Battle Scars

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It is a bad habit to try to teach without personal knowledge. We can preach, and yet we do not possess. This is one of the occupational hazards of those of us in our profession. It also seems to carry a horrible curse of spiritual sterility, that the wise believer can discern.

It’s been 13 years since a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 was made. I believe I was BP in my teens. Life is a roller-coaster for me, up and down, with a twist or two along the way. I am now fairly aware at 58 that much of my earthly existence has already been lived. Life can become such a grind. I’m tired and broken and ready for eternity.

“One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

Billy Bray (a bearer of an unfortunate name) was an illiterate Cornish evangelist in the 1850s. He was heard to pray this: “Lord, if any have to die this day, let it be me, for I am ready.” By faith, I think I do understand these sentiments. I am ready to go as well.

I love collecting good quotes. But here’s two more good ones:

“God buries His workmen but carries on His work.”   -Charles Wesley
“If we really think that home is elsewhere and that this life is a “wandering to find a home,” why should we not look forward to the arrival?”  – C.S. Lewis

Sorry if I’m being too maudlin. But the battle is so long, and it doesn’t ever let up, does it? We all can become weary after a while. What we need is to be ‘shut in’ with the Lord. The Word reminds us:

Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”

Acts 14:22

“Tribulations” are common, and each must battle through them. And without being melodramatic, we each must walk through the blazing furnace. But I can also boldly attest that there is more than enough grace for each of us. We just need to become desperate enough. (Which shouldn’t be too hard).

Armor is given. Wearing it means you’ll survive (and thrive) to see another day. Those who may suggest that the Christian life is a “bed of roses,” I would say that they haven’t read Ephesians 6. If there is no war, why would the Holy Spirit tell us to put it on?

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” 

Eph. 6:10-11

We are just starting to learn we must fall in love with Jesus. He receives us with a massive kind of love. And His mercy meets us at every doubtful corner. You have His Word on it. Simply ask Him to come to you. 

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The Art of Being Found

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Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name.“Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:1-10, NLT

Zacchaeus was a very resourceful man.  Jericho was a prime toll center in the entire region, and Zacchaeus would’ve been the richest man in the entire region. He was very wealthy, being an overseer of other tax collectors (in a region with a major export of balsa wood.) He was well on his way to becoming a millionaire (at least, the ancient Judean version of it.)

We should know two things about Zacchaeus:

  1. His Hebrew name meant “pure.” This was an ironic moniker for a despised man who had sold out to the Roman tax business. (Perhaps he had had a ‘godly mother?)
  2. He was very short in stature. (I suppose we could call him ‘vertically challenged’?)

I suppose there is one other thing, my guess is it’s the main one. He simply wanted to see Jesus. He was so short that he couldn’t see over the crowds. Perhaps he could’ve bribed his way to the curb, but apparently, there wasn’t enough time. Jesus was coming this way!

He looks and sees a tree. It grew on the side of the road, its branches hanging over the well-traveled path. He clumsily climbs up (in a robe!) and finds a clear spot to get a good look at Jesus. He is a simple man, and this is all he wants is just to see Jesus!

Within the Christian faith over the many centuries, there has always been a heart’s desire to get closer to Jesus. Many of the established ‘disciplines’ such as:

  • prayer
  • the study of scripture
  • fasting
  • evangelism
  • simplicity
  • solitude
  • service
  • confession
  • worship

Think of each as simply branches of the tree. Each discipline comes as one of several. But they are futile, or worse if they don’t lead us to Jesus Christ. 

It is critical to grasp the end result; they are merely the methods we use to see Jesus clearer. Its folly to climb the tree, just for the sake of climbing. No. The branch we are sitting on is just a means to an end. To behold our Lord, to somehow get closer to Him is priceless.

For example, I usually don’t pray for ‘prayers sake.’ I must pray like Zacchaeus climbed, just to see Jesus. I know He is always watching and yet I want Him to see me.

