All posts by words and signs

I serve Christ in many different ways. I love Him for what He has done for me, and I would try to give other people the opportunity to find Him for themselves. Bring all things under submission to Him who fills all things and to who all things belong.

In the night

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Psalm 119:55-56 NIV

“In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law. This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.”

The sufferer is at greatest danger of hurt at night, when the mind and body relax to rest. Tiredness does not always lead to the beauty of sweet sleep. The mind has no remit but to keep active, even if the person is dragged into a weariness which does not go away. The psyche’s defences are down when rest is needed, and the anxieties of the mind suddenly come alive.

The enemy of our souls, Satan, takes full opportunity of the unguarded, unconscious state and can make us very uncomfortable. He can worry us with fear, panic and the downward spiral of negative thoughts, which is difficult to spot when the minds guard is down. Our minds have treadmills that we plod along as we try to deal with events in our lives. These quickly become entrenched and we keep visiting then regularly. Sleep can be the trigger for these treadmills and the small space between consciousness and unconsciousness makes us vulnerable for attack. This kind of situation causes much pain and takes a long time to come to terms with. Hence we often turn to drugs of some sort, to get across that threshold of sleep.

How can we stave off this attack? It is a great necessity to have scripture in your mind, so that we can remember and recite them in the dark. As we remember God’s name and who He is and His everlasting attributes, reflected in His Word, we can find comfort.

As you think of your life and how God has kept and blessed you, you can rehearse His goodness as He brings to your mind scripture, or even hymns or songs to comfort. Comfort yourself as you remember God’s goodness and wait for the feelings of panic and anxiety to fade. If you are obeying God in your daily life, you will be able to think of God’s love towards you and how He is still with you in the dark. At other times, maybe that ability disappears, and we think we are left alone to struggle.

There is no other comfort than God Himself. There is no certainty except His precious Word. As we learn the Word and take it to our lives, we can grow in such circumstances and know God in our lives in a deeper and fuller way. This is the way God draws us to know Him better and teach us resilience in the fight of faith.

My provision

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 I can never comprehend the forgiveness of God.

It is impossible to assimilate the fact that I shall never have to pay.

Eternal God is willing to completely and absolutely blot out my transgressions, so that they are never looked at, or remembered again.

The book of my life is full of righteousness and holy deeds, that are not my own, but were given to me by Jesus, who paid dearly for them.

I am continually indebted to Him who died for me, to take the burden off my shoulders and set me free from guilt. When I am tempted to revisit those sad sights and sounds, the voice resounds, “They are gone in the deepest sea, never to be dredged up again, I have vanquished all…”

The bill has been paid and I am in debt no longer, in fact, there is money in the bank and power and hope.

I can now face my accusers and tell them that Christ has died.

I am one of His, the weight of grief is gone and I no longer have to hide in the shadows, hoping not to be noticed, with nothing to offer but filthy deeds. I am given confidence, not in myself, but in who He is and what he has accomplished for me. No one can take me out of His hands, or strike my name from His book of life. The sins I now do, I do with regret, in my own weakness and lack of faith, but there is free forgiveness every day, so that I can constantly have a clean sheet.

The future is all unknown, except that glory awaits every child who has been cleansed. I pilgrim on through this dark and weary land, where no water lies, and provision is scant and pointing fingers hurt and depress. Nevertheless, He is here, always upholding and encouraging when others annoy. My prayer is that my sacrifice will be equal to the mercy shown to me, although I also know that it could never be, as my debt of mercy is so great.

I will walk with Him. I will seek to be like Him, and remain unmoved by those who try to distract me and loosen my hold on Christ.

A heart like God’s heart

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David, was the greatest king of Israel, and ancestor of the Kind of all Kings, Jesus. Many find it hard to comprehend how such a loving and devoted follower of the mighty God, could fall so badly, and sin so grievously in his life as God’s king.

As we read the Psalms of David, we are lifted high into the presence of God, and our souls delight in the glory that we see there. David loved the Lord his God from a small boy. He spent protracted periods of time tending his father’s sheep, where God prepared him to lead His people as the nation of Israel. David cared for the sheep and protected them- even from wild animals that would have torn him apart. He was delivered from them and certain death. David was emboldened to face Goliath and conquer him with a small stone and massive faith. David had no inkling of the future, but rejoiced in the presence and creative gifts of God his Saviour, which we now enjoy.

