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Longings of My Soul that Nothing on Earth Can Satisfy

Ken GireBy Ken Gire

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the magician Gandalf told the reluctant and unlikely hero Bilbo Baggins, “There is more to you than you know.”

He said this knowing that within the hobbit’s veins coursed blood not only from the sedentary Baggins side of the family but also from the swashbuckling Took side. We have a similar mingling of blood within us from a lineage that is both human and divine.

Within us the dust of the earth and the breath of heaven are joined in a mysterious union only death can separate. But that relationship is often a strained one, for while the body is fitted for a terrestrial environment—with lungs to breathe air and teeth to chew food and feet to walk on dirt—the soul is extraterrestrial, fitted for heaven. It breathes other air, eats other food, walks other terrain.

Most of the time, though, we are burrowed away in our hobbit holes and don’t give a thought to our heritage.

Bilbo Baggins certainly didn’t. Not until Gandalf entered his life. The magician entered his life through the front door of the hobbit’s burrow. Before the door shut, a dozen motley dwarfs followed on his heels, and on the turn of its hinges, the quiet world of Bilbo Baggins dramatically changed.

Suddenly he found himself saddled with the unwanted responsibility of hosting a houseful of strangers. After emptying his pantry to satisfy their ravenous appetites, the exhausted Bilbo plopped on the hearth of his fireplace before a crackling fire. As he rested there, the dwarfs joined in singing an ancient song, and as he listened, “something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking stick.”

Whenever I hear Górecki’s Third Symphony or Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, whenever I read Rilke’s poem The Man Watching or Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird, whenever I see the movie Camelot or the stage play Les Miserables, something “Tookish” wakes in me, a sleepy-eyed awareness that there is more to me than I know. And suddenly I want to set aside my walking stick and strap on a sword, and leave the cozy security of my hobbit hole in search of some far-off adventure.

Like the dormant gene that wakes with the dawn of our adolescence, rousing us toward adulthood, moments like these reveal we are destined for greater things than make-believe adventures in the fenced-in yards of our youth.

Art, literature, and music waken us to the alluring beauty of that destiny. But, as C. S. Lewis cautions, “The book or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. . . . They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

The Baggins part of me, though, wants nothing of all this. It wants to sit in its hobbit hole, safe and snug, with an inside latch locking out the dangers and uncertainties of the world beyond its door. Another part of me, though, wants something more. To see more. To hear more. To explore more.

To be more.

We live in a constant tension between those two parts, the lofty side of our nature and the lowly side. Like a tree, we are torn between two worlds, a part of us rooted in the soil, another part reaching for the sky.

But because our roots can grasp soil more securely than our leaves can grasp sky, the soil seems more real. It is something we can see and hold in our hand. But heaven, heaven escapes our grasp. We can’t hold it any more than a leaf can hold sky.

Yet something of the sky is taken into its pores, and something of the sun is taken into its cells. That is how it receives the carbon dioxide and makes the chlorophyll it needs to live. If the tree is deprived of all the sky has to offer, it will wither, putting more pressure on the roots to provide its nourishment. In the same way, if the soul is somehow shut off from God, shielded from the sunshine of its eternal significance, it will seek significance elsewhere, sending out its roots in search of the right job, the right school, the right organizations to join, burrowing deeper, thinking if it gets enough money, enough power, enough prestige, it will satisfy its longing for significance.

This longing is an essential function of the soul. In this respect the soul is closer to the stomach than to any other of the body’s organs. When the pancreas is functioning properly, for example, it does not draw attention to itself. The stomach does. When we need something to eat or drink, the stomach signals us through hunger or thirst. If we neglect these longings, the louder and more insistent they become. If we neglect them long enough, these longings will consume us.

Before they get to that point, though, we usually reach for something to take the edge off the hunger. When it’s a candy bar we reach for, the consequences aren’t critical. But when those longings are sexual, how we go about satisfying them becomes very critical. “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” said Solomon, who went on to say, in essence, that if we reach into the wrong cupboards to sate that hunger or into the wrong wells to satisfy that thirst, it will destroy us.

The same is true of our spiritual longings. “My soul thirsts for you,” cried David, “my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). Our longings for God may not be as ravenous as David’s, but they are as real. Because the hunger hurts, though, we try to take the edge off it in any way we can. One of those ways is with religious activity. And that can include the activity of reading books, listening to tapes, or going to seminars. Through these things, which are often very good things, even nourishing things, we are fed the experiences of others. But they are not our experiences. I can read a psalm about David crying out from a cave in the wilderness, and I should read that psalm, but it is not my psalm. It is not my psalm because it is not my cave, not my wilderness, and not my tears.

For so long in my life I expected my experience of God to be like one of those psalms, structured with pleasing rhythms, full of poetic images, a thing of beauty and grace. What I learned is that those psalms were born out of great hunger—a hunger that no food on this earth can satisfy.

“He who is satisfied has never truly craved,” said Abraham Heschel, and he said this, I think, because he knew that heaven’s richest food does not satisfy our longings but rather intensifies them.

True food from heaven, food placed for us on the windowsills of the soul, is like the Turkish Delight in C. S. Lewis’ children’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In it the Queen of Narnia entices one of the children, named Edmund, with a magical food called Turkish Delight. It was sweet to the taste and light on the stomach and more delicious than anything he had ever tasted. But here was the magic. The more Edmund ate, the more he wanted to eat, until his appetite became insatiable, and he would do anything for another taste.

The food offered Edmund is similar to the food offered us at the windows of the soul only in this respect. The more we taste, the more we long for another taste. And another. Until at last the hunger grows so intense it transforms not only our lesser longings but our very lives themselves.

This longing that wells up in us, though, does not spring into existence on its own. “God is always previous,” is the way the theologian von Hügel put it. “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” is the way Aslan put it, the lion in the Narnia Chronicles who called Edmund and three other children from England into the magical land of Narnia. The way the apostle John put it was, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Maybe, too, that is why we long.

“God’s yearning for us stirs up our longing in response,” said Howard Macy in Rhythms of the Inner Life. “God’s initiating presence may be ever so subtle—an inward tug of desire, a more-than-coincidence meeting of words and events, a glimpse of the beyond in a storm or in a flower—but it is enough to make the heart skip a beat and to make us want to know more.”

And it is enough to make us leave behind our walking stick, strap on a sword, and search for that flower whose scent is so enticing, for that music whose echo is so enchanting, and for that far-off country whose news seems too good to be true . . .

. . . but is.

________

Windows of the Soul

Buy your copy of Windows of the Soul in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayTaken from Windows of the Soul: Hearing God in the Everyday Moments of Your Life by Ken Gire. Click here to learn more about this title.

Windows of the Soul is a beautifully written book that provides a fresh perspective for people who long for a richer experience with the presence of God and deeper meaning in everyday life.

“Every once in a while a book comes along that makes you stop and think—and then think some more—like Ken Gire’s wonderful book Windows of the Soul.”
—John Trent in Christian Parenting Today

“Ken Gire has created a book that gently pours forth, like water out of a garden bucket, cleansing our thoughts and opening the petals of our spirits, providing us with a new sense of clarity in our search for God.”
Manhattan (KS) Mercury

“Each word, each phrase, is painstakingly wrought, loaded with thoughts and prayer, and filled with new glimpses of God’s love, grace, and strength.”
The Christian Advocate

Ken Gire is the author of more than 20 books including the bestsellers The Divine Embrace and Moments with the Savior. A graduate of Texas Christian University and Dallas Theological Seminary, he lives in Texas.

The New Matthew Bible: An Interview with Ruth Magnusson Davis

Ruth Magnusson DavisThe New Matthew Bible (NMB) (Ruth Magnusson Davis, 2016) is now available to be read on Bible Gateway and in the award-winning free Bible Gateway App for tablets and smartphones.

Bible Gateway interviewed Ruth Magnusson Davis (@RMagnussonDavis), editor of the NMB.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Gateway Adds New Matthew Bible to Its Extensive Online Bible Translation Collection]

The Matthew Bible

Please explain what the New Matthew Bible (NMB) is.

Ruth Magnusson Davis: The New Matthew Bible is a lightly modernized version of a little-known Reformation Bible, called the Matthew Bible, which was first published in 1537. Few people realize that the Matthew Bible is the real primary version of our English Bible. All the versions that followed, including the KJV, have been revisions of it.

In 2009 I founded the New Matthew Bible Project, dedicated to bringing the Matthew Bible to the world again.

Who translated the Matthew Bible?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: It was the joint work of three men, whom I call the Matthew men: William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, and John Rogers.

William Tyndale, who is well known, translated the New Testament and first half of the Old. He was a master of biblical languages, and worked from Greek and Hebrew texts. But he was captured and executed as a “heretic” before he could finish his translation work. The rest of the Scriptures—the last part of the Old Testament and the Apocrypha—are taken from the 1535 Bible of Myles Coverdale.

Coverdale translated mainly from Martin Luther’s German Bible, and his prophetical books are remarkable for their Lutheran clarity. John Rogers acted as editor. He compiled the translations of the other two men, added references, study aids, and over 2,000 commentaries, and gave us the Matthew Bible—which was, in fact, the world’s very first English study Bible.

At the dawn of the Reformation, the religious authorities were violently opposed to having English Scriptures. They wanted only a Latin Bible. Both Rogers and Tyndale were burned at the stake as heretics; Tyndale in 1536 on the Continent, and Rogers later in England in 1555 under Queen Mary.

Why does it have “Matthew” as its title?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: The title page of the Matthew Bible says it was translated by “Thomas Matthew.” This was a pseudonym to conceal William Tyndale’s involvement. King Henry VIII had banned all Tyndale’s books and translations, but the King’s approval was necessary if the Matthew Bible was to be authorized, so Tyndale’s name could not be used.

How Rogers chose the name ‘Thomas Matthew’ is unknown, but the biblical link, the names of Jesus’ disciples, is obvious. The ruse succeeded, and when “Matthew’s version” arrived in England, Henry licensed it for sale, and by injunction it was required to be set up and read in the churches.

Describe the progress of the New Matthew Bible Project.

Ruth Magnusson Davis: In 2016, we published the New Testament and commentaries, all gently updated. We called it The October Testament, which at first might seem an odd name, but I chose it for several reasons. For one it follows Martin Luther’s September Testament. For another, the month of October signals that the end of a year is approaching, and it seems that we may be approaching the end of this age, for now the gospel has gone out to all the world; if so, the name October Testament will prove propitious. I explained some of my other reasons in the work itself.

We have now also begun versifying the Old Testament, and are preparing to update it, God willing.

The Matthew Bible

What do you mean by “gently updated”? And why was it a goal to retain as much of the original old English as possible?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: By “gently updated,” I mean that the updating is minimal. My desire was not to make a modern Bible, but to keep as much of the old as possible, while simply making it understandable for today. Some reasons for this:

  1. If we call our work the New Matthew Bible, it must manifest the attributes, character, and style of the original.
  2. The Matthew Bible formed the basis of the Scriptures in the Book of Common Prayer and the KJV, and a body of valuable theological and devotional works and hymns has developed over the centuries using its language and turns of phrase. To keep the original language means those resources remain accessible and relevant.
  3. We believe people will find these Scriptures to be the most inspired, beautiful, and pleasing language of the faith.

What are some of the things you changed or kept?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: Obsolete spelling, syntax, and grammar are updated. Obsolete words must be replaced (such as advoutry and assoil), as also words that have changed their meaning (conceits, ghostly minded, worm, meat, rejoice). However, I did keep some old words, and gave the meanings in the margins of The October Testament, such as Dayspring in Luke 1:79:

… the Dayspring from on high has visited us, to give light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Marginal note: Dayspring: an obsolete word for daybreak, that is, the time when light dawns, personified to describe Christ.”
(However, the marginal notes are not included in the posted Gateway Bible NMB, because the platform would not support the formatting.)

We kept certain archaic constructions and words, as for example “the incense was a-burning” at Luke 1:10. We kept beseech, brethren, heathen, the flesh, and Abraham’s seed. We also selectively kept the preposition unto, which is within the passive competence of native English speakers, and expresses some concepts in a way no modern preposition can. At Acts 11:18 we have, “God has granted repentance unto life to the Gentiles also,” and at Romans 1:24, “God likewise gave them up to their heart’s lusts, unto uncleanness.”

Describe the process, and the challenges you encountered as you updated the New Testament.

