Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Journey of the Christian through the Forest called Earth

“There is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me.” C.S. Lewis

Life could be described as a long and strange journey through a mysterious woods.  There is beauty.  There is intrigue.  There is fear.  There is so much confusion and doubt, outmatching at times the moments of happiness and joy.  But there is great hope as well.

Sometimes along the journey of life, something very tragic and powerful happens.  Sometimes it hits us face on, and smashes us into pieces.  And sometimes we get stuck.  And instead of moving on, we stop at that place where the moment of pain occurred, and build a house, choosing to live there.  We stop maturing, stop growing.  We become cripples, as no one can stop on the journey and not crumble in the process.  Memories are things to be lived through at the time, and remembered as the moments proceed forward, but we can't pitch a tent in our pain.  We can't continue to punish ourselves for our past mistakes.  But who will forgive us if we can't forgive ourselves?

There is a savior for forgiveness.  There is a way out of the wilderness.  This is a journey that can be made, pain after pain, event after event, joy and sorrow, peace and unsettled, despair and ecstasy, knowledge after knowledge, humbled into pieces, reception of Christ Jesus, and reconnection born after, ever burdened by sin after sin, carrying the incredible weight of distance from his presence, but promised something we cannot see, taste, or touch, yet believing and hoping, against all odds, and on the way changing the world, sharing that fountain with others, day after endless day, eyes to the horizon, head in the clouds, feet on the ground, stunning and shaken, screaming in sadness, victorious shout, endless eternity awaiting those who can just hold out to the end.  Great happiness to those who finish this journey.  That's what it means to me.. being a Christian.

Life is a winding mess full of incredible tribulation and nightmarish trials and testing fields.  But there is reason for great joy and great peace in the storm of present Earth, in this opaque infinitely complex, though desperately simple sin infested dark planet.  At this moment of twilight for the human race, in this powerfully present Fall, a savior came called Immanuel.  As the waters rocked the boat, and the storm clouds blasted the passengers, all hope had been lost aboard ship, but then on the horizon a figure appeared, walking out to us, the embattled, defeated mass of man kind, Christ Jesus, approaching us on the water.. the promised messiah... to save us from our sins, just before they threatened to toss the boat and leave us wiped from all memory of existence, battered and broken, defeated and lost, Christ Jesus walked out into our disaster and saved us from it.

That's what he did for me.  He walked out onto the water, and cleared the sky around me, so I could see the truth.  And the clear sky showed me that I needed the son, and I received the son, and one who is set free by the son, is free indeed.  This I know.

I almost died on this path through the wilderness of Earth.  That is no stretch, and I have the memories of emergency rooms and the words of doctors to back up such statements.  I gloat in my weakness in these pages endlessly, but more so, gloat in the power of my heavenly Father.  His power is perfection intruding into this dark world.

Don't get me wrong, there are so many wonderful experiences in life that remind us just how beautiful life is.  There are so many days that are filled with happiness and contentment.  And the original purpose of this blog and still a primary purpose was and is, to discover the secrets to having utter peace in the storms of life.  And even, to sit quietly without any electrical equipment, no computer, no tv, no cell phone, and no noise, and not have to run and go start something new because there's such a lack of peace in my heart.  That being the premise of this blog, and knowing just how little peace is within people's hearts today, naturally the response has been incredible.  In the 9 months since I started this blog, just after my baptism into the body of Christ it's been viewed over 16,000 times in over twenty five different countries.  I'm honored and greatly humbled by this fact.  All the honor goes to Jesus Christ, all the glory goes to our heavenly Father.  He is the reason that I still breathe oxygen.  He is the reason words are on this page.  Jesus Christ is the reason for this season, all together and completely.  All things are made by and for him.

If God is for us who can be against us? 

What is against us, is our sin nature and the forces of evil.  This is a spiritual conflict.  This is a war.  And we are soldiers for Christ.

“It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear no fruit because there is no winter there.”
― John Bunyan

And as John Bunyan writes, perhaps we need times of great darkness and cold trial to become people capable of receiving Jesus Christ.  Charles Spurgeon said, "Whenever God means to make a man great, he always breaks him in pieces first."  All of this could be true.  Perhaps the sin nature makes us so arrogant that we have to be crushed a bit before we can be humble enough to hear the word.  I mean truly hear it.  

I won't claim to know every experience.  I imagine there are literally millions of different ways to the cross of Christ, from all manner of backgrounds and all manner of trials and tribulations.  But it was my experience, that I needed a great deal of pain and suffering to be willing to call on Jesus Christ.  

