Depression and Anxiety–5 Theoretical Solutions to this Modern Day Epidemic

sad-womanAs a rather emotional person from birth and now a working mother of four children, I have struggled with anxiety and sometimes, bouts of depression for most of my life. But as I meet more mothers, both working and stay-at-home, I’m discovering that I am not the only one.  It seems that anxiety and depression is a common issue with moms. But why do we have this issue so often? And what are ways to cure it? In my research and experience, I have come across 5 different theories.

The Theories:

  1. Take pharmaceutical drugs to cure the “chemical imbalance” that supposedly is causing the anxiety or depression.
  2. Find the external cause of the anxiety and depression and get rid of it.
  3. Cope with it through exercise, rest, prayer, meditation, and change in attitude.
  4. Deal with the spiritual problem causing it, requiring major prayer and often, repentance.
  5. Approach the anxiety biologically as well, but through diet and supplements rather than pharmaceutical drugs.

All of these schools of thought depend on what one believes is the cause of the anxiety or depression. Is it a chemical imbalance? Is it a spiritual problem? Is it a natural and normal reaction to an environmental trigger or problem? Is it some other biological cause? If it is a chemical imbalance, what is the cause of that? In today’s blog I seek to explore each theory, and its strengths and weaknesses, through a Christian World View.

Pharmaceutical Drugs: As a Christian woman, I personally feel very convicted about pillstaking pharmaceutical drugs. I find the pharmaceutical industry to be corrupted and money hungry, out to make millions off our suffering and causing more suffering to us in the end. I also believe the bible when in Revelation it talks about people not willing to give up their “pharmakia” in their pain and suffering for God in the last days. Given the statistic that 48 percent of Americans are taking at least one pharmaceutical drug and the pharmaceutical industry is making 234.1 billion dollars a year off our suffering, and less people are believing in God than ever, I can’t help but see a correlation. Now I want to clarify, that I believe there are many good, God-loving Christians out there who are taking pharmaceutical drugs for one reason or another. I don’t say the above correlation to discredit your faith. I’m just making an overall correlation to Americans in general in light of the scripture.

But none-the-less, I do urge Christians out there who struggle with anxiety or depression or any other ailment for that matter, to seek other ways and practices that have been known to resolve health issues first before resorting to these drugs. God did not offer Noah and his offspring pharmaceutical drugs to help them on their journey. He offered them himself, as well as work, and of course the plants, fruit, meat, and herbs. And eventually, he gave the law and the Sabbath, and always showing us his forgiveness to those who repented.

Therefore, I personally believe that pharmaceutical drugs should be a last measure, if at all, when all else has failed and only if the safety of the person or others are in danger. But I have certainly have had anxiety episodes in my past where I have thought about taking something to fix me. And I understand deeply why so many women resort to them as they can be a fix for some. Unfortunately, however, often times the anti-anxiety pills don’t work, or only work a little, or become such a big crutch that women find it very difficult to get off of them (often times getting off makes the anxiety episodes even more extreme), and worse yet—can give a number of other effects that are no fun, including heart palpitations. I know this personally because my father suffered from anxiety after his father died. He ended up taking anti-anxiety pills for 10 years, which lead to all of the above and eventually lead to heart palpitations, which I believe caused him to drown when he was 57 years old (the same day he told my stepmother over breakfast, that he wanted to work harder at getting off of the drug when they returned from their vacation). Even so, if there is such thing as a chemical imbalance, what is causing that? Drugs don’t heal us. They only cover up the problem.

weedsRidding ourselves of External Causes:   If you can find an external cause, and after prayer have confirmed it would safe, and biblical to get rid of the trigger, then by all means do it. This is very helpful and often an easy solution to anxiety. For example—a stressful job, a poor choice in friends, or perfume sensitivity could all be perfectly fine and beneficial to get rid of, depending on the circumstance.  But the problem with this second option is that often time, there is no external cause for the anxiety. For example, within the first year after my daughter was born, I had three anxiety attacks in the middle of the grocery store. I love the grocery store! But sure enough, I’d be walking through and the chest pains would come, the heart would start racing, the sweat would break out on my forehead and meanwhile my mind would be perfectly calm and wondering what the heck was happening with my body. So what am I supposed to do, get rid of my wifely and motherly duties? If my husband is willing, great.  But what about my other bouts of anxiety? Or what if he is not willing to take the grocery shopping duties? Am I to get rid of him? Is that really the effective answer?  If our loved ones are the source of our anxiety, then we should work on some problem-solving and communication methods to help that relationship out.  Otherwise, other options might be necessary.

bible-readingLiving Life Abundant:   There are strategies to help us build strength and endurance when facing difficult situations–especially prayer, rest, and exercise. God gave us himself; he gave us work; and he gave us the Sabbath. This means these are important. God knows best! I have certainly found much relief from attacks when I have sought God, gone to bed early, or hit the gym. But sometimes the problem can be deeper….

God did give us his Word which is filled with tips on how find more joy, as he has intended for his children. If we don’t read the bible—we won’t recognize the lies we believe which could be causing our anxiety and depression and we won’t know the ways we can eliminate this from our lives. Because these are so often tied to our relationship with God, I will discuss these in the next section—Relationship with God.

Often times, people learn about “coping mechanisms” in order to deal with the struggles of life. I have an issue with a lot of the psychology behind these mechanisms because they often lead to some really dangerous ways of thinking designed to pull us away from God and our purpose here on Earth.

