Friday, October 13, 2017

My Hearts Longs for Something Greater: Eternity in the Human Heart & the Emptiness of Gorged Sensuality

All of life is filled with parables and metaphors that point to the meta-narrative of existence.  The four seasons are laced with it.  Media, movies, books, and stories are filled with expressions of the longings of our hearts.  We long for a place we've never been.  We desire a home we've never visited.  We're filled with desires that nothing in this life can fulfill.  We have eternity written on our souls, and this finite existence and it's fleeting pleasures leave us empty, exhausted... irritated, angry, because once again we've found a dead end on the one-thousand roads that we thought would lead to ultimate fulfillment. Yet once again we've found ourselves, let down.  

Let down, again and again.  Like that beautiful Radiohead song, "Let Down:" 

Transports, motorways and tramlines, Starting and then stopping
Taking off and landing, The emptiest of feelings
Disappointed people, clinging on to bottles
When it comes it's so, so, disappointing
Let down and hanging around, Crushed like a bug in the ground
Let down and hanging around..."

And it ends with "One day I am going to grow wings, a chemical reaction, hysterical and useless."

We exist in a gray world.  There were bright and colorful days when we were young, but slowly over time it seems like people die inside.  The world slowly goes from bright beautiful colors to gray tones and darkness.  And you see people walking around, and it's like they've lost all life in them, and there is nothing that really keeps them going aside from the pattern of steps they take each day. I call them the walking dead.

Until one day they're old and alone, suicidal and empty, broken, gorged on the delicacies of the world, and found to be... nothing at all.  And only the most perverse pleasures will indulge the longing, and soon all is lost.  Within, infinitely let down by the excesses of this world and so broken and bitter from those angry failures that to even suggest something greater makes them recoil in rage.  Almost like a man who never lived out his dreams... and despises the young idealist who wants to do something special.  

We long for eternity.  We long for a garden of beauty.  We long for a paradise of blue grass and golden skies.  We long to not only feel joy but actually be joy.  

We despair a thousand times in life chasing our goals to find that we've found another dead end.  So we shut ourselves off to any possible good end, aside from indulgence and pleasure, even though those things are fleeting and empty.  But I'm here to tell you today that there is a true end.  

No it's not in fluffy mysticism, no it's not in the ultimate triumph of man, no it's not in money, sex, or power.  It's in surrender.  It's in the end of rebellion.  It's in discovering the architect of all existence.  It's in coming to who the creator really is. And it's about total surrender to this being, and the receiving of life from him.  Believe it.  There is nothing else in this life.  There is no other way.  The code is written on your very soul.  Though we all fight it, we want something else, another way, another route, but there is no other route.  There is only one road home.  

Because the truth is, we're the ones who are lost in the dark woods.  We're the ones who can't find our way. We're the ones who are confused, troubled, disturbed, like a confused, ignorant run away teenager who doesn't have the wherewithal to return home even if it means facing the music.  Maybe we're afraid.  Maybe we want so badly to fight. And to run further away from home.  But there is nothing out there, in this vast darkness... There is nothing out there.  Nothing but loneliness and emptiness.  There is nothing in this dark wood.  There is only the road home, or to go deeper into the nothingness. And the nothingness tears at us, and eats us alive, and crushes our will to live.  Must we go even further into that great night?  Or could we turn and head home?  Even if it means letting go of the ego, letting go of the pride, and humbling ourselves...

Part I: The Journey through a Dark Wood

As C.S. Lewis said: “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.” 

This life we live could be described as a long 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 today.

I was once the grey man, in the grey tunnel, drinking grey ice water, and draining the bottle of the pleasures and indulgences of this life.  I guzzled harder and harder as the meaningfulness of those indulgences faded.  Yet they faded and faded until there was only nothingness.  So much nothingness!

Life is not a cake walk, but it's not a nightmare anymore.  I've lived the nightmare.  I've tasted years of emptiness in the desert, hot sun beating down.  I've frozen in the wastes of sensuality and addiction.  I've lived the nightmare, and I've survived to come through to the other side.  Not many can say the same! 

Life my friend, is madness. Yes, it certainly is.  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. 

We see the hopelessness all around us.  We see the slowly collapsing state of civilization on this dust ball.  So 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.

Isaiah 43:19 NIV "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."

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, because I was utterly unable to help myself. Only God could change me. Yes, God. I'm talking faith in Jesus. Aww you didn't want to hear about "religion" as the end all be all of life?  Maybe you want to go cry about it?  Listen, this isn't the end I hoped for, not at all.  But it is the truth.  That's really all I know.  There is nothing else in this world with any substance.  

We hate God in this world.  It's true.  We can't stand the mere mention.  Maybe it's because his perfection intrudes on our darkness?  Indeed, His power is perfection intruding into this 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.    

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.  

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, not a single one.  Even memories of family, at the old white house in Rothschild, or the house on Ross ave... it's never quite felt like home.  Do you have the same experience? I think you do.  So where is home?  What is home?  What is the meaning here?

