10 lessons from two days of filming

I’ve just finished two days of filming various Christian counselors for the HeadHeartHand Media documentary on Depression and the Christian. It was a huge privilege and a fantastic learning opportunity to pick the brains and explore the hearts of three experienced Christians who have dedicated their lives to caring for God’s hurting people. Here’s what I carried away from these interviews:

1. All kinds of people get depression: Depression smashes caricatures about depression. It’s not a choice that weak losers make. No, it affects rich and poor, the very old and the very young and every age in between, Type A and B…and every other type too.

2. Build relationship in order to build trust: It’s the old “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” As with pulpit ministry, our words carry so much more weight and credibility when there is a relationship between the speaker and hearer.

3. Good listening is massive medicine: Sometimes we run out of things to say or don’t know what to say. However, don’t underestimate the healing power of real listening. I experienced this recently when I shared with my wife an anxiety I had been carrying. There wasn’t much she could say to resolve the problem, but I slept so much better after she simply listened to me.

4. Jumping to simplistic conclusions is extremely damaging: I never cease to be amazed by the cruel things that are said to and about depressed people. Quick fixes fix nothing. First conclusions are usually wrong conclusions. Depression is usually a complex, multi-layered problem that does not lend itself to simplistic answers from simple minds.

5. Holistic approaches to cause and cure produce most success: As causes are usually a complex mix of physical, spiritual, social, and psychological factors, cures often involve all these areas too.

6. A Christian approach to counseling is hope-filled and optimistic: A film about depression runs the huge risk of being thoroughly depressing! However, all the counselors communicated how much joy they experience in seeing God work His grace and joy even in the most desperate situations. With that hope, thet can look forward to their work every day.

7. The Bible has something to say to every situation and every problem: I was deeply impressed by these counselors’ confidence in God’s Word. They have seen its power at work in many lives, including their own. One counselor, a Christian Child Psychologist, said that although she often points depressed teens to certain passages of Scripture, her greatest aim is to get the teen reading the Bible for themselves again, because that’s where God meets His people and does His healing work.

8. Christians have nothing to fear from true scientific research: It deeply distresses me to see the way some Biblical counselors are so dismissive of science, tending to jump on any research that reflects negatively on psychology or pharmacology, and ignoring any research that fails to support their presuppositions. Each of the counselors we interviewed respected science as God’s gift, and reading it through the spectacles of Scripture, found help from it in ministering to God’s hurting people.

9. Depression is a sanctifying and equipping experience: Painful though the journey is, time and again depression proves to be a time of Christian growth. God often uses it to draw a person to Himself, increase dependence upon Him, and to equip them to be far more useful than they ever were before. I’ve found many depressed people to be the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. Sometimes that’s why they get depression.

10. Depression gives the Church a great opportunity to minister God’s grace: Depressed people do not find much sympathy in the world. Here is a wonderful opening for the church to show the heart of Christ who came to heal the brokenhearted, the brokenminded, and the brokenbodied.


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Homosexuality, Polyester, and Shellfish

Churches and ministries are coming under increasingly aggressive pressure from militant homosexuality. Some homosexuals are combing websites looking for sermons and statements that they can use in the media to ridicule Christianity and build sympathy for their cause.

When challenged, many Christians and even many pastors, struggle to defend and explain their position in a way that is Scriptural, consistent, and loving. Homosexuals and the media often point to other Old Testament verses that forbid things that Christians now eat or use. How do we explain that? 

Well, here’s a short briefing paper that I hope will answer some of these questions, and also help Christians and pastors to explain the Bible’s teaching in a loving way. Below you will find a bullet point summary of the paper (each point is explained in fuller detail in the paper). For further reading, please see the books referenced in the footnotes. And a huge thank you to my Research Assistant for the huge amount of work he put into this paper. 

Homosexuality, polyester, and shellfish.

What do these three things have in common? Well, they are all mentioned in the Bible as forbidden by God. And the latter two come up in conversations about the first.  The charge is often that Christians are being inconsistent – we allow polyester and enjoy shellfish, but we still condemn homosexuality.

The real question is not why Christians are inconsistent. The real question is why and how Christians do make a distinction between homosexuality, polyester, and shellfish. Because they do, and it matters.

The short answer is because Scripture demands that we must. The long answer is that when we take into account some basic hermeneutical principles and some Scriptural principles, we realize that we must relate differently to homosexuality than to shellfish.

Basic Hermeneutical Principles.  Our interpretation of Scripture is based on the following convictions:

  • Scripture is an authoritative revelation of God.
  • The central unifying theme of Scripture is Jesus Christ.
  • Old Testament law is divided into three main types: civil, ceremonial, and moral:
    • The civil laws were given to a unique nation (Israel) for a unique purpose and time.
    • The ceremonial laws pointed to Christ’s sacrifice and were abolished by His sacrifice.
    • The moral laws define sin and continue in force.
  • Homosexuality falls under the moral law.
  • The punishments for the moral law have changed.
  • The Old Testament needs to be understood in light of the New Testament.
  • The Old Testament law is still relevant today.

So, since the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, and we can distinguish between various Old Testament commands, what does the Bible say about homosexuality?

Relevant Scriptural Principles. Our position on homosexuality is based on Scriptural principles:

  • God created all things, including sexuality.
  • All humans are God’s creation.
  • Sex has a limited role and purpose in life.
  • Sin impacts all of life, including sex.
  • Homosexuality is a consequence of sin.
  • Scripture states that homosexuality is sinful behavior.
  • Homosexuality is not the only sin in society.
  • Sinners, including homosexual sinners, can receive salvation.
  • Believers cannot be characterized as having a homosexual life.
  • Victory over sin, including homosexuality, is possible.

Basic Relational Principles. Our interactions and relationships will be based on Scriptural principles:

  • Remember that salvation is more important than being heterosexual, or outlawing same-sex marriage.
  • Homosexuality is being used as a cultural battleground.
  • Fear and hatred of homosexuals are not proper responses.
  • Christians need to show grace to those who misunderstand.
  • Addressing the issue of homosexuality gives the church a unique opportunity to witness. 
  • All ministry on earth (apart from Christ’s) is from sinners to sinners.
  • Love sometimes demands non-approval.

Therefore the difference between homosexuality, polyester, or shellfish is not a reactionary choice between homophobia or vestiphobia or ichthyophobia. It is not an inconsistent personal preference.

It is a principled decision based on divine revelation.


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