A Bruised Heart Full of Sprap

sprap = spam + crap

Bruised Heart

My heart is bruised. It has a specific cause rooted in the actions of others. I thought I was fine; turns out, I’m not. It hit me as I stood in a church to sing:
      Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
      Holy, holy is He
      Sing a new song to Him who sits on
      Heaven’s mercy seat
In the past when I sang this, I could always recall a new work I’d seen God do that week. I’d think about it and effortlessly praise Him with a ‘new song’—but not this time. I felt flat and disconnected. I couldn’t sing…but the song kept going. I couldn’t sing, so I prayed. “Lord, all I can tell You is I’m aware my heart is bruised and I know it has nothing to do with You. I love You, but the hurt is making me numb.” I’m not sure what I expected God to do…but before I tell you what He did, let me unpack a little about a bruised heart.

“You’ve Got Bruised Mail”

See if you can relate to this: You’re going about your life. Over time, you become aware that truckloads of junk you know you didn’t ask for are getting deposited into your life-inbox. Feeling strong, you scroll through, select and ‘delete’ that junk. You don’t open it or look at it. Out of sight, out of mind, you think you’ve cleared it away. The next day, however, the crap reappears looking exactly the same. With irritation, you take a peek, but then quickly close and trash it all.  However, it won’t go away. Crazy as this sounds, the following day more junk just like it starts to infect your mind/heart-inbox because you made the fatal error of looking at something in that sprap.

SPRAP - Spam + Crap = unwanted junk deposited into our life-inbox

facepalm

You looked at the sprap, and now you can’t shake it. The ridiculously ugly content has gotten into your head and has bruised your heart.

 

What the sprap bruised your heart?

I know the nature of my sprap. Is yours within this list?

*Degrading words
*Family dysfunction
*Abandonment
*Being overlooked
*Made to feel inferior
*Betrayal
*Broken trust
*Abuse of power
*Death
*Addiction
*Deception
*Rejection
*Prayer that seems unanswered
*Low self-worth
*Your pride alienated others

The list of human-to-human ugliness is unending.  While it’s awful, God has the power to bring something beautiful from it. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph—who could put a check mark by most of the hurts on the above list–saw God’s mighty hand at the end of many bruising years. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Our bruises, too, have the power to help others if we’ll deal with our sprap and let the Holy Spirit begin the healing.

Healing a bruised heart
Some hearts are more than bruised, they’re broken. Healing may be a long process and require professional help before the pain can connect to God’s promised good.  Psalm 147:3 is a sustaining hope for the journey, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” My heart is saddened thinking of how uphill that path is for the deeply wounded because I’ve been there, too. What I can tell you is that those I’ve known who’ve opened their sprap and done the hard work to heal are some of the most interesting and dimensionally profound people I’ve met. Their ‘new songs’ are powerfully moving.

For me, God began healing this bruise on my heart in that worship service. When I couldn’t connect to singing a new song because my bruised heart was too numb, the Holy Spirit met me there. As the music played, I suddenly had this understanding: You are singing Me a new song. This is the first time you’ve sang to Me with a bruised heart. This is a new song and now you know what it sounds like. I receive your praise in this new song. That assurance was the beginning of my bruise fading; but it’s just the beginning.

His love gives us courage to keep moving toward healing. That’s my new song. I’m praying for all who read this—whether bruised, broken or healed. May a new song rise up and may that song point people to God’s love.

 

Breastplate Covering Exposes Light! – Armor Up Part 5

God's light coming from heart covered by His breastplate of righteousness

God's light coming from heart covered by His breastplate of righteousness

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…Ephesians 6:14.

definition of breastplate, righteousness

Typically, if something is covered, it’s in darkness. However, in a holy-flip-move, God’s breastplate of righteousness is in place so that its covering produces light. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to share what happens if we don’t have this armor in place.

OUR DARK SECRET PLACE

Cathy Ncube

Take off the ARMOR OF GOD!
   Remove the BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS!                 
     Throw away the SHIELD OF FAITH!  
         Forget the TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD!

Let’s do what we want to do
        in our dark secret world,
           at our dark secret place,
               at our own selfish pace.

Let’s make our own choices.
Let’s listen to our own voices.     

Let’s act by the power of
    OUR might.
It doesn’t have to be right.
Let’s do it anyway.
Let’s go astray.

And when we leave that darkness and
   face family and friends,
They’ll never know about our dark place    or of our dark secret sins.

We will not worry about the
         consequences.
We are fully protected by
         Satan’s fences.

And if we die in our
    sinful state,
Hell has an open gate.
Our “hearts” are the spiritual part of us that connect to the world. What we intake becomes what influences us. Out of the overflow, our hearts flex and we output words and actions. These demonstrate what we believe and value to those around us. If our hearts are not covered by God and His ways, darkness resides in the place of light. It’s often a slow fade, but it starts with the word “no”.