There has been a theme lately, of a certain amount of depression, sadness, and lethargy with friends and acquaintances lately.  I think it's really just that time of year.  The weather has been frigidly cold here in Wisconsin and across most of the states for about two weeks now, starting out with negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit and tonight it's about 8 degrees.  It's a tough adjustment every year, as the grass and trees turn to miserable frozen tundra for six months.  We don't get much sunlight in Wisconsin from November to April, so naturally it gets hard during this stretch.  

So let's remember endurance.  It's not always easy.  We need seasons of cold, to then gratefully receive seasons of warmth and splendor.  Learn to smile and be pleased when awful stuff happens.  I know it sounds strange, but we can know at those moments God is training us up.  He is watering our character, so it will grow.  We'll change and become better people as a result.  We'll become more holy.

James 1:2-4 (NIV) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sin is a dangerous adversary as we go about this incredible beautiful adventure to the homeland, which is the winding rocky path of all Christians.  We are not heading to heaven, so much as we are heading home.  No place has ever felt fully home to me in this life, I do not gather wealth to myself or prized possessions.  I actually fully know and am consciously aware that I am only passing through this life, just as Billy Graham said.  His journey has almost come to an end, and mine is just kicking off. I hope I can leave a legacy like him.  Sin affects every Christian tall and small.  Jesus Christ was even tempted, just as we are, in all manner of intensity and power, but he remained perfect.  We do not remain perfect.  But through the process of sanctification daily, sins are removed.  

Do you know what the secret weapon against sin is?  Do you know what the secret weapon against every problem is?  It's been hidden in plain sight this whole time.  But in our keen human intellectual capacity, it just seemed too simple for it to be the answer.  We demanded something more complicated.  And I've seen people die demanding something more complicated.  I've seen people die because they aren't willing to work the 12 steps, because they shrug it off.  Like how could it be that simple?  Same thing with Christ.  People want it to be harder.  They want to achieve salvation, through karma, reincarnation, secret illumination, and so on.  There is no achievement.  It's a free gift.  Let's receive it through the secret weapon that can destroy all sin, the secret weapon that brings us to the throne of God no matter where we are or what we're doing.

What is that secret weapon?  It's prayer.

“Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.”
― John Bunyan

Be under no illusions.  Sin can rip people from ever entering the narrow gate.  Ironically we've always looked outside ourselves for the enemy, but the enemy has always been right there.  The enemy is us.  The enemy is how we act if we don't keep ourselves in check.  And sadly many die not knowing this.  Many die not caring.  Many die consciously or subconsciously choosing to do exactly as they please.  And many today will utterly refuse to face themselves alone, without any technology blinking or text messaging or television or movie or internet or party, so that they don't have to face the realizations that flow from such a calmness of the mind.

Realizations like.. What am I doing with myself?  Where is this leading me?  Wow this needs to stop look at me.  I'm not happy.  Hes abusing me.  Shes using me.  I feel guilty about that.  How can I change this?

It's incredibly powerful and all consuming, the sin nature.  And what I'm about to tell you is completely true from my intensely personal view on my drug and alcohol disaster.  As I lay dying in my trashed house, having lost everything I had, month after month, year after year, the realization that I ought to call out to Jesus Christ to save me was not an option I had even considered. So then how did I know to?  I couldn't tell you really.  It just kind of popped into my head.  What I'm saying is that I would have overdosed, been dead with nothing without direct intercession by the Father himself.  And it wasn't till later that I read John 6:44 and realized just how true it was.  Ever have a "wow" moment?  Yeah, me too.

John 6:44 (ESV) "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

Be careful of sin.  It's deadly to non-believers whether they know it or are willing to accept it or not.  It's dangerous to seekers and Christians a like.  We go up against the sin nature within us everyday.  We as Christians have the Holy Spirit to help us in this.  Otherwise we tend to lose much more than win, and get strung out on all manner of addictions whether to food, money, sex, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, attention, shopping, television, pornography, and so on and so forth.  Being enslaved to addictions is ugly and strange.  It's kind of funny in retrospect I thought I was "so free" the liberated Hunter S. Thompson-esc Gonzo journalist living on the edge not tied down, but my own brain was lying to me.  The addictions progressed over time and the chains grew more and more obvious until even me in my deluded alternative reality could tell it was killing me.  Avoid that path if you can, and maybe I walked it just to be able to tell people how truly awful and blinding it is, but if you can, avoid the sins.  How?  Our secret weapon, prayer.  Let your knees hit the floor twice a day, morning and night, and simply ask the Father to be with you throughout the day, and then thank him at the end of it.  It's so simple, yet so very vital, with such complex implications.  There is the hand of God.  If you want a biblical model, Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10).

