Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Ramadan Song

Because of the differences between the Islamic calendar and the Gregorian calendar, the most "holy" month of Ramadan, observance of which is one of The Five Pillars of Islam, is held at a different time every year. Although both the Hadiths and the teachings of Mohammedan scholars disagree, the month generally is considered to begin when the new or crescent moon is first seen at a certain time of year - - - it could be November, it could be September.  This year, it begins on July 8, and ends on August 7.

This preoccupation with the moon, along with the symbolism of the crescent in Islam, leads some people to say that Islam is "moon worship."  That's not entirely correct, but it's not far wrong.  Moon worship existed in the Arab world long before Muhammad's grandmother was born; it was just one of many elements, like sections of the Bible, that the "Prophet" appropriated when he created his "religion."  He knew that worship of the moon was an old Arab custom, so he incorporated it into his homemade "revelation."  This was just one of many aspects of ancient Babylonian idolatry he adopted, but it doesn't mean that Mohammedans only worship the moon.  The moon, like Mohammad himself, is only one of Islam's "gods," no matter how hysterically and homicidally the Muslims proclaim themselves to be "monotheists."

In any event, Ramadan 2013 is right around the corner.  On behalf of all Christians, Jews, and sane people, and in the spirit of ecumenism, I offer the following, which should be adopted as the official anthem of Mohammedanism.  It is performed by Thea Gilmore:

video

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Christian and Depression, Part III

You're discouraged, and feel almost hopeless, because things aren't going well on the job ... or you can't find a job in the first place.  As a born again Christian, you're experiencing a period of spiritual dryness, and feel somehow "cut off" from the Lord. You're disappointed because of a failed romance, or a broken friendship, or a bank loan being denied, or failing a crucial exam in school. It appears that your prayers aren't being answered, and reading the Bible seems to be a dull and uninteresting chore.  In other words, you're miserable.  That's the bad news.  The good news?  You're probably not suffering from Major Clinical Depression!

The sorrows and difficulties mentioned above are, sadly, a normal part of life - - - even the Christian life.  We all go through feelings of gloom and hopelessness and discouragement at times; depending on our personalities, we may experience such things frequently, or very infrequently.  This is part of the human condition.  In the words of Shakespeare, quoted in an earlier post, these are "the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to."  Eventually, these feelings pass: perhaps gradually, perhaps all at once: we wake up one morning and, to our astonishment, the world seems much brighter.  If this is your experience, it's very unlikely that you're suffering from the disease of Major Depression.  You are, in fact, what the experts call "normal!"

This series of posts, however, is aimed at people who have received Christ, according to John 1:12 and John 3:3-7, and who are afflicted with the physical illness of Major Clinical Depression.  And for them (for us, really; I've been treated for this disease for twenty years), it's a far different story.  (I highly recommend that you go to the bottom of the post and read the first two posts in the series, if you haven't already, before proceeding.) In today's post, we're going to discuss some of the symptoms of Major Depression.  How can you tell whether you have it or not?  Well, you can't, all by yourself: you'll probably need a professional diagnosis.  (Your family doctor or a general practitioner can help; you don't need to go straight to a shrink.) But knowing the symptoms can tell you whether such a diagnosis is called for.



(Incidentally, I don't use the word "shrink" in an insulting or sarcastic fashion: psychiatrists and psychologists are professionals, and I afford them the respect I'd give any professional - - - but no more.  They don't intimidate me, and I don't hold them in any great reverence.  They're doctors [the psychiatrists are, anyway], and after being treated by several of them, I've earned the right to use shorthand or slang if I want to.  If you want to see real sarcasm and disrespect, think about how people talk about preachers of the Gospel!)

As we've mentioned in previous posts, many Bible believing Christians are very skeptical about Depression, or any other mental illness, in the life of a genuinely saved Christian.  (By the way, please check your own personal vocabulary: the terms "mentally ill" and "insane" or "crazy" are not the same things.  If you suffer from Major Depression, you're not "crazy" at all; you simply have a problem with your brain chemistry, as we described in Part I of this series.) Very often, ignorant but well-meaning Christians will quote the verse, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). "If you were just 'right with God,'" they'll say, "You'd have a sound mind!  You wouldn't have any mental illness at all!"  But they misunderstand the verse.  It's not a reference to mental illness, but to a way of thinking, the same as other verses.  (In fact, the verse can be a great comfort to those of us whose thinking is clouded by illness.)  Having a mental illness doesn't contradict the promises and declarations of scripture.  For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).  That's an absolute assurance for every Christian; but having the mind of Christ doesn't mean that our old, fallen natures have disappeared, or that our brain chemistry is always functioning perfectly.  Christians need to be careful how they apply the scriptures - - - to others, and to themselves.  Some of our brethren (or sistren, if that's a word) can become quite self-righteous about this.  "Hmmmph!" they'll say.  "I don't need a bottle of pills to help me deal with my problems!"  If someone says that to you, the proper response is to smile and say, "Wonderful!  How much time have you spent thanking God for that in the past week?"

