Tuesday, September 24, 2013

CP221 Fred, depression, and one of its triggers

CP 221 Fred, depression, and one of its triggers.
This week I received an email from a colleague whom I greatly respect. In his email there was the following line:
“If only we could see ourselves as God sees us. Sadness, depression, low self-esteem, worry, fear, would all be a thing of the past.”
I can understand the faith conviction behind the thought. But is it true? Do you think that statement is true? Lord, let it be true. I want it to be true. I wish it was true. If only!
Why am I not ‘grasping the promise’? I’ll share my take on this. Over many years I have endured episodes of depression. In fact, I slipped into a short-term depression just two weeks ago. (More of that down the page.) Sometimes I am suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and heaviness. Things get dark. Bouts of melancholy have been with me through most of my life. However, I’ve no reason to lose hope. Why?
What saves me is that I know, in that deep place where I know what I know, that I am a child of my heavenly Father. I know I am ‘in Christ’. Any hope I have begins from being embraced in my Father’s love. That embrace is his Calvary gift to you and to me. It does not mean, however, that the sadness and depression just miraculously disappear. As I said above, “If only!”
I’m sure of this one thing. I am esteemed by my Father because I am ‘in Christ’. It is what Alexander McGrath calls ‘Christ-esteem’. When depression episodes recur, as they seem inevitably to do, I am free, within that Christ-esteem, to confront those threatening emotions. I refuse to let them define my life. It’s not easy, ever. But faith determines my identity, not my emotions.
The emotions don’t just go away because I wish them away. They continue to pop up, unbidden. The triggers are often hidden. Their flaring is a reminder that there’s still homework to do. The Spirit of Christ isn’t finished with me yet. Maybe one day the ‘fly-in, fly-out’ heaviness will be gone. In the meantime I’ll let my people be free to acknowledge when they feel miserable or alienated or disconnected or anxious. I don’t want them feeling they have to put up a good front because they are Christians.
One other thing. It has been in the times of my groaning that I’ve most grown.
One of its triggers?
Mostly I can figure out the trigger for depressive sadness after it happens. Almost always it’s something internal. Rarely it’s external to me. Yet that is what happened when I read the September 2013 issue of The Lutheran. I’ll admit straight away that it is an angry, frustrated sadness. Why so?
How is it possible that the official teacher of Liturgy and Worship in this Church can pen an article on ‘The Prayer of the Church’ and not once mention ‘Our Father in Heaven’ or ‘The Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit? Not once. Can you believe that? What on earth is he teaching the students preparing for the Public Ministry, the future pastors of the church, let alone its people? The word “God” appears 5 times. Fair enough? No, no, no, no! Why no?
For one thing, that term for the divine is understood in different ways by all the faiths of the world. (For example, 5%, or 1 in 20, of the people who live in my suburb are Muslims. What they understand of ‘God’ is entirely other to what we followers of Jesus Christ know. My suburb also includes JW’s, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, pantheists, atheists and lots of others.) Our external witness is supposed to be specific about the Messiah Lord Jesus who reveals the one true God as a Heavenly gracious Father. Whatever else, that is not one whit clear in the teaching.
The other, much more crucial thing, for the building up of our people, is that the author deals with prayer doctrinally, liturgically. There is zip in there about our being in Christ Jesus, and/or that we are now in a personal, intimate relationship with God as our Father. Do you know, in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus speaks of, and teaches about, His (and our) Father in heaven more than 40 times, including the instruction, “Pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven…’” In John’s Gospel His relationship with His Father in heaven, which is a template for our relationship with the Holy One, is referred to more than 100 times! Remember? “…whatever you ask the Father in my name”? But our teacher gives us a sterile 5 “Gods”.
Demtel! But there’s more!
I wonder if you get my sad anger? There is more to it. In that edition of The Lutheran, which has 18 major articles, there are fully 10 articles which do not even mention God, Father, Lord, Christ, Jesus, at all. I’m utterly gobsmacked by that. The Holy One doesn’t rate a mention. Surely that can’t be? In another article ‘God’ gets a run in just the last sentence.
But there is more and worse. ‘Christ’ appears in just three articles. ‘Jesus’ appears in a different three. And as far as I can see, the Holy Spirit was somewhere else at the time it was put together.
Bottom line? It might be called The Lutheran but it isn’t new covenant biblical or Lutheran.
PS I’ll be launching an appeal for financial support as soon as I’m sacked.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

CP 220 Touching that schizophrenic nerve...

