Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Flood of Refugees

I have no stamina to write about the tragedy that has struck so near to home. Plaquemine has over 170 people staying on the hard floor of the local high school's gym. We may have as many as 400 more before the day's end.

These are people, like you and I, who have lost everything they own. Some have literally been plucked off of rooftops by rescuers. The ones who got out early left with a few changes of clothes and overnight bags, thinking to return home after a couple of days.

Now, their home is in Lake Ponchatrain. If you have any shred of human decency, much less a Christian character, you will give immediately to the Red Cross, or to the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. They have people here, now, in my hometown. They are working to provide clothing, baby formula, shampoo, feminine products, blankets, etc. They are supplying the basic necessities. But it takes money to do these things.

You can afford $10. I am serious, if you are reading this and you turn the other way and do not help, you are a hypocrite. Walk on the other side of the road and ignore the man who's half-dead. If you do give, then you can be like the good Samaritan. For links on places to give, go to Centurion's website. He has links to all sorts of charitable, reputable organizations that are making a difference. $10, people. That will buy soap, shampoo, and a pillow for a cold, hard floor. It's the least you can do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Relief Effort in Plaquemine, LA

We spent the day cleaning up yards. That was the easiest thing that we could think of to do. This evening we learned of another opportunity.

We have almost 200 evacuees from New Orleans staying in our local High School. They have lost everything. Most of them had only packed for a couple of days, thinking that they would be able to soon return home.

We are now collecting anything that we can get our hands on to help these people out. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart told us that they would not give us a discount, citing the fact that "they had already given some stuff". That burns me up.

This disaster is worse than I had ever imagined. I only had time to sit down and look at the footage about an hour ago. It's horrible.

Show Me the Money!

I also just saw on ABC News that many schools are now offering money to high school students to attend school.  That’s right folks, cold hard cash is given away for attendance.  But it’s not just cash they are giving away.  They are giving away cars, laptop computers, $2,000 shopping sprees, gift certificates, gym memberships, and etc. to encourage attendance.

This angers me.  For one, I wonder where this money is coming from.  Secondly, I want my laptop.  Thirdly, I seem to remember the encouragement to attend school “back in the day” was a swift whoopin’ to my backside if I didn’t get out of bed.

I also have the sinking feeling that the reason these giveaways are happening is because the schools probably get more money if they can boast larger attendance figures.  I hope that I am wrong about that.

But here is the parallel that really keeps me up at night.  It reminds me of our churches.  The schools realize that the real problem is that young people in their districts do not value education, they have no motivation at home to come, and they realize that an education is of tremendous benefit to the student and to the society in which he lives.  So, they give him some cash to come to do something he ought to be doing anyway.  And they simply ignore the larger issues.  All they want are rear ends in the seats, and maybe some education will happen because they come.  Who cares how we get them there?

Churches today are doing the exact same thing.  They are giving away a ‘bread and circus’ show (Harley Davidsons are given away, amongst other things) to motivate lost people to come.  Hoping that when they get there, some spiritual change will happen by getting someone to sit in that seat.

Both the schools and the church are pandering to people to get them to do what they ought to be doing in the first place.  And they both have a similar pragmatic reason for doing so: Increased Numbers, baby.  That means success.  More opportunity and more lives touched that way.  End of story.

Do you see the parallels, or am I off my rocker?


After writing this post, I saw that Tim Challies has written a great post today about pragmatism and the Church. You should check it out.

Depravity, Depravity

I think that the doctrine of total depravity is one of the hardest for people to accept.  Oddly enough, it is the most extra-biblically attested doctrines in the world.  You may be able to convince someone that other people are totally depraved, but they certainly aren’t.  They are good people.

Later on today, if I have time, I am going to dedicate a lengthy post to this issue.  But for now, I will simply point you to the looting that is happening right now in New Orleans.  It will make your stomach churn.

Monday, August 29, 2005

We're Fine

We weathered the storm. Our yard is a mess, and we lost power for about 7 hours, but that's about it. The Church took a little damage, but it was very minor. (We lost a couple of outdoor ceiling fans, a gutter, and a couple of trees.)

If you have seen reports of the damage in Plaquemine's Parish, that's not us. We're Plaquemine City, and we live in Iberville Parish. If that confuses you, join the crowd. I've told my family that about 200 times, and they still call every five minutes to tell me that I'm underwater.

Thank you for the prayers. Contine to pray for those who are displaced from the storm. Our local SBC Churches will be gearing up our disaster response teams. We should have opportunities to witness the gospel to people in need.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

He Huffed and He Puffed...

Looks like Hurricane Katrina is going to blow right up the mouth of the Mississippi. The Mississippi River is about two miles from my house so, if you see a guy standing on his roof on CNN, and if he's waving, it might be me.

Seriously, I don't think that it'll get that bad here. But New Orleans may go underwater.

I have, as a precaution bought, gas for my grill, bottled water, and batteries for my flashlight. I have to hurry out now and buy new books. Those are as important as water during a disaster. If I can't blog, I will read.


The Hurricane is streaking ever nearer to our position. I have rolled up my britches in order to wade the surf. If you want to figure out how bad we're getting slammed, Plaquemine is just across the mighty Mississippi from Baton Rouge.

It's Man Day!!!

I am pumped up, ladies and gentlemen. Today is NFL Fantasy Football Draft day!!!!! We have 12 armchair quarterbacks at my brother-in-law's house, gallons of coffee, stacks of ESPN magazines, printouts, cheat sheets, and basically any form of divination that we can call upon to tell us whether or not our favorite Running Back will break his leg in game one. There is no Ouija board. In my zeal for the Lord, I threw it away when I arrived. It wasn't mine, it was someone else's. I threw it away because they are of Satan, and because I was afraid the Devil would tell someone who to pick to ruin my season. He hates me, you know. I did not paint my face this year. I have to preach tomorrow.

The draft starts in five minutes. I can't wait. Bring on it, big dawgs!!

One quick prayer before I go,
"Oh Lord, could you please let everyone overlook Daunte Culpepper until my pick?"


The Lord did not let me have Culpepper. I can only guess it's because he will be injured.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Time To Remember

I have been preparing this week to preach from Ephesians 2:11-13. I have been preaching through the book of Ephesians for the past few months, and it has been a blessing to me.

In these verses Paul commands us to "remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called 'the uncircumcision' by what is called the circumcision...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

The Scripture commands me to remember when I was lost.

