Everything is Broken

 

man-is-born-to-trouble-as-the-sparks-fly-upward-quote-1I’m really sad today.  There are just too much hurts, too many casualties, too many victims.  Job’s own reflection was that “man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward” [not really sure I know what the last part means, but the first part is perfectly clear].

We are all citizens of this fallen world.  It seems we go through life like a bull in a china shop.  We don’t move very gracefully and we break a lot of things just trying to move through it.  No matter how hard we try we always make a mess of it. I’d like to think of it as moving through life sideways. We go through crashing and smashing.

There is no place in the Bible where God promises us a “trouble-free” journey to heaven, a journey without pains, hassles and the problems of life.  If you are hearing anything else, I strongly suggest finding another voice to listen to.

“Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. “

— Michael Yaconelli

We all have flawed lives.  Everything gets tangled up and messy.

Our very best efforts give us little hope at resolving these things.  We are agitated by our personal failure and we often feel God is angry with us.  The really hard part is the incessant voices from the sidelines that announce our failures and flaws to everyone. Satan has a cruel and a vicious ministry of hate directed right at you.

These terrible things are redeemed by the Holy Spirit.  He loves failures and weaklings.  When we finally realize we are flawed, he then places something real into our hearts.  In our weakness we finally become strong.  We become authentic.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”  (Matthew 5:4).

Be kind to everyone today, each person you meet. For all of us are fighting the same battle. Please, be kind.

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Five Barn Burners

 

“Barnburning for Dummies”

There are some who may not understand the term, but back on the farm in Wisconsin, “barnburning” meant one of two things:

1. A person who burns down a barn, (obviously literal.)
2. Something amazing or noteworthy. To be strong, impressive, or of interest, (metaphorical.)

The following verses have made a tremendous influence on me. Here are five “barn burners” — incendiary verses that have directed me and given me support in challenging times.  I hope at least one will fire up your heart.

It is a challenge to limit myself to just these five, so much has blessed me over 40 years–I should have at least 500.  Scraping up five was really not the problem, there could be so many more.

So here are five which have made a definite impact on my thinking. (I reserve the right to change my mind as necessary, LOL.) All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV), such as it is. Get ready for some “spiritual napalm.”

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ONE: “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

This is a very precise chapter in my mind.  A great deal of attention is given to Paul and Barnabas’ relationship to the people.  At first, they are deified, but moments later the crowds pick up rocks to stone him.  However Paul’s message to the local church was impressive.  He strengthens, and he encourages.  The reality of difficulty and tribulation has become the very doorway for them to come into the kingdom.  This encourages me, and helps me in the conflicts I deal with.

 


 

TWO: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

This verse tells me of God’s commitment to me.  First, I’m part of a little flock.  Nothing of any significance.  The world evaluates me, but I’m just a simple guy involved with a simple group of people, nothing more.  However in this verse, fear is the primary issue.  “Fear not, little flock.”  Our fear is supposed to be eradicated and extracted.

The word “pleasure” is an interesting choice of words.  We understand pleasure, or at least we think we do.  This verse implies that the Father has put into play His intensity. Pleasure is often a way of doing intensity.  God is “ultra-involved” and is exceptionally extravagant in His treatment of us.  We are brought into this place of grace, by His kindness and grace.  He can’t wait to pour out his love on us.

 


 

THREE:   “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Phil. 1:6

What confidence!  That is a vital ingredient in our lives,  this confidence and boldness.  Our God is active in bringing us to a deeper place of  maturity.  Paul understands this, and uses God’s diligence as the basis for his growth.  This verse is a real confidence builder for me.  A promise that He will continue His work in me, no matter what.  This is a great promise for young Christians.  I often look at my own issues, and I give up after I accrue a certain frequency–a certain “sin-ratio.”

Shortly before I became a Christian, I spent a lot of time with Fred Tsholl who was the night-shift announcer at a nearby Christian radio station.  He was so patient and kind to me.  I would sit with him in the studio, all night long.  When it was time for me to leave he would quote this verse to me.  Looking back, this verse became quite significant.  I would take it as a promise from the Lord Himself.

