Panic and Worry and A N X I E T Y Oh My!

Introduction

I mentioned at our gathering that teaching on this subject was put on my heart months ago. Well, that was not the whole truth. I actually began to see the necessity of teaching people the biblical side of this very real problem years ago. I have a preliminary research file on my computer that dates back to May 9, 2014.

After an initial class teaching about the prevalence of obsessive-compulsive disorder behaviors I had noticed in Christians, there were no more classes. The behaviors continued to exist, but it was as if very few wanted a solution. People would tell me about their fears, feelings of depression and other things, such as their OCD rituals, but they seemed to look at the symptoms as just being part of normal life.

Believers in Jesus tried to apply Paul, the apostle’s, instruction to bring their bodies under subjection daily. The degree of applying God’s word to be transformed by the renewing of their minds varied from person to person. Those who did not know Jesus as their Savior were especially at risk of symptoms wreaking havoc in their lives.

All kinds of symptoms were just normal life for some. Angry outbursts that resulted in destroying inanimate objects, bursts of rage, explosive tempers, using alcohol as a calming drug, using illegal drugs, promiscuity, and acting out compulsions to get relief from an overwhelming sense of dread or doom were just part of the list of things that were normal life. Not every person had every symptom, but it was the unnoticed or ignored elephant in the room for someone in every family.

As for OCD, it was comical and sad at the same time when I would hear about compulsions people would perform to get relief from symptoms. The individual who performed the compulsions along with their relatives would mention the behaviors in passing as if it was just part of the normal daily routines of life. One that comes to mind was a young teen who spoke in the class telling us how his dad would shut off light switches touching them three times while saying, “Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Everywhere I turned it seemed as if people looked at the fear, worry, anxiety, depression and ritualistic behaviors in their lives as being the normal stuff of normal lives. Even the manual that doctors use for diagnosing mental disorders mentions that symptoms that people experience must first interfere with their normal functioning before any diagnoses can be given. So, I suppose there is a wide variation of what we consider or accept as being normal.

Personally, I do not understand how checking and rechecking and checking and rechecking again to make sure the door is locked or living out the compulsion to touch objects three, seven or another number of times is normal. Furthermore, I do not accept on a personal level that persistent fear, worry, depression or anxiety should be accepted by myself as being a “normal” part of daily life. Do not misunderstand me to think that I just do not know what it is like, because I do. Overwhelming irrational fear and anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks at one point in my life, and I thought it would never go away. I could have accepted it as being a new normal of living, but I refused to.

Introduction From Our First Gathering

I heard a story that was attributed to having been told by Willy Nelson.

A guy is watching a worker at the circus.
The circus worker’s job was to pick up elephant dung.
He was very thorough shoveling up the dung, and there was a lot of it.
He was a regular guy, fit and capable. So, the guy watching him asked him why he doesn’t go and get a real job. The circus worker said, “What? And quit show business?”

We can get into doing things or holding onto beliefs like the elephant dung picker-upper. Things that provide no help, hope or relief, but we keep doing the things or holding onto the beliefs anyway because they seem or are accepted as being normal to the functioning of our daily lives. It seems this is as far as we can go, so we will hold onto or continue to do these things.

Anxiety is a serious issue with many symptoms that we can manifest in our daily lives. Sometimes our daily lives are part of the cause of the anxiety symptoms. I am inviting you to take a look at it from all sides to better equip you to decide what you need to do to get free of the plague of symptoms that brought you here in the first place.

There are things to be anxious about. As of this writing, Australia is on fire, the United States Embassy in Baghdad was under attack from protesters, and a road in eastern Washington state was blocked for 10 hours by a massive amount of tumbleweeds. Reports indicate some cars were covered with the weeds and people were trapped inside. Yes, it really happened! Tumbleweeds became something to cause anxiety!

On a more personal level, we have family troubles, work troubles, financial troubles, health troubles and more.

I happened to notice that contained in a stack of Woman’s Day magazines that were given to my wife, every single cover had a story of what to do or take to overcome worry or stress. Not just a few of the magazines had recommended treatments and remedies for anxiety and stress, all of them did. If I was to understand women only from that single publication, I would come to the conclusion that all women think themselves to be too fat, all of them are extremely stressed, and all of them are in constant pain needing techniques and remedies to alleviate it. Furthermore, I would come to the conclusion that the real answers to problems women have would be to buy new wardrobes, get their hair done, and make tasty treats to eat.

I’m not singling out Woman’s Day. It is just the culture of media. They need to earn a profit, and the only way to do that is to produce something their demographics will consume. That is what keeps the advertising dollars flowing into their businesses. It could have easily been a magazine or TV show that is designed to play on the male psyche of not being muscular enough, tough enough or virile enough.

Most of us who gathered in the class, or who are reading this article, are likely already believe in Jesus as our Savior. For us, there is that promise in God’s word of a peace that passes all understanding that keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (ISV) says, “Never worry about anything. Instead, in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving. Then God’s peace, which goes far beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your hearts and minds in union with the Messiah Jesus.”

So . . . What is happening with us then?

That is the purpose of this gathering. If this gathering was a building, we are going to talk about it from the concrete footer of the foundation to the shingles on the roof. Unfortunately, we Americans just want quick answers and fixes we can get from Google. However, real-life does not work that way. Sometimes, you really need to put effort into learning how something works in order to be able to fix it when it is broken.

Anxiety and some of its relatives are not all bad. When it gets out of control it can cause all kinds of things you do not want. On the extreme end of the spectrum, it could cripple your ability to enjoy anything that resembles a normal life. It could do all kinds of things from holding you back from enjoying simple social interactions with family and peers to being at the root of those outbursts you wish you could control. It can go from being something necessary to keep you alive—that fight-or-flight response—to becoming a chronic torment meant to destroy you.

Anxiety that starts to become a problem has all kinds of definitions. There are official medical definitions of when it becomes a disorder and you also have your own personal definitions. Your personal definitions may vary depending on whether you are applying them to yourself or someone else.

It is easy to blame external stress for your internal response. Some people have it bad. Paul got to the point that he was content in whatever situation he found himself in. Philippians 4:10-13 (KJV) says, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

One example comes from a person I know who is extremely troubled by family issues to the point this person advised how they cannot take it anymore. (Yes, I will, in this article, avoid the he/she pronouns to protect identity.) The stress is causing definite symptoms. Otherwise the statement, “I don’t know if I can take it anymore,” would not have come out. However, when an invitation was given to come out for this gathering that is going to talk about anxiety, the person explained how they don’t think they have anxiety.

The person demonstrates being extremely anxious due to stressful things occurring within the person’s family. This person has expressed to me extreme worry over several family issues. Now it is at the point the person has expressed that it is not known if they can take it anymore. It has become a serious issue for the person. The stressors are causing responses the person does not want, but, the person does not associate it as having anything to do with any sort of anxiety response.

So, as you read this, consider this dumb question: Do you have an innie or outie belly button?

When it comes to the medical community for diseases, such as high blood pressure or the common cold, they need to use specific criteria—specific definitions—for diagnosing people. Otherwise, anything would go. Without rules for diagnoses, you could go in to get your runny nose treated and a doctor could say the cause is your outie belly button and you need surgery to make it an innie.

There are rules, criteria, definitions established for good reasons—to protect people and help them become the best that they can be. Even if you don’t like certain rules, you follow plenty of them every day. The rule that electricity shocks us is why we do not stick our fingers into light sockets. Even if you do not personally like it that electricity can electrocute you does not matter. If you ignore the rule, you get shocked. And shockingly (pun intended) plenty of people live daily lives ignoring rules getting results they do not want yet never changing their thinking or behaviors.

There are also rules when it comes to your relationship with God. Without knowing the rules your Creator has put in place, rules that are easily discovered in His Word—the bible—you could end up believing or doing anything. Religion, for some, is just a bunch of rituals. Your desire to turn to God for help with what you are going through could lead to more useless expressions of rituals.

Without knowing what your Creator expects from you, you could end up having some so-called spiritual leader tell you that you need to wear a crystal around your neck, get your chakras aligned and have regular (aka ritual) coffee enemas. But that is not change. That is not being transformed by the renewing—the renovation—of your mind that God’s word tells us will happen when we turn things over to him.

In Romans 12:1-2 (KJV) Paul, the apostle, said, ” I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

There are even rules that psychiatric doctors follow. They need a manual to follow for diagnosing psychiatric disorders. This manual was introduced in 1952, and it is currently in its fifth edition. It’s called the DSM-V. The long name is the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Without it, one doctor could tell you you are suffering from Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder syndrome, injury or whatever the currently popular term is, and another doctor could say you have social anxiety disorder.

Some sources say there are 157 disorder diagnoses in the DSM-5. Some say 300. I didn’t count them. But the gist of anxiety as a mental disorder comes down to a simple thing of how anxiety is not really a problem until it becomes a problem. What in the world does that mean?

Well, it is perfectly normal to get anxious about things. The moments leading up to a first kiss can produce considerable anxiety, but those heart-racing, tingly feelings are not usually considered by most to be any sort of problem even when there is a measure of fear of how the kiss will go. Anxiety over passing a test to earn a degree is expected. The fight-or-flight response we have built into our bodies activating when a person pulls out a gun and threatens us is normal. It is normal to be startled when frightened and have that adrenaline rush that takes some time to calm down from. Much like the example of Pastor Frank in this video!

