Dancing With Bruises

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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

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What Could Have Been

What do you regret? As a believer it is already forgiven.

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”  

~Fulton Oursler

Regret is an ugly thing. Dictionary.com describes “regret” as, to feel remorse for, or to feel sorrow over. It is a difficult emotion for us, as there can be a dissatisfaction, or sorrow or remorse over, it can be a paralysis of sorts. It is the kind of personal sorrow about ones behavior in a certain situation, that can be overwhelming.

There will always be a deep sense of loss for “what could have been.”

I regret many things, my mind works as an active recorder. Future life continues its relentless advance, and there is from the past a constant awareness of darkness, failure and sin.

There are some who have no idea what I’m talking about. I might as well be speaking Chinese. But there are others who will “spark” on what I have just stated. Regret for many of us, is savage and bitter.

Not a day goes by when the voice of darkness doesn’t speak to us. My thinking is that it may be more reasonable to take a baseball bat across your femurs, and dealing with broken legs, than handling regret gone viral.

We think “about what could have been.” We imagine life without regret, of things we might have done not having this dark burden. However, these possible choices are things we can never be sure of.

In my younger days I dreamed of attending college, and then going to seminary. I really thought that I wanted to be a pastor, in some small Lutheran church in the Midwest. But this would never happen. It was just an aspiration, a dream. And it wasn’t reality (even though I wish it had been).

I assure you there are much nastier and blacker regrets, there are things of which I am profoundly ashamed. But my point is this, they exist, they do unsettle us, and the present moment is corrupted by my past behavior.

You are not unique or alone. There are millions of sincere Christian believers who face what you are facing.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

1 Cor. 10:13, NLT

I must tell you that there is a spiritual war. Satan is the enemy of our souls. He will bring to your mind fear and confusion. In scripture, he is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He has a diabolical ministry is to bring you down. He operates out of pure hatred, and he will never show you mercy.

We must develop a more scriptural method of wrapping up our minds in God’s Word. It stops and then alters the spiritual radiation from the enemy. The Word has tremendous power to halt the enemies attack. Ephesians 6:10ff tells of spiritual armor that must be utilized and worn.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Ephesian 6:13

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Against the Cosmic Powers

Perfectly safe.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.

Ephesians 6:12, ESV

Satan attacks us in two distinct and recognizable ways.

First, he stirs up our desires and inflames our appetites for sin. He is very good at this. He knows all about you, and what you like.

Second, he accuses us of committing an evil against God. Scripture identifies him as “the accuser of the brethren.” He condemns us as perverse, rebellious, seditious and evil. “See what an evil wretch you are, your heart is small, black and hard.”

But the believer will run to the cross, and hold on. He will hear the blood of Jesus cry out for his soul. In this simple act of obedience and faith, he allows Jesus Christ to deliver him/her from darkness. There is absolutely nothing to be done except this, and this is enough. Sin can never hold a broken believer, who has a child’s heart of humility.

“And thus I shall always do, whenever you leave me to myself.” ~Brother Lawrence

I cannot fight this dark battle in and of myself. I have neither the armament nor the understanding to take on “cosmic powers”. I must become broken, and weak, and then the Spirit will shelter me. Being manic depressive can actually be of help. I know my own weakness, and it lays me at the feet of my Lord, with no pretenses of strength.

Romans 8:31-32, The Message reads like this,

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?”

It is the ‘nerd’s’ dream, of being absolutely protected from his tormentors by someone with superpowers. And scripture makes it clear that this is not far from the truth. God defends us not just because he loves us, he protects us because his reputation is on the line.

“Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture (verses 33-34, the Message)

Oh struggling saint, you cannot battle alone. Apart from him, you can do nothing. Spiritually, cover yourself with the righteousness of Jesus. Do not venture out against these dark forces, when you have the love of One who cannot fail.

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Scorched, But Deeply Loved

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Peter on the spot

“Then Jesus said to Peter, “Go away from me, Satan! You are not helping me! You don’t care about the things of God, but only about the things people think are important.”

Matt. 16:23, NCV

Principles of the Kingdom will often will sound like a simple conversation to an outsider.  Things are often established or nullified with a ‘face-to-face.’  In this chapter of Matthew we hear Peter extolling the divinity of Jesus (vv. 15-17).  Peter exceeds the norm with his analysis of what is real. It is as perceptive as it is supernatural.  “You are the Christ,” Peter proclaims, “the Son of the Living God.”  Jesus responds to this and Jesus praises him for this insight.

One of my personal problems is that I am way too spontaneous.  It gets me in trouble. I have become a fool more times than I bother to count.  I will do something that is outrageously amazing– and in a short time I am flirting with apostasy.  Often this is indicative of bipolar disorder, a mental illness of some considerable significance.

I’m not sure why Peter does what he does.  But just a short time after he makes his astonishing pronouncement, he is taken apart by Jesus, being solidly rebuked ‘face-to-face.’  In one clear moment he expresses an awesome and wonderful faith, and suddenly his personal stock suddenly and precipitously crashes.  He is now a pariah that needs to be avoided. Every disciple will be scorched. But loved.

This is quite bitter. It seems that in the light from this chapter (actually seems like a bright glare,) Peter is astonishingly quite devastated.  In three years of discipleship it seems that all he merits is a brutal ‘dressing-down.’

The rebuke is bitter.  Peter is being compared to Satan!

In a blur of just a few minutes he moves from “hero-to-goat.”  I suspect that Peter was ashamed.  He most likely wished he had a “rewind button.”  His savior, Jesus– has given him a new label.  And it hurts.  Many times, we would become resentful, maybe a bit bitter.  It could cause some to walk away, developing an anger that solidifies into something very scary. Thank God, Peter doesn’t do anything stupid.

 The correction in the rebuke gives him life, and a hope.

But who’s to say we would be as correctable?  One thing to add, earlier we mentioned the ‘conversational approach’ of discipleship.  Peter was rebuked in the presence of the other disciples.  The publicity was embarrassing.  Too many people were watching and listening. Peter will survive this, but he has learned something valuable.

Our daily commitment to Jesus hinges on our willingness to be “undone.”  His heart and plan pretty much precludes any “secret or hidden” agenda.  Jesus pretty much rakes us over the coals.  He will insist on an uncompromising obedience to His faithfulness.  Every true disciple will be scorched— but loved.

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The Curious Case of Being Job

XIR84999 Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) oil on canvas Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France Lauros / Giraudon French, out of copyright
Image by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922) Musee Bonnat, Bayonne, France French, out of copyright

One of the most intriguing characters in the Bible is Job. Tempted and accused, ignored and maligned– he maintained a faith in God’s goodness when hell wanted to destroy him.

His goodness should not be questioned oe diminished.

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”

Job 1:1

Job becomes an oblivious participant in a cosmic exchange. God and Satan lock horns over Job’s faithfulness. God is sure of his love, while the Adversary thinks Job will fold when repeatedly tempted. But keep in mind, Job hasn’t a clue of who or why. He has to deal with life that is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Job will soon become intimate with pain and suffering.

“Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who God, and shuns evil.”

Job 1:8

Satan is like a pit bull. And God has pointed out the character of Job, and what an enticing “meal” he would make. It’s a bit like slathering bacon grease on him and turning him over to the nearest pack of wolves. Satan now pursues his prey.

Again, Job is completely unaware of this contest. No one has bothered to consult him directly about this. Job knows nothing about this ”wager.” And it’s hard to be kept in the dark. I contend that had Job  known what was going on, this all would’ve been far easier. However, everything would be “unscripted” and  Job would suffer in complete ignorance. And that is doubly hard.

“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

Job 1:20-22

But there was no sin! Job will not travel down that road. Yet he loses everything– all of it. And things are going to get even worse for him. He will be visited by three “friends.” However, they won’t help him. They will only make things worse.

The life of Job, and the “total war” on his soul must be our consideration and our precedent to order our lives.

The pain of Job should become the blackboard where we practice our figures. In the New Testament book of James, (5:11) we are told to think about Job. And in our deliberations, to consider the compassion and mercy of God. Ironic, in some wild cosmic way, our trials of faith are significant.

We should realize that if you or I are going to come out clean in this, we will need to emulate the faith of Job. I think that this what James meant in 5:10-11. We understand that Jesus absorbed all our sin and pain, completely. When we see that, we can come through just about any nastiness. It won’t make the trials any easier, but it will frame the full goodness of God.

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Beyond Worship, [True Understanding]

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“But I will sing about your strength. In the morning I will sing about your love. You are my defender, my place of safety in times of trouble. God, my strength, I will sing praises to you.  God, my defender, you are the God who loves me.”

Psalm 59:16-17, NCV

I’ve always considered singing as strange.  To vocalize with music as a bit bizarre.  The dictionary doesn’t clarify it, but makes it even stranger,

“to utter words or sounds in succession with musical modulations of the voice; vocalize melodically.”
 
