Healing Power

Running commentary on how Jesus' Healing Power is affecting my life - and helping me to help others.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Helping Others to Heal

I honestly believe I was made to suffer through an emotional disorder so that I may help others in the same situation. I am convinced of that. And I have been able to lend at least an ear to those who have asked. In some cases, I have lent a job. In other cases a ride. But I try to always be there.

I have come to believe, however, that the only effective means of helping others in this situation is face-to-face discussion. Recent events have illustrated this to me.

Bipolar disorder is not pretty. Many think that the emotional highs are great - you feel wonderful when you're manic. Well, that's only half true. In my case, the manic highs were associated with an unquenchable rage that damaged my house and scared the hell out of my family. My father once commented that "you have put a hole in every single house in which we've lived." And we moved a lot, so that's a lot of houses and a lot of holes.

The rage begins tingling as a good feeling. You feel good, so you want to feed the good feeling. Then something tiny happens that gives you the very slightest anger. The good feeling jumps. Now, your body feels better, but it comes through negative energy. Still it feels good, so you feed it. Like a starving man, your rage needs fuel to keep burning. You begin to incite those around you to do or say something that you can interpret as stupid or offensive. They feed the rage. The fire gets bigger and you feel stronger. Soon you're bullet-proof. You can do no wrong. You are a god.

This is where I was as often as three times a week for many, many years. I was around seven when I first noticed it. I'm 41 now and am still not free of it. I was able to throw heavy objects, such as hide-a-bed sofas, across a room. I was able to scream for hours without becoming hoarse. I was able to speak all manner of curses against my family and friends without the slightest remorse. And I believed that there was nothing wrong with me.

It took an encounter with an officer of the law before I sought help. But I did seek help. I had a baby at home and a new marriage. I did not want to go to jail. After 11 months of counseling, I suffered a panic attack. The day was my second wedding anniversary - a day that was actually going quite well. I believe the name of this episode is misleading for I was not panicky. I was terrified. And there was nothing to be terrified of. The overwhelming feeling of terror gripped my very soul and wouldn't let go. From my cell phone, I called my counselor in the middle of the night. She suggested I see a medical doctor - a psychiatrist. This was in October, 2000.

I did begin a regimen of medication at this point. Starting with 2 lithium tablets every day, I was taking 22 pills by the summer of 2003. Many of these pills were to counter-act what the psychiatric medications were doing to my liver, kidneys and heart. I told my doctor, "The medications that gave me the will to live are going to kill me." I had recently become a Christian, so I also began to earnestly pray that God would remove this torment from my life.

My wife and I had begun to discuss the possibility that this emotional disorder was rooted in something more severe than a physical ailment - perhaps it was spiritual in origin. The more I studied God's Word, the more I came to realize that, perhaps she was right.
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
- Mark 5:1-5, NIV
This man was strong. This man was able to break chains. Is that a physical ailment? Scripture tells us he was "with an evil spirit". I've experienced this. When I threw a Lexmark 4019 laser printer nearly 45 feet, I experienced superhuman strength. When I picked up our 3-seat hide-a-bed sofa and threw it 10 feet, I experienced superhuman strength. But the story in Mark continues:
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"

Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many."
- Mark 5:6-9, NIV
Many demons were living inside this one man. Many demons, not just one.

Jesus told us about demons, and that they like to stay in one place.
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."
- Matthew 12:43-45, NIV
There are several short passages of note here. First, Jesus says, "When an evil spirit comes out of a man". How does the spirit leave a man? I do not believe it does so on its own accord. The spirit must be evicted by some manner. Jesus evicted many demons in His short ministry. Are we to believe that all demonic activity has stopped or shall we continue practicing what He preached?

Secondly, the demon seeks rest and does not find it. There is much speculation that demons are commanded to remain in their host until the host dies. When the demon is evicted from the host, it is tormented by his commander - satan - until it returns.

When it does so, and this is the third important point - perhaps the most important point - it "finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order." This phrase seems to indicate that the house needs to be occupied by something. Since the house is spiritual, it can only be inhabited by spirits. And God desires to fill our houses with His Holy Spirit. So, if the house is unoccupied - if there is no spirit in the house, then things really get bad.

The spirit finds some other evil spirits - more wicked than itself, and returns to the house to party. Imagine, if you will, that you have a house rented to a bad tenant. This tenant doesn't pay the bills, doesn't care for the house, puts holes in the walls, lets his dog pee on the floor - a really bad tenant. After several warnings (gotta make it legal, right?) about the rules of the lease, you serve an eviction notice. The tenant, faced with the possibility that the Sheriff will come rough him up, leaves - but takes a key with him.
A while later, the tenant returns and finds the house repaired. The carpet is replaced. The holes in the walls, patched. The moldy kitchen counter, cleaned. The nasty bathroom, sparkling. He says, "I think I'll invite my friends over for one last party." His buddies, hardcore drunks, come over and proceed to tear all the sheetrock off the wall, break the toilet, pee in the fridge, break all the windows and stuff cotton balls down all the drains. The house is in worse shape than when the tenant was evicted. Had the house been rented, this likely would not have happened.

Since there are only two types of spirits, evil spirits and the Holy Spirit of God, there can only be two types of tenants in your house: evil spirits and the Holy Spirit of God. There is no other way around it.

Back to me: After praying hard through the spring and summer of 2003, I found an answer to my problems in scripture.
there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV
Like the Apostle Paul, I prayed hard that God would remove this thorn from my brain. Make me whole again, Father! For a long time, there was no answer. I begged and begged Him to take it away. Finally, one day He pointed me to that scripture. He would not remove the torment, but he would give me the grace to deal with it on a daily basis. Also note that Christ's power is made perfect in weakness. Christ is stronger when we are weak. He made me weak that I may show His perfect strength.

Daily walking close to Thee is not an easy task. We are to remain with Him through prayer and reading His Word. Continue with the discipline, you will make a great disciple. 'Course, satan will attack you all the harder. But you can prepare for battle:
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
- Ephesians 6:11-18, NIV
We cannot face the master of evil unarmed. God gives us what we need for the battle. All we have to do is make sure we have it on.

In October, 2003, I worked with my psychiatrist, psychologist and several trained professionals at my church to come off the medications. They were not happy about it - none believed that it was possible for a person with bipolar disorder to ever live a med-free life, but God did it for me.

It hasn't been all rosy since that day. I've had my moments. Some were even more frightening than they were before. Ah, but read the passage above. My house was unoccupied and swept clean, so my demon went and found some buddies to foul it up even more than it was in the first place. So I seek a good tenant for my house. I seek a tenant that will not only keep it clean, but repair the damage the well-meaning landlord has done to his own property through his own stupidity. I seek the Holy Spirit.

I'm begging you - if you know of anyone who may fit this description - or if you may fit this description, please - for your sake and for those you love - get some help. See a counselor. Find the root cause - you're missing God. Fill that hole with the Holy Spirit. Renew your life.

If you need to discuss this with someone, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm here to help. But remember, I can't do a whole lot online. You'll also need to find a preacher or psychologist with whom you can speak.


A Couple of Lessons in Humility

I hand-wrote this on a brand new note-pad in Houston, then drove to Corpus Christi and entered it in my blog. You may now refer to me as the Travelling Blogger!!!

"many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." - Matthew 19:30, NIV

One of the most over-used out-of-context passages from the Bible (preceded by the 'eye for an eye' passage and 'Thou Shalt Not Judge', of course!), this phrase came to life for your apparently not very humble author today. See, I pride myself on my humility. Perhaps that should be a red flag, but I'm too humble to notice...

Ok - so I embarked on a mission today:
  1. Mail a letter to my oldest's pen-pal in Malaysia
  2. Take the van to get the tires balanced
Oh - take the youngest child with you. That means you're going to need to be prepared to spend some time at Wal-Mart. "Take some cash with you to buy the postage and some snack/drink at McD's in Wal-Mart. Oh, we don't have any cash - take some coinage."

I grabbed about $3.75 in dimes and nickels (we're all out of quarters as well) and mumbled something to my wife about being embarassed 'cuz I jingle when I walk. She lecured me that money is money and "if all our kids have to spend is dimes and nickels, they will hold their heads high." Well, I guess she's right.

I headed for the post office, 3-year-old in tow, and waited in line for 20 minutes to mail a letter to Malaysia. It only cost 84 cents. Our credit card (which I would much rather have used) has a 1-dollar minimum. I would have had to buy something extra to make it a whole dollar if I were using the card. Funny thing, though, the lady thanked me - actually thanked me - for using eight dimes and a nickel because her drawer was short on change. Lesson One: What you consider to be an embarassment may very well be someone else's blessing! I didn't think about it until I was in the car - I could have offered her a couple more dollars in change!

Driving in Houston on a rainy Saturday afternoon reminds me of the Hurricane Rita evacuation. 4 million people in their cars adn each one is constantly jockeying for position so they can be in front of you at the next red light rather than behind you. Yes, I'm guilty of this as well, but when it's someone else doing it -- well, they're the ones being maniacs. Not me. Anyway, getting cut-off seven times in two miles can make even Ghandi cranky.

