Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Pagan Origins Of Spring Cleaning

Februss - The Roman Deity
 Honored By Spring Cleaning
"Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled." - Titus 1:15 (KJV)

The season is coming upon us again.  That means it's time to revisit this subject once more.  

Speaking of the December season and related celebrations both religious and secular, Edward Pola and George Wyle wrote a song in 1963 titled, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."  In it they lauded the roasting of marshmallows, the joy of children playing and, yes, even the dreaded pagan term "Christmas."  Lately this song has been playing on the radio and in retailers across America. And so, once again, we are made aware that the world is turning its calendars nearer to the 25th of December and we are left to debate whether or not this time of the year is wonderful at all.

To some it is shunned as Saturnalia (even though that event was actually commemorated on the 17th of December, not the 25th).  To others it is shunned as the birthday of the deity Mithras (even though Mithraic mysticism did not commemorate a birth of its deity).  To others it is shunned as a day dedicated to the worship of a late Roman deity called the Unconquerable Sun (even though Sunday is also a day specifically dedicated to the same deity which few seem to object to).  To some it is accepted as the birthday of Jesus Christ (even though there is absolutely no evidence of this).  To others it is celebrated as a day of religious remembrance of the birth of the Savior (even though no such celebration is mandated or mentioned in Scripture).  To others it is a holiday, either secular, familiar or religious, used as a time for family to gather much like Thanksgiving Day.  

Regardless, somewhere around Black Friday in the United States religious zealots on two fronts begin sharpening their swords in eager anticipation of December 1st when, after a year of the subject sleeping soundly, the war once again begins to rage.  On one side we have the Pro-Christmas Zealots who, with Bible in one hand and candy canes in the other, begin to hurl tinsel covered evergreens across the battlefield at their opponents while tugging on their ugly Christmas sweaters and adjusting their goofy reindeer horn headbands.  To the other side are the Anti-Christmas Zealots who, with Bible in one hand and Alexander Hislop's "The Two Babylons" in the other, fire furious salvos of pagan artwork depicting December deities in full celebratory regalia while proudly sporting "Bah Humbug" and "Vote For Grinch" t-shirts.  
Between the two sides is a battlefield littered with the broken bodies of gingerbread men, Santa's burning in effigy, smoldering mistletoe, chestnuts burning over open fires and scattered pieces of Jeremiah 10 (King James Version only please) along with a multitude of confused people who simply stand looking at each other with perplexed faces wondering what just happened.  You see, they are the residents of the middle ground and, for them, both sides seem a little odd.  After all, for 11 months of the year both sides are fighting for the same cause.  But with the turn of a page on the calendar everything changed.  Why?  The Pro-Christmas Zealots might say they are defending against puritanical Pharisaical Christianity while the Anti-Christmas Zealots might say they are defending against libertine neo-Pagan Christianity.  


By all means, let us all agree that paganism is pagan and, therefore, not Christian.  But let us go further into the business of paganism and, specifically, that of pagan origins.  Let us consider a grossly pagan practice steeped in idolatry and, yet, practiced by many Christians today:  SPRING CLEANING.  

Yes, Christian housewife, you are potentially leading your children into the very clutches of Satan's claws by insisting that they assist you in the ritual purification ceremony called SPRING CLEANING.  What you are probably not aware of, but thankfully have an authority such as myself to instruct you concerning, is the horribly pagan origin of this seemingly innocent practice in which a housewife systematically demolishes an entire household so that it may be set in order once again.  Lifting your broom against the evil dust bunnies which lurk under the couch may seem like a good practice to you, but are you aware that you are performing a ritual in honor of the Roman deity Februss?  That's right!  The god for whom our month February is named to honor was the god of ritual purification and, when springtime rolls around, was honored by a month-long period of washing, cleaning and purification of persons, homes and lands.  

Februalia, as it was called, is very easily identifiable with our modern practice of SPRING CLEANING!  Notice the similarities:  Februalia began in February.  In warmer climates, it is not unusual for individuals to begin their SPRING CLEANING in February as the coldest parts of winter begin to pass.  Regardless, as with the correlation between Saturnalia and Christmas, Februalia and SPRING CLEANING may not necessarily occur on the same day but their ceremonies are linked because of similarity.  With Februalia houses and persons would be purified by washing and cleaning.  All this time you thought washing those windows, scrubbing those floors and airing the house out was just in order to expel the must of winter.  Such ignorance!  You've been celebrating Februalia and are participating in a pagan celebration!  