 


 

FOUR:  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7

‘Jars of clay,’ really nothing more than this.  We are weak and vulnerable, we so easily can be broken.  But a treasure, I don’t think we grasp the value of treasure.  But, if it resides in us, we become a repository of great significance.  This magnificent work is not of our own effort.  It belongs to God.  It is nothing we can claim from any working on our part.

 


 

FIVE: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness,
   leaning on her beloved?” Song of Sol. 8:5

This world is a tangled place, it is a dense and difficult wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be a smooth road anywhere.  We make our way slowly, through much suffering and personal doubt.  This particular verse gives me an assurance of His presence, even in the middle of hardship and challenge.  He is present with me.

We come up out of this ugliness, precisely because of that close presence.  We lean on the Lord, as we traverse this hard place.  His dear presence will bring us through this darkness, He gives me the amazing strength to do this journey.

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The Blessings of a Long Battle, Part 3

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From Jonathan Coe’s website at http://www.openheavensblog.com/. Thank you gracious brother! (I’m so glad you are my friend.)

As I look over the last two posts on the blessings of a long battle, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians about the importance of not being ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (II Corinthians 2:11). After reading those posts, I realized a word of balance was needed in discussing the relationship of formulaic Christianity to spiritual practices lest the devil distort the truth to his advantage.

Both posts encouraged the believer to move beyond canned formulas to a restful trust in and radical dependence on Christ. A common formula for someone who finds themselves in a protracted struggle with sin, weakness, or some thorn in the flesh is “Read the Bible, pray, and attend church and that will solve your problem.”

These are wonderful spiritual practices but the problem is that people begin to trust in the formula more than the Person who can heal their inner leper. The formula can become a religious idol.

The biblical view of spiritual practices (prayer, Scripture study, church attendance, fellowship, fasting, meditation, and the sacraments) is that they are both avenues of renewal and bridges to intimacy with the Living God. They are sacramental; they are a means of grace.

Christ is the Vine; we are the branches. One of the primary ways that the branches stay connected to the Vine is through spiritual practices. That is how we abide in him and apart from abiding in him, we can do nothing.

This next part is crucial, and, if you only get one thing out of this post, this is it: when the believer gets frustrated enough to forsake impotent formulas, the devil’s primary agenda then is to get that person to forsake authentic, life–giving spiritual practices too.

That’s why the Christian should ask for wisdom every day so that he or she can tell the difference between the two. Satan is more than happy to allow us to forsake the false as long as we don’t replace it with the real.

It’s part of the human condition that, in our anger and frustration, we often throw out the wheat with the chaff. And a person who is involved in a long, difficult battle is going to need all the grace–filled spiritual practices they have time for!

I’m convinced that when the devil sees a believer, who is involved in a long battle, leave anemic formulas and begin to become engaged in regular, soul–nourishing spiritual practices, it fills him with uncontrollable rage. He will come to that Christian with many false voices in an effort to separate the branch from the Vine. Here’s a small sampling:

  • “ You tried this religious stuff before and you still have the same addiction/weakness/problem. What makes you think it’s going to work this time?”
  • “If you have your quiet time with God in the morning when you don’t feel like it, you’re being a phony. You should only do it when you feel like it.”
  • “If your quiet time with God becomes a regular thing, it will become a dead religious ritual. You don’t want to become legalistic. Keep things spontaneous. Just do it when your heart moves you to do it.”
  • “Regular spiritual practices aren’t the real you. You can find God in every day life without them in a way that fits your personality.”
  • “You’re a person of action not of contemplation. You get things done without all this navel–gazing and spiritual stuff.”

These are just a few plays out of the devil’s playbook. May God give us the discernment to recognize his voice and the wisdom to reject his counsel.

Reposted from http://www.openheavensblog.com/. Thank you Jonathan for your great teaching.

When Truth Meets Love

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“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’

And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

Rev. 3:17, NLT

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If you would come to me and speak this boldly, I’d run you off.  “You have no right speaking to me in this way!”  Our personal relationships are essentially based on “boundaries.”  My continuing friendship with you is based to a large degree on your respecting these social rules and restrictions. We look to social protocol to guide us.

God is the only one we would allow to speak to us so boldly and directly (and even then it’s still unwelcome).

