A Stone’s Throw Away

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“He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed”

Luke 22:41

Who knows what Jesus is thinking at this precise moment as he entered the Garden? His disciples waited for Jesus and scripture states that he proceeded ahead of them— “a stone’s throw.”

We often share in the sorrows of the people closest to us, and Jesus wants has disciples to follow him. And they do, but not all the way. They came close, but were oblivious to the full nature of the pain that was beginning for Jesus. They slept while he agonized. He was for the first time, needing someone close.

Many of us will make the same trip to the garden. Soon every believer makes the trip to ‘Gethsemane,’ but not as mere observers. It is a distinct place of testing and of sorrow. And each will experience it for themselves. “The servant is not above his master.”

But Jesus is close— he completely understands what it means to be alone with sorrow. The believer can lean on Jesus as the pain continues. He sends his “Comforter” to each, as he escorts us through this time. He comes in grace, and is completely kind. He truly is just a stone’s throw away.

“God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

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True Comfort, Total Rest

“I have taken much pains to know everything that is esteemed worth knowing amongst men; but with all my reading, nothing now remains to comfort me at the close of this life but this passage of St. Paul: “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” To this I cleave, and herein do I find rest.”

–John Selden

Return, O my soul, to your rest;
    for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

Psalm 116:7. ESV

 

 

 

 

 

Here Be Giants!

 

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8, NLT

There is an ancient map in London, England dated from 1525, that has some interesting notations written on it. At one edge someone wrote, “From this point there are fiery scorpions.’  And also written, was “Here be dragons.” On the other margin somebody else noted, ‘Here be giants.” But a believer named Sir John Franklin wrote on this same map, “Here is God.”

Certainly cartographical scorpions, dragons and giants seem to be bit quaint. We certainly don’t really believe in such things anymore. Yet the presence of God is true and quite real. He is present, and is quite active in the lives of everyone who has ever used a map of any sort.

35 “As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Mark 4:25-41, NLT

The Sea of Galilee actually has four names, and it actually isn’t a sea, but a lake with sweet and good water. The lake is over 13 miles long and 7 miles at its widest point. The way the hills surround the lake can produce waves over 20 feet, due to unique weather pattern that exists today.

The disciples were seasoned fishermen. They had each seen tough times, but what is going to be unleashed on them is far and above anything they have ever seen. They were frightened.

Jesus was pretty much exhausted. He had been ministering for several days. This was a stretch. A trip across the lake would give Him a definite break. He is so tired, He falls asleep, using a “boat cushion” as a pillow. He is soon sound asleep.

The disciples seem to respect Jesus’ need for rest. But it all gets chaotic and confused quite quickly. None of them had experienced such a terrible storm. They woke Jesus up, and strongly suggested that He do something decisive. Otherwise, they would all be lost.

Jesus was awakened to another need. My guess is that He needed more sleep, but the present moment He needed to speak boldly into this ugly storm. The waves are quite nasty, but at His Word spoken, everything becomes quite serene.

His disciples are undone. They simply draw different conclusions. What they have just seen strips them down to a basic level. The deep presence of Him takes apart of all they understand. God takes them apart, and they end up in a very interesting position.

Our perceptions shouldn’t alter the presence of God. He is our steady rock in our ‘quicksand world.’ He shuts down our storms. You can truly rest with Him in your boat, controlling the storms.

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Our Salvation Is Quite Sure

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, and the three epistles that he wrote, and of course,  Revelation.

There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eye witness to Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.” Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.

The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:

I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

 

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

 

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

 

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

 

None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.

John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us, but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.

aasignLinda

 

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I Still Grieve (But I Now I’m at Peace)

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‘Who gathered this flower?’ The gardener answered, ‘The Master.’ And his fellow servant held his peace.”

It was November 13th, in the year of our Lord 1999, was unlike any day I have ever experienced. A beating with a baseball bat would seem more preferable. On this cold afternoon, hell was unleashed on my wife and myself. What we encountered was soul-wrenching and profoundly tragic.

Perhaps a parent’s worst nightmare is the loss of a child. On this day we lost Elizabeth Grace. She was stillborn, which is rare these days– or so I have been told. She entered this world fully formed, a beautiful baby girl. Today, she would of been 16 years old, and thinking about the prom.

But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

2 Samuel 12:23, (When David’s newborn son died.)

Our loss was grievous, but we are not unique. Plenty of families have suddenly lost a child. I can truly commiserate with them. Somehow we are connected in a perverse way. It seems like an exclusive club, that requires a secret handshake, or something. Suddenly without warning, you are thrown into personal chaos, and very little is remotely decipherable, even to a believer.

The book of Ecclesiastes that there is a definite “time to mourn.”  Matthew tells us, “Blessed are those who mourn.” He does go on to say. “for they shall be comforted.” This comfort is available for any who choose to take it, but you can refuse it, if you really want to.

Grief unites us, but Jesus liberates us. Seriously. I can’t imagine meeting life without his care and comfort. He has been outstandingly gracious to this family. Sure there was pain, but there was also tenderness and a kind grace. Still, sometimes it felt like a “kick in the head.” (But I assure you– it was grace.)

What I still can’t understand is simply this. What would it have cost God to allow Elisabeth to live? I mean, what ‘skin off His nose’ would’ve it taken to let her live? I still to this day have questions, but I have decided to trust. (I trust Him after all, to save my soul.)

Those who have suffered like me will comprehend and grasp, the noxious environment of grief and loss. But we can only take what we are dealt. The sadness is there, but so is His comfort. Make no mistake, His love matches (or even exceeds) the pain and the loss of a child. Truly, God is a wonder and He is good.

I do know that He loves me, a weirdly rascalish, mentally ill epileptic. He holds me close to His precious heart, and I will have no other gods except Him. I will not take up umbrage with Him on this. But I must believe that someday soon, I will truly and completely understand this.

ybic, Bryan

 

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Yield to God

 I read a story about a radio exchange that took place some time ago between a U.S. Navy ship and Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland. The Canadians warned the Americans and the conversation went something like this: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

The Americans responded, “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.”

The Canadians said, “Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

The Americans: “This is the captain of a U.S. Navy Ship. I say again, divert your course.”

“No. I say again, you divert your course.”

“This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north. I say again, that is 15 degrees north or countermeasures will be undertaken to assure the safety of our ship.”

After brief moment of silence, the Canadians responded: “This is a lighthouse. It is your call.”

Sometimes we don’t like what God wants us to do, and we want Him to change course when, in reality, it is us who ought to change course.

We need to understand that God’s plans are better than ours. Having said that, it does not mean that they are always the easiest or even the most appealing at the moment. There are times when we are going through life that we might not like the plan of God. But God’s plans are always better for us in the long run.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

Isaiah 55:8, NLT

Can you say, “Yes, Lord. I am Your servant. Take me, use me, spend me. Fulfill all Your holy, eternal purposes in and through my life, whatever the cost”?

That area you have insisted on controlling, that part of you you’ve just stubbornly refused to yield, where you have insisted on things being your way – it’s time to drop your sword and raise your white flag. It’s time to surrender.

Those of us with a chronic illness can find many of their issues can be resolved by this simple act of yielding to God. There will be aspects that linger, but much peace of heart and mind will can come through a quiet release of your will to Him.

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Bridges to Burn

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As a rambunctious kid I’d be told by my mom, “This is going on your permanent record!” At the time I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded really scary. I remember debating myself of whether or not such a record existed– and if it did, well, I was in deep trouble.

There is the adult version of this permanent record. It is called the conscience. And it can be a ‘hell on wheels.’ Each of us have:

  • murky attitudes
  • lousy circumstances
  • edgy emotions
  • broken reactions
  • screwy perceptions
  • subtle influences
  • sneaky prejudices

They don’t all have to be negative. As a matter of fact we have positive implications as well.

But like it or not, things get etched and colors become fast. Everything we are is a collection of past experiences. Some are godly, while others– not so much. Every decision you make determines your tomorrow. For some, this is a good thing, but a real terror for others.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 1:18

The consequences and implications are staggering. Few can live with this kind of truth. But many do come to God for forgiveness.

There is provision for our permanent record. The Word of God (the Bible) has a built-in filtering system that pulls out all the nasty stuff. Sin can build up, even in the blazing light of the Holy Spirit.

Another issue is having the guilt removed from your record by a sovereign act of God. The death of Jesus Christ wasn’t a noble act of a ‘religious teacher.’ Rather it was an atonement for our sin. At this point ‘amnesty’ is given to everyone who believes in Him.

Our permanent record has been expunged— erased, if you will. In a meaningful way, our record has been changed by God.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

Psalm 32:1-2

To have a clear record is a life-changing thing. To have the slate wiped clean is such a joy. God now shares His life with us, and enables us to redeem our yesterdays. Our past gets fixed by the only one who can fix it for us. Sin was never supposed to be permanent.

(Study scriptures: Ps. 32:5; 130:3-4; Acts 10:43; Eph. 2:8-9)

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