Praying Authentically

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Prayer often can be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer the does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion, and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides. That is why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real.

We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves.  My own heart gets pretty creative as I display a self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that real is the prayer that touches his heart.  When you talk with Jesus, do you really talk to Him? Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?

Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?

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The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.

For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:

For the love with which You love mankind:

For the love with which You love me:

For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:

For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:

For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:

I praise and worship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;

Keeping me chaste in thought:

Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:

Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:

Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:

Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:

Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:

Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.

Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

(Taken from Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, pp. 126-127.)

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Brokenness, Depression and Brennan Manning

I’ve put together a collection of quotes by my favorite author, Brennan Manning.  I have found that when he writes, he penetrates.  What he writes goes deep into the soul of this ex-junkie, loser, and mentally ill person—he tells me of God’s love like few have ever done. 

To Manning, every person is redeemable, none are too far gone.  Brennan Manning was a strong voice to the weak, the lame, the mentally challenged, and for the prodigal.


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“There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

 “To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

“To be alive is to be broken; to be broken is to stand in need of grace.”

“Christianity doesn’t deny the reality of suffering and evil… Our hope… is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering. Rather, it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering.”

“I am what I am in the sight of Jesus and nothing more. It is His approval that counts.”

“[Be] daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burnt in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phony [you] are.”

“The blood of the Lamb points to the truth of grace: what we cannot do for ourselves, God has done for us. On the cross, somehow, someway, Christ bore our sins, took our place, died for us. At the cross, Jesus unmasks the sinner not only as a beggar but as a criminal before God.”

“Do the truth quietly without display.”

“It is for the inconsistent, the unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.”

“The dominant characteristic of an authentic spiritual life is the gratitude that flows from trust—not only for all the gifts that I receive from God, but gratitude for all the suffering. Because in that purifying experience, suffering has often been the shortest path to intimacy with God.”

“I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself… God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny him with their life style. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

“The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness.”

“In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us–that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace.”

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I really hope some of these quotes have connected.  Brennan Manning has authored several books all of which I can heartily recommend. 

I blame him for this blog’s theme–that brokenness is our path out of depression: Bipolar, Schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD, Schizoaffective disorder, and addictions.

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On Being Tied to the Mast

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“The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angels, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace; all things are there.”

~St. Macarius

 OK, I admit it.  I am fully capable and fully able to do just about any sin or deceit.   It’s my dubious claim to fame.  I can easily think of a 1000 things that I could do rather than serving God.  It seems my name is ‘Legion.’ To add to this, I have a chorus of support that wants me to give up my faith.  Demons are really plotting to destroy me, while all along my flesh insists on being fed with ‘fresh sin’.  (And I wonder why I’m getting gray hair.)

Within each of us is the potential and capability of doing great evil.  Each of us is contested ground, with eternal decisions hanging in the balance.

My mental illness does not give me “a get-out-of-jail-free card.”  I am just as responsible as anyone else when it comes to choosing good vs. evil.  Somehow I’d like to think that since I am deeply flawed because of my depression, it can actually make it somewhat easier to admit the truth. Maybe? (Perhaps that’s about the only edge I get.)

In Greek mythology there were three beautiful, but dangerous bird-women called “Sirens.”  With their music and voice they seduced sailors to shipwreck on the rocks.  It was said that there was few or any could resist them. Since they had to be neutralized somehow; some would plug their ears with beeswax, while others tied themselves to the mast.

The Bible has promised us the Holy Spirit.  The very presence of God has reached out His hand to hold me against the onslaught of evil forces. He truly does hold me in place, and His Word gives me the things I need to defend myself. Yes, the darkness can be very strong–but is no match to what God can do for me. We live in a very difficult age.

The intensity of seduction has increased. Tying yourself to something is probably a good idea.

“Keep yourself pure.”

1 Timothy 5:22

When the voices begin to lure you, you had best be ready with a plan.  The spiritual mast we have before us is the person of Jesus Christ.  Call on Him and then tether yourself to His mast (the cross.)  He has all power and all love for you.  You can resist the darkness, you can!

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Living Tethered to the Cross

We live in this place.

We live in this place.

St. Francis of  Assisi once wrote, “The devil never rejoices more than when he robs a servant of God of the peace of God.” Sometimes I think I’ve made the devil dance far too many times.

I confess that peace has never been real high on my list. Love, joy, kindness and even goodness are clear priorities. Peace–well… not so much. Until it’s not there. And then I get frantic by its absence, and look for it with manic bewilderment.

I’m panting for some sign that God still loves me. Anxiety eats at me. I beat myself up by my last failure. The guilt of my latest sin grows until it looms larger than the blood that saved me. Sometimes religious people have the most neurosis.

I’m afraid that we are taking “the present tense’ out of the Gospel. The past tense is far preferable to us as we manage the Christian life. We like to make check marks on our list. Repentance– check. Baptism– check. Bible study– check. I think it gives me a definite feeling of ‘maturity.’

But truth has a way of punching through. I haven’t arrived, and it seems I’m still the hideous sinner I always was. I cannot pretend otherwise, even with a truck load of cosmetics at my disposal. I know, I’ve tried. And I’m still ‘ugly.’ I do know forgiveness, and I do walk in its wonderful light (by grace.)

I read Luther 30 years ago. (And Bonhoeffer would say something similar.)  “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther (this is the first of his 95 Theses.) There is a present tense here we can’t ignore. I don’t just repent over smoking, or fornication, or of hypocrisy, once and done. But my entire way of living is to be one of repenting.

