Bearing Down Broken

rock climber's hands. sandia mountains, albuquerque, new mexico.

We often come to our discipleship broken. We can’t pretend otherwise. We’re a bundle of inconsistencies, surrounded by fear and hubris. But the Lord is calling us to follow Him.

I’m convinced that the mentally ill, the rascal, and the loser are already half-way to repentance. We have nothing to offer anyone. And in quiet moments we understand our issues. We know we aren’t prime discipleship material.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,”

1 Corinthians 1:26-28, NIV

Honestly, I’m just one of the foolish ways God shares His love. I make no claim to perfection. I’m throughly inconsistent. And I wish it was different.

“But God chose,” and we are the chosen. We’ve the ones selected to “shame the wise;” we are called to “shame the strong.” It seems that this is more than we can handle. We are not wired for this.

The Holy Spirit comes to fill us, and when we are full we can do this. We activate the cross and humble our pride– and doing this just makes me available for Him to use, as He sees fit.

You stand in an unbroken line; centuries of believers have proceeded you. You were called to the kingdom “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). We are right where God has determined for us to be. Chosen for this very moment.

Weakness, or smallness are your only qualifications. The Lord uses the broken. It’s time to bear down broken. We’re waiting for you to take your place.

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He is Profoundly Good

“God will not turn away from doing you good. He will keep on doing good. He doesn’t do good to His children sometimes and bad to them other times. He keeps on doing good and He never will stop doing good for ten thousand ages of ages. When things are going bad that does not mean God has stopped doing good. It means He is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving Him.”

–John Piper

“The Lord is good and upright; therefore he shows sinners the way.”

Psalm 25:8, CSB

 

 

Luther and His Salvation

Martin Luther, 1483-1546

“If ever a monk could get to heaven through monastic discipline, I was that monk. And yet my conscience would not give me certainty, but I always doubted and said, ‘You didn’t do that right. You weren’t contrite enough. You left that out of your confession.’ The more I tried to remedy an uncertain, weak, and troubled conscience with human traditions, the more I daily found it more uncertain, weaker, and more troubled.”

“Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?”

 –Martin Luther

“But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Acts 15:11, ESV

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Discipleship, [Understanding]

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Each of us who are broken believers will take the following steps. This is simple discipleship. These four will be at the root of everything we do. Our mental illness may influence this walk, but it can’t derail the process. Because it is a supernatural one, everyone starts at the same spot— whether we’ve an illness or not. Each of us must take these four steps and engage them:

  1. Come to Me

  2. Learn of Me

  3. Follow Me

  4. Remain in Me

Disciples will build their lives on these. They are solidly basic but extrapolated out into different unique variations. Each one will be uniquely yours.


COME TO ME:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28, ESV

The source is Jesus, and his presence is sought. Our heavy issues are relieved by his nearness.

 

LEARN OF ME:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29

Jesus shares his yoke with every disciple. We are to learn at his feet, and it’s there we learn of his humility. Rest is your evidence of his proximity.

 

FOLLOW ME:

 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

A cross awaits every disciple. Self-denial is critical for every believing disciple. Jesus will show us how it’s to be done.

 

REMAIN IN ME:

“Remain [abide] in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

This involves drawing and extracting life from him. We are a branch that pulls its life essence from its core, he is our vitality and our strength.

“Whatsoever one would understand what he hears must hasten to put into practice what he has heard.” –Gregory the Great

 

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A Poured-Out Life, [Service]

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“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

Philippians 2:17

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:6-7

Paul is the ultimate and conclusive example of self sacrifice for the Church. He is an example to us of loving until it hurts. The children of men are a needy lot and the burden of the apostle. He cares intensely (and it shows) as Paul describes his mission to the churches. He wants to help those who cannot help themselves. Paul understood that he was being poured like “a drink offering” to the Lord for the saints.

The Lord Jesus was the pattern Paul focused on. In Jesus we see a man dying on a terrible cross to bring a very real salvation to those without any hope at all. You and I stand “accepted in the beloved” because of that sacrifice.

“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”  

–Elisabeth Elliot

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

John 12:24

I honestly believe that fruitfulness hinges on the decision to “die”, and perhaps that is precisely why we are barren. Jesus must give himself up in order to save us. Are things so different now? Over the many centuries, the chosen Church practiced a “dying to self” as the primary way of growth.

Being poured out for others usually isn’t too dramatic; it offers very little in the way of earthly reward or recognition. A few days ago I sat in the “Annex” of our local mental health clinic. I spent a whole afternoon with clients who were struggling hard to make it, I sat and listened, and had no agenda but theirs. I was being “poured out” and it was wonderful!

