5 things Christians need to know about depression and anxiety

Found this article on crosswalk.com

 

Link to the full article:

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-trends/5-things-christians-need-to-know-about-depression-and-anxiety.html

1. Depression isn’t what the Church sometimes makes it out to be.

Because depression isn’t often discussed in churches, a great deal of misunderstanding has popped up. The first step is realizing what this disorder isn’t: “It’s not a character defect, a spiritual disorder or an emotional dysfunction. And chief of all, it’s not a choice.”

2. Mental illness is not a sin.

Past sins can contribute to the pain, and sufferers may cope with mental disorders with sinful actions. But sometimes Christians can hurt their brothers and sisters by treating the malady itself as sinful.

3. The Bible doesn’t provide “easy answers.”

The Bible is certainly our guide for life. But the answer for mental illness is not a verse or two taken out of context. After all, people in Scripture likely suffered from depression themselves, such as David and Jeremiah. “Rather than prescribing a bit of a verse divorced from its context, a better strategy is to look at those instances of mental suffering along with the Church body and to offer comfort in the fact that even the saints struggled.”

4. Anxiety and depression don’t look how we often think.

Just because someone seems “happy,” that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Those who suffer from mental illnesses often try to hide the symptoms because of the stigma. What’s needed is a loving community where people are encouraged to speak up and get help.

5. Strong churches don’t “fix” depression.

Even large churches may not have the framework currently in place to deal with mental disorders. So, what’s needed? “Healing comes from a prayerful, loving community that seeks to truly understand major depressive disorder and related conditions, and one that develops a positive response.”

Depression can feel like a huge weight that keeps pulling a Christian down again and again. Breaking free from the clutches of this disorder may seem impossible, but Margaret Ashmore (of the Association of Biblical Counselors) says that one of the most important things a sufferer can do is “the next thing”:

“So ‘doing the next thing’ might mean getting right with someone you’ve wronged, making restitution on outstanding payments, putting away once for all that website or magazine which feeds a monstrous, lustful appetite, taking back a purchase of self indulgence whose only outcome was more debt – you will have your own list. I certainly have mine. But be assured, this principle alone can take you from a shrugging Atlas with the weight of the world on your shoulders to that of renewed vigor and reviving refreshment….”

“The choices we make to obey despite our feelings or to give in to the downward pull of a fallen world filled with fallen people – mean everything.”

If you suffer from anxiety of depression, you’re not alone. There are many certified Christian counselors who can provide loving support.

What are your thoughts? If you or someone you know suffers from depression or anxiety, how have you or they found hope and encouragement?

John UpChurch is the senior editor of BibleStudyTools.com and Jesus.org. You’ll usually find him downing coffee at his standing desk (like a boss).

The Gospel Truth

Found this awesome website filled with quotes about the status of the church in America today:

http://www.gospeltruth.net/ravenhill.htm

They’re quotes from a guy named Leonard Ravenhill. Never heard of him before, but judging by his quotes, I like him.

 

Just a few of his quotes:

 

I want to see the house of God where it’s open 24 hours a day so people can come. We don’t close the hospitals after eight hours a day or the police station. Why should the churches be locked up tonight?

 

If you know a church on fire for God, tell me and I’ll go. A church where (after) you’ve gone in, you don’t come out the same, believing that God is there (and) you’ve been in His holy presence!

 

In the early church, signs and wonders and miracles followed. They cast out demons, blindness and paralysis. That’s normal Christianity! We’re so sub-normal, if we ever became normal, they (the world) will think we’re abnormal.

 

One said, “If I lead somebody to Christ on the street, which church should I send him to?” (Sending someone to church today is) like taking a newborn baby and putting it in a refrigerator. I want a place that vibrates with God, vibrates with eternity.

 

 

What kind of church to the nones are you?

Where does your church fall in?

 

By James Emery White

Much attention has been given to the rise of the nones and rightly so. They are currently the single fastest-growing religious group of our time and currently represent 20% of the population. This person needs someone or something to facilitate the process of moving him or her toward being able to even consider the life and message of Christ. The following types of environments are among those that a church can present.

None Hostile

The first environment a church can manifest is none hostile. A church can be openly antagonistic toward nones who might venture to attend its services.

Michelle was trapped in the demeaning world of prostitution, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Wanting to escape this life, Michelle disguised herself and hid from her pimp for several days while going through chemical withdrawal. She was discovered and dragged into the chambers of the raging man, where she was beaten until unconscious while the other prostitutes watched and learned. Next Michelle tried suicide — anything to escape the nightmare of her existence. A relative found her body, hours from death, and rushed her to the hospital where her life was saved.

