Taking the Initiative Against Despair

February 18th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Rise, let us be going. —Matthew 26:46

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples went to sleep when they should have stayed awake, and once they realized what they had done it produced despair. The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, “Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.” If we think this kind of despair is an exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience. Whenever we realize we have not taken advantage of a magnificent opportunity, we are apt to sink into despair. But Jesus comes and lovingly says to us, in essence, “Sleep on now. That opportunity is lost forever and you can’t change that. But get up, and let’s go on to the next thing.” In other words, let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples, in this instance, had done a downright unthinkable thing— they had gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, “Get up, and do the next thing.” If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step.

Journal DJR
Good Morning Lord, The last three days entries fit together well – and bring a necessary message to humans like me who blow it, and get depressed or despair from time to time. “Let the failures go into the grace of the past. Don’t beat yourself up. And get up and do the next thing…probably a simple thing, but make sure it is the inspired thing, instead of my own self help thing.” This is good advice and good news, but it seems difficult to implement consistently. At least in my experience. Am I missing something?
As usual, the companion or counterpoint devotional that JD and I are reading this year gives a valuable perspective. This week’s summary of Centering Prayer gives some tools and perspective on how we can walk more consistently… out of despair, out of depression, and on to the next thing, inspired thru our connection with you. Here’s a link for those interested.

http://email.cac.org/t/ViewEmail/d/D65F57DDC0BDE329/09AC516D97B73F6DF6A1C87C670A6B9F

Thank you Lord for the juxtaposition of both daily devotionals. It is providing an “iron sharpening iron” effect when we mix both of their inputs plus our own and (hopefully) your overriding input. The message that boils down out of it all is amazingly consistent. And is leading us ever more toward a simple, and as Dietrich Bonnhoeffer called for, “a religionless Christianity” One where we simply surrender our will, ego, Big Four needs to look good, feel good, be right and be in control, and through Connection with You, we can stay Curious, see what you are saying to us, and just live out of that. With this type of living, the only thing worth striving for is maintaining our connection with you. And that striving isn’t really striving. It’s more like releasing, letting go, self emptying and falling into it. Sometimes, like this week, one devotional provides a “what” and the other fills in the “how.” Thank you for your love and grace. We couldn’t make it without you.

Taking the Initiative Against Depression

February 17th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Arise and eat. —1 Kings 19:5

The angel in this passage did not give Elijah a vision, or explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable. He simply told Elijah to do a very ordinary thing, that is, to get up and eat. If we were never depressed, we would not be alive— only material things don’t suffer depression. If human beings were not capable of depression, we would have no capacity for happiness and exaltation. There are things in life that are designed to depress us; for example, things that are associated with death. Whenever you examine yourself, always take into account your capacity for depression.

When the Spirit of God comes to us, He does not give us glorious visions, but He tells us to do the most ordinary things imaginable. Depression tends to turn us away from the everyday things of God’s creation. But whenever God steps in, His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things— things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find Him there. The inspiration that comes to us in this way is an initiative against depression. But we must take the first step and do it in the inspiration of God. If, however, we do something simply to overcome our depression, we will only deepen it. But when the Spirit of God leads us instinctively to do something, the moment we do it the depression is gone. As soon as we arise and obey, we enter a higher plane of life.

The Inspiration of Spiritual Initiative

February 16th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Arise from the dead… —Ephesians 5:14


Not all initiative, the willingness to take the first step, is inspired by God. Someone may say to you, “Get up and get going! Take your reluctance by the throat and throw it overboard— just do what needs to be done!” That is what we mean by ordinary human initiative. But when the Spirit of God comes to us and says, in effect, “Get up and get going,” suddenly we find that the initiative is inspired.
We all have many dreams and aspirations when we are young, but sooner or later we realize we have no power to accomplish them.We cannot do the things we long to do, so our tendency is to think of our dreams and aspirations as dead. But God comes and says to us, “Arise from the dead….” When God sends His inspiration, it comes to us with such miraculous power that we are able to “arise from the dead” and do the impossible. The remarkable thing about spiritual initiative is that the life and power comes after we “get up and get going.” God does not give us overcoming life— He gives us life as we overcome.
When the inspiration of God comes, and He says, “Arise from the dead…,” we have to get ourselves up; God will not lift us up. Our Lord said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch out your hand” (Matthew 12:13). As soon as the man did so, his hand was healed. But he had to take the initiative. If we will take the initiative to overcome, we will find that we have the inspiration of God, because He immediately gives us the power of life.
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February 16, 2017

