A Clean Slate

This week, we may see the beginning of a new year-2015. Why did I say “may?” Because we are not promised tomorrow. We should say if the Lord will, we will do this and that. For all the promises we may make for the New Year, we might not make it. I am not attempting to be morbid, but I am saying that we should be realistic.

We should ask the Lord for His guidance and direction as we face a new year with new challenges and changes. We should seek to find out what the will of the Father is for our lives.

Happy New Year-2015!

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You Can Do Nothing

Bring forth fruit cannot be done outside of God. Jesus says “apart from me you can do nothing.

 

This statement may be applied in two ways. On the one hand, it may be applied to Christians. Note the following:

 

  1. Great work to be done.
  2. The possibility of attempting to do it, but without Christ
  3. The inevitable failure that must result from such effort.

 

Spurgeon preached on this topic. He observed “Without Jesus you can talk any quantity; but without him you can do nothing. The most eloquent discourse without him will be all a bottle of smoke. You shall lay your plans, arrange your machinery, and start your schemes; but without the, Lord you will do nothing. Immeasurable cloud-land of proposals and not a spot of solid doing large enough for a dove’s foot to rest on–such shall be the end of all!” [Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Without Christ–Nothing,” Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 27 (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), 600-601.] It may be that nothing would come of our efforts if Christ is not working through us.

 

Without Christ, we can do nothing. What a humbling fact!

 

Remain in Me

This parable reveals the secret of fruitfulness. It is to abide in Christ. Jesus specifically says the following: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.

Jesus means that the disciples should live such lives that He will continue to abide in them. The two “abidings” cannot be separated, and “abiding” is the prerequisite of fruitfulness. No branch can bear fruit in isolation. It must have a vital connection with the vine. To abide in Christ is the prerequisite of fruitfulness for the Christian.

A vine needs to be cultivated at least three years before it can bear fruit at all. It must be trimmed and allowed to grow. Then it is trimmed and allowed to grow again. This is done for a considerable length of time. Only after this process, it can become useful for bearing fruit. With these facts in mind, there are times in our lives when we seem to go on for considerable length of time. We undergo radical treatment at the hands of the Father and seeing little fruit come from it. In such times, we do not believe that any fruit can come from it. We cannot see as God sees. We do not have his perspective. We are not to get discouraged at this time. Remember that Jesus promises fruit in due season. We can still witness, and live the Christian life. We must refuse to be concerned about the outcome. Ultimately, God is the One responsible for the vineyard.

 

Pruning

The next thing the Father does is purge or prunes it. The Greek word for this is katharizo, which means to cleanse, make clean, or purify. We have the English word “catharsis.” The normal usage of this word means the act of cleansing the vine of anything that is harmful to it. This would include insects, moss, etc. When it is used to describe work on a vine and its branches, it is hard to escape the feeling that pruning is probably also in view. The Father is said to be doing a work of removal. The removal of everything would prove detrimental.

 

Looking at this from a spiritual perspective, it refers to God’s work in removing that, which is spiritually detrimental from a given Christian’s life. Our bad habits are stripped away. Our priorities are reordered, and our values are changed. It can mean the removal of some friends. They might be hindering instead of advancing our spiritual growth.

 

The order of these activities of the Father is most important. The reverse produces hypocrisy. We must first be drawn to God in true devotion. Otherwise, we will see ourselves as most saintly. This may not be the truth. We can consider others very worldly in light of how we see ourselves.

 

Drawing near to God will cause us to become more productive. When this happens, we hardly feel the bad things being pruned away. It is a case of spiritual maturing, which includes things being removed from our lives. As we grow, we seek new things and new habits. Dead wood and parasites fall off.

 

Cleansing takes place. We are cleansed by the Word of God. Unless we see that the Word must cleanse us, our ideas of purity are fabricated and not of God’s origin. Such activity is ineffective. David asked the question: “How can a young man keep his way pure?” He answered, “By living according to your word” Psalm 119:9. Jesus said to His disciples “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” John 15:3. It will take a careful attention to and application of God’s Word. Nothing else will cleanse us.

 

How Would You Respond?

I’m reading Job 3 now. I just want to share with you what came to mind when Job heard all the bad news found in Job 1. I wondered how I would feel if I got such bad news. He lost his children along with all his possessions. His wife turned against him telling him he should curse God and die. She believed Job had nothing to live for. Job’s response in verse 21 amazes me every time I read it.

Job 1:21 (KJV)
(21) And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

I wonder could you and I respond if this happened to us?

God Cares About Everything in our Lives

I started reading in the Old Testament with 2 Chronicles. I have made it to Job 2. I am still impressed with what I read in Nehemiah 9. This chapter is a review of Israel’s history. Such individuals as Abram are mentioned. Such events as the Egypt incident are mentioned as well. Verse 19 says that even though Israel made a molten calf, in His “manifold mercies,” He did not forsake them. He brought them out, and brought them through their wanderings in the wilderness. As published earlier, I brought up verse 21 of Chapter 9, the fact that not even their feet swelled in the wilderness. Although I have read this before in passing, this verse really rang out to me. I had to stop and reread it before going on to the other verses in this chapter.

God the Father really cares about us—even to the swelling of our feet! This was a blessed point for me because my feet swell every day. It is wonderful to know that the Lord cares even about my feet!

We need to stop and thank God for the small as well as the great things that happen in our lives. He wants to be a part of everything that happens in our daily lives.

