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The Antidepressant of Wonder

Jon Bloom / September 4, 2014

The Antidepressant of Wonder

Living in this world tends to make us feel thin. We feel, with Bilbo Baggins, “like butter scraped over too much bread.” Another beheading, another disease epidemic, another leader’s adultery exposed, another day struggling within and without against unrelenting evil. We feel world-weary.

But it’s not really the world we’re weary of; we’re futility-weary, evil-weary. We’re weary of the curse under which we groan in hope (Romans 8:20). But the world is not only infused with futility, it is also infused with glorious wonders that, if we will look, direct our attention away from evil to the God of hope (Romans 15:13) — who made the world (John 1:3), who rules it (Philippians 2:11), and who is redeeming it (Romans 8:21). Yes, evil must be faced and fought. But if the devil can, he will keep us focused on evil to tempt us to succumb to all kinds of evil ourselves and drive us into depressive neuroses that make us feel thin on hope and long to escape.

But all around us reality is dense with wonders, layer upon layer. These are antidepressants that God has provided in abundance, surrounding us on every side, and they are there for the taking, even in the most mundane things. Let me give you an example.

Seeing the Phenomenal with a Football

Autumn is descending on America. And when autumn comes, it brings football (the American variety where a foot rarely touches the ball). On most afternoons in most neighborhoods after school’s let out you will find in some yard or field a couple boys tossing a football (with their hands). Next time you see this, stop and watch for a few minutes. If you really look you will see wonders.

In fact, all the glory converging upon you in that moment might be overwhelming! There may be a breeze carrying scents of an evening meal sizzling on a grill, the light from a nearby star giving the leaf gold of deciduous trees turning dormant a molten glow as it drops toward the edge of this spinning ball on which you live, the green life bursting from the ground beneath boys’ pounding feet, the miracle of human laughter and language. And the mind-blowing phenomenon of a football being thrown — and caught! Let’s just think about that for a moment.

As you watch these two, say, 11 year-old athletes play, you’re also watching them perform very advanced mathematics and physics equations. You hear the boy holding the ball say to the other, “Run a post!” The other takes off at full sprint for about ten yards, then angles to his left and looks over his left shoulder. Meanwhile, the boy with the ball drops back three or four steps while watching his receiver, stops, cocks his right arm, steps forward and heaves the ball into the air. The ball travels about 18 yards. It’s a decent spiral but it’s a little high and ahead of his target. So the receiver increases his speed, jumps off his left foot, stretches out his right arm, tips the ball into the air with his right hand, lands on his feet off-balance while twisting to his right, still adjusting his speed, and catches the ball with both hands while falling onto the green life that cushions him and rolls over a couple times while maintaining possession. You can’t help yourself shout, “Nice catch!”

Nice catch, indeed! And so much more! It is also incredibly good math — for both boys! The first boy, in about three seconds, calculated distance, velocity, thrust, and trajectory in order to hit a moving target. His calculations were very close. The second boy, in about two seconds, calculated the velocity and trajectory of the approaching object, made split-second recalculations to his original estimate, adjusted his speed, height, and extension and then recalculated again, adding a right-hand rotation, a grasp, a tuck, and a roll.

How did they do that? If you were to work out on paper the equations that took these boys five seconds to complete, how long would it take you? Could you do it at all? I couldn’t. Neither could these boys. But they did it in their heads nonetheless, all the while imagining themselves as Peyton Manning and Wes Welker.

Or ponder it in a whole different light. What was happening anatomically to make those movements possible? Or muse on the marvel of the human hand. Or contemplate the complex consciousness that processes such math and such imagination at the same time.

Recapture the Wonder

Now draw those wonders up into the question, Who made that mind or those members or that math? Take a deep breath, dive into ocean of wonder right where you are and explore new depths of Psalm 92:5–6:

How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this.

Read the whole of Psalm 92 and listen to the psalmist glean spiritual truths from natural phenomena. “God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). And he gave it to us, not to ignore but to imbibe. Even in its fallen state the world pulses with hopeful health.

