Allowing Yourself to Be Weak

Warning: This post might step on some toes!

Our society has pretty much embraced the American cultural icon of the cowboy.  We revere those who ride alone and hard. We are rugged individualists and hardened men making our own way.  Our society reflects this in subdued ways.  No matter what happens, we are free and independent.  We are ‘desperadoes’–we do whatever we think is best.

This is distinctive to the American sense of being.  We are instilled with a pride and a freedom as our birthright.  John Wayne, the ‘Alamo,’ and the biker with his Harley-Davidson on Route 66 have been our inspiration.  Each are distinctly heroic and carry our hopes and dreams.

But the Bible is not an American book.  A cowboy did not die for our sins (which are many).  The way of discipleship does not take us through Dallas, Texas.  Rather, His Words to us are bold and entirely challenging in an amazingly fresh and different direction.  We are told to wash feet, to repeatedly turn the other cheek, to surrender all our rights, and then take the lowest place there is in every situation.

Jesus is positioned as the Lord over us.  Humility is to become  the way we think and how we act.  We have become slaves to righteousness.  Our vaunted independence has been toppled. The crown has slipped. My wilfulness still wants to stand instead of kneeling. We discover this has been the truth all along.  We have never ever been in control.  He has been the King since before time, and will always be, for an eternity.

“Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness”. They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God”.

Jerry Bridges

I want to pose the following questions.  Are we honestly in a condition of being weak?  Can you serve with a basin and towel?  Is your heart that of a child? Do we see the world through the ‘lens’ of a soft and broken spirit?

Our churches often struggle often over issues of pride and stubbornness.  There is often little gentleness and brokenness to be seen.  We still see ourselves as independent, and we call our own shots.  I wonder if the lordship of Christ is even considered.  We may consider it noble to be a Christian, but our lives are not discipled.  (And they are not likely to be until God breaks us of our independence.)  It’s called, ‘the spirit of the age.’

“Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom.”

Elisabeth Elliot

 

I write these things surveying my own life.  Self will and my hard heart fit ‘hand-and-glove’ with being that desperado.  I ride alone, making my own way, and I don’t make any disciples. I jettison my cross— my cross of discipleship.  I serve no one, unless it suits me.  Am I His disciple, or am I a man of my own?  Is He my lord, or have I decided to claim that right for myself? We must decide these things.

I only hope I have spoken the truth today. Forgive me if I offended.

“Lord, I am willing to receive what You give, to lack what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to suffer what You inflict, to be what You require.”  Amen.

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In Love with a Lion

 

“I will not leave you alone. You are mine.  I know each of my sheep by name.  You belong to Me.  If you think I am finished with you, if you think I am a small god, that you can keep at a safe distance, I will pounce on you like a roaring lion, tear you to pieces, rip you to shreds, and break every bone in your body.  Then I will mend you, cradle you in my arms, and kiss you tenderly.”

Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb

God stalks us.  He never lets up.  We can never, never out run Him.  A popular 182 line poem, from a generation ago, was called “The Hound of Heaven“.  It described a person being pursued by God. This is part of it.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated.

                                        –by Francis Thompson

The very remarkable thing is not our prodigal hearts; rather it is the amazing love the Father has by chasing us.  Jesus is consistently reckless about capturing us, and making us his own.  His love is like a homing mechanism in a missile shot at us that defies our escape.  We can weave and dodge all we want, but we have been targeted, and He is coming for us.

The way we talk and posture, it as if it is us that does the choosing.  I’m not saying we don’t to a degree.  But the Bible paints God in a different light.  He initiates, and He chooses.  He superintends our life, choreographing our movements.  If you remember the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis it will support this reasoning.

My Bipolar depression and Hepatitis C issues did not thwart or nullify Jesus’ love and will for me.  I can’t point at them as reasons not to be his follower.  He is not intimidated by my medical condition. My brain tumor and the death of my daughter didn’t phase Him. It’s just they are merely physical footnotes to the story of my life.

We opened with a Brennan Manning quote. He observes that life with Jesus will involve being torn to pieces and such.  He will not complacently love us, He just isn’t fond of you because you’re sort of a likable person.  His love is rough, and savage and furious.  He is quite tempestuous and intractable.  He won’t let go.  Your issues are probably not as significant as you think.

If you’re depressed, manic, paranoid or delusional you can still surrender to Jesus.  These are not your identity, they are not permanent. Yes, I get depressed and have incredible issues with anxiety.  I have a hand tremor almost all the time.  And I can get really paranoid.  But, I am his follower–first and foremost.