In our keen human intellectual capacity, the answer seemed too simple for it to be right.  We demanded something more complicated.  And I've seen people die demanding something more complicated.  It's simple: Jesus 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.  What we do is simply humble ourselves enough to receive it, and believe it.

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?

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.  

Yet 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 I could tell, in my alternative reality, my delusion, that it was killing me.  We're always the last to know these things about ourselves, aren't we? 

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, journalism, 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 naturalistic worldview. (Not to mention the writers, researchers, and experts had their own agendas as well!)  Two, despite all my supposed wisdom I was greatly self-ambitious and selfish.  Thus my interpretations delved deeply into my own desire for the outcomes I preferred rather than the facts on the ground.  And three, because in the back of my mind a priori I had decided it can't be Christianity.  That was the worst possible outcome to me. 

Many never escape that.  I'm very glad that I did. 

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 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.   

That completes part one, the primer to the forest, the road home, and Jesus Christ the hidden, shadowed tree in the forest of sin, that one tree that can return us to the tree of life.  Remember that Adam and Eve had a garden full of trees to eat from, and only one to avoid.  Today in this fall, we have a forest full of evil trees, and only one that can lead us back home.  Jesus is the way:  Jesus and the tree he was nailed to, is the only way home.  

Part II: The War

So we turn to phase two of this road home.  And once again, we'll begin with a quotation from C.S. Lewis: "Enemy-occupied territory---that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

Like C.S. Lewis' classic book "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" we find ourselves in a war zone.  Plain and simple, part two of our saga is called "the war."  

You see as Christians we are anomalies in the matrix. We're essentially alien outsiders in the kingdoms of men.  People don't understand us, they can't comprehend why we do what we do.  We're near invisible quite often in the quick paced worldly world.  They can't see us, and when they do they're angry and afraid.  We've been "unplugged" from the system.  We're on our hoverships, in the fall of man, in the broken disaster area of Earth.  We're in the sewers like the U.S.S. Nebuchadnezzar, Captained by Morpheus and Trinity, we're the resistance movement fighting a desperate war against the machine consciousness. 

We're the Maquis, the french resistance in World War II, fighting in a pitch resistance movement against the Nazi oppressors.  We're the resistance fighters in shadowed rooms listening to the radio for secret messages from God almighty.  We're the soldiers of Christ launching acts of sabotage against the kingdoms of darkness. 

You'll find yourself as a solo Christian only for so long until your recruited by some resistance cell.  I'm not certain where you might end up.  I know people who've ended up in schools teaching children, I've known people who joined missionary organizations, I've known people who go overseas, I know people who do street ministry, I know people who do charity work, disaster relief, grief counseling, and I know many people who are parts of small ecclesiastical communities here and there that do their part in this righteous resistance movement.  The acts are spiritual in nature, works given to us to do by the Holy Spirit, our General and field commander.  

Some are given to be foot soldiers of the war, some are given to be leaders of the spiritual war.  I was just one of those few chosen by God for a leadership position in his forces.  

We're like the spartan program in the Halo series.  You've got your foot soldiers that you fight along side of, then you have your master chief, a front lines sort of warrior, with enhanced skills, spiritual gifts if you will, that add to his ability to fight and defeat enemies and their leaders and foot soldiers.  

Essentially we're in a struggle between the forces of darkness, commanded by the rogue angel Satan, and all his followers, his demonic forces, and the humans who submit to his will through ignorance, or lust for power, and we fight against that kingdom.  And that kingdom has had total pre-eminence since the dawn of the fall, until the death and resurrection of Christ.  Ever since the day that Jesus died for us, the kingdom of God has been moving out in all directions, making war with the kingdoms of darkness.  And we're on the frontlines of that war today.

Unfortunately we're losing more and more battles as the years go on.  I believe that is part of the plan.  Just as in C.S. Lewis's Narnia, the forces of Aslan are fighting the wicked queen, but the wicked queen is defeating them because she can freeze their warriors in place.  So we're waiting for the return of our King, Jesus Christ, who will end the war, finally, and saved Zion, the city at the center of the Earth, where it's still warm.  Oh wait, that's the Matrix series.  Yes, Jesus will return, save Israel, defeat the evil kingdom, and usher in a time of 1,000 years of peace.  

So we're the warriors, both foot soldiers and leaders of the righteous resistance.  And we're losing.  But we keep on fighting, setting souls free, saving people from the matrix, freeing minds to know the truth about life, that service to sin is slavery and Christ can set us free.  

We move from just discovering that reality to helping others to see that reality themselves.  We become soldiers of the kingdom, and leaders of the armies of God.  That is our calling now, as we push forward for the glory of God.  Find your place, take up your weapons and fight for the lost souls of mankind who need Jesus Christ.  The war is real, and billions of lives hang in the balance.  Good luck, and God bless.