Haight/Ashbury, San Francisco

Learning how to forgive

Once I was punched in the face while preaching. At the time I was an evangelist with SOS Ministries in 1987. I was leading a group to Haight/Ashbury St. in San Francisco. I remember it was really busy, and it was a good team, and they were excited to take their church to the streets.

Haight/Ashbury was the place the “summer of love” kicked off, it peaked in 1968. It has a certain sense of notoriety, and even in 1983 it still had a dubious reputation as a center of the counter-culture. “A cult a day is born in San Francisco,” a pastor friend once shared with me.

Normally the neighborhood where I took a team would direct me on how to preach. Tonight I focused on God’s love for sinful people.

That message seemed appropriate for this place, especially on this street. God loves these people very much.

A young man came forward. He told me that he was a backslidden Christian, and his father was an Assembly of God pastor. He had run away from home. Suddenly he began to weep. The entire team seemed to lean forward and I know they were praying earnestly for him. It seemed to me that he was teetering on the brink.

His punch however came unexpectedly.

His fist hit me square in the nose. My eyes began to water. Oddly enough he took a step back and began to really cry out. My team wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but I hoped they prayed even harder. I sort of gasped and tried to shake it off. Someone must have called the police.

The Holy Spirit was very much present, both convicting and comforting each of us.

One or two minutes went by and suddenly he stopped sobbing and he became really angry. He took a step and then tried to kick me in the stomach, but I dropped the mic and caught his foot. I was ready for him this time.

About 20 minutes went by before SFPD showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought for a bit, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the will of my Father. Maybe I should of, I don’t know. But I thought about my own sin and couldn’t judge no one.

The Father was reaching him while teaching me!

God loves His prodigal children very much, He understands the guilt and shame (and frustration) they feel. The Father however is always watching and waiting. He works through life’s circumstances to lead them home. Each belongs to Him. He continues far past what we think is possible. He will never give up.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

1 John 3:16

I suddenly saw a “wounded” brother, very confused and quite angry. Not with me, the team, or the music–but with God who created him, and died for him.

At that moment I just happened to be God’s love for this prodigal.

“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”

     John Stott

The Bipolar Believer

BipolarArt4

“Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence.”

Genesis 49:4

I’ve been down this road before. 

I guess this is my big issue with Bipolar Disorder (BP);  its unpredictability, and the way you fluctuate.  You get up in the morning and you immediately have to start analyzing your mood.  “Am I more depressed than I was yesterday, or I am speeding up?” Am I acting appropriately, or am I stepping out of line again?”

For  BP persons we never can be too sure. 

We are always in a state of flux or movement.  As BPs who are believers in Jesus, it seems like we have broken every rule in the book, twice. This disorder almost always demands certain hypocrisy– which instills a lot of guilt and shame.

Almost 40 years ago, a visiting pastor to our church came up to me and told me that he had a word from God, especially for me. This was long before I was diagnosed with Bipolar.   I can’t remember much, but I do recall him saying, “You are as unstable as water”. 

But I can also see now that my instability has made me a deeper, more tolerant person. 

I give a lot of latitude to others’ shortcomings.  I know how difficult it is to process life and face issues.  Because I do this “yo-yo” thing, I can accept inconsistency as a normal part of life.  I realize that I’m not perfect, nor is anyone else I know, but I’m learning to make allowances for it. 

Sometimes, just being aware is half the battle. And I’m starting to understand God’s grace given to others. I’m learning to be gracious. I’m learning how to love. Maybe this weakness is becoming a strength for me. I hope so.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB

 

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Getting Past Your Past

Shame

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” 

2 Corinthians 7:10, NLT

“You will have mercy on us again; 
 You will conquer our sins.
 You will throw away all our sins
 into the deepest part of the sea.”  

Micah 7:19, NCV

 
My own past has been particularly brutal and ugly. I’ve done many evil things in my life that I am ashamed of. Regret and sorrow over my sins frequently trouble me. But I always come back to see my sins covered by His blood.
 
I’d probably go insane if all I could do is see my sin without a Savior.

“Properly remembering our past sins with shame will deter us from repeating them and help us receive God’s saving grace.  When we recall our failures through the lens of Christ’s mercy, God produces in us ongoing repentance and deepening humility.” 

–Robert D. Jones

I have walked in self-hatred for many years.  I know all about loathing, fear, and paranoia over my evilness.  These things have handicapped me spiritually, and hating yourself is a terrible way to live.  My struggles with guilt and regret have deepened my sense of despair and depression.  I find that I am ashamed of my shame.

I have included in this post the lyrics to Bob Bennett’s song “Lord of the Past”.  He is a gifted songwriter and an exceptional guitar player.  (I can’t find it on Youtube.com).  If you’re like me, you will find that you resonate with those who have been assaulted by the past. We now speak a common language, and we understand each other. 

LORD OF THE PAST
Bob Bennett
© 1989 Matters Of The Heart Music (ASCAP)  

Every harsh word spoken
Every promise ever broken to me
Total recall of data in the memory
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

  Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
(You can redeem these things so far away)
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of the Past
(Be the Lord of my Past)
Oh how I want you to
Be the Lord of the Past

All the chances I let slip by
All the dreams that I let die in vain
Afraid of failure and afraid of pain
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

Well I picked up all these pieces
And I built a strong deception
And I locked myself inside of it
For my own protection
And I sit alone inside myself
And curse my company
For this thing that has kept me alive for so long
Is now killing me.
And as sure as the sin rose this morning,
The man in the moon hides his face tonight.
And I lay myself down on my bed
And I pray this prayer inside my head

  Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of my Past
You can do anything
Be the Lord of the Past
I know that you can find a way
To heal every yesterday of my life
Be the Lord of the Past.

aabryscript

 

Memories That Shame Us

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 

Genesis 3:6-10, ESV

There is a good chance that some of your memories are pretty awful.

When we get looking back we can see shameful, dark things.  Some of us carry things that are profoundly evil, and they go with us wherever we go. It’s no secret that guilt and mental illness travel hand in hand, for they are brothers. They have tormented us for a terribly long time. They are like playground bullies who have no fear– they only have hatred for us.

I’m quite convinced that the only way to move on is to have Jesus Christ fully cleanse you, and that includes your dark humiliations.  The human tendency is for concealment. We take considerable effort to conceal and cloak our past lives. (Both Adam and Eve understood personal shame.)

I remember back when my dad discovered that one of our dogs had killed a chicken.  He took that dead chicken and wired it around that dog’s neck. That dog wore that chicken for weeks.  It was awful, and it began to putrefy. The smell was terrible.  I can still see that dog, staggering and tongue lolling out and slobbering.  My dad said it was the only cure for a “chicken killer.”  The dog would get very sick, attached to this rotting carcass.  It was a sobering lesson for a boy to see.

Somehow, that is what our past disgrace has done to us.  

Sure we have moments when we can almost forget.  But, for the most part, it is just a temporary reprieve.  We slide back and rediscover the pain; it’s just waiting for us.   The cost of our mental health is staggering.  

Many of us are driven by a mad movement toward drugs and alcohol.  We are compelled to escape the pain, and for a little while it seems to work. (This is called “co-morbidity.” Which is ‘fancy talk’ for a dual problem.)

It’s like filling a bucket with corrosive acid.  It will eat its way out.

Most of us would quickly trade this mental pain, this misery;  for a physical one. Something shameful that was done 20 or 30 or 50 years ago continues its destructive work.  Our conscience will not allow us to dispose of our self-disgust in this easy, cavalier manner.  We need a ‘hazmat’ crew to help us clean up mentally and spiritually.

You have to forgive yourself.  

You must, or you will destroy yourself and those closest to you as well!

Often we believe these things are simply moldy walls; they seem to just need a coat of paint. Our problem is that it will only cover for a short time.  After 20-30 layers are applied, we realize this isn’t really the answer. Nothing we can do is ever enough.  We must have Jesus– we must!

“God doesn’t want us to punish ourselves to erase our guilt. He punished his Son to cancel our guilt. God will not build His kingdom on our pain because He is building it on His mercy.”

-Bryan Chapell

Full repentance is critical. Don’t scuff off this first step.  The blood of Jesus isn’t some nicety. It is foundational for salvation. We are to, by faith, start the obedience. Our blistering sin and guilt are absorbed in Jesus’ death and resurrection.


“When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

2 Corinthians 5:17, LB

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