When I Stopped Writing… Lessons learned in the shadows

I have always dreamed of being a writer.

When I was four, I wrote my first book – complete with construction paper cover and illustrations. I was an avid reader before entering Kindergarten. The more I read, the more I felt compelled to write. I filled journals cover to cover with my thoughts, ramblings, heart-pourings, and poems. By the time I was ten, I wrote a short novel, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish the last chapter (knowing the fate my hero would face was too painful.) And here I am now – 32 years old, and the burning desire to write is stronger than ever.

Several years ago, I stopped writing for a time. Here is why and what I have learned.

Since childhood, writing has been cathartic – even therapeutic.  I use it as a method of putting my thoughts in order. It was a tool to help me learn to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b) by taking inspiration from Davids style of writing.

Many of the Psalms written by David follow a pattern. He uses writing to pour out his heart and find expression of the pain, frustration, fear, and depression he is facing. And then he focuses his thoughts – and pen – towards God: His character and statutes. By doing so, he is able to find solace and emotional healing in resting in God’s Sovereignty.

But even good things can be marred and tainted because of sin… even something as seemingly innocent as writing in a journal. 

During a particularly dark period of my adult life, my writing became increasingly self-focused. I poured my heart out on paper, each line dripping with the intense sorrow that comes from a deep depression. It felt good to empty out the emotional torment. I thought I would burst if I didn’t.  I trusted that feeling and relied on my emotions to determine the truth of my situation, believing the lie my sinful heart spoke.

“The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  (Jer. 17:9)

In doing so, I allowed my focus to be inward instead of focusing on Christ. It was hard – it is such a discipline to stay focused. Our sin nature constantly is driving us to focus on our self – driving us towards self-idolatry.  Focusing inward made the darkness of depression all the more unbearable. Which turned into a vicious cycle – of needing to write all the more and being driven deeper and deeper inward. I was spiraling out of control.

The Lord placed several things in my life then that drove my writing to a screeching halt. I bucked against it – I was even bitter about it. But various circumstances would arise to keep me from sitting down and writing.

I was so focused on my pain that I couldn’t see God’s mercy in the moment.

God is safe to trust but I didn’t believe it was true for me. So I wallowed in the muck and mire of self-idolatry. The Lord was so merciful and patient with me. I wanted to hold on to my pain and find comfort in the shadows of depression – but God wanted me to find comfort, rest, and solace in Him. He wanted me to understand that the suffering was for my good, my very sanctification, and for His glory.  Even though I don’t always understand why, I can trust Him.

So five years ago I started writing again. Writing is still a balm to my soul. And now I write so that I can help others know Him more – because that is all that matters anyway.

Loving Jesus Isn’t Enough – Why Sound Theology Matters

By M. Ashley Evans

 “If we don’t know the bible, if we don’t know doctrine, if we don’t know theology – it is virtually impossible for us to identify false prophets” is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite pastors, Voddie Baucham. It, in a nutshell, summarizes why theology and doctrine are so important.

While witnessing to others, I have had several people tell me that they are pagans and they quickly tell me that they love Jesus too, as if that statement alone will guarantee them eternity in heaven. Some professing Christians have said that they just believe that we have to love Jesus and love others – they don’t believe in going to a church that teaches doctrine, because doctrine divides. Some professing Christians have said that they love Jesus – all of that theology stuff just doesn’t matter in the end.

Frankly, they couldn’t be further from the truth.

Having sound theology matters – everyone has a theological view.

Having sound doctrine matters – and it is good that doctrine divides.

If you think that Jesus just wants you to love him and NOT repent of your sins, grow in maturity, and warn others of God’s wrath…. You very well may love that Jesus, but that isn’t the Jesus of the Bible. In fact, it is simply an idol that you have created.

We cannot give people an “answer for the hope that lies within you” (1 Pet 3:15) if we do not know the answers ourselves. We have to have sound theology and doctrine

Theology Matters: Everyone’s a Theologian

Far too many people view theology as an intellectual hobby or an abstract concept with no daily applications. The very word Theology means a Word (logos) about God (Theos). Everyone is a theologian because everyone has their own belief about God and about what happens after death. What we do and how we behave flows out of what we believe in our hearts. Theology is what enables God’s people to think and live rightly. It is because of our (Bible-based) beliefs about God that we try to live according to His standards.

Even inaccurate beliefs about God essentially make that person a theologian – just a bad one. Some theologians believe that which is contradictory to what God says about Himself in the Bible. If everyone is a theologian, then obviously some of those beliefs are right and some are wrong.

That is why we cannot look to our own selves to understand God. There has to be an authority outside of ourselves in which to turn. Thankfully, God has given us His Word so that we can know Him. Jesus said that the scriptures were written about Him.

(John 5:39) “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me.”

The implications of our theology (whether good theology or bad) will affect every facet of our lives. All of life – the daily minutiae, toiling at work, various emotional ups and downs, to the serious issues of death, job loss, tragedy – all of this requires a sound theological foundation in order to perceive them from a biblical worldview.

Doctrine Matters: Because Doctrine Divides

“No doctrine but Jesus “and “no creed but Christ” is a common mantra plaguing many churches in modern Christianity. And frankly, it is self-contradictory. Both of those statements are doctrines and creeds in and of themselves – the thing is, they are shallow. They either leave one ill-equipped or wanting for more, perhaps sometimes both.

The word Didachē is the Greek word commonly translated as doctrine. It comes from the verb Didaskō, “to teach.” One helpful definition of doctrine that I read in Tabletalk magazine said: “Doctrine is teaching from God about God that directs us to the glory of God.” Doctrine simply means “a teaching,” so if a church is teaching that they have no teachings…. it is just ridiculous. Further, to reject the concept and study of doctrine is dangerous. To do so is to reject Jesus’ teaching, and to reject Jesus’ teaching is to reject Him. (Luke 9:26) Jesus says “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the father and of the Holy angels.”

Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy that sound doctrine is one of the most important things for the spiritual health of the Christian and therefore of the church. Sound doctrine is like a precious treasure that we pass down from one generation to the next. (2 Tim 1:13-14) “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”

Just because all doctrine is not the Gospel doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Some doctrine may very well be “non-essential” for salvation and yet it is still important because it is God-breathed Scripture. Some doctrine, though it may not be the Gospel, is a picture of the Gospel, or a natural outflow of the Gospel. Almost all doctrine is somehow connected to the Gospel. Are there different types of importance? Yes, but the categories can be completely arbitrary. You can categorize them in as few as 4 types of importance – or 10. The most concise way is Primary (Gospel), Secondary, Tertiary, and Adiaphora (unclear, up to the individuals’ conscience).

It’s a great thing that “doctrine divides.” It divides the wheat from the chaff: children of God from false converts who need to hear the Gospel. The doctrines of God tell us how to come to know Him whereas the false doctrines of man lead people astray at the risk of their very souls, for example, false gospels. Scripture warns us that we should be “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim 2:15) so that we can “present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed”.

In Paul’s letters to Timothy he urged Timothy and the others to teach “no other doctrine” (1 Tim 1:3) than what Paul taught since solid biblical doctrine (divisional contrast to false doctrine) would save all who heard it from spiritual error “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Tim 4:16)

Division isn’t always bad since Jesus said that his doctrine would divide even family members. (Matt 10:34-37) “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

Division in inevitable for the followers of Jesus. We live in a world marred by sin and full of peoples whose “father is the devil” (John 8:44). We are called to be set apart and holy. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) Teaching doctrine is one of the functions of the church. Those who demand a “doctrine-less Christianity” don’t understand neither doctrine or Christianity or are purposefully misrepresenting it.

Love Matters: But What is Love?

Many people who attempt to erase theology and doctrine from Christianity claim to do so out of love for others. But in the end, it’s just love of self and hatred of others.

It is out of love for God that we pour over His Word (His theology and doctrine), carefully so that we may know Him as He has revealed Himself to be.

It is out of love for Christ that we study the Word and its doctrines so that we can become more like Him in our journey of progressive sanctification.

It is out of love for others that we divide the Word rightly and help others to do so too. The Word was given to us so that we could teach others rightly, even correcting others when needed “All Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16)

If we refuse to teach these things rightly – we do not love our neighbor, we hate him. If we refuse to correct our brother who teaches these things incorrectly, we are not loving him but hating him.

