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The Christian Struggle with Mental Illness | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Part of the struggle is discerning the extent of the spiritual issue with mental health. How much is physiological and how much is spiritual ? Is mental illness a punishment for sin or a natural illness?

We all have spiritual struggles: struggling with our identity in Christ, receiving forgiveness, living with joy. With mental illness, the struggle becomes much more complicated.

Is it something that can only be resolved with a deeper understanding of the gospel and closer relationship with Christ and others, or can it be impacted by some external influence—medication, counseling, etc.?

Capitalizing Pronouns Referring to Deity

Meditate on the Word of the Lord Day and Night | Desiring God – This is longer than most blog posts, but it’s very good. It’s based on Psalm 1. One interesting thing it addresses is the word ‘prosper’.

The Word of God informs prayer. This means that the Word tells us what to pray and becomes itself the content of our prayer. When you know the mind of God in his Word, you pray the mind of God in your prayers.

Let’s think about the blessing that comes from delighting in and meditating on the Word day and night.

Man With Jeremiah 29:11 Tattoo Recounts His Time In Babylonian Captivity | The Babylon Bee – I should tell you that this is humor, since some might not get that.

I was very surprised to see a photo of my bookshelf on another article at Babylon Bee. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Been Reading

I’ve been in a big book reading slump. Bible reading is fine, and maybe it’s partly because I’ve been reading more of the Bible. But some of it is spiritual, and it’s a long complicated story that I don’t fully understand myself. I’m waiting for God to bring this back for me. Until then, I force myself to read just a little each day. Did you know that ten minutes of reading a day can amount to about 12 average length paperbacks in a year?

book-what-is-biblical-theology

The most recent book I read is What Is Biblical Theology? – A Guide to the Bible's Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James M. Hamilton Jr.

This is great primer for the subject and the subtitle. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now, which is why I want to mention it. I thought the end of the book veered a little off course but it’s a very good basic book on these concepts. Much of the book deals with Eden and exodus. There is a good bibliography at the end, which is nice because the book left me wanting more. It’s only 177 pages, so that’s not a complaint. Go to Jennifer Guo’s site for a more in-depth review.

Before that, I read Calvin’s Institutes for the second time. This time I read the 1541 edition, which is Calvin’s third iteration–the last one being is fifth. It was great of course. My reading slump happened halfway through. With some slow reading and skipping a couple of chapters, I made it through. By the way, I very much dislike the publisher’s subtitle of “Calvin’s Own ‘Essentials’ Edition”. It’s not a condensed version of any of his works. It’s just not as long as his final work–with less polemics–although there still was quite a bit.

Right now I’m reading parts of A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3 (90-150) by Allen Ross. He has a great portion on Psalm 119 which is my favorite one. This is a review book.

Next up is Hearing God When You Hurt by James Montgomery Boice. I haven’t read a good book on suffering for a while and really need to right now (part of the long story, but many readers are familiar with the general situtation), and I also wanted to see how I like James Montgomery Boice. Each chapter is based on a Psalm.

This was just going to be a short post giving a heads up about the Biblical theology book, but then I felt like writing a little more.

Vern Poythress Describes Me and My Friends

Herman and Dottie are me. My friend, who happens to be named Peter, is Peter and his cohort Laura. Other friend Nathan is like Missy. A motley crew we are.

I found this while I was taking a look at the book God-Centered Biblical Interpretation by Vern Poythress, which he offers free in PDF format. There are others along with samples of some of John Frames’ books.

Herman Hermeneut: Can we come up with a “how-to” list for interpreting the Bible?

Dottie Doctrinalist: That’s definitely useful, provided it is based solidly on the Bible.

Oliver Objectivist: We certainly need such a list, in order to be rigorously objective in our interpretation, and to eliminate subjective biases.

Peter Pietist: I’m not so sure. Won’t a method interfere with my personal communion with the Lord?

Laura Liturgist: I’m just as uneasy as Peter. Does “method” mean something purely academic? Or would it include participation in worship?

Missy Missiologist: I can see both advantages and disadvantages. We certainly need to take steps in order to make sure we are not blinded by the blind spots of the culture in which we were raised. But we need to be careful. Our focus on method can introduce a Western bias. The idea of having a technique or assembly-line process for producing the right meaning seems natural within an industrialized society, where we pursue technique.

He then provides some guidelines for interpreting the Bible.

Around the Web

Book Tribalism | CCW – Christian Communicators Worldwide – I’m not exactly sure what they’re trying to say here. But I do know that it’s good, of course; and it’s bad. It has caused me to think about what and who I read. The video they link to is amazing. I’ve seen in at least a couple of times and may have posted it before.

Reformed Theology & John 3:16 by Burk Parsons

Visual Theology on Pinterest – Infographics

I guess I might have been wrong about the premise of the Daniel Diet mistreating Scripture.
Archaeologists Discover Prophet Daniel's Weight Loss Diary | The Babylon Bee

Calvin on Freedom in Christ

We so often have a material or temporal understanding of manye of the Biblical teachings that are largely spiritual in nature. I wouldn’t have been able to keep count even if I tried. Reading commentaries has helped a lot in this regard, but having been brought up in this society, and having started out with bad habits regarding interpretational skills, it will probably always be something to work on for me.

This quote doesn’t have the benefit of the context that preceded it, but it’s still instructive.

Freedom never an excuse for self-gratification

Now we must take careful note that Christian freedom is, in all its parts, a spiritual thing. Its whole force lies in the fact that it gives peace with God to timid consciences, whether they are troubled by doubts about forgiveness for their sins, fearful that their works, being defiled by the flesh, are unacceptable to God, or unsure about the use of indifferent things.

–John Calvin, –John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, pg. 713, 1541 edition translated by Robert White – you can find this in the final version in III.19.7-8

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:17-19 NIV

Small Thoughts-No Answers in the Book of Job

When we are afflicted or tested, and it’s not a consequence of sin, we often try to figure out what God is trying to teach us, but to no avail. Then we think we’re missing out on it. Much of the time, God is refining us (1 Peter 1:6-7), or changing us into the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29), or pruning us (John 15:2), or doing whatever he wants, without letting us know why or exactly how. Even worse, those who don’t believe in God’s providence think that these things happen randomly.

In the book of Job, we can see that God actually told Satan who he could afflict. Then Job tried to find out reasons why. His so-called friends came up with all kinds of illegitimate reasons. Even in the end, when God actually spoke to Job, he didn’t tell Job that Satan afflicted him or why God told him to.

We should practice healthy introspection by comparing our behavior to Scripture (Hebrews 12:13-21 as an example), be sensitive to God’s conviction, and pray, but then not try to conjure up a reason for what God is doing when he himself doesn’t tell us.

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Hebrews 12:7 NIV

I would occasionally like to try a new type of blog post. They will be short thoughts. I’m absolutely, most definitely, not trying to mimic Twitter, write posts because people have short attention spans, or abbreviate larger ideas or doctrines for the sake of making short posts. They really are small or short thoughts, not that they can’t be expanded on. They are my own thoughts and not authoritative or inarguable.

Repost: Morning Prayer Bible Verses

I was going to repost this here, but since there are 63 comments–and I don’t want to change the date of the post (from 8 years ago) to today–I thought I’d link to it. It was nice to read through all of the comments again. This is one of the most read posts on the blog.

My original intention is a verse or verses you would pray right after you wake up, but before you do anything substantial, to get your mind on God and talking to him right away.

Five Bible Verses You Would Pray in the Morning | Scripture Zealot blog

Small Thoughts-Resisting the Devil

I would occasionally like to try a new type of blog post. They will be short thoughts. I’m absolutely, most definitely, not trying to mimic Twitter, write posts because people have short attention spans, or abbreviate larger ideas or doctrines for the sake of making short posts. They really are small or short thoughts, not that they can’t be expanded on. They are my own thoughts and not authoritative or inarguable.

If I go on, the explanation will be longer than the post.

