‘Sunning Ourselves in the Smiles of God’

A boy stood on a windy hillside, flying a kite. He continued to release the string of the kite and it went higher and higher until it was completely out of sight. One of his friends walked up and asked how he knew there was still a kite on the other end. He replied. “I know it’s there I feel it tugging on the line.” Like the kite, we can’t see heaven with our eyes, but we feel it tugging at our souls!

As a person with Bipolar its easier in some ways to think about that place I am journeying to.  Through many cycles of mania and depression I find this present life gets old, and the more I hear about heaven, the more excited I get.  I imagine a life without meds, and the constant monitoring of my moods.

 Heaven is described as:

  1. a great reward, Mt 5:11
  2. present suffering not worthy to be compared with future glory, Rom 8:18, 
  3. eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 2 Cor 4:17,18,
  4. surpassing riches of His grace towards us, Eph 2:7, 
  5. beyond all we could ask for or even think, Eph 3:20.

I think of my infirmities and pain.  I can’t wait to “shed” this mental illness. 

To be free from it will be one of best thing I can think of.  To take off my depression, like a heavy coat on a warm day. To sit with Jesus in a garden with living water, that’s more refreshing than any iced tea. Eternity is my favorite thing to think about–

“Where the unveile’d glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.

—Ezekiel Hopkins 

I want to encourage you who are struggling now, with depression, anger,  schizophrenia, paranoia, abuse, OCD, addictions, PTSD or Bipolar, etc.  There is a day coming for us, when we will forget the agonizing battles that have gone on within us.  I boldly tell you with all the strength I can muster–there is coming the day.  So take hope and journey one more day, thinking of heaven.

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An Eternal Perspective

This too shall pass

The apostle Paul wrote, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NIV).

The troubles we face don’t seem light or momentary. They feel heavy and often permanent. Especially when one struggles with troubles like mental illness, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes, physical disabilities, and cancer. Surely Paul was mistaken when he described our troubles as light and momentary. Perhaps his life was a different experience.

No, Paul knew what he was talking about; he knew about troubles. He was flogged and beaten, threatened with stoning, and thrown in jail multiple times for proclaiming Christ. He was shipwrecked not once, not twice, but three times. Although the Bible doesn’t tell us how Paul died, other historical documents suggest that he was beheaded.

Once he chose to follow Christ and proclaim His name, Paul’s life was anything but easy, his troubles anything but light and momentary. And yet, compared to the eternal glory his passion for Christ was earning for him, he could truthfully call them light and momentary.

Our burdens become light when we give them to Jesus, who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV). He will carry the load if only we are willing to give it up. Sometimes he brings fellow believers alongside to help with this.

Our troubles become momentary when we see them from an eternal perspective.But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8 (NIV). In our earthly bodies we are bound by time and can be easily fooled by it. In God’s kingdom, time becomes somewhat irrelevant.

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Limits of Mental Illness

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Mental illness is so limited,

It cannot cripple love, 

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot corrode our faith.

It will never destroy peace.

It cannot.

It will never kill friendship, 

It cannot suppress memories. 

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal eternal life.

It cannot conquer eternal life.

It cannot conquer your spirit.

Amen.

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 P.S. I have received some criticism over the contents of this post. The argument is that mental illness is very destructive, and that I’m misleading others by suggesting it isn’t. The thinking is that we dwell on the past and how it effects the present moment. I believe we have a mental illness. But I also believe more strongly so that Christ redeems us completely. “Because he lives,” goes the old hymn, “I can face tomorrow.”

In the “heat of the moment” the situation can seem overwhelming. Our illness can be completely devastating. However the Holy Spirit is yet to fully redeem us, yet we still must view this coming event as something triumphant and total. This life is not the end. What a relief to shed this mortal darkness!

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4

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I Want Home

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‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”                                                                                  

Jeremiah 32:17, ESV

“One should go to sleep as homesick passengers do, saying, “Perhaps in the morning we shall see the shore.” 

Henry Ward Beecher

I have never been there, except in a stuttering way on my knees in the Lord’s presence.  From there it is like climbing a mountain, and breaking through at the summit.  It is an astonishing awareness of home.  It is where I belong.  He wants me there.

But most of the time, I’m slogging through the peanut-butter of everyday reality.  It’s ‘scootch-slide-scootch’ most of the time.  But I recall my last trip up, so I hold on to that fragrant memory, and it is a tremendous relief to think about his presence.

I want home.  I can’t wait.  I hope he’s not disappointed in me, or disturbed by the fact that I have made such little progress.  The depression and despondency will slough off its skin like a snake.  I will know true freedom.  This is a sure thing.

I want home.  The presence of Jesus is waiting.  All of the knots will be worked out.  The dark burdens that nip at my heels will disappear.  This change is going to be powerful, and most certainly dramatic, and I want home.

For those of us who believe, we will arrive at a place of profound blessing.  We will squint back at our life on earth, and wonder what it was all about.  A hundred thousand years from now it will seem like a difficult dream which we really can’t remember upon waking.

We will be moving toward him.  There will be a magnetism that will exert its pull on our wandering hearts.  He will draw us to himself.  Guilt and shame, which has deeply infected us will be eradicated.  Sometimes, when people train to run they will wear “training weights,” creating more of a burden that has to be overcome.  In that way heaven can be understood, for we have spent well over 50 years training for that place.

We come into all of this like a man who has been lost in the desert. Without water, we stumble into what looks like a watery oasis, and we find a refreshing relief.  We have been “saved” from a certain death.  When we consider what has happened, and how the superheated desert almost destroyed us, we will marvel, and that quite often.  Each one there will have a story of failure and faith, and we will listen and than tell our story as well.

What has to be stated, and restated, is the astonishing presence of Jesus in that place.  Not only in our thinking, but in a real concrete way.  Heaven is not an an abstract or ethereal thing.  It is solid and strong.  We don’t imagine heaven, instead we are pounded by it.  It is more real than real, with a solidity that we will find most refreshing.

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”

Revelation 3:11

Hold on guys, keep your crown.  Don’t let anyone snatch it from you.  Advance into his presence, and let him do his stuff on you.  He loves you, far more than you love him.  He is pursuing you more than you are pursuing him.  Somehow that is quite comforting.  I want home!

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Staring Down Death

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“In the long run, we are all dead.”  —John Maynard Keynes

“Are you afraid to die? Remember that for a child of God, death is only a passing through to a wonderful new world…”  —Corrie Ten Boom

The idea of death is unpopular, unsettling and perhaps a little rude.  It is a great way of putting a good conversation into flight-stopping stall.  No one likes it (except maybe ‘Goths‘ and the perennial AC/DC fan).  It is perhaps ‘too true’ and the reality keeps us from dwelling on it.  But it is going to happen, you will die.

 “We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might make it to eighty), And what do we have to show for it? Trouble. Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard. Oh!  Teach us to live well!  Teach us to live wisely and well!”

Ps. 90:10, 12, MSG

Our modern society has made considerable effort to avoid the subject of death.  Thinking through this strikes me as unhealthy and confusing.  Through the past centuries, our present day attitude would be regarded as strange by them.

The Bible teaches us how to prepare to die well. 

We have been given several decades of life on this planet, but not much more than that.  The psalmist recognizes this.  He prepares for his/her personal appointment for death.  He prays that he will use wisely all the time he has left.  Psalm 90 has been part of that preparation for millions of Christians, for many centuries.

One way to help you purify a faith that is strong enough to look death straight in the eyes, is to have a few older Christian friends.  For me there is Pastor Ray.  He is in his 80s now.  I see myself marching behind him, and watching his back as he moves to heaven.  It helps me follow in some small way.  It gives me peace.  Maybe that is how it is supposed to work.

The Bible is a book that is to prepare us for death, and then eternity.  It is our compass as we look for ‘true north’.  It has instructions and guidance, if we listen to the voice, it will bring us through the ‘door of death’. Fear not, little flock.  It is God’s pleasure to give you the kingdom”.

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 “Lord, please get me ready to see you.  Teach me how to live wisely, and not as a foolish person.  Teach me to be a model of faith and strength to everyone who is watching me move toward death.  Give me courage and faith.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.” 

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Poetry of the Broken

Last Saturday I purchased a wonderful find at Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon’s own homegrown new and used bookstore) – a used book called “Invisible Light: Poems about God” – for only $4.50. And it is in excellent condition. It is a collection of poems by various poets, some well known and some not so well known, as well as a few Psalms and other pieces of poetic scripture. I noticed in the table of contents that there were two poems by William Cowper, who I first heard of when reading “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. (See my book review of that book here).

Both of Cowper’s poems were so beautiful; made me wonder why I even try to write poetry. (But I do know my poetry is getting better, and reading poems like Cowper’s just makes me want to learn more about poetry and get better at writing it).

I want to share one of Cowper’s poems with the readers at Broken Believers. I do so because it is a great reminder that even when we think we are too lost and broken to be of any use to God, even then God can do the impossible. He can take a broken vessel and cause great light and wonder pour from its cracks. I am thankful for the poetry Cowper wrote, and for the witness that he provides of the truth that God uses the broken for astonishing things.

William Cowper, English poet and hymnodist
(1731-1800)

You see, Cowper suffered from recurrent bouts of depression and severe mental illness. At times he was convinced that he was damned for all eternity, and that he was a lost soul. Nonetheless, he was able to write some truly inspiring poetry and hymns to glorify God. This particular poem will cause the “Comfortless, broken, afflicted to delight in the joy of a life to come where all pain and sorrow will cease, and the glory of Jesus will be all we need.”

If you are struggling, feeling like you can never be of any use to God, take heart. God is in the business of using His power and wisdom in tandem with the broken believer to accomplish great things.

The Future Peace and Glory of the Church
by William Cowper

Hear what the Lord hath spoken:-
O my people, faint and few;
Comfortless, afflicted, broken,
Fair abodes I build for you:
Thorns of heart-felt tribulation
Shall no more perplex your ways;
You shall name your walls, Salvation,
And your gates shall all be Praise.
There, like streams that feed the garden,
Pleasures, without end, shall flow;
For the LORD, your faith rewarding,
All his bounty shall bestow:
Still in undisturb’d possession,
Peace and righteousness shall reign;
Never shall you feel oppression,
Hear the voice of war again.
You no more your suns descending,
Waning moons no more shall see;
But, your griefs for ever ending,
Find eternal noon in me:
God shall rise, and shining o’er ye,
Change to day the gloom of night;
He, the LORD, shall be your glory,
God, your everlasting light.

Hymn No. 10 of The Olney Hymns

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Peace, Linda K.

You can find Linda’s own blog at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

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Mannequin Logic

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:22

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

Ephesians 2:4-5

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

Colossians 2:13

Mannequins have always have had a odd effect on me– somewhat similar to clowns (which really make me uneasy.)  I also had a small artist’s mannequin–it was flexible and the theory was you could pose it.  And of course there is the story of Pinocchio, a puppet who became a boy (I wonder if he regarded “toothpicks” as his cousins? LOL)

The Bible uses this imagery to explain exactly what happens when we first believe.  His Spirit works on us, or in us, to bring us back to life.  Talking with any sincere Christian and they’ll describe their repentance/conversion using a remarkable metaphor–resurrection of the dead!  Now that is dramatic.

We the “cast-off” mannequins have suddenly come to life.  We understand things from a revolutionary new way.  Jesus has worked and crafted his new children and brought them to life.  The Holy Spirit has done something so radical that it defies any explanation except through the Word.

Life is so very different now.  I see it through new eyes.  I am no longer seeking to be energized by drugs, alcohol or a selfish lifestyle.  The emptiness of that past life no longer disturbs me.

I still have problems.  There are difficult issues of depression and BP that challenge me.  Somedays I can’t get out of bed and life is hopeless.  Meds help me work through this black mood.  I pray and worship and I am lifted up from my dark pit.  Friends who understand are a blessing.

But this wonderfully radical truth of coming to life is by far-and-away the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.  I was like that mannequin in the mall, vacant and empty.  Not alive.  But Jesus touched me, and now I live.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!”

Romans 8:11-12, The Message

Mannequin logic can only be understood when the Holy Spirit moves in!