Love is this: Human beings are the crown of God’s creation, created in His image- Imago Dei. But we have completely rebelled against Him. We committed treason against God. We were born completely and utterly depraved in our sin. There was nothing good in us- nothing. Our sin separated us from the Holy God who created us. We could never be good enough to earn our way to heaven. Our very sin caused us to deserve an eternity in Hell. Yet God granted us grace and mercy. Christ, the Son of God (there is only ONE God, and He exists in three Persons of One substance) wrapped Himself in flesh; he forsook His throne and glory and came to Earth as a man. This God-man lived the perfect life and fulfilled His law to utter perfection. In His perfect fulfillment of the law He was hated by man, so much so that He was tried, crucified and buried. On the cross, He bore the full wrath of God for the sins of those that would believe in Him. On the third day, He rose again in accordance with the scriptures and He ascended into Heaven. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. He offers mercy to those who would believe in Him and repent of their sins. Our love for Him overflows in how we love others. We love others so that we yearn for them to know Him rightly.

Conclusion

Lifeway Research did a study in 2014 on the theological knowledge of 3,000 American adults. These statistics are from Facts and Trends Magazine. The study was to show the differences between Americans and historic Christianity. These statistics are startling.
• 55% believe that there are many ways to get to heaven.
• 55% believe that the Bible was written for each person to interpret as he or she chooses.
• 59% of evangelicals believe the Holy Spirit is a force, not a person.
• 33% of evangelicals believe that God the Father is more divine than Jesus.
• 44% of mainline Protestants don’t see sex outside of marriage as sinful.
• 39% of Americans did not believe in the Trinity.
• 43% say the Bible is helpful but not literally true.
• 56% believe that their pastors’ sermons have no authority in their life.
• 67% say that most people are basically ‘good’, even though everyone sins a little bit.

Each one of these is completely contrary to what the Bible teaches. It is imperative that we teach sound theology and doctrine. “Loving Jesus” simply is not good enough if they love a “Jesus” who isn’t the Jesus of the Bible. “Loving Jesus” simply is not good enough if they don’t understand the doctrine of Salvation.

Boldly proclaim the truth of God, out of love for Him and for others.

HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?

My sermon notes – 4-22-12 – Bro Gary

  • Bro Gary started with a story: about the first church that he and Ms Michelle attended. On a Wednesday, they were discussing the statistics about older people less often coming to the Lord: the older they get, the fewer get saved. A certain woman was one of the most burdened for her husband’s salvation that Gary has ever seen. She called him on a Wednesda and she said she did like he had preached, and she grabbed the Altar by the horns and said “Lord, I’m not moving until you save my husband.” On Friday, he asked her “what does it feel like when you get saved?” She said “Some people don’t have any emotional response and some people jump pews. Why?” He said “Cause I just asked Jesus into my heart.” God answers prayers! It’s never too late for loved ones.
  • Revelation 5:9-10 “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
    • It is so easy to get lost in your own little corner of the world
    • God knows you individually, and cares about your problems
    • God is working in our lives to prepare us
    • People often get too overwhelmed with trivial things and miss the Big Picture about what God is trying to do in His Kingdom
    • The Lamb that was Slain stands by the throne. He has ALL AUTHORITY and stands before the multitudes of Heaven. Only He could open the scroll
    • The contents of important scrolls were kept safe by seals (in this case 7), to prevent tampering. On the outside was the title and who has the authority to open it.
    • Jesus, the Lamb, has ALL AUTHORITY to the title and deed because He is Lord and it is RIGHTFULLY His because He is the Redeemer, the Son of God
    • ALL of heaven SANG OUT when He took the scroll
    • Oh the importance of making a JOYFUL NOISE to the Lord!!!
    • This also shows the importance of Music in the language of the heart of the Lord
  • Story about Bro Gary’s in laws (Nana & Popi) 50’s anniversary celebration. It was a song service. He said memories flooded. How often when various relatives were at deaths door family would gather around the bedside, talk about the Lord and sing. Hallowing. Worshipful. THAT is music.
  • THOU ART WORTHY! WORTHY IS THE LAMB! is what was sang before the throne.

