Jesus Our Hero (Mark)

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superman! Have you heard that popular phrase before? Superheroes are incredibly popular in today’s society. With new comics, movies and TV shows coming out each week, the world has become captured by these amazing tales. They have incredible powers that defeat evil in miraculous ways.

However, these are just fun fictional characters that can’t really save us. As Christians, though, we understand that we do have a real-life superhero. We have someone that is always looking out for us. We know we have a superhero with Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the most powerful being in this universe, and nothing can stop Him. He is the world’s ultimate superhero, because there are no weaknesses or limitations that make Him imperfect. Jesus has everything we need in a superhero and more.   He is described in scripture as: amazing, astounding, a miracle worker, healer, the Savior of the world, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, All Powerful, All Knowing, having power over creation, demons, diseases and even death!

I was fascinated by an article I read recently in Psychology Today entitled, “Why Jesus was a Hero to Billions.”  It’s an excerpt from Dr. Scott Allen’s book “Why We Need Hero’s”  he states, “Jesus was a Born Hero – In our studies of heroism, we have found that the “born hero” is a rare breed. Extraordinary situations typically bring out the heroes among us. But in every Sunday Christian service, and especially during the Christmas and Easter seasons, much of the world honors the most powerful story of the born hero in the western world. Being endowed with divine DNA makes Jesus an especially revered hero.”

Dr. Allen goes on to point out that, “Our research on heroes indicates that people especially honor heroes who experience pain and suffering during their heroic acts. The more that heroes suffer for their cause, the higher the pedestal on which we place them.”

Jesus Suffered On The Cross, making him an enduring hero.

The Romans made sure than anyone who died by crucifixion would suffer horrifically. Jesus was violently flogged before his crucifixion. Iron balls and sharp sheep bones were fastened near the ends of the whips. The iron balls caused deep bruising and the bones lacerated the skin. There was ample blood loss and Jesus’ level of pain would have put him a state of shock.

Jesus was then forced to carry the heavy cross to the crucifixion area, where his wrists and heels were nailed to the wooden beams. After hours of agony on the cross, Jesus would have succumbed to a combination of asphyxiation and blood loss.

“People admire the courage of a revolutionary. In his day Jesus was a rebel who violated Jewish customs and defied Roman law. Like Socrates of ancient Greece, Jesus could have spared his own life by offering some defense of the social disruptions he caused. But he did not.”

Jesus Died To Save Others

As Christians, we believe that Jesus died to save the world. The Gospels tell us that three days after he died, Jesus rose from the dead and 40 days later ascended to heaven. The story of the resurrection is a central part of Christianity because it signifies to that God approved of Jesus’ work on earth and that Jesus lives forever.

After Jesus died, many of his followers were burned, stoned, or crucified by Roman authorities. This persecution backfired. As martyrs, these Christians were the source of inspiration for millions of people who began practicing the Christian faith.

Jesus Transformed Society

Jesus was, and is, a transforming leader, inspiring people and elevating them to new levels of morality. Historian and author H. G. Wells wrote, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

Jesus was a hero to people of his day and continues to change lives today which is why we are all still talking about him 2,000 of years later. This is why movies are made about Him, His life and His death. This is why billions of books, songs and works of art have been about Him and also why billions of people have declared to follow Him.

Join us in our new series starting on Easter, Hero to learn more about Jesus, the ultimate superhero. We’ll be digging into the book of Mark.  Jesus the action hero is always in action; encouraging his followers, healing the hurting and returning in power! He calls on those who would follow him to be in action as well. Join our adventure in the book of Mark (the action gospel) to learn more about Jesus our true hero.

Darrell

http://www.Upwards.Church

 

Sources:
https://www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/20-reasons-jesus-is-the-true-superhero.aspx#I78o5F37ceIG3blG.99
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-need-heroes/201412/why-jesus-is-hero-billions
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The Shelter of God’s Forgiveness – Psalm 51

What do you do with a guilty conscience?  A few days after Tax Day, I guy wrote into the IRS and said, “I haven’t been able to sleep since I filed my taxes.  I was not honest with what I owed, enclosed is a check for $500.  If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send in the rest.”

