Poolside

“Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda…One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, ‘Would you like to get well?’” (John 5: 5,6 NLT)

I used to read this passage and think to myself that it was strange that the Lord would ask the paralyzed man if he wanted to be well. After all, who wouldn’t want to be healed of an infirmity that had rendered them an invalid? What person in their right mind would want to remain in a paralyzed condition? The truth is, as crazy as it may seem, sometimes; we can actually become at ease with our “disease.”

Sadly, many of us are guilty of allowing the pain and hurts we have encountered to produce a “victim mentality” within us whereby we feel justified in using our infirmity to manipulate others. I wonder if perhaps that is why Jesus asked the man lying beside the pool of Bethesda that day if he wanted to be healed. Maybe the man had actually begun to see his illness as a way to manipulate others into giving him money. Have you ever met someone who has actually begun to “romance” their pain and hurt? It’s crazy, but sometimes, we can prefer the familiarity of our suffering over the prospect of being made whole.

You recall the story of how God delivered the people of Israel out of servitude in the land of Egypt. Well, isn’t it strange that when the going got rough, as they traveled through the desert; they actually wanted to return to slavery? They had begun to feel sorry for themselves, thinking that Moses (and perhaps God) had somehow victimized them. They saw the familiarity of slavery in Egypt as preferable to the hardships of a free people. It appears that they sought to manipulate Moses (and perhaps even God) through their whining and complaining. “Let us go back to Egypt; it’s better to be a live slave than a corpse out here in the desert!”

Let me ask you, do you want to be made whole? Will you come and allow Jesus to heal you and set you free? You don’t have to be an invalid resorting to murmuring and manipulation. The sin, the hurt, and the pain that has you paralyzed cannot stand before the One who has come to give you life! Poolside is not the place for you. Put your faith in Him today, and hear Him say to you, “Take up your mat and walk.”

 

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“Divine Therapy”

“As God prepares remedies for the body from therapeutic herbs wisely mixed together, so he also prepared for the soul medicines with the words he infused, scattering them in the divine Scriptures…. God gave yet another medical aid of which the Lord is the Archetype who says of himself:  It is not the healthy who have need of a physician but the sick‘. He is the excellent physician able to heal every weakness, and illness.’” (Origen, Homilies on the Psalms.)

 The holidays are that time of year that affords many the opportunity to interact with family members and friends they don’t often get to see the rest of the year. And with that opportunity comes the realization that, “Man, I think Uncle _ needs some therapy!” Chances are that it’s not just Uncle _ who needs some help, but we ourselves could use a little “couch time” as well. Praise God, Jesus offers complete, holistic salvation. Take it from a guy that use to be Uncle _ (and still is at times), God is able to go deep inside of you and minister to those broken places that hurt you so.

Our lives are made up of things we have done to ourselves as well as things others have done to us. I think back to being sexually abused by my grandfather (and others), memories of things I saw and heard as a child, sexual issues, drug addiction, the way I hurt and used others, and the overall brokenness that sin brought into my life, and now; it causes me to fall on my knees and worship the One who saved and healed me. Because of my “Divine Therapist,” I am no longer held captive by shame and guilt. Because of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness Jesus extends to me; I can now be used as an instrument of reconciliation in the lives of others. But it was not always like this.

There was a time when I found it hard to talk about the past, about the sin, and addiction I had endured. I felt dirty and ashamed. I remember even feeling that somehow, my grandfather’s abuse was my fault. I was defensive and disingenuous. But where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. Looking back, I can see how that all of my life, God was there, wooing, healing, and drawing me to himself. Then, that night came when I was truly born again by his Spirit! Now, because of his love, salvation has come. And as a result of the deliverance he gave (and continues to give) to me, I can be open and honest with others, letting them “in” so they can see the salvation of the Lord. There are people that need to hear about how Jesus has saved and healed you. They feel like they are all alone, different, and that no one understands. But if you will come to Jesus for the “divine therapy” that only he can give, and allow him to save and heal you; you will experience the freedom that allows you to open your mouth and tell them of the beauty of the Lord.

So this year, as you gather with your family for the holidays, and good ole crazy Uncle _ is in rare form; why not share with him some of what you have learned from your “Divine Therapist.” Let the healing Jesus has given you be that which affords you the freedom to extend His love to your family and friends.

Down and Out in Israeli Hills

I usually chuckle to myself when I ask a fellow Christian how they’re doing and they reply with, “Oh, I’m blessed and highly favored! I am the head and not the tail, above and not beneath! I am more than a conqueror.” You probably know people like this, believers who always seem to be on top of the world, and insist that you should be as well. I understand (for the most part) where these guys are coming from; however, the reality I find in the Bible is a little different from all of that. Sometimes, even if you know the Lord; things can get you down. Christians are not immune to depression.

In Psalm 42/43 (most likely these were originally one Psalm), we see the Psalmist in a state of depression. He remembers how things use to be (42:4), and as he considers where he is at the present time; it seems like God has abandoned him. He asks, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? O God my rock, I cry, Why have you forgotten me? Why have you tossed me aside? Why must I wander around in grief” (42: 5, 9; 43:2) Have you ever felt like that? Has it ever seemed like all hope is gone, and just when you need him most; the Lord has left the building? You are not alone; so did the author of Psalm 42/43.

I read recently that in a given year, between 13-14million people will experience a depressive disorder. Approximately 7 million women in the United States are clinically depressed. Up to 2.5 percent of American children suffer from depression (http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/depression-there-cure-0/). Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the U.S., with approximately 25,000 suicides. Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the  U.S (http://www.christianliferesources.com/article/suicide-facts-and-statistics-114). These are indeed sobering statistics, and Christians are right there in the mix. Let’s look back into Psalm 42/43.

In this Psalm, the ups and downs of depression are vividly described for us. While we do indeed find our Psalmist in a state of depression, he appears to transition out of it, not because his circumstances change, but rather; he himself changes as he places his hope in the Lord. We see that the depression has produced a deep, spiritual thirst in the author, and he longs to be with God. He compares himself to a deer that is in the slow agony of water deprivation. (42:1, 2) Then, in the midst of the struggle; he tells himself to hope in God, for he will praise him again. Once more in 42:6, he reflects back into the past and again becomes discouraged. He reminds himself that “…each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me…” Down into the pits he goes again in 42: 9, 10:

“O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”
Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

42:11 finds him questioning himself as to why he feels this way. Once again, he says, “I will hope in God.” In 43:2, he asks God why he has been forgotten. Can’t we see ourselves in this Psalm? Up one moment and down the next, our emotions are all messed up. It seems like we’ll never recover, but then; we remember that our hope is in God. And, that’s the game changer!

“Send out your light and your truth;
let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you live. There I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
O God, my God!” (43: 3, 4)

Our Psalmist understands that it is only in God’s presence that he can “get his mind right.” He asks for God’s light and truth so that he can find his way back to where his heart longs to be, in the presence of God. The answer is not in the past, in what use to be, but rather in communing with the Lord right there in the midst of his trouble. He understands that it is God who is the source of his joy, and this realization prompts him to break out into a song of praise!

It may seem like all hope is gone. You may even feel forgotten and abandoned by God. You are not alone! As we have seen, depression was even a part of the lives of those whom God’s Spirit used to pen the Bible. Run to Jesus; pour out your heart to him. He cares about your trouble and wants to heal you of your depression. He himself is the peace you seek. What’s so cool is, even though your circumstances may not immediately change; you will! He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy, and depression cannot stand before him.