More Like a Hospital!

“The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in.”

“It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”

James H. Aughey

We live in challenging times. As people of faith, we’re slowly learning what Jesus really wants the Church to understand. Sometimes it seems we are taking two steps forward, and once step back. The Church must reacquaint itself with the total love of God for people once again.

The Father hasn’t given up on us. Repeatedly, over and over, (and then over again) we learn about His unreal faithfulness to the Church and His love for all people. But sometimes we have a hard time believing these things. Honestly, we’re not what we should be, but thank God we’re not like we were. We’re learning this as well.

On an individual levei we find it’s the “poor in spirit” and those who “mourn” (Matthew 5:3-5) who are the fortunate ones–these are those who are “blessed.” We are needy people, but the Father has and is seeking us. Always. He’s more faithful than the ‘faithfulist’ person who has ever lived!

And we also must understand this. He is always seeking those who are on the margins: the lame, blind, sick and crippled. (I for one have managed to combine all of these!) But thank God He’s still in the business of ‘collecting’ people who are desperate. And if you can’t see this, perhaps you should.

The Church, and the churches we attend, are meant for those who are sick–the outcasts. It’s primarily a hospital, and the “sentinels” (pastors and elders, and others) must understand this. We must know and believe this. And we must know for ourselves the love “the passes all understanding.”

Jesus loves all, but He’s looking for the outcasts.

A really good study are those persons in scripture, who in their neediness, scream out “Son of God, have mercy on me.” There are 4-5 in the Gospels who said this (outloud) and although they modify this plea/prayer in slightly different ways, all of them are very desperate.

(I’m seriously thinking about changing my middle name to “desperate.”) 

I encourage you to study this out, and get a deep handle on it. 

Our churches mustn’t lose sight of this kind of love, and if your fellowship isn’t doing this, just maybe you’re the one called to implement it. (And if this isn’t possible, you might consider moving on.)

Please reject the country club version of the Church. It isn’t right and it’s not the heart of God. It’s religion that comes to us in its gradient forms of foolishness. It doesn’t really reflect the intense seeking love of God. Somehow, along the way, these churches got lost. 

I suppose that the challenge/temptation is not just to turn away from the pigs like the prodigal did. But on the other hand, we also must not go to the opposite end–we dare NOT become the older brother– (Luke 15:1-2 and vv. 30-32). We usually will be one or the other. Unfortunately.

The question facing the Church is this:

Do we want a face-lift or a heart transplant?

One is for looking better, the other describes an entire overhaul. One is cosmetic, the other is a matter of life and death. One is minor, the other is not. What kind does the Church have?

————

I don’t know who the artist is who created this artwork that opens this. It resonates within my heart, and I love the ‘feel’ it brings. Notice the figures, they all have soiled garments, even the one doing the ministry!

The Father is Chasing You!

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20, NLT

There’s a specific moment of time when the Prodigal stands up–looks around, and then decides it’s time to return home.  But he is no longer a ‘rich man’s son’, the pig-pen completely crushed that idea.  He comes home, thinking that he can at least be a slave.

The devastated prodigal now understands.

And it’s that which gives him the propulsion to leave the pigs behind, and return home. The trip is a long one, lots of walking, and it’s hard–he’s far from where he’s supposed to be. He is tired, ragged and worn.

But please dear one, you must understand this about Jesus’ parable–the story isn’t as much about the prodigal son– the focus should be on the father–Jesus is teaching us that the love of God is a searching/seeking kind of love, and it cannot be shut down, or go away over time.

It is a 24/7/365 day kind of love.

Think of it like high intensity radar that sweeps over extreme distances, it is always looking,  and it won’t be denied.  The Father is seeking for His sons and daughters.  He intends to find them. If we refuse we will continue to feed pigs, and starve.

The compassion of the Father is an aggressive and reaching kind of mercy

The Father never sits on His butt, watching us from His throne, He reaches out and penetrates through a whole lot of sin. He runs, not sits. He is far from passive, or ‘ho-hum’ toward His son. And God is fully into reclaiming His lost sons and daughters. He continues to find me, even in my darkness and sin.

Sin disfigures
Sin disfigures, a meth addict’s mug shots over time

The Father recognizes His prodigal son.  Gross sin has a way that disfigures a person’s countenance. Look at the wino or meth addict on the street.

The boy who abruptly left home is not the son who returns.  There has been damage done.  His face has changed.  The Father understands this, and yes, it has been terribly hard and brutal.

I believe that this parable is the greatest of them all. 

It shows the deep love the Father has for prodigals like us. This story is so revealing, in it we see that the Father is always running, and toward other rascals who are very much like us. We must know this. We must internalize it and understand that passionate love He has–we will stall in our discipleship if we don’t grip this!