Ruth Magnusson Davis: The work really had its genesis in about 2004, when I discovered William Tyndale’s New Testament, and then his books and writings, and began to experiment with updating his works. Then I discovered Myles Coverdale. After many times rereading him and Tyndale, I got to know them very well. A few years later, I formed the desire to update Tyndale’s New Testament, and this grew to wanting to work with the complete Matthew Bible. I studied ancient punctuation, the history of the Reformation, early modern words and grammar, and built a reference library. I also read as much as I could of the books and authors that the Matthew men would have read, which meant delving into Martin Luther, St. Augustine, and John Chrysostom. The Lord has provided, though there have been only a few of us working in the project, and with minimal resources.

As for editorial challenges, high on the list is the polysemy of early English words (poly=many, semes=meanings). The 16th century vocabulary was much smaller than ours, and words typically showed great polysemy; that is, one word was used to express many meanings or semes, for which we would now choose among several different words. An example is the noun ‘mansion.’ This could be used not only for a large or stately house, but in other semes meant almost anything that served as a dwelling, including a tent, and even stopping places in a journey. Clearly ‘mansion’ said to our ancestors something quite different than it now says to us at John 14:2: “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” We are familiar with this verse because the KJV followed Tyndale here. But the KJV preferred ‘house’ at 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, where Tyndale again had ‘mansion’ in an obsolete seme: “We know surely if our earthy mansion wherein we now dwell were destroyed, that we have a building ordained of God, an habitation not made with hands, but eternal in heaven. And herefore sigh we, desiring to be clothed with our mansion which is from heaven…”

It was sometimes very challenging to decide which seme was intended, and how to express it. Occasionally, I used two words, in order to capture the fuller semantics of the old English.

What’s your reply to people who ask, “Given advances in modern biblical scholarship, isn’t the New Matthew Bible a step backwards?”

Ruth Magnusson Davis: Certainly the New Matthew Bible looks back in time—almost 500 years, in fact. But I see my work as remembering and strengthening that which we first received, when God opened his word to the world in English (Revelation 3:2). It is also a step forward, into the clear and bright light of that which we first received.

The Word of God, which is Spirit and truth, is enduring and unchanging. If scholarship can advance our knowledge of Bible times and customs, I certainly appreciate it, but the spiritual truths that the prophets and apostles knew and told us of when they spoke 2,000 and more years ago, are enduring and unchanging. The reality of God, eternity, and the fall of man; our redemption in Christ, our Messiah; the light of life that’s the divine Word; the nature of the New Covenant: these matters require the spiritual knowledge that only God can give (1 Cor. 2:14), and which he assuredly gave to William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale.

It’s ironic to note that modern scholars have in places changed the Bible in ways that actually darken our understanding, by substituting modern concepts. An example is changing ‘tribute’ to ‘tax’ (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:15-22, the other gospels, Romans 13:6). Tribute is a special levy paid to a foreign power, for protection or as a sign of submission. Tax is a far more general word. The Jews were required to pay tribute to Rome, a hated conqueror, from whom they thought the Messiah would set them free. They did not want to hear that tribute should be paid to Caesar, as Jesus told them. Important spiritual teaching may be derived from this, but it is lost when the translation does not fit with history and the facts.

Perhaps I should add that, as for modern textual criticism, while the choice of source texts is obviously important, the issue has been wrongly used to discredit the best Bibles. I have complete faith that God gave his servants and martyrs of the Reformation the texts they needed, not “corrupt” Greek texts, as some scholars have alleged. In any case, the significant differences between modern and older versions are not due to manuscript variations, but variations in understanding and doctrine.

Ruth Magnusson Davis with the Matthew Bible

Explain how you worked from a genuine ragpaper 1549 edition of the Matthew Bible.

Ruth Magnusson Davis: I have a real 1549 Matthew Bible—or “Byble,” as it’s written. This is a second edition of the Matthew Bible, published by John Rogers after Henry died and his young son King Edward came to the throne. I was delighted when I first received it, held it in my hands, and turned the musty pages. When I show it to people, often they’re afraid to touch the pages, but because they’re rag paper, they’re tough. My “Byble” was rebound and trimmed in 1887, and is sturdy enough for daily use.

Tell about yourself and how you became a Christian and a dedicated reader of Tyndale’s Bible translation.

Ruth Magnusson Davis: I was saved out of the New Age as an adult, when I heard the gospel for the first time. I knew then only one thing: that Jesus was the answer to my long search. I had never read the Bible, but began with some of the popular modern versions. After a while, I became dissatisfied with them, and also with the obscurity of the KJV. I have a critical and seeking mind, no doubt in part developed by my legal and linguistic training, and did not rest until I found William Tyndale’s translations and the Matthew Bible. I also believe this has been the leading of the Holy Spirit.

What was Tyndale’s translation approach?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: Tyndale followed what I call the “ploughboy approach” to translation. He wanted the people to have a plain and clear Bible, which the boy who drives the plough could understand. He rejected the intensified “literal” approach (as it’s called) that was used by later revisers, as did also Martin Luther, John Purvey, who worked with Wycliffe, and St. Jerome, who gave us the Latin Vulgate Bible. Their concern was that it needlessly obscures the Scriptures. This difficult topic will be examined in my history book, when we see how the Matthew Scriptures were revised over time.

What is the history book you’re writing?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: It’s a history of the Matthew Bible and the men who gave it to us, in two volumes:

  • Volume One: The Story of the Matthew Bible: That Which We First Received
  • Volume Two: The Story of the Matthew Bible: The Scriptures Then and Now

We’re targeting early 2018 for Volume One, and Christmas 2018 for Volume Two. To my knowledge, this is the world’s first book about the Matthew Bible.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: I love the first few verses of Hebrews: GOD IN TIME PAST diversely and many ways spoke to the fathers by the prophets. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has made heir of all things; by whom also he made the world. (from The October Testament)

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: I use Bible Gateway online regularly for research. I recently viewed your instructional videos and I think it is a brilliant website.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Ruth Magnusson Davis: To grasp the true place of the Matthew Bible, it helps to consider the significance of how it came forth to us; that is, in travail and tribulation. This Bible was not the fruit of honored men commissioned by the authorities, but of a small, dishonored trio of men who worked as fugitives from the authorities. William Tyndale and John Rogers died for their witness. Myles Coverdale was spared a violent death, but suffered three exiles abroad to escape persecutions.