So if you’re feeling thin, if that depressive burden of curse-weariness is weighing on you, don’t turn on the TV or pop in a DVD. Rarely will you ever find soul-reviving wonder there. Take your Bible, a tablet, and pen and go for a walk or sit somewhere and watch. Maybe look for a couple of boys throwing a football. Watch deeply and prove the truth that G.K. Chesterton wrote,

There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person. (Heretics, opening sentence of Chapter 3)

God’s world is full of wonders and these are wonderful antidepressants. Biblical wonder does not deny the horrors of the world. But bumblebees can remind us that there is a gracious power to fear far mightier than ISIS beheadings, sunsets can remind us that there will be a glorious end to sex trafficking, and a football can remind us that there is always more going on than meets the eye and that God’s calculations are perfect.

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The True Sign of Christmas

The Baby Jesus

I love this piece:
If you had to pick just one symbol or sign for Christmas, what would it be? If Google Images is of any help, then Christmas is symbolized by the Christmas tree, or bells, or snow fall against a lit home, or Santa, or ornaments, or gifts, or candy canes, or Homer Simpson on a rooftop in a Santa costume.

But God’s sign was much simpler than all of this. God’s sign was a baby.

“Ask a sign of the LORD your God,” the Lord said to King Ahaz of Judah, “let it be deep as Sheol or as high as heaven.” Ahaz was facing a great threat when he heard this from the Lord. Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel were at the foothills of Jerusalem, readying an attack. And the hearts of Ahaz and his people “shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” There was no steadiness of heart; there was no resolve. There was only the unsettling fear that blew gusts of dread among the people.

So the Lord sent Isaiah to calm Ahaz and his people: “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass…If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”

Ahaz’s faith must not have been firm, because this is where the Lord came to Ahaz to tell him to ask for a sign—an impossible sign! How deep is Sheol? There is no depth to speak of. How high is heaven? There is no height to measure. God was basically saying this: My word will stand, Ahaz. What I have promised, I will bring about. I will deliver My people. In fact, you can ask anything you can think of as a sign to prove it—anything at all. Because I have power and control over all things.

And when Ahaz refused God’s offer, saying “I will not put the Lord to the test,” God promised a sign anyway. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (which means, “God is with us”).” This is a strange sign to be sure. I’m not sure how Ahaz would have felt at hearing this sign. Great, who is the virgin? Is she conceiving soon, because those two armies are still encamped against us?

But God’s story was greater than Ahaz’s story, just as God’s story is greater than our own. And God’s sign was the impossible sign. Virgin’s don’t conceive and bear sons. No one would think to ask for a sign like this. But all things are possible with God. And wrapped up in this sign, for Ahaz and for us, is the promise of God for deliverance, the promise for salvation from our enemies, the promise that God has our good in mind.

Jesus is this sign. He is this promise. He is our deliverance from sin, and our salvation from Satan’s grasps, and our promise of God’s goodness to us. So when we see the symbols of Christmas in our homes and on our streets and in the public squares this month, let us see through them to the impossible sign that God promised, the glory of a helpless baby who would be our great Deliverer.

Something that really touched my Heart that I wanted to share. by Rachel Jankovic

Motherhood Is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank)

A few years ago, when I just had four children and when the oldest was still three, I loaded them all up to go on a walk. After the final sippy cup had found a place and we were ready to go, my two-year-old turned to me and said, “Wow! You have your hands full!”

She could have just as well said, “Don’t you know what causes that?” or “Are they all yours?!”

Everywhere you go, people want to talk about your children. Why you shouldn’t have had them, how you could have prevented them, and why they would never do what you have done. They want to make sure you know that you won’t be smiling anymore when they are teenagers. All this at the grocery store, in line, while your children listen.
A Rock-Bottom Job?

The truth is that years ago, before this generation of mothers was even born, our society decided where children rank in the list of important things. When abortion was legalized, we wrote it into law.

Children rank way below college. Below world travel for sure. Below the ability to go out at night at your leisure. Below honing your body at the gym. Below any job you may have or hope to get. In fact, children rate below your desire to sit around and pick your toes, if that is what you want to do. Below everything. Children are the last thing you should ever spend your time doing.