For example—meditation is a form of escapism and is rooted in Eastern thinking that we are to disassociate ourselves from all emotion and from this world even.  Frequent meditation can lead people to disassociate often and prevent them from connecting with other people. God gave us emotions for a reason.  While we need to learn how to use them effectively and control them, rather than let them control us, they certainly should not be shut off. Another issue with meditation is that it opens our minds to be influenced by demonic lies. If we don’t keep our mind focused on Christ (as commanded by the bible, requiring prayer or focus on scripture) then we are at risk of filling our open minds up with unbiblical lies and misunderstanding. If we are to meditate, it should be meditating on a bible verse or a truth of God, not in opening our minds and releasing all thoughts. Focusing on one thought–a truth of God, is much safer and healthy for Christians.

Other psychological coping mechanisms require us to change our attitude in harmful ways. I knew a woman once who went through a bout of depression in her early 20’s as she was feeling worthless and guilty over her promiscuity. She went to a psychologist for help. He told her to cope with the depression by changing her attitude about her actions—no longer believe that promiscuity was bad or immoral and then naturally her mind wouldn’t feel depressed about it. This harmful strategy sent her further down a road of promiscuity that left her scarred emotionally and could have potentially lead her unplanned pregnancies and STD’s had she not been so lucky.

prayerRelationship with God:  If the problem is spiritual, and through prayer and reading the bible you identify the lies that the dark side has whispered in your ears that have caused your anxiety and have bound them, hallelujah. Satan and his demons want to kill and destroy us and prevent us from living a life that glorifies God. If they can stop you by whispering lies that cause you anxiety and depression, they will. Condemnation is one common lie he can use. Remember God’s grace. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven for your past sins. You are a new creation!

These lies can lead us to sin and to think and feel in a certain way that destroys our lives and our purpose. Our anxiety or depression can be due to our conscience struggling with sin in our lives that can be forgiven, but still needs to be addressed first. God gave us the law for a reason.  And as Christians, our spirits know when we are sinning. Adultery, alcoholism, unforgiveness…the list can go on and have deep-seeded connections to causing anxiety. Addressing those sins is essential to healing ourselves of the damage it can take on our bodies. Sin hurts everyone!  God doesn’t want us to sin, not just because he wants us to be dressed for heaven, but because sin destroys our current lives and the lives of those around us. I have experienced this myself and it has made a huge difference. More often than not, anxiety and depression really is a spiritual issue.

There are some sins or spiritual issues we could be struggling with that are the cause of our anxiety and depression, but are not easily noticed by ourselves. They can be revealed to us though when we read God’s word or when we get honest answers from our friends and family who see us everyday—these issues include fear, unthankfulness, covetousness, lack of faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and feelings of worthlessness. First we need to understand what God says about these things so that we can then take our thoughts captive when we find ourselves thinking and feeling in these ways and plain and simple—stop it!

  1.  2 Timothy 1:7–For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
  2. Ephesians 5:20–Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Philippians 4:6–Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
  4. Romans 10: 9-10–That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
  5. Luke 12:7—Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

So sometimes the answer is as simple as—stop having yourself a pity party and count your blessings. Or recognize that if your anxiety is coming from fear—it is not from God. If it’s not from God, it’s not true. It is a lie. Pray and bind that lie. Stop it when you find yourself being afraid. God says to be anxious for nothing, but to be thankful and come to him with your requests. Are you giving your anxiety to God? Are you asking him for help in the areas that are causing your stress? Do you trust that he will take care of it? Do you even believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior? He died so that we might be free. Free from what? Free from hell sure, but also free from our sin; free from the lies we have believed; and free from our slavery to our emotions and to our past. If we are not freed from these things, we cannot live a life full of the purpose he has intended for us. Be free! Trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

I recommend two books that are biblical and while they shouldn’t replace the bible, can be used alongside the bible to really nail down any spiritual issues and lies you may believe that could be leading to your anxiety and depression. The Lies Women Believe, and Restored, both linked in these images.

dietDiet: I go back to the bible and am reminded—God gave us himself, the law, his word—but also plants, meat, work, and herbs. So what else can moms do? The more I read up on the diet and lifestyle of American people today, the more I wonder how much our diet plays a role in some of our issues. So I did some research the biological causes and correlations with anxiety and depression. And believe it or not, there is a lot! And as you know from the growing knowledge out there about the problems with the American diet and lifestyle, God may very well have already given us the tools and help to prevent our ailments like anxiety and even depression. And the problem is, we are not using them!

Stay tuned for my next blog—where I will share 10 ways you can make changes in your diet and nutrient intake to strengthen your body and mind– reducing your proneness to anxiety and depression.

As you wait for the next post, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, I strongly recommend you go through the above options and make a checklist for yourself. What areas have you tried? What have you not tried? What can you start doing today? Sometimes, not one approach alone works, but a combination. God wants you focused on him, but he also wants you to live a healthy life. Remember the things God gave his children: himself, the law, grace, work, rest, and the earth.  Starting and ending your day in prayer, and going to God when you feel a bout of emotions coming on, are a good place to start. Then look at your exercise habits, your rest habits, lies you may be believing, and possible sin in your life. Finally, look at your plate as you eat. Is this something Noah and his offspring would have eaten?

There is a great App called “Symple—Symptom tracker and health diary” that can help you track your anxiety and depression bouts and begin to look for correlations with circumstances, thoughts, and diet.

Its only For apple– https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/symple-symptom-tracker-health/id479818115?mt=8

I’m sure there are similar ones out there for Android although I cannot endorse them  without using them.

Recent Teen Suicide: Where are the Christians?

transgendered student commits suicide. This is a suicide note I found on flickr. labled for reuseI just read last night on a recent suicide by a transgendered teenager in Fallbrook, CA.  The teenager named Taylor Alesena confessed in a YouTube video that he did not have any friends at school, ate alone, and was ridiculed often after becoming a girl.

