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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews

Spiritual DepressionSpiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Granted Ministries Press. 354 pages. 2011

This 2011 edition of the classic book by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Granted Ministries Press includes a Biographical Foreword from Geoff Thomas who knew Lloyd-Jones, and an audio disc containing 24 sermons in the Spiritual Depression series. I was blessed greatly by listening to Lloyd-Jones (“The Doctor”), preach the sermons at the same time I was reading the book. The audio disc doesn’t correspond one for one with the book. The book includes 21 sermons, 7 of which do not appear on the disc. The disc includes 24 sermons, ten of which are not included in the book.

In the Foreword, Lloyd-Jones writes that the sermons that make up the book were preached on consecutive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. The need for the sermons arose as the result of pastoral experience. In today’s terms, we would call Lloyd-Jones a “straight-shooter”. He doesn’t hold back and is not “politically correct”, which was refreshing. He deeply cared about the souls of his congregation members, and also those that would read these words.

Lloyd-Jones writes that it is interesting to notice the frequency with which spiritual depression is dealt with in the Bible. He also stated that it appeared to be a particular problem that many Christians of the time (the book was published in 1965) were dealing with. He indicates that one of the main reasons is the terrible events that people had lived through, including two wars and the consequent upheavals.

He looks at the Biblical teaching on the subject and then looks at examples or illustrations of the condition in the Bible and observe how the persons concerned behave and how God dealt with them.

Why is he looking at the subject?

  1. For the sake of those who are in the condition that they may be delivered from this unhappiness.
  2. We must face this problem for the sake of the Kingdom of God and the glory of God. In a sense, a depressed or miserable Christian is a contradiction in terms and a very poor recommendation for the gospel.

What are the causes of the spiritual depression? Below are several that I wrote down as I read the book:

  • Temperament. Spiritual depression is more likely to affect introverts than extroverts. Introverts have to be careful not to slip into a condition of morbidity.
  • Physical conditions.
  • A reaction after a great blessing, a reaction after some unusual and exceptional experience.
  • The devil, the adversary of our souls. He is most subtle and most dangerous when he comes as “an angel of light” and as a would-be friend of the Church and one who is interested in the gospel and in its propagation. He is also relentless.
  • The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief.
  • The failure to realize our union with Christ.
  • Looking back into the past and to the fact that some spent so much time outside the Kingdom and are so late in coming into it.
  • Being afraid of the future.
  • Concentrating too much on our feelings.
  • Doubts.
  • No clear understanding of certain principles.
  • They do not see clearly that their heart is not fully engaged.
  • Their will is divided.
  • They never fully accept the teaching and the authority of the Scriptures.
  • They are not interested in doctrine.
  • They do not take the doctrines of the Scriptures in their right order.
  • A refusal to think things right through.
  • A lack of balance is one of the most fruitful causes of trouble and discord and disquietude in the life of the Christian.
  • Our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel.
  • Because of their past – some particular sin or because of the particular form which sin happened to take. There is no more common difficulty. He had to deal with more people over this particular thing than over anything else.
  • Satan can rob us of our joy.
  • A failure to understand the New Testament doctrine of salvation.
  • A failure to really believe the Scriptures.
  • Dealing with sin.
  • A spirit of fear, of ourselves and a fear of failure.
  • False teaching.
  • People who are weary and tired in the work.
  • A lack of discipline or diligence.
  • Suffering through manifold trials from anything in this life that troubles you and casts you down.
  • Being chastised by God.
  • The tyranny of circumstances, the things that happen to us.

Lloyd-Jones writes that the forms which this condition may take seem to be almost endless.

What about the treatment or cures? Lloyd-Jones writes that we have to take ourselves in hand. We have to talk to ourselves. We must talk to ourselves instead of allowing “ourselves” to talk to us. We have to address ourselves, preach to ourselves, and question ourselves. Other cures I wrote down were:

  • We have to study the Scriptures.
  • Avoid making a premature claim that your blindness is cured.
  • Submit yourself utterly to Him.
  • Great faith.
  • Knowledge of biblical doctrine.
  • How we endure trials certifies our faith.
  • God chastens us in order that we might be sanctified.
  • God puts us in a spiritual gymnasium. He strips and examines us. We are to submit to Him and do exactly what he instructs us to do.
  • Contentment or a glorious self-sufficiency.
  • Do what He has told you to do. Live the Christian life. Pray and meditate upon Him. Spend time with Him and ask Him to manifest Himself to you. Then you can leave the rest to Him.

As you read the book, you will note that Lloyd-Jones comes to a turning point in Chapter 9. Up to that point, he looks at difficulties in the category of preliminary difficulties, those initial stumbling blocks – difficulties arising from a lack of clarity with regard to the entry into the faith and the Christian life. He then looks at difficulties which tend to arise after that stage of the preliminaries.

This is one of the most helpful books I’ve ever read. I highly recommend the book, particularly this edition which includes an audio disc of Lloyd-Jones delivering 24 sermons from the Spiritual Depression series.

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look

Chapter 3: What Is Prayer?

  • In the great monotheistic religions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, prayer is at the very heart of what it means to believe.
  • Even deliberately nonreligious people pray at times. Studies have shown that in secularized countries, prayer continues to be practiced not only by those who have no religious preference but even by many of those who do not believe in God.
  • Still, though prayer is not literally a universal phenomenon, it is a global one, inhabiting all cultures and involving the overwhelming majority of people at some point in their lives. Efforts to find cultures, even very remote and isolated ones, without some form of religion and prayer have failed.
  • To say prayer is nearly universal is not, however, to say all prayer is the same.
  • Whose view of prayer is right? Those who champion the mystical inward turn or those who reject it as too “Eastern” and not fully biblical?
  • The mystics were often seeking a kind of self-salvation through meditation.
  • I believe Heiler is right in this regard—that prayer is ultimately a verbal response of faith to a transcendent God’s Word and his grace, not an inward descent to discover we are one with all things and God. Heiler’s “prophetic” prayer is closer to the biblical understanding of prayer than that of the other thinkers we have surveyed.
  • From the biblical point of view, the near-universal phenomenon of prayer is not surprising. All human beings are made in the “image of God” (Gen 1:26–27). Bearing God’s image means that we are designed to reflect and relate to God.
  • English theologian John Owen also believed that the natural impulse to pray is present in all people, that it is “original in the law of nature” and a “natural, necessary, fundamental acknowledgement of that Divine Being.” He added that many non-Christian religions and cultures put Christians to shame in the diligence of their prayers.
  • Jonathan Edwards added that “God is sometimes pleased to answer the prayers of unbelievers,” not because of any obligation but strictly out of his “pity” and “sovereign mercy,”
  • We can define prayer as a personal, communicative response to the knowledge of God. All human beings have some knowledge of God available to them. At some level, they have an indelible sense that they need something or someone who is on a higher plane and infinitely greater than they are. Prayer is seeking to respond and connect to that being and reality, even if it is no more than calling out into the air for help.
  • Prayer, then, is a response to the knowledge of God, but it works itself out at two levels. At one level, prayer is a human instinct to reach out for help based on a very general and unfocused sense of God. It is an effort to communicate, but it cannot be a real conversation because the knowledge of God is too vague. At another level, prayer can be a spiritual gift. Christians believe that through the Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit, our understanding of God can become unclouded.
  • Through the Word and Spirit, prayer becomes answering God—a full conversation.
  • Prayer is responding to God. In all cases God is the initiator—“hearing” always precedes asking. God comes to us first or we would never reach out to him.
  • The clearer our understanding of who God is, the better our prayers. Instinctive prayer is like an emergency flare in reaction to a general sense of God’s reality. Prayer as a spiritual gift is a genuine, personal conversation in reply to God’s specific, verbal revelation.
  • Communication can lead to two-way personal revelation that produces what can only be called a dynamic experience.
  • Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him.
  • The power of our prayers, then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God.
  • Through Christ, prayer becomes what Scottish Reformer John Knox called “an earnest and familiar talking with God,” and John Calvin called an “intimate conversation” of believers with God, or elsewhere “a communion of men with God”—a two-way communicative interaction.

Book News

  • The Songs of JesusThe 50 Best Books of 2015 (So Far). Tony Reinke provides this helpful list.
  • Dr. Russell Moore on The Eric Metaxas Show. Listen to the podcast featuring Dr. Russell Moore discussing his new book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.
  • Tim Keller’s next book is The Songs of Jesus, written with his wife Kathy. The book is a year of daily devotions in the Psalms and will be released November 18.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence ~ married to my best friend for more than 40 years and a St. Louis Cardinals fan. Before retiring I served as a manager at a Fortune 50 company; I'm a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and in leadership at my local church. I enjoy speaking about calling, vocation and work. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinders themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony and Achiever, and my two StandOut strengths roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book and 2 Corinthians 5:21 my favorite verse. Some of my other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son (originally titled A Tale of Two Sons) by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I enjoy Christian hip-hop/rap music, with Lecrae, Trip Lee and Andy Mineo being some of favorite artists.

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