Monday, September 26, 2005

Personal -- Oh dear...

This post is a very difficult one because I have to type it with one hand. All right, here's the story:

Every fall we have a family picnic for our teens and their families and friends. This year we had nearly 70 peope show up for what promised to be an unforgettable experience. We love flag football, and we were thrilled to have a large group of people for a game on a real field! It doesn't get any better. Well, not 10 minutes into the game, David and I ran a successful blitz on Bob and pushed their team back a few yards. When they got a first down we decided to try it again. This time, however, I missed Bob's flag and hit him in the side. Yes, I broke my finger. I broke the ring finger on my left hand. The bone below the second knuckle is broken in two places. I took my wedding ring off quickly. That was shortly before I passed out. Well, they tell me I passed out...I don't really remember that part. I'm going to a hand specialist today at 12:30 to see what needs to be done. I would certainly appreciate your prayers. I'm going to miss playing the piano for several months, but I know God means this for my good and his glory, so I will rejoice! Rejoice with me, and pray for me!

UPDATE: I went to the specialist this afternoon. He said he would try to set the bone back in place, but if he couldn't he would have to do surgery to put in pins and plates because the bone was broken and twisted. Well of course the word "surgery" sent instant prayers shooting up to my Heavenly Father. God was very gracious, and the doctor was able to set the bone, literally in a matter of seconds. He took x-rays afterward and it was a perfect fit! Even the doctor was surprised. The pictures below are of my hand before he worked on it, and then immediately after:

My hand is in a cast right now. I'll go back for a follow-up visit next Monday. If the bone is healing well and hasn't shifted, then I'll be in the cast for about 3-4 weeks. Please pray with me that it stays in place!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Personal -- Congratulations!

Congrats to Brian and Sarah Lindsay, friends from college! They're expecting their first child in May!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rutherford, et. al. -- Depressed Christians

Depressed Christians? It should sound like an oxymoron. In fact, it would sound like an oxymoron if it weren’t too often our experience. So what does a depressed Christian do? Chances are Prozac and Zoloft aren’t the best options. But my question isn’t so much about how a Christian gets out of depression as how a Christian gets through depression. How do depressed--or lamenting--Christians talk? How do they sing? How do they think?

Check out these depressed believers from history:

1. Job – If anyone had a reason to be depressed, this guy had it! He lost everything…I mean, everything…in one day. Many of the Katrina victims can’t even come close to the loss that Job experienced (although their loss may feel just as great). This is what Job said:

"Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?" (Job 3:23)

Job asks, "Why, God, do you take everything from a man and yet let him live then in his misery?" Do we scold Job for asking? Do we somehow feel his frustration with him?

2. Paul – Like Job, Paul experienced sufferings that most of us will never endure for the cause of Christ’s Kingdom. He told the Corinthians,

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life" (2 Cor 1:8).

"Despaired even of life." That doesn’t sound very "Christian." Yet what gets Paul through such a despairing situation?

3. Samuel Rutherford – Perhaps it was more his disposition than his circumstances that brought on Rutherford’s depression, although he definitely had his share of depressing circumstances as well. In January of 1646 he writes to James Guthrie,

"I am at a low ebb as to any sensible communion with Christ; yea, as low as any soul can be, and do scarce know where I am; and do now make it a question, if any can go to him, who dwelleth in light inaccessible, through nothing but darkness. Surely, all that come to heaven have a stock in Christ; but I know not where mine is…. I should count my soul engaged to yourself, and others there with you, if you would but carry to Christ for me a letter of ciphers and nonsense (for I know not how to make language of my condition)" (Letters, 176-177).

4. Charles H. Spurgeon – Spurgeon considered himself born with a certain disposition towards “melancholy,” the old word for depression. He often lamented the depressing nature of people who criticized his sermons: "'Thou shalt not yoke the ox and the ass together' was a merciful precept: but when a laborious, ox-like minister comes to be yoked to a deacon who is not another ox, it becomes hard work to plough" (Lectures to My Students, 311). But he especially experienced depression when some jokers yelled out "Fire!" in the middle of one of his sermons at the Surrey Gardens. There were more than 10,000 people present and pandemonium broke out. Seven people died in the stampede that followed and many more were injured. Spurgeon was only 22 years old at the time. Spurgeon described himself afterwards as having been "a soul [that] went so near the burning furnace of insanity."

So the question again is what does a depressed Christian do? Can he pray? Can he sing? Can he question God? I ask these questions not because I am suffering from depression; I’m actually quite happy this morning! I ask them, rather, because I see so much suffering around me. In my church people are suffering and distraught. In my school young men preparing for the ministry are weighed down with despair. And in my reading I come across Rutherfords and Spurgeons and Jobs and Pauls who say things like, "Why does God even let people live when he brings such sorrow on them?"

Here are some thoughts. First, respond in a Rutherford-like way. After his complaint to Guthrie about his depressed state, he begs his friends to pray for God to rain down infinite mercy upon him. Rutherford understood that only the infinite, sovereign grace of God could help him. "Millions of hells of sinners cannot come near to exhaust infinite grace."

Second, read Spurgeon’s sermon, "The Sorrowful Man’s Question." You can read it by clicking here.

Third, Justin Taylor’s post on his blog "Between Two Worlds." The post is called, "What Can Miserable Christians Sing?"

I know, I know, that’s a cop-out. I won’t even answer the questions I raise! That’s okay, though. Rutherford, Spurgeon and Trueman (on Taylor’s blog) answer the questions very well. Check them out, and lament like a real believer!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Personal/Theology -- Embracing ALL of the Body of Christ

I had a very interesting and deeply humbling experience Sunday night. As a part of one of my seminary classes, I am required to visit and evaluate preaching services at various churches. Sunday evening I had planned to visit a fairly large Southern Baptist Church in the area. When I got there, however, I discovered that they were not having a regular service that evening, so I had to find somewhere else to go. I found a small Independent Baptist Church called Welcome Baptist Church and decided to go there. The church sign read, “Sin invites judgment,” so I was quite sure that this would be an interesting experience. The problem was that I approached the entire situation without the mindset of Philippians 2:1-11 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. I thought I would go incognito and see how this church treated me. That was how I was going to evaluate them. It didn’t take more than about 5 minutes, though, for the Holy Spirit to severely rebuke my arrogance. “You’re not here to criticize or critique; you’re a part of this Body whether you like it or not!” So my austere demeanor very quickly changed to an attitude of love—and I’m sure that I and Welcome Baptist Church were both better off because of it. I decided to smile and be friendly and try to be an encouragement to these believers. After all, I was probably the first visitor that had seen in quite a while. I am very thankful that God changed my attitude quickly. I left feeling like I had been able to encourage these people and be a blessing to them rather than simply a thorn in their side for that evening. And, not so amazingly, they were a blessing and an encouragement to me as well! I learned that night that I have been far too hypocritical in my embracing of parts of the Body of Christ. If I can embrace the Pipers, the MacArthurs, the Sprouls, the Packers and others, I must be just as willing to embrace the names that I’ve never heard of and will probably never hear again.

But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
Jesus is the way.
Casting Crowns