David was left out and overlooked when the time came for the important work of choosing a leader, but God did not forget him. David was chosen to be the king- God’s king of Israel, with a character like God and a picture of Christ Himself. When we read David’s words, we see a man consumed with His God and familiar with His ways. As we observe David and how he dealt with ungodly Saul, we see a man conversant with respect for God and the commandments laid down. A man willing to wait on God’s time and for His will to be brought into practice.

David was dead-set against the enemies of God and those who refused to follow Him earnestly. David had plenty of time to know His God in the fields, and as an outcast on the mountains. When the time was right, he took the crown of leadership, given to him by God. He was without doubt Israel’s greatest king and his exploits defy belief. David knew where his strength came from and trusted in the Lord and overcame his enemies and brought peace to Israel.

“The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.”
Psalm 10

There were incidents in his life, which showed his human weaknesses and failings. In a time of indolence and backsliding and ungodly complacency, he fell in love with a beautiful woman and was unfaithful to God and his family, as he pursued her. He then had to cover his sin and caused others to commit murder for him. He seems to accept this situation for some time, until the prophet, Nathan, spoke out to him about his great sin. David repents when he sees his sin, and is restored.

When I read the book of Psalms, especially David’s Psalms, there are sentiments expressed that cause me to question whether David was particularly called to carry an illness that most do not seem to have to bear. I believe David was a Bi Polar person, and it seems obvious as I read the Psalms, especially the early writings.

David suffering significantly in his inner life. He knows what sleeplessness does, he asks for rest, he values rest and sleep as a gift from God. And yet it eludes him. His Psyche is full of sorrow and his tears and weakness is uncontrollable. We feels the close proximity of his foes and paranoia dogs his days and nights. It seems he is tasting the bitterness of his future unfaithfulness to God, and God is preparing him for this time. David hates sin, as he sees it in his own life and in others. He is jealous for the holiness of God.

“Whoever is pregnant with evil
conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
falls into the pit they have made.
16 The trouble they cause recoils on them;
their violence comes down on their own heads.

17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”
Psalm 7

David has had time to consider the ways of God and the outcome of not living in them. His grasp of depressive mind set and thought processes is clear. He knows that thoughts lead him down into the grave. He asks God to protect His mind and soul from the onslaughts of the enemy- he knows the work of Satan, and recognises his work in his mind. God clearly has given David “insight” also known as wisdom. David values this quality and it helps him to identify and fight the weakness within.

“Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
2 or they will tear me apart like a lion
and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.”
Psalm 7

The writer has been very aware of his own sins and has spent time languishing in sorrows and searching his heart in the depths of the night. He finds solace in the night, and yet it is painful and full of torment as he considers his many failings. He recognises this as not evil, but tells us we should tremble before the Lord, and stay away from sin. God teaches His people in dire circumstances.

“Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 4

It is therefore shocking that such a person should fall down into serious sin. David indulged himself in things that were out of character for him. He found himself in a time of less anguish, and let himself be dragged into temptation and sin by the foolishness of his own mind. He was so out of fellowship with his God that he seemed not to notice, or to excuse himself. He had to be confronted with the enormity of what he had done. David repented.

We again see the heart of God. A soft heart that baulks at sin and runs from it. David repents in dust and ashes, and finds his God to be his Redeemer.

The abject lows of a once depressive mood in younger days, were replaced with self-belief and grandiose ideas that David could do what he liked and get away with it. The highs and the lows indicate someone who suffers at both ends of the spectrum of mind illness. David knows them both, and we see that reflected in his writing.

This does not seem to be acknowledged in historical analysis of these texts. The stigma is such that we refuse to believe that someone who suffers in their mind, could be anything to God. Many refuse to think of mind illness as any other illness, but load it with spiritual negativity. People who suffer are marked down as “unworthy” and even evil. The mixture of thinking about mind illness and evil spirits is supremely unhelpful. Many Christians will not talk about their suffering because of this reality. Spiritual lessons are therefore lost, and abilities are side-lined and the person reduced to almost nothing.

