help.  Next, order a DVD copy of the movie The Gospel of John, it's word for word the gospel of John.  I watched that movie about two hundred times over and over while I was loaded on dxm and drunk out of my mind back in 2011.  But somehow Christ still spoke through those words to me.  Check out this documentary by Ray Comfort on Youtube called "The Appeal of Suicide."  It's amazing. Next, Google some churches in your area, find a decent baptist, methodist, lutheran, pentecostal, Salvation Army, or non-denominational church community.  We all need a community around us.  When I had been going to AA meetings for a few weeks, then I joined a church in Weston where I used to live.  It was hosted out of a school where they rented the auditorium.  It was awesome, I met all sorts of people and joined a small group.  And about 8 months later I was baptized, a sort of public declaration that Jesus had changed my life and soul forever.  It was awesome.  

Honestly, my life was a total disaster and that's putting it lightly.  Now Jesus has totally changed my life.  But let me add this: I still take medication for depression and I still have my melancholy days. But fundamentally my life is joyous and peaceful now instead of hopeless and despairing.  If you're feeling lost, anxious, depressed, and out of your mind, then come to Jesus.  I promise you, Jesus Christ my savior will not let you down.  It's amazing what he's done in my life.  Now I have real meaning, and a real future.  And it's real. It's true.  Depression and meaninglessness no longer have a hold on me.  Christ be with you, come to Him before it's too late. 


Hope, Cc 2.0
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Remembering Nabeel Qureshi: Five Presentations by the Former Muslim turned Christian

Nabeel Qureshi giving his last message and prayer request on his deathbed.
Nabeel Qureshi the famed Christian apologist who converted from Islam to Christianity died recently of cancer at the age of 34. Two years older than me. Wow. He was an amazing evangelist, someone I looked up to and deeply respected.  It's sad given the need in the Muslim world for Jesus. 

But I'm certain those impacted by his ministry will continue the efforts to evangelize the Muslim world. Here are five powerful presentations by Dr. Qureshi that I think will touch you deeply.

Additionally the final two videos are of his final message and the funeral service after his death.  The Lord can take us at any moment, always be ready. 

1. Jesus and the Christian Response to Islam

2. Fulfill Your Ministry


3. Georgia Tech Message



4. Jesus in Islam vs. Jesus in Christianity


5. Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward


The Final Message & Prayer Request from Nabeel Qureshi


The Funeral Service for Nabeel Qureshi


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  5. Five Provocative Sermon Messages
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Saturday, November 11, 2017

How to Survive as a Christian in a Post-Christian Post-Truth Culture



The country has changed so much since I was a young boy.  Many like to pretend like it isn't really happening, or that they don't notice the changes.  But I notice these things.  I see them.  And it is a difficult life for a Christian.  We are relatively new believers, in a strange world that seems to have gone insane.  

We gather together, sing songs, listen to the message given to us, and when we are home we read our Bibles and we pray.  We watch things happen in the world around us.  We see people on the streets who live differently than us.  And I remember how I used to be just like them.  I remember how I used to be one of the people out there, doing whatever felt good, and living for nothing but myself.  

Strange things happen in the world, like the Harvey Weinstein affair, and the rash of child sex abuse cases.  And then there's human sex trafficking.  And there is abortion, the killing of unborn children for convenience.  

It doesn't feel as safe as it used to be.  I used to bike around the neighborhood without a problem.  Today it isn't safe.  Today I don't feel like I can trust most people I run into.  There isn't a common ethic, there is moral anarchy.  Relationships are haphazard in such a place.  And if one spends any time at a bar, they might worry that one may drop something in their drink with the intention of taking advantage of them.  

Worse yet, there is a genocide being carried out against Christians in the middle east.  No one seems to care.  President Obama ignored it. The media won't talk about it because it doesn't fit their narrative of imperialist Christian oppression.  But hundreds of thousands are dying.  ISIS is decimating the Christian populations across Iraq especially, and the middle east at large.  But the media won't talk about it, and the corrupt UN won't even acknowledge it's even happening. 

Christians are tormented and murdered, yet regarded as mean and judgmental by people in the west. There is social justice, race baiting, and identity politics.  There are all sorts of mad things around us.  The truth is so hard to discern is a climate of deception.

In the media we see hatred, fake news, and vitriol on all sides.  Ideologies war against each other. Christian values are misused and abused, and most often, simply neglected.

What can we do? We see that Christianity has changed the world before.  We've seen how the gospel has transformed entire societies, and we wonder how things can change in our society.  We wonder if the field is even ripe for the harvesting anymore... 

