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The Blessings of a Long Battle, part 4


In thinking about this final installment about how God can bring much good out of our protracted struggle with sin, weakness, or a problem, it dawned on me how important it is to see the Big Picture. In some ways this post reiterates truths in part 2 of this series, but also adds important new dimensions to those truths and explores new territory.

When a soldier goes through boot camp, it’s crucial for him or her to see the overall purpose of his training–the Big Picture. He or she is being pushed and tested in different ways to the extreme so that they will be prepared for any situation on the battlefield, won’t crack under pressure, and will be a team player.

In the conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership, the nation of Israel experienced many victories over different hostile nations. However, Judges 3:1–4 says that God did not allow the Israelites to completely triumph but left certain enemies in the land (e.g., the Philistines) so that his chosen people would learn warfare.

When we became Christians, God could have put us in a cocoon of protective grace where we would be insulated from our three primary enemies–the world, the flesh, and the devil–but he didn’t so that we would also learn warfare.

If he would’ve sheltered us from the battle, we would end up like many “trust fund babies,” who, because of their vast inherited wealth, never have to work a day in their lives. They’re protected from the toil and struggle of life and never have to worry about paying the rent or the electric bill.

Often there is something profoundly missing in their lives: many are spoiled, shallow, and have not been battle–tested. Perhaps God designed an existence where we battled the world, the flesh, and the devil so that we would not end up becoming spiritual trust fund babies.

Macarius was a great monk who composed the Macarian Homilies in the 4th century. He was convinced that, if after becoming Christians, we were protected in a cocoon of grace from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, many of us would soon become conceited and fall as Satan fell. Instead of a three steps forward, two steps back grind that life often is, we would have a series of unbroken successes and become lifted up in pride and fall like Lucifer did.

In seeing the big picture, nothing is more important than understanding that God the Father through the Holy Spirit has been preparing a Bride for his Son in a Marriage that will span eternity. He wants you to be a part of that Bride. The Father wants the Bride to fervently love the Groom.

There is no love without free choice. If we would’ve been protected from the enemies of our soul, and choosing the Groom was exquisitely easy or even automatic, where’s the love that has been tested in the furnace of affliction? Like any spouse, Christ wants to be chosen. If we were automatons or even semi–automatons, where’s the love in that?

When we are in a long struggle with sin or weakness, it is because we have become over–attached to some created thing. Addiction is over–attachment in the extreme (e.g., overeating, alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex, power, work, shopping, etc.)

Christ the Uncreated One wants to be chosen over all the created things. Christ the Groom wants to stand in the midst of all his competitors–i.e. created things–and have the Bride choose him. One of the blessings then of a long battle is this: it’s the vehicle whereby we choose Christ as our Groom, as our only lover.

Does that love somehow go away if you’re a Christian who is up to your eyeballs in sin, addiction, and weakness? If anything God loves you more after you fall, because where sin abounds, grace abounds more. And as the old religious cliché tells us, he loves us in our sin and loves us too much to leave us there.



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When Truth Meets Love


“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’

And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Rev. 3:17, NLT


If you would come to me and speak this boldly, I’d run you off.  “You have no right speaking to me in this way!”  Our personal relationships are essentially based on “boundaries.”  My continuing friendship with you is based to a large degree on your respecting these social rules and restrictions. We look to social protocol to guide us.

God is the only one we would allow to speak to us so boldly and directly (and even then it’s still unwelcome).

Self-sufficiency has become the specific goal of the speaker, it is how he measures a respectable Christian life.  Respectability however, is a disturbing development for simple believers.  “I don’t need a thing.”  Within our hearts there is a hunger to be independent.  Self-sufficiency and pride are disturbing thought processes for simple disciples.

There is a delusion that is quite prevalent– we may feel that we have arrived.  We finally are capable of something important.  We have done all the necessary things, we have jumped through all the hoops, and have “made it.”  It somehow feels like we have accelerated the sanctification process.  Much of this comes from a feeling of being ‘spiritually exceptional.’

Jesus is confrontive.  He will not diminish the truth, to spare our feelings.  I think that that is quite remarkable.  We esteem and value honesty, but when it is focused on us it seems difficult.