Be careful for the supposedly wise of the world, Mr. worldly-wise, you can always tell them by their fruit, their personality, how they act, and what kind of things they do in the world.  Arrogance is so very common in world-wise people.  Elitism.  I have found after going through all the philosophy, writing, journaling, studying politics, world religions, history, and all the various economic, social, and political mechanisms of the world, no matter how smart or seemingly wise I was, there were three factors that made such wisdom meaningless and fraudulent.  For one, I was incapable of correctly interpreting the data because I was utterly biased, seeing all things from a bogus worldview.  Two, despite all my wisdom I was greatly self ambitious, and utterly selfish though equal to my selfishness was my own ability to hide it from myself.  Thus my interpretations delved deeply into my own desire for the outcomes rather than the facts on the ground.  And three, because any wisdom disconnected from loving compassion is repulsive and desperately worthless.  No wants to receive it.

Many never escape that.  I'm very glad that I did.  I truly am.  And now I get to write to you wonderful people and share the stories and trials with you.  It's all just part of the journey of the Christian isn't it?  Every step along the way.  I find it to be utterly beautiful, from the nature, to the skies above it, to the ideas within the experiences, to the moments of revelation and the tears of joy as our hearts sing gratitude to the Almighty God of all things.  It's just beautiful.  Powerful.  Ever-present.  Painful.  Yet so joyful. :)

Let's remember to pray often, and pray for the removal of our sins and the removal of our character defects that generate the sins.  God is not deaf.  He hears!  Prayer itself is so vital and I firmly believe the act of getting on our knees and simply praying, or singing, or just rejoicing and letting our hearts be grateful for all we're given is not simply an act of communication, but an act of submission to God, to the Holy Spirit, to Jesus himself, and by the act, we are slowly transformed from the sin nature to the nature and likeness of God, whose image we were made in.  So pray much and pray often.  And as you pray, pray not only for yourself.  There are so many people that need prayers.  We can intercede on the behalf of those who we see struggling in the sin nature.  We can step between them and the disaster and call unto God on high, that a light might shine into their disaster.  And God is not willing that any should perish.  The Father loves us dearly.  He listens to our prayers.  Prayer is our powerful secret weapon, hidden in plain sight.  And a single Christian with the Holy Spirit working in them is more powerful than all the armies of man on the face of the Earth.  That is a fact of spiritual existence, that is a fact of Earth existence, get on board with it.


This is a powerful journey we're on.  And I'm so very grateful to be a part of it.  I did not expect it.  I did not want it.  But now I can look at it and say I'm learning to love it.  I'm learning to start to see beauty in the world again.  I'm learning to start to see simile, metaphor, illusion, temptation, and inspiration in the world around me, in the snow banks, in the eyes of strangers and friends, in the words spoken, in the music playing, in the movies, in the pages of the Bible, and in my quiet prayers, my talks with my Maker.  

Welcome to the forest of Earth, my dear, greatly beloved and fearfully made Christian brothers and sisters.  We all start from different points, on our journey to the home we've never seen.  Home is ahead travelers, have hope and you will have perseverance.  Our hearts have sung for home since our very earliest memories.  Many struggles await us on the winding paths of this epic and powerful adventure.  We walk through fallen times, through the very shadow of death.  But fear not my family.  Lights shine in the dark forests, lights of the Holy Spirit, guiding us on our way.  The Father goes with us.  And to those who have not begun the journey, our Savior Jesus Christ awaits you at the beginning of the trail, to wash you clean of your sins, and to give you the Holy Spirit to guide you along the way.  This is a majestic and beautiful journey my family, and those who soon will be my family.  Walk this path bravely, without fear, keep your feet planted on the trail, but keep your head in the clouds, eyes focused on the coming eternity, eyes focused on one coming home to the Father of lights, to live with him in the place we belong.  There will be no more death, my brothers and sisters.  The heavens and earth will be made anew.  These are not legends or myths, but plain and simple truth.  These things will happen, and we will be there to see the creation made anew, with the tree of life producing fruit constantly for our eating.  Until that day my dear and beloved family, may your journey be one of great growth and all peace in times of struggle.  Pray on :)