Lessons from Genesis: Noah's Obedience and God's Instructions

image from wikipedia

As I was teaching from the Book of Genesis yesterday, I was struck by something that at first seemed odd to me. In Genesis chapter 6 God didn’t just tell Noah to build a boat; rather, God gave specific instructions on how the boat was to be built:

“Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it with pitch inside and outside.  This is how you are to make it: The ark will be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. You are to make a roof, finishing the sides of the ark to within 18 inches of the roof. You are to put a door in the side of the ark. Make it with lower, middle, and upper decks.” (Genesis 6:14-16, HCSB)

It seems odd that God would give Noah such specific instructions. Would it have really made a difference if the boat had been 451 feet long or if the sides were finished to within 17 inches of the roof? Certainly, the ark had to meet a certain function; God was preparing to it to hold a specific number of animals along with Noah and his family, but surely He could have worked that miracle even if the boat’s dimensions were a little off, right? It seems those specific instructions had more to do with Noah than with the ark.

Noah is described as being righteous, blameless, and walking with God (Gen 6:9); not perfect, not sinless, but blameless. Of all the people on the earth, Noah was the one guy who took his walk with God seriously. In fact, he took his walk with God so seriously that he began building a boat decades before it started raining – that’s radical obedience! Personally, I prefer to see evidence of God working in my life before I move! I want to know I’m not making a mistake. If God wants me to build a boat I demand at least some sprinkles of rain. But not Noah … Noah just went to work.

I can’t help but imagine the impact Noah’s obedience must of had on his three sons; Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Not only did they see their father go about building a boat, but they saw him agonizing over the exact dimensions and smallest of details, “Do it over son, that board is an inch too long! It’s got to meet God’s instructions exactly!” 

I believe I’m starting to figure out why God spared Noah and his family.

God gave Noah specific instructions on how to build a boat and Noah obeyed. Noah’s obedience was a direct result from, and evidence of, his close walk with God. God has left us with specific instructions as well. His Word spells out how we should be living our life. His Word specifically tells us what a life of repentance looks like and how it should impact believers. Yet, we don’t follow Noah’s example. Instead, we justify our disobedience. When we do find someone who takes obedience seriously we write them off as a fanatic and accuse them of legalism!

Noah was a fanatic and everyone around him surely thought he was a legalist. I can hear them now, “Come on Noah, did God literally mean the boat needed to be 450 feet long?” And I can hear Noah’s response, “Yeah. He did. And I’m going to obey.”

In his obedience, Noah showed his family and the whole, defiant world that he took his relationship with God seriously. He showed them that he didn’t just believe in word, but also in deed. James told us to “prove ourselves doers of the word and not just hearers” (James 1:22). Noah was a doer … and too often today, we’re just hearers.

God has given us specific instructions in His Word. If we want to get to heaven, it must be through His Son (John 14:6). We must repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). His Word goes to great lengths to show us what a life of repentance looks like and how our lives should be shaped in response to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We all would do well to take His Word seriously. When we make changes in our lives because of the instructions we find in God’s Word we are showing the world that we truly believe in the God of the Bible. They may think we’re fanatics or legalists, but by golly they at least know we’re serious.

Noah measured his boat carefully … just as we should measure our lives by the Word of God.

Other posts in this series: Lessons from Genesis

 

 

Lessons from Genesis: What's it Mean to "Walk with God"?

from newyorker.com
The generations that followed Adam and Eve became defined by sin. In fact, sin became so pervasive that God sent judgement by way of a flood. Yet, in the midst of that judgement, Noah stood out:

“9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 6:9-10. 

That phrase, “walked with God”, has been the focus of my study today. Noah stood out in a world that was defined by sin as righteous and blameless; not sinless, but blameless. I found myself asking what it was that Noah did differently to stand out. What does it mean to walk with God? I ask the question because I want to be a Noah. Whatever it means to walk with God, I want to apply it to my life. I want to walk with God!

Noah is the second person in Genesis to be characterized as walking with God. Enoch, being the first, is described as being taken by God rather than dying (Genesis 5:24). Just as Noah escaped the flood, Enoch escaped death. God preserved them. God preserved Enoch and Noah because of their walk.

When the Bible speaks of walking in this manner, it is talking about the way we live our life. In his letter to the Ephesians the apostle Paul writes that when we are dead in our sins, we are walking “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2). Like Noah and Enoch, we have a choice; we can live a life that is characterized by our walk with sin or by our walk with God.

Noah’s walk was exemplified by his obedience. When God told Noah to build the ark it wasn’t raining; yet Noah obeyed anyway. The writer of Hebrews wrote this:

By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7, emphasis mine).

Noah was obedient to God’s commands even though he couldn’t see the rain. It seems that “walking with God” is directly linked to our obedience. On some level, Noah chose to walk with God by being obedient to His commands. We make that same choice today; will we walk in obedience or will we walk according to the ways of this world?

Jesus tells us to repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15). That word “repent” sums up our choice. When we repent we change our mind. We choose to begin walking with God rather than the world and our choice inevitably impacts our actions and behaviors. When we repent our walk becomes defined by our relationship with God. It is a choice we make and will continue to make daily until Jesus calls us home. When we live in repentance we walk with God.

In His Son, God commands us to change our walk. We can continue to walk in the path that leads to destruction or we can choose to walk with God by accepting His Son as our Lord and Savior. The more I allow my life to be defined by my relationship with Christ the closer I will walk with God.

If we want to walk with God we must “2[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

My prayer is that my life would be defined by my relationship with God and the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. My prayer is not that I would be perfect, but that I would be blameless and that God would be glorified by my walk; that people would see me as a sinner, saved by grace, living in relationship with God Almighty through Jesus.

Noah’s obedience was an act of faith. That faith allowed him to live in relationship with God; righteous and upright. He walked with God and his walk stands as an example for the rest of us.

Mental Health and the Church: The Need For Christ

IMG_1235A proper understanding of mental health as it is presented in the Bible must begin with the Doctrine of the Fall of Man. As the story unfolds, Satan, in the guise of a serpent, tricks Adam and Eve into eating the one fruit that was forbidden by God (Gen 3:1-6). It is through this act that sin entered the world and mankind has been afflicted with a sinful nature since. Charles Ryrie writes, “Every facet of man’s being is affected by this sin nature. His intellect is blinded. His mind is reprobate or disapproved. His understanding is darkened, separated from the life of God. His emotions are degraded and defiled” (Ryrie, 1986, p. 252). Because of this fallen state, mankind suffers from total depravity. In other words, our entire person is affected by our sinful nature – body, mind, and spirit. All illness, whether physical or mental, is a result of The Fall of Man. The Apostle Paul confirmed this when he wrote, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscious are defiled” (Titus 1:15, NASB). Because of sin, our minds are defiled.

The relationship between sin and mental health must be properly understood before there can be any hope in understanding our subject. While, in many (if not most) cases, it would be inappropriate to attribute a person’s specific mental illness with specific sins, it should be understood that all illness is ultimately the result of mankind’s sinful nature. Thus, there is a spiritual element to mental illness. To ignore this fact would be detrimental to everyone touched by mental illness. In fact, any treatment plan for mental illness that does not address spirituality falls woefully short. Daniel J. Simundson writes:

What can be fixed by human effort? Not all guilt can be removed by better therapy. No amount of treatment by doctors, drugs, electric shock, or group therapy can turn us into loving human beings who act only out of concern for the other. The effects of sin cannot be completely removed, though to a greater or lesser degree, they can be modified and their impact ameliorated (Simundson, 1989, p. 145).

The sinful nature of illness necessitates that salvation must be included somewhere in the discussion. Namely, if sin is to blame for the presence of mental illness in our fallen world, Christ must be offered as an essential element on the path to mental health. Simundon writes, “As Christians, we must include an eschatological hope in our discussion of mental health. What we really need is ‘salvation,’ something that reaches beyond the promises of this [fallen] world” (Simundson, 1989, p. 145). Of course, the “eschatological hope” Simundson writes of has a name – Jesus Christ.

Jesus is essential in our discussion of mental health. He is the ultimate healer. Scripture presents Christ as the face of salvation. Thus, if spirituality is to be included in a complete treatment plan for mental illness, a generic and general spirituality will not suffice. Those suffering from mental illness must be offered nothing less than Jesus Christ.

When Christ as offered on the path to mental health there is hope, healing, and forgiveness.

View all posts in this series.


 

Sources

Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 1986. Digital.

