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Help for the Trapped

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

Psalm 88:4

In May 2011, this is what I wrote–

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

flourish14

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

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

The endless cycle of feeling really good and then feeling really bad is a challenging one.  It is difficult to have a stable walk of discipleship under these circumstances.  I think being starkly honest and broken over my own fallenness is the key for me. (Now if I can only remember this.)

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

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

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

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

Romans 5:6

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The Power of My Wound

Healing doesn’t happen all at once.
Sexual trauma runs too deep,
is much too complex for simple remedies.

We have no Star Trek sickbay
or magic tricorder
to bind up the wounds,
erase the battle scars.

And would we want to if we could?
Would we walk away,
pretend it never happened,
we were never assaulted
violated… hated… berated…
made to feel shame and doubt?

Could we ignore the very truth of what we
know was wrong… evil… the vilest of all?
Could we simply walk away
and cease to bear witness
for those who come after?
Or maybe for those violated before
our own innocence was vanquished
but are yet to heal at all?

If we could be healed completely
in an instant, in the blink
of a selfish, knowing eye…

But to do so meant leaving
our sisters, our friends,
our daughters, even strangers,
without the hope of #MeToo?

Could we? Should we?

Because to heal 100 percent
I think is to forget every ounce,
every moment, of
the pain and struggle.

And to forget is to lose compassion.
So perhaps it is worth the
ups and downs of scars
that appear healed but sometimes,
more often than we’d like, bleed tears
of understanding helping others
feel not so alone.

Often I pray for complete healing.
For years I prayed to forget.
But then I remember that
without my wound
I am not me.

Without my wound,
the scarring of my heart and soul,
I am powerless.

aasignLinda

AnotherFearlessYear.net

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When Does Depression Become Sin?

The Bible is chock full of commentary on depression. King David experienced intermittent times of intense darkness.  He was a man who had to work through a great deal of it, and we can see that he succeeded in breaking through into freedom.

Would David today be treated with antidepressants?  Could he have been treated at a mental hospital? I honestly think the answer is “yes” to these questions.  He was definitely devastated by depression at certain times.

There is no question he experienced both spiritual and physical depression.  But I believe that David teaches us that depression has a spiritual component in our fallenness.  It has to be treated holistically, covering both the physical and the spiritual.  It’s like having two hands being injured, but only treating one of them.

We need to discern the difference between:

  • depression caused by guilt (sin)
  • depression caused by a medical issue (organic)
  • depression as a reaction to a trauma or loss (reaction)

This is key. And there are others. But all forms can be working at the same time (and very often do).

But remember, there will only be a partial release, if there is only a partial solution.

 13″If you don’t confess your sins, you will be a failure.  But God will be merciful if you confess your sins and give them up.” 

Proverbs 28:13, CEV

 The story of Cain and Abel reveals the issue of “angry depression” taking over a person’s actions.

“6The LORD said to Cain:

 What’s wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling.  But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don’t let it!”  

Genesis 4:6-7, CEV  

David was depressed until he confessed his sin of adultery that he committed with Bathsheba.

3“When I refused to confess my sin,
      my body wasted away,
      and I groaned all day long.
 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
      My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” 

Psalm 32:3-4, NLT

The way out of some depression that is caused by guilt is almost always confession, and seeking God’s forgiveness. 

 5 “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
      and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
   I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
      And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

  1 Oh, what joy for those
      whose disobedience is forgiven,
      whose sin is put out of sight!
 2 Yes, what joy for those
      whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
      whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” 

Psalm 32:5 , 1-2

If you are a believing Christian and are experiencing moderate-to-heavy depression, I encourage you to seek out medical help.  Medication may be helpful to get through this rough time, and talk therapy can be a life-saver.  If your depression is caused from guilt, it will NOT get better, until you deal with it in the presence of God. Seek guidance from a pastor, elder or a mature believer who understands things like this.

RedcrossNow I’m not a physician, nor is this medical advice. If you are experiencing thoughts of depression or suicide seek out help immediately. Call 911 if you are in a dangerous place. Your regular doctor can help and guide you in a better direction.

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Has God Given Up on You?

giving-up2

If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.” 

2 Timothy 2:13, NLT

There can be times of a great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.

I know that feeling quite well. I have bipolar disorder and I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates in the heat of the moment. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.

We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us on the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that is what we deserve.

“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.” 

Psalm 3:2

In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David was now outside of God’s grace and favor. The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.

Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is even more extreme.

”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’

Psalm 36:5

The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When he committed himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).

You see, Jesus has taken all your sin upon himself,  and that includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”

Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever? Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t ever fight fair.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:“I have  loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him. You must only rest in His kindness and love.  He will not abandon anyone who puts even a feeble trust in Him. When we turn from our sin, God will always turn to us. Always believe it, for it is true.

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‘A Drowning Kind of Despair’

painting of a person swimming underwater

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.

   2 Corinthians 1:8

“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”

John Piper

It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not my impulsiveness that scares me.   I know ‘despair’.  I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost.  But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted honor, when it comes to despair.

Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost.  Now this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress.  But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time.  Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.

Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a rather simplistic form.  I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC  song, ‘Highway to Hell‘.  The lyrics are pretty basic, very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost.  He formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned.  This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-rollism.”)

In examining the striated world of despair, we come to the interesting place where our foolishness combined with our arrogance produces a decision to be lost.  Of course, our fear of God must be extracted from the situation.  But for the eager candidate for despair, this is not an insurmountable problem.

Escaping this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty.  And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love.  (It is completely undeserved).  We must believe that somehow, someway God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest.  And somehow, He delights in doing this, and after all, He is the Lord.

We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope. 

Because of our problems, our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil folly of despair.  These are the issues that make us vulnerable.  There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair.  There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’.  We are pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic in some perverse way.

But is it not even more heroic to live in hope?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”

Psalm 42:5-6

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Being Very, Very Sick

Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
“So Miriam was kept outside the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back before they traveled again.”

Numbers 12:15

To be numbered as the one of chronically ill often can mean awful frustration. We can’t do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and we’re held hostage by our minds and bodies. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that. We were accustomed to something, anything more than being very sick.

I once was a pastor of a small church. I also taught Gospels for several years in a local Bible Institute. I loved ministry very much. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I enjoyed helping people and teaching the Word. I endeavored to be faithful in the ministry.

With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder (BP), my life more or less exploded. I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. It was a hard thing to leave it behind. (I still miss it).

My depression grew even more profound with the stillborn death of our third child just 3 days before her delivery, Things suddenly ground to a stand still as my wife and I tried to process all of this. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I was angry at God. I spent months in bed, unable to function. A profound sadness settled on me.

Some people were true jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have understood, but things were so tangled up inside me that I couldn’t verbalize a thing.

The post-op surgery following the tumor was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. A few years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and my symptoms were so unpredictable. The BP was giving me it’s customary depression, and a solid dose of paranoia and fear. I learned that meds can help, but they can’t fix the problem.

Sometimes, like Miriam, we are quarantined by the Lord for His purposes. The isolation seems worse than the pain. We wonder why this is happening, and we hear lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. Our value to others seem to be scuttled by our illness. We can feel cursed, forgotten, crippled by God or even worse. (Maybe even irrevocably lost.) Satan often snares unsteady souls.

I admit I have been slow to learn this– God brings good things out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my personal lack of acquiring all of this. Now I’m starting to learn finally, and I want His words to reflect these truths.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7

This light will shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note–treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay. Our weaknesses are being turned into goodness, understanding and love for our brothers and sisters.

Troubles of many different varieties come to us. No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But for the broken believer, there is another dimension; we will indeed triumph. The tragedies we’ve had to endure only supplement our faith. We will stand– because He makes us stand.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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Suicide Prevention

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It’s very real and it’s very possible. Often we see suicide as the only way out. It becomes an option for us. We can plot it, and entertain it. I have personally seen it first hand, and I understand its seductive pull. It seems logical. Suicide has become a real possibility.

We feel like a magnet; bad stuff gets pulled into our thinking, and we plunge into dark thoughts and a deep pain. I know, I’ve been down this road. I’ve had to walk through this stuff myself. It scares me. Once (or twice) when we make our way down this trek, it becomes easier and quicker to make the slide into what ending it all.

It happens to Christian believers. I was a pastor of a church and a teacher in a Bible college. I acquired a degree of having a competent religion but without real knowledge. I professed but never attained. There were moments though, when I got quiet enough to listen, that I knew it really wasn’t working.

Will we go to hell if we commit suicide? The answer evades me, and I can find no definite direction in scripture. King Saul in the Old Testament, and Judas in the New, are those who come to mind. Both men found themselves in a very ugly situation. There isn’t any positives for them both.

Somehow, deeply ingrained in our hearts, we know it’s wrong. Maybe it’s genetic or a societal convention. Deep down we know it can never, ever be an option. It’s completely beyond the pale. And yet, we arrive at a terrible point when it does seem it’s the only thing left open to us. We’ve become our own worst enemy.

“Suicide doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it to someone else.”

Suicide devastates those who are left behind. Our terrible pain gets passed to those who knew us; the closer they are to us, the more it will damage them. Husbands, wives, children and friends will know trauma first-hand. Our decision to die will scar their hearts forever.

We are all connected. We are each tied to each other. Family and friends, churches and communities. We all have relationships that, like it or not, bind us to each other. We’re not solitary entities existing on our own. Consciously or not, we effect others. We will never know the scope of our influence.

There are stages an afflicted person will go through. These are just generalities, but having been down this path I do see them as steps to self-destruction. They blend with each other and sometimes they can be slower or faster, depending on the individual.

Step One: Ideation.

Thinking about it, is it even possible?

Step Two: Fascination.

When the idea begins to become more real, more seductive. We see a burnished glory in it. Suicide seems like logical to us. It seems the only way out. (Besides, isn’t there a certain ‘hubris’ to killing yourself?)

Step Three: Planning

How am I going to do this? What method makes the most sense to me?

Step Four: Committing.

This is the final, ultimate step. Everything up to now is just setting me up for this.

One of the 10 Commandments expressly tells us that “You shall not murder.” Suicide is essentially “self-murder.” This I suppose, is the ultimate

Suicide is never logical. It’s a slide into that which is irrational. It isn’t normal to want to kill yourself. And it does seem that mental illness (schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc.) can be an incredible factor. Physical illnesses or diseases also can make suicide logical. Or honestly, it can be a ‘blend’ of all that is listed here.

Suicide prevention

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

• Call 911 or your local emergency number. Get help as quick as you can.

• Stay with the person until help arrives. Don’t let them alone with their ‘demons,” real or imaginary.

• Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.

• Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell. All of these only increase the possibilities.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Most of all, PRAY! Get help from a pastor or elder of your local church. (That’s what they’re there for.)

Love,

Bryan

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Especially Peter

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

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

Mark 16:7, CEV

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the dynamite of God.” Matthew 22:29

“And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory with dynamite and great glory.” Matthew 24:30

“Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the dynamite proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” Mark 5:30

“And King Herod heard of it, for His name had become well known; and people were saying, “John the Baptist has risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous dynamite are at work in Him.” Mark 6:14

“And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with dynamite.” Mark 9:1

“But you will receive dynamite when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

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

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

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

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

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

Your amazed brother,

Bryan

 

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Raising the White Flag

“So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Matthew 17:16

Failure is hardly an option in our minds, for we know that Jesus Christ has shared his power with us.  But if we are honest we must admit to moments when we can’t do what Jesus can do.  We step out and meet the sick, and the possessed, with failure and defeat.

