Martyrs in America? Maybe

They died bravely in the first century. Will we in the 21st?

Being heard is not the same as having influence. Believers must reconsider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture.  We have tried a myriad of approaches in our evangelism, and we are not succeeding.  We have been maneuvered to the margins of society, and I fear that is where we will stay.

Several years ago, a believer directed a high budget movie, The Passion of The Christ, which shattered box-office records and sparked interest in religious films when it came out in 2004.  It was compelling and disturbing.  We saw Jesus beaten and whipped, but the splattering of blood did not translate well into spiritual change.  If perhaps anything, it inured people to a higher purpose– salvation.

We must use everything that is available to us as people to broadcast the gospel.  Art, both fine and popular, music and theater, movies and sports.  We need to squeeze out every venue, in every media to share the good news. Creativity is not a gift of the Holy Spirit, but it’s close.

But this is not enough.  We are engaged in a heated, spiritual struggle for truth and hope.  I believe that our methodology will consistently fall short of our ideals.  In the time of ancient Rome the only time Christians were in the limelight were as martyrs.  And the lions of the Coliseum made quick work of their witness.  But man, they succeeded in reaching thousands, and the pagan empire was brought to Christ, en mass!

Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel.  The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr.  It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers.  Church history would support this view.  It should come as no surprise.

martyrdomI remember witnessing once in UC Berkeley campus.  It is a very challenging place in a stronghold of intellectualism.  The people I encountered were bright and engaging.  But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor.  He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget.  “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”.  It was a flat-calm statement; stark and frightening, because I knew he meant it.

In this enlightened campus, there was a coldness and a bitterness that I never encountered in the “drug and sex” neighborhoods of San Francisco.  In contrast, this incident in Berkeley was a brazen and committed calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by core intellectuals will fuel this martyrdom to come.

We are in God’s hands.  Obedience is a die-cast, deliberate decision we must make ahead of time.  We can’t just hope to make it work, unless we change.  “Die before you die, and your dying won’t be death”, the old preacher wrote.  This could very well be our cue. Get ready. And “watch and pray.” And die now.

 

 

 

 

 

Post art from The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

The Numbers Don’t Lie: Mental Illness in America

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~Mental Illness in America, 2016

Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.1

When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.2 Even though mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion — about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 — who suffer from a serious mental illness.1

In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada.3 Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time. Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for 2 or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.1

In the U.S., mental disorders are diagnosed based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-V).4

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

  • Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder.1,2
  • The median age of onset for mood disorders is 30 years.5
  • Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders and substance abuse.5

Major Depressive Disorder

  • Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.3
  • Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, 2
  • While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5
  • Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.6

Dysthymic Disorder

  • Symptoms of dysthymic disorder (chronic, mild depression) must persist for at least two years in adults (one year in children) to meet criteria for the diagnosis. Dysthymic disorder affects approximately 1.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, This figure translates to about 3.3 million American adults.2
  • The median age of onset of dysthymic disorder is 31.1

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.1, 2
  • The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.5

Suicide

  • In 2006, 33,300 (approximately 11 per 100,000) people died by suicide in the U.S.7
  • More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.8
  • The highest suicide rates in the U.S. are found in white men over age 85.9
  • Four times as many men as women die by suicide9; however, women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men.10

Schizophrenia

  • Approximately 2.4 million American adults, or about 1.1 percent of the population age 18 and older in a given year,11, 2 have schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia affects men and women with equal frequency.12
  • Schizophrenia often first appears in men in their late teens or early twenties. In contrast, women are generally affected in their twenties or early thirties.12

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and phobias (social phobia, agoraphobia, and specific phobia).

