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OCD: Plain & Simple

The OCD Cloud

A woman visits her dermatologist, complaining of extremely  dry skin and seldom feeling clean. She showers for two hours every day.

A lawyer insists on making coffee several times each day. His colleagues do not realize that he lives in fear that the coffee will be poisoned, and he feels compelled to pour most of it down the drain. The lawyer is so obsessed with these thoughts that he spends 12 hours a day at work — four of them worrying about contaminated coffee.

A man cannot bear to throw anything away. Junk mail, old newspapers, empty milk cartons all “could contain something valuable that might be useful someday.” If he throws things away, “something terrible will happen.” He hoards so much clutter that he can no longer walk through his house. Insisting that nothing be thrown away, he moves to another house where he continues to hoard.

A 10 year old girl keeps apologizing for “disturbing” her class. She feels that she is too restless and is clearing her throat too loudly. Her teachers are puzzled and over time become annoyed at her repeated apologies since they did not notice any sounds or movements. She is also preoccupied with “being good all the time”.

These people suffer Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that more than 2 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly one out of every 40 people, will suffer from OCD at some point in their lives. The disorder is two to three times more common than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

What is Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? 

Obsessions are intrusive, irrational thoughts — unwanted ideas or impulses that repeatedly well up in a person’s mind. Again and again, the person experiences disturbing thoughts, such as “My hands must be contaminated; I must wash them”; “I may have left the gas stove on”; “I am going to injure my child.” On one level, the sufferer knows these obsessive thoughts are irrational. But on another level, he or she fears these thoughts might be true. Trying to avoid such thoughts creates great anxiety.

Compulsions are repetitive rituals such as handwashing, counting, checking, hoarding, or arranging. An individual repeats these actions, perhaps feeling momentary relief, but without feeling satisfaction or a sense of completion. People with OCD feel they must perform these compulsions. Heredity appears to be a strong factor. If you have OCD, there’s a 25-percent chance that one of your immediate family members will have it. It definitely seems to run in families.

Can OCD be effectively treated?

Yes, with medication and behavior therapy. Both affect brain chemistry, which in turn affects behavior. Medication can regulate serotonin, reducing obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. Anafranil (clomipramine): A tricyclic antidepressant, Anafranil has been shown to be effective in treating obsessions and compulsions. The most commonly reported side effects of this medication are dry mouth, constipation, nausea, increased appetite, weight gain, sleepiness, fatigue, tremor, dizziness, nervousness, sweating, visual changes, and sexual dysfunction. There is also a risk of seizures, thought to be dose-related. People with a history of seizures should not take this medication. Anafranil should also not be taken at the same time as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).

Meds that may help.

Many of the antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have also proven effective in treating the symptoms associated with OCD. The SSRIs most commonly prescribed for OCD are Luvox (fluvoxamine), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline). Luvox (fluvoxamine): Common side effects of this medication include dry mouth, constipation, nausea, sleepiness, insomnia, nervousness, dizziness, headache, agitation, weakness, and delayed ejaculation. Paxil (paroxetine): Side effects most associated with this medication include dry mouth, constipation, nausea, decreased appetite, sleepiness, insomnia, tremor, dizziness, nervousness, weakness, sweating, and sexual dysfunction. Prozac (fluoxetine): Dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, sleepiness, insomnia, tremor, nervousness, headache, weakness, sweating, rash, and sexual dysfunction are among the more common side effects associated with this drug. Zoloft (sertraline): Among the side effects most commonly reported while taking Zoloft are dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, sleepiness, insomnia, tremor, dizziness, agitation, sweating, and sexual dysfunction. Celexa (Citalopram) side effects may include dry mouth, nausea, or drowsiness . SSRIs should never be taken at the same time as MAOIs.

How long should an individual take medication before judging its effectiveness?

Some physicians make the mistake of prescribing a medication for only three or four weeks. That really isn’t long enough. Medication should be tried consistently for 10 to 12 weeks before its effectiveness can be judged.

What is behavior therapy, and can it effectively relieve symptoms of OCD?

 Behavior therapy is not traditional psychotherapy. It is “exposure and response prevention,” and it is effective for many people with OCD. Consumers are deliberately exposed to a feared object or idea, either directly or by imagination, and are then discouraged or prevented from carrying out the usual compulsive response. For example, a compulsive hand-washer may be urged to touch an object he or she believes is contaminated and denied the opportunity to wash for several hours. When the treatment works well, the consumer gradually experiences less anxiety from the obsessive thoughts and becomes able to refrain from the compulsive actions for extended periods of time. Several studies suggest that medication and behavior therapy are equally effective in alleviating symptoms of OCD. About half of the consumers with this disorder improve substantially with behavior therapy; the rest improve moderately.

Will OCD symptoms go away completely with medication and behavior therapy?

Response to treatment varies from person to person. Most people treated with effective medications find their symptoms reduced by about 40 percent to 50 percent. That can often be enough to change their lives, to transform them into functioning individuals. A few consumers find that neither treatment produces significant change, and a small number of people are fortunate to go into total remission when treated with effective medication and/or behavior therapy.

Reviewed by Judith Rapoport, MD May 2003

 Read about Treatments and Supports for Mental Illness Related Resources Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Welcome to NAMI’s Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder community. Here you will find support, get targeted information and connect with people who understand. Find Support Learn more about the full spectrum of programs and services that NAMI provides across the country for people living with mental illnesses, and their families and loved ones.

Online Discussion Living with OCD.  Find support, share knowledge, ask questions and meet people who’ve been there. Mental Illness Discussion Groups Dozens of online groups for consumers, parents, spouses, siblings, teens and more. Get connected and find support. Related Links Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA).  

Information Helpline: (800) 950-NAMI

 

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Bringing Down Your Goliath

Many things seem to have risen up to block us. What we have to face is scary.  It shakes us right down to our sandals.  We see the ultimate intention of the enemies work.  If we pass on Goliath, he will remain, and the Father’s plan becomes vulnerable. Sooner or later, he must be faced.

Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall! He wore a bronze helmet, and his bronze coat of mail weighed 125 pounds. He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield.”

“Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!”  When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.”

1 Samuel 17:4-11, NLT

Things are such in Israel, that an active faith has no real significance.  Men are going to die, many very quickly.  Then up steps David, he is untried in battle, but within him is an eager commitment to a faith in Jehovah.  Fear has consumed hearts and minds, which are now full of ‘scary goliath fears’ and confusion.  They’re pretty much inconpacitated at this point.  The Scripture says “they were terrified and deeply shaken.” This is an irrational fear.

David (the shepherd boy) steps out and into the confusion.  He is resistant to the fear that attacks his brothers.  He identifies the giant before him as evil, and stands in the way of the Father’s will.  David advances without fear.

The space once occupied by fear has been filled up by faith.

This story, is much more than a story.  It may entertain schoolchildren, but it is so much more for us as believers.  Most definitely you will be called upon to face a Goliath of your own.  He is waiting for you, and you must step forward in faith. If you want to negotiate this away. Don’t! You are already dead.

So much points to Goliath’s superiority.  He is a man-of-war; a dedicated and trained source of death.  Goliath equips himself to stand quite forcefully over you.  He presses forward, confident that he will destroy you.  But David steps out of the line.  He is trusting in God alone.  He steps forward with no armor (Saul’s didn’t fit).

Something is about to happen, something children will sing about, and people will always esteem. Some theologians call this a “power encounter” which is about to tumble down.

David is about to kill Goliath, with just a stone from his sling.  He swings, throws and embeds a rock into the giants forehead– right between his eyes!  The giant collapses, and David moves forward,  and he cuts off the giants head.  He uses Goliath’s own sword to do this. Brutal and bloody?  Terribly so.

Each of us face a tall evil. 

Things around us are not much different.   Something that is monstrous and destructive.  We cannot reason with it.  We can only face it with the weapons the Father provides for us.  When we advance to that source, we must do so with a faith that is real and undefeated.

Some reading this are pounded with depression and mental illness.  I truly understand. But you’re called to advance on any personal darkness.

We must stand and take an aggressive posture against it.  As mentally ill people, the battle (and the stigma) is more intense, but it is overwhelmingly defeated by our simple faith in God’s Son.

Simplicity is our key, and we will not advance with anything less.  At times, we think that we can strategize our way to victory.  We hope to rationalize our enemy away by thinking positively about him.  We think we can move against him by being clever.  That will not work.  Our simple hearts must be laced with faith.  

We need to step in to this, and then we will dance in the enemies jaws!

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A Mother’s Love for You

“I will comfort you there

   like a mother

   comforting her child.” 

Isaiah 66:13

Israel has questioned God’s treatment of them. 

They’ve determined that God has acted capriciously and that He can’t be trusted.  They’ve concluded that He’s uncaring and hard to reach.  People build up these misconceptions and ideas, and it seems that nothing can set it right.  And certainly Satan, our accuser, emphasizes this

The tender imagery of a mother holding a child is something we can visualize and understand.  It has an universal wallop.   God specifically chooses that image to communicate what His true feelings are.  He chooses an example that’ll convey the burdens and thoughts of His heart.

God loves people. 

We often misinterpret or misconstrue His dealings and attitudes.  But God points to the imagery of a mom with a child to say, “That’s me with you”. This particular verse speak of “comforting”.  The word carries the connotation of  “soothing” or “cooing, calming, quieting”.  When a young one is agitated or upset, a mother is typically the only one who can make a difference.

We live in a world that has distorted and belittled God and the church. 

We have satanic influences that disturb and defraud many.  They’re many ugly misconceptions and fears that confuse the truth.  Many feel that Christianity is a hokey-sham with little to commend it to the real needs of man.  I know for certain that this is not true!

Brokenbeliever, let God remake Himself in your thinking, reading and worship.  Learn to see from His perspective.  Redo and remodel your thoughts and perceptions.  He is waiting with His motherly arms, to sooth and to calm you. 

He can be trusted.

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A Profound Discipleship

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Today, through the marvel of modern medicine, we can do heart bypasses, heart transplants and install artificial hearts.

But no one can make an unclean heart clean once it becomes dirty. We cannot fix it to live in eternity with a infinitely holy God. It’s through the process of biblical discipleship that you and I are being prepared for living with Him.

Discipleship is the methodology (?!) God has ordained for us to change our hearts. But because discipleship is so challenging and so demanding, we’re tempted to avoid the Gospel’s call. Sometimes it seems like there are many, many believers and just a few disciples.

Nothing but discipleship is an acceptable response to His sacrifice on the cross for me.

Let’s consider the terms and conditions of being his disciple. Please think these through, perhaps they will help, and perhaps you already understand them. They’re somewhat basic:

1) A true disciple will love Jesus Christ above all.

34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.”

Matthew 10:34-37, Message

“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with Him is an insult.”

–Oswald Chambers

2) A true disciple must deny himself.

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

3) A true disciple, intentionally and deliberately, embraces the cross.

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:38

“The cross of discipleship is that I daily and hourly delight to tell my human nature that I an not my own; I no longer claim right to myself.”

–Oswald Chambers

4) A true disciple is close to Jesus and follows Him.

