My ‘Agape’ Jalopy

Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. ”  — Michael Yaconelli

My “Agape” Jalopy

Accepting ourselves is a lifelong process.

We talk of “accepting Christ”, but for many that really is not the problem.  When we talk about Jesus, there is such an attractiveness about him, that makes ‘hard-boiled’ agnostics stand back and grudgingly admire.  But, to accept “me”, well that takes more then just a bit of imagination.  When your depressed or anxious it just escalates the problem.

We just don’t like ourselves.  Sometimes I think that if I met me, I would think, “What a jerk! ”  Having psychiatric issues only intensifies and focalizes my sin into a horrifying mess.  I’m not just a loser, I’m a loser on steroids.  A supreme loser!  I’m certainly not the red Ferrari, I am obviously the rusty Edsel with the balloon tires and a lousy heater.

The remarkable thing though is not my spiritual unattractiveness, but God’s irrational love for me.  The New Testament writers used the word we translate “love” as “agape“.  That Greek word meant a love without any conditions, a selfless love, a love that was passionately committed to the well being of the other.  Actually, it is a love that goes out of the way to care for its enemy.  That’s the audacity of agape.

We do the mental gymnastics to try to grasp the definition.  We strain and contort but it defies comprehension.  We grab, hold it, and then it gets loose and we clutch air.

“This is how much God loved [agape] the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life .”                                

 -John 3:16, MSG

When I tell you, “Jesus loves you”, you will probably smile politely, nod and say “I know,” and turn away.  But, once in awhile, “lightning will strike,” you will look up in stunned amazement, with tears in your eyes, and whisper, “I know”.

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Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.” — Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

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Groove: Good Grief, I’m an Author!

groove-book-coverGroove: Stories to Refresh The Way We Think and Feel about Our Mental Illnesses

Writing a book is not for me, but ‘contributing’ is do-able. I wrote six chapters for a book on Christians with a mental illness that has recently been published by CreateSpace and available right now through Amazon.com. The book is edited by Daphne Tarango.

I hope you can get a copy. It is a ‘ground breaking’ book for those who must deal with any mental illness in any capacity, and on any level. It’s very readable but surprisingly substantial. You can order it from Amazon.com for $3.99 for the Kindle edition. You can also obtain a paperback there as well.

It is a resource worth having. I personally will give you your money back if you aren’t satisfied. (That’s how much I believe in this book.)

Check it out on Amazon. Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Groove-Stories-Refresh-Mental-Illnesses-ebook/dp/B00R7V9GGE

 

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The Lost & Found Department of the Universe

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“What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them,  does not leave the 99 in the open field  and go after the lost one until he finds it?” 

Luke 15:4

I like ‘red letter’ editions of the Holy Scriptures.  I will personally pause when I read these selected verses, pausing to process the steady fact that these are Jesus’ own words.  They are different, and there is a quality to them that is not found in the thoughts of mere men.  I have no doubt of the inspiration of all of God’s Word.  I trust it implicitly.

When I make that pause, very often I reflect afresh on what I’m about to read, and my heart starts preparing to listen closer.  In Luke 15, everything is lost; a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a lost son.  All three link and give a common theme of

1) Something getting away,

2) The value of that lost thing, 

3) The diligent searching that follows,  

4) The apprehension of that which is lost,  

5)  The joy of the finder over the recovery of the thing which was lost.

 

These three parables strengthen each other.  Together they have the deep power of declaration.  They speak of the merciful heart of our Heavenly Father with a permanence and eloquence that defies any comparison. 

When we read Jesus’ words they reveal to us the intense searching that the Lord has for our lost souls, and that is the central theme of all history.  Jesus is looking for you– concentrating intently and focused.

It doesn’t matter how ensnared you are, or how deeply you have sunk.  God’s love for you compels Him to seek you.  He will reach into the thorns and thistles, if He has to.  Perhaps your sin has been frequent and you are stained deeply.  The declaration of Jesus’ words reveals the heart of God.  It is irrevocable and central to the way God deals with us.

What is the secret of the universe?  Why does reality exist?  What is the purpose of human history? 

I believe it is the apprehension and deliverance of human beings. 

That’s it.  What should the Church be doing?  Finding and rescuing people who are lost.  That is the purpose of everything, and that searching is to be our focus.

The question remains of what about God’s thinking?  Jesus’ words (in red) reveal the true essence of His dealings with us.  He will always act this way! He is constant and true.  He will always be this way.  Searching, finding, redeeming and celebrating.  Don’t doubt His love for you.

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Outside the Boundaries

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As I spin through this world; I pick up many things. Some are wholesome, but many are not. I’m like a ball of soft wax, and I pick-up whatever is in my path. Some things are good, and others not so. I would love to enlighten you, but am disturbed by all the ‘garbage’ I pick-up. Not everything is good.

In my mind I remember far too much to be ‘good.’ Images of sin are part of the ball, and I can’t dislodge them on my own. Their very presence is wrong, and quite embarrassing. I’m ashamed of what you may find, and yet I know I should be transparent, at least to what I’m capable of. I suppose I am sorry, at least that is I want to be.

Darkness has a way of latching on. At least that is how it seems. It seems what has been seen, can never be unseen. These things are irrevocable and can’t be forgotten. We remember them in the ‘night hours.’ However, the grace of God is such that these dark things are remembered no more. Their evil can never cripple a mind set on the sweet things of God.

I have been damaged by the things I have seen and did. I can admit that they’re shameful and wrong. (Perhaps ‘perverted’ is a better word.) These things are dark and twisted, and far beyond the pale of what is acceptable. I learn to be foul, but deep down I wish to be good.

The Gospel comes to those outside of the boundaries, or it doesn’t come at all. It handles the heavy sin, and easily takes on the lesser. Sin seems to have a way of rubbing through what is true, and certain efforts must be applied. We are meant to soar. We were never meant to be its sin’s slaves.

 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,”

Colossians 1:13, NIV

We ought to trust in what He can do. Sin can never bind us again. He has done something that defies the darkness, once and for all. We who once were slaves, now walk the streets as free men and women. And we dare not rely on our own reasoning on this matter.

What the Father has done exceeds our rational ability. We are completely released and then exonerated us from our sin; it no longer manhandles us the way it used to. We are now prisoners set free. It is easy to become skeptical at this point; the reality of our iniquity is immense. But He has declared us free.

 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:36

We hear many things from our pulpits today. But it is imperative that we receive the word, ‘freedom.’ Freedom—

  • from our many sins,
  • from our flesh that delights in them,
  • from death that comes from our sins,
  • from the destroying influence of this world’s system,
  • to enjoy eternal life.

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18). We must be convinced that this is so, and be willing to leave the sin behind us. And this is right where believers break down; the leaving behind their favorite sin. But it must be renounced and denounced for any progress can be made. You have to say “No!” before you can say “Yes!”

God is fantastically patient with us. He waits patiently as we decide. Are we going to get sick of our sin, or not? He waits for us to decide. Will we continue in sin, or will we let it pass by?

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