Journal Entry for Today-JDV

Good morning Lord and thank You for the devotional from Chambers, our lesson from Richard Rohr (guest writer Cynthia Bourgeault today https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/) and the music of Johnny Diaz. These elements together with Your Spirit offered David and me a lesson in resting….in a surrendered state as we listen for your voice. We are also thinking that just because You give us a truth or a word does not mean we run out and share it immediately. It seems You are teaching us to rest, surrender and wait for specific direction even or especially when we feel we or our ideas (or spiritual ideas) are under attack. And that it is not necessarily our roles to effect or be affected by the issues, and or polarized political or emotional storms that swirl around us. It seems that we are to “just breathe” and listen for Your voice that will provide specific direction at the right time, place and opportunity. Are we on the right track God?

And God says…”There is no polarity or dual thinking support for human interaction from the Holy Spirit. There is no “us and them” or a right way or wrong way, there is only love and the blood of Jesus shed for all mankind; that is right, all mankind. When you are in a fiery communications, and or feel you or your ideas are under attack, “just breathe”. When you feel like there is an entire group or a single loved one attacking you or what you believe to be truth, “just breathe” and remember I am love. ……if you have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, you are nothing. If you give all you possess to the poor and give over your body to hardship that you may boast, but do not have love, you gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”

“My sheep know My voice. And you can validate hearing My voice, when my words come wrapped in Love”.

 

“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”

February 15th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

None of us lives to himself… Romans 14:7

Has it ever dawned on you that you are responsible spiritually to God for other people? For instance, if I allow any turning away from God in my private life, everyone around me suffers. We “sit togetherin the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 2:6). “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with you will suffer. But you ask, “Who is sufficient to be able to live up to such a lofty standard?” “Our sufficiency is from God…” and God alone (2 Corinthians 3:5).

“You shall be witnesses to Me…” (Acts 1:8). How many of us are willing to spend every bit of our nervous, mental, moral, and spiritual energy for Jesus Christ? That is what God means when He uses the word witness. But it takes time, so be patient with yourself. Why has God left us on the earth? Is it simply to be saved and sanctified? No, it is to be at work in service to Him. Am I willing to be broken bread and poured-out wine for Him? Am I willing to be of no value to this age or this life except for one purpose and one alone— to be used to disciple men and women to the Lord Jesus Christ. My life of service to God is the way I say “thank you” to Him for His inexpressibly wonderful salvation. Remember, it is quite possible for God to set any of us aside if we refuse to be of service to Him— “…lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

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Journal DJR
Good Morning Lord, There is a recurring dissonance in the way Chambers and I see things. We actually agree on most of the end results. But our motivation is different. Whereas he emphasizes being willing to suffer and give things up and focus only on serving You and being a witness… I am hearing that if I just strive only to be with you…that whatever comes out of that, as a by-product, will be just fine. It will probably include similar serving and being a witness, but it happens as it becomes the obvious thing to do, rather than me striving to meet an objective. At least thats how it seems to me. Lord, make me simple. And Lord keep me simple. You know I have a propensity to complicate things. But as I’m getting used to simple….. I’m seeing the wisdom of it and really liking it.

Simple is good. Complex, when trying to figure out relationships, especially our relationship, will lead you off the path and will degrade the relationship. It won’t change my love for you. But it will change your experience of it. If you find that happening, find yourself feeling out of relationship… you know the way back. It’s simple. Get simple. Cast off cares, thoughts, worries, anger, analysis, and everything that holds you back from simply coming to me. Revel in my grace and our love and stay there as long as you can. It’s the only thing worth striving for…

The Discipline of Hearing

February 14th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. —Matthew 10:27


Sometimes God puts us through the experience and discipline of darkness to teach us to hear and obey Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and God puts us into “the shadow of His hand” until we learn to hear Him (Isaiah 49:2). “Whatever I tell you in the dark…” — pay attention when God puts you into darkness, and keep your mouth closed while you are there. Are you in the dark right now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? If so, then remain quiet. If you open your mouth in the dark, you will speak while in the wrong mood— darkness is the time to listen.
Don’t talk to other people about it; don’t read books to find out the reason for the darkness; just listen and obey. If you talk to other people, you cannot hear what God is saying. When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else once you are back in the light. After every time of darkness, we should experience a mixture of delight and humiliation.
If there is only delight, I question whether we have really heard God at all. We should experience delight for having heard God speak, but mostly humiliation for having taken so long to hear Him! Then we will exclaim, “How slow I have been to listen and understand what God has been telling me!” And yet God has been saying it for days and even weeks. But once you hear Him, He gives you the gift of humiliation, which brings a softness of heart— a gift that will always cause you to listen to God now.
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February 14, 2017

Journal Entry for Today-JDV

Lord, when I read Chambers tell us that we must feel humiliation for when we do not hear You, it just feels wrong. Do You really want us to feel (as the dictionary says) abased, shamed, disgraced when we discover that we have not been listening to You? Somehow that does not sit well with my spirit. In my spirit it seems like You are telling us You want us to feel exhilarated, engaged and alive when we do listen closely and really know it is You speaking. And after a while, after learning to listen very closely and to sharpen our consciousness, we learn to hear You more and more. And that action and growth and active listening becomes a reason for celebration.

And God says…”I want my children to be able to live knowing they live in my love and grace all the time. I want you to know that through the Holy Spirit, living in you, you can hear My voice, when you simply listen for it. And you learn to listen for My voice more and more as you learn to live in the surrendered and connected space. Simply take the time to listen. Knock and the door will be answered, seek and you will find. Everyone that seeks Me will find Me.”

“There is no reason to feel humiliated when you have not listened for My voice; I have given you My grace to cover your human condition. But you will wonder why you waited so long; why you sought your own counsel instead of mine, why you listened to others and not to Me. And over time, you will listen only for Me. I love you and have provided for you. Seek first the kingdom of God, which is Jesus, and I will provide everything else you need for your life, including the ability to hear My voice.”

The Devotion of Hearing

February 13th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” —1 Samuel 3:10

Just because I have listened carefully and intently to one thing from God does not mean that I will listen to everything He says. I show God my lack of love and respect for Him by the insensitivity of my heart and mind toward what He says. If I love my friend, I will instinctively understand what he wants. And Jesus said, “You are My friends…” (John 15:14). Have I disobeyed some command of my Lord’s this week? If I had realized that it was a command of Jesus, I would not have deliberately disobeyed it. But most of us show incredible disrespect to God because we don’t even hear Him. He might as well never have spoken to us.

The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God all the time through the devotion of hearing. A flower, a tree, or a servant of God may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is my attention to other things. It is not that I don’t want to hear God, but I am not devoted in the right areas of my life. I am devoted to things and even to service and my own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but I just don’t hear Him. The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant hears.” If I have not developed and nurtured this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times. At other times I become deaf to Him because my attention is to other things— things which I think I must do. This is not living the life of a child of God. Have you heard God’s voice today?

 

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Journal DJR
Good Morning Lord, As usual, some of Chambers writing today resonates with me and pulls up a “Yes!” inside… while other parts cause me to question, Am I missing something? Is he missing something? Are we on the same page? On the one hand, he shows that we are friends and clearly states the goal…

The goal of my spiritual life is such close identification with Jesus Christ that I will always hear God and know that God always hears me (see John 11:41)

My question is, “Where is the place for “commands” in a Love relationship? or even a Friend relationship? I agree with Chambers when he says, “If I love my friend, I will instinctively understand what he wants.” There doesn’t seem to be much place for commands in my relationship with my friends or my spouse and I don’t sense Commands as the way to improve our relationship either. As you know, I find the word “Suggestion” to gain more traction with with regard to behavior change than “Command”
I know it sounds strange to call them the “10 Suggestions” or that Love is the greatest suggestion. But when I think about it, I see that a suggestion from a Loving Father, who I know and want to please, does indeed motivate me more than a command from a lofty Zeus type of God who will fling lightning bolts if commands are not obeyed. I know I can never measure up to that kind of God… so after trying for a time, a few decades, I give up, breathe a sigh of relief and find that loving Father who waited on the front porch for his prodigal son to return. He had never commanded him not to leave. Although I’m sure he had suggested that it wasn’t the best idea, He had divided the inheritance as the wayward son had decided he wanted… and then he had waited. Isn’t that what you do with us? Isn’t that the kind of God that you are? You want the best for us and give us suggestions. All the time. Lord help me to hear … Like Lauren Daigle says in the song….”First”

Commands and Suggestions are merely two ways for “blind men to describe their experience of an elephant. There are other perspectives also like “Laws” as in Law of Gravity, or Law of cause and effect. They are all true and you stumble if you think your way of seeing is the only way. Realize that you are a work in process, a wounded soldier on a healing journey and use whatever is working for you right now.   Remember the prodigal son left and the prodigal son returned.  Which do you think is more important?  Most would say the returning.  But without leaving, how could he return?  And remember the older brother never left OR returned.   So learn returning.   Learn returning.   Learn it after you’ve fallen off your horse.   And learn returning during prayer when your mind wanders off.   Practice it every day.   There are many ways to get closer to me. Why do you think there are all those names of God in the Bible that you were looking at on the poster in Church yesterday. They are all true. And one will resonate strongest at a particular time. And another time it will be a different one.

