3 Positive Ways To Deal With Depression

Depression is possibly responsible for more pain and distress than any other affliction of mankind. The dictionary defines it as an ‘emotional condition, characterized by feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, gloominess, dejection, and sadness.’ It is often accompanied by a difficulty of thinking, concentration, and inactivity. Depressed people often have a negative self-image which is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, shame, and self-criticism.

We all get depressed from time to time. However, some people battle depression their entire lives. I knew one friend who actually named his depression and would share that his ‘friend’ was coming over for a visit and wasn’t sure how long he would stay. If a person suffers from ongoing depression, it is good to seek a godly, Christian counselor for help.

When we get depressed  we often are concerned only with feeling better. Depression may lead to many negative consequences, including suicide. Putting our life in order spiritually is a positive way to deal with depression.

I always encourage a person, depressed or not, to accept Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior. Christians are not without problems. In fact we have problems just like everyone else. However, as a Christian, I have some resources to help with all my problems, including depression – Jesus.

So let’s look at 3 things you can do when you are depressed.

1. Spend time each day meditating on the Bible and applying it to your life.

Since we are all born with a selfish, sinful nature, we tend to automatically do the wrong things and think the wrong thoughts. These things will lead to depression and self-destruction. To change feelings we must change thinking.

Our brain is like a computer. We must choose to reprogram our ‘computer’ brain to God’s way of thinking instead of our own crazy way of thinking. This can only be done by frequent meditation of God’s Word.

In Psalm 1, David compared a mentally healthy man to a tree growing by a river: “But his delight is int he law of the Lord (Bible); and in his law doeth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doth shall prosper.” In other words when troubles come, the Christian can remain stable and survive because of having been programmed with reliance on God’s Word.

2. Get rid of grudges.

Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness are a sure path to depression. Only as we forgive others, will we receive the peace that God’s forgiveness gives us. Many are depressed because they choose not to forgive. Holding anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Don’t allow your anger to hurt you. Forgive.

3. Spend time every day with your family. Do all you can to resolve family conflicts.

Intimacy with your family is more vital to your overall mental health than most people imagine. Much of our self-worth is based on our family relationships.

One of the results of depression is a person’s desire to be alone. Yet, this can multiply the depressed feelings. We sometimes need to force ourselves connect with family members.

It’s not just the quantity of time, but the quality of time we spend with our family. Take time every day to communicate with your spouse and children on a deep and intimate level. Cultivate intimate friendships with your parents, brothers, sisters, and other close relatives.

Don’t ever get vengeance on family members. Unresolved family conflicts can continue for years and years. Heal the wounds the best you can and leave the rest to God.

4 Steps to Personal Application of the Bible

The Bible was given to us to show how we can have a relationship with God and how to live our life the way He wants. It is a very practical book. But some people only see it as a text book and make very little connection with everyday life.

The Bible was written to be applied to our life. You really can’t know the Bible unless you apply it to your life. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day ‘knew’ the Bible but they didn’t allow it to affect their way of life.

In Rick Warren’s book, Dynamic Bible Study Methods, he shares 4 steps to make personal application of the Bible. Once you have chosen a verse or paragraph in the Bible, use these steps to help the Bible change your life.

1. Pray for insight on how to apply the passage.

The Bible is like no other book. It is spiritually understood and only the Holy Spirit can really teach us. So it’s important to ask God to help you understand it and promise to obey it and share it with others. If God knows you are ready to obey what He shows you, He may reveal more to you.

2. Meditate on the verse or verses you’ve chosen to study.

Bible meditation is thinking of a Bible verse over and over again. Visualize the scene in your mind. Put yourself in the situation. Think of how you would feel if you were in the situation. I discovered several ways to meditate. Use one or more.