Guilt is a powerful emotion that many people try live with.  I read that the director a mental institution in London once told Billy Graham that half the people in his mental hospital could be released if they could find forgiveness.

Forgiveness is available to each of us through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to carry around the heavy burden of guilt.   This psalm explains the nature of sin and the character of God’s forgiveness.

This is one of the few psalms where we are given the reason why it was written.  The inscription reads, “A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.”

The background of the psalm includes David and Bathsheba. David had broken at least four of the 10 Commandments in this incident.   The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 11.  Here’s the abbreviated version:  One spring instead of leading the army David stays home.  Walking on the roof he sees a woman bathing (Bathsheba), (he covets), has her brought to him, has sex with her (adultery) and sends her home.  Later she sends word that she is pregnant, her husband, a soldier in David’s army, was away fighting for his king.  When David learned that she was expecting a child, he panicked and tried to cover up. He ordered the husband home from battle and sent him down to his home, hoping that he would sleep with his wife and the child would then be accepted as his own (lying.) But Uriah was more honorable than David, a committed soldier and though he came home at the king’s orders, he would not go down to his own house but slept with the soldiers at the palace and returned to the battle the next day.   David then arranges for Uriah to be killed in battle (murder) so he could take Bathsheba for his own wife. About a year after these initial events, God sent Nathan the prophet who confronts David about his sins, an event which is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:1-13. The results of that confrontation and David’s desire for forgiveness are expressed in Psalm 51.

Here we learn some lessons how we can overcome guilt in our lives.  Psalm 51 breaks down into three simple prayers:

Verses 1-6 Prayer of Confession

Verses 7-12 Prayer for Restoration

Verses 13-17 Prayer of Witness

  1. Confession (1-6): It means to agree with God.

Like the sting of a scorpion, David feels the painful sting and guilt from what he has done to himself, others, and to God. His heart is crushed and broken by the weight and guilt of his sins. Let’s not be fooled by the accolades of those who are party animals and like to live a wild crazy lifestyle. Sinful living is painful and we cannot escape the consequences.

The burden which had weighed so heavily on David’s life had taken its toll mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually was about to be lifted. The anticipation of it being removed brought relief to a weary man. Having been exposed as an adulterer and a murderer David casts himself on the merciful compassion of God. Note how in these verses David not only faces up to the revelation of his sin and guilt but also how he takes personal responsibility for his sin and guilt. Note how he speaks of ‘my sin’ and ‘I have sinned.’ David does not try to evade his guilt but faces it and admits it openly. David does not try to make excuses for his sin, nor does he try to pass the blame on to someone or something else.   So there is the first lesson in overcoming guilt – we must admit or confess our sin and guilt.    Then we find forgiveness.

1 John 1:9 reminds us of this very truth:  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

  1. Restoration (7-12):

When David has confessed his sin and sought God’s forgiveness for his guilt he then calls upon God to restore him. I find that interesting. David was not content just to be forgiven. He wanted more than the guilt to be removed from his soul – he wanted a right relationship with God restored.   David asks God to cleanse him with hyssop – this was the action of the OT priest to declare the penitent ceremonially clean and acceptable for participation in worship. David asks God to declare him acceptable in his presence. He asks God to restore to him the joy of salvation which he once knew but was lost because of sin. Do we hear what we lose as a result of guilt?  When guilt burdens our soul then it steals the joy that we once knew in salvation. However, the result of forgiveness by God is joy restored. Here is the beginning of David experiencing not only forgiveness but freedom from guilt. When God forgives he also restores!  He not only blotted out David’s guilt, he washed him thoroughly and declared him acceptable in his presence.

This is exactly what we experience in Christ:  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, Titus 3:4-6

Do you ever feel stagnant in your faith, as though you are just going through the motions? Has sin ever driven a wedge between you and God, making him seem distant?  David felt this way, in his prayer he cried, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” God wants us to be close to him and to experience his full and complete life. But sin that remains unconfessed makes such intimacy impossible. Confess our sin to God. We may still have to face some earthly consequences, as David did, but God will give back the joy of your relationship with him.

  1. Witness 13-17

When God forgives our sin and restores our fellowship with him, we want to reach out to others who need this forgiveness and reconciliation. The more I have felt God’s forgiveness, the more I desire to tell others about it.

