Check out

Death of the Iron Lady
Hope this doesn’t lose me half of my UK readers, but Margaret Thatcher was my heroine when I was in my teens and early twenties. I campaigned for her in some of the most hostile housing estates of Glasgow, and I sometimes wish I had the same courage today in campaigning for Christ.  Gene Veith has assembled some great quotes here.

How to find your vocation in college
Another fine article by Gene Veith.

Look for a building with a cross on it: Escaping North Korea
I hope and pray that behind the tumult developing on the Korean peninsula might be God’s demand: “Let my people go!”

Why we need the Hood
Powerful words: “There are jewels, if you will, in marginalized communities that are missing from the Church’s crown. Without these jewels, the Church sparkles less.”

Black Churches’ Missing Missionaries
“Black churches are booming, why are they not sending?”

The tyranny of the recovered
Kim Shay: “If people want to change their lives, I’m all for it.  Seriously.  If you lose weight, I’m happy for you.  If you hate blogging and the internet now, and that suits you, you’re allowed to feel that way.  Just don’t regard my participation in it as some kind of moral failure because I’m not choosing to leave.” 


Mental Illness & Suicide: The Church Awakes

If good can come out of the agony surrounding Matthew Warren’s tragic suicide, it’s that it forces the church to think through its response to mental illness and how to care better for those who suffer with it. I’m hugely encouraged by some of the initial responses to this terrible loss, and hope that it may mark a significant turning point in the church’s understanding of these complex issues, and turn the hearts and minds of many Christians to this large though often neglected and despised group in our churches and communities. Further to my post yesterday on 7 Questions about Suicide and Christians, here are some of the most outstanding posts I’ve read in the last 24 hours or so.

How Churches can respond to mental illness
Ed Stetzer with a nicely balanced piece on what the church can do for those suffering with mental illness.

When a loved one takes his life
Timothy Dalrymple relates some of his own struggles and concludes: “When I was a child, I believed that God looked at suicides with anger.  I don’t believe that anymore.  I think he looks on those who commit suicide with great compassion.  They have not had an easy go of life.  And for those who have given their lives to God, there is no deed, even a final deed committed in despair, that can separate them from his love.”

Can a Christian get depressed?
Christian author, Adrian Warnock, a psychiatrist by training, answers the question, “Why do some Christians feel that Christians should not get depressed?”

The Asphyxiation of Hope
Michael Patton attempts to describe the indescribable, and comes as close to it as anyone I’ve read.

Matthew Warren, His Family, and Guidelines for the Rest of Us
Some strongly stated Don’ts and one simple Do.

Someone you love is deathly sad and you don’t even know it
This one will sensitize you to the suffering of those who may be under your own roof.

How do we as a church respond to mental illness?
Singer Sheila Walsh’s father committed suicide and she has suffered with deep depression also. Two very moving interviews with her here and here.

Lets stop keeping mental illness a secret
“For years, we’ve reserved the term “mental illness” for only the most extreme cases, but 26% of us in any given year suffer from depression, anxiety and a serious number of other mental illnesses, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s a dirty little secret few people want to talk about, a devastating statistic implying that, in each of our families, we all care for someone who faces this pain.”


7 Questions about Suicide and Christians

I am sure we all grieve deeply and pray earnestly with Rick and Kay Warren, as they mourn the shocking loss by suicide of their dear son, Matthew, after many years of struggle with mental illness. Perhaps pray especially for Kay as she has had her own battles with depression.

From all that I can gather of the circumstances surrounding this tragic situation, I believe that Rick, Kay, the church, and the caring professions did all that they could to prevent this happening, and should not blame themselves. As many of us have also experienced, when someone’s mind has gone so far and their emotions have sunk so deep, and they are determined to end their life, it’s virtually impossible to stop.

As well-publicized suicides tend to increase the suicide rate quite dramatically, I thought it would be good to address seven of the questions that arise in our minds at times like this.

How common is suicide?