We hide indoors sometimes.  We hide behind the four walls of our churches.  And we're afraid to speak, at times.  We hear about attacks on religious liberty.  We hear about people being shut down for speaking out on social media.  We're told by the media that there is no threat to religious liberty and if you even think there is a threat, then religious liberty is a code phrase for hatred, bigotry and white supremacy.  If we dare to speak up about religious freedom or identity politics, or political correctness we're slandered as racists, sexists, bigots, and homophobes.  

We dream of great awakenings, of revivals, of movements of young people turning to Jesus in droves.  But we don't see it happening.  What are we to do?  

We'll do what we can, is the answer to that question.  We'll do what the Spirit of God, our high commander instructs us to do in this conflict.  We'll pray hard, and we'll pray often.  We'll throw off the shackles of sin in this world.  And we'll pull the plugs from our arms and legs and torso, of the worldly views and secular thoughts that have invaded our Christian worldview.  And we'll participate in the holy resistance to the kingdom of Satan.  That's what we'll do.  And if we're destined to go down on the sinking ship of western civilization, then we'll go down in the ship preaching the gospel, though few believe.  And if we're destined to rally the people of western humanity to revival, and Christian great awakening, then rally we shall.  We'll obey the Spirit.

But we are in need of rest.  We must rest, regularly. And we ought to realize that we can't do it all ourselves.  We shouldn't try.  The Spirit will do His work.  We dishonor the Spirit if we think we can do ourselves with excessive work.  So rest.  

You know, let me tell you something: We can't help everyone.  We can't save everyone.  And I don't mean that some people are beyond help, though many certainly are.  

My point is this: I can't do everything.  I'll go crazy if I try, and I'll burn out.  So I have to be strategic in how I do my work.  It's OK if I can't reach every person out there in the neighborhood with the gospel.  That's not what I'm here for right now.  I'm here to learn and study, to be a minister.  It's OK to focus on that right now.  But can you understand how I could lose track of that?  I hope you can.  Because I get convicted about everything, and I get burdened about a lot.  That's OK.  But I can't do it all, I'm not God.  I'm just a man.  And that's OK!

Additionally, I need to pick and choose my battles.  This is a hard lesson for me, because I am someone who is outspoken.  I like to speak my mind.  In fact, I believe Jesus calls me to speak up when it matters.  But sometimes I need to shut up and listen, especially at the beginning. Sometimes you have to punt on 4th down.  But there will be times that I speak, and everyone won't like what I say.  But it's not all about people's feelings.  It's about my responsibility to Jesus.  Fundamentally if I do something, it's because I'm trying to do what God has called me to do.  Sometimes that gets me into trouble.  

We have an odd ethic today.  We seem to think being a Christian means never offending anyone, never pointing out sin, and never speaking tough truth.  By the ethics of the culture and the world, we think even talking about something controversial is bad.  We treat even bringing up a difficult topic as sinful.  But it's not sinful.  In fact we're called to deal with sin, to preach the gospel and to be different from the world.  

Jesus offended people.  He did it out of love and a desire to speak the truth.  Jesus was speaking to a crowd, including some pharisees.  
Recorded in Matthew 15:10-14 NIV:"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”


Am I arguing that we should intentionally offend people? Absolutely not.  What I'm suggesting is that we should speak the truth, the truth of the scriptures, applied to our day and age, and we should speak it in love.  But we should speak it clearly and not shy away from those difficult conversations.  And we shouldn't shy aware from controversial topics.  Because everything important and relevant today is considered controversial.  We can't be silent on controversial topics, otherwise we end up rendering ourselves irrelevant. 

Love is the answer, right?  No. Jesus Christ is the answer.  He came full of love.  Yet He also came full of grace and truth.  He spoke truth and he showed mercy.  Yet he instructed the woman caught in adultery: "I do not condemn you. But go and do not sin again."(John 8:1-11).  If we leave out that second part, we're not speaking a full gospel. 


A full gospel is that we repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15).  Repentance is key.  Time and again in the epistles, the letters of Paul specifically, address first the grace found in Christ, and secondly Paul will speak in the strongest terms for our need to live in holiness.  Holiness is our calling as Christians.  We're saved 100% by Jesus, but our response to God is the most pure and holy life.  

We want so badly to be loving. We want so badly to obey Jesus' teaching about not being judgmental or condemning.  That's certainly an important thing to do.  And yes, love is a central ethic of the Christian worldview.  But the Christian concept of love is quite different from the worldly concept of love. 

