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Some Christmas Advice

Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. 

I grew up in the northern part of Wisconsin, and my most valuable and tenderest recollections are my Christmases.  I was raised in a Norwegian Lutheran church, (Think: Lutefisk.). Many memories flow from that; the cold, the snow and the tree, and the presents.  I’m a ‘wealthy’ man through all of these great memories.

Even when it was bad, it was still very good.

I remember our annual Nativity play at Church. I fondly remember the sticky, caramel-covered ‘popcorn ball’ each one of us would get from the church ladies aid.  I also remember a very bleak Christmas when there was no money to be had for presents. A local charity came through at the last minute with gifts. I was profoundly touched by all of this, and more. 

But I have no real way of instilling any of this to you. 

However, I do exhort you to go out of your way to minister to the young hearts you have contact with.  Help them believe.  Make it easy for them to touch the miracle of the manger.  Let them leave your company yearning for  God’s presence in their day. 

It won’t take much, maybe keen imagination on your part and humble prayer.  But those things you do may spark, ignite and become a blaze that will direct them through their lives.  Be kinder than you need to be. Purposefully do things that will impact them, even small things often carry an astonishingly strong influence.

You may be in the thick of it.

Just maybe you have lost the purpose and meaning of this day. But I’m pretty sure any failure isn’t permanent. But at least, try to do as much as you’re what able. Let Linda and I pray for you this season. Email us please.

A Lutefisk History – Lutefisk Recipe 

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“Darkness is My Only Companion”

“Lord Jesus Christ, you are for me medicine when I am sick; you are my strength when I need help; you are life itself when I fear death; you are the way when I long for heaven; you are light when all is dark; you are my food when I need nourishment.”

Ambrose of Milan (340-397)

Our theology makes all the difference in fighting depression, writes Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Author of “Darkness, Is My Only Companion” and Episcopal priest. Here is an excerpt where she introduces the depression of Christians.

*** 

In his Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis says that suffering is uniquely difficult for the Christian, for the one who believes in a good God. If there were no good God to factor into the equation, suffering would still be painful, and  ultimately meaningless.

For the Christian, who believes in the crucified and risen Messiah, suffering is always meaningful. It is meaningful because of the one in whose suffering we participate, Jesus. This is neither to say, of course, that suffering will be pleasant, nor that it should be sought. Rather, in the personal suffering of the Christian, one finds a correlate in Christ’s suffering, which gathers up our tears and calms our sorrows and points us toward his resurrection.

In the midst of a major mental illness, we are often unable to sense the presence of God at all. Sometimes all we can feel is the complete absence of God, utter abandonment by God, the sheer ridiculousness of the very notion of a loving and merciful God. This cuts to the very heart of the Christian and challenges everything we believe about the world and ourselves.

I have a chronic mental illness, a brain disorder that used to be called manic depression, but now is less offensively called bipolar disorder. I have sought help from psychiatrists, social workers, and mental health professionals; one is a Christian, but most of my helpers are not. I have been in active therapy with a succession of therapists over many years, and have been prescribed many psychiatric medications, most of which brought quite unpleasant side effects, and only a few of which relieved my symptoms. I have been hospitalized during the worst times and given electroconvulsive therapy treatments.

All of this has helped, I must say, despite my disinclination toward medicine and hospitals. They have helped me to rebuild some of “myself,” so that I can continue to be the kind of mother, priest, and writer I believe God wants me to be.

During these bouts of illness, I would often ask myself: How could I, as a faithful Christian, be undergoing such torture of the soul? And how could I say that such torture has nothing to do with God? This is, of course, the assumption of the psychiatric guild in general, where faith in God is often viewed at best as a crutch, and at worst as a symptom of disease.

bad-times-333-300x250How could I, as a Christian, indeed as a theologian of the church, understand anything in my life as though it were separate from God? This is clearly impossible. And yet how could I confess my faith in that God who was “an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1) when I felt entirely abandoned by that God? And if this torture did have something to do with God, was it punishment, wrath, or chastisement? Was I, to use a phrase of Jonathan Edwards’s, simply a “sinner in the hands of an angry God”?

I started my journey into the world of mental illness with a postpartum depression after the birth of our second child. News outlets are rife with stories of women who destroy their own children soon after giving birth. It is absolutely tragic. Usually every instinct in the mother pushes toward preserving the life of the infant. Most mothers would give their own lives to protect their babies. But in postpartum depression, reality is so bent that that instinct is blocked. Women who would otherwise be loving mothers have their confidence shaken by painful thoughts and feelings.

Depression is not just sadness or sorrow.

Depression is not just negative thinking. Depression is not just being “down.” It’s walking barefoot on broken glass; the weight of one’s body grinds the glass in further with every movement. So, the weight of my very existence grinds the shards of grief deeper into my soul. When I am depressed, every thought, every breath, every conscious moment hurts.

And often the opposite is the case when I am hypomanic: I am scintillating both to myself, and, in my imagination, to the whole world. But mania is more than speeding mentally, more than euphoria, more than creative genius at work. Sometimes, when it tips into full-blown psychosis, it can be terrifying. The sick individual cannot simply shrug it off or pull out of it: there is no pulling oneself “up by the bootstraps.”

And yet the Christian faith has a word of real hope, especially for those who suffer mentally. Hope is found in the risen Christ. Suffering is not eliminated by his resurrection, but transformed by it. Christ’s resurrection kills even the power of death, and promises that God will wipe away every tear on that final day.

But we still have tears in the present.

We still die. In God’s future, however, death itself will die. The tree from which Adam and Eve took the fruit of their sin and death becomes the cross that gives us life.

The hope of the Resurrection is not just optimism, but keeps the Christian facing ever toward the future, not merely dwelling in the present. But the Christian hope is not only for the individual Christian, nor for the church itself, but for all of Creation, bound in decay by that first sin: Cursed is the ground because of you … It will produce thorns and thistles for you …” (Gen. 3:17-18).

This curse of the very ground and its increase will be turned around at the Resurrection. All Creation will be redeemed from pain and woe. In my bouts with mental illness, this understanding of Christian hope gives comfort and encouragement, even if no relief from symptoms. Sorrowing and sighing will be no more. Tears will be wiped away. Even fractious [unruly, irritable] brains will be restored.

“Darkness: My Only Companion”

Kathryn Greene-McCreight is assistant priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church in New Haven, Connecticut, and author of Darkness Is My Only Copanion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness (Brazos Press, 2006).

On the web:  http://www.hopeandhealing.org/contentPage.aspx?resource_id=311

 

 

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Deeply Hurt

A.W. Tozer seems to have gotten a hold on something here. Those who step forward into discipleship or ministry will inevitably be hurt in some significant way. I wouldn’t say it was a ‘given’, but it is the common path we take. We must be aware–but often we can’t or won’t.

God really isn’t the problem.

He loves us and wants to really bless us. He is all goodness and grace. He has no evil intentions concerning you, and certainly has no desire to see you suffer in a crisis of suffering or trial. Even in times of temptation, He simply views it as a step to strengthen us; He never is out to trip us up.

I really think that the issue is us.

Our old nature–the sinner inside, delights in things like pride and selfishness (even in religious matters). Some of the most difficult people I have ever had to work with were in places of oversight within the Church. Sometimes it’ll take a post like this one, to simply remind us of what is happening. We’ll agree with the idea, but often we forget.

Could it be that the problem isn’t that we are too weak, rather, it is because we are too strong?

God’s intention is ‘to bless greatly.’ But my pride and self-will must be left at the door (repeatedly). My old nature cannot truly work in the Kingdom. Only when these issues are dealt with (repeatedly) will humility and brokeness transform us. Quite simply, there is no way around this. God uses broken things. We must be broken as well.

“It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

Vance Havner

Becoming broken is often a lifetime of trial, temptation, and affliction.

You will ‘log-in’ many hours in the desert. Many of His best soldiers have been recruited from that barren place. The Holy Spirit is our best guide through the difficult aridity of such extremes.

“Before God could bring me to this place He has broken me a thousand times.” 

Smith Wigglesworth

aabryscript

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Our City of Refuge

Buried in the Old Testament is the idea of Cities of Refuge.

They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope for us who struggle so. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— may be an ax-head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.

God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities were pretty much covering Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close. That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.

For us as believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essentially ‘criminals’ who have hurt others, and damaged ourselves in the process.

Outside of the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.

Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest died. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.

For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.

The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide—they are a real part of our lives.

I must tell you that safety is found in only place.

Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:

“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”

For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.

I encourage you to think this over and pray about this. Numbers 35 is a good place to start. That chapter is pretty clear. Look also at Exodus 21:13-14; Joshua 20:1-6; Deuteronomy 19:2-13.

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‘Sunning Ourselves in the Smiles of God’

kites

A boy stood on a windy hillside, flying a kite.

He continued to release the string of the kite and it went higher and higher until it was completely out of sight. One of his friends walked up and asked how he knew there was still a kite on the other end. He replied. “I know it’s there, I can feel it tugging on the line.”

Like the kite, we can’t see heaven with our eyes, but we can feel it tugging at our souls!

As a person with a mental illness, it’s easier in some ways to think about that place I am journeying to.  Through many cycles of depression I find this present life gets old, and the more I hear about heaven, the more excited I get.  I imagine a life without meds, and the constant monitoring of my moods. This place is going to be good, and that’s just the start!

 Heaven is described as:

  1. a great reward, Col 3:24
  2. present suffering not worthy to be compared with future glory, Rom 8:18 
  3. eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Cor 4:17-18
  4. surpassing riches of His grace towards us, Eph 2:7
  5. beyond all we could ask for or even think, Eph 3:20
  6. a complete and total healing, Rev 21:3-4

I sometimes think of my infirmities and pain.  I can’t wait to “shed” this mental illness. 

To be free from it will be one of best things I can think of.  To take off my depression, like a heavy coat on a warm day. To sit with Jesus in a cool garden with living water, that’s more refreshing than any iced tea. Eternity is my favorite things to think about–

“Where the unveile’d glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.

—Ezekiel Hopkins 

I want to encourage you who are struggling now, with depression, anger,  schizophrenia, paranoia, abuse, OCD, addictions, PTSD, bipolar or any other handicap. There is a day coming, when we will forget the challenging battles that we’ve had to face. Wait for it.

And I must tell you, with all the strength I can muster–take hope and just journey one more day, and go ahead, dream about heaven.

Love, Bryan

 

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The Facts of Life

An Internet List

  • At least two people in this world love you so much they would die for you.

  • At least fifteen people in this world love you in some way.

  • The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.

  • A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don’t like you.

  • Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

  • You mean the world to someone.

  • If not for you, someone may not be living.

  • You are special and unique.

  • There is someone that you don’t even know exists, who loves you.

  • When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.

  • When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you probably won’t get it, but if you believe in yourself, probably, sooner or later, you will get it.

  • Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

  • Always tell someone how you feel about them; you will feel much better when they know.

  • If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that they are great.

  • You’re intensely loved by God. He is now your father forever and ever.

 (from a list I found on the internet)

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A Life for a Life

entertain-cross

We must decide upon some things. This is not easy theology. It calls us to take decisive action.

The idea of Jesus dying on the cross for my sin is brutal. I’m left with the idea that I contributed to His death. But my sin had to be covered, and alas, and He did so. But I can never repay God for the drastic measures He took. But I do know that my life is now His. His for mine.

In many cultures it is a life for a life.

Some people groups believe that the person who saves another person is owed a “life debt” out of gratitude. I become His “property” because He died in my place. A life for a life. His for mine.

There are sins that I commit that He must pay for. This is not as easy as you might think; I confess my sin, and Jesus Christ picks it up. He has chosen to pay every and all penalties for it. I go “scot-free” while He must die. This is what He decided to do for me. A life for a life.

The cross was not just a Roman method of execution. It was planned in eternity for the rebellion of mankind. It was God’s “method.” He knew those “from the foundation of the world” but had to find a way to atone for their sin, and redeem them from Satan’s control. He must die for them. And it’s a life for a life. His for mine.

I’ve been ransomed and redeemed.

His death gives me eternal life– something which can ever be taken away. His own death makes me “holy.” The Bible promises me even more than this: forgiveness, peace, joy and “real” holiness. He has done everything, I have done nothing except believe.

His life for mine. A life for a life.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Romans 11:33, ESV

 

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A Plea

Being a Christian is not having better ideas, but having new eyes, a new heart. And God’s heart is broken over the sin and rebellion of men and women. Where’s the Church? Most never read their Bibles, they don’t pray or fast anymore. Instead, we listen to preachers who insist that political engagement is the solution.

This is not biblical.

The Church no longer has a passionate and all-consuming love and passion for Jesus (Rev. 2:4). We consult the internet and watch our favorite TV shows. We think that this is appropriate considering the evil we see. This is not the way.

Satan rejoices when we the Church capitulate like this. Most of us are not seeking the Lord. Churches are now a political force, and not a spiritual one. We don’t pray, and we seldom read our Bibles. We never fast or intercede. Our pastors never talk this way.

I heard recently a large church supported a chant, “Lets go Brandon.” (f**k Joe Biden). What a grief. We should be praying, “Let’s go Jesus.” (Or “lets go Church!) We’re no longer emphasizing the Kingdom of God. Statistics now tell us that only 20% of believers pray, and only 10% of us pray and intercede. Instead, we’re turning to the internet, and our favorite network commentaries.

Satan is rejoicing.

I believe we must be salt, we must be light. But we can’t adopt the world’s approach or techniques. We must pray. We must fast. We must read the Word again. We must become passionate about Jesus. Don’t allow yourself to be seduced.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

2 Cor. 11:1-3

This is my view. Others may believe differently. Please forgive me if I offend. That’s not my intention.

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To Give Beyond Giving

“Calling his followers to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow gave more than all those rich people.”

Mark 12:43, NCV

Heaven uses scales that earth knows nothing about.  Jesus calls out to His disciples, and they gather up close.  Life has a way of teaching us incredible things.  Circumstances usually make the best instructors.  These disciples did not need a didactic lecture.  They needed an authentic example of how of giving was processed through the economy of heaven.

The widow’s desperate poverty becomes the prime matrix of giving to the Father.  Her deposit was miniscule, hardly even enough for Jesus to even acknowledge.   Two pennies– laughable at best.  Many would give thousands more that day.  The widow gave everything she had.  The big ticket guys gave a very small precentage from their bank account.

The money box was a place of worship. 

Jesus acknowledged what this very poor widow did.  Some stood close to money box, and they would evaluate the giving of each one.  The text tells us that many came “with large sums of money.”  But Jesus declared the “widow’s mite” to be supreme.  Her pathetic gift was of a utmost value.

Upside down.  The view of heaven has turned everything on it’s head. 

Our first impression is almost always wrong.  This poor widow has been exalted to a place of example.  She now takes the spotlight as the model for us. Jesus makes her his Director of the Treasury for the KoG.  Two pathetic pennies!  And she becomes an astonishing pattern for us.

 

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When Despair Empties You

“It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of Heaven.”  

Acts 14:22

As a broken believer this happens to me:

#1, I breakdown, and begin to fray. I begin to despair.