This amounts to nothing less than a revolution. 

It’s very possible that the Church will falter and be confused over the presence of the prodigal at our door. The trick for us is being the younger son without becoming the elder.

There seems to be very few people who understand a running God.

When we see love like the Fathers, we are full of doubt. There isn’t anything like it. It’s far far removed by logical reasoning. It’s lavished on wasted men and women, and we can grow skeptical about this.

But if the Church can keep pace, understanding who He really is–if we can accept the massive love of the Father toward ‘prodigals–no matter what the sin, we will finally understand His M.O.

And the Church will finally be doing His will in the world. Finally.

1brobry-sig4

 

A Friend of Sinners and the Ungodly

Anthony van Dyck – Christ Healing the Paralytic, 1619

“No matter how low down you are; no matter what your disposition has been; you may be low in your thoughts, words, and actions; you may be selfish; your heart may be overflowing with corruption and wickedness; yet Jesus will have compassion upon you. He will speak comforting words to you; not treat you coldly or spurn you, as perhaps those of earth would, but will speak tender words, and words of love and affection and kindness. Just come at once. He is a faithful friend – a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

–D.L. Moody

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’”

Luke 7:34

‘Snowflake’ Discipleship

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!” 

(Psalm 139:14, MSG)

“God is not a duplicator, He is a Creator. You are an original.” –Reinhard Bonnke

Man makes styrofoam cups that are all the same. God creates snowflakes that are completely different. I’ve been thinking about something. I don’t know if it’s scriptural. Maybe yes, and maybe no. I’ve been known to miss it.

The Bible states many wonderful things. One of them is that we are created in the image of God, and I’m quite certain that each of us are shaped completely different. Essentially we are the same, we all share a very common “person-hood.”

Each have come to Jesus, through our repentance and faith. We each have been filled with His Spirit, we read the Word and we each fellowship with other believers. In that regard, we are one, quite the same. We believe that there is Someone who doesn’t change. He is the “reality behind the real.” The Creator and the Truth.

The other day I found my Grandmother’s Bible. I was somewhat intrigued, and I supposed that it might just ‘impart’ some special spiritual blessing to me. I sat down on the couch, and reverently opened it up. It was filled with wonderful handwritten notes.

Could it carry a special touch from the Lord? Perhaps I thought it would have a special spiritual aura to it? I was more than a little curious. And wouldn’t you know, it zapped me in a very interesting way? It was an old Thompson Chain, KJV–first edition I think. As I sat down to read it, I slowly began to realize that it was entirely like my own! The verses and the promises were the same, they had not changed. What was true for my grandma was true for me. That amazed me, and it kind of sent me spinning.

Each of us struggle with many different things. We endure depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, even suicidal thoughts. We struggle with different addictions and lonely divorce. There are those believers who are epileptics or disabled. There are some of us who have been raped or molested. I have a paralyzed right arm, and am typing this with my left hand. I also struggle with depression and anger.

Each of us are the same in a basic sense, and yet we are all distinctly different. We all have gone through different things, some quite awful. These issues are uniquely our own. They’ve shaped us in completely different ways. Our “personal” testimony is completely different than someone elses. We respond to our different circumstances in different ways.

We are the “snowflakes’ that have been artistically crafted. Our circumstances are individually tailored by God, who is the ultimate Artist. I opened this post with the idea that God creates “snowflakes,” and I’ve been told that they are all unique, not one of them is exactly the same. Somehow, they seem to be crafted by a Someone who loves this whole idea of an extravagant creation. The Bible reveals He does this work with true wisdom, a special love and surpassing power.

“People are special, and human life is sacred, whether of not we admit it. Every person is worth fighting for, regardless of whether he is young or old, sick or well, child or adult, born or unborn, or brown, red, yellow, black or white.”

–Francis Schaeffer

I do believe that when we stand before God we will all have these fantastically different stories. Each of us have found forgiveness, mercy and grace that the Lord freely gives us. As “grace-walkers” we’ve become are the new discoverers, through our issues of prosperity or pain— our life is mixed with His grace, filtered through a myriad of circumstances. They mix exceedingly well.

We begin to see, and understand, that there implications of being this special. God took Joseph and ‘molded’ him by His unique circumstances, He went from slave to Prime Minister overnight. Each of us billions have become unique testimonies of His incredible care. As true believers, we can lead them to the Father. We need to pray for the “field” and the workers who labor there.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

(Rev. 12:11, NIV)

I hope my meandering doesn’t scare you. I didn’t intend to.

Your very unique brother,

Bryan

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