Without a Wound? [True Ministry]

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The subject of “the pool at Bethesda” alludes to the following excerpt from the Thorton Wilder play, “The Angel that Troubled the Waters”.The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4, but it changes the end of the parable. I first encountered this excerpt within the book “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging“, by Brennan Manning.

The play tells of a physician who comes periodically to the pool of Bethesda, hoping to be the first in the water and healed of his melancholy when the angel appears and troubles the water. Everybody at the pool also hopes to be the first in the water and thereby healed of his malady.

An angel appears and blocks the physician at the moment he is ready to step into the pool and be healed.

Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”angel1

Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.

Angel: “This healing is not for you.”

Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.”

Angel: “I know.”

……………Interlude………………

Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”

Angel: Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and said:

“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

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For me, this story has made an incredible difference and, because the message of this excerpt—“Without your wound where would your power be?“—carries so much meaning for me. As this has taught me that its through my weakness I can see others like Jesus does.  I believe, for me, it is slowly becoming my whole foundation for ministry.

&

ybic, Bryan

 

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A Clumsy Christian

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I am very clumsy. I have no claims on gracefulness to speak of. I seem to bungle and bump my way through life (to the amazed hilarity of my guardian angel), I walk into walls and stub my toes regularly.

Things others do elegantly I do bumbling. I have no rhythm and no grace, bumping into things and lurching myself through life’s obstacle course.

A lazy fly just flew by. He’s headed for the window for the hundredth time. His unskilled attempts to fly through it are thwarted by the screen. I finally have pity, and open it up. He earned it.

Christians are probably the clumsiest people on the planet. It seems we’ve one foot in the kingdom of God, and the other in this world. This isn’t an easy place to be. We don’t do either very well. We stub our toes a lot.

Even in the Church grace can be a foreign concept to many of us. God’s grace especially. I sometimes wonder, do we really grasp the wonder of this we so blithely profess to know?

Like that fly we try so hard and see no real results. Grace seems to elude us as we make another stab at being obedient. Why does it have to be so hard? Why can’t I make it work?

I’m so awkward. I barely understand the kingdom of God. And I still can’t fly through “screens.”

And still God’s grace meets us.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:6-8, NASB

your brother, Bryan

 

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“Without Your Wound, Where Would Your Power Be?”

The subject of “the pool at Bethesda” alludes to the following excerpt from the Thorton Wilder play “The Angel that Troubled the Waters”. The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4, but it changes the end of the parable.

I first encountered this excerpt within the book “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging“, by Brennan Manning.

The play tells of a physician who comes periodically to the pool of Bethesda, hoping to be the first in the water and healed of his melancholy when the angel appears and troubles the water. Everybody at the pool also hopes to be the first in the water and thereby healed of his malady. The angel appears but blocks the physician at the moment he is ready to step into the pool and be healed.

Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”

Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.

Angel: “Healing is not for you.”

Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.”

Angel: “I know.”

……………… A long pause

Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”

Angel: “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and said:

“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

………………………………………

For me, this story is quite exceptional, probably because the message of this excerpt—“Without your wound where would your power be?“—carries so much meaning for me, as this has taught me that through my weakness I can see others.  I believe that for us,  it should be our whole philosophy of ministry.

The depressed physician ministered out of his brokenness.  He parallels the way the Apostle Paul did his work “out of much suffering.”  Just something to think about.

This is a Broken Believers classic post.  It is shared again with the steady hope that it will encourage you and strengthen you in your walk with Him.

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ybic, Bryan

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More Current, Please!

angel1I have always had a crazy connection with electricity. As a young boy of six or seven I started to push nails into the wall outlets of our home. My mom would come in to find me in a heap, with the nail still in the outlet. It would blow me backwards, and I remember “smelling the ozone” from each experience. I did this fairly often. Mom grew very concerned about me.

Then I discovered the shocking world of electric fences. Most were “pulse” currents, which meant they were alternately energized– and then off. If you grabbed it at the right time, you could beat the fencer and not be shocked. Of course, complicating things would be standing on wet grass. But bringing your little brother meant you could grab his hand, touch the wire, and he would get the full voltage. This was always fun.

