Battle Scars

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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. 

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Kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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Living Tethered to the Cross

We live in this place.
We live in this place.

St. Francis of  Assisi once wrote, “The devil never rejoices more than when he robs a servant of God of the peace of God.” Sometimes I think I’ve made the devil dance far too many times.

I confess that peace has never been real high on my list. Love, joy, kindness and even goodness are clear priorities. Peace–well… not so much. Until it’s not there. And then I get frantic by its absence, and look for it with manic bewilderment.

I’m panting for some sign that God still loves me. Anxiety eats at me. I beat myself up by my last failure. The guilt of my latest sin grows until it looms larger than the blood that saved me. Sometimes religious people have the most neurosis.

I’m afraid that we are taking “the present tense’ out of the Gospel. The past tense is far preferable to us as we manage the Christian life. We like to make check marks on our list. Repentance– check. Baptism– check. Bible study– check. I think it gives me a definite feeling of ‘maturity.’

But truth has a way of punching through. I haven’t arrived, and it seems I’m still the hideous sinner I always was. I cannot pretend otherwise, even with a truck load of cosmetics at my disposal. I know, I’ve tried. And I’m still ‘ugly.’ I do know forgiveness, and I do walk in its wonderful light (by grace.)

I read Luther 30 years ago. (And Bonhoeffer would say something similar.)  “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther (this is the first of his 95 Theses.) There is a present tense here we can’t ignore. I don’t just repent over smoking, or fornication, or of hypocrisy, once and done. But my entire way of living is to be one of repenting.

Repentance is a ‘moment-by-moment’ grace.

As I read the Beatitudes I cannot evade the sense that they are present tense. Read them, they’re obviously not a spiritual checklist. Each verse seems to speak of the time being, the present moment. No list here, guys. It will never be ‘one-and-done.’

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Matthew 5:3-10, NLT

All of the Christian life is repentance. Turning from sin and trusting in the good news that Jesus saves sinners aren’t merely a one-time inaugural experience but the daily substance of Christianity. The gospel is for every day and every moment. Repentance is to be the Christian’s continual posture.”

–John Piper

Luther’s last words, on his deathbed wrote on a scrap of paper these words, “We are beggars! This is true.” Thirty years before, he was only echoing his first thesis. It seems dear ones, we are to live at the foot of the cross. Everyday. Because we desperately need to.

And perhaps the biggest reason is this: Jesus only comes for ‘sinners.’

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A.W. Tozer, on Having a Personal Revival

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How to Have a Personal Revival,
Serious Repentance and Restitution, and
Steps to Spiritual Growth.

by A.W. Tozer

Put yourself in the way of the blessing.  It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met. There are plainly marked paths which lead straight to the green pastures; let us walk in them.  To desire revival, for instance, and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk another.

Do a thorough job of repenting.  Do not hurry to get it over with.  Hasty repentance means shallow spiritual experience and lack of certainty in the whole life.  Let godly sorrow do her healing work. Until we allow the consciousness of sin to wound us, we will never develop a fear of evil. It is our wretched habit of tolerating sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.

Make restitution whenever possible.  If you owe a debt, pay it, or at least have a frank understanding with your creditor about your intention to pay, so you honesty will be above question. If you have quarreled with anyone, go as far as you can in an effort to achieve reconciliation. As fully as possible make that crooked things straight.

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Thought 

Repentance and restitution result when we seriously reflect on what God shows us in His Word. What is it of which we need to repent and is there restitution to be made?

 

Scripture

“Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart];”

Matthew 3:8 (Amplified Bible)

Prayer

My tendency, Lord, is not to take seriously my sin that hurts other people and to leave unrepaired the damage I have left in the lives of others. Make me sensitive, Lord!

 

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tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer was born April 21, 1897 on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania, the third of six children. And although he would inspire millions with his preaching and writing, he was given very little education during his childhood.

A. W. Tozer was 66 when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1963. Buried in a small cemetery in Akron, his tombstone simply and appropriately reads, “A Man of God.” He left behind many books that continue to give Christians encouragement and guidance. His writings are as fresh today as when he was alive. His honest and colloquial humor has been known to sweep up congregations in gales of laughter. And his wisdom has left them silent and stunned. For almost 50 years Tozer walked with God, and even though he is gone, he continues to minister to those who are eager to experience God.

 

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Walking With the Lord Jesus, [Humility]

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The subject and emphasis on is becoming obscure— “just like Jesus.” I suppose my main contention is this– our understanding of discipleship has too much “me, and not enough Him.” This can be a gentle error of a young believer.

When Jesus who was the fullness of God in bodily form came, He came as a lowly slave. We see Him stripping down, filling a basin, and scrubbing dirty feet. He actively made Himself a broken and humble servant. It was deliberate and conscious.

Read Philippians 2. It will blow you away!