  1. #2, my own ‘faith’ is questioned, I’m burdened by my sin and guilt, I eventially become unsure of my salvation.

#3, I feel like I’m all alone. No one can help me. I’ve sinned my way out of the grace of God.

Life doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

When you’re profoundly depressed issues like a simple hot shower and eating something besides top ramen seem impossible. I’m embarrassed to say I once went 34 days with a shower. I laid in bed unable to function. I suppose that is the insidious truth about chronic depression, I know it well. God seems far, far away. Life doesn’t matter anymore. I am way beyond ‘salvageable.’ I obviously don’t say it but I feel like I’m destined for destruction.

  1. Just a word here about Satan’s battle for our souls. He is evil far beyond human comprehension. His schemes and plots are his attempt to destroy me and to extend his darkness.
  2. The devil is already condemned and his power lies emasculated (ouch!). With the weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18) we protect family and friends. We set free the captive, heal, and preach the gospel to those who can’t see yet.

There is much I can do before it gets to this point. Life’s concerns can seem insurmountable. We must grab the truth that clinical depression kills people. It slowly devours “a sound mind.” It cripples before it takes away your life. There is nothing quite like it; people tell you it will pass, and that you’ll see the sun again. But at the time that seems to be the worst advice ever given.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

2 Timothy 1:7

Meds help a lot. I used to take Zoloft and that is a godsend. I never missed a dose. I know I’m not bulletproof. But I’ve taken it for several years now. (It’s like insulin for a diabetic). Taking meds may not be your cup of tea, but pray about it and at least keep it as an option. (Just be aware that only a doctor can prescribe antidepressants.)

Afflicted souls are special to God.

And that alone truly comforts me. Sometimes it seems like there is an invisible tether that holds from completely dropping off the edge. When I do pray–it is desperate and brief. (More like a quiet scream for help.) There are no frills and no eloquence, but I know I’m being heard by Him who guards my soul.

7uyhjn xoikjhgfdnb People for the mo2st part, are of little help. And I admit that my attitude can be less than stellar. “Unless you have been lost in this section of hell yourself, it’s best if you just shut up.” (I don’t really say this, but I’m tempted to.)

But there are only a few that can speak clearly.

Almost always these are the ones who have been through some affliction themselves. They have been hurt and they ‘walk with a limp.’ I’m convinced that they can speak in direct proportion to the pain they themselves have suffered.

When I was very sick once I woke up to find another pastor praying prostrate on my bedroom floor. He didn’t have to do or say anything else. He left without saying some ‘pious’ word to me, yet what he did was wonderfully done.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”   

John Henry Newman

Prepare in advance spiritually for the next. Identify those ‘dear-hearts’ who can help you in advance.Keep taking your meds, even if you think your o.k. And speak often with the Lord, and learn to listen to His voice. That “sound mind” is a promise for those who truly need it.

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The Equation of Discipleship

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

John 3:30, NLT

Before our Lord appeared, John the Baptist had incredible popularity.  Thousands and thousands came to him as he preached in the wilderness of Judea.  However, when Jesus initiated His own ministry, people left in droves to follow Him.  Imagine having a wildly successful thing going, and the next day having it fizzle.

I have discovered that it is one thing to be the center of attention, and quite another to be a minor player.  John the Baptist was the MVP, but overnight he was sent to the farm team (baseball metaphor).  Men and women reach for center stage, to be in the limelight.  But very few can move in the other direction gracefully.

A conductor was asked what the hardest instrument to play.  The interviewer expected that it would be a saxophone or trombone or some other.  The conductor just smiled,  and said, “The hardest is the second violin”.

How great victory was that which Jonathan must have gained over himself, when he rejoiced to see David raised above him! He discerned the mind of God in David, and had so learned to delight in God, that he did not see in David one who was to outshine him, but another faithful man raised up for God and Israel.”   

 
–Robert C. Chapman
 
Jonathan understood who David really was.  He had a sense of who was to be the new king. He had a conviction that understood David’s destiny and giftings.  Jonathan turned his back decisively on being made king.  Ambition was not in his vocabulary.  He could rejoice with David. Knowing this, Jonathan became a free man.

We must not aspire to being a leader as much as learning to become a true follower.

The need at the moment isn’t so much better leaders, but stronger followers. Often we struggle with this, somehow we believe, we’ll become “second class” disciples if we submit to another’s vision or giftings. The way of true servanthood is difficult for many. But to be a real follower will often mean not to strive or assert, but to surrender. That’s the way of Jesus.
 
Thomas a Kempis counseled,

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

  
That is an interesting place to find yourself.  But that is the need of the moment.  He must increase, become greater, and I must decrease, become lesser.  There can be no room for personal aggrandizement. 

We need people who know how to play second fiddle.

 
 
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The Strange Ramblings of a Broken Believer

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“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.  But I suppose 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 the way we like. That is what I’m thinking about today anyway.

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, how 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. I like this!

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 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 springs on you, and you have this bolt out of the blue that shocks you to the core.  Life has happened, and you didn’t even realize it.

