Archives For Depression


From dnpstudio.com

As I approach my eighth year at Main Street I have often wondered if there was a proven system of questions that I could ask myself that would help me understand that it was time to leave the ministry. Let’s parse this a little…I am not talking about leaving “A” ministry where you switch churches because God…<cough-cough> “the money”…called you there but I am talking about completely leaving paid full-time work. I think most ministers going through seasons where he or she considers leaving full-time work but how do you know? Well, based on some books I have read and conversations I have had with other ministers these are 5 signs that indicate you may need to quit THE ministry.

  • What once gave you joy, now sucks the life out of you. 

I remember a particular season in my ministry where every time I had an activity it gave me passion, joy and fulfillment. Then I went through a rough patch where every meeting felt like a task. Every time I wrote a bulletin article, answered the phone and every time someone e-mailed me it became tiresome and the thing that used to give me energy now sucks the life out of me. even reading Scripture became more of a job than a spiritual discipline. I hated it.

  • You start to look for reasons to leave saying, “If ___________ happens (or doesn’t happen) then I am leaving.” 

Call this, fuel to the fire. Just like money grows on compound interest so does anger on compound opposition. For example, spilled milk might not be a big issue but when you have to get the car fixed, you are late on three deadlines and there is no money in the bank then coming home to spilled milk might be your breaking point. Say you are frustrated about ministry and you are thinking about leaving and then you have a parent who did not like a recent youth activity you did. That’s all the ammo you needed.

  • Your family laments the fact that your in ministry. 

“If daddy wasn’t working on Sundays maybe our family would grow closer.” From an angry wife: “It seems that all you do is come home frustrated with all of these problems that occur at the church. to make matters worse you are always gone visiting that person, or going to this person’s ball game, or whatever. Then when we finally get a weekend to spend time with each other you have to go preach a funeral. I wish you cared as much about this family as you do about your stupid ministry!” Words of anger from a couple who have long extended their stay in ministry. Need I say more?

  • You are afraid to do anything else because of the money.

I get this. You have a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and a Master’s of Ministry and that means 97% of the corporate world could care less. The thought of quitting ministry scares you because 1) the financial climate makes jobs extremely competitive and 2) what could you honestly do anyways? You could get a graduate degree in something else but you don’t have the time or money for that so right now you are a little scared to leave which may be a sign that you need to leave.

And finally…

  • You have become angry, cynical and disillusioned with God (at God?) and the church.

Lillian Hellman once said, “Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth.” I am not sure I buy that but I do believe cynicism is unhealthy. The moment we get to the point where God becomes an object instead of the subject then we need to run for the hills…as fast as we can.

I don’t want to leave without offering you some hope though before you quit…

  1. Get help! Talk to a counselor, a minister or a strong Christian. Shoot…talk to all three. This may be a deeply embedded issue that was triggered by ministry and ministry might not be the cause of it.
  2. Take a sabbatical before you take off. I would imagine any eldership would understand the need for their minister to recharge for a month or a couple of months if you have worked there 5+ years. Any eldership that says no needs a gut check.
  3. Involve others in your work. Don’t do all of this yourself.
  4. Spend some time with your family.
  5. Don’t be afraid to leave. Jesus said, “Consider the lilies.” Not easy to do when you have bills and such but sometimes, as the quote goes, “stumbling may actually keep you from falling.”

A break from the series…I decided to write a poem.

The Mask

Sitting in the lobby I am moved by your existence.

How could you love me, a sinner, broken in your presence?

I am not the man I should be for I am filled with mediocrity.

I am weak, timid, inconsistent and filled with so much hypocrisy.

Scripture tells me that a man came to die, giving me his grace.

But all I can do right now is turn and hide, covering my ugly face.

The solution is so easy, but to me it comes with a hefty price.

A debt I cannot pay, for I am not willing to sacrifice.

But you, O God, are all that I could possibly need.

So right now, to your divine decrees, I hesitantly now heed.

For I lift up to you a monumental task,

that you take away my sin, and take off my foolish mask.