I find this sad on so many levels. Sad for the teenager for clearly struggling with gender identity issues. Sad for the family who lost their child. Sad for the world who hurt this child. And sad that an opportunity was lost to have prevented the tragedy and saved a lost soul.

I’m hoping this blog will help motivate us all to take get out there and be a light to the lost.

The Question of Why

Why the teen committed suicide is most likely multi-faceted. We have a teenager so struggling with his gender identity that he decides to change his name and essentially become a girl in order to become himself (or herself, as he would believe). This is a paraphrase of something he told other transgendered kids on YouTube).

One might think that becoming oneself would lead to joy and peace in this world. But becoming “herself” apparently was not enough for him. He killed himself last week.

He said he lost a lot of friends through it all. No doubt, the change made many people feel uncomfortable. No matter what the media and activist groups like to say–many people do not feel transgenderism is normal, natural, or healthy. Teenagers in their immaturity do not know how to handle uncomfortable situations or people who they don’t feel are normal, natural, or healthy. They often do not relate to people they perceive as strange in a way that feels loving or caring.

We certainly have those in the world who are straight out mean– the kind this person complained about, but then the other element are those who act indifferent. They are not mean. They just don’t make eye contact with the person, don’t say hello, and treat them like they don’t exist. I doubt there were many true Jesus loving Christians being straight out mean. That is a lie that the media loves to paint of Christians. Yet it is an exception rather than the rule. But indifferent? I might suspect that there were some indifferent Christians along with other indifferent non-Christians. Which one is worse? Hate or indifference?  I think its up for debate. Either way, to be a victim of either can be a very lonely existence. This teenager suffered from both.

My question is–Where were the Christians in this Tragedy?

I know there must be Christian students in Fallbrook. I know there must be Christian teachers. Maybe there were some who tried to help him and no one is talking about it. I know that is possible. But given the kid said he ate alone at lunch, that he wore headphones in between classes so he didn’t have to hear the ridicule–I am left to assume, because none were by his side, that there were indeed none.

I do know this kid complained he was ridiculed and ignored by the general community–a community I know comes from mixed beliefs and backgrounds. I don’t know the details. Maybe the kids ignored him or gave him dirty looks because he was just angry and mean. Maybe it had nothing to do with him looking strange or being transgender. Maybe not. I don’t know him or the specifics of his life enough. All I have is what he has expressed on YouTube.

And so from this I wonder, where are the Christians?

Are not Christians supposed to be a shining light of love in this dark and cruel world? Even if you don’t agree with transgenderism and feel it is sinful, doesn’t a christian recognize that and recall that Christ came for the weak and weary, the sick and the oppressed? Didn’t he come for the angry and mean?

You do not have to agree with a person’s lifestyle in order to be kind to them and treat them as human. You don’t have to feel like it is your obligation to change their gender even. It is our job to be loving and to share the love of Jesus. That alone can transform a person from the inside out. That alone can heal sickness. That alone can give meaning and purpose to someones’ life. That alone could have saved this teenager from the loneliness and anger that lead him to his suicide. I hope that after this, we can start taking more opportunities to be the light we are called to be. Myself included.

Why Christians Are Not Stepping Up

I understand the Christian struggle today. I have experienced those moments of fear when feeling called to step out and feed God’s sheep. It can be challenging and nerve-racking.

Christians are afraid no doubt. Christians are often the victims of oppression themselves in the public school community and other public sectors. Teachers are not allowed to evangelize. Teenagers who share their faith are falsely labeled as bigots and idiots by many non-Christians. No doubt many Christian students did not step up and say hello to this lonely young man because they felt uncomfortable, were immature in how to handle that, and were afraid to share their faith.

What Christians Need To Rethink

What we need to realize is that we don’t have to just walk up to someone and give them the gospel. We certainly can do it that way. But it is not the only way. We can also just be kind and take interest in the person, build a relationship with him or her until it becomes safe enough for both people in the relationship for the gospel to be shared and not be taken offensively or given with some sort of attempt to judge that person as a sinner specifically because of a sexual or gender struggle. Mankind struggles with all sorts of sin. Each and every one.

I know that if this transgendered teen was my student, I hope that I would have made a special effort to get to know him. I would have made a special effort to show him kindness and love. At least as of now, I know for sure I will. Does that mean I need to call him a hero for stepping out in his desire to be a girl? Does it mean I have to pretend or claim that transgenderism is normal, natural, or healthy? No. It means that no matter what, this student is a human being, a creation of God, deserving of love and of meaning and purpose in his life. And transgendered or not, without Jesus, this boy is lost in his sins and the sins of this world. This boy will not have the beauty and freedom that I have come to know through my relationship with the creator of the Universe.

I really hope that this story, this tragedy helps motivate all Christians to stop being afraid of oppression and of persecution and step out in faith.

We are not called out of this world but to be in this world for a reason–to be salt and light.

When we allow our fears and selfish desire to not feel uncomfortable control us, we act no different from the rest of the world by showing indifference to a lost and sad teenager at lunch or in the classroom and this is in direct defiance to what God has called us to do. Do not believe the lies whispered in your ears. Fear is not from the Lord.

Remember, if God is for us, who can be against us? Those people should have no affect on us. In the perspective of eternity– is judgment from some pimple-faced atheist or a liberal school administrator worth a lost opportunity to share love and the gospel with a lonely teenager and possibly win his own opportunity to live in peace in heaven where Jesus could wipe every tear from his eyes as well? Is he not deserving of the same love and salvation as others who do not struggle with identity issues?

In Sum

This poor student was lied to. He was told by the world that all he had to do was embrace his gender struggle and transform himself into a woman in order to be joyous and peaceful. Then that same world rejected him when he did.

