Grace That Teaches

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

– Titus 2:11-12, NIV

The grace of God can be very obvious.  It is seen by all.  It is not sophisticated, and you don’t have to jump through any ‘hoops’.  Everyone can see it.  However, there are a couple of things that will block it.  The sins of ungodliness, and the passions of this world system.  These will short-circuit His grace– sort of like dumping a glass of water on your computer’s keyboard.

It is ‘grace that teaches’.  We learn and take our lessons from handling God’s grace in our own lives.  We receive our education from that grace, it tutors us and we grow in understanding as we understand His love for us. Grace comes, and we receive our lessons, and take notes.  We begin to understand others, and get a handle on life and all its imponderables.

Grace educates, but legalism never does.  The Law has absolutely no ability to educate our hearts and minds.  But God’s untiring mercy explodes on us, and we begin to download all that He offers.  Learning grace expands us, and we develop abilities that we never dreamed of.  We start to do things that amaze us.

One of the most amazing things is that we learn to say, ‘No!’  This is perhaps the ultimate ability–to just say no.  Saying ‘no’ means we will not step in that particular direction.  We won’t travel down that road.  ‘No!’ is in a sense is saying, ‘Yes!’ to what God wants.  Learning to do that is what we are doing here.

Grace is so gentle, and she is a perfect teacher.  She teaches me to be merciful and forgiving.  All that she has, she imparts to me.  When I receive from grace myself, I become gentle and joyful and kind.  When I receive from grace, I become a much more fulfilled Christian.

There are things that work contrary to this.  Ungodliness and the lusts made by this world’s system.  The dynamic of grace somehow gets “turned-off” when we get diverted into these sins.  And this happens all the time, it seems.  But developing a self-controlled, upright and a godly life will give us a deep and eternal perspective.

We are not created for living in a garbage dump.  We are royalty–we are meant to rule and reign, as Kings and Queens.  We have been made ready by Grace for this place.

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Hidden Doves [Love]

 “My dove is hiding behind the rocks,     

behind an outcrop on the cliff.

Let me see your face; let me hear your voice.

For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.”

Song of Solomon 2:14, NLT

Jesus really loves people, a lot–  and very deeply the Church that He’s saved from destruction. That dear ones, has never been an matter of debate. But honestly, how much does He love us? Please tell me again and again, because I forget so easily. (Someone, help me remember again.)

The opening verse is spoken by a young man who deeply loves a young woman. But his love seems to be a pale and anemic word, for it doesn’t begin to describe his passion and fervor. He loves this girl, and it’s a crazy, powerful love.

A minor thought, but I must share it, this book of Song of Solomon is frequently misunderstood by many– mostly because it’s not really doctrinal– it’s a Kiss! It is not fully understood because people read with their minds; but this one must be read with the heart. This book is 99.9% potent passion. It tries to explain God’s full heart to us who desperately need a crash course in the vigorous love of God.

Kisses are often reminisced over and seldom forgotten. They’re kept in the heart’s treasure chest. And you really can’t define a kiss– not a real one anyway. It can only be experienced. If you’ve been really kissed, you will understand. It can seem like a cross between being struck by lightning and a four-alarm fire. It can be gentle and soft, like the sun on a still, mountain lake.

The young man needs to see his girl. He delights in her face and voice. He has an incredible love for her. He madly yearns to see her– but she is hiding somewhere in the rocks! The chapter context tells us that she feels unworthy. Perhaps all she perceives is her ugliness and her shortcomings. She avoids him, hiding in her “safe place” of rocks and brush. It seems people still have many strategies, and varied ways to hide from God.

The certain love Jesus has for you is outrageous! It is a lot like drinking from a firehose!  It really isn’t rational. But saints– we have a problem. Somehow many can’t absorb His passion for us. I’ve been told that there are people who cannot absorb certain vitamins or minerals. Doctors step in and must find ways to compensate to help their patient.

There are some among us who really can’t take in God’s real love for them.

They may nod their heads, but it seems like they are impervious to a real, lasting love. They need seasoned brothers, and sisters to help them in this critical matter. From Jude 20-21 we read this:

20 “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”

God has clearly shown His love for you– over and over. In quiet whispers and also in blasting “fog horns.” The gospel is this:  Jesus, God incarnate, was abused, and then crucified for you and your sins.  When He rose, it meant you were totally forgiven. The greatest action, or decision you can ever take is to repent and then receive this gift. He loves you, and continuously calls out your name. It is time to turn to Him.

2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.”

2 Corinthians 11:2

“God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.”  C.S. Lewis

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Joy in This Madness, [Troubles]


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

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NLT

The issues we face can be hard and formidable. Our relationships, our circumstances can present daunting obstacles to joyful Christlike living. We live out at times from unpleasant realities and less than ideal situations. We are broken believers who follow Jesus through our minefields.

Struggling with mental illness is a challenge as with any other handicap. The young man struggling with bipolar disorder or someone else who faces a clinical depression, may seem to be tangled up in something quite brutal and very hopeless. “Will I ever find normal again?

I know that struggle, at times it has ripped me apart. I suppose the grinding hopelessness is the worst part of that.

I want to encourage you in this. The issues you face on a daily basis are hard. Don’t minimize their complexity or diminish their bitterness. But the Holy Spirit is with you in the midst of your issues.

I believe that their constant presence produces a faith and tenderness that can’t be just prayed for. The work is being completed even as you read this post. There is a wisdom emanating from the fire.

We walk through the trials, not around them.

I did not choose this path I’m on. But I’ve discovered a joy in them— more precisely a joy because of them. But alternatively, our illness is not meant to destroy us. That is not why God has allowed you to be afflicted.

“And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.”

Luke 7:21

Jesus has special spot for the afflicted, we see him repeated touching them. He drew them like a magnet draws iron. And he is the same today in our time. It is comforting to know that he cares and that we are understood so. Let him draw you into his caring presence. Disabilities do not trouble him.

Yes, the issues are formidable. But your obedience is an exquisitely special commodity. It is precious in his sight and will hold its value for all eternity. Understanding this should be a cause for joy for the broken believer. Having the lightness of heart, right in the middle of our disability, often transforms it into a lighter burden. “We are  beaten but not totalled. Incredibly challenged but not completely devastated.”

Bless a thing and it will bless you. Curse it and it will curse you. If you bless a situation, it has no power to hurt you, and even if it is troublesome for a time, it will gradually fade out, if you sincerely bless it.  There is a deep joy waiting in these ashes for those who choose to do this.

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Dismayed by My Own Fallenness

“As the Scriptures say,

“No one is righteous—
    not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
    no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
    all have become useless.
No one does good,
    not a single one.”

Romans 3:10-12

Scripture never, ever flatters the human ego.  It acts on us directly, “dividing the spirit from the soul.”  I find no glowing review of our “noble” humanity. The opposite is true.

At our deepest core, the Bible teaches that we are depraved—separated from truth and goodness.  In theology this is called, “original sin.”  (I don’t think there is really anything original about it.) There is also a concept called “contrition.”   It means, “having sorrow or sadness over sin involving making steps to amend your ways.”  Notice the definition instills a sense of action.  Perhaps the idea of penitence need a new emphasis?

Does your discipleship include the reality of you?

There are broad, generalized teachings that are woven into the Word— the iniquity and fallenness of men.  It consistently talks a seemless truth, without fail. ( That’s one of the reasons why I know the Bible is true.)  Yet the Father has made provision for our falseness and weakness, he sweeps nothing under a cosmic rug.  You might say the Scripture completely understands us, as us.  Our illusions and deceptions, blatant or subtle, do not confuse or mislead him.

Our discipleship must be “walked out” in brokenness. That is the only way it will work.

We have absolutely nothing to boast about.  I cannot point to this blog— or having been a missionary, a teacher and a pastor as my “good things.”  Today, I sat and became very aware of my inner wickedness. But because He directly intervenes in my life, I will not die in my sins like I deserve.

I am sad.  You see, I am fallen, a complete failure.  It’s easier to find water in the Sahara Desert than to find goodness in my heart.  As a matter of fact, I’ve taken evil to a new level.  I excel, and then I keep practicing it trying to squeeze out more and more power— pride— pleasure.

