I Want Home

second-coming

‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”                                                                                  

Jeremiah 32:17, ESV

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

Henry Ward Beecher

I have never been there, except in a stuttering way on my knees in the Lord’s presence.  From there it is like climbing a mountain, and breaking through at the summit.  It is an astonishing awareness of home.  It is where I belong.  He wants me there.

But most of the time, I’m slogging through the peanut-butter of everyday reality.  It’s ‘scootch-slide-scootch’ most of the time.  But I recall my last trip up, so I hold on to that fragrant memory, and it is a tremendous relief to think about his presence.

I want home.  I can’t wait.  I hope he’s not disappointed in me, or disturbed by the fact that I have made such little progress.  The depression and despondency will slough off its skin like a snake.  I will know true freedom.  This is a sure thing.

I want home.  The presence of Jesus is waiting.  All of the knots will be worked out.  The dark burdens that nip at my heels will disappear.  This change is going to be powerful, and most certainly dramatic, and I want home.

For those of us who believe, we will arrive at a place of profound blessing.  We will squint back at our life on earth, and wonder what it was all about.  A hundred thousand years from now it will seem like a difficult dream which we really can’t remember upon waking.

We will be moving toward him.  There will be a magnetism that will exert its pull on our wandering hearts.  He will draw us to himself.  Guilt and shame, which has deeply infected us will be eradicated.  Sometimes, when people train to run they will wear “training weights,” creating more of a burden that has to be overcome.  In that way heaven can be understood, for we have spent over 50 years training for that place.

We come into all of this like a man who has been lost in the desert. Without water, we stumble into what looks like a watery oasis, and we find a refreshing relief.  We have been “saved” from a certain death.  When we consider what has happened, and how the superheated desert almost destroyed us, we will marvel, and that quite often.  Each one there will have a story of failure and faith, and we will listen and than tell our story as well.

What has to be stated, and restated, is the astonishing presence of Jesus in that place.  Not only in our thinking, but in a real concrete way.  Heaven is not an ethereal thing.  It is solid and strong.  We don’t imagine heaven, instead we are pounded by it.  It is more real than real, with a solidity that we will find most refreshing.

Hold on guys, keep your crown.  Don’t let anyone snatch it from you.  Advance into his presence, and let him do his stuff on you.  He loves you, far more than you love him.  He is pursuing you more than you are pursuing him.  Somehow that is quite comforting.  I want home!

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When Brutality Smashes Into Grace

photo, by Jonny Jelnek- Flickr
photo, by Jonny Jelnek- Flickr

“Or God disciplines people with pain on their sickbeds,
with ceaseless aching in their bones.” 

Job 33:19, NLT

“Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.  Your greatest ministry will most likely come out of your greatest hurt.” 

Rick Warren

There really is not anything I can say about your pain that will make you feel better.  Words and counsel are almost always pathetically weak. Many will want to speak to you, they mean well, but seem to lack authenticity and wisdom.

Pain, in every way is always evil and dark.  I have friends who struggle with migraines, and others with Lou Gehrig disease.  A few friends have been incredibly injured, with bad disabilities.  Some have severe diabetes and one has a degenerative hip syndrome.  A dear elderly saint is in her later stages of Alzheimer’s. One of my friends has cerebral palsy. I had very close friend who just died with colon cancer.  Pain has been a constant companion to them. It is a definite issue.  And yet, there are also terrible mental disorders– and vicious schizophrenia, depression, and frightening paranoia that cripples them, they need medication.

We who hurt deeply, have an option of growing into gentle people.  Gentleness is not a given, in so many ways it is earned.  Not in the sense of attaining something, but “experiencing” something.  Our pain drips down on us while we sleep, and we discover we start caring about others, which is new.  Tears of love, mercy and grace begin to flow, often coming after years of stoic hardness.

“Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings.” 

Exodus 3:7

Having to live for the rest of your normal life with this pain can be horrifying, and incomprehensible.

God’s grace does meet us, we find.  But there are some moments of empty desperation.  So few understand, and even fewer can help.  Some have asked me if I had the faith to be healed.  But, doesn’t it take just as much faith to be ill? Think about it.

If you had never known afflictions in your own life, how do you think that you can touch those ‘nail-scarred’ hands which Jesus meets you with?  And the apostles, and all those martyrs from every generation in an unbroken line of suffering.  Grace grows considerably faster from a bed of pain.  It has our Father’s “Miracle Grow” in it.

Some should try to readjust themselves.  Faith doesn’t always lead us to sweet victory; but it does lead us to obedience.  And when it grows this way, sometimes victory will come.  But our Father places such a premium price on our obedience.  When we hurt, we grow.

“Ah, afflicted one, your disabilities were meant to unite with God’s enablings, your weakness to combine with His power. God’s grace is at hand –sufficient– and at its best when human weakness is most profound. Appropriate it and learn that those who wait on God are stronger in their weakness than the sons of men in their stoutest health and vigor.”