If you grew up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood, to think like a free Christian woman about your life, your children. How much have we listened to partial truths and half lies? Do we believe that we want children because there is some biological urge, or the phantom “baby itch”? Are we really in this because of cute little clothes and photo opportunities? Is motherhood a rock-bottom job for those who can’t do more, or those who are satisfied with drudgery? If so, what were we thinking?
It’s Not a Hobby

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

Our culture is simply afraid of death. Laying down your own life, in any way, is terrifying. Strangely, it is that fear that drives the abortion industry: fear that your dreams will die, that your future will die, that your freedom will die—and trying to escape that death by running into the arms of death.
Run to the Cross

But a Christian should have a different paradigm. We should run to to the cross. To death. So lay down your hopes. Lay down your future. Lay down your petty annoyances. Lay down your desire to be recognized. Lay down your fussiness at your children. Lay down your perfectly clean house. Lay down your grievances about the life you are living. Lay down the imaginary life you could have had by yourself. Let it go.

Death to yourself is not the end of the story. We, of all people, ought to know what follows death. The Christian life is resurrection life, life that cannot be contained by death, the kind of life that is only possible when you have been to the cross and back.

The Bible is clear about the value of children. Jesus loved them, and we are commanded to love them, to bring them up in the nurture of the Lord. We are to imitate God and take pleasure in our children.
The Question Is How

The question here is not whether you are representing the gospel, it is how you are representing it. Have you given your life to your children resentfully? Do you tally every thing you do for them like a loan shark tallies debts? Or do you give them life the way God gave it to us—freely?

It isn’t enough to pretend. You might fool a few people. That person in line at the store might believe you when you plaster on a fake smile, but your children won’t. They know exactly where they stand with you. They know the things that you rate above them. They know everything you resent and hold against them. They know that you faked a cheerful answer to that lady, only to whisper threats or bark at them in the car.

Children know the difference between a mother who is saving face to a stranger and a mother who defends their life and their worth with her smile, her love, and her absolute loyalty.
Hands Full of Good Things

When my little girl told me, “Your hands are full!” I was so thankful that she already knew what my answer would be. It was the same one that I always gave: “Yes they are—full of good things!”

Live the gospel in the things that no one sees. Sacrifice for your children in places that only they will know about. Put their value ahead of yours. Grow them up in the clean air of gospel living. Your testimony to the gospel in the little details of your life is more valuable to them than you can imagine. If you tell them the gospel, but live to yourself, they will never believe it. Give your life for theirs every day, joyfully. Lay down pettiness. Lay down fussiness. Lay down resentment about the dishes, about the laundry, about how no one knows how hard you work.

Stop clinging to yourself and cling to the cross. There is more joy and more life and more laughter on the other side of death than you can possibly carry alone.

Rachel Jankovic is a wife, homemaker, and mother. She is the author of “Loving the Little Years” and blogs at Femina. Her husband is Luke, and they have five children: Evangeline (5), Daphne (4), Chloe (2), Titus (2), and Blaire (5 months).


I have not had a great day today. In fact I have been in a lot of difficult situations where people react aggresively towards me and want to force their opinions onto me regarding certain issues. I really feel as if I’m being attacked from all sides and I’m not sure weather I should retaliate and stand firm for what I believe is right or if I should be quiet and just accept what is said, turn around and continue with life. One issue specifically is about my teenage daughter wanting to walk in this world and me trying to keep her safe. I do trust that the Lord will do a great work in her but I cannot sit iddlely by and wait for this to happen. I have a duty as mother toward her to warn her. This feeling of despiration inside me is threatening my peace, my joy and my trust. I asked the Lord to give me something to settle this battle within me and this is what He gave me.

Fathers, Pray for Future Generations

Jun 19, 2011 03:45 pm | by Josh Etter
Original

Charles Spurgeon writes:

May our own dear ones be among the better generation who shall continue in the Lord’s ways, obedient to the end. And their seed shall be established before thee. God does not neglect the children of his servants. It is the rule that Abraham’s Isaac should be the Lord’s, that Isaac’s Jacob should be beloved of the Most High, and that Jacob’s Joseph should find favour in the sight of God. Grace is not hereditary, yet God loves to be served by the same family time out of mind, even as many great landowners feel a pleasure in having the same families as tenants upon their estates from generation to generation. Here is Zion’s hope, her sons will build her up, her offspring will restore her former glories. We may, therefore, not only for our own sakes, but also out of love to the church of God, daily pray that our sons and daughters may be saved, and kept by divine grace even unto the end—established before the Lord.

Excerpted from The Treasury of David (Psalm 102:28).

Thank You Lord!!


Certain pieces really make my hart sad with joy. It is a feeling I cannot describe to people but I am so glad that I cry. I feel a sadness that I cannot describe. All the pieces I put in my blog, makes me feel this way.

There Is Only One Liberator
by Jonathan Parnell

Our options are endless if we want to evade the reality of our brokenness, but there is only one liberator. John Piper explains in this video excerpt:

. . . All of us are prone to say “I don’t need you, Jesus. I’ve have my ethnicity,” or “I don’t need you, Jesus, I’ve got my religion, I’ve got my God,” or “I don’t need you, Jesus, I’ve got my moral superiority, I’m just an average Joe keeping my nose clean, surely not like some of these rascals sleeping around.”

None of those work.

One thing works: “If the Son sets you free, you will be freed indeed.”

That’s it. That’s the message of the text. There are all kinds of escapes, there are all kinds of evasions, but there’s only one liberator.

And he’s here in this room, in fact he’s wherever you are, moving towards you saying, “Whoever comes to me I will not cast him out. Whoever comes and drinks I will satisfy him and in him I will become rivers of living water. . .”

No More Shame

Once again this next insert touched my heart. There are so many people walking around, hurting, thinking that they can never be saved because of passed sins. Jesus saved us. He did it, completely. Our sins are forgiven, if we believe in Him.

No More Scarlet Letters

Jun 10, 2011 06:00 am | by Jon Bloom
Original

W. Somerset Maugham once said, “There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror.”

With networks and newspapers broadcasting another New York Congressman’s sordid sexual secrets, and the public in a swirl of surprise and horror (and prurient fascination), it’s good for us to ponder again the profound grace that Jesus Christ extends to sinners like us, guilty of shameful things.

History has tended to give Mary Magdalene a reputation as a woman with a sordid sexual past. We’re not sure why. The Bible tells us little about Mary other than she had seven demons cast out of her, was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, saw where Jesus was buried, and saw the resurrected Jesus.

Maybe Mary’s rep is a bad rap. Maybe she’s been unjustly identified as the immoral woman in Luke 7. Maybe she’s borne the disrepute of her (likely) hometown, Magdala. Or maybe those strange early Christian apocryphal writings are to blame.

Or maybe Mary really did have a past. That’s the way I lean. It seems reasonable that a vague remnant of what was once her public shame lingers to highlight her Savior’s grace.

If that’s true, consider this: Mary Magdalene was the first person Jesus appeared to after being raised. The first person! Not his mother, not Peter, but a formerly immoral, demonized woman.

No wonder the disciples doubted Mary at first when she told them Jesus had appeared to her. You mean he appeared to Mary first and not us? Why would he do that?

Why indeed. I think that’s precisely what we’re supposed to ask.

I think one reason is similar to why God included Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba in the lineage of the Messiah and why the first recorded person to whom Jesus self-disclosed as the Messiah was the woman at the well: to illustrate that Jesus came to take away the horrible shame of sin and bestow the greatest honor on undeserving sinners. Jesus removed the scarlet letters these women carried around and made them heirs of the kingdom—daughters of the King!

And if your trust is in Jesus, that’s exactly what he does for you. Before God you wear no scarlet letter for any past sin anymore. Jesus takes away your sin. It is gone. You are clean. There is no lingering surprise and horror before God’s throne. Only honor bestowed on the children of God.

Five Statements That Summarize Christian Hedonism
John Piper writes:

The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God.
The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it expands to meet the needs of others in the manifold ways of love.
To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.

The Long Walk

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until that Day.