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”
Psalm 13

The constant forwards and backwards flow of endless thoughts that cause such anguish. David calls on God to intervene, before he should be defeated by the inner enemies that grieve his soul. The enemy seems to get the upper hand, and the only escape is death. David asks that his enemies will not triumph over him. This ebb and flow is a constant battle for Bi Polar sufferers.

The Apostle Paul speaks of being out of his mind for Christ… Paul talks about being “out of his mind” in his thoughts and deeds for his Master, but being “in his right mind” for the sake of the people of God. Paul knows there are other ways of knowing than the cultural equivalents of his day.

“ If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5

Paul states the “madness” of being dead to this world and alive to Christ. He sees no shame in being thought “out of his mind” indeed it is the Christians reality in a dead and sinful world.

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered ultimate spiritual and emotional anguish, but no one would ever say He was suffering in His mind or was “out of His mind.” We have become very influenced by the rationality of Western Education and our post-modern thinking and this has affected our interpretation of Scripture. The Prophets were all men and women of deep spirituality and had experiences from God of visions and understandings, messages and dramas to speak to Gods people. They were considered “rubbish” by society and rejected as out of touch. Paul also tells us of his experiences with God-

“And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” 2 Corinthians 12

Could Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” have been an emotional and thought-centred disability? This would explain his devotion and dedication to Christ and His church, and his willingness to suffer such ignominy for the sake of Christ, and his monumental passion for lost souls and God’s kingdom. Paul felt deeply for the person of Christ and for His people, and went through deep troubles for their sake.

The Lord who made the body, also made the mind, and He knows it well. He knows how mind sufferers suffer, and identifies with them. Our modern day, Christian attitudes are at best, murky, and our reticence to see that kind of suffering in the Scriptures is curious. David sinned and failed, but he was still “a man after God’s own heart” He is an encouragement to all who suffer and a lesson, that mind illness is special and God asks only certain people to carry this burden.

It is a privilege to suffer after the great lives of faith, revealed in the Scriptures. It is Christ-like to suffer as the Saviour of the world, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree and suffered anguish like no other. In His sufferings He bought forgiveness and peace for all who come to Him. We need to be careful what we ask for. To become like Christ is a universal expression of devotion, but also a seeking to identify in His sufferings, which is a deep and serious commitment. David knew it. It was his delight, and also Christ’s to draw near to God in that way- in faith knowing the Father in heaven is in control.

10 “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” 2 Corinthians 4

We should not look down on mind sufferers, but see them as people who are sensitive to the Spirit of God and who seek the face of the Father for comfort and joy. They know for sure that the help of other people is no use. When the chips are down, only God is sufficient. Paul knew the power of God in his ability to fight and control his thought life…

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10

The way mind sufferers think is helpful and can be a help to those who don’t suffer. The problem is no one wants to know about mind illness, in case it should affect them. So all is kept quiet. How wonderful to have the record in the Scriptures, which is such an encouragement to those who suffer in their thinking and feeling. That the Greatest King and the “man after God’s own heart” should understand their every treadmill and depression and manic episode, is no less than their Saviour God.

Many believed in Him

John 8:27-30

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.

The Jews were debating with Jesus and rehearsing their foolish assumptions and faulty understanding about what he said. Jesus speaks of his soon coming death, but they are unable to comprehend the depths of the meaning or its application to them. He tells them plainly that if they refuse him and fail to accept his person, they will die in their sins.

They didn’t understand anything…

Christ foretells his death on a cross, lifted up above the earth, which they all knew from the Old Testament scriptures, but could not swallow the reality of the one who stood in front of them. They looked upon his glory, which he had with the Father before the world was made, but it couldn’t be seen by their deliberately blinded eyes.

It was not a halo of light, or Ultra-violet radiance from his clothes, or the majesty of his stature as a man, but his perfect obedience to his father in heaven. Jesus did nothing on his own, nor did he speak a single word without the Father and the Spirit. The three persons of the eternal God, walked the earth in perfect harmony, but their glory was not seen by unbelieving eyes. Even as the religious leaders watched miracles happen in front of their eyes, they would not believe. They assigned the power to anything but the living God. The contortions of their minds finally held them in spiritual chains, which they could not escape from.

