Sunday, March 22, 2009

Talents For Christ Entrys

Amanda Stephenson, a teen in our church, is participating in "Talents For Christ". TFC is a program to challenge students who are actively involved in General Association of Regular Baptist Churches to develop their God-given talents for ministry within their local churches and to honor those who demonstrate exceptional preparation and skill. Amanda has chosen to enter in the area of writing. As part of her requirements, she must put his articles somewhere so that people may have access to them and be able to read them. She has asked me to post them for her.

Journey to My Fathers House

A sudden jolt brought me back to reality as we sped down the crooked road. I shook myself out of the daze I had been in for the last several hours and looked around at a country I had come to love. It was nearing the end of my stay in India and I was now on my way homeward. It would only be a few more short hours before I left India and my mind had begun to wander as I remembered the events that had taken place in the last month of my life that God has used to pull me closer to Him, change the way I see His creation, and help me to love more deeply then I ever had before.

My trip had begun back home in Iowa where I grew up. At a young age I felt the Lord calling me into the ministry, so I was overjoyed when the Reverend Nightingale and his wife Sharon were gracious enough to allow me to come along with them to India. We left together from the U.S.A. and after a short layover in Amsterdam, we landed in Hyderabad, India. No words can describe the wonder in my heart as I stepped off the plane. This was the moment I had only dreamed of experiencing and it had now become reality.

It was about 4.30 in the morning when we arrived in Hyderabad, India, and our arrival was being eagerly anticipated by a young Indian pastor and His growing family. As we stepped out into the humid night air, we were warmly greeted by huge smiles and monstrous garlands of jasmine flowers woven tightly together. The fragrance was stifling but was drowned out by the sights and sounds that soon surrounded me. As we traveled through the smoky streets to our hostel, my eyes were met by images I had never imagined or seen in any painting or photograph. Houses, made of cardboard and blue tarps, lined the streets. Temples to their numerous gods were everywhere to be seen and as we pulled up to the hostel where we were to spend the night I noticed that the streets were being swept by elderly women who were then burning the piles of rubbish that was creating the smoky atmosphere. This was my first impression of India, the place where I would willingly spend the life God has so graciously given me.

After a few weeks of traveling to small churches and ministering to them, I found myself at a small but quickly growing orphanage in Tandure just 15 minutes west of Munchereal. When we arrived, the children there greeted us with beautiful flowers and shy smiles, but they were soon at perfect ease; each fighting for attention from the ladies with the cameras. Each child was different, but every one of them was thirsty for attention and love. My heart continues to ache for them knowing the past from which some of them have escaped. As our time there progressed, I spent more time with the younger children and infants and was blessed more than I can say by every moment I was with each treasured child. One day. As I stepped into the cement room that was used as the nursery, I was greeted by quite a comical sight. One of the young women who lived at the orphanage was smearing baby powder all over little Elijah’s face. I never actually found out exactly why they do that, but I will forever remember his adorable ghostlike face smiling up at me.

One of the first things I tell people when they ask me, “What was your favorite part?” is that there is no favorite part. There were wonderful times and also times that were incredibly hard for me, but without the hard days the trip would have been incomplete and I would not have grown nearly as much in my faith as I was able. I praise the Lord for the amazing ways He worked in my life and how He drew me closer to Himself through the wonderful and difficult times.

Something specifically that had a huge influence on my life is the suffering that surrounded me every day. There are over one billion people living in India today and although it has 15% of the world’s population, India makes up a mere 2.4% of the world’s land area. There is not enough food, room, or money, which leads to an amazing amount of homeless families and children. I was constantly reminded of this and being around it every day changed the way I look at my life and the lives of others. It helped me realize what really is important, or rather the things that should be important to me. I will never forget the sight of a young girl, maybe 9 years old, making her way through the streets of Bangalore using her arms to walk. She had only one leg and it was most likely a family member who was responsible for the removal of her other leg, so that she would bring in more money as a beggar. Almost everywhere I went I was constantly seeing young women and girls carrying infants half starved, begging for money and food to support a family with a father who wouldn’t work. It was things like this that opened my eyes and helped me understand how awful this world has become, and how much there is to do for the cause of Christ.

As I remember the events that came to pass during that short time, it is sometimes hard to see where God would have me in His wonderful plan. All I can do is serve Him to the best of my ability where He has placed me here and now. Many of us tend to try to skip ahead and get to the part where God reveals His will for our life. He then pulls us back and gently reminds us that He is in control. Whether the road be crooked or straight, here or there, it is up to each of us to serve the Lord where He has placed us.

True Healing

Feature Article

When looking around at this world and what it has become, the first thing many of us see is a loss of God in our society. When we put this together with the desire for scientific and medical advancements, and millions of people with great emotional need, the result is a corrupt, self-pitying generation that is relying on what the world has to offer in place of turning to God. Taking a closer look at some specific areas in which we turn to the world for help in place of God, we will see how these decisions can affect us and the results of choosing self over God. This can help us better understand and avoid these mistakes.

Each of us wants comfort and security; we want to feel good. There are many things that can keep us from achieving this. The world believes that our happiness is based on the circumstances surrounding us. Believing this can be the basis of our unhappiness. When we experience the loss of a family member or close friend, maybe the knowledge that the body God gave us is deteriorating and that we may not live to see tomorrow is overwhelming. We may begin to feel like we are all alone in this world and nobody really cares. Sometimes these feelings intensify and we are overwhelmed with a sense of utter desolation and loss. The world has come to refer to it as a condition known as depression.

The world says that since you are depressed you need a prescription to make you “feel” better. I like to think of feeling as something you do with your fingers. As a society we focus on our feelings far too much and when this happens, we lose sight of what God might be trying to show us. Our feelings are what we make them. We make the choice to feel angry or sad. We make the choice to let it sit and fester. When this happens we allow our feelings to control us. Being controlled by our feelings is a dangerous place to be because we have lost sight of God and our tendency then is to turn to the world and its answers in place of God’s Word. If we allow our feelings to control us, we are making decisions based on those feelings and not on God’s Word.

In the medical community depression is considered a disorder because of the imbalance of serotonin, a biogenic amine which is found in specific brain structures. However, according to the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, there is no proven imbalance and no medication has been proven to change the amount of serotonin in the brain, meaning our mood is not affected by a physical change. Depression is simply the side affects of our emotions getting out of hand. There is no depression virus or bacteria that can be detected. In contrast, according to McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web, “when treating depression, it is all about treating the symptoms rather than the underlying disease.” The medical community has not even come to an agreement amongst themselves that there is any physical anomaly leading to depression.

There is nothing wrong with most medications unless taken unnecessarily or excessively, but when dealing with conditions like depression and unhappiness we often fail to see that a prescription will not solve the problem. It’s easy to cover up the side affects of depression. All we have to do is go to the doctor and get something to change the way we feel. A problem with this though is that we cannot cover up our issues forever. When my sister was younger, she broke her arm falling down the stairs. Now the doctor could have simply pumped her full of morphine and she would have felt fine, but the problem would not have been fixed. She needed the bone to be set and a cast applied for the bone to heal correctly. There are times of extreme crisis in which lessening the symptoms may be helpful in dealing with the underlying issues. This is true in any instance. For example, the process of setting a broken arm is painful so it may be helpful to ease the pain to a certain extent before setting the bone, but the bone must be set in order for it to heal completely. Like this, issues of the heart cannot be simply covered up with drugs. The core of the problem must be dealt with correctly and given time to heal properly. The only thing that can really accomplish this is having our hearts centered on God, not ourselves, and trusting Him to take care of our needs because He loves and cares about us.

The core of our problems boils down to the heart. The most important thing is that we know Him as our Lord and Savior. Only then can we rely on Him for strength. In Hebrews 4:12 God tells us that He knows our hearts and His word is powerful enough to deal with every issue of our heart. Trusting God can be hard. We may not see immediate results and the road may be rough, but keeping our hopes on Him as our perfect physician is our only hope for true healing. The world offers to fix our problems now through medication and things that we can buy to make us “happy.” These things are superficial, not giving lasting joy; the joy that can only come from trusting God. We want the pain to be gone, so out of desperation we turn to what seems like the easiest road available. James 1:2-4, 12 talks about how hard times can bring us closer to God and make us stronger. This can only happen if we choose to turn to God for healing. This process of healing is not easy or simple. We must be constantly, day by day, moment by moment, saturating our minds in God’s Word by finding specific passages that focus our attention on God and His strength in overcoming our weakness.

What the world has to offer often seems real because we can touch it and see it, but these things never last unless they are of God. We must remember to keep the focus on God, rely on Him for our strength, and fill our minds with His word. Settling for anything this world can offer for temporary comfort can not replace the peace and joy that only comes from God.

Kaplan and Sadock. Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry. Sixth Edition, 1997
McMan. McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web. February 3, 2005. Pg. 6.


Anonymous said...

I see you have done some research on depression. Having personal experience with it, I don't agree with all your conclusions, but I find your blog very interesting.
It also wins the award for the longest blog.

Big Bro

Pastor Steve Cox said...

Big Bro,

Thanks for taking the time to read this very long post! Most will probably just look at the length and move on.

These are papers written by a teen in our church, not written by me. They are posted here as a courtesy to help her fulfill the requirements of TFC.



Shannon/Jodi said...

Well written, Amanda!