Sunday, March 29, 2009



Rabindranath Maharaj, affectionately called Rabi was born to staunch Brahmin Hindu parents in Trinidad in the Caribbean. His father was a highly revered priest in the community to an extent where people treated him like a mini god. Growing up in such strict religious family Rabi was made to believe that he too was a god himself. Rabi’s father died an untimely death that shook Rabi’s core beliefs and left him with many un answered questions. During his college vacations at Queens Royal college in Port of Rabi visited his aunt in the highlands of the Central range.

One day Rabi went into the near by mountains, while enjoying the pure nature he heard a hissing sound behind him in a bush. He turned around and shocked by the sight of a large snake with its raised head ready to strike. Rabi was paralyzed by the sight of this snake god he had worshipped as one of the many gods now ready to kill him. He could run and did not know how to escape that impending danger. Rabi was frozen with fear. At that moment he heard the voice of his mother as though she were standing in front of him repeating these words that he had long forgotten: “Rabi, if you are in real danger, and nothing else seems to work, there is another god you can pray to. His name is Jesus. Rabi tried to yell “Jesus Help me” but the desperate cry was choked and hardily audible. But something astonishing happened the snake dropped its head to the ground, turned around and wiggled off into the bushes. That desperate cry for help eventually led Rabi to accept Jesus as his personal savior and Lord.

Several factors were involved in the dramatic change in Rabi’s life. For one, some one gave a bible to his mother who in turn told Rabi that he could call upon Jesus for help. Secondly Rabi’s sincere quest, to know the truth after that near death encounter with the snake. Fast forward many years, currently Rabi is based in Southern California and is involved in evangelism all over the world. Heaven is filled with many people who had turned to Christ out of shear desperation. What ever may be the cause they have accepted Christ, the hope of all nations. (Taken from Death of a Guru)

We read in the book of Revelation 7: 9 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;” What an amazing sight that would be? That would be the final picture of heaven. But we are not there yet, we have a huge task on our hands in order to see that dream picture realized.


From the very beginning Jesus was aware that He was to be in his father’s house. God declared, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”(Isaiah 56:7,8) This declaration must have shocked Israel at that time who had thought they were special and salvation (deliverance) was only for them and for no one else. But God had something bigger in mind when he said “The Sovereign Lord declares- he who gathers the exiles of Israel: I will gather still others to them, beside those already gathered. In other words God was saying to the Israelites I will save you but also there will be many more I will save and add to your number.

When it comes to Church and who and how many will be saved we often have limited understanding. Some have aversion for growth they we would rather like to keep numbers small and few for better management and for their own comfort. More people mean we have to share more resources and space with them. I don’t think any one think that way here in our Church. We would like to see this church filled with people from all nations worshiping God.

God made his intentions very clear through his servant Paul, Acts 17: 30 “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” Just imagine if all 95,000 people in Quincy repented overnight and decided to attend a Sunday morning worship service would we have place to accommodate them in the churches of Quincy? It will be a real problem. But that is not the case when it comes to heaven. Jesus said in my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”(John 14:2-3). When Jesus said I am going to prepare a place for you, he was not only referring to the disciples present at that time but also all those who will believe in the name of Jesus as a result of their message.

Jesus not only said that he had concern for all people but he deliberately went after the sinners, proclaimed the message of the Kingdom saying “Repent the Kingdom of God is at hand” Jesus did not say I will show you the way to heaven like many other religious leaders but he said “I am the way, the truth and the Life no one comes to the father except through me.” If Jesus indeed is the truth and the way and the life, how would any one know about this wonderful truth if we keep it to ourselves? How could we be so selfish?

C.T Studd was a well known English cricket player; the captain of the Cambridge lived in the late 19th century (1883). He became a household name throughout Great Britain. He was the idol of undergraduates and school boys and admired by elders. Studd had become the Michael Jordan of cricket. A lot was going for him. When he accepted Jesus, he gave up his wealth, career and everything to preach the good news. He said, "If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."

How else would people know that Jesus is the savior of this world unless someone tells them? That’s why we do Missions both locally and overseas. We support ministries (Gospel for Asia) and missionaries who are in the field like Jessica, Gigie Burbank, Wapang and Davina. That’s why Eileen Souza for the past fifteen years serving to reach out to the homeless people in Boston. That’s why Tim and Amie are sacrificing their young lives to save many young girls from the clutches of prostitution. That’s why we support those who go on mission trips like Johanna is planning to do this summer. That’s why we raise finances to help support those who are getting trained to become missionaries (Matt & Lucas) The list can go on..