It is not normal, however, to have persistent symptoms of anxiety in non-threatening non-risky situations. Those persistent symptoms, such as persistent thoughts that generate persistent fear, or of being too anxious, in otherwise normal situations indicates there may a problem. Panic symptoms, such as what you would expect to happen to one degree or another if your life was being threatened are not normal if you are in a situation where your life is not being threatened. Panic is not normal when you are involved in routine things from going to Walmart to going out to dinner with your spouse or date.

It is also normal to be depressed about certain things for a time. Specific things that can make a person depressed. It is okay to need time to recover from an extremely stressful event. Depression and post-traumatic stress are normal reactions to depressing things and traumatic events. It is when the word “disorder” gets applied that there is a problem. It is a disorder when the depression does not go away and reliving trauma becomes part of your daily life. Grief is also normal for loss, but it should not cripple you.

Even if there are only 157 disorders in the DSM-V, those are plenty of things that can go wrong with our minds. It is great that there is a manual of brain disorders, but labeling problems does not fix them. And when it comes to brain stuff, the field of accepted treatment options is quite wide. Continuing from this medical perspective, the available treatments are not cures, and not every treatment works for every person.

I do want everyone to understand that doctors are generally in the business of doing their best to help their patients. They do what they can working with the tools that they have. They try to help while working within the confines of the rules their peers, societies, legislation and oversight establish for them to protect their patients.

Here is the thing about diagnoses though: If you keep looking and looking, you are likely going to find something wrong. Ever Google your symptoms and frighten yourself with the myriad of potential diagnoses you discover?

When it comes to physiological problems, such as a bad gallbladder, arthritis or cancer, the imaging capabilities of modern medical machines are so good that full-body scans are very likely to reveal something wrong with everyone. Small cancers that were never able to be seen before now show up. Cancers so small that your own immune system is likely to recognize and fix on its own. That is why the medical community now looks more closely into what actually needs to be treated, when to treat it and how to treat it when it comes to these things modern imaging is allowing them to see.

The same is true, and possibly even more so, of psychiatric disorders. If you go looking, you may discover things that line up with criteria in that DSM-V for mental disorders in everyone. However, it is necessary to understand that some things absolutely need intervention as they are not going to resolve on their own. Whether it be by divine miracle or medical treatment, intervention is sometimes absolutely necessary. When it comes to medical intervention, you need to decide if you are at the point of needing it or not.

Doctors need to make treatment decisions based on evidence, and the evidence changes over time as new medical technologies, treatments and scientific studies emerge. They also need to consider potential liability. After all, we are quite the sue-happy nation. Seriously, television revenue might be in trouble if all the lawyer ads were suddenly pulled. Doctors need to fit in the thought of your well-being within the rest of the mess they have to deal with on a daily basis. And they do try!

And that brings up a point needing to be made about the quality of various medical professionals. Quality can vary among doctors on an equal par as quality varies among automobile mechanics. Depending on the doctor you go to see, you could end up being overtreated or undertreated. A sad thing is that when you are at your most vulnerable searching for needed medical help is also when you need to be at the top of your game acting as your own advocate in getting the proper help you need.

With that being said, the criteria for our gathering is as follows: We are here because there is something troubling us with our thoughts and the physical reactions associated with those thoughts. Symptoms that happen because of those thoughts is a good way to describe it, and it is relief from those symptoms that we are seeking to have resolved to one degree or another, and the best way to relieve symptoms is to correct the problem causing the symptoms in the first place.

It is practically impossible to talk about the topics of this gathering without words and phrases popping up that mention medical stuff. However, keep this in the forefront of your mind through every word said by anyone here: Nothing is to be considered a personalized diagnosis or treatment option for you. If you need a doctor, go see a doctor. I am not a doctor. As far as I remember I have never even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express!

Goals for Our Gathering

  1. To understand that you are not alone.
  2. To understand that it is okay to be seeking, knocking and asking for help.
  3. To understand that God’s word warns of this increase in anxiety symptoms (Luke 21:25-28).
  4. To understand what God’s word instructs us to do concerning our physical, mental and spiritual well being.

What the Medical Community Has to Say

The DSM-V describes anxiety disorders to include things, such as excessive fear and upsetting behaviors that occur because of the anxiety. There are all kinds of listed disorders from social anxiety disorder to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The dictionary definition of anxiety from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary states that anxiety is, “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill: a state of being anxious.” Their medical definition says anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.”

The American Psychiatric Association states that “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention.”

Anxiety, as a disorder, is not the same as what we would consider normal, or expected, reactions or feelings to life and its myriad of daily evolving situations. Statistics indicate that over 25 million Americans actually suffer from a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Furthermore, the American Psychiatric Association establishes anxiety disorders as being able to be treated, and that treatment makes a positive difference in being able to lead what most would consider being a normal life.

That is encouraging as anxiety issues are running rampant in America, with a special concentration of it existing in the church.

There is a two-fold reason for that.

  1. People suffering from anxiety are searching for relief from the symptoms, and there are mental disorders associated with anxiety that manifest with ritualistic expression. Performing the rituals gives people a feeling of relief from their symptoms. Religious expression—even at our church—offers rituals. However, that is not healing. It is just more ritual.
  2. Here is a part I really want you to understand: We have a real enemy (Satan) who constantly seeks access to that gray matter between our ears. His methods are discussed in God’s word. He will use physiological and neurological defects in our flesh, and that includes our bodies and our brains, to come at us to get us to reject God. If you want a biblical example of the process, study the book of Job.

How I Began to View Anxiety Disorders From Both a Spiritual and Physiological/Neurological Viewpoint

Over many years I have read a diversity of scholarly and not-so-scholarly information on a wide variety of subjects. During the past few years, I have noticed an exponential increase in fear/anxiety no matter where I look. I wondered if there was a single cause or multiple causes.

Having a longstanding interest in the study of human and animal behaviors, I looked into multiple possible causes of this increase in anxiety. As an example of reading to learn new things about what makes this world tick, I recently read two books just on the ability of dogs to smell things, and how it helps them interpret and interact with their world. Great books by the way, but I digress. I mention it to point out that like a dog with a bone, I delve into the details to figure out how things work. I am not just satisfied that something works, I need to know how and why it works the way it does.

So, for these attacks on our minds that result in severe anxiety symptoms, I looked at all kinds of different things. I considered our society’s influence on behaviors/emotions. I looked into the influence nutrition could possibly have. I considered how our educational system currently influences societal emotions and behaviors. I routinely observe the influence of religion, and just turning on a television gives me insight into the influence the entertainment industry obviously has on anxiety. Also, for years I have looked into the subtleties of group dynamics considering cultural (national, ethnic), political (party alliances), peer groups (teens, seniors, etc.), and the general public (such as what triggers people to riot) influences on this increase in anxiety.

Just using nutrition as an example, I studied the Standard American Diet (SAD) and how it affects our brains and bodies. While researching something else years ago, I discovered how congress in the early 20th Century had concerns about chromium depletion in the soils of the farms that produce our nation’s agricultural food supply and how it was causing reduced chromium in our produce and grains. Later on, it is interesting how the United States government backed the development of a bioavailable (something your body can absorb) chromium supplement called Chromium Picolinate. Our government takes a beating from some citizens thinking it conspires against them, and this is an example of how the government worked to develop a solution to make sure we can get enough chromium in our diets.

Depleted chromium, too much sugar, too much fat, questionable chemical additives, and artificial sweeteners all have their gurus and lobbyists touting issues, risks and dangers of our dietary choices as a nation. There is, if you look beyond the quacks and gurus, a considerable amount of amazing information available on how nutrition affects how our brains function. Please do not dismiss diet as a possible contributory cause of brain disorders. A simple, but profound example, of how a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause psychiatric issues is one of my favorites. You can read it here.

I have never been satisfied to just know something works. I want to know the details of how and why things function the way that they do. The first step in understanding something is to discover what the experts already know. Generally, the best way to do that is to read what others have written. Then check it out for yourself to see if the experts are correct. Discovery leads to understanding.

Following through on this innate need to understand things has opened up opportunities to learn fascinating details about many different things. However, after all the books, articles, papers, documentaries, lectures, classes and more, there was only one source of information that proved to me to be 100 percent reliable. That source of information is God’s Word, and that is why it is the foundation for what you will learn here.

As I learned different things, I discovered I was on a path with other people who are learning. It is like a lifelong hike through changing scenery constantly learning new things as new technologies and information emerge. As I continued to learn new things filtering them through the light of God’s word, I discovered that there some very highly polarized opinions about certain subjects. Our brains being one of those subjects.

Imagine a scenario with me. I am walking on a trail along with doctors and other ministers of the Gospel. The trail we are on is all about learning about these awful attacks that can happen to human minds. The doctors see that I agree with them that our physical brains can suffer from all kinds of trauma from neurotransmitters being out of balance to simple thumps on the noggin or growing masses that can radically alter emotions, behaviors and personalities. The doctors are walking right along with me with that.

Then I say to the doctors that we are more than the sum of our physical parts. That we actually are eternal spiritual beings created in the image of God who are alive in these physical bodies. Then our hiking trails go separate ways. The science of the medical profession does not generally accept us as being eternal spiritual beings created by God in the image of God who are alive in physical bodies.

Then I find myself walking along mostly with ministers of the Gospel, and maybe a few doctors who are believers in Jesus and who agree that we are spiritual beings created by God to eternally exist. Then I explain to the ministers how I see that our physical brains can get messed up the same as we can get diabetes, high blood pressure or other medical problems. These disorders and diseases may leave us in a state of needing medical treatments, including medications, to get relief and aid in healing.

