Category Archives: Spiritual Growth

General blogs about how to grow in your faith.

How to Deal with Post-Spiritual-High Depression

How to Deal with Post-Spiritual-High Depression

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Sometimes, following an experience in which God showed up in a powerful way, we can find ourselves overwhelmed with negative emotions. 

Depression.

Fear.

Confusion.

Frustration.

Even anger.

It doesn’t seem to make sense. “Why am I so bummed? Why do I feel so bad after something so good?”

It doesn’t just happen for pastors on Monday. It can happen to anyone after an engaging ministry retreat, a life-changing camp experience, or a cross-cultural mission trip.

Here’s a little-known fact: coming off the “mountain top” of experiencing God is a little bit like coming down from too much caffeine or sugar. When the buzz and thrill are gone, we miss it–badly.

Here’s another fact: it’s normal, and you’ll be okay if you decide to stay the course.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Elijah found in 1 Kings.

Elijah was a great man of God. He performed miracles, and he boldly faced down 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). God worked in him and through him in a powerful way.

But in 1 Kings 19, in the aftermath of that great experience, we find Elijah afraid and running for his life from Jezebel. He ends up isolated and depressed, and he even prays for God to take his life!

One of the things I love about our God is that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He always pursues us. In fact, God appeared to Elijah and confronted him. “Elijah, what in blazes are you doing?” (Bubna Paraphrase Edition).

Elijah complained to God, but then the Lord essentially said, “Get back to work; I’ve still got a job for you to do!” In other words, “Elijah, stop whining and stay the course.”

In over 38 years of ministry, I’ve taken a lot of people on mission trips around the world. I’ve watched God use simple and humble people (like you and me) to do amazing things. I’ve also seen those same individuals come home and get “lost” in a sea of negative emotions.

I’ve seen couples come home from an exciting and encouraging marriage retreat and crash under the weight of reality the real world.

I’ve seen hundreds of youth return from camps or retreats on fire for Jesus, and they’re pumped—until they’re not. To borrow a phrase from Tamera Alexander, “Too many end up as bored as a spud in the mud!”

Tragically, I’ve even seen many bail on God and His Church because “real life” is too predictable and mundane—or the opposite, too challenging and harsh.

Here’s the antidote . . .

When you’re faced with post-ministry misery, depression, frustration, confusion, and whatever else might be plaguing your soul, get back to work serving God right where you live.

He still has a plan for your life.

It won’t always feel like camp or that incredible mission trip.

The daily grind of the morning after can be tough for pastors.

Day to day isn’t quite as exhilarating or awe-inspiring as that life-changing conference with Beth Moore.

But God shows up in the valleys of life too (remember Psalm 23:4).

Resist the temptation to focus too much on “next year in Guatemala” or “next year at camp” or “next Easter,” while missing what God has for you at this very moment.

No one lives on top of the mountain all the time.

So be present in the here and now. And as Elijah eventually did, listen for God’s gentle whisper, and you’ll be fine.

I promise.

God’s not done with you. Not now. Not ever.

 

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4 Responses to How to Deal with Post-Spiritual-High Depression

  1. Thanks for the good words of encouragement for pressing on after the mountain top experience. The let-down after a mission trip or conference is real, and we need the reminder to rest and go forward.

What Ticked Jesus Off? (And Why Are Some Christians So Angry?)

What Ticked Jesus Off? (And Why Are Some Christians So Angry?)

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We Christians (and I include myself in that group) are too easily offended at times. We are a passionate people given to strong feelings and even stronger opinions. Few in our culture are confused about what matters to us. Frankly, believers are known for what we are against, and the list is long.

Certainly, many of the issues we fight for are significant. However, and let’s be honest, some of the things we get irritated about have nothing to do with Biblical truth and are far more about personal preferences.

For the record, I’m an evangelical, Bible believing pastor and Christian.

I believe the Word is clear about what matters to God.

  • Mercy and grace

  • Forgiveness and eternal life

  • Injustice

  • Abuse

  • Truth

  • Discord within the Body of Christ

And the list goes on . . .

Without question, there are a lot of things that absolutely matter to God. However, there are many things that matter to some Christians, but not so much to Christ.

  • The volume of the worship music

  • When and how often a church should take communion

  • The appropriate translation of the Bible to be used in a message

  • Guys wearing hats in church

And again, the list goes on . . .

Rather than get all spun-out over our pet peeves, perhaps we should consider one simple, yet important question: What made Jesus mad?

As Christ-followers, it would seem obvious that what upset Jesus ought to disturb us. If it mattered to Him, it should matter to us. Conversely, if it didn’t seem to matter much to Jesus, perhaps it shouldn’t matter to us.

As a pastor, author, and blogger, on a regular basis I get an email from someone “deeply concerned” about something. The long emails usually have a bite, and they are generally written by a person who is extremely upset (the CAPS and !!!! are a dead give-away).

Yes, being corrected is a good thing when you’re wrong. In fact, I welcome constructive criticism. I never want to be above rebuke because I want to live a life that is above reproach.

Rarely, however, is their “issue” related to a doctrinal concern or Biblical error on my part. Typically, it’s about a matter of style or church practice.

I get it. People have opinions, and that’s fine.

I know that not everybody sees things the way I see them, and that’s to be expected.

What continually amazes me, however, is the mean and vile nature of some who call themselves Christ-followers.

I just listened to a phone message from someone who is, at best, an infrequent attender at our church. She called to complain about something that “really bothers her.” I can deal with the fact that she’s upset. I appreciate that she is attempting to communicate with me.

The problem? She was caustic, rude, and unkind. Not at all like Jesus.

How sad.

I recently attempted to point out to another parishioner how important it is to be like Jesus when you’re outraged. He blurted out, “Yeah, but Jesus got mad! There’s such a thing as righteous indignation!”

I looked at him, and said as gently as possible, “Yes, Jesus did get infuriated at times, but perhaps it would be a worthwhile endeavor for you to study what actually ticked Jesus off.”

So, what did upset Jesus?

  • Hardness of heart (Mark 3:1-5)

  • Selfish ambition (Mark 8:31-38)

  • Spiritual arrogance (Luke 9:51-55)

  • Self-centeredness (Matthew 23:10-12)

  • Hypocrisy and fake religiosity (Luke 11:37-54)

Try as you might, you won’t find any passage in which Jesus got mad at sinners for being sinners. You will, however, find Him very angry with the so-called righteous.

You won’t find Jesus spouting off about Rome or the Emperor. He simply reminded His followers that His kingdom is not of this world.

You won’t see Jesus venting about people wearing hats in the Synagogue (they all did), or about the volume of worship (the Jews tend to like it loud, check this out).

Let’s own it: the stuff that ticks a lot of us off didn’t matter at all to Jesus.

Have your opinions. Be passionate. Express yourself.

But please stop being an angry Christian, unless it’s about something that also made Christ mad.

I love this quote by M.R. DeHaan, “We need not all agree, but if we disagree, let us not be disagreeable in our disagreements.”

What a concept. Rather than disdain, contempt, and scorn for others, let’s do our best, especially with our brothers and sisters, to live in humility, harmony, and peace.

In the words of one of my favorite NEEDTOBREATHE songs: be more heart and less attack.

“Dear brothers and sisters,

I close my letter with these last words:

Be joyful. Grow to maturity.

Encourage each other.

Live in harmony and peace.

Then the God of love and peace

will be with you.”

2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT

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20 Responses to What Ticked Jesus Off? (And Why Are Some Christians So Angry?)

  1. Well said Sir!! I appreciate your techniques to keep it friendly & loving & joyful…. so the other person “hopefully” mimics that… I LIKE that. I will remember to employ that myself in my daily routines to hopefully make my surroundings a better place…& it can’t hurt my attitude if I attempt to be at peace & joyful myself.