Simundson, Daniel. “Mental Health in the Bible.” Word & World Spring 1989: 140-146.

 

Lessons from Genesis: A Talking Snake? Really?

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” 4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:1-6, NASB)

This passage from Genesis records one of the most pivotal moments in the history of mankind and our relationship with God. There’s no doubt that the tempter in this passage is none other than Satan who the apostle John refers to in the New Testament as “the serpent of old” (Rev 20:2). However, as the story unfolds, the reader realizes that Satan apparently manifested himself in the guise of a snake. Not surprisingly, this causes many students of the Bible to take pause. A snake? Really? Are we expected to believe that a snake actually talked to Eve? How dense was she anyway? Let’s face it, if a snake slithers up to one of us on the street and starts talking, we’re going to know immediately that we shouldn’t trust it. Why? Because snakes don’t talk!

But let’s put ourselves in Eve’s shoes for a second … well, not her shoes for she was naked for the time being, but hang with me anyway – Eve was a relatively new creation at this point. It was Adam that God presented all the animals to so they could be named in Genesis 2:20; Eve wasn’t created until Genesis 2:22 – she had probably never seen a snake in her short life at that point. In her naivety, Eve was a perfect target for Satan’s ruse. And she fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

So are we to believe that Satan literally spoke to Eve through a snake? I believe we are. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) and Peter adds that Satan prowls about like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) so we should expect Satan to go to great lengths to fool us! But allow me to put this question into perspective just a bit. We can get so caught up in the question of rather this is a literal snake or not that we miss the principle that should be derived from the scene.

Satan, the father of lies, fooled Eve and he is still trying to fool us today. To see this in action, take a look at Acts 5:1-3:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?” 

Satan conspired with the inclination of Ananias and Sapphira’s hearts to cause them to sin. Peter immediately discerned this and asked, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Satan baited their hook and they fell for it. And he is baiting your hook right now.

“You surely will not die!”

 Whatever sin your heart is inclined toward, Satan is trying to bait your hook with opportunity and reassure you with the lie that you won’t die. It’s all going to be okay. But Scripture reveals the truth. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and we are all called to respond to Jesus’s plea “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Satan may not be appearing to you as a snake, but he is appearing to you in some fashion. It may be in the form of alcohol, drugs, pornography, a relationship that’s bad for you … there are countless ways he may disguise himself … but his  whispered lie remains the same, “You surely will not die.”

The challenge for all of us to hear Jesus’ voice above the whispers of Satan, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Related Posts: God Delights in Blessing Mankind, The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Lessons from Genesis: The Innate Value of Human Life and Abortion

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).

This verse should cause the reader of Genesis to pause and reflect on the innate, God-given value of human life. Genesis records God speaking multiple things into existence. The atmosphere, the earth, oceans, land, animals, vegetation – all of springs into existence as a result of God’s Word. Yet when He creates mankind He pauses and reflects amid the Holy Trinity, “Let Us make man in Our Image.

Mankind are fashioned in God’s image. Genesis 2 details the artistry that God employed when He made us:

Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being’ (Genesis 2:7).

The word formed in this verse is likened to a potter who us sculpting his are out of clay. Like an artist, God fashioned mankind from the dust with loving care. The prophet Isaiah put it this way, “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). 

life
from wikipedia

There is innate value in human life simply because of the One who created us. The same God that created everything in existence (read John 1:1-5) paused and made human life extra special. We are distinct amongst all His creation as being made in His image. We are His image bearers. When God gave us the authority to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28) He intended for us to be His image bearers in the world. Human life is special.

But as we all know, sin entered the world and mankind drifted out of relationship with God. In the 4th chapter of Genesis Cain murdered Abel and displayed a terrifying lack of respect for life. I would argue that all sin has at its root a disrespect for life. When you steal from someone you are disrespecting the life they have worked to build. If you are violent, angry, hateful, lustful, bitter, or unforgiving toward another human doesn’t it all simply boil down to a lack of respect for their life? Perhaps nothing in our culture displays this lack of respect for life more so than the practice of abortion on demand. Almost 60 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1973. Cain took one life and it was significant enough to be recorded in God’s Word yet we have stood by and allowed 60 million lives to be taken in the last 42 years.

