Wednesday, May 6

God's love and facing the giant

"The LORD your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love." The LORD has promised: Your sorrow has ended, and you can celebrate." (Zephaniah 3:17-18 CEV)

The giant that I face, that relational wound that has been exacerbated and deepened by those both within the Body of Christ and without, is staring at me with hunger in its beady little eyes; so many cower in fearful trembling behind me, others who have had at least some 'success' with relations (with their wives, husbands, children, friends, co-workers, etc.). The ones who should be shoving themselves aside in an effort to get to this giant first. Armed with only a sling and a few handy stones that I've gathered from the valley floor, I approach this giant of mine; custom-made you might say by the one who used to know me so very well in the dark days of my life before God impacted me. I don't want to be hear, let alone dare think that I, simply a un-victorious man, can knock this big guy down….permanently. I don't move because I want to see what will come, but because the very existence of this giant is an abomination to the God I am called to serve; it stands in the way of fulfilling the purpose to which I was called.

But the one everything that has always failed me, that has made me live a life as a ghost; weightless and without substance, lies within the muscular arms of this big, big giant and gleams from the eyes of his unibrow forehead. Self-contempt, unworthiness to be valued, and foolish of daring to dream. I face this giant to get by him, in one way, but in another to stand for what I know is right; God is a relational being and He wants me. That realization, in and of itself, is equally as impactful to cause my legs to give out beneath me and bring me to my knees. The God, I AM, delights in me to the degree of a favored son. He loves to rejoice in me, as I struggle to my feet and face life with Him by my side. He calls me to ministry, surely. But not just a ministry to teach, to empower, and to testify but also a ministry to show that love, that empowering strength, and humility that comes from a fully-realized unworthiness to partake of such love. To show that, to live that, and to be that.

There is no victory I alone can obtain here upon this dusty and dark valley floor; I simply have not enough true strength to do it, nor do I truly think that I can conform my mind past the very real realization that this is going to hurt and hurt deeply. On my own, I am simply a shepherd boy with a simple toy weapon foolish enough in his own folly to face the end of his life in foolish expectation. But, the measure of this man; far from wealth, strength, and stature lies simply in my heart; a heart given fully in the pursuit of this God who loves me so much.

Within this verse, I find encouragement and comfort; the gentle whispering of a Mighty and Powerful God who can surely smote this giant like a fly, erasing the fear and trembling that he causes and the depth of pure fright that embraces every fiber of my being, calling me to speak in His Truth and in His defense to this burden and wound that has shaped every relationship that I have tried within this journey of my life and failed at; He whispers victory after victory throughout His word and the lives of the saints that have traveled before me. "This I can do," He whispers to my soul, "But, for My glory and for the sake of you my child, I shall empower you to find victory over this foe in the fullness of time. Until then, stand." It doesn't overwhelm my fear but empowers my feet to move because my Savior is in me; supporting my failing limbs and guiding the stone to the cup of the sling; rotating my arm in ever increasing arcs, the whir of the weapon so simple and lightweight in my hand piercing the air like a siren.

"Immanuel", God with us, is far mightier than this giant and far more concerned with the state of His children to a degree greater than any human capability. Jehovah, in the midst of my sorrows, is sufficient security, full of unspeakable joy, and providential in His presence. This Almighty God, mighty to save, came to the earth as a man and became a 'man of God's right hand' being fully God and fully human, empowered through the will of His Father, my Father, to be my strength and savior. He can deliver me in ways I would never imagine He would even want to so that I may be saved, to the utmost degree that only He can; beyond all human logic and reasoning.

A Savior, in the fullness of His Father's design, came to earth not to 'do His best' to complete His Father's will but to deliver His people from the hands of their enemies, support and live the Truth as His Father set forth, and leave as He overcame death's grip a Mighty Counselor to assist His people in every service or duty that He has empowered them to render to those who are lost, seeking them out in the darkness of their sinfulness and bring them under counsel and covenant to the fullness of that purchased salvation as it will be applied freely, fully and without end. There are many victories that I have experienced in the fullness of my journey; otherwise to be standing here, lips parched and legs securely locked in a supporting stance would simply be impossible against the sinfulness of this giant and the knowledge of his master.

And he rejoices in me; a sinner who was saved, a man who struggles against the wounds of his past and forsakes a worldly comfort for the satisfaction of standing unevenly and with inner trembling before his giants. Christ, who is the begotten Son of the Most High, rejoices in me….and is joyful of my weakness, happy of my failures that bring me closer to His love which is manifested in the rest and peace that no earthly power can overcome, change or separate me from. I stand before my giant not because of some ill-conceived glory seeking thought or an assurance that I will indeed triumph over this unsightly and ungodly authority. No, I stand because of love…..a love that delights, entices, and empowers me to believe in my unbelief; to reach for hands unseen and a hope secured.

He sings because of His love for me; a joyful and delighted voice that echoes in the halls of Heaven from the throne. He rejoices in my victories and expresses strength to stand again after my failures. He sings a song of the chosen, redeemed, and those to whom He has called to clothe them with His righteousness and grace. It is "his love of complacency and delight," John Gill writes, "which is the source of all the grace and glory He bestows upon them."

Some brethren accuse me of seeking the glory of my trials in the eye-gawking 'victim' mentality, others accuse me of self-glory seeking. I have been called, they say, to work where and when the Church authorizes you to and in the capacity we've discerned is appropriate for the level of 'santicification' which we perceive evident in your life; barely there, but none the less there. Keep keeping the faith, they say, for God will give to us a heart of wisdom regarding your path. Just wait like the rest of us, content to let this giant bluster about foolishly. As the giant of all of our lives stand before the vast and mighty army of the Most High, they preach caution and Kumbaya love….discussing the 'rewards' offered for facing this giant with longing and yet fearful, too fearful, to take it on. A mighty army brought to a halt because they are afraid; the world, after all, is bigger than they…..and it's ugly. Can't they hear the singing, the joyful proclamation of His love and the call, the enticement to join Him in the battle?

Maybe their pride of a life achieved, illusionary in its rewards and its comfort, that they don't want to risk it all to stand in front of their giants and rather hide behind the armor of their King sounding like a chorus of jingle bells ……fear, self-doubt, and the sheerness of the size of those giants keeping them frozen in place. Maybe they think that there is no victory here, standing in front of this giant of theirs insulting their King, their Church, and themselves; veteran warriors of the battles of old…… They wonder what a small boy, who stinks of sheep and long labor, can do with just a sling and some stones. They can't see the victories already gained, the triumphs already spoken in the land of their countrymen, and sung by their King.

They whisper the words of the enemy, championing the cause of his kingdom and disillusioning the authority of their countrymen to stand boldly and without fear before the giants in their own lives. They mock the love and righteousness of their King.

Others stand, facing their own giants whose shadows darken the landscape of their lives and taunt them with intimate knowledge of their failures and weaknesses….and they shout encouragement, their words echoing the song of love that comforts my heart, their edification finally coming to deafen ears; You have a heart for God, you have victory through Him and are able to stand through His strength, for His time, in a love that knows no circumstance, no situation, or no place where it cannot go, where it cannot abide, and where it cannot give you comfort and peace.

"Never give up," these shepherds say, "Never surrender but to the King!"

Surely the aches of the failures; the bloodied knees, scrapped elbows, and wounded hearts they share and know of its victorious defeat of my peace from its bleeding. They've shared that journey, in parts and ways unique to them, but surely they know of my inadequacies to be here before this giant….surely they know I'm a failure even at shepherding….a flock unattended by me to follow through with my father's wish to provide bread to his favored sons……some of whom don't even want its warm and nourishing substance. Me, I'm just a simple shepherd, dirty from the toil of isolated work and the sorrows of isolation. Surely if I was a mighty warrior as they are, some adorned in the fitted armor of the King and others in the various stages of becoming as their brethren…….I'd be the same; either adorned in armor or visible in the process of its formation on my powerful frame rather than dressed in stinking, filthy woolen cloth that scratches the sensitive sores of an life lived in the wilds….instead of the mighty swords they swing with confidence and finesse, I've a simple sling…..and pebble stones gathered from the ground as my 'fearful weapon'.

Who am I, that they would include me in their number? What do they see, beyond the simplistic adornments of a shepherd boy, that burdens their hearts to cry out in the midst of their own lives, their own burdens, and their own struggles to me? Who do they look at when they stare at my face, cratered with the sorrows and tracked with the tears of pain? What causes them to speak of leading, of mighty deeds already done, and victories yet to unfold?

The shadow of my giant looms over me where I stand, darkness falling in the middle of the day as his enormous size blots the sun from my sky. He laughs at me, calling me by my name…foreboding echoing in the acidity of his words as he promises yet another failure…yet another sorrow….and a whole lotta pain……. He laughs at my foolishness, "Am I a dog that you would send a stick before ME?????" in a booming voice that drowns out even the sweet and tender mercies of that joyful song I've been listening to……..the swinging sling slows, the weight of the situation crushing down upon me as surely this giant's immense sword will cleave me in two much like a toothpick…. As surely as if it was the deepest of winters, even the sun's warmth has disappeared into the darkness that is my despair, bringing cold pain to the aches of battles long ago, of sorrows once forgotten, and of wounds healed and unhealed that chafe the surface of my exposed heart.

The illogic of my heart, at war with my broken, logical mind, has brought me to this place, to this battlefield dotted with the giants of so many… mind has ceased screaming at the illogical hope that my heart increases its grip upon in this wintry landscape. An ember of the flame, the heat of its power and warmth attended to by a heart ravaged as if it is its source of beating, despite the desire of the mind to stop…to run into the depth of the deepest ocean and be done with it. The heart beats on and as long as it beats, the ember remains.

It is this ember, this 'mustard seed' of faith that I drop into the stilled cup of the sling at my side. It is with without assurance of victory, without hope of 'overcoming' that I look up at the giant in the distance and calculate the time to cover its broad field…and begin to run……kind of skipping, actually, as the giant begins to walk towards me, shaking the very soil of the desert floor beneath is feet…… sling gaining speed with each step, I can do no less than to cast my faith into the face of my fear and hope for a victorious blow so that I can once again here that loving song of a joyful Savior and the echoing love of the Most High……..

"Your great victory will be seen by every nation and king; the LORD will even give you a new name." (Isaiah 62:2 CEV)

I am James, a jewel in the eyes of my Father God, Authentic in my faith, Mighty in my weakness, Encouraging in my testimony, and having a Story to tell……..with a heart like David's, seeking after my God and a life burdened for the souls yet sung of by Christ; a kinsman to the Begotten Son of the Most High, I AM. ……that is my new name. A name given to me by a Father who knew and loved me before I was born enough to send my Kinsman, Jesus Christ, down to take my place for the punishment of my sins.

I am James, son of Ronald L.; brother to Larry J., Stacy L. and Robin A.; father to Casey L. and Sara E.; brother in Christ to those in whom the Lord is well pleased! With a lineage and family like that, how can I not do anything else than to struggle on towards the hope assured and the promise eternal?

I can only trust in the Lord's love and worship the honor of its embrace……knowing that:

"The LORD is pleased only with those who worship him and trust his love." (Psalms 147:11 CEV)

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