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Some Christmas Advice

Christmas

 is my favorite time of the year. 

I grew up in the northern part of Wisconsin, and my most valuable and tenderest recollections are my Christmases.  I was raised in a Norwegian Lutheran church, (Think: Lutefisk.). Many memories flow from that; the cold, the snow and the tree, and the presents.  I’m a ‘wealthy’ man through all of these great memories.

Even when it was bad, it was still very good.

I remember our annual Nativity play at Church. I fondly remember the sticky, caramel-covered ‘popcorn ball’ each one of us would get from the church ladies’ aid.  I also remember a very bleak Christmas when there was no money to be had for presents. A local charity came through at the last minute with gifts. I was profoundly touched by all of this, and more. 

But I have no real way of instilling any of this in you. 

However, I do exhort you to go out of your way to minister to the young hearts you have contact with.  Help them believe.  Make it easy for them to touch the miracle of the manger.  Let them leave your company yearning for  God’s presence in their day. 

It won’t take much, maybe keen imagination on your part and humble prayer.  But those things you do may spark, ignite and become a blaze that will direct them through their lives.  Be kinder than you need to be. Purposefully do something that will impact them, even small things often carry an astonishingly strong influence.

You may be in the thick of it.

Just maybe you have lost the purpose and meaning of this day. But I’m pretty sure any failure isn’t permanent. But at least, try to do as much as you’re able. Let Linda and I pray for you this season. Email us, please.

A Lutefisk History – Lutefisk Recipe 

 

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Clearing Your Head

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

     Philip Yancey

There are going to be times when things become exceptionally clear to you.  

Those moments burst into our muddled thinking and bring crystal clarity to us.  It doesn’t happen very often, but through it, we start to see something in our present situation.  Its icy water splashed into our sleepy faces.  It completely adjusts us and we are launched into a startling awareness of our hearts, minds, and relationships.

To the mentally ill, it verges on not quite enough (but sometimes it is) when we are brought into this place.  Alert and awake, we are ushered into a certain sense of what is real, and what isn’t.  Change often hinges on this special discernment; it truly is an amazing work of the Holy Spirit.  We discover we can’t change ourselves, but the Spirit is the only one who can.  

The Bible and its promises are soaked with His power. 

There is a certain hope and security that comes from His restoration of our mixed-up lives. His work is quite exceptional, for He is an Artisan. However,  we will never be happy or at peace if we refuse.  And if we decide poorly we will get stuck inside a deep loneliness, and failure– the realization of being cast aside.

It’s scary, but so much is based on what we decide in these chosen times. 

Depression and darkness will continue to pelt us.  But there is no other authentic shelter to be found!  Through our stubbornness and pride, we will be soaked through and through.  But even in this dejected state, we can still decide to harden our hearts. If we do not choose Him, we will stumble in our own darkness and sin. This is a miserable place, I have been there. Trust me, I understand completely.

We dare not let the darkness we face confuse us. 

We most certainly should not let this happen. On just a volitional basis (thinking) we must not let the darkness reassert itself into our lives.  We are delivered by what the Lord Jesus has done for us.  He shepherds us through a darkness that is quite convoluted and complex. (Think— being lost in a minefield at night.)

It advances on us and so many can’t resist its strength.  But being mentally ill is not something that someone can just decide on, it is real and carries a poison that few can resist.  Any odd romanticism of “being a tragically wounded poet” is so foolish, and dangerous.

But the truth is, we have Someone who has volunteered to be our Savior and advocate.

He will speak on our behalf.  He alone can escort us through this terrible darkness.  Without His voice, we can’t defend ourselves, and we will just deceive ourselves. We are desperately sick, and He is the only cure.

If you are presently struggling, I would tell you that you have a home.  It is a place of acceptance and assurance.  The cost of depression and delusion can’t even come close to matching even the simplicity and basic place of just being a “minor” disciple of Jesus Christ.

But no matter what has happened, He has been pursuing you, in a deep hope you will respond to Him.  

I exhort you to embrace this love and trust Him, even when it gets very hard.  But no matter what happens, don’t ever give up.

 

 

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Trapped in a Mental Illness

daily-grind

“I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am like one without strength.”

Psalm 88:4

In May 2011, this is what I wrote–

“I feel like I am going through a meat grinder. Pushed against my will (and desire) I’m finding myself in a place I’d rather not be. My therapist confirmed today that I’m in a “mixed state” where bipolar mania and depression come together.  I suppose you might compare it to two massive ocean currents smashing into each other. In the midst of all this strange crap, I know that Jesus helps those who can no longer hold on by gritty determination.

flourish14

Severe depression, yes. But there is also the grandiosity that comes with bipolar. I believe that I think clearer, better, and faster than other people. It’s like I have superpowers.  I will think of myself as extremely gifted, superior to others.  I paint and write poetry and do “noble” things. (I’m working on jumping over buildings.)

But I also have tremendous anxiety, with racing thoughts, and even heart palpitations esp. when I am sitting trying to relax. I don’t sleep well at all, in spite of the sleeping pill, the Klonopin and the melatonin, and the Benadryl, (to make sure I do sleep.)

The endless cycle of feeling really good and then really bad is challenging. 

It’s difficult to have a regular walk of discipleship under these circumstances.  I think being starkly honest and broken over my own fallenness is the key for me. (Now if I can only remember this.)

I continue to take my meds like a good boy. But they don’t seem to work like they used to. I think they can’t handle this particular concoction of depression/mania.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m getting better, but I never seem to get well!

I know that I’m being blunt here. (Tact has never been an easy thing for me!) As I read I remember the struggle, and how I couldn’t see a way out. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit who led me when no one else could. 

I wrote this post some time ago and decided that it needed to repost.

I’ve been reasonably stable, and I’ve been in a better frame of mind for the last several months. I covet my time alone with God. He heals me. I’ve been captured by Jesus’ love; I know He shelters me with His love. I can live with that.

You must trust Him, and soak up His promises.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

Romans 5:6

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Understanding Your Pastor

PASTORING

I think that most of us in the Church fail to get a real grip on what pastoring is all about. And that is sad and bad. Not only do we stunt our pastor’s growth, but we cripple ourselves, and flunk some important spiritual lessons.

Three things (there are more, believe me)–

1) Our pastors are sinners.

Surprise! They are just like you and me– definitely not superheroes and certainly not always saintly. They will have their moments and struggles. We really need to understand this to fully receive from their giftings. Just knowing this about them, prepares us to receive deeply and sincerely from their ministries. It seems that their own battles work a brokenness and humility within.

2) Our pastors need to be prayed for.

What they do is probably one of the hardest, most challenging work on planet Earth. The good pastors know this. But they still wade courageously into the thick of things. Our real prayers can buttress and stabilize their lives. They substantially encounter the darkness and do warfare for us. Most have a family to pray for, but they also have a Church they must cover too. A local pastor must have active intercessors, or they will certainly stumble and fall.

Read the story of Moses and his intercessors.

3) Our pastors must be empowered by the Holy Spirit.

God’s work must be done His way. And He repeatedly insists they be filled with the Spirit. They receive power right from the true source. Again, Jesus, the True Shepherd gives power and wisdom and grace for each singular moment. A good pastor over time and much prayer– develops discernment and an awareness for his flock. He learns to love them as he watches over them.

Much, much more could be written. There are so many facets to ponder. I only want to encourage you to love and honor your pastor. When you do this, it will probably activate the gift, and fresh ministry will become available. Real work will be done, inside of you and inside your pastor.

“Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Jeremiah 23:4, NLT

ybic, Bryan

5

My Pastor, David and Karen Taylor, CCC, Homer Alaska

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Psalm for My Savior

Psalm 116:7 – painted canvas, melodyjoy1983, http://www.etsy.com

This poem is written in the pantoum form and is based on Psalm 116, which is my favorite Psalm. I find that the repetition of lines in this form lends itself well to Christian poetry of lament and praise. I hope you are blessed by this offering.

Psalm for My Savior

For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death
The anguish of death and darkness entangled me
I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue

The anguish of death and darkness entangled me
My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me
Praise my God, my Savior who came to my rescue
Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep

My eyes filled with tears, my feet stumbled under me
The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy
Rescued me from my trouble, sorrow, and darkness deep
Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep

The Lord, my God, heard my cry for love and mercy
He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul
Now I know His grace and mercy are mine to keep
I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus

He saw the anguished turmoil of my broken soul
I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!”
I will forever praise His glorious name, Jesus
For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death

Please check Linda’s site. It’s always a blessing!

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Trials Come With Great Purpose

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NKJV

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

 Alan Redpath

“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.

Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.

This only reveals their brilliance. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.

The signs surrounding God’s nearness are available to each believer. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father.

Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.

Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you.

 

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Proximity is Your Choice, So Choose

He is Faithful to You

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
   you hold my right hand.
 You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
 

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73, ESV

Continuity is a medicine for us who are always on the edge of losing control. 

One patriarch in the Book of Genesis was told that “he was unstable as water.” And this pretty much describes me as I struggle with depression.  But the promise from Psalm 73 is for a continuous presence.  There is no flickering, no jumping about.  He is steady.  He does not flit or fluctuate. 

He is always, and forever, constantly, focused on you.

He provides guidance, free of charge.  We can experience many confusing days.  We make the attempt to walk through them, but we quickly grasp our ineptitude.  It goes very much better when He is speaking into our hearts.  Since He is present with us on a continuous basis anyway, let us turn to Him for direction.

There is a realization in verse 25. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”  This statement declares “point blank” who and what is real. Try reading this verse and emphasize the “you.”

The psalmist has an ‘umbilical cord’ attached to heavenly places. 

This feeds him and gives him a radical strength to stand up and ‘to be’.  The writer is completely over with the things of this earth.  He desires only heavenly things, that which really comes after looking down the long corridors of eternity. He has made his choice. He will follow.

In verse 26 he admits a desperate weakness. 

He understands the foolishness of his flesh.  He knows that he has been pathetic and spiritually feeble.  There is absolutely nothing he can do about this.  He has tried and tried repeatedly to change.  His heart is like a colander that drains away all the grace and mercy that pours out on him.  He holds on to nothing. He must stay under the faucet to survive.

But still, there is a profound realization that God is strengthening his heart.  He has done this on an eternal level.  What this means is this:  He has touched me and by that touch has made me like Him. The rest of this Psalm extends and states certain things that the Psalmist has learned himself.

 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
   you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.”

   “But for me it is good to be near God;
   I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
   that I may tell of all your works.”

Psalm 73, ESV

God draws a person, but coming closer is also your choice.

The Psalmist sees that his “nearness to God is my good.”  He realizes that by taking refuge in God there is something that will be quite wonderful.  There is some effort that must happen.  So he makes God his refuge.  The Lord God is now a ‘bomb shelter’ or a covering for our souls.  He continues this process with a deep commitment to sharing ‘the works of God.’

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Tears Have a Purpose

her-tears-grey-puddle

I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately—in part because Pastor Bryan pointed out to me how many hits my post titled God Keeps Your Tears in a Bottle has had, in part because I’ve cried more than a few tears this year, and in part because I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash’s Cry, Cry, Cry in my car all week—and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you all here.

People cry for a lot of reasons.

Earlier this year my sister died of breast cancer at only 61 years old. I cried, a lot. It’s normal and even helpful to shed tears over the death of a loved one even if we know where they are going when they die, because it allows us to express the grief we feel over not having them in our lives any more here on earth.

I remember a time I had a previous boss say some very cruel things to me in front of other people. She accused me of having done things I had not based on motives I did not have. I was very angry, hurt, and frustrated. And I cried, a lot. I didn’t cry in front of her, mind you, but afterwards I did. And it was good to express that anger to others.