The Graduation Speech

May 16, 2011 — 1 Comment

[DISCLAIMER: It is 3,299 words so pack a lunch and read it then.]

The Graduation Speech

By Robbie Mackenzie (Preached at the Main Street church of Christ May 15, 2011)

            I have done many things since I have been alive.  I have been to South America and Africa.  I have attended numerous World Series games.  I hiked down the Grand Canyon and back up in one day.  I have watched four beautiful kids come into this world.  But there are many things in this world I have not experienced.  I have never jumped out of an airplane.  I have never, unfortunately, found gold on the other side of a rainbow.  I have never been to the North Pole and I have never, ever participated in synchronized swimming.  Something else I have never done is speak at a graduation.  I have probably sat through some thirty graduations and even leaving one in the middle only to arrive at another in the middle.  I have heard every quote imaginable like, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” and “If it’s to be it’s up to me.”  I have heard many people misquote enough Scripture for me to pull my hair out and by the looks of my hair I have heard a lot of misquoted Scripture.  Nobody remembers a graduation speech because they are all the same.  This is why I am offering you a different graduation speech but in the end it will be forgettable and pretty soon it will be—well—just another graduation speech.

            If I were to graduate again (which may happen) I would want to hear this type of speech at my graduation.  I would want to have someone tell me what really might happen as opposed to God’s plans to “prosper us and not to harm us” (Jer. 29:11; taken out of context of course :)).  Those who have battled drugs, alcohol, divorce, financial heartache and difficult circumstances usually are not the ones invited to speak at graduations.  Why?  People want to hear the wealthy, famous, successful and “problem-free” at graduations yet those people are in the minority.  Most of us fit into the second category of simple, problem-full, but content with our lives.  That’s boring and nobody wants to hear about it.  So this is my attempt to put pen to paper and give flesh to words that I would say if it were the last words I would say to a graduate.  The speech is more about what you really may experience but it is a little uncertain.  So here we go.

            First of all, you’re going to grow apart from your friends.  There are certain people in your graduating class you will never ever see or talk to again.  Even your BFFs, whom you swore, pinkie-promised, and vowed to stay in touch via text, phone, SKYPE, or even just a visit on weekends, will grow apart from you.  It’s going to be awkward when you come home and go back to a high-school football game and see your old buddies.  You will realize they have changed and so have you and it will be a cool feeling knowing you are the college kid.  Pretty soon you will just feel old and then you will stop going back to high-school functions.  The saddest part about going different ways is watching some of your friends who cannot accept the fact that they are no longer in high-school.  They still talk like high-schoolers, hang out with high-schoolers, and their maturity level stays that way for years.  If they could just grow up and move on life would be better but they can’t.  That may be you by the way.  What they don’t tell you after you graduate is that life happens and things get in the way and we just become too busy.  You might even lose a friend tragically in a car accident, overdose, or a physical ailment like cancer or something else.  It’s going to hurt and you will cry.

            You’re going to realize that the boyfriend or girlfriend you thought you would spend the rest of your life with will not work out.  Nor will the next three or four.  You will realize that there are some seriously messed-up people out there who are looking for nothing more to score with you and that is going to hurt.  Perhaps you’re on the other spectrum and you will just wait, and wait, and wait while everyone around you is getting a significant other without trying yet you pray, ask someone out and still nobody will date you.  Then you’re going to go home and it’s going to sting every time someone asks you, “Are you seeing anybody yet?” and then the awkward look you get when you say, “No!”  To make matters worse they will offer you a monologue about them having two kids by the time they were your age.  That doesn’t help either.  Life does not consist in a relationship but it sure beats being lonely sometimes.

            You’re going to have to say goodbye to your parents.  Whether you work at home or go off to college you will have to say goodbye to them somehow.  You’re going to have to convince your parents that them moving in with you in your dorm room is actually a horrible idea.  They are going to call you, once, twice maybe three times a day just to hear your voice.  Some of you will want to run from your parents so bad and so fast that you are going to blaze a trail along the way but some of you are not going to want to leave your parents because you will be afraid.  You will get homesick because you’re going to miss the family meals, nights at the park, and games of uno, vacation and long conversations on the way to school.  The phone calls from mom will get really annoying but deep down inside her voice will be like water in the driest African desert.

