Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Response to Comment/Question: Impossible to fight?

In a previous post Fighting For Joy: 20 Must Haves I received a comment/question from a friend:

"If these 14 items are not in place, is it impossible to fight? Or just harder?"

I will try to answer that question in this post.

My answer is harder, much harder, almost impossible, but not impossible. The reality is, the fight remains whether I have these items in place or not. The fight is part of my earthly life. The fight is a means to an end. Godliness.

The 14 items are each specific action items I've identified through experience to be effective in helping me live and fight as a new man (new creation) rather than from the old man (the flesh.) All Christians are commanded to live as a new creation. These 14 items are my way of being obedient to that command, and very practical.

I hope that answer is sufficient.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

God is good ALL the time!

Personally I think the single most important theological understanding needed by a true follower of Christ is a complete grasp of the sovereignty of God. I don't mean complete in the sense of full. I mean complete as in balanced and in progress. A balanced theology of the sovereignty of God will be able to make (some) sense of His grace in good times and bad - God controls both, the good times of life and the bad. Simple enough, right? But highly misunderstood. I often forget that God controls it all, everything, period.

God is praised when times are good.

When was the last time however you heard the name of Jesus declared and praised immediately after news of ill will in some one's life. Or, if it happened, how was it accepted by the hearer(s)?

This blog post (We need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure) explores success and failure in this life and what response a Christian should have to both.

I say God is good ALL the time!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fighting For Joy: 20 Must Haves

I made a promise in prior posts to dedicate a future post to my list of the top 20 items I believe I must have in place in my life in order to fight well and persevere through depressive "seasons". The future is at hand. The list is nothing near extraordinary as it contains what most might construe as common sense. Nevertheless, a list is a list, and being bent toward the conventional, lists are helpful.

You could jump ahead and read the list. But please come back to this part and try to understand the reason I even have a list in the first place. The list serves a greater goal to become more like Jesus. The list is not in existence so that I eliminate depression from my life. My goal is not to make depression go away and to never have a "dark" thought again. I used to make incredible jumps in my thinking about the cause of depression and I would conclude that depression is a terrible thing and must be avoided at all costs (especially for a man.) I believed pain from depression must be soothed no matter what. I would conclude that if I am depressed then there is something massively wrong with me and I am somehow outside of God's grace and mercy when I am depressed. This is hindsight please understand. I never actually verbalized that I thought I was outside of God's grace. But I see now that I lived those thoughts out - by listening to what depression was telling me and obeying its commands, and thus staying depressed. Depression became a style of relating for me, a way of interacting with the world and the people in it, and with God.

I realize I just described my battle with depression in past tense. The battle though is a current, present reality that I will engage for the rest of my life. One day though it will be over. This is not fatalistic thinking. It is the already-not-yet Kingdom of God.

The goal of fighting depression is not to eliminate depression but to grow and become more like Christ. I have come to a belief (but not to a complete understanding) that God in his sovereign control over all things, grants me depression so that my heart breaks and turns from the things of this world and to Jesus. With that said, belief is one thing and living it out is another. I live with hope that God will complete His work. I don't grab hold of depression and live comfortably with it (that would be living in sin by deploying strategies of sin management) but I see depression as a summation of everything that is in my heart that is against God. Therefore, I fight it because I am fighting sin itself, and fighting sin is what God commands.

The List
  1. Grace infused resolve to fight for joy.
  2. Daily Prayer - with focus on other people.
  3. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night
  4. Exercising at least 5 times per week. Cardio for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week.
  5. Nutrition. Moderate carbs. Moderate protein. Low sugar (I didn't say no sugar) Prolonged sugar use really whacks out my blood sugar levels. Lots of water. Vitamin supplements.
  6. Managing back pain. Stretching and Flexibility.
  7. Avoiding alcohol use.
  8. Maintaining body weight no more than 200 lbs.
  9. Discipline in Life Management: Managing finances. Managing time. Having a schedule. Managing stress at work.
  10. Seeking forgiveness from wife and kids.
  11. Reminding myself of God's big picture. My purpose in it. My identity in Christ.
  12. Being honest with those I trust and who understand my desire to align life with God's grand story. I must also allow them to keep me accountable to what I say I believe.
  13. Avoiding excessive use of caffeine for energy.
  14. Avoiding a lifestyle of procrastination and clutter.
(The list of 20 items got pared down to 14. If I worked more on it, I could get it down to 10 or under I am sure.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fighting Depression, Fighting For Joy

A few posts ago I made reference to a personal list of the top 20 (or so) items I must maintain in my life in order to battle depression. As I stated, based on experience, I know I need to have these items fully implemented in my life before anti-depressant medication is "needed."

The number one item on the list is a grace-infused resolve to fight and persevere through the dark times. The fight of depression is really a fight for joy. I am not talking about willing myself to feel better. I mean that the fight for joy starts with faith in God's grace and sovereign control over all of life, and this includes emotions. In His sovereign plan, fighting through depression is to be part of my life. Notice here too that I did not say living in depression is to be part of my life. But, the grace and mercy supplied by God while fighting with depression is the means by which I become more like Jesus. This is just something I have come to learn and accept about the really dark times of my life. God alone be praised!