This causes my path to diverge again as some in ministry do not accept that problems with thoughts, emotions and personalities can have anything to do with physical problems in the brain. They see it as purely spiritual problems like the scientists see things as being physical problems with the wiring of the brains of sufferers.

From the beginning I want you to know I see the problem from its different sides. Our enemy uses the physical and mental avenues he can gain access to in his attacks against us—the spiritual beings we happen to be.

For an example of where the spiritual and physical meet. Let us examine something familiar. Let us take a look at sin. Sins are offenses we commit against God. When it comes to sin, how does the bible say a person is tempted? It says that “man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

James 1:13-14 (KJV) ” Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

What are those lusts that tempt us? 1 John 2:15-16 (NIV) says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Here are three foundational examples of how we are drawn away from God in verse 16, and all three are tied to the flesh we are alive in! The lust of fleshly desires, the lust of what we can see and covet with our eyes, and the lust of the pride of life. Satan not only attacks us by tempting us to sin against God using our flesh, he attacks us to render us unfruitful in our service to God. We will discuss it in more detail in a little while, but he attempts, as John 10:10 says, to steal from us, kill us and destroy us in any way that he can.

So, yes I see anxiety as both a neurological issue where the physical (fleshly) brain has a problem and it also being a spiritual problem in that it is a spiritual attack that is sourced in a living enemy we Christians know as Satan.

But let us look at an example of a physical thing that can happen to any of us that definitely requires intervention and what you might do to at least begin to treat the problem.

Would You Render First Aid Help If I Was Bleeding Out?

If there were some first aid supplies close to you and I was bleeding profusely from a serious laceration, would you attempt to treat my problem or just let me bleed out and die? Imagine you at least know basic first aid. If you knew what to do and could use the supplies you had available, would you attempt to stop the bleeding to save my life?

I would imagine that most decent people say they would try even if they have not been trained in first aid. So, if you are willing to try and intervene if I am bleeding out from a physical wound to my body, is it wrong to use tools, such as medications, to treat my brain if it is not working as it should?

Mental disorders, such as anxiety, panic and depression, can have physical causes related to a problem in the chemistry of our brains. If you would do what you can to stop me from bleeding to death from damage to a part of my flesh that you can see with your eyes, you should not be ashamed to do something to assist your fleshly brain when it is in trouble. It is okay to see a medical doctor, and it is okay to try a medication a medical doctor recommends.

Pills are not a cure just like bandages on wounds are not a cure. Stopping the bleed, and repairing a broken artery, allows your created body time to heal. If I just took a wait-and-see approach to a severed artery, I will be dead in a couple of minutes. If the mental symptoms are wearing you out and preventing you from moving on to healing, get help to mitigate, to interrupt, to lessen, to even possibly stop the symptoms altogether. To stop the mental bleed so to speak.

What About Healing?

If you believe in Jesus and get sick, you pray for healing. God still works miracles of intervention to provide immediate healing, but most of us go to the doctor if immediate miraculous healing does not happen.

People, even followers of Jesus, get sick. People who believed in Jesus got sick in the New Testament when healing miracles were very evident and very active. Timothy was prescribed a remedy for his stomach troubles by the Apostle Paul who worked healing miracles in many others. Paul’s own beloved friend, Epaphroditus, in Philippians 2, was sick nigh unto death, but God had mercy on him.

Paul admitted Epaphroditus was sick. He didn’t hide the fact or deny it. Paul admitted that Trophimus was sick. He said in 2 Timothy 4:20, “Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.” Timothy was often sick and Paul told him to try a remedy. There is a section in a book I have been writing that talks about Timothy’s issues with illness, and they may have been due to suffering with anxiety as a disorder.

As for Paul’s remedy to help Timothy, we have come a long way with medical science that surpasses that remedy of water mixed with a little wine. So, it’s not a stretch to say it is okay to attempt to get medical help if you need it whether it is for your pancreas, gallbladder, bad knees, cataracts or your brain.

Admitting that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with is not a lack of faith, nor is it a sign of weakness. It is actually a responsible indicator of strength that you are doing what it takes to live the best life that you can. It is an example for others to emulate.

It does not anger or disappoint God. How can we even pray for healing unless we label the problem or at least admit that there is a problem? The sick cannot even call for the elders of the church to pray unless the sick speak up and say, “Hey brothers and sisters, I am sick, I have a dis-ease, I have a dis-order, and I need that prayer of faith!”

James 5:13-15 (KJV), “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”

Here is the thing when it comes to what the medical professionals can do: They practice, and that is what it is—practice. They do what they can within the confines of what their professions allow. I routinely welcome their help in my own life, but I realize both its limits and the level of participation I have to commit to in order to get the healing I am seeking.

When Anxiety Hit Home

At the end of the day, none of the secular information I learned prepared me to handle the moment extreme anxiety and panic hit me. It felt like a ton of bricks landing on me at one time. It was overwhelming, but I found hope to persevere through knowing God’s word (the bible). I sought, asked and knocked to get help to get relief from the symptoms that felt like an unbearable, crushing weight.

During the worst moments, I had hope in one verse out of the bible. It was Psalms 118:17 (KJV), “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.” How does God’s word tell us to be transformed? Romans 12:2 (KJV) says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Pastor Frank Menhart quoted the verse from Psalms paraphrasing it saying, “You will live and not die and declare the wonderful works of the LORD.” Keeping that in my mind, and saying it out loud and in my thoughts helped me to push through the irrational fears that hit me hard.

That brings me to the point of having a support structure. I was careful who I mentioned details to. I mainly had the support of my wife and Pastor Frank, but I did choose to talk to a couple other people too.

Myself and Other People I Personally Know Who Experienced Anxiety and/or Related Issues

You are not alone in this. I was hit with anxiety to a degree I did not know was possible. What made it worse for me was realizing fully that the fears were irrational. I also know a man who has a professional technical job that requires focus, dedication and determination to accomplish daily. This person suffered greatly with anxiety and panic until delivered. Many years ago Pastor Frank went through a lengthy period of depression where he did not want to leave his house. He did not even want to go to church. Another pastor I know had difficulty with obsessive-compulsive disorder to the point he measured the alignment of knick-knacks on tabletops. This is just the briefest set of examples!

Panic

Have you ever had a panic attack? One where you thought for certain that you were going to die? If you have ever experienced it, there is a very important question for you to consider. Did you die? No. Otherwise, you would not be reading this! However, the awful thoughts of anxiety and its panic relative are persistent. It is somewhat like being forced to watch a lousy show on TV without being able to change the channel or shut the TV off. Understand though that there are things available to you to help change the channel to get to the point that those bad shows no longer exist in the DVR of your mind. This is the transforming, the renewing, the renovation of your mind that the bible talks about!

If the symptoms are bad enough that they interfere with your life or the lives of your loved ones, get help. You do not just have to pursue just one avenue of help. It’s okay to talk to a medical professional, a counselor or your pastor. And it is okay to try medications if your doctor prescribes them for you.

Medical Help For Brain Disorders

Understand that help consists of treatments that are not cures, but the treatments can often help you manage symptoms to live a normal life. Also, many probably can muddle their way through and get by without interventions, but why function at your worst when you could be at your best? Even if it’s not a perfect solution, it could be extremely better.

You are seeking help by reading this or joining in on the gatherings where we discuss anxiety and its relatives. So let us discover help together. The goal for anything you try is to get to the point that the avenues of ingress our enemy uses in your brain are closed down. This brings us to beginning to understand where the spiritual meets the physical as far as our brains are concerned.

The Field of the Mind Example

Imagine a pristine wheat field with the grains on top of the stalks being white and ready for harvest. You are above this field sitting on a hillside observing it. Can you imagine this field of grain waving back and forth in a slight breeze? Now imagine a groundhog making its way from one edge of this field to the other. Can you imagine a small path of wheat stalks being flattened and a path appearing from your overwatch position?

Now imagine a larger animal, maybe a coyote, following the same path the groundhog made. The coyote would make the path wider. Later, a buffalo comes along. He sees the path the coyote made and follows it making it even wider. That little groundhog path has now become a super-highway of access from one side of that field to the other. Now, as you are watching, other paths are being formed starting with small animals along with bigger animals noticing the small paths making paths bigger and bigger. Soon, the entire field is overrun with pathways.

This is exactly how your brain works!

Neural pathways start out as small, or weakly connected, pathways of circuits in your brain for information to be stored and to travel. Neurons in your brain strengthen connections between each other as the neurons keep firing as they are stimulated. The more stimulation a neural pathway receives, the stronger the neuronal connections become. However, the opposite is true of pathways that do not get used. They weaken and disintegrate. This would be like new wheat growing in the trodden field to cover the paths the animals had made.

In Ephesians 6:11 (KJV), the apostle Paul said for us to, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

“Wiles” in Greek is Methodeia (meth-oh-die-ah). Partly defined as “traveling over.” It is a combination of Greek metah (meh-TAH) “amid” and hodeuō (hah-doo-oh) “traveling.” Consider it as Satan’s method of traveling over pathways we have already established in our minds in order to get access to accomplish his threefold ministry of stealing, killing and destroying. Jesus said in John 10:10 (KJV) that, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

We establish, strengthen or cause to weaken neural pathways in our minds on a daily basis. Whether it is an artifact of the Internet or an actual Native American proverb, the story of two wolves inside a person fighting for control is a good way to think about these neural pathways we form in our minds. The story is supposed to be about a Cherokee boy telling his grandfather about the two wolves fighting inside him for control. One represented good and one represented evil. The boy asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight. The grandfather advised the boy that the wolf that would win would be the wolf that was fed.

What’s the word say about our enemy, Satan?

