You Are Just a Prayer Away [Witness]

 

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An ‘open letter’ to my friend:

As believers in Him who passionately loves the world, we are on our knees asking that the Father would bring you salvation.  We lift you up in our prayers, so that you will have an immediate and definite contact with the Holy Spirit.  We have consecrated you to Him.  You are now marked and set apart, as we await further instructions from our Father. 

There is no happiness, no real satisfaction apart from Him.  Just stop trying, you are getting nowhere.  The pain and guilt are real, aren’t they?  There is in you a deep sadness–a grief.  But the Lord sees it, and absorbs it for you.  He sets you free, not for you to duplicate the sin, but to set you free from it.  His action on your life is meant to liberate you.

Dear one, you struggle so intensely and have so many issues.  We know this, but we have prayed, and we gathered you up to Him.  (You are now a real target, thanks to us.)  All of the issues you face from now on, have been initiated by God, and us who pray. I hope they won’t be too many. That you’ll respond to them, and turn to Him.

You are welcome to join us, we are indeed waiting just for you.

So enter into the grim arena.  Already we have stepped into its ugly locales.  You can meet us there.  We know that there is no one who can keep us from His Spirit.  You will find us standing against gladiator, and lion and sin.  You are welcome to join us, we are indeed waiting just for you.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6

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A More Comfortable Discipleship

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” 

Matt. 16:24, NLT

This is a head scratcher. The issue for me is that it is the disciples who are being addressed.  Jesus has words with them.  And what He shares is intense and demanding.  He invalidates any discipleship that doesn’t say “No!” to oneself. This what is meant by self denial.

The desire to follow must be present, a true longing to walk with Jesus.  We must be willing, but this is only the starting point.  This would-be-follower is to go a step further.  He must put to death his attitudes, actions, wants and wishes.  This disciple is to turn her back on the very things she has grown and cultivated all these years as important and worthwhile.  These things are self centered and will only nullify a disciple’s walk..

There must be a major upheaval of things.  An excavation of your goals and reasons.  It all must be torn down and hauled away.  We are only following mentally, or emotionally if we will not make an end to this “natural” life.

Jesus talks about personalized crosses.  Each disciple has his own.  It is custom-made, with your monogram on it.  It is part of the discipleship attire, and many say it is out-of-style.  But each individual disciple must pick it up, settle it on his shoulder, and then step out into the crowded street.

Some say cross-carrying is a dubious and an eccentric take on Christian ethics.  Church is where we go to fulfill a religious duty we feel is necessary. Others, get a spiritual buzz from singing chorus’ or “Amazing Grace”.  But it is Christianity without a cross.

Pick it up.  Fit it on your shoulder, and focus on Jesus.  Set your gaze on Him and step into the crowd.  You are a disciple and a witness to the world and the world-system.  You who are denying self now, become real to the will of God.

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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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Low Sodium Christians

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:6

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”

Luke 14:34

 Our distinctiveness for God is first evident in our communication.  The way we talk is the primary way we share; and it’s in the tone we use, the inflection of our voices, the vocabulary we utilize, and the way we articulate.  And all of this is communicated in just a few seconds of time.

We should be aware that when we say something it is instinctively and instantly examined. People, deep within want to know its veracity and authenticity.  But the above list is lacking one vital thing– grace, pieces of it, that break off and sprinkles all over our words and thoughts.  We added it all to our conversations, like salt on ‘french fries’.  This takes a ministry of grace, and we ourselves are made into a direct witness.

But not everyone of us is articulate, or gifted to speak.  But we are all salty!  Each of us has a savory presence of grace.  Every believer has it.  I’ve gotten to know two deaf brothers at my church.  They are sometimes neglected and avoided.  (But I think that is just fear.)  They use a ‘sign language‘ with gestures and hand motions.  They are actually quite articulate.  One of the young men has an opening door to Russia to do evangelism.

I guess I’m a bit taken aback by this.  A man who cannot hear or speak being used by the Holy Spirit in this way.  He jokes about being the ‘first evangelist to the deaf community in Russia’.  He is an inspiration to me.  My issue is with mental illness.  But handicapped people do quite well, they are particularly ‘salty’ and you’ll notice the difference.

Learning to communicate with grace is a lot like learning any foreign language.  My wife and I went to learn Spanish at an institute.  We learned so much I felt I was leaking out my ears.  Learning to speak “Grace” will be a challenge as well.  But we have the promised Holy Spirit.  He is the Helper.  He will show how to speak with grace to every person and situation.

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Dinged Up Disciples, [But No Separation]

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“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”

Romans 8:35, NLT

A simple question is asked. Our response is requested, and expected. We must settle this in our thinking in order to progress with Him. Why? Three reasons.

  • There is something inside of us that militates against God, and the things of God.
  • We have an active enemy that has declared war on our soul.
  • The world we live in is both cruel and very hard at times.

