Focusing on what really matters

“God’s problem with his people in Greater Washington, DC is their availability. They’re always busy. There’s so much going on. I’m serious, Joe, that’s a problem that God has.”

This assessment of life in the DC area was given to me by a seasoned veteran of public service (he served under a President or two), who had lived in Greater Washington, DC for many years. I don’t think things have changed.

How about you? Do you feel like you’re always in fifth gear, speeding from one demand to meet yet another, dashing from one exciting event to the next? Maybe some of those things are necessary, but do all contribute to the things that really matter?

Do what’s necessary, said Jesus, but “…do not neglect the more important things”.[1]

The difficulty of focus
We intuitively know what’s important: things like healthy relationships, and being a good person who does good things for others. Yet, knowing what’s important in your head can be worlds apart from putting it into practice as a way of life. Putting the two together takes focus and, like loose change, focus is easy to lose.

If it’s any comfort, a circus lion has the same problem. Here we have a 550 lb beast with jaws and claws powerful enough to crush any opponent. But it just sits there like a well-behaved kitten, yawning and growling with frustration in one spot. The articles I read say that’s because a lion’s brain is wired to focus on one thing. So, when the man shows up with a stool and sticks the four legs in front of the lion’s face, the big cat gets all confused. Its eyes can’t choose on which leg to focus. Poor lion, lucky man.

It’s not hard figuring out why we lose focus on things that matter the most. Staring us in the face are the horrors of ISIS and Oklahoma, the tragedies of Missouri, wars in the Middle East. Job got it right, “People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from the fire!”[2] Troubles are like magicians, diverting our attention away from what’s important to do and see. Of course, it’s not just troubles that distract us, it can be anything, like climbing the ladder to success.

Choosing the main things
What’s the answer? How do you choose priorities and stay focused to make sure that the main things stay the main things?

Some priorities are easy to figure out. For example, if I asked, “Is there something that you should be doing and it bothers you that you’re not doing anything about it?” you’d probably already know what it is. It’s on your mind all the time. Stop putting it off. Start with that one thing.

In everyday decision making, however, things can get blurry because of the simultaneous mix of responsibilities and opportunities. I’m going to share a secret formula that I use to help sort out the really important things in daily life. Of course, now that I’m sharing, it’s no longer a secret, but if it works for you, take me out to lunch and we’ll talk about it.

I sort out my options into three categories: What I need to do – What only I can do – What I love to do.

What I need to do
The things that I need to do are the logistics and details of life and work. That’s everything from mowing the lawn to scheduling appointments at the office. I can delegate, train, or pay someone to do most, if not all, of those things. Or, I can learn greater efficiency in doing them. Maybe they don’t need to be done right away.

What only I can do
No one else in the world can do what only I can do in two areas: my person and my position.

My person refers to my personal integrity. As an example, am I open with others, honest, and use information to serve them? Or, am I closed, dishonest, and use information to manipulate others to serve my purposes? While I learn from others how to choose and develop good character traits, they are ultimately my responsibility to achieve and maintain. I can’t borrow someone else’s integrity.

My position is the important place that I occupy in someone else’s life. To my children, I occupy the place of the father, to my grandchildren, the grandfather. To my wife, I am the husband. To the church, I occupy the place of a pastor-trainer. Each place that I occupy has specific responsibilities. While I use the natural talents and spiritual gifts God has given me to fulfill those responsibilities, I also look to others who will partner with me. Some could teach me more knowledge. Others could coach me to hone my skills and abilities. Others could provide a service for which I don’t have the expertise or resources. The point is this: each place that I occupy requires me to be fully engaged and intentional in being what God wants me to be for those under my care. No one else has my unique combination of talents and gifts blended with my experiences, personality, ideology, and culture.

What I love to do
Fly-fishing, exercising, learning, enjoying all aspects of God’s world, and being with good friends: these are among the activities that I especially love. I invite others to enjoy these activities with me, and I know that gives God pleasure.

When it comes time for decision-making, I simply ask myself: Do I need to do this? Am I the only one who can do this? Is this what I love? Whether some things stay or go depends on the answer that I give.

Staying focused on the main things
Before I go on, this question can’t be ignored: Are lesser categories active in your life?

  • “What I don’t need to do at all.” These are the things you do to look good and/or to please others.
  • “What I shouldn’t be doing.” You know certain things are wrong, but you do them, anyway.

Free yourself from these traps as fast as you can.

Train yourself for Godliness.
“Train yourself for godliness,” said Paul to Timothy, his son in the faith.

The essence of godliness is living life as Jesus, who was able to say, “The one who sent me is with me now: the Father has not left me alone for I always do what pleases him.”[3] Jesus was focused. Do likewise. Discipline your will, mind, body, and soul on doing the good things that God planned for you to do and on becoming the good person God made you to be. That’s what really matters.

 


[1] Matthew 23:23 (NLT)

[2] Job 5:7 (NLT)

[3] John 8:29 (J.B. Phillips)

A New Chapter in Reaching Young Adults

By Nate Keeler, MBC Arlington Campus Pastor

One of the reasons I was drawn to McLean Bible Church when I first moved to the DC Metro area was because of Core Value #10: To accomplish our mission we must be willing to step out in visionary faith and take risks for God. Because of our passion to reach emerging generations for Christ, we have a rich history of taking risks to reach youth, college students and young adults through the Rock, the Gathering and Frontline, just to name a few.

When we transitioned Frontline into the larger church family a former Frontliner asked Lon the question at a congregational meeting, “Does this mean that we are giving up on ministry to young adults?” Lon emphatically stated in reply that we will continue to be very passionate about reaching young adults, and we would be developing plans for that in the near future.

Well for the past year, our Senior Leadership Team, along with a few other young adult staff and volunteers have been dreaming, planning and praying about how to reach the de-churched, unchurched and spiritually drifting millennial generation in a post-Frontline context. We believe God has been leading us with a new ministry to pilot.

Imagine what could happen if we took the compelling and transformational experience of the Young Adult Fall Retreat and made it accessible to your spiritually disengaged friends in a hot spot in Metro DC.  That is the vision behind “Citywide!” Starting Thursday,  October 9 we will host a 4-week retreat-quality experience at the Clarendon Ballroom from 7-9 pm complete with powerful music and relevant, dynamic teaching in a heavily relational atmosphere. Mike Kelsey, MBC Silver Spring Campus Pastor, will lead us through a series addressing the biggest questions of regret, anxiety, doubt and possibility that young adults wrestle with called, What If?”  

Citywide will have some similarities to Frontline (relevant young adult teaching, dynamic music and creative arts, a relational culture, etc.) but with at least four key distinctions:

  1. Citywide is NOT church. It is an evangelistic outreach of the church to and through millennials.
  2. Citywide will NOT be a weekly Sunday service. We will host a 4-week series on Thursdays.
  3. Citywide is NOT the end goal. Instead the end goal is connecting young adults to the local church.
  4. Citywide will NOT take place in the church. It will be out in the community where young adults live, work and play.

As you can see, God is opening up a new chapter for us in ministry to millennials in Metro DC. So how can you get involved?

  • First, we ask you to join us in praying for Citywide this fall with anticipation of what our great God can do!
  • Second, start inviting your friends and getting the word out to others.  Here is a quick promo video that you can use on social media. You can include our Twitter handle (@CitywideDC) and/or Facebook page (facebook.com/citywidedc) to point people to information, and our hashtag will be #citywidedc.
  • Third, we will need many people to serve with set-up and tear down, host teams and connect teams.

Are you in? Can’t wait!

Back to School Outreach Update

By Roxy Hockensmith, Director of Local Outreach

Over the last several weeks, McLean Bible Church organized the largest back-to-school outreach program in the history of the church. Thousands of backpacks, crayons, notebooks and other supplies filled the church as donations came streaming in at every service. Due to the overwhelming generosity of our congregation we are happy to report that over 4,000 students returned to the classroom better equipped for success. Our congregation responded with an outpouring of donations and gifts. It was a true blessing to see the Lord work through our church and meet a real need in the community.  The end result was nearly 30,000 school supplies collected with an estimated value of over $100,000! Returning to school can be an exciting time for students but it can also be a time of economic burden for the families who cannot provide these basic needs. Through the awesome support of our church family we were able ease this burden for thousands and show the love of Christ in a real and tangible way.

On August 23volunteers helped distribute backpacks, clean up school grounds and pray with families throughout the region. At Hutchison Elementary school in Herndon over 500 people attended the outreach event. Volunteers not only met physical needs by providing backpacks and food, but also spiritual needs by praying with families that attended. Each student who attended this event was given an Action Bible due to a generous donation made by a member of our church. Other locations included 6 Title I schools in DC, the Metropolitan Police Department, various homeless shelters in the region, Bethesda Baptist Church, Independent Church of God in Southeast, Daybreak Ministries, the House and KIPP Schools.

