Sunday, August 9, 2020

Spiritual Journey: Have you been to Cloud City? The Great Leap

"Though his warrior father had carved out a kingdom for the crown prince, it was not big enough. This prince had a voracious appetite that could never be satisfied. That craving for more would send him to the ends of the earth in a never-ending quest that still astounds the world some 2,500 years later.

The crown prince was only twenty years old when his father was assassinated. After rounding up and ruthlessly executing all of his rivals, the boy conqueror began his long march across planet Earth. His army of some thirty thousand warriors blitzkrieged from the Balkans to India in less than thirteen years. They covered some ten thousand miles on sandaled feet.

The statistics of that amazing odyssey seem almost impossible. Its empire stretched from the Aegean to the Himalayas, across three continents. The conqueror’s rule spanned more than two million square miles of earth by the time he was thirty-two years of age.

When he reached the Indus River, his weary army refused to take on the war elephants of India. The troops wanted to go home. The ancient historian Plutarch wrote that Alexancer wept like a baby because there were no more world to conquer.

With an unsatisfied hunger that still gnawed at his restless soul, Alexander marched back to Babylon, where he drank himself into a stupor. In June of the year 323 BC, he died at age thirty-two. The cause of his death is still mysterious. Most likely it was typhoid fever, but some suspect that his generals, who carved up his empire after his death, might have poisoned him.

Alexander was a man for whom the world was never big enough. His tutor, Aristotle, often lamented that young Alexander could conquer the world, but he was never able to conquer his own passions.

Pascal was right when he said that there is within us all a God-shaped vacuum as infinite as God himself. We can possess the whole universe and all that it contains and still not fill that vast emptiness within. If you have a soul hunger, you might want to remember this: When too much is never enough, give yourself to the infinite one, who is more than enough." -Quote from The One Year Book of Amazing Facts

And that today is what this message is really about. When it’s just never quite enough.  We all face down this reality of wanting more and more, and eventually facing addictions of various kinds.  The Bible calls them sins. 

The enemy’s goal is to get us hooked on sins.  The enemy wants us always searching to fill that empty feeling with stuff in the world.  And never wants us to look to God to satisfy us.

So let me ask you this question, which is the title of our message: Have you ever been to cloud city?

Cloud City, the mysterious city, from Star Wars the Empire Strikes Back.  The city in the clouds, where Han Solo, Leia, and Chewy are taken captive by Vader and the empire.  And Vader sets a trap to bring Luke Skywalker there, to try and destroy him.

Cloud City reminds me of what it’s like to get sucked in by addiction, by sin.  It seems fun at first.  It seems beautiful. It’s glorious.  It’s exciting.  The colors, the clouds, the beautiful architecture, the magnificence of it.  But soon you realize something isn’t quite right. Something is just a little off.

How does Vader get Luke to come to cloud city?

He captures his friends and tortures them. Luke can actually feel their pain in the force, and leaves to attempt to rescue them.

First point, the enemy will attack our family when we serve God, to try to hurt us.  He will attack our family. And he will use circumstances and situations to harm us.  I can sense it in my gut, when I’m in a potentially compromising situation.  Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong people.  Or I’m in a place that puts me in front of temptation.  

Recognize this friends, cloud city is a trap and a prison.

Let me ask you this question: What is your cloud city?

For me it was drug addiction. And that primrose path soon turns into a nightmare. I promise you that.

For you it might be relationship addiction, it might be cigarettes, maybe its gossip, or constant lying, or stealing or sexual addiction, or overeating, selfishness, rage, refusing to forgive, or self destructive behavior. Maybe it’s something you do repeatedly without even realizing it.

Cloud city is the trap we all face.

But cloud city is a mine, did you know that? A Tibanna gas mine.  As beautiful as the clouds, the shining sun, the mysterious buildings, the cream colored hallways, it’s a trap.

It’s a mine. Many of us labor in those mines. The addiction is no longer satisfying anymore but we’re trapped in the mines, swinging the pick axe., serving the addiction, and it’s miserable.

But you can be free. You can escape the city. It starts with calling on one name, the name of Jesus Christ. When I was scared as a child, alone in my room at night, maybe I just had a nightmare, or I could just sense that something was wrong, I would say the name Jesus Christ out loud, and I knew that it was powerful.  And I felt safe.

So Luke Skywalker goes to Cloud City.  And Vader sets a trap for Luke.  Luke lands and begins searching the city, and he’s led to a dark chamber.

What happens when Luke meets Vader at cloud city? They fight, and slowly as the fight continues, Luke gets weaker and weaker, and Vader gets stronger and stronger.

This is how it goes when we try to battle our addictions without God’s power. 

If you recall Yoda and Obi-Wan Luke’s mentors told him not to go to cloud city.  But he went anyway.  And he was told that if you choose to face Vader now, you’ll do it alone.  But Luke didn’t listen.

When we fight addiction without God’s power, we lose.  We get weaker and weaker and the addiction gets stronger and stronger.

As Luke fights Vader they go deeper and deeper into the bowels of cloud city and you see this place is actually pretty scary, and evil, and you begin to get the feeling that Luke is trapped, and can’t escape. 

Have you ever felt trapped, like there is no way and no one to help you?  The enemy likes to corner us, and make us feel helpless.

And eventually in this battle we reach the final catwalk. We’re trapped. Exhausted at every level. Broken and defeated. 

And the enemies total power over you is made manifest, when your fighting hand is cut off, and you are disarmed and defeated.  Just like when Vader finally cut off Luke’s lightsaber hand. 

At that moment, rock bottom, you learn the awful truth.  If Christ is not your savior, it means something quite terrible. It means Satan is your father. You serve him. Horrifying to realize.  Like when Vader said, “Luke, I am your father.”  Luke discovers a nightmare about his life. His own father is the evil Darth Vader.  And Vader offers to let you join him and he’ll give you wealth and power and sex and women, whatever you want.  Sometimes people will take that offer, and stay with Satan at the moment of decision.

Luke is at a moment of decision here.  What do I do next?  Join Vader, or take a leap.

For the rest of us, we finally surrender to God.  We take that leap of faith.

Like when Luke let’s go.  And drops down. I like the version where he actually screams out, that’s just what it feels like, a cry of confused despair at the moment of the fall.  Reminds me when I cried out to Jesus.

The cloud city betrays you one last time, drops you out the garbage hatch. Your left hanging upside down nothing below you except a bottomless pit. Only one option left, death, hell, nothingness, or cry out to Jesus Christ. 

Hanging upside down with your hand cut off outside the bottom of cloud city.  If cloud city is a dreamy state of drug addiction, a merry-go-round, an after hours carnival turned dark and evil, well, then the guy hanging upside down with a hand cut off is me.  Eventually that cloud city of addiction will consume your soul, steal your heart and your life from you, rip apart your body, and then drop you out the bottom like garbage into a trash bin. Done with you, on to the next. 

But if we cry out to Jesus… we find help. The Lord sends us help. Friends maybe, the holy spirit, forgiveness, the millennial falcon, to rescue us.

And we end up on the medical frigate, the church, where He heals you, binds up your wounds, and frees you from addiction. Eventually he gives you a new lightsaber, and your sent on a new mission.  But we’ll talk about that next week.

I waited patiently for the Lord;

    he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

    out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

    making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

    a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes

    the Lord his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

    to those who go astray after a lie!

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,

    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

    none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

    yet they are more than can be told.

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