#Desiree Lee

~The Foolishness of God’s Creation~

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Foolishness is indeed the sister of wickedness.

Sophocles

I’m convinced that the two most important questions every one of us has to ask and ultimately get right are, is life a waste of time: Is there a God? If there is a God, has that God spoken and revealed Himself in a way that we can understand and know him?
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Really since the beginning of time, the human race has been plagued with questions about life, death, evil, goodness and purpose. Is there a God? If there is a God, has that God spoken and revealed Himself in a way that we can understand and know him?If the answers are no, then it really doesn’t matter if there is a God!

Now lets say – there is a God, what good is that if I can’t know Him and understand what He communicates to me? This is one of my major arguments with Islam and New Age – to them God is not personal or knowable and this is so defeating and fatalistic!

Today, what I want to do is deal with the fundamental statement of the fool…“There is no God!”

But maybe you’re thinking, Pastor, I’ve never seen this God? I realize this, but this is true with gravity and oxygen and your enjoying both right now! You see, you don’t need to see Him physically to experience Him spiritually!

Do you know what’s amazing about this Psalm? This Psalm begins with people who don’t believe in God. And get this:

– There are 41,173 verses in the Bible and God gives one half of one verse to the atheist!

– There are 774,746 words in the Bible and God gives the atheist 11 words.

There was an atheist who was complaining to his friend that there’s no holiday for the atheist. Christians have Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. Then his friend said, “Then why don’t you take April 1st!”

I’ve come to realize that there are only 3 things we can do with God, and they’re all found right here in Psalm 14.

Let’s look at them…

1. We Can Deny The Reality of God. Vs. 1a

About 7% of America does just that! They say, “There’s no God, so I’m a fool!” What we just read is the only dialogue God has with the atheist – that’s it! 2 sentences: “There’s no God!” And God says, “Fool”! End of conversation!

This reminds me of a little boy who was talking to his atheist dad at dinner and said, “Dad, do you think God knows that we don’t believe in him?”

Even the most educated genius with the highest I.Q. can be a fool! The person in the natural can know what E=MC square is, but in the spiritual knows nothing about the ABC’s of God!

Think about it – the most brilliant scientist who sees a car – has no problem believing there’s a designer. He sees a portrait and has no problem believing there’s an artist. He reads a book and has no problem believing there’s an author! But when he sees creation, he denies there’s a creator! That’s really amazing to me!

In 1916 Albert Einstein was so disturbed that the universe was not eternal but in fact had a beginning that he wrote about this “Irritating fact”, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me…I should like to find a genius loophole.”

But in 1949 he wrote, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

You know, while there really is only about 7% in America who are atheist, the truth of the matter is that there’s more foolish people in America than we admit! More foolish people who claim to be Christians even!

There are 2 types of atheist in America:

– The intellectual – believes there’s no God.

– The practical – behaves like there’s no God.

And the most foolish person in the world today is not the intellectual fool, but rather the practical fool, the one who believes in God but their lifestyle is godless!

The practical atheist says:
There’s a God, but I’m going to live without him.
There is a Bible, but I’m not going to live by it.
There’s a Lord’s Day, but I’m going to sleep it away or go fishing all day!

The most famous atheist of our day was Madelyn Murray O’Hare. Her son William quotes her as saying…“I’m an atheist, not because I’ve searched behind every star and looked under every rock to prove there’s no God. I’m an atheist because I want to live my life as if there’s no God.”

I can understand why she would say this – but why do people who believe in God say this also?

2. We Can Detest Any Response To God.

Don’t miss what I’m about to say…God doesn’t deal with atheism on an intellectual level – because atheism is not an intellectual issue, it’s a moral issue. It’s not so much a mental problem as it is a moral problem! Atheism is not a head problem – it’s a heart problem! Atheism is not a person who cannot believe in God as much as it’s a person who will not believe in God!

Why? Verse 1

The atheist’s biggest problem is not in the evidence but rather the great threat God is to their lifestyle! Think about it…If there’s no God, then there’s no judgment, no punishment, no standard of what’s right or wrong – why not make it whatever you want?

Why not have a fling without a ring? Why not perous with someone else’s spouse? Why not flirt and pervert your vows – after all, to the atheist there’s no judge or standard!

You maybe thinking, “Pastor, you’re exaggerating!” Think again!

Psalm 10:13 “Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, you will not require an account.”

Here’s the basic reason we live a life as a practical atheist or an intellectual atheist – there’s no accountability!

Bin laden, Hamas, Hezbollah and all these terrorizing termites around the world, really believe they will get away with such evil acts – and somehow 70 virgins and flowing wine await them in heaven!

From Corporate America to Capital Hill, from cheating spouses to cheating taxpayers, from the drug pusher to the gangbanger, from the porn king to the drag queen – somehow they really think they’ll get away with it all!

Folks, that’s why the intellectual atheist is hell bent to get God out of the School House, Court House, White House and eventually the Church House! And all long, the practical atheist is silently rooting for the intellectual atheist – because they think this just might smooth over their conscience!

Mr. Newdall the man who was trying to get the words, “In God we trust” out of the pledge last year…inwardly he’s screaming, “Stop reminding me that I just might be accountable to God!”  Why is Christianity under attack today in such a vicious manner? Mark it down, when people begin with intolerance towards God – they end up intolerant with God’s people! You see when atheistic people see you and me more like Christ – it gets under their skin and their conscience begins to itch away at their deepest level.

Folks…the same reason people can’t find God is the same reason a thief can’t find a police man! It’ll mess up their lives!

3. We Can Delight in a Relationship With God. Vs. 5
“Righteous generation”

It’s not about people doing right, but people being right. Huge difference! People who want to see God with their heart and head!

Jeremiah 29:13 “And you shall seek me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Here’s the key…a real relationship with God is through faith. Not just science, not just by touch – and don’t let anyone ever ridicule you because you live your life by faith, because the atheist does also!

Robert Rowe, An atheist professor from Purdue University, educated at Oxford, once read to his students from his new book, “Even as the evangelical Christian accepts God by faith, I reject the idea of God by faith, but I cannot reject God by reason alone for there is too much evidence of His existence. It is by faith I am an atheist.”

LifePoint: We can experience victory and experience His forgiveness and spend eternity with Him – it may start with the head but it’s going to lead to the heart!

You’ve probably never heard of O. W. Saunders, an atheist that spent all of his life without God. He was a popular journalist about a 100 years ago from North Carolina.

At the end of his life he wrote these heart-breaking words…

“I would love to introduce you to the most lonesome individual on earth. I’m talking about the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I’m that man. By introducing myself, I introduce an atheist or a skeptic that lives in your neighborhood, because he’s everywhere. You’ll be surprised that the atheist envies your faith in God, your subtle belief of heaven after life. He’s jealous of your blessed assurance that you will meet your loved ones in the after life with no sadness or pain.

He would give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, for him, there’s only two things, the grave and the persistence of matter.

The atheist may face life with a smile and a heroic attitude. He may put on a brave front, but he’s not happy. He stands in awe and reverence before the vastness and majesty of the universe, not knowing where he came from or why. He’s appalled by the Why is Christianity under attack today in such a vicious manner? Mark it down, when people begin with intolerance towards God – they end up intolerant with God’s people! You see when atheistic people see you and me more like Christ – it gets under their skin and their conscience begins to itch away at their deepest level.