  • Emphasize words in the passage. Read through a verse aloud several times, each time emphasizing a different word, and watch new meanings develop.
  • Paraphrase the passage. Take the verse and rephrase it in your own words.
  • Personalize the passage. Put your name in place of the pronouns or nouns. For example, “For God so loved Greg Burdine…” (John 3:16).
  • Use the S-P-A-C-E  P-E-T-S. This acrostic represents a question you can apply to the passage. S- Sin to confess? P- Promise to claim? A- Attitude to change? C- Command to obey? E- Example to follow? P- Prayer to pray? E- Error to avoid? T- Truth to believe? S- Something to praise God for?
  • Pray the verse or passage back to God. The Book of Psalms is a good example. For example, “Thank You, Lord, for being my Shepherd, and that I lack nothing…” (Psalm 23).
  • Answer Who, What, Where, When, Why, How? These are 6 questions every newspaper article tries to answer about a situation. This helps you ask the right questions about a Bible verse.

3. Write out an application.

From the insights you’ve discovered through meditation, write a personal application. If you can’t put it on paper, think some more. Your application should be personal – use “I”, “my,” and “mine” in it. Your application should be practical – it ought to be something you can do. Your application should be possible – it should be something you know you can do. Your application should be provable – you must set up a follow-up to know you’ve accomplished it. Tell a friend so it will keep you accountable.

4. Memorize a key verse. 

So you can continue to meditate on the passage and help remind you of your application, memorize a verse or phrase. Sometimes it takes God several weeks or even months to change habits, attitudes, or actions. Bible memory and meditation will reinforce what God is trying to do in your life.

The ultimate test of our personal application of Scripture is “Does this help me become more like Jesus?”

A man saw his neighbor coming out of a church one Sunday morning. He asked the churchgoer, “Is the sermon done?” The neighbor wisely replied, “No. It was preached, but it has yet to be done.”

I hope you will begin or continue to apply God’s Word to your life today!

5 Keys to Good Grief

Grief! It’s the price we pay for caring.

No one is exempt. Grief is the universal attempt to cope with personal loss. We grieve over the loss of our job, our marriage, our pets, our youth, but especially the death of a loved one.

I remember after my mom and dad died. I thought I was okay, but it took a song or even a smell to bring back the tears. Even after many years, it doesn’t take me long to feel the loss and emptiness their death brought into my life. I’m better, but you can’t fill the void left by a loved one.

Grief is a painful process. It may involve emotional turmoil, guilt, depression, anger, sadness, helplessness, rage, loneliness, resentment, and hopelessness.

Though some think that life should get back to normal within a few months of the death of a loved one, it often takes 18 months to 2 years to feel like life is manageable.

Counselors have understood that there is a natural process of grief. It often involves 6 stages: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Sometimes people get stuck in one of the stages. Others never quite get to the acceptance stage. When grief becomes an impediment to normal living, something must be done.

In counseling, I have recommended five activities that help proceed through the stages of grief.

1. Think

It’s important to remember your loved one. Pull out the photo albums and take a memory trip into days past. Try to remember the good times you had with your loved one. It’s hard to forget someone who gave you so much to remember. Keep remembering.

2. Write

Keep a diary or journal of your feelings and thoughts. Be honest with yourself about the difficulties you’re going through. Sometimes when you can’t talk about your loved one, you can write it down. This helps as you process through grief and read your progress.

3. Talk

Talk with others. Sadly, some people don’t want to bring up the memory of your loved one because it makes you sad. Let them know it’s okay. Sadness is part of the process. And until you work through the pain you’ll have a hard arriving at acceptance.

4. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciples can be most difficult when you’re grieving. It’s a normal reaction. Since God ultimately controls all things, it is easy to blame Him for what has happened – even if unconsciously. So pray even if it is for just a few minutes. Read your Bible, especially Psalms, even if it just a few verses.

5. Stay Active

When a person grieves, it is natural to pull away. Sometimes it is a struggle just to get out of bed and get a shower. Try to exercise a little. Take a walk. Join a group. Go to church. It’s hard at first, but gets better as you progress.

I hope this helps as you process through your loss. For loved ones who know Jesus Christ as Savior, they are never lost. They are with our Savior.

Let Your Light Shine

A candle is a remarkable invention. Fire on the wick melts the wax and it is drawn up the wick, getting hotter and hotter until it turns into a gas. The gas mixes with oxygen and is ignited by the flame that melted the wax in the first place. The heat of the flame melts more wax and the process repeats itself until all the wax has been burnt.

For centuries, candles have been a simple instrument for dispelling darkness (and making the room smell good & adding a touch of romance). Darkness, with all of its power to frighten and bewilder, is no match for the light. The function of a candle is to provide the light that dispels the darkness. A candle does that at great expense to itself. It has to give itself up tot he flame and be consumed.

Jesus said, “Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?” (Mark 4:21)

This question opens our understanding of light. In the spiritual realm, Jesus is the Light that dispels darkness. The light that He brings has been provided at infinite cost. When we come to Him, He kindles that light in us.

1.     Light is meant to be seen.

People are confused in the dark. Nothing looks right in the dark. You see shapes, but not sizes and appearances. Everything is distorted. Is it any wonder values are twisted and distorted in our dark world?

But Jesus is the light. Those who have the light must let Him be seen in their life. We are responsible to shed God’s light and reveal His truth to others. We must not hoard the truth. We have been entrusted with it. We are not to keep it to ourselves, but share it with others.

Are you a light? Do you represent Christ in your world? On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: James Butler Bonham – no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.

You are the picture of Jesus that people see. Can they see His resemblance in your life and words?

2.     Light may be hidden.

In times of suffering & persecution, Christians may be tempted to hide their light. But according to Jesus, it is not that people should not hide their light, but they do not. Nobody lights a candle to hide it.

If we choose to hide our light, darkness takes over. Only we can hide our light. Religious leaders tried to hide the apostles’ light, but they burned brighter.

A few years ago, Judy & I took a vacation at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. It is the world’s longest known cave, with over 400 miles explored. We went on a 3-hour tour with a lot of walking. About half way in the cavern, the guide warned us and turned off all the lights. It was so dark you could feel it. I could feel my eyes strain to see anything. Then he lit a match. And it lit everything up. Eventually, they turned on the lights and we continued the tour. But I was impressed by how much light a small candle will give in total darkness.

Sometimes Christians think their influence doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s too ‘dark’ where you live. Or your Christian life isn’t all it could be (Whose is?). Just let Jesus shine to others and watch what He can do. Remember, Jesus is the light, not you.

In the early days of Promise Keepers, when they still had just one stadium event a year in Boulder, Colorado, a newspaper reporter interviewed E. V. Hill, one of the speakers. The reporter asked him, “What is Promise Keepers all about? What do you do?”

E.V. Hill responded, “We’re all about Jesus. We talk about Jesus.”

And the reporter said, “Is that all?”

“Is that all?” E. V. Hill reported to the Promise Keepers crowd. “They don’t know who He is!”

Nanu Nanu, Robin Williams

I went to bed last night watching video clips of Robin Williams on the Tonight Show. He was the funniest comedian while I was growing up. I saw him on Mork and Mindy (nanu nanu means ‘goodbye’ in Orkan). His movies were the funniest: Patch Adams, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Aladdin, Popeye, Good Morning Vietnam, Flubber, Night at the Museum, and so many more. But my favorite line of Robin Williams was in Dead Poet’s Society. His character, John Keating, tells his students, “Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Sadly, Robin Williams committed suicide and died at the age of 63. He was known to have bipolar disorder, depression, and a history of drug abuse. 90% of all suicide victims have psychiatric problems.

The fact that Williams was so successful and so loved shows that depression, emotional problems, and suicide can happen to anybody. If you have a loved one who has taken their own life, please know that this is a decision they made for themselves. However, in an effort to stop the next suicide, I want to share some advice.