As Jesus spoke about His death and who he is, the father was with Jesus, and the Spirit dwelt in him fully. It was seen only by eyes that had been changed so that they could spiritually perceive who Christ was and is. His majesty is obvious to all who have a mind to see it. So we also, if we do not believe we will not see.

However, as the Lord spoke, there were many standing around who put their faith in him. They at that moment, saw his glory, they recognized who he was and understood what he came to do. Their eyes and understanding were opened and they silently and eternally trusted in him.

Many were brought into the kingdom of Christ and found a new start and a true love for this amazing man who stood before them. Many others were lost to him, because of their stubborn refusal to see what was being shown to them.

To know him is to have our eyes opened, or minds activated and our stony hearts made soft. It takes a miracle to change human thinking and to use thought processes that show the truth about ourselves and recognize the Man who calls us. Salvation is of the Lord, and when we hear his voice, may we come to Him and find a faith that saves us from the sin of blind unbelief…

 

An Ordinary man

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If you saw him, he was completely unremarkable. There was nothing about his outward appearance that marked him out for any other regular man. He was not handsome, or striking and your eyes would not linger on his form, or pick him out in a crowd, nor return to have another look.

He gave up his job as a handyman, to become a hobo, wandering the countryside, living rough, without home or employment. Some would say, irresponsible and a drifter without ties or troubles. He wore the same shirt every day and slept under hedgerows or caves in the hills; got food from fields and fruiting shrubs along the paths and roads that crossed the landscape; stayed the odd night with good friends, who understood his way and loved him nevertheless.

Until he opened his mouth, and you would realise after just a few words, that this was no ordinary, ordinary man. His speech was laced with deep thought and teaching that had never been heard before, except maybe from the old prophets from the past, who no one listened to anymore. There was no apology for his ideas and he spoke authoritatively about his father, who he totally obeyed and reflected his purity in all he did and said.

His stamina to work from dawn to dusk, was out of this world and he never turned a single needy person away, no matter how he felt. The folk of the countryside loved him and couldn’t get enough of his speech, it filled them with a hope beyond the grave and that their wrongdoing could be completely forgiven and wiped out. His heart wept for those who remained hardened and cold, and longed for them to see their folly and bend their knees to him. Few of them did in the end.

His formal education was limited and stretched no further than teenage years. The local synagogue school taught him to read the Old Testament scriptures, which he understood way beyond any of his teachers. His ability to know and understand was complete and his application to wisdom, and total obedience to God, made him a perfect man.

He spoke to everyone in a way they could understand and relate to. He was not embarrassed to talk to deep-dyed sinners, and readily drew their attention to the difficulty that kept them away from him. Some gave it up and shed the ragged clothes of unbelief and the cloying ties to this world’s commitments. A few could not give up what they held most dear and kept it, losing the freedom of this man’s forgiving heart.

He was a Jew, born of a middle-Eastern mother and a father with whom he is equal, this unrecognizable God of heaven and earth, made so fragile and dependant on a mere mortal to sustain him. He is still the reader of hearts and the searcher of intentions and attitudes his outward form not of note nor obviously strong. He speaks through the words of weak human voices, in many ways to all of us, and touches us in the hands and lips of the meek.

The fragile, lonesome man is Lord of the Universe, who never sleeps and who’s understanding no one can fathom, yet he was tired and needed to sleep and rest, just like us and suffered pain when he did not get the rest his body needed. From tiny baby in the manger to criminal dying in agony on a Roman gibbet, this true God, without beginning and end, spends a lifetime on the planet he made, to save it’s worthless inhabitants.

This is no ordinary man, nor ordinary life. This life is perfect in every way, strong in every regard, loving to the utmost extent and worthy only of a true God. As we look on his weakness in human flesh and hear his voice calling us to follow, who will not listen and obey? This voice echoes through the history of human events and repeatedly speaks of another way, which will lead us to put our hand in the hands that were nailed to a wooden cross and to forsake our sin.

You may be an ordinary man or woman, but you too can be like this man, and become heirs of his fathers throne, with all your faults and failings dealt with, so that the ordinary becomes extra-ordinary and human flesh can put on immortality and incorruption.