Folks…the same reason people can’t find God is the same reason a thief can’t find a police man! It’ll mess up their lives!

3. We Can Delight in a Relationship With God. Vs. 5
“Righteous generation”

It’s not about people doing right, but people being right. Huge difference! People who want to see God with their heart and head!

Jeremiah 29:13 “And you shall seek me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Here’s the key…a real relationship with God is through faith. Not just science, not just by touch – and don’t let anyone ever ridicule you because you live your life by faith, because the atheist does also!

Robert Rowe, An atheist professor from Purdue University, educated at Oxford, once read to his students from his new book, “Even as the evangelical Christian accepts God by faith, I reject the idea of God by faith, but I cannot reject God by reason alone for there is too much evidence of His existence. It is by faith I am an atheist.”

LifePoint: We can experience victory and experience His forgiveness and spend eternity with Him – it may start with the head but it’s going to lead to the heart!

You’ve probably never heard of O. W. Saunders, an atheist that spent all of his life without God. He was a popular journalist about a 100 years ago from North Carolina.

At the end of his life he wrote these heart-breaking words…

“I would love to introduce you to the most lonesome individual on earth. I’m talking about the man who doesn’t believe in God. I can introduce you to such a man because I’m that man. By introducing myself, I introduce an atheist or a skeptic that lives in your neighborhood, because he’s everywhere. You’ll be surprised that the atheist envies your faith in God, your subtle belief of heaven after life. He’s jealous of your blessed assurance that you will meet your loved ones in the after life with no sadness or pain.

He would give anything to be able to embrace that faith and be comforted by it, for him, there’s only two things, the grave and the persistence of matter.

The atheist may face life with a smile and a heroic attitude. He may put on a brave front, but he’s not happy. He stands in awe and reverence before the vastness and majesty of the universe, not knowing where he came from or why. He’s appalled by the stupendency of space and the infinity of time, humiliated at the smallness of himself and his own weakness and brevity. of space and the infinity of time, humiliated at the smallness of himself and his own weakness and brevity.thecrossisfoolishness____

Certainly he yearns for a staff on which to lean, he too carries a cross. For him this earth is but a tricky raft, adrift in the unfathomable waters of eternity with no horizon in site. His heart aches for every precious life upon the raft because he’s always drifting, always drifting, always drifting, where he goes he does not know.”

There may be a Mr. Saunders here today, and I say to you, there is a God who loves you, cares for you and even poured out His life for you and His name is Jesus! And He did all that so you can know for sure that your drifting days are over!

~Keeping Your Dreams to Overcome Life’s Challenges~

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Joseph had a lot of things going his way in life at first. He was handsome. He was the first son born to Jacob through Rachel, and therefore, he was his father’s favorite son. He had great dreams that made him feel good about himself. But then one day his entire life changed. Can you imagine how it must have felt to know your brothers hated you so much that they would sell you out of their lives? He was forced to leave the comfortable life he had known, full of love from his parents, and go forth into the unknown. How frightening that must have been for a boy of 17. Yet, God had His hand on Joseph. God had a divine purpose for this young man. Joseph didn’t know why God had chosen this path for his life until the very end, yet he never seemed to waver. God was always in control. Joseph kept his eyes on God, and He used Joseph greatly. What an encouragement to us. Let God use you where you are. Let Him use you in the hard times, as well as the good times.

The story of Joseph spans many chapters, Genesis 37-50. We could actually do an entire study just on the life of Joseph, but because of time limitation, we will just focus on the key events in his life.

“Lord, thank you for the lessons you teach me through Joseph’s life. Encourage me through his life to seek you more intimately and to trust you for every situation that comes into my life. Keep me mindful that you are always in control.”

DAY 1: Joseph and His Family

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

GENESIS 37

1. How would you describe Joseph’s relationship with his brothers?

2. Could Joseph have prevented the jealousy of his brothers? Why or why not?

3. How would you describe his relationship with his father Jacob?

4. In verses 21-27 Reuben and Judah came to Joseph’s defense. Why would these two, of all the brothers, try to save Joseph?

LOOKING UPWARD

5. How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work throughout this chapter?

6. How do you see God’s hand at work in your own life?

LOOKING DEEPER

  • We are told in Genesis 37:3 that Jacob made Joseph a varicolored tunic. What was the significance of this tunic and what impact might that have had on his brothers?
  • How was God already developing Joseph’s gifts at the age of 17?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

God “broke” Joseph by taking him out of comfortable circumstances
and stretching him. God often has to “break” us before He can use us.

  • How has God “broken” you? How did it “strengthen” you?
  • Are you willing to let God do whatever He needs to in your life to make you usable to Him? If not, why? Be honest with the Lord, and ask Him to make you willing, trusting His loving and sovereign hand in your life.

DAY 2: Joseph’s Early Life in Egypt

Chapter 38 seems like an “interruption” to our story of Joseph in Egypt, but it is a narrative of what took place back in Canaan during this time, especially concerning the life of Judah. We pick up our narrative of Joseph in Chapter 39.

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

GENESIS 39

1. How did God use Joseph’s captivity for good (vv. 1-6)?

2. How was Joseph able to resist the temptation of Potiphar’s wife day after day (vv. 7-18)?

3. Joseph was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and Potiphar believed his wife over Joseph, resulting in his imprisonment. Yet, how did God use this for good?

4. What was one “mistake” that Joseph made that perhaps could have prevented the false accusation against him?

5. What does it mean that the Lord was “with Joseph”?

LOOKING UPWARD

6. Does God’s favor mean prosperity? Why or why not?

7. Have you ever been falsely accused? How did you handle it? What resulted from it?

LOOKING DEEPER

  • What does Stephen have to say about Joseph and what God did for him in Acts 7:9-10?
  • As you look back over this chapter, note the times God’s favor and blessing on Joseph is mentioned. How does one gain favor?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

Joseph lived a life of integrity and was faithful to God in the
midst of prosperity and adversity. He is a great example for us to follow.

  • Are you living faithfully in the midst of prosperity and adversity?
  • Do others around you see Christ in you?

DAY 3: Joseph’s Rise To Power

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

We will not be able to look at every verse of every chapter, so I will try to summarize as we skim the following chapters.

GENESIS 40:1-8

1. The king’s cupbearer and baker offended him, resulting in their being thrown into prison with Joseph. What do you learn about Joseph from the way he responded to them in prison?

2. The rest of the chapter tells of their dreams, Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams, and how the interpretations were later fulfilled. In Genesis 40:14-15 and 20-23, how was life once again “unfair” to Joseph?

Genesis 41:1-8 tells us of Pharaoh’s dream and his inability to find someone able to interpret it. In verses 9-14, the cupbearer finally remembers Joseph and his interpretation of their dreams in prison, and Pharaoh called for Joseph to come and interpret his dream. Joseph interpreted the king’s dreams, which foretold of the coming seven years of great abundance in Egypt (41:29) and the following seven years of famine (41:29). Joseph proceeded to tell Pharaoh what should be done (41:32-37).

3. Why did Pharaoh place Joseph in charge of Egypt (41:38-45)?

4. How old was Joseph at this point (41:46)?

LOOKING UPWARD

5. How had God worked in Joseph’s life during his captivity (see 40:8 and 41:16)?

6. How can you keep a proper perspective when you know you have been “wronged” by others and you are paying the unjustified consequences?

