Battle Scars

knight

It is a bad habit to try to teach without personal knowledge. We can preach, but we do not possess. This is one of the occupational hazards of those of us in our profession. It seems to carry a horrible curse of spiritual sterility, that the wise believer ultimately sees.

It’s been 13 years since a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 was made. I believe I was BP in my teens. Life is a roller-coaster for me, up and down, with a twist or two along the way. I am now fairly aware at 56 that much of my earthly existence  has already been lived. Life can become such a grind. I’m tired and broken, and ready for eternity.

“One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Billy Bray (a bearer of an unfortunate name) was an illiterate Cornish evangelist in the 1850s. He was heard to pray this: “Lord, if any have to die this day, let it be me, for I am ready.” By faith, I do understand these sentiments. I am ready to go as well.

I love collecting good quotes. (I also have a site at http://www.CrossQuotes.org.) But here’s two more good ones:

“God buries His workmen but carries on His work.”   -Charles Wesley

“If we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a “wandering to find home,” why should we not look forward to the arrival?”  – C.S. Lewis

Sorry if I’m being maudlin. But the battle is so long, and it doesn’t ever let up, does it? We all can become weary after a while. What we need is to be ‘shut in’ with the Lord. The Word reminds us:

Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”

 Acts 14:22

“Tribulations” are common, and each must battle through them. And without being melodramatic, we each must walk through the blazing furnace. But I can also boldly attest that there is more than enough grace for each of us. We just need to become desperate enough. (Which shouldn’t be too hard).

Armor is given. Wearing it means you’ll survive (and thrive) to see another day. Those who may suggest that the Christian life is a “bed of roses,” I would say that they haven’t read Ephesians 6. If there is no war, why would the Holy Spirit tell us to put it on?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” 

Eph. 6:10-11

We are starting to finally learn we must fall in love with Jesus. He receives us with a massive kind of love. And His mercy meets us at every doubtful corner. You have His Word on it. Simply ask Him to come to you. 

*

Kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

cropped-christiangraffiti1-2

Interruptions: A Litmus Test for Disciples

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12

“Our love to God is measured by our everyday fellowship with others and the love it displays.”

Andrew Murray

There is an awesome need for Christians who can be interrupted.  They have learned that their personal plans and agendas should be set aside for the acute need of the moment.  People like that are becoming receptive people–people who have learned to submit their wills to the Lordship of Christ.

There seems to be a lot of believers who have isolated themselves in order to avoid ‘complications’ of the Spirit.  Over the years they have cultivated a life without entanglements from others (at least, greatly reduced).  The basic root of this is not sin, but it quickly slides into an isolation that is not just threatening, but dangerous.

We are built for fellowship.  We need it— like my goldfish needs its water.  

Our brothers and sisters need us, and we most definitely need them.  In the Apostle’s Creed we read, ‘I believe in the Communion of the Saints’.  This takes a supernatural faith.  This dynamic of the Body calls us to fellowship with other believers, which is our desperate need of the moment.  Deep within, we crave human contact.  We need to touch someone else.

Being interruptible establishes several things. I think these questions are a simple starting point.

  • First, I have become approachable and tractable?
  • Second, is Jesus really Lord over my life?  (Or do I have my ‘own thing’ going?)
  • Third, do I really believe ‘something’ is going to happen when I begin to fellowship?
  • Fourth, is it really worth it?
  • Fifth, what is more important: People or my schedule?

Years ago I learned that every servant who really excelled had become a man or woman that could be interrupted.  And they respond in grace and kindness to every issue that came.  You’ll never hear them get frustrated or even irritable over being disturbed.  They simply have surrounded themselves in the will of God, and are His servants.

What is more important: a schedule or people?

There are ‘skills’ we need to learn for Christian community.  We have touched on some as we have matured.  We have practiced with this holy concept, and caught glimpses, many which translate into our present spiritual lives.

“Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.”

Charles Spurgeon

God’s great quest is to make those who have been redeemed into a cohesive body.  He takes a special delight in the harmony of His Church.  He is very passionate about this.  His proclivity to unity must be noted.  We must adjust and do all that is necessary to make it happen.  This dear one, is His will.

*

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Bearing One Another Up

And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.

Mark 2:3

Sociologists are quick to point out that the healthiest people mentally and physically, are those who are functionally aware of others.  These people often find themselves in “the helping professions” like nurses, counselors, pastors, policemen and many other affiliated occupations.  It seems that there are some who will wade into other people’s lives, try to do what seems right and most importantly, touching others in their needs.

There are some who say that you either got it, or you don’t.  My issue is that Jesus seems to think that His followers would learn how to activate this mentality– this gift.  Each of us are directed to “bear one another’s burdens” This really can’t be adjusted in order to fit my selfish personality. Regardless of my personal proclivities,  it seems I am stuck with “the least of these”.  Thankfully Jesus promises me a Helper to help me, and help others who need help.

Carrying a cot for a paralyzed man seems to be indicative of how life is going to go for us, as we surrender to the task and carry our share of the load.  We comply with the need of the moment, to bring this man into the Lord’s presence.  I’m not thinking rewards here, or any special recognition.  Essentially, I’m just the schmuck who has to carry this guy into the presence of Jesus.

“Our society is filled with runaways, dropouts, and quitters. The epidemic of walking away has hit our land with effects as devastating as the bubonic plague, and it has destroyed millions of effective lives and relationships. We are so self-centered that we have ceased to lay down our lives for others.”

Kay Arthur

jesus-heals-a-paralytic-at-capernaum
Making a way for our friends

There is a definitive call to service as His student, His disciple.  You just might say that learning how to forget yourself is the major starting point for a real servant.  It’s like your new Cadillac Escalade, equipped with cameras and a computer on the dash.  You don’t need to ask for these, they just give them to you.  It is part of the package. Serving is part of the package that discipleship has when its delivered to your “apartment door.”

You will learn to serve someone else.  This tutelage takes a long, long time.  In all of these lessons we are free to leave, terminating our relationship with the person we are serving.  But I don’t advise this at all.  Jacob had Laban teaching him, and teaching him, for many years.  Scripture is jammed full of men and women learning by serving. And sometimes, that can take a lot of time– maybe years.

There was four men carrying the paralytic, two would’ve been a strain, and three awkward.  No–four is just right.  Let us be a serious people,  fulfilling our responsibility to our friend lying on the cot and to Jesus.  We are all in this together.  Now– it’s time to take your place and lift.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

*

The Hallesby 23—All About Prayer

Prayer

I really want to bless you today on the subject of simple prayer. I recall reading O. Hallesby way back in my Bible school days. Back then, it was assigned reading for a class, but today it is a close treasure. Here are 23 quotes I put together. 

flourishx

  1. Helplessness is the real secret and the impelling power of prayer.

  2. Helplessness becomes prayer the moment that you go to Jesus and speak candidly and confidently with him about your needs. This is to believe.

  3. A humble and contrite heart knows that it can merit nothing before God, and that all that is necessary is to be reconciled to one’s helplessness and let our holy and almighty God care for us, just as an infant surrenders himself to his mother’s care.

  4. Listen, my friend! Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness.

  5. When we go to our meeting with God, we should go like a patient to his doctor, first to be thoroughly examined and afterwards to be treated for our ailment. Then something will happen when you pray.

  6. When you enter your secret chamber, take plenty of time before you begin to speak. Let quietude wield its influence upon you. Let the fact that you are alone assert itself. Give your soul time to get released from the many outward things. Give God time to play the prelude to prayer for the benefit of your distracted soul.

  7. Jesus is moved to happiness every time He sees that you appreciate what He has done for you. Grip His pierced hand and say to Him, “I thank Thee, Saviour, because Thou has died for me.” Thank Him likewise for all the other blessings He has showered upon you from day to day. It brings joy to Jesus.

  8. Jesus wills of His own accord to come into us and, in His own power, to deal with our needs. It is not necessary for us to constrain Him by our prayers to take an interest in us.

  9. There come times when I have nothing more to tell God. If I were to continue to pray in words, I would have to repeat what I have already said. At such times it is wonderful to say to God, “May I be in Thy presence, Lord? I have nothing more to say to Thee, but I do love to be in Thy presence.”

  10. When prayer is a struggle, do not worry about the prayers that you cannot pray. You yourself are a prayer to God at that moment. All that is within you cries out to Him. And He hears all the pleas that your suffering soul and body are making to Him with groanings which cannot be uttered.

  11. If God does not give you something you ask for, wait on Him. He will speak with you tenderly and sympathetically about the matter until you yourself understand that He cannot grant your prayer.

  12. As impossible as it is for us to take a breath in the morning large enough to last us until noon, so impossible is it to pray in the morning in such a way as to last us until noon. Let your prayers ascend to Him constantly, audibly or silently, as circumstances throughout the day permit.

  13. By prayer we couple the powers of heaven to our helplessness, the powers which can capture strongholds and make the impossible possible.

  14. My praying friend, continue to make known your desires to God in all things. … Let Him decide whether you are to receive what you ask for or not.

  15. Notice carefully every word here. It is not our prayer which draws Jesus into our hearts. Nor is it our prayer which moves Jesus to come in to us. All He needs is access. He enters in of His own accord, because He desires to come in. To pray is nothing more involved than to let Jesus into our needs, and permitting Him to exercise His own power in dealing with them. And that requires no strength. It is only a question of our wills. Will we give Jesus access to our needs?

  16. The air which our body requires envelops us on every hand. The air which our souls need also envelops all of us at all times and on all sides. God is round about us in Christ on every hand, with his many sided and all-sufficient grace. All we need to do is to open our hearts.

  17. You can use your time to no better advantage than to pray whenever you have a moment, either alone, or with others, while at work, at rest, or walking down the street! Anywhere!!

  18. As white snow flakes fall quietly and thickly on a winter day, answers to prayer will settle down upon you at every step you take, even to your dying day. The story of your life will be the story of prayer and answers to prayer.

  19. Pray a little each day in a childlike way for the Spirit of prayer. If you feel that you know, as yet, very little concerning the deep things of prayer and what prayer really is, then pray for the Spirit of prayer. There is nothing He would rather do than unveil to you the grace of prayer.

  20. Prayer is a fine, delicate instrument. To use it right is a great art, a holy art. There is perhaps no greater art than the art of prayer. Yet the least gifted, the uneducated and the poor can cultivate the holy art of prayer.

  21. Our prayer life will become restful when it really dawns upon us that we have done all we are supposed to do when we have spoken to Him about it. From the moment we have left it with Him, it is His responsibility.

  22. We should say to God as we mingle with our dear ones each day, “God, give them each Thy blessing. They need it, because they live with me, and I am very selfish and unwilling to sacrifice very much for them, although I do love them.”

  23. Prayer can assume very different forms, from quiet, blessed contemplation of God, in which eye meets eye in restful meditation, to deep sighs or sudden exclamations of wonder, joy, gratitude or adoration.

_____________

hallesby-picOle Hallesby
1879-1961

Ole Kristian O. Hallesby was a Lutheran pastor who taught at the Free Faculty of Theology from 1909 to 1952.

He was an outspoken opponent of the Nazi occupation of Norway and was for a time detained at a concentration camp.

Hallesby wrote over 60 books, mostly on theology and ethics, but is known for his devotional writings. His book on prayer is one of the best written on the subject.

*

Do You Love Me?

 

“When they finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” 

   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

   Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 

   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 

John 21:15-16

This is a favorite passage for believers throughout the whole world.  I think the reason is that it’s a transferable concept; it is something that communicates well to a heart and life that is struggling very hard.  If you think about it everything in the story is coming to us from two places.  Either Peter’s failure, or Jesus’ grace.

Failure is a brutal teacher; but man, do you learn! Much of the teaching had already been done in Peter’s life. His denial and cowardice had already been worked out, and Peter then had to live with himself.  He was defeated and very lost before this meeting on the beach.

Jesus’ heart is to reconcile his errant disciple with Him, and with Peter himself.  Peter is stuck; in his own failure and denial, and he needs Jesus to touch him in His own impenetrable darkness.  People who have failed God will understand this.  We have been in the darkness, and only Jesus can rescue us from its empty pain.

We see what amounts to a ‘good’ interrogation.  Peter, the failure, is asked over and over by Jesus the “Question”.  “Do you love me?  This is a simple and basic inquiry.  “Do you love me?”

Peter in his pathetic state, is forced to generate a response to Jesus that destroys his own confusion and apathy.  It’s neat to see Jesus pulverizing the foundations of darkness in Peter’s life.  He does it with a skill and deftness that leaves us in awe of Jesus’ love. Peter had denied knowing the Lord three times. It is fitting that Jesus would ask His question three times as well.

For us, the questions keep coming.  We are repeatedly asked, over and over, “do you love me?”  We must process the penetration of the question.  Do you really, really love Jesus?  Is it a show? Do we really love Him, or is it just words, a misbegotten display of cultural appropriateness?

Jesus moves Peter into the light.  Never again will he live in confusion and despair.  His interview with Jesus has placed him there, into the light.  Jesus’ incredibly wise questions led Peter to the place of authenticity.  Peter, from this new place of completeness and recovery, is finally restored and healed.

But do we love Him?  Do we turn the ministry we do, whatever that might be, does it come from a place of love and confidence.  Our love for Him is the essential basis, the root foundation of all Christian activity.  It’s all about the “love”.  “Do you love me?”

1brobry-sig4 (2)

 

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-3-1

*

Pondering Brokenness, [Acceptance]

Broken-Fresco-Assisi-Italy-1999-1024x750 (1)
Broken Fresco– Assisi, Italy

Many voices tell me that there must be distinct lines between sinners (like, me) and Church people. These borders keep order and provide security to those on the ‘inside’ of our Faith. This seems more from a reaction to control than actual sin.

But there are so many people with mental illness: Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, addictions, PTSD, and many others. We are truly an afflicted people.

donkey_boat-300x245
Fitting in isn’t always easy

“Most of the verses written about praise in God’s Word were voiced by people faced with crushing heartaches, injustice, treachery, slander, and scores of other difficult situations.” 

Joni Eareckson Tada

There needs to be an adjustment to the status quo. Room must be made for the ‘losers’ and the misfits. These are people for whom Christ died. They are special to God.

According to federal  law, buildings must be accessible to the handicapped. Special signs are placed in the parking lots, for special parking and wheelchair ramps need to be installed. This is well and good. But let’s extend this ‘deliberateness’ to those with other needs as well.

“The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”

–Mike Yaconelli

I encourage you to become proactive when it comes to “opening up” the Church to include ‘the brokenness of the other.’ Even a smile can make the difference to the down-trodden soul. Love the unlovely,  just like Jesus.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

 

 

Making Pain Work for You, [Trials]

heart-1463424_960_720

“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”

Acts 14:21-22, CEV

Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel.  They have an amazing love for the Church.  They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement.  I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.”  Every single one!

Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through.  It was very bad, beyond belief.  But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people.  Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort.  They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.

They understand something.  What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.

They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”

Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it?  Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying!  It doesn’t make any sense at all.   I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.

 *****************

1)  What comforts us is not always comfortable.

 I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom.  I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful.  My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.

2)  What we think is the best way often is not.

No one chooses one’s particular path.  If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis.  Our children would be little angels.  We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness.  But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials.  They have to be there, they must.  Somewhere it says,  if we suffer, we will reign.

3)  What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.

 Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet.  They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable.  And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course.  And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith.  Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.

Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg