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When the Storms Rage On

 

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deut. 31:8, NLT

You can go to the British Museum in London, England and view for yourself old nautical charts that were made in the early 1500s. Written on them are things like, “Here be fiery scorpions” and “Here be giants” or the classic, “Here be dragons.” These notations were written I suppose, to discourage any future kind of exploration.

At this early point a man named Sir John Franklin wrote on each map, “Here is God.” His sincerity was well noted– and it strengthened the sailors, and helped them to trust in a discovery that would lead to salvation for many.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.”

Mark 4:35-37

There lots of waves, plenty enough to go around. The disciples, most of them who are grizzled fisherman, are just starting to realize that their boat isn’t equipped with any life-jackets. They are in deep trouble, and I suppose many “crossed” themselves and prepared to die. Everything now is lost.

When death comes to visit it can be quite sobering. It clarifies so much. If you’ve ever been at this point, you will understand what I am saying.

“But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Mark 4:38-39

Where is Jesus? Look! There he is–sleeping on a pillow. “How can He sleep, when the world is going to end?” They wake up him up, and pointedly say, “Don’t you even care? We are at the very point of death!”

Shaking off His slumber, Jesus stands. He looks at the vicious waves, and then announces, “Be at peace, be still.” Immediately the storm automatically ‘shuts down.’ There is no reluctance, no hesitation. The waves become calm and subdued, instantly. The Greek word he he uses is “to be muzzled,” which is exactly the word he uses when he binds the demon several verses later.

Jesus turns, He focuses on His own disciples. “Why did you doubt?”  He asks. And they can say nothing. “Where is your faith?” he asks. And again, they can say nothing. They’re overwhelmed at the authority of Jesus. They’re more amazed at him, then they ever were at the storm. 

Confusion rules often rules over us, when desperation is present. But yet this is not totally true, confusion will enter in, when everything we see is impossible. We glance back at Jesus, and we see and discover His power and significance. Rightly so, when our storm overwhelms us, it’s his chance to prove himself, and to show us who we really are–or rather, who we aren’t.

The disciples should have by now, realized the full strength of Jesus. Our Lord was so very tired. And yet before he went to sleep, he told his followers that he would bring them to the opposite side of the lake. Being drowned in the middle of the lake was never a factor, nor was it in his plans.

Our lives should be focused on Jesus leading us through to the other side. He is in our tiny little boat, and yet we struggle with such humongous waves. They threaten to cripple and completely dismantle us, and besides, so much water is getting into our boat. And unless he gets directly involved, we’re going to sink like a rock!

We won’t always travel through calm waters.

There will be definite times when we discover peace and confidence, and things will be fairly easy. Dangers that will visit us, and yet are not really a problem. But rain or shine, we are His children. We don’t know why, but he really does love us. We are his “property” and we must believe that we belong to him, and he’s fully dedicated to bring us all the way home.

Never, ever doubt His deep love for your soul.

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But I Do It Anyway

A collapsed church, a struggling life

“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

I hesitate to tell you this, but I have not found any hidden secrets to becoming a holy person.

To be sure, I wish I had figured this out sooner. I would very much like to come to you with the secret formula of godliness. I would easily latch on to this idea of a “magic wand” for every hurt. I think it would be good–and then again, maybe not. I’m certain it would be too much power for me to wield.

But the authentic Christian life is hardly formulaic. It seems to defy any attempt to explain, and then guide anyone else into that special place of true obedience or holiness. I’m supposing that you are just like me. I truly want to be right. I would love to be holy. But it ain’t happening. I always seem to end up back in the place I started from. Always, defeat and failure. (Rats!)

Romans 7 is not an excuse to sin, but it seems to be an observation of our present condition.

I’ve always been mystified by the conundrum that is Romans 7. You see, I really want chapter 8, but I’ll settle for 6, and even 5 would be good. But poor Romans 7 never gets considered. It’s been in limbo, I don’t really know what to do with it. (I honestly avoid it, after all chapter 8 is so good!) But way deep down, I have a strong sense I’m missing something vital and important.

Many good teachers and preachers view chapter 7 as parenthetical. They suggest that Paul is describing his life before coming to Christ, and certainly not in a ‘present-tense’ discipleship. (Definitely a brain-twister.)

When I look at the Gospels, I see, across the board that those– the healed, forgiven, cleansed and made whole were always the most desperate. They have nothing, they bring nothing– they meet no requirement, but stepping out into pure poverty. They are the “zeroes.”

I don’t believe, at this point anyway, that there is a singular doctrine of sanctification.

Perhaps we can truly do nothing in precise alignment. There is no such thing as a microwavable discipleship, and no instant breakfasts to be had. We truly come with a desperate faith– and we will end up with just a desperate faith.

This should be incredibly humbling to us all. It seems it takes some real repetitive lessons to learn humility as we meander down the way of God’s road of discipleship.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!”

Romans 7:21-24, NLT

Please (someone?– anyone?!) challenge me on this. I tell you, chapter 7 chafes, and then disrupts my comfortable life. Will I always be so misaligned? Or am I just a lousy excuse for a Christian disciple? If I’m out of line and screwed up– please let me know. “Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” (John 6:68.)  This happens to be my cry at this present moment.

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

–Mike Yaconelli

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Stigma Sucks

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Mental illness doesn’t necessary mean exotic or strange– but it does mean different. It doesn’t make one bizarre, or odd. Coming to faith in Christ really settles this issue for most. While our mental illness is flaring up, yet we are still being changed by the Holy Spirit. He’s still at work–perhaps hidden, but he still is there.

We can’t really nullify the work of God. It takes as much grace to change a “normal” man as a mentally challenged one. God does not have to work any harder; there are no lost causes or last chances. All require the same grace. I really must thank God for this. Seriously.

Since I fight with depression I’ve become aware of mental illness throughout history. Many painters and poets, inventors and doctors have come from the ranks of bipolar disorder. Because many of those with manic depression and sufferers of depression have excelled; we would not have harnessed electricity if it wasn’t because a bipolar/ADHD created the light bulb.

But we are different. But we also can bring a giftedness that is necessary. We are not pariahs or leeches, but rather we are unique. Typically we may be passionate and sensitive. We are touched by something creative. Some have called depression and bipolar disorder as those “touched by fire.”

Mental illness can be seen as more of a mental difference, than a liability. We are not crazy or lunatics running amok. Sometimes others pity us; often when they do they shut us off, and permanently seal us up into a weird sense of extreme wariness. This should not be.

13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Psalm 139:13-14, NLT

God has created each one. We are all “knit together” by the hand of God. There are no second rates– never prototypes, not quite His best work. The blood of Christ works in spite of handicaps and personality quirks.

Some may hesitate about this. But it’s essentially an act of faith. The treasures of the Church are unique. They are the blind and the lame, the ones not always stable. What others consider marginal, or lacking, are really the valuable ones. It’s these that the Church should glory in.

During the middle ages a large church was surrounded by vandals. The priest was told that by noon the next day he must bring out the treasure of the church and pile them out on the steps. The next day, the vandals found a group of lame, weak, sick and mentally ill out on the steps. “What are these,” the leader demanded. The priest calmly said–these are the treasures of the church. 

We’ve become the audio/visual department of the Church. They see us and understand God’s gift of grace.

I encourage you to broaden your thinking on this. To stigmatize others is never a healthy, or a God honoring attitude. It indicates a small heart. If you pass false judgement, He will deal with you.

 

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He Collects Losers and Misfits

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“The Lord says, “At that time, I will gather the crippled; I will bring together those who were sent away, those whom I caused to have trouble.”  

“I will keep alive those who were crippled, and I will make a strong nation of those who were sent away. The Lord will be their king in Mount Zion from now on and forever.”

Micah 4:6-7, NCV

I’ve thought much lately about the  Thorton Wilder play, “The Angel that Troubled the Waters”. The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4. In this play the angel meets a physician waiting for a miracle by the pool.

After a protracted conversation, the angel makes a challenge to the desperate doctor–

“Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve.”

For those of us who have been abused, and marginalized, we now have become accepted.  Being an outcast from ‘decent society’, has now at this moment, become the ticket to a life in the very center of God’s will.

Believe it or not, your past is no longer a significant problem when you understand He has completely forgiven you. 

His Holy Spirit moves us out of our gross ugliness.  He then places us out where we now become visible witnesses. This spotlight focuses on us, even though we may stand confused and exposed.  We may protest over being ‘outed’ like this, but this is what He wants. “He desires truth in the inmost parts.”  He has redeemed us, and we’ll never be the same.  Never!

God loves losers. 

He steps in and with His special agenda, starts looking for all of us who are failures.  In His heart, He pulls us together into His army of misfits.  If you are wonderful and complete in yourself, and oh so confident in your spiritual life– I am sorry, you haven’t been invited.  

Those of us, who have stumbled so frequently and so often, we are escorted into the incredible deepness of His presence.  We have failed, and we have been defeated.  We don’t belong here, holiness is not our element.  But we will stand, for we know our place.  He intends on transforming us into His gallant army. He has done all of this.

“It’s not about perfection; it’s about our intimacy with God, or our connection, our relationship with God. Once we get through that, once we realize that we can be imperfect, and flawed, and broken; It is these kinds of things are the ingredients of true spirituality.”

Mike Yaconelli

There are so many who are waiting to understand this crazy miracle.  Being consummate losers should make us people with a deep grace.  Because we are tender, we can call out to others to come and join the “spiritual loser club.”

 

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Proximity is Your Choice

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 matters after looking down the long corridors of eternity.

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 always 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 the deep commitment to sharing ‘the works of God’.

