Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Bible And Depression

Biblegems #80

Question: When you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or down what Bible verses do you refer to?

Did you know many Bible personalities experienced depression? King David clearly felt overwhelmed and depressed when he wrote Psalm 69:
         Ps. 69:1-5 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God. Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me. I am forced to restore what I did not steal. You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.

All the classic signs are there: He feels like he’s drowning in helplessness (v.1-2), “worn out” physically (v. 3), surrounded by people who hate him (v. 4), and that God is punishing him (v. 5). Sound familiar?

Depression that is not caused by a chemical imbalance or some other physical disorder typically has a spiritual cause. Usually there is unresolved anger and/or guilt lurking in the background. The Bible has much to offer that will bring release and relief, so long as we do what the Scripture says. Otherwise…
James 1:23-24 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

These are the passages I often turn to when helping someone overcome depression:
Ask God to reveal the cause.        
Ps. 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Be honest and accountable to a mature believer.
         James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Confess specific sins and accept God’s forgiveness.
         1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Tell yourself the Truth about who you are in Christ.
         Rom. 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Apply the last step often. Write down the verse God has given you about who you are in Christ and take it with you throughout the day. Read it, aloud whenever possible, several times throughout the day. This is God’s medicine for your mind and heart, and you cannot overdose!

If you want to be free from the lies swimming inside you that tell you “I’m no good,” “I’ll never be free,” “I can’t overcome…” —replace the lies with God’s Truth.
         John 8:32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Children Before Cain And Abel?

Biblegems #79
Considering that God told Adam and Eve before the Fall to be fruitful and multiply, is it possible that they had children before Cain and Abel?

This is a great question, reaching all the way through the Old and New Testaments, with tremendous bearing on the Plan of Salvation.

The verse in question is found in Genesis 1:28:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

This command was given to Adam and Eve on the very day they were created (Gen. 1:31), yet Cain and Abel were both conceived after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden (Gen. 4:1-2). So the question is, did Adam and Eve conceive children not recorded in Scripture prior to their disobedience in the Garden?

Our first clue is found in Genesis chapter three. Following their disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit, God says to Eve:
         Gen. 3:16 …I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children…

The implication is that Eve had not yet had any children, although the phrase, “greatly increase your pains,” could suggest a comparison between children to be born with childbearing already experienced.

However, after God gives Adam and Eve the punishments and repercussions of their sin (Gen. 3:16-19), Adam names his wife. He had already named the animals, and he had named Eve insofar as what kind of creature she was (Gen. 2:28); but now he gives her a personal name. This tells us that all the events of the Fall in chapter three took place very soon after Eve’s entrance into the world. Knowing each other’s names would almost certainly precede a deeper intimacy.

Not only so, but the name Adam gives his God-given wife reflects the role she would play in the near future but had not yet experienced. He names her “Eve,” meaning, “mother of all living,” because “she would become the mother of all the living” [Heb.: perfect tense] (Gen. 3:20). The perfect tense indicates the results to come of a previous action. That one verse alone tells us that the experience of motherhood still lay in her future.

The New Testament confirms this. The apostle Paul writes:
         1 Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Paul’s point is that all mankind, as descendants of Adam and Eve, has inherited sin and death. That would not be the case if some children were born to Adam and Eve before the Fall. The descendants of those children would not have inherited the sin nature, would not die, and would not be in need of a Savior—Jesus Christ. But the reality is:
         Rom. 3:10“There is no one righteous, not even one…”.

We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, through whom we have inherited sin and death.
         1 Cor. 15:57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Are The "Heavenly Realms"?

Biblegems #78
Ephesians 6:12 talks about wrestling against principalities and powers...and "against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." What is meant by “the heavenly places” in this case?

The phrase “heavenly places” or “heavenly realms” (NIV) translates the Greek word epouraniois, (lit., “the heavenlies”), and is found only 5 X in Scripture, all of them in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). That is actually helpful for interpretation purposes because Paul clearly has a theme going in Ephesians in which ”heavenly realms” plays an important role. We can expect the phrase to have a consistent meaning throughout.

When we follow the concept throughout Ephesians we discover several characteristics of the “heavenly realms.” For example, chapter 1 verse 3 tells us that the heavenly realms are now the normal plane of the believer’s existence and experience. The spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ are given and received in the heavenly realms:
         Eph. 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

This heavenly realm is where Jesus is right now at the Father’s throne:
Eph. 1:20 …which he [God] exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms

The obvious implication of this is that we as new creatures in Christ inhabit this same heavenly realm as Jesus does, even while we inhabit the earthly realm. In fact, Ephesians 2:6 specifically says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead enables every born again believer in Jesus Christ to experience life in the heavenly realms as really as we experience life in the physical realm:
Eph. 2:6 [For] God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus

This is not a metaphor. God wants to introduce us, to show us off—His spiritual children—to those for whom heaven has been their only home. Why?
Eph. 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms

Beyond that, God needs us to function in the spiritual realm with a certain degree of confidence and familiarity. We now live in two realms at the same time, the earthly and the heavenly. We are creatures of two natures, and we are engaged in the spiritual warfare that is raging in both realms.
Eph. 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Those who are truly “in Christ” have been given access into the heavenly realms through the Spirit. We have “have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age,” as it says in Hebrews 6:5. One day that will be our primary residence; and it is that wonderful day and that wonderful, imperishable life that we are in preparation for now.