In his book, Why Suicide?, Jerry Johnston shares 5 critical steps friends can take to help prevent a suicide.

1. Don’t Back Away

Suppose your friend starts to act strangely. You sense that some dark influence is creeping into the person’s brain and you want to back away. Please don’t. When your friend has depressive or even twisted thoughts, that’s the time to make yourself more available and interested than ever.

2. Be a Detective

I’m not suggesting that you stalk your friend or steal a glance at a  personal diary. But I am saying to be on the lookout for problems or potential problems. The best way to accomplish this is by encouraging your friend to talk whenever you sense something wrong.

Being a good detective demands a knowledge of suicidal warning signs: withdrawal, moodiness, depression, aggression, alcohol & drug abuse, abnormal sexual activity, eating disorders, abnormal gift giving, trauma, personality change, and threats of suicide.

3. Listen Carefully

Your suicidal friend must know that someone is truly willing to listen. Chances are your friend will feel that no one is tuned in, so you’ve got to show that you are.

Many suicidal people have the inability or lack of opportunity to express their unhappiness, frustration, or failure. They find that their efforts to express their feelings are either totally unacceptable to others, ignored, or met by defensive hostility. This response drives them into further isolation, reinforcing the belief of something being terribly wrong.

4. Say the Right Things

If you sense something wrong, ask. Asking a person about suicide will not plant the idea in their mind. In fact, it says, “I’ve been paying attention to you and I see something’s wrong.” If they are not suicidal, they will still respect the caring and concern and be more liable to come for help when in trouble.

Here are some right things to say:

  • With everything happening in your life and with the way you’ve been feeling, it’s normal to feel like ending it all. It’s not crazy. Have you thought about it?
  • I didn’t know how serious things had gotten Let’s talk about it.
  • It sounds like you are feeling totally hopeless. I understand how you can feel like ending it all. Have you told anyone else? We’ve got to talk to someone about this.
  • I don’t want you to do anything to hurt yourself. I don’t know how we can change the feeling, but I know there are people who can help.

It is important to know what not to say:

  • You’ll get over it. Things will be better tomorrow. (things may not be better tomorrow)
  • You don’t really feel that way. (Yes, the suicidal person does feel that way)
  • You’d never really do it. (How do you know? Over 38,000 Americans commit suicide every year – more than killed in auto accidents)

The bottom line is: Don’t criticize, judge, ridicule, minimize, or promise anything you can’t deliver.

5. Take Action

A suicidal threat is not like the alarm on your clock radio. You can’t push a snooze button and wait a while longer before doing something. Immediate action is called for.

Tell your friend about the sources of help (suicide hotline, counseling, etc). If a specific suicide plan has been revealed, remove the instruments of the method if possible (50% of all suicides involve guns). Get your friend to make a binding agreement with you. Pray before, after, and during your visit with your suicidal friend. If your friend refuses to get help, contact the police.

Do you have any suggestions on helping a suicidal friend?

How to become a Classic instead of an Old Wreck – 4 Keys to Getting Older

I minister to a lot of older Christians. I can divide them into two categories: Those who have aged gracefully and are a blessing. And those who have become bitter in their later years and are a pain to be around. I want to age gracefully.

So, how do you know when you’re getting older? I found a humorous checklist. See how you do…

  • Everything hurts. And what doesn’t hurt, doesn’t work!
  • You feel like the night before and you haven’t been anywhere.
  • You get winded playing cards!
  • You know all the answers, but nobody asks you the questions.
  • You look forward to a dull evening!
  • You need glasses … to find your glasses!
  • You sit in a rocking chair, but you can’t get it going!
  • Your knees buckle, but your belt won’t!
  • Your back goes out more than you do!

Many people today fear getting older. They equate it with senility, poverty, or becoming useless and hopeless. But it doesn’t have to be.

The Bible presents growing old as a normal, natural part of life. There is honor involved in the aging process, because growing old is normally accompanied by increased wisdom and experience. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31).

