Being Tethered to the Cross

We live in this place.

St. Francis of  Assisi once wrote, “The devil never rejoices more than when he robs a servant of God of the peace of God.” 

Sometimes I think I’ve made the devil dance far too many times.

I confess that peace has never been really high on my list. Love, joy, kindness, and even goodness are clear priorities. Peace… not so much. Until it’s not there. And then I get frantic by its absence and look for it with manic bewilderment.

I’m panting for some sign that God still loves me. Anxiety eats at me. I beat myself up by my last failure. The guilt of my latest sin grows until it looms larger than the blood that saved me. Sometimes religious people have the most neurosis.

I’m afraid that we are taking “the present tense’ out of the Gospel. The past tense is far preferable to us as we manage the Christian life. We like to make check marks on our list. Repentance– check. Baptism– check. Bible study– check. I think it gives me a definite feeling of ‘maturity.’

But these matter little without intimacy with Jesus.

I certainly haven’t arrived, and it seems I’m still the hideous sinner I always was. I cannot pretend otherwise, even with a truckload of cosmetics at my disposal. I know, I’ve tried. And I’m still ‘ugly.’ I do know forgiveness, and I do walk in its wonderful light (by grace.)

I read Luther 30 years ago. (And Bonhoeffer would say something similar.)

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

Martin Luther

This is the first of his 95 Theses nailed to the door of Wittenburg. There is a present tense here we can’t ignore. I don’t just repent over smoking, beer drinking, fornication, or hypocrisy, once and done. But my entire way of living is to be one of repenting.

Repentance is a ‘moment-by-moment’ grace.

“All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.”

John Piper

Luther’s last words, on his deathbed, wrote on a scrap of paper these words, “We are beggars! This is true.” Thirty years before, he was only echoing his first thesis. It seems dear ones, we are to live at the foot of the cross. Everyday. Because we desperately need to.


“Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Mark 10:48

Dying to Self

You will never have resurrection power unless there is crucifixion weakness. 

In this particular post, we’re looking at an element of Christian discipleship that ties us all together. It’s our common denominator as His disciples. We must learn to die to ourselves to be faithful. There can be no obedience unless we choose to carry our cross to a place of death.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.”

Galatians 5:24

But what does that look like? How can I know that I’m really doing this? Maybe this will guide you. I think it’s worth prayerful consideration

 

dying-to-self

By no means is this list exhaustive. Hardly. But you know that may be good. The principle of crucifying self then has the room to fit all areas of your life–the core idea of self-renunciation becomes the way your spirit operates.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mark 8:34

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:27

We deny ourselves so real life can begin. There isn’t any other way to follow Him.

We must go to the cross daily in order to find our life. That is the way. “This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him we will also live with him.”

2 Timothy 2:11

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Invisible Pain

 

I posted this recently on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog. This post was inspired by a flare-up of my fibromyalgia. One of my fellow bloggers who has bipolar commented that the pain of bipolar is also a form of invisible pain. It occurred to me then that this is a perfect post for the encouragement of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.

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I didn’t want to write about fibromyalgia, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone who also struggles with invisible pain.

When someone breaks a leg, suffers a severe burn, or is covered with cuts and bruises it is easy for people to see what is wrong and to sympathize. But the pain of fibromyalgia is invisible pain. From the outside, the person suffering from the pain of fibromyalgia looks just fine, and so people don’t understand what they are going through.

It is also an unpredictable pain with no easily determinable cause or trigger. One day you feel just fine and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by a freight train. I’ve gone for months feeling fine, with very little pain, then suddenly every muscle in my body aches, and certain movements cause sharp pains in my legs, arms, and neck.

I try to figure out why.

I’ve had doctors give me conflicting theories of what causes this pain, and I have read conflicting theories as well. One doctor told me it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Another has told me it is caused by what I eat, by an inability of my muscles to process sugar that results in toxins in my muscles.

Another suggested it is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that stems from some early trauma. I had also read that there was a strong link between fibromyalgia and Epstein Bar Virus (or mononucleosis), which I had when I was in junior high. Finally, I have read that it is simply hereditary.

The pain of fibromyalgia is truly invisible.

There is no medical test that shows whether someone has fibromyalgia. There is a “tender point” test in which the doctor checks 18 designated tender points on the body and if 11 or more are tender to the touch a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. But even that test is somewhat subjective.

All my life I have felt pain in circumstances where someone else thought I shouldn’t have felt pain. I can remember saying something hurt when I was a kid only to be told, “That didn’t hurt.” This summer I experienced pain from something that didn’t seem like it should hurt. I was at my cousin’s house in Houston and his granddaughter was playing with three pine cones. She kept handing them to me to play with, but the sharp points started to really hurt my hands. I said I didn’t want to play anymore because it made my hands hurt. My sister looked at me and asked, “Does that really hurt?”

Invisible pain. It’s difficult to cope with sometimes.

But I know that Jesus knows how I feel, and that gives me a great deal of comfort. Although the pain Jesus experienced when He was scourged, beaten, and crucified was quite visible, He experienced an invisible pain, too. He experienced the pain of having the sin of the world laid upon Him and of His Father turning away as He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV).

If you struggle under the weight of invisible pain, take heart that you are not alone. Christ understands your suffering and your pain. You also have fellow Christians who understand what you are going through. The apostle Peter provided for us who suffer a wonderful encouragement in his first epistle:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV).

Satan would love to devour us in our pain, to make us fall and cease to be of use in God’s kingdom. But if we cling to Jesus, and cast all of our fears and anxiety on Him, He will help us to defeat Satan’s plans.

If you are struggling with invisible pain and feeling like you are at your wit’s end, leave me a comment and I would love to pray for you. It would be a blessing to me to be able to ask our Lord to strengthen you and give you peace and comfort so that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

ysic, Linda K.

 

 

 

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Keep Walking

 

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a deep, dark valley. Often it feels more like a narrow slot canyon where no sunshine can reach.

The Narrows slot canyon at Zion National Park is 18 miles long and if you want to walk up it you’re in the water—often very deep water, with a strong current and rocky bottom—all the way. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart.

My husband and I hiked part of the way up the Narrows last summer. There was no way I could make it the full 18 miles. Even the mile we did trek was almost too much for me. My wristband that says “I can and I will” reminded me of the hope I needed to make it back downriver.

Life itself isn’t for the faint of heart.

It’s impossible without hope. Thankfully, hope never dies. And God never leaves us alone.

David reminds us in Psalm 23 that no matter how dark the slot canyon of life becomes, we are not alone. We must always remember these words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” We are only walking through the dark valley and on our darkest days, hope is there.

So if you find yourself today walking in darkness, unable to see the light, keep walking. Even if you can barely muster a crawl, keep moving forward through the dark valley. You can and you will reach the other side. And when you do, you’ll find hope was there all along.

My valley of the shadow of death lasted more than seven years.

At the time, I felt all hope was lost. But looking back I can see that my Savior never left me. Hope never died, dim though it was.

I pray you may one day look back and see that hope has never left you either.

 

 
 
Linda L. Kruschke blogs at Another Fearless Year.

 

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