We also are not to build tree houses. Rather we’re meant to see Jesus, come down, and have a wonderful time with Him in close fellowship. aabryscript

 

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Braided Up With God

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To wait only on Him

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:31, NASB

The particular word “wait” is a vital force. It’s definitely not a passive word in the Scriptures. It does not mean to be apathetic or lazy. Sometimes we wait in line at the grocery store or maybe waiting on a phone call. We regularly wait all the time, and usually, we don’t even realize it.

The Hebrew word used in v. 31 is ‘kawvah’ which means, ‘to bind together by twisting.’ It sometimes will mean, ‘to braid.’

It’s an interesting word picture, isn’t it? Sometimes we only take the English idea of waiting and turn it turns into a frustrating delay. Often this is why we lose out on what ‘wait’ is really about. I have to believe the Holy Spirit wants to teach this idea of becoming ‘braided up with God.’ All too often we are limited by our definitions and not God’s Word. 

For those of us who are ill— physically or mentally, just to be told simply, “wait on the Lord” is a real challenge. Often, we will end up resenting this counsel (and the counselor) because we misunderstand what it means to really ‘wait.’

Yet when I truly wait on God, I’m actually weaving myself into Him. He becomes my strength; He is now the strong cord I am braided into. (Perhaps this is how He imparts strength and might to His people?) We desperately need this and the Lord is eager to lead us into this new intimacy.

The promise in Isaiah 40:31 tells us about new strength, the eagle’s wings, and holy stamina. This verse is relevant to us today, and we need this kind of strength now. I only want to encourage you in your own prayer time, to see yourself intertwined to the Lord, and to recognize the good gift of the Holy Spirit freely given.

“Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”

Psalm 27:14

 

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Preparing Yourself for Water Baptism

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“Those who accepted his message were baptized.” (Acts 2:41)  

 “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38) 

 “Having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your  faith in the power of God.” (Col. 2:12)  

Perhaps the most significant and vital decision we make is to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism.  This is just obedience to the Lord’s command to be baptized. Discipleship begins when we appropriate baptism into our faith.

Baptism becomes a public pronouncement or declaration to the physically seen world and to the invisibly unseen world of the Spirit. 

It takes faith to be authentically prepared for baptism.  You will be taking a stand. By faith, you’re making public your allegiance to Christ. It is a step of something living.

“Baptism was to put a line of demarcation between your past sins when you are buried with Him by Baptism–you are burying your past sins–eradicating them–putting a line in the sand saying that old man is dead and he is no longer alive anymore and I rise up to walk in the newness of life.”

T.D. Jakes

I suggest that you prayerfully attend to the process listed below.  You will find there is a big difference to truly being baptized, and just getting wet!

A word to “older” believers: There may come a time when you feel that you would want to be baptized again.  I believe that this is not only allowable but commendable.  You may have not had a good understanding of the baptismal process, but now it makes sense.  I would encourage you to follow your heart. God will honor your rededication. Ask your pastor or elder what they think.

The Interrogative Process

I.  A series of questions are then asked, to which the reply is always “I renounce them”:

  1. Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
  2. Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
  3. Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

II.  The second half of the query is asked, to which the reply is always “I do”:  

  1. Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
  2. Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
  3. Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

“Indeed, baptism is a vow, a sacred vow of the believer to follow Christ. Just as a wedding celebrates the fusion of two hearts, baptism celebrates the union of sinner with Savior.”

–Max Lucado

III.  The Apostle’s Creed can be recited publicly (or privately in prayer). This is our faith ‘boiled down’ to its very essence. This declaration helps set us apart from the World, the flesh and the devil:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, who was crucified, died and was buried.

He descended into hell. and on the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church,  the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

This needs to be understood and accepted as true. I suppose we will develop these into living discipleship; you’ll that water baptism is analogous to a master key that opens the door into a special joy. Obeying the command to be baptized pleases Jesus. And that is what we long to do.

Baptism is an outward expression of inward faith.

–Watchman Nee

Baptism separates the tire kickers from the car buyers.

    –Max Lucado

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