HELP AND HOPE FOR DEPRESSION

Nearly 300 million people worldwide are suffering with depression today. That’s almost as many people as the total population of the United States. MD magazine reported last month that since Covid-19 started the number of American adults showing symptoms of depression has jumped from 11% to 33%! Depression is real and it’s a powerful enemy for anyone who desires a quality way of life. Fortunately, God can help us. Today, in this blog, counselors from the Hyde Park Counseling Center offer suggestions to help those struggling with depression so they can find hope! In addition, I’ve included my message on “How God Ministers When We Feel Depressed”, preached at Hyde Park Baptist Church on Sunday February 7, 2021. 
– JKB
Dealing with Depression
 
By Jenn Edwards, M.A.
 
Discussing depression and its presenting symptoms has become a widely considered topic in recent months. This is due in part to an increase in the likelihood that you or someone you know is currently struggling with depression in light of the current global atmosphere during the pandemic and political unrest. According to a screening assessment conducted by Mental Health America, rates of depression in 2020 increased by 62% in comparison to depression rates in 2019 [4]. While minorities and youth seem to be among the most affected, depression knows no boundaries in regard to age or demographics [4]. One of the most concerning aspects from a mental health perspective is the stigmatization of depression as a moral weakness and the presumed etiology as a lack of faith. Alternatively, research suggests “there are many possible causes of depression, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems” [2]. Depression can be defined as a “mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest…it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems” [3]. When we consider the reasons one might experience depression, the notion of an underlying traumatic event as the source of an onset symptoms, often comes up as a probable cause. To conceptualize a traumatic event, it is important that we understand that trauma can be loosely thought of as any novel event or circumstance thateffects are outside of our current coping capabilities. It is fair to say that COVID-19 catapulted us into a season where we are collectively navigating trauma. For people who have a predisposition to experience depression for the reasons listed above, it is understandable that we would see an increase in symptoms. 
​As you can imagine the suffering that coincides with depression is difficult, but there is always hope because it is held by Christ and tethered to a good and faithful God. There is no shortage of biblical examples where God shows us that this suffering befalls even the most faithful among us. David cries out to God exclaiming, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” And before David skips a beat he answers the question for himself with a directive and direction, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 43:5). This would be a sufficient example of what we can view as asituational depressive episode. The good news is that depressive symptoms tend to be transient, with studies showing that around 50% of episodes are resolved on their own without treatment in approximately 6 weeks [6]. As with most mental health issues, the severity of symptoms will ebb and flow, and tend to occur in tandem to life’s more stressful seasons. One might ask, but what about the times when your persistent low mood is not manageable and does not improve when life’s circumstances seem to let up? These are good questions and from a clinical standpoint it would be important to assess whether the frequency, duration and severity of your symptoms are affecting your job, your family life, school and/or relationships. If the answer is yes, it’s time to seek professional therapy. Here are some symptomatic red flags to be watching for in the form of a helpful mnemonic device (M SIG E CAPS):
 

M​mood depressed
​S​sleep disturbance (insomnia or hypersomnia)
​I​interest loss (nothing brings pleasure)
​G​guilt (feelings of worthlessness)
​E​energy depleted (fatigue)
​C​concentration problems (indecisive)
​A​appetite disturbance (weight gain or loss)
​P​psychomotor change
​S​suicide preoccupation (thoughts of death) [1]
 
It is important to highlight the last symptom, which are suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts this should always be taken seriously and help should be sought immediately. 
​As the church we have an opportunity to co-labor with Christ in our ability to help those who are suffering from mental health issues. This starts with the way we talk aboutit in our church meetings, bible studies and Sunday school classes. God can use us to create an atmosphere laden with empathy and genuine love and concern. The over-spiritualization of mental health issues is detrimental to the healing of those suffering. An example of this is telling someone with clinical anxiety that they just need to trust God more, or an individual who has depression being toldthat they are just discontent and have lost their joy. Another way we can, as the church, partner with those affected by mental illness is to “reinforce the grace of belonging (in Christ) to inspire change vs. spiritual fighting that creates more exhaustion” [5]. The enemy undoubtedly has a hand in the perpetuation of distorted thinking, however subtly relating depression to a lost fight with the enemy takes away from the victorious work that is done and finished on the cross. As we move through this year and the years ahead it is paramount that we extend grace and love like we never have before.  Please do not hesitate to contact Hyde Park Counseling Center if you or a loved one may be facing depression.  You are not alone and we are here to help you. 
 