This ordinary man still lives and calls to us again in these days of pain and apathy. He knows all your troubles, he has felt them too, and can give the strength to overcome and make you the person he intended you to be.

 

Doctrine or dishes?

The dilemma of roles continues to trouble the Christian community. We are still struggling with ideas regarding who does what. We are still finding it hard to grasp that women can be interested in theology and are often much better at clear thinking than their male counter parts. The ethos is still around men doing a set of activities and women doing the other bits. The other bits seem to involve the lower cognitive roles.

The talk and social conditioning revolves around assigning women and men to set tasks, with no regard for choice or preference. To talk of such issues, is tantamount to heresy, in some quarters.

Should I study doctrine, or will to “spoil me” for doing the dishes? If I read the deep councils of God, will it stop me wanting to pick up after everyone else?

The more we study God’s word, one to one with Him, with the gracious Holy Spirit, the more able we are to shoulder the humble life of Christ. It goes against our grain. We easily think we are something or someone. Ministry of all kinds, can be spoiled by thinking it’s all about elevated people. We verge on the failings of past religion and think we need a human mediator between ourselves and God.

Doctrine is difficult, but without it we are weak. Our understanding of Scripture depends on another person digesting it for us and then telling us about it… even logically that tells us we are not personally close to the Living God…

There are no short cuts. As we come aside from world orientated thoughts and deeds, and delve into the Word of God, we come into His direct presence and He speaks through the written word and the witness of the Spirit of God within us.

If we don’t know the Word for ourselves, we will never be able to discern its truth or make godly judgments about life. If we don’t pursue the life of God every day, we will be weak and ineffective servants.

Doing the dishes is serving God, but we all must have the life within and the solid and reliable Word of God strengthening our souls and growing in our personal and particular relationship with our Father, our Saviour and the Holy Spirit…

The idea that it is the men who are most suited to cognitive orientated activities, is damaging to all Christians. If you don’t delve into doctrine, then hiding over the sink, is the road to no relationship with God at all.

Let us encourage each other to be the people we are meant to be, learning and developing our minds and souls to love the Lord more and to be like Him.

Finding Him

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Acts 17:24-27 NIV
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

The fact that God is sovereign in all circumstances and in the lives of all people, is revealed to all. The Eternal God who made everything that exists, has set the structures and the systems of this world in such a way that we will see His character revealed. The natural world with its beauty and wonder is a reflection of His grandeur and divine majesty and power. The realisation that every part is joined and influences itself and exists in infinite levels of beauty, is beyond our understanding. The fact that eternity is revealed in the physical world, and generates endlessly in mind blowing fractils, takes our understanding to deeper and deeper levels.

The delicate and intricate systems perpetuated in human and animal forms, so seemingly easily, is a wonder of conception, birth and life.
Plants, yet more amazement as every leaf and flower is a unique form and also revealing the power of fractils.

Everything is purposely made for function, beauty and the extension of spiritual truths mirrored in the divine design. Human blindness towards this God is choice. The facts that are so obvious stand before us and reveal the whole panoply of The Creators design. If you look large at the mountain ranges or look smaller at the veins on a leaf, the same imprint of God is there. We are without excuse.

The miracle of living beings, creatures and all growing things, demonstrates the creativity of a being so huge and way bigger than our planet. There are natural forces at work in our world that can destroy the whole planet in a short space of time. There are other forces, political, economic and social that dictate culture and lifestyle for millions of people at a time. There are spiritual forces which can manipulate human will and keep them blind and foolish.

God seeks to reveal Himself to us as a race of His creatures and is not far from any of us. He has set up world history and the organisation of human affairs, so that we will be encouraged to ask questions about higher ideas than our own. We do this, especially in music and Art and philosophy. Humans seek to know what they cannot see or touch. We reach out to know Him.

The beauty of this world is not enough, so we reach further. We seek knowledge about a higher creator, a being who has understanding, something like ours, but unknown to us. God has purposes that His Word is made known. He has recorded it and kept it, so that human beings can read it and search its pages to see Him and come to know and understand His Truth. If we persist and search with all our hearts, we will find Him.