depression

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What an Average Home Looks Like in Every State: Wow. This is amazing, both in terms of the disparity of cost for the average home across states as well as the type of home you can get for that cost.

2.       God is not Silent in Your DepressionEd Welch is a wonderful counselor and offers a wealth of wisdom. He begins by describing depression, "Never has so much been crammed into one word. Depression feels terrifying. Your world is dark, heavy, and painful. Physical pain, you think, would be much better—at least the pain would be localized. Instead, depression seems to go to your very soul, affecting everything in its path. Dead, but walking, is one way to describe it."

3.       How to Raise Spiritually and Emotionally Healthy KidsAaron Earls on some really important research about the long-term impact of parenting practices: "Those who attended religious services with parents or prayed or meditated on their own had healthier lives and improved mental health. Those who attended church at least once a week as children or teens were 18 percent more likely to report being happy as 20-something adults than those who never attended services."

4.       Three Privileges of Intimacy with the FatherTim Chester begins, "Step back and think about it for a moment, and you’ll realize what an amazing miracle it is that any of us should call God ‘Father’. But we do so every time we pray, through the Spirit of the Son."

5.       Wrestling with the Violence of GodJeff Elkins concludes his examination of a difficult passage with this reflection: "My problem is, I want more. I want to know why God would do such a thing, but the scripture does not give it to me. In the absence of that information, I am forced to ask myself what I know about God."

Christmas Eve Recommendations

Christmas Eve Recommendations

Merry Christmas,

As you celebrate your Christmas, here are some bonus recommendations for you.

May the joy and hope of Immanuel reign in your home and in your hearts,

John

1.       Did the Gospels Borrow From Pagan Myths? Timothy Paul Jones examines this claim: “In the simplest possible terms, here’s what these critics contend: The most marvelous claims in the Gospels—a miraculous birth, for example, as well as the idea of a deity who dies and rises again—are paralleled in pagan religions that predate Christianity; therefore, early Christians must have fabricated these miracles based on their knowledge of pre-Christian religions.

2.       The Lord Gave Us A Casket for Christmas: Erik Naykalyk shares his heartbreaking story, “Exactly three weeks to Christmas Day, God decreed to take my home ad flip it upside-down. Twelve days before Christmas, we lowered my son’s casket into the cold, hard, December ground. And I’ve never been looking forward to Christmas more in my entire life. No, seriously. Never.”

3.       A Letter to the Depressed Christian at Christmas: David Murray reflects, “Depression is tough at the best of times. Perhaps it’s the best of times, such as holiday times, when it’s especially tough. The thought of mixing with happy people fills you with dread. The thought of remembering lost loved ones fills you with gloom. How can people be so happy when you are so sad? How can people celebrate when you are in mourning? It jars your soul and scrapes your tender wounds, doesn’t it?”

4.       200 Years of Silent Night: Keith and Kristyn Getty consider the power and beauty of one of the best and longest sung Christmas carols: “God’s heavenly peace is still so evident in these enduring lyrics and chords, its soothing effect one of the marvels of our modern holiday traditions—like a distant whisper somehow soft enough, yet also loud enough, to reach us in the deafening noise.”

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Why the Angels Were Speaking to You, Too: Jan Shrader reflects on the thrice-repeated words of the angels, “Do not be afraid,” at the first Christmas and reminds us that “There is a heavy price to be paid when you begin listening to fear.”

2.       Why the Tithing Challenge Isn't a Good IdeaYou may have heard of certain churches offering a "money back guarantee" with their challenge to tithe. Aaron Earls made a good case for why that isn't a wise practice, "A tithing refund distorts God’s design for giving by presenting people as owners with nothing to lose, rather than as stewards who sacrificially engage in spiritual investment."

3.       Why You Should Go to Church Even When You Don't Feel Like It: These words from David Sunday are so good, "That’s why we meditate on the teachings of God in Scripture day and night. That’s why we gather in the house of God with the people of God week by week. We don’t do it just for the immediate benefit. We take the long view. We cultivate these rhythms of grace, we practice these disciplines of worship, so that when the years of drought come, we will remember: we will recall when our souls pour dry the days of praise within God’s house. And the very remembrance will sustain us."

4.       6 Ways to Make Yourself Marry-ableI'm not a fan of the title, but if you re-frame this as helpful advice for young adults, then I like it quite a bit. Lisa Anderson concludes that in preparation, "You will no doubt realize you have some things that need to change. We all do. We’re all carrying baggage that was either placed on us by the generations before us or picked up of our own free will. Now’s the time to dump it. Now’s also the time to identify addictions, outrageous debt and spending pitfalls, past or present abuse, bad family patterns, and anything else that’s holding you back from spiritual, emotional, and relational health. Get counseling if you need it."

5.       5 Myths About DepressionMichael Lundy packs a ton of truth in this post. Please read it not only for your sake but for those who struggle with depression in your life, "Gandalf, one of my favorite quotable characters who exists only but no less vividly in the minds of readers, said “despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.”6 It is a temptation to think that we do when we do not, and to see an evil end when God has something quite different in mind and in store. Yet, it is a temptation to which most—if not all—of us are vulnerable."