And the Christians who knew this worldly lie was not true did not step in to help him because they have been told by this same world to be silent and keep their faith to themselves. On top of that, the state of California has made it illegal for church programs to exist that help transgendered and gay people overcome their sexual or gender struggle based on the belief that it is harmful to them.

In the end, what this student really needed was to be transformed by the Holy Spirit from the inside out in order to find joy and peace. To know that he was created for a purpose by a loving God who died and rose again to save him.

And yet all that opportunity was lost.

It didn’t have to be.

So What Do We Do Now?–How to Use this for Good

I know my audience is not teens. It is moms–parents of teenagers who need to be trained and lead by our example and prompting. I hope tonight you hold on to your babies and tell them how much God loves them. To tell them to not be afraid.I know I will. I couldn’t imagine how sad I would be if I were the parents of Taylor.

I encourage you parents to talk to your kids. Have them think of one loner on their campus that they could befriend–straight, gay, transgendered, pimple-faced, or just strange…it doesn’t matter. Build them up with the truth of the word to not allow fear to stop them. God is for them. God will use it for good somewhere and somehow in time.

If we all start doing this today, we may see less of these stories in tomorrow’s headlines.

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I linked this up at–http://www.christianmommyblogger.com

and

http://www.equippinggodlywomen.com

Children Lesson on the Spring Season and Christ’s Resurrection 

Spring reminds us that Jesus is aliveThis is a multiple intelligence lesson that incorporates art, science, and theology. I use the classic Into, Through, and Beyond Approach to Teaching. 

supplies needed-– paper, crayons, computer with Google images up and ready, and a spring day with flowers blossoming. 

Into–Tapping into Prior Knowledge and/or Scaffolding and Building Background Knowledge:

  1. kids drawings of trees of each season to teach background for spring and Jesus Resurrection

    The pictures of trees my 3 year old drew. summer, autumn, winter, spring

    Show kids pictures of summer trees and explain to them about the full leaves.

  2. Draw a simple picture of a summer tree and have the kids copy. You can incorporate naming the best colors here as well. We did brown trunk, green leaves, and red apples.
  3. Show kids pictures of fall trees and explain what happens to the leaves and why.
  4. Draw a simple picture of an autumn tree and have the kids copy. Discuss colors as well. My kids used red, orange, yellow, and brown.
  5. Show kids pictures of winter trees and explain what happens to the leaves and why. I discuss how the leaves and flowers die in the fall and the tree looks dead.
  6. Show pictures of spring trees and explain what happens to the tree and why. We talked about the leaves and flowers coming back to life.
  7. Draw a simple picture of a spring tree and have the kids copy (my kids got tired of drawing trees at this point but were happy to watch me draw mine).

Through– The Heart of the Lesson

kids find flowers as a sign of spring and remember that Jesus is alive2. Mini-Lecture: Explain to them how Jesus died on a cross on a tree and that three days later he came back to life. Explain that this happened on the Feast of First Fruits which is a Jewish Spring Holy Day at the end of Passover. Then tell them that when we see the leaves on the trees sprouting and the flowers blossoming, we know that Spring is here and can remember that God is so powerful he brings the dead back to life. And he did this with Jesus in the spring. Draw a simple picture of Jesus on the cross and Jesus coming out of the tomb. I used stick figures so it was real quick.

3. Lab: Tell them to go outside and look for signs of Spring. My kids loved going in the backyard and finding all the flowers blossoming. They eagerly screamed– “Jesus is alive!” during this time. Be excited and make it fun for them. Ask them if they find flowers– what does this help us remember? Prompt them to reply if they don’t– Jesus is alive!

kids show off their pictures of trees on a spring day Beyond–How do you know if they learned it? 

4. Lay out the pictures they drew in order from summer, autumn, winter, and spring and then the picture of Jesus on the cross and Jesus coming out of the tomb.

5. Ask them to explain what is happening in the pictures. Coach them through it if they struggle. Then do it again when Dad comes home. 🙂

Here is a video of my 3 year old son, explaining the pictures and my 2 year old chiming in. 

Why Spring Reminds Us of the Power of Jesus

To Celebrate Easter or To Not Celebrate Easter–The Ongoing Debate in Christianity

spring flowers remind us of new lifeThere is a lot of controversy within the Christian community as to whether or not they should celebrate Easter. The debate is because the traditional Christian celebration for the Resurrection of Christ falls on the Pagan Spring Equinox called Easter where Pagans of the past worshiped other gods on that day as part of their Spring festival.

My family too began to question whether or not we should celebrate as well. Yet, as I’ve read more of the bible, I’ve come to a place where I feel the proper understanding of the holiday and its biblical basis is important.

From this, our family has come to a place of loving Spring because it does remind of Jesus. While we don’t pretend there is an Easter Bunny, we happily celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and give praise to God for the Spring season on the same American Holiday of Easter. This is why:

God’s Seasons are Prophetic

Genesis 1:14 – And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.

Spring Feasts are Prophetic of JesusWhat a lot of people don’t realize is perfectly planned for Christ to resurrect from the dead in the Spring. And I don’t think God does anything without full knowledge and planning. Not only to Christ resurrect in the Spring, he resurrected on a Jewish Spring Feast called The Feast of First Fruits. Now I know it is not Spring around the world at the same time due to the various Hemispheres, but Israel is in the same hemisphere as America and so we get the benefit of seeing its correlation with Spring the way the Israelites did. And God gave Christ first the Jews and then extended that gift to the rest of the world.

passover blood on door posts will show a cross when connected

Many don’t connect the dots on the door post, but if they did, they would see a cross.

