Archive | February, 2015

Theology Unplugged: Wine

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Join our hosts as they discuss issues surrounding drinking.

7 Things NOT to Say to a Depressed Christian


Handling a Depressed Christian

As many of you know, I’ve been depressed for almost five years now. I had a major break in March of 2010. It came out of nowhere and has been a frequent uninvited guest in my home ever since.

I won’t go into it now, but almost seven weeks ago I came out of the depression. I think I know the triggers. But I often tell people not to get too excited. I can never be sure which “me” is going to wake up tomorrow. Will it be joyful me? (who I love) He’s the one who sees life positively and has no time for worry (too busy serving God)? Or will it be broken me (who I hate)? He can’t dwell on anything but the bad and sees no hope in life (and doesn’t even act like there’s a God)? 7 Things NOT to Say to a Depressed Christian But while I have my thoughts straight, I’ve been able to dwell on so many positive things. One of these is the subject of this post. I’ve accumulated a list of seven things depressed people (Christian’s especially) are told. They’re meant to help them out of their depression. I’ve even had these things said to me. But these things are wrong.

Please Note: None of these things necessarily come from evil intentions. These come from people who sincerely want you to recover. However, they do come from the evil flesh that dwells in all of us: judgmenalism. I hope this becomes clear as you read.

Further Reading: Dealing With My Depression #1: Muffling Its Voice

“Just Snap Out of It”

I don’t know how many times I said this to my depressed sister before she took her life. “Just snap out of it, Angie.” From my perspective, I thought you could. I thought that being depressed or happy was an act of the will. If you just make the right decision, you can think your way out of it. But more often than not, depression is not an act of the will. It is an interplay between the mind and the brain that you can’t snap out of. Don’t you think that people who are depressed would “Just snap out of it” if it were that easy? Remember, they don’t want to be depressed. It is the worst torture that one can possibly imagine.

“Think Positively”

Again, this might seem right. Please realize that most of the time a depressed person can’t think positively. That’s why they’re depressed. If I were to tell you there’s a giant elephant in your room, would you believe me? What if I said that all you have to do is close your eyes and trust it to be true? You’d probably say, “I can’t!”Telling someone who’s depressed to “think positively” completely misses the problem. They can’t think positively any more than you can believe there’s an elephant in the room. They don’t want to think negatively. They just can’t stop.

Further Reading: Depression – When We Want to Die

“Confess Your Sins”

Trying to find a sin trigger in the life of the depressed is a hard proposition. There may be some evident sin in their lives that they need to deal with, but consider this:

1) Everyone Sins But Not Everyone’s Depressed There is evil in everyone. According to Martin Luther we’re all, simul justus et peccator which is Latin for “at the same time just and sinners.” Additionally, according to the Gospel of John we have to admit to sin in our lives:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:8 (ESV)

All to often a lengthy (and often judgmental) assessment of every sin the depressed person has takes place. Once they’re identified they’ll try to get rid of them one by one. This is both impossible and can cause deeper depression. The depressed may believe you and think getting rid of all these sins is the answer. When they realize that this cannot happen this side of heaven, the depression deepens.

2) They Can’t Change the Past Sometimes the sins that led to depression are from a years of lifestyle choices. They build up over the years. It’s usually the little ones that end up getting us. However, bringing this to the conversation with the depressed does little good. They can’t back up and change their choices. If they could, they would.

3) They Already Know They’re Sinners The depressed person likely knows if it’s sin that’s causing their depression. If it’s alcohol, drugs, etc. bringing this up early will only harden the person. It will make them defensive. If sin is causing the depression (and that’s a big “if”) tact and prudence should be used in abundance. This will allow them to recognize their sin without becoming defensive.

“Get On Some Meds Immediately!”

I am no Tom Cruise. I believe that psychiatric medications are often the answer and are a gift of God. I believe that there are many out there who are not taking due to a taboo or stigma attached to them that should be. However, the use of mind altering drugs also needs to be considered very deeply. I also think that they are prescribed too easily without a plan of attack.

Briefly, I believe that some people need to go through the darkness without an immediate way out. Many of the Psalms might not have been written had these drugs been available to David. His ups and downs would have been leveled by a script from the doctor. But we needed David to go through his mental bipolar disorder (if that is what it was). The same might be said of Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation. He definitely needed to be on something! However, God used his mental anxiety for great things.

Book Suggestion: Genius, Grief, & Grace: A Doctor Looks at Suffering & Success (Biography of great saints of the past who suffered greatly, but were used greatly.

For some people—as hard as it is to hear—God wants you to go through this darkness. But this is not for everyone. These drugs are a blessing of God when used properly. For some, they can get you over the “hill” of darkness and are only needed for a short time. For others, they are needed permanently for the stability of the mind.

All I am doing is asking you to consider that the depressed person may be a David or a Luther to the church. Don’t immediately demand that they get on these drugs.

“I’ve Been Through Worse”

I had a relative say this to me with absolute resolve and conviction in her voice. She said, “Michael, whatever you have gone through, I have been though worse! So don’t try to give me your sob story.” She meant well, but this is not something to say to a depressed person. It may be true that you have been through worse and been able to get out of it. What you mat not know is that this is meaningless to the depressed for two reasons:

  1. Once you’re in the black hole of depression, the hole itself is the worst thing you’ve gone through. The tragic events that might have brought you there often pale in comparison.
  2. Suffering is relative. There are always going to be people who have it worse than you. This isn’t the issue. It’s how you perceive and internalize your suffering relative to who you were before. For some, the loss of a job can make them suicidal. For others (who live in harsher climates of society) even the loss of a child is expected and absorbed with less depression.

So depression is a very relative thing. Letting people know that you’ve been through worse—while it might be objectively true—can be both unwise and irresponsible. It will only harden the person in their depression.

“God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”

This is in my top ten things of what the Bible does not say that Christians often quote as Scripture. There is nowhere in the Bible that says God will not give us more than we can handle. It does say that he will in temptation provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). But never does it say that God will not give us more pain and suffering than we can handle.

Many Christians have suffered to the point of death at the hands of executors. Many suffer to the point of death at their own hands. All we can say is that, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). This may not solve our depression, but it does give us perspective. Even if our depression has caused us enormous doubt this can be helpful.

“Depression Is a Sin. You Should Have Joy In Your Life”

This always comes from the person who has never experienced real depression. Once you have, you would never say something like this again. Unfortunately, this often comes from those who feel that it’s their job to deliver us from this evil. But is depression a sin? I don’t think so.

Matthew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This mourning should not be thought of as some temporary bout with suffering. It’s not purely circumstantial (like mourning for the death of a loved one). The Greek word for mourn (pentheo) is a present active participle. It is actually the best word to use for “sadness” or “depression.” Christ is saying that those that are always (present, active) sad and down, will be comforted. The comfort, in the context, does not come in this life, but in the life to come.So far from being a sin, depression is often going to be the progressive state of the “blessed.”

How You Bear the Burdens of the Depressed

So, if these are the things you don’t do, what do you do? If you have a loved one who’s depressed, it is hard to handle. It can cause depression in you if you are not careful. All you want to do is solve it. Please understand, it’s not your job to solve the depression. You may be able to be a great influence in getting the depressed to feel better, but God has not given you the responsibility to deliver a loved one from depression. Let yourself off the hook. Don’t make yourself responsible for something you cannot do. Though you may be used by Him to bring the depressed to wholeness, you are not the Holy Spirit.

Most of what you “say” will only cause more depression, as shown above. This was the mistake of Job’s friends. They stayed silent for seven days (Job 2:13). They should have stayed silent for good. After seven days they couldn’t take it any more and made all the mistakes we’ve looked at.

Silence, with your arm around the depressed is the best advice. There may be a time for verbal inquiry, but this needs to come naturally and without judgement. You’re not given a podium to preach to the depressed; you’re given arms to hold them. Even if this doesn’t “work” your goal should not be to bring them out of their depression. Your goal should be to be there for them their entire life if necessary. It is a terrible burden to bear when this is a loved one, I know. But this is how we bear the burdens of the depressed.

“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” – Margaret Runbeck

When someone is there for you without all the answers and requiring you to follow their advice “or else…”, you have a true friend. And, unfortunately, these friends have been rare from the beginning of time.

Purchase on Amazon: Now That I’m A Christian: What It Means to Follow Jesus

Theology Unplugged: Genesis 1

genesis1

Join our hosts as they discuss issues surrounding Genesis Chapter 1.

The Death of the Apostles (Video) from Coffee and Theology

Lectures from Coffee & Theology

Every Tuesday at 6:30 PM the main room here at Credo House is filled with people who want to know more about Christianity.

Those who come likely have a variety of motivations. Maybe they want to strengthen their own faith through education. Maybe they’re going through a season of doubt and need encouragement. Maybe they disbelieve and are looking for more ammunition for their unbelief. Whatever the reason, everyone is welcome and questions are encouraged.