Christian love is sacrificial love.  Christian love is a love that speaks difficult truth.  Christian love is selfless.  Christian love is grounded in doctrine and the teachings of Christ.  Christian love is scandalous love, a love that is not mere emotion or words, but deeds and actions. 

So in conclusion, we will fight, we must fight, there's no other choice, we must continue.  

As Winston Churchill said: "We must all hope it will bring a blessing; that after we have averted our gaze for a while from the process of subjugation and liquidation, everyone will breathe more freely; that a load will be taken off our chests; we shall be able to say to ourselves: “Well, that’s out of the way, anyhow. Now let’s get on with our regular daily life.” But are these hopes well founded or are we merely making the best of what we had not the force and virtue to stop? That is the question that the English-speaking peoples in all their lands must ask themselves today. Is this the end, or is there more to come?

There is another question which arises out of this. Can peace, goodwill, and confidence be built upon submission to wrong-doing backed by force?" (The Defense of Freedom and Peace, 16 Oct 1938)


And: "Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail.We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
We shall fight on the seas and oceans,
We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our
Island whatever the cost may be,
We shall fight on the beaches,
We shall fight on the landing grounds,
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
We shall fight in the hills;
We shall never surrender." (We Shall Fight on the Beaches, 4 June 1940)





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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Colossians Chapter 3: Positions of the Mind & A Lifestyle Response


Video:



The story is told of Sherlock Holmes and his trusted colleague Watson. Holmes and Watson were out camping, sleeping, later that night Holmes woke up Watson. And Holmes asked him,”Watson, look up, what do you see?”

Watson looked up: ”I see stars and stars and more stars.”

And What does that tell you Watson?”

Watson replied:

"Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets."

"Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three."

"Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant."

"Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow."

"What does it tell you, Holmes?"

Holmes replied: "Watson, you idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!"

And in the same way today we want to look up, but we can’t just look up, we have to realize what we need to see: We need to see Jesus and that should inform how we live. Often times we can notice so many things in life, but we fail to see the obvious, just as Watson failed to see that the tent had been stolen.

Today we’re looking at Colossians chapter three, so you can open your Bibles to there. We’ll be specifically addressing verses 1 through 4 and their outworking in connection to verses 5 through 17. And we’ll begin with a word of prayer.

Colossians 3 verses one through four says: "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

This is the foundation of everything we’re talking about here: Focus your mind and thought process on Christ who is seated above in the heavenly realms. Turn your eyes to Jesus, the rest of the teachings in Colossians 3 rest on these verses.

Next, we recognize that we are dead in Christ. Your dead. And your life is hidden with Christ, where He is now. And finally, focus on the reality that Christ is coming again, and that at His revealing, you will be revealed as you truly are. That’s what we all wait for, and long for, the return of Christ.

Given all of that: Since you are dead, consider all the sinful attitudes and actions of your old self to be dead as well. Put aside: “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Why do we put these things aside? Because they are the reason that the wrath of God is coming, in the future.

But I think the key issue here is that we think: Can we really do this? It’s so hard to fight temptation. Can we really live a holy life?

The answer is yes: Why? Because don’t forget, we’ve been born again, we are new creations in Christ. I know this, because I’m different than I used to be. I used to live a very evil life. Today I live a good life, not perfectly, but I try to pursue holiness. The reality of Christ is what makes this possible, because we “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” (Verse 10). So your soul is being transformed into the image of Christ. We don’t have to walk in sinful lusts or evil desires; We’ve been set free.

Paul in Colossians 3 so far has taught us what not to do, so what are we supposed to do? Just as we’ve put off those evil desires, we want to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and [patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” (Verse 13).

Paul continues indicating that holy living means forgiving others, because God has forgiven our past sins. So we don’t have the luxury of holding grudges or holding onto sins done against us. We have to forgive them, totally. We see various principles outlined: Compassion, humility, patience and so on. But there is one principle that rises above all the rest: It’s love. Put on love. Love is the culmination of all these principles.

Verse 16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell richly in you.” And verse 17 concludes: “do everything in the name of Jesus.” Study the word of God, and whatever you do, do it for Christ. That’s a real mindset we can have.

So the big take away is to try and remind ourselves as we live, that we are born again, we are new people. The old self is gone, dead. And so as new people, we are to live in holiness, setting aside sin, and putting on righteousness, exemplified in love. Cultivate those attitudes in your mind, and when sinful attitudes boil up in your heart, and they will, counter them with the love that flows to you from the throne of Christ. Turn your eyes to Jesus, and set your mind on things above.




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