What are the symptoms of genuine Major or Clinical Depression?  (The terms are synonymous.)  Let's see what the "experts" say.  (I should say, emphatically, that I am not a fan of the American Psychiatric Association, which is simply another "professional organization," like the National Education Association, which is quite political, and which changes its positions on controversial subjects to suit the prevailing political winds.  But they do publish the "DSM-IV," the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which lists and describes psychiatric disorders.  It is the authoritative guide to mental illness, at least among professionals, and it would be a mistake to toss it aside. [The Fifth Edition is currently under review.] Not all psychiatrists are quacks, and not all Christian pastors are money-grubbing hypocrites.  Right?  Right. Even the best shrinks, even the genuinely Christian shrinks, belong to the APA because it's almost a professional necessity, just as NEA membership is de rigeur for teachers.) According to experts, Major Depression affects about 19 million Americans, within any one year period, or approximately 9.5% of the population.  (In other words, you probably don't have the disease, if you're in the other 90.5%!) Depression is so common that it has been called "the common cold of mental illness."  As a Christian, do you feel sinful or ashamed when you get a cold?  Then you shouldn't feel that way if you're diagnosed with Major Depression.  It may be your "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), and you must remember God's words on the matter:  My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  We praise God for His love and grace: but that doesn't mean that God disapproves of us taking a decongestant when we have a cold, or seeking help if we have Depression.


According to the DSM-IV, a "Depressive Episode" must involve at least five of the following symptoms, for two weeks or more, and this must be a change in one's normal state.  If you only have three symptoms, or it lasts less than two weeks, it's not the real thing: 

a.  Depressed mood. For children and adolescents, this may be irritable mood. 
b.  A significantly reduced level of interest or pleasure in most or all activities. 
c.  A considerable loss or gain of weight (e.g., 5% or more change of weight in a month when not dieting). This may also be an increase or decrease in appetite. For children, they may not gain an expected amount of weight. 
d.  Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia), or sleeping more than usual (hypersomnia). 
e.  Behavior that is agitated or slowed down. Others should be able to observe this. 
f.  Feeling fatigued, or diminished energy. 
g. Thoughts of worthlessness or extreme guilt (not about being ill). 
h. Ability to think, concentrate, or make decisions is reduced. 
i.  Frequent thoughts of death or suicide (with or without a specific plan), or attempt of suicide.

That's the definition of a Major Depressive "episode."  To be diagnosed with ongoing Major Depressive Disorder, there must be at least one period of two months in which these symptoms are not present: in other words, you "get over it," but only temporarily.  Then it returns.  Like so many physical disorders, you experience the symptoms (say, pain in your chest), then they seem to go away for awhile - - - but the disease is still there, waiting to crop up again. Also, the symptoms must not be better explained by another problem: for example, a brain tumor.

Now, here's what's so interesting about this "mental illness."  Did you notice how many of the symptoms are physical, and not emotional?  Most people with Major Depression will experience both, at some point, to a greater or lesser degree.  But that's what treatment is for, and that's why the disease is different from other mental disorders.  Yes, some people with Depression are suicidal: but many never are.  (And many suicidal people don't suffer from Depression.)  What teenager, or man who's lost his job, hasn't had "feelings of worthlessness?"  But that in itself doesn't indicate the presence of the disease; that's just part of life. Major Depression, however, affects the body, as well as the emotions.  When the disease is being managed by medication or other means, the physical symptoms might the only symptoms: exhaustion, insomnia, changes in one's sex drive, changes in one's appetite, etc.  Or, one might suffer the emotional feelings, without all of the physical symptoms.  It's different in every case, as is true with any disease.  But the physical symptoms point to a very important fact: Depression is a physical problem, caused by body chemistry, and not merely "the blues" or a "melancholy personality," if such a thing exists.  That's why Christians shouldn't feel ashamed or apologetic about it.  Would you feel that you'd "failed the Lord" if you had an attack of appendicitis, or breast cancer?  No, you'd ask to be put on the prayer list at church.  But we hesitate to do that with a mental illness, don't we?

That's because there are so many myths and misunderstandings about this disease, and that will be the subject of our next post.  Until that time, however, we can only repeat what we've said before: the Bible believing Christian who suffers from Depression needs the attention of professionals, but his or her main help will come only from the Lord.  David said, Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man (Psalm 60:11).  If a Christian turns his or her back on God, and places his or her faith in the psychiatrist, they're only dealing with part of the problem: the body. But the soul and spirit are involved, too, and the shrinks, who can help the physical problems, can't address these things.  The Christian needs medical attention and the understanding and counsel of brothers and sisters in Christ.

But, as Jesus said, those that are sick need a doctor (Mark 2:17).  When the Good Samaritan found the man by the side of the road, he didn't ignore the man's physical wounds and bruises, or tell him that he "wasn't living right:" he dressed the wounds, and provided a place to rest. God sent the Good Samaritan to that suffering man, and He'll provide help to the Depressed Christian in whatever way He chooses.  If this includes medication, so be it: God gave men and women the knowledge to create the medications in the first place.

You probably don't suffer from Major Depression.  But if you do, don't be ashamed, or immobilized by guilt.  Seek both spiritual and medical help, and stay in the Bible: that's where the eternal answers are!

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard (Psalm 22:24).
 

It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22, 23). 

The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him (Nahum 1:7).

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

Thank God for His mercy and His wonderful compassion!




Friday, May 24, 2013

What is the "perfect work of patience?"

We've all heard the expression, "patience is a virtue," and although it's a cliché, it's borne out by common sense and our common experience. We all know that patience is preferable to being harried and frantic and constantly trying to anticipate the future. But when the Bible talks about patience, it has some very interesting, and unexpected, things to say. 

The word "patience" is used 34 times in the King James Bible. Sometimes it's synonymous with "longsuffering," as in Galatians 5:22, where it's part of the fruit of the Spirit. Usually, however, the words are not exactly synonymous; that's why different words are used in the first place. Longsuffering is usually an attribute of God (again, an attribute of the Holy Spirit in the verse just cited); patience is usually an attribute of men and women.

But we're not going to do a general study of patience right now. (I'm not enough of an expert on the subject!) Rather, I'd like to focus on a single verse, James 1:4: But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

(It must be noted that 90% of the modern versions of the Bible do not use the word "patience" here, preferring such terms as "endurance" or "perseverence," which are simply not the same thing. Several modern version use the word "it." But the overwhelming majority of Greek fragments, and manuscript evidence, say "patience." That's another example of the fraudulent and unreliable nature of the "new" translations, which are based on some outrageously corrupt "old" Greek manuscripts.) 

In the Old Testament, wisdom is often personified, and here patience is given the same treatment. When God personifies something like this, it's a pretty good indication that the concept is quite important to Him. And in this case, patience is very important to us, in ways that we might not expect.   Patience is a lot more than simply remaining calm in a traffic jam, or being able to wait to buy something we can't afford. It's even more than biting our lip when we want to yell at our spouse, or our kids. It's an attitude, a habitual attitude, and it doesn't develop overnight, like a mushroom. It takes awhile to develop and learn. 


But, assuming we develop it all, what's it good for? (Yes, it helps our blood pressure, and makes life more pleasant for those around us, but beyond that?) What on earth is James talking about when he says "Let patience have her perfect work?" What is her perfect work? We can get a hint from several other passages, in which we see the "work" of patience in other people's lives. In Philippians 3:13-15, Paul says: Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. The word patience isn't found there, but another word from the verse in James is: perfect. In this chapter of Philippians, Paul is recounting some of his experiences, and, in reminding us to keep looking forward, not backward, he says something in an almost casual way: as many as be perfect.... 

So, maybe the "perfect work" of patience is ... perfection

Is Paul claiming to be perfect, along with certain other Christians? Apparently so. Does that mean that he has overcome sin, and is constantly Christlike in his actions? Clearly not: because, right before these verses, in verse 12, he says, Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 

Aha! Is this another one of those "contradictions" so beloved of the skeptics? Which is it, Paul: are you perfect, or are you not? 

And the answer is, Yes and no ... because there's more than one meaning of "perfect." 

Some Christians believe that our "old man" (Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9), our old sin nature, can be "eradicated" in our earthly lifetimes. That, sadly, is bad teaching. Romans 7 shows us that the battle between the old and new man rages until the day we go Home. In verse 12, Paul is saying, "I'm not perfect, in the sense of sinless perfection." But in verse 15, right after using the word "us," he says that some people are perfect. So it must mean something else. 

And any Christian who's received good teaching knows what it means: it means maturity in Christ. Paul was not sinless, but he was an experienced, scripture-oriented, mature Christian. Paul, through his many trials, had developed patience, and the perfect work of patience, in his life, was spiritual maturity. 

So can it be - - - so should it be - - - in ours. 

Not convinced by Paul's experience? Then let's look at another, very reverently. The Lord Jesus Christ never sinned a single time; unlike Paul, He was sinlessly perfect. But that doesn't mean (I say it reverently) that He didn't have to learn something. And God's word tells us what it was.

Hebrews 5:7-9, speaking of Jesus: Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Some people say that "perfect" means "complete," instead of "mature." No problem: spiritually speaking, I think that's a distinction without a difference. 


So, if patience has a "perfect work," it must be spiritual maturity, spiritual completeness. (It could be other things as well, but it's this, at least.) That's a good deal more valuable than a healthy blood pressure reading! So, how do we develop patience, anyway? 

Well, this is the rough part. You might guess, from the examples of how Paul and Jesus were made perfect. To get the context, Romans 5:1-5: Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 

That's why we glory in our tribulations: because they produce patience. (It's also why I never pray for patience! When facing difficulty, I pray for grace.) And when patience is produced - - - and it's only produced by tribulation - - - then it can have its perfect work of spiritual maturity and "perfection." 

Becoming a Christian, receiving Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, is the easiest thing in the world; anybody can do it. But living the Christian life is a different story. There's nothing easy about it. 

But the alternative? Not having Christ in my life? 

I don't want the tribulation, Lord ... but give me grace. And thank You for Your word, and Your promise that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

What a promise!  What a Saviour!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unanswered Prayers

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily (Luke 18:1-8).

God's seasons are not at your beck. If the first stroke of the flint doth not bring forth the fire, you must strike again. God will hear prayer, but He may not answer it at the time which we in our minds have appointed; He will reveal Himself to our seeking hearts, but not just when and where we have settled in our own expectations. Hence the need of perseverance and importunity in supplication.
      
In the days of flint and steel and brimstone matches we had to strike and strike again, dozens of times, before we could get a spark to live in the tinder; and we were thankful enough if we succeeded at last.
      
Shall we not be as persevering and hopeful as to heavenly things? We have more certainty of success in this business than we had with our flint and steel, for we have God's promises at our back.

Never let us despair. God's time for mercy will come; yea, it has come, if our time for believing has arrived. Ask in faith nothing wavering; but never cease from petitioning because the King delays to reply. Strike the steel again. Make the sparks fly and have your tinder ready; you will get a light before long. --C. H. Spurgeon

I do not believe that there is such a thing in the history of God's kingdom as a right prayer offered in a right spirit that is forever left unanswered. --Theodore L. Cuyler


 (From Streams in the Desert, Mrs. Charles Cowman, 1925) 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Studies in Islam: The "Truth" About Christianity

I've been informed, by someone who has glanced at this blog from time to time, that I'm only causing problems by pointing out the savage, sub-human nature of the Mohammedan "religion."  Therefore, in this post, I won't say anything negative about the so-called Prophet Muhammad or his followers.  Instead, in the interests of equal time, I'll allow a Muslim cleric from Egypt to explain the "truth" about my own faith, i.e., Christianity.

I apologize in advance for the content of this video, but these are not my remarks.  This is what Mohammedans teach their people about Christianity ... and, particularly, about Christian women.

Very well, Imam; we're ready for your thoughtful and highly intellectual critique of our faith.  The floor is yours.

video

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Obama's War on Christianity Continues

It is becoming increasingly, glaringly apparent that the President of the United States, and his appointees, are pursuing an anti-Christian agenda that would do a Muslim or a Marxist proud.*  The Administration is currently embroiled in a set of scandals, any one of which would have toppled any previous President; but such matters as the ongoing Benghazi cover-up and the administration's illegal wiretaps of employees of the Associated Press are not specifically aimed at Christian groups or individuals.  Other actions, however, are prima facie anti-Christian in their intent and effect.  If President Obama is simply trying to distance himself from the false piety of his predecessor, he's going to extraordinary lengths to do it.  It is more likely that he simply bears a personal animosity to traditional Christianity, and is determined to attack it at every opportunity, always using underlings, of course, so as to maintain his charade as a "Christian" himself.

Item: As reported in a recent post, the family of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike left their native Germany simply because they wanted to home school their children, who were being bullied and taught in a manner offensive to the Romeike's traditional Christian beliefs.  But homeschooling has been illegal in Germany since the days of Hitler, and the parents soon found themselves facing harassment and fines (the equivalent of around $10,000 USD).  Naively believing that the United States was still a free country, they moved here in 2008, and in 2010 were granted political asylum by a United States Immigration judge.  In May of 2012, however, the Board of Immigration Appeals, part of the Department of Homeland Security, ruled that the Romeikes had no right to asylum, and must return to Germany.  The family waited for a year for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the BIA's ruling.  Within the past week, the Court sided with the Obama Administration, and said that the Romeikes had to go.  This was after the CIA, the FBI, and the DHS, had all decided that the Boston bombers, who were militant Muslims and not homeschooling Christians, did not constitute a threat to the "security of the homeland." The people of Boston might not agree that the Romeike family is particularly sinister by comparison.  The Romeikes are appealing to the Supreme Court.


Item:  One of the other current scandals, the Internal Revenue Service audits of conservative and Republican groups, which is outrageous enough in itself, has now been revealed to have involved Christian individuals and organizations, too, and in particularly egregious ways.  When communicating with Christian anti-abortion groups, the IRS even demanded to know the content of one group's prayers.  (The group's activities included standing across the street from abortion clinics, praying, but not exhibiting garish signs or accosting individuals at the clinic. At one time in America, this was known as "freedom of assembly" and "free speech.") The IRS questionnaire to this group included the following:

When questioned on this specific point during the ongoing Congressional inquiry, Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller (who has since been fired, so that the President can distance himself from his own administration's misdeeds), had this to say:

video

Item:  The IRS scandal, however, was not confined to anti-abortion or "Tea Party" groups.  The IRS also audited the Rev. Billy Graham, his son Franklin, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Franklin Graham's universally-respected relief organization, Samaritan's Purse.  This prompted Franklin Graham to write a letter of protest to the President, and share the letter with the Politico website. The motivations for these bullying tactics were apparently twofold: the BGEA had encouraged voters to "support candidates who base their decision of biblical principles and support the nation of Israel;" and both Grahams had publicly endorsed Gov. Romney's candidacy, although as private citizens, not speaking for their organizations.

The IRS subsequently made a public apology for targeting such groups (although it is unknown whether the President replied to Franklin Graham's letter), but Obama himself refused to make any apology, or even comment on the matter, except in hypothetical mode: "if this happened, it would be outrageous," etc.** Once upon a time, there was another Democratic President who famously declared that "The buck stops here." The current incumbent, however, simply sent forth his feckless, stammering Press Secretary, who was quickly called out by one reporter on Obama's equivocation:

video

Although depressing, it is not surprising that a President would use the IRS against his enemies; it's been done before, and will be done by other Presidents.  But why does President Obama seem to consistently assert himself against Christians?  The Romeike case had nothing to do with politics, or elections, or the IRS.  President Obama's State Department does not attempt to protect such Christians as Saeed Abedini or Asia Bibi from persecution, even when the United Nations or the ACLU speak out on their behalf.  President Obama has now been in office for nearly five years; and, especially since his reelection, has demonstrated time and again his contempt for Christianity, and the followers of Christ.

I wish the IRS would ask me for the content of my prayers! I'd tell them that I pray for the health and well-being of the President and his family, and that God would grant him wisdom and strength - - - and that God would save his soul, and those of his underlings.  I don't pray for revolution or resistance; I pray that the government would leave me and my fellow Christians alone, so that we can live our lives and serve our Saviour in peace. (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2)

I am not "railing" against the President: that would be contrary to scripture.  I honor his office and pray for his soul.  But when he strikes out against Christians, or God's nation, Israel, the Bible does not obligate me to be silent.

One more thing, a personal note to my fellow Christians: Please, let's not start yammering about "persecution."  In America, we're not being persecuted yet; there are millions of our brethren around the world who are suffering the real thing, and we should pray for them, more than we do for ourselves.  Persecution has not yet come to this nation; but when it does, it will likely come from someone not unlike President Obama. 

*No, I'm not claiming, as some do, that the President is a Muslim.  That his economic policies are informed by doctrinaire Marxism, however, is a more likely assertion.

