Friday, October 29, 2010


There is a reason why I have not been blogging.  Or rather “reasons” why I have not been blogging. 

First reason is that we have a newborn in the house.  That obviously means less time for blogging and more time for burping (the baby—not myself). 

Second reason is that my course load is somewhat huge this fall.  Ever week I have to read on average a 200 page book, 150 pages of John Calvin’s Institutes, and try to stay up to par in my online Greek course. 

Third reason I am also an associate pastor.  This means sermon prep, other writing tasks, planning, reading, being with people, meetings, etc. 

I want to blog.  I want to maintain a decent flow of material.  But I simply cannot.  So, if you enjoy what is written here and you do not yet subscribe I encourage you to do so, that way you do not miss something once I am able to begin blogging more faithfully. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Depression, Christians, and Medicine Part 6

After a two-week hiatus (having a baby has a tendency to do that) I will attempt to close out this series with this post and then one more tomorrow.  Today I want to offer my position and then tomorrow offer a few practical applications to my position. 

Should depressed Christians take medicine?

Presupposing that we are whole people, that have been wholly effected by the Fall, but will be totally redeemed, through the gospel (with it’s ripple effects)—which is absolutely sufficient, though God still uses means to make the gospel shine, my answer to this question is a jam-packed “maybe”. 
Allow me to fill that “maybe” out a little bit.  First of all, I do not think it is wise to ONLY take medicine.  So, if I were to counsel a believer to take medication I would also encourage them to seek godly counsel on top of it.  But that is nothing unusual.  Everyone needs sharpening by other believers in some way or another. 

Secondly, I do believe that many people are over-medicated and under-discipled.  I think the folks in the biblical counseling movement are partially right in saying that often our psychological troubles are not biological problems they are repentance problems.  But as noted previously that is not the ONLY problem. 

Help from Dr. Eric Johnson

Honestly, I think my professor Dr. Eric Johnson has answered this question in the most helpful way that I have seen.  He sees human beings as being spiritual, ethical, psychosocial, and biological with an “complex interdependence” (368) between them. 

 He draws it out this way:


And this is where I have found him extremely helpful.  From this he provides four simple rules for soul care:
  • Rule #1:  Christian soul-care providers are free to work at all levels.
  • Rule #2:  Christian soul-care providers should work at the highest levels possible. 
  • Rule #3: Christian soul-care providers should work at the lowest level necessary.
  • Rule #4: Christian soul-care providers need to transpose lower level activity into the spiritual order. 

In conclusion there are times when people do need to take medicine.  That decision is not one that should be entered into quickly.  Nor should it be seen as a “fix-all”.  We are complex human beings and we should really be ministered to on all levels. 

If you are taking medicine then rejoice in the fact that such advances in medicine were purchased on the Cross of Christ.  This is all part of redemption and there will be some day when we experience full redemption and you will not need to fulfill that prescription. 

Also, know that Christ can transform anything.  Your identity (if you are a believer) is found in Christ not in some sort of "disorder” that someone says that you have.  You are not a depressed Christian.  You are a Christian that happens to struggle with depression this side of total redemption. 

Should depressed Christians take medicine? 

Maybe, but never ONLY medicine. 
Now, bring on the discussion…
Screen Clippings and quotes from Foundations for Soul Care by Eric L. Johnson.

When the Strong Man Gets His Way

Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head…every rise of lust, might it have its course, would come to the height of villainy: it is like the grave, that is never satisfied.   -John Owen

If you want to see this principle in full force then look no further than the Gerasene demoniac.  His story is told most vividly in Mark 5.  Here is a man “with an unclean spirit living among unclean tombs surrounded by people employed in unclean occupations, all in unclean Gentile territory.”  (Pillar NT Commentary, Mark by James Edwards, 155) 

His humanity has been utterly destroyed.  The portrayal is more like that of a chained animal than a man created in the image of God.  This guy once had a home and a family but now he is tattered, bloodied, naked, and living among the dead.  He is a menace to himself and a menace to society. 

This is what happens when the “strong man” gets his way (Mark 3:26-27); humanity is destroyed and the image of God is darkened.  Who knows where or how it started, but somewhere along the way this man left himself open to “the strong man’s” possession.  And it left him completely broken. 