            You’re going to be broke.  Growing up your mom and dad were like a free-flowing ATM but now that day is long gone and you actually might have to work which, by the way, you don’t have time for.  You may get into credit card trouble thinking you can pay the balance sometime later if you just meet the minimum payment and it’s going to come back to bite you in a very personal way.  Worst of all, you might actually get that date with that someone only to be so broke you have to spend your romantic night at the dining hall or McDonald’s because you can’t afford anything else.  By the way, your mom is calling you and you probably should pick the phone up.

            You’re going to change physically.  It’s a strange thing that actually eating 8-10 Krystals used to be fun and proper nourishment but now all of that eating during freshman year has become a part of your backside that you, literally, carry with you wherever you go.  The concept of “freshman 15” no longer is a myth as you’re just trying to avoid freshman forty as you huff and puff up the stairs to your room.  On top of that, guys you might start to notice that you lose hair at this time and girls you might start getting wrinkles.  Your chaotic schedule and stressful demands does not make your physical issues any better.  You may also get the world’s worst case of Athlete’s Foot because apparently your roommate does not have the human dignity to wear shower shoes or at least cut his feet off.  The sad part of this is that you’re going to realize quickly that the physical issues, from this point on, only get worse.

            You’re going to struggle attending worship services because mom and dad are not there to wake you up.  Wait—is that mom calling me again?  You are going to wonder what’s the point of attending services.  You’re going to look at the people in the church and say it is filled with hypocrites and, you may be right.  You’re going to struggle immensely at fitting-in and you are going to wish you could come back and participate in youth group again but your jerk of a youth minister will not let you.  You’re going to wrestle with what the church is versus what it was in Scripture (welcome to the club).  You’re going to wonder why churches invest so much time, resources and money with programs like the youth, older members, missions, building funds and yet not much time, resources and money (if any) are invested in college students.  For you, church is going to be difficult.

            You’re going to do some things you’re going to regret.  Some of them may be minor but some of them are going to be major.  You’re going to wish you could take it all back but you won’t be able to.  You’re going to remember what your parents said about the dangers and now you’re going to have to tell them what you just did.  It’s going to break their heart.  The saddest part of it all is that you’re too stubborn to learn your lesson and so you’re going to do it all over again.  You’re going to sit there late at night looking up at the ceiling wondering what you are going to do with your life.  You may want to end it all.

            You’re going to struggle with God.  Who is this divine being that was taught so heavily to you?  God has not been helpful to you and by the looks at what’s happening in the world God really doesn’t seem to care anymore.  You’re going to have people cast doubt on your faith with different beliefs, ideologies and philosophical inquiries which some seem possible to believe.  You’re going to try to help your faith by doing what your parents, youth minister or preacher suggested.  It’s going to be tough and in my experience, when the going gets tough sometimes…well…the tough gets tougher.  There are going to be moments when all you can think about God is anger, frustration and confusion.  Like David, you are going to say, “How long, O Lord?  How long?” (Psalm 13).

But…

However…

Nevertheless…

            You’re going to make new friends.  The kind of friends who do not have strings attached to them.  The kind of friends whom you will laugh with, cry with and the kind of friends who will be, like the Proverb writer said, “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).  The friends you make will be in your weddings,Teen girls on college campus at the hospital when you have a baby and next to you when you lose someone you love.  The kind of friend who will utterly depend on you and years down the road these friends will need you most when their own world is turned upside down.  You’re going to go to baseball games with these friends, have cookouts, go on mission trips with them and you might even have the opportunity lead a few of those friends to Christ.