1)   The WORK of the Redeemer

  1.    Praise the Lamb for sinners slain – He is JUST
  2.    Only by the Blood of the Lord Jesus – He makes a way
  3.    “I’ve come by the way of the cross” song lyrics
  4.    Easter was recently – the work He did on the cross
  5.    The work He did / the cross / Blood is the only way we are Redeemed

2)   The WORTHY POSITION of the Redeemer

  1.     Jesus was fore ordained to die for us
  2.     Only HE could open the scrolls

3)   The IDENTITY of the Redeemed

  1.     God is in the business of saving people
  2.     People from all over the world

4)    The COMMONALITY of the Redeemed

  1.     Christ does the saving
  2.     We all come by the way of the cross
  3.     All are ONLY saved by the blood of the Lamb
  4.     We are ALL sinners in need of a savior
  5.     Jesus came for ALL and made a way for us to be redeemed
  6.     We all come by through the blood

5)   The DIVERSITY of the Redeemed

  1.     Every kindred, tongue, people, nation – ALL around the world
  2.     If you are not going and telling others about Him, you are NOT being obedient
  3.     We are commanded to spread the Gospel
  4.     We have to get the message out
  5.     God is in the business of saving people
  6.     It is not just Baptists –it is EVERYONE of any denomination who claims Christ

i.      Story about the Bibles being printed in the Kurdish language. They are very accepting of Americans since America killed Hussein. They are meeting with people and helping copy the Bible into Kurdish. They take the Bible on horseback and take it into Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Twenty-two people in the past year have been beheaded because they were caught with the Bible. We need to see the world the way God sees it.

6)   The CHALLENGE for the Redeemed

  1.   In the book of Matthew, Jesus said go preach into all the world, then shall the End of the Age Come
  2.    We are told to go and tell so that they can be saved
  3.    Once it is into ALL areas of the world, He will come back
  4.    There are 12,000 different people groups
  5.    There are 6,000 under engaged people groups
  6.    There are 3,000 unreached and under engaged people groups
  • How big is your personal world?
  • What are you doing to advance His Kingdom?
  • How big is the world for our church?
  • People get all bend out of shape over where the offering plates are placed. How TRIVIAL minded!! We can’t be so inwardly focused!!
  • One very carnal minded church only had 14 people. One man stood up to preach. There were 6 people against him preaching and 7 people that were for it. They should have been on their knees begging for God to deliver them from the trouble they were in
  • NOTHING MATTERS EXCEPT JESUS!!!
  • ALL THE REST OF LIFE IS TRIVIAL!!!
  • IT IS NOT ABOUT WHAT WE WANT OUT OF LIFE, BUT IT IS AOBUT WHAT GOD WANTS US TO DO!!!

Do You Really Believe God?

My notes from Bro. Gary’s sermon on Sunday morning 3-25-2012

John 16:16-33

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and,‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you,whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”  His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

  • Christians are called Believers
  • But you, Oh Christian, do you REALLY believe?
  • The Disciples are faced with crisis: Jesus was going to the cross. Right there in their crisis, He asked them if they believed
  • Does your life feel like a roller coaster? Does your spirit life feel like a roller coaster? (Up, down, and all over the place)
  • It only takes the turn of events or one short moment to change everything
  • Disciples walked and talked with Jesus, and they still experienced doubts
  • We will all experience moments of doubt while we are on this earth
  • But when we get to heaven we won’t have any more doubts!
  • The disciples saw miracles of all kinds and then suddenly Jesus was telling them that CHANGE is coming – that in just a little while He would leave: Death & Ascension
  • Jesus felt the need to prepare them for the Change – and for the emotional roller coaster
  • Jesus started asking them questions – Do they really believe Jesus
  • Do we really believe God?

1) Do we as Christians believe that Jesus came out of the sorrow of life

  • John 16:20-22 =  20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
  • Jesus said something will happen that
  • we will be very sorrowful
  • We will ALL face time of great sorrow and trial
  • There will be a time of great trial and the world will be rejoicing  – people will oppose us: we will face time of persecution
  • Sorrow can be turned into JOY (example about a mother giving birth – pain/joy)
  • Great tragedy happens to everyone yet God works it for our good = Romans 8:28 ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.”
  • We don’t always understand WHY the bad things happen – but we can KNOW that He will turn the sorrow into Joy
  • We all have times were we face difficulties and are faced with imminent threat of trial and difficulties
  • Sorrow and difficulties do NOT always equal an absence of Joy
  • Do you just believe God when things are going well?
  • Do you still have Joy in your heart, resting in the trusting the Lord when things are going badly?
  • We have to believe that “weeping may endure for the moment, but Joy comes in the morning” Psalm 30:5
  • Joy CAN come of sorrow!
  • We need to be reminded of the totality of life but know that this life is but a fraction of all eternity

2) Do you believe that the Lord CAN and DOES answer prayer?

  • John 16:22-24 = 22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you,whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
  • Notice the petition to the Father
  • We are to pray to the Father in Jesus Name
  • Ask so your joy may be full!!!
  • This isn’t a way of rubbing the genie lamp to have your wish granted – this is communion with God, this is building a relationship with him: You are bringing your petitions to the Lord and laying them down at His feet, trusting Him, entrusting your deepest heart felt petitions into His care. Trusting God brings Joy.
  • There will be times when we feel we are being bombarded with attacks from the enemy – we have to retaliate by bombarding heaven with prayers
  • Praying in Jesus Name is powerful! It is our warfare against the enemy!
  • It is not just a phrase, but it is the Authority and Character of Jesus
  • We need to pray in harmony with the character and objectives of Jesus – which is to do the will of the Father
  • We must pray with the will to submit to Jesus’s agenda for our life!!
  • Don’t use prayer as a form of procrastination
  • Is your will aligned with Gods will?
  • We go to church, pray, wing and go on with our day – but is our will aligned with God’s will? Are we REALLY willing to YIELD our ENTIRE being/desires/goals/dreams/agenda to His will?
  • Prayer isn’t for us to do our thing but for us to say “Yes Lord” and to surrender to what God calls us to do
  • Is your life surrendered to Gods will for your life?
  • If God makes interruptions in your life – we say “Yes Lord” and to whatever He commands and make whatever changes He directs
  • We have to be broken before God will use us – I am a wretched sinner, totally incapable of being truly good.
  • When you pray, surrender and obey – then prayers get answered and we are filled with Joy. The prayer may not get answered in the way we would prefer, but we can still have Joy knowing that He is in charge and is taking care of things. Anticipate answered prayers!!
  • LACK OF JOY – a sign that we have to get back to the basics and SURRENDER OURSELVES INTO THE LORDS CARE

3) Do you really believe that God loves you?

  • John 16:26-28 = 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
  • This is a declaration of LOVE is given by Jesus – He is saying that GOD LOVES US!
  • Jesus won’t lie!
  • Jesus knew that we would experience doubts about this – that is why He said “the Lord loves you!”
  • The greatest demonstration of Love – Jesus died for us. We who are so undeserving.
  • How deep, bountiful is the Love of God!
  • If you have ANY question about if God loves you – LOOK AT THE CROSS!
  • In the last section here, the disciples said that Jesus was not speaking in parables and they were getting it. Jesus said “Do you believe? … I have overcome the world!”
  • Jesus has DOMINION over the whole world and we are more than conquerors!!! (Romans 8:37  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”)
  1. Do you believe that Joy can come out of Sorrow?
  2. Do you believe that God CAN and DOES answer prayer?
  3. Do you believe that Jesus and God loves you?
  • Charles Spurgeon fell into depression
  • No one is exempt form sorrow
  • R. A. Torrey (teacher/preacher at Moody Institute) had a 12 year old girl who died of dyptheria. It was a rainey day funeral. His wife said that she was glad that their child wasn’t in that box on such a dreary day but was with the Lord. Torrey felt a brief moment of joy. The next day his depression really hit hard. He cried out to his daughter. Then the Lord hit him with a sudden rush of Joy – and he wrote: “springing up, always springing up  into everlasting life.”
  • Can you trust God in the midst of sorrow to find Joy?
  • Can you trust God to answer your prayer?
  • Can you trust that God loves you?
  • Do we really believe?
  • Even though we may not FEEL that God loves us, we can trust that He does because He said so!!

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