Disturb Us, Lord — A Prayer

Disturb Us, Lord
—Sir Frances Drake (ca. 1540-1596)

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Be Still, and Know that I Am God

“Be still, and know that I am God.” — Psalm 46:10

Many times throughout my years as a follower of Christ I’ve heard this verse given the application of quieting oneself, meditating on God, and sometimes, listening for his “still small voice.” I’ve also seen it used as a proof text for the New Age practice of contemplative prayer. On the surface, some of these things seem like good things to do. But is that what Psalm 46:10 is commanding?

As with any verse (or part of a verse in this case), we have to read it in context. Too often, a verse is found and ripped from its context to be used in ways that are completely foreign to the way the original author meant it or the original audience understood it. I think Psalm 46:10 is one of the most misused verses in the Bible.

Let’s take this verse in context by reading the entire psalm.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

It seems evident from the context that the command from God to “Be still, and know that I am God,” is in the context of warfare; it has a military context. It appears that he’s speaking to the heathen nations around Israel, commanding them to stop their striving against him and know, to their terror, that he is God. Another possible option is that he’s speaking to Israel, commanding that they stop striving to seek after military help from the nations around them.

Either way, taken in context, there’s nothing here about quieting ourselves before our Maker and meditating on him. There’s certainly nothing here regarding such dangerous practices as contemplative or “listening” prayer. To use Psalm 46:10 as biblical proof for these things is mishandling the Word and should be avoided by true Christians. When we see this verse used like that, we should sound the alarm, warning those misusing it and those listening to its misuse that such abuses are dangerous.

“Another Jesus” Calling — A Book Review

Well, I’ve never actually written a book review, but this book is one I want to tell you about. It’s Warren B. Smith’s “Another Jesus” Calling — How False Christs Are Entering the Church Through Contemplative Prayer.

In 2004, Sarah Young wrote a book titled, Jesus Calling. It’s a book that was inspired by the New Age book God Calling, written in the 1930s by two anonymous women who called themselves the Two Listeners. The identity of the authors of these books is further complicated in that, in both books, the Two Listeners and Sarah Young claim that the messages in their books came from Jesus Christ. They would sit quietly, pencils and pen in hand, and listen for what Jesus would say to them. Then they would write down what they heard.

“Another Jesus” Calling was written by Warren B. Smith to warn readers about Sarah Young’s book and its “Jesus.” Smith’s book is a must read for any Christian concerned about the dangers of New Age philosophy finding its way into the Western church today, and for any Christian who is serious about biblical discernment.

Here’s a link to the book page on Amazon.

Update Aug 24, 2014: Here is an excellent review of the book by a real book reviewer, on Sojourner Between Worlds.

The Edge — A Song

The Edge
—by Michael Card

Most of us will never know
How dark this world can seem
When life becomes more nightmare than a dream.
So to all of you who have survived
A visit to the edge,
I trust that you will understand this pledge.

I promise I will always leave
The darkness for the light.
I swear by all that’s holy
I will not give up the fight.
I’ll drink down death like water
Before I ever come again
To that dark place where I might make
The choice for life to end.

I’ve found that as I traveled
Through the inscape of my life
That mountaintops make valleys in between.
And when that nameless sadness
Like a cloud comes over me
I look back on all the brightness I have seen.

I promise I will always leave
The darkness for the light.
I swear by all that’s holy
I will not give up the fight.
I’ll drink down death like water
Before I ever come again
To that dark place where I might make
The choice for life to end.

I realize that though my world
Might seem so torn apart,
Most often it is joy that breaks the heart.
And that I am the richest man
Though I must beg for bread,
For the very One who might condemn
Has called me friend instead.

I promise I will always leave
The darkness for the light.
I swear by all that’s holy
I will not give up the fight.
I’ll drink down death like water
Before I ever come again
To that dark place where I might make
The choice for life to end.

I will always leave the darkness for the light.
I will not give up the fight.

When Funny’s No Longer Funny

Along with most of America, I was shocked and saddened to hear of Robin Williams’ suicide. While growing up, my favorite comedian was Steve Martin, mainly due to the influence of my brother. But for most of my adult life, I’ve maintained the opinion that the funniest man alive, maybe ever, was Robin Williams. It seemed that he could turn anything into a laugh at will. A great example of his ability to improvise on demand was when he was interviewed by James Lipton on Inside the Actor’s Studio. Here’s a short clip from that interview (rated PG).

Having had a full day now to think on the events surrounding the life and death of Robin Williams, I realize that it shouldn’t be surprising to me that a man like that, a man who was almost defined by laughter, could struggle with such severe depression and sadness. He was a very funny person to be sure, and I am sure he got some pleasure out of being funny, but he was still a person. As a person, he had the same innate needs that every person has: the need to be loved and respected, the need to feel valuable and valued, the need for a sense of purpose. Add to that the chemical and electrical makeup of the brain, and you could end up with a powder keg.