LOOKING DEEPER

  • Who are some other people in the Bible who had “delays” in their lives?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

There is no mistake in where God has you.
Allow Him to use you where you are.

  • How are you allowing God to use you right where you are?

There is often a delay before seeing God work through us.
Delays are a necessary time of spiritual preparation.

  • How do you see God’s hand in the “delays” in your life?

Josephs’ life teaches us that disappointments are vital to spiritual growth
because they demand faith and resting all hope upon God.

V. Raymond Edman wrote, “Delay never thwarts God’s purposes;
it only polishes His instrument.”1

  • How is God “polishing” you?

DAY 4: Joseph’s Reconciliation With His Family

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

GENESIS 42

1. Jacob sent his sons, with the exception of Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain during the famine. When his brothers came before Joseph, why didn’t he just tell them who he was and why do you think he recognized them but they did not recognize him?

2. Why do you think Joseph responded to his brothers in the way he did?

3. Describe what his brothers were feeling in verses 21-23?

In Genesis 42:29-38, the brothers returned to Canaan to retrieve their younger brother Benjamin, having left Simeon back in Egypt. Jacob first refused to let them take Benjamin, but after all the grain was eaten, he sent his sons back to Egypt with Benjamin (43:1-15). When Joseph saw Benjamin, he responded with emotion (43:16-34). In Genesis 44, Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan and played a little trickery on them. He “threatened” to keep Benjamin as his slave, and Judah pleaded with him to keep him instead of Benjamin. This brings us to Chapter 45, when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.

GENESIS 45:1-8

4. What was Joseph’s perspective on what his brothers had done to him when he was seventeen?

5. What emotions were his brothers most likely experiencing when they realized this was indeed Joseph?

LOOKING UPWARD

6. How do you view painful or hurtful events in your life? How have hurtful events molded your life?

7. How is one able to gain the type of perspective that Joseph had about his life?

LOOKING DEEPER

Read the entirety of Genesis 42-45. Trace Joseph’s actions throughout these chapters toward his brothers. Why did he do what he did?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

We must trust God with our emotions when we are
face to face with those who have hurt us deeply.

  • Is there someone who has wounded you deeply? How have you handled it? Can you trust God’s sovereign hand in the midst of it?
  • Is there someone you need to forgive?

DAY 5: Joseph’s Last Days

In Genesis 46-47 Jacob moved his family to Egypt. God once again spoke to him, encouraging him to not be afraid to go to Egypt and reminding him of His promise to make him a great nation (Gen. 46:1-4). Genesis 48-49 records Jacob’s final days. Today we look at Joseph’s last days after his father Jacob died.

LOOKING TO GOD’S WORD

HEBREWS 11:22

1. How did Joseph show his faith in God’s promise to Abraham?

GENESIS 50:15-26

2. How has Joseph changed in his relationship with God and his family since he was a young boy?

3. What stands out to you about Joseph’s life and the way he dealt with life?

4. How old was Joseph when he died (v. 22)?

LOOKING UPWARD

5. How does harboring an unforgiving spirit affect us?

6. What makes it difficult to trust God’s sovereignty?

LOOKING DEEPER

REREAD GENESIS 50.
  • What was Joseph trying to convey to his family in verse 24?
  • Why would he want his bones carried back to Canaan?

LOOKING REFLECTIVELY

God is in control even when it seems that your world is
spinning madly out of control.

  • Is there something going on in your life today that is hard for you to understand? Take it to the Lord and trust His hand.

God uses even the negative motives of others to bring about His perfect purpose.

  • Meditate on Genesis 50:20. “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

Joseph had a divine purpose. His life was not always easy and was filled with ups and downs. Yet Joseph found favor with God and he allowed God to use him wherever he went. Where does God want to use you? What is His divine purpose for your life? Are you focused on Him, or are you focused on your circumstances and the situation in which you find yourself? Let God use you to accomplish His divine purpose through you.

~ Why we’re more down than ever—and the crucial role churches play in healing Depression~

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The church is God’s hospital. It has always been full of people on the mend. Jesus himself made a point of inviting the lame, the blind, and the possessed to be healed and to accompany him in his ministry, an invitation often spurned by those who thought they were fine as is. We should not be surprised, then, that the depressed populate not only secular hospitals and clinics, but our churches as well. Yet depression remains both familiar and mysterious to pastors and lay church leaders, not to mention to those who share a pew with depressed persons.

Virtually everyone has experienced a “down” day, often for no clear reason. We might say we “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” are “out of sorts,” or just “in a funk.” Such polite references are commonplace in America. Yet as familiar as melancholic periods are to us, the depths of a severe depression remain a mystery. We may grasp in part the distress of King David: “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Ps. 31:9-10). But most of us have no idea what David meant when he further lamented, “I am forgotten by them as though I were dead” (v.12). Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one’s spiritual being.

Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity. Depression indicates that something is amiss. But what? And what should churches be doing about it?

What is depression?

First we need to clarify what we are talking about. In order to distinguish severe or “major depression” from everyday blues, the American Psychiatric Association offers the following diagnostic criteria:

Major depression is diagnosed when an adult exhibits one or both of two core symptoms (depressed mood and lack of interest), along with four or more of the following symptoms, for at least two weeks: feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt; diminished ability to concentrate or make decisions; fatigue; psychomotor agitation (cannot sit still) or retardation (just sitting around); insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much); significant decrease or increase in weight or appetite; and recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation.

This clinical definition is sterile, however, and fails to capture the unique quality of the severely depressed person’s suffering.

Deep depression is embodied emotional suffering. It is not simply a state of mind or a negative view of life but something that affects our physical being as well. Signs of a severe episode of depression include unfounded negative evaluations of friends, family, and oneself, emotional “pain,” physical problems such as lethargy, difficulty getting one’s thoughts together, and virtually no interest in one’s surroundings. Though most of us know at least an acquaintance who has committed suicide, this tragic act baffles us perhaps as much as it pains us. “I just don’t understand,” we say. The irony is that survivors of serious suicide attempts frequently reflect on those attempts with a similar attitude: “I have no idea what came over me.” The pain and mental dysfunction of major depression are that deep.

How big is the problem?

However we choose to define depression, both its frequency and its disruption of normal life are staggering. The World Health Organization named depression the second most common cause of disability worldwide after cardiovascular disease, and it is expected to become number one in the next ten years. In the United States, 5 to 10 percent of adults currently experience the symptoms of major depression (as previously defined), and up to 25 percent meet the diagnostic criteria during their lifetime, making it one of the most common conditions treated by primary care physicians. At any given time, around 15 percent of American adults are taking antidepressant medications.

Studies of religious groups, from Orthodox Jews to evangelical Christians, reveal no evidence that the frequency of depression varies across religious groups or between those who attend religious services and those who do not. So in a typical congregation of 200 adults, 50 attendees will experience depression at some point, and at least 30 are currently taking antidepressants.

How do we explain these numbers? In part, they result from a two-pronged shift in cultural attitudes about depression. Groups such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and pharmaceutical companies have aggressively promoted the view that depression is not a character flaw but a biological problem (a disease) in need of a biological solution (a drug). The efforts to medicalize depression have helped to remove the stigma attached to it and convince the public that it’s not something to hide. Consequently, depression has come out of the closet.

Some critics argue that along with the disease view of depression comes a lowered diagnostic threshold. Professors Allan Horwitz and Jerome Wakefield argue in The Loss of Sadness (Oxford, 2007) that psychiatrists no longer provide room for their clients’ sadness or life’s usual ups and downs, labeling even normal mood fluctuations “depression.” (Everyday conversation reflects this assumption. When asked how we are doing, we commonly answer “great” or at least “good.” If we reveal that we’re “fine”—or worse, just “okay”—people tend to assume something is wrong and begin probing.)

Critics like Horwitz and Wakefield are half right. It is true that the mental health community has lowered the threshold for recognizing depression. Yet when we trace depression in the United States over the past 20 years using fixed criteria—the very research I do—we still see a significant increase in frequency. So although the numbers may be inflated, and this bump unquestionably serves the profit margins of pharmaceutical companies, we nevertheless have a substantial, documented increase to try to explain.

Our society has reaped considerable benefit from casting a wide net and assuming that everything caught is a disease. We now are more attuned to depression’s burden of emotional suffering, better understand biological factors, and have medications that address those factors. We should be thankful for these significant gains.

Shrunken humanity

Yet redefining depression broadly as a disease has some untoward consequences. This model rightly acknowledges the biological aspect of human nature and how it can become disordered. But it fails to consider other dimensions at play. For example, the disease model ignores social environments as possible contributors to depression, viewing depressed persons as isolated individuals with a strong boundary between their bodies and everything outside. Depressed persons are reduced to broken bodies and brains that need fixing.

Browse any major psychiatric journal and you will read that our genes are the first cause of depression. Given certain environmental challenges, depression emerges. This is true, but it does not go far enough. Most have heard that depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance (such as a deficit in serotonin). Though the biological aspect of depression is more complex than a simple chemical imbalance, depression is nonetheless associated with poor regulation of the chemical messengers in our brains. This is why certain medications can relieve symptoms of moderate to severe depression. But this is not a new biological development; our bodies have not changed significantly over the past 100 years.

We also know that distorted thoughts contribute to depression. Those who are depressed do not evaluate themselves accurately (i.e., I am not as good as others). They fear that their selves are disintegrating (i.e., I am falling apart). They depreciate their value to others (i.e., I am of very little benefit to my family). And they believe they do not have control over their bodies (i.e., I just cannot make myself eat). Aaron Beck, the father of the most popular psychotherapy today, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), proposes that depression derives in large part from these cognitive distortions. Depression is relieved by bringing the distorted views more in line with reality. Evidence supports Beck’s contention, though not in all cases.

But cognitive behavioral therapies have been criticized for focusing on the person as such and ignoring the context of the person within society. Psychotherapist Robert Fancher believes the CBT approach “devalues those attributes of mind most likely both to create culture and to take us beyond the status quo—imagination, passion, and the courageous, painful process of bringing new ways of thinking and living to birth. It amounts to an endorsement of the middlebrow life under the authority of ‘good mental health.’ ” To put it more simply, cognitive therapy tends to reinforce the social norm, focusing almost exclusively on assisting the individual to adapt to the environment.

We now know much more about the neuroscience and cognitive patterns associated with depression, and have found fairly effective biological and therapeutic treatments. But we still do not have an answer to the pressing question behind this virtual epidemic: Why now? In order to get at this question, we must look beyond biological and psychological factors.

Things fall apart

“Life’s tough,” said one of my professors of medicine, and I knew what he meant. A young intern, I was seeking empathy after surviving a night on call without a wink of sleep. I had forgotten to look up a reference he had recommended the day before. He wanted the reference, not an excuse. But life was busy, chaotic, and demanding, and I was having trouble holding everything together.

Everyday life in 21st-century American society can be tough. The constant pressure of negotiating increasingly complex and sometimes harsh social realities takes a toll. Depression is in part a withdrawal by the weary into an inner world, an attempt to create a protective cocoon against real-world demands. Whatever personal factors contribute to an individual’s depression, the broader epidemic suggests that living in disordered social conditions makes things worse.

But when compared with preceding generations of Americans, we are, on the whole, healthier, safer, better off financially, and more educated. So where is the disorder?

The truth is, these barometers don’t tell the whole story. In the workplace, many of us sit in comfortable surroundings compared with those of our ancestors, who fought cold, wind, and rain. Yet we feel as much uncertainty as they did and much less control over our work. Our jobs are not secure, and due to specialization, many of us do not have the flexibility to move easily and quickly from one job to another. We work long hours, often with a sense of being “behind,” and do not recognize boundaries between work and non-work. (Is the office Christmas party work or recreation?) We compare ourselves with other colleagues when comparisons are fruitless, or find ourselves being compared unfairly. When we come up short, we feel the burden of unrealistic expectations we have placed on ourselves or have received from others. We are given responsibilities with little authority and even fewer resources, and feel we have no control over job expectations or even how we use our work time. Many of us are subject to sometimes dehumanizing corporate or economic systems not of our own making and seemingly beyond our influence. We feel small, insignificant, and expendable.

Some Americans find their everyday reality so tough that they try to escape it via substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, petty theft, or embezzlement. Consider substance abuse. Nearly 15 percent of Americans will struggle with alcoholism in their lifetimes, and over 10 million Americans are actively using illicit substances. Among those who are dependent on opiates such as heroin or prescription pain relievers, depression rates may be as high as 50 percent. Though depression can lead to increased substance use, the much more common path is for substance use, often begun as an escape from the pressures of life, to lead to serious episodes of depression. At that point a vicious cycle ensues, as depression leads to increased substance use, and substance use to worsening depression.

While most of us have daily contact with many people, our generation is nevertheless a lonely crowd. In his classic Bowling Alone, sociologist Robert Putman suggests that America’s stock of “social capital”—networks among individuals and the reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them—has declined substantially over the past few decades. We are less likely to vote, give blood, play cards, join in league bowling, or have friends or neighbors over for dinner. Perhaps some of these opportunities to build social networks have been replaced with others, such as soccer games or Facebook. Yet we are increasingly disconnected from family, neighbors, and friends.

And the nature of the relationships we do have is changing. Many have become what British sociologist Anthony Giddens labels “pure relationships”—”pure” in that they are detached from any social context, external structure, or security. There is no covenant, community, or being to orient the relationship or provide ongoing assurance, direction, and support. All of this must be generated by the relationship itself, which exacts a heavy burden. We can never relax in pure relationships because there is no pledge of fidelity or constancy on which to rest. We must “maintain” these relationships ourselves. Over time, constant vigilance and sustained insecurity often lead to frustration, anxiety, and weariness. These relationships are just too hard to keep up.

Complex societies built on interdependence require trust, yet this precious public resource continues to decline as society becomes even more complex. “Who can you believe these days?” has become a familiar refrain. Reality, we are told, has become little more than the shared worldview of small communities. In response, some encourage us to accept all views, but this leaves us disoriented. Others suggest we cling tenaciously to our views and mistrust anything new, leaving us isolated and alienated. From this double bind, the leap to a symptom of severe depression—paranoia—is not that far. The depressed lose confidence not only in themselves, but also in those around them.

