Are you tired, anxious and depressed?

Are you tired? I know I am. The last two or three years have been difficult to say the least. I was recently reading a report that said that the number one mental health problem in the world today is anxiety. Somehow I’m not surprised. There is a lot going on that would create anxiety in people. Wars, rumors of wars, pestilence, famine, inflation, and earthquakes, are just a few of the things happening worldwide. The headlines just seem to get worse with each passing month. If you read the Bible however, Jesus warned us that these things would happen in the last days (Matthew 24). The whole chapter reads like one news headline after another. You see, God is not surprised by anything that is happening on the earth. He knows the end from the beginning and He told us what was coming, so that we don’t have to be afraid. 

I know that sounds great in theory, but how do we actually practice not being filled with fears and anxiety? How do we live our lives with peaceful hearts, instead of fearful ones? Proverbs 12:25 tells us that “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad”. How can we get a “good word”, so that our hearts will once again be glad? How do we learn to overcome anxiety so that we are not depressed? Let me share some thoughts with you  that have helped me during these difficult times.

As I was reading my Bible this morning, I noticed something I’d never seen before. In the book of Revelation, Jesus writes a letter through the Apostle John to seven churches. These seven letters were written to actual churches that existed at the time that John was alive. They also represent the seven church ages. It is the last two churches that I want to focus on, the church of Philadelphia and the church of Laodicea. Many people, myself included believe that these two churches represent the end time churches right before the tribulation starts. 

To the church of Philadelphia, Jesus says this: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” (Revelation 3:8) What popped off the page at me this morning was something that Jesus said to this church: “you have a little strength”. In the English, that word strength doesn’t mean much, but in the Greek, it means a lot. It is actually the word “dynamis”, which means power, wonders, works or miracles,  That word is first used in the Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:13, “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” In other words, that little word that we translate as “strength” in Revelation 3:8, actually means the miracle working power of God that shows signs and wonders. 

So why does this church only have a little power or strength? Perhaps past generations would not have understood why, but living in our world today, looking at today’s headlines, it is not difficult to understand. The things going on in this world, are energy sapping, to say the least. It is easy to lose our strength and become hopeless, afraid and even depressed. It is only the Holy Spirit who can give us the supernatural strength or power to get us through each day. Only He can encourage us, strengthen us, comfort us and help us.

It reminds me of the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness and they had to get up each morning and collect Manna, but only enough for that day. They were not allowed to collect more than one days worth. Why? Because God was teaching them to trust Him for provision, each and every morning. I think during these difficult, last days, the Lord is teaching us to get up and collect “spiritual manna” each and every morning as well. 

But what does the church of Laodicea have to do with any of this? This is the church that Jesus wants to vomit out of His mouth. Remember? They make Him so sick, that He wants to throw up. Why? He tells us in Revelation 3:17. “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”. They don’t need a thing, these people. They have accumulated all kinds of wealth, and consequently, feel very secure in their lives. Do they have any strength? From the sounds of it, they have lots. But it’s not the kind of strength that will do them any good, because their strength lies in themselves and what they have accomplished in their lives. They have no need to get up each morning and collect Manna. They have plenty of leeks, onions and garlic, that they have managed to bring with them from Egypt. (“We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:4-6)

I know it would be easy to look back at the way things were, not that long ago, and long for those days. But the world has changed and God is telling us not to be like the lukewarm church of Laodicea. He wants us to get up each morning and collect Manna, not the kind that Israel collected, but spiritual Manna. He doesn’t want us to find our comfort in those things that we have accomplished or attained ourselves. He is asking us to sit and read His word, listen for His voice, feel His presence, and regain our strength from Him, for the day.

I have learned that I have to search for that Manna each and every day. What I read or heard or even understood yesterday, doesn’t really help me to face today’s issues. Paul tells us the secret in 2 Corinthians 12:9 when he tells us what the Lord told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” The word used for strength is that same word used in Revelation, dynamis. His power, his strength, is actually made perfect or complete, in my weakness. When I come to Him and allow Him to strengthen me, I am no longer relying on myself, but on Him.

If you don’t know Jesus, but you’ve made it this far, then let me tell you something that He said to those people in Laodicea that He wanted to vomit out. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) Jesus is standing at the door of your heart right now, and He is asking you to let Him in. Will you repent of your sins, accept Him as God’s sacrifice for your sins, and allow Him to come into your life? He is waiting, because He loves you. If you decide to let Him in, get a Holy Bible and start spending time with Him each day. He will strengthen you to overcome.

What is the Whole Counsel of God?

If you’ve ever watched murder mysteries, (I confess that I used to be addicted to them) you might have noticed something. Sometimes it’s not what people say, it’s what they don’t say. What I mean by that is that you have to look at the context. People say certain things during certain events. It’s just human nature.  If you are lying to someone, there are things you won’t say, that someone who is telling the truth, would. Have I confused you yet? It took me a while to understand this as well.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. Many years ago, we had a neighbor who had purchased a beautiful black lab puppy. Sadly, this puppy was left outside, chained to the deck with no place to sleep or hide from the elements. His kennel was covered with an inch of ice rain because it was winter. Once a day the owner would come out and give him a bowl of food. Other than that, he was ignored. After watching this unfold for months, my daughters and I couldn’t handle the abuse anymore. We stole the dog. We took that puppy and brought him to a dog shelter in another county, ensuring he would not be found by this man. The next day, when the owner discovered the dog was gone, he came to my house and demanded to know if I had his dog. We had been babysitting another black lab puppy from a different neighbor and he thought it was his dog. I told him no. Long story short, it occurred to me after the confrontation, that I never told him I was sorry for his loss and that I hoped he would find his dog. It wasn’t what I said, it was what I didn’t say to him that mattered.

So what does my story have to do with the whole counsel of God? Paul tells us in Acts 20:26-27 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” What Paul was in effect saying is that he had not shrunk back from telling people everything, not just some things. He was not picking and choosing which parts of the gospel he taught, he was not leaving some things out because they are difficult to understand, controversial or perhaps didn’t fit with his own understanding of things. Or, perhaps worse, he didn’t teach only those things that built up his own ministry. His goal, his only goal was to teach God’s people everything that he knew to be true, from the beginning to the end. The New Living Translation puts it this way: “for I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know”.

When I read that sentence, I have to ask, what is this “all” that God wants me to know? 

The answer to that question is probably trickier than you think. Most churches, at least the ones that still believe in salvation through Christ alone, teach only about our salvation. They have turned the good news into something about you and me. Although there is no doubt that Christ died for our sins so that we could be saved from eternal damnation, is that really “all” that God wants me to know?

How about creation? Did God create the world in 7 days as Genesis tells us, or did we evolve over millions of years? 

How about the fall of Adam and Eve? Are they a real couple that sinned and were banished from the garden of Eden or were they just a myth, a legend of old? 

And then there is the nation of Israel. Did God make a covenant with Abraham, for eternity or was it just for a season until Jesus could come through the Jews? Did God actually “replace” Israel with the church because they rejected His Son?

What do we know and understand about Jesus? Is He the Son of God, the promised Messiah who came to take away the sins of the world? Or is he just another prophet, a good teacher, a kind man who helped people? 

Is Jesus alive today? Did He rise from the dead, or is He still in the grave?

Is there such a thing as the rapture? Will the church, the real church of believers, not just church goers, be taken to meet Jesus in the air, in the clouds, and be taken to heaven?

How about the book of Revelation? Is it just an allegory or is it a prophecy of end time events?

If Revelation is true then what does that mean for our world? Is God going to judge the nations for their wickedness and rejection of Him?

Will Jesus physically return to the Mount of Olives, to Zion, and set up His kingdom for a thousand years, ruling and reigning on this earth from Jerusalem, Israel.

I could go on with more details but I want you to notice something about all my questions. They start with the book of Genesis, the beginning, and they end with Revelation, the last book in the Bible, or the end. 

Paul talked about every one of these questions in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, every single book in the Old Testament also speaks of these questions. The Bible, from beginning to end, speaks of creation, sin, redemption, salvation and the first coming of Jesus to earth and finally, the rapture of the church, the restoration of Israel and the second coming of Christ. 

The Bible tells us about the Kingdom of Jesus. Salvation is a part of that “all”, but the whole story, the whole counsel, all the things that God wants us to know, encompass the entire book. It is a story from beginning to end about God. Not about us. Not about the Gentiles. Not just about salvation. The Bible is about the Creator God, the King of kings and Lord of lords and His plans for this world and for eternity. 

Why are these questions that I asked so important? I will give you a brief answer, although there are no doubt books that have been written. Let’s start at the beginning.

If God did not create the world, none of it matters. If He didn’t do it in 7 literal days, then there would not be an Adam and Eve. Without Adam and Eve, there is no fall of man, whereby sin and death entered the world. Without the fall, there is no need for redemption. Therefore, Jesus did not need to come and die for our sins. Even if He did come and die, if He didn’t rise from the dead, then there is no resurrection from the dead and no hope for eternity. If He has rejected Israel as the chosen people and replaced them with the church, then God does not keep His promises. If He doesn’t keep His promises to them, He won’t keep them to you and I either and He is therefore a liar. If God is a liar, then He can’t be trusted for the future. If He doesn’t rapture the church before the tribulation, then He lied when He told us that we are not destined for wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9) If He is a liar then He won’t come back to earth physically and set up His kingdom. If there is no kingdom of God, then we of all people on earth are without hope. We are living a lie, a delusion. A very sad delusion.

Do you see where I am going here? It all hangs together. It is the “whole counsel of God”. All of it matters. And if we do not understand all of it, then apostasy can creep into our thinking and our beliefs and pretty soon, all kinds of false teaching begins to twist our understanding. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 24:4 “Take heed that no one deceives you”, when they asked Him about the end times. There is all kinds of deception in the church, all kinds of false teaching being taught by false teachers. Paul called them “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1) I will go back to my story of the dog. Sometimes, it is not what they are teaching you that is a lie. It is what they are not teaching you that matters. Protect yourself from deception. Read the Bible. All of it. 

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