Let Him love you today.  His kind of love will heal you completely.

He will seize you and draw you close. You will find the rest you seek leaning on Him.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, NLT

 

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.” 

 J.I. Packer

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The complete text of the “Hound of Heaven” can be found at:  http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-hound-of-heaven/

Instability and the Believer

I feel good, too good— and it concerns me.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I’veBipolarArt4 been down this road before.  I guess this is my big issue with Bipolar Disorder (BP);  its unpredictability, the way you  fluctuate.  You get up in the morning and you immediately have to start analyzing your mood.  “Am I more depressed than I was yesterday, or I am speeding up?”  For  BP persons we never can be too sure.  We are always in a state of flux or movement.  As BPs who are believers in Jesus, it seems like we have broke “every rule in the book.” This disorder almost demands hypocrisy– which instills a lot of guilt and shame.

About 25 years ago, a visiting pastor to our church came up to me and prophesied. This was long before I was diagnosed with Bipolar.   I can’t remember much, but I do recall him saying, “You are as unstable as water”.  I tell you, I was quite concerned about this; and to make it worse I put a real negative spin on it.  It was stability that we emulated, and frankly, water is not the best metaphor to describe your life.  Rock, yes.  Water, well… not so much.

But I can see now that instability has made me a deeper, more tolerant person.  I give a lot of latitude to other’s shortcomings.  I know how difficult it is to process life and to face issues.  Because I do this “yo-yo” thing, I can accept inconsistency as a normal part of life.  I realize that I’m not perfect, nor is anyone else I know, but I’m learning to make allowances for it.  Sometimes, just being aware is half the battle. And I suppose, understanding God’s grace would be the other.

On a practical level, I’ve also determined that caffeine really can activate me.  The anxiety and mania really intensifies when I load up on my ‘vanilla lattes.’  Coffee elevates me up almost to the point of being superhuman, but I also get real flaky.  I get terribly self-conscious and paranoid.  But, sometimes it’s a real hoot!  (Sorry, but man, I do love my coffee.)

Well, I’m running out of things to comment about, and I’m thinking that I’ve said quite enough.  But, if you’re struggling today, please let me know.  I will pray for you and connect back on some level.  Whatever your issue, we are in this together.  God answers everyone who calls to Him. 

12 “And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”

Philippians 1:12-14, NLT

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kyrie elesion.

Loved, but Definitely Broken

For everyone who loves Jesus, but yet has had an experience of terrible loss, sickness or the death of a loved one…this blog is for you.bryondeck-2

I am evangelical, a former pastor, and a Bible college instructor. I am also Bipolar I, and a bit of paranoia and delusional thinking. I have been hospitalized in mental hospitals seven times in 10 years.  But, I love Jesus more than anything. And I’ve been told by many, who insist that He loves me as well.

I have experienced the darkest and most crippling depressions.  There are some weeks (months?) I could not get out of bed, shower or even eat.  For this Bipolar, I must take Lithium, Zoloft, and Zyprexa.  These meds hold me in place. I’m being treated for a seizure disorder, and have had surgery to remove a tumor in my brain. I now walk with a cane. On top of this I have Hepatitis C (just to make it more interesting, I guess.)

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (1 Corinthians 1:3).

This blog is geared for the mentally ill believer, the terminally ill, habitual sinners and all who are confused and dismayed by their own brokenness. But you don’t need a diagnosis to read this blog.

It seems like failures— the feeble, lame, sick, blind, sinners and mentally ill have not always been welcome in the Church. I think that is about to change. But, I’m honestly convinced that it has been the churches’ loss. How is the Church ever going to learn to love the unlovely without us to ‘train’ them? We the disabled are sprinkled into each fellowship to tutor through our illnesses.

The church need not look to new ‘fund raising ideas’ or to pave the parking lot, it just needs to reach out to the broken– one at a time.  I think God will bless every church who will this. This is the work and passion of Jesus. This is what Jesus’ church looks like. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10.)

The Church needs us, whether it realizes it or not.  It is as broken people that we model our fallenness as the paradigm to intimacy with Jesus.  

We often are the first to know that it has never been about our giftedness, but our intimacy. 

We are a witness, a tangled but tangible reminder, of how God’s grace gives His power to the weak and despised. (2 Cor. 2.)

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.” –Mike Yaconelli

“For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:13.)

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Mathew 11:28-30.)

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All scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation.