A Holy Romance

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What if I told you that the universe was built for romance.  To be sure both scientists and psychiatrists might see that idea both simplistic and perhaps even dangerous. And while we may not understand life as clearly as we could, it surely isn’t a passionate romance– or is it? Please consider: Why couldn’t the universe be the arena of a furious courtship between Jesus Christ and His followers? I’m one of millions who believe this is precisely the case.

I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon the last few weeks and have thinking a lot about this very intense allegory between a shepherdess and her lover.

It is full of passion and of public declarations of love and desire.  Kisses are exchanged. A dialogue is developed, and truths are volleyed back and forth from character to character. Sometimes it’s hard to follow, but the book is an exquisite work of God’s love, and grace, and passion for your soul.

We can, and should cry out for a revelation of Jesus’ presence. He really is there and He is waiting for your response.

Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth,
    because your love is better than wine.
The smell of your perfume is pleasant,
    and your name is pleasant like expensive perfume.
    That’s why the young women love you.
Take me with you; let’s run together.
    The king takes me into his rooms.

Songs 1:2-4

Scripture as a whole leads us to believe that romance is much more substantial then we dreamed it could be.  But if we can, we should visualize Jesus’ love for us as being his motivation for doing what he has done, and is doing.  Love is what keeps him from letting us go!

My illness can be heartrending; it drives me straight to Him, and I cry out for Jesus’ hand. I may sink, but He’s right there to pull me out. My depression is His invitation to intimacy. Things can get pretty ugly, pretty quick, if I decide not to reach out for His outstretched hand. Trust me on this. (Matthew 14:29-30). I swim like a stone.

cropped-cropped-heartThere are piles of scripture that declare His heated love for you.  I believe there exists a holy romance that Jesus has for your soul.  Love continues to motivate him to reach out repeatedly for you.  Your devotional life (as Christians like to call it) is nothing more than your dialogue with Him as He saves you from a certain destruction.

The ancient Jews regarded the book of Song of Solomon to be the ‘holiest of holies’ of scripture and set apart to be read during Passover. 

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;  you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Songs 4:9, ESV

Captivated over me. Hmmm. Quite often I wonder what He sees in me. Why should I be honored like this?

I think that our pastors and teachers need a “theology of romance” to clarify the place of discipleship in our hearts. Good theology is always warm-blooded. Instead of cold doctrine we need a fervent passion to work it through our lives.  We are a bride after all– the bride of Christ, and we must be reminded of that by good pastors who understand.  “I am my beloved and he is mine.”

“Who is this sweeping in from the desert,
    leaning on her lover?”

Songs 8:5, NLT

 

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Mental Illness Concerns

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As with anything, those of us with mental illness have much to think through. I believe that God will direct us through these issues. And these are not static things. It isn’t “one and your done”– these are ongoing. They never get completely resolved; you must get used to this. The following list is not meant to be exhaustive.

  • Stigma— This is one of the basic hazards that comes with having a mental illness. People will whisper and treat you like a moron, even in church. You’ll need to be thick-skinned. Ask Jesus for his help. He understands what it’s like. At the time some considered him mentally disturbed. You’re in good company.
  • Medications– This will be a stretching time as you must determine what  is best for you, your family and basic functionality. There will be many opinions and many issues that will arise. Your patience will be required (but isn’t it always?) Oh, and booze is not a med. It is your enemy and a real threat to your sanity. Quit now.
  • Church“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” should be our rally spot. We need fellowship.  It is easy to just go it alone, but we will suffer a barrenness which we will see in our hearts. (I’ve chafed at this from time to time.)
  • Therapy— To go or not to go? A good therapist is worth their weight in gold doubloons, but a bad one can be hard to abide. Also, a  Christian may not always be the best for you personally. My current is a unbeliever, but is very respectful regarding my faith.
  • Marriage—  A faithful spouse/friend is key to managing your mental illness. Invite them to your appointments. Talk, listen, talk, listen, talk. and then listen some more.
  • Family— They will 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. Trust in the Lord to redeem things. Look for ways to love them. (Surprise ice cream does wonders.)
  • Work— Not surprisingly, some employers have 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.
  • Social/friend-– Finding other mentally ill believers is priceless. When I meet someone who also struggled with severe depression I give them a big hug. We instantly have a comradeship that isn’t easily defined.
  • Pray–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 everything work.

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 you wisdom. You will discover that its the tiny issues that can really ‘rock your world.’ (And I’m beginning to think that “grittiness” should be added to the fruits of the Holy Spirit?)

The Lord truly will accommodate your illness with His power and grace. He always does this for His children. No one is ever abandoned or forgotten.

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, one.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. Oh, a wise spouse, pastor, friend, or a therapist can do wonders when things are out of whack.

The spiritual disciplines of prayer and the Word will assist you. Having people pray for you will be a necessity and may provide you relief and restore your sanity. Just remember, some people still remember how to pray.

“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 1:6, NLT

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A Profound Discipleship

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Today, through the marvel of modern medicine, we can do heart bypasses, heart transplants and install artificial hearts.

But no one can make an unclean heart clean once it becomes dirty. We cannot fix it to live in eternity with a infinitely holy God. It is through the process of biblical discipleship that you and I are being prepared for living with Him.

Discipleship is the methodology God has ordained for us to change our hearts. But because discipleship is so challenging and so demanding, we’re tempted to avoid the Gospel’s call. Sometimes it seems like there are many believers and just a few disciples.

Nothing but discipleship is an acceptable response to His sacrifice on the cross for me.

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1) A true disciple will love Jesus Christ above all.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:37

“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with Him is an insult.”

–Oswald Chambers

2) A true disciple must deny himself.

 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

3) A true disciple, intentionally and deliberately, embraces the cross.

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:38

“The cross of discipleship is that I daily and hourly delight to tell my human nature that I an not my own; I no longer claim right to myself.”

–Oswald Chambers

4) A true disciple is close to Jesus and follows Him.

 “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

John 12:26

5) A true disciple will love other disciples.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 John 4:7

It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants, They spare nothing. Their first legislator [Jesus] has put it in their hearts that they are brethren.”

–Lucian, Greek writer (120-200 A.D.)

6) A true disciple abides (continues) in the teaching of the Lord.

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”

John 8:31 (John 15:8-9)

7) A true disciple lives to follow the words and teaching of the Lord Jesus.

“Jesus said to him, “’No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”

Luke 9:62

A word about joy. The Holy Spirit turns all the hard things of discipleship into sweetness. Perhaps the difficult part is found in the first few minutes of the decision to follow in a specific matter. But the peaceful presence soon follows and your life will be flooded with light. There is incredible joy in this life of discipleship.

A word about obedience. The Holy Spirit rushes in to touch the weakest act of obedience. He understands our feeble and cowardly hearts and promises to help us to obey Him.

A word about becoming unique. The disciple is a rarity among the world (and even the Church). Following Him in your walk may set you apart as odd and peculiar. If you will follow it will mean you will die to what people think. You should love them anyway. You may be persecuted and spoken evil of. Forgive them, they won’t understand.

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