Finally, no symptom is more central to depression than the loss of hope. And if last year’s election cycle revealed anything, it was that hope is at a premium in American society. Fear of catastrophe—due to terrorists, financial collapse, or ecological disaster—haunts our times. Some busy themselves with survival strategies, withdrawing from communal concerns to personal preoccupations. Many more, uncertain about the future, anxiously gorge themselves on our culture’s smorgasbord of instantly gratifying diversions.

Opportunity for the church

Uncertainty, insignificance, and powerlessness. Destructive, self-indulgent escape. Loneliness and isolation. Fear and distrust. Loss of hope. Retreat. Although hasty and incomplete, this sketch of the early-21st-century American cultural mood picks up dark details masked by indices of societal well-being. It also reminds us that to focus exclusively on the individual in our efforts to understand the depression epidemic is to miss the forest for the trees.

When used wisely, antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy can restore stability to individuals so that they can better negotiate everyday challenges. For those in the thick of paralyzing depression, the effects of medicine and CBT might even prompt gratitude for common grace. And they should give thanks. Yet neither of these approaches provides much help in understanding or addressing the more fundamental and intractable problems of which the depression epidemic is a symptom. These approaches provide needed relief, but not answers or prevention.

The medical models come up short because they can only go as far as their understanding of the subject of the problem will take them. And both slight their subject: human beings. Cultural institutions and authorities may sometimes treat human beings as if we are nothing but brains in bodies, but this does not make it so. For those with eyes to see, the depression epidemic is in part a witness to the complexity of human nature. In particular, it reminds us that we are social and spiritual (as well as physical) creatures, and that a fallen society’s afflictions are often inscribed on the bodies of its members. We have misjudged humanity if we expect our bodies to be impervious to social travail. (“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground,” Luke 22:44.)

In fact, sometimes an episode of what looks like depression does not indicate that the human organism is malfunctioning, but is instead being true to her spiritual-social-physical nature. Embodied emotional pain can be an appropriate response to suffering in a world gone wrong. The author of Lamentations must have felt such pain as he gazed upon the destruction of Jerusalem around 588 B.C. “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city” (Lam. 2:11). Christians are called to weep with those who weep, and should welcome emotional pain that results from empathy and draws us alongside the afflicted. If we have grown numb to the pain and suffering around us, we have lost our humanity.

Christian teaching about sin and its reverberating effects frees the church from surprise about the disordered state of human affairs. We can acknowledge the effects of sin both within and without. We can look at wrecked reality squarely in the eye and call it what it is.

And thanks be to God, who raised the One who entered fully into our condition, breaking the power of sin, death, and hell, that we not only can name wrecked reality, but also lean into it on the promise that Christ is making all things new.

Those who bear the marks of despair on their bodies need a community that bears the world’s only sure hope in its body. They need communities that rehearse this hope again and again and delight in their shared foretaste of God’s promised world to come. They need to see that this great promise, secured by Christ’s resurrection, compels us to work amidst the wreckage in hope. In so doing, the church provides her depressed members with a plausible hope and a tangible reminder of the message they most need to hear: This sin-riddled reality does not have the last word. Christ as embodied in his church is the last word.

~ RESTORING ECONOMIC RIGHTS FOR EX-OFFENDERS ~

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More than 600,000 people are released from prison in the United States each year, and a great many of them return to their families and communities with complex and challenging needs. Prisoners reentering society are often suffering from substance use problems, mental illnesses and health concerns. They must navigate social service systems to find housing, jobs and support. And too often, recently released prisoners find themselves once again incarcerated.

“I have been clean now for 16 years and six months with God’s help, and I am trying to stay that way, but with no help for people who have compromised the contract of life it is very hard not to go back to that way of life. I want people to realize that is why people do time, get out and do it again. They can’t survive any other way.”

Virtually every felony conviction carries with it a life sentence. Upon being released from prison, ex-offenders face a vast and increasing maze of mandatory exclusions from valuable social programs and employment opportunities that impede their hopes of success in the free world. These exclusions range from restrictions on the ability to get a driver’s license to a lifetime ban on eligibility for federal welfare. In adopting this array of civil disabilities, federal, state and municipal governments have endorsed a social policy that condemns ex-offenders to a diminished social and economic status, and for many, a life of crime. Recently the American Bar Association concluded that the dramatic increase in the numbers of persons convicted and imprisoned means that this half-hidden network of legal barriers affects a growing proportion of the populace. More people convicted inevitably means more people who will ultimately be released from prison or supervision, and who must either successfully reenter society or be at risk of reoffending. If not administered in a sufficiently deliberate manner, a regime of collateral consequences may frustrate the reentry and rehabilitation of this population, and encourage recidivism.

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To: Congressman Mark Takano

      Democrat from California, District 41

      1507 Longworth House Office Building

      Washington, DC

 From: Aaron and Maymie Chandler-Pratt

            Second Chance Alliance Re-entry Program Founders

 To Whom It May Concern;

My name is Maymie Chandler-Pratt and my husband’s name is Aaron. Together we advocate against the hiring practices used to discriminate against ex-offenders.

This bill proposal created in 2013 is here-by updated on this 13th day of July in the year 2015, on the behalf of the ex-offenders in the world who “really” desire an opportunity to become employed but are not the opportunity because of their criminal background.

This bill proposal was given to Congressman Mark Takano, who informed us that he had taken it to his Washington, DC office for review therefore, in light of the Presidents, decision to grant pardons to the 46 ex-offenders recently and on behalf of the millions of other ex-offenders who are being released or have already been released, we hereby re-submit this bill proposal for review of those modifications as stipulated in the proposal.

If this bill proposal is granted, it is our belief that it will help to reduce that rate of recidivism which would in turn help to reduce the prison population. It is also our belief that with the creation of re-entry programs that are directly connected to employers willing to hire ex-offenders that this will also help them to recreate themselves and become law abiding citizens once again and can make a positive imprint on society instead of a negative one.

It is our hope that someone will take a look at this proposal that was written two years ago and placed in the hands of someone whom we felt would be able to get it reviewed. Now that the President has started to release more ex-offenders back into society there is going to become a greater need for jobs, housing and retraining.

In prison an inmate is given the opportunity to work and not for minimum wage but for an amount much lower that minimum wage (i.e.,  .08 cents to .36 cents) an hour. Our belief is this; if inmates can be hired within the prisons to work in the same types of jobs in society, then why are businesses still so reluctant to hire ex-offenders who have no violent crime history? The way that it stands today, those men and women who were pardoned and released have a better chance of getting hired than the millions of others that are trying to get a job so that they can survive and thrive in society and not return to prison.

Please help us to get this bill reviewed and passed so that we together can start to rebuild our country by employing ex-offenders, who can by working, pay into social security and reduce crime and reduce the rate of recidivism.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter and I look to hear from you soon. Our home phone number is 951-357-2572 and the cell is 951-210-8246.