Today’s in on resisting the devil.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.
James 4:7-8a NIV

Resisting the devil is wrapped in two commands. We resist the devil by living rightly with God, or living godly lives. I’ve heard of people doing things like rebuking Satan, and even praying out loud so that Satan can hear us praying, because he, of course, can’t tell what we’re thinking. We shouldn’t have Satan in mind, but God.

Obviously, whole books could be written on this subject, including Ephesians 6, but I think that little passage in James says a lot.

Calvin Quote: Adherence to Scripture

For it is not right that the things which God has sought to conceal and whose knowledge he has kept secret himself should be scrutinized in this way by men. Nor is it right that the lofty wisdom which he wished us to revere rather than comprehend, so that we might wonder at his greatness, should be made subject to the human mind or sought out in the depths of his eternity. As for the secrets of his will which he thought good to impart to us, he has borne witness to them in his word. And what he thought good to impart to us was everything which he knew would be relevant and rewarding to us. Once we grasp the idea that God’s word is the only path which allows us to investigate all that we may lawfully know about him, and is likewise the only light by which we behold all that may be lawfully seen of him, it will easily stop us from acting impulsively. For then we will realize that by going beyond the bounds of Scripture we will be straying off into darkness, and will inevitably with every step wander, stumble and trip up.

–John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, pg. 464, 1541 edition translated by Robert White – you can find this in the final version in III.21.1-4

Although Scripture is perspicuous in its basic doctrine, as the scholars say, it’s obviously not an easy book to comprehend in many places. I like reading Calvin because there is so little speculation; everything is based on Scripture. For the most part, the Puritans carried this on. The better we know the Bible, the easier we can tell if someone is speculating or speaking from their own knowledge of the Bible. I don’t see it as being confined, but staying in bounds.

He who looks into the mystery of God
will be overwhelmed with his glory.
Proverbs 25:27 (unknown translation – included in the book)

I have added:

You said, ‘Who is this that belittles my advice without having any knowledge about it?’ Yes, I have stated things I didn’t understand, things too mysterious for me to know.
Job 42:3 GW

My heart is not proud, LORD, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
Psalm 131:1 NIV

And of course:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36 NIV

Around the Web

5 Reasons Not to Waste Your Leisure Time

Where Do the Prayers Come from in “The Valley of Vision”? And Sundry Questions | TGC

Does God Talk to Us? A Post by Michael Horton

You Were Made to Meditate

Also see:
Owen and Watson on Meditating on Scripture | Scripture Zealot blog
Book Review: God's Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation | Scripture Zealot blog

Knowing How Much God Loves Us

This is a repost from Nov 21, 2013.

My wife and I love cats, and love our cats, probably more than we should. Right now we have one. We just lost her brother a few weeks ago. (I’m not writing this for sympathy.) We have often said and still say, “If [they]she only knew how much we love her” or “If she only knew how well she’s treated.” Even though she’s gotten whinier since her brother died (which also means she’s healthy, because like her brother, she has kidney disease) and is a diva princess, we love her all the same.

I believe the love God has for his children may be similar in that way. Even though we have no idea how much God loves us, can’t begin to appreciate it fully–and even wonder why he seems so harsh–he still loves us more than we’ll ever know in this lifetime. That’s part of what real love is. When a spouse develops a disease that renders them unable to know you or appreciate how much you love them, you don’t divorce them, as some like Pat Robertson would advise, you love them as best as you can.

One of the differences with us compared to cats or people with something like Dementia (who, if you don’t mind the incredibly insensitive joke, might not be all that dissimilar) is that our knowledge of how much God loves us can be increased. In order for this to happen, we need to spend time in Scripture and also prayer. One nice thing about this is it can’t be put into the legalism category in any way. This is for our benefit, and God’s glory. Learning more about God’s love isn’t going to make God love us more. That doesn’t even make sense. When God tells us to work out our own salvation, that’s not a command to “do our chores”, it’s something for our good–something that’s possible for us to love to do. This is what is written about God’s law in the Old Testament over and over. David and other inspired writers loved God’s law, whether it’s the Pentateuch, God’s commands or the Old Testament as they knew it.