It is time Christians took a stand for human life. It is time we stopped and repented for allowing the practice of abortion to continue. God paused and put special care in the creation of humans yet we abort babies without so much of an afterthought. And that’s why the hidden camera videos recording Planned Parenthood staffers are so troubling. They force us to stop and consider just how disrespectful and immoral the practice of abortion is.

Abortion on demand is morally indefensible. Christ’s followers in the United States need to rise up and vote for candidates who will defund Planned Parenthood and work to reverse Roe v. Wade. We can no longer stand by and allow the practice of abortion to continue uncontested.

I’ve heard the arguments from the left. Hidden camera footage is unfair. The tapes are edited. Planned Parenthood provides valuable heath services to women apart from abortion.

Really?

No argument the left can trumpet surpasses the value of 60 million lives that have been lost. None. If you’re worried about healthcare for women, work to find a new way to provide those services apart from condoning abortion, but don’t pretend your arguments are more valuable than saved lives.

Doing so disrespects the God who breathed into us the breath of life.

Related Posts: What really Bugs Me About the Planned Parenthood Videos

 

Cussing Christians: What's the Big Deal?

cussing
credit patheos.com

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that can be easily observed by simply plugging into to any form of social media. People have grown more accustomed to using and hearing foul language. Words that were taboo just a few years ago are now quite common place. And this trend has even begun to surface in some Christian circles. Heck, Mark Driscoll once made a name for himself as the cussing pastor (something I think he now regrets) and I’ve witnessed other Christians actually defend the use of foul language (warning: link contains foul language). It seems cussing is becoming more and more common place with Christians, especially the younger generation. This is a trend that needs to stop.

Before I examine the issue I should share my own battle with my tongue. I’ve worked in a prison system for over twenty years. As you might expect, prison culture sports its own, distinct colloquialisms – and most of them aren’t very pleasant. You would almost have to invent a new cuss word to find one I haven’t used or thought in my lifetime. When I first became a Christian in my early thirties, cussing was a major issue for me and had a big impact on my spiritual growth. I began to notice that I would only cuss when I was at work. I was fine at church, home, and other places, but at work I instantly reverted back to my old self. The problem reached critical mass one night when I slipped up and cussed in front of a coworker I had been trying to witness to. He responded in shock and said, “I thought you were some kind of big Christian or something!” In the blink of an eye it took me to utter one foul word, my entire testimony was damaged. And I suspect it remains damaged with that guy to this day. I knew then that I had to change and with God’s grace I have. God has given me the experience and the wisdom to know better, but I also know that old guy is still inside of me just waiting to rear his ugly head should I be angry enough. I share this with you so you will know where I’m coming from. I’m not speaking down to anyone … I’m speaking from experience.

What does the Bible say about cursing? It is obvious from Scripture that God considers words important. Think about this for a second, God spoke the world into existence! I once wrote an entire post about the power of God’s spoken word. I challenge you to read Genesis 1 and count how many times God speaks. God spoke into existence light, water, ground, vegetation, the atmosphere, birds, water creatures, and land creatures. I think it’s safe to assume His words impacted our world with their importance. And then God chose to inspire mankind to write the Bible, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Of all the ways God chooses to communicate with us, His primary vehicle is the written word. Words matter to God and they should matter to us! 

Our words are important and they leave a mark of the people we are speaking to. Ephesians 4:29 makes it clear we should carefully consider the words we speak, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” In other words, we should build people up with our language rather than tear them down. Not every thought that enters our sinful minds should be spoken. The Apostle James spoke the clearest on this issue:

With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

When we curse men and women who were created in the likeness of God we are disrespecting the God who created them. The same God who values the spoken and written word. Quite frankly, this notion should trump any right we have to use foul and inappropriate language. God’s word says that even when we must confront someone with the truth we should do it in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Christians who justify foul language and insist on using it are putting their own needs ahead of God’s Word and God’s people. Romans 12:2 instructs us not to conform to the pattern of this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and when it comes to using foul language Christians need to renew their minds, quit conforming to the language of the world, and stand apart as God’s people.

When Christians cuss it instantly reveals certain facts about them:

  1. They evidently spend little time in God’s Word.
  2. They spend little time in prayer.
  3. They value fitting in with the culture more than they do obedience to God.
  4. They take little time to consider their words before they speak them … a trend that inevitably spills into other areas of their life.
  5. Their faith hasn’t changed them at all. People will not believe the Gospel has saved us if we haven’t allowed it to change simple things like our language.