How long has it been since you remembered what it was like when you were lost? I'll tell you what it was like for me. I remember it vividly, and I pray to God that I never forget it.

I remember a time when my peers were my god. I remember a time when the approval of the crowd was what I craved. I remember not measuring up. I remember feeling too ugly, insignificant, and unpopular to ever garner the status that I craved. It was a lonely place. I had friends, but all was dark.

I remember wishing for a girlfriend to satisfy my desires. But I was awkward and idiotic. I had no ambition, no drive, no maturity, and nothing to offer. I was a fool and I knew it, but I did not know what to do about it.

I remember wondering if there was a God and if He cared about me. I remember being frustrated and afraid. I remember looking at a blood red moon and inwardly trembling because I thought Jesus might appear bring my doom.

I sought satisfaction in peer approval, girls, hobbies, and education. But it was vanity. Nothing satisfied.

I remember going to English class and philosophy in college and learning that there is no truth. I learned that since there is no truth it is okay to do what you want because you are the final arbiter of right and wrong and no man can judge you. This thought sunk me into deeper misery. I realized that if there were no truth, then there was no point to life. Whether I ate or drank or lived or died, it was all the same. I was dust in the wind.

I remember staying up at night and weeping in misery and calling out to a God I did not know. I had been enlightened in the ways of the world. I had drunk from its fountain to the bitter dregs, and I longed to be rid of it. I wanted there to be a God desperately, and I wanted to know who He was. Prayers were answered with silence. There was no dawn to drive away the darkness and no sun to warm the chill. My heart was as dead as a stone and frosted like grass in winter.

On August 12, 1996 I saw light for the first time. This is what it looked like:

"God (said), 'Let light shine out of darkness,' (and the light) shone in (my) heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the light of Christ pierced the veil of my dark heart. It was the most terrifying and glorious moment of my life. I knew that I was guilty before a Just and Great God. I was certain that I was bound for hell, and I marveled. Even though I greatly feared that He would certainly cast me into hell, I worshipped Him for His greatness. I, as a sinner, saw the beauty of a Righteous God. I cried out for undeserved mercy because I wanted to live to serve this God. I asked for forgiveness, and I knew that it was mine in Christ. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul. I knew peace for the first time in my life.

It has been almost nine years since God overwhelmed me. I still remember the fear I felt when the light of the truth of Jesus Christ dawned on me. I know to this day that I will never fear anything the way I fear Him. But I also know that I will never love anything as fiercely as I do the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. I shudder to remember my misery, but I rejoice to remember its cure.

I remember now that I once craved popularity, and that echo of pride is still with me, but it is quiet now, a memory of what once was. I remember my desire for companionship, and now God has granted me His own daughter. I treasure her, not as a mere object of fleshly desire, but as a gift from the hand of my Father. She is a gift of marvelous charity, a certainty of His favor, and a reflection of His grace. For she was won by Him at great price, and He cherishes her with an everlasting love.

He has taken me, pitiful man that I am, who has no courage to speak of, no wit or charm save by His grace, and placed me over a small flock of His children. He has granted me the honor of teaching them His Word. If they knew of me half of what He knows, I would hide my face in shame. Yet He suffers me to teach them, and allows me to guide them to the grace that is found in Jesus Christ.

I cannot here exhaust the richness of God's grace toward me in Christ. He has given me life, friends, honor, love, and a glimpse of glory. He has entrusted me with a wife and a son. I have come to the end of this remembrance. Oh how good it is to remember! I plead with you to remember the goodness that God has shown to you. I beg you to remember your former life without Christ. I end with this exhortation, and I hope you have the patience to read it:

"I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the LORD.
'O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!'

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest;
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you" (Psalm 116:1-7).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More From Jonathan Edwards

At the request of the illustrious JIBBS, sidekick extraordinaire of the great Centurion, I have decided to post some more Jonathan Edwards for your edification.

The reason that I like this excerpt so much is because he scared me half to death with it.  I must admit, to my everlasting shame, that my prayer life is not what it ought to be.  Of course, I think most people feel the same, and that’s why Mr. Edward’s zeal for prayer and his condemnation for the lack thereof is so terribly frightening, yet it inspires you to hit your knees, and that's just what we need to do anyway.  Here he is in his own words:

I would exhort those who have entertained a hope of their being true converts—and who since their supposed conversion have left off the duty of secret prayer, and ordinarily allow themselves in the omission of it—to throw away their hope.  If you have left off calling upon God, it is time for you to leave off hoping and flattering yourselves with an imagination that you are the children of God.  Probably it will be a very difficult thing for you to do this.  It is hard for a man to let go a hope of heaven, on which he hath once allowed himself to lay hold, and which he hath retained for a considerable time.  True conversion is a rare thing; but that men should be brought off from a false hope of conversion—after they are once settled and established in it, and have continued in it for some time—is much more rare.

No translating this time, dear JIBBS.  This one’s easy enough.   (It was a sermon, so that makes it easier.)  This quote comes from his sermon VII, dated June 1740, and it is called “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer”.  I got it from Volume 2 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards published by Hendrickson Publishers.  Every once in a while, this two volume set of Edwards’ works goes on sale somewhere at a sweet price.  But if you invest in these wonderful tomes and use them as mere bookends or to up the intellectual clout of your library when friends come over, a pox upon you!

Here’s a question for you:  Do you see many mega-church gurus preaching this sort of gritty sermon?  I think not, and that’s why I love these old Puritans.  I’d like to say I’m a Puritan born out of time, but I’m not.  If I were born then, I’d still be the Barney Fife to Jonathan Edwards’ Andy.  So, I’m a second string dead Puritan dressed in the skin of a GenXer.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A God-Shaped Hole?

Since this is my blog, I have the privilege to air out a pet peeve from time to time.  So today, I'm going to hop on my soapbox and let'er rip.  

I cannot stand it when people say that "Everyone has a God-shaped hole in their heart."  Where did this nonsense come from?  Could someone show me a Biblical passage or principle that would indicate that this is the case?  I know what people mean when they say this, but it's wrong anyway.  It's sort of like in The Princess Bride when the short Sicilian guy keeps shouting, “INCONCEIVABLE!”  Finally, the Spaniard guy looks at him and says, “This word you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Yes, he knew what the Sicilian meant by shouting this word, but he should have said something else.

That’s what my pet peeve is about this God-shaped hole thing.  What we mean is that a person can never find peace or contentment without Jesus Christ.  However, I have heard that people are sometimes told that “This hole is different for everyone, and you’ve got to find out how God fits for you.”  This is so bad that if I start to dwell on it I’ll think it’s Monday all over again.

Let me cut this short so your boss won’t catch you reading.  Don’t tell people that they have a God-shaped hole, tell them that they have a God-sized ego.  Tell them that the reason they are miserable is because they are in rebellion against the God of the Universe and that their doom is more certain than the setting of the sun.  Tell them that the only way to avoid this doom is to humble themselves before the mighty arm of Almighty God, and that they must cling to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross and trust in His resurrection power.  Then, they will not have any “holes” filled, they will be given a whole new heart.  They will pass from death to life.  They don’t need a celestial pothole filler; they need a completely new heart to replace the old, arrogant rebellious one.

Another reason why I hate this phrase is because every time I hear it, Cyndi Lauper pops into my head singing, “There’s a hole in my heart that goes all the way to China, you’ve got to fill it up with love before I fall insiiiiiiiide….”  Now that’ll be with me for days.  Grrr…

Monday, August 22, 2005

So, How is This Practical?

I often feel sick on Mondays. It's a general feeling of depression. Well, it's more like a sinking sensation mixed with a twist of helplessness and futility, kind of like those dreams you have where there is terrible danger ahead but you are unable to scream. I understand that this is a common malady for pastors. My dad calls it "the mullygrubs." I'm not sure what a mullygrub is, but it can't be pretty, and neither are Mondays.

On Mondays, I have this horrible feeling that no one in the church (as a whole, not just my own) really cares about theology. I fear that the mere mention of this term works like a sleep enchantment on the minds of the faithful. What's worse is that I'm afraid that I know why.

The Church believes that theology isn't practical and that it doesn't meet our needs. Further, it only divides "Christians" and causes feuds. Isn't this really why we don't study theology?

I'm glad that Monday is almost over. I hope that tomorrow I will awake and be free of the mullygrubs, and that many will have a copy of Wayne Grudem's systematic theology book thoroughly read and underlined.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The First Command is No

The first commandment that you ever learn as a child is very simple.  The command is “NO!”.  You probably do not remember learning it, but your parents had to teach it to you nonetheless.  It kept you from killing your foolish self and destroying the property of your parents.

My son is just getting to the stage where he can comprehend what “no” means.  Truthfully, today was the first day I ever saw it register with him.  Let me build up to that very special moment.

Mom was away today on a girl’s only shopping trip in New Orleans.  (I am thankful that I was not invited.)  So, today was dad’s turn to baby-sit.  Basically, that means I played peek-a-boo, threw my son into the air until my back hurt, and I crawled around on the floor with him till my knees were sore.

Here’s how the “no” happened.  I was sitting on the couch finishing the seventh book in the Chronicles of Narnia series when I saw my son pull down a branch of fake heather off of a shelf.  I walked over and put it back on the shelf.  I stood there watching him.  He was smiling up at me and laughing.  I’m dad, right?  I bounce him on my knee.  I play with him.  I let him stay up past nap time.  His smile was innocent.  He had no clue that he’d done anything wrong, and he knows that dad loves him.

Then, he began to reach for the plant again.  I had to check myself from smiling.  I knew that this was going to happen, and if I didn’t want Ethan eating plastic plant, then I had to stop it.

“Ethan, no!”

I said it clearly, and as authoritatively as I knew how.  And for the first time, it worked.  His chubby hand stopped barely an inch from the tempting plant, and his little cherub-like head swiveled to look into my eyes.  I dared not smile.  He had to know that this was serious business.  

As I looked down at him, trying to be a good dad and keep a serious look, I saw that surprise was written all over his sweet face.  Surprise and hurt.  It was all I could do not to pick him up right then and there and take him away from that temptation.  His little lip trembled, and for a moment I thought he was going to cry.

Then he turned his head and looked back at the plastic plant.  The forbidden fruit was within his grasp.  His little fingers began to flex.  I knew what was coming.  I prepared for the “no” that would surely bring anger and tears.

But the hand stopped.  Actually, it hovered near a plastic leaf for a moment and then dropped to the floor.  My son turned, and then crawled over to me laughing.  I was shocked.

I picked him up and gave him a big kiss on the cheek.  I was filled with mixed emotions.  It may seem silly to you, but that was a special moment for me.  I know that at whatever level a nine month old can struggle, Ethan did.  And he hadn’t grabbed that plant.

As I held him for a brief moment, some terrible thoughts went through my mind.  One day, God willing, my son will grow up.  He will be reaching for things that he ought not touch:  A woman who is not his wife or pornography that is a click away.  Drugs will be offered to him.  He will be tempted to take things that are not his.  I will not be there to stand over him.  He will be on his own, and all he will have will be the memories of the commands I have given him.

At some point, his desire will override my “no”, which is only an echo of a ‘no’ given long ago.  A ‘no’ given to two people who had more advantages than my son.  They failed the test, and so will he.  He will touch that which he should not.  

In that brief moment I prayed that God would have mercy on my son.  That when his grasp overreached the commandment that he would turn again, and that God would have mercy.  I prayed that he will turn to his Father and find the forgiveness that I have found.

Until that day, I pray that I may be such a parent that my son may fear the Lord and love his father that he may escape some of the hurtful things that I have done.  May the commandments of my Lord keep him as a schoolmaster until the time the day dawns in his heart and the face of Christ shines brightly in his soul.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Admiring Jonathan Edwards

I am currently working through, for the umpteenth time, Jonathan Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World.  I cannot help but think that if he were alive today, he would go virtually unnoticed by evangelicals as a whole.  The reason is because we are, for the most part, too dense to understand him.  And for that very reason, we miss tremendous insight.

Here’s a mind-blowing quote for you to work through, it falls under the heading:

God’s Moral Rectitude Consists in his Valuing the Most Valuable, Namely, Himself

“If moral rectitude of heart consists in paying the respect of the heart which is due, or which fitness and suitableness requires, fitness requires infinitely the greatest regard to be paid to God; and the denying of supreme regard here would be a conduct infinitely the most unfit.  Hence it will follow, that the moral rectitude of the disposition, inclination, of affection of God chiefly consists in a regard to himself, infinitely above his regard to all other beings; in other words, his holiness consists in this.”

Wow.  If I wrote like that, I couldn’t even get my wife to read this blog, even if I did link her website.  It’s a pity though.  Jonathan Edwards is a super-genius.  But you may be thinking, “Genius Schmenius, what in the world did all that mean?”  Since you asked, I’ll give you the modern cliff note version:
”The Chief End of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself for ever.”

That’s the cliff notes version because it’s only part of what Jonathan Edwards said in the above paragraph.  And yes, I did take that “translation” straight from John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad.  I think that he learned it from Edwards.  Would you like my understanding of Piper understanding Edwards?  (I believe I got it right, if not, commentators be merciless!)

My version of the above:

“If it is proper to love things which are truly lovely, then it is proper to love that which is most lovely most of all.  Since God Himself is infinitely, completely, and perfectly lovely, and since there is nothing so magnificent as He, all things are required to infinitely esteem, exalt, and glorify God.  If such love and praise is withheld from God, who is Himself the sole picture and object of perfection and goodness, then it is infinitely shameful to the being or beings who refuse to acknowledge God’s superiority in all virtue and greatness.  This adoration of God is not exclusive to creatures.  If God would be moral Himself, and if He would continue to be good, then God must also love Himself more than anything else in all the universe.  Further, it is the delight of God to lavish praise upon himself and to exalt himself.  His holiness consists in this.”

Since no one really reads long posts because they are deathly afraid of their employers catching them surfing the net, I will examine the ramifications of this statement in the next post.  In the meantime, please feel free to correct my paraphrase of Edwards, or even to amen it or add to it.  And, you can get ahead of the game and guess some of the results of Edwards’ thinking.

More Frog Pictures

My marketing manager tells me that if I add more frog pictures, then my traffic will increase. Here's my friend from "Down the Bayou" who taught me to snag the big croakers by hand.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Ephesians 5:18-21 Worship Through Song

If you love singing as much as I, then you should know this passage by heart.  If worship through song is one of the most joyful and formative experiences that you have in the Holy Spirit, then you should not only memorize this passage, but you should study it phrase by phrase.  I hope to help you do that with this short summary, and I pray that you have the patience to get through this post.  I think that it may be beneficial.  I know of no other clearer New Testament passage dealing with music, singing, personal, and congregational worship.  Here's the passage:

And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Let's do a quick phrase by phrase analysis:

"And do not be drunk with wine...but be filled with the Spirit"-
The Scripture equates drunkenness with foolishness and the height of folly (Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-25).  In contrast, being filled with the Holy Spirit leads to wisdom and truth.  

"Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs"

In this phrase Paul uses the word "speaking".  Ordinarily, we do not think of "speaking" a song, but Paul wants us to think that way.  Though you are singing, you are also speaking.  You should pay attention to what you are saying.

Also, when you speak these songs, you are addressing them "to one another".  In musical worship, you are not only speaking to God.  You are also speaking to man.  That is why we should think about what we sing/say.  Does it pass the test of Ephesians 4:29?  Do you realize that your robust singing/saying of your faith builds up those around you?

"in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs"

These words are all nearly synonymous.  So why does Paul use all three?  He does this to emphasize the fact that we ought to utilize all sorts of godly songs to encourage one another.  That is as long as what we are singing is edifying.

The natural question is whether or not any type of "song" is off limits.  Since Paul includes many different types of song, we should be cautious to exclude anything.  One thing we know for certain, if the lyrics are not edifying, then they are off limits.  Secondly, if the music itself distracts from the message of the song, then it should be discarded.  We should not attempt to convey a harmonious message through discordant music.  It is contradictory.  

"singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord"

The first emphasis rests on the corporate aspect of musical worship.  The second rests on the personal aspect.  This does not mean that you should have a silent song in your heart.  Rather, it means that what you sing with your lips should be felt in your heart.  We should put our whole being into our singing worship.  If you cannot find joy in the musical melody due to personal taste, then the truth of the doctrine that you sing should cause joy in your heart.  It further indicates that we ought to think on what we are saying/singing.

Many times, due to personal preference, a song will be sung that we do not like due to the music.  My advice on this from this passage would be this:  Imagine that your singing this song might cause the person next to you to understand the truth of the words.  Maybe you dislike the music to "There is a Fountain".  But what would your delight be if a person next to you realized that "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sin away."  Oh the melody my heart would make if such words could reverberate in the heart of some needy soul!  So sing good theology heartily, think about it, and pray that the person next to you will feel the impact of its truth.  Its your chance to preach in song.

"giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"

Do you see the Trinity at work in this passage?  Notice that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit comes to "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).  He will do this through you if you sing a song that pleases Him, and a song that pleases Him will be one that adores the Lord Jesus Christ.  Secondly, we are to give thanks to the Father for all things.  The Father sent the Son to save.  Do our songs reflect gratitude?  He ordained our voices, our days, our lives, and our very salvation.  Do our songs reflect this?  Finally, we sing in the name of the Lord Jesus.  This simply means that we sing according to our love of who He is and what He has done for us.  It is the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection that enables our joy and thanksgiving to the Father.

Do you notice that this is very similar to the "formula" for prayer.  We are taught to pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son, while filled with the Holy Spirit.  Like prayer, singing to God is intensely personal, corporately beneficial, and infinitely powerful when used by the Holy Spirit to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

"submitting to one another in the fear of God"

This phrase should be the death of petty worship wars.  Musical worship is not primarily about our personal, musical tastes.  It is about enjoying the truth of God with others.  Are you one who says, "This music just doesn't 'speak' to me."  Or, "I want to hear some drums in my worship".  Or perhaps, "If there's no organ, there's no Holy Spirit!"  How petty and grievous our selfishness must be to our Self-Sacrificing God!  We who say the music does not move us, does it help others?  You who hate being musically neglected, will you alienate others for your personal preference?  You who refuse to participate and rejoice in worship, have you no fear of God?  Is the music discordant?  Does it genuinely distract from the message?  Is the message unclear or false?  If the answer is no to all three, then beware of a bad attitude.  For if such songs delight the ear of the Spirit and bring glory to the Name of Jesus, then you stifle the very thing which God seeks:  Worship in Spirit and in Truth.


The selfishness of our generation is apparent through our lack of flexibility in music.  We do not submit to one another, and we are not patient.  We believe worship to be an entirely personal experience, but that is certainly false.  It is as much corporate as it is private.  We should be singing to others as much to ourselves.  Our songs should be directed to man as well as God.  My advice to everyone in parting is this:  Next Sunday, instead of closing your eyes and going into your own world of worship, open your eyes and look around at others.  And sing to them.  Sing to them like you want them to know the joy that's in your heart.  Sing to them like they are precious.  Sing to them with the hope that they will hear the words of your worship, and that their hearts will be lifted up to God through song.

Monday, August 15, 2005

For the Love of God and His Church Don't Get Rid of the Hymns

I want you to forget about music for a moment, if that is possible. I want to tell you that there is no such thing as "Christian music", only Christian lyrics. Good music is simply the vehicle through which our words flow. So, banish for a moment the music that accompanies the following poem, and I think that you will be freshly overwhelmed.

I want to take a look at a magnificent poem by Dr. Isaac Watts. I will treat it verse by verse, as is my style. Please feel free to ignore the commentary. Analyzing poetry can sometimes stifle its beautry. But if you read what I've written, I hope that you will gain the appreciation that I have found in his profound poetry. The title of this poem is, "Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?"

Verse 1:

Alas, and did my Savior bleed
and did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?

Alas is a good word. It is an interjection that expresses mourning or grievance. It regrets that something has occurred, and wishes that it could have been otherwise. The poet asks a simple question about his savior. Did he bleed? Did he die?

We see that this is no ordinary savior. This savior is also the poet's King. One to whom the poet owes his allegiance. Kings send subjects to die for the crown, not the reverse.

This Savior King is also Holy and Sacred. The poet believes this King to have been a great man. Someone worthy of adoration and the highest praise found in language. This man was Sacred. This is contrasted with the poet's view of himself. The poet is a worm.* He is not a nobleman worthy of regard, but a wretched worm. He is a nobody, and yet he finds that his Sacred King bled for him personally.

Theologically speaking, the poet stresses his personal depravity, and an idea of a personal atonement. Christ died for HIM. Jesus shed His blood on the poet's behalf.

*Modern hymnbooks have replaced "Such a worm as I" with "For sinners such as I" without even so much as a footnote in most hymnbooks. I can only guess that it is because modern people do not like to think of themselves as worms. But to rob Dr. Watts of this imagery is shameful. If anyone knows how this came about, I'd like to know.*

Verse 2:

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown,
And love beyond degree!

The King loves this subject, and in an act of unprecedented love and mercy, the King dies for the subject's crimes. While being dismayed that this is the truth, the poet still celebrates this magnificent King's sacrifice.

Theological points:
The doctrine of a penal, substitutionary atonement is found here. That is, Christ died on the cross in the place of the poet, and Christ died for the poet's crimes.

Verse 3:

Well might the sun in darknes hide,
and shut his glories in,
when Christ the mighty Maker died
for man, the creature's sin.

The sun is ashamed. He hides his face from the spectacle of Jesus being killed. Darkness covers the land. For Christ also made the sun, and it has the sense to see the atrocity of the situation.

The King is Christ Jesus, and not only is He Sovereign, Savior, Sacred, gracious, and loving, but He is also Creator. He made the sun and the servant. Man is the creature; Christ is Maker. Man is brazen enough to kill the King; the sun hides in shame.

Verse 4:

Thus might I hide my blushing face
while Calvary's cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

Now the poet is ashamed. He is ashamed as the sun is ashamed. He cannot bear the vision of the Sacred King groaning on his behalf. The picture brings shame, and yet it brings profound thankfulness. He cannot look, but he cannot deny the reality. It causes him the deepest shame, and yet it brings him great joy.

Verse 5:

But drops of grief can ne'er repay
the debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, i give myself away,
'Tis all that I can do.

His grief over his King's sacrifice can never repay his Lord's kindness. His grief alone cannot atone for his crimes that caused Christ's sufferings. Pitifully, he offers himself, a worm, to the service of the King. He recognizes that the gift is small, but it is all that he can give. The King has offered himself for the criminal, and now the criminal offers himself for the King.

I hope that you can read these verses as poetry, and I hope that you are able to meditate on them. Yes, music is useful, but it is not inspired. I have often heard it said that the longest book in the Bible is the Psalms. The Psalms were, of course, songs. But I find it interesting to note that not one note of music is preserved for us, only the words. Only the poetry remains. Even the musical notations sometimes given are lost in ambiguity (The meaning for words like "Selah" are unclear at best.)

I think that in the future I will take more time to look at some of the beloved poems found in the hymnbooks of the Church. I wonder why such good poetry is missing from my Norton's Anthology? Certainly Dr. Watts was as influential as the other poets of his day!

Hellfire and Brimstone

If you want to understand why I think hell is a glorious place, then you can read this article here. If you aren't too afraid to read it, I think that you will find it interesting.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Scourging of the Evangelical Shire

This post is for the Tolkien fans out there. I have just completed reading the Lord of the Rings masterpiece again, and I was once again reminded that my favorite part of the trilogy comes about when Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin return to the Shire. What the movie fan doesn't know is that, upon their arrival home, our heroes find the Shire decimated, and the evil Sauruman is running the show. The came home from battle having to fight evil in their backyard. Frodo and Sam are both dismayed at the evil they have fought in the Shire:

Frodo: "The very last stroke. But to think that it should fall here, at the very door of Bag End! Among all my hopes and fears at least I never expected that"

Sam: "I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess. And that'll take a lot of time and work."

I think this is an apt metaphor to what I'm finding in evangelicalism. I once lived quite comfortably in the evangelical Shire. I was theologically ignorant, distrustful of all outsiders, and basically could only think about the next meal. I had no idea that there were theological warriors from the North running around protecting my pristine world.

Then one day, I left the Shire. I picked up a book by Arthur W. Pink entitled "The Sovereignty of God." To compound problems, I felt compelled to go into the ministry. I wanted to learn everything that I could about the Bible and theology. I started asking annoying questions of others in my Shire. Mostly, they reckoned me a wreckless Baggins. They hoped my foolishness would subside.

I left the Shire for Seminary, and I fell in love with books. On my journey, I was almost immediately run over by a Pied Piper in the road. His fruit-laden truck full of "God Love Himself More Than You" almost killed me. Luckily, being the hungry Hobbit that I was, I tasted the fruit and found that it was fine indeed. My ego was the only thing damaged in the end, and I was mysteriously strengthened by the entire experience.

The road from the Shire took me to strange countries. I went to Italy, Brazil, Portugal, and New Hampshire. It was in these places that I became aware of the diabolical enemy. I found he was indeed on the move in every land which I visited.

Upon graduating Seminary, I became the pastor of a small Baptist Evangelical Shire. I have found in my travels that the enemy has not been idle in our own camp. The Wormtounges of the world have been whispering in the ears of many, and they have been bewitched. But there is still hope where the fellowship holds. The lies of the enemy can be undone by the faithful witness of the few. But their is a terrible mess to clean up by those faithul. It is my hope that before my time comes to cross over to the Grey Havens that I shall see the revival that my heart so desires. But at least one thing has not changedin the Baptist Shire, and this is a source of great joy: the food in the Shire is still delightful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Overcoming the Shame of Ignorance

I am out of shape. Not completely, mind you, but compared to where I used to be I'm pretty flabby. I know that many who read this are probably in the same boat. Let me tell you what normally happens when I try to do something about it.

The first thing I do is go and workout at a local gym. Makes perfect sense, right? They have all sorts of machines to get you in shape there. So, I go. I like the weight bench. That's where your true status as a man happens. How many pounds can you thrust off of your chest! That is the perennial manhood question.

So, I start bench pressing. Inevitably, after ten repetitions, my pasty-white skinny arms begin to quiver and convulse. This is just the warm up with barely 60 lbs. on there. To make matters worse, there's always some well-tanned, Greek hero looking dude standing nearby with a muscle shirt on doing curls. He's usually curling what I am bench-pressing. The veins running to his muscles are larger than my biceps.

After three days of this humiliation, I usually slink back to the house, break out the Doritoes, and decide that mental fortitude trumps physical prowess. I also decide that all I really need is cardio-vascular exercise. So, I proceed to run around the block enough times to add up to a couple of miles. I soon abandon this as well. For one thing, it hurts. For another thing, it is always 100 degrees in Louisiana and it's so humid you can squeeze water from the air. I return to my book and mental fortitude arguments.

Basically shame at my skinniness, a low pain tolerance, and a lack of discipline keep me from being the in-shape specimen of manhood that I should be and that my wife desires. Actually, it can be summed up in one word: Pride.

The dude with the huge muscles had to be a skinny guy at some point. He wasn't born with muscles popping out everywhere. Further, it takes discipline to do just about anything worth while. And as often as not, progress is painful.

Unfortunately, this same sort of intimidation happens to people in the spiritual world. The Bible, to most folks, looks daunting. It is a huge book. Also, most people know someone who can flex some serious spiritual muscle. They can quote tons of passages, say words like "imputation", and they know the difference between dispensationalism and covenantalism. They seem to know when Jesus will come back on His white horse and what the horse's name will be.

So filled with shame, they slink off to their homes, determined to study on their own. They read through Genesis, get through half of Exodus, and then decide to leave theology up to the theologians. After all, simply knowing Jesus is better than a bunch of useless theology anyway.

Here's what we both need to do. I need to lose my pride and go be the skinny sissy for awhile and only bench press the bar. Let the world mock, I will get stronger. Further, I might find some sympathetic Titan to encourage me to get better. Who knows? Also, I need to bone up on the discipline and keep steady at it.

The same goes for those who would grow in stature with God. Find a spiritual Titan to help you learn. Get some "easy" theology books to begin with. Go ahead and bench press the bar for awhile. Ask questions from you wise mentor. Plague and pester him to death with questions. He/she will love it. At lastly, keep steady at it. You will be surprised at your growth. One day you'll find yourself being stared at in awe by a spiritual "skinny kid." That day will be your big chance to remember your days of humility, have compassion, and show your true worth.

New Profile Picture!

I finally got my profile picture up! I am so proud. I think it's a good shot of me. I don't know who the guy in the hat is or why he's staring at me, but it's a good shot of my side profile.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Help for Memorizing Scripture

This article comes from the Archives of my more Scholarly Website: ThirstySoul.

One of the most essential things for a healthy life in Christ is Scripture memorization. It is a discipline that cannot be neglected. Our hopes, joys, dreams, and life are bound up in the nature and character of God. The only place that we can go to learn more about this God and what He has done, is doing, and will do for us, is the Bible.

If you are reading this article, then you must have the conviction that it is true that Scripture memorization is essential for our joy in Christ. How happy would we be if we could just open our minds and know all of Scripture! But memorization is hard work, and it is tedious. Furthermore, the Bible is daunting. It is a very large book. Where do we begin? What verses will we put into our arsenal to combat the flesh, the devils, depression, and sin? The very thought of trying to get started discourages many from even trying.

My goal in writing this is to encourage you. I know firsthand that knowing the Bible is a difficult task. I myself feel inadequate. I should know more than I do. However, I believe that many, perhaps including myself, know more than we realize. You are not in as bad of shape as you might think.

If you are a Christian, and have had any exposure to the Bible, then you know some verses. Somewhere buried in your brain, you have pieces of verses, complete verses, and perhaps even paragraphs of Scriptures tucked away in a file gathering dust. The problem isn’t that you don’t know them, it’s that you’ve forgotten that you know them. Your brain just needs some spring cleaning. Let me tell you how this works for me.

Let me give you a pop quiz. Have you ever heard this before, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Or how about, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” You probably know those two verses. You’re probably thinking about how familiar they are. Yet, you could not find them without a concordance, and they may have become so vague that you could not have called them up for yourself if you needed them. Nevertheless, they are buried there in the recesses of your brain, just waiting to be used.

Here's something that can help. In your daily reading of Scripture, which is also essential, read with pen and paper in hand. As you read, I guarantee you that you will run across verses that you already know. You will think, “Oh, that’s where that verse is.” At that point, use your pen. Jot down the “address” of that verse. In the examples above, you’d write Philippians 4:13 and Romans 8:31. That’s it. Do not write the verse itself. The next day, look at what you’ve written. You’ll begin to associate Philippians 4:13 with the verse you have memorized. Then, just to be certain you’re right, look up the verse. This will become more important as your list grows. Do not become frustrated if you do not quote the verse exactly. You’re learning some important things. You’re learning where it’s located, and you’re getting the idea of what it teaches. Exact memorization will come with time.

To begin this exercise, sit down with a good concordance. Pray that God will bring verses to your memory that you know partially or fully. Then, use the concordance and look the verse up. Write down the address. You’ll be shocked the next day when you find how many you already remember.

As your list grows, and as you read, you may run across verses that you do not have memorized, but that you’d like to know. Follow the same procedure. You’ll come to know that verse in a matter of a few days. Be diligent! Hang in there, I know that you can do it, and you’ll be glad that you did.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I Give In!

I have turned the ability to make anonymous comments back on. Also, I publicly apologize to Jay Hebert. He did not make the earlier anonymous post. Through clever techniques of manipulation, I have found the culprit.

So, I've made commenting easier for all. Please avoid name-calling and inappropriate talk. I'll have to trash such comments. Also, I want all concerned to know that this will actually lead me to an even higher level of obsessive blog-checking. I have to make certain no crude remarks show up, right?

The Oddities of the Amen

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, Saturday morning cartoons were a greatly anticipated event. I rose early, made a bowl of cereal, and proceeded to plant myself in front of the television. My parents let me have this time, and it was wonderful, undisturbed cartoon bliss. The most difficult decision I had to make was to decide which cartoon to watch.

I recall a Bugs Bunny cartoon from those days that you may remember. It was the one where he was the musical conductor for a symphony. (I think he made Porky Pig sing opera as well.) In typical Bugs Bunny style, he went nuts with the entire production, direting music until he was virtually lathered in sweat. And when he finally finished the crescendo, peak of musical amazement...nothing. You hear a cricket chirping.

That's what it's like on Sunday morning when you pour out your heart and people stare at you like you've just dropped out of a UFO. When I preach and get no "Amen" "Uh-Huh" or "Oh No!", I wonder what could be going on. Here are some options that I've come up with:

1. The Holy Spirit is working so hard on their hearts that they are too scared to squeak.

2. They think that the Holy Spirit is working in the heart of the person sitting next to them, and so they don't want to disturb.

3. I have totally freaked them out with my seriousness.

4. They were working up to an Amen, but I didn't pause long enough to let them get it out.

5. Maybe what I said wasn't really as profound as I thought that it was.

I believe that I have written before that some people have the "gift of amen." Unfortunately, I myself do not have this gift. I am a pitiful amener, so I really can't complain. Amens really don't change how I preach, and I really don't care if I get them, it just sort of lets the pastor know that you're with him...or not.

Oddly, we recently have an out of town visitor who had the true gift of amen. I was preaching, and I made a comment about marriage being for life. (I say this all the time.) Apparently, this statement yanked the amen chord because this person let out a robust amen. I was actually startled. I am thankful that such a simple statement would stir the Holy Spirit to hit the amen button.

My church is not filled with loud ameners. That's alright with me, I know that they're listening. At least, they are mostly looking at me. Many nod, and that's about as good as an amen.

The bottom line about amening is that it's not to let the preacher know what a great job he is doing, and if I start looking for amens as an ego stroke, then I'm a fool anyway. To me, an amen lets me know that a certain truth resounds in someone else's heart as it does in mine. It's like two people tasting the same jambalaya at the same time and seeing that it's gooood, ya.;)

So, if you rejoice in a truth that a pastor says, and if the Spirit isn't waxing so heavy in your heart that you can't make a peep, then an amen might be appropriate. And if the thing said is awful, then an "Oh No!" might be even better.

Friday, August 05, 2005

My Near Apathy for Politics

I must be knee deep in sin. I simply cannot understand the fascination with politics at all. I vote, and I encourage my congregation to vote their conscience, but that's about it. I know that this probably upsets people, but I really don't care.

I am a patriotic american, as far as that goes. I served for six honorable years in the Army National Guard as a radio guy. Sometimes, I actually miss the military. I had serious thoughts about becoming a Chaplain while in seminary, but then I remembered all that running....

I read Hugh Hewitt and Instapundit from time to time. I also like La Shawn Barber's Corner . But I just can't get into it. Honestly, it doesn't matter that much to me if John Roberts gets inducted as a Supreme Court Justice or not. And if I get one more Focus on the Family email warning me that God will judge me if I'm idle in contacting my Senator I'll...I'll mark it with a delete check just like I do everything else. *sigh*

It's not that I think these things important. I do. Did I mention that I vote? But, so is waiting on widows. James writes, "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble" (James 1:27a). However, thus sayeth the Apostles also, "It is not desirable for us to leave the Word of God and serve tables" (Acts 6:2). Who would they be serving at those tables? Widows!!

Here is the point I'm attempting to make, right or wrong. I feel no inclination whatsoever in my duty as a Minister of the Gospel to waste precious time beseeching my Senator to do whatever he ought to be doing in the first place. I will not leave the Word of God to pester Congress or the judiciary. It makes no difference in my ministry if they go so far as to outlaw the gospel in the USA. If God grant me boldness and an audience, I would still preach the gospel Sunday morning. I would not waste time lobbying for new legislation to overturn such an unjust law.

But, if it came up for a vote, I would speak my voice. So Dr. Dobson, leave me alone. I already voted for my Senator, and I will vote next time. Until now and then, I will leave them to tend their business and I will tend to mine.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Sad Musical World

I love music. Truly I do. At least, I used to love music, and I loved to sing as loud as I could, for good or for ill. But now, things have changed. Music often aggravates me. Actually, it's not the music; it's the musical lyrics.

While others can pretend that lyrics do not matter to them, I must state emphatically that they matter to me. I cringe and shudder at bad lyrics. If they are poetically cheesy, I am instantly aggravated no matter how pretty the chorus.

Briefly, let me describe what has happened to me. Before I was a Christian, I loved "grunge" music. Yes, I was a Pearl Jam fan. I had all of their albums, even the bootleg ones. In fact, my first ever trip to Louisiana was to see them in concert in New Orleans. That was when I decided that the hot, stinky, humid place of South Louisiana was like a monster armpit. Yet, God in His mercy would later call me here to minister. :)

Well, then I became a Christian in college and I still liked to rock. I was a Campus Crusader zealot who had memorized every Third Day CD on the market. If you pulled up next to me at a red light, I be blasting the music with the windows rolled down and singing to the top of my lungs. I was witnessing, of course.

Then, over the course of time, something strange happened. I began to learn theology. Also, I started getting old. I did not like loud music anymore. I actually walked out of a Third Day concert because it hurt my ears. (But I did meet the woman from Selah in the lobby where no one else was! Woohoo!)

To make matters worse, I found out that Phillips, Craig, and Dean were Modalists. (I told you I had learned some theology!) Also, I began to noticed that the lyrics to alot of the Christian Contemporary songs were, dare I say it, sissified? Steve Camp has it right when he calls them "God is my girlfriend" songs. I wanted something more manly, like "A Mighty Fortress is our God." I wanted a song that I could sing as I went into battle, not something that Barry Manilow might sing.

I also noticed that the CCM seemed extremely "man-centered." This often led to outlandish claims. Take the perriniel K-Love favorite Point of Grace's song, "God Loves People More than Anything." Oh yeah? God loves people more than anything? Actually, God doesn't love people more than anything. He loves His perfections and glory more than anything (thank you Mr. Piper). On a recent children's camp I heard the Nicole Nordeman song "Why" for the first time. I renamed it "The Clueless Jesus Song." How about Michael W. Smith's version of the song "Above All." Was Jesus thinking of me "Above All", or was He thinking of the will of the Father?

See, things like this mess me up in music. So, I have determined that I have gotten old, picky, Calvinistic, and more traditional in my old age. (I'm 30.) I have been listening to Michael Card's "Starkindler" for more years than I can count. I also have Rich Mullin's greatest hits. That's about it. Well...I actually think that Eric Clapton's "Live" CD is about the greatest CD ever made, and I look at the Blues as a sort of Proverbs come to life sort of music. Isn't it sad that I find some blues music more Biblical than Contemporary Christian music?! What is wrong with me!! Truly, in my heart dwells no good thing.

There is my musical problem, and it is why I am in musical limbo. I've been listening to the same CD's now for umpteen years, and I still like them. Plus, I love hymns. I LOVE them. They just don't write them like they used to. Oh Isaac Watts, where did you go!! If he had a CD, I be listening to it for the next fifty years.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Quick Comment

At the risk of alienating all my readership, I must note an observation that I have made. The weekend before this one, I thought everyone had abandoned me. My 'site meter' is rather new, and I wasn't prepared for the sudden drop of hits over the weekend. On Monday, I noticed that it picked back up. I dismissed it happily because people were looking at the site again. My ego was intact.

Then this weekend I noticed the same trend. I was baffled. Now I realize what's going on. You guys are reading this while you're supposed to be working, arent' you! You slacker! I hope your boss is creeping up behind you right this very moment. I hope the hairs on your neck are standing on end, and that you can feel his/her eyes looking over your shoulder and reading your screen. Shame on you! Shame! Shame!

Just thought I'd poke some fun at you. I have to go secretary may catch me messing around on the blog again. Also, I need to check my site meter. I haven't clicked it in the past 30 seconds.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Problem of Depression

Of all the organs of the body, the brain is by far the most mysterious. It is mysterious because it is fantastically complex. It is hard to research the brain because if you manipulate it, you'll most likely kill or injure the patient. Many of the reactions in the brain are chemical and electrical and difficult to observe, if not impossible. It is a strange, wonderful organ, and I am so ignorant of how it works that I do not even fully understand the things that doctors do not understand, if you follow me. I do not even know the correct questions to ask!

To further complicate matters, there is the issue of the human soul. Is our soul in our brain? If so, how does the soul affect the brain? And how would you study such a thing in a lab to get conclusive results? The answers to these questions can not be answered simply by biological study.

This gets to the heart of the problem of depression and its cure. The question that I am wrestling with, and the question which ultimately I cannot answer, is this: Is depression a purely spiritual issue, or is it also a biological one? Or, is it both? Though I cannot concretely answer such questions, I think that we may make some helpful observations.

Let's take hypothetical number one. That is, let's assume that the source of depression is a purely spiritual problem. Though the problem's source may stem from a spiritual source, it will never be contained there. Spirit inevitably affects the body. A depressed spirit will have negative consequences to a physical bodies. Nevertheless, the hope here is that if the spirit is cured, the body will follow. How should you deal with depression if it is purely spiritual in nature?

First, and most obvious, the cure for depression would be to counsel the gospel. The gospel, after all, is "good news." It is the best news. It gives us hope, and hope is a balm for depression. The Bible teaches that "hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). If a shattered hope brings depression, then the antidote would be fresh hope.

This is no simplistic answer. It could be that the hope lost is the death of a fiancee, a parent, a child, a dream of life with someone coming to an abrupt halt. The regret over the loss of virginity, or the betrayal of a spouse, or any other such thing that seems to place all hope beyond recall. These are the things that the gospel has an answer for.

You have to begin counseling by determining if the person depressed knows and trusts in Christ Himself. Counseling begins with Jesus Christ, our Wonderful Couselor. Teach them the beauty of the gospel, and if they do believe, then teach how God's promises guarantee that in the end, we will be satisfied that we do not suffer in vain. (For brevity's sake, I will not go into that here because I want to address the other two concerns first and if a blog post goes too long, no one will read it.)

Here is where a decision has to be made after counseling. If the source of the depression is spiritual, is it appropriate to give medication that only affects the physical body? I believe that the answer can be yes, depending on the seriousness of the depression. Though medication will not cure such a problem, it may help to affect a cure.

If we knew someone who is a smoker, and they contracted lung cancer from smoking, would we refuse to treat them until they gave up smoking? This would be absurd. One may argue that treatment would be futile, and that the real problem is the smoking. But we will still treat the patient. The same goes for high blood pressure. Maybe a person's excessive worry is causing the stress leading to high blood pressure. Do we refuse to medicate until that get worry under control? Certainly not. We can still treat the side effects, even when we haven't cured the source of the ill. I am not arguing for medication every time someone has "the blues," but in some instances people, even Christians are so overcome with depression that you cannot even speak reasonably with them.

The real problem of a depression that stems from a purely spiritual source is a lack of faith in God. What a scary thing to say to an evangelical Christian! If we are depressed because of a past sin, then are we not doubting God's promise in Christ to absolve us from all sin? If we overly mourn the deceased, do we not deny the exhortation of Scripture that we will see our loved ones who died in Christ again? And if they we not believers, do we not demonstrate doubt in God's integrity to be fair and just, and that when we witness their trial, we will indeed believe God to have done right. Who among the Church of God has not wavered in such doubt at some point in time?

For a person who does not know Christ, such depression is even more dangerous. For one, they do not have the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to uphold them in dark times. Further, they are defenseless against demonic manipulation, a factor which should not be discounted. This is, after all, spiritual war. We know from Scripture that demons certainly have the ability to affect physical bodies. Would we deny then that they have the power to affect brains, perception, and mental well-being? In Luke 13:11, Jesus encounters a woman who is hunchbacked due to demonic oppression. Is it not possible that with modern medical technology that surgery could have corrected this affliction? I think that we would have tried such treatment despite the fact that it was a purely spiritual problem with physical consequence. Why not with depression?

This post is already longer than I anticipated, and my own writing has spurred more thought in my mind. I think that I will stop for now and leave room for comment before I post more on the subject.