This is not an indictment of this “White Flag Christianity”.  It concerns us however, to the proximity and presence of Jesus.  And I really believe that that is what is at stake here.  We tell someone that He can heal, we lay our hands on her…and nothing.  Often there can be a feeling that we’ve failed the Lord.  Soon we start avoiding the topic of healing altogether, we can even go as far as denying it because we don’t see it.

When Jesus moves in to your location, he convincingly comes as the One of power and authority.  The nearness of His presence always brings good (and never evil).  In our failure, our white flag of giving up, should provoke us not to try harder.  Our effort for authentic discipleship is not contingent on our effort and works, but how close is Jesus.  I cannot become confused. He is the Healer.  I’m just the dude that is carrying the stretcher.

Your brother,

Bryan

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The Smiles of God

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

Ezekiel Hopkins, “A Puritan Golden Treasury”

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

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

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

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

Without question the New Testament believers are to know repentance and self-examination.  We should grieve over our sin, but that grief is to be based in hope, and in joy.  If you are saddened by sin, that sadness must be tethered to joy and not to despair.  Jesus has revolutionized forever the nature of religious faith.

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

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

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

your brother,

Bryan

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My Mortal Enemy

 

“Must I then, indeed,  Pain, live with you

All through my life? –sharing my fire, my bed,

And, when I feed myself, feeding you, too?”

 Edna St. Vincent Millay

The critical issue many face is just trying to survive the next episode of depression or mania.  Somehow I think that cohabitating with something that is trying to kill you is especially disturbing.  Depression is my mortal enemy and here I am, giving in and actually allowing it to destroy me. How crazy is that?

In a way it seems sinister, the hair-raising stuff of scary movies. It’s the parasite that makes its residence in the body of its host.  (It sounds like a story line’ out of Star Trek.) Some of us get absorbed into a dark melancholy. We instinctively carry despair and despondency wherever we go. It’s hard, but I really believe it’s crucial for afflicted believers to begin to worship again (and again.)

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.

When my depression slumbers, life proceeds fairly well.  I can play with my kids, be a good husband, friend and neighbor.  Everything seems quiet and normal.  But when the dragon awakes, watch out, there’s going to be ‘hell to pay.’  There were many terrible, dark days that I simply couldn’t get out of bed. I was plagued with awful, dark thoughts. Meds didn’t seem to help me. I felt completely lost.

Depression might strike at anytime, and exactly when, you can never be too sure. “How will I handle it next time? Will I be in shape for Christmas, or will I lose it again this year? I just don’t know.” That is the depressive way. But you know, the Holy Spirit ministers yet, and He will touch my heart again. He gently cares for the depressed.

“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,”

2 Corinthians 7:6

My wife and I were missionaries in Mexico for almost three years.  We lived in a “burnt out” and very small trailer, with very sporadic electricity, and no running water. We had a 55 gallon drum for our drinking water, and we tried our best to avoid the mosquito larvae. And part of that time we had to park on the slanted slopes of a volcano. I always wondered what we would do if it decided to erupt.

Sometimes it feels like that, I’m just waiting for the next flare-up of another bout of depression.

And yet there is this promise found in Psalm 139—

“You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!”

Psalm 139:5-6

I am glad that God decided to intervene in my life.  Without question, I need Him to watch over me. I have to believe that He will keep rescuing me over and over. As a believer in Jesus, I know he has put his hands on me.  He shields me from the dragon.  I have to believe that he protects me from the worst of it.  The Holy Spirit absorbs much of the venom Himself.  I’m very glad that I belong to Him! My fear of a plummeting relapse is now His concern. I bear it no more. It is now His responsibility.

Your brother in arms,

Bryan 

commentsbb@yahoo.com

You can checkout my new website at redletterstudy.wordpress.com. 

 

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Our Great Physician

[An oldie but goodie, first published in April, 2017 and dusted-off for “the post of the day.” Thank you, dear Linda!]

I wrote this poem the other day for ‘Thankful Thursday’ on my own blog. Knowing that many who visit Broken Believers struggle with illness and pain, I thought this would be good to share here as well.

There are plenty of cracked clay pots around this place, and God is in the business of using and healing cracked pots.

Our Great Physician

Illness comes to everyone –
pain, fever, fatigue, and tears
Chronic or acute, it’s such a trial –
these clay pots we inhabit
are so incredibly fragile
even in the hands of the Potter

But our Great Physician
provides strength, comfort –
Sometimes He brings doctors,
nurses, and medication –
Wisdom and talents used
to do His will, to heal, to mend

Sometimes all it takes
is to touch the hem of His robe –
Like the woman who bled
for twelve long years, outcast
one moment, then healed
completely and wholly

The greatest good –
spiritual health and salvation
for the least of us, for all –
each clay pot used to help others
as grace leaks out of cracks –
Cracks that never seem to heal

Sometimes what the Physician
has in store is our ultimate healing –
A new body, new life eternal
in a place of no more pain,
no tears, energy galore –
as death brings everyone home

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (NIV)

Your Sister in Christ,

Linda K.

 

Check out Linda’s blog:  www.lindakruschke.wordpress.com

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Everything is Broken

I’m really sad today.  There are just too much hurts, too many casualties, too many victims.  Job’s own reflection was that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” [not really sure I know what the last part means, but the first part is perfectly clear].

We are all citizens of this fallen world.  It seems we go through life like a bull in a china shop.  We don’t move very gracefully and we break a lot of things just trying to move through it.  No matter how hard we try we always make a mess of it. I’d like to think of it as moving through life sideways. We go through life crashing and smashing.

There is no place in the Bible where God promises us a “trouble-free” journey to heaven, a journey without pains, hassles and the problems of life.  If you are hearing anything else, I strongly suggest finding another voice to listen to.

“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives.”

— Michael Yaconelli

We all have flawed lives.  Everything gets tangled up and really messy. This is the normal life of being in ministry of some kind.

Our very best efforts give us little hope at resolving these things.  We are agitated by our personal failure and we often feel God is angry with us.  The really hard part is the incessant voices from the sidelines that announce our failures and flaws to everyone. Satan has a cruel and a vicious ministry of hate targeted at you.

Yet these terrible things are redeemed by the Holy Spirit.  He loves failures and weaklings.  When we finally realize we are flawed, he then places something real into our hearts.  In our weakness we finally become strong.  We become authentic.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”  (Matthew 5:4).

Be kind to everyone today, to each person you meet. For all of us are fighting a difficult battle. Please, be kind out there.

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100% Pure Depression

depression

 

“Lord, answer me quickly, because I am getting weak. Don’t turn away from me, or I will be like those who are dead. Tell me in the morning about your love, because I trust you. Show me what I should do, because my prayers go up to you.”

Psalm 143:7-8, NCV

I am not a psychiatrist or a licensed therapist. I am just an ordinary man serving God’s flock. Yet if I were to speak I would speak on the subject of clinical depression. The stats are pretty grim. Depression affects 16.1 million people, or 6.7% of the population every year, age 18 or older. The median age is 32.5 years old. (These are just U.S. stats only.)

I’ve come to understand this much through my own struggles. It seems that there are three types of depression to consider.

These ‘big three’ seldom stand alone; they mix or overlap each other to make diagnosis difficult. Only a doctor can make that, but we can at least know that these three are most likely behind our issues. You can have these three working against you at once.

The are the big three:

1) Guilty depression- when our behavior hasn’t been what it should be (sin), this is the source of condemnation. Jesus forgives us, so we should forgive ourselves. Guilty depression is very hurtful and damaging to our spirits. Often our healing will come when we draw close to the Lord Jesus.

2) Organic depression- when it’s built into our DNA and part of our very being; it becomes fundamental to your personality. You can compare it to  someone who has diabetes or MS. We live in a fallen world and genetics affects us at this core level.

3) Reactionary depression when we react to some bad news or injury, or working too much with no time off. We react to difficulties in this way when outside forces infringe upon our inner heart. Often God sends us an elder or a mature believer to come and help us out.  This is fortuitous indeed to have someone to speak through our confusion.

Each of these are different, but identifying them could help you move through them more gracefully. These three can overlap. Perhaps it’s helpful to see reactionary depression as the most common, while guilty depression can be the most hurtful to the believer’s heart.

Satan is involved in the intensification of each– he creeps in and slowly strangles all hope. Worship and the Word is critical and necessary weapons for us out us to walk-out clean and clear. We must defend ourselves (and others) with these weapons that the Father has given us.

Knowing the type of depression will give you understanding and perhaps this will help you defuse the situation. These things have helped me personally to work through my own issues.

“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Proverbs 12:25

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Statistics in opening paragraph from Anxiety and Depression Assn of America. These numbers are just for the U.S. Here is their website: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
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Compassion!

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

(Luke 15:20)

How can you doubt His mercy and compassion for you?

“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

With love from your prodigal brother,

Bryan

Check out my new site, redletterstudy.wordpress.com

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My Two Sons

Pencil Portraits by Billy Nicol Creative

I have two sons and they are very different from each other. Connor is the oldest and he is an engineer who recently graduated from college with good leadership skills. He was born into our family with three older sisters.

My other son is Morris and he was born into abject poverty in Liberia, Africa. He came to our house when he was six. He has outstanding coordination, Is an excellent athlete, and is very musically inclined.

Connor and Morris have very different strengths as well as different weaknesses. One of my jobs as a dad is to allow them to be unique and to adjust my expectations accordingly. Ideally I could maximize their strengths while teaching them to mitigate their weaknesses.

I believe God in this respect is similar to a good dad. He doesn’t expect the same from everyone. He actively works with our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aptitudes and abilities. That is one reason not to compare oneself to others as He has specific hopes and desires for each of us.

Likewise reading the bible like every verse currently applies to everyone is foolish. No one could possibly meet that standard. Scripture is best personally handled by asking Him what He wants you to see-to focus on-for yourself.

Jesus knows what He created. He knows your frame as David said. Rest in that knowledge and ask Him to speak individually to you about your walk with Him. He is among many other things very personal.

Your brother in Jesus,

Les

commentsbb@yahoo.com

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24/7 Hotlines

Our List of Hotlines and 1-800 Phone Numbers and Websites

This list comes from brokenbelievers.com and is often updated (we’re trying anyway.) We are not responsible for the validity of this info. These numbers, hotlines or texts may or may not work. We’re constantly adjusting/adding to this resource. As far as we know, this is U.S. only for phone numbers. Additionally many of these have regular office hours, and some are not staffed at night. Also use this resource with caution.

This list isn’t complete yet.  If you have a contact that isn’t here, please email me that information.  I’m Bryan Lowe at commentsbb@yahoo.com or brokenbelievers.com.

Mostly, these are organizations and ministries that are there when life gets challenging.  Use these phone numbers wisely, and I would encourage you to pray for those who are counseling you.  Also, I am not able to check each number.  These numbers are to be used with some precaution as a result. They may change without notice. This list was updated 3/18/21.

In general, these hotlines have three things in common:

1) they are available to call 24/7 in the USA
2) they are 100% confidential
3) they are free

Here’s a list of hotlines that may help you whatever situation you find yourself in.

