Quarantined, for His Purposes

 

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Quarantines are a real possibility, even in this day. A quarantine is imposed when disease is contagious enough that it would harm a society: Measles, Smallpox, and the recent Ebola Virus  are just a few physical diseases where strict isolation must be imposed. It can be severe— an epidemic, with desperate consequences if not adhered to; in some rare cases, the use of deadly force have been authorized to maintain a quarantine until the disease is no longer communicable.

This may surprise you, but there are examples of ‘quarantines’ in the Bible. The term ‘unclean’ was used for ‘leprosy.’ Those afflicted must isolate themselves; they had to ‘announce’ their presence when in contact with society. Lepers lived in groups away from the general populace as a result of their disease.

In Paul’s epistle to the Corinthian he addresses another kind of ‘quarantine.’ The situation was dire; the church had advocated a Christian living with his father’s wife.

“I have already passed judgment on this man in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.”

1 Corinthians 5:3-5, NLT

Understanding the Principal of Usefulness

20 “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.”

2 Timothy 2:20, NASB

Found in God’s pantry are many things. Paul writes Timothy about the ‘large house’ which is the Church inclusive. Look around Timothy, there are gold ones, and there are silver ones. They have a noble purpose fitting for such a great house. These are the ones the guests will use; they befit the significance of the Lord himself. These vessels have great value for they are made of precious metals.

There are vessels of a different category. These are the ones made of wood, and of clay. These are part of the household, make no mistake about it. But their use is one of function, they’re used in common ways. (A clay ‘bed-pan’ perhaps?!)

21 “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

2 Timothy 2:21

Paul, the author of New Testament doctrine of grace emphasizes the place of personal holiness. We are to ‘cleanse’ ourselves to become a vessel of honor. There is good news here:

  • All are vessels in the Father’s house. Each of us belong to Him. He determines their use.
  • Things are not yet in their final state. Change in status can be experienced. Clay pots can become ‘golden.’ Silver can become ‘wood.’

Some sin is contagious. It effects other believers and the Church. Sometimes we are quarantined by the Holy Spirit until the contagion passes. I have experienced this several times in my own discipleship. These are not pleasant times. But there is no condemnation. I’m still His servant, His love for me stays outrageously constant. God waits for me.

Yes I am His servant, and I must wait out in the hall. I haven’t been faithful. So I sit in His waiting room, waiting for His call. This is for my good, and for the Church. And Father knows best.

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Hold Me Close, Through this Present Moment

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NLT

There are many different points where our Lord connects through our desperation. Our sorrow and confusion can be how God ‘wires us’ for additional contact— my pain becomes His copper wire. It is how He touches my heart as He flows through it.

It is helpful to see our issues in this way.  There is a current that must work through us, making contact and ultimately to create a circuit.  We have to experience pain, in order to know His presence.  If you see a brother struggling, you should anticipate an additional special touch to follow after him.  We must be aware that our distress allows us access to His careful grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with a special and supplemental power.

When it gets dark, any light becomes exceptional.  In a book by Stephen Lawhead, (I think it was “the Silver Hand.”) we see a man, the hero take up stones who have at one time been infused the creative power of the universe.  Standing on the walls of a besieged stronghold, the desperate hero throws the stones down on the attackers.  And as each stone smashes into the ground it releases a part of a song, which destroys the enemy, and defeats those strong in the darkness.

His Spirit infuses into our hearts.  He has imparted something in us that is both precious and powerful.  He works through the pain and struggles that we encounter.  These are terribly ugly, no question.  But it is through these we plug into something real and eternal. I suppose when the tragic finally brings real life it’s a most precious thing. We treasure all this that has come at such an exorbitant price.

Pain indeed has a purpose, and many times that comes  at a high cost.

This is our purpose. It is what we’re called to be. I know that life is seldom easy. It is said that Queen Victoria, (who reigned the U.K. at the turn of the century) resisted vehemently her future coronation as the sovereign of England. She became rebellious and there were many who were frustrated in this.  Once when Victoria was shown a lineage that directed her and revealed her place in England’s future as queen.  She responded with an astonishing simple awareness, “I will be good.”

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His Presence.”  

Paul Claudel

 

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An Injured Life

“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster.

The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.”

 –Stephan Hoeller%

Sometimes we find it almost impossible to see things from God’s perspective. We hurt, and lash out, sometimes irrationally. We subconsciously compare our situation to others we see and admire. This something we do almost automatically. When it feels like we are being singled out, we get angry with God.

God’s business is pearl-planting. He looks for a soft heart that can be cultivated. His intention is never to harm, but to enrich us. When we lost our daughter, Elizabeth, the pain was incredible. We looked and saw healthy families all around us. I began to accuse God and compare us with them. We hurt, they did not, and it seemed so unfair. But as time moved on, I slowly felt the growth inside. Over time it has become a pearl.

A pearl of great price, because it proceeded from my daughter’s tragic death.

Our lives have been injured; perhaps mental illness has severely affected you. Maybe physical issue or pain is part of your life. There is a myriad of ways we can hurt. At times we are angry. But remember, God has a plan. He also understands completely.

ybic, Bryan

 

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Paul Billheimer, the Christian author, wrote a book years ago entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows“. (The title alone is the worth the price of the book.) We are each have the potential of throwing away the work of God in suffering. We can literally waste the pain, the suffering, and the grief by turning our back and denouncing God to the world. It happens all the time.

 

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Psalm 40, The Dark Pit

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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.

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Different Ways to Fall Out of a Tree

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Imagine climbing up to the top of a very tall tree. You work your way up to the highest point– you can go no further. The view is completely glorious, it’s more than you hoped for. You want to post it on Facebook, so you dig into your pocket to get your camera-phone. You suddenly slip, and because your arms are occupied getting your camera, you fall. And you fall fast.

As you plummet, you realize that you’re hitting every branch on the way down. The smaller ones break, and the bigger ones, well– you just bounce off. The trip down is very fast, and perhaps even a bit illuminating.

  1. First, you think of death.
  2. Then you think about the pain each branch causes, and wonder about your imminent arrival on terra firma.
  3. Perhaps you consider how stupid you are, and how you are going to explain it.
  4. Lastly, I suppose, you wonder if you have clean underwear on, like your mother always told you to wear.

This is how my life has gone, the last 20 years. This metaphor is a good way for me to process things, and to find some understanding. I now believe that some of us go through life sideways, or horizontal. We careen off of every branch on the way down, and it seems we are hitting branches that we didn’t even know were there. Tree limbs are snapping, as we are dropping.

Others who are wiser (or maybe more experienced,) try to fall more vertically. As they fall, they use their hands to try to slow their descent. (This does work!) They will take their fair share of jolts, no doubt. But their journey to the forest floor is way less traumatic. They may end up in the hospital– but not in emergency surgery like the first guy.

It sometimes seems like every trouble I have faced I have gone into it sideways. I have broken a lot of branches on my way down. I suppose I’ve entertained some who have watched me plummet, and seen me careen and spiral my way to the bottom. These have been some painful times, I have inflicted considerable amount of bruises on myself.

People who go through life sideways will invariably suffer. They seem to hit every obstacle and trial that could be in their flight path. The existence of pain in this life cannot be disputed.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33, NLT

Jesus understands. Especially if you are one of those people who are “trial magnets” going through life horizontal. (You just seem to collect them.) My hope for you that as you break your branches on the way down (for maybe the 100th time). You will try to plummet vertically. Not that it is any easier, life will hurt. But perhaps it won’t be as agonizing. And I suppose that would be a good thing.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,”

Jude 24

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kyrie elesion.

Suffering: Finding Some Reasons

suffering1“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”

Hebrews 2:18, (NLT)

“Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered; been limited, gone through things for the Lord, willing to be imprisoned by the Lord, just being satisfied with Him and nothing else, immediately you scent the fragrance. There is a savor of the Lord. Something has been crushed, something has been broken, and there is a resulting odor of sweetness.”

  Watchman Nee

I remember a time many years ago when I felt like I had a ‘charmed’ life. I had no issues, few problems– life was smooth, there was no ‘roughness.’ I felt like I was God’s favorite, His ‘golden boy.’ I should have known it wouldn’t last :-).

Suffering in the scriptures is often linked with the concept of endurance. Often within the selected verse the writer weaves into it this idea. I believe that to endure something transforms it to good. Believers will suffer, but the issues get transformed into something quite beautiful, if, we add the ingredient of patient endurance.

