The Angel Who Comes in an Ugly Storm

23 “For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, 24 and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in his goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ 25 So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.”

Acts 27:23-25, NLT

Paul (and 275 others) are attempting to somehow sail to Rome. Paul is a definite prisoner, who is being escorted to Caesar. He is quite limited as a result.

A very powerful storm connects with Paul’s ship. It is quite awful, and the tedium of being a sailor has collapsed into a manic craziness. The sailors who climb the lines are the first to know. And a certain panic starts to spread to everyone else.

But God is incredibly involved in all this. He has on-board, a “special delivery” who goes by the name of Paul. Paul has an appointment to make. Some would suggest that God started and then maintained the storm. But it seems much more likely that God has nothing to do with it. But He does show a way out of it.

Paul receives a vision. An angel, (the particular kind that is very close to God) declares a certain message. First, he states that “prisoner Paul” should not take on the fear that surrounds him.

The word from the Angel is that God is good, in spite of the present difficulty. All 276 people will be saved. Everyone who started this trip, will arrive in a certain (and quite adequate peace.)

 Courage is transmitted to someone who has none. Paul has really nothing to give. But God meets him with a jolt of certain reality. He is electrified by a definite presence, that takes him apart, and then puts him back together. He is now capable to step up, and take on the issues of this awful storm.

Paul can now announce, that this storm will end. Everyone will be safe, and quite secure. It will happen, and nothing can happen to change anything. His confidence is from the Lord God.

OK, What are the real issues?

1) God is very active in the life’s of those who follow Him.

2) No matter our destination, He insists on bringing us there.

3) Storms are never the real issue. Really.

4) Encouragement will only come from His clear presence in our lives.

5) Real safety, from issues that are quite beyond us. This is quite significant.”Make it so.”

ybic, Bryan

The Transfiguration, (Or “Let’s Get It Right, This Time”)

“Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.” 

Matt. 17:1-2

We observe that Jesus ‘picked and choosed’ three men to go with Him to this incredible place.  Nothing is fabricated, nothing is manipulated.  The three are given a backstage pass into the supernatural, where things are more real than they seem, not less so.

They were led with the pretext of loneliness and separation.  It was critical that they step into this quiet place, with no distraction or disturbance.  The entire situation was based exclusively on the person of Jesus.  He would be the ‘canvas’ on which everything would happen.  Jesus would display and exhibit the spiritual reality of what was about to happen.

All the men could do is observe, and from our text this was their fundamental purpose.  They watched, and Jesus did not disappoint them.  He commenced to radiate from within, an intense light.  It says, ‘He was transformed’.  We don’t have the freedom to make any conjecture of what this entailed.  We can only understand that what was happening was purely and entirely supernatural.

I think that we often we get a little confused about the transforming presence of Jesus in our own lives.  It seems that it happens apart from His presence.  We somehow get changed apart from the direct intervention of Him.  We inexplicably think that this is the way it works, that somehow I will start radiating peace, wisdom and godliness on my own.  Kind of a ‘self -glowing in the dark’ Christian.

But Jesus Christ is the exclusive initiator and upholder of the Christian life.  Jesus is not a by-product, but the entire ‘kit and kaboodle’.  He is at the center of our salvation, both the justifier and sancifier of our being.  We cannot trust Him to justify us, unless we believe that He will also make us holy people.  He takes it all. And all that He takes He will transform.

I guess I’m advocating the return of Jesus to His walk of transfiguration in our lives.  We make Him the center, and let Him shine.  This is not heretical; it is fundamental.  It is also critical.  Only when we arrive at this point can we say “Jesus, why, He is my Lord and King!  He is the Center of the entire universe, and He is my all, in all.”

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ybic, Bryan

Help! I Need a Doctor

“And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Mark 2:17, ESV

We get ‘schooled’ when we try to figure out Jesus.  It is a radical adjustment to process His thoughts and motives.  We watch and try to understand.  Jesus dictates a certain level, and we as His disciples will need to adjust.  Jesus declares that a select group will not need a doctors ministrations.  But the doctor does have a role.  There will be the ‘sick’, who need his attention.

The reality is that many are diseased and ill.  It is something that links and connects us to each  other.  We are desperately sick, and we have no medicine.  Jesus steps forward and intervenes.  He takes us and ministers to us in our desperate condition.  The diseased will be made healthy.

Jesus reaches ‘the sick’.  That is who He wants.  He makes the choice and that choice is us, full of infection and pain.  His Kingdom consists of those who understand their illness.  He bypasses the strong and the healthy.  He spends little time with them.  His heart is set on us who are broken and twisted.  Our cancerous bodies have absolutely nothing to give Him.

His Kingdom is full of sick people.  It, in a sense, is full with the ‘terminally ill’.  It is we who have ‘attracted’ Him.  Yet He has intensely sought us out.  We gather like little chicks to his protective wings.  We honestly do not have the ability even to protect ourselves.

Jesus declares that He has come for us.  Sin is very near to us.  We have the infection and we are completely vulnerable.  We are not strong spiritually.  There are many who excel before us.  We can make no claim to anything of significance.  But He has chosen us.  Sovereignly and specifically.  Strongly and decisively.  He has collected us and brought us to His heart.

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ybic, Bryan

 

 

Landmine Craziness

Thirty years ago, I was trained by the U.S. Army to clear landmines.  It was a very interesting experience, as I trained in the heat of a Missouri summer.  Most of what I learned was done by crawling on my belly under barb wire.  But there are many different kind of mines.  There is a big antitank mine, which was fairly easy to detect.  But also, there was a very small plastic mine, which had in mind to take a leg off if it was stepped on, and this was very hard to find.

Landmines are a very interesting form of warfare.  Buried and essentially unseen, they lay waiting for the enemy.  Trained as a Combat Engineer at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was taught that there were things to counteract other things like mines.  I knew how to operate a ‘minesweeper’.  I was also taught how to probe with a stick to find mines that could not be detected.  In the heat of an Ozark summer, I would be coated with a red mud after crawling on my belly through the Missouri dirt.

There are landmines in the Church.  Buried they simply await a believer to step on it.  Wisdom would tell us to advance with caution, but the counsel is not always taken.  There are definite things which can cripple us spiritually.  They only await our careless step.  We can know they exist, yet we can step on them without thinking.  It is a definite form of deception.

Mines such as fear, doubt, unforgiveness, jealousy, pride and selfishness lay waiting for us.  When you step on a mine, you will often hear a distinct click.  This is the downward signal that you have engaged the mechanism of the mine.  At this point it gets terribly grim.  It is highly unlikely that you can move quickly enough to get away from the explosion.

We are incredibly vulnerable to the mines of our walk as a believer.  However, the Holy Spirit holds the maps that can enable us to transverse that which is ahead of us.  His presence gives us a safe awareness to progress difficult ground.  He is there to direct us to pass through the danger.

Too many people are getting blown up.  They make a misstep and the resulting blast is awful.  Unless we listen to the Spirit’s direction we will find ourselves in a very hard place, full of difficulty and danger.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us navigate difficult places.  Without Him present we will step in places that are extremely detrimental, and very dangerous.  He must guide us, step by step, through the danger that surrounds us.  He will do this, if we only ask.

 

ybic, Bryan

 

Comparing Our Differences

“Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:14, NLT

“I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame.”

Job 29:15, NLT

Our disabilities can give us a rough time of it. Being mentally ill– whether with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar, autism spectrum, etc can create many challenges. In some sense, those of us with physical or mental issues are all in the same boat. Many of us are physically, mentally, or developmentally disabled.

Or are we? I suspect that there are a million permutations (or more) of disability. One is in a wheelchair and suffers from migraines and depression. Another has severe anxiety. Others have little or no self-control and is becoming a drunkard, and yet another is just a child but diagnosed as autistic.

The fact of  labeling people often diminishes them into categories. A young child with Downs Syndrome is often labeled, and they seldom have the opportunities that ‘normal’ children receive. This is usually an unconscious reaction to their handicap.

In Nazi Germany, those with a mental or physical illness were rounded up and sterilized or euthanized (murdered) to achieve an ‘Aryan superiority.’ Systematically, untold thousands of disabled people were executed. We call this “eugenics” and it still is alive and well in the 21st century. It is rampant in a world that embraces “social darwinism” as its ideology.

We must remember these things. We also need to understand that we shouldn’t compare people with people. And we dare not pass judgement on anyone who is different. Disabled people should not wear labels, especially when ‘normal’ people slap it on us. A person’s perceived value should never, ever be part of a Christian believer’s agenda.

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ybic, Bryan

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