Too often in Christian circles it’s taught that if you have faith, pray and obey, God will take away your problems. If you are worried, give those worries to God and he will solve them. If you’re going through a challenging time, God will fix it. Things typically don’t work out this cleanly in real life, often leaving people wondering what they did wrong, or why God abandoned them. Thankfully the Bible tells a different story. Continue Reading…
Archives For Depression and Insecurity
Ministry burnout; despair; discouragement. This 3-headed monster and its ugly cousins usually come visit me when I ponder how much “bad” is out there in contrast to my ability to do anything about it. The Bible commands me to do something about it, but that can’t mean I’m to live in debilitating despair, right? Because as a competitor, it certainly feels like my team is losing. These are easy topics to preach sermons on, but much more challenging to internalize at the core of our being. The following four points have been given to me recently by people who have been on this road much longer than me and I hope they help you at the soul-level the way they have helped me:
1. Pray that God will raise up the Church
I’m not in this alone. There is massive need out there. Tons of people who don’t know Jesus. And tons of people enduring incredible suffering. Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “Go and glean the entire harvest” in Matthew 9:37-38 and Luke 10:2, he said “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (italics added). God didn’t leave the world with me as its hope to bring it the good news of the Kingdom, he left it with his Church! I’m not talking about apathetic laziness, waiting for others to do what I’m supposed to do. I’m talking about realizing which is the better hope for my low-income neighborhood to find Jesus’s Kingdom: me working 5x harder than I currently am, or me staying faithful in small ways and praying that God will either raise up 5 more Christians from within the neighborhood to help me and/or have them move in from outside. Me thinking it’s my job to reach the whole city or praying that God will raise up dozens of churches to reach the whole city. I can lose sleep over the sex trafficking industry, gang violence, drug use, global poverty and oppression as well as the many unreached countries of the world…or I can pray for them! Praying that God will bring a revival to his Church, sending out many into the local harvest fields that are ripe for picking.
2. Remember the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church and Jesus promises the gates of hell won’t prevail against it.
I’m not in charge of the Church, the Holy Spirit is. Pressure off. Do you remember Pentecost? Prior to this event, Jesus told his disciples not to do outreach (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4) until the Holy Spirit came. The gathering of believers wasn’t enough; the Holy Spirit was and still is needed. What a relief to know that the Holy Spirit is not only guiding me, but that I’m a small part of a huge body and the Holy Spirit is guiding and empowering the entire thing.
3. Don’t let condemnation rule over you
Romans 8:1 is so clear and beautiful: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Again, easy to preach, hard to internalize. What’s helpful to remember is whenever you are feeling inadequate, you know that message of condemnation is from Satan and you can reject it. You are fully adequate based on what Jesus did for you on the cross (Colossians 1:22, et al). Satan wants us to think our adequacy comes from producing results for God, so when we see the suffering or we see those who are lost, we feel like it’s our fault or we haven’t done enough (bringing despair, burnout, discouragement).
4. Don’t create a new “Law” to be enslaved to
This is closely related to #3. Jesus went through a whole lot to free us from the power of the law (Galatians 2:21; Gal. 5:4). The law enslaves. You can never do enough under the law because you can always do better and be better than what you’ve done. When you translate this to a zeal for ministry, there is always more ministry to be done! More people to reach, more people to help. Ministry can be a very subtle slave-master. Under grace, we abide relationally in Jesus (John 15) and we stay faithful to him, one small day at a time, one small interaction at a time. The point isn’t results, it’s faithfulness and abiding. If we believe that this isn’t enough, we’ve believed the lie that Law will bring us life. Reject this and cling to grace. As you share the message of grace to the world, live in the grace that all that is needed has already been done on the cross. Reject any message that what you already have in Jesus isn’t enough!
I hate my depression.
But I’m thankful for it.
While not always related, anxiety and depression usually go hand in hand like onion breath and flatulence. I get anxious over the things I want to control but can’t, then get depressed whenever things feel out of control.
There are a million hits on Google if you search for “ways to get rid of anxiety and depression.” If you’re a Christian, there are even more. Many of these are good and need to be explored; I have and will continue to. But for many, anxiety and depression never really go away. They go to sleep, sometimes for a good while. But then they wake up jumping on your face, pulling out your hair and blowing sirens in your ears.
Depression feels like an anvil on my chest and five or six wet blankets draped over my brain. It typically can’t be prayed away, willed away or Bible-versed away. But what I can do is be thankful for it. Continue Reading…
I am a product of my culture. We all are. A microwaved, instant, lightning fast, on demand, hurried, frantic, now culture.
I hate waiting.
Not only do I hate waiting, it exposes me. When I’m going really fast, I’m such a blur that you can’t get a good look at me. I can’t get a good look at myself. But when I’m stuck in the traffic jam, everything is revealed. My rust, my bald tires, my broken windshield, my engine that needs its oil changed.
When you’re a person like me who accomplishes tasks in order to prove their worth, waiting can be a lonely, depressing and scary place.
Over the past year and a half, ever since I read Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, God has been trying to rid me of my false self and let me live in the freedom of my true self: the freedom found in his unconditional love and grace for me as his son. As it turns out, I’m about as moldable as hardened concrete. As a result, God decided he needed to pull out a jackhammer as his sanctification tool of choice.
I am specifically waiting on the purchase of a new church building (our 5th, and final, in 10 years), on a publisher to get back to me, and on hiring a new youth pastor. 3 weights, weighing on my chest, where all I can do is wait.
Insert all of the Bible verses there are about waiting on the Lord, contentment, peace, gratitude, God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. Continue Reading…
What Does the Bible Say About Ministry Success?
Worshiping Ministry Success like Gideon’s Golden Ephod
Gideon is most well known for using the moisture level of a fleece to determine if God wanted him to attack an army or not. All in all, he is typically known as one of the good guys, someone who was faithful to the Lord, who walked righteously and who delivered God’s people from oppressive armies and from idolatry (Judges 6-8). Heck he even made honorable mention in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11:32. In spite of all this, there is a subtle little scene placed at the very end of Scripture’s account Gideon’s life that is much more convicting and probably much more applicable than anything else written about him, fleece included.
Gideon has achieved massive success. He has led the Israelites faithfully. He has freed them from the physical oppression of enemy armies and most importantly, he did what was nearly impossible to do in the Old Testament, and that was get the Israelites to stop worshiping idols.
This is a ministry dream come true. (If Christian magazines existed back then, Gideon would have for sure been everyone’s cover boy) Continue Reading…