The simple fact is that the Matthew Bible is the only English Bible that was bought by blood. This is not a thing to be lightly regarded. It is one of God’s most mysterious ways, and utterly contrary to earthly wisdom, that he seals his greatest testimonies with derision, blood, and violence. The Scriptures themselves, and all history, and the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in the book of Revelation, attest to this. Many of the Old Testament prophets were imprisoned, died barbarically, and lived in caves and dens of the earth, of whom the world was not worthy (Heb. 11:38). The apostle Paul described himself and his fellow apostles as the refuse and off-scouring of the world (1 Cor. 4:13). Our Lord himself also took up his cross, and, reviled and mocked, went to die outside the camp, accused by the religious authorities, and, at their behest, executed by secular authorities, in an open and public display of hatred for the divine. Jesus said that his servants would follow in his steps, for the servant is not greater than the master; this we see with William Tyndale and John Rogers. They too were accused by church authorities and executed by the secular arm, in that same open and public display that is God’s manifest sign of a true and divine testimony.

England received the Matthew Bible in the dawn of the Reformation, after centuries of spiritual darkness. Now this martyrs’ Bible is being restored to us, with almost 500 years of linguistic cobwebs dusted off, and readers can taste of the heavenly word again.


Bio: Ruth Magnusson Davis resides in Canada. She received a BA in French with a German minor, with an emphasis on language and grammar. She then obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree, which included the study of English and Canadian common law, and, in French, Quebec civil law. She practiced law for 28 years, during which time she became a Christian. She is a member of a small Traditional Anglican congregation.

Ruth retired from her law practice in 2009 to found in the New Matthew Bible Project, dedicated to minimally updating and restoring the 1537/1549 Matthew Bible. The 21st century version of this historic Reformation Bible is known as the NMB, or New Matthew Bible. In preparation for the work, Ruth studied Early Modern English, Reformation history, and the writings of the early Reformers.

The NMB New Testament was published in 2016 under the name The October Testament, and is sold through Amazon and at the WND Superstore. The Scriptures are available free on Bible websites Olive Tree Bible Software (@OliveTreeBible) and Bible Gateway (@biblegateway).

Ruth is a regular contributor to the Tyndale Society Journal. She has also published in Bible Editions and Versions, a publication of the International Society of Bible Collectors.

Ruth can be reached for information and interviews in Canada at (1)-250-386-8689 or at ruth@newmatthewbible.org.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of November 12, 2017

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New Museum Invites Visitors To ‘Engage’ With The Bible
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Gordon College Launches Bible Translation Initiative
Gordon College
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Grandfather Prohibited from Reading the Bible Out Loud on a Public Sidewalk
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Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging West Virginia Bible Class in Public Schools
The Meadville Tribune

Hudsonville (Michigan) Public Schools Ends Lunchtime Bible Talks with Teacher After Complaints
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Family Bible Found in Newport, Tennessee House Presented to Descendant
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Share Your Favorite Bible Verses on International Day of the Bible, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017

Look up your favorite Bible verses on Bible Gateway and share them with your friends and followers using the hashtag #BibleCelebration

[See all the Bible translations available to be freely read on Bible Gateway]

Sunday, November 12, 2017, is International Day of the Bible (@IntlDayofBible). Look up your favorite Bible verses on Bible Gateway and share them with your friends and followers using the hashtag #BibleCelebration.

[Browse the Bibles section in the Bible Gateway Store]

Also, pastors are urged to preach on the greatness and blessing of God’s Word at church that day.

Look up your favorite Bible verses on Bible Gateway and share them with your friends and followers using the hashtag #BibleCelebration

[See Bible Gateway Blog posts that introduce you to the Bible]

Use this celebration to proclaim in your social posts your thankfulness for the Bible using photos, videos, audio, and words. Help get the word out to the whole world.

International Day of the Bible launches National Bible Week in the USA, Nov. 12-18.

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Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough: An Interview with Jack Alexander

Jack AlexanderWhy do we fear scarcity when the Bible says God will provide? How can Christians experience true abundance, both spiritually and practically and not worry about not having enough?

Bible Gateway interviewed Jack Alexander (@TheReimagineGrp) about his book, The God Guarantee: Finding Freedom from the Fear of Not Having Enough (Baker Books, 2017).

What is a scarcity mentality? How do people unintentionally develop that kind of mindset?

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Jack Alexander: Most of us experience some form of scarcity from a young age—whether a lack of love, emotional support, or actual resources. This can easily become the lens through which we view life, yet it radically conflicts with a God who wants to be our Father and Provider. Brene Brown goes so far as to say “not enough” is the post-traumatic stress disorder of our world.

So, there is, in effect, a collision of values, prompting questions of, “Does God play favorites, or “Is he simply not powerful enough to provide bountifully for all?” These questions must be answered to have a healthy relationship with God.

What are the lessons you write about from the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000?

Jack Alexander: In The God Guarantee, I go through a 4-step “pattern of provision” that God disclosed five times in Scripture. Each time, he provided in different ways: practically, spiritually, and relationally. This pattern is rooted in relationship with him and each other.

One of the five examples of this “pattern of provision” is in the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15) when Jesus took a boy’s small lunch—a few loaves of bread and fish—and fed a crowd estimated to be 15,000 (5,000 was just the number of men). We see that he did four things with this lunch:

  1. He took it and looked to heaven
  2. He blessed it
  3. He broke it
  4. He gave it

Walter Brueggemann calls these “the four sacramental verbs” of our existence. So, there’s a transcendent quality to them. In the book, I convert them to four concepts: capacity, consecration, challenges, and community. Then, I practically cover how we can live in this rhythm that God created in order to understand how he will, and does, provide.

What is God’s rhythm of provision?

Jack Alexander: We all know relationships develop patterns, some of which are healthy, and some are not. If I give my wife a list of ten things she must do every week to prove that she loves me, then I’m setting the stage for discord. Or, if every Sunday night I ask her about her schedule and how I can be involved in the next week, there’s a totally different result.

Throughout the Bible, God shows us a pattern where he draws near to us and desires that we draw near to him. James 4:8 says to “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “for the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth that he may strongly support those whose heart is completely his.” Hebrews 11:6 tells us “that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

So, this 4-step pattern that God gives us tells us that:

  • Capacity: God created everything and everyone as “more” than what we think. Who would think that viper venom could be used to treat high blood pressure?
  • Consecration: God wants to be close to us as we invite Him into the details of our lives.
  • Challenges: God wants to meet us in our challenges to reveal new aspects of His character and provision.
  • Community: As we lean into community and learn to “orbit” around others, we experience God’s provision.

All relationships develop a positive, life-giving pattern or a negative pattern. Our relationship with God is no different. Our provision changes as we walk with him and engage with him.

How does your book differ from the “prosperity gospel”?

Jack Alexander: Simply put, the prosperity gospel is based on the premise that you access God’s promises through positive confession (naming the promise) and expecting God to “orbit” around you and your needs to fulfill that promise (claiming the promise). It reduces God to a simple “name it and claim it” theology.

However, the biblical pattern of provision that God outlines is a dynamic journey of faith. Can we believe that everything that God created is more than we can imagine? Does inviting him in to the details of our lives, including our weaknesses, make a difference? Can challenges really work for our good and for the kingdom? Is leaning into community worthwhile or safe?

Saying “yes” to God in each of these steps triggers intimacy and provision from him. It’s a battle as we have an enemy who loves our “no’s” and desires our despair.

Explain your chapter, “The Wilderness and the Marketplace.”

Jack Alexander: We all have worldviews that deeply inform how we operate. One that I developed through a variety of difficult circumstances in my adolescence involved a distrust of environments where I had no measure of control. Therefore, the “wilderness” of loneliness and loss was to be avoided at all costs. The “marketplace,” however, represented an area that I could view rationally and orderly—especially as my career took off. It was far better than the hated wilderness!

I’ve come to see how that initial perception of the wilderness kept me, for years, from experiencing deep times of retreat with the Lord. We see that the wilderness is the first place Jesus is brought after his commissioning at baptism (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:9-13; Luke 4:1-13). It’s there that Satan battled with him over his identity, over the Father’s ability to provide for him, and over his willingness to surrender to God’s plan instead of his own. It was in the wilderness that Jesus’ resolve was tested and he was prepared for ministry.

As I reflect on my own life, I’ve experienced God’s healing in profound ways as I have increasingly embraced those desolate places—when I’ve been willing to retreat out to a place that I cannot control. And, as I’ve entered the wildernesses of others, I’ve seen God do a deeper healing work in both my life and the life of others. I call this “making friends with the wilderness.”

What is a vision of capacity and how can having such a vision help transform a person?

Jack Alexander: A vision of capacity begins with the knowledge that everything and everyone is more than you realize.

Who would think sea urchins could be used to formulate new responses to Alzhiemer’s disease or cancer? Or that aspirin would come from the bark of a willow tree? Or, what about the night sky? The new James Webb telescope reports that there are billions of galaxies. We even see this propensity for seeing more in the television we watch. Many people love shows that involve “makeovers” of some kind—whether homes, or taking junk & transforming it into something beautiful, or even programs where obese people lose weight. We love to see what something or someone can become. In The God Guarantee, I ask the question, “what can you become?”

God is a God of more. Potential is about what I can become, in my own strength and on my own accord. Capacity is about God doing something special in his kingdom through me. Joni Eareckson Tada might not have realized her individual potential, but think of the capacity she created within the kingdom. Capacity is like having a new set of eyes, that allows you to see beyond the here and now.

Why is community an important part of understanding God’s provision?

Jack Alexander: Our provision almost always comes through others and, oftentimes, unexpectedly. Just as the Devil tells us that planting seeds will put as at greater risk, he loves to have us think that we’re better off alone. We’re meant to be interdependent, to function as one body. It’s how God created us. Yet, mankind is always attempting to redesign God’s ways and plans. When we exist in a psuedo-state of community, where we busily project an image of ourselves that we want others to believe, we miss out on the myriad of ways that God wants to move through others to care and provide for us.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Jack Alexander: I love the Abrahamic Covenant that is laid out in Genesis 12:

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3).

God repeatedly says I will. It’s emphatic; loving; eager. God’s excited about this covenant, even though he surely knows that he’ll be far more faithful to us than we will be with him. We should be equally excited. After all, it’s the perfect deal for us. He has our backs, God says. He’ll bless those who bless us, and curse those who curse us. Moreover, God wants us to “bless all the peoples on earth.” How beautiful is that?

But that very section of the covenant—where it talks about us blessing the world—is also a condition. A catch. As much as God promises to bless us, so we must return the favor and promise to bless others. It’s so important that God says it twice: You will be a blessing. And all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

That’s our role in this strange, wonderful relationship with God. If he gives to us, and we don’t pass it on, the blessing stops. He desires us and his plan is that he will bless the whole earth through us: his people!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Jack Alexander: I love Bible Gateway. It’s a gift to those who love God’s Word. I use it regularly in my personal devotions. Thank you!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Jack Alexander: I believe that scarcity thinking, rooted in fear, breaks the heart of God. He wants so much for us, both in relationship with him and with one another. It’s easy for our relationships to more closely resemble transactions, especially in a society that moves at such a quick pace. This can present a false sense of security; all the while drawing us away from the dynamic rhythm of relationship that the God of the universe desires with each of us. I hope The God Guarantee can be a source of encouragement to draw near to the heart of God and experience the richness that comes with participating in his intimate pattern of provision.


Bio: Jack Alexander has built and led companies in real estate, business services, and technology. Two companies that he cofounded made the Inc. 500 list, and another, in which he is a partner, made the Inc. 5000 list. He is currently chairman and cofounder of a software firm called Understory, as well as for The Reimagine Group, a content company that makes high-quality media for the church market. A previous recipient of the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year award, Alexander is also winner of six global awards in the corporate travel and hospitality arena. In 2005, he received the Family Honors Award as a businessman who made a positive impact on the American family. He is a regular speaker, coach, and board member for a number of businesses, nonprofits, and ministries. Jack lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Lisa. They have three grown sons and three grandsons.

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Go Ahead and Get Happy

Amena BrownBy Amena Brown

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:31-32, NIV

It was the night of the book release event for my first book, Breaking Old Rhythms. A few hours afterward. My husband and I were both dog tired, which seems to be the hardest-hitting version of tired, at least from what I can tell from the cliché context clues. He slept peacefully, and being not only the band, deejay, and emcee but also the man who carried every last box, book, and piece of luggage for all the gigs we’d had the previous couple of weeks, he deserved his sleep.

