Need a tow?

We’ve been working our way through the service bays in the Soul Care Garage this week.

Let’s visit the last two, and make sure you don’t miss the last and most important.

Service Bay 6: Re-prioritize

As our lives slowly yet inexorably grow more complicated and committed, especially in the ministry, we must regularly examine our life and see what we can do to reduce our commitments and obligations. We all do this to some extent – because we all realize that we cannot meet the needs of everyone – the question is more about how seriously and intentionally you do this.

Prevention is better than cure here. If you can learn to say “No” to certain ministry demands and opportunities, it’s a lot easier than having to pull out when you’ve already committed and raised expectations.

You will need to cut out many good things to do the best things. You will need to cut out some ministry to others in order to minister to yourself. The life of the minister is the life of his ministry (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 4:6). What’s your greatest priority? YOUR SOUL!

A pastor’s duties to his wife and children are not reduced by his duty to his flock; rather, they are increased (1 Sam. 15:22-23).

Service Bay 7: Return

The aim of all these other service bays is a return to a Christ-centered life, a life lived in communion with the Lord Jesus; yes, dare I say it, a personal relationship with Jesus. We want a life connected to Him, obedient to Him, imaging Him, glorifying Him, and worshipping Him. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful in returning to the Lord:

  • Guard personal Bible reading and prayer time as jealously as you guard your own children.
  • Pray out loud. Find a place where you can pray out loud without embarrassment. Hearing your own prayers helps to improve the clarity and intensity of prayer.
  • Make singing part of your personal and family devotions.
  • Carve out uninterrupted study time in 2-3 hour blocks at least four days a week.
  • Read Christ-centered books. Don’t let your love of missiology, ecclesiology, eschatology, apologetics, evangelism, etc., push out daily personal communion with Christ. Why not start with John Owen, Volume 1 on the Glory of Christ, or Volume 7 on Spiritual mindedness; John Flavel, Volume 1 on Christ the Fountain of Life,
  • Read for your own soul rather than for ministry to others. It makes a big difference to the personal edification you get from reading if, from time to time, you determine that you will not use anything in a certain book for ministry purposes.
  • Listen to Christ-centered sermons from various pastors. We have a wealth of online resources at sites such as I like to listen to preachers outside my own tradition as I often find their approach to texts quite refreshing and stimulating.
  • Disconnect from Twitter, Facebook, Email for several hours at a time. Discipline yourself to check only certain number of times a day.
  • Seek accountability with another pastor or elder. Read through the 7 R’s, agree parameters, and commit to regular accounting.

Need a tow?
Please visit the Soul Care Garage regularly. The more frequently you visit it, the less time you will spend in each of the service bays. It will save you from the Pastor’s wrecker’s yard, and if you’re already there, get a tow over to this garage and start working your way through the bays until you’re fit for the road again!

This is an edited version of an article that was first published at Gospel Centered Discipleship.

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Some quick links today as I’m in Wisconsin to film an interview for a documentary on Christians and Depression.

Gospel Amnesia
I think a lot of women will identify with this.

Does Success Require Sleeping with your Smartphone?
Harvard Business School Professor Leslie Perlow shows how to disconnect and become more productive in the process.

Pray and Vote
Three options for Nov 6: Despair, Bury your Head, or Pray and Vote

The Blues v Clinical Depression
How to tell the difference.

Video Interview of Joni Eareckson Tada

Lessons about Creativity from Children 

Tweets of the Day

Service Bay 5: Rethinking our Thoughts

One of the most common signs of burnout or depression is unhelpful thought patterns, which tend to distort our view of reality in a false and negative way. As the writers of Mind over Mood put it, “Our perception of an event or experience powerfully affects our emotional, behavioral, and physiological responses to it.” Or, as the Bible puts it: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

Service Bay 5 of the Soul Care Garage (previous bays here and here) identifies, challenges, and changes false thought patterns. Let’s go pay the mechanic a visit. He seems to have s small white book in his hand with a strange emoticon on it.

Service Bay 5: Rethinking our Thoughts

In Christians get depressed too, I describe 10 false thought patterns that reflect, but also contribute to, the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Here’s a summary of some of them:

False extremes: This is a tendency to evaluate personal qualities in extreme, black-and-white categories; shades of gray do not exist. This is sometimes called all-or-nothing thinking.

  • Life example: You make one mistake in preaching a sermon and conclude you are a total disaster.
  • Biblical example: Despite most of his life being characterized by God’s blessing and prosperity, when Job passed through a time of suffering, he decided he must be an enemy of God (Job 13:24; 33:10).

False generalization: This happens when, after experiencing one unpleasant event, we conclude that the same thing will happen to us again and again.

  • Life example: When you try to witness to someone, you are mocked, and you conclude that this will always happen to you and that you will never win a soul for Christ.
  • Biblical example: At a low point in his own life, Jacob deduced that because Joseph was dead and Simeon was captive in Egypt that Benjamin would also be taken from him: “All these things are against me,” he generalized.

False filter: When we are depressed, we tend to pick out the negative in every situation and think about it alone, to the exclusion of everything else. We filter out anything positive and decide everything is negative.

  • Life example: You heard something in a sermon you did not like or agree with and went home thinking and talking only about that part of the service.
  • Biblical example: Despite having just seen God’s mighty and miraculous intervention on Mount Carmel, Elijah filtered out all the positives and focused only on the continued opposition of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 19:10).

False transformation: We transform neutral or positive experiences into negative ones. The depressed person doesn’t ignore positive experiences; rather, she disqualifies them or turns them into their opposite.

  • Life example: If someone compliments you, you conclude that the person is just being hypocritical or that he or she is trying to get something from you.
  • Biblical example: Jonah saw many Ninevites repent in response to his preaching. But in- stead of rejoicing in this positive experience, his mood slumped so low that he angrily asked God to take away his life (Jonah 4:3–4).

False mind reading: We may think that we can tell what someone is thinking about us, that the person hates us or views us as stupid. But such negative conclusions usually are not supported by the facts.

  • Life example: Someone who used to talk to you at church now passes you with hardly a word, so you decide that you have fallen out of her favor. But, unknown to you, the person’s marriage is in deep trouble, and she is too embarrassed to risk talking to anyone.
  • Biblical example: The psalmist one day concluded that all men were liars. On reflection, he admitted that this judgment was overly hasty (Ps. 116:11).

A couple more, quickly, in summary form:

False lens: This is when we view our fears, errors, or mistakes through a magnifying glass and deduce catastrophic consequences. Everything then is out of proportion. The other side of this is that while you maximize your faults with a magnifying glass, you also tend to look through the binoculars the wrong way when it comes to your assets—and minimize them.

False “shoulds”: Our lives may be dominated by “shoulds” or “oughts,” applied to ourselves or others. This heaps pressure on us and others to reach certain unattainable standards and causes frustration and resentment when others or we fail.

Step-by-step guide out of false thought patterns

These false thinking patterns are not only the symptoms of burnout and depression; they perpetuate and deepen them. They eventually cause physical symptoms too. So, let me propose a biblical method that will help you to correct these false and damaging thought habits. And they are habits; we get into deep ruts in our thinking that are sometimes very difficult to get out of.

We must first identify false and unhelpful thought-patterns, then challenge them, and then change them. And this isn’t optional: Christians are obliged to challenge falsehood and distortions of reality, especially when they find them in themselves

Psalm 77 is a perfect example of Asaph’s investigating, challenging, and changing his thoughts, with God’s help, in order to raise his mood and spirits. There are also slightly more abbreviated versions of the same biblical strategy in Job 19, Psalm 42, 73, and Habakkuk 3. So, this is not “psychological mumbo-jumbo,” but true Bible-based Christian experience. In Christians get depressed too, I go into this Biblical Re-thinking Training in much more detail. Maybe I’ll return to this next week, but we must hurry on to Service bays 6&7 in the Soul Care Garage tomorrow.

This is an edited version of an article that was first published at Gospel Centered Discipleship.

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Educating too early
Highly instructional preschool programs have been studied for years. Although they’re more popular than ever, the outcomes don’t hold up under scrutiny.

Free eBook: The Fulness of Christ
Nick Batzig has more information on this new publishing company, New Puritan Press.

Behind the scenes of the Presidency
Regardless of your politics, you’ll enjoy these behind-the-scenes pictures of President Obama. Reminds you that he’s human too!

Storytelling and your brain
For me the brain is the most fascinating scientific frontier at the moment. It’s incredible what we are discovering about that “universe” within. In this post Marc Cortex highlights a video demonstrating how “dramatic storytelling can lead to very specific brain changes in brain chemistry (increased levels of cortisol and oxytocin), which in turn correlate with a specific behavior (giving money).” Marc concludes: “If stories shape who we become, let’s be careful with the stories we allow to shape us.” If fictional stories have such an impact on our brain chemistry, how much more the real stories we are living. Lots of food for thought here for counseling.

Two sides of the counseling coin
Heath Lambert provides some helpful points of agreement and distinction between biblical counseling and nouthetic counseling.

Enjoying rest: now and in the life to come
Randy Alcorn: “Part of our inability to appreciate Heaven as a place of rest relates to our failure to enter into a weekly day of rest now.”

Tweets of the Day