 “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

John 12:26

5) A true disciple will love other disciples.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:7

It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants, They spare nothing. Their first legislator [Jesus] has put it in their hearts that they are brethren.”

–Lucian, Greek writer (120-200 A.D.)

6) A true disciple abides (continues) in the teaching of the Lord.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

John 8:31 (John 15:8-9)

7) A true disciple lives to follow the words and teaching of the Lord Jesus.

“Jesus said to him, “’No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Luke 9:62

A simple word about joy. The Holy Spirit turns all the hard things of discipleship into sweetness. Perhaps the difficult part is found in the first few minutes of the decision to follow in a specific matter. But the peaceful presence soon follows and your life will be flooded with light. There is incredible joy in this life of discipleship.

A word about obedience. The Holy Spirit rushes in to touch the weakest act of obedience. He understands our feeble and cowardly hearts and promises to help us to obey Him.

A word about becoming unique. The disciple is a rarity among the world (and even the Church). Following Him in your walk may set you apart as odd and peculiar. If you will follow it will mean you will die to what people think. You should love them anyway. You may be persecuted and spoken evil of. Forgive them, they won’t understand.

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Psalm for My Savior

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

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

Psalm for My Savior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pulling the King’s Carriage

 

A post of prophetic meaning especially for younger Christians.

“Before God can commit a ministry into a person’s hands they must submit themselves to the discipline of the Lord letting Him truly be the Lord of their entire lives. We have long since dealt with the question of open sin but now God is dealing with the inward rebellion of our own wills.” 
by Bill Britton
It was in a minister’s conference and convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma that God gave me a vision which I want to share with you concerning this harnessing of our own wills. There were more than 30 ministers present in this particular Thursday morning service and God, the Father of spirits, was present to deal with His sons, to correct them and discipline them to absolute obedience to His will. There was such a stern dealing in the Spirit that no one could go to the pulpit and minister, there was a reluctance among the ministers to say anything except that which was directly ordered by the Spirit. And as those men of God sat there in the awesome presence of Almighty God, some of them having many years of ministry, some missionaries, all of them capable of getting up and preaching a powerful sermon, I was impressed by the way they responded to the discipline of the Spirit. And in the midst of this terrific dealing of God with our spirits, the Holy Ghost gave me a vision … 
 

“I SAW THE KING’S CARRIAGE “

On a dirt road in the middle of a wide field stood a beautiful carriage, something on the order of a stagecoach but all edged in gold and with beautiful carvings. It was pulled by six large chestnut horses: two in the lead, two in the middle and two in the rear. But they were not moving, they were not pulling the carriage, and I wondered why. Then I saw the driver underneath the carriage on the ground on his back just behind the last two horses’ heels working on something between the front wheels on the carriage. I thought, “My, he is in a dangerous place; for if one of those horses kicked or stepped back, they could kill him, or if they decided to go forward, or got frightened somehow, they would pull the carriage right over him.”

But he didn’t seem afraid for he knew that those horses were disciplined and would not move till he told them to move. The horses were not stamping their feet nor acting restless, and though there were bells on their feet, the bells were not tinkling. There were pom-poms on their harness over their heads but the pom-poms were not moving. They were simply standing still and quiet waiting for the voice of the Master.

THERE WERE TWO YOUNG COLTS IN THE FIELD 

As I watched the harnessed horses I noticed two young colts coming out of the open field and they approached the carriage and seemed to say to the horses: “Come and play with us, we have many fine games, we will race with you, come catch us.” And with that the colts kicked up their heels flicked their tails and raced across the open field. But when they looked back and saw the horses were not following they were puzzled. They knew nothing of the harnesses and could not understand why the horses did not want to play. So they called to them: “Why do you not race with us? Are you tired? Are you too weak? Do you not have strength to run? You are much too solemn, you need more joy in life.” But the horses answered not a word nor did they stamp their feet or toss their heads. But they stood, quiet and still, waiting for the voice of the Master. 

Again the colts called to them: “Why do you stand so in the hot sun? Come over here in the shade of this nice tree. See how green the grass is? You must be hungry, come and feed with us, it is so green and so good. You look thirsty, come drink of one of our many streams of cool clear water.” But the horses answered them not so much as a glance but stood still waiting for the command to go forward with the King.

COLTS IN THE MASTER’S CORRAL 

And then the scene changed and I saw lariat nooses fall around the necks of the two colts and they were led off to the Master’s corral for training and discipline. How sad they were as the lovely green fields disappeared and they were put into the confinement of the corral with its brown dirt and high fence. The colts ran from fence to fence seeking freedom but found that they were confined to this place of training. And then the Trainer began to work on them with His whip and His bridle. What a death for those who had been all their lives accustomed to such a freedom! They could not understand the reason for this torture, this terrible discipline. What crime had they done to deserve this? Little did they know of the responsibility that was to be theirs when they had submitted to the discipline, learned to perfectly obey the Master and finished their training. All they knew was that this processing was the most horrible thing they had ever known.

SUBMISSION AND REBELLION 

One of the colts rebelled under the training and said, “This is not for me. I like my freedom, my green hills, my flowing streams of fresh water. I will not take any more of this confinement, this terrible training.” So he found a way out jumped the fence and ran happily back to the meadows of grass. I was astonished that the Master let him go and went not after him. But He devoted His attention to the remaining colt. This colt though he had the same opportunity to escape decided to submit his own will and learn the ways of the Master. The training got harder than ever but he was rapidly learning more and more how to obey the slightest wish of the Master and to respond to even the quietness of His voice. And I saw that had there been no training, no testing, there would have been neither submission nor rebellion from either of the colts. For in the field they did not have the choice to rebel or submit, they were sinless in their innocence. But when brought to the place of testing and training and discipline, then was made manifest the obedience of one and the rebellion of the other. And though it seemed safer not to come to the place of discipline because of the risk of being found rebellious, yet I saw that without this there could be no sharing of His glory, no Sonship.

INTO THE HARNESS 

Finally this period of training was over. Was he now rewarded with his freedom and sent back to the fields? Oh no. But a greater confinement than ever now took place as a harness dropped about his shoulders. Now he found there was not even the freedom to run about the small corral for in the harness he could only move where and when his Master spoke. And unless the Master spoke he stood still.

The scene changed and I saw the other colt standing on the side of a hill nibbling at some grass. Then across the fields, down the road came the King’s carriage drawn by six horses. With amazement he saw that in the lead, on the right side, was his brother colt now made strong and mature on the good corn in the Master’s stable. He saw the lovely pom-poms shaking in the wind, noticed the glittering gold bordered harness about his brother, heard the beautiful tinkling of the bells on his feet — and envy came into his heart. Thus he complained to himself: “Why has my brother been so honored, and I am neglected? They have not put bells on MY feet nor pom-poms on MY head. The Master has not given ME the wonderful responsibility of pulling His carriage, has not put about ME the gold harness. Why have they chosen my brother instead of me?” And by the Spirit the answer came back to me as I watched: “Because one submitted to the will and discipline of the Master and one rebelled, thus has one been chosen and the other set aside.”

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Continue reading “Pulling the King’s Carriage”

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I Love Your House! Psalm 84:1-4

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painting: Pieter Neefs

1-2 What a beautiful home, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
    I’ve always longed to live in a place like this,
Always dreamed of a room in your house,
    where I could sing for joy to God-alive!

3-4 Birds find nooks and crannies in your house,
    sparrows and swallows make nests there.
They lay their eggs and raise their young,
    singing their songs in the place where we worship.
God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God!
    How blessed they are to live and sing there!

 Psalm 84:1-4, Message

There are some things that leave an indelible mark, and they go very deep down into our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous; the roses were in full bloom.

I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had an awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, some excellent braunschweiger, and freshly baked sourdough bread. I returned to my room to build my sandwich, and feast.

I remember that the windows were open and there was a beautiful breeze.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit was about to ‘plow’ into my life. It would be a holy collision.

It was simply a moment that I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best and holiest sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place. I knew I was on holy ground.

That nostalgia lays thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors those powerful memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something at that particular moment that would follow him for the rest of his life.

The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  This treasure was his. As he aged he could tell his grandchildren, “I walked with God.” And really mean it.

I personally believe God gives us these holy moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  When the Holy Spirit deeply touches in this way you will never, ever be the same. 

The psalmist has the same hunger for God. 

These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ‘ruined’ him.   Often special times of God’s presence will result in a ‘sanctified’ dissatisfaction with the present status quo. Brennan Manning once said, “Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.” You can easily apply it to these verses.  God’s presence “ruins” us forever.

But when we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a special and curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In much the same way, our lives are ‘watered’ by Jesus. Things get very green and lush as we live in the Spirit.  All of this is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I want to become hungry for His presence. 

I so want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be nothing more than a boring journey into ‘black & white’, but somehow He turns it all into stunning color.

The psalmist practically begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more than anything else. It is now his true home. He will not be satisfied with anything less.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you, I have nothing good.”

Psalm 16:2

 

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Susanna Wesley’s Prayer of Repentance


“Pray constantly”

1 Thessalonians 5:17

When Susanna Wesley prayed, God listened. I came across this and knew it was meant to be shared on Brokenbelievers. I hope you read it and it spurs you to pray as well. We all need encouragement and this is pretty potent stuff. I know of no higher call than to pray and then teach another believer how to pray.

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Heavenly Father,

“I have much need in humbling myself before you, the great and holy God because of the sins I am daily guilty of, in thought, word and deed against your holy majesty.  Help me overcome the levity and to shun vain and impure thoughts which, though they do not make their abode for any long period of time, yet in their passing through leave a tincture of impurity.”

“Enable me to keep my heart with all diligence, my thoughts, and affections, for out of them are the issues of life.  How often I have offended in this kind!   Cleanse me from secret faults, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  Help me to guard against vain and unnecessary words, and to speak of you, O my God, with that reverence, that humility, that gravity that I ought.”

  Amen.”

Susanna Wesley

Susanna_WesleyFrom Wikipedia:

Susanna experienced many hardships throughout her life. Her husband left her and the children for over a year because of a minor dispute.

To her absent husband, Susannah Wesley wrote:

“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust.”
 
“I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother and a mistress I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.”
**

“Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children.”

-Billy Graham

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Children in a Mentally Ill World

 

Mental illnesses in parents represent a risk for children in the family. These children have a higher risk for developing mental illnesses than other children. When both parents are mentally ill, the chance is even greater that the child might become mentally ill.

The risk is particularly strong when a parent has one or more of the following: Bipolar Disorder, an anxiety disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, alcoholism or other drug abuse, or depression. Risk can be inherited from parents, through the genes.

An inconsistent, unpredictable family environment also contributes to psychiatric illness in children. Mental illness of a parent can put stress on the marriage and affect the parenting abilities of the couple, which in turn can harm the child.

Some protective factors that can decrease the risk to children include:

  • Knowledge that their parent(s) is ill and that they are not to blame
  • Help and support from family members
  • A stable home environment
  • Therapy for the child and the parent(s)
  • A sense of being loved by the ill parent
  • A naturally stable personality in the child
  • Positive self esteem
  • Inner strength and good coping skills in the child
  • A strong relationship with a healthy adult
  • Friendships, positive peer relationships
  • Interest in and success at school
  • Healthy interests outside the home for the child
  • Help from outside the family to improve the family environment (for example, marital psychotherapy or parenting classes)

Medical, mental health or social service professionals working with mentally ill adults need to inquire about the children and adolescents, especially about their mental health and emotional development. If there are serious concerns or questions about a child, it may be helpful to have an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional.

Individual or family psychiatric treatment can help a child toward healthy development, despite the presence of parental psychiatric illness. The child and adolescent psychiatrist can help the family work with the positive elements in the home and the natural strengths of the child. With treatment, the family can learn ways to lessen the effects of the parent’s mental illness on the child.

Unfortunately, families, professionals, and society often pay most attention to the mentally ill parent, and ignore the children in the family. Providing more attention and support to the children of a mentally ill parent is an important consideration when treating the parent.

-Source: unknown
 
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We Plead for Good Pastors

Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually troubling problems. These are bruised and painful areas, things that result in terrible devastation in our lives and loved ones. Here are just a few of them:

  • alcoholism and drug abuse
  • mental illnesses
  • homosexuality
  • sex addictions, internet porn
  • physically disabled
  • chronic depression
  • suicidal thinking
  • religious deception, cults
  • on and on…

This isn’t a definitive list by no means. (Although each are substantial issues of pain and conflict.) But it’s strange, as defeated strugglers we often feel intimidated by leadership in the Church. We feel frustrated, and very much alone. This is a problem.

It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are afraid.  

Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men.  And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal. We need to make room for our sisters to help us out. (Just a thought.)

Often rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of self-sufficiency and invulnerability. But we are still afraid deep down, and our weaknesses effect us profoundly. We are afraid of disclosure. We fear that some will find out who we really are inside. It seems everyone is hiding something; especially us.

Because we’re strugglers filled with great deal of pain and confusion, we feel lost. And no one will help us.

We can easily label ourselves as “hopeless” and very lost.  Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. (But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin but one.)

Some have heard (or misheard) that they are going to hell no matter what they do, and that they are truly lost and irrevocably separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because whenwe confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Many of us who struggle have an ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get really strange whenever we meet them– a sort of a deep change comes over us when we shake hands with them after the service. Deep inside we can be afraid of the ‘man of God,’ and think he is going to ‘see’ the sin and weaknesses in our lives, and shame us publicly (see Joshua 7).

Pastor, you should understand that some of us feel pretty much lost all the time, and afraid when we meet you.

Typically, we pretend or even avoid those who are sent to pastor us.  As a result of our flaws and weaknesses we want to separate ourselves from the Church. This reality is we feel like we don’t belong. We may feel like a hypocrite just coming to the service. We end up going out of duty or habit. That is a warning light of trouble.

Often we try to live a life insulated from any outside intervention.  We avoid people who could really help us.  We are terribly sick, and need a pastor or elder to help us work through these things. Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even then with some tears.

There is a spiritual war that encompasses us. The torrents of hell are released on us and we discover Satan working in various ways. Admitting you’re under attack is not weakness. (If you knew what you are really facing you’d be terrified.) But Jesus Christ stands to intervene for us. He stands and intercedes for our souls–all the time

We must pray for our pastors. Sometimes their title and gift is hard to carry. Their gifting is often limited by extraneous things, and yet Jesus, the Good Pastor comes alongside to help them. Pray hard for your pastor. Cover them and bless them.

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Continue reading “We Plead for Good Pastors”

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Prepare for Flames and Floods

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.

2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.”

Isaiah 43:1-2, NLT

“YARNELL, Ariz. (AP) — July 1, an Arizona forest fire into an out-of-control inferno that trapped and killed 19 firefighters, nearly all of them members of an elite crew of “hotshots,” authorities said Monday. It was the nation’s biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years.”

“This is as dark a day as I can remember,” Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. Firefighters have a dangerous job. They put their lives on the line.”

The promises here in Isaiah 43 meant to prepare us, and promise us.

Fires burn and consume. Floods keep growing and multiplying. Yet in this world full of fires and floods, we have these promises of His presence in the middle of it all. He intends to be right there when things are going very, very wrong.

And dear broken believer, trials and tribulations are a fact of life for us. Life is often full of badness, but my God, we learn. (Oh, how we learn.) You may be struggling now, but we are being made into something wonderful.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”

1 Peter 4:12

No surprises– burning trials– something strange? Hardly, it’s just the life of a saint, as he travels home to heaven. And isn’t heaven is worth just a little temporary pain? (I walk with a cane, so I’ll be behind you a bit.) 

The reality is this, the Isaiah verses declare that there will be floods, and rivers to cross, and fires and flames. These are going to happen. But, the Lord does promise that He will walk with you, as your Companion, and Protector.

“It is quite useless knocking at the door of heaven for earthly comfort. It’s not the sort of comfort they supply there.”

C.S. Lewis

We are looking to be given comfortable things, naturally easy things. Like lots of money in our bank accounts, bills paid off. A redesigned kitchen would be nice. And one of those huge refrigerators (big enough to hang a cow in.) A new VW Jetta, maybe. But this is not the comfort that God is supplying us.

You may have to shift things in your thinking. But maybe you have already learned this, and might just need a tiny reminder. There is a definite upside to this– the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is standing at your side, and you will know his true comfort and assistance. It is a promise. And it is yours. (But not the VW, most likely).

 

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Landmine Warfare

Landmines are a very interesting form of warfare.  Buried and essentially unseen, they lay waiting for the enemy.  Trained as a Combat Engineer at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was taught that there were things to counteract other things like mines.  I knew how to operate a ‘minesweeper’.  I was also taught how to probe with a stick to find mines that could not be detected.  In the heat of an Ozark summer, I would be coated with a red mud after crawling on my belly through the Missouri dirt.

There are landmines in the Church. 

Buried they simply wait on a believer to step on it.  Wisdom would tell us to advance with caution, but the counsel is not always taken.   They only await our careless step.  We can know they exist, yet we can step on them without thinking.  It is a definite form of deception. There are definite things which can cripple us spiritually. landmine-little

Mines such as fear, doubt, unforgiveness, jealousy, lust, pride and selfishness lay waiting for us.  When you step on a mine, you’ll hear a distinct click.  This is the downward signal that you have engaged the mechanism of the mine.  At this point it gets grim.  It is highly unlikely that you can move quickly enough to get away from the explosion.

We are incredibly vulnerable to the mines of our walk as a believer.  However, the Holy Spirit holds the maps that can enable us to transverse that which is ahead of us.  His presence gives us a safe awareness to progress difficult ground.  He is there to direct us to pass through the danger.

Too many people are getting blown up. 

They make a misstep and the resulting blast is awful.  Unless we listen to the Spirit’s direction we will find ourselves in a very hard place, full of difficulty and danger.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us navigate difficult places. 

Without Him present we will step in places that are extremely detrimental, and very dangerous.  He must guide us, step by step, through the danger that surrounds us.  He will do this, if we only ask.

 

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To Be Despised by All, but God

I’m working my way through Ezekiel in the Old Testament, and before that I was reading Jeremiah. These are challenging books to read and to apply to our daily lives. Here and there is a nugget with direct – and easy – application, but I think these books are there for a much bigger purpose. The Old Testament prophets show us what is important to God. As I read, I find that God is concerned with two things:

  1. That His people trust in Him, and not in idols of their own making. This seems reasonable, since He alone is trustworthy. An idol made of stone or gold – or as we often trust in these days, of paper in the form of money and stocks – cannot protect us or provide a sure and trustworthy future. Only God can do that.
  2. That His people care for the “widow and the orphan,” that is, the less fortunate of society who are in need of a helping hand. This seems reasonable, too, since those of us who have been blessed should not find it a burden to bless others in return.

These are simple principles. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus echoed these two principles when He answered, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV).

And yet the prophets were hated and ridiculed for telling the Israelites that they would suffer and were suffering exile and death, war and famine, because they failed to follow these two simple principles. Instead of loving and trusting the God who had seen them through so much and protected them, they trusted in idols and the ways of their neighbors. Instead of loving their neighbors and caring for the downtrodden, they cared only for their own gain and gluttony. The Israelites were warned over and over by the prophets. I believe that the message of the prophets – that these two principles are paramount – is just as relevant for our world today as it was for ancient Israel.

The other day I received this wonderful quote in my Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org. I believe it illustrates not only the struggle the Old Testament prophets faced, but also the struggle those who trust in Christ alone for salvation and seek to share His expectation that we love our neighbors with the world face today.

“To be forged upon the anvil of God’s purpose, to be at once His hammer, His tongs, and His molten iron; to hear words that rend the heart, see visions that pierce the chest; to be emptied like an urn, again and again and again until one desires only rest, only an end to the refilling — and to know one cannot live without the refilling. To be given words that one dare not speak, and to feel those words churning and boiling in the belly until one must speak them aloud, or die. To be despised, soon or late, by everyone except Adonai — and to desire it so, while hating it. This is to be a prophet.”

— Thom Lemmons

I’m not suggesting that I am a prophet, but there have been times in my life when I was compelled to speak, or to write, words I did not wish to say or write. I have had words churn and boil in my mind and in my heart, felt the fear of saying or writing them, but had to push through that fear and let those words fly and land wherever God desires.

Just writing that last paragraph makes it seem all so dramatic, but really it just is. Sometimes I don’t push through the fear and I fail to share the words that are on my heart. Although I have not yet died as a result, a small part of my spiritual growth does whither. Perhaps my faith would be stronger and more souls would have been saved if I had always spoken up.

But, in the end, I know that God loves me and knows I am being sanctified daily, though sometimes more slowly than I would like.

 

Love, Linda

 

Linda’s blog is at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/.  Please check out all she has to say.  Linda tells me that it is absolutely guaranteed to bless, or your money back!

 

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I Still Grieve (But I Now Understand Grace)

Loss_of_Child

‘Who gathered this flower?’ The gardener answered, ‘The Master.’ And his fellow servant held his peace.”

It was November 13th, in the year of our Lord 1999, was unlike any day I have ever experienced. A beating with a baseball bat would seem more preferable. On this cold afternoon, hell was unleashed on my wife and myself. What we encountered was soul-wrenching and profoundly tragic.

Perhaps a parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a child. On this day we lost Elizabeth Grace. She was stillborn, which is rare these days– or so I have been told. She entered this world fully formed, a beautiful baby girl. Today, she would of been 22 years old, and maybe married, and planning a family of her own?

But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:23, (When David’s newborn son died.)

Our loss was grievous, but we are not unique. Plenty of families have suddenly lost a child. I can truly commiserate with them. Somehow we are connected in a perverse way. It seems like an exclusive club, that requires a secret handshake, or something. Suddenly without warning, you are thrown into personal chaos, and very little is remotely decipherable, even to a believer.

The book of Ecclesiastes that there is a definite “time to mourn.”  Matthew tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn.” He does go on to say. “for they shall be comforted.” This comfort is available for any who choose to take it, but you can refuse it, if you really want to.

Grief unites us, but Jesus liberates us. Seriously. I can’t imagine meeting life without his care and comfort. He has been outstandingly gracious to this family. Sure there was pain, but there was also tenderness and a kind grace. Still, sometimes it felt like a “kick in the head.” (But I assure you– it was grace.)