“You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

None of these five words would we use to describe ourselves. Let’s consider them anyway:

  1. wretched– terrible, very bad
  2. miserable– unhappy, depressed
  3. poor– lacking sufficient resources
  4. blind– sightless, without vision
  5. naked– bare, without covering

These five words that describe the “real” position of the believer in pride.  These five words dismantle us, stripping us of our lies.  We have evaluated ourselves and discovered that we must be exceptional believers. (Perhaps my innate specialness is true after all!)

Twenty years ago my wife and I took an evaluation for placement in a language school.  I assumed I was quite exceptional, but two hours later I was told that I failed the test and would be assigned to the lowest level for the rest of the semester.  I was shocked!  And my dear wife, was put into the highest. What a blow to my pride!

“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.”

Eph. 4:15

He reaches out to us because He loves us profoundly.  It is a love that is not based on any kind moral performance.  However, it is quite necessary for us to step into the piercing light, and an intense desire to enter reality.  It is difficult for us to slough off the lies, and to understand what is true.  Trust me, Jesus speaks nothing but the truth, and He loves us while He does it.


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‘Aslan’ Speaks to All Who Will Listen

“‘You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,’ said Aslan. ‘And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth.'”

    C.S. Lewis
Source: Prince Caspian

Jesus Christ is a God whom we approach without pride, and before whom we humble ourselves without despair.”

 –Blaise Pascal

He told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves:”

Luke 14:7. CSB




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Without the Spirit

“A church in the land without the Spirit is rather a curse than a blessing. If you have not the Spirit of God, Christian worker, remember that you stand in somebody else’s way; you are a fruitless tree standing where a fruitful tree might grow.”

–Charles Spurgeon


“How little chance the Holy Ghost has nowadays. The churches and missionary societies have so bound Him in red tape that they practically ask Him to sit in a corner while they do the work themselves.”

–CT Studd






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Meandering Intensely Through Grace


“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

Romans 8:29, NLT

“Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.”

1 Corinthians 15:49


Much speculation has been made regarding these two ‘pinnacle’ verses. We must approach them humbly to see what they are all about. We must see for ourselves all that concerns us. “They will not hear the voice of a stranger,” (John 10:5).

The Father has decreed, “Christlikeness.’ This is a mandate from the One who loves us unconditionally. (There are no whips being used.) We really need to enter this holy process with a sure confidence of a solid love.

His face burns brighter when we are positioned appropriately in His glory.

It begins now. The heavenly Father’s exclusive purpose is to “bring many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). We do not have to wait until heaven to become like Jesus. We can accelerate the joy by starting today. And when He comes, He will ‘clean house,’ (so to speak).

You are one of the selected. Few have the options and opportunities that have been offered. To ‘put on’ Christlikeness is a rare privilege. From this point on, you will move through the confusion as one assured of his place and calling. He has ‘marked’ you, you are His. Everything will move aside in the light of His calling.

I so want you to ‘long for heaven.’ It is the place where we will dwell permanently. But at this point, the Father needs you to ‘hash it out’ on planet Earth. There is a need for volunteers who will come from ‘free will.’ After all, we get to choose Him who holds our destinies within; He alone carries our burdens and sins. He knows me thoroughly, yet loves me still.

You need to decide soon of your next step. But know this– Christlikeness will never be forced or coerced. But it is the ‘ride of a lifetime.’ Sheer boredom will probably ‘do-you-in’ if you choose to just ‘pray the prayer’ and walk away.

But you will never know the thrill of standing under God’s grace blasting full over your thirsty heart.

ybic, Bryan




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Drowning in Despair


despair (2)“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”

   2 Corinthians 1:8

“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”

John Piper

It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not my impulsiveness that gives me the most concern.   I know ‘despair’.  I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost.  But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted honor, when it comes to despair.

Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost.  Now this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress.  But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time.  Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.

Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a simplistic form.  I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC  song, ‘Highway to Hell‘.  The lyrics are pretty basic, very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost.  He formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned.  This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll.”)

In examining the striated world of despair, we must come to the interesting place when our foolishness combined with our arrogance produces a decision to be lost.  Of course, our fear of God must be extracted from the situation.  But for the eager candidate for despair, this is not an insurmountable problem.

Escaping this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty.  And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love.  (It is completely undeserved).  We must believe that somehow, someway God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest.  And somehow, He delights in doing this, and He is Lord.

We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope. 

Because of our problems, our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil folly of despair.  These are the issues that make us vulnerable.  There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair.  There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’.  We are pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic. But is it not even more heroic to live in hope?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”

Psalm 42:5-6



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Quarantined, for His Purposes



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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