Blessed Assurance

praying-hands 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

John 16:29-30, ESV

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There will often come a distinct point when you discover all is quite real. This is not to say that it wasn’t real before, but suddenly a deeper awareness crashes into your understanding. These are special moments indeed, but they are often transitory. It seems we are wired with a switch; it is not on-off, but more like a dimmer. Turning it makes the light move more precisely to the level you want.

We need to realize that these precious times are not ordinary. The disciples came to the place where ‘lightning struck,’ and they just knew (deep down) that Jesus really is who he says he is. Personally, I have to believe they arrived at the point where the ‘real’ was truly real. This is a pivotable point for these men.

Obviously, the Holy Spirit is the initiator of these times. We certainly will come up empty unless he gives it to us. This sudden burst of truth is what we understand as ‘assurance.’ And I personally feel it’s quite critical for the Church at this precise moment.

Have you grasped the real real? Having ‘assurance’ of God’s kingdom can reframe reality and enable consistency. Being assured of Jesus’ promises will enable a person to obey. It is really another form of faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1, ESV

I happen to believe that the ‘Bible world’ is the real world. It lives invisibly all around us, and occasionally breaks through and blesses us in some tangible way.

aabryscript

A ‘Slipping Down’ Life

“When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.”

Genesis 32:25

There is no question that we each want a wonderful life.  Young and strong and very idealistic, we brew dreams that we will become persons of wonder and deep significance.  After all, anything less would be a denial of what we believe.  In our youthful zeal we more or less insist on our own success.  We just know, deep down, that we are God’s special gift to the world.

All of a sudden we strike reality’s iceberg.  It is very bitter, and it hurts us.  Then things unfold around us that are difficult and quite challenging to process.  But as it ‘sifts out’ we realize that we find we are severely mismatched by what we must face.  It is at this point things will proceed from ‘difficult to ugly.’

We discover that our life is ‘a slipping down’ sort of kind.  Twenty years ago, we would never admit this.  But our vision and expectations have shrunken, and we’ve become less than we imagined than we would be. We have ‘slipped down.’ Living this kind of life, inserts a humility in us. We have aspired, but have not attained. We discover that we haven’t met our earlier expectations. We are woefully short.

But if we are honest with ourselves (and others) we find ourselves– subtracted.  We wrestle with our angel, and he pulverizes us. We discover that we now limp, but this is a necessary step for us to take.  Sometimes “Christlikeness” must be beaten into us by life itself.

There are those among us who profoundly struggle with pain and illness are expected to join with millions that have gone before us.  Loss and ugliness pay a visit to our lives.  There are those of us who fight with a mental illness, (sometimes winning, and often losing) have to sift through all that remains.  But this is all ‘injected humility.’ This experience does teach us, like nothing else can.

“Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God– Oh my, but you do learn.  C.S. Lewis

Personal brokenness requires that we pick-up the pieces.  And that in itself works something in us.  On our hands and knees we have an epiphany.  We are not what we thought we’d be.  But humility, the soil that grows our spirits, finally has begun to work in us.

A ‘slipping-down life’ brings us to the ‘bitter-sweet place’ where the Spirit can reach into us to do His work.  It is the ‘operating room’ where He works deep inside us.  None will truly know the Lord’s touch without this deep work. I strongly encourage you to submit your hearts to His precise work.  After all, you really don’t have a whole bunch of viable options. aabryscript

When God Makes Toast

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“The sinners in Zion are terrified;
    trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”

Isaiah 33:14, NIV

There is a strange lack in the Church, and quite frankly, it is disturbing. Our churches have operated on nothing for so long, what we think is normal isn’t even close. We really should compare ourselves to the young Church in the early chapters of the Book of Acts. Each believer had his own personal “flame” resting and abiding on them.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”

Acts 2:2-3

Our churches should be places where we directly encounter the Lord God. I would like to suggest that our elders, and our ushers, start handing out life-preservers, and flares. (Rafts, of course, should be readily available.) For who can know what will happen when we make “first contact” with the Living God. All provision for survival should be made. Ambulances should become routine when the Church meets. Agape love can completely undo us. It seems meeting with God is a bit like dwelling in a nuclear reactor, of love and of mercy and grace.

When God’s presence rips into us full blast, we will have to decide whether to take Him in His tumultuous power, or walk away unscathed. Do we fully understand the power that we so blithely invoke? We often tolerate something less, to see that our life isn’t turned upside down. Perhaps we reason, or think, that this is the most terrible thing that could happen to us. But His special grace just can’t be filtered out, or eliminated, without changing the gospel.

We are bread in His toaster. He sears us with divine grace. (He then slathers us with ‘butter.’) Something akin to a deep agape love singes on us, and perhaps we might easily ignite. But perhaps that is what it is all about anyway, isn’t it?

So You Want to Become Vulnerable?

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

 — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Public speaking has never been a problem for me. All through high school, Bible college, as a street evangelist– nothing I’ve ever done really has ever been a concern.  But,  I have friends who rather submit themselves to hideous torture then to put themselves in that public position.  They are afraid of the spotlight, feel exposed and just a little too accessible in the lime light.

Becoming vulnerable in love is ‘above and beyond’ the fear of public speaking.  It is almost irrational in the way it takes charge.  We refuse to put out, with the fear of being that accessible.  We will not allow ourselves to become a victim.  But public speaking has nothing on loving someone deeply, because of the risk involved.

Men are the greatest perpetrators of this attitude.  We close ourselves off and keep our hearts protected and safe.  We cannot truly give our hearts away, because we cannot share that which is most intimate (we hate that word!).  I will refuse to become vulnerable to anyone, because of the risk I put myself in. To really “trust,” in deep way, is way too much exposure for us.

Our families cannot understand our emotional coldness.  They think that the problem is their fault.  They struggle to understand.  And we respond to their attempts to accommodate us with skepticism and fear.  We hold back and pathetically attempt to adjust to their efforts.  Selfishness ultimately wins the day.

Lewis reveals that our natural inclination is towards selfishness.  We try to hide and avoid the “nakedness” that love requires.  I am convinced that we will spare no effort to stay safe, becoming invulnerable to another’s inspection.  We wall up ourselves to the risks of love.  But learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.

Jesus Christ has come, to teach us how to love openly and freely.  He became vulnerable, laying aside his prerogative of being God.  He is teaching us to love like him. We will only truly heal when we risk it all, with our Father, and our brothers and sisters.

aabryscript

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