I didn’t know Robin Williams personally, so I don’t know exactly what his inner struggles were, but it’s very clear he had them. And we all do, don’t we, to one degree or another? I’ve never been clinically depressed, but I’ve been depressed. I understand, though to a lesser extent, that feeling of pervasive sadness. I understand the extra effort that it takes to simply move, to stand up, to even get out of bed. When you’re depressed, life just completely sucks and, it seems, nothing is ever going to change that.

I’ve never been clinically depressed, but I know people what have been. I know people who struggle with clinical depression now. I’ve known people who, like Robin Williams, have lost their fight with clinical depression. I’ve even known Christians who have and are struggling with it. I’ve also know people, ironically people who have never had to deal with this problem, say that a Christian should never have to deal with depression. They say that all a person has to do is to turn their problems over to Jesus and all will be well. I think that’s foolish.

So, how are Christians to view this issue? I think there are a few things that we should keep in mind.

1. Depression is not to be looked upon in disgust.
We need to understand, and help the church understand, that depression is not some sort of spiritual lethargy or a sign of a faith deficiency, nor is it a sin. We need to break the stigma of depression that exists in the church today. It’s because of this stigma that a lot of people who have real struggles with depression (and other mental disorders) do not feel free to open up and reveal their struggle to others in the church. The one place that a struggling person should feel welcome and comfortable more than any other is the church of Jesus Christ.

2. Depression is not fixed with pithy statements.
When someone opens up to us about their depression, we need to keep from tossing out pious platitudes that are well-meaning, but completely unhelpful. “Just pray more.” “Have more faith.” “Doesn’t Jesus make you happy?” “Be anxious for nothing.” These knee-jerk statements can do a lot more harm than good.

We should strive to understand and sympathize as much as possible. We need to try to assure our friend that we are there for them. We need to pray for them and with them. We need to help them get help.

3. Depression is not brought under control alone.
If you are dealing with depression, please let someone know. Go to someone you trust and tell them about it. Ask that friend to help you to find a professional who is trained and licensed to deal with depression. Then, with that professional, you can decide the best course of action for you. Perhaps it’s just therapy. Medication may be needed. Whatever it is, you can get your depression under control with the right help.

4. Depression is not reserved for the unsaved.
Whether you’re depressed or not, we need to remember that there is nothing “un-christian” about depression, about seeking help, about therapy, or about needing medication to help deal with life’s issues.

I am not even close to being a counselor. I have no experience at all in dealing with clinical depression myself or in helping others with it. But I have had people very close to me suffer from severe mental illness. I have seen the hell and the damage that it causes. It’s a very serious issue and it needs to be talked about and de-stigmatized.

The Bible has a lot to say about depression.

The Psalmist says that “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” in Psalm 34.
Jesus promises rest to those who come to him.
Peter assures us that, even in the midst of our troubles, God cares for us.
There are many other such assurances of God’s peace, comfort, and healing.

Be assured, however, that there are no quick fixes or easy answers in the Bible to the problem of depression, just as there are no easy answers to most of life’s struggles. We’re living in a fallen world and the effects of that fall permeate every area of life. But, if we belong to him, God does promise to be with us. With his help, and the help of those he brings into our lives, he does promise not to give more to us than He can handle.

Be Thou My Vision — A Great Piece for Choir; A Great Message

Yesterday was the last choir performance for the season for the Lake Pointe Bible Church choir. It is so much fun singing in the choir. We performed Be Thou My Vision.

As I’m learning to sing in a choir, I’m finding that I spend most of my preparation time learning the notes, the rhythm, the ups and downs, and the flow of the music, but I spend very little time on the words. I’ve learned this season that the words are more important than the rest, really. It’s the message of the song that we’re trying to communicate, and that comes through the words.

Take a couple of minutes and read through the words of Be Thou My Vision. Read them slowly and really think about what they mean. It’s a touching song, to say the least. It is to me, anyway.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

If you’re interested, here’s the arrangement that we sang yesterday. This is not us singing, mind you; it’s the example of what it’s supposed to sound like. I think we did pretty well, but I’m not going to claim that we sounded like this recording.

By the way… Is It Illegal to Follow Evidence No Matter Where It Leads?

According to an article on upi.com last week, it’s now illegal for public schools in the UK to teach Creationism as a valid alternative to evolution when it comes to the origins of the universe. I’ll leave you to the article itself, but I want to make sure you see one very interesting line in it.

The funding agreement notes that the discussion of beliefs about the origin of the Earth including creationism are permitted in religious education “as long as it is not presented as a valid alternative to established scientific theory.”

What that means is that what is considered the established scientific theory cannot even be questioned, no matter what evidence there may be in favor of other theories such as Creationism. This is nothing less than policing thought and illegitimate indoctrination. “Only one theory is allowed,” the UK government is now saying, “ours or nothing at all.”

How long until the US follows suit?

Here’s the article.