None of this would be possible without the love and kindness of our congregation. We want to thank every person who donated supplies, volunteered their time and partnered in prayer during the weeks leading up to our back-to-school outreach. For more opportunities to serve, please visit our Ministries page at mcleanbible.org/ministries.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10)

Overview

Our back to school drive has been a huge success. The generosity of the congregation made a huge impact on the community and thousands of students are now more equipped for success as they begin the school year. We distributed over 4,000 backpacks and thousands of supplies. The total estimated value of the materials distributed was $103,292.50.

Distribution

  1. Backpacks were distributed to the following elementary schools in Fairfax and DC:  Hutchison, Burrville, Nalle, Randle Highlands, Savoy, Malcolm X and Houston.
  2. We also distributed backpacks and supplies with our ministry partners like Daybreak, The House, Bethesda Baptist and Independent Church of God.
  3. Lastly, we gave over one thousand backpacks to the DC General Shelter, Emily Ruckers Shelter and the Metropolitan Police Department.

Volunteers

Approximately 100 volunteers from MBC helped pack supplies, distribute materials, clean up school with DC Beatification Day and show the love of Christ with the community.

Hutchison/Herndon

One true success story of our back to school drive was the overwhelming turn out at Hutchison Elementary. On Saturday, August 23 approximately 500 people in the community came out to receive backpacks and enjoy fellowship. Volunteers prayed with people, organized games for the children, cleaned up the school grounds, distributed action bibles and provided hot dogs for all those who attended. The back to school drive was a success throughout the DC area, however the impact was most evident at Hutchison Elementary.

Additional Statistics

Materials

Cost per Unit

Amount

Total

Backpacks

$8.50

4009

$34,076.50

Crayons

1.80

2510

$5,562.00

Markers

4.00

2210

$11,160.00

Binders

2.00

2210

$5,580.00

Notebooks

1.80

6630

$15,066.00

Scissors

1.80

1105

$2,511.00

Rulers

1.00

1105

$1,395.00

Erasers

2.00

2210

$5,580.00

Pens

3.00

2210

$8,370.00

Pencils

2.80

2210

$7,812.00

Glue

2.00

2510

$6,180.00

Total:

$103,292.50

 

Location

Backpacks

Herndon

200

Hutchison

50

Daybreak

360

The House

100

Bethesda Baptist DC

100

Independent Church DC

100

Burrville

100

Nalle

100

Randle Highlands

100

Savoy

100

Malcolm X

100

Houston

100

Clothing Shop

200

DC General Shelter

400

KIPP

400

DCPD

900

Career Network

20

Food Pantry

20

Silver Spring

20

Access

20

Shelter

200

Elizabeth Ruckers Shelter

100

Other Ministries

219

Total:

4,009

An “Out of this World” Life: Where your mind is, there your life will be also

Have you ever had an “out of body” experience? The closest I’ve come was when I was placed in an MRI tube and told to, “lie down and don’t move.” I now unashamedly testify that I am a self-diagnosed “MRI-phobic.”

The nurse had cheerfully assured me, “If you need anything or need us to stop, just press the button.” But, I couldn’t. It was pure pride. A long-time friend had just told me that his recent MRI experience was a piece of cake. Was I going to admit that I couldn’t go through with it because I was afraid? Not a chance.

Paralyzed by pride and phobia, I was in a place where I didn’t want to be. How was I going to get my mind to be as free as if I wasn’t there, even though my body couldn’t go anywhere?

Counting sheep didn’t work. Quoting verses about overcoming problems, like, “Fear not for I am with you,” just seemed to put the spotlight back on my problem.

But, suddenly, I discovered the key that unlocked the door! My fear fell off, my mind was free!

What was it? I started singing! Not just any song. Praise songs that admired God for who he was and thanked him for what he had done. My spirit soared, and I was “out of this world!”[1]

Singing your way into thinking right
“Out of this world” is the talk-on-the street version of “Be filled with the Spirit.” The person who is filled with the Holy Spirit is a person who is walking and talking like the only completely fearless, joyful, God-centered human the world has ever known: Jesus Christ. How is one filled with the Spirit like Jesus was? Look at what Paul wrote:

“…let the Spirit stimulate your souls. Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of God! Thank God at all times for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And ‘fit in with’ each other, because of your common reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21, J.B. Philipps)

A new frame of mind in a different place
Why is singing plus praise such a powerful punch that pulverizes all things negative? It’s not the act of singing, or even what it does for you (as it releases wonderful feel-good hormones throughout your being). It’s where it takes your spirit and the new frame of mind you get by going there, enabling you to think differently than circumstances dictate.

Paul and Silas had evidently learned how to have an “Out of this World” life.[2] It was on one very painful night that they decided that their way of thinking was not going to be shaped by the place where they landed. The scene wasn’t pretty. Their clothes had been ordered ripped off by judges, they were bloodied, black and blue after being severely and publicly flogged with wooden rods, then slammed into the maximum security cell of an inner dungeon with their feet clamped in leg irons. What was their crime? Paul had commanded a demon to come out of a slave girl. Her owners were livid. They had been making big bucks off of her by selling her service as a fortune-teller.

And, what were Paul and Silas doing in prison? Having a midnight prayer meeting and hymn sing praising God! They were “out of there” in their minds, way before the earthquake came to let their bodies walk out.

Be like them. Get your mind out of its normal way of thinking when in temptation or trial.  Why let fear, failure, frustration, or even being in a funk rule and ruin your life?

Set your mind on the person that you already are in Christ. Singing is an essential way of doing that, taking you to the only place where the real you exists.

“…you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory.” (Ephesians 6:18-21, Amplified Bible)

Get your mind to go where it’s supposed to be, and you’ll discover what your life was meant to be.  Where your mind is, there your life will be also.



[1] Important note: To make this crystal clear, I wasn’t “hovering” over the MRI tube watching everyone, including myself, in the room, when I say that “my spirit soared.” This is metaphorically speaking.

[2] Acts 16:16-26

Rock Student Ministries Summer Update

By Todd Peters, Director of the Rock Student Ministries

Dear MBC Tysons Family,

We want to share with you what the Lord has done with the students, volunteers and the ROCK staff this summer. The pace was fast and the tempo intense, but it was awesome! I am reminded of a quote from Oswald Sanders in regards to our volunteers, “True greatness, true leadership is achieved not by reducing men to one’s service, but in giving oneself in selfless service to them.” Our volunteers are the best and none of the below would be possible without them. We thank God for them and their service to His people.

Senior High Beach Week

We had 481 people attend Senior High Beach Week this summer. 177 students made spiritual decisions for Jesus Christ. Here are a few comments on what God did in the hearts of the students.

  • A male student is now ready to stop blaming God for the failures of his earthly father. He is now ready to walk with his heavenly Father.
  • One female student is ready to let God love her. She cried out to God and thanked Him for not forgetting her and that she is ready to follow Jesus.
  • A 10th grade student requests forgiveness and is ready to live for God’s Kingdom and not their own.
  • A 12th grade student now understands their real worth and security is found in Christ alone.
  • One student had a prayer of thanksgiving and ended the prayer by asking, “Please don’t let me forget my purpose on the earth, to glorify Your mighty name.”

Junior High Local Outreach

Our Junior High students did a local outreach to the city of Baltimore. 19 students, along with 11 volunteers and staff, shared the Gospel and did multiple clean up projects. They demonstrated the love of Christ by serving other believers in their hometown.

  • A 7th grade student walked away knowing that serving can be fun and rewarding, both physically and spiritually.
  • One young student walked away knowing that the church is more than just the building you go to on Sunday. They now know it is the body of Christ.

Dominican Republic Mission Trip

We had 172 people attend the Dominican Republic Mission Trip. A combination of students, volunteers and staff shared the Gospel with 3,260 people. 215 people made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. The medical team treated 465 patients and the surgical team trained 15 local doctors while removing 4 gallbladders.

  • Multiple students were able to lead someone to the Lord for the first time in their lives. They were overjoyed with emotion.
  • A recent graduate played with a little girl and our student got muddy. Our student made a sad face and said she was being selfish about her clothing. The little girl looked at her, wiped the mud from her and placed it on her own shirt. Our female student was broken as she realized the little girl demonstrated the Gospel to her with this simple act.
  • The new hotel manager allowed us to share some music and the Gospel with the staff, but for only 15 minutes. After we finished, he said he wanted more and that he would allow us more time next year to share with the hotel staff. The believers who worked at the hotel said this was an answer to prayer.

Junior High Camp

Our Junior High Camp had 490 people in attendance. 145 spiritual decisions were made to follow Jesus.

  • Multiple young boys are ready to live as young men following the Lord.
  • Both boys and girls are ready to practice forgiveness after understanding the mercy that was granted to them.
  • A 7th grade girl now understands true beauty and worth is found in Jesus Christ.
  • An 8th grade boy is now ready to live for God’s Kingdom and not this earthly one.

It was a blessing to conduct baptisms at each event this summer. We were delighted to see students follow Jesus in public baptism. This in turn challenged many other students to give their life to the Lord. Your ROCK staff is grateful for the honor to serve and we are mindful of the Apostle Paul’s words found in 2 Corinthians 4:1, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not give up.” As our church continues to seek the Lord in prayer, may we all return to our first love and proclaim the name of Jesus to this lost and dying world.

For the King,

Todd Peters

To learn more about the Rock Student Ministries, click here.

 

Power At Work: it’s all in what you see

All I wanted at the pet store were a couple of snails for my small aquarium. I got a bonus deal: snails plus a mini workshop on labor relations.

“So, how’s it going today?” I asked the young man who was putting my tiny purchases in water-filled bags.
“Not so good,” he responded.
“Some days are like that for all of us,” I offered, as a way of solidarity.
“Yeah, that’s true,” he replied, but then quickly added, “But, I love my job.”
I looked at him with amazement and exclaimed, “Not a whole lot of people can say that! What makes you love your job?”
“My boss,” he smiled. “She’s always positive, always encouraging me, helps me to do things the right way. She’s awesome.”
“You’re really blessed,” I affirmed.
“Yes, I am!” he said in hearty agreement.

For this employee, loving his job trumped the hassle of his “not so good” days. He didn’t say he loved his job because of the salary or benefits, or the great customers, or tropical fish and snails that he sold. He loved his job because of the way that he was appreciated and treated by his boss.

“Big deal,” some might say. “Who wouldn’t love their job with a boss like that? What if he had a boss like mine who makes you feel abused, misused, disregarded, harassed, and unappreciated?”

If that’s your story, you’re not alone. You’re in the same boat with thousands of others, and you feel powerless to change anything. You can’t even leave. You need the money. You’re stuck!

Well, I’ve got good news. You have power to change the one thing that matters the most in your job: You.

Let’s do an eye exam.  When you look in the mirror, what do you see? The eye of your mind probably sees how you think others see you. When you look at your work, what value do you see? You probably see the same value that others tell you they see.

If that’s how you see things, through the eyes of others, that’s a problem. A really big one.  God wants you to see as he sees. Seeing and accepting as true what God sees is not a distortion of reality. No one can truly live with freedom in a man made house of mirrors.

Consider this. If Christian slaves in the Roman Empire could change the vision they had of themselves and the work that they did, so can you. Let’s step into their world a few hundred years ago.

In their homelands, before they were conquered by Rome and were torn away by soldiers to be sold as slaves in foreign lands, most were known as successful, prosperous people in their trades and lives. Almost overnight, they slipped from that life to a nightmare, working for owners who cared nothing for them, and as slaves doing work they cared nothing about.

Did the slaves of Rome have reason to be angry, resentful, and bitter? I think so.  Over time, dehumanization conditioned slaves to see themselves in dark mirrors: worthless nobodies with meaningless lives until the day they died. They endured dead end jobs and the daily humiliation of doing the dumb, dirty, or dangerous work. And, if you couldn’t do your work, you were dumped, discarded as trash. A horde of other slaves were ready to take your place.

Just as God sent Moses with a message of deliverance to his Hebrew children who were slaves in the Egyptian dynasty, God now sent Paul with a message of freedom to his children who were slaves in the Roman Empire.[1]  Paul’s message hit the slave world with the force of a spiritual tsunami, shattering in one single wave the mirrors of distortion in which they had been seeing themselves. [2]

“Did you hear?” they exclaimed in amazement to each other, “Paul, the Apostle, the ‘legend’ himself, sent a message to us!  He wrote to us from his prison cell in Rome! ”[3]

I can imagine Christian slaves meeting secretly to talk in hushed voices about the message that came to them.

One slave starts with, “Paul said, ‘Brothers and sisters, you’re not a slave of men, doing work that has no meaning; you are servants of the Lord Christ himself, doing his work for him, even with him!’”

Another slave chimes in, And, he said that nothing and no one has the power to change who you are, a child of God who has created you for a life of good works. You belong to Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. No matter what anyone does to you or where they send you, there you are a servant of Christ who has set you free from all sin and its effects. If you have lousy pay, Christ will reward you.”[4]

There was silence for a moment and a third slave says, “Really? Is this how God really sees us?”[5]

That’s exactly how God saw them and that’s exactly how God sees you. Why not personalize the truth that set slaves free in the spirit of their minds, so that, like them, you can really do your work with the power of gladness?

