The ‘Insignificant’ Church

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“He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant.”

(Isaiah 42:3)

Somehow, and someway we often get ‘side-tracked’ in our thinking. We get confused and the enemy makes sure we don’t walk in the truth. At this present time, it does seem like some of the Church is nothing more than an exclusive club for the wonderful. It seems that those who attend are the ‘achievers,’ those who have somehow arrived at a certain acceptability.

They are there for social reasons–they eschew any real intimacy with Jesus.

For many of us, we are taught that we must have it all together; more or less complete and functioning at an acceptable level to follow Christ. We keep thinking if we work really hard then we just might arrive at a place of acceptable ‘perfection.’ This has become our religion now, this “gospel by achievement.” It has definite rules and guidelines to keep. We try to manage our guilt somehow.

We are the weak and fallen

But what about the broken? The ones who are messed up, big-time?

We’re the depressed, bipolar, the confused, the discouraged. Some of us are disabled, and weak. We’re the chronically ill. Some of us must be medicated to function properly. We are ‘zero’–there is nothing that will commend us to God. Often we have the impression that we are ‘second class’ believers, who really don’t fit into the modern Church. We are the ruined ones.

But does Jesus agree? Is His Church made up of only ‘completed’ people, those who have it all together? Do we need to become accomplished before we are acceptable? (I guess this is a time for serious questions.) Perhaps we need to find some answers. Perhaps we won’t like what we find.

After over 40 years of following Jesus (most of the time in ministry) I’m starting to realize that I’ve had much of it all wrong. I’ve read that Jesus receives the lame, the tax-collector, the leper and the whore. He deeply loves the unlovable (in spite of what the Church might say.)

I happen to believe that true grace is ‘foolish’ to man, and avoids human attempts to explain it. (Forgive me God, for not seeing this before.)

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17)

His love is completely undeserved.

It comes without preconditions. He loves us when we are terribly lost and fallen. It’s ‘agape,’ which is a totally different kind of love. It has no bounds or limitations. It is unconditional. It is strong. It grabs us and takes us to a place we’ve only dreamed about. We are irrevocably changed when we touch His grace. We discover an intimacy that will meet every need we have while here on earth.

It is a relationship and not a religion.

We’re so easily confused about this. This ‘world-system’ desperately wants to confuse us. We quickly discover that Satan doesn’t just dislike us, he hates us, he detests our intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He marshals all of his demonic strength in order to obscure this truth. It’s funny, but Satan likes ‘religion.’ And he hates our nearness to Jesus. (2 Cor. 11:1-3).

We do see our need, and we must cry out for mercy.

We come to know the forgiving Lord. Our faith in Him must be true–tested. There are some who know the ‘furnace’ of weakness or disability. Others discover that they’re messed up inside. Life can get intense sometimes, and without Jesus we would have destroyed ourselves.

All of us are seeking forgiveness, and yet somehow we think that He won’t accept us. Often we more or less stop going to church, pray or read His Word. We are becoming hardened, and it seems like we are slipping into some sort of a ‘spiritual daze’. Our spiritual malaise is starting to look like it’s permanent.

I must tell you that God loves you far more than you ever dreamed.

He is completely enthralled by your faith in Him. He doesn’t pull away from the ‘sick’ and the weak. You must understand that intimacy is Jesus’ idea to ‘heal’ you. He daily draws us to a place of friendship with God. Intimacy with Jesus is God’s exclusive way of ‘turning us’ holy. That’s why Satan militates against “first love” faith.

You’re the Church. You’re the “audible/visual” part of a fellowship. You display God’s love and grace so others can see it.

We fully understand that we are the weak and the flawed. And yet you are a declaration of grace to all who really can see. They’re looking at you and they want to see the Father’s loving acceptance. We maybe the fallen, but we’re never the forsaken.

We ‘show’ the deep love of Christ to even the ‘uttermost,’ even as we enter the room.

There is a repentance in all of this. We need to change our mind about the sinfulness that we have been committed to for so long. But I truly believe it’s genuine intimacy with Jesus that cures us, not keeping rules or having excellent doctrine. We will never be ‘good’ enough, but amazingly, even in our ‘unfixedness’ we are deeply loved.

“He knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. “

They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”

(Isaiah 40:29-31, Message)

A brother who is incredibly loved,

Bryan

I have a new site and I hope you visit: alaskabibleteacher.com

How Well Do We Suffer?

“Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed, and cause us to ask, like Moses: ‘Why is this bush not burned up?'”

John Newton, Exodus 3:2

It seems that pain is the best teacher. I suppose as we navigate through life we find the ‘capacity’ of our hearts expanding. We learn the hard way to come under God’s direction, and we finally learn to love others. Maybe this is how God changes us? After all, isn’t the crushed grape that yields the wine?

C.S. Lewis once made the comment, (and it’s worth thinking about,) that “experience is the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” We face many obstacles, run into quite a few dead ends, and along the way we learn that when we really hurt, we really start to learn some things.

I look over my life and it seems chock full of challenge. I’ve lost the use of my right arm, I have struggled with depression. I had a brain tumor removed, and must walk with a cane. I struggle with intense fatigue. (I no longer can pastor a church or teach in a Bible college.)

My wife and I have lost a child. I have prayed earnestly for a complete healing and had others pray for me. It’s funny, but all of this has happened after I became a Christian disciple! I often ask myself why?

What did I do to deserve all of this?

Paul and Barnabas came into an interesting place (we can read about it in Acts 14.)

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.” 

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some of our Bible teachers we listen to minimize suffering, and we adopt a lot of our own theology to factor out pain and difficulty. But is this what the Bible teaches? If we read Hebrews 11, we find that life could be pretty grim for those with faith in God.

“Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.”

Why does it have to be so hard for believers in Jesus?

Common sense suggests that things should get easier for those who believe. We somehow think that God rewards faith with instant glory. I painfully discover that my discipleship, my faith, doesn’t mean some wonderful existence on this planet. It seems that pain becomes the way we grow up and mature in Him. I honestly believe, after over 40 years of following Jesus, that suffering is part of God’s plan for me.

It has never been easy. I wish it was.

No matter what you are going through, remember that God always loves you. He has chosen us to navigate us through much difficulty. We must however, convert these painful things by our faith in Him. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Our Dance of a Scandalous Joy🥰

Do the Dance-- For Him

“And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod.”

2 Samuel 6:13-15

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”

     C.S. Lewis

I am without question the world’s worst and the clumsiest of all.  And since my brain surgery, it has gotten even worse.  I need to use a cane now.  (And if you look up “klutz” in the dictionary you’ll see my picture, lol.) 😃

When I start to dance, you had better head for higher ground! 

Even so, I do love the idea of dancing, but I’m like Bozo, the circus clown, only wearing roller skates.  I lurch from side-to-side and I’m always on the verge of falling on someone’s lap, which is a real hoot!

But there is just one dance that I am waiting for.

It’s the dance I’ll have with my Savior.  There will be a day, in a place and time where He will call me home and I will learn to dance.  I know it’ll be incredible, and it’s a day that I anticipate and honestly, I hope it comes soon. 

To dance is to liberate your heart. 

You must cancel out all self-consciousness.  If you are self-aware, you will never enter into the joy and wonder of the dance.  You will be a perpetual wallflower, living only on the edges.  And, you will be very sad.

It seems you must dance in your heart before you can ever dance with your feet.

I desperately would like to dance. And I see Him clearly on that day when I have no cane and am as graceful as I hope to be, and to be perfectly honest I won’t be watching you, (I’m sorry), but I will see only Jesus.  I believe that my heart will beat exclusively for Him.

Jesus shed His blood for me. I belong to Him. He forgave all my sin and has given me eternal life. Knowing this fills me with such joy that my feet won’t stand still. He redeems me, and is this not a cause for a dance?

Some of you have been crippled—smashed up in the grinding gears of life. It’s hard to dance. I understand.

But I know that your life can be astonishingly full of grace also– you have endured so much, and yet Jesus intends to occupy your thoughts and vision. As His disciple, you’ll discover your special dance. And when you finally see Him, your heart will finally be free to spin and twirl.

He is the God of the Dance.

“Young women and young men, together with the elderly, will celebrate and dance because I will comfort them and turn their sorrow into happiness.”

Jeremiah 31:12-14

We’re Inconsistent Rascals

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“Loving Father God, my heart is filled upon rethinking the greatness of your love and the completeness of your plan.  I want to please you, but how often my flesh folds under the pressure of temptation.  I thank you that you know my frame, and you remember that I am but dust.  And I thank you for the abundance of Grace and the gift of righteousness that you have made available to me through the cross of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thank you for receiving me back, my gracious Lord.   Amen. ” 

Jack Hayford

When my children do wrong I ache inside.  As a father I so want to hear their confession and see their repentance.  But I cannot imagine disowning them. Never, ever!  How much more is our Heavenly Father ready to receive us back, and hold us close to his heart.

This profound love turns us back to Himself. The very fact you feel the Holy Spirit’s tug is evidence enough that you haven’t been permanently forsaken and ‘cast aside.’ You’ll need to take a step of faith however. Always remember— proximity to Jesus is always a good thing. Stay close, and watch the enemy flee. He will, but only if you stand.

Become brutally real with yourself, but never despairingly.

Confess your sin to the real God who loves you unconditionally. Let Him fill you with His Spirit again. Sin is not the ultimate place or condition of the true believer in Jesus–his love has the incredible power to bust through all of our disobedience and rebellion. And he is the only one who can do it–you can’t.

66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.

John 6:66-68

Who else would take us?

Jesus loves each one of us as if there were only one of us. Sink into that love, and have the assurance that He alone has the power to save us- We’re his; even when we’re rascals. And he has decided that we are now his friends. Isn’t that wild!

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