Your Shepherd, Forever

 1-3 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.

Psalm 23, Message

The Lord wants to escort you to someplace wonderful, it’s where there is a rich rest and a sweet intimacy– in spite of fierce conflict.  Everything you need is revealed in Psalm 23, and it’s beautiful.

It is more than good poetry. It’s a way of life.

There is a preciousness just beyond our ‘status quo.’  It is abundant life for eternity.  When you have apprehended it, you will understand what I am talking about, and wonder why you’ve missed it for so long. Eternal life has already begun even though many of us don’t walk as if it did. We have eternal life, right here—right now!

There is a place which we can enter where Jesus is all there is. 

His dear presence pervades everything, and there is no doubt about His lordship.  He rules completely, and He is “all-in-all.” A believer who is filled with the Holy Spirit knows this.

There’s evidence when you have appropriated this deeper life. There will be a surrender of all you have, and you will fully understand what it truly means to be His follower and part of Jesus’flock.  There will be a complete renunciation of all rights to yourself.  With an insurmountable joy, you will give it all up just to walk with Him.

Live on earth as if you’ve already died, and are now living in heaven with Him.

There must be a definite place to turn your rights over to Him. Perhaps His love has already pressed you into this.  Often there will be disillusionment and cynicism about this planet and its ugly ways.  You want to escape all its dullness and jadedness.  You will step into ‘life-effervescent.’  He intends to walk you through many issues, but if He is close I will suggest you trust Him fully.

If you struggle with a mental illness: clinical depression, bipolar, anxiety issues, or schizophrenia, I want to reassure you, that you are not a “lesser” Christian.  And my comments include you.  You are not on the ‘scrap heap’ of the Spirit.  In so many ways, you can enter in while ordinary people will struggle.  And you do need to step into this and discover a life worth living.

A “Psalm 23 life” is yours for the asking. Take it up, humbly and true. It’s your birthright to be with your Shepherd forever.

On Being Loved More Gently (My Disability)

There will be no wheelchairs, canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven. Outside the gates, there will be a huge pile of crutches.

Some of us have been struggling with mental or physical illness.  Some people don’t understand and they walk away.  This really hurts, and we can isolate ourselves even more.  We feel not only forsaken but even “cursed” by God. But these things shouldn’t separate us from our Father’s love.  (He loves “his special needs” children even more?)

We believe that our transformation is happening, more and more, into the image of Christ.  We are becoming like him (hence the word, Christlikeness).  This is a long process, but it is happening!  (Philippians 1:6). God has given his word.  Don’t give up. It may take years, or maybe taking just a few moments.

I believe he understands us perfectly.

I’m seeing lately that spiritual growth and getting older often work hand-in-hand (and why shouldn’t they?)  Often as we get older, we’ll start having many different issues.  When you’re 60 years old, you don’t have the same situations that you had when you were 30.  Physically we grow and understand things differently, and this works into us spiritually. 

Becoming older (and hopefully wiser) we will blend discipleship and age together, especially when the Word and Spirit are present.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”  

“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 1:3-6, NLT

It is my wish for you that you could walk in your own shoes, and not somebody else. Also that you would know the grace of God intimately. Being disabled means special efforts will often be necessary, but Jesus’ love for your soul will be molded to fit that disability. There will be no wheelchairs or canes, or even ‘seeing-eye dogs’ allowed in heaven.

I like to imagine that there will be a considerable pile outside the gates. Glory awaits.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Romans 8:18

 

‘Sunning Ourselves in the Smiles of God’

kites

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 can feel it tugging on the line.”

Like the kite, we can’t see heaven with our eyes, but we can feel it tugging at our souls!

As a person with a mental illness, it’s easier in some ways to think about that place I am journeying to.  Through many cycles of 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. This place is going to be good, and that’s just the start!

 Heaven is described as:

  1. a great reward, Col 3:24
  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
  6. a complete and total healing, Rev 21:3-4

I sometimes 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 things I can think of.  To take off my depression, like a heavy coat on a warm day. To sit with Jesus in a cool garden with living water, that’s more refreshing than any iced tea. Eternity is my favorite things 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, bipolar or any other handicap. There is a day coming, when we will forget the challenging battles that we’ve had to face. Wait for it.

And I must tell you, with all the strength I can muster–take hope and just journey one more day, and go ahead, dream about heaven.

Love, Bryan

 

More Bumble Than Believer, [Aging]

A Bumble with a tender heart

It’s strange getting older. It’s not for the faint of heart. 

A whirlwind of days and nights swirl from this human drama, and I think I may be starting thinking about my exit— Lord willing, stage right.

I’m supposed to be a ‘veteran’ now– a mature believer.  I’m not supposed to get stressed.  However, age is a brutal teacher– and it seems we have to learn so dang fast, it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. (Just the other day three teeth almost came out from the blast.)

Getting old is great in some ways. I only wish I could do it more gracefully.

On top of it all, it seems to me like my sin has poisoned the air that others must breathe.  I have contaminated so much. You might just say, I have ‘soured’ everyone’s milk.  “Learning to live with the  regrets” is a class that we should add to the local high school’s curriculum. It certainly would be useful.

A old friend is celebrating her birthday so I volleyed a semi serious “tongue and cheek” regret at her.  But then, I suddenly realized that there is a point when we realize that behind every older person, is someone else wondering what the hell has happened, and how did it get this way so fast? It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

As a Christian, I tentatively believe that this world I’m in, has folded open for me, and God has specified a direction.  I do contend though, unbelief is easier on a certain level, but I do not intend to take any detours.  Perhaps the real trick about reading a map in the car is that you most likely won’t get it folded back the same way ever again.  You must learn to accept this. And as a rule, maps seldom reveal the best detours.

“Even as you grow old and your hair turns gray,
    I’ll keep carrying you!
    I am your Maker and your Caregiver.
    I will carry you and be your Savior.”

Isaiah 46:4

I must admit to having a connection to “Bumble”, that crazy, loveable, abominable snowman in one of those schlocky, animated children TV classics from my youth.  I guess I identify with that ‘misfit’ yeti– someone who finally sees the light, but only when all his teeth are pulled!  Somewhere in that show he seemed almost good,  but didn’t we all wonder for a while if he would come around or not?

I  also wonder about the thief on the cross who got his ticket punched by Jesus at the last possible moment.  When we finally make it to heaven, we will find him there laughing and celebrating like everyone else, just like he belonged.  I guess grace does that to a person.

“What does it matter?  All is Grace”

— Georges Bernanos. Diary of a Country Priest

bry-signat (1)

(Check out my other blog on the Red Letters of Jesus. I post fairly regular there.)

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