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Your Love Will Define You

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“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”

1 Peter 1:22, NLT

Love defines us as believers. I’ve recently been sharing God’s love to Steve, a backslidden Christian who sleeps in the woods behind our local Safeway. I’m aware that Jesus loves him so much, and that love just seems to burst out of me. I can hardly contain it. The Father loves Steve, and I hope to share that same love the next time I talk with him. He introduces me to other homeless people, “Here’s my pastor,” and that is an encouragement, but it often embarrasses me.

Love takes on many different forms. But it always is giving. It simply can’t be thinking of itself; it exists for others and takes no thought of itself. That magnificence that is God’s love gets funneled through us, and we are compelled to share it. Perhaps we are simply called to be ‘the transfer point.’

“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.”

1 Thess. 3:12

God initiates the love to be shared. Some of us are weaker than others; perhaps we are physically or mentally handicapped. But as believers, we are to turn to God to fill our hearts. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how flawed you are, what matters is the vast ocean of God’s love. Weakness only makes it easier, because we’ve quit relying on ourselves to love others.

 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:35

Our calling is to be ‘naturally supernatural.’ And that will take the dealings of God.

But please remember the joy that is present when you get to communicate His love. The book of Philippians is saturated with Paul’s joy at sharing God’s love. He sees it as his privilege to share it with the Church. And oh how God loves His Church! The Holy Spirit can teach you, how to do this if you’re teachable. IF…is a big word.

Faith makes all things possible… love makes all things easy.

–D.L. Moody
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A Date With the Awl

Body piercing has become pretty much acceptable just in the last ten years.  Studs are placed in a hole or piercing to make a permanent decoration.  I have seen a fair amount of it, and I think that a stud in the tongue has got to be the most intrusive.  (I recently read of a young girl who died after her tongue was pierced from an infection).

There is “body piercing” in scripture.  In Deuteronomy 15:12-18, slaves who are being set free by their master after six years of service, could, if they loved and were loved by their master, could choose to remain a slave to him.

“But if your slave says to you, “I don’t want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and has a good life with you,17 stick an awl through his ear into the door; he will be your slave for life. Also do this to a female slave.”

Deuteronomy 15:12-18

This was a decision that required elders to act as witnesses.  It was significant as well as completely binding.  I like to think of the ceremony to be kind of a cross between a wedding and a circumcision. (Sounds fun, huh?!)

The slave would be led to a doorpost and the master would take an awl, and push it through his ear lobe.  This designated the slave to be forever “owned” by a specific master.  Herein lies a picture of the Christian.

Many times in the New Testament we are called to be servants (slaves) of Christ.

Peter, Paul, James, and Jude referred to themselves as “bond servants of Jesus Christ” in their epistles.This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is awl-piercing-faith-1.jpg This is not a forced servitude. It’s a choice made in love!

There are many believers who have done the same, they have fallen in love with their Savior.  They do not plan on a life apart from Him.  So spiritually they have gone to the doorpost, the awl is pushed through their ear, and they are marked from that point on.

Although the ear was pierced physically in the Old Testament, a different kind of piercing takes place in the New.  In Romans 6:16 we read,

“Surely you know that when you give yourselves like slaves to obey someone, then you are really slaves of that person. The person you obey is your master. You can follow sin, which brings spiritual death, or you can obey God, which makes you right with him.”

Romans 6:16, (NCV)

When the prodigal son returned home from the far country he fell before his father and humbly ask,make me your servant.” (Luke 15:19,21) He, in essence, was saying to the father, “pierce my ear.” The father made him a son, but the attitude of the son’s heart had changed to the heart of a servant. So it must be with us. Only then will we live a “pierced ear” life, revealing to all that we are servants of Jesus Christ!

“Savior, I know Thou hast allowed me absolute liberty, to serve Thee, or to go my own way. I would serve Thee forever, for I love my Master. I will not go out free. Mark my ear, Lord, that it might respond only to Thy voice.”

— Jim Elliot, Missionary and Martyr

 

 

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Depression: Take Another Look

 

Depression has been called the “common cold” of mental disorders, and one source estimates that it disrupts the lives of 30 to 40 million Americans.

Depression is too complicated to solve with a single answer.

Gary Collins, in Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide (Dallas: Word, 1988), lists eight major categories of causes for depression,* and six major approaches to treating it. Each one has multiple options within each category. In addition, people use the word “depression” to cover everything from disappointment over losing a baseball game, to the terrifying gloom that drives people to suicide.

The Bible does not use the word “depression,” although it describes people whom we might call depressed. It certainly doesn’t mention antidepressant drugs. However, there are a few general principles I would recommend when trying to deal with depression:

Aim to work on the causes of your depression, not just the symptoms. Scripture points to many issues of sin or conflict that can affect your emotions; most counselors would agree that depression can result from other underlying issues. Don’t just worry about the depression itself; check to see what other problems need attention.

Realize that you can’t base life on your emotions.  Christians base life on truth, not feelings. Philippians 4:1 commands us to rejoice (whether we feel like it or not!). And James 1:2 asks us to “Consider it all joy when we fall into various trials.” Notice that James doesn’t tell us to feel joyful; he tells us to reckon, to choose to think about your situation as a spot where you can have joy.

Choosing to trust truth rather than your feelings may require a lot of faith. And if that is what we mean by asking if faith can solve depression, then faith may be enough in some cases. Trusting what God says rather than your feelings, is certainly a more realistic approach to life!

However, many people talk about “faith” and only mean a vague hope that God will somehow pull them through. That’s too nebulous a concept to be reliable. Many of the same people who claim to have faith keep plunging through life ignoring God’s principles for healthy living. If we spurn the good advice that the Bible contains, we won’t escape the consequences – even if we have faith.

Is it right to use antidepressant drugs?

Or is faith enough to solve the problem?  Some cases of depression may be caused by chemical imbalances. If that is the cause, then antidepressant drugs may be the answer. God has allowed mankind to learn about many medical tools, and He sometimes uses medicine to heal. There may also be some cases of depression so severe that medications are necessary to bring the sufferer to the place where they can tackle some of the other issues; such cases might require medication, at least temporarily. I know of no Scripture that forbids such use.

However, any medications should be used with caution.

Virtually any medicine has some side effects. Drugs can mask the symptoms, allowing you to ignore root causes. Some people may use antidepressants to avoid approaches that require you to deal with other unresolved issues. It seems easier to pop a pill. A general rule of thumb is to try other strategies first, unless the depression is so severe that the person endangers themselves or finds themselves unable to participate in other therapies.

Depression is a complex area, and severe problems of depression deserve the attention of a pastor or other counselor.

Dr. John Bechtle

There seems like there are eight major causes of depression. (1) Biological factors, (2) Learned helplessness (sense of being trapped and unable to remedy an intolerable situation), (3) Parental rejection, (4) Abuse, (5) Negative thinking, (6) Life stress, (7) Anger, (8) Guilt.

[Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1996), chapter 5; Gary R. Collins, Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, revised edition (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1988).]

 

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Clinging to God’s Assurance

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Some people give him a bad rap for calling himself that, saying it’s arrogant. I disagree. I don’t believe this title for himself is any indication he thought he was the only one. Rather, I believe it reveals how certain he was that Jesus loved him and everyone else, including you.

My memoir, My Name Is Beloved, is so titled for the same reason. I don’t believe I’m the only one who is beloved by God. I know that I am not and I want others like me to know they are beloved, too.

I love John’s Gospel, his three epistles, and Revelation. One of my favorite passages is from 1 John 4:7-21. It’s all about God’s love for all of His children and how we should love each other in the same way. There’s not a hint of arrogance here.

There are a number of things I love about John’s writings:

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eye witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That means he writes with truth and authority of what he knows to be true.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity. Especially in the Gospel, where we see the “I am” statements of Jesus.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God. In fact, he says “God is love” twice in 1 John 4.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. It is by the Spirit that we overcome sin and know we are God’s children.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

It is this last point that I’m focusing on today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One dictionary definition of assurance is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.” Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be certain of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.

The word know appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:

“I am writing to you, dear children,
because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.”

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.

Now don’t get me wrong. John does not advocate living a life in which we sin willy-nilly simply because we know we can be forgiven. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

Are you struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, that you’ve sinned too much, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation? Meditate on John’s words, inspired by God, and know that these worries are unfounded. It is the struggle itself that proves you are alive in Christ.

Remember, God is faithful in His promises. He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us, but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom.

 

 

Linda L. Kruschke is the author of My Name Is Beloved, winner of the Unpublished Memoir category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest, as well as self-published author of two poetry books. She is a wife, mother, active member of her church, and former Bible Study Fellowship leader. After struggling through years of major clinical depression and finding God’s healing grace, she is now a fearless follower of Christ, living in the assurance of her salvation and God’s love. She is an overseer of this blog–brokenbelievers.com.

She also blogs at Another Fearless Year (http://AnotherFearlessYear.net).

 

 

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Without Your Wound, Where Would Your Power Be? 

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The subject of “the pool at Bethesda” alludes to the Thorton Wilder play, “The Angel that Troubled the Waters.” 

The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4, however, it changes the end of the parable. 

The play tells of a physician who comes to the pool of Bethesda, hoping to to see the stir, and then be the first in the water, and healed of his melancholy and debilitating depression.  An angel appears, and troubles the water. Everybody at the pool hopes to be the first one in, and to be healed of their disability.

…………………………………………………………………

An angel appears and blocks the physician at the very moment he is ready to step into the pool and be healed.

Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”angel1

Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.

Angel: “This healing dear physician, is not for you.”

Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed, cannot be concealed from you.”

Angel: “I know.”

Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”

Angel: Without your wound where would your power be?” 

“It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves, cannot persuade the wretched, and blundering children on earth, as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

…………………………………………………………………

Later, the person who enters the pool first, and was healed rejoices in his good fortune, then turns to the physician before leaving and says:

“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood.”

“Only an hour… my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us, but she will listen to you.”

…………………………………………………………………

For me, the play pierces with the ‘bullet-message’ of this wonderful line— “Without your wound where would your power be?“ This seems to me to be a slow percolating of Paul’s teaching, mainly, that it’s through my weaknesses that I can truly minister to others like Jesus. It’s the Apostle Paul declaring it’s the weak things that work to create something solid and true in us. And I hope in the many lives that this ministry, brokenbelievers.com reaches.

I hope so anyway. Pray for me. Pray for Linda.

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I first encountered this excerpt in the book, “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging,” by Brennan Manning. The book is a worthy read, and worth finding if you can.

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A Charlie Brown Kind of a Depression

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As we wrestle with our embedded issues, we realize that the battle is in largely inside of us.  The last few days have been very hard, and I have a dark presence pressing on me; there is a subsequent reaction in my heart.

As a “born-again” believer who gets deeply challenged by depression, I simply cannot fathom life outside my faith in Jesus.  How do unbelievers do it?  The Holy Spirit meets me, holds me, and speaks peaceful things to me.  I have been promised things of wonder and of grace.

I’ve discovered that self-pity and discouragement are main ingredients into my excursions through bleakness and sadness.  In my more profound plummets into the pit, I find myself seeing the physical world around me drained of color.  Everything around me is in “black and white.”  (I have been told this is one of many symptoms of depression.)

Charlie Brown hits the nail on the head.  Often I catch myself smiling, and I immediately stop and say, “Wait. I’m very depressed.  I can’t be seen smiling, or talking with a dear friend.”   Often we choose to act in ways that reinforces our illness.  We think we have to be a certain way, stand in another, or even walk like we think a depressive walks.  (After all, we have an image to live up to.)

Depression is very real.  Medication is mandated for many.  But truthfully, there is this other element of extending this image to others.  Our self-pity works hand-in-hand with our image and identity.  It seems we have to be somebody, even if we are “crazy people.”

I know this blog has been a challenge at times.  I write these daily blogs out of my attitudes, and issues and problems.  But there is a “Charlie Brown Depression,” the type where we feel like we are inconsolable all the time.  (Maybe Mr. Brown should be our new patron saint of “lost causes?”)

If while in the pit, and for some reason you think of something that’s funny, go ahead and smile, its okay.  I’m learning that things are never as sad or grim as I think, nor are they rosy and joy saturated either.  Be real.  Be real to yourself.   Walk in the truth.  And take your meds, lol.

aabryscript

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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 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 down river.

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 and is also a contributing author at Anchored Voices.

 

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A Friend of Sinners and the Ungodly

Anthony van Dyck – Christ Healing the Paralytic, 1619

“No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet Jesus will have compassion upon you. He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend – a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

–D.L. Moody

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Luke 7:34

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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.

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 to 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 His friends.

Jesus wants to confide in us; sharing mysteries hidden by time and sin. And his kingdom is full of amazing perplexities! He is looking to bring us into a willingness of a 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 things down, and choose to accept tether and follow Him.

But my soul now has a best friend.

 

 

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Ten Resolutions for Mental Health

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Clyde Kilby’s  10 Resolutions for Mental Health and for Staying Alive to God in This World

  1. Once a day I will look at the sky and remember that I am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  2. I will suppose the universe is guided by an intelligence.
  3. I will not fall into the lie that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding 24 hours, but rather a unique event, filled with wonderful potential.
  4. I will prefer reality to abstractions.
  5. I will not demean my own uniqueness by envying others. I will mostly forget about myself and do my work.
  6. I will open my eyes and ears by at least once a day simply staring at a tree, a flower, a cloud or a person. I will simply be glad that they are what they are.
  7. I will often remember back to when I was a child and think about my dreaming eyes of wonder.
  8. I will frequently turn to things like a good book and good music.
  9. I will enjoy each moment, not always worrying about what the decade before me will demand from me.
  10. I will bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic but rather acknowledge that each day strokes are made on the cosmic canvas that in due course I will understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

___________

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Clyde S. Kilby, 1902-1986

Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.”

Proverbs 1:2

 Clyde Kilby, who is now with the Lord in heaven, was my teacher in English Literature at Wheaton. He did as much as any other teacher I have had to open my eyes to the ministry of God in the skies. 

       – Pastor John Piper, DesiringGod.org

 

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Crippled in Both Feet–Disabilites

David and Mephibosheth

 

“David asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”‘ 

 2 Samuel 9:3, NIV 

This crippled man was named Mephibosheth.  He was injured by the actions of a nurse;  she dropped him as she was trying to escape the palace (2 Sam. 4:4.)  It was not of Mephibosheth’s doing, but someone else made a mistake, and it totally and irrevocably changed his life.

He would always be disabled.

If you haul out your old musty commentaries, you’ll find that Mephibosheth’s name means, “shame,” and I really believe that this would’ve been an integral part–maybe ‘subtle’ is a better word here, of how people treated him. But David was a different sort of king (as kings go), and he elevates Mephibosheth to the feasting-table. King David wants to include him!

Interesting. I believe that there are a great many people like Mephibosheth.  They’ve been injured by someone else’s stumbling.  It seems we pass these things on to each other.  And the lameness we inflict may not be physical.  It may be spiritual or emotional.  Sometimes we injure without knowing what we have done to someone else.

Jesus made some powerful statements about people who injure others.  

Some of the most vicious and evil wounding that are done are usually on a moral, or spiritual level.  People can heal physically over time, but the wounds of the spirit are incredibly devastating.  When someone harms us on this level it can completely undo us, for a lifetime. (And perhaps, maybe forever).

Jesus made some powerful statements about people who injure others.  It is imperative that we evaluate ourselves; we may find that we are guilty of  drastically hurting another’s faith or well-being, knowing that lasts for an eternity. Let’s take a second, and think this through.

We are capable of much evil.  We affect others in ways we don’t understand.  We need to seek God’s grace right now; we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of diminishing or minimizing what we have done. A vital point to consider: We cannot go on crippling others without injuring ourselves.

Wounded people wound. But healed people can very often become healers themselves.

We can read of King David’s truly majestic treatment of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He actively blessed him, and perhaps that is the proactive action we ought to take. We must make the effort– to bless others.

As a king, this was a very minor incident. Hardly worth recording in the lofty affairs of state. But as a man–to restore Mephibosheth, was definitely one of his greatest decisions. Kindness, gentleness should always be a key part of someone who is in authority over others.

There’s another concept here– we discover something that is profoundly true about us in Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus.  It’s here, in 1:5, we see that God our Father, acts like David, and receives Mephibosheth; just like God receives us to Himself. We find that we’re adopted, and loved, and held, and we get a prime place at the table!

We may use crutches, but we walk by faith. And that maybe the greatest lesson in this portion of scripture–and the most profound experience we can have as believers.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

Ephesians 1:5, NLT

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He Walks Through Walls

 

While Jesus’ disciples were talking about what had happened, Jesus appeared and greeted them. They were frightened and terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost.

But Jesus said, “Why are you so frightened? Why do you doubt? 39 Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don’t have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

After Jesus said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. The disciples were so glad and amazed that they could not believe it. Jesus then asked them, “Do you have something to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish. He took it and ate it as they watched.”

Luke 24:36-43

Sometimes in a story [a real one mind you] you get this vivid sense of seeing what really happened.  Luke’s account ignites that in me.  With the flair of the dramatic– Jesus, freshly resurrected, bursts into the room and he scares everyone.  I guess it was one of those times where you just had to be there in order to really get it.

“Frightened” and “terrified”–it took two words to describe this spooky experience.  Not only that, but they got real freaky, he had to be a ghost!  I can only imagine their fear.  I think everyone present bolted to the door.  But wait a second!  “The door is still  locked?! OMG, what can we do?”

We see Jesus [I think he was lovingly amused] point out that he was still a human being–look at me!  Think for a second, have you ever tried to get a pet dog, who is so scared he’s peeing on the floor, to come to you?  I see the disciples kind of half crawling, stooped and very unsure about this.  They slowly encircle Jesus and as they come, he is laughing. He has returned.

He is laughing from the pure joy of one who has endured hell and has come out on the other side, intact.  I believe Jesus is reveling in the moment, and he is among friends whom he loves and vice versa.  Jesus is alive, he has done the impossible, and they are laughing and crying at the same time!

We have walls.  You and I.  They give us security and protection.  We feel we have to have them.  The disciples feel like there is security in numbers and safety in their walls.  I can so relate.

But Jesus penetrates our walls.  And we come ‘face-to-face’ with him.

Look closely now, it is resurrection power–the most awesome force in the universe, more intense than the sun.  It’s funny, when Moses prostrated himself before the Lord’s glory, he changed.  Not only that, but he had to take precautions to cover his face when he returned to camp.

As broken believers we must be prepared for any eventuality.  Jesus can and will burst into our homes, and into our very lives.  Can you hear him laugh?  When he comes, nothing really is the same again.  He loves his disciples too much to leave them in the dark in a stuffy room.  He comes for you!

**********

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you will eat with me.”

Revelation 3:20, NCV

 

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Getting Past Your Past

Shame

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” 

2 Corinthians 7:10, NLT

“You will have mercy on us again; 
 You will conquer our sins.
 You will throw away all our sins
 into the deepest part of the sea.”  

Micah 7:19, NCV

My own past has been particularly brutal and ugly.  I have done quite a few evil things in my lifetime which I am ashamed of.  Regret and sorrow over my sins frequently troubles me.  And I have to come back to seeing my sins covered by His blood. See https://brokenbelievers.com/my-story/

“Properly remembering our past sins with shame will deter us from repeating them and help us receive God’s saving grace.  When we recall our failures through the lens of Christ’s mercy, God produces in us ongoing repentance and deepening humility.” 

–Robert D. Jones

I have walked in self-hatred for many years.  I know all about loathing, fear and paranoia over my evilness.  These things have handicapped me spiritually, and hating yourself is a terrible way to live.  My struggles with guilt and regret have deepened my sense of despair and depression.  I find that I am ashamed of my shame.

I have included in this post the lyrics to Bob Bennett’s song “Lord of the Past”.  He is a gifted song writer, and an exceptional guitar player.  (I can’t find it on Youtube.com).  If you’re like me, you will find that you resonate with those who have been assaulted by the past. We now speak a common language, and we understand each other. 

LORD OF THE PAST
Bob Bennett
© 1989 Matters Of The Heart Music (ASCAP)  

Every harsh word spoken
Every promise ever broken to me
Total recall of data in the memory
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

  Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
(You can redeem these things so far away)
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of the Past
(Be the Lord of my Past)
Oh how I want you to
Be the Lord of the Past

All the chances I let slip by
All the dreams that I let die in vain
Afraid of failure and afraid of pain
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

Well I picked up all these pieces
And I built a strong deception
And I locked myself inside of it
For my own protection
And I sit alone inside myself
And curse my company
For this thing that has kept me alive for so long
Is now killing me.
And as sure as the sin rose this morning,
The man in the moon hides his face tonight.
And I lay myself down on my bed
And I pray this prayer inside my head

  Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of my Past
You can do anything
Be the Lord of the Past
I know that you can find a way
To heal every yesterday of my life
Be the Lord of the Past.

aabryscript

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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 encourament of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.

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

When someone breaks a leg, or 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 with 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 have also read that there is 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 give 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, 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, that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

ysic, Linda K.

 

http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

 

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Words

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Let me tell you one of the perils of writing a post. I know what I want to say, but I am seldom happy about the end product.  I suppose it comes as part of the job description, and yet it chafes me to no end. If the truth be told, many others experience the same thing. We really do strive for clarity, but end up misunderstood.

We’re all communicators by nature; some of us do a bang-up job of it, and others, not so much. Being misunderstood is the norm for many, and especially for us who follow him; it can be accentuated by our perceived “other-worldly” beliefs– sometimes communicating them is a challenge. Let’s pray that the Spirit uses our simple words to open eyes; and he really, really wants to.

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

Proverbs 16:24

The things we say can be sweet grace to others, it’s as if we are bringing cold water to thirsty people–that is no small thing. And yet somehow, we often ‘slice and dice’ people, especially spoken to those we love. Isn’t any wonder why those closest to us struggle so? I flinch inside when I hear a mother berate her young son in the grocery store. She is wounding him deep inside, and she has no idea.

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 12:18

Here in Proverbs we read of people whose rash words cut-to-the-bone. They jab, slash and cut. They are malicious and hurtful. We inflict pain on others far too easily. God forgive us. Satan gets foul glory by things we say. He will use us to destroy others.

But there are others who have learned some things. Their words bring healing. I’ve known a few people like this, they have an aura about them–a special superpower. They say profoundly simple things of wisdom, and it seems healing follows them everywhere. (I’ve also have seen other believers stall, simply because they won’t control their mouth.)

“The cure of an evil tongue must be done at the heart. The weights and wheels are there, and the clock strikes according to their motion. A guileful heart makes a guileful tongue and lips. It is the work-house where is the forge of deceits and slanders; and the tongue is only the outer shop where they are vended, and the door of it. Such ware as is made within, such, and no other, can come out.”

Give me a true heart, O God. I want to carry healing to others. Help me to bridle my tongue. Amen.

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Quarantined, for His Purposes

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Quarantines are a real possibility, even in this day. A quarantine is imposed when disease is contagious enough that it would harm a society: Measles, Smallpox, and the recent COVID-19 are just a few physical diseases where isolation must be imposed. It can be severe— an epidemic, with desperate consequences if not adhered to; in some rare cases, the use of deadly force have been authorized to maintain a quarantine until the disease is no longer communicable.

This may surprise you, but there are examples of ‘quarantines’ in the Bible. The term ‘unclean’ was used for ‘leprosy.’ Those afflicted had to isolate themselves; they had to ‘announce’ their presence when in contact with society. Lepers lived in groups away from the general populace, as a result of their disease.

In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian he addresses another kind of ‘quarantine.’ The situation was dire; the church had advocated a Christian living with his father’s wife.

“I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5, NLT

Understanding the Principal of Usefulness

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.”

2 Timothy 2:20, NASB

Found in God’s pantry are lots of pots and pans of various uses.  Paul writes Timothy about the ‘large house’ which is the Church inclusive. Look around Timothy, there are gold ones, and there are silver ones. They have a noble purpose fitting for such a great house. These are the ones the guests will use; they befit the significance of the Lord himself. These vessels have great value for they are made of precious metals.

There are vessels of a different category. These are the ones made of wood, and of clay. These are part of the household, make no mistake about it. But their use is one of function, they’re utilized in common and ignoble ways. (A clay ‘bed-pan’ perhaps?!)

21 “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

2 Timothy 2:21

Paul, the author of New Testament doctrine of grace emphasizes the place of personal holiness. We are to ‘cleanse’ ourselves to become a vessel of honor. There is good news here:

  • All are vessels in the Father’s house. Each of us belong to Him. He alone determines their use.
  • Things are not yet in their final state. Change in status can be experienced. In God’s economy, clay pots can become ‘golden.’ Silver can become ‘wood.’

Some sin is contagious. It affects believers, and the Church becomes compromised by our sin. And then sometimes we are quarantined by the Holy Spirit–until the contagion passes. This spiritual disease must not be permitted.

I have experienced this several times in my own discipleship. These are not pleasant times, but there is no condemnation. I’m still His servant, His love for me stays outrageously constant. He has never turned away a sinning child who repents of their sin.

“Yes, I am His servant, but I must wait out in the hall. I haven’t been faithful. So I sit in His waiting room, waiting for His call. This is for my good. And my Father knows what is best.” 

 

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The Art of Being Found

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name.“Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:1-10, NLT

Zacchaeus was a very resourceful man.  Jericho was a prime toll center in the entire region, and Zacchaeus would’ve been the richest man in the entire region. He was very wealthy, being an overseer of other tax collectors (in a region with a major export of balsa wood.) He was well on his way to becoming a millionaire (at least, the ancient Judean version of it.)

We should know two things about Zacchaeus:

  1. His Hebrew name meant “pure.” This was an ironic moniker for a despised man who had sold out to the Roman tax business. (Perhaps he had had a ‘godly mother?)
  2. He was very short in stature. (I suppose we could call him ‘vertically challenged’?)

I suppose there is one other thing, my guess is it’s the main one. He simply wanted to see Jesus. He was so short that he couldn’t see over the crowds. Perhaps he could’ve bribed his way to the curb, but apparently, there wasn’t enough time. Jesus was coming this way!

He looks and sees a tree. It grew on the side of the road, its branches hanging over the well-traveled path. He clumsily climbs up (in a robe!) and finds a clear spot to get a good look at Jesus. He is a simple man, and this is all he wants is just to see Jesus!

Within the Christian faith over the many centuries, there has always been a heart’s desire to get closer to Jesus. Many of the established ‘disciplines’ such as:

  • prayer
  • the study of scripture
  • fasting
  • evangelism
  • simplicity
  • solitude
  • service
  • confession
  • worship

Think of each as simply branches of the tree. Each discipline comes as one of several. But they are futile, or worse if they don’t lead us to Jesus Christ. 

It is critical to grasp the end result; they are merely the methods we use to see Jesus clearer. Its folly to climb the tree, just for the sake of climbing. No. The branch we are sitting on is just a means to an end. To behold our Lord, to somehow get closer to Him is priceless.

For example, I usually don’t pray for ‘prayers sake.’ I must pray like Zacchaeus climbed, just to see Jesus. I know He is always watching and yet I want Him to see me.

We also are not to build tree houses. Rather we’re meant to see Jesus, come down, and have a wonderful time with Him in close fellowship.

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Blood in the Water

It’s a fact. Biologists tell us that sharks can smell blood from 2-3 miles away. They follow their noses to the place where they sense it. They have an ‘attack mechanism’ to anything that’s attacked. Blood acts as a trigger inside their brains. Occasionally dozens of sharks attack in a feeding frenzy that’s pretty sad..

Almost 40 years in the Church has taught me that sharks aren’t the only ones that turn on the wounded.

The Church is supposed to be a safe and a healing place. This is what the Holy Spirit wants. That isn’t always the case. A believers in Jesus we should of done better.–there is an explanation of supreme grace. Someone one fails, another falters. Sin is uncovered and everyone takes cover.

There some who be might be restored, and many others are trampled down instead.   There’re many who would rather pounce than pray. Unfortunately when the “sharks” attack it almost always ends up being a as a vicious personal attack. It only creates more blood in the water.

There are many who bleed. Those with a mental illness, or confined to a wheelchair, or with Downs Syndrome, they’re are the first that come to mind. They’re often the developmentally disabled, the drunk, the addict, the adulterer, the disabled, the homosexual, the poor, and the ex-con who are just several kinds of people that regularly get hurt in our churches.