            You’re going to meet someone…it may take years…and you know what…it may not happen.  You’re going to look at that sweet lady who keeps asking you if you’re married yet because she had two children by your age and you’re going to smile and say, “that’s not what God wants me to do right now.”  God will make it happen if it needs to happen and you’re going to be just fine with that.  You just might have four kids before you are thirty though and people, by the way, will make fun of you and call you crazy and psycho but you will realize that you will be 47 by the time your last one graduates high-school which will be the age your buddy will be when his first one starts middle school.  But it’s also ok if you wait that long.  You follow what God wants you to do not someone else.  It’s ok to be crazy so don’t change that for a second.  In the words of the musician Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long.”  You’re going to be able to look at the person you will spend the rest of your life with and vow to be with them in sickness, and in health until death due you part.  You’re going to get that same passion every time you go to someone else’s wedding and you’re going to wake up each day feeling unworthy to wake up beside the most beautiful person in the world…not your youngest child who crawled in the bed…but your spouse.  You’re going to really feel blessed to be next to that beautiful person especially when you make it to the mirror in the mornings.

              You’re going to regret trying to run away from your mom and dad so quickly.  You’re going to want to pick up the phone and call them as much as possible.  You’re going to remember their lectures, words of “wisdom”, and caution and know that they were actually right.   If God blesses you with a child you’re going to name the child after your parents because of the influence that had on your life.  However, if home was a nightmare filled with abuse then you’re going to prove mom and dad wrong.  You’re going to make a difference and with God’s help you will show them what you can do even when they told you it couldn’t be done.

            You will eventually make money but still, somehow, be broke for a while.  It will be tough at first (remember the credit cards and loans?) but God will provide and mom and dad will help you out.  I promise.  If you don’t go to college then no worries because no matter what anyone says it’s ok for you not to go to college because, get this, college is not for everyone.  You will show them that you can still provide and work hard and do what God wants you to do.  The church will step in and provide for you in times when you could not provide for yourself.  You will have to fight the evils of consumerism and you will eventually give much of your income to the church.  People will think of you as crazy, stupid and a little off kilter but you will consider that suffering for the kingdom’s sake and little bit like emptying yourself which is what Jesus did for you.  You will have ups and downs financially and there will be days you will have to eat beans and rice and rice and beans but you will make it because all you need is a roof over your head and food on the table.

            You will learn to live with your body.  It’s ok that your body is not in pristine shape or that it’s shape looks like a hamburger rather than an hour glass.  It’s ok.  God just wants you to be healthy.  You will eventually enjoy eating things like salads, grapefruits, tree bark and you will especially enjoy drinking lots and lots of water.  Balding only gets worse and so do the wrinkles and your physical deterioration will be a daily reminder thanks to your kids and sometimes teenagers who decide to take a stab.  Laugh at this and consider it a way God humbles you.  Look at your body as a gift from God and each day is another opportunity that someone else did not get.

            You will eventually grow to love and adore the church.  Yes there are hypocrites in church but your experience in life will show you that there are hypocrites everywhere inside and outside the church.  The church never claimed to be perfect anyways besides there are so many people in the church who have changed their lives drastically because of the work of the church through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The church will need you to teach a class, lead a song, direct a program, visit the sick or teach a bible class.  You will have a renewed commitment to the church and it will drive you and you will soon find out that it is not you that is driving you but it is the Spirit of God inside of you.  You’re going to find out that the church is filled with plenty of people as messed-up as you!  That will put a smile on your face and the face of thousands of angels watching.

            You’re going to think about the regrets from time-to-time and they will enter your thoughts at weird moments.  The regrets will be like a bruise that won’t go away or rainstorm that will not depart.  You may have to call people to apologize for what you did and you may have to tell them you have changed.  You may have to earn someone’s trust back because of what you did but it’s going to be worth it.  You’re going to show God and others that you are a radical disciple who has radically changed.  “I’m not that way anymore” will come out of your mouth as effortless as air discharged from your lungs and you will say it with a smile.  Like Paul, your past will not break you rather it will shape you.  Your story will become a testimony for so many people to hear.