And yet from this strangeness, David can find a solid reason to sing.  At this time in David’s life, things are quite tense.  Saul has been focussed on him, and has come very close to pinning David down.  I’m sure David is struggling with anxiety, doubt and despair.  And yet, it is from these considerable issues that David starts singing.
A precedent has been set.  Singing while in deep water.  The song has a theme and direction.  David sings about God.  He sings about His strength, and love, and protection.  I suppose if you are walking through an evil mob– it is really good to be watched over, and to be securely protected is very much appreciated.
When evil is immense and active, our first response should be to sing.  When we direct ourselves toward the Lord, and begin to sing to Him, the enemy scrambles for cover.  Worship scares him.  Satan is confused and frightened when we start to praise our God.  (I tend to think he has an allergy.)
I consider myself to be pragmatic and logical.  There are things I see right through.  Pyramid schemes, Nigerian banking plans, and multilevel marketing are things that are discernible to me.  But this particular Psalm punches through, and I confess I have come to understand this extraordinary power of worship.  When I decide to worship, all heaven breaks loose.
Often, I think, we can “sugar-coat” worship, and make it for feeling good about ourselves.  And yet when we do come into His presence, it is a joy and there is peace for us.  And this is terrific.  But we should reformat our thinking.
Worship is warfare.  As we stand and praise Him, the kingdom of Satan is substantially degraded and minimized.  Worship does this and more. It is an offensive weapon against dark forces. It is a defensive weapon to protect our minds.
Satan fully hopes that we will forget this idea of worship, he strategizes actively against it.  It frightens him when we start to understand.  Worship of the True God drains Satan of his power and authority.  Perhaps sinners truly become kings and queens when we start to praise our God. And that doesn’t sit well with the darkness.
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Being Lured Back, [Apostasy]

Recently I read a news story about pastors who have been led into atheism.  These are all evangelical men, some with more than 20 years of experience in the pulpit.  They’ve turned to a belief that God does not exist.  It was a disturbing article, and I will not try to share much of it here on this page.

There is among us a prevalent manipulation that is relentlessly reaching out for us in order to destroy our faith.  This force has an ally; and this ally is resident in us.  My flesh becomes the connection that Satan needs to link with–  to make it work.  The Bible calls this residing connection, ‘the old man’.

Some of the ‘brothers’ who now walk in apostasy to the Faith still remain in ministry.  Even though they don’t believe anymore, they continue to preach and counsel their congregations.  Many will only speak out under the condition of anonymity.

One in particular said it was somewhat difficult to continue to work in the ministry. “But I just look at it as a job and do what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it for years.”

This pastor said, that when speaking to parishioners, he tried to stick to the sections of the Bible that he still believed in — the parts about being a good person. Many pastors say that they would like to leave their jobs but they can’t afford to.

Please someone, and correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Bible speak of shepherds and hired men?  Some who are called by God, and others who do it for money?  Does this disturb anyone but me? 

 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

John 1o:13

These ‘pastors’ and their issues of faith are all on the heart of God.  He loves these men.  His Son died for them.  They are precious.   But they make an effort to conceal themselves, in order that they will continue to receive the wages/benefits they’ve become accustomed to.

When I was ordained into the ministry, it came with the provision that if I could not remain faithful that I was obligated to ‘step down’.  It was as much a decision to be faithful as it was for empowerment from above.  If I should ever become conflicted, I would voluntarily stop and step down.  It was part of the ‘package’.  It came with that understanding.

So much confusion, but that is characteristic of the times in which we live.  Our shepherds are an increasingly an influential part of our lives in these last days.  They guide and preach the Word to us. 

Perhaps, we have not prayed for them like we should

As a result they’ve become casualties.

There is a desperate need for us to take the darkness seriously.  It has a pulling power to reach us and latch upon us.  It opens its mouth to swallow us into a perpetual night.  Everything that strays end up in its oversight.  The thing that saves us is the presence of Jesus.  His hand on our lives removes us out of Satan’s claim.

Darkness has an incredibly sweet allure.  It has a power that is beyond our comprehension.  It seems to want to enhance us. It causes us to think that we are immune or superior to the things God has commanded.  The sky is the limit, and we press into even more foolishness.  But truth does not come to those who trade salvation for more darkness.

 

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P.S. The story that ‘got me going’ is found here.

http://abcnews.go.com/WN/atheist-ministers-leading-faithful/story?id=12004359