Just yesterday I experienced unexpected tears.

I was reciting the prayers of the people in church, which I’ve done many times. Our church has many prayer concerns for members, family, and friends with health concerns and more. Towards the end of the prayer I began to lift up prayers for a church member’s brother-in-law who is a pastor back in New York because he is faced with conducting the funerals of two teens who had been killed in an accident last week, and with comforting the families of three other teens who are in critical condition.

I unexpectedly had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked praying for these teens and families that I don’t even know. But they were good tears because they touched those who heard my prayer and I know they touched our Lord, too.

I have cried tears of loss, anger, indignation over an injustice, frustration, compassion, and even of joy. I sometimes cry tears of regret when I hear a beautiful song about the sacrifice of Jesus, knowing it is my sin that required him to suffer.

Tears often serve a purpose, as expressed in this poem that I wrote recently:

Tears

Tears of sorrow, anger
drench my soul
course without end
eroding pain, anguish

Where once only aching
occupied my heart
now is a deep empty ravine
carved by a river of tears

Tears of forgiveness
water my soul’s riverbed
allowing flowers of love
to flourish and grow

Peace arises in my heart
held aloft by God’s promises
the fragrance of sweet alyssum
blossoms of my soul

I think the saddest tears of all, though, are the tears of major clinical depression. These tears are so sad because the one who cries them doesn’t know what purpose they serve.

I remember when I was suffering from depression sitting in a chair and just crying. When someone asked me why I was crying all I could say was, “I don’t know.” And I truly didn’t. The tears didn’t wash away pain; they only seemed to make it all the worse.

In the midst of such tears, there is One who knows their purpose.

Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Through prayer God can sometimes lead us to an understanding of the purpose of the tears of depression, and ultimately to healing. Often the wounds are so deep it takes years and a great many groaning prayers to heal. But we must accept our weakness and our need for God’s Holy Spirit to intercede for us.

For me, after much prayer of my own, the blessed prayers of others, and the intercession of the Holy Spirit, God led me to an understanding of the purpose of my tears. They were tears of anger and unforgiveness; they were tears of lament that I had allowed myself to remain in bondage to the sins of another for so long.

With God’s help, the tears did lead to healing once I truly understood why I was crying.

May You Know His Peace,

Linda K

Linda has a good and perceptive blog that touches hearts worldwide. Please do pay her a visit.

 

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Depression: Some Questions

Here are things I’ve heard over the years that we must take a second look at. Here are some possible answers.

“There must be something wrong with your spiritual life.”

Yes, depression CAN be a result of sin. BUT depression is NOT always a result of sin! If it is, God will tell you loud and clear what the problem is. This saying piles on the guilt for the depressed Christian. It’s unlikely that their depression has a spiritual cause, and this implies that they are not good enough spiritually.  

“Repent and ask forgiveness for your sin!”

Depression is a result of sin, in that if there was no sin in the world depression wouldn’t exist. But then, neither would diabetes, cancer, or any other illness… Sin caused the world to be not-perfect, therefore illness exists. It’s a sin to be depressed, any more than it is to have any other illness. Depression can be used by God to encourage repentance, but in that case, it will be crystal clear exactly what sin you should repent of. If you don’t know or have just a vague sense of guilt, your depression is not the result of sin. 

You need to have more faith.”  “Have faith in God.”

Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” How much faith does it take to hold onto the Christian faith when emotions scream at you daily to give up, get out and turn against God? Very often a depressed Christian will be hanging onto faith by their fingernails in something that requires a ton of faith.  

“Taking antidepressants is playing God, He can heal you.”

Yes, God can heal. Sometimes he doesn’t just flick a switch to make the illness vanish, sometimes the healing comes through the conventional ways of doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, and medication. By persuading someone not to take their medicines in preference for a quick, supernatural healing that God may not have in store for them, the sufferer is being denied something that will help them, right now. 

“Scripture says everything that happens is for your own good!”

The actual verse found in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This verse in no way implies that the sufferer should sit back and accept the illness for the rest of their life. It also does not say that illnesses are not to be fought with the intention of a cure. While God may well have things to do with a depressed person, the illness is not a good thing itself, and it may take years before you see positive results from it.  

“You’ve been prayed for, why has nothing changed?”

This can be expressed in several ways and spoken by one of two different groups of people: either the person who asked for prayer or those who prayed for them. We’ll break the underlying situation into two areas: something definite was experienced in the prayer time: chains were obviously broken and new freedom gained, or, nothing apparently happened at all. That is, “I know God set you free,” why aren’t you free yet?

“Depression is a self-discipline problem.”

Self-discipline is important to a Christian. We have to be disciplined enough not to break the laws of the land, and to obey our God. But no amount of discipline will get rid of a medical problem. This statement implies that the sufferer is lazy and could become better by sheer force of will. This is not possible and causes a lot of guilt.

“You’re depressed because you choose to be.” 

Why would anyone choose depression? It is hell on earth. It destroys everything it touches. Families, marriages, jobs, churches, and ministries- faith, peace, hope, and love. Depression corrodes all that it touches.

Does a diabetic or cancer patient choose their disease? Does the blind or the deaf person wake up in the morning and decide they aren’t going to keep being handicapped? These are the questions I would ask.

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“You just need to rebuke that spirit of depression and tell it to leave you. Don’t let Satan steal your joy.”

There are two problems with this statement. One problem is the assumption that depression is caused by demonic oppression. The other problem is the assumption that joy and happiness are the same things. Blaming a “spirit of depression” can be a wonderful cop-out. Just cast out the spirit and you’re cured! No need for long-term support, prayer, counseling, or anything at all! And with this statement comes the implicit assumption that once again it’s your fault you’re depressed, this time because you’re not “spiritual” enough to get rid of the troublesome spirit yourself.

Yes, it is possible that demonic oppression can cause depression. No, demons are not responsible for every case of depression. Imagine what would happen if this statement was directed at someone with cancer, hemophilia, or osteoporosis (“Just cast out that demon attacking your bones and be strong again! God wants to see you running marathons!”).

The second problem with this statement is that joy is equated with happiness. People with depression are not going to be the happiest souls in the church. I’ve heard it said that happiness depends on what happens, whereas joy can exist in very unhappy situations.

“There’s no such thing as mental illness, it’s all in your mind”

Saying this denies that there is anything actually wrong with the depressed person, and implies that they are just making it up. This piles on the guilt again! A mental illness can be defined as one that affects the mind; the brain is allowed to get ill, just as the liver and lungs are.

“It’s your own fault you’re depressed”

This is the kind of thing that Job’s “comforters” said, and it didn’t help then either. Bad things can happen to good people. Denying this hurts the sufferer.

“Pull yourself together”

If you’ve been trying, someone saying this to you comes across as “You haven’t been trying hard enough, do more, and more, and more until you get it right.” So back you go, pushing more and more, and still getting nowhere because you cannot pull yourself out of depression by your bootstraps, and you can’t fix a medical problem by force of will.

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Growing Up in Jesus

Mark 4:26-29

 “The kingdom of God is like this,” he said. “A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day; the seed sprouts and grows, although he doesn’t know how.” 

“The soil produces a crop by itself—first the blade, then the head, and then the full grain on the head. 29 As soon as the crop is ready, he sends for the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

From a seed to a plant. We have no idea how this happens, it just does. This is a “kingdom” parable, one of several that explain what God’s realm is, and how it happens. In this particular story, we’re told how the Holy Spirit works. It also explains our role in this (which isn’t a whole lot).

The farmer puts the seed in the ground—and that’s it. He’s done his work, there’s nothing more he can do. He doesn’t do anything else from this point, and honestly, he can’t. And yet the soil needs to be prepared—plowed, fertilized, and tilled again. You might say he creates the conditions (that’s what makes a good farmer, I guess) for something to happen.

He doesn’t massage the seed, coaxing it to grow. He doesn’t sing to it or tells it about the wonders of being lush and green. He does zero. The seed grows on its own. He goes to bed and gets up. After several days, bingo! That seed turns into a plant—something green and alive. He doesn’t do a thing. Life occurs without his work.

The point is this. God’s work is done invisibly within us (and that’s a relief)!

“The secret of growth is in the seed, not in the soil nor in the weather nor in the cultivating. These all help, but the seed spontaneously works according to its own nature.”

Robertson’s Commentary

God’s kingdom works pretty much like this. The farmer doesn’t cause the seed growth, all he does is go to bed! He sleeps and waits and watches. It grows and he hasn’t the slightest. It’s a complete mystery. He has done everything he can, and God has done the rest. He “shares” in this amazing transformation, but the father has done it all.

We trust in a process we cannot see, or really understand.

We don’t dig the seed up every morning to see what’s happening. We just let the (super)natural happen. And it does!

The farmer has faith in the process (after all, he did plant the seed), but that’s it. There’s a verse in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 that should be considered. It gives us confidence and definite trust in this process of growth. The Apostle Paul understands this “principle of growth.”

“We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, since your faith is flourishing and the love each one of you has for one another is increasing.”

We must trust God completely to grow. We’re responsible for tilling and planting. But you need to understand what happens after that is up to him. The kingdom of God is supernatural. It’s exactly how the kingdom happens—and we must be patient and wise.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”

Arnold Glascow

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Broken Heart of Love – A Poem

 

This poem was written for someone I love who struggles with bipolar disorder. Though I have suffered through depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, I can never truly understand her pain. I want to help but I am at a loss as to what to do. I wanted to share this here so those who suffer from mental illness might know how your suffering breaks the hearts of those who love you but don’t know what to do.

Broken Heart of Love

This searing pain in my heart
I wish it would go away
I pray for it to leave me
But it is love
I would be hollow without it

I watch you drowning
in a sea of turmoil and fear
I reach out my hand,
the one connected to my broken heart
“It’s okay, the sailing’s fine,” you say

I walk away, thinking perhaps
my eyes deceive me and you are not
drowning, or else why
would you say otherwise?
I know you would not lie

But still this pain
deep down inside my aching heart
reminds me
that you are not fine,
the sea is not calm

The storm rages
but I cannot rescue you
You cannot see my hand
reaching through the darkness
beckoning you to dry land

*

ysic, Linda K.

 

Linda’s website

 

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Mentally Ill Christians Can Do Ministry

 

“Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than spiritual life.”

Mike Yaconelli

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. … That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.” 

                                                                C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity 

People with mental illnesses, for the most part, have been diverted underground.  We have been pushed into hiding our true identity;  we can come out into the open, but only if we agree to play according to the rules—their rules. 

We are expected to censor ourselves and say appropriate things at the right time.  Pharisees [who are alive and well] insist on a level of purity that all must maintain. [I am not picking on anyone, just a generality.]

If I say that I am depressed, paranoid, manic, or desperate I will upset the apple cart and muddle up everything.  “Truth?  You can’t handle the truth?”, [a line from some movie.]  But if we use our shortcomings as credentials, we have the ability to speak about grace, love, and of self-acceptance, with real authority. 

Christians with mental illnesses have been given a gift that we are to share with the Church.  The Holy Spirit has sprinkled us into each fellowship of believers.  He places us as we are suffering in strategic places. Our “gifts” are to speak to the Body, spiritually about a lot of things, but especially grace. 

If our fellowships become religious, it is usually because of our weaknesses, we have allowed ourselves to be silenced into submission by the “interpreters” of scripture.  If we don’t like the rules, we are told to go elsewhere.  We are not welcome. 

But don’t you see, that is our moment to shine! 

Our “unsightly” presence shouts out to the “wonderful” people, proclaiming grace in weakness.  Those who receive us, receive Him.  Those who turn from us, muffling us, are doing that to Jesus. Frightening, isn’t it?  It’s interesting to note that those who do not believe yet have often used “legalism” as the touchstone for their evaluation.

