Category Archives: Depression

The Master Is Still Playing

An Old Post

Today, a stranger payed me $80 for a 1/4 size violin. It was the one my youngest daughter tried to play when she was just a tiny crumb cruncher. It was sad to see it go, even though it wasn’t being used.

As I was looking for a post to republish (because I didn’t feel like I had the energy or inspiration to write anything new), I came across something I wrote back in November of 2013…

It was about a violin.

Without going into detail, several years ago a question was posed to me, one that has an unfortunate habit of resurfacing:

“Tell me one thing I do well!” 

Someone close to me asked that question. Have you heard one like it before? Have you ever asked it about yourself?

Well, the words were not the same, but recently I’ve experienced some discouragement, some feelings of worthlessness. Maybe it was more than coincidence that a man who didn’t feel like writing found an old post about a violin.

Maybe it’s more than coincidence you’re reading this right now.

Now, let us join the edited old post already in progress…

The Violin

But as I lay in bed remembering those words, the image of a musical instrument, a violin, came to mind. Then I thought of my guitar and other instruments; each one capable of making beautiful, worshipful music, but only in the hands of one with talent enough to play.

I remembered those words spoken by another and applied them to the violin. The violin asked, “Tell me, name one thing I do well?” All I could think to reply was, “Nothing.” What can a violin do on it’s own but rest in a case, sit on a shelf, or gather dust in a closet? In the hands of one with no skill, with other things to do, and with no love for music, the violin could even become a wearisome burden over time.

In the wrong hands the violin is “worthless.” It has no value, no worth, no ability, no projection, no tone, and no song on it’s own. Alone, it really can’t do anything.

The Master

Then, right on cue, another thought exploded in my brain: What are we but instruments in the Master’s hands?

We have no ability on our own. The violin never plays itself. The only way a musical instrument can ring out notes of joyous praise is when it is given life by the energy of the Musician.

But some may say, “I’m not a violin, a guitar, or anything like that.” Maybe so, but in the hands of a skilled musician even a trash can can bring an audience to its feet.

You may not feel like you’re valuable. You may feel worthless. But don’t believe the lie of the Enemy! Your value is not determined by what you can do, or what you look like, or by what others think, but by how much the Master was willing to pay.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” – 1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV

Dear friend, don’t let your inadequacies, your mistakes, or your disabilities make you feel worthless. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, thought you were worth dying for, and willingly shed His blood to purchase your soul.

In your own strength you may be incapable of anything but being a burden on others. But in the hands of the Master, your life can be an instrument of praise in the concert of the ages.

Don’t give up! The Master is still playing … and the audience may be ready to applaud.  

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Filed under Depression, music, self-worth, worship, writing

Don’t Ask for a Sign

Just a little while ago, feeling a little down and discouraged – it’s been a rough few days, spiritually speaking – I thought out loud to God, saying:

“Lord, is there anything I wouldn’t give to see something tangible with my own eyes? Something to encourage me. Something to increase my faith.”

Almost immediately I heard a still, small Voice speak to my conscience, “Then it wouldn’t be faith, would it?”

Yeah, it was convicting. Are His promises not enough? Should I be any less obedient to His revealed Word if I never have an epiphany? Is the illumination of the Spirit of any less value than a beam of light?

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

What I should be praying is, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” Then, following faith, God can use a “sign” as confirmation.

If the sign comes before the faith, then the product will not be true faith, for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith

Fighting Sleep

It’s one o’clock in the morning, and I”m fighting sleep.

I don’t know why I’m having this moment,

But I’d rather lie in bed and type than weep.

The worries of the day, both past and yet to come

Have left me with my eyes wide open,

But my emotions are practically numb.

It’s quiet, now, as I’m the only one awake.

I could turn off the light and close the laptop,

Just giving in to the night is all it would take.

But as soon as I close my eyes, I’ll be asleep.

I should be praying for peace, giving it to God,

It would really probably help if I’d just weep.

The sooner I close my eyes, the sooner the sun will shine

And shed light on the battleground of my life.

I guess that’s why I want to savor the nighttime.

But there’s no winning without fighting,

And I”m not going to be any better off dead on my feet,

So, I guess it’s time to give up and go to sleep.

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Filed under Depression, Struggles and Trials

No Help? Selah

Many there be which say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah. – Psalm 3:2

FullSizeRender (1)Selah. It’s a word that instructs us to pause and consider what was just read or sung (the Psalms were actually songs). But what good is there in pausing to think about people who want to discourage us?