My heart swelled with the presence of Jesus for these dear ones. It had nothing to do with ambition, or a hunger for applause. I wasn’t out to prove that I was a Christian. Rather I was wholly there for others, I sort of think that is what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples about ministry, and servanthood. I believe that is what Paul was doing in the churches he served.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:4

This is how it all works. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. There are over 163 million orphans in the world, and more than 27 million human slaves. Furthermore, 1.2 million lives are snuffed out by abortion each year in the U.S. alone. And over 150,000 people die each day without knowing Christ. I suspect there is enough “work” to go around.

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.  

Anonymous

 “When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you see wires. Until the current passes through them, there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God. We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, to produce the light of the world, Jesus, in us. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.”

Mother Teresa

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Has God Given Up on You?

 

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13 “If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.” 

2 Timothy 2:13, NLT

There can be times of a great despair; when sin or sickness is definitely in the spotlight. Losing hope is an easy response for mere mortals like us. There can be a place where the darkness won’t lift; and it’s at that point you realize that you’re simply in over your head.

I know that feeling quite well. I have bipolar disorder and I tend to camp out at the margins where it seems like the grace of God evaporates in the heat of the moment. Whether it is my sin or circumstances, I occasionally feel pretty much abandoned, and it usually is something self-inflicted. We have this glaring tendency to put ourselves in where we should not have been. And condemnation means no comfort can get through to us.

We wonder if God has finally given up on us, throwing us on the trash heap of lost souls. We might feel that is what we deserve.

“Many are saying about me, “God won’t rescue him.” 

Psalm 3:2

In Psalm 3, David has come to the realization that his sins have “tainted” him. He talks of many enemies that have suddenly gathered, and they are claiming that David was now outside of God’s grace and favor. The theology of this seemed logical. David had sinned greatly. And just perhaps he had. David’s sin of adultery and murder was heinous and depraved. His enemies suggested that God would now abandon him.

Our own sin may be excessive, but God’s faithfulness is extreme.

”Lord, your love reaches to the heavens, your loyalty to the skies.’

Psalm 36:5

The grace of God is limitless. It is beyond human comprehension or reasoning. When he committed himself it was for forever. King David understood this, and would survive the devastating fall-out from his sins. Indeed he would reap all that he sowed (Gal. 6:7-8).

You see, Jesus has taken all your sin upon himself,  and that includes your faithlessness. He has done this astonishing thing out of the deep depths of His love and mercy. We don’t deserve it and we can’t pretend it is something else. A heart welded to His knows this. We are “saved by grace through faith.”

Do you still feel God has abandoned you forever? Dear one, there is an unholy war on the saints that Satan is waging. He hates your simple trust in God and will shake it anyway he can. He blisters believers hoping to discourage them. And he doesn’t fight fair.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:“I have  loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

Christ will always accept the faith that puts its trust in Him. You must only rest in His kindness and love.  He will not abandon anyone who puts even a feeble trust in Him. When we turn from our sin, God will always turn to us. Always believe it, for it is true.

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Condemnation Can’t Stay [Guilt]

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“Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to you with my empty cup uncertain in asking any small drop of refreshment. If only I had known you better I’d have come running with a bucket.”

-Nancy Spiegelberg

There can be no freedom from condemnation without submission to the saving life of Christ.  This is a definite and critical point.

Without a faith in Him, we are left with the option of carrying our own guilt.  This is a staggering possibility, and our lives turn to drinking and “drugging” and other things.  We must escape from all this pain and sin.  We are walking out condemnation, and the weight of this is immense.

Much of our life can be distilled from this viciousness.  We absorb it, adapt to it, thinking it will ease up some.  But it doesn’t, and it won’t.  We turn to all kinds of ‘pain absorbers’ looking to cope with this mindset.  There are escapes, and we try them all.  But ultimately we end up with one that is quite imperfect, and we ‘sort of’ become a little numb. Our hearts become numb and hard.

Condemnation twists us and who are in Christ. 

It deforms our spirit and destroys our confidence before our Father in Heaven.  His love is still being poured out, but we have placed a cover on our vessel.  We are blocking His mercy by our unwillingness to be forgiven.  All of our guilt seems a reasonable reaction to the heaviness of our sin.

Humans were not designed to handle guilt, and its “cousin” fear.  When we do try, we short-circuit.  Pain is always avoided, and that ends up corralling us into bondage.  From here, we can still mentally assent to the Bible; we can still have a sense of spirituality.  But it will always be filtered through our sense of condemnation.

Faith in the complete action of Jesus is enough.  Because I believe He carried the full weight of my sin, past—-present—future, I can walk out a free man.  Yes, sin does require justice, it is to be condemned.  But my faith, trust or confidence enables me to separate from the sin that would take me, straight to the bottom.

In this release, we are supposed to live. Freed from every condemnation. You must displace condemnation with grace.

We have the joy of the forgiven sinner, and that really makes no sense at all. 

It isn’t at all rational.  But it is legal, and it is binding.  And permanent.  There have been too many lies, for too long.  Grace is meant to be the most radical concept we have ever confronted.  And truly it is.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:1

 

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