“God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.”

Matthew 5:7, NLT

Mercy is what God extends to people who don’t deserve any. Failure to understand God’s deep penchant becomes the mercy that becomes the religious confusion that typically disturbs us. Keep in mind that the Prodigal’s older brother refused to party with the forgiven son. How terribly sad, and religiously confusing. I have to wonder, who really has been attacked by the enemy?

In theory, we agree to Matthew 5. We find tremendous inspiration when this verse is read. But the noble feelings don’t always translate well into dedicated action. I’ve come to see that I must consciously press this into action. I must actively show mercy for the healing of others– and if anything to protect my own heart.

The Kingdom of God is specifically designed for losers; it exists for the sick, the stumbler and the sinner.

The Great Physician has come for the sick– and not so much for the healthy. He loves each of us, but cares in different ways. He tailors His grace to fit our sin. He’s concerned for the very worst. He associates with the lowly.

If there is blood in the water, let’s turn it up a notch, and let’s show special mercy for those who are struggling. Let us be kinder than we have to be. If we err— let us always err on the side of mercy and kindness. 

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Becoming a Gentle and Meek Person

Being very gentle with others

Gentleness means recognizing that the world around us is fragile, especially other people. It is recognizing our own capacity to do harm and choosing instead to be tender, soft-spoken, soft-hearted, and careful. To be careful means that you are becoming aware.

Perhaps this idea of becoming careful brings us the closest.  People who know exactly who they have become the most gentle of human beings.  They now live for others, showing deep-seated care for even the “least.” They need to become our elders and pastors.

Jesus is gentle, just as much as He is strong and wise and bold. You could say He was always gentle, even when He was bold and authoritative. No once did Jesus show unkindness in His words or teaching or actions. He was kind all the time, even when He was tired and hungry.

“He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”

Matthew 12:20-21, NLT

Quotes:

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson, but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.”                                                

 A.W. Tozer

“The higher people are in the favor of God, the more tender they are.” 

Martin Luther

“Perhaps no grace is less prayed for, or less cultivated than gentleness.  Indeed it is considered rather as belonging to natural disposition or external manners, than as a Christian virtue; and seldom do we reflect that not to be gentle is sin.” 

Norman Bethune

“Gentleness is an active trait, describing the manner in which we should treat others.  Meekness is a passive trait, describing the proper Christian response when others mistreat us.” 

Jerry Bridges

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The Awful Weariness of It All

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“For my life is full of troubles,
    and death draws near.”

Psalm 88:3

Not really ‘positive’ is it? There is often a very dull, desperate tedium that saturates our lives–especially those among us with profound mental and physical issues.  It never lets up, the grind is constant. Depression, confusion, paranoia, and mania weave in and out of our lives.  Sometimes they seem to have ‘moved in’ with us.  (And, they intend to stay.)

There can be a hopelessness present–an ugly realization that there is no hope for today, and that tomorrow will not be any different. Some consider ending it all–rather than continue without hope. It is a terrible way to live, but hopelessness isn’t something humans can handle appropriately.

Contained in the scriptures are many stories and parables about wedding feasts and the king’s banquets.  On one occasion, somebody ‘finagles’ his way into the party. But it is then he is strongly confronted.  The bouncers bind his hands and feet, carry him out.  He is thrown out into the “outer darkness.”  The charge prompting this was his attire, it was all wrong.  He wasn’t dressed for the wedding. He did not belong there.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:11-14, ESV

Many have given in to their despair, they now reside in “the outer darkness.”  They are no longer dressed for the banquet. They’ve stripped themselves of their wedding garments. How tragic. They have given up.

I’ll be the first to admit that mental illness and discipleship don’t always blend well together.  But the Father understands and increases his deposit of grace to make up for this deficiency. He doesn’t treat his beloved sons equally. Extra grace is given to the chronically ill.

Those who limp are given extra help as they follow Him.

God has created us for a wedding feast. And it is with confidence that we look forward to this feast, for in Christ we will not be found naked but clothed in the white garments of His righteousness.  He took my dirty and filthy clothes and exchanged them for his own white ones.  We wear his gift, and oh, what a wonder we are!

It’s time to get dressed.

“I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
      For he has dressed me in the clothing of salvation
      and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
   I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
      or a bride with her jewels.”

Isaiah 61:10, NLT

 

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A Stone’s Throw Away

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“And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,”

Luke 22:41

WHO KNOWS WHAT JESUS IS THINKING AT THIS PRECISE MOMENT as he entered the Garden? His disciples waited for Jesus and scripture states that he proceeded ahead of them to find some needed strength through prayer— this verse tells us he went “a stone’s throw.”

We often share in the sorrows of the people closest to us, and Jesus wants His disciples to follow him. And they do, but not all the way. They came close, but were oblivious to the full nature of the pain that was beginning for Jesus. They slept while he agonized. He was for the first time perhaps, needing someone close.

Many of us will make the same trip to the garden. Soon every believer makes the trip to ‘Gethsemane,’ but not as mere observers. It is a distinct place of testing and of sorrow. And each will experience it for themselves. “The servant is not above his master.”

But Jesus is close— he completely understands what it means to be alone with sorrow. The believer can lean on Jesus as the pain continues. He sends his “Comforter” to each, as he escorts us through this time. He comes in grace, and is completely kind. He truly is just a stone’s throw away.

“God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

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On Being Loved More Gently (Disability)

There will be no wheelchairs, or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven.

Some of us have been struggling with a 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. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 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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Grief Sucks but God Restores Hope

It’s been 15 days since I got the news. My sister Suz passed away at 4:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning.

I hate that phrase, “passed away.” It makes it sound like she floated off in a gondola across the sea.

She died. Why do we shroud death in such wishy-washy language?

I never went to visit her before she died. I had plans to visit Memorial Day weekend. But that was a week too late. I really need to stop planning to visit loved ones who are sick and just do it.

The cards and condolences all give me permission to grieve this terrible loss. But I’m scared to let myself grieve. I can’t think about this loss of my oldest sister without remembering the loss of our sister Peggy (who also died on a Thursday), and Daddy before her, and Mom before him. The grief seems too much to bear.

Grieving is doubly difficult when every impulse to let tears fall feels like teetering on the rim of the pit of depression. What if I let the grief run free and it drags me into that hell I haven’t really known in over 20 years? I remember that place of desperation all too well and I refuse to go back there.

It’s not that I haven’t cried about her being gone. I definitely have, but it terrifies me when I do. And why do the tears keep coming back once they’ve been cried? How do I grieve but continue to live? 

I know this deep sadness is different from major clinical depression. I know the reason for these tears. When my depression was at its worst I had no idea why I couldn’t stop crying. The incessant tears served no discernible purpose. But the head knowledge that my tears of late do have a purpose—the loss of someone I dearly love—doesn’t alleviate the fear that they may drag me into another bout of depression.

The other day I queued up a few Chris Stapleton songs on YouTube while I worked on a relatively mindless project. I fondly reminisced about when she bought us tickets to see him at a small venue in Portland. Then a song came on that I hadn’t heard him sing before called “Drink a Beer.” The next thing I know I’m bawling and my heart feels like it’s breaking into a million little pieces and being compressed in a vise all at once.

Today, as every day for the last two weeks, the hard cider in the fridge calls to me. I usually wait until after work to have one. But I’m on vacation this week and today 3:00 p.m. seemed like a good time to have one. It’s 5:00 p.m. somewhere, right? And at least I’m not drinking tequila in her honor.

Maybe it’s the compound grief that is making it harder for me to cope with this loss. I don’t remember it being quite so unbearable when Peggy died, but then Suz was there with me for that loss. We began the grieving together. Now all my family support it on the other end of a telephone line.

When Mom and then Dad died, I was already depressed. My grief was fused with the vague despair of my mental illness. I suppose it could be that fusion that makes grieving so difficult now. I can’t seem to separate the two states of sorrow.

And yet this spiritual discipline of writing my thoughts and fears on paper helps me to gain a clearer perspective. I’m reminded as I write of a favorite Bible verse. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” The occasion was the death of his dear friend Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew he was about to raise Lazarus to life again, Jesus modeled grief over the loss of a loved one. He declared in that shortest verse that tears are a normal part of this broken life we live in a world of sorrow upon sorrow.

The same apostle who recorded this verse penned the book of Revelation where we are told God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4 NIV.

These tears I cry for my sister are normal. This grief is okay. Today won’t be the last time I grieve this loss. This will likely not be the last loss I will know in this broken world.

“We will never be the same as we were before this loss, but are ever so much the better for having had someone so great to lose.”

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Rainy Day People

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

Galatians 6:2

“Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. 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 Thessolonians 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.  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 they haven’t 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 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.  My guess is that that 1 in 70 people, [more or less] are qualified to deal with mental illness.  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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Mending Your Nets

Tools used to mend nets

“And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.”

Matthew 4:21, ESV

“And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Mark 1:18

To mend nets was tedious but necessary. You would take your net and spread it on the ground in a open space. Every knot would be carefully examined. All holes would be repaired. Nothing was overlooked. Fishing nets were painstakingly maintained. Everyday, without fail.

Fish would school, and if your gear was right, and you were in a prime place, you could catch a lot. But at the same time, you could let hundreds of fish escape through a hole in your net. Each fish that escaped meant money lost.

Jesus walking along the beach surveyed the boats and crews. Since most of these guys had worked through the night, they were tired and maybe a bit “punchy.” Some had gotten somewhat lucky, while others had very little to show for working so hard. Most likely the different crews teased each other as they unloaded.

Jesus walked through the bunches of fisherman. He looked at their hauls to see what they had caught. But it wasn’t the catch He was looking at, it was the men. It was from these laboring fishermen that He would choose. These men were rough and tumble rednecks. If they had chewing tobacco back then, they would use it.

He stands, looks and then commands them.

Now if you are looking for disciples– future apostles and leaders, the seashore is not the best place to recruit. They really have a rudimentary education. No theology, and just a meager understanding of Jewish ritual and religion. Essentially there was no time for them to think outside their occupation. Sure there just might be one, or two that possessed more, but that would be the exception.

But Jesus had no desire to interview them, and take the best of the lot. He didn’t have a Human Resources Department, there were no tests, and no forms that had to list references. He simply commanded, and those who understood followed. Only after they left it all did He get their names and addresses. I think that it is the same today.

Will we leave our boat, with your nets? Really, you can keep mending or you can follow Him– it’s your choice. Most of the time though, decisions have a tendency to be irrevocable. Perhaps you have a moment, an instant of time to decide.

Sometimes mending nets can be back-breaking and tedious. But following the Lord Jesus is an unknown; too many choose to keep mending. Others are launched into something new, and eternally significant.

The glaring truth is the necessity of obedience to Jesus’ command. There is no other voice we must hear. As a matter of fact, hearing (and really apprehending) is the only foundation we can trust to make our obedience true.

You can keep mending your nets and preparing for another night on the water. That is always your prerogative. But if you decide to follow you will need to leave what you know behind. That is authentic discipleship.

“Rest in this – it is His business to lead, command, impel, send, call or whatever you want to call it. It is your business to obey, follow, move, respond, or what have you.”

-Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca indians

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Counseling Others

 

“Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise.”

Proverbs 12:18, Message

Lately, I have grown skeptical of my own ability to give out sound counsel.  For the most part I have refrained from doing so, lately, I introduce them to the wisdom and love of Jesus.  It seems like a it’s a bit like a triangle– Jesus, them and myself–we each have a corner.  All I do when I counsel someone is to help them see the Lord.  Hopefully, once a dialogue has taken place I step back and let the supernatural happen.

Much of counseling is facilitating or creating an environment that you can gather information.  Probably your friend feels that you and your surroundings are “safe” and he/she can open up in that situation.  Almost all of the time, a certain level of confidentiality must exist and be understood as being “in place” even among peers.  

A key fact is getting permission to counsel.This should happen in order for the counselee to really receive.

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Job with his Friends

Usually when if I meet with someone, I don’t want to sound profound, or wise; I’m still trying to follow Jesus myself.  I recognize the Holy Spirit gifts the un-gifted. But I’m also pretty much aware of my own short-comings. (I guess this can make me a better listener and not a talker?)

Remember that Job’s friends were at their best when silently sitting with him in the ash and rubble. At that moment, they were very effective counselors.  The problem came when they verbally explain why Job’s personal disaster took place.  Very often I find that people have a need to be needed.  Some well-meaning believers give counsel so they can feel good about themselves. 

I’m afraid there is a lot of Christian counseling out there that is sabotaged by this inherent flaw.

Part of speaking wisely to a friend must include the option that I might be totally off-the-wall! Whatever I say must not be “ex cathedra“, or as truth unchallenged.  And just because I’m giving you counsel does not make me superior, wiser or more authoritative.  It really should take as much humility to counsel, as it takes to be counseled. I can think of an easy dozen encounters that I’m embarrassed by– and will never be able to retract. Mistakes are made, but we should trust the Holy Spirit to use those missteps. He is sovereign.

Peer-to-peer counseling is very much a blessing.  A great need exists in the church for this particular ministry.  But to be a source of wisdom to another should be both a sobering, and a clarifying experience.  To be a counselor can be quite dangerous, spiritually speaking, and I should not seek this place unless its thrust on me. A good counselor is almost always reluctant.


“If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn’t do anything to you, but since you aren’t wise, you need us who are old.”  Martin Luther

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.”   Thomas Fuller

 

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Hold Onto What You Know

 

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A dear and wise friend of mine once told me that I should never go by what I feel, but by what I know. Feelings can be fickle and reactionary, and oftentimes they do not reveal the truth about the situation they are a reaction to.

There are times when my feelings have been all of these things. I’m sometimes sad or angry or depressed or disillusioned. My feelings are often a reaction to what has been going on in my life, or to things that have been said to me as well as about me and others whom I care deeply about. I’ve had times of feeling hopeless and been in disbelief of the things that have transpired in my life. I had days when I feel completely lost and alone. On those days I listen to my dear friend and turn to the things I know to help me get through how I am feeling, to get to the truth of the matter. Here is what I know:

  •  ”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.” Romans 8:28. The important word in this verse for me is “all.” It is not just in some things, but in all things, that God works for the good of those who love Him. I may not see the good that will come from my present circumstances, but God does.
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11. God has planned my days, now and for eternity, and His plan is one of hope.
  • “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31. Even though my own strength may be insufficient to get me through difficult times, the strength of the Lord is always there for me to lean on.
  • “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Peter 5:7. God loves me and will take my burdens and anxiety if I will only let go.
  • “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3. Eternal life starts now by knowing Jesus, not just when this body dies.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38. This is one I have proven to myself. As I am a blessing to others I receive a blessing in return much greater than I gave.
  • “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. There is a joy to be found when I trust in the Lord.
  • “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17. Grace and truth go hand in hand, and they are the great blessing that we all have from Jesus.
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life, the best life that God could possibly want for us, something much better than we can ever imagine. Satan is the thief who promises pleasure and great ideas but means us only harm.
  • “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6. This is a promise and a truth that can get me through any day.

These are just some of the things I know. God’s Word is full of promises of hope, love, joy, and redemption. It is full of stories of how those who had faith in God, who trusted in His promises, were blessed beyond measure.

God is greater than my feelings. I may feel hopeless, but that does not negate the hope He offers. I may feel lost, but that does not change the fact that He has found me and will never leave me. For all these promises I am grateful.

Love,

Linda K.

 

http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

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When Life is Dark and Heaven is Quiet

 

God’s people have always had to wrestle with the things from the dark.  As believers, the Bible tells us that we’re in a permanent state of war against Satan. There has never been an armistice or treaty signed to my knowledge.  Each one of us is on the front lines.  The devil has been practicing with a deadly form of “spiritual terrorism.”  And he terrorizes many with his posturing and manipulation.

Life can get quite dark, and desperately bleak. No one needs to educate us about the dark nightmare that is now active. Over a couple of millennia, God’s covenant people have been harmed and harassed.  Enemies are constantly manipulating and twisting God’s Word. As disciples, we’re under steady surveillance by the dragon.

Sometimes heaven is silent. But I believe it is never, ever disinterested.

But He certainly has not overlooked us.  As we read our Bible, our faith becomes like Teflon.  Nothing can stick to you; even though so much is thrown at us.  When life is really dark or terribly bleak, we can protect ourselves and others. There are times when we can sense nothing.

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

We are not theologians, we are just simple disciples.  He knows this.  I believe He simplifies things in order to help us understand. God has little reason to complicate things for us.

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

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

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

John Bunyan, “Pilgrims Progress”

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Good Grief, [Post by James Winsor]

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How Depression is a Blessing in Disguise

A darkness creeps into the soul and smothers it. Who knows why, how long it will last, or what will make it go away. You feel like you have nothing left to give to anyone else. You don’t want anyone around, except that one person who knows how to lift the darkness. You can’t and don’t want to explain how you feel. You don’t know why you’re sad, and you feel embarrassed by it because you have a pretty nice life. You can see why hungry, sick or poor people would be sad, but not you.

If you’re up to it, you try to process thoughts about God or words to or from God. This feels impossible. At best, God is distant. He couldn’t care about these stupid, unjustifiable feelings. There are people with real problems; God should be much more concerned about them. At worst, God becomes a very active enemy. He judges you for feeling this way. He wants you to just drop this selfish, self-centered, self pity trip. Doesn’t the Bible command, “Rejoice in the Lord always?” You’re a long way from doing that. Every word of good cheer seems to condemn you more for not being cheery.

As you deal with these feelings, you start to see what’s at the bottom. For the most part, it’s self-loathing. You just can’t stand being around you! Sometimes you can’t see the causes for the self-loathing. It’s just there and it won’t go away. I hate being me, and anyone who really knew me would hate me. The people who love me only do because they don’t know me.

Sometimes the self-loathing turns outward. It explodes into a kind of rage against the world. Now the darkness has covered not only your heart, but your eyes. You can’t see outside of yourself. You have trouble remembering there is an outside world. When you wake up to that fact, you again see the self-centeredness and hate it all the more.

It doesn’t seem possible to break out or for anyone to break into it. Even God doesn’t seem to know how to break inside the darkness. Some of the most spiritually-rich Christians I know experience depression. Some of them medicate it. Some don’t. But it doesn’t make that much difference when it comes to the soul. You can’t medicate the soul.

God is up to something in your depression. There are things God can do for you better when you’re depressed. Someone once said that God empties in order to fill, and kills in order to raise up. God could have made a world where depression is impossible. He could have made a world where sin, death and Satan are not on the scene. But God decided ahead of time that it was better to do things His way. There was something important that He could do with a broken world that He couldn’t do with a perfect world.