We are free to spend time learning how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for us. Even though much of this comes about through experience–God directing our circumstances, comforting us,  providing for us–Scripture is primarily where we gain the knowledge of God and his love. We can know that God will speak to his children through Scripture and reveal more and more of himself to us, even if there are times when he seems quiet in that regard. There is also comfort in God’s wrath, knowing how much he hates evil, how it will be destroyed forever in the end and how much God is for us in this evil world (Romans 8:31 and much of Revelation and Genesis and the Bible come to think of it). But that’s for another post.

Let’s participate, or keep on, more and more.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
105Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Psalm 119:97-105

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

Also see:
How Does God Love? – Word of Life Wisconsin

A Simple Way To Pray

Martin Luther wrote a letter to his barber giving him ideas on how to pray. This section of the letter comes right after he explains how to expand on the Lord’s Prayer, which is something I like to do once a week.

I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas. It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.

–Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther (PDF File)

This sounds very familiar. What I’ve realized in the last few years is that much of prayer like this, as far as praise especially, and thanks, is actually meditating. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is involved when we pray. He opens our eyes to new things we hadn’t thought of (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) but are still Biblical. I think this is what Luther is saying here.

Although this may sound like it’s bordering on mysticism, God often gives me new ideas of things to praise him for. They are almost always obviously Biblical. If not, careful investigation is important because of how deceitful our hearts can be. This is where we listen, and then meditate on what the Spirit has revealed to us, or just reminded us in a new way. These seemingly small things can be very profound. This is what Luther means by the “Holy Spirit himself preaches”, and is contrasted with mere human “speculation” apart from the Bible. The Spirit helps our prayer life to ‘evolve’ as we learn more about how to pray. We can also imitate Paul’s prayers and pay attention to all of the different aspects of the Psalms.

What I quoted from above is from a PDF file of A Simple Way To Pray, which can be easily read on your computer or smart phone, if you have one. One page a day makes for a good devotional. There is also a tiny book that’s 68 pages long, but as far as I know, it contains the same thing as the PDF file, which is in the public domain. There is also another PDF file with a quote from R.C. Sproul and various items about Luther and prayer. I highly recommend this material.

There are also some very good books on The Lords Prayer that I’m familiar with:

Around the Web

I finally found a way of articulating why, among other reasons, I’m not a fan of Christian movies:

Computers generate more details than the eye can process. Contrast that with the way the Bible tells stories, where there are typically gaps for the reader to fill in. Less is more: The Bible’s reticence to color in the details actually makes it more liable to be understood in a variety of different times and places. If we let an artist or filmmaker supply all the details, our imaginations begin to atrophy.

Discipleship in the Age of the Spectacle | Desiring God

I’m not saying I think Christian movies are wrong, or it’s wrong to watch them. The few good ones are certainly better than most of the other stuff that’s out there. That’s only my opinon.

I admit that I liked the movie The Nativity. It had no depictions of Jesus, as an adult anyway, which I also try to stay away from. John Owen, among many others, writes about that pretty extensively and forcefully. I’m not as dogmatic as he is though.

Exercise Makes Our Muscles Work Better With Age – The New York Times

Wisely Handling the Book of Proverbs

“Answer not a fool according to his folly” (26:4a). Then, in the very next verse, we read, “Answer a fool according to his folly” (26:5a)

I love the refutation of myths and false sayings. I believed one of these, so I’m guilty too.
Urban Legends: The Preacher’s Edition | TGC

HT: Links I Like | Blogging Theologically

(HT stands for Hat Tip–giving credit where a link is found. I don’t do this enough, especially since I get a lot of links from him.)

The Glories of Christ

I bought the Kindle edition of John MacArthur’s study Bible quite a while ago when it was on sale. I hadn’t looked at it until recently, partly because I kept forgetting I have it. It’s very cumbersome to use in that format. Using one on a website is much easier. But that’s not the point. I found this when looking at Colossians, a book I’d like to study for the rest of my life. I’m not sure exactly who wrote it, but the copyright is Thomas Nelson. The value of putting it in a blog post is that you can easily put your cursor over the Scripture references to see them in a popup window, or tap them on a mobile device. I think it’s a great Christological statement. (By the way, this Scripture reference feature is also available for the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism linked at the top of the page.)