We will not reach a dying world with inappropriate and foul language. It is time for us to stand apart from culture and become more like Jesus than the world.

Related Posts: The Power of the Spoken Word: The Voice of God

Fasting with Type II Diabetes

plate
from mirrordaily.com

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full” (Matthew 6:16, NASB).

The other day my Pastor pointed out something in the above verse that I had never noticed before. Jesus, who is speaking, says Whenever you fast. He didn’t say if you fast, but when. It is clear that Jesus expected His disciples to fast and to do so in a way unlike hypocrites.

That point has had me thinking about the issue of fasting for the last couple of weeks. As a Type II Diabetic, fasting presents a unique challenge for me, but knowing that Jesus expects me to do it adds a new dimension to the subject. Of course, it’s easy to demonstrate from the rest of Scripture that Jesus wouldn’t expect someone to endanger their health for the sake of fasting. Romans 12:1 urges Christians to “… to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

So here is the question, How does a Christian diagnosed with Type II Diabetes observe Christ’s instructions to fast while not neglecting their health? 

Having done a little reading and incorporating some practices into my own fasting, I thought I would offer some suggestions:

  1. Talk to your doctor: A conversation with your doctor before you attempt a fast of any duration is the single best piece of advice you could follow. Your doctor can offer suggestions on how to do it safely.
  2. Tend to your diabetes routinely: Fasts are less of an issue for diabetics if their blood sugar is controlled. Follow your doctor’s orders, Exercise, take your medicine, and tend to your diet. The healthier you are the better prepared you’ll be to fast. An uncontrolled diabetic probably shouldn’t fast at all until their sugar is under control.
  3. During your fast, check your blood sugar frequently: It goes without saying that fasting is going to impact your blood sugar. If you discontinue your medication for the duration of the fast, your sugar will respond accordingly. While you might expect your blood sugar to drop, you may be surprised. Mine actually rises slightly throughout a fast. Experts suggest that you end the fast promptly if your blood sugar drops below 75 or above 300.
  4. Drink plenty of fluids: Dehydration is a problem for diabetics. Even during fasting, you should stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids.
  5. When you break your fast, use common sense: When most people end a fast, they gorge themselves with a large, unhealthy meal. This can be bad for diabetics and could throw your sugar out of whack for a few days. When you break your fast, eat a fairly healthy mean and watch your carb intake. Slowly ease yourself back into your regular diet and continue testing your blood sugar frequently into things are back to normal.

These are some of the things I put into practice when considering a fast of any duration. I hope they are of assistance to you.

 

 

Mental Health and the Church: Why This Subject Matters

mentalhealth
credit naturalpharmicist.net

According to the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders, one out of every four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder. These disorders include major disorders such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as; substance-abuse disorders and eating disorders. The statistics concerning mental health disorders in the United States are staggering. For example, in 2010, there were over 900,000 suicide attempts in the United States alone. Of those attempts, over 30,000 people successfully committed suicide (USA Suicide). While it might be assumed that statistics concerning mental health issues are less severe among Christians, a 2009 Christianity Today article suggests otherwise, “Studies of religious groups, from Orthodox Jews to evangelical Christians, reveal no evidence that the frequency of depression varies across religious groups … in a typical congregation of 200 adults, 50 attendees will experience depression at some point, and at least 30 are currently taking antidepressants” (Blazer). Ed Stetzer writes, “… people with mental illness are often attracted to religion and the church, either to receive help in a safe environment or live out the worst impulses of their mental illness [and] most churches, sadly, have few resources for help.” (Stetzer).

Even church leaders are not immune to the impact of mental health issues. In 2009, Frank Page, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, lost his 33-year-old daughter Melissa to suicide (Smietana) and in April of this year, mega-church pastor and author Rick Warren’s son Mathew committed suicide after a prolonged battle with depression. The issue has become so prevalent that the Southern Baptist Convention recently approved a resolution offering support for those suffering from mental illness and their families (Barnhart). These statistics and prominent examples alone dictate that the Church should examine mental health issues closely and devise a plan of action. There is a mental health crisis in the United States that is impacting our church members and we must meet it head on. One should expect the church to respond to mental health issues in a way that starkly contrasts that of the secular world, however, that is not always the case.

Dale Fletcher offers three very significant reasons why mental health issues benefit from being examined on a spiritual level. First, Christianity can offer a person with a mental health diagnosis “a sense of purpose and meaning” (Fletcher). Secondly, Fletcher asserts the Bible can help a person who suffers from mental health issues understand that suffering (Fletcher). Finally, Christianity (specifically, the local church) offers a person with a mental health disorder a much-welcomed opportunity to “connect with others” (Fletcher). Ideally, in a proper church setting, one who suffers from mental illness could seek and receive love and grace without the stigma that is normally associated with psychological diseases.

Of course, the Bible is well suited to speak to the needs of those with mental health diseases, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17 NASB). As such, there is no aspect of our life that Scripture cannot address, “For the Word if God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB). If the Bible is believed, than it must be expected that it can speak volumes into the conditions of the mentally ill. One writer argues, “One thing people with [mental health disorders] need more than anything else is the hope that is in Jesus Christ. Even though their illness tries to steal their lives away, they can have an abundant life in Christ” (Houdmann).

The Bible can shed a great deal of light on mental health and the method by which the Church and individual Christians respond to the mental health crisis in our country. Just no life is complete apart from a life-saving relationship with Jesus Christ, no treatment plan for mental health is complete without addressing the Spirit – along with the Mind and Body. I believe the Church can meet a need in our culture by coming alongside mental health professionals and providing much needed support to the mentally ill.

Related Posts: Mental Health and the Church: Introduction

Disclaimer: I am by no means a mental health professional and in this series of posts, I will be making no attempt to diagnose individuals or to supplant mental health treatment plans … that should be left to the professionals.


Works Cited 

Barnhart, Melissa. “Suicide, Mental Health at the Forefront of Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.” The Christian Post 13 June 2013. Retrieved from Web 10 August 2013 <http://www.christianpost.com/news/suicide-mental-health-at-forefront-of-southern-baptist-convention-annual-meeting-97897/ >

Blazer, Dan. “The Depression Epidemic: Why We’re Down More Than Ever – and the Crucial Role Churches Play in Healing.” Christianity Today. Web. 10 August 2013. <http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/march/15.22.html>

Fletcher, Dale. “May is Mental Health Month – What Does the Bible Say?” FaithandHealthConnection.org. Retrieved from Web. 26 September 2013. http://www.faithandhealthconnection.org/may-is-mental-health-month-what-does-the-bible-say/

Houdmann, Michael. “What Does the Bible Say About Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression?” GotQuestions.Org. Retrieved from Web. 26 September 2013. <http://www.gotquestions.org/bipolar-manic-depression.html>

Smeitana, Bob. “Tackling Stigma of Mental Illness.” Century News 29 May 2013: 14-15. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Stetzer, Ed. “My Take: How Churches Can Respond to Mental Illness.” CNN Belief Blog. 7 April 2013. Web. Retrieved 10 August 2013. <http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/07/my-take-how-churches-can-respond-to-mental-illness/ >

“USA Suicide 2010 Official Final Data.” American Association of Suicidology. n.d. Web. 10 August 2013. <http://www.suicidology.org/c/document_library/get_file?folderId=262&name=DLFE-636.pdf&gt;

Do Christians Have to Read the Bible?

bible1If the numbers are to be trusted, Christians, by and large, do not read the book they claim is the divine and inspired Word of God. A recent study suggests only 45 percent of those who attend church regularly read the Bible more than once a week. Overall, four out of five self-described Christians read their Bibles only occasionally or not at all.

Four out of five Christians read the inspired Word of their God only occasionally if at all. 

This statistic is earth shattering. And it seems we are full of excuses:

  • “I’m not much of a reader.”
  • “If you only saw my schedule, you’d understand.”
  • “The Bible doesn’t seem relevant to my life.”

Let’s get real for just a moment. It’s because Christians don’t read their Bible that that they don’t know their Bible; and because they don’t know their Bible there is often a disconnect between what they profess to believe and how they live their lives.

As a Church, we need to tackle the epidemic of Biblical illiteracy head on. Jesus Himself said that not everyone who declares “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven because they never knew Him (Matthew 7:21-23). King Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7), yet many of us walk through this life neglecting the very Word of God which is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). 

