Battle Scars

knight

It is a bad habit to try to teach without personal knowledge. We can preach, but we do not possess. This is one of the occupational hazards of those of us in our profession. It seems to carry a horrible curse of spiritual sterility, that the wise believer ultimately sees.

It’s been 11 years since a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 was made. I believe I was BP in my teens. Life is a roller-coaster for me, up and down, with a twist or two along the way. I am now fairly aware at 53 that much of my earthly existence  has already been lived. Life can become such a grind. I’m tired and broken, and ready for eternity.

“One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.”

Henry Ward Beecher

Billy Bray (a bearer of an unfortunate name) was an illiterate Cornish evangelist in the 1850s. He was heard to pray this: “Lord, if any have to die this day, let it be me, for I am ready.” By faith, I do understand these sentiments. I am ready to go as well.

I love collecting good quotes. (I also have a site at http://www.CrossQuotes.org.) But here’s two more good ones:

“God buries His workmen but carries on His work.”   -Charles Wesley

“If we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a “wandering to find home,” why should we not look forward to the arrival?”  – C.S. Lewis

Sorry if I’m being maudlin. But the battle is so long, and it doesn’t ever let up, does it? We all can become weary after a while. What we need is to be ‘shut in’ with the Lord. The Word reminds us:

Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”  (Acts 14:22)

“Tribulations” are common, and each must battle through them. And without being melodramatic, we each must walk through the blazing furnace. But I can also boldly attest that there is more than enough grace for each of us. We just need to become desperate enough. (Which shouldn’t be too hard).

Armor is given. Wearing it means you’ll survives (and thrive) to see another day. Those who may suggest that the Christian life is a “bed of roses,” I would say that they haven’t read Ephesians 6. If there is no war, why would the Holy Spirit tell us to put it on?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11).

We are starting to finally learn we must fall in love with Jesus. He receives us with a massive kind of love. And His mercy meets us at every doubtful corner. You have His Word on it. Simply ask Him to come to you. 

*

Kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

Don’t Be Scared: Psalm 143

Psalm 143:

A Prayer Not to Be Killed, or Something Worse

 A psalm of David.

 1 Lord, hear my prayer;
listen to my cry for mercy.
Answer me
because you are loyal and good.
 

The writer stressing the truth that God listens.  A listening God is a God of wonder.  Elijah on Mt. Carmel had focused the people on a hearing God who was the real God.  The psalmist here reveals his trust in the inherent goodness of God.   He listens, He never ever puts His phone on call-forwarding.

2 Don’t judge me, your servant,
       because no one alive is right before you.

We are all in the same boat– we are sinners.  The writer doesn’t need to be convinced of this.  All he can do is appeal to God. He knows his place though–a servant of the Lord.  He understands that he is what he is.  (He accepts what is real, and doesn’t try to pretend otherwise. Some will try to ‘fake it.’)

3 My enemies are chasing me;
       they crushed me to the ground.
    They made me live in darkness
       like those long dead.
 4 I am afraid;
       my courage is gone.

We all have enemies.  They are the satanic evil spirits that are the wholesalers of evil, and its devices, and they mean to harm us.  The writer feels the pursuit, and these sinister antagonists get close enough to strike at him.  He confesses fear.   His life has been far too influenced by their dark ministry.  He is being pressed to the point of being overwhelmed.

  5 I remember what happened long ago;
I consider everything you have done.
I think about all you have made.
6 I lift my hands to you in prayer.
As a dry land needs rain, I thirst for you.  Selah

The psalmist has a spiritual history to ponder.  He thinks of all the past events and draws out his strength.  The Father has led us through all of them. God ‘remembers’ in the truest sense of the word.  Verse 6 declares his proper response to v. 5.  David’s hands reach up; he imagines himself to be a desert–dry and desolate.

 7 Lord, answer me quickly,
       because I am getting weak.
    Don’t turn away from me,
       or I will be like those who are dead.
 

The writer has evaluated his situation, he is weak and he is dying. His spiritual pulse is “weak and thready.”  This seems to be a deteriorating condition.  He is discerning enough however to draw conclusions.  Doctors tell us that hearing is the last faculty to depart a dying man.  Perhaps to a spiritual man discernment is the last to go.  Somehow we know what the truth is until we are completely senile (spiritually, that is).

 8 Tell me in the morning about your love,
       because I trust you.
    Show me what I should do,
       because my prayers go up to you.

The writer affirms his personal connections to the Lord.  Love should be an intimate word, saturated with hope and a future.  This love comes as a result of trust/faith (the word, “because” is key).  The psalmist requests help for his particular situation.  He sees his prayers, like arrows reaching heaven.

 9 Lord, save me from my enemies;
       I hide in you.
 10 Teach me to do what you want,
       because you are my God.
    Let your good Spirit
       lead me on level ground.

Save me…teach me…lead me.  A ‘triune aspect’ of the Spirit’s work.  Each believer can realize this ministry.  He is like a bodyguard, a tutor, and a professional guide to each of us.  Verse 10: “level ground”; nothing is harder on a tired soldier then marching on hilly terrain.  Flat and level is the best, and its not wrong to ask for an easier path.   Sometimes we stumble because we haven’t asked for level ground.

11 Lord, let me live
so people will praise you.
In your goodness
save me from my troubles.
12 In your love defeat my enemies.
Destroy all those who trouble me,
because I am your servant.
    

This should be the cry of the Christian heart–let me be an example that will lead others to worship.  Let me be a reason to them to sing, and give you glory.  Notice that God’s goodness is specifically pointed out to be the starting point for salvation. “Since He is good, I will be saved”.  In verse 12 we are reminded that out of that matrix of love, God can conquer.  “God so loved the world”…John 3:16.  Love is the reason, and not just a vague, general sense of love but a love that rolls up its sleeves and jumps in and pounds my enemies.

 Text taken from New Century Version (NCV) The Holy Bible, New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

If this post has been a blessing to you, and you would like me to do more of this, won’t you let me know.  Thanks!

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The Modern Tax-Collector

Pharisee-and-Publican

Luke 18:9-14, ESV

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Essentially it would seem, that there are only two kinds of people, (which simplifies things.)  On the right stands the religious man, who has confided  in a level of righteousness that he deems adequate.  But his sin is multi-faceted.  A big chunk has to do with how he perceives others in comparison to himself.  He often despises those who are failures, losers, and criminals.  He points to them only to bolster his own standing. It generates his own feelings of religiousness.

Too many churches have become places were Pharisees come together to congratulate themselves.  These men and women do not operate from brokenness and humility.  They know nothing of tears over their sin.  But they pat themselves on their back because of their progress in the ways of God.  Life seems so wonderful in our churches.  We leave the service comfortably encouraged in our self-righteousness.

The tax-collectors of this world are its drunks, addicts, mentally ill, and the losers.  They stand afar off. And they don’t even have the energy or confidence to turn to God.  They know exactly what they have done, and understand perfectly that they are less then zero.  There is such a gap between these two men, and it has only deepened to this present situation.

Where are the bipolar, the schizophrenic, the person with OCD in our churches?  For that matter, where has is the unwed mother, the crack addict, and the homosexual gone?  I will tell you where, they are “standing afar off”People with ugly secrets and intense issues are often scared to death by religious people.

Please be aware. I didn’t intend for this to be a hard word.  But many of the “rascals” of the Church have gone missing!  We must seek them out and bring them home.  The sinner very often needs our encouragement to “come and dine” with Jesus. The last verse of Jesus’ parable sums up the lesson–

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:14

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A Masked Brokenness

mask by Lucian Coman
mask by Lucian Coman

“The great weakness in the North American church at large, and certainly in my life, is our refusal to accept our brokenness. We hide it, evade it, gloss over it. We grab for the cosmetic kit and put on our virtuous face to make ourselves admirable to the public. Thus, we present to others a self that is spiritually together, superficially happy, and lacquered with a sense of self-deprecating humor that passes for humility. The irony is that while I do not want anyone to know that I am judgmental, lazy, vulnerable, screwed up, and afraid, for fear of losing face, the face that I fear losing is the mask of the impostor, not my own!”

Brennan Manning, “Ruthless Trust

How did we ever get to this point?  We are often controlled by our shortcomings and flaws, unable (or unwilling) to present our real selves to our friends and family.  Admittedly, we have for the most part done a bang-up job.  We have fooled a lot of people, well, maybe not all of them, but we gave it our best shot.

For millenniums, masks have been used for two reasons:

  1. to hide the true character, (“you can’t see me”)
  2. to present or display a new one, (“this is what I want you to see”)

We probably are not trying to deceive intentionally, (or, maybe we just are?)  Often, when I attend my church, I get ‘righteous and holy’ all of a sudden.  Admittedly, it’s a nice change from the sin, depression and apathy; and it has the added benefit of getting the “praise of men” from my friends!

Manning calls this “the great weakness of the Church”.  I’m not all together certain this is the case.  But I do know that the Church is disabled and handicapped.  It doesn’t seem to “mount up wings as eagles” (Isa. 40).  It often lacks that supernatural ability to soar that characterizes the person who has waited on the Lord.

I honestly don’t want to be critical.  But we are missing so much by continuing to perpetuate our transcendence over others.  We meticulously prepare the outer man for personal contact with the world.  Put the “best foot forward” and hide all that is not acceptable.  When we do this, we become very much like the pharisee. (There! I finally said it).

This my prayer for you,  dear reader is this: “May all your expectations be frustrated, may all your plans be thwarted, may all your desires be withered into nothingness, that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is the Father, Son and Spirit.”

~Brennan Manning

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