            Then there is God.  He always was and always is and always will be.  You’re going to find him because you’re going to long for him.  Like a fire in the midst of a blizzard you will long for his warmth and light.  He will show up in your life not as a boxed-in, compartmentalized God but as the living, active God.  He is going to lead you to places in life you never thought were possible but pretty soon you will realize that God is in the making-the-impossible-possible business.  You are going to realize that truly Jesus came so, like John told you, “we may have life, and life to the fullest” (John 10:10).  You will long for something John and Isaiah described as the New Heavens and New Earth.  You will feel God’s presence in your life with the utmost assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).  You will feel God in your bones and in your core and it will be most satisfying.  There will still be valleys where the questions of theodicy (making God just) come back but you will know, deep down in your core, that eventually God will reign over all and all will be made right.

            This is my graduation speech and it is filled with paradoxes, difficulties, some contradictions and uncertainties.  But such is life right?  Life is never a linear process but often we find it as a cyclical pattern that repeats itself but rests on the grace of God.  So may you find the friends you need.  May you discover the spouse who is yours or may you rest in the state you are in.  May you love every minute your family is alive.  May you live fiscally sound so you can give until it hurts.  May you rejoice in the body God gave you but may you treat it well.  May you love the church and realize it truly is, like the preacher said, a hospital for the sick.  May you use your regrets to empower and inform your future.  And may you run to God, wrap your arms around him and never, ever let go.

            So, Dr. Seuss was right…a little…“be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!”


Does the Bible offer hope to teenagers who live with emotional and spiritual pain?  What about all the suffering that exists in the world today?  What can we do as Christians to help others through these tough times?  In this post I want to share with you a few different ways to explain to teens how to endure pain and what God is ultimately doing to evil and suffering in the end.

The problem of our pain and suffering has a source and if we do not understand that source then we will not understand the solutions that God provides.  The problem that exists in this world is sin.  If we do not place the blame on sin, then we will not understand the answers God provides in the Bible.  Sin is the cause and reason for pain and suffering.

Sin began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6).  We find in the rest of Genesis 3 that every area of life was dramatically affected by sin.  This sin has touched the world around us.  The entire message of the Bible from Genesis 3 on is how God is dealing with this sin problem.  Let us look at some of the solutions to this problem.

The first solution to the problem of evil and suffering is to understand your purpose.  The Bible tells us that our purpose is to know God (Philippians 3:10).  This may not give a solution but it may give you motivation to endure what you are going through.  There are two ways to find a purpose in your suffering.  The first is to know that God wants you holy, not happy (1 Peter 1:15).  This may mean that the suffering that is taking place is intended to make you a better person.  God does not care how happy you are if you are leading a life that will end up in hell!  The suffering that comes from our personal sin helps us turn back to God.  We must also remember that some of the things we endure make us look to a loving, heavenly Father for answers.  Another perspective from your purpose of knowing God is that the pain and suffering may be a test of spiritual maturity.  Do you love God for God’s sake, or for what you get from God?  Much of the pain we endure can bring about glory for God or can remind us about spiritual truths.  Death is a reminder of our short time on earth.  Suffering as a Christian can be a testament to others who see our faith.  Just enduring suffering with an understanding that God still loves us is an amazing tool for evangelism and encouragement.  These two areas of knowing God help us to look at pain, evil, and suffering differently.

The second solution to pain and suffering is that we need to understand that on the cross, Jesus did the ultimate judo move to sin.  If sin is the ultimate enemy, then what Jesus accomplished on the cross defeats its power.  What is the essence of the marital art of judo?  To use your enemy’s strengths against them!  Think about what Jesus does for us on the cross.  1) He defeated all the political evil that exists in the world.  He was tried and found guilty unjustly by Pontius Pilate.  2)  He also defeated all the religious evils.  The Pharisees and Sadducees called for his arrest and crucifixion.  3)  All the Satanic evil was defeated.  Satan entered Judas’ heart to turn Jesus over to the authorities.  These three areas were turned against themselves with Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection three days later.  There is hope for us all in the fact that the cross took the evil in the world and defeated it!

The third area is my personal favorite.  We need to understand that in the end God makes everything new!  Revelation 21:5 says this, “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”  Stop and think about this for just a second.  God does not say, “Behold, I am making all new things.”  What God says is that “I am making all things new,” in that order.  God, in the end, takes all that is wrong in the world and put it back to what is right!  Romans 8 gives an even clearer picture when it says in verse 21, “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Even the evils that fall on us from the physical world will be made right in the end!  The final message of the Bible is that in the end, God makes everything new!  What has existed in this sinful, broken world will be made right in the end.  Isn’t that more of what we long for than just a simple answer in the midst of our suffering?  

 As we close, I am reminded of the words of C. S. Lewis when we think of the day when Christ returns and turns all that is wrong back to the way God wants it to be.  Lewis says, “they say of some temporal suffering, ‘no future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”   Today, we eagerly wait for that glory and we need to understand that with Christ’s work on the cross all pain, evil, and suffering has been defeated!

Barry Throneberry has been the youth and family minister at the Highland Church of Christ for over 8 years.  He is married to Rebecca Schwartz Throneberry and writes a blog called Theology with Throneberry.  He is also part of the team that does the Studentminister.com podcast.  His interests are in the areas of Theology, Spiritual Disciplines, and Apologetics.

Teenagers passing drugsI was sitting in the living room watching TV on a break from college when I received a phone call from an old friend in Marietta, Georgia.  I welcomed the call because it had been ages since I last heard his voice.  I expected a long conversation about how things were going and talks about college and all the fun we both were experiencing.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Ryan, what’s up man?  Been a long time, huh?

Ryan:  (quietly and somewhat hesitant) Hey Robbie.  I don’t know if you heard yet but Johnny has died of an overdose.

Me:  (sitting down…mouth open) What?

Johnny and I were best friends until I moved from Marietta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee and we grew apart after that.  We went in different directions knowing that the path he was taking lead him to some pretty dark places in this world.  Johnny was in to the drug scene and eventually died because of it.

We all have our “Johnny’s” we can share as the rate of alcohol and drug use among teenagers is consistently (and unacceptably) too high.  A Tennessee  High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey (please click here for scary statistics) conducted in 2009 indicated that close to 70% of teens grades 9-12 have at least tried alcohol once.  There’s more…

  • 20% drank alcohol before the age of 13
  • 19% Had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours on at least 1 day.  (during the 30 days before the survey)
  • 37% had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.
  • 12% said they had sniffed glue, breathed the contents of aerosol spray cans, or inhaled any paints or sprays to get high one or more times
    (during their life).

That’s only in Tennessee but you can check any state using this website (http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/YouthOnline/App/Default.aspx).  The sad part is that there is drug and alcohol use in the church.  Some parents struggle with it…some students struggle with it and all they hear from the church is “don’t do it.”  But they do!  Why?  Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock in their book Helping Teenagers in Crisis give eight reasons (pp. 200-03):

  1. Curiosity
  2. Peer Pressure
  3. Fun
  4. Mimicking
  5. Declaration of Independence
  6. Disinhibition – “I drink because it helps me be myself.”
  7. Escape
  8. Addiction

Youth ministers, parents and students we fight an upward battle where many people are against us.  Teenagers just do not get the ramifications of alcohol and drugs.  For example, did you know that there is a direct correlation between drug and alcohol use and sexual activity?  If you find someone who is struggling with drugs and alcohol I can almost guarantee that on some level they are struggling sexually.  They may not be having sexual relations but odds are they are looking at pornography or sexually pleasing themselves.   There is also conflicting narratives teens hear from adults or college students.  It is true that the bible does not condemn having a glass of wine here and there but my question is, “Why bother?”  It’s expensive…in order to know your limit you have to push your limit which is a selfish motive in the first place.

So how do we help?

ENGAGE (Van Pelt and Hancock, 204-07)!

  • Look for the signs of drug and alcohol abuse (withdrawal, mood swings, resistance to authority, behavior problems like stealing or vandalism, changes in eating habits, unexpected health issues).    The signs are, “inexplicable, unprecedented and persistent.”
  • As youth ministers we need to encourage parents to face reality.  They may be in denial but we need to gently push them to face the facts.
  • Affirm the parents desire to help their children work through this.
  • Encourage professional help where needed.

Youth ministers we need to conitinually teach about drugs and alcohol and the dangers in them but we also need to help bear the burdens of those who are addicted.  If you have a teen or a parent who is addicted DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEM!!!  They will relapse, frustrate you and then come back again only to relapse again.  Rome was not built in a day and addictions built over a period of time do not go away without time.  It takes a while and it takes a village and it takes a God!!!  Which leads me to the conclusion…if healing is going to happen it must be in the redemptive arms of God.  I want to close in an odd way…will you pray for those who are struggling with alcohol and drugs?  Will you mention them by name?  Will you read Psalm 103 below and pray?  Will you then contact a person who is struggling either by a letter, phone call or text telling them you are there to help?

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the LORD, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
21 Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the LORD, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the LORD, my soul.

 


I went into my room last night and saw a small cassette tape on the table.  We are long past the age of cassette tapes so I was curious about this and I picked up and noticed that it was a sermon I preached while I was an intern at Washington Avenue church of Christ in the summer of 2002.  I came to the church building this morning and searched for a cassette player and as I am typing this I am listening to my sermon entitled, “The Christian Soldier.”  It is a humbling task listening to the way I preached years ago because I thought I was a good preacher back then.  Some of the phrases I used and the theology I purported I think to myself, “How could I have been that naive?”  I even preached from the King James Version of Scripture!!!  I write this to you because it is not a bad thing to look at the skeletons in our closet. 

  • Looking at our past helps to shape us.
  • Looking at our past helps to comfort us and how far we have grown.
  • Looking at our past helps to center us if we have fallen. 

So what skeletons do you need to look at and get rid of in your closet?  What are those pet sins you have that keep you from a relationship with God?  So often we do not look at what’s deep in our hearts because we are scared at what we might find.  If we are scared to look at what’s inside then that should be a pause for concern.  A problem neglected is a spiritual life infected.  Think about that…I just made it up :).  A problem neglected is a spiritual life infected.  If I have a mold problem in my foundation neglecting it does not change it but actually the problem gets worse. 

So open your closet door, and get the skeletons out.  In honor of the KJV and my sermon…

“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matt. 15:17-20). 


Oppress’d with grief, oppress’d with care,
A burden more than I can bear,
I set me down and sigh:
O life! thou art a galling load,
Along a rough, a weary road,
To wretches such as I!
Dim backward as I cast my view,
What sick’ning scenes appear!
What sorrows yet may pierce me thro’,
Too justly I may fear!
Still caring, despairing,
Must be my bitter doom;
My woes here shall close ne’er
But with the closing tomb!

Happy, ye sons of busy life,
Who, equal to the bustling strife,
No other view regard!
Ev’n when the wished end’s denied,
Yet while the busy means are plied,
They bring their own reward:
Whilst I, a hope-abandon’d wight,
Unfitted with an aim,
Meet ev’ry sad returning night,
And joyless morn the same;
You, bustling, and justling,
Forget each grief and pain;
I, listless, yet restless,
Find every prospect vain.

How blest the Solitary’s lot,
Who, all-forgetting, all-forgot,
Within his humble cell,
The cavern wild with tangling roots,
Sits o’er his newly-gather’d fruits,
Beside his crystal well!
Or, haply, to his ev’ning thought,
By unfrequented stream,
The ways of men are distant brought,
A faint collected dream:
While praising, and raising
His thoughts to heav’n on high,
As wand’ring, meand’ring,
He views the solemn sky.