I think we learn this from Him. The disciple never exceeds his master. He made it very clear that we were to follow Him in this. It’s processed by us when we are very firmly aware that the One who knows us. To be loved by Him is enough (or is it?)

Exceptional effort is made by the Holy Spirit to help us understand. There is a repeated thought given to us in various permutations. In one of my favorite verses King David, standing in front of God, and his people, declared,

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

1 Chronicles 29:14-15, NLT

“We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” This is the cheery assessment found in Ecclesiastes 1. This view irks us big time. Especially if we have invested so much in our wealth, gifts, experiences and accomplishments.

“Our days on earth are like grass;  like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.”

Psalm 103:15-16, NLT

In the New Testament, the emphasis is only stronger. Remember when James and John tried to get the corner on the authority and honor of being on “the right and left?” (My, but they were ambitious lads!)

“When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45, NLT

There are two certain issues here:

  • The first is authentic discipleship.
  • The second is a decided and eager servanthood.

Both ideas are often missing in our churches, and in our teaching. Somehow we are not communicating the real transferable concepts. Their simplicity evades us.

I intend to return to this fairly soon. Again, I appreciate any constructive criticism, your own thinking on this, and your prayers.

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From Spiritual Self-Destruction

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A Very Simple and Honest Prayer

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Change me.

God, please change me.

Though I cringe

Kick

Resist and resent

Pay no attention to me whatever.

When I run to hide

Drag me out of my safe little shelter.

Change me totally

Whatever it takes

However long You must work at the job.

Change me– and save me

From spiritual self-destruction. Amen.

Ruth Harms Calkin

6 “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6, NLT

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Saint for Today

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) is known for his leadership role in the Confessing Church, efforts on behalf of peace and justice, opposition to antisemitism, and writings on theology and ethics that have been influential far beyond his German Lutheran context. He was was hanged by the Nazis on April 6, 1945 in the Flossenburg concentration camp.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quotations:

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give; life can be rich only with such realization. source: Letters and Papers from Prison

To be silent does not mean to be inactive; rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey. Meditating on the Word

It is not necessary that we should discover new ideas in our meditation. It is sufficient, and far more important, if the Word, as we read and understand it, penetrates and dwells within us. Life Together

When we come to a clearer and more sober estimate of our own limitations and responsibilities, that makes it possible more genuinely to love our neighbor. Letters and Papers…

There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world, whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender to the world. Ethics

You have granted me many blessings; let me also accept what is hard from your hand. Prayers from Prison

The first call which every Christian experiences is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. The Cost of Discipleship

Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety. The Cost of Discipleship

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them. Life Together

From God we hear the word: “If you want my goodness to stay with you then serve your neighbor, for that is where God comes to you.” In the anthology, No Rusty Swords

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves. The Cost of Discipleship

I can no longer condemn or hate a brother [or sister] for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed through intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died. Life Together

We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility. Letters and Papers from Prison

Which of us has really admitted that God’s goodness can also lead us into conflict. In the Anthology, No Rusty Swords

Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus. The Cost of Discipleship

So long as we eat our bread together, we shall have sufficient even for the least. Not until one person desires to keep his own bread for himself does hunger ensue. Life Together

In a world where success is the measure and justification of all things, the figure of him who was sentenced and crucified remains a stranger. Ethics

 

A Prayer written by Bonhoeffer

In me there is darkness,

but with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart; but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you is peace.

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways,

but you know the way for me.

Amen.

How Things Happen

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31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Matthew 13:31-33, ESV

These are perhaps the three most potent verses in the entire Bible. And whenever you find “potency” you will find a strong possibility of exponential growth. It may be a steady synergy, or an explosive fission. Either way, it’s going to grow!

Both the seed and the yeast have so much in common. They are two sides of the same proverbial coin. And they represent explosive growth. If they are unleashed, watch out! They are both “pep and power” and now set loose they will take off.

The seed is put in the ground and the yeast in the flour. And the farmer and the baker both do their initial work of planting or kneading, and then they just stand back, their work is pretty much done. They now just let “nature” take its course.

These parables Jesus taught here are small— but hardly less significant because of their brevity. These two can bury you with all they imply and mean. When we think clearly about yeast in your cupboard and that single seed in its package, we should see the “life” that resides in them, and the potential that waits.

I think much about the Church. At times, I admit I get frustrated with it. I get judgmental, and fearful that it won’t survive into the next century.  I truly understand that I can be critical. At times my friends must deal with my “ugliness,” but still they put up with me. (They are true friends.)

The kingdom is growing, and advancing. I love the wonderful promise in Isaiah 9:6, (usually read at Christmas time only. A mistake.) But Isaiah 9:7 is also pretty amazing too,

“His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!”

Let it grow, let it grow! 

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ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.