The Real Battle

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.

2 Samuel 11:1-4, NASB

Where was the real battle being fought? David walks the rooftop and engages the enemy; it was within his own heart. He puts himself right into sin.

Perhaps he couldn’t sleep. It was a warm spring night, and he needed air and to stretch his legs. His troops and his generals were out to war. Maybe he was anxious about how things were progressing. Perhaps he was not where he should be.

Little did he know but he would face his own battle up on his roof.

David was a seasoned veteran; a trained warrior with skill on the battlefield. But he was also king– with kingly perks. He had wives and concubines at his ‘beck and call.’ His “appetites” were sufficiently met. That is the prerogative of kings.

She was naked– and more beautiful than he had ever seen. A servant was near, and he wanted to know more about her. He began to plan how he could have this exceptionally beautiful woman.

She was also the wife of Uriah, one of his elite warriors and one of his “mighty men,” (2 Sam. 23:39).

But he burned for her, and wanted her now. He had lost the battle.

Even kings “reap what they sow,” (Galatians 6:7-8).

“Father, keep us in the battle and protect us from sin. We want to please you. Don’t let us walk in sin and disobedience. Amen.”

[Suggested reading: Proverbs 4]

 

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Jesus’ Love, (Believer Style)

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Jesus is waiting.

“I slept, but my heart was awake,
    when I heard my lover knocking and calling:
“Open to me, my treasure, my darling,
    my dove, my perfect one.
My head is drenched with dew,
    my hair with the dampness of the night.”

But I responded,
“I have taken off my robe.
    Should I get dressed again?
I have washed my feet.
    Should I get them soiled?”

My lover tried to unlatch the door,
    and my heart thrilled within me.
I jumped up to open the door for my love,
    and my hands dripped with perfume.
My fingers dripped with lovely myrrh
    as I pulled back the bolt.
I opened to my lover,
    but he was gone!
    My heart sank.”

Song of Solomon 5:2-6, NLT

The young maiden is in her home. She’s already in her bed when she hears her beloved calling out for her. She suddenly hears the door rattling. The lover is trying to unlock the door! The front door is locked and he waits for her to get up and let him enter.

She seems to vacillate. Listening to his pleas moves her, but she is reluctant to get out of bed. She responds with excuses (v. 3) and shows that she is quite unwilling to let him in.

It’s only when he reaches in and tries to unlatch the door that she responds. She jumps up and runs to the door, but she is too late, her beloved is gone. Her moment has passed.


“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Revelation 3:20

 Jesus’ love for you keeps Him knocking. He wants entrance to your heart. He keeps knocking because that’s what He does. (Jesus is very faithful that way.)

He is driven by love for your soul. Love is His supreme motivation for His attentiveness.

Perhaps that patience is what makes Him so wonderful. Human beings can be stubborn and we have to get up and respond to the presence of Jesus. We find excuses for not meeting with Him. This strange apathy soon becomes a bigger problem of “spiritual laziness” which pervades one’s life.

Our very growth as disciples comes as a direct response to Jesus’ desire to fellowship with us. It seems everything hinges on our willingness to be with Him. This is a daily tryst and an intimate rendezvous that if missed, (or neglected) becomes a missed opportunity.

I want to emphasize this. Your strength and stability come from your daily contact with Him. As broken-believers we’re often unstable. My bipolar disorder makes me erratic and unsteady much of the time. His strong arms hold me in place. Intimacy is what my soul craves deep down.

“The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”

Psalm 145:18

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Preaching to Yourself

PREACHING TO YOURSELF ABOUT HOPE

by Terry Powell

Have you ever “preached to yourself?” I’m referring to the act of fighting negative and unbiblical thought patterns with the Word of God. It’s also called “biblical self-talk,” reminding yourself of truth that counteracts Satan’s lies. In Future Grace, John Piper illustrates how the Psalmist battled despondency by preaching to himself:

In Psalm 73:26 the psalmist says, “My flesh andmy heart may fail.” Literally the verb is simply“My flesh and my heart fail!” I am despondent! I am discouraged! But then immediately he firesa broadside against his despondency: “’But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” The psalmist does not yield.blunbelief with counterattack.

