When Angels Stand Amazed

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“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~Barbara Bloom

Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters. 

I believe God loves you (it’s not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you.  Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally or physically ill). 

Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.

Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness.  Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)

Some of us have physical disabilities. We come to worship from our wheelchairs and walkers. Some of us are deaf, and others are blind. But we come still. Our hope is in the coming King who promises us a new and fully redeemed Kingdom. There will be no more pain.

I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimer’s who understands little of what is happening to her,  but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before dementia, she was a spiritual marvel.  Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met.

Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe. 

I just realized this–the angels understand worship, they really do. Praise seems to be their specialty. Each angel that surrounds the throne has a PhD in “worshipology.”

But you know what? They really don’t understand our worship out of our pain, weakness, and brokenness.

Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness.  In John 12:1-7, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus’ feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain. 

But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.

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Oh How He Loves You!

When Others are More Gifted Than You

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”

1 Corinthians 12:4, NLT

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

1 Peter 4:10

Several years ago, the Holy Spirit upended my understanding of the Church. It took some time, as I’ve been in full time ministry for almost 40 years now–and that can be good (or bad.) But I’ve found that over years I had made the Body of Christ into a competitive sport. And although I wouldn’t of phrased it exactly that way, it was how I approached the Christian brothers and sisters in my life.

I guess a great deal of my effort was generated to receive the proper recognition.

I had misunderstood the very of nature of being a ‘gifted’ person. As I look back, I was very much like James and John, in Matt. 20:20-22. It wasn’t so much that I was exalting myself, but I felt (?) that I needed to push for all that Jesus had for me.

We must learn to respect the giftedness of others.

Often, this is easy. When we encounter those with a special ability, it can be fairly easy to do. A teacher or preacher, a worship leader or even an amazing writer–and because of that gifting it becomes fairly simple for the Church to recognize them.

However, we are probably more inclined to operate out of our own envy or frustration. Rather than accepting others, we look for any reason at all to invalidate and disparage them. We scour, and we search for anything to minimize or reject our “competitor.” To bolster our efforts, we label it as “discernment.” This justifies us, as we think that it is protecting the Church.

The Spirit, out of His infinite inventory, distributes the gifts to the Church.

We honor and respect him when we acknowledge that. We don’t elevate the person, but we do accept them, and their obvious gift. We don’t ignore any sin, but we should recognize the Spirit’s decision to use a person in a certain way. Almost always, that gift is hidden in a clay pot. (And maybe that’s our difficulty? I have met gifted saints who were awful jerks).

A necessary thought must be embraced. What about those who have a gift that is seen in someone 30 years younger than you? Paul wrote young Timothy precise instructions on how to handle his youth, and understand how he should understand his position in the Body.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

1 Timothy 4:12

We honor the Spirit most when we honor his gifts. We should respect the giftedness that others may have. Humility often varies with the person, the gift and the maturity. And yet, it would be foolishness for us to think we have settled this issue, once and for all.

Someone once told me, “Gifts are something you do gracefully.” (I like that.) But there are no cookie cutters when it comes right down to it. And one last thought, which I only hope is a wise course for us to consider–

“Be desirous, my son, to do the will of another rather than thine own.”

–Thomas a Kempis
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Like Stars, Forever

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“The wise people will shine like the brightness of the sky. Those who teach others to live right will shine like stars forever and ever.”

Daniel 12:3, NCV

“So our faces are not covered. They show the bright glory of the Lord, as the Lord’s Spirit makes us more and more like our glorious Lord.”

2 Corinthians 3:18, CEV

In my teenage years, my mom and I attended a series of services in a Christian commune.  (This would’ve been in 1972 -73.)  They all lived in a single house and had started a Christian rock and roll band. And they knew how to pray.

I was impressed with what I saw. 

When they gathered together for worship, they began to ‘glow’.  I would stare at them and they became ‘illuminated.’ I had never seen anything like this before.  The presence of Jesus was there making Himself known in the hearts of His disciples. I had been given eyes to see the supernatural.

Since then I have heard many testimonies of that same dynamic at work.  Confessing believers engaged in prayer and worship, have their countenance changed while in the Lord’s presence.  Peace and joy and confidence affects them in a profound way.  Their physical appearance is altered, and they proclaim ‘a peace that passes understanding’ that can’t be explained in any other way.

Since I became a Christian in 1982, I have retained those images in my thinking.  I’m now very aware of the “witnessing presence’ of Jesus in the lives of His people.  And scripture itself, on several occasions, points to this wonderful dynamic in action in the lives of consecrated believers.

When the light comes, it can’t help but transform those of us in darkness.  Our faces, hearts, and countenances change. We’re the human vessels for peace and joy (especially knowing our sins are forgiven).

The prophet Daniel talks about ‘shining like a star’.  This isn’t possible in the mechanics of normal life as an unbeliever (at least for any real length of time).  That simply can’t be manufactured.  The only possible answer is the Christian’s faith.  Namely, that Jesus Christ who is indwelling every believer, reflects His presence out into a dark world.

A few winters ago I was out walking on the Alaska Bible Institute campus.  Twilight was settling in and 20-30 yards ahead I saw a child’s sled left in a snow pile.  In the monochromatic world of an Alaskan winter, the ‘shining’ sled glowed and couldn’t be missed. I saw it from a distance–it was lit up and shone out into the falling night.

You and I who bear His presence are to be fluorescent. 

His activity in our hearts is to make us astonishingly conspicuous.  We can’t hide His presence (even with sin). We have been irrevocably changed by the Spirit’s residence.  We have become ‘glow-in-the-dark’.

Perhaps this is how it supposed to work?

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.”

Matthew 5:14

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Are We Standing in the Gap?

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior.” (1Timothy 2:1-3, NLT)

“The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer.” –John R. Mott

You are a priest without a collar. Your work is called “intercession.” It isn’t for cowards or the spiritual lazy. It needs to be ‘hidden’ in order to really work. No one should see, there will be no adulation or recognition. You may not even feel special. But God sees and hears you. Jesus told each one of us,

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Mathew 6:6)

When we ignite in prayer, we will see things as Jesus sees them. We will share His view and take part in His high priestly ministry. Jesus isn’t complacent, sitting on His throne, waiting for time to run out. I suppose that is the view of some, but it honestly isn’t real.

“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)

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, NIV)

When we start to really intercede we become a sort of a “sub-priest.” We serve under the Lord Jesus the High Priest’s direction. We engage our work under the Holy Spirit’s oversight, and we start to plead for those who need Him most. We are the one’s who make things happen when we stand with Jesus. So who and what do we pray for?

  1. Family and friends
  2. the sick, those in distress
  3. the stranger, the one who bags our groceries
  4. the church we attend, the pastor and elders, the congregation
  5. missions, or missionaries in a certain country, or in general
  6. for ministries working under God’s direction
  7. finances, supplies, for more workers in the ‘vineyard’
  8. safety and protection from the evil one, cults and businesses that ‘traffic’ in evil
  9. more wisdom and grace for all who are ministering God’s Word, for other intercessors
  10. our government, police, soldiers–from the ‘dog catcher’ to the president

These ten are just a start to get you going, this list is not complete by no means, but it’s a beginning. As you start praying you will add and expand these things. Remember that faith is a key component in the work of intercession. You must come in harmony with His present ministry. You do this through:

  1. praise and worship
  2. Bible reading and thinking about the Word
  3. listening and discerning what is happening around you
  4. asking questions that really matter
  5. being humble and broken, not haughty or proud as you pray
  6. becoming alert to all of the needs around you, be sneaky but holy
  7. instill in your heart the Kingdom of God and the supreme ministry of the King
  8. exercise His authority over the earth, see things as they really are
  9. personal prayer times that get you ready to pick up the ‘mantle’ of intercession
  10. see yourself joined in this ministry of Jesus, who wants “all men to be saved”

Don’t be surprised if the Spirit draws you to a specific need. I believe that there are ‘specialists’ in the Body of Christ. One person will concentrate his attention on the sick or the demonized. Another may be dedicated to praying for the president or the Supreme Court, and someone else might pray for certain missionaries or countries. In short, you must listen to the High Priest, and get your cue from Him. He most certainly will direct you on where you should stand!

There is definite power in joining with another or in a group. It seems to me though that this can be a challenge as we can get disengaged or passive. Spiritual laziness extinguishes the fire of God. Yet if we are sincere our intercession can become ‘turbocharged’ when we are actively with another. It should be a skill we develop over time. It will take concentrated work on your part to stay focused.

None of this is concrete. I know my own limitations on this stuff. All I wanted to do is give a different perspective and to, somehow, shine a different light on this subject. And I most certainly covet your prayers as I learn to intercede.

Your brother, who is still learning,

Bryan

  

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