“Quote”-able: Wintley Phipps

It is in the quiet crucible of your personal, private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born and God’s greatest gifts are given.

During my “personal, private sufferings” I may not have wanted to read this.  All the courage that I imagine I have when not suffering abandons me in the face of real suffering.  All that I thought stood by me I realize can’t help me.  Sometimes even Jesus seems as though he has left me.

I am alone.  And I am afraid.

As I obey my best guess as to God’s will my soul aches and I search for God in my circumstance.

It is here that I decide that no one should have to go through what I am going through alone.  If I only had someone to talk to I could bear it.  I decide if I encounter anyone struggling as I am, I will help them.

And a dream is born.

My dream, forged in the late seventies and early eighties, when I had not yet decided to take meds regularly and  I had yet to welcome Christ into my heart, is being lived out now 35 years later (with Jesus and with meds).  As a Certified Peer Support Specialist I have the privilege to serve people dealing with mental illness every day.  I am doing, as Whitley Phipps says, HPLP: Helping People Live their Potential.  Or, as Jesus says, Loving others.

Am I a hero?  Not even close.  But I am privileged to serve the real Heroes;  people who fight horrific battles in their mind and in their life every day and keep on fighting.  Battling thoughts that no one should have to experience, making even the simplest daily tasks excruciatingly difficult.

Mental illness takes the most hospital beds in our country and receives the lowest per patient funding in our country of any disease.  It is projected that half of our population will experience mental illness in their lifetime.  If that is not you then it is most likely someone you love.  And it is much cheaper to pay for treatment for all who need it than to pay the costs that untreated mental illness cause: personal, family and friend suffering; lost productivity; prison cells and hospital beds.

What can we do?  Get treatment for yourself or your loved one, treat the mentally ill with the respect being a Hero deserves, and vote for funding of Mental Health in your area.

What’s in a name?

Does the same word mean different things to different people?  I grew up learning the definitions of words from the context of the experiences I was in.  Did you?  No, I don’t mean the context of the experiences you were in, but the experiences I was in.  Of course not, you say.  And herein lies the problem… or opportunity.  When I say, “father” what do I mean?  I think of my father.  If I am trying to describe to you my relationship with my Heavenly Father do you instantly think of my father?  Or, your own father?

I believe some people hate God the Father because they are really thinking He is like their own father.  And their earthly fathers did not fulfill their expectations at best, and were evil to them at worst.  Satan can encourage real or imagined hurts to grow into bitterness.  So when I talk of my Heavenly Father what do I mean?

Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God (Isaiah 1:16).

When Jesus was born He was called: wonderful counselor, mighty God, EVERLASTING FATHER, prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Because Jesus was and is God’s Only Begotten Son, He can perfectly represent God the Father to us.

So what is the character of this Father?  Jesus was patient, even when His disciples got it wrong again and again (as I would have gotten it wrong as well),  Jesus was kind, even when it cost Him.  And forgiving too.  He didn’t repay evil for evil.  When He was dying on the cross He prayed for His murderers (the religious leaders) and tried to help them discover His Forever Love by reminding them of Messianic Scripture.  Though God the Father created all things by Him and for Him, He was not proud.  He humbly seeks a relationship with us.  He never forces Himself on us.  He doesn’t hold our past mistakes and sins against us.  He loves us with all that He is no matter what we do or what anyone or anything else does.  He believes the best about us and encourages us to become all He created us to be.  He does not fail.  (See I Corinthians 13 and substitute “Jesus” for “Love”).

Does this sound like a Father you would like to have?  You can.  Just ask Him to forgive your wrongs and come into your life and heart.  He is waiting.  And you two have so much to talk about!

You can choose to go to Heaven (Part 2)

Jesus has done almost everything needed for us to enjoy a relationship with Him forever.  We have a critical part to play in receiving and giving Jesus’ love.  Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  What does that mean?  Repentance means to “turn around and go in the opposite direction.”  Jesus’ gift of Eternal Life, and eternity with Him, is completely free.  It cost Jesus His life to be able to give it to us, but He gives it to us freely as a gift of love.  But what do we need to do, and what does Jesus need us to do, so that He can live His life freely through us?  We must be willing to turn from the principle of sin, and from the actions of sins; specifically, we must renounce that which hurts God and other people and ourselves.  You may be thinking, “Jim, I’ve tried to change before, I can’t do it!”  I can’t either.  No one can… not by themselves.  The Spirit of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, must remove the sin principle that is in us and give us His power to be “bent toward God” in order for us to leave our sins and truly love God and other people.  If we are willing to surrender control of our lives, and obey God, God is more than willing to give us His power to change and to leave evil actions behind and to live for Him.

You can choose to go to Heaven

To me the best salespeople aren’t the ones who try to pressure me into doing what they want me to do.  To me the best salespeople are the ones who give me the facts and respect me enough to let me make up my own mind.  One of my former pastors, Rev. Dave Terhune, used to say that he’s in sales and God is in management.  My pastor presented Jesus, told how much Jesus loved them (by dying in their place, and rising from the dead to give them new life forever), and their response and the consequences of their response (surrender to Jesus and live with Him forever; decide not to surrender, or decide not to decide, and be separated from Jesus forever (Hell)).

Pastor Dave never saved a single soul using this method.

But God saved hundreds of people, using Pastor Dave, using this method.  Give people the truth.  Give them the options and consequences of those options.  And let God do the rest.  Because only He can do the rest.

Contrary to what much of what our culture believes, God loves you and everyone else.  In eternity past He thought: I want to make a Jim McNaughton.  Now God knew before He made me that I would reject Him and need to have my mind taken away from me for ten years before I would be humbled enough to accept Him.  He knew that I would hate Him when I was in that pain, for what He had done to me .  He loved me enough that he was willing to endure me and my rebellion, until at last I surrendered to Him.  Now I realize that all that indescribable pain was worth it.  On the other side of ignorance and pain is the realization that God suffered with me and for me and I was never alone.  Mental Illness was a gift packaged in pain that changed my attitude from pride to humility.  Looking back the pain was infinitely worth it.  And I would go through it again if that was the only way to know Christ.  But… I definitely would not want to go through it again if I didn’t have to go through it again.

I think it was King David who said, “Strike me, it is a kindness.” And his son King Solomon that said, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted.”  Just because I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced didn’t mean that God didn’t exist, that God was powerless to stop the pain, or that God was evil.  God exists, He gave me the pain, and He made it work together for my good.

Millions of people suffer infinitely more than I have.  I don’t know why God allows so much pain.  But, I believe that when someone hurts, He hurts.  I watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, a few hours ago and they brought up our Free Will.  God chose to give us a choice as to whether we believe, trust and obey Him.  Or, whether we do not believe, trust and obey Him.  When we believe, trust and obey God we experience peace, joy and love.  All that is going on around us may be chaos.  But, on the inside, we enjoy God’s presence.  When we choose not to believe trust and obey him we experience evil, or the absence of God.

God wants you to choose life, to choose Him because He knows He is the best thing for you.  He made you because He wanted to love you and wanted you to experience His joy in receiving and giving love.  But He respects you and your right to choose.  He will not force Himself on you.  When He made you He placed you in times and circumstances that would best influence you to search for Him and find Him and realize that He loves you.  But He also allows you to choose to ignore Him, and pretend He does not exist, and die without Him, forever.  He is not wrong for allowing this.  It is the outflow of having a Free Will.  If you say to God, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” (active rejection), or decide not to decide, (passive rejection), He will do what you want.  And an eternity without God is Hell.

God is desperately pleading with you to choose Life, to choose Him.  But the only guaranteed time you have is today.  His arms are stretched out to you, His hands open wide.  But it is up to you.  Will you return His love?

Why Give?

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant
to the lender.
Proverbs 22:07 NIV84


Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?  Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. James 2:5-9 NKJV

Darwin suggested that the “strong” were to win out over the “weak”; the survival of the “fittest,” and the extinction of the rest.  But what if the rich are allowed their riches by God in order to give the rich the opportunity to bless the poor?  Not forced redistribution of wealth that the socialist advocates, but a freewill chance to love like Jesus loves.  The rich could provide resources and knowledge to those who lack them.

What if the poor has something to offer the rich?  “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith…?”  The poor could help the rich see past this material world, which operates on the principle of selfish gain; to see another world: A world which operates on the principle of loving service, powered by God’s love flowing through each of us to the other.  This world’s system operates on the basis of “what’s in it for me?”  Jesus’ system operates on the basis of: “God, what can you give others through me?”  It is a battle of the “get” (or “greed”) versus the “give” (or “love”) systems of thinking.