I did not sleep. My mind pushed rewind and replayed the events of the evening while I watched intently, looking for a place I missed it, a mistake I made. I searched the eyes of my good friends who came to see us perform that night, looking for that flatness in their eyes that might say it wasn’t quite good enough.

When people came up to me to say they enjoyed the show, to say they were looking forward to reading the book, a part of me kept wondering if they were lying to me. If maybe they were telling me these things because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings by saying all of the things I could have done better.

This made me wonder, Why can’t I just be happy sometimes? Why is my good never good enough to me? Why am I always looking for a way to raise my already unrealistic expectations for myself? What’s up with that?

I am a realist, also known as a pessimist. My worst-case scenarios dress themselves as reality, so I listen to them. I married an optimist. I fell in love with a man who can find a sunny disposition in a thunderstorm cloud of circumstances, and this has been God’s way of building my character.

Matt and I work together, create together, walk through messes and successes together. At our lowest points, I have been fraught with worry and fear. Matt will join me there for a few minutes, and then he will make a joke, do a dance, or offer to pick up donuts.

At our highest points, I have been nitpicky about all of the details that could have gone better and will mentally move on to the next thing without taking the proper amount of time to revel in a present good moment. He will laugh, smile until his cheeks hurt, and suggest we do something to celebrate until I have no choice but to give in.

Having Matt in my life is teaching me to go ahead and get happy. To remind myself that although I’ve experienced plenty of heartbreak and am just a human being with flaws and imperfections, that doesn’t make me unworthy of love or good things.

I don’t know if that little girl of divorced parents needs permission to go ahead and get happy or what. I don’t know if all the years I spent trying to integrate myself into the lives of people I wanted to love me made me feel like there was some bar just a couple of feet shy of my reach that I would never be able to meet.

Experiencing hard times is the lot of every human being, but this doesn’t mean I can’t shush my realist/pessimist brain when necessary and enjoy the good times when they come. Life will bring plenty of hurts, but I will also experience many great firsts, opportunities to laugh and smile until my cheeks hurt.

Just because I’m a full-fledged grown adult doesn’t mean I don’t need God to be my parent, to show me I’m okay, to prove to me I don’t have to keep chasing this unrealistic bar, to show me he’s proud of me, pleased with me, to depend on him to teach me how to simply be myself and be content with that.

So before I critique myself or other people, I’m learning to take the time to be thankful, to say, “Thanks God; I made it.” To say thank you to this amazing Jesus I’ve given my life to. I don’t have to try so hard to be an insider. I don’t have to press my cheeks up against the window of the cool kids’ table or of someone else’s family or home.

I have home with God in conversations with friends, in the love of family, and in my own soul. When I remember this, I feel less of a need to prove myself. I can finally stop trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and just live, love, and enjoy being loved.

God, help me lean on your grace and learn to go ahead and get happy.

________

How to Fix a Broken RecordTaken from How To Fix A Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Relationships, and Learning to Be Myself by Amena Brown. Click here to learn more about this title.

Your soul holds a massive record collection: melodies, rhythms, and bass lines. Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key. Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard.

Spoken word poet Amena Brown’s broken records played messages about how she wasn’t worthy to be loved. How to Fix a Broken Record chronicles her journey of healing as she’s allowed the music of God’s love to replace the scratchy taunts of her past. From bad dates to marriage lessons at Waffle House, from learning to love her hair to learning to love an unexpected season of life, from discovering the power of saying no and the freedom to say yes, Amena offers keep-it-real stories your soul can relate to.

The hurtful words of others and the failures of your past often determine what record you play the most in your mind. Those painful repetitions can become loud at the most inopportune time, keeping you from speaking up, pursuing your dreams, and growing closer to God.

Recognize the negative messages that play on repeat every day in your mind. Learn how to replace them with the truth that you are a beloved child of God. And discover how to laugh along the way as you find new joy in the beautiful music of your life.

Amena Brown is an author, spoken word poet, speaker, and event host. The author of five spoken word albums and two non-fiction books, Amena performs and speaks at events from coffeehouses to arenas with a mix of poetry, humor, and storytelling. She and her husband, DJ Opdiggy, reside in Atlanta, GA.

How to Navigate the Bible Gateway Scripture Engagement Section

Do you read the Bible to grow spiritually?

Do you read the Bible in order to know God better?

J. I. Packer, in his book, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), writes that having a relationship with God is our primary purpose. “What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we have in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? To know God. What is the best thing in life? To know God. What in humans gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself.” The Bible is the means by which we encounter God, get to know and enjoy him, and fulfill our purpose in life.

Did you know Bible Gateway has dedicated a section of our site to different Scripture engagement methods (provided by Taylor University)? It offers ways that Scripture can be interacted with that might allow us to more openly receive God’s words and, therefore, come to know him better. In it, you’ll find creative ways to dive into the Word—everything from memorizing Scripture to dramatizing Scripture. There’s a lot here.

If this sounds intriguing to you, I recommend scanning the entire page before rapid-fire clicking all the links you see. Because there are so many methods of Scripture engagement, and because they’re so well-documented, it’s easy to get lost…

So, here’s the basics: on our Scripture Engagement page, there are some introductory articles about why engaging with Scripture is important. Of these, in my opinion, the “Not This Way” article is the most interesting. Everyone has specific reasons for turning to the Bible when they do, and this page talks through a few common but “inadequate” approaches to the Bible. It’s not intended to make you worry that you’re reading the Bible incorrectly. It’s only a list of mindsets we should attempt to expunge before opening the Bible. As with prayer, God would like us to set aside certain ways of thinking before engaging with his Word, and I’ve definitely found this article helpful for future reference.

The other introduction links are important, but if you’ve got your sleeves rolled up already, scroll down to the Scripture Engagement Practices. Bam! Huge bulleted list. It’s actually not as overwhelming as it looks. In this list there are 14 different devices for engaging with Scripture. I recommend selecting just one for now. Maybe you’d like to focus on one of these methods for the remainder of the year—through Thanksgiving, through Advent, get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions. No time like the present!

For most of these ideas, there are three links below:

  • Practice Tips
  • Small Groups
  • Resources

Sometimes there are examples of how this has been done effectively or creatively. Take ten minutes or less to explore the method, gather some specific ideas and examples, and then go and try it with the Word. The last thing we want to do with the Scripture Engagement page is to distract you from actual Scripture.