Self-sufficiency has become the specific goal of the speaker, it is how he measures a respectable Christian life.  Respectability however, is a disturbing development for simple believers.  “I don’t need a thing.”  Within our hearts there is a hunger to be independent.  Self-sufficiency and pride are disturbing thought processes for simple disciples.

There is a delusion that is quite prevalent– we may feel that we have arrived.  We finally are capable of something important.  We have done all the necessary things, we have jumped through all the hoops, and have “made it.”  It somehow feels like we have accelerated the sanctification process.  Much of this comes from a feeling of being ‘spiritually exceptional.’

Jesus is confrontive.  He will not diminish the truth, to spare our feelings.  I think that that is quite remarkable.  We esteem and value honesty, but when it is focused on us it seems difficult.

“You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).

None of these five words would we use to describe ourselves. Let’s consider them anyway:

  1. wretched– terrible, very bad
  2. miserable– unhappy, depressed
  3. poor– lacking sufficient resources
  4. blind– sightless, without vision
  5. naked– bare, without covering

These five words that describe the “real” position of the believer in pride.  These five words dismantle us, stripping us of our lies.  We have evaluated ourselves and discovered that we must be exceptional believers. (Perhaps my innate specialness is true after all!)

Twenty years ago my wife and I took an evaluation for placement in a language school.  I assumed I was quite exceptional, but two hours later I was told that I failed the test and would be assigned to the lowest level for the rest of the semester.  I was shocked!  And my dear wife, was put into the highest. What a blow to my pride!

“We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ.”

Eph. 4:15

He reaches out to us because He loves us profoundly.  It is a love that is not based on any kind moral performance.  However, it is quite necessary for us to step into the piercing light, and an intense desire to enter reality.  It is difficult for us to slough off the lies, and to understand what is true.  Trust me, Jesus speaks nothing but the truth, and He loves us while He does it.

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A Retrograde Faith

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ret·ro·grade

  [re-truh greyd]  (ret·ro·grad·ed, ret·ro·grad·ing.)

adjective

1. moving backward; having a backward motion or direction; retiring or retreating.
2. inverse or reversed, as order.
3. Chiefly Biology. exhibiting degeneration or deterioration.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 16 Jul. 2013. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/retrograde>.
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24 “But my people would not listen to me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward.”

–Jeremiah 7:24, NLT
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I seldom seek out things like this to write about. In my 30 years following the Lord Jesus, I have been bludgeoned more than a few times by people wielding Jeremiah like a cudgel. Mostly, these are good people who I liked and honored. (But maybe they had too much coffee that day, IDK.)
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But there is a real issue here. Many who start out strong and brave end up on the scrap heap. Somehow, I suppose they were never able to tune their “ear” to His voice. But to be really honest– this can be a hard thing. And many of these dear ones end up with a retrograde walk in the Spirit. They would deny this, but if we look for a passion, we will see that a “first love” it will be absent.
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That passion is the pulse, the blood pressure of a walk that is so vital and so authentic. We can measure our own walk by this singular means– “first-love.”  Rev. 2:4-5 shouts to us,
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“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” 
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A retrograde faith may not deny Him, but it can often draw us into the place where our denial isn’t necessary. And that I suppose may be the scariest part of becoming apostate. We just slip; we slip right off of the map into an “almost-discipleship.” We would never dream of speaking an outright denial (never, ever) but we end up in this grey zone, nevertheless.
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I have no desire to manipulate you through nice sounding words and phrases. But I feel duty bound to tell you up-front. Having a “first-love” will protect you. A “first-love” will cover you and lead you through many diverse issues. Revelation 2 was the Father’s plea to a Church that had seemingly advanced in every way. (As a pastor I would have loved to oversee this Church.) But the Father spoke a clear word of correction to them. And  I’m sure that it was hard to accept.
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The “retrograde Church” exists. Unfortunately, it is alive and well, but we must share with these dear ones about the true freedom which comes from the “first-love” relationship with the Lord Jesus. Our love for Him, and His love for us will protect us from something that goes “backward” and not forward. I can only say, love Jesus, and make Him your “first-love.”
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“Whom should we love, if not Him who loved us, and gave himself for us?  –Unknown

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ybic, Bryan

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When Sin Brutalizes You

Detail of Painting by Rembrandt, “Return of the Prodigal Son”

There are three things for certain.