Coming into the presence of a holy and loving God should be a powerful jolt. But it needs to be real– never theatrical or showy. Whether it is prayer or worship, we reach into a real world. While electrical shock is detrimental, the Holy Spirit is always strengthening and affirming. My prayer the last few months has been this: “May it be the real me who connects with the real You.”

In a nuclear power plant the workers clearly understand the nature of fission. They can’t see it, or feel it. They must take precautions, because what they handle is really dangerous. In 1 Samuel 6, we read of the time when the Philistines controlled the Ark of the Covenant. But the power they received was not anything they could handle or manage. They finally sent it back. “But the Lord killed seventy men from Beth-shemesh because they looked into the Ark of the Lord. And the people mourned greatly because of what the Lord had done. “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” they cried out. “Where can we send the Ark from here?”

God is dangerous, “my Bible tells me so.” My thinking often would regard Him as docile and tame, but I challenge you to understand differently. I submit to you that our faith should put us into a perilous place– one in which we are asked to do outrageous things. Like building an ark, or going from a slave to a prime minister, or getting out of our boat and walking on the sea. Furthermore, the Book of Revelation is John’s account of being in God’s power and majesty (Rev. 15).

“We worship a dangerous God and He is coming to threaten every area of your life.  God is a loving God, do not be mistaken about that.  His love, however, is unlike any human love; its chief concern is not to make you comfortable, but to make you free and to be free is dangerous and the act of making us free is dangerous.” Joe Spann (and below)

electric-shockPlease don’t try to domesticate God.

He is wild and pretty much unpredictable– and we will not ever tame or teach Him. You can’t manage Him, or train Him to use a box. (He will defy this.) If we are truly going to draw close it will be like stepping into a spiritual reactor, or sticking a figurative nail into a metaphorical wall outlet.

“He is about to become dangerous to your everyday trappings, dangerous to your comfort, dangerous to your retirement plan, dangerous to your schedule, dangerous to your social standing, dangerous to your secrets, and dangerous to your religion. The good news is, He is also dangerous to your limits, dangerous to your fear, dangerous to your addictions, dangerous to your sickness, dangerous to your unforgiveness, dangerous to the chains that bind you chains that you have become way too comfortable with.”

The end result of this is that He wants to make you dangerous again; dangerous to your neighbors bondage, dangerous to the pain in the people around you, dangerous to the generations of abuse and pain in your family and the families you know, dangerous to the culture you are in every single day. And He wants to make us dangerous again. Dangerous to our neighborhoods, dangerous to our friends, dangerous to our culture, dangerous to the kingdom of darkness.”

I would like to make a toast, “May you see God as He is truly, and may you stick your nail into direct contact with Him. May you never settle for less, or want for anything more.” Amen.

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The Time is Ripe, [Ascension Truths]

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After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. 10 As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them.

Acts 1:9-10

Look at the disciples. There were 500 standing with their mouths open tracking Jesus’ ascension. They were witnesses to the Lord’s departure.

Suddenly two men appear, clothed in white. They both seem to be extraordinary–they clearly explained what has just happened.

“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

We live in an age of history where Jesus sits on the throne. It is not an ordinary time, He has ascended to His Father and now lives “to make intercession for us.” This is no small thing.

Perhaps sometimes we wish to move with the disciples and have their experiences. Perhaps we feel we would be better followers if we could share with them the miracles of the Lord Jesus. Somehow we would be stronger believers.

Let us remember though that we will see His second coming. The angels were quite clear about this– He will come again! Scripture is quite vocal about this.

We will see Him just as He is, and we will be changed into His likeness.

We don’t know exactly when. It is Father’s decision. But we will be there, and the promises are true. This is possibly the greatest privilege we could ever have.

Saint, now it the time to prepare. We know enough scripture to understand the imminent. We are to take active steps to be part of His return to earth and His Kingdom which becomes visible.

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”

Matthew 25:13

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The Sinning Servant

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God responds to our personal falterings in an amazing way. The prophet Elijah had experienced considerable fireworks in his ministry. One could easily dismiss an incident when he failed big time.

“Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”

1 Kings 19:1-3, ESV

Up to this time:

  1. Elijah was coming off Mt. Carmel having witnessed fire from heaven.
  2. The 450 prophets of Baal had been executed.
  3. Rain was coming through his prayer, the long drought was ending.

Things seemed right on track for a nationwide revival. Life was good for Elijah, and for the Kingdom of Israel. “Laissez les bons temps rouler.”

But Queen Jezebel wasn’t about to give up her stranglehold on the kingdom. She threatens Elijah. A messenger is dispatched to him; and Elijah is completely intimidated. He reacts by running as fast as he can to get away. The prophet known for boldness and miracles flees for his life into the wilderness.

What was it about Jezebel that caused such a frantic and irrational move? Why didn’t Elijah’s faith stand this test? He had been in stickier places.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

1 Kings 19:4

Fear and fatigue were working on Elijah’s mind. This is a fact, if you’re acting unscripturally you will behave irrationally.

God ministers to his sinning servant with a powerful and formidable gentleness. It takes awhile for Elijah to react to this tenderness. But there is a no condemnation, no recrimination, no words of rebuke; all we hear is God’s still small voice. God doesn’t chide, but quietly asks his prophet to consider. All Elijah does is accept a certain grace. That’s it.

“And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 

1 Kings 19:13

Fear, defeat, and self-pity were real issues for Elijah (the man of God). Scripture tells us that, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). We are not machines, but mere men who falter and trip. That is good to remember.

In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul comments, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The Gospel is predicated on human weakness and flaws. It reaches us consistently where we need it most. The God of Elijah still whispers to broken hearts.

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Anxiety: Strength Emptied

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”

Charles Spurgeon

We wrestle with amazing issues, they parade like certainties.  That is part of their strength.  Anxiety over our future, is a very difficult thing to separate from.  The dictionary has a simple definition,  “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible future misfortune, danger, etc; worry.

We can define it in a sort of abstract form, but anxiety has a vicious bite.  I believe it is the most common enemy of our souls.  (Maybe “pride” would be the most challenging?)  However our anxiety affects our children, finances and our status in this world.  We are so edgy, and have been for so long that it seems very normal.

Quite expectedly, Wikipedia gives us this explanation.  “Worry is thoughts and images of a negative nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats.  As an emotion it is experienced as anxiety or concern about a real or imagined issue, usually personal issues such as health or finances or broader ones such as environmental pollution and social or technological change.” 

Ok, well, that quote is a bit intense and perhaps a bit complicated.  But as I read it, the phrase, “an anticipation of evil things”  pops into my mind.

I guess there is an effort on our part to somehow equalize the pressure.  But typically it’s only enough to make us “humanly” passable, and acceptable to our dear ones.  But the truth is, we fear way too much.  Our anxiety over the future has a corrosive effect, it just eats us up.  We are like ships, who periodically come into port to have our hulls cleaned.  Somehow, if we decide to forego this, we will find that it diminishes us, and often drastically.

Anxiety is a weight that pulls us down: spiritually, and emotionally and even physically. It is worry that has gone viral in our thinking. We can think of nothing else.  There exists something that our psychologists call an “anxiety disorder.”  To be blunt, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. Worry, doubt, fear and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.

There is not much more I can say.  As we grow more and more anxious, we will drive a simple faith in Jesus away.  Simply put, worry, and the presence of Jesus can never truly agree.  They are on opposite sides of the spectrum.  One will rule, and the other won’t.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength, carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Worry needs to be considered as if it were ‘armed and dangerous.’  Lust, pride, and apostasy are certainly thought of as dark, and evil. But worry has got to rank up there.

Our anxiety is a declaration of God’s unfaithfulness.  It is a “neon sign” that blinks out His perceived negligence and His ineptitude.

Please dear one, shake off this deep deceit.  Renounce your worry, your anxiety.  The One who feeds the sparrows, couldn’t forget you.  You are His, by blood.  He has gone far beyond the extra mile to obtain you to be His own.

“Don’t fear, little flock, because your Father wants to give you the kingdom.”

Luke 12:32, NCV

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