CRACK IN THE BREASTPLATE

crack in armor

At the point where we say “no” to God, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through.1  These are the most deceptive of moments because they often feel good. It’s easy to think that ‘this’ is a good thing—especially if it is relieving pain, loneliness or hurt. If the breastplate of God’s righteousness is not in place, we may even think that ‘its’ arrival is a light to pierce a dark season of our soul. The guiding question we need to ask ourselves is this: Does what I’m doing align with God’s Word? If not, it’s not from God.

It can be tricky, but remember:

…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14

God, on the other hand:

God is pure light, undimmed by darkness of any kind. If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness, then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. If we walk step by step in the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. His blood purifies us from all our sins. If we go around bragging, “We have no sin,” then we are fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done. 1 John 1:5-9

BREASTPLATE IN PLACE

If we’ve left our hearts exposed and darkness has taken up residence, God stands ready to help set our breastplate of righteousness in place.

Check out this sermon illustration I recently heard:

Imagine you bought a house. You have all new furniture loaded on a moving truck and you’re ready to move in. On a dark evening, you drive over to the new house to start setting some furniture in place. The key works and, in a minute, you’re in. Walking to the first room, you flip on a switch and, unbelievably, you see the former person’s furniture is still there! Your shoulders droop because you had hoped to get started right away setting up your new life. Now, you see there is unexpected work to do. Before the new furniture can get moved in, the old is going to have to go. Overwhelmed, you know you’re going to need help…and a Helper arrives. This is the Holy Spirit coming to do the heavy lifting. He walks you through the darkened rooms of your heart and shows you what needs to go so the new can come in. He doesn’t leave you to do it alone, He is there to do the work in you. As soon as you’ve partnered to clear out one room, the Lord tenderly puts His arm around your shoulder and says, “Now: Let’s walk to the next one.” Chris Malone @ChrisMMalone

May God’s breastplate of righteousness cover us so well that His light cleans our rooms and shines from our hearts.

 

1GotQuestions.org. “What is the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)?” GotQuestions.org. N.p., 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017. <https://www.gotquestions.org/breastplate-of-righteousness.html>.

 

Mars—and other unsniffable thoughts

…I wonder what it smells like on Mars.

I’ve seen pictures of Mars, and, apparently, scientists have worked on ways to capture sounds from Mars. But short of me (a) hitching a ride to Mars and (b) developing the breathing system of a Martian, I’ll never know what it smells like on Mars.

In our day and age, we can transmit visual and audio representations of just about everything, but the technology that would allow smell to waft across a datascope is limited at best. To smell an object, we must be in the physical presence of it.

I was reading in Ephesians 5 this week and the idea of fragrance and presence tickled my senses.

…walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Through blogs, newspapers, magazines, books, YouTube, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other form of social media, people can send images and audio of who they perceive God to be. In the end, however, the only way to get the fullest sensual experience of God is to be in His presence. Only then can you “smell” the fragrant beauty of what He offers.

As I reflected on being in God’s presence during the week, two aspects bubbled up. First, as believers, we want to increasingly practice being in His presence. How do we do that? We do it by intentionally being aware that our God is in everything. It’s acknowledging Him first thing when we wake with something like, “Good morning, God, this is Your day. I am Your child – show me Your way.” Throughout the day, before we undertake anything, we ask Him for guidance—and I do mean ask Him about everything. Sound overwhelming?  Consider the alternative. You’d be doing those things in your own strength and wisdom instead of under the covering of your powerful and wise Father. Ever feel exhausted and/or depleted at the end of the day?  Oh.

The second facet of being in God’s presence circles back to the fragrance idea. When we’re hanging out with God throughout our day, we become an amazingly attractive representation of who God is to the people around us.  Just as the only way we can truly smell something is to physically be in its presence, the way we affect our world is a physical representation of God to those around us. We will either be attractive or we’ll be repellent. Check out this passage in 2 Corinthians:

I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. 2 Corinthians 2:14

If we try to do things on our own (apart from God’s guidance) we can really stink and find ourselves in serious need of spiritual deodorant.  As we soak in God’s presence, however, we increasingly become more like Him by the way we look, act, talk…and “smell”.

What’s your favorite smell?  Mine would be the smell that emits from an oven baking up cookies, brownies, bread or any other kind of yumminess along those lines.  I’m praying that out of my time in God’s presence, my life-smell is as attracting and inviting as any sweet scent out there.

I Googled “What does it smell like on Mars?” In a nutshell, here’s what scientists think: It has a “slightly acrid, gassy smell of sulfur compounds, with a chalky, sweet overtone punching through.” THAT’S the type of smell folks who don’t spend time in God’s presence produce

How will you smell this week?

Jail Break Alert – get free from sin

Jail Break Alert

Someone you love is being held prisoner and you have the power to set that person free.

The biggest challenge to your mission–if you choose to accept it–is that the prison is invisible and mobile. There is a way to penetrate its security measures, but instead of commando tools, it requires a different, specialized set of skills.

Galatians 3:22 (WNT) But Scripture has shown that all mankind are the prisoners of sin…

We all have the potential to be locked up, in the slammer, nailed & jailed, in the tank. Some are in the prison of sin for pre-meditated acts, yet many find themselves imprisoned simply because of acts they commit while living their everyday lives.

Humans sin–that isn’t a newsflash. The headline that should be screaming is this: We don’t have to be imprisoned to sin.

When you–a prisoner to sin–place your faith in Jesus Christ, an advocate is immediately appointed to your case. This advocate is the Holy Spirit, and He will work tirelessly to set you free.  However, you can hinder your pathway to freedom to the degree by which you block the work of the advocate. The way to freedom is to give complete power of attorney to the Holy Spirit and be guided by His counsel and power.

There is a sad epidemic in the Christian world.  Many have decided to believe in Jesus, but their lives don’t look much different than pre-decision; their lives don’t seem much different from other people who don’t supposedly have the Holy Spirit as their advocate. If being a Christian is supposed to lead to a power-filled life, why do so many Christians continue to feel powerless?

Gal 3:22 (WNT) …in order that the promised blessing, which depends on faith in Jesus Christ, may be given to those who believe.

While I don’t share all of John Piper’s convictions, I do see the missing link to this power-filled freedom in what he shares here:

For [many] the Holy Spirit [is] a fact of experience… a fact of doctrine.  It is easy to imagine a spiritual counselor saying to a new convert today, “Don’t expect to notice any difference. Just believe you have received the Spirit.” But that is far from what we see in the New Testament.  In Acts the Holy Spirit is not a silent influence but an experienced power. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is a real, life-changing experience. Christianity is not merely an array of glorious ideas. I sometimes fear that we have so redefined conversion in terms of human decisions and have so removed any necessity of the experience of God’s Spirit, that many people think they are saved when in fact they only have Christian ideas in their head not spiritual power in their heart. if you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit — [you will experience] a new desire to magnify God in worship and a powerful disposition to obey God in everyday life.

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is a topic that can lead to polarization in Christian camps. Ideas such as:

  • There is no such thing as a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit – there is only water baptism.
  • Every believer has the Holy Spirit in him/her upon conversion.
  • A sign of being baptized into the Holy Spirit is the ability to speak in tongues.
  • Speaking in tongues ceased with the age of the apostles.

…and on and on.  It is yet one more ploy of our enemy, Satan, to confuse the source of power for believers in Jesus Christ. Get the believers fighting about doctrine and they will lose track of how to live with peace, power and purpose.

If you are a believer in Jesus and are struggling to live with freedom from habitual and debilitating sin–if you long to live a life marked by the power to face every situation, then look to Acts 2 to see how.

Peter was preaching to the crowd that gathered after the Holy Spirit filled the believers at Pentecost (vv 1-36).  After hearing what Peter preached, the people wanted this power to come into them and they asked, “What should we do?” (vs 37).  Peter gave them clear instruction that reaches through the ages to modern-day Christians. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (vs 38)

They had to repent of what they’d been doing that wasn’t God-honoring– how they’d been living — past patterns and behaviors that were holding them down.  Too many Christians today want Jesus to be their Savior but not their Lord.  They want to hang on to their right to do what they want–to handle life their way–and they want God to somehow bless their mess.

Look what happened to those who listened to Peter, repented and were baptized. In verses 42-47, their lives were RADICALLY CHANGED.  They no longer lived for themselves, they lived for things that had God’s kingdom values at the heart.  They.were.changed.

In what area(s) of life are you continually defeated and worn down because of not doing things God’s way?

If you are a believer in Jesus and find that you are spinning your wheels locked in a prison of sin-patterns that defeat you and wound others, the question is this: Are you willing to repent? Are you willing to say, “Lord, my ways are not working. I lay it down and I make room for the Holy Spirit to be my guide. I want to be changed. I want to be free. I am done with my ways and I want to turn from them and do things Your way.”

Super easy words to type and read, but it requires tremendous courage to pray them.  Until we do, we are the ones who walk into jail cells and shut the door behind us. No amount of talking, crying or counseling will have the power to set us free.  It is a work of the Holy Spirit, and He stands ready to move in power.

Will you let Him?