CP 220 Touching that schizophrenic nerve…

Hello friends on the walk. It occurred to me that this week I could simply feed on to you some of the responses I’ve had to the post about ‘our schizophrenic Heavenly Father'. Any comments of mine will be in brackets.
Thank you for expressing so well the discomfort many of us experience as we hear fellow pastors and, apparently, teachers of the Church speaking of the Lord's holy chosen people in terms that are self-flagellating and seem to dismiss entirely God's view of humanity.
Love your thoughts Fred. I am a child of God, Jesus took my sin, paid my debt. I am made new and will live like someone who has been given an incredible gift, not like I did before. Thanks so much… I appreciate this ...
…I saw your letter to the editor in the Lutheran which I absolutely loved, and shared about it with dad, who also appreciated it, as did my sister. So thanks.
That was a GOOD blog!!!! My husband thinks so too! I am so glad you wrote the letter to the Lutheran… I hope the truth speaks into peoples’ hearts. Thanks for that!
Fred, thank you for this CrossPurposes. I too for many years contested the BEGGAR description of my faith. Baptised on the 16th of October 1939 as an infant, my understanding has been a forgiven child of our gracious God, not any old beggar as if there was no truth in the water and word that made me a child of God.
Wow, that is right on. I also am not a poor miserable sinner, but because I am in Christ, I am a forgiven, healed, whole, restored, blessed daughter of the King, who is on an amazing journey to uncover the precious truth of my right standing afforded me through His loving sacrifice and resurrection.
Fred, we don’t need to bring anything in our hands, as everything is God’s. We have been given eternal life freely, and we DO NOT have to beg for anything. In fact we BOAST as Romans 5:2 states.
Thanks for this mate…I completely agree with your passionate response…taking on a beggar’s attitude implies uncertainty in the promise of Christ on the cross.
Amen Fred! This As John wrote in 1 John 3:1 - "How great is the love the Father has lavished upon on, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" Love that absolute statement at the end - no doubt about it, we are God's children.
I saw the letter in The Lutheran – I am still thinking about that.  I think you have to be right – we don’t expect or want our own children to BEG anything from us! I think it’s taking the Saint/Sinner concept beyond what it is.
(A friend, sorely troubled by her life situation at this time, said to me, “All I can hear are the words of the, ‘We are Family’ song:)
We are heirs of the Father,
We are joint-heirs with the Son.
We are children of the Kingdom,
We are family, we are one.

We are washed, we are sanctified,
We are ransomed by his blood;
We are strengthened by the Spirit,
We are children of the Lord                                                                                        
Jimmy and Carol Owens 1974
A retired Pastor’s closing comment in a phone conversation: “I’ll stick with Romans 8.”
(This next comment is sort of embarrassing)
'Well done good and faithful servant', for being true to who you are and what you believe, in a system that may not like what you write.
Your response about the beggar is just one aspect of some people's understanding of God that I have often struggled with, and have got to a place of choosing not to take on and accept.
I too, am not a beggar, nor will I ever be. When Jesus died and sent His Spirit, I am in Christ, Christ is in me - which means Father is living in me... therefore it is impossible for me to beg to someone who lives in me, and I in Him.
Anyway, just wanted to encourage you in your boldness to question this in an open forum. We need to be completely true to who we are and what we believe - even though sometimes that is a very hard thing to do in the systems (communities) we may be part of. I'm glad I'm not a beggar. To me begging to Jesus is like being in bondage trying to get out of something - poverty, unforgiveness, no hope. But I am rich, I am forgiven and I have hope... in fact I live out that hope everyday.
And as for the schizophrenic Father - I question whether, actually, there are schizophrenic Christians - it's not Father who changes, but humans, as you implied.
God continue to bless you on your journey Fred
(Note from me. There were a couple of additional comments which were so ‘on-the-money’ that I simply have to add them to this post. Here is the first of them:)
There is, of course, much more to the story.  My sense is that our Holy Spirit is
amazingly weak and ineffective in actually working Christ in us in a way that
anyone dare call transformative.  It seems we are always back at square one when
we are invited to confess our sins as if, were we at square three or five or 137, we
would have the hubris of the Pharisee in the Temple.  However, reality is that the
further along the 'squares' one is, the more aware one is of 1) how precious and
loved we are by God and 2) that there is yet even more that we need to
acknowledge and relinquish to him.
(Man, O man, do I ever agree with him! And here is the second):
The other phrase, besides sons/daughters, that Paul uses is slave but in the context of BONDslave. Not at all a beggar, but someone who knows the freedom and life and liberty and love he lives in, and now voluntarily BINDS himself to this Liberating King for life. Freedom everywhere!
There you go… was a good opportunity to gather the thinking of a lot of Jesus’ followers in one place. Interestingly, I have not received a single negative response.

Have a good week.