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. 

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Kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy.)

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Straining at Your Oars

“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.”

Mark 6:48

It is good for us to know that Jesus sees our labor and effort.  He perceives all that concerns us, and he knows the issues that matter most.  Attentive and keenly aware he comes.  It is quite common for us to think that he isn’t aware, and we may feel that he will pass us by without a word.  But that is not the case at all.

Jesus watches us, all the time.  He knows the battle, the fight we have with our flesh, and the difficulty we have with the challenging people in our lives.  Not everyone loves me, and I struggle a large part of the time.  My depression, and my paranoid fears cannot obscure his sight.  Jesus knows when (and why) I labor like I do.  And he doesn’t condemn me at all.

The disciples were straining very hard to move the boat.  Every oar was being used and every man had his seat.  They probably tried to work together.  Considerable effort was being expended, but to no avail.  The wind pushed harder against them.  This is perplexing.  If you remember, they are trying to obey the command of Jesus to cross the sea.  Why do things have to be so difficult?

I’m intrigued by believers who expect sunshine, blue sky and red roses because they are doing God’s Will.  They don’t seem to factor in the issue of conflict and challenge.  They see their “Goliath” and they pretend that he doesn’t exist, or they try to make peace with him. The battle to come is of no consequence and doesn’t happen.  We are sorely mistaken.

Doing the will of God will often mean that there will be a headwind directly at us.  The seas will become impossible, and we may even be driven back.  But special comfort comes, when we realize we are being watched.  Jesus is doing constant surveillance on us, and he even sees our toil on the oars.  What a precious promise.

“Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”

Matthew 28:20

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The Judas’ Kiss

The Judas Kiss

“Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.”   

Matthew 26:49

Kiss–  verb (used with object)  1. to touch or press with the lips slightly pursed, and then often to part them and to emit a smacking sound, in an expression of affection, love, greeting, reverence, etc.:  He kissed his son on the cheek. 
   –Dictionary.com
“A man’s kiss is his signature.”
Mae West

This singular verse (v. 49) should cause us to pause and think. It is part of an amazing account of the events surrounding the death of Jesus.  At this point Judas leans over and kisses him. Now, a kiss can be used when you show affection and commitment for someone. Kisses are like a ‘x-ray’ into your very being, opening and quite revealing.

Judas shows everyone exactly what he is all about.  The kisser declares to the kissed the intent and desire of their heart. It also says things to those who witness it.

This kiss of Judas set into motion a whole series of events.  But more importantly, this kiss was an evil kiss.    We kiss and are kissed.  Its the way we tell others of our friendship and fidelity.  It has always been so.  The mechanics of it all seem a bit odd, when you think about it.  Touching lips?  (Ok. That’s odd.)  But a real kiss goes further, injecting love and esteem and other intangibles into another.

Also, we should understand that a kiss has intense power.  The kiss of Judas had this power.  It wasn’t done to convey his commitment or affection, rather it was a powerful act of betrayal.  Judas had drained this particular kiss of all its goodness and only evil remained. 

It very well could be that Judas was attempting to manipulate a sequence of events to allow Jesus to become the messiah/king by force.  He may have thought that this was a politically expedient thing to do.  Maybe a good thing in his thinking. (But who can know?)

A “Judas kiss” is perhaps the most dastardly way one can be betrayed.  It is not real common, but it happens, and it is devastating.  Some have told me that it was like having your heart ripped out of your body.  Betrayal with a “Judas kiss” is almost always a surprise, coming out of the blue, hitting you when you’re most vulnerable.

The English poet Milton envisioned hell with many levels.  The very deepest level is reserved for Satan.  Interestingly, Milton puts Judas at the bottom with Satan.  They share the punishment of hell together, forever.  I guess that this is as awful as it can get.    In studying the character and the sin of Judas the following lessons may be brought out:

  1.  We must not be surprised if some bad men enter the Church, for even among the twelve was one Judas.
  2.  It is no proof that Christianity is untrue when some of its believers prove hypocrites. The defection of Judas did not leave a stain on the name of Christ, nor did it disprove the loyalty and fidelity of the other disciples.
  3. One may be very near to Christ and not be made holy in character. Judas was three years with Christ, heard His words, lived in the atmosphere of His love, and remained unchanged. An empty bottle, hermetically sealed, may lie long in the ocean and continue perfectly dry within. A heart sealed to Christ’s love may lie near Him for years and not be blessed. Only when the heart is opened to receive His grace does closeness to Him change the heart.
  4. Sin grows, and we never can know to what terrible and awful extent a wicked thought or desire may reach.  Extrapolated, it has a vast magnitude of evil possibilities and potentialities beyond anything we would have ever dreamed.
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Blisters & Porcupines: How We Learn to Love

Dog vs. Porcupine

“Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.”

2 Cor. 5:17, CEV

“I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”

Philippians 4:2

I learned about blisters learning to ride a horse.  Starting out I envisioned John Wayne, and every ‘cowboy’ movie I had ever seen.  Being 11 years old, gave me tremendous wisdom and experience.  Needless to say I gave up after being thrown headfirst three times.  The ground was very hard, and I’m sure the horse thought it was hilarious.

I also got blisters on my butt from the saddle.  Funny, I healed up pretty quick from the ‘throws’ but not so much when it came these tiny sores.  They were the worst pain I ever confronted in my short life.  These excruciating little carbuncles caused me several days of grief.  (My mom got me a pillow to sit on at the supper table).

There are blisters on the Body of Christ.  Little sores from too much rubbing.  Over time of contact, there comes an abrading and a redness.  Soon after it will deepen and get larger in size.  It’s very possible you will not notice until it is too late to avoid it.

So many of us are like porcupines.  (I think they are the official Christian mascot.) When challenged our quills get deployed.  A porcupine is pretty much defensive focused rodent.  It is only when handled that it will get riled up.  Again, many of us are reasonably passive, but when crossed we have a real problem.  Some have tamed this response, and as a result are more approachable than others. Others will lash back.

Our relationships will be a continual issue for us.  We will often meet people who will trigger a response in us.  Some have a ‘hair trigger’ around certain people they meet in their day.  We generally surround ourselves with those we’re compatible with. Part of the reason is that it is taxing and it requires so much energy to extend our quills. 

We learn to steer clear of personalities that are not worth the level to maintain. But generally “porcupine people” teach us more than we realize. I think that is their true purpose.

How we treat each other as believers is critical.  We must beseech the Lord to give us soft and loving hearts.  He was compassionate to us when we were so abrasive to Him (and others).  We need to see that we are not called to be compatible– we are called to love.

Part of our transformation will come when we learn to serve.  When we surrender our rights, and humbly submit, something changes in us.  We will become like Jesus (long-term) when we become like Jesus (short-term).  It is all on you.

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Real Faith and 3D Glasses

Seeing what others cannot

“When He saw their faith.”

Luke 5:20

The healing of the paralyzed man is loaded with lessons for us.  He lies motionless on his pallet, unable to move.  His incredible and loyal friends have dedicated themselves to getting him into Jesus’ presence.  But the house is full; its beyond standing room only, they can’t get close.  They are desperate.  Jesus is so near, they can hear Him teach, and yet so far away.

One of them has a wild idea.  They will lower him down into the room from the roof!  Energized by this thought they put the plan into action.  I can just see them, working feverishly.  When the hole is big enough, they carefully lower the paralyzed man down slowly.  We read that, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20).

Example of 3D without glasses

God can see faith.  It is invisible to us, and takes a special work of grace for us to do so.  It is not an easy thing to see faith.  If you go downtown to watch a movie in 3-D the attendant will issue you special glasses.  With them everything is enhanced.

The Lord sees faith, and responds in kind.  His powers of perception and discernment are advanced far beyond our puny human efforts.  But God is pleased when we show our faith by our works. They fascinate Him and He delights when His children prove a living faith by actions.  Our faith can only be seen by what we do.

The faith of the paralyzed man, and the faith of his friends makes them  fluorescent in a black & white world.  It jumps out to Jesus, and it is hard to see anything else.  Faith stands out, and it cannot be hid.

There is so much here in Luke 5, so many lessons and so much wisdom.  Much of it lies at the surface, and can be picked up like gold nuggets.  I think that I could preach six months on this chapter alone.  It is that good.

ybic,  Bryan 

Walking Intelligently

  1. Faith–“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  2 Cor. 5:7
  2. Spirituality–“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16
  3. Consistency–“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”  Eph. 4:1
  4. Love–“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”  Eph. 5:2
  5. Wisdom–“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” Eph. 5:15
  6. Light–“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7
  7. Christlikeness–“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”  1 John 2:6

 

These 7 verses all talk about our walk.  Each verse brings us a facet of that walk.  We must avail ourselves of every awareness, following Jesus is indeed a “walk.”  We take steps that will lead us into an vast eternity with our Savior.  We move spiritually from one place to a closer place.  We walk forward, and not back.  We move ahead, and each day closer to our Lord.  Time, you see, only exists to bring us that much nearer to Jesus.

To walk means progression.  It also is destiny.  Some of the greatest works in literature is the book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan.  It is a book about walking.  We are all walking toward home.  It is challenging to make this journey through tremendous issues.  We all are making progress as we travel home.

The issues are “faith, spirituality, consistency, love, wisdom, light and christlikeness.”  Which of these are we prepared to ditch?  If we concentrate on each of these, we find that we can’t give up any of them.  They all are dear and fundamental to an authentic faith.

Walking can be strenuous.  When we walk it means we have direction and a goal in mind.  It is almost never done aimlessly.  As we walk, we begin to unfold these seven issues.  We will find that the Father inserts us into situations and circumstances where we get to unveil these seven.  We will enter into events where we take on certain qualities.  As we walk we learn the behavior of our Lord.  And that dear ones, can’t be all bad.