**UPDATES: Newly discovered information indicates that the President not only knew about the IRS audits in advance, but either suggested or agreed to them.  Furthermore, the May 21, 2013 edition of the notorious right-wing, fundamentalist publication The Washington Post reported that the targeted audits had already begun as early as a year ago (May 2012). On the same day, the ultra-conservative Los Angeles Times reported that the head of the IRS Tax-Emempt Division will invoke the 5th Amendment, which protects a defendant from self-incrimination, when she testifies before Congress about targeted audits going back as far as 2010.  In a rare show of press solidarity, the editorial board of the New York Times condemned the Obama Administration on May 22 for its illegal wiretaps of the phones of Fox News reporters.  And, on May 24, veteran journalist Michael Isikoff reported for NBC News that Attorney General Eric Holder personally directed a search of a Fox TV reporter's e-mails.  This story is the gift that keeps on giving, the scandal that never ends, and further updates on this blog would be superfluous.  We are dealing with the most corrupt administration in American history. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Don't put away that Bible!"

In a recent post, we discussed the hatred and fear that so many people have of God's word, the Bible.  Using a certain "conservative" television personality as an example of such Bibliophobia, we addressed the fact that people throughout the Western world, primarily unbelievers, can't even bear to hear the Bible quoted, and we mentioned that many professing "Christians" have similar attitudes.

But that's the Western world, where people are pampered, spoiled, and educated beyond their intelligence.  Although Muslims hate God's word, and Jews have little use for the New Testament (I apologize to my Jewish friends for mentioning them in the same sentence with the Mohammedans), others in less "developed" areas than the West do not have the same hatred of the word of God.  Although they may not yet be Christians, they have a deep-seated, God-given yearning for the truth - - - a yearning which puts many of us to shame. (Others are certainly Christians, but have never owned a copy of the Bible in their lives.) For example, I'm a Bible believing Christian, saved according to John 1:12 and John 3:3-7, and I genuinely love the Bible .... but you wouldn't always know it by the way I spend my time.  If you're a Christian, look at your Bible, over on the table or the desk, and look at your television, and look at your computer: which of the three occupies more of your time?  Which of them do you go to with eagerness, or at least for relaxation or recreation?  If you're like me, the answer might not be comfortable.

But here's a group of people who haven't been raised with three or four Bibles gathering dust on the shelf. They happen to be Chinese; they could just as easily be African, or from some other area.  They've just received a shipment of Bibles from a missionary group.  Look at their reactions.  Study their faces.  I wish that I could translate their comments, but the faces tell the story.

Is this how you and I treat the Bible?  An interesting question.....

video


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Christian and Depression, Part II

Christians who suffer from the disease of Major or Clinical Depression are different from other people - - - and they're different from other Christians, too. Unfortunately, many non-Christians, who understand or suffer from the disease, can be more understanding and sympathetic than some of our brothers and sisters in Christ: not always, but sometimes.

In our earlier post, which really should be read before this one, we made a stab at understanding this subject, and now (and in subsequent posts) we're going to discuss it more fully.  But first, we need to repeat a couple of caveats, so that we won't be misunderstood.  I'm not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I've been treated for Major Depression for twenty years, and it's quite likely that the disease affected me long before it was diagnosed.  I speak only as one individual to others.  I'm addressing people who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, according to John 1:12 and John 3:3-7, and who are experiencing this disease.

That doesn't mean I'm ignoring non-Christians with the disease, or trying to construct barriers.  But let's be realistic.  Different demographic groups have different experiences and different problems.  Depression can be precipitated or triggered by different factors.  I don't know what it's like to be black, or a war veteran, or a Native American; I haven't lived their lives, or gone through their joys and sorrows, or the societal pressures they face.  But I know what it's like to be a Bible-believing, born again Christian with the disease, and that's why I'm addressing "my own crowd."  Yes, everyone who suffers from Clinical Depression has many of the same problems; but in these posts, I'm speaking to my brothers and sisters.  Christians with this disorder have been misunderstood, or scoffed at, or dismissed for far too long - - - by their own fellow believers. As Shakespeare said, "He jests at scars who never felt a wound!" In certain circles, when you say that a believer in Christ might suffer from a mental or emotional disorder, other Christians suddenly become very skeptical. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3:10).


Because of the very serious nature of this subject, we must repeat something said in the previous post: We're talking here about a genuine physical disorder, not a "mood" or a "bad time."  Everybody has those, and they can be miserable.  But Major or Clinical Depression is an actual pathological problem, treatable in part by medical professionals, with very specific causes and symptoms.  We dealt with the basic cause in our previous post; we'll discuss the symptoms, as described by professionals, next time.  The point is that not everyone who's gloomy or temporarily depressed suffers from Clinical Depression.  God forbid that these posts should plant a seed of doubt in the mind of a person without the disorder. This isn't "moodiness" or "laziness" or what pop psychologists call a "melancholic personality;" this is a chemical problem.

Before getting into the subjects of symptoms and myths surrounding Clinical Depression, we need to return to the statement in our opening paragraph.  It begs the question: in what way are "Depressive" Christians different from other Christians?  And what considerations are specific to Christians, that are not relevant to unbelievers?

First of all, a "reality check" for my brothers and sisters with Depression.  Yes, despite what some may say, you and I have an actual disease, and it affects our lives in many ways.  But other Christians have other diseases, or other physical problems; and in that respect, we're all in the same boat.  It must be said, and said clearly: suffering from Major or Clinical Depression (the terms are synonymous) doesn't give us any special privileges.  Just as Christians who are blind, or confined to a wheelchair, are still expected to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, as He has revealed Himself in the Bible, so are we. God understands us better than any psychiatrist (or pastor) on earth, and he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust (Psalm 103:14).  But He won't let us use our condition as an excuse. Just because we have a certain disorder, we're not allowed to cut corners in the Christian life, or willingly ignore God's claims.  God says, for example: And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). He does not say, "Be filled with the Spirit, unless you're suffering from Depression." Again:  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The verse doesn't say, "In everything give thanks, unless you're a Depressive." God knows what we can do, and can't do, and He's not unreasonable or weird. Just as He won't call a blind man to be a surveyor on a road crew, or call a paraplegic to be a professional athlete, He won't call you to be something you can't be.  But when He does call you to do something, He'll enable - - - and expect - - - you to do it.  To say "I can't follow Christ in this area because of my Depression" is a cop-out, and it insults and displeases your Creator.

But remember: He's not just (just!) your Saviour; He is your Creator, and if you suffer from Depression, it's because He made you that way.  When Moses complained of a lifelong speech impediment, the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? (Exodus 4:11) If you suffer from Clinical Depression, you've been made in a certain way, and you have a problem that others don't have.  But you don't need to feel guilty about it.  It's not your fault.  You didn't ask for this condition.  And God will meet you where you are, as He made you, and deal with you in the way that suits Him.  He may heal you miraculously.  He's more likely to send you to a medical professional, for medical help.  You may have to live with the disease for the rest of your life, but it can be treated, and alleviated.  God might even send it into remission, as He often does with cancer.  But there's hope, and He wants you to know that.  And your disease doesn't make you a "second-class Christian."  God has something for you to do, and He's chosen to give you this particular "thorn in the flesh" for a reason.  Rejoice in the fact that God is still interested in you!  If He didn't have a purpose for you down here, He'd have taken you Home the day you were saved.  And when Paul begged for his own "thorn" (whatever it was) to be removed, Jesus made him a promise that applies to you and me, as well: My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

I'm not just spouting "religious talk."  I've lived with this disease for decades, and have the scars (inside and outside) to prove it.  But God is faithful, and will help you and carry you and love you, even if "the brethren" don't understand. 


How are Christians with Major/Clinical Depression different from other Christians?  (I'm going to use the term "Depressive Christians;" it may not be a clinical term, but it's shorter.)  Well, in a number of ways.  See if any of this sounds familiar to you.

First of all, most Christians in the West (America, Europe, Canada, etc.) are much too easy on themselves.  This is the Laodicean Age, and they're lukewarm.  They go to church, and usually avoid the really "dramatic" sins, like sexual immorality or drunkenness; but they make very little effort to apply the Biblical standards and commands to their lives in a consistent way.  Depressive Christians may act the same way; they're no better and no worse, spiritually, than their brethren.  But Depressive Christians are too hard on themselves. They brood over their failures and sins; sometimes they even worry about sins they haven't committed, simply because they can't imagine themselves doing anything right.  They consider themselves hopeless failures, and utter disappointments to their Saviour, their brethren, and themselves. (This doesn't just apply to spiritual matters; Depressives often feel that they can't do anything right, from working a job to raising their kids.) Unbelievers often sneer that Christians are eaten up by "guilt," not realizing that guilt is sometimes healthy, like pain, because it alerts us to something wrong that needs to be corrected.  But Depressive Christians sometimes feel nothing but guilt.  This is not a spiritual problem; it's a pathological problem, which is part of their disease. The great characteristic of Laodicean Christianity is that many Christians go through life saying, "I'm not so bad!" (Revelation 3:14-17.)  But Depressive Christians have the opposite attitude: "I'm no damned good!  I'm hopeless!" 


Similarly, Christians in the West very rarely "judge themselves," in the proper way, as commanded in scripture. This is a very important part of the Christian life, because if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (1 Corinthians 11:31). Again:  Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves (2 Corinthians 13:5). God doesn't want us to engage in fruitless introspection, but He wants us to understand what we're doing right, and what we're doing wrong.  Most Christians spend very little time doing this.  But Depressive Christians "judge themselves" constantly, and not scripturally, but in an unhealthy way: they judge themselves more harshly than God does.  Depressive Christians, like most people with a mental or emotional disorder, are too introspective, and often self-obsessed.  That's not what God wants at all, but it's part of the disease.  God wants us to see our shortcomings, acknowledge them, and move on.  Depressive Christians see their shortcomings, and even imagine shortcomings that aren't there, and they're paralyzed by guilt, and they can't move on.  Again, this is a symptom of a disease in their case; it's not a personal failure.  But it's such a cruel and vicious cycle: because they're paralyzed by guilt and self-loathing, they sometimes can't serve the Lord as they want to serve Him; and this produces more guilt.  And so many of their fellow Christians simply shake their heads, and say that they're being lazy or self-indulgent.  They're not.  They're suffering from a medical condition.


Again, Christians in the West pamper themselves; they take any shortcut they can find to avoid the difficult parts of the Christian life.  (Christians living under persecution, as in China or Muslim countries, don't have this luxury.)  They read the Bible just enough to be able to say they've read it; or they don't read it at all. Prayer is not a major part of their lives, because prayer is hard work (although they get serious about prayer when a crisis arises).  And they don't witness to unbelievers at all; they don't want to be embarrassed, or cause social or professional discomfort.  But when Depressives find these things to be difficult, or impossible, it's not because they're playing games; it's because they simply don't have the energy to do them.  (There are times when Depressives, Christian or non-Christian, can't even find the energy to take a bath, or go to work, or talk to their spouses.)  This doesn't mean that Depressive Christians are "discharged from their duties;" it means that they sometimes can't fulfill their duties, just as a man or woman in a coma can't.  They do not need the judgment and condemnation of their fellow believers; they need compassion, and spiritual and professional treatment.  It's easy to smirk at such a Christian, and think, "They're just looking for attention!"  (The same thing is said about people who attempt suicide.)  The truth is, however, that they're not looking for attention - - - but they need attention, and love, and, if necessary, medical treatment. Usually, "attention" is the last thing in the world that a Depressive person wants!  They want to isolate, and be left alone.  That's one of the symptoms.

Now, if you feel this way once in a while, for a short time, you're probably not suffering from Depression, and you shouldn't worry about it.  Everybody has "down" times.  But when these conditions continue for a protracted period of time, or get increasingly worse, then a doctor should be consulted, and you should ask God's help.  You can't ignore the possibility that you need medical help; as we said in the previous post, Jesus Himself acknowledged the need for physicians, and the Apostle Paul traveled with a medical doctor (Luke) throughout his ministry.  But you can't abandon the Lord, either.  He's the One Who'll heal you, and your attention should be focused on Him, not on yourself.  But sometimes medical treatment is required to help you focus; and if that's the case, you have nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to apologize for, and if some of the "brethren" don't understand it, ignore them!  They're just ignorant.  Pray for them, if you can; but don't let their ignorance add to your problems!

In our next post, we'll discuss some of the symptoms of Major Clinical Depression.  For now, we simply repeat what we've said before: Hang on!  Understand that God knows your condition, and loves you, and has plans for you.  There's hope: because you're part of Jesus Christ, and He's part of you, and He's not going to let you fall by the wayside simply because of a problem with your brain chemistry.  Jesus is the Answer: but let Jesus guide you in seeking earthly help!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39). 


Friday, May 10, 2013

Amazing

Here's something I hadn't expected to find, but I really shouldn't have been surprised: a rendition of this song by the great Andrea Bocceli. This may not be the "deepest" hymn ever written, theologically, but theology isn't what hymns are all about. This one is similar to my personal favorite, "And Can It Be That I Should Gain" in content.  Regardless of my personal preferences, however, this is probably (and properly) regarded as the Christian hymn, in languages throughout the world.

It was written in 1779 by the former slave merchant John Newton, who had briefly been a slave himself.  The song was comprised of seven verses; today, in most Western churches, only verses 1, 2, 3, and 6 are usually sung.  In this case, however, the singer chooses to proclaim verses 1, 2, and 5.  Since Andrea Bocelli is himself blind (watch his face as he sings verse 1), and was almost aborted because of unspecified "disabilities," he knows a lot about grace, and about this song.  I hope you're blessed by his rendition.

video

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun!

The world shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun refuse to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.

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