A couple weeks ago Michael Patton spoke about the historicity and importance of the death of the apostles. It just so happens (or not) that the article about this is our most viewed blog post of all time.

What might we learn from the death of apostles? Why would it matter if a group of people died for their beliefs? Don’t people do that for beliefs that Christians deny? You’ll just have to watch the video to find out.

Past recordings from Coffee & Theology are available in the members area.

Infographic on the Death of the Apostles

A big “thank you” to Brian Cragin from http://www.briancragin.com/ for creating this infographic for us.

How the 12 Apostles Died

When is Someone Disqualified from Ministry?

When Is Someone Disqualified from Ministry?

This is an unspoken question for many evangelicals. Most of us don’t know where the idea of “disqualification” comes from. We may be hard pressed to find anything definite in Scripture that says close to what we mean.

Peter Denies Christ and is Disqualified from Ministry

Peter Denies Christ and is Disqualified from Ministry

Sure, Paul talks about being disqualified from ministry if he were to fail. But what does he really mean?

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

— I Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)

But here, at least, context has nothing to do with moral failure as is so often thought. He is talking about becoming “all things to all men.” This is so that Paul might make the Gospel relevant in all contexts. Otherwise, Paul would be disqualified if he succumbed to any temptation to legalism, and a stilting of the Gospel.

Further Reading: Called Into Ministry? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Am I saying nothing would force someone to step out of ministry for a time of restoration? No! But that’s an article for another day.

The Apostle Peter: Disqualified and Restored

I want to share a story most of you are familiar with. This story should be brought into all discussions of “disqualification.” It is included only in the Gospel of John.

John wrote his Gospel over twenty years after Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Its contents likely represent John’s many years of reflection. He certainly saw relevance something  that the other Gospels passed over.

All the Gospels record Peter’s denial (Matthew 26:69–75; Mark 14:68–72; Luke 22:55–62). It’s only John who records Peter’s restoration:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

— John 21:15–17 (ESV)

Notice the odd series of questions. Christ asked Peter three times “Do you love me?” Many have focused on the differences in the Greek word translated “love.” This probably had little meaning to John. He always switched cognates for literary purposes, not theological.

Christ's Charge to Peter by Raphael

Christ’s Charge to Peter by Raphael

What I want to point out is the threefold nature of Christ’s questions. Remember, Peter had denied Christ three times. Now, Peter’s threefold and frustrated response, “I love you” reminds us of his threefold denial.

About ten days after Peter’s rejection of Him, Jesus restored Peter to ministry. The specific language is “feed/tend my sheep/lambs.” Let me repeat this a different way: Peter committed arguably the worst sin a Christian can commit, the denial of Christ. and Christ restored him just a few days later.

What’s going on?

What about these words of Christ?

[B]ut whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

— Matthew 10:33 (ESV)

Didn’t Peter deny Christ before men?

What Were the Apostles Thinking?

I wonder what the other Apostles were thinking.  I can just hear their thoughts (that is, if they thought like us today):

“If you restore him too quickly, this will be an implicit approval of his sin”

“Let us all sin more so that grace might increase!”

“Jesus does not know human nature. You have to draw attention to his sin or he will never change.”

Peter is certainly sorry and repentant for what he did that day. I am sure it haunted him for years to come. And you may think he never did this again. But Peter never really gets over this issue. He is always afraid of what his countrymen might think.

From Act 2–10 (a ten year period) Peter lived with a terrible sin: prejudice. Remember, in Acts 2 the Holy Spirit filled Peter. But it is not until Acts 10 that Peter finally let go of his prejudice (to some degree). He finally allowed himself to enter a Gentile’s (non-Jew’s) home. Before this he held to the unbiblical belief that:

  • He wasn’t to step foot inside a Gentile’s homes.
  • He was forbidden to eat with them.

Can you imagine someone doing this today? My dad hated Japanese people. He wouldn’t hang around them or befriend them. This lasted his whole life (a WWII thing). We recognize how sinful this was.

Peter had this attitude for almost twenty years. This is after the Holy Spirit filled Him at Pentecost! He was always afraid of what the Jews thought of him. So much so, he would change the message of the Gospel throughout his life in the way he lived. Paul ended up having to have a difficult discussion with Peter about this (Galatians 2:11–13).

Further Reading: Why Paul Should Not Always Be Our Example in Confrontation

The Imperfect Lives of Christian Ministers

I’m not trying to jump all over poor Peter. Peter held the lofty position of Apostle. We would be blessed to have lived his life; including his upside down crucifixion.

