The Gospel According to Job

Today, I want to bring out this book, out into the spotlight.  It is a tremendous devotional that makes its way through the book of Job.  I have leaned on it, and it has held me nicely.  I challlenge you to get a copy of this, and to let it work in the confines of your spirit and mind. ––Bryan

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Excerpt from “The Gospel According to Job,” by Mike Mason

 

“An Honest Look at Pain and Doubt from the Life of One who Lost Everything”

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A“Once I met a man who, like Abraham, had moved his entire household halfway around the world on the strength of a vision from God. When I asked him to tell me the story, he answered that there were three versions of that story, and which one did I want to hear? First, there was the version of the story that he told to Christians. Then there was the version he told to non-Christians. Finally, there was the truth. Job is a book that tells things from the third point of view. Probably, along with Ecclesiastes, it does this better than any other book in the Bible.

Not that the other Scriptures do not tell the truth. But Job tells the truth in a way that makes it almost impossible to pervert the truth into pious pabulum. A few years ago I went through a difficult time. Never mind what the problem was. It was nothing compared to the trials of Job. In fact, it was nothing at all compared to the sufferings of many of my neighbors right there on the quiet street where I lived.

But pain is pain, and suffice it to say that my pain was enough to drive me to my knees, totally defeated, half-crazy at times, and crying out for relief. Month after month the battles raged on, thick, dark, agonizing. I prayed, but somehow prayer did not ‘work.’ Usually nothing at all worked, except lying low and gritting my teeth until, for reasons entirely obscure to me, the straightjacket of oppression began to loosen a little––at least enough for me to get on with my life for another day or so before the screws tightened again. What else could I do? How was I to fight this?

In retrospect I can see that a large part of my anguish was rooted in the fact that there really was nothing I could do to control what was happening to me. I was absolutely helpless, and it is this, perhaps, that is the soul of suffering, this terrifying impotence. It is a little taste of the final and most terrifying impotence of all, which is death.

We Christians do not like to think about being absolutely helpless in the hands of our God. With all of our faith, and with all of His grace, we still prefer to maintain some semblance of control over our lives. When difficulties arise, we like to think that there are certain steps we can take, or attitudes we can adopt, to alleviate our anguish and be happy. Sometimes there are. But anyone who has truly suffered will know that when it comes to the real thing there is no help for it, no human help whatsoever.

Simply put, when we are in a deep dark hole we cannot think our way out; neither can we hope, sing, pray, or even love our way out. In fact there is absolutely nothing either we or anyone else can do to better our situation. We can have faith, yes; but in itself faith will not change anything. Neither faith, nor any other good thing that a person might have or do, can actually lift the cloud, move the mountain, or bring about an end to the problem.

Only the Lord Himself can do that, and when He does, as Exodus 6:6 puts it, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke.” How will we know? Simply because nothing and no one else could possibly have done it. In this kind of crucible, therefore, we come to a new understanding of what it means to be saved, what it means to be snatched away from the brink of destruction.

Here we get down to the bedrock of the gospel. During my night of anguish, I turned to the book of Job, and there I began to make contact with the gospel in a way that somehow I never had in studying the New Testament. Reading Job, I found myself experiencing in new and astonishing depth the reality of Jesus’ promise in John 8:32,

 “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 

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Book Review: “When the Darkness Will Not Lift”

There are Christians for whom joy seems unattainable.

What will we tell them . . . “When the Darkness Will Not Lift?”

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“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him.”

–John Piper

The title of this reviewed book is terribly unyielding, but with a quick glimpse into its contents, and you realize what you hold in your hands is worth its weight in gold.  When the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God—And Joy,  John Piper gives guidance and hope to suffering believers and to those whom God has given to walk beside them.  The father of Christian hedonism reminds readers that joy is a duty even as he teaches them how to fight for it. At eighty pages, this slim volume commends itself to readers who, struggling under the weight of spiritual darkness, might be daunted by an exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Because the book starts from despair, it is a uniquely accessible tool for those who hurt. In the pastoral tone for which he is beloved, Piper shows that joy begins with despair in oneself. In “When the Darkness Will Not Lift”, Piper tackles difficult issues including:

• The physical nature of depression and the role of medication

• How to wait on the Lord through darkness

• The relationship between obedience and thanksgiving

• How unconfessed sin can clog our joy

Piper also provides insight for those who love depressed Christians—showing them how to exhort without crushing, and how they can help the struggling believer to distrust the “certainties of despair.”

PiperbookWhen the Darkness Will Not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God—And Joy Publisher Crossway Books, Author John Piper, ISBN 1581348762 Price $7.99, Released, January 2007

Available through your Bookstore, or just go to www.Amazon.com, like me.

John Piper’s website, http://www.desiringgod.org/

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Frederick, [Handling Giftedness]

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Frederick, the ‘prophetic’ mouse

I have always loved to read. I was given books by my mother, and these books were like gold. I had been a avid patron of the library, but terrible at returning books. I had pretty much been branded as “persona non grata” by the librarians of my hometown library at the ripe old age of 12.

I have fond memories of some fine books. But perhaps the most influential of them all was a title called, “Frederick” by Leo Lionni.  It won the ’68 Caldecott ‘back in the olden days.’ It very well could be one of best children’s books ever written. ( I realize now that many of these books that shaped me were prophetic in their own way.)

We see Frederick, who is a young field mouse, off on excursion to find food with his four brothers. They must fill their pantry for the cold winter that’s coming. They are quite successful (it appears) and all seems well.

However, there is a bit of a problem with Frederick. While the other mice are ‘busting their mouse-butts’ he sits quietly thinking. They question him repeatedly, trying to motivate him (or shame him perhaps?)  There seems to be a general consensus against him, which is verging on open warfare.

But Frederick insists that he is needed to do this. He says that he is ‘working’. He is collecting sunlight, absorbing it until it’s needed.  He takes in colors, and then words. He just seems soak up these really wonderful experiences, and he seems a bit “clueless” (that’s not the right word), maybe a bit “preoccupied.”

FrederickFinally in the dead of winter, sheltered deep underground, their supplies are running low. One of the mice turns to Frederick, and asks him to share what he has collected. And he does precisely that. They sit in a circle and Frederick shares the sunlight, and the rich colors and the beautiful words he has stored up for them. Their little ‘mouse-hearts’ are deeply touched by Frederick’s contribution.

In so many ways, this has become a parable, or metaphor of my life. As a eight year old, I could hardly have foreseen how my life would unfold. I do however had a deep sense of being different, even then. My mental illness, mixed with being “gifted”, and then combined with being isolated and dirt-poor, worked in me.

Essentially, we all are products of our personal history.  What we have experienced good or bad develops us.  It did me.  I think what “Frederick” wants to do for us is to process uniqueness, gifting and steadfastness.  One of the things that the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me for the last few years is this, “Bryan, can you receive from the giftedness of other believers?”

We really must make room for “Fredericks” and what they can bring to us.  We will be drastically weakened if we won’t– or can’t.  Jesus faced a ton of resistance as He began to minister.  There is nothing new about that.  But it didn’t touch His spirit.

“Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more.”

Genesis 37:5

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Recommended Study Book: Ryken’s Bible Handbook

Ryken’s Bible Handbook

Amazon’s Price: $13.58
This book gives students of the Bible a quick overview of every book in the Bible. Leland Ryken’s distinctive trait is a literary approach to the Bible–understanding the Bible as literature. The three authors help shed light on understanding the Bible as the inspired Word of God and as literature by looking at the Bible’s different literary genres: poetry, narrative, wisdom literature, story, parables, and more.  This is a top-notch Bible Handbook and it is worth its weight in gold.  For a great Bible introduction, a class or Bible study it is the best.

BrokenBelievers: My Story, Redux

 

Hello!

My name is Bryan Lowe and I guide this blog, BrokenBelievers.com. I’m also a Christian pastor and Bible teacher who struggles with a ripping case of Bipolar Disorder I, and a walloping dose of Hepatitis C  (which I contracted using IV drugs.)

I have a burden for a blog that will concern itself with the challenges of mentally ill Christian believers, as well as key issues such as brokenness and humility. These seem to be critical issues, but are largely ignored and misunderstood by the mainstream church. The following list has all happened in the last five years. My shaky faith has been really challenged by these events.   

