Eating Teeth and Camels

It’s an old story.  There’s nothing new to say about the narrative of Matthew 8. Jesus healed a leper. Then he healed a Gentile. After that he opened shop at Peter’s house healing all sorts of illnesses and diseases. Big crowds started to follow without giving much thought as to what they were getting into. So the “Son of Man” informed everyone that he was homeless. If anyone in the crowd could handle that sort of life they were welcome to join. More than that, Jesus said it was necessary for people to reevaluate things. Family would have to take a back seat to life in the kingdom. Let the dead bury the dead and that sort of thing. Momentary silence. Then chaos. The ground no doubt rumbled under the feet of people scampering as if Godzilla had just stepped out of the sea.

And then there were 12. Maybe a few dozen more.

When God comes to earth and brings the kingdom with him he’s not playing around. He invites faith of the sort that breeds commitment . The lowest of the low, lepers and Gentiles, demon possessed and the blind, are invited in with the expectation that they follow Jesus. The Gentile (vs. 10ff) seemed to have more faith than all the others, prompting Jesus to say that people would come from everywhere to be part of the kingdom of God, but the comfortable “God-followers” who inherited religion as if it could be passed down like property, the sons of the kingdom, were going to find themselves in outer darkness.

Inheriting faith is eating a placebo. Whatever it is it isn’t real. It simply isn’t possible. Growing up in “the church” can be as much a hindrance as a help. If that offends you take another listen to Jesus. The great crowd of Jews tagging along with Jesus thought they were going to dinner with the giants; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They assumed they were in by virtue of genetics. However, they groveled in the dark, eating their own teeth and drinking their own tears.

When push comes to shove a call to commitment separates the sheep from the goats. Over and over again, the results were shocking in the context of Jesus’ ministry. An inherited “faith” is a hand-me-down rag, a bag smoothering the head of people who dare not think for themselves, think justice means judging, think grace is something you say before dinner, think love is a noun, can’t seriously and honestly consider an opposing view point, gnaw on camels covered in gnats, run to church service and away from the helpless and harassed, all while smiling, contributing, singing but unwilling to become homeless, unwilling to adjust precious priorities.

And their crowd validates their “reality.”

Before we put on our tuxedos and crash a party where we think we can get a meal with Abraham it might be a good idea to stand at the sea shore with the master and hear his call and count the cost so that we know what to expect next. That’s reality.

Ben Overby

What a gripping question…

“How can I begin anything new with all yesterday in me?” Leonard Cohen.

I think “yesterday” destroys the truth about now. It tells the lie that what we’ve done is who we are. Doing and being are not the same thing. Jesus doesn’t evaporate our doing but he does remake our being so that all the “yesterday” in us becomes the platform for grace. We embrace grace because of yesterday and as a result we trust it for today. There are always some church people who live yesterday rather now. They believe that sinners are human doings not human beings. Only when they’ve been touched by grace will they understand that the answer to Cohen’s question is that we begin something new when we are made new. There is no limit to Jesus’ willingness to give us a makeover–a mulligan. So, if you choose to swim in the wake of a sinner’s yesterday you’ll miss the boat.

I am.
I’m not was.

Ben Overby

Bury Alive the Enemy Within

Sometimes we are our own worse enemy. We can attack ourselves with an inner dialogue that seems to have a life of its own. It can pierce our hearts, drag us down, keep us wallowing in the pain of the past, cripple our attempts to move forward, inflame our hearts with hatred for wrongs done to us, demand justice they may never materialize in our lifetime, and rob us of love, joy, and peace.


Clive Baker “Despair” oil on canvas, 2007

Your life may be a piece of cake. Great. But a lot of us suffer in this way and some of us suffer a lot. The psalms are a wonderful means of engaging God and putting words to our struggle.

I can’t pray some of the psalms. The ones that petition God to crush our enemies are impossible to utter as a weapon aimed at enemies. Part of me wants to embrace the petition of the imprecatory psalms, but the better part of me refuses to hate enemies. With one exception…

The one enemy that I freely curse is the enemy within–that relentless, Satan-sent voice that yearns for my demise. Again, not everyone fights negative self-talk, but a lot of us do. If this doesn’t fit your experience, may God continue to give you that grace.

So, when I read a psalm calling for the enemy’s calamity, I can insert myself into the prayer. Listen to this from Psalm 55.

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God,
    and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy!
Attend to me, and answer me;
    I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
because of the noise of the enemy,
    because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
    and in anger they bear a grudge against me.

My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
    and horror overwhelms me.

When we become our own enemy its because of “the noise” the “oppression” the “anger and grudge” generated in our own head.

12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
    then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
    then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.
15 Let death steal over them;
    let them go down to Sheol alive;
    for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.

We can remember a time when we were our own friend. Maybe it was childhood. However, for those of us who experience this, our own voice begins to taunt us, to deal insolently with us.

We want to run. As studies show the quest to eliminate the pain is fundamental to suicide. We can convince ourselves that the best option is to kill ourselves.

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
    I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah
I would hurry to find a shelter
    from the raging wind and tempest.”

The silence of non-existence can be tempting, an apparent shelter as seen through the eyes of the one who has fallen into delusion as a result of constant brain-thumping despair. It gives false hope and is always tragic, an ultimate refusal to trust God who is always able to save us from our enemies.

The love Jesus teaches us to have for ourselves is a grace we find when we enjoy “sweet counsel in God’s presence,” by His grace. In prayer, in pursuit of God (or His pursuit of us) we ask that the negative voice dies, is “buried alive,” never to rise again! We can turn all the force of the imprecatory psalms against the enemy within. In the end we hear another voice, the voice of hope:

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

Ben Overby

Our Only Debt

owe money

image sodahead.com

Representing God through the church isn’t easy. It is not simple. Romans 12-13 paints a picture of the possible. It touches on the whole human in all dimensions—body, spirit, and mind. Jesus doesn’t want part of us. We owe him everything just as we owe each other love (Ro. 13.14). And Paul sums up the whole law—and no doubt all that he instructs in the Roman letter, just as Jesus did, with the principle that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In the same part of the letter Paul informs that we are to pay taxes. Why? He says because we owe them. The old saying goes, “Only two things are certain in life—death and taxes.”

What if we could add a third thing? Death, taxes, and love. We can’t escape death. We owe it. We better not avoid taxes. We owe them. But loving our neighbor? Often we have empty pockets which is a bad state to be in considering the fact that we owe other.

Death isn’t an option. Taxes aren’t optional. Why is it that we treat love as if we can take it or leave it? Since the command is directed at the church it is in the church this debt can often go unpaid and be most obvious. If your neighbor was your creditor would your payment of love result in his riches or poverty? Aren’t we all guilty at times of being late on our payment or refusing to give certain people what we owe them (love).empty pockets

The church can be a bankrupt entity filled with impoverished relationships. We know when we are resented. We aren’t so blind that we can’t see someone walk the other way or ignore us. When that happens I forget that I still owe love. I resent the resenter and ignore those who ignore me. And that doesn’t honor God. That’s what Paul is getting at. We behave naturally while we are called to step into a supernatural sort of life.

And then there is the problem of the bad check. Some people appear to be paying their debt of love but it is only an empty payment. When backs are turned out come the daggers. It is part of the church’s (in general) reputation whether there’s anything to it or not.

How do we change things, ourselves, the church? Paul points to the future. Our salvation is nearer now than when we started. We are enjoying present salvation but waiting for its fullness and unimaginable glory. We pull from the future our fuel for the present. Otherwise lets just eat, drink, and be merry.

Paul didn’t give us a moral philosophy or legalistic code. He’s given us a collective calling and spelled out the specifics. By all accounts church life isn’t easy. The church breathes love and suffocates without it. It isn’t simple. But it is possible.

Ben Overby

Can God Be Trusted?

In the letter to the Romans, Paul is relentless in insisting that God is righteous. He can be trusted.

Can we trust God? That question had become a problem for the Jews. They wondered what had gone wrong with the promise that Israel would be vindicated, shown to be God’s true people when, in fact, the door had been flung open to the Gentiles. The Jews were not special after all. God loved everyone the same. Shades of the prodigal son, right?

Today our faith says much about our trust in God. If we really trust Him, truly believe that He will do everything He’s promised, then we have grounds for faith. How can we increase our faith? How do we know we can trust Him?

