First, You Die

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” 

John 12:24-25, NLT

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We kick it off with a basic knowledge of farming.  Not every farmer knows this, but all his seed sown in the ground will die.  Now it is possible this fact may discourage some, but the wise farmer accepts the dead seed, knowing that green growth will sprout from this death into a harvest of 1000x times or more for every dead seed.

“He that loves his life will lose it”.  This is one of the first ‘laws of the spirit’ we must learn.  It is the basis of so much that we have to know.  For years I have preached this message just before Easter Sunday.  “There can be no resurrection without a crucifixionThere is simply no resurrection power without crucifixion weakness”.

Alas, we must die before we can live.  There is no way around this, and no waiver can be given to avoid this truth.  You have to die, it is a profound necessity.  But often we become adept at ‘life support’ systems.  Doing what we can do to keep the ‘old man’ alive.  So much of what we find in religion is nothing more than a way to put the ‘old man’ on life support.

Unless we die, we will never, ever live.  If we try to save our life, we will die.  Choosing then to die is really your best option.  But what does that entail?  Every Christian is to submit to carrying his/her cross daily.  That cross is intended, not for a showy display, but to die upon.  Our self-life must choose to die, when we are ‘crossed’ by someone else.  Someone insinuates that something is wrong with us, and we die when we just humbly accept it without rancor or anger.

Resurrection life is what happens when we finally decide to die.  Doing so, we become incredibly fruitful for one.  We start to live the life Jesus had intended for us.  You will start to make the connections that were not possible before, you become spiritually diversified, reaching a very broad spectrum of people.

But most of all, the most of everything, you will connect with others on this fresh level.  Your spirituality will not become a hindrance to others.  In a very real way you’ll become like Jesus.  And that can’t be at all bad.

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Brutal Honesty: Self-Control

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“A person without self-control
    is like a city with broken-down walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

2 Timothy 1:7

There is no harder subject for me to broach than this one. It splits wide open a Number 10 “can of worms.” The issue is this: what is my mental illness, and what is my “flesh?” I suffer from Bipolar Disorder (and a mild form of epilepsy). But I am also an evangelical Christian believer.

So what is what? If this BP is causing extreme behavior, am I somehow exempt from the control of the Holy Spirit in my life? (Now this maybe easy for some of you to figure out, but I’m still contemplating here. Please bear with me on this.) I like things explained to me.

People are very complicated, and there are seldom any lines drawn between emotion/spirit/body. At any given time we all operate on different levels. For instance, my body maybe cold; but I’m praying quite fervently in the spirit. I can have a toothache and be really angry at Lynn (my wife). I never feel the need to analyze these actions.

Having zilch self-control is one of many bipolar symptoms. Believe me, my life has been completely devastated by snap decisions that carry terrible implications. I also habitually excuse my impulsive behavior by…

  • compartmentalizing, (categorizing everything as different)
  • rationalizing, (reasons behind ‘bad’ behavior)
  • and justifying my bad choices, (The devil made me do it).

My Bible tells me that the Holy Spirit is present to give me self-control. I believe this truly. But way too often (actually, most of the time) I’m focusing on trying to eliminate the negatives like bingeing, isolating, obsessing or plotting. I completely ignore the positives, like worshipping, praying, reading devotionally, or fellowshipping.

The vaunted “fruit of the Spirit” cannot be found in my carnal life. (If I may, allow me to change metaphors on you.) Suppose you had a real nice car sitting in your drive-way. It’s a real beaut. But since you don’t have the key, you must push it to make it go. It’s really tiring and you feel like giving it up all the time. (A trip to the store takes hours and hours.)

Silly you say? Yes. But no sillier than trying to live a Christian  life without the Holy Spirit. You see its his presence that allows you to live an impossible Christian life. My mental illness causes me a lot of grief. It affects me tremendously, as well as my friends and family. I must take meds to ease the worst of its disturbing symptoms. But there is supernatural help.

16 “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”

Galatians 5:16-17, NLT

To be guided into the “fruits of the Spirit” is imperative (see Gal. 5:22-23). We’ve a tendency to accentuate the “deeds of the flesh” to our own detriment. As mentally ill people we must turn this on its head and invite the Holy Spirit to energize us.

My BP symptoms are no match for His presence. If anything they force me to helplessly call out to Him. This is a supernatural transaction that is mandatory to becoming Christlike. My physical weakness can be the backdrop for walking out convincing discipleship. Trust me, to live like a “receiver” is far better than trying to live like a “generator.” (But you  probably already knew that.)

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Are You a Half-Shekel Short?

The Jerusalem shekel
How much money a person has can make a big difference in many things in life. It can mean the difference between shopping for groceries as Whole Foods or WinCo, or not being able to shop at all but having to go to a food bank instead.

Money can mean the difference between driving a BMW, or a 30-year-old “beater car”, or not being able to have a car at all. Money can mean the difference between having designer clothes and a nice house or wearing hand-me-down clothes and living in a one-room shack, or not having but the clothes on your back and a cardboard box to keep you warm at night.

But there is one thing that’s available to all regardless of financial circumstances. The rich have no more claim to it than the poor. And that is the gift of salvation offered through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Once when I was reading through Luke, I came to the story of when Jesus, after His resurrection, appeared to some disciples on the road to Emmaus. Describing His conversation with them, Luke says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:27.

When I read that, I realized that all of the Old Testament, and not just the New Testament, is about Jesus. He existed before the world began and His story is the story of God’s relationship with His people. At that time, I prayed and asked God to show me where Jesus was revealed in the Old Testament scriptures as I read them.

Another time, in answer to that prayer, God revealed an interesting passage to me in Exodus. Generally, the book of Exodus is considered the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and their subsequent wanderings in the desert of Sinai. This is not a book where one normally would think to find reference to Jesus. But it is there nonethless.

Then the LORD said to Moses, ”When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. . . . Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.

This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives.”

Exodus 30:11-15, NIV

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p>When I read this, it became clear that the price to ransom every person’s life is the same. Whether we are rich or poor, the price to pay for all our sins and redeem us, to reconcile us with God, is the same. And that price was the life of Jesus Christ; He is the half shekel. The price has been paid. Satan seeks to hold us captive, but God paid the kidnapper’s ransom 2000 years ago on Calvary.

The rich are no better off because they could give more; the poor are not at a disadvantage because they cannot pay the price themselves. Standing before God on our judgment day, rich or poor stand in the same position. The only question is whether you and I will claim we have paid the price ourselves by our good deeds and works, or whether we will accept the offer of Jesus to take care of our debt and to pay our ransom price.

So are you feeling like you are a half-shekel short in life? Look to Jesus who is our half-shekel who ransomed us all for God.

ysic, Linda

Please check out Linda’s blog. It’s found at http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/