Praying for ‘Sophisticated’ Sheep

shaunthesheep_1837207b

 “When he saw the vast crowds of people, Jesus’ heart was deeply moved with compassion, because they seemed weary and helpless, like wandering sheep without a shepherd. He turned to his disciples and said, “The harvest is huge and ripe! But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to thrust out many more reapers to harvest his grain!

Matthew 9:36-38, TPT 

Jesus, as Lord and Savior obviously has a perspective that we don’t have.  He perceives to the very heart of people, drills right through and into the confusion and helplessness.  He is disturbed by what he sees, and is emotionally touched by the people who pass by him.  (We don’t have this perceptive, unfortunately. But hopefully we’re now learning its power.) Love sees no cost.

 Jesus responds by commanding his disciples.  “Look at them!  Pray for them!” We live in a world that is plumb full of brokenness.  No one goes unscathed.  We all have scars, everyone of us, and prayer is how we are healed.  This dynamic needs to work in us and through us.

sheep (1)But the verdict is in, we have a great soul Shepherd! There is such a great harvest, that prayer is our only hope of reaching these.  Now, there is a lot of things we rather do then pray.  We can have conferences and special meetings.  We can make videos and create TV shows on the harvest.  Most of these things are good,  they’re purposeful and probably God directed. But if we choose not to pray, then we completely ‘miss the mark.’

But the real, deep-down core is the need people have is to be shepherded by their Creator and Savior.  That is the most profound need we have.  It is the basic requirement of this moment. It can not be minimized.

Love sees no cost.

Like a shepherd, he will care for his flock,
gathering the lambs in his arms,
Hugging them as he carries them,
leading the nursing ewes to good pasture.

Isa. 40:11

This is a messianic prophecy that describes the Messiah’s work.  We believe that it continues to tell of his work among those who are disoriented and who need to escape distorted views.  Only a Shepherd could fully understand the needs of his flock.  We must share in this vision, and carry this burden.

“And Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees.”

– William Cowper

1brobry-sig4

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

How Things Happen

burst=fireworks

31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

Matthew 13:31-33, ESV

These are perhaps the three most potent verses in the entire Bible. And whenever you find “potency” you will find a strong possibility of exponential growth. It may be a steady synergy, or an explosive fission. Either way, it’s going to grow!

Both the seed and the yeast have so much in common. They are two sides of the same proverbial coin. And they represent explosive growth. If they are unleashed, watch out! They are both “pep and power” and now set loose they will take off.

The seed is put in the ground and the yeast in the flour. And the farmer and the baker both do their initial work of planting or kneading, and then they just stand back, their work is pretty much done. They now just let “nature” take its course.

These parables Jesus taught here are small— but hardly less significant because of their brevity. These two can bury you with all they imply and mean. When we think clearly about yeast in your cupboard and that single seed in its package, we should see the “life” that resides in them, and the potential that waits.

I think much about the Church. At times, I admit I get frustrated with it. I get judgmental, and fearful that it won’t survive into the next century.  I truly understand that I can be critical. At times my friends must deal with my “ugliness,” but still they put up with me. (They are true friends.)

The kingdom is growing, and advancing. I love the wonderful promise in Isaiah 9:6, (usually read at Christmas time only. A mistake.) But Isaiah 9:7 is also pretty amazing too,

“His government and its peace
    will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
    for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
    will make this happen!”

Let it grow, let it grow! 

*

ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.

Dancing With Bruises

dancers-black-swan

Bruises seem to be part of life’s package to us. Some will be serious, most minor. But each are noted, and some will just have to be endured.

Dancers are some of the most wonderful people I know. Their gracefulness can be seen both on and off the stage. A dancer’s training is far from easy. By choosing to become dancers they have made a decision to absorb pain. Their toes and feet are blistered and bruised; they take constant abuse. Some must live with chronic tendinitis. Their feet bleed sometimes, and pain is their constant companion. Two things to consider.

  • They choose to dance. Dancers have an iron-will and a elegant grace. I suppose that is why they can dance.
  • The scars and bruises often become “badges of honor.” And they wouldn’t have it any other way. They would rather dance in pain, than not to dance at all.

Someone once compared depression as a “mental bruise.” I understand this. As depressed people, we must choose to walk out our lives from this pain. I know what it is like to bury myself in my bed for several weeks. My own mental bruise was simply more than I could take. There was a sensation of sinking into blackness, a sense of total and complete despair. I felt completely lost, and completely alone.

I prayed. I groaned, and I prayed. My sense of being totally lost was beyond comprehension. Dear reader, this was something quite real, and you must become aware of these things. Some of your friends are suffering. And it is a hellish and desperate depression.dancer-feet

To my Christian friends. Yes, I believe Jesus died for all my sins. He has forgiven me of much evil, I know that will live for eternity (with you). But mental illness is real, and like other illnesses it seldom is caused by evil or Satan. We would never say that diabetics are that way because of the enemy. Now the dark one will surely exploit it, but I think you give him far too much credit if you suggest he was able to initiate it. Satan just doesn’t have the spiritual “voltage.”