The Jews commemorate God’s grace over them on Passover as they remember how God sent the angel of darkness over Egypt killing the first-born of all the Egyptians but sparing the Hebrews, who in obedience to Moses’s direction painted sacrificial blood over their door posts in spots that would actually create a cross if connected. Every year they were to remember that day by sacrificing a lamb without blemish and eating bread without leaven. This bread is pierced in the heat as it is cooked and the fire often leaves stripes across it. Many Messianic Jews continue to celebrate Passover, but now recognizing that it was prophetic of the death of their own Messiah, the first-born of God who was perfect and unblemished. He died on the day during Passover week when the lamb of God is to be sacrificed. And his blood on the cross now protects them from the Angel of eternal death. Christ reminds us in the gospels that the Passover Bread is to remind us of his body that was pierced and broken for us and the accompanying wine is to remind of his blood that was shed for us in stripes across his back and in the piercings of his hands and feet.

Leviticus 23: 15-17: ” ‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of first fruits to the LORD.

Right after Passover ends, the Jews are also to celebrate God’s grace through the season of Spring. This Feast is called The Feast of First Fruits and they give thanks to God for the early crop that comes in Spring.
Tweet: When spring comes, the first sprout of  green leaves reminds them that Spring is here and the early crops become ripe for harvest.

This is an especially joyful occasion given that in Winter, trees become barren as the leaves die. But when spring comes, the first sprout of  green leaves reminds them that Spring is here and the early crops become ripe for harvest.

God in the Old testament often asked for the first of everything. First borne sons were to work in the temple and become Levites, first crops were to be given to God, etc. The Feast of First Fruits were to be given to the Levites, God’s first-born of all the Jew who were to live strictly on God’s grace and provision as they worked in the temple, and not by any man-made method, unlike the rest of God’s tribes who worked the traditional way.

God did not have Christ resurrect from the dead on the Feast of First Fruits on accident.

Jesus is the First Fruit of our SalvationChrist fulfills this prophetic Feast in the Prophetic season of Spring. Christ is the First Fruit of all who will be resurrected on the last day. God showed that he has power over death by raising his son back to life. And he preempted that for thousands of years every Spring. Spring reminds us that God has power over death. That he can restore the barren and desolate and bring forth life and vitality. Today it serves not as prophecy but as a reminder of what God did for us through Christ and the promise that we too have been given new life, eternal life, and do not need to fear death any longer or the spiritual barrenness and death that this fallen world breeds.

Why Do American Christians Celebrate Easter Then and Not The Feast of First Fruits?

The Catholic Church years ago, when trying to Christianize the Pagan world, found that within a few days of the Feast of First Fruits, the pagans were celebrating spring. In order to evangelize to them, they used that holiday to preach the resurrected Christ and celebrated this on the same day. In the same way, Good Friday is the Christian version of Passover, and is not actually on the same day, but around it (in order to keep it about 3 days before Easter). Good Friday and Easter are not on the more accurate days of Passover and the Feast of First Fruits (the true anniversaries of Christ’s death and resurrection). They were compromises the Catholic church made in order to evangelize to a Pagan world. Is this necessarily wrong? That is to be debated. But I believe there is biblical reasons to justify their cause. Paul often ate swine and even meat sacrificed to other gods in order to evangelize to the Greeks and Romans of his time. He was able to do this with a clear conscience knowing that God made all animals clean and that these so-called gods were nothing. He had not sacrificed them to idols. His God was sovereign over his life. God has power over all. HE explained this to the Colossians here:

Colossians 2: 16-17 – Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day– things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ

Today, we continue to live in a world filled with unbelievers. They are the modern-day Pagan who do not worship the Living God, but chase after other “gods.” Most American’s celebrate Easter with only a selection using it as a day to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. For most, it is simply a celebration of Spring. And many with children add the Easter bunny. Some go to the other extreme.

I had some Jehovah” Witnesses come to my door the other day, inviting me to their temple to commemorate the death of Jesus. I asked them– “Do you have a service that celebrates Christ’s resurrection?” They shook their head no. I exclaimed, “Why not? If Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is useless, right?” I went on to explain the joy of celebrating the risen Christ and God’s power over death. I clarified that commemorating his death is good, but to not forget the best part. They were speechless. They had nothing to say except that they agreed Jesus’s resurrection was important in establishing his future kingdom. I’m hoping that they realize their fear of celebrating the pagan holiday of Easter has lead them actually away from celebrating the Living Christ! It doesn’t have to be Easter if they don’t like that day. I get it. But celebrate the Feast of First Fruits then!

This too may motivate some of you to no longer celebrate Easter and to instead celebrate his resurrection on the actual day of Feast of First Fruits. Some may choose to now celebrate or commemorate Christ’s Death on the first day of Passover. Some may want to continue to celebrate on Good Friday and Easter Sunday as an evangelism tool to their friends and family who do not know or have a relationship with Jesus. I think this is where it becomes a personal conviction. But I personally don’t think one is more right than the other.

As a family, we remember that God gave us Spring to remember his Power and his Son. We know that Paul reminds is to be joyful in all things and be thankful in all things. We do not believe there is anything wrong with celebrating the arrival of Spring.

Spring reminds us that Jesus came back to LifeBut we also don’t think one can properly appreciate the arrival of Spring without acknowledging its purpose in our lives both physically with majestic beauty of its flowers and fruit as well as spiritually–with Christ being the first fruit of our future resurrection and God’s majestic grace in our lives by giving us his son–the bread and water that will never leave us hungry or thirsty.

We don’t include the Easter Bunny (personally, I feel convicted by doing this because I feel it’s lying and fear that if my kids learn I made the Easter bunny up on the same day as Christ, maybe Christ is just a lie too). And we don’t even do Easter baskets or hunts. Although I don’t think there is anything really wrong with Easter baskets as long as kid’s know the real celebration of the day and are taught about why we correlate spring with Jesus. I did a lesson with my own kids on the topic and will be linking it here soon so you can see how I did this. And when I do celebrate Spring with my family members who do not know Jesus, I will be sure to share why Spring reminds me of Jesus, and how perfectly and poetically God planned the day of his Resurrection.

Even non-believers cannot say they did not see God in his creation. Spring is one of the many ways God reveals himself to us.

Romans 1:20 – For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Also visit the Christian mommy blogger for great talking points with your kids about the significance of this season. Or at Equipping Godly Women.

Please share– did this help you get a better understanding of Spring, Easter, and Christ’s Resurrection? I would love for you to respond in the comments how this has helped you or whether or not you celebrate Easter and Why. Also–if this did help you, I encourage you to share it with your friends and family on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy Spring and Happy Resurrection Day!

Grace through Faith? Or Grace through Faith AND Works? : What the Bible Teaches

faith worksI recently was sharing a verse from Romans on Facebook about the Grace of God demonstrated even in the Old Testament and it got some positive replies. One of the replies was from my sister-in-law, who is LDS, and equally as passionate about her religious views as I am. She shared that she believed the bible teaches Faith and Works and cited two verses to support her claims. However, I think that when we take in the context of these verses and the verses from the other books in the bible, that this is not quite so. While works are often proof of faith, I don’t think the bible teaches that it works at earning Grace when paired with faith. Here are my reasons.

First of all I think there is no confusion that there are ridiculous amounts of verses that clearly say Grace comes through faith alone. I will not take too much time commenting on them as they speak for themselves. Take the time to read the context in these but here they are:

Paul clarifies that God has always deemed righteousness by faith and not by works in  Romans 4:2-3/13-15:

If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness […] It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.”

Here Paul goes on to explain, our good works are not what saved us. We were saved FOR our the ability to do good works. Therefore, Good works is the product of being saved. It is not what saves us  in Ephesians 2:8-10:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

He goes on to elaborate on why works cannot save us and how he is able to even complete good works in the first place due to his faith in Galatians 2:20-21:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” 

Many people want to add “and works” to the equation for salvation because of fear that people who have faith will run around living ungodly lives all the while claiming they are covered in grace. But Paul clarifies again in Romans 6:1:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you no know that all of us who have been baptizes into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

sinner-saved-by-graceTrue faith means the old person has died and the saved person now lives. Our baptism into Christ’s family has made us new creations. Once we have the spirit of God within us, we can now truly do good works as all good we do will be rooted in Him and pointing to him. So how does Christ prepare us for Good works? Because when we truly have faith and a relationship with the one who saved us, God’s spirit within us will supernaturally lead us to follow him and want to please him and no longer have only our natural flesh to direct our path. Again, if you were saved from damnation, wouldn’t your inclination be to want to follow and love and know the one who saved you? Especially if you recognized your need of being saved? Grace through Faith does not give believers permission to live disgusting lives. In fact it is only through faith in Christ that we are even capable of doing good works in his eyes. But don’t other places in the bible say otherwise? there are two that may seem to at first glance. But God does not contradict himself. With further inspection we can see how these verses help believers no if they are really saved. Many people often use the words of James to claim it is faith and works that gives us salvation and eternal life in  James 2: 18-19 :

” Show me your faith without your[a] works, and I will show you my faith by my[b] works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[c]”

I love this verse. It clearly explains what is real faith. Simply believing there is a God is not a saving faith. Think about it. How many people do we know believe in God? Plenty. Especially in the States. But most of them live their lives like they are atheists. James compares that belief to the belief the demons have. What is the difference between demon’s belief in God and the saving faith of one of his Children? When we read the rest of the bible we see this–The demons believe there is a God. They believe he is the creator of the universe. They believe he is powerful. When we read the gospels, we learn that they believe Jesus is the savior. But they don’t love God. They don’t trust in his goodness and his grace. They don’t worship him or have a relationship with him. They continue to work with Satan in an attempt to overthrow God’s plans for humans. They are in rebellion against him. This faith is what James calls dead faith. True faith in God and Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior for that matter will naturally manifest itself in trust, in reverence, in a relationship whereby the believer lives what they believe. If they believe Jesus is the savior, and have faith that he saved them, they will live their life like they needed to be saved; in thankfulness, wanting to follow and serve their Lord and Savior. We can see this when we study the etymology of the Greek used in the original words of James. The word he used “pistis” is derived from “peithō” which is a primary VERB. Real faith will manifest itself in action. The verb means “to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe: to have faith: in a thing to believe; to be persuaded of a thing concerning a person; to listen to, obey, yield to, comply with; to trust, have confidence, be confident.”

faith isIt works like this…If I truly loved my husband, I wouldn’t have to remind myself to love him AND be nice to him. If I truly love him, that will naturally show itself in being nice. I could surely act nice and not love him, but it wouldn’t be authentic. Anyone can fake it. But its the heart that makes it true. Another way of looking at is by an illustration my husband likes to use: If I truly believe with all my heart that it is going to be pouring rain tomorrow. Then I will bring an umbrella and dress accordingly. If I don’t, I’d have to question whether I truly believed it or not.” Real Faith does not need to ADD Works. We will want to follow God. Will we be perfect at it? No way. But we will show fruit. We will show change in our life and continuous change as we continue in our walk and relationship with him. When we stop believing or stop loving him in action by praying and reading his word (Because if you believed you were saved from death by your Savior, you will naturally want to know him and talk with him) then you will start to revert back to your old ways. You will stop growing. We need Christ to grow in our perfection. This is called Sanctification. True believers will show fruit. Some more than others depending on where they started and how long they have been connected to the Vine (Christ).

