The Rigidity of Evil

I have a heart--but it is broken and crushed.

I have a heart–but it is broken and crushed.

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust, or even loathing. It’s more like a weariness, an exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There is a real rigidity to evil. As I have seen it– sin hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks about having a hard heart. It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are only four real options.

  • The first is seed that never arrives.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third possibility is landing on thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

    Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh

    The Battle of the Heart

The question I have is this, can the hard soil become soft, and can the good soil become overgrown with thistles? Is this a static, set experience? Or could it be far more fluid? I seem to move from one soil condition to another.

I have found that my own  heart drifts. Manic Depression is a mental illness where emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and than there. I maybe depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

I want my heart to soften. I want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He is thinking about. Any sin I entertain has a hardening effect in my spiritual heart. This really scares me. *

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ybic, Bryan

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Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

This is a chapter from my book, “They Met Jesus: Stories from the Gospels.” Hope you like it!

Chapter 37

Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

6 The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” 7 After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood.9 This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
10 and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

My name is Judas and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed; The money was fine but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I did what they could not.

Jesus loved his disciples, including me. When he came washing our feet I was humbled and disturbed. But in my mind I knew that Jesus needed an opportunity to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I would be the kingmaker and Jesus would reward me.

But this washing the feet thing made me doubt his fitness as a king. When he stripped to his underwear I had my doubts. Behaving as a common slave wasn’t in my agenda. It would take extra work to shape him and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end. If only Jesus would cooperate.

It was said that Satan entered me at this time. I hardly noticed. I know I was filled with excitement. The other disciples would come to my side, and together we would do it. Enough groveling, we were going to rule Israel and even end the Roman occupation. I believed this with all that was in me.

The tricky part was to manipulate Jesus. He must see the opportunity that awaited him. He already was immensely popular among the common man.

My plan was this, after I met with the Pharisees, I would then lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. The Pharisees insisted on an armed escort in case there was trouble among the disciples. I on the other would give Jesus a kiss to signify that he was the one, it was dark and the torches didn’t give enough light.

When I kissed Jesus on the cheek the soldiers were to arrest him. I assumed he would resist and fight. It was my hope that he would fight. This would be the spark that Jesus needed to take action. When Jesus was taken into custody I assumed that this was the beginning of the revolution to come.

I was wrong. Nothing went as planned. Jesus did not take charge and overthrow the government, As a matter of fact the opposite happened, he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I once heard him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized too late, that I helped shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me to give back the silver. They wouldn’t take it back. I threw at their feet and left the temple. I was in a daze and ugly thoughts filled my mind.

Excuse me, but I have a date with the rope.

Lord Jesus, but for the grace of God there go I. Let me be a servant and not a king. Keep me away from foolish thinking, help me to believe in your Gospel just as it is, Amen.

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Understanding Self-Destruction

“For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the Lord.
But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death.”  

Proverbs 8:35-36

“There are seeds of self-destruction in all of us that will bear only unhappiness if allowed to grow.”  Dorothea Brande

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“When the beginnings of self-destruction enter the heart it seems no bigger than a grain of sand.”   John W. Cheever
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“If one looks with a cold eye at the mess man has made of history, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he has been afflicted by some built-in mental disorder which drives him towards self-destruction.”   Arthur Koestler 

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 Among people with a mental illness, there is a sort of impulsivity, and in advanced cases we can see a ‘self-destructive behavior‘.  We do things, superficially we recognize and even assert that it is detrimental, but we will continue to do it regardless.  Those ‘in the know around us’ can’t believe what we are doing. It is totally irrational.

Bipolar, schizophrenia, and many other mental illnesses have impulsivity as a common aspect of their disease processes.

  • We drink,
  • do drugs,
  • do pornography, strippers
  • tattoo ourselves,
  • cut ourselves,
  • misuse our credit cards (and go deeply in debt)
  • get crazy at rock concerts,
  • and much more.

We are impulsive and we do things that a healthy person would never do.  We consistently choose the worst things and we can’t seem to stop ourselves.

We are the ‘wild childs’, we just seem to thrive on the edge of destruction, repeatedly.  This is in spite of the consequences.  We just don’t worry about the side-effects of our choices.  We don’t think ahead, all we think is of the moment.  We consistently choose what is really bad for us, and then throw ourselves headlong into the darkness.  We can’t seem to stop.  The more we do these terrible things, the wilder it seems to get.

I can say this because I have a personal issue with ‘self-destruction’.  You might say I have a ‘Masters degree’ in it.  I have gotten very proficient at it, and have utilized deception to cover my tracks.  So much of my life is hidden and I seem to float my darkness out in such a way as to diffuse questions and to excuse awful nasty behavior.