In paradise, Adam and Eve did not know God as well as you do. They walked and talked with Him, but were ignorant of what God was really about. God is self-sacrificing, self-giving love. Adam and Eve didn’t have a clue about Good Friday. They didn’t need Good Friday. Do you realize what that means? They didn’t need God’s self-sacrificial love. All they needed was a creator and provider. They didn’t need a Savior.

But that’s what’s best about Him. He saves sinners by dying for them. When Jesus was on the cross, you were loathed enough. God took out all of His holy loathing, and it was over. There is nothing more important in your life than God’s saving love for sinners.

Depression is a cold, gray wind that blows you off the cliff.

You can’t find anything inside yourself to cling to, to hope in, to claim as a basis for God’s acceptance.

All you have is Jesus and His love for sinners.

His resurrection of sinners in Himself. His baptizing of this sinner, you. That’s all you have. You fall into the water and lose yourself. But once you fall in, you can only see the love of God in Christ. A purple robe for mocking. A brown cross. Silver nails. Red blood. A white robe shining forth from the darkness of the tomb.

Have you ever noticed that you can see the farthest at night? In the daytime the most distant object you can see is the sun – a mere 93 million miles away. But at night your eye takes in countless stars and galaxies that are many light years away. Your vision is greatly improved in the darkness.

So it is with depression. When you are having bright days of happy sunshine, you can’t see too much further than your studies, sports, work, friends, family or possessions. A very small world. But in the darkness of depression you begin to see the glistening vast expanse of God’s love in Christ.

And when you are full of self-loathing and darkness, the love of Christ is all you have. And as it turns out, you don’t have Christ at all until all you have is Christ.

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The Rev. James Winsor is pastor at Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Arvada, Colorado.

Taken from the Spring 2002 edition of Higher Things magazine. You can write Higher Things at P.O. Box 58011, Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158-8011.  http://www.issuesetc.org

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Memories That Shame Us

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 

Genesis 3:6-10, ESV

There is a good chance that some of your memories are pretty awful. When we get looking back we can see shameful, dark things.  Some of us carry things that are profoundly evil, and they go with us wherever we go. It’s no secret that  guilt and mental illness travel hand in hand, for they are brothers. They have tormented us for terribly long time. They are like playground bullies who have no fear– they  only have hatred for us.

I’m quite convinced that the only way to move on is to have Jesus Christ to fully cleanse you; and that includes your dark humiliations.  The human tendency is for concealment. We take considerable effort to conceal and cloak our past lives. (Both Adam and Eve understood personal shame.)

I remember back when my dad discovered that one of our dogs had killed a chicken.  He took that dead chicken and wired it around that dog’s neck. That dog wore that chicken for weeks.  It was awful, and it began to putrefy. The smell was terrible.  I can still see that dog, staggering and tongue lolling out and slobbering.  My dad said it was the only cure for a “chicken killer.”  The dog would get very sick, attached to this rotting carcass.  It was sobering lesson for a boy to see.

Somehow, that is what our past disgrace has done to us.  Sure we have moments when we can almost forget.  But, for the most part, it is just a temporary reprieve.  We slide back and rediscover the pain; it’s just waiting for us.   The cost on our mental health is staggering.  Many of us are driven in a mad movement to drugs and alcohol.  We are compelled to escape the pain, and for a little while it seems to work. (This is called “co-morbidity.” Which is ‘fancy talk’ for a dual problem.)

It’s like filling a bucket with corrosive acid.  It will “eat” its way out.

Most of us, would quickly trade this mental pain, this misery;  for a physical one. Something shameful that was done 20 or 30 or 50 years ago continues its destructive work.  Our conscience will not allow us to dispose of our self-disgust in this easy, cavalier manner.  We need a ‘hazmat’ crew to help us clean-up mentally and spiritually.

You have to forgive yourself.  You must, or you will destroy yourself and those closest to you as well! Often we believe these things are simply a moldy wall; they seem to just need a coat of paint. Our problem is that it will only cover for a short time.  After 20-30 layers are applied, we realize this isn’t really the answer. Nothing we can do is ever enough.  We must have Jesus– we must!

“God doesn’t want us to punish ourselves to erase our guilt. He punished his Son to cancel our guilt. God will not build His kingdom on our pain because He is building it on His mercy.”

-Bryan Chapell

A full repentance is critical. Don’t scuff off this first step.  The blood of Jesus isn’t some nicety. It is foundational for salvation. We are to, by faith, start the obedience. Our blistering sin and guilt are absorbed in Jesus’ death and resurrection.


“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

2 Corinthians 5:17, LB

 
 

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Lots of Sand and Plenty of Heat

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”  

Isaiah 43:19

There is nothing that will increase your strength and your character like the wilderness does. It is God’s gym; he works you out on his equipment.  Good things will happen to all who exercise. The desert becomes a place of separation and resolve. It is not for the faint of heart.

This spiritual geography is also the launching pad for ministries: for Jesus’ public ministry was 40 days in the wilderness — the training for Moses’ powerful leadership of God’s people was 40 years in the desert — and maybe why you are serving your time in the wilderness, right now.  It has to be.  It is your place for this moment.


I tried to relieve your fears: “Don’t be terrified of them. God, your God, is leading the way; he’s fighting for you. You saw with your own eyes what he did for you in Egypt; you saw what he did in the wilderness, how God, your God, carried you as a father carries his child, carried you the whole way until you arrived here. But now that you’re here, you won’t trust God, your God—this same God who goes ahead of you in your travels to scout out a place to pitch camp, a fire by night and a cloud by day to show you the way to go.”

Deut. 1:31, ESV

At times of strenuous activity/emotion–he comes and carries us.  He is exceedingly gentle, and he knows precisely what we need, and he sure doesn’t stint on his grace–he pours it out lavishly.

Once in the desert, the Father keeps a close-eye on all his children. 

If you’re in the desert, know that your God is on duty.  Nothing that comes to you sneaks past His alert observation and consent.  (And after all, if you think about it, the wilderness is His as well.) We seem to always be on the anvil; in the wilderness where God is shaping us for higher things. But, by faith, it is a rich place to be.

“To be commanded to love God at all, let alone in the wilderness, is like being commanded to be well when we are sick, to sing for joy when we are dying of thirst, to run when our legs are broken. But this is the first and great commandment nonetheless. Even in the wilderness – especially in the wilderness – you shall love him.”

–Frederick Buechner

Love, in Jesus,

Bryan

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Calibrating Your Heart to His

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A chart used to calibrate video

“May the patience and encouragement that come from God allow you to live in harmony with each other the way Christ Jesus wants.”

Romans 15:5

“Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.”

Philippians 2:2

The science and method of calibration provides us with a way to bring two, or more things into harmony.  It is done frequently on diverse things as scientific instruments, avionics, or music.  Without ‘this quest for blending’ things degrade into a symphony of confusion.

A piano is tuned, and the worship leader then tunes into that piano.    The worship team is blending simultaneous sounds of different pitch or quality, making chords. This takes practice, and a gift. This principle is enhanced when we think of several gears that mesh and turn together.  There is a certain congruity, or a symmetry that makes it successful. Beautiful music can happen only if the musicians have been calibrated with each other.

We need a calibration of our spirit with God’s Holy Spirit.  We tune in to Him.  His Word is a little bit like a tech manual, showing us, and helping us.  He helps us adjust so that we are harmoniously flowing with Him and with others. Sometimes this takes time.

Have you ever met a believer not in harmony?  I bet you have. They may have a belief that is out-of-balance.  It may be health, or sickness.  That is quite common today.  Finances are also an issue, or politics. Be very careful.

I lived in San Francisco in the 1980s with SOS Ministries.  There was a small church down in Pacifica who would drive up to ‘worship on the street’ with us.  They were incredible.  They had a sensitivity and anointing that other groups didn’t have.  They loved Jesus very much and loved each other, and it showed.

Within six months they disbanded, and went their own ways.  I was told that their meetings were essentially ‘gutted out’.  They became fanatical about the ‘anti-abortion’ message to such an extreme they didn’t even have a church service anymore.  It was now nothing more than a political rally, and they were not even reading the Word or worshiping together. They were no longer calibrated to the Spirit or the Church.  They were no longer aligned to the truth.

I have to be regularly adjusted into a harmony with the promises of God.  I need my gauges to be consistent with the Word.  Not to be ‘heavy’ on certain things. I realize that my illness causes me to be very inconsistent.  I sometimes feel like I’m God’s ‘ping-pong ball.’  I wish I was different, but the promises given are that He intends to change me.  I bet He can do this remarkable thing.

Bless you,

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 a 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 brutal sadness, but there are psalms. There is a blessing on 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.
  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 up 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 maybe working, perhaps behind the scenes.
  6. Finally remember this: God is not a monster, stomping on us like a boy crushes ants. He has carrie all of our pain and illness. He clearly comes along side 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. It’s 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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Assurance of Salvation for the Mentally Ill

 

”So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs.”

Romans 8:14-17, NLT

As mentally ill Christians, we are often a mixture of good and bad things regarding our faith.

  • The Good: we don’t have to be convinced of our sin.  We live in a broken world, and we’re pretty sure that we have formidable issues. We’re needy. We’ve tried lots of things, and we just might be a little wary (but that can be good.)
  • The Bad: our consistency fluctuates from day-to-day. We never know what our state of mind will be. Some of us have problems socially that hinders us. Attendance at our local church is hard. We struggle in our relationships with others.

From one day to the next many of us struggle. The existence of this ‘flightiness’ is painfully evident. And it is hard to maintain anything, much less a spiritual life. But I believe that the Holy Spirit not only makes an allowance, but even pours out extra grace on the afflicted believer. The Lord loves His misfits.

