On Being Loved More Gently (Disability)

There will be no wheelchairs, or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven.

Some of us have been struggling with a mental or physical illness.  Some people don’t understand and they walk away.  This really hurts, and we can isolate ourselves even more.  We feel not only forsaken, but even “cursed” by God. But these things shouldn’t separate us from our Father’s love.  (He loves “his special needs” children even more?)

We believe that our transformation is happening, more and more, into the image of Christ.  We are becoming like him (hence the word, Christlikeness).  This is a long process, but it is happening!  (Philippians 1:6). God has given his word.  Don’t give up. It may take years, or maybe taking just a few moments. I believe he understands us perfectly.

I’m seeing lately that spiritual growth and getting older often work hand-in-hand (and why shouldn’t they?)  Often as we get older, we’ll start having many different issues.  When you’re 60 years old, you don’t have the same situations that you had when you were 30.  Physically we grow and understand things differently, and this works into us spiritually.  Becoming older (and hopefully wiser) we will blend discipleship and age together, especially when the Word and Spirit are present.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:3-6, NLT

It is my wish for you that you could walk in your own shoes, and not somebody else. Also that you would know the grace of God intimately. Being disabled means special efforts will often be necessary, but Jesus’ love for your soul will be molded to fit that disability. There will be no wheelchairs or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven. I like to imagine that there will be a considerable pile outside the gates. Glory awaits.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

 

The ‘Insignificant’ Church

Image result for mike yaconelli quotes images

“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 ‘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 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 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 insanely. He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He certainly 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.

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: redletterstudy.wordpress.com

Thinking About Mental Illness

“The Thinker” bronze statute, by Rodin, c.. 1880

“Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.”

(1 Corinthians 14:20, NASB)

Those of us who are broken have to think through many things. Jesus is our Teacher, and He fully intends to educate His disciples. Following Him is vibrantly alive, it’s never a static thing. Instead I must deal with the issues of living, of having a growing faith which is becoming real at long last.

This really isn’t an “one and you’re done” experience, rather the Bible describes a slow growing into the image of Jesus- -painstakingly learning about our frosty hearts, and how God keeps pouring His “super-heated” grace on the broken. We’re finally becoming ‘poor in Spirit’ and we’re learning to ‘mourn’ over our sins, perhaps we realize that we’ve fallen quite short of His will for us. (Matt. 5:3-4).

This list isn’t orderly or exhaustive, and it’s written primarily for the mentally ill believer:
  • Stigma-This is one of the basic hazards that comes with being a believer with a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like you’re a moron, even in God’s church. You’ll try to become thick-skinned and ask Jesus for His help. He understands you completely. Even the Lord’s own family considered Him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company. (Mark 3:20).
  • Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what’s best for you, your family and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and definite issues that ‘disciples.’ must navigate. Some say that therapy and ‘meds’ are wrong. Your patience most likely will be required and you’ll need to seek His wisdom. He will tell you what to do.
  • Church“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” must anchor us. We were built for real fellowship.  It’s quite easy to attempt to go it alone, but that isn’t what God wants. Not to be with others is a disease of the spiritual heart. I’ve chafed at this from time to time. 
  • Therapy— To go or not to go? I happen to believe a good counselor is worth their weight in gold, but a bad therapist can be a real challenge to your faith. Figure out your tolerance level on this. Quite often all I simply need a good listener, and listening is a skill that is developed over time. (It’s also is a great indicator of the therapist’s ability.)
  • Marriage—  A good spouse is often key to manage your mental illness. God has gifted them to deal with your disability; they’re your partner in this. Bring them into some of your appointments. Talk, and listen. Learn to pray and worship together. Read the Word out loud. Remember they are learning too. Your disability is shaping their discipleship to Jesus. 
  • Family— They’ll often feel the brunt of your issues. It is good to be aware of this and adjust to their needs. Above all, don’t flog yourself for your failings. Allow God to redeem your situation. Trust in the Lord, and try not get in His way. He wants to renew things. Always look for creative ways to love your family. (Surprise ice cream does wonders!)
  • Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have very little tolerance for your issues, but the law says is that they can’t discriminate against a mental illness. I hope it won’t come down to that.
  • Fellow strugglers-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggles with severe depression I want to give them a big bear hug. We instantly have a rapport that isn’t easily defined. Finally there is someone who understands my battle.
  • Prayer–Desperate prayers have a tendency to get answered. Start praying for five minutes a day. Pray, not complain. Be real, not religious. Talk with Jesus like he was your best friend. Prayer is the key to making the above work. Prayer is the “heart beat” of heaven.

We have the joy of combining our discipleship with our illness.

This is a formidable task. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit stands ready to give us His wisdom. He graces us with intense spiritual power. The battle rages and times get tough. Perhaps “grittiness” should we should added to the fruits of the Holy Spirit? I’ve now walked with Him over 40 years now, and I know Jesus has never left me alone. He never lets me ‘twist in the wind.’

The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace. He always does this for His children. No believer is ever overlooked or forgotten. He is constantly aware of you.

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

— Alan Redpath

These are only some of the areas that are affected by your mental illness. A wise spouse, pastor, elder, friend or therapist can do wonders when things get difficult. Sometimes we need a new perspective as we sort things out. God will often use others to bandage and heal us. That’s the way He works.

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Philippians 1:6, Message

 

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‘Snowflake’ Discipleship

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation!” 

(Psalm 139:14, MSG)

“God is not a duplicator, He is a Creator. You are an original.” –Reinhard Bonnke

Man makes styrofoam cups that are all the same. God creates snowflakes that are completely different. I’ve been thinking about something. I don’t know if it’s scriptural. Maybe yes, and maybe no. I’ve been known to miss it.

The Bible states many wonderful things. One of them is that we are created in the image of God, and I’m quite certain that each of us are shaped completely different. Essentially we are the same, we all share a very common “person-hood.”

Each have come to Jesus, through our repentance and faith. We each have been filled with His Spirit, we read the Word and we each fellowship with other believers. In that regard, we are one, quite the same. We believe that there is Someone who doesn’t change. He is the “reality behind the real.” The Creator and the Truth.

The other day I found my Grandmother’s Bible. I was somewhat intrigued, and I supposed that it might just ‘impart’ some special spiritual blessing to me. I sat down on the couch, and reverently opened it up. It was filled with wonderful handwritten notes.

Could it carry a special touch from the Lord? Perhaps I thought it would have a special spiritual aura to it? I was more than a little curious. And wouldn’t you know, it zapped me in a very interesting way? It was an old Thompson Chain, KJV–first edition I think. As I sat down to read it, I slowly began to realize that it was entirely like my own! The verses and the promises were the same, they had not changed. What was true for my grandma was true for me. That amazed me, and it kind of sent me spinning.

Each of us struggle with many different things. We endure depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, even suicidal thoughts. We struggle with different addictions and lonely divorce. There are those believers who are epileptics or disabled. There are some of us who have been raped or molested. I have a paralyzed right arm, and am typing this with my left hand. I also struggle with depression and anger.

Each of us are the same in a basic sense, and yet we are all distinctly different. We all have gone through different things, some quite awful. These issues are uniquely our own. They’ve shaped us in completely different ways. Our “personal” testimony is completely different than someone elses. We respond to our different circumstances in different ways.

We are the “snowflakes’ that have been artistically crafted. Our circumstances are individually tailored by God, who is the ultimate Artist. I opened this post with the idea that God creates “snowflakes,” and I’ve been told that they are all unique, not one of them is exactly the same. Somehow, they seem to be crafted by a Someone who loves this whole idea of an extravagant creation. The Bible reveals He does this work with true wisdom, a special love and surpassing power.

“People are special, and human life is sacred, whether of not we admit it. Every person is worth fighting for, regardless of whether he is young or old, sick or well, child or adult, born or unborn, or brown, red, yellow, black or white.”

–Francis Schaeffer

I do believe that when we stand before God we will all have these fantastically different stories. Each of us have found forgiveness, mercy and grace that the Lord freely gives us. As “grace-walkers” we’ve become are the new discoverers, through our issues of prosperity or pain— our life is mixed with His grace, filtered through a myriad of circumstances. They mix exceedingly well.

We begin to see, and understand, that there implications of being this special. God took Joseph and ‘molded’ him by His unique circumstances, He went from slave to Prime Minister overnight. Each of us billions have become unique testimonies of His incredible care. As true believers, we can lead them to the Father. We need to pray for the “field” and the workers who labor there.

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

(Rev. 12:11, NIV)

I hope my meandering doesn’t scare you. I didn’t intend to.

Your very unique brother,

Bryan

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