So by the time I arrived at Wal-Mart, I'm already less than happy. I find out that it's going to be about an hour and a half to balance tires. Great! I wanted to hit the road to Corpus thirty minutes ago, and I'm now finding out that I'm going to be delayed a total of two hours! Oh, well. I guess I can spend an enjoyable time at McD's with my daughter.

When I got to the snack bar, the place was a mess. They were out of apple pies, too. I made sure I brought extra coin so I could buy two apple pies for a dollar. And the guy behind the register just looked like he wanted me out of his line. One guy looked like he was cleaning, but on closer approach I saw that he was on his cell phone. That really torqued me off. I went to speak with the manager, but she was too busy to take a second to speak with a concerned customer. I mumbled something about lousy customer service and walked to a dirty table with my daughter. I sat down, whipped out the pens and paper I'd brought, and we started doodling and laughing.

Then the most amazing thing happened. The guy who was on his cell phone came out of the back with a bucket that reeked of chlorine (that's a good stink in this case) and proceeded to clean the tables, the chairs, the high chairs and the soda area. Made everything sparkling, too! My daughter spilled our drink and he was there with a handful of napkins before I could even get up from the table! Lesson Two: You're never too high and mighty for one of the 'little people' to take you down a peg or two.

I learned two valuable lessons regarding humility today. These lessons reminded me that yesterday doesn't matter (nobody cares about your status yesterday) and tomorrow won't happen (nobody cares about your status tomorrow). All that really matters is today. Live it like it's your last.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Good Friday's Comin'!

Galatians 2:17-21, NIV
"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Galatians 5:22-25, NIV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Good Friday's coming. April 6 is Good Friday. Good Friday commemorates the day that our sin nailed Christ to the cross. Good Friday commemorates the day that we all died to sin and became holy in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. We need to take Good Friday literally. We need to die to sin, so that we may live in joy.

What is the source of our pain and suffering in this world? Sin. Even though we live in God's grace, sin hides Him from us. Without His light, we walk in the darkness. We need to find a way to get 'back to the garden' (thank you, Crosby Stills Nash and Young). This may be an old thing (I think that's what Lent is all about), but I propose we dispense with meaningless sacrifices (I'm not going to drink coffee for the next 40 days) and find true sacrifice - the sacrifice of self.

What does that mean? Quite simply - we need to die. We all need to die. We need to die to ourselves and be buried with Christ.

But remember - the story would be pointless if it ended there. It really began at the cross. Three days later, Christ walked out of that tomb. He (and many other saints in Jerusalem!) experienced resurrection. It's a resurrection that we can experience every day. "His compassions are new every morning." (Lamentations 3:23)

1 Corinthians 15:31, The Message
And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I'd do this if I wasn't convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn't be the end of me? Not on your life!

So, it's not just about dying, it's about coming out of that death a better person.

Here's my challenge. Through April 6, dedicate yourselves daily to the Lord. Morning, noon, night - whenever's best for you. When you feel like it's crashing in, drop whatever it is you are doing and pray. No schedule is more important than your relationship with God.

Do you want to feel His presence daily? Begin now. And don't stop after Easter, keep it going all year long through next Easter and beyond. It's a daily renewal, not an annual one.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday, Monday

Still hate that day.

Yeah, it's no fun being the first day after a weekend. It's kinda like being heartburn after pizza. Or kinda like being bad breath after a nice, garlicky dinner. Mondays ruin a perfectly good weekend.

My weekend was especially good, and especially long. See, it really started about two weeks before Christmas. Granted, I still have to work (being a stay-at-homeschool dad), but my routine was shot full o' holes. Four weeks ago, my kids were sick. So was my wife. I was the only healthy one. Therefore, I was a nurse, not a teacher. It was a refreshing difference. Three weeks ago, we were preparing for Christmas, and we had our homeschool Christmas break. Two weeks ago, we took a few days and went to visit my folks out of town. One week ago, my mother-in-law came from out of town to visit. My wife took vacation between Christmas and New Year's, then a couple of days at the end of last week. During this time, she took over the role as educator. I took a break. So I had nearly four weeks off as prime teacher in this house.

Then today hit. Oh, man. I'm the teacher again. I'm the guy who's responsible for handling all day, every day. Bummer. I am now back in my routine.

So, how do I handle it? I need to get back into my morning routine. Get up, spend some time with God, spend some time in the Word, and write in my blog. I'll be doing this more regularly as time goes on, so keep watching this spot. In the meantime, I'll be napping...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What is Forgiveness and Grace?