John Piper has been helpful to me with this idea. I learned today that he has a new book out that looks like it will provide practical help with the fight - When Darkness Will not Lift - Doing What We Can While We Wait for God -- and Joy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Function of a Sermon in a Layman's Life

I belong to a local church body where the vision is:

"We are pursuing Christ's reign in all of life to advance God's kingdom in the all the earth for His glory."

It's a big vision. It's is a good vision, one worthy of devoting the rest of my life to. By God's grace I pursue the reign of Christ in all the areas of my life - for His glory and my joy.

The leadership at my local church has been working hard to spread this vision within our body. With a vision such as this, the implications are many and working them out to fullness will no doubt change lives.

I think one of the implications of this vision is to evaluate the maturity level of one's own understanding of who God is and what exactly is His plan for the world. Another way of coming at this is to think about the importance of theology in the layman's life. I don't think the necessity of well-formed theology is just for "those in the ministry." All who pursue Christ's reign in all of areas of life are in ministry (full-time) and so then theology is incredibly important.

Theological knowledge comes from many different sources. On the macro level I think there is a continuim that illustrates where people operate and how they go about growing in theological knowledge. On one side there are formal methods that require heavy committment and involvement such as classes, seminars, workshops, and long-term bible studies. On the other side there are lower committment level methods such as devotionals, books, and sermons.

I do think a sermon does contribute to a person's theology but I think it is limited in what it can actually accomplish. The issue comes down to taking ownership in understanding what the Bible actually says and developing personal theology.

Sermons should not be the sole source of one's theology. A sermon can change a person's life but the purpose of a sermon itself seems to be to encourage and exhort. Sermon's are more one way delivery and there are not immediate opportunities to argue, discuss, or debate what is being said. Because of this, people listen more and are probably more likely to hear God speaking to them. A sermon has power in that it creates more conviction in the heart of the hearer.

As mentioned though, spiritual education needs to come from more than just a sermon. More intense study is needed. Not all of a persons theology can not be developed from just a sermon. Theological foundations built from more intense studies actually help aid the deeper understanding and appreciation of a sermon.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Want to Be Like That

I guess it is time to start posting again...since Convergence is back in the game with a new post yesterday. Man, it has been so long I didn't think I'd ever get to post about all these thoughts swirling around in my brain. Incidentally, check out what Porter posted about. He has started a new project where you can discuss directly with him what goes on in his head - I encourage you to visit and contribute often. Porter is a thinking man.

I realize most people have thoughts of the Christmas season on their minds these days. Soon though, things will change and most people will be looking back at the year 2006 and ahead to 2007. This is not going to be a post about setting New Years Resolutions. Personally I think one should always be looking at what matters most in life. Frankly, resolutions should be created or renewed at least daily.

The practice of setting daily resolutions is really just the practice of reminding yourself about the "majors" of life. So, obviously then, there must be major resolutions in life to think about. Nothing is more major than God, Jesus, The Gospel, God's Kingdom, God's People, and God's Rule.

I find much value in the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (Click here to read them) They are incredibly inspiring. Edwards wrote these resolutions in 1722 and 1723 in his late teens early twenties. Amazing! To have such clarity of mind and focus as to what life is all about. Again, amazing! (Huh...and to think he didn't even own a blackberry.)

I've often wondered how Edward's resolutions would look in a categorized list of some sort. What categories of life would they touch? Are they all just about being more spiritual? Are they applicable to life today? Do they touch all areas of life?

I actually thought about analyzing the list of resolutions and categorizing them myself. But thankfully I came across this blog post where the author has already done the work. Here is how the blog author categorized Edward's resolution:

1. To live for God’s glory (see resolutions #s 1, 4, 27).

2. To make the most of this life, in terms of eternal impact (see #s 5, 6, 7, 9, 17, 19, 23, 52, 54, 69).

3. To take sin seriously (see #s 8, 24, 25, 26, 37, 56, 57).

4. To become theologically astute (see #s 11, 28, 30, 39)

5. To be humble (see #s 12, 43, 68)

6. To exhibit self-control in all things (see #s 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 40, 44, 45, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65)

7. To always speak with grace and truth (see #s 16, 31, 33, 34, 36, 38, 46, 47, 58, 66, 70)

8. To constantly develop an eternal focus (see #s10, 18, 22, 50, 51, 55, 67)

9. To be a faithful Christian, in prayer and dedication (see #s 29, 32, 35, 41, 42, 63).

10. To daily pursue a fervent love for Christ (see #s 48, 49, 53, 62)

This is great work! Who can argue? I will make resolutions for 2007. But the resolutions will be solid enough to last a lifetime. I do need to lose more weight. I would like to be more organized. But, life is not about those minor things. I don't want to major in the minors with self-centered resolutions. Jonathan Edwards knew God. I want to be like that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Alive and Well

Sorry for the lack of posting. This blog is still alive but I am focusing on other things at the moment.

Watch is why I like cats.