The Word Made Flesh, by Brennan Manning

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Christ Pantocrator, God incarnate in the Christian faith, shown in a mosaic from Daphni, Greece, ca. 1080-1100.

One night a dear friend of Roslyn’s named Joe McGill was praying over this passage in John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

In the bright darkness of faith, he heard Jesus say: “Yes, the Word was made flesh. I chose to enter your broken world and limp through life with you.”

On the last day, when we arrive at the Great Mansion in the Sky, many of us will be bloodied, battered, bruised and limping. But by Christ, there will be a light in the window and a “welcome home” sign on the door.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.”

Revelation 22:14

From The Ragamuffin Gospel, by Brennan Manning. Copyright 1990 by Brennan Manning. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

 

 

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Our View From the Tree

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

3He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

 7All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ “

Luke 19:1-7

This particular story is one of my personal favorites.  Zacchaeus faced with the chance of missing Jesus shows his resourcefulness by running ahead.  He positions himself up in a tree that grew by a busy road.  Climbing up he placed himself where he could see Jesus.

I can see Jesus stopping under Zacchaeus’ tree, looks up and calls him to come down. “I must stay at your house today”, Jesus declares.  Now there is some serious protocol issues here.  A guest never invited himself to dinner, that just didn’t happen.  Also Jesus, as an esteemed religious teacher/prophet/messiah was supposed to set an example and not to associate with “sinners”. Rules are being broken.

There are many lessons here for the modern disciple.  We would do well to meditate on the many issues imbedded in the text.  The graciousness of Jesus is profound.  He is kind and yet assertive at the same time.

Imagine if this account was all  the New Testament we had, what would our mindset be like?  I think we’d all have to make some adjustments. To put it simply, Jesus is not normal.  He touches peoples hearts in unorthodox ways.

I think what blesses me the most is Zacchaeus’ decision to climb that tree.  He is a man who is “vertically challenged.” But basically he overcomes his liabilities when he commits to climb up into the branches.  He positions himself to see Jesus, and you can’t say a thing against that. Zacchaeus’ adventure is just now begun.

But isn’t that is what we do as Christians?  We put ourselves in a place where we can be close to him.  Think about the ‘disciplines’ of the Christian.  Disciplines like prayer, fasting, Bible study, tithing, baptism, serving and worship.  All of these are like branches on the Sycamore tree.  Ascending we put ourselves in place where Jesus is coming.  It is a way of seeing Jesus. But, that is surely enough.

When I pray, I do so in order to see Him more clearly.  

I can get it all confused and see it as an end in itself.  This is a common flaw in our thinking.  We forget that all these disciplines do is to help us see Jesus. Nothing more– just to see Jesus, and to be seen by Him.

Zacchaeus did not stay in the tree, you might say the tree accomplished its purpose when Jesus drew close.  Zacchaeus did not say, “Jesus, I have this wonderful spot, and it took ‘effort’ to get here. I think I will stay right here.” No, he didn’t just want to climb– he wanted to see Jesus.

“Sir, we want to see Jesus.”  John 12:21

 

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Ramblings of a Broken Believer [Weakness]

art by J. Minton

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”   

— C.S. Lewis

I think I am often a creature of habit, far more than I’d like to admit. I rather think we choose our habits, and inclinations.  They in turn decide our paths.  We give ourselves too much credit, to decide and direct.  Simply put, we are not that big. I honestly don’t think we have the power to steer our lives.

Somebody once told me, “The purpose of life is not to find your freedom; but to find your master.”  I don’t live that way, at least my inner propensity does not include God.  Did you ever think something like this?  “I wish God did not exist.  I want to be in charge, and I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it!”  Living it all with no rules and no accountability! Somehow I still seem to find myself sitting on my throne.

But as we get older, our hair goes gray and we look in the mirror and see bags and wrinkles, we realize how vulnerable and how tenuous life really is.  If we are honest, and sufficiently self-aware, we find ourselves needing to understand that we will never be able to seize control of the known universe.

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans,” John Lennon observed.  It seems that reality is that it is something that springs on you, and you have an epiphany, shocked to the core.  Life has happened, and you didn’t even realize it.  We are quite undone, and we don’t really understand what it is all about. This is often the case.

I sometimes look at myself in the mirror, not in vanity, but in amazement.  The ugly tattoos, and the ‘track marks’ are from another life. I have scars on my wrists from a couple of suicide attempts.  There is an amazing surgical zipper scar from a brain tumor.  I walk with a cane.  I am learning how to be broken.  And everything that has happened has happened for a reason.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”   I sense that he did learn, otherwise he couldn’t of said that.