The Glories of Christ

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God …” (2Co 3:5)

One of the great tenets of Scripture is the claim that Jesus Christ is completely sufficient for all matters of life and godliness (2Pe 1:3, 4)! He is sufficient for creation (Col 1:16, 17), salvation (Heb 10:10–12), sanctification (Eph 5:26, 27), and glorification (Ro 8:30). So pure is He that there is no blemish, stain, spot of sin, defilement, lying, deception, corruption, error, or imperfection (1Pe 1:18–20).

So complete is He that there is no other God besides Him (Is 45:5); He is the only begotten Son (Jn 1:14, 18); all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him (Col 2:3); the fullness of Deity dwells bodily in Him (Col 2:9); He is heir of all things (Heb 1:2); He created all things and all things were made by Him, through Him, and for Him (Col 1:16); He upholds all things by the word of His power (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3); He is the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15); He is the exact representation of God (Heb 1:3).

He is the only Mediator between God and man; He is the Sun that enlightens; the Physician that heals; the Wall of Fire that defends; the Friend that comforts; the Pearl that enriches; the Ark that supports; and the Rock to sustain under the heaviest of pressures; He is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:3; 8:1); He is better than the angels (Heb 1:4–14); better than Moses; better than Aaron; better than Joshua; better than Melchizedek; better than all the prophets; greater than Satan (Lk 4:1–12); and stronger than death (1Co 15:55).

He has no beginning and no end (Rev 1:17, 18); He is the spotless Lamb of God; He is our Peace (Eph 2:14); He is our Hope (1Ti 1:1); He is our Life (Col 3:4); He is the living and true Way (Jn 14:6); He is the Strength of Israel (1Sa 15:29); He is the Root and Descendant of David, the Bright Morning Star (Rev 22:16); He is Faithful and True (Rev 19:11); He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:1, 2); He is the Author of our Salvation (Heb 2:10); He is the Champion; He is the Chosen One (Is 42:1); He is the Apostle and High-Priest of our confession (Heb 3:1); He is the Righteous Servant (Is 53:11).

He is the Lord of Hosts, the Redeemer—the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth (Is 54:5); He is the Man of Sorrows (Is 53:3); He is the Light; He is the Son of Man (Mt 20:28); He is the Vine; He is the Bread of Life; He is the Door; He is Lord (Php 2:10–13); He is Prophet, Priest and King (Heb 1:1–3); He is our Sabbath rest (Heb 4:9); He is our Righteousness (Jer 23:6); He is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6); He is the Chief Shepherd (1Pe 5:4); He is Lord God of hosts; He is Lord of the nations; He is the Lion of Judah; the Living Word; the Rock of Salvation; the Eternal Spirit; He is the Ancient of Days; Creator and Comforter; Messiah; and He is the great I AM (Jn 8:58)!

© 1997 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

God’s Discipline and Our Obedience

Remember that for 40 years the LORD your God led you on your journey in the desert. He did this in order to humble you and test you. He wanted to know whether or not you would wholeheartedly obey his commands. … Learn this lesson by heart: The LORD your God was disciplining you as parents discipline their children. 6 Obey the commands of the LORD your God. Follow his directions, and fear him.
Deuteronomy 8:2, 5-6 GW

It’s easy to think this was for the Israelites. With our freedom in Christ, do we really need to obey commands?

“The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.” 7 Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. 8 If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. 9 On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live?
Hebrews 12:6-9 GW

You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith–more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:5-7 HCSB

“Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.” John 14:21 GW (John 14:23, 15:14)

How great it is that we have a good God (Nahum 1:7) who is our King that gives us commands that are always for our good, and by wanting to obey them (which is something he instilled in us in the first place), he will show himself to us, live in us, eat with us (Rev 3:20), and love us.