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, or are in danger, or are feeling suicidal, call 911 immediately.

Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433

Main Helpline- 1-888-NEEDHIM, or 1-800-394-4673

Crisis Text: 741-741

Chat 24/7 at http://www.thehopeline.com

General and Suicidal Numbers

  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)
  • Spanish, Red Nacional de Prevencion del Suicidio 1-888-628-9454
  • Veterans Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1
  • Suicide Hotline Listings by State http://www.suicidehotlines.com
  • Veterans Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255

More General Numbers

  • General needs 24/7: 1-888-NEEDHIM
  • NAMI Hotline, 1-800-950-6264
  • Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255
  • DGCC Prayer Line, 708-512-7011, (can Skype also)
  • Prayer and General Counseling www.prayerandhope.org, 1-866-599-2264
  • New Life Clinics 1-800-NEW-LIFE
  • National Prayer Line 1-800-4-PRAYER
  • Bethany Lifeline Pregnancy Hotline 1-800-BETHANY
  • Liberty Godparent Ministry 1-800-368-3336
  • The 700 Club Hotline 1-800-759-0700
  • Want to know Jesus? 1-888-NEED-HIM
  • Biblical help for youth in crisis 1-800-HIT-HOME
  • Rapha National Network 1-800-383-HOPE
  • Emerge Ministries 330-867-5603
  • Meier Clinics 1-888-7-CLINIC or 1-888-725-4642
  • Pine Rest 1-800-678-5500
  • Timberline Knolls 1-877-257-9611

Abortion Help & Counseling

Abuse of Any Kind

  • National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • Stop it Now! 1-888-PREVENT
  • United States Elder Abuse Hotline 1-866-363-4276
  • National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453)
  • Child Abuse Hotline / Dept of Social Services 1-800-342-3720
  • Child Abuse National Hotline 1-800-25ABUSE
  • Children in immediate danger 1-800-THE-LOST
  • Exploitation of Children 1-800-843-5678
  • Missing Children Help Center, Thursday’s Child, 1-800-USA-KIDS
  • http://www.ThursdaysChild.org

Helpline – Provides referrals to local facilities where adolescents and adults can seek help. Brief intervention only, 1-800-821-4357

Drug & Alcohol

  • Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline (24 hours) 1-800-252-6465
  • Families Anonymous 1-800-736-9805
  • Cocaine Hotline (24 hours) 1-800-262-2463
  • Cocaine National Hotline 1-800-COCAINE
  • Drug Abuse National Helpline 1-800-662-4357
  • National Association for Children of Alcoholics 1-888-554-2627
  • Ecstasy Addiction 1-800-468-6933
  • Alcoholics for Christ 1-800-441-7877

Battered Women

  • Friends of Battered Women or Children, 1-800-603-HELP
  • Domestic Abuse, 1-800-799-7233

Bullying

Cancer

  • American Cancer Society 1-800-227-2345
  • National Cancer Institute 1-800-422-6237
  • Cancer Information Service: 800-422-6237
  • http://www.cancer.org

Caregivers

  • Elder Care Locator 1-800-677-1116
  • Well Spouse Foundation 1-800-838-0879

Child Abuse

  • Child Abuse National Hotline, call 1-800-252-2873, 1-800-25ABUSE
  • Child Abuse: To report call 1-800-4-A-CHILD
  • Children in immediate risk or danger 1-800-THE-LOST
  • CyberTipline for reporting the exploitation of children, 1-800-843-5678
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline Call 1-800-422-4453 (24/7)
  • National Safe Place  Text SAFE and your current location to the number 69866 (24/7)
  • Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453
  • Center for Missing or Exploited Children, 1-800-843-5678

Crisis Numbers for Teens (Under 18)

  • Girls and Boys town 1-800-448-3000
  • Hearing Impaired 1-800-448-1833
  • Youth Crisis Hotline 1-800-448-4663
  • Teen Hope Line 1-800-394-HOPE

Crisis Numbers for Help (Any age)

  • United Way Crisis Helpline 1-800-233-HELP
  • Covenant House Hotline: 800-999-9999
  • Christian Oriented Hotline 1-877-949-HELP
  • Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213

Crisis Pregnancy Helpline

  • Crisis Pregnancy Hotline Number 1-800-67-BABY-6
  • Liberty Godparent Ministry 1-800-368-3336

Cult Information

Cutting

  • SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) 1-800-DONT-CUT, 1-800-366-8288

Depression 

  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  • National Hopeline Network 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE) http://www.hopeline.com/
  • The Trevor Project , 866-488-7386 (24/7) Live Chat  with the Trevor Project (Fridays 4pm- 5pm EST)

Domestic Violence

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline Spanish 1-800-942-6908
  • Battered Women and their Children 1-800=603-HELP
  • Elder Abuse Hotline 1-800-252-8966
  • RAINN 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Eating Disorders

  • Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention 1-800-931-2237
  • Eating Disorders Center 1-888-236-1188
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 1-847-831-3438
  • Remuda Ranch 1-800-445-1900
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Eating Disorders
    630-577-1330, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday, http://www.anad.org

Elder Abuse

  • Elder Abuse Hotline 1-800-252-8966

Family Violence

  • Family Violence Prevention Center 1-800-313-1310

Gambling

  • Compulsive Gambling Hotline 410-332-0402

General Issues and Problems

  • CBN, 700 Club,  Call our 700 Club Prayer Center, or http://www.CBN.com , 1-800-823-6053

Homeless/Shelters

  • Homeless 1-800-231-6946
  • American Family Housing 1-888-600-4357

Homosexual/Lesbian

  • Helpline: 1-800-398-GAYS
  • Gay and Lesbian National Hotline 1-888-843-4564
  • Trevor Hotline (Suicide) 1-866-4-U-TREVOR

Online Issues

Cyber Crime Response Agency has a 24 hour call center for reporting online crime and online predators. 1-888-798-2272.

Parents

  • Hotline for parents considering abducting their children 1-800-A-WAY-OUT
  • United States Missing Children Hotline 1-800-235-3535

Poison

  • Emergency: 911
  • Poison Control 1-800-942-5969
  • Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222

Porn Addiction

Pregnant & Scared?

Runaways

  • Boystown National Hotline 1-800-448-3000
  • Laurel House 1-714-832-0207
  • National Runaway Switchboard 1-800-621-4000
  • Teenline 1-888-747-TEEN
  • Youth Crisis Hotline 1-800-448-4663
  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453 (24/7)
  • National Safe Place  Text SAFE and your current location to the number 69866 (24/7)
  • National Runaway Switchboard Call 1-800-786-2929, (24/7) Live Chat  with the Veterans Crisis Line (24/7)

Salvation

Self-Injury, “Cutting”

  • S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends) 1-800-DONT-CUT

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Addiction & Porn

  • Focus on the Family 1-800-A-FAMILY

Suicide, 9-1-1

  • Emergency, dial 9-1-1
  • Suicide Hotline 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)
  • 1-800-723-TALK (8255)
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-827-7571
  • Deaf Hotline 1-800-799-4TTY
  • NineLine 1-800-999-9999
  • Holy Spirit Teenline  1-800-722-5385
  • Crisis Intervention 1- 888- 596-4447
  • Crisis Intervention 1-800-673-2496
  • Suicide Prevention hotline 1-800-273-825
  • Feel like someone is thinking about suicide, 1-800-273-8255
  • Check out, Heartcrossers: http://www.heartcrossers.org

The American Counseling Association recommends:

“Five Ways to Help with Coping AFTER a Crisis Situation.”

  1. Recognize your own feelings about the situation and talk to others about your fears. Know that these feelings are a normal response to an abnormal situation.
  2. Be willing to listen to family and friends who have been affected and encourage them to seek counseling if necessary.
  3. Be patient with people; fuses are short when dealing with a crisis and others may be feeling as much stress as you.
  4. Recognize normal crises reactions, such as sleep disturbances and nightmares, withdrawal, reverting to childhood behaviors and trouble focusing on work or school.
  5. Take time with your children, spouse, life partner, friends and co-workers to do something you enjoy.

Your Brother in Jesus,

Bryan

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

(Philippians 1:6, NLT)

This resource is found at brokenbelievers.com and is subject to change at any given moment. You may email us at commentsbb@yahoo.com.

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The ‘Insignificant’ Church

Image result for mike yaconelli quotes images

“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”

(Isaiah 42:3)

Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability. They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.

For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.

We are the weak and fallen

But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time? We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.

But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.

After 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry,) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.) I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

His love is completely undeserved. It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.

It is a relationship and not a religion. We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).

We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy. We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.

All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.

I must tell you that God loves you insanely. He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He certainly doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.

You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship.

We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken. We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.

There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.

“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “

They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)

A brother who is incredibly loved,

Bryan

I have a new site and I hope you visit: redletterstudy.wordpress.com

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Ministering to Yourself

“My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be.”

Psalm 42:4, NLT

The Psalms are a classic examples of self-encouragement.

The writer sometimes gave into moments of depression and he would often write encouraging words to uplift his spirit. Today these have become verses or scriptures for us to study and emulate. Read Psalm 42. It is somewhat an unusual portion of scripture, in as the writer addresses his/her own soul.  That alone makes it different. But if we think it out, we become aware of an awesome truth.

“I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self . . .

Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you.

Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul? he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’

Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have had but little experience . . . We must stand up as this man did and say: ‘Why are you cast down? Why are you disquieted within me?’ . . . instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you. For that is what he will always do if you allow him to be in control.”

D. M. Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure

When I allow myself to indulge in anger, impatience, worry, or pride I open an entrance for Satan to visit my life and run rampant through my mind. He doesn’t have to scheme, plan or even deceive me. He walks right in and scatters my self-centered emotions all over the place.

Notice the flow– My impatience inevitably leads to irritation; irritation turns to anger. Anger seems to lead to hatred. Satan just keeps bringing more and more situations and circumstances in my life with the intention of wreaking havoc with the ‘fruit of the spirit.’ In our weakened state, our hearts are left open to even more assaults. After being attacked over and over we risk becoming again shackled into the chains of spiritual slavery.

“He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.”

–Proverbs 25:28

The Bible clearly teaches us that we are responsible for our behavior.

As believers we simply don’t have the luxury to allow depressive ‘self-talk’ to go on unedited and unchallenged.  If we think about it, as those prone to depression and mental illness, we must take a stand!  A depressive bout can really harm us (and others) unless we resist it. If we don’t it will only get worse. We end up hurting others and destroying ourselves.

Talking to yourself isn’t for ‘whackos,’ rather it’s one way of resisting the darkness for the believer.

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Choosing His Kingdom

When Jesus showed up on earth the first time, I don’t think He did a very good job of meeting people’s expectations. In particular those who considered themselves the spiritual elite not only failed to recognize Him, they actually aligned against His kingdom. The ones seemingly most likely to see and embrace Him were those He called ‘the least’.

History is repeating itself. He’s now moving on the earth in unbelievable ways and with unprecedented change effected. For those so inclined to focus on the visible, they will be oblivious to the kingdom.  To those stuck on going back to the past, the kingdom will remain elusive. To those unwilling to relinquish the allusion of control, they will stay stuck in their imaginary kingdom. 