Being impulsive/self-destructive is a hard life in many ways.  We cultivate an image to others that we have really never attained.  We are very good at deception, we have discovered how to do and say what we want without others “getting in our faces.”  A great deal of trickery is sent out over those in ‘the know’.  Being impulsive, ready to step into the most pleasurable darkness, becomes something we must cover up, at all costs. But Proverbs 6:27 tells us,

“Can a man scoop a flame into his lap
    and not have his clothes catch on fire?”

Am I secretly drinking, doing drugs or using sex (esp. in pornography)?  The impulses that drive us to do this stuff will become the way we experience destruction, but somehow we don’t seem to get it.  The mentally ill have a horrendous rate of alcoholism and addiction.  I’ve seen figures that put us at 80% that have significant issues.  We seem to be ‘self-medicating’ ourselves to escape, or trying to get some stability.

When we come to Jesus, we discover that He loves us completely, including our ‘hidden side’.  His love comes to us without any conditions.  We are free to do whatever we want.  However, we will find that ‘sin accepted’ is very brutal to us.  Smashing out heads against a brick wall, over and over, doesn’t make the wall any softer.  And yet we continue to do the most foolish thing we can do, and then we–  REPEAT.

There is a way out of this.  But few will try doing it.  Its called ‘public confession’.  We take it all ‘airborne’.  We get it out into the open, where the sun shines.  We choose not to live out our lives in secretiveness. We must learn the skills of transparency, as we lay out our evil, our deception for the church to see. When we deceive others, we will end up deceiving ourselves.  We absolutely cannot continue a life in darkness, or in long-term sin.

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ybic, Bryan

 

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From a Mental Hospital Ward, [Crushed]

3 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.”

Psalm 143:3

Some time ago,  I was hospitalized for my mental illness. (Actually seven times.) And though each time was bitter, but the Lord carried me.  They would take from me my shoelaces, and belts, and fingernail clippers.  Basically, I was stripped of everything, anything that I might use to harm myself. But I was creative, I took a clock off the wall and rolled it in a blanket,  I smashed it and used the shards of glass to cut my wrists.The nurses were exceptionally observant, and within moments they intervened.

I had already been stripped, searched, and then brought into a ward full of very sick people.  Much of all of this is a terrible glazed blur.  There was a real awareness of unreality.  I was quite confused, and it would take several weeks before I could reconnect.  Things were no longer ‘reasonable’ and I could discern nothing.  But I didn’t know I was so confused (but I did suspect it). The staff were quite aware and accommodating.  They let me be, so time could take care of the rest. I needed to unravel things  

Besides, Jesus knew exactly where I was if I didn’t.

Days rolled by, quite slowly.  The tedium of a mental hospital is the worst— much more difficult than jail or prison.  You walk in a very limited corridor, back and forth.  You wait for your shrink, and wait, and wait.  You pace, and pace. You pray, stupidly.  The other patients were equally disturbed.  There was a great variety among them.  One guy would urinate in any corner. Once he jumped up on the nurses station, and took a “whizz.” It was hysterical.  He almost shorted out their computer.

In all of this, there was a very bleak and strange awareness, of being incredibly ‘detached,’ and only remotely aware that something was not right with me.  I tried to get well, but I was mentally lost.  I paced, and I remained confused.  I was most definitely in an ugly place.  Desperate and increasingly bewildered, I knew I had no place to go.  A fine place for someone who used to pastor, and teach at a Bible college.

If you have been in this place, you will recognize the ‘lostness’ of being on a ward of a mental hospital. It is confusion mixed with despair,  and without a part of very strong drugs, and there is nothing you can do to be released.  And really until you come to this fact, they will never let you go.  They wait for you to snap out of your confusion, unfortunately that takes time. Sometimes many weeks and whole months. Sometimes never.

It’s worse when you have a family.  In my case it was my wife, and two small children.  This at times, would twist my heart.  I would get a very short phone call, once a week.  But this was quite difficult.  I gained very little from those calls, and I found myself quite disturbed after each call.  Being on this ward tinged me completely. It was like being dipped into darkness.  I was very much affected.  Now on the outside, I admit I was quite disturbed, but at the time I honestly did not understand a way out.

Dear friend, having a mental illness is cruel and disturbing.  And being committed to a mental hospital is a desperate thing.  Having passed through its locked doors is something you will never forget.  The way I figure these seven hospitalizations have stolen over six months of my life. Its work is irrevocable, its fingerprints will be on your life, for as long as you live.  But God will bring good out of this. This I know.

“Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
    Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.”

Micah 7:8

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All in Your Head?

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Depression is a Mental Disorder, not a Disease

There are plausible arguments for the non-existence of mental illness. But there are still people who declare themselves to have a mental illness. After all, being sick mentally has no physical symptoms; it’s not like a kidney stone or an inflamed appendix. One can only hope it was this simple.

Yet depression is a progressive and debilitating disorder. It is like having a ‘bruised brain’ that refuses to heal. There is an substantial list of psychological disorders. Technically depression is a mood disorder that has a series of symptoms. These symptoms are the evidence that something is definitely wrong.

  • Depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness).
  • Reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed.
  • Change in appetite or weight increase/decrease.
  • Sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping too much).
  • Feeling agitated or slowed down.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.
  • Feeling worthless or excessive guilt.
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or troubles making decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts or intentions.
http://www.nami.org/

The above list is a summary of something called the DSM-IV which doctors use to diagnose the mental disorder of depression. Having five or six of these may indicate a problem. Spinning off this, you will discover some other disorders, like:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Depersonalization/derealization
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Psychosis and paranoia
  • PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome)
  • Specific Phobias (fears of something)
  • SAD (social anxiety disorder)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia)

Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in four adults–approximately 57.7 million Americans–experience a mental health disorder in a given year.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and stigma for those who have these disorders. I suppose it is akin to having VD (venereal disease) or AIDS. It seems that our culture is pretty quick at labeling people as deviant or undesirable.

I hope this post helps. I can see a 100 holes in it, and alas, it is a meager attempt. But perhaps it will be of some value. Both NAMI.org, Psychcentral.com, and WebMD.com all have excellent info on Mental Illness. aabryscript

Today’s Suicide Toll: Put Faces to the Numbers

It’s time to attach faces to numbers. In less than 24 hours, 1577 will commit suicide. If you look closely, you can see faces.

As believers, these are our business. They are God’s business. Be aware of this. And pray.

 

For more valuable information see:

http://www.facebook.com/puttingafaceonsuicide AND http://nami.org/

When Demons Rule People

by Julie Anne Fidler, BB Weekly Contributor

   1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

   “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

 11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

 14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:1-20

I have often wondered about this demon-possessed man. The image is striking – he was held captive by demons, and yet no earthly chains could hold him. His behavior sounds familiar to many of us who have lived in the grip of mental illness. Crying out? Cutting himself? I’ve been there. I’ve done that. Is this a story about mental illness before anyone could prescribe drugs to treat it?

I think the wording of this story is especially interesting – the Bible here refers to the demons as “impure spirits.” The King James Version refers to the demons as “unclean spirits.” It seems to indicate that Satan is much more than horns and a pointy tail. “Unclean” and “impure” could mean so many things.

The first time someone suggested I might be dealing with some form of demonic oppression in my life I thought they were crazy. Horror films have made us believe that people who “have demons” always kill people with their minds or cause things to catch on fire by pure will. The Bible includes some scary images of demons, but Satan does his best work by being subtle. It’s a lot harder to believe in demons if they’re not spitting blood directly in your face.

Satan uses daily life against us. He uses our professional struggles to make us think we’re unworthy of success; he uses our financial problems to make us believe we’re not as good as other people; he uses our painful pasts to make us buy the lie that we will never be able to overcome who we used to be.

Mental illness alters the way we see ourselves and the world around us. It makes everything seem dark even though there is reason to rejoice. It robs us of stability and even the ability to reason. I truly believe that mental illness is the enemy’s way of fighting against everything that Jesus really wants us to be. What could be more impure or unclean than that?

The King James Version of verse 20 uses the word “publish” instead of “tell”. The man began to publish in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. I can relate to the demon-oppressed man’s pain but I can also relate to his healing. Jesus might drive all of my demons into the bodies of pigs someday, but for now He has quieted my unquiet mind with the right medications, counseling, and a support system. I rejoice in that, and I publish how much Jesus has done for me.

That’s how we can kick the devil back – by being thankful that help is available. I am thankful that Jesus Christ has quieted the stormy seas in my soul. I know that Satan wants to use mental illness against me, and knowing your opponent is half the battle.

Get grounded in the truth, draw close to God, and let Him cleanse the impure and unclean things that have kept you bound but crying out for so long.

Julie Anne Fidler is a contributing writer for Brokenbelievers.com.  She comes with a humble and understanding heart for those with a mental illness.  Her writing gift is valued greatly.  Look for her post weekly, on this blog.   She keeps a personal ministry blog at www.mymentalhealthday.blogspot.com.  Read more there.