  • Approximately 40 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 18.1 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have an anxiety disorder.1,2
  • Anxiety disorders frequently co-occur with depressive disorders or substance abuse.1
  • Most people with one anxiety disorder also have another anxiety disorder. Nearly three-quarters of those with an anxiety disorder will have their first episode by age 21.5 5

Panic Disorder

  • Approximately 6 million American adults ages 18 and older, or about 2.7 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have panic disorder.1, 2
  • Panic disorder typically develops in early adulthood (median age of onset is 24), but the age of onset extends throughout adulthood.5
  • About one in three people with panic disorder develops agoraphobia, a condition in which the individual becomes afraid of being in any place or situation where escape might be difficult or help unavailable in the event of a panic attack.12

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

  • Approximately 2.2 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 1.0 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have OCD.1, 2
  • The first symptoms of OCD often begin during childhood or adolescence, however, the median age of onset is 19.5

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have PTSD.1, 2
  • PTSD can develop at any age, including childhood, but research shows that the median age of onset is 23 years.5
  • About 19 percent of Vietnam veterans experienced PTSD at some point after the war.13 The disorder also frequently occurs after violent personal assaults such as rape, mugging, or domestic violence; terrorism; natural or human-caused disasters; and accidents.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Approximately 6.8 million American adults, or about 3.1 percent of people age 18 and over, have GAD in a given year.1, 2
  • GAD can begin across the life cycle, though the median age of onset is 31 years old.5
To finish reading this article, you will need to go to its source at:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml  

 

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Today’s Suicide Toll: Put Faces to the Numbers

It’s time to attach faces to numbers. In less than 24 hours, 1577 will commit suicide. If you look closely, you can see faces.

As believers, these are our business. They are God’s business. Be aware of this. And pray.

 

For more valuable information see:

http://www.facebook.com/puttingafaceonsuicide AND http://nami.org/

When You Are Scorned

“My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”  Psalm 42:3, ESV

I have a vivid and clear memory of meeting this well-groomed gentleman walking up the steps of BART in Berkeley.  He was dressed in the sophisticated twill jacket with a vest, and carried a elegant brief case.  I myself, had been preaching on Telegraph Avenue, very close to the open gates of UC Berkeley.  It was a solid and definite ministry, and the thick crowds were quite open to the Gospel.  After our pre-determined time, we shut down and all headed for home.

I was catching the subway back to the Mission district  in downtown San Francisco when I met him coming up the steps.  It was just him and I as we met.  He stopped, and looked at me, very focused and intent.  He then said, “I so wish we could feed you to the lions, again.”  He spoke coldly, and thoughtfully.  It was chilling.

It floored me, as I slowly realized he had no idea of how I spent the last four hours.  Whatever was animating him, it knew what I had been doing.  The amazing part of this, is that he was dressed as a professor, part of the teaching staff at UC Berkeley.  I was impressed initially by his bearing, and just his composure, and all of this seemed to be a  result of a collegiate decorum or a special demeanor.

As I considered this contact with him, I was shakened. He knew who I was, and what I was up to.  I wish that I could tell you that I responded to him, with a precise and zinging word that brought him to salvation. But that was not the case.  I was instantly and deeply deflated, and as I stood there looking directly at him, I felt vulnerable, and perhaps a bit humbled.

But what I was touching was the power of scorn.  It had become a bare wire, that was just there.  But the contact had not just been a ‘shocking’ experience of the moment (which we have so many.)

“3But first you must realize that in the last days some people won’t think about anything except their own selfish desires. They will make fun of you 4and say, “Didn’t your Lord promise to come back.  Yet the first leaders have already died, and the world hasn’t changed a bit.” 2 Peter 3:3-4, CEV

We must deal with an evil (propagated against believers) that scorns the idea of an advancing evil, or a darkness that pursues the believer.  As I think about this, it seems to be like one of those juvenile delinquents who let out the air of four full tires on our car.  We wish it didn’t happen, but we can’t pretend, by looking the other way.

We confront, face-to-face, an evil that twists us, and declares that things are not what they seem to be.  It all comes down to an awareness that our presence has a bit of “transformation” to it.  There will be scorners, those who know the art of mocking our faith.  They specialize in this evil, without fear.

Dear one, don’t let the scorn and mocking of a few malign and then destroy your faith. You have come too far to let this happen.  The vulgar voices shouldn’t sidetrack you or direct you down an evil path.  The scorn from the evil that surrounds you, it can destroy or strengthen you.  Take it as it comes.  Hold on to what is good.