Ben Overby

Old Article/Wineskins

Transformed Into The Image of the…….Church (Jan-Feb 2010)

By Ben Overby

I must confess that I’m part of a growing number of Christ-followers exhausted by the powerlessness of our churches to both articulate the real goal of humanity and provide practical guidance toward that end. And when I say I’m exhausted, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not a virtuous man. That is to say, I’m not a good man. However, the one thing I want more than any other is to be good, to have the dispositions described by Jesus. I don’t mean that I want merely to be able to keep commandments. An old fashioned stoning can coerce people to comply. No, I want to keep the commandments because I want to keep the commandments. I want to do the right thing and want to want to do the right thing. And that’s the virtue taught by Aristotle and in an even superior manner taught and lived by Jesus. After all, it was Jesus who said we didn’t have a shot at the kingdom of heaven unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the most righteous people of his day—the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus insisted that it wasn’t enough to do the right thing. To be good people, to be filled with His joy, he insisted that our will had to be completely changed, retrained, or recreated.

“Now to be sure, if anything else is a gift of the Gods to men, it is probable that Happiness is a gift of theirs too, and specially because of all human goods it is the highest. But this, it may be, is a question belonging more properly to an investigation different from ours: and it is quite clear, that on the supposition of its not being sent from the Gods direct, but coming to us by reason of virtue and learning of a certain kind, or discipline, it is yet one of the most Godlike things; because the prize and End of virtue is manifestly somewhat most excellent, nay divine and blessed.” Aristotle, Ethics, Book 1, ch. 9

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus, The Gospel of John, ch. 15.

Aristotle discovered and articulated much reality. He lived 350 years before Jesus (ok, well, no one really ever lived “before” Jesus). Student of Plato and tutor of Alexander the Great, Aristotle knew something about reality.

I’ve become less and less a theoretical person and more and more a practical person. And, like most everyone else, one of my primary concerns is that I become a good person. Aristotle writes about becoming good, not theoretically but practically, noting, “But most people do not do these, but take refuge in theory and think they are being philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.” Ibid, Book 2, ch. 4.

Everyone that I know wants to be good, though the meaning of good varies greatly from person to person. Aristotle believed that the good life is the life well-lived, a life in which a person is happy. By happiness he meant a deep sense of well-being, of wholeness within and without. And he believed the means to that end was virtue (literally strength), both intellectual and moral.

And this is where Aristotle and Jesus come together. In Christ, we realize the true end of man is not mere happiness but a sort of super-happiness—ecstasy, a happiness to be reveled in throughout the eternities, in what is clearly described as a new creation—a fusing together of heaven and earth at the end of “time.” Jesus was infinitely concerned with our well-being—our joy, our happiness. As noted above (Jn 15), he invites us to set up our lives in his neighborhood, doing what he says in order that our joy may be full.

Lives full of joy—that’s the point of Ethics (by Aristotle), and it is a foundational theme for Jesus. And in Jesus we see the paradoxical nature of the whole thing. By living the virtues of bravery, temperance, humility, meekness, simplicity, etc., he became a sacrifice, murdered by a world known for its vice—reckless power, cowardice, impulsiveness, envy, and an unquenchable thirst for political and social superiority (both Romans and Jews alike).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes the sort of man who is blessed, or happy. And it’s the man with the dispositions described by Jesus that is truly happy—really filled with a sense of well being. Jesus defined what it means to be a good man/woman, and then he lived a life that shows the outrageous good that comes from doing rather than just theorizing. He touched lives. He changed the world in just three years of active ministry.

And this brings me back to Aristotle. He knew that some people only talk about being good, and thus only speculate (rather than experience) about what true happiness is. But Aristotle wanted to live in the condition of happiness, not merely think about it. And thus he wrote Ethics. Ethics teaches moral virtue, something Aristotle describes as habits (or ethics), dispositions of behavior that are good, and when lived, leave us deeply satisfied. He puts the will on the battlefield of pleasure and pain, insisting that the virtuous person responds well to pleasure and pain while the bad person responds inappropriately to both. In a world where we are given the distinct impression that happiness means doing whatever is pleasant and avoiding whatever is painful, Ethics stands as a lasting work of genius which has a far better grasp of reality than the hedonistic tripe trotted out as wisdom in our world today.

I must confess that I’m part of a growing number of Christ-followers exhausted by the powerlessness of our churches to both articulate the real goal of humanity and provide practical guidance toward that end. And when I say I’m exhausted, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not a virtuous man. That is to say, I’m not a good man. However, the one thing I want more than any other is to be good, to have the dispositions described by Jesus. I don’t mean that I want merely to be able to keep commandments. An old fashioned stoning can coerce people to comply. No, I want to keep the commandments because I want to keep the commandments. I want to do the right thing and want to want to do the right thing. And that’s the virtue taught by Aristotle and in an even superior manner taught and lived by Jesus. After all, it was Jesus who said we didn’t have a shot at the kingdom of heaven unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the most righteous people of his day—the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus insisted that it wasn’t enough to do the right thing. To be good people, to be filled with His joy, he insisted that our will had to be completely changed, retrained, or recreated.

Aristotle wrote, “Since, then, the present inquiry does not aim at theoretical knowledge like the others (for we are inquiring not in order to know what virtue is, but in order to become good, since otherwise our inquiry would have been of no use)…” ibid, book 2.

Churches tend to theorize. Much is said about holiness with little progress. Question: are you part of church that takes spiritual growth seriously enough to even identify and consider the level of competency of those in the group? Someone comes to church wanting the good life, happiness, all the stuff Christians promote. He’s told to accept Jesus. He does. He wants to become a good person, doing the right things, and doing the right things easily because he wants to do what is right. He’s told his sins are forgiven. He says, Yes, I know. Now, I want to become a good person. What should I do? He’s told to attend church regularly and give a percentage of his income to God. He says, I can do that, but I’m not sure I want to. I’d prefer to hang on to my money, but if I need to give it in order to go to heaven, reluctantly or not, it’s all yours. He says, But I’d rather want to give the money. Can you teach me to be a giving person who wants to give?

Now I ask you, how many ministers, pastors, etc., are out there in and among churches, who can begin to provide an answer to that last question?

If the church is the body of Christ on earth, opening the door to heaven so that earth gets a taste of what God’s all about, what the future is going to be like, and if a man can’t enter that kingdom unless his righteousness exceeds mere externalism, mere “doing,” and the church doesn’t have a clue how to help a person grow in spiritual competency, in dispositions of holiness, then what’s the point?

If I were Aristotle, I might put it like this . . .

1. If the church is the body of Christ, then Christ is impotent—powerless to transform humanity.

2. Christ is not impotent.

3. Therefore, the church is not the body of Christ.

There’s a woman who doesn’t want to gossip, but she keeps gossiping. After a while, she stops the practice of gossiping due to social pressure, but she still wants to spread juicy bits of news! However, in those times wherein she feels she can get away with it, she whispers a rumor in an open ear. There’s a teenage boy who’s told not to have sex with his girlfriend because it’s fornication. Somehow he’s able keep from committing the act, but not because he doesn’t want to. He’s tormented because he wants to want what God wants—that is he wants to be as pure in motive as in action—just as Jesus taught. He obeys the command out of fear of an STD and pregnancy, or out of fear of burning in hell, not because he wants to be celibate until he’s married. His transformation is skin deep. He wears his righteousness like the Pharisees, learns to hide his inner lusts, knowing full well that Jesus says he can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. There’s a man who wants to help build houses for the poor, but he wants to do other selfish stuff more. He wants to want to serve others more than anything, but he doesn’t know how to increase his desire for the right thing while diminishing his desire for the lesser thing. He doesn’t want to just go pound nails, he wants to want to go pound nails for the poor! He builds for the poor, at times, because he feels obliged not because he wants to. His transformation is skin deep. He knows he’s like a Pharisee and the lovely sermons and classes he participates in don’t begin to deal with the real issue, the most pressing issue, of sanctification.

And in all the above instances, the situation doesn’t improve throughout life. The gossiper would gossip until the day she dies, the fornicator would fornicate as long as she could get away with it, the selfish person would serve only himself if it weren’t for the social pressure of a religion that demands external compliance.

Conforming and transforming are different. And the difference makes all the difference in the world. It should frighten us out of our skins that churches are quite prepared to enlist multitudes of scribes and Pharisees (those who do the right thing for the most part) rather than disciple people so that they become good, virtuous, and in the words of Peter, god-like. Test the validity of this criticism. Ask any church leader to elaborate on how the church is doing with simplicity, transparency, meekness, justice, mercy, purity, peacefulness, kindness, self-control, gentleness, love, faith, etc. Ask any leader how they know if the church is making progress, or if an individual is competent and becoming more so as time continues? How does the church test for competency? How does it specifically address the urgent need for spiritual transformation other than what Aristotle described as theorizing (shall we say sermonizing?)?