 I am a child of Almighty God, my Father, and a personal servant of Jesus Christ the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
For him and with him, I am doing the work he has given me to do with the power of the Holy Spirit.

You will experience power at work that you never thought possible. It’s all in what you see.



[1] Paul’s message to the slaves was in his letters to the churches in the prominent cities of Ephesus and Colossae.

[2] This is not to say that all slave owners treated their slaves in this way. A minority of slaves had positions of responsibility in the

family business or the household.

[3] Paul was not writing from some posh office as a philosopher with an esoteric, mystic theory or promoting a feel-good pop

psychology. He was a brilliant theologian, a devoted activist for Christ who took his faith to the streets and, because of his faith,

jailed in a Roman prison. He learned from hard experience that “No person or life situation can take from me the dignity and honor

  that I have from God. Christ, the hope of glory lives in me!”

[4] To the slaves in Colossae: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything you do. Try to please them all the time, not just when

   they are watching you. Serve them sincerely because of your reverent fear of the Lord. Work willingly at whatever you do, as

   though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward,

   and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Colossians 3:22-24, NLT)

 

To the slaves in Ephesus“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve  

   Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your

   heart.  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.Remember that the Lord will reward

   each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8, NKJV)

[5] We need to remember that while Paul gave specific instructions to slaves, they were also recipients of the truths of his entire letter

to the churches at Ephesus and Colossae. They, like any “free” Christian were given the full benefits of the knowledge of and

relationship with Jesus Christ, as described by Paul in the entirety of the letters.

Getting to the Heart, Part 5

By Mike Kelsey, Campus Pastor @MBCSilverSpring

The Heart Is Always Trusting Something
In addition to our desires, we are also motivated by our beliefs. In fact, our beliefs usually dictate how we handle our desires. This is clearly seen in the account of the Fall in Genesis 3. Eve desired the nourishment, beauty and divine wisdom that would come from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:6). But she didn’t eat it until she believed the serpent’s proposal to be more reliable than God’s promises (Genesis 3:1-5).

The same dynamic is at work in our hearts. Our minds are filled with thoughts that have been accumulated from and influenced by different sources: media we’ve consumed, advice we’ve received, stories we’ve heard, classes we’ve taken, experiences we’ve had, sermons we’ve listened to, etc. In the midst of these swirling thoughts is a constant battle for our hearts—a battle for what we will believe, a battle for who or what we will ultimately trust.

This battle is so important to understand because the biblical picture is one in which we are much more vulnerable and susceptible to deception than we often realize.

Deception is Satan’s primary strategy for influencing us (Genesis 3:13; John 8:44).
Deception is Satan’s primary strategy for influencing us (Genesis 3:13; John 8:44).The supposed “wisdom” of people around us can deceive us (Ephesians 4:14). And, because of our sin nature, even our own hearts and desires can deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 4:22). Practically speaking, we need to become adept at evaluating the beliefs that drive us. Where did a belief come from, and is it true? Even if it is true, does it reflect the whole truth given in God’s Word? What do we believe about ourselves? What do we believe about the things we desire? What do we believe or fail to believe about God? As we begin to ask those questions, we will see that our behavior is an expression of what we really desire and what we really believe.

Here’s one example. A man begins drinking alcohol excessively [behavior] because he is depressed about his prolonged unemployment [circumstance]. What is happening in his heart? Well, we know that he desires a job. But his desire for a job is likely a mixture of more fundamental desires like financial security and self-worth, etc. Let’s go with his desire for financial security, which is partly a desire for peace. He doesn’t want to worry about whether he’ll be able to meet his needs. What might he believe? One possible belief is that without a job, the most reliable way to have peace is to get drunk. Is this true? No. Rather than trusting God for peace (Philippians 4:6-8) and obeying Him (Ephesians 5:18), he trusts alcohol.

God’s Word is always the most reliable source of truth. In every circumstance, God wants us to trust Him by relying on what He has revealed to be true. That means the time we spend reading, memorizing and hearing God’s Word preached is not just religious routine. Our minds need to be constantly saturated with the wonderful truths of God’s Word so that those truths become the predominate influences in our hearts.