Sincerely Submitted,

Aaron and Maymie Chandler-Pratt

Second Chance Alliance Re-entry Program Founders

Bill Proposal: Advocates against Felon Employment Discrimination Act

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SENATE OR HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Introduced by: Advocates against Felon Employment Discrimination

Primary Sponsor: Maymie Chandler-Pratt

Secondary Sponsor: Aaron D. Pratt

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  1. The purpose of this bill is to stop the employment discrimination of felons throughout the United States and to modify the hiring wait times from 7 to 10 years, to a more reasonable wait time of 1 to 2 years or less depending on the crime committed.
  2. The (Senate or House of Representatives) of the United States of America hereby enacts as follows:
  3. SECTION 1
  4. This act shall be known as the Advocates against Felon Employment Discrimination Act
  5. SECTION 2
  6. Reinstate people with felonies their right to work, and modify the hiring requirements in
  7. companies from the unrealistic term of 7 to 10 years to 1 to 2 years for ex-offenders who are 8. willing and able to earn an honest living wage and are skilled in those areas of work.
  8. SECTION 3
  9. Require companies to hire people with felonies after a period of 1 to 2 years after said
  10. person has completed parole and has successfully complied with terms of release presented
  11. by the parole board; (Drug Rehabilitation, boarding house residency, random drug testing) 13. and have demonstrated a desire to work by enrolling in classes to improve their work skills 14. and their moral turpitude.
  12. SECTION 4:
  13. Require companies to at least have bonding agents and resources within the HR department
  14. which will allow companies to be compensated with tax write offs as an incentive to hire ex-18. offenders
  15. SECTION 5: Funding
  16. The cost of the implications of this proposal should not exceed the amount of $1,000,000.00 21. dollars.
  17. Funding for this bill will come partly from the Advocates against Felon Employment
  18. Discrimination Act fundraising committee and participating government programs.
  19. SECTION 6: Regulations
  20. The EEOC has historically taken the position that an employer’s policy or practice of
  21. excluding individuals from employment because they have criminal conviction record is
  22. unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unless the policy or practice is
  23. justified by a business necessity. If the information was erroneous or the conviction was not
  24. job-related, employees and applicants have a right to file a discrimination claim with their 30.state equal employment opportunity agency. The government will impose sanctions on 31.companies which are offering employment that have no direct correlation with the crime that 32.was committed by person’s applying for a job if they don’t hire a person with a felony on 33.their background that is older than 1 to 2 years. For most offenders it is difficult to prove that 34.a possible employer illegally discriminated 35.against them even with an expungement. In 35.California an individual’s criminal history is 36.never erased, but rather erases the word
  25. “conviction” and replaces it with “dismissed in 37.Furtherance of Justice” in the disposition.
  26. Constitutional issues:
  27. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly permits felon
  28. disenfranchisement, but it has been pointed out that constitutional approval of felons’ 40.political powerlessness is not the same as constitutional approval of government prejudice 41.toward the politically powerless. Such prejudice may violate the Equal Protection Clause, 42.which contains no provision authorizing discrimination against felons. A “discrete and 43.insular” minority subject to prejudice, in particular, may be considered particularly vulnerable 44.to oppression by the majority, and thus a suspect class worthy of protection by the judiciary. 45. SECTION 7: Penalties
  29. The penalties for not hiring a person with felonies older than 2 to 5 years on their background
  30. and who are willing to work and are skilled in that field or position will be a fine of $5000.00
  31. dollars and or if the information was erroneous or the conviction was not job-related,
  32. employees and applicants information was erroneous or the conviction was not job-related,
  33. employees and applicants have a right to file a discrimination claim with their state equal
  34. employment opportunity agency. If a felon is bonded by a company and hired on, and is later 52. found to not be in compliance with the bonding agreement he/she shall be terminated.
  35. SECTION 8: Definitions
  36. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
  37. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal law
  38. enforcement agency that enforces laws against job discrimination. The EEOC investigates
  39. discrimination complaints based on an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex,
  40. age, disability, genetic information and retaliation for reporting, participating in and/or
  41. opposing a discriminatory practice. The EEOC also mediates and settles thousands of
  42. discrimination complaints each year prior to their investigation. The EEOC is also
  43. empowered to file discrimination suits against employers on behalf of alleged victims and to
  44. adjudicate claims of discrimination brought against federal agencies.
  45. Moral turpitude: A legal concept in the United States that refers to conduct that is
  46. considered contrary to the community’s standard of justice, honesty and good morals. As of 64. 1998, seven states absolutely barred felons from public employment. Other states had more 65. narrow restrictions for instance, only covering infamous crimes or felonies involving moral 66.turpitude.
  47. Over inclusive: relating to legislation that burdens more people than necessary to accomplish
  48. the legislation’s goal. Some laws have been criticized for being over inclusive; for instance, a
  49. law banning all ex-offenders from working in health care jobs could prevent a person
  50. convicted of bribery or shoplifting from sweeping the halls of a hospital. The law in Texas
  51. requires that employers consider things like the nature and seriousness of the crime, the
  52. amount of time since the person’s committed the crime, and letters of recommendation all be
  53. taken into account even when the applicant has a felony.
  54. SECTION 9: Effective Date
  55. This bill shall take effect approximately and at a minimum of 1 year after passage before the
  56. law is implemented.

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This bill is not asking that the hiring requirements be abolished totally, but that they are modified from the unrealistic 7 to 10 year wait in order to be eligible for “legal” employment, to a more realistic waiting time requirement of 1 to 2 years or less depending on the crime committed.

Thank you,

Aaron and Maymie Chandler-Pratt

Second Chance Alliance Re-entry Program Founders

~ Obama Leading Prison Reform- Hallelujah

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Dear Aaron,

“A little less conversation, a little more action.” We hear your complaints. While there is movement on sentencing reform, it’s been a long, slow road (we’ve been at it since 1991!) and we’re ready for things to finally change. With your help, we have the power to turn the talk on Capitol Hill into action with the SAFE Justice Act.

On June 25, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Safe, Accountable, Fair, Effective (SAFE) Justice Act (H.R. 2944).  This bill is massive, a whopping 144 pages long, and touches almost every single part of the federal criminal justice system, from trial to sentencing to life after release. This legislation would limit the application of federal drug mandatory minimum sentences to only the most high-level crime organizers and kingpins. Judges would have more flexibility to sentence people below mandatory minimum drug and gun possession offenses when the person has a minor record or the crime was driven by addiction or mental illness. It would also allow for federal prisoners to earn time off their sentences for good behavior and completing rehabilitative programming.

The best part: many of these reforms would be retroactive, affecting people who are already in prison, and reducing prison overcrowding and high prison costs for taxpayers.

Lawmakers know the criminal justice system is flawed from top to bottom. They recognize the injustice, and many speak out about it. But we want them to do more than talk, we want them to vote to change the system. They need to hear from you, their constituents. Tell your U.S. Representative to support the SAFE Justice Act today. The more members of Congress who support the bill, the more likely it is that we’ll get them to act on it this year!

Thanks for your support of our work and for telling Congress it’s time for action!

635723951021069867-GTY-480590524

WASHINGTON – A Detroit man sentenced to life in prison on drug offenses in 1999 is among nearly four dozen federal inmates who had their sentences commuted today by President Barack Obama as being too harsh.

Patrick Roberts, 65, is currently incarcerated in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., according to corrections records, and has lost several previous attempts to have his sentence reduced.

Federal court documents say he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine and marijuana and was sentenced to life imprisonment, under rules which were in place at the time, because of his four prior drug convictions.

Obama today commuted the sentences of 46 federal prisoners convicted on drug charges, ordering their terms to end Nov. 10 of this year. Roberts’ was the only one from Michigan.