But we can’t put any confidence in our flesh. We do bounce around, but salvation is not of our own doing. What stabilizes us is a serious dedication to the promises we have in the Word of God. He gives us His Words to strengthen.

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Obviously, the engine must pull the other cars. We must look to the promises of God to stay on track. Both faith and feelings follow the engine. Some struggle a great deal because they are led by their feelings. Confusion will follow if we get the proper order mixed up.

  1. First facts, (the Bible)
  2. then faith,
  3. and finally feelings

The Word of God is our only safety. Even our faith is to be connected to the promises of God. For those of us with a disability, we realize that we deal with issues that others seem to skate through. (But hey, we’re used to that now.) And yet the Father makes some things easier for us too. 

Please, read the Word, the Psalms or the Gospels are always good. Try to memorize Jesus’ promises to you. If you collect up His words, in your mind and heart, the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind these verses when you really need them. (I draw much strength from the Psalms.)

We’ve been adopted by the Holy Spirit as sons and daughters. We are deeply loved by God Himself. He has gone and made us ‘heirs’ without any of our effort at all (Romans 8:14-17). These are examples of taking up the promises by faith. We are a people in need of stability. What God gives us is His own constancy. Read the Word, fresh just for you. The promises applied lavishly will enable you to be like Jesus.

 “And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”

2 Peter 1:4, NLT

“In the darkest of nights cling to the assurance that God loves you, that He always has advice for you, a path that you can tread and a solution to your problem–and you will experience that which you believe. God never disappoints anyone who places his trust in Him.”

 Basilea Schlink

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Poetry of the Broken

Last Saturday I purchased a wonderful find at Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon’s own homegrown new and used bookstore) – a used book called “Invisible Light: Poems about God” – for only $4.50. And it is in excellent condition. It is a collection of poems by various poets, some well known and some not so well known, as well as a few Psalms and other pieces of poetic scripture. I noticed in the table of contents that there were two poems by William Cowper, who I first heard of when reading “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. (See my book review of that book here).

Both of Cowper’s poems were so beautiful; made me wonder why I even try to write poetry. (But I do know my poetry is getting better, and reading poems like Cowper’s just makes me want to learn more about poetry and get better at writing it).

I want to share one of Cowper’s poems with the readers at Broken Believers. I do so because it is a great reminder that even when we think we are too lost and broken to be of any use to God, even then God can do the impossible. He can take a broken vessel and cause great light and wonder pour from its cracks. I am thankful for the poetry Cowper wrote, and for the witness that he provides of the truth that God uses the broken for astonishing things.

William Cowper, English poet and hymnodist
(1731-1800)

You see, Cowper suffered from recurrent bouts of depression and severe mental illness. At times he was convinced that he was damned for all eternity, and that he was a lost soul. Nonetheless, he was able to write some truly inspiring poetry and hymns to glorify God. This particular poem will cause the “Comfortless, broken, afflicted to delight in the joy of a life to come where all pain and sorrow will cease, and the glory of Jesus will be all we need.”

If you are struggling, feeling like you can never be of any use to God, take heart. God is in the business of using His power and wisdom in tandem with the broken believer to accomplish great things.

The Future Peace and Glory of the Church
by William Cowper

Hear what the Lord hath spoken:-
O my people, faint and few;
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Thorns of heart-felt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be Praise.
There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow;
For the LORD, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow:
Still in undisturb’d possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.
You no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But, your griefs for ever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o’er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the LORD, shall be your glory,
God, your everlasting light.

Hymn No. 10 of The Olney Hymns

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Peace, Linda K.

You can find Linda’s own blog at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

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Making Progress

The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens.

Mark 4:28, NLT

This concept of physical growth is now applied by Jesus to us.  He has cultivated us, and we must insist on a maturation.  We sprout, and extend ourselves in a growth that means, ‘there is now life’ here.  Life is not mechanically rigid.  It has nothing to do with plastic, steel girders or cement.  It is emphatically not a concrete issue.  It is life!  It has a very different definition.

Jesus takes a seed, that seed splits open.  A green leaf pushes through, and it is growing!  Put into the ground, and watered, it will have life!  It is living.  This all seems easy and obvious now.  “Of course,” we say.  “I understand that.”  But when Jesus taught this (even as simple as it is) the implications were profound.  The earth seemed to shake when He declared this truth.

There was a rigidity to the spiritual world in Jesus’ day. 

This principle of life, and growth, and greenness was not at all descriptive of Pharisees.    The legalistic and cold hardness was unmoving, unrelenting and unyielding.  For many, this is a really major issue–the spiritual life was supposed to be have more organic freshness, then this.

But a living life of spiritual growth should be more than that; it was meant to be energizing and life-giving.  I remember seeing a mannequin in a mall (it was dressed in nicer clothes than I was.)  But although this display was in human form, it was definitely inanimate.  Going up to it, I tried to talk with him.  I wanted to explain things of the Spirit, but he just stood there, staring.  He was decidely devoid of real life.

Ridiculous?  Perhaps.  But having eternal life is profound.  We are like department store mannequins that have been made to really live.  And there is a growth that now takes place.  There is a supernatural, organic development–its this that should really infuse us with the life of the Spirit.  Our life is constantly and wonderfully changing, it should infuse us with a joy and elation we can’t keep a lid on.

Blessings,

Bryan

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Dances With Bruises

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Photo by Beto Franklin on Pexels.com

“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. 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 choose to 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 the do. They have painfully blended the two.
  • The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” They would rather dance in pain, than not to dance at all.

Someone once compared depression as a “mental bruise.”

I think I might understand this. As a depressed person, I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for several 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 completely 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

I believe Jesus died for all my sins. He has forgiven me of much evil, I know that will live for eternity. But mental illness is real, and like other illnesses it seldom is caused by evil or Satan. We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. Now 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. Satan just doesn’t have the spiritual “voltage.”

I refuse to hide my mental bruises from those who share in my issue. I will make the choice to dance again. I’m pretty bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, “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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The Lost One

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.”

Luke 15:4-5, NLT

These things will happen from time-to-time.  Good shepherds keep a mental tally of every sheep in the flock.  The absence of just one is a matter of intense concern.  The parable rolls out and the shepherd takes off, leaving 99% of the sheep. Now, over the years I always thought that was very foolish.  You just can’t leave your flock “in the wilderness” (the NIV says, “open country.”)

If it was me, I wouldn’t play blackjack with my flock like this.  I would of just cut my losses, and move on.  It’s bad luck for sure, but why risk more? Could it be that this shepherd is a lousy one, and unable to handle his responsibilities?  Leaving behind 99% to rescue a single sheep doesn’t seem wise.

But yet it is a core thought of Jesus’: losing–searching–finding–rejoicing.  Finding this sheep is imperative. When he does find it, the text tells us that the shepherd lifted it up, and carried on his shoulders. He does not drive the poor, weary sheep home. This is not the way the Eastern shepherd does it.

He stoops down and lifts it up, and lays it on his own shoulder and carries it back.  Some others  will often use their staff, and beat the sheep out frustration. Perhaps that want to teach the wandering one a lesson.  But that didn’t happen.

 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.”

John 10:14-15, NLT

There is a desperate need today for insightful shepherds to work in God’s flock.  People who watch and feed and protect.  We must advance to this point–Jesus carried us, our burdens, illnesses, sins and perversity.  He picked me up, and lifted me back into the flock.  The heart of a shepherd cares for every single sheep, even one lost sheep…and maybe even especially the one lost sheep. Does the Church today reflect this parable? What do you think?

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

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Processing Pain Through Poetry

 

heart

 

by Linda K

I wrote this poem a couple of months ago. I wrote it while trying to process the struggle of dealing with one sister who suffers with mental illness (bipolar disorder and bulimia) and other family members who don’t understand.

I have experienced seven years of major clinical depression myself, and over the last few years have come to the realization that ending up there again is not outside the realm of possibility if I’m not ever vigilant. But that doesn’t make the family relationships any easier, and I often feel like I’m the only glue or buffer holding things together, and I’m not doing a very good job at it.

I share this here to maybe give someone else the strength to keep being that glue or to appreciate the one in the family who is the glue or . . . well, frankly I’m not sure why. It just seems like something I need to share.

A note on the final stanza: I do not, in any way, wish that the person this poem is about was dead. Far from it. I’ve lost too many other family members, including another sister who died of cancer two years ago. But on the day I wrote this, that felt like it would have been easier to take than the present situation.

Impossible Madness

Why does it feel like I’ve lost you
when you aren’t even dead?

Why am I the only one
who wants to make amends?

Why does it have to be so hard
after all these years?

Maybe it’s the tears
mine and yours, and theirs,
that makes breathing and living
loving and forgiving so impossible

I guess sometimes families and madness
can’t survive one another

Because that’s what you are, you know,
mad, or crazy, or mentally ill
whatever you want to call it

It’s torn us apart
because you don’t understand
why they can’t begin to comprehend
what’s going on inside your head

It’s torn us—you and me—apart
because you’ve convinced yourself
that I don’t at all understand
what’s going on inside your head

You forget I’ve been there
that those crazy, mad thoughts
have been inside my head, too

But then you’ve forgotten a lot of things
all the times I was there for you
just to listen
and the times you were there for me

Forgetting the good
is a tragic side effect
of medications meant to help
Somehow they don’t erase
memories of the less-than-perfect moments

My greatest desire is to forgive
and to be forgiven
to live and laugh and love again
to mend what has been torn asunder
to heal the thoughts inside your head

But right now, in this moment
it feels like you might as well be dead
at least that would be easier to live with

 

aasignLinda

You can find Linda’s own website at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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