A Spellbound Captive of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— the ugly, awful and rigorous things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers but we still approach the throne of Jesus more mystified than anything else.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, or attached with a sinister evil?  To be spellbound means we are being confused, drugged or hypnotised by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front-of-it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive is a ordinary occurance for human beings.  Captivity brings us imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies.  But what a deal we reason; “step right up, and exchange it for the lie!”

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars‘ mythos.  It is very much real.)  We gradually give ourselves over, in a reasonably predictable pattern.  We think we are pretty much unique in this, but the truth is that we are pretty much ordinary. Sin never enhances us. Don’t believe the lie.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

There comes a point when there is enough momentum and weight, that it creates an avalanche. At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

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Is it Wrong to Get Angry with God?

Evangelist Billy Graham

Interview with Dr. Billy Graham

Q: Is it wrong to get angry at God?

I’ve beten through some very hard times recently and I feel like God has let me down. I’d like to get past this, I guess, but right now I can’t help feeling angry at God.

A: The real question is this: Will God get angry at you if you get angry at Him, and refuse to have anything more to do with you?

The answer is “No”! Even when we’re angry at Him, He still loves us and yearns for us to turn to Him for the comfort and encouragement we need. And that’s what I pray you will do.

jonah-sulkingDo you remember the prophet Jonah in the Old Testament? Some have called him “the reluctant prophet,” because he tried to flee when God called him to preach to his enemies. Later (after God sent a large fish to stop his flight), he reluctantly obeyed God and preached to his enemies. To his surprise they repented and turned to God.

He should have rejoiced – but instead “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 4:1). Gently God explained to him that He loved even Jonah’s enemies – and so should Jonah. What is the point? Simply this: Jonah was angry at God – but God didn’t reject him. Instead, Jonah needed to learn to trust God, even if he didn’t like what was going on.

Perhaps this is one of the lessons God wants to teach you. Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to. But God still loves us; He loves us so much that He sent His only Son into the world to die for us. Put your life into Christ’s hands, and then ask God to help you begin to trust Him, no matter what happens to you.

_______________________________


 Affectionately known as the “World’s Preacher” for more than 60 years, the Rev. Billy Graham is one of the most influential and respected spiritual leaders of the 20th century. He has been a friend and spiritual advisor to ten American presidents and has preached the Gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history — nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories — through various meetings. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

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Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit the Web site for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association:  http://www.billygraham.org.

Anxiety: Strength Emptied

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”

Charles Spurgeon

We wrestle with amazing issues, they parade like certainties.  That is part of their strength.  Anxiety over our future, is a very difficult thing to separate from.  The dictionary has a simple definition,  “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible future misfortune, danger, etc; worry.

We can define it in a sort of abstract form, but anxiety has a vicious bite.  I believe it is the most common enemy of our souls.  (Maybe “pride” would be the most challenging?)  However our anxiety affects our children, finances and our status in this world.  We are so edgy, and have been for so long that it seems very normal.

Quite expectedly, Wikipedia gives us this explanation.  “Worry is thoughts and images of a negative nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats.  As an emotion it is experienced as anxiety or concern about a real or imagined issue, usually personal issues such as health or finances or broader ones such as environmental pollution and social or technological change.” 

Ok, well, that quote is a bit intense and perhaps a bit complicated.  But as I read it, the phrase, “an anticipation of evil things”  pops into my mind.

I guess there is an effort on our part to somehow equalize the pressure.  But typically it’s only enough to make us “humanly” passable, and acceptable to our dear ones.  But the truth is, we fear way too much.  Our anxiety over the future has a corrosive effect, it just eats us up.  We are like ships, who periodically come into port to have our hulls cleaned.  Somehow, if we decide to forego this, we will find that it diminishes us, and often drastically.

Anxiety is a weight that pulls us down: spiritually, and emotionally and even physically. It is worry that has gone viral in our thinking. We can think of nothing else.  There exists something that our psychologists call an “anxiety disorder.”  To be blunt, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. Worry, doubt, fear and despair are the enemies which slowly bring us down to the ground and turn us to dust before we die.

There is not much more I can say.  As we grow more and more anxious, we will drive a simple faith in Jesus away.  Simply put, worry, and the presence of Jesus can never truly agree.  They are on opposite sides of the spectrum.  One will rule, and the other won’t.

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength, carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Worry needs to be considered as if it were ‘armed and dangerous.’  Lust, pride, and apostasy are certainly thought of as dark, and evil. But worry has got to rank up there.

Our anxiety is a declaration of God’s unfaithfulness.  It is a “neon sign” that blinks out His perceived negligence and His ineptitude.

Please dear one, shake off this deep deceit.  Renounce your worry, your anxiety.  The One who feeds the sparrows, couldn’t forget you.  You are His, by blood.  He has gone far beyond the extra mile to obtain you to be His own.

“Don’t fear, little flock, because your Father wants to give you the kingdom.”

Luke 12:32, NCV

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Paranoia and Delusions, Oh My!

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Didn’t really sleep last night but an interesting day.  Hope it continues to develop in that direction.  I really need a good day to come along right now.

Been thinking about paranoia.  It comes loaded up with delusions.  They are separate words, but when they make that toxic combination it gets strange.  Are people out to get me?  Probably not.  People are by far and away more apt to dismiss me then to plot against me.

Paranoia is the belief in a hidden order behind the visible.

Delusions are a strong belief in something despite superior evidence to the contrary.

I don’t know why this is such a hard concept to hold on.  Paranoia is intensely self-absorbed and egocentric.  Everything is conspiring to destroy me is a very foolish way to live.  In a culture already overheated by egomania, to offend me becomes a declaration of war.  My paranoia makes you a mortal enemy.  But to act from that destroys me.  I only take it deeper and make it easier to slide into the next time.

Paranoia is not rational.  You can not reason with it.  (You certainly have my permission.)  For me, I win the battle over paranoia and delusions by “displacement”, pushing it out by adding in the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit fills us and flushes out the bad. At least that is what it feels like.

When I recognize Him to be the good shepherd, He watches over my thoughts like sheep.  He protects me from paranoia’s snares and thorns. I experience peace when He is present. I find Jesus actively helps me in this.

There are times I hear the voices, and “see” the monstrous faces leering out of the wallpaper. But more often I concoct delusions about people who I feel have slighted me. Paranoia provides plenty of grist for me to grind. I’m learning how to recognize the lies, and the liar who speaks them to me.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:7, AMP

Often I hear what seems like a telegraph, a varying ‘dot-dash-dot.’ It is very loud and obtrusive, but I know now it’s not real. I read a cool quote, that made me laugh, “I was walking home one night and a guy hammering on a roof called me a paranoid little weirdo. In morse code.”  -Emo Phillips

I hope your day goes good.

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Don’t Be Afraid, Just Trust

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1, NIV

 

 I remember taking a ride  in a glass bottomed boat in the tropics.  Such a deep and vivid display rolled out before me.  It was beautifully complex, and my tiny view into the depths was quite exceptional.  To think, this is all unfolding even when we aren’t looking.  It is a world completely beyond our own.  There are several valid  and living principles embedded in these verses.  As we gaze into these depths we are magnificently drawn to Him in many ways.  These verses are sublime.   Thinking such thoughts is one of reasons we were created for.

The promises of God are really not that hidden or secret.  We only have to look into this “leather bound’  book.  When we look to the point of exclusion of everything else,  we are sure to see things that we never dreamed of.  In Joshua, chapter 1, we get a deep view of how God starts touching a human soul.  Certain issues get negotiated.  Joshua is brought into compliance to God’s intention.

And us.  What can we say?  Some of us may hold that Joshua was the exception and substantially distinct.  But I think, in a most sincere way possible, he was the norm.  When God deals most exceptionally with our open hearts.  He will always bring us to the compliance of Joshua.  What Joshua did was quite exceptional, and yet it was very ordinary and only moderately intense. Faith translates and makes the transition.

These verses somehow magnetically draw us to obedience.  The command is to courageous.  Courage is definitely a very rare commodity for us.  Joshua is brought to this point, and he must trust to the place of personal loss, or whatever it takes.

Success is being  highlighted.  And than the Word, and when you mix the two, it develops into something that is spiritually elegant and complete.  Meditating, or the original Heb. which means to ruminate, brings us to the delightful moment of digestion.  We can never just take in God’s Word.  We must “process it.”  That takes not just time, but chewing and swallowing.  It is not gulped, but it has to be assimilated.  It must be “intelligently chewed.”  We must nibble, and never try to gulp, no matter how sweet it is.

Joshua was requested to keep the Word, completely and situational in front of him.  Success would come, but only come if he would simply obey.  Obedience seems like such a bitter truth.  I must confess, I honestly hate obedience.  Christianity can be terribly hard it seems, especially so when it is active, real and “in place.”  I admit I’m not 100 per cent sure.  But I know enough that I should trust, but although it took me fifty years.

One of the main themes found in these verses is the idea  the idea that God’s presence is that it is specifically focused on me.  When He concentrates on me, when He makes me His bullseye, it has a momentum to transform me.  God’s rich presence starts to foment in me, I can transform into another person.  Joshua was changed as he processed rightfully the nearness of his Father.  Help me Lord, to follow you into this intimacy.  Give me your understanding, inject yourself into here, in my feeble thought and understanding.

Being Held, Being Secure

Being Held, Being Secure

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  John 6:37

 

Being insecure is like sipping sulfuric acid from a teacup.  What we drink in is corrosive and harmful, when we think it is ok.  We become saturated with anxiety and overloaded with doubt.  We feel very unsure about ourselves, and become introspective to a fault.

Somehow verses like John 6:37 don’t work or apply to us.  Such is strength of our hopelessness.  It is durable and strong.  Christians who struggle with “feeling saved” have a formidable enemy just within themselves, not taking in Satan’s attacks on their mind.

This verse helps us understand some things.  First, there is a “chain of custody” in regards to spiritual headship.  What comes to the Father, gets transferred to the Son.  To enable this, there is something like a magnetic pull that people become drawn to Jesus.  (Aside note:  Jesus is wildly popular and esteemed among unbelievers; it is the Church that gives people heartburn!)

When we are attracted to Him, the pull intensifies.  We grow sensitive and more sure.  When we pass over that symbolic line we discover that we have great assurance of His love.  The statement is made, “I will by no means cast out.” 

“Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go”. –John 6:37, The Message

“He holds on”!  He doesn’t let go!  This attachment of Jesus to us is strong  and sure.  Our issue comes when we focus on self and forget about Him.  Thinking exclusively about your sin, and weakness, and mental illness takes back to the “acid in a teacup” analogy.  But enough of that; let us live confidently, looking boldly on Christ and feeling His grip.  He can’t de-attach Himself.