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I Love This House! Psalm 84:1-4

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 1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.

 Psalm 84:1-4

There are some things that leave an indelible mark inside, deep on our souls.  For me, one instance I remember staying at Simpson College on Silver Ave. in San Francisco in June 1986.  The dorms were empty and I had a whole floor to myself.  The campus was gorgeous.  I found a little “mom and pop” corner market nearby which had a awesome deli. Here I could buy cold cuts, braunschweiger  and fresh sourdough bread.   I returned to my room to build my sandwich.  I remember the windows were open and a beautiful breeze was there.   Food, warm sun, flowers in bloom and the Holy Spirit are just about ready to intersect in my life.

It was simply a moment I captured and savored.  Everything seemed to coincide, it was magical in the best sense of the word.  It was beautiful, that is all I can say.  That time in that dorm room has become a crystalline moment that I will never forget.  Right there, it seemed I fell in love, not with a girl, but with a moment in time and place.

That nostalgia is thick on the shoulders of the writer of Psalm 84.  He remembers and savors the memories of his visit to the temple.  He was given something in that particular moment that  would haunt him for the rest of his life.  In his thinking, the beauty of the temple could never ever be the same again.  The beauty of that experience was inviolable and true and could never be duplicated.  But it was his, and he would never forget._ho2

God gives moments, wrapped in wonder and awe.  His presence is very likely the tipping point in these.  When He is present, a connecting link is made and we receive grace.  We will longingly look back on these moments when grace was so close.  The psalmist has the same hunger .  These moments in the temple which are so blessed have also ruined him.   Special times of God’s presence have resulted in a sanctified dissatisfaction with the present.

When we finally make our way to Jesus, life takes on a curious wonder.  When the rain finally comes to the barren desert, an explosion of life bursts out.  In the exact same way, our lives get very green and lush.  This is in contrast to our dry and desperate life without His presence.

I am hungry for His presence.  I want to be in the center of wherever He is at.  I admit that His grace and love has spoiled me.  But the love of Jesus does this.  Normal life seems to be in black & white, He turns it into a vibrant color.  The psalmist begs to be returned to the temple.  He wants to be there, more then anything.

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Working in the Time of Grace

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 “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

Matt. 20:12, NIV

Matthew 20 irritates me.  People are working the entire day, and along comes people who have only worked for one hour.  This discrepancy drives the believer nuts.  How in the world could such a thing take place?  It is foolishness to us who insist on a ‘grace of appropriateness.’  We want grace to be fair, recognizing the person who has worked very hard.

The problem is that God is outrageous with His grace and love.  He completely expands us to a point where we must embrace a grace that is completely beyond us.  We have to break down and accept what is available to us.  Grace completely dumps us upside down.

We can only proceed if we accept His definition of Grace.

Those who have labored the least are made equal to those who work the hardest.  This seems incredibly unfair and we revolt against such extravagance.  It strikes us as outrageously unfair.  How can those who worked only an hour receive the exact same amount as those who have labored a full eight?

The miracle of  this shockingly outrageous grace is that we are confronted by a profound freedom.  We basically get brought to the point where we get stripped of these illusions and need to walk out the scripture.  It has the tendency to eliminate the issues that could block us and bring us to a most receptive position.

“But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you. Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day? Take your money and go home. It is my wish to give the latecomers as much as I give you. May I not do what I like with what belongs to me? Must you be jealous because I am generous?’

16 “So, many who are the last now will be the first then and the first last.”

Matthew 20:13-16

We must admit that God’s grace reaches out to everyone. 

That He has the deep, deep desire to see that each of us connect with His love.  This is indeed the radicalness of the gospel.  It is outrageous and astonishing.  That He would love us who have hated Him.  Our sense of equity is completely undone.  His grace completely turns us upside down. I think that is a good thing.

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Quarantined, for His Purposes

 

quarantine

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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“Without Your Wound, Where Would Your Power Be?”

The subject of “the pool at Bethesda” alludes to the following excerpt from the Thorton Wilder play “The Angel that Troubled the Waters”. The play is based on the biblical verses of John 5:1-4, but it changes the end of the parable.

I first encountered this excerpt within the book “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging“, by Brennan Manning.

The play tells of a physician who comes periodically to the pool of Bethesda, hoping to be the first in the water and healed of his melancholy when the angel appears and troubles the water. Everybody at the pool also hopes to be the first in the water and thereby healed of his malady. The angel appears but blocks the physician at the moment he is ready to step into the pool and be healed.

Angel: “Draw back, physician, this moment is not for you.”

Physician: “Angelic visitor, I pray thee, listen to my prayer.

Angel: “Healing is not for you.”

Physician: “Surely, surely, the angels are wise. Surely, O Prince, you are not deceived by my apparent wholeness. Your eyes can see the nets in which my wings are caught; the sin into which all my endeavors sink half-performed cannot be concealed from you.”

Angel: “I know.”

……………… A long pause

Physician: “Oh, in such an hour was I born, and doubly fearful to me is the flaw in my heart. Must I drag my shame, Prince and Singer, all my days more bowed than my neighbor?”

Angel: “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and said:

“But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

………………………………………

For me, this story is quite exceptional, probably because the message of this excerpt—“Without your wound where would your power be?“—carries so much meaning for me, as this has taught me that through my weakness I can see others.  I believe that for us,  it should be our whole philosophy of ministry.

The depressed physician ministered out of his brokenness.  He parallels the way the Apostle Paul did his work “out of much suffering.”  Just something to think about.

This is a Broken Believers classic post.  It is shared again with the steady hope that it will encourage you and strengthen you in your walk with Him.

*******

ybic, Bryan

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Cities Without Walls

“A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

The writer of Proverbs can be blunt. He makes the cold observation that people can often be like a city that has no walls.

The city he alluded to was completely defenseless, vulnerable and wide open to a marauding enemy. It no longer is protected. It can be assaulted from outside and is no longer safe. It can be easily defeated by its foes.

The description is used to describe a spiritual condition of danger and defeat. A real potentiality exists of a helpless invasion by evil forces. It has no protection to speak of.

Proverbs uses this imagery to state a fundamental truth about some people.

We live in an age when everything is “open.” Seldom do we see protecting walls around the perimeter of our lives. We are open to the demonic forces of darkness. We move from crisis to crisis because we are not protected.

Nehemiah faced the stark reality of Jerusalem without walls of protection. His first order of business (before anything else) was to rebuild them. He mobilized work crews that immediately went to work restoring the cities safety.

“I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 2:13

He knew what he was up against; a discouraged people who were extremely vulnerable. It’s also interesting that the cities enemies resisted at this crucial time. They wanted the people to fail so  they would continue to defeat them.

Our culture today is no longer protected by the evil of the day. We’re victims for the most part by Satan’s tactical assaults. A generation has come and gone that has not known the defense of personal walls.

We are desperate of the ministry of Nehemiah. He is a type of Christ. Protection can only come from faith and blood of Jesus. He alone is our safe place. He alone can defend us from this present darkness.

If your life is characterized by oppression I urge you to erect a safe place for yourself and for your family. Being specific in prayer is very often your sheltered place. Take a stand and drive the enemy away. Resist him and he will flee from you.

“The world’s battlefields have been in the heart chiefly; more heroism has been displayed in the household and the closet, than on the most memorable battlefields in history.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

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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. 

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  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.

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Horses and Chariots, [Seeing the Invisible]

Photo: Therrol Andrews, Homer Alaska

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

― Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Just beyond our earthly vision there exists the world of the invisible. There are things happening all around us. Things that are of a spiritual essence but no less real because we can’t see them.

 “When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”

2 Kings 6:15-17, NLT

Elisha’s servant saw the physical presence of the enemy. It was a fearful sight to see and the servant was afraid. They were surrounded. There was no escape–no way out. All seemed lost.

Elisha’s concern for his servant is touching. He didn’t rebuke or harshly correct the young man. He simply prayed and then it was done. The servant would see what actually existed. You might say that he would really see for the first time.

The Bible is the best way to perceive the imperceptible. It frames and then guides us into what is really real. It is God’s of introducing us to what is really real. The Holy Spirit delights in revealing truth to our incredulous souls.

We have severe limitations as men and women. We have to be instructed in these things. We’re not equipped to perceive the supernatural. It is not a part of our lives. I find when God shows me what is really out there I get a bit freaked out. I need the firm hand of the Father in those times.

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Isaiah 6:5, ESV

Consider the prophet Isaiah when he came in contact with the “real” world. He was completely undone. I can’t imagine acting any differently. I probably would become unglued.

A thought on this subject for you to consider:

“It is not the objective proof of God’s existence that we want but the experience of God’s presence. That is the miracle we are really after, and that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.”

–Frederick Buechner