‘Tis the Season

I’m sure you’re familiar with this Christmas season song line: “Tis the season to be jolly.” Christmas should be truly joyful. Think of what we’re celebrating! Sadly though, for many it’s not joyful at all. In fact, the holiday season brings out the worst in many people. (Although I read an article online which stated that December is actually the lowest month for suicides) First of all, many have forgotten or are unaware of what Christmas represents. Then there’s the financial outlay of the season and the hectic docket of things to do – shopping, wrapping, family and friends to visit, and preparing for their company. For those who are missing family at this time of year it can be troublesome.

I had a friend I worked with years ago that took his own life on New Year’s Eve, depressed because his pristine Mustang fastback was borrowed by a friend an returned with scratches on it. (Obviously he had some hart issues also)

I’ve had this verse on my mind:

Psalm 42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

The words “cast down” express the idea of being bowed down with mourning. “Depression” is the term that comes to mind. And depression isn’t limited to the holidays. For some it’s a year round issue of their souls. I have lived at that “address,” and there’s nothing good about it. Depression will produce physical symptoms like ulcers and sleep disorders. I didn’t like facing it but I became extremely selfish. My thought pattern was, “If my wife would just do this, or if my kids would stop doing that, my life would be just fine!” So I treated them like they were problems rather than loved ones. Thankfully they put up with me till I snapped out of it.

The first thing I learned about coming out of depression was awareness. Until I was aware that I was depressed there was no improvement. I had to admit, “Yes, I am depressed.” That wasn’t a bad confession. That was simply admitting where I was at the time. I discovered the need to apologize to those closest to me for how I’d been treating them. I repented to God too! “Repent” means I changed my mind – my thought patterns – and adopted new ones.

One other thing, I had to redevelop my hope. Hopelessness is congruent with depression. The Word of God along with time in His presence began to build hope in me again. Thank You Father!

There’s much more to say on this subject, but let me close with this. I did a Bible study on depression years ago and found only one verse in the NKJV using the actual word: Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad. Take two principles from this verse: (1) Anxiety is poisonous. (2) If you have a friend who’s depressed, the best thing you can do is give them a good word. Don’t preach at them. Just be patient with them and encourage them. They’re worth the effort!

Say What?

Say What?!

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

The Bible is not meant to be mysterious. God obviously wants us to understand what He is saying to us. We can’t live our lives based on what we don’t understand.

There are, I think, two things that work against our understanding. First, we tend to think of God’s declarations to us as complicated logic, when it’s the simplicity of it that we trip over. As teachers of scripture we should take what seems complicated and make it simple. Religion does the opposite – it takes the simple and makes it complicated.

Also working against our understanding of scripture is the fact that the original writings were penned in a time and language much different than ours. If Jesus were walking the shores of Lake George today, teaching the same principles as recorded on the shores of Galilee 2000 or so years ago, His illustrations would be different and the language would be English. The good news, though, is that there are study helps made available to us to open our minds to both the customs and languages of Bible times.

That said, let me define a few words out of this verse in Hebrews. The word confession means the acknowledgement of truth. Bible hope is a confident expectation with joy. Without wavering is literally without bending, that is, being firm and unmoved. Put it all together it would read “Hold fast to your acknowledgement of the truth that you’re confidently expecting, with joy.”

Now, let’s simplify that and say it like this: “Keep what you say in line with your joyful expectation of Bible truth.” Has God declared some things about you in His Word? Do you believe His Word is true? Then line up what you confess – what you say – with the joyful, confident expectation of those truths.

Over many years I’ve developed a list of things that I “confess” regularly. You don’t have to adopt my list, but take a look at it just to see if it challenges you to have a “confession list” of your own.

I am who God says I am. I have what God says I have. I can do what God says I can do.

