Jesus is Our Centerpiece

The Gospel of John describes a wonderful image of the vineyard— branches and vine. This illustrates our relationship with Jesus.  We must abide and remain in him to be fruitful.  He is the vine, and we, we are merely the branches. He is the sole source of everything.

Notice the clear implications of John 15. (Come to Me, remain in Me, stay connected to Me.)  He didn’t advise or suggest we attend a seminar, go to Bible school, or attend a prayer meeting.

He said,Come to ME.”  He, and He alone is the one we are to center on. He insists that He is to be our total focus. There is no other (Matthew 11:28.)

This is either an egotistical religious fanatic intoxicated with His power and self-importance, or He really is reality.  C.S. Lewis comments,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

Jesus insists that we worship Him.  That much is clear.  I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.  I am the only way to the Father.”  And of course, “He who believes in Me has eternal life, and he who doesn’t is condemned” (John 14:6.) We just breeze through these verses and never truly grasp the ramifications. A mere man could not say these things (at least not with straight face) and be considered sane.

He either was what He said He was, or a liar or lunatic.  And we must decide who He really is. 

As believers we need to realize Jesus’ His rightful position.  The One who sits on the throne is the center.  All things derive their life, meaning and essence from Him.  We must not forget that He is the Risen Lord.  We need to realize that He has asked us to worship Him.  Point blank.

Many of our struggles come when we try to reduce Jesus to something less than what is real. If He really is the only way to the Father, we had better pay attention.

“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

–D.L. Moody

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Loving Others (Like Jesus Loved Us)

 

““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.””

– John 13:34-35

What is “love” like?  How do we consistently understand love when we fall short of it all the time?

We understand love by coming to know Jesus.  He not only explains it, but He also exhibits it–He puts it out in the public eye for all to see.  His explanation of what love is will mean a cruel death in order to save us.  When Jesus dies, I am saved.  My salvation has absolutely nothing to do with me– and everything to do with Him, and all that He has done.

Jesus helps us to see others.  He makes a definitive statement, that we are to love others.  We are to use what He has done for me, as an example.  What Jesus did is the pattern, the prototype.  We are to be the photostat or mimeograph.  As believers we are to be captured and drawn into this approach.

We are to find someone, and then, in some sense, ‘die’ for them. That is the way God’s love is.

That very strong word, must in verse 34 cannot escape our attention.  It implies a deep and a very definite commitment to doing that is beyond us.  We ‘must’ connect and receive all that moves through our life.  We love the unlovely, and this is irrational. God says that people are worth crucifixion. We’re the criminals, and the judge has sentenced us. And then He Himself has decided to pay our penalty. This is ‘agape’ love.

We must love accurately. We should love the way He loves us.  We cannot do anything less. 

But the love of Jesus is tracking each wanderer.  He is working to connect with every person on this planet.  No one escapes His view, or His love.  Everyone who belongs to Him, is required to know this.  Our Lord is definitely not going to move if there are still “seekers” still out there.  He leaves no one behind.

Loving others will require a significant broadening of the way we see things.  We purposefully lift up Jesus because He lifted us.  We exalt Him because we have discovered we are so pitiful.  We must be convinced, that His way, is the way of the cross.

We must love more accurately —the same way He loves us.  We cannot do anything less.  For many of us, love is just a concept–a way of feeling ‘warm and fuzzy’ inside.  But it is far more than feeling nice thoughts. It is all about “the extra mile” and we honestly can’t make that trip if we haven’t been willing to die ourselves.

 

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Bedlam: Prisons and the Mentally Ill

Taking a Stand for Our Brothers and Sisters

 By Mark Earley, Christian Post Guest Columnist, Wed, Aug. 08, 2007
The least of these is my brother
The least of these is my brother

In the 16th century, London’s mentally ill were often kept at Bethlem Royal Hospital. The conditions inside the hospital were notoriously poor. Patients were often chained to the floor and the noise was so great that Bethlem was more likely to drive a man crazy than to cure him. The conditions were so infamous that the nickname locals gave the hospital—Bedlam—has come to mean any scene of great confusion.

Unfortunately five hundred years later, we’re still treating the mentally ill more like prisoners than patients. Fifty years ago, more than 550 thousand people were institutionalized in public mental hospitals. Today, only between 60 and 70 thousand are, despite a two-thirds increase in the country’s population.

Since there’s no evidence that the incidence of mental illness has dropped precipitously, the mentally ill who previously had been institutionalized had to have gone somewhere. While some are being treated successfully in their communities, at homes and groups homes, but for many that “somewhere” is behind bars. This last part shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Five years ago, the Washington Post told the story of “Leon,” a one-time honor student, who had 17 years in and out of jail on various drug-related charges. It was only after several suicide attempts, including drinking a “bleach-and-Ajax cocktail,” that Leon was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Leon’s story was a microcosm of a larger problem: “Prisons and jails are increasingly substituting as mental hospitals.”

As one advocate for the mentally ill told the Post, “a lot of people with mental illness are charged with minor crimes as a way to get them off the streets.” In effect, they are behind bars for “being sick.” Fast forward five years and little, if anything, has changed. A few weeks ago, another piece in the Post discussed the same problem.

Psychiatrist Marcia Kraft Goin told readers something that should shock and outrage them: “The Los Angeles County Jail houses the largest psychiatric population in the country.” As with the earlier Post piece, the conclusion was inescapable: “People with [untreated] mental illnesses often end up with symptoms and behaviors that result in jail time.” You don’t have to be a “bleeding heart” to understand that this is an injustice—any kind of heart will do.

