Saturday, March 7, 2015

You Oh Lord are my Strength: The Manifold Provision of the Architect of Reality

 Psalm 16:1-2
Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”

Sometimes I ask myself, in the darkness, waiting to fall asleep.. "Am I really going to be able to do this?"  You wonder if you have the strength required for the journey ahead.  So much has been lost, yet so much has been gained.  A Spirit is working in my life.  Jesus Christ has come to me and saved me from the nightmares of the past.  I've been welcomed into the family of God.  At times it slips away, walking through the gym, talking to friends, driving to work, frown on the face.  That sensation of the presence of God, so fleeting at times.  Yet working always, even when I don't notice.  The consciousness of my sinfulness, always building.  It seems to grow and grow, as I progress forward in the journey.  More and more do I become aware of hidden realities I had never noticed.  Little gems of wisdom float in.  

Life still happens, doesn't it?  Surely it does.  People talk.  Rumors circulate.  I have to face down life on life's terms.  And try not to lash out at those who harm me.  God taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Not only did he teach us that, but he lived that.  As it has been said, when one person attacks another, they strike back, and the cycle of anger and violence begins to spiral.  Even to nations, wars, one side attacks the other, the other side retaliates, and on and on it goes.  But when Jesus Christ went to the cross, people hurled ridicule upon.  They accused him.  They mocked him.  They brought up false chargers against him.  They drove nails into his hands and feet.  They spat upon him, and laughed at his claims to be "God."  And what did Jesus do in response?  Nothing.  He became obedient to death itself.  All of the sins of man kind were hurled upon him.  He hurled nothing back.  Sin stopped that day.  He defeated sin.  He conquered death.  Not by fighting it, but by taking it upon himself.  And inversely, from the cross flowed forgiveness, grace, love.  From his side flowed rivers of blood and water.  

And so I must do the same, as much as I am able.  I feel weak.  I haven't slept right in years.  I'm afraid to go to the doctor, because I don't want to end up in that cycle again of always trying some new medication to manage an issue that seems perpetually unresolved.  I struggle with depression.  I struggle with immune system problems.  And recently rumors have spread about me that are shocking.  

Yet God remains good.  I will manage.  The victory of Christ at the cross, remains my victory.  God loves me.  And he also loves you.  

I was thinking lately, about the burden of leadership.  As many know I have begun a path toward officership in the Salvation Army.  Central Territory, USA.  I thought to myself, of the burden of leading a corps, of caring for a community, and of leading people, groups of women and men on the frontlines of the war on the gates of hell itself.  And I thought... do I really want all that?  Can I really handle all that?  How about.. maybe, being a librarian instead.  It seems very relaxing.  Just sit there and read books and help people find books.  Take a lot of naps.  

 I was at dinner with my mother, grandparents, and uncle after a long day at work.  We were discussing the Salvation Army, and the ministry I've been pursuing.  Our discussion turned to ISIS and their actions in the Middle East.  I mentioned how the Salvation Army is active in over 100 countries.  My uncle looked me in the eyes and asked, "If they needed you in one of those dangerous countries where Christians are killed, would you go?"

I searched my heart for a few moments, and replied with a sense of fear, "Yes I would." 

Lately I've been reading a book about the history of the Salvation Army.  It's been an excellent read, just finished it actually.  

Henry Gariepy tells the story of Major Noh Young Soo in his book Christianity in Action. In 1950 communists invaded along the 38th parallel and took over Seoul, Korea. Salvation Army corps were operating there, and the communists were successful in capturing Major Noh Young Soo, an SA officer. They marched him through the streets, and then ordered him to renounce his Christian faith. Facing machine guns, he calmly refused, raising his Bible in one hand, and his Salvation Army song book in the other, replying, "Whether I live or die matters not, Christ lives!" As he knelt down to pray for his captors, they opened fire, and he became a martyr of the Salvation Army. Truly, a great honor to die for ones savior.

No one said ministry would be easy.  I don't recall anyone saying that.  But I was hoping it would be a bit more fun.  It's been rather tough so far.  I suppose working with people will be.  Starting out is never easy.  It's been two and a half years now.  The journey has just begun.  

The threat of addiction keeps me moving forward.  One day at a time.  That's the only way to live.  I must live in today.  Or as a man in recovery once said, "Everyday I was crucified between two thieves: yesterday and tomorrow."  Alcoholism is scary.  Addiction is scary.  We see what it does to people, and no, it's not as simple as "stop doing it and walk away."  For some heavy users and drinkers it may be that simple.  But for many others who are truly addicted/alcoholic, the problem is not the drug, or the alcohol.  The problem is internal.  The problem is a spiritual one, it's simply a more obvious outgrowth of the problem of the wicked heart of man.  Addiction is crazy, baffling, power.  Thankfully it's an illness, and it's treatable, and there are many twelve step groups that can help addicts and alcoholics. 

But it's a constant threat.  It's a very subtle foe, addiction.  It'll be dormant for years, and one day... it'll whisper in your ear: "How about just one.. for old time sake."  My guard can't be up all the time.  Thankfully God provides grace in those areas.  And I trust him and his future grace, in dark situations.  I'm eternally grateful that God gifted me with recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  It's been two year, four months, and four days.  854 days total.  Things are so different now I can hardly fully describe it.  So I need to remember that happiness in life is all about having an attitude of gratitude.  And it's about staying in today.