The rate of change will increase. If one chooses to look for the kingdom, great rewards await. For one choosing to focus on the virus, civil unrest, the weather, their favorite celebrity’s latest activities, inept government officials, economic disruptions, billionaires, etcetera ad nauseam, they will remain nauseated and miss the kingdom entirely. 

It matters what you choose. It matters what you see. It matters whether your face is turned heavenward or instead is stuck gazing at the news. It matters whether you see reality today through the lens of faith versus fear.   He’s here and moving and undoing and doing. 

Choose well today. 

Your brother,

Les

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Contemplating Suicide Is Not Selfish

Sept. 10,  is World Suicide Prevention Day. Why there is but a single day of the year devoted to preventing suicide, I do not know. We should endeavor every day to provide the hope the hopeless need to get them through the pain that leads to suicide.

Often we hear it said that those who kill themselves are selfish because they hurt the people they leave behind. But if you’ve ever had suicidal thoughts or tried to die by suicide, you know that is not the case.

If you never have, it is difficult to understand.

I’ve only been truly suicidal once, but my thoughts were far from selfish. At the time, my actual thought was that my husband and son would be better off without me because I was so depressed and broken that I was no good to them. I truly believed this terrible lie.

Thoughts of suicide often follow a long pattern of trying to get well with little or no success. It stems from hopelessness and a sense of feeling like you are a burden to those around you. To consider suicide is to desire to unburden others and put an end to endless pain.

Unfortunately, the thought processes of a person who is suicidal are just simply wrong. I know mine were. I can’t imagine where my husband and son (who was 1 ½ then and is 26 now) would be if I had gone through with it. They certainly would not be better off. That thought was a lie.

There is always hope, even when things seem the most hopeless. What a person struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts needs is love and hope. They need understanding and reassurance that the rest of us would not be better off if they were gone. They need to know we are there for them and that they matter to someone.

They need to know that God loves them and wants what is best for them, and that “This too shall pass.” But in the meantime, we are there to be a shoulder to cry on and a heart to confide in.

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Thinking About Mental Illness

“The Thinker” bronze statute, by Rodin, c.. 1880

“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”

(1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB)

Those of us who are broken have to think through many things. Jesus is our Teacher, and He fully intends to educate His disciples. Following Him is vibrantly alive, it’s never a static thing. Instead I must deal with the issues of living, of having a growing faith which is becoming real at long last.

This really isn’t an “one and you’re done” experience, rather the Bible describes a slow growing into the image of Jesus- -painstakingly learning about our frosty hearts, and how God keeps pouring His “super-heated” grace on the broken. We’re finally becoming ‘poor in Spirit’ and we’re learning to ‘mourn’ over our sins, perhaps we realize that we’ve fallen quite short of His will for us. (Matt. 5:3-4).

This list isn’t orderly or exhaustive, and it’s written primarily for the mentally ill believer:
  • Stigma-This is one of the basic hazards that comes with being a believer with a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like you’re a moron, even in God’s church. You’ll try to become thick-skinned and ask Jesus for His help. He understands you completely. Even the Lord’s own family considered Him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company. (Mark 3:20).
  • Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what’s best for you, your family and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and definite issues that ‘disciples.’ must navigate. Some say that therapy and ‘meds’ are wrong. Your patience most likely will be required and you’ll need to seek His wisdom. He will tell you what to do.
  • Church“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” must anchor us. We were built for real fellowship.  It’s quite easy to attempt to go it alone, but that isn’t what God wants. Not to be with others is a disease of the spiritual heart. I’ve chafed at this from time to time. 
  • Therapy— To go or not to go? I happen to believe a good counselor is worth their weight in gold, but a bad therapist can be a real challenge to your faith. Figure out your tolerance level on this. Quite often all I simply need a good listener, and listening is a skill that is developed over time. (It’s also is a great indicator of the therapist’s ability.)
  • Marriage—  A good spouse is often key to manage your mental illness. God has gifted them to deal with your disability; they’re your partner in this. Bring them into some of your appointments. Talk, and listen. Learn to pray and worship together. Read the Word out loud. Remember they are learning too. Your disability is shaping their discipleship to Jesus. 
  • Family— They’ll often feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Allow God to redeem your situation. Trust in the Lord, and try not get in His way. He wants to renew things. Always look for creative ways to love your family. (Surprise ice cream does wonders!)
  • Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have very little tolerance for your issues, but the law says is that they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
  • Fellow strugglers-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggles with severe depression I want to give them a big bear hug. We instantly have a rapport that isn’t easily defined. Finally there is someone who understands my battle.
  • Prayer–Desperate prayers have a tendency to get answered. Start praying for five minutes a day. Pray, not complain. Be real, not religious. Talk with Jesus like he was your best friend. Prayer is the key to making the above work. Prayer is the “heart beat” of heaven.

We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness.

This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give us His wisdom. He graces us with intense spiritual power. The battle rages and times get tough. Perhaps “grittiness” should we should added to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’ve now walked with Him over 40 years now, and I know Jesus has never left me alone. He never lets me ‘twist in the wind.’

The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace. He always does this for His children. No believer is ever overlooked or forgotten. He is constantly aware of you.

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

— Alan Redpath

These are only some of the areas that are affected by your mental illness. A wise spouse, pastor, elder, friend or therapist can do wonders when things get difficult. Sometimes we need a new perspective as we sort things out. God will often use others to bandage and heal us. That’s the way He works.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Philippians 1:6, Message

 

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That Didn’t Hurt

Note: This article was posted last November on my page at The Mighty, a great resource and community for people with chronic or mental illnesses.

I have long, straight, super-fine hair. When I was a kid, it would often get tangled and I didn’t like to brush it. So my mom would brush it for me, yanking the brush through the rat’s nest knot. “Ow, quit yanking,” I would say with tears streaming down my face.
“That didn’t hurt.”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I could buy a small mansion. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I did hear it a lot. Sometimes I still do, or variations of it.

A Lack of Understanding

Several years ago, my sister and I visited an aunt and cousins in Texas. We got to meet one cousin’s grandkids who lived with him.

The impish face of one granddaughter was adorable. I so wanted to play this game she’d made up.

“Hold these,” she chirped, and handed me three pine cones. I don’t even know where she got pine cones in Houston, Texas. I hadn’t seen many pine trees.

Try as I might to hold them lightly, I could barely stand having them poke my tender palms. “I can’t hold these,” I finally said, as I set them down on the coffee table. “They hurt my hands.” That was an understatement.

My sister looked at me with puzzlement written on her face. “Does that really hurt?”

At least she’d asked.

More Failure to Understand

On another trip, this time with my husband and son, Mexico was the destination. Cancun, to be specific. A place of sunshine and beautiful coral sand beaches.

Mid-trip, my husband decided he wanted to have his hair cornrow braided by a merchant in the local outdoor market. He talked me into having mine braided too. I should have known better.

While he was enjoying what felt like a wonderful scalp massage, I endured torture worse than all my mom’s hair brushings rolled into one. I felt certain the woman braiding my hair was going to pull every hair out of my scalp. I will not be doing that again. Ever.

I took the braids out the very next day because the pain wouldn’t cease until I did. My husband still didn’t understand.

Looking for Answers

The denial of my physical pain by those who know me best often makes me wonder if I’m losing my mind. Because it does hurt. At least that’s what my brain tells me.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that a doctor gave my sensitivity to pain a name: fibromyalgia. No one could tell me why I had this thing that can’t be tested for or proven. Sure, there were theories.

One pain specialist asked if I’d ever been sexually assaulted, because that kind of trauma is connected to fibromyalgia. I was, when I was 14, but I’d been ultra-sensitive to pain long before that. An online article suggested a link between the Epstein-Barr virus, also known as mononucleosis, and fibromyalgia. I had mono when I was in the seventh grade. But again, my pain sensitivity existed before that five-week illness.

The first doctor to mention fibromyalgia to me wouldn’t commit to a diagnosis. She prescribed amitriptyline saying that “empirically that’s what we’re treating you for.”

In addition to the chronic muscle pain, I have osteoarthritis, although I’ve been told the degeneration in my neck doesn’t look bad enough on an MRI to cause the pain I complain about. In other words, it’s really all in my head.

Happening upon Relief

As with most fibro patients, I have some other health issues, including GI problems. At one point, my doctor suggested I quit eating gluten. When I replied that I hadn’t eaten gluten in over a year, she suggested I quit eating dairy. I rolled my eyes, feeling like she had no real solutions. But I did try it.

She also wanted me to quit taking ibuprofen, which I wasn’t happy about because it was the only thing that took the edge of my chronic pain.

For four weeks, I read every label. If a food contained whey, casein, or any dairy products, I didn’t eat it. Then one day I realized my muscles didn’t ache all over. I didn’t even wish I could take ibuprofen because I didn’t need it.

So I kept it up. I didn’t eat dairy at all for four months. Then came my birthday and dinner out at The Cheesecake Factory. I decided I’d been good, so I deserved a piece of cheesecake to celebrate. I ate the whole thing, which, if you’ve ever been to The Cheesecake Factory, you know is a huge slab of pure dairy and sugar goodness.

The next morning, I awoke to a feeling like I’d been hit with a Mack truck. Every muscle ached.

I’ve been mostly dairy-free for several years now and feel much better.

Still Pain Sensitive

Which is not to say I don’t still deal with pain. I still don’t understand why pain scales have a 0 on them. Are there people who, at times, don’t feel any pain? I suppose there are, but I wouldn’t know about that. Every day something aches or I do something that results in acute pain beyond what those without fibromyalgia would feel.

But the pain is more manageable without the added inflammatory reaction from bombarding my body with dairy products it doesn’t like.

It’s also easier to deal with when I quit listening to those who don’t understand tell me, “That didn’t hurt.”

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One Step Ahead of the Abyss

 

“Life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.”

-Anne Lamott

The reality is this– so much happens to us that we’re not in control of. There are some deluded souls who think they have it by the handle; that they have life completely figured out. But not me. Much of my life has been a challenge, and at times wonder if I’m still on the path. I’ve followed Jesus for 40 years now, and I’m always challenged by what’s around the next corner!

Life comes at us so dang fast, and it’s never linear or methodical, there are bumps and curves that must be navigated. The road is often a drudgery. And yet at other times it’s like we’re trying to take a drink from a fire hose. Things come at us so furiously fast, it races at us relentlessly. We can’t keep up anymore.

I believe that the Bible– God’s tried and true promises have impressive, supernatural power. Not in a magical way though; but rather it becomes a guide for me when all other ‘influences’ fail and falter. It alone tells me what is true. What I have internalized within is now my compass and guide. It can be trusted when everything seems wrong. The Holy Spirit uses those divine promises that I have collected over the years.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.”

(Psalm 119:105)

I live for, and love, the guidance He gives. There is so much adventure to it all. To be in harmony with Him (and His Will) is a wonderful thing. I honestly don’t pretend that I’m walking this road alone, and I’m definitely not lost in some weird maze. Instead I’m seeking out the wisdom of my brothers that have journeyed the road ahead of me. And I especially want to follow my Companion. He deeply loves me, and He fully intends to lead me home! (John 17:12, NIV)

“Who is that coming up from the wilderness,
    leaning on her beloved?”

(Song of Solomon 8:5)

He is with you in these terribly difficult places. He makes the crooked straight.

Being mentally or physically disabled isn’t easy, but who says it should be? (You do adapt, I know.) Whatever wilderness we find ourselves in is punctuated by His presence. He is there, and He can be leaned on. Granted, there are no quick fixes; there is only His strong presence. He’s your beloved that is holding on to you as you travel this hard wilderness.

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The Sea of Galilee ‘Crash’ Course, 101

A Crash Course in Trust

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

(Mark 4:39-40, NLT)

There He is, sleeping on a pillow, seemingly unaware of the danger that the disciples were facing. They’re suddenly in the middle of a cyclonic fury–a ‘bomb’ of wind and waves that is bursting into their tiny little boat. The twelve had never seen waves so high, or a storm rise up so fast.. At least four were seasoned fisherman, and they knew how to handle a boat. But this storm was way beyond anything they’ve ever faced before.

Maybe it was over crowded; the dimensions of the boat would’ve been around 25-30 feet long, and maybe 7-8 feet wide, more or less, and a single mast. The twelve crowded in, while the four fisherman handled the sail and the rudders. Jesus found His place in the stern. It had been a long full day, and everyone expected a restful crossing. The break would be welcomed.

Why do we doubt? Being unsure and uncertain is a very human quality, especially when everything has gone haywire. Things have turned out really rotten, and now the situation is starting to look even more grim. Our response varies–from mild concern to outright panic. We honestly never know what to expect or how to react. Small things look big. Big things look small.

To put it mildly, the disciples in the storm are scared out of their wits. They’re completely overwhelmed by the possibility of drowning. They are now fighting to stay alive. The waves are getting higher and higher, and the boat ‘groans’ like it wants to fall apart. They pitch up and down, twisting like some wacky ‘roller-coaster’ ride!

“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 

(Mark 4:35)

Never do they think that Jesus had declared that their destination was across the lake, and certainly not beneath it! But now where is Jesus? Twenty-eight eyes look to the very back of the boat. “Wake Him up, we’re all going to drown.” Funny how we are sometimes. Things are going nuts and we’re starting to come apart. Yet we wait to the last possible moment and seldom consider that Jesus has been in our “boat” all along.

Important idea: When Jesus stands up, and speaks to the wind and waves, He will use the same word as when He freed the demoniac, just a few verses later!

“Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:20)

I am with you always” is the promise given to each believer. Consider dear one, Jesus has chosen to stay with us and bring His supernatural touch directly into our storm. He will always make an appearance to all who are His. He is “responsible” for you. His intention is to bring you to the other side. His very honor is at stake! (Phil. 1:6). He fully believes He can grow your faith. (Heb. 11:6).

Life can fall apart on us very fast, I know first-hand. And it seems like it’s ‘doubly dangerous’ for those struggling with depression or disability. It’s like we have extra weights put on us, and when you’re barely “treading water,” that really isn’t good. Not only do we have these heavy burdens on us, but we must survive this horrendous storm. (The waves can get massive, and our boat is very small.)

“While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost.”

(John 17:12) 

The disciples called out to Jesus, and that is all they had to do. The rest belonged to their Lord. Obviously the disciples had zero ability to ‘halt’ their storm. But when they finally summoned Jesus, they became mere ‘spectators.’ All they did was watch as God move, and they simply sat still in amazement. (1 Samuel 12:16). He did all of the ‘work.’

What is going on in your life? Storms will always come, one way or another. These five should help:

  • He has promised to bring us to the other side, no debate here
  • He is in our boat, and superintends every storm we face
  • He understands our limitations, our weaknesses, our griefs, what saddens us
  • He has all authority and power, He does what He wants, whenever He wants
  • He teaches us to be faithful disciples, and it seems we understand our ‘voyage’ better

We maybe the broken, but perhaps that makes it easier to understand?

With Jesus in my boat,

Bryan

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God’s Good and Perfect Gifts

I often hear people say that the bad things that happen to them are God’s punishment for something wrong they have done. I have a friend who desires to find someone to marry, but has said she doesn’t think God will ever bring her a mate because of all the wrong she has done in the past with respect to relationships. In the news we hear televangelists say natural disasters are God’s punishment for the sins of the people in the area hit by the disaster.

But I don’t think God works that way.

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James wrote, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” James 1:17-18 (NIV). God desires to give good gifts, not punishment.

I also think of Job, a man who endured great suffering and loss. But none of it was punishment from God. Rather, all of his sorrows came from Satan, albeit with God’s permission, so that Satan would see that God’s redeemed and faithful servants would never reject Him simply because of trials they face. See Job 1-2 (NIV).

For the believer in Christ Jesus, all the punishment for our sins has already been meted out at the cross. As Jesus said, “It is finished.” John 19:30 (NIV). To believe that we need to suffer punishment for our own sin is to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was insufficient. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV). God does not seek to punish, but to restore and redeem those He loves.

There are, however, natural consequences of sin.

If we are gluttonous, we are likely to be overweight and suffer various illnesses that come from poor eating habits.

If we get drunk, especially habitually, we will suffer in terms of health problems, possibly losing a job, or having financial difficulties because we spend too much money on alcohol.

If we get involved with other drugs, the same problems can happen, perhaps even worse if they are illegal drugs because we could end up in prison for breaking the law.

If we are sexually promiscuous we may contract diseases, end up with a child we didn’t want, or will suffer emotional damages and loneliness.

If we gossip and badmouth others, we will damage others view of us and damage our relationships.

Every sin has natural consequences. Sometimes we are fortunate to avoid the worst of the natural consequences, but not always. And all sin results in the natural consequence of separating us from God because our guilt and shame cause us to avoid God. That has been the case from the first sin in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve hid from God.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Genesis 3:6-10 (NIV).

God knows what is best for us and has declared what is sin based on His superior knowledge of what is beneficial for our physical and emotional well-being. Just as He gave to Adam and Eve all that they needed in the Garden, He desires to give us good and perfect gifts.

In addition to the natural consequences of individual sinful behavior, the sinful nature of mankind over the centuries has brought into our lives a brokenness that leads to pain and suffering. The evil nature of some people can lead to suffering by others, such as a violent man who beats his wife, or the drunk driver who causes an accident that kills others, or a serial killer who tortures his victims. Our sinfulness is also engrained in our DNA and can lead to sickness and disease that brings suffering as well.

So if you are suffering and think that God is punishing you, think again. Return to God and seek His face, seek the good and perfect gifts that He has offered. Lean on Jesus in your suffering because He desires to restore and redeem you, not cause you more suffering. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5 (NIV). Come into the light and rest in His love.

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Spellbound Captives of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— ugly, awful and evil things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers, but we still ‘can’t’ fathom this terrible ‘mystery of iniquity.’ “Filthy rags is what we wear. Our sins have destroyed us.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, attached to a truly sinister evil, that we are being confused about what is real or true?  To be spellbound means we’re being hypnotized by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front of it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive seems to be an ordinary occurrence for human beings.  Captivity implies imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and after all the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies. We never realize that satanic power has blinded us.

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars” mythos.  It is very real.)  We gradually give ourselves over to the dark. We think we are pretty much impervious to being deceived, but the truth is that we’re already blind. In our lostness we can only stumble through life.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

 

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

Jesus forgives us, and lifts the darkness. We start to see things as they are, reality breaks out in our minds. He has changed everything. His blood covers us, and we start to walk in what is true. We finally understand what sin has done to us, and we turn from it to what He now gives freely.

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

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Nothing But the Blood

blood of jesus christ

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

1 John 1:7, NIV

At first glance the Old Testament is a collection of extremely bloody books. So many sacrifices were made that the Levitical priesthood had to sacrifice lambs 24 hours a day. People had this desperate need to cover their sins with an offering. This was instilled in them by the Law and their conscience. The guilt emanating from their sin must be covered by a lamb’s blood.

As our sins mount up (and they will) we have an innate need to cover them up. Sin is almost never hidden, and never exalted as a virtue. And yet we try to skate though our accumulation of many sins. We forget many, and try to excuse the more heinous. Our guilt condemns us, and we have no choice but to hide it, from ourselves, others and from God. We can no longer pretend we’re without sin.

“Human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and can’t really get rid of it.”

-C.S. Lewis

The Jewish people no longer sacrifice lambs, and the Gentiles have never caught on to this idea of a physical sacrifice. But sin has never gone out-of-style. But there is still a way for God to forgive our sin. The New Testament teaches clearly that Jesus has offered His blood as the payment of every sin ever committed. His death wiped our slates clean, forever.

The New Testament is crystal clear on this. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ had enough sufficiency to cover everyone, once, and for all. It all seems astonishing, beyond belief and possibility. The blood it seems, has never lost its power. This may be why Christians can’t seem to ‘shut-up’ about their faith. They ‘see’ something! At long last, the tremendous guilt is lifted from the believer, and they want others to know about it.

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.”

(Hebrews 10:19)

Simply put, you now have the confidence–‘backstage passes,’ into God’s presence, all because of His death. The cross is far, far beyond a gold religious medallion worn around the neck. The cross of Christ, and more precisely His blood, is now regarded as complete righteousness for anyone (who by faith) receives it as his/her own. A brand-new confidence takes hold. “God loves me, and He really has forgiven me.” 

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

(2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)

Our sins and our weaknesses, whether they be from our fallenness, whether they be genetic or environmental, are now smothered in the blood of Jesus. That red blood makes us ‘white as snow’ in God’s analysis. ‘Brokenbelievers’ everywhere are cheering. We know we aren’t quite right, and we understand our sin, but we have become fans of Jesus Christ. After all, His death has brought us eternal life.

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Picking Up a Stone

“They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

(John 8:7, NLT)

“None knows the weight of another’s burden.”

-George Herbert

Definitely we must discern motives and false doctrine. We’re to be constantly aware of people and issues that swirl around us–of this there is no doubt, we mustn’t be ignorant. This is a healthy “discernment.” But we must learn that having discernment isn’t a way that passes out a ‘guilty’ penalty? We are ‘seeing’ things these things–not to pass judgement, but that we might pray clearly and earnestly, and grow into His love for the weak.

But ‘judging’ dear one, is His exclusive jurisdiction. It’s far beyond our ‘pay grade.’ He is the final judge in everything. He judges justly and lovingly. He alone knows and understands everything very clearly.

It becomes imperative that we understand this; that any real discernment given is only to intensify and escalate the calling of every ‘saint,’ intercessor, or pastor. We discern, not to pass judgement, but to pray more clearly and effectively. What you see or sense is for the prayer closet, not before a judge’s bench.

And yet how foolish we are. Do we really have the ability to ascribe a penalty on someone else? Could it be when we decide to throw rocks at certain people we’re in the terrible danger of forfeiting our own salvation? “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:15.)

(If you have a ‘rock’ in your hand, you are in definite danger. Please consider this–it’s never easy, is it?)

“Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.

“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3)

We are broken people. We struggle with many different things. Some of us are mentally or physically ill. We are not whole yet. Some of us must take meds to help us be ‘normal.’ We deal with issues that would devastate someone else. And we don’t have it anywhere near together. And yet out of our ‘hot mess’ we think we can penalize someone else? Really?

We really don’t have a problem with worldly people. We understand that they are lost in their sins, terribly wrapped up in their own personal darkness, and that should definitely disturb us. We must point to the Blood of Christ that forgive us. We share the good news of true repentance and faith. His Spirit teaches us to be witnesses of His love to everyone we meet.

But in the light of this, isn’t strange that almost all of our judgement is somehow directed at other believers! Why?! For some strange reason, it ‘seems,’ we think that we must pronounce guilt and (by doing so) we declare our own “holy” attitude to our place in the Body . In a weird sense, we think we have the supreme calling to condemn someone else’ walk, and by doing so exalt our own!

“The life of faith is a struggle enough in a broken world without us complicating it for other believers.”

–Jake Colsen

It just may come as a shock to some, but it’s extremely difficult to throw stones at someone when we are busy “washing” their feet.

Granted, “we are to be wise as serpents,” But that same verse instructs us “to be as harmless as doves.” (Matt. 10:16.) A loving meekness and gentleness, needs to be combined with intense spiritual power. We must embody “the fruits of the Spirit.” These things are the characteristics of the Spirit-saturated believer. I

Jesus washing the feet of His disciples

“The nature and end of judgment or sentence must be corrective, never vindictive; it is always for healing, and never for destruction.”

–John Owen

Perhaps when we judge others, we reveal that we don’t understand what ‘real’ discipleship with Jesus is? Somehow it seems, we really aren’t quite grasping the immensity of His grace on guilty people? Do we really understand His profound love for the fallen? “God so loved the World…” Have we have any idea how patient He is with us? Do we doubt His ability to correct others? (Again, these are awfully hard questions.)

“Judge not lest you be judged.” (Jesus’ words really do scare me sometimes. )

Certainly, I intend to confront darkness. “You are the light, a city set on a hill!” I am His salt and light and I do shine into this black night. But that is His doing, not mine. I do not generate light on my own. The Bible declares me as ‘self-righteous’ when I try. I am a broken person, who is just starting to understand the scope of my own brokenness and weaknesses. I’m starting to realize I’m not in the position to Judge someone else. I’m not quite healed myself yet and I must not think I can point to someone else as being worse than me.

Quite simply, I can’t throw ‘rocks’ at other believers anymore. I can no longer pass out any condemnation from my own limited understanding. My chief concern right now, is to be a humble, earnest Christian who is always ready to forgive those who, in their awful sin and confusion, are hurting others. I’m beginning to see that my calling is to be that; a simple servant to my brothers and sisters, nothing more, and nothing less.

Your terribly sick ,’ rock-slinging’ brother,

Bryan

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Putting Out the Flames of Hell


I love this quote. I don’t remember the first time I read it, but it resonated with me immediately. I see in myself that person, carrying buckets of cold water to douse the flames trying to consume the lost and hopeless.

I’ve been through hell here on earth. Over a decade of it. I felt sure all was lost. The thoughts in my head wouldn’t go away. They said things like:

  • I’ll always be broken.
  • My family would be better off without me.
  • Nobody likes me.
  • I’m worthless.
  • I’ll never hold down a full-time job.
  • I’m weak and helpless, good for nothing.
  • I can’t leave my house; it’s not safe.
  • I’m going to be attacked again and I deserve it.
  • I hate people!
  • I just want to die.

Depression that stems from sexual trauma is a special kind of hell. The way our culture questions survivors of rape, asks what they did to bring it on, makes many victims say nothing. They tell no one. Instead they keep the secret inside, bury it in their soul, where it sprouts and grows. It grows bitterness, self-loathing, fear, anger, hatred, and hopelessness. It grows lies, like the ones I told myself over and over. That secret fans the flames of hell, burning the soul.

I walked out of those flames; okay, maybe crawled would be a better description. But I am victorious, still alive, still a little broken but okay with that. I didn’t do it alone. I had friends, family, prayer warriors, and Jesus Himself who helped me.

I’ve learned that none of my burning thoughts, even if they were partly true, didn’t change the fact that God loves me. He loves me so much He sent His Son Jesus to redeem me, to douse the flames of hell for me.

And when I began to share my secret, let it out into the light of day, something amazing happened. The sprouts of bitterness, hatred, and hopelessness began to wither. Jesus exposed the lies I had believed and showed me these truths:

  • Though I am a cracked jar of clay, I hold His power within me. (See 2 Corinthians 4:7-10).
  • My family needs me just the way I am.
  • A lot of people like me, and quite a few love me too.
  • I am worth dying for. (See Romans 5:8).
  • I can do anything Jesus calls me to do. (See Philippians 4:13).
  • I am weak but He is strong. (See 2 Corinthians 12:10).
  • My soul is safe in the arms of Jesus, even if my body is not. (See Matthew 10:28).
  • If I am ever attacked again, it won’t be because I deserve it.
  • I LOVE people!
  • I want to die to self and live for Christ. (See Galatians 2:20).
  • It is well with my soul.

These statements are true for you too. If you are feeling the flames of hell on earth, for whatever reason, I am here to pour the cool water of truth on the lies that are fanning the flames. And not just me. Bryan and Les are also here to help carry you out. I pray you can connect locally with loved ones who can help bear your burden and bring you into the abundant life Jesus promised.

The despair of hell can seem so real, but trust me. It is only a deception of the evil one. I in no way want to diminish the pain you are feeling. I know how painful depression and trauma can be. But hold on. Help is on its way.

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‘Snowflake’ Discipleship

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!” 

(Psalm 139:14, MSG)

“God is not a duplicator, He is a Creator. You are an original.” –Reinhard Bonnke

Man makes styrofoam cups that are all the same. God creates snowflakes that are completely different. I’ve been thinking about something. I don’t know if it’s scriptural. Maybe yes, and maybe no. I’ve been known to miss it.

The Bible states many wonderful things. One of them is that we are created in the image of God, and I’m quite certain that each of us are shaped completely different. Essentially we are the same, we all share a very common “person-hood.”

Each have come to Jesus, through our repentance and faith. We each have been filled with His Spirit, we read the Word and we each fellowship with other believers. In that regard, we are one, quite the same. We believe that there is Someone who doesn’t change. He is the “reality behind the real.” The Creator and the Truth.

The other day I found my Grandmother’s Bible. I was somewhat intrigued, and I supposed that it might just ‘impart’ some special spiritual blessing to me. I sat down on the couch, and reverently opened it up. It was filled with wonderful handwritten notes.

Could it carry a special touch from the Lord? Perhaps I thought it would have a special spiritual aura to it? I was more than a little curious. And wouldn’t you know, it zapped me in a very interesting way? It was an old Thompson Chain, KJV–first edition I think. As I sat down to read it, I slowly began to realize that it was entirely like my own! The verses and the promises were the same, they had not changed. What was true for my grandma was true for me. That amazed me, and it kind of sent me spinning.

Each of us struggle with many different things. We endure depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, even suicidal thoughts. We struggle with different addictions and lonely divorce. There are those believers who are epileptics or disabled. There are some of us who have been raped or molested. I have a paralyzed right arm, and am typing this with my left hand. I also struggle with depression and anger.

Each of us are the same in a basic sense, and yet we are all distinctly different. We all have gone through different things, some quite awful. These issues are uniquely our own. They’ve shaped us in completely different ways. Our “personal” testimony is completely different than someone elses. We respond to our different circumstances in different ways.

We are the “snowflakes’ that have been artistically crafted. Our circumstances are individually tailored by God, who is the ultimate Artist. I opened this post with the idea that God creates “snowflakes,” and I’ve been told that they are all unique, not one of them is exactly the same. Somehow, they seem to be crafted by a Someone who loves this whole idea of an extravagant creation. The Bible reveals He does this work with true wisdom, a special love and surpassing power.

“People are special, and human life is sacred, whether of not we admit it. Every person is worth fighting for, regardless of whether he is young or old, sick or well, child or adult, born or unborn, or brown, red, yellow, black or white.”

–Francis Schaeffer

I do believe that when we stand before God we will all have these fantastically different stories. Each of us have found forgiveness, mercy and grace that the Lord freely gives us. As “grace-walkers” we’ve become are the new discoverers, through our issues of prosperity or pain— our life is mixed with His grace, filtered through a myriad of circumstances. They mix exceedingly well.

We begin to see, and understand, that there implications of being this special. God took Joseph and ‘molded’ him by His unique circumstances, He went from slave to Prime Minister overnight. Each of us billions have become unique testimonies of His incredible care. As true believers, we can lead them to the Father. We need to pray for the “field” and the workers who labor there.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

(Rev. 12:11, NIV)

I hope my meandering doesn’t scare you. I didn’t intend to.

Your very unique brother,

Bryan

commentsbb@yahoo.com

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Hope in My Pocket


It was a long cold winter that year. I felt sure it would never end. The sun finally emerged one day, but it was still a bit cool so I pulled out my favorite yellow spring jacket. I reached into the pocket and to my surprise I found a $20 bill. I must have known it was there at one time because I most likely put it there. But it had been a long winter, a long time since it was warm enough to wear that jacket. Even though I didn’t know it, that $20 bill was there all along just waiting for me to find it again.

Sometimes hope is like that $20 bill. We have it and we know it, but in the long hard winters of life we forget about it. The winter can be so long and so cold that we lose all memory of hope. But even though we forget, hope is there all along just waiting for us to find it again.

I struggled a long time with the pain of fibromyalgia. I had no hope that I would feel well. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.

I despaired for five years because of underemployment. I had little hope of securing and being able to keep a full-time job. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.

I felt despondent for what seemed like forever over the loss of my mother. And later my father. I had no hope of feeling joy again. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.

I traveled the long road of despair and depression, stemming from trauma to bitter to forget. For over a decade I was certain I would be broken forever. God reminded me to fear not for hope was still there.

Recently, I have been in anguish over the state of our world, the corruption and greed, the violence and sickness, that seem to rule the day. Is there any hope for a better world? God reminds us to fear not for hope is still here.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Romans 5:3-5 NLT.

We may forget our hope in the long cold winters of life, but our hope—our God—is still here with us. Some of what we hope for we will not see until we reach heaven. But some of what we hope for is sitting in the pocket of our yellow spring jacket waiting for us to find it again.

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Jesus Is Pretty Big

Jesus is pretty big. Among a few other things He created the genome, our minds, the human body, the realms of quantum mechanics and the cosmos, the plant and animal kingdoms, the earth and its ecosystems and matter in its myriad forms. Perchance you’re tempted to think you have His mind you may want to review that list.

Jesus is bigger than the US federal government, all the combined national governments, the weather, the magnetic orientation of the earth, our expanding universe, New York abortion laws, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, pornography, international boundaries, cancer, gender confusion, genocide, and evil.

And He still reaches out for the weak and needy. His hands were ‘pierced’ for you.

I hope my point is self evident.

Your brother,

Les

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Grace: Be All You Can Be

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes”

Martin Luther

There exists a mentality among Christian believers where our faith will somehow grant us a pile of ‘nice things.’  This concept tells us that material possessions are a sign of His blessing.  If we just have enough faith, we will truly live in a land of wonder, grace and material blessings.

Doing missions work in a very poor town in Mexico, I was horrified to find this twist.  (I had thought that it wouldn’t really work among the desperate.)  But an especially virulent type was working in the hearts of some of my brothers and sisters.  They latched on to this idea that since they followed God that soon they could count on special favors from Him.  (Like a car, electricity, running water.) Some ‘converted’ just to get these things from God! I refuse to judge them, since I see a variation of this in my own life.

