Rise From Ashes
Sometimes we can feel like our soul is frozen in a routine cycle of depressive thinking. We look forward to outward stimuli like food, work, friends, church, entertainment, recreation or TV to find euphoria. But temporary emotion is not enough to alter physiological brain paths. Our mind will anatomically return to how we have programmed it to process life. The idea of change will always be complex and “out there some day” unless we learn to live by a faith that is proven by analytical resolve rather than fickle emotions and feelings. We must probe our intelligence and engage our free will to build new brain paths that will lead us to actually experience the promises of God’s Word to rise from ashes.
This is not some intriguing new teaching. It is just common sense that it seems everyone has abandoned.
I was 19 years old, laying face down on the floor of a U.S. jail cell in northern Michigan. My “purpose” in life, in those days, was to impress fellow college football team mates that I was a ‘Bad Ass’. This poverty of mind had now led to an arrest of my wicked ways and put my face in a sewer drain. It was a moment I’ll never forget. It was like looking into my own soul. I realized I was nothing. My mind was a vacant warehouse. I had no future and my sole possessions were grief and anxiety. Where will the consequences of your brain paths lead you?
You and I don’t know each other but we are members of the same human family. We are all impacted by a fallen world full of stress, tragedy and hurt touching our lives in many ways. Consequently, we all incur some level of mental conflict. I deal with people from all sectors of society and around the world. Can I tell you a “secret”? Everyone is secretly falling apart. In every face into which I look I see the shambles that resemble what I see in me. Lets be honest, there are times when we feel we can barely hold on. It is at this time I seize a kingdom not of this world (Mt.11:12/ Jn.18:36). I would like to share this with you. Much of my time is with people who don’t speak English so I have learned to relate to others with a language of sympathy, love and tears found only in the living Jesus.
We must teach ourselves to welcome the truth with deep embrace, as if it were a child coming to us with a bouquet of fragrant flowers. Jesus promises it will generate a completely new sense (Jn.8:32).
Life can devour anyone, like a ravenous lion. Life is not positive. It is not neutral. It is not objectively negative. Life is hostile. Life IS death. (Rm.5:12,8:8:6,38). But there is a weapon of triumph. Could it be that you already possess it but do not effectively employ it? Albert Einstein (E=Mc2) was a brilliant scientist who said “Education is not the learning of facts, it is training the mind to think”. In fact, the brain can solve conflict faster than the ultimate military computer.
The majority never learn analytical thinking based on God’s absolute truth of the Scriptures. They conform to status quo, whether at a secular or religious realm. Yet they imagine themselves to be unique. We have to find our own intelligence. It is the bridge to individual thought and fulfillment of wonderful inspiration. If we do not access our God-given potential we can fall into the lowest place of our fallen nature.
But no matter the darkness, isolation or fear you face, never think “I wish I were dead”. Know this. There is within you a deep heart and mind waiting to be regenerated for you to come alive. You have no idea what yet awaits you if you are willing to humble yourself and learn discipline.
Never could I have imagined, back in that jail cell, that within several months, my face would be lifted to the God on high, Who would train my mind. Never could I have thought I’d be writing these things to you today, after 45 years to 55 countries.
When I walk into a prison, my mind instantly begins searching brain paths for the words, memories and manner of delivery to somehow ease this “Holocaust” suffering.
We are all hit by unforeseen circumstances. We face things we never imagined as a child. Whether you admit or deny it, you live on the edge of a thought-cycle of mental anguish. It’s right there. My friend, it’s not weird. It’s human. We are afraid to face our own thoughts because we can’t figure out why or where they come from. You may say you are a Christian but honestly don’t know how to conquer common depression. No one else has to know this struggle…but your merciful Father.
If a surgeon operated on your physical body he would not see personality or experiences. These faculties operate in our unseen soul. The trouble is, our soul has been injured by an unseen wound. Not only do we not understand the wound but few take any time to identify it. So we can’t even accurately “diagnose” our own problems. Our mind is fractured and our own pride works against our capacity to think in the effective humble manner of a student.
“One of the largest super computers in the world is in Japan. It costs $98 million dollars and takes up 3,000 square feet. It takes 40 minutes to process the same information our mind can process in one (1) second.”
The human brain functions by electrical impulses called neurons (thoughts). It can process 70,000 a day. When we (in secret) feed off the negativity of our fear and pain, we reinforce thought-cycles of such volume that depression is physiologically inevitable. When we think “Oh everything will be ok” we breed disillusionment and only further enhance our delusion. Things will never be ok if we don’t change. We all know how tough it can be to change. But it can be easier than you think if you will think.
Thoughts are attached to moods, feelings or past experience but are like persistent rain clouds that occupy the territory over which they cast their shadow. This is why intelligent analysis based on faith in God’s Word must intervene by imposing our free will upon feelings. The good news is that thoughts are not physical; like clouds or bone or steel. Like a vapor, “Poof” they can disappear and be replaced by Biblical truth.
It is only by usage of the mind that a man can transform his mind. Depression, despair, thoughts of suicide, reactions of anger, lust and pride, mental illness etc. are a result of mental atrophy. My friend, you are bigger than this.
You can build a path to a summit breeze. Imagine a walk through an Aspen meadow or windy field. You can think of a Colorado sky. Envision the high country, a frontier range or sitting in a forest of timber shade and on a path Tower Mountain. God’s life, instead of death. One tiny seed can blossom into a cascade of brilliant ideas like a fall tree full color, branches and leaves (Jn.12:24-25). Let me sow a seed to help you pave neurological paths of positive impulses. ‘Above everything, watch over the thoughts of your heart for this is your very life’ (Pr.4:23/Phil. 4:6-7).
Your brain contains microscopic “superhighways” on which thoughts move at 268 miles an hour. Faster than a Formula One race car. 1,016 processes per second.
In WWII the leader of Germany created horrible torture camps. There is film of the invasion and the exact moment the soldiers were arrested. The most astounding scene is the look on the German soldiers faces. It wasn’t guilt, anger or shame. They were STUNNED by what they had done and BAFFLED by details of their crimes. Please listen to me.
REMEMBER: God says: Jer.17:9/Rm.3:10
Their shock over what they did is exactly what you and I feel after we do evil we never imagined. People who say “I could never choose the kind of evil they chose”. This is not about choice. Of course, everyone is accountable for what they choose. This is about the total depravity of all humanity. Historians wrongly classify Nazis on the bottom of the human ladder. Nazis were not an alien race. They shared the same exact nature of the human race. People will remain blinded and consequently bound to their own pride when they refuse to identify their sinful nature.
A man named Paul hunted and killed innocent men, women and children. One day, he was slain by overwhelming grief and guilt. He did not understand his self. “How could I do such things?” He went alone to study Scriptures for 14 years (Gal.1:12, 2:1).
Upon his return to society, Paul detailed how he uncovered “a monster” within himself; “I do the very things I hate….it is not me doing it but sin which indwells me…I find the principle that evil is present in me…waging war against my mind and making me a prisoner of sin…wicked man that I am! (Rm.7:21ff/Is. 59).
Lust, greed, anger etc. can seduce our minds into a pathetic darkness and evil euphoria. It is not you or a “personality disorder”. It is sin within you. Satan uses sophisticated thought patterns to capitalize on our naivety and predictable brain paths (2 Cor.10:3-5). People ask me why it is so crucial to understand what it means to admit being a “sinner”. Welcoming the truth with an embrace produces the desperation and humiliation absolutely necessary to bring out of us the depth in repentance that God requires (2 Cor.7:9/ Lk.24:47/ Ps.51:17). It is dying to self on the cross of Jesus. True repentance shatters the ego. It also leads us to the security in God’s love out of which we can then objectively discern our ways of sin. I love to laugh at myself. I am free to “hate” myself (Jn.12:25).
What about you? Paul instantly bowed to truth. Are you desperate enough to do the same? Are you offended to be told you are worthless; void of any good? Or will you be free; “wicked man that I am”? Not because of anything you’ve done on the outside, but because it is what God says all men are on the inside (Lk.11:13,18:19/Ecc. 9:4/Rom.3:10,5:6-15/Is.59/Mt.12:34,18:18).
Both religious and secular “experts” wrongly evaluate a man by outward appearance and levels of behavior. They use a moral and social yard stick. “God looks on the heart” (1 Sam.16:7). Yes, He is well aware of our sin, but most important, He sees our attitude towards it.
God is not a “preacher” looking for righteousness. He is a compassionate Father looking for a broken heart to freely “reckon” the righteousness of His Son (Rom.4). There is nothing to defend if you know you are nothing. He is not STUNNED or BAFFLED. You can not disappoint Him. The Father comes to you, not as a distant Being, but as a Friend Who truly cares and yearns to reach you with His plan. What He asks of you is a “broken and contrite heart”. It is personal faith (Ps.51:17/Heb.11:6/Rm.1:17/Jm.2:23).
Often we feel the natural inclination of wanting to meet the many needs of prisoners. We simply are not able to. But we know giving the gospel in His love and compassion is everything a man needs.
THE VICARIOUS SUBSTITUTE
"The Just for the unjust"
( 1 Pt.3:18).
He alone knows what you are going through right now. He does not leave you to yourself. He knows self-pride is your greatest enemy. So He wants to lift you above yourself to see His unconditional love. You are secretly falling apart but afraid to face it. So admit this to Him in your own words. Admit and surrender. When you have a physical injury you go to a medical doctor. But who do we go to with our mental anguish? The Father Who created you in your mothers womb offers the cure.