References
[1] Gross, Carey, MD. Creator of M SIG E CAPS mneumonic device
 
[2] Harvard Medical School. (2019, June 24th). Harvard Health Publishing.https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
 
[3] Mayo Clinic (2018, February 3rd). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
 
[4] Mental Health America (2021). Retrieved from:https://www.mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america
 
[5] Padilla, Joe. What the Bible Says about Depression & Anxiety. The Grace alliance. Retrieved from: https://mentalhealthgracealliance.org/christian-mental-health-and-mental-illness/battling-anxiety-spiritually
 
[6] Yarhouse, M., Butman, R., & McRay, B. (2005).Modern psychopathologies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsityPress

LONELINESS GOES VIRAL

Here you’ll find a video of my message NEVER ALONE and a guest blog from two mental health professionals from Hyde Park Counseling Center

LONELINESS

By Lindy Peterson, LPC and Dr. Nicole Fitzpatrick, Licensed Psychologist, LSSP

Loneliness poses a significant threat to our mental health in the world today even more so since the pandemic began. It cuts across generations and is reaching around the world. Millions of people today are living with sparse human contact and research tells us that lonely people are more likely to become ill, experience cognitive decline, and are losing hope more than ever before.  According to recent research, two-thirds of adults today indicated they are experiencing social isolation, and 66% say their anxiety levels have increased during the pandemic.  Social distancing measures are intensifying existing feelings of loneliness, and appear to be more pronounced in older adults, particularly women.  Furthermore, more than half of adults, 50years or older, have reported marked feelings of social isolation during the pandemic.  Interestingly, only 11% of survey respondents turned to mental health professionals when feeling sad or down, and almost one third of people age 50 and over said they didn’t turn to anyone for support.  

Two studies reported that millennials are also experiencing the highest levels of loneliness and suicidal thoughts throughout the pandemic. 80% of students surveyed for the Active Minds Survey reported experiencing loneliness and isolation; putting it among the top 3 most common problems they dealt with (alongside stress/anxiety and discouragement/sadness).  Loneliness was considered to be an epidemic for millennialsprior to the pandemic, but the isolation is only serving to exacerbate its effects.

As believers, we have the greatest tools to deal with loneliness, a life giving personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  In a recent article from Focus on the Family, loneliness was referred to as an opportunity, even referred to as a gift.  How can loneliness be considered a gift when often we want to avoid or run from it?  In Philippians 4:8, Paul says, “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”  While it is challenging for sure, loneliness can be something we can learn to praise God through and in the midst of, if we find hope in the fact that we are not alone, God is with us and will sustain us and we fix our minds on Jesus to help us get through periods ofloneliness.

If we can ask God to help us see loneliness as an opportunity, loneliness can open our hearts to others and soften our hearts to love others more.  Countless times in the past months, we’ve heard quotes from others about how people now appreciate things that they were taking for granted. For example, the freedom to attend church and worship with fellow believershas become so much more precious in the hearts of many who had become complacent about attending every Sunday.Receiving a note in the mail or kind text from a friend means so much to let us know someone is thinking about us and cared enough to take the time to write their thoughts down.

Loneliness can open us to seeking God in a deeper way.   When we’re lonely, if we hold on to God and His Word, we don’t have to fall into despair.  We can find His comfort, love,and healing by hearing His voice.  We need time with God, and in ordinary times, we often fill our time and calendar up with “busyness,” trying to surround ourselves with people and activities thinking that will prevent loneliness and find ourselves leaving God out of the equation.  However, these are often just distractions; the truth is that most people feel lonely even when surrounded by others and activity filled schedules.  Why you may ask? While the activities allow us to be around other people, many reported not feeling connected to others due to the void of emotional sharing.  Thus, people stay distracted and busy often to avoid even sharing about their own feelings for fear of being rejected or not included.  Proverbs 18:24 says, “but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.”  God is our constant and never leaves us.  There is no loneliness in Hispresence if we call on Him.   Once we recognize we are accepted by God, it can open the door for us to be vulnerable with others and share about our loneliness or whatever other feelings we may be having, from a faith place of acceptance that overshadows our fear of rejection.  Matthew 11:28; Isaiah 43:2; 1 Cor. 2:5-9

Loneliness can help strengthen our character in Christ.  We can be assured God cares for us.  He knows loneliness.  Jesus experienced the greatest loneliness when after all of his disciples deserted him, while receiving the wrath of God in our place on the cross, was even forsaken by His Father.  We become more aware of our weaknesses and deficiencies and need for Godwhen we are lonely, because we are not distracted. As Paul said in 2 Cor. 12, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

