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A look into Spiritual Depression and weapons to fight it with!


The heart is oh so complex! So many things go into forming the heart all the way from infancy to a persons current age, like circumstances, parental temperaments, world events and friends. Needless to say, its probably the most complex thing in the universe. This heart of ours is also not perfect, as vast as it is. At times we go through stages of what we call depression. It’s no fun! As one who has had bouts of depression (relatively mild causes thank God), you want anything but to be in that state of emotion. You’re desperate!! In that state you reach for whatever help you can get. Some go to the bar and the bottle, others find susbtances to control their brain, and some just turn off and can’t get out of the house. In those times we need tools, tools with which to fix ourselves. We need weapons, weapons to shoot down the lies of the evil one. It is in this light I wish to share with you some thoughts from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones that has helped me IMMENSELY fight depression and realize what it really is.
First, he calls it spiritual depression, which makes sense, in that we are all spiritual. All the time, we never cease to be spiritual beings. Either we are or we are not. In the first chapter he goes into the causes of spiritual depression. One basic cause he doesn’t go into very much, because he feels it is not a major cause for it, but is the problem of comparison.

“There are many people who seem to be in trouble because they are more or less living on other peoples experiences, or are coveting other peoples experiences; and it is because they are always looking at persons and their stories instead of frist grasping the teaching [principles with which to live from the Bible], they should have forewarned and safeguarded us against that particular danger [spiritual depression].” (Lloyd-Jones, P. 11)

He more specifically goes into other reasons why people suffer depression. He argues that there are people whose temperaments are more vulnerable to spiritual depression, and other reasons. But I want to hone in one the main reason why people suffer from spiritual depression.

“I think I can put it finally like this: the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief….It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks. That is why the psalmist keeps on saying to himself: “Hope thou in God for I shall yet praise Him…” He reminds himself of God. Why? Because he was depressed and had forgotten God, so that his faith and his belief in God in God’s power, and in His relationship to God, were not what they ought to be.” (Llody-Jones P. 20)

In those moments when we are at our wits end, we find ourselves having culminated to the point of forgetting who we are in God, what He has done for us, and what He will keep doing for us. In John Piper’s book “Future Grace”, future grace is one of the biggest weapons with which we can fight depression. We REMEMBER that has provisioned eternally a measure of grace to those who love Him. It means He’s taken care of us!! His grace is known to us from the ways he’s worked in our lives, and we are hopeful in looking to the future with the perfect knowledge that God will provide Grace, His Grace, for every moment of our lives. It is here I would say that John Piper’s teaching and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones teaching combine to make the most powerful idea against depression. Consider Lloyd-Jones:

“I say we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us![Emphasis added] Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow ourself to talk to us instead of talking to our self…Take those thoughts that come to you in the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you….You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself ‘Hope in God’- instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and What God is and What God has done, and what God has pledged himself to do.” (Lloyd-Jones P. 21)

In sum, preach to yourself! Don’t let doubt creep into your heart. Unbelief is the very thing that springs up from doubt. Do you believe the Word of God to be true, then stand on it like you believe it is. When you are in the those difficult times, fast from the influences around you, and devour God’s Holy Word!! Memmorize it!! Don’t let go until you hear from Him!! Press on!! His Grace is Sufficient!!

Consider that if you are in one of those times, God has put you in the middle of the desert for a reason, to ask you one question, “Now that you are despondent and desperate, who are you going to turn to? I’m here, but who are you going to turn to?” Are you ridiculously going to turn away from his hand in search of water on your own, or will you let the master of this world show you the way to the deepest springs of life to be satisfied!!

 

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This is a re-post from Ray Ortlund’s blog from Zondervan’s site.

“The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.‘ Between that word ‘save’ and the next word ‘sinners,’ there is no adjective. It does not say, ‘penitent sinners,’ ‘awakened sinners,’ ‘sensible sinners,’ ‘grieving sinners’ or ‘alarmed sinners.’ No, it only says, ‘sinners.’ And I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it is as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preaching on John 3:18, 17 February 1861.

A look at the difficult practice of forgiveness

 

My wife and I are about to celebrate our 11 month anniversary, and it’s been the sweetest 11 months of my life. I won’t lie, they have also been some of the hardest. In fact, loving Emily has invited some of the greatest difficulties, because in loving her, I am dying to my self: I am little by little counting myself as secondary to serving, caring for, and loving my wife!
Do I seem like a good, sweet loving husband? Good, moving on. All that to say, my wife and I are not all that experienced in marriage warfare and the peace-making that necessarily should ensue. But recently in some arguments that we’ve had recently I’ve come to some very helpful conclusions. There are daily blogs, radio shows, I subscribe to that have proved extremely helpful in my walk with Christ, and I feel I must share my findings and observations with you, because I think the economony of arguments, polemics, and defenses, all with the emotional harborings that go with such battles, is a very common economony in everyones relationships.

Forgiveness is…

1) Unjust! Yes, thats right, you are being completely just when you withold forgiveness against someones genuine offense. Isn’t that how the courts work. You offend the law, you commit a crime, you PAY! There is a necessary transaction. The offender must pay for what he has done, justice says, there must be punishment. So in social circles, an offense is not easily overlooked. Especially when it is over an emotional matter. And to count someones offense as nothing, is unjust. It is also the VERY thing God does when he covers our sin, with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Before Jesus died, God compromised His Glory in forgiving us, those who were repentent of their wrong-doings (so basically all those in the Old Testament of the Bible). He loved us so much, he with-held his wrath, his justice. Consider this; a general of an army sees a woman taking a shower (a woman who he knows is married) and takes her and has sex with her. To cover up for himself he sends the husband of the woman to the front lines to be killed, and killed he is. Now picture a short time later, a chaplain comes to the general and tells him he has sinned before God, and the general who lives a life of faith, realizes what he has done, and repents. Because God loves him, He compromises His glory to forgive that man. From the woman’s father’s point of view, that is a travesty!! He may cry out, “What God? You’re just going to forgive him? Just like that? That’s not justice! He raped MY daughter!” That’s right, true forgiveness is not just! (so that you know there is not a puzzle piece missing, God’s glory is reconciled when he sent his son Jesus to die in the place of everyone whom he forgave and loved…Jesus Christ received the punishment that was due to the offenders).

Forgiveness may just be the deepest way in which we exhude God’s love for us, to each other. To say “My dear wife, I count all you just said as nothing, I forgive you” is to echo God’s sentiment towards us when he says, “My dear children, I count it as nothing what you just did, because the punishment you deserve was put on my Son.” What love!

2) Difficult! Why is it so difficult!? Partially because we are hard-wired with a sense of justice, as mentioned before. When we are offended we act as if we are someone high and mighty. “My dear wife, you have just offended the mighty Luke…you just don’t know who you are messing with.” We may have such a high ego of ourselves that we are not so quickly ready to forgive such offensive accounts against a person so noble. In marriage, I am called to die to myself, and count my desires secondary to Emily’s. What does this look like? It may sound like this in your head, “Gosh, I’m sooo offended! I can’t believe what just came out of his mouth.” We are so floored at the audacity of such a move, that we get stuck in the awe of it all. And true, it may hurt a lot, and the time between an offense delivered and forgiveness dealt, may take a while, because a hurt can go VERY deep. But if that person is truly sorry, we are to free them of their guilt and quickly forgive them.

There is a side of forgiveness that is dark and manipulative. When we withhold forgiveness from someone after they’ve been sorry, you are treading in dangerous waters.

Think of it in terms of debt and a covering. When one offends you, they are in your debt. They owe you something. To forgive is to cover it, and count the debt as nothing. But when you hold the debt tight, that’s when things get ugly. You passive aggressive people, I think you specailize in this.

When you keep an offender in debt to you, you…

1) Are being extremely manipulative! You are being just, but are throwing the cares of the relationship away. The offender has realized his wrong, and wants reconciliation, but you don’t….or maybe you do, you just want him to suffer for a bit, like you did. You are not a friend, you are not looking out for their good, you’re not looking to build them up….you’re crapping on their well-intended apology. This will lead you no where fast!

2) Are not showing love! It is ok for one to demand compensation for the offense (and it is the just thing to do), and then after which you’ll consider things even. But it is love that says, “No, no need, I forgive you and lets put it past us and move on.” For the sake of a couple, and the love that can be had, we forgive.

