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The Blessings of a Long Battle, part 4


In thinking about this final installment about how God can bring much good out of our protracted struggle with sin, weakness, or a problem, it dawned on me how important it is to see the Big Picture. In some ways this post reiterates truths in part 2 of this series, but also adds important new dimensions to those truths and explores new territory.

When a soldier goes through boot camp, it’s crucial for him or her to see the overall purpose of his training–the Big Picture. He or she is being pushed and tested in different ways to the extreme so that they will be prepared for any situation on the battlefield, won’t crack under pressure, and will be a team player.

In the conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership, the nation of Israel experienced many victories over different hostile nations. However, Judges 3:1–4 says that God did not allow the Israelites to completely triumph but left certain enemies in the land (e.g., the Philistines) so that his chosen people would learn warfare.

When we became Christians, God could have put us in a cocoon of protective grace where we would be insulated from our three primary enemies–the world, the flesh, and the devil–but he didn’t so that we would also learn warfare.

If he would’ve sheltered us from the battle, we would end up like many “trust fund babies,” who, because of their vast inherited wealth, never have to work a day in their lives. They’re protected from the toil and struggle of life and never have to worry about paying the rent or the electric bill.

Often there is something profoundly missing in their lives: many are spoiled, shallow, and have not been battle–tested. Perhaps God designed an existence where we battled the world, the flesh, and the devil so that we would not end up becoming spiritual trust fund babies.

Macarius was a great monk who composed the Macarian Homilies in the 4th century. He was convinced that, if after becoming Christians, we were protected in a cocoon of grace from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, many of us would soon become conceited and fall as Satan fell. Instead of a three steps forward, two steps back grind that life often is, we would have a series of unbroken successes and become lifted up in pride and fall like Lucifer did.

In seeing the big picture, nothing is more important than understanding that God the Father through the Holy Spirit has been preparing a Bride for his Son in a Marriage that will span eternity. He wants you to be a part of that Bride. The Father wants the Bride to fervently love the Groom.

There is no love without free choice. If we would’ve been protected from the enemies of our soul, and choosing the Groom was exquisitely easy or even automatic, where’s the love that has been tested in the furnace of affliction? Like any spouse, Christ wants to be chosen. If we were automatons or even semi–automatons, where’s the love in that?

When we are in a long struggle with sin or weakness, it is because we have become over–attached to some created thing. Addiction is over–attachment in the extreme (e.g., overeating, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, power, work, shopping, etc.)

Christ the Uncreated One wants to be chosen over all the created things. Christ the Groom wants to stand in the midst of all his competitors–i.e. created things–and have the Bride choose him. One of the blessings then of a long battle is this: it’s the vehicle whereby we choose Christ as our Groom, as our only lover.

Does that love somehow go away if you’re a Christian who is up to your eyeballs in sin, addiction, and weakness? If anything God loves you more after you fall, because where sin abounds, grace abounds more. And as the old religious cliché tells us, he loves us in our sin and loves us too much to leave us there.



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A Retrograde Faith



  [re-truh greyd]  (ret·ro·grad·ed, ret·ro·grad·ing.)


1. moving backward; having a backward motion or direction; retiring or retreating.
2. inverse or reversed, as order.
3. Chiefly Biology. exhibiting degeneration or deterioration.
* Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 16 Jul. 2013. <>.

24 “But my people would not listen to me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward.”