What I still can’t understand is simply this. What would it have cost God to allow Elisabeth to live? I mean, what ‘skin off His nose’ would’ve it taken to let her live? I still to this day have questions, but I have decided to trust. (I trust Him after all, to save my soul.)

Those who have suffered will comprehend and grasp, the noxious environment of grief and loss. But we can only take what we are dealt. The sadness is there, but so is His comfort. Make no mistake, His love matches (or even exceeds) the pain and the loss of a child. Truly, God is a wonder and He is good.

I do know that He loves me, a weirdly rascalish, struggling disciple. He holds me close to His precious heart, and I will have no other gods except Him. I will not take up umbrage with Him on this. But I must believe that someday soon, I will truly and completely understand this.

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Disproportionate Suffering

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Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?’ Exodus 3:2-3

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

— John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace”

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

Ministering to these sufferers can be a challenge. What can we say to these who seem to be on “God’s anvil?” How can we bless those who are in pain?

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

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

Philippians 1:6

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

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

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

Romans 5:3

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

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

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

Romans 5:3

A “word” spoken out-of-place can cause even more ‘heartache’ for the sufferer. Let us be careful. At times it’s better not to say anything, and that’s alright. Job’s friends were best sitting in the ash heap saying not a word.  

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

Isaiah 50:4, CEB

 

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Defining Depression

Evil has completely saturated the world of human beings.  We are being drenched with a thousand variations of sin and rebellion.  In olden times, an enemy would surround a city, and essentially let the inhabitants starve until they would surrender.  I wonder at times, if this tactic is not working in us today, on some kind of level.

Clinical depression takes on many forms.  It is very much like being surrounded and being brought to our knees.  For those of us who go through this mental meat grinder, we find it can completely destroy us.  When depression assaults us; it leaves us mute and deaf to God’s love and amazing grace.

There seems to be three distinct varieties of depression. 

I’ve thought about this for some time now, and I’m coming to the point where I want to share.

1)  There is a depression that comes from guilt

There’s a corrosive place that eats us up, it’s where we sin, and continue to sin.  We fully understand our guilt and our sin.  Sin, will always will stain us.  Banks will often place “dye packets” into stacks of money.  A robber grabs the money, only to find that something explodes on him.  He then, is marked indelibly.  There isn’t anything he can do; he has been stained.  The following verses explain this dynamic.

“When I kept things to myself,
       I felt weak deep inside me.
       I moaned all day long.
4 Day and night you punished me.
My strength was gone as in the summer heat. 

5 Then I confessed my sins to you
       and didn’t hide my guilt.
    I said, “I will confess my sins to the Lord,”
       and you forgave my guilt. “

Psalm 32, NCV

2)  There is a depression that is organic. 

It simply resides in us as if it were eye color, or a talent to play music.  This type of depression is hard wired in us.  It is just a natural inclination, or propensity toward melancholy.  We typically gravitate toward a negative outlook.  We are not ‘a cheery lot.’  The glass is always half empty, and that is our certain perspective.

Some have diabetes, and others are deaf.  We have been saddled with certain issues.  We did nothing to warrant such challenges.  They are just the part and parcel of the human condition.  We need to see our depression as sort of diabetes of the emotional world.  Very often we will need to take meds to restore our sense of balance and wholeness. Sometimes all we need is to rest, as fatigue can become a serious issue.

3)  There is a depression that is reactionary. 

We find ourselves responding to trials and difficulties, and they just overwhelm us.  Persecution and attacks slam into us, and our reaction is to hide, or shut down.  Paul had to endure major attacks. This ‘depression’ is found in situations and issues. It can come about by Satan or ungodly authorities.

We will respond to the death of someone close, loss of a job, bankruptcy or whatever–you can fill in the blank:_________________________. But we must remember, if there is a way in, there must be a way out. If we can only put some trust in God, we can believe he will lead us out. Eccl. 3:1-8 describes “seasons” that every person goes through. Perhaps, this is just a time?

“So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.17 We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.18 We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.”

2 Cor. 4:16, 18, NCV

Summary

As we look at ourselves, we can determine which of the three kinds of depression that we’re facing.  It seems we can have all three working in our lives.  But it’s very helpful to find our particular variety, or our certain inclination.   Seldom will we identify with just one ‘type’, as all three can be working at once. Understanding the three will hopefully give us a definite advantage.

We can ask ourselves: Is this depression coming from sin or guilt?  Is this something organic or ‘hardwired’ in me?  Could it be that I’m reacting to the evil that is coming at me so fast?  Distinguishing between these three can be very useful, and direct us as we build our discipleship.

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The Mystery of Each Other

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The Fellowship of the Saints

No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:12

As believers we should understand the mysterious substitution that has happened. Jesus has exchanged places with us, giving His righteousness in exchange for our sin.  Verses in 1 John make it clear. Every encounter we have with a brother is an encounter with Jesus.

Every brother, every sister is a rendezvous of wonderful significance. 

When we serve them, we are really serving the Lord Himself.  I guess it can also be a sobering experience if we should mistreat or neglect them.  What we say and what we do has consequences.

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

Matthew 25:40

There is no escaping the Gospel logic that our personal contact with each other carries an eternal weight.  Immaturity and pride keep us from seeing the delicate connections that believers have with each other, and perhaps suggesting a new basis for our relationships is a bit much to hope for.

Every believer is someone who will be covered in glory someday.

Without a complete mind removal renewal we will continue to see others as rivals or people to control.  We use the H.S. gifts to ascend rather than serve.  The disciples had to make their adjustments.  They were told that they were to lay it all down and wash each others feet.

We must begin to realize that when we touch someone, when we speak to a friend, we’re doing that to the Lord.  Every believer is someone who will be covered in glory someday.  We are to live out this wonderful mystery of Jesus living in our brother.  He is that close!

“To love someone means to see him as God intended him.”   

Fyodor Dostoevsky

 

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Prayer Changes Me

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.”

C.S. Lewis

One of my blogging friends, Theresa Moore, posted this quote on Facebook the other day and it really stuck with me. C.S. Lewis was such a brilliant man and has such a wonderful way of explaining faith and related matters.

I especially can relate to the last part of the quote: “It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” That is so true. God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But by spending time with Him in prayer I am changed to be more like Him each day. As I pray for the ability to see me as He sees me – both as I am and as He desires me to be – I grow in faith and understanding. I cannot help but be changed by this process.

I have found another thing about prayer.

Jesus said that we should pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us. When we do this, our tendency is to pray that God would change them. But prayer seldom changes the difficult people in our lives (though on occasion it can). What prayer for our enemies does is change our attitude towards them. When I earnestly pray for the difficult people in my life, God helps me to see them from His perspective and to understand a little better why they might be the way they are and the root of their difficult behavior.

Prayer doesn’t change my enemies.

It changes me. It helps me gain the wisdom and compassion necessary to love them as God has called me to do. And when I love them, perhaps I might help them to change, too.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:19-21 (NIV).

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When Others are More Gifted Than You

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”

1 Corinthians 12:4, NLT

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

1 Peter 4:10

Several years ago, the Holy Spirit upended my understanding of the Church. It took some time, as I’ve been in full time ministry for almost 40 years now–and that can be good (or bad.) But I’ve found that over years I had made the Body of Christ into a competitive sport. And although I wouldn’t of phrased it exactly that way, it was how I approached the Christian brothers and sisters in my life.

I guess a great deal of my effort was generated to receive the proper recognition.

I had misunderstood the very of nature of being a ‘gifted’ person. As I look back, I was very much like James and John, in Matt. 20:20-22. It wasn’t so much that I was exalting myself, but I felt (?) that I needed to push for all that Jesus had for me.

We must learn to respect the giftedness of others.

Often, this is easy. When we encounter those with a special ability, it can be fairly easy to do. A teacher or preacher, a worship leader or even an amazing writer–and because of that gifting it becomes fairly simple for the Church to recognize them.

However, we are probably more inclined to operate out of our own envy or frustration. Rather than accepting others, we look for any reason at all to invalidate and disparage them. We scour, and we search for anything to minimize or reject our “competitor.” To bolster our efforts, we label it as “discernment.” This justifies us, as we think that it is protecting the Church.

The Spirit, out of His infinite inventory, distributes the gifts to the Church.

We honor and respect him when we acknowledge that. We don’t elevate the person, but we do accept them, and their obvious gift. We don’t ignore any sin, but we should recognize the Spirit’s decision to use a person in a certain way. Almost always, that gift is hidden in a clay pot. (And maybe that’s our difficulty? I have met gifted saints who were awful jerks).

A necessary thought must be embraced. What about those who have a gift that is seen in someone 30 years younger than you? Paul wrote young Timothy precise instructions on how to handle his youth, and understand how he should understand his position in the Body.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

1 Timothy 4:12

We honor the Spirit most when we honor his gifts. We should respect the giftedness that others may have. Humility often varies with the person, the gift and the maturity. And yet, it would be foolishness for us to think we have settled this issue, once and for all.

Someone once told me, “Gifts are something you do gracefully.” (I like that.) But there are no cookie cutters when it comes right down to it. And one last thought, which I only hope is a wise course for us to consider–

“Be desirous, my son, to do the will of another rather than thine own.”

–Thomas a Kempis
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The Valley of Tears

He Sees Every Tear

“As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”

Psalm 84:6 (NIV).

In the Hebrew, the word “baka” means tears.

In Psalm 84, the sons of Korah write their praises of God and note that those whose strength is in the Lord will travel through the Valley of Baka and find His peace there. For some of us that Valley of Tears seems never-ending, but we must remember we are not alone in it. I wrote this poem to remind myself of that truth. I hope it blesses you as you pass through the valley of tears, too.

Valley of Tears

My Savior will dry all my tears
The Lord God knows all my fears
As I trudge onward many years
I pass through the Valley of Baka

Great pain and agony oppress
I feel heavy weights of duress
Praying for dear Jesus to bless
I pass through the Valley of Baka

I see that this valley is long
I need You to make my faith strong
That Lord I might sing a praise song
As I pass through the Valley of Baka

 

 

 

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Please, Don’t Find Fault

“Here Comes the Judge!”

“You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.”

Romans 2:1, NLT

One of the spiritual diseases endemic to the Christian believer is “fault finding”. For some reason, (and I’m still trying to figure out why), is we have a strong inclination to pass a judgement on people (those whom Christ died for!)  We don’t throw stones (far be it from me)– however, we certainly do and will point fingers. And perhaps we feel that its our religious duty, or maybe even our ministry (!).

Almost always, there a sense of certain and attainable righteousness. or our generated holiness involved. This should not be dismissed or overlooked. Because I believe I am right, and have religious grounds, I put all of the “evil sinners” on trial, and then I pronounce my verdict. (And they certainly deserve whatever I decide.)

Much of the same type of thinking was used in Romans 2.  Paul castigates those who were judging others. He goes on a scathing and sizzling rebuke directly at those who were destroying others by their overly-righteous attitude.

” And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?.”

Romans 2:3-4

Without a doubt this whole subject is highly complex and nuanced. Hundreds of verses should be worked through. But this blog is not that place. However, I will advance this– I read this written by the Desert Fathers.