Mark 4:13-20
13 “But if you can’t understand this story, how will you understand all the others I am going to tell? 14 The farmer I talked about is the one who brings God’s message to others. 15 The seed that fell on the hard path represents those who hear the message, but then Satan comes at once and takes it away from them. 16 The rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. 17 But like young plants in such soil, their roots don’t go very deep. At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word. 18 The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for nice things, so no crop is produced. 20 But the good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s message and produce a huge harvest-thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.

When we receive the Word of God into our hearts, it can be life changing. But Christ warns us that Satan will try to steal from us what God has planted. The first thing he will do is immediately bring doubt and confusion into your mind. The second thing Satan will do is bring a circumstance that will discourage you. If you don’t recognize what is happening and fight against him, the Word planted in your heart will not grow and you will stumble over and over again without ever receiving what God has promised. Christ is warning us that Satan comes with lies and half truths and discouraging circumstances to keep us from receiving the promises of God. If you are not growing in your walk with Christ look at what is happening with the Word planted in your heart. Don’t let Satan steal it from you.

Receiving the Word of God into your life is more than just reading, it is speaking the Word, meditating on the Word and then to acting on the Word. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 that he was “confident in this very thing:–this one thing, this one truth– that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until that Day.” The Word of God in your life and brought to the harvest stage of producing “seed” will change your life. But you must take that Word and speak it, meditate on it and then act on it for it to grow and produce the crop that God intended. But while it is growing in your heart, Satan will try to steal it from you. Beware of him and rebuke him in the name of Jesus and take what God intended for you. God has so much He wants you to know and so much He wants you to receive, but you need to keep His Word on your lips, in you mind and in your actions before it can grow into the promise.

David Powlison has written that “the only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.”

Here are four examples from the Bible of how we actively forget God:

By forgetting God’s past works of salvation: “then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:12).
By believing lies instead of the Word of God: “This is your lot, the portion I have measured out to you, declares the Lord, because you have forgotten me and trusted in lies” (Jeremiah 13:25).
By going after other lovers: “And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord” (Hosea 2:13).
By being satisfied with the temporary need of the hour: “but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me” (Hosea 13:6).

Your Heart: a Liar!

This next little titbit I read on the desiringgod blog. It really touched my heart because I feel my heart telling all sorts of things I really want to hear but my Jesus heart tells me that they are lies. This was an Eye opener for me.

THE HEART
Princess Diana once said, “Only do what your heart tells you.”

This is a creed believed by millions. It’s a statement of faith in one of the great pop cultural myths of the Western world. It’s a gospel proclaimed in many of our stories, movies, and songs.

It states that your heart is a compass inside of you that will point you to your own true north if you can just see it clearly. Your heart is a true guide that will lead you to happiness if you can just tune into it. We are lost, and our heart will save us.

This sounds so simple and liberating. It’s tempting to believe.

Until you consider that your heart has sociopathic tendencies.

Think about it for a moment. What does your heart tell you?

No need to answer. Your heart has likely said things today that you would not wish to repeat. As Jesus said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

No one lies to you more than your own heart. It’s true. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

If our hearts are compasses, they are like Jack Sparrow’s. If our hearts are guides, they are Gothels. They are not benevolent, they are pathologically selfish. If we only do what our hearts tell us we will pervert and impoverish every desire, every beauty, every person, every wonder and joy. We will try to consume them for self-glory and self-indulgence.

Our hearts will not save us. We need to be saved from our hearts.

That’s why Jesus did not say, “Let not your hearts be troubled, just believe your hearts.” He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Our hearts were not designed to be gods, they were designed to believe in God. And we are never happier than when we do. The fallen human heart rejects God, believing it can “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Jesus came to pay for that horrific, treacherous sin in full and to give us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26).

That means, in this age, Christians have the strange experience of living with two hearts. And both speak to us. One we must reject and the other we must trust. We must be discerning. We know the corrupt heart is speaking when it says, “Believe what I promise you and you will be happy.” We know the new heart is speaking when it says, “Believe what Jesus promises and he will make you happy forever.

Therefore, only do what your heart tells you if it is telling you to believe in Jesus.