If you’re experiencing loneliness, know that you are not alone!  It is clear that at many times throughout this pandemic we have felt alone, but take heart God is there and there are people out there that care. Here are some practical suggestions to win the battle over loneliness:• Pray day-by-day and read God’s Word to enjoy fellowship with God.  • Call a close friend and schedule time to have a meaningful conversation either in person, phone or Face Time.  Ask for prayer if you are in need.  Knowing someone is praying for you can be such a blessing and comfort in times of loneliness.• Reengage with believers in your church family.  With the pandemic, we have to be more creative; meeting virtually, outside or coming back to church.  Research has shown that those who gathered during the pandemic were less implicated by mental health ails during this time.  • Find a hobby or activity that you can gather some acquaintances around and find a mutually convenient time to get together online.  Learning a new skill or reconnecting with an activity you previously enjoyed is a great way to deepen relationships and challenge your brain in a new waythat will build new neural pathways and help growrelationships as well. • God has provided methods for us to continue to sharpen each other. Reach out to a friend with an encouraging word, write a Scripture on your mirror or sticky note to remind yourself of who you are in Christ and let people know when you are having a difficult time and how they can pray and encourage you (Proverbs 27:17  “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”)• Most importantly, look at yourself from God’s point of view.  Study scriptures that affirm your identity in Christ. Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 2:6• Specific Scriptures addressing loneliness:  Psalms 145:18-19; Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 11:28-30; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2; I Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7

Loneliness is a challenge that is affecting everyone in some wayat this time. If you or a loved one has experienced loneliness and need to talk to someone, or if you have more questions about how loneliness is impacting you, please do not hesitate to contact us at the Hyde Park Counseling Center.

References

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/the-gift-of-loneliness                                                            “The Gift of Loneliness”

https://www.bbrfoundation.org/blog/how-stay-mentally- healthy-amidst-covid-19-pandemic?            2020 International Mental Health Research Virtual Symposium; “How to Stay Mentally Healthy Amidst the Covid-19  Pandemic”

https://www.healthline.com/health-news: “Adults Under 24: The Loneliest Age Group During Covid-19 Restrictions”

https:/www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/isolation-survey-coronavirus         “Pandemic Has Created Loneliness Epidemic”

https:/www.mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus/loneliness-during-coronavirus                               “Loneliness During Coronavirus”

https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/01/feature-the-loneliness-pandemic                                                  “The Loneliness Pandemic”

https://www.askaboutmyfaith.com/verses-when-you-feel-alone/                                                                    “7 Bible Verses to Encourage You When You Feel Alone”

https://www1.cbn.com/bible-teaching-loneliness                                                                               “Loneliness”

We’re praying for you!
-JKB

THE BIBLE READING GUIDE (2020)

THE BIBLE READING GUIDE

(August 2- August 22, 2020)

During the Covid-19 Global Pandemic millions of Americans have stopped reading the Bible! ( https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/07/22/pandemic-has-people/) In response to this development, at Hyde Park Baptist and The Quarries Church in Austin, Texas, I have issued the BIBLE READING CHALLENGE 2020. You will find the reading guide below. 

The chapters are some of the shortest you will find in the Bible so no one can argue they don’t have time to read the Bible daily. Even if you join late, you can easily catch up. Daily Bible reading can produce powerful results in your life so accepting this challenge can do nothing but help you.  (State of the Bible 2018: Seven Top Findings – Barna Group) Thanks for accepting the challenge!

READING GUIDE

Day 1, -1 John 1 (August 2)

Day 2, -1 John 2

Day 3, -1 John 3

Day 4,- 1 John 4

Day 5, – 1 John 5

Day 6, – Psalm 120

Day 7, – Psalm 121

Day 8,- Psalm 122

Day 9,- Psalm 123

Day 10,-Psalm 124

Day 11,-Psalm 125

Day 12,-Psalm 126

Day 13,-Psalm 127

Day 14, -Psalm 128

Day 15,- Ephesians 1

Day 16,-Ephesians 2

Day 17,-Ephesians 3

Day 18,-Ephesians 4

Day 19,-Ephesians 5

Day 20,- Ephesians 6

Day 21,-Jude (August 22)

Feel free to share this blog and the challenge with others! 

-JKB

JOIN THE 21 DAY BIBLE READING CHALLENGE!

J. Kie Bowman

The year 2020 will be remembered as one of the most disruptive and challenging years of our lives. The Coronavirus has changed us in ways we can immediately measure-like thousands of people getting sick or dying from the virus, as well as the economic devastation felt throughout the entire world. We have probably also been changed in ways we haven’t imagined yet. One thing we are sure of, however, is that all of us have been negatively affected. We are all in the midst of difficult days. 

One of the most unexpected changes affecting the Body of Christ was reported by the American Bible Society a few weeks ago-13 million Americans who were formerly read the Bible regularly, have stopped reading it all together since the Pandemic began. A director for the American Bible Society said, “What we saw between January and June was that 13 million people in America, who were previously really engaging meaningfully with Scripture, no longer were, and that was a serious drop-off.”

As a church, our ministries have always depended upon us being a Bible believing people, our classes committed to Bible teaching, and our pastors have all been focused on Bible preaching. All of those ministry commitments begin with a passion for individual Bible reading.  

We cannot reverse the inaction of 13 million people who have stopped reading the Word, but we can refuse to be guilty of it ourselves. So I’m offering our congregation a new Bible Reading Challenge 2020. I’m asking all of us to read one simple,  short chapter every day for the next 21 days beginning Sunday August 2  through Saturday August 22, 2020. Will you accept the challenge? 

All of the chapters I’ve chosen are easy and quick to read. Why did I choose short easy to read chapters? I want everyone to participate. Good habits like daily Bible reading can be established in 21 days and they can last a lifetime. There’s really no reason not to jump on board with this challenge. It all starts next Sunday August 2 and we will find multiple ways to communicate to our church family throughout the challenge. 

Thanks for being part of a Bible teaching, Bible believing, Bible reading church!

READING GUIDE

Day 1, -1 John 1 (August 2)

Day 2, -1 John 2

Day 3, -1 John 3

Day 4,- 1 John 4

Day 5, – 1 John 5

Day 6, – Psalm 120

Day 7, – Psalm 121

Day 8,- Psalm 122

Day 9,- Psalm 123

Day 10,-Psalm 124

Day 11,-Psalm 125

Day 12,-Psalm 126

Day 13,-Psalm 127

Day 14, -Psalm 128

Day 15,- Ephesians 1

Day 16,-Ephesians 2

Day 17,-Ephesians 3

Day 18,-Ephesians 4

Day 19,-Ephesians 5

Day 20,- Ephesians 6

Day 21,-Jude (August 22)

You can do it! Watch the 2 minute video below.

Kie Bowman 

WHY ARE TRANSLATIONS SO DIFFERENT?

J. KIE BOWMAN

Recently I’ve been asked the reason why Bible translations are often so different.  There are two primary explanations. The most significant reason has to do with the ancient manuscripts which the translations are based upon. The second reason relates to translation philosophy. Both reasons are important factors in determining the final product. Let’s quickly examine these two issues. 

TRANSLATION PHILOSOPHY 

A true translation, as opposed to a paraphrase like the Living Bible, is based on the original languages of Scripture. One of the goals of the translator is to communicate the ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text into readable English (or whatever language the modern reader needs). It sounds simple enough, but there are numerous considerations to take into account when moving an ancient language into a modern one. 

For one thing, the most literal translation of the original language may not convey to the modern reader what was obvious to a reader 2000 years ago. Language is crammed with cultural assumptions and colloquiums, immediately relevant to the time in which it written, but sometimes confusing to readers generations later who are removed from the ancient cultures. 

Good teaching can clarify most of those issues, but translators have to decide if they want to begin that teaching process by building it into the translation itself. In other words, the exact literal words from an ancient language, moved to a modern language, may require some additional explanation to capture the true sense of the author’s intention.

Consider, for instance, the instructions of the Apostle Peter regarding our call to live holy lives. In the historic and beautiful King James Version the Apostle advised, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;” (1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬)

‭Perhaps you’re a biblical scholar and you get the meaning, but to the average American, what do you suppose it would mean to “gird up the loins of your mind”? Is that particular vocabulary, which employs a literal, though idiomatic, expression from Greek the best way to communicate the truth of the ancient Greek passage? After all, what does “girding the loins” have to do with our thinking process? Our minds don’t have “loins.” Obviously, Peter is using a metaphor of some kind, urging us to be mentally prepared. 

In Peter’s time, when men wore long robes, they would frequently need to pull the robe up between their legs and tuck the long cloth in their belts to free their legs for running, fighting, or working. In other words, “girding their loins” was a way of preparing for physical activity. So using the literal phrase, “gird up the loins of your mind” does not necessarily easily communicate to a modern reader what Peter meant, and what his ancient readers would have understood as a figure of speech. Obviously, Peter is urging us to be mentally prepared. 