“Correct and judge justly those who are subject to you, but judge no one else. For truly it is written: ‘Is not those inside the church whom are you to judge? God judges those who are outside’.

Macarius of Alexandria, 296-393 AD



A Simple Poem of a Quiet Wisdom

Pray, don’t find fault with the man who limps
Or stumbles along the road
Unless you have worn the shoes that hurt
Or struggled beneath his load
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from view
Or the burden he bears, placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who’s down today
Unless you have felt the blow
That caused his fall, or felt the same
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, if dealt to you
In the self same way at the self same time,
Might cause you to stagger, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man who sins
Or pelt him with words or stones,
Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure,
That you have no sins of your own.
For you know perhaps, if the tempters voice
Should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray,
‘Twould cause you to falter, too.

 

 

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He Forgets

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Isaiah 43:25, ESV

Sometimes we’ve got a hard time forgiving ourselves for our sin.

Ironically though, the Lord has a hard time remembering them.  Obviously, He isn’t becoming senile on us. He chooses to become “forgetful.”  We’re told repeatedly that he has completely forgot and forgiven all of our darkest evils, and twisted agendas.

“He will again have compassion on us;
he will vanquish our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.”

Micah 7:9

Once we turn away from those very dark things, we find that the true God is patiently waiting. We discover that his arms are wide open, and he’s running down the path to meet us (Luke 15:20-21.)

There is something noteworthy and special about a forgiven sinner. 

In a deep sense we have been altered.  We have become a new creation (that word can easily be translated as “species.”)  Something tangible has happened, an alteration has taken place.  We’re something completely new and totally different–a forgiven believer now exists! “If anyone belongs to Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!” (2 Cor. 5:17)

By our faith in Christ’s death, we discover that the power of our sin has been shattered.

And for the first time, we have the ability to say “no!”  We can now turn and go the other direction.  We can walk in such a freedom and awareness of being loved, that it really easy to let Him change us from the inside out. Like the prodigal, we must turn our backs on the pigs, and go home (Luke 15:16-17.)

“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 8:12, ESV

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A Taste of a Poem

 

Darkness to Light – A Poem

I have been challenged us to stop hiding behind the masquerade of a perfect life, and share our struggles so that others might benefit from our journey with God. Then yesterday morning, during my prayer time, a poem came to me that shows my own struggles with depression. I decided to share it today.

Darkness to Light

Darkness surrounded me
Darkness invaded my mind
Darkness enveloped my very soul

In the darkness
The evil one whispered
Thoughts that seemed my own
They’d be better off without me
It would be better if I was dead

Tears drowned me
Tears flooded my mind
Tears drenched my very soul

Through the tears
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I believed were true
I am broken beyond repair
These tears will never end

Pain ensnared me
Pain clouded my mind
Pain threatened my very soul

Amplifying the pain
The evil one whispered
Thoughts I was powerless to deny
This pain will forever cripple me
I will never know joy

Then His Light
Pierced through the darkness
Illuminating my soul
Revealing the sin in my mind
Proclaiming the way for me

Forgive He whispered
As I’ve forgiven you
Your darkness will subside
His words are true

Then His Love
Dried all my tears
Infusing my soul with joy
Clarifying truth in my mind
Declaring healing for me

Live He whispered
As I live in you
Your tears will be dried
His words are true

Then His Truth
Erased my pain
Protecting my soul
Clearing lies from my mind
Redeeming me

Love He whispered
As I forever love you
Your pain will be set aside
His words are true

Darkness, tears, and pain
Replaced by my Savior’s
Light, Love, and Truth
Holding me forevermore.

 

Scriptures to consider…

 3 The cords of death entangled me,
   the anguish of the grave came upon me;
   I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD:
   “O LORD, save me!”

* * * * *

 8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
   my eyes from tears,
   my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
   in the land of the living.

Psalm 116 (NIV).

 

Linda’s blog is at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/.  Please check out all she has to say.  

 

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The Fellowship of Pain

The Leper’s Hands

“In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Luke 5:12, NLT

The Bible text reveals that this man is desperate.  His leprosy has advanced; he is covered with it from ‘head-to-toe.’ He’s an outcast now, completely infected by something he never asked for; he is ‘unclean’ and completely without hope. There is no treatment, the doctors can do nothing.

The leper knows that without the touch of Jesus, he’ll never be healed. 

He knows it; he doesn’t need to be convinced by anyone over the complete hopelessness of his condition. He has heard that he can do incredible miracles. Could it be that Jesus can heal his sickness? The leper comes and falls on his knees before the Lord, with his face in the dirt. This man is completely broken; he has no hope, except Jesus. What else can he do?

Our diseases differ, but our lives have been completely changed by our pain. We all have this in common. 

Our pain, and darkness vary. Some hurt more, some less. But we’ve all come to the place where we no longer have illusions of somehow being made whole. Whenever we meet, I think there should be a secret handshake or a password. We all share a comradeship— we’re all part of the same community.  We’re a broken club of tired and decidedly unclean misfits.

We belong to the fellowship of pain.

Lying in the dirt, we start to believe the unbelievable.  Our faith doesn’t activate our healing, as much as it simply guides us to Jesus. We can kneel, and perhaps that’s all we need to do. His presence drives away the fear, the doubt and the pain. He’s come, and somehow we begin to hope for mercy. Only he can carry us through this.

I have struggled with deep dark depression. I’ve had to take meds.  But when I come into Jesus’ presence, all my melancholy is driven out. He comes and I start to hope again.  Am I a stellar example of perfect discipleship?  I think not. But isn’t about us becoming “angels,” perhaps it’s more about us learning how to kneel, and to allow Jesus to touch our hearts. Repeatedly.

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws.”

“The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”   

–Mike Yaconelli

 

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Following Jesus Closer!

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

Luke 19:37

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

They all gather to a one person.

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

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

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

The verse talks about the walk.

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

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

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The Master of My Panic

source–rtor.org

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” 

Psalm 46:1-2, NLT

“Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking…But I will call on God, and the Lord will rescue me.” 

Psalm 55:5, 16

Apparently, David understood what we now call a “panic attack.” (He sure wasn’t the first, and he sure won’t be the last.) David understands the shaking and fear that wanted to eat him up. David’s entire life seems to go from crisis-to-crisis-to-crisis. This pattern surely contributes to a deep anxiety.

What is a panic attack like?

My own experience with a panic attack is similar to what he must’ve felt. I start shaking and feel a pressing anxiety. The trembling gets very intense, I feel like death is imminent and my heart races. A feeling of doom often accompanies this. I feel like I’m drowning (not in water, but in pure fear.)

When I first started having them they were absolutely overwhelming; I had no idea what they were. They are pretty scary. For me they seem to happen once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less.

They improve my prayer life, and perhaps, that is their sole purpose. IDK.

Mayo Clinic put out a list of symptoms:

  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

Mine typically last for 20-30 minutes. When I finally asked my doctor, she knew exactly what they were. There is no drug; the attack can only be treated by an awareness of what is happening. There is no cure for them and really no way to eliminate them completely. I was stuck with them. She told me to use small paper bag to ease the symptoms.

As a believer the panic attack needed to be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

When an attack occurs it is time for me to “hunker down” and prepare for the coming storm. Since I know he is in charge, I become less anxious. (And that is a good thing.)

Educating myself has helped a lot. Just to know many others experience them is a real encouragement. The panic attack is quite common and much is known about it, the attack can be understood and even managed by understanding its true nature. Reading the Psalms really helps. I can so relate to King David.

I know that all that touches me is the Lord’s concern–I have no doubt about that.

_________________________________________


Source: Mayo Clinic

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Confession – A Villanelle

Walking Toward His Light

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

Confession

Light shines in the darkness
Faintly I see His light
My need I will confess

Toward the light I press
Keeping hope in my sight
Light shines in the darkness

Despair my soul’s distress
Entangled in the night
My need I will confess

His grace I will profess
Giving me strength to fight
Light shines in the darkness

I feel anguish oppress
Crushing with all its might
My need I will confess

Feeling His love’s caress
Compassion burning bright
Light shines in the darkness
My need I will confess

__________________________________________

* vil·la·nelle, [vil-uh-nel]

noun, Prosody

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

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

Linda’s home page is at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

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Like Stars, Forever

d46ce-glowing_person-e1359732529927

“The wise people will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who teach others to live right will shine like stars forever and ever.”

Daniel 12:3, NCV

“So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord.”

2 Corinthians 3:18, CEV

In my teenage years, my mom and I attended a series of services in a Christian commune.  (This would’ve been in 1972 -73.)  They all lived in a single house and had started a Christian rock and roll band. And they knew how to pray.

I was impressed with what I saw. 

When they gathered together for worship, they began to ‘glow’.  I would stare at them and they became ‘illuminated.’ I had never seen anything like this before.  The presence of Jesus was there making Himself known in the hearts of His disciples. I had been given eyes to see the supernatural.

Since then I have heard many testimonies of that same dynamic at work.  Confessing believers engaged in prayer and worship, have their countenance changed while in the Lord’s presence.  Peace and joy and confidence affects them in a profound way.  Their physical appearance is altered, and they proclaim ‘a peace that passes understanding’ that can’t be explained in any other way.

Since I became a Christian in 1982, I have retained those images in my thinking.  I’m now very aware of the “witnessing presence’ of Jesus in the lives of His people.  And scripture itself, on several occasions, points to this wonderful dynamic in action in the lives of consecrated believers.

When the light comes, it can’t help but transform those of us in darkness.  Our faces, hearts, and countenances change. We’re the human vessels for peace and joy (especially knowing our sins are forgiven).

The prophet Daniel talks about ‘shining like a star’.  This isn’t possible in the mechanics of normal life as an unbeliever (at least for any real length of time).  That simply can’t be manufactured.  The only possible answer is the Christian’s faith.  Namely, that Jesus Christ who is indwelling every believer, reflects His presence out into a dark world.

A few winters ago I was out walking on the Alaska Bible Institute campus.  Twilight was settling in and 20-30 yards ahead I saw a child’s sled left in a snow pile.  In the monochromatic world of an Alaskan winter, the ‘shining’ sled glowed and couldn’t be missed. I saw it from a distance–it was lit up and shone out into the falling night.

You and I who bear His presence are to be fluorescent. 

His activity in our hearts is to make us astonishingly conspicuous.  We can’t hide His presence (even with sin). We have been irrevocably changed by the Spirit’s residence.  We have become ‘glow-in-the-dark’.

Perhaps this is how it supposed to work?

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.”

Matthew 5:14

bry-signat-1-1

 

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Seeking Truth

Look for It

Words matter. Our choice of words, whether speaking or writing, makes a difference.

And words have meaning. That’s what dictionaries are for—to tell us what words mean. When we try to use words to mean something other than what they really mean, it causes confusion.

Sometimes people do this on purpose. One such misuse of a word that I have encountered lately is the use of the word “true” to substitute for “believe.” A person will say “such and such is true for me” when what they really mean is “I believe such and such.”

According to the dictionary, the word “true” means “being in accordance with the actual state or conditions; conforming to reality or fact.” Truth is not relative and is not affected by what any one person believes. Truth is external, and belief is internal, in origin.

Many years ago, when I was suffering from major clinical depression, there were a number of things I believed about myself. I believed I would always be depressed based on how long I had been depressed already and my doctor telling me I would always have bouts of major depression for the rest of my life. I also believed I would never be able to hold down a full-time job. I believed no one liked me and that I was worthless. In the parlance of relativism, these things were true for me.

But they weren’t true. They aren’t true and they never were, no matter how deeply I believed them.

And trust me, I deeply believed these things about myself.

But here I am, 18 years later, and I haven’t had a bout of major depression since God showed me how to be free. I’ve had the same good-paying full-time job for almost 12 years, and I had a different full-time job that paved the way for this one for 5 1/2 years before that. On top of my full-time job, I’m actively involved in my church and Bible Study Fellowship, have self-published two poetry books, and take care of my family. And I have a lot of friends, people who like me (and some who even love me).

As I look back over the past 20 years, I see God’s hand in my life, lifting me up and leading me to see the truth. I believe that. But it’s not my belief that makes it true. In fact, I could be dead wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

Whether God is real and cares about His creation enough to do all I believe He has for us is either true or not. It can’t be true for me and not for you, or vice versa. Truth is. As humans, our greatest purpose is to seek the truth. To say that truth is relative—that what is objectively true for me is different from what is objectively true for you—negates that essential human drive to know truth, to know our Creator, to know where we come from, and to know our reason for being.

At any rate, that’s what I believe.

Love,

Linda K.

Check out Linda’s site at: anchoredvoices.com.

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Furnace People Understand Suffering

The Furnace

“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined.   Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.

Isaiah 48:10

“Once we have come through the ‘furnace of humiliation,’ desperately, fearfully clinging to Christ for all He is worth, then we are fully equipped to march into somebody else’s furnace.”

‘Blessed with Bipolar”

Becoming a real and an authentic person starts with basic responses that we’ve made in the presence of Jesus. Amazingly, this simple faith becomes the prerequisite, granting us the right to enter in the promises of the Lord. If you have those promises you may enter in. However, without faith in those promises, you won’t find anything real or true.

You will not be able handle the Kingdom of God, unless you’re walking out a life of brokenness and humility.

Furnace people will often recognize those without any real and tangible connection with God’s work. There are furnace promises, but they, without truly understanding them will walk around in unreality. Often ‘they get religion.’ These are those who land on “the rocky soil.” They become ‘quasi-disciples’ will do and say things that they really don’t really understand.

But furnace people have the connection to that which is honest and true. They rarely enter into anything false or manipulative.  Their own hearts are transformed by the fire, and only then are qualified to minister God’s grace. Only furnace people can enter in. You will know them by their scars.

The Church has a tremendous need for those who have withstood the furnace of humiliation.

After we endure its ugliness, and its great evil, we’ll discover that we’re in an altogether different place than when we first started. The Church is waiting for those who went in and then come out on the other side.

I was thinking today about Joseph, and his ordeal, as found in the Book of Genesis chapters 37-50.  He was a rare kind of person. Perhaps, one in a hundred. You may emulate but never attain his faith. His confidence in the Lord was true.

Furnace people have the ability to function gracefully at this particular stage.

Furnace people are sovereignly brought to a place where they can minister the grace of God into desperate situations. We must convince ourselves, that furnace people have a gift.  They have been through the worst.  They may be battered and bruised.  But they still stand.  We must look to these who are the gracious agents of a loving God.

Our brothers and sisters have carried the Word with wisdom and grace. They come to us, through the fire. But will we receive them?

My hope is that you would personally grasp what God has worked in you. That really is your truest calling.  The things good or bad, that have happened to you are part of how you’ll understand grace. He awaits for you to respond.  Will you come to Him, through the grace you find in the flames? The most gracious people you’ll ever meet are those who endured God’s furnace.

 “He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.”

Malachi 3:3

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I have a brand new blog on the Parables of Jesus: parables101.com

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To Pray without Ceasing

Brother Lawrence once wrote: “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” That’s easy for a monk to say. What did Brother Lawrence have to do all day but be in “continual conversation with God.” But how does one do that with a full time job, a family, and numerous other commitments, not to mention the struggles of illness and other trials this world throws at us?

In our never-slow-down world, the idea of continually conversing with God seems radical.

And yet, scripture calls us to do what Brother Lawrence suggests. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray continually,” “pray without ceasing,” or “Never stop praying,” depending on the translation you choose. I love this verse, but I used to have a hard time figuring out how to put it into practice.

Do you think of prayer as the time during which you stop to ask God for all the things you need or want, and tell Him about your family and friends who are sick or in trouble, and plead with Him to fix all your problems? Is this but a brief time after which you get up and go about your day? If so, then you may struggle with the concept of continual conversation with God.

One day it occurred to me that this is the wrong way to think about prayer. Instead, I began to equate prayer to spending time with my best friend. When I spend time with a good friend, we can both be in the same room doing different things and not even talking. But I always know that if I have something to say then my friend will listen. And if my friend says something to me, I will be there to hear.

God’s Word tells me that He is always there for me; He is everywhere and wherever I am. If I always remember that, then I can easily “pray without ceasing.” Wherever I am, if I need someone to talk to He will listen because He is my friend. I also need to be aware that He may have something to say to me, so I should be ready to listen to that “small still voice.” Continual prayer doesn’t require constant words; it requires only continual awareness of the presence of God. In this way, even the busiest life can be sweet and delightful.

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A Hand of Kindness

His hand of kindness

I’ve no need to be reminded
Of all my failures and my sins
For I can write my own indictment
Of who I am and who I’ve been
I know that grace, by definition,
Is something I can never earn
But for all the things that I may have missed
There’s a lesson I believe that I have learned

There’s a hand of kindness
Holding me, holding me
There’s a hand of kindness
Holding me, holding onto me

–Bob Bennett, HAND OF KINDNESS
1996 Bright Avenue Songs (ASCAP)

It’s hard to forget the evil you’ve done–and forgiveness, well, dream on! I saw a video once of a parade of flagellants walking in unison, lashing themselves with whips, to somehow find peace, and some sort of atonement for their sins. I watched them, and suddenly the realization came–I was doing what they were doing, only not as public or visible.

Psychiatrists tell us that 90% of mental disorders are caused by guilt; I believe that they’re probably a little conservative. I’ve been in some sort of ministry for 40 years now–I’ve pretty much heard it all. I ask myself and wonder, who can help the stumbling, broken, and captive hearts of men?

We’ll do anything to escape the guilt of our sin.

I’ve seen therapists and psychiatrists–been confined to mental hospitals for endless weeks, put on meds, and survived suicide watches. I’ve cut my wrists and had my stomach pumped–twice I think. It’s very difficult to explain grace and forgiveness to someone who has laid in his own urine and feces for hours in a drunken stupor. I’m profoundly blessed that God has forgiven and forgotten, (Micah 7:19).

Sometimes an animal who’s been caught in a steel trap will actually chew their leg off to escape. Sometimes a man will destroy himself in order to find forgiveness. Now I admit that our guilt isn’t always front and center, and seldom is it obvious–we’ve suppressed it, medicated it, and ignored it for so long, that it’s hidden and secret–even to us.

But it’s still there.

If the cross of Jesus hasn’t been applied–it’s still there, hidden and dormant. You can’t continue to paint over it, expecting to cover it with enough layers of denial. The booze and the drugs, the money and the red Ferrari, the quest for some measure of success just won’t cut it. There a 1000 ways to bury it, but your past will cripple your present, and destroy your future.

You must find forgiveness for what you’ve done, or not done!

The cross and blood are not optional. Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t just a historical event. It’s himself–God’s lamb, offered up to forgive your sin–and your greatest evil. Those dark sins that you’ve hidden, that’s been buried so deep that even you’ve forgotten, sometimes it bursts out like a spiritual volcano, the pressure sort of builds up and then erupts. Suddenly it’s all real again–and it’s so brutal.

There’s a hand of kindness that’s reaching out to you at these moments.

You need to turn and believe him. No matter who you are, or how twisted and black your sin you think your sin is–maybe you’ve broken every commandment–a hundred times. I tell you, your sin has already been forgiven, your dark guilt lifted off your back. He has forgiven you. You are completely free.

Jesus died for you.

This isn’t a silly cliche. It’s not just a cute saying. All your guilt has been removed. You must believe this, it’s not an option any longer. You must know that his bloody death (he’s your sacrificial lamb) has God’s approval and removes your awful sin. His hand reaches out to you. But you must believe this. We must renounce our sin, give it up, and walk away from it. We must receive God’s gift of salvation.

If you don’t do this, you’ll die in your sins, and no one wants to see that.

If you want to think about this further, I strongly suggest you consider this–“God’s Forgiveness.”





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Admitting I Need Jesus

When I was in the sixth grade, a friend invited me to her church. My parents didn’t go to church, but said I could go with Clarissa if I wanted to. Before long, I was spending at least three days a week with my church friends. I learned who Jesus was and that if I believed in Him I would be saved. I believed, though I didn’t truly understand my need for a Savior.

It would be many years and much wayward living later before I would realize the importance of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17 NASB).

It’s easy to think “of course I’m not ashamed of the gospel.” Why would anyone be ashamed of the good news that Jesus died for our sins so that we might be reconciled to Him?

But at its core, faith in the gospel requires the believer to say “I can’t do this myself.” That realization, I think, is what trips up believers and nonbelievers alike. We humans like to be independent and self-sufficient. We like to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. We encourage our children to be independent as well.

I remember a time when my son was in high school and because of a snow day his class schedule was changed. As a result, he took the wrong books. He called to ask me to bring the right books to the school office on my way to work, which I happily agreed to do. When I got to the office to drop them off, the school secretary chided me for bailing him out. “These kids need to learn to be responsible or suffer the consequences,” she said.

I’ve thought of that encounter often, being thankful that Jesus didn’t say the same to the Father when the plan of salvation was put into place. What if Jesus had said, “You know Dad, these humans need to be more responsible or suffer the consequences.” We’d all be doomed.

In a world where DIY is all the rage and dependence on anyone else is frowned upon, Paul’s message is all the more important. We cannot be ashamed to admit that we are unable to perfectly do the right thing always. As the prophet Habukkuk wrote, Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habukkuk 2:4 NASB).

And so, although it requires me to admit I can’t do it alone, I choose to live by faith in the One who gives me His righteousness.

For the broken believer (which is all of us, if we’re honest), it is all the more important to be okay with something less than full independence. We were created to be dependent on God and on one another. We were created to live in community and relationship with others.

Note: A version of this article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of The Christian Journal, a publication I highly recommend, and not just because they publish some of my writing.

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The Blessings of an Illness

 

The Bible is full of miraculous healings.

Jesus Christ performed many of them. He taught His disciples, and those who would follow, to heal the sick and afflicted. This is a real part of the Gospel, and it’s the definite work of his Kingdom.

I’ve personally seen legs lengthened and fevers ‘broken’ on several occasions. Obviously it changes life for the sick person, certainly! But it can also boost the faith of those who witness these miracles. I truly believe the Holy Spirit still works these wonders today. We must let him do these things. That isn’t an option.