6.       The Thief and the FriendJason Upton might have my favorite voice in Christian music. If you haven't listened to Upton before, try this song.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       The Loneliness Epidemic: In a world more connected than ever, we have a significant loneliness problem, Bob Smietana shares, "More than half of Americans (56 percent) say they feel lonely, even when surrounded by other people. Forty-six percent say they feel no one knows them very well. Thirty-six percent believe there is no one they can turn to—at least some of the time. Nearly 1 in 5 say they don’t have people they can turn to (19 percent) or talk to (18 percent), according to a new survey of more than 20,000 Americans from Cigna, a global health service company."

2.       The Soul Mate Fantasy: David Beasley says that the idea of a soul-mate isn't just wrong, it's harmful: "Nowhere in the Bible does God say anything about soul mates. God gives us the simple details on how to have a great marriage: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Wives, respect your husbands."

3.       Moms Need Soul Care Over Self CareMaggie Combs with wisdom for men and women alike: "It's almost impossible to visit a motherhood website, blog, or play group without running into it. The concept of self-care is simple: If the plane is going down, you should put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. But if your motherhood plane is about to crash and burn, God is the only source for the oxygen you need to survive the fall. Self-care encourages coffee runs, nap times spent reading novels, pedicures, happy hour with girlfriends, new clothes, massages, exercising, decorating homes, and lavender bubble baths. There is nothing inherently bad in this list, but the problem lies in the elevation of these good things as necessities for surviving (or even thriving in) motherhood."

4.       Good News! Satan Wants to Destroy You! Derek Rishmawy reminds us that alongside the very real and active presence of our adversary, God is at work: "But Christ has robbed those accusations of their force by wiping away our guilt through his death on the cross (Col. 2:14). And he sends the Spirit of God not as our Accuser but as our Advocate, testifying to our hearts that we are God’s dearly loved children."

5.       Culture is the Hardest and the Last Thing Changed: Eric Geiger with a good word to leaders, "I frequently hear leaders talk about changing the culture as if it is their first order of business. An inexperienced and unwise leader declares, “I am going to change the culture.” Leader, if you change the culture, it will be the last thing you change. Not the first. You can’t simply speak a new culture into existence. You are not God. You may desire to influence the culture but you are woefully mistaken if you think you can show up and announce a new culture.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What Do Americans Really Think About God? Pew's recent polling is revealing. Christianity Today reports, "Even in an era where more of the nation doesn’t ascribe to a higher power at all (10%) or believes in some sort of higher power or spiritual force (33%), a slim majority of Americans (56%) still believe in God “as described in the Bible,” according to the Pew report."

2.       Just How Christian Are the Wealthiest Zip Codes in the US? Not very, it appears. "Both communities also have fewer evangelical Protestants than the national average, data from TheARDA.com shows. Evangelicals account for less than 11 percent of the population in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and a scant 3.4 percent in San Mateo County, California—well below the national average of 16.2 percent."

3.       Children's Crusades: Alan Jacobs takes a cultural phenomenon head-on, "One clever little speciality of adult humans works like this: You very carefully (and, if you’re smart, very subtly) instruct children in the moral stances you’d like them to hold. Then, when they start to repeat what you’ve taught them, you cry “Out of the mouths of babes! And a little child shall lead them!” And you very delicately maneuver the children to the front of your procession, so that they appear to be leading it — but of course you make sure all along that you’re steering them in the way that they should go."

4.       Can a True Christian Have Depression? Jeremy Pierre's answer is excellent. He concludes, "The promise 'the Lord is my light' is most precious from a place of darkness."

5.       Beauty from AboveIncredible shots of America's beautiful landscape.

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

Richard Sibbes was born in Suffolk, England in 1577 and was a minister of the gospel until his death in 1635. Perhaps the gentlest of the Puritans, The Bruised Reed speaks gospel comfort to those struggling with their faith. "Sibbes never wastes the student's time," wrote Charles Spurgeon, "he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands."

Following his compassionate healing of a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, Matthew quotes from Isaiah 42 and says that Jesus will not break off "a bruised reed" and "a smoking flax he shall not quench." Jesus is filled with tenderness and mercy to those who are hurt, broken, and weak. The bruising is, in fact, from him. Sibbes shares that "After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may show themselves to be reeds, and not oaks." This bruising shows us that "we live by mercy."

Why Don’t You Preach More About…?!

Why Don’t You Preach More About…?!

What topics does your pastor avoid? When was the last time you heard sermon dealing with depression? Sexuality? Race? Immigration? I’ve been part of more than a few conversations with congregants who have complained either that we don’t preach enough on a particular topic (ironically, this often occurs right after we preach on that topic), or that they hope we will not be like their old church that never preached on a particular topic.

Christianity Today puts out periodic issues which focus on particular issues. In those issues, they often have polls where they report how often respondents say their pastors speak about that particular issue. Unsurprisingly, the polls always show severe neglect of the given topic. I’m grateful for Christianity Today—they do great work and I benefit from their excellent writing and reporting. But I’m wary of the criticism that pastors don’t preach often enough about any given issue for a few reasons: