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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Psalm 40, The Dark Pit

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I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

Psalms 40:1-3, NLT

Psalm 40 is jam packed with good things. It is a rich repository for the Christian— an arsenal for the believer. We do well when we draw from it; that is what it’s there for. It has been designed to equip us.

V. 1, I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Waiting is a needful strategy. It should not be regarded as  perfunctory or trivial, as it’s a necessary place. In our daily walk we must be patiently seeking the Lord. Admitting you need help is the first step. The word for ‘wait’ is kawvah in Hebrew. It can mean ‘to bind together by twisting.’ It can be used with  the idea of braiding strands of rope together. It is not a passive act. Waiting on God should be full of deliberate purpose.

Remember that the Lord is not a distant deity on a hill far away. He is closer to you than you think. He is responsive and aware. He hears our cries; He is not deaf, but patience is critical. Waiting on Him is crucial.

V. 2, He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

The terrain can be awful. There are muddy paths and mucky pits. Things that pull you down and trap the traveller. But the Father is engaged in helping out, by lifting up and securing us on solid ground. (He is more willing to save, than we are to being saved.)

Solid ground is where we are meant to be. It is a place of firm standing and secure positioning. He makes us steady and keeps us safe. The Holy Spirit has care over your soul.

V.3, He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

Some of the greatest songs are the ones that come from those just delivered from the pit. These ‘pit songs’ are offered to God from sincere and true hearts. There is a solid relevance heard from the spirits of those redeemed from disaster.

“You can see God from anywhere if your mind is set to love and obey Him.”

A.W. Tozer

From our pits comes our praise. There is a passionate quality that saturates pit praises that is valued by God, and esteemed by the Church— a sense of authenticity proceeds. We can see our pits become ‘launching pads’ of true songs of deliverance.

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The Art of Begging

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Jesus looked at his followers and said,
    “You people who are poor are blessed,
      because the kingdom of God belongs to you”.

Luke 6:20, NCV

It is an astonishing thing, to have Jesus look at you.

His steady, focused gaze is transformational, He sees me, and in this huge mass of people Jesus has picked me!  It’s like He takes His ‘spiritual highlighter’ and sets me apart from everyone else.  Amazing grace!

But this really isn’t arrogance, or even wishful thinking.  We’ve been selected to be the special ones, not so much in an elite way, but in a way that glorifies only Him.  Scripture emphasizes this by stating ‘the weak are chosen’.  As I stood in this teeming crowd, I was surrounded by some very attractive and muscular people.  They preened and postured, but that wasn’t what He was looking for.  When He saw me, He stopped, and then He picked me out of the crowd.

Those who have been ‘chosen’ are definitely not superhero material.  We are the weak, and blind, and very foolish.  There is ‘zero attractiveness’.  In the classroom, we are the nerdiest of nerds.  (We are nerdisimos.)  In the spirit, we have a ‘less than zero’ rating.  In a sense, we’re not even remotely ‘the right stuff’, we are so pathetic.

Every once in a while, we find someone that seems to have figured out how to put it together.  Then often we go ahead and put our ‘mark’ on that person and then become loyal followers.  But if we extend ourselves to hear the Spirit (who by the way, is very easily heard) we find that our choice is a Saul, and not a David.  In other words, he is very close but is disqualified.

We are Christians because Jesus chose us.  We come into His presence because He left the doors open for us to squeeze in.  We enter in because Jesus has been ‘bled out’ for us.  Everything was drained when He died.  He stepped into our ‘nightmare’ to allow us to escape into the light.  Without His presence, we would decay into a dark and perpetual night.

And now He stands directly in front of us.  He looks (it seems He is always looking) and says something to us that is strange. ‘Those who are poor will become those who are very, very ‘blessed’.  Quite strange and bizarre.  Like the guy sitting on mass transit right next to you, who is talking to himself!  He simply doesn’t mesh with what is real.  He has lost touch with reality.

The kingdom is up for grabs!  Anyone can snatch it and bring home something substantial.  Poor people, those who are at the level ‘of very little account’ have been moved ahead in the line, right up to the front.  Suddenly, those in the back become envious.  This envy becomes jealousy and then rebellion.  But it changes nothing.

The ‘poor in spirit’ have just inherited the Kingdom of God.  It has become theirs and it won’t be something that can be overturned.  The ‘ultimate’ has become fully available to the ‘least’.  Those out there who are starving, will be those who get the most.

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When You Need to Cover Nakedness

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“And don’t build an altar that requires steps; you might expose yourself when you climb up”.

Exodus 20:26

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:8

While I lived in the SOS Ministry house in the Mission District of San Francisco a dear brother taught me this principle.  Living in Christian community is a really wonderful thing.  But it also could be a challenge at times.  What Michael shared, allowed my understanding to grow to meet the need of the moment.

The principle is this:  

We are called to cover up our brother’s nakedness.

 Throughout the scripture “being naked, or nakedness” is always a shame.  It comes welded to the concept of being vulnerable or exposed to the sight of everyone else.  It also carries the idea of sin; it is sin that everyone can see; it is very obvious.

For those of us who often sin, we evolve the idea of keeping a lid on it, and being secretive with it.  There will be people who will never know.  Often sex sin, drug and alcohol sin, both are kept hidden from view of family and friends, and the Church.

Noah and His Nakedness, Genesis 9

“Noah became a farmer and planted a vineyard. When he drank wine made from his grapes, he became drunk and lay naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, looked at his naked father and told his brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth got a coat and, carrying it on both their shoulders, they walked backwards into the tent and covered their father. They turned their faces away so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”  

Genesis 9:20-24

It’s hard to process this patriarch’s gross sin.  But in all fairness Noah had lost everything in the flood, so perhaps we should be gentle with him. On the other hand, people who cover up the nakedness of others seem to be gentle and humble.  They would never, ever dream of making a scandal.  They are trustworthy and understand to a great degree the things that make a man or woman of God.

Leviticus 18 is the “magnum opus” of nakedness. We are pretty much told over and over in this chapter, not to ever uncover another. Actually is pretty emphatic and somewhat redundant. But I think the Lord wanted it repeated this way.

Our vulnerabilities are there for all to see.  But there are also men and women who go out of their way to protect and shield.  They are safe people, in the classic sense of the word.  They cover-up, but never in negative or criminal way, but in love and blessing. (If it is a serious crime, the police should be involved.)

Mature believers will step forward and protect the open areas of others. 

Quite often we are exposed, open to attack on our weaknesses.  Mature believers will step forward and protect the open areas of others.  They will refuse to judge or point out sins.  But they will stand in the gap, shielding and protecting.

God’s final word on nakedness is in Revelation 3:18, and this is a good place to conclude this post,

“So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.”

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We Have Nothing, Unless He Gives It

 

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 “To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:6

“We’re all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.”

-Bo Lozoff

We really must come to this point in our discipleship.  Simply we must realize that we can generate nothing at all, unless He gives it to us.  This pretty much strips us of any kind of self-righteousness. His intention is to bring us (screaming if need be) into this place where we are devoid of any self-goodness. It’s taken me almost 40 years of discipleship to realize this.

He alone can transmit goodness. He intends that we come to Him without any extraneous issues.  In the spiritual realm we are always naked, and needing His covering.  But relax, He will never shame or belittle us.  He meets us with an outrageous love that encases us in a holy goodness that we reflect. But make no mistake– it is entirely His!

We have nothing, unless He gives it.

He alone is the deep source of goodness and grace.  If He isn’t there, we will find nothing but a sad desperation.  Without Him, there would be nothing, and a deep darkness that would engulf our souls

His presence makes a deep and solid difference.  He has chosen to enter into our blackness, in order to escort us safely into His light.  He alone, decides everything we need.  And His presence with our souls is all we really need.  He simply surrounds us with a holy kindness. This really isn’t what we expected, but we will take it.

Dear saint, we must make much of His grace.

Dear one, I encourage you to make much of His grace.  No matter your weakness or illness. Your sin is no longer a substantive issue.  He has forgiven you of so much.  You are now His, by the right of sacrifice and a deep love. You should be aware He wants to give you His righteousness, and exchange it for your sin.

Instead of moving away from you, and your sin, He now is moving directly toward you.  His love is waiting for you, and nothing else matters.

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Bethesda, 31 A.D.

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“Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him,“Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,

John 5:1-9, NLT

We were following Jesus and He led us to the pool of Bethesda. A crowd gathered quickly, but I jostled myself right up front. We stood waiting, we pretty much knew something big was going to happen. And it did. I can never be the same, after what I saw. This is my simple story.

So much was happening, and as I watched I realized that so much escapes me. I can’t take it all in. But when I decide to watch Jesus, I quickly become aware of what is important, what is real. It starts to make sense. The chaos of the moment becomes calm. At least it does when He takes charge.

There were hundreds of sick people camped out. They are laying under the roofs, with their thin mats. The smell alone was really bad, all were unwashed and some with putrid and festering sores. Dirty bandages are used over and over, and shared with all. And I suppose all of them are hungry, but they are at least able to drink from the pool. (What more did they really need?)

Finally, all are watching Jesus, they become quiet wondering what He will say. We’re all pretty curious. We see Jesus as He walks directly into this ugly field of suffering people. He doesn’t hesitate or flinch. He seems almost like He is at home.

Oh my! Just to have a religious teacher visit Bethesda is rare. They never come. And today is the Sabbath (and a special feast day at that) and that alone makes it impossible. And yet Jesus is here, and that somehow is wonderful.

Jesus stops to talk with a man who is an ‘old-timer’ here. Someone behind me mentioned that he had been sitting here for almost 40 years, and that is a long, long time. Jesus speaks. Everyone listens. “Do you want to get well?” And of course, some groan and mutter– “of course he does!” But Jesus waits quietly.

“Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” The man explains. He has an excuse that seems like a reason. Nothing has ever gone right– ‘I always miss out, and I can’t find anyone to help me.’ And I suppose that this is the world of the blind, the crippled, the paralyzed in Israel. They are confined to Bethesda, with the weak hope of finally being healed. I don’t think that this is how it was meant to work.

This man was horribly discouraged.  It was then Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” And this very crippled man was healed on the spot. No ‘hocus-pocus’, no incantations, no magic dust or rubbing of sacred bones. Nothing. He was healed by a few spoken words.

I cannot emphasize my own astonishment enough. It shook all of us to the core. We were all stunned, and undone. The crowds, and all the sick and the paralyzed just stopped and stared. There are so few moments in life, just like this. We just looked at each other sort of stunned.

The ramifications of what we all had witnessed were staggering. Shocked, we turned to each other, and a great fear fell on us like a heavy blanket. The crowd did not disperse, we were completely shocked, and pretty much speechless.

For years that sense of awe has never left me. I don’t really listen to the scorners anymore– they simply have no idea. I heard that some of His disciples wrote about what we saw that day. It completely changed my life. I was never the same after that.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Luke 19:10, NLT

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us.)
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Good Hygiene

 

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”Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,”

Isaiah 1:16, ESV

 ”Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”

2 Timothy 2:21

A Christian’s life should never be boring or mundane. For us who are disabled we are challenged in ways that others will never understand. As if normal life wasn’t enough, we’ve got issues that exceed the norms. Perhaps the most basic are areas of hygiene and cleanliness. I once went without a shower for five weeks when I was clinically depressed. (Somehow letting water pelt me seemed too violent of an ordeal.)

We are responsible for not only physical cleanliness but of a mental or an emotional one as well. I think we’d all agree on the essential need to maintain a certain level of physical health, but what can I do to stay mentally together? Are there standards there as well?

A soap dish can keep our hands clean after using the bathroom, but what of our hearts? It would seem to me that certain levels of being truly healthy apply to not just clean handsHygiene-Health but a healthy soul as well. Isaiah spoke to his generation and declared they needed a spiritual bath. The people needed to become clean again. ”Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;”

This is a path of a ‘holy hygiene’ that we are all on. We are each responsible for keeping our hearts clean before the Lord. One of the principles of being  spiritual hygienic is that of separation from things that contaminate or defile. We are to be a distinct people. This is challenging.

Holiness is often misunderstood. It’s rare to find a believer who has something other than a legalistic idea of what it means to be holy. (This is a grievous thing.) We should be holy and loving at the same time. “A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself” (A.W. Tozer). It seems that holiness, like hygiene is not ever attained, but only maintained.

“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,”

2 Corinthians 6:17

Staying clean and becoming clean should be a realistic pursuit for the broken believer. We are to be sanitary people that can touch others without contaminating them with our personal sin. You were meant to instill holiness to others for God’s glory. The Holy Spirit can do this.

“Let it be your business every day, in the secrecy of the inner chamber, to meet the holy God. You will be repaid for the trouble it may cost you. The reward will be sure and rich.”

Andrew Murray

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