The Blessings of an Illness

Hospital-bed1The Bible is full of miraculous healings. Jesus Christ performed many of them. He taught His disciples, and those who would follow, to heal the sick and afflicted.

I’ve personally seen legs lengthened and fevers ‘broken’ on several occasions. It always boosts the faith of those who witness these miracles. I truly believe the Holy Spirit still works wonders today.

Somehow the ‘understanding’ is if you seek a healing you must have sufficient faith. Those who are not healed are the people who have a weak faith, They miss out on a miracle because their faith didn’t measure up.

Faith is an active component to many of the healings in Scripture. Jesus said to the blind man, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you” (Luke 18:42).

Yet we read of many believers in Hebrews 11 who endured sickness, ill-treatment. We read of vicious brutality and persecution of these “people with faith.”

Not everyone who is sick will receive a physical healing.

  • Epaphroditus was near death, (Phil 2:25-30)
  • Trophimus left ill at Miletus, (2 Tim. 4:20)
  • Timothy, given a remedy for stomach issues, (1 Ti. 5:23)
  • Paul had to suffer his “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Cor. 12:7)

For believers today who must suffer physically or mentally, we may question our faith. (Especially when the healing evangelist comes to town). After 2-3 tries we settle back on our “deficient’ faith feeling a bit miserable.

It seems to me that the real issue is not a weak faith, but holding on to your faith when you are not healed. I hear talk about having faith to be healed–but what about the faith to be sick?

Why do we suffer illness? I believe that for many Christian believers sickness is to bring glory to God, Also, holding onto a faith in the midst of sickness and pain often encourages those who witness it.

Oh dear one, continue to seek a healing. The Spirit does these things today. But if you’re left in your illness, trust in Him still. All your ways end up in His nail-scarred hands of our Lord Jesus.

“The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

ybic, Bryan

 

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Battle Scars

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

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 56 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 do understand these sentiments. I am ready to go as well.

I love collecting good quotes. (I also have a site at http://www.CrossQuotes.org.) 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 home,” why should we not look forward to the arrival?”  – C.S. Lewis

Sorry if I’m being 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 starting to finally 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. 

*

Kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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Jesus Actively Helps Me

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“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT

These two verses out of Hebrews 4 establish three things.

  • We are “criminals” and in need of representation.
  • Jesus Christ stands ready, and able to help us before both this world and to the one to come.
  • Jesus still has a present day ministry as our priest and provider.

And he is busy! He did not ascend to heaven to wait around for his second coming. He is active, and we are being acted upon. This is the present work of heaven.

There is more, let’s look to the story of Paul’s voyage to Rome. He is a prisoner being escorted to stand before Caesar. He has a guard who is watching him as he travels by ship across much of the Mediterranean.

Because of the time of the year, the trip will be hard. The weather is very iffy, and awful storms could pummel a ship at times. No matter what, it will be a hard journey.

 “When a light wind began blowing from the south, the sailors thought they could make it. So they pulled up anchor and sailed close to the shore of Crete. 14 But the weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength (called a “northeaster”) burst across the island and blew us out to sea. 15 The sailors couldn’t turn the ship into the wind, so they gave up and let it run before the gale.”

16 “We sailed along the sheltered side of a small island named Cauda, where with great difficulty we hoisted aboard the lifeboat being towed behind us. 17 Then the sailors bound ropes around the hull of the ship to strengthen it. They were afraid of being driven across to the sandbars of Syrtis off the African coast, so they lowered the sea anchor to slow the ship and were driven before the wind.”

Acts 27:13-17, NLT

The storm is probably a once in a lifetime experience. It seems everyone is problem-solving trying to keep the ship from “breaking up.” They are fighting for their lives. After tossing over the cargo, and the ships tackle, they would have cut down the mast. Leaving it up would only weaken the ship’s hull, which reduces their chances.

They then did something called “frapping.” It involved wrapping ropes or cables around the hull in a criss-cross manner. This outside strengthening would have been “levered” to increase tightness. It could be an effective way of surviving the unsurvivable.

