When Angels Stand Amazed

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“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~Barbara Bloom

Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters. 

I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you.  Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill). 

Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.

Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness.  Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)

Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.

I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her,  but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel.  Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.

Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe. 

I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”

But you know what? They really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.

Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness.  In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain. 

But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.

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Oh How He Loves You!

Being Very, Very Sick

Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
Potter shaping a ceramic plate on a pottery wheel
“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.”

2 Corinthians 1:9

To be chronically ill often means awful frustration. We can’t do what we want, we are ‘trapped’ by a disease we never asked for, and we’re held hostage by our minds and bodies. We once had a job– a career… and our time was occupied by that.

We were accustomed to something, anything more than being very sick.

I once was a pastor of a small church. I also taught Gospels for several years in a local Bible Institute. I loved ministry very much. They defined my identity and gave me purpose. I enjoyed helping people and teaching the Word. I endeavored to be faithful in the ministry. I hope I did.

With the sudden onset of a brain tumor, followed up by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder (BP), my life more or less exploded. I had extensive memory loss. I knew I had to step out of the ministry. I simply could not function. It was a hard thing to leave it behind. (I still miss it).

My depression grew even more profound with the stillborn death of our third child just 3 days before her delivery, Things suddenly ground to a standstill as my wife and I tried to process all of this. I guess I just couldn’t understand and more or less just shut down. I was angry at God. I spent months in bed, unable to function.

A profound sadness settled on me.

Some people were true jewels. Others were mean and uncaring. (I had to learn to take the good with the bad.) I suppose I should have understood, but things were so tangled up inside me that I couldn’t verbalize a thing. But God knew all about me.

The post-op recovery following the tumor was an ordeal, as I had to learn many things all over again. A few years later I ended up on disability; I was unable to work, and my symptoms were so unpredictable. I dealt with profound depression and a solid dose of paranoia and fear.

I learned that meds can help, but they can’t fix the problem.

The isolation of being ill seems worse than the pain. We wonder why this is happening to us, and we hear lies about our worthiness or God’s goodness. Our value to others seems to be scuttled by our illness. We can feel cursed, forgotten, crippled by God, or even worse. (Maybe even irrevocably lost.)

Satan craves our spiritual destruction, and he snares unsteady souls.

I admit I have been slow to learn this– but God brings good things out of the dark. I’m embarrassed by my personal lack of acquiring all of this. Now I’m starting to learn finally, and I want His words to reflect these truths.

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

2 Corinthians 4:7

This light will shine. The treasure is found in clay vessels. Brokenness only means the treasure is now seen clearly. It’s important to note–treasure loses none of its value by being surrounded by broken clay. Our weaknesses are being turned into goodness, understanding, and love for our brothers and sisters.

Troubles of many different varieties will visit us. Count on it.

No matter what their nature, God holds his people in place while everything else is falling apart. But for the broken believer, there is another dimension; we will indeed triumph. The tragedies we’ve had to endure only supplement our faith. We will stand– because He makes us stand.

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

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

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Avoiding the Cul-de-sac

“Then God said, “You’ve been going around in circles in these hills long enough; go north.”

Deuteronomy 2:3 

I believe that there are cul-de-sacs in a broken believer’s walk. There are times when we seem to walk in circles and our path seems to take us around and around. It can be a real cause of frustration–we know deep down that there must be something more.

For city planners, a cul-de-sac solves many problems. Homes built there can be off the beaten track, kids can play without too much concern about traffic. The idea can be very appealing.

But a spiritual cul-de-sac can be dangerous.

The children of Israel are free from the profound bondage of their Egyptian masters. They now know freedom, but… (you know).

The children of Israel wandered. They turned an 11-day journey into 40 years! Although one can learn things going nowhere, it really isn’t what the Father wants.

The scenery never changes (“what? didn’t I see that cactus before?) The journey becomes one of repetition. Around and around, dealing (and seeing) the same old stuff, over and over. We really don’t see anything new. We really don’t hear His voice.

This really isn’t what God intended for you.

Perhaps going in circles is a real issue for those with physical and mental issues. We feel trapped by our illnesses, hemmed in by these difficult things. We wander and continue to take another trip around the mountain. Instead of having a ‘straight’ walk, ours is crooked.

Our journey needs to be ‘linear,’ not circular.

I know all about these dead-ends. I’ve been there. I guess if I was to explain my own walk it would be one word–stagnant. I wandered in circles dealing with the same ugly stuff over and over. It seemed like I never went forward. My life was caught in some kind of spiritual loop.

Quite often we get trapped through sinful habits.

Sometimes we can’t break out of this vicious cycle without the Father’s helpful discipline. We must understand that the Lord will “rock your world” if you keep choosing to sin.

He will not allow you to continue in rebellion or disobedience.

I saw others on their straight path. Yes they sinned and struggled, but they seemed to be going forward, and I wasn’t. There were my issues, Bipolar and chronic pain (what a mix, huh)? I knew I was trapped and I never could break this on my own.

The spiritual scenery never changed for you.

God really does love you. You must become utterly convinced of that. If you’re stuck in a cul-de-sac you must know this. Condemnation never comes from Him. Never. I suggest that you call on Him (get on your face) and ‘beg’ to be with Him.

I Came to Love You Late [Regrets]

regret

Regrets are a funny thing.

You really start to gather them when you get into your fifties. They are a bit sticky, once you have them, they’re hard to get rid of— (kind of like dog hair on a nice jacket.) I’m 61 now and am surprised by the memories of things gone by. I guess this is one of the job hazards of getting old.

Why do we remember the bad things– surely they weren’t all mistakes?

God’s Word gives us fresh insight into this state of mind of regretfulness. What it gives is akin to instructions to disarm a bomb— it’s ticking, and ready to explode. There are some who have been severely wounded when a regret goes off. Out of the blue–whammo!

But what really bothers me is all of the missed opportunities.

I wonder what life could have been like if I had accepted Christ at a younger age. A lot of pain would’ve been averted and perhaps I might have loved Jesus deeper than I do now. Some of us come to love Jesus late in life. There is so much time frittered away.

I regret the years spent in rebellion and disobedience. I remember the words of a 70-year-old man who had just received Christ, “Why did I wait so long for this to happen?”

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

Philippians 3:13-14, NLT

Paul learned to adjust his vision. He no longer let regret define him, choosing rather forget the past and press into the future. The solution to regret is to focus on what lies ahead. Heaven is our destination–it is our calling, it’s really where we belong.

And Peter tells us that our past sin was enough. We have wasted enough time doing evil. I don’t know about you, but I had a bellyful of sin, and it’s time to lay all the foolishness and rebellion and live instead for God. Enough is enough.

3 “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.”

1 Peter 4:3

There is a sorrow that leads us to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10), and since it affects me I should make full use of it— not knowing when it will leave. I have regrets like anyone else, but there is also the joy of having my sin forgiven. They both mingle and at times I rejoice, but the sadness comes and goes as well. David, that great sinner-king, understood the joy of forgiveness.

Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Psalm 32:1-2

“Maturity comes from obedience, not necessarily from age.”

    Leonard Ravenhill

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