I sometimes look at myself in the mirror, not in vanity, but in steady amazement.  The ugly tattoos, and the ‘track marks’ are from another life. I have scars on my wrists from a couple of suicide attempts.  I have an amazing surgical zipper scar from a brain tumor.  I have severe ataxia that makes me walk with a cane. I have lost the use of my right hand in an accident. But I am also 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 have said that.

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

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

1 Corinthians 2:3

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Short Timers

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.”

Ps 39:4, NLT

Typically, we avoid this level of scrutiny.  Life is best enjoyed in a relative ignorance, and we certainly don’t welcome the knowledge that our life is limited.  We are like people with a bunch of credit cards, and we impulsively buy whatever we want. But soon you’re gonna have to bay the bills.

But, do we really want to be reminded? 

Our time is brief.  Fleeting.  But the psalmist values the reminder… life has been scrutinized, and counted out.  We only have a finite number of days [they are counted out] and then we must say ‘good-bye’. 

You have an expiration date.

I am convinced that we are to be settled on our ‘finiteness’.  We are not immortal, nor are we perpetual.  Things wind down, and soon they will lay us embalmed and in a casket, and a memorial service will be held in our memory.  This will be, more or less, the end of us.  But we will go on.

Are you able to handle the truth? 

Your life will end, and there is nothing you can do about it.  Let it unfold, and take its lumps.  You really do not have a choice.  There is a limit to our living on this terrestrial ball.  We can make no further advance here.  It is finished.

The verse speaks of an eagerness to know one’s limits.  Tell me, remind me, how short it all is.  I want you to tell me, where the end is, so I can live my life in a response to the truth.  I want to respond to reality, whatever that may be.

We must calmly accept the end of our time here on earth. We can’t deceive ourselves.  We need to welcome the intrusion of a finish line. Let us live, men and women, in a full understanding of our limits.  Let us walk in the fear of our God.

“Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.”

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, The Message Bible 

 

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When Your Giant Mocks

 

Young David stood and looked at Goliath face-to-face. 

Physically there was hardly a comparison.  Goliath was almost 10 feet tall, a warrior since birth–we read of his armor–he was like a human tank. 

But David was just a pesky boy, nothing more.  Goliath preened and strutted into the field of battle, and simple David was stepping up for his first try at hand-to-hand combat.

And then Goliath begins to blaspheme. 

He boasts and mocks.  In his mind he believes is superior, his arrogance knows no bounds.  The center of the universe is the Philistine army, and he is their champion. He is contemptuous of everything else–physical or spiritual.

Goliath essentially is a ‘human’ wood chipper. 

Everyone who has faced him has been destroyed.  There have been no survivors to speak of. But I find David to be powerfully exceptional.  His reaction to the ‘human mountain’ of Goliath was to run directly at him.  This is an astonishing faith.

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground”.

1 Sam. 17:48

Many of us face a giant called guilt, pride, doubt or despair.

Satan (our enemy) has marched out on the field of battle, confident of his ultimate triumph over us.  We’ve been rightly tutored that there are enemies that can destroy us. I suppose that should terrify us. And we’ve also been indoctrinated to accept their control, and the inevitable slavery, with a spirit of timidity.

The ‘monster’ of despair is real and brutal.  Our destruction is inevitable in his mind.  Satan does expect to win over your soul, but Jesus stands as our advocate shielding us. We are saved because He wants us saved.

Yet so many believers, cowed and intimidated, surrender to the boastings of the giant Despair.  Hope, and faith are drained out of our being, and we become an empty spiritual shell.  The “warfare” dimension gets nullified, and soon irrelevant.  Despair reaches us and has the full intention of taking total control. It’s never satisfied with just a little bit.

David ran to the battle–to face his giant. 

He passed through the dark intimidation and influence to approach Goliath.  There was no passiveness or doubt to cloud his mind.  David took a spiritually aggressive position, he took on the fear, and then ran directly at the giant Goliath.  His spirit was untouchable.

As believers, we might struggle and David and Goliathpout.  We can turn our hearts over to despair.  We become available to the enemies workings.  And the confidence we might have through faith is dissipated into doubt and confusion.  But the victory we have in Christ allows us the liberty, through the Blood of Him who defeats our own Goliath of despair.

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We’re Pretty Much Scum

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“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”

1 Corinthians 4:11-13, NIV

The apostle Paul isn’t ashamed to be called ‘scum.’ He realizes that this is his ‘standing’ in this world’s opinion. He is regarded as a nobody and of little value by the ‘powers-that-be.’ A tension exists between the believer and the world system. The expectations that the world has is part of the package that we have been given. The message of the Cross is the ultimate foolishness. Jesus told his own disciples that:

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

John 15:18-19, NLT

 The world hates us because we belong to Jesus.

It is his reproach we bear. We should not see the trial and sorrows as our issue, and we shouldn’t get upset by the world’s snub. The tension is real and we can expect being ostracized. In fact, we might do well to be concerned if we don’t see it.

After all, hatred is such a hard word.

And the stigma should humble us— it has a supernatural origin. We shouldn’t expect otherwise. To follow Jesus means we will only experience what he is already gone through. Some of us will follow him even to martyrdom. The hardships and challenges do not invalidate our walk, rather they confirm what he said would happen. The world is under seige by Satan,  it is his spirit that controls the unbelieving world.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

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Father of all comfort, please come to your servants who are suffering for their faith in you. Meet them and hold them close to you. Give them boldness and awareness. Seek them out and make them your witnesses in a hostile world. Give them the Spirit of Jesus and help them overcome by their love. ~In Jesus Name, Amen

 

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Explaining True Humility

But among you, it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

Luke 22:26, NLT

Jesus Christ turned everything upside down. I know of no other teaching that might disturb his disciples as “humility.” I’m sure that they shook their heads and replayed what Jesus had said. (Maybe looking for a loophole?)

This is not something you just “click into place,” rather it’s a complete overhaul of living as a disciple. Humility is a process, not an event.

“So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Matthew 18:4

We may think children are wonderful, but hardly the stuff of the Spirit. And then Jesus shows up and we’re naturally schooled further. Generally, the attitude of a child can be seen as innocent, simple, kind, eager, curious, relying on others, and enjoying simple things.

As a bonafide broken believer, I find I’m quite consumed with “me.” Life can revolve around “me.” The awful nature of my mental illness is I get absorbed with it, and it is all I think about. And I hate this. It isn’t right. It isn’t healthy. It doesn’t honor God.

cropped-2719-500x500-2-2.pngThis list was written by Mother Teresa that sheds further light for us. Her discipleship was radically different than mine, and I have much– very much to learn. Perhaps you might commiserate our mutual lack.

These are the few ways we can practice humility:

  • To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
  • To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
  • Never to stand on one’s dignity.
  • To choose always the hardest.”
Mother Teresa (The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living)

 

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The Intensity of Evil

I have a heart–but it is broken and crushed.

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust, or even loathing. It’s more like a weariness, exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There exists is a real rigidity to evil, something intense. I have seen it– sin hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks about having a hard heart.

It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are only four options.

  • The first is seed that never arrives.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third possibility is landing on thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh
The Battle of the Heart

The question I have is this, can the hard soil become soft, and can the good soil become overgrown with thistles? Is this a static, set experience? Or could it be far more fluid? I seem to move from one soil condition to another.

I have found that my own heart drifts. I struggle with a mental illness where emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and then there. I may be depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

I so want my heart to soften.

I want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He is thinking about. Any sin I entertain has a hardening effect on my spiritual heart. This really scares me. But truly he still holds me close, and he keeps his steady loving hand on me. *

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Meeting C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite Christian authors.

It can take some thought to get the point he is making in some of his writings, but the effort is well worth the understanding that I gain. Some time ago I bought a journal that consisted of various C.S. Lewis quotes followed by about a page and a half to write my own thoughts about the quote. This blog entry is a quote and journal entry from that journal.

In “Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer,” Lewis wrote:

I come back to St. John: “if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart.” And equally,”if our heart flatter us, God is greater than our heart.” I sometimes pray not for self-knowledge in general but for just so much self-knowledge at the moment as I can bear and use at the moment; the little daily dose.

Have we any reason to suppose that total self-knowlege, if it were given us, would be for our good? Children and fools, we are told, should never look at half-done work; and we are not yet, I trust, even half-done. You and I wouldn’t, at all stages, think it wise to tell a pupil exactly what we thought of his quality. It is much more important that he should know what to do next.

I like Lewis’ prayer, for just so much knowledge of my own failings and successes as God deems to be appropriate for my spiritual growth today. If I was aware of all that God must do to complete the good work that He has begun in me, then I would be overwhelmed and feel completely hopeless at the enormity of my need. On the other hand, if I were in one single moment to be aware of all the good that He has accomplished in me, then I might become vain and think myself better than others whose canvas is still bare.

I am like an unfinished painting, more than just the bare canvas, but not a finished work fit for hanging in God’s art gallery. I feel as though my underlying sketch has been completed with Christ as its foundation, and some of the paint has been applied, but all the colors and the detail are not there.

What I need and hope is for God to help me see myself as He deems appropriate, not as He sees me (for He sees all that was, is, and is yet to be in me). If I saw myself as God sees me, that would be too much for me to bear. But I am thankful He knows what is best for me, and allows me to see just what I need.

You, dear broken believer, are also an unfinished painting.

You’re a masterpiece in the making. I pray He shows you just so much of your failures and successes, your weaknesses and strengths, as is beneficial to you this day so that the next brush strokes may be perfectly applied by the Master Painter.

You can find Linda’s own website at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

 

 

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Choosing a Christian Counselor

 
counselor-lucy
Written by “Holly,”  “In my search for a counselor, I visited a secular psychologist, read books written by extremist biblical counselors, and had tearful talks with my own general practitioner. I wish I had known then what TYPES of Christian counselors were out there and how on earth I could find help I could trust and afford.”

Why Educate Yourself about Christian Counseling?

Perhaps you do not suffer from depression, have a great marriage, kids seem to be doing okay, everything is fine. Why should you look into various types of Christian counsel?

1) Think of a Christian counselor as an invaluable resource, much like the family lawyer, pediatrician, or accountant. When problems arise, wouldn’t it be nice to already have the information you need regarding local counseling services?