I would strongly suggest that we take our illnesses into the open.  That we become transparent toward others.  As we do this, we can oh-so-gently guide our fellowships into true grace and love.  They look at me and they see Jesus. 

And that is our ministry as mentally ill people to the Church. 

9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power  is perfected in weakness.”  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.”

10 “So because of Christ,  I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in pressures. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 

                               2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (HCSB)

Dear friend, the gospel is either radical, or it is nothing.

 

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Haight/Ashbury, San Francisco

Learning how to forgive

Once I was punched in the face while preaching. At the time I was an evangelist with SOS Ministries in 1987. I was leading a group to Haight/Ashbury St. in San Francisco. I remember it was really busy, and it was a good team, and they were excited to take their church to the streets.

Haight/Ashbury was the place the “summer of love” kicked off, it peaked in 1968. It has a certain sense of notoriety, and even in 1983 it still had a dubious reputation as a center of the counter-culture. “A cult a day is born in San Francisco,” a pastor friend once shared with me.

Normally the neighborhood where I took a team would direct me on how to preach. Tonight I focused on God’s love for sinful people.

That message seemed appropriate for this place, especially on this street. God loves these people very much.

A young man came forward. He told me that he was a backslidden Christian, and his father was an Assembly of God pastor. He had run away from home. Suddenly he began to weep. The entire team seemed to lean forward and I know they were praying earnestly for him. It seemed to me that he was teetering on the brink.

His punch however came unexpectedly.

His fist hit me square in the nose. My eyes began to water. Oddly enough he took a step back and began to really cry out. My team wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but I hoped they prayed even harder. I sort of gasped and tried to shake it off. Someone must have called the police.

The Holy Spirit was very much present, both convicting and comforting each of us.

One or two minutes went by and suddenly he stopped sobbing and he became really angry. He took a step and then tried to kick me in the stomach, but I dropped the mic and caught his foot. I was ready for him this time.

About 20 minutes went by before SFPD showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought for a bit, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the will of my Father. Maybe I should of, I don’t know. But I thought about my own sin and couldn’t judge no one.

The Father was reaching him while teaching me!

God loves His prodigal children very much, He understands the guilt and shame (and frustration) they feel. The Father however is always watching and waiting. He works through life’s circumstances to lead them home. Each belongs to Him. He continues far past what we think is possible. He will never give up.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

1 John 3:16

I suddenly saw a “wounded” brother, very confused and quite angry. Not with me, the team, or the music–but with God who created him, and died for him.

At that moment I just happened to be God’s love for this prodigal.

“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”

     John Stott

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Fallow Ground

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust or even loathing. It’s more like weariness, exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way, it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There seems to exist a real rigidity to evil, something intense.

I have seen it up close– sin that hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as the “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks much about having a hard heart.

It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are really only four options.

  • The first is the seed that gets walked on.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third seed tries to grow in the thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh
The Battle of the Heart

I have found that my own heart drifts. I myself struggle with a mental illness where my emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and then there. I may be depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

But I so want my heart to soften. I want to grow. I really do.

I so want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He’s thinking about. Yet I know that any sin I entertain has a hardening effect on my spiritual heart. This scares me. But truly he still holds me close, and he keeps his steady loving hand on me. *

*

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Sharing My Heart and My Trauma

Most people who meet me today would never guess the trauma I’ve been through. And when I was drowning the depths of major clinical depression, I couldn’t see it was that trauma that was the catalyst for my misery. I’m not sure I have it all figured out, even now, though it is clearer than it once was.

The thing about my story is that the trauma part is all too common. Rape and abortion are traumas that happen to far too many women (and sometimes men) in this broken world we live in. Healing sometimes feels impossible. But I am living proof that it is not.

Although I still struggle with depression at times, it is quite mild in comparison to what I endured for almost a decade in my late twenties and early thirties. I no longer feel like all hope is lost. In spite of my trauma, I am living and thriving in God’s grace.

I’d love to share my story with you in the hopes that it would be for you a light in the darkness you feel stuck in. I was blessed to be asked to tell my story on a podcast and you can listen to that podcast episode here: https://heartofthematterradio.libsyn.com/linda-kruschke-overcome-past-hurts-final. I do hope it blesses you to listen as much as it blessed me to be able to share.

Read more from me at AnotherFearlessYear.net.

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Worshiping With a Knife

 

 by the Forward

In the doctrine of biblical hermeneutics, the ‘Law of First Mention exists.’ Essentially it means that the first time a word or a concept is mentioned should go on to determine the way it needs to be understood throughout scripture. It is a guiding principle more than anything, but a good one at that. The Book of Genesis, being the first book, is a blessed repository for many of these ‘first mentions.’

In Genesis 22, we have the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah.

Abraham has tied up his son on an altar to offer him as a sacrifice in obedience to God’s direction (v. 2). This is faith being tested to the ultimate extreme. And Abraham shows us how to enter in.

“Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

Genesis 22:4-5

This is the law of the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.

It sets the singular tone for all the scriptures on this subject. I guess what is interesting is there were no musical instruments involved. There was just these needful things:

  • stones,
  • wood,
  • rope,
  • fire,
  • a knife,
  • and Isaac, (the would-be ‘lamb.’)

When the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ was used for the first time; it is interlaced with the idea of an incredible sacrifice. Abraham is the first ‘worship leader’ and he has no guitar. No piano, or drums either. No musical instruments whatsoever. No overhead lyrics to speak of. Just a handmade altar, and a knife.

In the end, Abraham raises his knife, and then suddenly, to the relief of us all, he is stopped. His faith has withstood the test, and he has truly ‘worshipped.’

But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Gen. 22:11-12

Principle One: There really can’t be worship without sacrifice.

Recovering this truth concerning worship would be beneficial. It seems we delegate ‘worship’ to a select few who are talented and gifted. We probably don’t do this deliberately, but sometimes we feel it makes a better presentation. We all want to look good, even Christians. (Perhaps this is more substantial than we know.)

Principle Two: The first worshiper didn’t use a guitar, but a knife.

This difference keeps the idea of sacrifice in its definition. There isn’t worship without sacrifice. The knife thrust that he was ready to wield wasn’t backed up by drums or piano. Yet Abraham understood worship every step to Moriah with the knife in his belt.

“The Scriptures include or allude to just about every approach to worship there is: organized, spontaneous, public, private, simple, complex, ornate or plain. Yet there is no comment anywhere about any one way being preferred over another. Rather, it is the spiritual condition of the worshiper that determines whether or not God is at work.”  

Harold Best

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.”

Romans 12:1

Ultimately, we must realize our sacrifice is the Lamb of God. It’s His blood on God’s altar for our sins. As believers, our faith firmly rests in this spiritual fact. We of all people have cause to really worship.

 

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Especially Peter

Peter and John Running to the Tomb, Burnard, c. 1898

And now go and tell his disciples, and especially Peter, that he will go ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”

Mark 16:7, CEV

Poor Peter. Despairing over his personal darkness he has become completely undone.  His wound is beyond any human remedy.  No one can help him at this point. We do well to mark the fall of the ‘Rock.’

Jesus had called him, the ‘Rock.’  This would become a bestowed nickname of a future transformation.  We use granite and marble when we want something to last for ages.  It is as permanent as we can make it. Peter is definitely a work-in-progress. His character is sand.

Visiting a working quarry, you’ll find large machinery.  Men scale the walls with heavy drills.  At just the right spot they begin to bore a hole.  It is hard and intense work, but they are persistent.  The rock is unyielding, but they work relentlessly. Dynamite is used to moving rock fast.

Soon they take the hole to the proper depth.  Explosives are hauled up, and the hole is carefully packed with dynamite.  The word used in the New Testament is the word “dunamis.”  It is translated from Greek into English as “power.”  Our word for “dynamite” is also a translation of that word.

Peter needs the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit. It is explosive. 

Dynamite breaks and blasts, moving many tons of rock in just seconds. These particular verses read differently when translated like this:

 “But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the dynamite of God.” Matthew 22:29
“And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory with dynamite and great glory.” Matthew 24:30
“Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the dynamite proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” Mark 5:30
“And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why this miraculous dynamite is at work in Him.” Mark 6:14
“And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with dynamite.” Mark 9:1
“But you will receive dynamite when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Jesus looks after each disciple before his resurrection.  He kindly gazes at Peter. Especially Peter.  He will need this new power to overcome his weaknesses. The dynamite of the Spirit will explode all over the Upper Room. Shifty Peter us about to become a rock.

His disciples, in just 50 days are going to meet the Holy Spirit.  All of them will find that explosive power that moves mountains.  And the world is about to change forever.

Peter was so transformed on Pentecost he would preach and 3,000 would believe and be baptized. He went from cowardly denier to bold preacher. The dunamis of God changed him that day (Acts 2).

As a broken believer, I see the image of Peter morphing into my own face. I have denied Him before others. I am ashamed of what I have done. My depression flares up and my heart goes down in a downward spiral. I must have the Holy Spirit’s authority to be free.

Where is the ‘dynamite’ of God?  Oh, come Spirit of God to our broken hearts. Fill us, change us today.

Your amazed brother,

Bryan

 

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Don’t Waste Your Sorrows

 

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“You have given me many troubles and bad times, but you will give me life again. When I am almost dead, You will keep me alive.”

Psalm 71:20, NCV

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Isaiah 53:3, NASB

Everyone hurts sometimes. We all will face our special sorrows. But there are times when our pain pounds us intensely, and it can get really bad. The darkness rolls in on our souls like a caustic fog. We might devastatingly discover that there are things that are worse than terrible.

I have never spoken out like this, but my wife and I had a daughter who died— she was stillborn. She was doing great, up to a week before her due date. We knew that in seven days, we would be able to see her– face-to-face.

But that was not to be. Elizabeth Grace Lowe died from strangulation (from her own umbilical cord.) Nothing could have been done. My wife had noticed a moment of very frantic activity, as Elizabeth fought for her life. We plummeted from ecstatic joy to devastating sorrow in just seconds. It came “out of the blue,” totally unexpected.

We were completely undone. 

“For the Lord will not reject forever,
For if He causes grief,
Then He will have compassion
According to His abundant lovingkindness.
For He does not afflict willingly
Or grieve the sons of men.”

Lamentations 3:32-33, NASB

There is pain, but there are also promises.

There can be brutal sadness, but there are psalms. There is a blessing for all those who grieve. This topic deserves far more attention than this simple post. (If you’re in the thick of things, I’m trusting the Holy Spirit will help you to your next step.)

There can be such sorrow in this life, much more than the human heart can possibly contain. But our Savior has a title (one of many.) He is the “Man of Sorrows.” He is the one who is “on point.” He leads us through such intense hostility. He is there when the switch is flipped and it becomes instantly dark. We can’t, won’t, and will not leave you to face your pain alone.

There are a few things that I want to communicate to you. These have come out of great darkness. I have tried awfully hard to be a disciple, even through the worst of it. They may be right, wrong or just okay, I don’t really know…

  1. God takes the full blame for our pain and sorrow. He doesn’t shift the blame or deny His presence in our sufferings. Sometimes you need to adjust your theology. Maybe it’s hard to trust Him right now–that’s more than understandable. In eternity, I believe, it’ll make perfect sense.
  2. Jesus has fully shared our sorrow. All that you are feeling right now, He feels. If you feel you are at a minus 10, then He does as well. As you suffer, He is your shadow. He knows.
  3. Nothing is ever wasted. We really shouldn’t treat these moments of sorrow as a waste. Have you ever wondered at Jesus’ ‘economy’ after the 5000 were fed?  He assigns value to the leftovers. The disciples pick up their baskets and collect everything again. Nothing will go to waste.
  4. This pain, this sorrow is the intensive crash course in becoming a person of mercy. You now will always walk with a limp. At times the scars will be quite visible to those who can really see. This will become forever a healed wound (but a wound nevertheless.) It helps to seek out others who have walked this same path. I don’t think I will ever fully trust a person who doesn’t walk with a limp.
  5. You will need (but maybe not accept) the transformation of your suffering into glory. This will take some time, and it almost feels like your not progressing at all. I encourage you to re-think each of these simple points. The Holy Spirit may be working, perhaps behind the scenes.
  6. Finally remember this: God is not a monster, stomping on us like a boy crushes ants. He has carried all of our pain and illness. He clearly comes alongside every suffering believer. It is Satan who would suggest to you that God is a Celestial Menace, not worthy of our love. I will be very blunt with you, that idea has to be implicitly rejected. Its origins are satanic.

*“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

Psalm 147:3, NLT

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.”

Isaiah 61:1, NLT

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.”
Psalm 147:3, TPT

*

 

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When Your Giant Mocks God

Young David stood and looked at Goliath face-to-face. We can read of this encounter in 1 Samuel 17:38-52.

Physically there was hardly a comparison.  Goliath was almost 10 feet tall, a warrior since birth–we read of his armor–he was like a human tank. 
But David was just a pesky boy, nothing more.  Goliath preened and strutted into the field of battle, and simple David was stepping up for his first try at hand-to-hand combat.

And then Goliath begins to blaspheme. 

He boasts and mocks.  In his mind he believes is superior, his arrogance knows no bounds.  The center of the universe is the Philistine army, and he is their champion. He is contemptuous of everything else–physical or spiritual.

Goliath essentially is a ‘human’ wood chipper. 

Everyone who has faced him has been destroyed.  There have been no survivors to speak of. But I find David to be powerfully exceptional.  His reaction to the ‘human mountain’ of Goliath was to run directly at him.  This is an astonishing faith.

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground”.

1 Sam. 17:48

Many of us face a giant called guilt, pride, doubt, or despair.

Satan (our enemy) has marched out on the field of battle, confident of his ultimate triumph over us.  We’ve been rightly tutored that there are enemies that can destroy us. I suppose that should terrify us. And we’ve also been indoctrinated to accept their control, and the inevitable slavery, with a spirit of timidity.

The ‘monster’ of despair is real and brutal.  Our destruction is inevitable in his mind.  Satan does expect to win over your soul, but Jesus stands as our advocate shielding us. We are saved because He wants us saved.

Yet so many believers cowed and intimidated, surrendering to the boastings of the giant Despair.  Hope and faith are drained out of our being, and we become an empty spiritual shell.  The “warfare” dimension gets nullified, and soon irrelevant.  Despair reaches us and has the full intention of taking total control. It’s never satisfied with just a little bit.

David ran to the battle–to face his giant. 

He passed through the dark intimidation and influence to approach Goliath.  There was no passiveness or doubt to cloud his mind.  David took a spiritually aggressive position, he took on the fear, and then ran directly at the giant Goliath.  His spirit was untouchable.

As believers, we might struggle and pout.  We can turn our hearts over to despair.  We become available to the enemy’s workings.  And the confidence we might have through faith is dissipated into doubt and confusion.  But the victory we have in Christ allows us liberty, through the Blood of Him who defeats our own Goliath of despair.

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Flying Lessons

Sometimes it’s best to use bullet points; they help me think.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. 

  • I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  

  • I want to do what is good, but I don’t.

  • I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, NLT

“How can you be so inconsistent? I feel like there are two ‘Bryans,’ I don’t understand how you can live like this.”

This is what a dear friend said to me recently. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know how to answer. It was a bit embarrassing, but I couldn’t respond. Later, the Spirit ministered to me while praying about it.

The Lord spoke, “He has no idea how bad you really are. Don’t you dare defend yourself!’

I now realize I should have said this to my friend. You’re absolutely right, I am a bit of a flake. But you only see the veneer, deep down  I’m much worse than you will ever know. I can’t defend my actions, and I desperately need a Savior. Would you pray for me to work this out?”

The daily struggle with sin is sometimes more visible than we would like. Even as a believer I can and do sin. That should surprise no one, and yet, I am the most surprised when sin inevitably breaks out. (Inconsistency is a factor in Bipolar disorder, but this is more than that.)

I’ve recently realized that in spite of almost 50 years of following Jesus that I’ve sinned more as a believer than I have ever done as a ‘worldling.’ I’m kinda embarrassed by this.

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In Romans 7 we are confronted with a man who is constantly disappointed in himself. It can be wrenching to read– partly because it is so real. It describes us too well. At times the Word is like looking into a mirror.

Romans 7 describes what is wrong with us, for we are attempting to keep the law from our own efforts. We slide from grace when we attempt to stand before God in our self-righteousness. (We have a strong tendency to do this at times.)

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.”

Isaiah 64:6

We have a problem when our heart doesn’t match our actions. It gets a little hairy when our sin is visible to others. We feel like hypocrites and our testimony is official ‘toast.’

Sometimes, we’re reasonably certain we’ve shamed Christ in some irrevocable way. But do understand a lot of this can be satanic, for he indeed is “the accuser of the brethren,” (Rev 12:10). 

Whenever we stand before God, we should never come with our list of great things we have recently done for Him. It won’t be accepted. They are at best, filthy rags. They’re not fit for a King’s court. But yet we keep coming, parading our dirty, grimy rags.

I wonder when we boldly ‘strut’ into His presence if the angels don’t ‘roll their eyes?’

We forget that only Christ’s righteousness is accepted. Heaven is satisfied with His atoning blood that covers every sin. The tension we feel in Romans 7 is there because it turns us away from our self-efforts. Our ‘confusion’ over this chapter indicates the depth of our attempt to be righteous on our own.

“The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”

Charles Spurgeon


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The Smiles of God

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“Heaven is where the unveiled glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.”

Ezekiel Hopkins, “A Puritan Golden Treasury”

 

Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:19)

This was Jesus’ idea.  He was bringing correction to the lives of those who were very serious, and especially those who felt the most religious.  Often, our native tendency is asceticism.  We evaluate ourselves religiously by our prayers and our fasts.

For serious people, we have a serious religion, and we focus on doing a serious religious activity, for that is what our serious faith demands.

Jesus pointed out that mournful faces are not indicators of a pious life.  How can His disciples mourn when Jesus the bridegroom is nearby? His disciples are going to a wedding, not a funeral!

Without question, the New Testament believers are to know repentance and self-examination.  We should grieve over our sins, but that grief is to be based on hope and joy.  Jesus changed everything.

If you are saddened by sin, that sadness must be tethered to joy and not to despair.  

The disciples could not mourn and fast while Jesus was present.   He does not wish His disciples to go mourning and fasting when they have no occasion for such exercises. His words are a defense of Christian joyfulness. Christ wants His friends to be glad. There is an utter incongruity in a sad and mournful Christian life.  It does not make sense in light of what Jesus has done.

Our sins have been forgiven–erased, cleansed, and washed away.  We have been dipped into the righteousness of the Son of God.  The fierce enemies of our souls have been eradicated by Jesus.  All of this is to bring out a song from a grateful heart.  We revel in the smile of Jesus and walk under the banner of beautiful love.  We have His forgiveness and have been given His favor.  We should be radiant!

 I pray that you will rejoice in this wonderful day He has made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Music Soothes My Heart

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

Martin Luther

Anyone who has read much of my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, knows that I love music. I’ve devoted my Monday posts to music topics and many other days end up including a music component, too. Music can lift my spirits, give me encouragement, and get me moving when I’m down. But over the years I’ve learned that not all music has this positive impact.

Many years ago I listened to a lot of grunge music. It was my favorite genre in the late 80s and into the 90s. This was a time in my life when I was struggling with major depression, and I liked grunge because it expressed how I felt.

I remember when my dad died in 1993, I kept listening to the song “Indifference” by Pearl Jam. I won’t post the video because it’s not a song I want to encourage anyone to listen to. But the first four lines sum up the gist of the song:

i will light the match this mornin’, so i won’t be alone
watch as she lies silent, for soon light will be gone
i will stand arms outstretched, pretend i’m free to roam
           i will make my way, through, one more day in hell…

Listening to this song never made me feel better, but I just kept listening to it, missing my dad, feeling alone and like I was living in hell.

We all know the old saying “misery loved company.” I think that is the draw of music like grunge or the blues, to know that someone else understands your misery seems comforting. But when the music doesn’t end with hope or any words of encouragement, it’s the wrong company to be in when a person is struggling or feeling down.

We all have times of struggling, of loved ones lost or physical or mental illness we can’t find a cure to, of lost jobs, or spiritual or emotional pain that just won’t end. When those times come, there is a lot of great music out there to lift your spirits and give you hope. That’s the kind of music I choose to listen to these days and the kind I like to share on Monday.

I still love to listen to the blues, but preferably when things are going well in my life. At these times it is a reminder of the struggles of this life that we all endure so that I remember to be compassionate towards those I encounter who may be struggling and to be thankful for God seeing me through my own struggles.

“Sing out your praises to our God, our King. Yes, sing your highest praises to our King, the King of all the earth. Sing thoughtful praises!”

Psalm 47:7, LB

 

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Does Sickness Bless You?

“A man was lying there who had been sick for thirty-eight years.”

John 5:5

(John 5:1-15)

That was a long time to be sick. It’s tough to be an invalid year after year. This passage may come to some who have been thus afflicted, and we may as well stop a minute to think through their case. Christian invalids have many comforts if they will but take them to their hearts.

God makes no mistakes in dealing with His children.

He knows in what school they will learn the best lessons, and in what experiences they will grow up.

It is the same in spiritual life. We have no power in ourselves to do Christ’s will, but as we begin to obey the needed grace is given. Young people often say that they are afraid to enter into a Christian life because they can not do what will be required. In their own strength, they cannot. Plain and simple. 

Human strength in itself is inadequate for life’s sore needs. But the young Christian who sets out in obedience to Christ, depending upon Him to open the path of duty, will never fail of needed help at the moment of need.

Richard Baxter gives us his take on this passage :

“How great mercy it was to live thirty-eight years under God’s wholesome discipline! O my God, I thank Thee for the like discipline of fifty-eight years; how safe life is this in comparison with full prosperity and pleasure!”

Sick-rooms should always be sacred places for believers, as we remember that God has summoned us there for some special work upon our souls. We must be very careful lest we miss the good He wants us to receive.

It’s only those who trust Christ and lie upon His bosom that is blessed by sickness.

“Too many invalids grow discontented, unhappy, sour, and fretful. Sickness oftentimes fails to do good to those who suffer. There are few experiences in which we so much need to be watchful over ourselves and prayerful toward God. Be sure to keep the sickness out of your heart, and keep Christ there with His love and peace.”

JR Miller

 

 

 

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The Healing Power of Jesus

“They came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”

Mark 2:3-4

In this Gospel story recorded in Mark 2:1-12 we read of the four friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus. What a privilege it is to carry those we love to our Lord for His healing presence to surround them.

Their simple faith is what we are called to. “Paralyzed” people are waiting for us to only act. If God gives us eyes to see, we will see them.

I was inspired to write this simple poem as I thought about this man and his friends. I hope it blesses you. 

Let Me Carry You

You lie alone broken and weak
Unsure if you will make it through
Seeing a future dark and bleak
To Jesus let me carry you

Your daily troubles set in stone
Seem heavy with unchanging hue
And though you think you’re all alone
To Jesus, I will carry you

You struggle to remember love
Ev’ry feeling painfully blue
I will bring God’s grace from above
To Jesus let me carry you

 

aasignLinda

My personal blog is at anotherfearlessyear.net.

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I Almost Killed a Man

Clarion Alley, very much cleaned and renovated
Clarion Alley, Mission District

In 1987 I was working full-time with S.O.S. Ministries in San Francisco, California.

I was living in a  community with other team members in the Mission District on Sycamore St. Everything was rather gritty. (Some would say it was ‘loathsome or gross,’ but that seems unkind.)

Wine bottles were mixed with the decor of fresh graffiti and were then blended with the acrid smell of urine, puke, and feces. When it got hot, it got really bad. It could make your eyes water.

“Amelia’s”, the biggest lesbian “rock-n-roll” bar west of the Mississippi was just a few doors down.

A gay thrift store was next to it. Living next to us were heroin addicts; when they overdosed they would start retching in the common “light-well” that we shared with them. The “puking” could get pretty violent, and you had to turn up the radio just to block it out. And we prayed for them.

I had the misfortune (?) of having the front room on the first floor overlooking the street. Nights would bring out all the crazies, the junkies, the girls fighting and throwing bottles at each other. I heard everything. Cursing and yelling and screaming.

God had given me a front-row seat to all the nastiness and pain.

The house we lived in was smack in the middle of what the San Francisco Chronicle called “San Francisco’s Meanest Street.” I think there were some close runners-up to us though. But living on Sycamore had its share of memorable moments.

I was driving the ministry truck back from outreach at Powell and Market (the “cable car turn around.”) We had had a great outreach, almost four hours. It’s a perfect locale, with the subway and the tourists and the street performers. The truck was loaded with sound equipment, and I was taking it back to the S.O.S. house, where we stored it (under lock and key, of course.)

There was that alley directly behind our house. Our garage was located there.

Clarion Alley was the classic inner-city alley. It was very rough and nasty, and if you did venture out you needed to be “prayed up.” It is also the city’s largest bathroom. It seemed the urine smell tried very hard to cancel out the stench of the feces. It was very ripe. (I had also gotten stabbed with a used heroin needle while I was cleaning– but that is another story.)

I was driving along, very happy to be headed home.

It had been a very long day, and I was tired. I turned from Mission St. into Clarion Alley. It was cold and dark. I was thinking about a cup of hot tea. Now Clarion is only a block long. The street was filled with garbage, and as I tooled along there was a big roll of carpeting laying pretty much crossways on the pavement.

I was tired. My first thought was just to drive over it.

I think I might even accelerated the truck. All of a sudden I had the strong urge to stop. I slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the cab. Cautiously, I knelt down for a closer look. Rolled up inside was a wino trying to sleep. I’m sure in his mind, the carpeting was a cozy “godsend,” a safe place that was a warm and dry place hidden from “bad people.”

And I came just inches from killing him.

God intervenes to protect our lives probably much more than we realize. Each person has been created in His image. He loves everyone– as if we were the only one.

“We put our hope in the Lord.
    He is our help and our shield.”

Psalm 33:20, NLT

SOS Ministries has reorganized but still is true to the vision it had when I served with them. Website: SOS Ministries. It is the premier place to develop a gift of evangelism and worship. 
SOS Ministries is an inter-denominational, evangelical, street ministry in San Francisco.  Its special mission is to reach the people of the San Francisco Bay Area and to train Christians and churches in evangelism helping them reach their own communities for Jesus. Come help share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of San Francisco.
SOS organizes three “Church on the Street” outreaches each month in San Francisco or Berkeley on Saturday afternoon. Local churches bring their worship group and conduct a church service in a downtown park. They also witness three times a month in San Francisco on Friday night.

Outreaches are subject to change. Call (510) 282-5629 to confirm outreaches or for more information. E-Mail: mail@sosmin.com.

Mailing Address:
SOS Ministries
P.O. Box 27358
Oakland, CA, 94602

 

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Following Jesus Closer!

“All of Jesus’ followers began to shout and sing as they walked along, praising God for the wonderful Life they had seen.”

Luke 19:37

I suppose that this is what broken believers do. There is an essential element of joining others in this verse. The faithful followers will inevitably flock together. There are very few solitary people following the Lord Jesus. We can’t do “Christianity” by ourselves.

They all gather to one person.

Not a religion, creed, formula, or pattern. Many will sort this out as time goes on. Jesus is our Lord and master and friend, not a doctrine, or certainly not a simple “Powerpoint” presentation. It’s Jesus! We come together because we love Him, and we’ve been told that He loves us as well. That reciprocal love is why we were created.

Within this intimate assemblage, we can hear spontaneous shouting. Some will sing. It will get raucous and loud. Their enthusiasm is focused on Him, “the wonderful Life.” Frankly, some who follow Jesus are not “quiet” people. I don’t know how you feel about this. (Maybe, you just need to adjust?)

Sometimes some of us get moody and withdraw from others. Depression can thin out the ranks quicker than anything. It is like a communicable disease that spreads from person to person. I have become a victim, and a carrier myself. As a broken believer, I must seek out an inoculation for my brooding. I also must see the enemy’s influence. Worship is a great help.

The verse talks about the walk.

And yes, there is a definite walk! Within the rabbinical pattern of first-century discipleship, the student would copy his teacher as closely as possible. If he limped so would they. He would dress like his teacher, talk like his teacher, and walk like his teacher. Imitation was the highest honor you could bestow.

The verse talks about “what they had seen.” They were observers. That means they had to get closer to the action. Seeing something, or someone up close makes you a witness, an “eye-witness.” You may need to get closer and see for yourself this Jesus, the Lord, and Savior of the whole world.

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A Cheerful Heart

 “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22, Amplified

“Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”

Karl Barth

I hope these bring a smile to your face. Often the best medicine is laughter and I hope these help you today.

Love, Bryan

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When Life Hurts You Terribly, Some Guidance

How you handle these fragile moments is pretty much key to the remainder of your life. It’s ok to feel abandoned or alone. It’s ok to be depressed. But let God know about where you’re at. I’m convinced He really wants to know.

I really hope that these thoughts might help. We face challenges and difficulties. Just maybe this post will strengthen your walk? I chose each thought purposefully and every one contains something helpful (I hope). 

These each speak wisdom as we try to understand what’s happening to us.

Quotes to Guide You Through Your Trial:

A.W. Tozer

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He’s hurt him deeply.” (Roots of Righteousness, Chapter 39)

Calvin Miller

“Hurt is the essential ingredient of ultimate Christ-likeness.” (Quoted in Christianity Today, July 2007, p41)

Larry Crabb

“Brokenness isn’t so much about how bad you’ve been hurt but how you’ve sinned in handling it.” (Christianity Today, A Shrink Gets Stretched, May 1, 2003)

“Shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece of a piece in a larger story. The Holy Spirit uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream. They are ordained opportunities for the Spirit to first awaken, then to satisfy our highest dream.” (Shattered Dreams, 2001)

Alan Redpath

“When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him.” (Quoted by Gary Preston, Character Forged from Conflict: Staying Connected to God During Controversy. The pastor’s soul series, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1999)

Bruce Wilkinson

“Are you praying for God’s superabundant blessings and pleading that He will make you more like His Son? If so, then you are asking for the shears.” (Secrets of the Vine, 60.)

Charles Swindoll

“Someone put it this way, ‘Whoever desires to walk with God, walks right into the crucible.’ All who choose godliness live in a crucible. The tests will come.” (Moses, Great Lives from God’s Word, 285.)

“Being stripped of all substitutes is the most painful experience on earth.” (David, p70)

Elisabeth Elliot

“The surrender of our heart’s deepest longing is perhaps as close as we come to an understanding of the cross… our own experience of crucifixion, though immeasurably less than our Saviour’s nonetheless furnishes us with a chance to begin to know Him in the fellowship of His suffering. In every form of our own suffering, He calls us into that fellowship.” (Elisabeth Elliot, Quest For Love, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1996), 182.)

George MacDonald

“No words can express how much our world ‘owes’ to sorrow. Most of the Psalms were conceived in a wilderness. Most of the New Testament was written in a prison. The greatest words of God’s Scriptures have all passed through great trials. The greatest prophets have “learned in suffering what they wrote in their books.” So take comfort afflicted Christian! When our God is about to make use of a person, He allows them to go through a crucible of fire.”

Helen Keller

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Quoted in Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.)

Oswald Chambers

“God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.” (Chambers, O. (1993, c1935). My utmost for his highest : Selections for the year (September 30). Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers.)

“No-one enters into the experience of entire sanctification without going through a ‘white funeral’ — the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crisis of death, sanctification is nothing more than a vision… Have you come to your last days really? You have come to them often in sentiment, but have you come to them really?… We skirt around the cemetery and all the time refuse to go to death… Have you had your ‘white funeral’, or are you sacredly playing the fool with your soul? Is there a place in your life marked as the last day, a place to which the memory goes back with a chastened and extraordinary grateful remembrance–’yes, it was then, at that ‘white funeral’ that I made an agreement with God.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 15, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1963).)

Jesus Christ had no tenderness whatsoever toward anything that was ultimately going to ruin a person in his service to God…. If the Spirit of God brings to your mind a word of the Lord that hurts you, you can be sure that there is something in you that He wants to hurt to the point of its death.” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 27, (Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1963.)

Charles Stanley

Does God purposefully allow suffering? “The comfortable, but theologically incorrect, answer is no. You will find many people preaching and teaching that God never sends an ill wind into a person’s life, but that position can’t be justified by Scripture. The Bible teaches that God does send adversity – but within certain parameters and always for a reason that relates to our growth, perfection, and eternal good.” (*Stanley, C. F. 1997, c1996. Advancing through adversity (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN.)

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Invisible Pain

 

I posted this recently on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog. This post was inspired by a flare-up of my fibromyalgia. One of my fellow bloggers who has bipolar commented that the pain of bipolar is also a form of invisible pain. It occurred to me then that this is a perfect post for the encouragement of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.

flourish20

I didn’t want to write about fibromyalgia, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone who also struggles with invisible pain.

When someone breaks a leg, suffers a severe burn, or is covered with cuts and bruises it is easy for people to see what is wrong and to sympathize. But the pain of fibromyalgia is invisible pain. From the outside, the person suffering from the pain of fibromyalgia looks just fine, and so people don’t understand what they are going through.

It is also an unpredictable pain with no easily determinable cause or trigger. One day you feel just fine and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by a freight train. I’ve gone for months feeling fine, with very little pain, then suddenly every muscle in my body aches, and certain movements cause sharp pains in my legs, arms, and neck.

I try to figure out why.

I’ve had doctors give me conflicting theories of what causes this pain, and I have read conflicting theories as well. One doctor told me it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Another has told me it is caused by what I eat, by an inability of my muscles to process sugar that results in toxins in my muscles.

Another suggested it is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that stems from some early trauma. I had also read that there was a strong link between fibromyalgia and Epstein Bar Virus (or mononucleosis), which I had when I was in junior high. Finally, I have read that it is simply hereditary.

The pain of fibromyalgia is truly invisible.

There is no medical test that shows whether someone has fibromyalgia. There is a “tender point” test in which the doctor checks 18 designated tender points on the body and if 11 or more are tender to the touch a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. But even that test is somewhat subjective.

All my life I have felt pain in circumstances where someone else thought I shouldn’t have felt pain. I can remember saying something hurt when I was a kid only to be told, “That didn’t hurt.” This summer I experienced pain from something that didn’t seem like it should hurt. I was at my cousin’s house in Houston and his granddaughter was playing with three pine cones. She kept handing them to me to play with, but the sharp points started to really hurt my hands. I said I didn’t want to play anymore because it made my hands hurt. My sister looked at me and asked, “Does that really hurt?”