How to Live the Bible — True News, Fake News, Good News

howtostudythebible

This is the fourth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


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Some people believe the Bible is true in what it asserts. Skeptics, on the other hand, may view the Bible as a collection of falsehoods and superstitions. These are entirely different attitudes. It is analogous to today’s tensions about what may or may not be believed—the difference between true news and so-called “fake news.”

Good News Illustration

Scripture is not fake news, and, while it is true, it is more than true news. It is good news. The word “gospel” in the New Testament literally means “good news.” The core message of the New Testament is “gospel,” as is evident throughout:

Jesus: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Luke: “After they had further proclaimed the word of the Lord and testified about Jesus, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages” (Acts 8:25)

Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).

Not fake news, and more than true news, the good news of the gospel is the reality that, in Christ, God has initiated a great movement of salvation and reconstruction. It begins with the good news of forgiveness of sin, moves on to reconciliation with God, and ends with the promise of a new creation.

We are “living the Bible” when we take in the good news of the gospel and realize the freedom from guilt and fear and sin that begins decisively. This is God’s unilateral action of rescuing us. “In [Christ] was life; and that life was the light of mankind” (John 1:4).

Now some who are skeptics say that this is precisely where the credibility of the Bible breaks down. They say that the writers of Scripture had a perspective they were promoting. So naturally their texts conveniently support their superstitious ideas. Old Testament and New Testament writers, the skeptics say, produced propaganda. But there is a logical fallacy here. If someone is a proponent of an idea, that does not mean they fabricated the idea.

Yes, the writers of Scripture had a perspective. They were proclaimers, not just reporters. But they were proclaiming happenings like the resurrection of Jesus with enthusiasm precisely because the event was life-transforming for them. Just because they considered it “good news” does not mean that they made the story up or that they believed a rumor because it was attractive to them.

Think about it. The truths of the “good news” are not convenient. If you accept the gospel, you are agreeing to sacrificing your life, giving up personal autonomy, committing to service. You give up self-sovereignty. You are generous with your money and your time. The disciples of Jesus did not create a fake news story about Jesus having risen from the dead because it made them more comfortable, secure, and prosperous. In fact, their proclamation of the “good news” resulted in many of them losing their lives. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).

Living the Bible is founded on that gospel—that, in Christ, God has entered this world and our lives in order to establish his reigning. This is true news, but it also has an infinite spiritual and moral value, and so it is good news.

Living the Bible means we see the great potential of people because of God’s reigning, and so we do not need to be despondent over the horrific things we see in the news every day, the harsh truths about natural catastrophes, wars, shootings, tribalism, crime, disease, ignorance.

Living the Bible means we will discern the difference between what is false and what is true. It is understandable that some people get so confused and discouraged that they conclude that they will never know what it true. But becoming cynical is a great loss. It means losing not only what is true, but what is good, also.

If we are “gospel people” we will let the good news, in all of its detail, fill our minds, and so shape us. As the Apostle Paul put it in some of his closing words he wrote to his friends in Philippi: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Phil. 4:8-9).

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[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]


Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

As Evangelist Billy Graham Turns 99, Zondervan Announces Definitive Biography: ‘A Prophet with Honor’

Buy your copy of A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, Updated Edition in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

William Martin granted unprecedented access to document Graham’s life

Today marks evangelist Billy Graham’s 99th birthday. Looking forward to his centennial celebration, Zondervan Publishing (@Zondervan) is announcing plans to release A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story by William Martin, in March 2018. Graham himself requested Martin for the project and granted him unprecedented access to the Billy Graham archives and team members, lending this work the authenticity and transparency of no other.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Cliff Barrows, Longtime Billy Graham Associate, Dies at 93]

“As I have written in this book, I have constantly examined what I have said in an effort to make sure that I was neither shading the truth in Graham’s or his associates’ favor out of gratitude for their helpfulness, nor taking an inappropriately negative slant as a way of emphasizing that I had not been taken in by slick manipulation,” Martin writes. “But since Billy Graham and his associates—like all humankind—have weaknesses, I determined not to gloss those over.

“I have tried to be scrupulously fair, not only because I do not wish the taint of unfairness to mar the most notable scholarly enterprise in which I have engaged to date, but also because I regard fairness as a cardinal virtue,” Martin continues. “I do not imagine, of course, that my judgment is flawless. But the account and the assessments I have rendered have been given with great care.”

In the above video released on his birthday, Billy Graham urges people to seek a close relationship with God and read the Bible every day. He has been praying for a “spiritual awakening” but says that can only happen if “individuals surrender their lives to Jesus Christ.”

He says people need to do “everything we can to follow in the footsteps of Jesus,” which he defines as living a life where people “love one another, help one another,” and live according to Christ’s teachings. He says it is the Holy Spirit who helps people live such a “deep lifestyle” that is focused on “love, gentleness, and patience.”

Graham urges people to read the Bible every day, advising them to start with the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament. And in the Old Testament, to start with the first verse in Genesis.

In A Prophet with Honor, author William Martin begins with a short introduction to evangelicalism and the revivalist movement starting with John Cotton’s messages to the settlers of New England in the 1600s. Other names to follow include Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield through to Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Mordecai Ham, the evangelist under whom Graham came to faith in Christ as a teenage boy in 1934.

Fans of Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am, will recognize many of the names, places, and events chronicled here, but A Prophet with Honor goes further behind the scenes to explain the conditions that made it possible for Graham to achieve his spectacular success and to reveal how sometimes he succeeded in spite of himself.

As Graham explained when approaching Martin about writing the book, “There are no conditions. It’s your book. I don’t even have to read it. I want you to be critical. There are some things that need criticizing.”

Despite Graham’s humble expectations of a biography that would reveal his true self—warts and all—Martin came away from his research with the overwhelming sense that despite his flaws, Graham was a man of rare integrity. Martin concludes that there will likely never be another like him. “Unless and until that happens, William Franklin Graham, Jr., can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did—‘a workman,’ as Scripture says, ‘who needed not to be ashamed.’”

See the many books and resources by and about Billy Graham in the Bible Gateway Store.

About William Martin
William Martin (BD, PhD, Harvard) is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Emeritus Professor of Religion and Public Policy in the Department of Sociology at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Since his retirement from teaching in 2005, he has served as the Chavanne Senior Fellow for Religion and Public Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice. He has appeared on many national radio and television programs, including 60 Minutes, Nightline, 20/20, Today, Frontline, and All Things Considered. He has been published in numerous national and regional periodicals, including The Atlantic, Harper’s, Esquire, and Texas Monthly.

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Christian Faith and Mental Health: An Interview with Sheila Walsh

Sheila WalshHow can the spiritual disciplines of confession, prayer, and Scripture meditation form a daily connection to Jesus to help women in their mental health struggles?

In the following question-and-answer, Sheila Walsh (@SheilaWalsh) talks about her book, In the Middle of the Mess: Strength for This Beautiful, Broken Life (Thomas Nelson, 2017).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Quiet Time for Your Soul: An Interview with Sheila Walsh]

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Helping Kids Love the Bible: An Interview with Sheila Walsh]

You write openly about your father’s and your own mental health struggles. Why did you decide to be so vulnerable in your book?

Sheila Walsh: When I was hospitalized in 1992 with severe clinical depression I thought I was the only one. I didn’t know of one other Christian struggling with any form of mental illness. What I didn’t know then was that there are thousands and thousands of men and women who love God yet are struggling alone, in silence, full of shame. This has to end. It’s time to shine the brightest light into the darkest corners of the church. I chose to write so openly now because I began to realize that many people who watch me on television or hear me speak at an event imagine that depression is part of my past rather than the reality that it’s an ongoing daily challenge.

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

What do you mean “it’s okay not to be okay”?

Sheila Walsh: We live in a culture of quick fixes. We want to feel better and we want to feel better now. I believe that’s why many turn to alcohol and drugs because they want to numb the pain of life. In my life I have a choice. I can sit with my depression and look at Jesus or I can sit with Jesus and look at my depression. What I mean by that is I can focus on what’s broken and wonder where God is or I can sit in the companionship of Christ who suffered for us and worship him in the middle of the mess. That gives my pain meaning and context.

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

The Psalmist David wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed” Psalm 34:18 (NLT). God doesn’t run from us when we’re hurt and in despair; he moves close.

Until we see Jesus face to face we’ll live with brokenness and yet we look to the day that John saw in his Revelation, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” Revelation 21:4 (NLT).

How have you come to understand “the hellish dance between depression and spiritual warfare”?

Buy your copy of In the Middle of the Mess in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Sheila Walsh: Some view mental illness as a purely spiritual issue and deny the need for medication or other forms of treatment. Others view it as an illness with no spiritual aspect. I believe it’s a combination of both.

As Christians we know that we have an enemy. Paul writes that, “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12 (NLT). We also know that he’s a liar and the accuser of God’s children (1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:10).

When depression or suicidal thoughts weigh heavily, the hardest thing to do is to fight. My battle weapons are the Word of God, meditation, confession, community, and worship. But each evening I take my medication with a prayer of thanksgiving that God has provided this kind of help for those of us who need it.

How has Scripture ministered to you in your need through the years?

Sheila Walsh: As a child my mum taught me to commit God’s Word to heart. I’m so grateful that in my darkest moments I can reach down inside and pull up verses I’ve rested on for years.

I found my first night in a psychiatric hospital terrifying. My dad was committed to a psych ward when he was in his early 30s and it was there that he took his own life. As I sat in the dark, in the corner of my room that night the Scripture that came to mind was Psalm 27:1 (ESV)
    “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

God’s Word is a stronghold in the fiercest storms.

How should people experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts approach the Bible?

Sheila Walsh: God’s Word is a book of life! It’s a love letter from a Father to his children. During our darkest nights we can find great comfort in the Psalms. I’ve learned to pray them out loud. David didn’t pretend to be okay when he was struggling. He cried out honestly—at times bitterly—but then he would remind himself of the goodness and faithfulness of God (Psalm 18, 34, 91).

If depression has been viewed as a taboo subject in the church, then suicide and suicidal thoughts are the darkest secret of all. Talking about it doesn’t make it more real or powerful; it brings it out of the shadows into the light and love of Christ. In his letter to the church in Galatia, Paul encouraged the believers to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (ESV). The word he uses for burdens is the Greek word meaning a ship’s load. Some burdens are too heavy to be carried alone.

What is secret shame that overcomes some people and how does the love of Christ push through it?

Sheila Walsh: If guilt tells us that we’ve done something wrong, then shame tells us that we are something wrong. So many people feel isolated, not good enough, defined by the labels they wear rather than the identity they have in Christ.

The love of Christ tells us that we’re accepted; that we belong. When Jesus encountered the woman at the well in Samaria in John 4, he made it clear that he knew her story: she’d been married five times and was now living with a man. He didn’t do that to shame her but to let her know that she didn’t have to hide anymore. He said that the time was coming, and was in fact here, when those who worship will worship in spirit and in truth. The word for truth is alétheia which means with nothing hidden. We’re invited to come as we are. We worship in spirit with nothing hidden.

How has the evangelical church become more sensitive to mental health issues in the last few years?

Sheila Walsh: I think we’ve come a long way in the last few years. God has used devastating losses like the suicide of Rick and Kay Warren’s darling son, Matthew, to wake us up to the reality of how pervasive mental illness is. In the past year I’ve spoken at several conferences on mental illness and the church. We have a long way to go but we’re on the road.

What do you want your book to achieve in the life of its readers?

Sheila Walsh: Primarily I want my heavenly Father to be glorified. I’m alive today because of the love and faithfulness of God. I also want others who live with mental illness to know that they’re not alone. As well as the book, I’ve prepared a six week DVD Bible study and study guide diving deeper into the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, meditation, confession, community, spiritual warfare, and thanksgiving. We can’t know the will of God if we don’t know the Word of God.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Sheila Walsh: I love the book of Romans. It’s such a complete theology. I particularly love Romans 8 which begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation. Hard to beat that!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Sheila Walsh: I LOVE Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App. I use them every day. If I want to pull up a Scripture quickly and I don’t have my Bible within reach, I can always pull it up on the App. I’ve also used several of the daily devotion plans. Love them!


Bio: Sheila Walsh is a powerful Bible teacher and bestselling author from Scotland with over 5 million books sold, including 5 Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy and The Longing in Me. Her international ministry has reached more than 5.5 million women by combining honesty, vulnerability, and humor with the transforming power of God’s Word. Calling Texas home, Sheila lives in Frisco with her husband, Barry, her son, Christian, and three little dogs. You can reach her at braveheartsisterhood.com.

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