A Simple Gospel for Really Simple People

Dandelion-960x360

The gospel is a profound mystery that has been made quite simple. A little child could grasp it. We have the deep sense that it is quite complicated, but it is really straightforward. For years, day after day after day, I have tried to jump high enough to attain a semblance of peace, but to no avail. After a long period I finally realized I couldn’t make it work. If God was going to save me, He was going to have to personally intervene. I just didn’t have it in me. The simplicity of our faith needs to be declared; too many believe it is unattainable. C.S. Lewis once wrote about this simple gospel:

“We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. … That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed.”

–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Over time I realized, (actually it was more like a lightning bolt) that it wasn’t how high I could jump— but how low I could go. The ‘good news’ is designed for the simple; not for the spiritual athlete. We must become as “little children to enter the kingdom of God.” There is no other way. Jesus has made it clear. I simply can not attain salvation by my own merits, rather it is given out to those who can’t arrive at some vague legal standard.

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3

We are a people who are engineered for achievement. We value those who have ‘arrived.’ But what if the opposite was true? What if it wasn’t greatness, but ‘smallness’ that opened heaven’s doors? Would you qualify? I ask these questions not to demean you, but to reassure you. I would only suggest that you reexamine your faith. It is only prudent after all.

Adopting the world’s attitudes is not surprising. We are saturated by her presence. She makes her presence known by everything we perceive. It is the basic environment that surrounds all that we do or think. Jesus’ gospel asks us to rethink some basic things:

  • Do I belong here?
  • Is this my real home?
  • What am I living for?
  • Am I a loving person?
  • What am I living for?

We ask these questions, not because they are somewhat profound; we ask them because they are basic. Yet so much rests on each. We must clear away the world’s confusion, in order to grasp each question. We must become like little children, again. When we start to ask these questions— we are on our way.

 

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

A Spellbound Captive of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— the ugly, awful and rigorous things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers but we still approach the throne of Jesus more mystified than anything else.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, or attached with a sinister evil?  To be spellbound means we are being confused, drugged or hypnotised by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front-of-it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive is a ordinary occurance for human beings.  Captivity brings us imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies.  But what a deal we reason; “step right up, and exchange it for the lie!”

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars‘ mythos.  It is very much real.)  We gradually give ourselves over, in a reasonably predictable pattern.  We think we are pretty much unique in this, but the truth is that we are pretty much ordinary. Sin never enhances us. Don’t believe the lie.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

There comes a point when there is enough momentum and weight, that it creates an avalanche. At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

 

 

 

On Being Tied to the Mast

 mast

“The heart is but a small vessel; and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough, uneven paths are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angels, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace; all things are there.”

~St. Macarius

 OK, I admit it.  I am fully capable and fully able to do just about any sin or deceit.   It’s my dubious claim to fame.  I can easily think of a 1000 things that I could do rather than serving God.  It seems my name is ‘Legion.’ To add to this, I have a chorus of support that wants me to give up my faith.  Demons are really plotting to destroy me, while all along my flesh insists on being fed with ‘fresh sin’.  (And I wonder why I’m getting gray hair.)

Within each of us is the potential and capability of doing great evil.  Each of us is contested ground, with eternal decisions hanging in the balance.

My mental illness does not give me “a get-out-of-jail-free card.”  I am just as responsible as anyone else when it comes to choosing good vs. evil.  Somehow I’d like to think that since I am deeply flawed because of my depression, it can actually make it somewhat easier to admit the truth. Maybe? (Perhaps that’s about the only edge I get.)

In Greek mythology there were three beautiful, but dangerous bird-women called “Sirens.”  With their music and voice they seduced sailors to shipwreck on the rocks.  It was said that there was few or any could resist them. Since they had to be neutralized somehow; some would plug their ears with beeswax, while others tied themselves to the mast.

The Bible has promised us the Holy Spirit.  The very presence of God has reached out His hand to hold me against the onslaught of evil forces. He truly does hold me in place, and His Word gives me the things I need to defend myself. Yes, the darkness can be very strong–but is no match to what God can do for me. We live in a very difficult age.

The intensity of seduction has increased. Tying yourself to something is probably a good idea.

“Keep yourself pure.”

1 Timothy 5:22

When the voices begin to lure you, you had best be ready with a plan.  The spiritual mast we have before us is the person of Jesus Christ.  Call on Him and then tether yourself to His mast (the cross.)  He has all power and all love for you.  You can resist the darkness, you can!

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

*

Bone Tired Weariness

weariness

8 Then Jesus said, Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, New Living Translation

Weariness and burdens are our common plight. We all have them. They are shared as sort of common identity, like eye color or hair color. We all have them, and wish we didn’t. Sometimes we feel like shutting down.

Weariness, that bone-tiredness that sleep doesn’t seem to help. We seem to be chronically fatigued by life and what it brings us. We have heavy burdens, we carry a load that only gets heavier (and never lighter.)

Money problems, bills that are past due, marriages, straying children, cars that need fixing, family problems, job hassles, health problems… the list goes on ad nauseam. There are far too many issues, too many problems. I believe boredom and tedium are added to the list as they only intensify the hopelessness. (Its own special kind of suffering.)

Some will choose to ‘self medicate’ with alcohol or drugs. They want something more, and find they only create more burdens (not less.) Some will become hopelessly addicted, never finding relief from their burdens, but only increasing them. Suicide very often is seen as the only way out.

But Jesus will never condemn (leave that to the Pharisees) but instead offers a sort of amnesty to the burnt-out and the burdened. Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus did not say, “Get away from me, I am holy and you are not.” Rather, He makes himself to be the solution to all those who life has overwhelmed. He wants our burdens and takes on our weariness. He wants us. He wants to give us peace and rest.

He invites us to exchange whatever burdens us for the yoke of discipleship.

An easy trade, especially since we are so desperate. Some have evaluated Jesus’ offer and made the transaction–piling up our burdens at His feet. We might be a little hesitant about the “my yoke” part, but will quickly find that discipleship can’t be compared to the weight we once carried for so long.

The non-demands of biblical disciplehip are easyFor my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Following Jesus becomes the best way to live.

29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:29-31

 

1brobry-sig4

 

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

 

 

Cities Without Walls

“A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

The writer of Proverbs can be blunt. He makes the cold observation that people can often be like a city that has no walls.

The city he alluded to was completely defenseless, vulnerable and wide open to a marauding enemy. It no longer is protected. It can be assaulted from outside and is no longer safe. It can be easily defeated by its foes.

The description is used to describe a spiritual condition of danger and defeat. A real potentiality exists of a helpless invasion by evil forces. It has no protection to speak of.

Proverbs uses this imagery to state a fundamental truth about some people.

We live in an age when everything is “open.” Seldom do we see protecting walls around the perimeter of our lives. We are open to the demonic forces of darkness. We move from crisis to crisis because we are not protected.

Nehemiah faced the stark reality of Jerusalem without walls of protection. His first order of business (before anything else) was to rebuild them. He mobilized work crews that immediately went to work restoring the cities safety.

“I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 2:13

He knew what he was up against; a discouraged people who were extremely vulnerable. It’s also interesting that the cities enemies resisted at this crucial time. They wanted the people to fail so  they would continue to defeat them.

Our culture today is no longer protected by the evil of the day. We’re victims for the most part by Satan’s tactical assaults. A generation has come and gone that has not known the defense of personal walls.

We are desperate of the ministry of Nehemiah. He is a type of Christ. Protection can only come from faith and blood of Jesus. He alone is our safe place. He alone can defend us from this present darkness.

If your life is characterized by oppression I urge you to erect a safe place for yourself and for your family. Being specific in prayer is very often your sheltered place. Take a stand and drive the enemy away. Resist him and he will flee from you.

“The world’s battlefields have been in the heart chiefly; more heroism has been displayed in the household and the closet, than on the most memorable battlefields in history.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

Psalm 40, The Dark Pit

img_9262

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

Psalms 40:1-3, NLT

Psalm 40 is jam packed with good things. It is a rich repository for the Christian— an arsenal for the believer. We do well when we draw from it; that is what it’s there for. It has been designed to equip us.

V. 1, I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Waiting is a needful strategy. It should not be regarded as  perfunctory or trivial, as it’s a necessary place. In our daily walk we must be patiently seeking the Lord. Admitting you need help is the first step. The word for ‘wait’ is kawvah in Hebrew. It can mean ‘to bind together by twisting.’ It can be used with  the idea of braiding strands of rope together. It is not a passive act. Waiting on God should be full of deliberate purpose.

Remember that the Lord is not a distant deity on a hill far away. He is closer to you than you think. He is responsive and aware. He hears our cries; He is not deaf, but patience is critical. Waiting on Him is crucial.

V. 2, He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

The terrain can be awful. There are muddy paths and mucky pits. Things that pull you down and trap the traveller. But the Father is engaged in helping out, by lifting up and securing us on solid ground. (He is more willing to save, than we are to being saved.)

Solid ground is where we are meant to be. It is a place of firm standing and secure positioning. He makes us steady and keeps us safe. The Holy Spirit has care over your soul.