Compare the literal King James passage to a couple of modern translations. The English Standard Version says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13). The New International Version takes a similar approach,  “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” ‭‭(1 Peter‬ ‭1:13‬) 

So here are 3 translation choices for the same phrase: 

▪️“Gird up the loins of your mind” (KJV)

▪️“Preparing your minds for action” (ESV)

▪️“With minds that are alert and fully sober” (NIV)

The differences in translation reflect a different translation philosophy. The King James Version is literal and reflects a “word for word” literal translation. The modern versions instead usually choose a “thought for thought” translation, to give the modern reader the benefit of not only what Peter says, but also what he means. 

ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS 

The Bible is ancient literature. The oldest passages were written at least 3500 years ago and the most recent written passages are 2000 years old. We do not have any of the original manuscripts of any biblical book, but we have thousands of ancient copies in multiple languages. No other ancient literature in the world has anything close to the abundance of copies- from so close to the original writing- as the Bible enjoys. The translator’s  goal is to get back as close to the original manuscripts as possible so we can be confident of what the Bible’s authors originally wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

It isn’t unusual for someone to notice that the modern translations do not include all of the verses or phrases included in the King James Version. This obviously raises questions, especially for those of us who believe in the trustworthiness of Scripture to lead us to God and guide our lives. So, we are tempted to ask why the modern versions leave out verses. Perhaps the more important question is why does the King James Version add verses

Remember, the Bible is between 2000 and 3500 years old while the King James Version is only 500 years old. The translators seek to get as close to the original manuscripts as possible- not as close to the King James as possible. 

Think about how many things have changed since the early 17th century when the King James Version was translated. The 19th century, for instance, brought the world a flurry of advances unknown to previous generations. Medical advances increased lifespans and overall well being of entire populations. Travel became more affordable, faster, and safer than ever before. Communication options took giant strides forward. In the Western world there was an increase in almost every aspect of the quality of people’s lives, including a greater quest for global exploration and a desire for more scientific knowledge. Compared to any other time in history the 19th century was on the fast track to modernity. As a result, the science of archeological discovery enjoyed a “golden age.” This was true in nearly every field of enquiry- including the discovery of breathtakingly important ancient biblical manuscripts, even continuing into the 20th century. How does archeology affect biblical translation? 

The King James translators did not have access to the oldest manuscripts available, even though it is an older translation. Today, almost all of the modern translations are based on much older manuscripts- written much closer to the date of the originals- while the King James Version is based on newer and fewer manuscripts. Over time, as manuscripts were copied by hand, it is obvious some of the copyists, in some of the manuscripts, added sentences in a few places. The King James Version is based on these less reliable manuscripts. At first glance we may think we can never know, as a result, what the original manuscripts, written by the prophets and apostles, actually said. Nothing is further from the truth. The sheer abundance of manuscript evidence – the thousands of copies- leaves us today with the most reliable text any generation has ever had. We know what the Bible says. It is reflected in many of the modern English translations. 

WHAT ABOUT INERRANCY?

I am an inerrantist- in other words I believe the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is without error. Inerrancy is not a political or denominational position – it is a doctrinal position. So you may ask “If there are differences in the translations, how can one believe in inerrancy?” That’s a fair question with a direct answer. The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is a belief that the original manuscripts as the Spirit inspired them and as the prophets, apostles, and others wrote them, are completely without error. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” ( 2 Peter 1:21) The transmission of the original text across the centuries has been incredibly pure and the sheer number of copies in numerous languages, along with ancient sermons and writings filled with enough Scripture to nearly reconstruct the Bible from those sources, demonstrate the reliability of our translations today.

We trust the Bible because it is the Word of God. Committed scholars, devoted to knowing the truth, have produced for us accurate Bible translations which are fully reliable. Whichever translation you choose remember, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

WHY 7 AUSTIN CHURCHES PRAYED NON-STOP FOR 7 DAYS!

IMG_2257WHY 7 AUSTIN CHURCHES PRAYED NON-STOP FOR 7 DAYS!