A final quote from Aristotle: “We must take as a sign of states of character the pleasure or pain that ensues on acts; for the man who abstains from bodily pleasures and delights in this very fact is temperate, while the man who is annoyed at it is self-indulgent, and he who stands his ground against things that are terrible and delights in this or at least is not pained is brave, while the man who is pained is a coward. For moral excellence is concerned with pleasures and pains; it is on account of the pleasure that we do bad things, and on account of the pain that we abstain from noble ones. Hence we ought to have been brought up in a particular way from our very youth, as Plato says, so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; for this is the right education.” Ibid, Book 2, ch. 3.

Aristotle provides an index to test our virtue. Abstaining, when necessary, with delight indicates the virtue of temperance. Abstaining begrudgingly is intemperate. Judas did the right stuff for a long time, and we know he didn’t want to, and finally his innerness caught up with his outerness as he betrayed our King. Peter behaved like a saint in Antioch hanging out with his Gentile brothers. But there was something in his innerness that was not yet transformed and it showed itself when the Jews arrived in town. He was a coward and could do the right thing only when it was easy, never when it was hard. Cowardice was a habit in his life—as such it was a vice, a naturalized behavior. Before he’d die, he’d be transformed through discipline so that he was able to do the right thing when it was necessary, even if it meant being crucified upside down.

Transformation is a process. That we are not presently filled with all the virtue imaginable is excusable only if we are seeking the grace of God to make progress. Churches that are content to leave people “where they are,” or think they can preach virtue into hearts via some sweet Sunday sermons (or bitter Sunday Sermons for that matter), are as impotent as they appear and as they “feel” when we’re in the midst of them. What passes for discipleship today is a 13 week course on Discipleship theory. As Aristotle noted, there are plenty of people who like to theorize supposing that by exchanging conversation over theory, they’ll become virtuous. But it never happens. Virtue remains only a theory.

Discipleship is hard work. But God called people out of the world and into his kingdom so that their gatherings could be transformational—not just momentarily emotional. We are to come together to provoke each other to love and good works. That’s what the Hebrew writer wrote. If there’s any hope for me, any hope for any of us who want to be good, to be transformed, to learn to want the right things and despise the wrong things, to become congruent with an inner being that supports an outer being rather than the hypocrisy so prevalent in the religious world; if any of us is going to find both the grace of God and social support needed to do the hard work of discipleship, then it will be because we simply quit accepting the bland, romanticized form of Christianity perfuming our world today.

In Christ-communities, some are given by God’s grace to be teachers, some as pastors. The principles are taught to the sheep by teachers and the sheep are shepherded toward the goal. It’s pastors who are failing miserably at their vocation. After 15 years in ministry, I can say that the most disappointing thing I learned was how much we love pastors, elders, shepherds, who are CEO-types, who can build great structures, who can administer a professional meeting, who can oversee a budget, and who can delegate like nobody’s business. But there’s little appetite for the sort of people described by Paul as he instructed Timothy and Titus, men who could or can answer the question, How can I become a good person?

As we know, Jesus didn’t die so that we would conform to a set of laws and religious policies. He died so that we could find the power, the grace in Him, essential to being transformed into new creatures, a new humanness that is necessary in order to change the world!


Soldiers of Christ Arise
Military ministry in west Georgia prepares front-line soldiers for spiritual warfare.
Shortly after noon, under a blazing sun, Army trainees begin to file into the chapel. Grabbing a song book and Bible from a rack at the entrance to the sanctuary, men drenched in sweat from the long march to the building take their seats for the worship service.
After the service, Ben Overby (left) offers encouragement to a trainee who is grieving the impending death of a loved one with cancer back home. From outside, an agitated drill sergeant approaches.

“I’m looking for where you are doing that baptism thingy,” says the sergeant, almost seething. Three men are missing from his lineup. He was told they were off getting saved.

“The soldiers are in here,” Overby says, opening the door to a converted storage room where 13 men stand in their underwear, lined up to experience the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Sgt. David Hudson (left), a soldier stationed at Ft. Benning, conducts the baptisms.

Specialist Daniel Frye greets the drill sergeant, determines which soldiers he is looking for, and tells them to move to the front of the line.