Re-reading this I decided that I ramble a lot.  Forgive me.  Maybe there is a scrap or two in it for someone.

“I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.”

1 Corinthians 2:3

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Fire Walking [Protection]

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
     When you cross rivers, you will not drown.
    When you walk through fire, you will not be burned,
      nor will the flames hurt you.”  

Isaiah 43:2, NCV

There is an unique immunity that is given to the simple.  Believers find that suddenly they have been inoculated against a reality that others can’t understand.  Passing through the waters, we find the divine presence.  We discover it and find that it covers us.

Daniel tells us of three men dropped into a super heated furnace. To survive was impossible, and yet they felt no heat or flame while inside. That is a tremendous thing for believers to understand.

Having Him to cover us is a profound thing.  There are many reasons this should not be happening to us, and not given any serious thought.  And yet He appears out of nowhere, and declares that we are completely immune to every attack against our desperate souls.

Jesus watches over us.  He concentrates His focus on us, and we find a strength that is almost absurd, something that doesn’t make any sense at all.  He covers us from all the ugliness that could be focused on us.  A barrier is put around us.   His care protects us and shields us from the insidious attacks on our very vulnerable hearts.

Isaiah 43 declares that there is an certain immersion of grace that surrounds our souls. 

We encounter a sense that He is there and that He will not let anything happen to us.  This security is not from anything we produce, maintain or manufacture.  He brings it to us without any logical reason.  It’s called “grace” and it gives us a certain protection.

This world generates a lot of ugliness.  We must enter and pass through a whole lot of difficulty and pain.  Water and fire, that in abundance, are things that will happen to us.  We will deal with these things, and work our way through them.  One thing needs to be understood,   His spirit in us resists being controlled by sin.

We travel through intense times when our faith seems ludicrous, when it seems weak and illogical.  But somehow we make it, and we will pass through this and other challenges.  He intervenes and brings us safety and strength.  We are indeed survivors, and we pass through all evil and darkness without being scorched or singed.

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

Philippians 1:6, NLT

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The Diary of a Bible

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JANUARY: A busy time for me. Most of the family decided to read me through this year. They kept me busy for the first two weeks, but they have forgotten me now.

FEBRUARY: Clean-up time. I was dusted yesterday and put in my place. My owner did use me for a few minutes last week. He had been in an argument and was looking up some references to prove he was right.

MARCH: Had a busy day first of the month. My owner was elected president of the PTA & used me to prepare a speech.

APRIL: Grandpa visited us this month. He kept me on his lap for an hour reading I Cor 13. He seems to think more of me than do some people in my own household.

MAY: I have a few green stains now. Some spring flowers were pressed in my pages. I suppose this was bound to happen– after all, it is spring!

JUNE: I look like a scrapbook. They have stuffed me full of newspaper clippings – one of the girls was married. I get to hold the “glad tidings.”

JULY: They put me in a suitcase today. I guess we are off on vacation. I wish I could stay home; I know I’ll be closed up in this thing for at least two weeks.

AUGUST: Drat. Still in the suitcase.

SEPTEMBER: Back home at last and in my old familiar place. I have a lot of company. Two women’s magazines and four comic books are stacked on top of me. I wish I could be read as much as they are.

OCTOBER: They read me a little bit today. One of them is very sick. Right now I am sitting in the center of the coffee table. I think the Pastor is coming by for a visit.

NOVEMBER: Back in my old place. Somebody asked today if I were a scrapbook.

DECEMBER: The family is busy getting ready for the holidays. I guess I’ll be covered up under wrapping paper & packages again … just as I am every Christmas.

I recently came across a statistic claiming that only about 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible. Does the other 90% include you? Guilt is not the reason for this post, but I do want to encourage my readers to pick it up and read. It is not an ordinary book.

16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

2 Timothy 3:16

“The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”

— George Muller

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How Things Grow, [Work]

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A farmer slowly walks behind his plow. The ground is hard and unyielding, but the steel cuts the heavy sod like a knife. He is preparing the soil for receiving the seed. He knows that what he is doing is imperative and he shouts out to encourage the horse. Its getting late and he wants to cut another furrow before night.