At this point I am confronted with the fact that his story is mine.  I have never ran naked like a wild man in a cemetery (at least that I remember); nonetheless, his story is mine.  I too opened myself up to “the strong man’s” possession.  For years I made sin my dear companion.  It looked cleaner than the demoniac’s tattered rebellion but the sin inside me desired to have me destroyed. 

My cemetery was depression; my rocks were pride, slander, filthy talk, sexual immorality, and hatred (of myself and others).  I wore clothes, but inside I was a naked unfettered demoniac. 

Then Jesus came. 

He is the one, the ONLY ONE, that can “bind the strong man and plunder his goods” (Mk 3:27).  Nobody else has the power to overturn sins curse.  Nobody else has the power to rebuke a storm, heal a demoniac, or to change my wicked heart. 

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:9).   And that he has done.  He has taken scores of “demoniacs” and turned them into disciples “clothed and in their right mind” (Mk. 5:15).

So, the next time that sin looks tempted may the Lord remind me of the loneliness of the cemetery.  May I be reminded that sin aims to strip me of humanity and place me right back there.  But may I also remember that I am no longer possessed by that strong man.  I am possessed by a STRONGER MAN, one in whose hand I can never be plucked from because there is no one stronger than this strong man. 

Redemption.  That’s what happens when The Stronger Man gets His way.


I am interested in this graphic novel by John Piper:  The Gadarene.  You can read the Advent poem that it is based from free online.  Here is a sample; it is part of the prayer of the demoniac’s wife: 

I think that you should ask the Lord
To lift his voice and wield his sword
Against the legion powers that bind
And blind your daddy's broken mind."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bitterness & Forgiveness

"Bitterness is the poison we drink hoping that someone else will die."
I believe one of the leading causes of bitterness in our lives is failure to forgive others.

Yes, that person did what he/she should not have.
Yes, it was wrong.
Yes, I was injured in some form/fashion.
Yes, it disrupted my life causing me to go through a season of pain and recovery.

Yet, I too am regularly guilty of doing what I should not do.
Yes, I too have been wrong in the way I've treated others.
Yes, I too have injured others in some form/fashion.
Yes, I too have disrupted the lives of others causing them to go through a season of pain and recovery.

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

When Jesus came to earth to die on the Cross, He paid a greater price, suffered a greater punishment, and reached out to me in ways I can never repay to forgive in order to make possible the forgiveness of my sins. How can I not offer the same forgiveness to others that Jesus has given me?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gossip or Concern

When is it gossip and when is it legitimately sharing a concern?

Wayne Mack provides a helpful outline in his book, Your Family, God's Way, that I will tweak into question form:

  1. Have biblical attempts been made; but failed to resolve the difficulties?
  2. Is your motivation for sharing a sincere desire to get help?
  3. Are you sharing with those that actually can (and will) furnish godly counseling and solutions?
  4. Will the information be helpful to others in a preventative, protective, or restorative way?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baby Hannah is Here!

The Lord has blessed Nikki and I with a beautiful daughter.  Last night at 8:14 PM Hannah Nicole Leake was born 7 lbs 2 ounces and I think 21 inches.  She’s starting out bigger than her big brother.  Here are a few preliminary pics, I’ll try to post more later. 


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gavin DeGraw On Medicine

Okay I don’t think he would take the same stance as me, but as I was writing this series on depression I found it weird that this song came on.  Thought I’d post it for your viewing pleasure:

Depression, Christians, and Medicine Part 5

We have been discussing whether or not a depressed Christian should take medicine.  We have looked at my presuppositions as well as outlined two simplistic (in my opinion) views.  Today I just want to briefly point out what is at stake. 

It is important to understand that most everyone in this particular debate has the same goal.  If we are talking about Christians discussing this issue; I am assuming that they all love Jesus, they all want to see God glorified, and they all want to see God significantly heal people through the gospel.  Nobody wants to detract from God’s glory and nobody wants to harm another person.  But what unifies us is also the core of what is at stake. 

Each side runs the risk of harming another person.  If someone NEEDS medicine and for theological reasons they refuse it—they will be harmed.  If it is true that taking medicine merely masks the deeper problem then they will not be significantly healed.  So this is not something that we can casually approach.

Both sides also can detract from God’s glory and neuter the gospel.  It is possible that medicine could fill an idolatrous role that only God intends to fill.  If someone is distracted from the much greater reality of spiritual battle and this becomes a biological issue, it is possible that “science” can get glory that should belong to the Lord.  And it is also possible that God has redeemed science and medicine and that part of the ripple effects of the Cross is the use of medicine to provide significant healing.  To refuse to use something that Christ purchased is a numbing of the benefits of His redemption.  So in one sense the glory of God is also at stake in this discussion. 

This is the bottom line—helping people for the glory of God.  How best does God say that we do that?  That is THE question in this entire discussion. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Depression, Christians, and Medicine Part 4

Yesterday we discussed the simplistic diabetes/depression argument.  Today we will look at the no psychotropic’s argument.  In other words—Christians shouldn’t take medicine. 

Two Types

This particular approach has two variants.  The first type of “no psychotropic's” rejects not only psychotropic’s but any form of medicine.  Their view is much more involved than I will present it, but for shortness sake, allow me to summarize.  Essentially the belief here is that taking medicine is distrusting God.  Rather than trusting in man (medicine) we should pray and believe that God will heal us.  If he chooses not to heal us then that is His will.  More extreme varieties of this belief will refuse all forms of medicine even to the point of death.  (You’ve maybe seen cases of this in the news).

The second type is really the one that I am concerned with.  This view denies that biology can be the cause of psychological stress.  According to one proponent of this view, “the mentally ill are really people with unsolved personal problems”.  Even things like Schizophrenia are really just camouflage for the underlying issues.  Typically it is unresolved sin. 

Most of my readers probably have ruffled feathers by now.  How can you possibly say that depression, anxiety, schizophrenia is MY fault?  Why would I WANT to be depressed?  Why would somebody WANT to have anxiety or schizophrenia? 

Listen, the guys that hold these views are not stupid.  They are also not mean people that want to destroy people.  They love the Lord, they love the Scriptures, they love people.  And they truly want to see these people healed and experience God’s awesomeness.  So why do they say such things? 

Their Argument

I will try to sum up the view as best as I can but if this really peaks your interest I would suggest reading material by Jay Adams and those influenced by him.  The driving force behind this belief is that God is central and the Bible is sufficient.  It is largely reactionary against the excesses of naturalistic psychology and Christian integrationist. 

Eric Johnson in his book on Soul-Care sums up their passion nicely when he states:

Because modern psychotherapy and counseling discourse make no substantial reference to God and sin, counseling by Christians largely based on that work will not rely on God and the power of Christ’s salvation in its soul-healing, and will unwittingly contribute to the substitution of the Christian religion with another, secular religion.  The very glory of God is at stake here, and the BCM [Biblical Counseling Movement] has seen itself as on a prophetic mission, challenging God’s people to choose God and his salvation for the cure of the soul rather than rely on secular (that is, merely human) counseling strategies.  (Johnson, Foundations of Soul-Care, p.107

If you want to understand this view then you must understand their passion for seeing sin as real and the significant problem with humanity.  You also need to know that they believe Christ and the Scriptures are the singularly sufficient for dealing with this fundamental problem. 

So how would someone from this school of thought answer our question?  Should a depressed Christian take medicine?  First of all they would say that your identity is in Christ not in depression.  You are a Christian that is experiencing symptoms of depression—but your fundamental identity is in Christ.  What will fix your depression is not medicine.  That will only mask the great issues that are going on.  What you need is biblical truth and perhaps repentance.  That is of course putting it coldly—such a thing would be done more warmly and lovingly in a counseling setting.  But at the end of the day this is the position. 

The Problem

William Cowper

Not just William Cowper but scores of people like him.  John Newton, who loved Christ and treasured the Scriptures, did not take a rebuke and repent type of method.  He understood that Cowper’s problem was not necessarily unconfessed sin or anything like that. 

Now I know that any strong proponent of this view would argue that the only for sure thing that we have to go by are the Scriptures, not John Newton.  Maybe Newton was wrong and Cowper was not counseled correctly.  Maybe.  But is there a difference between believing in the sufficiency of Scripture and believing that it is Scripture is sufficient in all areas? 

That question just opened an entire debate.  One that would take far too long to discuss here.  So, I’ll take you back to my presuppositions and you can do the research yourself.  I believe that Scripture is totally sufficient and adequate for that which it sets out to do.  But it’s not a sufficient guide for giving us the history of early American colonialism.  Nor is it necessarily a sufficient guide for fully understanding anatomy and physiology. 

You could have given Cowper a million bible verses.  He knew them all.  He understood grace.  He understood justification by faith alone.  He knew Jesus.  But occasionally something would snap in his mind and there would be a radical disconnect between worldview and his personal theology.  He believe the gospel was true for everyone in creation but himself.  Did he need more teaching?  Maybe you could argue that.  But is it possible that Cowper was experiencing something biological? 

At the end of the day I just find this view overly simplistic.  It sounds really good and convincing when it comes to exalting the Scriptures.  But it runs the risk of making the Bible fulfill promises that it never makes.  There are decent arguments from godly people that believe medicine is sometimes necessary. 

So what’s at stake in this discussion?  I’ll try to answer that tomorrow…

The Day I Was Rescued In the Wilderness

I am prone to forget the gospel.  Sometimes in the midst of my gospel-amnesia I wake up and realize that something is missing.  There are certain parts of Scripture that I continue to return to that has a tendency to wake me up and remind me of the beauty of what Christ has done, is doing, and is going to do.  One particular place is Hosea 2:14-15:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

If you pull out a Bible and check out all of Hosea 2 verse 14 is ridiculously unexpected.  For thirteen verses the husband describes his harlot wife.  She has taken all of the gifts that her husband lavished on her and has decided to spend them on other lovers. 

Let me try to give you a picture of this.  I buy my wife flowers, perfume, a new dress, the makeup she has been wanting, and a really nice piece of jewelry.  On the next Friday I come home and see my wife getting all gussied up.  I’m excited because I assume that she has something special in store for me. 

So, I get myself ready and put on my best clothes and ask her where she would like to dine out that evening.  To my dismay she informs that she cannot go out to dinner with me because she already has a date with some other dude. 

That is what Israel has been doing to the Lord.  And for the first thirteen verses you see the husbands response.  He is going to strip her of everything that is desirable.  He is going to take back the dress, the perfume, the jewelry, the makeup, EVERYTHING.  And he is going to see if she will be able to attract her lovers now. 

Of course she cannot.  At the end of verse 13 she has nothing that would even turn the eye of a passerby.  Sure, she’s naked.  But she’s such a broken shell of herself that the only emotions she evokes is either pity or disdain.  She’s ready for the taking—problem is nobody wants her anymore.

Then we are shocked by verse 14.  Picture the whore.  She has forsaken her husband, she has been rejected by her lovers, she is broken, empty, she has nothing that anyone in creation would desire.  You expect verse 14 to say “Therefore, behold, I will have taught her a lesson.  I will leave her there and maybe she’ll come crawling back.  I may forgive her but I’ll never trust her again.  I definitely will not be buying her jewelry anymore.” 

But that’s not verse 14.  The husband puts on his best suit, buys some cologne, shaves the beard that sprang from his sorrow, cuts his unkempt hair, and he goes to the store buys some flowers and candy.  He’s acting like a junior high boy trying to attract the cute girl in Science class.  He’s going to win back his wife. 

And there he finds her.  Broken, ashamed, and naked in the wilderness.  The husband goes up to his wife and whispers words that only husbands and wives know.  She has nothing left to desire and the husband goes up to her and says—“I still want you.  You’re still mine.  I know what you’ve done.  I know you have nothing to offer, but I still want you”. 

I wonder what the harlot did that day in the wilderness.  Did she try to hide?  Did she run away?  Did she try to put makeup on her tattered face?  Or did she just sit there awestruck that after all she had done He still loved her? 

Whenever I forget the gospel I go back to stories like this one and I remember the day that I was the whore in the wilderness.  (Not to mention the hundreds of times this story has been relived). 

Bellies Full of Dirt

Each day we either live for God or for other gods.  In each moment of hardship we fear either God or man.  When we choose to worship gods and fear men our lives will suffer an emptiness and turmoil that is not much different than trying to fill our bellies with dirt.  At first we may feel full, but in short order violation of God’s plan will lead to torment.  (Dan Allender, The Healing Path , p20)

When Allender says “living for God” and “God’s plan” he is not talking about the mystical—what does God want me to do today—type of thing.  He is, I believe, speaking of the revealed will of God for our lives.  God desires for us to daily live in redemption instead of idolatry. 

Why I choose to eat dirt instead of feast on the bread of life, still baffles me. 


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