No matter how well I may think I understand the gospel, I train my brain paths to consider His love as though I know nothing. Because it is eternal (Rm.5/1 Cor.1:18). With a thousand tears, and a face full of blood, Jesus attacked the hell of sin in our life. He experienced the extreme hardship of poverty, the destitution of homelessness and despicable conditions. He sat in jail falsely accused. The only ture innocent victim. He submitted to the cross to bear the absolute worst physical and mental pain of every possible situation in mankind. He cried at a depth that actually made Him bleed in a garden. He did this in order to create an answer; a salvation; so all-encompassing, when applied appropriately, it can redeem every human experience.
He fought and defeated every demon He knew that you and I would face. A crown of thorns was pounded into His skull. Our sin is so horrible it did this to Him. If you want to conquer your struggles you must realize that you are so wicked your sin, our sin, did this to Him It is in you today. It is the source of your every struggle. It is an animal out of control. It’s not like He enjoyed suffering. He wasn’t an entity. He was a man. He ate. He drank. He cried. He overslept on boat with Peter.
No one can say of this 33 yr. old Prisoner “He doesn’t care about me”. He insisted “I came for the wicked”. The “monster” in us scourged Him 40 times, then nailed His hands and feet to a tree. He could have annihliated us in hatred. Instead, on that cross Jesus loved us so much He bore our body, with the “monster” of pride inside. Sin was killed, once and for all time. Our ego was shattered. While He hung He prayed “Father, forgive them”. And the Father heard, and hears His intercession. Sinless blood appeased God’s wrath with atonement to wash our conscience and cover the rest of our life on earth with unlimited forgiveness. Before you were born, He forgave you (Rm.5).
I used to think, for a long time, that I was supposed to emulate Christ. To be sinless, sacrificial and courageous. This breeds only self-righteousness and condemnation. The truth is; it is ours to be nothing. To die with Jesus so He can live through us to some measure.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is not merely a distant past historical even. His Person, words and work is eternal. Everything He was, He is. Everything He did can impact you today (Hebrews 9:12,13:20). Paul lived long after Jesus, yet he said “I have been crucified with Christ. (Gal.2:20/ Phil.3:10 /Rm.6:6). Eternal life is not a distant dream but a present reality. Jesus promises to absorb your pain here, to mediate your sin now, to intercede for your situation this moment. (John14:2-3/Heb.9,10 /1 Cor.1:18/Mt.16:24/ Mk.8:34/ Lk.9:23,14:27/Jn.14:23).
God does not offer a 2nd chance at life. He offers a life of 2nd chances.
The good news is you don’t have to figure it all out. You don’t have to muster up emotional hype and act “Christian”. You don’t have to be ‘good’ or act like you know everything I’m writing about. You CAN be humble. You can be transparent. It is evidence of FAITH which is the bridge to make connection with objective evaluation of yourself in light of God’s Word. Faith is not knowing the truth but implementing it. The salvation Jesus fought for is not a one minute prayer. Jesus demands we exercise intelligent calculation and response (Mk.12:30/Lk.14:26). Paul said “Who will set me free from this torment from sin (every struggle you face)… the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free”(Rm.8:2). The sinful nature into which we are born is our heritage to hell. You can disown it here and now. Simply reckon it to His cross. You can not change your sinful nature, but true faith will draw you into the Spirit to help you become a son or daughter. It’s up to you to utilize your latent potential. If you don’t do it then it won’t ever happen; “Forget what lies behind and press on to what I have ahead” (Phil.3:13).
Paul says “Faith comes by hearing” (Rm.10:17). Talking to yourself is not weird. It is essential. Create individual space. Pray with your own words. Speak truth to yourself. Blow off the quick-gathering dust of that Bible and seriously meditate on the Word of God. Instantly you will see results. It will inspire your mind and landscape your heart with His kingdom. Failure is normal. But so is success. You can feed your mind 10, 100 or a 1000 thoughts of God. Slowly replace impulses of routine with neurons to enact new behavior.
Take control of your mind, or Satan will. He will exaggerate emotions of despair, self-pity and condemnation. Don’t be his victim. Don’t wallow in painful memories. They will cause hope to bleed out (Study 2 Cor.10:3/ Eph.6:12/ Jn.8:44, 10:10). How much time do you spend on nothing? Take some of it to practice thinking. In a car, sitting at a gas station, on a break at work, at night on your bed, a thousand opportunities. Put your mind in His suffering. Go deep. Let your heart sink into His. Mix and match thoughts. Love someone like they have never been loved. Be someone’s answer to prayer.
Many people wear a tattoo, or shirt, with a skull image, as if to exalt despair. A true warrior exalts in the intelligence to conquer despair. They think its ‘cool’ to laugh at death. But death is laughing back much harder. Hell is no joke. Please my precious friend know that the Father loves you so much it cost Him the death of His Son.
Paul could say “we have the mind of Christ…for the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (1 Cor. 2:16/Rm. 8:6).
Heal the soul. Heal the man.