Christ gives great joy during times of added affliction.  Indeed Jesus said, "my peace be with you."

 My throat hurts tonight.  I learned that I have strep throat, and just started taking the anti-biotics.  My nose is running, and I keep coughing.  I just got a $450 bill for my dog Bruno's surgery.  So expensive.  It's tough to make ends meet, and as a friend reminded me, becoming an officer in the Salvation Army is a road of financial poverty.  Haha.  But I don't know.  She was being sarcastic. 

The addictive behavior seems to pop up in different areas of my life these days.  Like spending, and over-eating, Facebook, internet, relationships, and other areas of my life as well.  It's difficult.  The tendency to go too far is common for us humans I think.  All things in moderation.

All of these things are so heavy.. still Christ gives us such rest.  Don't you think?  So many paradoxes in a world where sin is rampant.  Why?  Because God is perfect.  Imagine the difference, the tornado-like paradoxes that form when a perfect God and a sinful creation meet.  On my own power, I can't navigate any of this.  

I have a serious lack of power.  When it comes to sin, addiction, temptation, the problem is lack of power.  

But God says:  'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.  -Zechariah 4:6b

The Bible is a description of the solution to the problem of sin, and the fall of man into so many blunders.  The solution is Jesus Christ.  And through Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

We believers function by the power of the Holy Spirit.  That is how we live, that is how we love, and that is how we overcome sin.  A fellow believer emailed me recently and said that many Christians will be shocked when the floor falls out from under them and their own power, because they should have been connected to the power grid, the Holy Spirit.  I thought, you know, that may be true.  We as humans are prone to try to do things in our strength and ability, but those efforts are meaningless.  

Instead, our efforts must be done within the mission and strategy of the Holy Spirit as he leads the battle lines against the hoards of evil flying from the gates of hell.  So many Christians it seems, the ones you always here about in the media, are not building Christ's kingdom, they are instead building their own kingdoms, to their own glory.  They build for their own standing and importance. "Buy my book", "give money to my ministry."  So many of those massive mega ministries are nothing more than self glorifying money makers.  They are very inclusive and self serving, with ever bigger buildings and fancier displays.  They may even teach sound doctrine, yet their governance and spending patterns indicate a self glorifying ministry instead of a Holy Spirit-based universal ministry.  Eventually you'll even see golden statues in their "name brand" Christian television programs or products.  And then you know that they've gone full apostate, and erected a golden calf to replace the glorious, risen, blessed Jesus Christ our one and only savior.  

Lord may we never fall into that trap, may we serve without reserve ALL your people, not just our friends.  May we serve ALL your children, not just the ones who donate to our ministry.  May we use the tithes we receive to YOUR GLORY, not the glory of our own name, or our prominence or notoriety as a "leader."  May we glorify the Lord Jesus Christ in our actions, and may our ministries be a testament to the perfect morality, truth, and justice of the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, the blessed Heavenly Father.

God is so good to us.  Let us be good to him in response, and bring glory to his wonderful name :)  He gives so many gifts.  He gives manifold blessings, a multipronged whirlwind of hope, peace and transformation to us, his chosen people.

God gives so many gifts to the regenerate believer.  First Jesus Christ saves me from the just penalty for my many sins.  Not only that, I'm given adoption into the family of God.  I get to call the architect of the universe "Dad."  Imagine it!  Not only that, but I receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who changes me over time, and acts as a power in this world who leads me along the path of the will of God.  He gives me happiness, joy, victory over sin.  He gives protection, care, and affection from on high.  That's pretty amazing.  Did I mention honor and glory in heaven?  And unspeakable riches in heaven?  Not to mention, eternal life.  Eternal connection to God and other believers.  Gifts so wondrous the scriptures say: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9).  So many wonderful gifts.  How good is our God?  He is mighty, and great, and wondrous, and powerful.  He truly is the architect of the human soul and the lover of us, His children.  So we also love him.  

God seems to answer me, when I put together in writing my fears of failure, and my fears of not being strong enough for the road ahead.  I say "I can't do it Lord."  And God replies, "Not by your strength Justin, but by my Spirit."  My Heavenly Dad confirms the call in my heart, and assures me in peace, that he will provide the power, the strength, and the Spirit for mountain the future.  Mountains, be moved!  And so I praise the Lord my heavenly Dad, for he is mighty and great, my strength and my shield!

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, architect of heaven and Earth.  May we all sing out, Holy and full of grace and truth is our most perfect savior Jesus Christ.  May all the heavenly beings sing out, Praise be to the blessed Lord Jesus Christ our savior forever and ever, amen.  Praise be to God the Father, the blessed Father of all heaven and earth.  We will praise you Lord, you are most worthy of praise, you are our redoubt, our strength in the shadow of this life, you are the one who saves us.  You are mighty, perfect, holy, righteous, all glory be to you the one and only God our Father, the great I am who I am, Jehovah, Elohim, the designer of the human soul, the architect of space-time, the painter of the skies, and the first cause of the universe itself.  Praise be to you once more, you are my God, in whom I will trust always, Amen. 

Related Posts:
We are Blessed Beyond Measure

What is the will of God? 
The Holy Spirit as Guide, Preacher, and Indwelling in the Book of Acts 
What is God Like? 
God's work in the Human Heart