F.B. Meyer

“He who learns must suffer
And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget
Falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until in our own despair, against our will,
Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

Aeschylus

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Loyalty to Our Friends

Completely Loyal

“Loyalty and truth preserve the king,
         And he upholds his throne by righteousness.” 

Prov. 20:28

 “Through these fields of destruction, baptism of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering, as the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad, in the fear and alarm
You did not desert me, my brothers in arms”

Dire Straits, ’84

Loyalty, and our deep committment to our “brothers” and our “sisters” should be growing in your life right now.  It should be “escorting” you to a deeper sense of intimacy with each other.  About 20 years ago, I visited a Lutheran church on a Sunday service.  There was a point in the liturgy when you were to greet the people around you.  I remember grabbing a guy in the pew in front of me.  I gave him a massive bear hug, squeezing the air from him.  He was my brother, even though he was a stranger!  I hung on tight to him.  He was my brother.

In Bible times David and Jonathan had a friendship that defied political reasoning.  Jonathan was supposed to be the next king of Judah, everything had been arranged by his father, Saul.  But when David came into Jonathan’s life, everything was changed.  An instant friendship changed everything.  They would remain loyal to each other for the rest of their lives. I believe they are a model of what we are to each other, in the church.

I will confess to you, I have neglected so much in my spiritual walk.  There is a lot I am ashamed of. I have sinned more as a Christian, than I ever did before I came to Christ.   As a Christian, I have sinned quite vigorously.  But one thing, I have held to beyond all else.  I loved my brothers.  They all know who they are!  I can list them if you want.  But in the final analysis, I have been faithful to them.  I’m pretty stupid, in so many ways.  But it seems that at this particular level, things are simplified.  “Do you love, Allen?  Of course I do, Father: even if he is in a strange and difficult place, I love my brother; always, and forever.”

Loyalty to those who have been brought into our lives, should not ever be diminished or explained away for what we call “logical reasons.”  There should be a connection that should never, ever be terminated.  Some of the brothers who I connected to in the ’80s, are no longer serving the Lord.  But as I think of them, there is a relationship that can’t be broken, even by their disobedience.  I still love them deeply.

Being loyal to someone, does not mean you honor their choices, or their sin.  It seems that the issues they grapple with, can’t ever really erode or diminish your love for them.  When I was a boy, on occasion we declared a “blood” oath with each other.  It was almost “ceremonial,” we would cut our thumbs and meld with each other, mixing blood with blood.  If only commitment and loyalty were that easy.  But this is the definition of an “agape love.”

I believe the Holy Spirit sees, and honors loyalty.  But I admit, I’m not doing this things for His blessing.  Rather it is a compulsion, something I know is right; something I will do until they bury me.  And I honestly can’t explain it. But they will always be  my “brothers in arms.”

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When Life is Dark and Heaven is Quiet

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God’s people have always had to wrestle with the things from the dark.  We are in a permanent state of war.  There has never been an armistice or treaty signed to my knowledge.  Each of us are in the front lines.  The devil has been practicing with a deadly form of “spiritual terrorism.”  And he terrorizes many with his posturing and manipulation.

Life can get quite oh so dark, and desperately bleak.  Many of us who struggle with a mental illness have been made very much aware of this situation.  No one needs to educate us about the dark nightmare that is come.  We know what has happened, in the ‘here and now.’

Over a couple of millennium, God’s covenant people have been harmed and harassed.  Enemies are constantly manipulating and twisting–in a very serious way, mind you.

“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”

John 3:19, NLT

God has not been silent.  And He certainly has not been passive.  As we read our Bibles (and let our Bibles read us) our faith becomes a bit like teflon.  Nothing can stick to us; even though so much is thrown at us.  When life is really dark, and terribly bleak, we can protect ourselves and others and avoid an ugly spiritual injury.

There are times when we can sense nothing. Sometimes heaven is silent. But I believe, it is never, ever disinterested.  We can read in our Bibles, Hebrews 12:1, (ESV.)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

I believe each of us has an audience.  Some say that this can’t be so.  And I do admit that there is a bit of a challenge here.  But if we look at the other parts of this verse, we simply can’t nullify the first part.  We must take the whole verse at “face value.”  We are not theologians, we are simple disciples.  He knows this.  He simplifies things in order to help us understand.  He has little reason to complicate things for us.

I believe that we are “surrounded” by saints from all ages.  They see in us a faith that justifies us.  And I must admit, that helps me.  I am part of a continuum.  I now know that my simple faith, must always pass the test of discouragement.

But now the torch is passed, and now I must run with it faithfully and honestly.  And when all is so dark, and things seem far too quiet, I still intend to hold up that torch and carry it all the way to my Father’s house.

_____________________

“There was a castle called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair.”

John Bunyan, “Pilgrims Progress”

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