Plodding behind the plow he thinks many things. He can break up the ground, till and fertilize it, sow the seed— and then wait. He is powerless it get the seed to germinate and grow. He is limited to cultivating the soil and waiting. That is all he can really do, and he accepts this powerlessness. He can do everything right, and still not have a crop. All he can do is his part.

The farmer works in partnership with God. He is dependent on Him to grow the seed. The farmer must rely on the weather to meet and engage the planted seed. There are no shortcuts here. He does all he can, and then hopes that it is enough.

Farming is a joint endeavor between man and God. The man does what he has to do. God takes what the man has done and then finishes it. The crop will grow because He wills it. The farmer plays a part for sure, but ultimately God must become involved. Afterall, He makes the seed to sprout and grow.

We can say decisively that the pursuit of holiness in a Christian’s life is a joint endeavor between a believer and God.

Each have made the effort. The Christian does what is necessary, and then the seed is finally sown. It is then up to God to make the seed become the seedling. But each must work to finish the growth.

No one can attain holiness in their life apart from the work of preparation (it’s indeed work). The man must prepare the ground through plowing and cultivating. The farmer works the ground in order to make the ground ready. On the other hand, God provides both the environment and the growth needed to grow the seedling. Both the farmer and God must do their work.

A life of holiness is not automatic. It will never come at measured pace, trickling into our souls at a mechanized rate. (It would be nice if it would). Rather it wheat-field-landscape-picture_1920x1200_79595seems to come, in fits and spurts, sputtering rather than simply flowing.

Holiness is like a steamy Amazon jungle, vibrant and full of life. It is saturated with things living and green. It is not like an arid and sterile desert. Holiness is pulsating and powerful, full of lush growing things.

Becoming a person of holiness is the grandest adventure for the human soul. It defies our tendency to be rigid and legalistic. It is quite the opposite. It is tapping into life itself, and who is up to the task? Our morbid ideas of what holiness are not worthy of what really is.

Yes, to be holy is to work. Just as the farmer must prepare the soil for the seed, we too must guide our plows. God is ready to sow, and we should be ready to be ready. That is if we want to be fruitful and productive.

“Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth!”

 Jim Elliot

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Traveling Mercies, [The Journey]

Things can get pretty grim just living life.  But add a disability, and suddenly blam! It gets worse.  A mental illness intensifies life, and the weird concoction of symptoms and hospitals, therapists and medications and family/friends is a bit daunting for anyone. Imagine, that it’s a bit like running through the wilderness slathered in ‘bacon grease,’ trying to stay ahead from the bears (I’m writing this from Alaska, hence the bear imagery, lol.)

My walk with Jesus has extreme variations (at least, on my part.)  I’m up, and then I’m down.  I’m on fire and then I’m cold.  I struggle to attempt at least a modicum of consistency, wishing I could just put two ‘good days’ together.  I am ashamed by this volatility.  The apostle Peter, or David are probably the only guys in scripture I can really understand.

The impulsivity of my mental illness has driven me to turn my credit cards over to Lynn.  I try to avoid liquor stores, porn sites, and urges to strip off my clothes and run down Pioneer Avenue.  I definitely try to go to Church, read the Bible and pray.  But I have been known to hallucinate, I hear things, and get awfully paranoid.  I’m always, it seems just one step ahead of my psychiatrist in avoiding the hospital.  (And I want to keep it that way.) And suicidality is an almost real monster– always lurking for me under my bed.

But I have also learned many other things from being a mentally ill believer:

  • When its really dark, His love always comes through. He understands me. He intentionally ‘looks’ for me. He’ll never quit on me.
  • My discipleship is not about the externals of my theology, but it’s about romance from my heart.
  • In my pathetic brokenness, He is my strength and my shield. Always.
  • Worship and prayer are more like invasive “medical procedures” that keep me alive.
  • Love. I’m learning to be kinder and more aware of others then ever before.
  • I want to live in the Light and respond to others in Christlike way. Never out of my fallen sinfulness.

I suppose I could add more, if I thought about it.  Ultimately, it all comes down to the presence of Jesus Christ coming to meet me, to forgive me and to change me.  This simple blog is saturated with posts that other Brokenbelievers can wade through, and some just might help, lol.

The title of this post alludes to a quote I found. I’ve gently modified it. Not sure where I found it. But it gives the explanation for all that I’ve said:

“Life should NOT be a journey to heaven with the
intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well
preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways,
with bruises and band-aids, and some tears as well, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming… “WOO HOO what a ride!”

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