Those who mourn their contagiously evil hearts (Matthew 5:3-4) are the ones who God can comfort.  Our sadness over our sin (and the sin of the world)—is evidence of the Spirit’s action over our depravity. Look for it, and rest in the Spirit’s work.

“Original sin is in us, like the beard. We are shaved today and look clean, and have a smooth chin; tomorrow our beard has grown again, nor does it cease growing while we remain on earth. In like manner original sin cannot be extirpated [completely destroyed]  from us; it springs up in us as long as we live. Nevertheless we are bound to resist it to our utmost strength, and to cut it down unceasingly.” 

 ~Martin Luther

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He Won’t Give Up, [Patience]



But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners.”

1 Timothy 1:16, NLT

I find that I often worry about the patience of God. Not that my worrying makes any difference. But I am quite aware of my sin and my failure. I am definitely not a “model citizen” of the Kingdom of God. I believe I’ve committed more sin as a Christian, than I ever did as a pagan.

But I must insist on God’s patience. I would easily slide through His fingers if I didn’t. But it is good to pay attention to the fact of patience. It is a good thing for us that He’s completely patient.

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved.”

2 Peter 3:15 , NLT

The very idea that God can be patient both chafes and comforts. We might see Him “tolerating” sinners. But yet we also see Him forgiving our sin. Patience gives Him the freedom to do both.

We could get critical, and maybe even frustrated with God’s love for lost people. He loves the world (John 3:16.)  However, our love doesn’t extend this far. We see the superficial, and believe that to be the whole story. But it isn’t. We give up on people, but He doesn’t.

Often, “sinners” will become disciples. (And mighty fine ones, at that.) The patience of God works effortlessly in the hearts of “sin-confused” people. At times it seems like it is “two steps forward and one back.” But that is ok. God will wait for sinners like us.

The patience of God draws us into a repentant life. He is “long- suffering,” which means that He will suffer long. But slowly, inexorably He brings us to His side. We offend Him, disregard Him, but He continues to love us. It makes no sense at all.

But He teaches us, by example to be long-suffering. We see in Him such kindness and mercy. His love for us is immeasurable. He takes it far, far beyond human reason. His patience is illogical. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.”

Francis de Sales

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Delusions of the First Person Variety

When I first watched the “Matrix,” I completely flipped out. It explained too much. It took me a month to recover.

I need to briefly share what delusions are like.  I’m going to flip the switch and flood the room with light, and watch the “critters” scuttle to find a hiding place.  I’m doing this to help heal myself, and for you to understand this awful state of mind.

First of all– definitions

Delusion n.
A false belief held despite strong evidence against it; self-deception. Delusions are common in some forms of psychosis. Example.  Because of his delusions, the literary character Don Quixote attacks a windmill, thinking it is a giant (that’s the dictionary workin’ it for you.)

Delusion de·lu·sion n.
A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness.

Typically, my delusions have a common core of pride or self-centered thinking. For instance, I have experienced all of these:

  1. A woman loves me and she is secretly trying to be with me. This is very flattering and egocentric.  This  one can really mess with your thought-life. (Ego.)
  2. I’m the center of the universe, people really do not exist, except when they come into my life or influence.  [This one is a bit metaphysical.] See #7.
  3. I have special powers that ‘know” a person’s motives, plans and heart.  I am hyper-discerning.  The opposite can be true at times, where I become exposed to people, which necessitates me never leaving my room. I feel “naked” and of course, very uncomfortable.
  4. I get paranoid, thinking people are plotting with each other behind my back, working to destroy me.  Chat rooms, and Facebook are focal points for me with this one, but not always.  With this one I get really verbal, and I start zapping people.  I guess because it’s the internet I can do this with impunity.
  5. Clocks are always at the top of the hour, like- 7:00 am.  Or they are at the bottom of the hour, like 11:30 pm.  I call this “chronosynchronism.” I believe this is evidence that my life is orchestrated, purposeful, and this is evidence I am very significant.  This is my latest.  And it really isn’t super disruptive.
  6. I can read secret messages in books meant for me.  I also line up spaces in what I’m reading to form an unbroken line.  I compulsively do this.
  7. The big one is this, I am in my form of “The Truman Show”.  The universe is just a set and I am the only living thing out there.  Everything is focused on me (of course).
  8. I hear voices sometimes, but mostly a radio or sometimes the “dot-dash-dot” of a telegraph.  I think its trying to warn me in some code.  It can be persistent. And it can be disruptive. Paranoid that my giftedness is cause for the NSA to control me.
  9. My wife intends to poison me.
  10. Personal hygiene issues. Afraid of being murdered in the shower creates a super-phobia. I once went 6 weeks without showering. (I made my own eyes ‘water’, lol).