There is no help for him in God.” How depressing those words are! Do they make you want to give up? Do you believe them?

Fortunately, King David, the author of most of the Psalms, did not believe what the “many” said of his soul. And neither should we, that is, if our hope Christ.

The Many

Let’s start with thinking about the “many.” Who are they? In the case of David, they were the ones who were intent on usurping his throne and replacing him with his son, Absalom. Like modern propagandists they tried to weaken King David’s resolve by removing all hope in his Rescuer and Deliverer. They struck at the very core of who he was by attacking his faith in the very God who promised “thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16).

Who are the “many” in our lives? Jesus spoke of them as men who love darkness rather than light (John 3:19) and the “praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Paul describes them in Romans chapter 1 as those who suppress the truth by their wickedness (18), refusing even to retain the knowledge of God in their minds (28).

So, the ones who say that God will not help are the very same ones who refuse to know nothing about God. Think about that one for a moment! What do they know??

The Help

David was not about to lose hope in his God. In a later Psalm we read : “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). Who were they, those who refused to know God, to tell David the One who made heaven and earth…the One who promised to establish his throne forever…the one who delivered him from the lion, the bear, and the Giant…was unfaithful?

David had seen the mighty Hand of God in action. He has been witness to His deliverance and protection too many times before. That is why in the very next verse he could proclaim with confidence in the face of those who would discourage him:

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. – Psalm 3:3

Just Wait

There may be people who say the very same things to you that they said to David as he hid for his life in the caves. They mock your faith and hope as you huddle in the dark, waiting for deliverance. But just hold on, believer! His promises are true! You’ve seen the way He works, and He’s not done, yet!

The “many” have no clue what they’re talking about; they can’t see your soul and they don’t know your God. So, just wait on Him, and you’ll never be ashamed (Psalm 25:3a)!

Selah.

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Filed under Bible Study, Depression

Sometimes I Feel Like a Failure

I am going to be very honest, as I’m sure you will appreciate: Sometimes I feel like a total failure.

You may have some impression of me, and that impression might be a good one. However, sometimes I see myself as a failure for not having accomplished a fraction of my stated goals, thereby leaving myself wondering, “Will I ever be able to do this?”

This morning has been difficult. It’s been a long time since any regular income has come in. And even though I felt sure I was supposed to be doing what I’m doing career-wise, it’s not put much money in the bank as of yet. I’m not talking about ministry; I’m talking about my work outside the pastorate (I’m bi-vocational).

So, I went to Blueletterbible.com and did a word search for “fail.” There were over 60 occurrences of the word, but two of them stood out to me.

The first one spoke of how David understood pain and doubt. He had questions about God’s compassion and promises.

Is his mercy clean gone forever? doth his promise fail for evermore? – Psalm 77:8

But then David went on to answer his own question by remembering what God has done and said:

Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. – Psalm 77:14

Then I came to the following verse:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. – Isaiah 41:17

I am poor and needy. We have more than a water bill. I can’t do this on my own! Much of the help that should come from man is missing, but I have a God who hears my plea and has not forsaken me!

All I have to do is cry out to him!

I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. – Psalm 57:2

Lord, I am not a failure as long as there is still breath in my lungs and an opportunity for me to step forward to my Goliaths. My strength is small; my abilities are few; my vision is limited to the horizon, but You will not forsake me, and Your presence will go before me. You will get the credit for my successes, for Your name will be glorified as You help me stand, fight, conquer, and provide for my family (Deut. 8:18). I am not a failure because You are not.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, God, self-worth, worship

Were You Spiritually Attacked?

Have you ever stopped to wonder whether or not you were under spiritual attack? Have you ever stopped to wonder what a spiritual attack actually is?

Let’s think about it for a moment.

We humans are made up of both spirit and flesh, and it is well understood that the flesh wars against the spirit. Sometimes a spiritual attack can come from our own fleshly desires; it doesn’t have to be from outside influences.

I believe there is an Enemy who wants to destroy our souls and thwart any effort to build the Kingdom of God. Certainly, any effort on his part would be considered a spiritual attack, no matter from which direction it comes. However, much of what wars against our spirit comes from the selfish desires we often refuse to battle.