So, how can a person grow old gracefully? I read of a 20/20 study of 96 independent, non-institutionalized people over 100 years old. You’d think that diet or genetics were the main ingredient of their successful aging process. But 4 qualities stood out.

1. Optimism

Geneva McDaniel, 106, recommended, “Think positive! Don’t get negative. Don’t think about yourself. Just go out and do what you have to do.” Jesse Champion, also 106, said, “The Lord let me live to see all those who treated me bad die!” Champion, and his wife, Phronie, go to church twice and week and believe a deep religious faith is the most important thing in life.

2. Commitment to a Project or a Cause

People need involvement. Whether it’s hobbies, education, or religion, we all need something to devote ourselves to. The greatest work is God’s work. I’ve seen too many people go downhill fast when they lost their purpose for living at retirement. Christians don’t retire, they just get more time to devote to the Lord’s work.

3. Mobility

Exercise is so important! Almost all the interviewed participated in some form of exercise. Geneva McDaniel (see above) teaches aerobics at her senior center.

4. Ability to Cope with Loss

The longer you live, the more you lose. We all lose things eventually – our health, job, car, and house. The list goes on and on. Before long, we lose people – parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, friends, relatives, and even children. One lady laughed that she had lived so long that those who had gone on before her must think she didn’t make it. One reason the elderly fear death less is because they have so many loved ones waiting for them in Heaven.

Getting older can be the greatest part of your life.

  • You get to see how it all turns out.
  • You get to stop doing the things you don’t enjoy.
  • You finally learn you don’t have to win all the arguments.
  • You start getting more help than ever before.
  • You begin to know what love is all about.
  • You have time to smell the roses.

George Burns, who died at 100 years old, once said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” I hope you get old gracefully.

Marriage according to Kids

scan0019aToday is my 33rd wedding anniversary! It seems like a long time ago in some ways (especially looking at our pictures). A lot has happened since that hot summer day. Next to the day I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, the best day I ever had and the best decision I ever made was August 8, 1981.

As I think about our journey together, the most important ingredient has been Jesus Christ. He has helped us through some really tough times. Some things have been against us. Some times we have been against each other. But Jesus has held us together through it all. I praise Him for my marriage.

Another help in our journey has been the fun we have had. Judy is my best friend and we have fun together. So, I want to share some quotes from children about marriage. I hope it will help you in your life – single, married, or single again

How Do You Decide Whom to Marry?

You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
– Alan, age 10

No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.
– Kristen, age 10

How can a stranger tell if two people are married?

You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
– Derrick, age 8

What do you think your mom and dad have in common?

Both don’t want any more kids.
– Lori, age 8

What do most people do on a date?

Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
– Lynnette, age 8

On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
– Martin, age 10

Is it better to be single or married?

It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.
– Anita, age 9

How would the world be different if people didn’t get married? 

There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?
– Kelvin, age 8

When is it okay to kiss someone?

When they’re rich.
– Pam, age 7

The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that.
- – Curt, age 7

The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do.

- – Howard, age 8

And my #1 Favorite is …….

How would you make a marriage work?

Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.

– Ricky, age 10

What Kind of Dirt Are You?

Why do different people respond differently to the same message? Why do some reject the Gospel of Christ and others accept it and live Christian lives? Jesus provides an answer to this question in Mark 4.

“Behold, there went out a sower to sow… as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred…. The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness…afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns… and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” (Mark 4:4-8, 14-20)

The Sower is Jesus, or any one else who plants the seed. It could represent you and me. The Seed is the Word of God, or the Gospel scattered far and wide. So why doesn’t everybody accept the Gospel? It depends on what kind of dirt you want to be…

1.     Hard Dirt will not listen to God.

This dirt represents those hearers who are indifferent to the Word so it is immediately stolen from them by Satan.

2.     Shallow Dirt will not listen long to God.

This dirt represents those who merely make an intellectual assent to the Word but have no real spiritual change of heart. They initially welcome it, but never lit it go beyond the surface of their lives.