    • Thank you, Kelly. I’m always reminded it’s better to be a thermostat (affecting our environment) rather than a thermometer (just reflecting it). You are loved.

  2. I love this, as I find myself in a work situation where there was under handedness and disrespect, I was being made fun of and the work environment was volatile at times, I had files thrown across the desk at me and was told this is stupid, I was yelled at by a coworker who blamed me for her troubles at work. Yesterday (3 days before my last day of work)I found out that some of my policies I wrote where stolen by this coworker where she received monetary benefits. I was furious. Before I reacted in outburst I sat at my computer and asked God what to do..I kept feeling this just leave and it over took me..I clocked off and walked off the job…whether right or wrong I didn’t want to be the volatile one or react in a manner I would have to take responsibility for. I do know there needs to be an explanation & I will be talking with HR in the next day and they are opened to what I have to say. I am very angry, hurt and upset that this has gone on in the work place in a place that prides itself doing what is right…

  3. Well said, Kurt. Reminds me of something I read reminding me that in this life journey, I will never ever look into the eyes of another human being that God does not love outrageously and respect, even if he or she is living far, far away from God today. Tomorrow there could be the beginning of a radical change…if they encounter God’s love through one of His own.

    Vicious anger won’t work to change the world or another person, but rather builds a high and wide wall between people instead.

  4. Hi Pastor Kurt. Good blog. Reminded me of Brant Hansen’s “Unoffendable”. Similar points that as Christians, we’re really not entitled to get offended or stay angry. Lots of bible verse references, including James 1:20, “The anger of a man does not produce the righteous of God.” Makes you think about your reasons for feeling the way you do. A good read I’d recommend to others. Have a blessed day!

  5. I love this Kurt, and could not agree more. In fact I was just about to post something on Facebook about people who call themselves Christians ranting and raving about the faults of other people – calling them prejudice, intolerant, judgemental and so on. The irony of it was that they themselves were showing their intolerance and judgement of others. Thank you for shining a light on this topic!

  6. Oh, wow, Kurt! I just penned a blog which will post tomorrow, and although very different from yours here, the ideas expressed are much the same. I love God-incidences like this!
    And what a great point you make about what made Jesus angry. He is the model we should be following, not making “idols” of our particular preferences.
    Blessings!

  7. You know what ticks me off Kurt. When people are critical of the music, hats in church, shorts, cutoffs, and, above all Pastors. I say that because my son is a pastor and some of his “good Christian” members have been so hurtful. Sometimes, I wish he was not a pastor. Anyway, that is my vent for tonight. Oh, stupid truck drivers and 4 wheel drivers tick me off too and I have to pray for them when I encounter them so I pretty much pray continually.

  8. HERE’S TO ALL CAPS

    WELL SAID!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU’RE WRITING KEEPS IT REAL AND TO THE POINT.
    TURN IT UP AND THROW THE HATS ON.

    LOVE MY KMART PASTOR

Thankful for My Enemies?

Thankful for My Enemies?

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In one twenty-four-hour period, I ran into two families who pretty much hate me. Once upon a time we had been friends. These encounters weren’t the first time I’ve seen these people, but, ironically, my personal devotion that day had been from Luke 6 about loving our enemies.

I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in a loving, sovereign God who has a way of dealing with my heart. If I know anything (and sometimes I wonder if I do), I know that God is far more committed to my character than He is to my comfort.

The good news—I didn’t feel anger or hate toward these people. I wasn’t anxious or afraid. But I did feel pain and the angst of loss.

Tossing and turning in bed last night, I said out loud, “God, how am I to deal with this situation and these people? I’ve asked them to forgive me, and I’ve forgiven them. I don’t know what else to do!”

He whispered to my soul, “Be thankful for your enemies.”

thankful-water-2

Not what I wanted or expected to hear from God.

