Discipline of Dismay

You know what it’s like to make a big purchase, say a new car. No matter how much thought you put into it, after a while you begin to second guess your decision. I paid too much. I should have gotten a different model. All of a sudden everyone seems to be driving the same vehicle you just bought. Never noticed that before. You think about taking it back. We call it buyer’s remorse.

When we first decide to follow Jesus, how much thought do we put into it? We are elated at our salvation and excited about a new life. We like the “new car smell..” But after a while something akin to buyer’s remorse can slip in. I’m following but where exactly is He going? I don’t like not knowing the destination. Like a kid in the back seat I keep thinking “Are we there yet?” But with Jesus we never are. It seems He always expects more. We consider that maybe things weren’t so bad back in Egypt. We were slaves but we weren’t all that badly treated. 

As we follow folks notice we’re different. They don’t like it and we become uncomfortable. Maybe we’re being too radical. Perhaps we’re too heavenly minded. We have a practical life to live. No one else is going this far with Him. Satan really doesn’t like it and will drag a perception of misery into our lives at every opportunity.

We become dismayed. We can expect it. Life as a disciple is different, gloriously different. We want the “hold me Jesus moments.” Not so much do we crave the “get up and get going” times. It is frightening to realize just how different He is.

It is at these times of dismay that it is crucial to be in fellowship: real deep fellowship with others committed to following Him totally. In such fellowship we can realize that we are not alone in our uncertainty and in our dismay. In such fellowship there will always be some up when we are down. Some will be marching excitedly forward when others are lagging behind. In such fellowship there is consulation and encouragement.

” When the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come that following of Jesus which is an unspeakable joy.”
Elated or dismayed, press on and
Be blessed.

Yielding to Jesus

I find myself a slave to ungodly forces. Before you are too quick to judge me. Consider whether this might be true of you as well. If “slave” and “ungodly” are too strong for you, would you agree that you are occasionally controlled by negative forces? Or how about this: Do you sometimes find yourself doing things that you know aren’t right and later regret? If we are honest we are all, at times, slaves to ungodly forces. The sad truth is we have bound ourselves to this slavery. We become enslaved when we yield. 

When we yield to a temptation (oh you caught me, yes we are talkin about “sin.”) we soon find ourselves bound to it. And upon each repetition we are more tightly bound. Even if we notice our ensnarement, we can conclude that since we got ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out. 
The path to freedom from these enslavements requires four giant recognitions.
1. The recognition that we are enslaved.
2. The recognition that we are responsible for our enslavement having yielded to it willingly.
3. The recognition that “there is no power in the human soul of itself to break the bondage of a disposition formed by yielding.”
4. The recognition that freedom comes only in yielding to the Lord Jesus.
Satan struggles mightily to prevent each stepped recognition. Each of these steps is part of a necessary process. If the enemy can get us to skip a step; he claims some victory. For example, if we recognize we are enslaved, but become convinced it’s not our fault. He wins.  We will likely turn to psychology for redemption.  If we recognize we are responsible, but believe we can work it out ourselves, he wins again.  We become self-help fanatics. And even if we become frustrated in our attempts at self emancipation, if we don’t yield to Christ. Again, the enemy wins. We become spiritual nomads, knowing we don’t have all the answers but never finding the One who does.
Put another way: We are sinners, responsible for our sin and desperately in need of a savior. Salvation comes in rejecting sin and binding ourselves in slavery to Christ.
Coming face to face with our sin is tough. We live in a world that specializes in avoiding that. We resist the concept of slavery. We deplore the thought that we are in self-induced slavery. Our pride doesn’t allow us to believe we are helpless to free ourselves. Becoming His is tough. But He is a mighty savior.
“It is easy to sing – “He will break every fetter” and at the same time be living a life of obvious slavery to yourself. Yielding to Jesus will break every form of slavery in any human life,”  The steps are all necessary and hard; but the reward is Jesus and it doesn’t get any more blessed than that.

Abandonment of God

“Beware of talking about abandonment if you know nothing about it, and you will never know anything about it until you have realized that John 3:16 means that God gave Himself absolutely. In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation.” I must take this warning from OC seriously. I can’t talk about abandonment from experience as he does. I have not reached that level of abandonment. I recognize the need for it, the wisdom of it, the joy in it. I just haven’t achieved it. 

I guess I have been caught between the teachings about the freedom the new life in Christ brings and those who stress the holiness that life is to produce. It seems difficult for the two to coexist in one life. I believe I need to focus less on the effects and more on the relationship, less on the blessings and more on the person.
“Salvation is not merely deliverance from sin, nor the experience of personal holiness; the salvation of God is deliverance out of self entirely into union with Himself.” The idea of any kind of relationship with God has been overwhelming. Now OC urges the ultimate relationship: one that means a complete “union with Himself.” I can feel the compulsion toward it; I certainly don’t feel the reality of it now in my life.

“To say that we are called to preach holiness or sanctification, is to get into a side eddy. We are called to proclaim Jesus Christ. The fact that He saves from sin and makes us holy is part of the effect of the wonderful abandonment of God.”

I have previously related how when I found myself a pastor I felt completely inadequate. I modified a pulpit placing “J E S U S” prominently across the front of it. My prayer at the time was that no matter how I might fall short when speaking at the podium, at a minimum the assembled would see Jesus. That pulpit is the one we use now at Amana.
As I age I realize that it’s all about Jesus. I need to stop trying to live any part of life without Him; to end expectation that any joy comes out of anything but Him; and that all I can every hope to effectively communicate is Him.
In Him is all blessing. Move closer. May the union with Him more complete. Let go and grow.
Be blessed.