1 Peter 5:8-11 (KJV) [emphasis mine] warns us to, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

There is more to that “wiles” word in Ephesians, and I invite you to study the etymology of the word yourself. However, also note that it has a history in meaning a hook as in fishhook or a weapon with a hook-shaped end. Taking advantage of a thought pathway in your mind is how Satan gets his hooks into you to steal from you, kill you and destroy you.

In Job, we have another statement. This time from Satan himself, and it is about his methods of attempting to gain access to us to use his three-pronged system of destruction. Job 1:6-7 (ISV) says, “One day, divine beings presented themselves to the LORD, and Satan accompanied them. The LORD asked Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ In response, Satan answered the LORD, ‘From wandering all over the earth and walking back and forth throughout it.'”

What is he looking for as he wanders? He is not interested in the beauty of Niagara Falls or freshly fallen snow in a meadow surrounded by a pine forest. He is not interested in the colors of a radiant sunset as seen from a sandy beach in Hawaii. And, other than the example of Jesus sending demons into swine, I cannot think of another example in the bible where Satan, and the fallen angels like him, had any interest in accessing animals. The wandering over the earth in Peter and Job point to a spiritual being attempting to gain access to the physical minds of human beings.

A human being is a body, a soul (mind) and a spirit. The place where the spirit and body connect is in the mind. This is why religion and science have difficulty fully reconciling. Science knows that medications that seem to fix problems that can occur with the functional aspects of the brains of some patients may have minimal or no effect on other patients. On the spiritual side of religion that views problems with thoughts as purely being spiritual problems, there is a loss to explain why medications and therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, are such a help to people suffering with anxiety, panic attacks, depression and other related disorders.

It is because of there being that two-way street kind of thing going on. Medications and other treatments physically alter the brain. Treatments alter the pathways through the wheat fields. This gives relief for many from the troubling symptoms they have been enduring. The spiritual approach does the same thing. You are strengthening pathways in your mind that keep your focus on your Creator and his promises while weakening the hold the whisperer (Satan) has on you to be an offending influence.

Believers say to get the word of God in your spirit as in establishing it in the depths of your being. I think our spirits are fully ready to operate in the truths of God’s word. It is our minds, which are part of our bodies of flesh, that are not. This is why David said in Psalms 119:11 (KJV) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Heart, in that verse, is the Hebrew word “בל” (pronounce lāve). Similar words mean lionesses and even flame. We talk about the heart of a lion or a heart being on fire. However, here is a word that seems to be somewhere between the literal heart of flesh and the figurative use of heart that we understand as being the center of one’s intellect and emotions—the mind. The access point in the spiritual to control the flesh either for doing God’s will or yielding to Satan. There is a two-way street between your spirit, which is the who of what you are, and your mind of flesh that lives, moves and acts in this world.

This is why Paul, in Romans 12:12 tells us to not conform (to fashion ourselves like) this world, but to be transformed (metamorphose like a butterfly) by the renewing (literal renewing, renovation of the neural pathways) of our minds!

Methodeia has a lot of meaning that doesn’t transliterate well into a single word in English. This is common when moving between languages. Often, words in other languages convey concepts to native speakers of those languages that need more than a single word in our English for us to gain a full understanding of the foreign word’s meaning.

The basic concept of Methodeia is roving trickery attempting to gain access to our minds by using established or by establishing new neural pathways of thought. Pathways that are used with the purpose of causing mental and physical damage that finally results in spiritual destruction. And this methodology Satan uses is what Jesus warned us about in John 10:10. The enemy, Satan, travels to and fro looking for opportunities to steal from, kill and utterly destroy creatures created in the image of God—you and me.

Methodeia is stealing (beginning in the mind), killing (affecting the body), for the purpose of complete destruction (affecting your spirit).

We will learn to recognize the pathways in much the same way as if you were acting as overwatch of that imaginary field of wheat. You will begin to see where the paths are at, and this will equip you to know where to concentrate your resources to shut down access disrupting the steal, kill, destroy methodology your enemy uses against you.

How Neural Pathways Are Formed and Function in Your Brain

Let us take a look at how the physical, the flesh, part of your mind works and how it can get messed up. It is no different than the bleeding example I used earlier. Some things have physiological causes or are made worse because of something physically, or biologically going on in the brain. My pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, so I either inject insulin as a medication or I die. Just like a pancreas can quit producing insulin, our brains can get messed up when it comes to these things called neurotransmitters.

Your brain, among other parts, is made up of neurons. Estimates are upwards of 100 billion neurons are in each human brain. These neurons use electricity to convey signals that are processed in order to move and store information. Neurons have an odd appearance when illustrated. They have a central organelle that keeps each neuron alive, and they have protrusions that reach out to other neurons. Some of these protrusions, called dendrites, receive information from surrounding neurons, and each neuron has an axon—think of it as kind of like a hand—reaching out to send information it receives along a pathway to other neurons.

These neurons do not touch. There is a space, called a cleft, between them. The axons send out information, and the dendrite receptors receive information. The space between axons and dendrites needs neurotransmitters, which are chemicals, to get the information across the clefts. Whenever these neurotransmitters are not physically functioning appropriately, neurons misfire. Think of how gasoline car engine cylinders misfire when the cylinders do not get the spark from the spark plugs or do not get it at the right time. Yes, that is a rudimentary description, but it works for our purposes here.

The neuronal electrical system needs to be adjusted when it is not firing correctly. In a car, you might change the spark plugs, fix the distributor, adjust the timing or replace a spark plug wire that is shorting out. In your brain, you need to adjust the neurotransmitters to help your brain work better. Some medications can help with this. The fix is to help the neurons fire as they are supposed to in order to keep them from being overactive or underactive. When it comes to thoughts, sometimes you want neurons to fire to think normally. Sometimes you want to inhibit their firing to suppress unwanted thoughts.

A neat thing about these neural pathways is that they can be strengthened or weakened based on how much they are firing. You have the power to physically alter neural pathways by doing ordinary things, such as reading a book, learning to play an instrument and just plain old thinking. Problems occur when pathways you want to be quiet start to get loud in your brain. Medications to help brain paths fire in a more normal manner along with working to transform your mind to align with what your Creator has spoken in his word changes everything. But it is not a passive thing. You must do your part.

The Stigma of Mental Disorders Is Nonsense

The stigma of mental disorders is interesting. My thoughts, intellect and emotions are not housed in my pancreas, so no one gives a second thought that I have an insulin pump that gives me insulin to make up for what my body no longer produces. However, my brain is where things like happiness, sadness, anger, passion, intelligence, anxiety and all those other associated things are housed. If it does not produce the correct chemistry for optimal operation making it necessary to take a medication to adjust what is physically not working right, a stigma from our society surrounds it.

Stigma is a mark of disgrace. Society does not care if you take a pill to replace thyroid hormones because you have hypothyroidism, but society looks warily at those who need to boost serotonin levels in their brains or have a need to alter other aspects of their brain chemistry. It is because society does not associate a malfunctioning pancreas or thyroid with social problems that frighten society. Nevermind that a failure to balance insulin in the body could result in hypoglycemia leading to passing out at the wheel, or the fact that some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism can be forgetfulness, inattention and mental slowness. That is acceptable to society, but society becomes frightened when the brain needs adjusting.

I have always thought it humorous and profoundly sad at the same time when I hear someone tell another who is suffering from anxiety, panic, depression or other related issues that, “It’s all in your head.” Well, that is the truth, but it is not helpful. It would be like telling me in the earlier example of bleeding out that it is just mind over matter, and that I should just will myself to stop bleeding. That is ridiculous and so is any stigma trying to be forced on those who need to care for their brain functions the same as I give myself insulin or a person with hypothyroidism takes thyroid hormone replacement medications.

So, if you get anxious in a setting where “normal” people are not anxious, the “normal” people see it as something not being right in your head. They are correct, but it is something physically wrong with the flesh part of your brain. Also, there is a real-life enemy that takes advantage of that physical problem for the ultimate purpose of destroying you. The problem is not because the spiritual being that you are, who is alive and housed in your physical body, is a freak or failure. If you have repented (turned your back on) sin and have put your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the disconnect you once had with your Creator has been repaired. Now it is time to work on that renewing of your mind through a real metamorphosis that the word “transformed” in Romans 12:2 means.

It’s okay to get help to fix physiological issues with our brains the same as it is to take other medication to live. Apart from receiving a healing from God, I take insulin. And I know that it is okay for us to get our brains treated too.

The societal stigma associated with anything that malfunctions in the brain causes many people to resist seeking medical intervention. Some people fear for their careers. One person I know cannot even share all of the details of their own personal testimony of deliverance from a severe mental attack because one of the symptoms the person experienced was a time of hearing voices. If this person’s superiors knew that this person had previously heard voices, this person would be out of a job. (Identifying pronouns avoided to protect identity.)

From my perspective of knowing this person, I could see that there was a definite mix of a spiritual and physical attack on the person’s mind. Satan took advantage of an established pathway that the person had been opening of their own free will in their physical mind for years. Once that pathway was closed, the avenue of ingress or access was cut off freeing the person from the terrible symptoms of severe anxiety and accompanying voices.

Doing Your Part

God’s word is clear. What you plant is what you harvest. Galatians 6:7 (KJV) says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” If you fill your mind with junk, you harvest a crop of junk. If you are self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs, you are sabotaging your own healing. If you fill your mind with addictive things, such as pornography and violence, you will reap the results Satan has in mind for you.

We are instructed in God’s word to think about specific things. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:8-9 (KJV), “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”

We have been warned by the apostle Peter to be on guard in our minds by abstaining from chemicals, such as alcohol, that negatively affect our minds and to be fully awake acting as overwatch of that wheatfield of our minds. Otherwise, there is an enemy that desires to devour us—to gulp us down in a single bite. We are instructed to be stiff, solid, unmovable and unwavering in our resistance of this enemy. And there is a further promise that if we resist this enemy, he will flee (run away) from us!

1 Peter 5:8-9 (KJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

James 4:7 (KJV) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

You are constantly rewiring your brain every day. Make sure it is the transformation, the renewing, the renovation of your mind as a follower of Jesus. There is no error in following after the ways of the one who spoke you into existence.

First Steps

If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you can know him right now. Do you recognize that God exists and you are separated from God because of your own sin? Furthermore, do you recognize that Jesus paid the penalty of your sin by dying on the cross for you? The bible says in Romans 6:23 (KJV), “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

You can ask Jesus to forgive you and be your Lord and Savior right now. It is called confession and repentance. You confess the fact that you recognize your offenses (sin), and you ask for forgiveness with repentance. Repentance means turning away from. So, you turn your back on sin and turn toward God.

When you do that with words from your own mouth, you are what fellow believers in Christ call being saved. That means the promise of God coming to dwell within you in this life you are living in this body you are alive in happens.

Romans 10:8-10 (ISV) “But what does it say? ‘The message is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart.’ This is the message about faith that we are proclaiming: If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with his heart and is justified, and declares with his mouth and is saved.”

Jesus said in Revelation 3:20 (ISV), “Look! I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.”

Your Creator has not abandoned you to fate, genetic chance or a luck of the draw, nor has He left you to be at the mercy of a being (Satan) who has no mercy whatsoever. But know this, you are free to pursue whatever you want. You can pursue God or the world. The free will you have been given by God is sovereign. Your will your consequences.

James 4:4 (KJV) “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”

God does not want us to pursue certain things because he wants to protect us physically, mentally and spiritually. You are a three-part being. Your existence manifests in three ways. You have a physical body, a soul (your mind), and a spirit. Your spirit needs to be in agreement with the Holy Spirit alive in you as a follower of Jesus. When you function in agreement with God’s will and word, you then live that abundant life Jesus promised. Here is that verse again that was quoted a few times earlier in this article: John 10:10 (KJV) “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Otherwise, you leave yourself open to all kinds of varying degrees of dis-ease, dis-order and dis-tress. Here is another promise from God’s word, and it is found in the last rule on our sheet of rules we are following for this gathering. It is a promise of doing what you need to do to draw close to God with the promise that he will then draw close to you. It is furthermore promised that if you resist Satan, he will run away from you.

James 4:7-8 (KJV) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

You should want it all. You should want to be that new creature—that new creation in Christ—the same as you want relief from the symptoms of anxiety. If you come for two more gatherings, we can be well established on a road of recovery together.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

Do not be like those women mentioned in 2 Timothy chapter 3 who were ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Recognize truth and act upon it. Be encouraged to take action. Turn your life over to Jesus. Talk through what you are going through with someone you trust whether it is a medical professional or someone else.

However, please understand that psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists and other practitioners are not likely to accept a spiritual explanation as being part of the cause of any mental disorders. In some cases, your spiritual approach could be seen as being a symptom of a disorder. However, if you think medication could benefit you as far as symptom relief goes, you will need to consult someone licensed to practice medicine. Fortunately, most general practitioners (family doctors) are okay with prescribing medications to help with anxiety and its relatives.

God’s way of renewing my mind did not let me down, and I acted upon, and continue to act upon, it in different ways to walk in the freedom I initially sought after. I sought relief, and I knocked on doors to get it. I asked God for help, and I got it. Do not be passive about this. Set small actionable goals for each day that include learning God’s word, applying God’s word to your life and talking to God daily. He will never betray your confidence. He knows what you have need of even before you ask (Matthew 6:8).

This article is based on the notes and presentation given at Blainesburg Bible Church on Friday, January 3, 2020. This article is under copyright ownership of Cody S. Alderson.

Pray, Fast and Fight!

Due to the many illness within our church and those who are affiliated with our church, whether it be physical, mental or spiritual, our Pastor has called for corporate fast and prayer to bombard heaven to make our requests known to the Lord regarding this situation.

This morning during my fasting and prayer time with the Lord, He spoke to me saying, “The battle is in array (to set in order an impressive display), and your victory is at hand. Your future is not determined by what the enemy plans but what I do next!”

While we are praying for many, one of the people we are standing, trusting and believing in God’s Healing Power for is our dear Sister Linda Smith. It is of no coincidence, church, for us to be fasting and praying, trusting and believing, and then a One Call message goes out saying our dear Sister had to be rushed back to the hospital. The enemy would like to bring doubt and confusion into our minds and our hearts. The enemy would like nothing more than to laugh at us and say, “Your God cannot heal.” This is the time, church, to stand strong and stand tall as Soldiers of Christ!

As He said to me this morning, our victory IS at hand, and our future is determined by what HE does next. Man your weapons, church! Prayer, praise and faith! This is how we fight our battles! It may look like we are surrounded, but we are surrounded by HIM! Him and His angels.

Put on your spiritual armor, church, and use it! You have been equipped and trained well to use your armor! Now is the time! God not only encouraged through the words I gave you but He continued on and used the Our Daily Bread devotional. In Mark 10:46-52 we see Blind Bartimaeus. Many rebuked him for crying out to Jesus. But that didn’t stop Bartimaeus! No way! Bartimaeus wanted to see, and he knew this was his chance—his opportunity—because The One was here, and that One was JESUS!

Can you picture it? Bartimaeus screaming, “Jesus! Have mercy on me! Jesus!” And over his voice are the rebukers screaming, “Be quiet! Shut up man! He’s too busy! He’s not going to heal you!” Then, over all that noise, over all that chaos, Jesus stops. Jesus stops and says, “Call him!” Woohoo! Yes! It’s Bartimaeus’ time! He jumps up, throws off his cloak, and went straight to His Healer!

Even though Jesus knew what Bartimaeus wanted, He asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” There’s power in expressing our needs to our Lord! When we express our needs, we are saying, “Lord, this is what I need, and I’m believing you can fulfill my need!”

So, during this week of fasting and praying, DO NOT be fooled by negative reports or any other forms of those arrows the devil shoots your way! Cheer up! Jesus has stopped, and He is listening to what you want Him to do! In fact, all of heaven is listening. Fast and pray, church! Trusting and believing!

The Names of God Bible Study Series: First Lesson Introduction

Facebook livestreaming was not working for us on Wednesday November 6, 2019. That bible study was the first in a new series being taught by Pastor Frank Menhart on The Names of God. Christine Szakal prepared this introduction for those interested in the new series who watch by live stream in order to help them be ready for lesson two.

The Bible Study held on Wednesday, November 6, 2019, was the beginning of a new series titled: “The Names of God Series – Lesson 1 Elohim”.  Each of God’s names reveals a wonderful aspect about His nature that can meet your deepest needs, comfort you in times of personal tragedy, and release you to new heights of praise in times of joy.

Our God is so vast that the heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chronicles 2:6 & 6:18). Likewise, His personality is so complex that one name cannot adequately describe Him. Throughout the Old Testament, God revealed Himself to His people through His various names. In the book of Isaiah, we are told that “He holds the span of the universe in His Hands.” Think about that for a moment. He holds the entire universe in His Hands! Knowing this, how can we ever doubt Him to care and provide for our every need?

The first title of God found in the Bible is “Elohim” in Genesis 1:1. This Hebrew word is translated as “God” in our English, and it means power or sovereignty. It appears over 2500 times in the Word of God. “El” is the root word for Elohim. It describes God’s greatness and glory. It displays His power and sovereignty.

There are two facets of God that make up the name Elohim.
1. Total power, might and sovereignty.
2. Complete creativity.


Some examples of how we see God’s creativity are the creation of the world and how He created eyes for the blind man to see. We see His creativity when He gives us new hearts or through His creation of healing one from sickness. The list goes on and on.

Another facet we can add is how He makes covenants with His creation—He makes promises. Romans 1:16 – I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the power of God!

The Hebrew ending for Elohim is plural. Why? Because it describes the Divine Trinity of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We find several places in the Bible that confirm this plurality.
1. The creation of Adam in Gen 1:26-27.
2. Father, Son and Holy Spirit were all involved in this powerful creative process. (Genesis 1:2-3 and Colossians 1:16. We can add to these scriptures John 1:1 and John 1:14 where the Word became flesh.) All being active, present and full of creative power: ELOHIM!
3. Analogy: God is the Architect, Jesus is the Builder and the Holy Spirit is He Who Breathes life into the structure! Those Who are mighty and powerful; Those Who are creative and sovereign.
4. This increases the impact of Jesus’ shocking statement to the religious men of His day where in John 8:56-58 Jesus said, “. . . [B]efore Abraham was, I AM.”
Selah.

We will continue this series next Wednesday, November 13, 2019. Please join us. It is a wonderful honor to have a relationship with ELOHIM!

Guest Speaker Dale Cowher

Come on out to Blainesburg Bible Church on Sunday June 2, 2019 to hear a special message from Brother Dale Cowher.

Brother Dale is the CPA for our church, and he is a servant of our Lord who has a message for us. Pastor Frank had Brother Dale on his heart to be the one to speak to the congregation while he is away on the mission the Holy Spirit is leading him to accomplish.