There’s a prayer movement happening in the Capital City of Texas. Last winter we sensed the Lord’s leadership to pray 24 hours a day for one week. We announced the vision at a January pastor’s prayer retreat and half the churches needed volunteered immediately.
This week, September 28-October 4, we did it. Seven churches in Austin, Texas took a single step of radical obedience to pray non-stop for 24 hours for 7 days. Today is day 7 and Hyde Park Baptist Church is “on the wall.”
The churches and pastors who prayed 24X7 are:
1) Northwest Fellowship (Trey Kent)
2) Austin Reconciliation Church (Abraham C. Perez)
3) River in the Hills Church (Kyle Hubbart)
4) Hill Country Bible Church (Tim Hawks)
5) Capital City Church (Blaise Raccuglia)
6) Austin Christian Fellowship (Will Davis, Jr.)
7) Hyde Park Baptist Church (Kie Bowman)
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Why did we do it? For one thing, we think Jesus is worth it. He deserves and expects unceasing prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
In addition, the city we love needs prayer. Our families need prayer. Our churches need prayer. Crying out “day and night” to change circumstances and alter history is the plain teaching of Jesus (Luke 18:7).
Finally, we undertook this step of testimony and obedience because we believe what Jesus said when He declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). We don’t function as houses of prayer by merely believing in prayer, preaching on prayer, or having a church prayer list. We are houses of prayer when we pray.
What will happen as a result of this week? That’s in God’s hands but those who participated will never forget it and have already received a blessing. Prayer, after all is, in some ways, it’s own reward because when we pray we’re talking with God and that’s always a good thing.
Where will it lead? Again, it’s in God’s hands but Charles Spurgeon once said, “He who prays much will pray more and he who prays little will pray less.” In other words, prayer leads to more prayer. In fact, we agree with Samuel Chadwick who said, “The greatest answer to prayer is more prayer!”
There’s no shortage of prayer requests. The needs are everywhere. I encourage everyone reading this message to join the prayer movement. How? First, make prayer the priority of your spiritual life. Next, find another follower of Christ who values prayer and spiritual growth like you do and start meeting together for prayer. Ask God to lead you to others in your city with the same passion. Pray for and encourage your pastor. The prayer movement is already happening- God will place you in it where He can best use you.
You can can join us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas anytime today or tonight, Friday October 4-7am Saturday October 5, 2019.
-JKB

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FASTING FOR CLARITY

FASTING FOR CLARITY

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Do you need to make a decision? If so, do you ever feel unclear about what you should do? You’re not alone.  Today we often suffer from choice fatigue and decision overload. We have so many options, narrowing down the best path can open us up to less clarity and more confusion. What should you do when you need a clear direction but you’re faced with fog?
In addition to asking for advice, making lists of pros and cons, and praying about it, have you ever considered the role that fasting could play in helping you find clarity?
I was a college student the first time I attempted to fast. I did a water fast for 2 days. It was exhilarating. I felt hungry but I also experienced the mild euphoria and spiritual boost associated with fasting and prayer. It’s counterintuitive but fasting makes us feel better (even though we’re aware of our hunger).
It’s not unusual to experience clarity and sharper focus during a day or more of fasting and prayer. One of the first books I ever read on prayer mentioned fasting. The author had fasted 17 days and received a fresh vision for his ministry. As a new follower of Christ, I was shocked when I read that because I had never known anyone who had ever fasted (except biblical characters and at that time I hadn’t read much of the Bible). I was, however, intrigued by the possibility of connecting with God in a more “tuned in” way.
The next book I read that mentioned fasting was a biography. The author mentioned an even longer fast than the previous author. He claimed at about two weeks into his prolonged fast he was able to easily concentrate on anything for long periods of time. It wasn’t long before I tried fasting and experienced the focus and mental clarity others had described. Why does this happen?
Let’s ask someone who may know. Mark Mattson is a professor of neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research these days is in the science of fasting. The motivation for Dr Mattson does not appear to be spiritual. He’s interested in the neurological effects and the physical benefits of fasting. As it turns out, there are many.
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON FASTING 
Dr Mattison believes the evidence demonstrates “fasting several days a week might help your brain ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood.” (https://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/are-there-any-proven-benefits-to-fasting) When you eat normally, glucose is stored in the liver and converts to a substance called glycogen which serves as the nutrient that feeds your brain. After about 14 hours without food, the body depletes the glycogen and starts feeding instead on fats which fuel the brain with ketones.
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The difference between glucose and ketones is the basis for the popular “keto diet.” The ketones fuel the brain in a different way. You feel “sharper” and more focused. Unfortunately, most Americans never allow their bodies a break from 3 big carb and sugar rich meals a day, supplemented with more sugar, carbohydrate snacks, and soft drinks. As a result, our brains are fueled with glycogen rather than ketones. Think about how you feel after a big Thanksgiving meal. Do you feel sharp and focused or are you ready for a nap because you’re in a “food coma”? It’s a fact, too much food makes us drowsy and fasting sharpens our focus.
When we fast, therefore, in addition to spending more time in Bible reading, worship, and prayer we’re also flooding our brain with a nutrient that leads to more energy, focus, and an overall sense of well being. Why is this important?
CLARITY TO KNOW GOD’S WILL
Suppose you have a big decision to make and you want to know God’s will. Or, imagine you’re at a crossroad in life and you need God’s guidance. Is fasting helpful? Ask Nehemiah who fasted for days before he decided to leave the security of his life to go rebuild a wall around Jerusalem. “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”  (Nehemiah 1:4)
Ask Paul. It was while he was fasting and praying with leaders in Antioch that he received the calling to minister to gentiles which defined his life.  “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’
Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3)
Ask Jesus. After being anointed by the Holy Spirit for public ministry He disappeared into the desert to fast and confront the temptations of the enemy. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”  (Matthew 4:1-2)
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Fasting helps clear our minds so we can focus on God’s voice, His call, and His purposes for us. Believers have known about this for centuries. Now neuroscience is helping us understand why and how decisions seem clearer when we fast.
Do you need to get a fresh word from God about your life? Fast and pray. Expect clarity, but more importantly, expect God to speak!
-JKB

PRAYER, FASTING, and THE 10,000 HOUR RULE

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PRAYER, FASTING, & THE 10,000 HOUR RULE

If Misty Edwards was a pop singer she would be the biggest phenomenon in the country. She’s that good. But Misty Edwards doesn’t perform secular music- she’s a worship leader and her albums are praise music- and the music she makes  is some of the best in the world.
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Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has a net worth of $104 billion dollars making him the second wealthiest person on earth. According to Business Insider magazine if the average American spends 1 dollar it’s the equivalent of Bill Gates spending $1.06 million dollars. Last year alone,  Bill Gates became $12 billion dollars richer. (https://www.businessinsider.com/how-rich-is-bill-gates-net-worth-mind-blowing-facts-2019-5)
As strange as it might sound, Misty Edwards and Bill Gates have something in common that could affect the way you pray and fast. In fact, just for fun, you can throw the Beatles into the conversation as well.
One of the most interesting authors today is Malcom Gladwell.
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He has written 5 books that reached #1 on The  New York Times Best Seller list  (https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/). My favorite is Outliers which examines the question of why some people are immensely more successful than the average person. One of his answers Gladwell calls “the 10,000 hour rule.” He argues that 10,000 hours of doing a thing repeatedly gives you a competitive edge and makes you a virtual expert in whatever venture you’ve been willing to devote the time .
Gladwell uses the Beatles as an example. When they met as teenagers they were an average amateur group of mostly self taught musicians. What distinguished them was their early, long term engagements in little clubs in Hamburg, Germany. It was there- where they played week after week in all night sessions for more than two years, that the group became the tight unit of performers who went on to become the legends they are today. They played live for more than 10,000 hours.
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Likewise, Bill Gates grew up with a father who was heavily involved in the early days of the tech industry (https://www.geekwire.com/2015/life-and-times-of-bill-gates-sr-a-giant-impact-on-technology-philanthropy-and-the-seattle-region/). As a result, Bill Gates has had access to computers since he was 13 years old. We assume that is true of most kids now, but Gates was well ahead of his time. As a result, he spent hours a day learning about computers and eventually founded one of the most successful companies in the world. He had spent 10,000 hours learning about computers before anyone had ever heard his name.
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Now, what does any of this have to do with Misty Edwards, or your prayer life? When Misty Edwards was 19 she went to Bible College in Kansas City and at that time could play only 4 chords on the piano. At about that same time the International House of Prayer in Kansas City was starting and needed non-stop worship music playing to support those who came to pray. The little group only had 25 players available to cover 168 hours of non-stop prayer and worship every week. Since Misty Edwards knew some chords, and had grown up singing in church, she spent 6-8 hours a day in the prayer room playing her piano and singing. Soon, the four chords she knew became 8, the 8 became 12, and so on (https://youtu.be/Wf5CoAXnlTE). Today, Misty Edwards is one of the most gifted worship singers with one of the purest sounds in the world. She unknowingly achieved the 10,000 hour rule.
What if you wanted to develop your prayer life beyond the norm? How could you? The answer is arrestingly simple. Pray more. Fast more frequently. Give God more time. Jesus prayed long hours. Luke tells us, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12).
 I’m planning to pray more during this period of 40 DAYS of Prayer and Fasting. I have committed to a plan for prayer which will include getting up earlier every morning. I know exactly which Bible passages I am going to read each day. I have chosen my days of fasting. I have arranged my schedule to allow much more time in prayer than normal. Why? I am planning ahead to give God my best and make the most of this time in our life as a church.
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Can we really pray 10,000 hours? If you start young enough, say at age 20, you can pray 30 minutes a day and hit 10,000 hours in prayer by age 80. That’s not a bad way to spend 60 years. If you’re older than 20 you might need to get caught up so you better get started. There’s no better time to begin than now if you want to reach your goals. Just ask Bill Gates or Misty Edwards!
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-JKB

YOUR DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING

IMG_2525YOUR DAY OF PRAYER AND FASTING 

Congratulations-you’re following the advise of Jesus! One day He was challenged by His critics because His disciples didn’t fast. He reminded them the disciples were with Him and didn’t need to fast. He compared Himself to a Bridegroom at a wedding and His disciples were like the friends of the Bridegroom. That’s not a time to fast-it’s a time to celebrate and rejoice! But Jesus knew He was going back to Heaven soon and things would be different for the disciples at that time. He said, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day” (Mark 2:20). Did you notice Jesus said while He is away, “they WILL fast.” Since He has not returned yet, we live in “that day.” Because we are His disciples, it’s clear we “will fast” in fulfillment of His prediction.
So, let me encourage you in your fast- you’re doing God’s will. He’s going to help you.
Fasting Concept
PRACTICAL TIPS
 
1) While fasting drink a lot of water.
2) During the times when you would normally be eating, spend that time reading the Word and praying. Remember, fasting means the least amount of food and the most amount of prayer! 
3) Fast for a purpose– expect a breakthrough, an answer, a spiritual insight, or direction for a decision you’ve been wrestling with.
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RESOURCES
We have tools to help you achieve your spiritual goals. For instance, you can find multiple prayer guides to help you pray by going to hpbc.org/2418. For encouraging, brief, daily devotionals during the 40 DAYS follow me on Twitter at @KieBowman. I will be posting a new devotion written by 40 different Christian leaders every morning during the 40 Day fast. In addition, I’m going to post an encouraging, practical blog – like this one- at least once a week here at kiebowman.com.
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WHO’S YOUR ONE?
 
One of our reasons for calling the 40 day fast is to increase our effectiveness in prayer for the “one” on our list who is far from God. Pray for your “one” to have an open heart to the Gospel. Pray for other believers to influence their lives at work, school, or home. Pray your “one” attends the Ronnie Hill Harvest September 15-18. Ask God to help you be ready to engage your “one” in spiritual conversations. Be bold when you pray for the lost!
I want to encourage you with one last thing- you’re not alone! Several people have signed up to fast on your day. You CAN do this!
-JKB
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THE RETURN OF CHRIST

 

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THE RETURN OF CHRIST

Jesus is coming again! The promise of His return dominates the pages of the Scripture. His second coming is mentioned at least 300 times in the New Testament. In addition to the promises in the Word of God, due in part to the increase of international distress, the church today is anxiously looking for His return. For instance, the late Billy Graham recently said, “The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming again. And I don’t see any other hope, because we’re heading toward a catastrophe in our world.” (https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/january-2009/the-second-coming-of-christ/)
In the last few days of His life on earth, Jesus addressed an important concern. His disciples had asked Him a pressing question we’re still asking today, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3) Jesus went into explicit detail when He answered their questions.
He promised signs would precede His coming, and those “signs” will obviously help us recognize when His return is getting closer. We would be foolish to predict the day and hour when Christ will return and equally foolish to ignore the signs He left us regarding His return.
One sign I am particularly interested in has to do with evangelism and global missions. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
(Matthew 24:14) No generation in history has been more capable of fulfilling this final sign than our generation.
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As you know, our church is part of a prayer movement-a local expression of a global phenomenon-the likes of which the world has never seen. All over the world Christians are committing to unceasing prayer as never before. Why is this? I believe God is preparing His church for something on a global scale. Could it be a spiritual awakening leading to the greatest evangelistic thrust in history-in order to finally evangelize the entire human race? Could this global army of evangelists be the final surge before the return of Christ? Maybe. I think it’s possible.
Can we be absolutely certain the signs are pointing this way? No, but we are instructed to pay attention to the signs and learn from them. For instance, I recently drove several hours through the night and the closer I got to my destination the more signs I saw announcing the final location. That’s how signs work. They exist to guide us. Christ left us signs of His return and one of those signs- in fact the final sign- is an unstoppable evangelistic push across the entire world.
Scripture and history demonstrate that major movements of God’s power in the earth are preceded by prayer movements. Is God rallying His global community to unceasing prayer to help mobilize the final, global evangelistic saturation of all the nations? Have you ever noticed that the last prayer in the Bible is for His return? “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”  (Revelation 22:20) It’s a simple 4 word prayer-“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
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Someday Jesus will answer that prayer. The final sign before His return will be the mobilization of the church to take the gospel to every region on earth by every means available. You and I have a role to play in this unfolding plan of God. We can join the prayer ministry and “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)
For 2000 years Christians have eagerly looked for the sign of the times. We may actually be living in the time of the signs! Keep praying and don’t lose hope because Jesus is coming again.
JKB