I am a child of God, an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. [Romans 8:16, 17]

I am born again and Spirit-filled. [Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 2:1-4]

I am forgiven and qualified for all the promises of God. [Colossians 2:13 & 1:12]

I am sanctified.  [I Corinthians 6:11]

I am justified, made righteous with Jesus’ righteousness. [II Corinthians 5:21]

I’ve been made more than a conqueror. [Romans 8:37]

Nothing can separate me from God’s love. [Romans 8:38, 39]

I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me. [Philippians 4:13]

I can run through a troop and leap over a wall. [Psalm 18:29]

I’m strong in the Lord and the power of His might. [Ephesians 6:10]

This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. [Psalm 118:24]

I’ve been delivered from power of darkness and translated to the kingdom of God’s dear Son. [Colossians 1:13]

I’ve been given authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt me. [Luke 10:19]

God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. [II Timothy 1:7]

I put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. [Isaiah 61:3]

I choose to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. [Galatians 5:16]

I don’t yield my members to unrighteousness, but only to righteousness. [Romans 6:13]

I continue on in my devotional time confessing some things that are specific to my life.

Our confession has one of two purposes in our lives. If we believe what we’re saying, it begins to come to pass. If we don’t (yet) believe what we’re declaring, we can use it to persuade ourselves of the truth. So, boldly say what the Bible says about you. And even (or maybe especially) in difficult times, don’t bend to the circumstances. Stay firm; don’t waver. Persuade yourself of the truth. You’ll be glad you did!

The Value of Words

If you know me you know that I’m a “words guy.” I use the Greek and Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons to help me understand the words of scripture. I also make use of English dictionaries, because I’ve discovered that what words mean and what we think they mean are often very different.

Choosing the words we say in conversation is extremely important. We’ve all discovered by now, I’m sure, that words can heal and words can hurt. Words even create an atmosphere. If you’ve ever entered a room where cruel words were recently spoken you have discovered that they leave a heaviness in the room, even if you weren’t there to hear them. Words can encourage, edify, comfort and soothe. They can also wound, discourage, alarm and destroy.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that both death and life are in the power of the tongue. In fact, if you think words aren’t important, the book of Proverbs will prove you wrong! Jesus’ brother James wrote that with our words (tongues) we both bless and curse. [James 3:9, 10] He also instructs in the same chapter that we can steer our bodies by the words we say.

So, on one level I think most have discovered that speaking positive words makes for a better life than harping on the negative. But there’s another level I’d like us to consider. Let me start with a few of the classic New Testament scriptures on the value of words.

Mark 11:23For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.

Romans 10:9, 10 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

II Corinthians 4:13And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak,

I can’t tell you how many messages I’ve taught on “confession.” The basic principle of biblical confession is twofold: believe in your heart and confess with your mouth. Confessing what God says works! But we’re not getting the results we should. The promises of God aren’t “You win some, you lose some and some get rained out!” God’s promises are yes & amen. Jesus came to give us abundant life. We’ve been made more than conquerors.

The question remains then, why aren’t we getting the results we should? I think the answer is contained in these (and other) scriptures. For our words to carry the power they should we must first BELIEVE. Believe in your heart. Don’t doubt in your heart. We believe, therefore we speak.

If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll acknowledge that a lot of our confessions were attempts to appease God into doing something for us. “If I confess it often enough, loud enough, passionate enough …” If that’s been our focus it is fleshly and legalistic. Everything done for us by our Lord Jesus was done before we were doing anything right. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. [Romans 5:8] Making positive statement won’t change Him. He’s already for us, with us and in us.

The release of power comes as we believe in what’s already done on a heart level, and form our words around that belief. Believe in your heart; confess with your mouth. We believe unto righteousness; confession is made unto salvation, which includes forgiveness, healing, deliverance, peace and all that Jesus won for us.

That leaves us with one more question needing an answer: what if I don’t believe in my heart? Here’s where we must be brutally honest with ourselves. Most of us have confessed things we just don’t believe. No wonder it hasn’t come to fruition. So, what now?

The root meaning of faith is to be persuaded. Many times becoming persuaded is a process. The good news is that confessing what God has said will help you become persuaded. Therefore, as long as your confession does not fall into attempting to please God so He’ll come through for you, your confession can continue working for you to persuade your heart of truth.

The writer of Hebrews said it this way: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” [10:23] Hope is a confident expectation with joy. Keep speaking the Word to persuade your heart. God is faithful!