Feeding the ‘Beast’

I am by nature a rascal who cultivates pride, lust, anger and selfishness. I am inherently dishonest and can be very spiteful. There is NO WAY the beast within me can serve God. When I am acting my best I’m still a phony and a fraud! I believe I am not alone in this.

Scripture reveals that if I am to be a real disciple I must “deny myself”. There is a reason for this.   Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24, ESV).

If I attempt to be a disciple without dying, I reinterpret the terms of discipleship.   This is not possible. We trick ourself if we believe this, it is a devilish lie, demonic and it leads to eternal destruction. It can be forgiven if we repent.

For instance, we live in a generation where lust is so pervasive and acceptable that no one bats an eye at pornography. Christian men (and even pastors) are addicted to porn on the internet.  It is one of Satan’s most powerful weapon to shatter families and destroy marriages.  We don’t realize that we are committing adultery whenever  we choose porn.  We are feeding the beast. Continue reading “Feeding the ‘Beast’”

Psalm 13, Your Deliverance is Ready

Psalm 13, For the choir director: A psalm of David.

Five Questions

 1 “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?”

Nothing is as stretching and painful as the belief that God has given up on you.  I have personally experienced this misbelief.  It was like my entire nervous system was ripped out of my body.  Suicide seemed a logical thing to do.

Sometimes, the struggle to remain a believer is difficult.  It is a war, often accentuated by depression and sadness.  It’s relentless and its arena of conflict is in our hearts.  David asks five questions.  They are the questions of the besieged heart when our abandonment seems possible.

 3 “Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.”

David recognizes that he needs God’s answer.  He also needs meaning to be restored to him.  The “sparkle”, or that joy of having a purpose is what gives life meaning.  Once you taste it, nothing else will satisfy.  Verse 3 tells us that David saw this as a “life or death” matter.

Furthermore, David could see that the enemies of his soul had gathered.  They spoke with a common voice, reflecting a unified purpose, “We have defeated him!”  We must be cognizant of the reality of evil around us.  God has a will for your life, but so does Satan.  It involves your corruption and destruction.

5 “But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.”          ~~New Living Translation

We fast-forward ahead to David’s deliverance.  He has an uncommon confidence in the character of God.  David’s declaration, He rescued me and He is good to me!  Both verses 5-6 illustrate that worship finds its root in times of personal emancipation.

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Fear and Loathing

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

1 Thess. 5:5

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 as a medic on the pediatric floor.  And to make things only slightly more surreal was that one of my nurses 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 prowling outside my barracks.  I was hallucinating heavily and 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 of my impending fate, my mind seized upon the street lights.  If I could stay in that illuminated circle I could escape death!  The light would save me.  I stood under that light for a few 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.

Despite that traumatic experience, the drugs and the mental instability continued to develop.  I began to mainline cocaine, crossing my “no needle line”.  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 they had.

Shortly after my psych ward discharge, I was reassigned to Labor & Delivery on the night shift.  I was pulled from my duty and I went on an ambulance run as the medic in charge.  We were called to officer’s housing were an older man had died in bed which 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 mothers waiting for 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 on July 4, 1982.  I was in Bible College that October.  Life has become radically different, and 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

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Links:

Alaska Bible Institute, http://alaskabible.org/

“More Than a Carpenter”, by Josh McDowell http://www.amazon.com/More-Than-Carpenter-Josh-McDowell/dp/0842345523

Amazon.com Review

Since its release, More Than a Carpenter has been challenging readers to ask the question, “Who is Jesus?” Author and renowned speaker Josh McDowell acknowledges that while the topic of God is widely accepted, the name of Jesus often causes irritation. “Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius offend people? The reason is that these others didn’t claim to be God, but Jesus did.” By addressing questions about scientific and historical evidence, the validity of the Bible, and proofs of the resurrection, McDowell helps the reader come to an informed and intelligent decision about whether Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord. This short, 128-page gem does not employ fancy theological words, forsaking the layman, but reads more like an intimate research document laying out the facts with veracious accuracy, from reliable sources ranging from secular scientists to conservative seminarians. A skeptic himself for many years, McDowell always believed that Christians were “out of their minds” but now insists that “never has an individual been called upon to commit intellectual suicide in trusting Christ as Savior and Lord.” McDowell adeptly articulates fundamental answers to poignant questions that cause the skeptic to consider whether Jesus was a liar causing countless martyrs to die in his wake, a lunatic deserving death, or actually the Lord of the universe. –Jill Heatherly

The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness

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

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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.

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 hold on to Him. I must let this darkness go.

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.

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Love is On the Loose

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His Love is beyond anything we know

“Cross Jesus one too many times, fail too often, sin too much, and God will decide to take his love back. It is so bizarre, because I know Christ loves me, but I’m not sure he likes me, and I continually worry that God’s love will simply wear out.