 

The Comfort of Ambiguity

Recently I’ve talked to more people about religion, God, Jesus and worldviews than I have in a long time. I’ve been enjoying the conversations very much, but something keeps happening. As the conversation shifts to their views on spiritual things, people start to talk about God in very free and liberal ways. “God is my father in the sky” or “I believe in god, the god of all religions.” I then dialogue with them after asking them what they think when the Word of God says of Jesus, “I am the truth, the way and the life” or Jesus said of himself, “If you know me, you know my Father who sent me.” We all desire to know God, to go deeper, but God has pre-ordained a way to himself….through Jesus.

My impulse to that is, isn’t that quite narrow? Just Jesus? I mean what if you read the Bible, do good works, and just believe in God. Isn’t that good enough? If we say yes, if we have taken upon ourselves the assumption of rulemakers. If we say yes, then we have basically said, “This seems good, SURELY God works this way.”

When a 14 yr old boy approaches a girl, who he has never talked to, with that classic note which reads, “Do you like me? Check one: Yes or No” he doesn’t presume she likes him and throws away the note thinking “SURELY she must like me, because I’m a good guy who likes to play games and am fun” before he lay’s a smacker on her lips. He would be a fool! Why? There is a certain way to her heart, abounding in sweet words, full of flowers, all along a path made of 78% Dark Chocolate. All of us men, who think to even start presuming new rules on our own in our pursuit of those wonderful beings God gave us, know it just can’t be done (I will concede, there are a few who may enjoy less than traditional means to her heart…alas all analogies break down somewhere). So there is one way to God.

My question still stands, why are so many comfortable with just God, and not Jesus?

In brief I think its because Jesus is so specific!! He came, fulfilled a set of rules, gave new ones, and told people how to live, and how to find God. That’s how it feels to unbelievers I think. They say, “How could a gracious god such as mine come down from heaven, and speak judgment upon all who don’t beleive, that’s harsh! That’s not my god!”

So many rabit trails could be had at this juncture, but I want to hone in on one nature of the heart that might be the culprit in giving vent to this sort of attitude. The comfort of ambiguity (or maybe the desire of laziness).

This ambiguity is to describe anything that would otherwise be direct, clear, upfront or potentially offensive. People don’t want a god that tells them they are inherently bad, and need something to save them, no they want friends as gods, who will “accept them as they are.” Who wants to have a god that whispers in your ear, “you shouldn’t be doing that.” What we really want is a lawless god. It’s his law that gets us, because from the moment we are born we live against it.

The ambiguity plays into it all, when the mind walks to the fringes and says “Maybe God wouldn’t mind if I did this, but maybe he might.” In the space between obedience and rebellion, there is blissful ambiguity, in which we just don’t know for sure, or we have found some peaceful middle ground where accountability does not show its annoying face.

This is right where the devil wants us…arms length away from the reality that can change us forever, but far enough, seemingly, from evils grasps to not make us feel utterly evil. It is the sucess of the evil one to allow us to feel that we have done no wrong, and don’t need saving.

Here, our best weapon is cold water! Yes, ice cold water, the kind that causes even the deepest sleeper to rise in a gasp. The cold water of reason that says we do wrong and are in need of Savior.

 

In this realm of ambiguity, we must be counter-cultural. We have to be that prophetic word that splits flesh and bone, straight to the soul. Jesus is the way, the truth and source of life eternal! This is the message, don’t be afraid of it!!

As my notepad gets larger and larger.

To be able to read and write is one of the greatest privileges we have as human beings. I both have succumbed to the desire to, and relish in the opportunity to write, transcribe my thoughts, and wrestle with pen and paper, the struggles and victories of intellect, right living, and the pursuit of a better life.
I once consulted a very wise man, in a time of my life I didn’t have much peace! What he told me I will never forget. As I poured out my heart and sought a wise word from him, he kindly said, “Its not that I know everything, but rather that in the course of my life, I’ve taken notes. Do you mind if we share notes?”
I’m so excited to start sharing my thoughts and experiences in written form with you all. It may be a bit obvious, but I covet your viewpoints on things. The ability to freely express and share your contrastive, like-minded, or opposing opinion is a wonderful thing.

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Let the note-taking begin!