Monday, 20 November 2017

The Problem of Suicide: How is the Church Caring for those Impacted?

A church without the broken is a broken church.

Each year, 44,193 Americans die by suicide which, on average, amounts to 121 suicides per day.

For many of us, these figures don’t feel too far off. We can picture the faces and remember the names of those in our own communities who’ve taken their own lives.

As a young pastor, I too came face to face with the harsh realities of suicide and the pain brought on by watching those I loved experience such deep suffering. Particularly, I remember a man named Jim in our congregation who was struggling with mental illness. For a while, he fought the good fight and did what he could to spend time in prayer and read Psalms to find comfort. Eventually, however, filled with despair, he took his own life.

I was devastated.

At the time, I was unprepared, idealistic, and largely unsure how to handle the events that had just transpired in the church community I was shepherding.

Unfortunately, I think many churches today fit that same description. They are trying to figure out how to help people struggling with mental illnesses and care for loved ones in the aftermath of loss but don’t really know quite what to do.

But, if we’re honest, we must know that our unpreparedness is actually hurting the very people we care most about: our church communities. If we—as pastors, leaders, and churchgoers—really want to offer help, it’s time to look at the facts.

The American Association of Christian Counselors, Liberty University Graduate School counseling program and medical school, and executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recently partnered together to produce important new research on the topic of suicide in Protestant church communities.

Some of their survey findings:

  • 55% of churchgoers say that they hear about a suicide in their community about once a year or more

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The Truth about Suicide

More and more Americans are taking their own lives. How the church can step up.

In 2015, more than 44,000 Americans died by suicide—one death every 12 minutes, as the Department of Health and Human Services put it. The overall suicide rate has grown by nearly 30 percent over the past 15 years, prompting some to call it a new public health crisis.

Al Hsu knows this reality personally. Nine months after the InterVaristy Press senior editor got married, he received a phone call from his mother. “Daddy killed himself,” she told him. When he heard the news, Hsu and his wife already had plans to visit his parents. His 58-year-old father was in rough condition after a stroke had left him partially debilitated and gravely depressed. The aftermath of his father’s death sparked Hsu to reflect and research, the results of which found their way into Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers, and Hope (InterVarsity Press), first published in 2002 and re-released this year.

Hsu spoke with assistant editor Morgan Lee about the inner conflict of grieving a suicide, the best and worst ways his community responded to his pain, and whether ending one’s own life condemns a Christian to hell.

What is it like to lose someone you love to suicide?

Counselors call this kind of grief a complicated grief or a complicated bereavement because grievers are actually dealing with two realities: grief and trauma. The grief of losing a loved one is normal and expected, but with suicide comes trauma. In processing a suicide, there is no easy path to peace and the grief journey cycles through all sorts of different feelings and emotions.

So it’s important to realize that this grief will strike you in many different ways.

Right. For grievers, there are any number of emotions that ...

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Psalm 95:1-2

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”


The African Diaspora (Part 2): What We Can Learn and Biblical Principles

Immigrants can bless their home countries and their host countries

In Part 1, we looked at the African diaspora and four biblical figures from which we can learn. Today, we seek to apply some biblical principles to the reality of the diaspora today.

Stay Close to God

Although Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah were far from their homeland, they were not far from God. They were people of prayer who made sure their relationship with God was fresh and current. Nehemiah and Daniel prayed regularly and before every important decision. Prior to interpreting the king’s dream, Daniel and his friends prayed.

His powerful prayer is recorded in Daniel 2:20-23. Daniel regularly prayed three times a day “giving thanks to his God” (Dan. 6:10). Before Nehemiah approached the king about returning to Jerusalem, he said, “For days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4).

Staying close to God through prayer is vital. When planning to leave your country of origin—whether for an opportunity or because you are forced to do so by circumstances—bathe your decision in prayer, asking for God’s wisdom and protection. The Lord can iron out obstacles and difficulties that could arise at any point of your journey.

One step that will help an immigrant stay close to God is to join a strong, Bible-believing church in the new country. Take the initiative because fellowship with other believers will be a great help. If you are able, connect with Christians of your host community to help you integrate into your new home.

Avoid taking illegal actions, no matter how expeditious or attractive they might be. If you emigrate through illegal means, you will continue to be confronted by situations to justify your residence in your new county that do not honor the ...

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Making the Unclean Clean

Seeing God’s redemption in a toilet bowl.

With a flick of the wrist, your mess disappears. This isn’t a clever infomercial on late night television, but what often happens to feces in the United States when you flush your toilet.

I vividly remember visiting Nejapa, El Salvador, a community unconnected to a wastewater treatment plant, in 2008. Kids ran barefoot and jumped in the water—liquid household waste emptied into the street and mixed with garbage—splashing their friends. Exposure to waterborne pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and worms can increase the likelihood of becoming ill.

Yet as a wastewater engineer, what I’ve learned is: God is in the business of redeeming things. Yes, even what we think is “unclean.” Rather than viewing wastewater as a waste to be discarded, a new paradigm for sanitation is recovering beneficial NEW resources from wastewater: nutrients, energy, and water.

As Christians, we know that our sin can have profoundly damaging effects—sometimes ones we don’t see or think about. So it goes with wastewater. In a working sewer system in the US, the effluent from our toilets, showers, sinks, and laundry, called wastewater, commonly leaves our homes through pipes and travels to a wastewater treatment plant. After a few treatment steps, the clean water is discharged to a river or ocean and the contaminants are often hauled to a landfill. In rural areas, septic tanks are often used to treat wastewater.

Unfortunately, 80 percent of wastewater in the world is not treated nor reused and 2.4 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation. In some countries, the untreated wastewater released upstream may be someone’s source of drinking water downstream.

Furthermore, wastewater contains ...

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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Psalm 1:1-2

“[BOOK I Psalms 1–41] Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”


Why the Atheist’s Obsession with God?

Hi recently received this question on Facebook from someone I used to work with: When I was at uni I wrote a thesis on religious connotations in science fiction films. I also don’t believe in god but find it fascinating how those that don’t believe in god seem so interested in the belief of god […]