2) It’s always a good idea to have information at hand so that you can guide distraught friends and family members to a trusted counselor who can offer biblical guidance and support.

If you are a believing Christian, I MUST recommend seeking a Christian counselor.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”

Ephesians 2:19

There can be a problem with secular counsel.

Many secular counselors will take your faith into consideration when treating you. However, as citizens of heaven, seeking counsel from a non-Christian is much like seeking counsel from someone who doesn’t speak your language…and he or she does not speak yours. Progress and inroads could be made, but in the long run, little will be accomplished.

There’s seldom wisdom and truth apart from godly counsel:

“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong.”

Psalm 37:30

Please try to find a Christian who is a professional counselor. There are a number of directories on the internet. Each individual counselor is different from the next, however, and you will need to interview any counselor before you decide to use his or her services.

If possible, find a specialist.

You may wish to choose a counselor who specializes in a specific area. There a number of issues for which people seek counsel, including:

  • Abuse
  • Addiction
  • Anger Management
  • Anxiety
  • Coping with Stress
  • Depression
  • Divorce
  • Eating disorders
  • Emotional trauma
  • Financial difficulties
  • Grief
  • Loss
  • Major life changes
  • Marital issues
  • Mental illness
  • Pain management
  • Parenting issues
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Pre-marital counseling
  • Relationship conflict
  • Religious doubt/ confusion
  • Sexual/ intimacy difficulties

The first thing to consider when choosing a Christian counselor is whether or not they are capable or qualified to handle the particular issue you seek counsel for. A marriage counselor may not be the best person to go to if your thirteen-year-old daughter is battling anorexia. This seems like a given; however, be sure your counselor has experience handling your specific issue.

Decide whether or not you would feel more comfortable seeing a man or a woman for your particular problem.

Seek a Licensed Professional

Also, if you seek counsel outside of your church, make sure your counselor is a licensed professional. I suggest finding a professional who holds a minimum of a master’s degree in their field of study, who have completed the required number of supervised hours, and who has passed your state’s examination to become a licensed counselor.

Remember that most counselors employed by churches are professional counselors, but some are not. A church counselor should be qualified through their educational experience, and have some sort of license or certification that enables them to counsel (generally they have a Christian counseling certification awarded from various Christian counseling training programs or colleges.)

Interview Your Prospective Counselor BEFORE Your First Session

Going into a counseling session before you know where your counselor is coming– I should never, ever exercise my personal freedom if that action infringes on the liberty of others. That can be dangerous, especially when you are in a vulnerable emotional position unable to clearly think or discern the counsel you receive.

Before your first session, make the counselor shares your faith and concerns about the issue at hand. If possible, bring a trusted companion along to get their opinion about the practice you are considering.

Some questions to ask your potential counselor are:

  • What is your Christian counseling approach?
  • Do they adhere strictly to biblical counseling or do they consider psychological approaches as well?
  • Will they work with your psychiatrist and or doctor?
  • What license or certification do you have? Is it from an accredited college? A Christian college? A training program?
  • Are you affiliated with any particular Christian counseling organization?
  • How do you integrate the Bible into your counseling sessions?
  • How do you incorporate prayer into your counseling practice?
  • Do you have experience counseling people with (insert the issue for which you seek counsel)?
  • What is your payment structure?
  • Will my insurance cover my sessions with you?
  • What is your view on psychoanalysis, medication treatments for psychological ailments, and other scientific approaches to mental illness?

If you have an opportunity to interview your potential counselor in his or her office, take a good look at the books on the bookshelves. The types of books displayed might give you an excellent indication of the types of counsel you will receive.

Before you make your final decision, pray on it, consult your Bible, and if possible, talk to your trusted general practitioner before seeking therapy.

Recap:

Educate yourself about the various types of Christian Counselors. When finding a Christian counselor, remember to find a licensed, experienced CHRISTIAN professional capable of addressing your specific issue. Interview your prospective counselor before attending your first session. Go prepared with a series of questions that will help you gain knowledge about the kind of counsel you will be receiving. Prayerfully consider whether or not you and the counselor are a good fit.

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(Bryan— I unearthed this from somewhere. Thought it might help someone. I apologize for not being to attribute the article.)

 

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Love is On the Loose

“Cross Jesus one too many times, fail too often, sin too much, and God will decide to take his love back. It is so bizarre, because I know Christ loves me, but I’m not sure he likes me, and I continually worry that God’s love will simply wear out.

Periodically, I have to be slapped in the face with Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Michael Yaconelli, “Messy Spirituality

I admit I live with a continuous fear that God’s love has limits.  That someday, I will sin myself beyond a Savior’s reach.  It nags on me and betrays me.  The fear that I will end up on some spiritual “junk heap” is real, and it is pervasive. I guess it has to do with the unbelievable richness  of God’s fantastic grace.

This doubt accentuates my depression, aggravating it and poisons my whole being.  I feel worthless and so alone.  Since my particular struggle is with paranoia, I end up bringing that with me into the throne room.  Kids who have been beaten by their fathers often visibly flinch when Dad raises his arm to scratch his head.  They cower and duck out of habit, waiting for the blows.