Somehow though, there is the ‘understanding’ that in order to be healed you must have sufficient faith. Those who are not healed are the people who have a weak faith, they’re missing out somehow on a miracle because their faith didn’t measure up. I wonder though, how much faith was needed to wash in the pool of Siloam in John 5? But really, all that is needed is a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).

Faith is an active component to many of the healings in Scripture. Jesus said to the blind man, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).

Yet we read of many believers in Hebrews 11 who endured sickness, and ill-treatment. We read of vicious brutality and persecution of these “people with faith.”

Not everyone who is sick will receive a physical healing.

For believers today who suffer physically or mentally, we may question our faith. (Especially when the healing evangelist comes to town). After 2-3 tries we settle back on our “deficient’ faith feeling a bit miserable. I honestly don’t think that’s what the Lord wants.

It seems to me that the real issue is not so much a weak faith, but holding on to your faith when you are not healed.

I hear talk about having faith to be healed–but what about the faith that’s needed to be sick?

Why do we suffer illness? I believe that for many Christian believers sickness is to bring glory to God, Also, holding onto a faith in the midst of sickness and pain often encourages those who witness it. I believe that was Paul’s experience (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Oh dear one, continue to seek a healing. The Spirit does these things today. But if you’re left in your illness, trust in Him still. All your ways end up in His nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus. When he greets you in heaven, you will know him by the scars.

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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The Gospel According to Judas Iscariot

Judas and the Bag

Matthew 27:3-10

My name is Judas Iscariot, and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed. The money was fine, don’t get me wrong, but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I simply did what they couldn’t. I wanted to force Jesus’ hand, so he had to drive the Romans out of our country. I was mistaken, I see that now.

Jesus loved each of us, including me. But I didn’t see it at the time.

When he knelt to wash my feet, I was deeply disturbed. When he stripped down to his underwear, I admit I had some serious doubts. Behaving like a common slave wasn’t really in my thinking. It would take extra work to shape him, and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end, if only Jesus would cooperate.

In my mind I knew that Jesus only needed the right moment to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I knew that God had called me–this was my purpose. I would be the kingmaker, and Jesus would certainly reward me.

Some have said that Satan was inside me.

But I hardly noticed. Instead, I was filled with excitement. Finally, the other disciples would come to my side, and together we could make it happen. Enough kneeling, no more groveling–we were going to rule Israel and end the wicked Roman occupation. I truly believed this. He was our Messiah, our deliverer.

The tricky part was to convince Jesus, to manipulate him if necessary, to get him to take control.

He had to see the opportunity that was waiting for him. He was already immensely popular among the people. We could quite easily turn all of this enthusiasm into a full-blown insurrection. But we obviously needed him to lead us, and I could help him find his way. I knew we could do it. This was God’s will for me.

My plan was fairly simple–after I met with the Pharisees, I’d lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. They insisted on an armed escort, just in case there was trouble among the disciples. I suppose that was prudent, but my part in all of this was simply to give Jesus a kiss on the cheek, to signify that he was the one to the soldiers.

I assumed he would resist and fight. I was very wrong.

Nothing went as planned. Jesus didn’t take charge, and he certainly didn’t overthrow the government. As a matter of fact, you could say that the opposite happened; he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I did hear him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized way too late, that I helped shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me, and I insisted they take back the silver. They refused. I threw the bag at their feet and left the temple. Ugly thoughts now filled my mind, and I knew without a doubt that I was completely lost.

Please excuse me, but I have a date with a rope.

_____________________

This is a chapter from a book I considered writing a long time ago, “They Saw Jesus.” This was to be chapter 27. (I doubt it will ever happen though. Oh well.)

(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I also post there.)

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An Injured Life

 

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

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

 –Stephan Hoeller

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

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

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

A pearl of great price, because it proceeded from my daughter’s tragic death.

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

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

Job 13:15

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A really, really good book:

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

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(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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Lion

 

“I will not leave you alone. You are mine.  I know each of my sheep by name.  You belong to Me.  If you think I am finished with you, if you think I am a small god, that you can keep at a safe distance, I will pounce on you like a roaring lion, tear you to pieces, rip you to shreds, and break every bone in your body.  Then I will mend you, cradle you in my arms, and kiss you tenderly.”

Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb

God stalks us.  He never lets up.  We can never, never out run Him.  A popular 182 line poem, from a generation ago, was called “The Hound of Heaven“.  It described a person being pursued by God. This is a single stanza.

I fled Him down the nights and down the days
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind, and in the midst of tears
I hid from him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped and shot precipitated.

                                        –by Francis Thompson

The very remarkable thing is not so much our prodigal hearts; rather it is the amazing love the Father has by chasing us.  Jesus is consistently reckless about capturing us, and making us his own.  His love is like a homing mechanism in a missile shot at us that defies our every escape.  We can weave and dodge all we want, but we’ve been targeted, and He’s coming for us.

The way we talk and posture, it as if it is us that does the choosing.  I’m not saying we don’t to a degree.  But the Bible paints God in a different light.  He initiates, and He chooses.  He superintends our life, choreographing our movements.  If you remember the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis it will support this reasoning.

My depression will never thwart or nullify Jesus’ love for me.  I can’t point at it as a reason not to be his follower.  He’s not intimidated by our medical conditions. My brain tumor and the death of my daughter didn’t phase Him. They are merely physical footnotes to the story of my life.

We opened with a Brennan Manning quote. Maybe you should read it again? (I had to read it 3x!)

Manning observes that life with Jesus will involve being torn to pieces and such.  He will not complacently love us, He isn’t fond of you because you’re some sort of a likable person.  His love can be rough, savage and furious.  He is tempestuous at times, and quite intractable.  He won’t let you go.  Your issues are probably not as significant as you think.

“Those who have the disease called Jesus, will never be cured.”

-Brennan Manning

If you’re depressed, manic, paranoid or delusional you can still surrender to Jesus.  These aren’t your identity, they’re not permanent. Yes, I seriously get depressed, and have other major medical issues. My balance is messed up, and I must walk with a cane. But, I am his follower–first and foremost.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, NLT

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.”

 J.I. Packer

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(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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More Bumble Than Believer, [Aging]

A Bumble with a tender heart

It’s strange getting older. It’s not for the faint of heart. 

A whirlwind of days and nights swirl from this human drama, and I think I may be starting thinking about my exit— Lord willing, stage right.

I’m supposed to be a ‘veteran’ now– a mature believer.  I’m not supposed to get stressed.  However, age is a brutal teacher– and it seems we have to learn so dang fast, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. (Just the other day three teeth almost came out from the blast.)

Getting old is great in some ways. I only wish I could do it more gracefully.

On top of it all, it seems to me like my sin has poisoned the air that others must breathe.  I have contaminated so much. You might just say, I have ‘soured’ everyone’s milk.  “Learning to live with the  regrets” is a class that we should add to the local high school’s curriculum. It certainly would be useful.

A old friend is celebrating her birthday so I volleyed a semi serious “tongue and cheek” regret at her.  But then, I suddenly realized that there is a point when we realize that behind every older person, is someone else wondering what the hell has happened, and how did it get this way so fast? It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

As a Christian, I tentatively believe that this world I’m in, has folded open for me, and God has specified a direction.  I do contend though, unbelief is easier on a certain level, but I do not intend to take any detours.  Perhaps the real trick about reading a map in the car is that you most likely won’t get it folded back the same way ever again.  You must learn to accept this. And as a rule, maps seldom reveal the best detours.

“Even as you grow old and your hair turns gray,
    I’ll keep carrying you!
    I am your Maker and your Caregiver.
    I will carry you and be your Savior.”

Isaiah 46:4

I must admit to having a connection to “Bumble”, that crazy, loveable, abominable snowman in one of those schlocky, animated children TV classics from my youth.  I guess I identify with that ‘misfit’ yeti– someone who finally sees the light, but only when all his teeth are pulled!  Somewhere in that show he seemed almost good,  but didn’t we all wonder for a while if he would come around or not?

I  also wonder about the thief on the cross who got his ticket punched by Jesus at the last possible moment.  When we finally make it to heaven, we will find him there laughing and celebrating like everyone else, just like he belonged.  I guess grace does that to a person.

“What does it matter?  All is Grace”

— Georges Bernanos. Diary of a Country Priest

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(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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Sorry, Not Sorry

Have you ever heard someone say those words? “Sorry, not sorry.” It’s kind of annoying. It’s said following a statement or action the speaker knows is unkind or won’t be appreciated by someone else, but they just don’t care. It’s worse than not saying sorry at all.

We humans have a terrible time admitting when we are in the wrong. There’s always some justification for our actions, often that we were wronged first, or we had no choice, or some such nonsense. Misunderstandings escalate into disagreements, which quickly become heated arguments, and nobody really wins in the end. Sometimes good friends end up enemies, all because no one will say those two simple, yet truly difficult, words: “I’m sorry.”

We sometimes have the same problem with God. We know we have not acted as we should, but we can’t let go of pride and say we are sorry. Scripture reveals the truth: a contrite heart is all God wants from us. He desires for us to admit when we’ve missed the mark.

The stories of King David and King Saul illustrate this principle. Both were in the wrong. David committed adultery, and then had the husband of the woman he slept with sent to the front lines of a battle, knowing he would be killed. But when the prophet Nathan brought David’s transgressions to his attention, David’s response was a remorseful attitude. He immediately fell to his knees and confessed his sin. And God forgave David.

Saul, on the other hand, committed a transgression that seems much less serious. He counted his army. Doesn’t sound like much of a sin, does it? But the heart of Saul’s transgression was a lack of trust in God. He didn’t believe he would win a battle even though God had promised him victory. Not only did Saul not trust God, he refused to confess his lack of trust. Instead he made excuses, tried to justify his actions. As a result, God took away Saul’s kingdom and gave it to David. And God did not forgive Saul.

David is remembered as a man after God’s own heart in spite of his many sins because a relationship with God was most important to him. Saul is not remembered so kindly.

What have we lost because we refuse to say we are sorry? A kind word, an admission of our own contribution to a dispute, can go a long way toward healing relationships. Is there someone you need to say “I’m sorry” to today? What’s holding you back? Is it a stubborn nature, like what often holds me back? What do you have to lose? What do I have to lose? More importantly, think what we have to gain.

What about your relationship with God? Is there some transgression you need to confess to restore the intimacy you once enjoyed with your Savior? What do you have to lose? You have the best God intends for you to gain.

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The Hiding Place

forgiveness

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Ephesians 4:32, NLT

Great hearts are often brought through experiences that demand intense forgiving.

The Father tutors us through out our earthly lives, with many visits to this classroom. It’s here we get our learning. It will happen several times in our walk, and we carry different nuances, or slants. Each time we are required to forgive authentically. The course is set for us. We can’t choose to skip these lessons without injuring ourselves, and harming others.

We are learning to love– it is our calling and destiny. There are no “accidents” or misaligned ‘drop-outs’ here. We step into our classroom, and the Teacher and Comforter begins His instruction. Many things will strike you as diabolical. Deep inside us we have simply no idea of how “this” will turn out for good. And you’d be right. But the power of God steps in, and “all is well”.

