Hold Me Close, Through this Present Moment

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NLT

There are many different points where our Lord connects through our desperation. Our sorrow and confusion can be how God ‘wires us’ for additional contact— my pain becomes His copper wire. It is how He touches my heart as He flows through it.

It is helpful to see our issues in this way.  There is a current that must work through us, making contact and ultimately to create a circuit.  We have to experience pain, in order to know His presence.  If you see a brother struggling, you should anticipate an additional special touch to follow after him.  We must be aware that our distress allows us access to His careful grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with a special and supplemental power.

When it gets dark, any light becomes exceptional.  In a book by Stephen Lawhead, (I think it was “the Silver Hand.”) we see a man, the hero take up stones who have at one time been infused the creative power of the universe.  Standing on the walls of a besieged stronghold, the desperate hero throws the stones down on the attackers.  And as each stone smashes into the ground it releases a part of a song, which destroys the enemy, and defeats those strong in the darkness.

His Spirit infuses into our hearts.  He has imparted something in us that is both precious and powerful.  He works through the pain and struggles that we encounter.  These are terribly ugly, no question.  But it is through these we plug into something real and eternal. I suppose when the tragic finally brings real life it’s a most precious thing. We treasure all this that has come at such an exorbitant price.

Pain indeed has a purpose, and many times that comes  at a high cost.

This is our purpose. It is what we’re called to be. I know that life is seldom easy. It is said that Queen Victoria, (who reigned the U.K. at the turn of the century) resisted vehemently her future coronation as the sovereign of England. She became rebellious and there were many who were frustrated in this.  Once when Victoria was shown a lineage that directed her and revealed her place in England’s future as queen.  She responded with an astonishing simple awareness, “I will be good.”

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His Presence.”  

Paul Claudel

 

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Sheepy Wolves

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“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.”

Matthew 7:15, NLT

The old King James Version says, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing.”  There is something to be said about both translations.

Being aware.  Jesus commands this awareness, this discernment that our world is a dangerous place and dark things come out of it.  Deception is always working, the true believer must keep learning.  We must identify sheep, who are not really sheep after all.  They look like sheep, unless you get close.  They smell like sheep.  They appear gentle and kind.

But inside they are malignant and treacherous.  Jesus chose the word, “dangerous.”  We pretty much avoid anything dangerous. If there is a sign on the beach, and if it says “Dangerous Undertow,”  most of us will comply and our time in the water is alert and quite aware.

There are people in the world who should have that sign, as they are treacherous and deceitful.  They say many things, and there is enough there to seem authentic.  As simple believers, we feel we should trust without questions. We avert our eyes to anything unseemly or aberrant.  Isn’t this what a loving Christian is supposed to do?

Jesus never told us to be tolerant, at least not like this.  He understands that wolves will tear apart sheep, ripping them into ribbons, if given half the chance.  He commands us to exercise caution.  But already there has been way too much “sheep dismemberment” in our generation.  The flock has been chased and separated, many have already been devoured.

Jesus is encouraging us to become discerning  and aware,  and teach it to our children and friends.  We shouldn’t be paranoid, or frightened by the world that swirls around us.  And there will always be people with mixed motives and confusing thoughts.  If we are honest, we ourselves have these same things, as we are His work in process.

Exteriors are always a big question mark.  The main issue is the delicate art of observation.  The more we get to know Jesus, the more we will identify what is a lie, a trick or a deception.  The Secret Service of our country, in learning to understand counterfeiters will study at length the real currency.  It’s interesting, they don’t study the false bills, but the real ones.

Be encouraged.  He is standing right in front, making intercession for you before the Father.  The Word is ours also, and there are pastors and teachers, who are shepherding the flock.  You are targeted, but never forsaken.  Our enemy is defeated.  Do not fear, never ever fear.  We have angels in high places who are our friends.

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Satan Wants Christians to Be Unholy

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

Hebrews 13:14

There is a simple holiness about a believer that Satan hates with a passion.

There should be a joy and peace in any holiness, and if there isn’t then you’ve got the legalistic version. And Satan delights in that. His ministry is to destroy that which the Holy Spirit has instilled within you.

Satan is disgusted with the real thing. It intensely bothers him when he detects the real thing that is within you. Holiness is the flag which he wants to shoot down. Satan is incredibly experienced at this, he has been at this for several millenia.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

1 John 4:4

In this toxic environment Jesus gives us His grace. We have been given the power to overcome the strategies of the devil. He are commissioned to resist him. All of heaven is watching us. Angels stand by to assist us. God’s Word helps us.

It is the simple believer who overcomes hell’s fearsome blasts, for he rests exclusively on the Blood of Jesus. “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). Jesus has given us His very blood to save our souls.

My illness was never meant to be an excuse tor ungodliness. I may be disabled but He leads me down “the paths of righteousness for His name sake.” I honestly want to follow Jesus (even if I don’t it so well).

“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”

Titus 2:12, NKJV

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

    C.S. Lewis

 

 

Posted in a holy shelter, C.S. Lewis, obedience, Satan, Serving Mentally Ill Christians, spiritual warfare | Leave a comment

The Gospel According to Job

Today, I want to bring out this book, out into the spotlight.  It is a tremendous devotional that makes its way through the book of Job.  I have leaned on it, and it has held me nicely.  I challlenge you to get a copy of this, and to let it work in the confines of your spirit and mind. ––Bryan

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Excerpt from “The Gospel According to Job,” by Mike Mason

 

“An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One who Lost Everything”

_______________________

A“Once I met a man who, like Abraham, had moved his entire household halfway around the world on the strength of a vision from God. When I asked him to tell me the story, he answered that there were three versions of that story, and which one did I want to hear? First, there was the version of the story that he told to Christians. Then there was the version he told to non-Christians. Finally, there was the truth. Job is a book that tells things from the third point of view. Probably, along with Ecclesiastes, it does this better than any other book in the Bible.

Not that the other Scriptures do not tell the truth. But Job tells the truth in a way that makes it almost impossible to pervert the truth into pious pabulum. A few years ago I went through a difficult time. Never mind what the problem was. It was nothing compared to the trials of Job. In fact, it was nothing at all compared to the sufferings of many of my neighbors right there on the quiet street where I lived.

But pain is pain, and suffice it to say that my pain was enough to drive me to my knees, totally defeated, half-crazy at times, and crying out for relief. Month after month the battles raged on, thick, dark, agonizing. I prayed, but somehow prayer did not ‘work.’ Usually nothing at all worked, except lying low and gritting my teeth until, for reasons entirely obscure to me, the straightjacket of oppression began to loosen a little––at least enough for me to get on with my life for another day or so before the screws tightened again. What else could I do? How was I to fight this?

In retrospect I can see that a large part of my anguish was rooted in the fact that there really was nothing I could do to control what was happening to me. I was absolutely helpless, and it is this, perhaps, that is the soul of suffering, this terrifying impotence. It is a little taste of the final and most terrifying impotence of all, which is death.

We Christians do not like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith, and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control over our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think that there are certain steps we can take, or attitudes we can adopt, to alleviate our anguish and be happy. Sometimes there are. But anyone who has truly suffered will know that when it comes to the real thing there is no help for it, no human help whatsoever.

Simply put, when we are in a deep dark hole we cannot think our way out; neither can we hope, sing, pray, or even love our way out. In fact there is absolutely nothing either we or anyone else can do to better our situation. We can have faith, yes; but in itself faith will not change anything. Neither faith, nor any other good thing that a person might have or do, can actually lift the cloud, move the mountain, or bring about an end to the problem.

Only the Lord Himself can do that, and when He does, as Exodus 6:6 puts it, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke.” How will we know? Simply because nothing and no one else could possibly have done it. In this kind of crucible, therefore, we come to a new understanding of what it means to be saved, what it means to be snatched away from the brink of destruction.

Here we get down to the bedrock of the gospel. During my night of anguish, I turned to the book of Job, and there I began to make contact with the gospel in a way that somehow I never had in studying the New Testament. Reading Job, I found myself experiencing in new and astonishing depth the reality of Jesus’ promise in John 8:32,

 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

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Our Salvation Is Quite Sure

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, and the three epistles that he wrote, and of course,  Revelation.

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

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eye witness to Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

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

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

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

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

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

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

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

 

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

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

 

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

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

 

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

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

 

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

John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us, but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.

aasignLinda

 

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Just Five Minutes

A few years ago my Dad was a passenger on a small commuter plane to visit us here in Alaska. Flying over the Kenai Peninsula he was looking at the beautiful mountains. when he noticed the wing flap violently shaking and then suddenly fall off!

After notifying the pilot he started to pray. The plane was able to make it to an alternate airport where the passengers were able to disembark safely. God worked a miracle that day.

Prayer works. And yet often it’s the last thing we want to do. Many Christians seem to be allergic to prayer. Only when they are in a impossible corner to they begin to seek God. Sometimes quite fervently.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:17. “Pray continually.” Yet at times we haven’t the foggiest what to pray for, we somehow believe prayer is boring. It has little to offer our daily routine. We think we do well without it.

I would like to suggest praying for just five minutes a day. It is a reasonable starting point. These five minutes will set your day and put things in order, Just five minutes can be an incredible and decisive contribution to your day.

We need to begin somewhere. Perhaps this is the “missing link” that establishes your day as a Christian. I suppose doing so can seem like a formidable challenge, but five minutes is a good place to start.

Prayer is an intimate conversation with our God.

Father, teach us to pray. Forgive us for living prayerless lives. We often fall short but our spirits are willing. Please help us to seek your face. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

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When Losers Are Loved

Before the bush, He calls to us

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.”

1 Corinthians 1:27, NLT

God has particular preferences when it comes to peculiar people.  He selectively chooses.  These choices are made up in his mind and heart.  For us to criticize them, is by association, faulting God. It just happens to be that He likes losers. He choses uneven performers over the gifted and learned, (1 Cor. 1:26).

There have been very many men and women tossed out on the trash heap of humanity.  They are often regarded as useless and irrelevant. But God loves the outcast and forgotten.

We who are the disabled know weakness intimately. We must deal with it 24/7; and it never takes a holiday, We are broken believers who are in love with Jesus and still we are broken. Talk about having faith for healing? What about the faith to be sick?

People who have experienced dealings so harsh– most likely— there is little pride or arrogance left. These are usually the marginalized, the losers. People like Moses,

“Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Exodus 3:11

Someone once said, “When God intends to use a man or woman He takes them and crushes them.”  The inevitable breaking is followed by a release of the Holy Spirit from their lives.  Moses is proof of God’s renovating presence.  You want the presence? Prepare for years of roughness, and misunderstanding. Prepare for the crushing.

At the burning bush, Moses was given the assignment of returning, confronting Pharaoh, and leading all the captives to the Promised Land of Canaan.  He had just spent 40 years as a refugee/shepherd.  In spite of a good education he had received while in Egypt as a prince, that wasn’t why he had been selected.

Moses has definite feelings of inadequacy and failure.  And his time in the desert did nothing to relieve this.  But a 40 year “prison” term will do that.  In chapter 4 of Exodus we read “the back and forth” conversation between Moses and the Lord God.  All of Moses’ objections were consistently volleyed back with comfort and promise.

As you read this, you may be aware of God’s presence.  He has called you to do something for him.  You have wandered off the path, gotten lost and suffered much.  The “desert” will do that.  But it all can be forgiven.  His alert grace is a velvet battering ram of grace and love.  He will (and does) discipline you–but only because he is passionately in love with your soul, and His glory.

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