A Savior of “Crazy People”

“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”

1 Thess. 5:5

My testimony of the grace of God:

A year before I received Christ as my Savior, I was hospitalized in a U.S. Army psychiatric ward.  My uniform was replaced with the distinctive attire of a mental patient.  Ironically, I’d been attached to the same hospital working on the pediatric floor.  And to make things only slightly more surreal was that a medic there on the psych ward was someone I bought drugs from!

Previous to this hospitalization, I had dropped two hits of LSD and found myself in an awful mess.  It was night and I was hallucinating heavily.  I had lost control of my thoughts.  I had pretty much flipped out  and it entered my drug saturated brain that the darkness would kill me that very night!

Utterly convinced I was going to die, my mind seized upon the street lights. 

If I could stay in that illuminated circle I could escape dying that night!  The light would save me.  I stood under that street light for several hours.  As I stood I could see very clearly the boundary between the light and the dark.  I knew I was safe as long as I didn’t wander, but I was trapped.

Despite that traumatic experience, the drugs and my mental instability continued to slide. 

I was shooting up cocaine, crossing my “no needle rule.”  I also became quite the heavy drinker, with Jack Daniels for breakfast.  I had one basic rule though.  As a medic who worked in maternal/child health, I had the best assignment in the Army.  Many people coveted it, and I was not going to endanger it by drugs or alcohol. 

I never went on duty loaded.  It was my rule. I would be the best medic the Army ever had.

Shortly after my psych ward discharge, I was reassigned to Labor & Delivery on the night shift.  One slow time I was pulled from my duty there to go on an ambulance run as the medic in charge.  We were called to officer’s housing were an older man had died in bed. This got me thinking.  Back at the hospital I returned to L&D.  On the way back I took a shortcut through a ward on another floor.  That’s when I found it!

On a waiting room table was a small book called, “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell.  I picked it up, reading it right on duty because there were no one in the delivery room.  By the end of my shift I was well on my way to becoming a Christian.  It was a book solidly speaking of the light, and of the dark.  And I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t remain in the dark anymore.

I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in June of 1982. 

I became a born again believer shortly after that.  I went to Bible College that October.  Life has become radically different, and over time I became a missionary and a pastor. 

All I can tell you is that Jesus is real, he is alive and the Bible is true.  I have translated from the dark to the light, and I am not afraid anymore.  Jesus is my light.

“The people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light.
And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,
    a light has shined.”

Matthew 4:16

Some Very Good Links:

“How to be Saved,” gotquestions

The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness,” brokenbelievers.com

Alaska Bible Institute, my Bible College, (a great school)

“More Than a Carpenter”, by Josh McDowell, (check it out on Amazon) 

 

The Coming Train Wreck, [Future Events]

”The Lord helps them,
    rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
    and they find shelter in him.

Psalm 37:40, NLT

We are witnessing something awful and terrible.  Our society is being destroyed.  We are just bystanders, there is really nothing we can do.  However, the survivors will need our assistance.  So we will wait for the inevitable crash, and our chance to bring our Savior’s love into the awful melee which will follow.

Things are accelerating. 

This heightens the tension, which pervades our lives.  We make assumptions of the upcoming derailment which may, or may not be accurate.  But we all sense something dreadful and foreboding is approaching.

Something evil this way comes.  It’s seems that it is inevitable.  They say that just before a big thunderstorm, the birds head for safety, they disappear.  The birds know, while we are still trying to connect the dots.  We look to the skies, and anticipate a coming danger.

The crisis that is coming will stagger the unbeliever. It will challenge the believer.

As Christian believers, we must ready ourselves.  Our viewpoint of eternity will become a much needed commodity for those who go through the devastation of the train wreck.  It is what will pull us through some black and bleak times.  But we can ask for grace, not just to help us, but to help them.

When the storm gets close, the best we can do is to head for the “storm cellar.”  As a boy, growing up in the Midwest, I have clear and distinct memories of heading for that basement shelter, with my family.  When a massive event is coming and seen on the horizon, the only thing we can do is find shelter.  To choose to hide, and to take cover can only be prudence, and wisdom.

While things are collapsing, we need to find solace in His shelter. 

His wings shelter us, and we find refuge in that intimate place.  So much news is grim, and we can so easily slip into depression and despair.  We look around, and turn directly to the wings that cover us.  We are protected and sheltered in that place. The metaphor perfectly fits perfectly.

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.”

Psalm 91:1-2

We should rest our souls in Him. 

Some may look at everything coming down and decide to step right into storm to shut it down.  But it can’t stop, it is of the Lord.  Quite a few of the prophets in the Old Testament saw and knew what was going to happen.  They couldn’t do anything against Babylon or Assyria.  But with their voices they strengthened and encouraged God’s own against an outrageous brutality. That is a good thing.

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Grabbing On to Psalm 27

This is a bit of a longish post. My apologies.

This post is a perfect Psalm for broken believers and rascals–those who struggle to believe. We can understand because we each have encountered very difficult things–hard things. So buckle up, here are my comments on Psalm 27. I really hope that they might help you through your personal mess:

Light, space, zest—
    that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
    afraid of no one and nothing.

When vandal hordes ride down
    ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
    fall flat on their faces.

Man alive, we tolerate so much darkness. But the believer understands that God not only chooses him/her, but protects them. And yes, there is going to be a difficulty, that much I understand. I can’t or won’t sugarcoat this.

“Vandal hordes;” and “bullies and toughs” are motivated by darkness–Satan’s kingdom. The psalmist David sees trouble up ahead, he’s very real here and definitely not a ‘pie-in-the-sky’ optimist. But he’s very much convinced of their defeat.

When besieged,
    I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
    I’m collected and cool.

I’m asking God for one thing,
    only one thing:
To live with him in his house
    my whole life long.
I’ll contemplate his beauty;
    I’ll study at his feet.

There exists a place of safety for David. He’s being blasted by the enemy, but in that place, he finds “calmness.” He’s protected and wears spiritual body armor. Wearing that we discover that he’s bullet-proof, for he wears a vest of spiritual steel.

The house of God is crucial, and he wants to live in it, to “contemplate” the wonder of the Spirit of God. David sees it as his castle that stands in resistance against all those who want to destroy him. And believe me, it is his complete focus.

He injects the word “study” which tells us that he’s found Someone that teaches him the things he needs.

That’s the only quiet, secure place
    in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
    far from the buzz of traffic.

God holds me head and shoulders
    above all who try to pull me down.
I’m headed for his place to offer anthems
    that will raise the roof!
Already I’m singing God-songs;
    I’m making music to God.

Outside the Church, there is very little that can protect a straying believer. David is very much aware that the world is a noisy place (v. 55). But he knows that the very presence of God is a place of quiet and security, it’s “the perfect getaway,” that exists for everyone who believes.

Worship is critical here.

I think it not only exalts and glorifies God but it also is the best way of protecting himself. David is exuberant here, he can hardly contain himself! Perhaps we really don’t understand–it seems rather excessive–may be too zealous for us.

In v. 6 we see the spiritual effort of God holding David in place. He understands that there are many who are trying their best “to pull” him away from the security of God.

7-9 Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
    “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
    my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
    Don’t hide from me now!

9-10 You’ve always been right there for me;
    don’t turn your back on me now.
Don’t throw me out, don’t abandon me;
    you’ve always kept the door open.
My father and mother walked out and left me,
    but God took me in.

Wow! “the top of my lungs” is pretty intense. The passage speaks of seeking–that’s the key of this whole thing. To be an authentic seeker has to be a “heart” issue, and never a brain thing. Heart followers know the difference.

And the presence of God is David’s entire focus. There’s a very real plea for us as well. One of his petitions here is “don’t hide from me now.” As a New Testament guy, I know that it isn’t really possible. See John 14:15-17.

What incredible security we have!

If you’re struggling, like David did, you’re in good hands. Even though it seems like God is distant, He’s not. “God took me in” is a statement of real faith. David knows that the Father’s love is beyond the love of a father or mother.

And now the comes the finale!

11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
    direct me along a well-lighted street;
    show my enemies whose side you’re on.
Don’t throw me to the dogs,
    those liars who are out to get me,
    filling the air with their threats.

13-14 I’m sure now I’ll see God’s goodness
    in the exuberant earth.
Stay with God!
    Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.

“Point me” and “direct me” is David’s discipleship to his Father’s ways. He speaks of enemies (“dogs” and “liars”) who are trying very hard to destroy him. “Out to get me” is David’s assessment of the hard things that come.

David is convinced that God is always very good to him, he understands this. It’s the same for the NT believer, although Satan nips at our heels, God protects us–He’s on our side.

He exhorts us twice to “stay with God.”

Maybe that’s where a lot of issues come. “Don’t quit” is David’s plea. This is stated throughout Paul’s epistles written for us.

What a wonderful Psalm. So much security here (as well as the opposition). Psalm 27 is written to us rascals and inconsistent believers in Jesus. I exhort you to spiritually digest this passage. It’s yours!

Illustration: Solomon’s Temple. I’m using “The Message,” a translation by Eugene Peterson.

The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

Please bear with me. This was written in March of 2012. Right or wrong, it was where I was at with my illness. I hope it will bless, and bring hope into that situation that seems very hopeless:

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

Depression can feel hopeless.

I’ve seemed to have settled down into a blackness that defies all explanation. I’m dodging being hospitalized, and they can’t put me where I don’t want to go. I don’t want to be locked up again.

It’s the hopeless/helpless thing, a “one-two punch” that is the most devastating to me. It crushes and pulverizes until I lie in this sad pathetic mess I’ve become. Dante had it dead-on when ascribed the gates of hell with the words, Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” In hell you’ll know what despair is really like. Perhaps heaven and hell really do start here?

And there was another writer, just as clever, said something along these lines,

Shut up! Unless you have been lost in this particular section of hell before,  just be quiet.”

And perhaps we should? Nothing can trump personal experience. The survivors, if you can find them, will understand what I’m saying. It seems that that hard book of Job is finally starting to make sense.

How is it,
People fear the dark?
Not me, I’m reconciled
as every day I see
the blackness grow,
I’ve come to terms with it,
it knows I know.

–Rod McKuen, Alone

Hopelessness swirls me around and I feel like a bug going down a drain. Thoughts of suicide are becoming more concrete and despair is becoming a frequent visitor.  Mental illness is frightening. Those who have experienced it, will learn not to say anything, but pray.

Durability may ultimately prove to be the most significant factor in this “mixed state” of Bipolar Disorder that I am wandering through at the moment.  Can I outlast these demons that plague me? My irrational mind plays tricks on me, I see mirages of wholeness and peace, but they don’t seem  real. It is a big, fat lie. It is nothing but a delusion, or a trick of the brain.  And yet something inside of me steadfastly hopes for God’s grace and mercy. 

I know that Jesus has conquered the dark. I must cling to Him. I must let this darkness go. He’ll need to work this out.

Up and down, side-to-side, where it stops, no one knows?  But God…and right now He isn’t saying. Jesus hold on to me. I hold on, by faith to the promise given to me—

“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.”

Philippians 1:6

I don’t mean to be this raw. Sometimes I just let it “all hang out.” I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m too open. I just wanted you to have a picture of a “broken believer” and more so of the grace that saves me. I know He does love me.

Good Posts:

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