Sometimes OC is just too much. Today he seems to be saying that we are not only to abandon everything for Jesus, but we are to do so purely out of our devotion to Him. We are called to love Jesus Christ purely for Himself not for anything we can get or have gotten from Him.
“If we only give up something to God because we want more back, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit in our abandonment; it is miserable commercial self-interest. That we gain heaven, that we are delivered from sin, that we are made useful to God – these things never enter as considerations into real abandonment, which is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.”
How can I possibly do that? How can I forget what the Lord has done and continues to do for me? How can I love Him purely for who He is without a remnant of memory of past graces and an assurance of future blessings? It just doesn’t seem possible.
OC seems to be saying that we need to have an Agape love for the Lord. Agape is unconditional love. Love for another without expectation of any return or gratitude for any past favor. That is impossible for man on his own. I have experienced that love so I know it is possible. When it occurs it is purely a gift from God. 
When we love like God loves, it’s because God has gifted us with such love. So it must be with the love of God. If we are to love God unconditionally, we can only do so if God equips and empowers us to do it. Even the pure love of God is a gift from God.
Lord, teach us to love like You love, not just each other, which is miraculous enough, but teach us to return the love to You that You have given to us… completely and unconditionally.
When we can love like that we will always,
Be blessed.

Get Connected

 John Maxwell recently wrote about how Pope John Paul II led the toppling of world communism by having Vision – Connection and Direction. The Pope was following a 2000 year old plan: God’s plan.  Christ’s vision for His Church is clear: a community of believers who so love Him and each other that  others are compelled to join up. He provides His Church with the Holy Spirit to connect it to Himself, each other and the world, and to keep it moving in the right direction. 

Satan knows this plan and his strategy to stop it is to prevent the life of community. When he can’t prevent it; he provides deceptively similar alternatives. The explosion of “social networking” on the internet: “communities” like facebook or twitter, appear to meet the need God has placed in each of us to connect with each other. The attraction of these networks is the illusion that we can connect without really connecting. The “church” has been doing this for years, providing television and internet “alternatives” to a living breathing community. 

Like the wolf eyeing a flock of sheep, Satan loves it when an individual separates from the flock or the herd. They’re oh so easy to pick off.

It can feel really comfortable roaming on our own away from the flock. After all the flock is made up of smelly stinky sheep. They don’t understand us. They hurt our feelings. Not all of them believe exactly like we do. They’re not “real” Christians. Of course, all of this is based on limited information. We don’t really know the rest of the flock. We don’t take time to talk to them or better yet listen to them. We don’t know how they really feel; what they really think; how God is really real in their lives. 

Just attending a church in person isn’t a guarantee that we’re part of a living community. We can get so caught up in the practical work of the church, the programs, that we lose sight of the vision: a loving community.  Even if we are present every time the church doors are open, if we are not connecting with each other, we’re not really community. We’re not really the Church our Lord envisioned.

We often marvel at how effective the church seems to be in foreign fields. Could it be that those flocks have nothing but each other. No alternatives to the community which provides for their very survival.

We must recapture the vision, a loving community, with connection through the Holy Spirit gifted to us, with a clear direction to bring love and change to our world by introducing them to a God of infinite love.

Take a bath, jump in the mire with the other stinky smelly sheep. Let God help you learn to know them and love them like He does. Be the real Christian He intends for us to be and be

Blessed to be a blessing.


Have a Message and Be One

“We are not saved to be “channels only,” but to be sons and daughters of God. We are not turned into spiritual mediums, but into spiritual messengers; the message must be part of ourselves.”
When I observe Christians, in church, on television or in the mirror, I am often confused by the inconsistency between what I hear and what I see. Sadly I have not often had the experience of someone moved closer to God after observing my life. In fact, I have heard expressions of surprise when folks have learned I’m a Christian.
“The Son of God was His own message, His words were spirit and life; and as His disciples our lives must be the sacrament of our message. The natural heart will do any amount of serving, but it takes the heart broken by conviction of sin, and baptized by the Holy Ghost, and crumpled into the purpose of God before the life becomes the sacrament of its message.” 
My favorite preacher is not always a great speaker. Sometimes his messages are magical. Sometimes not so much. He often skips and drifts. He tells me what he’s going to tell me and then tells me what he told me. He sometimes doesn’t finish what he starts or doesn’t even start what he intended. But his passion, his life and his service are so real that I am always ready to listen.
It is worse to speak the good news and live inconsistently than to not speak the gospel at all. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” I am preaching every minute of my life. I’m not always preaching the gospel.

“Pentecost did not teach the disciples any thing; it made them the incarnation of what they preached – “Ye shall be witnesses unto Me.””
Lord so fill me with your spirit that You will be seen in my every action and heard in my every word. Bless me so that I may be a blessing.

Be blessed.


A Life of Repeating Relapse

In the sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John Jesus feeds five thousand and walks on water. But even then, the crowds were not ready to accept a life of complete dependence on Jesus.

 26Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
 28Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
 29Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 

We can’t seem to accept that’s all there is to it: believe in Him. Not an intellectual belief, but a complete trust putting belief. He has it all.

 35Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Sometimes the simple lessons are the hardest. Even after all the  miracles Jesus as performed in my life, my dependence on him is inconstant. It is wavering. I relapse and return; often several cycles on the same day.


47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

 52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

 53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Desert Jesus

 60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

 61Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit1234