  • It is estimated more than one million people die by suicide each year in the world, or more than 2,700 people per day
  • There has been a 31% increase in the number of suicides in the U.S., from an estimated 80 a day in 1999 to 105 a day in 2010.
  • Nearly 20,000 of the 30,000 deaths from guns in the United States in 2010 were suicides, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Suicidal acts with guns are fatal in 85 percent of cases, while those with pills are fatal in just 2 percent of cases, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.
  • 465,000 people a year are seen in ER for self-injury.
  • Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for teenagers.
  • 7% of 18-39 year olds said that they had seriously considered suicide in the last year.
  • In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, 22 veterans took their own lives every day, with the largest number occurring among men between 50 and 59.
  • Depression is the key indicator in two thirds (@20,000) of all suicides
  • Other key indicators are childhood abuse and confusion over sexuality.

How do I know if someone is thinking about suicide?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline says three major signs of immediate suicide risk are:

  1. Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  2. Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk, especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

What should I do if I’m worried someone I know is going to commit suicide?

Although it’s counter-intuitive, the most important thing to do is to ask the person if they are thinking about taking their life. Do so in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way, to make it as easy as possible to speak openly about their thoughts and feelings. “I see you’re hurting very deeply. I’m so sorry and really want to help. Is it bad enough, that you’ve been thinking about taking your own life?” Rather than plant suicidal thoughts in their minds, this may allow the suicidal person to admit it and to seek professional help. This is vital and urgent if they tell you that they have got to the stage of making a plan. One of the best short pieces I’ve read on this is 8 Things you need to know about suicide prevention.

Do Christians who commit suicide go to hell?

The short answer is “No!” and this is explained further in two great articles: Suicide, Salvation, and Eternal Security by Bob Kellemen and Do people who commit suicide automatically go to hell? by  Michael Patton. Every Christian dies with unconfessed sin and suicide is not the unpardonable sin.

Who is to blame?

The best answer I’ve come across is In the wake of suicides, why blame is never the answer. There Jen Pollock Michel says:

Trying to locate blame is not usually helpful when seeking to understand why a person has chosen to take his life, especially when that locus of blame is sought by outside observers. The reasons are never immediately obvious, even to those within the closest circles of family and friends. Moreover, the problems are never one-dimensional or easily fixed. I believe firmly that survivors of suicide heal in part as we learn to refuse the responsibility for the choice our loved ones have made.

What if I’m thinking of suicide myself?

Ask God to deliver you from temptation and talk to your loved ones, or your pastor, or your doctor. Or phone National Suicide Prevention Hotline  at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

In Broken MindsPastor Steve Bloem gives a number of reasons he has, at times, used to convince himself not to commit suicide:

  • It is a sin and would bring shame to Christ and His church.
  • It would please the devil and would weaken greatly those who are trying to fight him.
  • It would devastate family members and friends, and you may be responsible for them following your example if they come up against intense suffering.
  • It may not work and you could end up severely disabled but still trying to fight depression.
  • It is true – our God is a refuge (Ps. 9:10)
  • Help is available. If you push hard enough, someone can assist you to find the help you need.
  • If you are unsaved, you will go to hell. This is not because of the acts of suicide but because all who die apart from knowing Christ personally will face an eternity in a far worse situation than depression.
  • If you are a Christian, then Jesus Christ is interceding for you, that your faith will not fail.
  • God will keep you until you reach a day when your pain will truly be over (59-60).

 What can the church do to prevent suicide?

The single biggest thing the church can do to reduce the suicide rate is to admit there is such a thing as mental illness. The second biggest thing we could do is for pastors to admit they need professional help from other disciplines and caring professions to minister to all the complex needs of those suffering such indescribable agonies. As Adrian Warnock, a psychiatrist by training wrote:

Please, if someone you know and love is suffering in a similar way, don’t let anyone persuade you not to reach out for everything medical science can offer. In many cases it can be literally life saving. Too many of us don’t understand just how serious these illnesses are. I pray that this shocking news may help thousands realize that although faith may be protective in such situations, medicine is often also needed to help.

Judgment Day alone will declare how many people took their lives because they were too frightened of the condemnation that would be heaped upon them in the church if they admitted to struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. If there’s one thing that infuriates me (usually holy anger, sometimes not so holy) it’s the ridiculously ignorant and horrifically insensitive statements that some pastors and Christians make about depression and mental illness.

The church would do well to recapture the Puritan’s motto in all their counseling: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Matthew 12:20). Sometimes, however, as Matthew Warren experienced, even the most tender and loving of human care is not enough to keep us in life. But nothing shall pluck us out of our Savior’s hand (John 10:28).

UPDATE: Here are some of the best articles I’ve read on this subject in the last 24 hours.


Check out

My life looks better on the Internet than in real life
Seth Getz wants social media to create community not replace it: “Community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind— doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters.”

Remembering David Kuo
Time’s Joe Klein with a beautiful tribute to David Kuo, a Christian who was engaged in politics at the highest levels: “How do I tell you about David? He was the sweetest of God’s creatures, and among the wisest, too. He was a man of faith, rather than of religion. He called himself a Follower of Jesus. Many of his friends had ministries, but David’s church truly had no walls.

Gingrich warns of secular tyranny
Maybe the most sensible thing Newt Gingrich has said for a long time: “The great danger is that you’re going to see a real drive to outlaw and limit Christianity,” Gingrich said at a National Review breakfast briefing. “It’s okay to be Christian as long as you’re not really Christian. It’s a very serious problem.”

All we want is the freedom to coexist
Another article on the alarming loss of religious liberties. I’m amazed at how blase and complacent most Christians are about this.

What does it take to write well?
Great writing about writing from one of my favorite writers.

The Practical University
This is where Seminaries will be going too: “universities will end up effectively telling students: “Take the following online courses over the summer or over a certain period, and then, when you’re done, you will come to campus and that’s when our job will begin.” If Nelson is right, then universities in the future will spend much less time transmitting technical knowledge and much more time transmitting practical knowledge.”


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Jason Henry, a missionary in Mongolia, has very kindly collated and produced the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

May God bless you and your children as you study the Word of life.


Bad news sells better than good news

The good news about bad news is that there is not nearly as much of it as you might think. The bad news about good news is that good news doesn’t tend to sell. Dr. Bradley Wright explains this paradox in Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of our World

The media sells negative worldviews. It’s not that reporters, writers, and editors are pessimistic people; rather, they have a strong incentive to tell us about the fearful, scary, and dangerous happenings in our world. The media is a business, and it succeeds by attracting viewers and readers. With hundreds of television channels and even more online news sources, how can they do this? One way is to offer something that is truly frightening. If watching a story can save us from some imminent danger, then maybe we’ll stop channel surfing long enough to watch it. If reading a report can protect us from a health scare, maybe we’ll pick the magazine off the rack. Sensationalism and fear sells—this is a fact of life that won’t change anytime soon (36).

Wright proceeds to highlight how this also motivates the media to find bad news even in the good news:

If life expectancy decreases, people are dying younger. If it increases, it strains the social security system. An unpreventable disease harms people; a preventable disease means disparities in access to medical treatment. High birthrates cause overcrowding; low birthrates cause school closings and lowered future tax revenues (38).

Many activist and advocacy groups like Greenpeace also have a vested interest in selecting and emphasizing the negative. If the world is not getting worse, who’s going to volunteer or donate to make it better?

But in many ways our world is getting better.

  • People living in the middle class in the U.S. live better than 99.4% of all human beings who have ever existed
  • Americans are healthier and live longer than ever before
  • Literacy rates are up and crime is down
  • Family income is up and the cost of living is down
  • Air and water quality is up and deforestation is slowing down (201, 204-5).

But what about the rest of the world? It’s a basket case, isn’t it? Not at all.

 The United Nation’s Human Development Index is based on three measures: life expectancy, education, and income….The United Nations has collected data on 115 countries from 1990 to 2007, and would you like to guess how many of them had improved over this time period? If you guessed 109, you are absolutely right (207-8)

Wright assembles hundreds of facts and statistics to support his persuasive thesis that although there are still a few significant areas where things are getting worse rather than better, that’s the exception rather than the rule, and concludes:

Two thousand years ago, a book whose core was euaggelion—good news—began to be widely read. We of all people should be able to recognize and celebrate and express gratitude wherever we find it. For all good news is God’s good news, and to ignore it, hide it, minimize it, or distort it is neither mentally healthy nor spiritually sound.

Buy Upside and start to implement Philippians 4:8.