Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Spiritual Journey of Justin Steckbauer & Issues in Wausau Wisconsin

By the grace of God today is another day of freedom from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes.  It's also a freedom from sin and a progressive and painful growth away from self obsession.  Me, as myself, the way I use to be, I was a menace to society and a danger to myself and others.  Thankfully now that's gone.  

I've been gifted an incredible gift that I don't think I deserve.  I still wonder if it's even for me.  Not me, right?  Can it really be for me?  I'm such a nothing you know.  How could this be for me?  Jesus offers forgiveness to sins for anyone, well, aside from Justin Steckbauer.  Since my case is kind of unique, a bit different.  See that Justin kid is sort of sub-human, a real worthless little snot.  So how can salvation be for him too? 

Day by day is coming to the realization, even posthumorously to the actual event of the new birth, that yes, it's for me, I'm not scum.  I'm not useless.  It's really for me too.  The cross is really for me.  And you too.

So today the 28th of June in this year of the fall of man 2014 it's much like any other day.  Wake up from frigid half recalled nightmares, shake off the images and go to the bathroom.  Make some coffee and grudgingly pray.   Fight for my prayer time.  Fight like hell against myself for Bible study time.  Fight my own selfishness and crack open a Bible.  Pull myself away from the computer to pray.  Ask God for another day of recovery, outside, the winds blowing.  After I'm finished praying, wonder if I said the words sincerely enough.  Wondering if angels are laughing at me.  Wondering if God is annoyed yet.  

Amble back to the computer and read some Christian news article and feel the shoots of emotional pain and tenderness, growing to despair as I watch Christianity crumbling in the republic of my birth.  Until I whisper a prayer in my mind, feel a cold hatred for the ignorant fools marching in such insane depravity and switch websites before the sense of injustice becomes unbearable.  

Speaking to God and hanging my head, not because of the falling republic or the corrupt elite or the corporate banksters, but because of the pain and hurt that rattles within my own mind.  I just want it to end.  I don't want to deal with another day.  I don't want to shower, shave, listen to the same music, write the same words, and then drive over to the shelter to deal with the same troubled homeless population that I can't seem to connect with in meaningful ways.  

I want to be home.  In the kingdom of my adopted family.  The family of God.  I don't want to be here, in this broken world dealing with such terrible realities.  And seeing such terrible schemes working just beneath the surface to destroy everything Christianity stands for, and everything liberty means.  But that's life in the fall of man.  Jesus Christ had tribulation, serious tribulation.  And he felt it.  He felt it very deeply.  And I feel it very deeply too.  Jesus even said he felt it to the point of death.  Oh man, I've been there.  Emotions can be great, but are also a serious bummer.  They're a tool for praise, but it seems much more so they are a weapon of the flesh that is wielded with powerful effect on my actions, actions I would prefer to be holy.  

Struggling, struggling, struggling with sin day by day.  It's such a guilt ridden machine to peddle upon day in and day out.  The exhaustion mounts, the sky turns gray, and hurt after hurt pile up.  And you wonder, will it really be OK?  Can I really go on another day?  At the point of falling, near rock bottom, the Spirit descends like a dove and rescues me from my own self created emotional collapse and fills my spirit with a new hope and the presence of God himself.  In heaven, on Earth, where can I go.. he's there.  He's always there.  Then I sense him.  And the crippling cold three dimensional prison around me is blown apart like a nuclear blast and the perfect light of God, the fourth dimension reminds me just who I am, who I belong to, and why I'm here, and what I must do.  That is peace.

The enemy is intent on throwing monkey wrenches into all I do.  It's like the book of Acts, the Acts of the Apostles.  But this is more like the Acts of Justin.  If you study through the book of Acts.  Paul goes somewhere, encounters success, then a serious problem.  He goes to a new area, more success, then a problem and he has to flee again.  There are arguments in the church, disputes about policy.  There are problems with Jews, there are problems with Gentiles.  There are great successes, then sudden shifts and they're driven out, beaten, attacked and so on.  It's as if an invisible war is going on behind the physical actions and words being spoken in Acts.  Like a spiritual war.  And it's the same in my life, in the acts of Justin.  

I was working with The Edge church in Wausau, a new church plant.  I worked with them for about 9 months, leading a Bible study, helping with events, and blasting events on social media.  But eventually there were ideological differences between Dan and I, so we ended up praying together and parting ways.  No harm done, just moving in different directions.

It was a month after that parting that I ended up getting hired at the Salvation Army of Wausau.  The position at the army has been a blessed, and I love the job.  At the same time it's a very tough ministry, with some very brutal realities to deal with on a daily basis.  What I've learned after three months is that you get used to it.  

I recall the first weekend I worked, I had three days of training and unfortunately due problems with too few staff I had to work by myself that weekend.  It turned out to be an insane weekend, where the residents got together and decided they would test the new guy, see what they could get away with.  Several residents were drunk, two of them started fighting.  I had to break it up, kicked three people out.  Had to call an ambulance for someone having chest pains.  Then several people who had left broke back into the building and were slamming beers in the bathroom.  I asked one of the guys to leave, a thoroughly unpleasant individual and he would not.  So I had to call the police.  

That was my baptism by fire if you will.  Since then it's felt like a war.  Residents will start doing better, I'll pray with them, give them a Bible and they'll start to do better.  And it's like the enemy comes in and messes with how they're feeling, and they end up drunk and get kicked out.  Back and forth, back and forth.  It's like a tug of war.  It's a battle of free will, Holy Spirit vs. the Enemy.  And every once in a while I'll notice a wedge being forced between me and the ministry.  I'm starting to hate the job, hate the wars, starting to fear the trauma of it, and it's like Satan is driving a wedge in there to see if he can quietly nudge me into quitting.  My emotions are more powerful, temptations get harder to resist and painful events stack up.  He knows just where to press, he knows my weak spots.  

I've dealt with this menace before, either him or his buddies.  His demons.  And it's no fun pre-salvation date to deal with demons.  Because you're in their dominion.  Add to that the temptations of the flesh, the darkened understanding of reality, the brainwashing of public education and television... and then theres the drugs.  Visions, dreams.  They'll come after you day and night.  

Today I belong to the Heavenly Father, through his son Jesus Christ.  I'm an adopted member of the line Abraham, the line of David.  And not just adopted.  In the rebirth, I am now flesh and blood of the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Jesus of Nazareth.  I'm no longer under the dominion of evil, and I'm sure that pisses the enemy off greatly.  So they go from a frontal assault to a guirella style war.  They work in the background, acts of sabatage, and they try to make my ministry as ineffective and difficult as possible.  They try to drive me back to the things of the flesh.  But the Spirit helps me.  

Just such a wedge was placed about a month ago.  It ended in me leaving the church where I was first baptized, New Day Christian Church in Weston.  It was a very difficult decision to leave New Day, but in the end it seemed like the right decision to make.  More and more I'd felt like an outsider at New Day.  An ongoing disagreement had been developing between myself and the Pastor.  Neither of us were wrong.  My take on evangelism is go, go, and go more.  And that makes sense, because my calling seems to that of missionary work, as an evangelist and apologist.  Of course I want to go.  And of course a Pastor watching over a sustained flock is going to have a different take on ministry.  Neither of us were wrong, it's just two different kinds of ministries.  So I moved to the Salvation Army of Wausau's church services.

My calling lines up with what the Salvation Army of Wausau is trying to do.  They're trying to interact with the community and make the community a better place.  And some incredible things are happening.  The Salvation Army has partnered up with Mount Olive Church in Weston and four other churches, all across different denominations to help be a blessing to the community.  That's what it's all about baby!  I love it!  Mount Olive is a Lutheran church, also partnered with Baptist churches, and the Salvation Army is methodist.  Finally, this is exactly what we need in Wausau.

Because the problems are mounting.  Two months ago I joined the AOD Partnership of Marathon County.  It's a sort of committee of local health and law enforcement agencies attempting to pushback against the growing drug, alcohol, and prostitution problems in the area.  The partnership includes representatives from the Health Care Center, the Police department, Americorps, and of course the Salvation Army, whom I represent.  I just love seeing different organizations working together for a common goal.  I'm not sure why, maybe my obsession with war movies like Braveheart, UNITE THE CLANS.  Who could say for sure.

But if there is one thing I've learned from my interactions with the AOD Partnership, and the trainings and committees, it's this: Public agencies can't do much more than educate the public and warn against the possible consequences.  That's just not much.  I remember at one of the training seminars I asked the question to the police officers running the training, "You talk about all these drug problems one by one, I guess I'm wondering, what's the solution?"  And they didn't know.  But do you know what I was thinking?  I know the solution.

I leaned over to my boss Director Wilson and I whispered, "The solution is Jesus."  

And he smiled and whispered, "Yeah, but nobody here wants to hear that."  

He's so right.  They don't want to hear it.  And public agencies utterly refuse to cross into moral territory, because it could generate terrible controversy.  They can't deal with the sinful heart of man.  And that's exactly where the churches in the area need to come in.  They've got to join together in a union and get into the community, and introduce people to Jesus Christ.  That's the whole idea of it, and if it can be done then the drug, alcohol, and prostitution problems will diminish.  Without the churches influence those problems will expand exponentially, they can't be educated away or arrested away, or legislated away.  Only the churches can deal with the problem.  And they have to, or the city will degrade.  It already has degraded.  But it can be reclaimed.  It has to be.  

Do the same in your communities, wherever you happen to be.  Only the church can deal with moral rot and the consequences of it.  Of course inflation and job loses are the underlying problems that are pushing more and more to drugs and alcohol.  But those issues are secondary to the moral rot.  Deal with the moral rot in the country, and hopefully the holiness will trickle upward into business leading to less corruption and less criminal behavior in major banking institutions and mega corporations.