The president has issued nearly 90 commutations in all during his two terms in office, most of them to nonviolent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under old sentencing rules which, had the crimes been committed today, would have resulted in shorter sentences.

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Click to view why the clock is running out on Obama’s  clemency initiative

The president sent each prisoner a letter confirming the commutation and asking each to make the most of the opportunity he or she was being given.

In a video message, Obama explained his decision, saying the inmates “were not hardened criminals but the overwhelming majority had been sentenced to at least 20 years.”

“Their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Obama said in the message.

“I’ve made clear to them that re-entering society is going to require responsibility on their part and hard work and smarter choices,” the president continued. “But I believe that at it’s heart, America’s a nation of second chances and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

Koch urges Obama administration to speed up clemency 635687646383234200-XXX-Charles-Koch-RD690program Billionaire supports prison reform-click to view..

Administration officials said they expect Obama will issue additional commutations and pardons before the end of his term in January 2017. On Tuesday, the president was also expected to discuss, in an address to the NAACP, ways of bringing “greater fairness to our criminal justice system while keeping our communities safe,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a blog post.

In a statement from the U.S. Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said today’s commutations grew out of Obama’s request a year ago that the agency develop criteria for identifying prisoners who were nonviolent, low-level offenders who received overly harsh sentences.

“The President’s decision to commute the sentences of 46 more individuals today is another sign of our commitment to correcting these inequities,” she said.

April 7th 2015 :

President Obama commuted the sentences of 22 convicted federal prisoners Tuesday, shortening their sentences for drug-related crimes.

Eight of the prisoners who will have their sentences reduced were serving life sentences. All but one of the 22 will be released on July 28.

The White House said Obama made the move in order to grant to older prisoners the same leniency that would be given to people convicted of the same crimes today.

“Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement. “Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years—in some cases more than a decade—longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime.”

In issuing the commutations Tuesday, Obama has more than doubled the number he’s granted in his presidency. Before Tuesday, he had issued just 21 and denied 7,378 commutations in his more than six years. It was the most commutations issued by a president in a single day since President Clinton issued 150 pardons and 40 commutations on his last day in office.

And it could represent the crest of a new wave of commutations that could come in Obama’s last two years in office. Last year, the Justice Department announced a new clemency initiative to try to encourage more low-level drug offenders to apply to have their sentences reduced. That resulted in a record 6,561 applications in the last fiscal year, at least two of which were granted commutations Tuesday, according to the Justice Department.

Click to view Second Chance Alliance

~ I Make WAR!!!!!~

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Galatians 5:16–18

 Keep in Step with the Spirit

16 But I say, vwalk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify wthe desires of the flesh. 17 For xthe desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, yto keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are zled by the Spirit, ayou are not under the law.

This love is not optional. It is commanded. And it is very radical: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, we are called in our freedom to desire and seek the happiness of others with the same zeal that we seek our own. But if you take this command seriously, it is so contrary to our natural inclinations that it seems utterly impossible. That I should get up in the morning and feel as much concern for your needs as for my own seems utterly beyond my power. If this is the Christian life — caring for others as I care for myself — then it is hard, indeed, and I feel hopeless to ever live it out.

Paul’s answer to this discouragement is found in Galatians 5:16–18. The secret is in learning to “walk by the Spirit” (v. 16). If the Christian life looks too hard, we must remember that we are not called to live it by ourselves. We must live it by the Spirit of God. The command of love is not a new legalistic burden laid on our back; it is what happens freely when we walk by the Spirit. People who try to love without relying on God’s Spirit always wind up trying to fill their own emptiness rather than sharing their fullness. And so love ceases to be love. Love is not easy for us. But the good news is that it is not primarily our work but God’s. We must simply learn to “walk by the Spirit.”

So I want to build today’s message around three questions: What? Why? And, how? What is this “walking by the Spirit”? Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? And, how, very practically, can we walk by the Spirit?

What Is Walking by the Spirit?

First, what is this “walking by the Spirit”? There are two other images in the context which shed light on the meaning of “walk by the Spirit.” The first is in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” If Paul had said, “If you follow the Spirit you are not under law,” it would have been true, but in using the passive voice (“If you are led”) he emphasizes the Spirit’s work, not ours. The Spirit is not a leader like the pace car in the “Daytona 500.” He is a leader like a locomotive on a train. We do not follow in our strength. We are led by his power. So “walk by the Spirit” means stay hooked up to the divine source of power and go wherever he leads.

The second image of our walk in the Spirit is in verse 22: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc.” If our Christian walk is to be a walk of love and joy and peace, then “walk by the Spirit” must mean “bear the fruit of the Spirit.” But again, the Spirit’s work is emphasized, not ours. He bears the fruit. Perhaps Paul got this image from Jesus. You recall John 15:4–5: “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” So “walk by the Spirit” means “abide in the vine.” Keep yourself securely united to the living Christ. Don’t cut yourself off from the flow of the Spirit.

So in answer to our first question, What is this walking by the Spirit? we answer: It is “being led by the Spirit” and it is “bearing the fruit of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit is emphasized, yet the command is for us to do something. Our wills are deeply involved. We must want to be coupled to the locomotive. We must want to abide in the vine. And there are some things we can do to keep ourselves attached to the flow of God’s power. But before we ask how to walk by the Spirit let’s ask . . .

Why Is It Crucial to Walk by the Spirit?

Why is it crucial to walk by the Spirit? The text gives two reasons, one in verse 16 and one in verse 18. In verse 16 the incentive for walking by the Spirit is that when you do this, you will not gratify the desire of the flesh. The RSV here is wrong when it makes the second part of verse 16 a command instead of a promise and says, “Do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” All the other major versions are right to make it a promise because this particular Greek construction has that meaning everywhere else in Paul. The verse should be translated, for example with the NASB, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” So the first reason we should walk by the Spirit is that when we do, the desires of our flesh are overcome.

In recent messages I’ve tried to define the flesh as Paul uses it. Most of the time (though not always, see below) it does not simply refer to the physical part of you. (Paul does not regard the body as evil in itself.) The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness and uses the resources in its own power to try to fill it. Flesh is the “I” who tries to satisfy me with anything but God’s mercy. Notice Galatians 5:24, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Now compare with this Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” In 2:20, “flesh” is used in its less usual meaning referring to ordinary bodily existence, which is not in itself evil (“I now live in the flesh”).

But the important thing to notice is that in 5:24 the “flesh“ is crucified and in 2:20 “I” am crucified. This is why I define the flesh in its negative usage as an expression of the “I” or the “ego.” And notice in 2:20 that since the old fleshly ego is crucified, a new “I” lives, and the peculiar thing about this new “I” is that it lives by faith. “The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness but loathes the idea of satisfying it by faith, i.e., by depending on the mercy of God in Christ. Instead, the flesh prefers to use the legalistic or licentious resources in its own power to fill its emptiness. As Romans 8:7 says, “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law.” The basic mark of the flesh is that it is unsubmissive. It does not want to submit to God’s absolute authority or rely on God’s absolute mercy. Flesh says, like the old TV commercial, “I’d rather do it myself.”

It is not surprising, then, that in verse 17 there is a war between our flesh and God’s Spirit. It is a problem at first glance that there is a lively war between flesh and Spirit in the Christian, according to verse 17, but the flesh is crucified in the Christian, according to verse 24. We’ll talk more about the sense in which our flesh is crucified when we get to verse 24. For now, let’s give Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume that both are somehow true, and focus on this war within: our flesh versus God’s Spirit.