So, inspired by my dancing friends, and the Holy Spirit– I will make the choice to dance again. I’m pretty bruised, but I will try to ignore the pain. I would exult in my God, walk in His love, “leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture” (Malachi 4:2.)

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory.”

Isaiah 42:3

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

Feet Finders, [Intimacy]

JesusFeetOne of the more amazing studies you can do in the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) are the people who found themselves at the feet of Jesus. Actually there is probably more than you think.

There are some common dynamics that take place by these “feet finders.”

  1. A great need- “desperation”
  2. To emphasize one’s need and true condition
  3. To ask for a healing (for self or family)
  4. To honor Jesus as God
  5. To worship more authentically
  6. To be more receptive to His teaching
  7. To witness to others

“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

Matthew 15:30, NIV

“In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.”

Mark 7:25

“And the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

Luke 8:35

In fact, there are several other instances where people came to Jesus’ feet.

  • Mark 5:22-23, Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue
  • Luke 7:37-38, a sorrowing mother for her daughter
  • Luke 8:41, also Jairus
  • Luke 10:39, Mary, when Jesus was teaching
  • John 11:32, Mary, meeting Jesus entering Bethany
  • John 12:3, Mary, with her perfume
  • Revelation 1:17, John to express what he was seeing (also 19:10)

In every case we find people consciously coming and kneeling at the feet of the Lord Jesus. It was a deliberate action coming from their hearts. Each had a need, custom built for this precise moment in time.

One of the classic scenes in the Gospels is when Mary meets Jesus. She doesn’t understand His delay, she is grieving and confused. But she only has one posture and one place in her heart to be– at the feet!

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32

Being at the feet is not supposed to be a mindless exercise. She maintains her issues with Jesus re: Lazarus. But this questioning came from her knees. The issues could never take the place of her love and her honor. But I think she is an example of how our problems can coincide with a real faith.

One might say that she had every right to take up an issue of incompetence and neglect with Jesus. Much should be made of the fact that Jesus been briefed on Lazarus’ illness much earlier. And yet He purposefully delayed going to Bethany. Maybe Jesus never responds to crisis; but people in need.

To be honest with you, I have my own occasional controversies with God. I have gone through hard things that really needed His attention. I have cried and begged to no avail. I’ve tried to negotiate and manipulate and it doesn’t work.

But even there, there is found a place for me at His feet. It is where I belong. I love Him.

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

*

Impulsive Peter

Peter was the magnificent failure.  But I’m grateful for his story.  As we examine his life and his actions and decisions, we see a man who was so much like us.  I relate and understand Peter more then any other disciple in the New Testament.  He was so real. He was so impulsive. He spoke before he thought, jumped in without looking and acted without thinking it through. Let’s take a look at Peter’s life after he met Jesus.

1) Peter, the fisherman-– When Jesus came to where  the boat was kept, Peter latched on immediately to become a disciple.  Jesus said, “Follow Me” and that is all Peter needed to hear.  (Matt 4:18-20; Matt. 14:25-31).

2) Peter, the bold-– There was a situation on a boat in a terrible storm.  It was between 3:00 am and 6:00 am.  These men are desperately exhausted, and they were still three miles from safety.  They suddenly see what appears to be a ghost, walking through the vicious storm to the boat.  It is Jesus!  He is walking on water, as if it were a sidewalk!

Peter shouts out– “Lord, if it is really you, allow me to leave this boat and let me come to you!”  Peter steps out of the boat, and begins to walk– on water!  But the wind whipping frightened him, and he began to sink.  We see Jesus, reaching out to grab Peter, to save him from drowning.  Before we judge him too harshly, how many of us would do what Peter did?

3) Peter, the confessor— Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was. Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus’ deity as the Son of the living God. (Matt. 16:15-16)

4) Peter, the witness— Peter, along with James and John, have been chosen to accompany Jesus to go up to a mountain top to pray.  When they arrive, something happens to Jesus.  He is ‘transfigured’, His clothes shimmer and turn white.    Then Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Jesus. Being a man of action and not knowing what else to do, Peter offered to build shelters for the three holy men. An authoritative voice from heaven let him know that this was a time to worship, and to learn (Matt 17:1-4, Luke 9:28-36).

5) Peter, the reluctant one— Just before their last Passover, Jesus starts acting strange.  He strips off His outer garments, until He is down to His underwear.  He fills a basin with water, grabs a towel, and then begins to wash everyone’s feet.  He has become the servant to His disciples.  And Jesus will declare that this specific path is for every disciple that will follow.  Peter is incensed, and declares himself to be immune from this claim.

6) Peter, the boaster— Jesus explains that the disciples cannot follow Him.   Peter boasted that he would lay down his life for Jesus. This brought Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny Him three times that very night. I wonder what Peter thought about this. He may have found it hard to believe, but we know that Jesus never lies.

When Jesus is arrested, Peter follows the cohort into the Temple.  It is at this point, Peter begins to outright deny Jesus.  It seems Peter can’t vocalize any support for His teacher and master.  In his craven fear, Peter denies Him who spoke and taught him.  How very sad,  (John 13 and 18).

7) Peter the repentant— Jesus appeared to them again by the Sea of Gaililee.  It is Peter, who from his fishing boat, identifies Jesus as Jesus.  Once again, he jumps out of the boat, but this time to swim to the shore.  The others follow in the boat.  Jesus has started a fire, and fish are frying. On the shore, when they had finished eating, Jesus restores Peter. Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus three times – the same number of times he had denied Him. Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”

From that point, Peter followed Jesus closely. He went on to be a great preacher of the gospel and a leader of the church. He wrote 1st and 2nd Peter in the New Testament.  In the Book of Acts, we see Peter cooperating closely with the Holy Spirit.  His compulsiveness has been majorly modified and adapted to fit into the Kingdom.  Peter is now a man restrained and directed into God’s Kingdom.

1brobry-sig4 (2)

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-3-1

 

Becoming a Part of What is Really Real

 

195

“Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.”

Matthew 17:1-2, The Message

These three disciples belonged to the inner circle of our Lord’s friends. There must have been something in them that peculiarly endeared them to Him. We know that Peter was a leader among the apostles, and also a bold confessor; that John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved;” and that James was the first of the band to die as a martyr.

It is very encouraging to look at Peter who was admitted to such high privileges; a man with so many faults, who made so many mistakes, who even at the last shamefully denied Christ, and yet we remember that he was one of our Lord’s closest friends. It gives encouragement to us that, with all our faults, we may yet be very dear to Christ.

It does not seem so strange that John was allowed to enter the inner circle. His disposition was gentle and amiable, very much like the Master’s. Yet it is probable that John owed his sweetness and gentleness of character to his being with Jesus. It could be he was not always a man of love.

rose-little1There is a Persian fable of a piece of clay made fragrant by lying on a rose; the perfume of the rose passed into the clay. So it probably was with John. He crept into his Master’s bosom, and lay close to His heart; and his Master’s spirit of love and gentleness passed into his life and transformed it. Thus we have a lesson, too, from John: constant and loving communion with Christ will change us into His likeness.

The lesson from this choosing of three out of the whole band for peculiar privileges is that while Jesus loves all His friends, there are certain ones whom He takes into closer confidence than the others. There are degrees of nearness to Him, even in this world. Should we not strive to be among those who, by disposition and by service, win their way to the closest places? We must remember that those who serve most are chiefest. –JRM

*

kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner)
cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg
 
&
 

 

The Tabloids Were Scandalous!

scandalous‘Scandalizing is celebrated openly today. We’ll manipulate and defame so all will pretty much see our enemies as disgraceful or hypocritical. It makes me want to cry when I hear of this intimidation inside the Church. Jesus told us that this would really, truly happen. We shouldn’t be at all disturbed. To be hurt this way is very much part of being his disciple.

In Matthew 11:2-6, 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Offended. The word in our Greek N.T. is “skandalon.” It’s used in many ways, but the most amazing one is defined as, “the trigger of a trap, to kill an animal. To be the trap wire or stick used to catch prey; a snare.” We have the word scandalous, or to be involved in a vicious manipulation, scandal. Another metaphor is that it’s like the “fly paper” that’s hung up in the barn to catch those big nasty flies. 

Jesus dug up his dictionary, and chose this very specific word to communicate what he wanted. Of men and women, boys and girls caught in something they can’t get out of without help. John the Baptist, languishing in a dark place, wants to understand Jesus. John seems to expect Jesus to hop on a white stallion, and forcefully exert his messianic role.

Jesus will send his message. “You’re blessed indeed, if you do not stumble” (or get trapped) by the misconceptions. John confined in Herod’s dungeon, would be meticulously praised by Jesus. The Lord honors his own openly.

trap01

It is easy to take up offense, (whether right or wrong.) When we hear a message causing shock, anger, repulsion, or disgust; that is a pretty good indicator that you are being “scandalized.” And turn-around is fair play. We might be the scandalizer, or the victim. It happens all the time.

Are you trapping– or are you trapped? Either way we need to stop it. We can’t continue to trip others up– nor can we allow others to foist their trap on us either. The Gospel regards itself as a ‘stumbling block. For some agnostics’, Jesus is someone they keep tripping over. But for the believer, Jesus is a ‘climbing up’ stone!

Worship is the finest defense. People who stumble, or cause another to stumble are usually…

  • grim,
  • guilty,
  • and grouchy.

They become graceless and sterile in the important matters of the heart. They become rigid and bitter.

The man or woman who stands up for their faith, and who doesn’t fall away or let their zeal ‘leak away,’ is incredibly blessed. God however is ready to forgive all those who backslide and then repent, but is especially pleased with those– like John, who hold firm to the faith.

 

1brobry-sig4 (2)

 

cropped-christiangraffiti1-3