SPRING CLEANING is an accepted Christian practice with roots deeply tied to paganism and is directly correlated to the keeping of Februalia in honor of the god Februss.  Now that you know the pagan origins of SPRING CLEANING can you continue to practice it with a clear conscience?  Do you believe God is pleased with your keeping of Februalia?  Is it not idolatry to perform an act in honor of the god Februss?

Are you still reading this without laughing at my premise?

But here is the part that is not laughable.  Are you aware that, according to Scripture, if you really believe SPRING CLEANING is a ceremony in honor of a pagan deity and your conscience condemns you for doing it, you are wrong to do so?  Yes, dear Christian reader, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul gave clear directive in regards to such matters in Romans 14.  If you have a personal conviction regarding SPRING CLEANING then you are bound by your conviction and your refusal to participate therein should be done to the honoring of God and not the shaming or shunning of your Brother.  On the other hand, if you do not believe SPRING CLEANING is a ceremony in honor of a pagan deity and your conscience does not condemn you for doing it, you are not wrong in doing so and should keep the practice of spring cleaning in honor of the Lord God and not for the shaming or shunning of your Brother.  

Romans 14 is an easily forgotten passage of Scripture because it removes from every Christian the right to judge another Christian on issues which are not addressed with specificity in the Scriptures.  For the Apostle Paul the issue was the keeping of Jewish religious holidays and dietary laws.  Nowhere in the New Covenant was the keeping of these portions of the Law of Moses mandated neither was it condemned.  They fell into a category we could call "personal."  Romans 14:1 called them "doubtful disputations" in the KJV or, perhaps more clearly understood, "opinions" in the ESV.  If an individual wanted to abstain from eating meat as a personal conviction, they could.  However, they were forbidden by God from condemning their Brother who ate meat.  If an individual wanted to have their Assembly on Friday or Tuesday instead of Sunday then it was a matter of personal preference.  They were not to be condemned for doing so neither were they to condemn others for not doing so.  

The entire issue of Romans 14 comes back to motive.  Why is the Brother observing a day?  Why is a Brother not observing a day?  Why is a Brother eating meat?  Why isn't a Brother eating meat?  Why can this Brother do something for which I feel convicted?  Why doesn't this Brother do something which I feel no conviction over?  Motive.  Motive.  Motive.  He that does it does it so that he may honor the Lord and he that doesn't do abstains so that he may honor the Lord (see Romans 14:5-6).  If the Word of God condemns something explicitly we must lift our voice as the Church universal and condemn it as well.  However, those things which are not so addressed must be allowed to fall into the category of "personal" and left to the conscience of the individual Believer.

What are we commanded then to do?

Romans 14:1, 10-17 (HCSB)
"Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don’t argue about doubtful issues...But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God...Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way. (I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself. Still, to someone who considers a thing to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.) For if your brother is hurt by what you eat, you are no longer walking according to love.  Do not destroy that one Christ died for by what you eat.  Therefore, do not let your good be slandered, for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." 

We are told clearly to ACCEPT the one who holds a different opinion on doubtful issues.  We are forbidden to shun them, separate from them or otherwise judge them so as to isolate ourselves from them and cause them to stumble.  We are to give them liberty and walk before God in our integrity in obedience to the Spirit as it directs our conscience while leaving the Spirit to work in the conscience of another Believer for that which is necessary in his own life.  The written Word of God lays down the absolute "bottom line" standard of the Church.  The Spirit of God indwelling the Believer may well give him convictions which go beyond that "bottom line" but that does not give that Believer the right to mandate those personal convictions, or doubtful issues, on the remainder of the Body of Christ.  Instead, he is commanded to keep his conviction to himself (see Romans 14:22) while embracing other Believers who maintain the "bottom line" while possibly holding to different opinions on doubtful issues.

The Scripture says, "
Whoever serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by men" (Romans 14:18).  What does that say of the one who does not serve Christ in that way but, rather, judges against his Brother in personal matters and doubtful issues?