The apostle Paul said that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but don’t let that statement for you. The flesh is weak when it comes to temptation, yet when it is the tempter it can be very, very strong.

Too often we give Satan and his minions far more credit than they deserve. More often than not the most dangerous enemy to our spirit is our own flesh. If you don’t believe me, then why else would we need to crucify it daily?

Focus on building up your spirit through prayer, faith, and obedience to Christ’s commands. Then remember that you put on the whole armor of God, not only to wage war against the Prince of Darkness, but also the petty, whining, selfish, lustful, envious flesh in which you reside.

You’re under more spiritual attack than you realize.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Life Lessons

Doing, Being, and Identity

Two Questions

Would you take just a second and think about something? Take a second and think about the following two questions:

  1. “What do you want to be?”
  2. “What do you do?”

When would you ask these questions? I bet I can answer that for you.

The first question (“What do you want to be?“) is one that you would pose to a young child. It would be asked with the qualifier of “when you grow up.” I’ve asked kids this question many, many times, and the answers are always entertaining. Children want to be things like firemen, doctors, cowboys, baseball stars, movie stars, even school bus drivers. Some even want to become the mythical, like super heroes, monsters, or unicorns.

When you ask a child what he wants to be when he grows up, all you are doing is opening up before him a world of possibility – the sky’s the limit. The question doesn’t limit him in any way. On the contrary, it affirms his potential to be anything he wants to be.

The second question (What do you do?) is one that you would likely ask an adult. Think about it, you wouldn’t ask a 10-year-old, “What do you do for a living?” Obviously, the child is just a student and preparing for the riggers of future employment as a “safe space” attorney, not an actual lawyer, or doctor, or super model.

But when you pose this question to an adult, instead of offering him the opportunity to dream big and affirming his ambitions, you cause him to face the here and now, the cold reality, the fact of what his childhood dreams have turned into. Unfortunately, affirming and praising one’s potential is a whole lot easier than affirming one’s present state.

When you ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up there is the possibility her dreams will come true. When you ask someone what he does for a living the answer is what he is doing, not what he is dreaming, and what he is doing might be all he ever does.

Is Doing Being?

I have always struggled with the temptation to find my identity in what I “do.” In other words, I’ve never wanted to just do things, I’ve always prided myself in being things. Do any of you feel the same way?

I have been a pest control technician, an industrial engine builder, a Sunday School teacher, an adjunct professor, a Level I Nuclear Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) Technician, a sales manager, an eyeglass maker, an insurance salesman, a preacher, a pastor, a chaplain, a song writer, and an author. I’ve been a school bus driver. Right now I am an agent with Aflac, along with being a bi-vocational pastor.

No, I wasn’t a pilot. I just flew a lot when I worked in the nuclear field. (circa 1989)

I have always liked name tags, badges, lapel pins, and titles…because they give me identity.

But in reality, honestly, none of those things are really me, are they? They are only what I do. If I were to quit pastoring or driving a bus, would I cease to exist? Of course not! Even if  you were to take away my freedom, I might be labeled an “inmate” or “refugee,” but not even those labels would be me, only the condition of my existence.

Yet, I still find my deepest self wanting to be identified with something, to be known for something, to have a title, to find worth in what I have done or am doing.

I do what I do, but I am what I am. On the other hand, I do what I do because I am what I am. So, what am I to make of it?

What I Am

I am created in the image of Almighty God, so I am intrinsically valuable – my value is based on Who made me.

I am loved beyond measure, first by my Lord Jesus Christ (because He loved us first), then by my family.

I am a child of God, not by my own works, but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ – that is my identity.

I am a soldier in the army of God, for He called me to serve in battle against the spiritual forces of wickedness in high places.

I am a Christian, because I’ve been given that title as one who identifies with Christ.

I am priceless, because of the price that was paid on the Cross to redeem me.

What I do doesn’t make me a child of God, a saint, or anything of the sort, but what Jesus did for me, on my behalf, thereby crediting those works to my account, is what makes me those things.

And all the things I do – whether it be drive a bus, be a husband, preach a sermon, mow a yard, or be a dad – I do for the sake of the one Who makes me His own, and I do it in His strength.

So, ask me what I do, and no matter what I end up telling you, I will no longer stress over the answer, for what I do is not what I am…

I do what I do because I am what I am, because of the Great I AM; my identity is found in Him.

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Filed under Christianity, Depression, God, self-worth, Uncategorized