Not only are the mentally ill not getting the help they need, they are as lambs to the slaughter in our crowded and violent prisons. They are being victimized twice over. They’re not the only ones being victimized.

At a time when most state prisons are unlawfully overcrowded, there are better uses for prison beds than as makeshift mental hospitals. As Goin wrote, “treating” mental illness as a criminal justice problem costs “more than treating patients appropriately in their community.”

As part of its ministry to prisoners and their families, Prison Fellowship supports community-based alternatives to incarceration. Not only because it makes “financial sense” but because it’s what Christ would have done. In Matthew 25 he called the ill and the prisoner his “brothers” and he expects us to offer them something more than bedlam.

“There but for the Grace of God go I…” –Bryan

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From BreakPoint®, August 6, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved.  “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship.

Good Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bethlem_Royal_Hospital

http://www.bethlemheritage.org.uk/

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/etc/faqs.html

http://www.afscme.org/publications/6042.cfm

The Real Treasures, [Weaknesses]

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As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness, depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life.  So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. We have had to hide our issues really well. 

But I would submit to you that it is we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and general lostness. We have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not.

We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us. An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader demanded. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these… people?” The Archbishop simply and quietly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church, these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

We often can value giftedness more than weakness.

I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately weak. I suppose it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus.

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Anchored to Him

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“Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

Hebrews 6:18-19, NLT

“Every thing that is done in the world is done by hope.”  ~Martin Luther

“To live without hope is to cease to live.”  ~Fyodor Dostoevsky

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We must never give up our hope. In some sense we must guard our tether that reaches into heaven. The writer of Hebrews develops this idea into an exhortation. We are linked by hope as an “anchor for our souls.”

Many years ago I signed on as a deckhand fishing ‘long line’ for halibut in the Gulf of Alaska. We had to fish for 24 hours straight, we couldn’t put the long line into the water until midnight, and then we went all out until midnight the next day. It was brutal and cold work.

The ship’s anchor was vital. We ‘holed up’ in a sheltered cove were we spent a day resting up near Kodiak Island. I was as green as they come; I dreamed that we would make a fortune the next day. I suppose I was a bit deluded.

Anchors come in a dozen shapes and sizes: some are for muddy bottoms, others for sand or rock. The anchor is the only tether or connection to the ocean floor. It allows the ship to be fixed in one spot temporarily. The open sea is always churning and tides and currents are almost always running; the wind is always a factor.

wave1Waves can get rather dangerous. There can be sense of riding a roll-coaster. I have been at the wheel when water broke over the cabin. I knew real fear. (Watch the movie, “The Perfect Storm.”)

Our own hope is a ‘strong’ and reliable anchor for our souls. Let’s face reality. The storms we are traversing through can be formidable. Sometimes, we honestly wonder if we are going to make it. Having a mental or physical illness gives more credence to the power of the wind and waves.

But we have an anchor; it holds and tethers us to that which is solid and eternal. Our hope is in Jesus; he is both eternal and tender, and ever-present for us. Our anchor holds.

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As Risky as Cigarettes? A New Study on Sleeping Pills

“He gives to his beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2

At http://www.Brokenbelievers.com, our focus is mostly on the spiritual realities of being disabled, and yet a believer in Jesus. We honestly need these things as a man needs air. They are  things that we look into, and are crucial to our spiritual survival. Yet sometimes we encounter something on the physical/medical side that is important enough to merit our attention.

The latest off the wire, is a recent study on prescription sleep aids. For many years, our doctors have strongly suggested that if needed, we take a sleeping pill to enable us to “rack out.” A lot of people use them. In 2010, between  6 and 10% of adult Americans used a sleeping aid. Recently, researchers took another look. The drugs tested were Ambien, Restoril, Lunesta and Sonata. These, and a few others were tested. If your really interested, you will find the report on WebMd.com.

What they found was that users of these drugs to promote sleep faced a 5.3-fold higher death risk. They also had a 35% higher risk of cancer, the study found.  That made me perk right up.

The study was conducted at California San Diego which commenced in the early seventies. I encourage you to dig this up, and especially if you are taking a sleeping aid prescribed by a doctor. It could help you to decide on taking these meds, or not.

Perhaps, the issues are not substantial or significant to you. I do confess that the results are provocative.  And yet they do guide us into a fuller understanding. I have taken “Lunesta” for almost 4 years, every night.  My psychiatrist has explained to me that in his mind Bipolar Disorder can pretty much be a sleep issue and we need to treat it as such. Hence the Lunesta. But my shrink is not alone on this.

I suppose that I must admit a fear of  not being able to sleep. Sleep has been quite honestly the state that has carried me through many of my issues. I guess when I do sleep, I retract many things, and my “decks” are cleared for new ones.  The fear of losing this ability to really sleep, keeps me from not taking seriously the Lunesta I take every night. Inside, I just can’t see giving it up, in spite of the statistics.

In many ways, I suppose that sleep has become my deliverer. And as a believer, this should scare me. Jesus, after all, has redeemed me. He has done the work, after all. And yet I look at sleep as a sort of deliverance from my difficult issues. I don’t know what you are getting, but right now I’m sleeping 10 or 11 hours a night. And somewhat rarely I’ll take a 1 or 2 hour nap in the late afternoon.

“At this I awoke and looked, and my sleep was pleasant to me.” Jer. 31:26

Something funny: I once saw this posted on a wall in a church nursery, and thought it was very humorous, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” 1 Corinthians 15:51.

The study is reported yesterday on http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20120227/sleeping-pills-called-as-risky-as-cigarettes