3.     Crowded Dirt will listen to others along with God.

This dirt represents those who look good for a while but after time overly concerned with temporary things. They are materially focused, which finally results in their being drawn completely away from the Word of God.

Jesus describes three things that choke (crowd) the Word: Worry, Wealth, and Wants. It is easy to pack life with such a multitude of interests that there is no time left for Christ.

This is a divided heart – like the heart of the girl to which a young man once proposed. He said, “Darling, I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in the world. I want you to marry me. I’m not rich. I don’t have a yacht or a Rolls Royce like Johnny Brown, but I do love you with all my heart.” She thought for a minute and replied, “I love you with all my heart, too, but tell me more about Johnny Brown.” This heart says to Jesus, “I love you with all my heart, but tell me more about the world.”

4.     Fruitful Dirt listens and obeys God.

The dirt is the one who hears the Word, receives it, and puts it into action. The final result is fruit, which is the mark of a genuine believer. If we bear fruit, it is proof that we are listening.

We might hear God’s Word, but do we listen. Hearing affects the ears, but listening pierces the heart. This is not the listening we use when we listen to background radio music. To really hear Jesus’ words is to believe them, use them immediately in decisions and attitudes, and base life on them – our recreation and work, family plans and money maters, schooling and voting, praying and singing. To hear Jesus’ words is to make Jesus our true Lord.

The most important thing is that we listen to Jesus and receive His Word, not with hard hearts (impenetrable and needs to be broken up), or shallow hearts (only emotions touched but no actions occur), or crowded hearts (strangled by love for this world).

Which kind of dirt are you?

What thorns tend to choke out and crowd out the Word in your life?

What circumstances tend to scorch your faith and cause it to wither?

What is God trying to tell you today? Will you show you are listening by responding right now?

Will you sow the seed and leave the results up to God?

Thoughts on the Toledo Water Crisis

Our metropolitan neighbor, Toledo, has survived an emergency crisis. Due to the contamination of Lake Erie, the city water was undrinkable. Through a combination of chemical runoff, the shallow Lake Erie, and the summer sun, algae  reached an unsafe level and the water treatment plant couldn’t keep the toxins out of the water.

This crisis affected over 400,000 citizens, including my son, Justin. He called Saturday morning to see if he could stop by and get some bottled water and take a shower (at the time, citizens were warned of even touching the water). We were on our way back from southern Ohio and picked up 5 gallons and 3 cases of water for him.

Shane Gaghen of Oregon holds a glass of algae filled Lake Erie water, near the Toledo water intake crib.

The Toledo news had nonstop coverage of the event. Businesses and restaurants were forced to close. Long lines formed to pick up donated drinking water. Neighboring communities with safe drinking water were opening their faucets for any visitors.

Now that the immediate crisis is over (the water is safe to drink) I want to share a Bible verse and some comments.

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.“(John 7:37-38)

1. Everybody needs water.

I know it is important, but I did not realize how vital clean water is to our community. Without it, we would not survive. Not just for drinking, but for cleaning. That’s why the water crisis in Toledo was so alarming.

In the same way, everybody needs Jesus. Jesus’ statement that anyone who thirsted could come to Him was an invitation to everybody – all of us. Regardless of what a person has done or who they are, they are all welcome to take Him into their life. Jesus will quench the thirst that is down in your soul. Blaise Pascal said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

2. Bad water is dangerous.

The health department in Toledo warned people that flu-like symptoms and possible liver damage would result from drinking the contaminated water. The danger was that people would get so thirsty and either not know of the ban or drink the water anyway. When you’re thirsty, even dirty water is tempting.

Sailors have an old saying, “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” This is a reminder to a thirsty sailor on the salty ocean, that though he is surrounded by water, don’t drink it. But tragically, history is filled with people whose thirst forced them to drink bad water.

While Jesus is the clean water that refreshes the thirsty soul, there are many voices in our world that claim to quench your spiritual thirst, but end in destruction. In our search for peace, joy, happiness, fulfillment and love people often turn to sex, alcohol, drugs, money, and false religions. These will never satisfy the inner thirst that only Jesus can fulfill. Rather than help, these can entrap us and destroy us and those we love.

3. Water needs to be shared with the thirsty.

Through this weekend in Toledo we have discovered the kindness and generosity of people. I’m sure some had underlying motives, but I was encouraged by the stories of businesses, communities, churches, and everyday citizens who gave their time, money and water to those who needed help. After Justin picked up the water we bought him and headed back to Toledo, his Facebook post read: “If you need some agua (water), come stop by our house. We’ll give ya some for free. For real.”

That’s what friends do. They share what they have with others in need.

Jesus even emphasized this in his parable. When a person’s spiritual thirst is quenched by Jesus, he will never thirst like that again. And out of his life will flow rivers of water to others to help quench their thirst. For the Christian, Jesus is to be like a river flowing into us and out of us to others. Maybe that is why some Christians become so critical and mean. Rather than a stream of clean water they become a pool of stagnant, polluted water.

The next time you reach for a bottle of water, remember that Jesus is the water that quenches your deep, down thirst. Share Him with others.

A Word of Salvation from the Cross

We only have seven recorded phrases that Jesus said while He was dying on the cross. And only one of those was an actual conversation with someone.

I want to share a few thoughts I picked up about that conversation from Arthur W. Pink’s book, ‘The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross.’ They are worth your time to contemplate death, salvation and Heaven.

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:42,43).

This dialogue is interesting because Jesus was talking to a thief who was being crucified beside Him. There are some principles we can notice for us today.

1. He is a representative sinner. 

This man was a convicted and condemned criminal. We may not feel like our sin deserves the same punishment. But all sin will be judged in death.

2. He is a man that had come to the end of himself before he got saved.

I’m sure he felt in control of his life while he was enjoying his sin. However, he was now nailed to a cross and knew he would be dead soon. He had nothing and had no where else to turn but to the Man who was being crucified beside him.

3. We see the meaning of repentance and faith.

He recognized his sinfulness and admitted the punishment was just. When he talked with Jesus, he demanded nothing. In humble faith he said, “Remember me.” He did not say anything else about himself.

4. He recognized spiritual truth.

He believed in the future where punishment would be given out by a righteous God. He recognized his own sinfulness. He bore testimony to Christ’s sinlessness. He confessed to Christ’s Godhead (Lord). He believed Jesus as could save him. He believed in Christ’s Kingship. He looked forward to the second coming of Christ. That’s pretty good doctrine for a criminal.

5. The Saviorhood of Christ is evident.

Even through His pain, Christ was ready to receive him. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Even in this deathbed confession, Christ accepted him. Christ is able to save all who come to Him.

6. We see the destination of the saved at death.

God’s grace exceeds our expectation. All the man wanted was to be remembered when Christ’s kingdom came. Jesus told him he would be in Paradise today. He would be dead soon. But death would bring him immediately to heaven. When a believer dies, he is immediately in the presence of Jesus Christ.

7. We see the longing of the Savior for fellowship.

Jesus could have simply said, “Today you’ll be in Paradise.” But the words “with me” reveal that Jesus really wants us. Jesus endured the cross because of the joy of having us in Heaven with Him. I’ve heard it said that Jesus would rather die than spend eternity without you.

The best part of our salvation is that we have the guarantee of Heaven as our eternal home. All we can imagine about Heaven or of its Creator is so very shallow and small.

When Marco Polo, the famous Venetian explorer of the 13th century, was dying, he was asked to recant about all his stories of China. People thought they were to exotic to be true. He is quoted as saying, “I will not, I shall not, I cannot, because I have not told half of what I saw.”

Heaven will be a beautiful home. I hope to see you there.

You can read other “Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross”