Sunday, November 27, 2016

Walking the Road to Bethlehem: Mary learns she will bear the Son of God

Audio Message:
 


Welcome, officially to the Christmas season. As we call it, “advent.”Why do we have this season of advent? What is advent? Advent literally means “the arrival.” And specifically, the arrival of an important individual. So this advent season we’re going to be taking a journey, to recall and refresh in our minds the advent, the coming of the most important person who ever lived: Jesus Christ.

Why do we remind ourselves of the coming of Jesus? I always wondered that as a child. The reason is very simple: The cares of this world, job, college, family, and the various pleasures of life can crowd out the true center of our lives, which is Jesus. So every year we celebrate the Christmas season to ensure that Jesus Christ remains at the center of our hearts and lives.
 

Today we’re talking about a young girl named Mary. We’ll be in Luke chapter 1 if you want to open your Bibles to there. So Mary was about 14 or 15 years old when she was visited by a messenger of God. Which is about the age of one of our corps cadets. But let’s go back in time for a moment.

Mary had a very dear friend named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was 88 years old, so a grandmother sort of figure in young mary’s life. And Elizabeth was married to Zechariah, a priest of his time. Zechariah received a message from God that his wife Elizabeth, 88 years old, will give birth to a son, and he will be called John. Immediately after she finds out, Elizabeth traveled about 80 miles to visit Mary. That’s no short journey for an 88 year old woman who is pregnant. But she made the journey, probably because when any of us end up in a surprising situation we seek out a close friend to help us understand what we’re going through.

Six months later, Mary, 14 or 15 years old, is living in Nazareth, and is waiting to be married to Joseph of Bethlehem. Historians believe Mary was 14 or 15 because that was the Jewish age when women were betrothed to be married. But sometimes it could even occur as young as 12 years old.

Despite being so incredibly young, God chose Mary for an incredible mission. God’s messenger appears to Mary one day, and he says to her “Greetings to you who are highly favored, The Lord is with you.” Would there be any sweeter words to hear from a messenger of God? I don’t think so. We often wonder how we’re doing in our walks with Jesus. Most days I feel like I’m screwing it up completely. And what I wouldn’t give for a few words from God, to tell me that I’m doing OK and he still has me.

Verse 37 of Luke chapter 1, “No word from God will ever fail.” It says that Mary was troubled by the angel’s words to her. And Gabriel replies, “Don’t be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Gabriel tells her that though she is a virgin, the power of the Lord will come upon her and she will give birth to the son of God.

And young Mary’s response is quite simple, yet infinitely profound. She replies, verse 38: “38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

That is the right answer when God asks us to do something. Mary believed the messenger of God, and said “may it be so.” Essentially she said, amen, yes it will actually happen this way!

In contrast, 6 months earlier when Zechariah Elizabeth’s husband was told about the birth of John the Baptist he replied, Matthew Chapter 1 verse 18: ““How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” In sharp contrast to Zechariah, Mary, all of 15 years old or so, says “I’m the Lord’s servant. May it be done as you’ve said.”

We think of Mary the mother of Jesus as a glowing figure of history. But it’s really important to remember that Mary was just an ordinary, average, everyday girl, probably living a very modest life. She lived in an insignificant town, like say Wausau Wisconsin where I’m from, or Escanaba Michigan. Just a run down, dumpy little village called Nazareth.

Mary was a humble girl from a humble town. She was lowly. And she was faithful. A quiet, everyday believer, young, but with sincere faith in God. And she is told by an angel of God that she will bear the savior of the world. She is told she is pregnant.

Now if this was just a legend, just a myth, we might expect that when Joseph finds out Mary is pregnant he leaps for joy because he’s going to be the father of the messiah. But this isn’t a legendary story, it’s a factual, historical account. And that isn’t what Joseph did. What would you do if you found out the girl you were engaged to was suddenly pregnant? And she says it was “God.” Yeah, uh huh. Sure it is.

Matthew chapter 1 verse 19 says “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

He finds out Mary is pregnant and he says, well I’m gonna divorce her! But he’s obviously got strong character because he’s going to do it quietly to protect her from public disgrace.

This doesn’t read like a legend or a myth, it reads like real life. It reads like a historical record. Joseph does what any of us might do, he decides to divorce Mary because shes pregnant with someone elses child.

Joseph is probably back at his house, very upset about this situation, and he’s thinking about what to do. He falls asleep and he has a dream in which the angel of the Lord appears to him. And this messenger says, Matthew 1:20-21 ““Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”And only then is the marriage between Joseph and Mary secured.

Essentially, with God anything is possible. He makes the impossible, possible in our lives. I know this personally. This is the part where faith, trust, and belief become necessary. Because by all outward appearances, it just isn’t possible. How can the 88 year old Elizabeth give birth at her age? How can Mary give birth to Jesus without coming together with a man? How can this angel appear to people and give them messages from God?

Yet we’ve seen God time and again do the same in our own lives. One of the purest moments we can experience as believers in Jesus is when we realize for an instant that what has just happened is impossible yet it has happened and did happen and is possible because God almighty has made a personal action in reality to generate the miraculous.

For some of you in this church it was when you looked into Bonnie’s eyes and saw her beholding the face of God. For some of you it was watching Bob overcome his skin condition. For still others it was watching Stanley miraculously overcome stage four cancer. And again, for me and for all of us, as we heard that Jase’s internal organs were not growing and his life was in danger and the doctors couldn’t explain it, how his organs miraculously started growing again. For Major Ralph and Debbie when 30 years ago God called them from their previous lives to become officers and pastors. And for me, when thrice I was in mental hospitals, detoxes, rehabs, and finally ICU emergency rooms near death, shackled to drug addiction, trying to quit for the 50th time, and finally calling out to Jesus and those unbreakable shackles shattered from around my wrists and I was set on a course to serve God with my whole life.

And I’m certain I’m only scratching the surface as far as just the people in this chapel, but think of all the miraculous events across the planet and across time! So when people tell me a virgin can’t give birth to the son of God, all I can say is I’ve seen miracle after miracle my whole life, not to mention the galaxies, the sun, the moon, and the stars, and the human race, nature, and animals all perfectly tuned and set up to provide for equilibrium and life, so don’t tell me that these are just legends and myths, don’t tell me you can’t believe in Jesus the son of God. Everyday when we open our eyes we’re surrounded by a world of exponentially inspiring miracles. If your heart is too brutalized and darkened to see the truth, well that’s very sorrowful, but for those of us who can see the obvious, the power of God came upon a 14 year old girl named Mary and made her to be pregnant with the son of God. And that’s the truth of life. The impossible, becomes possible. And that is of no difficulty to an omnipotent God.

Believe. Just believe, and stop doubting. Don’t be like Zechariah, the old fool who questions the angel saying “How can this be so?” Instead believe, and reply, “I am the Living God’s servant, and may it be so as His word says.”

God uses the willing heart. So we must seek to be obedient. And we believe that Jesus Christ the son of God was born into human history to set us free from our sins. And it all started with an average girl in an average town with an average fiancée, encountering a not so average God. Be obedient to that message. Choose to believe God’s word. Not only is it historically reliable and based on eye witness accounts, the evidence of it’s power to transform the world is present all across the nations, from China to India to Zimbabwe and Tanzania, France, Pakistan, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, the United States, and even all the way to the little sea side town of Escanaba Michigan. The evidence is clear, so believe.

In conclusion, during this month of advent, as we journey to the virgin birth and reinvigorate this timeless saga in our minds, I encourage you to crack open your Bibles, explore the Christmas saga. Read the opening accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Set the Christmas history of our Christian faith anew in your mind, as the foundation of your calendar, the foundation of your life, that God so loves the world that he sent his son Jesus Christ, God with us, to be born of a virgin, to live a sinless life, and offer his life as a sacrifice on the cross to free you from the shackles of sin, give you new birth into his family and eternal life in heaven forever. 


Mary said “yes” Now you, say yes!” 


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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Battle for the Soul of America: Progressivism vs. Americanism

Gondolin, via Wikimedia Commons
Time and again humanity on this Earth comes to the brink of collapse.  We live in a world where there is a rather large pit of darkness.  And many times a century from this pit flows a mammoth flood of evil, in many a form, threatening to crush civilization.  

Our present era is no different.   First our ancestors faced down Germany in the 1st and 2nd world wars.  Then came threat of totalitarian communism and genocide flowing out of the Soviet Union.  In the 60s and 70s came the threat of rabid secularism and the "progress" agenda.  Today perhaps the greatest threat we face is the threat of organized, entrenched, institutionalized cultural Marxism which has been functioning for some time now, and is now moving into the production phase, having conquered the educational system in public schools and colleges, they are now turning out "progressive" revolutionaries by the hundreds of thousands.  

This is nothing new.  Humanity has faced this threat time and again by those who, driven mad in the zeal to create a fictional utopian future, and perhaps more so, those with a rage against the religious and traditional values of a society, rally in contrarianism and critical theory to rip down everything around them in their arrogance and vengeful anger against a moral and religious order that offends their debased relativistic naturalist dogmas.

Most people are not aware of this.  Most especially the young are filtered into the superstructure of indoctrination into this worldview system never understanding that those who seek to subvert and supplant the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and moral underpinnings of the security of our society are building a "progress" agenda effectively placed firmly on mid-air, that is, vague opinion, suspect scientific studies that may or may not be biased, feelings, emotions, and "whatever feels right" at the moment to those who control this hegemony. 

The narrative is of constant "progress."  Yet progress is not what we see with our eyes or hear with our ears.  If it weren't for the internet, radio, and new media very few would be able to connect progressivism to the disappointments we see and hear. Yet new media has scored some huge victories.  It was almost as if thirty six star fighters, X-wings and Y-wings in the form of new media, attacked the death star of the mainstream media, with seemingly little hope of victory.  The battle ensued, and one by one the mainstream media seemed to be defeating the new media with a constant stream of propaganda.  Yet with moments remaining, a few starfighters left charging the trench, and those two proton torpedoes were fired.  Yet whoever it was at those controls shut down their targeting computer.  And they trusted in God to take control in that moment and lead things in a new direction.  Amazingly, the death star exploded in brilliant fire and destruction.  The enemy had been vanquished, yet not defeated.  

Ultimately, it was not the slick messaging, or amazing strategic skills of new media sites or podcasts or the Trump campaign, ultimately it was God almighty who effected a victory.  Does this mean Trump is God's man?  Not at all.  I have no idea how that all works.  But I am certain that God is always at work in the world.  

We should not be surprised at the incredible struggle we face on a national level.  If I were in charge of the kingdom of Satan on Earth during the 21st century my first and only target would be the United State of America.  Without America China and Russia could easily plunge the world into authoritarianism and darkness.  Without America the great evils in the middle east could run amuck upon Europe and Africa with little threat of reprisals.  Without America there would be no "good guys" around the bend who could sweep in deus ex machina style to save the day at the last moment.  There would be no good guys left, just the darkness.  So it's no wonder that Satan and his kingdom seek to rip down America with all manner of chaos.  

We as the church of Jesus Christ, growing and prevailing throughout the last two thousand years of history, are much like the white city in the Lord of the Rings universe.  Gondor the white city is supported and protected by the elves, representative of God's angels and spiritual forces that guide the church and protect it.  Gondor's realm is charged with constantly checking the darkness.  There is no way to march into Mordor and finally defeat it.  It's always there, a craggy kingdom of fire and darkness that occasionally spews out orcs and evil beasts by the tens of thousands to destroy the kingdoms of men.  Time and again, Gondor must rally her armies, march upon the gates of darkness and crush evil as it threatens to pour itself upon middle earth.  

Yet we find ourselves in a situation much like middle earth.  The elves are leaving these lands.  Much like Christianity has begun to decline in the United States and dissolve across Europe, yet it seems to be growing by leaps and bounds in Africa and Asia.  Gondor, the church has a severe failure of leadership.  The church is molding under corrupt leaders who exalt themselves and ruin the witness of millions of sincere believers.  They turn out ghost written books by the thousands, bank off the faith of sincere believers to enrich themselves, and constantly expose the Christian worldview in the press to insult and injury via sex scandals and corruption.  

Yet Gandalf the White, the Holy Spirit rides from city to city rallying the kingdoms of men to stand against this new darkness flowing out of Mordor.  

The church of Christ is rallying on Earth.  The first signs of energy and enthusiasm of showing, despite the failures of so many charlatans.  Ultimately the church is seeking assistance from Rohan, the horseriders, the conservatives and tea party movement.  Rallying together, these two kingdoms are seeking to march against the forces of moral relativism, progressivism, the militant secularists, democratic socialists, and corrupt cultural Marxists. 

The white city burns, the white tree of Minas Tirith, the tree of liberty is aflame as the cultural Marxists attempt to destroy Gundor from within.  Yet the conservatives and traditionalists are rallying for the cause of liberty, to turn the tide of darkness.  

Can we march upon the black gates?  Can we drive our forces into the heart of darkness, to wage the battle of the last alliance?  Only time will tell. We're each born into this generation for a specific purpose.  If you find yourself aptly able to answer the challenges of your day, rest assured that is no coincidence.  We're each shaped and formed to play our part in the great saga of the human race.  We're all set forth by God, given this divine gift of choice, free will.  Make your choices, and make them good ones.  Your not a victim.  Soldiers to defend the White City are needed now, today.  I hope you'll be one of them.  We can challenge the darkness and strategically wage battle against it, in the realm of ideas, or we can sit on the sidelines, and figure others will fight it for us.  But there are no others.  Just us.  Our choices will determine the future, if we rally to fight it, we will be victorious, if we give up and sit on the sidelines, we will be defeated and driven out, and we'll watch from the ditches as the cities burn to the ground.  This is of course no exaggeration, any historian knows this has happened time and again in human history and the history of empire.  

Today, seek our Lord.  Pray for knowledge of His will for you and the power to carry that will out.  Take up your sword and shield and rally with the forces of light against the darkness.  It's up to you and the tide is beginning to turn.  Take a stand, and you can make a difference.  The great civilization is ours to defend or ours to lose.  Choose wisely. 


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Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Ministry of Reconciliation: Your Life Mission Defined



So, the election happened. And boy was it a messy affair! Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up soon. Red kettle season starts tomorrow. Things are ramping up for another successful year in the Salvation Army. And in the United States, a new team is taking over the leadership. Life goes on!

Personally I'm glad that the election is over. It was a very partisan affair, quite vicious and brutal. I think many were surprised by the result.

A vast part of the country felt like they had no voice in the direction the country was going. That caused a great deal of frustration. When one view permeates the culture and the discussion while the other is neglected, people get upset.

Many during the election saw themselves as messengers for one party or the other. They went to work knocking on doors, putting up yard signs and delivering their message on the airwaves. They found a cause greater than them and went to work building it.  The dedication is quite remarkable, don't you think?  Both sides fought very hard.  And I think to myself, shouldn't we have the same zeal about carrying our living gospel into the world? We as Christians are ambassadors, and messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must carry it with zeal and tenacity. 



The word of God says, 2nd Corinthians 5:11-21 (NIV) "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

What is given to us, as regenerate believers is what the word of God calls "the ministry of reconciliation." This is a mission set to consume our lives. We must do it, because the word of God says "It's as if God were making his appeal through us." Amazing the honor that is afforded to us.

Have you ever had a conversation or a chance encounter with what seemed to be a random stranger? And that conversation gave you a chance to witness to your faith in Christ? I have. And there is nothing random about it. God foreordains such conversations and encounters because he is making his appeal through us.

Many of us are praying for our country, praying for America and appealing to heaven that God would have mercy on this nation. And it's right that we should do so. But we also have to take action. We have to do the footwork of carrying the gospel and witnessing to the power of Christ in our lives. We’re free to do so, thankfully.

This experiment called the United States is very unique in history. Some say that the whole world is just like America, but it isn't true. In fact most of the world can only dream of the freedoms we enjoy.

There were people long ago who stood up; stood up for their religious freedom, stood up for the right of representation, and stood up for their rights as beings created in the image of God. These are our ideological great grandfathers, people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton. At that time in the 1700s Great Britain was the most powerful nation on Earth. And they fought the British, as the British attempted to raid their storehouses of ammunition and firearms. They fought a long, brutal revolution and won their independence. 


In principle they placed into law the Constitution and Bill of Rights declaring all men equal, with unalienable rights that government has absolutely no say in, because they are ordained by God.  Essentially they declared every person has rights, not given by government, but given by God, and government has nothing to say about that, government can only protect the rights people already have. Do you know how rare that is in history? 99% of revolutions end in chaos and even worse dictators taking the place of the previous regime. So we have to be so grateful that our founding fathers were almost all Christians and decided to put into law the freedom that God almighty provides to us.

Like the first patriots, men and women of future generations decided that the United States of America was so precious, so free, so wonderful, that they had to step forward and fight to protect it. That's why I'm so grateful to all the veterans out there. These people are heroes because they decided to fight and protect our country in times of need. If you see a veteran in the next few weeks, take a moment to thank them for their service and shake their hand. Veterans are like superheroes to me.  My grandfather is a veteran. I've always felt there is something special about that.  When he tells me about his service in the Korean war I'm just amazed.  It takes great courage to serve in the armed forces.  Thanks to those of you who have done so.


I've always considered myself a patriot.  I can't really abide those who endlessly trash the United States.  It's something they do called critical theory, a way of picking apart and attempting to destroy by obsessively and constantly criticizing the opposition.  There are a lot of people in this country, self absorbed individuals who feel entitled to bash America.  Now, I can understand constructive criticism, but when people bash the country just for the sake of giving themselves a sense of moral superiority, that I cannot abide.  This mindset, along with many other keys issues caused me to participate during this election season.  I felt quite compelled to be active. I followed the primaries closely and wrote articles supporting my preferred candidate. I talked to voters and discussed the issues. In fact it began to take up a large part of my life and time. If any of you noticed my Facebook newsfeed you know that. But now that the election is over, I'm looking forward to shifting my energy and focus from politics to my religious faith.

As important as politics is to the world and my life, there is something far, far more important: The gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people out there who are suffering and dying, everyday. There are people in this community, on the streets, in the bars, in the dope houses, homeless, and in jail that are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. Their very souls are at stake, every moment they hang in the balance. Young people are being led astray. Young people are dying of drug overdoses, alcoholism, and suicide, having never heard the gospel. And then they go into outer darkness. It scares me. It scares me so much because that was almost me. And I think about what hell must be like, the emptiness, the sorrow, the darkness, and it's a fate worse than death.

Yet I believe there is great reason for hope. Because people all over the world, all over America, and in our church congregations are getting active for Christ.

There are two types of Christians I believe; active and inactive. Some sit back, not really seeing themselves as on a mission. And some are missional, they are looking for opportunities to love their neighbors, invite people to church, develop relationships, and share the gospel. I've seen many people in the church sharing the message, bringing neighbors and friends to church, and inviting those they see in their lives to come to the cross. We have to do that. We have to be the church. Christ makes his appeal through us, because we are his hands and feet.

I’ve seen people in the churches being his hands and feet. And it’s awesome. I’ve seen young people, bringing friends to church. I seen older people inviting their neighbors and friends. I see people inviting strangers and acquaintances. And maybe a lot of them aren’t coming, but you are telling them and that’s being Christ to them. Great job. I see prayer warriors, praying for people outside their congregations, praying for coworkers, praying for friends, and family. If that's you, great job, your being an ambassador of Christ.

Keep it up. And as you do, don’t be afraid when the enemy attacks you. If you feel and know that your under spiritual attack, join the club. It used to scare me, I’d have nightmares, get sick, see the enemy poking at me through non-believers, but it doesn’t scare me anymore. In fact it puts a smile on my face, because I know the enemy wouldn’t be attacking me unless I was making a real impact for Christ. So when your attacked, dig in deeper, pray harder, and go out and be that ambassador for Christ even more.

There are so many things in this life that vy for our attention. We want to have the perfect body so we can attract a husband or wife. We want to meet the right person to build a life with, and maybe everything else goes out the window once we do! 


We want pleasure. We want the good life. We want to check off that bucket list. But the word of God says differently: “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” -Philippians 3:8

Do you have things in the right order in your head? Is Christ and his gospel first in your mind? That’s what I’ve been wondering to myself the last few weeks. I’ve been so obsessed with politics for one, and secondly, for finding the girl of my dreams, getting married, and having a family. Those aren’t bad things, but they have to stay in context. I have to keep my imperative right, I have to make sure my central focus is Jesus and the gospel. That isn’t easy in this world of media, televisions, ipads, ipods, laptops, xbox, cable flatscreen mounted to the elliptical at the gym, three screens on at once in the living room after work, youtube, twitter, facebook, and the world wide web.

I can get so off course in the space of a day that pretty soon my mind is wandering, and I’m starting to indulge in sinful thoughts that have no place in the mind of a Christian. So if you feel like you fail Him every single day, join the club, I feel that way too. And I can only hope that through time, study, growth, and the work of the Holy Spirit he’ll continue to conform me to the image of his Son.

The work of a Christian isn’t easy. I’ve felt so tired the last few months in the Salvation Army work that I do. I swear I can feel the Lord literally stretching my soul and abilities. It’s a good thing though, during times of trial I always emerge at the other end feeling surprised by the joy of the new spiritual muscles he’s placed upon me.

I want to carry the gospel. I want to be an ambassador for Christ, a minister of reconciliation. That isn’t just the job of the minister though. We are all the priesthood of believers. 


In fact some of the most inspiring moments I’ve heard are from people at work, at their job, or with their friends, when God opens a door for them to share their faith. My mom, a nurse, told me stories of how she witnessed to a stubborn atheist she worked with, and he got very sick and through the struggle he came to believe in God. One guy I knew started sending emails to his coworkers with religious devotionals. Several people started to gain interest, but one guy also told him to stop sending them to him. There will always be those who Satan works through to try to stop us, to scare us, and send us fleeing. But there are also those who Christ works through to save and redeem.

As the scriptures say, verse 13 of 2nd Corinthians chapter five, “If we are out of our mind it is for God.” Many see us Christians as "out of our mind."  Bible thumpers!  Jesus freaks! And if we are, it’s for their sake.

Everything is at stake. I hope you understand that. The people we see everyday are under threat of eternal disconnection from God. The stakes could not be higher. So Christ seeks to make his appeal through us, in a ministry of reconciliation. Your charged with helping reconcile; to help resolve a dispute between God and his children. That can and will be accomplished through Jesus Christ. I see us doing that as a church and it’s wonderful. 


There is one way sure way to experience the presence of Christ firsthand and that’s through carrying his gospel.

As Paul wrote “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death." -Philippians 3:10 NLT

Do you feel the same?  Not every day.  But I do hope you'll fight for that. I hope you'll be filled to the brim with God’s Spirit and I encourage you: Keep doing it. Keep sharing the gospel. Keep developing those relationships. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t shrink back. Keep inviting them to church. Don’t give up. His Spirit is with you. Jesus is working through you, in and out of season. I believe in you, and so does Jesus. Believe in Him. Amen.





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Friday, November 4, 2016

The Darkness of Drug Addiction




I could still feel it inside me. It had been pumping through my veins on the drive. The drive had been beautiful. It had been like a painting. I had felt like I was sitting in a painting. The music was part of the painting. Mew was playing. Beautiful riffs. Words about reaching down to touch sorrows. Now that was gone.

I sat there perplexed like an ant on an empty hill of sand. It was Spring, I sat in the grass outside the facility, as did many others. They were fellow junkies, other patients. I watched them. I watched the red cement. The sky was blue. The sun shined glossy on the wax grass landscape.

Where am I? I thought. This is desolation. This is where society tosses us. The forgotten. The losers. The failures. The ones who had sucked too hard on the nook that is the American dream. They had become addicted to it. Now they fiend for it. And so did I.

I hated them. Yet at the same time, I loved them. They were good people you see. They wore smiles on their faces. Somehow I knew they were good people. Cast out of a society that did not understand their pain. Some felt too much. Some felt too little. Some had been through hell and now could not speak. They were pariahs, lost souls, damaged and broken, sent away by society, as society said, “ We cannot deal with you anymore. You are too sad. You are too broken. “ 


Addiction, well, it's like a river of extremes.  For those who ache for something more, it's a rather sinister entanglement.  It seems so harmless at first.  And it's such a wonderful feeling, the first few times especially.  You begin walking down this road and eventually you realize that your lost.  You realize you've become addicted.  And there isn't enough left of you to fight it.  In fact it becomes impossible to fight.  It's bizarre.  It takes you, all of you.  Addiction, well, it's just a word.  But for me, it was nearly the end of my life.  It was nearly the destruction of my soul.  

No one, fully no one can really understand the extent of addiction but the addict.  It goes far beyond extreme.  All of life rotates around the drug.  All of reality bends to the drug.  Logic changes in the mind.  The material world slows down, speeds up, and my very experience of space-time is altered.  The mind is fundamentally changed by drug addiction, especially over many years.  The entire mindset is shifted to function around the drug.  It is particularly demented.  It is quite extensive.  

Grope for it if you can, it's like being unable to want something else.  So an onlooker says "just quit."  But how can I just quit?  Because I see it destroying my life, yet I can hide from that, and I love it so much, yet I hate it so much, yet I've become accustomed to it.  And I'm afraid, so afraid.  And the addiction has learned to protect itself within my mind with defense mechanisms to perpetuate the lies and self deception.  

The sad thing is you see it happen to such wonderful people.  The majority of people I encountered were not evil, or manipulative or gang bangers or murderers.  No, they were just people.  Very lost people.  Much like myself then.  They did things that were wrong.  But you could tell, at least many of them were particularly beautiful souls.  You know, like artists, painters, writers, philosophers, and political activists.  Fascinating people really!  They were people seeking something more.  Much like myself. 

For many of us, the drug was the most awful bait and switch.  The drug masqueraded as a new dimension, a new experience, a new spirituality, as an adventure.  And at first it was just that.  But suddenly it would change, switch gears, and you'd realize that while you were dreaming, seeing colors, feeling euphoria, the drug had driven a stake into your heart and made itself at home in your soul.  And soon you found yourself doing things you'd never do before.

The tunnel would grow darker and darker.  And eventually it's like your life has become so about the drug, it's become so integrated that it's impossible to imagine life without it.  That point cannot be overly emphasized. 

It would be like me or you trying to live without running water.  Or to live without any electronics.  Or without a car.  It's completely alien.  And oddly terrifying.  

When someone is truly addicted, it is quite rare for recovery to occur.  For every one addict or alcoholic who recovers long term, there are at least one hundred that die addicted.  And 1 in 100 is definitely a generous ratio.  Drug addiction is evil.  It is a plot of evil.  There is something particularly evil about it.   

People are afraid to share about it I'm sure.  The darker experiences of drug addiction are so over the top, it seems impossible that someone else could understand.  Like a prostitute or someone who is sex trafficked, they sometimes testify that it seemed spiritual, as if they were being raped by demons.  Annie Lobert shared that experience, she told her story via "I am Second."  Click here to view that on Youtube

In the darker periods of addiction, and boy does it get dark, one experiences an evil that is not simply random, but calculated and embodying personality.  Even before I realized that a good God existed, in 2011, before that, I believed in angels, because I had experienced demons.  

It's a personal testimony, and quite provocative.  But also quite reasonable.  And if you go down the dark path far enough, you'll encounter these entities.  It's that little something extra about life that doesn't quite fit the standard routine that prompts serious inquiry, don't you think?

Cut beneath the strands of drug addiction, the fuzzy colors, bizarre experiences, and late nights that feel like a dream, like trouble is somehow baked into the air itself, like there is a grim twinge to reality and life seems painted with maroons and blues, beneath the beauty and mystery something more basic is taking place, something at the base of all the chaos: Destruction.  Destruction is at the core of this saga.  It's the story and ongoing process of slow, chronic self annihilation.  It is the ultimate act of rebellion against all things, even self, to destroy, not just the world or others, but yourself.  It's based on sorrow, confusion, and the sick pleasure of it all. 

That at it's core, is a spiritual tug of war within the soul.  

Part of me to this day, a small part of me still wants that and craves it.  Through the help of Christ and recovery, I've locked that part of a me in a cage, shackled and half starved, but never dying.  

I've heard it told that the struggle within me is the story of a man who had two wolves, one was good and one was evil and they were caught in a pitch battle for dominance of his soul.  This man told his son of this truth, and his son asked him: "Which wolf wins?"  And the man replied, "The one you feed."  

Isn't that certainly true?  If I spend my time in God's word, if I spend my time working my job, and trying to the right thing, that evil within me becomes weaker and weaker over time.  If I spend my time using drugs, womanizing, bar hopping, and screwing people over money and dope, well, then the evil within gets stronger and the goodness becomes weaker.  

I can feed my flesh, or I can live by the Spirit.  That's what Paul wrote.  

The journey to the bottom, to end of one's wits is dark and excessive.  There is a state of enjoyment in self destruction that long passes, and it is only torturous, all the time.  The sorrow is permanent and hope begins to die.  Finally when the last whiffs of hope die within the addict, they accept their fate as the perpetual junkie.  All hope is lost, one wishes for death, yet death will not come, and life itself is an unbearable agony.  

Beauty had ultimately led me to the realization that God existed.  The late night walks, six days a week, two hours a night, walking at two AM among the stars, the street lights, and the silence and calm.  It was all too much for me to withstand.  It gave rise to the realization that this great designer had put things together.  Beauty, the moon, the stars and the night assured me of that.  Though the demons prodded me in the day, at night I walked alone with the stars, though not alone, for the Spirit of God went with me, not over months, but over years, slowly leading me to the place where I would cry out in infinite despair to the one who I believed could really set me free, Jesus Christ. Just one name, Jesus Christ.  

It's been four years now, and what a journey it has been, but the greatest truth is that there are far greater things ahead than any I've left behind. 


Related Posts: 
  1. Living in a Mad World: The Entire Spectrum of Life & Jesus
  2. Healing from Past Struggles
  3. Post-modernism is Dead, Jesus is Alive
  4. The Deep and Beautiful Secret of the Human Soul
  5. How has God blessed you in the Last Year?
  6. The Growth & Flourishing of the Christian Mind
  7. The Crying of the Wolf at Midnight
  8. Rediscovering Lost Values, Political Engagement
  9. God of Love, God of Justice: A Future Heaven, a Future Hell
  10. How to Pray Authentically: The Four Position Prayer
  11. A Junkie Shares about Addiction, Jesus, and the Salvation Army
  12. What is a real Spiritual Journey?

The God Who Designed You Wants to Know You

A close up of the human eye, photo by Soren Manvelvan.
"I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."

The opening words of this verse, in Psalm 37, could have been written by any of us - for they speak a truth that each of us knows all too well. “I have been young and now I’m old.”

Whether we want to admit or not, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second, you and I are getting old! It’s a reality that many people try to escape or run away from.

Life and death aren’t easy things to think about. But we have to ask the tough questions in life. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Where will I go when I die?

If you’re a Christian you know that when you die you’ll be brought into the presence of God and your life be judged, based on how you lived, and what things you did.

Assuming that you’ve personally believed and accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, then the life of Jesus will be substituted for yours. And God will judge you based on the perfection of Jesus Christ. That’s how it works. When we call Jesus Christ our savior, the meaning is that Jesus Christ has given his life to us, to help us escape from judgment.

Jesus lived a perfect life. And for his trouble, he was falsely accused of a crime, put before the authorities and sentenced to die by being nailed to a cross. Which was a fairly common, though terrible punishment in the ancient roman empire. Jesus did something on the cross that we refer to as “penal substitionary atonement.” What this means is that Jesus paid the price of the sins of the world on the cross. And for those who believe in Jesus and trust in Him for their life, they will live forever.

God will bring all people into judgment, to deal with the sin problem.

2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

The world has a sin problem. That’s why the world stinks, and terrible things happen. Recently police officers were shot and killed by an unknown assailant in Iowa.  A series of terrorists beheaded Christians on video recently.  And the corruption just keeps flowing out in the news cycle about Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. I’m glad that God is a righteous judge. Because there are a lot of evil things in this world. And it’s right for God to set those things right.

Yet this isn't a problem simply on a mass scale, but more importantly on a personal level.  God will also judge us, based on how we lived. The truth is we’re all sinners, we’ve all made mistakes, and we’re all in need of a savior.

As it says in Matthew 12:36 ESV “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”

Now there is only one way to heaven, to have eternal life. And it is believing on Jesus Christ. And personally receiving Him as your savior. That’s the only way to be saved.

The Bible describes the day of judgment like this: Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. -Revelation 20:11-15 ESV

Most people when you ask them: Will you go to heaven? They say yes. And you ask them why? And they say, well I’m a pretty good person. I’ve done many good deeds. And that isn’t enough. That’s not the way to heaven. The only way to heaven is Jesus Christ. Trusting in him as your savior. And following him and obeying his teachings. His teachings are in the Bible. Which is why we study it. And pray to him daily.

John 3:16-17 says “John 3:16-17 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

And again Acts 4:12 says “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

And Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

And finally, Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

I love God’s word. God’s book is the truth. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that has really had the power to change my life.

Many of you here today are already followers and believers of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if your not, I’d like to invite you to do that, today. It's a journey.  Start it today.  And if your ready, commit your life to him. Join a good church.  Start a Bible study if your saved today.  You may be the only hope you area has of knowing Jesus, whether your state-side or in Europe, or elsewhere.  The world needs Jesus, so let's get to work.  


Related Posts: 

  1. Living in a Mad World: The Entire Spectrum of Life & Jesus
  2. Healing from Past Struggles
  3. Post-modernism is Dead, Jesus is Alive
  4. The Deep and Beautiful Secret of the Human Soul
  5. How has God blessed you in the Last Year?
  6. The Growth & Flourishing of the Christian Mind
  7. The Crying of the Wolf at Midnight
  8. Rediscovering Lost Values, Political Engagement
  9. God of Love, God of Justice: A Future Heaven, a Future Hell
  10. How to Pray Authentically: The Four Position Prayer
  11. A Junkie Shares about Addiction, Jesus, and the Salvation Army
  12. What is a real Spiritual Journey?

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