Than I, no lonely hermit plac’d
Where never human footstep trac’d,
Less fit to play the part;
The lucky moment to improve,
And just to stop, and just to move,
With self-respecting art:
But ah! those pleasures, loves, and joys,
Which I too keenly taste,
The Solitary can despise,
Can want, and yet be blest!
He needs not, he heeds not,
Or human love or hate,
Whilst I here must cry here,
At perfidy ingrate!

Oh! enviable, early days,
When dancing thoughtless pleasure’s maze,
To care, to guilt unknown!
How ill exchang’d for riper times,
To feel the follies, or the crimes
Of others, or my own !
Ye tiny elves that guiltless sport
Like linnets in the bush,
Ye little know the ills ye court,
When manhood is your wish!
The losses, the crosses,
That active man engage
The fears all, the tears all,
Of dim-declining age!


You know the story in Exodus 5 about how Pharoah hardened the people’s task by making the same quota of bricks as before but this time the people of Israel could not use straw which helped bond the clay and the mud to make a solid brick.  This was too much for the Israelites and they became enraged with Moses (God too?)…listen to their piercing words:

“May the Lord look upon you and judge you!  You have made us a stench to Pharoah and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (5:21)

Their slavery was hard and their oppression was great but at least they could manage it but now this radical named Moses has stirred the pot and now the people will have to go through so much more in order to be free.  This gets to Moses and he laments:

 “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people?  Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to Pharoah to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”  (5:22-23)

Have you ever felt this way?  We are not oppressed like the people of Israel but often we are quick to judge the Lord’s response time based on our impatience.  Sometimes we just like the way things have always been.  When the Lord does something to one of us and causes us to do things differently we do not enjoy this new “blessing” because it has done nothing but brought grief and trouble. 

New things are sometimes paradoxical in application because it is both good and bad.  Perhaps the new things God does in our lives are neither good nor they are bad…it is God’s will.  Why does God’s will have to be one or the other?  God reminded Moses of his covenant and these words provided assurance for Moses:

“…I will redeem you with an outstreched arm…” (6:6)

Something Beautiful

April 28, 2010 — Leave a comment

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet
It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out
Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire, ’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees, I’m waiting for something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful


Recovery is a process not a one-time moment.  I had minor surgery on Wednesday and it was an experience to say the least.  I was not in much pain the day of the surgery but Thursday was a day of pain and today I am still pretty sore even though I am at the office.  Anytime you invade the body with a knife or some other instrument it causes pain in the body.  Some pain is needed in order to promote the health of a person so pain becomes the stepping stone to wellness.  But recovery is not easy and has its ups and downs.  The doctor gave me pain killers to help with my pain but that is simply a drug that diverts the pain that is actually still occurring in my body.  I just don’t feel it.  How often we try to alleviate our pain with a “quick fix” or a “pain-killer” in our spiritual lives without really addressing what’s wrong.  Jesus had a gift for addressing the real issues of the disciples, Pharisees and scribes.  To change their ways it was going to be a painful process but the Pharisees sim[ply wanted to bandage their pride and do what they have always done. 

We as a church need to be patient with people who are recovering from spiritual illnesses, depression or those who are newborn babes in Christ.  We must be willing to admit that the recovery process for a person takes time especially when they have changed their lives in a moment.  The best part of my recovery process was having my family around to help me.  If a person has to recover alone it takes the very life out of him.  To know that my people were praying for me, thinking about me and asking about me was flattering and somewhat therapeutic.  I had a few of my youth actually text me to see how I was doing.  Shouldn’t we do this for visitors, new Christians and those who have fallen away?  Recovery takes time and we never get to the point where we are 100% healthy!  Never!  By the grace of God we are sustained in this world.  Remember that. 

Another lesson I got from my surgery is the importance of rest.  God knew what he was doing when he established principles like the Sabbath, the year of Jubilee and various festivals and feasts.  We all need rest and we can’t always go at it 100 mph (even though some of us try).  These two days I took off was huge and helped me tremendously.  To all of you who helped, prayed, and called about me: “I love you!” 

Recovery…it is a process.  It takes time!