  • Death of our daughter, Elizabeth
  • Chemical burns to my lungs due to a workplace accident
  • Diagnosis of Bipolar disorder
  • Brain tumor/surgery ( I now have to walk with a cane)
  • Hepatitis C with encephalopathy issues, chronic nausea
  • Panic Attacks, (loads of fun!)
  • Non-healing sores, a low immune system (yes, I do vitamins)
  • Currently on daily meds–Lithium, Seroquil and Zoloft, (mood-stabilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants.)

As you can well imagine, ministry became almost impossible, doors quickly closed as word spread. After all, who wants a psychotic pastor? I had several hospitalizations due to Bipolar disorder, esp. when I have had suicidal tendencies/self-harm issues. I have scars on my wrists from very bad times. I suffer from paranoid delusions and hearing voices. For obvious reasons, I resigned as a senior pastor, which was hard because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. Sometimes, I feel like Job from the Old Testament (and my poor wife, “Joblynn”  has endured as well). I really, really struggled with anger towards God. I still fight with this when life grows dark. So this is what I have had to deal with. From this I want to speak into the darkness, and try to help any who also seek help. I want to be the guy handing out flashlights to the desperate people in the dark. Jesus frees us and leads us to hope. His Word is trustworthy, and his spirit is gentle. 

BrokenBelievers.com is making ministry available to the huge numbers of God-loving Christian Believers who struggle with mental illness.  As Jesus’ disciple, just how much trial am I expected to take, and exactly how do I live?  I would really like it if you had time to go through the web site. There are approximately 130 posts and find something that “rings your bell”. I know that that is a lot, but the list of contents is found in the left column, and a new post is added almost everyday. 

Favorite Thoughts–For now, I offer up some quotes that have personally helped me through the murky darkness. 

  • “God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance.” –A. W. Tozer
  • I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.”–Mother Teresa
  • “Our life is full of brokenness – broken relationships, broken promises, broken expectations. How can we live with that brokenness without becoming bitter and resentful except by returning again and again to God’s faithful presence in our lives.” –Henri Nouwen
  • “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 am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am.” –John Newton
  • It’s not about perfection; it’s about our intimacy with God, or our connection, our relationship with God. Once we get through that, once we realize that we can be imperfect, flawed, broken; those kinds of things are the ingredients of spirituality.”–Mike Yaconelli
  • “If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”-Brennan Manning

Favorite Authors–My favorite authors are the ones who minister to me in my pain and issues. These books are gold to me, and I scour the web looking for their teachings. I don’t follow men, but I do receive from their ministries.  If you follow any of these writers, you will get a sense of where I am coming from, and what exactly is the scope of this blog.  If your curious, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to share more. 

  • Mike Yaconelli– Messy Spirituality; Dangerous Wonder
  • Eugene Peterson– The Message Bible; A Long Obedience in One Direction; Subversive Christianity
  • Brennan Manning–The Lion and the Lamb; Ragamuffin Gospel; Abba’s Child
  • John Piper– When the Darkness Will Not Lift; Desiring God 
  • Henri Nouwen–The Wounded Healer
  • Anne Lamont– Traveling Mercies : Some Thoughts on Faith.
  • Kay Redfield Jameson– Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament; An Unquiet Mind
  • Georges Bernanos– A Diary of Country Priest
  • AW Tozer, anything– The Pursuit of God
  • Francis Frangipane–The Place of Immunity
  • CS Lewis– Grief Observed; Mere Christianity
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer– The Cost of Discipleship; Life Together
  • English Standard Version Study Bible–Great version!

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My Book List

This is a list of books that I can recommend to people who have a need, or just want to be informed.  The majority of these on the list are for Christians who have a mental illness.

  1. Grace for the Afflicted- Matthew S. Stanford, PHD*
  2. Manic, A Memoir- Terri Cheney
  3. Exuberance, The Passion for Life- Kay Redfield Jamison
  4. When the Darkness Will Not Lift- John Piper*
  5. Darkness is My Only Companion- Kathryn Greene-McCreight*
  6. The Noonday Demon- Andrew Solomon

*denotes Christian emphasis

All of these books can be ordered online at www.amazon.com.