You’ve heard it, and I’ve taught it: Be thankful in everything but not necessarily thankful for everything.

Yes, I’m supposed to be thankful in all things regardless of the good, the bad, or the ugly in my life. (Did someone just whistle?) But I don’t have to be thankful for cancer or for any other horrible thing that’s happened.

Thankfulness in all circumstances does not mean gratefulness for all circumstances. Thankful in but not always thankful for is good theology.

So God and I had a bit of a disagreement. “Father, I can be thankful in my pain and despite the sting of a broken relationship, but being thankful for these people, my enemies, is just stupid!”

The heavens were silent.

“Okay, God, why?”

Then it hit me.

I can be thankful for my enemies because of the way God is using them to mold and change me into the image of His Son. (You might want to go back and read that last line again.)

  • My enemy provides an opportunity for me to love the unlovely even as God has loved me.

  • thankful-picMy enemy provides a path for personal blessing. I get blessed by God when I love the haters, and I can rejoice in a reward that will someday be mine in heaven.

  • My enemy provides a profound opportunity for me to practice the golden rule.

  • My enemy provides me with a chance to be more like my Father, who is kind and merciful to the ungrateful and wicked.

By the way, all of the above can be found in Luke 6 (you should click on this link and read verses 22-36).

Of course, we are supposed to love everyone, but why should you and I be thankful for those who curse and hate us?

Because our enemies help us to grow.

be-thankful-3

Being thankful for those who hate me changes my fear about them or my frustration with them into a radically different perspective.

My enemy is a gift. A gift I can be thankful for.

Didn’t see that one coming, but I’m glad I did.

Blessed are you when people hate you,

when they exclude you and insult you

and reject your name as evil,

because of the Son of Man.

 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,

because great is your reward in heaven.

For that is how their ancestors

treated the prophets.

Luke 6: 22-23

 

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12 Responses to Thankful for My Enemies?

  1. Kurt … Outstanding insight. It hurts when God starts chipping away from us those things that don’t look like Jesus.

    I’m a slow learner unfortunately.

    Then there are those precious times I’ve perceived someone to be against me and I had the wrong messages floating around my gray matter.

    Ron

  2. Wow. The line “God is more interested in my character than my comfort” really stood out & spoke to me!
    Hard stuff but God told me years ago not only to forgive but to bless.

  3. I’m right there right now and it’s been hard to come to church feeling the shame. How can God and his people love me when one of my closest family members and family have chosen to disowned and reject me for the rest of my life? Your messages have been a comfort to me. I’ve grown more through this experience so I have to be thankful for this. I still pray for reconciliation, but it’s healing to hear that I’m not alone in this experience.

    • Hi Judy, it’s hard not to believe the lies we are told (and sometimes tell ourselves)… I’m so sorry for the relational conflict you’re experiencing with your family. Know I am praying for you right now. Know too…you are loved…no matter what. Blessings.

  4. Hi Kurt,
    This post brings to my remembrance of Proverbs 27:
    17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

    When we take the mindset behind this verse, and apply it to any enemies that we face instead of friends, I believe that spiritual growth or maturity is the end result. Well, at least to a certain extent.

    Also, weaker tempered iron is sharpened by a harder tempered iron. The one being sharpened, wouldn’t overcome the one that’s sharpening it. There may be a blog post in that somewhere…

    Great post and very informative!
    God bless,
    Brian Reynolds

Why We Try to Hide Our Imperfections (And Why We Shouldn’t)

Why We Try to Hide Our Imperfections (And Why We Shouldn’t)

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A few months ago, a young woman I’ve known all her life looked at me and said, “What’s that on your face?”

She’s the bold, outspoken type, so her question didn’t shock me, but I said, “What particular blemish are you talking about?”

“The hole in your cheek!”

“Oh, you mean the pockmark?”

Suddenly it dawned on her; I just pointed out a pitted scar left by a pimple on my pastor’s face!

I chuckled and said, “It’s okay, I embrace my flaws.”

Awkward for her.

Not so much for me.

Why do we try to hide our imperfections? It’s a great question.

Perhaps it’s because we fear rejection. Maybe it’s that we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Of course, we could just be afraid of scaring small children.

Whatever the reason, there is a freedom that comes in our relationships when we know we are loved regardless of our flaws.

Silhouette of an in love couple with 2 heart balloons.

Frankly, at my age, you do one of two things when it comes to your appearance:

  • Spend a lot of time and money on hiding your blemishes.

  • Accept the reality that you are far from perfect and it’s okay.

I choose to accept my imperfections.

One of my favorite Brennan Manning quotes is, “Be who you is, or you is who you ain’t.”

In other words, when we try to be something or somebody we are not, we compromise and lose who we truly are.

B. Manning Quote

I have scars.

Blemishes.

Thinning, silver hair and a growing belly.

Of course, I bathe, shave, apply deodorant, floss, and attempt to exercise and watch what I eat. By no means am I suggesting we just let ourselves go.

However . . .

No matter what I do, I still have scars, spots, warts and a pockmark or two. As long as I’m in this earth-suit, I must face the reality of an aging and less-than-perfect body (and mind, obviously).

It’s been a long time since someone has called me eye candy.

Here’s another shocker.

I’m dying.

Every breath I take is one less breath I’ll have in this frame.

Every second I experience is one less moment I’ll have on this side of eternity.

And every compressed vertebra, lost or random added hair (I didn’t know hair can grow on the outside of your nose), and every single imperfection reminds me that this is all temporary. This earth is not my home. This body is but a shell of the man I will become one day.

So I can worry about the temporary and waste an inordinate amount of time and money on trying to avoid the inevitable, or I can choose to live with eternity in mind.

Eternity

I choose eternity.

Someone once said to me, “You Christians live with the delusion of a better life and of a better time to come when this is it; this is all there is.”

I smiled and said, “It’s not a delusion, it’s hope. It’s not escapism or about being distracted by the unpleasant realities of this life through fantasy. It’s believing that Jesus meant it when He said, “I’m preparing a place for you,” and it’s a far better place.

You see, I’m not discouraged by my present realities. I’m not frustrated by my current imperfections. The old and rusty face I see in the mirror doesn’t scare me.

Why?

Because I know I am loved and that this life is not the end of the story.

I’m due for an upgrade someday.

Like what you’ve read here? Looking for your next read? Check out my books on Amazon.

PIAD Front PanelEpic Grace Cover High ResMr Mrs Front Panel

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8 Responses to Why We Try to Hide Our Imperfections (And Why We Shouldn’t)

  1. Being an “oldie” myself, I love this, Kurt, and will think of it when I look in the mirror and wonder who that old person is who is looking back at me. A good reminder to not be so concerned about the inevitable results of aging in this temporary life.

  2. Yesterday as I changed at the gym I sat next to a gentlemen named Gerry. We had both finished exercising, both heading into the rest of our day. He was going to pick up a yard of bark and spread it around his house. Gerry is 80. He was such an inspiration to me. He was a warm, seemingly kind, genuine human being. That as much as the bark job impressed me. If I last that long I hope and pray I am somewhat like Gerry.

  3. Aging is not for sissies, that’s for sure, Kurt! We do need to take it all in stride and keep smiling, knowing that this life is not the end all and be all.
    Thanks for this wonderful (and humorous) post!

  4. Last year the Holy spirit dropped four words in my head when I was trying to decide what to choose from my wardrobe for a certain event. I was feeling some frustration and indecision about “what to wear” when God said ever so clearly, “What does it matter?” Since that day, the question, “what does it matter?” has stayed with me for dozens of other matters whose outcome had little importance. I’m skipping a lot of over-concern these days with quick decisions about lots of things, because oftentimes, the details really don’t matter! Moral? Don’t make a BIG deal about SMALL matters!

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