Our heavenly Father has gone out of his way to make the gospel truly good news.  We often have to be convinced of a love that cannot be diluted by the stuff of life.  And we who are the wounded and paranoid need that assurance.  We are loved with a love of such quality and quantity, and such magnificence that all we can scream is “GRACE!”

As broken people we must come and allow ourselves to be loved with this outrageous love.  Our depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, BPD, OCD, and schizophrenia are not insurmountable issues.  We are sick, we admit it.  We are different than other people (“the norms”).  But the Father delights in us. 

He especially loves his lambs who are weak and frightened.

 

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The Art of Denying Jesus

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“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.”

Matthew 26:75, NLT

Three denials are followed by three reaffirmations.

A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

John 21:17

The apostle Peter was a fervent disciple. He knew who Jesus was before most. He was always included in special times (e.g. the transfiguration, Gethsemane). He was favored by Jesus throughout times of ministry. I also believe that he was Jesus’ friend.

Peter is known for:

  • being called on the shores of Galilee, Matt 4:18-19
  • ‘almost’ walking on water, Matt 14:29-30
  • finding the tax money in a fishes’ mouth, Matt 17:24-27
  • having his feet washed, John 13:6-7
  • in Gethsemane– cutting off an ear, John 18:10-11
  • his remorse at denying Jesus, Matt 26:75
  • at the empty tomb with John, John 20:3-8

Peter’s own denials were of a serious nature affecting who he was, and who he was to become. Jesus astutely intervenes as they ‘breakfasted’ on the seashore. There would be three affirmations; one for each denial. Peter needed to meet the resurrected Jesus, and speak with him about what he had done. Peter needed this.

A denial has different intensities and can be used in many different ways.

Out of our own confusion, we realize that we can also deny Jesus. Perhaps frequently.  And none of us have an immunity as of yet. We deny the Lord when we refuse to speak of him to others. We deny the Lord when we fail to do what is right. Sometimes we deny him flagrantly, other times it is a more subtle attitude. At best, we’re still inconsistent, and at worst, apostate.

We’re not punished or abandoned for this behavior.

Human logic would suggest that we should be. But instead we are gently restored. Given the opportunity, Peter the fisherman, would eventually become a wise shepherd to the young Church. I would also suggest that Peter’s personal weakness would serve him well as a gentle, and caring pastor.

Peter, near the end of his life, goes ‘full circle’ and uses a very precise Greek word found in only two places in the New Testament. It is the specific form of the word “shepherd.” It is only used in John 21:16-17 in Peter’s restoration, and in 1 Peter 5:2. Peter encourages the Church with the same words Jesus himself spoke to him on the beach so long ago! Peter wrote:

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing.”

1 Peter 5:2, NIV

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Living Psalm 23

1-3 God, my shepherd!

    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

Psalm 23, Message

The Lord wants to escort you to someplace wonderful, it’s where there is a rich rest and a sweet intimacy– in spite, of conflict.  Everything is revealed in Psalm 23;

It is more than good poetry. It’s a way of life.

There is a preciousness just beyond our ‘status quo.’  It is an abundant life for eternity.  When you have apprehended it, you will understand what I am talking about, and wonder why you’ve missed it for so long. Eternal life has already begun even though many of us don’t walk as if it did. We have eternal life, right here—right now!

There is a place which we can enter into where Jesus is all there is.  His dear presence pervades everything, and there is no doubt about His lordship.  He rules completely, and He is “all-in-all.”

There is real evidence when you have appropriated this deeper life. There will be a surrender of all you have, and you will fully understand what it truly means to be His follower.  There will be a complete renunciation of all rights to yourself.  You will give it all up, with an insurmountable joy, just to walk with Him.

Live on earth as if you’ve already died, and are now living in heaven with Him.

There must be a definite place where you turn your rights over to Him. Perhaps His love has already pressed you into this.  Often there will be a disillusionment and cynicism with this planet and its ugly ways.  You want to escape all its dullness and jadedness.  You will step into ‘life-effervescent.’  He intends to walk you through many issues, but if He is close I will suggest you trust Him fully.

If you struggle with a mental illness: clinical depression, bipolar, anxiety issues, or schizophrenia, I want to reassure you, you are not a “lesser” Christian.  And my comments include you.  You are not on the ‘scrap heap’ of the Spirit.  In so many ways, you can enter in while normal people will struggle.  And you do need to step into this, and discover a life worth living.

A “Psalm 23 life” is yours for the asking. Take it up, humbly and true. It’s your birthright to be with your Shepherd forever.

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Standing With Her in the Rain

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“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2, NLT

By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author

Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.

Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.

Cross-in-the-Rain-

My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.

A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.

It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.

I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.

I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.

There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place:

We stand with them in the rain.

Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis.

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Do Not Judge Too Hard

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”

Luke 6:37
 

“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.”

By St.Georgy

“Judging others and being quick to criticize just pollutes your life. Learning how to open your hand is the best thing you can possibly learn.”

Paul Stanley

 

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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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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

Communion_of_Saints
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

pentecost_holy_spirit

“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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