Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Under the Juniper Tree Season Two Preview

The second season of the podcast is going to be beginning soon. I want to thank those who listen to the podcast for their support. It means so much to me that you are willing to take time out of your day to listen. It is my prayers that the podcast is able to edify those who are suffering and to help those who do not. I also want to thank the Light Network for the opportunity that has been given to me. It has been a joy for me to be able to host this podcast.

I would like to take a moment to expound upon what we hope to cover in the podcast this season. There are a number of topics I hope to cover in order to edify, encourage, and even shed new light on study material for Christians. These are not in order of how they will appear on the podcast.

The season will begin with a study of the greatest example of one suffering from mental illness in the Bible. Elijah (1 Kings 19) gives us a view of an individual who shows the signs of depression. This chapter also provides us with an opportunity to look at how God handled the situation.

Lately, I have been doing more study of the Psalms and have grown to appreciate them more than I used to. One episode of the podcast will focus on what Christians can learn from the Psalms if we would just take the time to study them. We will also look at a Psalm or two to drive the point home.

There is a question that exists and persists. Is it wrong for a Christian to take medication for a mental illness? We will spend a little time discussing the topic and if all goes well I might have a guest on the show. There are also plans to review a book written on the subject of depression and the Bible.

Lastly, I want to take the time to discuss a topic that I think really needs to be discussed. It can be difficult to be a single Christian. There is so much of a focus on being the proper husband, wife, and family. The single Christian is sometimes left out in the cold. We want to discuss that topic.

Finally, I hope that we can discuss a group of individuals who (in my estimation) is usually the most silent in the realm of mental illnesses. The leadership within the congregation may be afraid to ask for prayers or to discuss the matter. Brethren, we need to understand that Preachers and Elders suffer as well.

I look forward to the coming season and hope that you will join me Under the Juniper Tree.

Be sure to check all the podcasts at The Light Network! If you have any questions or comments about Under the Juniper Tree you can e-mail me at andrew@thelightnetwork.tv

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thoughts from a 5k

On May 15th, 2015, Andrew Nelson, a good friend and preacher at the Homerville church of Christ, and I ran a 5k. This was my first 5k and I honestly did not know what to expect. There was some nervousness and honestly, my goal was to finish the race without having to be carted off. Thankfully, I was able to meet it. While in the middle of this race, there were a number of biblical thoughts that occurred to me. I would like to briefly share them.

Every Christian is Running the Race.

There are various sections of scripture which compare this life to a race that is run (Heb. 12:1-3, 1 Cor. 9:24-27). All of us are striving to complete the race that is before us. Now, this race is not like others. Paul wrote that many run in the race but only one is able to receive the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). The race we are involved in is a bit different. There will not be one winner but all those who are able to complete it will receive a prize. Furthermore, the prize in other races are corruptible in nature but the one we strive for is eternal life (1 Cor. 9:25). No one is exempt from this race and we all must compete.

We Must Train for the Race.

While I am not in the physical condition I would like to be, I am not as bad off as I was two years ago. Two years ago I made the decision that I wanted to run a 5k. There was a certain amount of training I had to complete before I could do that. Two years have passed and I have lost around thirty pounds, added muscle to my body, and am in better physical condition than I was. Had I not done these things I surely would not have been able to finish. In order to run the race set before us, we really should shed the “…weight of sin that does so easily beset us…” (Heb. 12:1). Excess weight is going to slow us down. That is exactly what sin will do. It is important that we also condition ourselves so that we might be able to run. Paul said that he “buffeted” his body (1 Cor. 9:27). The phrase has ties to the training and hardships a boxer would endure to strengthen his body for competition. We, too, must take the time to strengthen our spiritual bodies through study, prayer, and fellowship with our fellow Christians.

We Have Encouragement in this Race.

I am ashamed to admit this but about halfway through the race, I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop running, start walking, and who cares if everyone finished before me. I was out of breath, my calves were getting ready to put a hit out on me, and all I could think of was how dumb it was for me to enter this race. Every time I stopped, there would be a voice calling out from in front of me. “Hey, we’re just a little over halfway done. Look how far we’ve made it! Let’s keep running!” It was Andrew Nelson encouraging me to keep running. I can honestly say that he kept me running. I also drew encouragement from the fact that people were standing by the side of the road to encourage others to keep running. “You’re almost there!” “The finish line is up ahead!” “You’re doing great!” These were all lines I heard from the sidelines. It was masterful of God to inspire Paul to compare our lives as Christians as a race for this reason. It is easy to get discouraged when you feel things are not going as you would like. It is even easier to say, “I give up.” Thankfully, we have many encouragers in the church to help us keep going. We can look to those who finished the race long before us (Heb. 12:1). They were able to finish. We can as well. We also have each other to look to for comfort. We provoke each other to gook works (Heb. 10:24). In the words of Bobby Liddel, “You can do it!”

One Day We Will Finish the Race.

One of the strangest sensations I have ever felt was seeing the finish line. There was a surge of energy through my body and I ran harder than I did throughout the entire race. 00:36:03 was my final time. I placed fourth out of everyone in my age group. For all I know, I probably finished fourth out of four but I did not care. There was joy in realizing that I finished the race set before us. One of Paul’s focuses was something he called “the mark” (Phil. 3:13-14). That was the finish line in the race of life. He pressed forward and kept running to the finish. He crossed the line shortly after penning 2 Timothy 4:6-8 as he said that he “…finished [his] course…”. We should pay attention to what was waiting for Paul at the end. Since Paul  finished the race there was waiting for him, “the crown of life” which will not just be given to Paul but to all those who are faithful Christians. Now, while I did not win a prize for running in the 5k and placing fourth, I would not have finished had I given up. If an individual chooses to give up living the Christian life, he cannot finish the race, and he cannot receive the crown given at the end of his life. Now, we do not know when we will finish but if we live our lives prepared for the end it will not matter. One day we will finish this race. Keep running. The finish is closer than we may think.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pierce My Ear

A favored song during any type of youth devotional is a song titled “Pierce My Ear.” It is a beautiful song but the meaning behind it can be lost in our current culture. One may understand this song as being important because he is singing it to the Lord but that one may not understand what the song is about. For an answer, let us delve into our Bibles into the book of Exodus. God has just revealed the Ten Commandments and is now giving other important commands concerning the treatment of slaves, one’s own family, animals, and in other areas of daily life. There are a few verses near the beginning of chapter 21 that we would want to examine.

If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever” (Exo. 21:2-6).

·         If a man became a servant, it only lasted six years (v. 2).
·         If he came in single or married, he’d leave the same way (v. 3).
·         If he takes one of his master’s female servants to be a wife, he leave alone (v. 4).

Having noticed those three points, I really want us to pay close attention to verses five and six. If the man wanted to stay with his family and master, there was a way.

1.       “I love my master.” This is mentioned first in the text and is important. For those who enjoy stating that God was cruel because He allowed (thus condoned) slavery do not pay attention to the wording here. The idea of loving one’s master would mean that the master was one who treated him properly and with great care.
2.      “I love my wife and children.” It would be proper for this man to love his wife and children enough to keep them by his side for the rest of his life.
3.      “I will not go out free.” This was not for another seven years but for the rest of his life. He was to remain a servant to this master until the day of his death.
4.      He would be brought before the judges and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul. His ear would be pierced as a sign of the covenant he has made. He would be a servant until death.

Now, what does this have to do with the song?
1.       When we sing this song, we are expressly saying, “We love The Master.”
2.      We do not wish to go free to our own desires or the desires of the world but the desire of the One Who bought us with His blood.
3.      Our desire is to have our “ears pierced.” The song expresses a desire of servitude to God until the day of our demise.

Have you had your ears pierced through obedience to the gospel of Jesus of Christ? If not obey the gospel today (Mark 16:16).

Friday, March 6, 2015

As the Deer

As The Deer

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.

This is the first verse of the song “As The Deer.” It is a beautiful song often sung at youth events based on Psalm 42:1. The song itself describes the longing to worship a loving God. The song describes God as strength, a shield, more valuable than any material thing, and the giver of real, long lasting joy. There is a slight problem with the song and the verse from which the song comes. Yes, both are about the strong desire to worship God. The Psalmist wrote that as a deer has a strong desire for water, he desires to worship the Lord but his reasoning is different than that of the cherished song.

My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2). The Psalmist felt as if he had been separated from God. It is thought that David may have written this Psalm while on the run from Absalom. It would make sense that David would feel as if he had been rejected by God in a situation like this. David even described his tears as his sustenance and as asking him, “Where is your God?” (v. 3). David could go back to the days when he was in Jerusalem. In those days he could go to house of worship with the faithful Jews. He could keep the holy days and lift his voice in praise and joy to his God (v. 4). Now? Now, he is on the run. The Psalm itself seems bleak as the writer felt overwhelmed by trials he faced comparing it to being swept away by a flood (v. 7). His oppressing enemies say to him, “Where is your God?” (v. 10; 43:2).

Despite these feelings the Psalmist reminds himself, “Despite how I feel God really has not left me. Why am I so downcast about this situation? I can praise God for the help He will give me!” (v. 5). Despite his sadness, he still referred to God as “my God” (v. 6, 11). The Psalmist calls upon God to judge these enemies (43:1).   He would continue to praise God despite the difficulties. Why? God will be the “health of my countenance.” Even though this writer feels that God may not be with him at the moment, he realizes that God will shine His countenance which will strengthen the Psalmist’s countenance. God is still “my God.” (Psalm 42:11; 43:5). The Psalmist knows that he will one day praise God as he did once before (Psalm 43:4) but for the moment, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

Now, I am not saying that we are in error when we sing this song. When we sing this song, are we aware of the context from whence it came? It should bring us to a further appreciation of the song. The Psalmist wrote this in a time of desperation and sadness. It was in a time when he felt far from the presence of God and he looked forward to a time when he could stand in the presence of the One he loved. This made him yearn for the Lord even more. Christians were once under the oppression of sin. This caused a separation from God. Through His Son, we could be free from the shackles of sin and in good spiritual health. We have the ability to stand in the presence of God to worship Him. We are His children and He is Our God. And that should make us long to worship Him.