Depression The Solution

The news did a report on Andrea Yates and her subsequent killing of her five children. America was shocked concerning this news report. One of the many questions that arose from the report was: “Did her family know the seriousness of her depression?” The public also asked “Did Andrea’s husband do enough to ensure his wife’s safety and the safety of their children?” When it went to trial, the proceedings revealed that Andrea had been hospitalized for severe depression several times. Two times she was released prematurely. Her husband, Rusty, had appealed to her last doctor. He stated that Andrea needed the medication that had proven successful in the past. Andrea was left alone with the children for one hour every day. During that one hour on June 20, 2001, Andrea drowned her children.

 

The question is: “Could this have been avoided?” “Could the family have taken steps to help Andrea move from despair to the light of hope?” If they knew of the coming danger, could they have more discerning stance about her?

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5

 

Key Verse to Memorize

 

If you are experiencing depression, recall God’s heart. Repeat the following scripture to yourself each day…

“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

 

Key Passages to Read and Reread

 

We cannot choose what we inherit genetically. We can choose what we dwell on cognitively. Brain scans of those suffering with depression often show marked improvement when words of

 

-hope

-affirmation

-purpose

 

are continually reinforced. Life is a series of choices. An individual can choose today to put the Word of God into action. Note the following truths found in I Thessalonians 5:16-24:

 

-Be joyful always…Choose to write down and continue to focus on the positives in your life…v. 16

-Pray continually…Choose to talk to God about everything…v. 17

-Give thanks in all circumstances…Choose to thank God for what you are learning right now…v. 18

-Do not put out the Spirit’s fire…Choose to change when God’s Spirit convicts you to change…v. 19

-Do not treat prophecies with contempt…Choose to take God’s Word seriously…v. 20

-Choose to ask, “Is this right in God’s sight…v. 21

-Hold on to the good…Choose to do right, even when you are tempted to do wrong…v. 21

-Avoid every kind of evil…Choose to turn immediately from temptation…v. 22

-“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through…Choose to see how God has “set you apart” (sanctified you) to be what He intended you to be…v. 23

“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless.” Choose to commit your whole being to doing what God created you to do…v. 23

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”…Choose to rely on God’s power to do what you are called to do…v. 24

As I stated earlier, ask God for revelation concerning what is in your heart. Then you will know what to pray for. Note the following prayer:

 

“Oh, Father, I come to You as Your child for help. Calm my heart. Enable me to see what I need to see. Make me aware of my need for healing, and show me Your truth. Bring to my mind any hidden hurt in my heart and the exact circumstances that caused it. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”

 

Spiritual Contributors of Depression

It has been discussed that there are physical, emotional, and mental reasons for depression. There are also spiritual reasons for a despairing heart. Disobedience and guilt provide enough fertile seed to turn any white cloud into a dark storm. A person cannot harbor the guilt of displeasing God and still experience the full joy of His salvation. A person also cannot withstand the schemes and attacks of the enemy against one’s mind without knowing and appropriating the Bible into one’s life. Disobedience and guilt are inseparable. Unless you apply the remedy of confession and repentance, (this means a change of mind and direction). In this respect, an individual may find depression sweeping over one’s soul and spirit. The individual suffers like the disobedient Israelites…

 

“You will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.” Deut. 28:65

 

 

Emotional Contributors of Depression

In order to discuss the physical contributors to depression, it is necessary to give a working example of it. A woman named Andrea Yates had been suicidal and hospitalized. She was taken off her medications. They had been of help to her. Because of the wide hormonal changes in her body after delivery, that deficit contributed to her plunging head first into what is called postpartum psychosis (a break with reality).

 

Unfortunately, many mothers with this psychosis are consumed with thoughts of death to their babies and destruction of themselves. Note the scripture concerning this:

 

“The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.” Psalm 18:4-5

There are six physical contributors to depression.

 

#1 Hormonal imbalance

The question arises as follows: “Can depression be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain?” This frequently asked question is answered with an unquestionable yes! Hormonal changes during puberty, postpartum (after childbirth) and peri-menopause (around menopause) can lead to depression.

 

#2 Medications and drugs

Certain legal and illegal drugs can cause depression, such as analgesics, anti-depressants, steroids, contraceptives, and cardiac medications.

 

#3 Chronic illnesses

Medical problems such as a thyroid deficiency and even a bout with the flu can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, which, in turn can cause depression.

 

#4 Melancholy temperaments

Orderly, gifted, and creative, the person with a melancholy temperament can be moody, overly sensitive, and self-deprecating. Because of those with this temperament are analytical, critical, and hard to please, they can take everything too seriously or too personally, quickly become depressed over circumstances or the slightest imperfection in themselves or others.

 

#5 Improper food, rest, exercise

A deficiency in the physical basics of life can contribute to a chronic sense of fatigue, lack of energy, and social withdrawal.

 

#6 Genetic vulnerability

Based on statistical data, those with depressed family members are two times more vulnerable to depression than those with no family history of depression. Likewise, “50% of those with bipolar have at least one parent with the disorder.

 

“A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.” Proverbs 14:15

 

Question: “Why do twice as many women have depression as men?”

 

Women produce only one-half the amount of serotonin as men; however, estrogen in women multiples the amount of serotonin to equal the level in men. The challenge occurs at three specific times–prior to a woman’s menstrual cycle, after childbirth, and around menopause–when estrogen levels drop, sometimes severely. If a woman’s estrogen level is not sufficient to multiply serotonin, she experiences a depletion of serotonin, which can cause depression. This is one reason why many women receive Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) and why other women consult their physicians in order to feel “whole” again. Jesus said,

 

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Matthew 9:12