Periodically, I have to be slapped in the face with Paul’s words in Romans 8:38-39, ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

Michael Yaconelli, “Messy Spirituality

I admit I live with a continuous fear that God’s love has limits.  That someday, I will sin myself beyond a Savior’s reach.  It nags on me and betrays me.  The fear that I will end up on some spiritual “junk heap” is real, and it is pervasive. I guess it has to do with the unbelievable richness  of God’s fantastic grace.

This doubt accentuates my depression, aggravating it and poisons my whole being.  I feel worthless and so alone.  Since my particular struggle is with paranoia, I end up bringing that with me into the throne room.  Kids who have been beaten by their fathers often visibly flinch when Dad raises his arm to scratch his head.  They cower and duck out of habit, waiting for the blows.

Our heavenly Father has gone out of his way to make the gospel truly good news.  We often have to be convinced of a love that cannot be diluted by the stuff of life.  And we who are the wounded and paranoid need that assurance.  We are loved with a love of such quality and quantity, and such magnificence that all we can scream is “GRACE!”

As broken people we must come and allow ourselves to be loved with this outrageous love.  Our depression, bipolar disorder, addictions, BPD, OCD, and schizophrenia are not insurmountable issues.  We are sick, we admit it.  We are different than other people (“the norms”).  But the Father delights in us.  He especially loves his lambs who are weak and frightened.

 

ybic, Bryan

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A Stranger to Your Holiness

Below are the lyrics to a CCM song that I listened to over and over, circa 1982-83. The album is Steve Camp‘s, “Shake Me to Wake Me“, and there are several songs of reasonable significance on it.  Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy, if you should find one, I’d be happy to take it off your hands.  You’d make this “Jesus Freak” a happy man. Even if you can’t do YouTube, I encourage you to read these lyrics as if it were a poem.

Lyrics to “Stranger To Your  Holiness,”  by Steve Camp

Looks like the boy’s in trouble again
Living much too close to the edge of sin
Now he finds himself where he should not have been
Oh God, why is Your peace so hard to find
And the answer to the questions that haunt my mind
Oh Lord, Your ways are not like mine
And it pounds like thunder within in my breast
All the anger of my humanness
And though I call You “Lord” I must confess
I’m a stranger to Your holiness, a stranger to Your holiness
Can we really be what we were meant to be
Jesus’ people, living by the Spirit and living free
My heart longs to serve, but wanders so aimlessly
Oh Lord You deserve every part of me
Hear my cry of desperation as I see the wickedness of my ways
You alone are my salvation, and Lord I’ve learned this one thing to be true
Is that the closer I get to You, I see I’m a stranger (to Your holiness)
Don’t wanna be no stranger, and it burns like a fire…

As I follow Jesus as His simple disciple, I’m very aware of the issues that tangle me. It is like a net that drops and I get quite caught in it. But we really are asked to shake these things off. In 35 years of following Him, I find my personal sin is more clear to me then ever as I follow Him. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy.” Lord hold me close as you continue to deal with me.

“Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. 2We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete.”

Hebrews 12:1-2, CEV

Mr. Camp reaches into places that the average Christian musician misses, and communicates relevance to all those who seek His face.  This particular song has a lyrical integrity and sensitivity that makes it stellar.  As I ponder the words I find myself with someone who understands me and my issues.  I hope this blesses.

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Mannequin Logic

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:22

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 

Ephesians 2:4-5

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.

Colossians 2:13

Mannequins have always have had a odd effect on me– somewhat similar to clowns (which really make me uneasy.)  I also had a small artist’s mannequin–it was flexible and the theory was you could pose it.  And of course there is the story of Pinocchio, a puppet who became a boy (I wonder if he regarded “toothpicks” as his cousins? LOL)

The Bible uses this imagery to explain exactly what happens when we first believe.  His Spirit works on us, or in us, to bring us back to life.  Talking with any sincere Christian and they’ll describe their repentance/conversion using a remarkable metaphor–resurrection of the dead!  Now that is dramatic.

We the “cast-off” mannequins have suddenly come to life.  We understand things from a revolutionary new way.  Jesus has worked and crafted his new children and brought them to life.  The Holy Spirit has done something so radical that it defies any explanation except through the Word.

Life is so very different now.  I see it through new eyes.  I am no longer seeking to be energized by drugs, alcohol or a selfish lifestyle.  The emptiness of that past life no longer disturbs me.

I still have problems.  There are difficult issues of depression and BP that challenge me.  Somedays I can’t get out of bed and life is hopeless.  Meds help me work through this black mood.  I pray and worship and I am lifted up from my dark pit.  Friends who understand are a blessing.

But this wonderfully radical truth of coming to life is by far-and-away the most awesome thing that has ever happened to me.  I was like that mannequin in the mall, vacant and empty.  Not alive.  But Jesus touched me, and now I live.

It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!”

Romans 8:11-12, The Message

Mannequin logic can only be understood when the Holy Spirit moves in!