One night last week, I had trouble sleeping. As the clock edged toward 1:30, I reluctantly woke John up and asked him for a pill — which took longer than it should have to do anything. As I lay there feeling exasperated, I thought of that Bing Crosby song about falling asleep counting your blessings. Those of you old enough to remember Bing Crosby will enjoy this clip from his movie, White Christmas, while you younger gals need it for a little context to this article.
All right, I decided to give it a try. Since my pastor has been preaching through Ephesians and I’ve been watching Susan Heck teach her series on Ephesians, however, I thought it would be cool if I counted my spiritual blessings that the Bible lists. Don’t get me wrong, I praise God for all the temporal blessings He’s lavished on me. But the sermons and teachings I’ve been hearing from Ephesians have given me an even broader perspective on His goodness towards me.
So I thought I’d take you through some verses in Ephesians 1 that reveal a few of the blessings that belong to every Christian.
Over the years, various people have described me as opinionated. Yes. I certainly am. And sometimes, my opinions are actually grounded in Scripture, making them right. Being opinionated, though often considered as a negative personality trait, can show that a person knows what he or she believes and why he or she believes it. Such certainty may be arrogant, or (depending on the context) it may reveal confident wisdom.
Hopefully my opinions reveal confident wisdom.
If you subscribe to The Outspoken TULIP, you may wonder why I haven’t written a word about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Surely someone as opinionated as I would have plenty to say about this situation, and would come out swinging! I usually do things like that.
The invasion does trouble me. John and I have acquaintances from Ukraine who left their parents and siblings to build a life for their children here in Massachusetts. We attended church with them, often entertained by their little boy’s absolute fascination with John. Just a year ago, the mother spent considerable time in Ukraine visiting a sick family member. So when I heard the initial rumblings about the invasion, I began praying for her family and her husband’s family.
Depression can cripple the emotions, sometimes so severely that everyday functioning becomes overwhelming. In the worst cases, a Christian suffering from depression could require Biblical Counseling with an ACBC certified counselor. We mustn’t minimize the fact that circumstances can often engender feelings of hopelessness.
In most situations, however, the average Christian has the resources to combat depression in Scripture and fellowship with other believers. She can receive Biblical counseling by reading the Word and talking with mature sisters who know how to correctly apply the Word. Scripture provides a treasure trove of passages to assist us in working through a wide range of emotional problems, but depression is especially prevalent due to the many ramifications of Covid as well as the approaching holidays. With those factors in mind, it seems appropriate to focus on how the Bible addresses this emotional battle.
To demonstrate how you can utilize the Bible during times of depression, let’s look at Psalm 42. (Click this link to read the entire psalm.)
During the last three years (even before Covid), health problems and New England winters have prevented me and John from physically attending church. Thankfully, I’m getting better, so we anticipate returning to in-person worship in April. Meanwhile, we praise God that our church streams its Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible Studies. Recently, we had to download Zoom (for my annual doctor visit), which will allow me to participate in our church’s bi-weekly women’s Bible Studies. We maintain contact with our pastor, and one of the elders (along with his wife) visits us often. This period has relegated us to the status of shut-ins.
We typically think of shut-ins as being sick, elderly and/or disabled, which is certainly true. But we should also include caregivers who must miss church in order to assist us. I guess I could write a post listing ways churches can minister to shut-ins, seeing that most of my readers probably are able-bodied. Perhaps I will write such an article in the future. But right now I want to give you tools to encourage shut-in friends and family members in taking whatever responsibility they can to serve their local churches. And I pray that any shut-in reading this post will apply the principles I lay out.
Scripture teaches that the local church is a body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:10-16). Those who are able to physically attend church, therefore, need to meet faithfully with their brothers and sisters as frequently as possible (Hebrews 10:23-25). At the same time, those of us who are (to borrow a phrase from Michelle Lesley) providentially hindered from attending church need to adopt the attitude that we’re still very much a part of the body. We possess the same privileges and responsibilities as all the other members in the congregation. Today I want to talk about some of those responsibilities.
Let’s look at a passage from 1 Corinthians 12 for a moment.
Almost everything she posted on Facebook swelled with her hatred of President Trump, though she never really explained why she felt such animosity toward him. Her relentless vitriol seemed unbecoming to a Christian. Her disagreement with his policies, though confusing to me, didn’t bother me too much, but the intensity of her anger certainly did. After weeks of scrolling though her rants about him, I finally asked if she prayed for him.
“Yes,” she answered. “I pray daily that he’ll be removed from office!”
Now we have a president that I dislike. Most of my friends share my feelings about his socialist agenda, his support of abortion and his mishandling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, I noticed an increasing number of Christians admitting to praying imprecatory prayers since his inauguration.
Imprecatory prayers are prayers for God to exercise curses or judgment on our enemies, as in Psalm 35:4-6, Psalm 55:15, and (most germane to our discussion) Psalm 109:6-20 with the particular emphasis on verse 8.
Let his days be few; Let another take his office. (NASB95)
I’ve seen several Christians lately argue that the current administration calls for imprecatory prayers, just as my Facebook friend believed the last administration called for them. I must admit that praying that way has sounded more tempting in these last 8 months. But I have to step back from my emotions and seriously question whether or not Christians really ought to use this method of prayer.
I don’t know where people get the idea that those of us with physical disabilities are especially proficient in prayer. I definitely struggle in that spiritual discipline, quite frankly. Thankfully, E-Sword, the free Bible software that I use, includes a feature that helps me organize my prayer life.
So this past year I’ve been taking time during my daily prayers to thank the Lord for saving me. In so doing, I have developed the practice of thanking each Person of the Trinity for His specific role in bringing me to that salvation. Prayers along those lines has both heightened my awareness that my salvation comes completely from God and deepened my love for the Trinity.
Writing about aspects of my prayer life makes me nervous, fearing that I come across as boastful. Believe me, I’m all too aware that I have a very long way to go before I could consider my prayer life to be exemplary! In writing this article, I most assuredly don’t mean to hold myself up as a standard to follow.
Rather, I write this article in hopes that I might honor the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while demonstrating how each of Them has worked to save me from the due penalty of my sins. Although time doesn’t allow me to give you all the Scriptures substantiating my points, perhaps this little blog post might encourage you to study the matter for yourself.
As Mom drove across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to the train station, my sister and I expressed our dread of another year-long visit from Granny. It wasn’t so much that we’d have to share a bedroom again (actually, I kind of liked that part). And I looked forward to her lemon cake.
But Granny complained. A lot. About everything. My sister and I spent that car ride telling Mom how much her complaining bothered us.
Mom validated our feelings by responding, “Granny’s not happy unless she has something to complain about.”
Lately, I’ve been struggling with the sin of complaining. I wake up complaining that it’s time to wake up. Throughout the day, I notice myself grumbling internally about various matters ranging from my assorted aches and pains to my frustrations over COVID-19 restrictions. I understand that complaining exposes a lack of trust in the Lord, not to mention an ungrateful attitude.
As I’ve mentioned before, I had started posting these Bible Studies back in January. At the end of February, a compression fracture in my back forced me to discontinue it. About a month ago, I felt well enough to resume it, and I decided to run the original installments again just to reestablish some continuity. However, I’m augmenting these reruns with a few additional comments to provide clarification or because I missed something earlier.
Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.
We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)
If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters. Therefore these two verses encourage us to pray for each other far more deeply than we generally do.
For the past few weeks I’ve been reading through Psalms. I started doing so in response to COVID-19, eager to find encouragement in these troubling times. Indeed, many of the psalms do offer wonderful comfort as they point to God’s protection of His people in all sorts of affliction.
Psalm 57 begins with David telling the Lord about some of his trials. The early verses depict his despair as circumstances close in on him. Yet almost immediately he intersperses his statements of fear with his confidence in the Lord. He knows that only God has the power to deliver him from his encroaching enemies.
David wants more than simply his own deliverance, however. He wants the world to see God’s power, and to exalt Him. Verses 9-11 close the psalm with a prayer that God would exalt Himself above the heavens and spread His glory over all the earth.
When I read this ancient hymn during my time with the Lord a few days ago, I fondly remembered singing a portion of it as a praise song in the early 1980s. How beautiful to sing such an ancient hymn that centers on the exaltation of God!
The woman we hired as our morning PCA just wasn’t working out. She was uncomfortable with how we do things because it goes against her CNA training. I guess she doesn’t understand that PCA work is different from CNA work. I think I picked up on her nervousness, which in turn made me nervous.
To make a long story short, we decided it wouldn’t work out. As she left she threatened to report us to the CNA board (she didn’t specify which she would report, but said we did something illegal). Of course the CNA board has no jurisdiction over the PCA program — so it was an empty threat. Our case manager at Boston Center for Independent Living assured us that we’ve done nothing wrong. Still, it rattled my cage a bit.
Another person interviewed for the position, so I emailed her offering her the position. Please pray that we’ll get a suitable person who will cooperate with us. We know God is sovereign, but sometimes it’s hard aligning our emotions with the Word of God. Please pray for my struggles with anxiety. Also pray that God will be glorified in this mess.