Invisible pain. It’s difficult to cope with sometimes.

But I know that Jesus knows how I feel, and that gives me a great deal of comfort. Although the pain Jesus experienced when He was scourged, beaten, and crucified was quite visible, He experienced an invisible pain, too. He experienced the pain of having the sin of the world laid upon Him and of His Father turning away as He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV).

If you struggle under the weight of invisible pain, take heart that you are not alone. Christ understands your suffering and your pain. You also have fellow Christians who understand what you are going through. The apostle Peter provided for us who suffer a wonderful encouragement in his first epistle:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV).

Satan would love to devour us in our pain, to make us fall and cease to be of use in God’s kingdom. But if we cling to Jesus, and cast all of our fears and anxiety on Him, He will help us to defeat Satan’s plans.

If you are struggling with invisible pain and feeling like you are at your wit’s end, leave me a comment and I would love to pray for you. It would be a blessing to me to be able to ask our Lord to strengthen you and give you peace and comfort so that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

ysic, Linda K.

 

 

 

Flourish-61

 

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No Condemnation, Period.

Naine_aerupaadiga_merel_-_A_woman_with_a_rowing_boat_on_sea_(9022836755)

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  

Romans 8:1, NIV

Those of us who examine scripture, are quickly confronted with this very direct concept of absolutely no condemnation for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ.  God’s own Son has died to bring us home. We are under no condemnation, our lives have been brought under His direction.  His grace has done all of this, for us.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.” 

Romans 8:31-33, NLT

There is absolutely nothing that can touch us.  There is no condemnation that comes up against us.  Our acceptance is total and complete in Christ. A vital faith in His Word has secured our salvation. But men still live in guilt and remorse, unable to break free of sin.

We have been counted ‘just’,  and this is not a clerical mistake!

He has made us right with Him.  He is now in direct intervention of the total immensity of my sin.  And He is waiting for me to respond.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Romans 5:1, NIV

Our faith has the capacity to make us right.  As we seek this out, He makes us righteous.  This is in spite of our darkness.  He intervenes in our darkness to bring us into the light. We stand clean before our Lord.

Anything that could be smeared on us, has been carried by Jesus as the sin we gave Him. 

He carries us on His frame, with all of our darkness and twistedness.  He has become evil so that we might be made good.  He absorbs sin, drawing in all my evil and taking it as His own.  Maybe this is strange, but I believe Jesus Christ is “God’s sponge.”

Justification, by our faith, is His gift to us.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

2 Corinthians 5:21, NASB

What in the world is there to say?  What words can really communicate what has just happened?  Let’s just stop, and think a moment. By faith “it is just as I’ve never sinned.” That is markedly good news.

 

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The Silver Lining in Pain and Suffering

This post and poem were originally written for a ‘Thankful Thursday’ post on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog. It was written while I waited in my doctor’s waiting room to talk to her about my pain medication prescription. When I told her I was writing a thankfulness poem titled “Pain and Suffering” she was skeptical, until I told her the perspective from which it was written.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

James 1:2-4 (NIV).

Although I would love to live a life in which I experienced no pain or suffering, that is not my lot. (I’ve never actually met anyone who did live a life with absolutely no pain or suffering.) I know that those who find their way here to Broken Believers have often had more than their fair share.

But I have come to a place in my life where I can find the good in all my pain and suffering – the “silver lining” if you will – in that it has taught me perseverance and compassion. For that I am thankful.

I am also thankful for God’s promise that my perseverance will finish its work so that I will be mature and complete.

Pain and Suffering

I will pray
because I care
as the pain drags
you down
Exhausting
endless
pain

I understand
how you feel
I’m exhausted
just like you

I have no power
to eliminate
the pain
Yours or mine

Will you let
compassion blossom
from the compost
of your pain?

Or will bitterness
engulf your soul
as pain ravages
your body and mind?

Because I care
I will pray
that we persevere
that the pain
will be eased

I will remind you
this, too, shall pass
someday

It might not be
until Jesus returns
or calls us
home

But we’ll make it
We’ll persevere
and become mature
and complete
I will pray
because I care

Will you pray
for me, too?

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.

James 1:12-18 (NIV).

Your sister,

Linda K.

 

 

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God’s Hospital–the Church Collects Sinners

The following excerpt is from the devotional book, “Living the Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson.  This pastor-professor is probably the person I want to grow up to be like; he has a gentleness and eloquence that is seldom seen–and highly respected.
Dr. Peterson died in 2018.
Author of many books, and his great translation of the Bible, titled “The Message” is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the English language. 
Additionally, he has recently focused on the pastor, and on the many issues, a pastor might face.  He understands being a servant of the Gospel and the Church. 
I encourage you to read his stuff.  

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“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude there is nothing to this religious business, except perhaps, business…and a distant one at that.  Insiders see it much differently.”

“Just as a hospital gathers the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the Church collects sinners.” 

“Many people outside are just as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It is similar with sinners outside the church.”

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 Some other quotes by Eugene Peterson:

  • “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
  • “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. “
  • “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
  • “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”
More Eugene Peterson Quotes…
 
 
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Making Your Prayer Real

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior.”

1 Timothy 2:1-3, NLT

“The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer.”

–John R. Mott

You are a priest without a collar. Your work is called “intercession.” It isn’t for cowards or the spiritual lazy. It needs to be ‘hidden’ in order to really work. No one should see, there will be no adulation or recognition. You may not even feel special. But God sees and hears you. Jesus told each one of us,

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

Mathew 6:6

When we ignite in prayer, we will see things as Jesus sees them. We will share His view and take part in His high priestly ministry. Jesus isn’t complacent, sitting on His throne, waiting for time to run out. I suppose that is the view of some, but it honestly isn’t real.

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most

Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

When we start to really intercede we become a sort of a “sub-priest.” We serve under the Lord Jesus the High Priest’s direction. We engage our work under the Holy Spirit’s oversight, and we start to plead for those who need Him most. We are the one’s who make things happen when we stand with Jesus.

So who and what do we pray for?

  1. Family and friends
  2. the sick, those in distress
  3. the stranger, the one who bags our groceries
  4. the church we attend, the pastor and elders, the congregation
  5. missions, or missionaries in a certain country, or in general
  6. for ministries working under God’s direction
  7. finances, supplies, for more workers in the ‘vineyard’
  8. safety and protection from the evil one, cults and businesses that ‘traffic’ in evil
  9. more wisdom and grace for all who are ministering God’s Word, for other intercessors
  10. our government, police, soldiers–from the ‘dog catcher’ to the president

These ten are just a start to get you going, this list is not complete by no means, but it’s a beginning. As you start praying you will add and expand these things. Remember that faith is a key component in the work of intercession. You must come in harmony with His present ministry. You do this through:

  1. praise and worship
  2. Bible reading and thinking about the Word
  3. listening and discerning what is happening around you
  4. asking questions that really matter
  5. being humble and broken, not haughty or proud as you pray
  6. becoming alert to all of the needs around you, be sneaky but holy
  7. instill in your heart the Kingdom of God and the supreme ministry of the King
  8. exercise His authority over the earth, see things as they really are
  9. personal prayer times that get you ready to pick up the ‘mantle’ of intercession
  10. see yourself joined in this ministry of Jesus, who wants “all men to be saved”

Don’t be surprised if the Spirit draws you to a specific need. I believe that there are ‘specialists’ in the Body of Christ. One person will concentrate his attention on the sick or the demonized. Another may be dedicated to praying for the president or the Supreme Court, and someone else might pray for certain missionaries or countries. In short, you must listen to the High Priest, and get your cue from Him. He most certainly will direct you on where you should stand!

There is definite power in joining with another or in a group. It seems to me though that this can be a challenge as we can get disengaged or passive. Spiritual laziness extinguishes the fire of God. Yet if we are sincere our intercession can become ‘turbocharged’ when we are actively with another. It should be a skill we develop over time. It will take concentrated work on your part to stay focused.

None of this is concrete.

Your brother, who is still learning,

Bryan

  

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Becoming a Steward of Your Pain

Some time ago I came across a story that connected. A visiting speaker stood in front of a congregation and shared a painful incident from his childhood. He wanted to bring healing. After he spoke, an elder came and spoke to him–

“You have learned how to become a proper steward of your pain.”

The visiting speaker was profoundly touched by this. Finally, something came together in his heart and soul. Yes, he did learn how to deal scripturally with those ugly things from his past. He was becoming a proper steward of his pain.

The word for steward in the original Greek is oikonomos. It literally means “a keeper of a home.” It describes a manager, a superintendent to whom the head of the house or proprietor has entrusted the management of his affairs, the diligent care of receipts and expenditures.

The issue for us is managing these awful things for the Kingdom of God.

No question about it, we live in a world of darkness. Each of us has been touched by hard things. Scars are part of our lives. When we come to Christ they come with us. All of these grim things are a real piece of us, we have been hurt (or maybe we’ve wounded others?)

Are you a good steward of who you are? Whether it’s a trauma, a physical, sexual, or perhaps a mental illness. It’s a scar you carry from your past, and no one is immune from them it seems. You’ll find freedom if you can use these things for Him and his Kingdom.

We must see and understand that Jesus has taken everything and redeems it all for His glory.

He understands us fully–our past, present, and future. He ‘knows’ us–the real and hidden us. The challenge I suppose is to take these sad events to the throne. He alone can heal and then use that which has devastated us.

Satan has afflicted you in his dark attempt to destroy you.

Jesus intervenes to save. As we grow to accept this, the Holy Spirit comes as our comforter and guide. He starts to teach us true redemption, and the incredible healing that he brings with him. It really is his work, not ours. We finally understand. It’s then we become broken healers that God can use.

The light has truly overcome the dark.

We’re being taught (sometimes very slowly) to carry all of these things and plead the blood of Jesus over our past. He covers us completely. He has redeemed us. Luke 1:68 explains much clearer than I can:

“Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel because he has visited and provided redemption for his people.”

Becoming a steward of our pain is his doing. We’re able to touch others with these things that would cripple and destroy others. He has made us “managers” of these things, and we are taught to teach others, declaring that God has completely saved us. He works miracles!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

We’ll sovereignly meet those who need to hear our story. We’re being transformed into authentic witnesses. Yes, at times these awful things still hurt, and I suppose that’s to be expected. But we’re learning to manage them. We’ve become real-life stewards of our pain.

That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Romans 8:28, Message

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Rainy Day People

rainyday1

“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”

Galatians 6:2

“Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.” 

1 Thessalonians 5:14, Message

Proverbs tells us that giving good advice is as rare as gold or silver.  I have met so many people who have an opinion about my problems, but few want to listen.  And listening skills are what my counselors need.  Job’s friends were the best counselors when they sat quietly in the ashes with him. They were sterling silver until… well, you know what happened next.

I want to unload my issues and be understood by someone.  

Personally, I need someone who has been profoundly depressed and finally stumbled out into the light.  It’s not that I don’t love certain believers, but they haven’t been “checked out” on this particular problem.  It’s like flying a plane or operating heavy equipment.  If you haven’t really suffered, then leave me alone–but, please do pray for me.

I’ve discovered that good counsel invariably comes from a good person. 

But it’s more than that– not everyone can do it.  At one time I thought any mature Christian believer had a right to give guidance, but that really wasn’t the case.  I also believe that every believer will receive a minimum of a ‘spiritual semester’ in counseling. The Holy Spirit will come to teach you. We have to learn there is wisdom, and there is counseling.

And at times, “wise” counseling.

I read this somewhere, and it seems like it’s true.  “Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell– just shut up!”  I don’t want to be rude, or ungrateful, but I really need someone who has visited ‘hell’ on occasion. And especially down this specific corridor. 