From their cardboard shacks, they could somehow generate a special favor from the Lord.  It came as a relief to me that there were some believers, who over time, began to see that grace was really an undeserved gift; material blessings could never come in this way.  God’s grace alone would make them wealthy!

Somehow, we can get confused and believe that if we jump through the right hoops God is obligated to give us what we want.  But the true Kingdom doesn’t work like this, you can’t use Him in this way. Grace was never meant to ‘decorate’ a believer (least not primarily) but to mend us, to prepare the fallen for eternity. God is not your cosmic bellhop.

Listen! God’s grace is given to heal us.  It is a gift, and it will always be a gift.  We don’t deserve it, we don’t earn it for having enough faith.  Grace isn’t supposed to be like this, rather it’s more like an I.V. to a dying man.  It is dialysis to the woman with kidney failure. It is ‘radiation’ to the cancer patient.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?” 

(Jeremiah 17:9, ESV)

Grace comes to us because we are so very sick. We are deeply affected by a spiritual disease.  We should think (rather than see it as a reward) that it is the treatment for that which has deeply sickened us. His love is seen, especially seen, in the worst of us. That’s the way grace works.

God is not against us because of our sin; He is with us because of our sin.

Just thinking out loud here.  I hope I haven’t offended.

Your desperately “sick” brother,

Bryan

commentsbb@yahoo.com

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Please, Light My Darkness

 

“Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
       Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.”
 

Psalm 13:3, NIV

God is the sole developer of light.  He creates it and then assigns it to whom ever He chooses.  He is the proprietor and the sole creator of its properties.  Without Him actively bestowing light on us we would have no access to its power or its benefits.  He holds the exclusive patent.

As Adam’s progeny we have experienced a light moratorium.  We have been cut off from its many synonyms.  Illumination, understanding and wisdom are just some of the essence of light.  When we have it, we are astounded that we lived without it, and we are amazed at the ignorance of our past days.

“The unfolding of your words gives light;
       it gives understanding to the simple.”
 

Psalm 119:30, NIV

Darkened by our sin, we struggle throughout our blinded lives, unable to understand or grasp what is our real purpose.  Meaning completely eludes us.  However, we are directed by the Psalmist to open our hearts to the gracious gift of light.  It illuminates us, giving us a sense of what is real and how life truly unfolds.  That word “understanding” from our text is critical .  No matter how stupid and pathetic we have become, the Word of God penetrates our fog and gives us a sense of what is true, and what is real.

Let it unfold, let it open up in your understanding.  Like an umbrella on a foggy and rainy day, when it opens it will cover you.  Notice that the source of lit-up truth emanates from the “words”.  Place yourself in His Word, let it pour over you and let it bring you to the the place of joyful acceptance.

The verse speaks of being “simple”.  That actually is a pretty descriptive of our condition, and reveals much of human history and “so-called” progress.  The word means “naive”.  History opened up shows people to be amazingly compliant and susceptible to dictators and men with power.  We seem to follow leaders with sinister and strange purposes and agendas. History shows it over and over.  We just can’t grasp what is true and what is real.

Jesus has come as the “Good Shepherd”.  Those of us who are being led into His Grace and Truth are finding light.  He is revealing to us a definitive understanding of truth.  And we need truth desperately. Let Him lead you.

Your “lit-up” brother,

BryanContinue reading “Please, Light My Darkness”

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The Lamb’s Victory

Jesus will rule over every puny king and president.

He rules. He doesn’t bow, salute or kneel before any inconsequential king or constitution. They serve Him. He is eternal and supreme, and amazingly enough, He is a friend to every believer (that astonishes me!) He is an intimate King who is patiently waiting for us to hear Him.

As ‘broken believers’ we have to grasp this. It should totally revolutionize and adjusts the way we live. Our depression, disability or present pain will end soon. And we will step out of these things and step into an eternal light. My weaknesses will end, perhaps soon, and we will see the true King.

We will understand completely then. These things that have ‘crippled’ us will be seen through the eyes that now love and adore. Our ‘pain’ has finally ended, and we will be made whole. I will meet Him, face-to-face. You better believe I will rejoice! We will sing!

“He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.”
(Isaiah 25:8)

And He makes us rejoice! The difficulties I face now are temporary, and just a few short years (thank God!) Someday, quite soon, I’ll shed these hard, hard issues–just like a ‘snake’ sheds its skin! I will be brand-new, and I will rejoice in this Kingdom of my Father.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Hang in there dear one! I know it’s hard, and we can get confused and lost as we ‘meander’ through this world. Things are difficult and perhaps quite painful. Brokenbelievers has two administrators now, (Linda and myself.) Each of us has experienced ‘pain’ up close. Both of us hurt, and we both carry scars from every battle we had to face. The Holy Spirit hears our cries, and has come to our aid.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

Honestly now. We stand because He makes us stand. We still face formidable issues, and there is a savage enemy who has dedicated to destroy each person that cries out to God. He hurts us. He wants to destroy us. There is not an ounce of kindness or mercy in Him. He exists only to destroy. And he is very effective.

“As I looked, thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
    and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
    and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
    and the books were opened.
(Daniel 7:8-10.)

The Lamb does triumph. He will rule forever. Of that I have no doubt. Yet in the thick of things–these things that debilitate and destroy, we struggle. Our flaws and disabilities seem insurmountable. It’s awfully hard to make it through each day. We hang on, but often just barely. Our tears are real, and we wonder if we will make it through these things. And then there is tomorrow, and often that doesn’t look so good either.

But the Lamb wins! Those who surrender to Him (like you and I) share in this incredible Kingdom. He wipes away each ugly sin by His bloody sacrifice. He redeems every awful circumstance (things we have done, or have been done to us) and elevates us to sit over each enemy. We will finally understand, and we will really see. Most likely we will be shocked! We will see each other through the lens of eternity.

I don’t know your issues, your pain or your obstacles–and you don’t know mine really. But Jesus knows, and somehow He has carries us. The Lamb does triumph. We will share in His victory. And it will be for ever and ever and ever!

Your “waiting” brother,

Bryan

Contact Linda or myself at commentsbb@yahoo.com

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God Used My Trials


Trigger Warning: This post involves rape. If you are sensitive, please tread lightly. It is not my intention to cause more pain, but to show how God can use even our worst trauma for good.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)

We moved from my childhood home in sunny Southern California to a one-traffic-light town on the outskirts of a Washington rainforest right before I started eighth grade. I made new friends, quite different from my old friends. And I met my first boyfriend.

When you’re fourteen, they call it puppy love. I thought it was real because he claimed he loved me, too. He was older and cute in a rugged sort of way, with shaggy long brown hair and a scruff of facial hair, not quite a beard and mustache.

One day he asked me to go for a walk, just to talk. The biting cold drove us indoors to his house. In my naiveté, I never saw it coming. At the tender age of 14, my 105-pound frame was overpowered and violated. Without a second thought, he crushed my spirit and devoured an innocence I can never redeem.

It can sound like a platitude, or worse, this oft repeated verse. “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 (NIV).

Surely, Paul didn’t mean all things? He couldn’t have meant the rape I suffered? God certainly can’t bring any good from the suffering, shame, and depression that followed me for decades after?

Or can He?

Even now—as a powerless, frightened little girl lives in me and I sometimes struggle with deep despair, doubting God’s blessings—God reminds me I am His beloved. He has empowered me to survive any trial. I may feel powerless and frightened, but the truth is He will not allow me to be utterly destroyed.

Trauma and loss are inevitable for all of us. I’m not alone even in this dreadful experience of sexual assault.

When I consider my experiences in the light of God’s purposes for my life, I see the blessing. His bigger plan becomes less fuzzy, if not clear. I see how my troubles drew me closer to Jesus as my only refuge.

The path my life may have taken—had there been no pain, no loss of innocence—is one in which I may have never understood my need for a Savior. When all is well, what does one need saving from? But I did need to be saved from a darkness that grew deeper with each successive trauma I experienced. I desperately needed rescuing so I could live this wonderful, light-filled life He gave me.

I like the woman God has shaped me into, even if suffering was required for the Potter to mold this piece of clay. God did not plan or desire my suffering, but He certainly used it to develop in me the compassion, mercy, and humility that have become my hallmark. In all my experiences, He worked for my good because He loves me. He has called me to use my experience to give hope to others.

Do you need this hope today? It’s just a story away. I’d love if you would share your story so that God can begin to use it for good, too. If you don’t know how to even start writing your story, check out my guided poetry journal, which you can request here: https://anotherfearlessyear.net/i-believe-you.

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Are We Standing in the Gap?

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior.” (1Timothy 2:1-3, NLT)

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

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

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Mathew 6:6)

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

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT)

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of this is concrete. I know my own limitations on this stuff. All I wanted to do is give a different perspective and to, somehow, shine a different light on this subject. And I most certainly covet your prayers as I learn to intercede.

Your brother, who is still learning,

Bryan

  

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My Anger

“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

-Ecclesiastes 7:9

“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past … to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

-Frederick Buechner

What really happens when I get angry? I suppose my B/P goes up and I get all red, but just perhaps it’s a bit more than that. The Bible is painfully clear on the subject of anger. It seems there is an anger that is righteous; and one that is unrighteous. It is the latter I’m most familiar with, unfortunately. And repeatedly our anger, the earthly kind, is condemned by Scripture. It is terribly wrong, and it is sin.

Merriam-Webster defines anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism, or rage.” This definition seems right on. First–it’s a strong feeling. There is an intensity to it, and it ‘clouds’ my sense of what is reasonable. Second–it has some form of frustration and irritation. Third–it escalates into “rage.” And I suppose that anger at this particular level is where it really, really gets destructive. At this point we become totally irrational and unbelievably destructive. When we get to this point we become “fools.”

I remember clearly having a dog that killed a chicken. My dad took the carcass and wired it to the dogs neck. After some time that chicken began to rot. It putrefied to the point where pieces of that carcass started to fall off. I can still see the dog’s eyes rolling, and he was slobbering all over. the place. That dog never even touched another chicken. It completely cure him. (I suppose the ASPCA would object today.)

I suppose that is what carnal anger is like. It’s something that we carry around and it defiles us. We learn that evil attaches itself to each of us and pollutes us. We soon realize that this kind of life is really death. When anger is attached to us, we are poisoned inside. Someone once said that “he who angers you, conquers you.”

No matter how just your words might be, you ruin everything when you speak with anger.”

–John Chrysostom

There is another kind of anger though. It’s the kind that is turned on when we are angry with ourselves. We call this “self-condemnation.” Internalized disgust with yourself is extremely corrosive to our personality and our spirits. Instead of an authentic confidence in what Jesus’ has done, we look inside with hate, anger and disgust. We condemn and put ourselves under a twisted form of justice that is not biblical, nor is it true.

When we become angry with ourselves (and yes, we sin constantly) we dismiss the sacrifice of Jesus and His forgiveness. We become a law unto ourselves, and we pass a guilty judgement on our sinfulness. Christians are quite often ‘crippled’ by self-condemnation and a vicious guilt. Perhaps we are the most ‘visible’ when it comes to this kind of self-hatred.

Satan is the prime instigator of this attack. He desires to split you from fellowship with God. That is the way he functions, you might say that this is his evil ‘ministry.’ His specialty is guilt, an inciting an unholy anger which we turn inward. We give him the right to accuse us before God. We no longer see the blood of Christ as our covering for our sin. He indicts us before a holy God, and all we see is our guilt. Is it any wonder that we are angry with ourselves?