“No, don’t worry about that,” the sergeant interrupts. Looking at the three men, he says, “I will be back at 15:30 and I will find you standing where I expected to find you earlier.” He leaves, the tension subsides, and the baptisms continue.

So goes life in the military ministry at Fort Benning, home of the Army’s Infantry Training Brigade. The ministry has experienced more than 220 such baptisms in the past 20 months — including 21 baptisms on the afternoon of Sept. 5.

“When I joined the Army I didn’t intend on returning to church,” said Destry Tucker, who was baptized in May. “The church of Christ service here on base somehow seems pure to me. None of the soldiers attend to impress others — we are all wearing the same clothing.”

Ben Overby, once a serviceman himself, is Faith Group Leader for the ministry. Mike Hartsell, a former Post Chaplain, launched the program and was instrumental in getting Overby — then family minister for the Chattahoochee Valley church in nearby Columbus, Ga. — certified to conduct services on base.

“I spent three years in the Army and graduated from Jump School here at Fort. Benning in late 1982,” Overby said. “I know what these guys are going through.”

Soldiers come from across the country, training in 14-week cycles. As many as 6,200 trainees can move through the facility in less than four months. Most of the trainees are in their early 20s. Their military designation is “11 Bravo” — infantryman, front-line soldiers. Many of them have adopted a postmodern view of the world, and have “experienced the virtual collapse of reality … the deconstruction of the individual,” Overby said.

“Because of their chosen profession, they are grappling with their own mortality at an earlier age than their civilian contemporaries,” he said. “All the men come seeking answers.”

John Noel, from Ohio, said that he didn’t know what to expect when he walked through the doors of the chapel. At the time he was hurting from some personal issues back home.

“I’d heard that the churches of Christ were non-denominational and I thought I’d give it a try,” he said. About five weeks later he was baptized. “Finding this church was exactly what I needed to make a commitment to God.”

And he’s been inspired to invite fellow soldiers, including one who was “doing his best to quit training,” Noel said. “He needs Jesus, so I encouraged him to come with me …”

In August Overby resigned his position at the Chattahoochee Valley church to work full time in the military ministry, with the blessing of the church’s elders.

“Fort Benning is a unique opportunity because of the number of souls that can be reached for the Father,” said Chattahoochie Valley elder Ralph Rogers. “We do not know what great things might come from that opportunity, but, if we let it slip through our fingers, I hate to think how we could answer for it when we stand before our Lord.”

Sgt. Hudson, a church member, assists Overby by conducting almost all of the baptisms and helps counsel soldiers, but Hudson is scheduled for deployment to Iraq in the near future. Retired Lt. Col. John Lincoln coordinates the worship services and gets many of the soldiers involved.

Overby launched a Web site to help church members stay in touch after they move into the field or onto other military posts. “Those who are coming to Christ need spiritual nurturing,” he said. “They need resources to help them remain grounded when they’re shipped to Iraq, to Fort Stewart, Fort Campbell, Fort Bragg, Fort Lewis, or any of the other posts where infantry soldiers are typically stationed.”

Ministering to the military post in its backyard gives the Chattahoochee Valley church the chance to reach souls around the globe, according to elder Kent Cost.

“We travel over land and sea to the far reaches of our country and to the four corners of the world to share the gospel message,” Cost said, “and then we find in our own community young men and women coming to serve their country with a hungering for the truth.”

“These young soldiers are then going to the far reaches of our country and the four corners of the world — not only as part of the U.S. Army, but as soldiers of Christ.”

– See more at: http://www.christianchronicle.org/article/soldiers-of-christ-arise#sthash.ZNxmFlq7.dpuf

Healing Ministry

Man has been split in two by science and religion. Science has argued that we are purely physical. Religion has too often suggested that what really matters is our spirit, that the physical world is temporary, is destined to be wiped out so that we exist forever as pure spirit.

Jesus wasn’t concerned with the spirit alone. He didn’t open eyes to teach a metaphorical religious lesson. He literally healed the blind. He went everywhere healing the whole man.

Matthew says that when Jesus entered the region of Judea, huge crowds followed. He recorded the fact that he healed them there.  And after Jesus had made his way to the temple, blind and lame people came to him. Again, Matthew says, he healed them.