I guess all of these have things in common.  They are self-centered.  They are unreasonable and illogical.  They are compulsive. And yes, meds do work.  And the above list?  The delusions are only mild-to-moderate issues of delusional paranoia.  There are so many Christians and non-Christians who have worse. I once met a man who seriously believed he was Jesus. (And no, I didn’t worship him).

As a believer working out his discipleship, I’ve discovered that humility and openness is always the way of keeping one tethered to reality.  However, I have a fear that I will break loose and never come out again.  I MUST live in “brokenness”.  (So in a strange way, following Jesus Christ is easier.)

Also, I must be open to things that will invalidate my delusion.  Even if I’m 99% convinced, that 1% will cause me to consider thinking through a scenario.  Truth is your best friend when you are challenging a delusional paranoid.  But it has to be gently applied. Life doesn’t have be lived this way. Also, delusions will often ‘morph’ and change and take on modified characteristics. This seems to be part of the mental illness, but can also indicate demonic oppression (or both even).

A psychiatrist should be informed in most cases. Very often meds will be necessary to get your loved one through this time, but not always.

Praying for delusional behavior

People have prayed for me, more then I have prayed for myself.  Your intercession bridges a gap over this illness.  When you pray, you power up the energy cells and get instructions.  It may mean wait, or proceed.  Every person and situation is different. Prayer is always the best approach.

(So many delusions and so little time.) They will vary from person-to-person. An active prayer may help, “Lord, may it be the real me who touches the real You.” Remember, Jesus stands at the right hand of his Father praying for you [which can’t be all bad].

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

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Depression Metaphors, [Rust]


Trying to explain depression takes a great deal of effort. The explanations are seldom satisfactory and sadly inaccurate. Complicating the definitions are the two types of depression, which are quite different:

  • Mild (dysthymia)
  • Large (clinical)

Both of these are radically different and present a completely set of symptoms. Psychiatrists have diagnostic criteria they use to help them make a diagnosis that will be helpful to the patient. It is kind of a hit or miss judgement call, but there is some validity to their efforts. One of their main resources is the DSM-5 that standardizes treatment of mental disorders and provides a continuity of care.

Mild depression:

Imagine an abandoned factory. You walk inside and at once crunch over the broken glass. Dust covers everything and the once ‘well maintained’ machinery is now covered with rust. It’s damp and musty. You notice graffiti and an old clock frozen in time to 7:53.

Overall, it seems a bit grim and sad. The factory is in complete disarray, but a crew could come and restore it to a functional state. It might take some serious rehabilitation, nevertheless it could happen.

Large depression:

You enter the abandoned factory and are glad you’re wearing a hard hat they gave you at the office. The floor is pretty much impassable, looking up you see that part of the roof has caved in. The machines stand in place, but are hardly recognizable; the are misshapen blobs of rust. There doesn’t seem much of anything to salvage anymore. Things couldn’t get any worse.

Depression has many facets; but it’s always destructive. I find the idea of rust the most compelling. The rust is just oxidation; not even noticeable at first. A steel girder seems strong, but left to its own the rust slowly eats away at the metal. There are molecular changes happening. The integrity of the steel will soon be compromised. It can happen quickly.

I want to encourage to get your depression treated soon. If you have a loved one who struggles get help soon. There is a fallacy about depression that it is relatively  harmless— that one can deal with the ‘blackness’ without long term consequences.

If you are a Christian, you need to find help. You can’t ignore your depressive symptoms.

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