God’s Spirit Conquers Our Flesh

Verse 17 says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other to prevent you from doing what you would.” The main thing to learn from this verse is that Christians experience a struggle within. If you said to yourself when I was describing the flesh, “Well, I have a lot of that still left in me,” it does not necessarily mean you aren’t a Christian. A Christian is not a person who experiences no bad desires. A Christian is a person who is at war with those desires by the power of the Spirit.

Conflict in your soul is not all bad. Even though we long for the day when our flesh will be utterly defunct and only pure and loving desires will fill our hearts, yet there is something worse than the war within between flesh and Spirit; namely, no war within because the flesh controls the citadel and all the outposts. Praise God for the war within! Serenity in sin is death. The Spirit has landed to do battle with the flesh. So take heart if your soul feels like a battlefield at times. The sign of whether you are indwelt by the Spirit is not that you have no bad desires, but that you are at war with them!

But when you take verses 16 and 17 together, the main point is not war, but victory for the Spirit. Verse 16 says that when you walk by the Spirit, you will not let those bad desires come to maturity. When you walk by the Spirit, you nip the desires of the flesh in the bud. New God-centered desires crowd out old man-centered desires. Verse 16 promises victory over the desires of the flesh — not that there won’t be a war, but that the winner of that war will be the Spirit.

In fact, I think what Paul means in verse 24, when he says the flesh has been crucified, is that the decisive battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. The Spirit has captured the capital and broken the back of the resistance movement. The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms, and must be fought back daily. The only way to do it is by the Spirit, and that’s what it means to walk by the Spirit — so live that he gives victory over the dwindling resistance movement of the flesh. So the first reason why we must walk by the Spirit is that, when we do, the flesh is conquered.

God’s Spirit Creates Law-Fulfilling Fruit

The second reason to walk by the Spirit or be led by the Spirit is found in verse 18: “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” This does not mean you don’t have to fulfill God’s law. You do. That’s what verses 13 and 14 said, “Through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” And Romans 8:3–4 say, “God condemned sin in the flesh in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Therefore, not being under law does not mean we don’t have to fulfill the law. It means that, when we are led by the locomotive of the Spirit, we cruise on the railroad track of the law as a joyful way of life and are not left to climb it like a ladder in our own strength from underneath. When we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the punishment or the oppression of the law because what the law requires the Spirit produces; namely, love. Notice verse 22: the first and all-encompassing fruit of the Spirit is love, which verse 14 says fulfills the whole law.

And to confirm that this is just how Paul is thinking, he ends the list of the fruit of the Spirit in verse 23 with the words, “against such there is no law.” In other words, how can you be under the oppression or punishment of the law when the very things the law requires are popping out like fruit on the branches of your life? So the second reason to walk by the Spirit is really the same as the first. Verse 16 says, do it because you get victory over the flesh when you walk by the Spirit. You nip temptation in the bud. Verse 18 says, do it because then you are free from the oppression and punishment of the law, because the fruit the Spirit produces fulfills the law. The Spirit is the fullness that overflows in love. Therefore it conquers the emptiness that drives the flesh, and it spills out in acts of love which fulfill the law.

How Do You Walk by the Spirit?

But the $60,000 question is, How do you walk by the Spirit? All of us have heard preachers say, “Let the Spirit lead you,” or, “Allow the Spirit to control you,” and have gone away puzzled as to what that means practically. How do you allow the Spirit to control you? I want to try to show you that the answer is, You allow the Spirit to control you by keeping your heart happy in God. Or to put it another way,You walk by the Spirit when your heart is resting in the promises of God. The Spirit reigns over the flesh in your life when you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you and now is working everything together for your good.

Here’s the fivefold evidence from Galatians. First, Galatians 5:6, “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love.” Genuine faith always produces love, because faith pushes out guilt, fear, and greed and gives us an appetite to enjoy God’s power. But Galatians 5:22 says love is a fruit of the Spirit. So if love is what faith necessarily produces and love is a fruit of the Spirit, then the way to walk by the Spirit is to have faith — a happy resting in the promises of God is the pipeline of the Spirit.

Second, notice Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.” How do you wait for Jesus “through the Spirit”? “By faith!” When you keep your heart happy in God and resting in his promises, you are waiting through the Spirit and walking by the Spirit.

Third, look at Galatians 3:23, “Now before faith came, we were confined under the law.” The coming of faith liberates a person from being under law. But what does 5:18 say? “If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” How, then, shall we seek to be led by the Spirit? By faith. By meditating on the trustworthiness and preciousness of God’s promises until our hearts are free of all fretting and guilt and greed. This is how the Holy Spirit fills and leads.

Fourth, see Galatians 3:5, the clearest of all: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing of faith?” The Spirit does his mighty work in us and through us only by the hearing of faith. We are sanctified by faith alone. The way to walk by the Spirit and so not fulfill the desires of the flesh is to hear the delectable promises of God and trust them, delight in them, rest in them.

Finally, consider Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Who is the Christ who lives in Paul? He is the Spirit. As 4:6 says: The Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into our hearts. And how, according to 2:20, does the life of the Son produce itself in Paul? How does Paul walk by the Spirit of the Son? “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

Day by day Paul trusts the Son. Day by day he casts his cares on God, frees his life from guilt and fear and greed, and is borne along by the Spirit. How, then, do we walk by the Spirit? The answer is plain. We stop trying to fill the emptiness of our lives with a hundred pieces of the world, and put our souls at rest in God. The Spirit will work the miracle of renewal in your life when you start meditating on his unspeakable promises day and night and resting in them. (See also Romans 15:13, 2 Peter 1:4, and Isaiah 64:4.)

The Secret of Walking by the Spirit

Yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I was in Pasadena, California, standing in the kitchen of my beloved teacher Daniel Fuller talking to his wife Ruth. One of the things I will never forget about that kitchen is that over the sink are taped four tremendous promises of God typed on little pieces of paper. Ruth puts them there to meditate on while she works. That’s how you walk by the Spirit.

I keep a little scrap paper by my prayer bench, and whenever I read a promise that can lure me away from my guilt and fear and greed, I write it down. Then in dry spells I have a pile of promises to soak my soul in. The fight of faith is fought with the promises of God. And the fight of faith is the same as the fight to walk by the Spirit. He works when we are resting in his promises. George Müller wrote (Autobiography, pp. 152–4):

I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . . Now what is the food for the inner-man? Not prayer but, the Word of God.

George Müller learned the secret of walking by the Spirit: Meditate on the precious truths of the Word of God until your heart is happy in God, resting in his promises.

Hudson Taylor had learned it too. He received word one day of rioting near one of the inland mission stations. In a few moments George Nichol, one of his evangelists, overheard Taylor whistling his favorite hymn, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting in the Joy of What Thou Art.” Hudson Taylor “had learned that for him, only one life was possible — just that blessed life of resting and rejoicing in the Lord under all circumstances, while he dealt with the difficulties inward and outward, great and small” (Spiritual Secret, p. 209).

I say to you, brothers and sisters, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. You will have victory over temptation and know the guidance of the Lord if you keep your heart happy in God by resting in his promises.