So what is the conclusion of the matter?  If you are convinced Februalia and SPRING CLEANING are the same and it is a pagan custom that your conscience cannot allow you to keep as a Christian, then do not keep it.  You would be wrong to.  But, do not dare to condemn your Brother or think yourself morally superior to fellow Believers who do not share your conviction because the Word of God stands against you doing so.  On the other hand, if you chose to participate in SPRING CLEANING leaving aside the pagan origins with realization that your motive for doing so has nothing to do with pleasing the god Februss and everything to do with cleaning your house even though the actions associated therewith may look extremely similar...you're free to do so according to the Scriptures.  But, do not dare to condemn your Brother or think yourself morally superior to fellow Believers who do not share your liberty because the Word of God stands against you doing so.

In short, read Romans 14.  Obey Romans 14.  Live Romans 14.  Do that and God will be pleased with you as a Christian.  Furthermore, you might be surprised how much more easily the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is maintained (see Ephesians 4:3).  Funny how easy it is to be a Christian when we follow the instructions.  


Merry Februalia, everybody!  Let the Church roll on!  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Cause of Death: Divorce

"For the entire Law has been obeyed when you have kept the single precept, which says, 'You are to love your fellow man equally with yourself.' But if you are perpetually snarling and snapping at one another, beware lest you are destroyed by one another." - Galatians 5:14-15

It is Sunday morning at First Church and Sister Emily sits in her car in the parking lot debating whether she should try to go inside or turn back to her own home.  She has already spent most of the morning in deep internal conflict.  On the one hand she understands the Biblical command that Christians must not neglect to assemble together.  On the other hand is a pale circle around one finger serving as a reminder of what has been lost.  Two years of courtship, five years of marriage, three months of turmoil and fifteen minutes before a judge last Friday added up to the dreadful and shadowy specter of abandonment, lost love and divorce.

It wasn't her choice.  When she walked down the aisle of First Church a few years earlier with the love of her life at her side she believed that it would last forever.  There was nothing to indicate that, after only a few short years, her life would be torn apart by lies, deception and infidelity.  Now she was left alone to pick up the pieces of a shattered life while trying to comprehend how there could possibly be a tolerable future ahead.  Days passed like weeks and nights like eternities.  The silence in her home was deafening and often drove her to despondency.

She sits gripping the steering wheel staring at the front door of the Church wondering what it would be like to go inside.  The Pastor had told her that she must do everything possible to reconcile the marriage.  Had she?  Other Saints in the Church had told her she just needed to pray more and believe enough that her husband would come back.  Had she?  Nothing like this had ever happened to a family in First Church before.  All she could hear was the distant echo of laughter shared with her former husband, the words "till death do you part" and a sermon from Malachi 2:16 punctuating the point that God absolutely hates divorce.  Does that mean God hates the divorcee as well?

Her deep contemplation is interrupted by the sudden sound of music radiating from within the House of Worship.  It was a familiar song.  She had sung the solo before many times in the past when she was part of the worship team.  "If I'm going in," she thought, "I'll need to go now."  And so she did.

Walking through the doorway, she noticed the glances of a few stragglers who were shuffling back and forth trying to get to their Sunday School rooms or into the main Sanctuary.  Perhaps she was just being overly sensitive.  Brushing aside a few thoughts, she walked into the Sanctuary and debated.  Should she walk up to the seat she had occupied faithfully since she was a little girl coming to Church with her parents and where, up until a few months earlier, she had sat with her now ex-husband?  Or should she just try to shuffle into an empty spot at the back of the Sanctuary and try to go unnoticed?  Should she take a chance at normalcy or resign herself to the back pew?

She decides to try to return to normal.  She walks forward, begins to work her way to her normal seat when she begins to catch the eyes of those around her.  And here, out of necessity, is where we must leave Sister Emily's story.

THE BIBLICAL DOCTRINE CONCERNING DIVORCE
The New Testament gives two very clear statements in regard to the subject of divorce.  And while much commentary has been and will be written on the subject, please indulge a few more lines of exposition in this regard.  The first is found in the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5:32 where He decries the accepted practice of divorce for any purpose and introduces a righteous judgment allowing divorce for the cause of sexual immorality.  The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul would give further instruction on the matter in 1 Corinthians 7:15 giving liberty to the believing spouse if the unbeliever decides to abandon the marriage.

Divorce is not the unpardonable sin.  In fact, if we truly believe the Scriptures for what they say, divorce is not necessarily a sin at all.  It is true that God hates divorce (see Malachi 2:16) and that is only logical.  Anyone who has been through divorce hates divorce.  Imagine how horrible God must have felt to have had to look at His own people and say, "I'm divorcing you because of your immorality."  But that's exactly what the Almighty God did in Jeremiah 3:8.  God hates divorce because it represents the violation of a solemn vow by one or both parties.  God especially hates it from the standpoint of an innocent party.  Reading Jeremiah 3 gives you a very good picture of how the innocent party feels when they are betrayed.  So we can say with absolute certainty that God hates divorce just as any other innocent divorcee hates it.

For some the issue is remarriage after divorce.  However the Bible, if we truly believe the Scriptures for what they say, give no prohibition against remarriage except in certain circumstances.  For example, Christ in Matthew 5 disqualifies the sexually immoral party from remarrying as well as the party who divorces his/her spouse without Biblically justified cause.  He does not, however, disqualify the innocent party.  This is reiterated by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:27-28 who says, reflecting back on the justified causes for a Christian to divorce, that an individual who has been loosed from a spouse has not sinned if they marry.  It would be hypocritical and unrighteous of God to take any other view since He, as an innocent party, took for Himself another bride (the Church - see 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:22-33).  "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid" (Romans 9:14 KJV).

DO CHRISTIANS HAVE THE RIGHT TO IMPOSE PERSONAL CONVICTIONS UPON OTHER CHRISTIANS?
The Apostle Paul especially took great pains to expound upon the subject of Christian liberty and personal convictions.  This was of a necessity because of the nature of his work and calling.  Paul, as Apostle to the Gentiles, was confronted with a demographic which was largely ignorant of the Old Covenant Law.  The conflict between the Gentile Church and the Jewish Church was great and their relationship often turbulent.  Although the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 had already determined the Gentiles were not to be held to keeping the Mosaic Law, there were still ethnic Jews within the Church which held personal convictions that they tried to force upon other Christians.

The entire 14th chapter of Romans is devoted to the issue.  Therein we see the Holy Spirit condemning those who would impose their personal convictions upon another Christian which does not hold the same conviction.  God makes it clear that the Christian is to have faith in what they do and keep that faith to themselves.  If their personal conviction is violated, they are violating their own conscience and therefore sinning.  However, if their Brother does not hold the same personal conviction, nothing has been violated and the Brother is not guilty of sin.

We recognize that some may have a personal conviction on the subject of Christians and divorce.  But these should take notice of the authoritative, inspired and written Word of God and understand that their personal conviction is not applicable to the rest of the Body of Christ.  To condemn the justifiably divorced on the grounds of personal conviction which contradicts the established precedent of the Word of God is absolutely wrong in the eyes of God and must be entirely avoided.  Do Christians have the right to impose personal convictions upon other Christians?  The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says no.  We must then agree with God and His Apostle.

MURDERING THE CHRISTIAN DIVORCEE 
There are occasions when a Christian divorcee makes themselves a martyr.  For example, a Christian divorcee who is convinced their divorce was justified according to the authority of the Word of God may begin to feel compelled to act as a crusader on the subject of divorce.  Too often this crusade ends with no one having a change of heart and the divorcee developing a hard and bitter spirit.  In that case, the issue is not murder; it is suicide.  Those who have been impacted by divorce and are themselves Christian divorcees who are innocent parties based on Biblical authority need not feel compelled to defend themselves.  An innocent party needs no defense when confronted by a prosecutor without evidence.

Unfortunately there are also times when a Christian divorcee is the victim of cold-blooded murder.  They are rejected, refused and rebuffed.  Other Christians look down on them, especially those who have never had to contend with the collapse of a marriage or the infidelity of a spouse.  They do not understand and, in some cases, refuse to understand the Biblical doctrine in this regard.  Sadly enough, there are also those who understand and embrace Biblical truth in the matter but who feel a sense of self-righteous superiority since they have not had to walk the same path as the Christian divorcee.  Too often the Christian divorcee is driven away from the fellowship of other Christians because of this display of intolerance.  They are devoured, as the Apostle Paul warned the Galatians against, by their own Brethren.

This horrible calumny must end!  It is reprehensible, irresponsible and incredibly anti-Christian.  The way this reflects upon the Church and her Head is the antithesis of the nature of God.  Rather, the Church must stand with the Christian divorcee and provide the atmosphere in which the individual can be healed.  Divorce is, in many ways, worse than the death of a loved one.  At least when a loved one dies there is a grave to visit symbolizing happy memories that cannot be altered.  With a divorce, the happy memories are overshadowed by the realization that the other party is continuing to live another life away from you.  There is no grave and, therefore, there exists a lack of reassuring closure.  Should it not be the duty of the Church to come under the faithful innocent party, carry their burden and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2)?

HOW WOULD YOU REACT TO SISTER EMILY?
So let us imagine that you are a member of First Church and Sister Emily passes you in the foyer.  What do you do?  Her divorce was finalized only two days before.  Are you embarrassed of her?  Are you ashamed to be called her friend - her Brother or Sister?  Will you quickly dart out of the way to avoid contact?  Or will you embrace her?  Will you uplift her?  Will you remind her that God understand what she is going through because He has been there too?  Will you help her move forward?  Will you recognize that she is still a Christian, still valuable in the Kingdom of God, still of use to the Master and still important in your life and to the local Church body?

Will your feelings change in 8 months when she and Brother Charles begin sitting next to each other occasionally at the restaurant after church?  What about in a year when they begin to develop a very close friendship?  How will you look at her (and him for that matter) after 18 months when their friendship has developed into a relationship?  What about after 2 years when she's walking down the aisle in a long white dress with Brother Charles waiting at the front of the Sanctuary to meet his glowing bride?

How you should react is simple:  Stand on Biblical authority, raise your hands to heaven and say, "God hated how this started, but look what He has done to make it right!  Blessed be the name of the Lord!"  Rejoice that, out of a situation God hated, He and Sister Emily have ultimately won the victory.

But can you do it?  Can WE do it?  We can if we would.  What is more, we must.  People walk away from God for some of the most trivial reasons.  Any Christian who survives the horror of divorce while maintaining their love for Christ and a desire to continue in His Body as a productive and faithful member is not a sinner.  They are a hero.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"It's Just The Devil" And Other Things NOT To Tell Someone Who Is Depressed

"Then Job spoke again: 'I have heard all this before.  What miserable comforters you are!  Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air?  What makes you keep on talking?  I could say the same things if you were in my place.  I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.  But if it were me, I would encourage you.  I would try to take away your grief.  Instead, I suffer if I defend myself, and I suffer no less if I refuse to speak.'" - Job 16:1-6 (NLT)

The normative Pentecostal reaction to depression has been curious to say the least.  If someone comes to us with a gaunt appearance, having lost much weight and energy and wearing a forlorn expression we would know something was wrong.  If they were to say, "Yes, I'm suffering from cancer," we would be immediately moved with compassion.  Our reaction would be the same if they were to tell us they were suffering from any number of physical ailments.  We would understand if they were quiet, withdrawn or even ill-tempered.  Sympathy and empathy would come most naturally.

Now, imagine another person coming with a similarly gaunt appearance, having lost much weight and energy and wearing a forlorn expression.  We know something is wrong and when we ask the individual they reply, "Yes, I'm suffering from depression."  All of a sudden, our reaction is far different.  We were moved with compassion for the one suffering from cancer but not now.  Instead, we feel thoughts rising up in our hearts that we would never begin to express toward the one suffering from cancer.

"It's just the devil!"

"You just aren't praying enough!"

"Just get over it!"

"Things aren't as bad in your life as you think."

"Don't worry about it.  It'll get better."

What miserable comforters we would be!  With depression on the rise both in the United States and around the world, the Church needs a better understanding of this disease and how to approach those who suffer from it.

WHAT DEPRESSION IS AND IS NOT

"The signs and symptoms of depression include loss of interest in activities that were once interesting or enjoyable, including sex; loss of appetite, with weight loss, or overeating, with weight gain; loss of emotional expression (flat affect); a persistently sad, anxious, or empty mood; feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness; social withdrawal; unusual fatigue, low energy level, a feeling of being slowed down; sleep disturbance and insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping; trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; unusual restlessness or irritability; persistent physical problems such as headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain that do not respond to treatment, and thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts." (Source: MedicineNet.com)

Depression is...
1) ...a disease.  It is not simply "feeling blue" for a day or two.  It is an ongoing condition which, without treatment, grows and ravages its victim like any other disease.

2) ...aggressive.  It does not go away on its own nor does it naturally diminish.  It works subtly often overwhelming its victim before they are completely aware of what is happening to them.

3) ...real.  It is not the figment of someone's imagination.  Because of this, one does not simply "get over it" anymore than you can simply "get over" cancer, heart disease, diabetes or any other disease.

4) ...common.  Approximately 7% of Americans annually suffer from a bout of depression great enough to be considered "clinical" or, in other words, a diagnosable psychological event or disorder.  Most will not seek qualified help.

5) ...a growing problem.  Approximately 11% of adolescents, 30% of college aged individuals and 10% of seniors will experience a bout of depression.  Most will not seek qualified help.

Depression is not...
1) ...always a spiritual problem.  As we will show in the following section, depression can be caused by a number of things which are absolutely not spiritual in nature.  While depression CAN have a spiritual root that is not always the case.

2) ...relenting.  Once depression sets in it must be recognized, investigated and addressed.  Ignoring it does not solve it.

3) ...imaginary.  While some people, especially the very young and very old, may feign depression or throw around the phrase "I'm depressed" very loosely for the sake of gaining attention, this is not always the case.

4) ...uncommon.  An individual is not a "freak" because they are suffering from depression.  They are one of almost 1/2 billion people worldwide annually wrestling with the disease.

5) ...to be ignored.  After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death.  Presently, the suicide rate in the United States is the highest it has been since 1986 with an individual taking their own life every 12.8 minutes.  Depression is the most common cause.

THE CAUSES OF DEPRESSION

We should first understand that there is no single "cause" of depression.  Researchers tell us that depression can be caused by:
  • Side effects of common prescription medications. 
  • Diet.
  • Physical activity levels.
  • Stress, overwork and burnout.
  • Overuse of electronic devices. 
  • Psychological predisposition. 
  • Byproduct of catastrophic events. 
  • Other medical conditions. 
  • Past or present substance abuse. 
  • Physical, emotional or sexual abuse. 
  • Spiritual conflict.
  • Demonic oppression/possession.
Notice the list above contains 12 items only two of which are directly spiritual in nature.  It is not our assertion, neither the assertion of the majority body of counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and mental health workers both secular and Christian, to say that depression is NEVER a spiritual problem.  Rather, it is well acknowledged that it CAN be a spiritual problem but that is not to say that it is ALWAYS a spiritual problem.  Because it is not ALWAYS a spiritual problem, addressing the problem in terms of spirituality is not ALWAYS the right answer.

THE APPROPRIATE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO DEPRESSION 

Communication: The Three Pseudo-Blasphemous Words
To begin with, Christians should NEVER chastise someone for saying those three pseudo-blasphemous words, "I FEEL DEPRESSED."  A good rule of thumb:  "If you wouldn't say it to a cancer patient, don't say it to someone who is depressed."  A Christian especially knows how uttering those three words will normally be received.  They will be glared at, criticized, dragged to an altar, prayed over incessantly and, when they still feel depressed the next day, the aforementioned treatment plan will escalate.  Take the hint.  When a person, knowing the potential consequences, says they feel depressed that's the time to listen.  Do not pry or become a nosy busybody but, as the individual opens the door, walk WITH THEM down the corridors of their heart with compassion and empathy.

Inclusion: Be Willing To Be A Joint-Participator Yes, the depressed Christian should pray more.  But, believe it or not, they already know that and don't need your reminder.  What would be helpful is volunteering to visit the depressed and have times of prayer with them in their homes.  These times should not "focus" on the subject of depression but, rather, demonstrate Christian fellowship and the love of Christ.  Yes, a depressed person should try to get out of seclusion as much as possible.  But, believe it or not, they already know that and often only need someone to go with them to do things.  Loneliness and isolation feed depression but the depressed seldom ever leave those states by themselves.  Gently guiding them out of their prison by becoming a joint-participator with them in life can often do the trick.

Openness: Accept That Some Diseases Need A Doctor
The Almighty God is well able to heal all diseases.  Sometimes He chooses to do so through qualified medical professionals.  We must be open to the fact that the depression might be caused a simple chemical imbalance which, through proper treatment, can be corrected.  Perhaps it is a symptom of a latent disease.  There are numerous causes of depression which are not going to be cured by "casting a devil" out of someone.  It just might be that God has chosen healing for that individual who is suffering from the genuine medical condition of depression through the means of conventional medical treatment.  This is especially the case if someone is depressed to the point of suicidal.  Encouraging and even initiating the intervention of a qualified medical professional at that point is an extremely compassionate Christian response.

