Saturday, December 20, 2014

What about...?

Sometimes a question jumps into a pastor's brain that seems to de-rail any other thoughts during sermon prep. Here's what grabbed me on Saturday night in the last moments of my review before the next day's message (and I'm putting it down here so that I don't try to chase this rabbit during the sermon and throw everyone else off the point of the message).

Here's the question: "Will all of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) be present in us when we get to Heaven?"

I mean, it seems obvious that - once we are free of sin - we will perfectly give and receive love and joy and peace and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness. 

These seven seem to be part of what it is to be in the presence of God. They will be the air we breathe. 

To be in the radiant presence of Jesus in all His glory - and to have the ability to take it all in with our resurrection hearts - will be the ultimate manifestation of Love and Joy and Peace and Kindness and Goodness and Faithfulness and Gentleness that we have been striving for, waiting for and groaning for in eager expectation since the Fall.  

But, what about patience and self-control? 

These two qualities of the fruit of the Spirit are very much needed on this side of eternity. We are thankful when the Holy Spirit grows us in these two parts of the fruit. There are not many of our sins that can be investigated without finding a lack of patience and/or a lack of self-control as a main cause.

As far as patience goes, it is a fact that one of the hardest parts of this life is the waiting. 

Impatience rears its head everywhere from the checkout line at the grocery store, to the funeral home. Whether we are waiting to get on with our day and are hindered by a person with too many coupons or we are waiting for the reunion with a dear loved one who finished this life before us - the waiting seems maddening.

So, it begs the question, will we need patience in Heaven? What will we be waiting for in Heaven that would require patience. Our every thirst, hunger and longing will be satisfied fully in Christ. What need will there be for patience?   

Then there's self-control. Very closely related to impatience, a lack of self-control seems to show up when our desire for something - good or bad - becomes all consuming and we lose sight of everything else to get that one thing.

So, on this side of Heaven, we desperately need the help of the Holy Spirit to grow self-control into our heart and life. 

But again, what would be the need in Heaven? 

In Heaven, when the obstructions and distractions of sin, Satan and self are put away, our ultimate desire will be to taste and see that the Lord is good and to praise His name and to do all things as unto Him. 

In Heaven - I can only guess at this - in Heaven no one will think twice if I lose sight of everything else I am doing to stop and praise Jesus or bow to Him or to simply stop and soak in His light and warmth.

So, will we need self-control? Will we need patience? 

I haven't found any answers to this question in any thing I've read. I'd love to hear your thoughts. And, I'd especially love to get any feedback from the Word of God if you find an answer in the Scriptures that I've overlooked.

If this question sparks your thinking too, give me a call or stop by the office, we can talk it over with a cup of coffee. 

I'll be waiting patiently.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

When Disciples get Depressed

Today at Warsaw Baptist Church we continued our series about the Holy Spirit. We talked about the most common reasons why we as Christians - and we as the Church - feel disconnected from the empowerment, gifting, ministry-effectiveness and love of the Holy Spirit.

The Big Idea that we saw from Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (fleshed out by the surrounding texts) is that there is a unmistakable connection between our fellowship with the Spirit of God and our faith/life.

Though our RELATIONSHIP was sealed at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ as our savior, our FELLOWSHIP can sometimes be disrupted.
It's similar to the way in which a parent/child RELATIONSHIP begins at conception and is life long, but the parent/child FELLOWSHIP can be damaged by rebellion, dishonor, neglect or a abuse. 

The good news is that God is not like us, so reconciling our fellowship with Him is never as hard for us as it is to reconcile with another sinful human.
No hoops, No cooling-off period.
Repent, Believe, Confess and move forward in step with the Spirit.


But wait.
We talked about the most common reasons for broken fellowship: grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit by our lack of faith and our sin.

But what about when we cannot identify an area of faithlessness or sin?
What about some people - some Christian brothers and sisters - who struggle with depression?
Depression, which looks and feels a lot like the fruit of a grieved and quenched Holy Spirit, often rears its head as a dark feeling of isolation, lonely sadness and anxiety. 

Even though we cannot see a specific pattern of sin or lack of faith. Depressed Disciples often feel the same symptoms of those who have blatantly grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit. We feel disconnected from His empowerment, gifting, ministry-effectiveness and love.

The Holy Spirit loves the Depressed Disciples and doesn't want us to be uninformed of how to dig out.

We find many areas of depression in the Scriptures, we will study one from the Apostle Paul.
Specifically, I would point you to 2 Corinthians 1: 8-11.

First, in verses 8-9a, we see the the cause of the problem and the effect:

Unlike the personal sin of the individual Christian or corporate sin of a church body, this burden was caused by outside influences that Paul describes as "affliction we experienced in Asia."

Depression can often times be caused by outside factors, such as past abuse or abandonment, etc.
There is also the fact that it is not only our individual sins, but the effects of The Fall in the garden, that can cause these bouts with depression.

At the Fall, everything in the created order was fractured, including the earth and heavens and even our own genetics. We can ultimately point to the Fall for everything from tornadoes and earthquakes to cancer and to the chemical imbalances that are sometimes the cause of depression.

Whatever the "outside afflictions" were, they caused serious problems for Paul and his fellow disciples. He writes that they "despaired of life itself."
Anyone who has suffered the full weight of depression knows this kind of despair and has likely even contemplating ending their lives. Some - even Christians - have tried. Some, unfortunately, have succeeded.


Paul doesn't leave us in the lurch. Paul is honest about his despair, but quick to point to a way OUT in verses 9b-11:

The way OUT:
Rely on God - Ask for Help - Share Your Struggle to Help Others

1. Rely on God.
         - One of the sickest parts about my depression - when it strikes - is that it surrounds me in a feeling of isolation, not only away from other people, but away from God.
The first thing we need to do when we feel the dark cloud of depression approaching is confess our need for God's help and put our faith in His deliverance, not leaning back into our own strength.
This is easier said than done, so Paul gives us a road map - a light unto our feet - to get us out of the darkness.
         - Remembering, Expecting and Hoping in God's deliverance:

Paul preaches the Gospel to himself, REMEMBERING when "He (God) delivered us from such a deadly peril..." Paul looks back to the truth that God sent His son to save him from his worst enemy of sin, death and the wrath to come. This gives confidence to face any other problem head-on. For as Paul says elsewhere:

This faith in the past reality of the Gospel gives Paul an EXPECTATION of deliverance in the current battle "and he will deliver us."

Not only that, Paul is not unaware that even after this struggle, more will come while he is on this side of eternity. So he prepares himself for future battles by looking on to his future in Christ, saying, "On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again."
This is the Ultimate deliverance. It is what the writer of Hebrews points us to for encouragement - Jesus' own hope in the future as a catalyst to get through the brokenness of the world caused by sin:

2. Ask for Help.
           - The cliche is that we are only as sick as our secrets. Some cliches stick around because they are true. Paul did not try to suffer in silence. He didn't rely on unspoken prayer requests. No! He made it clear:                                      
                                 "We are despairing of life!"

God never intended for us to go through this broken world alone. While some people may argue over the merits of a formal church membership, it is impossible to live out the Christian life as it is described in the New Testament without living in community.
Being honest and transparent about where and why we are hurting is vital to the life and effectiveness of a Gospel community.

Also, Paul's request is that they help "by prayer."
Medication is not always the wrong answer for depression. Just as medication is needed for cancer or heart disease, it is also right and good to use all of what modern medicine has to offer when it comes to chemical imbalance related depression.

However, too many Christians jump to chemical fixes before earnestly addressing the problem with the tools given by God (His Word, His Spirit and His People).

Personally, I dealt with depression with medication for a time, but then turned it all over to God in prayer. That has worked for me, each individual must determine that with the help of qualified advisers.

3. Share Your Struggle to Help Others
          - Paul knew that there would be light on the other side of his despair. That optimism was cited as a reason for his prayer request:

Whether our depression comes from an unknown cause or a very obvious trauma, When we overcome it, it will be a cause for celebration to us and to those who walked along side us. It will also help us help the next people who go through the pain. As one pastor might say, Don't Waste Your Depression.

To end, I would add one caveat based ONLY on my experience. This entire article was written because some of us deal with depression and disconnection from the Holy Spirit because of unknown reasons or because of sins that have been done too us.

However there have been times when, through the process above, God has revealed some of my own sins that had actually played a part in the depression.
If and when He does that, don't sink into shame or blame shifting, walk in the Gospel - the Good News - that the answer to our sin and the wreckage that it causes is to simply repent and believe the Gospel and to do that in the midst of a loving Gospel Community.

Also, if you are dealing with depression reach out and ask for help. Ask one of our elders, or a close friend in the church. We are here to help.