This time Michelle turned to the only place she could imagine there might be hope — a local church. She had no sense of self‑worth. Used by men, rejected by the world, she turned to God’s people. She knew she deserved punishment but hoped against hope that she might find mercy. Halfway through the church service, the pastor recognized her from her life on the street. Before the entire congregation he pointed her out and then lectured her for defiling the house of God with her filthy presence. Then he ordered her out.

An extreme case? Perhaps. But it is all too common in lesser forms.

Kristina and her roommate decided to go to church because they had hit on some rough times. Kristina’s roommate had become pregnant outside of marriage. They decided to search a little deeper for purpose and meaning. High on their list for investigation was Christianity.

They decided to try a church near their apartment. They went, attended faithfully, and tried to build some relationships. They both wanted to turn from the lifestyles they had been living and seek God. After just a few weeks, however, it became known in the church that the baby carried by Kristina’s roommate was conceived out of wedlock. Suddenly people wouldn’t sit by them and stopped talking whenever they approached. No one smiled at them when they entered the church. It wasn’t long before the pastor asked them not to return because of the nature of their situation. As you might imagine, Kristina and her roommate never wanted to darken the doorstep of a church again. The pastor’s explanation?

“You’re just not our type.”

None Indifferent

A second environment can be termed none indifferent. This church climate is not hostile, merely apathetic. The questions, concerns, and exploration process of a person like the nones are simply overlooked.

While in New England for a speaking engagement, I recall meeting a pastor of a Baptist church who shared his frustrations regarding the growth of his church. I asked him what he thought the problem was, and he responded, “Well, there just aren’t any more Baptists in my area.” Cultivating an atmosphere for someone who was not a Baptist, much less a Christian, had never entered his mind. He was not hostile to those outside of the church, just oblivious to them.

None Hopeful

A church that creates a none hopeful environment wants to see nones come and meet Christ, but they have never thought about the nature of the church’s climate. Altar calls are extended with great hope and fervor, revivals are held, Sunday school campaigns are enacted, but the warmth of the incubator has not been adjusted. The internal environment has not been changed for years, and as a result, nothing has been done that will effectively bring in nones, much less serve their pilgrimage toward Christ. This type of environment is like a fishing expedition in which people put bait on a hook, place it in the middle of the boat’s deck, and then join hands to pray for the fish to jump in and grab the hook.

None Sensitive

A fourth environment that a church can offer is none sensitive. This atmosphere exhibits some concrete efforts to draw and encourage the nones.  While the overall orientation of the church is still directed toward the growth and maturation of the already convinced, the thermostat has clearly been adjusted to allow all eggs to receive some of the warmth and care they need in order to hatch.

None Targeted

The fifth atmospheric category is best termed none targeted. This is preferable to being none driven, which would mistakenly intimate that the whim of the nones is what determines the theology and direction of the church. In truth, a none targeted environment is one in which church members place a high priority on the needs of the nones and make every effort to remove any and every barrier that could impede the exploration process. Every barrier, that is, except the scandal of the cross. This is not about an abandonment of orthodoxy in an effort to cater to the sensibilities of those alien to the Christian faith. A none targeted climate is just that — targeted on facilitating the process of evangelizing nones. The growth and maturation of believers is certainly cared for, but there is a conscious attempt to be an evangelistic incubator that is set at just the right temperature in regard to the front door, or entry points of the church.

But there is still one more environment, and it arguably the most subtle of all.

No Man’s Land

I grew up with Wheaties, the cereal known as the “Breakfast of Champions.” You knew an athlete had arrived on the cultural scene if their picture landed on the front of one of its boxes. But Wheaties has fallen onto hard times of late. There are many reasons for this, but industry insiders say that the heart of the matter is simple:

Wheaties is in no man’s land.

That’s my terminology, but here’s what the pundits are saying: Wheaties isn’t healthy enough for the Fiber One crowd, and isn’t unhealthy enough for the Frosted Flakes crowd. That’s no man’s land. By not positioning itself firmly in any camp – not quite the health food, not quite the junk food – it reaches no one.

It’s not just cereal that can fall into this category.

The heart of no man’s land for a church is not being targeted enough to reach the unchurched, but being too targeted to the unchurched for the churched. Such churches are too tilted to those exploring the Christian faith to have their weekend services attract large numbers of traditionally minded, church-is-for-me believers, yet too caught in the cultural trappings of traditional church to attract explorers – or at least have their members feel comfortable inviting their unchurched friends.

Why is it so common for churches to find themselves in no man’s land?

It’s because many churches get the surface issues of connecting with those outside of the church, but little more. They get the music, the dress, the style. Yet they don’t go far enough in leading the church to have a missional heart to reach out to those outside of the church and invite them in; and they don’t have culturally informed and culturally sensitive messages and environments that address the questions and concerns of our day. In other words, they have style but not substance, décor but not decorum. They’re trying to stand on Mars Hill with an Acts 17 vibe, but they’re doing it with a Jersualem/Acts 2 DNA.