Some times we think only going overseas is doing missions there is nothing wrong in that. You don’t have to travel far and wide to do missions because the Lord is brining nations to our doorsteps. It is our responsibility to reach them for Christ. We must show concern for others. Oswald J. Smith (1889-1986) was a Canadian pastor and evangelist, enthusiastic missions’ supporter, poet, hymn writer, and author. He pastored congregations in Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto, this is what he has to say about the Mission of the Church.“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” “Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.” "The mission of the church is missions" -- Oswald J. Smith

One of the topmost things in God’s agenda is to save sinners? What is on the top of your list? You may be wondering how you can be involved in the Mission of the Church. You can witness to your friends and invite them to church, you can go as a missionary yourself if the Lord leads you or you can volunteer in mercy related ministries. You can give generously for Missions; you can pray and support the missionaries. There are number of ways you can be involved in bringing the message of Christ to the hurting world.

Sunday, March 22, 2009



Saleem was the son of a Muslim Mullah in Kashmir, India. He came to Mumbai to sell Kashmir carpets and shawls. He had high hopes of making a huge profit however he ended up being cheated by locals and lost a lot of money. He was dejected and lonesome; to find peace of mind and get away from the scorching heat of Mumbai city he went into a nearby park and sat in the shade of a tree. A group of young people came up to him and began to talk to him about Jesus and his gift of salvation. Salem was very argumentative and upset about the claims of Christ. That initial conversation led Salem to become a serious seeker who soon accepted Christ. Upon hearing the news of Salem's conversion to Christianity his father sent one of his sons to kill Salem. Salem took shelter among Christian friends moving from one city to another to save his life.
Fast forward twenty years Salem is now happily married with two children, serving the Lord, and some of his family members including his father have come to Christ. For many like Salem in Muslim countries becoming a Christian means a death sentence. But they would rather die than to abandon their newfound faith in Jesus Christ. Ironically, the majority of young people who grew up in Christian homes, attended church have left Church and their faith by age 29. A Barna group's research poses a challenge to the church in America, which is "A rising generation whose commitment to Christ may not stand when shaken. And it doesn't take much to shake it before they abandon Christ for lesser loyalties." How are we to face this challenge? What do we have to do to get our young people excited about Christ? How can we brace ourselves against the "Culture War" which is so viciously attacking the core values of our Christian faith? In these challenging times how can we maintain our faith in Christ?

Larry King was once asked if he had one person to interview who it would be. Without pausing King answered, “It would be Jesus Christ”. The reporter then asked, “What question would you ask Him?” King replied, “I would ask Him if he were really virgin born, because the answer to that question would define all of life for me.” Over the centuries many scientists, philosophers, historians, politicians, religious leaders, theologians and journalists like Larry King were fascinated by this person named Jesus. I am saddened when ever I hear the most precious and the sweetest name of all is used as a swear word in this country. I wonder why such hatred of and fascination with that name? What is there in the name of Jesus? If the world has shown such keen interest in the “Life and the Ministry of Jesus” for whatever reason, how much more as believers at the Evangelical Congregational Church do we need to know the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ? Are you ready for an exploration?

The gospel writers Matthew and Luke gave detailed description of the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Nothing much was said about the early childhood and the training for ministry in the Gospels however from the age twelve onwards Jesus made his intended ministry very clear to his parents. On one occasion Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. After the feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind. After a days travel parents had noticed that Jesus was missing. They searched for him three days and at last they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. To his anxious mother and father Jesus said, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2: 49).After he said that he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. (Lk 2:52)

Every one in the family of Jesus knew that he was a special child. The teachers of the law had noticed that he had incredible wisdom and insight into the deep things of God. Somehow Jesus himself knew that he was to be in His heavenly father’s business, yet he needed to grow in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and men. Here are a few lessons; for all of us especially for young people. Firstly, with all the awareness of God and the praises of people Jesus did not become arrogant. Secondly, he realized that he needed to grow physically, spiritually, intellectually and socially Thirdly, this is the hall mark of his life; Jesus learned to live in obedience to his parents.

Out of the Ten Commandments only one has a blessing attached to it. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”(Ex 20:12). Hebrew 5:8 says, “Although he was a son he learned obedience from what he suffered.” If Jesus being the Son of God needed to learn obedience, how about us?

After the encounter Jesus had in the temple with the teachers of law, we don’t hear much about the life of Jesus from the age twelve until thirty. In the meanwhile we hear great reports of John the Baptist’s ministry who was supposedly Jesus’ cousin. Many Pharisees, Sadducees, tax collectors were turning to God and were getting baptized. At the age of thirty Jesus came to Jordan to be baptized by John. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that time something supernatural happened. The heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven spoke saying “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matt (3:17) “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”(LK 3:22)

Very early in the ministry infact, even before Jesus performed any miracles God had already put a stamp of acceptance on Jesus by saying “You are my beloved Son in you I am well pleased” In other words God was saying, I love you, and I am delighted in you because you are my son. Let me break this scripture for us: “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
In the English language we use the word “love” for almost any and everything, ex: I love my car, computer, dog, garden, (things we enjoy having) we say: I love gardening, dancing, preaching, singing, eating (activity we enjoy doing) in the same breath we also say: I love my wife, husband, children, my girl friend, my boy friend (persons we enjoy being with). Where as in Greek language there are different words used to express different kind of love. In Greek when they use “love” they often refer to people not for things or activities like we do in English.

When God said to Jesus “You are my son whom I love” the word used here was AGAPE. It is the Love, based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action. In other words God’s love of Jesus was based on choice, God chose to love him, not only that he took the first step in expressing. It was intentional but never conditional. God’s love is pure, selfless, giving and forgiving. The same intention is expressed in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We see this kind of expression of God’s love throughout the Bible.

The apostle John has much to say about this beautiful love relationship between the Father, the Son and us as his children both in the gospel of John as well as in the epistles of John. In John 1:12, we read “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” In other words when we believe in Jesus we will earn the right to become the sons and daughters of God then we too will become the recipients of God’s wonderful love.
John 15:9 As the Father has loved me so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. John shows how this Love was poured on those who believed God. “How great is the love, the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called Children of God. And that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”(John 3:1)

God called Jesus “my Son; with you I am well pleased” right after he was baptized the prophecy of Isaiah long ago, “For to us a child is born to us a son is given.” was fulfilled. The baptism of Jesus was a momentous time in History. The Jewish world at that time was waiting for the messiah, John was baptizing in Jordan to recognize the messiah, a crowd gathered to be baptized by John, God the father, and the Holy Spirit showed up to introduce and affirm Jesus in his mission of saving the world.

It was a statement of affirmation as well as a transfer of God’s power to save people. God’s affirmation was not done in secret but was loud and clear. “A voice came from heaven spoke.” In his affirmation God said that He was well pleased with Jesus. In New Living Translation it reads, Luke 3:22 "And the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” A father is delighted in a son who is obedient. A rebellious son does not bring delight rather brings distress. God saw the obedience in Jesus that is why He said, you are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy. Besides obedience what else brings delight to God’s heart?
“The Lord detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.” Pro 11:20

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth”. Pro 12:22

“The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights. Pro 11:1

“The Lord's delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Ps 147:11

Studying the life and the ministry of Jesus is both challenging as well as liberating. It is challenging, because Jesus being the Son of God needed to learn how to obey the instructions of His father in heaven. When I claim myself to be a Christian or the follower of Christ I too need to learn obedience. It is liberating, because in order to gain acceptance from the father in heaven I don’t need to perform. Growing up as a child my father only affirmed me when I performed well either in studies, sports and other extra curricular activities. I felt rejected by my father.
In order to receive his acceptance I began to strive and became a highly competitive and performance oriented person.

I am still learning to understand what it is to stop striving, pause and receive my heavenly father’s love and acceptance. While I was preparing this message at one point I had to stop and just enjoy his presence and listen to his assuring words of love and acceptance. May be you too find yourself striving to gain acceptance from your heavenly father. The good news is that you don’t have to perform in order to gain God’s acceptance and affirmation, because his acceptance of you does not depend on your performance.

All you need to do is to believe in His great love for you. Jesus truly went out of the way to lay down his life for you so you can be his cherished child today.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


We often hear people saying “Life is Tough” or “I am going through tough time, but hanging in there.” A man who excelled in crisis, Winston Churchill, notes, “Never, never, never, give up. A pessimist is the one who sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist is the one who sees opportunity in every difficulty.”

History tells us that Americans are known for tough times. I am always amazed by the resilience shown by American people when they go through tough times. Ten years ago at least five tornadoes ripped through south central Minnesota. Comfrey and St. Peter were damaged so badly that the residents worried their towns would shrivel up and disappear. Instead, these towns have managed a remarkable recovery.” Here is a group of people who went through tough times but did not give up hope.

Are we living in “Tough Times”?
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesian church through Timothy during(66-67) A.D. At that time the churches were undergoing persecution under the emperor Nero. Paul himself was imprisoned. Under such circumstance s Paul wrote this letter to warn the church about the difficult times and what sort of Chritians they ought to be. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2Timothy 3:1-4)

We are seeing some of the signs of terrible times that bible was talking about. You don’t have to be a scientist to find out that we are in “tough times”, pick up any news paper, listen to any TV/Radio broadcast, talk to any one they all will tell us that we are in tough times. We are experiencing tough times partly because we are living in the last days but also because of irresponsible spending of money and unwise decisions. The economic meltdown seems to affect almost all of us.The Spanish born American Philosopher George Santayana said in early 20th century (“those who do not learn from History are doomed to repeat it” therefore it is important to look at what the Bible has to say about tough times.

Biblical understanding of Tough times:
The Bible teaches that God is a loving; gracious, compassionate, merciful at the same time he is also holy, righteous and hates SIN. There were times in the history of the nation of ancient Israel where God had to deliberately bring them into tough and trying situations in order to punish them for their sin of rebellion and teach them valuable lessons. At one point there was a drought in the land and many were dying due to hunger in the land. The whole nation of Israel was affected by this calamity. Indeed it was a terrible situation.

I wonder what must have caused this devastating situation in Israel. What lessons can I learn from their story so that I can better understand my present day tough times? What provisions did God make for his Children to survive during tough times? People ask many questions during tough times. Where is God when I am suffering? Is God punishing me?
Does he really care for me? Can I trust and rely upon him for my needs? Let's see what we can learn from Elijah's tough time in 1 Kings Chapters 12-17.

A snap shot into Israel’s History :( I Kings 12-17)
After the death of King Solomon in 930 BC the Kingdom was divided into two parts, one was Israel on the north and the other was Judah on the south. Several kings ruled Israel, some were good but many were bad. These kings along with the people of Israel did some abominable things which provoked God to anger. They set up idols, and instead of worshipping the Lord Jehovah they worshipped Baal ( the Canaanite rain god). In ancient Israel Baal worship was prevalent. They believed it was necessary for growing crops, raising livestock, and survival and prosperity.

During such circumstances Ahab became King. This is what was said of him, “Ahab also made an Asherah Pole (wooden poles representing the Canaanite goddess of fertility) and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel before him.”(I Kings 16:33). The nation of Israel was at all time lowest when Ahab became King and Ahab caused further moral deterioration by intensifying the worship of Baal.

If rejecting God in order to follow false gods and worship idols provoked God to anger, in ancient Israel, what do you think that provokes God to anger today? The mention of the name of God in public places and statements like, “One nation under God, in God we trust, God bless America” have come under severe scrutiny and criticism in recent years.

Right after the 9/11 attack the daughter of Billy Graham (Anne Graham Lotz) was interviewed by Jane Clayson on CBS’s “early morning show broadcast” The question was if God is good why did he let this happen? Anne answered; “I say God is also angry when he sees something like this. I would say also for several years now Americans in a sense have shaken their fist at God and said, God, we want you out of our schools, our government, our business, we want you out of our marketplace. And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out of our national and political life, our public life. Removing his hand of blessing and protection.”

These days many people think it is a cool thing to reject God. Many people would rather worship their cars, properties, electronic toys, than come to church to worship the living God. Hero worship replaced the true worship of God. There are others who turn to psychics, new age gurus, financial advisers, medical experts, psychologists, and politicians to get them out of trouble instead of coming to God for help. Does this grieve God? Could this be a reason why we are facing tough times as a nation?

Elijah enters the Scene:
God sent Elijah (means My God is the Lord) with a message to a nation that was rebelling against God. That message contained some “sanctions." God was going to withhold rain. According to the word prophesied by Elijah,God shut the heaven and there was no rain for a long time. As a result of that there was a severe famine in the entire region. God did this in order to punish the sins of Israel and also to let the nation know who was the true and living God.

Good News when facing tough times:
When we are facing tough times let' not loose heart. You may remember what Robert Schuller said in his best seller, “Tough times will not last but tough people do” this brings hope to those who might be going through tough times. The consoling thought when we are facing tough times is that they won’t last forever.
Another comforting thought is that God is with his people during tough times and he makes provisions for his children to survive during tough times. In other words tough times will not over power God’s children. Two principles we can learn from the story of Elijah:
1. Obedience opens the door for God’s provision. 2. In meeting the needs of others (especially God’s children) our needs are met.

I. Obedience opens the door for God’s provision:
Throughout the Bible, obedience to God’s instructions was commended and disobedience condemned. Blessings were pronounced to the obedient and curses proclaimed to the disobedient. People lived when they obeyed God and others have died when they disobeyed God. The Bible places a higher value on obedience than burnt offerings and sacrifices. We see obedience operating throughout the story of Elijah.

I Kings 17: 2-6 “The Word of the Lord came to Elijah: Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered Ravens to feed you there.” So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan and stayed there.

God’s instructions to Elijah were clear and specific, he was to leave where he was and turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, which was east of Jordan and hide in the ravine. What if Elijah went westward instead of eastward? Would he have seen God’s provision?
No, because, God sent a UPS (Upward Poultry Service) in the eastward direction to bring bread and meat to Elijah. God's UPS would never fail to reach it's destination. Whether or not the man of God obeys, the ravens would obey their creator. But thankfully Elijah followed each instruction carefully.

The ravens brought bread and meat in the morning and in the evening. Elijah drank from the brook. We don’t have a record to know, how many days that free service lasted. Some time later the brook dried up. Again the word of the Lord came to Elijah: Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food. This tells me that God was mindful of the needs of His faithful servant. Elijah went to Zarephath as he was told. Obedience opens the door for God’s provision.

II. In meeting other's needs (especially God’s Children) our needs are met:
As Elijah entered the town, he saw a widow gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me some water? As she was going to get him some water, he said by the way get me also some bread to eat.” She said I don’t have any bread; all I have is a little flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am collecting sticks to prepare our last meal; my son and I will eat and then die, because after this there is no more food for us. Elijah said, “Don’t be afraid, go and do as you say but first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me”
It sounds a bit harsh, doesn't it? It looked like the prophet had no concern for the needs of this widow; he was only concerned about his own needs. In reality Elijah knew God's principle that if the woman would reach out in generosity God would not fail to provide for her needs too.

The principle of generosity in the Bible:

"He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophets reward.. and who ever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward." (Matt 10:40-42)

He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Prov 11:25)

After his needs were met Paul said to the Philippians, "my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in Glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)

Paul commended Macedonians for their generosity because they gave out of their poverty (2 Cor 8).

It is more blessed to give than to receive. The Lord loves a cheerful giver.

Paul writing to Galatians exhorts, "Let us not loose heart in doing good for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then while we have opportunity let us do good to all people and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:9,10).

When the widow sacrificed her last meal and prepared bread and brought to Elijah, God blessed her obedience by making the flour and the oil last for whole three years. There was food for Elijah, the widow and her son during the entire famine. When we give to God and meet the needs of His people, God will bless us in return and meet all our needs.

When we go through tough times remember, that tough times will not last forever. God is with his people during tough times, and he makes provisions for his children so that they can survive in tough times. God's provision to survive in tough times is found in, obedience to his commands and by meeting the needs of God's children.

What kind of people we ought to be during tough times? Are we going to be like Elijah who obeyed God's instructions without fail? And like the widow who gave everything she had so that the man of God will be fed in turn God turned around and fed her whole household?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Understanding Depression Part II

A medical sociologist named Janice Egeland has done some really interesting research on depression among the Amish. One of her findings was that rates of reactive depression are significantly lower among the Amish than among all other segments of the population. In comparison, among evangelicals as a whole, there is virtually no difference in the incidence of reactive depression as compared to the general population.”

What is keeping Depression rates lower in Amish community? What can the Evangelical Churches learn from the Amish in regards to building authentic communities? Are our churches, a safe haven for those who are depressed or emotional torture chambers? What is the role of the church in combating the epidemic of Depression? Is there any hope for the depressed? If so where can they find it? I myself am asking these questions not because I am depressed but to understand depression so that it might help me understand those who might be struggling with depression.

In our journey to understand Depression we learned that depression is not a state of mind but a state of being. We looked at one definition of depression: “It is a state of existence marked by a sense of being pressed down, weighed down, or burdened, which affects a person physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.” We also learned that some time or other we all are vulnerable to depression. It could affect any one regardless of age and gender. What we learned so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

Causes of Depression:

A person could be depressed for various reasons. To name a few: a loss of job, broken dream and a broken relationship, loss of a loved one, moving to a new location, taking up a new Job, chronic sickness, un answered prayers, mounting debt, unsaved children, troubled marriage, uncertain future, unresolved conflicts and working through a divorce the list can go on. There is no one particular cause for Depression. What is a cause for one person’s depression may not be a cause for another person. In other words each person’s depression is unique to him or her. During my study of scriptures I came across four possible causes for depression, there could be many more. I. Deferred hope. II. Lack of Love. III. Fear. IV. Sin

I. Deferred Hope:

We all have dreams, aspirations, hopes and desires. There is nothing more exciting than seeing our dreams come true. But on the other hand there is nothing more devastating when our dreams are shattered and hopes dashed. Often during these times people can plunge into depression. All of a sudden life doesn’t seem to make any sense at least for the time being. King Ahab, though he had all that he could ever wish, was sullen, angry and refused to eat because his hopes were dashed. A simple farmer named Naboth owned a beautiful vineyard an ancestral property next door to King’s palace.

Ahab had set his eyes on this vineyard; he wanted to turn it into a vegetable garden. He approached Naboth and offered to give anything he wanted in exchange of his vineyard. To his utter amazement Naboth flatly refused to sell this ancestral property. “So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.” 1 Kings 21:4. Talk about deferred hope. Scripture tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12).

We want something so badly and have high hopes on getting what we want, but when our hopes are dashed it is possible that we plunge into depression.

II. Lack of Love:

During, (354-430 A.D), St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo said, “What I needed most was to love and to be loved” The author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Peter Scazzero notes, "there is nothing more richer, more beautiful than the gift of loving and being loved." Whether we know it or not there is an inbuilt need in all of us to love and to be loved. When we can get true love and give true love it is the sweetest thing but when we are deprived of love it is like a bitter pill to swallow. Studies tell us that lack of love can lead people to depression.

The well known people’s princess lady Diana experienced bouts of depression due to lack of love from her husband. In an interview with BBC she shares, “late in her first pregnancy she threw herself down a staircase trying to draw attention to her pain. She said of the incident, "I wanted Charles to put his arms around me and say he loved me, but all he ever did was give me a pat on the back." Diana also revealed that she had suffered from post-natal depression after her first son was born. She suffered with devastating bulimia, to help her deal with her marriage problems, especially when she came to know her husband was still in love with former girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana is a classical example of what happens to someone who is deprived of Love. A broken relationship and a broken heart can be devastating.

David sought the Lord when he was depressed and wondered whether God still loved him. “When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Though God never withheld love from David, neither does God ever withhold his love from us. Yet we go through times were we don't feel loved and even feel abandoned by God.(Psalm 77:2-8)

III. Fear:
Fear is a strong emotion. When we are afraid we move into either fight or flee mode. When we look at the present economic condition it is nothing but depressing. A New York Times article carries this heading: “In This Economy, Fear Is Rational.” Another headline says: “Economy triggering depression, anxiety”“As people lose jobs or watch their retirement savings dry up, some psychiatrists say they are seeing an increasing number of new patients with depression or anxiety, and that the symptoms of some current patients have worsened.”

During this economic meltdown, many fear of loosing a job, a house, not having money to provide food on the table and take care of medical needs. This is making a lot of people depressed. These are real problems. And there are no easy answers or quick fixes for the present economic problems. But from scriptures we can draw strength to overcome all crippling affects of fear.

“But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2 "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

IV. Sin:
According to David B. Biebel, there are four basic types of depression. 1. Situational depression. 2. Developmental depression. 3. Spiritual depression. 4. Biological depression. (New Light on Depression). These four areas also could be the primary causes for depression.

As a Pastor I am particularly interested in understanding “Spiritual Depression” What could be the causes for Spiritual Depression? There are many factors that could contribute to Spiritual Depression, one among them is un-confessed Sin. Though depression in itself is not sinful yet we cannot rule out the fact that un-confessed sin can cause depression.

God confronted Cain after his offering was rejected saying “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7). Several of David’s psalms, seem linked to his sin committed against Bethsheba, He wrote,
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” (Ps. 32:3-4, 38:1-8)
David was going through major depression because of his sin. The treatment for this expression of depression is confession. As David described, “For I confess my iniquity, I am full of anxiety because of my sin.” (Ps 38:18). I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:1-4).

Though we can not always say sin is a cause for sickness and depression, there is a co-relation between those two, that is why Jesus had to pronounce forgiveness of sins before he healed the Paralytic man (Mk 2:5), James exhorted the believers to confess their sins to one another and pray for each other so that they may be healed.”(James 5:16)

When it comes to depression there are different types of depressions. I am aware of the complexities of depression therefore I do not want to offer simplistic answers in regards to treatment. As David. Bieble suggests, “The most effective treatment for depression is a cooperative, multidisciplinary effort that considers all arenas of the depressed person’s life.”

Depression is taking on Epidemic proportions in this country and countries accross the world. Whether we like it or not we all are vulnerable to depression. At one point or the other we all can be depressed. Including the most righteous people can be depressed. I would like to echo the words of my dear Pastor in India he would often say: keep coming to church and I add to that, avoid isolating yourself. Meeting people is often the last thing you feel like when you are depressed and yet it is often the most therapeutic. There is hope. The hope for a depressed child of God if found in the Loving arms of a caring God and in an authentic community where there is love, support and nurture.

If you call upon on God He will come to you where you are to take you where he wants you to go.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Understanding Depression (Part I)

Have you ever wished that the night would be longer so that you don’t have to face the day? Or on the other hand do you have terrible nights where you toss this way and that way, no matter what you do you just can’t go off to sleep? Do you find yourself worrying about the credit card, and mortgage payment? Have you ever felt like giving up because no matter how hard you tried you seem to have no victory over a bad habit? Have you ever had feelings of worthlessness, struggled with false guilt, lack of concentration, experienced fatigue, and lack of appetite or increased appetite? If you have experienced any one or more of the things mentioned above it is highly possible that you might be going through depression.

If you are going through depression, you are not alone. Dan Blazer in his article “The depression Epidemic” mentions, “The world health organization named depression the second most common cause of disability world wide after cardiovascular disease, and it is expected to become number one in the next ten years. In the USA 5 to 10 percent about 19 million of adults currently experience symptoms of major depression. Around 15% adults are taking antidepressant medications.”
The statistics are quite alarming. Both, those who attend church regularly and claim to be Christians and those who do not attend seem to be struggling with depression. Wait a minute did I say Christians!! Faithful church goers? Getting depressed? Even pastors? You got to be kidding that is not supposed to be true. We think Christians should never be depressed or we hear statements from other believers saying, “if you are depressed it means you have some sin in your life.” Well that may be partially true, certain unwise choices we make in life could make us depressed. But the truth of the matter is even the most righteous people can also be depressed at times. As I am writing this I know some pastors who are depressed.

Illustration: During (1992-93) due to a broken dream and an unfulfilled expectation I went through a mild depression. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, couldn’t sleep at nights, the future looked hopeless and I even entertained thoughts of suicide. But thank God somehow by his help I pulled through depression. The truth of the matter is that most people at some point in life are hit by depression. It can attack any one regardless of age, color, race, educational, religious, and economic background. The effects of depression are felt at alarming rates in our society like never before. Blazer, terms this as, “The Depression Epidemic” Therefore it is important that we understand what depression is? How do we recognize it? so that we know how to avoid it or how to handle it and be able to help those who might be struggling with depression.
Historical background of Depression:
Depression is not a new thing. It's been in existence since Adam's Sin. Throughout history people have struggled with this phenomenon, but they did not call it depression until recently. In the fourth century it was first mentioned as “melancholia.” In 3rd century AD, leaders of monastic orders called it “acedia” a condition characterized by symptoms such as exhaustion, sadness or dejection, restlessness and aversion to the monastic cell and the ascetic life. Since the early 1900s, the term depression began to appear in the medical field and Psychology. So what is depression? There is no conslusive definition on depression, however I found the following definition helpful to understand what depression does to a person.

"Depression is a state of existence marked by a sense ofbeing pressed down, weighed down, or burdened, which affects a person physically, mentally, spiritually, and relationally." David B.Biebel & Harold G. Koening(New Light on Depression)

SAINTS WHO STRUGGLED WITH DEPRESSION: A number of people in the Bible like, Job, Jonah, David, Elijah struggled with depression. Book of Ecclesiastes talks about the meaninglessness of life without God. And in the church history from time to time several saints struggled with depression. Let me introduce some of them to you:

David: We know David as the man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22), but the other side of David is not that glorious. Samuel anointed David to be king over Israel but no one recognized him as king immediately. Though he faced the giant, facing the jealousy and envy of Saul was almost crushing him. He was on the run to save his life from those who were trying to kill him. After he became the King, one day while every one else was in the battlefield fighting, for a moment of pleasure he committed adultery with Bathsheba that led him to become a murderer. His estranged son Absalom tried to kill him. In the Psalms we get glimpses of the despair and hopelessness David was battling with.
David's Desolation & Consolation:
“Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.” (Psalm 6:2-4)
“For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths." (Psalm 88:3-6). Even though David went through bouts of depression he never failed to take hold of God.

In the midst of his desolation he found his consolation in God. He would say to himself. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 43:5)
Elijah’s Syndrome: ( I Kings 17-19) Elijah was a powerful prophet of God in Israel. He spoke God’s word fearlessly. He declared boldly “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years except by my word. And behold there was famine in the land for three whole years. He even raised the dead son of a widow in whose house he was staying during the famine. When he spoke God’s word after three years the heavens poured down rain. He single handedly challenged 450 prophets of Baal. In front of the King and all the people he called upon the name of the Lord, the fire of the Lord from heaven fell and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood and the stones, and the dust and licked up the water that was in the trench. It was a clean sweep. Then he turned on the 450 prophets of Ball and killed all of them. He had a lot going for him.

No body would think that a mighty prophet like Elijah would go through depression. But when he found out that Jezebel the wife of King Ahab was after his life, he was scared to death. He was afraid and ran for his life. He went to the wilderness sat down under a “broom Tree” and wished he would die. Listen to Elijah’s talk, “It is enough, now Lord take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” After having said that he fell off to sleep under the tree. But God did not leave him in his state of depression. He sent an angel to reach out to him. The angel came and provided bread to him twice; with that strength he goes to Horeb to have an encounter with God. (I Kings 19:9-19)
Elijah had a mountain top experience but right after that plunged into a major depression with suicidal thoughts. Isn’t that true for us too at times after scaling great heights, something happens, a word of criticism, a set back and we all of a sudden drown in despair. You find yourself in the valley of depression.

When we are going through tough times, difficulties, hardships, and trials of all kinds we tend to think we are the only ones going through such things. Every time when you think you are the only who is struggling and got a raw deal, remember what God said to Elijah, 7000 people had not bowed their knees to Baal. Or remember what Peter said to the suffering believers in 1 Peter 5:9 “Your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. Therefore you are not alone in your depression. There are even great preachers who had suffered with depression from time to time.
Illustration: Spurgeon suffered terribly with a joint disorder that was diagnosed as gout. He was forced to stay in bed, sometimes for weeks at a time in excruciating pain. "I have been brought very low," he wrote to his congregation during one long bout, "My flesh has been tortured with pain and my spirit has been prostrate with depression . . .. "With some difficulty I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope."

Let’s face it. Depression may be more common among us than we like to admit. Depression is not something to be ashamed of; neither is it something to be proud of. There is nothing sinful about it, however certain sins may make us feel even more depressed. For a child of God who is battling through depression there is hope that hope can be found in the everlasting arms of a loving God and in the nurture and support of a caring community.