My point is that those who minister for God don’t live unimpeachable lives. By “unimpeachable” I mean perfect. But the sins we are often quick to use to disqualify someone from ministry are far less severe than:

  • Denying Christ
  • Adjusting the Gospel to make it square with our prejudice

We look only at the most tangible (and often unbiblical) moral failures. We fail to realize the heart issues we live with. These go unnoticed.

Do the Unexpected: Forgive

This is my thesis: If Christ restored Peter to ministry so quickly, why don’t we? Who are we to have such an itchy “disqualification” trigger finger? Isn’t being gracious one of the ways we should be like Christ?

Maybe you’re like me and are tempted to think:

“This sin has to be pointed out! He must go through a ’time of restoration.’ The seriousness of his sin needs to be exemplified through punishment and a long time of restoration.”

Maybe the best way to exhibit grace and affect change in others is to show mercy. We should be like Christ and do the unexpected, forgive. In all honesty, I do believe there are character issues and sins that can and should “disqualify” people from ministry. These are listed in 1 Timothy:

1 Tim 3:1-7
A bishop then must be blameless [was Peter], the husband of one wife [which does not mean “not divorced, but faithful], temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable [was Peter to the Gentiles?], able to teach [in my experience, few have qualified]; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well [what if the wife is not following the Lord or has children that don’t believe?], having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside [did Jesus have a good testimony with the religious leaders? This begs the questions, “Who are those who are “outside”?], lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

All I am saying is that this story about Jesus’ restoration of Peter and his continued problems does give me much pause. Things are not as clean as we would like them to be. Grace may be the default in so many things.

Where am I going wrong?

Shameless Plug

Check out the Ecclesiology and Eschatology module if you liked this article. You’ll get 10 sessions on 10 DVDs plus a workbook.

Ecclesiology and Eschatology DVDs and Workbook

Theology Unplugged: Does God Know the Future?

tardis2

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, J.J. Seid and Sam Storms as they discuss whether God knows the future.

God With Us by Glenn Kreider: A Review

(Lisa Robinson)

P&R Publishing, 240 pages

P&R Publishing, 240 pages

While in seminary, I became fascinated with the study of revelation. God’s disclosure of his actions and character took on heightened meaning in consideration of the biblical story and what God wanted to be made known about himself. But I’ve noticed that this topic can be treated with some remote detachment in the quest to understand God’s character and promises.

God With Us: Exploring God’s Personal Interactions with His People throughout the Bible pops this airy bubble. Glenn Kreider, professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Seminary (he also was my thesis advisor) provides a refreshing look at God’s revelation as he interacts with his creation. Kreider anchors the theme of God’s revelation in terms of his condescension, which he defines as “to descend to a less formal or dignified level.” (24) It is a downward act of condescension that we can know God and it also reveals this heart for his creation. Kreider states, “From the beginning of the biblical story, God’s humility is on display in his activity in the created order. Since what he does reveals who he is, God is revealed as a transcendent being to care for his creation.” (16)

Kreider continues by saying the ultimate expression of condescension is in the incarnation noting, “The Creator of the universe became a creature without ceasing to be the Creator.” (33). In Jesus divine humility he secures redemption for those who will trust in him and Kreider points to the fact that this is instructive for the attitudes of Christians and how they represent Christ. But Kreider broadens the scope of revelation to give a holistic view of God’s condescension in terms of creation, fall, redemption and re-creation.

Thus, in God With Us, Kreider wants to show that divine condescension happened from the beginning of Genesis, stating “any involvement of God in his world is an act of condescension. Further that God humbles himself and interacts with his creation is the major plot line of the Bible and each of the Biblical stories.” (24) Since Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s condescension, Kreider aptly notes that Scripture must be read through a Christological lens. With this foundation, he traces through the biblical narrative noting God’s intentional interaction with his creation as he interacts with selected texts of Scripture.

As he goes through the Old Testament in Chapters 3-5, a few features prominently will hit the reader in context of the overarching theme as Kreider highlights the trajectory of God’s implementation of his covenantal promises.First, God interacts with the culture of time [I would add it actually comes from him anyway in the form of imitation]. Second, God does so with some of the most unlikely candidates. Third, God demonstrates continual mercy in the face of human failing and judgment.  Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: Is all Lying Sinful?

lying

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley, J.J. Seid and Sam Storms as they discuss if all lying is sinful