The poem that follws is a type of sermon delivered to myself. The stanzas are painfully realistic about the hopelessness that accompanies my depression. Yet the poem ends on a more positive note, citing another verse from the Psalms in which the author t back to despair and exalts God as the object of hope. What makes preaching to myself effective is reminding myself of God: Who He is, what He has done and what He had pledged Himself to do.

Hopeless?

Fleeting, it’s like a bird in flight,

Or like a shooting star at night,

Or lightning that spans the sky—

Gone in the blink of an eye.

Elusive, like the fog that lifts

When morning sun sends its gifts;

Or the zigzagging butterfly

That you can’t catch. No use to try.

That’s my relationship to hope:

It’s like a wet bar of soap

That keeps giving me the slip.

Can’t keep it within my grip.

Hope that a blinding beam of light

Will penetrate my soul’s dark night.

Hope that it won’t seem so strange

That habits of the heart can change.

Can God plant hope within a heart

For peace of mind and a fresh start?

Though right now I am without it,

God shouts “Yes!” Should I doubt it?

 

Why are you in despair, O my soul?

And why have you become disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,

The help of my countenance, and my God (Ps. 42:11).

When inward or outward trials come, what are some Bible truths or text that you “preach to yourself”?

ybic,

Terry

Terry teaches in the areas of Church Ministry and Ministry Leadership at Columbia International University in South Carolina. He has served as a Christian Education staff member for three  churches, and he’s a licensed preacher in the Presbyterian Church of America.  His current books in print are Serve Strong:  Biblical Encouragement to Sustain God’s Servants, and  Now That’s Good A Question!  How To Lead Quality Bible Discussions. Terry has been married for 46 years, and has two sons, a daughter-in-law, one grandson, and a dachshund.  His constant prayer is, “Lord, make me half the man my dog thinks I am!”

Check out his blog at https://penetratingthedarkness.com/. His ministry is focused on Christians experiencing clinical  depression and other mental issues.

Never Ever Abandoned [Protection]

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“For my enemies are whispering against me.
    They are plotting together to kill me.
11 They say, “God has abandoned him.
    Let’s go and get him,
    for no one will help him now.”

Psalm 71:10-11

David had real enemies. There were those who wanted to destroy him. So what does he do? He prays. This is his only defense.

He doesn’t order a counter attack. He doesn’t bolster his defensive fortifications. He simply prays. David has come to the conclusion that this one thing is going to save him.

Psalm 71 is infused with this attitude. He is gone far beyond human maneuvering and has zero hope other than a direct intervention from God,

“We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”

2 Corinthians 4:9

Paul writes of his own issues with those who wanted him destroyed. He knows first-hand of the viciousness of men. He tells us the powerful truth that Satan simply can’t penetrate the tender care of God for our souls.

When we talk of enemies we must include the very real world of Satan and demons, Perhaps you have a demon or two assigned to you? The darkness is not a nebulous or theoretical thing. It is as real as you or I. It just exists on a spiritual plane.

But you are defended by God, and “His nearness is our good.” He will never abandon us. We may take some blows but they are “dampened” by the Spirit of God. We may feel the sting but never the full blow.

Dear one, rest in His care. Take shelter in His fortress. Your simple faith will protect you through the worst the enemy can generate against you.

Concentrate on the word “my” in the following verse. There are seven of them.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”

Psalm 18:2

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

 –C.S. Lewis

ybic, Bryan

 

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God in Charge

Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?”

Matthew 6:31 

“God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.”

–C.S. Lewis

“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”

–Charles Spurgeon

“I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, One who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted for me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.”

— J.I. Packer

 

 

 

Melancholy in Amber

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Edgar Degas, Melancholy/ c. 1874, oil on canvas, Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

The sadness flows from this painting. Degas caught the dark despondency of his model. Her inertia becomes something we can gaze on carefully and at leisure.

This is one of my favorite paintings. For me, it captures an essence of what depression “looks” like. The anguish and the whole sense of being is seen in the expression of her face. She is frozen in her despair.

Depression immobilizes and then lays waste all that it touches. It is a vicious blight on the human soul.

amberI remember as a boy seeing a prehistoric bug caught in amber. It struck me as a bit macabre. This poor insect frozen for all to see.

Little did I realize that this was going to happen to me.

For almost 20 years I’ve tangled with clinical depression. It was initiated by a brain tumor in 2002 and has been evident since then.

Depression to me is like being frozen in a deep sadness that clings to my soul. It shows me no mercy when it is active, but I can go several weeks at a time without it being an issue.

There is a dual aspect to this. My experience is like a complete suppression of the good and optimistic, combined with an increase of despair and despondency. I despair of any future good that might occur. Everything becomes bleak and black.

My life becomes a meltdown; a cascading effect of worsening feelings.

A few points that have helped me:

  • A main point for me is to doubt the “certainties of despair.” I believe that God’s promises to me contain a “future and a hope.” This is vital. At times I feel too far gone, and completely irredeemable. I must doubt the lies of the enemy.
  • Freedom come through a real faith in God’s grace. I believe that His Holy Spirit empowers the weak. He holds my hand as I stumble in the path. My confidence is in His promises to this “weak lamb.”
  • Scripture tells me that Jesus’ present ministry is one of intercession for my soul.Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34.)
  • Jesus has the power to keep His flock. He also gives me a few select companions. I meet with some of “my fellow sheep” at my local church. These know me, and their friendship encourages me. They don’t condemn.

I hope that some of this helps, if anything I hope you have a window into my convoluted faith. I don’t want pretend to have all the answers. I’m not a guru. I’m a “work in progress,” and some ways far behind you, the reader.

“Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

Hebrews 7:25

ybic, Bryan

 

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Forget Yourself

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Self absorption is one of the traps that we can become ensnared. Many sociologists and psychiatrists are united at this point. Mental health is improved by thinking about others, instead of yourself. We are healthiest when we put others first.

My biggest issues are a result of my preoccupation with myself.

The times when I focus on the Lord, and on others are a blast of cool relief to my overheated soul. Healthy thinking can be evidence of what our gaze is set upon.

Healthy periods of self-examination are necessary, to a point. But prolonged focus can only be injurious. 

My own flirtations with suicide have caused me to reflect on how I arrived at such a point. Suicide is the inability to construct a future and feel loved. I get ensnared by all of my ponderous issues and can see no light and have no hope. I become hopeless; despair is all I can see and feel.

But we must never trust the seemingly “certainties of despair”. The promises of God and the steady witness of the Holy Spirit are to be our very life. Especially in this matter. Miring yourself in your problems will only damage your heart and mind. You may have a mental illness, but we can reduce the tension that life is giving us.

I have both bipolar disorder and epilepsy. I have experienced the “mega-ton” kind of depression. I know that I stay healthy when my attention is not on me, but on my family, my church, and my community; and my God. I gain nothing when my soul is mesmerized by my issues. (This isn’t humility– it’s the opposite.)

For the disciple of Jesus Christ what is called for is self-denial. A committed self-forgetfulness that energizes the “basin-and-towel” service to all those around us. Healing comes when we give ourselves completely (Isaiah 58). Our mental illness doesn’t nullify our discipleship. If anything at all, it enhances it.

I realized there is a fine line here. But I believe that my despair is “anti-God.” When I feel like giving up that should become my finest hour. God is closest to those who need Him most.

For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
“I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Isaiah 57:15, NASB

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