There is a specific Greek word to describe this frapping. It is used in only one other place in the entire Bible. In Hebrews 4:16 we read–

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Can you see the connection? In those desperate times when the storm is ripping up everything, attempting to destroy us– our families, our friends and neighbors. Just survival seems a long stretch. It is then that Jesus fraps (or wraps) us tightly.

But many of us go through typhoons with the cables coiled up on deck. We seem oblivious and ignorant of its existence. We really don’t see the “present tense’ ministry of Jesus standing to intercede. We merit nothing– but are promised everything. We are on the knife’s edge of falling apart.

I believe this message has not come to you by accident. You are either in the storm, or know someone who is there. The name of this post is, “Jesus Actively Helps Me.” I hope you will see it, and live it.

ybic, Bryan

 

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Barrels of Monkeys

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“My problems go from bad to worse.
    Oh, save me from them all!”

Psalm 25:17

If you are over 40 or so, you would’ve known about this simple toy. Today, a little girl came up to me to show me her singular monkey. She insisted its origins were from the animated movie “Toy Story.” I told he she was suffering from delusions and began to instill the real story. She basically told me that I was the one who was thoroughly nuts, and she quickly became very skeptical of anything I would say next. (It’s hard to connect with this younger generation, lol.)

In my mind I achieved a moral victory, but it was short-lived. It wasn’t enough to do a “fist-pump” or a touchdown dance I craved to do. The way I figured things, old age has to count for some bonifide wisdom. My gray hair reminds me that I can speak with supreme authority about toy monkeys without recriminations.

Sometimes God gives us a barrel of squirmy, tricky monkeys. He watches what we do with them. This barrel could be a marriage, child rearing, a job, sickness, addictions, physical or mental illnesses. There are a lot of barrels out there. You could easily triple this list, and still need to add something.

The antics of monkeys, their tricks and misbehaviors are well known. Barrels of monkeys are embarrassing, they throw their own feces for God’s sake.  But they are still the elite masters of physical comedy in the animal kingdom. They are the Jay Lenos and Robin Williams of the zoo. You can’t subdue them, except with a tranquilizing gun, or some fermenting bananas.

Monkey barrels are tough. We usually are not steady enough, or patient enough to play the game. I submit it takes guts to play with the whole barrel, and taking short-cuts violate some kind of rule somewhere. Our faith should steady us. But the barrel only baffles us.

But the Spirit has come to assist us.

His presence helps us get by every barrel and every chimp, but we have to ask for help. I encourage you to get desperate. These monkeys can be tamed, and you need to do this. Time is never the issue. But how you behave is the true evaluation.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.”

Romans 5:3, NLT

 

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The Rough Cut

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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Matthew 13:44

There is an old folk tale told by the Arab people.

Weary travelers meet up with a man while on a hard journey. “Two more miles, and when you stop, fill your packs with the rocks along the road” he said. “In the morning light, you will become happy and sad at the same time.”

It was dark when they arrived. They were pretty much exhausted, and hardly took any time to think about picking up rocks. They needed food and sleep and there was a few hours to rest; who had time to ponder the odd riddle of an old man?

But there were a few that listened; several went and picked up the gravel– the stones they could find in the dark. Those who listened filled their bags– some little, others more so. The majority did nothing. Who wants to carry rocks in their packs? (What ‘idiocy!’)

The morning came too early, and soon they were back on their journey. There was little time for anything but packing up to move. For some their packs were heavier, and they stopped to inspect their load.

Suddenly, someone shouted out. “Oh my God! Check your packs!” The one who cried out held up an emerald the size of his fist. Others cried out with excitement as they discovered rubies, diamonds and jade gems. You see, the rocks they had picked up in the dark were really jewels of staggering wealth.

Of course, it only mattered to those who had listened. What some regard as a burden becomes something of significance in the daylight. Perhaps our trials will become more than we could ever fathom. It is worth consideration.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Romans 8:18

P.S. Don’t doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light.

 

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Learning to Walk, Again

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4 Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT

Life is chock full of mysteries, so much is unknown.  Early in my walk, over 40 years ago, I concluded that I would be able to acquire all the knowledge that I could ever want.  I was on the short track, going up of course.  It was a glorious thing, it took me some time to realize I was very ignorant of so much.

I think we need to work through this, for most it is a minor tweak.  For others who still think that their life consists in how smart they can become, it is trouble.  I believe that the Word of God, read and meditated on is an exceptional thing.  All scripture is God-breathed…”  The Bible communicates truth, not facts.

As I age, I start to understand that things are much more enigmatic and unfathomable than I ever dreamed they would be.  It is a step of faith to accept truth when their are still a lot of things that are still vague.  Mike Mason wrote, “You say you have faith to be healed, but what about the faith to be sick?”

That is a penetrating question, indeed.  “Why are some healed, and other are not?  Why do I have eternal life, and my friend does not?  Why should AIDS sweep through poor African villages when I live in a very comfortable suburb in the US?”  I have many other questions like this, but I won’t bore you with them.  (You probably have them too.) And there are thousands like this.

And I’m not making a whole lot of headway here.  Reasons and facts are not there. Life becomes more mysterious and inscrutable.  But there is a word we must know–it is the word “trust”.  It is a faith that assists us through the landscape of impossible questions.

As a struggling, mentally ill Christian, many (even in my own church) create more questions for me.  “Therapists, psychiatrists and daily medications are really good, but do you really need them?” or  “Did God create in you the need for lithium and Zoloft?” and ” How can you follow Jesus when you have all of these depression issues?” And here is a humdinger, “Where is your joy?”

But it is precisely these issues that help me be a disciple.  I’ve been slowly learning you see.  And my weaknesses are becoming my strengths.  They lead me to exercise my feeble faith.  I trust in Jesus; my faith helps me trust. I find it interesting to note  that the Book of Psalms for the most part, was written by “a broken believer” like David– a king and a rascal.

“People with their minds set on you,
    you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
    because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
    because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, The Message

These nebulous areas have only increased, but ironically my trust has only grown.  I have more questions then ever before, but my faith in him only gets stronger. I suppose I will never, ever be a gleefully upbeat, cheery person.  But I am learning “to trust and obey, there is no other way…”  He himself has taken up the chore of teaching me to walk, again. Just one thing, keep trusting.

 

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Fire or Blackberries?

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

In some odd way, our lives seem to be always getting interrupted by God. And it can happen a lot. We need to see the invisible. When we can, it can be quite amazing. Our night sky here in Alaska is wonderful. (And I’m a “sky guy”, it means I’m always looking up.) But the most phenomenal night skies were in Mexico, while camping on the beach. As I laid there I looked and the Milky Way was on full display. It really was as good as it could be. It seemed there was 10x more stars than ever before.

Once as I gazed up, a weird sort of fear gripped me, it was almost a panic. I started to tremble and shake. I got up and ran to our tent. I just couldn’t handle the incredible universe with no buffer. I was completely undone, and reduced a quivering speck of dust. I tried to tell my wife Lynn what had just happened to me, but I couldn’t. I was too scrambled. I couldn’t speak.

Reflecting on this, I realize now what I had experienced was “awe.” It was something much more common a few generations ago. There is a kind of existential crisis which we side-step in these more modern times. We rarely contemplate the night sky. We seldom, if ever, have seen fire in a bush.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

It seems we have traded our awareness of an Almighty God, and in turn we get to pick all blackberries we can haul. We reason it out, and we feel that we have made a better bargain. But when we extricate this from our souls, don’t be surprised if we suddenly find that we have become spiritual paupers.

Maybe we should learn to see through things; each of us have the opportunity now to see the spiritual world that swirls around us. Why wait for heaven? Ask our Father to reveal His glory now in this present moment. Learn to see that which can’t be seen, but by faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made.”

Psalms 19:1, NCV

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