Jesus was giving a glimpse into what the final age will look like. He was bringing the future into the present. Eventually he left us to bare his image (after all we were made in the image of God), to be his hands and feet, so that as the world looks at the church it sees what Jesus looks like, just as he lived to bring glory to the Father.

Mental illness is a physical disease just like cancer, blindness, diabetes and kidney failure. PTSD affects one mentally and emotionally, but it is in the body, not floating around as an invisible mystery.

Christ-centered peer support affirms the value of the whole man. Like Jesus, we want people to be completely well. The work of healing others by God’s grace is at the heart of the good news of the kingdom of God. It is a reversal of the curse that started in the beginning. We are called to proclaim that wonderful news both with our words and our hands.

Ben Overby


There is a popular myth that suicides spike during the holidays. But the reality is that December has the fewest suicides of any month during the year (according the Centers for Disease Control).

Yet, there will be endless articles, well intentioned though they are, that will perpetuate the myth. A word of caution. If something is said enough times, especially by mass media, we will tend to believe it. Because the myth will be something of a mantra in the world of mental illness, it needs to be countered with the truth. You are not more likely to commit suicide during the holidays. It is the least risky time of the year.

However, for the person already standing at the edge of the cliff, the holiday myth can provide the final shove.

Thomas Joiner, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who has dedicated his career to researching the motivations for suicide. According to him people commit suicide because of 1) a sense of being a burden to others, 2) a profound sense of loneliness, alienation and isolation, and 3) a sense of fearlessness.

That matches my experience. On the basis of that research I’d suggest the following:
Make sure the person living with depression knows he or she is deeply loved and a blessing in your life. Cultivate an understand of their worth, the gift they are to others. Speak

Do everything you can to keep the person from isolating. Isolating is one of the first things I do when I’m deeply depressed and whenever  I’ve had suicidal ideas, they’ve be nurtured by my own voice, separate from that of others. And with no counter to my hopelessness, I begin to believe it.

Fearlessness comes with fantasies of one’s own death. The more a person day dreams about suicide, the more a person dwells on sensational media stories about the suicide of a high profile personality, the more a person considers the particular means and location of their demise, the more they will be desensitized to act. Fear will diminish. As Joiner points out, suicide is not the act of a coward. It takes courage.

Love the person, engage the person, and counter media sensationalism with intentional discussions about life and death. Combat the suicidal ideation with conversation about the person’s value and relentlessly try to pull them out of isolation.

The holidays, like everything else, will be what we expect. If we expect depression, that’s what we’ll get. If we expect a celebration of the birth of Jesus and his saving and gracious life, then we can find a measure of peace and joy. We might live in a depressing situation, but we don’t have to live a depressed life. I’ve been there. I know.

Ben Overby


Holiday Suicides: Fact or Myth?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 Dec. 2013. Web. 01 Nov. 2014.
Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide | American Association of Suicidology.” Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide | American Association of Suicidology. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.
An Interview with Thomas Joiner, Ph.D. on Why People Commit Suicide – Suicide, Depression, Anxiety Disorders.” An Interview with Thomas Joiner, Ph.D. on Why People Commit Suicide – Suicide, Depression, Anxiety Disorders. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

Our Bucket List

The Bucket List tells the story of two men from completely different worlds who happened to be in same hospital room when they received news that each had a short time to live. As improbable as it was they went on a journey together (Edward was financially loaded). Not long after, Carter died. Edward spoke at his funeral.

“Carter and I saw the world together, which is amazing when you think that only three months ago we were complete strangers. I hope that it doesn’t sound selfish of me, but the last months of his life were the best months of mine. He saved my life, and he knew it before I did. I’m deeply proud that this man found it worth his while to know me. In the end, I think it’s safe to say that we brought some joy to one another’s lives, so one day, when I go to some final resting place, if I happen to wake up next to a certain wall with a gate, I hope that Carter’s there to vouch for me and show me the ropes on the other side.”

Carter and Edward were different but the same. They “saw the world together.” They were peers providing each other support.
In the City of God St. Augustine noted that though men are different, suffering acts as an equalizer. And that is the starting point of peer support. We are equals not because of the size of our bank accounts (if we have a bank account), or because of our popularity or lack thereof, or because of our education. We are peers because of the mutual anguish and hunger for hope we share in common. Our currency is experience and we trade it freely.

Ben Overby

Offering training in Christ-centered peer support for both individuals and churches.


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