Being Honest As I Can

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 “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.”

Ephesians 4:25, NLT

I intend to be simple.  I am worried and distressed by my own confusion and a simple disorientation about my own detachment to what is spiritual.  I confess a trust in Him, but am wary of  an evil attachment to things that take me away from Him.  I know this sounds confusing, please bear with me.

I turn to Him, and yet I know that I know that a small part of me does not really belong to Him.  I want to belong, but am conscious that I just don’t work into the Kingdom.  I am a liability.  I quickly will admit to some confusion, but I have no real intention to deceive anyone.  I desperately want to be His, but I’m aware of issues that would defy such a connection.

I have an incredible infatuation with Jesus, and His teaching.  He is the most amazing man to step out out of the ‘river’ of the human race.  I see in Him so much, and deep down I want to fall on my knees and worship Him.  The things He did are honestly the most sublime in the history of man.  He is astonishing.

And yet, I continue to struggle.  I see all of this and yet I’m confronted with my own issues.  I know what I would like to be.  But if I press, I begin to short-circuit.  I do, certainly turn it over to Him.  But I also am aware of a certain antipathy or rebellion (although that word seems too harsh) against the whole idea of grace.  I can not figure ‘grace’ out.  Grace perplexes me.  It is the ‘Gordian Knot’ of the entire human race.

But I do connect with Him.  My bipolar would quickly render me a traitor.  I vacillate much more then the average person.  Ultimately, I do turn and trust Him.  He has led me to a wonderful place.  If it is all a delusion, then so be it.  But I will still believe in Him who gave Himself for me.

If that makes me a disciple, then so be it.  But I know I am the least of His.  I guess faith would venture more.  But I scrape up all that I have and a saving hope it is enough.  I look at the accounts of Him and am pretty much astonished.  Jesus did things, consistently, above others before Him and after Him.  He is quite exceptional.

I am a follower.  I will struggle, and then have to deal with that sin.  But I do believe and intend to keep believing.  I only wish I was more consistent.  I sometime wonder that in the “Book of Life’ if my name would include an asterisk.  (“Made it, but by the skin on his teeth.”)

Don’t fret, I am under His hand.  He deals with me, and fully intends to lead me, home.  I so do want that.  If on that Day, you hear someone hollering, it will be me back in the 715,426,488th row, shouting ‘I am finally here”, in the fellowship of heaven.

Some will understand this:

He who has this disease called Jesus will never be cured.”

Doestevesky

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Faith: Make Me Thy Fuel

“Give me the love that leads the way, The faith that nothing can dismay, The hope no disappointments tire, The passion that will burn like fire, Let me not sink to be a clod: Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

– Amy Carmichael

“Seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”

 –Augustine

“Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”

  –A.W. Tozer

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

Hebrews 11:1

 

 

 

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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The God of Coincidences

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“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”

1 Corinthians 15:25

In the spring of 1995, I was taking my family across the border into Mexico to live. All we owned was what we could pack in the trunk of my old Chevy. We were flat broke and unsure of where we would spend the night. But we heard from the Lord; we knew he was leading us into a situation where we must walk by faith, and not by sight.”

We were caravaning with missionaries who were to be stationed about 40 miles south of our ultimate destination. But we had separated two days before in Arizona. We knew we would see them a bit later. The evening before our crossing, we managed to scrape enough money to spend one last night in San Diego.

I’m ashamed to say that I was not the man of faith and power that I should of been. I cried out a desperate and short prayer, “Help me God, show me that this is really you. I need to know that your hand is in this.” I was taking my wife, and two small children into Mexico, and we didn’t even know where we were going to spend the night.

I was pretty stressed the morning of our crossing, and hearing nothing from the Lord. We merged into the heavy traffic for our inspection when we heard a horn behind us. I just thought it was part of the process, and ignored it. But it kept honking. I looked in the mirror to see what the problem was.

Directly behind us was the couple we had been with in Arizona! Suddenly I knew this was God speaking directly to me. I was staggered as I extrapolated the odds of this happening, it was unbelievable. We had left them behind two days ago and now we meet up at the very precise time, in the same lane of traffic.  The odds of us converging at the same time had to be astronomical!

The Lord spoke to me right then and there, “I am in control.” All my anxiety, all my fear just lifted– I knew deep down He was leading us. I could trust Him, even though life seemed so very precarious. We were in His hands! This would be a faith booster in some hard times to come.

You may have had an experience like mine. When God touches a heart and makes it peaceful– it is a beautiful thing. But it can be something different. The Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road was stunned when Jesus spoke to him. Paul’s companions heard a voice but saw nothing (Acts 9:7).

We must become people who insist that every believer have their own experiences with God.

It is the spiritual privilege of every child of God. When “it” happens, it will be something to be treasured. Looking back I see that moments like this enable one to go through a great deal. Someone once said, “Coincidence is when God wants to remain anonymous.”

When we hear his voice or see his handiwork, it is truly then we become his disciples.

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A Doubting Faith

faith-and-doubt“”Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.””

Matthew 17:19-20, NLT

The text is intriguing; it seems to direct us to consider the unbelief of the disciples. They had tried so hard to do what Jesus wanted; they get an “A” for effort, but they can’t heal this boy. They correctly discern a demons presence, but they are stymied after trying to exorcise it.

The disciples “crash and burn” is uppermost in their hearts. They have a private meeting with Jesus to determine what went wrong. Their expectations were running high; they expected success in this encounter with darkness. After all, weren’t they Jesus elite followers?

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” 

John 12:37, NIV

 Jesus is on his way to be crucified. It would be fair to say that his mind was occupied with this. He is still performing healings for the needy, and although awesome things are happening, the crowds remained doubting. They would remain uncertain about him, and many would go on to mock and revile him in just a few days.

Doubt is an insidious thing. It allows one to see, but not respond. It seems to be a cowardly attitude that masks itself as safety and security. There is a willingness not to make a response when that is precisely what is being called for. It is content to live uncommitted and remain unaffiliated. Truth is neutered and we want it to be so.

I certainly don’t mean to be overly harsh to those with doubts. But there are some who put their faith in their doubts and that is slightly disturbing. They see, but do not perceive. They hear, but do not really listen.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Romans 10:17

 Believers who doubt are in a strange place. But saving faith is always growing, in spite of one’s own skepticism. Questions are to be welcomed; honest inquiry is not a threat, but an issue of a seeking heart. Faith without evidence is no better than superstition. I think believers who never ever doubt are “a freak of nature.” Our faith may struggle, and hard questions be asked, but my faith still holds even when I doubt.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1

We are to grow in our faith. The Bible describes it as “life.” To be a believer in Jesus is a journey of confidence and hope (these words have been carefully chosen). When we find ourselves without these two working in our hearts we become unbelieving believers.

Maybe we should doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”   

Oswald Chambers

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Is it Wrong to Get Angry with God?

Evangelist Billy Graham

Interview with Dr. Billy Graham

Q: Is it wrong to get angry at God?

I’ve beten through some very hard times recently and I feel like God has let me down. I’d like to get past this, I guess, but right now I can’t help feeling angry at God.

A: The real question is this: Will God get angry at you if you get angry at Him, and refuse to have anything more to do with you?

The answer is “No”! Even when we’re angry at Him, He still loves us and yearns for us to turn to Him for the comfort and encouragement we need. And that’s what I pray you will do.

jonah-sulkingDo you remember the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament? Some have called him “the reluctant prophet,” because he tried to flee when God called him to preach to his enemies. Later (after God sent a large fish to stop his flight), he reluctantly obeyed God and preached to his enemies. To his surprise they repented and turned to God.

He should have rejoiced – but instead “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 4:1). Gently God explained to him that He loved even Jonah’s enemies – and so should Jonah. What is the point? Simply this: Jonah was angry at God – but God didn’t reject him. Instead, Jonah needed to learn to trust God, even if he didn’t like what was going on.

Perhaps this is one of the lessons God wants to teach you. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. But God still loves us; He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die for us. Put your life into Christ’s hands, and then ask God to help you begin to trust Him, no matter what happens to you.

_______________________________


 Affectionately known as the “World’s Preacher” for more than 60 years, the Rev. Billy Graham is one of the most influential and respected spiritual leaders of the 20th century. He has been a friend and spiritual advisor to ten American presidents and has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories — through various meetings. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

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Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:  http://www.billygraham.org.

When Anxiety Becomes An Issue

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 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

Matthew 6:27, NLT

“And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life?”

Matthew 6:27, AMP

Anxiety can be described as “misplaced concern.”  Many are over-wrought and disturbed by the way life is developing for them.  They can’t make it work, and find themselves in a place they regard as perilous.  They are stressed and then try to imagine themselves to a place of success.  But a year from now, they will not have improved and find themselves in pretty much in the same place.

The evil of anxiety is that we become overly concerned with the future— today. 

Under a great deal of worry, we develop a deep tendency for fear.  Soon doubt filters in and we work ourselves up into a significant problem.  Seeking success we find ourselves in the chains of anxiety and worry.

Jesus declared that we should never ever be anxious.  He suggests that anxiety will never pay-off.  Our fear over our future can bring us nothing but spiritual poverty, and emotional crisis  We find a bag and we try to collect some security and certainty, but little do we know that our bag has holes.  It holds nothing, and leaks everything.

No matter what we think, we change a single thing.  Concentrating on wealth and success will in the long run, is futile and empty.  We can’t make an iota of a difference.

6 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7, NLT

Security for us is not what we can scrape up, but it is found in coming under the control of Jesus Christ.  We have an awareness that life is cruel, capricious and demanding.  We sift through our life, our eyes eager to find something, anything that will help us.  And, we find nothing. But faith in God will push the anxious thoughts out.

“An unpeaceful mind cannot operate normally. Hence the Apostle teaches us to “have no anxiety about anything” (Phil. 4:6). Deliver all anxious thoughts to God as soon as they arise. Let the peace of God maintain your heart and mind (v. 7).”

Watchman Nee

Anxiety seems to be a disturbing companion to those of us with a mental illness.  (We definitely don’t like his company.)  Anxiety shapes us and victimizes us, and we often find ourselves in a confusing place. But understanding the presence of anxiety is just a half-step towards freedom. We must shake ourselves of the fear and doubt that accompanies this sin.

We must trust our Father, and completely lean on his grace. We must learn to pray again.

Important to Know:

General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a seperate category of mental illness, and although similar to the anxiety experienced by many, requires the help of medical professionals.  We should not confuse the two. GAD is an illness and not just basic anxiety. Panic attacks can often accompany GAD. Get help if you think this might be an issue for you. 

Visit http://www.medicinenet.com/panic_disorder/article.htm for more information.

 

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