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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From a Mental Hospital Ward

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”

Psalm 143:3

Some time ago,  I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me.  They would take me of shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers.  Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket,  I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.

I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people.  Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur.  There was a real awareness of unreality.  I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect.  Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing.  But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating.  They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things  And, besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.

Days rolled by, quite slowly.  The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison.  You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth.  You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait.  You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly.  The other patients were equally disturbed.  There was a great variety among them.  One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical.  He almost shorted out their computer.

In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me.  I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost.  I paced, and I remained confused.  I was most definitely in an ugly place.  Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go.  A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.

If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair,  and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released.  And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go.  They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.

It’s worse when you have a family.  In my case it was my wife, and two small children.  This at times, would twist my heart.  I would get a very short phone call, once a week.  But this was quite difficult.  I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call.  Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness.  I was very much affected.  Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.

Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing.  And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing.  Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget.  The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live.  But God will bring good out of this. This I know.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.”

Micah 7:8

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Covering the Sin We Encounter

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:7-8, ESV

 “The time is near when all things will end. So think clearly and control yourselves so you will be able to pray. 8 Most importantly, love each other deeply, because love will cause people to forgive each other for many sins.”

1 Peter 4:7-8, NLT

Same verse, but two translations. There is a need for urgency, an intense decisiveness that needs to be woven into our lives.  Peter understands this.  He engages the church with a deep pressing.  He carries a cruciality and a demand due to the imminence of the return of Jesus.  Clear thinking and self-control are our basic responses to His arrival. Buttressing and enhancing our faith with these will reward us profoundly.

The Bible clearly teaches us of the sudden and imminent return of Jesus Christ.  And yet, in spite of this solid reality, we repeatedly struggle, and short-circuit the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We might be just sabotaging the Kingdom unintentionally. If we keep looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along,” couldn’t the opposite be  just as true? (2 Peter 3:12.) Might we ‘delay’ His return by our disobedience? (Just thinking out-loud here folks.)

Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming, so both testaments are filled with references to the second coming of Christ. One scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to Christ’s second coming in the Old Testament, where 17 books give it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second advent of Christ – an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first advent (Christmas), there are eight which look forward to His second coming!

As we try to wrap our minds and hearts around this blazing reality, we must also deal with our personal disobedience.  Often there is a ‘co-morbidity’ to deal within our own sin.  What I mean is that sin and rebellion develop in our hearts in “layers.”  Seldom do you just deal with one issue.  It’s more like a “gang” tackle, followed with a “monkey pile.” Sin isn’t just an act– it is a jumble– a way of living.

The two keys to really understand this passage– energetic prayer, and a covering love.

This new intensity and clarity in our thinking affects our “prayer life.”  We see things differently, and we pray for things alertly.  We start “reading between the lines.”  We examine everything, looking for clues.  We are to grow “sleuthy,” observant detectives watching everything.  A widening of the pupils, inflections of the voice, someone’s posture, a way they use/choose their words– we are being trained to see, inside.

There is a form of love called “agape.”  It is to define us, and we operate out it.  This agape is amazing.  It is a love that is destined to suffer, and die for the one being loved.  It covers, and protects.  When it is present, it will choose to cover the sin that it encounters.  Agape is the way God treats us.  It is now how we grow up and to treat others. Incidentally, it has very little to do with emotion– maybe in a secondary way.

This idea of “love as a covering” is pretty amazing.  Implementing it will alter all that it touches.  And seeing alertly will bring an exceptional discernment to all we touch. We each have two needs.

The first is for forgiveness.

The second is to be changed for the better.

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