“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.”

James 5:11

In many ways, suffering is a tutor teaching us the foreign dialect of the Kingdom. If done under the kind direction of the Holy Spirit, it can give us a working knowledge of patience, endurance and joy. We must learn to speak in another language. A suffering believer will find a new vocabulary in pain that allows him to speak with understanding to those who are also in pain.

I spent several years studying Spanish. Even though I wasn’t really fluent, I discovered it opened a whole new world; being bilingual created new opportunities that I’d never even knew existed. I believe that suffering works under this same principle.

light-end-tunnelDo you speak the language? Can you communicate with love to those who hurt? Learning it can transform you to a person that can speak authoritatively to a wide swath of people. Having had to handle your own pain gives you the privilege of interpreting God’s love into pain and hurt.

From our own hurt (through endurance and joy) we can help others. I can always tell a fellow-sufferer. They are typically gentle and loving people, devoid of pride and control. These are the ones who have learned to speak the idiom of the Kingdom of God.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us… We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

2 Corinthians 1:4, 8-9

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Bitter Water, [The Cross]

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24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him.”

Exodus 15

In this brief narration we have a graphic portrait of the condition of many within the Church today. The situation is becoming critical and its effects are devastasting. Some call it ‘crossless Christianity,’ ‘cheap grace’ or the ‘new cross.’ The writer of Exodus 15 calls it ‘bitter water.’

The children of Israel had begun to murmur. They demanded water for the long and hot journey through the Sinai desert. Coming to the ‘springs of Marah’ they discovered it bitter and undrinkable.

Moses responds directly to directly quell this potential rebellion. He begins to cry out to the Lord (what else can you do?) and begs the Lord for wisdom. He must know the next step.  So Moses cried out to the Lord for help,”

There was a tree, a piece of wood, and when that wood was tossed into the waters, the water were made sweet.

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Today– people are waiting— searching for water. And never, ever has there been such a desperate search. They stampede to any new well on the horizon, and they search for anything.  Any well will do. Most will seek there lives away, only to perish at the ‘end.’ They’re chasing a mirage.

The Church is to be a well, an oasis in a dry and desperate land. But the water is becoming ‘bitter.’ We have defiled it with ‘sin and self.’ Friends, please understand— the ‘bitterness’ of our ‘uncrucified’ flesh pollutes our wells. We have poisoned our own selves.

We need ‘the cross.’ It is a sweet source for our ‘bitterness.’

We must return to ‘the old rugged cross.’ We need to embrace its reality again. Jesus, himself said this: “Whoever doesn’t bear his cross, and follow me cannot be my disciple.’ Those who followed after Him needed no preacher to interpret.

Rome had a nasty habit of executing her criminals publicly. Everyone who had listened to Jesus Christ had seen people crucified.

One Roman general, after suppressing a Jewish rebellion crucified 2,000 men at one time. The roads into Jerusalem were lined with crosses of dying men. This was done purposefully and publicly.

Every man and woman would see the terrible price of resisting Rome. This would result in death, and there are no halfway about it. A cross is a radical thing. There is nothing ‘halfway’ about it. It demands ‘no less than all.”

The Cross is in danger of being misinterpreted’ today. Our cross seems somehow different. It seems softer, and more padded, it doesn’t rub us the wrong way.” It allows us much: our favorite habits, our prideful ways, and our self-centered ideas. It would seem that what we call ‘our cross’ has a built-in ‘life-support’ system that keeps our old man alive just a little bit longer.

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Dr. A.W. Tozer in an article entitled “The Old Cross and the New” wrote:

“The new cross is not opposed to the human race, rather it is a friendly pal, and if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun, and innocent enjoyment. His life motivation is unchanged, he still lives for his own pleasure, only he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious films, instead of singing bawdy songs, and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is on a higher plane morally, if not intellectually.The new cross does not slay the sinner, but redirects him.”

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for an abrupt and violent end of a human being.

 “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”

2 Corinthians 13:5

Are we really carrying the cross of the Bible? Is our faith real? Are we carrying the real cross? We cannot be really His disciples unless we do so, and we are apostate if we do not.

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Mark 8:34

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