Yes, David really messed up.  We mess up too.  That doesn’t change God’s love for us.

Notice 2 Samuel 12:24 : The LORD loved David so much that He forgave David, He forgot about the sin, and He blessed him with another son, Solomon.

God loves you that much too. He wants us to be forgiven and cleansed of the sin in our life. God sent Jesus to die on a cross so that we could be free from guilt and shame.  Jesus restores joy to our lives and gives us peace and purpose.  May you experience these truths as I have.

Darrell

 

Sources:
 Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 898.
Rod Mattoon, Mattoon’s Treasures – Treasures from Treasured Psalms, Volume 2, (Springfield, IL: Lincoln Land Baptist Church, n.d.), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 150-199.
https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/overcoming-guilt-alan-mccann-sermon-on-discipleship-89668?ref=SermonSerps
https://www.raystedman.org/old-testament/psalms/how-to-handle-a-bad-conscience

 

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Encouragement in Times of Depression –Psalm 42

What do you do when your tears are your food day and night?

3  My tears have been my food day and night

What do you do when people taunt you and speak against you?

…while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

When we find ourselves facing discouragement and depression, how do we find encouragement?

In the last post we saw one step to encouragement is to Worship God.  Being with the people of God, who are singing and praising lifts us when we are down.  The word of God also encourages us and is a part of our worship.

The next step to encouragement is to Remember what God has done in the past.

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you

This is a strong expression of determination. The psalmist is determined to remember how God has helped him in the past. That is one of the greatest things we can do when we begin to experience depression.  Think back to what God has done for us in the past.  Remember how God was there for you in the past.  Remember those who prayed for you. Remember how God has answered your prayers in the past.  Remember the day that you gave your life to Christ.  Remember when you were baptized.  Remember the times that God was faithful to you.

Have you ever known someone that has a habit of remembering only the bad things? They date everything by these negative events. “That was the day the toilet overflowed.  And that day is the day my cat ran away.”  That’s no way to live.

But here the Psalmist is showing us that memory can be an important aid by remembering the positive experiences of God’s blessing. “I will remember you,” he says, the times when God caused my heart to be full of joy.

Last year for Kaleb’s senior year and last year at home we went skiing at spring break. Kaleb and I would ski until the lifts closed but the girls would often go back to the car early and wait for us. They would rest and listen to the radio.

On the third day when Kaleb and I got down there and tried to start the car it wouldn’t start, the battery was dead. I immediately went to the office to see if they could give me a jump start. They said all their employees were busy closing down lifts, processing ski returns, etc. and it would be two hours before they could help.

I went back to the car opened the hood and started to wait.  Not long after a man parked near us, a friendly Texan asked if I needed jumper cables.  We got the car started and were delayed about an hour going down the mountain.  On the way down we saw police cars and a cleanup crew. We later found out that there had been a severe accident involving multiple cars.  Several people were dead and injured. If we had left at the time I wanted, we would have been part of that accident. Now when I find myself with a frustrating delay, I remember that God may be delaying me for a specific purpose

 The next portion of this poetic passage needs some explaining..

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.
7  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

He remembers an experience that he had when he was in the northern part of Israel near Mount Hermon, at the head of the Jordan River, on a little peak of the range where Mount Hermon is located, called Mount Mizar (which, incidentally, means “little mountain”).  Snow from Mount Hermon would melt flowing down to form the Jordan river that would then flow into the Sea of Galilee. On that occasion he could hear the waterfalls of that mountainous region with thundering cascades. He became aware of how they seemed to be calling to one another, “deep calling unto deep,” and it reminded him that the deeps in God call out to the deeps in man.

One of the amazing things about nature is the silent voices that call to one another across vast spaces. The moon calls to the deeps in the sea, raising the tides. Twice a day the waters rise in tides across the earth, because of the moon calling to the ocean. The sun and the rain call to the deeps in a seed, causing it to stir with life and to spring up and grow. There are vast distances that call to the deeps in wild birds, causing them to wing their way across long distances to lay their eggs; there are voices that call to certain fish, sending them across the sea to spawn up into a mountain stream. In this way the Psalmist is reminded that God also calls to man. There are deeps in God that correspond with deeps in man, and he calls to them. The Psalmist specifically names two here: the deeps of the love of God, and the joy of God, calling out to the corresponding deeps of prayer in the believer.

Which leads us to the next way we are encouraged in times of depression; Prayer.

In the last post, I shared about Abraham Lincoln and his struggles with depression and how he found help in God’s word and in attending church, but he also depended on prayer. Perhaps Lincoln’s most famous words on the subject of prayer reflect an awareness of his great responsibility and personal inadequacy: “I have been driven many times upon my knees,” he once confided in an associate, “by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

The psalmist has the same conviction…

8  By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with mea prayer to the God of my life.

In the next verses we will see the Psalmist prayer.   It’s honest, it’s real and its raw. Do you feel you can be completely honest with God in prayer?  Can you tell God how you really feel?  The Psalms tell us it’s ok to be angry with God, to be frustrated and share hurts with God.

9  I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”
10  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Years ago on a Sunday morning after the service I left for home, Danielle was still at church but I thought she was with Niki.  Niki thought she was with me, so we went home and left her. Of course, as soon as we reached home we realized our mistake and I came right back. I found her waiting for me, tears in her eyes and with disappointment  in her voice she said, “Daddy, you forgot me!” What a horrible feeling it is to be forgotten!

That is the feeling expressed here, and what a terrible feeling it is. How honest and real.

The first step to overcoming depression is to admit it. The psalmist readily admits, both to himself and to God, that he is in despair.

There is a saying that I agree with, “Without revealing, there is no healing.”  We must be honest and open to get better.  Prayer is the revealing that leads to healing.

As the Psalm ends and his prayer ends, he moves from Talking to God to talking to himself.

11  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a doctor who became a pastor in his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure ([Eerdmans], pp. 20-21), comments,

“Have you not realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself….

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: “I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God”.

We find encouragement from God’s Word, God’s People, Remembering the good God has done and Praying to God.

I hope that you may be encouraged this week.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Depression and the Bible – Psalm 42

At a local Jr College the Psychology professor asked his class to read a chapter on mental health.  In order to see what they learned he asked, (hoping to get the answer, “manic depression”),  “How would you diagnose a someone who walks back and forth screaming at the top of his lungs one minute, then sits in a chair weeping uncontrollably the next?”

A student in the back of class raised his hand and answered, “A basketball coach?”

We may think that story is funny but depression is no laughing matter.  According to Very Well Mind, 16.2 million adults in the United States, equaling 6.7 percent of all adults in the country—have experienced a major depressive episode in the past year.  15 percent of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime.

What is depression? According to Bridges to Recovery, clinical depression and major depressive disorder, is a type of mood disorder that is characterized by negative patterns of thoughts and emotions. Depression causes intense sadness that persists. It causes physical pains, changes in eating and sleeping habits, irritability, difficulty thinking, concentrating and making decisions, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

It should not be surprising that the Bible has much to say about depression, especially in our Psalm today, Psalm 42. The Psalmist meets the definition of being severely depressed.  He is not alone, neither are we.

Note the psalmist’s description of himself: He mentions his countenance (42:11). A depressed person looks sad or down. A loss of appetite and frequent crying are often present (42:3). He describes his anguish as “pouring out” his soul (42:4); he felt emotionally drained. He felt as if he were in the deep, being overwhelmed by the waves (42:7). Often depressed people feel overwhelmed by circumstances to such an extent that they are immobilized. They don’t know how to cope or where to begin.

The enemy’s relentless taunts felt like a shattering of the psalmist’s bones (42:10). Often physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain accompany severe depression. He repeatedly describes himself as being in despair (hopeless) and disturbed (anxious; 42:5, 6, 11). The psalmist feels abandoned, even rejected by God, and he’s confused by it (42:9). Feelings of guilt and rejection are common symptoms of depressed people. In addition are often fatigue, a loss of motivation to do anything, difficulty in concentrating, sleep disturbances (either insomnia or excessive sleep), and thoughts of suicide.