The great challenge before our preachers and teachers to inspire their congregations to fall in love with the Word of God. If the Church in the United States were to fall in love with the Word of God we would experience a revival like no other! Yet many of our churches (and even whole denominations) are moving away from being Scripture-focused and becoming more secular in their appearance. As a result, the Church is losing influence and is no longer distinct from the culture that surrounds it.

Our Church leaders need to continually confront their members with the Word of God. We need to preach it, teach it, sing it, and encourage and exhort our members to study it in their own quiet times at home:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

We need to destroy the excuses that separate Christians from the Word of their God. Not much of a reader? No problem, their are countless reading plans and daily devotionals that will allow you to encounter the Word of God in just a few minutes each day. Have a busy schedule? You will make time for what is important to you. The Bible doesn’t seem relevant? Really? Did you encounter any stress, problems, jerks, sin, people, pain, obstacles in your day today? The Bible can help with all of that.

Does a Christian have to read the Bible? Make no mistake, Jesus died for your sins and is your one and only path into an eternal relationship with God. But a hunger for God’s Word is a clear sign that you have entered into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter urged his readers to “[put] aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, [and] long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it [they] may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2). And our churches must do the same. 

If the Church wants to stand as a beacon in this world, it must reclaim the power, beauty, and mystery of God’s Word and pass it along to His people. That is the challenge that stands before us.

My Mother's Whispered Prayers and the Still, Small Voice of God

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My mother was a believer in Christ. When I was a child, I didn’t quite grasp what that meant. We never had that conversation. In retrospect, I’ve often wondered why we didn’t talk about it, but I’m sure she had her reasons. We didn’t go to church growing up, but I suspect that had more to do with my mom’s well-developed OCD and social anxieties than anything else. But even though she didn’t take me to church, or discuss her faith with me as a child, I knew my mom had faith because she was always quick to pray.

I spent more time as a child with my mother than anyone else growing up. Although she occasionally had jobs outside the house, most of her time was spent at home taking care of her family while my dad worked a complicated schedule in a factory. So most of my days were spent with my mom. She was a great companion for a little boy. We would watch TV, play games, and even spend time cleaning the house – although I suspect I really hindered that process!

But on more than one occasion, when something stressful would happen, I would watch my mom pray. 

A breaking news story or bad news from family, whatever the occasion, my mom would shut her eyes and begin to pray. She would pray under her breath, sort of in a whisper, just loud enough for me to hear. Oh how those prayers impacted me! My curiosity was overwhelming. I really didn’t know who or what she was praying to, but I could make out just enough to know she was praying in the name of Jesus. Remember, I never went to church as a child, so my mom was literally the only person I ever saw praying! The only one! Of course, if we were at a relative’s house or some place special there was always a chance someone would pray over the meal, but my mom’s prayers were different. When she prayed those barely audible prayers in response to bad news, she was praying as if she believed it would make a difference! Her prayers were neither especially long or dramatic, but they powerful and effective in their succinctness.

And they prepared me to one day accept the Christ she was praying to as my Lord and Savior.

When I was 14 years old I responded to an altar call. In some small way, I did so because I wanted to know the God my mom prayed to. She had someone to turn to when the chips were down … and I wanted that same relationship with God. She was the first and only person I confided in that night … I wanted my mom to know I knew Jesus.

Years later, my mom passed away from cancer. She handled the entire experience with grace and courage. My dad told me that the night she passed away, she did so with a smile on her face. I suspect it was because she had a relationship with the God who was calling her home. According to my dad, one of her last wishes, was for him to get her boys into church. That wish inspired my dad to launch a campaign to get me to into church with him. I finally gave in – more or less just to get him to stop inviting me, but that decision changed my life.

My mom led by example, and then used my dad to reach me for Christ. My dad, by the way, faced his own battle with cancer with the same courage and grace my mother had displayed. He told his doctors he was ready to “go home” … but he wasn’t talking about this home, but rather his eternal one.

My mom’s quiet, barely-audible, whispered prayers changed the course of my dad’s life and my life. Within those whispered prayers was the power of God. Elijah learned that God sometimes speaks to us in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19). In my case, the still, small voice of God was wrapped up in the whispered prayers of my mother … and I am eternally grateful for her example.