When the Storms Rage On and On

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 “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deut. 31:8, NLT

You can go to the British Museum in London, England and view old nautical charts that were made in the early 1500s. Written on them are things like, “Here be fiery scorpions” and “Here be giants” or the classic, “Here be dragons.” These notations were written I suppose, to discourage any kind of exploration.

At this early point a man named, Sir John Franklin wrote on each map, “Here is God.” His sincerity was well noted– and it strengthened the sailors, and helped them to trust in a discovery that would lead to salvation for many.

35 “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.”

Mark 4:35-37

Jesus, all of a sudden stands up. He declares we must go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. (He says, “Lake.” But this is not a lake.) It is the storm. It rips over the disciples. It confuses them, and causes fear.

There is enough waves, that the disciples (trained fisherman) begin to wonder why their world is “falling apart.” They realize they are in deep trouble, and I suppose many “crossed” themselves and prepared to die. Everything is now lost.

The certainty of death approaching can be quite sobering. It clarifies so much. If you’ve been at this “threshold,” you will understand what I am saying.

“But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”

Mark 4:38-39

Where is Jesus? There He is, sleeping on a pillow. How can He sleep, when the world is going to end? They wake up Jesus, and pointedly ask Him, “Don’t you even care? We are at the very point of death!

Shaking off His slumber, Jesus stands. He looks at the vicious waves, and then announces, “Be at peace, be still.” Immediately the storm ‘shuts down.’ There is no reluctance, no hesitation. The waves become calm and subdued, instantly.

Jesus turns, He focuses on His own disciples. “Why did you doubt?”  He asks. And they can say nothing. “Where is your faith?” And they can say nothing. They are overwhelmed at the authority of Jesus.  They dare not offer anything that may confuse others who will encounter Jesus.

Confusion rules when desperation is present. But yet this is not true, confusion will enter in, when everything we see is impossible. We take a look at Jesus, and we see and discover His power and significance. Rightly so, He overwhelms us, and He takes us apart.

The disciples should have realized the strength of Jesus. He was so very tired. Yet He told His followers that He would bring to the opposite side of the lake. Being in the middle of the lake is not a factor.

Our lives should be focused on Jesus leading us through. He is in our small boat, and yet we struggle with our waves. They cripple us and completely dismantles us, the intense waves are breaking over us. But we should never determine that life will work without His presence.

We won’t always travel through calm waters. There will be definite times when we approach peace and confidence. Dangers that will visit us are not in our proximity. We are His children. We must bring our souls to rest. Amazingly, He does love us. We are His property and must believe that we belong to Him, He will bring us all the way home.

Never, ever doubt His deep love for your soul.

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Killing My Sin, Before It Kills Me

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We are for the most part anyway, eager to please God. We are Jesus’ people with the occasional brush with sin. But hey, who doesn’t? But that attitude must be questioned.

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.”

1 John 2:1

John hopes that his readers would make a choice— not to commit sin. After all, what soldier goes into battle with the intent of getting just a little wounded? Often we will sin just because it seems so inevitable, and we feel we can’t help ourselves. (But the reality is that we can.)

But the Holy Spirit now lives inside. Cooperation with Him is needed. Often we will work ourselves into a ‘no win scenario’ where we believe that sin rules. We can’t beat it, so we stop trying. That is common, and sad.

‘Passivity’ is defined as not participating readily or actively; inactive. When we are passive spiritually, we disengage ourselves from any effort of living holy and pure lives. Not being ‘hot’, but content to be lukewarm. At this point sin becomes, reluctantly, tolerated. “After all, I’m a sinner, what else can I do?”

Mentally ill people are often passive. We are told that we have an uncontrolled illness which dictates that we act ‘irresponsible.’ Our depression often escalates and we feel victimized by it. My experience has taught me that there are three kinds of depression:

  • organic depression, or the ‘biochemistry’ of the disease,
  • guilty depression, the kind that feels bad because of what we’ve done (or didn’t do),
  • reactionary depression, the type we feel when experiencing a loss, a loved one, or a job

Depression will almost always fall in these three categories. And passivity plays a part in all three. We  frequently feel victimized and ‘acted upon.’ When it comes to our discipleship we don’t act, we react. We are utterly convinced of the Bible— God’s truth, but we are so sporadic we can’t seem to get it to work for any length of time.

Yes, we are believers. And yes, we have issues. We’re waiting for a miracle, and hope we get a breakthrough soon.

At the base point of our lives, quite often, there is a passive attitude. Passivity aggravates our depression or mental illness. It deepens, spreading through our lives like a contagious illness. Our discipleship sputters and stalls. We no longer act on God’s Word, but we find ourselves fabricating a faith that makes allowances for our situation.

But we must ‘act the miracle.’ Everything God gives… everything… must be received by a convinced faith. We must be persuaded to give up our flawed ideas, and believe God for the real thing. I opened up this with 1 John 2:1. But there’s much more to this verse:

“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin.  And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

I don’t want you to sin. Avoid sin. But even if you do— we have someone who will plead our case before God. He stands and argues our plight. He loves us that much.

 

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Jesus Actively Helps Me

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“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

These two verses out of Hebrews 4 establish three things.

  • We are “criminals” and in need of representation.
  • Jesus Christ stands ready, and able to help us before both this world and to the one to come.
  • Jesus still has a present day ministry as our priest and provider.

And he is busy! He did not ascend to heaven to wait around for his second coming. He is active, and we are being acted upon. This is the present work of heaven.

There is more, let’s look to the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome. He is a prisoner being escorted to stand before Caesar. He has a guard who is watching him as he travels by ship across much of the Mediterranean.

Because of the time of the year, the trip will be hard. The weather is very iffy, and awful storms could pummel a ship at times. No matter what, it will be a hard journey.

 “When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. 14 But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. 15 The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.”

16 “We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. 17 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.”

Acts 27:13-17, NLT

The storm is probably a once in a lifetime experience. It seems everyone is problem-solving trying to keep the ship from “breaking up.” They are fighting for their lives. After tossing over the cargo, and the ships tackle, they would have cut down the mast. Leaving it up would only weaken the ship’s hull, which reduces their chances.

They then did something called “frapping.” It involved wrapping ropes or cables around the hull in a criss-cross manner. This outside strengthening would have been “levered” to increase tightness. It could be an effective way of surviving the unsurvivable.

There is a specific Greek word to describe this frapping. It is used in only one other place in the entire Bible. In Hebrews 4:16 we read–

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Can you see the connection? In those desperate times when the storm is ripping up everything, attempting to destroy us– our families, our friends and neighbors. Just survival seems a long stretch. It is then that Jesus fraps (or wraps) us tightly.

But many of us go through typhoons with the cables coiled up on deck. We seem oblivious and ignorant of its existence. We really don’t see the “present tense’ ministry of Jesus standing to intercede. We merit nothing– but are promised everything. We are on the knife’s edge of falling apart.

I believe this message has not come to you by accident. You are either in the storm, or know someone who is there. The name of this post is, “Jesus Actively Helps Me.” I hope you will see it, and live it.

ybic, Bryan

 

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Comprehensive Protection

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The Book of Daniel contains the acts and welfare of the Jewish people in Babylon. They are captives and so much of the stories shared here are accounts of spirituality under duress. King Nebuchadnezzar, in an attempt to unify his kingdom, proclaims himself to be a god. He commissions a 90 foot statue to be erected; he orders that, on a prearranged moment, that all would fall down and worship.

Thgold statueere are three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who are brought to the king with the charge of ‘failure to worship.’ They refused to bow at the statue at the signal. They were observed standing when everyone else was kneeling. Non-compliance to the king meant the death penalty; but that doesn’t deter the three. Their faith will not allow them to sin in this way.

They are resolute. The first, second and third commandments clearly forbid the worship of all idols. There was no other options. Perhaps they valued their souls more than they valued their lives. In some things there can be no accommodation– no compromise. Standing before the king and threatened with death, they declare their allegiance to the living God. Dan. 3:16-18:

 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The king is enraged. Few have ever spoken and defied him like this (and lived). He orders the furnace to be heated up like never before.  Here the king is making a statement. He will not tolerate this kind of ‘rebellion’ in his kingdom. All of his governing leaders will witness what he does to ‘traitors.’ These Hebrews must be made an example.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (v.v. 24-25).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fire. The men who escorted them are killed by the heat. Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer can’t protect his own men from death while the three Jews are not touched, not even a little. They are joined by a fourth man and they walk around in the midst of the flames.

Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzer realizes that the God of Israel is not only a real God, but a force to be reckoned with. The men’s faith has saved them. (And his men are dead.)

The complete story is quite compelling. The king orders all that the real God be worshipped. Henceforth, no one shall ever speak against this God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom.

The lessons for today are many,

  1. God’s Word is to be obeyed no matter what it costs,

  2. When confronted, we must never hedge over our beliefs

  3. God is present with us in our furnace, we’re never alone

  4. In the fire, our faith will ultimately triumph.

We may be standing in similar times. Faith will be tested. The Word must be believed and trusted. It is ‘comprehensive protection’ for our lives. Obedience to God will lead us into difficult places, but faith will triumph.

aabryscript

 

 

 

The Snare of the Fowler: Psalms 91

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“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-2, NIV

This psalm focuses on intimacy.

Throughout the entire chapter we see personal pronouns used. In contrast to other psalms that are directed to the nation, this one is written to an individual. This personal focus makes this a favorite psalm for many.

Shelter and shadow, refuge and fortress are the opening ‘word pictures’ used very elegantly. The psalmist writes what he knows, and it is apparent that he understand the needs of the human spirit, and for protection. Each of these four words creates a common link between believers. Each of us need a working understanding of all four protections.

Dwelling, resting and ‘saying’ are necessary elements for the word pictures to work. I should ‘dwell’ in God’s sheltered care. All too often, I wander out past the security of the Lord (or maybe I’m lured out?) But there is safety in having God so close to us. His proximity is for my protection.

“Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 91:3-4

silhouette-bird-on-branch-grangerV.v. 3-4, maintains its personal or familiar tone. ‘Save you’ (salvation) is far more that a theological term.  For the psalmist however, it’s not about ‘doctrine’; rather the psalm is an embrace. He is rescued from the trap, and the sickness that seems so contagious never touches him. Moving from metaphor to metaphor, he engages our imaginations to ‘see’ God’s salvation. The writer knows his stuff.

The Lord is pictured as a protective bird that covers his chicks (Ex.19:4). We have a sure confidence as we gather together in that warm and safe spot under His wing. Whatever is after us has to go through God first. His presence is formidable. In His company is found our only safety.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

Romans 8:31, 33

It appears that all of heaven is rallying for your well-being. You are sure of this based on your faith in God’s own word. He has ‘busted us’ out of a dark cage,  and now defends you against all your enemies. And that is a very good thing.

aabryscript

 

 


 

On Being Tied to the Mast

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“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!

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Superglue Your Crown On

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“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.

Rev. 3:1o-11, NLT


The crown you wear is vulnerable.  Sorry.  But the truth is that the crown we wear can be snatched, and taken away from us.  The dark enemy would love to lift it up, and the hoards of evil would rejoice over their victory in a dark demonstration of their power over you.

Jesus has issued a command.  His instruction communicates to us an awareness of what evil is about to do.  He tells us that there is a testing, and that there is the need for endurance.  We can so easily be led into darkness, and the enemy is pressing us with all his might.

Our crowns can be taken.  They will not be returned, at least not without issues.  Evil will come from this failure to keep watch.  Our spiritual life has been harmed and weakened.  Our crown becomes Satan’s trophy, and he gloats as shows off his collection.  We will become destitute of spirit, and our life starts to reflect the darkness.  Evil repeatedly does this, and we should realize that this. We cannot give in to this intimidation.

Remember, the crown the Holy Spirit gave you is extremely important.  It has a significance.  We look at our crown, and we can draw conclusions.  First He has given us an authority, and a place in his kingdom which is secure. He meets our needs as we work out the kingdom in this world. He works hard to turn us into a ‘marvel’ of grace.  We are royalty; princes and princesses of the High King. We serve Him alone.

My dear brother or sister, you wear a crown that sets you apart.  Wear it, with a spiritual awareness that you are special.  You are of a kingly lineage.  Rub shoulders with all that is good.  Become a companion of all those who are friendly to the truth.  Walk humbly, yet boldly. You must hold on to everything that belongs to you.

aabryscript

 

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