–Jeremiah 7:24, NLT
I seldom seek out things like this to write about. In my 30 years following the Lord Jesus, I have been bludgeoned more than a few times by people wielding Jeremiah like a cudgel. Mostly, these are good people who I liked and honored. (But maybe they had too much coffee that day, IDK.)
But there is a real issue here. Many who start out strong and brave end up on the scrap heap. Somehow, I suppose they were never able to tune their “ear” to His voice. But to be really honest– this can be a hard thing. And many of these dear ones end up with a retrograde walk in the Spirit. They would deny this, but if we look for a passion, we will see that a “first love” it will be absent.
That passion is the pulse, the blood pressure of a walk that is so vital and so authentic. We can measure our own walk by this singular means– “first-love.”  Rev. 2:4-5 shouts to us,
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” 
A retrograde faith may not deny Him, but it can often draw us into the place where our denial isn’t necessary. And that I suppose may be the scariest part of becoming apostate. We just slip; we slip right off of the map into an “almost-discipleship.” We would never dream of speaking an outright denial (never, ever) but we end up in this grey zone, nevertheless.
I have no desire to manipulate you through nice sounding words and phrases. But I feel duty bound to tell you up-front. Having a “first-love” will protect you. A “first-love” will cover you and lead you through many diverse issues. Revelation 2 was the Father’s plea to a Church that had seemingly advanced in every way. (As a pastor I would have loved to oversee this Church.) But the Father spoke a clear word of correction to them. And  I’m sure that it was hard to accept.
The “retrograde Church” exists. Unfortunately, it is alive and well, but we must share with these dear ones about the true freedom which comes from the “first-love” relationship with the Lord Jesus. Our love for Him, and His love for us will protect us from something that goes “backward” and not forward. I can only say, love Jesus, and make Him your “first-love.”
“Whom should we love, if not Him who loved us, and gave himself for us?  –Unknown


ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.
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Worship is All that Really Matters

Art by Lynda Finch
He leads us in His dance, Lynda Finch

“Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them.” 

Mark 2:19

This whole idea of celebrating is often at odds with religious sensibilities.  “Too much liberty and too much freedom, and not enough control.  People won’t know how to behave, and it’ll ruin everything.” This argument has been used for generations, and will continue to perpetuate itself.

People just don’t know what to do when the presence of Jesus becomes activated in their midst.

There is a wedding!  Like all weddings this alters the present status-quo.  “We interrupt life for this special announcement– JESUS is getting married!”  He has attached Himself to a bride, she is simple, and yet beautiful.  Room is made for the outcasts and mentally ill. For she is the Church, made up of rascals and ragamuffins who have had their many sins forgiven! All are invited.

We are limited our religious duty of fasting.  It is definitely not appropriate in the light of this good news.  Simply put, we cannot advance our religious reputation in this new environment. It’s not about us at all!  Joy has taken over, and we can do nothing but stand in wonder. Jesus Christ has become “all, and in all”.

To follow Jesus must mean we are people of joy and celebration!  The old concepts of religious effort are nullified, plain and simple.  It really isn’t required, but it is understood that we will rejoice.  We will begin to party!

Joy is to infuse our understanding, and it will lift us to the place where life becomes infected with the contagion of heaven.  It is an epidemic spreading to every believer. The Universe has become the stage when worship is the only solution to the history of man.

His Presence has tipped the scales, and He has formulated Himself as the center of the whole ‘kit and caboodle.’  A joyful romance is at the very essence of everything.  C.S. Lewis once said that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

When it all comes down, we are transferred into the status of the amazed.  What has happened has caused us to take a breath, and step back in wonderment.  Jesus is the Revolution!  We are brought to the place where we belong, we are nothing more than  witnesses and participants in His exaltation.  We must rejoice in the joy of the Bridegroom!

 ybic, Bryan


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The Time is Ripe, [Ascension Truths]


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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Hidden Doves [Love]

 “My dove is hiding behind the rocks,     

behind an outcrop on the cliff.

Let me see your face; let me hear your voice.

For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.”

Song of Solomon 2:14, NLT

Jesus really loves people, a lot–  and very deeply the Church that He’s saved from destruction. That dear ones, has never been an matter of debate. But honestly, how much does He love us? Please tell me again and again, because I forget so easily. (Someone, help me remember again.)

The opening verse is spoken by a young man who deeply loves a young woman. But his love seems to be a pale and anemic word, for it doesn’t begin to describe his passion and fervor. He loves this girl, and it’s a crazy, powerful love.

A minor thought, but I must share it, this book of Song of Solomon is frequently misunderstood by many– mostly because it’s not really doctrinal– it’s a Kiss! It is not fully understood because people read with their minds; but this one must be read with the heart. This book is 99.9% potent passion. It tries to explain God’s full heart to us who desperately need a crash course in the vigorous love of God.

Kisses are often reminisced over and seldom forgotten. They’re kept in the heart’s treasure chest. And you really can’t define a kiss– not a real one anyway. It can only be experienced. If you’ve been really kissed, you will understand. It can seem like a cross between being struck by lightning and a four-alarm fire. It can be gentle and soft, like the sun on a still, mountain lake.

The young man needs to see his girl. He delights in her face and voice. He has an incredible love for her. He madly yearns to see her– but she is hiding somewhere in the rocks! The chapter context tells us that she feels unworthy. Perhaps all she perceives is her ugliness and her shortcomings. She avoids him, hiding in her “safe place” of rocks and brush. It seems people still have many strategies, and varied ways to hide from God.

The certain love Jesus has for you is outrageous! It is a lot like drinking from a firehose!  It really isn’t rational. But saints– we have a problem. Somehow many can’t absorb His passion for us. I’ve been told that there are people who cannot absorb certain vitamins or minerals. Doctors step in and must find ways to compensate to help their patient.

There are some among us who really can’t take in God’s real love for them.

They may nod their heads, but it seems like they are impervious to a real, lasting love. They need seasoned brothers, and sisters to help them in this critical matter. From Jude 20-21 we read this:

20 “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”

God has clearly shown His love for you– over and over. In quiet whispers and also in blasting “fog horns.” The gospel is this:  Jesus, God incarnate, was abused, and then crucified for you and your sins.  When He rose, it meant you were totally forgiven. The greatest action, or decision you can ever take is to repent and then receive this gift. He loves you, and continuously calls out your name. It is time to turn to Him.

2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ.”

2 Corinthians 11:2

“God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.”  C.S. Lewis

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Pressed Roses

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, ESV

This world is not our friend. And then we often face issues that create ugly things–  a fight with a spouse, poor choices, money problems– a lengthy list that seems that we’re always adding new entries. And as we each of us work through our tears, as we face sickness, loneliness, fear and misunderstanding.

In this world of woe and trouble, we discover that life is itself often brutal. Myself, I must deal with clinical depression, paranoia and physical pain. It is constant, a barrage of challenging things. Sometimes they swallow me up, and I lose my way.

I was thinking this morning, of a recent find in the pages of an old book– pressed rose petals! The book had been many years on the shelf. When I opened the book they I found them.  Typically, they are fairly well preserved. They still have color and shape. And most of all, they still have a fragrance.

I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do when this happens. Do I just “read” around them, or do I physically remove them? I almost feel that they are sacred or something. Do I find an old jar and store them? But no matter what I do, I always pause and think. Sometimes though, I can even remember the incident that they were given. An anniversary or a birthday maybe? Or sometimes they are given, “just because.”

Two distinct thoughts work in me. I look at the hard, hard things that I have had to process through my past, and present, and most likely, my future. I have to believe, from all that I have read and the preaching I have heard over the years that my pain gets turned into gold (or into roses!) This is exclusively a work of God. The second thought is a little bit harder to think through. But Jesus is the rose. He is the beauty and the fragrance of heaven come to earth.

There is an old fable kept by the believers of the first century; it was said that wherever Jesus stepped while on earth, roses would spring up in His footprints. This is only a legend of course, but that doesn’t mean that it is all false. Some of these stories have more truth in them than we think.


Coming to Him is such pleasant thing. It shouldn’t be an agonizing ordeal. It is not a painful or real sacrifice. After all, He is the rose. Roses are beautiful, they have a definite fragrance. There is a symmetry to them, and they are special, people will cultivate them for their beauty. Roses are never a hassle, for some reason we can never send or get too many.

“I am the rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”

Songs 2:1, ESV

“A discipleship without flowers, probably isn’t worth having.”

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