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Triple-A Method of Overcoming a Funk

Some people have asked me if I work out a list of topics ahead of time for my blog, and my answer is, "No, although I probably should!" With sermon planning, I work months in advance, because I want to make sure I'm covering as much ground as possible in a healthy, balanced diet of God's Word. But this blog is supposed to be more personal, and, thus, I typically write about whatever is on my mind or heart at the time. My hope is that as I share my thoughts and heart with you, then hopefully you will read something that brings encouragement and will also help you help others.


So this is what's on my mind at the moment: The Monday Blues. We all have those times when we get up on a Monday morning, it's raining and cold outside, and we just want to go back to bed. Well, today is one of those days. I've been told that preachers often go into a small state of depression on Mondays, because they have a big adrenaline rush on Sunday which then comes crashing down on Monday. Whether or not that's true, most of us know the feeling of the "blahs." We have a long, busy week ahead of us, and the weekend seems like an eternity away. When you experience The Monday Blues, what can you do to push through and rediscover some joy? Here are a few suggestions. Consider this the Triple-A Method of Overcoming a Funk:


-->Assess. Check your heart, spirit and mind. Is there a deeper cause of your depression, or is it just the "blahs"? Are you praying? Are you reading Scripture? Are you eating healthy and are you getting enough sleep? Have you been in a fight with your spouse or child? Are you facing a lot of pressure at work right now? We are holistic beings where our mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health are all connected. In Psalm 31, David identifies the causes of the "distress of [his] soul" (verse 7). He experienced grief (verse 9), sin (verse 10), and adversaries (verse 11). He felt forgotten (verse 12) and besieged with schemers plotting against him (verse 13). Notice the multifaceted dimensions of David's distress: emotional (grief), spiritual (sin), physical ("my bones waste away," verse 10), and external (adversaries). Part of the battle in overcoming a funk is simply knowing what's going on. If you can assess why you're feeling the way you do, then you can start figuring out what steps to take next. 


-->Align. Where is your focus? It's important to identify the causes of your distress or depression, but it's doubly important to shift your focus away from those causes on to the solutions. This is the area where I see many people continue to struggle. They keep focusing on the cause which only leads them deeper into the valley of depression. If all we see are the problems and not the solutions, we can very easily get caught in the trap of hopelessness and despair. Right after David assessed the distress of his soul, he immediately aligned himself with the One who has the power to lead him out of the pit and into abundant goodness (Psalm 31:9). David wrote, "But I trust in you, O Lord" (verse14). David concluded his psalm with the exhortation to "be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!" (verse 24). Align yourself with Almighty God who brings refuge and who hides us in the cover of His presence (verse 20). God has the power to lead us through the valleys of life, so let's align ourselves with Him!


-->Act. After we assess the causes of our funk, and we align ourselves with God who delivers us through Jesus Christ, then we act. We put one foot in front of the other, and we slowly, yet deliberately, begin to move in faithfulness. Back in Psalm 31, David wrote, "Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride" (verse 23). We love, not through word or tongue but in action and truth (1 John 3:18). We are to act in faithfulness and not in pride. In other words, we act through our dependency upon the Holy Spirit rather than our own strength which fails us. One of the best ways for me to overcome the blahs and bleakness of the day is to get up and do something. Act.


The next time you find yourself with The Monday Blues, try the Triple-A Method and see if it helps get you off dead center into a new frame of mind and deeper joy. In fact, I think it's time for me to get up and go do something!

Uncensored Grace

Recently I was asked to speak at Lincoln Christian University (www.lincolnchristian.edu) for their chapel services on the topic of "Uncensored Grace." That's not much to go on, but I went with it and started to think about what "uncensored" grace might mean. Jud Wilhite, pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, wrote a book titled Stripped: Uncensored Grace on the Streets of Vegas. The book tells the stories of people far from God who experienced His transforming grace. God's grace is "uncensored," because it reaches out to the hurting, broken, and disenfranchised at their point of need. We don't get our act together, clean up our lives and then come to God and receive His grace. We receive God's grace through Jesus Christ, and He makes us clean.


Some churches, however, "censor" God's grace, meaning they suppress, edit, or delete it. Just like the older brother in Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), we want to withhold grace from certain individuals, because we believe they don't deserve it. But that's the point, isn't it? None of us deserves God's grace. If we're willing, we can receive it "uncensored"--unedited, unfiltered, and unaltered. And we can be agents of grace as we reach out to others who may be far from God, love them, and introduce them to the One who bestowed grace on us, Jesus Christ.


There are times in life when it seems like God has censored His grace from us. Consider a couple who loses a child. Has God withheld, suppressed, or edited His grace for them? How about the couple who, for whatever reason, has been unable to have a child? Has God censored His grace? And then we see marriages rich in joy and delight and parents with happy, healthy children, and it seems that the reverse is true: God has lavished on them His uncensored grace.


In our American, pop-theology, we have the formula: Blessings = Uncensored Grace and Problems = Censored Grace. If you're facing challenges, hardships, difficulties, and pain, then it must be that God is withholding His grace. But if you're happy, healthy, and whole, then you must be one of the "lucky" ones upon whom God opened the spigot of grace.


In the Old Testament, Job lost everything (except his wife). His "friends" came to him with this same formula and tried to get Job to see the error of his ways and repent. There had to be some hidden sin in his life in order for God to censor His grace and Job to be cursed. Job defends his integrity and character, and eventually lashes out to God at the injustice of His suffering. God responds by affirming His sovereignty and His covenant relationship with Job, even in spite of Job's suffering.


The entire book of Job points out that formulaic approaches to receive God's grace are misguided, and that in our lowest point of suffering, God uncensors His grace. It's in the darkness we need a light to shine all the brighter. When things are going well in life, yes, God's grace is there. But when things aren't going well, it doesn't mean God's grace and presence are gone. In those moments, we draw on His uncensored grace to give us light and warmth. We turn to Him who is "our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling" (Psalm 46:1-3). God's uncensored grace reaches out to us, for even in those moments, "the Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress" (Psalm 46:11). 

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