But again, the question remains– “Who can separate us from Christ’s love?” Paul lists the seven issues that might scramble us:

  1. trouble 
  2. calamity
  3. persecution
  4. hunger
  5. destitution
  6. danger
  7. threatened with death

Each one carries its unique twist. Some are general, others more specific. They do overlap, but each are distinct. Each are hostile and mean. I think what Paul is seeing is that believers face “magnetic suffering.” Certain things that are weirdly attracted to us, and we can’t do a thing to change them.

These seven are offered as reasons we find ourselves struggling so hard. But even in them, the apostle declares a victory. They won’t— shouldn’t—can’t really divide us from Jesus’ love.

An ant would have an easier time stopping a roaring freight train!

Paul reminds us again, in the midst our sad and savage situation, that Jesus Christ isn’t even slightly turned back. His love is ‘outrageously’ outrageous. We must keep this close to our hearts. It is truly all we have– but it is also all we need.

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Was Jesus Mentally Disturbed?


“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Mark 3:21, NIV

Even our Lord’s own family did not believe Him.  I can see them gathering out of concern, not only for concern for Jesus, but for the family name– perhaps they felt a need even to protect themselves?  They talked at length, and decided on an intervention, to take custodial care– as families must do at these difficult times.

Jesus had been saying things, disturbing things.  He had resolutely confronted the present religious system, and then rebuked King Herod and the civil government.  He was living on an edge, and the sense that His family had was that He had become mentally unhinged.  He had been cavorting with decidedly irreligious and wicked people.  He lived in constant bedlam, with people mobbing Him for healing.

His teaching seemed extremely radical, almost absurd. His “parables” contained bizarre ideas. And the massive crowds actually would chase Him, trying to anticipate His next move. He was essentially a celebrity –  a “rock star.” I suppose we have no idea, of His appeal to the masses.

We have some choices that must be made. What do we make of Jesus? Is Jesus Christ:

  • Legend
  • Lunatic
  • Liar
  • Lord and GOD?

In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this statement,

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

The accusation has often been the case for His followers. Some of Paul’s friends thought he was crazy when he went blazing over land and sea to carry the gospel to every city. But his answer was, “No, I am not crazy; the love of Christ controls me” (2 Cor. 5:14).  This was a good kind of crazy.  He was being used by Jesus to continue the ministry that Jesus had started– the establishment of the Kingdom of God. 

I believe it is a far deeper insanity, that seals up the truth and the light and keeps it away from unbelievers.  It is crazy to know total forgiveness and unconditional love, and then to avoid opportunities to share that same love. Now, that is crazy! Our fear of being ostracized and mocked, is an intense experience. Peer pressure is not just something our teens go through. We are always in danger of being molded into the World’s image.

Who are we?  Our Lord and Master was vilified, He was falsely accused of insanity.  But perhaps, it is the other way around.  Perhaps it is this world, and its bondages and sicknesses that is ill.  You must decide.

bry-signat (1)Please see this link: “Who is Jesus? http://www.whoisjesus-really.com/english/claims.htm

 

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Catching Hearts Like Fish

Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 

–Matthew 4:19

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The invitation to these fishermen was a ‘call’ to Himself. 

This is critical for us to note.  Jesus is not directing them to a broad set of religious ethics.  He is calling them to follow Him.  He is the exclusive Savior of everyone who needs a Savior.  We follow a man, not an idea.

There is also the intertwining of two distinct issues: That of evangelism, and that of discipleship.  The church for centuries has split these two, allowing them to be seen separately, and it hasn’t been healthy. These two distinct callings are to be welded together as one.

Typically we are focused on one or the other. People will gravitate to their giftings or temperament. But there is a potent strength when discipleship is paired with evangelism. We need disciples who can evangelize; and evangelists who are also disciples.

Jesus seeks people who will connect with Him.  He was looking through the throngs of those on the lake shore.  He probably watched several people before making His decision to extend His call.  He needs followers, like a steam engine needs coal.  I’m sure there was other possibilities.  What a joy though, to be asked to follow Him, by Him!  How empty life would be to decline on His offer and go back to the fishing nets.  I guess you can know too much, and it “ruins” you forever.

There is a sense of the comedic here in His call.  Jesus is suggesting that He will be teaching these veteran fisherman how to fish.  It’s apparent that these wizened men of the sea, had been fishing since they were mere boys.  Jesus essentially orders that Peter and Andrew stop what they were doing and follow, now.  Jesus would teach them “human fishing”– catching men!

By following, their old way would be forfeited.  They could not do both, (but they did try and once even followed Peter back to the old life).  But a separation happens as hearts and minds become set apart on the invitation, and then jump out of the boat on to the beach.

Jesus would teach these men.  They would learn the most critical and vital truths ever communicated on this planet.  Their classroom would follow them, and their instructor was eminently qualified and supremely gifted.  These new followers will ‘rock’ their world.  They would truly become, ‘Fishers of Men’.

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