Sunday, February 8

Simply following....

“Until I get there, concentrate on reading Scripture in worship, giving encouraging messages, and teaching people. Don't neglect the gift which you received through prophecy when the spiritual leaders placed their hands on you to ordain you. Practice these things. Devote your life to them so that everyone can see your progress. Focus on your life and your teaching. Continue to do what I've told you. If you do this, you will save yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:13-16 GW)

One of my favorite songs is a relatively new one by the band Newsboys called “Stay strong”. It speaks of the journey I embarked upon that day back in May of 2008 when I left my ex, who’s journey was going in the opposite direction from mine. Since that time, I’ve faced eviction, alienation, condemnation, and my God on a level that I’d aspired to but feared none the less. Darkness cannot hide in the light of the One and neither can the sinful nature of man. It seems, the closer I get to God in relationship, the more disruptive and catastrophic my life has become. At times, I’ve wondered about my ability to be a child of God, of changing the sinful broken nature I have in my old self. I have been brought to the places where I’ve realized the truthfulness of that; I cannot change who I am….I can only grow in the realization of what was given that day in February 2004; a new man.

“You’re in the moment now when all you’ve been blessed with is not enough. Here’s where the ground gets loose. Here’s where the devils call your bluff.” There have been times in the last eight months that I’ve been so abundantly blessed both by friends known and other in the brethren of Christ who I have not had the honor of knowing as well. Two cars, financial support to move into a place, hands and feet searching in prayer for the blessings of the Lord to come upon me and the assurance that the Body ‘has my back’. Unquestioningly and with powerful effect.

But the crisis’s kept coming, kept falling into my life as if there was a vendetta against me; as if the devil, knowing he’s lost another, would rob the purpose to which God has called me and the effects of such purpose.

Pastor Jim Combs, of The River of Faith church, told us of a story. One John Eglin, a Methodist Elder, walked through sixteen feet (more or less) of snow one wintery Sunday to his church, predicting that there wouldn’t be many of the congregation there. True to his prediction, only twelve parishioners showed up…not even the Pastor came that day. In addition to the regulars was one thirteen year old visitor.

Eglin gave the sermon, speaking of everything that he knew of God and His grace….speaking for all of about ten minutes.

Charles Spurgeon said that it was at that service that he realized the love of Christ and accepted the offer of salvation. Spurgeon, one of the greatest theologians of the 19th century, started his journey one wintery Sunday because an Elder judged it important enough to trudge six miles to church for service.

I have found that pursuing God’s purpose for my life; spoken in the massive worship hall at Willow Creek Community Church so many years ago, is nothing more than the melting of faith, hope, love, joy, compassion, and redemption together by the fire of God’s Holy Spirit and cannot be recognized upon the achievements and accolades of man, but rather is given up as a burnt offering to God far from the light of day…secretly and in confidence.

As the Newsboys’ song goes, “Get up, there’s further to go. Get up, there’s more to be done. Get up, the witness is sure. Get up, this race can be won.”

We can be what we are redeemed to be. But, thhere is the wisdom of the devil, who knows well my faults and my weaknesses and how to draw my eyes away from the prize, that eternal hope manifested in a life lived for purpose, lived for God’s glory and nothing more.

We will never be fully what we were intended to be here, redeemed and restored, until Jesus comes again. Our lot is to keep going forward, keep growing closer to God in this life; for the eternal future we're promised.

I heard a pastor once say that we can make ourselves unfit for service to God; unsuitable for our purpose to which God set His hand to far before we were born. In those cases, this pastor said, God has a backup….someone else to send in your stead.

I wonder if that is true. God surely intended the pastor of that Methodist church to preach the word as he had every Sunday for however long he was there. Or did He?
Would Spurgeon have listened and understood the love of the Father in the hour long sermon the pastor probably would’ve given?

In the past few months, God has brought me to the razor edge of the cliff as if beckoning me to surrender to fate and jump, into the waiting darkness that waited at the bottom of that impossibly high mountain top. I’ve come to experience the sensation of being at that pivot point, between the safety of being able to pull back and the inevitable surrender to gravity. It has been that frightening, that troubling to my faith.

Each time that pivot point seemed to stretch longer and longer into impossible eternity…..and each time, I surrendered to what I believed was ‘fate’, the pull of gravity into the headlong fall into oblivion. I never hit the ground, but felt the grasping and sure hands of the Father saying, “Trust.”

Blake Crawford, a BIC from Naples Florida, who belongs to a group “Men Mentoring Men” on Facebook, posted a topic, Thinking Theologically, and quotes from Finding God by Dr. Larry Crabb:

"Theology becomes rich only when it survives the onslaught of pain. And sound theology leads us through our pain to the fuller experience of Christ, and therefore of hope and love and joy. The gripping message of the Bible will never be fully heard in a library. “Dr. Crabb states, “In order to catch the pulse of Scripture and hear the heartbeat of God, we must be actively grappling with the overwhelming reality of what life is like outside the Garden of Eden. If we numb our souls to the ongoing struggles with sin and disappointment that fallen people living in a fallen world experience, then our time in the Bible will yield puffy knowledge rather than liberating truth."

In the fiery heat of the trials I’ve faced; with my finances, with my children, and with my ex….there has been a steady, if not jerky, advancement in God’s designed purpose for me. Theologically, my faith is stronger and more refined. In the tempest of the storm, I have found realized reliance upon God…not for my purpose, but for His.

It is why I don’t believe that God puts a ‘pinch hitter’ in the place of the one He’s purposed to the call, nor that we can (if we truly cry out, ‘Lord, send me!’) thwart His plan. He is a patient God, loving and vengeful at both times, and knows His children to a degree more than the enemy can ever realize. He will wait, and He will poke us into fulfilling our commitment.

It may take years, or a matter of months, but He will prevail.

As I progress from the relatively easy forgiveness and redemption with my ex-wife into the more harrowing journey with my brother, I find it easier to look at to where God is leading me to go than worrying about my own involvement over its accomplishment.

The complex has become simple, the simple has become common. And I am far from being the scholar like Spurgeon, Crabb, or a host of others. I have a long way to go yet, but I feel the pressing tick of the clock against those who have yet to realize the love of the Father and the Son.

Though I fear, I walk with an eagerness that would’ve immobilized me less than a year ago. Though I worry about the outcome, I know that I will jump…..and trust my God all the way to the bottom, if need be.

For that too would serve God's purpose...

Focused on my life and my purpose, I struggle to bring it into mirrorship of God's Son.

Brought into the harsh light of redeeming grace.

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