Devotional Thought for Today – 04/14/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part XI

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Yesterday we looked at some dos and don’ts of Chaplaincy. Today I would like to explore two things, first the difference between Chaplains and Pastors, and the various positions or jobs that a Chaplain can hold.

1 Peter 4:10 - Each of you should use whatever gift you have r...

1 Peter 4:10

I am convinced that Chaplaincy or any Ministerial position (Pastor, elder, etc.) must be more than a job it needs to be both a calling from God and a gift of the Holy Spirit. If we approach this like any other (secular) job, what happens when we grow bored, are tired, or get a little burnt out? Do we quit on God? Trust me all of those are a reality in the hard roles of Chaplains.

Chaplains and Pastors usually differ in that usually whereever a Chaplain is serving there is not a Chaplain for every Christian denomination. In fact they maybe the only Chaplain for all denominations (this is real common in smaller jail settings; for example I was the only Chaplain for a 250+ person facility that housed Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and others.) Pastors on the other hand rarely have a need to minister outside their church or denomination. Of course there are exceptions to both but the “norm” is such.

What is most important for us as Chaplains is what I have continued to refer to as our mission to provide compassion, care, comfort, and counsel no matter the individuals personal beliefs.

The roles of Chaplains are many. The Association of Professional Chaplains says: A chaplain is an individual who is ordained or endorsed by a faith group to provide chaplaincy care in diverse settings including, but not limited to:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Corrections
  • Hospice
  • Hospitals
  • Long-Term Care
  • Mental Health
  • Military
  • Palliative Care
  • Sports Teams
  • Workplace

Here are some I think are also critical:

  • Business/Corporate
  • Crisis/Disaster Relief
  • NGO’s and other Private Organizations
  • Public Safety (Fire, Police, Etc.)

Can you add to the list? We will explore each in more detail over the next couple of days.

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/07/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part VI

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Today we continue our series by looking at the third stage of the 5 Stages of GriefDepression.

Like so many other things Christians with enough faith should never get is depressed. At least that was the story we got told about my wife’s condition from a so called well meaning “friend”. Of course, this well-meaning person also was not a doctor and did no investigative questioning before blurting out the statement. I mention this not for sympathy, but to underscore the need for Chaplains and Ministers to make all due diligence in understanding the condition and history of those they are serving. I know with HIPAA this can be daunting but being well informed can greatly help in our care, comfort and counsel process.

I have yet to meet anyone going through the grief process that does not experience Depression in some manner. The obvious signs will usually manifest themselves as feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, and other very detrimental effects that may affect the individual. It is important to note that these can be sublime and hidden in some folks. Again, using my wife, for example, she suffered a stroke due to poisoning before we met. She suffers from depression that is treated with counseling and medication. Her response to loss, like the recent death of her mom, is “I’m alright” even though she clearly was not. Like most folks (estimates as high as 67% of people suffering from depression) She just tries to grin and bear it. My wife because of her medical condition processes things differently and we (chaplains/ministers) need to be on the alert for this and any out of the “ordinary” situation and know when we are in over our heads. Here is a good list of types of depression.

So, what is depression? First depression is not just being sad. I lost my wedding band a few months ago, I was sad (even a little afraid of what my wife would say 😀)) but not depressed. Depression is sad on super steroids. It is constant here is the clinical definition:

The clinical definition, based on the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), is “a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.” This definition excludes grief after mourning.

Before we move on I think it would be helpful reminder to list some of the things that one could encounter as a Chaplain/Minister in the Grief process that could lead to depression:

  • Trauma
  • Painful past experiences (PTSD)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Incarceration
  • Job loss or cut in pay
  • Financial problems
  • Parenting concerns and raising respectful, resilient kids
  • Loss
  • Life-changing illness
  • Marriage/relationship issues

The second thing to note about depression is that is often MISDIAGNOSED. Far too often healthcare professionals and Chaplains/Ministers are quick to say someone who has experienced one of these issues is depressed. Many times they are simply melancholy, which means intense sadness but a far cry from clinically depressed.