Church starts at 9:30 AM with Sunday School. Come join us to worship God, learn his word and fellowship with brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Body Ministry 7

These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This is the final lesson in this series that was originally released on April 28, 2019.

Introduction

Please read lessons 1-6 before reading this final one in the series on Body Ministry. The prior lessons give all the background needed for the application of this one to be effective.

Serving in Body Ministry

Over the years I have been learning to do what is needed. It does not matter what it is as the Lord has built into me a measure of versatility. When I began to be under Pastor Frank C. Menhart Jr.’s leadership as my pastor again, I told him I would do whatever he needs done. I told him I would clean toilets if that was what was needed. It was not a false humility, I committed to do what was needed. Why? Well, I have the examples of Jesus, the godly leaders in the bible, and of Pastor Frank and other men of God to emulate.

Why did I mention what I said about cleaning toilets? It is because of what happened on my first day as assistant pastor. The service and the meeting where the church voted for me to be assistant pastor was over. Everyone had gone home except for Pastor Frank and his wife Ruth along with myself and my wife Tina. Someone noticed one of the toilets needed cleaned during a restroom check before locking up. Pastor Frank put on some cleaning gloves and headed into the restroom to clean the toilet. I told him I would do it. He told me that since he already had the gloves on he would do it. I assisted by getting the cleaning materials. My first official duty as assistant pastor was to assist the senior pastor with cleaning a toilet!

That was not a random occurrence. It was a reminder to me of the commitment I had made. Plus, it showed me that even the senior pastor needs to be willing to step up and do whatever is necessary in tending to the flock God has entrusted him with. Also, this is not a toot-my-own-horn thing. Rather, it is a lead-up to a question I have for you, the reader. Are you willing to do whatever the Holy Spirit prompts you to do, even if it seems like a messy, demeaning job? Are you willing to take the place in the Body of Christ that the Lord has set for you no matter what that position may be?

One of the biggest problems in the church today is members of the Body of Christ wanting to be the head of the body instead of being the parts of the body God assigned them to be. Jesus is the head of the body (Colossians 1:18)!

The world tells us to aspire to greatness. Some will strive for it crushing anything and everyone that gets in their way. Jesus told us that if we want to be masters, we need to be servants (Mark 10:42-45, Galatians 5:13-15, Matthew 23:11-12, John 13:12-15). That kind of thinking makes absolutely no sense to the way of the world, but it is a foundational element of being a member of the Body of Christ.

In the Old Testament, God used the death and shedding of blood of animals to demonstrate to people that the penalty for sin was death (Romans 6:23). The offered animals covered the sins of the people with their death and blood acting as a constant visual reminder of the seriousness of and penalty for our human sin.

Sin brought death, and God arranged from the beginning a sacrifice/payment of the penalty of sin. From the foundation of the world, Jesus was the planned perfect sacrifice/payment for all of human sin (1 Peter 1:18-20, Acts 2:22-24). Before Jesus humbled himself to be born as a human being (Philippians 2:5-11), live a sinless life, die on the cross and be resurrected, the Old Testament sacrifices were a type and shadow of the sacrifice the Messiah/Christ (see lesson one) was to provide once and for all to take away sin.

All along God was not pleased with the blood of bulls and goats. What did please him? Obedience! Stop here and read Jeremiah 7:21-24, Hebrews 10:1-10 and 1 Samuel 15:22-23 before continuing.

Do not fear change. That is the word I keep hearing in my spirit as I write this paragraph. God has an actionable plan for Blainesburg Bible Church that we can see—if we want to see—as a vision through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. For us, having a vision requires acting on faith now to see the work we are doing bear much fruit later (2 Corinthians 5:7, Matthew 13:31-32, Matthew 17:19-21, Luke 7:5-6).

The action necessary to see God’s plan through requires a coordinated effort from each member of the Body of Christ at Blainesburg Bible Church present now and from members God will place in the body as we move forward. A coordinated effort requires obedience and dedication (1 Peter 1:13-16, Galatians 6:7-10, 2 Timothy 2:1-5).

Paul used military examples several times. He knew the Roman military machine was ungodly, but he also saw how dedication to training and following a hierarchy of command lead to Rome expanding its kingdom conquering the physical world Paul knew. I do not know how Paul could not have made the comparison in his mind how the same coordinated effort coming from followers of Christ could accomplish far more for establishing the Kingdom of God here (Matthew 6:10).

Hands of God here at Blainesburg Bible Church, cleanse and bandage any wounds the Spirit shows you. Eyes of God here at Blainesburg Bible Church, look to the horizon the Spirit is pointing us to ahead, and guide the body toward it. Feet of God here at Blainesburg Bible Church, take the Gospel with you with each forward step. Mouth of God here at Blainesburg Bible Church, speak the Word placed on your tongue with the force of volume coming from the lungs over the vocal chords. Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate! Do the opposite of Luke 6:46 and DO what Jesus says to do when you call him Lord, Lord!

Here is something for you to consider: If Pastor Frank said the Lord put it on his heart to paint the church building purple, what would your reaction be? Would you balk at the idea or turn to the word of God and to the Lord in prayer to confirm the vision in your spirit? Would you speak out against it among the other members of the body before seeking to know what the head of the body (Jesus) wants, or would your attitude be to understand why God would put this on Pastor Frank’s heart?

Obviously there is nothing in the Bible forbidding painting the building purple, so the next step would be understanding why. We all like to know why. I most certainly like to know the whys of things. However, I would grab my assigned bucket of paint and brush, and I would start applying purple paint to the church. Why? Because I understand it’s not up to me to nitpick over details of the vision given to the Pastor, and I either trust the undershepherd placed by God to lead and instruct me or I do not (1 Peter 5:1-11).

Please take the time to finish this series by reading Philippians 2:1-18 and by praying about your part in body ministry here at Blainesburg Bible Church.

If you have any questions about this lesson series, please ask!

Body Ministry 6

These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on April 21, 2019.

Introduction

You should read the prior lessons before studying this one. This is especially true if you missed lesson 5 or did not do what was asked. If you have been following along and have completed a very prayerful examination of your spiritual health and fitness, then it is time to move forward.

One does not have to look far to find examples of physical illness or disabilities in the church. Personally, I have been experiencing pain in my shoulder area. Diagnostics ranging from X-Rays to MRIs sought the source of the pain not finding a definitive answer. Each specialist leans toward his own specialty trying to figure it out, but none have provided a solution that takes away the pain.

I wondered why the pain continued when I know God provides immediate physical healing today the same as when Jesus walked here in his earthly body. What God is showing me has me concerned. Our church in America is spiritually ill and in need of spiritual healing first. Then, I believe, the flood of power from the Holy Spirit will return in earnest. Rather than physical healing miracles being the exception, they will return to being the rule.

However, that requires the church and its members to walk in spiritual health as the body of Christ. Are you prepared to truly be a spiritually healthy member of the body of Christ, or do you prefer to just go through worthless motions of religion? One does not demand any real commitment from you. The other demands that you daily present yourself as a living sacrifice not being conformed to the way of the world. One leads to a form of godliness, but rejects the life-changing power (2 Timothy 3:5). The other leads to faith that moves mountains (Mark 11:22-26)!

Discerning the Lord’s Body

“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”

—1 Corinthians 11:30 (KJV)

Granted, not every church in the early New Testament times was as deeply troubled as the Corinthian church that prompted Paul’s first letter to them. The city of Corinth was very corrupt. There was actually a Greek word which meant to act like a Corinthian. It was a derogatory term used to describe those who lived lives of debauchery. Corinth was an I-will-do-whatever-I-want-to-do kind of place, and this attitude, unfortunately, also invaded the church.

Corinth was so bad that even in the church there was a man who was having sex with his stepmother without receiving a rebuke from the church! Paul instructed the church to excommunicate the man in order for him and everyone else to understand that his behavior was absolutely unacceptable (1 Corinthians 5). The action of turning the man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh resulted in him repenting. The church had to be instructed by Paul in his second letter to let the repentant man return to the fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

Paul is the one who taught us about body ministry with the main text of his teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 with additional information in Romans 12:1-8..

Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (ISV) [emphasis mine], “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks from the cup in an unworthy manner will be held responsible for the Lord’s body and blood. A person must examine himself and then eat the bread and drink from the cup, because whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That’s why so many of you are weak and sick and a considerable number are dying.”

The Corinthian church gathered regularly, but there were divisions among them (1 Corinthians 11:18). When they gathered together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion), it was more like a drunken party where the wealthy indulged and the poor went without. Paul had to straighten out this error as it was leading to literal physical weakness, illness and death with the church members not discerning what it meant to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Every day of your Christian life needs to be spent in service to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Do not call him Lord, Lord and ignore doing what he tells you to do (Luke 6:46-49). Eating the bread and drinking the cup of Communion “unworthily” (1 Corinthians 11:29) is not about whether you are worthy of Jesus’ saving grace. John the Baptist summed it up nicely when he said he was not even worthy enough to untie Jesus’ sandal straps. None of us is worthy of Salvation, but Paul said in Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

To partake of the Lord’s supper unworthily is to do it irreverently. It is to stand there proclaiming a lie by consuming the bread (the symbol of Jesus’ broken body) and the grape juice (the symbol of Jesus’ shed blood) while failing to daily present your own self as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” It is possible to be committed to a religion without any commitment to actually serving Jesus.

Understand that if you have recently been overtaken in a fault (Galatians 6:1) but have repented, it does not mean you are unworthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper. On the other hand, to live a lie of just doing the church thing of honoring God with your lips but having a heart far from him (Matthew 15:7-9), is to make a mockery of the body and blood of Christ when partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

Whether there be only a few or many in a congregation doing this, it leads to God’s judgment. Paul warned the Corinthian church that their folly of not discerning the Lord’s body was causing people in the church to be weak, sick and even to die.

Note that the passage does not expressly specify that the weak, sick and dying were exclusively those who were not partaking of the Lord’s Supper appropriately. Was it just those who partook unworthily who were weak, sick or dying, or did all the members suffer because of the actions of some other members living in error (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)?

I would like to think that only those partaking in error fell subject to the physical judgment. However, what do we do about scriptures telling us we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that we are one body in Christ with all the members (body parts) suffering when one member suffers (1 Corinthians 12:25-26), and that we are members one of another (Romans 12:5)?

Serving God means we have committed to yielding our lives to Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). It means we have opened the door of our hearts to receive Christ as our Savior, and we take our place as members (parts) of the body of Christ. We have determined to work in unity within our local church body under subjection to Christ as the head and under the godly direction of our church leaders.

It has never been, is not now and can never be an I-will-do-whatever-I-want type of commitment. The spiritual health of the church that leads to the fire of revival begins with our full commitment to becoming exactly who Jesus wants us to be as part of his body here. Consider prayerfully the body ministry damage that failure to serve Christ with full commitment causes.

Body Ministry 5

These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on April 14, 2019.

Introduction

Lessons 1-3 establish who Jesus is, the necessity of his followers producing fruit demonstrating a changed life (repentance), and that we belong to God, which should make our conduct disciplined and under submission to hierarchical authority with Jesus being the head of this authority. Lesson 4 includes the main body ministry text from 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. Before continuing with this lesson, please read that text in your bible again.

When the Body Is Healthy or Not Healthy . . .

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” 1 Corinthians 12:26 KJV.

How would you like it if you were perched high up on a ladder and your feet just decided to dance? Would it make you joyful if your hands and arms decided to take a nap while you were driving down a highway at 70 mph? Do you think you may have some concern if your stomach decided it felt under-appreciated and decided to stop working until it could go to another church, er, I mean body, where it felt more at home?

We could go on for a long time making up various scenarios where one’s individual body parts go rogue and rebel against what we need them to do. How about one hand undermining the work of the other hand, or fingers that just do not get along with one another always arguing? Can you think of some examples on your own?

Instead of body parts going rogue, how about sick or injured body parts? How would your hike in the woods be altered by a sprained ankle, or, worse yet, a broken leg? Have you ever been hit with influenza—the flu? Not just a bad cold but one of the influenza strains that get passed around every year. Some flu strains make you feel like you are going to die. In fact, the flu kills thousands every year. The flu is an infection that makes your entire body very ill. Is there any circumstance you can think of where you would welcome catching the flu bug?

If you are generally healthy, think about a time when you were sick or injured. Maybe you have a chronic illness or physical issue that is debilitating to some degree. People who have been labeled as having disabilities often accomplish extraordinary things by adapting to overcome their so-called disabilities. Adaptations such as being born without arms but learning to use feet to write, eat and manipulate objects with amazing dexterity.

Though there are myriad examples of human beings learning to compensate for body parts that are missing or not functioning optimally, the best way is when our bodies are intact, fully functional and operating in perfect health.

Now let us switch from the physical examples to the spiritual point. The church, which is the body of Christ here on earth, is compensating due to missing, disabled and unhealthy parts (members). Some members go rogue doing their own thing, not falling under the authority of Jesus, scripture or their church leaders becoming crippled due to not following instructions from the head of the body—Jesus (Luke 6:46). Some members are spiritually ill due to trouble with various sins.

Remember, Paul said that when one member suffers, all the rest do too! The church has learned to adapt, such as a man without arms who uses his feet, but that is not the way the body of Christ—the church—is supposed to function. This crippling causes limitations, and limitations are NOT what God wants for any of us as individuals, especially for His church!

I feel in my spirit that the Lord wants us to examine ourselves thoroughly. I see it as each of us as individual members of the body of Christ taking a few days to examine everything we do, everything we do not do, and the things we think and say from the moment we open our eyes to start the day to the moment we drift off to sleep at night. Not just an inventory of how we think we stand in the sight of God right now, but a moment-by-moment consideration of our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors over the next few days.

Personalize it! Make a point to consider what Jesus has to say about your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors as you move from moment to moment in your life over the next few days. As you live each day consider: What am I doing that I should not be doing? What am I not doing that I should be doing? What am I thinking about? Does it line up with Philippians 4:8? How am I responding to other people? What would I think about the current me if I was able to encounter myself on the street, in the grocery store, at home with family or in the sanctuary at church?

If you assess yourself truthfully, that assessment is your current level of spiritual health as the member (part) of the body of Christ God has assigned you to be. Please do not just read this and forget about it like the man looking into the mirror in James 1:23-24. Look inward, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you exactly how the Father sees you at this point in your life.

Do not let what you used to be yesterday, last week, last month, last year or decades ago skew your self-assessment over the next few days. Look closely at where you are now in your walk with Jesus. As a specifically assigned part of the body of Christ, are you in peak spiritual health and fitness? Is there a spiritual version of an injury or illness that needs healing? Are you out of spiritual shape and in need of some exercise to better function in the body the way the Lord wants you to?

Times are changing fast. Our enemy, Satan, is in a fury knowing that his time is short to accomplish the evil his heart desires to do (Revelation 12:12). He does not savor the things of God (think the things God wants). Rather, he savors the things of men (thinks thoughts as fallen humans do) (Matthew 16:23 or Mark 8:33). However, we who follow Jesus can savor the things of God (think the things God wants), because we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16)!

Wrap Up

This week, think of where you fit in the body of Christ. Consider carefully and prayerfully your level of spiritual health and fitness. Though we are using physical body examples of illness, injury and rogue body parts, the point is a spiritual one. The most physically damaged believer could be the healthiest and fittest as a member of the body of Christ while a physically healthy and fit person could be seriously disabled spiritually.

Body Ministry 4

These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on April 7, 2019.

Introduction

Lesson 1 establishes who Jesus is, what he did for us, and how we are supposed to be in full communion with him as part of the Body of Christ here. Lesson 2 explained the need for producing fruit that demonstrates repentance as well as how we were bought back from eternal separation from God and belong to God and not ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Lesson 3 discusses Apostle Paul’s use of military references that describe how followers of Christ need to fall in line under the authority of Christ as the head of the church as well as understanding church hierarchical authority established by God and understanding the need for obedience and punishment of disobedience (2 Corinthians 10:6).

Body Ministry

Shortcuts are a cultural trend in the United States. The ability to instantly search for information online along with our society-driven need to have everything fast has made us impatient. However, one does not put the roof on a building before the foundation and walls are built first. Spiritual development is the same. Our foundation is Christ, and our spiritual learning begins with the milk of the word (1 Corinthians 3:11, 1 Peter 2:1-3). The prior lessons laid the foundation for understanding body ministry.

There is a trend in the church to streamline, abbreviate and shortcut just about everything. Convenience is another word we can use to describe a lot of church doings. Some of these doings are great. Some are worthless. Water baptism started out as immersion. Now there are churches that sprinkle. Convenient? Certainly! However, what is lost in the name of convenience?

Salvation through Jesus has also been streamlined into getting getting people to recite a “Sinner’s Prayer” formula. A prayer to receive God’s gift of eternal life through Christ is wonderful, but Salvation is not just a few words combined with a few feelings and then going back to how things used to be. If you are truly saved, you will begin to demonstrate that in how you live your life. Salvation is a gift from God and not one acquired through works (Ephesians 2:8-9), but Salvation through faith is dead without your life in Christ producing actions that bear fruit (James 2:14-26).

You cannot just do works by themselves to earn points with God to get into heaven. John 14:6 makes it clear that Jesus is the only Way. On the other hand, if you put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, the bearing of good fruit naturally follows. If not, your faith is dead.

The story Jesus told about the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-6 shows us that people can come to faith late in the game. They still receive the blessing of Salvation through faith without having put in a set time working to carry out God’s will bearing heaps of good fruit. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be with him that very day in paradise. This was just after the thief (Luke 23:39-43) declared his own and the other thief’s guilt, pronounced Jesus innocent, and then asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus reigns as King.

That thief produced much faith and fruit in the short time he hung on a cross next to Jesus. Most of us have considerably more time to demonstrate our faith and are able to produce much fruit meet for repentance (Matthew 3:7-9, Acts 26:20).

Paul talks about Gentile (non-Jewish) believers being a wild olive tree branch that has been grafted (connected) to the rootstock (Jesus) in Romans 11:11-24. Plant grafting is taking a branch from one plant and joining it to the trunk and roots of another plant. The new branch gets all of its life-sustaining nutrients from the plant it is grafted to. It is an analogy of how we non-Jewish followers are joined to Christ. In the body ministry analogy of Paul, we take our place as members of the body of Christ.

The grafting story is another analogy of working together in unity with Jesus that goes right along with body ministry taught by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches in John 15:5 (read John 15:1-17), which is yet another analogy of Jesus being the source of everything for us as Christians, which is the same in the analogy of him being the head of the body in Colossians 1:18.

Without him we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with him all things are possible (Luke 18:27, Matthew 19:26, Mark 9:23)! That is, if we continue to abide in him as the vine or the head of the body.

Take a moment to read the main body ministry text of 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (NLT) written by Paul without the verse breaks. Here, with some emphasis from me, this passage reads as the letter (epistle) first presented to the church at Corinth would:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, ‘I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,’ that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,’ would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

God has put you right where he wants you as a living part (member) of the body of Christ (the church) here on earth. Have you ever felt you were not part of the body of Christ because you are not the part you think you should be? Have other members (parts) of the body tried to tell you that you are not part of the body because they disvalue you? Have you ever disvalued another believer?

Body Ministry Lesson 3

These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on March 31, 2019.

Introduction

Lesson 1 establishes who Jesus is. He spoke you into existence (Colossians 1:12-17, John 1:1-3) and established the way for your freedom from paying the penalty of sin by paying the price for your sin himself. The payment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Not having sinned himself, death had no hold on Jesus (Acts 2:23-24). He laid his life down for us and took it back up again (John 10:17-18). Jesus is the head of the church body of his followers (Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23, Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:24 partial “. . . for his body’s sake, which is the church . . . [emphasis mine]).

Lesson 2 firmly establishes that Christians must produce fruit that demonstrates their repentance. Using the example of 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 we see that Paul demonstrates that we are responsible to become obedient to the will of God, and there absolutely is church authority to punish disobedience after those who will become obedient do so. That is a tough lesson for many church folks to accept nowadays. We live in a time where too many in our culture, legal system, celebrities and celebrity politicians, peers, coworkers, family, friends, neighbors, fellow churchgoers and others proudly walk as if they can do whatever they want without facing any consequences.

. . . Punish All Disobedience

Why discuss this before getting into other details of church body ministry? Well, a body is disabled, to one degree or another, unless all of its parts are present and functioning in full health and strength. The church in America, along with our local body, is under the unction of the Holy Spirit to fall in line with obedience to God’s Word or be removed from God’s presence (1 John 2:18-20). If you want to know more about that, study the meaning of the seven candlesticks in Revelation 1-3.

For Body Ministry to work, the body must have all of its parts present and working together. In 2 Corinthians 10:6 (NIV) Paul said, “And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.” Read 2 Corinthians 10 to see how Paul advised the Corinthian church that he was not trying to write letters to frighten them. However, the words in his letters would be enforced when he returned to them in person. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:6 was likely referring to a Roman military court analogy when he said, “ . . .punish all disobedience . . .” The Corinthian church were the soldiers, and Paul was God’s chosen training instructor and commanding officer.

Paul used Roman military references in other instances to make strong points. Rome was an occupying force where Paul traveled. The people were military conquests of Rome, and Rome had an impressive military presence to enforce subjugation. The people despised subjugation to an occupying force, but they could not deny the military might of that force. Paul used examples from things people experienced in their daily lives to make spiritual points. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 to see how Paul used the battle accouterments of Roman soldiers who were seen daily as a visual example for the spiritual Armor of God Christians should put on daily.

A favorite paraphrase of those disobedient to Christ is mentioning how we (Christians) are no longer under the law thereby classifying everything their spiritual leaders advise them against as being “legalistic.” (If you are not aware, “legalism” is a term applied to Old Testament ritual laws we no longer are in need of performing because we are under the Grace of Christ as his followers. For example, the church in Galatia was practically under siege by those who wrongly proclaimed circumcision was as necessary for Salvation as the belief in Jesus as the Messiah was. That is legalism in a nutshell.)

Understand, though, that bearing fruit meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8), doing what Jesus says to do (Luke 6:46), and presenting your body to God as a living sacrifice not conforming to the world’s standards and letting your mind be transformed by Holy Spirit renovation (Romans 12:1-2) is NOT legalism. It is the minimal level of service you should commit to God! Contrary to some opinions, the Ten Commandments are still in effect. In fact, Jesus expanded on them. Remember when he said that looking at a woman with lust is to commit adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:27-28)? How about his “new commandment” to love one another (John 13:34-35)?

Paul used a military court analogy where he declared how he would come and punish the disobedient after those who chose to be obedient to Christ fully committed themselves to doing so. In his comparative use of Roman military gear, tactics and soldier command hierarchy, he was demonstrating to the churches how they must fall in line under Christ. Jesus is the head of the church, and we must be willing to serve in true obedience to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

Paul routinely displayed a patience in instructing and nurturing the babes in Christ until they developed into followers of Jesus who were feasting on the meat of God’s word instead of the milk (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). In the spiritual as it is in the natural, we all need to grow up at some point!

We are absolutely not supposed to continue to walk in disobedience, and this is easily proven in one short passage from God’s word spoken through Paul the Apostle. Read it for yourself. In Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV) Paul said:

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.”

Where Do You Stand?

Are there any that are willfully disobedient? Paul firmly establishes that Satan “is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Continued willful disobedience places those who walk in that way under the threat of the wrath of God, not under the blessings of his grace and mercy. To understand the abundance of God’s mercy, it is necessary to understand the abundance of his wrath against sin. Samuel, a prophet of God, said in 1 Samuel 15:23 that rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft and that stubbornness/arrogance is like idolatry. Who that proclaims to follow Jesus would choose the risk of looming judgment by walking in disobedience?

Before next week’s lesson continues into details of biblical Body of Christ ministry, determine where you stand in Christ. It is okay to still consume the milk of the word with a heart that has determined to follow Jesus. As we move forward, the truth and power of the church body and its individual parts will shine through the scriptures shared.

Body Ministry Lesson 2

These lessons are part of a series of bulletin inserts at Blainesburg Bible Church. The online versions contain minor edits for the expanded online audience. This lesson originally released on March 24, 2019.

Introduction

Reading the lessons in order provides the best results as each lesson builds upon the prior one.
Lesson links:
Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Following Jesus Requires Repentance

When John the Baptist was working his ministry as the one to prepare the way for the Christ, he was baptizing people in the Jordan River. When the religious leaders of the time—Pharisees and Sadducees—came to where he was baptizing, he said in Matthew 3:8-10 (ISV), “You children of serpents! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit that is consistent with repentance! Don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have father Abraham!’ because I tell you that God can raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones! The ax already lies against the roots of the trees. So every tree that isn’t producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Those are some harsh words! Imagine telling religious leaders who were able to have you imprisoned that they were children of snakes and needed to do things (bear fruit) that proved they had a change of heart. Think about the seriousness of John the Baptist telling religious leaders that trees that don’t produce good fruit were ready to be cut down and burned. He told them the ax was already in place at the roots of these trees—them! It was a warning for them to repent and to do it now!

The God’s Word bible version puts repentance in plain English where instead of the statement of “Produce fruit consistent with repentance,” it says, “Do those things that prove you have turned to God and have changed the way you think and act.”

Repentance, in New Testament Greek, is a combination of “meta” and “noia” to make the Greek word “μετάνοια.” The combination word means to “think differently after.” In application it would mean to think differently after you believe in Jesus as your Savior. This thinking differently results in actions taken to act differently. The common definition of “repent” from the pulpit is to make a 180-degree turn from walking (living our daily lives) in a manner that takes us away from God to beginning to walk toward God in our thoughts and ways/beliefs and actions.

Learning Who You Are Not In Christ Helps You Understand Who You Are

Why is bearing fruit that demonstrates repentance important? Let us consider a statement Paul made about who we become after putting our faith in Jesus as our Savior. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, right after Paul told the Corinthian church to flee sexual immorality, he said, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (emphasis mine). YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN! You were bought back from your lost state of being separated from God—redeemed—by the blood of Christ shed on the cross.

The knowledge that the Holy Spirit dwells within you should be enough for you to force your thoughts and actions into compliance with the will of God—to repent from your old way of doing things when you were not serving God. Again, you are not your own! You were bought with the price of Jesus’ blood on the cross! This brings about a change in the core of our being that is supposed to result in our thoughts/actions becoming obedient to the will of God.

First Steps for Body Ministry

The first step of taking your place in the Body of Christ, which later lessons will cover in detail, is to first take control of your own thoughts and actions and to realize there are consequences for failure to do so. To be able to take control is to first truly be in communion with the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

You have probably heard it quoted many times where Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV), “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .” However, the point Paul was conveying is a continuation of verse three, and the King James Version punctuation has verses three through six as one long sentence.

So, let us take a look at the whole thought Paul was conveying to the readers using the New King James Version of the bible:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”

That is a lot to consider, and the words after the final comma may sound peculiar to many who routinely quote this passage. Though we can and should apply the points to our own spiritual battles, Paul was actually pointing out the authority he has as an apostle. Here are the points we can apply to ourselves too:

  1. Followers of Christ are human beings living in bodies of flesh, but the war fought as Christians is a spiritual one. Modern warfare is mostly fought using guns and explosives of all types. Spiritual battles are fought through the Holy Spirit in us (1 John 3:24, 1 John 4:4), using God’s word (Luke 4:1-13), and prayer (James 5:16 second sentence).
  2. Spiritual weapons God gives us pull down fortified resistance, and eliminate false arguments and anything that tries to set itself up higher than God in our lives. These spiritual weapons bring our very thoughts captive into obeying Jesus.

We usually end the thought of this passage in our minds with “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . .” We often use this when we need to remind ourselves that we are in a spiritual war against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. When it is quoted, verse six is almost always left out. However, verse six is when it comes to the beginning of understanding one’s place in the Body of Christ.

Verse six speaks of learning to obey Christ along with the consequence of punishment of disobedience. The Apostle Paul continued in 2 Corinthians 10:6, “ . . .and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” Paul told the Corinthian Christians he was going to use spiritual weapons to destroy anything in the Corinthian church against Christ. And once the church learned how to be obedient to Christ, Paul would be ready to punish disobedience.

The Corinthian church was in a learning phase, learning everything they needed to know to bring themselves into the willful obedience of Christ through the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.