Spurgeon on the Pastor and Depression

I am in the process of doing some research on the Christian and depression, and I stumbled across this gem from Charles Spurgeon who suffered his own bouts with deep depression.  In this excerpt from “When a Preacher is Downcast,” Spurgeon addresses how depression affects pastors specifically.  While I would want to be much more careful about describing the pastor, as Spurgeon does, as some kind of pinnacle of spirituality, his understanding of the effects of isolation will ring true in a number of fellow pastors.  Take heart.  You are not alone:

Our position in the church will also conduce to this. A minister fully equipped for his work will usually be a spirit by himself, above, beyond and apart from others. The most loving of his people cannot enter into his peculiar thoughts, cares and temptations.

In the ranks, men walk shoulder to shoulder with many comrades, but as the officer rises in rank, men of his standing are fewer in number. There are many soldiers, few captains, fewer colonels, and only one commander in chief.

 So in our churches the man whom the Lord raises as a leader becomes, in the same degree in which he is a superior man, a solitary man. The mountaintops stand solemnly apart and talk only with God as He visits their terrible solitudes.

 Men of God who rise above their fellows into nearer communion with heavenly things in their weaker moments feel the lack of human sympathy. Like their Lord in Gethsemane, they look in vain for comfort to the disciples sleeping around them. They are shocked at the apathy of their little band of brethren and return to their secret agony with all the heavier burden pressing upon them because they have found their dearest companions slumbering.

 No one knows, but he who has endured it, the solitude of a soul which has outstripped its fellows in zeal for the Lord of Hosts. It dares not reveal itself, lest men count it mad. It cannot conceal itself, for a fire burns within its bones. Only before the Lord does it find rest.

 Our Lord’s sending out His disciples by two and two manifested that He knew what was in men. But for such a man as Paul, it seems to me that no helpmeet was found. Barnabas or Silas or Luke were hills too low to hold high converse with such a Him-alayan summit as the apostle of the Gentiles.

This loneliness, which if I mistake not is felt by many of my brethren, is a fertile source of depression; and our ministers’ fraternal meetings and the cultivation of holy intercourse with kindred minds will, with God’s blessing, help us greatly to escape the snare.

Creation, Evolution and Worldview on Display in Nye vs. Ham

Here are few links post-debate links for further reflection on the debate between Nye and Ham (updated throughout the day):

–Watch the full debate here.

–Albert Mohler observes that the primary issue in the debate is that of worldview:  

“…the argument was never really about ice rods and sediment layers. It was about the most basic of all intellectual presuppositions: How do we know anything at all? On what basis do we grant intellectual authority? Is the universe self-contained and self-explanatory? Is there a Creator, and can we know him?

On those questions, Ham and Nye were separated by infinite intellectual space. They shared the stage, but they do not live in the same intellectual world. Nye is truly committed to a materialistic and naturalistic worldview. Ham is an evangelical Christian committed to the authority of the Bible. The clash of ultimate worldview questions was vividly displayed for all to see.”

For those (like myself) who thought the debate format muddied the waters even more, Justin Taylor provides additional video resources for further reflection surrounding the age of the earth, including a very level-headed response by R.C. Sproul:

–Denny Burk provides his brief reactions to the debate.

–Pastor Matt Rawlings reflects on why he didn’t watch the debate:

“It is a shame that these side shows garner so much publicity while a true debate over issues of consequence, such as the one between Dr. William Lane Craig v. Duke philosopher Alex Rosenberg get so little attention. It is telling how many Christian apologists all but ignored last night’s debate. Many of the people I respect chose instead to watch Mike Licona lecture at HBU (you can catch a breakdown and videos of it at the blog of Wintery Knight). I, on the other hand, watched the UK v. Ole Miss game on ESPNU and then read for two hours.  I guarantee you either were a better use of time.”

Steward. Herald. Encounter.

In his new book Preaching: A Biblical Theology Jason Meyer identifies three categories of preaching the word: stewarding, heralding and encountering.

“The ministry of the word in Scripture is (1) stewarding and (2) heralding God’s word in such a way that people (3) encounter God through his word… The first phase is the stewarding phase.  It focuses on faithfully receiving God’s word.  The steward is entrusted with the word of God. The second phase is the heralding of God’s word.  God intends for the stewarded word to be heralded.  The preacher gives a human voice to the divine word so that others will hear from God.  The third phase is encountering God through his word.  In this step, the responsibility to steward the word passes from the preacher to the people.  This phase is a time of great gravity because every word from God demands a response.”

Yet another reminder that the task of preaching is not to be undertaken by the preacher’s own authority, but rather, he comes as one who is entrusted with something that belongs to another.  The ministry of the Word summed up:  Steward.  Herald.  Encounter.

Exploring the “Whys” of Parental Anger

Excerpt from CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet by Michael Emlet:

“…when I speak to my daughter or son in a harsh tone of voice, it’s not enough to say, ‘I sinned by being harsh.’ Though that’s true, I ought to explore the ‘whys’ behind my words and tone, particularly if there is a pattern. As I reflect on these questions, perhaps I think I need peace and quiet at all costs. Or perhaps I ‘need’ a child who is compliant in order to feel good about my parenting. But these attitudes are antithetical to the gospel! These self-oriented story lines have nothing to do with the self-sacrificial aspects of the kingdom. In the moments leading up to my overt sin, I’ve been captivated essentially by a story line (really a ‘story lie’) that says, ‘Your comfort is king. What’s wrong here is your child. She’s disturbing your peace.’ Thankfully, the Scriptures speak deeply and redemptively to sinners and invite us to return to gospel-oriented story lines.”

3 Reasons to Write Out Your Prayers

scribe-paintingI have met a scarce few fellow believers who are satisfied with their prayer lives. The demands of a fast-paced society can quickly throw us into frustration for seasons at a time in regards to our spiritual disciplines. Often, our prayers are sporadic at best and bear a striking resemblance to our web surfing, jumping from one place to the next without giving much thought as to why we were online in the first place.

It’s not that the Lord doesn’t honor the “Oh-yeah-I-need-to-pray-real-quick” kind of prayers that are conjured up in the shower, during the morning commute, or in the remaining few moments before drifting off to sleep. He most certainly does. But the truth is, we are frustrated with such a spastic approach to prayer, because deep down inside we know that such an important component to the Christian life demands a more intentional, more focused and fervent approach. One practical solution for some could be the implementation of a prayer journal. There are several ways a prayer journal might be able to help combat some of our frustrations and provide the missing pieces of intentionality and organization that are absent from our present technique:

1.  Writing out prayers helps guard against distraction.  The problem of drifting in thought while in prayer is at least as old as Gethsemane, and that was well before the age of the 30 second commercial and the 9 second soundbite.  Our brains have been conditioned not to stay in one place for too long.  This, of course, is not new.  Martin Luther struggled with it as well.  “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”  Writing out our prayers, hunkered over a piece of paper with a pen, looks a little bit like a dog to a piece of meat.  It creates a sense of awareness to the need of finishing the task.  We don’t get up until there’s no meat on the bone, or at least until we have written “Amen.”

2.  Writing out prayers has the added benefit of being able to look back and see spiritual growth.  As our children grow up they ask for more mature things.  At least, I hope that my daughter no longer wants a baby panda whenever she is in her 20s.  A written prayer is frozen in time and opens itself up to scrutiny by a more seasoned version of yourself later on in life.  Can you imagine the embarrassment of reading through the prayers of your junior high years?  But imagine if you had actually written them?  Hopefully, you would see evidence of spiritual growth, how the Lord has transitioned your deepest desires from making the basketball team and marrying the cheerleader to providing for your family and leading your home spiritually.  A prayer journal takes pictures of the sanctification process and allows an opportunity for rejoicing in the Lord’s faithfulness in conforming you more into the image of Christ.

3.  Writing out prayers allows opportunity to observe how the Lord has answered our prayers.  Rarely do we have an opportunity to reflect upon the Lord’s faithfulness in answering our prayers. Perhaps some of our suspicion regarding the power of prayer could be curtailed simply by observing how the Lord has responded when we have petitioned him in the past.  The fact that we may doubt the efficacy of prayer has more to do with our own self-centeredness and forgetfulness than it does God’s occasional silence.  Observing the Lord’s past provision creates a greater longing to see more of God’s provision in the future, and a greater longing to see more of God’s provision in the future creates more a more fervent prayer-life in the present.  Writing out our prayers removes the self-righteous luxury of forgetting what we prayed and assuming that we have overcome our various obstacles and trials by our own might.

Give it a try.  Get yourself a good pen and some good paper.  Start with trying to journal one or two prayers a week for a season.  Allow yourself enough grace to fail a few times, but stay with it.  You will see an increased desire to approach the Lord in prayer.

Are You Missional? 10 Diagnostic Questions

Originally posted by Trevin Wax over a year ago, this was worthy of being revived for a fresh post here:

In the book Live Sent: You Are a LetterJason Dukes lays out 10 questions to help Christians discern whether or not they are operating with a missional mindset. I’ve adapted and explained them below. Challenging words!

1. When you speak of church, what prepositions do you use?

Do you focus on church as a place or event more than a people who are sent?

2. When you think of missions, do you think of a mission trip to a distant city and a service project in your own community or do you think about daily life among your family, neighbors, and coworkers?

The answer should be both. Living sent means you are a missionary in your everyday encounters.

3. What is your common declaration about lost people around you? “Can you believe the way those people act?” OR “When can you come over for dinner?”

Hospitality is a key to living sent.

4. Is my tendency to disengage from culture and retreat into safer, more Christian environments? Or is it to engage culture even amidst discomfort and danger?

We must be among lost people in order to be an effective witness.

5. When you hear “make disciples,” do you think of a classroom or your relationships?

We should be equipped to disciple people in the daily routine of life, not just the classroom.

6. Do you spend a lot of time wondering whether you should quit your job to surrender to ministry? Or do you simply live to minister to anyone and everyone where you are currently?

Pastoral ministry is vitally important, but too many Christians are unaware that they too are involved in ministry to the people around them.

7. When you think of a friend who needs help, do you think, “I need to get him to see the pastor” OR “I wonder what I can do to help”?

Pastors are to equip God’s people to do the work of the ministry, not be the only ones who minister and witness to the lost.

8. When you think of heaven, do you think “kingdom come” or “kingdom is here”?

As people who believe the kingdom is both now and not yet, we ought to live as people who are the “presence of the future.”

9. Do you think godliness is measured with a mirror or within community?

Introspection (the mirror) is not the only way we become holy before the world. Jesus said people would see our fruit through our love for and life with other believers. “An intimate, shared life with God is most clearly demonstrated in intimate, shared life with one another.”

10. Do you have a lost friend who would actually introduce you as his or her friend?

If we are to live sent the way the sent One intended, then we must have genuine friendship with the lost too.

A blog by Tory Giddens


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