Is Your Ability to See God Blinded?

February 10th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things… —Isaiah 40:26

The people of God in Isaiah’s time had blinded their minds’ ability to see God by looking on the face of idols. But Isaiah made them look up at the heavens; that is, he made them begin to use their power to think and to visualize correctly. If we are children of God, we have a tremendous treasure in nature and will realize that it is holy and sacred. We will see God reaching out to us in every wind that blows, every sunrise and sunset, every cloud in the sky, every flower that blooms, and every leaf that fades, if we will only begin to use our blinded thinking to visualize it.

The real test of spiritual focus is being able to bring your mind and thoughts under control. Is your mind focused on the face of an idol? Is the idol yourself? Is it your work? Is it your idea of what a servant should be, or maybe your experience of salvation and sanctification? If so, then your ability to see God is blinded. You will be powerless when faced with difficulties and will be forced to endure in darkness. If your power to see has been blinded, don’t look back on your own experiences, but look to God. It is God you need. Go beyond yourself and away from the faces of your idols and away from everything else that has been blinding your thinking. Wake up and accept the ridicule that Isaiah gave to his people, and deliberately turn your thoughts and your eyes to God.

One of the reasons for our sense of futility in prayer is that we have lost our power to visualize. We can no longer even imagine putting ourselves deliberately before God. It is actually more important to be broken bread and poured-out wine in the area of intercession than in our personal contact with others. The power of visualization is what God gives a saint so that he can go beyond himself and be firmly placed into relationships he never before experienced.

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Journal DJR
Good morning Lord, Recently I have been noticing you more in nature. Of course you are always there but I’ve been too busy “chasing butterflies and shiny objects”… thinking my thoughts, and feeling my feelings, simmering in my angst… just generally rotating around myself, the center of my universe. Yuck! It sounds pretty bad, when I list it all out that way. Chambers, and Isaiah call those things idols. And these idols seem just as effective at derailing my connection with You as if I were bowing down to some idol carved of stone or wood. Thru my struggles with Centering Prayer… bringing only a naked intent to connect… and fending off those idols, clamoring for center stage in my mind… I have found myself more able to see you in all of nature and all creation, and see “All things” working (Romans 8:28)

I agree with Chambers that visualization is a good gift you have given us… but only to get started. After a time, visualizing myself walking and talking with you along the shore of Galilee, or driving to Home Depot… those helpful visualizations eventually get in the way. So I come… with Naked Intent. Just to be with you. And let it look like whatever it looks like. And “see” you however you choose, Even if it’s dark. It seems like you spoke out of darkness and a cloud and in a still small voice more than booming thunder. So please help me with this. My butterflies and shiny objects are strong and don’t back off easily. I think I’ll listen to Leonard Cohen about You and Darkness one more time and see if you speak through that today…….

Are You Exhausted Spiritually?

February 9th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

The everlasting God…neither faints nor is weary. —Isaiah 40:28

Exhaustion means that our vital energies are completely worn out and spent. Spiritual exhaustion is never the result of sin, but of service. Whether or not you experience exhaustion will depend on where you get your supplies. Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep,” but He gave him nothing with which to feed them (John 21:17). The process of being made broken bread and poured-out wine means that you have to be the nourishment for other people’s souls until they learn to feed on God. They must drain you completely— to the very last drop. But be careful to replenish your supply, or you will quickly be utterly exhausted. Until others learn to draw on the life of the Lord Jesus directly, they will have to draw on His life through you. You must literally be their source of supply, until they learn to take their nourishment from God. We owe it to God to be our best for His lambs and sheep, as well as for Him.

Have you delivered yourself over to exhaustion because of the way you have been serving God? If so, then renew and rekindle your desires and affections. Examine your reasons for service. Is your source based on your own understanding or is it grounded on the redemption of Jesus Christ? Continually look back to the foundation of your love and affection and remember where your Source of power lies. You have no right to complain, “O Lord, I am so exhausted.” He saved and sanctified you to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that He is your supply. “All my springs are in you” (Psalm 87:7).

The Cost of Sanctification

February 8th, 2017 by Dave No comments »

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely… —1 Thessalonians 5:23

When we pray, asking God to sanctify us, are we prepared to measure up to what that really means? We take the word sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared to pay the cost of sanctification? The cost will be a deep restriction of all our earthly concerns, and an extensive cultivation of all our godly concerns. Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone. Are we really prepared for God to perform in us everything for which He separated us? And after He has done His work, are we then prepared to separate ourselves to God just as Jesus did? “For their sakes I sanctify Myself…” (John 17:19). The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God’s perspective. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.

Are we prepared to be caught up into the full meaning of Paul’s prayer in this verse? Are we prepared to say, “Lord, make me, a sinner saved by grace, as holy as You can”? Jesus prayed that we might be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father (see John 17:21-23). The resounding evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the unmistakable family likeness to Jesus Christ, and the freedom from everything which is not like Him. Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s work in us?

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Journal DJR
Good Morning Lord, Today, like many days, Chambers brings a mixed message. At least one that can be taken different ways. Depending on which part we focus on. Or the place we are already coming from and ready to hear. The verse says it’s God’s work to sanctify us

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely… —1 Thessalonians 5:23

So phrases like, Are we prepared to pay the cost? … to “measure up” don’t seem to fit.

I suppose the reason that I react against those phrases are the insinuation or at least my association with bootstrapping, willpower and just trying harder. Which hasn’t worked for me. Like it didn’t work for the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They were the ones who worked the formula the hardest… Went to church most, read their Bible the most, and prayed the most. So the “work hard” perspective can’t be what Paul and the Spirit are referring to. So what then? When I begin to see that Jesus has already done all the hard work, and said “It is finished” when he was done… it all begins to clear up. It seems that my job is to just get out of the way. And let the results of his completed work, work themselves out in my life. Perhaps the best definition of what gets in the way of that is my “Big Four” needs. To look good, feel good, be right and be in control. With those out of the way, there is room for your completed work to do it’s work in me. So, what then, is “my part?” And why do I seem to so easily de-rail this sanctification plan that you have for me?

You have identified 4 motivations that all humans are hard wired with. You have also correctly noted that will power will not be able to overcome them, long term. But I have overcome them. That’s what I came to show you how to do. It is at the cross that you can leave them behind. After the cross is resurrection. Not just after your last breath, but every time you come there. Remember I said, Pick up your cross DAILY. Many shy away from that, because a Cross is an instrument of death, not a pleasant thought. But a resurrection is on the other side of every cross. So as you bring those Big Four motivations to the cross, boldly know that there is a resurrection waiting for you. It is there that we will enjoy sweet communion.

Revelation 3:20 I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

And it is there that sanctification can happen easily. Like surfing a wave, where the wave provides all the power. I have provided all the power, and spent 3 years demonstrating it’s use for all humanity.

It seems so clear. Why do I fall off the surfboard so easily?

Like surfing, it takes practice. Just keep coming deeper in. You are on the right track. I will show you helpful tips along the way. That are customized and special for you… who I made like no other. But these basics we’ve been discussing are true for all humans.

Spiritual Dejection

February 7th, 2017 by JDVaughn No comments »

We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. —Luke 24:21


Every fact that the disciples stated was right, but the conclusions they drew from those facts were wrong. Anything that has even a hint of dejection spiritually is always wrong. If I am depressed or burdened, I am to blame, not God or anyone else. Dejection stems from one of two sources— I have either satisfied a lust or I have not had it satisfied. In either case, dejection is the result. Lust means “I must have it at once.” Spiritual lust causes me to demand an answer from God, instead of seeking God Himself who gives the answer. What have I been hoping or trusting God would do? Is today “the third day” and He has still not done what I expected? Am I therefore justified in being dejected and in blaming God? Whenever we insist that God should give us an answer to prayer we are off track. The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer. It is impossible to be well physically and to be dejected, because dejection is a sign of sickness. This is also true spiritually. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it.We look for visions from heaven and for earth-shaking events to see God’s power. Even the fact that we are dejected is proof that we do this. Yet we never realize that all the time God is at work in our everyday events and in the people around us. If we will only obey, and do the task that He has placed closest to us, we will see Him. One of the most amazing revelations of God comes to us when we learn that it is in the everyday things of life that we realize the magnificent deity of Jesus Christ.