Photos: Rag Picking the Net

This is admittably an eclectic and eccentric collection.  I feel like a ‘rag-picker’, scrounging around to find things that are shiny, and pretty.  Maybe more like a big black crow, hauling  junk away to store on my hard drive.  Baubles and buttons. Shiny things.  A marble.

Here’s this Sunday’s collection.  There is a sort of a common denominator, I started by posting sayings and quotes, but ended up with everything. 

 

 

 

 
 
One of my all time favs. It speaks of God reaching for me.

 

Against the flow, baby.

 

"Jesus loves me this I know..."

Victory Over Affliction #4

So we plow on in this miniseries on “Victory in Our Affliction”. 

 

This is part 4.

****

 Part 1 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/09/23/victory-in-the-middle-of-affliction/ 

Part 2 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/10/19/more-victory-in-our-affliction/ 

Part 3 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/10/26/even-more-victory-in-our-affliction/

  

Afflictions Help Us Comfort Others

“Blessed be the(B) God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and(C) God of all comfort, 4(D) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”   2 Cor. 1:3-4, ESV

 

Being afflicted with pain and suffering manuevers us into the place of being the source of comfort for others.  God’s comfort energizes us to touch others.  So many hurt.  They are overwhelmed by pain and live in misery. A dynamic is at work here.  My pain brings God’s comfort.  God’s comfort is transmitted to others by me.  They are blessed and are strengthened to go on and touch others.

But its all about the ‘proper use of afflictions’.  Will we ‘turn’ and become active in the special economy of God?  We must accept that God intends our affliction to be the way of blessing for others.  When we hurt so bad, we see that grace flows to those who need Him the most.

How Do We Respond to the Pain?

First of all, we cannot escape affliction.  It is inevitable.  But will it bless us and others?  Pain has an intentionally deliberate purpose for us.  Since we cannot escape the pain, it would behoove us to take it and manufacture comfort for others.  We must learn to make affliction fruitful. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together(A) for good,[a] for(B) those who are called according to his purpose. 

Rom. 8:28, ESV

Keeping the ‘valves and lines’ open involves special attention to the sins of bitterness and anger.  These two are responsible for a great deal of frustration and impotence in the Christian’s walk.

First, We Need to Praise the Lord.

Coming and then staying in this place is critical.  We need to learn to praise from the ‘ash heap’.  “Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.”  1 Thess. 5:18, CEV.  Your heart must not become bitter, you must keep it sweet and responsive. “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy”  James 1:2

 

Second, We Should Pray.

James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.” From the ash heap we should be in prayer.  Praying at this time should be as important as praise.  Our devotional life needs to lift a notch into these dual disciplines.  By the way, prayer is an immense blessing to our our pain.  Its like aloe vera to a bad sunburn.  Prayer has a soothing and restorative effect on our blistered spirit.

 

Third, We Should Feed at His Word.

We are instructed, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.”  Ps. 119:67.  When you hurt, really bad it will make your time with the Bible and its promises so precious.  When I’m in pain the Word is the most precious thing I can think of.  A topical Bible can be very helpful.

“When I am hurting,  I find comfort in your Word that leads me to life.”  Ps. 119:50

“Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction.”  Ps. 119:92

 

Four, We Should Strive to be Patient and to Have Faith.

This is not a wooden or artificial issue.  We must deliberately choose this direction, daily.  Patience is foundational and fundamental.  With it, you will survive, without it things will get ugly quick.  “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.”  Rom. 12:12

Faith and patience will bring us a confidence.  When we ‘believe’ with a dynamic faith, we will be able to absorb some intense issues.  If you have ever driven a car with blown shock absorbers, you will understand.

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:4

Even More Victory in Our Affliction

 

Reach for the tape

 So we plow on in this miniseries on “Victory in Our Affliction”. 

This is part 3.

 ***

Part 1 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/09/23/victory-in-the-middle-of-affliction/ 

Part 2 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/10/19/more-victory-in-our-affliction/

*****

Can Our Pain Produce Anything Good?

Our pain tells us we are growing in Christlikeness.  When we hurt often the Lord will draw quite close, with pain focusing our eyes to see Him, others and His Kingdom.  It is far from pleasant.  Diamonds are produced in confinement and pressure.  Our faith is like a precious jewel ‘in the making’. Gold has to be refined to make it pure .  “I tested you in hard times just as silver [or, gold] is refined in a heated furnace.” Isa. 48:10.  Both diamonds and precious metals have to be worked on before they are recognized as authentic.  Often, it will be a blast furnace of affliction.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  2 Cor. 4:17, NKJV

“These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.” 2 Cor. 4:17, CEV

We can hold a sense that our different afflictions are actually our employees who work for us.  They ‘prompt’ us for what we need at any given moment.  For example, we need to grow in love.  What does God do?  He sends us very difficult and frustrating people for us to love.  He sends us His best for us!  Our lessons are given to guide us into a Christlike identity.

The natural impulse is to regard our affliction as eroding our faith, or degrading it.  But the opposite is true.  Affliction is like the weight bars waiting for us in the gym.  The bar and weights do not have an agenda or impulse to defeat me.  They are there to help me.  The gym is a wonderful metaphor for us to grasp spiritual things.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”  Romans 5:3, KJV

The word ‘patience’ simply means ‘endurance’.  And it seems we are starting all over in thinking that afflictions are evil, and to be avoided and rejected.  But actually the opposite is true!  We deal with the pain and frustration knowing it is working in us a ‘concentrated form of glory.’

“Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”  James 1:3

Essentially it is all ’cause and effect’ with our provisional acceptance to the Lord’s good intention, we let Him have His way with us.  It hurts, some may call it brutal, but it seems to be the only way for God to make us ready for eternity.

Disciples Wearing Steadfastness

“The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in men becoming like Him.”   

Harry Emerson Fosdick

 

Finally.  A voice of reason and understanding in our quest for to be Christlike.  A very simple dynamic that stresses personal intimacy.  As we walk and talk with Him we are affected, we absorb things by rubbing up to Him.  We become altered.  But it takes a “steady discipline” (that is probably the most intense words in this quote).

Steadiness is a very undervalued commodity.  This culture— my culture— has minimized this particular quality, and inflated others to take its place.  We put a new weight on certain things that eventually ‘throw off’ the equilibrium of our discipleship.  We extract ‘steadiness, or faithfulness’ from our faith and we are left with something that is only a “disciple”  in pretense or personal confusion.

Being steadfast means you are dependable and stable.  It is evidence ‘exhibit A’ that you have the Holy Spirit infecting you.

‘But as for you,(A) O man of God,(B) flee these things.(C) Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.’

1 Timothy 6:11

When we are in pursuit of something, we become incredibly focused.  Our peripheral vision is adjusted and we become focused on just reaching our goal.  Paul told Timothy to make these things his target, and then to pursue them.  But this particular verse, embedded as it is with concepts of discipleship is rarely (maybe never) given more than a fleeting glance.  Perhaps is is just too boring?

Admittedly there is a plethora of choices.  Our fellowships had just passed out spiritual menus for us to order from. (As it that were possible.)

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials(F) of various kinds, 3for you know that(G) the testing of your faith(H)produces steadfastness.4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be(I) perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

If we fully intend to become ‘biblical’ we will refocus on all that God wants to hear.  We are pretty much in peril if we buy into a gospel that is not balanced on the New Testament scales.  We will not grow at all if all we eat are “spiritual snicker bars”.

People like us are almost always trying to balance ourselves.  Bipolar depression is a vicious illness of extremes.  One day we are into this, and then we shift to another thing.  We walk a tightrope it seems, even while others are enjoying themselves in a steady, solid and comfortable walk of discipleship.  Being aware of your  balance,  propensity and momentum is a valuable asset to have.

Can These Bones Live?

 1Some time later, I felt the LORD’s power take control of me, and his Spirit carried me to a valley full of bones. 2The LORD showed me all around, and everywhere I looked I saw bones that were dried out. 3He said, “Ezekiel, son of man, can these bones come back to life?”

   I replied, “LORD God, only you can answer that.”

    4He then told me to say:

   Dry bones, listen to what the LORD is saying to you, 5“I, the LORD God, will put breath in you, and once again you will live. 6I will wrap you with muscles and skin and breathe life into you. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

    7I did what the LORD said, but before I finished speaking, I heard a rattling noise. The bones were coming together! 8I saw muscles and skin cover the bones, but they had no life in them.

    9The LORD said:

   Ezekiel, now say to the wind, [a] “The LORD God commands you to blow from every direction and to breathe life into these dead bodies, so they can live again.” 10As soon as I said this, the wind blew among the bodies, and they came back to life! They all stood up, and there were enough to make a large army.

    11The LORD said:

   Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. 12So tell them, “I, the LORD God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, 13and when that happens, you will realize that I am the LORD. 14My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the LORD, have spoken.”

Ezekiel 37

 

Ezekiel is transported to a place where things like this happen and are not considered overly exotic or strange.  He is not freaked out with this, or the transformation of bones to people.  (Although I’m sure his blood-pressure went high for a bit.)  Ezekiel looks over this valley of human bones that are beyond the point of decay.  In a moment of time there is a reanimation, bones get connected with other bones, and scattered remains become complete corpses.

Ezekiel is obviously astonished.  He extrapolates off of what he sees, and it is indeed a complete army, and it is ready to step out to do God’s Will.  It is critical to see that there is no apparent effort, no real perspiring by God to energize these bones.  God wills it, and its done.  No fuss, no muss.  It just— happens.

As we consider our own transformation  (and it really is that) we can be confident that it presents no great issue to our Lord to bring you life.  We view His promises from our personal perspective.  But that is all wrong.  Often we nullify many good things because of our issues of personal doubt.

Resurrection life is offered to us, if we will just reach out and take it.  It’s not rocket science, ‘presto-chango.’  But it is sufficient to put the resurrection into these hard, dry hearts.  The track record of the Kingdom of God has a phenomenal growth pattern.  (You could grow hair on billiard ball if God enabled it!)

“Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God. 11 God raised Jesus from the dead, and if God’s Spirit is living in you, he will also give life to your bodies that die. God is the One who raised Christ from the dead, and he will give life through[a] his Spirit that lives in you.”  

Romans 8:10-11, NCV

Confidence in His ability is desperately needed in the Church right now.  Life in a resurrection sense has to be returned back into our fellowships.  People are waiting, in skeletal piles, for God to do something amazing again.  So many wait, and we are the Ezekiels.  We do not have the power to resurrect anyone.  But we do have the power to pray.  And we know Jesus’ has the power to raise the dead.

Polluted Hearts

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

John 10:3

But God’s strong foundation continues to stand. These words are written on the seal: “The Lord knows those who belong to him,” and “Everyone who wants to belong to the Lord must stop doing wrong.”

 

2 Timothy 2:19

Identity is necessary.  We can only prosper if we know who and exactly what we are.  This may seem basic, but it’s coming at us through a culture that is murky and foul.  The world offers up an evil concoction that pollutes and contaminates all that it can.

Our identity is exclusively based on what the Lord has done.  It is we who must ‘catch-up’.  He calls us by name, which staggers us and causes us to doubt.  Who are we, and why us?  We must deal with this ‘calling’ business– their must be some kind of mistake.

But Lord knows.  In spite of all that we know about ourselves, He entertains Himself of a more subterranean assessment of us.  He simply scoops us up, deeper and wider than we can spread out our pollution.  He picks us up beyond our ability to contaminate.  We are His, with all our foulness and evil attached.

We now have an identity.  We have become His possession.  Gummy, sticky decay and all.  We are transferred out of a poisonous and ugly situation to be transplanted into a wholesome and healing environment.  This is radical, and cannot be manipulated by our effort or control.

We find ourself to be transplanted into a good place.  And it is there where we receive our new name.  With that new name comes a new identity, and purpose.  We are no longer poisonous or toxic to others.  We cannot defile them with our concentrated evil.  Our new name begins to affect us and others.  He deals with us in a radically different manner.

He starts to lead us out by name.  This brings us a security and a contentment we have never known.  We belong to Him!  That realization is profound and staggering.  Who are we, that He should be so kind?  Our lives were embedded with evil, and darkness of every kind imaginable.  Now we are His?

He knows all that is His.  He has marked us and led us through the pollution.  We pass through the toxicity and the filth and He intends to bring us all the way out and all the way home.  We do nothing, but say ‘yes’!  It’s then we realize that we can do nothing to save ourselves.  He is quite solitary about salvation and He intends to receive eternal glory for your deliverance.

 

Sunday Photos: A Mish-Mash of Thoughts

 

I can imagine this on the walls of London's 'Underground'
Time to Decide
What a burden we carried
Depression understood

Making some sense of it
The light and the dark

The prodigal returns to his father (Rembrandt)