Many people in the Bible suffered through depression and suicidal thoughts:  Naomi, Job, Jeremiah, (known as the weeping prophet) Elijah, David, Jonah. and even Jesus encountered a time of depression.  Some well-known Christian ministers encountered times of depression. Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, John Knox, John Bunyan, Lottie Moon, and even Rick Warren have mentioned specific times in their ministries when they encountered depression.

While some Christians will want to deny that they can go through depression, it does happen. And it happens quite often.

It’s been described that going through depression is like walking down a staircase into a dark basement.  The sun may be shining outside but it feels dark inside.  In addition the person can’t see the base of the staircase to get back out.

Have you ever felt this way?  I go through periods where I don’t enjoy things I used to enjoy; like working in the yard.  I’ve had my doctor test me twice for depression and I’m not clinically depressed but by her definition, “mildly depressed.”  For me I have to watch what I eat, exercise, make sure I deal with loss and disappointment appropriately,  manage job stress and ask for others to help since I have a tendency to take on too many things at once.   I’ve discovered that many of us have periods of mild depression, seasonal depression or high numbers on The Stress Scale due to life’s experiences, but if the depression or stress leads to you not being able to handle daily activities for two weeks  please see your doctor as I did.

Here are 3 steps to take, that God uses to encourage us in times of depression. 

  1. God Encourages Me as I Worship Him.

2 …“When can I go and meet with God?”…  4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

 “Meeting with God” and being with others in “the house of God” among those singing with joy and expressing positive emotion will help in our times of low emotion.   The very thing we may not want to do, such as be around other people, and sing are the very things that we need the most.

Psalms were originally songs that were sung in public worship gatherings.  People say, “I can worship God on the golf course, on my boat or in nature,” which may be true but there is also something very powerful, exponential, contagious and encouraging about being with other people worshiping God.

We may not want to sing but being around others that sing will lift our spirit.  When I attend church and see toddler age kids and preschoolers (I don’t have any at this stage in my life), their energy and faith speaks to me.  When I see others that have hard periods in life such as: troubled marriages, finances or health issues but they continue to come their faith inspires me and encourages me.  I need the faith, energy, positivity from others when it is lacking in me.  God uses people, praise, His presence and His word to encourage us when we are discouraged.  We can’t get out of the basement ourselves, so God gives us light.

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was severely depressed and even suicidal?   Here are some quotes from associates and friends:

His law partner William Herndon said, “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.”

Robert L. Wilson, who was elected to the Illinois state legislature with Lincoln in 1836, said one day Lincoln told him something surprising. “he told me that he was so overcome with mental depression, that he never dare carry a knife in his pocket.”

Lincoln “told me that he felt like committing suicide often,” remembered Mentor Graham, a schoolteacher, and his neighbors mobilized to keep him safe. One friend recalled, “Mr Lincoln’s friends … were compelled to keep watch and ward over Mr Lincoln.” [i]

What changed for the future president?  His friend Joshua Speed’s mother gave him a Bible in 1841.  When Mr. Lincoln returned to the judicial circuit that fall, he wrote Speed’s sister: “Tell your mother that I that I intend to read it regularly, it is really, as she says, the best cure for the ‘Blues’

Lincoln said, “In regard to this Great book, “it is the best gift God has given to man.”

Lincoln biographer William E. Barton wrote that Mr. Lincoln “read the Bible, honored it, quoted it freely, and it became so much a part of him as visibly and permanently to give shape to his literary style and to his habits of thought.”

In a letter to his old friend Speed, Lincoln wrote, “Take all of this book upon reason that you can and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.’” Lincoln scholar Wayne Temple wrote: “Lincoln had greatly modified his religious beliefs since 1841. It appears, the longer Lincoln lived, the closer he felt to God and the more he relied upon God for sustenance.’ [ii]
Lincoln met with God and it changed his life as read the bible, attended church and prayer meetings weekly.

Like president Lincoln we can be encouraged by God as we do the same.  I too have been greatly encouraged as I read the Bible and see that I am not alone in my times of depression.

In the next post we will see two more steps God uses to encourage us as we face depression.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

 

[i] http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/president-lincolns-moods/

[ii] http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/abraham-lincoln-and-the-bible/

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