The ‘Insignificant’ Church

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“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”

(Isaiah 42:3)

Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability.

They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.

For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.

We are the weak and fallen

But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time?

We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.

But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of only ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.

After over 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.)

I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

His love is completely undeserved.

It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly lost and fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.

It is a relationship and not a religion.

We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).

We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy.

We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.

All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.

I must tell you that God loves you far more than you ever dreamed.

He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.

You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship. You display God’s love and grace so others can see it.

We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken.

We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.

There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.

“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “

They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)

A brother who is incredibly loved,

Bryan

I have a new site and I hope you visit: alaskabibleteacher.com

Are You Desperate Yet?

If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.” 

2 Timothy 2:13, NLT

There are often times of great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.

I know that feeling quite well.

I have depressive bipolar disorder and because of that I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. (Or is it? I’m not always sure.)

We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.

We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us in the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that’s what we deserve.

“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.” 

Psalm 3:2

In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David had now gone outside of God’s grace and favor. Forever.

The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.

Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is even more extreme.

”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’

Psalm 36:5

The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When He committed Himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).

You see, Jesus has taken every ounce of your sin upon Himself.  

That includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”

Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever?

Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t ever fight fair.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:“I have  loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

Take a look at my new site: Alaskabibleteacher.com. Thanks.

Darkness Hovers, A Simple Poem

I believe that this poem is relevant to all who struggle to keep depression at bay. It was originally posted at my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog.

There are people in this world who seem to always be upbeat and to think positively about things. Darkness seems far from them. But for some of us, that is not the case, and darkness hover ever closer. The armor of God holds for us the essential weapons of Light as the darkness hovers ever closer to our doors.

Darkness Hovers

Darkness hovers at the door
eye out for an entrance
an opening in my armor
a reason to steal my joy

The joy of the Lord
is my strength and my armor
the Light that keeps
darkness at bay

Despair lurks in the shadows
waiting for an opportunity
to pull me back into darkness
with hopes of keeping me evermore

Vigilance is crucial
I never can forget
Darkness desires to consume me
and take my joy away

I must stand firm
in the armor of my Lord
His belt of truth
reminding me He is my Light

Flaming arrows of sorrow
guilt, shame, and despair
fly from the darkness
my heart and soul their target

With the shield of faith
darkness is thwarted
unless I grow careless
even for a moment

I grow weary and tired
pain overwhelms me
My shield falls to the ground
darkness overcomes

Yet my Savior never forsakes
this despair will not last
Though I am in darkness
I will pray in the Spirit

Light returns to my soul
I set my armor to the ready
once again standing vigilant
as darkness hovers at my door

“The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”

Romans 13:12

How Well Do We Suffer?

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?'”

John Newton, Exodus 3:2

It seems that pain is the best teacher. I suppose as we navigate through life we find the ‘capacity’ of our hearts expanding. We learn the hard way to come under God’s direction, and we finally learn to love others. Maybe this is how God changes us? After all, isn’t the crushed grape that yields the wine?

C.S. Lewis once made the comment, (and it’s worth thinking about,) that “experience is the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” We face many obstacles, run into quite a few dead ends, and along the way we learn that when we really hurt, we really start to learn some things.

I look over my life and it seems chock full of challenge. I’ve lost the use of my right arm, I have struggled with depression. I had a brain tumor removed, and must walk with a cane. I struggle with intense fatigue. (I no longer can pastor a church or teach in a Bible college.)

My wife and I have lost a child. I have prayed earnestly for a complete healing and had others pray for me. It’s funny, but all of this has happened after I became a Christian disciple! I often ask myself why?

What did I do to deserve all of this?

Paul and Barnabas came into an interesting place (we can read about it in Acts 14.)

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” 

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some of our Bible teachers we listen to minimize suffering, and we adopt a lot of our own theology to factor out pain and difficulty. But is this what the Bible teaches? If we read Hebrews 11, we find that life could be pretty grim for those with faith in God.

“Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

Why does it have to be so hard for believers in Jesus?

Common sense suggests that things should get easier for those who believe. We somehow think that God rewards faith with instant glory. I painfully discover that my discipleship, my faith, doesn’t mean some wonderful existence on this planet. It seems that pain becomes the way we grow up and mature in Him. I honestly believe, after over 40 years of following Jesus, that suffering is part of God’s plan for me.

It has never been easy. I wish it was.

No matter what you are going through, remember that God always loves you. He has chosen us to navigate us through much difficulty. We must however, convert these painful things by our faith in Him. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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