Fighting The Darkness with The Light

By Angel Turbeville, Director of Small Groups @MBCBethesda

As I look around at the world we live in, some days it feels like it is totally falling apart. One of the most devastating losses is death due to suicide. Can there be enough hope to break through to those souls struggling to hold onto life itself? I believe there is. I think the church needs to understand a little more, and I hope taking my mask off might help. Depression and the overwhelming darkness and despair that it brings strikes those who claim their salvation in God, just as hard, maybe even harder, as those who do not profess faith in Christ. I know that many in the church want to help, but they do not understand the complexity of how to be in transformational community with those who battle depression. Here’s my take from a heart that knows.

In many ways, I believe the battlefield of the physical darkness of the mind, is compounded for the Christian. Satan knows that if he can make us lose hope, we are rendered powerless from God’s kingdom. Depression is not foreign to me. I have watched many I love battle and even more devastating, stop fighting. I battle. I am a believer. I KNOW Christ. I know His love. I know the power of the cross. I minister to others. I share His hope. I speak truth even on the days when my heart is dark with despair. In the past, I’ve battled waves of anxiety and panic attacks. Thankfully, those have lessened. Because of the devastating depth of how broken my heart is, my past has even included begging God to take me to heaven. I’ve let a few close to me know the level of my pain, but for the most part, I’ve painted on the face I know I’m supposed to have and soldier on. Healing has occurred, but I still have days/weeks of struggles. In those times, eventually God’s light does break through. I’ll go from a heavy cloud of oppression to a realization of the hope that is at work within me. However, despite my constant prayer, God has not totally healed me.

God, in His gentle sovereign way, has taught me how to fight this darkness. I have taken practical steps—I have been in counseling for six years. I have tried medication, but unfortunately for me, aside from helping me through crisis points, this has not been a good ongoing solution. I know the battle is easier if I manage my diet, exercise and sleep. I try to do that.

Spiritual transformation has happened in the light of community. The few who know my battle are the dear friends who consistently love me through the dark. In the past couple of years the most healing has happened because of those within the church that I have been able to trust. They are the ones who persist. They know my patterns. They recognize when I am going into hiding or not being honest about my heart. They call me out. They sit in the despair with me and pray. They check in with me, text me verses, email me and are not afraid of my dark. Some of them have their own struggle and those who know deep pain have been able to penetrate to places that others can’t. However, the friends that most amaze me are those who don’t share this or a similar battle, but still schlep into the dark completely relying on God to navigate the right words or actions.

What are some practical actions you can take if you have people in your life who are battling depression, or for that matter, any pain that you have no idea how to relate to?

1. Be there
Be a consistent presence in their lives. This does not mean lecturing them on how to change their thoughts or refocusing them on “positive” thinking. It does mean pointing them to Scripture that affirms the despair of their hearts. Wrestling through where they are with God and praying with them and for them. My deepest “knowing God” moments have been the times when I have been able to apply the truth of His character to the depravity of my heart.

2. Persevere
In the worst times of despair, we disconnect. The pain drives us into hiding because “no one understands.” We believe many lies including that we are “totally alone” and “no one cares.” Even as believers, these thought patterns creep in. Outside of crisis points, have honest conversations to find out what is helpful when this level of despair hits. Open yourself up to be available via text or phone—anytime day or night. Does this level of care scare you? It shouldn’t. For the believer who is truly battling and seeking God’s work of redemption in their lives, this will not turn into co-dependence. It will be a mark of authentic community and the bearing up of one another’s burdens.

3. Be willing to ask the hard questions 
Understand specifically the trigger points that ignite moments of despair. For those you are in close community with, make sure they are keeping safeguards in place to manage their reactions.

4. Affirm and love
At our deepest levels, God created us for intimate relationship. We need to be free to let go of shame and be embraced by love. Shame comes with this struggle. Satan is whispering the lies of “where is your God right now?”, “you are serving Him and ministering to others, look at the fraud you are right now” and any other lie he can think of in attempt to disable God’s redemptive work. Do not add to the shame with a spirit of condemnation. Identify the lies and answer them with Truth from God’s Word.

5. Pray and rely on the Holy Spirit
Those who deeply struggle with depression and mental illness have needs and thirsts that are insatiable. We can only be redeemed through His Living Water. Our community must be built with those who will not retreat in hurt, but will strive to understand and love through the power of the cross.

6. Recognize when practical help is needed in addition to spiritual
For those who battle this deeply, there is a need for professional counseling and other resources. However, even in those cases, the five points above STILL apply. A counselor is not community for the Christian.

The body of Christ MUST take steps to understand how to engage with one another so that we are living the Gospel victoriously. 1 Thessalonians 5 is a beautiful picture of what the church should be doing. We need to realize that we have not been lost in the darkness of this world, and we need to encourage each other to live as children of light. In vs. 14 the command is given to comfort the “feebleminded”. The word actually means “small-souled” and in context indicates one who is despondent. Are we in close enough community with each other to know the size of our souls? Are our lives prioritized around our agendas or knowing and loving others in a way that is transformational and exhibits a taste of the love we have received through Christ on the cross. Let’s get there. Let’s be patient, know each other at the soul-level, and love deeply as Christ has loved us. Simple statements that call for bold living.

Truth Literally Saved My Life

By Stephanie Green, MBC Staff Applications Analyst & MBC Tysons Attendee

In a recent discussion with a close friend, I realized why I get so concerned about “relational sanctification” (as I would label it). I’ve found that relationships I’m in now can have a way of resurrecting the past, and all of the hurts that have been hiding under its webs. Previously in my life, these flashbacks have been so painful that I didn’t know how to deal with or face the reality of the hurt. For example, in high school, after being stood up on the day of my boyfriend’s prom, I began cutting. Several years later, while in a disastrous relationship with a college boyfriend, I tried to take my life.

These acts of brokenness were fueled by my deeply rooted insecurities. My dad left me waiting a lot, and my mom made me believe that God was going to send a replacement father who wouldn’t abandon me. I was raised by three orphans, two of whom had deep fears of abandonment. My own fears of relational pain and abandonment grew deeper, and my ability to trust faded away.

God is Different
God is faithful to keep His promises and says in His Word that He will never leave me nor forsake me. I’ve been to Christian therapy, and it has helped greatly, but there is nothing else on this earth (or beyond) that can fulfill the promise of God’s eternal love. When I first heard that God’s love was unconditional and everlasting, I was drawn to this message of hope.

Prior to committing my life to the Lord, I heard truth from His Word, but it wasn’t until my last suicide attempt (shortly after leaving college) that I surrendered my life completely to God. I didn’t feel comfortable trusting or believing anyone at that point, but I knew I needed help and prayed: “God if you are real, please help me.”

God Heard Me
He did help me. God brought me away from all that I clung to in order to teach me to trust and know Him as my Heavenly Father.

I wasted a lot of time focusing on Satan’s lies such as “you’re not good enough,” “you have no value or purpose,” etc. But I was literally rescued by Truth. If I breathed my last breath today, and I had to give my final words of advice, with no doubt I would say: “Cling to the Truth of His Word—God is faithful. Believe in the Lord Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He literally saved my life.”

The Truth Will Save You, Too
Not all of us have traumatic life stories, but we all face the same battle of believing lies from Satan and being deceived. Fight strong, not by trying to control circumstance but by clinging to Truth—God’s amazing truth found in His Word.

If you or someone you know is struggling with similar emotional pain and would like to speak with someone, please call The MBC Counseling Center at 703-770-8670 or the reception desk at McLean Bible Church at 703-639-2000 and ask to speak to the “Staff of the Day,” Mondays-Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm.

Military Operation Kindness Ministry Update

Wayne Fujito, Volunteer Director, Military Operation Kindness Ministry

Dear Members of the MBC at Tysons, Prince William, Loudoun and Bethesda Campuses,

On behalf of the Military Operation Kindness Ministry (OKM) at Tysons Campus, please accept our heartfelt thanks for your very kind and generous responses to the Independence Day Weekend flag campaign for OKM donations and the campus weekend church bulletins which included the Cards for Troops that were either inserted or distributed with the bulletin during 28-29 June.

As a result, during the four weekends in July, we collected an estimated >5,000 lbs of spiritual books, magazines, CD/DVDs, toiletries, snacks, sports equipment and other needed personal items. This translates into approximately 150 boxes for our deployed military members. Additionally, we estimate that at least 4,000 completed Cards for our Troops were collected from all campuses. We are also deeply grateful for the cash/check donations that were made in support of our OKM efforts.

Please pray for our military service members who are deployed worldwide, especially those in Afghanistan who are serving under extremely difficult conditions.

With heartfelt gratitude and in His Service,

Wayne Fujito
Volunteer Director, Military OKM

To learn more about the Military Operation Kindness Ministry, click here or email outreach@mcleanbible.org. Join us on the second Tuesday of each month to pack boxes in the Rock from 7-8 pm.