So they end up reaching neither group.

They know about Mars Hill, talk about Mars Hill, even yearn for Mars Hill, but they don’t really know, in an intuitive sense, how to stand on Mars Hill. They are cultural critics, even cultural students, but not cultural apologists. A real Mars Hill person could spend ten minutes in their church service and see a mindset oriented toward those already convinced of Jerusalem playing out all over the place.

You pick where your church should stand – Mars Hill or Jerusalem. Of course I would argue for Mars Hill. But whatever you do, there’s one place you don’t want to find yourself:

No man’s land.

James Emery White

Link to the original article:

http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/what-kind-of-church-to-the-nones-are-you.html

Why Early Christians Were Despised

The following is from an article on Christianity.com. It features a 2nd century debate between a Christian and a non-Christian. I found it fascinating. Here’s the link to the original article: http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/why-early-christians-were-despised-11629610.html

 

 

The Christian Church, in its earliest centuries after Jesus, endured wave after wave of persecution. All kinds of insults and charges were hurled at them.

A document written in the late 2nd century A.D. called The Octavius of Minicius Felix describes a debate between a Christian and a pagan at the Roman port of Ostia. It provides valuable insight into how Christianswere reviled and how they responded.

Minicius Felix was walking about Ostia with two friends, Octavius a Christian, and Caecilius a pagan. When Caecilius pauses to pay respect to a pagan idol, Octavius objects. An extended debate develops. Here is an adaptation of their debate drawn from that document as well as other early church sources for a taste of that time. We suggest you look carefully at the following charges and consider in what ways Christians today are similarly accused, and where the specifics of opposition now may have changed.

Charge: Cannibalism
CAECILIUS THE PAGAN: You Christians are the worst breed ever to affect the world. You deserve every punishment you can get! Nobody likes you. It would be better if you and your Jesus had never been born. We hear that you are all cannibals–you eat the flesh of your children in your sacred meetings.

OCTAVIUS The Christian: That story is probably based on reports that we share together a meal of the body and blood of Christ. That we do. But it is not human flesh we eat. It is bread and wine we consecrate to commemorate our Lord’s death.

IMAGE LEFT: Ruins at Ostia can be visited today at this ancient Roman port. 12 million barrels of corn came through Ostia annually from Egypt. It was the setting for the encounter between the Christian Octavius and the pagan Caecilius as recorded by Minicius Felix in the late second century A.D. and was used as a basis for this issue

It amazes me you give credibility to these rumors of cannibalism. You know what we’re like. Keep in mind that if you have a child and it is a girl but you wanted a boy, or if the child is deformed, or if you simply don’t want it, what is done? You leave the child outside, exposed to die.

CAECILIUS: You know that it is far more merciful to let the baby die than to bring it up in a home where it is not wanted.

OCTAVIUS: We do not expose our children, and you are well aware how so many of the little ones that have been left out to die have been rescued by Christians and given a home. So it’s just the opposite of what you accuse us of, Caecilius. We don’t consume human life; we rather protect and defend it.

Charge: Gross Immorality
CAECILIUS: All right. Granted, it was just a rumor, but we also hear that you meet in secret, even before sunrise, and the gross immorality that we hear goes on in those places is repulsive — especially the incest.

OCTAVIUS: If you came to one of our meetings you would find that the lovemaking and intimacy you are so quick to imagine is of a totally different nature. We meet before sunrise because we are working people. We have jobs to go to. We do not always meet in secret, but we have no temples or synagogues, so we use somebody’s home which has enough room. We call one another brother and sister and pledge to love one another because that is what our Lord commanded us to do. And we greet one another and bless one another with a holy kiss, not out of lust but out of genuine love and concern for one another. Come and you will see that we demand the highest standards of morality among all who join us.

Charge: Poor and Lower Class
CAECILIUS: Take a look at your gatherings. What are they made up of? Mostly women, gullible children, the majority are from the working classes, not well-educated, mostly poor and even slaves. It makes me laugh when I think how poor you are, barely enough to live on. If this God of yours is so great and so loving, why are so many of you so poor? Either He’s not that loving and doesn’t care that you are poor or He is not that great and is unable do anything about it. Some God! No wonder you¥re all regarded as fools.

OCTAVIUS: If you had bothered to take the time to find out, you would know that there are many from the upper classes among our number, even some of Caesar’s staff. And notable scholars, who were once pagans, have written in defense of our faith for the more educated to consider. But let’s not quibble. Many of our number — most of our number are poor. But what is more important is how we regard ourselves. We consider ourselves to be rich. We have that which is most valuable, the most precious gift, which cannot be lost. And for your information, there are those of us who are wealthy. We do not despise wealth; we welcome it when it comes lawfully. But we do not lust after it. And when we get more wealth, we simply give more away. Wealth can be a great burden. It weighs you down with many cares and concerns. Traveling light has its advantages — some big advantages!

CAECILIUS: Sorry, I haven’t noticed any. I’ll take the wealth instead any day.

OCTAVIUS: You know, Caecilius, talking to you makes me realize why God doesn’t automatically bless us with wealth. Because if he did, people like you would rush to become Christians and miss the whole point. So don’t pity us. We have plenty, not only for ourselves but also for those in need, the ones that you walk right by.

Charge : Self-righteousness
CAECILIUS: Oh, aren’t you so pure and good. That’s another thing that bothers me: you all think you are so righteous and better than the rest of us.

OCTAVIUS: First you accuse us of cannibalism and orgies, now you’re offended because we seek to lead a holy life. Let me assure you, we do not consider ourselves to be holy. Every Lord’s day we have a service of communion, and it is a service of thanksgiving — thanksgiving because we are forgiven, not because we are holy, and if we are forgiven, then we shall seek to lead lives that are like Christ.

Charge: Atheism
CAECILIUS: What concerns me is what you really are. This is the reason that you are hated across all the lands of this vast empire. Let’s get to the real problem. You are atheists.

OCTAVIUS: Yes, we are atheists — if you mean that we do not pray to or believe in all of the gods that we are expected to worship. But these are not gods. We worship the one true God, the Lord over all.

Charge: Novelty
CAECILIUS: You act as if you people know more than the rest of us. You think you know more than all of our fathers. What it comes down to is that you people are captive to novelty.

OCTAVIUS: That is simply just not the case. Why is it you do not require the Jews to sacrifice to your gods. They alone are given exemption. Why? Because of the antiquity of their religion. Well, be assured that the God that the Jews worship is the very same God that we worship. Their sacred writings, the Law and the Prophets, we revere and read aloud in our meetings. And because we worship this God of the Jews, the one thing we cannot be accused of is novelty. It is just the opposite. Our faith looks back beyond the beginning of time to the God who created all that is. What you won’t listen to and what the Jews refuse to accept is that this God has come into our world to show us what He is like in the person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we love and serve.

Charge: Foolishness, Lack of Patriotism
CAECILIUS: How you tire me with this reckless babble! I shall not take the time now to answer you, except to say, how absurd to think that even if the “one true God,” as you assert, were to come to earth, he would surely do better than to come as an unschooled, working-class carpenter in a place like Galilee in Judea. And if forgiveness were to be found through some man, I assure you that it would never come through the death of some convicted and crucified criminal. But let’s put aside such simplicity and naivet¨ for now, for we are a tolerant people, and you are free to believe as you wish. In many ways you do not sound all that different from some of the mystery religions, and they are left alone. But what makes you people so offensive is your stubbornness. Believe what you will, but that is no excuse for the lack of patriotism.

You people are happy to benefit from all that is ours, living in this greatest time of all history, but where is your gratitude? You are antisocial snobs. You will not show proper respect for our anniversary festivals. You will not sacrifice to the genius of the emperor. You will not fight and join the empire. Simply put, you are disloyal, unpatriotic, and not to be trusted. As far as I am concerned, you are a danger to society.

OCTAVIUS: Hold on! One at a time, please. We do not join the army, and we do not fight because we do not believe in killing. We love our enemies and do good to them. Even though we are often hunted down and killed because of accusers like you, we do not even take up arms to defend ourselves. So I fail to see how we are any danger to anyone. But yes, you are right. We do not pray to the emperor or join with our neighbors in the sacrifices to the gods. But while we do not pray to the emperor, we do pray for the emperor. We recognize those in authority as appointed by God to preserve order. We seek, we pray for the peace and tranquility of the empire. God knows, if any group seeks a quiet and undisturbed life, it is us. We never know when we will be blamed for anything that is going wrong, be hunted down and arrested.

Charge: Cause of God’s Anger
CAECILIUS: Not without cause, I assure you. Why can you not see what is so clear to everyone? Your lack of patriotism has caused us all grief and suffering. The gods have been good to Rome. They have given us great victories, good food, fertile land. That is why we must propitiate them and rid ourselves of you atheists. You are no more than criminals and must be dealt with as such.

OCTAVIUS: Oh yes, we have heard that before, too many times. As one of our fathers wrote: If the Tiber overflows its walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky doesn’t move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, the cry is at once, “The Christian to the lion!”