Dr. Matt Miller is the acting director of the VA suicide prevention program.
I heard him speak in Lawrence on Friday and he told some of the back story that lead him to where he is.
He began his working career as an Air Force Psychologist…he was assigned to a base that trained pilots from all the branches.
He became best friends with two Marine Pilots…for three years they were together constantly…working together, families interacting, hanging out.
One of his friends…John was like Kramer from Seinfeld…he would come into Dr. Miller’s office anytime…bust in and begin to share what was on his mind…they were really close.
One day Dr. Miller was told that John had committed suicide.
Miller had believed they had shared their lives honestly…but he was completely taken by surprise.
It so shook Miller that he left the Air Force and the mental health profession and began to sell shoes for a living.
He felt like a failure…he couldn’t even help his own closest friend…who was he kidding thinking he could help other people.
Selling shoes is an honorable profession…but he was hiding and he knew it.
After three years he had a profound moment where he knew he needed to go back to helping people using his training and calling.
Fast forward and as of this summer he is the lead in the nation on Veteran suicide prevention.
He has, through his work…been a part of saving many lives.
I shared his story to demonstrate a tension.
This man of great skill and education could not save his closest friend…he couldn’t even see what his friend would not let him see.
Yet his efforts to help people…have been very effective…profound
The tension is…we cannot save people, we cannot change people…we can only do what we can do to help people as we have opportunity.
We must not believe that our efforts alone are enough for others…and we must not believe that our efforts are of no effect, that they don’t matter.
Either of those extremes are “stinking thinking”
Our minds long for simplicity…but over simplifying is often not reality.
We tend towards “Which is it” or “either or” scenarios…but life is often…both/and
We need to hold important tensions in order to thrive in the world as it is.
Tension here is: we cannot change people and we can profoundly help people change.
Year: Confidence in God’s word to speak with authority in all the important aspects of our lives.
Month: Loving God with our entire beings…particularly our minds.
Matt. 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Biblical anthropology (theology of humanity): Demonstrates that Heart, soul, mind are not exclusive but overlapping aspects of who we are as humans.
We have looked this month at loving God with our minds…because faith is often seen as opposed to good thinking…of course it is not.
We don’t throw away our minds to follow God in faith…we must fully bring them along with us.
What Jesus is saying here is that we are to love God with the totality of our beings…we can’t really parse out…heart, soul, mind separately.
The point of tying the three together and at other times Jesus added a fourth…”Strength”… is so we will feel the impact of loving God with all that makes us, us.
Full life commitment.
Jesus said “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The entire Bible is suspended from these two commands.
Frequently, in action movies, people of average strength will hang by one arm…then sometimes hold someone else up who is also hanging by one arm.
-Have you ever tried to hang by one arm? How about holding another person while doing so?
But Jesus said…the Bible hangs by these two arms…and in Mark we find they are really just one arm…Love God/Love people.
It is one mighty arm from which the Bible hangs.
Love for others, flows from love for God.
Love for God is seen most readily in love for others.
All of the Bible’s commands hang on these because they all have to do with loving God and loving others.
So let’s finish this month, this sub-series with a look at:
Our need for one another in order to think and live well…to love God with our heart, soul, mind.
There is, as the idiom goes…”The rub.”
The phrase “there’s the rub” refers to a situation where two things are “rubbing against each other” causing seemingly unsolvable situations.
“All I need to get my car back is pay the fine but there’s the rub…my wallet is in my car.”
“I need to trust people to think correctly but there’s the rub…trusting people requires thinking correctly.”
*We tend to get advice when we are not sure of what to think or do.
*We tend to listen to people when are not emotionally attached to a feeling or decision.
We tend to share what we feel is safe to share…even its not all we should share.
But the rub is…when we are confident, when we are emotionally attached…we have secrets…we most need input from others…and we are least likely to get it or it or take it.
I have had two times in recent years where I heard what I wanted to hear from God regarding some life circumstances.…it reminded me of my propensity to hear what I really want to hear rather.
To live in truth requires regular, honest input from others…we have to go after it…make it easy for people to give it to us.
I’m going to break out an old illustration to help us think about community and right thinking.
It’s one that I have used for many years and I still find it helpful…so we will stick with it.
White wall/Black wall
White wall/Black wall is a word picture=It describes the importance of not trusting yourself completely when your closest friends see things differently than you do.
This approach to thinking/living has a very basic and important presupposition.
“I have to be living in committed community for it to work.”
“I have to trust my community…when I most need to trust them
We are going to read from God’s word, Hebrews 3:7-19
First let’s look at some background to help us focus in.
The writer of Hebrews is warning Christians to not make the mistakes their spiritual ancestors, Israel, made during the Exodus.
Namely…to not turn away from God into disbelief.
Back in January we looked at Exodus…quick reminder.
Genesis ended with the Abraham’s lineage in Egypt under the protection of a grateful King.
Grateful because Joseph had helped save the Egyptian nation.
Exodus begins with the people still living in Egypt many years later under a king who now saw Israel as a threat…so they had become slaves instead of guests or citizens in the land.
God raised up Moses to deliver the people…through a series of God-powered events the people were sent on their way to the land of promise.
On the way they continually fell into disbelief…they believed their minds and eyes…not God.
The most catastrophic failure of belief was when they refused to enter the land of promise…they put their full confidence in their fear not their faith.
This cost all the adults their opportunity to enter into the land of God’s rest/promise.
With that background let’s read Hebrews 3:7-19 and look at God’s provision for us to consistently win this fight against stinking thinking and hard hearts and their devastating consequences in our lives.
Heb. 3:7-19 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
I want to give three points regarding the Protective factors of a life lived in Community…first an illustration to help drive home the points.
-You have “seen” my hands since I began…but it is unlikely you thought about them until just now
-However if you had come in and one of my hands was on a table up front…you would have had many thoughts about it…traumatic thoughts, thoughts of injury, crime, thoughts of my well-being.
Even my words about this…can be alarmingly…they can create mental images that are distressing…a disembodied, detached hand is a terrible thought.
When hands are attached to a body…it’s normal, functional, not newsworthy.
A hand unattached to my body it is not normal, not functional…not healthy.
WE are designed by God to live and thrive in community…we are not made to live solo any more than a hand can live without the rest of the body.
The Bible could not be clearer on this…but even if you have doubts about the Bible…don’t doubt this.
Everywhere I go in secular training situations…places that don’t mention the Scripture or the gospel…I hear over and over…the fact that connectedness…committed relationships are the number one protective factor for human thriving and living.
The world has stumbled upon what Christians have long known…or should have known.
They call the results of research and field testing…”Evidence based practices”…because these are not just theories…they have been field tested with real results.
*So Evidence is clear…living connected is essential for human thriving.
The new state-wide suicide prevention initiative is called “Live Connected Kansas”
Why…because human connection…without dispute is essential for human life and thriving.
To our points of application from this passage:
A personal challenge: “see to it” that you stay encouraged in your faith (guard your own thinking)
A relational commitment: “encourage one another” (towards right thinking)
A specific content: “encourage one another toward confidence in God”
Let’s zero in on verses 12,13.
See to it, brothers(and sisters), that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
- A Challenge: Take responsibility for your own heart and mind
Take care to…see to it…make it your responsibility.
“What a minute…isn’t it God’s job to make sure I don’t turn away?”
“What about committed community…isn’t it someone’s responsibility to make sure I don’t struggle or fall away?”
The Marine Pilot I mentioned died by his own hand…in the middle of deep friendships…and a good marriage.
-So happens I’ve met his wife last winter…he held his cards close…but he didn’t have to.
God is faithful to us and we will talk in a minute about our responsibility for one another in a moment…but the starting point is for each of us to “see to it…that we do not become hard headed and hearted.”
The key assumption here is that we actually can “see to it” that our hearts don’t have to turn away in disbelief.
There are no factors outside our control that keep us from taking responsibility for our own hearts.
Remember: heart is not emotion but the thinking, choosing us.
The command posts of our lives.
The important point here is that I must see myself as an image bearer of God…sinful but able and responsible to do all I can to see to it that my heart remains oriented to God.
Guarding our hearts, keeping our minds oriented in belief to God is right column not left column.
This fact should inspire hope and courage not guilt.
Some might focus on guilt…”So…It’s my fault if I fall away from God…or if I begin to live in disbelief not faith?”
Yes…in fact it is…if you are looking to place blame…the blame is ours.
James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
But what this also means is that I do not have to fall away…I can choose otherwise.
I can find reason to feel bad…when I choose to fall into disbelief (any sin is an act of disbelief)
I can also find reason to hope…I can believe…I can live by faith.
There are no factors outside your control that can move you away from God…God is all for you believing him.
1 Cor. 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
I am responsible for my sin…but I am no longer captive to it either.
“But Terry I still continue to sin”
Yes, and there is ongoing forgiveness when we do…but you do not have to continue to sin…there is power to live otherwise.
*If I go into a battle believing I do not have control over the outcome of the battle…how much energy and effort do you think I will really give to winning the battle?
*Many times we believe we are supposed to “try hard”…but we all know…nothing will change…but “hey…at least you tried.”
*We walk into battle not expectant that victory is in Jesus…but that we are going to get beaten…again.
This is stinking thinking.
We can and we must have confidence that our choices matter…and we must not look to others to do for us what we should take responsibility for ourselves.
*Continue to work out your salvation Paul said…not work for but work out…collaborate with God.
In community…you cannot expect and demand that others encourage you and meet your needs…you must not blame others when you fail to think and live by faith.
This kind of stinking thinking is so destructive…it is what we try to help children grow out of…demanding and blaming.
In the world of human psychology it is called an “external locus of control”…seeing all of life as being someone else’s responsibility or fault.
In Biological and church families…this demand and blame mentality is absolutely devastating in its impact on personal and interpersonal growth.
This mindset will keep you perpetually offended…feeling like others are not doing enough.
It kills gratitude…when people do offer love and support (they were supposed to anyway)…and it wasn’t the right kind or the right way.
It kills initiative…for obvious reasons…others are supposed to do for me…why should I try.
So…see to it…that you guard your own heart.
You…not others…are responsible for your heart/mind
When you find yourself thinking “They didn’t help me enough, they didn’t serve me when I needed it, my friends, family, community failed me.”
Stop…move towards grown-up spiritual thinking
You can be mature and have those kinds of thoughts pop in your mind…but we cannot keep these thoughts or believe them if we are to move into maturity.
- A Commitment: Take responsibility for the hearts, minds, and lives of others
“Encourage one another daily”
It may seem like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth…”I thought you just gave the story of the Physiologist who couldn’t help his friend…now you are saying I should take responsibility for others.”
Remember the tension…Paul said we should pay all debts except the debt to love one another…we will always owe each other love.
I am not able to save people…I can’t change people…I am responsible to love them and invest in them as God gives me opportunity.
When Cain killed his brother Abel out of spiritual jealousy God asked Cain…”Where is your brother?” (Of course God knew…it was for Cain chance to confess and repent…he didn’t)
Instead Cain said “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Word=shamar “guard, protector”
“Yes in fact you are”…we are not our brother or sister’s savior…but we are each other’s keeper.
*Dose of healthy thinking
-I am responsible for my own encouragement…I must seek it out…not blame others for my own failures.
– I am responsible to encourage others…I will seek them out to help them succeed.
“What a minute…I’m to take responsibility for me…and others? Who is looking out for me?”
*Think about this…healthy thinking is what we are after
-I’m responsible for me…and I am to look out for you (not demanding you look out for me)
-You do the same
-What happens between us?
Phil 2 happens.
Phil 2 (put the interests of others ahead of your own)… works really well in the body of Christ or in marriages are any relationship when both people apply it to themselves.
-If I put your interests ahead of mine, you put mine ahead of yours…works really well.
See to it that you don’t allow your heart (mind) to move into unbelief…the key strategy in this passage for “seeing to it” is to encourage one another.
*Encourage: exhort: parakaleo…strong word of challenge, exhortation to stay on track, get back on track…walk the good path.
*Regularly “As long as it is called today”
-Strange phrase…but it means until the “final day”…so this need will be ongoing, not occasional…we all need this constantly…GET USED TO IT.
Like eating, sleeping, breathing are necessary for physical life…mutual encouragement is necessary for spiritual life.
We need each other for this.
EMAC: Emergency mutual assistance compact
-Several years ago…after some disasters(like Katrina) became worse because of slow or ineffective response…neighboring states developed a process where help can move very quickly during a time of need.
These are called EMAC…commitments ahead of the storm to help in the storm and after
-When the storm hits, when everything is hard, flooded, burned, blown…very difficult to form the kinds of relationships needed to get through these times.
-So these EMACs are formed before the storm…and nurtured before the storms…so they can be useful during the storms…and so people recover more quickly after the storms.
*Relationships in the church that are effective in encouragement (exhortation)…staying on track and getting back on track…not being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…require trust built regularly, over time…these kinds of EMACS between people.
*You cannot reasonable demand people be there during the storm…if you have not built trust before the storm.
*We are prone to become hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…this is especially true when storms are blowing in our lives.
How is sin deceitful?
*Satan, Paul said, masquerades as an angel of light.
Angel is a word that literally means “messenger”.
In the NT that was a primary job of these Spirit Beings…to deliever messages from God to people.
Satan doesn’t deliver overtly dark messages…”Here, think this, do this…it is terrible and you will hate it and will really mess up your life in unimaginable ways.”
He comes in a costume dressed up like a bearer of good news…a messenger of light.
But he lies…sin is deceitful.
Our weapons are powerful in this fight…truth is…lies cannot stand against the truth if they go toe to toe…truth is so much more powerful.
Like a tank against a slingshot
So sin (Satan) uses the methods of an insurgent (he’s outmatched)…blend in, don’t look like a threat, look good, friendly…then destroy from within.
Last week we looked “taking thoughts captive to Christ”
Sin in our behavior begins with sin in our thinking…it is subtle in its deceit.
We begin to believe what we think and we accept uncritically…attitudes, feelings, thoughts, actions…that are not good…not the path to thriving.
What is the solution offered here in this passage ?
Encourage one another…so that you won’t be hardened (to the truth) by the deceit of sin.
So…I am and you are to “see to it” that our hearts are not hardened (minds not fooled)…and we are to see to it by intentionally and regularly exhorting one another back to the truth.
Our third, final point…shows that this exhortation or encouragement has specific content.
- The Content of our encouragement is “to believe God”
There are many ways to encourage people and wisdom knows the right thing to say or not to say at the right time.
But at the bottom of all transformational encouragement is “Believe God”
Because all stinking thinking is based on “Believe self”…”God cannot be trusted here.”
On the night Jesus was betrayed…he was with his friends, training them to the last minute.
Judas had already left the house to betray Jesus…the disciples had no idea what was coming their way…he said…
John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
Trust me…was Jesus’ most essential and basic encouragement.
It covers all circumstances.
Tempted to sin…trust Jesus (his way is better)
Dealing with doubt…trust Jesus (he is alive and faithful)
Struggling with pain…trust Jesus (he will not leave or forsake you)
I am not advocating for literally telling your friends “Trust Jesus” and nothing else.
-Though at times that may be the exact right words to say.
I am saying that in principle…this is the core content of our encouragement.
We want to continually direct one another towards faith…believe God…believe Jesus.
The encouragement, or exhortation we offer one another is specific.
Not just “do better, think better”…but believe God
A personal challenge: “see to it”
A relational commitment: “encourage one another”
A specific content for our encouragement: “encourage one another toward confidence in God”
Love God with your entire beings…heart, soul, strength…minds.
1Cor. 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1Cor. 11:27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.