Compassion: Putting Yourself In Their Shoes
Job's complaint against his comforters was, among other things, their lack of empathy.  They absolutely couldn't put themselves in his shoes.  They couldn't consider how they would feel if they were in his position.  Job had a legitimate reason for depression.  Catastrophic events + spousal emotional abuse + physical illness + spiritual conflict = Job's condition.  Only an absolutely idiot would have looked at Job and said, "Just get over it."  It should also be noted that it was the work of Satan and God that brought about the calamities against Job but Job was NOT demonically possessed nor was his condition the result of a spiritual problem.  His "comforters" could only find one answer for Job and it was the "just get over it" type response.  It was Job's fault.  Job was to blame for Job's condition.  How ignorant they were!  They were incapable of compassion.  Are we?

Empathy: No, You Probably Don't Understand
We are often guilty of looking at a suffering person and telling them, "I understand."  Even if we think we do the reality is that we probably don't understand.  In fact, because every person's situation is somewhat different, the best we can hope for is empathy which is sufficient.  An understanding of the individual's struggle is not necessary nor is that something the individual requires us to have before we can help them in their battle with depression.  Looking at a depressed person and saying, "I understand" or "I know just how you feel" is almost always an immediate closure of any door of opportunity we might have to reach out to them because their immediate internal response is, "NO, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!"  Rather than trying to get a depressed person to believe we "understand" what they are going through, let us endeavor to feel their pain and thereby discover the treatable cause.

Mercy: Grace That Is Greater Than The "Sin" Of Depression
Being able to extend mercy to the depressed is a virtue that too few Christians possess.  How will we treat the depressed individual after they realize their cure lies in medical treatment?  Will we look down on them because they had to go to a doctor and be prescribed a pill to correct the condition causing their depression?  Will we chastise them as their condition improves after sessions with a counselor?  Will we question their spirituality?  Their sincerity?  Their faith in God?  If so, let us ask ourselves a few questions.  For example, would we look down on the cancer patient for accepting chemotherapy?  Will we chastise the diabetic because their condition was improved by a doctor's intervention?  Will we question the spirituality, sincerity and faith of a Saint of God who, because of a weakened heart, requires a pacemaker in order to live out the rest of their life?  Mercy must be extended in equal measure to the one who is suffering with depression.

IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED 

If you are suffering from depression, you are not alone.  If you are a Christian suffering from depression, you are not automatically a backslidden, devil-possessed reprobate.  It may be that your sickness is just that - a sickness.  There is a chance that your depression could be cured by making some simple lifestyle changes (becoming more active, staying away from home more, changing your diet, exercising, etc.).  It might be that you are having emotional difficulty because of past experiences and abuses.  It is also possible that you have a medical condition which is causing the depression.  Regardless, if you are depressed you need to identify it, accept it and proactively work to control it and overcome it...and you need to do it NOW!

You do not HAVE to lose the battle with depression.
You do not HAVE to accept that life will always be this way.
You do not HAVE to continue fighting without the tools you need to win.
You do not HAVE to spend more years walking in a dark cloud.
You do not HAVE to sacrifice your life to the control of depression.

But, whatever you do, get help NOW.  There are avenues available to you such as certified and licensed Christian counselors (Dr. Daniel Blash - www.bcahelps.com, Beth D. Baus  - www.ourhealthyfamilies.org, Dr. and Mrs. Billy Bates - www.biblicalapostolic.com).  Do not delay your own recovery because of fear of what others will say about the steps you take.  Ultimately, you must live inside your own skin and your own mind.  It is your battle.  Some will not understand and will criticize you for seeking help.  Ignore them.  You life may depend on it.

IF YOU ARE HAVING THOUGHTS OF SELF-HARM OR SUICIDE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.  DO NOT WAIT.

NOTE:  I admit that I am not a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or mental health professional and, because of that, some will reject this writing.  But I will also openly admit that I am an individual who has suffered from depression for many years and, praise be to God, am still an overcomer.  This article is written from my inside perspective and after conducting dozens of interviews with those who, like me, have suffered from depression as well as licensed, certified and qualified mental health professionals and doctors.  It is on that basis that I submit this work for review.