Complementariness, or each providing what the other lacks, is a theme that runs through God’s creation.  Unequal distribution of wealth (and faith) is no accident.  God made us each of equal value to Him, but unequal in our various abilities.  This is so we come to realize that we need each other.  This is so we can truly bless each other by giving some of what we have more than enough of (resources or faith), and giving it to the other, to meet each other’s needs.

And when God gives to you and me, and we each give to each other, the joy you and I and God share with each other, will tell a dying world where to find God.

I’m glad I didn’t get what I wanted

Jesus said that even in abundance our life does not consist in what we have.  I just updated my Linked In account to reflect my new job.  For my job description I put that I serve the mentally ill of which I am one.  At one time I wanted to be a CEO or president or anything that at that time I thought commanded respect.  I despised my mental illness and the stigma and “shame” that came with it.  Now I thank God for the experience of mental illness though I would not want to go back to having no meds.  I get to meet some of the neatest people through my job.  And what used to hold me back now I use to join with others in moving forward.  Jesus’ kingdom truly is upside-down when compared with how this world thinks.  If God would have granted me a healthy brain and given me my desire to “be important”, I would be lonely, frustrated, and friendless.  Instead He gave me defective brain chemistry, pain and sorrow, and a new life that values other people instead of what I think other people think of me.

What do you value?  Are you happy?  The Bible says that Jesus, took the form of a servant, and for the joy set before Him, endured the cross to pay for our sins.  What did He value?  You and me, and His Father.  He was never elected to public office, never wrote a book, and didn’t travel the world.  He did however, humble himself and obey His Father.  And He is happy.  If you want to follow in His footsteps you can.  Just confess your sins to Him.  Tell Him you’re sorry for them and that you are turning from them with His help.  Tell Him you believe He died for your sins and rose to give you new life.  And then tell someone about the forgiveness and new life God has given you.  Read the Bible and pray.  And love and obey Him.  You will experience His peace, love and joy.

Nobody’s perfect

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.   Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
Psalm 51:5-6 NKJV

Being truthful in my head is very hard.  I decide what I want because I want it. Then I pretend I really want it for another reason, a “good”, acceptable reason, a “righteous” reason.  I deceive myself, but almost no one else.  God wants me to tell the truth to myself.  If I read the Bible and see all the “good guys” as me and all the “bad guys” as someone else, I’m missing everything.  The Bible is a mirror to show me who I really am.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:22-25 NKJV

Most of the Bible heroes were flawed!  Abraham lied and let another man take his wife to save his skin.  David got another man’s wife pregnant and then killed the man to cover it up.  Jacob’s name meant deceiver and he lived up to it.  Noah got drunk and exposed himself.  Moses was a murderer.  Peter, the “rock” of faith, denied Jesus and called down curses on himself to keep himself from suffering Jesus’ fate.  Paul ruthlessly murdered men, women and children who would not betray Jesus.

If God can work with a crowd like that, and turn them into role models for us, do you think He can work with someone like me? or you?  Well, not if I lie to myself and tell myself I’m really not so bad, and nobody’s perfect, and my good outweighs my bad, and who are you to talk and… and… and….

Jesus “redefined” sin so that no one would feel left out:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire….“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  – Jesus, Matthew 5:21- 22, 27-28 NKJV

God desires truth in the inner parts.  Before Jesus can cleanse me of my sin I have to admit I have sin for Him to cleanse.  If I deny the true motives for my actions and cover it up with “righteous lies” Jesus can’t help me.  I have to be ruthlessly honest within myself.

Okay, so if I’m honest with myself, humble myself and agree with God that I have rebelled against Him, what do I get?

Peace with God.  And peace within myself.  And the ability to see and treat others differently.  More compassion, less judgement, less demands.  Jesus grants us forgiveness and grace (i.e. kindness we don’t deserve) and we can pass it along to those who hurt us.  We absorb the sting of their attacks, and we offer them kindness and understanding in return.  This isn’t natural, it’s supernatural.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit who works through you as you allow Him to work through you.  This fulfills the second half of the verse: And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

To help with the process of confession you may want to ask someone you trust if you can tell them your sins as you confess them to God.  This takes guts and I haven’t done it much.  I will report back to you after I have talked with my accountability partner.

Pastor Dr. Charles F. Stanley observes, “Obedience always brings blessing”.  And Jesus said, “The truth will set you free”.  May God grant me and you the grace to always confess our sins, so that we can reap the blessings and freedom Jesus always wants to give us.