Repentance is a ‘moment-by-moment’ grace.

As I read the Beatitudes I cannot evade the sense that they are present tense. Read them, they’re obviously not a spiritual checklist. Each verse seems to speak of the time being, the present moment. No list here, guys. It will never be ‘one-and-done.’

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Matthew 5:3-10, NLT

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.”

–John Piper

Luther’s last words, on his deathbed wrote on a scrap of paper these words, “We are beggars! This is true.” Thirty years before, he was only echoing his first thesis. It seems dear ones, we are to live at the foot of the cross. Everyday. Because we desperately need to.

And perhaps the biggest reason is this: Jesus only comes for ‘sinners.’

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Frozen

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The all-glorious Mr. Freeze

 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Colossians 3:13, ESV

Remember “Mr. Freeze?” (Not the rapper, but the supervillain.) He was a DC Comics ‘evil-bad guy.’ He wreaked terrible havoc using ice. It was his specialty, his weapon of choice. In the later issue comic books he wore a cryonic suit and used a “freeze gun” and his victims would be turned into an instant icicle.

But “freezing” people happens far too often. We don’t need a suit or a special gun. We do it with our words, attitudes, actions. It is called unforgiveness, or stigma, or just plain contempt. It locks another person in a place were they will stay forever, and you won’t ever have to deal with them.

We glaciate others with extraordinary ease. Someone offends me, or irritates me and I blast them. In my mind I solidify them into one spot, and there they are locked. Sealed away, and out of my thinking. (And I can avoid those pesky urges to humble myself.)

I have been frozen by others— and I have been the ‘freezer’ as well. The sad part is that we ourselves are so far from perfect. When we zap someone we will never, ever ‘receive’ from that person. We can even preclude them as outside of the grace of God. “You offend me, and I will never forget it, and you will never be more than an evil miscreant to me.” My rationale is “life is too short for hassling with jerks like you.” But I can’t fully accept that idea. That is not God’s will for me, and I know it.

We end up debasing ourselves by our own unforgiveness. We restrict others from the Holy Spirit’s transforming ability. In our mind’s eye, the wicked person will never be able to offer up anything of value. We freeze–locking them into a place. And a vast amount comes from an unforgiveness that is ‘fallen’, and an unbelief in God’s grace and power.

Mr-Freeze-1Perhaps all our personality conflicts are merely chances for us to learn how to love and receive special things from God. But we get confused with ‘our difficult people’ and situations. In our immaturity, we simply put them away where they cannot hurt us again. We may even encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, any use of our ‘freeze gun’ freezes us as well. Unforgiveness turns on us (which we didn’t count on) and the effect is cumulative. We can only absorb so much and we get hard and cold.

One more thing. We do this to whole groups of people. The alcoholics, the mentally ill, other races. This can be called prejudice or stigma. Ask yourself this–have you ever been stigmatized or demonized?  You will usually know it. But we cannot afford to be controlled by our unforgiveness. There is far too much at stake.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.”

Mark 11:25, AMP

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Little Sin, Little Love— Much Sin, Much Love

 “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  

Luke 7:47 

I have been a disciple of Jesus for almost 35 years.  But it seems that I really haven’t been a desperate lover of Jesus until recently.

I have seen a lot of stuff, so I made a quick list–

  • the charismatic movement
  • the Imperials
  • New Wine Magazine
  • “I Found It”
  • Larry Lea‘s Prayer Program
  • the PTL Club
  • the Shack
  • Jesus’ festivals, Festival of the Son
  • Promise Keepers
  • Anita Bryant
  • the Living Bible, youth edition
  • YWAM teams, the Candle– SF
  • Four Spiritual Laws
  • ’88 Reasons Why
  • “Honk if You Love Jesus”
  • street preaching in Haight Ashbury, SF
  • Don Francisco
  • carrying the cross, Arthur Blessit
  • the Hiding Place
  • Watchman Nee
  • Outdoor baptisms in city parks

I’ve been exposed to a lot of winds blowing through, and moving on.  You learn to separate the chaff from the grain.  Much of my life has been spent winnowing out to get to the good stuff.  God, through his word describes a coming “trial by fire” over each person’s works.  Romans 14:12 says, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”    

One time I walked as a backslidden Christian. I remember once waking up from a drunken stupor with my t-shirt soaked in blood. That blood was someone elses.  I sobered up really quick.  There was this shadowy awareness of beating someone to the point of death.  I still catch myself wondering what exactly happened.  There is so much stuff that will be revealed, and I have done many despicable things.

The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ. The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and our faith in Him. All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them. We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed.    

The word used is “bema seat”, it was where the judge sat during athletic contests.  Think of the high chair on which a court official sits during a tennis match.  His word is not to be debated or ignored.  Jesus fully intends to judge us.

The issue will not be our salvation, but our faithfulness.    

Loving Jesus must become your critical objective for the rest of your days, 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.”  We also read of the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet, “therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

My dear one, practice loving him– starting today.  Many are the doers, few be the lovers.  The demanding weight of evangelism and world missions has quadrupled in the last 10 years.  Now is our time!  We love much!  Time is becoming short.

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A Very Simple Grace

“Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be.”

“My message, unchanged for more than fifty years, is this: God loves
you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because
nobody is as they should be. It is the message of grace…A grace
that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages
as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five…A grace that
hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking
of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands,
or buts…This grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without
asking anything of us…Grace is sufficient even though we huff and
puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot
cover. Grace is enough…Jesus is enough.”

― Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

 

 

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