Another thing that might surprise some is that stage 2 (ANGER) can rear its ugly head here again. Let me explain, folks can socially withdraw a clear sign of depression setting in, if you try and force them out of that they can become hostile. Other symptoms of Grief/Depression include:

  • Can’t concentrate or think straight
  • Restless and anxious
  • Poor appetite/ Weight loss
  • Sad demeanor
  • Dreams of the deceased or even talks to them
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Can think of nothing but the loss, illness, or event…
  • Makes up reasons for the loss, many don’t make sense
  • Dwells on mistakes, real or imagined, that he or she made with the deceased

The last thing I have learned about this stage of Grief counseling is in this stage of Depression, where folks begin to address feelings that have been put off (consciously or unconsciously) such as abandonment, helplessness, loneliness, fear, despair, agony, etc. These are things that they did not look at during the stages of denial, anger, and bargaining.

I am not a professional Licensed Christian Counselor/Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist, if dealing with my wife’s condition has taught me anything, it is I need to be involved and I need to leave much of that stuff to the professionals.

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Psalm 1:1-3

As the Psalm says, we can be that care comfort, and wise counsel of the Lord’s Law to those who are in need. I am convinced it is here that Chaplains/Ministers can have the greatest impact. Again offering the care, comfort, and (compassionate) counsel that God has called us to do.

Enslaved: A Theology of Addiction

We at FSM and FSMWO have aimed to help those with addictions since our inception. We have many resources that can help those with alcohol, anger, drug, gambling porn and many other forms of addictions. Please do not hesitate to contact us privately for a list of resources. – Mike

JOHN STREET | 

Enslaved:

A Theology of Addiction

You’re not going to find the word addiction in your Bible. The word comes from a Latin term which means a hopeless dependence. But what does the Bible say about the issue of addiction?

When you hear the word addiction, think enslavement. The difference in wording is crucial—you can be freed from enslavement, but you cannot ultimately be freed from an addiction. Why? Because as the world so joyfully and pessimistically exclaims, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Once addicted to pornography, always addicted to pornography

But that’s just not true.

Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” And then he writes, “Such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). 

Were—past tense. In other words, Alcoholics Anonymous sells a lie. They sell that you can never ultimately change. But God says you can.

“Such were some of you, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

There can be change. Once a chemical abuser, not always a chemical abuse. Once an alcoholic, not always an alcoholic. There is always hope of liberation.

So, how are we to think about this biblically in a world of confusion?

UNDERSTANDING MAN 

The first thing we must do is understand man.

One thing we know from Scripture is, by nature, man is dependent. God created him this way. Even from the beginning, Adam and Eve were created to be dependent upon food, water, and everything around them.

But man ultimately was created to be dependent upon God. Even in heaven, we will be entirely dependent upon God, but there it will be a welcomed dependence. For now, man rebels against it. You can feel it in your flesh; your flesh craves to be autonomous of His sovereignty.


When a slave dies, he’s finally liberated from the master. In order to be free from addiction, the substance abuser must die to himself

Man was created to live dependently on God in order to find life and blessing. But as a result of the fall, man aches for autonomy. He doesn’t want to be dependent upon anything. Essentially, man desires to be God. Man chases autonomy like a dog his tail—round and round and round. Self-improvement seminars, counseling, life coaches—they all say the same tired things: “You make your own life; you determine yourself; you self-identify; you do whatever you want to do. It’s all up to you.”

But that’s just not true.

Man strives for autonomy and self-sufficiency, and he finds this to be an impossible aim. Man remains a dependent creature in spite of his sin. So where does this leave him? In rejecting God, he turns to other things in his dependence. These things become the idols he morning and night worships.

Every avowed atheist has idols. Why? Because every human heart was created to worship.  Man has to worship something, whether that be himself or his materialistic lifestyle. He takes whatever it is he thinks most important and begins to worship it as god. His dependence then turns to these things. The idol he trusts and treasures then gradually entangles him. This is what the world terms addiction.

So why do people become dependent upon substances and pleasures? People become dependent because they were created to be dependent. Everybody is dependent. It just depends what you are dependent upon.

Let me define enslavement, and then explain it.

DEFINING ENSLAVEMENT

So what is enslavement? Enslavement is an idol relationship with a mood changing experience.

Most people who are alcoholics today didn’t like alcohol the first time they tried it. They only persisted in this habit because of what the world so fondly calls peer pressure, or what the Bible defines so precisely as fear of man. In other words, I’m afraid of what people would say to me or about me if I didn’t, so I surrender.

But eventually, after drinking for a while, they realize alcohol makes the stresses and difficulties of life slip away, even if only for a moment. Whether it’s depressants or stimulants, people eventually grow to depend upon this drug-induced escape from reality. And then they become enslaved.

But look to the person of Christ, who in His moment of greatest agony was offered wine in order to blunt the pain of crucifixion. Jesus refused it so that not only spiritually did He absorb all of our sins upon Himself, but He experienced the excruciating experience of the cross with none of His senses obscured.

But many believe that constant pleasant sensations are a natural right of man. This is my right; I should always feel good. And then eventually, you become enslaved to that sensation, and you become a slave.

EXPLAINING ENSLAVEMENT

Anyone can become an addict, and anything can become an addictive substance.

Anything that is even potentially pleasurable can become an addictive substance. John Calvin wrote, “The human heart is a constant idol factory.” Desires that grow to be more important than being a man or woman of God become idols of the heart. Any substance that causes desirable brain endorphins has the potential to become enslaving. It doesn’t have to be a chemical; it can be an experience. This is why we have sex addiction. The person becomes enslaved to sensations simply to alter his mood.

The ultimate source of the addiction is not the substance, but the person.

The ultimate source of bondage is not the substance, it’s the person. It wells-up from the inner man, from what that person trusts and believes, from the very motivations of his heart. That’s where enslavement is born.

In the United States, statistics demonstrate that more alcoholics stop drinking on their own than through spiritual, special therapy groups. That is a serious statement.

How is that possible?

If a person was hopelessly addicted to that substance, how could they just quit? Because in their heart, they found a deeper motivation than feelings. They realized this bondage was destroying their marriage or relationship with their children. Whatever that motivation may be is now the final push that causes them to say “no” to the desires. If the natural man can do that in personal willpower, then the Christian who has the abiding power of the Holy Spirit has no excuse. But the believer’s deeper motivation must not simply be to the marriage or children, but to more effectively serve and glorify Christ.

People have more control than they are willing to admit.

When the proper motivation is given to a person, they can stop. How? Because, again, the source of addiction is not in the substance. The source of the addiction is in the person’s heart.

While you may be able to control and deafen the desire for a substance or experience, you can never turn off the heart. This is why people have gone through support groups and gotten off of drugs and substances, but many just substitute that for a more socially acceptable enslavement. Many former alcoholics, for example, become workaholics. The heart hasn’t changed. They simply trade one idol for another. But God wants to transform the heart.

The person’s life then centers around the worship of that experience.

God created men as worshipers, and any worship that is not of the true God of Heaven is idolatrous worship.

To worship the gods of chemical or substance abuse, the person must be willing to sacrifice to them. Everyone and everything is sacrificed on the altar of this addiction. God is then robbed of His rightful worship and becomes a distant second.

An idol can make us slaves.

Paul writes to the Roman believers, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Rom 6:16)

Everyone must heed the voice of his master. This can be the physical voice of a master, and if disobeyed, consequences follow. Or it can be the internal voice that says, “Have another drink. You have to.” If disobeyed, there too await consequences—withdrawals.

Substance abuse makes us subservient, so that when the impulses of the body demand fulfillment, they must, at any cost, be obeyed. That’s how slavery works—a life is sold in unconditional obedience to another. We hear the internal voice of the master shouting, “Serve me. Indulge me.” In order to be freed, truly liberated, a death has to occur. When a slave dies, he’s finally liberated from the master. In order to be free from addiction, the substance abuser must die to himself.

Jesus Himself says this, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). To deny yourself is much more than giving up bubblegum for Lent. To deny self is to truly deny self.

How often are we to do this?

Jesus says daily. And then He says to nail self to the cross. In the first century, the cross was an excruciating instrument of pain. This was never anticipated to be an easy process.

Jesus is saying you have to nail self to the cross every day, and then come and follow Him. The Christian abuser must present himself as a slave to righteousness. No longer a slave to the weakness of his flesh, but a slave to righteousness. We’ll all be slaves to something, so we might as well serve the gracious God of Heaven, instead of the merciless god of the substances of this age, who will do nothing but destroy our relationships and lives.

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regards to righteousness. Therefore, what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life? For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:17-23).

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