Corrie ten Boom-- Writer, speaker, Christian
Corrie ten Boom– Writer, speaker, Christian

Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian.

After her release from a Nazi concentration camp, she began traveling the world and speaking to any who would have her. The needs of postwar Europe were desperate. She traveled as an evangelist telling people who Jesus is and spoke about His redemption. She gave many people hope.

Through her travels she came in contact with a few of the guards that had been a part of the Nazi regime and had to practice forgiveness that only Jesus can bring. The first encounter with one of her previous jailers proved to be most difficult.

Here is an excerpt from her book, “The Hiding Place”.

“It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

She then took his hand and the most incredible thing happened.

From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

Corrie’s Wisdom for Us

  1. There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.
  2. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
  3. It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, that counts.
  4. When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.
  5. Faith is like radar that sees through the fog-the reality of things at a distance that the human eye cannot see.
  6. Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.

For her efforts to hide Jews from arrest and deportation during the German occupation of the Netherlands, Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) received recognition from the Yad Vashem Remembrance Authority as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” on December 12, 1967.

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Learning Pain

How do you handle pain as a believer–the physical kind especially? What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball, and to disappear? Pain isn’t in God’s original plan, it’s entered our world through human rebellion and sin. We who hurt must be aware of this. Pain isn’t normal, but yet–it’s very much real. Too much. There are 10 things you really must consider right now.

First, I need to tell you this. There is pain that at times you can’t even imagine how you are going to handle another day. And the doctors have the audacity to tell you point blank, that you need to get used to it, because it’s never going to get better. So now you must sort things out–as outside of a miracle, it’s only going to get worse. Often there will be little help or counsel from other Christians. What do you do as a believer in Jesus? What will your discipleship look like now?

Here are ten thoughts that come to my mind. They’re not in any order, so don’t look for one (smile.)

One–Treat false humility as a worse disease than you’re facing physically. You’ll be very tempted to to milk it for all its worth. You’ll try to take advantage of others, you’ll want to complain and put yourself in the best possible light. But pain and your ego, were never meant to mix–especially as a disciple of Jesus. Renounce it now. Turn from it constantly. It will always be an issue, to one degree or another.

Two–Never find fault with God. He’s not to blame no matter what the evil one tells you. The Father loves you, and he will carry you all the way through this. Satan always tells lies. You must take a stand against him. Put on your armor! Super-glue Ephesians 6:19-18 into your thought life–and never let go!

Three–You can never lose track of eternity. My special verse is Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Please keep this front and center. It helps!

Four–You’ll learn to see others differently. There will always be another believer who has it worse. Think about them, and all that they must deal with. It helps a lot. Also you’ll discover that your pain will be like new glasses for spiritual astigmatism. You’ll see things much clearer now.

Five–Your walk may deepen. You will learn to be joyful when all you want to do is cry. The littlest things become a cause of great joy. God values your singing more now, especially when you’re singing out of excruciating pain. Your songs are now more precious to him. The Word, and worship music, seem to be more meaningful. Surround yourself with music (and preaching too) that builds you up.

Six–You will discover the art of blending pain into your discipleship. Sleepless nights become diving boards for prayer, reading and worship. You’ll change and deepen, and that’s always good. There is something that can only be burned into you by pain. Also, be open to brand new ways of ministry now. Look for doors to open up. They maybe different than you think.

Seven–You’ll discover that there can be solace in medications and treatments. I know that this is something really practical, but a handful of Motrin, or other pain meds will become a special delight, and something to look forward to. Also, listen closely to your doctor and therapist. Pray for them, pray they’ll have special wisdom for your situation. (And let them know your praying for them. They need your encouragement too.)

Eight–You start to see that you’ll never be able to do this alone (and man, do you know it.) God is giving you a gift. He’s designed to connect this way with others. You’ll also start to see people less in terms of their giftedness or ‘rank’ and more in the light of what they’ve had to endure. As you begin to see pain and sorrow as special friends, they’ll often show you who your true brothers and sisters are. They may come from unexpected places. Surprise!

Nine–You’ll understand the Father’s love in a new way. Like an old style pharmacist, God carefully measures out exactly what we need. He never gives you a single ounce of medicine more than is necessary. He’s exceedingly careful, and very conscientious. Trust him. All that happens to you has come through nail-pierced hands. He understands pain.

Ten–You must learn to laugh again. Little things become a source of real joy. The smallest things will make you laugh again. (Weird, I know.) Get a joke book, that may help, especially when you get sour and withdrawn, and maybe even mean. “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom will leave you bone-tired” (Proverbs 17:22, MSG).

Definitely this list is not complete. I apologize, there are many others that really should be added, but maybe this is a start. If I’m missing something fairly critical, let me know.

We must be aware that our pain allows us access to His ‘careful’ grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with special abilities. I’m serious. They are now our new ‘superpowers.’

(So, move over Batman!)

You must, must learn, to embrace your pain and your sorrows. They come us at too high of a personal cost. Don’t waste them! They’re precious, and far too valuable to neglect. Squeeze them and extract all that they can give.

Also–just one more (number 11?) Be easy on yourself. You’ll find that you’ve much to learn. And that’s ok.

Below is a quote that has always sustained me. It’s really good to remember–

“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

A good site is Joni Eaerkson Tadas. She’s a believer who has suffered a great deal and has a ministry to the afflicted, Joniandfriends.org. Also, brokenbelievers.com has an older teaching post that may help, check it out if you want to go deeper into this–“Suffering Intelligently.”

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I Will Say Nothing More

An interesting thought, for those patient enough to think it through.

“Not once did the disciples say, “Lord, have compassion on this blind beggar who is on the side of the road.” Do they say, “Lord, heal and restore this blind beggar on the side of the road?” “Do they reach out in any tangible way to this blind beggar on the side of the road?

“No, they simply ask an esoteric theological question, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?””

Ruth Harms Calkin

“Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

(All of John chapter 9).

Father of Mercies, forgive us. Help us to care, love and be full of the mercy of Jesus. We fall woefully short. It really seems we are the blind ones. We need to be those who wrap your arms around the needy. We need to be your hands and your feet. Forgive us of our heartless religion that helps no one.

Amen.

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C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

I love the Psalms and C.S. Lewis’s reflections are inspiring. This quote in particular makes you think. Jesus really did say forgive “seventy times seven,” which literally means as many times as necessary. Ouch! That’s a hard truth to swallow along with our pride.

There is no use talking as if forgiveness were easy. We all know the old joke, ‘You’ve given up smoking once; I’ve given it up a dozen times.’ In the same way I could say of a certain man, ‘Have I forgiven him for what he did that day? I’ve forgiven him more times than I can count.’ For we find that the work of forgiveness has to be done over and over again. We forgive, we mortify our resentment; a week later some chain of thought carries us back to the original offence and we discover the old resentment blazing away as if nothing had been done about it at all. We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence.

-from Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis

Seventy times seven to the tenth power seems to be how many times I must learn the lesson of forgiveness. I know how healing and freeing it is to forgive . . . until I forget.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says love “keeps no record of wrongs.” But when someone has wronged me I don’t much feel like loving them anyway.

Thankfully Jesus never said to His Father, “Don’t forgive them. I don’t much feel like loving them anyway.”

Last Year’s Transgression

Earlier this year I was holding onto an offence from summer 2020. I reached the hard decision to forgive. Really, I had. But every time I was reminded of it, I record anew how I was wronged.

“And she’s not even sorry,” I explained to God. She doesn’t even think she did anything wrong. Early on, He woke me in the middle of the night: “Pray for her.”

“You mean like David prayed for You to destroy his enemies in the Psalms?”

“No, not like that. Pray as Jesus prayed for you.”

So I did. And it helped to heal the wound and free my mind from the trap of bitterness.

I learned my lesson and each time the anger creeped in again, I forgave a little more quickly.

The Never-Ending Transgression

Until recently when someone who has said things that hurt me on way more than seventy-times-seven occasions. It’s been the story of my life, to have her speak words that shatter my heart.

I know I need to forgive her. And many times I have. But this latest wound was just too much. I was already grieving and she compounded my grief tenfold with her words.

She’ll blame it on her mental illness, and I get that it’s a struggle for her. She’ll blame it on her own grief, but that doesn’t give her the right to ignore my grief.

She’ll claim she doesn’t even remember saying what she said. And maybe she doesn’t. But I do. I remember every cruel word she has ever spoken to me. Every single one. Maybe that’s my problem. I’ve often forgiven but not forgotten.

I ruminated on what I might say to her when next we met and I couldn’t come up with anything nice. I’ve spent decades being loving and understanding and forgiving. This time I didn’t think I could.

But I did. It took the power of the Holy Spirit to draw from my mouth the right things to say, the forgiving thing to say. It helped that the focus was on the one we were both grieving over.

A Prayer for You and Me

Heavenly Father, Help me to forgive as You do, more quickly and completely, as You forgive me. Help the one reading this post, who may also be struggling to forgive a long list of transgressions, to turn to You for help. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

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When the Storms Rage On

 

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

Deut. 31:8, NLT

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

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

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

Mark 4:35-37

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

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

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

Mark 4:38-39

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

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

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

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

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

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

We won’t always travel through calm waters.

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

Never, ever doubt His deep love for your soul.

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But I Do It Anyway

A collapsed church, a struggling life

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.”

Romans 7:18-20, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 7:21-24, NLT

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

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

–Mike Yaconelli

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Stigma Sucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 139:13-14, NLT

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

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

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

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

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

 

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He Collects Losers and Misfits

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

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

Micah 4:6-7, NCV

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

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

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

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

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

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

God loves losers. 

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

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

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

Mike Yaconelli

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

 

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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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We’re Inconsistent Rascals

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“Loving Father God, my heart is filled upon rethinking the greatness of your love and the completeness of your plan.  I want to please you, but how often my flesh folds under the pressure of temptation.  I thank you that you know my frame, and you remember that I am but dust.  And I thank you for the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness that you have made available to me through the cross of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thank you for receiving me back, my gracious Lord.   Amen. ” 

Jack Hayford

When my children do wrong I ache inside.  As a father I so want to hear their confession and see their repentance.  But I cannot imagine disowning them. Never, ever!  How much more is our Heavenly Father ready to receive us back, and hold us close to his heart.

This profound love turns us back to Himself. The very fact you feel the Holy Spirit’s tug is evidence enough that you haven’t been permanently forsaken and ‘cast aside.’ You’ll need to take a step of faith however. Always remember— proximity to Jesus is always a good thing. Stay close, and watch the enemy flee. He will, but only if you stand.

Become brutally real with yourself, but never despairingly. Confess your sin to the real God who loves you unconditionally. Let Him fill you with His Spirit again. Sin is not the ultimate place or condition of the true believer in Jesus–his love has the incredible power to bust through all of our disobedience and rebellion. And he is the only one who can do it–you can’t.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

John 6:66-68

Who else would take us? Jesus loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. Sink into that love, and have the assurance that He alone has the power to save us- We’re his; even when we’re rascals. And he has decided that we are now his friends. Isn’t that wild!

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