I’m Not What I Feel
Written by Rev. Aaron Vriesman |
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Mental health affects faith and how we relate to God. Depression can open a new way to connect with the man of sorrows who was familiar with suffering (Is. 53:3), or it can build resentment and rejection of the sovereign God who would allow such a cursed affliction. Choose the former to avoid the latter.
It is written that if we must boast that we boast in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 11:30). Here goes. Clinical depression has been my reality for at least 25 years now. In other words, the feelings of worthlessness and pointlessness are always there. Sometimes they are lighter and sometimes heavier. There are moments of delight or distraction, but the sadness never goes away. You can run but you can’t hide. It’s always there.
Why this would be a problem is a guessing game. Caring parents and family, knowing and loving Jesus all extend to my earliest memories. No abuse or neglect. No tragedies or traumas. If only there was a loss to grieve or a memory to deal with. Then the sadness makes no sense. As such, there is no solution.
For twenty of these 25 years I have been on medication. I’ve lost count of how many meds I have tried. Almost all of these years have involved therapy, usually on a weekly basis. I’m on my fourth psychiatrist and a sixth therapist. The matter is way beyond the usual platitudes of thinking positive and looking at the glass half full. Diet, exercise, chiropractic laser treatments, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, and light therapy lamps have brought negligible results in my case. If these work for you, wonderful. Therapy has been helpful. Medication has been helpful. I recommend both to make the burden more manageable, but there is no silver bullet.
An endless supply of insults and ridicule will either trickle or torrent through the mind. Spontaneous thoughts of being a loser, a failure, and a waste of space occur daily. Sometimes the thoughts come by the minute. They come out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. Also, an unexplainable deep sense of purposelessness and worthlessness underlie the daily grind. Even when things are going well, a cloud of nothing being accomplished rains overhead. Sometimes the schedule is so full that there is no time to stop or think. Running here and there or a delightful evening with fun people will crowd out the emptiness, but not for long. When the laughter and chatter among familiar faces transitions to a silent walk back to the car, the cloud remains. An unsolicited compliment will renew confidence for a while. For a moment, it seems like efforts are helping someone. Being here means something.
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Reasons to Vote in Favor of Amendments to the PCA’s BCO 16-4, BCO 20-4 and BCO 24-1By Staff — 2 years ago
Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) pastors Dominic Aquila and Fred Greco sat down in early September 2021 to discuss overtures 23 & 37 which are related to the Revoice/SSA officer controversies. They explained the background to them, answered questions posed about them, and clarified why these amendments should be passed.
Watch the video here.
The Intent of the BCO Amendments
BCO 16-4 Deals with Standards for Ordination for Church Officers.
BCO 21-4 and 24-1 Deal with Standards for Examinations For Church Officers.
There amendments do not deal with communicant members, their views and their membership in the church.
The General Assembly approved the wording on Overture 23 (which is the wording for BCO 16-4) by a vote of 77%. The vote for Overture 37 (the wording for BCO 21-4 and 24-1) was approved by a vote of 62%.
These BCO amendments add specific wording because of current issues in the culture that require clearer definitions of qualities like “above approach,” “a good reputation,” and “respected.” It is the nature of the development of creeds, confessions and internal church orders, that clarifying wordings may be added to affirmations in light of current issues.
The Proposed Amendments to the PCA’s Book of Church Order as approved by the PCA General Assembly
BCO 16-4. Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either (1) by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction), or (2) by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or (3) by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.
BCO 21-4 e. In the examination of the candidate’s personal character, the presbytery shall give specific attention to potentially notorious concerns, such as but not limited to relational sins, sexual immorality (including homosexuality, child sexual abuse, fornication, and pornography), addictions, abusive behavior, racism, and financial mismanagement. Careful attention must be given to his practical struggle against sinful actions, as well as to persistent sinful desires. The candidate must give clear testimony of reliance upon his union with Christ and the benefits thereof by the Holy Spirit, depending on this work of grace to make progress over sin (Psalm 103:2-5, Romans 8:29) and to bear fruit (Psalm 1:3; Gal. 5:22-23). While imperfection will remain, he must not be known by reputation or self-profession according to his remaining sinfulness, but rather by the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 6:9-11). In order to maintain discretion and protect the honor of the pastoral office, Presbyteries are encouraged to appoint a committee to conduct detailed examinations of these matters and to give prayerful support to candidates.
BCO 24-1. In the examination of each nominee’s personal character, the Session shall give specific attention to potentially notorious concerns, such as but not limited to relational sins, sexual immorality (including homosexuality, child sexual abuse, fornication, and pornography), addictions, abusive behavior, racism, and financial mismanagement. Careful attention must be given to his practical struggle against sinful actions, as well as to persistent sinful desires. Each nominee must give clear testimony of reliance upon his union with Christ and the benefits thereof by the Holy Spirit, depending upon this work of grace to make progress over sin (Psalm 103:2-5; Romans 8:29) and to bear fruit (Psalm 1:3; Gal. 5:22-23). While imperfection will remain, he must not be known by reputation or self-profession according to his remaining sinfulness, but rather by the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 6:9-11). In order to maintain discretion and protect the honor of church office, Sessions are encouraged to appoint a committee to conduct detailed examinations into these matters and to give prayerful support to nominees.
Reasons to Vote in Favor of Approving These Amendments
The focus is on church officers with an emphasis on their developing a Christlike character. The amendments recognize that it is possible for a man’s character to undermine or contradict the focus on Christlikeness in a number of ways, which may become hinderances to being qualified as a church officer, EITHER
By denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction); or
By denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification; or
By failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions
Why Are These Statements Important?
“By denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction).”
The Westminster Standards teach the all-encompassing reality of the Fall and its effects on all mankind (WCF 6). Sin affects our total being such that we are dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all parts and faculties of soul and body and inclined to all evil.
WCF 6.5 states, “This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.” No professing believer is perfect in this life and because it is possible for remaining sin to prevail in a professing believer’s life, church courts should examine men for church office carefully in life as well as in doctrine.
“By denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification.”
WCF 13.2 states, “This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; where arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”
Since professing believers are not perfect, the Scripture teaches and the Standards affirm, that their growth in grace is progressive. Those being considered for church office should demonstrate a maturity of life by a regular pattern of growth in Christlikeness. Even the most mature church officer continues to progress regularly in his sanctification and maturity in his life and faith.
“By failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.”
WCF 13.3 states, “In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail, yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Professing believers are incapable by their own strength to overcome the effects of remaining sin; they must depend on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit to put to death the works of the flesh and by the Spirit put on the character of Christ. Church courts are to examine candidates for church office to inquire into how they put off the old and put on the new by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Professing believers can say, “I was once a sinner struggling with—-, but Christ washed me. Some corruption remains, but the Spirit enables me to put it off the old and to put on its Christlike opposite.” If this is our true understanding for all professing believers, it is just as true for church officers.
The Amendments Will Guide Church Courts
These amendments are beneficial to guide church courts in their duty to examine church officers with respect to their Christian character. These amendments provide the following:
Amplify the Scriptural requirements for church office found in many passages, such as in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
Encourage courts to be diligent in examining both theological views as well as character. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (I Tim 4:16). “Keep watch over yourselves and of all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28).
Encourage courts to ask appropriate questions on a variety of areas: such as, marital issues, child abuse, racism, sexual purity, use of time, friendships, and financial management.
Use the language of “reputation,” which is in line with the Pauline language, and touches on qualifications such as to be “respected” (1 Tim 3:2), “well thought of by outsiders” (1 Tim 3:7), and “above reproach” (Titus 1:7).
Apply our biblical understanding of our theology and practice to church officers.
Define general moral thinking and behavior specifically to reflect and apply current realities facing the church.
Understand and apply the teachings of the Westminster Standards, especially as delineated in Larger Catechism questions 138 (What are the duties required in the seventh commandments?) and 139 (What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?).
While the debate on questions about biblical sexual ethics gave rise to these amendments, the intent and content of the amendments cover the whole spectrum of character qualities for church officers.
As one outside observer noted: Seen in the context of the 2,000-year history of the church, the PCA’s deliberations were hardly revolutionary. But in 2021 cultural revolutionary America, the language commissioners proposed be added to the PCA’s Book of Church Order ring with Christian bravery before a hostile world:
Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same-sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires . . . or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.
Watch the video here.
A Seat with the Risen ChristBy Mark Evans — 9 months ago
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:6)
We can all recall a time when we had a seating assignment. Perhaps in schooling, at work, or around the dinner table, a particular chair may come to be known as your seat. We tend to size up the quality of our assigned seat by factors such as visibility, the ambience, and, above all, the surrounding company. If we’re off to a concert or sporting event, our first question may well be “Do we have good seats?” We intuitively recognize that where we sit and (more importantly) whom it is that we sit next to play no small role in our experience. Thus, as Christians, we do well to pause and ask the question, “Do we have good seats?”
Christians possess the most awesome of all assigned seats. How so? In this passage from Ephesians, Paul has just outlined the dreadful truth that mankind is dead in trespasses, in step with the age of this world, and by nature children of wrath. Far from making us victims, such realties are fully congruent with the desires of the corrupted heart and the passions of the flesh. Should we be offered a new and higher seat, we would resolutely decline, preferring instead our positions of autonomy.
But just as the tidal wave of despair is about to break, Paul interjects that great gospel conjunction “but,” as in “but God” (Eph. 2:4). How bleak our condition . . . but God . . . How ceaseless the diagnosis of death . . . but God . . . How settled in our seats of wrath . . . but God . . . For it was precisely in our state of death that God made us alive; namely by making us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5).
As an overflowing benefit of our life in Christ, Christians receive a novel assigned seat that postures us in the age to come. We have the best seat in all the cosmos: a seat in the heavenlies. Above all, we are seated with Christ Jesus. Since the believer is in Christ, then wherever Christ is seated, Christians are necessarily seated with Him.
Where, then, is Christ seated? As Hebrews tells us, it was “when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12). This act of “sitting down” crowns the truth that the Lord Jesus fully accomplished all the work that His Father gave to Him. To be a priest was to be “on your feet,” as it were, for a priest’s work was never done. To “take a seat” was not in the priest’s job description, as “every priest stands daily” (Heb. 10:11). The repeated sacrifices that could “never take away sins” required perpetual standing for the priests of old. But Christ’s single sacrifice was singularly perfect. That Christ lived, died, was buried, resurrected, ascended, and only then granted a seat at the “right hand of majesty” sets forth the irrefutable truth that His sacrifice was the “once for all” offering. Every reason to stand has been eliminated, and therefore “heaven must receive him” (Acts 3:21).
Truthfulness Is Not OptionalBy Glenn Arbery — 1 year ago
In the war of the mind, students need to master the tools of grammar, logic, and rhetoric that have been painstakingly developed since antiquity. They need the intellectual courage developed through real engagement with minds better than their own.
In a time when crime and inflation are rising together, when independent nations are threatened by massive powers eager to consume them, and when dispassionate public discourse seems impossible, it’s bracing to remember the fairness and generosity that make justice and good judgment possible.
In the last few months, two friends have highly recommended a book by Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Amazon lies in wait for readers like me, of course, so I now have it in hand. Trueman begins by asking how this sentence—“I am a woman trapped in a man’s body”—could make sense in the contemporary world and even elicit sympathy from ordinary people, whereas a generation or two ago it would have been met with pure incredulity. Trueman’s account takes him back into the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and then through Marx, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche, and others of contemporary importance, such as Judith Butler. I am still in the early chapters, but I can already add my recommendation.
His arguments aside, what strikes me with unusual force is Trueman’s articulation of his approach, because it goes to the heart of an institution like Wyoming Catholic College. In his introduction to the book, Trueman explains what he does as a historian of ideas: “it seems to me that giving an accurate account of one’s opponents’ views, however obnoxious one may consider them to be, is vital, and never more so than our in our age of cheap Twitter insults and casual slanders. There’s nothing to be gained from refuting a straw man.” Perhaps it’s the almost universal absence of this attitude in the public sphere that makes Trueman’s fairness seem startling. After listing thinkers and movements inimical to his own position, he says that he has tried to be “as careful and dispassionate as possible. Some readers might find this odd, given my personal dissent from much of what they each represent. But truthfulness is not optional. My hope is that I have represented the views of these groups and individuals in such a manner that, were they to read this book, they might demur to my conclusions but at least recognize themselves in my account of their thought.” [my emphasis]