“The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come. The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accused them day and night before our God, has been thrown down.” (Revelation 12:10)

I suppose this anger at ourselves is perhaps our most difficult challenge we face. More believers are ‘hamstrung’ by this than any other sin. When we turn on ourselves, we become angry and self-condemned. We avoid His healing presence, His Word and the fellowship of other saints. Most of all, we don’t want to pray or worship.

Dear one, come to Jesus, and bring along your issues. He is the one who loves you. He died, and He has covered you with His blood. He is God’s Passover lamb who takes away all your sin. Jesus’ present day ministry is not just sitting on a golden throne, He is actively interceding for you even as you read this.

” He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

Your forgiven brother,

Bryan

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A Prayer for Bryan

We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.

C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, chap. 4, para. 15, p. 22.

If you’ve been a visitor to Broken Believers blog for very long, you may have notice a drop off in the number of posts over the past year. You may have attributed it to COVID-19. I mean, really, can’t we blame a lot of things on the uncertainty of this pandemic? But that’s not the reason posting has dropped off.

The main reason is that Bryan Lowe, the trusted servant of God who started this blog and has kept it going for so long, has experienced some serious health issues. He is currently in Colorado, where for the past five months he has been undergoing much testing and treatment, but no answers yet. He has lost far more weight than he should and is having trouble gaining it back.

Bryan longs to return to Alaska, his favorite place to be, with the exception of being in the presence of the Lord. I think Alaska is the closest place to heaven on this earth for him.

And so I am helping out around here to keep Broken Believers Blog going. I’ll be posting more than I have in the past. I hope what I post will be a blessing. But the first order of business is a prayer for Bryan. I know he appreciates all the prayer he can get, because he knows God honors our prayers when we lay before Him what is in us.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father,

I lift up to You Bryan, Your dear son and loyal servant. You know exactly what is going on in his body and in his mind. I pray for Your healing touch, for Your comfort and peace, and for Your wisdom for the doctors treating him. Lord, help him to gain weight and to feel well again. Return Bryan to his home in Alaska with a refreshed spirit and strength to continue to serve You in whatever way You are calling him to do.

In the meantime, Lord, give Bryan rest for his body and rest for his soul. Help him to draw closer to You, Jesus, and feel Your very real presence. Lead him in paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake. Make him to lie down in peaceful pastures and restore his soul. Let him truly know that this time of illness has not been wasted but is being and will be used by You for Your glory and his good.

I ask all these things in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Your Prayers

I hope that you will join me in praying for Bryan. I know over the years he has faithfully prayed for many of you and continues to do so. He has a heart to serve, but serving is difficult when illness strikes. Please pray that he has peace. If you would like to post your prayer in the comments, I know he would be blessed.

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Finding a Safe Place

Coming to this point of trust is almost always a difficult challenge. We have roamed on our own for many years. We have avoided coming into the fold. We have seen difficulty and hardship and yet we insist on a journey of separation.

The Shepherd still waits. He stands in the midst of His flock. He is their sole defense from the enemy, and most of His sheep know this, and those who don’t soon realize their peril. 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.) This is both a terrible warning for some, and a wonderful promise for others.

Proximity is our choice. Jesus stands waiting for us to choose between either distance, or intimacy. In some challenging way we have the awful ability to come closer, or to keep wandering. Perhaps we chose to become prey for the enemy. Satan hates us, and he hunts everyone one who strays.

Scripture is crystal clear. There can be no “sugar coating” this. We are on the devil’s hit list, and will remain there until the Lord carries us home. The best the enemy of our souls can offer the us is hell; an awful separation from God. You and I have a difficult choice to make, or is it?

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” –C.S. Lewis

We really do resist coming close to Jesus. Perhaps it is the hardest thing we will ever do. We’ve been wandering for so long we consider it the norm. At times we try to run and hide from the enemy. Other times we try to attack him, convinced of our own strength–our own power. But Satan operates in the spiritual realm, and he has the distinct advantage.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesian 6:12).

Jesus’ closeness must be chosen. We must make our way to side of our Shepherd–we must come to Him, just as we are, with our burrs and wounds. We must come closer, to be protected and healed.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John10:14-15).

Listen! You have run out of options. You dare not keep wandering. You must make a choice. What is happening around is driving you to His side. He desperately pleads. Every real pastor, teacher, evangelist or believer is reaching out to you, crying out for your soul to come home. But the decision is yours alone.

What is keeping you from Him? What sin is messing with your mind? You will never be safe if you insist on traversing this world on your own. He protects His own from the thief and the murderer. You haven’t the wherewithal to keep dawdling. You need to decide.

I wish it was different. I wish I could make the decision for you, but it is not within my power. You are the one who must turn, you’re the one who must repent and ask forgiveness for your wandering (your sin.) You are the one who must cry out to the Shepherd for safety. All I can do is too beg you to come to your senses and return to the Shepherd.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10.)

A Simple Sheep,

Bryan

You can write me if you want, slow299@yahoo.com

Featured

Dear Darker Me — A Letter Poem

I attended a conference once called Shattering Stigma: Mental Illness and the Church. In a session about anxiety, the presenter said one phrase that has stuck with me: “Don’t believe everything you think.” Just because a thought enters your mind doesn’t mean it is true. For me, that is especially the case when Darker Me decides to throw her hat in the ring.

I wrote this poem, a letter to Darker Me, after I’d spent a few days believing her lies about and interpretation of something someone else said. Thankfully, upon closer examination the lies were exposed. I hope this poem encourages you to examine each thought, especially if it is negative, to determine whether it is true.


Dear Darker Me,

I tumbled like Alice as I followed you
down a rabbit hole
but entered no Wonderland.
I found no Mad Hatter,
though I found I might be mad myself
for listening to you.

You are no White Rabbit.
Like the Cheshire Cat you
point me in the wrong direction.
I lost my way in my own twisted mind.
You are no Queen of Hearts to insist
I cut off my head or stay stuck in it.

Lost for days wandering among
thoughts that made no sense.
You interchanged truth and lies!
Nothing was what it seemed to be
as I followed you into
an Unwonderland of dredged up
hurt feelings and wrongs recorded
on an endless loop.

I must find my way out,
back to the surface where,
Truth is truth
and lies are exposed by the Light.

But everything exposed by the light
becomes visible—and everything
that is illuminated
becomes a light.

I’m afraid I must expose you,
dear Darker Me,
that I might live without
your control over my mood.

I suppose we’ll meet again,
but for today I bid you adieu.
I know this light is not for you.

I choose to awake from
the nightmare you’ve drug me into
and rejoice in the truth,
in the Light.

Sincerely,
Christ in Me

If you struggle in dealing with Darker You and think processing your thoughts in poetry, check out my guided poetry journal here: https://anotherfearlessyear.net/i-believe-you/ It was originally designed for those who had experienced sexual trauma to process that pain, but it can be a blessing no matter the pain you need to express.

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How Well Do We Suffer?

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

It seems that pain is the best teacher. I suppose as we navigate through life we find the ‘capacity’ of our hearts expanding. We learn the hard way to come under God’s direction, and we finally learn to love others. Maybe this is how God changes us? After all, isn’t the crushed grape that yields the wine?

C.S. Lewis once made the comment, (and it’s worth thinking about,) that “experience is the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” We face many obstacles, run into quite a few dead ends, and along the way we learn that when we really hurt, we really start to learn some things.

I look over my life and it seems chock full of challenge. I’ve lost the use of my right arm, I have struggled with severe depression. I had a brain tumor removed, and now have “absent” seizures. I struggle with intense fatigue. (I no longer can pastor a church or teach in a Bible college.) My wife and I have lost a child. I have prayed earnestly for a complete healing and had others pray for me. It’s funny, but all of this has happened after I became a Christian disciple! I often ask myself why? What did I do to deserve all of this?

Paul and Barnabas came into an interesting place (we can read about it in Acts 14.) “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.” All of this happened after Paul was stoned by the Jews.

Some of our Bible teachers we listen to minimize suffering, and a lot of our own theology factors out pain and difficulty. But is this what the Bible teaches? If we read Hebrews 11, we find that life could be pretty grim for those with faith in God.

“Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

Why does it have to be so hard? Common sense suggests that things should get easier for those who believe. We somehow think that God rewards faith with instant glory. I painfully discover that my discipleship, my faith, doesn’t mean some wonderful existence on this planet. It seems that pain becomes the way we grow up and mature in Him. I honestly believe, after 40 years of following Jesus, that suffering is part of God’s plan for me. It has never been easy. I wish it was.

No matter what you are going through, remember that God always loves you. He has chosen us to navigate us through much difficulty. We must however, convert these painful things by our faith in Him. “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).

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Your brother,

Bryan

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Standing With Her in the Rain

standingaloneintherain1

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2, NLT

By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author

Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.

Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.

Cross-in-the-Rain-

My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.

A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.

It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.

I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.

I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.

There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place: We stand with them in the rain.

Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis

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Featured

Release the Perfume!

jesusperfume
“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment.”

Luke 7:37, ESV

“Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices.”

Song of Solomon 4:10

“What about you? What precious perfume is locked inside your heart that could be lavished on our Lord? The little treasures you and I struggle to hold on to may hold back opportunities to worship Him with extravagant praise, releasing ministry and service to Him that will bless all those around us.”

-Angela Munizzi

We should know that our simple words really do have a way of blessing Jesus.   Our words spoken will be translated into actions. Our actions become an obedient faith. An obedient faith is the character that moves the hand of God.

We are truly significant.  You have no idea the role you play in His kingdom. What you really do does matter in His realm. The worship we sincerely offer is also duly noted. Furthermore the radiance seen on our faces is the proof we’ve been with Him.

We touch Jesus, somehow, and in some way we’ve blessed Him.  I believe that this must encourage Him, and that He receives our offering.  He then responds and blesses those who are desperately crying out.  God is not capricious, nor is He temperamental. One of the hardest things to grasp it seems, is believing that our worship really does matter to Him.

Worship needs to become extravagantly simple again.  Poured out, ‘good-to-the-last-drop’ kind of worship.  It gives and pours out until there is simply no more.  A praise that is on the lookout for  the needs of others. This level of worship becomes intercessory. It is supercharged praise that  reaches a level of ‘standing-in -the -gap’ for others. Prayer at this level breaks chains and heals the sick.

Intercessory worship will cover the helpless, and turn God’s intervention to the needs of the lost.

When the Holy Spirit tunes us, we become precise instruments of grace and love; that enables us to touch the hearts of many billions who are lost, who have no hope at all. We are never more like Jesus  than when we’re in intercession for the needs of people.

I’m one of many believers who really struggles with clinical depression. The realization that I might be inserted into a challenging situation while I’m severely struggling is an awful possibility. It truly is a awful prospect for me. I don’t want my issues to ever thwart the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I have learned much of this while laying down at His feet.  I attempted to pour out every bit of perfumed nard,  and I sincerely desired to hold nothing back; to pour out the entire bottle.

This desperation has a way somehow of making me adequate.

It’s showing me how to become competent.  It has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with Jesus Christ, and His undisputed authority in the realm of this world.

His desire is to create a flock from the willing, and to bring all that glory home, to His Father.

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