Martin Luther was a devoted monk who invented new methods of scourging in order to cleanse himself from sin. He believed that he was so filthy, the normal scourges and fasts would not prove to God that he was genuinely interested in changing his ways - that he was repenting. This is what the Catholic church had taught him.

Then, one day, he read a book that the Catholics did not preach from: Romans.
Romans 5:1-5, NIV
since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 7:4-6, NIV
you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Paul wrote this:
Romans 7:21-25, 8:1-4 NIV
I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

God forgives those who claim His pardon from sin. God forgives all, regardless of what they have done, from their sins and welcomes them with open arms. in Romans 8:1, Paul tells us "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus".

Now, the question may be, "How do I know I'm in Christ Jesus?"

Here's the answer:
1 John 1:5-7, NIV
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

For years, I claimed to have fellowship with Him, but I walked in the darkness. I would sit in topless joints, whacked out of my gourd on tequila, and claim I was a Christian. I would lie, cheat and steal - and claim I was a Christian. I did not feel pain when I sinned against God.

One day, all that changed. I became a Christian. I did not miraculously stop sinning that moment, but I strive to be like Christ in every way. I fail miserably. But we are called to repentance. Therefore, I know I walk in the light. I now feel pain when I sin.
1 John 2:1-6, NIV
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

OK - so Christ speaks to the Father in our defense. He has already atoned for our sins past, present and future. (has to be future - all of our sins occurred after his atoning sacrifice!) All we have to do is obey His commands.

Well, what are those commands?
1 John 2:7-11, NIV
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Those commands, quite simply, are the core of all of the Apostle John's sermons after the resurrection. Those commands are the reason he was exiled to live on the island of Patmos. Legend tells us that the Apostle John would sit in on Christian meetings. When asked to speak, he would get up and say six simple words: "My dear children, love one another." That is the command.

Love God with everything you are. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. These are the Two Great Commands (as paraphrased by Clay). Life according to these simple rules should be easy, right? Well don't forget that we are always tempted to fall from these rules.
1 John 1:8-9, NIV
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 3:10-12, NIV
As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

So none of us is without sin. Some of us believe that our particular sin may be worse than others, hence unforgivable. But these passages, prayerfully considered by the author, prove otherwise. Paul said "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." (1 Timothy 1:15, NIV) Paul believed himself to be the worst of sinners, yet we consider him to be one of the greatest apostles. He was responsible for spreading the word of Christ to the Gentiles.

I honestly believe that if Hitler had a deathbed confession, he would be resting in Abraham's bosom right now. None of us know otherwise, therefore we don't know if Hitler is in Heaven or Hell.

I honestly believe that if Saddam Hussein had a pre-rope confession, he would be resting in Abraham's boson right now. None of us know otherwise, therefore we don't knowif Hussein is in Heaven or Hell.

I honestly believe that if I confess my sins to the Lord I will be resting in Abraham's bosom when I leave this earth. I have done so, and have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I believe I am Heaven-bound. I try not to be self-righteous as so many in the church, because I am no better than anyone else. No better than the prisoners or homeless; no better than Joseph Stalin or David Koresh.

I pray that those out there who believe their sins are unforgivable will read this l-o-n-g passage and find redemption. I pray that those out there who are unwilling to sacrifice their lives for God will find that they are already forgiven for their sins, if they will but accept that forgiveness.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 01, 2007

First Post of the New Year

This year, I resolve to be...

Nah - I can't do it. I've never been good at keeping resolutions. But, in the spirit of what everyone else is doing today (besides eating black-eyed peas...), I'll make some that I know I can keep, and if I fail to keep them I'll be better off.

So, this year, I resolve to eat as many calories, possibly more, as I did in 2006. I resolve to continue wasting time playing computer games and watching movies for the 10,000th time. I resolve to work out at least once a month - and mowing the lawn counts. I resolve to drive in a manner many consider to be offensive, rather than defensive. I resolve to alienate more people than I have in past years.

See, that's the problem with New Year's Resolutions. I want to become a better person, but I set the standard too high. It's like I'm in a NASCAR race with my factory Saturn. I want to win, but I'm only capable of running at half the speed of those big boys out there.

OK, how's this: This year, I resolve to take little bites out of my annoying habits. I'll cut back some in my eating and increase my sweat time (mowing the lawn counts only 1/2 the time). I'll cut back on my games and movies. I'll drive like I have a fish on the back of my car. I'll show people love - and let curiosity get the best of them.

Still too much! I don't know if I can keep all that.


Hey, I know! This year, I resolve to spend a little time each day with the Lord. It's what He wants. And He's already given me what I want - mercy and grace. Sounds like a win-win situation.

What about you?