Wednesday, April 29

The weapon of the testimony....

“Then all nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty." Malachi 3:12

They say that the greatest tool that God has placed in our hands for the sake of the mission is not doctrinal memorization, not weekly or even twice-weekly Church fellowship, nor even an effective argument. They say it is our testimony, that story that comprises our life and is composed of everything we've experienced and everything we have learned. The greatest of these powerful weapons in the armory of the Army of the Lord are not spoken, rattling off the specifications and expectations like some Special Forces expert but in the simplest of it. Being a living testimony. Being able to silently point into the recesses of your heart and show the Holy Spirit there.

When you are exposed to the undeniable testimony of a true child of God, it may never look pretty. Trials, tribulation and suffering crop up into everyone's life; successes seem as illusionary as the 'American dream', and the struggles that they still face seem so simple in your eyes but so harsh and unending in their's. They fall, get up, fall and get up in a never-ending cycle.

But if you listen, you see a strength that defies the depressing cycle of failure. If you watch the evolution of the story, you see life exists (however ugly, however plain) in places where it shouldn't exist --- where they shouldn't even be alive standing before you, because in that darkness they speak of you know you would've fallen and become a cherished memory in the hearts of loved ones.

Just because you can see it doesn't mean that they can. They have walked through the valley of the Shadow of Death and fear no evil, because it is their companion and intimate lover. They know that God doesn't give them anything that they cannot handle, but look less to what they have gained through victory in Christ and more at the simple, continual, and (to them) epic failures that cascade like an never-ending stream in their lives.

The exposure of sunlight upon the broken depravity of their humanity is endured, they are restless and unfocused and consider themselves totally unworthy, totally a failure in the journey towards home. They long for the maturity that they see in others, even as those others express amazement at the maturity in them. The walk in the valley has left its mark, even as the heart beats with a hope that defies the mind's logic of its hopelessness.

Their testimony is the most valuable, however, because it isn't contrived or rehearsed. It changes with the fluidity of the ocean tides, meeting the unspoken answers of the seeker, the unsaved, and the denier that come into their sphere of life and hear their profession of faith; strained, tried and simplistic.


Speaking from experience, writing my journey as a testimony written by the words of my broken, depraved and burdened heart, isn't set forth upon the ethereal pages of the Internet as a condemnation of what a 'true' Christian is but a profession of the utter foolishness of alteration, the foolhardy method of addition, and the empty application of biblical formulas to life and the professed life gained through the 'conversion' of our nature from old to new through the allegiance and oath of loyalty to Christ Jesus, Messiah and King, Lord and Savior. Faith is more than a matter of profession and belief is not as complete as one would claim.

As S. Michael Craven said in his book, Uncompromised Faith, being a follower is more than just Sunday services and Christianized language, theories, and expressions. It is that living in a broken world, broken, and finding yourself more and more distant in the logicality of love from God than you can ever hope to cover in the briefness of life. But desiring to try and making desire action, despite the assurance of failure and incomplete, unfulfilled attainment. It is, in the absence of all reasoning and all reasonable thought, stepping into the throne room of the King with the assurance of death for the interruption and being extended the scepter of grace, saved from the punishment that is the due.

Time and time again.

And it never gets any easier. It never gets any simpler.

For the first time since I was invited to be a part of the dynamic and powerful group of realistic men who God called through the voice of Scott Engelmann to join together as a band of brothers to be men of God's heart and mission workers for the field, I didn't go to the meeting. Reasonable excuse was existent and easily offered. But the reason I hadn't missed a meeting before was purely survival instinct....if I didn't go, I knew I'd probably never go back.

My belief in my worth was broken a long time ago upon the altar of this world and as I have journeyed through the destruction of the hillside and traveled down into the darkest valleys, I have a ghost.....substance an illusionary wisp faintly discoloring the landscape, belief the perception of movement out of the corner of the eye, and faith more of a dripping faucet than a flowing stream. Realistically feeling I am far beyond the saving and changing grace of God, and hoping as I crawl before the throne, eyes downcast and limbs heavy, beyond the hope of that hope that He is the gracious, merciful, and righteous God that I have understood in the bible and seen in the faces of the truly redeemed; those giants who walk among us convinced they are simple Lilliputs instead of Gilligans.

Whereas the events of my life would surely be nothing but a fly smashed into the broad windshield of their lives, I find these things of tidal and epic failure. I don't recall off-hand who said it, but one of the greatest truths I have found in the lessons of this life is, "Preach the Gospel, use words if you have to." We shouldn't have to, its existence and proof a living breathing hope in the face of hopelessness, belief in the logic of human righteousness of unbelief, and the faith to face Goliath with a sling and stone. Living under the mighty hand of God may not feel like a safe place, or even a place that others will be drawn to in the hail of worldly gratification, but it is the only place where hope for the hopeless cannot be denied even by their own lips.

Then the glory of God is revealed to those brought to its revealing. And the illusionary safety of human understanding of godly wisdom falls away to reveal the hand that will never leave its place on your shoulders…..even as your humanity crumbles under the weight of realized corruption and absolute depravity.
I don't know if the door opens into another desert or wilderness expanse or if, as the sustaining hope that exists testifies to, that I will find success in the surrender and victory in the defeat.

The greatest thing I fear is the greatest thing I face and the denial of the experience of relationship's painful experiences and wounding endings is hard to deny. Yet, in the purpose of the calling God brings me to face that fear, without assurance of victory and the absence of sustained peace.

I am an ordained chaplain now, the church illusion of safety in numbers (large numbers) under a corporate business mentality of 'saving souls' no longer sustainable in my eyes, and the sight of those I cannot deny their discernment and wisdom a view of a leader and minister to the broken…..He calls me to serve Him.
I am afraid.

I know the darkness too well to disregard its danger. But I can hear the voices crying out and I cannot stay….. I am afraid, of staying and of going……
Lord help my unbelief…

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