#1 You will never forget your sins.

#2 God has forgotten them.

#3 The Devil will try very hard to condemn you for your past.

 

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There are some days that are harder then others.  You see, I have lived profligately, harmed many, and influenced others to do evil.  I have wounded and hurt people very deeply.  There are days when I have this mental image of myself– I’m a ‘Fountain of Feces’ spewing and polluting my filth to anyone passing by.

But I am also the Prodigal.  I’ve squandered everything.  It’s gone.  I’ve been to the pig pen.  Filthy and starving.  Coming to my senses, I decide to return home, and sell myself to the employ of Him I once called “Father.”

But the most outrageous thing has happened.  It is so wildly fantastic that it defies any reason.    (I hardly dare to think it real).  The man who I once called “Father” refuses to listen to my list of sins.  He has embraced me, dressed me, established me as a son.  I have new shoes, and a signet ring.

I am a wonder to behold. A feast of unparalleled joy is waiting.  I pinch myself– is this really happening to me?  Those days in the pig pen, what a stupid waste.  I want to weep and shout for joy– all at the same time!  It doesn’t seem real.

The subject of my grossness and sin has been forgotten.  I have not been interrogated or punished.  (Since then, I’ve learned that Someone else took this on.)  But my perversity and my iniquity has never, ever been discussed.  Their is no list of my sin, no cataloging has taken place.  The promises tell me that my past sin has been put on a big barge, and shipped to the deepest part of the ocean– and dumped!

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Micah 7:19

As critical-thinking believers, with just a modicum of divine truth, what we do with our personal sin is huge.  It determines much about our walk.  We function out of our past.  The plant is rooted in something.  But our Father has turned our prodigal past into our personal future of total redemption.

Look at your greatest pain.  The Holy Spirit will very likely take that deep, deep bruise and turn it into your greatest ministry.  And He does it without resorting to a list of your ugly, ugly sin.  You see, He has already forgotten it.

“The question is who are we going to side with? God says our sins are past, cleansed, and gone. You cannot go on with God until you stand on His Word as cleansed with the heart made pure.”  

Smith Wigglesworth

ybic,

Bryan (the Prodigal)

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Worship is All that Really Matters

Art by Lynda Finch

He leads us in His dance, Lynda Finch

“Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them.” 

Mark 2:19

This whole idea of celebrating is often at odds with religious sensibilities.  “Too much liberty and too much freedom, and not enough control.  People won’t know how to behave, and it’ll ruin everything.” This argument has been used for generations, and will continue to perpetuate itself.

People just don’t know what to do when the presence of Jesus becomes activated in their midst.

There is a wedding!  Like all weddings this alters the present status-quo.  “We interrupt life for this special announcement– JESUS is getting married!”  He has attached Himself to a bride, she is simple, and yet beautiful.  Room is made for the outcasts and mentally ill. For she is the Church, made up of rascals and ragamuffins who have had their many sins forgiven! All are invited.

We are limited our religious duty of fasting.  It is definitely not appropriate in the light of this good news.  Simply put, we cannot advance our religious reputation in this new environment. It’s not about us at all!  Joy has taken over, and we can do nothing but stand in wonder. Jesus Christ has become “all, and in all”.

To follow Jesus must mean we are people of joy and celebration!  The old concepts of religious effort are nullified, plain and simple.  It really isn’t required, but it is understood that we will rejoice.  We will begin to party!

Joy is to infuse our understanding, and it will lift us to the place where life becomes infected with the contagion of heaven.  It is an epidemic spreading to every believer. The Universe has become the stage when worship is the only solution to the history of man.

His Presence has tipped the scales, and He has formulated Himself as the center of the whole ‘kit and caboodle.’  A joyful romance is at the very essence of everything.  C.S. Lewis once said that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

When it all comes down, we are transferred into the status of the amazed.  What has happened has caused us to take a breath, and step back in wonderment.  Jesus is the Revolution!  We are brought to the place where we belong, we are nothing more than  witnesses and participants in His exaltation.  We must rejoice in the joy of the Bridegroom!

 ybic, Bryan

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