People who have been damaged by life know what I mean.

Often counselors are offering a very small part of the needed wisdom. They must accept this. I however place a premium on the counsel of a few dear friends, even though I have hundreds of Christian relationships. I am a bit of a hermit, so it’s hard to find caliber people that I can trust.

My guess is that 1 in 70 people, [more or less] are qualified to deal with mental illness. 

I don’t diminish relationships, but I do know that certain people are not tested on certain problems.  This may be simplistic, or a little harsh.  But when I had my brain tumor, I did not want my car mechanic to fix me, I wanted a neurosurgeon. And both are wonderful people. I’m fortunate to have them.

Choose your rainy day people carefully. Mark them out beforehand; before things get out of hand.

If you’re reading this, and you have a mental illness issue that’s starting to escalate, you need to reach out.  Ask the Holy Spirit for His help in this.  He is the Comforter and the Wonderful Counselor.  He will direct you, and help you.  That is what He does.

“Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call,

Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen till they’ve heard it all.

Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell ‘ya they’ve been down like you.

Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re cryin’ a tear or two.”

Gordon Lightfoot, 1975

&

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Disproportionate Suffering

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’

(Exodus 3:2-3)

“The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God’s sustaining grace. The God who sustains Christians in unceasing pain is the same God — with the same grace — who sustains me in my smaller sufferings. We marvel at God’s persevering grace and grow in our confidence in Him as He governs our lives.”

— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”

All of us know a brother or sister who seems to be a target of an undue amount of suffering. It seems like they’re always in the furnace. All we can do really is to shake our heads and then give them double honor for their faith in God’s grace and providence.

Ministering to these sufferers can be a challenge.

What can we say to those who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in pain?

Perhaps a simple word of calm encouragement is the most effective. In the midst of some awful difficulties, I once had a dear brother who gently and carefully quoted Philippians 1:6 to me over and over whenever we met and whenever we parted:

 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6

It was a precious thing that he did. I didn’t mind it all, as a matter of fact I grew to like it. At first, I’ll admit it was strange, but my faith began to ‘mix’ with the Word and I began to believe it. It’s now my favorite verse in the Bible.

He refused to preach (or counsel) at me.

He had the maturity to see what God was doing and to make himself available to God on my behalf. Perhaps that patience he showed should be for us the method of choice? I look forward to seeing him someday, someway.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Romans 5:3

A keyword in this verse is “rejoice.”

It is a good reminder that the pain we feel is not the end. These trials have a limited duration (although it seems far away). There is coming a day when we can navigate through these issues and come out on the other side. “We will shine like the stars” (Daniel 12:3).

Much wisdom is needed in our ministry to disproportionate sufferers. We should have a fear of intruding on the work the Lord is doing. We must be patient and humble in this matter. There is no rushing God, after all, it’s His work. Most importantly we must be very much ‘present’ for our friend.

But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,

Romans 5:3

A “word” spoken out of place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap, saying no word.  

The Lord God gives me
the right words
    to encourage the weary.
Each morning he awakens me
    eager to learn his teaching.

Isaiah 50:4, CEB

Ask the Father to guide you. Be gentle. Be there. Hw will give you (in His time) a good word for them.

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Confession – A Villanelle

Walking Toward His Light

This poem is written in the “villanelle* form. I wrote it as a reminder to myself of how hard the darkness of depression can be so that I don’t lose my compassion for those in my world who are struggling to find the Light. But it is also a reminder that the Light of Christ does shine in that darkness, however faintly, and will never be extinguished. If you feel oppressed by the darkness, seek His Light.

Confession

The light shines in the darkness
Faintly I see His light
My need I will confess
Toward the light I press
Keeping hope in my sight
The light shines in the darkness
Despair my soul’s distress
Entangled in the night
My need I will confess
His grace I will profess
Giving me the strength to fight
The light shines in the darkness
I feel anguish oppress
Crushing with all its might
My need I will confess
Feeling His love’s caress
Compassion burning bright
The light shines in the darkness
      My need I will confess

__________________________________________

* vil·la·nelle, [vil-uh-nel]

noun, Prosody

a short poem of fixed form, written in tercets, usually five in number,

followed by a final quatrain, all being based on two rhymes.
 
 
 

Check out Linda’s site @ anotherfearlessyear.net

 

T
 

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Is He Your Friend, or a Doctrine?

“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

  ~D.L. Moody

Friendship with God can be a liberating secret. It releases us from the terrible bondage of religion and ritual with all its negative connotations. Intimacy with our Lord will carry us beyond creed or doctrine to the place of true communion.

It’s not that the Law is bad, but in the intense light of God’s grace it’s a poor substitute. We value legalism, and that is precisely what we believe when we bypass the relationship. Doctrine is a good servant, but a poor master.

Grace always trumps legalism. Love surpasses rules.

We evangelicals talk big about “a personal relationship.” That is indeed crucial. But few be the believers that walk in a daily friendship with their Savior. That is truly a tragedy.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

John 15:15, NLT

Friendship with Jesus will bring true guidance. He shares secrets and wisdom with his friends. We are brought into a true knowledge of the Kingdom through the relationship of friendship with the King. We are not slaves– or drones, slavishly serving out of slavish fear.

We are now His friends.

Jesus wants to confide in us; sharing mysteries hidden by time and sin. And his kingdom is full of great perplexities! He is looking to bring us into a willingness of daily communion.

He will heal our wounds, and forgive all our sins. He is truly our savior as well as our friend.

Friendship comes with a price. It means we are now tethered to the Lord. That can get old, especially when I want to do my own thing. I will continually have to lay something down and choose to accept tether and follow Him.

But my soul now has a best friend.

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Learning to Walk, Again

“I took Israel by the arm and taught them to walk. But they would not admit that I was the one who had healed them.”

Hosea 11:3

Early in my walk, over 40 years ago, I concluded that I would be able to acquire all the knowledge that I could ever want.  I was on the short track, going up of course.  It was a glorious thing, it took me some time to realize I was very ignorant of so much.

The Bible communicates truth, not facts.

As I age, I start to understand that things are much more enigmatic and unfathomable than I ever dreamed they would be.  It is a step of faith to accept the truth when there are still a lot of things that are still vague.  Mike Mason wrote,

“You say you have faith to be healed, but what about the faith to be sick?”

That is a penetrating question, indeed.  “Why are some healed, and others are not?  Why do I have eternal life, and my friend does not?  Why should AIDS sweep through poor African villages when I live in a very comfortable suburb in the US?”  I have many other questions like this.

And I’m not making a whole lot of headway here.  Reasons and facts are not there. Life becomes more mysterious and inscrutable.  But there is a word we must know–it is the word “trust”.  It is a faith that assists us through the landscape of impossible questions.

As a sometimes struggling, mentally ill Christian, many (even in my own church) create more questions for me.  “Therapists, psychiatrists, and daily medications are really good, but do you really need them?” or  “Did God create in you the need for lithium and Zoloft?” and ” How can you follow Jesus when you have all of these depression issues?” And here’s a humdinger, “Where is your joy?”

But it is precisely these issues that help me be a disciple. 

I’ve been slowly learning you see.  And my weaknesses are becoming my strengths.  They lead me to exercise my feeble faith.  I trust in Jesus; my faith helps me trust. I find it interesting to note that the Book of Psalms, for the most part, was written by “a broken believer” like David– a king and (also) a rascal.

“People with their minds set on you,
    you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
    because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
    because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, The Message

These nebulous areas have only increased. 

Ironically my trust has only grown.  I have more questions than ever before, but my faith in him only gets stronger. I suppose I will never, ever be a gleefully upbeat, cheery person.  But I am learning “to trust and obey, there is no other way…”  He himself has taken up the chore of teaching me to walk, again. Just one thing, keep trusting.

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Straining at Your Oars

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them.”

Mark 6:48

It’s good to know that Jesus sees our labor and effort.  He truly understands all that concerns us, and he perceives every issues that matters most to us.  Attentive and keenly aware He comes to our boat.  It’s quite common for us to think that he isn’t aware, and we may feel that He’ll pass us by without a word.  But that is not the case at all.

Jesus watches over us, all the time. 

He knows all about our battle, the fight we have with our flesh, the difficulty we have with the challenging people in our lives. I often struggle to steer my boat. Jesus knows when and why I labor like I do.  And He doesn’t condemn me.

The disciples were straining very hard to keep the boat afloat. 

Every oar was being used and every man had his seat.  They must work together.  Some were frantically bailing, and a couple gripped the tiller. Considerable effort was being expended but to no avail.  The wind pushed harder against them.  This is perplexing.  If you remember, they’re simply trying to obey the command of Jesus to cross the sea. 

Why do things have to be so difficult?

I’m intrigued by believers who expect sunshine, blue sky, and red roses because they are doing God’s will.  They don’t seem to think through the issues of conflict and challenge, weakness and humility.

“It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:22

Doing the will of God will often mean that there will be a headwind directly at us.
 

The seas will become impossible, and we may even be driven back.  But special comfort comes when we realize we’re being watched.  Jesus is doing constant surveillance on us, and He sees our toil on the oars. He comes to us, walking on the water.

Even in our storm, our hearts can rejoice.

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”

Matthew 28:20

 

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Dancing With Bruises

ballerina stretching
Photo by Beto Franklin on Pexels.com

Sometimes it seems like bruises are part of life’s gift package to us.

Dancers are some of the most talented people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. A dancer’s training is far from easy. But by choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain.

Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some live with chronic tendonitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion, but they still choose to dance.

Two things to consider.

  • They choose to dance. Dancers must operate with an iron will and an elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance the way they do. They have painfully blended the two.
  • The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” They would rather dance in pain, than not dance at all.

I once heard someone describe depression as having a mental bruise. I think I might understand. 

As one prone to depression, I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for weeks at a time. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt lost and completely alone.

I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed again.

My sense of being totally lost in sad, dark thoughts was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering, and it is often a hellish and desperate depression.dancer-feet

We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. The dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. I don’t think Satan has the spiritual “voltage.”

I refuse to hide my mental bruises from those who share my pain. I will make the choice to dance. I’m bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, and “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

Isaiah 42:3

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Your Shepherd, Forever

 1-3 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

Psalm 23, Message

The Lord wants to escort you to someplace wonderful, it’s where there is a rich rest and a sweet intimacy– in spite of fierce conflict.  Everything you need is revealed in Psalm 23, and it’s beautiful.

It is more than good poetry. It’s a way of life.

There is a preciousness just beyond our ‘status quo.’  It is abundant life for eternity.  When you have apprehended it, you will understand what I am talking about, and wonder why you’ve missed it for so long. Eternal life has already begun even though many of us don’t walk as if it did. We have eternal life, right here—right now!

There is a place which we can enter where Jesus is all there is. 

His dear presence pervades everything, and there is no doubt about His lordship.  He rules completely, and He is “all-in-all.” A believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit knows this.

There’s evidence when you have appropriated this deeper life. There will be a surrender of all you have, and you will fully understand what it truly means to be His follower and part of Jesus’flock.  There will be a complete renunciation of all rights to yourself.  With an insurmountable joy, you will give it all up just to walk with Him.

Live on earth as if you’ve already died, and are now living in heaven with Him.

There must be a definite place to turn your rights over to Him. Perhaps His love has already pressed you into this.  Often there will be disillusionment and cynicism about this planet and its ugly ways.  You want to escape all its dullness and jadedness.  You will step into ‘life-effervescent.’  He intends to walk you through many issues, but if He is close I will suggest you trust Him fully.

If you struggle with a mental illness: clinical depression, bipolar, anxiety issues, or schizophrenia, I want to reassure you, that you are not a “lesser” Christian.  And my comments include you.  You are not on the ‘scrap heap’ of the Spirit.  In so many ways, you can enter in while ordinary people will struggle.  And you do need to step into this and discover a life worth living.

A “Psalm 23 life” is yours for the asking. Take it up, humbly and true. It’s your birthright to be with your Shepherd forever.

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An Injured Life

“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster.”

“The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.”

 –Stephan Hoeller

Sometimes we find it almost impossible to see things from God’s perspective. We hurt, and lash out, sometimes irrationally. We subconsciously compare our situation to others we see and admire. This is something we do almost automatically. When it feels like we are being singled out, we get angry with God. Deep down, we know better, but anger can get the best of us.

God’s business is pearl-planting. He’s looking for a soft heart that can be cultivated.

His intention is never to harm but to enrich us. When Lynn and I lost our daughter, Elizabeth, the pain was incredible. We looked and saw healthy families all around us. I began to accuse God and compare us with them. We hurt, they did not, and it seemed so unfair. It’s been awfully hard. But as time moved on, I slowly felt the growth inside. Over time it has become a pearl. 

A pearl of great price, because it came to us as a result of our daughter’s tragic death.

Our lives have been injured, and perhaps my illness has exacerbated things. Maybe physical issues or pain are a definite part of your life. There is a myriad of ways we can hurt. At times we are angry. But remember, God has a plan and He also understands completely. When Jesus meets you in heaven–he will do so with nail-pierced hands.

“Though he slays me, I will hope in him.”

Job 13:15

A really, really good book:

Paul Billheimer, the Christian author, wrote a book years ago entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows“. (The title alone is worth the price of the book.) We each have the potential of throwing away the work of God in suffering. We can literally waste the pain, suffering, and grief by turning our back and denouncing God to the world. It happens all the time.

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Keep Walking

 

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a deep, dark valley. Often it feels more like a narrow slot canyon where no sunshine can reach.

The Narrows slot canyon at Zion National Park is 18 miles long and if you want to walk up it you’re in the water—often very deep water, with a strong current and rocky bottom—all the way. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart.

My husband and I hiked part of the way up the Narrows last summer. There was no way I could make it the full 18 miles. Even the mile we did trek was almost too much for me. My wristband that says “I can and I will” reminded me of the hope I needed to make it back downriver.

Life itself isn’t for the faint of heart.

It’s impossible without hope. Thankfully, hope never dies. And God never leaves us alone.

David reminds us in Psalm 23 that no matter how dark the slot canyon of life becomes, we are not alone. We must always remember these words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” We are only walking through the dark valley and on our darkest days, hope is there.

So if you find yourself today walking in darkness, unable to see the light, keep walking. Even if you can barely muster a crawl, keep moving forward through the dark valley. You can and you will reach the other side. And when you do, you’ll find hope was there all along.

My valley of the shadow of death lasted more than seven years.

At the time, I felt all hope was lost. But looking back I can see that my Savior never left me. Hope never died, dim though it was.

I pray you may one day look back and see that hope has never left you either.

 

 
 
Linda L. Kruschke blogs at Another Fearless Year.

 

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Notice Leah’s Eyes, [Handicaps]

Portait of woman wearing scarf with eyes closed

Stuck in the wonders of scripture we can start a great study of Leah and her sister Rachel. Let’s start by saying two daughters of Laban have become Jacob’s wives. We must step into Genesis 29 to see more.

Jacob longs for Rachel. She is his “soul mate” and because he’s in love, the customs and technicalities of the day somehow get by him. Because of this, he will have to take on Laban’s subtle trickery, where daughters get exchanged, and he must sort out who is who.

Laban’s deception really does create a crisis. 

But it seems Jacob just rolls with it. I suppose deception has always been Jacob’s strong suit. (But when we see a deceiver gets deceived, that can’t be all bad).

Jacob is so in love with Rachel that he works for seven years for the right to marry her. This may be a bit outrageous. But we really must weigh these issues. I believe Jacob really is a monogamist at heart (shh… don’t tell him). He can only see that one girl that he is crazy about, his true love, Rachel.

But it’s Leah that I think about. Her own issues are unique. Genesis 29 explains it a bit cryptically,

“Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” 

Genesis 29:17

I must tell you that there is confusion by commentators about the “weak eyes.” Some take it literally (as in, she is very “near-sighted,”) others who look at the original Hebrew find the words to be a bit looser and vague. They think that this is a polite way of saying she really wasn’t pretty. IDK, but I think I can gain from either interpretation.

I think I may understand Leah.

She is wounded, and life requires that she live as unwanted. She is a woman of tragedy and broken hopes and dreams. She will always live as a reject. At best, she will always be a distant second, and perhaps a bit scorned and neglected for this.

Leah is the champion for the challenged.

I so love Leah and I do understand her. Her life is a long tragedy and very full of sadness. For the next 30-40 years she will always be a cast-off, someone who has been broken on life’s hard wheel. I look at her with a painful bit of understanding. She is a fellow struggler and a survivor. Her sad life is comparable to us who have to fight so hard over our own illness or handicap.

I’ve no idea what her issue was. But I do know that she must’ve been challenged by this terrible weakness. I understand this. My own life has been “topsy-turvy” and a really hard struggle. Somehow it seems we must work through these things way too much. It doesn’t seem fair. 

For those of you who are confined to a ‘chair,’ and the others who must deal with mental illness. Leah should be our hero. For those who have been betrayed by addiction, or who have felt rejected through a bitter divorce– Leah speaks to us. She is for every loser and for failures of all stripes. But through all of our setbacks and messes, we must realize that God does love us– even as we weep.

We may have Leah’s eyes, but we also have His grace.


“When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”

–Francis de Sales

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Our City of Refuge

Buried in the Old Testament is the idea of the Cities of Refuge.

They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope for us who struggle so. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— maybe an ax-head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.

God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities were pretty much covering Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close. That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.

Us as believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essential ‘criminals’ who have hurt others and damaged ourselves in the process.

Outside of the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.

Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest dies. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.

For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.

The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide—they can be a real part of our lives.

I must tell you that safety is found in only a place.

Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:

“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”

For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.

I encourage you to think this over and pray about this. Numbers 35 is a good place to start. That chapter is pretty clear. Look also at Exodus 21:13-14; Joshua 20:1-6; Deuteronomy 19:2-13.

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A.W. Tozer, on Having a Personal Revival

How to Have a Personal Revival,
Serious Repentance and Restitution, and
Steps to Spiritual Growth.

by A.W. Tozer

1) Put yourself in the way of the blessing. 

It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met. There are plainly marked paths that lead straight to the green pastures; let us walk in them.  To desire revival, for instance, and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk another.

2) Do a thorough job of repenting. 

Do not hurry to get it over with.  Hasty repentance means shallow spiritual experience and lack of certainty in the whole life.  Let godly sorrow do her healing work. Until we allow the consciousness of sin to wound us, we will never develop a fear of evil. It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.

3) Make restitution whenever possible. 

If you owe a debt, pay it, or at least have a frank understanding with your creditor about your intention to pay, so your honesty will be above question. If you have quarreled with anyone, go as far as you can in an effort to achieve reconciliation. As fully as possible make that crooked things straight.

*****

Thought 

Repentance and restitution result when we seriously reflect on what God shows us in His Word. What is it of which we need to repent and is there restitution to be made?

 

Scripture

“Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart];”

Matthew 3:8 (Amplified Bible)

Prayer

My tendency, Lord, is not to take seriously my sin that hurts other people and to leave unrepaired the damage I have left in the lives of others. Make me sensitive, Lord!

 

tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer was born on April 21, 1897, on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania, the third of six children. And although he would inspire millions with his preaching and writing, he was given very little education during his childhood.

A. W. Tozer was 66 when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1963. Buried in a small cemetery in Akron, his tombstone simply and appropriately reads, “A Man of God.” He left behind many books that continue to give Christians encouragement and guidance. His writings are as fresh today as when he was alive. His honest and colloquial humor has been known to sweep up congregations in gales of laughter. And his wisdom has left them silent and stunned. For almost 50 years Tozer walked with God, and even though he is gone, he continues to minister to those who are eager to experience God.

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On Being Loved More Gently (My Disability)

There will be no wheelchairs, canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven. Outside the gates, there will be a huge pile of crutches.

Some of us have been struggling with mental or physical illness.  Some people don’t understand and they walk away.  This really hurts, and we can isolate ourselves even more.  We feel not only forsaken but even “cursed” by God. But these things shouldn’t separate us from our Father’s love.  (He loves “his special needs” children even more?)

We believe that our transformation is happening, more and more, into the image of Christ.  We are becoming like him (hence the word, Christlikeness).  This is a long process, but it is happening!  (Philippians 1:6). God has given his word.  Don’t give up. It may take years, or maybe taking just a few moments.

I believe he understands us perfectly.

I’m seeing lately that spiritual growth and getting older often work hand-in-hand (and why shouldn’t they?)  Often as we get older, we’ll start having many different issues.  When you’re 60 years old, you don’t have the same situations that you had when you were 30.  Physically we grow and understand things differently, and this works into us spiritually. 

Becoming older (and hopefully wiser) we will blend discipleship and age together, especially when the Word and Spirit are present.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”  

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:3-6, NLT

It is my wish for you that you could walk in your own shoes, and not somebody else. Also that you would know the grace of God intimately. Being disabled means special efforts will often be necessary, but Jesus’ love for your soul will be molded to fit that disability. There will be no wheelchairs or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven.

I like to imagine that there will be a considerable pile outside the gates. Glory awaits.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

 

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Lonely, or Just Alone?

“Loneliness was the first thing that God saw that was not good”

John Milton

Are you lonely? It really doesn’t matter if you are married or single. Frankly, those who have a spouse can be powerfully affected by a sense of loneliness. (They obviously are pressured to suppress this.) But they truly feel very much alone.

When we find ourselves affected by this issue, we think a lot about being alone. We become an ‘island,’ isolated and separate, and the intense figure of this is the ‘castaway’ of those who, somehow end up completely alone on a deserted beach. 

There is nothing ‘romantic’ or ideal about this experience.

After a week, we start to feel the isolation. It creeps in on us, expands, and begins to ‘feed’ on our perceptions. And that can poison us.

To define it, to be lonely is the absence of human relationships. But to be alone is to be without connections.  They can overlap sometimes, but they are very separate issues. The unmarried 40-year-old could be free from loneliness, and the person who is married (with several kids) feels quite lonely.

We cannot attribute our ‘heart issues’ to our response to isolation.

Some will thrive, and others chafe. Many derive a sense of well-being by becoming married. Essentially they choose the fallacy that this may just solve their feeling of loneliness.  If I cut my hand, a band-aid will not heal the wound, it can only help (on a superficial level,) but the healing comes from within us.

There is a definite need to see the unique situation and understand how it does fluctuate. Things will move and our attitudes may change. We can cross back and forth, and that is quite understandable. But embedded sadness over being alone can be disastrous to a full and amazing life with Jesus.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”

John 14:16, NASB.

We certainly need each other. That is ‘how we roll.’ But what is necessary and for certain is, “We are not alone, never.” The deep presence of Jesus can be profoundly close, and all we need is His nearness and our awareness, and it’s going to be ok.

There is so much we can do.

The first is to get real about the issues that are involved.  Go ahead and acknowledge the struggle you encountering.  Secondly, we need to admit the sin of harboring this, and even letting it to take control of our thinking. Thirdly, to actively turn away from sin, and then focus on Jesus as our dear companion and friend.

These three are just focal points. They will often take very different adjustments for each person. But they are definitely a starting point. Even as you work through this, allow the Holy Spirit to be your faithful guide.

 

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