This leads me to another verse that people often misunderstand as proving it is Faith AND Works that gives us salvation and eternal life.  Its the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:20-22:

“So then, you will know them by their fruits.21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”

Many people think this shows that doing the will of the father is what is needs to be added to faith in order to be saved because of this verse. But if they read the context, a few verses earlier Jesus says the following:

 ” 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.”

We are incapable of even producing good fruit without being deemed good. And how are we deemed good? By our faith in Christ! Christ’s blood covers our sins so that we are washed white as snow. We are made righteous by our faith. He even further illustrates this in John 15:1-4 when Jesus says these words:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

So does he say we produce fruit in order to have a chance to be grafted in the vine? Nope. We are already grafted in beforehand. So if it is faith alone that saves us and there are plenty of so-called Christians out there claiming to believe. How then do we know if we are truly saved people? Paul explains how to do so in 2 Corinthians 13:5-7:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

fruits-of-the-spirit-LOVELooking at our fruit helps us know whether we have real faith. And if we don’t , we can really determine if we have that faith or not. This happened to me when I was 28 years old. I had called myself a Christian for years until a situation arose where I had to look at my life. And I saw that I did not live like I did. I prayed only when I was in need of something and never read the bible. I was selfish, living in sexual sin, and when my live-in-boyfriend asked me questions about God, I had no answers for him because I didn’t even Know God. I felt God calling me to him and decided to try going to church again (after 13 years!). I heard the gospel message again and rededicated my life to the Lord. I felt the Spirit of God within me for the first time in my life and it changed me. I started reading the bible, worshiping him, tithing, and even moved out of my boyfriend’s house and stopped sleeping with him. He broke up with me and I still clung to Christ. I wanted to please him in all I did no matter how hard. Anyone who reads this blog can look at all my posts prior to January 6th, 2008 and will see some of my life before being saved. Mind you , it was a mommy blog then, so it was not anything crazy, but you will see I had a boyfriend of 6 years who I lived with and even had a child with. But I had to chose him or God. I chose God. That is the power of Christ!!! I boast in him and him alone. No way was that me. Now It is 7 years later. I am married to a sinner saved by grace who loves the lord and grows everyday in him. We have 4 beautiful children. And while I still battle with my flesh, it is my heart to still please God because I love him. And I continually show growth in my life year after year since I was saved, becoming more Christ-like. I am far from perfection but I trust that Christ will finish the good work he began in me that January 6th, 2008 when I am transformed and given my new body. I am a living testament to the power of a loving God who gives grace to sinners for loving him.

But what if we don’t get the chance to produce works from our faith? Are we really saved? The bible shows us that the answer is yes. It is faith alone! Look at the thief on the cross? He did nothing more than proclaim Christ as King and asked Jesus to save him. Christ declared he would be in paradise with Him. God knows our hearts. He knows if it is saving faith or not. And by that, I believe that had that thief not died on that Cross, he would have been living life a changed man in the early church age.

Another reason, it cannot be faith and works is because we still sin after being saved! Don’t believe me? John points out in  1 John 1:8-10:

“”If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

The thing is, just like the thief on the cross, we all still sin and deserve death. That is why we need a Savior! Confessing our sins is a verbal act stemmed in the saving faith in a Savior. If we recognize we are sinners, we recognize our need for a savior; if we recognize our need for a savior, we recognize the severity of our wrongs and in love for our God, we would confess those to him and apologize, asking him to save us because we know we cannot save ourselves. If his Word is in us, we will confess our sins and be continually cleansed so that we can continue to be good trees and produce good fruit if time allows. And this will be at a pace set by God. Some people show drastic change right away; some slowly change over time. Regardless, we show the fruit of our salvation stemmed in our saving faith in him by our works. And these works will not reap salvation, but rewards.

Paul explains this in  1 Corinthians 3: 13-15:

” But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”

Here we learn that at the “Bema” Seat Judgment (Google it or stay tuned for an upcoming blog on the subject), Lack of valuable works will not send us to hell. But instead, Christians lose rewards. Even Christ himself mentions this in Matthew 16:27:

“For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what He has done.”

But we will be saved from the wrath of the Great White Throne Judgment John mentions in Rev 20:11-15:

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Here, those with saving faith will have no sins on record because their slate was wiped clean by Christ. Their names will be written in a separate book.

jesusThank God in his grace that where I have fallen short, Christ has covered. Even David knew of this Grace when he prophesies in Psalm 103: 11-13 :

 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His loving kindness toward those who fear Him. 12As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.…”

In the end, if it took faith and works, then I’d still be relying on my works to finish where Christ left off. I’d be living my life trying to earn my salvation still and therefore trusting in my works to get me there. I’d be living in fear of messing up and not in joy of being set free. How many lies would I have to tell before I lied one too many and lost my salvation? How many good deeds would I need to do to make it? If you dishonored your parents 10 times but gave to the poor 20 times, would that get you into heaven? What if I never dishonored my parents but I never gave to the poor either? When we got to heaven, if we even could, we could boast in our works, and sympathize with the other believers who just didn’t do quite enough to actually be saved by their savior. See, by salvation being made by faith and works, it really just makes it by works. And it makes Christ’s death null and futile. Rewards come from works, but not salvation. It is through faith alone that leads to salvation. And when we stumble and fall, sinning, as we all do, we can trust that Christ has saved us. Because we have his word that promises his children that he has cast our sins “as far as the east is from the west.”

Worry

I worry. It is my biggest sin. I worry about every thing. I worry so much, sometimes I can’t eat. I worry so much, and I always have. I was a worrier even as a child, getting so caught up in the what ifs of life that my own grandmother would push out my furrowed brows and say in her thick Colombian accent, “you are too young to be so serious my darling.” So when we are hanging out and having a good time, you might see this goofball friend who makes fun of herself and has a big smile. But afterward when I’m on my way home, I’ll reflect back on the conversation and if I remember saying anything that may have been taken the wrong way or perhaps may have offended someone or what ever, I’ll worry about it. I’ll eventually call you and apologize or clarify something I said, just so I can stop wondering. And most of the time when I do, the person I call has no idea what I’m talking about. Most of the time, my worrying is for nothing. Now, since I’ve become a Christian, much of my worries have dissapated. There are moments between the worrying that I am reminded of whose child I am, and I calm down because I know that no matter what happens, He loves me and has plans for me. If I didn’t have that comfort, I don’t know what I’d do. But right now, I admit that I am still not cured. It is something He will have to work on me for a while. Like my life for example. I worry about it. I worry about not finding a job. I worry about not having my own place. I worry I’ll have to work a bunch of low paying jobs to make ends meet and never get to see my son. I worry about not every falling in love again or ever having a man love me so much, he ‘d want to marry me.  I worry that because of this, I’ll never have children or enjoy making love again. I worry that my life won’t turn out the way I had hoped. And while other Christians remind me of that famous verse by Jesus which says that if the birds of the air are taken care of, how much more my father in heaven will take care of me, I realize that I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried I won’t be able to eat. I’m not worried I won’t have a place to live. I know God has me covered in that by blessing me with many loving friends and family who would take care of me if things got that bad. I know that I live in the United States and while in many ways it is crumbling to pieces, it is still better off than so many other countries. What I worry about is that God won’t bless me with the things I want, but don’t need.

I want to teach. I want to have my own place. I want to be married. I want more children. And I don’t need any one of these things, but I want them. And I worry that God has plans that are different than mine. Plans so different, none of the things on that list will happen. It has been over a year since I moved out of Mike’s house and four years since I started to grow tired and dissatisfied with the the meaninglessness of gluttony—the drinking, spending, eating, and having meaningless “friendships” with most of the people I associated with up until that point of my life just didn’t bring me the joy and satisfaction I wanted in life. I was ready for something quieter. Something with more purpose: independence in my own life: then marriage; a family; helping people in the community; a close relationship with God; and real friends. Well in 2007, things started to change.  It started with having a child, it led to me growing my relationship with Christ, and it moved into some real genuine friendships that I will cherish my entire life, and has pulled me into ministries that are helping others as well as reviving some of my creativity in the arts. But I lost my boyfriend of 6 years in the process. I’ve moved back in with my folks. I now am being laid off from my job. And while I am dating again, I’m just starting, and therefore don’t see any engagements happening anytime soon. So I’ve gained five, lost two, and have yet to have two others, ever.  

But then I think, well if indeed God didn’t want those things for me, what would be the reason? Perhaps they would draw me away from him. Perhaps I would get so wrapped up in my independence or my boyfriend or something, that I would pull away from Jesus. And I think, if I gained all the things I want from this world, but lost my relationship with God in the process, would it be worth it? And the answer is no. No way. Now, most likely I am wrong. Most likely God has plans for many of my wishes to come true, but just not right now. And with that, I know he is working on my patience.

But what frustrates me is that my patience is growing thin and I feel a growing rebellion in my heart. And it is a rebellion that I don’t want. But I can’t seem to shake it. A rebellion that says if he doesn’t give me what I want soon, I’ll start trying it my way again. Even though deep down, I know by doing so, He will just prove to me that my way won’t work anyway. Such a paradox one would think I could just surrender like I did a year and a half ago. So I prayed this prayer tonight. I prayed to God that if any of the choices I make or the things I take hold of in this phase of my relationship with Him are things that He knows will pull me away from Him, that he take them from me. That he take them away even if it makes me scream and cry. Even if it is painful and hurts me. Because I would rather have none of the things I want from this world and spend eternity with Him than gain everything and lose my soul. It’s a hardcore prayer I know. And I admit that I may be asking for some painful times ahead if I don’t change my desires. But I know His ways are better than mine and that ultimately, His way will lead me to more happiness than my way could ever gain. I know this because I’ve tried it my way. And my way didnt’ work. And God’s word said that would happen. And I made a choice to leave my way so that I could follow his way, and with that choice, God has blessed me so much in so many ways. But I think I expected too much from God in the process. I expected that because I chose to follow Him, that He would immediately reward me with every desire of my heart. And I find myself  now, a year and a half from the time I gave my life to the Lord,  without some of the things I want so much, it hurts. And instead of looking around at what I do have and saying thank you, I’m just whining and wanting more, and worried I won’t get it. Could my worry be the problem He needs to work out of me before He can bless me with the rest of my heart’s desires? It is grace through faith that saves me in the next life, but could it be works that earn God’s blessing in this one? And if that is so, I have a long way to go. Because I’m sure once God purifies me of my worry, He will show me the next sin I struggle with. A sin I don’t even realize I have because I am so blinded by the others.

I worry. I know it’s wrong because it shows a lack of trust in God. But is it different, if it’s a lack of trust that is enrooted in my fear that perhaps what I want is not what I need and the things I want, I want too much…..idolizing them almost, and therefore never going to get God to will them in my life. I worry I won’t stop worrying. Will I ever allow Him alone to be enough?

A Questionnaire Analyzing Heterosexuality

http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=82529

A Questionnaire discussed in the above article was presented to a Group of High School Students. The obvious bias of the person writing the questions is clear. It is obvious the writer wants to get a discussion going and point out that homosexuality is no different than heterosexuality, and I notice and understand the point, but hope my answers shed some light on the misconceptions that many homosexuals AND heterosexuals have about morality and mankind. Continue reading