V.3, He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

Some of the greatest songs are the ones that come from those just delivered from the pit. These ‘pit songs’ are offered to God from sincere and true hearts. There is a solid relevance heard from the spirits of those redeemed from disaster.

“You can see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him.”

A.W. Tozer

From our pits comes our praise. There is a passionate quality that saturates pit praises that is valued by God, and esteemed by the Church— a sense of authenticity proceeds. We can see our pits become ‘launching pads’ of true songs of deliverance.

1brobry-sig4

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

Delusions of the First Person Variety

When I first watched the “Matrix,” I completely flipped out. It explained too much. It took me a month to recover.
I need to briefly share what delusions are like.  I’m going to flip the switch and flood the room with light, and watch the “critters” scuttle to find a hiding place.  I’m doing this to help heal myself, and for you to understand this awful state of mind.

First of all– definitions

Delusion n.
A false belief held despite strong evidence against it; self-deception. Delusions are common in some forms of psychosis. Example.  Because of his delusions, the literary character Don Quixote attacks a windmill, thinking it is a giant (that’s the dictionary workin’ it for you.)

Delusion de·lu·sion n.
A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness.

Typically, my delusions have a common core of pride or self-centered thinking. For instance, I have experienced all of these:

  1. A woman loves me and she is secretly trying to be with me. This is very flattering and egocentric.  This  one can really mess with your thought-life. (Ego.)
  2. I’m the center of the universe, people really do not exist, except when they come into my life or influence.  [This one is a bit metaphysical.] See #7.
  3. I have special powers that ‘know” a person’s motives, plans and heart.  I am hyper-discerning.  The opposite can be true at times, where I become exposed to people, which necessitates me never leaving my room. I feel “naked” and of course, very uncomfortable.
  4. I get paranoid, thinking people are plotting with each other behind my back, working to destroy me.  Chat rooms, and Facebook are focal points for me with this one, but not always.  With this one I get really verbal, and I start zapping people.  I guess because it’s the internet I can do this with impunity.
  5. Clocks are always at the top of the hour, like- 7:00 am.  Or they are at the bottom of the hour, like 11:30 pm.  I call this “chronosynchronism.” I believe this is evidence that my life is orchestrated, purposeful, and this is evidence I am very significant.  This is my latest.  And it really isn’t super disruptive.
  6. I can read secret messages in books meant for me.  I also line up spaces in what I’m reading to form an unbroken line.  I compulsively do this.
  7. The big one is this, I am in my form of “The Truman Show”.  The universe is just a set and I am the only living thing out there.  Everything is focused on me (of course).
  8. I hear voices sometimes, but mostly a radio or sometimes the “dot-dash-dot” of a telegraph.  I think its trying to warn me in some code.  It can be persistent. And it can be disruptive. Paranoid that my giftedness is cause for the NSA to control me.
  9. My wife intends to poison me.
  10. Personal hygiene issues. Afraid of being murdered in the shower creates a super-phobia. I once went 6 weeks without showering. (I made my own eyes ‘water’, lol).

I guess all of these have things in common.  They are self-centered.  They are unreasonable and illogical.  They are compulsive. And yes, meds do work.  And the above list?  The delusions are only mild-to-moderate issues of delusional paranoia.  There are so many Christians and non-Christians who have worse. I once met a man who seriously believed he was Jesus. (And no, I didn’t worship him).

As a believer working out his discipleship, I’ve discovered that humility and openness is always the way of keeping one tethered to reality.  However, I have a fear that I will break loose and never come out again.  I MUST live in “brokenness”.  (So in a strange way, following Jesus Christ is easier.)

Also, I must be open to things that will invalidate my delusion.  Even if I’m 99% convinced, that 1% will cause me to consider thinking through a scenario.  Truth is your best friend when you are challenging a delusional paranoid.  But it has to be gently applied. Life doesn’t have be lived this way. Also, delusions will often ‘morph’ and change and take on modified characteristics. This seems to be part of the mental illness, but can also indicate demonic oppression (or both even).

A psychiatrist should be informed in most cases. Very often meds will be necessary to get your loved one through this time, but not always.

Praying for delusional behavior

People have prayed for me, more then I have prayed for myself.  Your intercession bridges a gap over this illness.  When you pray, you power up the energy cells and get instructions.  It may mean wait, or proceed.  Every person and situation is different. Prayer is always the best approach.

(So many delusions and so little time.) They will vary from person-to-person. An active prayer may help, “Lord, may it be the real me who touches the real You.” Remember, Jesus stands at the right hand of his Father praying for you [which can’t be all bad].

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg